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to the edge of a ravine on one side fringed with a low growth of alder, birch, and willow, on the other mossy, turfy, and bare, or only broken by bright tufts of blossomed broom. One or two old pollards almost conceal the winding road that leads across the bridge; and by the mill. How deserted the road is to-night! We have not seen a single acquaintance except poor blind Robert, laden with his sack of grass plucked from the hedges, and the little boy that leads him.
"Now we are at the entrance of the corn-field which leads to the dell, and which commands so fine a view of the Loddon, the mill, the great farm, with its picturesque outbuildings, and the range of woody hills beyond. It is impossible not to pause a moment at that gate, the landscape, always beautiful, is so suited to the season and the hour,—so bright and gay and spring-like.
"At the end of the field, which when seen from the road, seems terminated by a thick dark coppice, we come suddenly down the descent, by the side of which a spring as bright as crystal runs gurgling along. The dell itself is an irregular piece of broken ground, in some parts very deep, intersected by two or three high banks of equal irregularity, now abrupt and bare, and rock-like, now crowned with tufts of the feathery willow or magnificent old thorns. Everywhere the earth is covered by short, fine turf mixed with mosses, soft, beautiful, and various, and embossed with the speckled leaves and lilac flowers of the arum, the paler blossoms of the common orchis, the enamelled blue of the wild hyacinth, so splendid in the evening light, and large tufts of oxlips and cowslips rising like nosegays from the short turf.
"The ground on the other side of the dell is much lower than the field through which we came, so that it is mainly to the labyrinthine intricacy of these high banks that it owes its singular character of wildness and variety. Now we seemed hemmed in by those green cliffs, shut out from all the world, with nothing visible but those verdant mounds and the deep blue sky; now by some sudden turn we get a peep at an adjoining meadow, where the sheep are lying, dappling its sloping surface like the small clouds on the summer heaven. Poor, harmless, quiet creatures, how still they are! Some socially lying side by side; some grouped in threes and fours; some quite apart. Ah! there are lambs
amongst them! pretty, pretty lambs! nestled in by their mothers. Soft, quiet, sleepy things! Not all so quiet though! There is a party of those young lambs as wide awake as heart can desire; half-a-dozen of them playing together, frisking, dancing, leaping, butting, and crying in the young voice which is so pretty a diminutive of the fullgrown bleat. How beautiful they are with their innocent spotted faces, their mottled feet, their long curly tails, and their light flexible forms frolicking like so many kittens; but with a gentleness, an assurance of sweetness and innocence which no kitten, nothing that ever is to be a cat can have. How complete and perfect is their enjoyment of existence! Ah! little rogues, your play has been too noisy; you have awakened your mammas, and two or three of the old ewes are getting up, and one of them marching gravely to the troop of lambs has selected her own, given it a gentle butt and trotted off; the poor rebuked lamb following meekly, but every now and then stopping and casting a longing look at its playmates; who after a moment's awed pause, had resumed their gambols; whilst the stately dam every now and then looked back in her turn to see that her young one was following. At last she lay down and the lamb by her side. I never saw so pretty a pastoral before.
"I have seen one, however, which affected me much more. Walking in the church lane with one of the young ladies of the vicarage, we met a large flock of sheep, with the usual retinue of shepherds and dogs. Lingering after them and almost out of sight, we encountered a straggling ewe, now trotting along, now walking, and every now and then stopping to look back, and bleating. A little behind her came a lame lamb, bleating occasionally, as if in answer to its dam, and doing its very best to keep up with her. It was a lameness of both the fore-feet, the knees were bent, and it seemed to walk on the very edge of the hoof—on tip-toe, if I may venture such an expression. My young friend thought that the lameness proceeded from original malformation; I am rather of opinion that it was accidental, and that the poor creature was wretchedly footsore. However that might be, the pain and difficulty with which it took every step were not to be mistaken; and the distress and fondness of the mother, her perplexity as the flock passed gradually out of sight, the effort with which the poor lamb contrived to keep up a sort of trot, and their mutual calls and lamentations were really so affecting, that my companion and myself, although not at all larmoyante sort of people, had much ado not to cry. We could not find a boy to carry the lamb, which was too big for us to manage;—but I was quite sure that the ewe would not desert it, and as the dark was coming on, we both trusted that the shepherds on folding their flock would miss them and return for them, and so, I am happy to say, it proved."
Little lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee 1
Little lamb, who made thee 1
Dost thou know who made thee?
Little lamb, I'll tell thee;
Little lamb, I'll tell thee.
Little lamb, God bless thee,
Little lamb, God bless thee!
William Blake, The Painter
"May the 3rd. Cold, bright weather; all within doors sunny and chilly; all without, windy and dusty. It is quite tantalising to see that brilliant sun careering through so beautiful a sky, and to feel little more warmth from his presence than one does from that of his fair but cold sister, the moon. Even the sky, beautiful as it is, has the look of that which one sometimes sees on a very bright, moonlight night—deeply, intensely blue, with white, fleecy clouds
driven vigorously along by a strong breeze—now veiling, and now exposing the dazzling luminary around whom they sail. A beautiful sky! and in spite of its coldness a beautiful world! The effect of this backward spring has been to arrest the early flowers, to which heat is the great enemy; whilst the leaves and the later flowers, have, nevertheless, ventured to peep out slowly and cautiously in sunny places, exhibiting, in the copses and hedge-rows, a pleasant mixture of March and May. And we, poor chilly mortals, must follow, as nearly as we can, the wise example of the May blossoms, by avoiding bleak paths and open commons; following the pleasant sheltered road, where the western sun steals in between two rows of bright green elms, and the east wind is fenced off by a range of woody hills. Well, we will pursue our walk. How beautiful a mixture of flowers and leaves is in the high bank under this north hedge— quite an illustration of the blended seasons of which we spoke.
"An old irregular hedge-row is always beautiful, especially in the spring time, when the grass, and mosses, and flowering weeds mingle best with the bushes and creeping plants that overhang them. But this bank is, most especially, various and lovely. Shall we try to analyse it? First, the clinging white-veined ivy, which crawls up the slope in every direction, the masterpiece of that rich mosaic; then the brown leaves and the lilac blossoms of its fragrant namesake, the ground-ivy, which grows here so profusely; then the late, lingering primrose; then the delicate wood-sorrel; then the regular pink stars of the cranesbill, with its beautiful leaves; the golden oxlip and the cowslip "cinquespotted;" then the blue pansy, and the enamelled wild hyacinth; then the bright foliage of the briar-rose, which comes trailing its green wreaths among the flowers; then the bramble and the woodbine, creeping round the foot of a pollard oak, with its brown faded leaves; then the verdant moss—the blackthorn, with its lingering blossoms—the hawthorn, with its swelling buds—the bushy maple—the long stems of the hazel—and between them, hanging like a golden plume over the bank, a splendid tuft of the blossomed broom; then, towering high above all, the tall and leafy elms. And this is but a faint picture of this hedge, on the meadow side of which sheep are bleating, and where, every here and there, a young lamb is thrusting its pretty head, between the trees."
Let us now give another picture from the same accomplished writer.
"May 16th.—There are moments in life when, without any visible or immediate cause, the spirits sink and fail, as it were, under the mere pressure of existence; moments of unaccountable depression, when one is weary of one's very thoughts, taunted by images that will not depart—images many and various, but all painful; friends lost or changed, or dead; hopes disappointed even in their accomplishment; fruitless regrets, powerless wishes, doubt and fear, and selfdistrust and self-disapprobation. They who have known these feelings—and who is there so happy as not to have known some of them ?—will understand why Alfieri became powerless and Froissart dull; and why even needlework, that most effectual sedative, that grand soother and composer of woman's distress, fails to comfort one to-day. I will go out into the air this cool, pleasant afternoon, and try what that will do. I fancy that exercise, or exertion oi any kind, is the true specific for nervousness. 'Fling but a stone, the giant dies.' I will go to the meadows, the beautiful meadows.
"* * * These meadows consist of a double row of small enclosures of rich grass land, a mile or two in length, sloping down from high arable grounds on either side, to a little nameless brook that winds between them, with a course which, in its infinite variety, clearness, and rapidity, seems to emulate the bold rivers of the north, of whom, far more than of our lazy southern streams, our rivulet presents a miniature likeness. Never was water more exquisitely tricksy;—now darting over the bright pebbles, sparkling and flashing in the light with a bubbling music, as sweet and wild as the song of the woodlark; now stretching quietly along, now giving back the rich tufts of the golden marsh-marigolds which grow on its margin; now sweeping round a fine reach of green grass, rising steeply into a high mound—a mimic promontory, whilst the other side sinks softly away, like some tiny bay, and the water flows between, so clear, so wide, so shallow, that a child might cross it