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have what I was about to call settled inhabitants in the shape of a camp of gipsies.
Just where the lane, enlivened by a rustic bridge, suddenly expands to nearly double its proper width, a nook appears, so dry, so snug, so shady, so cozy, that it is almost worth while to be a gipsy to live in it. Here, at almost every season, between May and November, may be seen two or three low tents with a cart or so drawn up under the hedge, an old horse and sundry donkeys grazing round about. At safe distance from the encampment appears a fire, glimmering and vapoury by day, glowing into an intensity of blaze and comfort in the twilight. Sometimes a pot is hung on by the primitive contrivance of three sticks united at the top, sometimes a copper kettle dazzlingly bright and clean, and around it the usual group of picturesque women and children. The men, who carry on a small trade in forest ponies, are seldom visible at the camp: the children make baskets, the women sell them and tell fortunes; the former calling affording an excuse and an introduction to the less ostensible, but not less profitable craft.
Baskets they make and baskets they sell, at about double the price at which they might be bought at the dearest shop in the good town of Belford Regis; of this I am myself a living instance, having been talked into buying a pair at that rate only the last Saturday that ever fell.
I confess to liking the gipsies : strange, wild, peculiar people, whose origin, whose history, whose very language is a mystery! I do not like them the less that I have never experienced at their hands the slightest incivility or the most trifling wrong—for this affair of the baskets can hardly be called such, it being wholly at my option to buy or to refuse.
Last Saturday I happened to be sitting on a fallen tree somewhat weary; my little damsel working as usual at the other end, and Fanchon balancing herself on the trunk between us; the curls of her brown coat
-she is entirely brown-turning into gold as the sunshine played upon them through the leaves.
In this manner were we disposed, when a gipsy, with a pair of light baskets in her hand, came and offered them for sale. She was a middle-aged woman, who, in spite of her wandering life, perhaps, because of that hardy, out-of-door life, had retained much of her early beauty; the flashing eyes, the pearly teeth, the ruddy cheeks, the fine erect figure. It happened that, not wanting them, my companion had rejected these identical baskets when brought to our door in the morning. She told me so, and I quietly declined them. My friend the gipsy apparently gave the matter up, and claiming me as an old acquaintance, began to inquire after my health, and fell into the pleasantest strain of conversation possible; spoke of my father, who, she said, had been kind to her and to her tribe (no doubt she said truly; he was kind to everybody, and had a liking for the wandering race); spoke of her children at the gipsy school in Dorsetshire; of the excellent Mr. Crabbe, the friend of her people, at Southampton ; then she began stroking Fanchon (who, actually to my astonishment, permitted the liberty; in general she suffers no one to touch her that is not gentleman or lady); Fanchon she stroked, and of Flush, the dear old dog, now lying under the rose tree, she talked; then to leave no one unpropitiated, she threw out a word of pleasant augury, a sort of gratuitous fortune-telling, to the hemmer of flounces; then she attacked me again with old recollections, trusting with singular knowledge of human nature to the power of the future upon the young, and of the past upon the old—to me she spoke of happy memories, to my companion of happiness to come; and so (how could I help it ?) I bought the baskets.
I seem to have wandered pretty widely from my subject; but the old dramatists loved these commoners of nature. Broome, in the “ Jovial Crew, has constructed a pleasant and genial comedy out of no higher materials, and our authors, themselves, in “Beggar's Bush," have made most dramatic and effective use of these outlawed wanderers, and would, I am sure, have been the last to blame me for dallying in their company.
I extract some of the charming lyrics interspersed through their plays, not starting from them as Ben Jonson's do, a shining gem in a dusky mine, but incorporate with the golden ore as rich and precious as themselves.
FROM THE “MAID'S TRAGEDY.”
Of the dismal yew ;
Say I died true.
From my hour of birth ;
Lightly, gentle earth.
FROM THE “ LITTLE FRENCH LAWYER.”
You that hold these pleasures dear;
While we melt the frozen ground.
Let your clear eyes gild the air.
This way, this way, seek delight!
FROM THE “ELDER BROTHER.”
. Where the air
Where the violet and the rose,
Their blue veins in blush disclose,
And planted there,
Where to gain a favour is
More than light, perpetual bliss,
To this light:
Both the wonder and the story,
Shall be yours and eke the glory ;
FROM "VALENTINIAN." The following songs are strikingly illustrative of a peculiarity that has often struck me in reading the dramas of Beaumont and Fletcher; the absence of any mark of antiquity, either in the diction or the construction. Hardly anything in their verse smacks of the age. They were contemporary with Ben Jonson, and yet how rugged is his English compared with their fluent and courtly tongue ! They were almost contemporary with a greater than he — a greater far than any or all, and yet Shakespeare's blank verse has an antique sound when read after theirs. Dryden, himself so perfect a model as regards style, says in one of those master-pieces of criticism, the prefaces to his plays, that in Beaumont and Fletcher, our language has attained to its perfection. I doubt if it have much improved since, nor has it for the uses of poetry very materially altered. This “Invocation to Sleep” might, for diction and rhythm, have been written to-day, always supposing that we had anybody capable of writing it.
Care-charming Sleep, thou easer of all woes,
And kiss him into slumbers like a bride!
God Lyæus, ever young