Billeder på siden


tained their frugal dinner, whilst the mother would carry her babe, hushing and lulling it, and the father and an elder child trudged after with the cradle, all seeming weary, and all happy. We shall not see such a procession to-day; for the harvest is nearly over, the fields are deserted, the silence may almost be felt, except the wintry notes of the red-breast, nature herself is mute. Yet how beautiful, how gentle, how harmonious, how rich! The rain has preserved to the herbage all the freshness and verdure of spring, and the world of leaves has



lost nothing of its midsummer brightness, and the harebell is on the banks, and the woodbine in the hedges, and the low furze, which the lambs cropped in the spring, has burst again into its golden blossoms.

"All is beautiful that the eye can see, perhaps the more beautiful for being shut in with a forest-like closeness. We have no prospect in this labyrinth of lanes, cross-roads, mere cart-ways, leading to the innumerable little farms into which this part of the parish is divided. Up hill or down these quiet woody lanes scarcely give us a peep at the


[ocr errors]

world, except when leaning over a gate we look into one of the small enclosures hemmed in with hedge-rows so closely set with growing timbers that the weedy openings look almost like a glade in a wood, or where some cottage, planted at a corner of one of the little greens formed by the meeting of these cross-ways, almost startles us by the unexpected sight of the dwellings of man in such a state of solitude. This pretty snug farm-house on the hill side, with its front covered with the rich vine, which goes wreathing up to the very top of the clustered chimney, and its sloping orchard full of fruit-even this pretty quiet nest can hardly peep out of its leaves. Ah! they are gathering in the orchard harvest. Look at that young rogue in the old mossy apple tree, that great tree bending with the weight of its golden rennets; see how he pelts his little sister beneath with apples as red and as round as her own cheeks, while she, with her out-stretched frock, is trying to catch them, and laughing and offering to pelt again as often as one bobs against her; and look at that still younger imp, who, grave as a judge, is creeping on hands and knees under the tree picking up the apples as they fall so deadly, and depositing them so honestly in the great basket on the grass, already fixed so firmly and opened so widely, and filled almost to overflowing by the brown rough fruitage of the golden rennets, next neighbour to the russeting; and see that smallest urchin of all, seated apart in infantine state on the mossy bank, with that toothsome piece of deformity a crumpling in each hand, now biting from one sweet hard juicy morsel, and now from another. Is not this a pretty English picture ? And then, farther up the orchard, that bold hardy lad, the oldest born, who is seated, heaven knows how, in the tall straight upper branch of that great pear tree, and is sitting there as securely and as fearlessly, in as much real safety and apparent danger, as a sailor on the top mast. Now he shakes the tree with a mighty swing that brings down a pelting shower of stony burgamots which the father gathers rapidly up, whilst the mother can hardly assist for her motherly fear-a fear which only spurs the spirited boy to bolder ventures. Is it not a pretty picture ?

“Oh! here is the hedge along which the periwinkle wreathes and twines so profusely, with its evergreen leaves



shining like the myrtle, and its staring blue flowers. It is seldom found wild in this part of England; but when we do meet with it, it is so abundant and so welcome, the very robin-redbreast of flowers, a winter friend.

“ The little spring that has been bubbling under the hedge all along the hill side begins, now that we have mounted the eminence, and are imperceptibly descending, to deviate into a capricious variety of clear deep pools and channels, so narrow and so choked with weeds, that a child might overstep them. The hedge has also changed its character. It is no longer the close compact vegetable wall of hawthorn, and maple, and briar-roses, intertwined with bramble and woodbine, and crowned with large elms or thickly-set saplings. No! the pretty meadow which rises high above us, backed and almost surrounded by a tall coppice, needs no defence on our side but its own steep bank garnished with tufts of broom, with pollard oaks wreathed with ivy, and here and there with long patches of hazel overhanging the water. "Ah, there are still nuts on that bough!' and in an instant my dear companion, active, eager, and delighted as a boy, has hooked down with his walking-stick one of the lissome hazel stems, and cleared it of its tawny clusters, and in another moment he has mounted the bank, and is in the midst of the nuttery, now tranferring the spoil from the lower branches into that vast variety of pockets which gentlemen carry about them, now bending the tall tops into the lane, holding them down by main force, so that I might reach them and enjoy the pleasure of collecting some of the plunder myself. A very great pleasure he knew it would be. I doffed my shawl, tucked up my flounces, twined my straw bonnet into a basket, and began gathering and scramblingfor manage it how you may, nutting is scrambling work; those boughs, however tightly you grasp them by the young fragrant twigs and the bright green leaves, will recoil and burst away ; but there is a pleasure even in that: so on we go, scrambling and gathering with all our might and all our glee. Oh, what an enjoyment! All my life long I have had a passion for that sort of seeking which implies finding -the secret, I believe, of the love of field sports which is in man's mind a natural impulse—therefore I love violetting; therefore, when we had a fine garden I used to love to

gather strawberries and cut asparagus, and above all, to collect the filberts from the shrubberies; but this hedge-row nutting beats that sport all to nothing. That was a makebelieve thing compared with this; there was no surprise, no suspense, no unexpectedness, it was as inferior to this wild nutting, as the turning out of a bag fox is to unearthing the fellow, in the eyes of a staunch fox-hunter.

"Oh, what an enjoyment this nutting is! They are in such abundance, that it seems as if there were not a boy in the parish, nor a young man, nor a young woman-for a basket of nuts is the universal tribute of country gallantry; our pretty damsel, Harriet, has had at least half-a-dozen this season; but no one has found out these. And they are so full too, we lose half of them from over-ripeness; they drop from the socket at the slightest motion."

Leaving Miss Mitford and the nutting let us follow the example of our excellent queen and betake ourselves to

[graphic][merged small]

And being there let us listen to the inspiration of a true poet. "There you stand," says he, addressing the mountains, "and were you to rear your summits much higher you would alarm the hidden stars. Yet we have seen you higher, but it was in storm. In calm like this, you do well to look beautiful; your solemn atti

[blocks in formation]

tude suits the sunny season and the peaceful sky. But when the thunder at mid-day would hide your heads in a night of cloud, you thrust them through the blackness, and show them to the glens crowned with fire.

“ Are they a sea of mountains ? No! they are mountains in a sea.

And what a sea! Waves of water, when at the prodigious, are much higher than the fore-top of a man-ofwar. Waves of vapour; they alone are sun-flying mountains, high-dashing, but howling not; and in their silent ascension, all held together by the same spirit, but perpetually changing their beautiful array. Where order seems ever and anon to come in among disorder, there is a grandeur that settles down in the soul of a youthful poet, roaming in delirium among the mountain glooms, and pacifies the fever of his heart.

“ Call not their vapours waves, for movement there is none among the ledges, and ridges, and roads, and avenues, and galleries, and groves, and houses, and churches, and castles, and fairy palaces, all framed of mist. Far up, among and above that wondrous region, through which you hear voices of waterfalls deepening the silence, behold hundreds of mountain-tops, blue, purple, violet, for the sun is shining straight on some and aslant on others, and on others not at all; nor can the shepherd at your side, though he has lived among them all his life, till after long pondering, tell you the names of those most familiar to him; for they seem all to have interchanged sites and attitudes, and Black Benhem himself, the eagle-breeder, looks so serenely in his rainbow, that you might almost mistake him for Ben Loney, or the Hill of Hinds.

“ Have you not seen sunsets in which the mountains were embedded in masses of clouds all burning and blazing ; yes, blazing with unimaginable mixtures of all the colours that ever were born, intensifying into a glory that absolutely became insupportable to the soul as insufferable to the eyes, and that left the eyes for hours after you had retreated from the supernatural scene, even when shut, all filled with floating films of cross-lights, cutting the sky-imagery into gorgeous fragments. And were not the mountains of such sunsets, whether they were of land or of cloud, sufficiently vast for your utmost capacities and powers of delight and

« ForrigeFortsæt »