图书图片
PDF
ePub

own way, as it is not long, and she is quite at home in it. Her story, like that of a Westminster verger, is always the same, and however interrupted, she will go through with it. Placing herself firmly on one of the blocks of stone in the bed of the stream, and pointing to the openings from which the water flows, she says—" Here be the springs from which comes the great river Thames, which is called Isis till it gets past Oxford. Here they be, seven of 'em. One, two, &c. And they never run less in the driest summer, and never are frozen in winter; only in winter there be a good many more springs that water comes out of, and then there is a great deal more water." She has little more to tell; but she is a stern stickler for the supremacy of her springs over Thames-head, of which she speaks with becoming contempt. She lives in a little cottage just above, and evidently considers herself almost a part of the place; and indeed is so much a part of it, that it would be unjust to describe it and omit her. By waiting on visitors and boiling water for "gipsy-parties," she obtains a decent livelihood (and supports two white-haired grand-children), and she is grateful to the Source for it—always winding up her account of it with "How thankful ought us to be for such a plenty of good water."

Unlike the other stream, this is exceedingly picturesque at its starting-place, and continues so for a great part of its course. Its name Cern, or Churn, as it is now commonly spelt, is said to be the British Chwyrn, which signifies rapid ;* but Rudder derives

* And this reminds me that the name of Thames is by some said to be derived from the British Tawys, gentle, it being a sluggish river, but the derivation appears rather forced as -well as far-fetched.

[graphic]

it from Corin, the top, and supposes it to have been so named because it was the top or head of the Thames. The former seems the most probable, though each is apt, and both appear to be preserved in the places on its banks, and which have owed their names to it, viz., Cirencester, the Roman Corinium, and North and South Cerney.

From Seven Springs the stream runs through a narrow valley past two or three farm-houses, and by the little village of Cowley, when it bends to the east and crosses the Cirencester road at Colesborne where it is joined by the Lyde, and works a mill. On the' left of the river near Colesborne is an old farmhouse, adjoining which are some fragments of a monastery. From Colesborne it passes under Cliffering Wood, dancing gaily along a glen-like valley, and well earning the title which Drayton bestowed upon it, of " nimble-footed Churn." Here its course is extremely beautiful, and it will not fail to remind the rambler, both in its seclusion and in its character, of some of the lovely 'becks of the northern counties. The hill-sides are steep and close together, and, especially that on the left, thickly covered with luxuriant foliage which forms a noble hanging wood, while

"In the midst the little river plays
Amongst the tiny stones, which seem to plain
With gentle murmurs that his course they do
restrain."

Nor does it lose much of its beauty, though it loses something of its wildness, in its progress through the rich grounds of Rendcombe, the property of Sir John Guise. All along this part of its course the uplands, that rise steeply from it, are clothed with an abundance of noble trees, and the stream is well stored with trout, which are carefully preserved.'

The way thus far will repay the attention of a young geologist, and find employment for a young antiquary. The Churn rises from the upper lias formation, and runs for several miles along a very narrow strip of it, which is almost entirely confined to the bed of the river. At North Cerney it passes into the inferior oolite, the prevailing formation of the neighbourhood. North Cerney church is of a singularly venerable and picturesque appearance. It is cruciform, and of the transition period from the Norman to the Early English style. The doorway has an enriched circular arch, and the tower has windows with pointed arches supported on slender Norman pillars. In the body of the church are large windows of a somewhat later date. A tolerably perfect cross stands in the churchyard. "The imperfect vestiges of a Roman specula, or outpost with circumvallations," are still to be traced in this parish, and various articles are occasionally dug up (Bigland). From North Cerney the Churn passes under Perrot's Down by Baunton to Cirencester, through which town it flows.

Cirencester, or Ciceter, as it is called by the natives, claims a fuller notice.

Its story commences before the time that modern English historians recognise. Monkish writers relate, and Polydore Vergil repeats after them, a tale that says much for the patient courage of its early inhabitants. Long before the Saxons came into England, in the days of King Brute, which is nobody knows how long ago, Cirencester was a famous town. Strong were its walls and stout the hearts of its citizens, and little did it dread the visit of an enemy. But one came who was not disposed to lose his labour. Gormund was an African prince,—in what part of Africa his kingdom was situated, or how he found his way to England, is not stated, and does not matter,—but certain it is (if Polydorus is to be depended on) that he laid siege to Cirencester. Seven long years he kept his army before it, but never a step the nearer was he to the inside of its gates; when one day a bright thought struck him. Houses were not tiled then, and Gormund judged that if he could only manage to set fire to the thatched roofs of those in the town, he should be likely, in the commotion that would arise, to gain an easy entrance. Resolved to put the stratagem he had conceived into speedy practice, he set all his soldiers to—catch sparrows; and when as many were caught as he considered sufficient, he had certain combustibles fastened to their tails, and then let them loose. The poor birds flew straight to their nests under the thatches, which of course were quickly in a blaze; and while the unfortunate housekeepers were busy endeavouring to quench the flames, Gormund succeeded in entering the town—in memory whereof (says Giraldus Cambrensis) it was afterwards called the City of Sparrows.

Whatever may be thought of this story, there is sufficient evidence in authentic history of the ancient greatness of the place. It was the metropolis of the Roman province of the Dobuni, and was named Corinium, or Duro-Cornovium. Three of the great Roman roads—the Fosse-road, Akeman Street, and Ermin Street, met here.* The Roman city was surrounded by a wall two miles

* The last two were British roads, and there is good reason to believe that Cirencester was a British town.

« 上一页继续 »