(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "My Devon year"

LIBRARY 

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 
RIVERSIDE 



MY DEVON YEAR 



MY DEVON YEAR 



EDEN PHILLPOTTS 



"l AM IN HARMONY WITH ALL THAT IS A FART OF THY HARMONY, GREAT 
UNIVERSE. FOR ME NOTHING IS EARLY AND NOTHING LATE THAT IS SEASONABLE 
TO THEE. ALL ARE FRUITS FOR MB THAT THY SEASONS BRING, O NATURE! SINCE 
FROM THEE, IN THEE, AND UNTO THEE ARE ALL THINGS" MARCUS AuRELIUS 

"I TU*T IN THB UNBORN, NOT IN THE DEAD , ITH MASTER . Bu ,i.DER " 



LONDON: ROBERT SCOTT 

ROXBURGHE HOUSE 

PATERNOSTER ROW, E.C. 

1916 

All rights rtstrwd 



CONTENTS 



PACK 

THE SECRET OF THE DAY . ... I 

WINTER BOUGHS . v . . . IO 

THE WHiTE LIGHT . . . . . l6 

"THE OLD PATHS" * , . . . 21 

LORDS AND LADIES . ' . . . .27 

THE SCYTHE-BEARER . . . . . 31 

GREEN FLOWERS . . ... 36 

"KING o' BUDS" . . . ,, . 42 

GRANITE AND SORREL . . ... 46 

BUD-BREAK . . . 53 

MARBLE CLIFFS . . . ... $8 

GATES OF THE MORNING . . . . 63 

WHERE HERRICK LIES . . ... 69 

OKEMENT . . . ... 75 

HARMONY IN BLUE . . ... 79 

PROMISE . . . ... 83 

THE OLD CANAL . . ... 90 

A WHITE ROCK-ROSE . . ... 97 

YOUNG TAMAR . . . . . . IO2 

X'THE LAKE BY THE SEA . . . 106 

THE LAP OF PROSERPINE (l) . . . .113 

THE LAP OF PROSERPINE (2) . . . . 126 

SAND-DUNES . . . . . . 139 

THE HOME OF THE WEST WIND . . .V 145 

DART . . . . ... 152 



vi CONTENTS 

FAOK 

HARVEST . . . t 158 

"THE OLD MEN" . . . . 161 

EVENING LIGHT . . . . . 167 

A SUMMER-CLAD HEATH . . . . . 172 

THE COMBES . ,.,.; , ( . . 178 

WISTMAN'S WOOD V *** .184 

SWAN SONG . . . ... IQO 

PEAT . . ... 196 

POMORUM PATRONA . . ''''' . . 2OI 

HARMONY IN GOLD . . , . . 207 

HARMONY IN SILVER . . ' . r ' . 213 

THE CROWN ON THE HILL . . . .217 

THE MASTER-BUILDER . . ... 322 




MY DEVON YEAR 



THE SECRET OF THE DAY 

MONG the pomps and pageants of the 
seasons, revealed by nearly every sun that 
rises, painted upon the clouds, mirrored in 
the waters, and wrought into the fabric of 
the earth, shall be found a reflection or image of 
human emotions : the Secret of the Day, to be won 
from harmonies or discords of natural things. And a 
pilgrimage to seek this affinity is among the deepest 
joys your country dweller knows. On such high 
days a man may wander forth into the aisles of the 
eternal temple and strive to win that message proper 
to the time. From glare of unshadowed noons it can 
take shape, or from the twilight hour ; from dayspring 
on the heather and granite, or from still moments 
ruled by the moon ; from busy hamlets and orchard 
lands, or the murmuring of bees in remote moors; 
from the whisper of rains and rivers ; from the songs 
of birds, or the silences of ancient forests and unfretted 
wastes. 



2 MY DEVON YEAR 

Many a morning brings with it some echo of 
human emotion so obvious that the analogy strikes 
instant, almost unconscious, acknowledgment from all, 
and mankind sighs before a leaden dawn, or lifts his 
heart with gladness to a sunrise of promise ; but more 
often the diurnal progress is intermixed with subtler 
manifestations, and the brooding guardian-spirit of 
each day must be sought for with a measure of rever- 
ence and care. Then if your mind is open to such 
forces, if the key of your heart is surrendered to 
natural influences, like a dream the secret of the 
day shall grow upon you, and there shall develop a 
sort of inner certainty spun of the sky and the things 
under the sky. Be the day all blue ; be the day all 
gold ; be the day sad and sobbing a theatre of mad 
winds, that shake the roof- tree and smite things 
animate and inanimate to destruction yet secrets it 
surely holds ; and the brain of man shall win them, 
shall weave a definite subjective inspiration from the 
objective revelation of the hour. Thus Nature crowns 
suit and service at her courts, sometimes with a sort 
of lyric joy that lifts the heart upon its ebb and flow 
before her glories, sometimes with full measure of 
grief at her failure, and not seldom with gravity when 
we behold the eternal destruction of her unfit. 

I doubt if there exists a passion or shade of passion, 
a prompting, a repulsion, or a great desire common to 
man, that some day shall not seem to mirror, though 
the closeness or subtlety of the likeness must depend 
upon the mind that seeks and finds it. Such light 



THE SECRET OF THE DAY 3 

flashes like a diamond to one all purple, to another 
red as dawn, to a third the nameless colour of the 
deep sea, to a rare spirit, here and there, the compo- 
site ray of truth itself. 

And thus you shall find, set largely forth through 
the annual circle of the sun's work upon this planet, 
a gamut of human moods from Love, the Mother's 
primal bribe to win us like children, with a toy 
along endless avenues of light and shade, by ways 
and through hours of mingled cloud and sunshine. 
All passive states of anticipation, expectancy, and 
awful dread are imaged here in their range of suffer- 
ing, endurance, suspense, rest, sleep, or death ; and 
activity also, in its countless manifestations, is most 
closely indicated. Here a day tells the tale of hope 
rekindled, of achievement crowned ; here the unnum- 
bered states of the mind toil, tribulation, or opposition 
are likewise painted upon the earth by the seasons, 
by the havoc wrought of lightnings, the magic of 
winter rains and summer suns, the teeth of the frost, 
and the eternal attrition of the tides. To-day a dozen 
facts, huddled together under the howling of the West 
wind, shall simultaneously cry and shout their message 
like the trumpets of an army ; to-morrow only the 
burden of a robin's song sets free the secret ; or a 
moonrise ; or the sudden, far-flung, fast-fading flame 
of the afterglow. Content, the master-jewel of human 
glory, I have found blazoned upon no opulent triumph 
of Nature, but rather within some still, grey, twilight 
hour, between the passing of the harvest season and 



4 MY DEVON YEAR 

the oncoming of Winter. On such a day content 
comes whispered by a falling leaf, or is written upon 
the fringes of sequestered woods, where the birch, 
before bud-break, dwells in an amethystine mist about 
her silver stem. 

The winds, indeed, often and at all times in the 
yearly pilgrimage utter aloud the secret of the day, 
and so reveal the tale they have gleaned from earth 
and sky and the cloudland of eternal change between 
them. Naked, winter boughs cry it painfully ; and 
sometimes, in the upper chambers of the air, serene 
and calm above mundane storm, the high clouds wheel 
and turn their chariots of light into the word one 
went to seek. The sea holds the secret, and its 
messages ride upon stinging spindrifts, torn from 
off the waves ; roll in organ songs along lonely 
beaches ; lull their burden to mere moaning upon the 
blind cliff-faces. With many a kiss the sea will 
whisper it, will write it hugely above her glimmering 
ocean -facing ridges of rock, will thunder it in her 
caverns, will spout it from the nostrils of her leviathans, 
will sing it in sunshine on a million simultaneous 
dimples, will cry it where the sea-bird presses his 
breast against the wind, and slants upwards or down- 
wards upon that invisible inclined plane. 

Nor does the obvious often intrude upon these 
wanderings after buried treasure. The wind may 
howl along its winter ways in the tree-tops, yet wake 
no sense of sinister power, of storms or sorrows ; it 
may utter music proper to the season of opening 



THE SECRET OF THE DAY 5 

flowers and waking life, where golden green encano- 
pies young Spring, and yet paint no superficial picture 
of happiness. For I have known a stormy hour that 
held pure peace, an hour wherein the very bending, 
beaten boughs, that leapt back each to its place 
between the blasts, heartened a man ; while, con- 
versely, out of moments between vernal showers, 
when every thrush has been a prophet of good, 
and love was lord, the secret of the day was strife. 

For out of the hum of the insects' countless 
gauzes, the drone of the bees at pollen and honey, 
and the gleam and flash of all manner of wings that 
jewel the soft green shadows of the Spring, there may 
spread chill sense of primal feud again, of great 
battle, of hungry hosts still in the egg, of an infinity 
of beautiful banners spread under June sunshine only 
to hide the mortal war below. Such a truth stabs one. 
A single riddled, tattered leaf will tell it ; or a dead 
nursling, fallen from the bough untimely ; or the wail 
of grief outpoured by a bird who, returning to her 
nest, finds a red weasel there. Some of these things 
supply a tonic to reason. They do not harden the 
heart, but sober it. 

And days there are beyond all probing days and 
nights that reserve or deny their secret and leave the 
searcher neither happy nor sad, but full of wonder. 
I have seen the world under phases of which I formed 
no part and could form no part. There has been a 
great gulf fixed between my Mother Earth and me. 
Yesterday I was one with the heath and the stone, 



6 MY DEVON YEAR 

partook of their natures, reposed with them under the 
sun, and felt a child in the eye of the grey granite, a 
hoary sage seen by the little vanishing blossoms; to-day 
granite and heather are removed from me and know 
me no more. There is a spirit abroad, and they 
are uplifted ; but I am as I was yesterday, and see 
nothing. 

The poets have stood upon the fringes of these 
trances, and felt them. More they have not done for 
who may find words for states beyond human under- 
standing ? Who can set down the secret spirit ot 
those days when the veil is drawn between us and the 
familiar forests and high hills ? They are caught 
away from us at such times, rapt away into mystery 
deeper than our hearts can fathom or our senses read. 
There are no words for these moments, and the 
greatest have but set forth negative pictures of them, 
for to say what they are not is only less difficult than 
to say what they are. To say what they are not may 
be possible to a poet ; to say what they are is im- 
possible to all men, for such ineffable moments are 
beyond words and above ideas. From the wise and 
prudent most surely are they concealed ; to the spirit 
of the child they may by possibility appear when, 
wandering alone, unencumbered with mental trash, he 
still vivifies each blade and bud as the use of children 
is ; still sees little, conscious lives, full as his own, in 
each bird and hurrying mouse, each flower and fern ; 
still protests with an active, infantile indignation at the 
destruction of the worst equipped ; still unconsciously 



THE SECRET OF THE DAY 7 

hates Death with all his small heart, no matter what 
stroke of the angel challenges him. 

Keats saw that magic hour under the moon ; 
Browning, at eventide. The first poet touches such 
a sOpreme moment when he tells how : 

" Tall oaks, branch-charmed by the earnest stars, 
Dream, and so dream all night without a stir, 
Save from one gradual, solitary gust, 
Which comes upon the silence, and dies off 
As if the ebbing air had but one wave." 

There is no more that word of man can say, for 
at such a time the visible world passes clean out of 
comprehension, enters upon a conjuncture or crisis, 
for which our language has no words. 

Thus Browning sings : 

" This eve's the time, 

This eve intense with yon first trembling star 
We seem to pant and reach ; scarce aught between 
The earth that rises and the heaven that bends ; 
All Nature self-abandoned, every tree 
Flung as it will, pursuing its own thoughts, 
And fixed so, every flower and every weed, 
No pride, no shame, no victory, no defeat ; 
All under God, each measured by itself." 

Truly, all who live much for choice with the trees 
have seen them thus. It may be that they stand 
beneath strange phases of light, or upon the skirts 
of storm ; it may be that they are sunk behind 
the dancing hazes of noon ; it may be they lie 
under frost and starlight, themselves refined into 
a dim phantasm against the snow; or it may be 



8 MY DEVON YEAR 

that they have retreated into arcana of Nature and 
seem to brood in a sort of solemn arboreal excitation, 
each leaf partaking, each twig and bough sharing, in 
the trance of the mother tree. 

But these moments and the hushed climaxes ol 
them are incommunicable. The very thoughts bred 
when we stand at invisible barriers and see the 
Mother in some moment of her unknown ritual may 
not be set down. For one cannot create new words ; 
one is mute before the shrine of such solemnities. 
They come and go, quicker than rainbow colours ; 
for a moment we see, for a fraction of time we under- 
stand ; then all changes, and the familiar objects 
emerge from their transfiguration, and we know them 
again as they seem to return out of their vigils. 

And these holy days that deny their secret are not 
fabulous : they are veritable intervals of time, shone 
upon, blown upon, rained upon, revealed by morning 
and shadowed by night. They come when least we 
think to meet them ; they suddenly puzzle the wan- 
derer it may be in the noontide hour of his clearest 
seeing. They are agents of mystery ; they, too, belong 
to Truth ; and their very reservations stir the under 
deeps of human imagination with reverence. 

But this also I say : that I press not to Nature in 
hope to find anything beyond it ; because for me the 
secret of the day and the magic of the night alike 
hold no revelations and no truths that lie outside the 
confines of the natural order. 

One may recognise and deplore the limitation of 



THE SECRET OF THE DAY 9 

language in this connection. Our concept of Nature 
is formulated at the seat of thought with words, since 
to our brains thought without words is impossible ; 
but observe how these same syllables limit ideas and 
produce merely relative definitions (bounded and 
hedged and rendered precise) for those phenomena 
that reason declares not relative but absolute. We 
cannot define Nature, because her attributes are for 
us unknowable ; but we see some of the results pro- 
duced by these attributes, and we label, or libel 
them by imparting thereto those qualities of which 
we have perception. Nature is "kind," "cruel," 
"indifferent," and so forth. Even while we speak 
we know that the utterance is nonsense, yet it cannot 
easily be escaped. We may only discuss this great 
idea of Nature in our own terms ; we may only con- 
ceive it as animated with those qualities we know if 
animated at all. We do indeed conceive the possibility 
of other attributes as we do conceive the absolute, but 
we lack the mental machinery to attain to it, and in 
defiance of reason we are constrained to postulate and 
limit even while we know the vanity of the process. 

But I would justify myself in this book before the 
criticism of a thinker here and there. When I speak 
of " Mother Earth," or the " Universal Mother," I do 
so with open eyes. The futility of the phrase is not 
hidden from me, but it is beautiful and convenient. 
Moreover, in these papers frank beauty is all that I 
pretend to be concerned with ; and the more rational 
the outlook, the more beautiful does Nature become. 




WINTER BOUGHS 

IRE thickening buds alter the contour of 
the great deciduous trees and tell of that 
intermediate season before the breaking 
of the green ; while still Winter holds the 
woodlands ; while giant trunks drip grimy tears and 
naked boughs wail that wild song proper to the time, 
those who please may study the anatomy of the 
forest and note the manifold beauties apparent in 
the habit of the trees. For from trunk and bole to 
topmost twig, each king, queen, courtier of the wood 
possesses a proper distinction. 

Among them all the oak most surely proclaims his 
character in his bearing. Sturdy at foot, tough of 
bark, stalwart of branch, he paints a picture of strength 
on the background of forest and sky, a scheme of 
sharp zigzag angles and abrupt bifurcations against 
the sunset. No delicate droop of bough, no dreaming 
haze of spray and misty shadow of new-born wood 
mark his skeleton. Hard, firm, and precise to each 
neat finial is the Naval oak. Only the horse-chestnut 
and sycamore exhibit less detail in their shapes. 
Quercus Robur, indeed, disdains all prettiness. His 
significance is his charm he means so much to an 

10 



WINTER BOUGHS n 

Englishman and he knows that though the wanderer 
may not admire the gaunt, grim shadow of him in 
the wood or on the weald, he none the less loves 
the story that is told by his knotted elbows, im- 
placable trunk, and iron constitution. Thus, in adult 
splendour, he stands unquestioned king of the forest, 
among fair creatures more dainty than himself. Great 
names are written on his wrinkled front ; great deeds 
are woven into the centuries of his life ; and before 
the spectacle of him man perforce pays reverence 
and passes back a little way to the times that are 
gone. Then, at closer hand, one sees the King Oak 
at Boscobel, with foliage a little tawny under the first 
breath of September winds ; one notes a sore-driven 
monarch of men peeping with death-pale forehead 
and damp locks from his hiding-place on the lofty 
bough. Recollect, also, Owen Glendower's Oak, 
already a patriarch in 140x3 A.D. ; the Bull Oak of 
Wedgenock, that was hale and hearty at the Conquest ; 
the Cowthorpe Oak, whose age Professor Burnet 
computed at sixteen hundred years ; and other giants 
of like repute, whose brows were wrinkled with years 
ere Drake, or Ralegh, or many another heart of oak 
drew breath. 

The ash is of a widely different habit, yet exhibits 
poverty of detail by comparison with other trees of 
smaller foliage. It is a question of the size of the 
leaf. The ash ends with stout buds, for his leaf is 
large ; but the general contour of him is most graceful 
in line. His limbs taper regularly, and their boughs 



i a MY DEVON YEAR 

spring at angles mostly acute in relation to the main 
stem or branch ; while the lower, pendulous branches 
often fall with droop as delicate and perfect as those 
of the beech or weeping willow. Like the Druid 
oaks, the ash enjoyed high vogue for a tree of power 
and mystery. In the Norse mythology Yggdrasil was 
the ash tree of the Universe, whose roots ran in three 
directions to the Asa-gods in heaven, to the Frost- 
giants, and to the under world. Odin made the first 
man from ash, while the first woman he manufactured 
of elm. Ask and Embla are the Scandinavian Adam 
and Eve. Aforetime much agricultural importance 
attached to the earliest energies of ash and oak, 
and a tradition, still accounted sound in conservative 
minds, declares that if the oak gets into leaf before 
his neighbour a fat year may be prophesied, while 
should the ash be first to shake out his pinnate leaves, 
then will follow a cold Summer and sterile Autumn. 
Now, in January, the wolf-month, both trees sleep 
soundly, and the fate of July and August lies hid in 
budlets that are transparent sepia or brown on the 
oak, but black and oval upon his neighbour's up- 
turned twig-ends. 

The horse-chestnut is another tree built on lines of 
utmost simplicity and severity. The scaffold for his 
noble foliage and pyramids of blossom those fair 
flowers that glimmer like lighted tapers out of the 
ebony and silver of moony nights is simple yet of 
perfect adaptation to subsequent foliage and massive 
fruit. A candelabra-like skeleton is that of the horse- 



WINTER BOUGHS 13 

chestnut the plan of those candlesticks of many 
branches (probably copied from the fig tree) that 
adorned the Temple ; and I have seen his plump 
buds, wet with the kiss of the West wind, glimmer 
along a Spring wood at time of sunset light, as though 
each naked tree was hung with countless fairy lamps 
of amber. The sycamore partakes of a somewhat 
similar character, and his kinsman, the hedge-loving 
maple, also, but in smaller sort. 

Next to the oak, however, stands the elm as most 
characteristic of British trees, and the grey bulk of 
him, whether pollarded in hedgerows or rising, un- 
touched by steel, above park and pleasance, is a 
dear sight to English eyes. Evidences of his million 
flowerets will soon be visible and thicken that in- 
finitely delicate tracery of him against the pallid blue 
of spring skies ; but his noble anatomy is not yet 
hidden ; his rounded head still draws grey, gauzy 
patterns above the gloom of a winter world, and 
writes "England" along the ridges of the high 
hills, against the red earth of this my home, and 
over the green valleys and water-meadows laced 
with silver. Soon missel-thrushes, with harsh in- 
quiry scattered on the windy air, will seek in 
the forks of the elm for a place to build their 
nests ; and they may err in their judgments and 
choose a monarch that is doomed, for the woodmen 
are busy at this season, and many a great elm has 
burst its last bud. The tree is a part of rural life. 
It shelters the hamlet ; greets the waking eyes of 



i 4 MY DEVON YEAR 

village communities ; paints the progress of the 
seasons for them against heaven ; thunders majestic- 
ally to earth under their pigmy arms ; contributes to 
their habitations ; furnishes their last pillow beneath 
the daisies. A tree well typifies the eternal change 
that keeps all matter sweet. To-day the thrushes 
sing in its ancestral top ; to-morrow, at the ringing 
music of the axe, it will fall to make men's coffins. 

The beech and her handmaiden, the silver birch, 
represent the softer sex of woodland courts. Their 
beauty none can dispute, for the fascinating delicacy 
of the greater, and the gleam and droop of the lesser 
tree, as its filigree falls in a cloud about the shining 
stem, are sights that lull the weariness of Winter and 
ameliorate those hours when the forests still rest 
and impatient man longs to see them waken. Now 
those pools and splashes of gorgeous copper that 
spread beneath the beeches in Autumn have vanished, 
and the splendour of them has sunk into the grey 
and ghostly. Aloft the traceries twine, naked save 
for a few dead seed-cases, that have long since scat- 
tered their treasures of mast, yet clutch in death at 
the branch that bore them. But the graceful sweep 
and spread of the tree, leaping from its smooth ash- 
coloured trunk to a fork of two or three main limbs, 
and then rising to the crown and falling to the 
earth in spray of pendulous branches the scheme 
of the beech, its symmetry, beauty of line, down- 
ward droop, and upward spring, can only be under- 
stood at this season, or when the splendour of the 



WINTER BOUGHS 15 

dying year is scattered on rough winds, and the grey 
skeleton peeps forth while yet some foliage flames 
aloft and below. In the old days men made their 
beds of the Autumn beech leaves, and from them 
manufactured mattresses superior in every way in 
sweetness, softness, stability to those of chaff and 
straw ; but now no such thing happens, and the 
leaves, fulfilling the primeval plan, flutter only to feed 
the earth that bore them. 

Yet best of all I love the birch : that dainty maiden 
tree of the heath and copse", of the combe and 
dingle and forest fringe. Now she raises her silver 
body under a veil, and stands knee-deep in the dead 
brake fern ; her December delicacy is already some- 
thing lost, for tiny catkins begin to take substance 
against the purple of her young wood. 




THE WHITE LIGHT 

|HE time is noontide, and the day one of 
North-East wind, uniform grey sky, and 
horizons restricted. Upon the hills and 
along the hedges snow still lingers, and 
here and there, over surfaces that possess a lower 
temperature than the surrounding scene, it persists in 
streak and patch. Distance is wholly hidden by the 
down-crowding grey. There is no promise of the sun, 
but the cold, clear light widely diffused and intense 
offers a phase of truth. It searches all things within 
a narrow radius ; there is little mystery about it ; no 
beautiful secrets stand half-revealed in tender shadow, 
half-concealed in direct sunshine. This light spreads 
evenly, like a dawn upon the waking of the world, 
shows the leaf- spike of the wild arum breaking out 
of the earth, the lengthening, softening catkins of the 
hazel, the seedlings of the wild cresses and galium 
folk, the fruiting mosses, the greys and green-greys 
and golden-greens of that inner robe of filmy living 
things lichens and liverworts that sit next to the 
red earth-mother's own bosom, and love the chilly 
moisture of grey February. 

This candid light surrounds one with a sort of ring 

16 



THE WHITE LIGHT 17 

on such a day, and the wayfarer moves through an 
immediate environment of minor facts. There is a 
sturdy honesty about this hour that extends from the 
breezes to the searching character of the illumination. 
It is a day that bids one look to the thing nearest at 
hand and leave the greater earth alone. 

Detail seems the obvious direction of the mind 
rather than a wide and general survey ; there comes 
a call from the purple leaves of the briar still hanging ; 
from the snake-like evolutions of its trailing stems, 
set out here to the last curved thorn ; from the entire 
tangled texture of the hedgerows and underwoods 
that seem to be enlarged in every minute particular as 
though viewed through a microscope. Less than 
usual is left to the imagination ; each twist of the wood- 
bine, each stalk of the dead bracken, each withered, 
ghostly stem of the vanished umbel-bearers, each spray 
of ivy, battered coral of iris, veil of moss, shining 
hart's-tongue, sprouting spore of fern, scarlet cup of 
peziza sprung from a dead twig all, to the sodden 
carpet of the leaves, and the skeleton wings of the 
sycamore seeds, and the acorns already sprouting 
where they lie scattered, are shown sharply, clearly, 
nakedly forth. And if these manifold creatures 
living and dead can be declared to have personal 
colours, dependent on no freak of light and shadow, 
answering to no chance reflection, moon-gleam or 
sun-gleam, then it is the white light that gives them 
their due, and tells the grey, or brown, or livid 
truth about them, 
c 



1 8 MY DEVON YEAR 

And in the white light one must be very honest with 
all things for honesty is the spirit of such a day. It 
is a time for thoroughness, for confession of error, for 
rectification of wrong impressions as to form and 
colour and other facts. Such an hour may show the 
character of a man and gauge a little of his worth, a 
little of his ambition. It is remorseless, this light 
remorseless as the ray of Truth itself; and some 
recoil therefrom as they shrink from the shattering 
of false but beautiful impressions ; and some face it, 
and, setting certainties above all things, learn their 
errors in this stern book, stand at once humiliated by 
past mistakes, heartened before new facts that lift 
their knowledge a step higher. 

The white light of February shows natural things 
in their veritable relations each to each the dead 
wood and the lichen-growth, the oak-tree bough and 
the crest of polypody fern that crowns it ; the mosses 
that love green wood, and the mosses that love red 
earth, and the mosses that love the old brick wall ; 
the shapes of the seed-leaves everywhere sprouting ; 
the way Nature performs that annual miracle of 
removing her own products her miles of fallen leaves, 
her acres of withered fern, her dead trees, and the 
empty nests of last year. In this naked hour the 
processes pass under our eyes, and we perceive that 
a whirl of change is going on in silence. Yet one can 
almost feel the tremendous invisible powers at work 
in this white light ; one can almost hear the roar of 



THE WHITE LIGHT 19 

che forces that go to make the world ready for another 
Spring. 

But that is a fancy bred of earthly experience and 
the knowledge of the din and dust that go to all 
man's achievements upon matter. Here Nature works 
with soft snows and with the fingers of midnight 
frosts, with clouds and golden sunshines, mists and 
dews. Only the winds sometimes sweeten her autumn 
workshops, and her rains of equinox carry the products 
gleaned from sun and sky and leafy Summers back to 
the veins of the Mother, that her unborn children may 
be the fairer. 

On such a day it is well to discard opinions if the 
white light proves them wrong. Strip them away, 
and let the North-East wind touch the scar they leave. 
If it is your habit to retain an open mind, then error 
rectified is merely pleasure won. If, with the body 
of this world's professorial brethren, you are a man 
of theories and love not to see them shaken, there 
may come a pang and a flash of resentment. Yet 
what you take so ill, or will not take at all from your 
fellow-professor, from Nature's self you must take, 
though it shatter the work of your years, and blow 
down the wind all your most cherished convictions. 
If that befalls your life-work, woe betide you ; yet 
courage remains. There is the discipline of pain, 
the discipline of grief, the discipline of failure ; and 
the greatest of these is the last. 

Do not question the sincerity of this still hour 
under the sky ; be sure that the day is right and 



20 MY DEVON YEAR 

you are wrong ; hasten to range yourself with the 
white light, for the belief it has shattered, the cherished 
opinion that it has rendered vain, must have met this 
fearless ray sooner or later. Moreover, you may be 
privileged to win a new and a true revelation that 
none yet have won before. If only the set of a leaf 
on a stem, the modelling of a seed-case, the trick of a 
squirrel it is something. 

There seems a danger in art that we grow a little 
too contented with our skill, and offer our work, 
knowing that few will be at the pains to verify or 
possess the knowledge to correct. It is a great peril 
to become satisfied with our own seeing, to call atten- 
tion to our cleverness, to insist overmuch on our per- 
sonal trick of expression in the terms of art. The 
book is open to all, and Nature still rules as the 
mistress of this little dame's school of a world. Take 
your exercises to her to correct. Let her decide how 
far your observation echoes her truth, how far your 
pen or your brush have won inspiration from her 
originals. Live in her white light sometimes, and 
then you will better appreciate the worth of her rain- 
bows and sunsets, her unlimited glories, and high 
moments of pomp and praise. 

You will also learn the value of human criticism, 
and how to separate the chaff of it from the wheat. 

The white light shows each man his many-sided 
ignorance ; and let him face it, and confess it, and 
mend it if he can ; for dread to confess ignorance 
is of ignorance the most staring sign. 




"THE OLD PATHS" 

|HE ferny fragrances, the deep morning 
dews, the reign of flowers under summer 
sunshine, and the wild fruits that follow 
them, will make my theme upon another 
page. Here I design no more than a note in general 
terms concerning Devonshire lanes, and the first road- 
ways from which they sprang. 

The county lacks a good and comprehensive register 
of its early means of communication. Certain Roman 
military roads which traversed the South are recorded 
by Latin writers, and the Medusval Chronicle gives 
other details, and specifies some lines of principal 
routes ; but, for the most part, the early historians 
when concerned with the subject, confine themselves 
to a general statement that the roads in the West 
Country cannot be matched for badness. Bishop 
Cloyne treated of the matter some hundred years 
ago, and his lordship's paper, which was printed as 
an appendix to the brothers Lysons, their history of 
Devon, is good reading and much to the point. 
Another admirable piece upon the subject that I have 
met with is by Mr. J. R. Chanter, who many years ago 
contributed some notes on the Highways and Byways 

21 



22 MY DEVON YEAR 

of North Devon in the Olden Time to the archives 
of the Devonshire Association. 

That our lanes are the lineal descendants of the 
deep, pack-saddle tracks, it seems reasonable to 
believe, and I know of such that even to this day 
are in a transition stage, or, being arrested in their 
development by disuse, stand screened and hidden 
in lonely spots, half lane, half old-time trackway. 
For the earlier lines of communication only developed 
where their evolution was demanded, and many have 
wholly vanished under Nature's busy fingers ; while 
not a few still seam the country and steal through 
sequestered glens, the fringes of heaths, the hearts 
of placid pasture lands. " Mere clefts " are these 
sometimes, " which it is impossible to imagine can 
have been formed otherwise than by the attrition 
of the feet of men and cattle for ages ; and yet now 
they are never used nor traversed, and form concealed 
nooks thickly covered with vegetation and ferns, 
particularly the scolopendria, growing in the utmost 
luxuriance ; while others, still in use, bear similar 
unmistakable marks of extreme antiquity." 

So Mr. Chanter; and next he discusses the Dart- 
moor trackways, a theme not less interesting but more 
obscure. On the moorland these paved ways may 
still be traced for many a mile, save where they 
vanish under the bogs ; but upon enclosed country 
indications of such old roads are now, of course, most 
rare. 

Devonshire lanes, probably, come nearer to the 



"THE OLD PATHS" 23 

regular paths of the Middle Ages than any yet 
remaining to us ; and if our forefathers had won 
their battle against the revived science of the road- 
maker, good modern ways might still be uncom- 
mon west of Exeter. For the outcry that greeted 
Me Adam and his system is recorded to our detriment, 
and generations to come will laugh at the honest 
West-country men and their indignant remonstrances. 
With adequate road-surfaces arose a system of tolls 
and turnpikes to support them ; and great was the 
amazement, gloomy were the prophecies that these 
innovations wakened. It was shown that the draining 
of the roads abolished the agreeable mud, and those 
familiar pools and sloughs so necessary to preserve 
the hoofs of horses ! Again, where could travelling 
sheep and cattle refresh by the wayside if there were 
to be no more puddles? And a more serious and 
moral objection was also raised. Such perfection 
of road must clearly conduce to carriages, to luxury 
and to effeminate love of physical comfort. Another 
danger lurked in the sudden glorification of the coach- 
horse. The world worshipped the coach-horse ; he 
was the great spirit of the moment ; stood for 
progress ; linked town and country, and represented 
a breathless increase of facilities for communication. 
Herein appeared a new peril. The husbandman would, 
without question, become the slave of the coach-horse 
also ; he would cease from the culture of wheat and 
barley, and sow nothing but oats for coach -horses ; 
and then the poor, denied their bread-corn, must 



24 MY DEVON YEAR 

perish. Thus the new roads meant famine and dis- 
aster every way. A lesser evil was feared in that 
such comfortable locomotion must certainly render 
men careless of their horsemanship, and thus degrade 
a national science ; while, most terrible objection of 
all, we may read in the Social History of the Southern 
Counties how the increased ease of traffic and com- 
munication between country and town was tending 
enormously to swell certain urban populations at 
the expense of the rural. Statistics showed the 
gravity of this matter. It was computed that not less 
than eighteen persons passed every week between 
York, Chester, and Exeter ; while a similar number 
of travellers, whose destination was London, departed 
weekly from these cities " which came, on the whole, 
to the frightful number of eighteen hundred and 
seventy-two in one year ! " Well might alarmists 
predict the ruin of the country before such an exodus. 
The controversy raged, and from many a pulpit, stout 
old Tory parsons thundered against the iniquity of 
the new ways and those who believed in them. Shall 
you not find support for the old pack-tracks and 
waggon-routes of puddle and rut and chaos in 
Jeremiah? At any rate, those ancient clerics believed 
so, and, secure in the consciousness that the prophet 
was with them, preached many a sledge-hammer 
discourse against improved progression. "Thus 
saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and 
ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and 
walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls." 



"THE OLD PATHS" 25 

Yet who shall affirm that those well-meaning 
shepherds did not bless Me Adam in secret when 
returning upon moonless nights from the squire's 
mahogany after comfortable and prolonged com- 
munion with a grand old vintage ? 

Despite Jeremiah, the "old paths" were either 
neglected or transformed into new ones. The pack- 
horses moved along wider and better-paved new 
ways ; stone took the place of mud ; and only here 
and there, in regions too remote to demand attention, 
were the ancient tracks permitted to remain. To 
these Nature succeeded, and quickly transformed them 
into musical bowers of interlaced hazel, into homes of 
many birds and flowers and creeping things innumer- 
able. Still the blossoms and fragrant grasses bedeck 
and adorn them ; still the ferns frequent their shelter ; 
still above them flourish the trees, and within them 
countless busy things increase and multiply, and justify 
their existence with unconscious joy. 

Devon lanes possess all the characteristics of the 
track"ways~oiT ~a. large scale. The high banks create 
an artificial shelter for flora, and protect growing 
things from the wind. In Summer such a damp and 
hothouse atmosphere is here created that green things 
wax into giants ; for the lanes hold the rainfall 
long after hill and vale are dry again ; the evapora- 
tion is slow, and all vegetable growth blesses con- 
ditions so favourable to its prosperity. Our lanes wind 
without pattern or method through regions pastoral 
rather than agricultural, and the shelter of the high 



26 MY DEVON YEAR 

hedges has a double value in springtime. It screens 
the road, and is a boon to the adjoining fields also ; 
for from sudden rain and fierce suns it protects the 
grazing stock, and against the sleet and icy winds of 
Spring it also shields them. 

Such hedges are loved by mother ewes, and bleating 
of many a new-born lamb echoes tremulous along 
them, when primroses and white violets shine from 
above ; when the wren's little domed nursery is grow- 
ing behind the ivy root ; when the thrush plasters her 
frank nest, then leaves it awhile for the March winds 
to dry. 




LORDS AND LADIES 

KNOW a wood where the voice of the wild 
dove is oftentimes heard, and her plumage 
shines blue against the grey and ash colour 
of last year's foliage. On the earth beneath 
this forest of beech and fir, the copper splendour of 
Autumn has long passed, and save for a cluster of red 
leaves here and there, clinging in death to the parent 
bough that knows them no longer, you shall see no- 
thing but the livid foliage that undergoes destruction. 
Those active acids that in Autumn's pinching hand 
awoke such glories of gold and sunset colour along the 
fringe of the woods the principles behind that bygone 
display are returned to the earth again, and the 
unnumbered leaves have paid the debt they owed to 
the giant roots twisted deep down in the darkness. 
Now their skeletons alone remain. But the world is 
awake, and the soul of Spring rises in opal mists on the 
meadows and in the scent of flowers; her sleepy eyes 
wake in the blue speedwells, in the purple of violets 
and the pale light of primroses, where, tucked snugly 
along the ledges of high banks or sunny hedgerows, 
they blink at a spring world with innocence as frank and 
wide-eyed as that of the long-legged, shaky lambs. 

a; 



28 MY DEVON YEAR 

Beneath my wood, upon its confines and about the 
ripe old crumbling banks that hem the forest in and 
make a lodge for coneys, there leap aloft countless 
tiny spires of green. Here is the home of Arum 
maculatum, or lords and ladies, or adder's meat, or 
cuckoo-pint, or parson-in-the-pulpit, or wake-robin 
the commonest, strangest of our wayside weeds, and 
sole member of the great Arum family whose foot 
is on his native hedge in tne British Islands. Rich 
and shining, he sparkles through mats of fallen foliage, 
or spreading on the red earth of the land, brightens 
it by contrast with the surrounding sere. His blunt, 
arrowy leaves show full sweep and strength of lush 
life. There is almost a coarseness in his intense 
vitality and vigour. For the most part he is ivy- 
green, with the glow of health in every sappy stem 
and sprawling leaf. Rarely, however, shall be found 
a wild arum of gentler mould and less redolent 
of the soil. Such a specimen will be seen more 
tender in his colour, with greater delicacy of foliage, 
and the veins of him will show a darker tone than 
the planes of the leaf which may be almost golden. 
Again, the speckled variety that gives to the plant 
its distinguishing name, while at least as comely and 
as strong as the commoner, unblotched arum, makes 
a contrast with his strange, many-shaped sprinkling 
of rich black dots and streaks and splashes. 

Soon sharp spears of paler green will be pushing 
above the rich leaves of the lords and ladies, and these 
breaking, each hooded spathe will gracefully uncurl 



LORDS AND LADIES 29 

until the buff and purple aristocracy within stand 
revealed. The arrangement of the fertile and un- 
fertile flowers hidden away beneath the spadix or 
central club is beautiful, and though arum soon 
vanishes amid the uncounted greens and glories of 
Summer, he reappears again in Autumn, when his 
clump of berries has ripened into a splendid sceptre 
of scarlet. His sagittate foliage has disappeared, his 
cowl of apple-green has ceased to be, but he lifts up 
his good year's work with the rest, and then, when 
his fruit has fallen, departs again until, in late December 
or early January, he thrusts the cold earth to right 
and left with his green halberts, and begins once more 
the business of the seasons. 

His root-stock is a commodity worthy of considera- 
tion, and at one time, under the name of Portland 
sago, a preparation made from his little tubers was 
widely bought. It formed a part of the old, much- 
used hair powder, and also represented a principal 
ingredient of the starch that was wont to stiffen the 
ruffs of the Maiden Queen, of Shakespeare, and the 
mighty men of old. 

Cuckoo-pint flourished as a notable medicine also, 
a specific for the plague ; while water in which the 
roots had been boiled was held a precious medica- 
ment for sore eyes, or those that had by evil chance 
taken on the colour of mourning. But wake robin 
is an acrimonious creature, despite good points, and 
only through a process of much boiling and trial as 
by fire do his virtues appear. Like a thousand other 



30 MY DEVON YEAR 

wayside plants once variously esteemed for their real 
or imagined values, he is forgotten to-day, and 
flourishes all Great Britain over without let save from 
the fingers of children. 




THE SCYTHE-BEARER 

jERHAPS the wonderful painting of the 
winds has not been sufficiently noted by 
artists ; yet upon the great currents of 
air stirring at earth's surface much de- 
pends, and the practised eye may usually guess, 
without note of flying cloud or bending grass-blade, 
whence the breezes blow. 

The southern wind, "moist with long kissing of his 
sweetheart sea," invariably comes robed in cloud, the 
harbinger of rain. Upon his advent the atmosphere 
is apt to take a crystal clarity, and under a clouded 
sky of diffused light all things grow near and distinct. 
The West wind shares this quality, but to him belongs 
fine weather as well as wet. He is usually a genial 
giant ; and though many a scene in this our West 
Country bears his yoke on forest trees that have 
bowed before him for a hundred years, yet to him 
and the wind of the North belongs the pleasantest 
weather that we experience. 

The West wind is a cloud magician, and does 
wonders on high with his giant peaks and pinnacles 
lifted from old ocean ; the North wind rules Winter, 
md then his grey wings hold the snow ; yet he is 
a pleasant and a tonic companion through the summer 

31 



32 MY DEVON YEAR 

months, when he sheathes his sword and often takes 
his Western brother's hand. 

But the scythe-bearer no man loves, and I think, 
save Charles Kingsley, none has paid him a com- 
pliment in print. Even that is to say too much, for 
it was not to the true East wind that the genial 
genius of Kingsley turned a rhyme, but to his cousin 
once removed. 

"Welcome, wild North-easter 1 

Shame it is to see 
Odes to every zephyr ; 
Ne'er a verse to thee." 

Here, then, within sight of his highway along 
bending boughs, I speak the East wind's praise, and 
declare we much misprize him. In early March upon 
high ground a picture woven by him spread before me, 
and his magic mists hung low on every side, so that 
the horizon was draped in an opaline haze, and only 
the middle-distance and foreground stood starkly out. 
Those mists were of most delicate hues ; they extended 
low and were more thickly spread along the East 
than elsewhere. At the zenith clouds like feathers 
flew singly in a pale blue sky. There was a sting 
in the air, and all the face of hill and valley and open 
water smarted visibly, cowered, and shrank. The 
very lichen on the stone seemed to curl at its edge 
and shudder. The woods ached and cried their pain 
in dry wailing ; the heath tinkled from every dead 
bell ; a lake of water lying beneath me showed 
its teeth where the wind flicked it into ripples, and it 



THE SCYTHE-BEARER 33 

chattered and cursed against brown sedges, and seemed 
to pray for a coat of ice to shelter its bosom from this 
tyrant. 

Beasts turned their backs upon him and huddled 
together for warmth ; in cots and uplifted homesteads 
the old folk grumbled and felt his steel claws through 
stone walls, for the very fires beside which they 
cowered flickered sulkily and failed of their proper 
warmth. When the sun was gone, this wind panted 
before he rested ; then he slept awhile and, returning 
refreshed at dawn, scattered his curdled agonies on 
all living things and went upon his way indifferent to 
every frown. 

And because he is wholly unloved, it becomes one 
to find the reason and learn whether the character 
he bears is earned. What does he do, beyond the 
passing scorch and bite of him, to anger all living 
things ? He slays his thousands ; he is a murderer of 
murderers ; his knife cuts off countless sleeping lives 
that other lives may have the happier wakening. He 
breaks up the clod and probes the dark chink and 
cranny ; he searches each crevice in the wall "and 
thrusts icy fingers into every nook. He freezes to 
death the chrysalides of the butterflies, and decimates 
the hungry soft things that would tatter all our summer 
green if allowed to live. For love of young Spring 
he slays the slayers ; and aloft he meets hooded 
plagues in air and sweeps away the poisons that kill 
man. 

He is of the stuff that heroes are made. He stirred 
D 



34 MY DEVON YEAR 

the Vikings' blood, and touched them to greatness ; 
and still he flies, the very symbol of scorned and 
unloved Truth. He mourns not at his frosty welcome, 
but swings his scythe to discipline a sleepy world 
and brace it against the clarion of the Spring. 

Ill-repute is the reward of most well-doing ; and so 
he finds it. The wind of the South brings life for the 
flowers and takes their incense to his rainy bosom ; 
the West wind opens their petals at dawn, closes 
them at even, and is rewarded by all their summer 
loveliness ; even Boreas does not fright them in July, 
and freshens each drooping bud against the noon 
ardour of the sun ; but no flower loves the East wind. 
No blossom lifts up a little mouth to his grey throne ; 
no gentle petals court his kiss ; the very leaflet hugs 
its twin fearfully while he blows. Only the daffodil 
will not fear him presently, but curtsey to his salute ; 
only the catkins on the hazel and alder will dance 
merrily at his keen music and shed their pollen to 
transform the fertile blossoms into nuts and cones. 

He flies a noble type of stern wisdom and far-seeing 
mercy ; and he shall be found the very antithesis of 
a sentimental and hysteric zeal that would smother 
English thought and action in so many directions 
to-day. But it must be permitted the student of 
Nature's method to hope that this miscalled hu- 
manity will soon vanish before the East wind of 
man's reason ; that instead of building hothouses 
and forcing-pits for our weeds, we shall cease to breed 
them ; that the social clod may be probed even to its 



THE SCYTHE-BEARER 35 

core ; that the social atmosphere may also be searched 
and its poisons swept away for ever by fearless spirits 
soon to rise. We shrink from the scalpel of Truth, 
we scorn the treasure that others greater than our- 
selves have lived and died for; we toss away salvation 
to win a fool's vote ; we, who bred Jenner, stand a 
laughing-stock for wiser nations who bless his name. 
But already the Orient wind heralds a glorious dawn . 
already the Children of the Morning sing ; and when 
the earth and sky have been searched and winnowed 
by that wholesome air, so much the lovelier, happier, 
and sweeter will be those generations of mankind that 
hereafter rise to mourn our errors, pity our ambitions, 
and forgive our manifold sins against the unborn. 



GREEN FLOWERS 




DAY, it was, of moist breezes and low 
pearl -coloured cloud that now massed 
for the down-sending of showers, now 
dislimned magically and revealed the blue 
air and noonday sun. Beneath the changing sky 
a great hill swept upwards a hill of many gradients 
and pleasant sights at every step. It rose and 
wound through accustomed scenes of the West. 
Under lofty banks the way was very steep, and sharp 
acclivities gave the wanderer pause ; but as its slope 
decreased, the banks correspondingly dwarfed and 
dwindled until a man might look over the hedges of 
polled hazel and survey field and forest. Here were 
spinnies of larch and pine, set cunningly in rota- 
tion by sportsmen long since dust ; here orchards 
rose, all silver-grey under the misty light ; here lay 
meadow, fallow, and great planes of remote woodland, 
while, closing the spacious outlook, there stretched 
a haze of sea, framed by the sky, and the slopes of 
hills. Close at hand, nearer than the grazing cattle 
or the dappled drab and monochrome of clustered 
fruit trees, extended a field, mother-naked from the 
share ; and here upland rook and sea- far ing gull 

36 



GREEN FLOWERS 37 

moved amiably together in the wake of a shouting 
man and a clanking plough. Most thoroughly the 
birds explored every rich furrow, and few worms 
and grubs escaped from them. Over each other's 
back they hopped and fluttered with caw and mew ; 
and all were strangely unfearful of the man who cried 
loudly to his horses at every turn. 

The bosomy hills were brushed with young green 
where corn came strongly in the blade, and along 
the fringes of the fields, red earth appeared, where, 
seen from afar, the moles had written in wide angles 
and sharp turns, in spots and dashes and ruddy 
splashes, a cryptic language on the green. Then 
came the sun, and the grey overhead broke into shafts 
of radiance that turned like the spokes of a golden 
wheel on the Spring world. The elms in distant 
hedgerows responded to this shower of light, became 
beautifully transformed under my eyes while the 
shadows passed off them, and glimmered with in- 
florescence as ruddy as their mother earth beneath. 
A sort of lacework of blossom shrouded each 
tree in a transparent veil of colour; and through 
it the thews and sinews of every giant appeared 
rising with shapely limbs, tapering branches, gauze 
of young wood, and riot of life to its rounded 
head. 

Suddenly I found close at my hand a little sea- 
green chalice with drooping petals and lemon eye. 

Like wings the palmate foliage sprang from the 
drooped crown of the flower, and I welcomed her 



38 MY DEVON YEAR 

gladly and knew her for the green hellebore, a Spring 
blossom not common in the region where I chanced 
on her. Her sole indigenous relation the fetid 
hellebore has a purple-fringed calyx, and both are 
cousins german of that important plant whose roots 
are a drug of might, and whose flowers brighten 
winter gardens with their pale rosy-green or pure 
white. After this discovery I began to think upon 
the green flowers of Spring, and, withdrawing my 
eyes from wider survey of earth, set about immediate 
scrutiny of those things at hand. A skilled botanist 
has since pointed out to me that the abundance of 
early flowers whose hues shall be found to lie 
between green and golden green, and whose presence 
is therefore inconspicuous in the obtrusive or se- 
cluded homes of their choice, arises from the fact 
that the insect world is not yet awake, and that 
Nature has no great need of flaming colour-notes to 
lure bee, butterfly, and the rest to their unconscious 
duties of pollen carrying. Now the familiar dog's 
mercury met my eye everywhere, and no hint of inner 
evil appeared in its upright habit, orderly foliage, and 
frank green blossoms of three petals ; yet it hides 
rank poison under its blunt and honest face. Peren- 
nial mercury indeed flourishes just now, and the apple- 
green spathes of the wild arum peep, pixy-like, from 
every dene and dingle, every hedgerow and covert- 
edge. 

The green flowers possess and even flaunt an 
element of the weird to my thinking, for their 



GREEN FLOWERS 39 

ways are hidden from all but the close seeker, their 
properties are^ held sinister, and often mysterious 
are their manners of growth. Botanists take delight 
in discoveries that need a botanist to appreciate 
them ; but for us the outward shapes and super- 
ficial strangenesses of the verdant flowers may suffice. 
Thus, from the arum in his pale or speckled toga, 
what a strange transition is it to the green floweret 
of the butcher's -broom that I find presently in a 
wood. Each minute blossom clings to the bosom 
of the parent leaf, like a baby to its mother, and 
thus the whole dark, prickly shrub is starred with 
light in the sun, and brightened even under grey 
March winds by its multitude of tiny children. Also 
hiding under the forest, set in a scented jewel of rich 
moss and ivy at some streamlet's edge, I found the 
common variety of chrysosplenium or golden saxifrage. 
Mellow and lemon-green are his small blossoms, and 
they surmount a plant of delicate and beautiful frame. 
Folks make a salad of him in the Vosges, and afore- 
time the golden saxifrage, like the green hellebore, 
was accounted a remedy for melancholy. To eat him 
in this connection may be vain, but to seek and find 
him within the glades of a Spring wood should 
hearten you ; and if you chance upon his brother, 
with alternate leaves, joyful you may be, because 
you will have found one of the rarest flowers in 
Devon. 

Not far from my Chrysosplenium another dainty 
green dweller in the moist seclusion of the under- 



40 MY DEVON YEAR 

woods twinkled in a starry constellation on the 
bank of a stream. Above it ivy tumbled over a 
shelf of broken earth ; beneath, a brook twined and 
rippled and babbled of blue forget-me-nots to come. 
Here dwelt the moschatel, a little flower named 
adoxa, by reason of her humility and retiring disposi- 
tion. And looking forward, after I had turned and 
retraced the way, I saw many another green flower 
still hid in the bud, or maybe not yet sprung above 
the earth. Soon ribes, the wild currant, will be 
shaking out little racemes of shallow bells ; soon 
wandering madder's small blossoms will appear where 
the parent climber twines with a thousand fingers 
through hedge and over waste ; presently the pale- 
green inflorescence of the maple and spindle trees 
will adorn their Spring foliage ; sweet daphne will 
spread fragrance ; the spurges, or little-goods, as 
generations of impatient farmers have called them, 
will open fantastic blooms upon the tilled land and 
by the wayside ; black bryony and white will twist 
their soft tendrils and bear small, verdant blossoms 
when the cuckoo sings. Later in the year the 
traveller's joy must lift pale buds, the box must 
bloom, and the wormwood deck forgotten corners 
and dusty patches of waste land. The wild hop, 
too, with its sterile stars and fertile catkins or 
cones, will beautify each high summer hour, and 
many another rare and common blossom the hare's 
ear, herb Paris, lady's mantle, wood -sage, nettle, 
pellitory of the wall, twayblade, and some of the more 



GREEN FLOWERS 41 

minute Orchidese will await the finder in varied garb 
of malachite or olive, beryl or aquamarine. 

Now in this misty March hour of swelling buds 
and rising sap, I passed down that great hill again, 
while sun and silver rain strove for mastery, and 
bred a rainbow from their strife. Far beneath 
my standpoint it extended, and chance ordered 
the purple and gold to leap from one side of a 
water-meadow to distant woodlands that glowed 
behind it like a fairy kingdom built of gems. Its 
keystone was set against dark pavilions of unshed 
rain, and, rising from the amber of a young withy 
bed, the arch spanned a dozen homesteads ere 
its southern foot fell among great trees that stood as 
sentinels of the wood. From osier to elm it passed ; 
from the frail fabric of man's cradle to the wine-red 
timbers that build his coffin swept the bow across 
heaven a symbol of the pathetic and eternal hope 
knitted into this fabric of conscious existence ; hope 
the leaven of humanity's daily bread ; the beacon 
that lights many an eye, warms many a cold heart 
upon the brief and stormy journey of man's days. 




"KING O' BUDS" 

[HE work of March is lovely and minute, for 
it deals with upspringing of seed-leaves, 
swelling of buds, and inflorescence of great 
trees. There is a red haze over the elms; 
the traceries of the silver birch thicken ; the hazel's 
sterile blossoms dance on the wind; the larch is studded 
with rubies; the catkins of the alder shine russet against 
her naked bough ; and the ash prepares bunches of 
purple flower-buds within their black cases. Great 
sweetness and cleanliness dominate the world of March, 
for the winter winds have blown, and the rains have 
washed, and the frost has probed and slain. As yet 
the timid beginnings of Spring are perfect and un- 
scarred. Stipules expand swiftly. The joints of their 
armour grow pale and stretch to the touch of the 
awakening life. The fabric of the leaf-case is re- 
vealed, and, its service ended, it promises soon to 
fall from the little crinkled clump of foliage cuddled 
within. Presently April will wash away millions of 
the sheaths and casings ; they will strew every wood- 
land glade and path ; they will make a shining, silver 
carpet, where bluebells nod under beech trees. But 

42 



"KING O' BUDS" 43 

dead auburn beech leaves are still clinging to the 
arms of the mother that knows them no more, still 
wailing with shrill sorrow to the March wind, still 
envying the round, delicate, ruddy spikelets that hold 
Spring's lovely robe where Nature is busy weaving it 
upon her forest looms. 

It is a good thing to see in the deep dingles 
those most trustful flowers that open their eyes in 
March and fearlessly brave his blustering. The 
moss-loving sorrel's drooping pearl ; the violets sky- 
blue or sparkling white whose sweetness only fades 
with their little lives ; the primroses in all their downy, 
dewy loveliness, with clusters twinkling through the 
carpets of dead leaves in ancient woods these and 
the daffodils now gladden each day, though the sky is 
hard azure and the wind is cold. The spurge-laurel's 
delicate green flower-clusters hide in the wood; the 
blackthorn frosts the naked hedge with silver ; the 
stars of the colt's-foot flame beneath ; and in the water- 
marshes the mary-buds are winking and the great 
butter-burr making ready. 

Now the red earth, awakening to the sun as he 
climbs higher and kisses warmer, bedecks herself in a 
maiden kirtle of new-born humble things all starred 
with flowers. There is a stir and whispering under 
dead leaves, there is a dawn of life filming the naked 
ground. In the meadows the grasses breathe again, 
and each breath wakes the heart of the blade and sets 
the sap moving. Little folks, that carry their seed- 
cases on their heads, come plodding into life every- 



44 MY DEVON YEAR 

where. Their first leaves stretch to the sunshine ; the 
case they have lifted out of the earth falls away from 
them ; they are born to their place in the Spring, and 
each green atom thrills with his own proper message 
from the sun that shines for all. There is a charge 
flying from the tree-tops to the deep anchors of the 
living wood. It wakens the under- world of the earth, 
and from the gigantic coiled and twisted roots, to the 
least, white, infant fibril, all know that Winter has 
departed. Last year's harvest now bursts gloriously 
from the earth, and Nature, remembering her Autumn, 
counts the germinating hosts like a gentle miser. Not 
one seed shall be forgotten ; not the least hopeful 
scrap that adds its tiny emerald to the diadem 
of April but shall win her due. And those un- 
counted myriads who perish untimely, those whose 
second pair of leaves will never open even these 
vanish unmourned, for they have played their part 
also, and the momentary existence of them is 
rounded into perfection as complete as the mountain 
pine's, as full as that of the oak, whose life embraces 
a thousand harvests, whose foliage has sheltered 
fifty generations of man. 

Countless dainty things cry to be chronicled at this 
season, and here on the confines, between the months, 
is a glad hour full of bird music, haunted by poets. 
But if the natural things of the springtime are better 
sung than told, it is also certain that they are better 
seen than sung ; for now the highways and hedges 
themselves are calling ; the woods and hills and river- 



"KING O' BUDS" 45 

brinks invite all men with living poetry that buds and 
blossoms. 

" Hail, riotous March, thou jovial King o' buds, 
Whose subjects, clad in amber and in gold, 
Yet to their winter wear uncertain cleave 
And lie snug hid i' the stipule ; swiftly bring 
Our April princess of the silver tears, 
To loosen at a touch the trembling green, 
And smooth each curling leaflet with a kiss. 



Then pants the western wind, whose misty breath 
Inhaled along the infinite Atlantic, 
Now mingling with the sunshine on the rain, 
And songs of hope that throb from vernal woods, 
Doth bear the pure and primrose-scented Spring 
Into my heart." 




GRANITE AND SORREL 

|O near was the sky that the high tops of 
the forest seemed to support it on their 
million fingers, to prick the storm-cloud 
above, burst the great reservoirs and scatter 
the rain. I passed under ancient timber of the 
sort that indicates by its relations tree to tree and 
mass to mass Nature's own planting rather than that 
of man. Indeed, these spacious oaken forests were 
sown before the Conquest, for here one stands under 
the fruit of trees that first bourgeoned a thousand 
years ago. 

I see them those mediaeval oaks in my mind's 
eye, and they are sheltering a mail-clad knight and 
his heavy steed. Who shall guess what brilliant train 
followed him ? But hither he came, this Norman from 
the victorious advent of his master ; for the First 
William, who knew how to reward his servants, had 
already wrested good miles of Devon from their 
Saxon owners, that those who made him Conqueror 
at Hastings might henceforth share his addition. To 
Radulphus de la Pomerio, lord of the Norman " Castle 
of the Orchard," accrued eight-and-fifty Devon lord- 
ships ; and Beri, "the walled town," he chose as the 

4 6 



GRANITE AND SORREL 47 

seat of his barony or honour. On such a day mayhap 
he sought within the glens and forests of that wild 
region for a site whereon his castle should rise ; on 
such a day, with the April gold gleaming between the 
showers, with the ripe catkins of the hazel shedding 
their pollen on his horse's chamfron, with the new- 
born glory of the larches scenting the air, and bud 
breaking on oak and elm, he may have moved stoutly 
forward while he crushed the wood anemones and 
primroses under his horse's feet, and wetted with 
sweet sap and the colourless blood of spring flowers 
those ironshod hoofs that not long before were stamp- 
ing life out of wounded men. 

The thrushes sang then as now, and the frightened 
blackbird flew before with an alarm-cry as shrill as 
the jolt and clink of chain on mail. Forward passed 
Ralph and his cavalcade, where the ivy hid red ridges 
of broken earth, rotting wood, and dead fern ; and 
then a little plateau opened in the forest a lime- 
stone crag jutted on the hill, and the Norman eagle 
cast his eyes to right and left, above and below, 
estimated the strength of the position with the quick 
judgment of a man of war, saw that it was good, 
and cried that here his eyrie should presently be 
built. So the banner, with the Pomeroy lion upon 
it, was planted in the wood ; the sleep of that primeval 
forest departed, and anon, wrought of limestone and 
granite, arose a grim pile, squat and stern, with a 
thousand eyes from which were ever ready to dart 
the crossbow's bolt, with watch towers and great 



48 MY DEVON YEAR 

ramparts a palace and a fortress built on the rock, 
and, perhaps in their owner's view, destined to endure 
as long as their foundations. 

The ruins of the Norman's work still stand and 
circle others of a date later by five hundred years. 
During that period the descendants of the Conqueror's 
friend enjoyed their possessions, exercised baronial 
rights, and retained the favour of their princes. In 
the fourteenth century Nicholas Pomeroy was High 
Sheriff of Devon ; Sir Thomas also filled the Shriev- 
alty, and his son enjoyed like high office after him. 
Others followed, and the family continued to be a 
power in the land until 1549, when Devon opposed 
the "Act for Reforming the Church Service" tooth 
and nail, and many of the leading nobles of the county 
were enjoined to pacify the common folk " by gentle 
means, if possible, but others, if necessary." 

Among the malcontents was the reigning lord of 
Pomeroy, a man of military knowledge and prowess. 
He had followed the wars with distinction in France 
during the reign of Henry VIII., and perchance, like 
many military veterans of a later date, took strong 
ground on all questions involving his creed, and held 
tolerance no virtue. Him the discontented gentry 
elected their leader, and after preliminary successes, 
the knight lost the day at Clist Heath, nigh Exeter, 
yet retained sufficient interest at Court to escape with 
his hot head on his shoulders. But the last of the 
Pomeroys who ever lorded it at Berry was he, and 
whether he compounded for his life by yielding up 



GRANITE AND SORREL 49 

lands and castle, or whether the subsequent owners 
obtained Berry by grant or purchase from the Crown 
after sequestration, matters not. Certain only it is 
that to the House of Seymour the old fortalice now 
passed, and the Elizabethan portion of the ruins 
soon afterwards arose within the older building. 
Sir Edward a descendant of the Protector when 
King William III. remarked to him : " I believe 
you are of the family of the Duke of Somerset ? " 
replied instantly : " Pardon, sir; the Duke of Somerset 
is of my family." This haughty gentleman was the 
last of the rae who dwelt in Berry Pomeroy ; but the 
Castle still belongs to his family, and Berry makes 
this unique boast : that since the Conquest it has 
changed hands but once. 

The fabric of Seymour's building was never com- 
pleted, but enough of it remains to offer an object of 
solemnity, a lesson in grey stones ; while the earlier 
fragments of the first fortress, including the south 
front, the main entrance, the pillared chamber above 
it, and the north wing of the quadrangle are also 
a spectacle sufficiently splendid, their withered age 
all turned to harmony in the grey and green habili- 
ments of Time. 

Ivy crowns every turret and shattered wall, twists 
countless fingers into the rotting mortar, winds in 
huge, hydra-like convolutions through the empty 
sockets of the windows. Giant limbs of it are 
slowly perishing everywhere, and younger ones 
succeeding them. Along the tattered battlements 
E 



50 MY DEVON YEAR 

and broken archways many grasses grow high and 
rank; wild geraniums and pennywort, ferns and tough- 
rooted shrubs, also spring strongly; and Nature's sure 
hand wears the adamant away with her tender, 
twining, invincible rootlets. 

The Castle will presently vanish, but these eternal 
green things die not. The granite, indeed, must 
go ; the pearls of the wood sorrel, nodding dewy on 
their stalks above the verdant beauty of the trefoil 
leaves the tiny, tremulous, purple-veined chalices of 
this most fragile thing, that Rodolphus trampled 
yesterday and I pluck to-day these loved treasures 
of the Mother of Flowers endure from generation to 
generation, and are immortal. To them the life of 
Berry Pomeroy is the life of a cloud palace in a summer 
storm. They come and depart with each glittering 
April ; and they did so before man learnt to take his 
hands from earth and stand upright. Ere this grey 
mushroom castle sprang into being at the will of a 
soldier beneath the trowels of a conquered race, they 
twinkled and trembled and shook the warm rain out 
of their little eyes ; and when Berry has vanished 
and the jackdaws have sought another home, when 
the old plateau of the wood has forgotten that pro- 
digious load set on it by the stranger, and creeping 
ivy hides a mound of dust, then shall the emerald 
trinities of dainty foliage still spread and open and 
the blossoms still shine like snowflakes through the 
woods to star each dingle and mossy haunt of shy 
things. 



GRANITE AND SORREL 51 

The granite returns to its particles, though un- 
numbered ages shall be demanded for its destruc- 
tion, but the wood-sorrel survives the grey centuries, 
and laughs at Time. The granite knows neither 
Spring nor Summer ; to his fretted face, where dwell 
golden lichens and the ebony and silver life that sucks 
existence from stone, the spring rain means only 
deathly certainty of dropping water. Wild autumn 
winds, that send the gold of the woods whirling round 
his grey skull, also indicate the end, and foreshadow 
ultimate tempests that shall help to lay all low ; while 
the steel-thrust of the frost, the soft folds of the green 
ivy, the sappy fingers of root-life, alike by harsh 
means and gentle, combine to compass the inevitable 
end. The ruin is a dead skeleton. His bones 
were torn in ages past from the living rock, and 
they have covered Nature's prime enemy and hidden 
him from her anger for a little while. Man built 
this ruin, and now the powers of the air are turned 
against granite wall and lancet window, crumbling 
keep and shaking tower. But unnumbered blossoms 
hide the busy forces combining to destroy ; pale 
uprising wind-flowers nod in the grass that was 
a courtyard ; budding briars, clustered primroses, 
violets, daisies, celandines, and a thousand other 
buds and stars and chalices of the unfolding year 
dapple the granite, and twinkle from its shattered 
heights. These rule the spring rain and make the 
sun in heaven do them service. For them is the 
dance of the seasons ; they are the eternal things of 



52 MY DEVON YEAR 

the green wood ; and they will shine and laugh, as 
now, at the returning cuckoo's music, and, as now, 
gladden the eyes of little children when these old 
stones of Berry Castle, and the hand that writes of 
them, and the page that records, are alike forgotten 
dust. 




BUD-BREAK 

[NCE more eyes, weary with watching, 
brighten and welcome back the vernal 
pomp ; once more life wakens, while the 
blood of man and the sap of the forest 
flow gloriously. You shall note a rivalry in the 
grand, far-flung, universal rush of the green ; yet for 
the most part it would appear that in all localities 
like order prevails, that the bud breaks in similar 
rotation upon every tree. 

Of oak and ash, indeed, the adage hath it that 
sometimes one, sometimes the other is the earlier 
to produce a new season's foliage, and country wise- 
acres hold stoutly to it that should the ash come 
out before the oak, a wet Summer may be counted 
upon with certainty ; while others are of a contrary 
opinion. But whereas the ash usually shakes forth 
its strange inflorescence grape-purple in the bud 
before the oak flowers, yet in my experience the latter 
is the first in leaf, though its bright lemon catkins 
follow the foliage. Now the buds of the horse- 
chestnut are at last open ; the shining stipules, 
watched through wintertime, have fluttered to earth 
like beetle-shards, and the crinkled green can be 

53 



54 MY DEVON YEAR 

almost seen unfolding, expanding, and opening its 
fingers round the tiny germs of the blossoms that 
will soon lift their pink or ivory spires into the sun- 
shine and cool green nights of May. 

Both elms are not far behind, and their blossoms 
fall in showers, and their outlines, thickened in early 
March with a million flowers, ruddy on the more 
common tree and paler upon the wych elm, now 
for a moment grow into winter delicacy again before 
the leaf-buds break on the bole, then climb aloft and 
carry green to every crown. Suckers and saplings 
at each tree-foot leap first into life ; every twig and 
sprig of the hedgerow about the giant trunk twinkles 
into leaf and joins the hawthorn, long since brushed 
with opening buds. Then the lowermost branches 
of the parent elm itself burst into foliage, and ere 
the storm-thrush has hatched her eggs, high perched 
in a nest at the first great fork of the tree, a veil of 
growing green foams and billows upwards on the tide 
of the sap to the kiss of the sun. So the world 
wakes again, and unnumbered new-born leaves 
murmur out the immemorial music of the wind, and 
answer spring showers with thanksgiving. 

Of countless lesser things each hedge and ditch 
and ancient covert-side is proud possessor. The annual 
flowers, whose seed-buds long since broke naked 
earth in Winter, now proclaim their identity to the 
least skilled in such matters. A riot and struggle 
of life crowds over the waste places, and its battle 
is all beauty seen upon the surface, all strife if a man 



BUD-BREAK 55 

looks deeper into the embryo death hidden under 
leaves, waiting in egg and in earth for each young 
thing unfolding. Woodbines contrast their jade- 
green buds with the fresher verdancy of the wild 
roses' foliage ; early speedwells already open blue 
eyes in the medley ; galiums twine their tresses 
through the texture of the hedge ; wild arums splash 
the way with sprawling green ; and at each fern's 
heart are little crosiers o silver that await only one 
warm shower to uncurl the frond. Ivy is budding ; 
lusty umbel-bearers expand their vigorous foliage ; 
potentilla mimics the wild strawberry's blossom ; 
violets, purple and white, glimmer amongst the green. 
The amber stipules of the oak are swelling and 
growing paler ; the black buds of the ash show no 
softening pallor as yet, although its flower-buds are 
open and the inflorescence is active ; the sycamores 
and spindles begin to break, but the maple is tardy 
and the dogwood still asleep. The wayfaring tree 
has brownish leaves out, and its round heads of 
blossom, presently to gladden each summer hedge- 
row, are visible, huddled in downy clusters and hidden 
in no sheltering sheath. The limes are gemmed with 
delicate leaves, and the hazel and the alder are making 
ready ; but the sallow folk osiers and willows are all 
bedecked with silver and gold, and too overjoyed at 
their shining tassels and catkins to think as yet of 
leafage. The poplars also the aspen, the white, and 
the black are concerned with blossom ; though the 
white poplar's pale foliage is also near at hand, 



56 MY DEVON YEAR 

The yew is dusted with gold, and where the birds 
hop in and out, little clouds of pollen from the yellow 
inflorescence puff into the air. The pines are flower- 
ing also, both those of Scotland and of Norway ; 
while of all noble cone-bearers at this hour larches 
are fairest, for they pitch the very tents and pavilions 
of young Spring along the good red earth, and 
shake out their emeralds in a shower till the eye 
and heart are intoxicated with their green. A larch 
is always lovely, from winter nakedness to spring 
verdure, from summer opulence of colour to pallid 
gold of Autumn. Soon the fertile catkins will shine 
upon it like rubies, and the verdure will deepen to the 
full tone of Summer. Few who love the tree re- 
member that it is almost among the last of notable 
strangers to win a welcome here. In 1629 an 
occasional keen lover of forest trees nursed some 
infant larches as a rare exotic treasure in the garden ; 
but not until early in 1700 was this conifer much 
grown in England for his manifold virtues. In Scot- 
land the first larches were planted during 1727 by 
the Duke of Athole at Dunkeld, and between that 
date and 1827, it is declared that fourteen million 
of them were set upon the Athole estates alone. 
Your larch has philosophic habits, and great, genial 
goodness of character. He is happy anywhere on 
sloping ground reasonably drained, and will prosper 
upon a Devon hillside with content as complete as 
in his home, where he fledges the Alpine fastnesses. 
Larches flourish at a greater elevation than the pine, 



BUD-BREAK 57 

though firs are still more hardy ; while of the tree's 
growth it is amazing, and in the South of England 
a larch, happily situated, will often attain a height of 
five-and-twenty feet in ten years. 

From this day of soft wind and busy bud, one 
may look forward and paint the boughs and branches 
with their full glory. There will come a magical hour 
presently when the last leaf has rippled into its place, 
and the song of the wood is complete, when the 
million leaves clap their little hands, and Summer 
is at the door. 




MARBLE CLIFFS 

|O county is richer in splendour of great pre 
cipices looking out upon broad and narrow 
seas than this our Devon ; but though the 
southern cliffs lack that awful austerity and 
abiding gloom of the northern crags, though their 
pinnacles and serrated edges and escarpments are but 
pigmies in altitude when compared with the huge fore- 
heads that frown upon the Atlantic from Welcombe 
to the Foreland, yet Nature has compensated their 
shortcomings of size, and bestowed upon them a 
beauty and an infinite variety of colour and form not 
met with where the great ocean waves break and 
thunder at their journey's end. There, even though 
the sea has slept for many summer days, and sinks 
and rises with peace as profound and suggestive as 
the slumber of a giant, the accustomed striving and 
unrest are reflected in the dark precipices above 
it, in the tremendous acclivities and the prevalent 
geological formatiorTof huge and gloomy planes that 
suck up direct sunshine, as a sponge soaks liquid, and 
are nothing brightened. They stare, these huge cliff- 
faces, with blind eyes into the West; they call for 
sad human hearts to chime with their sobriety ; 

58 



59 

they breathe of ceaseless war, of agonised battle with 
the West wind and all its unnumbered hosts of the 
sea. Setting sunlight gilds their slaty shale, and 
brightens it into polished ebony and into gold ; they 
frown at the evening ,. light until its glory dies and 
the foam-ridges glimmer grey ; then familiar darkness 
huddles down upon them, and they wait alert, watch- 
ful, for the first sigh of the awakened enemy, the first 
throb and spout of some giant wave at their feet. 
These cliffs impress some spirits with aversion, yet 
from others they win such sympathy in their struggle 
as Prometheus himself won, but seldom the scorched 
and blasted crags of Caucasus that made his pillow. 

From our black northern precipices to wander South, 
where sandstone stains the Channel with its cheerful 
ruddiness, or marble limestone spreads in shining 
pebble beaches, is to change every phase of outlook ; 
for cliffs and headlands and upspringing peaks all 
differ as much in quality and in power of suggestion 
as the seas that sweep and roar in storm, or tinkle and 
ripple on summer days about them. 

Less force and more beauty than exists upon the 
North coast shall be found where limestone rises and 
sheds an opalescent milky light into the blue water, 
where placid tides slowly wash away and solve the 
stone. Here are the very habitations and play- 
grounds of sunbeams, that leap and twinkle among 
the networks of delicate clefts and crannies woven 
into a pattern on the rock-faces, that nestle under 
the shadows or laugh along the stairways and touch 



60 MY DEVON YEAR 

infant gulls with brightness, where they squat together 
and discuss the world, and look with young but un- 
fearful eyes at the friendly air soon to support earliest 
flutterings. 

All hues of gold and silver are here, with such 
reflections from each sun-tipped wavelet of the sea 
as only marble can glean and give again. The 
foam rises and falls like a fringe of pearls about 
each jutting promontory or detached rock ; high- 
water mark is defined by a band of darkness fading 
to russet, where seaweeds grow that love both water 
and air ; while above, springing to some graceful 
point or needle, of shining stone, the marble rises 
with proportions so true, and general distribution of 
parts so harmonious in their relations to the mass, 
that cliffs I know as friends seem to me rather a sort 
of noble vessels floating upon the sea than adamantine 
barriers set to oppose it. Light inspires them with 
an apparent levity. Their crags and sunny scarps 
seem wrought of imponderable pearly surfaces, that 
might be spread to the wind or furled until another 
sunrise, when the day is done and the evening twi- 
light leaves them grey again. 

A dance of colour such as artists love is spread 
here from the dawn hour onward. The chalk cliffs 
easterly can tell no such rainbow story ; the red sand- 
stone is, for the most part, impassive and expression- 
less, though of a genial brilliancy against blue sky 
in sunshine, and not devoid of character when com- 
bined with other rock in conglomerate forms ; but the 



MARBLE CLIFFS 61 

marble is sovereign among those giants who clasp 
hands to make the crust and skeleton of the round 
earth. It is always beautiful. Time touches it only 
to new splendours of form, and a thousand sunrises 
spread thereon shall each write a new glory, if one 
can but read the line of it, as every word flames out 
from some soft radiance into shadow from shadow 
back again to light. 

All flowers may find their colours here, and the 
cliffs can bud and blossom at the sun's command 
into a whole gamut of tones and undertones ranging 
through the metals to the gems ; from the gleam and 
glow of a fire-opal to the pure blue of turquoise, 
where the sea-light is thrown up against a shadow ; 
from the ruddy iron flush in veins, and percolated 
streams and washes, to the dun and the grey of wide 
surfaces, swept and dimmed by microscopic growths. 

Flowers unnumbered love the limestone, and 
some there are that cannot live away from it. 
Samphires make a chrysoprase lacework against the 
grey, where each finds a cleft to shake forth his 
serrated foliage and yellow umbel ; the sea silene 
lights up cliff-edge and cranny with tender flowers 
and grey-green foliage ; the pellitory, though it best 
loves ruined masonry, abides here also; and the thrift 
gems its sturdy cushions of green with countless little 
pink pearls of blossom that shine out a soft, pure, rose 
against the stone. Sedums also flourish, and the sea- 
gulls crop them green for their own needs. The nests 
that I have found in such places are built of dead 



62 MY DEVON YEAR 

grass, twigs, and feathers, banked and strengthened 
somewhat by the stonecrops and occasional scurvy- 
grass, also plucked green, and woven into the fabric. 
Heavily-mottled eggs of dark-brown hues lie here, 
and as one climbs along the ledges, with hands in 
the tussocks of the sea-pink, great birds, white 
and grey, cry danger from lemon-coloured bills, 
and mew aloud their fear, with notes that echo 
musical against the cliffs. Here they perch and make 
proper finials to the wild peaks and pillars ; here they 
fling themselves out against the air and slide away 
seaward ; here they dot the smooth green water below, 
and lift up their voices together against fancied wrongs. 
And sitting on a marble throne upon some lofty 
cliff, as now I do, a man may call himself king, and 
these his subjects. Fearful and distrustful they are, 
conscious of intrusion, eloquent of outrage done ; even 
as we cry against the fate that intrudes upon our 
secure castle, or shatters our premeditated plan. We 
lament likewise, and lift complaining voices against 
the dark figure whose shadow suddenly strikes a 
chill upon our nests ; and we view the changes and 
chances of life as the gulls, having no discrimination, 
regard any human oncoming. Neither can we appraise 
the ultimate end and aim of these world- forces with 
estimate more accurate than that with which these 
birds judge me, when I, an unwinged, untrusted thing, 
gaze upon the secrets of their homes in these dawn- 
facing cliffs. 




GATES OF THE MORNIN( 

|HE texture of great moors is mysteriously 
changed at dawn, and their fabric in this 
hour often shines under the risen sun as 
though sown with pearls. Thus, I saw 
Dartmoor but yesterday, the hour then being five, the 
sun, like a mighty lamp, hanging low above the tors. 
Around me granite rose, and ruined homes of the old 
stone-men lay on the hand of Time, and rivers lifted 
their voices in the valley beneath. 

At that hour the mother-o'-mist wandered with 
many a trip and turn and soft, sudden footstep over 
the crowns of the land ; then, arising, she spread 
rosy wings into the blue, and dislimned, and vanished 
as the sun kissed her. Water gleamed along the 
wide marshes, and outlined the black peat ridges with 
light ; all the world glimmered under sparkling 
moisture born from a starry night and a temperature 
below dewpoint ; and every blade of the grasses, 
every humble growth upon the stone wall, every little 
budding rush and sedge held up its proper jewel to 
the sun. 

Man still slept, but the world had long wakened, 
save for him. The mares and foals, sheep and lambs 

63 



64 MY DEVON YEAR 

wandered in the dew, and the mothers raised shining 
muzzles from the sweet grasses ; but the noses of the 
little ones were dry, for they had breakfasted off 
milk alone. This waking world was full of new-born 
things and anxious parents tending on them. Upon 
every wall sat birds with insects in their bills for 
fledglings ; here a wheat-ear dipped and jerked ; here 
a yellow-hammer sang his mournful -sounding song ; 
and in the bogs, where last year's rushes stood sere 
above silver pools, the plovers mewed like kittens, and 
swooped and tumbled. There is a glance of black 
and white as the bird descends, and a single spot of 
white remains where he alights with uplifted pinions ; 
then his dark wing comes down over the bright side- 
feathers, and he vanishes. A curlew wheeled in 
curves, uttering wild, bubbling protests at intrusion of 
a human presence upon his world, and above him the 
larks shrilled to the day; and the plovers, now uniting, 
drove away a sinister crow from their nurseries. 

The morning wind came scented over miles of 
the greater furze ; the rush -beds likewise yielded 
their savour, and along a brook the river -growths 
exhaled sweetness. Here, too, beside a tributary 
of Dart, the broom shook out yellow spears above 
dark green foliage ; the woodrush hung his flowers ; 
mary-buds gleamed in a lake that reflected their 
own gold with blue sky and rosy cloud ; and the 
marsh-violets twinkled more humbly beneath them 
to find their images in the river also. Upon the 
water, procumbent grasses made a mesh to catch 



GATES OF THE MORNING 65 

dawn light, pond-weeds trailed their new-born leaves 
beneath, and the sun flooded the heart of that singing 
stream with clear colour amber and agate and cherry- 
red where it struck upon submerged banks of peat. 
Along the margins of the stream, ivy-leaved crowfoot 
turned little white faces to the morning ; and the 
flowers were thrones for lustrous, ephemeral things, 
with wings of gauze and golden eyes, that also blessed 
the only sun they would know. From fleeting blossom 
and fragile midge my sight passed directly along half 
a league of lonely ridges to Believer's turrets and 
granite fortresses where that great tor dominated the 
land. He, indeed, seemed like to witness a million 
more such sunrises to shelter the mist and the grey 
lichens till the end of the world ; but my part was 
with the insect and the flower. I looked up at the 
giant's head, dark against the morning, for once rested 
content with my small parcel of time, nor grudged 
him one of all his centuries. 

The water sang very placidly, and purred to the 
green things anchored in it, and the light lingered 
much here, streaked each rush with brightness, trans- 
formed each blossom into a fairy cup, into a jewel 
of gold, or silver, or pure turquoise, where speedwells 
and forget-me-nots shone like the sky. 

The old bridge passed through a dawn phase also, 
and existed through that wonderful hour as though 
every fragment understood. His clefts and crannies 
sparkled out with stonecrops and the young fronds 
of the spleenwort. These leapt in little aigrettes of 
F 



66 MY DEVON YEAR 

new green from the grey ; and mosses brightened 
the masonry ; while from the river, sunlight, reflected 
sharply, made gleaming tremor upon the bridge, like 
the shimmering dance of hot air. 

The unutterable freshness and sweetness of the 
dawn touches man's spirit as surely and as obviously 
as it heartens the awakened bird and beast. These 
all welcome the warm ray upon their fur or feathers, 
for it beats through hide and down, through the 
plumage of the river-fowl, through the flax of the 
coney ; and it gets to the hearts of the wild things, 
so that they lift up their voices and fly to meet 
the great sun, or kick their heels into the air 
and leap for joy that another day has come, with good 
store of food and water and congenial companions to 
share happiness. 

The martins bathe and drink and wheel in airy 
circles and sudden loops ; the water -spiders leap 
along their element ; the flies dance in the proper 
patterns woven for them by Nature, and from 
which they depart not ; trout begin to rise, and 
around them the sun flings golden circles into the 
water, that widen till they meet the ruffle of the wind. 
The air is crystal, even as the water is, and upon my 
sense awakens perception of that vital difference in 
the painting of dawn and sunset. Young dawn, 
dancing rosy-footed over the world, is glorious as 
youthful genius whose work glows with every virtue, 
and, above all, that of promise ; yet sunrise colours 
lack the ineffable gentleness and pathos of those at 



GATES OF THE MORNING 67 

sunset ; they are infinitely pure, infinitely brilliant, 
and they come as a herald of life itself to those who 
can wake to greet another morning willingly ; but 
there is something in the mellow departure of an 
old, wise day that brings a quicker answer from my 
heart-strings. Dawn images hope and young lives 
anew begun ; sunset's shadows, ripe radiance, and 
lingering afterglow strike to deeper thoughts and 
graver. Then pigeons croon in the pine, and the 
weary world broods a little before the blessings of 
sleep and night. 

"And still, while a man tells the story, the sun gets 
up higher, till he shows a fair face and a full light ; 
and then he shines one whole day under a cloud 
often, and sometimes weeping great and little showers, 
and sets quickly ; so is a man's reason and his life." 

But this morning spoke of no shadows. It spread 
and swept in waves of increasing splendour upon 
heath and stone, river and valley, and the huge 
bosoms of many hills. Dawn glimmered like an 
opal on the breast of the whole earth ; then its play 
of colours passed, and frank day flooded the world 
and drank the dew. Delicious tones and deep 
shadows touched the red cattle and defined their 
modelling; the cuckoo cried, and his song echoed 
from the stone wall over against his resting-place 
on a whitethorn ; the planes of the Moor arose up 
each out of the other ; new glories grew beneath 
the uplifted sun ; cloud shadows raced free and 
passed over the earth like cool presences ; little 



68 MY DEVON YEAR 

cots began to send incense of blue peat-smoke aloft ; 
dogs barked musically and brought up the full- 
uddered kine from their nightly places ; and man 
last of all arose and went forth to justify his 
wakening. 

I met him then, and there sounded gladness in his 
voice, benevolence in his greeting; for the sun was 
very warm, and the month was May, and the air 
seemed good to dwell in for all created things that 
breathe it. 




WHERE HERRICK LIES 

HEW trees throw their shadows over the 
moist grasses, and above them tower 
Scotch firs, whose stems glow warmly in 
the sunshine, whose crowns ascend against 
the spring green of the hills. All is light and life 
above the graves, and dewdrops tremble in the cups 
of unnumbered flowers where I seek, amidst pale 
blossoms, for a spot that shall seem good to be the 
poet's resting-place. 

Is there no magic wand of the mind that may dip, 
as the water-finder's hazel, when a live mortal walks 
here among the primroses above the dust of an 
immortal ? Cannot my heart pulse quicker, or the 
thrush sing sweeter, or the little violet yield a sweeter 
fragrance above Robin Herrick's grave? 

I move among the humble hillocks at Dean Prior, 
nor guess at all where once the poet's proper mound 
arose. Ancient stones there are, but none that rises 
to him ; lichens still gnaw and nibble the names of 
common men from slate and slab; but no decaying 
monument marks his resting-place ; the garment of 
new-born bud and blade alone dresses it. And this 
is good, for so we seek him, not in the perishing 

60 



70 MY DEVON YEAR 

record of a stone, but upon the bosom of the Spring ; 
in the petals of the flowers now hanging out their 
jewels above his head ; in the nodding grasses and 
uncurling ferns ; in the music of birds and laughter 
of little children. 

It is a playground of sun-gleams and shadows, 
this churchyard of Dean Prior ; a place meet for 
any singer's sleep ; a sequestered acre, sliding away 
into fields and copses a gem set in the gloom of 
funereal yews, yet agleam with all the colours of 
springtime, and alive with a whole season's wakening 
life. Robins build between the unmortared stones 
of ancient tombs ; each green grave is a garden ; even 
slate and slab are the hosts of obscure existences 
the familiar homes of fleeting insects and enduring 
moss and lichen. 

Here Herrick ministered, and the plump, jocund 
body of him passed to and fro, met coarse lives with 
coarse jests, enjoyed the fleshpots with frank pleasure, 
dreamed of wine and women and the old joys between 
sermon-times, and fashioned some of the most ex- 
quisite lyrics this language shall know. 

The cloth cannot forgive him, and never will. 
Clergymen do not understand. Only Grosart of 
clerics has grasped the whole truth about Herrick ; so 
has Richard John King; so, in a measure, has Gosse ; 
but Hazlitt, and since his time, many a lesser Cockney 
critic, only throws the shadow of his own ignorance 
upon him. 

Away in the adjacent orchard lands, a grey pile 



WHERE HERRICK LIES 71 

rises, and there, at Dean Court, it may be remem- 
bered that Herrick found the lighter joys of life 
congenial companions, good cheer, and attentive 
audience. Here, aforetime, dwelt Sir Edward Giles ; 
here, at the instance of that good knight, Herrick 
watched many an old - world revel and set down 
perishable manners and customs in imperishable 
poetry. Here first he sang of 

" May-poles, Hock-carts, wassails, wakes," 

while the peaceful hamlet of his home the woodland, 
the meadow, and the river music awoke other notes 
and inspired all that is most beautiful and most true 
in Hesperides. 

No man loved his work better; no man knew its 
sweep and scope more thoroughly. He rates it with 
justice, and those who would suck the sweetness must 
first, if the power lies in them, obey the poet's own 
command and enjoy his verses as he directs in no 
sober, morning mood, but 

" When Laurell spirts i' th' fire, and when the hearth 
Smiles to itselfe and guilds the roofe with mirth." 

For my part, I had sooner read him here and now, 
amid the life and scent of the things he loved, 
yet hardly knew that he loved. The hock-cart 
has vanished, the song of the wakers is still, and 
the maypole rises no more upon the village green ; 
but youth and love, red dawn and golden twilight, 
dew and rain, and the buds of Spring are immortal 
sweet now as then, welcome now to us as then to him, 



72 MY DEVON YEAR 

whose dust lies near my footsteps in this musical 
resting-place of the dead. 

The flowers are nodding his metres to me. He 
saw them ; he wove an enduring string of diamonds 
from the dew in a daffodil, fashioned gems from the 
violet and the primrose, the herb and the tree, the 
clean glory of daybreak, and the splendours of 
sunsets. All materials were good if sweet and in 
colour pure. Musk and amber, coral and ivory 
may be the settings of his jewels, but these are 
forgotten and forgiven for the workmanship. At 
his highest and by his highest alone shall a dead 
man be rated he walks hand in hand with Nature 
as only a supreme artist may. 

A cool air dries the dew of the churchyard ; jack- 
daws chime above the belfry ; great humble-bees 
labour in the wild hyacinths and struggle over the 
grasses, their thighs heavy-laden with flower pollen 
and all tell of Herrick. The essence of his verse 
haunts his grave for ever. Many places I know fit 
for the sleep of poets, yet none more in keeping with 
the particular dust of its own singer than this. For 
round about are the scenes he saw, the sounds he 
heard and turned into music, the enduring bosoms 
of hills ; the leaf and flower and berry in its season, 
and the human nature of the soil, whose garment and 
manners change but slowly, whose self changes not. 

Pretty women live here still, though sweet epitha- 
lamiums are no longer sung for them when they come 
to their husbands ; little children fall off untimely ; 



WHERE HERRICK LIES 73 

good men go to their rest ; and the life of the hamlet 
its sorrows and joys, hopes of harvest and of heaven 
unfold in one story, whose chapters are the seasons, 
whose sentences are records of human prosperity or 
failure in the lap of Nature, whose periods are the 
graves. Here blind Time, feeling for the mounds 
beneath the yew trees, can measure his own progress. 

The thought of death moved Herrick much, and 
never a man wrote with greater love and faith of those 
who passed before him. Yet for himself he craved no 
stone, and it may be that when his aged dust was 
lowered into the red earth here, the many who 
mourned him complied with some special desire in this 
sort, and lifted no memorial. 

It matters little enough to-day. To those who 
esteem him precious every leaf whispers his name, 
every flower writes it on the grasses, every bird sings 
it from the whitethorn. 

" Laid out for dead, let thy last kindnesse be 
With leaves and mosse-work for to cover me ; 
And while the Wood-nimphs my cold corps inter, 
Sing thou my Dirge, sweet- warbling Chorister ! 
For Epitaph, in Foliage, next write this, 
Here, here the Tomb of Robin Herrick />." 

Forget this and that; set aside without prudery and 
head-shaking the matters not necessary to remember. 
Men make no ado when they eject the bitter stone of 
a muscat. The grape's the thing. Remember that 
our Herrick wrote "Corinna's going a Maying," "To 
Violets," "His Poetrie his Pillar," "To Musique," 



74 MY DEVON YEAR 

" To Primroses filled with Morning Dew," " To 
Anthea (who may command him anything)/' " A 
Nuptiall Song, or Epithalamie, on Sir Clipseby Crew 
and his Lady," "To Daffadills," "To Blossoms," 
" The Night-piece, to Julia," and half a hundred 
more gems from Hesperides ; that "His Letanie, to 
the Holy Spirit," " A Thanksgiving to God, for his 
House," "The Dirge of Jephthah's Daughter," and 
"The Widdowes Teares," adorn Noble Numbers. No 
sweeter, quainter, more delicious music ever came out 
of Devon, or any other county, and while the elect 
still love a laugh and a lyric, a pretty face and a 
pretty flower, melodious Robin shall hold his pyramid. 

" Not all thy flushing Sunnes are set, 

Herrick, as yet ; 

Nor doth this far-drawn Hemisphere 
Frown, and look sullen ev'rywhere, 
Daies may conclude in nights ; and Suns may rest, 

As dead, within the West ; 
Yet the next Morne, re-guild the fragrant East." 




OKEMENT 

|IKE Dart and Teign and other moorland 
rivers, Okement springs from twin fountains 
and takes a divided course through many 
a mile of heath and fern to waters-meet. 
Her western arm embraces a scene as strange as any 
upon Dartmoor, where, beneath Black Tor, the Valley 
of Rocks shall be found, with harmonies wonderful 
and wild of mighty boulders and gushing falls. Here 
the rowan alone of trees lifts her head, and ferns in- 
numerable nestle within the clefts and crannies of the 
granite. The song of the river is the only music 
beneath these enfolding and overhanging hills. Not 
a mile distant one may stand on the crest of High 
Willhayes the loftiest land in England south of 
Cumberland and from this uplifted spot, picture 
Okement afar as she twinkles and glitters to 
the West and East. Her stream rises near a famous 
abode of mystery and theatre of legend, where Cran 
mere Pool lies at the heart's core of the wilderness; 
and her sister, bubbling forth from the boggy side ol 
Okement Hill, gathers up the little Blackavon rivulet 
upon her way, leaves Dartmoor under Halstock, and 
falls in cataracts of light along the edge of forests 
and the confines of furze-clad hills. 

75 



76 MY DEVON YEAR 

No spectacle of such chaotic wonder as that 
displayed in the Valley of Rocks may be met with 
near eastern Okement, yet such special loveliness 
as she owns in springtime I know not upon any other 
stream of the West Country. 

On a morning while the blackthorn still blew 
upon Halstock Hill, I looked down from heights 
above the river and saw beneath me first a receding 
foreground of great oak trees. No leaf had yet 
escaped the bud-sheath, but every amber stipule was 
near to bursting, and a warm, mellow tone hovered 
over the forest in sharp contrast to the ashy colour of 
the lichens on the boughs and the green moss upon 
the trunks of the trees. Ivy shone out here and 
there, but the crown of the foliage was still to come, 
and through the grey mesh of branches the under- 
woods appeared quite full of young green, awake 
with many flowers and throbbing to the cuckoo's cry. 

In the valley Okement tumbled, while beyond the 
river there rose up a vast hill, gentle and round- 
bosomed, under one magnificent robe of the verna. 
furze. Marvellous was the contrast between that 
sheet of glory and the sky above it ; for aloft a sullen 
grey of various tones spread far in streaks and blots 
and washes. Great rains were flooding Northern 
Devon, and the remote line of Exmoor stretched 
upon the horizon like a purple wale : angry, storm- 
foundered, scarcely to be separated from the dark- 
ness above it. 

The liquid light of the oak-buds bursting, the gorse 



OKEMENT 77 

in one cataract of colour, and the tenebrous air, with 
its far-flung curtains of rain, were all spread thus 
simply and directly before me. I watched the cloud 
movements, where, like melting lead, they poured 
downward, toppled, spread, and climbed. A sun- 
beam touched the red earth ten miles off and set it 
glimmering there in the heart of the gloom like a 
ruby. Then it vanished again, and the roaming pencil 
of light went out. 

In the woods by Oke the earth was soft underfoot, 
and the sweet smell of Spring hung upon the air. 
The first bluebells were opening, and as each spike 
took fulness of colour and each blossom made ready, 
she turned from her upward poise and gently drooped 
her head to look down at the earth that bore her. 
Primroses spattered the woodlands with clumps and 
stars and trailing clusters where they had fallen, 
flung haphazard from the Mother's hand; wood- 
sorrels sparkled with their own translucent and frail 
beauty ; pure water, gushing from the secret haunts 
of the golden saxifrage and moschatel, spread its 
crystal above the wreck of the year that was gone, 
and helped all the dead things to dissolve away into 
the earth again. So they departed, and the passing 
of the dark, soaked leaf -drifts, rotting wood, and 
empty acorn-cups was a part of Spring as proper 
as the dancing haze of young grass and the blue- 
bells and fern fronds upspringing with them. Fern- 
life, indeed, often still clustered in a silky silver 
knot at the centre of the trailing and dead brown 



78 MY DEVON YEAR 

foliage from the past. Water glittered everywhere, 
like a network of nerves in the wood's deep breast 
glittered and tumbled and vanished to twinkle 
out again a step lower on the way down to the river. 
Arrived there, the streamlets fell over mossy ledges 
and took small live things down to the trout, that 
understood and waited patiently for their meat in 
the pools below. 

The river, now echoing her farewell to the hills, 
makes a comely passage through this scene of Spring, 
where, like newly fallen snow, the wind-flowers spread 
about her. They cover her banks until one can 
scarcely see the green, cluster to the water's edge, 
and reappear on every little island where foothold 
serves them. 

Anon, in the valley, Oke meets Oke and, sobered 
from their riotous and joyous childhood, through the 
plains and forests they flow together. Then it happens 
to them as it happened to many a lesser stream that 
they have gathered upon their way : they lose their 
hypostasis and, gliding into Torridge nigh Hather- 
leigh, roll onward, lost in a greater river, to the Severn 
Sea. 

" Beneath Hatherleigh," says old Tristram Risdon, 
"the Touridge maketh way for the meeting of his 
beloved Ock, whence they run together in one channel 
and one name." 




HARMONY IN BLUE 

ER my head is a blue sky, at my feet a 
blue sea, and round me bluebells and the 
murmur of honey-bees at work in them. 
The sun is on the cloud even to the horizon, 
where, in solemn lines, depart the giant rearguards of 
yesterday's rain ; on the water he twinkles in the 
million dimples of a laughing ocean; and he is winning 
the scent from the bluebells, where he dapples their 
glaucous green and paints the purple of kings on 
every blossom. This great vision of many blues, 
high as heaven, remote as the pallor of the horizon, 
near as the nodding hyacinths this magic sun-flooded 
world of aquamarine and amethyst, of turquoise and 
sheer sapphire where cloud shadows float on the water, 
rejoices a man's heart despite himself, triumphs over 
lesser things, rounds the ragged edges of a sorrow, 
laughs at a fear, offers passing rest and peace, points 
the lonely road to content. There is sunshine every- 
where, not to be resisted ; nor does it miss me, 
for I, too, am part of this unbounded whole ; the 
red earth whereof I am made is as precious as 
the red earth of cliffs and precipices ; and I take 
glory to know that the sun is warming me as gladly, 

79 



8o MY DEVON YEAR 

as willingly, as he warms the wide sea and the 
sprouting pine-buds. 

I thank Nature for my eyes, that it has pleased her 
to let me see a little ; and then, plunging curiously 
into the riddle of the senses, estimate the force and 
significance of each before this great blue jewel of a 
world, set in gold and smiling for me, singing for me 
under the sun. 

Aforetime, when they counted seven senses, there 
was a fine conceit upon them that a planet dominated 
each, and that each was compounded from one of the 
seven properties. Earth gave the sense of feeling; 
fire furnished life itself; and water the musical ele- 
ment fitly provided speech. From the air came 
taste ; from the South wind the sense of smell ; the 
flowers gave hearing ; and the mist of Heaven was 
credited with power to produce man's sight. 

My eyes come first : they are the main entrance to 
a man's brain ; yet this spectacle of sea and sky is 
not easy to picture without the melody of it also. I 
thrust my fingers in my ears and look again, and so 
blot out a wide part of that which serves unconsciously 
to perfect all. The trees move, but their whisper 
the cradle-song of an English wood is lost to me ; 
grey gulls patter over the shining sand below, or 
ride at rest, like constellations of little stars upon the 
sea, but their melodious mewing, the wild crescendo 
of sound that echoes in caves and crannies of stone 
this proper music of sea-facing cliffs has departed. 
The lark, shrilling aloft, is also suddenly dumb ; the 



HARMONY IN BLUE 81 

sheep-bell sounds no longer with muffled jangle from 
the wether's woolly neck ; and the waves beneath me, 
lazily dying in narrow ribbons of foam, utter no sigh 
at the throb of the sea's great heart, tinkle no little 
shell, whisper no news. To the door of the ear come 
messengers on every wind that blows. Fasten it up 
for an hour, and your straining nerves and starving 
ears will tell the nature of the daily debt more clearly 
than words. 

So I throw open those portals again, and the dumb 
picture speaks and sings ; and I am thankful. Now 
can I listen to the music of bird and beast, of wind 
and water, of tree and underwood ; of adult life on 
feet and wings ; of the callow, young, comic jackdaws, 
hopping open-beaked after their mother ; of the lambs 
upon their knees under the yellow-eyed ewes. 

Far away northerly, like a pale blue gauze stretched 
along the sky, rise outlines of another world than this. 
There Dartmoor swells solemnly under granite crowns 
a sea of lonely stone and heather. But there also 
do bluebells nod under the sun ; there also cloud 
shadows race free over hills and valleys, over streams 
and rivers, over granite ruins of Danmonian homes, 
over those wild waste places where Devon men toiled 
for metal when Shakespeare wrote, over many a 
wilderness of riven peat, from which the venville 
tenant will cut his winter firing presently. There, 
too, ring cries as sad as the seagull's, where curlew 
wheel and make plaintive to-do about the little stone- 
coloured chicks squeaking and tumbling through their 



82 MY DEVON YEAR 

first few days of life beneath. And the ponies thud 
with unshod feet over the grass and heather, and many 
bells make music, and the yellow-hammer's long-drawn 
cry comes sadly from some solitary thorn, whose back 
is bent by long buffeting of the western wind. 

Blue-robed Alma Venus walks there too, and Spring 
strews flowers before her. 



PROMISE 




N this most ancient orchard the old trees 
stand disposed irregularly, and where 
veterans have passed away their places 
are filled by young, supple plants, whose 
youthful bearing, trim uprightness, and aspiring 
attitude contrast with the gnarled patriarchs around 
them, and with those intermediate bearers, now 
grown to full vigour of life and splendour of fruition. 
Here the aged and the adult mingle with the young, 
as in human colonies. I breathe life from the 
abundance around me ; I win hope from all this 
promise ; and heart out of the music and the colour. 
A million petals gleam and red buds sparkle ; the 
sun-lances dart everywhere ; the song of the birds 
does not drown the under-song of those little glimmer- 
ing myriads busy in each open flower about the vital 
matter of honey and bee-bread. 

May has resigned her sceptre, and it is June; but 
May departed gloriously, made a noble end in music, 
and passed with promise. 

Beneath this orchard there spreads a carpet woven 
of many greens, of sunlight, and spring flowers. 

83 



84 MY DEVON YEAR, 

The daisy, the buttercup, the speedwell, and the 
budding blossoms of the grasses are rippling to my 
feet, while where the orchard slopes towards a hazel 
hedge, great snow-white umbel-bearers rise above 
lesser things, and the dock and the burdock prosper, 
and the swords of the yellow iris shine blue -green 
above running water. The nettles, in vigorous 
communities, look grey amid so much young verdure, 
and the last of the bluebells hang their heads where 
the ferns uncurl beside them. Huge, cool shadows, 
almost purple, fall upon this carpet, and growing 
deeper with distance, they make a sort of soft gloom 
through the- regiments of the tree -stems. The 
trunks spring upwards at all angles, of all shapes, 
inscribed with every fantastic lichen-word that the 
Mother writes on ancient barks. In tones of ripe, 
mossy green, of silver-brown, and of silver-grey, the 
apple trees stand ; with wild, perfect confusion they 
thrust forth their boughs. The branches strike out 
abruptly ; they start oblique ; they spring aloft, then 
droop ; they droop, then rise ; they turn upon them- 
selves and twist lovingly back to the parent stem ; 
they trace a maze against the grey of winter skies ; 
and now they furnish meet frameworks for the 
glory of foliage and of bloom. Their forms are 
partly hidden at this hour, and the wonderful 
harmonies of line and reticulation of boughs are 
almost draped in leafy garments, almost wreathed 
with flowers. 

I think lichens love the rose-folk, for here, as on 



PROMISE 85 

the blackthorn and the whitethorn, they frill and 
tucker the baby tree as freely as they cling like his 
pall to the venerable ancient. Certain willows, too, 
especially attract them as host ; and the strange, 
exquisite growths of these rock-lovers and bark-lovers 
some rough and harsh, some delicate as a dream 
appear to rise into life upon the soft, rainy winds that 
come out of the South and the West. To the very 
ends of antique boughs they push and cling ; and now 
the crimson and snow of the flowers peep from among 
their encrustations, while in Autumn the ripening 
harvest will gleam there. 

The apple-blossom under direct sunshine is alive 
with pure light and wonderful blue shades, for petal- 
shadow thrown on petal strikes a cool, soft blue, as 
I see it doubtless by contrast with the brilliance 
of flower and ruby bud under direct sunlight. The 
pageant passes from wealth of detail close at hand 
into dim splendour seen afar. A little distance from 
me the atmosphere comes between, makes its presence 
felt, touches the leaf and bough and blossom-mass, 
brings all together, and softens every line and curve 
with sleepy summer air. Against this curtain gleam 
the bees ; the wind moves a lazy leaf to let a 
sunbeam through ; the blackbird who alone of 
birds can put imagination into his song flutes 
it unseen ; the chaffinch optimist that he is 
utters an assurance that all promises exceedingly 
well with his world, and hops to the grey lichen- 
covered home in an apple-fork. His wing sends 



86 MY DEVON YEAR 

down a shower of petals, and they tell the grass of 
the atoms that they have just left upon the bough 
to begin their apple-life. For that twinkle of snow 
through the green announces that certain infant fruits 
have this instant entered upon serious existence and 
cast off their long clothes for ever. 

From the unfolding foam of hoary dwarfs and 
upright adults alike goes forth a promise. Early 
fruit is already setting, while later trees still hold 
their buds tight clenched, as though half a hundred 
Springs have taught them fear of the green month. 
But if May woos, June commands ; the first may be 
resisted, but before the second every reluctant bud 
must open to fulfil destiny. 

The sun makes a splendour of each grass-blade, 
and in such clear seeing I can watch the very heart- 
beat of Spring until blade and leaf and open blossom 
are but a transparent veil, and I go under the brown 
and the grey, beneath the rind and the bark and the 
polished golden-green young growths, to the core of 
them. And there I see their sweet, sugary blood 
coursing ; I mark how it throbs pure quintessence 
of life from the unknown fountain to each minute, im- 
mature leaflet, to every knot of buds, to the least vague, 
scarce-defined green calyx that hides a coming flower. 
So witnessed, a sort of personality awakens, and I 
share the unconscious lives and stretch hands to every 
tree ; while they approach me also ; and coming a little 
from our sequestered and separate ways, we touch 
hearts here in the common temples of Spring. I 



PROMISE 87 

enter into the portals of their being ; they sympathise 
with the nature hid in me. For their guardian spirits 
they have dear, sunny hamadryads, that were born 
with them, and that with them will die. I watch the 
feeble giant mourning his last wreath of bloom and 
waiting next winter's knife to make an end ; I see 
the pride of a glad sapling for the first time crowned 
with garlands of flowers ; their joys and sorrows are 
not hid from me any more. 

At this moment there wandered through the 
orchard a girl a girl with grey eyes and red lips 
and budding shape. Her sun-bonnet was pale as 
the petals that clustered above it ; her light form 
scarcely bruised the grass as she tripped among the 
trees, and the sun flashed upon her white apron. 
This young daughter of the Spring approached me 
where I sat, and bade me welcome, and laughed 
pleasantly to see me awaken as from the deepest 
abstractions at her voice. Her laugh was dulcet, 
and so low that it mingled musically with the hum 
of the bees above us. 

" Braave blooth," she said ; " I do love this time o' 
the year best, for 'tis all life an' no death all promise 
of good apples come the Autumn." 

Thus was the thought of promise in her mind also. 
A caterpillar on a glimmering thread swayed between 
us ; I saw death in his strange shape, and knew of the 
battle under every leaf, the greedy unborn legions 
waiting to burst forth that they might devour the 
foliage, burrow in the fruit and gain their purpose 



88 MY DEVON YEAR 

by defeating man's. But of these things to the girl 
I had no heart to speak. 

" Us shall get a gert, wonnerful crop this year so 
father hopes. I'll pick 'e a dinky piece for your 
buttonhole if you mind to, though 'tis treason to 
pluck it." 

It was an offer made because we were old friends. 

"Take the flowers to one who would value them 
more," I said, and she understood very well, and 
nodded and broke a spray unfolding, and pinned it to 
her own breast until it should adorn another's when 
evening came. 

" Tis lovely, come to think of it," she murmured, 
looking at the opening buds, whose yellow anthers 
peeped from each pure chalice. She lifted the spray 
to her face and kissed it such a kiss as flowers might 
give each other. The sudden discovery of this loveli- 
ness in the blossoms made her silent for a moment ; 
but soon we talked again, and hope was in our voices. 

Presently she bade me farewell, then went upon her 
way with a little purring laugh. Happiness and 
content passed with her ; in her tone was uncon- 
scious praise ; in her love of the blossom, unconscious 
worship. 

So, fittingly into an orchard planted with hands, this 
maiden thus came, and from thought of wood-fairies, 
she led me to the men and women whose hopes 
centred here, to the fruit whose prosperity would 
lighten and whose failure would cloud their human 
hearts. And at last, as warm light touched the glory 



PROMISE 89 

of all this unmeasured blossom, as the day mellow 
from beholding so much beauty slowly died, I rose 
and departed ; yet not without one prayer to Pomona 
that she would be pleased presently to bless these 
glades, and in their boughs make true the golden 
prophecy of the sunset, 




THE OLD CANAL 

[ERE once, in days long vanished, was 
busy trafficking of little barges, and small 
vessels, laden with corn and coal, passed 
slowly through the turns and twists and 
fair windings of this North Devon valley. But the 
ancient waterway has served its purpose, and man 
needs it no more. For the most part the old canal 
is now drained dry, but here and there a riparian 
owner has preserved the former conditions. In such 
places time quickly charms the deserted waters, and 
the wind brings seeds of life, while a message passes 
magically along from bud to bird, from fishes to the 
black-eyed furry tenants of the banks that daily 
transit of boat and man is done for ever, and the 
winding depths henceforth signed and sealed to 
Nature. 

A notable picture she has planned through the 
years. I see the canal winding from me a riband 
of many colours, whose shining surface is painted 
by earth and air and water. Here tawny it lies, 
with strange scums and microscopic growths wakened 
by hot June sunlight ; here underweeds darken 

90 



THE OLD CANAL 91 

the volume of it to purple ; here the surface is 
suddenly rippled and broken into a shimmer of 
colourless light, where a shoal of dace simultaneously 
splash at some sudden fear ; and then abrupt images 
of the tangled bank stand forth in the crystal, with 
reflections of blue sky, lazy cloud, and passing bird, 
as the water settles once again into a wide-reaching 
mirror. 

Silver-grey at a point of passage from the tow-path 
to meadow lands on the other side, an old wooden 
bridge spans the canal, and its brick piers stretch 
above a brown pool. An ancient fabric it is, yet sound 
oak lies hidden under the mossy vestment of the 
beams, and one may conceive of the venerable thing, 
now making a slow, fair end, all unregarded in this 
lovely valley, as spanning more than the water with 
its ripe old brickwork and time-stained timbers, as 
dreaming of the life that circulated here long ago, 
of the flat boats that crept beneath it, of the plod- 
ding beasts and men that passed and repassed on 
their journey to and from the distant sea. Yet, 
not so distant for those who know ; because some 
folks who feel this region to be a part of themselves, 
and who read in this old canal the romance or 
poem that life has sung for them such declare 
that the existence of the adjacent ocean is whispered 
by every bending blade ; proclaimed by the western 
wind, dallying here among the grey-green sallows 
and wild flowers in his journey from the Atlantic ; 
most surely announced by snowy-breasted gulls that 



92 MY DEVON YEAR 

from time to time, like specks of sunlight, wheel and 
turn at great altitudes above the valley. 

Now old bridge, dead waters, and grass-grown tow- 
path belong to the rabbits, the moor-hens and dab- 
chicks, the little rats and the gilded legions of the 
dragon-fly. A rabbit lies at full stretch here ; I have 
surprised him sunning his white furry belly like a cat. 
The moorhens build a cunning nest of dead sedges 
twisted among young living ones and piled upwards 
until a little plateau rises in the water, a grey oasis 
within whose cup lie purple-mottled eggs. Many such 
occur within reach of hand along the old canal, and 
when chicks are hatched, the mother moorhens 
hasten away at sight of danger, with a flash of white 
feathers in their flirting tails, or, snugly concealed, 
utter whispering warnings to their tiny young, who, 
from an experience extending over four-and-twenty 
hours, still feel disposed to trust mankind. They are 
covered with black down ; their bills are dabbed with 
crimson, and if fear falls on them, they lift up their 
voices, squeak the nature of the peril, and with small 
webbed feet and extended wings skim like water-flies 
along the surface of the stream until kindly sedges 
hide them. 

A kaleidoscopic rainbow of the many - coloured 
odonata lights every bend and reach of the old canal. 
These dragon-flies, and devil's darning-needles, gleam 
and dance and rustle, gem the brown scum and 
glaucous sedges, take their fill of love in mid -air, 
spangle the shadows, and make sunshine the brighter 



THE OLD CANAL 93 

with their jewel colours of opal and amethyst and 
demon green. A ripple stealing out from the bank 
marks a water-vole's progress, and watching the rat- 
ways, patted smooth by many small paws, I hear 
a crisp sound, note a wet-furred, bright-eyed thing 
humped up on a grass-tuft, and see him nibble his 
vegetable luncheon from the juicy green stems. He 
catches my eye, is pained at the spectacle of me, 
and hops into safety with a splash. He swims 
away submerged, and will not rise again until within 
the security of some hole whose entrance is under 
water. 

Who shall tell or paint the beauty that these still 
reaches waken and feed ? Who shall count the colours 
of the June flowers that spangle the face of the canal 
and adorn its banks ? Their numbers are bewil- 
dering ; their shapes as varied as the twinkle of 
sunbeams in the agate depths, where little arrows of 
light play hide-and-seek under the surface. There 
is dark green and golden green ; the silvery tones 
of sallow, willow, and osier, the shining, fresh opu- 
lence of young alders ; the upspringing foliage of 
reed-mace, sedge, rush ; the quaint shapes of marsh 
equisetum rising above the water ; the frog-bit's little 
three-petalled blossoms, afloat in colonies ; the great 
water-plantain's spear-like foliage surmounted by last 
year's skeleton flower -stalks. These all are here 
with humbler things that fill each its place in 
the woof of this most brilliant web. And on the 
banks, rising above a mist of ripe grass and the 



94 MY DEVON YEAR 

russet of seeding sorrel-docks, tower thistles and the 
blooms of the yellow iris. Ragged robins gem the 
great tangles of herbage ; greater skull-caps open at 
the water-side ; and buds of larger things to come : 
ragworts and willow-herbs, field roses and meadow- 
sweets, are still hid in the green. Buttercups flame 
reflections into the pools ; sweet aromatic breaths of 
water-mint rise ; here are orchis and yellow rattle ; 
here prosper the wild chervil and straggling vetch ; 
here, at touch of hand, I can squeeze the scent out 
of the fronds of the bracken a fragrance that is the 
very soul of Summer. Sheep come down presently 
from uplifted pastures through wastes of nodding 
ox-eye daisies, and they drink with bleating and 
greeting of content. Upon the tow-path, immediately 
above the water, I mark a silver glimmer of shells, 
whose inner walls are mother-o'-pearl ; but these 
homes of the fresh-water mussels had been torn 
asunder, and the dwellers within devoured. 

Yet Life, not Death, was the anthem of that high 
noon hour. The secret of the day appeared in the 
teeming, fecund outpourings of Nature, who brings 
forth thousands that hundreds may live, that fifties 
may grow to adult perfection, that tens may propa- 
gate their kind. Little tadpole people blackened many 
square yards of the old canal, insect life dawned in an 
endless stream ; up rush and sedge strange goblin 
things crept from the muddy darkness into noonday 
air, burst their sombre vesture, shivered into per- 
fection, and then twinkled away as the sun set jewels 



THE OLD CANAL 95 

gleaming on their gauzes, and woke ruby and emerald 
lights in their wonderful eyes. 

Birds haunt the old canal, and pheasants drink 
from it at evening time, where it winds through silent 
coppice and spinny ; while wood -pigeons, surprised 
from their sob and croon in lofty firs, start suddenly 
upward and away, with a rush and hurtle of wings. 

The environment varies from frame of meadows 
and tilled land to the inner depths and mysteries 
of dark woods and deserted wastes. Here, where I 
set down this chronicle, reflections of charlock lighted 
the canal face from acres of green corn on the bosom 
of a hill ; and beyond the young grain, grass lands 
arose to wind-blown elms about a crocketed church 
tower. Elsewhere, seen clear against the blue, grey 
roofs of slated farms extended westward, with warm 
tones of ancient stacks that stood above the ripple of 
hay now ready for the cutting. And followed further, 
the old canal wound into copses and jungles of trees 
pine and oak, ash and tall cherry where fell much 
play of chequered light and battle of sunbeams that 
winnowed their ways to the water. 

The music of the hour was also sweet. Remote 
drone of rooks and young rooks made the bass of it, 
and against this background of sustained sound were 
set the bleat of sheep and lambs, the songs of black- 
birds and larks and chaffinches, the shrieks of robber 
jays, the sibilation of a grasshopper-warbler near his 
hidden home, the tinkle of a wren's little lay, the 
castanets of a magpie, who with much rattle of speech 



9 6 

and flutter of black and white plumage, made laboured 
flight among the tree-tops. 

It is afterwards that such spectacles as the old 
canal repay a man for whole-hearted worship before 
them long afterwards, through the watches of sleep- 
less nights, under darkness, or in the dreary avenues 
of pain. Then they return, these pictures, if we have 
seen them true; they return with their light and music 
and old glory as it was on a bygone day. No more 
we hear the rustle of the fire, nor the cry of the 
morning wind on the pane ; no more we feel the evil 
gnawing in the clay of us ; for a little while we can 
call back yesterday ; for a moment we stand on the 
threshold of a summer-time long dead ; and as the 
good images waken, memory brings a little peace. 




A WHITE ROCK-ROSE 

|Y hunting-ground hangs midway between 
earth and sea, where huge limestone cliffs 
stand firm-footed in the blue waters of the 
Channel, where wondrous sunshine lights 
their dark clefts and crannies and wide surfaces, set- 
ting them agleam with hues of lemon and orange 
and pearly grey, where shadows from passing clouds 
or oncoming night paint their great foreheads with 
purple by day and in tones of sombre monochrome at 
sunset time. Here dwell numberless sea-birds, that 
greet me with cries and protests, because they have 
knowledge of little seagull squabs perched far below 
on the dizzy ledges, and count those treasures the 
object of my search. So they rush up on broad 
wings from beneath, swoop down from above, sweep 
and swirl every way, some crying, some whistling, 
some uttering a sort of cynic laughter as they speculate 
on my ultimate destination, if I a creature wingless 
venture nearer to their homes. Here, too, dwell the 
things I seek. Wide, gentle undulations stretch in- 
land, shimmering under a summer noon, and the short 
herbage makes proper setting for the minute gems of 
the flowers. Mother-o'-thyme spreads purple patches 
H 97 



9 8 MY DEVON YEAR 

on the green, and yields her scent only to those who 
crush her beneath their feet ; between the gorse 
and heather ridges, dwarfed by western winds, the 
little pink stars of centauries peep along the downs ; 
brake-fern shines upon the waste and weathers to 
russet under the wind; the slender thistle springs from 
the scorched herbage, carline thistles spread amber 
rays ; cathartic flax twinkles with the shaking grass ; 
lady's bedstraw, and other of the galium folk, make 
light everywhere, and twine their brightness into the 
texture of the waste ; while the least of them 
the tiny squinancy-wort also dwells here in com- 
pany of the silky cudweeds, and small trefoils, and 
pink and white stork's-bills tucked into limestone 
crannies. Here, too, a choice and exceedingly scarce 
plant the honewort shall be found in June, and 
presently goldilocks a treasure rarer than gold will 
scatter her wealth hard by, when the empty calyx of 
the knapweed shines like silver, when the thrift and 
sea -lavender are dead, and a thousand seed-cases 
tell of Autumn. 

Around me are the foundations of deserted forts. 
There is a drone of bees in the thyme, a dance 
of heat along the way, and a man lifts his eyes from 
so much of withered green to the blue waters 
beyond, to the mists and cloud-mazes of the pale 
horizon, to the ruddy, tanned sails of the fishing 
fleet, or wind-torn, smoky tangle from a steamer's 
funnel seen afar off on the edge of the sea. 
Summer holds the crown of this great cliff, while 



A WHITE ROCK-ROSE 99 

the open eyes of scarlet pimpernels scan the sky for 
promise of desired rain, and, seeing none, stare un- 
winking on. With their leaves and blossoms the plants 
fret the masonry that man has deserted ; they fill the 
embrasures fashioned for old-time cannon ; find life 
in the crumbling mortar, suck life from the stone. 
Many familiar friends one might count, both on open 
down and amid the desolation of these ruins ; but 
such I passed with mere recognition and regard, for 
my mark was the cliff ledges the great sloping 
shields of the limestone that, like armour of scales 
on some primeval dragon, overlap around the front 
this headland opposes to the sea. 

Here, amid steep slopes subtending cliffwards, grew 
common things and others not seen daily by man. 
Upon abrupt undulations,"* shattered and broken by 
steps of stone, dwelt furzes and brambles and gnarled 
blackthorns, tree-mallows, teasels, dyer's rocket, huge 
crucifers, with pale violet blossoms, the everlasting 
pea, hound's-tongue, dying grasses, and trailing briars. 
It was the home of rabbits and the haunt of raptorial 
birds. Seed from thistle and hawkweed scattered in 
down upon the air ; great heat brooded everywhere, 
and only a solitary sheep track, marked by flecks of 
wool on the trailing thorns, indicated any method of 
advance. A stridulation of young grasshoppers was 
music proper to the visible tremor of the air along 
these sun-baked slopes ; once a heath-lark sprang up 
from under my feet ; once a wire-haired terrier joined 
me for a while, nosed hither and thither, performed 



TOO MY DEVON YEAR 

deeds of daring on the cliff edge, and then vanished 
magically as he had arrived. 

I pursued my way among the crags, and sought 
with one effort to grave a mental picture of that 
spacious scene on my mind, with another, that nar- 
rowed my eyes, sharpened my attention to a gimlet 
point, and concentrated mental activity on particulars, 
to win from the under-shrubs and herbage some newly- 
opened blossom that no eye, save that of gull or hawk 
or shining lizard, had ever rested on before. 

Half-hidden in the furze-clumps, his foliage almost 
fern-like in its delicate details and slender stems, I 
found the lesser meadow-rue, a rare plant, and seldom, 
if ever, seen off the limestone ; while instantly on this 
success there came a still greater discovery. Suddenly 
at my feet appeared a golden bead set in five silvery 
petals, and I saw the white rock-rose that scarce and 
precious beauty whose British dwelling-places are 
limited to two. Yet here she prospers, stars the arid 
earth, spreads forth her foliage of hoary green, and 
thrives to the kiss of the sun and the wind, many a 
good mile from the nearest of the regions mentioned. 

Have I, then, been privileged to add an English 
"station" to our botany for Helianthemum polifolium? 
The possibility excited me to enthusiasm, but I 
could only hug this pleasing dream to my heart 
until again within reach of books. And then I found 
that a botanist, who has slept these many days, met 
my little golden-eyed lady here in 1862 the year that 
I was born! I have merely rediscovered one of her 



A WHITE ROCK-ROSE 101 

forgotten homes. And still between the sun and sea 
she hides, happy and prosperous ; still year after year 
she opens virgin eyes on the sky and the birds and 
the companions of her lonely dwelling-place. Behold 
her, therefore, a creature more rare than queens ; but 
raise no sacrilegious hand against her ; touch her not ; 
do fitting obeisance, and so pass upon your way. 





YOUNG TAMAR 



JESTING in the grass, waiting for the trout 
to rise, my face is little higher than the 
meadows, and but for a sudden bend in 
the bank and a gentle whisper in the air, 
one would not guess at the propinquity of a river. 
Here, however, Tamar flows, the mother of all this 
beauty, a stream of slow and stately passage, moving 
forward through meadows and daisy-dotted pastures, 
between banks of many-coloured clay clay of all 
shades from bright amber beneath the water, to silver 
above it. 

Thus Tamar wins her personal charm, for a clay 
stream she is, and from her cradle receives a delicate 
and mellow tone that becomes almost opaque in the 
deep pools and hovers, shines like liquid gold where 
sunlight pierces the forest shadows, and thins to a 
delicate and milky tinge where the river slides over 
shallows or mossy weirs. 

A stream of many moods is she, with fresh charms at 
every bend and turn; not the least backwater or tinkling 
fall but delights in its particular ornature and distinction. 
Where the river shines along straight reaches, the 
banks tell the progress of Summer and the shrinking 

102 



YOUNG TAMAR 103 

of the stream, for they dry gradually as the river re- 
cedes, but always retain moisture for some inches 
above the water-level. Everything in this valley is 
fresh, delicious, and unexpectedly original, as becomes 
a young stream full of hope and promise; never a curve 
or dip but has its proper arrangement of sedges and 
young rush, pungent water-mint and luxuriant reeds 
springing above the water; even the old, dead alder, that 
uplifts a lichened ghost where once it gloried in all the 
splendour of russet catkins, neat cones, and whispering 
leaves, lacks not for grace. This skeleton at the 
feast of the living has a charm ; and beyond the 
wreck, young Tamar, moved to sudden softness, dips 
behind a little peninsula of green flags and decks 
her loveliness in a garment of hawthorn a true 
bridal robe of silver and of pearl. Everywhere round 
about the snow-white may trees light the valley, skirt 
the spinnies, or stand in their glory alone upon the 
meadows. But at Tamar side they are most fair to 
see, for there they bend and cluster, scent the air with 
sweetness, mass up gloriously against the summer 
blue, bend humbly and lay white garlands upon the 
bosom of the river. Presently their purity will flush 
to pink at the first whisper of the end, and the million 
petals, that have seen their little pictures reflected 
beneath through the glory of June, will fall and flow 
away along the shining highway of their dreams. 
Then, too, the irises, now twinkling in a golden galaxy 
against their blue-green leaves, will fade and curl dead 
blossoms round their swelling seed-pods. 



io 4 MY DEVON YEAR 

Tamar's July dress is gold-bright clay set in meadow- 
sweets, garlanded with woodbines, bryonies, and the 
trailing splendours of dog-roses and field-roses. These 
briars mingle their pink and white in loving tangles 
over the water ; while, ashore, the ragworts shake out 
fire in stars and flashes ; the butterfly orchis brings 
her scent, and the marsh orchis springs sprightly 
beside her ; buttercups and daisies and little variegated 
vetchlings enamel the grass everywhere ; at hand the 
purple loosestrife lifts his spires along the river ; the 
golden pettywhin and the meadow thistle also stray 
hither ; and countless other buds and bells and starry 
things make a home in every glade and sleepy 
backwater. 

Follow a wood-pigeon's flight and you shall note 
the low wood-crowned hills that rise to east and west 
of the river. Here coverts, cunningly planted in 
old time, spread along the undulating land ; and 
little humped elms, dwarfed by winds from the sea, 
stud each low hedgerow and climb to the horizon. 
Young oaks abound in the copses, and they shine 
under the sun contrasted with the neighbouring 
pines. Above these woods stretch grazing lands 
and hay lands, and noble expanses of young corn. 

In Tamar's valley Contentment has found a haunt 
At set of sun, when these clay banks glow and the 
murmuring shallows gleam with fire ; when the voice 
of the water is a thanksgiving stealing upward and the 
harmonious murmur of those things that only rivers 
know ; then Content moves along the dewy grasses 



YOUNG TAMAR 105 

and dreams beside the silent pools. In the gloaming 
hour I have felt her wandering near me ; by night 
I have divined her presence on Tamar's dark brink ; 
but I have never seen her, for her concern and her 
abiding-place are not with men. 




THE LAKE BY THE SEA 

jHE place nestles within a wide crescent of 
gentle hills that tend towards the sea, and 
shine at this season with ripening corn and 
bright red earth, with fresh green of root 
crops, and gentle bloom of summer forests that mark 
the undulations of the land. Near the western point 
of this semicircle the Start's white lighthouse stands, 
and eastward tall cliffs arise, from which the whole 
subtending scene is visible, and miles of glittering 
mere may be perceived in one glance of the eye. 
Here spreads a lake, so near the sea that the waves 
make their music to the tarn, and great reeds that 
fringe it return messages on the land breeze. Beaches 
of bright shingle, shining sands, and miles of flowers 
lie between the silver fresh water and the blue salt. 
Soft grey enfolds the scene on this day of Summer, 
and beneath a bright sky, wherein the light is diffused 
in an equable and pearly haze just slashed and fretted 
with blue like a fair sea-shell, this ley of reeds and 
lilies, together with its banks of verdure, the sands 
around, and the sea beyond, weave such a robe of 

106 



THE LAKE BY THE SEA 107 

wonderful colour for the earth as shall seldom adorn 
even summer hours. Here two aqueous worlds 
lie side by side, the one full of visible loveli- 
ness and upspringing life, the other hiding all its 
wonders beneath a blue and purple curtain, touched 
with light and fringed with silver. Passing along 
between them I wander, first to the shore of the great 
waters, then to the margin of the lake, and then to 
the shore again, even as the gulls cross back and 
forth from their proper home to float with the black 
coots, brown dabchicks, and moorhens, and cackle to 
them of the wonders of the deep. Swans also lord 
it here, swelling along with snowy bosoms that leave 
a shining wake. A pair having three grey cygnets 
squeaking astern, mistrusted me, and hissed, and 
flashed their snakes' eyes at me, then with strong, 
unseen strokes of their black webs, rode away over the 
rippling shallows into deep water and safety. 

The lake and the shore, separated by a straight 
white road, blend indeed into a complete picture, 
yet preserve their characteristics, and yield obedi- 
ence to the sea on one side and the lagoon upon 
the other. Those things that love the ley lie inland, 
while on the southern side thrive the creatures of salt 
soil and salt breezes. These stretch tendrils and nod 
blossoms to the sea ; they venture over the sandy 
shingle even to the confines of high tides ; they 
prosper in the rack of old storms, trail fair blossoms 
amid fragments from ancient wrecks and the orts and 



io8 MY DEVON YEAR 

ruins of man's contrivances that have floated hither 
from the ships. Here, amid chaos of pebble and 
planes of sand, springs the sea-holly's silvery- blue 
foliage and darker bloom ; various spurges thrive 
beside it with green leaves and flowers, and the 
glaucous leaf of the horned poppy makes yet another 
shade of lovely silver-green against the more verdant 
growths and its own corn -coloured blossoms. The 
sea-convolvulus has a white star of five rays within 
her rosy chalice. She lies upon the sand and shines 
up at the rain-clouds ; and not far distant the rare 
purple spurge still haunts these strands, and straggles 
ruddy upon them. Above the actual beach small 
things work an embroidery of brightness into the 
grass, and wild thyme and bedstraw spread their 
purple and gold underfoot. Here, too, the round- 
leaved mallow opens its pale eyes ; while beside the 
mere grows that minute and most rare herb, the 
strap -wort ; and the tiny littorella blooms close at 
hand in the marsh. Rabbits hop along the low 
dunes, and sheep graze there and shine very white 
after shearing. 

Here springs up the wormwood in delicate silver 
sprays just breaking to lemon -coloured bloom. Its 
sweetness and clean freshness of scent seem won 
from the salt sea and dry earth touched with rain. 
A noble contrast offers in the viper's bugloss, whose 
abundant spires of sapphire -blue, touched with 
carmine, gleam above the yellow sands. Thrift 



THE LAKE BY THE SEA 109 

also flourishes, the great mullein spreads its woolly 
foliage, and the teasel rises tier on tier, each leaf- 
cup holding a jewel caught from the last shower. 
The hound's-tongue has parted with its dark blossoms, 
but it owes its name to the seed-cases that now stick 
in hundreds to the passer-by as he brushes against a 
dying plant ; while the black henbane that maligned, 
yet not malignant herb still opens pale maize- 
coloured blossoms fretted with purple traceries round 
the gloomy centre of each flower. Its scent so 
strange, its foliage so exquisite, its power so tre- 
mendous, make it attractive beyond common. Here 
it abides dreaming amid the innocent, open-eyed, 
familiar things a creature apart, a plant of mystery 
that still retains the keys of sleep and death. 

The lake stretches far away, all rippled with light 
and wind, to the farther bank under a grove of 
elms. Green reeds wave here in long, true lines 
against the water, and where the breezes die and 
the frosted silver of the ley passes into a placid 
sheet along the margin, images of the upland and 
wood are mirrored as in a glass, and shine each 
twig and sedge, each red hill and white cottage 
perfectly reflected. Beneath the reeds a splash of 
brighter green lies upon the water ; and the flower- 
lover is glad, for he knows full well that the queen 
of the lake dwells there and glitters amid the great, 
sprawling masses of her foliage. All shades of green, 
flecked with shining light from the sky, adorn these 



no MY DEVON YEAR 

huge leaves. They float and flutter in a medley here, 
and lift their rims and faces in lovely fulness of life, 
while amidst them, the opening buds expand, petal 
upon petal, until pure gold shall be seen glimmering 
in their hearts. Beside the water-lilies, other things 
are also happy ; fragrant mints give out their scent 
as one treads upon them ; the pennyroyal lies in the 
grass; the spear-wort flames; the crowfoot's white 
stars twinkle everywhere ashore and afloat ; the sweet 
chamomile's daisies attend every step ; the burr-mary- 
gold flourishes ; and the water persicaria's rosy blooms 
arise above its narrow leaves, where they ride at 
anchor, with trailing milfoil, in the crystal. Here 
are burr-reeds and sedges, rushes, scarlet-veined 
docks, and the first flowers of the flowering rush. 
They ascend amidst sedge and reed in exquisite umbels 
of blossom that twinkle like pink fairy lights against 
the green. 

All of which things, and their home and the tender 
sky above them, breathe out and embrace perfection 
in their sort. The secret of that day was harmony 
the rarest of human emotions, whose transport comes 
to the heart so seldom, whose endurance is so brief. 
As the dew of heaven on thirsty fields, such moments 
fill and satisfy the intellect and aspiration. But they 
cannot be commanded ; seek them, and you shall 
never find them ; hug them to your heart when you 
have chanced upon them, and they vanish like a 
rainbow. 



THE LAKE BY THE SEA in 

Arundo, the great reed, masses grandly here under 
the grey sky, and each spear-shaped blade rubs 
against its neighbour until the whole rond makes silky, 
sleepy music, hushes the hour to silence, and calls 
its children to their secret homes. Immediately 
above this kingdom a grey haze floats, touched with 
warmer colour. This cloud moves not, for it is com- 
posed of last year's naked flower-stalks, and its place 
will soon be yielded up to the purple panicles of 
Autumn. Once, in the old times before land drain- 
age, the reed-ronds of the West Country covered 
miles, and represented a considerable harvest. The 
culms were used for thatching, and are still counted 
better than straw in many districts. Earlier yet, this 
grass was employed as a pen, but quickly passed into 
disuse when the bird's quill took its place. Merlin 
wrote his verses with the great reed, and Gildas, the 
father of British history, bitterly assaulted the Saxon 
invaders of his country with such a weapon, though 
the pen was not so mighty as the sword in the sixth 
century. 

Now clouds came lower, and the sky of blue and 
silver took a stain in the midst where vapours 
massed. Yet there was only a whisper of soft drops 
on the ley, and before one might say it rained, the 
shower was done, the gloom had passed, and sudden 
gold broke out of the west, with shafts of light that 
swept round swiftly upon themselves. Beneath that 
wonderful sky, amid fresh affinities of colour, amid 



ii2 MY DEVON YEAR 

new relations of lovely things, I turned homeward. 
Then the hour grew bright under splendour of sunset, 
and its evening glory became exalted by contrast with 
the serene and pearly illuminations of the day that 
was done. 




THE LAP OF PROSERPINE 



HEN leisure allowed, I have watched the 
more obvious life of our lanes and fields 
from month to month, and so gleaned a 
little sheaf that may tempt shrewder ob- 
servers to better scrutiny and closer seeking. 

During January I walked among the lanes, and 
there was hushed flight of starlings above me and 
merry convocation where they dried themselves in 
a sunny hedgerow after bathing. They chattered, 
and puffed their throat feathers and, lifting up their 
long beaks, uttered whistles of thanksgiving to the 
sun. They were wintering bravely, and knew it in 
every metal-shining, speckled feather of them. 

At this time I found the plump pillows of the moss 
serving as cradles for the spore of the ferns, and 
everywhere from green cushions in sheltered nooks 
sprang forth tiny fernlets in the early stage of their 
strange alternate generation. Seen thus, it tasks a 
botanist to know their names ; but the hart's-tongue's 
offspring seemed to my sight distinct ; and along 
i 113 



n 4 MY DEVON YEAR 

the crown of the hedge-banks, amid silver hazel- 
stems, the adult ferns luxuriated and shone, with 
glossy green ribbons, crinkled and puckered and 
touched with light of the low sun. Young galiums 
sprouted briskly, sending up their seed-leaves from 
the naked earth ; tiny rosettes of the little hairy 
cardamine were also prospering, while the inner 
vesture of my lane at this season might well be noted, 
for this was the hour of the lichens in pale tones of 
grey and silver and tender brown ; of the mosses 
with their misty traceries and filigrees ; of the liver- 
worts, clinging to earth and stone with flat green 
fingers ; and of fungi not a few. Notably like a 
scarlet gem, the fairy cups of the peziza twinkled 
here and there, set off by rich background of dead 
leaf and twig and russet mould ; while nearest of 
all to the earth's own bosom, veiling it like a silken 
garment, dwelt dim growths, no thicker than a wash 
of colour films of grey-green and pearly grey a 
living texture pressed tight against the heart of the 
Mother. 

Many leaves of the past year still nourished their 
roots, and the wood-avens, the primrose, the violet, 
their foliage grown enormous, slowly sank to the sere, 
and awaited one pinch of frost to end them. Else- 
where life had begun anew ; the wild arum's leaf-spike 
was breaking through the earth ; and the leaves of 
the lesser celandine were spreading to the sun with 
bold designs in black and white upon their shining 
green. Late in the month there came a silver dawn 



THE LAP OF PROSERPINE 115 

of catkins on the earliest sallows, a silky brightness 
that trembled like dew in the sun ; and the tassels of 
the hazel, three months old now, were also swelling to 
flower. 

During February a general stir and a whisper 
moved within the lanes, and no fear of possible frosts 
stayed the activity of the living things there. The 
young growths of perennial speedwells were turning 
purple at their crowns and waking into action ; while 
the seeds of annual speedwells germinated and spread 
twin leaves, like wings. Honeysuckles were in strong 
leaf of jade-green perched daintily in bunches along 
their bines ; bluebell foliage had appeared above 
ground in little stars of green spikes; the adult catkins 
of the hazel showered their yellow pollen and, like 
tiny sea-anemones with crimson tentacles, the fruitful 
blossoms, clinging to the naked stems beneath, re- 
ceived it, and marked where nuts should come in 
season. Many mosses at this time were fruiting and 
many had long been in fruit. With sweet earth-smell 
they glimmer, all be-diamonded even on driest days, 
for they draw up moisture and display it in a twink- 
ling haze upon their feathers and cushions and deli- 
cate leaves throughout the Winter. Sometimes they 
freeze so, and shine out from silvery frostwork 
of ice. 

There is a pond in the lane where I work, and 
from it, as the second month departs, there arise the 
love -croaks of frogs, where lances of light come 
through the hedge and gleam in the water. Here 



ii6 MY DEVON YEAR 

green things watercress and brooklime and marsh- 
wort are already awake, and the bank above them 
is draped with ferns and ivy, and the lesser peri- 
winkles, whose blue blossoms, among the first of 
spring flowers, make fine colour against their own 
bright leaves. 

The birds drink, and thoughts of matrimony are 
upon the air, for the day is warm, and the nook is 
sheltered, and hope of Spring high in the hearts of 
all creatures. Brown field-mice rustle along their ivy- 
hidden ways invisible ; the lesser woodpecker taps in 
an elm above my head ; and where Scotch firs ascend, 
there is great business of eating, for little shreds of 
cone flutter down in a shower. Each silvery flake 
once was wing of a seed, but the seeds are under 
a squirrel's waistcoat now. Systematically he works 
from base to crown of the cone, and leaves it gnawed 
as neatly round as though cut with a lathe. I have 
caught the cone so treated straight from his paw, as 
he threw it down and bustled to some bending twig 
for another. 

With March the seedlings begin to come into 
their own, and we recognise them as they follow 
the unchanging way. The hairy cardamine has 
crowned his foliage with small white flowers ; the 
speedwells and galiums declare themselves ; the 
wild onions splash the hedge with fine foliage, and 
about the old plants countless little green lancets 
spring from last year's seed. The green hellebore 
is a rare treasure, and her verdant bells down-drooping 



THE LAP OF PROSERPINE 117 

over the deeper green of her foliage are surpassed 
in grace by few growing things. With her, too, comes 
the daffodil grown rarer as a wild flower of late 
years. 

The elms have thickened overhead and shine out 
with a warm ruddiness under pale skies. It is 
good to escape from the sharp East wind in this 
sunny rut of a lane ; for the sweet violets, both blue 
and white, haunt the hedge-banks now ; the mouse- 
ear chickweed is in bloom ; the rose and bramble 
break into leaf, one green, one grey ; and the poten- 
tilla's white, golden-eyed blossoms shine bravely. 
Primroses on pink, downy stems open singly, in the 
hollows the wood-spurge shines out on the hedge- 
top, dog's-mercury shows its tassels, and the golden- 
green saxifrage spreads her blossoms by the water. 
The modest moschatel also blooms now a tender 
thing that raises its little closely-packed cluster of 
blossoms from amidst stouter creatures of the way. 
Daisies and lesser celandines gladden March and 
scatter each lane with their silver and gold. 

There is busy nest-building forward too. Piles of 
sticks swell aloft in the elms to clamorous chorus of 
the dusky workmen ; scarcely a bird has an empty 
bill. Round balls of hair and lichen grow on orchard 
trees where the chaffinches design a home ; thrush 
and blackbird plant their houses boldly in the arm 
of any low dense bush, under an ivy-tod, or hard by 
the budding bluebells of the hedge-bank. The robin 
builds in holes, the starling and nuthatch in hollow 



n8 MY DEVON YEAR 

trees, and the latter plasters up a portion of the egress 
if it be too large for her purposes. 

In April comes bud-break, and the glory of the 
larches and hazels, alders, elders, maple, and the 
rest. Blackthorn has been in full flower since March, 
primroses are at their best, wood-anemones and blue- 
bells are blooming, . and dog-violets make patches of 
purple in the sunny angles of every lane. The 
hedge galium, with others of his kind, is turning, 
creeping, running, rioting everywhere ; the goose- 
grass is first to flower, followed by the golden cross- 
wort ; while the greatest of the galiums, frequent 
here, but rare elsewhere the wild madder prepares 
green flowers and thickens into masses, though it 
never holds light and life from other things. Wood- 
ruff is not common, but haunts the fringes of forests. 
Now all the wild, tangled lace work of the hedge briar 
and bramble, woodbine, woody nightshade, and the 
vetches are beginning to bud for bloom. Busy 
tendrils are clinging ; ferns are uncurling ; foliage of 
all imaginable shape, and spring, and curve, and droop 
obeys the law, and spreads, and falls, and climbs, and 
creeps, and trembles in translucent green to the kiss 
of the wind and patter of the rain. It is a time of 
delicate green sheaths and vernal showers upon them, 
of things hid in the bud and the egg. Bright-eyed 
mothers with their bodies pressed upon nests peep 
forth in patience from a thousand bowers. The 
hour is awake and waiting. Only the throats of 
the birds, banishing all silence, sing with exulta- 



THE LAP OF PROSERPINE 119 

tion and expectance. And Nature, under each green 
leaf and out of the death of last year, prepares the 
supply for the coming demand, spreads the banquet 
of countless insects for the tiny throats that will soon 
gape in her nurseries. Also I know how the fat 
infant thrush must go to the weasel's maw that she 
may the better suckle her young ; how certain of 
the blackbird's fledglings will make no music, but 
serve to gladden the young jays. Many a squeaking, 
new-born rabbit, sniffing his first wild thyme, will also 
be snatched out of all the joys of his little life that the 
crow's brood may flourish, or the young of the hawk 
prosper. The spirit of life forgets none of the infinite 
infantile family : 

" It spreadeth forth for flight the eagle's wings 

What time she beareth home her prey ; it sends 

. The she-wolf to her cubs \ for unloved things 
It findeth food and friends." 

Never was a platitude put more pleasantly, x 

Of plants, the umbel-bearers are busy with foliage, 
here delicate, here rampant and coarse, here fine and 
ferny, as in the chervils, or stone-parsley, or hedge- 
parsleys ; here distinctive, as in the sanicle, or the 
lady's-mantle ; here massive and even gigantic, as in 
the cow-parsnip and alexanders, or moisture-loving 
angelica and water-dropwort. Speedwells are blossom- 
ing sky-blue and azure-veined, and the perfect chalice 
of the wood-sorrel like sparkling snow laced with a 
network of amethyst hangs and trembles at its own 



120 MY DEVON YEAR 

beauty where the splendour of the mosses is slowly 
departing. The spindle tree buds, and from the elm 
now falls a rain of flower-petals infinitely small. 
They strew the way beneath, even as presently the 
leaf-sheaths of the beech will scatter a silver-toned 
mantle under the woods and on to the wind-flowers. 
Now the red ploughed lands grow paler at the 
kiss of the wind. Each day the moisture in them 
lessens, and they diminish from the deep Devon 
hue to a delicate pink against the sky-line. But 
where the harrows scratch their faces. the riper colour 
gleams again. 

I see now that the black bryonies best start 
their life's brief journey in companionship, and so, 
cuddling round and round each other like a living 
rope, mutually support their twin strands. With 
doubled strength they play their part in the common- 
wealth, climb aloft among honeysuckles and clematis, 
now adorn the way with tiny inflorescence like sprays 
of green dew, and presently fruit in scarlet clusters 
that are amongst the last fine things to perish in 
December. But the common bryony is absent from 
Devon a circumstance to note, for few are the wild 
flowers that find this county inhospitable ; and many 
of the hardy northern folk would abide on Dart- 
moor's heart if they might but wander South to 
her. It may be noted for such as love figures and 
flowers that but a trifling bouquet from the wealth of 
Devonshire lanes can be culled in this paper. I think 
not above three hundred plants are mentioned, yet 



THE LAP OF PROSERPINE 121 

near five hundred will be found to flourish in such 
spots as these I name a number exceeding one- 
quarter of the total British flora. As for the whole 
county, embracing its shores and high hills, water 
meadows, river margins, estuaries and lone waste 
places, you shall find therein above half of the in- 
digenous flowering plants of the kingdom. 

In May life breaks loose, and no chronicler can tell 
more than a fraction of the story of the lanes. Every- 
where is the crisp chirrup of new-born birds, from 
the pigeon's two or three downy young, perilously 
perched on the fir in roughest fabric a twig be- 
tween them and death to the eight or ten atoms of 
life, all eyes, in a wren's home. There is ceaseless 
industry, and brave work of grub-hunting and fly- 
catching. 

The cuckoo-flower's faint lavender is by the pond, 
the herb-robert and the shining crane's-bill, the rosy 
campion and the mallow flush the way ; and, aloft, the 
hawthorn breaks its round buds above the tiny forget- 
me-not, that is born yellow and dies blue ; above the 
brightness of the greater celandine, and the spotted 
orange and scarlet of the "archangels," and white dead 
nettles, and the tangle and triumphant upspringing of 
the grasses. There are a few sedges also here, and, 
by the pond, various of the more common rushes swell 
and break for flowers. The maple leaves are most deli- 
cate, diaphanous, and beautiful at this season, and the 
crab-apple's clustered blossoms, all pink and white, 
with lemon anthers, peep aloft. Elsewhere, the way- 



122 MY DEVON YEAR 

faring tree and his cousin the guelder-rose light the 
path ; and the wild cherry also, with tassels of drooping 
flowers. He shines up against the blue sky, like a 
cloud set on a silver stem, and in his bending blossoms 
black humble-bees make a pleasant sound. The nettle 
buds to flower, and the labiate folk hemp-nettle, 
hedge - woundwort, betony, and calamint, perhaps 
even the splendid bastard balm make ready. This 
last, indeed, will soon open his pale rosy trumpets 
a very fair and rare thing that nestles in lonely old 
lanes upon the confines of ancient woods, and shares 
the same with the starry ramsons and the twayblade, 
with the columbine, the mountain willow-herb, and 
wood loosestrife. 

Of ferns the dusky ceterach, his under-leaf, dor- 
mouse-colour, opens in the old masonry beside the 
wall-spleenworts ; and polypody creeps along the 
oak-branch with sure foothold in the mosses there ; 
brake-ferns uncurl their silver crooks among the blue- 
bells on the hedge-top, and the English maidenhair 
spleenwort and black spleenwort flourish below. The 
shield-fern, the male-fern, and the lady-fern are here 
also, with countless hart's - tongues and other less 
common of the clan. 

Then comes June, when all Nature is lyric, when 
constellations of great and lesser starry stitchwort 
shine from little blue skies of speedwells, when 
buttercups and silver- weed below and goldilocks * and 

* Goldilocks^ the ranunculus so called. 



THE LAP OF PROSERPINE 123 

cinquefoil above, make royal colour, and when the 
grasses shake out plumes and feathers, sprays and 
drooping panicles of flowers. The graceful avens 
blossoms now, and the wood-strawberry that never 
sleeps has already set her fruit. 

At this season the western sun searches our lanes 
in the long evenings, and reveals new beauties among 
the dwellers there. Before twilight, at the evensong 
of the birds, it touches the snowy field- rose to glory 
and the dog-rose and musk-mallow to red-gold ; it 
warms the unnumbered greens of hedgerow and of 
tree ; it causes the dusky nettles to shine, and lights 
the great and little docks' inflorescence into tapers 
of ruddy flame ; it turns the pale willow-herb to a 
deeper hue, and burns here and there upon delicate 
living things in the nooks and draped crannies of the 
earth. Down the green tunnels its level beam 
awakens harmony of shadows barred with light. 
Then the sun sets and the last song is sung; the 
West glows like an opal ; darkness under no grey 
cowl of cloud, but merely in semblance of tempered 
day, holds night for a little while ; a star is reflected 
like a diamond in the pond among cresses and 
forget-me-nots; and, northerly, the sun, eager to 
shine upon these good places again, steals along under 
the edge of the mountains to the East, while tell- 
tale silver upon the sky marks his way beneath the 
horizon. 

I question if there be a scentless blossom. We only 
smell a little, and our sense in this sort is on a par with 



124 MY DEVON YEAR 

our knowledge ; but among the excellent contrivances 
of flowering plants it may be that scent has a 
greater part than we can prove in summoning their 
winged, hymeneal servants. The glittering hosts are 
busy here, and the drone and under-song of them 
comes to the ear at any moment when the birds are 
silent. Ichneumons soldier-like, shining and quick 
as lightning do their strange duty upon the many- 
footed, fleshy things that are always hungry and would 
eat up all to the last rose-petal, but for these stern 
workers. The honey-gatherers make varied music, 
from the organ-note of the humble-bee to the higher- 
pitched song of the hive workers. They leave few 
flowers untried ; toil at the next blossom to that 
whereon vanessa opens her fairy wings ; labour 
in the heart of the roses ; tumble upon the golden 
tutsan ; test the dandelion and convolvulus, the lurid 
spikes of stachys, and the sprays of the vetches 
all purple and gold. They scatter the may and 
cherry, and break down the frail petals of the blue- 
eyed flax. By night the bright flies and bees and 
butterflies cease from their cares, and then comes 
the moth-time, and dim, soft things seek the white 
campion's nocturnal eyes, or the pale trumpets of 
the moon-creeper. Great shard-borne beetles boom 
past upon their business in the open ; the sphinx- 
moth passes like a mystery ; the churn-owl makes his 
strange song ; the bats squeak aloft and hunt the 
chafers around the fir trees. Dor-beetles maintain a 
crisp throb of sound, and the glow-worm lights a little 



THE LAP OF PROSERPINE 125 

lamp for her love's sake. It trembles and twinkles 
along, touching the dew and the grass-blade and the 
wood-strawberry. 

So half the year passes. 




THE LAP OF PROSERPINE 

ii 

|ULY is a serious month, for harvest time 
approaches. Now her amber - coloured 
mast tones the raiment of the beech ; 
maple and ash shake out their key-clusters, 
and infant hazel-nuts peep out of their green bibs and 
tuckers. The avens begins to pass, and soft burrs have 
taken the place of his blossoms, while the goose-grass 
leaves fruit to cling with the grass seeds on each 
wayfarer. Now purple of knapweed and saw-wort 
brightens the way ; fig-worts blossom in chocolate and 
gold, the sky-blue sheep's scabious is out, and the 
mauve rosettes of the gipsy-rose bloom nobly. With 
them many bright yellow flowers toad-flax, sow- 
thistle, goat's-beard, lotus, nipple-wort, agrimony, and 
St. John's worts appear. Of these last, the fairest 
by far is the slender hypericum, whose bud is crimson, 
and whose habit is delicate and dainty beyond the 
rest. Another flower of modest mien that loves 
seclusion is the enchanter's nightshade, whose pale 
spires now rise above heart-shaped foliage in shadowy 
corners. Prunella and ground-ivy still bloom bravely, 

126 



THE LAP OF PROSERPINE 127 

and the blue bugle shines over the grave of moschatel. 
Another modest little lovely thing is the long-stalked 
geranium rare in some districts, common here. Its 
twin blossoms nod above cut leaves, and it abides 
with more familiar kinsmen in the hedge, or shares 
the lowest place with the marsh cudweed and knot- 
weed and bartsia, the plantains and persicarias, the 
tiny field madder and pearlwort, at the feet of the 
great burdock, the goose-foot, and other giants of 
the ditch. Now wild thyme and sweet marjoram 
bloom ; there are mints, too, putting forth lavender 
or pink blossoms by the way and in the water ; while 
clown's heal-all also stands with his feet in the damp 
for choice, and adorns the pond-margin, together with 
hemp agrimony and marsh horse-tail, valerian, and 
ragged-robin. The trefoils and clovers are seeding, 
the iris has strange leaden-coloured blooms scattered 
amongst its swords, and the creeping thistle blossoms 
where the boys have suffered him to reach perfection. 
But his arrogant carriage is a challenge that few young- 
sters can pass unanswered ; so the more distinguished 
thistles keep out of lanes and flourish best in wild 
desert places of less danger and difficulty. 

Under the deepening green, small feathered things 
sit close and compare notes as to how the world 
strikes them ; they peer and peer and flutter and 
tumble about a constant anxiety to their parents. I 
love to see Dame Nature keeping her infant school, 
for there is something in young birds beyond the 
inevitable implanted instinct. The differences o f their 



T28 MY DEVON YEAR 

wits and dispositions lie beyond our seeing, yet that 
every bird and mouse has its proper character, I 
suspect. Certainly some fledglings are sharper than 
others, show a keener eye for their parents' return, 
and a more masterful knack of forcing their own 
particular open beak upon the eye of the bread- 
winner. Nature reverses our error in this matter, 
and rewards the big, strong youngsters for their big- 
ness and their strength. We keep our failures under 
glass ; we suffer them in their turn to father and 
mother new failures ; but Nature's weaklings fill their 
proper place in her republic, and the feeble folk, 
making a meal for some beast better equipped than 
themselves, thus justify the Mother of all her children. 
Conscious intelligence unhappily departs from Nature 
in this rational and golden rule; but amongst the aisles 
and avenues of the lanes there is no question as to the 
wisdom that rules and brings the greatest good to the 
greatest number. No pitiful sentimentality bred of 
ignorance mars the work here. 

August sometimes weaves a subtle sense of weari- 
ness about my lanes. The ertlotion naturally lies in 
me, not the life around me ; but I feel now in pre- 
sence of the beginning of that end to which all green 
things are born. I feel it even as I feel that the 
deep green of the foliage and the rich darkness of 
the great elm is the darkness before dawn of Autumn. 
To-morrow will come sudden grateful rain, and a 
thousand opening flower -buds will rebuke these 
anticipations ; and so, banishing thought of Autumn, 



THE LAP OF PROSERPINE 129 

I shall look closer, and find that evidence of hard 
work well done now throngs the bending spray and fills 
each little seed-cup. 

Late August is the hour of the yellow composite 
blossoms, but it needs a botanist to distinguish you 
the hawkbit and hawkbeard and hawkweed folk from 
one another and from many more of the dandelion- 
flowered clans. Only the mouse-ear hawkweed one 
may easily recognise by his crimson-streaked bud and 
lemon bloom ; and the wall-lettuce's spray of little 
flowers is also distinctive, while the ox-tongue's huge 
habit and prickly foliage mark him as a personage 
apart. Fragrant ploughman's spikenard now rises, 
and of lesser things the rosy wild basil is fair to 
see ; its congener, the aromatic calamint, blossoms 
in pale purple beside it ; and in an old wall or 
upon some stony spot, such as the thyme loves, 
the exquisite violet of the little basil thyme shall 
possibly be found. Of wall -lovers, indeed, one might 
furnish a goodly list, and some I name presently 
when treating of the moorland ways. As for the 
deep lanes, when artificial stonework banks up an 
earth-slip or fills a gap, ivy-leaved toad-flax and 
pellitory of the wall soon find it ; seeds of many 
things fly hither on their little parachutes, and 
Devon's only saxifrage, the tiny rue-leaved variety, 
may grace the spot in springtime, with his minute 
but ruddy and cheerful presence. 

During September Nature begins to reckon up her 
harvest, much of which has already returned into the 
K 



1 30 MY DEVON YEAR 

bosom of earth. The grasses have shed their seeds, 
and their flower-stems are dying and imparting a sere 
shade of grey and ochre to the hedges. From the 
point downwards the leaves perish ; and beside them 
the docks are wasting, and the foliage of many humble 
things that pass away without splendour is sinking 
obscurely. But from the fading greens spring up not 
a few handsome fruits. The shining triple cases of 
ramsons, bluebells, and violets are open, and they 
part with their harvest freely ; the tiny grain of the 
foxglove is ripe in the seed- cone ; and so are the 
shining black seed-clusters of alexanders. The wood- 
sorrel and cardamine have springs and shoot their 
treasures far and wide. The campions' chalice brims 
with black seed, and the pea folk hang covered with 
pods, black and brown, the earliest already splitting, 
the latest scarce out of their swaddling clothes. The 
daggers of the geranium are open also, and the shining 
orbs of the stitchwort have burst and vanished like 
bubbles. 

The full pomp of the greater harvest is not yet, 
but the hazel-nuts and blackberries are ripe, and 
broken hedges tell that the boys know it. The arum's 
fccarlet corals stud each fading bank or nook, and of a 
paler scarlet are the splendid seed-clusters of the fetid 
iris, that burst out where their heavy green cases break 
the stems and grow yellow and gape open. Now the 
morning air is touched with coolness, and downy seeds 
we flying, and gossamers glinting everywhere. 

Lanes vary much in their character, and, among 

I 



THE LAP OF PROSERPINE 131 

others, there are a sort of distinctive minor ways that 
wind about the footstool of Dartmoor, that lead 
upwards through wood or over swelling heaths, 
until their banks decrease and dwindle, and they 
leap out into the central waste. Such lanes have 
their proper flora, and in them, beneath wind-blown 
beech and tough hornbeam, may be found a variety 
of plants not seen in the deeper and more verdant 
tracks that lie below. Here are sand and peaty 
loam, with the herbs and grasses proper to them : 
The greater and lesser furze flourish aloft, and 
their flowers blow generously throughout the whole 
passage of the months ; the shining broom is also 
common, and beneath him, where the rabbits burrow 
and tunnel, there spring heather and ling, rise purple 
foxgloves and mulleins, wood-sage and delicate scor- 
pion grass. The little heath galium and the tormentil 
twine together ; the lesser dodder tangles furze and 
heath in its pink meshes ; the eyebright twinkles on 
the way; and the milk wort prospers with varied 
blooms of blue, pink, white, and a lovely variety, 
veined and fringed with blue, that I have met with 
but once. 

When the bilberry's red bells are shaking in spring- 
time, the tiny teesdalia dwells beside it here, and the 
upright moenchia also. The red rattle and the yellow 
follow them, with the hemp-nettle and sometimes those 
weird robbers, the broom-rapes, though they may be 
met with anywhere, given a fitting host. Water-crow- 
foot and little blinks float in marshy corners, and where 
the rills, that cut many a lane at right angles, eddy 



132 MY DEVON YEAR 

into small backwaters. Here, also, that gay foreigner, 
the monkey-flower, shall sometimes be met with. He 
has now wisely settled amongst us, and finds Devon 
meet all his requirements ; while near neighbours are 
the yellow rocket, and skull-cap, and meadow-sweet. 
An orchis or two the early purple, the spotted hand- 
orchis, the marsh-orchis and the lesser butterfly-orchis 
may be found in such a moist corner also ; and 
the rare sweet cicely haunts one lonely spot under the 
Moor. In rocky walls grow pale English stonecrop, 
yellow wall-pepper, and navel-wort, while perhaps a 
red raspberry twinkles from tall canes in the hedge 
above them. The yarrow, of course, climbs to any 
height Devon can give it; the sneeze- wort, its kinsman, 
loves lane or wayside, where it flaunts with the mug- 
wort and silvery wormwood, the groundsel and its 
brother the ragwort. Golden tansy likewise loves 
such a home ; and sometimes, above the devil's-bit 
scabious in a damp corner, the comfrey will spread a 
deep green clump, and hang aloft white or livid bells in 
miniature chimes. Grasses, too, soften and drape each 
bank, and the little wood-rush strays among them. 

Hither come the moor creatures and the birds that 
love the uplands. Foxes trot down these lonely lanes 
by night ; wind-blown crows poke and pry here on 
stormy days, and the weasel and snake-like stoat are 
familiar sights. Above them the great woodpecker 
laughs upon his undulating way in air, and the magpie 
clatters his castanets. He is but a feeble flier, and of 
all winged contrasts you may find none more marked 



THE LAP OF PROSERPINE 133 

than that between the pie's pompous, ineffectual passage 
and the grand rush of a wood-pigeon on the wing. 
He sets the air humming from his pinions, and one 
can almost fancy his wake visible in it as he passes. 

To name another more familiar kind of lane that 
possesses a special flora, I will choose those wind- 
ing ways upon the limestone, that climb up to 
grassy headlands by the sea, or sink down into the 
combes of the coast. These bedeck their stony 
bosoms with some of the fairest gems I know, and 
from the leafless stars of colt's-foot to the purple tufts 
of the autumnal squill, such spots daily adorn their 
turfy banks and stony ledges with fresh flowers, and 
shine into November with the snow of the seeding 
clematis, the scarlet fruit of bryony and rose, honey- 
suckle and hawthorn. Here most surely shall be 
found the pink centaury great and small, the pleasant- 
smelling rest-harrow, the privet, and the dogwood. 

Parsley piert and cudweed are among the very little 
folks ; and the sprays of the shaking-grass and the 
cathartic flax will certainly dance their minute blos- 
soms on the breeze beside them. Butcher's-broom, 
laden with bright scarlet berries in Spring, is a 
likely visitor tucked into the hedge-bank ; the 
ox-eye daisy and other daisy-flowered folk, such as 
mayweed and scentless mayweed, are present also ; 
black medick and melilot may greet you, and a jewel 
of crimson and cream in the shape of the dropwort 
most beautiful of English spiraeas will surely nod 
its lovely head hard by. The stork's-bill, with fleeting 



i 3 4 MY DEVON YEAR 

petals, pink or white, the round-leaved mallow and 
the wild mignonette all love to be within sound of the 
sea. Here, too, blue sal via shall be met with, and a 
rare plant in Devon, that I have seen but once at such 
a place, is the autumn gentian. Aloft, the bine of the 
hop decks the thorn with flowers and fruit, and, be- 
side him, the everlasting pea may clamber and hang 
out great clusters of blossoms, pale green and pink. 
The purple-tufted vetch likewise adorns this region, 
with the common vetch and the two tiny tares ; while 
the wood vetch fairest and most delicately hued and 
veined of all the pea-blossomed family shall also 
here be found by the fortunate. 

As the banks grow open to sea, wind, and sun, 
certain plants stragglers from the downs and cliffs 
may be counted upon. The hound's-tongue, the 
gromwell and the teasel, the little golden carline 
thistle, the Mary thistle with milk-white veins, and 
the great nodding thistle all adorn the end of the 
lane where it vanishes in a "goyle" or upon a pre- 
cipice's crown of turf. And where such a lane breaks 
to the edge of the cornfield on the cliff, or dips along 
ploughed earth, the sky-blue chicory's stars cling stalk- 
less to their parent stem ; the pimpernel and poppy 
shine scarlet ; the tiny heart's-ease prospers with the 
corn-mint and golden chrysanthemum ; the chickweed 
and fumitory, the hen's-foot, the sea carrot and shep- 
herd's-needle touch your feet. 

In October my lanes, whither I return to make an 
end after these devious windings, are aflame and 



THE LAP OF PROSERPINE 135 

aglow. Hazels and elms shine out pale gold ; the 
beech has a tone of copper, and the maple's orange 
and scarlet contrast magnificently with the deep purple 
of the dogwood. Ash leaves turn a golden-green and 
fall early, and often the South-west wind proper to 
this hour snatches them from the bough untimely. But 
their great tassels of keys hang into the late Winter, 
and the rich brown masses of them contrast well 
against the green of the ivy and the colour of the 
elms. The aglets of the rose hang in scarlet sprays, 
and the hawthorn's clustered crimson already invites 
many a hungry beak. Thrush, starling, and blackbird 
have long since made an end of the elder-berries and 
the crop of the wild cherry. Acorns fall tapping from 
their cups ; chestnuts leave their silky cases ; and the 
three-sided, cinnamon-coloured fruits of the beech 
crackle crisply in thousands underfoot. A small thing 
that dies nobly is the silver-weed, and now its leaves 
are painted with pink and gold, where they pass 
beside the ditch. 

Now the long lane vistas sparkle and blaze into fire 
at sudden sunlight ; but each breath of air that moves 
the mist-laden cloud brings down a handful of leaves 
from the trees and hedges, and the very sun, 
suddenly shining out in a wan gleam, seems to touch 
them and displace not a few. They flutter in his 
beam for the last time and so sink to earth. All 
growing things are knit in these close hedges by the 
clematis, and for its inconspicuous flowers it now gives 
us feathered fruits that powder the hedge with delicate 



136 MY DEVON YEAR 

fleeces, shine among naked branches, drape the great 
arms of the dark fir, droop in fair festoons and showers 
over the decay of the year's foliage. When wet with 
rain they are grey ; when dry or under sunshine they 
make a frosted silver robe for the green things below. 
The pink fruits of the spindle tree have opened, and 
the brilliant orange seeds are visible. Bryony and 
woody nightshade hang their berries in the hedges ; 
thistle and dandelion sow their endless crop upon the 
wind, but the willow-herb and the valerian have long 
since parted from their flying seeds. Along the hedges 
is huddle of damp death, here starred by some belated 
rosy campion or wild basil, daisy or tardy black- 
berry spray in flower ; the languid air is laden with 
sweetness from the orchards ; the starlings fly in 
flocks ; the small birds twitter and hop in subdued 
parties about the way ; a thrush sings bravely ; and 
the robin's sudden song in autumn twilight reminds 
us of the dark days at the door. Now desiccated 
lichens again grow humid, and the hooded and cowled 
people grey and livid, scarlet and purple begin to 
move and peep from under the dead leaves. 

November further marks the oncoming of Winter. 
The nights are touched with frost, and at noon, when 
the sun brings a genial ray to some old stump or 
mossy stone, ancient bluebottles collect there to warm 
their failing wings, to lament the green days done, to 
marvel that their god should thus lose his primal heat, 
and sink so low into the hedge from his old, high 
pathway above the tree-tops. So, comparing signs 



THE LAP OF PROSERPINE 137 

and omens, they judge the end of the world is 
nigh ; and for them and their practical purposes it is. 
Yet Nature has looked to this matter with all the 
rest, and next Summer will not want for necessary 
bluebottles any more than it will lack violets, and 
rosebuds, and honey-bees. These last still work a 
little, and the ivy blossoms high overhead are full 
of their pleasant murmur, like a soft echo from bygone 
Summer. 

Of other flowers, the wood-strawberry, and red 
campion and nipple-wort, alone light the desolation. 
Rime of white frosts lies under the northern side of 
the hedge-banks, and each curled leaf is touched with 
it. On dry days there is the crisp sigh and patter of 
the little leaf-ghosts where they fly in air, or seem to 
run like fairy battalions at the double along the 
ground. Red evening light brings out the traceries 
of interwoven boughs and the distinctive character of 
the naked tree skeletons above them. Then fall the 
latter rains, and since little business longer challenges 
the eye, one's thought may burrow with the roots 
underground, where there spreads that vast laboratory 
from which spring the glories of the seasons. Here 
is a subterranean world at least as wonderful as that 
I see ; and within its labyrinth, from the tiny thread- 
like fibrils of a germinating grass-seed to the ancient 
oak tree's roots, huge as the fabled snake, like labour 
of subtraction, selection, storing, building up, and 
growth proceeds without intermission under thie night 
of the deep, sweet earth. 



138 MY DEVON YEAR 

During December much minute work on a mighty 
scale occupies each hour, and light and water and 
temperatures begot of decay bring scent and familiar 
odour over the surface of the earth, or lazy vapours that 
hang low at the elbows of the lanes and woods, and 
creep like blue ghosts above the crucibles of Nature's 
chemistry. Here the rain and the busy worm convert 
all this mass of food to the staple of the earth, and 
again the lichens and liver-worts come to their place 
in the circular procession and punctual march ; again 
the mosses renew their shining youth ; again the tight 
catkin appears upon the naked hazel and alder ; again 
the North wind murmurs of coming snow. 

So the year closes, and one turns from this trivial 
scrutiny to mourn that from such infinite possibili- 
ties the personal harvest is so scanty. How much 
the eye has seen, how little the mind has perceived 
even at moments of closest contact! And beyond that 
sorrowful certainty lies the greater assurance that in 
every moment of every hour throughout my absence 
from these scenes, there has budded some good thing, 
there has flourished some animate or inanimate 
creature, there has passed some perfect shape of life 
unguessed and unrecorded. Each moment of the 
day, each pulse of the night, carries along with it 
a revelation seen only by the eyes of unconscious life ; 
and the sun in the heaven, the unsleeping stars above 
the firmament, most surely witness more through one 
diurnal span than shall be found within all the gathered 
wisdom of mankind. 




SAND-DUNES 

UT yesterday I walked where mat-grass 
chevels the sand-dunes with meagre green ; 
and remembered that thirty years ago I 
ran here and rolled in the sand. All is un- 
changed ; yet, in that my mind has weathered three 
decades and returned from a world of work and 
experience, nothing can again be as it has been ; 
nothing can evermore take the same colours, for 
young eyes see no cloud-shadows. Then these sand- 
hills were a procession of lion-coloured monsters, 
wandering in awful company by the waters ; and the 
scanty grasses served for bristling hair upon them ; 
and I imagined these gigantic and sinister things as 
leaping into the narrow channel where Exe flows to 
sea, and crossing over it that they might devour a 
little town upon the other side. Yet me they hurt 
not, and I would lie upon their hot breasts fearlessly, 
roll in the soft sand, speculate on the purple of 
the sea-holly, prick my fingers with it, tumble and 
bask, and, gazing upward, build my secure kingdom, 
fortress, home, in the pinnacles of a summer cloud. 
I loved to dream in these old sand-dunes. I can 

139 



140 MY DEVON YEAR 

conjure the grand fancies even now, and feel kindly 
to them. For what a dainty piece of work is a 
child's mind ! What a sea of fairy colours it swims 
in ! How unconsciously it gathers and garners 
and weaves from little experiences, little know- 
ledge, and little joys, the fabric of its dreams, hopes, 
and sudden ambitions. Floating in an opal shell 
on a glorious sea of golden to-morrows, the child 
stretches out small hands to the future ; as the child- 
man does afterwards from his mud-barge on the grey 
canal of life. 

I remember lying here where the dunes are brushed 
with a sort of purple, paler than palest flowers, where 
each pit and dimple has its own delicate note of colour, 
where in this sand-setting, each scrap of flint or slate, 
or marble shines out like a jewel. Here my mind 
dwelt upon the ships that stole along over the sea, 
where it shone above the sand-hills ; and because the 
grass could hide those great ships, even as a fly on 
the window can hide the evening star, I said that 
my toy boat was as good as they ; and sticking it in 
the grass, and taking a position where it seemed 
to sail on the blue edge of the world, I found that it 
loomed larger than the greatest vessels that had their 
business in those waters, and was much pleased at the 
notable figure my toy cut among the ships of men. 
So we set pride of possession above the cold logic of 
comparison, and each mother's son is a triumph, and 
each man's particular toy a unique treasure. 

These rolling dunes are a home of many good 



SAND-DUNES 141 

things; for flowers that are beautiful dwell among them, 
and flowers that are courageous in their daring invasion 
of the beaches, and flowers that are cheerful under 
stress of circumstances, and flowers that are merely 
rare. Hare's-foot trefoil, whose pink blooms are 
hidden in a pearly mist, makes a sort of manna 
scattered by the way ; soldanella spreads little arrow- 
shaped leaves under the grey-green wheat-grass, and 
opens her trumpets there ; sea-rocket creeps to the 
very feet of the sea-horses that paw the beach at 
high tides, and the great gulls look into its mauve eyes 
as they strut on yellow feet in the harvest of the last 
wave. Many other things, now scorched by Sum- 
mer, find life in the sand ; stonecrops linger there, 
and the salt- wort straggles, and the scentless mayweed 
spreads with drooping rays and staring eyes. Above 
the grasses, whose ripe seed-heads are the colour of 
the dunes, arise creeping thistles and blaze noble heads 
of ragwort, that sing a colour song ; while behind 
them lie acres of deep green rushes, brushed with 
the brown of their fruit and broken by spires of red 
docks. Then the estuary of the river stretches like 
a band of silver, and in the distance, under the haze 
of Summer, there lie woodlands and cornfields upon 
the bosom of a hill. 

I have seen dawn upon the Exe, and can remem- 
ber how a great mist rolled down the river to meet 
the morning. In billows it came under a breeze from 
shore, hid all the heron-haunted flats and marshes, 
heather-ridges and sleepy dunes ; then the risen sun 



142 MY DEVON YEAR 

touched it, and it waned gloriously in a rosy glow 
against the increasing blue of the sky ; while from its 
depths stole Exe to the sea ; and I saw red cliffs and 
marble beaches and fishers with bright sails setting 
forth into an ocean of light. 

Within the arm of my sand-dunes extend spaces 
that only vanish at highest tides ; and here, in 
shining plantations decked with shells, grow the 
glassworts. Their lower joints are often a radiant 
scarlet and lemon, and rise above rich store of sea- 
weeds, brought by successive tides. These are flat- 
tened out upon the mud into a mosaic of ruby-red, 
amber, transparent white, and deep green, all laced 
and slashed and gemmed with ribbons of olive-brown 
and sepia, or stars of orange and pearl. In drier 
regions, where barriers rise or dykes drain the water, 
sea-lavenders bring to earth the glory of foreign skies, 
and their hues mingle with the rushes and the heather 
of the higher levels. Shining mud-flats are one 
background to this blaze of purple ; while sand- 
dunes and glimpses of foam-fringed waters hem in the 
marshes towards the sea. 

The sand, as I have said, reveals all manner of 
rare shades in direct sunshine, and over its yellow 
undertone prevails a delicate, gauzy hue that par- 
takes of mauve in one light, of grey in another. 
These spaces are virgin since the last patter of rain 
pitted them ; but where a foot falls, the dream-colour 
departs and yellow shines out until time weathers 
the exposed grains again. The mat-grass binds all 



SAND-DUNES 143 

together with nets and meshes deep hidden, and the 
wind fashions a harp here, and in a minor key, sing- 
ing softly, carries pale light over the green, and bears 
many scents of earth out to the deep. Glimmering 
lines of foam twinkle horizontally through the thin 
grasses as each wave curls and breaks and spreads 
its white ridge to right and left along the back of the 
shallows, and, line upon line, over a huge scrip, shore- 
wide, they write the story of the sea. There is a 
word I seem to decipher before it vanishes ; there 
is a sentence that I can read before it departs. The 
sand-dunes and the waves tell each the other's story ; 
for the countless grains that twinkle through my 
fingers represent the activity of the sea ; while the 
earth's flowing raiments of great waters hold hidden 
the secret of the sand. 

Gold and grey commingled are the ancient dunes; 
and they come back to me now as a material image 
and picture of the gold and grey years that have 
sped since last I saw them. Here the sun sleeps, 
and the wind rests awhile ; and the colours blend and 
mingle so subtly that none shall part them, none shall 
say where brightness fades away and the shadows 
begin. Every puff of air sends the sand-ridges dancing, 
and scatters their little grains : they ride on air with 
seed of thistles and grasses, rags of dry weed, or 
fallen feather from a gull's wing ; but these dunes, 
for all the ceaseless rearrangements of their particles, 
continue unchanged ; even as matter is eternal, but 
no form of it. And noting this thing, I muse 



i 4 4 MY DEVON YEAR 

whether I have likewise persisted, and remained my 
first young self despite all the winds of chance and 
the waves of time. 

Though he stand steadfast in spirit, man's mental 
structure must alter its shape under clean tempests of 
knowledge, from increasing breadth of horizon, at the 
riotous buffets of a growing intellect, and in the 
variable weather of human experience. Yet nothing 
from outside can hurt the substance of my inner life, 
so that it is held together by reason, as the mat-grass 
holds the fabric of the dune ; no vital thing can whelm 
this spark of me while Nature lets it burn ; no hand 
can choke it, poison it, ruin it, but my own. 

That was the venerable truth written in the 
breaking waves, and scrawled by the wrack upon 
the shore ; that was the secret of the sand-dunes, the 
question they asked of me as I came back to them 
with my thirty years of added life and, resting upon 
their soft hearts, dreamed the old dreams again, but 
listened to the new voices. 



THE HOME OF THE WEST WIND 




Y winding ways from a lofty land I ap- 
proached the sea ; and my road sank 
along one side of a sun-scorched valley, 
over against which there spread the spec- 
tacle of a more shadowed hill southwards. Here 
corn climbed aloft from the trout stream in the 
combe- bottom, and a green elm or two, rising above 
hedgerows, was resting-place for the eye. Ahead, 
framed in a hurricane-cradle of terrific cliffs, spread 
forth the sea the playground of the West wind 
an expanse of unutterable blue to-day, its power 
lulled to the throb of sleeping pulses along the 
shore. 

Cots and thirsty hedges of tamarisk powdered with 
dust filled my foreground, and on the right of them 
a scarp of stone, gloomy and savage even under 
the sun, climbed aloft out of the sea and rolled in 
wide undulations landward beneath a running flame 
of the autumn gorse and a gleam of pink heather 
between brake-ferns and grasses. The blue back 
of the sea stretched from the fall of this cliff 
across the horizon, and vanished presently where a 
headland rose southward and framed in that spacious 
L MS 



1 46 MY DEVON YEAR 

scene. Heaven was cloudless and of an infinite clarity 
the work of the West wind and the Atlantic on their 
loom of sea and sky. Under high noon these condi- 
tions engender such a sharpness and intensity of seeing 
that the least observant eye brightens thereat, the most 
lack-lustre wanderer, sent hither by happy chance, 
wakens into some added appreciation of life. 

Over a foreground of grey rocks I passed above 
high-water mark, beside a spot where the little trout 
stream from above found burial in the shining shingle. 
Even at this breathless hour foam shone like a neck- 
lace of silver round the throat of every sea-girt rock, 
and bubbled in a glimmer of bursting beads where 
dark grasses rose and fell at the waters' touch. 
These seas take no rest ; these waves that roll 
on the northern coasts of the West Country are 
rarely at perfect peace. There is the weight of the 
Atlantic behind this blue horizon. Tremendous latent 
power lurks hidden always, and waits only for the 
West wind to set it in motion. Silence has never 
brooded here since the world began, and even under 
the sunshine and the August glow of fair weather, 
there is that in the sad cliff-brows and tremendous 
spaces of the beach, left for a short hour naked by 
the tide, that cries out of conditions far removed from 
peace. 

In spirit I see the leaden billows tumbling into this 
miscalled haven on the wings of a gale of wind ; I 
hear the scream of the great seas when stinging 
mists of spindrift are torn off their white scalps to 



THE HOME OF THE WEST WIND 147 

lash the shore like a liquid scourge ; I witness a hurri- 
cane under these altitudes, and hear the song of the 
stone answer each wave's wild challenge as the wind 
strikes the precipices, and the sea drapes each blind 
face of the rocks with spouting beards and brows of 
white water. 

Off shore great sunflashes played on the blue ; 
the floor of the empty beach-bed glimmered at my 
feet ; behind mte lay the cottages at the combe-foot, 
all dotted with yellow lichens, under shining slate ; 
and spread about them were stacks, outbuildings, 
dried grass lands, and straight walls of the prevalent 
black stone. In the air trembled a ceaseless song 
of the sea, the solemn primal anthem of the West 
wind played in a treble key to-day ; under my feet 
lay rocks worn smooth by weight of unnumbered 
waves ; and over their surfaces passed ribs, and veins, 
and delicate filigrane of pearly marble, here netted 
like the mesh on a ripe melon, here as it had been 
a map of some fairy country unrolled upon the stone. 
The hill acclivities, seen from beneath, shone under 
the sun's eye, revealing a cleavage mathematical in 
their regularity of seam and fissure where they sloped 
upward to shaggy terraces of thrift and blackthorn ; 
while beneath them spread the beach. Here scarcely 
a human soul was visible. At the edge of the sea a 
solitary man, dwarfed to bird-like size by distance, 
moved with a basket and probed under the seaweed- 
hidden ledges ; in a narrow arm of the sea, like little 
pink pearls, some children bathed; and above them, 



148 MY DEVON YEAR 

where the precipices towered in opposition to the sun, 
their mighty eaves, and prominences and planes, re- 
flected in the water, robbed it of the sky's blue and 
substituted a sombre shadow of their own darkness. 
The boulders in this wonderful valley were alive 
with every hue that iris knows, and the sunlight, 
like a magician, revealed a thousand shades of 
olive and chrome, topaz and amethyst, scarlet and 
snow, here spread on the stones, here shining 
through the crystal of little pools, here lapped and 
cradled in the fringes of the oncoming foam as the 
sea returned again. The rocks were starred with 
grey patches of young limpets ; and at pool-edges 
the sand was fabricated into a coral-like fret wherein 
stuck bright shells, blue and russet and lilac frag- 
ments of the strange homes of things now perished, 
vjhose habitations were either desolate or tenanted 
by some soft stranger that did not build his house, 
but finding it empty, became tenant on a lease to 
be determined by his own rate of growth or limit 
of prosperity. 

A wide gamut of colour, from the vivid, riotous 
rainbow play beneath to the more solemn hues and 
shadows of the cliffs, made visual music here ; yet, 
even under this jocund summer sun, while the little 
children played fearlessly in the lap of the lazy sea, 
an impression of austerity haunted me. I could not 
forget, and the terrific crags could not forget, that 
mighty shriek from the rage of ocean on stormy nights. 
Each precipice was conscious of the immensity of 



THE HOME OF THE WEST WIND 149 

Zephyr ; each towered alert and strained upon the 
sea ; for the immemorial enemy would surely waken 
from sleep refreshed, the storm-wind of the equinox 
only awaited a signal to let loose once more his 
thunderbolts. 

Strata, like a frozen wave, undulate in great 
ribbons from high -water mark round the shore. 
These are most clearly shown at sea-level, but in- 
dicated even to the uppermost turrets of the cliff's 
crown. A shadow drifts across the scene, cools 
the warmth of the weeds, and reveals things unseen 
in the glare of the sun. Along the cliffs, where ling 
hangs in great cushions and sea-campion studs the 
rocks with white stars, sheep have clambered and stand 
in the shade, waiting patiently while the sun turns 
westward. The smell of the sea and the outspread 
life of a world unknown make their appeal from 
the rocks and the weeds. Gardens shine up out 
of the clear pools forests, jungles, deserts, peopled 
by transparent prawns and tiny fish that dart among 
the foliage of silver and rose and gold, or seek their 
invisible prey in groves of ebony and orange, among 
flowers and fabrics of sepia and lemon, emerald-green 
and purple wine-colour. The sea -anemones are mere 
dabs of ruby or yellow or green jelly seen out of 
their element, but beneath it, they wave their flesh- 
coloured tentacles, winnow the water, and turn 
to flowers. Amazing are the shapes of the sea 
weeds, and beautiful beyond expression is the 
mingled harmony of their vegetation in hair-like and 



1 50 MY DEVON YEAR 

ribbon - like communion. They float, frilled and 
crimped ; they shine, twining, sinuous, and slippery, 
to the embrace of the water ; they gasp naked under 
the air on the high and dry rocks at the kiss of the 
sun. Their tags and tatters and laces spread every- 
where : here ardent and glowing, here chastened 
through the clear medium of the water ; and over 
them dance butterflies a fritillary or two, and a little 
blue heath, and the common white pieris all de- 
ceived, as it seems, by the rainbow colours in these 
sea-gardens not spread for them. 

Over all there broods a mist, a delicate and nebulous 
haze the very breath of the sea made visible. It 
softens each craggy shelf and precipice and island 
rock in the receding perspective of the coast-line ; 
it blurs the distance gently. It creeps bleak and chill 
across the rain on leaden days ; it shines radiant 
beneath the blue of cloudless skies ; it burns on such 
a summer noon as this burns and dilates and rarefies 
under the sun into a glorious and transparent gold. 
It is ever present, ever changing, ever floating be- 
tween earth and air, the protean child of old ocean 
and the West wind. 

There came now a growing growl from the waters, 
and here and there, against some solitary seaward 
rock, a sheaf of silver feathers shone upwards, then 
fell with a sigh to fret the wave that brought it. 
The tide came in again, and as it returned, sweeping 
the ledges one by one, lifting their shaggy weeds, 
pouring pure sea into each pool, sliding nearer and 



THE HOME OF THE WEST WIND 151 

nearer with gentle, hog-backed waves that hid their 
strength, I passed before it and retreated by cliff- 
ways where the honeysuckle, the golden-rod, and 
the burnet-rose flourished together aloft and made no 
quarrel with the wind that dwarfed and stunted them 
and robbed them of adult shape. 

Nor is it well that any shall question the way 
of that primal giant. At the will of Nature he 
has played on this harp of awful crags and preci- 
pices since first they were heaved out of the earth, 
A blind servant is he, and his work is other than 
to please man or consider the sons of men. Quarrel 
not with him that he drowned those you love ; bless 
him not for bringing the rain. He is oblivious of 
your desire, of your joy or your sorrow, and the tre- 
mendous breath of him that now touches your cheek, 
passes from it with caress as rough or gentle to the 
beasts of the field and the graves of the dead. To- 
day he plays with your children's curls and helps the 
fledgling's flight; to-morrow he lifts up the sea against 
the earth and makes war between them ; he destroys 
the ships and those who after long wandering have 
sighted home ; he drags forth by their roots the ancient 
trees of the forest, shakes the mountains, and shatters 
the patient and precious work of man. 




DART 

lERY near the heart of Devon's wild table 
land rise the sisters of Dart, one beneath 
the great sponge of Cranmere, mother of 
rivers, the other from those shaggy slopes 
of heather-clad Cut Hill that crown the central lone- 
liness. By winding ways the new-born rivers gleam 
through wastes of the budding ling, making musical 
the silence ; and here small mare and woolly foal 
stand at the brink of them, and here bellowing kine, 
with tails in air and uplifted muzzles, gallop cumbrously 
and plunge dew-lap deep in some familiar pool that 
shall shelter them from the summer glare and insect 
life. To their meeting-place the rivers prattle along, 
now leaden, now golden, now all olive and sepia in 
some silent bend where they widen and grow still, 
now foaming and fretting over mossy stairs of granite, 
now wrinkled and full of tremulous light, where they 
rise again after some headlong leap. To their con- 
fluence, West Dart comes from journeying past Wist- 
man's oaks, hard by old Crockern's historic crown ; 
while her sister travels through glades and meadows 
beneath the granite head of Believer. The one has 
wandered beside little islets, where in Spring white 

152 



DART 153 

bluebells grew, and the fishermen struggled through 
jungles of silvery sallow ; the other has passed that 
old pack-horse viaduct at Postbridge, and reflected 
many a sheet of shining broom and gorse upon 
its way. At the tryst, scarlet harvests of the rowan 
are already ripe ; whortleberries brush the banks of 
the mingled streams with purple, and green larches 
dwell above. 

Dart is a young and happy river still, and innocent 
of the solemn splendours of deep water that await 
her ; of the mystery and magic of great woods ; of 
the unechoing, fertile vales she will presently traverse; 
of man's legend, that no year passes but her woman's 
heart claims toll of human life ; of the song and ripple 
of advancing flow from the sea ; of her journey's 
end, when she shall be lost and melted into the 
eternal lover of all rivers. Past the desolation of the 
Moor, under the granite crowns of it, and winding 
about the footstools of giant hills, the river shines 
and sparkles between her banks by villages, by home- 
steads, by little mills, beneath ivy-clad bridges ; and 
as she passes onward, her volume deepens, widens, 
and wins a more solemn note of song. Here scarps 
of granite spring from the oak-clad hills ; here pines 
crown an acclivity ; here the margin meets some ferny 
combe, and the bracken glimmers blue-green under 
summer haze glimmers and sweetens the air, and 
grows to the brink of the water. There rise the 
forests of Holne, and under aisles of shadows, grow- 
ing hushed and deep, the river twines where king- 



154 MY DEVON YEAR 

ferns skirt her silver and adorn the way with masses 
of foliage seen emerald-bright against the dark ivy, 
the black earth, and mysterious blue shadows of the 
banks. 

A forest whispers here, and the croon of doves 
shall be heard sobbing in time to the murmur of 
the wind in the fir trees. Then birds and breeze 
are still, and the river is very still also, where she 
winds unruffled through silence censed by the pine. 
A jewel-bright halcyon flits through the mazes of 
chequered sunlight that scatter golden sequins and 
arrows in the heart of the stream, and creatures less 
lovely also move here and there all things great and 
small, furred and feathered, about the first business 
of life. In many a glade by the river's way, bryony 
and woodbine mingle, and ferns trail along the 
tide. A hundred water-lovers crowd the brink ; 
and the little melampyre brightens all the dewy 
under-world of the great woods with pale light. 
Sometimes beaches of pebbles extend to the river 
from the margins of the forest, and beneath the 
water, where it spreads glassy smooth, between one 
tumble of stickles and the next, sharp eyes may see 
the salmon. They look like grey shadows poised 
in the crystal ; their heads turned to the Moor ; 
their tails gently moving where they bide awhile 
on the journey, their goggled eyes turned upward, 
like the eyes of creatures praying. They rest here 
in the Mother's hollowed hand, then, strong to pursue 
the instinct within, swim on, fight each silver fall in 



DAUT 155 

* 

turn, and ere winter, if death does not come between, 
they win to the deep distant pool with shelving bank 
and heather border that they know of old and seek 
again. 

At Holne Chase the Webburn leaps to her greater 
sister, and anon Dart, her song and dance ended, swells 
to full womanhood and sweeps into the land of the 
ripe red earth, of wide water meadows and shining 
corn. Buckfastleigh has vanished ; gauzes of salmon- 
net rise along the reaches; and then, navigable now, 
the river sees for the last time certain grey, southern 
crowns of her motherland afar off on the ramparts 
of the Moor. Now the little township of Totnes 
shimmers under shining blue mist of slate roofs "sur- 
mounted by a red church tower ; then it is lost, and 
with it Dartmoor vanishes for ever, while in many 
a no"ble turn and tend the tidal river sweeps on- 
ward beneath hanging woods. Here arise plane on 
plane of green oak, shining with reflected light, 
fretted and inwrought with the deep but scanty shadows 
of noon. On either bank little calves stand in the 
shade, their water-pictures ruddy on the oily umber of 
the shadowed river ; horses meet also, fraternise, and 
stand side by side, with nose to tail, after their wise 
way, that each may whisk the flies from off his brother. 
Shorn grass lands and corn ready for the sickle, broken 
spinnies, scattered elms in the long hedgerows, and 
wide spaces of the Devon red extend here to left, to 
right, and before. 

Presently Duncannon's cots peep along the bank, 



156 MY DEVON YEAR 

and the whitewash, thatch, and nestling grey home- 
steads of Stoke Gabriel make the shore beautiful. 
Hereby, in great shadows touched with green, a 
party of snow-white ducks lends light to the heart 
of a soft gloom cast from overhanging trees ; and 
charlock flames in a turnip field on the hill a 
thing fine to see, but of colour raw, contrasted with 
the deep, rich glow of ripening wheat in a neigh- 
bouring croft. The wind is on the water, and sweep- 
ing the uplands also. Beneath, ripple on ripple of 
silver and of music waken the river at a sudden 
bend ; above, the glory is over the corn, sweeping 
the swaying harvest of grain, streaking each field 
with waves of pure light, where the shining glumes 
reflect their share of the sunshine simultaneously in 
myriads. 

Ahead, on the right bank, lies Dittisham, winding 
upwards from the shore like a mighty snake whose 
scales are all blue slates. Quaint cottages cluster 
along the water here, then ascending, are seen in line 
through the plum trees that clothe these hills with 
dark green. On the left bank rise other woods aglow 
in opposition to the sun, and a cottage lies at the 
foot of them. Wood-smoke twines upward from its 
chimney against the sunny forest, and there is music 
on the water in notes from the ferry bell. 

Then the approaching sea makes itself felt. Dart's 
banks are draped with amber weed along the tide 
way ; limestone crags rise above, and a little sail bobs 
here and there in the expanse of water. Another 



DART 157 

bend, and the black and white hulks of the doomed 
Britannia and her sister school-ship rise against the 
hazes of Dartmouth town. There is salt in the wind, 
music of gulls in the air, and the river, her journey 
ended, her fair course run, peacefully melts into the 
heart of the blue. 




HARVEST 

ORN grows at the cliff edge, and the 
golden vanguard of the harvest comes 
close to the top of great precipices and 
nods at the sea. Only a footpath separ- 
ates these fields from the slopes and escarpments. 
Sometimes the land falls sheer to the green water ; 
sometimes it descends in broken steps, where the 
samphire flourishes and the thrift's green cushions 
cling; sometimes it breaks away more gradually, and 
upon its scorched and weather-worn face many things 
grow and pass through their brief visible phases until 
they vanish again, and in the shape of root or seed 
pursue their unseen life. 

The wind brushes the wheat as it brushes the sea 
below, and undulations, marked by a sheen of pure 
light, ripple over the harvest ; while as the water- 
waves, sweeping onward, reveal the weeds below and 
suffer the growth of the sea to come to light for a 
moment in bunches and streamers before they are 
again concealed, so here, with every touch of the sum- 
mer wind, flame lovely weeds, and poppies splash 
the harvest with scarlet, and gipsy-roses and corn- 
flowers light the gleaming surfaces with lavender, or 
touch them with deep blue. 

IS8 



HARVEST 159 

Small things hidden far beneath the corn-tops 
nake a lovely carpet, out of which spring up the 
yellow stalks. There the little sherardia trails its 
trifling blooms, and the corn-mint prospers, and the 
corn-galium and yellow-eyed corn-pansy dwell to- 
gether. About the shining stems, that leap upwards 
to light and air, the black bindweed twines and climbs; 
while at the corn edge grow the succory, with sky-blue 
flowers clinging close to the stems, great centauries, 
sow-thistles, the harsh and hairy ox-tongue, and the 
brilliant corn-chrysanthemum. 

Against the edge of the cliff lies the blue horizon 
of the sea ; above, the gulls wheel and turn, and their 
thousand wings make a gentle whispering akin to the 
music of the wind in the corn, where the dry husks 
are laughing, as a million ears pressed down by breezes 
whisper and rustle musically together. 

In sight of the growing food, one has no thought 
of daily bread ; one is not burdened with statistical 
monitions ; one does not mourn before the gloomy 
spectacle of a crop sowed in doubt and gathered 
without enthusiasm. You shall find all that mournful 
story in other pages ; but for the moment it is 
enough to note the glory of this royal colour against 
the sea-line ; to hear the song of the wheat above and 
the wave beneath ; to watch the lovely work of in- 
visible winds on earth and sea ; to listen to the lark 
and the purr of the reaper close by, where already 
husbandmen set about their labour. 

With magic hands the great machine cuts and 



160 MY DEVON YEAR 

binds and throws forth the sheaves. Wooden arms 
stretch out of it, wheels whir and glitter within ; 
the thing toils ceaselessly like a slave, and behind it 
bundles of corn lie spread along at the harvest edge, 
and the next swath to fall shivers as though it under- 
stood that the knife was near. 

Then follows the cart along ; the harvest vanishes ; 
and the small procumbent flowers, that have dwelt 
within its depths, stare up bewildered into the eye of 
the unveiled sun, and hasten to set their little seeds 
before he has scorched life and power of reproduction 
out of them. 




"THE OLD MEN" 




KNOW a grey ring of stone that lies 
between two hills, shines there in summer 
sunlight, glimmers through mist and rain, 
vanishes awhile at the time of snow. It is 
uplifted under the sky ; 'ts ruins, despite their age, are 
very perfect ; within its embrace lie four-and-twenty 
homes of the Neolithic or later stone-men, who 
flourished here before history has anything to tell of 
England. Seen from the crest of Hameldon on 
Dartmoor, this venerable settlement writes upon the 
heather and autumnal furze its story of a past now 
buried in time beyond power of probing. All chroni- 
cles of Grimspound must rest upon conjecture^ yet the 
modern antiquary, with enthusiasm for his strength and 
imagination to light him, has wrought here and lifted 
the veil a little. By the granite foundations of their 
homes, by their walls raised for defence against man 
or beast, by their mystic circles still standing on 
lonely heaths, by their alignments and monoliths, and 
by the places where they laid their dead, the races of 
old time may be brought a little nearer, and their 
story shadowed in this record of plutonian rocks. 
These fragments, indeed, cannot with certainty 

M 161 



162 

be connected, and no man may declare that the 
"sacred" circles, so called, date from the same period 
as the familiar barrows with their kistvaens, or such 
settlements as are represented by Grimspound and 
like scattered villages. Of the solitary circles that 
lift their separate stones in rings, and steal from under 
grey mists, or shine in yellow twilights to startle the 
wanderer by their sudden apparition, we only under- 
stand that they are megalithic, and that they are 
universal, for similar monuments shall be found in the 
desert places of the Old World and the New. 

Their aim is not known, and whether they stood 
for the house of the stone-man's god, for his market- 
place, his necropolis, or other end has yet to be dis- 
covered. That they survive from a past of great 
antiquity has been proved beyond question ; and the 
tin-streamer's ancient works, lying scattered within 
sound of every river, together with the ruins of 
his blowing-house and the fragments of his mould, 
are, like the spacious times wherein he flour- 
ished, affairs of a mediaeval yesterday, beside the 
hoary years that saw these stone - circles uplifted. 
These still stand, but the thews and muscles that set 
their rude pillars have vanished ; the very bones of 
the old men have helped to furnish strength to the 
heather and the fern, because the peat lacked that 
property their ashes held. Now they that trod these 
wastes are part of it, and the blood they shed has 
helped to enrich the earth, and the tears they shed 
have driven with rain to the roots of the bilberries. 



"THE OLD MEN" 163 

All is unchanged ; and here, at high noon, I see their 
ancient lodge still lying in the heath between great 
hills. The huts are roofless, and the domes that rose 
above each stone foundation have disappeared. Time 
and man have broken their outer walls, and all that 
could perish of them has passed with the blue 
smoke that aforetime curled above each edifice ; 
but their environment endures in a robe of many 
colours. The ling still lights with rose each hill and 
valley ; the furze still hangs a cloth of gold on the 
shoulders of these ragged mountains. Where once 
Danmonian babies ate wild berries and made their 
little mouths as black as their eyes, small people still 
straggle over the heath and take pleasure in the 
fruits of the earth scattered there free of their plea- 
sure. But the village children carry metal cans; 
those that went before those whose wild mothers sat 
here and watched them on this same stone that gives 
me rest knew nothing of the marvel of metal. Iron 
and brass were hidden from them ; flint was still their 
servant ; and to this day the rabbit scratches Neolithic 
man's implement from his burrow, and the mole 
throws up a stone-warrior's weapon as he breaks the 
grass and piles dark earth in a little hill on the green. 
From Hameldon shall be seen the watershed 
of Devon extended. Dartmoor rises to stony peaks 
and falls into deep gorges and placid valleys ; 
beyond its tablelands, into the mist of distance, ex- 
tends a mosaic of fields wrapped in milky hazes, 
touched by sunshine, darkened by the shadows of 



1 64 MY DEVON YEAR 

clouds. The Moor rises above this ambient culture 
like a savage thing in the courts of civilisation. No 
skill of man has tamed it, no industry has won it to 
practical uses. We scratch it and water it with our 
sweat ; we snatch fearfully from it here and there ; we 
grope in its heart of stone ; but it lifts itself above us 
and our earth-hunger to the sky ; it rolls upward to 
the glories of Cosdon Beacon and High Willhayes, 
to the loneliness of Fur Tor and Yes Tor, to the 
tremendous ridges of Cut Hill, to the towers and 
battlements of Wattern, to the turrets of Great Mis 
Tor, and to the hogged back of this same Hameldon, 
where now I stand in sunlight and survey the homes 
of the old men beneath me. I think of these hills as 
burying-places of a folk nearer the birth of the world 
by centuries than we are. So seen, they are sacred, 
and they ennoble the human dust in their hearts 
and are ennobled by it. Here are pyramids and 
monuments lifted at creation for a race that then was 
not, and now is not again ; here are memorials to out- 
last all human mausoleums and sepulchres that were 
ever raised toward heaven or sunk into earth by piety 
and pride. 

The cairns and kistvaens of Dartmoor have been 
rifled by generations that followed each other before 
any science of archaeology arose to stand between 
them and this mortuary of their fathers. Eliza- 
bethan miners destroyed many a barrow in hope of 
gain ; while both before and since their time the 
credulous and greedy savage has braved imaginary 



"THE OLD MEN" 165 

evils and sought imaginary treasures in these pre- 
historic tombs. Their names in the local tongue still 
indicate the renown in which they were once held. 
They are called "money pits," "money boxes," 
"crocks of gold"; and the fancy that they contained 
secret hoards is ancient, for Edward II. gave special 
grants for searching of Devonshire barrows. 

Some of these graves are very narrow in the kist, 
and indicate cineration of the corpse that rested there ; 
others probably contained contracted or doubled -up 
skeletons, whose bones have been dust two thousand 
years and more. Occasional un-urned fragments tell 
of a higher civilisation, for hard by this spot above 
Grimspound the things discovered within a tomb 
indicated intercourse between the Danmonians and a 
people nearer the light. Here were amber and bronze 
given up from a tumulus that also held the cremated 
remains of some hero who had achieved these posses- 
sions in battle or by barter. The stone avenues that 
spring up and wind away to the inner loneliness are 
also probably connected with purposes of sepulture ; 
and the hut-circles or hut-foundations, generally to be 
met with nigh the rivers, stand for the homes and 
haunts of that scattered people who formed a consider- 
able population on the high Moor in times of old. 
They endure, and charcoal still lies black on the hidden 
hearthstones under the grass that covers their floors. 
Shards of coarse pottery also appear, and the flint- 
flake implements have not changed since their makers' 
hands grew cold. 



1 66 MY DEVON YEAR 

Under the grey and golden weather, and through the 
pageant of the seasons, these deserted villages lie on 
Time's lap and promise to exist as long as the earth 
shall. Around them ghosts of the grey old men steal 
under my vision in this noontide hour. Again they 
tramp their weary roads, joy in new-born life, and 
mourn their fallen braves ; again their stone axes slay 
the bear and wolf, whose bloody pelts grace women's 
shoulders ; again do young men love and make ordeal 
by battle for the maidens ; again mothers rock their 
babies in the shields of warrior sires ; again they dream 
dreams of their little ones, and of the part they shall 
presently play in the history of their world ; again the 
youths clamour to be doing, and the old men find virtue 
in many words ; again the folk pray to their God 
behind the thundercloud, sacrifice to him in hour of 
need, or lift a pagan hymn and thanksgiving when 
their days are warmed with sunshine and filled with 
plenty. 

They sleep in night eternal below the roots of the 
heather ; their tale is told ; their short days numbered ; 
but the granite that their hands dragged sadly to mark 
a grave, hopefully to build a home, still stands. 
" Time, which antiquates antiquities, and hath an art 
to make dust of all things, hath yet spared these minor 
monuments." And seeing the stones scattered here 
so harmonious, so solemn, and so still, my heart goes 
out to those vanished shepherds, and I love them 
across the dark waves of time that roll between their 
pilgrimage and my own. 




EVENING LIGHT 

HERE falls an hour on summer evenings 
when the sun takes to himself fairy 
tinctures before twilight, endues his beam 
with a mellow glow, blesses rather than 
burns, and writes a benison in letters of red gold on 
the weary earth. Now this period of benignant light 
chimes happily with moments of human leisure, for 
labour has ended upon its coming, and the working 
day is done. There reigns a peaceful pause within 
the confines of the farm, and all may enjoy some 
rest. The house - places are empty for a little 
while, and the cricket chirps alone. It would seem 
that life of men and women is hiding for a space ; 
each separate soul has departed into some haunt of 
privacy, and the hive grows hushed in this gracious 
hour before sunset. No voice breaks the silence, no 
wheel grates and jolts without, no dog barks, no little 
children shout, for they are all in dreamland. The 
fowls have clucked themselves to roost, the horses 
silently munch their supper, and, after milking, the 
kine have returned to the meadows. 

In the lanes and along the field-paths the folk are 
passing and repassing from the village. Here a man 

167 



168 MY DEVON YEAR 

moves alone and looks at the corn ; here another 
meets a companion, and they praise the fair weather 
and go on their way ; here lovers wander together, 
and the ruddy light is woven into their dream of 
happiness. Unconsciously their hopes are touched by 
the evening glow ; unknown to him it steals to the 
boy's understanding, wakes a dumb sense of the ideal 
hidden even within a rustic breast at love time, in- 
spires a vague, fleeting emotion, flashes into his being 
as he kisses the girl and shadows forth a joy resulting 
to him from her worship a joy beyond possession. 
And the red light that makes her white sun-bonnet 
so rosy gladdens the maid's heart also and softens 
her voice, and sets a pathetic token in her innocent, 
childish eyes as she lifts them up to him. 

Rest well won is the message of this lingering 
radiance. It dwells on the pine woods with gentle- 
ness, and lights the pigeon's wing as he clatters 
upward ; it lies in level spaces on the meadows and 
reddens the rabbits at their evening play. It expresses 
itself musically in the last song of the thrush ; it kisses 
the river's face, enriches foam and fret of falling water 
with jewels unnumbered, or paints the smooth, deep 
reaches with images from the sky ; it transforms the 
colours of the flower, wins the blush of whole orchards 
that take the sunset gloriously ; seeks the great, pure 
umbel-bearers, who for a moment change their colour 
in its ardent kiss. On wastes and woodlands, down 
old grass-grown lanes, through the avenues of the 
trees, and by forgotten ways, long since restored to 



EVENING LIGHT 169 

nature, the red light comes. Even to the dark hearts 
of forests these living lances find an entrance, until, 
broken by great and lesser boughs, barred and 
shattered in the wilderness of living woods, they 
merge again into a liquid splendour that burns without 
candescence and floods the forest with misty gold. A 
web of fire trembles in the secret places of the trees, 
hangs above the stocks and stones, the mosses and 
ivies, the stealthy flowers, and those sanguine, young, 
silver saplings upspringing that rise at the feet of 
their ancestors and answer for the future prosperity 
of this scene. These things know not the noontide 
sun in their sequestered haunts and dim dwelling- 
places, for the crowns of the wood win all his 
splendour, and it is only in clear dawns or at the 
hour before twilight that he pierces the hidden under- 
world with flame. 

To the West the sun is stooping and sinking upon 
the bosom of the hills, until by that descent, seen 
through earth's lovely veil, he shares the very pulse 
and heart-beat of life, and comes close to his planet- 
child for one moment before passing. Then may we 
look on his face with eyes undimmed, and watch him 
throb and vanish to waken a sleeping hemisphere and 
call other men to their labour. At noon he is master 
and monarch ; all life waits beside his throne, and all 
mundane existence depends upon his lustre ; but in 
this hour a time for rest and dreaming shall be 
found ; and the roseal sunshine smiles upon us, like 
the spirit of a familiar and a friend. Now do things 



1 70 MY DEVON YEAR 

that were precious at noon change their shapes, until 
their shadows loom larger and more real than them- 
selves ; now do thoughts that were good at midday 
cast shadows long and deep, even as great spaces in 
the mind may be umbrated by images of ambition, and 
wide mental countries overcast by the shade of desire. 

The red light travels over the edge of the world 
and comes to rest in a shorn hayfield, after its 
journey through space to earth's summer-clad bosom 
and peaceful seas. It spreads upon each blade and 
grass-blossom, each ox-eye daisy and nodding thistle- 
plume. It falls gently, equably, in one embracing 
sweep ; it distributes a single and pure tone over all 
things ; it forgets no leaf nor bud ; adds a glory to 
the belated insect's wing, a splendour to the little 
shell-snail that anticipates the dew and creeps, not 
without toil, upward to win a share of the universal. 

As the sun sank down, as the earth, turning away 
from the opal purity of the West, rolled easily over 
on her soft couch in space and disposed her bosom 
to welcome a summer night, the pearly moon arose 
and took shape above the gloom of the horizon, above 
the dim and carmine transparencies of after -glow 
upon the eastern hills. Hesitating, trembling, half- 
concealed by many films and diaphanous draperies 
of the gathering murk that hovered before her face, 
she floated upwards. Then the earth-born vapours 
shrank away and vanished, or, greatly glorified, 
spread soft fabrics along her stairways, and carried 
her silver on their shining wings to the upper heaven, 



EVENING LIGHT 171 

And earth sighed in sleep beneath that glittering 
world, because the moon is a glass wherein the 
living planet may see her own story as the future 
shall write it and end it. The moon is her ever- 
present sermon, glorious in the reflected sunlight, yet 
compact of dust and ashes, a ghost that steals along 
the confines of night, a skeleton at the world's full 
feast of abundant vitality. For us indeed being 
but the midges of an hour this tremendous vision 
carries no personal message ; its mockery of life is 
too enormous and too remote to move mankind ; bat 
I conceive of the Mother as gazing upward in sorrow 
from her green hills and fertile valleys, from her 
teeming seas and many waters, from the multitudinous 
living things that she loves. Her hour of rest is 
haunted, her heart something chilled by the cold 
and lovely face of her dead sister. Therefore, when 
day has vanished altogether, and moisture limns its 
trailing curtains on the meadows ; when star and glow- 
worm twinkle ; when nocturnal voices float along the 
air and beneath the woods ; when fall a final silence 
and universal sleep, the wakeful Earth shall lift her 
dark, dewy eyes to the firmament and marvel dumbly, 
because the lesser light proclaims how that for her and 
all who dwell upon her bosom, Death, in his eternal 
patience, also waits. 




A SUMMER-CLAD HEATH 

[NDER a haze of cloud hung sky-high 
above an invisible sea, the eastern horizon 
lies hidden from my lofty standpoint. I 
cannot win any glimpse of coast-line low 
down under the pale atmosphere ; I cannot note those 
remote features of river estuaries and towns upon 
them that may be seen from here when the West 
or South wind blows and lends sharp definition to 
many distant things unseen in this sunshine. 

To-day the sky is cloudless; the easterly wind a 
mere breath, felt even at this altitude in pleasant 
kisses upon the cheek, where I stand on the confines 
of Devon's great central waste. Beneath, rolling out 
of the misty horizon, there spreads the wide world of 
the South Hams field and forest, great round hills 
and level plains between extended like a fair 
garment, bejewelled with harvests, enriched with all 
those tawny tones that hot sunshine paints upon the 
grass lands ; cooled by the silver threads of little rivers 
intertwining, wrought out into a human pattern by the 
far-reaching hedges, the orchards already beginning 
to brighten with sunset-coloured fruit, the thatch and 
whitewash of lonely cottages and hamlets, and the 

172 



A SUMMER-CLAD HEATH 173 

towers of churches that rise grey. By acclivities, 
gradual and vast, through pine forests and over 
heathery hills, past cots and snug farmhouses, the 
land climbs upward to the granite kings of it, and 
here, upon this heath, one stone giant stands a 
sentinel on the southern flank of the Moor stands 
as he has stood for centuries, welcomes the West 
wind as he welcomed it before the stone-men built 
their huts, stretched their alignments across the waste 
places, buried their mighty dead under the cairns, 
and folded their flocks from wolf or bear behind the 
granite. 

Such is the scene from the heath southward, and 
the misty map of Devon is unrolled to the fringe 
of the invisible sea ; but a different spectacle lies 
inland, for there, crest upon crest, the great hills lift 
themselves ; and not the least impressive among their 
manifold qualities of gloom and splendour, beauty 
and austerity, is the circumstance of their shapes. 
Wonderful is the variety of form in these waves of 
an unchangeable land-ocean. From Rippon's jagged 
crown upon the South-west to the hogged back of 
Cosdon, rounding in the northern boundaries of Dart- 
moor, many a mile distant, an army of varied and giant 
shapes is outlined against the horizon, or scattered in 
the huge dips and hollows of the land beneath it. 

* " Sun and shower, 

And breeze and storm, and, haply, ancient throes 
Of this our mother earth, have moulded them 

* N. T. Carrington. 



174 MY DEVON YEAR 

To shapes of beauty and of grandeur thus ; 

And Fancy, all-creative, musters up 

Apt semblances. Upon the very edge 

Of yonder cliff seem, frowning o'er the vale, 

Time-hallowed battlements with rugged chasms 

Fearfully yawning ; and upon the brow 

Of yonder dreary hill are towers sublime, 

Rifted as by the lightning stroke, or struck 

By war's resistless bolts. The mouldering arch 

The long withdrawing aisle, the shatter'd shrine 

The altar grey with age, the sainted niche, 

The choir, breeze-swept, where once the solemn hymn 

Upswelled, the tottering column pile on pile 

Fantastic, the imagination shapes 

Amid these wrecks enormous." 

A noble peace reigns here, and though the skirts of 
the central fastness are fretted with flocks, herds, and 
the habitations of men, yet if one passes onward to 
the inner heart behind these purple hills, he shall 
enter a loneliness and feel a silence profound in their 
intensity. About Fur Tor, upon the grey head of 
High Willhayes, or in the desolation of such regions 
as Cranmere Pool, the mother of Devon rivers, 
no beast is visible ; a bird is rare ; the husky stridu- 
lation of grasshoppers or the impressions of a fox's 
pads upon the mire are sole indications of animate 
life. There, at such an hour as this of summer noon, 
no sight or sound that speaks of man shall appear; 
and an abstraction, as of equatorial deserts, broods 
upon the granite, the heath, the quaking bog. Only 
the wind drones in the crisp heath-bells ; only the 
solemn cloud-shadows pass, like forms of amorphous 



A SUMMER-CLAD HEATH 175 

life, from hill to valley, from valley to hill again. 
Even under sunshine and blue sky the great tors 
lack not sublimity ; but if a man be brave enough 
to face them at another season and wrestle in Winter 
with the North wind, he shall find his reward. Then, 
wrapped in snow or curtains of mist, these hills rise 
like the ghosts of their former selves under a grey 
battle of low clouds ; and the rivers howl aloud, 
making such hoarse music as they who only see their 
shrunken volume and hear their baby prattle under 
summer skies shall never guess at. 

In the moth-time and through many a twilight 
gloaming I have passed among the old stones scattered 
here, along the alignments, and through the dim 
circles that tell of a stone-man's faith or mark his 

grave. 

' Scarce images of life, one here, one there, 
Lay vast and edgeways ; like a dismal cirque 
Of Druid stones, upon a forlorn moor, 
When the chill rain begins at shut of eve." 

So Keats in the " Hyperion," and though this 
image is imputed to his wanderings in Cumberland 
or Scotland, I choose rather to believe that one 
of our Dartmoor monuments awakened it. For 
"Hyperion" came forth in 1820, after the poet's 
visit to Teignmouth ; and from that little town the 
grey girth of Hey Tor, the steep of Lustleigh, and 
the crown of huge Rippon must have been mirrored 
not seldom in the eyes of Keats. I will stake my 
love of him that he trod them too, and moved upon 



1 76 MY DEVON YEAR 

their bosoms, and saw something of the inner magic 
and meaning hidden from the vision of us common 
men. 

Upon this September morning, from such wide 
survey and prospect did I lower my eyes and 
make another examination of the world spread 
underfoot that many - tinted garment created to 
clothe these high places. The texture of the heath 
is very rich ; interwoven of all blended hues and 
primary colours ; spread with cloth-of-gold ; starred 
and sprinkled with bright gems ; broadly, generously 
planned in such wise that tremendous spaces of 
flower-light glide from the interspaces of leafy gloom, 
then fade and fret away into the fern and stone 
again ; ordered in its far-flung planes, its heights and 
hollows, as fitting theatre for display of storm and 
sunshine ; as a trysting-place for the rainbows and the 
rain ; a battlefield for the lightning and the winter 
hurricane. 

Its warp and weft is of the ling and heather 
mingled with bilberry a fabric of special beauty 
at this season, when pale sheets of blossom-light 
sweep over it, and soften the sobriety of the 
web. Wide green fingers of fine grass separate 
these tapestries hung upon the bosoms of the hills ; 
and for brooch and jewel, the granite sparkles, 
and the lesser furze shines sun-bright over great 
tracts or in solitary mounds and cushions. Through 
the brown and amethyst of these heathy acres and 
into the vesture of the waste is woven an under- 



A SUMMER-CLAD HEATH 177 

pattern of silver-bright heath -galium, yellow tor- 
mentil, and tangle of the coral-pink lesser dodder; 
while in springtime, before the heath awakened, little 
milk-worts peeped about here under the ling, and pale 
violets rose singly in sheltered corners, and dog-violets 
shone in friendly clusters. Through the heather, like 
a haze, brushing the mellow warmth of mingled tints 
with light, rise dead grasses that make a play of bright- 
ness over the heath, where the wind bends them and 
the sunshine touches their polished stems ; while the 
huge masses of the tors also answer the sun, and for 
his warmth return a display of Nature's heraldries, 
pricked out upon the planes of the granite in ochre 
and chrome, in silver, ebony, and orange emblazon- 
ments, where the lichen folk spread their quick, har- 
monious hues. 

And upon these foundations of balanced light and 
contrasted shadow the eye may dwell not vainly, for 
the vision \vas planned at primal chaos ; the shape 
and fashion of it were hid in the wombs of volcanoes, 
under the icecaps of old those glacial avalanches, 
harder than the granite itself that played their part 
and left the mark of their terrific passing for ever. 
Time drew the picture spread here; countless sun- 
rises and sunsets went to paint these splendours and 
tone these misty hills; wind and rain, hail and storm, 
mingled the colours ; the chisel of the lightning 
fashioned in one stroke of fire many among the 
granite towers and turrets of the land. 



N 




THE COMBES 

|F one ancient English word may specially 
be cited as proper to the West Country, 
perhaps "combe" is that word. It is pure 
Saxon, according to most philologists, 
though I learn that some derive the word from 
the Welsh cwm, which "combe" resembles both in 
sound and significance. There are in Devon above 
thirty "combes" or "coombes" without any other 
designation ; more than twenty villages and hamlets 
have the word as a prefix to their special appellation ; 
and it is an affix to two hundred places in the 
county. 

To me the use of Shakespeare commends a word 
before all things. I am therefore sorry that " combe " 
shall be found nowhere in his recorded work, but his 
contemporary poet, our own William Browne, author 
of Britannia's Pastorals, employs "combe" to proper 
purpose, as becomes a Devon writer. 

The word is so much part of descriptive conversa- 
tion in the West, and conveys a meaning so distinct, 
that to display a combe for those who know it not 
becomes at once a curious and a pleasant task. 

To make mystery of the matter, or pretend that 

178 



THE COMBES 179 

our combes are so called because no other word 
serves their turn, would be a vain thing. They have, 
indeed, a distinction, and few natural scenes can be 
compared with these deep hollows and sudden valleys, 
but many pretty words will serve to bring them 
before you. They might be likened to miniature 
presentments of the Derbyshire dales, or Scottish 
glens made tame and tiny and sleepy. They might 
be called denes or dingles, straths or dells, or any 
other word that stands to mean a sequestered place 
within the lap of high lands. 

Some of our combes open gradually, through 
pastures and orchards, from the hills to the plains; 
some break out in steep gullies and embouchures 
of limestone or sandstone to the sea ; some are 
concavities, where Nature hollows her hand to hold 
man's homestead. Gentle depressions between red- 
bosomed hills, wide meadows extending to the 
estuaries of rivers, sharp rifts echoing with thunder of 
waves, and upland plains between the high lands, 
where whole villages cuddle, may all be combes. So 
much do they vary in their character. 

A sort of combe peculiar to the North coast 
is distinguished by some grandeur, and one, a fair 
example of all, I name for reasons to appear. Its 
deep mouth is filled with the outspread Severn Sea, 
its sides swelling to ocean-facing precipices of five 
and six hundred feet high are clothed in fine things, 
dwarfed by the eternal wind, yet sturdy in their 
struggle, and so prosperous and contented that they 



i8o MY DEVON YEAR 

blossom and fruit, after their kind, though reduced to 
a miniature habit. Here are the little burnet-rose, the 
vernal squill, the pimpernel, cudweed, euphrasy, sea 
stork's-bill, the frail flax, and the thyme. Blackthorns 
and hawthorns, all bending East like sun-worshippers, 
stand here above the sea ; the thistle and the teasel 
spring in colonies on giddy slopes, and from nooks 
and crannies the samphire and bladder-campion peep 
down at the green combing seas and snowy breakers 
below. Far beneath spreads the valley, and meadows 
and cornfields extend beside a trout stream, that winds 
like a brown and silver snake in the heart of the 
combe. Here spring alders, sallows, oaks ; and lift- 
ing from the sweet grasses in June you shall find dark 
spires of purple monk's-hood, beds of the yellow iris, 
and fair lacework of bryony and dog-rose where they 
trail and climb along the banks of the little river. If 
you are a fisherman, you may take a trout here within 
fifty yards of the beach, for the stream is well stocked, 
and the fish inhabit even the last pool that stands 
above high-water mark. From this spot the combe 
rivulet leaps an apron of stones, and having twinkled 
over the beach awhile, it vanishes amid ribbed sands 
and limpet- covered boulders. 

Turn with your back to the sea and look inland, 
and you note the head of this valley bowered in noble 
hanging woods that roll with each undulation of the 
combe, and make a deep semicircle of green. Above 
them, one square grey church tower stands in the dip 
of the hills ; beneath them, are scattered a cot or two 



THE COMBES 181 

with old silver thatch and gleaming whitewashed walls. 
Here a little bridge leaps the stream, and steep roads 
climb up the tremendous acclivities on either side. 
The stream glitters beneath and peeps here and there 
from overhanging bowers of trees. To its song is 
added the deep murmur of the sea beneath. 

This combe, typical of the North coast, on both 
sides of those invisible boundaries that divide Devon 
and Cornwall between Bude Bay and Hartland, may 
thus be dwelt on, because it is for ever famous. Here, 
at the mill, dwelt Kingsley's hapless heroine of West- 
ward Ho / 

The southern combes that open on the Channel are 
narrower and less searched by the sun. They lie 
deep hid in ferns and shade-loving things ; they hide 
the lovely bee-orchis, the purple gromwell, the lesser 
meadow-rue, the seaside carrot, the crow-garlic, the 
wood-vetch, the Bithynian vetch, and other treasures. 
Their sides are draped with the wild clematis, their 
red cliff-faces furnish a home for jackdaws and hawks. 

And inland lie those deep resting-places that abound 
in this county of many hills. Here are valleys like 
cups, into which one must sink by great declivities ; 
here lovely hamlets twinkle their white walls beside 
the orchards, while grass lands and red earth and a 
medley of field and forest rise round about ; here 
farms extend in the midst of their harvests, where 
each hollow is a busy centre of human activity ; and 
here, callous to their environment and its significance, 
men pursue the business of living, and are seldom 



1 82 MY DEVON YEAR 

consciously influenced by the theatre of the battle. 
They have been born in the combe and bred in it ; 
therefore the beauty of such spots conveys but little 
meaning to them. They only wax enthusiastic ovei 
wide pavements, brick and mortar, piled stones, and 
the din of cities. But sometimes fate is pleased to 
waken the rustic understanding, and chance lets light 
into his dim mind as to the meaning of his home. 
Those who have been called away and suffered to 
return do often open their eyes and their hearts when 
the familiar scene spreads for them again. Bury any 
intelligent country boy in the squalor of cities for a 
little while, then let him loose once more, and he shall 
possibly come back to the land with a lesson learnt ; 
he may gaze no more with the eyes of sheep or cow, 
but comprehend a little the meaning of Spring in an 
orchard, the song of the birds, and the peace of the 
fields. 

For some, indeed, this secluded existence can 
possess no charm, and their spirits call them to a 
wider battlefield ; but others, having wandered, choose 
again the simpler part, and return with thankful- 
ness, if fate allows. Henceforth such seek no further 
than the encircling hills of their birthplace for the best 
that life can bring them ; and if health be the highest 
happiness, these last are wise. Yet it is well for the 
urban world that a steady stream from the country 
flows to her ; and the strong, clean men and women of 
rural England are to be thanked for the fresh blood 
they yearly pour into each hungry city. With the 



THE COMBES 183 

ambition of the country come the muscle and physical 
vigour of the country essentials to the city's sustained 
prosperity. London must be renewed from outside. 
She devours her own brood within a few genera- 
tions, and her pure-bred children have neither a long 
line of ancestors nor many descendants. It is to 
the Devon combes and like domains that earth must 
look for lineages and count to find her raw material 
when man's work calls for doing. From lusty child- 
hood under the open sky and all winds that blow, 
from simple fare and endless toil, come forth the 
sons of labour to the siren song of cities. With- 
out them our towns must quickly turn to ruins, 
and our centres of civilisation be habitable no more. 
Brain-power the streets may breed, but muscle-power 
they cannot, for thews and sinews are built in 
Nature's country workshops. And muscle shall still 
be venerated ; muscle shall continue a factor in 
affairs ; the spade, pickaxe, sledge shall endure as a 
working triad while there is earth to shift or sweeten, 
stone to break, and metal to bend to the use of man. 




WISTMAN'S WOOD 

[UARDED by great hills that fold each 
upon the other and fade into distance ; 
set in granite and briar, brake-fern and 
the nodding wood-rush, Wistman's Wood 
lies basking under September sunshine to the song 
of Dart. Upon a south-facing slope the hoary dwarfs 
that go to make this forest grow, and each parent 
oak of the ancient throng was old before the Con- 
quest. Time and fire have slain, yet the little forest 
plays its part in the spring splendour of every year, 
in the leafy and musical hours of high Summer, and 
in autumnal pageants as the centuries roll. Here, 
under the Dartmoor hills to-day, sunshine kisses the 
granite to silver, brightens each withered and distorted 
trunk, makes the leaf shine, and sets rowan berries 
glowing through the ambient green. These aged 
oaks lack not virility, for I see their ancient crowns 
besprinkled with bright leaflets of the second Spring, 
with tufts of ruddy foliage, like smiles on the face of 
frosty age. 

Fruit, too, is borne, and the acorns, flattened some- 
what within their cups, are healthy and sweet enough ; 
so the legend that Wistman's harvest is sterile may 

184 



WISTMAN'S WOOD 185 

be easily disproved from the place itself; for quick 
eyes, peering here within the tangle of undergrowth, 
or amid the deep interstices of the stony avalanche 
from which this forest rises, shall find infant trees 
ascending to the sapling stage, in full vigour of 
promise. Others there are of larger growth, and one 
may discover oaks at all ages, from the tiny seedling 
sprung of last year's acorn to the patriarch that was 
a sapling when the she-wolf made her home here and 
killed the stone-man's cattle by night. Mice and 
birds convey the acorns to great distances from the 
wood, and upon adjacent heaths, a mile from their 
birthplace, I have found the husks of the fruit. 

Granite and oak are clothed with lichens of a 
colour exactly similar, and to the imagination, seen 
thus jagged and grey together, one appears as endur- 
ing as the other. The old trees, whose average height 
is scarcely fifteen feet, are distorted, cramped, twisted, 
and knotted by time. Their mossy limbs, low spread, 
make a home for the bilberry, whose purple fruit 
ripens beside the acorns; for the polypody that fringes 
each gnarled limb with foliage ; for the rabbits, 
who leap from the stones to the flat boughs spread 
upon them ; and for the red fox, who, sunning 
himself in some hollow of moss and touchwood, 
wakes, as a wanderer assails his ear or nose, and 
vanishes, like a streak of cinnamon light, into the 
depths of the wood. Here, too, the adder rears her 
brood ; the crow, with intermittent croak, flies heavily ; 
a little hawk, poised in the sky, seeks the lizard 



1.86 MY DEVON YEAR 

below, or the young plover in the marsh upon the 
hills. 

A great hush and peace brood over Wistman's Wood 
to-day. As yet, but one pinch of Autumn has 
transformed the leaf, reddened the briar, or powdered 
the fern with gold. In the hollows a diamond dew 
still sparkles though the hour is noon, and the sweet, 
sharp breath of September whispers along the wood. 
Still every ancient crown wears the deep green of 
Summer, and a stray honeysuckle blossoms, though 
its berries are turning scarlet ; but the tender, white 
corydalis and other flowers of Summer have vanished ; 
the wood-rush has its sharp leaves amber-pointed; the 
heather fades ; and the wrinkled wood-sage likewise 
wanes away. 

Below there races Dart, cherry-coloured after a 
freshet. Her foam flashes and twinkles, her glassy 
planes image the sun in stars and beams, and she 
signals to the old wood above and laughs, herself 
older than the oaks yet blessed with the eternal youth 
of flowing waters. Far away, beyond the granite 
mass of Crow Tor moorwards, a darkness lies upon 
the hill and moves not. There Western Dart is born, 
and bubbles and trickles through the sponges of 
peat from wells deep hidden beneath them. Very 
musical amid these echoing gorges she winds by- 
granite stairways ; and above her, on the huge hill- 
bosoms of grey and sunlit gree.i, acres of dead grass- 
blades weave a veil over the living herbage a veil 
that changes with every magic light from dawn or 



WISTMAN'S WOOD 187 

midday, from sunset, or the radiance of the moon. 
Here great cloud -shadows roll and spread, deepen 
and die, climb the steep, breast the stone, and adorn 
each undulation with flying garments, that vary in their 
texture from opacity of royal purple to the film and 
dream-colour of brief hazes drawn between earth and 
sun. Now the distance shines golden in a frame of 
shade ; anon darkness spreads to the blue horizon, 
and the river and adjacent hills are all aglow ; then 
light and shadow dislimn and interlimn upon the great 
heaths and hills. Detail, invisible in sunshine, wakes 
over the scattered stone, and sphagnum-clad bogs 
gleam under cloud-shadows, while elsewhere, as the 
veil is torn away and the light bathes all again, 
new visions of rounded elevations, wild places, and 
solitary stones start into sight upon each sunny plane. 
Detail of the spring gorse, now jade-green ; flame of 
the autumnal furze ; light of the ling ; feast of tones 
and undertones ; mosaic of all tawny and rufous colours 
are here ; and the scene changes its hue beneath each 
shadow, even as the river's song changes its cadence 
at the pressure of the breeze, waxing and waning 
fitfully. 

The wood of Wistman partakes of these many 
harmonies adds its sudden green to the hillside 
lies there a home of mystery, a cradle of legend, a 
thing of old time, unique and unexampled, save in 
Devon itself, all England over. 

Grey tors surround this valley of Western Dart, and 
granite climbs to the sky-line, except only where the 



1 88 MY DEVON YEAR 

river winds away amid fertile newtakes southward. 
Enthroned here, the old wood abides within the hand 
of time ; and to me, as I dream at the heart of it, the 
dominant idea begotten is not of mystery nor yet of 
awe, but a reflection won from the carmine colour- 
gleam of second Spring. That these most vener- 
able and mossy boughs can so win the earth-message 
and the sun-message, can renew their sap through the 
centuries and break at autumn time into these flush- 
ing coronets of new-born leaves, is wonderful to me. 
While their trunks waste to shell and skeleton, 
while death batters the gnarled dwarfs in shape of 
tempest and time, they answer still the seasons' 
call ; century after century they stud their crooked 
branches with buds, and burst into leaf and flower 
at the touch of a returning sun. Here is English 
oak, and its roots are twining in granite, its branches 
are flourishing with rude vigour a thousand feet above 
the sea. A great song might be sung from this second 
Spring of oaks that are centuries old. 

Sunshine passes ; the light creeps upward before 
onset of shadows cast by the western hills ; and 
so Wistman's Wood is buried in shade again, to 
sleep through another night, to await another dawn. 
The forest has witnessed half a million sunrises ; and 
it may see as many again, or endure as long as the 
granite hills that circle it and the round earth where- 
on it spins. Such concourse of venerable life has a 
moral value in some sort and may serve to fortify 
man's heart. Wistman's Wood also is part of the 



WISTMAN'S WOOD 189 

universal order ; these gnarled, virile tree-dwarfs, 
even as the sun in heaven and his girdle of little 
worlds, obey that Everlasting Force beckoning from 
Hercules. 




SWAN SONG 

OW fall the later rains, and shining through 
their curtains, where they sweep along 
valley and estuary, upland and great hill, 
Autumn's many-coloured robes gleam under 
a low sun. Observed through miles of moist air, the 
purity of these transformations is strongly marked to 
a colour-seeing eye. Over the beech there steals day 
by day a sort of golden haze that brushes the green. 
It spreads from the veins into the texture of each leaf, 
and deepens from gold to a ruddy copper hue. High 
wind or pinch of frost brings the foliage to earth, and 
then it lies in the snug hollows of the woods, and 
spreads a rustling, russet carpet under the naked 
trees. Such fallen leaves may be soaked and dried 
again many times before each at last yields its tissue 
to the elements. Paler splendour wakens in the larch 
needles before they fall. They make lemon light 
through the woodland a clear radiance not less 
lovely than their spring green. The elms break into 
sudden flashes of yellow, where some branch takes full 
livery of Autumn while yet the greater part of the 
foliage is untouched. The maple flames like a fire, 

190 



SWAN SONG 191 

and its orange tones deepen to crimson in splashes 
and faint washes on each dainty leaf. Against the 
auburn of the oaks, blue fir trees lift their crowns, 
and in the heart of the woods, now visible amid the 
thinning foliage of deciduous trees, stand out sombrely 
the great dark pines ; twinkle the hollies, reflecting 
light in each leaf; and shine the rich ivies that clothe 
banks and bottoms, mantle the combes and old ruins 
in lonely places, leap to the trees, festoon their top- 
most limbs, and fall in wreaths and ribbons from 
them. Where a glade breaks the forest one may see 
vistas of gold fading to distances that are at this 
season a deep blue against the autumn colours. 
The woods glow to their hearts, and the stand- 
ard of death streaming out over the whole earth 
gathers up light within its folds and shines under 
early sunsets. Now, in a clouded moment, where 
all is grey and robins sing in the rain, these colours 
lose their inner wealth, fade somewhat, and grow 
pale and bloodless, as though the storms were soaking 
their splendour out of them. But then some shaft of 
light suddenly searches the forests, and they answer 
with dazzling flash and glow, and utter their swan 
song of colour before the fall of the leaf. 

Everywhere Nature now trims her brightest lamps 
in leaf and berry. The thorn and the briar shine with 
red and scarlet fruit ; the blackberry's beauty is in her 
leaves of yellow and crimson ; the dogwood's foliage 
makes contrast of a dull wine-colour against all the 
light and sparkle of its neighbours ; the pearl of the 



1 92 MY DEVON YEAR 

seeding clematis powders hedge and tree, falls over 
the red sandstone rocks, adds a light to the limestone 
precipices, or shines grey where it hangs on some 
great cliff's face above the sea. In the broad, salt 
estuaries of Exe or Teign, fields of the red earth, that 
hold next year's corn, are reflected in perpendicular 
gleams of ruddy light on the rivers ; and against this 
brilliant colour, thrown up from the face of the water, 
dead asters stretch in colonies along the mudbanks, 
and the sedges fade. Above farm lands, outspread 
in a patchwork of fallow and tilth above the glory 
of the forests, and the fringes of marsh and moss 
that dip from loftier regions, Dartmoor extends and 
rises gently with many a wooded hill and heathery 
ridge from the fertility beneath. The wilderness lifts 
up her head in peaks of granite, or rolls along in 
huge, hog-backed hills that swell to the sky-line, 
featureless and unmarked by stone or tree. Even 
here, on this chacs of grey granite and dead heath, 
is autumn's colour gorgeously apparent when spread 
in opposition to the sunset or the dawn. The dead 
fern paints whole leagues of this expanse, and 
against it the granite takes a pure blue colour, 
brilliant as turquoise. The flower -stalks of the 
grasses sink into one prevailing tawny hue a shade 
that asks for tender evening light to make it mel- 
low, or purity of snow to reveal its true tones ; but 
the bilberry dons fine tints in death, and its foli- 
age will often turn to scarlet before falling ; the 
heather takes a rusty brightness ; reeds and rushes 



SWAN SONG 193 

fade to browns and grey-browns ; the asphodels 
glow redly in the marsh, while some moorland trees, 
such as certain willows, are fairest to see when their 
foliage has fallen, and the crimson or transparent 
brown, olive, or golden-yellow of the season's growth 
appears. Your silver birch is lovely without ceasing ; 
she knows no other state ; she is perfect in prepara- 
tion, perfect in completion, in autumnal decline and 
under winter snows. Her gauze of delicate traceries, 
rising like a cloud of pale purple in the winter woods ; 
her bursting green ; her high summer splendours ; 
her flying gold in Autumn all are manifestations of 
unique beauty. Both chestnuts add their glory to 
the colour song. The Spanish fades to brown ; the 
other varies much through all shades of yellow. 
Sycamore foliage is not lovely in its black-spotted 
death, and the rowan seldom reveals any feast of 
colour : her glory is her ripe fruit. Ash keys turn 
brown, and make beautiful contrast with the ivy-clad 
bole of their parent. They hang after the leaves of 
the trees have fled. 

One might thus, with patience and scrutiny extend- 
ing over many autumn seasons, examine the texture 
of the robe that October weaves ; but here it is rather 
attempted to display the opulent glory of the whole, 
and paint the scene that rises from the river's brink, 
and rolls harmoniously upward through valleys and 
forests, through the pasture lands, and over the 
earth, until it breasts the great central loneliness, 
and, dwarfed to the desert's humble habiliments of 
o 



i 9 4 MY DEVON YEAR 

fern and heath, yet pursues its way like a rainbow, 
and leaves no gloomy gorge nor solitary tor forgotten. 
The colour runs like a fire, and whole forests catch 
it in a night. The cherry's foliage at a spinny edge 
suddenly dons its last blood -red robe, and on the 
magic signal, glade after glade replies with ki idling 
illumination each herb, and shrub, and forest tree 
after her kind. A single fern turns pale or red, and 
in a week the hue of the hills has changed. 

Nor is it all a gorgeous demonstration of death out- 
spread upon the earth, for in this march of the seasons 
Nature has determined that no time shall lack its own 
treasures of perfected life, its proper blossom, its fruit, 
and its promise of fruit The oak's autumn is the 
springtime of the scarlet-crowned fungus, of the hosts 
of the agarics, and other small, hooded people. High 
winter for the naked larch and beech will find many 
a moss-tuft brimming with minute loveliness and 
dainty moss-flowers showing in the stalk-tips. The 
giants fling their arms into the sky for the wind to 
play upon ; but, beneath them, fairy hosts prosper, 
fulfil the law, and make their own little summer at 
each tree-foot, fearless of rain and storm, patient of 
the frost, thankful for one gleam of the winter sun. 
We see the whole stupendous cycle for a year or 
two, and watch the Mother's pictures each in turn as 
they pass unceasing ; but these creatures of the field 
and wood glorify their own hours alone, without 
dreaming of what is passed, or knowing what is to 
come. Each leaf and petal, each amber stipule and 



SWAN SONG 195 

golden anther plays its perfect part in the story with- 
out an end. But the violet may not see the rose ; 
the rose must vanish before the spikenard comes. 
Neither shall any flower of them all behold her own 
fruition. They call the bee to them, and pass in 
peace, not lingering to know whether it is well. And 
if man could thus live perfectly, he too might sink 
back again into night without a sigh, and leave his 
seed-time and harvest assured. 

But to conscious intelligence perfection is denied. 




PEAT 

N the laps of the great hills, resting on 
granite, like sponges in a basin, lies the 
peat of Dartmoor, mile on mile a haunt 
of beauty in Summer, and in wintertime 
the warmth of the homes of the upland men. Seen 
afar, or examined at hand, these deep bogs brim with 
interest, for they harbour many good things and are 
a delight to the eye. They bring ripe colour into 
the waste, and their lines and clefts break the 
monotone of the endless desert with contrasts of form 
and tint. Their dusky walls, cut freshly from the 
peat -beds, reflect the light on their shining faces, 
weather to fine tones of yellow and grey, change 
hourly with the rest of the Moor from dawn until 
evening. They offer a wondrous medley of all rich 
hues from agate to ebony ; they burn as though 
red-hot in the level ray of sunrise ; they reflect 
blue noontides in their pools ; Winter freezes them ; 
in Spring they teem again ; and they nourish a 
world of life through the increased temperature of 
Summer. In their chocolate hearts and on each 
shimmering pool, sedgy marsh, and shaking bog, half 
a hundred different flowers shall be found ; for it is 
only in the dark hours of Winter that their garlands 

196 



PEAT 197 

vanish and the very mosses gleam through chill 
coverlets of ice. Lovely beyond word or pigment to 
declare are these same sphagna in full splendour. 
Their manifold colours vary from white through all 
shades of lemon and orange and purple on the one 
hand, and into pearly greys and golden-greens on the 
other. They mass and spread, and make rich back- 
ground for the flower-jewels of the bog ; they hide 
the fount of the spring, yet proclaim its presence from 
far off; they do not haunt the peat cuttings alone, 
but climb the hills, hang emeralds on their lofty fronts, 
gleam under the showers of the mountains, and adorn 
the very crests of them, rapt from man's sight and 
hidden behind the grey mists. I think these uplifted 
sphagna are often virgin in the lonely purity of the 
hills, though one finds their fruits in sun-kissed, 
sheltered bogs where heat dances in Summer. 

In the peat-tyes each atom of stagnant water flecked 
with green is a world. Pluck a rush, and the gleam- 
ing drop that falls therefrom may embrace within it 
all the properties of a planet. Life flows abundant 
there ; the crystal bursts with life ; and the life is 
satisfied with its environment, being invincibly igno- 
rant of the life beyond just as we know a little of 
space but nothing of our neighbours in it, or our 
relations with the greater creation and the universe. 

From the hillsides and the sheep-tracks on them, 
and the lesser coney-tracks, that shall be marked 
by skilled eyes in dim reticulations and networks 
patted into the grass by countless soft paws, one may 



198 MY DEVON YEAR 

go swiftly down to the acres outspread below, where 
peat lies drying, where water gleams, and the flowers 
of the rush sweep a warm russet tone over the bogs 
and lighten their prevailing green. The cuttings lie 
black and broken in parallel lines. Their masses are 
irregular ; and here is chaos of old, cut peat, neglected 
and dropping to pieces ; and here, row on row, piled 
one against the other, stand the slabs of new fuel 
freshly delved and waiting for the sun to dry their 
moisture. A great harmony of colours is blended 
here, and the dark peat flashes out like scattered and 
broken strings of black pearls in a case of green 
and grey. Freshly carved by peat-knife and peat- 
iron, the fuel ranges from black to yellow in streaks 
and strata, and the last cotton-grass still waves its 
tattered silver above it ; the dry old rubbish is crusted 
with lichen and pale moss ; the whortle and heather 
spring along each ridge ; scattered stones also lend 
their colours to the blended wealth ; and the bracken 
blue by contrast with other verdant things shines like 
a mantle on the surrounding hills. In Spring marsh- 
violets here spread their pale lavender abundantly, 
and the red- rattle lifted rosy flowers above its lace- 
work of leaves. Later came the most exquisite 
blossom that grows wild in England, and the buck- 
bean's fairy flowers ascended in little spires above 
her trefoil foliage. Seen with naked eye, these 
feathered stars shall never be forgotten, but under a 
lens their magic startles the most indifferent observer. 
Nature has indeed wrought herein a masterpiece, and 



PEAT 199 

fashioned a wonder from the palest pink, glittering 
fabric that ever left her hand. Here are homes of 
sweetness for small living things, whose little lives 
are a day of joy spent in wandering through the 
mazes of each petal to the golden heart of every 
flower. After menyanthes has gathered up her love- 
liness and the marsh -orchis has also departed, you 
shall find the orange and scarlet of asphodel glimmer- 
ing here with the inconspicuous filmy atom of the 
butterwort's pale flower that hangs like a fly above 
its flat star of sticky, grey leaves ; the lesser skull-cap 
is near also, while the ivy-leaved campanula and marsh- 
pimpernel twine their blue and pink bells together, 
and the bog-heather hangs out pearly clusters. Above 
her ruby foliage, all glittering with gems of moisture 
on each red hair, the round-leaved sun-dew lifts a 
stem and hangs thereon white, drooping blossoms that 
open stealthily in hot noontides and quickly close 
again ; while hard by the water-loving St. John's wort 
shines out of silvery-green foliage, and thistles lift 
heads of purple to break the flat planes of the rush. 

Man's work lies in the centre of this scene, and 
he toils here, and spreads his fuel, and thinks of the 
burning, when fire shall draw the heart out of the 
peat, while this ancient factory of its creation amid 
the tors is under howling storm or deep in snow. 
First the moor-man cuts off the skin of heath and 
rush and grass with his knife generally an old scythe 
and then employs the iron to hew each peat-cake in 
regular shape from the mass. 



2 oo MY DEVON YEAR 

Here the scads will dry, and then be taken and 
stacked in some lew spot under each farmyard wall. 
The scent of the familiar blue smoke is very fragrant 
to nostrils that know it well, and for me, when 
removed from the presence of this great lonely place, 
the lump of peat cast on glowing ashes in some winter 
fire sends forth a sweeter savour than any spice or 
gum. Because its incense can awaken memory, and 
its subtle sharp odour, beyond power of description, 
can conjure up the little cots and sequestered grey 
homesteads ; the open walls, where the wheat-ear bobs 
and perks ; the yellow-bird and his melancholy cry ; 
the white roads that stretch visible for miles ; the 
shadows of the hills, the shadows of the clouds ; and 
rivers calling from the rush-beds, and the peat-beds, 
and the graves of the old stone-men. I see black bogs, 
and the plover fluttering and mewing among them. 
Above all is a great sky full of fresh, wet wind from 
the South-west The clouds fling forth sudden 
curtains of grey rain that sweep along in separate 
storms, and for a space shut out the wild horizon. 
Then a shaft of pale sunlight breaks the meshes of the 
clouds, passes over the desert places, touches the hills 
and valleys, and suddenly illuminates a grey huddle of 
little cots, where men live beside a lonely farm. 

The red-hot peat still scents my chamber, and over 
its scarlet core a purple aureola trembles, as though 
fire had freed some little Dartmoor oeri long pent 
within. 




POMORUM PATRONA 



[AWNS and sunsets of red and gold shall 
now be seen where the fruits of the 
orchards, having reached ripeness, wait for 
man or the autumnal equinox to pluck 
them from their parent boughs. Everywhere, through 
the thinning foliage, above the trunks, amid the 
twisted knees and elbows of branch and bough, an 
apple-harvest flames. From orange to crimson, from 
amber to sea-green, the colour harmonies pass, and 
intermingle in streaks and splashes and mottled jewels 
of all ruddy and golden tints that ever the sun painted. 
Pomaceous scents steal over the dewy grasses ; dim 
glades open along the avenues of the tree-trunks, and 
shine out deeply blue against the brightness of fruit and 
foliage. Here and there glimmer little hills of light 
that twinkle through the orchard distances, and else- 
where ungathered apples dot the grass with topaz and 
ruby. Shadow there is none in the cones and mounds 
and scattered pyramids of fruit, for each globe of 
scarlet, or lemon, or golden-green flings light on the 
round bosom of its neighbour ; hence, viewed afar 
off, the whole mass of vivid colour and reflected 
radiance beams forth unfretted by any shade, and 

20 1 



202 MY DEVON YEAR 

glimmers with the morning and evening sky-colours 
of Summer. 

Among the altars now ablaze with feast-day splen- 
dours, and sweet with incense proper to the goddess 
whose mellow hour they celebrate, I know a little 
temple of Pomona, a cloister of half a hundred pillars 
trees that atone for the paucity of their ranks by 
the vigour of their lusty age and splendour of their 
bearing. Here, where the old-time place nestled and 
spread a jewelled heart to the sun, I, a little lad, had 
often frolicked with the fowls and calves and other 
young things. I had strutted happy under networks 
of naked branches in wintertime ; beneath the trans- 
parent verdure of new foliage and the snow and 
carmine of spring blossom ; among the fruit on boughs 
and underfoot at the fall of the year. Here, by feats 
of infant arms, I climbed into the forks of the trees 
and plucked my first apple ; here I wandered content 
to dream in all the gold and glory of a child's autumn ; 
here I watched the shaky new-born lambs, found my 
earliest bird's nest, bore the first primrose with some 
ceremony to those who loved me, chased the butter- 
flies, harried a procession of little pigs, and fled before 
the gaunt presence of their mother. 

And here, but yesterday, I came again, to find that 
domain of blissful days, something shrunk as to its 
borders, but in all other aspects as good and precious 
as in my childish eyes. Mystery haunted it afore- 
time ; and mysteries, deeper far than those that young 
minds spin of shadows, still inhabited it. The orchard 



POMORUM PATRONA 203 

held new joys, new songs, new meanings. The 
cryptic writing of old gnarled boughs ; the teeming 
branch and apple-lighted grass; the scent and sun- 
shine ; and the drone and glitter of winged insects 
all these circumstances, so obvious to a child, now 
hinted mystery, held for me secrets whose solu- 
tions are hid down deep at the heartstrings of the 
Mother. 

1 stood and pictured myself again through the 
avenues of many Autumns ; and the span seemed 
short enough, capable of compression to a mere link 
in time. I could understand the little child still, 
feel his heart beat faster at sight of the boisterous, 
blue-eyed sheep-dog, who stood as high as his 
shoulder, share his pride at withstanding the great 
beast's riotous greeting, sympathise with the small 
hand that reached for high-hung nut or blackberry in 
vain. I remembered the little thing's awe in presence 
of an ancient gaffer the Ladon of that orchard ; his 
increased comfort on such days as other work called 
old Ladon further afield and left him, the child, in 
sole company of that ripening fruit. 

No Hesperides brightened this autumn evening 
under the apple trees, but a woman there was an 
ancient woman, clad in the colours of earth who 
moved very slowly among them. Once she had been 
of good stature, but now was bent somewhat under 
pressure of much time ; yet her passage was majestic 
if only by its great deliberation. She handled a rake, 
and with slow and thoughtful movements drew the 



204 MY DEVON YEAR 

fallen fruit together. She gazed upwards sometimes, 
and once touched a bending bough of massy fruit as 
though she would willingly ease the pain of such 
generous bearing. 

Presently I looked into an ancient face, whereon 
years had written more stories than one. The woman 
was very brown, her eyes grey as the autumn mist ; 
a dignity of demeanour marked her actions ; her old 
voice was sweet ; and the vernacular chimed upon 
her tongue. 

"Sure," thought I, "here is our Lady of the 
Apples Pomorum Patrona herself! Here, musing 
alone at sunset time and, goddess -like, forgetting 
not the least of her altars, she wanders in this seques- 
tered nook. Here she walks amid her scented garners, 
and she knows that the magnificence of one happy 
tree his payment for full share of sunshine and 
rain is the magnificence of them all ; and each to 
her is all, and all are no more than her united care 
and joy." 

I gave the grey-eyed woman greeting, and fell to 
talk of harvest and the bountiful splendour of the 
year. Her eyes were lifted, and a smile made her 
beautiful. She picked red fruit and gave it to me. 

"'Tis sweet apples this tree do bear. Ess you'm 
right a braave crop, an' gude cider come presently. 
Theer's boughs clean brawk I could show 'e. Do 
sadden me to think of. 'Tis like a mother that dies 
in childbirth. But I seem you'm wanting apples. 
Us have a gert store as be prime for household 



POMORUM PATRONA 205 

uses. Try the yellow sort hanging yonder Us call 
'em 'lemons' a sweet apple, I assure 'e." 

Thus she spoke, and I walked beside the guardian 
of the trees, and liked her well for the care she 
showed towards them. Each was very good to her ; 
in each she found something to praise, some virtue 
to waken her gratitude. 

" Wonnerful fruit wonnerful fruit every wheer. 
They pay for tending wi' liberal thanks, as your 
eyes may tell 'e, wi'out word of mine. Eat! Eat! 
They'll not harm 'e. They was sent for man to eat, 
I reckon." 

So spoke in all sincerity the Mother of the Apples. 
Truth seemed to live in her bright eyes. Sent for 
man warmed into glowing colours for man kissed 
into sweetness for him! What a far-reaching creed 
hid there ; what a comforting creed could one take 
it and believe it so. 

We conversed together, and before I went my 
way there came a gleam of real joy to the eyes of 
Pomorum Patrona, for I reminded her of a past, now 
vanished beyond recall, of quaint rites and customs 
long grown as obsolete as the pagan ceremonials from 
which they dawned. She remembered how, on the 
eves of old Christmas days, the lads and lasses, and 
the aged men, with their bell-mouthed blunderbusses, 
were wont to christen the orchards, to sing venerable 
songs, to burn powder under the stars, to wassail 
each wrinkled patriarch with cider born from his own 
branches. Slowly and more slowly she moved, and, 



306 MY DEVON YEAR 

as I left her, I knew that her ancient spirit was 
roaming back through the twilight ; was waking in 
the laughter of children ; in songs from sturdy throats 
long since asleep ; perchance in memories of one 
whose presence had been her light, her music, and 
her crown in the far-away morning of womanhood, 




HARMONY IN GOLD 

jNDER a northern wind that brought faint 
hazes tinctured by the October sun, I 
stood upon high ground and looked down 
over a river and wide plains that extended 
round about. Here, spread amply forth, was the 
harmonious spectacle of the year's work done ; from 
this lofty standpoint, where, above old Roman trenches, 
blue fir mingled with wind-swept beech and oak, there 
subtended the pageant of ripe Autumn ; and the sun, 
alternately hidden and revealed at each departure of 
the clouds, touched some new secret into a flaming 
word at every flash, where his radiance fell in golden 
lakes upon water and woodland, outspread meadow 
and fallow, valley and heath. 

To my feet the dead heather rippled all russet ; 
but a glory of pale gold and red-gold fretted the dead 
ling, and leapt to welcome each sun-gkam, where the 
brake-fern shone for miles. The lesser gorse also 
blossomed with pure, deep yellow flowers above its 
ripening pods ; while the dodder's scarlet thread 
wound into the vesture of the waste, and briars 
lightened it with ruby and crimson. 

207 



208 MY DEVON YEAR 

Over the remote estuary of Exe the sun shot long 
"ays out of the mists ; while to the North extended 
forests, and appeared a church above white cots all 
set in woods. Then fertile leagues spread with many 
undulations, until afar off, twin towers arose and faint 
smoke hung above the Faithful City. Along the 
river there extended a great and peaceful park, and 
wooded hills in many folds above it lifted the eye 
to Dartmoor, whose ancient loneliness arose out of 
the West with peaks and pinnacles and one huge 
dome, where Cosdon Beacon hove up its girth and 
guarded the central Moor. At the footstools of the 
hills great forests loomed darkling through the haze, 
and above them, the faint diaphanous breath of the 
wind spun magic webs of light, with an inner glow that 
enshrined the day's splendour. To the West, golden 
mists shone above the setting-place of the sun and 
already fashioned the glories of his pall ; such rest and 
peace as only Autumn knows brooded over the world ; 
and in the silence one could almost hear the downward 
flutter of each leaf, the fall of seed and gleaming 
berry, as they descended to the earth. Orchards and 
beechwoods, oakwoods, sere stubbles, and acres of 
ripe roots lay there in the glory of accomplishment. 
The harvest was complete, to the cup of the little 
campion brimming with grain beneath my eye ; all 
had nobly ended, and the blessing of rest was well 
won. 

To the East, red cattle dotted a great, gentle heath 
that unrolled in the glory of the hour; it spread in 



HARMONY IN GOLD 209 

undulations crowned with firs, that sprang like little 
sheafs here and there upon the ridges. The trees 
stood thus in clumps, and supported each the other 
against those winds that roam hither out of the 
four quarters. Upon every platform or eminence 
they appeared, now very blue against the warm heath, 
now dark and clear-cut upon the sky, as in the 
backgrounds of mediaeval pictures ; and beyond, seen 
dimly through dips of the land, valleys lay mistily 
green and red and pale, until great forests succeeded 
them, and in their turn faded and mingled with the 
air. Southward, above the seashore, arose lofty hills, 
whose farther sides were precipices flanked by blue 
water ; and, nearer, beneath a knoll of copper foliage 
and dark pine, there hid one spot that gladdened the 
heart of him who read man into this scene. 

At Hayes Barton a great spirit first saw the light, 
and Walter Ralegh opened his new-born eyes on 
Devon. Prime hero of an age of heroes, the quint- 
essence of that glorious, unrestful time was he ; and 
the work that he did, with its harvest of knightly 
deeds and philosophic thoughts, and its ill portion 
of cruel death at a coward king's hand these are 
all part of the whole. Into the texture of Nature's 
triumph are also woven man's enduring work and 
worthiness ; and a sunset glow of gratitude may linger 
over each right human harvest, even as the October 
sun gilds these huge planes and gratefully warms 
their perfections of achievement. The hedgerow and 
the fallow, the orchard and the grey tower set in 
p 



210 MY DEVON YEAR 

yellow frame of pollarded elms, the distant city and 
the smoke above ocean all speak of man. In these 
vast harmonies he is everywhere apparent. He has 
tamed the river, traversed the sea, dressed the ruddy 
earth to his liking with rich habiliments. It is only 
here, uplifted above the work of his hands, that you 
stand apart from all that he has done stand upon 
this untamed and immemorial heath, and surprise 
Time from slumber. 

The banks of venerable Roman trenches mark 
human activity and lead backward through unnum- 
bered autumn seasons to the days when the grey 
wolf hunted here ; when Hayes was not and Ralegh 
was not ; and when these mansions, that rise like 
grey pearls over the remote woods, still lay hidden 
within unquarried stone. 

I cannot escape from the immediate intrusion of 
this waste upon thought, for now it glows like the 
heart of furnace fires under such colours as only sun- 
sets paint with. The sun pierces here and there with 
arrows and daggers through the grey ; he sinks to the 
West, and every moment an added warmth mellows 
the light of him. Each distant bank of red brake- 
fern, each triple leaf of the bramble, each cluster of 
scarlet haws and aglets answers colour for colour, 
touch for touch. It is not death I see spread here, 
but the culmination of life ; these golds and scarlets 
and imperial purples become the crown of a con- 
queror ; they are the reward bestowed upon every 
humble leaflet for its long summer of faithful service. 



HARMONY IN GOLD 211 

Because the leaves have gleaned from the rain and 
the mist, from the dew and the wind, from the moon- 
beams and the warm sun -shaft; they have hoarded 
treasures for trunk and branch ; they have lived beau- 
tifully the life of leaves, and transmitted of their 
fulness to the roots that gave them being and the 
boughs that bore them. 

To-day, indeed, the world seemed itself the image 
of one infinitely vast tree, whose summit merged with 
the sky and approached the sun, whose roots struck 
invisible through the ambient universe and brought 
something from the last corners of creation. For 
there were no horizons anywhere ; on every hand 
earth merged into the regions of the sky ; on every 
hand secrets of space and treasures from infinity 
mingled with this great scene, wrapped it in air made 
visible, glorified my little planet into no mean gem 
on the heart of the universe. 

The golden link of all matter was visible to me 
then, and I forgot my insignificance and bulked large 
upon my own sight as a part appreciable of this 
splendour. The air that I breathed, and the air that 
the blue pigeon set pulsing with his swift wing, was 
the same that hung curtains of unutterable glory 
round the throne of the sun, that painted the sky 
and the earth with rainbows, and sustained life in 
the least created thing. The water that enabled me 
to exist was the same that piled itself at the sun's 
touch into precipices and promontories and palaces of 
cloud ; that came and went from the sky to the sea, 



212 MY DEVON YEAR 

from the river and steaming valley back to the sky- 
again. The day seemed one of vast elemental throb 
and movement. Everything lived ; everything was 
great ; everything was justified. On such a day a 
creator resting from his labours might have seen his 
work that it was good. The scent of the pine and the 
murmur of dry leaves in the wind came as incense 
and music proper to the earth's festival ; and the 
cloth of gold, far flung from hill and valley, was 
seemly raiment for that rite of universal thanksgiving. 
The world melted away from around me, from beneath 
me ; and dreaming there, my restless soul listened, 
as it seemed, to one note that echoed upon a harp 
wrought of precious things a harp in the hand of 
some singer unseen. 

It may have been the pigeon in the pine, the bay of 
a distant hound, or the tolling of a bell ; some such 
melodious mundane utterance it surely was ; yet, 
transmuted, it fell upon my ear as an expression above 
the common music of earth, as a song of deeper 
meaning than ever reached my heart before. It was 
the voice of the joy of Nature a lyric rapture 
heard for an instant, then heard no more. 

The earth and the face of the river bade me 
farewell ; the mazes of the sky darkened, all bound- 
aries vanished, and this golden harmony, by grada- 
tions slow-sinking and solemn, surrendered itself to 
night. 




HARMONY IN SILVER 

|ROM this procession of autumnal days, 
wrought upon the temple of time in a 
frieze of manifold colours, and bearing 
designs now simple, now splendid, now 
ornate and elaborate, now austere and economic, yet 
never parsimonious, there gleam out for me certain 
silver noontides, amid other October mornings wholly 
gold. These last, indeed, carry the sunset of the 
year's glory to its culmination of pure primary colour, 
to the unnumbered tints of the dying hour of the 
leaves fair things that have felt the fingers of frost 
in the starry hour before dawn, and now, under sun- 
light, shine, fretted with gossamers, be -diamonded 
with dew, in the sharp, misty breath of the morning. 
Nature's sunlit reds and scarlets, her mysteries of 
sea-blue shadows under the yellow elms, of spacious, 
far-flung hazes, dislimning in the low beams of the 
sun these phenomena, woven of crystal air and 
cloudless skies, belong to the golden hour ; but, 
amid them, as though weary of such opulence, my 
western world once awakened and robed herself in 
grey. A homespun garment of cloud she donned, 
and the ritual of Autumn ceased awhile, for there 

213 



214 MY DEVON YEAR 

was no sun to light its million lamps of blossom and 
berry and jewelled leaf. Instead, the sombre tones of 
the hour found a kindred spirit, ambiently brooding 
over all, and out from the subdued light of that day a 
new world emerged a humble world, a world re- 
signed, a world that passed peacefully and not un- 
willingly away to death. Its highest adornment was 
the ruffled silver of distant waters ; its crown of light, 
a wan illumination from above, where fans of radiance 
spread forth through wind -rifts, roamed with revo- 
lutions over hills and valleys, then vanished into 
gloom. 

Every earth -picture thus depends upon the sky- 
picture spread over it, and when the sun is absent, 
the spacious diffusion of light effected by cloud and 
humid air will oftentimes beget luminous most beau- 
tiful conditions, will magnify unconsidered incident of 
landscape, and reveal chastened colour-harmonies 
that are lost in the more obvious magnificence of 
direct sunlight. And upon this, my silver day, the 
children of sunshine slept. 

From a standpoint on high lands, there spread 
beneath me a world, there rose above me a sky, 
wrought in all shades of grey, ranging from hue of 
pure pearl to that of sombre lead. A foreground 
of forest fell abruptly away ; plains subtended the 
foot-hills of these woods, and amidst them wound 
a river, and rose a little township that climbed 
here and there to its own proper elevations in the 
vale. Beyond, the land towered gradually to a 



HARMONY IN SILVER 215 

northern horizon, where the southern ramparts of 
Dartmoor, grey as rain, heaved hugely up against 
the sky-line. 

Plane upon plane the scene extended, and the 
operations of man lent no little beauty, where upon 
the fertile lands, that had carried garnered harvests 
and were now naked, there rose from faint con- 
stellations of flame many smoke -wreaths, spreading 
on the wind in trails easterly. They were almost 
white at the point of birth, where, from root and 
weed, gathered off the broken stubbles, they rose 
above a hundred dotted fires, and sinuously wound 
away ; then fading to diaphanous hazes, they threw 
up cot and hedgerow, tall elm and hamlet, against 
their veils of light. Here, in some wide gap or 
gorge, the western wind caught these smoky ribbons, 
and fretted them steadily and swiftly away ; else- 
where, sheltered by hanging woods or the configura- 
tion of the land, they trailed peacefully, in wisps and 
wreaths of ashy illumination, or hung over the hamlets 
in persistent clouds, whose iron-blue banners told of 
burning wood on many a hearth. 

I think this spectacle of mist-laden air, high hills, 
and widespread plains lacked no shade of all those 
that pertain to the mingling of black with white. 
From the purity of sky-rifts, where a rain of colour- 
less light winnowed the clouds, yet never exceeded 
the brilliance of frosted silver, to the darkest shadows 
of adjacent pines, the solemn scheme obtained. It 
was manifest alike in the curtain of the Moor, 



216 MY DEVON YEAR 

drawn northwards high above all that I beheld ; on 
the silver-birch before me ; in the bramble, whose 
foliage, moved at a faint breath, reflected back the 
light of the sky unchanged from grey under-leaves ; 
in the flying parachutes of the composite flowers ; in 
the seeding clematis, and in the network of many 
grey boughs already appearing through foliage grown 
thin. Unconsidered links shone out ; unknown beau- 
ties among the relations of varied leaves were made 
manifest ; and unguessed congruities in the passing 
of those fair things, whose funerals know no pomp, 
whose palls are silver and sere, whose death-colours 
speak of chill etiolation, unkissed, unwarmed by the 
great sun. A grey day reveals the inner texture of 
the Mother's robe, and touches these soft fabrics 
that cling about the heart of her, and hide her very 
bosom. 




THE CROWN ON THE HILL 

PON an evening in November the panting 
of the wind was at last lulled, and he rested 
from his tremendous labours succeeding 
the equinox. All things under the sky 
were very still ; earth mused in silence ; woods, hills, 
valleys seemed possessed with a sort of wonder at the 
great peace now nestling within them ; and westering 
light deepened to red-gold as the sun sank upon the 
horizon. It was a moment in which one could see 
the air taking visible shape ; it was an hour when one 
might note the atmosphere hanging opaline against 
background of hills and valleys, softening with its 
radiance the avenues of the firs. A veil of azure 
blue stole above the russet fern between me and the 
sunset. It wound upward, like incense smoke, 
amid the yellow spires of the larches and the silver 
stems of the birch. Neither fog nor mist was it that 
I saw, but the sweet, keen breath of November, the 
very expiration of Nature, here sleeping her first 
winter sleep under groves of silence. Sunlight rippled 
across a great woodland aisle, whose pillars were the 
fir trees ; shadows mottled stem, branch, and sad- 

217 



218 MY DEVON YEAR 

coloured carpet of sere needles with delicate shades, 
that in their turn were brightened by direct reflection 
from boughs and trunks aglow in the orange light. 
Splashes of pale sky eastward broke through the 
crowns of the wood ; traceries of moss outlined the 
twisted roots at each tree-foot ; a bough of beech, 
with dead leaves flaming, sometimes extended across 
my path; and all things were soaked in the 
diaphanous air. 

Silence is a condition most uncommon amid great 
pines or firs, yet at this moment these forests, built 
of both, breathed no sound, and the scent of such 
places, always borne on the sigh of the least wind, 
or won from the kiss of hot sunshine, to-day was 
absent. Only a subdued twitter of tiny tits, travel- 
ling in company along their aerial highways in the 
tree-tops, broke the great silence. The woods sloped 
to the North, and under their edges infinite peace 
and extreme cold had already settled. There the 
daggers of the frost were already stabbing in the 
damp mosses and dead leaves ; while on the hill the 
heath shone warm contrasted against the chill light of 
the silvery-blue firs. In the deciduous underwoods 
many leaves still hung ; but autumn colours suffer 
an eclipse displayed within such sombre glades, for 
the evergreens intercept sunshine, and the dying 
foliage beneath is something robbed of its last 
beauties. There is in these dusky places a cadaver- 
ous rather than a splendid death, a bleaching and a 



THE CROWN ON THE HILL 219 

blanching ; as where I now see one silver -birch, of 
most pallid foliage, that shines under the dark cone- 
bearers, like a lamp of wan flame. Her sisters of 
the open down have long since lost their glory, but 
it was golden treasure that the West wind shook from 
them ; not such bloodless leaves as droop belated here 
and wait for frost to fell them. 

Frost was at hand ; the hushed, wakeful silence 
spoke of it, and the black buds of the ash, an4 the 
traceries of the briars, and the velvet flower-buds of 
the gorse, where, tucked like tiny agate beads along 
her thorny branches, they waited to scent easterly 
breezes and the grey days of coming March. A 
few, indeed, had paled to the bursting, and some 
twinkled in full flower, for the greater furze never 
sleeps. 

As I emerged from the woods, a red haze spread 
round the setting sun, touched the naked boughs of 
oaks, and warmed the last tattered, lemon foliage of 
elms that were perched along the ridges of an ex- 
tended scene. Already wide valleys and the courses 
of rivers beneath were buried in the dun of night ; 
the air thickened, and sudden clatter of pigeons' wings 
came as an assault upon silence. 

Aloft, crowning the very crest of this great hill 
with a double circlet, spread a Roman encamp- 
ment. To-day, forests bury half these spacious 
circles, and a high-road marks a diameter across 
their midst. Arrayed in perished grasses and fading 



220 MY DEVON YEAR 

fern, its circumference stretched out dead in the 
gloaming ; stillness deeper than sleep stagnated over 
it ; one naked thorn, humped into semblance of 
uncouth life, kept his vigil in the midst ; and round 
about extended two great rings, clothed with rack 
and chaos of a winter heath, splashed with pale 
tussocks of grass, like blind eyes, swept with fallen 
fern, whose nerveless stems had bent and broken in 
regiments under the shattering pressure of past 
storms. Thus sprawled out starkly under an ashy 
light, that each moment sucked the detail from it, 
this old camp lay before me ; and such was the 
silence that not one sob, whisper, or tinkle inhabited 
the dead bells of the heather. They, too, were 
dumb ; and I mused as to how many million would 
echo the wind no more ; I thought of the hosts 
among them destined to fall that night in the pinch 
of the frost. 

Motion and sound were here suspended, for the 
place was as a picture painted in colours of 
mourning upon the past. Not one spark of living 
light shone from out the monochrome of it ; not one 
sentinel challenged the ineffable peace. Yesterday, 
the Legions had made these earthworks tremble ; 
to-day, they who once laboured here were dust again, 
though the crown on the hill, with greater things, still 
endured to testify of them. 

One star suddenly twinkled a very incarnation of 
life and activity contrasted with this brooding deso- 



THE CROWN ON THE HILL 221 

lation and silence. The star twinkled and rose ; 
deep, undried dews sparkled a response to it ; and 
ancient Night, descending from the East, drew all 
things to her dark bosom embraced all, and hid 
all away, as a hen gathers her chickens under her 
wings. 




THE MASTER-BUILDER 

O one whose habitual round of life em- 
braces daily converse with natural things, 
and who also loves art, in that by exer- 
cise of it he attempts to justify existence, 
there are few facts stranger than the attitude of 
many critical persons toward the country. I instance 
those who find in pictures a great part of their 
aesthetic food, who, before the revelation of Turner 
or Constable, Walker or Clausen, feel honest joy, 
and are uplifted by such gleanings of genius from 
Nature. But face these same cultured souls with the 
material out of which the masters have builded and 
their attitude descends from enthusiasm to indiffer- 
ence. Ask them to rise before the dawn that they may 
see Turner's palette in the eastern sky ; desire them 
to witness Constable's rain-clouds actually bursting in 
silver above summer oaks; invite them to Clausen's 
scorching stubbles, or the deep woodland that others 
paint ; and they turn away. It is a sociological 
mystery to me that there exist people who love a 
day in a picture gallery better than one with 
Nature. 

222 



THE MASTER-BUILDER 223 

The danger of this attitude is obvious from the 
mere standpoint of critical justice alone. What signify 
values, tonality, technique, if truth itself be lacking? 
And who shall dare to praise or blame if he knows 
not whether the things set down are true to the 
circumstances they claim to represent ? 

I possess a drawing by an Associate of the Royal 
Academy. It illustrates a story of the olden time, 
and the scene is Dartmoor at mid-winter. A fox- 
glove in full bloom occupies a prominent position. 
Some object was required to balance the composition ; 
it was necessary that certain light and shade should 
be blended thus at the point where this hibernal fox- 
glove flourishes ; and people who understand pictures 
admire the piece and see no fault in it: the naked 
trees and the luxuriant foxglove alike win their 
admiration. But those who merely understand fox- 
gloves are surprised at such a flagrant and careless 
error. For them the achievement ceases seriously to 
exist, because a man who thus errs in what they know, 
may err also in what they do not know. 

This is a trifle, and my prelude to a larger question. 
Urban philosophers, and such as have no special 
sympathy with natural things, appear as unfamiliar 
with the inner life of the country as many rural 
painters are unskilled concerning natural principles. 
Yet, despite their ignorance of the earth, they in- 
veigh against the gospel of earth with utmost possible 
bitterness. They damn natural religion, though of 
Nature they know nothing whatever. Their con- 



224 MY DEVON YEAR 

elusions are neither founded upon study nor experi- 
ence ; they have not touched and seen ; they have 
not scorched for it and sweated for it, drenched for 
it and frozen for it. They have looked at Nature out 
of a window ; they have arrived at their conclusions 
by data gathered in railway trains while journeying 
from one intellectual centre to another. They never 
shared the life of the leaves and the boughs and the 
birds. They never lived alone with the earth. They 
never felt Nature touch their hearts to patience, lift 
their unrest, purify the foul places of their minds, call 
them clear- voiced to braver life and more courageous 
thinking. 

All, indeed, cannot so feel this influence ; all are not 
constituted that they can endure it; the greater number 
ask for something more hopeful, and demand a promise 
of a happier life in a happier world than this is. Let 
such go their way, but let them not lift their voices 
against the earth-cult ; for they neither know its reality 
nor apprehend its meaning. There is a cry of Nature's 
fatalism and pessimism ; there is an assurance that she 
is illusive, a pageant of the senses, a dream-picture 
thrown on dust to vanish with the wind. Those who 
believe this will add that the meaning of natural facts 
is often hidden from us, and that they shall be found 
productive of much injustice from the standpoint of 
human conscience. It never occurs to these misty 
thinkers that conscience should be distrusted in this 
and other matters; yet there is a deadly danger in 



THE MASTER-BUILDER 225 

absolute trust of any faculty which, like conscience, 
has resulted from education. 

To cry injustice is only to say once more that 
Nature can be cruel, according to man's notion. But 
a familiar axiom of those who find in her the first 
principle has always been that she is alike outside 
of all right or wrong. She may no more be ap- 
plauded for deliberate goodness than blamed for 
premeditated evil. Nevertheless, the words "cruel" 
and "kind" are still hurled against her, for even 
England's first living thinker, Herbert Spencer, 
declares that Nature is a little cruel to be greatly 
kind. 

She, indeed, holds the secret of all emotions, and 
can bring each one to life ; yet, herself, she remains 
emotionless, and above all creature -attributes of feel- 
ing or of sense. Her wakening is love's awakening ; 
her high noon reflects mankind's aspiration ; her 
Autumn paints the pictures of thrift, generosity, and 
motherhood ; and from her winter hours we gather 
images, noble and pathetic, of human age. Ten thou- 
sand times a day we go to her for similitudes and 
figures that shall give life to speech ; in her we exist 
mentally as well as physically ; from her all art draws 
its life-blood, and often only pays her with cheap 
sneers ; through her we first learned to conceive the 
possibility of things greater than ourselves. But 
man turns his back upon his Mother, because she 
will whisper no fallacious word to him concerning 
immortality. Her stern silence makes many hearts 
Q 



226 MY DEVON YEAR 

grow cold ; many humane spirits become indifferent ; 
but Time, the Master- Builder, has in his keeping 
human intellects unborn that shall show greater 
courage in this matter as a result of higher reason. 
We cannot see more than dim finger-posts pointing 
to nothing ; but the sons of the morning may read 
them when we are gone, and face the darkness like 
men, not flee from it like cowards. 

Let us be charitable to ideas : there is little danger 
in that ; for each carries its own seed, and if the seed 
be sterile, no human necessity arises to destroy it ; 
and if the seed be fertile, there is no human power 
that can do so. For a time the world will often 
prefer a prosperous error to an afflicted truth ; but 
only for a time. The centuries witness every human 
fallacy return to its dust, while that which is true 
remains immortal. Of truth, indeed, may the word 
be spoken ; but of nothing else. 

Concerning Nature I say that her cult is reasonable 
because it fulfils the conditions of a working creed. 
Much is hidden, but much is lucid and practical ; 
the element of mystery does not lack ; yet the 
rudiments are easily grasped. A lively sense of the 
necessity for obedience is the first lesson to be learned. 
Break her laws, and she will break you. That is clear 
even to the fool. Nature lives and goes forward, and 
is always in the van of human intellect. Outworn 
creeds fall like the flower whose fruit, set from 
better pollen than her own, is destined to uplift the 
next generation of blossoms into a nobler beauty than 



THE MASTER-BUILDER 227 

the last. The impulse in Nature is onward, and her 
light shines ahead. The more we learn, the more she 
has to teach. Nothing in her is an end to itself; 
everything is a beginning for something else. Thus, 
while you shudder to-day at the fancied impiety which 
claims kinship with a lesser creature of yesterday, so 
to-morrow may a greater being shudder at the impiety 
which claims kinship with you. Nevertheless, I know 
how that greater thing will admit your kinship with 
pride, for it is but a mean order of life that goes in 
shame of its origin. Why should we hold that man 
alone of all created beings is an end to himself and 
not a beginning to others ? From us a greater than 
we are shall arise. Give Nature time ; that is all she 
asks. Consider how long It took to fashion us, and 
grudge none of the unnumbered ages that it may 
require to improve upon us. Who will dare estimate 
the period asked to set the round world in its matrix 
of space and make sure foot-hold, fin-hold, wing-hold, 
for the earth-born hosts ? Who can affirm the awful 
duration of ages that elapsed before we were called to 
play our part ? And is Nature weary ? Are the laws 
of evolution accomplished ? Was mere conscious 
existence, as displayed in an inferior animal, their end 
and goal ? 

A thrush in a green larch at dawn is good : but 
there was a time before thrush or larch ; there will 
come a day when thrush and larch are not, and when 
better things burst into song and into bud for a greater 
than man to enjoy. Most true is it that the Master- 



228 MY DEVON YEAR 

Builder is also the Master- Destroyer ; but he never 
casts down an organism, a race, or a creed until the 
law of progress is fulfilled and a better creature waits 
for life and for space to grow in. 

Hear Lucretius : " None of the things, therefore, 
which seem to be lost is utterly lost, since Nature 
replenishes one thing out of another, and does not 
suffer anything to be begotten, before she has been 
recruited by the death of some other." 

That pessimism should spring from a contemplation 
of this system in Nature is only to be explained 
by the existence of human vanity and religious 
superstition. The lords of creation we have long 
called ourselves, and it irks man to discover that 
in the records of his Mother he is set down under 
another name. He lacks that perfect trust in Time 
which the earth-worshipper acknowledges ; he lacks 
that faith in the destiny of his own heir which Nature 
inspires. Yet that is the best working faith of all, for 
I discover in it the vital principle of every faith that 
has claimed, or does, or will claim consideration and 
manifest supremacy. It is the only faith of the future. 
Far from sorrow, I feel joy at this thought of the 
march forward ; I trust in the unborn, not in the dead ; 
and because the future is hidden from me, and I 
know that I may not attain to it, what matter? 
Nature, at least, lifts me up that I may see with the 
eyes of my intellect that glimmering dawn. 

She will labour here ceaselessly until the sun grows 
cold ; and we are as much a part of her immemorial 



THE MASTER-BUILDER 229 

plan, as the Galaxy or those nebulae where new worlds 
are already spinning on her wheel, like clay upon the 
potter's. 

Remember that you are a link in an eternal chain, 
and that your duty is neither to mourn the prevalent 
pattern nor unduly to glorify it. Rather keep your 
personal link free from rust, that it shall sustain its 
proper strain in the world -order. Thus there may 
steal into your life peace and patience, and that 
" quiet unity which alone can compress any achieve- 
ment into the few human years." 

Above all, love the truth better than yourself. To 
fail of that is to squander the grandest possibility of 
the human heart. 



PRINTED AT THE COMPLETE PRESS 

WEST NORWOOD 

CONDON 



DATE DUE 



CAYLORO 



PRINTED IN U '. 



UC SOUTHERN REGIOWL LIBRARY FAdLITY 



A 001 456 655 8