Page images

willow-herb, and meadow-sweet, and advertisements than any other existing even the tall ostentatious spikes of

residence. loose-strife, haunted by water-rats in After gazing a little at the church dozens—you come upon a grand, old- locked, of course, and we are in too fashioned farm ; a snipe at this desultory a mood to hunt for the moment flicks out of the rushes, and Rectory and the key, though there is dodges out of sight across the a certain inscribed blue-slate tombmarsh we have just left, a sign that stone that we ought to see—we lanHorton is not much disturbed by guidly inquire of a rustic, who has wandering mankind.

suspended what little occupation he The road leads past two or three had been engaged in, firmly planting more rambling brick houses, each with his spade in the ground the while to the gravel sweep up to the front door, watch our movements with microscopic each delightfully unlike the rest, at interest, if he can direct us to the varying distances from the road; one principal object of our pilgrimage. all front and no back, another with Receiving a somewhat ambiguous an unpromising portico, but row after answer, we retrace our steps, and row of huddling windows, stretching passing the farm from whose back we away to the cedar on the back lawn; had struck into the road, we set our houses that defy conjecture as to faces resolutely to the country. The possible or even likely denizens; that road is dotted with Buckinghamshire suggest finally old maids of settled cottages, woodwork and brick and habits, and a very close scrutiny of delicious dilapidation; over the fallow life from their own or one another's and orchards at the right we can see parlour windows, the parson and the the red roofs and yellow walls of doctor their ideals of saintliness and Colnbrook. There is not a hill in sanity.

sight, and overhead, as though to mark A three-cornered green, and a great, the solitude of the place, floats a heron broad high-shouldered, irregular church, down the wind, with an occasional flap built of grey stone and mottled flints, of the great wings, towards the soliwith a chantry all out of proportion tudes of Ditton or Black Park. Then a both in style and size to the rest of flock of peewits whirl querulously out the building, giving it a peculiar and of a ploughed field on the left with yet indefinable charm. The church- their thin, hopeless note, and in a few yard is bounded on both sides, though seconds are sixty feet up in air, unmisopen to the road, by more brick walls takable still by their curved wings and -in this case older still—of the date almost invisible bodies. And at last when they have begun to be more we draw up opposite a square yellowyellow than red, dotted all over with brick villa of the pretentious, and yet crinkled rosettes of lichen, and tufted slipshod, kind; hencoops and scattered at the top with snapdragon and wall- provender on the lawn ; a rank of flower. In the middle of one side are ducks come clamouring out of a two gigantic stone-topped gateposts, wicket, and indolent - looking the intervening space unhappily now spaniel saunters inquiringly down to bricked up-probably by the same the gate, to do the honours of the proprietor who pulled down the house if he feels disposed. Elizabethan manor house, with its “ Milton villa," horrible juxtagables and mullions, that lurked amid position ! yet this is the only trace moats and fishponds among the chest- beside the blue-slate stone in the nuts behind the church, and substi- church, of the presence that gives tuted the stainless white house, with Horton its significance and sacredness. its circular pillared porch and double It stands, it is said, upon the very flight of steps, in style more like the site. And the view, too, is probably mansion depicted in house-moving little altered. Across the fields you




see Windsor Castle, the only difference pleasant and shady walk," as he writes

, between what it looked then and what to Deodati, where he might loiter and appears now being the altered height dream. For it must be confessed that of the Round Tower, then more squat, the beauty of which he was enamoured and the trees which fringe these was not the beauty of Nature. Milton north-easterly slopes ; for the Georgian was not one of those who in times of pointing and the hideous Portland we stress and dissatisfaction can crouch are fortunately too far off to distin- back to the bosom of the great mother guish. And the fields; they must and be at rest there : no! it was rather have been a little more trackless of the beauty of thought ; of high ideals; and irregular, more bosky and of conceptions dim and sublime. Nature tumbled, retaining a little

was no necessity to Milton. In later hill and dale, an irregularity which life he became a settled Londoner, and generation after generation of plough- not a regretful one; he did not fly back ing has nearly counteracted; with into the country as to his true home. copses and old field roads, if we can He was not the sort of poet who can trust the dim Constables and Gains- lie on his back and watch the willowboroughs, and with a general sense leaves and the water hour after hour. of less being required from them: What he wanted in a country place a feeling, distressing to the economist was quiet, absence of distracting imbut beloved by the poet, that landlords pressions, free play for his mind, and did not try to work the earth quite for such sombre fancies as ranged themso hard, to get all they could out of selves within it. her, but let her have her way in We may amuse ourselves by conjecpatches and corners, and make a little turing how his day was spent. In pastime of her own in nooks and summer, we may imagine, he rose with dingles, so long as she served them the dawn to turn Latin and well in the open ground; perhaps the Greek authors, in no casual dilettante reason why she seems to be in revolt spirit, but jotting down facts, hard just now.

facts, and little else, as his extractBut here let our amateur researches books show, or impulsively turning a have an end. We will not dive into psalm into Greek Homerics, as he parish registers and title-deeds; we writes to Deodati, or pursuing his need not inquire whether the old great scheme of History, laboriously scrivener held his lease from the Bul- advancing Greeks and Romans through strodes of Bulstrode or the Earl of year after year, for “insight into all Bridgewater. We have merely come generous and seemly acts and affairs," to Horton to try and realise a page in as he says; and then books, books all a biography--to try and read a great day, excepting a dreamy stroll, and figure into a landscape where it was books again, bringing to them as he once at home.

did the keen lustre of a mind sharpA solitary scholar living in the ened by perpetual temperance, and country-a picture with little va- emasculated by no self-indulgence, riety of outline but an indefinable dimmed by no ungentle retrospects. charm. It was not till Charles the Like Hippolytus in the Ion he brings Second that the "fascinating pleasure with him a gush of morning air of sauntering" was devised, developed, and voices of birds ; comely with his and dignified, but we may be quite soft brown curling locks and “exhaling sure that Milton knew of it. Tired a the penetrating fragrance of youth." little of the inconveniences of Buck- Undoubtedly to settle down for year inghamshire, the frequency of visits after year to a life of deliberate aloofto London necessary for books and ness from career or worldly interests music, he speaks of taking chambers at shows either a drifting habit like an Inn of Court,--and why? To get “a Hawthorne's, which may, as in the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



latter's case, bloom into a fantastic but in the first and only) letter of the unpruned luxuriance, or a stern devo- elder to the younger man, are not tion to self-education-a plan for in- merely complimentary, they are affectentional culture which few would tionate. have the power to devise, very few to But Milton was a bad correspondent. carry out. The instinct, the necessity He speaks of the obstinacy of his for solitude, characterising either the silences, confesses that he was by brutish or the divine nature, was upon

nature slow and reluctant to write. him imperiously ; he seems (as far as The letters of the Horton period are we can judge) to have had no reproach- few, though we cannot argue the same ful reveries, no haunting sadness, too unexpansiveness from a small correoften the result of such a choice ; for spondence then as we can nowadays. the sonnet on his twenty-third birth- But the law is the same for Milton, day, if read rightly, does not contain a can see, as for most men—the hint of self-blame; it gazes with a fewer obvious duties a man has, the more momentary melancholy upon the ra- perfunctorily they will be performed. pacity of time, and its inadequacy for Milton, with his long contemplative the combination of a practical ideal- spaces, his complete freedom from but there is nothing more.

business or prescribed action, selfSolitary we may be sure he was; imposed as they were, was probably not till he was on the point of his no exception to the rule. continental tour did he put himself There is one delightful thing which in communication even with Henry we glean from scattered hints, notably Wotton, the retired diplomatist and from Andrew Marvel's description of courtier, then Provost of Eton, and the arrangement of his ordinary day residing within a four-mile walk; and in later life, and from the sonnet then it was only for the sake of con- to Henry Lawrence. Milton venience in travel and superior intro one of those home-bred natures that ductions. Yet Henry Wotton, with literally loved monotony; the sonnet his love for tobacco, and his zealous is a delightful description in the fishing expeditions, with his bottle of

strictest Horatian manner of how to Eton ale, was pre-eminently a sociable spend a wet day satisfactorily in the person-an ideal for Milton in the

country-a light lunch, followed by graceful touch with which he brought music or singing. to bear modern ideas and a cosmopolitan ease on a taste naturally delicate

“He who of such delights can judge, and spare

To interpose them oft, is not unwise." and artificially refined. And Wotton, too, as we can absolutely augur from —a delightful confession. Such enjoythe delightful letter which he writes ment only belongs to the lives of those to him, took the kind of affectionate who cling to home and regular hours, fancy for Milton which an older and and a small circle of very habitual accomplished scholar, who has sucked friends. the honey of life and found, not its He was evidently one of those sweetness, but only his own powers of natures who learnt very early by a enjoyment fail, will sometimes take to kind of fastidious instinct the high a young and fascinating soul, already pleasures of abstinence; not by tamfar upon the same path with himself, pering with indulgence and finding his like the launaondópos of Sparta, a fit mistake, a course which may lower successor to whom to hand on the the succeeding temperance from the lighted brand. “Your friend, as much realm of pleasure to that of a disat command as any of longer date, tasteful and curative necessity. He Henry Wotton!” “ The fomentation had evidently discovered that spare of our friendship too soon interrupted in diet, short slumbers, rigorous restraint, the cradle ;" these phrases, occurring leave, when the first tremors and

cravings of the discontented body are been a sweet one, to see the young over, the mind pure and free and scholar trudging home through the vigorous with great spring and pleni- summer twilight, watching the stars tude of animal spirits, and pot dulled come out above the orchards, and the or clouded by any of the fumes and bats flap noiselessly about the warm humours that haunt the brain of the dusk, while the pleasant country full-blooded, easy liver. On the other sounds fall fainter and fainter over hand, he, no doubt, suffered from the the fields and running water, till at vague and delicious melancholy com- last there is nothing to be heard but mon to austere souls and eremitic the gurgle of the brimming stream in frames; it is a common mistake to its pools, and under its long grasses ; speak of music as solacing or charming the sigh of the elms in the fragrant away such melancholy-it is not so; air, and the sound of distant wheels, music is potent to lift the black clouds, louder and fainter alternately, speedthe gloomy horrors of morbid melan- ing some belated traveller home. choly, resulting on mental exhaustion “What God has resolved concerning or physical prostration; but the dreamy, me I know not, but this at least; pensive mood, a condition of high and He has instilled into me, at all events, exalted delight, needs no curing; it is a vehement love of the beautiful. fed by music, strenuously bruising the Not with so much labour, as the fables sweetness out of it, the harmony and have it, is Ceres said to have sought the rhythm working up the soul to a her daughter Proserpine, as I am wont purified ecstasy far different from the day and night to seek for the idea of blind and animal rapture induced on the beautiful (hanc του καλού ιδέαν) merely sensuous natures.

through all the forms or faces of things Now, the reason why we look with a (for many are the shapes of things regretful longing at such an exile, such divine).” So wrote Milton on a sojourn on Patmos as Milton's was, June evening from Horton, stung, it is twofold. We are genuinely charmed may have been, into speech by the by the beauty as well as the rightness tormenting beauty of the summer and simplicity of a life lived within so twilight. secluded a pale; and then there comes And we who pursue her too, though another feeling ; we admire it because faintly and with less heart, where it would be so impossible for ourselves, could we find her better than in the so intolerable ; not because we could picture of the life that imaged this not, if we would, step aside from career constant thought ? We seem to be and place and the struggling world, very near her; almost to clutch the but because we how we dare not; fringe of her garments and comprehend because such a life is too arduous, too the vanishing form. exacting for us. A life apart, if spent


But our reverie too must have an in indolence is so inglorious a thing- end. A clock peals its summons from and we feel that we should so easily a red Colnbrook roof, undistinguishslip into that; and thus jaded by the ably grey in the evening colouring ; stress of circumstances we peer into the setting sun is doing his best to such a remote region as this, and atone for the Vandalism of the wind wish we had strength and courage to by gilding the ragged cloud-terraces an share it too. We know what we would

It seems as if a mighty fain pursue ; but public feeling, and spirit had been abroad, drawing all the lower and apparently simpler issue who were attuned in mood and will of staying where we are rushes over into consonance with him.

Let us us, and we are drawn away again. creep home in silence, for he has passed

Yet if it has been a dream, it has over and gone by.


angry red.


LEFT were the busy quays, the street,
The alleys where the lindens meet,
The lilies on the convent pond,
The convent vanes that soared beyond.
High up the towering hill we stand,
Round us the hush of fairy land;
Sheer down beneath our feet outlay
The town, the cape, the crescent bay ;
The sombre haze of Baden's wood,
The brimming lake's broad gleaming flood,
Bavaria's long low purple line,
The gentle inflow of the Rhine;
And bosky Austrian headlands steep
That pushed into the rippling deep;
While southward far swelled high o'er all
The Vorarlberg's grey battered wall.
Then on we panted, keen to gain
The goal that crowns the climber's pain ;
An opening in the pines, and lo!
The Sentis, with its cone of snow !
Across deep leagues of limpid air,
How close it looked ! how ghostly fair !
A silent vision to bring tears
Of rapture through the ebbing years.
The pink flush fades as back we go,
And cold winds from the glaciers blow.
We parted : I passed on in haste,
’Neath roaring fall and frozen waste,
Through valleys bleached with apple bloom,
By Thusis, and the gorge of gloom,
Swept sledge-borne o'er the Splugen wild
To lake-sides where the myrtle smiled;
And breathed at last in gales of balm
Where by the blue wave dreams the palm,
And sighted, sixty miles away,
Peter's white peak in Corsica.
Yet ever with me, snow-besprent,
The phantom of the mountain went,
Lofty and sad, a giant lone,
Spell-bound upon his stony throne.
I see it (as I saw it then),
Here by the burn in Sannox glen;
Scarce sharper showed it that clear morn,
Mid the weird realm of alp and horn.

« PreviousContinue »