Algy awoke with a start, and was astonished to find that he seemed to be tucked into the crook of the massive trunk of his very own favourite tree, a venerable larch which overlooked his assistants’ garden on the wild west coast of the Scottish Highlands.
At first he could not believe his eyes... Surely he had just watched his little green dragon friend fly away to join a circus in Patadragonia, that remote and magical country which lay somewhere mysterious in the strange, deep south of the world...
But there was no doubt about it. Not only was the lichen-covered tree entirely familiar, but everything around it was silvery grey and green and wet... totally, utterly wet. This most certainly was not the parched and arid land of Patadragonia, and the soft, drenching Atlantic air bore no resemblance to the bitterly cold and bracing climate of that faraway place. And that cool, damp, almost-invisible blanket which covered everything with a light but saturating touch was also entirely familiar. it was mist: that dense, fine, perpetually wet Scotch mist which was so characteristic of his own adopted home.
Had it all been a dream? Algy looked more carefully at his surroundings. When he had been whisked away to his magical birthday adventure on a tropical island the Scottish trees had been bare, for the land he had left behind was on the verge of welcoming the spring. But now he saw a verdant mass of leaves which were just on the point of fading and falling, and here and there, some distance away, bunches of red and orange berries dangled temptingly from the branches. The world had turned, and the seasons had unquestionably changed...
Algy propped himself up more securely and, pondering on the mystery of it all, he muttered quietly under his breath:
I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream—past the wit of man to say what dream it was. Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream. Methought I was—there is no man can tell what. Methought I was, and methought I had—but man is but a patched fool if he will offer to say what methought I had. The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report what my dream was.
[Algy is of course quoting Bottom’s famous speech from Act IV of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by the English 16th/early 17th playwright William Shakespeare.]
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When he had slowly gathered his wits about him, Algy turned around and noticed that in his absence his assistants had installed a smart new deer fence, no doubt in an effort to keep the iconic and “Romantic” Highland cows and red deer - which the tourists so much loved to photograph - from Romantically devouring and trampling their garden...
Hopping up onto the top of one of the tall wooden posts, Algy gazed out to the north-west, in the direction where he should have been able to see the beautiful Sea of the Hebrides and the Small Isles...
But there was nothing; just nothing at all beyond the faint, grey hills which surrounded his home.
Algy wasn’t surprised. It was early autumn on the wild west coast of the Scottish Highlands, and instead of those golden colours and crisp, fresh days which so many of his friends seemed to celebrate at this time of year, the dense Scotch mist driving in from the Atlantic Ocean had washed out the landscape with “a smoky smirr o rain”:
A misty mornin’ doon the shore wi a hushed an’ caller air,
an’ ne’er a breath frae East or West tie sway the rashes there,
a sweet, sweet scent frae Laggan’s birks gaed breathin’ on its ane,
their branches hingin beaded in the smoky smirr o rain.
The hills aroond war silent wi the mist alang the braes.
The woods war derk an’ quiet wi dewy, glintin’ sprays.
The thrushes didna raise for me, as I gaed by alane,
but a wee, wae cheep at passin’ in the smoky smirr o rain.
Rock an’ stane lay glisterin’ on aa the heichs abune.
Cool an’ kind an’ whisperin’ it drifted gently doon,
till hill an’ howe war rowed in it, an’ land an’ sea war gane.
Aa was still an’ saft an’ silent in the smoky smirr o rain.
[Algy is quoting the poem The Smoky Smirr o Rain by the 20th century Scottish poet George Campbell Hay, who wrote in all three of the languages used in Scotland: Scots (as in this poem), Gaelic, and English.]
For the benefit of those who find the Scots words difficult to understand, Algy has made his own rough and literal translation, without any attempt at rhyming:
A misty morning down at the shore with a hushed and refreshing air,
And never a breath from East or West to sway the rushes there,
A sweet, sweet scent from Laggan’s birches was exhaled on its own,
Their branches draped with beads in the misty drizzle of rain.
The hills around were silent with the mist along the brows.
The woods were dark and quiet with dewy, glinting twigs.
The thrushes raised no alarm for me, as I went by alone,
Except for a tiny mournful cheep at my passing in the misty drizzle of rain.
Rock and stone lay glistening on all the heights above,
Cool and kind (?) and whispering it drifted gently down
Till hill and hollow were wrapped in it and land and sea were gone.
All was still and soft and silent in the misty drizzle of rain.
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