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I feared to speak God's after! Then came prayers,
My dull ear noted not. Yet every day
Yet, oh heaven!
Still, if I walked,
Oh, thou world!
There came release. 'Twas midnight, and I seemed
They told me 'twas a dream, but felt I not
A YEAR AT AMBLESIDE.
BY HARRIET MARTINEAU.
After a long illness, during which I never and the Romans drew near, at last, to invade saw a tree in leaf for upwards of five years, the region, and pave a road through it. It and passed my life between my bed and my sofa, must have been a curious sight to the skinI recovered—to my own surprise, and that of clad Britons who were posted as sentinels, when every one who knew me. In September, I crept the Roman standards appeared among the out of doors, and lay on a bit of grass a few trees, and helmets and spears glittered in the yards square. In October, I walked down to pathways of the woods. The Romans took the sea-shore, and by degrees extended my possession of Windermere, and made a camp rambles to a fine beach three miles from home. at its head. If the circles of stones planted By this time there was no doubt of my being by the Druids are visible here and there in the well; but it was evidently desirable to change district, no less distinct are the marks of Roman the scene, and break off all associations of sick- occupation. In a field at the head of Winderness with my daily habits, and I eagerly ac- mere, the outlines of their camp are obvious cepted the invitation of friends who lived on enough to the eye; and on a mountain ridge, the banks of Windermere, to spend a month still called High Street, are the fragments of with them. That month determined my place pavement, which show that even here, above of residence for, probably, the rest of my life. the highest tree-tops from which the British
I had seen the Lake district in a cursory sentinels could look forth, the Roman soldiers way, some years before, merely passing through made a road for their standards and their it on my way to Scotland. Its beauty had troops. What a sight it must have been struck me with a kind of amazement. As I from below! How the native mother must looked down into some of the vales, or around have shrunk back with her children into upon a wall of mountains, I was almost incre- the caves of the rock, or the covert of the dulous of what I saw.
If had been told that wood, -less afraid of the wild beasts than after a long and dreary season of hopeless ill- of these majestic invaders, against whom her ness, I should come and sit down for life in this husband was gone out with his scythe or his region, I should have looked upon the prospect
club! How she and her companions must as one of the most marvellous of the shifting have listened to the shock of falling trees, and scenes of life.
the cleaving of the rocks, which gave notice Its beauty is not the only, nor to some peo- that the enemy were making themselves a ple, the chief interest and charm of the Lake broad highway through the heart of the disdistrict. The mountains, by their conservative trict. I always think of those cowering Britons influence, have here hedged in a piece of old now, when I go by the old Roman road, which English life, such as is to be found nowhere else descends upon Grasmere. The scene is open within the island. They have always hedged enough now, but I can conjure up the forests in a piece of the life that had passed away which clothed the mountain slopes down to the from the rest of the country. When the very brink of the Grasmere lake, in the days Romans were elsewhere building walls around when the wild boar came down to drink, and the towns, and stretching out roads from point the squirrel could (as the country people tell) to point of the island, the Druids were still col- go from Wythburn to Keswick-ten miles on a lecting their assemblage of wild Britons under straight line,–
-on the tree-tops, without touchthe forest shades of this region. The remains ing the ground. of coppices of oak, ash, birch, and hollies, After all, the Romans passed away before show how high up the mountain sides the the Britons. The natives remained in consiancient forest extended, and under those treesderable numbers in the fastnesses, when the stood of old the long-bearded, shaven-headed, glittering soldiers were no more seen on the white-robed Druidical priests, sending up a paved ways, and the trumpets no longer echoed flame of sacrifice, which scared the red deer, from one mountain peak to another. But the and the wolf, and the wild bull in their coverts, Saxons and Danes came in to take possession of and brought the eagles from their highest the fertile spots as the Romans left them. They perch by the scent of a prey. But even here never obtained possession of the district, howchange must come, though later than elsewhere, ever. For six hundred years, the Saxons held
some of the fine alluvial lands about the lakes, nominally his tenant, while my land is, to all and lived in settlements where there were natural practical purposes, freehold. The tenure is facilities for defence; but they needed all these called Customary Freehold, and the nominal facilities, for the Britons had learned from the lord has no power when I have once acknowRomans how to arm themselves better, and to ledged his old feudal claim by being “made a fight; and for those six hundred years they tenant,” and paying my ninepence a year. held their ravines, and forests, and even their The holders of the crofts on the mountain villages and hamlets, so that the Saxons could sides, and in the vales (the inclosures built of never feel secure. After those six centuries, stones, for the protection of the flocks from more and more Saxons crowded to these West wild beasts, and for promoting the growth of Moorlands, now called Westmoreland; but they the coppice on which they browsed), these came not to conquer territory, but to seek tenants gradually becoming owners, were the shelter from the Normans, who were upon their original of the Dalesmen of our time. Since heels. The Saxon men of substance, who were the union of Scotland with England, and the driven out from their estates in the south by consequent extinction of border warfare, these the Norman invaders,-robbed, oppressed, out- dalesmen have become some of the quietest raged in every way,--came up among the Fells people in the world. No more summoned to to nourish vengeance, and form themselves into war, nothing calls them out of their retreats, bands of outlaws, for the torment of as many except an occasional market, or a sale of houseNorman usurpers as they could reach. The hold furniture in some neighbouring valley. Britons had long ceased to appear elsewhere; | They go on practising their old-fashioned and from this time we hear no more of them methods of tillage and herding, living in their among the Fells, and, as before, the Saxons primitive abodes, and keeping up customs, and were to be heard of as holding the Fells, longeven a manner of speech, which are elsewhere after their race had mingled with the Norman almost obsolete. It will not be so for long. everywhere to the south. The Normans came Their agriculture cannot hold its ground against as near as they could, but they never so far modern improvements. Their homespun linen penetrated the West Moorlands as to build and cloth do not answer now in comparison with castles in the midst, and settle down there as Manchester cottons and Yorkshire woollens. inhabitants. They obtained grants of land, Their sons part off to the manufacturing disbut they never practically took possession of tricts, to get a better maintenance than they them. They built monasteries and castles in can find at home; and the daughters must go the lerel country which stretches out around out to service. Still, the old croft will not the cluster of mountains; but they only sent support those who remain: the land is mortout their herdsmen with their flocks to encroach gaged more deeply. The interest cannot be gradually up the mountain slopes, and over the raised; and, under this pressure, the temptation nearer vales; or drew the inhabitants towards to the sinking dalesman to drown his cares in them by the temptations and privileges of the drink, becomes too strong for many a one who abbeys and the castles. First, these Normans has no resources of education to fall back upon. built Furness Abbey, on a plain to the south of Then comes the end,—the land and furniture the mountain group; and then between the are sold, the family disperse, and a stranger mountains and the sea, Calder Abbey, to the comes in who can make the land answer under west. Afterwards, they restored the religious modern methods of tillage. Some of these house of St. Bees, on the coast, and then a strangers have a sufficient love of what is congreat Norman noble founded Lanercost Priory, secrated by time, to retain as much as they can to the northeast. Thus they invested this noble of the ancient character of the region, in the fortress of nature,--this mountain cluster,- aspect of their dwellings, and the arrangement but they never took it. Their race at last of their estates, but all cannot be expected to mingled with the Saxon, and dwelt here as do this; and the antique air of the region must everywhere else, but it was by gradual pene-melt away. I have myself built a house of the tration, and not by force or stratagem. The gray stone of the district, in the style of three feudal retainers, sent to do service in tillage centuries ago; but I see flaring white houses, and herding, became more and more free and square and modern, springing up in many a independent of their lords, and as they became valley; and I feel that from this time forward more free, they found easier access to the heart our West Moorlands will not lag behind the of the region, till, in course of time, they were world-two or three centuries in the rear of in fact owners of portions of land, under a mere adjoining counties,—so charmingly as they Dominal subservience to the great men at a have done from the dawn of British history distance. This state of things is kept in mind till now. by old customs at this day. I pay ninepence As in many other mountain districts, the a year to Lord Lonsdale for my field, and am highest of our peaks are in the middle. Scawfell is the highest, and Bowfell next, and they | with dwellings throughout its circuit. In are nearly in the centre of the cluster. From going round this valley, a walk of about five this centre, not only do the ridges decline in miles from my friend's house, it was pretty height, but the valleys decrease in depth; so certain that we should meet the majority of that on the outskirts, we have only gently our acquaintances, on any fine winter aftersloping, green hills, and shallow vales, whence, noon. in clear weather, we look up to the lofty cen- On going forth, the first thing that strikes tral crags.
In approaching from the south, the stranger's eye is probably the great abunthrough Lancashire, Windermere is the first of dance of evergreens. To me, the wintry aspect the lakes that is encountered. Gentle hills of the country is almost annihilated in the surround its southern end; and these rise and neighbourhood of dwellings, by the clustering swell through the whole ten miles of its length, and shining of the evergreens. The hollies in till, about its head, the diverging valleys are the hedges are tall and tree-like; and near the closed in by the heights of Fairfield, and the breakfast-room windows of their houses, the remarkable summits called the Langdale Pikes. inhabitants plant a holly, to be an aviary in Bowfell appears beyond them; and from some winter, when birds come flitting about for the points on the lake, Scawfell itself is seen peep- sake of the berries. Then, the approaches are ing over a nearer ridge. It was night when I hedged in with laurels; the laurestina is in full arrived at the house of my host; and all that I flower on the lawns; the houses and walls are knew of the road, for some miles, was that it half covered with ivy; and wherever, along the was bordered by tufted walls, and overhung road, a garden wall stretches away, it runs with trees which on the left hand separated it over with evergreens, which shake off the snow from the lake. In the morning, what a scene as the breeze passes over them. Well, we go it was! The road was hidden, and the lawn down the road to the toll-bar, where the good before the windows seemed to slope down to woman lives who likes her calling so well that the fringe of trees, and the graceful little she has no wish to leave her gate to see the wooded promontory which jutted out into the world. She saw the world one afternoon for lake. The gray waters spread out here about four hours, when her employer sent her to a mile in breath. To the south they were lost Bowness for a frolic; and she got so tired and among a group of wooded islands, while the dull that she was glad to see her toll-house head of the lake rounded off among green mea- again, and declared she would never more go dows, with here and there a rocky projection pleasuring. I was in the boat with her that crested with black pines, which were reflected day—a packet-boat steered by Professor Wilin the waters below. A hamlet of white houses son, who had his friend Dr. Blair with him. appeared in and out among the trees, at the The contrast of the three faces was curious,foot of the rugged mountain, called Loughrigg, the forlorn dulness of the woman, who looks which separates the two diverging valleys at the picture of content when taking toll,—the the head of Windermere. From my host’s porch abstraction of the philological Dr. Blair, and the we looked up the quiet valley of the Brathay, keen, observing, and enjoying countenance of where a beautiful little church, built by a mer- Christopher North! Just through the toll-bar, cer from Bond Street, crowns a wooded rock, lies Waterhead, a cluster of houses on the and overlooks the rattling river Brathay, to the northern margin of the lake, the prettiest of glorious cluster of summits and ridges which which is the low cottage under the massy sycathe winter morning sun clothes with orange, mores, with its grass-plat spreading into the crimson, and purple lines below where the waters—the cottage where I lived while my snow cuts out a sharp outline against the sky. house was building. Passing behind this cotWhen I came to live here, I soon learned that tage, the road winds somewhat inland, leaving if I wished for a calm, meditative walk after space for a meadow between it and the lake, my morning's work, I had better go up this till it passes the Roman Camp before men. valley of the Brathay, where I was sure never tioned. Then on the right we see, across a field to meet anybody. I could look out from its and almost hidden among evergreens, the cothigh churchyard upon its unsurpassed view, tage of poor Hartley Coleridge's tutor, the sinand then go down and skirt Loughrigg, and gular old clergyman who died at upwards of lean upon a gate, or rest upon a heathery perch eighty, without a will, as if summoned untimely! of rock, without much probability of seeing a Then we pass the beautiful house and most face for three hours together. Whereas, if I flowery garden of a Quaker friend of minewas tired of thinking, and sociably inclined, I place which seems in all weathers to look as had better take my way up the other valley-cheerful as its benevolent master. In my early that of the Rotha, where the little town of walk, before it is light in the winter morning, Ambleside nestles under the shelter of the I choose this direction in February, because in swelling Wansfell, and which is scattered over a copse of my Quaker friend's which overhangs