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of Blue Eyes" (1873,) "Far from the Moulding Crowd"
(1874,) " The Hand of Ethelberta" (1876,) and others.]

Men thin away to insignificance and ob-
livion quite as often by not making the
most of good spirits when they have them
as by lacking good spirits when they are in-
dispensable. Gabriel lately, for the first
time since his prostration by misfortune,
had been independent in thought and vigor-
ous in action to a marked extent conditions
which, powerless without an opportunity, as

an opportunity without them is barren,
would have given him a sure and certain
lift upwards when the favourable conjunc-
tion should have occurred. But this incura-
ble loitering beside Bathsheba Everdene
stole his time ruinously. The spring tides
were going by without floating him otf, and
the neap might soon come* which could not.
It was the first day of June, and the
sheep-shearing season culminated, the land-
scape, even to the leanest pasture, being all
health and colour. Every green was young,
every pore was open, and every stalk was
swollen with racing currents of juice. God
was palpably present in the country, and the
devil had gone with the world to town.
Flossy catkins of the later kinds, fern-fronds
like bishops' crosiers, the square-headed
moschatel, the odd cuckoo-pint like an apo-
j plectic saint in a niche of malachite clean
white lady's-smocks, the toothwort approxi-
I mating to human flesh, the enchanter's
nightshade, and the black-petaled doleful-
bells were among the quainter objects of the
vegetable world in and about Weatherbury
at this teeming time ; and of the animals
the metamorphosed figures of Mr. Jan Cog-
gan, the master-shearer ; the second and
third shearers, who travelled in the exercise
of their calling, and do not require definition
by name ; Henry Fray, the fourth shearer ;
Susan Tail's husband, the fifth ; Joseph
Poor-grass, the sixth ; young Cain Ball as
assistant-shearer, and Gabriel Oak as gene-
ral supervisor. None of these were clothed
to any extent worth mentioning, each ap-
pearing to have hit in the matter of raiment
the decent mean between a high and low
caste Hindu. An angularity of lineament
and a fixity of facial machinery in general
proclaimed that serious work was the order
of the day.

They sheared in the great barn, called for
the nonce the Shearing-barn, which on
ground plan resembled a church with tran-
septs. It not only emulated the form of the
neighbouring church of the parish, but vied
with it in antiquity. Whether the barn had
ever formed one of a group of conventual
buildings nobody seemed to be aware ; no
trace of such surroundings remained. The
vast porches at the sides, lofty enough to
admit a wagon laden to its highest with
corn in the sheaf, were spanned by heavy
pointed arches of stone, broadly and boldly
cut, whose very simplicity was the origin of
a grandeur not apparent in erections where
more ornament has been attempted. The



dusky, filmed, chestnut roof, braced and
tied in by huge collars, curves, and dia-
gonals, was far nobler in design, because
more wealthy in material, than nine-tenths
of those in our modern churches. Along
each side-wall was a range of striding but-
tresses, throwing deep shadows on the
spaces between them, which were perforated
by lancet openings, combining in their pro-
portions the precise requirements both of
beauty and ventilation.

One could say about this barn, what could
hardly be said of either the church or the
castle, its kindred in age and style, that the
purpose which had dictated its original
erection was the same with that to which it
was still applied. Unlike and superior to
either of those two typical remnants of
medievalism, the old barn embodied prac-
tices which had suffered no mutilation at
the hands of time. Here at least the spirit
of the builders then was at one with the
spirit of the beholder now. Standing before
this abraded pile, the eye regarded its pre-
sent usage ; the mind dwelt upon its past
history with a satisfied sense of functional
continuity throughout a feeling almost of
gratitude, and quite of pride, at the per-
manence of the idea which had heaped it
up. The fact that four centuries had neither
proved it to be founded on a mistake, in-
spired any hatred of its purpose, nor given
rise to any reaction that had battered it
down, invested this simple gray effort of old
minds with a repose, if not a grandeur,
which a too curious reflection was apt to
disturb in its ecclesiastical and military
compeers. For once mediaevalism and
modernism had a common stand-point. The
lanceolate windows, the time-eaten arch-
stones and chamfers, the orientation of the
axis, the misty chestnut work of the rafters,
referred to no exploded fortifying art or
worn-out religious creed. The defence and
salvation of the body by daily bread is still
a study, a religion, and a desire.

To-day the large side-doors were thrown
open towards the sun to admit a bountiful
light to the immediate spot of the shearers'
operations, which was the wood threshing-
floor in the centre, formed of thick oak,
black with age, and polished by the beat-
ing of flails for many generations, till it had
grown as slippery and as rich in hue as the
state-room floors of an Elizabethan mansion.
Here the shearers knelt, the sun slanting in
upon their bleached shirts, tanned arms, and
the polished shears they flourished, causing

them to bristle with a thousand rays strong
enough to blind a weak-eyed man. Beneath
them a captive sheep lay panting, increasing
the rapidity of its pants as misgiving merged
in terror, till it quivered like the hot land-
scape outside.

This picture of to-day in its frame of four
hundred years ago did not produce that
marked contrast between ancient and
modern which is implied by the contrast of
date. In comparison with cities, Weather-
bury was immutable. The citizen's Then
is the rustic's Now. In London, twenty or
thirty years ago are old times ; in Paris ten
years or five ; in Weatherbury, three or four-
score years were included in his mere pre-
sent, and nothing less than a century set a
mark on its face or tone. Five decades
hardly modified the cut of a gaiter, the em-
broidery of a smock-frock, by the breadth
of a hair. Ten generations failed to alter
the turn of a single phrase. In these nooks
the busy outsider's ancient times are only
old ; his old times are still new ; his present
is futurity.

So the barn was natural to the shearers,
and the shearers were in harmony with the

The spacious ends of the building, an-
swering ecclesiastically to nave and chancel
extremities, were fenced off with hurdles,
the sheep being all collected in a crowd
within these two enclosures ; and in one
angle a catching-pen was formed, in which
three or four sheep were continuously kept
ready for the shearers to seize without loss
of time. In the background, mellowed by
tawny shade, were the three women, Mary-
ann Money, and Temperance and Soberness
Miller, gathering up the fleeces, and twist-
ing ropes of wool with a wimble for tying
them round. They were indifferently well
assisted by the old maltster, who, when the
malting season from October to April had
passed, made himself useful upon any of tha
bordering farmsteads. Behind all was Bath-
sheba, carefully watching the men, to see
that there was no cutting or wounding
through carelessness, and that the animals
were shorn close.


Bathsheba's property in wheat was safe
for at any rate a week or two, provided al-
ways that there was not much wind. Next
came the barley. This it was only possible
to protect by systematic thatching. Time



went on, and the moon vanished, not to
reappear. It was the farewell of the am-
bassador previous to war. The night had a
haggard look, like a sick thing ; and there
came finally an utter expiration of air from
the whole heaven in the form of a slow
breeze, which might have been likened to a
death. And now nothing was heard in the
yard but the dull thuds of the beetle which
drove in the spars, and the rustle of the
thatch in the intervals.

A light flapped over the scene, as if
reflected from phosphorescent wings cross-
ing the sky, and a rumble filled the air,
It was the first arrow from the approaching
storm, and it fell wide.

The second peal was noisy, with com-
paratively little visible lightning. Gabriel
saw a candle shining in Bathsheba's bed-
room, and soon a shadow moved to and fro
upon the blind.

Then there came a third flash. Ma-
noeuvres of a most extraordinary kind were
going on in the vast firmamental hollows
overhead. The lightning now was the
colour of silver, and gleamed in the heavens
like a mailed army. Rumbles became rat-
tles. Gabriel from his elevated position
could see over the landscape for at least
half-a-dozen miles in front. Every hedge,
bush, and tree was as distinct as in a line
engraving. In a paddock in the same di-
rection was a herd of heifers, and the
forms of these were visible at this moment
in the act of galloping about in the wildest
and maddest confusion, flinging their heels
and tails high into the air, their heads
to earth. A poplar in the immediate
foreground was like an ink stroke on bur-
nished tin. Then the picture vanished,
leaving a darkness so intense that Gabriel
worked entirely by feeling with his hands.

He had stuck his ricking-rod, groom, or
poignard, as it was indifferently called a
long iron lance, sharp at the extremity and
polished by handling into the stack to
support the sheaves. A blue light ap-
peared in the zenith, and in some inde-
scribable manner flickered down near the
top of the rod. It was the fourth of the
larger flashes. A moment later and there
was a smack smart, clear, and short. Ga-
briel felt his position to be anything but a
safe one, and he resolved to descend.

Not a drop of rain had fallen as yet. He
wiped his weary brow, and looked again at
the black forms of the unprotected stacks.
Was his life so valuable to him after all ?

What were his prospects that he should be
so chary of running risk, when important
and urgent labour could not be carried on
without such risk ? He resolved to stick to
the stack. However, he took a precaution.
Under the staddles was a long tether-chain,
used to prevent the escape of errant horses.
This he carried up the ladder, and sticking
his rod through the clog at one end, allowed
the other end of the chain to trail upon the
ground. The spike attached to it he drove
in. Under the shadow of this extemporized
lightning-conductor he felt himself 1 compara-
tively safe.

Before Oak had laid his hands upon his
tools again, out leapt the fifth flash, with
the spring of a serpent and the shout of a fiend.
It was green as an emerald, and the rever-
beration was stunning. What was this the
light revealed to him ? In the open ground
before him, as he looked over the ridge of
the rick, was a dark and apparently female
form. Could it be that of the only venture-
some woman in the parish Bathsheba?
The form moved on a step ; then he could
see no more.

" Is that you, ma'am ? " said Gabriel to
the darkness.

" Who is there ? " said the voice of Bath-

" Gabriel. I am on the rick, thatching."

"0 Gabriel! and are you? I have come
about them. The weather awoke me, and I
thought of the corn. I am so distressed
about it ; and can we save it anyhow ? I
cannot find my husband. Is he with you ?"

" He is not here."

" Do you know where he is ? "

" Asleep in the barn."

" He promised that the stacks should be
seen to, and now they are all neglected !
Can I do anything to help"? Liddy is afraid
to come out. Fancy finding you here at
such an hour. Surely I can do some-

" You can bring up some reed-sheaves to
me, one by one, ma'am, if you are not afraid
to come up the ladder in the dark," said
Gabriel. " Every moment is precious now,
and that would save a good deal of time. It
is not very dark when the lightning has been
gone a bit."

" I'll do anything," she said, resolutely.
She instantly took a sheaf upon her shoul-
der, clambered up close to his heels, placed
it behind the rod, and descended for another.
At her third ascent the rick suddenly bright-
ened with the brazen glare of shining majo-



lica ; every knot in every straw was visible.
On the slope in front of him appeared two
human shapes, black as jet. The rick lost
its sheen the shapes vanished. Gabriel
turned his head. It had been the sixth flash
which had come from the east behind him,
and the two dark forms on the slope had
been the shadows of himself and Bathsheba.
Then came the peal. It hardly was credi-
ble that such a heavenly light could be the
parent of such a diabolical sound.

" How terrible ! " she exclaimed, and
clutched him by the sleeve. Gabriel turned
and steadied her on her aerial perch by
holding her arm. At the same moment,
while he was still reversed in his attitude,
there was more light, and he saw as it were
a copy of the tall poplar tree on the hill
drawn in black on the wall of the barn. It
was the shadow of that tree, thrown across
by a secondary flash in the west.

The next flare came. Bathsheba was on
the ground now, shouldering another sheaf,
and she bore its dazzle without flinching
thunder and all and again ascended with
the load. There was then a silence every-
where for four or five minutes, and the
crunch of the spars, as Gabriel hastily drove
them in, could again be distinctly heard.
He thought the crisis of the storm had
passed. But there came a burst of light.

" Hold on ! " said Gabriel, taking the
sheaf from her shoulder, and grasping her
arm again.

Heaven opened then, indeed. The flash
was almost too novel for its inexpressibly
dangerous nature to be at once realized, and
Gabriel could only comprehend the magni-
ficence of its baauty. It sprang from east,
west, north, south. It was a perfect dance
of death. The forms of skeletons appeared
in the air, shaped with blue fire for bones
dancing, leaping, striding, racing around,
and mingling altogether in unparalleled
confusion. With these were intertwined
undulating snakes of green. Behind these
was a broad mass of lesser light. Simulta-
neously came from every part of the tumb-
ling sky what may be called a shout ; since,
.though no shout ever came near it, it was
more of the nature of a shout than of any-
thing else earthly. In the meantime one of
the grisly forms had alighted upon the
point of Gabriel's rod, to run invisibly down
it, down the chain, and into the earth. Ga-
briel was almost blinded, and he could feel
Bathsheba's warm arm tremble in his
hand a sensation novel and thrilling

enough; but love, life, everything human,
seemed small and trifling in such close
juxtaposition with an infuriated universe.

Oak had hardly time to gather up these
impressions into a thought, and to see how
strangely the red feather of her hat shone in
this light, when the tall tree on the hill
before mentioned seemed on fire to a white
heat, and a new one among those terrible
voices mingled with the last crash of those
preceding. It was a stupefying blast, harsh
and pitiless, and it fell upon their ears in
a dead, flat blow, without that reverbera-
tion which lends the tones of a drum to
a more distant thunder. By the lustre re-
flected from every part of the earth, and
from the wide domical scoop above it, he
saw that the tree was sliced down the whole
length of its tall straight stem, a huge
riband of bark being apparently flung off.
The other portion remained erect, and re-
vealed the bared surface as a strip of white
down the front. The lightning had struck
the tree. A sulphurous smell filled the
air: then all was silent, and black as a
cave in Hinnom. " We had a narrow es-
cape 1 " said Gabriel.


As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go ;
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
The breath goes now and some say, no ;

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move ;
'Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears,
Men reckon what it did, and meant ;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull, sublunary lovers' love
Whose soul is sense cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
Those things which alimented it.

But we're by love so much refined,
That ourselves know not what it is ;
Inter-assured of the mind,
Careless eyes, lips, and hands to miss.



Our two souls, therefore which are one
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to airy thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two ;
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th' other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must
Like th' other foot, obliquely run :
Thy firmness makes my circles just,
And makes me end where I begun.



[A courtly poet, Sm EDWARD DYER (circa 1540-1607),
is author of several copies of verses, including the fol-
lowing popular piece.]

My mind to me a kingdom is,
Such present joys therein I find,

That it excels all other bliss

That earth affords or grows by kind :

Though much I want which most would have,

Yet still my mind forbids to crave.

No princely pomp, no wealthy store,

Nor force to win the victory ;
No wily wit to salve a sore,

No shape to feed a loving eye ;
To none of these I yield as thrall,
For why, my mind doth serve for all.

I see how plenty surfeits oft,
And hasty climbers soon do fall ;

I see that those which are aloft,
Mishap doth threaten most of all;

These get with toil, they keep with fear :

Such cares my mind could never bear.

Content to live, this is my stay ;

I seek no more than may suffice ;
I press to bear no haughty sway ;

Look, what I lack my mind supplies:
Lo ! thus 1 triumph like a king,
Content with that my mind doth bring.

Some hnve too much, yet still do crave ;

I little have and seek no more.
They are but poor, though much they have,

And I am rich with little store :
They poor, I rich ; they beg, I give ;
They lack, I leave ; they pine, I live.

I langh not at another's loss ;

I grudge not at another's gain ;
No worldly waves my mind can toss ;

My state at one doth still remain :
I fear no foe, I fawn no friend ;
I loathe not life, nor dread my end.

Some weigh their pleasure by their lust,
Their wisdom by their rage of will ;

Their treasure is their only trust ;
A cloaked craft their store of skill :

But all the pleasure that I find,

Is to maintain a quiet mind.

My wealth is health and perfect ease :
My conscience clear my chief defence;

I neither seek by bribes to please,
Nor by deceit to breed offence :

Thus do I live ; thus will I die ;

Would all did so as well as 1 1

BEE 14, 1066.

[SiR FRANCIS PAIGRAVE, an English historian, born in
London, 1788, died 1861, was author of several carefully
written works, notably, " The Rise and Progress of the
English Commonwealth " (1832), and " History of Normandy
and England " (1851-57).]

William had been most actively em-
ployed. As a preliminary to further pro-
ceedings, he had caused all the vessels to
be drawn on shore and rendered unservicea-
ble. He told his men that they must pre-
pare to conquer or to die flight was impos-
sible. He had occupied the Roman castle
of Pevensey, whose walls are yet existing,
flanked by Anglo-Norman towers, and he
had personally surveyed all the adjoining
country, for he never trusted this part of a
general's duty to any eyes but his own. One
Robert, a Norman thane, who was settled in
the neighbourhood, advised him to cast up
intrenchments for the purpose of resisting
Harold. William replied, that his best de-
fence was in the valour of his army and the
goodness of his cause.

In compliance with the opinion of the age,
William had an astrologer in his train. An
oriental monarch, at the present time, never
engages in battle without a previous horo-


scope ; and this superstition was universally
adopted in Europe during the middle ages
But William's clerk" was not merely a
star-gazer. He had graduated in all the
occult sciences he was a necromancer, or
as the word was often spelled, in order to
accommodate it to the supposed etymology,
a ?u'<7ro-mancer a u sortilegus " and a
soothsayer. These accomplishments in the
sixteenth century would have assuredly
brought the clerk to the stake ; but in the
eleventh, although they were highly illegal
according to the strict letter of the ecclesias-
tical law, yet they were studied as eagerly
as any other branch of metaphysics, of which
they were supposed to form a part. The
sorcerer or sortilegus, by casting sortes or
lots, had ascertained that the duke would
succeed, and that Harold would surrender
without a battle, upon which assurance the
Normans entirely relied. After the landing,
William inquired for his conjurer. A pilot
came forward, and told him that the unlucky
wight had been drowned in the passage.
William then immediately pointed out the
folly of trusting to the predictions of one
who was utterly unable to tell what would
happen unto himself. When William first
set foot on shore, he had shewn the same
spirit. He stumbled, and fell forward on
the palms of his hands. " Mai signe est
ci /" exclaimed his troops, affrighted at the
omen. " No," answered William, as he rose ;
" I have taken seizin of the country," shew-
ing the clod of earth which he had grasped.
One of his soldiers, with the quickness of a
modern Frenchman, instantly followed up
the idea ; he ran to a cottage, and pulled out
a bundle of reeds from the thatch, telling
him to receive the symbol also, as the seizin
of the realm with which he was invested.
These little anecdotes display the turn and
temper of the Normans, and the alacrity by
which the army was pervaded.

Some fruitless attempts are said to have
been made at negotiation. Harold des-
patched a monk to the enemy's camp, who
was to exhort William to abandon his enter-
prise. The duke insisted on his right; but,
as some historians relate, he offered to sub-
mit his claim to a legal decision, to be pro-
nounced by the pope, either according to the
law of Normandy, or according to the law
of England ; or if this mode of adjustment
did not please Harold, that the question
should be decided by single combat, the
crown becoming the meed of the victor.
The propositions of William are stated, by

other authorities, to have contained a pro-
position for a compromise namely, that
Harold should take Northumbria, and Wil-
liam the rest of the Anglo-Saxon dominions.
All or any of these proposals are such as
may very probably have been made ; but
they were not minuted down in formal pro-
tocols, or couched in diplomatic notes ; they
were verbal messages, sent to and fro on the
eve of a bloody battle.

Fear prevailed in both camps. The Eng-
lish, in addition to the apprehensions which
even the most stout-hearted feel on the eve
of a morrow whose close they may never
see, dreaded the papal excommunication,
the curse encountered in support of the un-
lawful authority of a usurper. When they
were informed that battle had been decided
upon, they stormed and swore ; and now the
cowardice of conscience spurred them on
to riot and revelry. The whole night was
passed in debauch. Wees-heal and Drink-
heal resounded from the tents ; the wine-
cups passed gaily round and round by the
smoky blaze of the red watch-fires, while the
ballad of ribald mirth was loudly sung by
the carousers.

In the Norman Leaguer, far otherwise had
the dread of the approaching morn affected
the hearts of William's soldiery. No voice
was heard excepting the solemn response of
the Litany and the chant of the psalm. The
penitents confessed their sins, the masses
were said, and the sense of the imminent
peril of the morrow was tranquillized by
penance and prayer. Each of the nations,
as we are told by one of our most trustworthy
English historians, acted according to their
" national custom ;" and severe is the cen-
sure which the English thus receive.

Online LibraryUnknownThe library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) → online text (page 30 of 75)