230 I UNA'S PAST AND PRESENT.
inhabitantsthe most wretched people he had anywhere seen." ' With such houses and such people Sir Allan Macleane certainly did wisely in choosing a barn for the lodgings of himself and his two friends. " Some good hay," writes Boswell, " was strewed at one end of it, to form a bed for us, upon which we lay with our clothes on ; and we were furnished with blankets from the village. Each of us had a portmanteau for a pillow. When I awaked in the morning, and looked round me, I could not help smiling at the idea of the chief of the Macleanes, the great English Moralist, and myself, lying thus extended in such a situation."
The smile might have passed into a sigh, had Boswell contrasted the splendours of lona's past with the meanness of her present lot.
They had come to
" Where, beneath the showery west, The mighty kings of three fair realms arc laid."
Like the pilgrim
" From the Blue Mountains, or Ontario's Lake," amidst the ruins of fallen greatness and fallen learning they had
" Some peasant's homely shed, Who toils unconscious of the mighty dead."
Whether with Johnson among " those illustrious ruins," we look upon lona as the instructress of the west, or with Gibbon as the island whence was " diffused over the northern regions a doubt- ful ray of science and superstition," in either case it is surely a spot where we are forced to pause, and with pensive mind "revolve the sad vicissitude of things." I must not, however, be unjust to Boswell. It was his enthusiasm which had led them hither. It was he who had longed to survey lona. " I," said Johnson, "though less eager did not oppose him." To him then we owe that splendid passage in which the great Englishman celebrates the power exerted over the mind by the sight of places where noble deeds were done, and noble lives were lived.
" We were now treading that illustrious Island, which was once the luminary of the Caledonian regions, whence savage clans and roving barbarians derived the benefits of knowledge, and the blessings of religion. To abstract the mind from all local emotion would be impossible, if it were endeavoured, and would be foolish if it were possible. Whatever withdraws us from the power of our senses, whatever makes the past, the distant, or the future, predominate over the present, advances us in the dignity of thinking beings. Far from me, and from my friends, be such frigid
1 Lockhait's Life of Scott, iii. 285; iv. 324.