Culture

The Laird O’Yarpha:Episode 1

Mind on David Vedder published this in 1832 in Orcadian Sketches


Breathes there the man, who, having the slightest taste for the beauties of external nature, but has stood as in a state of enchantment when the Orcadian Windermere, the magnificent Loch of Stennis, burst on his astonished view? To the left of the eye expatiates over a beautiful Mediterranean in miniature, studded with ships of every nation, and islets of every hue, from the emerald of Graemsey to the coal black outline of the Ronaldsha hills.

To the right it ranges over the lovely undulations of Harra and Sandwick – distance lending enchantment to the view, and tinging the dark brown heath with the hues of the rainbow. In front the majestic hills of Hoy tower into sublimity, strongly relieved against a clear blue sky, or arresting the thunder cloud in its progress, while the “dread peal” reverberates from cliff to cliff, startling a thousand eagles from their eyries. On the margin of the lake are to be seen the largest Druidical circles – with one exception – in the British dominions, hoary with age, and regarding which, even the tongue of tradition is silent.

They seem to the poetic mind as an army of giants, petrified by some sorcerer, until a still more potent spell shall restore them to their pristine existence, and endue them once more with a relish for each other’s society.  Whether these huge vertical blacks be of Druidical or Scandinavian origin is immaterial; certain it is they are relics of an age long long ere what we term antiquity had begun.

And although they have been encrusted with blood; though the area on which they stand has been the theatre where thousands of human victims have been immolated to the powers of darkness; though obscene observances, and horrid rites have desecrated the very ground where they stand, and perchance tainted the air of heaven above and around them. Still we cannot but regret that these rude monuments of a pristine age, should not have been preserved from the clutch of modern barbarism.

Nothing has contributed so much to the destruction of those beacons in the Ocean of Time, as ignorance and avarice. The former levelled in the dust the gorgeous temples of Greece and Rome, the latter has shattered several of these antique pillars into fragments, and applied them to the meanest of purposes.

And though there are some who may flout the idea of whining over what they term the rubbish of a remote period, still we hold, “that he who destroys or defaces a monument of ancient times, whether it be a Scandinavian circle or a cloistered abbey,— a Grecian temple or a Christian church,— the hall of a feudal baron, or any other among the gifts of genius  and science, in regions and in ages which are gone by, and which were adorned by such productions, — does a positive injury to society.

A link in our chain of associations is broken: The Landmarks between different generations of men are thrown down: Some of the materials, however slight, out of which the knowledge of mankind is formed, and their feelings moulded, and taken away: Facts for the illustration of history, of manners, and of religion, are lost; and we are bereaved of the possible advantages which perhaps might have resulted from the future contemplation of such objects by the poet, the moralist and the patriot”. * (*Peterkin)

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Ring of Brodgar, Orkney

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