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Beneath the branching oaks
It may not be generally known, that some of the Queens of England have been in the habit of choosing a fine and thriving oak or beech tree in Windsor Forest, to which they have given their name; which, with the date of the month and year of the selection, is engraved on a brass plate, and screwed securely on the tree. Thus, in one of the most beautiful and retired parts of the forest, Queen Anne's oak may be seen, the oak of the amiable wife of George II.; Queen Caroline; the oak of Queen Charlotte; the oak of the excellent Queen Adelaide; as well as that of her present Majesty: they all have seats around them. The green drives of many miles, along which these trees may be approached, are not only kept in the most perfect order, but at every step we go, either some opening view of the castle, or the surrounding country, presents itself to our notice, or else some picturesque or noble tree attracts attention. Here and there are charming glades, down which a gentle stream of water makes
its way, and which is crossed by a rustic bridge. It is at nearly the end of this drive in one direction, and in the neighbourhood of the trees I have referred to, that one of the prettiest Cottages imaginable opens upon our view.
Nothing can be more smiling and cheerful, or kept in better order, than this abode of the woodman of the district. His rustic seats, his flowers, and neat kitchen garden, interspersed with fruit trees, all give the idea of rural peace and beauty. The oaks and beeches spread out their arms over the well-kept lawn in front of the cottage, while the wood-pigeon and woodpecker are heard in the adjoining thicket.
This sort of cottage is peculiarly English, and is always noticed with pleasure by foreign travellers in our island. A late one* says," England is described always very justly, and always in the same words —' it is all one garden.' There is scarce a cottage between Dover and London (seventy miles) where a poet might not be happy to live. I saw a hundred little spots I coveted with quite a heart-ache." And in the description of his drive from London to this immediate part of the country, he uses these graphic expressions:—"The scenery on the way was truly English—one series of finished landscapes, of every variety of combination, lawns, fancy cottages, manor-houses, groves, roses and flower gardens, make up England. It surfeits the eye at last. You * Willis. L
could not drop a poet out of the clouds upon any part of it I have seen, where, within five minutes' walk, he would not find himself a paradise." Such language is very pleasing to our English ears, and more especially coming from an American traveller, who had passed more than two years in inspecting, with no inattentive or unknowing eye, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, and France.
I am indebted to an unknown author for the following lines, which prettily descant on our humble habitations, the peculiar features of our rural scenery, and happily paint that particular characteristic of our country, the love of our own untranslatable word, comfort.
Beside a lane diverging from a wood,
Where tall tree-tops o'er-roof the grassy way,
And, sloping down to face the southern ray,
Clean-weeded beds by winding walks outspread,
And blossom'd beans delicious perfume shed,
All round the place a look of comfort beam'd,
True English comfort, homely, calm, and sweet I
With quiet joy their leafy friends to meet,
The shaded lane, the soft and balmy air,
All seem'd so pure, so innocent, and fair,
Along the walks sweet-scented creepers hung,
Tied here and there, their fragile stems to stay;
Such floating fragrance far across the way,
A rustic porch, with straggling woodbine dress'd,
While near at hand, the plum-tree's welcome guest,
In two small plots, with border-box hemm'd round,
Rare healing plants and choicest pot-herbs grew;
And fragrant thyme, its rich aroma threw
Not far from these the straw-thatch'd bee-hiyes stood,
The labouring bees, so bent on public good,
The picturesque and noble oak selected by her late Majesty, Queen Charlotte, stands near the woodman's cottage I have been describing, and flourishes on the prettiest lawn imaginable. The perfection of sylvan scenery will be found near this spot, and will amply repay a visit to it.
Perhaps most persons will feel that the interest of scenery is enhanced by its having been viewed, and the locality visited, by those who were eminent for their rank, or distinguished for their talent. This was the case with the situation I have been describing. It was one of the favourite haunts of Pope, and where he probably wrote his early poem of Windsor Forest. It is evident that he was a great admirer of forest scenery and beautiful trees. He tells us—
Here waving groves a chequerM scene display,
He speaks of " thy trees, fair Windsor," and of the happiness of him—
Who to these shades retires,
And concludes with the following charming description of his own feelings in these forestal haunts.
My humble muse, in unambitious strains,
It is impossible to pass along the drives in this part of the forest, without being struck with the many specimens of fine old oaks and beeches growing into each other, so as almost to appear as one tree, thus reminding me of the following lines—
See the tall oak his spreading arms entwines,
* Before the enclosure of the forest, the adjoining plains were covered with the beautiful purple flowers of the heath. Patches of it may still be seen.