THE BANKS OF WYE;
In Four Books.
By ROBERT BLOOMFIELD,
Author of _The Farmer's Boy_.
Printed for the Author; Vernor, Hood, and Sharpe, Poultry;
and Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, Paternoster Row;
Printed by T. Hood and Co., St. John's Square, London.
To THOMAS LLOYD BAKER, ESQ.
Of Stout's Hill, Uley, And His Excellent Lady;
ROBERT BRANSBY COOPER, ESQ.
Of Ferwey Hill, Dursley, In The County Of Gloucester,
And All The Members Of His Family,
THIS JOURNAL IS DEDICATED,
With Sentiments Of High Esteem,
And A Lively Recollection Of Past Pleasures,
By Their Humble Servant,
In the summer of 1807, a party of my good friends in Gloucestershire
proposed to themselves a short excursion down the Wye, and through part of
While this plan was in agitation, the lines which I had composed on
"Shooter's Hill," during ill health, and inserted in my last volume,
obtained their particular attention. A spirit of prediction, as well as
sorrow, is there indulged; and it was now in the power of this happy party
to falsify such predictions, and to render a pleasure to the writer of no
common kind. An invitation to accompany them was the consequence; and the
following Journal is the result of that invitation.
Should the reader, from being a resident, or frequent visitor, be well
acquainted with the route, and able to discover inaccuracies in distances,
succession of objects, or local particulars, he is requested to recollect,
that the party was out but ten days; a period much too short for correct
and laborious description, but quite sufficient for all the powers of
poetry which I feel capable of exerting. The whole exhibits the language
and feelings of a man who had never before seen a mountainous country; and
of this it is highly necessary that the reader should be apprized.
A Swiss, or perhaps a Scottish Highlander, may smile at supposed or real
exaggerations; but they will be excellent critics, when they call to mind
that they themselves judge, in these cases, as I do, by comparison.
Perhaps it may be said, that because much of public approbation has fallen
to my lot, it was unwise to venture again. I confess that the journey left
such powerful, such unconquerable impressions on my mind, that embodying
my thoughts in rhyme became a matter almost of necessity. To the parties
concerned I know it will be an acceptable little volume: to whom, and to
the public, it Is submitted with due respect.
City Road, London,
THE BANKS OF WYE.
CONTENTS OF BOOK I.
The Vale of Uley. - Forest of Dean. - Ross. - Wilton Castle. - Goodrich
Castle. - Courtfield, Welch Bicknor, Coldwell. - Gleaner's Song. - Coldwell
Rocks. - Symmon's Yat. - Great Doward. - New Wier. - Arthur's Hall. - Martin's
Well. - The Coricle. - Arrival at Monmouth.
THE BANKS OF THE WYE.
"Rouse from thy slumber, pleasure calls, arise,
Quit thy half-rural bower, awhile despise
The thraldom that consumes thee. We who dwell
Far from thy land of smoke, advise thee well.
Here Nature's bounteous hand around shall fling,
Scenes that thy Muse hath never dar'd to sing.
When sickness weigh'd thee down, and strength declin'd;
When dread eternity absorb'd thy mind,
Flow'd the predicting verse, by gloom o'erspread,
That 'Cambrian mountains' thou should'st never tread,
That 'time-worn cliff, and classic stream to see,'
Was wealth's prerogative, despair for thee.
Come to the proof; with us the breeze inhale,
Renounce despair, and come to Severn's vale;
And where the COTSWOLD HILLS are stretch'd along,
Seek our green dell, as yet unknown to song:
Start hence with us, and trace, with raptur'd eye,
The wild meanderings of the beauteous WYE;
Thy ten days leisure ten days joy shall prove,
And rock and stream breathe amity and love."
Such was the call; with instant ardour hail'd.
The syren Pleasure caroll'd and prevail'd;
Soon the deep dell appear'd, and the clear brow
Of ULEY BURY [A] smil'd o'er all below,
[Footnote A: Bury, or Burg, the Saxon name for a hill, particularly for
one wholly or partially formed by art.]
Mansion, and flock, and circling woods that hung
Round the sweet pastures where the sky-lark sung.
O for the fancy, vigorous and sublime,
Chaste as the theme, to triumph over time!
Bright as the rising day, and firm as truth,
To speak new transports to the lowland youth,
That bosoms still might throb, and still adore,
When his who strives to charm them beats no more!
One August morn, with spirits high,
Sound health, bright hopes, and cloudless sky,
A cheerful group their farewell bade
To DURSLEY tower, to ULEY'S shade;
And where bold STINCHCOMB'S greenwood side.
Heaves in the van of highland pride,
Scour'd the broad vale of Severn; there
The foes of verse shall never dare
Genius to scorn, or bound its power,
There blood-stain'd BERKLEY'S turrets low'r,
A name that cannot pass away,
Till time forgets "the Bard" of GRAY.
Quitting fair Glo'ster's northern road,
To gain the pass of FRAMELODE,
Before us DEAN'S black forest spread,
And MAY HILL, with his tufted head,
Beyond the ebbing tide appear'd;
And Cambria's distant mountains rear'd
Their dark blue summits far away;
And SEVERN, 'midst the burning day,
Curv'd his bright line, and bore along
The mingled _Avon_, pride of song.
The trembling steeds soon ferry'd o'er,
Neigh'd loud upon the forest shore;
Domains that once, at early morn,
Rang to the hunter's bugle horn,
When barons proud would bound away;
When even kings would hail the day,
And swell with pomp more glorious shows,
Than ant-hill population knows.
Here crested chiefs their bright-arm'd train
Of javelin'd horsemen rous'd amain,
And chasing wide the wolf or boar,
Bade the deep woodland vallies roar.
Harmless we past, and unassail'd,
Nor once at roads or tumpikes rail'd:
Through depths of shade oft sun-beams broke,
Midst noble FLAXLEY'S bowers of oak;
And many a cottage trim and gay,
Whisper'd delight through all the way;
On hills expos'd, in dells unseen,
To patriarchal MITCHEL DEAN.
Rose-cheek'd _Pomona_ there was seen,
And _Ceres_ edg'd her fields between,
And on each hill-top mounted high,
Her sickle wav'd in extasy;
Till Ross, thy charms all hearts confess'd,
Thy peaceful walks, thy hours of rest
And contemplation. Here the mind,
With all its luggage left behind,
Dame Affectation's leaden wares,
Spleen, envy, pride, life's thousand cares,
Feels all its dormant fires revive,
And sees "the _Man of Ross_" alive;
And hears the Twick'nham Bard again,
To KYRL'S high virtues lift his strain;
Whose own hand cloth'd this far-fam'd hill
With rev'rend elms, that shade us still;
Whose mem'ry shall survive the day,
When elms and empires feel decay.
KYRL die, by bard ennobled? Never;
"_The Man of Ross_" shall live for ever;
Ross, that exalts its spire on high,
Above the flow'ry-margin'd WYE,
Scene of the morrow's joy, that prest
Its unseen beauties on our rest
In dreams; but who of dreams would tell,
Where truth sustains the song so well?
The morrow came, and Beauty's eye
Ne'er beam'd upon a lovelier sky;
Imagination instant brought,
And dash'd amidst the train of thought,
Tints of the bow. The boatman stript;
Glee at the helm exulting tript,
And way'd her flower-encircled wand,
"Away, away, to Fairy Land."
Light dipt the oars; but who can name
The various objects dear to fame,
That changing, doubting, wild, and strong,
Demand the noblest powers of song?
Then, O forgive the vagrant Muse,
Ye who the sweets of Nature choose;
And thou whom destiny hast tied
To this romantic river's side,
Down gazing from each close retreat,
On boats that glide beneath thy feet,
Forgive the stranger's meagre line,
That seems to slight that spot of thine;
For he, alas! could only glean
The changeful outlines of the scene;
A momentary bliss; and here
Links memory's power with rapture's tear.
Who curb'd the barons' kingly power[A]?
[Footnote A: Henry the Seventh gave an irrevocable blow to the dangerous
privileges assumed by the barons, in abolishing liveries and retainers, by
which every malefactor could shelter himself from the law, on assuming a
nobleman's livery, and attending his person. And as a finishing stroke to
the feudal tenures, an act was passed, by which the barons and gentlemen
of landed interest were at liberty to sell and mortgage their lands,
without fines or licences for the alienation.]
Let hist'ry tell that fateful hour
At home, when surly winds shall roar,
And prudence shut the study door.
DE WILTON'S here of mighty name,
The whelming flood, the summer stream,
Mark'd from their towers. - The fabric falls,
The rubbish of their splendid halls,
Time in his march hath scatter'd wide,
And blank oblivion strives to hide.
Awhile the grazing herd was seen,
And trembling willow's silver green,
Till the fantastic current stood,
In line direct for PENCRAIG WOOD;
Whose bold green summit welcome bade,
Then rear'd behind his nodding shade.
Here, as the light boat skimm'd along,
The clarionet, and chosen song,
That mellow, wild, Eolian lay,
"Sweet in the Woodlands," roll'd away,
In echoes down the stream, that bore
Each dying close to every shore,
And forward Cape, and woody range,
That form the never-ceasing change,
To him who floating, void of care,
Twirls with the stream, he knows not where;
Till bold, impressive, and sublime,
Gleam'd all that's left by storms and time
Of GOODRICH TOWERS. The mould'ring pile
Tells noble truths, - but dies the while;
O'er the steep path, through brake and briar,
His batter'd turrets still aspire,
In rude magnificence. 'Twas here
LANCASTRIAN HENRY spread his cheer,
When came the news that HAL was born,
And MONMOUTH hail'd th' auspicious morn;
A boy in sports, a prince in war,
Wisdom and valour crown'd his car;
Of France the terror, England's glory,
As Stratford's bard has told the story.
No butler's proxies snore supine,
Where the old monarch kept his wine;
No Welch ox roasting, horns and all,
Adorns his throng'd and laughing hall;
But where he pray'd, and told his beads,
A thriving ash luxuriant spreads.
No wheels by piecemeal brought the pile;
No barks embowel'd Portland Isle;
Dig, cried experience, dig away,
Bring the firm quarry into day,
The excavation still shall save
Those ramparts which its entrails gave.
"Here kings shall dwell," the builders cried;
"Here England's foes shall low'r their pride;
Hither shall suppliant nobles come,
And this be England's royal home."
Vain hope! for on the Gwentian shore,
The regal banner streams no more!
Nettles, and vilest weeds that grow,
To mock poor grandeur's head laid low,
Creep round the turrets valour rais'd,
And flaunt where youth and beauty gaz'd.
Here fain would strangers loiter long,
And muse as Fancy's woof grows strong;
Yet cold the heart that could complain,
Where POLLETT [Footnote: The boatman.] struck his oars again;
For lovely as the sleeping child,
The stream glides on sublimely wild,
In perfect beauty, perfect ease;
The awning trembled in the breeze,
And scarcely trembled, as we stood
For RUERDEAN Spire, and BISHOP'S WOOD.
The fair domains of COURTFIELD [A] made
A paradise of mingled shade
[Footnote A: A seat belonging to the family of Vaughan, which is not
unnoticed in the pages of history. According to tradition, it is the place
where Henry the Fifth was nursed, under the care of the Countess of
Salisbury, from which circumstance the original name of Grayfield is said
to have been changed to Courtfield. (This is probably an erroneous
tradition; for Court was a common name for a manor-house, where the lord
of the manor held his court. - _Core's Monmouth_.)]
Round BICKNOR'S tiny church, that cowers
Beneath his host of woodland bowers.
But who the charm of words shall fling,
O'er RAVEN CLIFF and COLDWELL Spring,
To brighten the unconscious eye,
And wake the soul to extasy?
Noon scorch'd the fields; the boat lay to;
The dripping oars had nought to do,
Where round us rose a scene that might
Enchant an ideot - glorious sight!
Here, in one gay according mind,
Upon the sparkling stream we din'd;
As shepherds free on mountain heath,
Free as the fish that watch'd beneath
For falling crumbs, where cooling lay
The wine that cheer'd us on our way.
Th' unruffled bosom of the stream,
Gave every tint and every gleam;
Gave shadowy rocks, and clear blue sky,
And double clouds of various dye;
Gave dark green woods, or russet brown,
And pendant corn-fields, upside down.
A troop of gleaners chang'd their shade,
And 'twas a change by music made;
For slowly to the brink they drew,
To mark our joy, and share it too.
How oft, in childhood's flow'ry days,
I've heard the wild impassion'd lays
Of such a group, lays strange and new,
And thought, was ever song so true?
When from the hazel's cool retreat,
They watch'd the summer's trembling heat;
And through the boughs rude urchins play'd,
Where matrons, round the laughing maid,
Prest the long grass beneath! And here
They doubtless shar'd an equal cheer;
Enjoy'd the feast with equal glee,
And rais'd the song of revelry:
Yet half abash'd reserv'd, and shy,
Watch'd till the strangers glided by.
Dear Ellen, your tales are all plenteously stor'd,
With the joys of some bride, and the wealth of her lord.
Of her chariots and dresses,
And worldly caresses,
And servants that fly when she's waited upon:
But what can she boast if she weds unbelov'd?
Can she e'er feel the joy that one morning I prov'd,
When I put on my new gown and waited for John?
These fields, my dear Ellen, I knew them of yore,
Yet to me they ne'er look'd so enchanting before;
The distant bells ringing,
The birds round us singing,
For pleasure is pure when affection is won;
They told me the troubles and cares of a wife;
But I lov'd him; and that was the pride of my life,
When I put on my new gown and waited for John.
He shouted and ran, as he leapt from the stile;
And what in my bosom was passing the while?
For love knows the blessing
Of ardent caressing,
When virtue inspires us, and doubts are all gone.
The sunshine of Fortune you say is divine;
True love and the sunshine of Nature were mine,
When I put on my new gown and waited for John.
Never could spot be suited less
To bear memorials of distress;
None, cries the sage, more fit is found,
They strike at once a double wound;
Humiliation bids you sigh,
And think of immortality.
Close on the bank, and half o'ergrown,
Beneath a dark wood's soinbrous frown,
A monumental stone appears,
Of one who in his blooming years,
While bathing spurn'd the grassy shore,
And sunk, midst friends, to rise no more;
By parents witness'd - Hark! their shrieks!
The dreadful language horror speaks!
But why in verse attempt to tell
That tale the stone records so well[A]?
[Footnote A: _Inscription on the side towards the water._
"Sacred to the memory of JOHN WHITEHEAD WARRE, who perished near this
spot, whilst bathing in the river Wye, in sight of his afflicted parents,
brother, and sister, on the 11th of September, 1804, in the sixteenth year
of his age.
GOD'S WILL BE DONE,
"Who, in his mercy, hath granted consolation to the parents of the dear
departed, in the reflection, that he possessed truth, innocence, filial
piety, and fraternal affection, in the highest degree. That, but a few
moments before he was called to a better life, he had (with a never to be
forgotten piety) joined his family in joyful thanks to his Maker, for the
restoration of his mother's health. His parents, in justice to his amiable
virtue, and excellent disposition, declare, that he was void of offence
towards them. With humbled hearts they bow to the Almighty's dispensation;
trusting, through the mediation of his blessed Son, he will mercifully
receive their child he so suddenly took to himself.
"This monument is here erected to warn parents and others how they trust
the deceitful stream; and particularly to exhort them to learn and observe
the directions of the Humane Society, for the recovery of persons
apparently drowned. Alas! it is with the extremest sorrow here
commemorated, what anguish is felt from a want of this knowledge. The
lamented swam very well; was endowed with great bodily strength and
activity; and possibly, had proper application been used, might have been
saved from his untimely fate. He was born at Oporto, in the kingdom of
Portugal, on the 14th of February, 1789; third son of James Warre, of
London, and of the county of Somerset, merchant, and Elinor, daughter of
Thomas Gregg, of Belfast, Esq.
"Passenger, whoever thou art, spare this tomb! It is erected for the
benefit of the surviving, being but a poor record of the grief of those
who witnessed the sad occasion of it. God preserve you and yours from such
calamity! May you not require their assistance; but if you should, the
apparatus, with directions for the application by the Humane Society, for
the saving of persons apparently drowned, are lodged at the church of
_On the opposite side is inscribed_
"It is with gratitude acknowledged by the parents of the deceased, that
permission was gratuitously, and most obligingly, granted for the erection
of this monument, by William Vaughan, Esq. of Courtfield."]
Nothing could damp th'awaken'd joy,
Not e'en thy fate, ingenuous boy;
The great, the grand of Nature strove,
To lift our hearts to life and love.
HAIL! COLDWELL ROCKS; frown, frown away;
Thrust from your woods your shafts of gray:
Fall not, to crush our mortal pride,
Or stop the stream on which we glide.
Our lives are short, our joys are few;
But, giants, what is time to you?
Ye who erect, in many a mass,
Rise from the scarcely dimpled glass,
That with distinct and mellow glow,
Reflect your monstrous forms below;
Or in clear shoals, in breeze or sun,
Shake all your shadows into one;
Boast ye o'er man in proud disdain,
An everlasting silent reign?
Bear ye your heads so high in scorn
Of names that puny man hath borne?
Would that the Cambrian bards had here
Their names carv'd deep, so deep, so clear,
That such as gaily wind along,
Might shout and cheer them with a song;
Might rush on wings of bliss away,
Through Fancy's boundless blaze of day!
Not nameless quite ye lift your brows,
For each the navigator knows;
Not by King Arthur, or his knights,
Bard faim'd in lays, or chief in fights:
But former tourists, just us free,
(Tho' surely not so blest as we,)
Mark'd towering BEARCROFT'S ivy crown,
And grey VANSITTART'S waving gown:
And who's that giant by his side?
"SERGEANT ADAIR," the boatman cried.
Strange may it seem, however true,
That here, where law has nought to do,
Where rules and bonds are set aside,
By wood, by rock, by stream defy'd;
That here, where nature seems at strife
With all that tells of busy life,
Man should by _names_ be carried still,
To Babylon against his will.
But how shall memory rehearse,
Or dictate the untoward verse
That truth demands? Could he refuse
Thy unsought honours, darling Muse,
He who in idle, happy trim,
Rode just where friends would carry him?
Truth, I obey. - The generous band,
That spread his board and grasp'd his hand,
In native mirth, as here they came,
Gave a bluff rock _his_ humble name:
A yew-tree clasps its rugged base;
The boatman knows its reverend face;
And with his _memory_ and his _fee_,
Rests the result that time shall see.
Yet e'en if time shall sweep away
The fragile whimsies of a day;
Or travellers rest the dashing oar,
To hear the mingled echoes roar;
A stranger's triumph - he will feel
A joy that death alone can steal.
And should he cold indifference feign,
And treat such honours with disdain,
Pretending pride shall not deceive him,
Good people all, pray don't believe him;
In such a spot to leave a name,
At least is no opprobrious fame;
This rock perhaps uprear'd his brow,
Ere human blood began to flow.
And let not wandering strangers fear
That WYE is ended there or here;
Though foliage close, though hills may seem
To bar all access to a stream,
Some airy height he climbs amain,
And finds the silver eel again.
No fears we form'd, no labours counted,
Yet SYMMON'S YAT must be surmounted;
A tower of rock that seems to cry,
'Go round about me, neighbour WYE[A].'
[Footnote A: This rocky isthmus, perforated at the base, would measure not
more than six hundred yards, and its highest point is two thousand feet
above the water. If this statement, taken from Coxe's History of
Monmouthshire, and an Excursion down the Wye, by C. Heath, of Monmouth, is
correct, its elevation is greater than that of the "Pen-y-Vale," or the
"Sugar-Loaf Hill," near Abergavenny. Yet it has less the appearance of a
mountain, than the river has that of an excavation.]
On went the boat, and up the steep
Her straggling crew began to creep,
To gain the ridge, enjoy the view,
Where the the pure gales of summer blew.
The gleaming WYE, that circles round
Her four-mile course, again is found;
And crouching to the conqueror's pride,
Bathes his huge cliffs on either side;
Seen at one glance, when from his brow,
The eye surveys twin gulphs below.
Whence comes thy name? What _Symon_ he,
Who gain'd a monument in thee?
Perhaps a rude woodhunter, born
Peril, and toil, and death, to scorn;
Or warrior, with his powerful lance,
Who scal'd the cliff to gain a glance;
Or shepherd lad, or humble swain,
Who sought for pasture here in vain;
Or venerable bard, who strove
To tune his harp to themes of love;
Or with a poet's ardent flame,
Sung to the winds his country's fame?
Westward GREAT DOWARD, stretching wide,
Upheaves his iron-bowel'd side;
And by his everlasting mound,
Prescribes th' imprison'd river's bound,
And strikes the eye with mountain force:
But stranger mark thy rugged course
From crag to crag, unwilling, slow,
To NEW WIER forge that smokes below.
Here rush'd the keel like lightning by;
The helmsman watch'd with anxious eye;
And oars alternate touch'd the brim,
To keep the flying boat in trim.
[Illustration: NEW WEAR on the WYE]
Hush! not a whisper! Oars, be still!
Comes that soft sound from yonder hill?
Or is it close at hand, so near
It scarcely strikes the list'ning ear?
E'en so; for down the green bank fell,
An ice-cold stream from Martin's Well,
Bright as young beauty's azure eye,
And pure as infant chastity,
Each limpid draught, suffus'd with dew,
The dipping glass's crystal hue;
And as it trembling reach'd the lip,
Delight sprung up at every sip.
Pure, temperate joys, and calm, were these;
We tost upon no Indian seas;
No savage chiefs, of various hue,
Came jabbering in the bark canoe
Our strength to dare, our course to turn;
Yet boats a South Sea chief would burn[A],
[Footnote A: In Caesar's Commentaries, mention is made of boats of this
description, formed of a raw hide, (from whence, perhaps, their name
Coricle,) which were in use among the natives. How little they dreamed of
the vastnss of modern perfection, and of the naval conflicts of latter
Sculk'd in the alder shade. Each bore,
Devoid of keel, or sail, or oar,
An upright fisherman, whose eye,
With Bramin-like solemnity,
Survey'd the surface either way,
And cleav'd it like a fly at play;
And crossways bore a balanc'd pole,
To drive the salmon from his hole;
Then heedful leapt, without parade,
On shore, as luck or fancy bade;
And o'er his back, in gallant trim,
Swung the light shell that carried him;
Then down again his burden threw,
And launch'd his whirling bowl anew;
Displaying, in his bow'ry station,
The infancy of navigation.
Soon round us spread the hills and dales,
Where GEOFFREY spun his magic tales,
And call'd them history. The land
Whence ARTHUR sprung, and all his band
Of gallant knights. Sire of romance,
Who led the fancy's mazy dance,
Thy tales shall please, thy name still be,
When Time forgets my verse and me.
Low sunk the sun, his ev'ning beam
Scarce reach'd us on the tranquil stream;
Shut from the world, and all its din,
Nature's own bonds had clos'd us in;
Wood, and deep dell, and rock, and ridge,
From smiling Ross to Monmouth Bridge;
From morn, till twilight stole away,
A long, unclouded, glorious day.
END OF THE FIRST BOOK.
THE BANKS OF WYE
CONTENTS OF BOOK II.
Henry the Fifth. - Morning on the Water. - Landoga. - Ballad, "The Maid of
Landoga." - Tintern Abbey. - Wind-Cliff. - Arrival at Chepstow. - Persfield. -
Ballad, "Morris of Persfield." - View from Wind-Cliff. - Chepstow Castle by