Abbildungen der Seite

this year.

[ocr errors]

If noise is with them round far above us; while the an expression of pleasure, they are tree-pipit, not willing to be out of certainly rejoicing over their early it all, rises from his twig, mounts meal. The heave-jars left their up, and comes to it again, singing chafer-hunting just when we first merrily as he floats down. In entered the meadows to fish: they between—for there is not a break are now resting somewhere on the —you hear the notes of other limbs or branches of the fine oaks songsters,—the bright little song around us—not as other birds rest, of the chaffinch, also the scolding but lengthways, in a line with the of white-throats, and the soft little limb or branch the birds squat on, songs of the willow wrens; whilst so as to be invisible from below ever and anon the greenfinches and quite secure from harm above call “ breeze—breeze." it. The last late owl has gone This favoured bit of woodland home to the farm at the foot of river is one of those bird paradises the hill. I call him late, for the that can be found close to home. sun is high up now, and it will And what can be more beautiful be very hot before long. Where than these meads, meadows, and these grand vermin - hunters are fine park-lands dotted over with protected, they show great confi- noble trees? The valley of Holmesdence, coming out to hunt directly dale is before us, and the hills are the sun is down a little, and con- above and around us. A man I tinuing to do so until the farm once knew said to me, “I have hands take their horses out to been in

many lands, but


have work in the morning. The mouse- shown me one of the fairest sights hunters, the white or barn owls, I have ever seen.” Yet it is only come out earlier and hunt later one out of thousands to be found than do the wood or brown owls. at any time in fair weather or These fine birds are, happily, now foul, in summer or in winter, quite valued here as much as they were accessible too, round and about at one time detested. The grim our Surrey hills. superstitions that have for As we stand thinking, all the turies clung to them, like their life-giving odours from trees and own feathers, have at last fallen plants come to us and then leave from them, thanks to the plead- us for a time, as the light air left ings of many a naturalist.

them. Swallows dash under the Bird - music sounds above and arches of the grey bridge, and the around us, for this has not been a sand-martins flit like butterflies forward season; the weather has from their holes in the banks : all for the time of year been damp is full of joyous life. Even the and chill. Now that there is voices of the rooks are in harevery appearance of fine settled mony: they fall in like the chantweather, the feathered songsters ing of black friars. The whole seem to know it, and the river- rroundings, if we set on one side side rings with the songs of black- the unrivalled beauty of the scenbirds, thrushes, and blackcaps. ery, are full of interest, for they The chatter of the sedge-warblers have historical records of their comes in between. The music floats up and down and over the Religious establishments once water, like the films of mist that flourished near the Mole, with yet rise from it; larks ring out these monks and friars; and the their glad notes as they circle great of this world, as well as





many a poor pilgrim, have walked and tench are very different from by the roads and paths that led muddy pond fish of the same by devious ways over the hills species. But it is no use coming and under the hills, through woods here now to tempt those carp, 5 and over heaths, at last to the and 7 lb. in weight, with a small ford of the Pilgrims' Way, on fresh-dug new potato, or an amberright away into Kent.

heart cherry fresh from the tree, Even the mills have records of the hook being inserted in it while their own.

Some of the millers the cherry was held by its stem, will certainly not be forgotten yet so that the fingers did not come awhile. I can recollect so many in contact with the fruit. When that have gone before, that it all was ready the stem makes me feel very old. Good pulled out and the bait dropped men and true were some of these in. If our old gardener friend, old millers, but fiercely conserva- whose most bitter foes were hawtive and cantankerous on all that finches, because they ground up pertained to fish,—the pike, perch, his marrer-fats, could provide us carp, bream, roach, dace, and trout, with a pod of his most "pertickto say nothing about the fine sil- lers," as he called them, it would ver eels that the river was and is be no use now. Yet a fine green still noted for. Eels of 3, 4, and pea, or for that matter a couple, 6 lb. weight I have known to be is a deadly lure for a large carp. taken from the weir and the trap If you wish to catch fish you must of the mill below. If you had know how they feed. The carp work to do at the mill-houses you family feed heads down and tails were hospitably treated; but if up as a rule: they pick the bait off the miller or his men knew you the bottom and rise with it. As had a fishing-line in your pocket, they are to a great extent vegetable woe betide you ! The fish were feeders, and have throat teeth, all for the miller or for his landlord's our fishing readers will understand sport, if he wanted a day's fish- my meaning here. ing, but for no one else. Some Now for the reason why it is of them at that time were called of no use fishing, at the present

of their inches,” which time, in the stretch of water above meant that in the settlement of mentioned. Otters, those highly a matter they did not require sagacious beasts, are there in any one to help them; they did numbers. not appeal to the law. As they The bleak have left off rising would not always give permission for the midges that fall in small to fish when asked to do so, some clouds on the water; the shadows —that is, two or three that, like of the trees are dark and dim, a their “betters,” were also men of dull tawny hue is all that the settheir inches—fished fairly at times ting sun has left behind it, and the without it.

river mist is curling over it. The weir is left behind, and we Hark! what is that mysterious have made our way to the mill- sound ? — something like a deep pool where the river above makes whistle mixed with hissing. It is its way over and through the answered more faintly higher up. sluices into the pool below. Tench It is the otters' dinner call; they and fine carp once had their home are answering each other as they here with other fish; and we can come down the river—not a couple assure our readers that river carp but three or four of them. Small




on it.

heaps of large seals and bits of fish keep their mouths shut. It is too bones have been found for a long great a treat to see a fine dog otter time now by those who know come whistling down the river, where to look. Until they must head up,



his favourite shift, the otters have their own tunnel out on the grass, and pass way here, and they have had the in front of you down into the large fish on their spawning-beds pool; and this is what they have and in their submerged root sanctu- done and are doing still, for their aries; and eels are now scarce. tracks are as visible as those of Who can wonder at it! Recently sheep to people that understand the otters have drawn as close to them. man and his works as rats. Lead- I used to think that it was not ing from the bridge that spans the possible that the otters would tumbling bay of the pool, rushing make themselves at home like floods have washed the path away. barn-rats, but I have found lately This, some time back, was remedied that I was mistaken: one is always by fixing railway-sleepers, in the learning, where wild life is conmost solid manner, so as to form cerned. a platform from the pool bridge From the nature of the locality to the fields beyond. One moon- and the depth of this water, the light night, a wanderer crossing fiercest and most eager pack of from the fields saw what he at otter-hounds could not hunt them; first sight took to be three of the this the otters know, and they act mill cats at play, cutting high

When their old haunts jinks : directly he reached the came to grief by the great trees platform, he saw at once they falling, and taking down the banks were otters. All this close to the with them, they shifted their quarmill-house, and where people are ters, and there they have increased, passing day and night! Even the and still flourish. A change of miller laughed and was incredulous habitat does good at times to when he was told that they were beasts as well as men. In the close to him. But he does not case of the otters it has been to smile now, for not only have they their advantage, but how long this cleared off all the large fish, but may continue one is not able to they have had the moor-hens and say. Wild creatures are capricious rabbits as well, to say nothing at times in their movements. about the water-voles. It used to If they get at the fowls and be said that this water smelt of ducks, something will be said and fish; the scent has now left it, for something done for their thinning a time at any rate.

off. I know where they come from, How far the otters wander in and where they go : their roads the dead of winter their trails overland are only a few feet from and seals plainly show. They are the river above to the pool below; watched for, but the watchers have to this they most pertinaciously been a little before or a little after cling. Some of our readers may the time : so much the better for wonder how it is that they are not

The otters belong killed off. Those who have tried to that very astute family that to do this, either with gun or trap, includes the weasels; and these, have met with but little success; we know, we never catch sleepfor they do not know how to go ing. about it, and those who do know

our friends.




can be

THAT there should exist any work his way before the mast than close connection between Poetry read them through; they will be

; and Geography, and any close reci- eaten by rats and mice before they procity between poets and geogra- are read through. There phers, may appear somewhat para- little entertainment in such books; doxical, especially in the ears of one set of savages is like another.” those who have limited Geography And, on another occasion, when to a very narrow sphere, and have poor Boswell told him that he had been generally accustomed to re- been in conversation with Captain gard it as the most dismal of all Cook, and had caught the enthudismal studies. How, indeed, may siasm of curiosity and adventure they exclaim, can the austere to such a degree that he felt a race of cosmographers sit comfort- strong inclination to go with him, ably by the side of the genus Johnson exclaimed, “Why, sir, a irritabile vatum? Can they in- man does feel so, till he considers spire them with any new enthu- how very little he can learn from siasm, or add a single bay-leaf to such voyages." the crown that encinctures their Still, it may be maintained with foreheads? What advantageth it a great show of justice that Geoa man if he has cultivated a close graphy has long served the puracquaintance with the equator ? poses of a handmaid to the Ars If he has followed the longitudes Poetica. Four hundred years ago

. southwards or northwards? If he Columbus, the great pilot-major of has been near the magnetic pole ? the western world, the dreamer, If he has set foot in Timbuctoo ? the enthusiast, tore aside the veil Or, indeed, if he has seen the hid- of ages, and stood in the full light den sources of the Nile itself? Is of an astonished word as the hierit possible for a man to be a better arch of the new science of Geopoet because he is a geographer, graphy. If there ever was a poetor is it even worth while for a geographer it was the great Colliterary man to read much about umbus. Even before his day, travellers' tales and the mysteries when Prince Henry of Portugal of Geography? A great deal of the had established a naval college low esteem in which Geography has and erected an observatory at been held in England, a country Sagres, the immediate result of which has produced more sailors, which was to lead the Portuguese travellers, and explorers than any sailors far south to the Cape of other nation in Europe, must be Storms, the renaissance of Geoattributed to ideas of our literary graphy had begun. Slowly, step men on the subject. Amongst by step, the great school of obscurothers, no man openly expressed a antists, classicists, Dominican friars, more cynical disdain of travel and and the Orders who monopolised all travellers than the great Dr John- learning, were compelled to give

“These books,” quoth he, way to the new light. Plato's "pointing to three large volumes Atlantis was sighted, the mythical of voyages to the South Sea which Antilia sprang into literal and were just come out, who will read magnificent realisation, the New them through? A man had better World rose into being with the



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

freshness and innocence of Eden laborious unfolding of God's great upon it, and Geography, before the world. Wonder has ceased, science lust of gold bewildered and de- has stepped in. Instead of the graded men's thoughts, came to be ancient mariner's primitive "card,” almost an επιστήμη αρχιτεκτονική, we have a few instruments, a and the study of princes. The table of logarithms, Admiralty "card" of the adventurous mariner, soundings, and a nautical guide : pricking his way from point to all else seems superfluous. We point in doubt and gloom, through have tracked Ariel to his lair, we storm and tempest, to some hither- have weighed the ocean, sounded to unknown region in the far west, its mighty depths, analysed its possessed a magic charm for even ooze, learned its currents, surthe most unimpressionable savans veyed its coasts to the remotest of the day; whilst the bronzed hero bays. The only myth we of adventure himself, who, like the furbish up is that of the great crew in Coleridge's “ Ancient Mar- sea-serpent; and those men who iner,” had burst for the first time occupy their business in great into some “Silent Sea,” was the waters have little wonder and cynosure of all ages, and held his small admiration. The legend of audience spell-bound with the tale the impious Dutchman is but an of his travels. Not unfrequently, allegory. Those picturesque charts like our own Sir Francis Drake, of continents, traced and illuminhe was the honoured friend of ated with wondrous empires, monroyalty.

strous animals, fabled cities, like Geography, in these days, was that which Salvation Yeo, . in no grinning skeleton of facts, no Westward Ho,' is represented as

• hard matter of aggregated science, showing to a wondering Devon no worn out, plagiarised, and much crowd, has given place to Mertravestied deity; but she sat, beau- cator's Projection, on an accurate tiful muse, clothed in magical and and most scientific scale. Geodiaphanous vesture, half-revealed, graphy is, therefore, construed by radiant, full of beauty and colour, some to be simply a collection of halting at the pearly gates of En- dead bones in a valley of death. terprise, and beckoning men on, There is no rhythm in a logarithm, westwards and eastwards, to the no music of the spheres in even shores of Far Cathay and rich the most perfect spherical proEl Dorados. IIand-in-hand with jection. Whether this is such as her sat Urania, the meek muse of it ought to be—whether it is right Astronomy, who had led men to to strip that once radiant divinity the stars, and, by reading the of all her flesh, colour, and raistars, had taught them to read ment, and assign her no shrine the face of the habitable globe, and worthy of habitation—is another know Geography herself.

question. Great Pan is dead ! is At the present time we pay the cry we utter over past pagantoo little attention to the muse, ism ; yet as a source of inspiraand forget that there was any tion, and an ever-fertile subjectromanticism in the progress of matter for poets and sculptors, the science. She seems to have Great Pan and the classic myths perished with her own triumphs. have an enduring life, as, indeed, We are content to say that there the late Poet Laureate has demonhas been a mythopæic age in the strated to us abundantly. May history of Geography, and in the not Geography, therefore, simply

« ZurückWeiter »