John Millais, Portrait of John Ruskin, 1853-4
In this memorable passage, John Ruskin observes the acoustic qualities of Scottish streams:
'I know no other waters to be compared with them; - such streams can only exist under very subtle concurrence of rock and climate. There must be much soft rain, not (habitually) tearing the hills down with floods; and the rocks must break irregularly and jaggedly. Our English Yorkshire shales and limestones merely form – carpenter-like – tables and shelves for the rivers to drip and leap from; while the Cumberland and Welsh rocks break too boldly, and lose the multiplied chords of musical sound. Farther, the loosely-breaking rock must contain hard pebbles, to give the level shore of white shingle, through which the brown water may stray wide, in rippling threads. The fords even of English rivers have given the names to half our prettiest towns and villages – (the difference between ford and bridge curiously – if one may let one’s fancy loose for a moment – characterizing the difference between the baptism of literature, and the edification of mathematics, in our two great universities); but the pure crystal of the Scottish pebbles, giving the stream is gradations of amber to the edge, and the sound as of ‘ravishing division to the lute,’ make the Scottish fords the happiest pieces of all one’s day walk.'
From Fors Clavigera, Letter XXXII, August 1873, Section 14