[from D. Robertson, Tour, 1794]
RAMSAY KIRK-MAUGHOLD LEGEND OF SAINT MAUGHOLD, CONFIRMED BY AN HISTORICAL PILLAR SNAEFIELD ITS SUBLIME AND UNPARALLELED PROSPECT LAXEY KIRK-CONCHAN RETURN TO DOUGLAS.
ON leaving Bishop's-Court we had a delightful walk in the evening, through a fine country to Ramsay, where we arrived to supper. What I observed of Peel in a former chapter may with little variation be extended to this town. Both places before the sale of the Island flourished by the gains of illicit commerce; and since then, the inhabitants of both seem to have been affected with a supine indifference towards opening new channels of trade and commerce. In one instance Ramsay has the advantage of Peel. The neighbouring country, being highly cultivated, produces a considerable quantity of grain; part of which is annually exported from the little harbour of Ramsay: but this may be considered, rather as the traffick of the farmers in the neighbourhood, than of the merchants in the town.
At Ramsay we met with little to engage our attention, and therefore left it early on the next morning. The sky was clear and serene; and the sun had just broke from the horizon, when we gained the summit of a steep hill in our way to Kirk-Maughold. Beneath us day the spacious bay of Ramsay, glittering in his beams; while every object around us seemed to imbibe life and energy from his refulgence.
In observing the various beauties of the morning, we passed the tedious and solitary road, leading from Ramsay to Kirk-Maughold; a small village which derives its name from the following Legend.
About the close of the fifth century Saint Maughold, who had formerly been a Captain of Irish Banditti, was cast upon this Island, in a little leathern boat, his hands, and his feet, loaden with fetters. Such an object naturally awoke the attention of the Bishop of the Isle, who received him with admiration and pity; particularly, when the Saint informed him, that this severity and danger he voluntarily suffered as a penance for his former wickedness. To this mountainous solitude, still distinguished by his name, he retired; when his penitence, austerity, and piety, obtained him such veneration, that, after the death of the Bishop, he succeeded him, by the unanimous con' sent of the Manks nation. In 498 his pious celebrity was not confined to the Island. It soon reached his native country: and St. Bridget, one of the tutelary saints of Ireland, and foundress of Douglas nunnery, visited him in his mountainous retirement; and there received from him the veil of virginity.
So far says the Legend; and in confirmation of part of this history, there is still risible a beautiful quadrangular pillar near the church-gate of Kirk-Maughold.
On one side, under the capital, is sculptured a venerable figure of St. Maughold, conferring the veil on Saint Bridget, whom the sculptor has represented as a majestic, yet beautiful virgin. The opposite side has a representation of our Saviour expiring con the cross; and under it the arms of the Island. On the third side is a figure of St. Bridget in a supplicating posture: her eye seems fixed on Heaven, and her countenance indicates humility mingled with devotional rapture. The fourth side is totally defaced; but most probably it represented St. Maughold's arrival on the Island, or some other part of his history.
Besides this beautiful relic of antiquity, there is also a fine Danish cross, sculptured on a large stone, reclining upon the ground just before the church-door, which certainly merits the regard of the antiquary.
KIRK-MAUGHOLD, notwithstanding its former celebrity, is now the most poor and lonely village in the Island. The church stands on a very lofty promontory, in the centre of a church-yard, containing not less than five acres. It is enclosed by a strong mound of earth, faced on the outward side with stone; and a great variety of ancient and modern grave-stones are scattered over this spacious enclosure. Perhaps, from pious Veneration to the memory of St. Maughold, the natives, for several ages, used this consecrated spot, as the chief place of interment in the Island.
On leaving Kirk-Maughold we proceeded, through a very sterile part-of the country' toward Douglas: and as the horizon continued pure and unclouded, we determined to enjoy the unparalleled prospect, which Snaffield affords in such delightful weather.
After climbing the lofty surrounding mountains, which only seemed to form a noble base to this stupendous pyramid of Nature, we gained, with much difficulty and fatigue, its towering summit; from whence we had a most subtitle and enchanting prospect. Beneath us lay expanded the lesser mountains, and all around the romantic hills and stales of Mona, beautifully interspersed with their woods,waters, villages, and towns: the surrounding ocean, refulgent with the meridian sun, and covered with many a white sail, heightened the beauty and sublimity of the landscape; while to crown the whole, this charming prosper was terminated only by the majestic mountains of other kingdoms (1).
Such a glorious view of the majesty of Nature not only charms the eye: it also purifies, and ennobles the soul. The mind is filled with a divine enthusiasm. Lost in admiration,we disregard human splendour; and with pity and contempt look down on the vanity and ambition of man. Our souls are weaned from earth, and already aspire to their native Heaven.
After enjoying for some hours the highest of human pleasures, we left, with a considerable degree of reluctance, this enchanting scene; and by a rapid descent soon reached the village of Laxey.
This group of cottages lies in the bosom of a deep glen; and from its retired creek, is resorted to by the few smugglers who now visit the Island. On the east it opens into a fine bay; and on the south, west, and north, is surrounded by steep and lonely mountains, which, with the deep vales between, afford some romantic scenery. Such picturesque are highly gratifying to a pensive imagination. Here, the charming Muse of Beattie might " feast on raptures " ever new (2) :" and here the wounded heart of Laura Maria might indulge in all the luxury of woe. Having mentioned this Lady, no less distinguished by her genius and sensibility, than exquisite beauty, I am induced, by the favourable reception with which she honoured them, to republish a few verses addressed to her from this Island, in 1791.
INSCRIBED TO MRS. ROBINSON.,
THO' on thy cheek the living robes glow
Lovelier, when bath'd in Sorrow's lucid tear;
Tho' more enchanting heaves thy breast of snow,"
Pouring the sigh to pensive Anguish dear:
Tho' sweeter flows thy soul-dissolving lay,
Whene'er thy lute throbs to that deep'ning sigh;
As to the plaintive gale of sinking day,
Vibrates the lyre of airy melody it:
Yet, Ah! were mine the anguish-healing art,
No more should sigh that beauteous " breast of " snow,"
Soft throbbing to the touch of Sorrow's dart;
But, tho' no costly baleen I can bestow,
Accept the incense of a pensive heart,
Charm'd by thy magic melody of Woe.
Amid the wild and picturesque scenes, in the vicinity of Laxey, we passed the greater part of the day; and in the evening proceeded to Kirk-Conchan, a pleasant and airy village, where the aliens who die in Douglas are usually interred. We visited the church-yard, which contains some marble monuments of a recent date, and about sun-set arrived at Douglas, highly delighted with our excursion through the Island
1: Snaffield leas been termed the centre of the British dominions in Europe. Situate in the 54th degree of north latitude, and 4th degree of western longitude, it commands an extensive view of the mountains of Galloway' in Scotland; of Cumberland and Lancashire, in England; of Caernarvonshire, in Wales and of Arklow' in Ireland.
2: See the Minstrel; a Poem, in which the finest poetical imagery is united with sublime and affecting sentiment.
3: Authoress of those beautiful Poems originally published under the signature of Laura Maria.
4: The Harp of Colas.