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the variations of a legend found in many regions, each of which now claims to have originated it. What a picture did old Gottfried bring before us of the enchanted valley to which the hapless Queen Iseult and her lover wandered when driven forth from the palace of the King of Cornwall! A valley green and flower-gemmed, with every tree pleasant for shade or fruit; there is a grove of olive-trees in which nightingales sing, and a wondrous fountain leaping to a diamond-tree in the sunshine, and singing in the moonlight, which seems never to wane for the lovers—who dwell there three years in a grot beauti
ful enough to have been sculptured for fairies. For our little assembly in Fitzroy Square this dream of beauty had the background of the most dark and dismal winter known under the reign of Victoria. Snows, rains, fogs, and freezing winds had persisted through months in giving some physical corollary to a moral season of frauds and failures, depression in trade, and consequent strikes and starvation, miserable wars upon foreign tribes, and angry political discords at home. As against this blackness was set the picture of the olive grove and nightingales, the fountain, flowers, and fairy grot, with even the side suggestion of a genial climate in Iseult's single garment, “through which her limbs were displayed as much as was seemly,” one might almost have expected that the poetic and artistic company would rise up with a determination to adjourn in a body to some southern land where the citron blooms, and the orange lights up the leafy glooms. But mark what followed. No sooner was the delightful paper concluded than the comments and criticisms of those present began. The main question raised
was as to the country in which the legend originated; and what was my surprise to find nearly all claiming it as a purely British-Celt poem ' There might be a question whether it were an Irish, Scotch, or Cornish legend; but not even the olivetrees seemed to stagger the general conviction that the paradise was evolved on these islands, and the philtre surviving in the penny love-drops still bought by Highland lassies in remote districts. One scholar present ventured to suggest an Oriental origin, but no one seconded him. As for myself, I sat silent. I thought I knew the far region of fairy grots and fountains, but would not mention it, for it was with an admiration akin to awe that I witnessed the simple faith of these cultured gentlemen and ladies in the paradisaic resources of their country. I had no heart to express my misgivings that the three sweet years of the lovers would have been cut short in any British valley where they might attempt to dwell in such a primitive way; that there are only a few mud-holes called caves in this country, which it would require extra fairy-power to transform into lovers' grots; that the leaping fountain would have to be reversed and made to fall from the sky before it could resemble anything known to the British landscape. What is all that scenery compared with the power of the poetic imagination to see it where it does not exist? Here was a pleasant illustration of the especial character of the English poet; the intensity of his inner life; his power of second-sight, so to say, and of seeing his picture under a light that never was on sea or land. The beautiful scenery of Great Britain has been so largely evolved out of the inner consciousness of poets that it would be an interesting experiment to take an imaginative American on a tour of the English lakes under an impression that he was travelling in Wales. The American who has seen the best mountain and lake scenery of his own country might pronounce the Welsh scenery more grand than that of the English lakes; that is, supposing he could see the two as so much combination of land and water; but that he can not do: he must see these English lakes as exalted and spiritualized in a poetic mirage. Never again can one look upon mere Rydal Water; he must see therein the reflected vault of Lake District first at Windermere. The village that begins to bear that name is a recent accretion around the station. The knowing traveller does not stop there, but at Bowness, where he finds the hotel “Old England,” which more than merits its name. Its beautiful garden slopes to the waters of Windermere, and one may there eat the finest fish of the country—or what he will think such just after travelling from London—the “char,” while watching the fisherman with his sail, who is netting the next. Agassiz identified this strange fish, found in five of these lakes, and nowhere else in the country, with the Ombre chevalier of Lake Geneva, and it is surmised that the Romans introduced it into these waters. If so, there are few Roman remains which the traveller will find so interesting in this region as this pretty foot-long char, with its golden flesh beneath silvery raiment. Why it is called a “char” I can not say, unless it be that like chores and char-women it comes round at a certain time. There are other things also found at the lakes which observe the like periodicity— the organ-grinders, for instance, and ‘‘the Poet Close.” Every year during the tourist season Close leaves his distant home, and settles himself at Bowness to sell what he calls poetry. He is the son of a Westmoreland butcher, who left his vocation to butcher the Queen's English like a Zulu. On the occasion of the marriage of the late Lord Lonsdale, Close sent him some verses, of which here is a specimen:
of a week will have to let some sunshine through when one is wandering after the zigzag track of cheery Christopher North.
The scenery is all picturesque, and sometimes sublime. But its chief charm of decoration is that which the poets have given it. One finds not here the quaint white turrets lanced from the river-side hills of France, or the graceful chalets which give an air of cultures to the Italian lakes. Art has done nothing for the English lakes, and, I am sorry to say, Religion has done rather worse, in surrounding some of them with remarkably ugly churches–the ugliest, perhaps, being that at Ambleside, of which Harriet Martineau wrote, “There have been various reductions of the beauty of the valley within twenty years or so; but this is the worst, because the most conspicuous.” The weather is rarely beautiful, and “seeing the lakes” sometimes means glimpsing lunettes between the points of an umbrella. Here are no peasants dancing in gay dresses, nor merry fairs surviving from that mythical realm, ‘‘merrie old England.” The traveller finds here beautiful Nature unadorned but not inanimate; through reverent genius a subtle life-giving breath
“The Honorable William Lowther,
Our Secretary at Berlin, he,
Respected much at Prussia's court, Kept up our dignity.
His nephew, now Lord Lonsdale, Upon his wedding day,
We wish all health and happiness, All heartily we pray.”
Alfred Tennyson never made more money by his finest lyric than Close by the lines I have just quoted. It may be that the Hon. William Lowther, fresh from the country of Goethe, did not read the verses, but only the appeals for help accompanying them; at any rate, he used his influence with Lord Palmerston, who placed the name of “John Close, Poet,” on the Pension List. Poor Palmerston never heard the last of it. Sir William Sterling Maxwell, M.P., insisted that the pension should be withdrawn, and so it was, but not until
“ the Poet Close” had received a hundred
pounds in addition to his first pension payments. “Poet Close” sends his poems to all royal and titled folk in the world, and makes the most of any formal acknowledgment of their receipt which may be returned to him. In response to a remark made to him on the rare advantage which tourists and residents at Bowness have in seeing a poet selling his works in a book-stall, when so many other poets—the Laureate, for instance—are shy of the public, he answered, grandly, “No man in England, or the wide, wide world, ever did what I have done and am now doing—selling my own books, ay, and corresponding with crowned heads, the late Majesty of France, and England's glorious Queen, and also her future King !” So passeth the glory of Wordsworthshire! There is not now a poet on all that hallowed ground, and straight uprises Close to style himself “ the Bard of Westmoreland.” The only compensation for this which I found at Bowness was when a really good player on the harp came to our hotel door, accompanied by a young Westmoreland woman who sang sweetly some old Border ballads. Like the Scotch, they are mainly in the sad minor key, as is apt to be the case with songs of a people whose local patriotic memories are hopeless traditions of the past, and survive only in their songs. On the Border even these have become few, but there have been imitations of them, and most of the tunes are somewhat modified Scotch airs. There was another sign at Bowness of the passing away of ancient glories from the earth. The only interesting building there is a church of respectable antiquity, dedicated to St. Martin, and now the parish church. But from this old church every trace of St. Martin has so utterly passed away that the intelligent young girl who showed us the interior did not seem even to have heard the dear old saint's name. There are fairly preserved remains of a finely stained chancel window (brought from Furness Abbey), in which one may discern the Crucifixion, with the Virgin on one side and St. John on the other, the arms of France and England quartered above, and a group of monks beneath; there are two mitred abbots, and a St. George slaying the dragon. But though around this window and in various parts of the church there are armorial bearings of old families in the