The Limping Pilgrim III.

Home Up Lancashire Songs Lancashire Life Lancashire Sketches I. Lancashire Sketches II. Rambles in the Lakes The Cotton Famine Poems and Songs I. Poems and Songs II. Besom Ben Tufts of Heather I. Tufts of Heather II. The Chimney Corner The Barrel Organ Sheet Music Sheet Music Sheet Music Miscellanea Main Index Site Search


[Previous Page]



"An odd angle of the isle."—THE TEMPEST.

AND such was the old smuggler's tale, told to us in broken fits, as we steamed down the Orwell on that sunny day.  Just in the hour when, after years of defiant adventure, he had resolved to "furl the sails of his trading," and anchor on shore in comfort for the rest of his days,—where "the laws he had broken he'd never break more,"—grim misfortune came down upon him; and in one fell swoop the schemes and gains of a life of perilous outlawry were laid waste for ever.  And perhaps, when far away upon the lonely sea, pacing the deck in anxious watch by night, he had many a time reckoned up the gains of his dangerous trade, and indulged in dreams of peaceful comfort for the evening of his days.  Perhaps many a time, whilst gazing vacantly upon the watery wilderness, his thoughts have lingered with delight on some snug nook of his native town, where, with the friends of his youth around him, he hoped to end a hard life in the lap of ease and respectability; basking in his own firelight; and whiling away the wintry gloom with tales of wild adventure on the sea.

    But the bold smuggler's pitcher went once too often to the well.  That moonless November night which was to fill the cup of his fortunes to the brim, saw the ruin of his hopes, and the cheated revenue avenged; and thenceforth, the pleasant waters of the wood-fringed Orwell were never ploughed by his lawless keel again.  "Aye, aye, gentlemen," said he, returning to us, after being called away for a few minutes on duty, "just when I thought to lay up snug and tight, on shore, for the rest of my days, the sharks came down on us with a rush.  I lost my cargo,—I lost my vessel,—and I lost my all; and ever since I came out of jail, old age and poverty have had me in tow.  But, after all," said he, stretching his wiry frame, "it might have been worse.  This old hulk is not quite broken up yet."  And during the rest of our trip, as the battered smuggler came and went on deck at the call of duty, he stops, now and then, for another chat with us; and, as he told of daring runs he had made in days gone by, many a time he looked out to sea-ward, as a caged lion might gaze towards the forests where he used to range at will.

    Meanwhile, we were approaching the confluence of the Stour and the Orwell.  The stream was rapidly expanding; and the open sea was right before us.  On a spit of land, upon the low-lying northern shore, the famous "Landguard Fort " was visible; and, on the opposite bank, the ancient town of Harwich was in full view, occupying a small peninsula on the Essex shore, and looking, from the distance, as if it were almost level with the water.  The town made a pretty picture, sharp and distinct, in the clear air, close by the sea, with its old towers over-topping the houses, and its little fringe of masts rocking in the water.  All along the joint estuaries of the Stour and the Orwell vessels lay at anchor, here and there; and, within half a mile of the town, we passed within a hundred yards of a man-of-war, heaving hugely with the motion of the sluggish wave.  A few minutes more, and we landed right in front of the Great Eastern Hotel,—one of the handsomest places of the kind I have seen.  And now for a peep at Harwich.

    This little peninsula, upon which the old town of Harwich stands, washed by the waves of the German Ocean,—that stormy war-path of the ancient Baltic pirates,—is memorable ground in the history of the land.  Before entering the town, I will glance at a few points of its history.  Its condition in the time of the Britons, when the wild Iceni roved the neighbouring woods, is mere matter of conjecture; but Harwich was unmistakably a Roman station.  The remains of a large Roman camp may still be traced, a little south of the town.  The road leading to this camp still bears the name of "The Street."  Many Roman coins have been found upon this line of road; and within the past few years, a tesselated pavement was discovered near the same route.  Antiquaries generally believe that, during the Roman occupation, "The Count of the Saxon shore" had a stronghold at Harwich.  This "Count of the Saxon shore" was an important officer of the empire,—a kind of commander of the coast-guard,—to whom was entrusted the defence of the line of shore which lay open to the habitual attacks of the Saxon pirates of that time.  From this we get one of our earliest glimpses of that warlike German tribe,—the first piratical ravagers of the coast of Britain,—hovering, with rapacious eyes, upon the skirt of the green island which they afterwards won and held with such enduring tenacity.

    The Saxon Chronicle tells us that in 885 a great naval fight took place off the mouth of the river, at Harwich, between sixteen Danish ships and the fleet of King Alfred, "The Darling of England," who was completely victorious.  And probably this famous Saxon King,—the first organiser of an English navy,—never dreamt that his little handful of little fighting ships would ever grow up to the great puissance and renown achieved by the English at sea in after days.

    Later in our history Harwich became, and for some centuries continued to be the chief port of communication between England and Holland; and the narrow streets of the ancient town often swarmed with the rude soldiers of the Middle Ages.  Isabella, Queen of Edward the Second, landed at Harwich in 1326 with an army, to fight against her husband and his allies.  In 1338, Edward the Third embarked here on his first campaign against France.  It was at Harwich, too, that the same king mustered the fleet with which he won the great naval victory at Slut's.  In 1578, Martin Frobisher sailed from this port with fifteen ships, on his third voyage to explore the north-west passage.  In 1666, the great naval fight between the Dutch, under De Ruyter and De Witt, and the English, under Monk, was fought in sight of the town of Harwich, and was watched by excited crowds from Beacon Hill.  Sir William Clarke was killed in this battle, in which the English were victorious.  In later days the Hanoverian kings embarked and disembarked at this port, from whence, in 1821, the remains of Queen Caroline were despatched for Brunswick.

    In Murray's Handbook, I find the following interesting passage in relation to this place.  "Johnson accompanied Boswell to Harwich in 1763, when the latter was on his way to Leyden; and it was here that, after visiting the church, and sending Boswell to his knees 'now that he was about to leave his native country,' Johnson stood talking of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter.  The doctor 'struck his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, —'I refute it thus.'  The friends embraced on the beach, and Boswell embarked.  'As the vessel put out to sea, I kept my eyes upon him for a considerable time, while he remained rolling his majestic frame in his usual manner; and at last I saw him walk back into the town, and he disappeared." . . .

    This port maintained its great importance until steam vessels came into general use, when its foreign traffic went to London.  Railways, however, have partly restored the ancient fame of Harwich as a port of departure for the Continent.  There was formerly a government dockyard here, where sixty ships of war have been built, fifteen of which were three-deckers.  This dockyard is now the property of private builders.  Harwich is, also, a great nursery for lobsters, which are brought hither from the coast of Norway, fed in tanks, and then sent to Billingsgate.  In the month of May, a fleet of shrimpers from Kent, generally from thirty to forty boats, enter the Harwich harbour, where they remain till October.  The shrimps are boiled on board, and sent daily to the London market. Harwich and its neighbourhood is to the people of Essex and Suffolk what Blackpool is to the toiling swarms of Lancashire; although the country of the Lancashire coast is a tame tract of monotonous sand in comparison with the beautiful wooded hills, the fertile vales, and charming streams of East Anglia by the sea.

    Upon a low-lying point of land, the northern shore of the estuary opposite the town of Harwich, stands the famous Landguard Fort, washed by the waves of the open sea.  This fort was built in the reign of James the First, and mounts thirty-six guns, and as the old song says, it "has seen a little sarvice."  In 1667 it was attacked by the Dutch, who landed three thousand men here; who were quickly driven back to their ships, as the ancient Danes had often been, from the same coast, a thousand years before.  There is a fifteen-gun battery at Shotley, on the Suffolk side of the Stour, near Harwich,—another four-gun battery east of Harwich; and several Martello towers on the Suffolk coast.  All of these mount guns of heavy calibre, and with Landguard form the defence of the harbour.  The eccentric Philip Thicknesse was for some time Governor of Landguard Fort.  Here he patronised Gainsborough, soon after that artist had settled at Ipswich; and (as Thicknesse tells us in his curious memoirs, printed in 1788) "I desired him to come and eat a dinner with me, and to take down in his pocket-book the particulars of the Fort, the adjacent hills, and the distant view of Harwich, in order to form a landscape of yachts passing the garrison under the salute of guns, of the size of a panel over my chimney piece."  This picture was unfortunately destroyed by damp.  Major was employed by Thicknesse to engrave it.  His print exists, but is very rare.  It is interesting to mark how proud the people of this part of East Anglia are of their two native painters, Gainsborough and Constable; and how their memories still hover about its beautiful woods and waters.

    Leaving the raw grandeur of the Great Eastern Hotel, which fronts the landing place, we walked off at the end of that imposing pile, into the town immediately behind.  Old Harwich lies in a nutshell still, and seems as if it had known very little change for centuries.  In appearance, and in condition, the temper of the middle ages seems to cling to it still.  As we wandered about its narrow streets, between overhanging balconies, and upper stories, with, here and there, a venerable building, bulging beneath a load of centuries, and, here and there, a sleepy nook, all knots and gnarls, and worn memorials of the olden time, we found everywhere "an ancient and a fish-like smell,"—in spite of the sea-breeze, which has been its familiar playmate and chief scavenger for the last thousand years.  One or two of the main streets were remarkably clean, and of a good width, with many an interesting old house therein; for the rest of the town,—it belongs entirely to a by-gone time.  Quiet as the place looks now, it has often swarmed with the turbulent chivalry of ancient England; and, as we rambled about, I caught sight of many a curious corner which seemed so little changed that the rugged soldiers of Edward the Third, who mustered there for the French wars above five centuries ago, might only have left the place a week ago.  To the eyes of one long accustomed to endless piles of sooty brick, of perishable build, and of one bald, featureless, monotonous pattern, that brief stroll amongst the picturesque streets of old Harwich was very interesting.

    We lingered long amongst the curious nooks and corners of the old English sea-port, dreaming of the strange scenes which have been enacted there in the centuries long gone by.  At last the bell rang for the return trip of the steamer; we ran on board; and, in an hour and a half, the churning paddles had brought us back again, up the beautiful river Orwell, to Ipswich town.




HITHERTO, all my excursions into the neighbourhood of Ipswich, have been in the direction of the sea; but on the day after our visit to the town of Harwich, I was favoured with a delightful ride of eleven miles into the most beautiful part of all the country, which lies immediately westward of Ipswich town; and the scenery of that trip into the valley of the Stour, although marked by many generic characteristics of the country which stretches from old "Gyppeswick" down to the ocean, has yet some charming features of its own, which make it peculiarly interesting; in addition to which, it is the country of Constable, the artist,—the place of his birth, and the scenery which he loved better than any part of the world beside.

    Our destination was the town of Dedham, about eleven miles west of Ipswich, and seven miles from ancient Colchester.  The town stands, sleepy and sweet, in the heart of its beautiful vale, on the Essex bank of the river Stour.  There, in the afternoon, my friend had to lecture on geology to the students of the Grammar School—one of the best and oldest foundations of the kind in the kingdom.  In the course of our quiet ride to Dedham we saw no great tracts of lonely wold, like "Kesgrave Heath," stretching afar its dark and silent wilderness amidst the smiling landscape around; all was soft, cultivated richness—a thoroughly English paradise—which, seen through the openings in the trees by the way as we rolled along, seemed as if it were all park, and garden, and lush meadow flats, watered by sleepy streams, with never a bleak spot in the landscape to break the spell of its luxuriant beauty.  And yet there was nothing monotonous in the scenery.  Soft change of form and feature met the eye at every turn; for the whole land was full of ever-varying undulations, and graceful slopes, white over with sheep, and little hills, cushioned to their very tops with verdure.  In the holms and hollows, clean, well-fed kine were grazing sleepily among grass of the greenest green, or standing, with half-shut eyes, whisking away the flies with their tails, whilst they cooled their hoofs in some glassy stream.  And all over the landscape, here and there, an ancient greenwood waved quietly in the wind, and, here and there, a grand old detached forest tree, the growth of centuries, spread its wide umbrageous shade upon the surrounding green.  And now I noticed, again and again, in old houses by the way-side, or half-seen among trees, across the intervening fields, those quaint Hanoverian roofs, of dark red tile, sometimes delicately tinged with moss, which are utterly unknown to us in the north.

    Our way rose and fell, and wandered in and out, with the changeful surface of the land; and sometimes we found ourselves riding along a ridge, from whence we could see down into the neighbouring vale, and over the landscape around, beautifully besprent with farm-houses, and ancient churches, and villages, each peeping out from its screen of summer boskage,—and sometimes we were deep in a shady dell, where the steep banks of the road were thickly embroidered with wild-flowers, above which fine trees overspread the way with thick-leaved boughs, through which the sunlight stole, here and there, in bright little shafts of gold.  And many a time, on our way to Dedham, we had to pull up in these bonny green lanes of Suffolk, to let a great flock of sheep go by.  Everywhere we saw sheep,—fine, healthy-looking sheep,—sometimes on their way from the washing, sometimes just new clipped.  The horses, too, were of a kind that I have never noticed in the north.  They are all of a massive, strong build, and all of one dull brick colour.  These, with the numerous pollard oaks which grow by the waysides, are amongst the features which seem to me peculiar to this part of England.

    We were still on the Suffolk side of the river Stour, in the parish of East Bergholt, where Constable, the artist, was born.  As we descended a gentle slope of the road, the beautiful valley of the Stour lay before us, with the spire of Dedham Church rising above the trees, about two miles off, on the opposite side of the river.  At the foot of the slope stood Flatford Mill, the subject of one of Constable's famous pictures.  Never man loved his native nook of the land better than did that gifted miller's son, who rose to such eminence in his art.  As I looked round upon that lovely landscape, I longed to see it after a heavy summer shower,—an aspect of the scene in which the great artist felt especial delight.  I suppose that no English painter has ever caught the vivid beauty of the poet's "rain-drop lingering on the pointed thorn" so well as Constable did.  A man cannot look upon his pictures without feeling the coolness and freshness of a newly-fallen shower come over him; nay, he may almost hear the heavy drops come pattering down in a rush, with every gust of wind that shakes the painted trees.

    Constable was born at Flatford, in East Bergholt parish, in the year 1776.  He was the son of the miller of Flatford, which, as he often said with pride, accounted for the many mills, and streams, and dams, and weirs in his pictures.  The house in which he was born is now pulled down; but I understand that no man, who is acquainted with his pictures, can wander about the place of his birth without recognising, again and again, features of the scene upon which he has often mused with intense delight, and which he reproduced on canvas with such vivid truth, lighted with the mystic beauty of his own artistic nature.  Speaking of the scenes of his childhood, he says: "East Bergholt is pleasantly situated in the most cultivated part of Suffolk, on a spot which overlooks the valley of the Stour, which river separates that county on the south from Essex.  The beauty of the surrounding scenery, its gentle declivities, its luxuriant meadow flats sprinkled with flocks and herds, its well-cultivated uplands, its woods and rivers, with numerous scattered villages and churches, farms and picturesque cottages, all impart to this particular spot an amenity and elegance hardly anywhere else to be found. . .

    "I associate," says he, "my careless boyhood with all that lies on the banks of the Stour; those scenes made me a painter, and I am grateful."  This passage comes warm from the heart of a man who truly loved the place of his birth.  Wherever Constable wandered in after years, the scenes of his nativity clung to him with great tenacity to the end.  Even his cows are always of the Suffolk breed, without horns.  A view of the house in which he was born forms the frontispiece to his "English Landscape;" and many of his favourite subjects are in the immediate neighbourhood of his birth-place.  He often introduced into his pictures the spire of Dedham Church, which is on the Essex side of the river Stour, and nearly opposite to the place where he was born.  At Dedham we are within seven miles of Colchester, the ancient Camulodunum of the Romans,—where, in the year 62, the legions of the Empire suffered one of the greatest defeats they ever experienced in their conflicts with the ancient Britons.  The old turnpike road from Ipswich to Colchester runs near Dedham, and Constable tells us that once, when travelling in a coach, with two strangers, through the Vale of Dedham, he (Constable) chanced to say, as he gazed upon the scene, "This is a beautiful country."  "Yes, sir," replied one of the strangers, "this is Constable's country!"  "I then told him who I was," says Constable, "for fear he should spoil it."

    We found Dedham a remarkably clean and quaint old town; consisting principally of one wide street, with many genteel residences therein.  It is in the heart of a beautiful country; and the greenness of the surrounding scenery creeps into the town.  It seems that the cloth trade flourished here in the reign of Richard the Second; since when it has wholly declined.  Upon a slight elevation, near the middle of the town, stands the noble old church of St. Mary,—the spire of which Constable so often brought into his pictures.  Beneath the arches are the Roses of York and Lancaster; and on the east side of the battlements is a statue of Margaret, Countess of Richmond.  During our short stay, we were hospitably entertained by Dr. Lermit, who, with his amiable family, spared no pains in making our visit to the sweet old town of Dedham very pleasant; and twilight sank down on the beautiful valley of the Stour, as we rode back to Ipswich, through wooded Bergholt, that fine summer night.




How fair thou art, let others tell,
        To feel how fair thou art, be mine.


AND now, the record of my first visit to this beautiful nook of the Eastern Counties of England draws to a close, and I must bid farewell to the "town of the old Iceni," which stands at the head of Orwell's tide; and to the pleasant scenery which girdles it round; the

"Illustrious land, where Saxon, and proud Dane,
 Kings of East Anglia, feudal lord and thane,
 Have flourished, faded, died."

During my stay in that district, I was happy in the companionship of an eminent man, and an old friend—a man not only learnèd in the botany and geology of the land, but a man whose whole nature was keenly alive to the beauty of the scenery around him, wherever we chanced to be [Note].  To read his books, which are not only truly scientific, but full of true poetry—to read his "Half Hours in the Green Lanes" of England—is a delightful thing, even to an unscientific mind; but to wander with the writer himself in a green lane, and to linger, again and again, listening to the fervid yet simple and poetic beauty of his discourse upon little tendrils, and creeping plants, shy delicate mosses, and "wee, modest" wild flowers growing by the dusty wayside, is a thing not easily to be forgotten by any one of a susceptible spirit.  When I remember, now, our pleasant rambles together, in the green nooks of the land, I feel that to him, indeed,

"The meanest flower that blows can give
 Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears."

In that delightful retrospect I feel the full significance of the words of that contemplative poet who says

"How sweet it is, when mother Fancy rocks
 The wayward brain, to saunter through a wood
 An old place, full of many a lovely brood,
 Tall trees, green arbours, and ground flowers in flocks;
 And wild-rose tip-toe upon hawthorn stocks,
 Like to a bonny lass, who plays her pranks
 At wakes and fairs with wandering mountebanks—
 When she stands cresting the clown's head, and mocks
 The crowd beneath her.   Verily I think
 Such place to me is sometimes like a dream
 Or map of the whole world: thoughts, link by link,
 Enter through ears and eyesight, with such gleam
 Of all things, that at last in fear I shrink,
 And leap at once from the delicious stream."

    In Ipswich, too, it was my good fortune to meet with so much kindness, that every convenient interval that came between my wanderings to and fro was filled with courteous hospitality.  I was especially indebted to one old English gentleman,—a rare combination of humour and cultivated intelligence,—a man whose genial nature has gathered "troops of friends" around his declining years, amongst high and low.  To him I owe many a pleasant hour, spent in his fine "Old House," in the centre of the town, where the bowery "pleasaunce" at the rear swarms with pets, which frolic about, each after its kind, in a region of delight; and their eyes seem to brighten with pleasure at the sight of himself, or any of his household,—so tenderly are they cared for, "no man making them afraid."

    Accompanied by him, too, I was taken through some of the choicest estates in the neighbourhood,—which is famous all over the eastern counties for the beauty of its ancient parks and gardens.  I shall never forget the beautiful scenery of Wolverstone Park, Stoke Park, and Orwell Park, through which I rode with my friend.  In the grounds of Orwell Park there is an immense evergreen oak, of great beauty.  In the same park, too, where herds of red deer were trooping across the glades, I saw,—for the first time in my life,—a great heronry,—which is a very rare thing in these days.  In the house, also, which is the seat of Colonel Tomline, and to which we were admitted through the influence of my friend, I saw a noble collection of pictures, among which are three of the best Murillos in England.  One of these,—Christ healing the lame man at the pool of Bethesda,—was painted by Murillo for the Church of the Caridad, at Seville; and was bought from Marshal Soult for £6,000.  "All things considered," says Waagen, "I look upon this as the finest Murillo in England."  Amongst the collection are the following pictures. Christ and the Magdalene in the Garden, by Carracci.  Dancing Peasants, by A. Van Ostade.  Charles the Fifth, bust in armour, by Titian.  The Magdalene, with a skull, by Giovanni Pedrini.  Moonlight Landscape, by Artus Van der Neer.  View of Dort, morning, by A. Cuyp.  Landscape, with dogs, by P. Wouvermans.  A Courtyard, with peasants, by Teniers.  Portrait of himself, by Vandyck.  St. Augustine in Ecstasy, adoring a burning heart, by Murillo; with others, by W. Van der Velde, Bergbem, Murillo, Salvator Rosa, Gains-borough, Frans Spiders, Stanfield, Raffaelle, Titian, Andrea del Sarto, Holbein, F. Backhuysen. The house also contains fine marble busts of Lord Bacon, Sir Walter Scott, Pitt, Fox, the Duke of Wellington, and Byron.

    And now that I am here in the north again, which, in spite of all its smoke, I love so well, for the brave, sturdy, kindly life there is in it, I shall look back upon my short sojourn in East Anglia with undiminished pleasure; and I feel as if I had read over again an old page of the history of my native land in more vivid characters than before.

Note: the author of the book to which Waugh refers ("Half Hours in the Green Lanes") — and, apparently, his friend and guide during his visit to Ipswich — was Dr. John Ellor Taylor (1837-95), author, lecturer and curator of Ipswich Museum.  For further details on Taylor, see his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. . . . Ed.





IN the heart of our dingy city there is a little kernel of rural life, which is always refreshing,—especially to those poor exiles from the country who are doomed to soak their daily bread in sulphuric acid and slutch; and who weep by the streams of Manchester when they remember the rivers that water the posied wild.

    To the prowling Arabs of trade, this spot is like a spring in the bricky desert, reviving their weary hearts with a touch of natural beauty.  It stands between "The Old Church" and the Exchange; and, with genial admonitory smile, it seems to lay a kindly hand upon the shoulder of each.  On Saturday mornings, "in the season of the year," there is a constant surge of old and young towards this vernal pleasaunce, where they wander in and out among the new plants, and snuff the sweetened air, and buy posies for their button-holes; and at holidays, and other pretty by-times, the church bells rain down their old romantic music upon the busy scene; whilst a ceaseless medley of twittering song rings out, through the livelong day, from the bird-shops in Old Millgate, hard by.  It is a garden which continually changes the features of its beauty; and it "smells as sweet as Bucklersbury, at simple time," for there green Cheshire teems her fragrant stores, and the air is filled with the aroma of fresh herbs and flowers from day to day; and there the comely, brown-faced country women sit chatting in the sun, among baskets of fruit, bunches of posies, pats of cream cheese, crisp lettuces, and pots of honey; and, here and there as one wanders among the stalls, the hearty ring of rustic speech comes upon the ear, fresh as a mountain breeze from wild slopes of flowering heather. . . .

    So it was with me one morning early in May.  I had yet two hours to spare before I left Manchester for my first peep at the Continent; and I turned into the old market-place.  The market folk were unloading their carts, and arranging their flowers and plants; and a smart shower of rain was falling.  "Mally," said an old Dutch-built gardener to the woman at the next stall, "Mally; this is a saup o' nice wayter."  "It's nought else, Joseph," replied Mally; "it's nought else.  There's butter in it."  "There is that," said the old man, switching the wet from his billy-cock, "and I doubt it'll spoil little potitos, if it'll keep agate."  "It will, Joseph; it will; it's rainin' sallet," replied Mally.  "I'll tell yo what, Mary," said a neighbour man, who was lifting down a rhododendron from his cart, "I doubt th' hay's gooin' to be leet this time."  "Well, it just depends, Abraham; it wants nought but rain; an' there's plenty o' time."  "Well, well; as yo say'n, Mary; but I'm flayed we's ha' some backenin', yet."  "Abraham," replied Mary, "thou'rt al'ays lookin' at th' dark side o' things.  Keep thi heart up, mon; it'll happen turn out better nor likely." . . . "Come, sir," continued she, turning to a person who was looking at a fine rhododendron, "let me sell yo that plant."  "What's the price?"  "Three-an'-six-pence."  "I'll give you three shillings."  "Well," replied she, "that's good,—as far as it goes; but who's to gi' me t'other sixpence?"

            .                  .                  .                  .                  .                  .                  .

    The rain was still falling, to the delight of all the green world; and, at ten in the forenoon, I bade adieu to the sweet Irwell, and its pretty tributaries, and took the train for Ipswich, on my way to the Continent, from the old port of Harwich, in Suffolk; which is the favourite route for Holland and Belgium.

    As we wriggled our way through the suburban smoke, I caught sight of Dukinfield Old Hall and Chapel, looking gloomy and disconsolate in the ugly landscape.  Colonel Dukinfield, the famous Cromwellian leader, who lies buried there, would hardly recognise his native scene now.  Coal-pits, shale, and cinders; all-embracing smoke; no trees; slutchy rivers, and sickly bits of greenery struggling for life in a poisonous atmosphere,—this is what we see.  In the dingy village, hard by, George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends, once preached at the market-cross.  The flat round stone on which he stood is now in the possession of a learnèd friend of mine, who resides there.  In Dukinfield, too, Livingstone, the African traveller, worked for some time, as a labouring man, in the service of Moffatt, the missionary.  It seems hardly credible, now, though it is true, that Dukinfield figures as one of the gems of English scenery, in Finden's well-known illustrated work, called "The Picturesque Beauties of England and Wales."

    Away we go.  The tall chimneys flit behind us.  Gradually the smoke and blight of manufacture fade into nature's unsullied green; and we are rolling onward through heathery hills, and clear mountain rindles; whilst down in the valley at the left, one after another, the lakes which supply Manchester with water lie gleaming in the sun, at the foot of the wild moors.  The landscape looks glorious, in its rich, fresh beauty.  "The small birds rejoice in the green fields returning;" and all the world seems to smile upon "the victory of the awakening divinities of nature over the demons of winter." . . .

   A whistle and a whisk, and we are rumbling through the long tunnel at Woodhead.  Ten minutes of rattling gloom, and rushing steam, and we are out in the sun again.  Past old Penistone we run,—grey Penistone, which has stood upon the green slope, there, for more than a thousand years; through lurid Sheffield we go; and now, once more, we begin to breathe the pure air, and gaze upon the posied plains of Middle England,—where sleepy rivers glide through fertile lands and ancient hamlets peep out of their old nests of verdure and the green fields are white with sheep and lambs, as far as the eye can see.  The bright, fresh verdure of the plain, and the varied foliage of the woods are delightful to smoke-wearied eyes.  And now, yonder comes old Peterborough, with its grand cathedral, and the nest-like, gardened purlieus around it.  Ancient "Medeshamstead,"—so quaint, and clean; and so rich in historic associations.

    At Peterborough I had an hour's ramble in the city.  Outside the cathedral, and its interesting environment, I met with racing notices, racing pictures, and racing talk, grooms; jockeys, and horsey swells, in all directions; and, after my hurried glance, I came away with the impression that these old cathedral towns are great places for red necks and paradise noses.  At Ely we halt for a few minutes; and I have just time for a good look at the noble cathedral, which stands finely upon a hill-side, about a quarter of a mile from the station.  We are now in Oliver Cromwell's country.  Fertile plains, and glittering drains stretch away to the edge of the horizon; and yonder, the towers and spires of Cambridge sail into sight.

    At Cambridge we had nearly two hours' delay; and I went into the city, which is about a mile and a half from the station.  I had seen the place once before; but I was delighted afresh with the clean, well-paved, wandering streets,—the marvellous purity of the air,—the quaint, old, well-conditioned houses, with over-hanging balconies, and curiously-carved upper stories,—the peeping bits of garden, the bright foliage, gushing out between the houses,—the utter absence of dirt and squalor,—the grand old collegiate piles,—and the evening sun sleeping upon the grey towers, and cloistral nooks of ancient churches and colleges . . . .     This is a great country for sheep, and horses of the old Flemish build; and for grain, and green crops; and I notice that the people are of a healthy, ruddy hue; and incline to what one may call the Cromwell build.

    The next station of any importance after we leave Cambridge is Newmarket, where, of course, everything that we see at the station smacks of the racecourse.  The moon was up when we reached the town of St. Edmund's Bury; and in her mild radiance, the country looked like a great garden flitting by, for the next fourteen miles.  I reached Ipswich about ten, where I found my old friend, the professor, awaiting me; and, that night, I was sung to sleep, once more, by the Suffolk nightingales.




Oh, Bothwell bank, thou bloomest fair.

THE lad who began his school-essay upon the horse with the words, "The horse is an animal with four legs,—one at each corner," was a genius in his way.  The words, taken in themselves, are disgustingly true; but there is something original in the point from which our literary fledgling viewed his subject.  He was strikingly correct in the number of the creature's legs, and all that, but,—who ever heard of there being "one at each corner" before?  That bit of news redeems the whole thing from commonplace, and startles one like a pistol fired off close to the ear.  It is trite as the rest, but it is so remarkably fresh;—and one feels astonished that one has never heard it before.  I should like to know what became of that promising young student of natural history, for there was a daring quality in his mind that was very rare. . . . And thus it is in describing what one sees as one goes about the world; it is easier to tell a few obvious truths in an ordinary way,—guide-book truths, if you will,—than to tell the truth from a new point of view; it is easier to talk than to think; and it is easier to think in a ready-made rut than to strike out a path of one's own.  But, after all, a man can't whistle without top-lip; and I can only say that I will do my best, under the circumstances, to take my reader along with me.

    And now, I could not resist the invitation to take a farewell frisk in the beautiful country about Ipswich, before crossing the sea.  It is the very garden of Eastern England; the more I have seen of it the more I have been inclined to linger there.  In the course of our ramble I met with one or two things which may, perhaps, be worthy of a short chapter by the way; and then, after "one crowded day of glorious life" upon this pleasant shore, I will take to the water at once.

    On the morning after my arrival, as I roved about the green edge of "The Mount," listening to the nightingales in the woods below, and gazing upon the landscape which lay between me and the towers and spires of Ipswich, I thought I had never seen the country look so rich and beautiful in spring-time before.  That charming scene was one paradise of bloom, and bright fresh greenery, up to the tops of the hills which shut the landscape in on the landward side.  Ipswich is one of the most delightful old towns I know to wander in; everything is so clear, and bright, and quaint, and cheery-looking, and the air is so pure and exhilarating.

    It was market-day, and great droves of clean-looking cattle were crowding through the streets, followed by hearty-looking English drovers.  Somehow, cattle seem more at home on the streets of Ipswich than they do on the streets of Manchester.  The cattle that come through Manchester have always a jaded, frightened, and over-driven look; they get fearfully abused, and worried, and knocked about, among the bewildering traffic of crowded thoroughfares; and they are frequently lamed, and run over. . . .

    Early in the forenoon we set out for a drive into the country west of the town,—the beautiful country that Constable painted and loved so well.  As we rode along under overhanging boughs, I remarked again the prevalence, in this quarter, of the pollard willow,—"the queen of the meadows,"—which appeared so often in Constable's pictures.

    Our first halting-place was the clean little town of Needham.  It stands on the river Gipping, that gives name to Ipswich, and it is a town of little more than one long street; and contains less than two thousand inhabitants.  It was once a seat of the woollen manufacture; but, somehow, that glided out of its hands, and the place became "poor to a proverb."  Just outside the town there is a farm, called "Hungry-gut Hall," which may be some way connected with its declined fortunes; and one sees faded bits of gentility here and there among its best buildings.  There is a touch of pathetic interest in the following inscription, which I copied from a slab over the doorway of an ancient almshouse, in the main street: "This almshouse, for eight poor widowers belonging to this place, was originally endowed by some benevolent individual whose name is now unknown."

    From this place we drove on, three miles, to the town of Stowmarket.  Stowmarket is a charming old English town.  It is as clean as a new pin; and it combines the quaint features of the olden time, with a perfect air of modern comfort, order, and prosperity.  Barley, hempen fabrics, sacking, and twine these are what old Stowmarket grows fat upon.  This is the old town of the Tyrells.  Sir Walter Tyrell, who shot Red William, in the New Forest, was one of this family.  In the church there are some remarkable monuments of the Tyrells, well worth seeing.  The poet, Crabbe, went to school in this town.  Young, Milton's tutor, was vicar of Stowmarket, and his monument is in the church.  Young was chaplain to the English factory, at Hamburg, when Milton, then aged eighteen, wrote his "Elegy," which has been translated by Cowper.  Milton afterwards visited Young here, at "Stoa Icenorum," as he calls Stowmarket and a mulberry tree, of great size, in the vicarage garden, is said to have been planted by the poet.

    After seeing the vicarage, the tombs of the Tyrells, and of the Abbot of St. Osyth, we dined at the King's Head, in a quaint wainscoted room overlooking the main street, and then went forth to look at the town; and I may say, in passing, that sauntering about old Stowmarket, on a fine day, is like bathing in wine.

    The old church clock was striking two as we took the road again.  Mile after mile we rode along the grand woods of "Shrublands;" and a little way off, on the right hand side of the road, my friend pointed out a long, low range of building, in the midst of the fields, which was the modern monastery of the celebrated Father Ignatius, who certainly has pitched his tent in a scene remarkable for its peaceful beauty.

    From this point we cross over into the valley of the Stour, and take our way through village the quaint old English village of Bergholt.  Bergholt is associated with many ancient customs, and many famous English names.  King Harold gave it to his brother Gurth, "the tallest and strongest man in England;" after which, passing from one Norman lord to another, it became, eventually, the property of Cardinal Wolsey.  It is a sleepy, green spot; and, with the exception of two or three modern houses on the skirt of the village, everything in the place seems centuries old.  The country around around it is very beautiful and serene.  From Bergholt we descend to the banks of the Stour at Flatford Mill, the birth-place of Constable, the painter.  The mill, and the miller's house, where Constable was born, are still standing and in good condition.  From this place we went on to the little town of Manningtree, on the Stour, which does a lively trade in corn, coals, and malt.  In Manningtree Church there is a monument to one Thomas Ormond, who was roasted alive, in the reign of Mary Tudor, because he would'nt go to mass.  Matthew Hopkins, the witch-finder, was born here.  In 1644 he and some others were sent out by Parliament in search of witches.  They went through Suffolk, Norfolk, and Huntingdon; and hanged sixteen persons at Yarmouth, forty at Bury St. Edmunds, besides others in Suffolk, to the number of sixty.  Butler thus alludes to this worthy in "Hudibras,"—

Has not this present Parliament
A ledger to the devil sent,
Fully empowered to treat about
Finding revolted witches out?
And has he not within one year
Hanged three score of them in a shire?

It is rather consoling to remember that Master Matthew, at last, had "a peck measured out of his own seck," as we say in Lancashire.  He was flung into the water with his thumbs and great toes tied together.  He swam; and so—

Proved himself a witch,
And made a rod for his own breech.

    The cattle market here was famous in the olden time; and our Shaksperian readers will remember that Prince Hal calls Falstaff "that roasted Manningtree ox with the pudding in his belly."  From Manningtree we returned to Ipswich through the pleasant old town of Dedham, where for the first time, I noticed the famous mock window, painted by Constable, upon the church wall, before his name was known to the world.

    In the evening I sat at an open window, in the ancient seaport of Harwich, waiting for the steamboat for Antwerp.




I'm afloat; I'm afloat;
    And the rover is free.


THE day was far spent when I stepped ashore at Harwich, after a run of sixteen miles down the river Orwell.  There it was my good fortune to fall in with Captain Rivers, the harbour-master, whose noble conduct in the Black Sea is mentioned by Dr. Russell, in his account of the Crimean War.  Under genial convoy, I crept out of the hot sun, and wandered about the narrow streets, which, in ancient times, have so often swarmed with martial crowds of our own rugged islanders, on their way to the Continental wars.  There had not been a cloud upon the sky all day; and, as evening came on, hues of unearthly grandeur sank down upon the stilling scene.

The holy time was quiet as a nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Was sinking down in its tranquillity;
The gentleness of heaven was on the sea.

    It wanted half-an-hour to the starting time when I stepped on board the steamer for Antwerp, accompanied by my two friends, Quartz and Tinto,—the artist and the geologist.

    Harwich is a fine harbour, formed by the confluence of two important rivers,—the Orwell and the Stour,—and it is at any time a remarkable scene, with the vessels riding at anchor upon its broad expanse, and its entrance guarded on one hand by the ancient town, and on the other by the formidable "Landguard Fort;" but, on this evening, the scene, from the deck of the steamer, was very striking; and Tinto's fine eye blazed with unusual light as he gazed in silence around.  The sun had just dipped his golden disk behind the Suffolk woods; leaving a trail of lingering grandeur upon land and sea, too fine for mortal tongue to tell.  The very air was suffused with a solemn and subtle beauty; and the smooth sea was flushed with a glory that deepened as the light declined.  Vessels of all kinds lay at anchor, far and near in the broad harbour; but they were as still upon the water as "painted ships upon a painted ocean;" and the man-of-war, "Penelope," whose huge bulk was clearly reflected in the glassy deep, about a mile off, might have been a phantom ship but for the pacing sentinels, here and there, on deck.  It was a scene of solemn beauty.

    At last our starting-bell rang.  We cast loose, and churned away from old Harwich, gazing back upon the broad harbour we were leaving, as English sailors have gazed upon it a thousand years ago; for it was from this harbour that the fleet of King Alfred,—the first English fleet on record,—sailed, to fight the Danes, in the open water, outside, in the year 885.  The "Darling of England" was victorious, and captured the Danish ships.  In 1326, Prince Edward and his mother landed here from Hainault, and proceeded to make war against the king.  In 1338, the same Prince, now Edward the Third, embarked from Harwich with a fleet of five hundred ships, on his first expedition against France; and, in 1340, he again assembled his forces here, and beat the French fleet, lying off Slut's.

                         In the time of the Rump,
                         When old Admiral Tromp
With his broom swept the Chops of the Channel;

and during the reign of Charles the Second, the engagements between the English and Dutch fleets frequently took place so near these coasts that the inhabitants were spectators from the cliffs.  This harbour was often crowded with fighting ships during the Dutch war.

    We are now out upon the open sea—the war path of the ancient Scandinavian pirate; for their "nailed barks" swept down this way upon the shores of England and the Continent.  These waters have seen a great deal of the horrors of war.

Wrecks are darkly spread below,
Where with lonely keel we go;
Gentle brows and bosoms brave
Those abysses richly pave.

    Night is advancing; Harwich, and the far-stretching shores, fade away behind us.  The moon is up; the sea is as smooth as a looking-glass; and the wild tone of the bell-buoy comes with solemn clang across the lonely sea as we churn away from Old England.

    The boat was crowded with passengers; and, amongst the number, I particularly noticed two broad-set men, with great open faces and bullet-heads.  Those I had pointed out to my two friends as being remarkably like the old breed of Lancashire men, to which Tinto replied that they were the very pattern of a pair of "Owdhammers;" and, soon after this, as we paced the deck, I overheard one of them saying to the other as he pointed towards us with his thumb, "Yon three are Lancashire chaps."  "I've bin thinkin' so," replied the other.  "I'm sure they are," answered his friend, "for I've just yerd one on 'em axin' tother for a reech of bacco."  When roosting time came on they disappeared, but they turned up again farther on.

    I spent the night on deck.  The half-moon was up; the cloudless sky was crowded with stars; the air was balmy; and the sea was as smooth as glass.  I shall never forget the solemn splendour of that moonlight night at sea: nor the weird beauty of the break of day upon the slumbering ocean.

    Our first peep of land was the dim outline of the Belgian shore, about Ostend; and, in two hours after that, we were close to the Dutch town of Flushing, at the mouth of the river Scheldt.  We were so near to the town that we could see into the streets; and we could hear the church clock striking six.  And now the passengers began to creep out of their nooks and corners, and amongst them the two Lancashire strangers.  "Hello, Jone!" said one to the other, "wheer hasto bin o' neet?"  "By th' mass," replied his friend, "I couldn't bide a minute longer down i' that hole so I crope up here, an' I dropt asleep among a lot o' ropes, at tother end yon; an' I slept like a top."  "Well, come; get thi face weshed, an' let us goo an' have a bit o' breakfast."  When he had washed his face, he stood with the basin in his hand, looking helplessly around.  "Jone," said he to his friend, "Wheer mun I put this dirty wayter?"  "Put it i'th say, theer," replied the other, "put it i'th say what the dule, it'll howd it!"




Great in courage; poor in goods; sword in hand;
That is the motto of Guelderland.


DUNKIRK!  Ostend!

      As we crossed the sea at break of day, the sailors pointed out the dim, low-lying shore, where they lay; and their names stirred the hair upon one's head like a point of war.  And here we are, right in front of Flushing, at the mouth of the Scheldt,—the first foreign town I ever saw.  There is nothing foreign about it,—so far as I can see,—except the steep, red-tiled roofs, and the frowning fortifications.  We are so near the town that it seems as if I could hit the outer walls with a stone, from the deck of the steamer.  I can see up one or two of the lines of street, with, here and there, a bit of greenery gushing out between the houses.  All is quiet, and clear, and Sunday-like; for it is early in the day.  Outside the town there are three or four great windmills,—but there is no wind,—so, they too, are still.  And, from the church tower, in full view yonder, the stroke of six comes booming on the clear air of this pleasant May morning, as we slacken speed to take in a boat-load of passengers.

    Flushing is what one may call a sentinel-town of Holland; and it has heard the roar of war, with a vengeance; as, indeed, where has it not been heard.  The quiet bed of this river Scheldt, and all the waters that lave the Netherland shores, are paved with cannon-balls, and the wreck of war.  Flushing is a town of about 12,000 inhabitants, with a naval dockyard, and a harbour for merchant ships.  Its fortifications are very strong; and, with Fort Breskens, on the opposite (Belgian) shore, completely command the mouth of the Scheldt,—which is about a mile and a half wide at this point.  There they lie,—these great forts,—still enough,—but glaring across the entrance of the river, like two mastiffs, ready to spring.

    In 1809, Flushing was bombarded, and taken, by the English fleet, under Lord Chatham, when,—amongst the usual bloodshed and breakage,—the fine town hall, and two churches, and one hundred houses were destroyed.  Since then, we have been gradually finding out,—as usual,—that the whole of that business was a mistake.  We wrecked, and took the town, and killed the people; and "that was the sole and useless result of the English expedition to the Island of Walcheren, undertaken by one of the finest English fleets ever equipped."  Philip the Second,—whose memory the brave, long-suffering Dutch have no special reason to love,—embarked from the town of Flushing to return to the Netherlands no more; and, no doubt, the brave Netherlanders thought it "a good shuttance," as we say in Lancashire.  Admiral de Ruyter, who was the "Nelson" of the Dutch, was born here, in 1607.  He was the son of a rope-maker, but his mother, whose name he assumed, was of noble origin.  Englishmen ought to respect the memory of this brave sailor, for, in 1667, he took his fleet up the Thames, with flying colours, destroying fortifications, and ships of war, and throwing all London, together with the "Merry Monarch," and his court, into a great fit of consternation.  This triumph is now attributed to the cupidity and negligence of the king, who spent the money destined for the navy upon the pleasures of the court.  From such monarchs, and their merriment,—"Good Lord, deliver us!"

    The new passengers are now on board; and the boat that brought them is pulling back quietly to the town.  The steamer begins to move again; and our way lies, for the next fifty or sixty miles, up the river Scheldt, as far as the city of Antwerp, with the shore of Holland hard by on our left, and the Belgian shore, in full view, on the right.

    It is a beautiful morning.  Several of the passengers are taking a kind of rough-and-ready breakfast on deck; and amongst the rest, the two Lancashire men, whose appearance I have noticed before, were seated amongst the luggage, regaling themselves on hard biscuits and cheese, and coffee, and continually calling to the steward to "bring some moore."  I had been amused by the curious looks with which their eyes had followed us about the deck, as if they wanted to speak to us; and, at last, the elder of the two came sidling up, with a cup of coffee in his hand, and said,—"Excuse me, maister; but yon mate o' mine an' me, we'n bin watchin' yo three, a good while.  Now, if I mun be so bowd, aren't yo Lancashire chaps?"  We told him that it was so.  "By th' mass," said he, flinging the remains of his coffee out, "I durst ha' sworn it!  I con tell 'em amung a million!  Gi' me yor hond! . . . Heigh, Joe!  It is as I said! They're Lancashire chaps,—every one on 'em!"  "I thought so," said the other, coming slowly up, with slinging gait, and smiling face; "I've just bin sayin' that yo favvour't a lot o' shoddy-chaps.  I don't know whether it is so or not; but I'm fain 'at we'n let on yo,—as what yo are."  "Ay, by th' mass; and so am I, too," said his friend; "so am I, too.  We're o' reet, now, Joe.  Keep thi heart up I towd thi we should leet o' company afore lung!" . . . . "Ay," continued he, laying his hand upon his friend's shoulder, "Joe here's a cousin o' mine,—they co'n him 'Camomile,' for a by-name.  His faither wur Owd Croddy, th' bonksman,—I dar say yo'n yerd tell on him.  Joe's just had a bit o' brass laft him bi a relation of his, 'at live't at Ipswich; an' I come down wi' him a-drawin' it; an' so I towd him, that, while we were here, we met as weel have a bit of a marlock, oather i' Lunnon or somewheer else.  An' wi' that, he says, 'Sam if thou'll be as hard as me, we'n goo reet across th' herrin'-poand, an' have a flirt amung oather th' French or th' Dutch, or some other strange folk.'  An' I said, 'Agreed on; but, by th' hectum, we's be getten taen up or some lumber.'  An' then Joe says, 'Keep thi pluck up, men; I'll back thi till thi yed flies off!  Stick to me, an' I'll poo thi through!  If ony o' these foreigneerin' chaps turns reawsty, thee tell 'em wheer thou comes fro, an' who thi faither wur,—an' if that'll not do,—set thi shoon agate o' gooin', an' keep 'em gooin', till I come up; an' then we'n sattle wi' 'em, thou'll see!  If I can get my back again a wole, it'll tak a lot o' thoose craiters to get o'er me!'  An' so I said to him, 'Joe, thou'rt to rough.  If thou'll promise to keep both thi shoon an' thi tung still, I'll go with tho but if thou doesn't, I'll not stir a peg!'  So he promised 'at he would; an' here we are, yo see'n.  We dunnot know a soul i' this country; an' its mich if ever we getten whoam again.  I'm fain 'at we'n let on yo: I'm beawn down into th' lower shop a bit.  We's be seein' yo' again afore aught's lung."




Wij leven vrij, wij leven blij,
    Op Neêrlands dierben grond.


We liven free, we liven blithe,
    On Netherland's dear ground.


AWAY we go, up the river Scheldt, between Holland and Belgium; passing, now and then, a heavy-laden Dutch vessel, slow-moving with the tide;—not what some people call "pretty" to look at, but broad-fronted, broad-bottomed, quaint, and strong all over,—and made of good stuff, and plenty of it,—like the men who built them.  And, here and there, we saw boats, with lofty careen prows, something like ancient Roman galleys, as we see them in pictures.  On each side of the river, the country presents the same general aspect, reminding me sometimes of "The Fylde," and sometimes of the banks of the Humber,—except for the great fortifications, and the vast embankments which line this water.  On each hand, the country stretches away, in great green plains as far as the eye can see.  On the shore, "dunes," or "downs," or sand-hills, and osier-grown embankments of sand.  Beyond the shore, great fertile levels,—where there are no hedgerows, nor shady old lanes, with sprawling borders of wild greenery, such as we have in England,—the divisions of the land being marked, here and there, by lines of tall, slim-looking trees; and, sometimes, the country, hard by the shore, lies so much below the level of the river we are sailing upon, that the red-tiled roofs of the houses, and the towers of little village churches, only just peep over the tops of the enormous embankments which are necessary to keep out the sea.

    Sailing up this river Scheldt, one sees more than meets the eye; for one feels that one is gliding between two famous countries,—great battlefields, where, for the last two thousand years, the strongest nations of the world have striven for the mastery.  On the right-hand side of our way lie Ghent, Bruges, Lille, Namur, Brussels, and the field of Waterloo,—all Flanders, in fact,—where our soldiers are said to have sworn terribly, during the old wars,---as they used to do, sometimes, I believe.  The names of these places come upon the ear like blasts from a trumpet of war; for the whole land is strewn with memories of bloody conflict.  On the left-hand side of the river lies Holland,—a web whose weft is water, and whose warp is land,—salt water and tulips,—Holland with its ancient cities, and towns, and its quaint, brave people,—Holland, the "verdronken land" (the drowned land),—a garden, fished up from the depths of the sea,—a country rich in herrings, cheese, grain, posies, canals, windmills, fine arts, and "derring-do" by land and by water,—a country whose history rings with the great achievements and noble deeds of a brave and enduring people,—who are in league with the wild ocean as their strong ally against the foreign foe.

    Our steamer clips the Dutch side of the river; and for more than thirty miles we are gliding along the shore of Zeeland,—an island province,—the general character of which is indicated by its heraldic emblem, —a swimming lion,—and the motto, "Luctor et emergo."  The swimming lion would not be a bad emblem for the whole Dutch nation.  The greater part of the province of Zeeland lies considerably below the sea-level,—which fact was very evident to us, now and then, as we neared the shore, where the roofs of tall houses peeped over the tops of the embankments.  The only natural elevation in all this amphibious province of Zeeland consists of a few low sand-hills, on the west coast of the islands of Schouwen and Walcheren,—the first bit of Dutch land we touched at,—near Flushing.  The rest of this province of Zeeland is protected against the encroachments of the sea by immense embankments, three hundred miles in length,—the annual repairs of which cost about £85,000.  The Dutch may well say that their embankments are "worth their weight in silver."  Holland is the lowest country in the world in position, the greatest part of it lying many feet below the sea-level.  The safety of the whole kingdom, therefore, depends upon these dykes, which are maintained by continual watchfulness, at enormous expense; and, as Baedaker's Guide pithily says:—

"The constant imminent nature of the danger will be thoroughly appreciated by the stranger, if he stand at the foot of one of the great dykes at high tide and hear the breakers dashing against the other side of the barrier, at a height of sixteen or eighteen feet above his head."

    Gliding onward up the Scheldt, along the shore of William the Silent's watery land, our two Lancashire friends, who were generally hovering near, heard us talking of the nature of the country as we came in sight of the peeping tops of a little Dutch village, when "Sam," the elder of the two, laid his hand upon my shoulder, and said:—

    "I say, maister; is that wheer th' Dutch liven?"


    "Heigh, Jo!  Sitho! yon's wheer th' Dutch liven!"

    "What, at th' back o' that knowe?"

    "Ay, wheer thoose chimbley-tops are peepin' up."

    "Oh, ay!  By th' mon,—I'll tell yo what,—th' wayter'll splash o'er into their porritch, now an' then,—winnot it?"

    "Aye; thou'rt reet, owd lad.  If ever th' say gets o'er th' top o' that broo, it'll sleck their fires out for 'em."

    "It has done that mony a time,—bi what they say'n."

    "By th' mon, Sam, I'd as soon live in a cellar.  I'll tell tho what; they'n be terribly plague't wi' th' rheumatic,—wi'n thoose lads."

    "Ay; an' there's a lot on 'em gets drown't every year,—accordin' to o' accounts."

    "Oh, ay? . . . I'll tell tho what, Sam; if I live't i' that hole, I'd go to bed in a boat every neet."

    "Ay; an' thou met happen find thisel' in another country when thou wakken't i'th mornin'."

    "Well,—that would be better nor findin' mysel' at th' bottom o'th say."
             .                     .                     .                     .                     .                     .

    "An', who lives at this tother side, here, say'n yo?"


    "Oh, ay. Dun they live theer?  Why; they're noan so mich better off nor tother, bith look on 'em."

    "Nawe," said Camomile, "they're about th' same bat, for bein' low down."

    "Belgians;" continued Sam, gazing dreamily at the coast of Flanders, "I don't know 'at ever I see'd ony o' that sort.  But I guess we's be leetin' on 'em in a bit."

    "Oh, plenty."

    "Come, that'll do.  Well—to tell truth, I've never sin noan o'th Dutch, yet,—nobbut a bit of a doll that I bought th' last Rushbearin', for a little lass 'at lives at th' end of our fowd."

    "Oh, bother no moor about it!" said Joe, "thou'll see moore sorts than one, afore aught's lung."

    On we went, up the Scheldt, with the same generic features on each side, all the way,—low down by the shore, grass grown, sandy rabbit-warrens; vast embankments, and frowning forts; windmills, scattered over the landscape, far and near; green meadows, gleaming pools, and lazy kine,—scenes that Cuyp delighted to gaze upon.  Amongst the passengers on deck there is a good-looking Belgian woman, —strong-built, and with gleaming eyes,—sitting in front of a great cage-full of young canaries, scraping the perches, and making the pretty little minstrels as comfortable as she can.  The birds evidently know her, for they are not a bit afraid when she puts her hand into the cage.

    The river winds about a good deal as we approach Antwerp; and, as the lofty tower of the cathedral sails into sight, the stream narrows considerably; the banks bristle, everywhere, with formidable forts and batteries; large vessels lie at anchor in the river, here and there; and great docks, and forests of masts, begin to show themselves.  At last we are alongside the pier at Antwerp,—and the famous old city of Peter Paul Rubens lies before us.  With the exception of the dresses of the porters, and the prevalence of military uniforms, I see nothing, at the first glance, very different to the features of an English sea-port.  The custom-officers examine our luggage hastily, and write the usual pass upon it, in chalk; but when he lays hold of the carpet-bag belonging to our Lancashire friend, "Camomile," that hero says, "Here, owd brid; what arto for?  That's mine!"  And, when we explained the matter to him, he said, "Well, he's no 'casion to look at ours,—we'n stown nought."

    At last, we crushed our way through the crowd on shore; and, before we had time to hail a cab,—for there are cabs here,—and cabmen, too,—our Lancashire friend, "Sam," came up, with "Camomile " close behind him, and said, "I say; wi'n yo let us go wi' yo?  We'n plenty o' brass.  I've fifteen pound,—o' one mak' an' another; an' Joe theer's five pound i' gowd, an' three five pound notes stitched i'th inside of his waistcoat. . . . We're o' reet, mon!  But, we's be gettin' slatter't, afore we'n gone fur,—I know. . . . Wi'n yo let us go?"  "Come on!"  "Fol der diddle ido!  Come on, Joe!  I towd tho it would be o' reet!"




Thus far into the bowels of the land.


QUAINT old Antwerp,—the most interesting city in the Low Countries. The man who has visited Antwerp may truly say that he has "heard the chimes at midnight," for all through the silent hours, the air swarms with strange melodies that wander forth from the towers of its ancient churches.

    Antwerp is pre-eminently a city of great painters.  Its very name reminds us of Rubens, Van Dyck, Quentin Matsys, Teniers, and others, whose renown has come to us ringing "down the groove of time."  There is something sunny, homely, and serenely-singular about the old city,—although it is a sea-port, subject, within certain limits, to the restless change, and riotous bustle, which, more or less, belongs to such places.  It is the Liverpool of Belgium,—the only other Belgian seaport of any importance being Ostend.  Belgium is deficient in outlets by the sea; and it wants the coast of Holland to complete its facilities.  Antwerp is the Liverpool of Belgium,—and it will be some time before our English Liverpool is as pleasant a place to dwell in as grey old Antwerp is.

    At Antwerp, on the Scheldt, we are sixty miles from the sea; and the river is about a third of a mile broad, and thirty feet deep, at high water.  The name of the place comes from "Aen't werf,"—"on the wharf."  It was founded in the seventh century; and, in the beginning of the sixteenth century, its population was almost as great as it is now,—that is, about 135,000.  In the time of Charles V. it was reckoned the wealthiest city of all the Continent; and it became, also, a nursery of fine art, second to none in the world, but the city of Florence.  During this era flourished Quentin Matsys, Rubens, Van Dyck, Teniers, Jordaens, De Crayer, Zeger, Snyders, and many other eminent painters of lesser note.  Their names are associated with the fame of the city; and their works so enrich its ancient churches and museums, that the young painter of these days wanders about Antwerp with a feeling of reverence for the grey homestead of those great masters of the art which catches the features of man and nature upon the balance of expression, and holds them there, for the delight of future generations.  This was, indeed, the golden age of Antwerp, in more senses than one.  In those days, the great fairs of Antwerp were attended by merchants from all parts of the civilised world.  More than a thousand foreign mercantile firms were, then, established here; and one of the Fuggers,—a famous firm of merchants,—died here, leaving a fortune of two million ducats,—which meant a great deal more then than it does now.  There is an old monkish rhyme about the characteristics of Belgian cities, in which the wealth of Antwerp is alluded to:—

Nobilibus Bruxella viris, Antwerpia nummis,
Gandavum laqueis, formosis Bruga puellis,
Lovanium doctis, gaudet Mechlinia stultis.

(Brussels rejoices in noble men, Antwerp in money, Ghent in halters, Bruges in pretty girls, Louvain in learned men, Malines in fools).

Brussels for lads;
    Antwerp for brass;
Ghent for a halter;
    And Bruges for a lass.

Louvain for schoos, an' Malines for foos.

These old rhymes are said to be true in their application to this day; and perhaps they are about as true as our own local allusions to "Owdham Rough Yeds," "Bury Muffs," "Rachda' Chaps," and "Middleton Moon-rakers."

    The decline of Antwerp began during the Spanish rule.  The horrible tyranny of the Inquisition drove thousands of its most valuable citizens forth into the world in search of homes.  Many of these settled in England, where they established silk-works, and greatly enriched the land of their choice by their industry and ingenuity.

    Antwerp has had many strange ups and downs in its time.  It suffered most severely under the Spaniard,—not only in the usual way of pillage and slaughter, but through the dark terrors of the Inquisition.  In 1598 its population was reduced to 55,000.  Even then its fortunes had not reached their lowest ebb.  Through the intrigues of its Dutch rivals, and the Treaty of Munster in 1648, by which Holland was declared independent of Spain, the river Scheldt was almost entirely closed to Antwerp vessels,—and the population of the city sank down to 40,000.  It suffered considerably in subsequent wars; and, at the close of the memorable siege in 1833, "the city presented a frightful scene of desolation," and for many years after its commerce was completely prostrate.  But the sun of prosperity has dawned upon old Antwerp again; and its port is now entered annually by 5,500 vessels of an aggregate burden of 1,830,000 tons,  So much for the history of the place.

    The steamer is lashed to the pier, and the passengers are hurrying ashore,—and we must wait our turn.  The purity of the air was quite exhilarating, and everything stood out with a distinctness which was wonderful to fog-trained eyes, but the day was blazing hot; and when we had crushed our way to the quay we crept under the edge of a shed,—among blue-bloused porters with close cropped hair, trim-looking officials in military uniform, piles of luggage, and jabbering travellers claiming their property,—whilst the Professor,—who, being a linguist, was our speech-master, hailed a cab "in good set terms."  In the meantime I peered out along the line of buildings on the quay,—mostly whitewashed,—shops, restaurants, drinking-houses, shipping-offices, and sea-port haunts of various kinds,—not unlike Liverpool, only not on such a large scale, not so dingy, nor so substantial. The names on the signs were not all foreign.  Here and there was an English or a Scotch name.  And now, as I look more carefully around, at the details of life around me, I begin to feel, distinctly, that I am not in England.

    But, here comes the Professor, with an open conveyance, large enough to hold us all, including "Camomile," and "Sam;" and away we go to the "Hotel de I'Europe," a house in the centre of the city, kept by an Englishman, and much frequented by English travellers.  A few minutes' drive, in the fierce sun, along the quay, and then we turned into narrow, shady streets, getting deeper and deeper amongst the quaint features of ancient Antwerp as we went.  Here we began to meet with priests gliding to and fro, in black robes, and hats, of foreign cut,—soldiers at every stride, and shrines at every street corner, fixed to the wall, about twelve feet above the ground,— workmen, in blue blouses, and sabots, or wooden shoes, —heavy, lumbering water-carts, drawn by heavy, lumbering, Flemish horses, with bells at their necks; and women, with antique head-dresses and great flaps of snow-white lace hanging down the sides of the face.  Now I know that I am on the Continent.  These strange features kept our eyes on the alert as we went along.

    "Sam," said Camomile to his friend, "there mun be a barracks somewhere about here."

    "What makes tho think so?"

    "Well,—I've sin seventeen different maks o' sodiurs i' less than five minutes."

    "They're happen for havin' a review, or summat."
             .                     .                     .                     .                     .                     .

    "Hello,—litho,—what's yon?"

    "It's a parson, bith colour on him."

    "What mak will he be, now?"

    "Nay, I don't know.  'Dipper,'—happen!"

    "Dipper, or no Dipper,—he's a fause joker, bi th' look on him."

             .                     .                     .                     .                     .                     .

    "Now then,—look out!  Sitho, Sam!  What han we here?"

    "Why, they're two women,—an' noan sich feaw uns, noather."

    "They'n bin doin' summat wrang, I guess."

    "What makes tho say that?"

    "Why, look, what they han o' their yeds."

    "It's what they wear'n regilar."

    "Bith mass, I thought they were circus-folk."
             .                     .                     .                     .                     .                     .

    The next thing that caught Camomile's attention was the short-cropped hair of the workmen passing by.

    "Sitho, Sam," said he, "they known how to pow 'em i' this country."

    "Ay; I've bin lookin' at yon a good while.  Bith maskins, he favvors a singe't ferret. . . . Another short-toppin't-un theer, sitho!"

    As we stepped out of the vehicle, in front of the hotel, Sam whispered to his friend,—

    "Now, let me gi' tho warnin', afore we goen into this hole.  Thou mun mind what thou puts i' thi inside,—for they heyten o' maks o' garbage i' this country."




At length he spied those towers grey,
That catch the first bright blush of day;
And heard the sweet old wandering chimes,
That told the tale of by-gone times.


OUR hotel was next to the post-office, on the eastern side of the "Place Verte,"—one of the principal market-places,—near the centre of the city.  This pleasant opening is about five times the size of our own Saint Ann's Square; and it swarms throughout the day with picturesque and happy activity.  The old come there to rest, and the young come there to play.  It is adorned with rows of healthy trees, and good seats free to all comers.  It is kept in excellent condition; and in the centre stands a fine statue of Rubens, in bronze, with his scrolls, books, brush, pallette, and hat lying at his feet; and I caught my friend Tinto quietly lifting his hat to this noble effigy of the great art-master.  The north end of the market-place is entirely occupied by the famous Cathedral,—the largest and most beautiful Gothic church in all the Netherlands.

    We were now in the very heart of old Antwerp; and we lingered in front of the hotel to look around.  The day was bright and hot; nearly four hundred feet above the marketplace the marvellous old Cathedral chimes were tinkling forth their silvery melodies into the sunny air; and there was something so glad-looking, so quaint, and so strikingly unlike anything I had ever seen before, that the first glance at the romantic scene took all the weariness of a sleepless night out of me at once.  All dusty, and disordered in apparel, we lingered a little while in front of the hotel, delighted with the picture before us.

    Whilst we were thus occupied, our two Lancashire friends stood aside, engaged in a little by-play of their own.  "Camomile," who had been solemnly warned by "Sam" to beware of what food he partook of in the hotel, now drew Sam apart, and laying his hand upon his shoulder, he said to him in a serious undertone,

    "Sam, owd lad; thou knows we're a good way fro' whoam,—in a foreign lend.  I'm dubious about these folk.  They'n play us some mak of a mank, if they finden out 'at we're English,—but, by Guy, thou surely doesn't think 'at they'n poison us, doesto?"

    "Well, happen not,—but I've yerd sich tales about their cookin' i' this country, that it's turned my stomach mony a time.  Mon, they heyten snails, an' rattons, an' frogs, an' o' maks o' slink, i' this quarter."

    "Dun they ――!  I'll ha' noan o' their garbage!  Here, stick to that!  I'll go an' find some cake-brade an' stew, somewheer! . . . But, thou'rt makin' a foo on me!"

    "Nay, I'm not."

    "How leets thou didn't tell me that afore we started; an' then I could ha' brought a seck-full o' cheese an' loaf for us to goo on wi'?"

    "I never thought on't."

    "They'n ha' summat fit to bite at, sure?"

    "Not mich, I doubt: mon, it's a common thing for 'em, here, to have a pint o' red ink an' a hond-full o' snails to their breakfast."

    "Here, that's enough I'm off!"

    "Howd; howd!  Dunno be in a hurry, mon!  Let's see how they shappen.  If we dunnot like what they setten us, we con order some lobscouse,—or a beef-bo' a piece — or summat."

    "Agreed on.  But, by th' mon, th' first 'at I catch playin' ony pranks wi' my proven I'll let him taste o' mi' shoon,—if I dee by't!"

    "I'll tell tho what, Joe."


    "Let's reckon to be Frenchmen.  We's get better through!"

    "Agreed on!"
             .                     .                     .                     .                     .                     .

    The glass-shaded court leading into the hotel was adorned with fine plants in pots, and was altogether a picture of airy sweetness in every nook and crevice not the least pleasant feature of which was the healthy-looking Flemish servant-girls, in snow-white caps of quaint device, and clean light-coloured dresses, busy cleaning here and there.  Our landlord was an Englishman; but, after a few hearty words of reception, he was suddenly called away, and we were left floundering aground upon the shore of a strange language; for, with the exception of our friend the Professor, there was not as much French or German amongst us as would have served for the direction of an ordinary parcel.  The Professor, therefore, had now to work double tides on our behalf, whilst we stood helpless by, listening with wondering ears to these strange tinklings from the "Pierian spring;" and, when he happened to turn his back upon us for a few minutes, we were sometimes reduced to extraordinary straits in the way of pantomimic explanation, or to strange utterances in the shape of speech,—made up, like Scotch broth, of different bits,—the composition and meaning of which would have puzzled the most learned moonshee on the face of the earth. . . .

    Our apartments had been allotted to us; the luggage had gone aloft; and we followed slowly, each man with the key of his bedroom in his hand.  As we climbed the fine old wide and winding staircase, I overheard "Sam" whispering to his friend "Camomile," as he pointed quietly around,—"It'll cost us a bonny penny, owd lad, afore we getten out o' this hole!"  There was no soap in any of the bedrooms, and we found that any traveller who wished for soap or candles had to give a special order for them, and they were then charged separately in his bill; and it was not uncommon for travellers to carry away the unused remains of their soap and candles to their next quarters.  After a refreshing wash we hurried forth into the square; for our first glance at Antwerp had made every man of us curious to see the old city.

    It was a little past noon, and the full heat of the sun poured down upon the market-place; which was a scene of quiet gaiety, delightful to the eye.  In the middle stood the fine statue of Rubens, with a host of little children playing gleefully about the basement.  Here and there,—scattered about,—the ruddy-faced market-women sat, with their baskets of fruits and flowers; and their little carts, and hand-barrows, stood off at the edge of the pavement, with the dogs, that drew them, lying asleep in their harness.  Upon the seats, under the trees, serene looking old folks sat sunning themselves in the pure air, and dreamily gazing at the play of life around.

    The two sides of the square were chiefly occupied by clean-looking restaurants or refreshment rooms, in front of which, under great white awnings, clean chairs and tables were set, in the open air.  These seats were mostly occupied by well-dress and orderly people, amongst whom there was a large sprinkling of military men, in various uniforms; and, here and there,—not much apart from the rest,—sat a comfortable-looking family party,—father and mother, and children, taking their little refection at a table, by themselves.  It was a pleasant scene; and we sat down, like the rest, to watch the interweaving features of the scene; and the stream of life that trickled along the streets that line the square,—and to drink Bavarian beer,—which, by the way, is a light, pure kind of ale, not disagreeable in hot weather.  And now it was that our two Lancashire friends came into characteristic play again.  Hearing the Professor summon the waiter, by the name of "Garçon!" "Sam" raised his glass, and cried, "Garstang!  Here!  Bring me one o'th same sort!"  Whereupon "Camomile" said to the astonished waiter, "Here, owd mon; whol thou'rt agate, thou may as weel bring me a saup too!"

    The scene before us was singularly interesting.  Now and then, across the picturesque scene in the middle of the square, a Jesuit priest, in shovel hat, came gliding by, with a book under his arm, and his eyes bent upon his buckled shoes, and his black robes fluttering behind him; next came a workman in blue blouse, and wooden sabots, and with close-cropped hair; then came soldiers, soldiers, soldiers,—of all sorts and sizes.  Priests and soldiers,—they prevail in this land,—in spite of the fine nature of the people.  Whilst sitting in front of the restaurant, I spied, on the opposite side of the square, a sign,—"Estaminet Rubens;" another little tribute to the memory of the great painter whose name is associated with the city.

    Blue blouses; market women; water-carts, of clumsy build; dogcarts milk-carts, drawn by dogs; flapping lace caps; queer hats soldiers and priests; priests and soldiers; one after another, interweaving, they wandered by, in the pure, sunny air, as we sat there under the white awning in the marketplace.  And there, right in front of us, at the end of the square, uprose the grand old Cathedral, with its wonderful tower, nearly four hundred feet high,—that marvellous piece of stone-work,—like a delicate pencilling against the sky!  Well might Napoleon liken it to a piece of Mechlin lace; and say that it ought to be kept under a glass-case.




                     I would entreat your company
To see the wonders of the world abroad.


OUR Continental trip was too hurried,—too much like a trail-hunt, sniffing and scudding along, without halting in the chase.  If a man has only a little holiday, let him not spend it in rushing from place to place,—especially in hot weather; let him settle quietly in one spot, and see it well, so that it may leave a clean picture in the gallery of his memory for the benefit of after days.  Our stay in Antwerp was too short.  It is the most enchanting city in Belgium rich in its old-fashioned Flemish life; rich in its history, and in its ancient buildings and still more singularly rich in ancient master-pieces of painting; amongst which the finest works of Rubens are preserved.

    Early in the afternoon we left our seats under the awning in front of the statue of Rubens, and went towards the grand old Cathedral, at the end of the market-place; and, by-the-bye, this same market-place, now swarming with the quaint life of the city, was, anciently, the graveyard of the Cathedral.  The dimensions of the building will give our readers some idea of its imposing appearance.  It is 128 yards long the width of the nave is 57 yards; the transept is 71 yards the body of the building is 130 feet high; and the height of the tower is 402 feet.  This church has seen much turbulence, in one shape and another, in its time.  In 1566 it was seriously damaged by Puritanical zealots; and in 1794 the French Republicans overran the place with destructive rage.  The lower part of the Cathedral is almost entirely concealed by old-fashioned shops and houses, which cluster thickly around its basement, like shell-fish clinging to a sea-washed rock.  Many of these are now being cleared away, especially near the principal façade.

    Leaving the hot glare of the sun, we entered the Cathedral by the south portal,—which has been so oft assailed in old times by stormy crowds of turbulent Flemings.  On one side of the portal was the word "Uitgang;" on the other was the word "Ingang."  The interior was cool, and still, and grandly, solemnly impressive; and here and there, about the wide nave, kneeling devotees were scattered, with eyes bent earnestly upon the altar.  Now and then a black-robed priest hurried along the aisles, or a curious lounger, like ourselves, sauntered timidly about, staring to and fro.  There was no visible service going on; but there was a strong smell of incense; and from unseen corners, a low buzz of muttered prayers seemed to fill the solemn air.  The south transept, by which we entered, contains Rubens' famous master-piece, "The Descent from the Cross."  In the north transept hangs Rubens' "Elevation of the Cross;" and the high altar-piece is an "Assumption," also painted by Rubens.  We found all these pictures curtained from view; but we learnt from the sacristan that on the morrow (Whit Sunday) they would be unveiled, and grand high mass would be performed with all the pomp of the Roman Catholic ritual.  We, therefore, quitted the church, resolving to attend the service on the following day.

    We left the Cathedral by the great western portal, and found ourselves in a triangular-shaped opening, or marketplace, surrounded by quaint shops and houses, amongst which we noticed the "Quentin Matsys' Pomp Estaminet," which takes its name from one of the most famous curiosities of Antwerp, hard by.  On one side of this market-place, and a few yards from the western entrance to the Cathedral there is an ancient well, protected by a curious canopy of hand-wrought iron, of floral device, and surmounted by a statue of Brabo, a mythical hero, who defeated the giant Antigonus.  This curious piece of ironwork was done by the celebrated Quentin Matsys, early in the sixteenth century.  The inscription on his tombstone, close by the entrance to the tower of the Cathedral, says that he was "in synen tyd grofsmidt, en daernaer famous schilder" (at one time a blacksmith, afterwards a famous painter).  Quentin Matsys was originally a blacksmith from Louvain, who came to Antwerp in search of work, or, "on tramp," as the workmen of England would say; and this wrought-iron canopy above the old well by the Cathedral is one of many specimens of his skill, which are still preserved in the city.  One tribute to the genius of the man is that the spirit of his invention runs through a great deal of the ornamental ironwork of Belgium to this day.  A good deal of kindly romance has woven itself around the memory of this remarkable man; but, as the story goes, during his blacksmith days he fell in love with the daughter of a painter; and in order that he might the better propitiate the father, and win the daughter, he gave up the anvil and took to the pallette, with a will.  Inspired by love and genius, he wooed and painted, and painted and wooed, with remarkable success.  Happily married to art, and to his artist's daughter, he rose to rank among the foremost painters of a country and a time which was famous for painters; and he is said to have been "chiefly instrumental in raising the school of Antwerp to a celebrity equal to those of Bruges and Ghent."  His great master-piece, "The Dead Saviour,"—which was formerly an altar-piece in the Cathedral,—is still shown in the museum of the city.  His tombstone bears the inscription, "Connubialis amor de Mulcibre fait Apellem."

    Leaning against "Quentin Matsys' Pomp," in the little triangular market-place, we are right in front of the great western façade of the Cathedral,—the only side on which the building shows itself from the basement to the topmost pinnacle of its wonderful tower, which rises 402 feet into the air,—a marvellously-beautiful and elaborate piece of open stonework,—which has been the admiration of all Europe for centuries.  It looks so fine,—so delicately-wrought,—so like a petrified cobweb,—up there 134 yards from the ground, that it seems as if a strong wind might blow it away into the distant fields.

    Not the least remarkable thing connected with this tower is its famous set of chimes, which consists of ninety-nine bells, the smallest of which is only fifteen inches in circumference; the largest, cast in 1507, had the Emperor Charles V. for its godfather, and weighs eight tons.  These chimes seem to start up about every ten minutes, and,—like a chorus of silver-throated sky-larks,—fill all the upper air of Antwerp with melody.  And if a solitary bell sounds anywhere, it seems to waken up a score of sets of chimes in different quarters, till the city is fairly bedewed with tinkling bell-music. . . .

    Quitting the little market-place, we wandered about the narrow, old-fashioned streets near the Cathedral; among trinket-shops, lace-shops, tobacco-shops, and restaurants.  In the window of one of these there was a large card,—"Tripes à la mode de la Caen."  The word "Tripes" caught "Camomile's" eye, and he darted right in; but before five minutes were over, he came forth again, growling like a wounded bear, at everything,—the foreign speech; the tripe, which he characterised as "dutch,"—and the bread, which he called "baked moonshine."  In one of these narrow streets, a strong, stone-built, gloomy-looking old house, with great iron bars across the windows, was pointed out to us as a "Spanish house," or Spanish residence during the domination of Philip and the Duke of Alva,—when the houses of the Spaniards were often assailed by the oppressed Flemish population.

    When mild evening came down upon the old city, we spent another hour or two, in the open square, beneath a cloudless moonlight sky; and then retired to bed at the hotel, well pleased with our first day on the Continent.




In the quaint old Flemish city,
As the evening shades descended,
Low and loud and sweetly blended,
Low at times and loud at times;
And changing like a poet's rhymes,
Rang the beautiful wild chimes
From the belfry in the market.


CERTAIN features of life on the Continent struck me in contrast with our life in England,—the purity of the air,—the breezy, cheery out-door life,—the pleasant, picturesque squares, and open spaces, in the great towns,—and the general sobriety of the people.  Of course, the purity of the air was singularly remarkable and exhilarating to me, coming from the smoke of a manufacturing town.

    Antwerp is a sea-port; and, I dare say there is a considerable amount of drunkenness down about the docks, among English sailors, "swag-bellied Hollanders," and other adventurous spirits, "who go down to the sea in ships;" but, during my stay in the city,—indeed, during the whole length of my journey, out and home, I did not see one instance of downright drunkenness; and, only one, in any way approaching to it,—which was a blue-bloused-workman, who halted for a few minutes on his way home, at the close of the day, with his working tools in a "bass," or wicker-bag, and sat down to rest upon one of the seats in the square, evidently jovial, but not at all helpless, "market-fresh," as we say in England.  This was the only sign of inebriety which I met with in all the course of our journey.  If we had lingered a little longer on the way, perhaps we should have met with a great deal more; but, I am sure that, during the same time, in England, we should have seen a hundred cases of drunken prostration,—especially in sea-port towns, like Liverpool, or Newcastle-on-Tyne.

    There is a great deal of English-looking activity on the streets of Antwerp, from morning to night; indeed,—apart from little peculiarities of dress,—the Belgians are not unlike the English in appearance; they are very fairly clad, and I scarcely saw any beggars amongst them.  They seem active, and happy, and, generally, well-employed; and they seem to live a good deal more in the open air than we do in England.  This gives them a hardier hue than is common in our manufacturing towns; though I doubt whether they are as well fed, and as well housed as the same class of people are with us.  I should have been glad to have seen how the poor folk of Belgium live, in their own houses; but the helter-skelter rate at which we went from place to place left no chance of that.

    The towns of England are not made attractive to the eye,—they lack breezy spaces, and relieving greenery, especially in the manufacturing districts, where the air is poisoned with sulphuric acid, and a general dinginess, a leaden gloom, and monotony of feature unconsciously depress the spirits,—especially in wet weather,—of which we get a large share.  I don't think the streets of Antwerp are as well paved and sewered as those of Manchester; but in Antwerp, the air, at least, is cheerfully bright; and the rain that falls is clean rain; and there is a great deal of sunny out-door life, which is very charming to the eye , although even this pleasant out-door life may be a little delusive in appearance, for it may represent poverty as well as pleasure; and it may indicate neglected homesteads amongst the working population.  So, also, the smoky gloom of an English manufacturing town is somewhat delusive to the eyes of those who dwell in brighter parts of the land; for, though we have low "slums," and foul air, and poverty, and vice, in their worst forms, I do not believe there is any working-class in the world so well fed and clad and housed as the working-classes of our manufacturing districts are.

    Our bedrooms at the hotel were on the top floor; and they had folding windows, which opened to the roof, in full view of the cathedral tower, which was not more than five hundred yards off.  That ancient playmate of the storms of centuries looked doubly beautiful by the chequered moonlight; for the full moon was up, and the fleecy sky was "dashed with wandering isles of light."  I threw open my window, for the night was hot and still, and there was not a breath of air stirring, as I lay listening to those beautiful old chimes, tinkling away the summer night in low mellow chants and carillons.  All else was still; and I sank into a dreamy sleep.

But amid my broken slumbers
Still I heard those magic numbers,
As they loud proclaimed the flight
And stolen marches of the night;
Till their chimes in sweet collision
Mingled with each wandering vision,
Mingled with the fortune-telling
Gipsy bands of dreams and fancies,
Which amid the waste expanses
Of the silent land of trances
Have their solitary dwelling.

    I had not slept many minutes before a startling knock came to my chamber door.

    "Who's there?"


    It was "Camomile."

    "What's to do?"

    "There's no swop i'th hole."

    I rose and lent him my soap; telling him to keep it till morning; and then tried to sleep again but just as I was beginning to doze, I was roused by another rap.

    "What now?"

    "I say!"


    "What's o' this ringin' about?"

    It was Sam this time.  He had been disturbed by the chimes.  I answered him rather strongly, telling him to get to bed and let me rest.  Sauntering back along the lobby, he grumbled as he went.

    "I never were so pelted wi' bell-music sin I're born!  Neet-time, too,――!  It's no use tryin' to sleep i' this hole!"

    I lay awake for some time after this; and hearing a low buzz outside, I opened the door quietly and peeped out.  There, upon the floor of the lobby, with their backs against the wall, sat "Camomile" and Sam, counting their money, and reckoning up they expenses, in low whispers.  Creeping back to bed, I sank at last into a sound sleep, which lasted till the dawn of day; when I was, once more, startled by a loud rap at the door.

    "Hallo! what's that?"

    "It's me!  Are yo o' reet?"

    "Ay; o' reet."

    "That'll do!  Co' o' me, if aught stirs!  I'm i'th next reawm but one, here; an' Joe's i'th next hoose to me.  Good neet!"

    After that I lay awake for an hour, watching the grey summer dawn; and

Listening with a wild delight,
To the chimes that, through the night,
Rang their changes from the belfry
Of that quaint old Flemish city.


[Next Page]


[Home] [Up] [Lancashire Songs] [Lancashire Life] [Lancashire Sketches I.] [Lancashire Sketches II.] [Rambles in the Lakes] [The Cotton Famine] [Poems and Songs I.] [Poems and Songs II.] [Besom Ben] [Tufts of Heather I.] [Tufts of Heather II.] [The Chimney Corner] [The Barrel Organ] [Sheet Music] [Sheet Music] [Sheet Music] [Miscellanea] [Main Index] [Site Search]

Correspondence should be sent to