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DERWENTWATER - CATHOLIC EMANCIPATION
A TALL, raw-boned, hard-featured North-Briton said one day to one of our Keswick guides, at a moment when I happened to be passing by, “ Well, I have been to look at your lake; it's a poor piece of water with some shabby mountains round about it.” He had seen it in a cold, dark, chearless autumnal afternoon, to as great a disadvantage as I suppose, from the stamp of his visage and the tone and temper of his voice, he would have wished to see it, for it was plain that he carried no sunshine in himself wherewith to light it up. I have visited the Scotch lakes in a kindlier disposition; and the remembrance of them will ever be cherished among my most delightful reminiscences of natural scenery. I have seen also the finest of the Alpine lakes; and felt on my return from both countries, that if Derwentwater has neither the severe grandeur of the Highland waters, nor the luxuriance and sublimity, and glory of the Swiss and Italian, it has enough to fill the imagination and to satisfy the heart.
The best general view of Derwentwater is from the terrace, between Applethwaite and Milbeck, a little beyond the former hamlet. The old roofs and chimnies of that hamlet come finely in the foreground, and the trees upon the Ormathwaite estate give there a richness to the middle ground, which is wanting in other parts of the vale. From that spot, I once saw three artists sketching it at the same time; William Westall (who has engraved it among his admirable views of Keswick,) Glover, and Edward Nash, my dear, kind-hearted friend and fellow-traveller, whose death has darkened some of the blithest recollections of my latter life. I know not from which of the surrounding heights it is seen to most advantage; any one will amply repay the labour of the ascent; and often as I have ascended them all, it has never been without a fresh delight. The best near view is from the field adjoining Friar's Crag. There it is, that if I had Aladdin's lamp, or Fortunatus's purse,..(with leave of Greenwich Hospital be it spoken,) I would build myself a house.
Thither I had strolled on one of those first
genial days of spring which seem to affect the animal, not less than the vegetable creation. At such times, even I, sedentary as I am, feel a craving for the open air and sunshine, and creep out as instinctively as snails after a shower. Such seasons, which have an exhilarating effect upon youth, produce a soothing one when we are advanced in life. The root of an ash tree, on the bank which bends round the little bay, had been half bared by the waters during one of the winter floods, and afforded a commodious resting place, whereon I took my seat, at once basking in the sun, and bathing as it were in the vernal breeze. But delightful as all about me was to eye, and ear, and feeling, it brought with it a natural reflection,.. that the scene which I now beheld was the same which it had been and would continue to be, while so many of those, with whom I had formerly enjoyed it, were past away. Our day dreams become retrospective as we advance in years, and the heart feeds as naturally upon remembrance in age, as upon hope in youth.
Where are they gone, the old familiar faces ?* I thought of her whom I had so often seen plying her little skiff upon that glassy water,.. the
* Charles Lamb.