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here on which we looked with reverence; and in one of the loveliest spots we came upon a monument erected by Mrs. Grote in memory of Mendelssohn, and enriched by an elegant inscription from her pen.
We were never weary of wandering among the Burnham Beeches ; sometimes taking Dropmore by the
way, where the taste of the late Lord Grenville created from a barren heath a perfect Eden of rare trees and matchless flowers. But even better than amid that sweet woodland scene did I love to ramble by the side of the Thames, as it bounded the beautiful grounds of Lord Orkney, or the magnificent demesne of Sir George Warrender, the verdant lawns of Cliefden.
That place also is full of memories. There it was that the famous Duke of Buckingham fought his no less famous duel with Lord Shrewsbury, whilst the fair countess, dressed rather than disguised, as a page, held the horse of her victorious paramour. We loved to gaze on that princely mansion, repeating to each other the marvellous lines in which our two matchless satirists have immortalised the Duke's follies, and doubting which portrait were the best. We may at least be sure that no third painter will excel them.* Alas! who reads Pope or
* And yet they have been almost equalled by a French artist : Count Anthony Hamilton in the Mémoires de Grammont.
Dryden now! I am afraid, very much afraid, that to many a fair young reader, these celebrated characters will be as good as manuscript. I will at all events try the experiment. Here they be:
“In the first rank of these did Zimri stand :
A man so various, that he seemed to be
Absalom and Achitophel.
Now for the little hunchback of Twickenham
“In the worst inn's worst room, with mat half hung,
The walls of plaster, and the floor of dung;
No wit to flatter left of all his store ;
POPE. Moral Essays
The charming walk at Lord Orkney's, which I was so kindly permitted to enjoy, and which I did enjoy 80 thoroughly, ran between the noble river shaded and overhung by trees, and the high steep chalky cliff, also clothed with trees to the very summit; trees of all kinds, the oak, the beech, the ash, the elm, the yew, the cypress, the pine, the juniper. The woodland path, no trimly kept walk, but a rude narrow cart-track, thridded its way amidst nooks so closely planted and branches so interlaced, that oftentimes the water only glanced upon us by glimpses through the foliage, just as in looking upward we caught a gleam of the blue sky. Sometimes again it was totally hidden, and we only felt the presence of the river by the refreshing coolness of the breeze, and the gentle rippling of the slow current; while, sometimes, a sudden opening would give to view some rude landing-place where the boats were laden with chalk; or a vista accidentally formed by the felling of some large tree would show us an old mill across the stream framed in by meeting branches like a picture.
The Taplow spring, with its pretty cottage for pic-nics, often proved the end of our evening walks.
I loved to see the gushing of that cool clear sparkling spring, plashing over the huge stones that seemed meant to restrain it, sporting in pools and eddies, and lost almost as soon as it wells from the earth amid the waters of the silver Thames.
Steep as it seems and is, the chalky cliff is not inaccessible. Here and there it recedes from the river, sometimes hollowed into deep caves, and then again it advances with a more gradual slope, so as to admit of zigzag walks practised to the summit. These walks, almost buried amongst the rich foliage, have a singular attraction in their steepness and their difficulty. Long branches of ivy trail from the cliff in every direction, mingled at this season with a gorgeous profusion of the clinging woodbine, the yellow St. John's wort, and the large purple flowers of the Canterbury bell. Our steps were literally impeded by these long garlands. Our feet were perpetually entangled in them. We crushed them as we passed.
The view from the Hermit's hut, on the height, is amongst those that can never be forgotten. We looked over the tops of the tall trees, down a sheer descent of I know not how many hundred feet, to a weir upon the Thames, foaming and brawling under our very eyes.
Just beyond was one of the loveliest reaches of the river, with Cookham bridge and the fine old church forming a picture in itself. Then came
a wide extent of field and
meadow, mansion and village, tower and spire, the rich woods of Berkshire interspersed amongst all, the noble river winding away into the distance, and the far-off hills mingling with the clouds, until we knew not which was earth, or which was sky.
Very pleasant was that sojourn by the Thames side. And amongst the pleasures that I most value, one of those which I brought home with me and trust never to lose, must be reckoned the becoming acquainted with Mr. Noel's “Rymes and Roundelayes," and forming, not an acquaintance, for we have never met, but a friendship with the author.
Mr. Noel resides in a beautiful place in that beautiful neighbourhood, leading the life of an accomplished but somewhat secluded country gentleman :-a most enviable life, and one well adapted to the observation of nature and to the production of poetry, but by no means so well calculated to make a volume of poems extensively known. Hence it is that the elegant and graphic description of Thames scenery which I subjoin, although it has been published nearly ten years, will probably have the charm of novelty to many of my readers.
A THAMES VOYAGE.
Gracefully, gracefully glides our bark
On the bosom of Father Thames,