« AnteriorContinuar »
in the Celtic Researches maintains? Of all the writers, Stukeley is the best. The heroic antiquary, charmed with the geometric perfections of his ruin, connects it with the oldest monuments and religion of the world, and with the courage of his tribe, does not stick to say, “the Deity who made the world by the scheme of Stonehenge.” He finds that the cursus * on Salisbury Plain stretches across the downs like a line of latitude upon the globe, and the meridian line of Stonehenge passes exactly through the middle of this cursus. But here is the high point of the theory: the Druids had the magnet; laid their courses by it; their cardinal points in Stonehenge, Ambresbury, and elsewhere, which vary a little from true east and west, followed the variations of the compass. The Druids were Phoenicians. The name of the magnet is lapis Heracleus, and Hercules was the god of the Phoenicians. Hercules, in the legend, drew his bow at the sun, and the sun-god gave him a golden cup, with which he sailed over the ocean. What was this, but a compass-box? This cup or little boat, in which the magnet was made to float on water and so show the north, was probably its first form, before it was suspended on a pin. But science was an arcanum, and, as Britain was a Phoenician secret, so they kept their compass a secret, and it was lost with the Tyrian commerce. The golden fleece again, of Jason, was the compass, – a bit of loadstone, easily supposed to be the only one in the world, and therefore naturally awakening the cupidity and ambition of the young heroes of a maritime nation to join in an expedition to obtain possession of this wise stone. Hence the fable that the ship Argo was loquacious and oracular. There is also some curious coincidence in the names. Apollodorus makes Magnes the son of AEolus, who married Nais. On hints like these, Stukeley builds again the grand colonnade into historic harmony, and computing backward by the known variations of the compass, bravely assigns the year 406 before Christ for the date of the temple. For the difficulty of handling and carrying stones of this size, the like is done in all cities, every day, with no other aid than horse-power. I chanced to see, a year ago, men at work on the substructure of a house in Bowdoin Square, in Bos. ton, swinging a block of granite of the size of the largest of the Stonehenge columns, with an ordinary derrick. The men were common masons, with paddies to help, nor did they think they were doing anything remarkable. I suppose there were as good men a thousand years ago. And we wonder how Stonehenge was built and forgotten. After spending half an hour on the spot, we set forth in our dog-cart over the downs for Wilton, Carlyle not suppressing some threats and evil omens on the proprietors, for keeping these broad plains a wretched sheep-walk when so many thousands of English men were hungry and wanted labor. But I heard afterwards that it is not an economy to cultivate this land, which only yields one crop on being broken up, and is then spoiled. We came to Wilton and to Wilton Hall,—the renowned seat of the Earls of Pembroke, a house known to Shakspeare and Massinger, the frequent home of Sir Philip Sidney, where he wrote the Arcadia; where he conversed with Lord Brooke, a man of deep thought, and a poet, who caused to be engraved on his tombstone, “Here lies Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, the friend of Sir Philip Sidney.” It is now the property of the Earl of Pembroke, and the residence of his brother, Sidney Herbert, Esq., and is esteemed a noble specimen of the English manor-hall. My friend had a letter from Mr. Herbert to his housekeeper, and the house was shown. The state drawing-room is a double cube, 30 feet high, by 30 feet wide, by 60 feet long; the adjoining room is a single cube, of 30 feet every way. Although these apartments and the long library were full of good family portraits, Vandykes and other; and though there were some good pictures, and a quadrangle cloister full of antique and modern statuary, to which Carlyle, catalogue in hand, did all too much justice, —yet the eye was still drawn to the windows, to a magnificent lawn, on which grew the finest cedars in England. I had not seen more charming grounds. We went out, and walked over the estate. We crossed a bridge built by Inigo Jones, over a stream of which the gardener did not know the name (Qu. Alph?); watched the deer ; climbed to the lonely sculptured summer-house, on a hill backed by a wood; came down into the Italian garden and into a French pavilion garnished with French busts; and so again to the house, where we found a table laid for us with bread, meats, peaches, grapes and wine. On leaving Wilton House, we took the coach for Salisbury. The Cathedral, which was finished six hundred years ago, has even a spruce and modern air, and its spire is the highest in England. I know not why, but I had been more struck with one of no fame, at Coventry, which rises three hundred feet from the ground, with the lightness of a mullein plant, and not at all implicated with the church. Salisbury is now esteemed the culmination of the Gothic art in England, as the buttresses are fully unmasked and honestly detailed from the sides of the pile. The interior of the Cathedral is obstructed by the organ in the middle, acting like a screen. I know not why in real architecture the hunger of the eye for length of line is so rarely gratified. The rule of art is that a colonnade is more beautiful the longer it is, and that ad infinitum. And the nave of a church is seldom so long that it need be divided by a screen.
* Connected with Stonehenge are an avenue and a cursus. The avenue is a narrow road of raised earth, extending 594 yards in a straight line from the grand entrance, then dividing into two branches, which lead, severally, to a row of barrows, and to the cursus, – an artificially formed flat tract of ground. This is half a mile northeast from Stonehenge, bounded by banks and ditches, 3036 yards long, by 110 broad.
We loitered in the church, outside the choir, whilst service was said. Whilst we listened to the organ, my friend remarked, The music is good, and yet not quite religious, but somewhat as if a monk were panting to some fine Queen of Heaven. Carlyle was unwilling, and we did not ask to have the choir shown us, but returned to our inn, after seeing another old church of the place. We passed in the train Clarendon Park, but could see little but the edge of a wood, though Carlyle had wished to pay closer attention to the birthplace of the Decrees of Clarendon. At Bishopstoke we stopped, and found Mr. H., who received us in his carriage, and took us to his house at Bishops Wak tham.