« PreviousContinue »
of the birds summer in Greenland, and winter on Dunnet Head.
This immense rampart of rocky headland runs along the northern shore of Dunnet Bay, by Dwarwick Head, in an easterly direction. Then turning sharp round to the north by Rough Head, the rocks wend northwards, then slightly eastwards, until you find yourself under Easter Head, where the lighthouse is erected. This is the highest point of the cliffs. They then extend to the southeast, and afterwards toward the south, ending at the village of Brough.
In fine or even rough weather, when the wind is easterly, a yachting trip under the cliffs is full of interest. In Dunnet Bay the sea is quiet, being protected from the east by the high grounds of the peninsula. Dwarwick Head forms a singular headland, the strata dipping slightly towards the sea. Between this and Rough Head is a wick or bay, in which ships find safe shelter—an old retreat of the Vikingers. Rough Head is a bold headland. Numerous boulders are strewn at the bottom of the cliff. There are points near Dwarwick Head and Rough Head, where an approach to the sands is possible, though, in some places, it is rather precipitous. There are numerous gyoes along the headland, worn out into inland caves by the powerful washings of the sea.
There is one near Dwarwick which penetrates far inland. When the sea is rough, and drives in from the west, the sea dashes up far inland, and blows through the opening like a whale, throwing broad sheets of spray.
The precipices gradually rise. In certain places the rocks seem to have slipped away towards the bottom, and left steep slopes overgrown by ferns. There are innumerable wild birds among the cliffs. Cormorants are seen winging their solitary way towards the north. Deep caves appear in the face of the rock; with here and there a recent slip from the summit to the sea, where the stones lie in a rough slope. The red sandstone of the rocks looks so clear, so solid, and so near at hand, that it might be thought they were only a gunshot distant, though they are a mile and a quarter away.
And now we are under the lighthouse, where the strata are nearly level. The precipice here is some three hundred feet high. The lighthouse is on the crest of the rocks, only about thirty feet from the precipice. It is the highest lighthouse in Scotland. The height of the lantern above the highest spring tides is 346 feet, and the light is seen twenty-three miles off, on either side of Dunnet Head.
Even here there seem to have been recent slips, for there are long slopes of rock at the bottom overgrown with ferns and greenery. The sea is constantly washing and grinding away the red sandstone and slates, so that, in course of time, the lighthouse will have to be removed farther inland.
Notwithstanding the height of the cliffs, the sea, when driven strongly from the west, rushes right up the face of the rocks, and dashes over the lighthouse, sometimes breaking the glass with the stones which it carries up with it. Such is the prodigious force of the wind and the sea united, that the very rock itself seems to tremble, while the lighthouse shakes from top to bottom.
We are now in the Pentland Firth, and the waves are rolling strong from the eastward. The wind and the waters dash about the little ship, and she tacks and bears round under the shelter of the headland. But not before her decks have been well drenched by the billows. She has now to make headway against the tide, which is pushing into the Pentland Firth at the rate of some ten miles an hour. At last, retracing her pathway under the rocks, Rough Head is passed ; a calm comes on; the ship makes a tack across the bay; and at length Dwarwick Head is passed, and the buoyant little yacht makes her way into Castletown Harbour, from whence she set out.
ALFRED THE GREAT.
BEHOLD a pupil of the monkish gown,
Ease from this noble miser of his time
ALFRED THE GREAT.
ONCE more, the home of Bertric began to rise on the fertile range of hills to the north of London, where lay his father's estates. Some fresh horde of predatory Danes, owning the force of no treaty made with other bands of their countrymen, had retained London, and were not dispossessed by Alfred until after a regular siege in 886. Then Bertric ventured to reclaim his home, and the wooden homestead of the Saxon thane rose on the summit within the ancient moat. In spite of all its perils, the free life of the country attracted our Saxon forefathers more than the restraints of the city. Bertric and his men gladly followed the king as he rode among the charred remains of the dwellings of London, and once more cleared the site of the great church of St. Paul's; and lent their aid to the work. But his home was on the heights looking northward, over the range of forest and heath, broken by green glade and forest pool, which wild birds haunted, and where deer and wild boar came to drink; and southward, over terraced vineyards and golden cornfields, to the Thames. The age of great cities had not yet come. But it must interest the dwellers in London of to-day to remember that while the origin of the city dates back to far-off unrecorded British times, the form of the first founder that rises distinctly out of the dimness of the past is that of Alfred the Great. It is something for town or city to trace back its beginning to hands so pure.
History has recorded no death-bed scene of Alfred the Great; and no legendary vision has attempted to open the heavens above his grave. It is remarkable that all the legends which the grateful affection of after and less happy times gathered around his memory in the hearts of the Saxon people are connected, not with his death, but with his life. The traditions that float around his memory are popular-not ecclesiastical. The greatest king and the noblest man of his days has not attained the lowest step of monastic canonization. Monks who attained the perfection of saying their prayers in ice-cold water, and priests who had physical encounters with the devil, and who exercised their courage in maiming a poor young Saxon queen,
have their due record in ecclesiastical legend. The king, who set an example, not of celibacy, but of a Christian married life, who won England back to Christianity, and brought the Danish pirates to Christian baptism--who chose any suffering rather