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All the trees in the greenness of leaves she has drest;
On the hills, in the glens, by the rills and the streams,
In the sky, like a speck 'gainst the fleecy spring blue,
THE TENCH POOL
No part of England is so dear to me as that which lies along the borders of North Wales. On the east stretches the broad and level plain, with the Severn winding mazily through it, loth to leave its fertile fields and luxuriant woods. On the west are at first the lower hills; but wild and picturesque enough in spite of their puny height; and beyond, the grand and rugged mountains, with cloud shadows creeping up their sides, giving an infinite variety to their sober tints of brown and grey and purple; and the clouds themselves rest on their tops, shrouding them from our ken, and seeming to isolate them completely from the world below. It was our practice to make for the hills in all our sporting rambles. We seemed freer and lighter in spirit up there than down on the flats, shut in by high hedgerows and stern fences. Better was it by far on the uplands, with nothing to stay the breeze that gave us elasticity of limb and freedom of breath. What was there in the lowlands to compensate us for the wide map of landscape below us, with dark forest patches and kaleidoscopic effects of sunshine and shade on the bright greens and golds of meadows and corn lands, and the sudden whitening of the leaves in the near woods as the breeze swept by ?
Out of the rich plain, too, rose the Wrekin, proud in its solitary majesty, with the noble river laving its foot, and hundreds of the bravest lads and fairest lasses in all England gazing towards its bold bluff as they give utterance to the time-honoured sentiment “To all friends around the Wrekin.” What more glorious than to see the sun rise to the left of the Stiperstones—first a band of pale orange, then a stripe of delicate green that lifted higher and narrowed as the venerable orb rose in full glory, throwing into sudden and distinct relief church spires, white cottages, and shivering poplars! Awakening, too, with a gladness that the night is over, the birds burst out into a deafening chorus that loses much of its charm and sweetness, as the fields, which were silverwhite with the gossamer weavings of the night, resume their pristine hue, and the regular business of the world begins. But I think we felt a deeper delight in the sunsets over the Welsh mountains. Rugged rocks were ruby stepping-stones to the faroff crimson glare, that looked like the gates of fairyland at the head of the glen, lighting up tarn and stream with an unearthly lustre, while the bare outlines of the hills were toned down by the radiant evening mists in a manner that would have delighted Turner and all his school.
But where is all this leading? Why, to another fishing sketch ; but you must let me approach it in my own way. I have told you of the pool on the hill where the big carp lie. Now, I want you to come with me to another pool, not far from that, but nearer the lowlands, where we catch fish that used to have more fascination for me than perhaps any other—the mud-loving tench.
At one time we visited that pool almost daily. Sometimes we would start at five in the morning, and be back by school time. One night, I remember, I had been kept awake by a most racking toothache; losing all patience with the malady, as soon as it was light I dressed, and, taking my rod, set off on that raw, damp morning, tench fishing. It was too much trouble for one of us to call the other up, so we arranged a code of signals, by means of stones placed on a certain gate, to tell who had passed that way. But most frequently we went in the evenings. Unlike the carp pool, we could not count upon having it all to ourselves, and it was sometimes a regular race which should first seize on the best places. It was a nearly circular pool of considerable extent, and, like the carp pond, surrounded by wood; not, however, dark fir trees, but massy oaks, with open spaces, where grew the “silver birk.” There was a narrow pathway all around, but between that and the water's edge was the great beauty of the spot-a belt of luxuriant rhododendron bushes, which at the time of year the tench bit best were one mass of pink blossoms, relieved here and there with white. It was a singularly pretty scene, with the circle of blue sky and white cloud overhead, the circle of green oak foliage below it, with its uniformity broken by tall pine trees peering above it and piercing the blue, then the pink and white of the rhododendrons, and all the details of the picture, repeated in the circular mirror of the lakelet. Bottom fishing is prosy enough, but in such a scene it has a borrowed fascination. What could be jollier for a dreamy lad than to sit on a bank that was a perfect bed of flowers—blue violets, yellow primroses, and wild hyacinths—sleepily watching the float resting so