First Impressions of the English (2)

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CHAPTER IV.


Quit Manchester for Wolverhampton—Scenery of the Now Red Sandstone; apparent repetition of pattern—The frequent marshes of England; curiously represented in the national literature; influence on the national superstitions—Wolverhampton—Peculiar aspect of the Dudley coal-field; striking passage in its history—The rise of Birmingham into a great manufacturing town an effect of the development of its mineral treasures—Upper Ludlow deposit; Aymestry Limestone; both deposits of peculiar interest to the Scotch geologist—The Lingula Lewisii and Terebratula Wilsoni—General resemblance of the Silurian fossils to those of the Mountain Limestone—First-born of the vertebrata yet known—Order of creation—The "Wren's Nest" Fossils of the Wenlock Limestone; in a state of beautiful keeping—Anecdote—Asaphus Caudatus: common, it would seem, to both the Silurian and Carboniferous rocks—Limestone miners—Noble gallery excavated in the hill.



I QUITTED Manchester by the morning train, and travelled through a flat New Red Sandstone district, on the Birmingham Railway, for about eighty miles.  One finds quite the sort of country here for travelling over by steam.  If one misses seeing a bit of landscape, as the carriages hurry through, and the objects in the foreground look dim and indistinct, and all in motion, as if seen through water, it is sure to be repeated in the course of a few miles, and again and again repeated.  I was reminded, as we hurried along, and the flat country opened and spread out on either side, of webs of carpet-stuff nailed down to pieces of boarding, and presenting, at regular distances, returns of the same rich pattern.  Red detached houses stand up amid the green fields; little bits of brick villages lie grouped beside cross roads; irregular patches of wood occupy nooks and corners; lines of poplars rise tall and taper amid straggling cottages; and then, having once passed houses, villages, and woods, we seem as if we had to pass them again and again; the red detached houses return, the bits of villages, the woody nooks and corners, the lines of taper poplars amid the cottages; and thus the repetitions of the pat, tern run on and on.

    In a country so level as England there must be many a swampy hollow furnished with no outlet to its waters.  The bogs and marshes of the midland and southern counties formed of old the natural strongholds, in which the people, in times of extremity, sheltered from the invader.  Alfred's main refuge, when all others failed him, was a bog of Somersetshire.  When passing this morning along frequent fields of osiers and wide-spread marshes, bristling with thickets of bulrushes and reeds, I was led to think of what had never before occurred to me—the considerable amount of imagery and description which the poets of England have transferred from scenery of this character into the national literature.  There is in English verse much whispering of osiers beside silent streams, and much waving of sedges over quiet waters.  Shakspere has his exquisite pictures of slow gliding currents


Making sweet music with the enamell'd stones,
And giving gentle kisses to each sedge
They overtake in their lone pilgrimage.


And Milton, too, of water-nymphs


Sitting by rushy fringed bank
Where grows the willow and the osier dank;


or


Under the glassy, cool, translucent wave,
In twisted braids of lilies knitting
The loose train of their amber dropping hair;


or of "sighing sent," by the "parting genius,"


From haunted spring and dale,
Edged with poplar pale."


We find occasional glimpses of the same dank scenery in Collins, Cowper, and Crabbe; and very frequent ones, in our own times, in the graphic descriptions of Alfred Tennyson and Thomas Hood


One willow o'er the river wept,
And shook the wave as the wind did sigh;
Above in the wind sported the swallow,
Chasing itself at its own wild will;
And far through the marish green, and still,
    The tangled water-courses slept,
Shot over with purple, and green, and yellow,


Not less striking is at least one of the pictures drawn by Hood [Ed.—The Haunted House]:—


The coot was swimming in the reedy pool,
Beside the water-hen, so soon affrighted;
And in the weedy moat, the heron, fond
Of solitude, alighted;
The moping heron, motionless and stiff
That on a stone as silently and stilly
Stood, an apparent sentinel, as if
To guard the water-lily.


    The watery flats of the country have had also their influence on the popular superstitions.  The delusive tapers that spring up a-nights from stagnant bogs and fens must have been of frequent appearance in the more marshy districts of England; and we accordingly find, that of all the national goblins, the goblin of the wandering night-fire, whether recognised as Jack-of-theLantern or Will-of-the-Wisp, was one of the best known.


She was pinched and pulled, she said,
And he by friar's lantern led.


Or, as the exquisite poet who produced this couplet more elaborately describes the apparition in his "Paradise Lost,"—


                                               A wandering fire,
Compact of unctuous vapour, which the night
Kindles through agitation to a flame,
Which oft, they say, some evil spirit attends,
Hovering and blazing with delusive light,
Leading the amazed night-wanderer from his way
Through bogs and mires, and oft through pond or pool,
There swallowed up and lost, from succour far.


Scarce inferior to even the description of Milton is that of Collins:—


Ah, homely swains! your homeward steps ne'er lose;
Let not dank will mislead you on the heath:
Dancing in mirky night, o'er fen and lake,
He glows, to draw you downward to your death,
In his bewitch'd, low, marshy willow-brake.
What though, far off from some dark dell espied,
His glimmering mazes cheer th' excursive sight?
Yet turn, ye wanderers, turn your steps aside,
Nor trust the guidance of that faithless light;
For watchful, lurking 'mid the unrustling reed,
At these mirk hours, the wily monster lies,
And listens oft to hear the passing steed,
And frequent round him rolls his sullen eyes,
If chance his savage wrath may some weak wretch surprise.


    One soon wearies of the monotony of railway travelling—of hurrying through a country, stage after stage, without incident or advantage; and so I felt quite glad enough, when the train stopped at Wolverhampton, to find myself once more at freedom and a-foot.  There will be an end, surely, to all works of travels, when the railway system of the world shall be completed.  I passed direct through Wolverhampton—a large but rather uninteresting assemblage of red-brick houses, copped with red-tile roof, slippered with red-tile floors, and neither in its component parts nor in its grouping differing in any perceptible degree from several scores of the other assemblages of red-brick houses that form the busier market-towns of England.  The town has been built in the neighbourhood of the Dudley coal-basin, on an incoherent lower deposit of New Red Sandstone, unfitted for the purposes of the stone-mason, but peculiarly well suited, in some of its superficial argillaceous beds, for those of the brick-maker.  Hence the prevailing colour and character of the place; and such, in kind, are the circumstances that impart to the great majority of English towns so very different an aspect from that borne by our Scottish ones.  They are the towns of a brick and tile manufacturing country, rich in coal and clay, but singularly poor in sandstone quarries.

    I took the Dudley road, and left the scattered suburbs of the town but a few hundred yards behind me, when the altered appearance of the country gave evidence that I had quitted the New Red Sandstone, and had entered on the Coal Measures.  On the right, scarce a gunshot from the wayside, there stretched away a rich though comparatively thinly-inhabited country—green, undulated, lined thickly, lengthwise and athwart, with luxuriant hedge-rows, sparsely sprinkled with farm-houses, and over-canopied this morning by a clear blue sky; while on the left, far as the eye could penetrate through a mud-coloured atmosphere of smoke and culm, there spread out a barren uneven wilderness of slag and shale, the debris of limekilns and smelting works, and of coal and ironstone pits; and amid the dun haze there stood up what seemed a continuous city of fire-belching furnaces and smoke-vomiting chimneys, blent with numerous groups of little dingy buildings, the dwellings of iron-smelters and miners.  Wherever the New Red Sandstone extends, the country wears a sleek unbroken skin of green; wherever the Coal Measures spread away, lake like, from the lower edges of this formation, all is verdureless, broken, and grey.  The colouring of the two formations could be scarcely better defined in a geological map than here on the face of the landscape.  There is no such utter ruin of the surface in our mining districts in Scotland.  The rubbish of the subterranean workings is scarce at all suffered to encroach, save in widely-scattered hillocks, on the arable superficies; and these hillocks the indefatigable agriculturist is ever levelling and carrying away, to make way for the plough; whereas, so entirely has the farmer been beaten from off the field here, and so thickly do the heaps cumber the surface, that one might almost imagine the land had been seized in the remote past by some mortal sickness, and, after vomiting out its bowels, had lain atone-dead ever since.  The labouring inhabitants of this desert—a rude, improvident, Cyclopean race, indifferent to all save the mineral treasures of the soil—are rather graphically designated in the neighbouring districts, where I found them exceedingly cheaply rated, as "the lie-wasters."  Some six or eight centuries ago, the Dudley coal-field existed as a wild forest, in which a few semi-barbarous iron-smelters and charcoal-burners carried on their solitary labours; and which was remarkable chiefly for a seam of coal thirty feet in thickness, which, like some of the coal-seams of the United States, cropped out at the surface, and was wrought among the trees in the open air.  A small colony of workers in iron of various kinds settled in the neighbourhood, and their congregated forges and cottage-dwellings formed a little noisy hamlet amid the woodlands.  The miner explored, to greater and still greater depths, the mineral treasures of the coal-field; the ever-resounding, ever-smoking village added house to house and forge to forge, as the fuel and the ironstone heaps accumulated; till at length the three thick bands of dark ore, and the ten-yard coal-seam of the basin, though restricted to a space greatly less in area than some of our Scottish lakes, produced, out of the few congregated huts, the busy town of Birmingham, with its two hundred and twenty thousand inhabitants.  And as the rise of the place has been connected with the development of the mineral treasures of its small but exceedingly rich coal-field, their exhaustion, unless there open up to it new fields of industry, must induce its decline.  There is a day coming, though a still distant one, when the miner shall have done with this wilderness of debris and chimneys, just as the charcoal-burner had done with it when the woodlands were exhausted, ages ago, or as the farmer had done with it at a considerably later period; and when it shall exist as an uninhabited desert, full of gloomy pitfalls, half-hidden by a stunted vegetation, and studded with unseemly ruins of brick: and the neighbouring city, like a beggared spendthrift, that, after having run through his patrimony, continues to reside in the house of his ancestors, shall have, in all probability, to shut up many an apartment, and leave many a forsaken range of offices and out-houses to sink into decay.

    The road began to ascend from the low platform of the coalfield along the shoulder of a green hill that rises some six or seven hundred feet over the level of the sea—no inconsiderable elevation in this part of the kingdom.  There were no longer heaps of dark-coloured debris on either hand; and I saw for the first time in England, where there had been a cutting into the acclivity, to lower the angle of the ascent, a section of rock much resembling our Scotch grauwacke of the southern counties.  Unlike our Scotch grauwacke, however, I found that almost every fragment of the mass contained its fossil—some ill-preserved terebratula or leptæna, or some sorely weathered coralline: but all was doubtful and obscure; and I looked round me, though in vain, for some band of lime compact enough to exhibit in its sharp-edged casts the characteristic peculiarities of the group.  A spruce waggoner, in a blue frock much roughened with needle-work, came whistling down the hill beside his team, and I inquired of him whether there were limestone quarries in the neighbourhood.  "Yez, yez, lots of lime just afore thee," said the waggoner, "can't miss the way, if thou lookest to the hill-side."  I went on for a few hundred yards, and found an extensive quarry existing as a somewhat dreary-looking dell, deeply scooped out of the acclivity on the left, with heaps of broken grass-grown debris on the one side of the excavation, and on the other a precipitous front of grey lichened rock, against which there leaned a line of open kilns and a ruinous hut.

    The quarriers were engaged in plying mattock and lever on an open front in the upper part of the dell, which, both from its deserted appearance and the magnitude of its weather-stained workings, appeared to be much less extensively wrought than at some former period.  I felt a peculiar interest in examining the numerous fossils of the deposit—such an interest as that experienced by the over-curious Calender in the Arabian Nights, when first introduced into the hall of the winged horse, from which, though free to roam over all the rest of the palace, with its hundred gates and its golden door, he had been long sedulously excluded.  I had now entered, for the first time, into a chamber of the grand fossiliferous museum—the great stone-record edifice of our island—of which I had not thought the less frequently from the circumstance that I was better acquainted with the chamber that lies directly overhead, if I may so speak, with but a thin floor between, than with any other in the erection.  I had been labouring for years in the lower Old Red Sandstone, and had acquainted myself with its winged and plate-covered, its enamelled and tubercle-roughened ichthyolites; but there is no getting down in Scotland into the cellarage of the edifice: it is as thoroughly a mystery to the mere Scotch geologist as the cellarage of Todgers' in Martin Chuzzlewit, of which a stranger kept the key, was to the inmates of that respectable tavern.  Here, however, I had got fairly into the cellar at last.  The frontage of fossiliferous grauwacke-looking rock, by the wayside, which I had just examined, is known, thanks to Sir Roderick Murchison, to belong to the upper Ludlow deposit—the Silurian base on which the Old Red Sandstone rests; and I had now got a storey further down, and was among the Aymestry Limestones.

    The first fossil I picked up greatly resembled in size and form a pistol-bullet.  It proved to be one of the most characteristic shells of the formation—the Terebratula Wilsoni.  Nor was the second I found—the Lingula Lewisii, a bivalve formed like the blade of a wooden shovel—less characteristic.  The Lingula still exists in some two or three species in the distant Moluccas.  There was but one of these known in the times of Cuvier, the Lingula anatina; and so unlike was it deemed by the naturalist to any of its contemporary mollusca, that of the single species he formed not only a distinct genus, but also an independent class.  The existing, like the fossil shell, resembles the blade of a wooden shovel; but the shovel has also a handle, and in this mainly consists its dissimilarity to any other bivalve: a cylindrical cartilaginous stem or foot-stalk elevates at some three or four inches over the rocky base to which it is attached, just as the handle of a shovel, stuck half a foot into the earth, at the part where the hand grasps it, would elevate the blade over the surface, or as the stem of a tulip elevates the flower over the soil.  A community of Lingulæ must resemble, in their deep sea-haunts, a group of Liliputian shovels, reversed by the labourers to indicate their work completed, or a bed of half-folded tulips, raised on stiff dingy stems, and exhibiting flattened petals of delicate green.  I am not aware that any trace of the cartilaginous footstalk has been yet detected in fossil Lingulae;—like those of this quarry, they are mere shovel-blades divested of the handles; but all that survives of them, or could be expected to survive—the calcareous portion—they are identical in type with the living mollusc of the Moluccas.  What most strikes in the globe-shaped terebratula, their contemporary, is the singularly antique character of the ventral margin: it seems moulded in the extreme of an ancient fashion long since gone out.  Instead of running continuously round in one plane, like the margins of our existing cockle, venus, or mactra, so as to form, when the valves are shut, a rectilinear line of division, it presents in the centre huge dovetail, so that the lower valve exhibits in its middle front a square gateway, which we see occupied, when the mouth closed by a portcullis-like projection, dependent from the margin of the upper valve.  Margins of this antique form characterize some of the terebratule of even the Chalk, and the spirifers of the Carboniferous Limestone; but in none of the comparatively modern shells is the square portcullis-shaped indentation so strongly indicated as in the Terebratula Wilsoni. I picked up several other fossils in the quarry: the Orthis orbicularis and Orthis lunata; the Atrypa affinis; several ill-preserved portions of orthoceratite, belonging chiefly, so far as their state of keeping enabled me to decide, to the Orthoceras bullatum; a small, imperfectly-conical coral, that more resembled the Stromatopora concentrica of the Wenlock rocks, than any of other Silurian corals figured by Murchison; and a few minute sprigs of the Favosites polymorpha.  The concretionary character of the limestone of the deposit has militated against the preservation of the larger organisms which it encloses.  Of the smaller shells, many are in a beautiful state of keeping: like some of the comparatively modern shells of the Oolite, they still retain unaltered the silvery lustre of the nacre, and present outlines as sharp and well defined, with every delicate angle unworn, and every minute stria undefaced, as if inhabited but yesterday by the living molluscs; whereas most of the bulkier fossils, from the broken and detached nature of the rock—a nodular limestone imbedded in strata of shale exist as mere fragments.  What perhaps first strikes the eye is the deep-sea character of the deposit, and its general resemblance to the Mountain Limestone.  Nature, though she dropped between the times of the Silurian and Carboniferous oceans many of her genera, and, with but a few marked exceptions, all her species, [3] seems to have scarce at all altered the general types after which the productions of both oceans were moulded.

    I could find in this quarry of the Aymestry Limestone no trace of aught higher than the Cephalopoda—none of those plates, scales, spines, or teeth, indicative of the vertebrate animals, which so abound in the Lower Old Red Sandstones of Scotland.  And yet the vertebrata seem to have existed at the time.  The famous bone-bed of the Upper Silurian system, with its well-marked ichthyolitic remains, occurs in the Upper Ludlow Rock—the deposit immediately overhead.  We find it shelved high, if I may so speak, in the first storey of the system, reckoning from the roof downwards; the calcareous deposit in which this hill-side quarry has been hollowed forms a second storey; the Lower Ludlow Rock a third; and in yet a fourth—the Wenlock Limestone, just one remove over the Lower Silurians—for the Wenlock Shale constitutes the base storey of the upper division,—there have been found the remains of a fish, or rather minute portions of the remains of a fish, the most ancient yet known to the geologist.  "Take the Lower Silurians all over the globe," says Sir Roderick Murchison, in a note to the writer of these chapters, which bears date no further back than last July, "and they have never yet offered the trace of a fish."  It is to be regretted that the ichthyolite of the Wenlock Limestone—the first-born of the vertebrata whose birth and death seem entered in the geologic register—has not been made the subject of a careful memoir, illustrated by a good engraving.  One is naturally desirous to know all that can be known regarding the first entrance in the drama of existence of a new class in creation, and to have the place and date which the entry bears in the record fairly established.  The evidence, however, though not yet made patent to the geological brotherhood, seems to be solid.  It has at least satisfied a writer in the Edinburgh Review of last year, generally recognised as one of the master-spirits of the age.  "We have seen," says Mr. Sedgwick, the understood author of the article, "characteristic portions of a fish derived from the shales alternating with the Wenlock Limestone.  This ichthyolite, to speak in the technical language of Agassiz, undoubtedly belongs to the Cestraciont family, of the Placoid order—proving to demonstration that the oldest known fossil fish belongs to the highest type of that division of the vertebrata."

    A strange début this, and of deep interest to the student of nature.  The veil of mystery must for ever rest over the act of creation; but it is something to know of its order—to know that, as exhibited in the great geologic register, graven, like the decalogue of old, on tables of stone, there is an analogy maintained, that indicates identity of style with the order specified in the Mosaic record as that observed by the Creator in producing the scene of things to which we ourselves belong.  In both records—the sculptured and the written—periods of creative energy are indicated as alternating with periods of rest—days in which the Creator laboured, with nights in which He ceased from his labours, again to resume them in the morning.  According to both records, higher and lower existences were called into being successively, not simultaneously;—according to both, after each interval of repose, the succeeding period of activity witnessed loftier and yet loftier efforts of production; according to both, though in the earlier stages there was incompleteness in the scale of existence, there was yet no imperfection in the individual existences of which the scale was composed at the termination of the first, as of the last day of creation, all in its kind was good.  Ere any of the higher natures existed,


                                 God saw that all was good,
When ev'n and morn recorded the third day.


    I quitted the quarry in the hill-side, and walked on through the village of Sedgley, towards a second and much more striking hill, well known to geologists and lovers of the picturesque as the "Wren's Nest."  A third hill, that of Dudley, beautifully wooded and capped by its fine old castle, lies direct in the same line; so that the three hills taken together form a chain of eminences, which run diagonally, for some four or five miles, into the middle of the coal-basin; and which, rising high from the surrounding level, resemble steep-sided islets in an Alpine lake.  It is a somewhat curious circumstance, that while the enclosing shores of the basin are formed of the Lower New Red Sandstone, and the basin itself of the Upper and Lower Coal Measures, these three islets are all Silurian; the first, that of Sedgley, which I had just quitted, presenting in succession the Upper Ludlow Rock and Aymestry Limestone, with some of the inferior deposits on which these rest; and the second and third the Wenlock Shale and Wenlock Limestone.  The "Wren's Nest," as I approached it this day along green lanes and over quiet fields fringed with trees, presented the appearance of some bold sea-promontory, crowned a-top with stunted wood, and flanked by a tall, pale-grey precipice, continuous as a rampart for a full half-mile.  But, to borrow from one of Byron's descriptions,


                 There is no sea to lave its base,
But a most living landscape, and the wave
Of woods and corn-fields, and the abodes of men
Scattered at intervals, and wreathing smoke
Rising from rustic roofs.


Such is the profile of the hill on both sides.  Seen in front, it presents the appearance of a truncated dome; while a-top we find it occupied by an elliptical, crater-like hollow, that has been grooved deep by the hand of Nature along the flat summit, so as to form a huge nest, into which the gigantic roc of Eastern story might drop a hundred such eggs as the one familiar to the students of the great voyager Sinbad.  And hence the name of the eminence.  John Bull, making merry, in one of his humorous moods, with its imposing greatness, has termed it the "Wren's Nest."  I came up to its grey lines of sloping precipice, and found them so thickly charged with their sepulchral tablets and pictorial epitaphs, that, like the walls of some Egyptian street of tombs, almost every square yard bears its own lengthened inscription.  These sloping precipices, situated as they now are in central England, once formed a deep sea bottom, far out of reach of land, whose green recesses were whitened by innumerable corals and coral-lines, amid which ancient shells, that loved the profounder depths, terebratula, leptæna, and spirifer, lay anchored; while innumerable trilobites crept sluggishly above zoophyte and mollusc, on the thickly inhabited platform; and the orthoceras and the bellerophon floated along the surface high overhead.  A strange story, surely, but not more strange than true; in at least the leading details there is no possibility of mistaking the purport of the inscriptions.

    The outer front of precipice we find composed of carbonate of lime, alternating with thin layers of a fine-grained aluminous shale, which yields to the weather, betraying, in every more exposed portion of the rock, the organic character of the limestone.  Wherever the impalpable shale has been washed away, we find the stone as sharply sculptured beneath as a Chinese snuff-box; with this difference, however, that the figures are more nicely relieved, and grouped much more thickly together.  We ascertain that every component particle of the roughened ground on which they lie, even the most minute, is organic.  It is composed of portions of the most diminutive zoophytes—retipora, or festinella, or the microscopic joints of thread-like crinoideal tentacula; while the bolder figures that stand up in high relief over it are delicately sculptured shells of antique type and proportions, crustacea of the trilobite family, corals massive or branched, graceful gorgonia, and the stems and pelvic bulbs of crinoidea.  The impalpable shales of the hill seem to have been deposited from above—the soil of aluminous shores carried far by the sea, and thrown down in the calm on beds of zoophytes and shells; whereas the lime appears to have been elaborated, not deposited: it grew upon the spot slowly and imperceptibly as age succeeded age—a secretion of animal life.

    After passing slowly around the hill, here striking off a shell, there disinterring a trilobite—here admiring some huge mass of chain-coral, that, even when in its recent state, I could not have raised from the ground—there examining, with the assistance of the lens, the minute meshes of some net-like festinella, scarce half a nail's-breadth in area—I set me down in the sunshine in the opening of a deserted quarry, hollowed in the dome-like front of the hill, amid shells and corallines that had been separated from the shaley matrix by the disintegrating influences of the weather.  The organisms lay as thickly around me as recent shells and corals on a tropical beach.  The labours of Murchison had brought me acquainted with their forms, and with the uncouth names given them in this late age of the world, so many long creations after they had been dead and buried, and locked up in rock; but they were new to me in their actually existing state as fossils; and the buoyant delight with which I squatted among them, glass in hand, to examine and select, made me smile a moment after, when I bethought me that my little boy Bill could have shown scarce greater eagerness, when set down for the first time, in his third summer, amid the shells and pebbles of the sea-shore.  But I daresay most of my readers, if transported for a time to the ocean shores of Mars or of Venus, would manifest some such eagerness in ascertaining the types in which, in these remote planets, the Creator exhibits life.  And here, strewed thickly around me, were the shells and corals of the Silurian ocean—an ocean quite as dissimilar in its productions to that of the present day, as the oceans either of Mars or Venus.  It takes a great deal to slacken the zeal of some pursuits.  I have been told by a relative, now deceased—a man strongly imbued with a taste for natural history, who fought under Abercromby in Egypt—that though the work was rather warm on the day he first leaped ashore on that celebrated land, and the beach somewhat cumbered by the slain, he could not avoid casting a glance at the white shells which mingled with the sand at his feet, to see whether they greatly differed from those of his own country; and that one curious shell, which now holds an honoured place in my small collection, he found time to transfer, amid the sharp whizzing of the bullets, to his waistcoat pocket.

    I filled a small box with minute shells and corals—terebra-tulæ of some six or eight distinct species, a few leptænæ and orthes, a singularly beautiful astrea, figured by Murchison as Astrea ananas, or the pine-apple astrea, several varieties of cyathophyllum, and some two or three species of porites and limaria.  To some of the corals I found thin mat-like zoophytes of the character of flustræ attached; to others, what seemed small serpulæ.  Out of one mass of shale I disinterred the head of a stone lily—the Cyathocrinites pyriformis—beautifully preserved; in a second mass I found the fully-expanded pelvis and arms of a different genus—the Actinocrinites moniliformis—but it fell to pieces ere I could extricate it.  I was more successful in detaching entire a fine specimen of what I find figured by Murchison, though with a doubtful note of interrogation attached, as a gorgonia or sea-fan.  I found much pleasure, too, in acquainting myself, though the specimens were not particularly fine, with disjointed portions of trilobites—now a head turned up—now the caudal portion of the shell, exhibiting the inner side and abdominal rim—now a few detached joints.  In some of the specimens—invariably headless ones—the body seems scarce larger than that of a common house-fly.  Here, as amid the upper deposits at Sedgley, I was struck with the general resemblance of the formation to the Carboniferous Limestone: not a few of the shells are at least generically similar; there is the same abundance of crinoideæ and festinellæ; and in some localities nearly the same profusion of the large and the minuter corals.  And though trilobites are comparatively rare in the Mountain Limestone of Britain, I have found in that of Dryden, in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, the body of at least one trilobite, which I could not distinguish from a species of frequent occurrence in the Wenlock Limestone—the Asaphus Caudatus.  I may remind the reader, in corroboration of the fact, that Buckland, in his "Bridgewater Treatise," figures two decapitated specimens of this trilobite, one of which was furnished by the Carboniferous Limestone of Northumberland, and the other by the Transition Limestone near Leominster.  There obtains, however, one striking difference between the more ancient and more modern deposits: I have rarely explored richly fossiliferous beds of the Mountain Limestone, without now and then finding the scales of a fish, and now and then the impression of some land-plant washed from the shore; but in the Silurian hills of the Dudley coal-field, no trace of the vertebrata has yet been found, and no vegetable product of the land.

    The sun had got far down in the west ere I quitted the deserted quarry, and took my way towards the distant town, not over, but through the hill, by a long gloomy corridor.  I had been aware all day that, though apparently much alone, I had yet near neighbours: there had been an irregular succession of dull, half-smothered sounds, from the bowels of the earth; and at times, when in contact with the naked rock, I could feel, as the subterranean thunder pealed through the abyss, the solid mass trembling beneath me.  The phenomena were these described by Wordsworth, as eliciting, in a scene of deep solitude, the mingled astonishment and terror of Peter Bell,—


When, to confound his spiteful mirth,
A murmur pent within the earth,
In the dead earth, beneath the road,
Sudden arose!   It swept along,
A muffled noise, a rumbling sound:
'Twas by a troop of miners made,
Plying with gunpowder their trade,
Some twenty fathoms under ground.


I was scarce prepared, however, for excavations of such imposing extent as the one into which I found the vaulted corridor open.  It forms a long gallery, extending for hundreds of yards on either hand, with an overhanging precipice bare to the hilltop leaning perilously over on the one side, and a range of supporting buttresses cut out of the living rock, and perforated with lofty archways, planting at measured distances their strong feet on the other.  Through the openings between the buttresses—long since divested, by a shaggy vegetation, of every stiff angularity borrowed from the tool of the miner—the red light of evening was streaming, in well-defined patches, on the grey rock and broken floor.  Each huge buttress threw its broad bar of shadow in the same direction; and thus the gallery, through its entire extent, was barred, zebra-like, with alternate belts of sun-light and gloom—the "ebon and ivory" of Sir Walter's famed description.  The rawness of artificial excavation has long since disappeared under the slow incrustations of myriads of lichens and mosses—for the quarrier seems to have had done with the place for centuries; and if I could have but got rid of the recollection that it had been scooped out by handfuls for a far different purpose than that of making a grotto, I should have deemed it one of the finest caverns I ever saw.  Immediately beside where the vaulted corridor enters the gallery, there is a wide dark chasm in the floor, furnished with a rusty chain-ladder, that gives perilous access to the lower workings of the hill.  There was not light enough this evening to show halfway down; but far below, in the darkness, I could see the fiery glimmer of a torch reflected on a sheet of pitch-black water; and I afterwards learned that a branch of the Dudley and Birmingham Canal, invisible for a full mile, has been carried thus far into the bowels of the hill.  I crossed over the nest-like valley scooped in the summit of the eminence—a picturesque, solitary spot, occupied by a corn-field, and feathered all around on the edges with wood; and then crossing a second deep excavation, which, like the gallery described, is solely the work of the miner, I struck over a range of green fields, pleasantly grouped in the hollow between the Wren's-Nest-hill and the Castle-Hill of Dudley, and reached the town just as the sun was setting.  The valleys which interpose between the three Silurian islets of the Dudley basin are also Silurian; and as they have been hollowed by the denuding agencies out of useless beds of shale and mudstone, the miner has had no motive to bore into their sides and bottom, or to cumber the surface, as in the surrounding coal-field, with the ruins of the interior; and so the valleys, with their three lovely hills, form an oasis in the waste.


 
CHAPTER V.


Dudley; significant mark; of the mining town—Kindly Scotch landlady—Temperance coffee-house—Little Samuel the teetotaller—Curious incident—Anecdote—The resuscitated spinet—Forbearance of little Samuel—Dudley Museum; singularly rich in Silurian fossils—Megalichthys Hibberti—Fossils from Mount Lebanon; very modern compared with those of the Hill of Dudley—Geology peculiarly fitted to revolutionize one's ideas of modern and ancient—Fossils of extreme antiquity furnished by a Canadian township that had no name twenty years ago—Fossils from the old Egyptian desert found to be comparatively of yesterday—Dudley Castle and Castle-hill—Cromwell's mission—Castle finds a faithful chronicler in an old serving-maid—Her narrative—Caves and fossils of the Castle-hill—Extensive excavations—Superiority of the natural to the artificial cavern—Fossils of the Scottish Grauwacke—Analogy between the female lobster and the trilobite.



THE town of Dudley has been built half on the Silurian deposit, half on the coal-field, and is flanked on the one side by pleasant fields, traversed by quiet green lanes, and on the other by ruinous coal-workings and heaps of rubbish.  But as the townspeople are not "lie-wasters," we find, in at least the neighbourhood of the houses, the rubbish-heaps intersected with in numerable rude fences, and covered by a rank vegetation.  The mechanics of the place have cultivated without levelling them, so that for acres together they present the phenomenon of a cockling sea of gardens—a rural Bay of Biscay agitated by the ground swell—with rows of cabbages and beds of carrots riding on the tops of huge waves, and gooseberry and currant bushes sheltering in deep troughs and hollows.  I marked, as I passed through the streets, several significant traits of the mining town: one of the signboards, bearing the figure of a brawny, half-naked man, armed with a short pick, and coiled up like an Andre Ferrara broadsword in a peck basket, indicates the inn of the "Jolly Miner;" the hardware shops exhibit in their windows rows of Davy's safety-lamps, and vast piles of mining tools; and the footways show their sprinkling of rugged-looking men, attired in short jackets and trousers of undyed plaiding, sorely besmutted by the soil of an underground occupation.  In some instances, the lamp still sticking in the cap, and the dazzled expression of countenance, as if the eye had not yet accommodated itself to the light, indicate the close proximity of the subterranean workings.  I dropped into a respectable-looking tavern to order a chop and a glass of ale, and mark, meanwhile, whether it was such a place as I might convert into a home for a few days with any reasonable prospect of comfort.  But I found it by much too favourite a resort of the miners, and that, whether they agreed or disputed, they were a noisy generation over their ale.  The landlady, a kindly, portly dame, considerably turned of fifty, was a Scotchwoman, a native of Airdrie, who had long ago married an Englishman in her own country, and had now been settled in Dudley for more than thirty years.  My northern accent seemed to bespeak her favour; and taking it for granted that I had come into England in quest of employment, but had not yet been successful in procuring any, she began to speak comfort to my dejection, by assuring me that our country-folk in that part of the world were much respected, and rose always, if they had but character, into places of trust.  I had borne with me, on my homely suit of russet, palpable marks of my labours at Sedgley and the Wren's Nest, and looked, I daresay, rather geological than genteel.  Character and scholarship, said the landlady, drawing her inference, were just everything in that neighbourhood.  Most of the Scotch people who came the way, however poor, had both: and so, while the Irish always remained drudges, and were regarded with great jealousy by the labouring English, the Scotch became overseers and book-keepers, sometimes even partners in lucrative works, and were usually well liked and looked up to.  I could fain have taken up my abode at the friendly Scotchwoman's; but the miners in a neighbouring apartment were becoming every moment more noisy; and when they began to strike the table with their fists till the glasses danced and rung, I got up, and, taking leave of my countrywoman, sallied into the street.

    After sauntering about the town for half an hour, I found in one of the lanes a small temperance coffee-house, with an air of quiet sobriety about it that at once recommended it to my favour.  Finding that most of the customers of the place went into the kitchen to luxuriate over their coffee in front of the fire, I too went into the kitchen, and took my seat in a long wooden settle, with tall upright back and arms, that stretched along the side of the apartment, on the clean red tiles.  The English are by much a franker people than the Scotch—less curious to know who the stranger may be who addresses them, and more ready to tell what they themselves are, and what they are doing and thinking; and I soon found I could got as much conversation as I wished.  The landlady's youngest son, a smart little fellow in his ninth year, was, I discovered, a stern teetotaller.  He had been shortly before at a temperance meeting, and had been set up to make a speech, in which he had acquitted himself to the admiration of all.  He had been a teetotaller for about nine years, he said, and his father was a teetotaller too, and his mother, and brother and sisters, were all teetotallers; and he knew men, he added, who, before taking the pledge, had worn ragged clothes, and shoes without soles, who, on becoming teetotallers, had improved into gentlemen.  He was now engaged in making a second speech, which was, however, like a good many other second speeches produced in such circumstances, very much an echo of the first; and every one who dropped in this evening, whether to visit the landlady and her daughters, or to drink coffee, was sure to question little Samuel regarding the progress of his speech.  To some of the querists Samuel replied with great deference and respect; to some with no deference or respect at all.  Condition or appearance seemed to exert as little influence over the mind of of the magnanimous speech-maker as over that of the eccentric clergyman in Mr. Fitzadam's World, who paid to robust health the honour so usually paid to rank and title, and looked down as contemptuously on a broken constitution as most other people do on dilapidated means.  But Samuel had quite a different standard of excellence from that of the eccentric clergyman.  He had, I found, no respect save for pledged teetotalism; and no words to bestow on drinkers of strong drink, however moderate in their potations.  All mankind consisted, with Samuel, of but two classes—drunkards and teetotallers.  Two young ladies—daughters of the supervisor of the district—came in, and asked him how he was getting on with his speech; but Samuel deigned them no reply.  "You were rude to the young ladies, Samuel," said his mother when they had quitted the room; "why did you not give them an answer to their question?"  "They drink," replied the laconic Samuel.  "Drink!" exclaimed his mother—"Drink!—the young ladies!"  "Yes, drink," reiterated Samuel, "they have not taken the pledge."

    I found a curious incident which had just occurred in the neighbourhood, forming the main topic of conversation—exactly such a story as Crabbe would have chosen for the basis of a descriptive poem.  A leaden pipe had been stolen a few evenings before from one of the town churches: it was a long ponderous piece of metal; and the thieves, instead of carrying, had dragged it along, leaving behind them, as they went, a significant trail on grass and gravel, which had been traced on the morrow by the sexton to the house of an elderly couple, in what, for their condition, were deemed snug circumstances, and who, for full thirty years, had borne a fair character in the place.  There lived with them two grown-up sons, and they also bore fair characters.  A brief search, however, revealed part of the missing lead; a still further search laid open a vast mine of purloined moveables of every description.  Every tile in the back court, every square yard in the garden, every board in the house-floor, covered its stolen article;—kitchen utensils and fire-irons, smiths' and miners' tools, sets of weights from the market-place, pieces of hardware goods from the shops, garden railings, sewerage grates, house-spouts—all sorts of things useful and useless to the purloiners—some of them missed but yesterday, some of them abstracted years before—were found heaped up together, in this strange jay's nest.  Two-thirds of the people of Dudley had gone out to mark the progress of discovery; and as the police furrowed the garden, or trenched up the floor, there were few among the numerous spectators who were not able to detect in the mass some piece of their own property.  I saw the seventh cart-load brought this evening to the police-office; and every fresh visitor to the coffee-house carried with him the intelligence of further discoveries.  The unhappy old man, who had become so sudden a bankrupt in reputation when no one had doubted his solvency, and the two eons, whom he had trained so ill, had been sent off to Gloucester jail the evening before, to abide their trial at the ensuing assizes.  I was reminded by the incident of an occurrence which took place some time in the last age, in a rural district in the far north.  A parish smith had lived and died with an unsuspected character, and the population of half the country-side gathered to his funeral.  There had been, however, a vast deal of petty pilfering in his time.  Plough and harrow irons were continually disappearing from the fields and steadings of the farmers, his nearer neighbours.  Not a piece of hen-mounting or trace-chain, not a cart-axle or wheel-rim, was secure.  But no one had ever thought of implicating the smith.  Directly opposite his door there stood a wall of loose uncemented stones, against which a party of the farmers who had come to the burial were leaning until the corpse should be brought out.  The coffin was already in the passage; the farmers were raising their shoulders from the wall to take their places beside it; in ten minutes more the smith would have been put under the ground with a fair character; when, lo! the frail masonry behind suddenly gave way; the clank of metal was heard to mingle with the dull rumble of the stones; and there, amid the rubbish, palpable as the coffin on the opposite side of the road, lay, in a scattered heap, the stolen implements so mysteriously abstracted from the farmers.  The awe-struck men must have buried the poor smith with feelings which bore reference to both worlds, and which a poet such as Wordsworth would perhaps know how to describe.

    My landlady's eldest son, a lad of nineteen, indulged a strong predilection for music, which, shortly prior to the date of my visit, had received some encouragement in his appointment as organist in one of the town churches.  At a considerable expense of patient ingenuity he had fitted up an old spinet, until it awoke into life, in these latter days of Collards and Broadwoods, the identical instrument it had been a century before.  He had succeeded, too, in acquiring no imperfect mastery over it; and so, by a series of chances all very much out of the reach of calculation, I, who till now had never seen but dead spinets—rickety things of chopped wainscot, lying in waste garrets from the days of the grandmothers and great-grand mothers of genteel families—was enabled to cultivate acquaintance with the capabilities of a resuscitated spinet, vocal and all alive.  It gave me the idea, when at its best, of a box full of Jew's harps, all twanging away at the full extent of their compass, and to the best of their ability.  The spirit of the musician, however, made such amends for the defects of his instrument, that his evening performances, carried on when his labours for the day had closed, were exceedingly popular in the neighbourhood.  The rude miner paused under the windows to listen; and groups of visitors, mostly young girls, came dropping in every night to enjoy the nice fresh melodies brought out of the old musty spinet.  Lovers of the fine arts draw naturally together; and one of the most frequent guests of the coffeehouse was an intelligent country artist, with whom I scraped acquaintance, and had some amusing conversation.  With little Samuel, the speech-maker, I succeeded in forming a friendship of the superlative type; though, strange to relate, it must be to this day a profound mystery to Samuel whether his fidus Achates, the Scotchman, be a drinker of strong drink, or a teetotaller.  Alas for even teetotalized human nature, when placed in trying circumstances!  Samuel and I had a good many cups of coffee together, and several glasses of Sampson, a palatable Dudley beverage, compounded of eggs, milk, and spicery; and, as on these occasions a few well-directed coppers enabled him to drive hard bargains with his mother for his share of the tipple, he was content to convert in my behalf the all-important question of the pledge into a mootpoint of no particular concernment.  I unfortunately left Dudley ere he had an opportunity presented him of delivering his second speech.  But he entertained, he assured me, no fears for the result.  It was well known in the place, he said, that he was to speak at the first temperance meeting; there were large expectations formed, so the audience could not be otherwise than very numerous and attentive; and he was quite satisfied he had something worth while to give them.  My friend Samuel bore a good deal of healthy precocity about him.  It would be, of course, consummately absurd to found aught on a single instance; but it has been so often remarked that English children of the lively type develop into cleverness earlier than the Scotch, that the observation has, in all likelihood, some foundation in reality.  I find, too, from the experiments of Professor Forbes of Edinburgh, that the English lad in his sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth years possesses more bodily strength than the Scot of the same years and standing, and that it is not until their nineteenth year that the young men of both countries meet on a footing of equality.  And it seems not irrational to infer that the earlier development of body in the case of the embryo Englishman should be accompanied by a corresponding development of mind also—that his school exercises should be better than those of the contemporary Scot, and his amateur verses rather more charged with meaning, and more smoothly rounded.

    Dudley has its geological museum—small, but very valuable in some departments, and well arranged generally.  Its Silurian organisms are by far the finest I ever saw.  No sum of money would enable the fossil collector to complete such a set. It contains original specimens of the trilobite family, of which, in other museums, even the British, one finds but the casts. Nor can anything be more beautiful than its groups of delicately relieved crinoidea of all the different Silurian genera—some of them in scarce less perfect keeping than when they spread out their many jointed arms in quest of prey amid the ancient seas ! It contains, however, none of the vertebral remains furnished by the celebrated bone-bed of the Upper Ludlow rocks, nor any of the ichthyolitic fragments found still lower down ; though, of course, one misses them all the more from the completeness of the collection in contemporary organisms ; and its group of Old Red Sandstone fossils serves but to contrast the organic poverty of this system in its development in England, with the vast fossil riches which it exhibits in our northern division of the island. The neighbouring coal-field I found well represented by a series of plants and ichthyolites ; and I had much pleasure in examining among the latter one of the best preserved specimens of Megalichthys yet found—a specimen disinterred some years ago from out an ironstone bed near Walsall, known to the miners as the " gubbin iron." The head is in a remark ably fine state of keeping. The strong, enamelled plates, resembling pieces of japanned mail, occupy their original places ; they close round the snout, as if tightly riveted clown, and lie nicely inlaid in patterns of great regularity on the broad forehead ; the surface of each is finely punctulated, as if by an exceedingly minute needle ; most of them bear, amid the smaller markings, eyelet-like indentations of larger size, ranged in lines, as if they had been half perforated for ornament by a tinworker's punch ; and the tout ensemble is that of the head of some formidable reptile encased in armour of proof ; though, from the brightly burnished surface of the plates, the armature resembles rather that of some of the more brilliant insects, than that common to fishes or reptiles. The occipital covering of the crocodile is perhaps more than equally strong, but it lacks the glossy japan, and the tilt-yard cast, if I may so speak, of the many-jointed head-piece of the Megalichthys. The occipital plates descend no lower than the nape, where they join on to thickly-set ranges of glittering quadrangular scales of considerable size and great thickness, that gradually diminish, and become more angular as they approach the tail. The fins are unluckily not indicated in the specimen. In all fossil fish, of at least the Secondary and Pal[aeozoic formations, the colouring depends on the character of the deposits in which they have lain entombed. I have seen scales and plates on the Megal-ichthys, in some instances of a senna yellow, in some of a warm chestnut brown ; but the finer specimens are invariably of a glossy black. The Dudley Megalichthys, and a Megalichthys in the possession of Dr. John Fleming— which, though greatly less entire, is valuable, from exhibiting the vertebral column of the animal—are both knights in black armour. [4]

    Among the donations to the Dudley Museum, illustrative of the geology of foreign parts, I saw an interesting group of finely preserved fossil fish from Mount Lebanon—a very ancient mountain, in its relation to human history, compared with the Castle-hill of Dudley (which, however, begins to loom darkly through the haze of the monkish annalists as early as the year 700, when Dud the Saxon built a stronghold on its summit), but an exceedingly recent hill in its relation to the geologic eras.  The geologist, in estimating the respective ages of the two eminences, places the hill with the modern history immensely in advance of the hill with the ancient one.  The fish dug out of the sides of Lebanon, some five or six thousand feet over the level of the sea, are all fish of the modern type, with horny scales and bony skeletons; and they cannot belong to a remoter period; Agassiz tells us, than the times of the Chalk.  Fish were an ancient well-established order in these comparatively recent days of the Cretaceous system; whereas their old Placoid predecessors, contemporary with the crustacea and brachiopoda of the hill of Dudley, seem but to have just started into being at the earlier time, as the first-born of their race, and must have been regarded as mere upstart novelties among the old plebeian crustaceans and molluscs they had come to govern.  The trilobites of Dudley are some four or five creations deeper in the bygone eternity, if I may so speak, than the cycloids and ctenoids of Lebanon.  I was a good deal struck, shortly before leaving home, by this curious transposition of idea which Geology in such cases is suited to accomplish.  I found waiting my inspection one morning in the house-lobby, a box and basket, both filled with fossils.  Those in the basket, which had been kindly sent me by Dr. John Wilson of Bombay, consisted of ichthyolites and shells from the Holy Land, and fossil wood from the old Egyptian desert; while those in the box, which had been obligingly transmitted me by Dr. James Wilson of Upper Canada—a gentleman who, amid the wild backwoods, with none to assist and few to sympathize, has cultivated a close :acquaintance with science for its own sake—had been collected in the modern township of Pakenham, not far from the banks of the Ottawa.  The fossil wood of the old desert—unequivocally dicotyledonous, of the oak or mahogany structure—could not, I found, be older than the Tertiary period; the fish and shells of Palestine, like those of the Dudley Museum, belong apparently to the times of the Chalk; but the organisms of the modern township, that had no name twenty years ago, boasted an incomparably higher antiquity: they consisted of corals, crustacea, and cephalopoda, from the Lower Silurians.

    No one who visits Dudley should omit seeing its Castle and Castle-hill.  The Castle, a fine old ruin of the true English type, with moat, court, and keep, dungeon and treble gateway, chapel, guard-room, and hall, resembles in extent rather a ruinous village than a single building; while the hill on which it stands forms, we find, a picturesquely wooded eminence, seamed with rough, bosky ravines, and bored deep with gloomy chasms, that were excavated centuries ago as limestone quarries.  But their line has been long since exhausted, and the miner now plies his labours unseen, though not unheard, deep amid the bowels of the mountain.  The visitor may hear, in recesses the most recluse and solitary, the frequent rumble of his subterraneous thunder, and see the aspen trembling in the calm, under the influence of the earthquake-like tremor communicated to it from beneath.

    The old keep, by much the strongest and most ancient portion of the building, rises on the highest part of the eminence, and commands the town below, part of which lies grouped around the hill-foot, almost within pistol-shot of the walls.  In the olden time, this fortress occupied the centre of an extensive woodland district, and was known as the "Castle of the Woods."  It had some rather high-handed masters in its day—among the rest, the stern Leofric, husband of the Lady Godiva, so celebrated in chronicle and song for her ride through Coventry.  Even as late as the close of the reign of Elizabeth, a lord of Dudley, at feud with a neighbouring proprietor, ancestor of the well-known Lord Lyttelton, issued from the triple gateway, "having," says a local historian of the time, "one hundred and forty persons with him, weaponed, some with bows and sheffes of arrows, some with forest-bills and staves, and came to Mr. Lyttelton's lands at Prestwood and Ashwood; and out of Ashwood he took three hundred and forty-one sheep, and caused some of his company drive them towards Dudley; and therewith not satisfied, he entered also into the enclosed grounds at Prestwood, and there, with great violence, chased fourteen kyne, one bull, and eight fat oxen, and brought them to Dudley Castle, and kept them within the walls of the Castle; and part of the said cattle and sheen he did kill and eat, and part he sent to Coventry, guarded by sixty men strongly armed with bows and arrows, calyvers, and forest-bills, there to be sold."  Somewhat rough doings these, and rather of a Scotch than an English type: they remind one of a Highland creach of the days of Rob Roy.  England, however, had a boy born to it twenty years after the event, who put an effectual stop to all such acts of lordly aggression for the future; and the keep of Dudley Castle shows how.  Two of its rock-like towers, with their connecting curtain, remain scarce less entire than in the days of Dud or of Leofric; but the other two have disappeared, all save their foundations, and there have been thirty-two-pound shot dug out from among the ruins, that in same sort apologize for their absence.  The iron hand of Cromwell fell heavy on the Castle of the Woods—a hand, of which it may be said, as Barbour says of the gauntleted hand of the Bruce, that


where it strook with even stroke.
Nothing mocht against it stand;


and sheep and cattle have been tolerably safe in the neighbourhood ever since.  It was a breezy, sunshiny day on which I climbed the hill to the old keep, along a steep paved roadway o'ershaded by wood.  In the court behind—a level space some two or three acres in extent, flanked on the one side by the Castle buildings, and on the other by a grey battlemented wall—I found a company of the embodied pensioners going through their exercises, in their uniforms of red and blue.  Most of them—old, grey-headed veterans, with medals dangling at their breasts, and considerably stiffened by years—seemed to perform their work with the leisurely air of men quite aware that it was not of the greatest possible importance.  The broken ruins lay around them rough with the scars of conflict and conflagration; and the old time-worn fortress harmonized well with the old time-worn soldiery.

    It must be a dull imagination that a scene so imposing as that presented by the old Castle does not set in motion: its gloomy vaults and vast halls—its huge kitchen and roomy chapel—its deep fosse and tall rampart—its strong portcullised gateway and battered keep—are all suggestive of the past,—of many a picturesque group of human creatures, impressed, like the building in which they fed and fought, worshipped and made merry, with the character of a bygone age.  The deserted apartments, as one saunters through them, become crowded with life; the grey, cold, evanished centuries assume warmth and colour.  In Dudley, however, the imagination receives more help in its restorations than in most other ruins in a state of equal dilapidation.  The building owes much to a garrulous serving-maid, that followed her mistress about a hundred and twenty years ago, to one of its high festivals—a vast deal more, at least, than to all the great lords and ladies that ever shared in its hospitality.  The grandmother of that Mrs. Sherwood of whom, I daresay, most of my readers retain some recollection since their good-boy or good-girl days, as a pleasing writer for the young, was a lady's-maid, some time early in the last century, in a family of distinction that used to visit at the Castle; and the authoress has embodied in her writings one of her grandmother's descriptions of its vanished glories, as communicated to her by the old woman many years after.  I must give, by way of specimen, a few characteristic snatches of her story—a story which will scarce fail to recall to the learned in romance, the picturesque narratives of Mrs. Radcliffe's garrulous housekeepers, or the lengthened anecdotes of the communicative Annette.

    "I was delighted," says the old serving-maid, "when it was told me that I was to accompany my lady and a friend of hers to the Castle, in order that I might be at hand to wait on them next morning; for they were to stay at the Castle all night.  So we set out on the coach, the two ladies being seated in front, and myself with my back to the horses; and it was quite dark by the time we arrived at the foot of the Castle-hill, for it was the dead of winter, and the snow lay on the ground.  However, there were lamps fixed upon the trees, all along the private road up to the Castle; and there were lights upon the towers, which shone as beacons far and near; for it was a great day at the Castle.  The horses, though we had four, had hard work to drag us up the snowy path.  However, we got up in time; and, passing under the gateway, we found ourselves in the court-yard.  But oh! how different did it then show to what it does now, being littered with splendid equipages, and sounding with the rattling of wheels and the voices of coachmen and grooms calling to each other, and blazing with lights from almost every window; and the sound of merry voices, and of harps and viols, issued from every door-way!  At length, having drawn up to the steps of the portico, my ladies were handed out by a young gentleman wearing an embroidered waistcoat with deep pockets, and a bag-wig and sword; and I was driven to another door, where I was helped out by a footboy, who showed me the way to the housekeeper's room."  The serving-maid then goes on to describe the interior.  She saw on the dark wainscoting, hard, stiff paintings, in faded colours, of antiquely-dressed dames, and knights in armour; but the housemaid, she said, could tell her nothing of their history.  Some of the rooms were hung with tapestry, some with tarnished paper that looked like cut velvet.  The housekeeper was an old, bustling dame, "with a huge bunch of keys hanging to her girdle by a strong chain of steel."  "There was not a window which was sashed, but all were casemented in stone frames, many of the panes being of coloured glass; and there was scarce one chamber on the same level with another, but there was a step to go up or a step to go down to each: the chimney-pieces of carved wood or stone were so high, that I could hardly reach to the mantel shelves when standing on tiptoe; and instead of grates, such as we have now, there were mostly dogs upon the hearths.  The chairs were of such a size, that two of the present sort would stand in the room of one; and the doors, though very thick and substantial, were each an inch or two from the floor, so that the wind whistled all along the passages, rattling and shaking the casements, and often making a sort of wild and mournful melody."

    The great hall which constituted the grand centre of the festivities of this evening, now forms one of the most dilapidated portions of the ruins.  The front walls have fallen so low that we can barely trace their foundations, and a rank vegetation waves over the floor.  I think it is Macculloch who says, that full one-half the ancient strongholds of our Scotch Highlands thrown together into a heap would be found scarce equal in the aggregate to a single English castle of the more magnificent type; and certainly enough remains of the great hall here, broken as it is, to illustrate, and in some degree corroborate the remark, disparaging to the Highlands as it may seem.  We can still ascertain that this single room measured seventy-five feet in length by fifty-six feet in breadth—a space considerably more than equal in area to most of our north-country fortalices.  It was remarkable at one time for containing, says Dr. Plott, an oak table, composed of a single plank, three feet in breadth, that extended from end to end of the apartment.  The great hall must have presented a gay scene when seen by the grandmother of Mrs. Sherwood.  "Three doors opened into it from the gallery above.  At one of these," says the garrulous old woman, "all the servant-maids were standing, and I took my place among them.  I can hardly tell how to describe this hall to you, unless by saying that the roof was arched or groined, not unlike that of some ancient church which you may have seen; and it had large and lofty windows, painted and carved in the fashion called Gothic.  It was illuminated with many candles, in sconces of brass hanging from the ceiling; and every corner of it, wide as it was, was bright as the day.  There was a gallery at the further end of it, filled with musicians; and the first and foremost among them was an old harper from Wales, who used, in those days, to travel the country with his harp on his back, ever presenting himself at the doors of the houses where feasts and merry-makings might be expected.  The dresses of the time were very splendid; the ladies shone with glossy silks and jewels, and the gentlemen with embroidery and gold and silver lace; and I have still before me the figures of that gay and distinguished company, for it consisted of the noble of the land, with their families.  It may be fancy; but I do not think I ever in these days see faces so fair as some of those which shone that night in the old Castle-hall."  Such were some of the reminiscences of the ancient serving-maid.  A few years after the merry-making which she records, the Castle was deserted by the inmates for a more modern building; and in 1750 it was reduced by fire to a blackened group of skeleton walls.  A gang of coiners were suspected at the time of harbouring among its concealments; and the conflagration is said to have been the work of an incendiary connected with the gang.  An unfinished stanza, spelt amiss, and carved rudely on one of the soft sandstone lintels, used to be pointed out as the work of the felon; but, though distinctly legible till within the last few years, it can now be pointed out no longer:


Water Water went round it, to garde it from the Fooe:
The fire shall burn it—


Can the reader complete the couplet?  If not, he may be perhaps apt to suspect the man who first filled up the gap with sense and rhyme as the original author, and, of course, the incendiary.  But though every boy and girl in Dudley has learned to add the missing portion, no one seems to know who the individual was who supplied it first.


Water went round it, to garde it from the Fooe:
The fire shall burn it, and lay its towers low.


    Some of the dells and caverns of the Castle-hill I found exceedingly picturesque.  Its limestone is extensively employed in the smelting furnaces as a flux.  Every ton of clay ironstone must be mixed up with half a ton of lime, to facilitate the separation of the metal from the argillaceous dross; and so, from the earliest beginnings of the iron-trade, the work of excavation has been going on in the hill of Dudley.  The first smelter who dug up a barrowful of ironstone to make a sword, must have come to the hill for half a barrowful of lime to mix up with the brown mass ere he committed it to the fire.  And so some of the caverns are very vast, and, for caverns of man's making, very old; and some of the open dells, deserted by the quarrier for centuries, bear amid their precipices trees of large size, and have long since lost every mark of the tool.  The recesses of the hill, like those of the Wren's Nest, are threaded by a subterranean canal, which, in passing under the excavation of an ancient quarry, opens to the light; and so in a thickly wooded walk, profoundly solitary, when one is least thinking of the possibility of such a thing, one comes full upon a wide and very deep chasm, overhung by trees, the bottom of which is occupied by a dark basin, crowded with boats.  We may mark the boatmen emerging from out the darkness by one cavern, and re-entering it by another.  They see the sun, and the sky, and the green trees far above, but nothing within reach save rough rocks and muddy water; and if they do not think, as they pass, of human life, bounded by the darkness of the two eternities, with no lack of the gloomy and the turbid in closest contact, but with what the heart most desires hung too high for the hand to grasp, it is not because there are no such analogies furnished by the brief passage through, but merely because they have failed to discover them.

    A little further on there may be found a grand though somewhat sombre cavern, which, had it come direct from the hand of Nature, I should perhaps have deemed one of the most remarkable I ever explored.  We enter a long narrow dell, wooded a-top, like all the others, with an overhanging precipice rising tall on the one side, and the strata sloping off on the other in a continuous plane, like the face of a rampart.  Nor is this sloping wall devoid of its characteristic sculpturings.  We find it fretted with shells and corals, and well-marked heads and joints of the Calymene Blumenbachii, so abundant an organism in these rocks as to be familiarly known as the Dudley trilobite.  I scarcely know on what principle it should lave occurred; but certainly never before, even when considerably less familiar with the wonders of Geology, was I so impressed by the appearance of marine fossils in an inland district, as among these wooded solitudes.  Perhaps the peculiarity of their setting, if I may so speak, by heightening the contrast between their present circumstances and their original habitat, gave increased effect to their appeals to the imagination.  The green ocean depths in which they must have lived and died associate strangely in the mind with the forest retreats, a full hundred miles from the sea-shore, in which their remains now lie deposited.  Taken with their accompaniments, they serve to remind one of that style of artificial grotto-work in which corals and shells are made to mingle with flowers and mosses.  The massy cyathophyllum sticks out of the sides of grey lichened rocks, enclasped by sprigs of ivy, or overhung by twigs of thorn and hazel; deep-sea terebratulæ project in bold relief from amid patches of the delicate wood sorrel; here a macerated oak leaf, with all its skeleton fibres open as a net, lies glued by the damps beside some still more delicately reticulated festinella; there a tuft of graceful harebells projects over some prostrate orthoceratite; yonder there peeps out from amid a drapery of green liver-wort, like a heraldic helmet from the mantling, the armed head of some mailed trilobite: the deep-sea productions of the most ancient of creations lie grouped, as with an eye to artistic effect, amid the floral productions of our own times.  At the further end of this retired dell, so full of interest to the geologist, we see, where the rock closes, two dark openings separated by a rude limestone column.  One of these forms a sort of window to the cavern within, so exceedingly lofty in the sill as to be inaccessible to the explorer: through the other we descend along a damp, mouldy path, and reach the twilight bank of a canal, which stretches away into the darkness between two gloomy walls or rock of vast height, connected half-way up—as flooring beams connect the walls of a skeleton building—by a range of what seems rafters of rock.  The cavern had once an upper storey—a working separated from the working below by a thin sloping floor; and these stone rafters are remains of the floor, left as a sort of reclining buttresses, to support the walls.  They form one of the most picturesque features of the cavern, straddling overhead from side to side, and receding in the more than twilight gloom of the place, each succeeding rafter dimmer and more dim, in proportion to its distance from the two openings, till the last becomes so indistinctly visible, that if but a cloud pass over the sun, it disappears.  A rustic bridge leads across the canal; but we can see only the one end of it—the other is lost in the blackness; the walls and floor are green with mould; the dark water seems a sullen river of pitch; we may occasionally mark the surface dimpled by the track of a newt, or a toad puffing itself up, as if it fed on vapour, on the damp earthy edge; but other inhabitants the cavern has none.  I bethought me of the wild description of Kirke White:


And as she enter'd the cavern wide,
    The moonbeam gleamed pale,
And she saw a snake on the craggy rock,—
    It clung by its slimy tail.
Her foot it slipped, and she stood aghast,
    For she trod on a bloated toad.


Solitary as the place usually is, it presented a singularly animated appearance six years ago, when it was visited by the members of the British Association, and converted by Sir Roderick Murchison into a geological lecture-room.  He discoursed of rocks and fossils in the bowels of the hill, with the ponderous strata piled high on every side, like courses of Cyclopean masonry, and the stony forms of the dead existing by millions around him.

    But, after all, there are no caverns like those of nature's making: they speak to the imagination in a bolder and freer style than any mere excavation of the quarrier, however huge; and we find, in consequence, that they have almost always engaged tradition in their behalf.  There hangs about them some old legend of spectral shapes seen flitting across the twilight vestibule: or of ancient, bearded men, not of this world, standing, porter-like, beside the door; or of somnolent giants reposing moodily in the interior; or of over-bold explorers, who wandered so deep into their recesses that they never again returned to the light of day.  I bethought me, when in Sir Roderick's lecture-room, of one of the favourite haunts of my boyhood—a solitary cave, ever resounding to the dash of the billows—and felt its superiority.  Hollowed of old by the waves on an unfrequented shore, just above the reach of the existing tide-line—its grey roof bristling with stalactites, its grey floor knobbed with stalagmite—full of all manner of fantastic dependencies from the top and sides—with here little dark openings branching off into the living rock, and there unfinished columns standing out from it, roughened with fretted irregularities, and beaded with dew—with a dim twilight resting even at noonday within its further recesses, and steeped in an atmosphere of unbreathing silence, rarely broken save by the dash of the wave or the shriek of the sea-fowl—it is at all times a place where the poetry of deep seclusion may be felt—the true hermit-feeling, in which self is absorbed and forgotten amid the silent sublimities of nature.  The unfrequent visitor scares the seal from the mid-tide rock in the opening, or encounters the startled otter in its headlong retreat to the sea.  But it seemed redolent, when I last saw it, of a still higher poetry.  Night had well-nigh fallen, though the nearly vanquished daylight still struggled with the darkness.  The moon at full rose slowly over the sea,


All pale and dim, as if from rest
The ghost of the late buried sun
Had crept into the skies.


The level beam fell along a lonely coast, on brown precipice and grey pebbly shore—here throwing into darker shade some wooded recess, there soliciting into prominence some tall cliff whitened by the cormorant.  The dark-browed precipice, in which the cavern is hollowed, stood out in doubtful relief; while the cavern itself—bristling grey with icicles, that showed like the tags of a dead dress—seemed tenanted, in the exaggerative gloom, with all manner of suggestive shapes.  Here a sheeted uncertainty sat beside the wall, or looked out from one of the darker openings upon the sea; there a broken skeleton seemed grovelling upon the floor.  There was a wild luxury in calling to mind, as one gazed from the melancholy interior on the pale wake of the moon, that for miles on either hand there was not a human dwelling, save the deserted hut of a fisherman who perished in a storm.  The reader may perhaps remember, that in exactly such a scene does the poet Collins find a home for his sublime personification of Fear.


Say, wilt thou shroud in haunted cell,
               Or in some hollow'd seat,
               'Gainst which the big waves beat,
With shuddering, meek, submitted thought,
Hear drowning seamen's cries in tempests brought?


    I spent the greater part of a week among the fossiliferous deposits of Dudley, and succeeded in procuring a tolerably fair set of fossils, and in cultivating a tolerably competent acquaintance with the appearances which they exhibit in their various states of keeping.  It is an important matter to educate the eye.  Should there be days of health, and the exploration of the Scottish Grauwacke in store for me, I may find my brief sojourn among the English Silurians of some little advantage.  Fossils in our ancient southern deposits are exceedingly rare; and there is, in consequence, a lack of data by which to ascertain the age of the formations in which they occur, and which they fail sufficiently to mark.  The tablets are devoid of inscriptions, save that we here and there find a half-effaced character, or the outline of some sorely-worn hieroglyphic.  And yet, had the few fossils hitherto discovered been preserved and brought together, their joint testimony might be found to amount to something.  The Graptolites of Peebles-shire and Galloway are tolerably well known as identical with the English species—the Graptolithus Ludensis and Graptolithus foliaceus—which possess, however, a wide range in the more ancient rocks, passing downwards from the beds of the Upper Silurian, to deposits that lie deep in what was once termed the Cambrian series.  In Peebles-shire, at Wraehill, says Mr. Nicol, shells have been detected in a Grauwacke limestone, now unluckily no longer accessible.  It is stated by Mr. Maclaren, in his elaborate and singularly satisfactory Treatise on the Geology of Fife and the Lothians, that he succeeded in disinterring two organisms—a small orthoceratite, and what seemed to be a confused accumulation of the shattered fragments of minute trilobites—from out of one of the Granwacke patches which occur among the Pentlands.  I have been informed by the late Mr. William Laidlaw, the trusted friend of Sir Walter Scott, that he once disinterred a large bivalve from amid the Grauwackes of Selkirkshire.  The apparent remains of broken terebratulæ have been found in various localities in the Grauwache of Galloway, and atryptæ and tentaculites in a rather equivocal deposit at Girvan deemed Silurian.  Were the various scattered fragments of the fossiliferous record to be brought carefully together, they might be found sufficiently complete to give one at least a few definite ideas regarding the times which preceded in Scotland the age of the Coccosteus and Pterichthys.

    There wons [Ed—archaic use, meaning 'dwells' or 'abides'] a barber in Dudley, who holds a soft of fossil agency between the quarrier and the public, of whom I purchased several fine trilobites—one of them, at least, in the most perfect state of keeping I have yet seen.  The living creature could not have been more complete in every plate and joint of the head and back; but, as in all the other specimens of trilobite known to the geologist, it presents no trace of the abdominal portion.  I procured another specimen rolled up in the peculiar ball-form so often figured, with the tail in contact with the head.  It seems not unworthy of remark, that the female lobster, when her spawn is ripening in an external patch on her abdomen, affects for its protection the same rolled form.  Her dorsal plates curve round from the joint at the carpace till the tail-flap rests on her breast; and the multitudinous dark-coloured eggs, which, having no hard shell of their own to protect them, would be otherwise exposed to every hungry maurauder of the deep, are thus covered up by the strong mail with which the animal is herself protected.  When we take the fact into account, that in no specimen of trilobite, however well preserved, do we find abdominal plates, and that the ball-like form is so exceedingly common, may we not infer that this ancient crustacean was shelled on but the back and head, and that it coiled itself round to protect a defenceless spawn?  In yet another specimen which I purchased from the barber, there is an eye of the Asaphus Caudatus, which presents, in a state of tolerable keeping, its numerous rows of facets.  So far as is yet known, the eye which first saw the light on this ancient earth of ours, gave access to it through four hundred and fifty distinct spherical lenses.  The barber had been in the way of selling Dudley fossils, he told me, for a good many years, and his father had been in the way of selling them for a good many more; but neither he nor his father had ever seen among them any portion of an ichthyolite.  The crustaceans, with their many-jointed plates, and many-windowed eyes, are, so far m is yet known, the highest organisms of the deposit.


 
CHAPTER VI.


Stourbridge—Effect of Platonic convulsion on the surrounding scenery—Hagley; description in the "Seasons"—Geology the true anatomy of landscape—Geologic sketch of Hagley—The road to the races—The old stone-cutter—Thomson's Hollow—His visits to Hagley—Shenstone's Urn—Peculiarities of taste founded often on a substratum of personal character—Illustration—Rousseau—Pope's Haunt—Lyttelton's high admiration of the genius of Pope—Description—Singularly extensive and beautiful landscape; drawn by Thomson—Reflection—Amazing multiplicity of the prospect illustrative of a peculiarity in the descriptions of the "Seasons"—Addison's canon on landscape; corroborated by Shenstone.



I LEFT Dudley by the morning coach for Stourbridge, and arrived, all unwittingly, during the bustle of its season of periodic license—the yearly races.  Stourbridge is merely a smaller Wolverhampton, built on the same lower deposit of the New Red Sandstone, of the same sort of red brick, and roofed and floored with the same sort of red tiles.  The surrounding country is, however, more pleasingly varied by hill and valley.  Plutonic convulsion from beneath has given to the flat incoherent formation a diversity of surface not its own; and we see it tempested into waves over the unseen trappean masses, like ocean over the back of some huge sea-monster.  In passing on to the south and west, one finds bolder and still bolder inequalities of surface.  The hills rise higher, and are more richly wooded, until, at length, little more than three miles from Stourbridge, in a locality where the disturbing rock has broken through, and forms a chain of picturesque trap eminences, there may be seen some of at once the finest and most celebrated scenery in England.  Certainly for no scenery, either at home or abroad, has the muse done more.  Who, acquainted with the poetry of the last century, has not heard of Hagley, the "British Tempe," so pleasingly sung by Thomson in his "Seasons," and so intimately associated, in the verse of Pope, Shenstone, and Hammond, with the Lord Lyttelton of English literature?  It was to walk over Hagley that I had now turned aside half-a-day's journey out of my purposed route.  Rather more from accident than choice, there were no poets with whom I had formed so early an acquaintance as with the English poets who flourished in the time of Queen Anne and the first two Georges.  I had come to be scarce less familiar with Hagley and the Leasowes, in consequence, than Reuben Butler, when engaged in mismanaging his grandmother's farm, with the agriculture of the "Georgics;" and here was my first opportunity, after the years of half a lifetime had come and gone, of comparing the realities as they now exist with the early conceptions I had formed of them.  My ideas of Hagley had been derived chiefly from Thomson, with whose descriptions, though now considerably less before the reading public than they have been, most of my readers must be in some degree acquainted.


                               The love of Nature works,
And warms the bosom; till at last sublimed
To rapture and enthusiastic heat,
We feel the present Deity, and taste
The joy of God to see a happy world!
These are the sacred feelings of thy heart,
O Lyttelton, the friend!   Thy passions thus
And meditations vary, as at large,
Courting the muse, through Hagley Park thou strayest,
The British Tempe!   There along the dale,
With woods o'erhung, and shagged with mossy rocks,
Where on each hand the gushing waters play,
And do, the rough cascade white dashing fall,
Or gleam in lengthen'd vista through the trees,
You silent steal, or sit beneath the shade
Of solemn oaks, that tuft the swelling mounts,
Thrown graceful round by Nature's careless hand.
And pensive listen to the various voice
Of rural peace;—the herds, the flocks, the birds
The hollow whispering breeze, the plaint of rills,
That, purling down amid the twisted roots
Which creep around, their dewy murmurs shake
On the soothed ear.


    In all the various descriptions of Hagley and the Leasowes which I have yet seen, however elaborate and well written, I have found such a want of leading outlines, that I could never form a distinct conception of either place as a whole.  The writer—whether a Thomson or a Dodsley—introduced me to shaded walks and open lawns, swelling eminences and sequestered hollows, wooded recesses with their monumental urns, and green hill-tops with their crowning obelisks; but, though the details were picturesquely given, I have always missed distinct lines of circumvallation to separate and characterize from the surrounding country the definite locality in which they were included.  A minute anatomical acquaintance with the bones and muscles is deemed essential to the painter who grapples with the difficulties of the human figure.  Perhaps, when the geological vocabulary shall have become better incorporated than at present with the language of our common literature, a similar acquaintance with the stony science will be found scarce less necessary to the writer who describes natural scenery.  Geology forms the true anatomy—the genuine osteology—of landscape; and a correct representation of the geological skeleton of a locality will be yet regarded, I doubt not, as the true mode of imparting adequate ideas of its characteristic outlines.  The osteology of Hagley, if I may so speak, is easily definable.  On the southern shore of the Dudley coal-basin, and about two miles from its edge, there rises in the New Red Sandstone a range of trap hills about seven miles in length, known as the Clent Hills, which vary in height from six to eight hundred feet over the level of the sea.  They lie parallel, in their general direction, to the Silurian range, already described as rising, like a chain of islands, amid the coal; but, though parallel, they are, like the sides of the parallel ruler of the geometrician when fully stretched, not opposite; the southernmost hill of the Silurian range lying scarce so far to the south as the northernmost hill of the trap range.  The New Red Sandstone, out of which the latter arises, forms a rich, slightly undulating country, reticulated by many a green lane land luxuriant hedge-row; the hills themselves are deeply scooped by hollow dells, furrowed by shaggy ravines, and roughened by confluent eminences; and on the south-western slopes of one of the finest and most variegated of the range, half on the comparatively level red sandstone, half on the steep-sided billowy trap, lie the grounds of Hagley.  Let the Edinburgh reader imagine such a trap hill as that which rises on the north-east between Arthur's Seat and the sea, tripled or quadrupled in its extent of base, hollowed by dells and ravines of considerable depth, covered by a soil capable of sustaining the noblest trees, mottled over with votive urns, temples, and obelisks, and traversed by many a winding walk, skilfully designed to lay open every beauty of the place, and he will have no very inadequate idea of the British Tempe sung by Thomson.  We find its loveliness compounded of two simple geologic elements—that abrupt and variegated picturesqueness for which the trap rocks are so famous, and which may be seen so strikingly illustrated in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh; and that soft-lined and level beauty—an exquisite component in landscape when it does not stand too much alone—so characteristic, in many localities, of the Lower New Red Sandstone formation.

    I was fortunate in a clear, pleasant day, in which a dappled sky overhead threw an agreeable mottling of light and shadow on the green earth below.  The road to Hagley was also that to the races, and so there were many passengers.  There were carts and waggons rumbling forward, crowded with eager ruddy faces of the round Saxon type; and gigs and carriages, in which the faces seemed somewhat less eager, and were certainly less ruddy and round.  There were numerous parties, too, hurrying afoot: mechanics from the nearer towns, with pale, unsunned complexions, that reminded one of the colourless vegetation which springs up in vaults and cellars; stout jovial ploughmen, redolent, in look and form, of the open sky and the fresh air; bevies of young girls in gipsy bonnets, full of an exuberant merriment, that flowed out in laughter as they went; and bands of brown Irish reapers, thrown out of their calculations by the backward harvest, with their idle hooks slung on their shoulders, and fluttering in rags in a country in which one saw no rags but their own.  And then there came, in long procession, the boys of a free-school, headed by their masters; and then the girls of another free-school, with their mistresses by their side; but the boys and girls were bound, I was told, not for the races, but for a pleasant recess among the Clent Hills, famous for its great abundance of nuts and blackberries, in which they were permitted to spend once a year, during the season of general license, a compensatory holiday.  To the right of the road, for mile beyond mile, field succeeds field, each sheltered by its own rows of trees, stuck into broad wasteful hedges, and which, as they seem crowded together in the distance; gave to the remote landscape the character of a forest.  On the left the ground rises picturesque and high, and richly wooded, forming the first beginnings of the Clent Hills; and I could already see before me, where the sky and the hill met, the tufted vegetation and pointed obelisks of Hagley.

    I baited [Ed.—archaic use, 'recuperate'; 'restore', 'revive'] at Hagley village to take a glass of cider, which the warmth of the day and the dustiness of the road rendered exceedingly grateful; and entered into conversation with an old grey-headed man, of massive frame and venerable countenance, who was engaged by the wayside in sawing into slabs a large block of New Red Sandstone.  The process, though I had hewn, as I told him, a great many stones in Scotland, was new to me, and so I had not a few questions to ask regarding it, which he answered with patient civility.  The block on which he was operating measured about six feet in length by four in breadth, and was from eighteen to twenty inches in thickness; and he was cutting it by three draughts, parallel to its largest plane, into four slabs.  Each draught, he said, would employ him about four days, and the formation of the slabs, each containing a superficies of about twenty-four feet, at least a fortnight.  He purposed fashioning them into four tombstones.  Nearly half his time was occupied, he reckoned, in sawing—rather hard work for an old man; and his general employment consisted chiefly in fashioning the soft red sandstone into door-pieces, and window soles, and lintels, which, in the better brick-houses in this locality, are usually of stone, tastefully carved.  His saw was the common toothless saw of the marble-cutter, fixed in a heavy wooden frame, and suspended by a rope from a projecting beam; and the process of working consisted simply in swinging it in the line of the draught.  I should have no difficulty, he informed me, in getting admission to the Lyttelton grounds: I had but to walk up to the gardener's lodge, and secure the services of one of the under gardeners; and, under his surveillance, I might wander over the place as long as I pleased.  At one time, he said, people might enter the park when they willed, without guide or guard; but the public, left to its own discretion, had behaved remarkably ill: it had thrown down the urns, and chipped the obelisks, and scrabbled worse than nonsense on the columns and the trees; and so it had to be set under a keeper, to insure better behaviour.

    I succeeded in securing the guidance of one of the gardeners; and, passing with him through part of the garden, and a small but well-kept greenhouse, we emerged into the park, and began to ascend the hill by a narrow inartificial path, that winds, in alternate sunshine and shadow, as the trees approach or recede, through the rich moss of the lawn.  Halfway up the ascent, where the hill-side is indented by a deep irregularly semicircular depression, open and grassy in the bottom and sides, but thickly garnished along the rim with noble trees, there is a semi-octagonal temple, dedicated to the genius of Thomson—"a sublime poet," says the inscription, "and a good man," who greatly loved, when living, this hollow retreat.  I looked with no little interest on the scenery that had satisfied so great a master of landscape; and thought, though it might be but fancy, that I succeeded in detecting the secret of his admiration; and that the specialties of his taste in the case rested, as they not unfrequently do in such cases, on a substratum of personal character.  The green hill spreads out its mossy arms around, like the arms of a well-padded easy-chair of enormous proportions, imparting, from the complete seclusion and shelter which it affords, luxurious ideas of personal security and ease; while the open front permits the eye to expatiate on an expansive and lovely landscape.  We see the ground immediately in front occupied by an uneven sea of tree-tops, chiefly oaks of noble size, that rise, at various levels, on the lower slopes of the park.  The clear sunshine imparted to them this day exquisite variegations of fleecy light and shadow.  They formed a billowy ocean of green, that seemed as if wrought in floss silk.  Far beyond—for the nearer fields of the level country are hidden by the oaks—lies a blue labyrinth of hedge-rows, stuck over with trees, and so crowded together in the distance, that they present, as has been already said, a forest-like appearance; while, still farther beyond, there stretches along the horizon a continuous purple screen, composed of the distant highlands of Cambria.

    Such is the landscape which Thomson loved.  And here he used to saunter, the laziest and best-natured of mortal men, with an imagination full of many-coloured conceptions, by far the larger part of them never to be realized, and a quiet eye, that took in without effort, and stamped on the memory, every meteoric effect of a changeful climate, which threw its tints of gloom or of gladness over the diversified prospect.  The images sunk into the quiescent mind as the silent shower sinks into the crannies and fissures of the soil, to come gushing out, at some future day, in those springs of poetry which so sparkle in the "Seasons," or that glide in such quiet yet lustrous beauty through that most finished of English poems, the "Castle of Indolence."  Never before or since was there a man of genius wrought out of such mild and sluggish elements as the bard of the "Seasons."  A listless man was James Thomson; kindly hearted; much loved by all his friends; little given to think of himself; who "loathed much to write, he cared to repeat." [5]  And to Hagley he used to come, as Shenstone tells us, in "a hired chaise, drawn by two horses ranged lengthwise," to lie abed till long past mid-day, because he had "nae motive" to rise; and to browse in the gardens on the sunny side of the peaches, with his hands stuck in his pockets.  He was hourly expected at Hagley on one of his many visits, when the intelligence came, instead, of his death.  With all his amazing inertness, he must have been a loveable man—an essentially different sort of person from either of his two poetical Scotch acquaintances, Mallet or Armstrong.  Quin wept for him no feigned tears on the boards of the theatre; poor Collius, a person of warm and genial affections, had gone to live beside him at Richmond, but on his death quitted the place for ever; even Shenstone, whose nature it was to think much and often of himself, felt life grow darker at his departure, and, true to his hobby, commemorated him in an urn, on the principle on which the late Lord Buchan was so solicitous to bury Sir Walter Scott.  "He was to have been at Hagley this week," we find Shenstone saying, in a letter dated from the Leasowes, in which he records his death, "and then I should probably have seen him here.  As it is, I will erect an urn in Virgil's Grove to his memory.  I was really as much shocked to hear of his death as if I had known and loved him for a number of years.  God knows, I lean on a very few friends, and if they drop me, I become a wretched misanthrope."

    Passing upwards from Thomson's hollow, we reach a second and more secluded depression in the hill-side, associated with the memory of Shenstone; and see at the head of a solitary ravine a white pedestal, bearing an urn.  The trees droop their branches so thickly around it, that, when the eye first detects it in the shade, it seems a retreating figure, wrapped up in a winding-sheet.  The inscription is eulogistic of the poet's character and genius.  "In his verses," it tells us, with a quiet elegance, in which we at once recognise the hand of Lyttleton, "were all the natural graces, and in his manners all the amiable simplicity, of pastoral poetry, with the sweet tenderness of the elegiac."  This secluded ravine seems scarce less characteristic of the author of the "Ode to Rural Elegance," and the "Pastoral Ballad," than the opener hollow below, of the poet of the "Seasons."  There is no great expansion of view, of which, indeed, Shenstone was no admirer.  "Prospects," he says, in his "Canons on Landscape," "should never take in the blue hills so remotely that they be not distinguishable from clouds; yet this mere extent is what the vulgar value."  Thomson, however, though not quite one of the vulgar, valued it too.  As seen from his chosen recess, the blue of the distant hills seems melting into the blue of the sky; or, as he himself better describes the dim outline


The Cambrian mountains, like far clouds,
That skirt the blue horizon, dusky rise."


It is curious enough to find two men, both remarkable for their nice sense of the beautiful in natural scenery, at issue on so important a point; but the diversity of their tastes indicates, one may venture to surmise, not only the opposite character of their genius, but of their dispositions also.  Shenstone was naturally an egotist, and, like Rousseau, scarce ever contemplated a landscape without some tacit reference to the space occupied in it by himself.  "An air of greatness," remarks the infirm philosopher of Geneva, "has always something melancholy in it: it leads us to consider the wretchedness of those who affect it.  In the midst of extended grass-plats and fine walks the little individual does not grow greater; a tree of twenty feet high will shelter him as well as one of sixty; he never occupies a space of more than three feet; and in the midst of his immense possessions is lost like a poor worm."  Alas! it was but a poor worm, ever brooding over its own mean dimensions—ever thinking of the little entity self, and jealous in its egotism of even the greatness of nature—that could have moralized in a strain so unwholesome.  Thomson, the least egotistic of all poets, had no such jealousy in his composition.  Instead of feeling himself lost in any save vignette landscapes, it was his delight, wholly forgetful of self and its minute measurements, to make landscapes even larger than the life—to become all eye—and, by adding one long reach of the vision to another, to take in a kingdom at a glance.  There are few things finer in English poetry than the description in which, on this principle, he lays all Scotland at once upon the canvas:—


                                        Here a while the muse,
High hovering o'er the broad cerulean scene,
Sees Caledonia in romantic view;
Her airy mountains, from the waving main
Invested with a keen, diffusive sky,
Breathing the soul acute: her forests huge,
Incult, robust, and tall, by Nature's hand
Planted of old; her azure lakes between,
Poured out extensive, and her watery wealth
Full; winding deep and green her fertile vales;
With many a cool, translucent, brimming flood
Washed lovely, from the Tweed (pure parent stream,
Whose pastoral banks first heard my Doric reed,
With sylvan Jed, thy tributary brook),
To where the north's inflated tempest foams
O'er Orca'e or Betubium's highest peak.


Shenstone's recess, true to his character, excludes, as I have said, the distant landscape.  It is, however, an exceedingly pleasing, though somewhat gloomy spot, shut up on every side by the encircling hills—here feathered with wood, there projecting its soft undulating line of green against the blue sky; while, occupying the bottom of the hollow, there is a small sheltered lake, with a row of delicate limes, that dip their pendent branches in the water.

    Yet a little further on we descend into an opener and more varied inflection in the hilly region of Hagley, which is said to have been as favourite a haunt of Pope as the two others of Thomson and Shenstone, and in which an elaborately-carved urn and pedestal records Lyttelton's estimate of his powers as a writer, and his aims as a moralist: "the sweetest and most elegant," says the inscription, "of English poets, the severest chastiser of vice, and the most persuasive teacher of wisdom."  Lyttelton and Pope seem to have formed mutually high estimates of each other's powers and character.  In the "Satires" we find three several compliments paid to the "young Lyttelton,"


"Still true to virtue, and as warm as true."


And when, in the House of Commons, one of Sir Robert Walpole's supporters accused the rising statesman of being the facile associate of an "unjust and licentious lampooner"—for, as Sir Robert's administration was corrupt, and the satirist severe, such was Pope's character in the estimate of the ministerial majority—he rose indignantly to say, "that he deemed it an honour to be received into the familiarity of so great a poet."  But the titled paid a still higher, though perhaps undesigned, compliment to the untitled author, by making his own poetry the very echo of his.  Among the English literati of the last century there is no other writer of equal general ability so decidedly, I had almost said so servilely, of the school of Pope as Lyttelton.  The little crooked man, during the last thirteen years of his life, was a frequent visitor at Hagley; and it is still a tradition in the neighbourhood that in the hollow in which his urn has been erected he particularly delighted.  He forgot Cibber, Sporus, and Lord Fanny; flung up with much glee his poor shapeless legs, thickened by three pairs of stockings apiece, and far from thick after all, and called the place his "own ground."  It certainly does no discredit to the taste that originated the gorgeous though somewhat indistinct descriptions of "Windsor Forest."  There are noble oaks on every side—some in their vigorous middle-age, invested with that "rough grandeur of bark, and wide protection of bough," which Shenstone so admired—some far gone in years, mossy and time-shattered, with white skeleton branches a-top, and fantastic scraggy roots projecting, snake-like, from the broken ground below.  An irregular open space in front permits the eye to range over a prospect beautiful though not extensive; a small clump of trees rises so near the urn, that when the breeze blows, the slim branch-tips lash it as if in sport, while a clear and copious spring comes bubbling out at its base.

    I passed somewhat hurriedly through glens and glades—over rising knolls and wooded slopes—saw statues and obelisks, temples and hermitages—and lingered a while ere I again descended to the lawn, on the top of an eminence which commands one of the richest prospects I had yet seen.  The landscape from this point—by far too fine to have escaped the eye of Thomson—is described in the "Seasons;" and the hill which overlooks it, represented as terminating one of the walks of Lyttelton and his lady—that Lucy Lady Lyttelton, whose early death formed, but a few years after, the subject of the monody so well known and so much admired in the days of our great-grandmothers:—


                        The beauteous bride
To whose fair memory flowed the tenderest tear
That ever trembled o'er the female bier.


It is not in every nobleman's park one can have the opportunity of comparing such a picture as that in the "Seasons" with such an original.  I quote, with the description, the preliminary lines so vividly suggestive of the short-lived happiness of Lyttelton:


Perhaps thy loved Lucinda shares thy walk,
With soul to thine attuned.    Then Nature all

Wears to the lover's eye a look of love;
And all the tumult of a guilty world,
Toss'd by the generous passions, sinks away:

The tender heart is animated peace:
And as it pours its copious treasures forth
In various converse, softening every theme,
You, frequent pausing, turn, and from her eyes—
Where meekened sense, and amiable grace,
And lively sweetness dwell—enraptured drink
That nameless spirit of ethereal joy—
Unutterable happiness!—which love
Alone bestows, and on a favoured few.
Meantime you gain the height from whose fair brow
The bursting prospect spreads immense around
And snatched o'er hill and dale, and wood and lawn,
And verdant field, and darkening heath between,
And villages embosomed soft in trees,
And spiry towns by surging columns marked
Of household smoke, your eye excursive roams,
Wide, stretching from the Hall, in whose kind haunt,
The Hospitable Genius lingers still,
To where the broken landscape, by degrees
Ascending, roughens into rigid hills,
O'er which the Cambrian mountains, like far clouds
That skirt the blue horizon, dusky rise.


As I called up the passage on the spot where, as a yet unformed conception, it had first arisen in the mind of the writer, I felt the full force of the contrast presented by the two pictures which it exhibits—the picture of a high but evanescent human happiness, whose sun had set in the grave nearly a century ago; and the picture of the enduring landscape, unaltered in a single feature since Lyttelton and his lady had last gazed on it from the hill-top.  "Alas!" exclaimed the contemplative Mirza, "man is but a shadow, and life a dream."  A natural enough reflection, surely—greatly more so, I am afraid, than the solace sought by the poet Beattie under its depressing influence, in a resembling evanescence and instability in all nature and in all history.


Art, empire, earth itself, to change are doomed:
Earthquakes have raised to heaven the humble vale,
And gulfs the mountain's mighty mass entombed,

And where the Atlantic rolls, wide continents have bloomed.


All very true—none the less so, certainly, from the circumstance of its being truth in advance of the age in which the poet wrote; but it is equally and still more emphatically true, that the instability of a mountain or continent is a thing to be contrasted, not compared, with the instability of the light clouds, that, when the winds are up, float over it, and fling athwart the landscape their breadth of fitful shadow.  And, alas! what is human life? "even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away."  There need be no lack of mementoes to remind one, as I was this day reminded by the passage in Thomson, what a transitory shadow man is, compared with the old earth which he inhabits, and how fleeting his pleasures, contrasted with the stable features of the scenes amid which for a few brief seasons he enjoys them.

    The landscape from the hill-top could not have been seen to greater advantage, had I waited for months to pick out their best day.  The far Welsh mountains, though lessened in the distance to a mere azure ripple, that but barely roughened the line of the horizon, were as distinctly defined in the clear atmosphere as the green luxuriant leafage in the foreground which harmonized so exquisitely with their blue.  The line extended from far beyond the Shropshire Wrekin on the right, to far beyond the Worcestershire Malverns on the left.  Immediately at the foot of the eminence stands the mansion-house of Hagley—the "Hall," where the "Hospitable Genius lingers still;"—a large, solid-looking, but somewhat sombre edifice, built of the New Red Sandstone on which it rests, and which too much reminds one, from its peculiar tint, of the prevailing red brick of the district.  There was a gay party of cricket-players on the lawn.  In front, Lord Lyttelton, a fine-looking young man, stripped of coat and waistcoat, with his bright white shirt puffed out at his waistband, was sending the ball far beyond bound, amid an eager party, consisting chiefly, as the gardener informed me, of tenants and tenants' sons; and the cheering sounds of shout and laughter came merrily up the hill.  Beyond the house rises a noble screen of wood, composed of some of the tallest and finest trees in England.  Here and there the picturesque cottages of the neighbouring village peep through; and then, on and away to the far horizon, there spreads out a close-wrought network of fenced fields, that, as it recedes from the eye, seems to close its meshes, as if drawn awry by the hand, till at length the openings can be no longer seen, and the hedge-rows lie piled on each other in one bosky mass.  The geologic framework of the scene is various, and each distinct portion bears its own marked characteristics.  In the foreground we have the undulating trap, so suited to remind one, by the picturesque abruptness of its outlines, of those somewhat fantastic backgrounds one sees in the old prints which illustrate, in our early English translations, the pastorals of Virgil and Theocritus.  Next succeeds an extended plane of the richly-cultivated New Red Sandstone, which, occupying fully two-thirds of the entire landscape, forms the whole of what a painter would term its middle ground, and a little more.  There rises over this plane, in the distance a ridgy acclivity, much fretted by inequalities, composed of an Old Red Sandstone formation, coherent enough to have resisted those denuding agencies by which the softer deposits have been worn down; while the distant sea of blue hills, that seems as if toppling over it, has been scooped out of the Silurian formations, Upper and Lower, and demonstrates, in its commanding altitude and bold wavy outline, the still greater solidity of the materials which compose it.

    The entire prospect-one of the finest in England, and eminently characteristic of what is best in English scenery enabled me to understand what I had used to deem a peculiarity—in some measure a defect—in the landscapes of the poet Thomson.  It must have often struck the Scotch reader, that in dealing with very extended prospects, he rather enumerates than describes.  His pictures are often mere catalogues, in which single words stands for classes of objects, and in which the entire poetry seems to consist in an overmastering sense of vast extent, occupied by amazing multiplicity.  I cannot better illustrate my meaning than by his introductory description to the "Panegyric on Great Britain:"—


Heavens! what a goodly prospect spreads around,
Of hills, and dales, and woods, and lawns, and spires,
And glittering towns, and gilded streams, till all
The stretching landscape into smoke decays!


Now, the prospect from the hill at Hagley furnished me with the true explanation of this enumerative style.  Measured along the horizon, it must, on the lowest estimate, be at least fifty miles in longitudinal extent; measured laterally, from the spectator forwards, at least twenty.  Some of the Welsh mountains which it includes are nearly thrice that distance; but then they are mere remote peaks, and the area at their bases not included in the prospect.  The real area, however, must rather exceed than fall short of a thousand square miles; the fields into which it is laid out are small, scarcely averaging a square furlong in superficies; so that each square mile must contain about forty, and the entire landscape—for all is fertility, about forty thousand.  With these are commixed innumerable cottages, manor-houses, villages, towns.  Here the surface is dimpled by unreckoned hollows; there fretted by uncounted mounds; all is amazing, overpowering multiplicity—a multiplicity which neither the pen nor the pencil can adequately express; and so description, in even the hands of a master, sinks into mere enumeration.  The pictures become a catalogue; and all that genius can accomplish in the circumstances is just to do with its catalogue what Homer did with his—dip it in poetry.  I found, however, that the innumerable details of the prospect, and its want of strong leading features, served to dissipate and distract the mind, and to associate with the vast whole an idea of littleness, somewhat in the way that the minute hieroglyphics on an Egyptian obelisk serve to divert attention from the greatness of the general mass, or the nice integrity of its proportions; and I would have perhaps attributed the feeling to my Scotch training, had I not remembered that Addison, whose early prejudices must have been of an opposite cast, represents it as thoroughly natural.  Our ideas of the great in nature he describes as derived from vastly extended, not richly-occupied prospects.  "Such," he says, "are the prospects of an open champaign country, a vast uncultivated desert of huge heaps of mountains, high rocks, and precipices, or a wide expanse of water.  .  .  .  . Such extensive and undetermined prospects," he adds, "are as pleasing to the fancy as the speculations of eternity or infinitude are to the understanding."  Shenstone, too, is almost equally decided on the point; and certainly no writer has better claims to be heard on questions of this kind than the author of the Leasowes.  "Grandeur and beauty," he remarks, "are so very opposite, that you often diminish the one as you increase the other.  Large, unvariegated, simple objects have always the best pretensions to sublimity: a large mountain, whose sides are unvaried by art, is grander than one with infinite variety.  Suppose it chequered with different-coloured clumps of wood, scars of rock, chalk-quarries, villages, and farm-houses—you will perhaps have a more beautiful scene, but much less grand, than it was before.  The hedge-row apple-trees in Herefordshire afford a lovely scenery at the time they are in blossom; but the prospect would be really grander did it consist of simple foliage.  For the same reason, a large oak or beech in autumn is grander than the same in spring.  The sprightly green is then obfuscated."



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NOTES.

 
3.    "Upwards of eight hundred extinct species of animals have been described as belonging to the earliest or Protozoic and Silurian period; and of these, only about one hundred are found also in the overlying Devonian series; while but fifteen are common to the whole Palæozoic period, and not one extends beyond it."—(Ansted, 1844)
 
4.    This ancient fish was at one time confounded with its contemporary the Holoptychius Hibberti.  A jaw of the latter animal, with its slim ichthyolite teeth bristling around its huge reptile tusks, may be seen figured as that of Megalichthys, in the singularly interesting Memoir of Dr. Hibbert on the Limestone of Burdiehouse; and we find single teeth similarly mis-assigned in some other geological works of credit.  But no two ichthyolites in the geological scale in reality less resemble each other than these two fish of the Coal Measures.  The Megalichthys, from head to tail, was splendid with polished enamel; the Holoptychius was, on the contrary, a dull-coated fish.  The Megalichthys rarely exceeded four feet in length, and commonly fell short of three; the Holoptychius was one of the most gigantic of the ganoids; some individuals, judging from the fragments, must, like the great basking shark of the northern seas, have exceeded thirty feet in length.  The scales of the Megalichthys are smooth, quadrangular, and of great thickness, but rarely exceed an inch, or three quarters of an inch across; those of the Holoptychius are thin, nearly circular in form, thickly ridged on the upper surface, and vary from an inch to more than five inches in diameter.  The head of the Megalichthys was covered, as has been shown, with brightly-japanned plates; that of the Holoptychius, with plates thickly fretted on the surface, like pieces of shagreen, only the tubercles are more confluent, and lie ranged in irregular ridges.  It may be mentioned in the passing, that the Holoptychius of the Coal Measures, if there be value in the distinguishing characteristics of Owen—and great value there certainly is—was not even generically related to the Holoptychius of the Old Red Sandstone.  The reptile teeth of the Old Red Holoptychius are of bone, marked by the true dendrodic character of the genus, and so thickly cancellated towards the base, as to resemble, in the cross section, pieces of open lace work.  The reptile teeth of the Holoptychius Hibberti, on the contrary, are of ivory, presenting towards the point, where the surface is smooth and unfurrowed, the common tubular, radiating character of that substance, and exhibiting towards the base, where the Gothic-like rodding is displayed, a strange intricacy of pattern, that becomes more involved as we cut lower down, till what in the middle section resembles the plaiting of a ruff seen in profile, is found to resemble, immediately over the line where the base rests on the jaw, the labyrinthine complexity of a Runic knot.  The scales of the creatures, too, are very dissimilar in their microscopic structure, though both possess, in common, ridged surfaces—the only point of resemblance from which their generic identity has been inferred.  Even the internal structure of their occipital plates is wholly different.  So far as is yet known, the Coal Measures contain no Holoptychius akin to the dendrodic genus of that name so abundant in the Old Red Sandstone.
 
5.    The stanza in the "Castle of Indolence," "by another hand," which portrays so happily the character of Thomson, was written by Lyttelton; and there are perhaps more of those felicities of phrase which sink into the memory of a people, in the nine lines of which it consists, than in any single poem of ten times the length his Lordship ever produced.


A bard here dwelt, more fat than bard beseems,
    Who, void of envy, guile, and lust of gain,
On virtue still, and nature's pleasing themes,
    Pour'd forth his unpremeditated strain;
The world forsaking with a calm disdain,
    Here laughed he careless in his easy seat;
Here quaffed, encircled with the joyous train,—
    Oft moralizing sage: his ditty sweet

He loathed much to write, he cared to repeat.

 


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