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Great Villiers lies :—but ah, how changed from him,
POPE. Moral Essays. The charming walk at Lord Orkney's, which I was so kindly permitted to enjoy, and which I did enjoy so thoroughly, ran between the noble river shaded and overhung by trees, and the high steep chalky cliff, also clothed with trees to the very summit; trees of all kinds, the oak, the beech, the ash, the elm, the yew, the cypress, the pine, the juniper. The woodland path, no trimly-kept walk, but a rude narrow carttrack, thridded its way amidst nooks so closely planted and branches so interlaced, that oftentimes the water only glanced upon us by glimpses through the foliage, just as in looking upward we caught a gleam of the blue sky. Sometimes again it was totally hidden, and we only felt the presence of the river by the refreshing coolness of the breeze, and the gentle rippling of the slow current; while, sometimes, a sudden opening would give to view some rude landingplace where the boats were laden with chalk; or a vista accidentally formed by the felling of some large tree would show us an old mill across the stream framed in by meeting branches like a picture.
The Taplow spring, with its pretty cottage for picnics, often proved the end of our evening walks. I loved to see the gushing of that cool clear sparkling spring, plashing over the huge stones that seemed meant to restrain it, sporting in pools and eddies, and lost almost as soon as it wells from the carth amid the waters of the silver Thames.
Steep as it seems and is, the chalky cliff is not inaccessible. Here and there it recedes from the river, sometimes hollowed into deep caves, and then again it advances with a more gradual slope, so as to admit of zig-zag walks practised to the summit. These walks, almost buried amongst the rich foliage, have a singular attraction in their steepness and their difficulty. Long branches of ivy trail from the cliff in every direction, mingled at this season with a gorgeous profusion of the clinging woodbine, the yellow St. John's wort, and the large purple flowers of the Canterbury bell. Our steps were literally impeded by these long garlands. Our feet were perpetually entangled in them. We crushed them as we passed.
The view from the Hermit's hut, on the height, is amongst those that can never be forgotten. We looked over the tops of the tall trees, down a sheer descent of I know not how many hundred feet, to a weir upon the Thames, foaming and brawling under our very eyes. Just beyond was one of the loveliest reaches of the river, with Cookham bridge and the fine old church forming a picture in itself. Then came a wide extent of field and meadow, mansion and village, tower and spire, the rich woods of Berkshire interspersed amongst all, the noble river winding away into the distance, and the far-off hills mingling with the clouds, until we knew not which was earth or which was sky.
Very pleasant was that sojourn by the Thames side. And amongst the pleasures that I most value, one of those which I brought home with me and trust never to lose, must be reckoned the becoming acquainted with Mr. Noel's “Rhymes and Roundelayes,” and forming, not an acquaintance, for we have never met, but a friendship with the author.
Mr. Noel resides in a beautiful place in that beautiful neighbourhood, leading the life of an accomplished but somewhat secluded country gentleman ;-a most enviable life, and one well adapted to the observation of nature and to the production of poetry, but by no means so well calculated to make a volume of
poems extensively known. Hence it is that the elegant and graphic description of Thames scenery which I subjoin, although it has been published nearly ten years, will probably have the charm of novelty to many of my readers :
A THAMES VOYAGE.
Gracefully, gracefully glides our bark
On the bosom of Father Thames,
Break into a thousand gems.
Down the stream to his sweet mate's nest,
The river's yielding breast.
The hermit's hut doth cling,
On the smile of Cliefden spring. We
e are come where Hedsor's crested fount
Pours forth its babbling rill, And where the charmed eye loves to mount
To the small church on the hill,
On, like a hawk upon the wing,
And the wavelets round her rise.
And, up yon willowy reach,
Wave Bisham's woods of beech.
And its spire that seeks the skies ;
Medmenham's Abbey lies.
There are charms that woo the eye,
And the blue reflected sky.
Flit glistening to and fro,
O'er the waters glance and glow.
With many a mingling gleam; Where the broad flag waves, and the bulrush tall
Nods still to the thrusting stream.
Reveals her lovely hue,
Is embroidered with her blue.
A shadowy arch on high,
The virgin lilies lie.
I love their petals bright!
The Water-Nymph's delight!
Those milk-white cups with a golden core,
Like marble lamps, that throw
And the waves that round them flow !
Steadily, steadily, speeds our bark,
O'er the silvery whirls she springs ;
The watery carol rings.
Lo! a sailing swan, with a little fleet
Of cygnets by her side,
Against the bubbling tide!
And see—was ever a lovelier sight?
One little bird afloat
A beauteous living boat!
The threatful male, as he sails ahead,
Like a champion proud and brave,
Fierce jerks along the wave.
He tramples the stream, as we pass him by,
In wrath from its surface springs,
With loudly-flapping wings.
Gracefully, gracefully glides our bark,
And the curling current stems,
And the ripples gleam like gems ;
From the bosom of Father Thames.
The following powerful lines are better known, and serve to show the variety of Mr. Noel's talent: