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Title: A West Country Pilgrimage
Author: Phillpots, Eden
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A West Country Pilgrimage" ***

    [Illustration: TINTAGEL.]






    _First Published, May 1920_

    _Leonard Parsons, Ltd._




[Illustration: HAYES BARTON.]

East of Exe River and south of those rolling heaths crowned by the
encampment of Woodberry, there lies a green valley surrounded by forest
and hill. Beyond it rise great bluffs that break in precipices upon the
sea. They are dimmed to sky colour by a gentle wind from the east, for
Eurus, however fierce his message, sweeps a fair garment about him. Out
of the blue mists that hide distance the definition brightens and lesser
hills range themselves, their knolls dark with pine, their bosoms
rounded under forest of golden green oak and beech; while beneath them a
mosaic of meadow and tilth spreads in pure sunshine. One field is
brushed with crimson clover; another with dull red of sorrel through the
green meadow grass; another shines daisy-clad and drops to the green of
wheat. Some crofts glow with the good red earth of Devon, and no growing
things sprout as yet upon them; but they hold seed of roots and their
hidden wealth will soon answer the rain.

In the heart of the vale a brook twinkles and buttercups lie in pools of
gold, where lambs are playing together.

Elms set bossy signets on the land and throng the hedgerows, their round
tops full of sunshine; under them the hawthorns sparkle very white
against the riot of the green. From the lifted spinneys and coverts,
where bluebells fling their amethyst at the woodland edge, pheasants
are croaking, and silver-bright against the blue aloft, wheel gulls, to
link the lush valley with the invisible and not far distant sea. They
cry and musically mew from their high place; and beneath them the cuckoo

Nestling now upon the very heart of this wide vale a homestead lies,
where the fields make a dimple and the burn comes flashing. Byres and
granaries light gracious colour here, for their slate roofs are mellow
with lichen of red gold, and they stand as a bright knot round which the
valley opens and blossoms with many-coloured petals. The very buttercups
shine pale by contrast, and the apple-blooth, its blushes hidden from
this distance, masses in pure, cold grey beneath the glow of these great
roofs. Cob walls stretch from the outbuildings, and their summits are
protected against weather by a little penthouse of thatch. In their arms
the walls hold a garden of many flowers, rich in promise of small
fruits. Gooseberries and raspberries flourish amid old gnarled apple
trees; there are strawberries, too, and the borders are bright with May
tulips and peonies. Stocks and wallflowers blow flagrant by the pathway,
murmured over by honey bees; while where the farmhouse itself stands,
deep of eave under old thatch, twin yew trees make a dark splash on
either side of the entrance, and a wistaria showers its mauve ringlets
upon the grey and ancient front. The dormer windows are all open, and
there is a glimpse of a cool darkness through the open door. Within the
solid walls of this dwelling neither sunshine nor cold can penetrate,
and Hayes Barton is warm in winter, in summer cool. The house is shaped
in the form of a great E, and it has been patched and tinkered through
the centuries; but still stands, complete and sturdy in harmony of
design, with unspoiled dignity from a far past. Only the colours round
about it change with the painting of the seasons, for the forms of hill
and valley, the modelling of the roof-tree, the walls and the great
square pond outside the walls, change not. Enter, and above the
dwelling-rooms you shall find a chamber with wagon roof and window
facing south. It is, on tradition meet to be credited, the birthplace of
Walter Ralegh.

Proof rests with Sir Walter's own assertion, and at one time the manor
house of Fardel, under Dartmoor, claimed the honour; but Ralegh himself
declares that he was born at Hayes, and speaks of his "natural
disposition to the place" for that reason. He desired, indeed, to
purchase his childhood's home and make his Devonshire seat there; but
this never happened, though the old, three-gabled, Tudor dwelling has
passed through many hands and many notable families.

"Probably no conceivable growth of democracy," says a writer on Ralegh's
genealogy, "will make the extraction of a famous man other than a point
of general interest." Ralegh's family, at least, won more lustre from
him than he from them, though his mother, of the race of the
Champernownes, was a mother of heroes indeed. By her first marriage she
had borne Sir Walter's great half-brother, Humphrey Gilbert; and when
Otho Gilbert passed, the widow wedded Walter Ralegh, and gave birth to
another prodigy. The family of the Raleghs must have been a large and
scattered one; but our Western historian, Prince, stoutly declares that
Sir Walter was descended from an ancient and noble folk, "and could have
produced a much fairer pedigree than some of those who traduc'd him."

The tale of his manifold labours has been inadequately told, though Fame
will blow her trumpet above his grave for ever; but among the lesser
histories Prince's brief chronicle is delightful reading, and we may
quote a passage or two for the pleasure of those who pursue this note.

"A new country was discovered by him in 1584," says the historian,
"called in honour of the Queen, Virginia: a country that hath been since
of no inconsiderable profit to our nation, it being so agreeable to our
English bodies, so profitable to the Exchequer, and so fruitful in
itself; an acre there yielding over forty bushels of corn; and, which is
more strange, there being three harvests in a year: for their corn is
sow'd, ripe and cut down in little more than two months."

I fear Virginia to-day will not corroborate these agricultural wonders.

We may quote again, for Prince, on Sir Walter's distinction, is
instructive at this moment:--

"For this and other beneficial expeditions and designs, her Majesty was
pleased to confer on him the honour of Knighthood; which in her reign
was more esteemed; the Queen keeping the temple of honour close shut,
and never open'd but to vertue and desert."

Well may democracy call for the destruction of that temple when
contemplating those that are permitted entrance to-day.

Then vanished Elizabeth, and a coward king took her place.

"Fourteen years Sir Walter spent in the Tower, of whom Prince Henry
would say that no King but his father would keep such a bird in a cage."

But freedom followed, and the scholar turned into the soldier again.
Ultimately Spain had her way with her scourge and terror. James
ministered to her revenge, and Ralegh perished; "the only man left
alive, of note, that had helped to beat the Spaniards in the year 1588."

The favour of the axe was his last, and being asked which way he would
dispose himself upon the block, he answered, "So the heart be right, it
is no matter which way the head lieth."

"Authors," adds old Prince, "are perplexed under what topick to place
him, whether of statesman, seaman, soldier, chymist, or chronologer; for
in all these he did excel. He could make everything he read or heard his
own, and his own he would easily improve to the greatest advantage. He
seemed to be born to that only which he went about, so dextrous was he
in all his undertakings, in Court, camp, by sea, by land, with sword,
with pen. And no wonder, for he slept but five hours; four he spent in
reading and mastering the best authors; two in a select conversation and
an inquisitive discourse; the rest in business."

We may say of him that not only did he write _The History of the World_,
but helped to make it; we may hold of all Devon's mighty sons, this man
the mightiest. Fair works have been inspired by his existence, but one
ever regrets that Gibbon, who designed a life of Ralegh, was called to
relinquish the idea before the immensity of his greater theme.

In the western meadow without the boundary of Hayes Barton there lies a
great pool, where a cup has been hollowed to hold the brook. Here, under
oak trees, one may sit, mark a clean reflection of the farmhouse upon
the water, and regard the window of the birth chamber opening on the
western gable of the homestead. Thence the august infant's eyes first
drew light, his lungs, the air. He has told us that dear to memory was
that snug nook, and many times, while he wandered the world and wrote
his name upon the golden scroll, we may guess that the hero turned his
thought to these happy valleys and, in the mind, mirrored this haunt of


[Illustration: THE SAD HEATH.]

Through the sad heath white roads wandered, trickling hither and thither
helplessly. There was no set purpose in them; they meandered up the
great hill and sometimes ran together to support each other. Then,
fortified by the contact, they climbed on across the dusky upland, where
it rolled and fell and lifted steadily to the crown of the land: a
flat-headed clump of beech and oak with a fosse round about it. Only the
roads twisting through this waste and a pool or two scattered upon it
brought any light to earth; but there were flowers also, for the whins
dragged a spatter of dull gold through the sere and a blackthorn hedge
shivered cold and white, where fallow crept to the edge of the moors.
For the rest, from the sad-coloured sky to the sentinel pines that rose
in little detached clusters on every side, all was restrained and almost
melancholy. The pines specially distinguished this rolling heath. They
lifted their darkness in clumps, ascending to the hill-tops, spattered
every acre of the land, and sprang as infant plants under the foot of
the wanderer. Scarcely a hundred yards lacked them; and they ranged from
the least seedling to full-grown trees that rose together and thrust
with dim red branch and bough through their own darkness.

There was no wind on the heath, and few signs of spring. She had passed,
as it seemed, lighted the furzes, waked a thousand catkins on the dwarf
sallows in the bogs, and then departed elsewhere. One felt that the
deserted heath desired her return and regarded its obstinate winter
robes with impatience. It was an uplifted place, and seemed to shoulder
darkly out of the milder, mellower world beneath. Far below, an estuary
shone through the valley welter and ran a streak of dull silver from
south to north; while easterly rose up the grey horizons of the sea.

In the murk of that silent hour, a spirit of thirst seemed to animate
the heather and the marshes that oozed out beneath. The secret impressed
upon my conscious intelligence was one of suspense, a watchful and alert
attitude--an emotion shared by the trees and the thickets, the heath and
the hills. It ascended higher and higher to the frowning crest of the
land, where round woods made a crown for the wilderness and marked
castramentations of old time. So unchanging appeared this place that
little imagination was needed to bring back the past and revive a
vanished century when the legions flashed where now the great trees
frowned and a hive of men, loosed from a hundred galleys, swarmed hither
to dig the ditches and pile these venerable earthworks for a stronghold.

Thus the place lay in the lap of that tenebrous hour and waited for the
warm rain to loose its fountains of sap and brush the loneliness with
waking and welcoming green. It endured and hoped and seemed to turn
blind eyes from the pond and bog upward to question the gathering

Nigh me, a persistent and inquiring thrush clamoured from a pine. I
could see his amber, speckled bosom shaking with his song.

"Why did he do it? Why did he do it? Why did he?"

He had asked the question a thousand times; and then a dark bird, that
flapped high and heavy through the grey air, answered him.

"God knows! God knows!" croaked the carrion crow.


[Illustration: DAWLISH WARREN.]

There is a spit of land that runs across the estuary of the Exe, and as
the centuries pass, the sea plays pranks with it. A few hundred years
ago the tideway opened to the West, not far from the red cliffs that
tower there, and then Exmouth and the Warren were one; but now it is at
Exmouth that the long sands are separated from the shore and, past that
little port, the ships go up the river, while the eastern end of the
Warren joins the mainland. So it has stood within man's memory; but now,
as though tired of this arrangement, wind and sea are modifying the
place again, for the one has found a new path in the midst, and the
other has blown at the sand dunes until their heads are reduced by many
feet from their old altitude.

These sands are many-coloured, for over the yellow staple prevails a
delicate and changing harmony of various tones, now rose, now blue, as
though a million minute shining particles were reflecting the light of
the sky and bringing it to earth on their tiny surfaces. But in truth
these tender shades show where the sand is weathered, for if we walk
upon it and break the thin crust created by the last rain, the dream
tints depart, and a brighter corn colour breaks through. Coarse
mat-grass binds the dunes and helps to hold them together against the
forces of wind and water; but their tendency is to decrease. Perhaps
observation would prove that their masses shift and vanish more quickly
than we guess, for the sand is the sea's toy, and she makes and unmakes
her castles at will.

As a lad, I very well remember the silvery hills towering to little
mountains above my head; and again I can hear the gentle tinkle of the
sand for ever rustling about me where I basked like a lizard in some
sun-baked nook. I remember the horrent couch grass that waved its ragged
tresses above me, and how I told myself that the range of the sand dunes
were great lions with bristling manes marching along to Exmouth.
Presently they would swim across to the shore and eat up everybody, as
soon as they had landed and shaken themselves. And the mud-flats I loved
well also, where the sea-lavender spread its purple on sound land above
the network of mud. I flushed summer snipe there and often lay
motionless to watch sea-birds fishing. Many wild flowers flourished and
the glass-wort made the flats as red as blood in autumn. It was a
dreamland of wonders for me, and now I was seeking mermaids' purses in
the tide-fringe and sorrowing to find them empty; now I was after
treasure-trove flung overboard from pirate ships, now hunting for the
secret hiding-places of buccaneers in the dunes.

The ships go by still; but not the ships I knew; the flowers still
sparkle in the hollows and brakes; but their wonder has waned a little.
No more shall I weave the soldanella and sea-rocket and grey-green wheat
grass into crowns for the sea-nymphs to find when they come up from the
waves in the moonlight.

It is a place of sweet air and wonderful sunshine. On a sunny day, with
the sand ablaze against the blue sky, one might think oneself in some
desert region of the East; but then green spaces, scarlet flags and a
warning "fore!" tell a different story. For golfers have found the
Warren now. Where once I roamed with only the gulls above and rabbits
below for company, and for music the sigh of the wind in the bents and
the song of the sea, half a hundred little houses have sprung up, and
bungalows, red and white and green, throng the Warren. At hand is a
railway-station, whence hundreds descend to take their pleasure, while
easterly this once peaceful region is most populous and the Exmouth
boats cross the estuary and land their passengers.

One does not grudge the joy of the place to townsfolk or golfers; one
only remembers the old haunt of peace, now peaceful no more, the old
beauties that have vanished under the little dwellings and little
flagstaffs, the former fine distinction that has departed.

Dawlish Warren now gives pleasure to hundreds, where once only the
dreamer or sportsman wandered through its mazes; and that is well; but
we of the old brigade, who remember its far-flung loneliness, its rare
wild flowers, its unique contours, its isolation and peculiar charm, may
be forgiven if we forget the twentieth century for a season and conjure
back the old time before us.

Topsham, in the estuary, wakens thoughts of the Danes and their sword
and fire, when Hungar and Hubba brought their Viking ships up the river,
destroyed the busy little port, and, pushing on, defeated St. Edmond,
King of the East Angles. The pagans scourged this Christian monarch
with whips, then bound him to a tree and slew him.

    Tho' no place was left for wounds,
      Yet arrows did not fail.
    These furious wretches still let fly
      Thicker than winter's hail.

So writes the old poet quoted by Risdon, who adds that the Danes,
cutting off St. Edmond's head, "contumeliously threw it in a bush."

But Topsham in Tudor times was a place of importance, a naval port, a
mart and road for ships. Thanks to weirs built across the waterway by
the Earls of Devon, Exeter began to lose its old-time trade, when the
tide was wont to ascend to the city. Therefore Exeter fought the earls,
and in the reign of Henry VIII. the city obtained a grant to cut a canal
from Topsham. Thus vessels of fifteen tons burthen could ascend to the
capital, and Topsham sank under the blow and lost its old importance.

Exmouth also figures in the reign of Edward I. as a naval port. In 1298
she contributed a fighting ship to the Fleet, and in 1347 sent ten
vessels to aid the third Edward's expedition against Calais. From
Exmouth, too, Edward IV. and Warwick, "the King Maker," embarked for the

Risdon also makes mention of Lympston, another village in the estuary,
aforetime in the lordship of the Dynhams, "of which family John Dynham,
a valiant esquire siding with the Earl of March, took the Lord Rivers
and Sir Anthony his son at Sandwich in their beds, when he was hurt in
the leg, the 37th Henry 6."

The villages are worth a visit still, but Exmouth is best known to those
who visit Dawlish Warren now. For the open sea welcomes all who come
hither, and the little holiday homes that stand on either side of the
tidal stream are too few for those who would dwell here in July and
August if they could.

I have seen dawn upon the Exe, and watched the mists rise upon these
heron-haunted flats to meet the morning. Then the villages twinkle out
over the water, and a land breeze wakens the sleepy dunes, ruffles the
still waters and fills the red sails of little fishers that come down to
the sea.


[Illustration: THE OLD GREY HOUSE.]

Among the ancient, fortified manors of the West Country there is a
pleasant ruin whose history is innocent of event, yet glorified with a
noble name or two that rings down through the centuries harmoniously.
You shall find Compton Castle where the hamlet of Lower Marldon
straggles through a deep and fertile valley not many miles from Torbay.

Compton's time-stained face and crown of ivy rise now above a plat of
flowers. Trim borders of familiar things blossom within their box-hedges
before the entrance, and at this autumn hour fat dahlias, spiring
hollyhocks, and rainbows of asters and pansies wind a girdle beneath the

It is a ruin of wide roofs and noble frontage. Above its windows
sinister bartizans frown grimly; the portals yawn vast and deep; only
the chapel-windows open frankly upon the face of the dwelling; but
above, all apertures are narrow, up to the embattled towers.

In the lap of many an enfolding hill Compton huddles its aged fabric,
and, despite certain warlike additions, can have risen for no purpose of
offence, for the land rakes it on every side; it stands at the bottom of
a great green cup, whose slopes are crowned with fir and beech, whose
sides now glimmer under stubble of corn, green of roots, and wealth of
wide orchards, bright with the ripening harvest. Close at hand men make
ready the cider-presses again, and the cooper's mallet echoes among his

Much of the castle still stands, and the entrance hall, chapel, priest's
chamber, and kitchen, with its gigantic hearth and double chimney, are
almost intact. A mouldering roof of lichened slates still covers more
than half of the ruin; but the banqueting hall has vanished, and many a
tower and turret, under their weight of ivy, lift ragged and broken to
the sky. Where now jackdaws chiefly dwell and bats sidle through the
naked windows at call of dusk; where wind and rain find free entrance
and pellitory-of-the-wall hangs its foliage for tapestry, with toadflax
and blue speedwell; where Nature labours unceasing from fern-crowned
battlement to mossy plinth, there dwelt of old the family of Gilbert.

One Joan Compton conveyed the manor for her partage in the second
Edward's reign; and of their posterity are justly remembered and
revered the sons of Otho Gilbert, whose lady--a maiden of the
Champernownes--bore not only Humphrey, the adventurer, who discovered
Gilbert's Straits and founded the first British settlement of
Newfoundland; but also his more famous uterine brother, Walter Ralegh.
For upon Otho Gilbert's passing, his dame mated with Walter Ralegh of
Fardel, and by him brought into the world the poet, statesman, soldier,
courtier, explorer, and master-jewel of Elizabeth's Court. A noble
matron surely must have been that Katherine, mother of two such sons;
and less only in honour to these knights were Sir Humphrey's brothers,
of whom Sir John, his senior, rendered himself acceptable to God and man
by manifold charities and virtues; while Adrian Gilbert is declared a
gentleman very eminent for his skill in mines and matters of engineering
and science.

Within these walls tradition brings Sir Walter and Sir Humphrey
together. We may reasonably see them here discussing their far-reaching
projects, while still the world smiled and both basked in the sunshine
of Royal favour. Yet, at the end of their triumphs, from our standpoint
in time, we can mark, stealing along the avenue of years, the shadow,
hideous in one case and violent in both, destined presently to put a
period to each great life.

When the little _Squirrel_, a vessel of but ten tons burthen, was
bearing Sir Humphrey upon his last voyage from Newfoundland, before his
vision there took shape the spectre of a mighty lion gliding over the
sea, "yawning and gaping wide as he went." Upon which portent there rose
the storm whereby he perished. Yet the knight's memory is green, and his
golden anchor, with pearl at peak, badge of a Sovereign's grace, is not
forgot; nor his crest of a squirrel, whose living prototype still haunts
the fir trees beside the castle; nor his motto, worthy of so righteous a
genius and steadfast a man: "_Malem mori, quam mutare_."

The navigator passed to his restless resting-place in 1584; his
half-brother, still busy with the colonisation of Virginia, did not
kneel at Westminster and brush his grey hair from the path of the axe
until Fate had juggled with him for further four-and-thirty years. Then
his sword and pen were laid down; his wise head fell low; and the
portion of the great: well-doing, ill report, was won.

At gloaming time, when the jackdaws make an end; when the owl glides
out from his tower to the trees and the beetles boom, twilight shadows
begin to move and the old grey house broods, like a sentient thing, upon
the past; but no unhappy spirits haunt its desolation, and the mighty
dead, despite their taking off, revisit these glimpses of the moon to
clasp pale hands no more. Abundant life flows to the gate and circles
the walls. Arable land ascends the hills, and the clank of plough and
cry of man to his horses will soon be heard in the stubble of the corn.
The orchards flash ruddy and gold; to-morrow they will be naked and
grey; and then again they will foam with flowers and roll in a white sea
to the castle walls. Time rings his rounds and forgets not this
sequestered hollow. Today, beside the entrance-gate of Compton, the
husbandman mounts his nag from that same "upping-stock" whence a Gilbert
and a Ralegh leapt to horse in England's age of gold.


[Illustration: BERRY POMEROY.]

Hither, a thousand years and more ago, rode Radulphus de la Pomerio,
lord of the Norman Castle of the Orchard; for William I. was generous to
those who helped his conquests. Radulphus, as the result of a hero's
achievements at Hastings, won eight-and-fifty Devon lordships, and of
these he chose Beri, "the Walled town," for his barony, or honour.

Forward we may imagine him pressing with his cavalcade, through the
wooded hills and dales, until this limestone crag and plateau in the
forest suddenly opened upon his view, and the Norman eagle, judging the
strength of such a position, quickly determined that here should his
eyrie be built. For it was a stronghold impregnable before the days of

So the banner with the Pomeroy lion upon it was set aloft on the bluff,
and soon the sleep of the woods departed to the strenuous labour of a
thousand men. There is a great gap in the hill close at hand that shows
whence came these time-worn stones, when a feudal multitude of workers
were set upon their task. Then, grim, squat and stern, with a hundred
eyes from which the cross-bow's bolts might leap, arose another Norman
castle, its watch-towers and great ramparts wedged into the woods and
beetling over the valley beneath. It sprang from the solid rock,
dominated a gorge, and so stood for many hundred years, during which
time the descendants of Ralph exercised baronial rights and enjoyed the
favour of their princes. The family, indeed, continued to prosper until
1549, but then disaster overtook them and they disappeared, disgraced.
It was during this year that Devon opposed the "Act for Reforming the
Church Service." Tooth and nail she resented the proposed changes; and
among the malcontents there figured a soldier Pomeroy, now head of his
house, who had fought with distinction in France during the reign of
Henry VIII. Like many another military veteran since his time, he
assumed an exceedingly definite attitude on matters of religion, and
held tolerance a doubtful virtue where dogma was involved. Him,
therefore, the discontented gentlemen of the West elected their leader,
and, after preliminary successes, the baron lost the day at Clist Heath,
nigh Exeter. He was captured, and only escaped with his life. He kept
his head on his shoulders, but Berry Pomeroy became sequestrated to the

By purchase, the old castle now owned new masters, for the Seymours
followed the founders in their heritage, and the great Elizabethan ruin,
that lies in the midst of the Norman work and towers above it, is of
their creation.

Sir Edward--a descendant of the Protector--it was who, when William III.
remarked to him, "I believe you are of the family of the Duke of
Somerset?" made instant reply, "Pardon, sir; the Duke of Somerset is of
my family." This haughty gentleman was the last of his race to dwell at
Berry Pomeroy; but to his descendants the castle still belongs, and it
can utter this unique boast: that since the Conquest it has changed
hands but once.

The fabric of Seymour's mansion was, it is said, never completed, but
enough still stands to make an imposing ruin; while the earlier
fragments of the original fortress, including the southern gateway, the
pillared chamber above it and the north wing of the quadrangle, complete
a spectacle sufficiently splendid in its habiliments of grey and green.

Nature had played with it and rendered it beautiful. Ivy crowns every
turret and shattered wall; its limbs writhe like hydras in and out of
the ruined windows, and twist their fingers into the rotting mortar;
while along the tattered battlements and archways, grass and wild
flowers grow rankly together and many saplings of oak and ash and thorn
find foothold aloft. Over all the jackdaws chime and chatter, for it is
their home now, and they share it with the owl and the flittermouse.

Seen from beyond the stew ponds in the valley below, the ruins of Berry
still present a noble vision piled among the tree-tops into the sky, and
never can it more attract than at autumn time, when the wealth of the
woods is scattered and only spruce and pine trail their green upon the
grey and amber of the naked forest. Then, against the low, lemon light
of a clear sunset, Berry's ragged crown ascends like a haunted castle in
a fairy story; while beneath the evening glow, the still water casts
many a crooked reflection from the overhanging branches, and the last
leaves hanging on the osiers splash gold against the gloom of the banks.
The hour is very still after wind and rain; twilight broods under
gathering vapours, while another night gently obscures detail and
renders all formless and vast as the darkness falls. The castle is
swallowed up in the woods; the first owl hoots; then there is a rush
overhead and a splash and scutter below, as the wild duck come down from
above, and, for a little while, break the peace with their noise. Their
flurry on the water sets up wavelets, that catch the last of the light
and run to bank with a little sigh. Then all is silent and stars begin
to twinkle through the network of boughs at forest edge.


[Illustration: BERRY HEAD.]

Upon this seaward-facing headland the great cliffs slope outward like
the sides of an old "three-decker." They bulge upon the sea, and the
flower-clad scales of the limestone are full of lustrous light and
colour, shining radiantly upon the still tide that flows at their feet.
For, on this breathless August day, the very sea is weary; not a ripple
of foam marks juncture of rock and water.

The cliffs are spattered with green, where scurvy-grass and samphire,
thrift and stonecrop find foothold in every cleft; but the flowers are
nearly gone; the rare, white rock rose which haunts these crags has shed
her last petal and the little cathartic flax and centaury; the snowy
dropwort, storks-bill and carline thistles have all been scorched away
by days of sunshine and dewless nights. Only the sea lavender still
brushes the great, glaring planes of stone with cool colour, and a wild
mallow lolls here and there out of a crevice.

By the coastguard path holiday folk tramp with hot faces, but, save for
the gulls, there is little sound or movement, for land and sea are
swooning in the heavy noontide hour. The birds are everywhere--cresting
the finials of the rocks, swooping over the sea, busy teaching the
little grey "squabs" to use their wings and trust the air. Now and then
a coney thrusts his ears from a burrow, likes not the heat, and pops
back again to his cool, dark parlour. Brown hawks hang above the brown
sward. Life seems to be retreating before the pitiless sun, yet the
sear, scorched grasses will be green again in a few weeks when the
cisterns of the autumn rains open upon them. Already tiny, blue _scilla
autumnalis_ is pressing her head through the turf.

Islets lie off-shore, so full of light that they glow like bubbles blown
of air and seem to float on the surface of the sea. Their shadows fall
in delicious purple on the aquamarine waters and warm hues percolate
their ragged, silver faces, while the gulls cluster in myriads upon
them, and, black and silent among the noisy sea-fowl, stand dusky
cormorants with long necks lifted. Like pale blue silk, shot and
streamed over with pure light, the Channel rises to the mists of the
horizon. Light penetrates air and water and earth, so that the weight of
land and water are lifted off them and lost; indeed the scene appears to
be composed of imponderable hazes and vapours merging into each other;
it is wrought in planes of light--a gorgeous, unsubstantial illumination
as though the clouds were come to earth. The eternal melody of the gulls
pierces the picture with sound, hard and metallic, until their din and
racket seem of heavier substance and reality than the mighty cliffs and
sea from which it pours. Yet the birds themselves, in their floatings
and their wheelings, are lighter than feathers. They make the only
movement save for fisher craft with tan-red sails now streaming in line
round the Head to sea. For the Scruff they are bound--a great, sandy
bottom where sole and turbot dwell ten sea-miles off-shore.

Inland gleam cornfields of heavy grain ripe for harvest--pale yellow of
oats and golden brown of wheat, where the poppies stir with the gipsy
rose; and flung up upon the cliff-edge rise lofty ramparts, ribbed with
granite and bored by portholes for cannon. A modern gun a league out at
sea would crumble these masonries like sponge-cake; but they were lifted
in haste a hundred years ago, when England quaked at the threatened
advent of "Boney," whose ordnance could not have destroyed them. The
great fortresses were piled by many thousands of busy hands, yet time
sped quicker than the engineers, and before the forts were completed,
Napoleon, from the deck of the _Bellerophon_ in the bay beneath, had
looked his last on Europe.

Still the unfinished work sprawls over the cliffs, and whence cannon
were meant to stare, now thrust the blackberry, brier and eagle-fern
through the embrasures, and stunted black-thorns and white-thorns shine
green against the grey.

One clambers among them to seek the gift of a patch of shade, and
wonders what the first Napoleon would have thought of the hydroplane
purring out to sea half a mile overhead.



Lastrea and athyrium, their foliage gone, cling in silky russet knobs
under the granite ledges, warm the iron-grey stone with brown and agate
brightness, and promise many a beauty of unfolding frond when spring
shall come again. For their jewels will be unfolding presently, to
soften the cleft granite with misty green and bring the vernal time to
these silent cliffs.

The quarry lies like a gash in the slope of the hills. To the dizzy
edges of it creep heather and the bracken; beneath, upon its precipices,
a stout rowan or two rises, and everywhere Nature has fought and
laboured to hide this wound driven so deep into her mountain-side by
man. A cicatrix of moss and fern and many grasses conceal the scars of
pick and gunpowder; time has weathered the harsh edges of the riven
stone; the depths of the quarry are covered by pools of clear water, for
it is nearly a hundred years since the place yielded its stores.

One great silence is the quarry now--an amphitheatre of peace and quiet
hemmed by the broken abutments of granite, and opening upon the
hillside. The heather extends over wide, dun spaces to a blue distance,
where evening lies dim upon the plains beneath; round about a minor
music of dripping water tinkles from the sides of the quarry; a current
of air brushes the pools and for a moment frets their pale surfaces;
the dead rushes murmur and then are silent; here and there, along the
steps and steep places flash the white scuts of the rabbits. A pebble is
dislodged by one of them, and, falling to the water beneath, sets rings
of light widening out upon it and raises a little sound.

In the midst, casting its jagged shadow upon the water, springs a great,
ancient crane from which long threads of iron still stretch round about
to the cliffs. It stands stoutly yet and marks the meaning of all around

At time of twilight it is good to be here, for then one may measure the
profundity of such peace and contrast this matrix of vanished granite
with the scene of its present disposal; one may drink from this cup all
the mystery that fills a deserted theatre of man's work and feel that
loneliness which only human ruins tell; and then one may open the eye of
the mind upon another vision, and suffer the ear of imagination to throb
with its full-toned roar.

For hence came London Bridge; the mighty masses of granite riven from
this solitude span Thames.

Away in the heath and winding onward by many a curve may yet be traced
the first railroad in the West Country. It started here, upon the
frontier hills of Dartmoor, and sank mile upon mile to the valleys
beneath. But of granite were wrought the lines, and over them ran
ponderous wagons. Many thousand feet of stone were first cut for the
railway, before those greater masses destined for London set forth upon
it to their destination.

Like the empty quarry this deserted railway now lies silent, and the
place of its passing on the hills and through the forest beneath is at
peace again. From the Moor the tramway drops into the woods of Yarner,
and here, between a heathery hillside and the fringes of the forest, the
broken track may still be found, its semi-grooved lengths of granite
scattered and clad in emerald moss, where once the great wheels were
wont to grind it. The line passes under interlacing boughs of beeches
and winds this way and that, like a grey snake, through the copper
brightness of the fallen leaves; it turns and twists, dropping ever, and
ceases at last at the mouth of a little canal in the valley, where
barges waited of old to carry the stone to the sea.

Here also is stagnation now, but picturesque wrecks of the ancient boats
may still be seen at Teigngrace in the forgotten waterway. They lie
foundered upon the canal with bulging sides and broken ribs. Their
shapes are outlined in grasses and flowers; sallows leap silvery from
the old bulwarks and alders find foothold there; briar and kingcups
flourish upon their decay; moss and ferns conceal their wounds; in
summer purple spires of loosestrife man their water-logged decks, and
the vole swims to and from his hidden nest therein.

Here came the Hey Tor granite, after dropping twelve hundred feet from
the Moor above. Leaving the great wains, it was shipped upon the Stover
Canal and despatched down the estuary of Teign to Teignmouth, whence
larger vessels bore it away to London for its final purpose.

It came to supersede that bridge of houses familiar in the old pictures,
the bridge that was a street; the bridge that in its turn had taken the
place of older bridges built with wood: those mediæval structures that
perished each in turn by flood or fire.

It was in 1756 that the Corporation of London obtained an order to
rebuild London Bridge; but things must have moved slowly, for not until
fifty years later was the announcement made of a new bridge to pass from
Bankside, Southwark, to Queen Street, Cheapside. The public was invited
to invest in the enterprise, and doubtless proved willing enough to do
so. The ancient structure, long a danger to the navigation of the river,
vanished, and in 1825, with great pomp and ceremony, the
foundation-stone of the "New London Bridge" sank to its place. A recent
writer in _The Academy_ has given a graphic picture of the event, and
described the immense significance attached to the occasion. From the
earliest dawn of that June morning, London flocked to waterside and
thronged each point of vantage. Before noon the roofs of Fishmongers'
Hall, of St. Saviour's Church, and every building that offered a glimpse
of the ceremony were crowded; the river was alive with craft of all
descriptions; the cofferdam for the erection of the first pier served
the purpose of a private enclosure, where notable folk sat in four tiers
of galleries under flags and awnings.

At four o'clock, by which time the great company must have been weary of
waiting, two six-pounder guns at the Old Swan Stairs announced the
approach of the Civic and State authorities. The City Marshal, the
Bargemasters, the Watermen, the members of the Royal Society, the
Goldsmiths, the Under-Sheriffs, the Lord Mayor and the Duke of York

"His Lordship, who was in full robes," so says an eye-witness of the
event, "offered the chair to his Royal Highness, which was positively
declined on his part. The Mayor, therefore, seated himself; the Lady
Mayoress, with her daughters in elegant dresses, sat near his Lordship,
accompanied by two fine-looking, intelligent boys, her sons; near them
were the two lovely daughters of Lord Suffolk, and many other
fashionable ladies."

Then followed the ceremony. Coins in a cut-glass bottle were placed
beneath a copper plate, and upon them descended a mighty block of
Dartmoor granite. "The City sword and mace were placed upon it
crossways, the foundation of the new bridge was declared to be laid, the
music struck up 'God save the King,' and three times three excessive
cheers broke forth from the company, the guns of the Honourable
Artillery Company on the Old Swan Wharf fired a salute, and every face
wore smiles of gratulation. Three cheers were afterwards given for the
Duke of York, three for Old England, and three for the architect, Mr.

Then did a journalist with imagination dance a hornpipe upon the
foundation-stone--for England would not take its pleasure sadly on that
great day--and subsequently many ladies stood upon it, and "departed
with the satisfaction of being enabled to relate an achievement
honourable to their feelings!"

And still the noble bridge remains, though the delicate feet that rested
on its foundation-stone have all tripped to the shades. The bridge
remains, and its five simple spans--the central one of a hundred and
fifty-two feet--make a startling contrast with the nineteen little
arches and huge pedestals of the ancient structure. New London Bridge
is more than a thousand feet long; its width is fifty-six feet; its
height, above low water, sixty feet. The central piers are twenty-four
feet thick, and the voussoirs of the central arch four feet nine inches
deep at the crown and nine feet at the springing. The foundations lie
twenty-nine feet, six inches beneath low water; the exterior stones are
all of granite; while the interior mass of the fabric came half from
Bramley Fall and half from Derbyshire.

More than seven years did London Bridge take a-building, and it was
opened in 1831. The total costs were something under a million and a
half of money--less than is needed for a modern battleship.

And already, before it is one hundred years old, there comes a cry that
London's heart finds this great artery too small for the stream of life
that flows for ever upon it. One may hope, however, that when the
necessity arrives, this notable bridge will not be spoiled, but another
created hard by, if needs must, to fulfil the demands of traffic.
Perhaps a second tunnel may solve the problem, since metropolitan man is
turning so rapidly into a mole.

From quarry to bridge is a far cry, yet he who has seen both may dream
sometimes among the dripping ferns, silent cliff-faces and unruffled
pools, of the city's roar and riot and the ceaseless thunder of man's
march from dawn till even; while there--in the full throb and hurtle of
London town, swept this way and that amid the multitudes that traverse
Thames--it is pleasant to glimpse, through the reek and storm, the
cradle of this city-stained granite, lying silent at peace in the
far-away West Country.


[Illustration: BAGTOR.]

From the little southern salient of Bagtor at Dartmoor edge, there falls
a slope to the "in country" beneath. Thereon Bagtor woods extend in many
a shining plane--from wind-swept hill-crowns of beech and fir, to
dingles and snug coombs in the valley bottom a thousand feet beneath.

On a summer day one loiters in the dappled wood, for here is welcome
shade after miles of hot sunshine on the heather above. Music of water
splashes pleasantly through the trees, where a streamlet falls from step
to step; the last of the bluebells still linger by the way, and above
them great beech-boles rise, all chequered with sun splashes. On the
earth dead leaves make a russet warmth, brighter by contrast with the
young green round about, and brilliant where sunlight winnows through.
There, in the direct beam, flash little flies, which hang suspended upon
the light like golden beads; while through the glades, young fern is
spread for pleasant resting-places. Pigeons murmur aloft unseen, and
many a grey-bird and black-bird sing beside their hidden homes.

At last the woodlands make an end, old orchards spread in a clearing,
and the sun, now turning west, has left the apple trees, so that their
blossom hangs cool and shaded on the boughs. Behind--a background for
the orchard--there rise the walls of an ancient house, weathered and
worn--a mass of picturesque gables and tar-pitched roofs with red-brick
chimneys ascending above them. No great dignity or style marks this
dwelling. It is a thing of patches and additions. Here the sun still
burns radiantly, makes the roof golden, and flashes on the snow-white
"fan-tails" that strut up and down upon it.

Great Scotch firs tower to the south, and the light burns redly in their
boughs against the blue sky above them. A farmhouse nestles beside the
old mansion under a roof of ancient thatch, that falls low over the
dawn-facing front, and makes ragged eyelashes for the little windows.
The face of the farm is nearly hidden in green things, and a colour note
of mauve dominates the foliage where wistaria showers. There are
climbing roses too, a Japanese quince, and wallflowers and columbines in
the garden plot that subtends the dwelling. Mossy walls enclose the
garden, and beneath them spreads the farmyard--a dust-dry place to-day
wherein a litter of black piglets gambol round their mother. Poultry
cluck and scratch everywhere, and a company of red calves cluster
together in one corner. A ploughman brings in his horses. From a byre
comes the purr of milk falling into a pail.

On still evenings bell music trickles up to this holt of ancient peace
from a church tower three miles away; for we stand in the parish of
Ilsington on the shoulder of Dartmoor, and the home of the silver
"fan-tails" is Bagtor House--a spot sanctified to all book-lovers. Here,
a very mighty personage first saw the light and began his pilgrimage; at
Bagtor was John Ford born, the first great decadent of English letters,
the tragedian whose sombre works belong to the sunset time of the
spacious days.

In April of 1586 the infant John received baptism at Ilsington church;
while, sixteen years later, he was apprenticed to his profession and
became a member of the Middle Temple. At eighteen John Ford, who wrote
out of his own desire and under an artist's compulsion only, first
tempted fortune; and over his earliest effort, _Fame's Memorial_, a veil
may be drawn; while of subsequent collaborations with Webster and
Decker, part perished unprinted and Mr. Warburton's cook "used up" his
comedies. Probably they are no great loss, for a master with less sense
of humour never lived. But _The Witch of Edmonton_ in Swinburne's
judgment embodies much of Ford's best, and his greatest plays all

The man who wrote _The Lover's Melancholy_, _'Tis Pity She's a Whore_,
_The Broken Heart_ and _Love's Sacrifice_ was born in this sylvan scene
and his cradle rocked to the murmur of wood doves. True he vanished
early from Devonshire, and though uncertain tradition declares his
return, asserting that, while still in prime and vigour, he laid by his
gown and pen and came back to Bagtor, to end his days where he was born,
and mellow his stormy heart before he died, no proof that he did so
exists. His life's history has been obliterated and contemporary records
of him have yet to appear.

As an artist he must surely have loved horror for horror's sake, and,
too often, our terror arouses not that pity to which tragedy should lift
man's heart, but rather generates disgust before his extraordinary plots
and the unattractive and inhuman characters which unravel them. One
salutes the intellectual power of him, but merely shudders, without
being enchained or uplifted by the nature of his themes. It has been
well said of Ford that he "abhorred vice and admired virtue; but
ordinary vice or modern virtue were to him as light wine to a dram
drinker.... Passion must be incestuous or adulterous; grief must be
something more than martyrdom, before he could make them big enough to
be seen."

There is a little of Michaelangelo about Ford--something excruciating,
tortured. The tormented marble of the one is reflected in the wracked
and writhing characters of the other; but whether Ford felt for the
sorrow of earth as the Florentine; whether he shared that mightier man's
fiery patriotism, enthusiasm of humanity and tragic griefs before the
suffering of mankind, we know not. One picture we have of him from old
time, and it offers a gloomy, aloof figure, little caring to win
friendship, or court understanding from his fellows:--

    Deep in a dump John Ford was alone got,
    With folded arms and melancholy hat.

So depicted the gloomy artist might serve for tragedy's self--arms
crossed, brows drawn, eyes darkling under the broad-brimmed beaver, with
the plotter's night-black cloak swept round his person. Or to a vision
of Michaelangelo's "Il Penseroso" we may exalt the poet, and see him in
that solemn and stately stone, finally at peace, his last word written
and the finger of silence upon his gloomy lips.

Hazlitt finds John Ford finical and fastidious. He certainly is so, and
one often wonders how this mind and pen should have welcomed such
appalling subjects. He plays with edged tools and too well knows the
use of poisoned weapons, says Hazlitt; and the criticism is just in the
opinion of those who, with him, account it an artist's glory that he
shall not tamper with foul and "unfair" subjects, or sink his genius to
the kennel and gutter. That, however, is the old-world, vanished
attitude, for artists recognise no "unfair" subjects to-day.

Indeed, Ford can be not seldom beautiful and tender and touched to
emotion of pity; but by the time of Charles, the golden galaxies were
gone; their forces were spent; their inspiration had perished; England,
merry no more, began to shiver in the shadow of coming puritan eclipse;
and that twilight seems to have cast by anticipation its penumbra about

There is in him little of the rollicking, superficial coarseness of the
Elizabethans; the stain is in web and woof. His great moments are few;
he is mostly ferocious, or absurdly sentimental, and one confesses that
the bulk of his best work, judged against the highest of ancient or
modern tragedy, rings feebly with a note of too transparent artifice. He
is moved by intellectual interest rather than creative inspiration;
there is far more brain than heart in his writings.

Perhaps he knew it and convinced himself, while still at the noon of
intelligence, that he was no creator. Perhaps he abandoned art, through
failure to satisfy his own ideals. At any rate it would seem that he
stopped writing at a time when most men have still much to give.

One would like at least to believe that he found in his birthplace the
distinguished privacy he desired and an abode of physical and mental
peace. He may, indeed, have come home again to Devon when his work was
ended; he may have passed the uncertain residue of life in seclusion
with wife and family at this estate of his ancestors; his dust may lie
unhonoured and unrecorded at Ilsington, as Herrick's amid the green
graves not far distant at Dean Prior.

It is all guesswork, and the truth of John Ford's life, as of his death,
may be forever hidden. One sees him a notable, silent, subtle man, prone
to pessimism as a gift of heredity--a man disappointed in his
achievement, soured by inner criticism and comparison with those who
were greater than he.

So, weary of cities and the company of wits and poets, he came back to
the country, that he might heal his disappointments and soothe his
pains. His life, to the unseeing eyes around him, doubtless loomed
prosperous and complete; to himself, perchance, all was dust and ashes
of thwarted ambition. Again he roamed the woods where he had learned to
walk; won to the love of nature; underwent the thousand new experiences
and fancied discoveries of a townsman fresh in the country; and, through
these channels, came to contentment and sunshine of mind, bright enough
to pierce the night of his thoughts and sweeten the dark currents of his
imagination. It may be so.


[Illustration: OKEHAMPTON CASTLE.]

A high wind roared over the tree-tops and sent the leaf
flying--blood-red from the cherry, russet from the oak, and yellow from
the elm. Rain and sunshine followed swiftly upon each other, and the
storms hurtled over the forest, hissed in the river below and took fire
through their falling sheets, as the November sun scattered the
rear-guard of the rain and the cloud purple broke to blue. A great wind
struck the larches, where they misted in fading brightness against the
inner gloom of the woods, and at each buffet, their needles were
scattered like golden smoke. Only the ash trees had lost all their
leaves, for a starry sparkle of foliage still clung to every other
deciduous thing. The low light, striking upon a knoll and falling on
dripping surfaces of stone and tree trunk, made a mighty flash and
glitter of it, so that the trees and the scattered masonry, that
ascended in crooked crags above their highest boughs, were lighted with
rare colour and blazed against the cloud masses now lumbering
storm-laden from the West.

The mediæval ruin, that these woods had almost concealed in summer, now
loomed amid them well defined. Viewed from aloft the ground plan of the
castle might be distinctly traced, and it needed no great knowledge to
follow the architectural design of it. The sockets of the pillars that
sprang to a groined entrance still remained, and within, to right and
left of the courtyard, there towered the roofless walls of a state
chamber, or banqueting hall, on the one hand, a chapel, oratory and
guard-room on the other. The chapel had a piscina in the southern wall;
the main hall was remarkable for its mighty chimney. Without, the ruins
of the kitchens were revealed, and they embraced an oven large enough to
bake bread for a village. Round about there gaped the foundations of
other apartments, and opened deep eyelet windows in the thickness of the
walls. The mass was so linked up and knit together that of old it must
have presented one great congeries of chambers fortified by a circlet of
masonry; but now the keep towered on a separate hillock to the
south-west of the ruin, and stood alone. It faced foursquare, dominated
the valley, and presented a front impregnable to all approach.

This is the keep that Turner drew, and set behind it a sky of mottled
white and azure specially beloved by Ruskin; but the wizard took large
liberties with his subject, flung up his castle on a lofty scarp, and
from his vantage point at stream-side beneath, suggested a nobler and a
mightier ruin than in reality exists. One may suppose that steps or
secret passages communicated with the keep, and that in Tudor times no
trees sprang to smother the little hill and obscure the views of the
distant approaches--from Dartmoor above and the valleys beneath. Now
they throng close, where oak and ash cling to the sides of the hillock
and circle the stones that tower to ragged turrets in their midst.

Far below bright Okement loops the mount with a brown girdle of foaming
waters that threads the meadows; and beyond, now dark, now wanly
streaked with sunshine, ascends Dartmoor to her border heights of Yes
Tor and High Willhayes. Westerly the land climbs again and the last
fires of autumn flicker over a forest.

I saw the place happily between wild storms, at a moment when the walls,
warmed by a shaft of sunlight, took on most delicious colour and,
chiming with the gold of the flying leaves, towered bright as a dream
upon the November blue.

At the Conquest, Baldwin de Redvers received no fewer than one hundred
and eighty-one manors in Devon alone, for William rewarded his strong
men according to their strength. We may take it, therefore, that this
Baldwin de Redvers, or Baldwin de Brionys, was a powerful lieutenant to
the Conqueror--a man of his hands and stout enough to hold the West
Country for his master. From his new possessions the Baron chose
Ochementone[1] for his perch; indeed, he may be said to have created the
township. With military eye he marked a little spur of the hills that
commanded the passes of the Moor and the highway to Cornwall and the
Severn Sea; and there built his stronghold,--the sole castle in Devon
named in Domesday. But of this edifice no stone now stands upon another.
It has vanished into the night of time past, and its squat, square,
Norman keep scowls down upon the valleys no more.

[1] "Okehampton" is a word which has no historic or philological excuse.

The present ruins belong to the Perpendicular period of later
centuries, and until a recent date the second castle threatened swiftly
to pass after the first; but a new lease of life has lately been given
to these fragments; they have been cleaned and excavated, the conquering
ivy has been stripped from their walls, and a certain measure of work
accomplished to weld and strengthen the crumbling masonry. Thus a
lengthened existence has been assured to the castle. "Time, which
antiquates antiquities," is challenged, and will need reinforcement of
many years wherein again to lift his scaling ladders of ivy, loose his
lightnings from the cloud, and marshal his fighting legions of rain and
tempest, frost and snow.


[Illustration: THE GORGE.]

Reflection swiftly reveals the significance of a river gorge, for it is
upon such a point that the interest of early man is seen to centre. The
shallow, too, attracts him, though its value varies; it must ever be a
doubtful thing, because the shallow depends upon the moods of a river,
and a ford is not always fordable. But to the gorge no flood can reach.
There the river's banks are highest, the aperture between them most
trifling; there man from olden time has found the obvious place of
crossing and thrown his permanent bridge to span the waterway. At a
gorge is the natural point of passage, and Pontifex, the bridge-builder,
seeking that site, bends road to river where his work may be most easily
performed, most securely founded. But while the bridge, its arch
springing from the live rock, is safe enough, the waters beneath are
like to be dangerous, and if a river is navigable at all, at her gorges,
where the restricted volume races and deepens, do the greatest dangers
lie. In Italy this fact gave birth to a tutelary genius, or shadowy
saint, whose special care was the raft-men of Arno and other rivers.
Their dangerous business took these _foderatore_ amid strange hazards,
and one may imagine them on semi-submerged timbers, swirling and
crashing over many a rocky rapid, in the throats of the hills, where
twilight homed and death was ever ready to snatch them from return to
smooth waters and sunshine. So a new guardian arose to meet these
perils, and the boldest navigator lifted his thoughts to Heaven and
commended his soul to the keeping of San Gorgone.

Sublimity haunts these places; be they great as the Grand Cañon of
Arizona and the mountain rifts of Italy and France, or trifling as this
dimple on Devon's face of which I tell to-day, they reveal similar
characteristics and alike challenge the mind of the intelligent being
who may enter them.

Here, under the roof of Devon, through the measures that press up to the
Dartmoor granite and are changed by the vanished heat thereof, a little
Dartmoor stream, in her age-long battle with earth, has cut a right
gorge, and so rendered herself immortal. There came a region in her
downward progress when she found barriers of stone uplifted between her
and her goal; whereupon, without avoiding the encounter, she cast
herself boldly upon the work and set out to cleave and to carve. Now
this glyptic business, begun long before the first palæolithic man trod
earth, is far advanced; the river has sunk a gulley of near two hundred
feet through the solid rock, and still pursues her way in the nether
darkness, gnawing ceaselessly at the stone and leaving the marks of her
earlier labours high up on either side of the present channel. There,
written on the dark Devonian rock, is a record of erosion set down ages
before human eye can have marked it; for fifty feet above the present
bed are clean-scooped pot-holes, round and true, left by those
prehistoric waters. But the sides of the gorge are mostly broken and
sloping; and upon the shelves of it dwell trees that fling their
branches together with amazing intricacies of foliage in summer-time and
lace-like ramage in winter. Now bright sunshine flashes down the pillars
of them and falls from ledge to ledge of each steep precipice; it
brightens great ivy banks and illuminates a thousand ferns, that stud
each little separate knoll in the great declivities, or loll from clefts
and crannies to break the purple shadows with their fronds. The buckler
and the shield fern leap spritely where there is most light; the
polypody loves the limb of the oak; the hart's tongue haunts the
coolest, darkest crevices and hides the beauty of silvery mosses and
filmy ferns under cover of each crinkled leaf. And secret waters twinkle
out by many a hidden channel to them, bedewing their foliage with grey

On a cloudy day night never departs from the deepest caverns of this
gorge, and only the foam-light reveals each polished rib and buttress.
The air is full of mist from a waterfall that thunders through the
darkness, and chance of season and weather seldom permit the westering
sun to thrust a red-gold shaft into the gloom. But that rare moment is
worth pilgrimage, for then the place awakens and a thousand magic
passages of brightness pierce the gorge to reveal its secrets. In such
moments shall be seen the glittering concavities, the fair pillars and
arches carved by the water, and the hidden forms of delicate life that
thrive upon them, dwelling in darkness and drinking of the foam. Most
notable is a crimson fungus that clings to the dripping precipices like
a robe, so that they seem made of polished bloodstone, and hint the
horror of some tragedy in these loud shouting caves. Below the mass of
the river, very dark under its creaming veil of foam, shouts and
hastens; above, there slope upwards the cliff-masses to a mere ribbon of
golden-green, high aloft where the trees admit rare flashes from the
azure above them. Beech and ash spring horizontally from the precipices,
and great must be the bedded strength of the roots that hold their
trunks hanging there. With the dark forces of the gorge dragging them
downward and the sunshine drawing them triumphantly up--between
gravitation and light--they poise, destruction beneath and life
beckoning from above. They nourish thus above their ultimate graves,
since they, too, must fall at last and join those dead tree skeletons
whose bones are glimmering amid the rocks below.

Here light and darkness so cunningly blend that size is forgotten, as
always happens before a thing inherently fine. The small gorge wrought
of a little river grows great and bulks large to imagination. The
soaring sides of it, the shadow-loving things beneath, the torture of
the trees above, and the living water, busy as of yore in levelling its
ancient bed to the sea, waken wonder at such conquest over these
fire-baked rocks. The heart goes out to the river and takes pleasure to
follow her from the darkness of her battle into the light again, where,
flower-crowned, she emerges between green banks that shelve gently, hung
with wood-rush and meadow-sweet, angelica and golden saxifrage. Here
through a great canopy of translucent foliage shines the noon sunlight,
celebrating peace. Into the river, where she spreads upon a smooth pool,
and trout dart shadowy through the crystal, the brightness burns, until
the stream bed sparkles with amber and agate and flashes up in sweet
reflections beneath each brier and arched fern-frond bending at the

Nor does the rivulet lack correspondence with greater streams in its
human relation; she is complete in every particular, for man has found
her also; and dimly seen, amid the very tree-tops, where the gorge
opens, and great rocks come kissing close, an arch of stone carries his
little road from hamlet to hamlet.


[Illustration: THE GLEN.]

There is a glen above West Dart whence a lesser stream after brief
journeying comes down to join the river. By many reaches, broken with
little falls, the waters descend upon the glen from the Moor; but
barriers of granite first confront them, and before the lands break up
and hollow, a mass of boulders, piled in splendid disorder and crowned
with willow and rowan, crosses the pathway of the torrent. Therefore the
little river divides and leaps and tumbles foaming over the mossy
granite, or creeps beneath the boulders by invisible ways. Into fingers
and tresses the running waters dislimn, and then, that great obstacle
passed, their hundred rillets run together again and go on their way
with music. By a descent that becomes swiftly steeper, the burn falls
upon fresh rocks, is led into fresh channels and broken to the right and
left where mossy islets stand knee-deep in fern and bilberry. Here
spring up the beginnings of the wood, for the glen is full of trees.
Beech and alder, with scrub of dwarf willow at their feet, cluster on
the islets and climb the deepening valley westward; but in the glen
stand aged trees, and on the crest of the slope haggard spruce firs
still fight for life and mark, in their twisted and decaying timbers and
perishing boughs, the torment of the unsleeping wind. Great is the
contrast between these stricken ruins with death in their high tops,
and the sylva beneath sheltered by the granite hill. There beech and
pine are prosperous and sleek compared with the unhappy, time-foundered
wights above them; but if the spruces perish, they rule. The lesser
things are at their feet and the sublimity of their struggle--their
mournful but magnificent protest against destiny--makes one ignore the
sequestered woodland, where there is neither battle nor victory, but
comfortable, ignoble shelter and repose. The river kisses the feet of
these happy nonentities; they make many a stately arch and pillar along
the water; in spring the pigeon and the storm-thrush nest among their
branches; and they gleam with newly-opened foliage and shower their
silky shards upon the earth; in autumn they fling a harvest of sweet
beech mast around their feet. The seed germinates and thousands of
cotyledon leaves appear like fairy umbrellas, from the waste of the dead
leaves. The larger number of these seedlings perish, but some survive to
take their places in fulness of time.

By falls and rapids, by flashing stickles and reaches of stillness, the
little river sinks to the heart of the glen; but first there is a
water-meadow under the hills where an old clapper-bridge flings its
rough span from side to side. This is of ancient date and has been more
than once restored against the ravages of flood since pack-horses
tramped that way in Tudor times. Here the streamlet rests awhile before
plunging down the steeps beyond and entering the true glen--a place of
shelving banks and many trees.

In summer the dingle is a golden-green vision of tender light that
filters through the beeches. Here and there a sungleam, escaping the
net of the leaf, wins down to fall on mossy boulder and bole, or plunge
its shaft of brightness into a dark pool. Then the amber beam quivers
through the crystal to paint each pebble at the bottom and reveal the
dim, swift shades of the trout, that dart through it from darkness back
to darkness again. In autumn the freshets come and the winds awaken
until a storm of foliage hurtles through the glen, now pattering with
shrill whispers from above and taking the water gently; now whirling in
mad myriads, swirling and eddying, driven hither and thither by storm
until they bank upon some hillock, find harbour among holes and the
elbows of great roots, or plunge down into the turmoil of the stream.
The ways of the falling leaf are manifold, and as the rock delays the
river, so the trees, with trunk and bough, arrest the flying foliage,
bar its hurrying volume and deflect its tide. In winter the glen is
good, for then a man may escape the north wind here and, finding some
snug holt among the river rocks, mark the beauty about him while snow
begins to touch the tree-tops and the boughs are sighing. Then can be
contrasted the purple masses of sodden leaves with the splendour of the
mosses among which they lie; for now the minor vegetation gleams at
this, its hour of prime. It sheets every bank in a silver-green fabric
fretted with liquid jewels or ice diamonds; it builds plump knobs and
cushions on the granite, and some of the mosses, now in fruit, brush
their lustrous green with a wash of orange or crimson, where tiny
filaments rise densely to bear the seed. Here, also, dwelling among
them, flourishes that treasure of such secret nooks by stream-side, the
filmy fern, with transparent green vesture pressed to the
moisture-laden rocks.

Man's handiwork is also manifested here; not only in the felled trees
and the clapper-bridge, but uniquely and delightfully; for where the
river quickens over a granite apron and hastens in a torrent of foam
away, the rocks have tongues and speak. He who planted this grove and
added beauty to a spot already beautiful, was followed by his son, who
caused to be carved inscriptions on the boulders. You may trace them
through the moss, or lichen, where the records, grown dim after nearly a
hundred years, still stand. It was a minister of the Church who amused
himself after this fashion; but in no religious spirit did he compose;
and the scattered poetry has a pleasant, pagan ring about it proper to
this haunt of Pan.

Upon one great rock in the open, with its grey face to the south-west
and its feet deeply bedded in grass and sand, you shall with care
decipher these words:--

    Sweet Poesy! fair Fancy's child!
      Thy smiles imparadise the wild.

Beside the boulder a willow stands, its finials budding with silver;
upon the north-western face of the stone is another inscription whose
legend startles a wayfarer on beholding the bulk of the huge mass. "This
stone was removed by a flood 17--."

On the islets and by the pathway below, sharp eyes may discover other
inscribed stones, and upon one island, which the bygone poet called "The
Isle of Mona," there still exist inscriptions in "Bardic characters."
These he derived from the _Celtic Researches_ of Davies. Furnished with
the English letters corresponding to these symbols, one may, if
sufficiently curious, translate each distich as one finds it. Elsewhere,
beside the glen path, a sharp-eyed, little lover of Nature, tore the
coat of moss from another phrase that beat us both as we hunted through
the early dusk:--

    Ye Naiads! venera

This was the complete passage, and we puzzled not a little to solve its
meaning. On dipping into the past, however, I discovered that the
inscription was intended to have read as follows:--

    Ye Naiads! venerate the swain
      Who joined the Dryads to your train.

The rhyme was designed to honour the poet's father, who set the forest
here; but accident must have stayed the stone-cutter's hand and left the
distich incomplete.

And now a sudden flash of red aloft above the tree-tops told that the
sun was setting. Night thickened quickly, though the lamp of a great red
snow-cloud still hung above the glen long after I had left it. Beneath,
the mass of the beech wood took on wonderful colour and the streamlet,
emerging into meadows, flashed back the last glow of the sky.


[Illustration: A DEVON CROSS.]

There are two orders of ancient human monuments on Dartmoor--the
prehistoric evidences of man's earliest occupation and the mediæval
remains that date from Tudor times, or earlier. The Neolith has left his
cairns and pounds and hut circles, where once his lodges clustered upon
the hills. The other memorials are of a different character and chiefly
mark the time of the stannators, when alluvial tin abounded and the Moor
supported a larger population than it does to-day. Ruins of the smelting
houses and the piled debris of old tin-streaming works may be seen on
every hand, and the moulds into which molten tin was poured still lie in
hollows and ruins half hidden by the herbage. Here also, scattered
irregularly, the Christian symbol occurs, on wild heaths and lonely
hillsides, to mark some sacred place, indicate an ancient path, or guide
the wayfaring monk and friar of old on their journey by the Abbot's Way.

Of these the most notable is that venerable fragment known as Siward's
Cross--a place of pilgrimage these many years.

Now, on this day of March, snow-clouds swept the desert intermittently
with their grey veils and often blotted every landmark. At such times
one sought the little hillocks thrown up by vanished men and hid in some
hollow of the tin-streamers' digging to escape the pelt of the snow and
avoid the buffet of the squall that brought it. Then the sun broke up
the welter of hurrying grey and for a time the wind lulled and the brief
white shroud of the snow melted, save where it had banked against some

The lonely hillock where stands Siward's Cross, or "Nun's Cross," as
Moormen call it, lies at a point a little above the western end of Fox
Tor Mire. The land slopes gently to it and from it; the great hills roll
round about. To the east a far distance opens very blue after the last
snow has fallen; to the south tower the featureless ridges of Cator's
Beam with the twin turrets of Fox Tor on their proper mount beneath
them. The beginnings of the famous mire are at hand--a region of
shattered peat-hags and morasses--where, torn to pieces, the earth gapes
in ruins and a thousand watercourses riddle it. All is dark and sere at
this season, for the dead grasses make the peat blacker by contrast. It
is a chaos of rent and riven earth ploughed and tunnelled by bogs and
waterways; while beyond this savage wilderness the planes of the hills
wind round in a semicircle and hem the cradle of the great marshes below
with firm ground and good "strolls" for cattle, when spring shall send
them in their thousands to the grazing lands of the Moor again.

The sky shone blue by the time I reached the old cross and weak sunlight
brightened its familiar face. The relic stands seven feet high, and now
it held a vanishing patch of snow on each stumpy arm. Its weathered
front had made a home for flat and clinging lichens, grey as the granite
for the most part, yet warming to a pale gold sometimes. Once the cross
was broken and thrown in two pieces on the heath; but the wall-builders
spared it, for the monument had long been famous. Antiquarian interest
existed for the old relic, and it was mended with clamps of iron, and
lifted upon a boulder to occupy again its ancient site.

For many a year experts puzzled to learn the meaning of the inscriptions
upon its face, and various conjectures concerning them had their day;
but it was left for our first Dartmoor authority, William Crossing, who
has said the last word on these remains, to decipher the worn
inscription and indicate its significance. He finds the word "Siward,"
or "Syward," on the eastern side, and the word "Boc-lond," for
"Buckland," on the other, set in two lines under the incised cross that
distinguishes the western face of the monument.

"Siward's Cross" is mentioned in the Perambulation of 1240. "It is
named," says Mr. Crossing, "in a deed of Amicia, Countess of Devon,
confirming the grant of certain lands for building and supporting the
Abbey of Buckland, among which were the manors of Buckland, Bickleigh
and Walkhampton. The latter manor abuts on Dartmoor Forest, and the
boundary line, which Siward's Cross marks at one of the points, is drawn
from Mistor to the Plym. The cross, therefore, in addition to being
considered a forest boundary mark, also became one to the lands of
Buckland Abbey, and I am convinced that the letters on it which have
been so variously interpreted simply represent the word 'Bocland.' The
name, as already stated, is engraved on the western face of the
cross--the side on which the monks' possessions lay."

Elsewhere he observes that Siward's Cross, "standing as it does on the
line of the Abbot's Way, would seem not improbably to have been set up
by the monks of Tavistock as a mark to point out the direction of the
track across the Moor; and were it not for the fact that it has been
supposed to have obtained its name from Siward, Earl of Northumberland,
who, it is said, held property near this part of the Moor in the
Confessor's reign, I should have no hesitation in believing such to be
the case."

No matter who first lifted it, still it stands--the largest cross on
Dartmoor--like a sentinel to guard the path that extended between the
religious houses of Plympton, Buckland and Tavistock. And other crosses
there are beyond the Mire, where an old road descended over Ter Hill.
But the Abbot's Way is tramped no more, and the princes of the Church,
with their men-at-arms and their mules and pack-horses, have passed into
forgotten time. Few now but the antiquary and holiday-maker wander to
Siward's Cross; or the fox-hunter gallops past it; or the folk, when
they tramp to the heights for purple harvest of "hurts" in summer-time.
The stone that won the blessings of pious men, only comforts a heifer
to-day; she rubs her side against it and leaves a strand of her red hair
caught in the lichens.

The snow began to fall more heavily and the wind increased. Therefore I
turned north and left that local sanctity from olden time, well pleased
to have seen it once again in the stern theatre of winter. It soon
shrank to a grey smudge on the waste; then snow-wreaths whirled their
arms about it and the emblem vanished.


[Illustration: COOMBE.]

Life comes laden still with good days that whisper of romance, when in
some haunt of old legend, our feet loiter for a little before we pass
forward again. I indeed seek these places, and confess an incurable
affection for romance in my thoughts if not my deeds. I would not banish
her from art, or life; and though most artists of to-day will have none
of her, spurn romantic and classic alike, and take only realism to their
bosoms; yet who shall declare that realism is the last word, or that
reality belongs to her drab categories alone?

"There is no 'reality' for us--nor for you either, ye sober ones, and we
are far from being so alien to one another as ye suppose, and perhaps
our goodwill to get beyond drunkenness is just as respectable as your
belief that ye are altogether _incapable_ of drunkenness."

A return to romance most surely awaits literature, when our artists have
digested the new conditions and discovered the magic and mystery that
belong to newly created things--whether Nature or her human child has
made them; but for the moment, those changes that to-day build
revolution, stone on stone, demand great seers to record the romantic
splendour of their promise, sing justly of all that science is doing,
write the epic of our widening view and show man leading the lightning
chained in his latest triumph. For us, who cannot measure such visions,
there remains Nature--the incurable romantic--who retains her early
methods, loves the sword better than the pruning-hook, and still
sometimes strikes jealously at her sophisticated child, who has learned
to substitute a thousand wants for the simple needs that she could

At Coombe, on the coast of North Cornwall, there yet lies a nest of old
romance, wherein move, for dream-loving folk, the shadows of an old-time
tale. Nature reigns unchanged in the valley and her processions and
pageants keep their punctual time and place; but once a story-teller
came hither, and the direct, genial art of a brave spirit found
inspiration here. From this secluded theatre sprang _Westward Ho!_ and
none denies willing tribute to him who made that book.

Seen on this stormy December day with a north-wester raging off the sea
and the wind turning the forest music to "a hurricane of harps," Coombe
Valley lives with music and movement. Far away in the gap eastward rises
a blue mound with Kilkhampton Church-tower perched thereon, and thence,
by winding woods, the way opens to the historic mill. Full of tender
colour are the tree-clad hills--a robe of grey and amber and amethyst,
jewelled here and there, where the last of the leaves still hang.
Wind-beaten oak and larch, beech and ash twine their arms together and
make a great commotion where the woven texture of their boughs is
swaying and bending. Their yield and swing challenge the grey daylight,
and it plays upon them and flings a tracery of swift brightness over the
forest. The light is never still, but trembles upon the transparent
woods, so that every movement of their great mass wins an answering
movement from the illumination that reveals them. Beneath, under the
tremulous curtain and visible through its throbbing, lies the earth's
bosom, all brown with fallen leaves. It swells firm and solid under
restless branch and bough, and listens to the great song of the trees.
Sometimes a sunburst from the sky touches the woodland, and the ramage
aloft sparkles like a gauze of silver over the russet and gold beneath.

In the heart of the valley there runs a river, and, freed from her work,
the mill-stream leaps to join it. The mill-wheel thunders, as it did
when little Rose Salterne set stout hearts beating and dreamed dreams,
wherein no sorrow homed or horror whispered. But time has not forgotten
Coombe Mill, and, to one who may love flowers, the evidence of progress
chiefly lies among them. There is a garden here and many a plant, that
had not yet faced the buffets of an English winter when Kingsley's
heroine tended her clove-pinks and violets, now thrives contented in
this little garth.

Beside the mill-pond, flogged by the December storm, Kaffir lilies wave
their crimson and the red fuchsia flourishes. A bush of golden eleagnus
is happy, and a shrubby speedwell thrives beside it; honeysuckles climb
to the thatch of the white-washed homestead; a rambler rose hangs out
its last blossoms; and a yellow jasmine also blooms upon the wall.
Marigolds and lavender and blue periwinkles trail together in a bright
wreath against the darkness of the water-wheel; there are stocks and
Michaelmas daisies, too, with the silver discs of honesty and the fading
green of tamarisk.

Many suchlike things flourish in this cradle of low hills, for winter is
a light matter here, and great cold never comes to them. They push
forth and creep into the lanes and hedges; they find the water-meadows
and love the shelter of the apple trees and the brink of the stream.

Beside the mill there towers a great ivy-tod in fruit, and rises the
weathered mill-house, stoutly built to bear the strain within. Once
granite mill-wheels ground the corn, but now their day is over and they
repose, flower crowned, in the hedges outside. The eternal splashing of
water has painted a dark stain here, and ferns have found foothold. One
great hart's tongue lolls fifty wet green leaves out from the gloom of
the wheel-chamber.

All is movement and bustle; the mill-stream races away to the river, and
the river to the sea. The tree-tops bend and cry; the clouds tell of the
gale overhead, now thinning to let the sunshine out, now darkening under
a sudden squall and dropping a hurtle of hail.

From the mill-pool to the west opened another vision of meadows with a
little grey bridge in the midst of them. Hither winds the stream, trout
in every hover, and the brown hills rise on either side, barren and
storm-beaten. Then, at the mouth of the land between them, a great
welter of white foam fills the gap, for the storm has beaten the sea
mad, and the roar of it ascends in unbroken thunder over the meadows.
Behind the meeting-place of land and ocean, there roll the lashed and
stricken seas, all dim and grey; and their herds are brightened with
sunshine or darkened by cloud, as the wind heaves them to shore. But
there is no horizon from which we can trace them. They emerge wildly out
of the flying scud of cloud that presses down upon the waters.


[Illustration: OLD DELABOLE.]

Where low and treeless hills roll out to the cliffs, and the gulls cry
their sea message over farms and fields, a mighty mouth opens upon the
midst of the land and gapes five hundred feet into the earth. In shape
of a crater it yawns, and its many-coloured cliffs slope from the
surface inwards. The great cup is chased and jewelled. Round it run many
galleries, some deserted, some alive with workers. Like threads of light
they circle it, now opening upon the sides of the rounded cliffs, now
suspended in air under perpendicular precipices. In the midst is the
quarter-mile incline that descends to the heart of the cup and connects
the works above with the works below; and elsewhere are other gentle
acclivities, where moraines of fallen stone ooze out in great cones
beneath the cliffs. Under them stand square black objects, dwarfed to
the size of match-boxes, which wrestle with this huge accumulation of
over-burden. Steam puffs from the machines; they thrust their scoops
into the fallen mass; at each dig they pick up a ton and a half of
rubbish and then deposit it in a trolley that waits for the load hard
by. A network of tram-lines branches every way in the bottom of the cup,
and extends its fingers to the points of attack; and where they end--at
smudges of silver-grey scattered about the bottom of the quarry--there
creep little atoms, like mites on a cheese.

Centuries have bedecked and adorned the sides of this stupendous pit;
and while naked sheets and planes of colour, the work of recent years,
still gleam starkly, all innocent of blade and leaf, elsewhere in
deserted galleries and among cliff-faces torn bare by vanished
generations of men, green things have made their home and flourished
with luxuriance, to the eternal drip of surface water. Ferns and
foxgloves and a thousand lesser plants thrive in niches and crevices of
the stone; and there is a splendid passage of flame, where the mimulus
has found its way by some rivulet into the quarry, and sheets a
precipice with gold.

By steps and scarps the sides fall, narrowing always to the bottom; but
the cliff planes are huge enough for sunshine and shadow to paint
wonderful pictures upon them and find the colours--the olive and blue
and mossy green, or the great splashes and patches of rose and russet
that make harmony there. They melt together brokenly; and sometimes they
are fretted with darkness and spotted with caverns, or mottled and
zigzagged by rusty percolations of iron.

One noble cliff falls sheer five hundred feet to a wilderness of rock,
and across its huge front there hang aerial threads, like gossamers,
while at its crown black wheels and chimneys tower into the sky. Below,
upon the bluff of a crag, there turns a wheel, and a great pump, with
intermittent jolt and grunt, sucks the water from the bottom of the
quarry and sends it to tanks up aloft. This machine, with its network of
arms and wheels, hangs very black on the cliff-side, and a note of black
is also carried into the midst of the grey and rosy cliff-faces by
little wheels that hang from the gossamers and tiny threads depending
from them. They drop to the mites in the silver-grey cheese beneath, and
from time to time masses and wedges of nearly two tons weight are
hoisted upward and float through the air to the surface, like

The quarry is full of noises--the clank of the pumps, the rattle of the
trucks, the hiss of pneumatic and steam drills, the clink of tampers and
the rumble and rattle of the great rocks dislodged by crowbars from the
cliffs. Men shout, too, and their voices are as the drone of little
gnats; but sometimes, at the hour of blasting, an immense volume of
sound is liberated, and the thunder of the explosion crashes round and
round the cup and wakes a war of echoes thrown from cliff to cliff.

Once there were dwellings within the cup; but the needs of the quarry
caused their destruction, and now but two cottages remain. The ragged
cliff-edges creep towards them, and they will soon vanish, after
standing for a hundred years.

Everywhere the precious stone, now silver-green, now silver-grey, is
being dragged up the great incline, or wafted through air to the workers
above; and once aloft, another army of men and boys set to work upon it
and split and hack and chop and square it into usefulness. On all sides
the midgets are burrowing below and wrestling with the stone above;
thousands of tons leave the works weekly, and yet such is the immensity
of the mass, that the sides of the quarry seem hardly changed from year
to year. For more than three hundred and fifty years has man delved at
Old Delabole. Elizabethans worked its rare slate; and since their time,
labouring ceaselessly, we have scratched out this stupendous hole and
covered our habitations therefrom, through the length and breadth of
the United Kingdom. Cathedrals and cottages alike send to Delabole for
their slates; there are extant buildings with roofs two hundred years
old, that show no crack or flaw; while more ancient than the stones that
cover man's home must be those that mark his grave, and Delabole slates
in churchyards, or on church walls, might doubtless be found dating from
Tudor times.

Five hundred men and boys are employed at Old Delabole, and their homes
cluster in the little village without the works. Their type is Celtic,
but many very blonde, high-coloured men labour here. All are polite,
easy, and kindly; all appear to find their work interesting and take
pleasure in explaining its nature to those who may be interested. The
slate fills countless uses besides that of roofing, and the methods of
cleaving and cutting it cannot easily be described. Steam plays its
part, and the masses are reduced to manageable size by steel saws which
slip swiftly through them; then workmen tackle the imperishable stuff,
and with chisel and mallet split the sections thinner and thinner. It
comes away wonderfully true, and a mass of stone gives off flake after
flake until the solid rock has turned into a pile of dark grey slates,
clean and bright of cleavage and ready for the roof. Green-grey or
"abbey-grey" is the mass of the quarry output; but a generous production
of "green" is also claimed. This fine stuff runs in certain veins, and
offers a tone very beautiful and pleasant to the eye. Lastly, there are
the reds--jewels among slates--that shine with russet and purple. This
stone is rare, and can only be quarried in small quantities. All
varieties have the slightest porosity, and take their places among the
most distinguished slates in the world.


Ragged curtains of castellated stone climb up the northern side of a
promontory and stretch their worn and fretted grey across the sea and
sky. They are pierced with a Norman door, and beyond them there spreads
a blue sea to the horizon; above it shines a summer sky, against whose
blue and silver the ruin sparkles brightly. Beneath, a little bay opens,
and the dark cliffs about it are fringed with foam; while beyond, "by
Bude and Bos," the grand coastline is flung out hugely, cliff on cliff
and ness on ness, until Hartland lies like a cloud on the sea and little
Lundy peeps above the waters. Direct sunshine penetrates the haze from
point to point, now bringing this headland out from among its
neighbours, now accentuating the rocky islands, or flashing on some
sea-bird's wing.

Shadow, too, plays its own sleight; the cliff that was sun-kissed fades
and glooms, while the scarps and planes before shaded, shine out again
and spread their splendour along the sea. Light and darkness race over
the waves also, and now the fringes of foam flash far off in the
sunshine and streak the distant bases of earth; now they are no more
seen, when the cloud shadows dim their whiteness and spread purple on
the blue.

A ewe and her lamb come through the gateway in the castle wall. They
share the green slopes with me and browse along together. Overhead the
gulls glide and a robber gull chases a jackdaw, who carries a lump of
bread or fat in his beak. The gull presses hard upon the smaller bird,
and Jack at last, after many a turn and twist, drops his treasure.
Whereupon the gull dives downward and catches it in mid-air before it
has fallen a dozen yards.

The flora on these crags is interesting, though of little diversity.
Familiar grasses there are, with plantain and sheep's sorrel, the silene
and cushion pink, the pennywort and blue jasione, the lotus and
eye-bright; but unsleeping winds from the west affect them as altitude
dwarfs the alpines, and these things, though perfect and healthy and
fair to see, are reduced to exquisite miniatures, where they nestle in
the crannies of the rocks and flash their pink and white, or blue and
gold, against the grey and orange lichens that wash the stones with
colour and climb the ruin in the midst.

In sheltered nooks the foxglove nods, but he, too, is dwarfed, yet seems
to win a solid splendour of bells and intensity of tint from his

Other castle fragments there are--scattered here and on the neighbour
cliff to the east; but they are of small account--no more than the
stumps of vanished ramparts and walls. Even so, they stood before any
word was printed concerning them, or pictures made. An ancient etching
of more than two hundred years old shows that their fragments were then
as now, and only doubtful tradition furnishes the historian with any

But the castle is perched on a noble crag, whose strata of marble and
slate and silver quartz slope from east to west downward until they
round into sea-worn bosses and dip under the blue. The story of
gigantic upheavals is written here, and the weathered rocks are cleft
and serrated and full of wonderful convolutions for dawn and dusk to
play upon. Here more wild flowers find foothold, and the wild bird makes
her home. The cliffs are crested with samphire, and the white umbels of
the carrot; they are brushed with the pale lemon of anthyllis, and the
starry whiteness of the campion; they are honeycombed beneath by
caverns, where the sea growls on calm days and thunders in time of

Westward of the mount, guarding the only spot where boat can land from
these perilous waters, a fragment of the ruin still holds up above the
little bay, within bow-shot of any adventurous bark that would brave a

Here is all that is left of the last castle on this famous headland. Of
the so-called "Arthurian" localities, the most interesting and richest
in tradition is that of North Cornwall, and at its centre lie these
ancient strongholds. In addition to the Castle of Tintagel one finds
King Arthur's Hall and Hunting Seat, his bed and his cups and saucers,
his tomb and his grave.

It is a long and intricate story, and none may say what fragment of
reality homes behind the accumulated masses of myth and legend. With the
bards of the sixth century and those that followed them we find the
English beginnings of Arthur and his celebration as a first-class
fighting man. Then it would seem he disappeared for a while, and takes
no place, either in history or romance, until the ninth century. In 858,
however, one Nennius, a Briton, made a history of the hero, some three
centuries after his supposed death in 542. The "magnanimous Arthur" of
Nennius fought against the Saxons, and, amid many more noble than
himself, was twelve times chosen commander of his race. The Britons, we
learn, conquered as often as he led them to war; and in his final and
mightiest battle--that of Badon Hill--we are to believe that 940 of the
enemy fell by Arthur's hand alone--a Homeric achievement, unassisted
save by the watching Lord. Thereafter his activities ranged over other
of the Arthurian theatres and campaigns before he died at Camlan.

But alas for song! From Geoffrey of Monmouth to Tennyson, that last
prodigious battle on the Camel has been the joy of poetry, and the
mighty adventure between Arthur and Mordred has been told and retold a
thousand times; yet if those warriors ever did meet, it was certainly in
Scotland, and not Cornwall, that the encounter took place. Camlan is
Camelon in the Valley of the Forth, and here a tolerably safe tradition
tells that the King of the Picts, with his Scots and Saxons, defeated
the Britons and slew their King.

Leland reported to Henry VII. that "This castle hath been a marvellous
strong fortress and almost _situ in loco_ inexpugnabile, especially from
the dungeon that is on a great and terrabil crag environed with the se,
but having a drawbridge from the residue of the castel on to it. Shepe
now feed within the dungeon."

That Arthur was begotten at Tintagel we may please to believe; but that
he died far from the land of his birth seems sure.

As for the existing ruin, it springs from that of the castle which saw
the meeting of Arthur's parents, Uther Pendragon and the fair Igraine;
but the original British building has long since vanished, and the
present remains, dating from the Norman Conquest, did not rise until six
hundred years later than the hero's death. An old Cornish tradition
declares that Arthur's mighty spirit passed into a Cornish chough, and
in the guise of that beautiful crow with the scarlet beak, still haunts
the ruins of his birthplace.


[Illustration: A CORNISH CROSS.]

Kerning corn waved to the walls of the little churchyard and spread a
golden foreground for the squat grey mass of the church that rose behind
it. The building stood out brightly, ringed with oak and sycamore, and
the turrets of the tower barely surmounted the foliage wrapped about it.
Rayed in summer green the trees encircled church and burying-ground with
shade so dense that the sun could scarce throw a gleam upon the graves.
They lay close and girdled the building with mounds of grass and slabs
of slate and marble. The dripping of the trees had stained the stones
and cushions of moss flourished upon them. Here was the life of the
hamlet written in customary records of triumphant age, failures of
youth, death of children--all huddled together with that implicit pathos
of dates that every churchyard holds.

But more ancient than any recorded grave, more venerable than the church
itself, a granite cross ascended among the tombs. Centuries had
weathered the stone so that every angle of its rounded head and
four-sided shaft was softened. Time had wrought on the granite mass, as
well as man, and fingering the relic through the ages, had blurred every
line of the form, set grey lichens on the little head of the Christ that
hung there and splashed the shaft with living russet and silver and
jade-green. The old cross rose nine feet high, its simple form clothed
in a harmony of colours beautiful and delicate. The arms were filled
with a carved figure of primitive type and a carmine vegetation washed
the rough surfaces and outlined the human shape set in its small tunic
stiffly there. Green moss covered the head of the cross and incised
patterns decorated its sides to within a foot or two of the grass by a
churchyard path from which it sprang.

The design was of great distinction and I stood before one of the finest
monuments in Cornwall. On the north side ran a zigzag; while to the
south a more elaborate key-pattern was struck into the stone--a design
of triangles enfolding each other. The back held the outline of a square
filled with a cross and a shut semicircle carved beneath; while upon the
face, under the head which contained the figure, there occurred another
square with a cross. The shaft upon this side was adorned with the
outline of a tall jug, or ewer, from which sprang the conventional
symbol for a lily flower.

There was another detail upon the southern side which seemed to lift
this aged stone back into the mists of a past still more remote, for
there, just above the ground, might be read the fragment of an
inscription in debased Latin capitals. They were no longer decipherable
save for the solitary word "FILIUS" which was easily to be
distinguished, and this fragment of an obliterated inscription spoke
concerning a period earlier by centuries than the carving and
decoration. Indeed it indicated that the memorial was a palimpsest--a
pre-Christian pillar-stone transformed at a later age to its present

There are above three hundred old crosses still standing in Cornwall,
and not a few of these, dating from time beyond the Roman period,
originally marked the burying-places of the pagan dead. At a later
period, long after their original erection, they were mutilated. But the
greater number of these grand stones belong to Christianity, and by
their varied decorations the age of them may approximately be learned.

Some bear the _Chi Rho_ monogram, which stands for the first two letters
of the Greek "Christos," and these belong to the seventh century; but
the more numerous appear to date from that later period when the sacred
figure of the Christ began to be substituted in religious architecture
for the symbolic lamb that always preceded it. The Eastern Church
authorised this innovation, after A.D. 683, and pronounced that "The
Lamb of Christ, our Lord, be set up in human shape on images henceforth,
instead of the Lamb formerly used." The earliest type is not
particularly human, however, and the little, archaic, shirted doll of
Byzantine pattern, which ornaments so many of these Cornish crosses, has
not much save archæological interest to commend it. Until Gothic times
this was the conventional pattern, and it is assumed that these early
crucifixes dated from the eighth century and onward until a more
naturalistic figure began to appear.

Scattered over the far-flung landscape of the West our Cornish crosses
stand; by meadow and tilth and copse, among the little hamlets of the
peninsula, in lonely heaths and waste places overrun by wild growing
things, they shall be found. Sometimes the Atlantic is their background
and sometimes the waters of the Channel. They were set on the roads that
led to the churches, and served not only as places for prayer, but also
as sign-posts on the church-ways. Now many of the more splendid
specimens have been rescued, as in the case of this great cross, and
stand in churchyards, or under the shadow of sanctified buildings. Their
fragments are also scattered over the land, here set in walls, here at
cross-roads, now as a gate-post, or a stepping-stone, or foot-bridge.
Sometimes they serve for boundary stones, and are yearly beaten;
occasionally they support a sundial; not seldom the Ordnance Surveyors
have outraged them with bench marks. Often only the stunted head and
limbs of the wheel-crosses remain, their shafts vanished forever; still
more frequently the cross-bases or pedestals alone have been chronicled
and the stones that surmounted them exist no longer. None can say how
numerous they were of old time; and it may happen, while many have been
destroyed past recovery or restoration, that others still exist in
obscure places, or sheltered by the saving earth, for a future race of
antiquaries to discover and reclaim.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A West Country Pilgrimage" ***

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