Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER XIX.
Journal of A Tour At ULLswater
A.D. 1805. .

N the 7th of November, on a damp and gloomy

morning, we left Grasmere Vale, intending to

pass a few days on the banks of Ullswater. A mild and dry autumn had been unusually favourable to the preservation and beauty of foliage; and, far advanced as the

season was, the trees on the larger island of Rydal.

Mere retained a splendour which did not need the heightening of sunshine. We noticed as we passed that the line of the grey rocky shore of that island, shaggy with variegated bushes and shrubs, and spotted and striped with purplish brown heath, indistinguishably blending with its image reflected in the still water, produced a curious resemblance, both in form and colour, to a richly-coated caterpillar, as it might appear through a magnifying glass of extraordinary power. The mists gathered as we went along : but when we reached the top of Kirkstone, we were glad we had not been dis'couraged by the apprehension of bad weather. Though not able to see a hundred yards before us, we were more than contented. At such a time, and in such a place,

every scattered stone the size of one's head becomes a companion. - - Near the top of the Pass is the remnant of an old wall, which (magnified, though obscured, by the vapour) might have been taken for a fragment of some monument of ancient grandeur—yet that same pile of stones we had never before even observed. This situation, it must be allowcd, is not favourable to gaiety; but a pleasing hurry of spirits accompanies the surprise occa'sioned by objects transformed, dilated or distorted, as they are when seen through such a medium. Many of tlıc sragmenth of rock on the top and slopes of Kirkstone, and of similar places, are fantastic enough in themselves; but the full effect of such impressions can only be had in a state of weather when they are not likely to be sought for It was not till we had descended considerably that the fields of Hartshop were seen, like a lake tinged by the reflection of sunny clouds. I mistook them for 13rother's water, but soon after we saw that lake gleaming faintly with a steely brightness, then as we continued to descend, appeared the brown oaks, and the birches of lively yellow, and the cottages, and the lowly Hall of Hartshop, with its long roof and ancient chimneys. During great part of our way to Patterdale we had rain, or rather drizzling vapour; for there was never a drop upon our hair or clothes larger than the smallest pearl upon a lady's ring. The following morning incessant rain till eleven o'clock, when the sky began to clear, and we walked along the eastern shore of Ullswater towards the farm. of Blowick. The wind blew strong, and drove the clouds forwards on the side of the mountain above our heads:—two storm-stiffened, black yew-trees fixed our notice, seen through, or under the edge of the flying mists, four or five goats were bounding among the rocks;–the sheep moved about more quietly, or cowered beneath their sheltering places. ( This is the only part of the country where goats are now found;" but this . morning, before we had scen these, I was reminded of that picturesque animal by two rams of mountain breed, both with Ammonian horns, and with beards majestic

as that which Michael Angelo has given to his study

of Moscs.)-But to return; when our path had brought us to that part of the naked common which overlooks

the woods and bush-besprinkled fields of Blowick, the lake, clouds, and mists were all in motion to the sound

of sweeping winds;–the church and cottages of Patterdale scarcely visible, or seen only by fits between the

shifting vapours. To the northward the scene was less visionary;-Place Fell steady and bold;—the whole lake driving onward like a great river—waves dancing round the small islands. The house at Blowick was the boundary of our walk; and we returned, lamenting to see a decaying and uncomfortable dwelling in a place where sublimity and beauty seemed to contend with each other. But these regrets were dispelled by a glance on the woods that clothe the opposite steeps of the lake. (How exquisite was the mixture of sober and splendid hues | The general colouring of the trees was brown—rather that of ripe hazel-nuts; but towards the Water there were yet bays of green, and in the higher

* They have since disappeared.

parts of the wood was abundance of yellow foliage, which, gleaming through a vapoury lustre, reminded, us of masses of clouds, as you see them gathered together in the west, and touched with the golden light of the setting sun. After dinner we walked up the vale; I had never had an idea of its extent and width in passing along the public road on the other side. We followed the path that leads from house to house; two or three times it . toqk us through some of those copses or groves that cover the little hillocks in the middle of the vale, making an intricate and pleasant intermixture of lawn and wood. ‘Our fancies could not resist the temptation, and we fixed upon a spot for a cottage, which we began to build, and finished as easily as castles are raised in the air. Visited the same spot in the evening. I shall say nothing of . the moonlight aspect of the situation which had charmed: us so much in the afternoon; but I wish you had been with us when, in returning to our friend's house, we espied his lady's large white dog lying in the moonshine upon a round, knoll under the old yew tree in the garden, a romantic image—and the elegant creature, as fair as a spirit ! The torrents murmured softly: the mountains down which they were falling did not, to my sight, furnish a background for this Ossianic picture; but I had a consciousness of the depth of the seclusion,

. and that mountains were embracing us on all sides; “I

saw not, but I felt that they were there."

Friday, November 9. Rain, as yesterday, till ten o'clock, when we took a boat to row down the lake. The day improved; clouds and sunny gleams on the

mountains. In the large bay under Place Fell three fishermen were dragging a net — picturesque group beneath the high and large crags. A raven was seen • aloft; not hovering like the kite, for that is not the habit of the bird, but passing on with a straightforward

perseverance, and timing the motion of its wings to its

own croaking. The waters were agitated, and the iron tone of the raven's voice, which strikes upon the ear at all times as the more dolorous from its regularity, was in fine keeping with the wild scene before our eyes. This 'carnivorous bird is a great enemy to the lambs of these solitudes. The fishermen drew their net ashore, and hundreds of fish were leaping in their prison. They were all of the kind called skellies, a sort of fresh water herring, shoals of which may sometimes be seen dimpling or rippling the surface of the lake in calm weather. This species is not found, I believe, in any other of these lakes; nor, as far as I know, is the chevin, that spiritless fish (though I am loth to call it so, for it was a prime favourite with Izaac Walton), which must frequent Ullswater, as I have seen a large shoal passing into the lake from the river Eamont. Here are no pike, and the char are smaller than those of the other lakes, and of inferior quality; but the grey trout attains a very

large size, sometimes weighing above twenty pounds.

This lordly creature seems to know that “retiredness is a piece of majesty,” for it is scarcely ever caught, or even. seen, except when it quits the depths of the lake in the spawning season, and runs up into the streams, where it

is too often destroyed in disregard of the law of the land

and of nature.

« PreviousContinue »