Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

it is saturated is the produce of the pool itself, these particular rivers may be indirectly said to originate there, thus achieving what by many has been considered a physical impossibility. De Luc observes, that Cranmere, means the place (sea, or lake) of cranes, and it is possible that at one time these birds resorted to it. Wild ducks now make it their haunt in the winter-season. In Provence there is a place of the same name, and nearly of the same description.' *

Of the rivers above-mentioned, that which is the most considerable gives its name to the moor; and there is, perhaps, no other stream in the island which, within the same distance, exhibits so extraordinary a variety of river-beauties, from the wild rocky torrent to the sweet woodland brook, the clear, broad, pastoral water, and lastly the deep-indented, rock-bound harbour, in which form it closes its career. The exquisite scenery of Holne Chase, and that romantic neighbourhood, belong to its earlier character; the deep woods and old baronial hall of Dartington to its second or middle course; while the downward sail from Totnes to Dartmouth Castle is, perhaps, unrivalled for the charms of its later and more familiar description.

The Teign, the Taw, the Tavy, and the Tamar, are next in importance, and the banks of them all are rich in scenes of loveliness and grandeur, and in haughty recollections. The streams of inferior rank it is not for us to enumerate; yet we cannot pass unnoticed the Ock, or Ockment, which glides by one of the most interesting of our monuments of old baronial power, the proud stronghold of the Redverses, the De Fortibuses, and the Courtenays-Okehampton Castle ; nor the Lid which, rolling amidst rocks, and bursting through caverns of the most gloomy and terrible grandeur, visits in its course the old Norman keep of another castle, the once dreaded resort of oppression and cruelty, measured out under the name of justice, by the Lords of the Stannaries—a jurisdiction which still continues to be administered, though stripped of its odious and tyrannical attributes, and transferred from the damp and cheerless dungeon of Lidford, to the far less formidable precincts of a comfortable inn-room at Tavistock.

The rivers and smaller streams of Dartmoor which are honoured with distinct appellations ; amount to fifty-three in number: the nameless brooks and rivulets cannot be counted ; and of bridges kept

* The passages above-marked as quotation, with some others which follow, have been selected from the very valuable notes appended to the poem, which might have furnished us with many more of equal or superior merit. They comprise, in the whole, a more faithful and graphical delineation of the moor, its principal features, and remarkable productions, than any account we have before met with ; and it is only to be regretted that, owing to the nature of the service which they were designed to perform, they are presented to the reader in so disjointed a shape. It is with sincere grief we add that, while this sheet is passing through the press, a report has reached us that their ingenious author (Mr. Burt) is no more.

un repair at the county expense, at least one hundred and twenty, all within a district only twenty miles long by ten wide, the computed extent of the forest and its purlieus.

Next to the rivers, or rather first in rank, as the peculiar characteristic of the district, the Tors, or insulated rocks of granite with which the surface of the Moor is thickly studded, claim attention

; but to specify these would be no more than drily to enumerate, unless we had space for the delineation of their individual features. Amidst these, however, Crockern Tor demands pre-eminence, on account of its being the ancient seat of the Stannary parliament, which was held by our rude forefathers on its suímit, without

any canopy but that of the heavens, and with the bare rock for the bench, the seats, and the tables; Brent Tor, on account of its remarkable church dedicated to St. Michael, and by tradition asserted to have been built as a votive offering for preservation from shipwreck; and Hey, or High Tor, for its picturesque grandeur, . consisting of a double peak, or two large but separate obelisks, with steps cut for ascending each, rearing themselves aloft to some height above the summit of a lofty ridge, and embracing a most sublime, yet diversified, view of heaths, woods, rocks, meadows, rivers, towns, villages, the sea off Teignmouth, and the coast as far as the cliffs of Dorset.'

We have confined ourselves to a brief and hasty survey of the Moor in its external features only, and must leave to other persons and seasons the disquisition, however interesting, respecting its claim to the appellation of 'forest,' of which, in its ordinary acceptation, scarcely a trace now remains, unless in the solitary relic' which our descriptive poet has characterised as

“The lonely wood of Wistman;' an assemblage of twisted roots and branches, * consisting of scrubbed decrepit trees, chiefly oaks, which by various causes have been reduced to uncouth misshapen dwarfs, none exceeding seven feet in height, but whose circumference is great in proportion. The granitic nature of the soil, if it can be so called, will not permit the stunted roots either to spread or to entwine; and, of those which administer to the nourishment of the trees, some are scarcely below the soil, and others, totally exposed on the dry surface of the rocks, depend alone on the rain and air. Their boughs and branches are tangled with moss, thorns, brambles, and other parasites, the seeds of which, being conveyed thither by birds, have found a strange but convenient nidus. A solitude, so cheerless and forbidding, is seldom visited, except by the hare and fox. In spring and summer a little green may betray itself in foliage ; but whoever has the melancholy satisfaction, at any time, of viewing it, must subscribe to the truth of Wordsworth's lines

• I look'd upon the scene both far and near;

More doleful place did never eye survey,
It seemed as if the spring-time came not here,
Or nature here was willing to decay.'

Still

Still less can we afford to dwell on the various and intricate speculations which have been grafted on the remains, whether of dubious or of undeniable British antiquity, with which the region is covered; on its Roman stations and roads; its Norman perambulations and boundaries ; its peculiar laws, customs, privileges, and tenures; or the catalogue of its feudal lords and vassals since the conquest: nor shall we allow space for a catalogue of its heaths, mosses, and lichens, of its numerous plants, or of its fossils and minerals. Our object has been to avail ourselves of the occasion afforded by a very pleasing and patriotically-spirited publication, to remind our touring readers, that it is not necessary to cross the Channel, or even the Tweed, for the gratification of the most laudable, the most enduring, or the most insatiable curiosity; and that there is food enough, in the circumference of ten miles by twenty, in the immediate neighbourhood of one of the most populous and frequented ports of this kingdom, for a long life of inquiry and investigation. We trust that, in this point of view, we may even have done some service, by the imperfect sketch which we have drawn from our recollection, aided by the very clever and sensible notes already so often referred to; but we must not forget the poet himself in the ardour of a pursuit into which his commentator has led us. The poem opens with the following apostrophe :

Lovely Devonia ! land of flowers and songs !
To thee the duteous lay. Thou hast a cloud
For ever in thy sky-a breeze, a shower,
For ever on thy meads;_yet where shall man,
Pursuing Spring around the globe, refresh
His eye with scenes more beauteous than adorn
Thy fields of matchless verdure ? Not the south,
The glowing south-with all its azure skies,
And aromatic groves, and fruits that melt
At the rapt touch, and deep-hued flowers that light
Their tints at zenith suns -has charms like thine,
Though fresh the gale that ruffles thy wild seas,
And wafts the frequent cloud. I own the power
Of local sympathy, that o'er the fair
Throws more divine allurement, and o'er all
The great more grandeur; and my kindling muse,
Fired by the universal passion, pours
Haply a partial lay. Forgive the strain
Enamour'd; for to man, in every clime,
The sweetest, dearest, noblest spot below,
Is that which gives him birth; and long it wears
A charm un ken, and its honour'd name,
Hallow'd by memory, is fondly breathed
With his last lingering sigh.'--pp. 3, 4.

It then proceeds, in lines no less harmonious, and to write such blank verse is, in these days, of itself no mean praise to render homage to some of the more peculiar features of that beautiful county, and afterwards, by an easy and natural transition, recurs to the poet's own condition that of a humble schoolmaster)

and his favourite topic—the rare and dear-bought enjoyment of

a summer holiday. But the short space we can afford for extracts shall be devoted to a few passages descriptive of the most striking scenes we have already noticed

• Dartmoor! thou wast to me, in childhood's hour,
A wild and wondrous region. Day by day,
Arose upon my youthful eye thy belt
Of hills, mysterious, shadowy, clasping all
The green and cheerful landscape sweetly spread
Around my home, and with a stern delight
I gazed on thee. How often on the speech
of the half-savage peasant have I hung,
To hear of rock-crown'd heights on which the cloud
For ever rests; and wilds stupendous, swept
By mightiest storms ;-of glen, and gorge, and cliff
Terrific, beetling o'er the stone-strew'd vale;
And giant masses, by the midnight flash
Struck from the mountain's giant brow, and hurl'd
Into the foaming torrent;-and of forms
That rose amid the desert, rudely shaped
By superstition's hands when time was young;
And of the dead--the warrior dead-who sleep

Beneath the hallow'd cairn.'.....
• I thought on thy wild world-to me a world-
Mysterious Dartmoor, dimly seen, and prized
For being distant.'. ...

In midnight and in shade,
Repose and storm-wide waste! I since have trod
Thy hill and dale magnificent. Again
I seek thy solitudes profound, in this
Thy hour of deep tranquillity, when rests
The sun-beam on thee, and thy desert seems
To sleep in the unwonted brightnesscalm
But stern :-for, though the spirit of the spring
Breathes on thee, to the charmer's whisper kind
Thou listenest not, nor ever puttest on
A robe of beauty, as the fields that bud
And blossom near thee. Yet I love to tread
Thy central wastes, when not a sound intrudes
Upon the ear, but rush of wing, or leap
Of the hoarse water-fall. And 0, 'tis sweet

.

TO

To list the music of thy torrent-streams;
For thou too hast thy minstrelsies for him
Who from their liberal mountain-urn delights
To trace thy waters, as from source to sea
They rush tumultuous. Yet for other fields
Thy bounty flows eternal. From thy sides
Devonia's rivers flow; a thousand brooks
Roll o'er thy rugged slopes. 'Tis but to cheer
Yon Austral meads unrivall’d, fair as aught
That bards have sung, or Fancy has conceived
'Mid all her rich imaginings. Whilst thou,
The source of half their beauty, wearest still
Through centuries, upon thy blasted brow,

The curse of barrenness.' We shall not follow the minstrel (whose, sentiments on this part of his subject are little in unison with the feelings which inspired him to sing) in either deprecating this curse, or anticipating the blessings which we would fain believe him too sanguine in expecting to flow from the spirit of equalising improvement. But we gladly turn from these thoughts to such scenes as follow :

• Nor waving crops, nor leaf, nor flowers adorn
Thy sides, deserted Crockern! Over thee
The winds have ever held dominion. Thou
Art still their heritage, and fierce they sweep
Thy solitary hill, what time the storm
Howls o'er the shrinking moor. The scowling gales
This moment slumber, and a dreary calm
Prevails—the calm of Death. The listless eye
Turns from thy utter loneliness. Yet Man,
In days long flown, upon the mount's high crest
Has braved the highland gale, and made the rocks
Re-echo with his voice. Not always thus
Has hover'd, Crockern, o'er thy leafless scalp
The silence and the solitude that now
Oppresses the crush'd spirit; for I stand
Where once the fathers of the forest held
(An iron race !) the Parliament that gave
The forest law. Ye legislators, nursed
In lap of modern luxury, revere
The venerable spot, where, simply clad,
And breathing mountain-breezes, sternly sat
The hardy mountain-council. O'er them bent
No other dome but that in which the cloud
Sails—the blue dome of Heav'n. The ivy hung
Its festoons round the Tor, and at the foot
Of that rude fabric-piled by nature-bloom’d
The heath-flower. Still the naked hill uprears,
Sublime, its granite pyramid, and while

The

« ПредишнаНапред »