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My dull ear noted not. Yot every day
Yet, oh heaven 1
Still, if I walked,
Oh, thou world 1
I feared to speak God's after! Then came prayers,
Fasts, and harsh penances. There was a chamber
Ginevra loved; a dim, square, lofty room,
Crossed and re-crossed by arches, paved with marbles
Stained in sea hues. One silver shining lamp
That burned behind a column, brake the night
With its still radiance. There, when midnight came,
Crept I as stealthily, with naked feet
Treading the corridors. There my faint soul
Staggered beneath its cross I The niched saints only
Might hear my heart shriek as I walled it in!
The marble where my forehead lay kept not
Count of my tears! And there, when fasts prolonged
Vanquished my sense, while Life, the jailor, slept
Came angels that unlocked the prison doors
And bade my soul go free. Athwart my brain
Flash and withdraw into the cloud of sense
That holds them captive, memories too bright
For human keeping—dumb, sweet dreams that passed
With finger laid on lip. Oh, gracious Father!
Great is my faith in penance that chains down
The senses in their cells, scourges the passions
Into meek virtues, and converts the house
Whore worldly guests held revel, to a cloister
Trod by pure visions, and upglancing prayers!
There came release. 'Twas midnight, and I seemed
They told me 'twas a dream, but felt I not
The constant pressure of the bridal ring?
And knew I not, though dim to human eyes,
How bright 'twould shine hereafterf Up to God
I sped my fresh hopes, that wing-wearied turned
To earth's most blessed shelter. Priest, as pure
As Catherine, the first nun, I wedded Heaven.
The tresses they have shorn were ne'er unbound
By love's light hand; the beauty that I laid
As 'twere a blossom, on His holy shrine
Kept sacred, ail, from love's profaning touch!
Last flod I here. With many tears, my mother,
Wouldst thou have stayed me, and Jacopo—nay!
I was appalled to look on his white lips!
Once, I remember, in my short novitiate,
When by the convent wall I paused to mark
The singing of a bird, and from above
There dropped a written scroll, oh! saints what wild
Idolatrous words defaced its blotted page!
I dared not look upon the writer's name.
'Twas sin to read, I know, for all the morn
There was that ringing through my unquiet soul,
That outvoiced organ, chorister, and priest'.
A YEAR AT AMBLESIDE.
Apter a long illness, during which I never saw a tree in leaf for upwards of five years, and passed my life between my bed and my sofa, I recovered—to my own surprise, and that of every one who knew me. In September, I crept out of doors, and lay on a bit of grass a few yards square. In October, I walked down to the sea-shoro, and by degrees extended my rambles to a fine beach three miles from home. By this time there was no doubt of my being well; but it was evidently desirable to change the scene, and break off all associations of sickness with my daily habits, and I eagerly accepted the invitation of friends who lived on the banks of Windermere, to spend a month with them. That month determined my place of residence for, probably, the rest of my life.
I had seen the Lake district in a cursory way, some years before, merely passing through it on my way to Scotland. Its beauty had struck me with a kind of amazement. As I looked down into some of the vales, or around upon a wall of mountains, I was almost incredulous of what I saw. If I had been told that after a long and dreary season of hopeless illness, I should come and sit down for life in this region, I should have looked upon the prospect as one of the most marvellous of the shifting scenes of life.
Its beauty is not the only, nor to some people, the chief interest and charm of the Lake district. The mountains, by their conservative influence, have here hedged in a piece of old English life, such as is to be found nowhere else within the island. They have always hedged in a piece of the life that had passed away from the rest of the country. When the Romans were elsewhere building walls around the towns, and stretching out roads from point to point of the island, the Druids were still collecting their assemblage of wild Britons under the forest shades of this region. The remains of coppices of oak, ash, birch, and hollies, show how high up the mountain sides the ancient forest extended, and under those trees stood of old the long-bearded, shaven-headed, white-robed Druidical priests, sending up a flame of sacrifice, which scared the red deer, and the wolf, and the wild bull in their coverts, and brought the eagles from their highest perch by the scent of a prey. But even here change must come, though later than elsewhere,
and the Romans drew near, at last, to invade the region, and pave a road through it. It must have been a curious sight to the skinclad Britons who were posted as sentinels, when the Roman standards appeared among the trees, and helmets and spears glittered in the pathways of the woods. The Romans took possession of Windermere, and made a camp at its head. If the circles of stones planted by the Druids are visible here and there in the district, no less distinct are the marks of Roman occupation. In a field at the head of Windermere, the outlines of their camp are obvious enough to the eye; and on a mountain ridge, still called High Street, are the fragments of pavement, which show that even here, above the highest tree-tops from which the British sentinels could look forth, the Roman soldiers made a road for their standards and their troops. What a sight it must have been from below! How the native mother must have shrunk back with her children into the caves of the rock, or the covert of the wood,.—less afraid of the wild beasts than of these majestic invaders, against whom her husband was gone out with Uis scythe or his club! How she and her companions must have listened to the shock of falling trees, and the cleaving of the rocks, which gave notice that the enemy were making themselves a broad highway through the heart of the district. I alwoys think of those cowering Britons now, when I go by the old Roman road, which descends upon Grasmere. The scene is open enough now, but I can conjure up the forests which clothed the mountain slopes down to the very brink of the Grasmere lake, in the days when the wild boar came down to drink, and the squirrel could (as the country people tell) go from Wytbburn to Keswick—ten miles on a straight line,—on the tree-tops, without touching the ground.
After all, the Romans passed away before the Britons. The natives remained in considerable numbers in the fastnesses, when the glittering soldiers were no more seen on the paved ways, and the trumpets no longer echoed from one mountain peak to another. But the Saxons and Danes camo in to take possession of the fertile spots as the Romans left them. They never obtained possession of the district, however. For six hundred years, the Saxons held
some of the fine alluvial lands about the lakes, and lived in settlements where there were natural facilities for defence; but they needed all these facilities, for the Britons had learned from the Romans how to arm themselves better, and to fight; and for those six hundred years they held their ravines, and forests, and even their villages and hamlets, so that the Saxons could never feel secure. After those six centuries, more and more Saxons crowded to these West Moorlands, now called Westmoreland; but they came not to conquer territory, but to seek shelter from the Normans, who were upon their heels. The Saxon men of substance, who were driven out from their estates in the south by the Norman invaders,—robbed, oppressed, outraged in every way,—came up among the Fells to nourish vengeance, and form themselves into bands of outlaws, for the torment of as many Norman usurpers as they could reach. The Britons had long ceased to appear elsewhere; and from this time we hear no more of them among the Fells, and, as before, the Saxons were to be heard of as holding the Fells, long after their race had mingled with the Norman everywhere to the south. The Normans came as near as they could, but they never so far penetrated the West Moorlands as to build castles in the midst, and settle down there as inhabitants. They obtained grants of land, but they never practically took possession of them. They built monasteries and castles in the level country which stretches out around the cluster of mountains; but they only sent out their herdsmen with their Socks to encroach gradually up the mountain slopes, and over the nearer vales; or drew the inhabitants towards them by the temptations and privileges of the abbeys and the castles. First, these Normans built Furness Abbey, on a plain to the south of the mountain group; and then between the mountains and the sea, Calder Abbey, to the west. Afterwards, they restored the religious house of St. Bees, on the coast, and then a great Norman noble founded Lanercost Friory, to the northeast. Thus they invested this noble fortress of nature,—this mountain cluster,— but they never took it. Their race at last mingled with the Saxon, and dwelt here as everywhere else, but it was by gradual penetration, and not by force or stratagem. The feudal retainers, sent to do service in tillage and herding, became more and more free and independent of their lords, and as they became more free, they found easier access to the heart of the region, till, in course of time, they were in fact owners of portions of land, under a mere nominal subservience to the great men at a distance. This state of things is kept in mind by old customs at this day. I pay ninepence > year to Lord Lonsdale for my field, and am
nominally his tenant, while my land is, to all practical purposes, freehold. The tenure is called Customary Freehold, and the nominal lord has no power when I have once acknowledged his old feudal claim by being " made a tenant," and paying my ninepence a year.
The holders of the crofts on the mountain sides, and in the vales (the inclosures built of stones, for the protection of the flocks from wild beasts, and for promoting the growth of the coppice on which they browsed), these tenants gradually becoming owners, were the original of the Dalesmen of our time. Since the union of Scotland with England, and the consequent extinction of border warfare, these dalesmen have become some of the quietest people in the world. No more summoned to war, nothing calls them out of their retreats, except an occasional market, or a sale of household furniture in some neighbouring valley. They go on practising their old-fashioned methods of tillage and herding, living in their primitive abodes, and keeping up customs, and even a manner of speech, which are elsewhere almost obsolete. It will not be so for long. Their agriculture cannot hold its ground against modern improvements. Their homespun linen and cloth do not answer now in comparison with Manchester cottons and Yorkshire woollens. Their sons part off to the manufacturing districts, to get a better maintenance than they can find at home; and the daughters must go out to service. Still, the old croft will not support those who remain: the land is mortgaged more deeply. The interest cannot be raised; and, under this pressure, the temptation to the sinking dalesman to drown his cares in drink, becomes too strong for many a one who has no resources of education to fall back upon. Then comes the end,—the lund and furniture are sold, the family disperse, and a stranger comes in who can make the land answer under modern methods of tillage. Some of these strangers have a sufficient love of what is consecrated by time, to retain as much as they can of the ancient character of the region, in the aspect of their dwellings, and the arrangement of their estates, but all cannot be expected to do this; and the antique air of the region must melt away. I have myself built a house of the gray stone of the district, in the style of three centuries ago; but I sec flaring white houses, square and modern, springing up in many a valley; and I feel that from this time forward our West Moorlands will not lag behind the world—two or three centuries in the rear of adjoining counties,—so charmingly as they have done from the dawn of British history till now.
As in many other mountain districts, the highest of our peaks are in the middle. Scawfell is the highest, and Bowfell next, and they are nearly in the centre of the cluster. From this centre, not only do the ridges decline in height, but the valleys decrease in depth; so that on the outskirts, we have only gently sloping, green hills, and shallow vales, whence, in clear weather, we look up to the lofty central crags. In approaching from the south, through Lancashire, Windermere is the first of the lakes that is encountered. Gentle hills surround its southern end; and these rise and swell through the whole ten miles of its length, till, about its head, the diverging valleys are closed in by the heights of Fairfield, and the remarkable summits called the Langdale Pikes. Bowfell appears beyond them; and from some points on the lake, Scawfell itself is seen peeping over a nearer ridge. It was night when I arrived at the house of my host; and all that I knew of the road, for some miles, was that it was bordered by tufted walls, and overhung with trees which on the left hand separated it from the lake. In the morning, what a scene it was '. The road was hidden, and the lawn before the windows seemed to slope down to the fringe of trees, and the graceful little wooded promontory which jutted out into the lake. The gray waters spread out here about a mile in breath. To the south they were lost among a group of wooded islands, while the head of the lake rounded off among green meadows, with here and there a rocky projection crested with black pines, which were reflected in the waters below. A hamlet of white houses appeared in and out among the trees, at the foot of the rugged mountain, called Loughrigg, which separates the two diverging valleys at the head of Windermere. From my host's porch we looked up the quiet valley of the Brathay, where a beautiful little church, built by a mercer from Bond Street, crowns a wooded rock, and overlooks the rattling river Brathay, to the glorious cluster of summits and ridges which the winter morning sun clothes with orange, crimson, and purple lines below where the snow cuts out a sharp outline against the sky. When I came to live here, I soon learned that if I wished for a calm, meditative walk after my morning's work, I had better go up this valley of the Brathay, where I was sure never to meet anybody. I could look out from its high churchyard upon its unsurpassed view, and then go down uud skirt Loughrigg, and lean upon a gate, or rest upon a heathery perch of rock, without much probability of seeing a face for three hours together. Whereas, if I was tired of thinking, and sociably inclined, I had better take my way up the other valley— that of the Rotha, where the little town of Ambleside nestles under the shelter of the swelling Wansfcll, and which is scattered over
with dwellings throughout its circuit. In going round this valley, a walk of about five mil*8 from my friend's house, it was pretty certain that we should meet the majority of our acquaintances, on any fine winter afternoon.
On going forth, the first thing that strikes the stranger's eye is probably the great abundance of evergreens. To me, the wintry aspect of the country is almost annihilated in the neighbourhood of dwellings, by the clustering and shining of the evergreens. The hollies in the hedges are tall and tree-like; and near the breakfast-room windows of their houses, the inhabitants plant a holly, to be an aviary in winter, when birds come flitting about for the sake of the berries. Then, the approaches are hedged iu with laurels; the laurestina is in full flower on the lawns; the houses and walls are half covered with ivy; and wherever, along the road, a garden wall stretches away, it runs over with evergreens, which shake off the snow as the breeze passes over them. Well, we go down the road to the toll-bar, where the good woman lives who likes her calling so well that she has no wish to leave her gate to see the world. She saw the world one afternoon for four hours, when her employer sent her to Bowncss for a frolic; and she got so tired and dull that she was glad to see her toll-house again, and declared she would never more go pleasuring. I was in the boat with her that day—a packet-boat steered by Professor Wilson, who had his friend Dr. Blair with him. The contrast of the three faces was curious,— the forlorn dulncss of the woman, who looks the picturo of content when taking toll,—the abstraction of the philological Dr. Blair, and the keen, observing, and enjoying countenance of Christopher North! Just through the toll-bar, lies Waterhead, a cluster of houses on the northern margin of the lake, the prettiest of which is the low cottage under the massy sycamores, with its grass-plat spreading into the waters—the cottage where I lived while my house was building. Passing behind this cottage, the road winds somewhat inland, leaving space for a meadow between it and the lake, till it passes the Roman Camp before mentioned. Then on the right we see, across a field and almost hidden among evergreens, the cottage of poor Hartley Coleridge's tutor, the singular old clergyman who died at upwards of eighty, without a will, as if summoned untimely! Then we pass the beautiful house and most flowery garden of a Quaker friend of mine,—a place which seems in all weathers to look as cheerful as its benevolent master. In my early walk, before it is light in the winter morning, I choose this direction in February, because in a copse of my Quaker friend's which overhangs