During this warm summer, and above all during this dry burning harvest weather, which makes my poor little roadside cottage (the cottage which for that reason among others I am about to leave) so insupportable from glare, and heat, and dust in the fine season, I have the frequent, almost daily habit of sallying forth into the charming green lane, the grassy, turfy, shady lane of which I have before made mention, and of which I share the use and the enjoyment with the gipsys. Last summer I was able to walk thither, but in the winter I was visited by rheumatism, and can not walk so far without much heat and fatigue; so my old poney-phaeton conveys me and my little maid, and my pet-dog Fanchon, and my little maid's needle-work of flounces and fineries, and my books and writing-case, as far as the road leads, and sometimes a little farther; and we proceed to a certain green hillock under down-hanging elms, close shut in between a bend in the lane on our own side, and an amphitheater of oak and ash and beech trees opposite; where we have partly found and partly scooped out for ourselves a turfy seat and turfy table redolent of wild-thyme and a thousand fairy-flowers, delicious in its coolness, its fragrance, and its repose.
Behind the thick hedge on the one hand stretch fresh water-meadows, where the clear brook wanders in strange meanders between clumps of alder-bushes and willow-pollards; fringed by the blue forget-me-not, the yellow loosestrife, the purple willow-herb, and the creamy tufts of the queen of the meadow; on the other hand we catch a glimpse over gates of large tracts of arable land, wheat, oat, clover, and bean fields, sloping upward to the sun; and hear, not too closely, the creaking wagon and the sharpening sythe, the whistle, the halloo, and the laugh, all that forms the pleasant sound of harvest labor. Just beyond the bend in the lane too, are two fires, belonging to two distinct encampments of gipsys; and the children, dogs, and donkeys of these wandering tribes are nearly the only living things that come into sight, exciting Fanchon now to pretty defiance, now to prettier fear.
This is my constant resort on summer afternoons; and there I have the habit of remaining engaged either with my book or with my pen until the decline of the sun gives token that we may gather up our several properties, and that aided by my staff I may take a turn or two in the smoothest part of the lane and proceed to meet the pony-chaise at a gate leading to the old Manor House which forms the usual termination of my walk.
Now this staff, one of the oldest friends I have in the world, is pretty nearly as well known as myself in our Berkshire village.
Sixty years ago it was a stick of quality, and belonged to a certain Duchess Dowager of Atholl, that Duchess of Atholl who was in her own right Baroness Strange and Lady of Mann, with whom we had some acquaintance because her youngest son married a first cousin of my father's and took the name of Aynslay as his wife had done before him, as a condition of inheriting an estate in Northumberland. I have a dim recollection of the Duchess, much such an one as Dr. Johnson had of Queen Anne, as "a stately lady in black silk." Well in her time the stick was a stick of distinction, but on her leaving her Berkshire house it was left behind and huddled by an auctioneer into a lot of old umbrellas, watering-pots, and flower-stands which my father bought for a song. I believe that he made the purchase chiefly for the sake of this stick, which he presented to my mother's faithful and favorite old housekeeper, Mrs. Mosse, who lived in our family sixty years, and was sufficiently lame to find such a support of great use and comfort in her short and unfrequent walks. During her time and for her sake, I first contracted a familiar and friendly acquaintanceship with this ancient piece of garniture. It was indeed a stick of some pretension, of the order commonly called a crook, such as may be seen upon a chimney-piece figuring in the hand of some trim shepherdess of Dresden china. What the wood might have been I cannot tell: light, straight, slender, strong it certainly was, polished and veined, and as I first remember it yellowish in color, although it became darker as it advanced in age. It was among the tallest of its order; nearly five feet high, and headed with a crook of ivory, bound to the wood by a broad silver rim, — as lady-like a stick as could be seen on a summer's day. The only one of the sort I ever met with had belonged to the great-grandmother of a friend of mine, and was handed down as a family relic; that crook, probably of the same age as ours, was more ornate and elaborate, it had a curious carved handle, not unlike the hilt of a sword, decorated with a leather tassel, so to say a stick-knot.
Well, poor Mossy died; and the stick, precious upon her account, became doubly so when my own dear mother took to using it during her latter days, and when she also followed her old servant to a happier world. And then every body knows how the merest trifles which have formed part of the daily life of the loved and lost, especially those things which they have touched, are cherished and cared for and put aside; how we dare not look upon them for very love; and how by some accident that nobody can explain they come to light in the course of time, and after a momentary increase of sadness help to familiarize and render pleasant the memory by which they are endeared. It is a natural and right process, like the springing of a flower upon a grave. So the stick re-appeared in the hall, and from some whim which I have never rightly understood myself, I, who had no more need of such a supporter than the youngest woman in the parish, who was indeed the best walker of my years for a dozen miles round, and piqued myself not a little upon so being, took a fancy to use this stick in my own proper person, and most pertinaciously carried this fancy into execution. Much was I laughed at for this crotchet, and I laughed too. Friends questioned, strangers stared; but impassive to stare or to question, I remained constant to my supporter. Except when I went to London (for I paid so much homage to public opinion as to avoid such a display there) I should as soon have thought of walking out without my bonnet as without my stick. That stick was my inseparable companion.
To be sure we met with a few misadventures in our companionship. Once I left my prop behind me in a marquee at a cricket match, and it had well-nigh been tossed away among the tent-poles; once it was stuck against a bush in a copse where I happened to be nutting and got well thrashed (according to the notable example of Sancho with the galley-slaves), in company with its brethren the hazel-reds; once it was lost in a fair (I am not sure that it was not cried upon that occasion); often forgotten in halls and vestibules; and once fairly stolen by a mischievous school-boy from a friend's portico.
This last calamity cost me a ten-mile walk, undertaken with an alacrity which proved how little I really needed my trusty supporter. Before I had discovered my loss — for that same prop of mine had passed many a summer night leaning against the pillars of that portico — before I had even dreamt of the mishap, the papa and mamma of the delinquent, chancing to have old-fashioned notions of good-breeding, sent a servant with a magnificent note, in the third person, setting forth in the choicest terms their regret and displeasure, deprecating my anger, and entreating me to fix the day and the hour on which they and the culprit might be permitted to wait upon me to renew their excuses in person. Such a note! In diction, in caligraphy, in folding, it would have done honor to "The Polite Letter-writer:" the paper stamped with an oak-wreath, and breathing of ottar of roses, and the seal as big as that bearing her Majesty's arms from a public office, were real works of art. I could as soon have answered such a letter, or have sat in state to receive the threatened apology, as I could have taken a journey in the air upon a broomstick. Greatly preferring the offense to the reparation, I had nothing for it but to forestall the visit, shake hands with the poor boy, who turned out a fine spirited lad, and try, by laughing over the matter with his parents, to bring about a general pacification; in which attempt, they being less formidable in person than on paper, I happily succeeded.
Manifold have been our escapes. One was from an adventure natural to the stick-genus — a battle.
Walking past a farm-house, by the side of a fair neighbor, with no other companions than our dogs; hers a beautiful King Charles, mine a no less beautiful and far rarer spaniel of the old brown cocking breed, Flush, the father of Fanchon; — our poor pets were set upon by a furious yard-dog, unluckily let loose, a tremendous mastiff, dangerous to man and beast. The King Charles fled to his mistress, who instantly caught him up. Flush stood his ground, and would, I verily believe, have been killed but for me and my weapon. We did battle valiantly, and contrived to stand our ground until in a space of time which seemed very long, and was, I suppose, very short, the din brought forth the farmer, who, in the midst of a storm of screaming, scolding, growling, and barking, choked off his brute, and left my friend and me, the danger being over, so frightened that we could hardly get home. Although she had naturally consulted the safety of her own pet first, she had done her duty womanfully, so far as screaming went. That was the first fight I ever was in in my life, and I hope it will be the last.
Another misfortune, so to say personal, which befell my staff, was the loss of its own head — the ivory crook, which came off in the act of pulling down a rich branch of woodbine from the top of a hedge. A deep muddy ditch received the poor crook, which sank instantly, and in spite of efforts many and various could never be recovered. The worst part of this mutilation was, as often happens to living patients, the cure. Being sent to a parasol-shop to have a new crook put on, the stupid people first docked many inches of its height, and then stuck on so clumsily a heavy bone umbrella-top, that it fell off in a few days of its own accord without any accident at all. And the poor stick might have remained forever headless, and "curtailed of his fair proportions," but that a friend of mine (one of those persons who knows how to do kind things in little as well as in great) happened to remember that she had an ebony top that would just fit it; and her husband, with equal kindness, completed the good action by fastening on the shining black knob so adroitly, that, although it has been now four or five years in wear, it remains as firm as the first day, looking only a little graver, and more fit for the poor old mistress, who having at first taken to a staff in sport, is now so lame as to be unable to walk without one.
And since the black head has supplanted the white one, another association has come to endear this friend of sixty years. A little boy, called Henry, the child of the house (son, by the way, to the hemmer of flounces) has, ever since he has been four years old, watched my ways, and ministered unbidden to my wants and fancies. Long before he could open the outer door, before, indeed, he was half the height of the wand in question, there he would stand, the stick in one hand, and if it were summer time a flower in the other, waiting for my going out, the pretty Saxon boy, with his upright figure, his golden hair, his eyes like two stars, and his bright, intelligent smile! We were so used to see him there, silent and graceful as a queen's page, that when he returned to school after the holydays, and somebody else presented the stick and the rose, I hardly cared to take them. It seemed as if something was wrong, I missed him so. Most punctual of petted children! What would Henry have said to-day?
I might have observed, if I had only seen what passed before my eyes, that something was amiss in our small household; that Sarah answered the bell, and that the hemmer of flounces, when she did appear, seemed flurried and fatigued. But I was thinking of Sir Philip Sydney, of the "Defense of Poetry," of the "Arcadia," and of my own resolution to proceed to the green lane, and to dissect that famous pastoral, and select from the mass, which even to myself I hardly confess to be ponderous, such passages as might suit an age that by no means partakes of my taste for folios. So I said to her, "That the afternoon being cool, and I less lame than usual, I thought we should not need Sam and the pony-chaise, but that I could manage by the help of my stick."
At that word out burst the terrible tidings. My stick, my poor old stick, my life-long friend, the faithful companion of so many walks, was missing, was gone, was lost! Last night, on our return from the lane, the place in the pony-chaise where Sam and I had carefully deposited it was found vacant. Sam himself, that model of careful drivers and faithful servants, had run back the moment he had unharnessed the pony, had retraced every step of the road, beating the ground like a pointer, questioning every body, offering rewards, visiting ale-houses and beer-houses (places that, without special cause, Sam never does visit), to make proclamation of the loss, and finishing all by getting up at four o'clock in the morning, and beating the beaten ground over again. She herself, who so seldom stirs without me, and so seldom lets me stir without her, that she may pass for my shadow, or (without offense be it spoken) for a sort of walking-stick herself, she had sallied forth, visiting lane and field, road and meadow, questioning reaper and gipsy, a sort of living hue and cry.
"And really, Ma'am," quoth she, "there is some comfort in the interest the people take in the stick! If it were any thing alive, the pony or Fanchon or little Henry, or we ourselves, they could not be more sorry. Master Brent, Ma'am, at the top of the street, he promises to speak to every body; so does William Wheeler, who goes everywhere; and Mrs. Bromley, at the shop; and the carrier and the postman. I dare say the whole parish knows it by this time! I have not been outside the gate to-day, but a dozen people have asked me if we had heard of our stick! It must turn up soon. If one had but the slightest notion where it was lost! I do declare, Ma'am," continued she, interrupting her lamentations, "that you don't seem to be so much troubled about the poor stick as I am!" And with all her regard for me, I think she was a little scandalized at my philosophy.
"Why you and Sam seem to have done all that can be done," replied I; "and perhaps if we go into the lane we may hear some tidings of my poor staff, for I shall be sorry to lose such an old friend!"
"Ah!" said she, "if one did but know where it dropped out of the chaise!"
And so we set forth, I with a new stick of Sam's purveying, a provisional stick, whose very roughness and imperfection proved that that faithful adherent by no means despaired of recovering my legitimate supporter.
My little damsel was not wrong in accusing me of being calmer than she thought quite becoming under so severe a calamity; but as her inquietude and nervousness proceeded mainly from the state of feverish and impatient expectation, the mixture of hope and fear, in which she had passed the last twenty hours, so the absence of suspense and expectation had much to do with my resignation. I had some suspicion as to the place in which the stick had dropped, and no great hope of finding it.
Day by day, as the sun went down, we had the habit of being taken up at the gate of the short avenue that leads to the old Manor House; an abrupt turn, where the soft turf of the wide lane ends, and the gravel road begins. This road, not much frequented, in general is full of the harvest population during this harvest month: groups of reapers, men and women, full-grown girl and half-grown hey, and little child — the little child who watches by the baby in the cradle while the mother reaps. On that side, too, they had just begun to carry the yellow sheaves which studded so richly the great open cornfields that bordered one edge of the winding road, as the grounds of the old mansion, with their tall elms and rustic paling, bordered the other. Just in front, crossing the road, and meandering after its own willful fashion, came the brook, traversed, at the choice of the wayfarer, by a low two-arched bridge, or by a wide shallow ford, just below.
Now this has been a summer of great drought hereabout, and we suffer much from summer drought in the cottage which we are about to leave, as places that feel most the winter damp very frequently do; the mud of one season baking into a brick-like clay at another; the ponds becoming dry under the same sunny influence, and the wells (for we have two) failing altogether just when they are most wanted. I think the thing of all others which has most reconciled me to quitting the poor old place — the old home with all its faults — is the contrast which the new cottage offers as to water. There we shall have a pump that is never dry; two springs to which the whole parish resorts; the men with yokes and pails, the women with pitchers, almost classical; two clear gushing springs, a pond and a river!
However, we have not yet moved, and this delicious wateriness to come has little profited us during this sultry August. The fourfooted part of our family has particularly felt, not the absolute want — for we fetch, and beg, and buy, and all but steal — but the limitation of that prime luxury of nature. So Sam always drives through the ford to cool the pony's feet, and commonly stops long enough in the middle to allow of his enjoying a good drink of the clear glittering pool; while Fanchon, who during the rainy season is as tender of wetting her pretty paws as a cat, has latterly condescended to walk out of the little carriage, in which it is her delight to sit perched, to walk tremblingly and gingerly — something as a fine lady steps out of a bathing-machine, but still to walk down the steps, and drop into the water — drinking in the same slow, mincing, half-reluctant manner, but still drinking, and then pausing upon the brink to be taken home. Yesterday evening, I remembered that instead of walking gingerly down the steps, stopping half a minute upon one, and a whole minute upon the other, according to her usual mode, poor Fanchon, doubtless in a paroxysm of thirst, had fairly jumped cut of the phaeton, giving to the whole vehicle such a jolt as her weight hardly seemed capable of producing. Then and there I suspected went the stick; carried off by the slow current, until it became entangled by the sedges on the banks, or sank in one of the deep pools not unfrequent in the stream. So I gave up my poor old friend as drowned beyond all hope of resuscitation, and tried to comfort my little damsel by setting her a very creditable example of resignation.
It was hardly possible to be quite unhappy in a scene of so much healthy stir and bustle as this usually quiet lane exhibited.
My friends the gipsys had no less than three camps with fires glimmering under the hedge, looking beautiful in the dark shadow, as fire always does, or sending up wreaths of curling smoke among the trees, a thin blue vapor more beautiful still. There they were in every picturesque form of work or idleness, making saucepans, weaving baskets, lying on the grass: three camps at small but not unfriendly distance, with one movable house, a gray horse, and two donkeys.
Then the wheat-carrying, threatened yesterday, was in full activity to-day; and wagons, some loaded, some empty, passed up and down the lane, escorted by stalwart carters and shouting boys. Reapers, too, were there in abundance passing to and fro, and troops of children leasing in the cleared fields, and following the wagons along the lane. Most of these good people had heard of our loss; and questioned my little damsel as to its recovery. Our friends the gipsys were particularly interested in the subject; and there was one black-haired urchin, the laziest of the tribe, a musical genius whom I had never seen before without a fiddle in his hands, but whom we now found, by way of variety, twanging a jewsharp, who intermitted his melody to affirm with so much assurance that he had passed his whole day in the search, that it was utterly impossible not to give him sixpence.
Well! we at last sat down on our old turf seats, not far from the entrance of a field where an accident had evidently taken place; a loaded wagon must have knocked against the gate, and spilt some of its topmost sheaves. The sheaves were taken away, but the place was strewed with relics of the upset, and a little harvest of the long yellow straw and the rich brown ears remained to tempt the gleaners; and as we were talking over this mischance, and our own, and I was detailing my reasons for believing that my poor stick had found a watery grave, we became aware of two little girls, who stole timidly and quietly up to the place, and began gladly and thankfully to pick up the scattered corn.
Poor little things, we knew them well! we had known their father, dead of consumption scarcely a month ago; and affecting it was to see these poor children, delicate girls of seven and five years old, already at work to help their widowed mother, and rejoicing over the discovery of these few ears of fallen wheat, as if it were the gold mines of California. A drove of pigs was looming in the distance; and my little damsel flung down her work, and sprang up at once to help the poor children. She has a taste for helping people, has my little maid, and puts her whole heart and soul into such kindnesses. It was worth something to see how she pounced upon every straggling straw, clearing away all round the outside, and leaving the space within for the little girls. She even hinted to me that my new stick would be an efficient weapon against the pigs; and I might have found myself engaged in another combat, but that the ground was cleared before the drove came near.
Pleasant it was to see her zealous activity, and the joy and surprise of the little creatures, who, weak, timid and lonely, had till then only collected about a dozen ears, when they found themselves loaded with more than they could carry. Their faded frocks, — not mourning frocks, to wear black every day for a father is too great a luxury for the poor, — their frocks were by her contrivance pinned up about them, filled with the golden wheat-ears, and the children went home happy. That home had once been full of comfort and of plenty, for John Kemp, a gentleman's servant, had married the daughter of a small farmer, and had set up a little trade as a baker and shopkeeper. Civil, honest, sober and industrious, the world went well with them for a while, and the shop prospered. But children came many and fast, their largest debtor died insolvent, a showy competitor set up next door, and long before John Kemp was attacked by the fatal malady of England which finally carried him off, poverty had knocked hard at his door. The long illness, the death, the funeral had still farther exhausted their small means, and now little was left, except that which is best of all, strong family affection, an unstained name, an humble reliance upon Providence, and those habits of virtuous industry and courage to take the world as it is, which seldom fail to win an honest living. The mother and the elder brother undertook the baking and the shop, the eldest daughter carried round the bread, the two next brothers were working in the fields, and the youngest of all we have seen in their efforts to contribute to the general support. Well! it is a hard trial, but it is a good education, an education that can hardly fail to come to good. Many a rich mother might be proud of the two gleaners that we have seen this afternoon. They so pleased and so thankful to carry their poor store to that poor borne, they carried thither better things than wheat.
In the meanwhile where, amid all this harvest work, is the "Arcadia?" Between asking questions and answering them, listening to condolences and thanking the condolers, talking to leasers and leasing ourselves, the afternoon has slipped away with little thought of the good knight, Sir Philip Sydney. The sun, which hardly showed his bright face until we reached the lane, is now setting in his glory, and we must wind our way to the avenue-gate, or we may chance to have a hue and cry sent forth about us as lost ourselves. So home we came.
About ten o'clock, after some riffling of the latch, a pattering of childish feet, and an eager consultation of childish voices, the front gate was tremblingly opened, and after a short pause another little sound of unassured footsteps, and another brief dialogue, a low knock was heard at the hall door; then the little feet advanced into the house, and the little tongues gained courage to tell their good news. Mary Kemp and her brother Tom had brought back the lost stick.
It appeared that the child had overheard my suspicion, that the missing wand had been dropped in the brook during Fanchon's immersion, and had confided the story to her brother Tom as soon as he returned from his labors in the harvest field. Tom, a bold urchin of ten years old, happened to be one of those boys who may be properly called amphibious; pools, puddles, ponds, seemed to be his natural element, and paddling in the brook his prime enjoyment. Before he left off his petticoats, he haunted the water-side, angling with a bit of string tied on a willow-rod, and a crooked pin for a hook, and, what is more wonderful, contriving to catch with that artificial contrivance such small fry, roach and dace and minnows, as the stream afforded. Tom knew every inch of the brook, and, charmed at the very sound, forgot his long day's work, and set forth on the search without even stopping to eat his supper. His little sister followed him to the meadows, and just where the winding rivulet takes a bold sweep round a woody cape of rich pasture, where the willows and the alders are mixed with tall bulrushes, thither the slow current had carried it, and there it stuck, caught between two stalks of the seeded meadow-sweet, and still farther entangled by the leaves of the water-lily, a part of whose long slimy stalk glistening in the moonlight remained twisted around the ebony knob, a token of its involuntary bath, its peril and its escape. I do not know whether the poor children, my little damsel or I were most rejoiced at the conclusion of the adventure.
But what room has it left for Sir Philip?
Alas! that bravest and most chivalrous of poets, that younger, gentler, more lettered Bayard, our knight, without fear and without reproach, is fated, in the person of his famous pastoral, at least to be "lightlied" (if I may borrow a word from a fine old ballad) by those most bound to do him honor. It can not be much less than fifty years ago that I heard the following terrible anecdote told quite innocently, without any perception of the reproach that it involved.
A governess at Wilton House, happening to read the "Arcadia," had discovered between two of the leaves folded in paper, as yellow from age as the printed pages between which it reposed, a lock of hair, and on the envelope, inclosing the lock, was written in Sir Philip Sydney's well-known autograph, an inscription purporting that the hair was that of her gracious Majesty Queen Elizabeth. None of the family had ever heard of the treasure. So this identical volume, not only dedicated to his beloved sister but entitled by himself, "The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia," had remained for two centuries in the library of her descendants, without any one of them ever taking the trouble to open the book! The governess only — no Sydney, no Herbert — had taste enough or curiosity enough to take down the prose poem. I have not the honor of knowing the present master of Wilton, but, judging by reputation, I do not think that such a neglect could happen now.
After all, the "Arcadia" is one of those books which may be best appreciated by specimens. This description of scenery, for instance:
"There were hills which garnished their proud heights with stately trees; humble valleys whose base estate seemed comforted with the refreshing of silver rivers; meadows enameled with all sorts of eye-pleasing flowers; thickets which being lined with most pleasant shade were witnessed so to by the cheerful disposition of many well-tuned birds; each pasture stored with sheep feeding with sober security; while the pretty lambs with bleating oratory, craved the dam's comfort; here a shepherd's boy piping as though he should never be old; there a young shepherdess knitting and withal singing, and it seemed that her voice comforted her hands to work, and her hands kept time to her voice-music."
The account of a stag-hunt is even more characteristic. It abounds in the faults as well as the beauties of the author.
"Then went they together abroad, the good Kalander entertaining them with pleasant discoursing — how well he loved the sport of hunting when he was a young man, how much in the comparison thereof he disdained all chamber delights, that the sun (how great a journey soever he had to make) could never prevent him with earliness, nor the moon, with her sober countenance, dissuade him from watching till midnight for the deer's feeding. O, said he, you will never live to my age without you keep yourself in breath with exercise and in heart with joyfulness; too much thinking doth consume the spirits; and oft it falls out, that, while one thinks too much of his doing, he leaves to do the effect of his thinking. Then spared he not to remember how much Arcadia was changed since his youth; activity and good-fellowship being nothing in the price it was then held in; but, according to the nature of the old-growing world, still worse and worse. Then would he tell them stories of such gallantry as he had known; and so with pleasant company beguiled the time's haste, and shortened the way's length, till they came to the side of the wood where the hounds were in couples staying their coming, but with a whining accent craving liberty; many of them in color and marks so resembling that it showed they were of one kind. The huntsmen, handsomely attired in their green liveries, as though they were children of summer, with staves in their hands, to beat the guiltless earth when the hounds were at fault; and with horns about their necks to sound an alarm upon a silly fugitive; the bounds were straight uncoupled, and ere long the stag thought it better to trust to the nimbleness of his feet, than to the slender fortification of his lodging; but even his feet betrayed him, for howsoever they went, they themselves uttered themselves to the scent of their enemies, who one taking it of another, and sometimes believing the wind's advertisements, sometimes the view of their faithful counselors, the huntsmen, with open months then denounced war, when the war was already begun. Their cry being composed of so well-sorted mouths, that any man would perceive therein some kind of proportion, but the skillful woodmen did find a music. Then delight and a variety of opinion drew the horsemen sundry ways, yet cheering their hounds with voice and horn, kept still as it were together. The wood seemed to conspire with them against his own citizens, dispersing their noise through all his quarters; and even the nymph Echo left to bewail the loss of Narcissus, and became a hunter. But the stag was in the end so hotly pursued, that leaving his flight, he was driven to make courage of despair; and so turning his head, made the hounds with change of speech to testify that he was at bay; as if from hot pursuit of their enemy they were suddenly come to a parley."
So far, Sir Philip. Here is another bit of pastoral scenery from the hand of that gentle brother of the angle, Master Izaak Walton, whose portrait of a country milkmaid may vie with "the shepherd's boy piping as though he should never grow old," of the "Arcadia." Piscator and his scholar, Venator, are returning to their inn, after a day's angling. Venator says:
Ven. A match, good master: let's go to that house, for the linen looks white, and smells of lavender. Let's be going, good master, for I am hungry again with fishing.
Pisc. Nay, stay a little, good scholar. I caught my last trout with a worm, now I will put on a minnow, and try a quarter of an hour about yonder tree for another, and so walk toward our lodging. Look you, scholar, thereabout we shall have a bite presently or not at all. Have with you, Sir! O, my word I have hold of him. Oh it is a great lubber-headed chubb; come, hang him upon that willow twig, and let us be going. But turn out of the way a little, good scholar, toward yonder high honeysuckle hedge; there we'll sit and sing, while this shower falls so gently upon the teeming earth, and gives yet a sweeter smell to the lovely flowers that adorn these verdant meadows.
Look, under that broad beech-tree, I sat down when I was last here a fishing, and the birds in the adjoining grove seemed to have a friendly contention with an echo, whose dead voice seemed to live in a hollow tree, near to the brow of that primrose hill: there I sat viewing the silver streams glide silently toward their center, the tempestuous sea, yet sometimes opposed by ragged roots and pebble-stones, which broke their waves, and turned them into foam: and sometimes I beguiled time by viewing the harmless lambs, some leaping securely in the cool shade, while others sported themselves in the cheerful sun, and saw others craving comfort from the swollen udders of their bleating dams. As I thus sat, these and other sights had so fully possessed my soul with content, that I thought, as the poet has happily expressed it:
I was for that time lifted above earth,
And possessed joys not promised at my birth.
As I left this place, and entered the next field, a second pleasure entertained me. It was a handsome milkmaid, that had not yet attained so much age and wisdom as to load her mind with any fears of many things that will never be, as too many men too often do; but she cast away all care, and sang like a nightingale: her voice was good, and the ditty fitted for it. It was that smooth song, which was made by Kit Marlowe, now at least fifty years ago; and the milkmaid's mother sung an answer to it, which was made by Sir Walter Raleigh in my younger days.
They were old-fashioned poetry, but choicely good, I think much better than the strong lines that are now in fashion in this critical age. Look yonder! On my word, yonder they both be a milking again. I will give her the chubb, and persuade them to sing those two songs to us.
God speed you, good woman! I have been a fishing, and am going to Bleak Hall to my bed, and having caught more fish than will sup myself and my friend, I will bestow this upon you and your daughter, for I use to sell none.
Milk-woman. Marry, God requite you, Sir, and we'll eat it cheerfully; and if you come this way a fishing two months hence, a grace of God I'll give you a syllabub of new verjuice in a new-made haycock for it; and my Maudlin shall sing you one of her best ballads, for she and I both love all anglers, they be such honest, civil, quiet men; in the mean time, will you drink a draught of red cow's milk? You shall have it freely!
Pisc. No, I thank you; but I pray you do us a courtesy that shall stand you and your daughter in nothing, and yet we will think ourselves still something in your debt. It is but to sing us a song that was sung by your daughter when I last passed over this meadow, eight or nine days since.
Milk-woman. What song was it, I pray? Was it "Come shepherds deck your herds?" or "As at noon Dulcina rested?" or "Phillida flouts me?" or " Chevy Chase?" or " Johnny Armstrong?" or "Troy Town?"
Pisc. No, it is none of those. It is a song that your daughter sang the first part and you sang the answer to it.
Milk-woman. O, I know it now. I learned the first part in my golden age, when I was about the age of my poor daughter; and the latter part, which indeed fits me best now, but two or three years ago, when the cares of the world began to take hold of me. But you shall, God willing, hear them both, and sung as well as we can, for we both love anglers. Come, Maudlin, sing the first part to the gentlemen with a merry heart, and I'll sing the second when you have done.
THE MILKMAID'S SONG.
Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, or hills, or field,
Or woods and steepy mountains yield.
Where we will sit upon the rocks
And see the shepherds feed our flocks
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.
And I will make thee beds of roses,
And then a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers and a kirtle
Embroidered o'er with leaves of myrtle.
A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we-pull,
Slippers lined choicely for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold.
A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs;
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my love.
Thy silver dishes for thy meat,
As precious as the gods do eat,
Shall on an ivory table be
Prepared each day for thee and me.
The shepherd-swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.
Ven. Trust me, master, it is a choice song, and sweetly sung by honest Maudlin. I now see it was not without cause our good Queen Elizabeth did so often wish herself a milkmaid all the month of May, because they are not troubled with fears and cares, but sing sweetly all the day and sleep securely all the night, and without doubt honest, innocent, pretty Maudlin does so. I'll bestow Sir Thomas Overbury's milkmaid's wish upon her, "That she may die in the spring, and being dead may have good store of flowers stuck round about her winding-sheet."
THE MILKMAID'S MOTHER'S ANSWER.
If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every shepherd's tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move
To live with thee and be thy love.
But time drives flocks from field to fold,
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold;
Then Philomel becometh dumb,
And age complains of care to come.
The flowers do fade and wanton fields
To wayward Winter reckoning yields;
A honey tongue, a heart of gall
Is fancy's Spring but sorrow's fall.
Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten,
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.
Thy belt of straw and ivy buds,
Thy coral clasps and amber studs,
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and he thy love.
What should we talk of dainties then,
Of better meat than's fit for men?
These are but vain; that's only good
Which God hath blest and sent for food.
But could youth last and love still breed,
Had joys no date, nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind might move
To live with thee and be thy love.
Mother. Well, I have done my song."
And a delicious song it is. Certainly it was not among the least of the many excellencies of Izaak Walton's charming book, that he helped to render popular so many pure and beautiful lyrics. Marlowe's poem, indeed, could never die, for it had been quoted by Shakspeare; but Sir Walter Raleigh's reply is still finer.
We wonder, in reading the milkwoman's list of songs and ballads, which looks like a table of contents to one of the hooks into which Bishop Percy divided his volumes, whether the country lasses of those days, southern lasses too, for the colloquy passes upon the banks of the Lea, did actually sing border war-songs like "Chevy Chase," or classical legends like "Troy Town." I fear me that their more lettered successors would select very inferior specimens of lyrical composition.
I must add one more extract, if only for the sake of "holy Mr. Herbert's" four stanzas.
"And now, scholar, my direction for fly-fishing is ended with this shower, for it has done raining and now look about you and see how pleasantly that meadow looks; nay, and the earth smells as sweetly too. Come, let me tell you what holy Mr. Herbert says of such days and flowers as these; and then we will thank God that we enjoy them, and walk to the river and sit down quietly and try to catch the other brace of trouts:
Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,
The bridal of the earth and sky;
Sweet dews shall weep thy fall to-night—
For thou must die.
Sweet rose, whose hue, angry and brave.
Bids the rash gazer wipe his eye;
Thy root is ever in the grave-
And thou must die.
Sweet spring, full of sweet days and roses,
A box where sweets compacted lie;
My music shows you have your closes—
And all must die.
Only a sweet and virtuous soul,
Like seasoned timber never gives;
But when the whole world turns to coal—
Then chiefly lives."
Besides "The Complete Angler," Izaak Walton has left us a volume containing four or five lives of eminent men quite as fine as that great Pastoral, although in a very different way. His life of Dr. Donne, the satirist and theologian, contains an account of a vision (the apparition of a beloved wife in England passing before the waking eyes of her husband in Paris) which both for the clearness of the narration and the undoubted authenticity of the event, is among the most interesting that is to be found in the long catalogue of supernatural visitations.