Page images
PDF
EPUB

BLAKESMOOR IN H-SHIRE.

DO not know a pleasure more affecting than to range at will over the deserted apartments of some fine old family

mansion. The traces of extinct grandeur admit of a better passion than envy: and contemplations on the great and good, whom we fancy in succession to have been its inhabitants, weave for us illusions, incompatible with the bustle of modern occupancy, and vanities of foolish present aristocracy. The same difference of feeling, I think, attends us between entering an empty and a crowded church. In the latter it is chance but some present human frailty-an act of inattention on the part of some of the auditory—or a trait of affectation, or worse, vain-glory, on that of the preacher-puts us by our best thoughts, disharmonising the place and the occasion. But wouldst thou know the beauty of holiness ?--go alone on some week-day, borrowing the keys of good Master Sexton, traverse the cool aisles of some country

[1 Blakesware in Hertfordshire.)

church : think of the piety that has kneeled there —the congregations, old and young, that have found consolation there--the meek pastor-the docile parishioner. With no disturbing emotions, no cross conflicting comparisons, drink in the tranquillity of the place, till thou thyself become as fixed and motionless as the marble effigies that kneel and weep around thee.

Journeying northward lately, I could not resist going some few miles out of my road to look upon the remains of an old great house with which I had been impressed in this way in infancy. I was apprised that the owner of it had lately pulled it down; still I had a vague notion that it could not all have perished, that so much solidity with mag. nificence could not have been crushed all at once into the mere dust and rubbish which I found it.

The work of ruin had proceeded with a swift hand indeed, and the demolition of a few weeks had reduced it to—an antiquity.

I was astonished at the indistinction of everything. Where had stood the great gates? What bounded the court-yard? Whereabout did the out-houses commence ? a few bricks only lay as representatives of that which was so stately and so spacious.

Death does not shrink up his human victim at this rate. The burnt ashes of a man weigh more in their proportion.

Had I seen these brick-and-mortar knaves at their process of destruction, at the plucking of every pannel I should have felt the vạrlets at my heart. I should have cried out to them to spare a

plank at least out of the cheerful store-room, in whose hot window-seat I used to sit and read Cowley, with the grass-plot before, and the hum and flappings of that one solitary wasp that ever haunted it about me—it is in mine ears now, as oft as summer returns ; or a pannel of the yellow

room.

Why, every plank and pannel of that house for me had magic in it. The tapestried bed-rooms-tapestry so much better than painting—not adorning merely, but peopling the wainscots—at which childhood ever and anon would steal a look, shifting its coverlid (replaced as quickly) to exercise its tender courage in a momentary eye-encounter with those stern bright visages, staring reciprocallyall Ovid on the walls, in colours vivider than his descriptions. Actæon in mid sprout, with the unappeasable prudery of Diana ; and the still more provoking, and almost culinary coolness of Dan Phæbus, eel-fashion, deliberately divesting of Marsyas.

Then, that haunted room-in which old Mrs. Battle died-whereinto I have crept, but always in the day time, with a passion of fear ; and a sneaking curiosity, terror-tainted, to hold communication with the past.-How shall they build it up again?

It was an old deserted place, yet not so long deserted but that traces of the splendour of past inmates were everywhere apparent. Its furniture was still standing-even to the tarnished gilt leather battledores, and crumbling feathers of shuttlecocks in the nursery, which told that chil

dren had once played there. But I was a lonely child, and had the range at will of every apartment, knew every nook and corner, wondered and worshipped everywhere.

The solitude of childhood is not so much the mother of thought, as it is the feeder of love, and silence, and admiration. So strange a passion for the place possessed me in those years, that, though there lay-I shame to say how few roods distant from the mansion-half hid by trees, what I judged some romantic lake, such was the spell which bound me to the house, and such my carefulness not to pass its strict and proper precincts, that the idle waters lay unexplored for me ; and not till late in life, curiosity prevailing over elder devotion, I found, to my astonishment, a pretty brawling brook had been the Lacus Incognitus of my infancy. Variegated views, extensive prospects-and those at no great distance from the house-I was told of such—what were they to me, being out of the boundaries of my Eden ?-So far from a wish to roam, I would have drawn, methought, still closer the fences of my chosen prison ; and have been hemmed in by a yet securer cincture of those excluding garden walls. I could have exclaimed with that garden-loving poet

Bind me, ye woodbines, in your twines;
Curl me about, ye gadding vines;
And oh so close your circles lace,
That I may never leave this place;
But, lest your fetters prove too weak,
Ere I your silken bondage break,
Do you, O brambles, chain me too,
And, courteous briars, nail me through.

« PreviousContinue »