Page images
PDF
EPUB

century ago, says: “Passed by the little chapel of Wiborn [Wythburn), out of which the Sunday congregation 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 neighbors, not so much by its height, as by 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 promontory 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 discover 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 immediately around it, like a neighborhood of kindly giants. These hills descend steeply to the verge of the level on which the village stands, and there they terminate at once, the whole site of the little town being as even as a floor. I call it a village, but it is no village at all; all the dwellings stand apart, each in its own little domain, and each, I believe, with its own little lane leading to it, independently of the rest. Many of these are old cottages, plastered white, with antique porches, and roses, and other vines, trained against them, and shrubbery growing about them, and some are covered with ivy. There are a few edifices of more pretension and of modern build, but not so strikingly as to put the rest out of countenance. The Post Office, when we found it, proved to be an ivied cottage, with a good deal of shrubbery round it, having its own pathway, like the other cottages. The whole looks like a real seclusion, shut out from the great world by those encircling hills, on the sides of which, whenever they are not too steep, you see the division lines of property and tokens of cultivation — taking from them their pretensions of savage majesty, but bringing them nearer to the heart of man.”

[ocr errors]

“ Only a sister's part - yes, that was all;

And yet her life was bright, and full, and free. She did not feel, 'I give up all for him ;'

She only knew, 'Tis mine his friend to be.'

“ So what she saw and felt the poet sang

She did not seek the world should know her share; Her one great hunger was for William's' fame,

To give his thoughts a voice her life-long prayer.

“And when with wife and child his days were crowned

She did not feel that she was left alone, Glad in their joy, she shared their every care,

And only thought of baby as 'our own.'

“His dear, dear sister,' that was all she asked,

Her gentle ministry, her only fame;
But when we read his page with grateful heart,

Between the lines we'll spell out Dora's name.”

- ANON. IN The Spectator.

CHAPTER VI.

LIFE AT GRASMERE.

THE unpretentious cottage which became the first

T Grasmere home of Wordsworth and his sister in those days when they were still sole companions, though changed in its surroundings, is happily still allowed to retain its old features. It stands on the right of the highway, just on the entry into Grasmere, on the road from Rydal — the old coach road — a little distance beyond the “Wishing Gate," and at the part of the village called Town End. It was formerly an inn, called “The Dove and Olive Bough," and is still known by the name of Dove Cottage. It overlooks from the front the beauteous lake of Grasmere, though the view from the lower rooms is now considerably obstructed by buildings since erected. Behind is a small garden and orchard, in which is a spring of pure water, round which the primroses and daffodils bloom, as they did when lovingly reared by Miss Wordsworth. A dozen steps or so, cut in the rocky slope, lead up to a little terrace walk, on a bit of mountain ground, enclosed in the domain, and sheltered in the rear by a fir-clad wood. Altogether it was an ideal cottage-home for the enthusiastic young couple.

« PreviousContinue »