Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub
[graphic]

we think the author has been very successful. His pictures are not overcharged or exaggerated, but are lively and forcible; and, by means of a few circumstances judiciously selected, bring the scene very distinctly before the reader. They remind us of the remarks on scenery, which, we think, are made with as much taste, and as much power of writing, as any in our language, --we mean those of Gray in his tour in Scotland, and in the north of England.no

On the north side of the island, and not far from West Cowes, is a seat of Sir Henry Seymour, built from the designs of Mr Wyatt, in imitation of an ancient castle. Seated on the steep descent of the coast to the Solent sea, it perhaps commands a view of that strait, superior in beauty to any other point in the island. To the east, Portsmouth, crowded with shipping, is in full view, and the richest line of the woody coast of the island appears in long and varied perspective. To the north, the Southampton river is seen in its whole extent; and the town of Southampton, with its spires and towers, though at ten miles distance, is no inconsiderable object. The woods of the New Forest close the view to the west, while Calshot Castle, on the point of its long banks of shingle, stands boldly out amidst the waves, and marks the separation between the Solent sea and the Southampton river.'

Further to the eastward is Binstead, much celebrated for its beauty.

• The shore here is very steep, and wooded absolutely into the water ; a small cove forms the nearest distance; and, beyond the projecting point of this cove, the shipping of Portsmouth harbour, now seen in a nearer view, is a noble assemblage of all that the commercial or armed Navy of England can exhibit. The anchorage of the Motherbank reaches quite to Binstead, and even further to the west ; and, when the great convoys were collecting in the channel from thence to St Helen's, a distance of eight miles has of ten been seen covered with vessels, to the amount of many hundreds. The sailing of one of those great convoys, in a beautifully clear day, with a light air, which permitted every sail to be spread, was one of the most interesting sights I ever beheld. The blue waters in the distance were almost hidden by the snow-white cloud of sails, which, as the vessels approached, separated into detached groups, and, still nearing, passed in rapid succession, as I viewed the scene from the heights above Cowes.

The foot-path from Ryde to St John's, crosses a small and rather marshy meadow, with a streamlet passing through it, having a stonearched bridge, and a sluice to keep out the tides. Near this stream several rows of graves still rise above the general level of the turf, These I had often noticed, without a suspicion of what they really were ; till one day meeting an old fishern:an, I asked him why those hcaps, so like graves, had been thrown up. The man, in a low tone, and with a sort of sullen look, said—“ They are graves ;—the bodies cast ashore, after the loss of the Royal George, were buried here. We did not much like drawing a net hereabouts for some weeks afterwards :-we were always bringing up a corpse. The sudden and melancholy effect of this narrative; the peculiar contrast of the cheerful, though very retired look of this little green flat, with the sad records that almost ceased to mark its surface, suggested the following lines, which I hope my readers will excuse me for inserting.

Thou ! who dost tread this smooth and verdant mead,
Viewing delighted, the fair hills that rise
On either hand, a sylvan theatre:
While in the front with snowy pinions closed,
And thunders silent, Britain's Guardian fleet
On the deep bosom of the azure sea
Reposes awful : Pass not heedless by
These mouldering heaps which the blue spiry grass
Scarce guards from mingling with the common earth.
Mark! in how many a melancholy rank
The graves are marshall’d.-Dost thou know the fate
Disastrous, of their tenants ? Hushed the winds,
And smooth the billows, when an unseen hand
Smote the great ship, and reft her massy beams :
She reeled and sunk :-Over her swarming decks
The flashing wave in horrid whirlpool rushed;
While from a thousand throats, one wailing shriek
Burst, and was heard no more.

Then day by day,
The ebbing tide left frequent on the sand
The livid corpse; and his o'er-loaded net
The shuddering fisher loathed to drag ashore.
And here, by friends unknown, unmark'd, unwept,
They rest.-Refuse not thou a passing sigh,
And wish a quiet consummation:

For in thy country's service these men died.' On going along the same coast, between St John's and the sea, on a platform about fifty feet above the water, stauds the mansion of Appley, which may be taken as the most perfect specimen of the beauties characteristic of this little island.

It is,' says Sir Henry, perhaps the most enchanting of all the spots in this most beautiful tract of country. Its elevation above the sea is sufficient to command, in the most perfect manner, every object on it, while it is not too much raised to enjoy the near view of the waves in all their varieties breaking on the shore, or the enchanting sound of their murmur as they die away on the beach. This coast is so sheltered, that it seldom happens that the most violent storm excites a great swell on it, which, however sublime, would ill suit the quiet and peaceful character of this sweet retreat. The house VOL. XXIX, NO. 58.

Bb

[graphic]

is of old brick, grown to an extremely pleasing grey tint: A small velvet lawn in its front separates it from the brow of the cliff, which is very steep, and covered with the most beautiful vegetation. With the oak, ash, and hazel, the universal growth of the shore, are happily mixed most of the hardy flowering shrubs and evergreens, which, without formality, not only add variety to the woods, but mark cultivation so essential near a dwelling house. A small cove to the east, called Puckpool Bay, forms the nearest distance of the sea. This bay is overhung by a noble wood, which rises in a great mass up the side of an hill of no inconsiderable height. From this steep bank a long point of lower land projects into the sea, not, however, flat or marshy, but having a rocky point from thirty to forty feet high. Over this land the sea is again visible; and Nettleston Point forms another bay. The anchorage of St Helen's is just beyond; and every vessel that comes to Portsmouth from the eastward is seen for a long time passing this part of the view. In front, Portsmouth, se often mentioned, is viewed to the greatest advantage ; and the western prospect commands the village of Ryde, with the busy scene of its small craft and wherries.'

What are called the Chines, form a species of scenery quite peculiar and different from any other in the island. They are scattered along the whole of the southern coast; and seem all to owe their origin to one common cause, the gradual action of the small streams of water which descend from the interior of the island into the sea, and, falling over the edge of the perpendicular clay cliffs, have worn for themselves deep gullies, some of which recede to a considerable distance within the shore, continually increasing their dimensions, and often changing their forms.

· The most eastern of these, and the most celebrated, is Shanklin Chine. The cliff, where the stream which forms it enters the sea, is about one hundred feet in height; and the chasm is perhaps one hundred and fifty feet wide at the top, and at the bottom not much wider than the channel of the stream. The sides are very steep, and in most places clothed with rich underwood, overhanging the naked sides. At a small distance within the mouth, on a terrace just large enough to afford a walk to their doors, stand two small cottages, at different elevations. Rude flights of steps descend to them from the top; and an excavation from the sandy rock forms a skittle-ground to one of them, overshadowed by the spray of young oaks. During the war, a sentinel was placed on a prominent point of the slope, and added much to the scenery. After proceeding about a hundred yards in a direct line from the shore, the chasm makes a sudden bend to the left, and grows much narrower. Its sides are nearly perpendicular, and but little shrubbry breaks their naked surface. The chasm continues winding and decreasing in breadth, till it terminates in an extremely narrow fissure, down which the rill which has formed the whole, falls about thirty feet. The quantity of water is in general so small, that the cascade is scarcely worth viewing ; but, af ter great rains, it must be very pretty. The sides of the gloomy hollow in which it falls, are of the blackish indurated clay, of which the greater part of the soil hereabouts is composed, and the damp of the waters has covered most parts of it with shining green lichens, and mosses of various shades. The brushwood which grows on the brow on either side, overhangs, so as nearly to meet; and the whole scene, though it cannot be considered as magnificent, is certainly striking and grotesque. Above the fall, the stream continues to run in a deep and shady channel, quite to the foot of the hills in which it takes its rise.'

[graphic]

It is evident that excavations of this kind can only be produced where water flows over a bank consisting of clay, or some other material that is soft enough to be readily cut into by a small stream, and, at the same time, tenacious and tough enough to maintain the edges of the cut steep or perpendicular. Wherever this is the case, what is here called a Chine may be produced. They abound on the south side of the Isle of Wight; and several more are described in the work before us. The name of Chine is somewhat peculiar. In its literal signification, it is the part of the back in which the spine or back-bone is contained ; and it is no doubt from some supposed analogy with this, that the term is here applied. It seems to have been so used by Dryden, when he employs it as a verb;-He that did shine the long-ribbed Appenine.

The scenery in this island which borders most upon the sublime and magnificent, is that of the chalk cliffs, particularly at the east end of the island, about the Needles and Alum Bay, Whitecliff Bay, &c. Some of these cliffs are quite perpendicular, and not less than 400 feet, or even 600 in height. The whole scenery of Alum Bay is superior in magnificence to that of any other part of the island.

The chalk forms an unbroken face, everywhere nearly perpendicular, and, in some parts, formidably projecting; and the tenderest stains of ochreous yellow, and greenish moist vegetation, vary, without breaking, its sublime uniformity. This vast wall extends more than a quarter of a mile, and is hardly less than 400 feet in height; its termination is a thin edge, not perpendicular, but of a bold broken outline; and the wedge-like Needle rocks, arising out of the blue waters, seem to continue the cliff beyond its present boundary, and give an awful impression of the stormy ages which have gradually devoured its enormous mass. The chalk rising from the sea nearly perpendicular, being totally in the shadow, while, opposed to the blue sky above, and the pellucid green of the sea at its foot, it has a sort of aerial tint, as if it were semitransparent;

[graphic]

while here and there a projecting point of the edge of the cliff, catching the sunshine, is of a whiteness so transplendent that it seems to sparkle by its own native light.

· The magical repose of this side of the bay is wonderfully contrasted by the torn forms and vivid colouring of the clay cliffs on the opposite side. These do not present rounded headlands, covered with turf and shrubs, as in some other parts of the coast, but offer a series of points which are often quite sharp and spiry. Deep, rug. ged chasms divide the strata in many places, and not a vestige of ve. getation appears in any part. The tints of the cliff are so bright and so varied, that they have not the appearance of any thing natural. Deep purplish red, dusky blue, bright ochreous yellow, grey and black succeed one another, as sharply defined as the stripes in silk.'

From this description, it is evident that few places present a greater contrast within a small compass, than the two opposite sides of Alum Bay. To this very beautiful and excellent description, we shall add that of the prospect from the losty beadland, where the light-house is situated a little to the south of this bay.

• The contrast of the clearness of the air towards the land, and over the sea, is more striking from this point than any other, though it can scarcely fail of being observed from most of the elevated spots in the island. Towards the land, the whole prospect, when I viewed it in a very fine day, was bright and distinct: The Solent sea, of a deep azure, was studded with white sails shining like silver; and the distant hills of Hampshire melted into the air in the most pearly clearness. Over the sea hung an haze, which dulled every object, and its horizon was faint and indistinct. It is a very remarkable fact, that although the land behind Cherbourg is as high as Beachy-head, and full ten miles nearer to St Catherine's * hill, no person ever saw or heard of its being seen from thence; while, in clear weather, Beachy. head is almost constantly visible. It seems not easy to account for this, particularly as the line of vision to both these points passes die rectly over the sea, without any land whatever intervening; so that any vapour arising from the water ought to operate equally in each case.

We pass over the antiquities :—those in the island are not numerous or striking, and afford but few subjects in which the antiquary can display much knowledge or research. We must observe, however, that it is to give a very imperfect idea of the beauty or value of this work, to speak only of the descriptions, or, in general, of the letter-press which it contains. The engravings, by which it is illustrated, are very striking and very finely executed. The drawings were made by Sir Henry EnGLEFIELD, or by MR WEBSTER, of whose share in the compa

[merged small][graphic]
« ForrigeFortsæt »