Page images

valley What a wealth of love and beauty pouring out for the heart of all Nature, and for the diviner soul of man . " Of the mountain tarns, which in their solitary grandeur gleam like diamonds, she writes :“It is very lovely to watch the ripple of a tarn: a wonderful lesson in wave curvature, if small in scale, yet as true as the wildest ocean storm could give. Ever changing in line, and yet so uniform in law, the artist and the hydrographer might learn some valuable truths from half a day's study of one of these small mountain sheets of water. Now the broad, smooth, silky curves flow steadily across; now a fine network spreads over these, and again another network, smaller and finer still, breaks up the rest into a thousand fragments; then the tarn bursts out into tiny silver spangles, like a girl's causeless laughter; and then comes a grey sweep across the water, as if it shivered in the wind; and then again all subsides, and the long, silky flow sets in again, with quiet shadows and play of green and grey in the transparent shallows. It is like a large diamond set in emerald ; for the light of the water is radiance simply, not colour; and the grass, with the sun striking through, is as bright as an emerald.” If one more extract from Mrs. Linton may be culled, it is to the following reflections that a day spent on Helvellyn gives rise:– “Ah what a world lies below ! But grand as it is on the earth, it is mated by the grandeur of the sky. For the cloud scenery is of such surpassing nobleness while it lasts, and before it is drawn up into one volume of intensest blue, that no kind or manner of discord mars the day's power and loveliness. Of all forms and of all colours are those gracious summer clouds, ranging from roseate flakes of dazzling white masses and torn black remnants, like the last fragments of a widow's weeds thrust aside for her maturer bridal; from solid substances, firm and marble-like, to light baby curls set like pleasant smiles about the graver faces: words and pictures, in all their changes, unspeakably precious to soul and sense. And when, finally, they all gather themselves away, and leave the sky a vault of undimmed blue, and leave the earth a gorgeous picture of human industry and dwelling—when field and plain, and moun. tain and lake, and tarn and river are fashioned into the beauty of a primeval earth by the purity of the air and the governing strength of the sun and the fragrant sweetness of the summer, and when the very gates of heaven seem opening for our entering where the southern sun stands at gaze in his golden majesty—is it wonder if there are tears more glad than many smiles, and a thrill of love more prayerful than many a litany chanted in the church service P In the very passion of delight that pours like wine through the veins is a solemn outfall— in the very deliciousness of joy an intensity that is almost pain. It is all so solemn and so grand, so noble and so loving, surely we cannot be less than what we live in “Let any one haunted by small cares, by fears worse than cares, and by passions worse than either, go up on - a mountain height on such a summer's day as this, and there confront his soul with the living soul of Nature. Will the stately solitude not calm him Can the nobleness of beauty not raise him to like nobleness 2 Is there no Divine voice for him in the absolute stillness 2 No loving hand guiding through the pathless wilds 2 No tenderness for man in the lavishness of Nature ? Have the clouds no lesson of strength in their softness? the sun no cheering in its glory? Has the earth no hymn in all its living murmur P the air no shaping in its clearness P the wind no healing in its power P Can he stand

in the midst of that great majesty the sole small thing,

and shall his spirit, which should be the noblest thing of
all, let itself be crippled by self and fear, till it lies
crawling on the earth when its place is lifting to the
heavens P Oh! better than written sermon or spoken
exhortation is one hour on the lonely mountain tops,
when the world seens so far off, and God and His
angels so near. Into the Temple of Nature flows the
light of the Shekinah, pure and strong and holy, and
they are wisest who pass into it oftenest, and rest within
its glory longest. There was never a church more
consecrated to all good ends than the stone waste on
Helvellyn top, where you sit beneath the sun and watch
the bright world lying in radiant peace below, and the
quiet and sacred heavens above.”
Probably there is no spot of English ground to which
more pilgrimages have, during the last half-century, been
made than the vale of Grasmere, which has for all time
been rendered classic by the residence therein of Words-
worth and those sons of genius who loved to gather
around him ; and almost every prominent object and
scene in which has been immortalised by his pen.

-- **** - **---------- .. ----- - - - - - ----------* - - - -

To lovers of his poetry the spirit of Wordsworth yet casts a spell over the landscape; and mountain and vale and lake are almost as articulate to the hearing ear as are the storied stones of Rome. But Life's grandest music is audible only to the ready ear. It is to the “inward eye" of love, gathering its treasured harvest,

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

As Nature whispers her secrets to her true lovers; so it
is to the searching eye that the historic pile presents a
vision of years, and the decaying cottage or hoary
mountain speak of those who consecrated its stones or
roamed beneath its shade.
Apart, however, from the interest which attaches to
this locality from its many cherished associations, it is
of unsurpassed beauty and loveliness. The scenery of
this favoured district, so pleasingly varied as to inspire at
once with gladness and awe, to thrill with rapture or to
charm into repose, culminates in the transcendent loveli-
ness of the mountain-guarded vale of Grasmere. . It
takes captive the affections like the features of a familiar
The poet Gray, writing concerning it more than a
century ago, says: “Passed by the little chapel of
Wiborn [Wythburn], out of which the Sunday congre.
gation were then issuing. Passed by a beck near
Dunmail Raise, and entered Westmoreland a second
time; now began to see Helm crag, distinguished from
its rugged neighbours, not so much by its height, as by

[ocr errors]

the strange, broken outline of its top, like some gigantic
building demolished, and the stones that composed it
flung across each other in wild confusion. Just beyond
it opens one of the sweetest landscapes that Art ever
attempted to imitate. The bosom of the mountains
here spreading into a broad basin, discovers in the
midst Grasmere Water; its margin is hollowed into
small bays, with eminences, some of rock, some of soft
turf, that half conceal and half vary the figure of the
little lake they command. From the shore a low pro-
montory pushes itself into the water, and on it stands a
white village, with a parish church rising in the midst of
it, having enclosures, cornfields, and meadows, green as
an emerald, which, with trees, and hedges, and cattle,
fill up the whole space from the edge of the water, and
just opposite to you is a large farmhouse at the bottom
of a steep, smooth lawn, embosomed in old woods,
which climb half way up the mountain sides, and dis-

cover above a broken line of crags that crown the scene.

Not a single red tile, no staring gentleman's house
breaks in upon the repose of this unsuspected paradise;
but all is peace, rusticity, and happy poverty, in its
sweetest, most becoming attire.”
This description must, of course, at the present day
be somewhat modified. The scene upon which the eyes
of the author of the Elegy rested is now varied by many
residences and signs of human contact then absent.
In an account of a visit to Grasmere at a much
later period, the late Nathaniel Hawthorne says: “This
little town seems to me as pretty a place as ever I met
with in my life. It is quite shut in by hills that rise up

-------- - - -- -- ---

« PreviousContinue »