Remarks on forest scenery: and other woodland views, (relative chiefly to picturesque beauty) illustrated by the scenes of New-Forest in Hampshire. In three books. ... By William Gilpin, ... [pt.1]
— Happy he,Whom what he views of beautiful, or grand,In nature, from the broad, majeſtic oakTo the green blade, that twinkles in the ſun,Prompt with remembrance of a preſent God.COOPER'S [...].
TO William Mitford, Eſq. LIEUT. COL. OF THE SOUTHERN BATTALION OF HAMPSHIRE-MILITIA; AND ONE OF THE VERDERORS OF NEW-FOREST.[Page]
Vicar's-hill, March 4, 1791.
WHEN your friendſhip fixed me in this pleaſing retreat, within the precincts of New-foreſt, I had little intention of wandering farther among it's ſcenes, than the bounds of my own pariſh; or of amuſing myſelf [Page ii] any more with writing on pictureſque ſubjects. But one ſcene drew me on to another; till at length I had traverſed the whole foreſt. The ſubject was new to me. I had been much among lakes, and mountains: but I had never lived in a foreſt. I knew little of it's ſcenery. Every thing caught my attention; and as I generally had a memorandum-book in my hand, I made minutes of what I obſerved; throwing my remarks under the two heads of foreſt-ſcenery in general; and the ſcenery of particular places. Thus, as ſmall things lead to greater, an evening walk, or ride, became the foundation of a volume.
[Page iii] In methodizing my remarks I divided them into three books. In the firſt, I have conſidered trees, (which are the foundation of all ſcenery,) as ſingle objects. I have endeavoured to inveſtigate their general pictureſque qualities—in their ſeveral kinds—and in the ſpecific character of each; concluding the book with a ſhort account of ſome of the moſt celebrated trees, which have been noticed.
The ſecond book conſiders trees under their various modes of compoſition, from the clump to the foreſt. It conſiders them likewiſe under the ſeveral pictureſque circumſtances [Page iv] of permanent, and accidental beauty, in which we often find them. As the firſt book concluded with an account of diſtinguiſhed trees, the ſecond concludes with a ſhort view of foreſt-hiſtory; and of the ſeveral foreſts, that may be traced in Great Britain.
This leads me directly to New-foreſt, which is the ſubject of the third book. It opens with a few obſervations on this celebrated tract of country. The ſcenery of it is next deſcribed in a ſeries of journeys through it's ſeveral diviſions; and laſtly, the modes and habits of life are remarked, [Page v] of ſuch animals, as inhabit, and embelliſh it.
It is now, my dear Sir, above ten years, ſince you firſt ſaw this work in MS.; during which time it has received frequent reviſal; and much addition, as new occurrences, and obſervations aroſe. To many of my friends likewiſe I owe obligations, who have aſſiſted me with their criticiſms; and to you in particular, who are ſo well acquainted with theſe ſcenes, and have furniſhed me with many judicious remarks, and entertaining foreſt-anecdotes.—I am deſirous, you ſee, to engage you with me in this work. You are as fond of [Page vi] theſe amuſements as I am; and when we trifle, we like to have the ſanction of thoſe we eſteem, to trifle with us.—I hope however, that while you, ſhewing the world how Herodotus and Thucydides would have written in Engliſh, are throwing the colours of truth on the crimes of antiquity: and while I am humbly endeavouring to point out, as my profeſſion leads, that greater advantages ſhould be attended with more virtuous conduct—the world will not be ſo cynical as to find fault with our amuſements; which tho certainly innocent, and rational, I believe neither of us conſiders as the principal employment of our lives.
[Page vii] How far the following work may be an amuſement to others, I know not: You will, I am ſure, accept it with indulgence; and as a mark of that eſteem, affection, and friendſhip, with which I am, my dear Sir,
Your very ſincere, And obliged, humble ſervant, WILLIAM GILPIN.
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Deep in the bowels of the earth, the oakWith hardy effort drives his vigorous root;And rears his head as high. No winter-ſtormCan touch a trunk ſo founded. Years revolve;The puny generations of mankind,Each after each, expire; yet firm he ſtands;And ſtretching, far and wide, his ſinewy arms,With comprehenſive ſpan, and ſweep of ſhade,O'er ſpreads a diſtrict.—
- Page 32. The aſh is the moſt beautiful of all the trees of the wood.
- Page 44. As the letters of our names increaſe on the bark, ſo ſhall our love.
- Page 44. Under the ſhelter of a ſpreading beech.
- Page 47. The light metal crackled in the wind.
- Page 57. The maple ſtained with various hues.
[Page ii] Page 117.
— No greater beauty can adornThe hamlet, than a grove of ancient oak.Ah! how unlike their ſires of elder timesThe ſons of Gallia now! They in each treeDreading ſome unknown power, dared not to liftAn axe: tho ſcant of ſoil, they rather ſoughtFor diſtant herbage, than moleſt their groves.Now all is ſpoil, and violence. Where nowExiſts an oak, whoſe venerable ſtemHas ſeen three centuries? unleſs ſome ſteep,To human footſtep inacceſſible,Defend a favoured plant. Now if ſome fireLeave to his heir a foreſt-ſcene: that heirWith graceleſs hands hews down each awful trunk,Worthy of Druid reverence; there he rearsA paltry copſe, deſtined, each twentieth year,To blaze inglorious on the hearth. Hence woods,Which ſheltered once the ſtag, and griſly boarScarce to the timorous hare ſure refuge lend.Farewell each rural virtue with the loveOf rural ſcenes. Sage Contemplation wingsHer flight. No more from burning ſuns ſhe ſeeksA cool retreat. No more the poet ſings,Amid re-echoing groves, his moral lay.
- Page 131. My guide ſhewed me here, what I can call only the ſhell, or bark of a cheſnut-tree, but of ſuch amazing circumference, that one of the ſhepherds of the country uſed it as a fold for a large flock of ſheep.
- Page 205. Even the very gods inhabited groves.
- Page 205. The grove uſed as a temple.
[Page iii] Page 206.
— He ſhewedA grove, which Romulus, in after-times,Made an aſylum. Near it roſe a rock,Bedewed with weeping ſprings, ſacred to Pan;And once more ſacred to the injured ſhadeOf murdered Argiletus. Then he calledThe gods to witneſs, that his ſoul abhorredThe impious deed. To the Tarpeian rockHe led the hero next, where now in pompThe capitol upheaves it's ſplendid towers;Then but a thicket, interwoven cloſe,With nature's wildeſt products. Yet e'en thenA ſuperſtitious awe, and holy fearO'erſpread the ſcene. Doubtleſs ſome god, (what godWe know not) holds his ſacred reſidenceUpon the wooded creſt of yon dark grove.Oft when the ſtorm, with brooding darkneſs, o'erThat wood ariſes, the Arcadians ſee,Or think they ſee, the mighty Jove himſelfRolling his thunder; and with bare right armFlaſhing his lightnings on a guilty land.
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—Theſe woods the fawns, and nymphs once held.Here too a hardy race of men ſubſiſt.Unverſed in all the arts of life, they knowNor how to yoke the ox, nor turn the glebe;Content with the bare produce of the woods,And what the chace affords.—
- Page 293. Almoſt the third part of England is uncultivated, and poſſeſſed only by ſtags, deer, or wild-goats; which laſt are found chiefly in the northern parts. Rabbits too abound every [Page iv] where. You every where meet with vaſt foreſts, where theſe wild-beaſts range at large; or with parks ſecured by pales. Hunting is the principal amuſement of all the people of diſtinction.
IT is no exaggerated praiſe to call a tree the grandeſt, and moſt beautiful of all the productions of the earth. In the former of theſe epithets nothing contends with it; for we conſider rocks and mountains, as part of the earth itſelf. And tho among inferior plants, ſhrubs, and flowers, there is great beauty; yet when we conſider, that theſe minuter productions are chiefly beautiful as individuals; and are not adapted to form the arrangement of compoſition in landſcape; nor to receive the effects of light and ſhade; they muſt give place in point of beauty—of pictureſque beauty at leaſt, which we are here conſidering—to the form and foliage, and ramification of the tree. [Page 2] Thus the ſplendid tints of the inſect, however beautiful, muſt yield to the elegance, and proportion of animals, which range in a higher claſs.
With animal life, I ſhould not ſet the tree in competition. The ſhape, the different-coloured fur, the varied, and ſpirited attitudes, the character, and motion, which ſtrike us in the animal creation, are certainly beyond ſtill-life in its moſt pleaſing appearance. I ſhould only obſerve with regard to trees, that nature has been kinder to them in point of variety, than even to its living forms. Tho every animal is diſtinguiſhed from its fellow, by ſome little variation of colour, character, or ſhape; yet in all the larger parts, in the body and limbs, the reſemblance is generally exact. In trees, it is juſt the reverſe: the ſmaller parts, the ſpray, the leaves, the bloſſom, and the ſeed, are the ſame in all trees of the ſame kind: while the larger parts, from which the moſt beautiful varieties reſult, are wholly different. You never ſee two oaks with an equal number of limbs, the ſame kind of head, and twiſted in the ſame form.— However, as variety is not alone ſufficient to give ſuperiority to the tree; we give the preference on the whole, to animal life.
TREES when young, like ſtriplings, ſhoot into taper forms. There is a lightneſs, and an airineſs in them, which is pleaſing; but they do not ſpread and receive their juſt proportions, till they have attained their full growth.
There is as much difference too in trees, I mean in trees of the ſame kind, in point of beauty, as there is in human figures. The limbs of ſome are ſet on awkwardly; their trunks are diſproportioned; and their whole form is unpleaſing. The ſame rules, which eſtabliſh elegance in other objects, eſtabliſh it in theſe. There muſt be the ſame harmony of parts; the ſame ſweeping line; the ſame contraſt, the ſame eaſe and freedom. A bough indeed may iſſue from the trunk at right-angles, and yet elegantly, as it frequently does in the oak; but it muſt immediately form ſome [Page 4] contraſting ſweep, or the junction will be awkward.
All forms, that are unnatural, diſpleaſe. A tree lopped into a may-pole, as you generally ſee in the hedge-rows of Surry, and ſome other countries, is diſguſting. Clipped yews, lime hedges, and pollards are, for the ſame reaſon diſagreeable: and yet I have ſometimes ſeen a pollard produce a good effect, when nature has been ſuffered, for ſome years, to bring it again into form: but I never ſaw a good effect produced by a pollard, on which ſome ſingle ſtem was left to grow into a tree. The ſtem is of a different growth: it is diſproportioned; and always unites awkwardly with the trunk.
Not only all forms, that are unnatural, diſpleaſe; but even natural forms, when they bear a reſemblance to art, unleſs indeed theſe forms are characteriſtic of the ſpecies. A cypreſs pleaſes in a conic form; but an oak, or an elm trimmed into that appearance, would diſguſt. In the cypreſs nature adapts the ſpray, and branches to the form of the tree. In the oak and elm the ſpray, and branches form a different character.
[Page 5] Lightneſs alſo is a characteriſtic of beauty in a tree: for tho there are beautiful trees of a heavy, as well as of a light form; yet their extremities muſt in ſome parts be ſeparated, and hang with a degree of looſeneſs from the fulneſs of the foliage, which occupies the middle of the tree, or the whole will only be a large buſh. From poſition indeed, and contraſt, heavineſs, tho in itſelf a deformity, may be of ſingular uſe in the compoſition both of natural, and of artificial landſcape.
A tree alſo muſt be well-balanced to be beautiful. It may have form, and it may have lightneſs; and yet loſe all its effect, by wanting a proper poiſe. The bole muſt appear to ſupport the branches. We do not deſire to ſee it ſupporting it's burden with the perpendicular firmneſs of a column. An eaſy ſweep is always agreeable: but at the ſame time it ſhould not be ſuch a ſweep, as diſcovers one ſide plainly overbalanced.
On bleak ſea-coaſts, trees generally take an unbalanced form: and indeed in general, ſome [Page 6] foreign cauſe muſt operate to occaſion it; for nature working freely, is as much inclined to balance a tree upon it's trunk, as an animal upon it's legs.
And yet in ſome circumſtances, I have ſeen beauty ariſe even from an unbalanced tree; but it muſt ariſe from ſome peculiar ſituation, which gives it a local propriety. A tree, for inſtance, hanging from a rock, tho totally unpoiſed, may be beautiful: or it may have a good effect, when we ſee it bending over a road; becauſe it correſponds with it's peculiar ſituation. We do not, in theſe caſes, admire it as a tree; but as the adjunct of an effect; the beauty of which does not give the eye leiſure to attend to the deformity of the inſtrument, through which the effect is produced.
BESIDES theſe requiſites of beauty in a tree, there are other things of an adventitious kind, which often add great beauty to it. And here I cannot help lamenting the capricious nature of pictureſque ideas. In many inſtances they run counter to utility; and in nothing more than in the adventitious beauties aſcribed to trees. Many of theſe are derived from the injuries the tree receives, or the diſeaſes, to which it is ſubject. Mr. Lawſon, a naturaliſt of the laſt age, thus enumerates them. "How many foreſts, and woods, ſays he, have we, wherein you ſhall have, for one lively, thriving tree, four, nay ſometimes twenty-four, evil thriving, rotten, and dying trees: what rottenneſs! what hollowneſs! what dead arms! withered tops! curtailed trunks! what loads of moſſes! drooping [Page 8] boughs, and dying branches, ſhall you ſee every where."*
What is more beautiful, for inſtance, on a rugged foreground, than an old tree with a hollow trunk? or with a dead arm, a drooping bough, or a dying branch? all which phraſes, I apprehend are nearly ſynonymous.
For the uſe, and beauty of the withered top, and curtailed trunk, we need only appeal to the works of Salvator Roſa, in many of which we find them of great uſe. Salvator had often occaſion for an object on his foregrounds, as large as the trunk of a tree; when the whole tree together in it's full ſtate of grandeur, would have been an incumbrance to him. A young tree, or a buſh, might probably have ſerved his purpoſe with regard to compoſition; but ſuch dwarfs, and ſtriplings could not have preſerved the dignity of his ſubject, like the ruins of a noble tree. Theſe ſplendid remnants of decaying grandeur ſpeak to the imagination in a ſtile of eloquence, which the ſtripling cannot reach: they record the hiſtory of ſome ſtorm, ſome blaſt of lightening, or other great event, which tranſfers it's grand ideas to the landſcape; and in the repreſentation of elevated ſubjects aſſiſts the ſublime.
[Page 10] Whether theſe maladies in trees ever produce beauty in adorned nature, I much doubt. Kent was hardy enough even to plant a withered tree; but the error was too glaring for imitation. Objects in every mode of compoſition ſhould harmonize; and all we venture to aſſert, is, that theſe maladies are then only ſources of beauty either in the wild ſcenes of nature, or in artificial landſcape, when they are the appendages of ſome particular mode of compoſition.
The laſt, and moſt beautiful of thoſe diſeaſes, which Mr. Lawſon aſcribes to trees, is moſs. This, it is true, is one of nature's minutiae, and in painting, touches not the great parts, compoſition and effect. Nor is it of uſe in mere drawing. But in coloured landſcape, it is ſurely a very beautiful object of imitation.—The variety of moſſes—the green, which tinges the trunk of the beech; the brimſtone coloured, and black, which ſtain the oak; and the yellow, which is frequently found on the elm, and aſh, are among the moſt beautiful of thoſe tints, which embelliſh the bark of trees.
I have often ſtood with admiration before an old foreſt-oak, examining the various tints, which have enriched it's furrowed ſtem. The [Page 11] genuine bark of an oak is of an aſh-colour, tho it is difficult to diſtinguiſh any part of it from the moſſes, that overſpread it: for no oak, I ſuppoſe, was ever without a greater, or a leſs proportion of theſe pictureſque appendages. The lower parts, about the roots, are often poſſeſſed by that green, velvet moſs, which in a ſtill greater degree commonly occupies the bole of the beech; tho the beauty and brilliancy of it loſe much, when in decay. As the trunk riſes, you ſee the brimſtone colour taking poſſeſſion in patches. Of this there are two principal kinds; a ſmooth ſort, which ſpreads like a ſcurf over the bark; and a rougher ſort, which hangs in little rich knots, and fringes. I call it a brimſtone hue, by way of general diſtinction: but it ſometimes inclines to an olive; and ſometimes to a light green. Intermixed with theſe moſſes you often find a ſpecies perfectly white. Before I was acquainted with it, I have ſometimes thought the tree white-waſhed. Here and there, a touch of it gives a luſtre to the trunk, and has it's effect: yet, on the whole, it is a nuiſance; for as it generally begins to thrive, when the other moſſes begin to wither (as if the decaying bark were it's [Page 12] proper nutriment,) it is rarely accompanied with any of the more beautiful ſpecies of it's kind; and when thus unſupported, it always diſguſts. This white moſs, by the way, is eſteemed a certain mark of age; and when it prevails in any degree, is a clear indication, that the vigour of the tree is declining. We find alſo another ſpecies of moſs, of a dark brown colour, inclining nearly to black: another of an aſhy colour; and another of a dingy yellow. We may obſerve alſo touches of red; and ſometimes, but rarely a bright yellow, which is like a gleam of ſun-ſhine; and in many trees you will ſee one ſpecies growing upon another; the knotted brimſtone-coloured fringe clinging to a lighter ſpecies; or the black ſoftening into red.—Strictly ſpeaking, many of theſe excreſcences, which I have mentioned under the general name of moſſes, ſhould have been diſtinguiſhed by other names. All thoſe particularly, which cling cloſe to the bark of trees, and have a leprous, ſcabby appearance, are claſſed, I believe, by botaniſts, under the name of lychens: others are called liver-worts. But all theſe excreſcences, under whatever names diſtinguiſhed, add a great richneſs to trees; and when they [Page 13] are blended harmoniouſly, as is generally the caſe, the rough and furrowed trunk of an old oak, adorned with theſe pleaſing appendages, is an object, which will long detain the pictureſque eye.
But beſides the appearance of moſs upon the trunks of trees, it creeps among the branches, and ſometimes takes poſſeſſion not only of the larger boughs; but even of the ſmaller ſpray. In winter this has often a fine effect, when the whole tree, turned into a beautiful piece of ſtraw-coloured coral, appears againſt a dark wood, or ſome other background, which gives it relief. In a ſtrong ſunſhine too it is beautiful; when the light ſtraw-coloured tints contraſt with the ſhadows formed by the twiſting of the boughs; which are ſometimes ſtill further deepened by ſome of the darker moſſes.
Thus the maladies of trees are greatly ſubſervient to the uſes of the pencil. The foliage is the dreſs; and theſe are the ornaments.— Even the poet will ſometimes deign to array his tree with theſe pictureſque ornaments. I am always glad of his authority, when I can have it: and I have ſeen a poetical oak garniſhed in a way, that the painter might copy [Page 14] from. In general, however the poet is not, like the painter, uniform in his admiration of theſe pleaſing appendages. If at one time he admires them with the painter, and ranks them among the pictureſque beauties of nature; at another he ſides with the wood-man, and bruſhes them away. Nay, I have known him conjure up ſome mighty agent, as guardian of his woods; who cries out,
—From Jove I am the PowerOf this fair wood, and live in oaken bower.I nurſe my ſaplins tall; and cleanſe their rindFrom vegetating filth of every kind.And all my plants I ſave from nightly illOf noiſome winds, and blaſting vapours chill.
Beſides Mr. Lawſon's catalogue of maladies we might enumerate others, which are equally the ſources of beauty. The blaſted tree has often a fine effect both in natural, and in artificial landſcape. In ſome ſcenes it is almoſt eſſential. When the dreary heath is ſpread before the eye, and ideas of wildneſs and deſolation are required, what more ſuitable accompaniment can be imagined, than the blaſted oak, ragged, ſcathed, and leafleſs; ſhooting it's peeled, white branches athwart the gathering blackneſs of ſome riſing ſtorm?
[Page 15] Ivy is another miſchief incident to trees, which has a good effect. It gives great richneſs to an old trunk, both by it's ſtem, which often winds round it in thick, hairy, irregular volumes; and by it's leaf, which either decks the furrowed bark; or creeps among the branches; or hangs careleſsly from them. In all theſe circumſtances it unites with the moſſes, and other furniture of the tree, in adorning, and enriching it. But when it gathers into a heavy body, which is often the caſe, it becomes rather a deformity. In ſummer indeed it's buſhineſs is loſt in the foliage of the tree; but in winter, naked branches make a diſagreeable appearance ſtaring from a thick buſh.—And yet in autumn I have ſeen a beautiful contraſt between a buſh of ivy, which had completely inveſted the head of a pollard-oak, and the dark brown tint of the withered leaves, which ſtill held poſſeſſion of the branches. But this was a mere accidental effect; for you may ſee many pollard-oaks with withered leaves, and covered with ivy; and yet not ſee the tints ſo happily arranged as to produce an effect.
In the ſpring alſo we ſometimes have a pleaſing appearance of a ſimilar kind. About the end of April, when the foliage of the oak [Page 16] is juſt beginning to expand, it's varied tints are often delightfully contraſted with the deep green of an ivy buſh, which has overſpread the body, and larger limbs of the tree: and the contraſt has been ſtill more beautiful, when the limbs are covered, as we ſometimes ſee them, with tufts of brimſtone-coloured moſs.
All theſe plants are paraſitical, as the botaniſt expreſſively calls them. The tribes of moſſes, lychens, and liver-worts make no pretence to independence. They are abſolute retainers. Not one of them gets his own livelihood; nor takes the leaſt ſtep towards it. The ivy indeed is leſs dependent. He has a root of his own, and draws nouriſhment from the ground: but his character is miſrepreſented, if his little feelers have not other purpoſes, than merely that of ſhewing an attachment to his potent neighbour. Shakeſpear roundly aſſerts, he makes a property of him:
— He wasThe ivy, which had hid my princely trunk,And ſuck'd my verdure out—
Beſides this paraſitical tribe the painter admires another claſs of humble plants, which [Page 17] live entirely on their own means; yet ſpreading out their little tendrils, beg merely the protection of the great; whom if they encumber, as they certainly do in a degree, they enrich with a variety of beautiful flowers, and ſcarlet berries. Many of theſe, tho claſſed among weeds, have great beauty. Among them, the black, and white brionies are diſtinguiſhed. The berries alſo of many of theſe little plants are variouſly coloured in the different ſtates of their growth, yellow, red, and orange. All theſe rich touches, however ſmall, produce their effect. There is another elegant climber, called traveller's joy, which produces indeed no berries; but it's feathered ſeeds are ornamental. The wild honey-ſuckle alſo comes within this claſs; and tho in winding it's ſpiral coil, it may compreſs the young tree too tightly; and in ſome degree injure it's circulation; yet it fully compenſates the injury by the beauty, and fragrancy of it's flowers:
With claſping tendrils it inveſts the branch,Elſe unadorned, with many a gay feſtoon,And fragrant chaplet; recompenſing wellThe ſtrength it borrows with the grace it lends.
Under warm ſuns, where vines are the offspring of nature, nothing can be more beautiful [Page 18] than the foreſt tree, adorned with their twiſting branches, hanging from bough to bough, and laden with fruit;
—the cluſters clearHalf through the foliage ſeen—
Among the moſt beautiful appendages of this hanging kind, which we have in England, is the hop. In cultivation it is diſagreeable: but in it's rude natural ſtate twiſting careleſsly round the branches of trees, I know not whether it is not as beautiful as the vine. It's leaf is ſimilar; and tho the bunches of hop, beautiful as they are, and fragrant, are not equal to the cluſters of the vine; yet it is a more accommodating plant, hangs more looſely, and is leſs extravagant in it's growth.
In artificial landſcape indeed, where the ſubject is ſublime, theſe appendages are of little value. Such trifling ornaments the ſcene rejects. The rough oak, in the dignity of it's ſimple form, adorns the foreground better. But in feſtive, or Bacchanalian ſubjects (if ſuch ſubjects are ever proper for deſcription) when the ſportive nymphs, and ſatyrs take their repoſe at noon, or gambol in the ſhade of evening, nothing can more beautifully adorn [Page 19] their retreat, or more characteriſtically mark it, than theſe pendent plants, particularly the mantling vine, hanging, as I have here deſcribed it, in rich feſtoons from bough to bough.
The rooting alſo of trees is a circumſtance, on which their beauty greatly depends. I know not, whether it is reckoned among the maladies of a tree, to heave his root above the ſoil. Old trees generally do. But whether it be a malady or not, it is certainly very pictureſque. The more they raiſe the ground around them, and the greater number of radical knobs they heave up, the firmer they ſeem to eſtabliſh their footing upon the earth; and the more dignity they aſſume. An old tree riſing tamely from a ſmooth ſurface, (as we often find it covered with earth in artificial ground,) loſes half it's effect: it does not appear as the lord of the ſoil; but to be ſtuck into it; and would have a ſtill worſe effect on canvas, than it has in nature.
Pliny gives us an account of the roots of certain ancient oaks in the Hercynian foreſt, which appears rather extravagant; but which [Page 20] I can eaſily conceive may be true. Theſe roots, he ſays, heave the ground upwards, in many places, into lofty mounts; and in other parts, where the earth does not follow them, the bare roots riſe as high as the lower branches; and twiſting round form in many places, portals ſo wide, that a man and horſe may ride upright through them*.—This indeed is ſomewhat higher than pictureſque beauty requires; it borders rather on the fantaſtic. In general however, the higher the roots are, the more pictureſque they appear.
To the adventitious beauties of trees, we may add their ſuſceptibility of motion, which is capable at leaſt of being a conſiderable ſource of beauty. The waving heads of ſome, and the undulation of others, give a continual variety to their forms. In nature the motion of trees is certainly a circumſtance of great beauty.— Shakeſpear formerly made the obſervation:
—Things in motion ſooner catch the eye,Than what ſtirs not—
[Page 21] To the painter alſo the moving tree affords often a piece of uſeful machinery, when he wiſhes to expreſs the agitation of air. In this light it may even be conſidered as an objection to trees of firmer branches, as the oak, that their reſiſtance to every breath of air, deprives them at leaſt, of one ſource of beauty, and ſubjects them to be ſooner gotten by heart, if I may ſo phraſe it, than other trees; which yielding to the preſſure, are every inſtant aſſuming new modifications.
From the motion of the tree, we have alſo the pleaſing circumſtance of the chequered ſhade, formed under it by the dancing of the ſun-beams among it's playing leaves. This circumſtance, tho not ſo much calculated for pictureſque uſe, (as it's beauty ariſes chiefly from it's motion) is yet very amuſing in nature; and may alſo be introduced in painting, when the tree is at reſt. But it is one of thoſe circumſtances, which requires a very artful pencil. In it's very nature it oppoſes the grand principle of maſſing light, and ſhade. However if it be brought in properly, and not ſuffered to glare, it may have it's beauty. But whatever becomes of this circumſtance in [Page 22] painting; it is very capable of being pleaſingly wrought up in poetry.
The chequered earth ſeems reſtleſs as a floodBruſhed by the winds. So ſportive is the lightShot through the boughs; it dances, as they dance,Shadow, and ſun-ſhine intermingling quick,And dark'ning, and enlightening, (as the leavesPlay wanton,) every part—
HAVING thus examined trees in a general view, I ſhall now particularize, and endeavour to explain the beauties and defects of their ſeveral kinds, as they regard landſcape. I ſhall firſt conſider them as individuals; and afterwards in compoſition.
Trees range under two general heads, deciduous, and ever-green. In this order I ſhall take them; confining my remarks to thoſe only of both kinds which are of Engliſh growth, whether native, or naturalized.
Among deciduous trees, the oak preſents itſelf firſt. It is a happineſs to the lovers of the pictureſque, that this noble plant is as uſeful, as it is beautiful. From the utility of the oak, they derive this advantage, that it is every where found. In the choice indeed of it's ſoil it is rather delicate. For tho it [Page 24] is rather undiſtinguiſhing, during it's early growth, while it's horizontal fibres ſtraggle about the ſurface of the earth; yet when it's tap-root begins to enter the depths of the ſoil, perhaps no tree is nicer in it's diſcriminations. If it's conſtitution be not ſuited here, it may multiply it's progeny indeed, and produce a thriving copſe; but the puny race will never riſe to lordly dignity in the foreſt, nor furniſh navies to command the ocean.
Thou rather with thy ſharp, and ſulph'rous boltSplit'ſt the unwedgeable, and gnarled oak,Than the ſoft myrtle—
Many kinds of wood are harder, as box and ebony; many kinds are tougher, as yew and aſh: but it is ſuppoſed that no ſpecies of wood, at leaſt no ſpecies of timber, is poſſeſſed of both theſe qualities together in ſo great a degree, as Britiſh oak. Almoſt all arts and manufactures are indebted to it; but in ſhip-building, and bearing burdens, it's elaſticity, [Page 25] and ſtrength are applied to moſt advantage. I mention theſe mechanic uſes only becauſe ſome of it's chief beauties are connected with them. Thus it is not the erect, ſtately tree, that is always the moſt uſeful in ſhip-building; but more often the crooked one, forming ſhort turns, and elbows, which the ſhipwrights and carpenters commonly call knee-timber. This too is generally the moſt pictureſque.—Nor is it the ſtrait, tall ſtem, whoſe fibres run in parallel lines, that is the moſt uſeful in bearing burdens: but that whoſe ſinews are twiſted, and ſpirally combined. This too is the moſt pictureſque. Trees under theſe circumſtances, generally take the moſt pleaſing forms.
Now the oak perhaps acquires theſe different modes of growth from the different ſtrata, through which it paſſes. In deep rich ſoils, where the root meets no obſtruction, the ſtem, we ſuppoſe, grows ſtately and erect: but when the root meets with a rocky ſtratum, a hard and gravelly bed, or any other difficulty, through which it is obliged, in a zigzag courſe to pick it's way, and ſtruggle for a paſſage; the ſympathetic ſtem, feeling every motion, purſues the ſame indirect courſe above, which the root does below: and thus the ſturdy plant, [Page 26] through the means of theſe ſubterraneous incounters, and hardy conflicts, aſſumes form and character; and becomes, in a due courſe of centuries, a pictureſque tree.
Eſculus imprimis, quae quantum vertice ad aurasAethereas, tantum radice in Tartara tendit.Ergo non hiemes illam, non flabra, neque imbresConvellunt: immota manet, multoſque per annosMulta virûm volvens durando ſecula vincit.Tum fortes late ramos, et brachia tendensHuc illuc, media ipſa ingentem ſuſtinet umbram*.
I ſhall not enter into a criticiſm on the word eſculus, which cannot on any good authority, I think, ſignify the beech; and Pliny's authority, which I inſert below†, may be deciſive [Page 27] in favour of it's being the oak. But were it not ſo, Virgil's deſcription is ſo ſtrongly marked with the characters of the oak, that it ſeems to put the matter out of diſpute; and I introduce the quotation, merely to bring together, in few words, the moſt obvious qualities of this noble plant, in one point of view.
The firſt characteriſtic, which Virgil mentions, is it's firmneſs; or the power and ſtrength, with which it takes hold of the ground; driving it's tap-root, in the poet's language, even into the infernal regions. No tree reſiſts the blaſt ſo ſteadily. We ſeldom ſee the oak, like other trees, take a twiſted form from the winds. Media ipſa ingentem ſuſtinet umbrum: that is, I apprehend, it preſerves it's balance; which we have ſeen is one of the grand pictureſque beauties of every tree. The oak, no doubt, like other trees, ſhrinks from the ſea-air. But this indicates no weakneſs. [Page 28] The ſea-air, like a peſtilential diſeaſe, attacks the ſtrongeſt conſtitutions.
A ſecond characteriſtic of the oak, of which Virgil takes notice, is the ſtoutneſs of it's limbs; it's fortes ramos. We know no tree, except perhaps the cedar of Lebanon, ſo remarkable in this reſpect. The limbs of moſt trees ſpring from the trunk. In the oak they may be rather ſaid to divide from it; for they generally carry with them a great ſhare of the ſubſtance of the ſtem. You hardly know, which is ſtem, and which is branch; and towards the top, the ſtem is entirely loſt in the branches. This gives particular propriety to the epithet fortes in characterizing the branches of the oak; and hence it's ſinewy elbows are of ſuch peculiar uſe in ſhip-building. Whoever therefore does not mark the fortes ramos of the oak, might as well in painting a Hercules, omit his muſcles. But I ſpeak only of the hardy veterans of the foreſt. In the effeminate nurſlings of the grove we have not this appearance. There the tree is all ſtem, drawn up into height. When we characterize a tree, we conſider it in it's natural ſtate, inſulated, and without any lateral preſſure. In a foreſt, trees naturally grow in that manner. The ſeniors [Page 29] depreſs all the juniors, that attempt to riſe near them. But in a planted grove all grow up together; and none can exert any power over another.
The next characteriſtic of the oak taken notice of by the poet, is the twiſting of it's branches: brachia tendit huc illuc. Examine the aſh, the elm, the beech, or almoſt any other tree; and you may obſerve, in what direct, and ſtrait lines, the branches in each ſhoot from the ſtem. Whereas the limbs of an oak are continually twiſting huc illuc, in various contortions; and like the courſe of a river ſport and play in every poſſible direction; ſometimes in long reaches, and ſometimes in ſhorter elbows. There is not a characteriſtic more peculiar to the oak, than this.
Another peculiarity, of which Virgil takes notice in the oak, is it's expanſive ſpread. ‘Media ipſa ingentem ſuſtinet umbram.’ By ingentem umbram, I do not ſuppoſe the poet means a thick, compact, cloſe-woven foliage, like that of the beech, which the oak ſeldom exhibits. In general, except in very luxuriant ſoils, the foliage of the oak is light, [Page 30] and thin. I ſhould therefore ſuppoſe, that inſtead of a cloſe-woven ſhade, the poet means an extended one; which indeed is implied in the expreſſion, juſt before uſed, ramos late tendens. This indeed is a juſt characteriſtic of the oak; for it's boughs, however twiſted, continually take a horizontal direction, and overſhadow a large ſpace of ground. Indeed, where it is fond of it's ſituation, and has room to ſpread, it extends itſelf beyond any other tree; and like a monarch takes poſſeſſion of the ſoil.
The laſt Virgilian characteriſtic of the oak is it's longevity; which extends, I ſuppoſe, beyond that of any other tree. ‘Multa virûm volvens durando ſecula vincit.’ Perhaps the yew may be an exception. I mention the circumſtance of it's longevity as it is of a nature ſingularly pictureſque. It is through age, that the oak acquires it's greateſt beauty; which often continues increaſing even into decay, if any proportion exiſts between the ſtem, and the branches. When the branches rot away, and the forlorn trunk is left alone, the tree is in his decrepitude—the laſt ſtage of life; and all beauty is gone.
— A huge oak, dry and dead,Sill clad with reliques of it's trophies old,Lifting to heaven it's aged, hoary head,Whoſe foot on earth hath got but feeble hold,And half diſbowelled ſtands above the ground,With wreathed roots, and naked arms,And trunk all rotten, and unſound.
I have dwelt the longer on the oak, as it is confeſſedly both the moſt pictureſque tree in itſelf; and the moſt accommodating in compoſition. It refuſes no ſubject either in natural, or in artificial landſcape. It is ſuited to the grandeſt; and may with propriety be introduced into the moſt paſtoral. It adds new dignity to the ruined tower, and Gothic arch: by ſtretching it's wild, moſs-grown branches athwart their ivyed walls it gives them a kind of majeſty coeval with itſelf: at the ſame time it's propriety is ſtill preſerved, if it throw it's arms over the purling brook, or the mantling pool, where it beholds ‘It's reverend image in the expanſe below.’ Milton introduces it happily even in the loweſt ſcene.
Hard by a cottage chimney ſmokesFrom between two aged oaks.
[Page 32] After the oak, let us examine the aſh. This tree in point of utility, is little inferior to the oak. It's uſes are infinite. To the aſhen ſpear the heroes of antiquity were indebted for half their proweſs. In the arts of peace, as well as of war, in architecture, tillage, and manufactures, the aſh objects to buſineſs of no kind: while even it's very refuſe ſpars are accounted the beſt fuel in the foreſt*. The aſhen billet produces a ſteady, bright, lambent flame; and as Mr. Evelin tells us, may be reckoned among the [...], fuel with little ſmoke.
I have ſometimes heard the oak called the Hercules of the foreſt; and the aſh, the Venus. The compariſon is not amiſs: for the oak joins the idea of ſtrength to beauty: while the aſh rather joins the ideas of beauty, and elegance. Virgil marks the character of the aſh, as particularly beautiful.‘Fraxinus in ſylvis pulcherrima—’
[Page 33] The aſh generally carries it's principal ſtem higher than the oak; and riſes in an eaſy, flowing line. But it's chief beauty conſiſts in the lightneſs of it's whole appearance. It's branches at firſt keep cloſe to the trunk, and form acute angles with it: but as they begin to lengthen, they generally take an eaſy ſweep; and the looſeneſs of the leaves correſponding with the lightneſs of the ſpray, the whole forms an elegant depending foliage. Nothing can have a better effect, than an old aſh, hanging from the corner of a wood, and bringing off the heavineſs of the other foliage, with it's looſe pendent branches. And yet in ſome ſoils, I have ſeen the aſh loſe much of it's beauty in the decline of age. It's foliage becomes rare, and meagre; and it's branches, inſtead of hanging looſely, often ſtart away in diſagreeable forms. In ſhort, the aſh often loſes that grandeur and beauty in old age, which the generality of trees, and particularly the oak, preſerve, till a late period of their exiſtence.
The aſh alſo, on another account, falls under the diſpleaſure of the pictureſque eye. It's leaf is much tenderer, than that of the oak, and ſooner receives impreſſion from the [Page 34] winds, and froſt. Inſtead of contributing it's tint therefore in the wane of the year among the many-coloured offspring of the woods, it ſhrinks from the blaſt, drops it's leaf, and in each ſcene where it predominates, leaves wide blanks of deſolated boughs, amidſt foliage yet freſh, and verdant. Before it's decay, we ſometimes ſee it's leaf tinged with a fine yellow, well contraſted with the neighbouring greens. But this is one of nature's caſual beauties. Much oftener it's leaf decays in a dark, muddy, unpleaſing tint. And yet ſometimes, notwithſtanding this early loſs of it's foliage, we ſee the aſh, in a ſheltered ſituation, when the rains have been abundant, and the ſeaſon mild, retain it's green, (a light pleaſant green) when the oak and the elm, in it's neighbourhood, have put on their autumnal attire.
Another diſagreeable circumſtance attends the aſh, which is indeed it's misfortune, rather than it's fault. It's leaf and rind are nutritrive to deer; and much uſed in browzing them in ſummer. The keepers of the foreſt therefore ſeek out all the aſh-trees they can find, which are for this purpoſe mangled, and deformed.
[Page 35] One thing more I ſhould mention with regard to the aſh, as it is of a pictureſque nature, and that is the beauty of it's roots, which are often finely veined, and will take a good poliſh. Dr. Plot, in his natural hiſtory of Oxfordſhire*, ſpeaks of certain knotty excreſcences in the aſh, called the bruſca, and molluſca, which when cut, and poliſhed, are very beautiful. He particularly mentions a dining table, made of the latter, which repreſents the exact figure of a fiſh.
With regard to theſe exact figures of animals, and other objects, which we meet with both in ſtone, and wood, I cannot ſay I ſhould value them much as objects of beauty. They may be whimſical, and curious; but in my opinion, the roots, and veins of wood, and ſtone, are much more beautiful, when they are wreathed in different fantaſtic forms; than when they ſeem to aim at any exact figures. In the former caſe they leave the imagination at liberty to play among them; which is always a pleaſing exerciſe to it: in the latter, they are at beſt awkward, and [Page 36] unnatural likeneſſes; which often diſguſt the pictureſque eye; and always pleaſe it leſs, than following it's own fancy, and picking out reſemblances of it's own.
Another curioſity in the aſh, which is likewiſe of the pictureſque kind, is a ſort of excreſcence, which is ſometimes found on a leading branch, called a wreathed faſcia. The faſciated branch is twiſted, and curled in a very beautiful form; which form it probably takes, as Dr. Plot ſuppoſes, from too quick an aſcent of the ſap †: or as other naturaliſts imagine, from the puncture of ſome inſect in the tender twig, which diverts the ſap from it's uſual channel, and makes the branch monſtrous. The wreathed faſcia is ſometimes found in other wood, in the willow particularly, and in the holly; but moſt commonly is an excreſcence of the aſh. I have a faſciated branch of aſh, found in the woods of Beaulieu in new-foreſt, which is moſt elegantly twiſted in the form of a crozier. I have ſeen a holly alſo twiſted like a ram's [Page 37] horn. We have this appearance ſometimes in aſparagus.
It is not uncommon for the ſeeds of trees, and particularly of the aſh, to ſeize on ſome faulty part of a neighbouring trunk, and there ſtrike root. Dr. Plot* ſpeaks of a piece of vegetable violence of this kind, which is rather extraordinary. An aſh-key rooting itſelf on a decayed willow; and finding, as it increaſed, a deficiency of nouriſhment in the mother plant, it began to inſinuate it's fibres by degrees through the trunk of the willow into the earth. There receiving an additional recruit, it began to thrive, and expand itſelf to ſuch a ſize, that it burſt the willow in pieces, which fell away from it; and what was before the root of the aſh, being now expoſed to the air, became the ſolid trunk of a vigorous tree.
As a beautiful variety of the tree we are now examining, the mountain-aſh, often called the roan tree, ſhould be mentioned. It's name denotes the place of it's uſual reſidence. Inured to cold, and rugged ſcenes, it is the [Page 38] hardy inhabitant of the northern parts of this iſland. Sometimes it is found in ſofter climes: but there it generally diſcovers by it's ſtunted growth, that it does not occupy the ſituation it loves.
In ancient days, when ſuperſtition held that place in ſociety, which diſſipation, and impiety now hold, the mountain-aſh was conſidered as an object of great veneration. Often at this day, a ſtump of it is found in ſome old burying place; or near the circle of a Druid temple, whoſe rites it formerly inveſted with it's ſacred ſhade. It's chief merit now conſiſts in being the ornament of landſcape. In the Scotiſh highlands it becomes a conſiderable tree. There on ſome rocky mountain covered with dark pines, and waving birch, which caſt a ſolemn gloom over the lake below, a few mountain-aſhes joining in a clump, and mixing with them, have a fine effect. In ſummer, the light green tint of their foliage; and in autumn, the glowing berries, which hang cluſtering upon them, contraſt beautifully with the deeper green of the pines: and if they are happily blended; and not in too large a proportion, they add ſome of the moſt pictureſque furniture, with which [Page 39] the ſides of thoſe rugged mountains are inveſted.
After the oak, and aſh, we examine the elm. The oak and the aſh have each a diſtinct character. The maſſy form of the one, dividing into abrupt, twiſting, irregular limbs, yet compact in it's foliage; and the eaſy ſweep of the other, the ſimplicity of it's branches, and the looſeneſs of it's hanging leaves, characterize both theſe trees with ſo much preciſion, that at any diſtance, at which the eye can diſtinguiſh the form, it may alſo diſtinguiſh the difference. The elm has not ſo diſtinct a character. It partakes ſo much of the oak; that when it is rough, and old, it may eaſily, at a little diſtance, be miſtaken for one: tho the oak, I mean ſuch an oak as is ſtrongly marked with it's peculiar character, can never be miſtaken for the elm. This is certainly a defect in the elm; for ſtrong characters are a great ſource of pictureſque beauty.
This defect however appears chiefly in the ſkeleton of the elm. In full foliage, it's character is better marked. No tree is better [Page 40] adapted to receive grand maſſes of light. In this reſpect it is ſuperior, both to the oak, and the aſh. Nor is it's foliage, ſhadowing as it is, of the heavy kind. It's leaves are ſmall, and this gives it a natural lightneſs: it commonly hangs looſely; and is in general, very pictureſque.
The elm naturally grows upright; and when it meets with a ſoil it loves, riſes higher than the generality of trees; and after it has aſſumed the dignity, and hoary roughneſs of age, few of it's foreſt-brethren (tho, properly ſpeaking, it is not a foreſter) excel it in grandeur, and beauty.
The elm is the firſt tree, that ſalutes the early ſpring with it's light, and cheerful green —a tint, which contraſts agreeably with the oak, whoſe early leaf has generally more of the olive-caſt. We ſee them ſometimes in fine harmony together, about the end of april, and the beginning of may. We often alſo ſee the elm planted with the Scotch fir. In the ſpring it's light green is very diſcordant with the gloomy hue of it's companion: but as the year advances, the elm-leaf takes a darker tint, and unites in harmony with the fir.—In autumn alſo the yellow leaf of [Page 41] the elm mixes as kindly with the orange of the beech, the ocher of the oak, and many of the other fading hues of the wood.
A ſpecies of this tree, called the wich-elm, is perhaps generally more pictureſque, than the common ſort; as it hangs more negligently: tho, at the ſame time, with this negligence, it loſes in a good degree, that happy ſurface for catching maſſes of light, which we admire in the common elm. We obſerve alſo, when we ſee this tree in company with the common elm, that it's bark is ſomewhat of a lighter hue. The wich-elm is a native of Scotland, where it is found not only in the plains, and vallies of the lowlands; but is hardy enough to climb the ſteeps, and flouriſh in the remoteſt highlands: tho it does not attain, in thoſe climates, the ſize, which it attains in England. Naturaliſts ſuppoſe the wich-elm to be the only ſpecies of this tree, which is indigenous to our iſland.
There is another variety alſo of this tree, called the weeping elm. Whether it's timber is leſs uſeful, or it is propagated with greater difficulty, I know not; but I have rarely met with it. The fineſt of this ſpecies I have ſeen, grow in St. John's walks at Cambridge. An [Page 42] eye accuſtomed to the tree, will eaſily perceive that it's branches are more penſile, and it's leaves of ſmaller dimenſions, than thoſe of the common elm.
An old elm, which grew formerly in the grove at Magdalen college in Oxford, was by ſome accident diſbarked entirely round. A malady of this kind is generally reckoned fatal to all the vegetable race. But this tree flouriſhed after it, as well as any tree in the grove. The probable reaſons of this uncommon appearance are given us by the learned author of the natural hiſtory of Oxfordſhire, in a long philoſophical enquiry, which may be found in the 166th page of that work. I have heard alſo, but I know not on what authority, of another diſbarked elm, growing, at this time, vigorouſly at Kenſington.
The oak, the aſh, and the elm, are commonly dignified, in our Engliſh woods, as a diſtinct claſs, by the title of timber-trees. But the pictureſque eye ſcorns the narrow conceptions of a timber-merchant; and with equal complacency takes in the whole offspring of the wood: tho it muſt be owned, the three [Page 43] ſpecies already characterized, are both the moſt uſeful, and the moſt pictureſque. We eſteem it fortunate, when the idea of pictureſque beauty coincides with that of utility. The two ideas are often at variance. When they are ſo, we cannot help it; but muſt feel it with regret.
After timber trees, the beech deſerves our notice. Some indeed rank the beech among timber-trees; but, I believe, in general it does not find that reſpect; as it's wood is of a ſoft, ſpungy nature; ſappy, and alluring to the worm.
In point of pictureſque beauty I am not inclined to rank the beech much higher, than in point of utility. It's ſkeleton, compared with that of the trees we have juſt examined, is very deficient. It's trunk, we allow, is often highly pictureſque. It is ſtudded with bold knobs and projections; and has ſometimes a ſort of irregular fluting about it, which is very characteriſtic. It has another peculiarity alſo, which is ſometimes pleaſing; that of a number of ſtems ariſing from the root. The bark too wears often a pleaſant hue. It is naturally of a dingy olive; but it is always overſpread, in patches, with a variety of [Page 44] moſſes, and lychens, which are commonly of a lighter tint, in the upper parts; and of a deep velvet-green towards the root. It's ſmoothneſs alſo contraſts agreeably with theſe rougher appendages. No bark tempts the lover ſo much to make it the depoſitory of his miſtreſs's name. It conveys a happy emblem: ‘—creſcent illae; creſcetis amores.’
But having praiſed the trunk, we can praiſe no other part of the ſkeleton. The branches are fantaſtically wreathed, and diſproportioned; twining awkwardly among each other; and running often into long unvaried lines, without any of that ſtrength and firmneſs, which we admire in the oak; or of that eaſy ſimplicity which pleaſes in the aſh: in ſhort, we rarely ſee a beech well ramified. In full leaf it is equally unpleaſing; it has the appearance of an overgrown buſh. Virgil indeed was right in chuſing the beech for it's ſhade. No tree forms ſo complete a roof. If you wiſh either for ſhade, or ſhelter, you will find it beſt ‘—patulae ſub tegmine fagi.’
This buſhineſs gives a great heavineſs to the tree; which is always a deformity. What [Page 45] lightneſs it has, diſguſts. You will ſometimes ſee a light branch iſſuing from a heavy maſs: and tho ſuch pendent branches are often beautiful in themſelves; they are ſeldom in harmony with the tree. They diſtinguiſh however it's character, which will be ſeen beſt by comparing it with the elm. The elm forms a rounder; the beech a more pointed foliage. But the former is always in harmony with itſelf.
Sometimes however we ſee in beeches of happy compoſition, the foliage falling in large flocks, or layers elegantly determined; between which, the ſhadows have a very forcible effect, eſpecially when the tree is ſtrongly illumined. On the whole, however the maſſy, full-grown, luxuriant beech is rather a diſpleaſing tree. It is made up of littleneſſes ſeldom exhibiting thoſe tufted cups, or hollow dark receſſes, which diſpart the ſeveral grand branches of the more beautiful kinds of trees.
Contrary to the general nature of trees, the beech is moſt pleaſing in it's juvenile ſtate; as it has not yet acquired that heavineſs, which is it's moſt faulty diſtinction. A light, airy, young beech, with it's ſpiry branches, hanging, as I have juſt deſcribed them, in eaſy [Page 46] forms, is often beautiful. I have ſeen alſo the foreſt-beech, in a dry, hungry ſoil, preſerve the lightneſs of youth, in the maturity of age.
After all however, we mean not to repudiate even the heavy, luxuriant beech in pictureſque compoſition. It has ſometimes it's beauty, and oftener it's uſe. In diſtance it preſerves the depth of the foreſt*; and even on the ſpot, in contraſt, it is frequently a choice accompaniment. In the corner of a landſcape, when we want a thick heavy tree, or part of one at leaſt, which is often neceſſary, nothing anſwers our purpoſe like the beech.— But at preſent we are not conſidering the beech in compoſition; but only as an individual; and in this light it is in which we chiefly conceive it as an object of diſapprobation.
We ſhould not conclude our remarks on the beech without mentioning it's autumnal hues. In this reſpect it is often beautiful. Sometimes it is dreſſed in modeſt brown; but generally in glowing orange: and in both [Page 47] dreſſes it's harmony with the grove, is pleaſing. About the end of ſeptember, when the leaf begins to change, it makes a happy contraſt with the oak, whoſe foliage is yet verdant. Some of the fineſt oppoſitions of tint, which perhaps the foreſt can furniſh, ariſe from the union of oak, and beech. We often ſee a wonderful effect from this combination. And yet accommodating as it's leaf is in landſcape, on handling, it feels as if it were fabricated with metallic rigour. In it's autumnal ſtate it almoſt crackles: ‘—Leni crepitabat bractea vento.’ For this reaſon, I ſuppoſe, as it's rigour gives it an elaſtic quality, the common people in France, and Switzerland uſe it for their beds.
I have dwelt the longer on the beech, as notwithſtanding my ſeverity, it is a tree of pictureſque fame; and I did not chuſe to condemn, without giving my reaſons. It has acquired it's reputation, I ſuppoſe, chiefly from it's having a peculiar character; and this, with all it's defects, it certainly has. I may add alſo, that if objects receive merit from their aſſociated, as well as from their intrinſic qualities, the dry ſoil, and ſalubrious air, in [Page 48] which the beech generally flouriſhes, give it a high degree of eſtimation.
Very nearly allied to the beech in a pictureſque light, is the horn-beam. It grows like it, when it is ſuffered to grow; but it is generally ſeen only in clipped hedges, where it is very obedient to the knife; and with a little care will never preſume to appear out of form. It's wood is white, tough, and flexible.
The deciduous trees, which I have deſcribed, hold certainly the firſt rank. I ſhall however touch on a few others, which tho neither ſo beautiful, nor ſo characteriſtic, are however worth the notice of the pictureſque eye.
The occidental plane is a native of America; but has long been known in England; where it attains a conſiderable growth; tho inferior, [Page 49] no doubt, to what it attains in it's native ſoil. It's ſtem is very pictureſque. It is ſmooth, and of a light aſh-colour; and has the property of throwing off it's bark in ſcales; thus naturally cleanſing itſelf, at leaſt it's larger boughs, from moſs, and other paraſitical incumbrances. This would be no recommendation of it in a pictureſque light, if the removal of theſe incumbrances did not ſubſtitute as great a beauty in their room. Theſe ſcales are very irregular; falling off ſometimes in one part; and ſometimes in another: and as the under-bark is, immediately after it's excoriation, of a lighter hue than the upper, it offers to the pencil thoſe ſmart touches, which have ſo much effect in painting. Theſe flakes however would be more beautiful, if they fell off in a circular form, inſtead of a perpendicular one. They would correſpond, and unite better with the circular form of the bole.
No tree forms a more pleaſing ſhade than the occidental plane. It is full-leafed, and it's leaf is large, ſmooth, of a fine texture, and ſeldom injured by inſects. It's lower branches ſhooting horizontally, ſoon take a direction to the ground; and the ſpray ſeems more ſedulous, than that of any tree we have, by twiſting [Page 50] about in various forms, to fill up every little vacuity with ſhade. At the ſame time, it muſt be owned, the twiſting of it's branches is a diſadvantage to this tree, as we have juſt obſerved it is to the beech, when it is ſtripped of it's leaves, and reduced to a ſkeleton.—It has not the natural appearance, which the ſpray of the oak, and that of many other trees diſcovers in winter. Nor indeed does it's foliage, from the largeneſs of the leaf, and the mode of it's growth, make the moſt pictureſque appearance in ſummer.—One of the fineſt occidental planes I am acquainted with, ſtands in my own garden at Vicar's-hill; where it's boughs, feathering to the ground, form a canopy of above fifty feet in diameter.
The oriental plane is a tree nearly of the ſame kind; only it's leaf is more palmated, nor has it ſo great a diſpoſition to overſhadow the ground, as the occidental plane. At leaſt I never ſaw any in our climate form ſo noble a ſhade; tho in the eaſt, it is eſteemed among the moſt ſhady, and moſt magnificent of trees. Lady Craven ſpeaks of ſome ſhe ſaw in the Turkiſh dominions of a ſize ſo gigantic, that [Page 51] the largeſt trees we have in England placed near them, would appear, ſhe ſays, only like broomſticks*.
This tree I believe ſheds it's bark like the occidental plane; and the catkins of both are round, ſpicated balls, about the ſize of walnuts; and faſtened together often in pairs, like chain-ſhot. From this circumſtance, the occidental plane is called in America, the button-tree. It flouriſhes there commonly by the ſides of creeks, and rivers; and is of quick growth. The oriental plane, I believe, loves the ſame ſoil: at leaſt both trees in England are fond of moiſt ground.
Kempfer tells us†, that at Jedo the capital of Japan, he found a ſpecies of this tree, the leaves of which were beautifully variegated, like the tricolor, with red, green, and yellow. An appearance of this kind is ſo contrary to nature's uſual mode of colouring the leaves of foreſt-trees; that I ſhould rather ſuſpect, Kempfer ſaw it, either when the leaves were in the wane, or blaſted, or in ſome other unnatural ſtate.
[Page 52] I may add, with regard to the occidental plane; and indeed, I believe, with regard to both the trees of this ſpecies, that their ſummer leaf wears ſo light a hue, as to mix ill with the foliage of the oak, the elm, and other trees. I have ſeen them on the ſkirts of a plantation, forming, during the ſummer, a diſagreeable ſpot. In autumn, their leaves receive a mellow tint, which harmonizes very well with the waning colour of the wood.
The poplar tribe ſhall be conſidered next. They are numerous, and ſome of them I have thought pictureſque. They are at leaſt ſtately trees: but their thin quivering foliage is neither adapted to catch maſſes of light, like that of the elm; nor has it the hanging lightneſs of the aſh. It's chief uſe in landſcape is to mix as a variety, in contraſt with other trees.
Within theſe few years the Lombardy-poplar, which graces the banks of the Po, has been much introduced in Engliſh plantatations. It ſeems to like a Britiſh ſoil; and it's youth is promiſing: but I have never ſeen it in full maturity. It's conic form as [Page 53] a deciduous tree, is peculiar. Among evergreens we find the ſame character in the cypreſs; and both trees in many ſituations have a good effect. The cypreſs often, among the ruins of ancient Rome, breaks the regularity of a wall, or a pediment by it's conic form: and the poplar on the banks of the Po, no doubt has the ſame effect among it's deciduous brethren, by forming the apex of a clump: tho I have been told that, in it's age, it loſes it's ſhape in ſome degree, and ſpreads more into a head. The oldeſt poplars of this kind I have ſeen, are at Blenheim. They are not old trees; but are very tall; and, I believe ſtill preſerve their ſpiry form.
One beauty the Italian poplar poſſeſſes, which is almoſt peculiar to itſelf; and that is the waving line it forms, when agitated by wind. Moſt trees in this circumſtance are partially agitated. One ſide is at reſt; while the other, is in motion. But the Italian poplar waves in one ſimple ſweep from the top to the bottom, like an oſtrich-feather on a lady's head. All the branches coincide in the motion: and the leaſt blaſt makes an impreſſion upon it, when other [Page 54] trees are at reſt. I have mentioned, among the adventitious beauties of trees, their ſuſceptibility of motion: * but in painting I know not, that I ſhould repreſent any kind of motion in a tree, except that of a violent ſtorm. When the blaſt continues for ſome time; when the black heavens are in uniſon with it, and help to tell the ſtory, an oak ſtraining in the wind, is an object of pictureſque beauty. But when the gentle breeze, preſſing upon the quivering poplar, bends it only in eaſy motion, while a ſerene ſky indicates the heavens to be at peace, there is nothing to act in concert with the motion of the tree: it ſeems to have taken it's form from the influence of a ſea air, or ſome other malign impreſſion; and exhibiting an unnatural appearance, diſguſts.—One thing more I ſhould mention with regard to the Italian poplar, which is, that altho it ſometimes has a good effect, when ſtanding ſingle; it generally has a better, when two or three are planted in a clump.
The walnut is not an unpictureſque tree. The warm, ruſſet hue of it's young foliage [Page 55] makes a pleaſing variety among the vivid green of other trees, about the end of may: and the ſame variety is maintained in ſummer, by the contraſt of it's yellowiſh hue, when mixed in any quantity, with trees of a darker tint: but it opens it's leaves ſo late, and drops them ſo early, that it cannot long be in harmony with the grove. It ſtands beſt alone, and the early loſs of it's foliage is of the leſs conſequence, as it's ramification is generally beautiful.
The lime is an elegant tree, where it is ſuffered to grow at large: but we generally ſee it in ſtrait bondage, clipped into ſhape, and forming the ſides of avenues, and viſtas. In it's beſt ſtate however it is not very pictureſque. It has a uniformity of ſurface, without any of thoſe breaks, and hollows, which the foliage of the moſt pictureſque trees preſents; and which is always beautiful.—One circumſtance ſhould recommend the lime to all lovers of the imitative arts. No wood is ſo eaſily formed under the carver's chiſſel. It is the wood, which the ingenious Gibbon uſed, after making trial of [Page 56] ſeveral kinds, as the moſt proper for that curious ſculpture, which adorns ſome of the old houſes of our nobility.
The maple is an uncommon tree, tho a common buſh. It's wood is of little value; and it is therefore rarely ſuffered to increaſe. We ſeldom ſee it employed in any nobler ſervice, than in filling up it's part in a hedge, in company with thorns, and briars, and other ditch trumpery. Yet the ancients held it in great repute. Pliny * ſpeaks as highly of the knobs, and excreſcences of this tree, called the bruſca and molluſca, as Dr. Plot does of thoſe of the aſh†. The veins of theſe excreſcences in the maple, Pliny tells us, were ſo variegated, that they exceeded the beauty of any other wood; even of the citron: tho the citron was in ſuch repute at Rome, that Cicero, who was neither rich, nor expenſive, was tempted to give ten [Page 57] thouſand ſeſterces for a citron table. The bruſca and molluſca, Pliny adds, were rarely of ſize ſufficient for the larger ſpecies of furniture; but in all ſmaller cabinet work they were ineſtimable. But indeed the whole tree was eſteemed by the ancients, on account of it's variegated wood. In Ovid we find it thus celebrated: ‘—acerque coloribus impar*.’ How far at this day, it may be valued for cabinet work, I know not. I have, here and there, ſeen boxes, and other little things made of it, which I have thought very beautiful.
In the few inſtances I have met with of this tree in a ſtate of maturity, it's form has appeared pictureſque. It is not unlike the oak: only it is more buſhy; and it's branches cloſer, and more compact. One of the largeſt maples I have ſeen, ſtands in the church-yard of Boldre, in the New-foreſt: but I have not met with ſpecimens enough of this tree to form an opinion of it's general character.
[Page 58] The great maple, commonly called the ſycamore, is a grander, and nobler tree, than the ſmaller maple; but it wants it's elegance: it is coarſe in proportion to it's bulk. It forms however an impenetrable ſhade; and often receives well-contraſted maſſes of light. It's bark has not the furrowed roughneſs of the oak; but it has a ſpecies of roughneſs very pictureſque. In itſelf, it is ſmooth: but it peels off in large flakes, like the planes, (to which in other reſpects, it bears a near alliance) leaving patches of different hues, ſeams, and cracks, which are often pictureſque.
The cheſnut in maturity and perfection, is a noble tree; and grows not unlike the oak. It's ramification is more ſtraggling; but it is eaſy, and it's foliage looſe. This is the tree, which graces the landſcapes of Salvator Roſa. In the mountains of Calabria, where Salvator painted, the cheſnut flouriſhed. There he ſtudied it in all it's forms, breaking and diſpoſing it in a thouſand beautiful ſhapes, as [Page 59] the exigences of his compoſition required. I have heard indeed that it is naturally brittle, and liable to be ſhattered by winds; which might be one reaſon for Salvator's attachment to it.—But altho I have many times ſeen the cheſnut in England, old enough to be in a fruit-bearing ſtate; yet I have ſeldom ſeen it in a ſtate of full pictureſque maturity. The beſt I have ſeen, ſtand on the banks of the Tamer in Cornwall, at an old houſe, belonging to the Edgecumbe family. I have heard alſo that at Beechworth-caſtle, in Surry, there are not fewer than ſeventy or eighty cheſnuts, meaſuring from twelve to eighteen or twenty feet in girth, and ſome of them of very pictureſque form: but I ſaw them only at a diſtance. In Kent alſo the cheſnut is frequently found.
It is ſaid indeed, that this tree was once very common in England, and that beams of it are often ſeen at this day, in churches, and old houſes. In the belfry particularly of the church at Sutton, near Mitcham in Surry, I have ſeen beams, which are like oak; yet plainly appear to be of a different kind of timber; and are ſuppoſed to be cheſnut. I have often heard alſo, that the timber of the [Page 60] old houſes of London was of the ſame kind. Whether the cheſnut was ever indigenous to this country ſeems to be matter of much ſpeculation. As it's timber is ſaid to be ſerviceable, and as it's fruit, tho rarely of perfect growth in this climate, might however be of ſome uſe; we are at a loſs to conceive, if it had once gotten footing amongſt us, how it ſhould ever be, as it now is, almoſt totally exterminated. Some have endeavoured to account for this, by ſhewing, that it is not ſo good a timber-tree, as is ſuppoſed; for it decays at the heart; and will continue decaying, till it become merely a ſhell, and for this reaſon it has been leſs ſought after, and encouraged. How far this may be true I know not. I rather ſuſpect it's truth. Some years ago Mr. Daines Barrington read a paper to the royal ſociety, in which he endeavoured to prove, that the cheſnut was not indigenous to this country. Dr. Ducarel anſwered him, and alleged from ancient records, and other evidenees, that cheſnut formerly abounded in many woody ſcenes in England; and was certainly a native of this iſland. Among the ancient records, to which he appeals, one is dated in the time of Henry II. It is a deed [Page 61] of gift from that prince, to Flexley abbey, of the tythe of all his cheſnuts in the foreſt of Dean*.
The horſe-cheſnut is a heavy, diſagreeable tree. It forms it's foliage generally in a round maſs, with little appearance of thoſe breaks, which we have ſo often admired; and which contribute to give an airineſs and lightneſs, at leaſt a richneſs, and variety to the whole maſs of foliage. This tree is however chiefly admired for it's flower, which in itſelf is beautiful: but the whole tree together in flower is a glaring object, totally unharmonious, and unpictureſque. In ſome ſituations indeed, and among a profuſion of other wood, a ſingle cheſnut or two, in bloom, may be beautiful. As it forms an admirable ſhade, it may be of uſe too in thickening diſtant ſcenery; or in ſkreening an object at hand: for there is no ſpecies of foliage, however heavy, nor any ſpecies of bloom, however glaring, which may [Page 62] not be brought, by ſome proper contraſt, to produce a good effect.
The weeping willow is a very pictureſque tree. It is a perfect contraſt to what we have juſt obſerved of the Lombardy poplar. The light, airy ſpray of the poplar riſes perpendicularly. That of the weeping willow is pendent. The ſhape of it's leaf is conformable to the penſile character of the tree; and it's ſpray, which is ſtill lighter than that of the poplar, is more eaſily put into motion by a breath of air. The weeping willow however is not adapted to ſublime ſubjects. We wiſh it not to ſkreen the broken buttreſſes, and Gothic windows of an abbey, nor to over-ſhadow the battlements of a ruined caſtle. Theſe offices it reſigns to the oak; whoſe dignity can ſupport them. The weeping willow ſeeks a humbler ſcene—ſome romantic foot-path bridge, which it half conceals—or ſome glaſſy pool, over which it hangs it's ſtreaming foliage;
[Page 63] In theſe ſituations it appears in character; and of courſe, to advantage.—I have heard indeed that the weeping willow is not naturally an aquatic plant; but it's being commonly believed to be ſo, is ground enough to eſtabliſh it as ſuch, in landſcape at leaſt, tho not in botany.—and dip [...]It's pendent boughs, ſtooping as if to drink.
The weeping willow is the only one of it's tribe, that is beautiful. Botaniſts, I believe, enumerate ſixteen ſpecies of the willow. But tho I have ſeen ſome of them attain a very remarkable ſize; yet in general they are trees of ſtraggling ramification, and without any of that elegant ſtreaming form, which we admire in the weeping willow. I ſhould rarely therefore adviſe their uſe in artificial landſcape; except as pollards to characterize a marſhy country; or to mark in a ſecond diſtance, the winding banks of a heavy, low-ſunk river, which could not otherwiſe be noticed. Some willows indeed I have thought beautiful, and fit to appear in the decoration of any rural ſcene. The kind I have moſt admired, has a ſmall narrow leaf, and wears a pleaſant, light, ſea green tint; which mixes agreeably with foliage of a deeper hue. I am not acquainted with the botanical [Page 64] name of this ſpecies, but I believe the botaniſts call it the ſalix alba.
The withy, or ſalix fragilis, is the moſt inconſiderable of it's tribe. Like others of it's kindred, it will grow in any ſoil; tho it loves a moiſt one. It is of little value in landſcape, and yet there is ſomething beautiful in it's ſilver-coated catkins; which open, as the year advances, into elegant hanging tufts; and when the tree is large, and in full bloom, make a beautiful variety among the early productions of the ſpring.
Nearly related to the willow tribe, tho in nature rather than in form, is the alder. They both love a low moiſt ſoil; and frequent the banks of rivers; tho it may be alledged in favour of both, that they will flouriſh in the pooreſt foreſt ſwamps, where nothing elſe will grow. The alder is however the more pictureſque tree, both in it's ramification, and in it's foliage; perhaps indeed it is the moſt pictureſque of any of the aquatic tribe, except the weeping willow. He who would ſee the [Page 65] alder in perfection, muſt follow the banks of the Mole in Surry, through the ſweet vales of Dorking, and Mickleham, into the groves of Eſher. The Mole indeed is far from being a beautiful river: it is a ſilent and ſluggiſh ſtream. But what beauty it has, it owes greatly to the alder; which every where fringes it's meadows, and in many places forms very pleaſing ſcenes; eſpecially in the vale between Box-hill, and the high grounds of Norbury-park.
Some of the largeſt alders we have in England, grow in the biſhop of Durham's park at Biſhop-Aukland. The generality of trees acquire pictureſque beauty by age: but it is not often that they are ſuffered to attain this pictureſque period. Some uſe is commonly found for them long before that time. The oak falls for the greater purpoſes of man; and the alder is ready to ſupply a variety of his ſmaller wants. An old tree therefore of any kind is a curioſity; and even an alder, ſuch as thoſe at Biſhop-Aukland, when dignified by age, makes a reſpectable figure.
[Page 66] The birch may have ſeveral varieties, with which I am not acquainted. The moſt common ſpecies of it in England, are the black, and the white. The former is a native of Canada: the latter of Britain. Of the white birch there is a very beautiful variety, ſometimes called the lady-birch, or the weeping-birch. It's ſpray being ſlenderer and longer, than the common ſort, forms an elegant, penſile foliage, like the weeping willow; and like it, is put in motion by the leaſt breath of air. When agitated, it is well adapted to characterize a ſtorm; or to perform any office in landſcape, which is expected from the weeping willow.
The ſtem of the birch is generally marked with brown, yellow, and ſilvery touches, which are peculiarly pictureſque; as they are characteriſtic objects of imitation for the pencil; and as they contraſt agreeably with the dark green hue of the foliage. But only the ſtem, and larger branches have this varied colouring: the ſpray is of a deep brown; which is the colour too of the larger branches, where the external rind is peeled off. As [Page 67] the birch grows old, it's bark becomes rough and furrowed. It loſes all it's varied tints, and aſſumes a uniform, ferruginous hue.
The bark of this tree has the property (perhaps peculiar to itſelf,) of being more firm, and durable than the wood it inveſts. Of this the peaſants of Sweden, Lapland, and other northern countries, where birch grows in abundance, take the advantage; and ſhaping it like tiles, cover their houſes with it.—How very durable it is, we have a remarkable inſtance in Monſieur Maupertuis's travels. When that philoſopher traverſed Lapland to meaſure a degree of latitude, he was obliged to paſs through vaſt foreſts, conſiſting intirely of birch. The ſoil in ſome parts of theſe waſtes being very ſhallow, or very looſe, the trees had not a ſufficient footing for their roots, and became an eaſy prey to winds. In theſe places Maupertuis found as many trees blown down, as ſtanding. He examined ſeveral of them, and was ſurprized to ſee that in ſuch as had lain long, the ſubtance of the wood was intirely gone; but the bark remained a hollow trunk without any ſigns of decay.
[Page 68] Among elegant, pendent trees, the acacia ſhould not be forgotten; tho the acacia, which we have in England, (called by the botaniſt, the robinia) is perhaps only a poor ſubſtitute of this plant in it's greateſt perfection. And yet even ours, when we have it full grown, is often a very beautiful tree, whether it feathers to the ground, as it ſometimes does; or whether it is adorned with a light foliage hanging from the ſtem. But it's beauty is very frail. It is of all trees the leaſt able to endure the blaſt. In ſome ſheltered ſpot, it may ornament a garden; but it is by no means, qualified to adorn a country. It's wood is of ſo brittle a texture, eſpecially when it is encumbered with a weight of foliage; that you can never depend upon it's aid in filling up the part you wiſh. The branch you admire to-day, may be demoliſhed tomorrow. The misfortune is, the acacia is not one of thoſe grand objects, like the oak, whoſe dignity is often increaſed by ruin. It depends on it's beauty, rather than on it's grandeur, which is a quality much more liable to injury.—I may add however in it's favour, that if it be eaſily injured, it repairs [Page 69] the injury more quickly, than any other tree. Few trees make ſo rapid a growth.
In one of the memoirs publiſhed by the agricultural ſociety at Paris, the virtues of this tree are highly extolled. It's ſhade encourages the growth of graſs. It's roots are ſo tenacious of the ſoil and ſhoot up ſuch groves of ſuckers, that when planted on the banks of rivers, it contributes exceedingly to fix them as barriers againſt the incurſions of the ſtream. Acacia-ſtakes too are as durable as thoſe of any wood. In North-America this tree is much valued; in proof of which the memorialiſt tells a ſtory of a farmer in Long-iſland, who planted an ordinary field of fourteen acres with ſuckers of this plant, in the year of his marriage, as a portion for his children. His eldeſt ſon married at twenty-two. On this occaſion the farmer cut about three hundred pounds worth of timber out of his acacia wood, which he gave his ſon to buy a ſettlement in Lancaſter county. Three years after, he did as much for a daughter. And thus he provided for his whole family; the wood in the mean time repairing by ſuckers, all the loſſes it received.
[Page 70] I ſhall conclude my account of deciduous trees with the larch, which is a kind of connecting ſpecies between them, and the race of ever-greens. Tho it ſheds it's leaf with the former; it bears a cone, is reſinous, and ramifies like the latter. It claims the Alps, and Apennines for it's native country; where it thrives in higher regions of the air, than any tree of it's conſequence is known to do; hanging over rocks, and precipices, which have never been viſited by human feet. Often it is felled by the alpine peaſant, and thrown athwart ſome yawning chaſm, where it affords a tremendous paſſage from cliff to cliff; while the cataract roaring many fathoms below, is ſeen only in ſurges of riſing vapour.
In ancient times the larch was employed in ſtill more arduous ſervice. When Hannibal laid the cliffs bare, and heaped up piles of timber to melt the rocks, (ſo Livy tells us) the larch was his fuel: it's unctuous ſides ſoon ſpread the flame; and as the gloom of evening came on, the appendages of a numerous hoſt, elephants, and floating banners, [Page 71] and gleaming arms formed terrific images through the night; while the lofty ſummits of the Alps were illumined far and wide.
Strabo ſpeaks of alpine trees (which moſt probably were larches) of a very great ſize. Many of them, he ſays, would meaſure eight feet in diameter*. And at this day, maſts of ſingle larches meaſuring from one hundred and ten to one hundred and twenty feet in length, have been floated from Valais, through the lake of Geneva, and down the Rhone, to Toulon; tho I have heard they are in no great eſteem among the contractors for the French dock-yards.
In the memoirs of the royal ſociety of agriculture at Paris for the year 1787, there is an eſſay by M. le Preſident de la Tour d'Aigues, on the culture of the larch; in which it is celebrated as one of the moſt uſeful of all timber-trees. He tells us, that in his own garden he has rails, which were put up in the year 1743, partly of oak, and partly of larch. The former, he ſays, have yielded to time: but the latter are ſtill [Page 72] ſound. And in his caſtle of Tour d'Aigues, he has larchen beams of twenty inches ſquare, which are ſound, tho above two hundred years old. The fineſt trees he knows of this kind, grow in ſome parts of Dauphiny, and in the foreſt of Baye in Provence, where there are larches, he tells us, which two men cannot fathom.—I have often heard, that old, dry larch will take ſuch a poliſh as to become almoſt tranſparent; and that, in this ſtate it may be wrought into very beautiful wainſcot.—In my encomium of the larch, I muſt not omit, that the old painters uſed it, more than any other wood, to paint on, before the uſe of canvas became general. Many of Raphael's pictures are painted on boards of larch.
The larch we have in England, compared with the larch of the Alps, is a diminutive plant. It is little more than the puny inhabitant of a garden; or the embelliſhment of ſome trifling artificial ſcene. The characters of grand and noble ſeldom belong to it. It is however an elegant tree; tho, in our ſoil at leaſt, too formal in it's growth. Among it's native ſteeps it's form, no doubt, is fully pictureſque; when the ſtorms [Page 73] of many a century have ſhattered it's equal ſides; and given contraſt and variety to it's boughs.
From deciduous trees, we proceed to evergreens.—Of theſe the cedar of Lebanon claims our firſt notice. To it preeminence belongs; not only on account of it's own dignity; but on account of the reſpectable mention, which is every where made of it in ſcripture. Solomon ſpake of trees from the cedar of Lebanon, to the byſſop that ſpringeth out of the wall: that is, from the greateſt to the leaſt. —The eaſtern writers are indeed the principal ſources, from which we are to obtain the true character of the cedar; as it is an eaſtern tree. In the ſacred writers particularly we are preſented with many noble images drawn from it's ſeveral qualities. It is generally employed by the prophets to expreſs ſtrength, power, and longevity. The ſtrength of the cedar is uſed as an emblem to expreſs the power even of Jehovah. The voice of the Lord breaketh the cedars of Lebanon. David characterizes the palm-tree, and the cedar together, both very ſtrongly. The righteous [Page 74] ſhall flouriſh like a palm-tree; and ſpread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon. The flouriſhing head of the palm, and the ſpreading abroad of the cedar, are equally characteriſtic.
"Behold the Aſſyrian was a cedar in Lebanon, with fair branches; and with a ſhadowing ſhroud; and of an high ſtature; and his top was among the thick boughs. His boughs were multiplied, and his branches became long. The fir trees were not like his boughs; nor the cheſnut trees, like his branches, nor any tree in the garden of God like unto him in beauty."*
The firſt is the multiplicity, and length of his branches. Few trees divide ſo many fair branches from the main ſtem; or ſpread over ſo large a compaſs of ground. His boughs are multiplied, as Ezekiel ſays, and his branches became long; which David calls ſpreading abroad.
[Page 75] The ſecond characteriſtic is, what Ezekiel, with great beauty, and aptneſs, calls his ſhadowing ſhroud. No tree in the foreſt is more remarkable than the cedar, for it's cloſe-woven, leafy canopy.
Ezekiel's cedar is marked as a tree of full, and perfect growth, from the circumſtance of it's top, being among the thick boughs. Almoſt every young tree, and particularly every young cedar, has, what is called, a leading branch, or two, which continue ſpiring above the reſt, till the tree has attained it's full ſize: then the tree becomes in the language of the nurſery-man, clump-headed; but, in the language of eaſtern ſublimity, it's top is among the thick boughs; that is, no diſtinction of any ſpiry head, or leading branch, appears: the head and the branches are all mixed together. This is generally, in all trees, the ſtate, in which they are moſt perfect, and moſt beautiful.
But tho Ezekiel hath given us this accurate deſcription of the cedar; he hath left it's ſtrength, which is it's chief characteriſtic, untouched. But the reaſon is evident. The cedar is here introduced as an emblem of Aſſyria; which tho vaſt, and wide-ſpreading, [Page 76] and come to full maturity, was in fact, on the eve of deſtruction. Strength therefore was the laſt idea, which the prophet wiſhed to ſuggeſt. Strength is a relative term, compared with oppoſition. The Aſſyrian was ſtrong compared with the powers on earth; but weak, compared with the arm of providence, which brought him to deſtruction. So his type, the cedar, was ſtronger than any of the trees of the foreſt; but weak in compariſon with the ax, which cut him off; and left him (as the prophet expreſſes the vaſtneſs of his ruin) ſpread upon the mountains, and in the vallies: while the nations ſhook at the ſound of his fall.
Such is the grandeur, and form of the cedar of Lebanon. It's mantling foliage, or ſhadowing ſhroud, as Ezekiel calls it, is it's greateſt beauty; which ariſes from the horizontal growth of it's branches, forming a kind of ſweeping, irregular penthouſe. And when to the idea of beauty, that of ſtrength is added by the piramidal form of the ſtem, and the robuſtneſs of the limbs, the tree is complete in all it's beauty, and majeſty.
In theſe climates indeed we cannot expect to ſee the cedar in ſuch perfection. The [Page 77] foreſt of Lebanon is perhaps the only part of the world, where it's growth is perfect: yet we may in ſome degree conceive it's beauty and majeſty, from the paltry reſemblances of it at this diſtance from it's native ſoil. In it's youth, it is often with us a vigorous thriving plant; and if the leading branch is not bound to a pole, (as many people deform their cedars,) but left to take it's natural courſe, and guide the ſtem after it in ſome irregular waving line; it is often an object of great beauty. But in it's maturer age, the beauty of the Engliſh cedar is generally gone, it becomes ſhrivelled, deformed, and ſtunted; it's body increaſes; but it's limbs ſhrink, and wither. Thus it never gives us it's two leading qualities together. In it's youth we have ſome idea of it's beauty without it's ſtrength; and in it's advanced age we have ſome idea of it's ſtrength, without it's beauty: the imagination therefore, by joining together the two different periods of it's age in this climate, may form ſome conception of the grandeur of the cedar, in it's own climate, where it's ſtrength and beauty are united. —The beſt ſpecimen of this tree, I ever ſaw in England, was at Hillington, near [Page 78] Uxbridge. The perpendicular height of it was fifty three feet; it's horizontal expanſe ninety ſix; and it's girth fifteen and a half. When I ſaw it, in 1776, it was about one hundred and eighteen years of age; and being then completely clump-headed, it was a very noble, and pictureſque tree.—In the high winds about the beginning of the year 1790, this noble cedar was blown down. It's ſtem, when cut, was five feet in diameter.
After the cedar, the ſtone-pine deſerves our notice. It is not indigenous to our ſoil, but like the cedar, it is in ſome degree naturalized; tho in England it is rarely more than a puny, half-formed reſemblance of the Italian pine. The ſoft clime of Italy alone gives birth to the true pictureſque pine. There it always ſuggeſts ideas of broken porticos, Ionic pillars, triumphal arches, fragments of old temples, and a variety of claſſic ruins, which in Italian landſcape it commonly adorns.
The ſtone pine promiſes little in it's infancy in point of pictureſque beauty. It does [Page 79] not, like moſt of the fir-ſpecies, give an early indication of it's future form. In it's youth it is dwarfiſh, and round-headed, with a ſhort ſtem, and has rather the ſhape of a full-grown buſh, than of an increaſing tree.—As it grows older, it does not ſoon depoſit it's formal ſhape. It is long a buſh; tho ſomewhat more irregular, and with a longer ſtem.—But as it attains maturity, it's pictureſque form increaſes faſt. It's lengthening ſtem aſſumes commonly an eaſy ſweep. It ſeldom indeed deviates much from a ſtrait line: but that gentle deviation is very graceful; and above all other lines difficult to imitate. If accidentally either the ſtem, or any of the larger branches take a larger ſweep, than uſual, that ſweep ſeldom fails to be graceful.—It is alſo among the beauties of the ſtone-pine, that as the lateral branches decay, they leave generally ſtumps, which ſtanding out in various parts of the ſtem, break the continuity of it's lines.
The bark is ſmoother than that of any other tree of the pine-kind, except the Weymouth; tho we do not eſteem this among it's pictureſque beauties. It's hue however, which is warm and reddiſh, has a good effect; [Page 80] and it obtains a kind of roughneſs by peeling off in patches.
The foliage of the ſtone-pine is as beautiful as the ſtem. It's colour is a deep warm green; and it's form, inſtead of breaking into acute angles, like many of the pine-race, is moulded into a flowing line by an aſſemblage of ſmall maſſes.
As age comes on, it's round clump-head becomes more flat, ſpreading itſelf into a canopy, which is a form equally becoming. And yet I doubt, whether any reſinous tree ever attains that pictureſque beauty in age, which we admire ſo much in the oak. The oak continues long vigorous in his branches, tho his trunk decays: but the reſinous tree, I believe, decays more equally through all it's parts; and in age oftener preſents the idea of vegetable decrepitude, than of the ſtout remains of a vigorous conſtitution. And yet, in many circumſtances, even in this ſtate it may be an object of pictureſque notice.
Thus we ſee, in the form of the ſtone-pine, what beauty may reſult from a tree with a round head, and without lateral branches; which requires indeed a good example to prove. When we look at an aſh, or an elm, from [Page 81] which the lateral branches have been ſtripped, as is the practice in ſome countries, we are apt to think, that no tree, with a head placed on a long ſtem, can be beautiful; yet in nature's hands, which can mould ſo many forms of beauty, it may eaſily be effected.— Nature herſelf however does not always follow the rules of pictureſque beauty in the production of this kind of object. The cabbage-tree, I ſuppoſe, is as ugly, as the ſtone pine is pictureſque.—The beſt ſpecimen of the ſtone-pine I ever ſaw, grows in the botanical garden at Oxford.
The moſt beautiful ſuccedaneum of the ſtone-pine, which theſe climates afford, is the pinaſter. The ſweep of it's ſtem is ſimilar, it's broken lateral branches likewiſe, and it's clump-head. Both trees alſo are equally irregular in their growth: but the pinaſter is perhaps more pictureſque in the roughneſs of it's dark-grey bark. On no trees have I ſeen broader, and better varied maſſes of light, and ſhade: but the cloſeneſs of the pinaſter's foliage makes it's head ſometimes too heavy.
[Page 82] The cluſter pine alſo is a beautiful tree, and approaches perhaps as near the ſtone-pine, as the pinaſter does. But I ſcarce recollect ever to have ſeen it in a ſtate of full maturity, and perfection. If we may judge however from a growth of thirty or forty years, (at which age I have often ſeen it) it ſhoots in ſo wild, and irregular a manner; ſo thick, rich, and buſhy, that we may eaſily conceive how pictureſque a plant it muſt be in a ſtate of full perfection. It's cones too, which it bears in cluſters, from whence it derives it's name, are a great ornament to it. In compoſition indeed ſuch minutiae are of little value: but we are now conſidering trees as individuals.
The Weymouth-pine has very little pictureſque beauty to recommend it. It is admired for it's poliſhed bark. The painter's eye pays little attention to ſo trivial a circumſtance, even when the tree is conſidered as a ſingle object. Nay it's poliſhed bark rather depreciates it's value: for the pictureſque eye dwells with more pleaſure on rough ſurfaces, [Page 83] than on ſmooth; it ſees more richneſs in them, and more variety. But we object chiefly to the Weymouth-pine on account of the regularity of it's ſtem; and the meagreneſs of it's foliage. It's ſtem riſes with perpendicular exactneſs; it rarely varies: and it's branches iſſue with equal formality from it's ſides. It's foliage too is thin, and wants both richneſs, and effect.—If I were ſpeaking indeed of this tree in compoſition, I might add, that it may often appear to great advantage in a plantation. Contraſt, we know, produces beauty even from deformity itſelf. Oppoſed therefore to the wildneſs of other trees, the regularity of the Weymouth-pine may have it's beauty. It's formality may be concealed. A few of it's branches hanging from a maſs of heavier foliage, may appear light, and feathery; while it's ſpiry head may often form an agreeable apex to a clump.
Having thus conſidered the pine-race, we next take a view of a tribe nearly allied to them —that of firs. In what the diſtinction between theſe two tribes conſiſts, (tho, I apprehend, [Page 84] it conſiſts in little more, than in that between genus, and ſpecies) the botaniſt will explain. I profeſs myſelf an obſerver only of outward characters. What we uſually call the Scotch fir appears to me to approach nearer the pine in it's manner of growth, than it does any of it's nominal claſs. As this tree therefore ſeems to be of ambiguous nature, at leaſt as to it's form, I ſhall place it here—that is immediately after the pines, and before the firs; that it may with facility join one party, or the other, as the reader's botanical principles incline.
The Scotch fir, in perfection, I think a very pictureſque tree, tho we have little idea of it's beauty. It is generally treated with great contempt. It is a hardy plant, and therefore put to every ſervile office. If you wiſh to ſkreen your houſe from the ſouth weſt wind, plant Scotch firs; and plant them cloſe, and thick. If you want to ſhelter a nurſery of young trees, plant Scotch firs: and the phraſe is, you may afterwards weed them out, as you pleaſe. This is ignominious. I wiſh not to rob ſociety of theſe hardy ſervices from the Scotch fir: nor do I mean to ſet it in competition with many of the [Page 85] trees of the foreſt, which in their infant ſtate it is accuſtomed to ſhelter: all I mean is, to reſcue it from the diſgrace of being thought fit for nothing elſe; and to eſtabliſh it's character as a pictureſque tree. For myſelf, I admire it's foliage; both the colour of the leaf, and it's mode of growth. It's ramification too is irregular, and beautiful; and not unlike that of the ſtone pine; which it reſembles alſo in the eaſy ſweep of it's ſtem; and likewiſe in the colour of the bark, which is commonly, as it attains age, of a rich reddiſh brown. The Scotch fir indeed, in it's ſtripling ſtate, is leſs an object of beauty. It's pointed, and ſpiry ſhoots, during the firſt years of it's growth, are formal: and yet I have ſometimes ſeen a good contraſt produced between it's ſpiry points, and the round-headed oaks, and elms in it's neighbourhood. When I ſpeak however of the Scotch fir as a beautiful individual, I conceive it, when it has out-grown all the improprieties of it's youth—when it has compleated it's full age—and when, like Ezekiel's cedar, it has formed it's head among the thick branches. —I may be ſingular in my attachment to the Scotch fir: I know it has many enemies: [Page 86] but my opinion will weigh only with the reaſons I have given.
People object firſt to it's colour. It's dark, murky hue is unpleaſing.—With regard to colour in general, I think I ſpeak the language of painting, when I aſſert, that the pictureſque eye makes little diſtinction in this matter. It has no attachment to one colour in preference to another: but conſiders the beauty of all colouring, as reſulting not from the colours themſelves, but almoſt intirely from their harmony with other colours in their neighbourhood. So that as the fir-tree is ſupported, combined, or ſtationed, it forms a beautiful umbrage, or a murky ſpot.
A ſecond ſource of that contempt, in which the Scotch fir is commonly held, is our rarely ſeeing it in a pictureſque ſtate. Scotch firs are ſeldom planted as ſingle trees, or in a jud [...]cious group: but generally in cloſe, compact bodies, in thick array, which ſuffocates, or cramps them; and if they ever get looſe from this bondage, they are already ruined. Their lateral branches are gone, and their [Page 87] ſtems are drawn into poles, on which their heads appear ſtuck as on a center. Whereas if the tree had grown in it's natural ſtate, all miſchief had been prevented. It's ſtem would have taken an eaſy ſweep; and it's lateral branches, which naturally grow with as much beautiful irregularity as thoſe of deciduous trees, would have hung looſely, and negligently; and the more ſo, as there is ſomething peculiarly light, and feathery in it's foliage. I mean not to aſſert, that every Scotch fir, tho in a natural ſtate, would poſſeſs theſe beauties: but it would at leaſt, have the chance of other trees; and I have ſeen it, tho indeed but rarely, in ſuch a ſtate, as to equal in beauty the moſt elegant ſtone-pine.
All trees indeed, crouded together, naturally riſe in perpendicular ſtems: but the fir has this peculiar diſadvantage, that it's lateral branches, once injured, never ſhoot again. A grove of crouded ſaplins, elms, beeches, or almoſt of any deciduous trees, when thinned, will throw out new lateral branches; and in time recover a ſtate of beauty: but if the education of the fir has been neglected, he is loſt for ever.
[Page 88] Some of the moſt pictureſque trees of this kind perhaps in England, adorn Mr. Lenthall's deſerted, and ruinous manſion of Baſilſleigh in Berkſhire. The ſoil is a deep, but rich ſand; which ſeems to be a ſoil adapted to them. And as they are here at perfect liberty, they not only become large, and noble trees; but they expand themſelves likewiſe in all the careleſs forms of nature. No man therefore has a right to depreciate the Scotch fir, till he has ſeen it here, or in ſome other place, in a perfect ſtate of nature.
It is not always however that the ſpruce fir grows with ſo much regularity. Sometimes a lateral branch, here and there, taking the lead beyond the reſt, breaks ſomewhat through the order, commonly obſerved, and forms a few chaſms, which have a good effect. When this is the caſe, the ſpruce fir ranks among pictureſque trees. Sometimes it has as good an effect, and in many circumſtances a better, when the contraſt appears ſtill ſtronger—when the tree is ſhattered by ſome accident; has loſt many of it's branches; and is ſcathed, and ragged. A feathery branch here and there, among broken ſtumps, has often an admirable effect; but it muſt ariſe from ſome particular ſituation. In all circumſtances however the ſpruce fir appears beſt either as a ſingle tree, or unmixed with any of it's fellows: for neither it, nor any of the ſpear-headed race, will ever form a beautiful clump without the aſſiſtance of other trees.
[Page 90] The ſilver-fir has very little to boaſt in point of pictureſque beauty. It has all the regularity of the ſpruce; but without it's floating foliage. There is a ſort of harſh, ſtiff, unbending formality in the ſtem, the branches, and in the whole economy of the tree, which makes it diſagreeable. We rarely ſee it, even in the happieſt ſtate, aſſume a pictureſque ſhape. Aſſiſted it may be in it's form, when broken and ſhattered; but it will rarely get rid of it's formality. In old age it ſtands the beſt chance of attaining beauty. We ſometimes ſee it under that circumſtance, a noble, ſhattered tree, finely adorned with ivy, and ſhooting out a few horizontal branches, on which it's meagre foliage, and tufted moſs appear to advantage.—I may add, that the ſilver fir is perhaps the hardieſt of it's tribe. It will out-face the ſouth-weſt wind: it will bear without ſhrinking even the ſea-air: ſo that one advantage at leaſt attends a plantation of ſilver firs; you may have it, where you can have no other; and a plantation of ſilver firs may be better than no plantation at all.
[Page 91] I know of no other ſpecies of fir in England, that is worth mentioning. The hemlock-ſpruce is a beautiful looſe plant, but it never, I believe, attains any ſize; and the Newfoundland, or black ſpruce, is another dwarfiſh tree. In that character however it is often beautiful; and it's ſmall red cones are an ornament to it.—In the vaſt pine-foreſts of North-America; and in thoſe, which hang beetling over the cliffs of the Baltic, the pictureſque eye might probably ſee many a grand production of the fir kind, which is hitherto little known: or if known, would appear there in ſo improved a character, as to ſeem wholly new. In the northern parts of Aſia alſo, and in the ſouthern parts of Africa, I doubt not, but the fir may be found in great variety, and perfection. In Philip's voyage to Botany-bay we are told of pines in Norfolk-iſland one hundred and eighty feet high, as I recollect: but I have not the book by me. Strabo indeed tells us, that the fir is wholly a European plant—that it is never to be met with in any part of Aſia—and that it may even be conſidered, in all thoſe places, where Europe and Aſia border on each other, as a diſtinguiſhing mark of European ground. [Page 92] On the Aſiatic ſide of the Tanais, he tells us, it is never found; tho on the European ſide it is ſo common that the Scythians, who inhabit thoſe parts, uſe it always in making arrows. He treats Eratoſthenes with ſome contempt, for aſſerting, that when Alexander was in India, he uſed fir in conſtructing his navy*. Strabo's accuracy is generally much reſpected: but, in this inſtance his obſervations ſeem to have been confined. There is little doubt, I think, that the fir abounded in many parts of Aſia: it was probably as much a native of mount Lebanon, as the cedar itſelf†.
After the pine, and fir tribes, the yew deſerves our notice. The yew is a pure native of Britain, and was formerly what the oak is now, the baſis of our ſtrength. Of it the old Engliſh yeoman made his long-bow; which, he vaunted, nobody but an Engliſhman, [Page 93] could bend. In ſhooting he did not, as in other nations, keep his left hand ſteady, and draw his bow with his right: but keeping his right at reſt upon the nerve, he preſſed the whole weight of his body into the horns of his bow. Hence probably aroſe the Engliſh phraſe of bending a bow; and the French of drawing one.
Nor is the yew celebrated only for it's toughneſs, and elaſticity; but alſo for it's durable nature. Where your paling is moſt expoſed either to winds, or ſprings; ſtrengthen it with a poſt of old yew. That hardy veteran fears neither ſtorms above, nor damps below. It is a common ſaying amongſt the inhabitants of New-foreſt, that a poſt of yew will outlaſt a poſt of iron.
Thus much for the utility, and dignity of the yew. As to it's pictureſque perfections, I profeſs myſelf (contrary I ſuppoſe to general opinion) a great admirer of it's form, and foliage. The yew is of all other trees, the moſt tonſile. Hence all the indignities it ſuffers. We every where ſee it cut and metamorphoſed into ſuch a variety of deformities, that we are hardly brought to conceive, it has a natural ſhape; or the power, which [Page 94] other trees have, of hanging careleſsly, and negligently. Yet it has this power in a very eminent degree; and in a ſtate of nature, except in expoſed ſituations, is perhaps one of the moſt beautiful ever-greens we have. Indeed, I know not, whether all things conſidered, it is not ſuperior to the cedar of Lebanon itſelf—I mean to ſuch meagre repreſentations of that noble plant, as we have in England. The ſame ſoil, which cramps the cedar, is congenial to the yew.
It is but ſeldom however, that we ſee the yew in perfection. In New-foreſt it formerly abounded: but it is now much ſcarcer. It does not rank among timber-trees; and being thus in a degree unprivileged, and unprotected by foreſt-laws, it has often been made booty of by thoſe, who durſt not lay violent hands on the oak, or the aſh. But ſtill in many parts of the foreſt, ſome noble ſpecimens of this tree are left. One I have often viſited, which is a tree of peculiar beauty. It immediately divides into ſeveral maſſy limbs, each of which hanging in grand looſe foliage, ſpreads over a large compaſs of ground, and yet the whole tree forms a cloſe, compact body: that is, it's boughs are not ſo ſeparated, [Page 95] as to break into diſtinct parts. It cannot boaſt the ſize of the yew-tree at Fotheringal, near Taymouth in Scotland, which meaſures fifty-ſix feet, and an half in circumference; nor indeed the ſize of many others on record: but it has ſufficient ſize for all the purpoſes of landſcape, and in point of pictureſque beauty it probably equals any of them. It ſtands not far from the banks of Lymington river, on the left bank as you look towards the ſea, between Roydon-farm, and Boldre-church. It occupies a ſmall knoll, ſurrounded with other trees; ſome of which are yews; but of inferior beauty. A little ſtream waſhes the baſe of the knoll; and winding round forms it into a peninſula. If any one ſhould have curioſity to viſit it from this deſcription, and by the help of theſe land-marks, I doubt not, but he may find it, at any time, within the ſpace of theſe two or three centuries, in great perfection, if it ſuffer no external injury. If ſuch trees were common, they would recover the character of the yew-tree among the admirers of pictureſque beauty.
But tho we ſhould be able to eſtabliſh it's beauty with reſpect to form, and foliage; there remains one point ſtill, which we ſhould [Page 96] find it hard to combat. It's colour unfortunately gives offence. It's dingy, funerial hue, people ſay, makes it fit only for a churchyard.
This objection, I hope, I have already anſwered in defending the colour of the Scotch fir*. An attachment to colour, as ſuch, ſeems to me, an indication of falſe taſte. Hence ariſe the numerous abſurdities of gaudy decoration. In the ſame manner, a diſlike to any particular colour ſhews a ſqueamiſhneſs, which ſhould as little be encouraged. Indeed, when you have only one colour to deal with, as in painting the wainſcot of your room, the eye properly enough gives a preference to ſome ſoft, pleaſant tint, in oppoſition to a glaring, bold one: but when colours act in concert, (as is the caſe in all ſcenery,) red, blue, yellow, light green, or dingy green, are all alike. The virtue of each conſiſts ſolely in it's agreement with it's neighbours.
I have only to add, in commendation of this tree, that it's veins exceed in beauty thoſe of moſt other trees. Tables made of [Page 97] yew, when the grain is fine, are much ſuperior to mahogany; and it's root vies in beauty with the ancient citron.
The ilex, or ever-green oak, preſents a character very different from that of the yew. The yew is a cloſe bodied, compact tree. The ilex is generally thin, and ſtraggling; tho we ſometimes ſee it, in ſoils, which it likes, form a thicker foliage. Both the yew and the ilex are beautiful; but in different ways. As an individual, the yew is greatly ſuperior. It is an object to admire. The beauty of the ilex ariſes chiefly from ſituation, and contraſt.
Under this head may be claſſed another oak, nearly an ever-green, a late production of ſingular origin, called the Luccam-oak, from the perſon, who raiſed it. It was produced from an acorn of the common Turkey-oak; from which all the Luccam-oaks have been grafted; as I underſtand, the ſeed of accidental varieties never produce the ſame plant. I have heard much of the beauty of this tree; and of the acquiſition it will be to winter-ſcenery by the introduction of a new, [Page 98] and beautiful ever-green. It may be ſo. It's growth, I am told, is rapid. But from the few plants I have ſeen of this ſtock, and thoſe but young, no judgment can well be formed.
The holly can hardly be called a tree, tho it is a large ſhrub. It is a plant however of ſingular beauty. Mr. Evelin, in his Sylva, cries out with rapture; "Is there under heaven a more glorious, and refreſhing object of the kind, than an impenetrable hedge, of about four hundred feet in length, nine feet high, and five in diameter, which I can ſhew in my gardens at Say's-court, at any time of the year, glittering with it's armed and varniſhed leaves; the taller ſtandards at orderly diſtances, bluſhing with their natural coral—ſhorn and faſhioned into columns, and pilaſters, architectionally ſhaped, at due diſtance."
Tho we cannot accord with the learned naturaliſt in the whole of this rapturous encomium on the hedge at Say's-court; yet in part we agree with him; and admire, as much as he does, the holly, glittering [Page 99] with it's armed and varniſhed leaves; and bluſhing with it's natural coral. But we could wiſh to recommend it, not in a hedge, but in a foreſt; where, mixed with oak, or aſh, or other trees of the wood, it contributes to form the moſt beautiful ſcenes; blending itſelf with the trunks, and ſkeletons of the winter; or with the varied greens of ſummer. —But in it's combined ſtate we ſhall have occaſion hereafter to mention it. At preſent we ſhall only obſerve that, as far as an individual buſh can be beautiful, the holly is extremely ſo. It has beſides to recommend it, that it is among the hardieſt and ſtouteſt plants of Engliſh growth. It thrives in all ſoils, and in all ſituations. At Dungeneſs in Kent, I have heard, it flouriſhes even among the pebbles of the beach.
[Page 100] But when the ſcenes of nature are preſented to the eye, it is but a poor appendage.— It's ſhape is bad. It does not taper, and point, like the holly, but is rather a matted, round, heavy buſh. It's fragrance indeed is great: but it's bloom, which is the ſource of that fragrance, is ſpread over it in too much profuſion. It becomes a mere white ſheet— a bright ſpot, which is ſeldom found in harmony with the objects around it. In autumn the haw-thorn makes it's beſt appearance. It's glowing berries produce a rich tint, which often adds great beauty to the corner of a wood, or the ſide of ſome crouded clump.—tell his taleUnder the haw-thorn in the dale:
WE have thus endeavoured to mark the principal characteriſtics of pictureſque beauty, in the moſt common trees we have in England. But to have a more accurate idea of their nice peculiarities, and diſtinctions, we ſhould examine their ſmaller parts with a little more preciſion—their ramification in winter; as well as the maſs of foliage, which they exhibit in ſummer.
Their ramification, in part, we have already conſidered; but it has only been that of the larger boughs, which ſupport the foliage; and ſuch as we commonly ſee under the maſſes of it, when in full leaf. Winter diſcovers the nicer parts of the ramification— the little tender ſpray; on which the hanging of the foliage, and the peculiar character of the tree ſo much depend.
[Page 102] The ſtudy is certainly uſeful. It is true it has none of the larger parts of painting for it's object—compoſition—or the maſſing of light and ſhade: but we conſider the ſpray as a kind of ſylvan anatomy; which is very neceſſary for thoſe to underſtand, who wiſh either to be acquainted with the particular character of each tree; or to repreſent it's general effect with any degree of exactneſs.
Nor is it an unpleaſing ſtudy. There is much variety in the ramification of each ſpecies; and much alſo in that of each individual. We ſee every where ſo many elegant lines; ſo much oppoſition, and rich interſection among them, that there are few more beautiful objects in nature, than the ramification of a tree. For myſelf, I am in doubt, whether an old, rough, interwoven oak, merely as a ſingle object, has not as much beauty in winter, as in ſummer. In ſummer it has unqueſtionably more effect; but in point of ſimple beauty, and amuſement, I think I ſhould almoſt prefer it in winter.
[Page 103] If a man were diſpoſed to moralize, the ramification of a thriving tree affords a good theme. Nothing gives a happier idea of buſy life. Induſtry, and activity, pervade every part. Wherever an opening, how minute ſoever appears, there ſome little knot of buſy adventurers puſh in, and form a ſettlement: ſo that the whole is every where full and complete. There too, as is common in all communities, are many little elbowings, juſtlings, thwartings, and oppoſitions, in which ſome gain and others loſe*.
[Page 104] In examining the ſpray of trees, I ſhall confine myſelf to the oak, the aſh, the elm, and the beech. It would be endleſs to run through the whole foreſt. Nor is it neceſſary. [Page 105] The examination of theſe few principal trees will ſhew how conſequential a part, the ſpray is, in fixing the character of the tree. There is as much difference in the ſpray, as there is in the foliage, or in any other particular. At the ſame time, if a painter be accurate, in a certain degree, in his delineation of ſome of the more capital trees; in others, his accuracy is of little conſequence: nay an endeavour at preciſion would be ſtiff, and pedantic.
The ſpray of the aſh is very different. As the boughs of the aſh are leſs complex, ſo is it's ſpray. Inſtead of the thick, intermingled buſhineſs, which the ſpray of the oak exhibits; that of the aſh is much more ſimple, running in a kind of irregular parallels. The main ſtem holds it's courſe, forming at the ſame time a beautiful ſweep: but the ſpray does not divide like that of the oak, from the extremity of the laſt year's ſhoot; but ſprings from the ſides of it. Two ſhoots ſpring out, oppoſite to each other; and each pair in a contrary direction. Rarely however both the ſhoots of either ſide come to maturity; one of them is commonly loſt, as the tree increaſes; or at leaſt makes no appearance in compariſon with the other, which takes the lead. So that, notwithſtanding this natural regularity [Page 108] of growth, (ſo injurious to the beauty of the ſpruce fir, and ſome other trees,) the aſh never contracts the leaſt diſguſting formality from it. It may even receive great pictureſque beauty: for ſometimes the whole branch is loſt, as far as one of the lateral ſhoots, and this occaſions a kind of rectangular junction, which forms a beautiful contraſt with the other ſpray, and gives an elegant mode of hanging to the tree.
This points out another difference between the ſpray of the oak, and that of the aſh. The ſpray of the oak, we obſerved, ſeldom ſhoots from the underſides of the larger branches: and it is this, together with the ſtrength and firmneſs of the branches which keeps them in a horizontal form. But the ſpray of the aſh, as often breaks out on the underſide of the branch, as on the upper; and being of a texture weaker, than that of the oak, it generally, as the bough increaſes, depends below the larger branch; and riſing again forms, in full grown trees eſpecially, very elegant pendent boughs.
Neither does the ſpray of the elm ſhoot, like that of the aſh, in regular pairs, from the ſame knot; but in a kind of alternacy. It has generally, at firſt, a flat appearance: but as one year's ſhoot is added to another, it has not ſtrength to ſupport itſelf; and as the tree grows old, it often becomes pendent alſo, like the aſh: whereas the toughneſs, and ſtrength of the oak enables it to ſtretch out it's branches horizontally to the very laſt twig.
The ſpray of the beech obſerves the ſame kind of alternacy, as that of the elm: but it ſhoots in angles ſtill more acute—the diſtance between each twig is wider; and it forms a kind of zigzag in it's courſe.
We eſteem the beech alſo, in ſome degree, a pendent tree, as well as the aſh: but there is a wide difference between them. The aſh is a light airy tree, and it's ſpray hangs in [Page 110] elegant, looſe foliage. But the hanging ſpray of the beech, in old trees eſpecially, is often twiſted, and intermingled diſagreeably; and has a perplexed, matted appearance. The whole tree gives us ſomething of the idea of an intangled head of buſhy hair, from which, here and there, hangs a diſorderly lock; while the ſpray of the aſh, like hair neither neglected, nor finically nice, has nothing ſqualid in it, and yet hangs in looſe and eaſy curls.
The ſpray of trees puts on different appearances, as the ſpring advances. When their buds begin to ſwell, moſt of them puſh out a bloom, which overſpreads them with great richneſs. But of all others, the aſh preſents the moſt ſingular, and beautiful aſpect. About the end of march, or the beginning of april, it throws out a knotty bloom, which opening gradually, not only inriches the ſpray; but is in itſelf one of the moſt beautiful among the minuter appearances of nature. The feminal ſtems are of an olive tint, and each of them tipped with a black ſeed.—Often too the ſpray of the aſh, is [Page 111] inriched by the ragged remnants of the keys, and tongues of the laſt year; which mixed with the bloom, has a good effect.
The elm too throws out a beautiful bloom, in form of a ſpicated ball, about the higneſs of a nutmeg, of a dark crimſon colour. This bloom ſometimes blows in ſuch profuſion, as to thicken and inrich the ſpray exceedingly; even to the fullneſs almoſt of foliage. It is not however often ſeen in ſuch perfection. In the ſpring of the year 1776, it was more than commonly profuſe. Indeed the bloom of foreſt-trees in general is rarely annual: it appears in profuſion only every ſecond, or third year; and even then, ſeldom all the trees of the ſame kind bloom at once. Thus, when you look into a grove of oaks, about the beginning of may, you will ſuppoſe perhaps, that ſome are much forwarder in leaf than others; whereas in fact this appearance chiefly ariſes from their being in bloom; their little penſile catkins hanging in knots, adorned with tufts of young leaves.
Having thus made a few obſervations on the forms of trees, their different modes of [Page 112] growth, and other peculiarities; I ſhould add, that I am far from ſuppoſing, nature to act always in exact conformity to the appearances, which I have here marked. In the general mode of growth, which each ſpecies obſerves, no doubt, ſhe is uniform: but in the particular manner, in which the ſtem riſes, the branches ſhoot, the foliage hangs, and indeed, if I may ſo ſpeak, in the ſpecific character of each individual, many circumſtances will make a difference; ſoils and climate eſpecially. Theſe have the ſame effect on the form of trees, which they have on the form of animals. We not only ſee diſtant parts of the earth, but even contiguous countries exhibit varieties in the ſame ſpecies of animals: the Engliſh and Scotch horſe are very different creatures: and as climates and ſoils are ſtill more connected with trees, than with animals, we may obſerve a greater difference produced in them, within a ſmaller diſtance. The oak of one country differs in form from the oak of another. In one, it carries commonly an erect ſtem for many yards from the ground: in another, it's branches begin very quickly to divide, and ſtraggle. In the former ſituation the foliage [Page 113] may be thick, and interwoven; in the latter, it may be thin, and meagre: but in both ſituations you may eaſily diſtinguiſh it from the oak, or the beech. The obſervations therefore, which we have made on the form of trees, cannot in many minute circumſtances be ſuppoſed to ſuit the individuals of every country; tho I have endeavoured, as well as I could, to adapt them to the ſpecies. They were chiefly made on the trees of New-foreſt in Hampſhire; the ſoil of which, in general, is a hungry gravel, or a cold clay.
I SHOULD now diſmiſs the ſubject of trees as individuals, and haſten to conſider them in a combined ſtate, in which they will appear to moſt advantage: but as many trees, as well as men, have diſtinguiſhed themſelves in the world; it ſeemed proper to dedicate a few pages to the particular mention of ſuch celebrated characters, before I conclude that part of my treatiſe, which is profeſſedly written to do honour to ſingle trees.
But firſt, it cannot be enough lamented by the lovers of landſcape, that we meet with ſo few of theſe noble characters. Trees indeed, ſufficient for all the purpoſes of diſtant ſcenery, we often find; but a tree in full perfection, as a grand object to grace [Page 116] a foreground, is rarely ſeen. Wherever trees can be turned to profit, they are commonly cut down, long before they attain pictureſque perfection. The beauty of almoſt every ſpecies of tree increaſes after it's prime; and unleſs it have the good fortune to ſtand in ſome place of difficult acceſs; or under the protection of ſome patron, whoſe manſion it adorns, we rarely ſee it in that grandeur and dignity, which it would acquire by age.
Some of the nobleſt oaks in England were at leaſt formerly found in Suſſex. They required ſometimes a ſcore of oxen to draw them; and were carried in a ſort of wain, which in that deep country, is expreſſively called a tugg. Two or three years was not an uncommon ſpace of time for a tree to ſpend in performing it's journey to Chatham. One tugg carried the load but a little way, and left it for another tugg to take up. If the rains ſet in, it ſtirred no more that year; and ſometimes no part of the next ſummer was dry enough for the tugg to proceed. So that the timber was generally [Page 117] pretty well ſeaſoned, before it arrived at the king's yard. I ſuppoſe the ſame mode of carriage ſtill continues.
In this fallen ſtate alone, it is true, the tree becomes the baſis of England's glory. Tho we regret it's fall therefore, we muſt not repine; but addreſs the children of the wood, as the gallant oak, on his removal from the foreſt, is ſaid to have addreſſed the ſcion by his ſide.
Where thy great grandſire ſpread his awful ſhade,A holy druid myſtic circles made.Myſelf a ſapling, when thy grandſire boreIntrepid Edward to the Gallic ſhore.Me now my country calls: Adieu, my ſon,And as the circling years in order run,May'ſt thou renown'd, the foreſt's boaſt, and pride,Victorious in ſome future conteſt ride.
—Neque enim villis accedere majorPoſſit honos, densâ quam nubilus arbore lucus.Sylvarum ſtudioſa, ſuos cum Gallia quondamVix aleret cives, patriâ migrare relictâ,Maluit, exciſis victum quam quaerere ſylvis.Haec ubi jam nemorum reverentia tanta, bipenneaUt teneat? noſtros ubi grandior ulla per agrosQuercus ad annoſam, ferri ſecura, ſenectamDurat? inacceſſis niſi conſita montibus, ipſoSe defenſa loco tucatur: ſi qua ſuperſuntA patribus nemora ad ſeros tranſmiſſa nepotes,Illa nec aeſtivo frondent impervia ſoli,Nobile nec coelo caput abdunt, qualia quondamVulgus adorabat truncis procera verendis.Sed veteri de ſtirpe, novo ſurgentia ramo,Et quatuor poſt luſtra nigros viſura camino,Vix lepori hoſpitium praebent, ſylveſtribus olimQuae timidas latebris damas urſoſque tegebant.Ecquis honos ruris, nemorum ſi gratia defit;Obſeſſuſque domi maneas, cum Sirius ardensDebacchatur agris; viridique ſub ilicis umbrâIrriguo poſſis nec tradere feſſa ſoporiMembra, nec aeſtivos ramorum frigore ſolesFrangere, nec taciti per amica ſilentia luci,Multiſonos avium concentus inter, ad aptosSponti ſuâ veniens numeros, contexere carmen*.
[Page 119] And yet I ſhould ſuppoſe they are not ſo frequently found in a ſtate of nature, as in more cultivated countries. In the foreſts of America, and other ſcenes, where boundleſs woods have filled the plains from the beginning of time, and where they grow ſo cloſe, and cover the ground with ſo impervious a ſhade, that even a weed can ſcarce riſe beneath them, the ſingle tree is loſt. Unleſs it ſtand on the outſkirts of the wood, it is circumſcribed; and has not room to expand it's vaſt limbs, as nature directs. When we wiſh therefore to find the moſt ſublime ſylvan character—the oak, the elm, or the aſh in perfection, we muſt not look for it in cloſe, thick woods, but ſtanding ſingle, independent of all connections, as we ſometimes find it in our own foreſts, tho oftener in better protected places, ſhooting it's head wildly into the clouds, and ſpreading it's arms towards every wind of heaven.
— The oakThrives by the rude concuſſion of the ſtorm.He ſeems indignant; and to feelThe impreſſion of the blaſt with proud diſdain:But, deeply earthed, the unconſcious monarch owesHis firm ſtability to what he ſcorns;More fixed below, the more diſturbed above.
[Page 120] If I choſe to lengthen my catalogue of celebrated trees, I might produce an innumerable hoſt of ſuch as have been mentioned caſually by hiſtorians, and travellers, in all ages: as the plane-tree hanging over the temple of Delphos, which Theophraſtus ſuppoſes was as ancient as the times of Agamemnon —that alſo by which Socrates uſed to ſwear— the olive tree at Linturnum, planted by Scipio Africanus—the tilia of Baſil, under which the German emperors uſed to dine—the malus medica at the monaſtery of Fundi reverenced by Thomas Aquinas—the oak at Bruges, which Francis the firſt immured—the lime-tree in Sweden, which gave name to the family of the celebrated Linnaeus—trees which captain Cook found in the Weſtern parts of California, meaſuring ſixty feet in circumference, and riſing to the height of one hundred and fifty feet without a ſingle knot—ſolid trees, which have been ſcooped into canoes, capable of holding thirty or forty men; particularly one, on record, at Congo, which held two hundred. I might add alſo Arthur's table, in the town-hall of Wincheſter, which has been [Page 121] cut out of a tree of immenſe girth. The Cheltenham-oak alſo might be introduced, which as near it's roots as you can walk, exceeds twenty paces round—the Cawthorpe oak alſo, which at the ground exceeded twenty-ſix yards—the Bently-oak in Holt-foreſt, which at ſeven feet from the ground, was thirty-four feet in circumference—the Swilter-oak in Needwood-foreſt, which, I believe was equal to any of them*. With an innumerable liſt of this kind I might ſwell my page: but I reject all ſuch trees, as have either been only caſually mentioned—or have had their value merely aſcertained by a timber-merchant's rule —And yet all theſe have been trees famous in their day; ſome of them are ſtill alive; and if I were writing a biographical hiſtory of trees, I ſhould be glad to inſert them, having a reverence for them all. Where one tree attains this noble growth; and makes itſelf conſpicuous, thouſands, and ten thouſands reach only the ordinary ſize of nature. The few pages however at preſent on my hands, I [Page 122] ſhould wiſh to allot to ſuch trees only, as have ſomewhat more of hiſtory, and anecdote annexed to them.
One of the moſt celebrated trees on ancient record, was an oriental plane, which grew in Phrygia. It's dimenſions are not handed down to us; but from the following circumſtances, we may ſuppoſe them to have been very ample. When Xerxes ſet out on his Grecian expedition, his rout led him near this noble tree. Xerxes, it ſeems, was a great admirer of trees. Amidſt all his devaſtations in an enemy's country, it was his particular order to ſpare the groves. This wonderful plane therefore ſtruck his fancy. He had ſeen nothing like it before; and to the aſtoniſhment of all his officers, ordered his mighty hoſt to halt three days; during which time he could not be drawn from the Phrygian plane. His pavilion was ſpread under it; and he enjoyed the luxury of it's delicious ſhade; while the Greeks were taking meaſures to ſeize the paſs at Thermopyle.— The ſtory may not ſpeak much in favour of the [Page 123] prince; but it is my buſineſs only to pay honour to the tree*.
In Arcadia, at the foot of the mountains, bounding the Stymphalian plains (famous for one of the labours of Hercules) ſtood the little town of Caphiae; and juſt above it roſe a fountain, called the Menalaid fountain; by the ſide of which Pauſanias tells us†, grew a plane-tree of extraordinary ſize and beauty, called the Menalaid-plane. It was generally believed in the country, he tells us, that Menelaus coming to Caphiae to raiſe forces for the Trojan war, planted this tree with his own hands. Pauſanias travelled through Greece in the reign of Antoninus Pius, who ſucceeded to the empire, A. D. 151. So that the age of the tree, when Pauſanias ſaw it, muſt have been about one thouſand, three hundred years.
I ſhall next exhibit another plane-tree of great celebrity, which flouriſhed in Lycia, [Page 124] during the reigns of the Roman Caeſars. From a vaſt ſtem it divided into ſeveral huge boughs; every one of which had the conſequence of a large tree; and at a diſtance the whole together exhibited the appearance of a grove. It's branches ſtill flouriſhed, while it's trunk decayed. This in proceſs of time mouldered away into an immenſe cave, at leaſt eighty feet in circumference; around the ſides of which were placed ſeats of pumice ſtone; cuſhioned ſoftly with moſs. This tree was firſt brought into repute by Licinius Mutianus, governor of Lycia. Licinius was a curious man; and not unverſed in natural hiſtory. Pliny, from whom we have the account of the tree, has thought proper to quote him frequently; mentioning particularly his remarks on Egyptian paper*; and alſo on that kind of wood, of which the ſtatue of Diana at Epheſus was made†. With the Lycian-plane Licinius was exceedingly pleaſed; and often enjoyed the company of his friends under it's ſhade. It was great luxury, he would ſay, to dine in it's trunk on a ſultry ſummer-day; and to hear a heavy ſhower of rain deſcending [Page 125] through the ſeveral ſtages of it's leaves. As a naturaliſt, he left it on record, that himſelf and eighteen other perſons, dined commodiouſly around the benches in the body of it.
Caligula had a tree of the ſame kind at his villa near Velitrae. But Caligula's tree appears to have been more complex, than the Lycian plane. It had not only a hollow cave in it's trunk, which was capable of holding fifteen perſons at dinner with a proper ſuit of the emperor's attendants; but, if I underſtand Pliny rightly*, it had ſtories alſo (probably artificial flooring) in the boughs of the tree. Caligula uſed to call it, his neſt.
From the ſame author we have an account of four holm trees†, ſtill exiſting in his time, which were of great antiquity. Three of them, he ſays, ſtood upon the ſite of the ancient Tybur, which was a city older [Page 126] than Rome; and theſe trees were not only older than Tybur; but were trees of conſequence in the days of Tiburtus, who founded it. For tradition aſſures us, ſays Pliny, they were the very trees, on which that hero obſerved an ominous flight of birds, and was determined by them in the ſite of his town. As Tiburtus was the ſon of Amphiareus, who died at Thebes a hundred years before the Trojan war; theſe trees, at the loweſt calculation, muſt have been fourteen or fifteen hundred years old, in the time of Pliny. Tho this is far from being incredible, yet as it reſts wholly on tradition, we pay it the leſs attention. What Pliny ſays in the favour of the fourth tree however has more weight. This tree, he tells us, grew in the Vatican; and had it's age inſcribed in old Tuſcan characters, upon it's trunk; from which inſcription it appeared, that before the city of Rome had it's exiſtence, this holm was a celebrated tree.
When Tiberius built his naumachia, and had occaſion for large beams in ſeveral parts of his work, he endeavoured to collect them [Page 127] from the various foreſts of the empire. Among other maſſy pieces of timber, which were brought to Rome on this occaſion, the trunk of a larch was of ſo prodigious a ſize, that the emperor, inſtead of uſing it in his works, ordered it to be laid up as a curioſity. It meaſured one hundred and twenty feet in length; and carried a diameter of two feet to the very end*. When this larch was alive, with all the furniture of it's vaſt top, and gigantic limbs, in proportion to ſuch a trunk, it muſt have been an aſtoniſhing tree.
The largeſt tree that ever was known to be brought into Britain, formed the main maſt of the Royal Sovereign in queen Ann's time. It was ninety feet long; and thirty-five inches in diameter†.
Mr. Evelin, from whom we have this account, mentions in the ſame place, a ſtill larger tree, which formed the keel of the Crown, a French ſhip of the laſt century. [Page 128] It was one hundred and twenty feet long, which is the length of Tiberius's larch; tho it had not probably the circumference of that tree.
The maſts of our ſhips of war, at preſent, are never made of ſingle trees. It is the method to lay two or three trees together, and fitting them tight to each other, to bind them cloſe, at proper diſtances with pitched ropes. But a very noble fir was lately brought into England, which was not ſpliced in the common mode, but was converted in it's full dimenſions, into the bowſprit of the Britannia, a new ſhip of one hundred and ten guns; in which capacity, I have heard, it ſerves at preſent. This fir was ninety-ſix feet in length; and had, I believe, the full diameter of Tiberius's larch.
Maundrel tells us, that when he travelled into the Eaſt, a few of the old cedars of Lebanon were ſtill left. He found them among the ſnow near the higheſt part of the mountain. "I meaſured one of the largeſt of them, ſays he, and found it twelve yards, ſix inches in girt; and yet ſound: and thirty-ſeven [Page 129] yards in the ſpread of it's boughs. At about five or ſix yards from the ground, it divided into five limbs; each of which was a maſſy tree."
A later traveller, Van Egmont, who viſited the ſcenes of mount Lebanon, ſeems alſo to ſpeak of the ſame trees, which Maundrel mentions. He obſerved them, he ſays, to be of very different ages. The old ſtandards had low ſtems; growing like fruit trees. Whereas the younger made a much more ſtately appearance, not a little reſembling pines. Of the ancient trees he ſaw only eleven: thoſe of younger growth far exceeded that number. Some of theſe old cedars were four, or five fathoms in circumference. Under one of them was erected an altar; where the clergy of Tripoly, and the neighbouring convent of Maſſurki ſometimes celebrated maſs. From this tree ſpread five limbs, reſembling ſubſtantial trees, each being about an hundred feet in length; and inſerted into the main trunk about fourteen, or fifteen feet from the ground.
Theſe are noble dimenſions, tho it is probable, that the beſt of the trees now left upon mount Lebanon, are only the refuſe of [Page 130] the ancient race; as we may well ſuppoſe, the beſt were occaſionally taken firſt. If Solomon's botanical works had ſtill been preſerved, it is probable we ſhould have met with trees of much larger dimenſions, than theſe, which Maundrel, and Van Egmont meaſured.
One of the nobleſt trees on record, is a cheſnut upon mount Aetna, called the Caſtagna de cento cavalli. It is ſtill alive, but has loſt much of it's original dignity. Many travellers take notice of it. Brydone was the laſt who ſaw it. His account is dated about ſixteen, or ſeventeen, years ago. It had then the appearance of five diſtinct trees. The ſpace within them, he was aſſured, had once been filled with ſolid timber, when the whole formed only one tree. The poſſibility of this he could not at firſt conceive; for the five trees together contained a ſpace of two hundred and four feet in diameter. At length however he was convinced, not only by the teſtimony of the country, and the accurate examination of the canon Recupero, a learned naturaliſt in thoſe parts, but by the appearance [Page 131] of the trees themſelves, none of which had any bark on the inſide. This cheſnut is of ſuch renown, that Brydone tells us, he had ſeen it marked in an old map of Sicily, publiſhed a hundred years ago33.
Among other authors, who mention this tree, Kircher gives us the following account of it's condition in his day; which might be about a century before Brydone ſaw it: "Oſtendit mihi viae dux, unius caſtaniae corticem, tantae magnitudinis, ut intra eam integer pecorum grex, a paſtoribus tanquam in caula commodiſſima, noctu intercluderetur." From this account, one ſhould imagine, that in Kircher's days the five trees were more united, than when Brydone ſaw them.
At Newſtadt, in the duchy of Wirtemberg, ſtood a lime, which was for many ages ſo remarkable, that the city frequently took it's denomination from it, being often called Newſtadt ander graſſen linden, or Newſtadt near the great lime. Scarce any perſon paſſed [Page 132] near Newſtadt, without viſiting this tree; and many princes and great men did honour to it, by building obeliſks, columns, and monuments of various kinds around it, engraved with their arms, and names, to which the dates were added, and often ſome device. Mr. Evelin*, who procured copies of ſeveral of theſe monumental inſcriptions, tells us, there were near two hundred of them. The columns on which they were fixed, ſerved alſo to bear up the vaſt limbs of the tree, which began through age to become unweildy. Thus this mighty plant ſtood many years in great ſtate, the ornament of the town, the admiration of the country, and ſupported, as it were, by the princes of the empire. At length it felt the effects of war. Newſtadt was ſurrounded by an enemy, and the limbs of this venerable tree were mangled in wantonneſs by the beſieging troops. Whether it ſtill exiſt, I know not: but long after theſe injuries, it ſtood a noble ruin, diſcovering by the foundations of the ſeveral monuments, which formerly propped it's [Page 133] ſpreading boughs, how far it's limits had once extended.
As a parallel to the lime of Newſtadt, I ſhall next celebrate the lime of Cleves. This alſo was a tree of great magnificence. It grew in an open plain, juſt at the entrance of the city, and was thought an object worthy to exerciſe the taſte of magiſtracy. The burgomaſter of his day had it ſurveyed with great accuracy, and trimmed into eight, broad, pyramidal faces. Each corner was ſupported by a handſome ſtone pillar; and in the middle of the tree was cut a noble room; which the vaſt ſpace contained within, eaſily ſuffered, without injuring the regularity of any of the eight faces. To crown all, the top was curiouſly clipped into ſome kind of head, and adorned artificially; but in what manner, whether with the head of a lion, or a ſtag, a weather cock, or a ſun-dial, we are not told. It was ſomething however in the higheſt ſtile of Dutch taſte.—This tree was long the admiration, and envy of all the ſtates of Holland; and Mr. Evelin, from whom we have the relation, ſeems to have thought it a piece [Page 134] of excellent workmanſhip: "I needed not, ſays he, have charged this paragraph with half theſe trees, but to ſhew how much more the lime-tree ſeems diſpoſed to be wrought into theſe arborious wonders, than other trees of ſlower growth*."
They grew in the park at Donnington-caſtle, near Newbery, where Chaucer ſpent his latter life in ſtudious retirement.—The largeſt of theſe trees was called the king's-oak, and carried an erect ſtem of fifty feet, before it broke into branches, and was cut into a beam, five feet ſquare.—The next in ſize was called the queen's-oak, and ſurvived the calamities of the civil wars in king Charles's time; tho Donnington-caſtle, and the country around it, were ſo often the ſcenes of action, and deſolation. It's branches were very curious: they [Page 135] puſhed out from the ſtem in ſeveral uncommon directions; imitating the horns of a ram, rather than the branches of an oak. When it was felled, it yielded a beam forty feet long, without knot, or blemiſh, perfectly ſtrait, four feet ſquare at the but-end, and near a yard at the top.—The third of theſe oaks was called Chaucer's, of which we have no particulars: in general, only we are told, that it was a noble tree, tho inferior to either of the others*. None of them, I ſhould ſuppoſe from this account, was a tree of pictureſque beauty. A ſtrait ſtem, of forty or fifty feet, let it's head be what it will, can hardly produce a pictureſque form. When we admired the ſtone-pine, we ſuppoſed it's ſtem to take a ſweeping line; and to be broken alſo with ſtumps, or decayed branches.—the laughing ſageCarolled his moral ſong—
Cloſe by the gate of the water-walk, at Magdalen college in Oxford, grew an oak, which perhaps ſtood there a ſaplin, when Alfred the great founded the univerſity. This period only includes a ſpace of nine hundred [Page 136] years, which is no great age for an oak. It is a difficult matter indeed to aſcertain the age of a tree. The age of a caſtle, or abbey is the object of hiſtory. Even a common houſe is recorded by the family, that built it. All theſe objects arrive at maturity in their youth, if I may ſo ſpeak. But the tree gradually compleating it's growth, is not worth recording in the early part of it's exiſtence. It is then only a common tree; and afterwards when it becomes remarkable for it's age, all memory of it's youth is loſt. This tree however can almoſt produce hiſtorical evidence for the age aſſigned to it. About five hundred years after the time of Alfred, William of Wainfleet, Dr. Stukely tells us, expreſsly ordered his college to be founded near the great oak *: and an oak could not, I think, be leſs than five hundred years of age, to merit that title; together with the honour of fixing the ſite of a college. When the magnificence of cardinal Wolſey erected that handſome tower, which is ſo ornamental to the whole building, this tree might probably be in the meridian [Page 137] of it's glory; or rather perhaps it had attained a green old age. But it muſt have been manifeſtly in it's decline, at that memorable aera, when the tyranny of James gave the fellows of Magdalen ſo noble an opportunity of withſtanding bigotry, and ſuperſtition. It was afterwards much injured in Charles II's time, when the preſent walks were laid out. It's roots were diſturbed; and from that period it declined faſt; and became reduced by degrees to little more than a mere trunk. The oldeſt members of the univerſity can ſcarce recollect it in better plight. But the faithful records of hiſtory* have handed down it's ancient dimenſions. Through a ſpace of ſixteen yards, on every ſide from it's trunk, it once flung it's boughs; and under it's magnificent pavilion could have ſheltered with eaſe three thouſand men; tho in it's decayed ſtate, it could, for many years do little more than ſhelter ſome luckleſs individual, whom the driving ſhower had overtaken in his evening walk. In the ſummer of the year 1788, this magnificent ruin fell to the ground; alarming the college [Page 138] with it's ruſhing ſound. It then appeared how precariouſly it had ſtood for many years. It's grand tap-root was decayed; and it had hold of the earth only by two or three roots, of which none was more than a couple of inches in diameter. From a part of it's ruins a chair has been made for the preſident of the college, which will long continue it's memory.
Near Workſop grew an oak, which in reſpect both to it's own dignity, and the dignity of it's ſituation, deſerves honourable mention. In point of grandeur few trees equalled it. It overſpread a ſpace of ninety feet from the extremities of it's oppoſite boughs. Theſe dimenſions will produce an area capable, on mathematical calculation, of covering a ſquadron of two hundred and thirty-five horſe. —The dignity of it's ſtation was equal to the dignity of the tree itſelf. It ſtood on a point, where Yorkſhire, Nottinghamſhire, and Derbyſhire unite, and ſpread it's ſhade over a portion of each. From the honourable ſtation of thus fixing the boundaries of three large counties, it was equally reſpected through the domains of them all; and was known far and [Page 139] wide, by the honourable diſtinction of the ſhire-oak, by which appellation it was marked among cities, towns, and rivers, in all the larger maps of England*.
In the garden at Tortworth, in Gloceſterſhire, an old family-ſeat, belonging to lord Ducie, grows a Spaniſh cheſnut of great age, and dimenſions. Traditional accounts ſuppoſe it to have been a boundary-tree in the time of king John; and I have met with other accounts, which place it in the ſame honourable ſtation in the reign of king Stephen. How much older it may be, we know not. Conſiderably older it probably was: for we rarely make boundary-trees of ſaplins, and off-ſets; which are liable to a thouſand accidents, and are unable to maintain, with proper dignity, the ſtation delegated to them. —This tree is at preſent in hands, which juſtly value, and protect it's age. It was barely included within the garden-wall, which bore hard upon it. Lord Ducie removed the incumbrance; and at the ſame time applied [Page 140] freſh earth to the roots of the tree, which ſeems to have inlivened it. So late as in the year 1788 it produced great quantities of cheſnuts; which tho ſmall, were ſweet, and well-flavoured.— In the great cheſnut-cauſe, mentioned a little above*, between Barrington, and Ducarel, this venerable tree was called upon as an evidence; and gave a very reſpectable teſtimony in favour of the cheſnuts.
After mentioning this cheſnut, which has been celebrated ſo much, I cannot forbear mentioning another, which is equally remarkable for having never been celebrated at all; tho it is one of the largeſt trees, that perhaps ever exiſted in England. If it had ever been noticed merely for it's bulk, I ſhould have paſſed it over among other gigantic plants, that had nothing elſe to boaſt; but as no hiſtorian, or antiquarian, ſo far as I have heard, hath taken the leaſt notice of it, I thought it right from this very circumſtance to make up the omiſſion by giving it at leaſt, what little credit theſe papers could give.— [Page 141] This cheſnut grows at a place called Wimley, near Hitchin-priory in Hertfordſhire. In the year 1789, at five feet above the ground, it's girth was ſomewhat more than fourteen yards. It's trunk was hollow, and in part open. But it's vegetation was ſtill vigorous. On one ſide it's vaſt arms, ſhooting up in various forms, ſome upright, and others oblique, were decayed, and peeled at the extremities; but iſſued from luxuriant foliage at their inſertion in the trunk. On the other ſide, the foliage was ſtill full, and hid all decay.
In a glade of Hainhault-foreſt in Eſſex, about a mile from Barkingſide, ſtands an oak, which has been known through many centuries, by the name of Fairlop. The tradition of the country traces it half way up the Chriſtian aera. It is ſtill a noble tree, tho it has now ſuffered greatly from the depredations of time. About a yard from the ground, where it's rough fluted ſtem is thirty-ſix feet in circumference, it divides into eleven vaſt arms; yet not in the horizontal manner of an oak, but rather in that of a beech. Beneath it's ſhade, which overſpreads an area [Page 142] of three hundred feet in circuit, an annual fair has long been held, on the 2d of July; and no booth is ſuffered to be erected beyond the extent of it's boughs. But as their extremities are now become ſapleſs, and age is yearly curtailing their length, the liberties of the fair ſeem to be in a very deſponding condition. The honour however is great. —But honours are often accompanied with inconveniences; and Fairlop has ſuffered from it's honourable diſtinctions. In the feaſting that attends a fair, fires are often neceſſary; and no places ſeemed ſo proper to make them in, as the hollow cavities formed by the heaving roots of the tree. This practice has brought a ſpeedier decay on Fairlop, than it might otherwiſe have ſuffered.
Not far from Blanford, in Dorſetſhire, ſtood very lately a tree, known by the name of Damory's oak. About five or ſix centuries ago, it was probably in a ſtate of maturity. At the ground it's circumference was ſixty-eight feet; and ſeventeen feet above the ground it's diameter was four yards. As this vaſt trunk decayed, it became hollow, [Page 143] forming a cavity, which was fifteen feet wide, and ſeventeen feet high, capable of holding twenty men. During the civil wars, and till after the reſtoration, this cave was regularly inhabited by an old man, who ſold ale in it. In the violent ſtorm in the year 1703, it ſuffered greatly, many of it's nobleſt limbs having been torn from it. But it was ſtill ſo grand a ruin, above forty years after, that ſome of it's branches were ſeventy-five feet high; and extended ſeventy-two. In the year 1755 when it was fit for nothing but firewood, it was ſold for fourteen pounds†.
In Torwood, in the county of Sterling, upon a little knoll, ſtand at this time, the ruins of an oak, which is ſuppoſed to be the largeſt tree, that ever grew in Scotland. The trunk of it is now wholly decayed, and hollow: but it is evident, from what remains, that it's diameter could not have been leſs than eleven or twelve feet.—What it's age may be, is matter only of conjecture: but [Page 144] from ſome circumſtances, it is probably a tree of great antiquity. The little knoll it ſtands on, is ſurrounded by a ſwamp, over which a cauſeway leads to the tree, or rather to a circle which ſeems to have run round it. The veſtiges of this circle, as well as the cauſeway, bear a plain reſemblance to thoſe works, which are commonly attributed to the Druids. So that it is probable, this tree was a ſcene of worſhip belonging to thoſe heathen prieſts.—But the credit of it does not depend on the dubious veſtiges of Druid antiquity. In a later ſcene of greater importance, (if tradition ever be the vehicle of truth) it bore a great ſhare.—When that illuſtrious hero, William Wallace, rouſed the ſpirit of the Scotch nation to oppoſe the tyranny of Edward, he often choſe the ſolitude of Torwood, as a place of rendezvous for his army. Here he concealed his numbers, and his deſigns; ſallying out ſuddenly on the enemy's grriſons, and retreating as ſuddenly, when he feared to be overpowered. While his army lay in thoſe woods, the oak, which we are now commemorating, was commonly his head-quarters. Here the hero generally ſlept; it's hollow trunk being capacious [Page 145] enough to afford ſhelter, not only to himſelf, but to ſeveral of his officers. This tree has ever ſince been known by the name of Wallace-tree; by which name it may eaſily be found in Torwood to this day*.
This tree, as far as we can pay credit to tradition, and general opinion, ſtill exiſts. In the little park at Windſor is a walk, known by the name of Queen Elizabeth's walk. It conſiſts of elms, among which is a ſingle oak taken into the row, as if particularly meant to be diſtinguiſhed, at the time, when the [Page 146] walk was laid out. This tree is ſuppoſed to be Hern's oak. It is a large tree, meaſuring about twenty-four feet in circumference, and is ſtill in great vigour; which I think, chiefly injures it's hiſtorical credit. For tho it is evidently a tree in years, and might well have exiſted in the time of Elizabeth, it ſeems too ſtrong, and vigorous to have been a proper tree, in that age, for Hern, the hunter, to have danced round. Fairies, elves and that generation of people, univerſally choſe the moſt ancient, and venerable trees they could find, to gambol under: and the poet, who ſhould deſcribe them dancing under a ſaplin, would ſhew little acquaintance with his ſubject. That this tree could not be called a venerable tree two hundred years ago, is evident; becauſe it hardly can aſſume that character even now. And yet an oak, in a ſoil it likes, will continue ſo many years in a vigorous ſtate, that we muſt not lay more ſtreſs on this argument, than it will fairly bear.—It may be added, however in it's favour, that a pit or ditch, is ſtill ſhewn near the tree, as Shakeſpear deſcribes it; which may have [Page 147] been preſerved with the ſame veneration, as the tree itſelf.—an old tale goes, that Hern the hunter,Sometime a keeper here in Windſor foreſt,Doth all the winter time, at ſtill of midnight,Walk round about this oak, with ragged horns;And then he blaſts the trees, deſtroys the cattle,Makes the milch-cow yield blood, and ſhakes a chainIn hideous, dreadful manner—
There is an oak, in the grounds of Sir Gerrard Van Neck, at Heveningham, in Suffolk, which carries us likewiſe into the times of Elizabeth. But this tree brings it's evidence with it—evidence, which, if neceſſary, might carry it into Saxon times. It is now falling faſt into the decline of years: and every year robs it more of it's honours. But it's trunk, which meaſures thirty-five feet in circumference, ſtill retains it's grandeur; tho the ornaments of it's boughs, and foliage are much reduced. But the grandeur of the trunk conſiſts only in appearance. It is a mere ſhell. In Queen Elizabeth's time it was hollow; and from this circumſtance the tree derives the honour of being handed down to poſterity. That princeſs, who from her earlieſt age loved maſculine amuſements, uſed often, it is ſaid, in her youth, to take her ſtand in this tree, and ſhoot the deer as they paſſed. From that time it has been known by the name of Queen Elizabeth's oak.
In the deanery-garden at Wincheſter ſtood lately, (ſo lately as the year 1757) an ancient fig-tree. Through a ſucceſſion of many deans it had been caſed up, and ſhielded from winds, and froſt. The wall to which it was nailed, was adorned with various inſcriptions, in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin; alluding to ſuch paſſages of the ſacred writings, as do honour to the fig-tree. After having been preſented with ſeveral texts of ſcripture, the reader was informed, by way of climax, that in the year 1623, king James I. taſted of the fruit of this fig-tree with great pleaſure.
At Lambeth likewiſe are two celebrated fig-trees; which, on good grounds, are ſuppoſed to have been planted by cardinal Pole. They are immenſe trees of the kind; covering a ſpace of wall, fifty feet in height, and forty in breadth. The circumference of the ſtem [Page 149] of one of them is twenty-eight inches, and of the other twenty-one. They are of the white Marſeilles kind, and have for many years furniſhed the tables of the archbiſhops of Canterbury with very delicious fruit.
Among other remarkable fruit trees may be reckoned a vine belonging to the late Sir Charles Raymond at Valentine-houſe, near Ilford in Eſſex. It was planted, a cutting, in the year 1758, of the black Hambrugh ſort; and as this ſpecies will not eaſily bear the open air, it was planted in the hot-houſe; tho without any preparation of ſoil, which is in thoſe grounds a ſtiff loam, or rather clay. The hot-houſe is a very large one, about ſeventy feet in front; and the vine, which I underſtand, is not pruned in the common way, extends two hundred feet, part of it running along the ſouth wall on the outſide of the hot-houſe. In the common mode of pruning, this ſpecies of vine is no great bearer; but managed as it is here, it produces wonderfully. Sir Charles Raymond, on the death of his lady in 1778, left Valentine-houſe; at which time the gardener had the profits of the [Page 150] vine. It annually produces about four hundred weight of grapes; which uſed formerly (when the hot-houſe, I ſuppoſe, was kept warmer,) to ripen in march: tho lately they have not ripened till june; when they ſell at four ſhillings a pound; which produces about eighty pounds. This account I had from Mr. Eden himſelf, the gardener, who planted the vine.—With regard to the profits of it, I think it probable from the accounts I have had from other hands, that when the grapes ripened earlier, they produced much more than eighty pounds. A gentleman of character informed me, that he had it from Sir Charles Raymond himſelf, that after ſupplying his own table, he has made one hundred and twenty pounds a year of the grapes; and the ſame gentleman, who was curious, inquired of the fruit dealers, who told him, that in ſome years, they ſuppoſed the profits have not amounted to leſs than three hundred pounds. This does not contradict Mr. Eden's account, who ſaid, that the utmoſt he ever made of it (that is, I ſuppoſe, when the grapes ſold at four ſhillings a pound in june) was eighty-four pounds. At the loweſt calculation, the profits were prodigious.—The [Page 151] ſtem of this vine was, in the year 1789, thirteen inches in circumference.
But the vine, even as a timber-tree, hath it's place in hiſtory. Mr. Miſſon, a traveller, of whom Mr. Addiſon ſpeaks with particular reſpect, tells us*, that the gates of the great church at Ravenna in Italy were made of vine planks, twelve feet long, and fourteen or fifteen inches broad. The vine from which theſe planks were taken, muſt have been an enormous vegetable of it's kind. Indeed, if the account had not been well atteſted, it would have exceeded credit.—Miſſon adds, that the ſoil about Ravenna, on the ſide next the ſea, was remarkable for the enormous growth of vines; and he ſuppoſes, it was owing to the rich manure left by the ſea. For tho the town of Ravenna in his day, ſtood a league from the Adriatic; yet it is an undoubted fact, that the ſea formerly waſhed it's walls; and that the preſent Ravenna occupies the ſite of the ancient Ravenna, which we know, was one [Page 152] of the beſt ports, the Romans had on the Adriatic.
In the memoirs of the French academy we find a deſcription of a very curious tree, by Mr. Adanſon, called the Boabab. It is a native of Senegal, and has been taken notice of by Proſper Alpinus, and other botaniſts: but Mr. Adanſon, who ſpent ſeveral years in thoſe parts, ſeems to have had the beſt opportunities of being acquainted with it.—As to it's botanical peculiarities, which are great; and it's phyſical uſes, which are many, we enter not into them. We have only to do with it's external form, which is very ſingular. It is ſuppoſed to be the largeſt of nature's vegetable productions—the behemoth of the foreſt. From Mr. Adanſon's account one ſhould ſuppoſe the boabab to be a kind of natural pollard. He tells us, it's trunk ſeldom riſes higher than twelve feet; tho it's diameter exceeds ſeventy. From this amazing trunk ſpring a number of [Page 153] maſſy branches. The center branch riſes perpendicularly ſixty or ſeventy feet: the lateral branches ſhoot in angles leſs and leſs acute; till the loweſt ſeries form right angles with the trunk; and ſo become quite horizontal. In this direction, they ſtretch fifty or ſixty feet, till their weight brings them to the ground, with which the extremities of many of them are in contact. So that the whole tree has the appearance of a woody hemiſphere; whoſe radius, including the thickneſs of the trunk, muſt be about eighty, or ninety feet. —Whatever may be ſaid for the peculiarity of ſuch a tree, we cannot ſay much in favour of it's pictureſque form. It ſeems to be little more than a monſtrous buſh. The bark of this tree is of an aſh-coloured tint. It's leaves are oval, pointed at the end, and about five inches long.—Tho the boabab is a native of Africa, yet a ſmall one was found growing in the iſland of Martinico. It is ſuppoſed however to have been brought thither by ſome of the negroe-ſlaves; among whom it is common to carry ſeeds of different kinds, as charms and remedies: and it is certain, that many African plants have [Page 154] been propagated in the Weſt-Indies in this accidental manner.
Mr. Evelin gives us the deſcription of another curious tree, called the Arbor de Rays, which is ſound chiefly in the Eaſt Indies, and is remarkable for the manner, in which it propagates. From the end of it's boughs it diſtills, in a continued viſcous thread, a kind of gummy matter; which increaſes like an icicle, till it reach the ground, where it takes root, and becomes a ſtem, putting forth new branches, and propagating anew; ſo that a ſingle plant of this kind may increaſe into a foreſt.
Strabo deſcribes an Indian tree, which I ſhould ſuppoſe, was the ſame with Mr. Evelin's arbor de Rays; only Strabo accounts more ſimply for the mode of it's propagation. It's branches, he ſays, grow horizontally about twelve cubits; and then take a direction to the earth, where they root themſelves; and when they have attained maturity, continue to propagate in the ſame manner, till the ground is covered with them for a conſiderable ſpace; or, as Strabo more expreſſively [Page 155] deſcribes it, till the whole becomes like a tent ſupported by many columns *.—This ſeems to be the tree, of which Milton ſpeaks;
Branching ſo broad, and long, that in the groundThe bended twigs take root; and daughters growAbout the mother tree; a pillared ſhade,High over-arched, with ecchoing walks between.There oft the Indian herdſman, ſhunning heat,Shelters in cool; and tends his paſturing herdsAt loop-holes cut through thickeſt ſhade.
Modern travellers ſpeak of an Indian tree like this, (the only tree of the kind they know,) which they call the Banian tree, or Indian fig. In it's mode of propagation, it correſponds rather with Strabo's deſcription, than Evelin's. We are informed however, that, altho common in India, it is not very commonly found in that ſtate of grandeur, in which it is here deſcribed. Nor indeed will it eaſily take that very regular form, without ſome little aſſiſtance from art. Inſtead of the Indian herdſman, whom Milton introduces, it is often at this day, inhabited [Page 156] by a Bramin; who builds his little reedthatched ſhed againſt it's trunk; and amuſes his leiſure by directing it's lengthening branches into proper places; and forming each into a regular arch. Here, dreſſed in a long white tunic, the habit of his order, and adorned with a flowing beard, he ſpends his ſolitary hours in wandering among the verdant allies of his tree, ſcarce ever leaving it's limits. The inhabitants of the diſtrict reſort daily to him with the neceſſaries of life; and receive, in return, his prayers, and benedictions.
There is a tree in the iſland of Java, called the Upas, or poiſon-tree, which (in the hiſtory of curious trees) ſhould not be omitted; tho the accounts of it are ſo wonderful, that ſome have eſteemed them fabulous. They are given to the public by a ſurgeon, belonging to the Dutch Eaſt-India company, of the name of Foerſch, who was ſtationed at Batavia in the year 1774. Surprizing however as theſe accounts may be, they are accompanied with ſo many public facts; and names of perſons, and places, that it is [Page 157] ſomewhat difficult to conceive them fabulous. —The abridged narrative of this ſtrange production, is this.
The Upas grows about twenty-ſeven leagues from Batavia, in a plain ſurrounded by rocky mountains; the whole of which plain, containing a circle of ten, or twelve miles round the tree, is totally barren. Nothing, that breathes, or vegetates, can live within it's influence. The bird, that flies over it, drops down dead. The beaſt, that wanders into it, expires. The whole dreadful area is covered with ſand, over which lie ſcattered looſe flints, and whitening bones.—This tree may be called the emperor's great military magazine. In a ſolution of the poiſonous gum, which exudes from it, his arrows, and offenſive weapons are dipped. The procuring therefore of this poiſonous gum, is a matter of as much attention, as of difficulty. Criminals only are employed in this dreadful ſervice. Of theſe ſeveral, every year, are ſent with a promiſe of pardon, and reward, if they procure it. Hooded in leathern caſes, with glaſs eylet-holes, and ſecured as much as poſſible from the full effluvia of the air they are to breathe, they undertake this melancholy [Page 158] journey; travelling always with the wind. About one in ten eſcapes, and brings away a little box of this direful commodity.
Of the dreadful, and ſudden effect of this poiſon, the author ſaw many inſtances. He mentions, among others, the execution of thirteen young ladies of the emperor's ſeraglio; who having been convicted of infidelity to his bed, were condemned to die by the poiſon of Upas; which is conſidered in Java, like the axe in England, as an honourable inſtrument of death. At eleven o'clock in the forenoon theſe unhappy victims were led into a court in the palace, where a row of thirteen poſts had been erected. To theſe they were bound. As they ſtood trembling, they were obliged to confeſs the juſtice of their ſentence; which each of them did, by laying one hand on the koran, and the other on her breaſt. When theſe confeſſions were finiſhed, and a few religious ceremonies, on a ſign given by the judge, an executioner ſtepped forward, who bared their breaſts, and amidſt their cries, and ſhrieks, with a poiſoned lancet made a ſlight inciſion in each. The author ſays, he ſtood by with his watch in his hand. In five minutes they were ſeized with convulſive [Page 159] ſpaſms—excruciating agonies ſucceeded; and in ſixteen minutes they were all dead. A frightful change came on. From being objects of beauty, they became ſpectacles of horror. Livid ſpots broke out upon them. Their faces ſwelled: their cheeks became blue; and their eyes, yellow.
The author ſays, that on the coaſt of Macaſſar, there are found trees very like the Upas of Java; but not ſo malignant. If ſo, it is probable, that all theſe trees are of the ſame kind; only the Java-Upas has found a ſituation, where it's poiſonous qualities are more ſublimed.
Where ſeas of glaſs with gay reflections ſmileRound the green coaſts of Java's palmy iſle;A ſpacious plain extends it's upland ſcene,Rocks riſe on rocks, and fountains guſh between.Soft breathes the breeze; eternal ſummers reign▪And ſhowers prolific bleſs the ſoil—in vain!No ſpicy nutmeg ſcents the vernal gales:No towering plantain ſhades the mid-day vales:No graſſy mantle hides the ſable hills:No flowery chaplet crowns the trickling rills:No ſtep retreating on the ſand impreſſed,Invites the viſit of a ſecond gueſt.Fell Upas ſits.—
Leland tells us, and Camden* from him, that the death of Rufus happened at a place in New-foreſt, called Througham, where a chapel was erected to his memory. But I meet with no place of the name of Througham in New-foreſt; and neither the remains, nor the remembrance of any chapel. It is probable, that Througham might be what is now called Fritham; where the tradition of the country ſeems to have fixed the ſpot with more credibility from the tr [...]e.—The chapel might only have been ſome little temporary oratory, which having never been endowed, [Page 161] might ſpeedily have fallen to decay: but the tree, it is probable, would be noticed at the time by every body, who lived near it; and by ſtrangers, who came to ſee it: and it is as probable, that it could never be forgotten afterwards. They who think a tree inſufficient to record a fact of ſo ancient a date, may be reminded, that ſeven hundred years, (and it is not more ſince the death of Rufus) make no extraordinary period in the exiſtence of an oak. About fifty years ago however, this tree became ſo decayed, and mutilated, that, in all probability, the ſpot would have been forgotten, if ſome other memorial had not been raiſed. Before the ſtump therefore was eradicated, a triangular ſtone was erected, by the late lord Delaware, who lived in one of the neighbouring lodges; on the three ſides of which ſtone the following inſcriptions are engraven.
1. Here ſtood the oak-tree, on which an arrow, ſhot by ſir Walter Tyrrel at a ſtag, glanced, and ſtruck king William II. ſurnamed Rufus, in the breaſt, of which ſtroke he inſtantly died, on the 2d of auguſt 1100.
Lord Delaware aſſerts plainly, that he had ſeen the oak-tree; and as he lived much on the ſpot, he had probably other grounds for the aſſertion, beſides the tradition of the country. That matter however reſts on his authority.
The next tree I ſhall exhibit from New-foreſt, is the groaning-tree of Badeſly; a village about two miles from Lymington. The hiſtory of the groaning-tree is this. About forty years ago, a cottager, who lived near the centre of the village, heard frequently a ſtrange noiſe, behind his houſe, like that of a perſon in extreme agony. Soon after, it caught the attention of his wife, who was then confined to her bed. She was a timorous woman, and being greatly alarmed, her huſband endeavoured to perſuade her, that the [Page 163] noiſe ſhe heard, was only the bellowing of the ſtags in the foreſt. By degrees, however, the neighbours, on all ſides heard it; and the thing began to be much talked of. It was by this time plainly diſcovered, that the groaning noiſe proceeded from an elm, which grew at the end of the garden. It was a young, vigorous tree; and to all appearance perfectly ſound.
In a few weeks the fame of the groaning tree was ſpread far and wide; and people from all parts flocked to hear it. Among others it attracted the curioſity of the late prince, and princeſs of Wales, who reſided, at that time, for the advantage of a ſea-bath, at Pilewell, the ſeat of Sir James Worſley, which ſtood within a quarter of a mile of the groaning tree.
Tho the country people aſſigned many ſuperſtitious cauſes for this ſtrange phenomenon, the naturaliſt could aſſign no phyſical one, that was in any degree ſatisfactory. Some thought, it was owing to the twiſting and friction of the roots. Others thought it proceeded from water, which had collected in the body of the tree—or perhaps from pent air. But no cauſe that was alledged, appeared equal to the effect. In the mean time, the tree [Page 164] did not always groan; ſometimes diſappointing it's viſitants: yet no cauſe could be aſſigned for it's temporary ceſſations, either from ſeaſons, or weather. If any difference was obſerved; it was thought to groan leaſt, when the weather was wet; and moſt when it was clear, and froſty: but the ſound at all times ſeemed to ariſe from the root.
Thus the groaning tree continued an object of aſtoniſhment, during the ſpace of eighteen, or twenty months, to all the country around: and for the information of diſtant parts a pamphlet was drawn up, containing a particular account of all the circumſtances relating to it.
At length, the owner of it, a gentleman of the name of Forbes, making too raſh an experiment to diſcover the cauſe, bored a hole in it's trunk. After this it never groaned. It was then rooted up, with a further view to make a diſcovery: but ſtill nothing appeared, which led to any inveſtigation of the cauſe. It was univerſally however believed, that there was no trick in the affair: but that ſome natural cauſe really exiſted, tho never underſtood.
[Page 165] The laſt celebrated tree, which I ſhall preſent to the reader from New-foreſt, is the Cadenham oak, which buds every year in the depth of winter. Cadenham is a village, about three miles from Lyndhurſt, on the Saliſbury road.
Having often heard of this oak, I took a ride to ſee it on the 29th of december, 1781. It was pointed out to me among ſeveral other oaks, ſurrounded by a little foreſt ſtream, winding round a knoll, on which they ſtood. It is a tall, ſtraight plant of no great age, and apparently vigorous; except that it's top has been injured; from which ſeveral branches iſſue in the form of pollard ſhoots. It was intirely bare of leaves, as far as I could diſcern, when I ſaw it; and undiſtinguiſhable from the other oaks in it's neighbourhood; except that it's bark ſeemed rather ſmoother; occaſioned, I apprehended, only by frequent climbing.
Having had the account of it's early budding confirmed on the ſpot, I engaged one Michael Lawrence, who kept the white hart, a ſmall [Page 166] ale-houſe in the neighbourhood, to ſend me ſome of the leaves to Vicar's hill, as ſoon as they ſhould appear. The man, who had not the leaſt doubt about the matter, kept his word; and ſent me ſeveral twigs, on the morning of the 5th of january, 1782; a few hours after they had been gathered. The leaves were fairly expanded; and about an inch in length. From ſome of the buds two leaves had unſheathed themſelves; but in general only one.
Through what power in nature this ſtrange, premature vegetation is occaſioned, I believe no naturaliſt can explain. I ſent ſome of the leaves to one of the ableſt botaniſts we have, Mr. Lightfoot, author of the Flora Scotica; and was in hopes of hearing ſomething ſatiſfactory on the ſubject. But he is one of thoſe philoſophers, who is not aſhamed of ignorance, where attempts at knowledge are mere conjecture. He aſſured me, that he neither could account for it in any way; nor did he know of any other inſtance of premature vegetation, except the Glaſtonbury-thorn.
The philoſophers of the foreſt, in the meantime, account for the thing at once, through the influence of old Chriſtmas-day; univerſally [Page 167] believing that the oak buds on that day, and that only. The ſame opinion is held with regard to the Glaſtonbury-thorn by the common people of the weſt of England. But without doubt, the germination there is gradual; and forwarded, or retarded by the mildneſs, or ſeverity of the weather. One of it's progeny, which grew in the gardens of the ducheſs dowager of Portland, at Bulſtrode, had it's flower-buds perfectly formed, ſo early, as the 21ſt of december, 1781; which is fifteen days earlier than it ought to flower, according to the vulgar prejudice*.
[Page 168] This early ſpring however of the Cadenham oak is of very ſhort duration. The buds, after unfolding themſelves, make no farther [Page 169] progreſs; but immediately ſhrink from the ſeaſon, and die. The tree continues torpid, like other deciduous trees, during the remainder of the winter, and vegetates again in the ſpring, at the uſual ſeaſon. I have ſeen it, in full leaf, in the middle of ſummer, when it appeared both in it's form, and foliage, exactly like other oaks.
I have been informed, that another tree with the ſame property of early germination, has lately been found near the ſpot, where Rufus's monument ſtands. If this be the caſe, it ſeems, in ſome degree to authenticate the account which Camden † gives us of the ſcene of that prince's death: for he ſpeaks of the premature vegetation of that very tree, on which the arrow of Tyrrel glanced; and the tree I now ſpeak of, if it really exiſt, tho I have no ſufficient authority for it, might have been a deſcendant of the old oak, and have inherited it's virtues.
It is very probable however there may be other oaks in the foreſt, which may likewiſe have the property of early germination. I have heard it often ſuſpected, that people [Page 170] gather buds from other trees, and carry them, on old Chriſtmas-day, to the oak at Cadenham, from whence they pretended to pluck them. For that tree is in ſuch repute; and reſorted to annually by ſo many viſitants, that I think it could not eaſily ſupply all it's votaries, without ſome foreign contributions.—Some have accounted for this phenomenon by ſuppoſing that leaves have been preſerved over the year by being ſteeped in vinegar. But I am well ſatisfied this is not the caſe. Mr. Lightfoot, to whom I ſent the leaves, had no ſuch ſuſpicion.
What number of trees make a clump, no rules of art preſcribe. The term has rather a relative meaning.—In ſcenes, brought near the eye, we call three or four trees a clump. But in diſtant and extenſive ſcenery, we ſcruple not to uſe the term for any ſmaller detached part of a wood, tho it may conſiſt of ſome hundreds.—But tho the term admits not of exact definition, I ſhall endeavour [Page 172] by amplification, to make the ideas contained under it, as diſtinct as I can.
With regard to the ſmaller clump, the chief beauty we expect here, ariſes from contraſt in the parts. We have ſeen that in ſingle trees, each muſt have it's characteriſtic beauty. It has nothing elſe to depend on. But in combination, the beauty of the individual is not required; the whole clump together muſt produce the effect.
In the firſt place the relative ſituation of trees, with regard to each other, ſhould be conſidered. Three trees, or more, ſtanding in a line, are formal. In the natural wood, you rarely ſee this formality.—And yet even three trees in a line will be greatly aſſiſted by [Page 173] the lines of the ſeveral trunks taking different directions; and by the various forms, diſtances, and growth of the trees.
If a fourth tree be added, it ſtands beautifully near the middle of the triangle, of whatever form the triangle may be. If it be equilateral, and the tree placed exactly in the middle, there are three points, as you walk round the triangle, from which it will appear offenſively regular.—Remarks however of this kind affect only young trees, while their ſtems are tall, and ſimilar. As they increaſe, their different modes of growth—the ſwelling of their roots— the habits they contract from wind—their ramification—their lateral branches, and other accidental circumſtances introduce endleſs varieties among them; and blot out many of thoſe little formalities, which attend their youth: tho, after all, the artificial clump will rarely attain the beauty of the natural one.
If the clump conſiſt of ſtill more trees than four, a greater variety among the ſtems will of courſe take place—double triangles, irregular quincunxes, and other pleaſing ſhapes, which [Page 174] may be ſeen exemplified in every wood of natural growth.
The branches alſo are as much a ſource of contraſt, as the ſtem. To be pictureſque they muſt intermingle with each other without heavineſs—they muſt hang looſely, but yet with varied looſeneſs on every ſide—and if there be one ſuperior apex, there may be two or three others, that are ſubordinate, according to the ſize of the clump.
Contraſts again ariſe from the mixture of trees of unequal growth—from a young tree united with an old one—a ſtunted tree with a luxuriant one—and ſometimes from two or three trees, which in themſelves are ill-ſhaped, but when combined, are pleaſing. Inequalities [Page 176] of all theſe kinds are what chiefly give nature's planting a ſuperiority over art.
The form of the foliage is another ſource of contraſt. In one part, where the branches intermingle, the foliage will be interwoven and cloſe; in another, where the boughs of each tree hang ſeparately, the appearance will be light and eaſy.
Thus far we have conſidered a clump, as a ſingle independent object—as the object of a foreground—conſiſting of ſuch a confined number of trees, as the eye can fairly include at once. And when trees ſtrike our fancy, either in the wild ſcenes of nature; or in the improvements of art, they will ever be found in combinations ſimilar to theſe.
The great uſe of the larger clump is to lighten the heavineſs of a continued diſtant wood; and connect it gently with the plain: that the tranſition may not be too abrupt. All we wiſh to find in a clump of this kind, is proportion, and general form.
[Page 178] With reſpect to proportion, the detached clump muſt not incroach too much on the dignity of the wood, it aids; but muſt obſerve a proper ſubordination. A large tract of country covered with wood, will admit ſeveral of theſe auxiliary clumps of different dimenſions. But if the wood be of a ſmaller ſize, the clumps alſo muſt be ſmaller, and fewer.
With regard to the general form of the larger clump, we obſerved that in a ſingle tree, we expected elegance in the parts. In the ſmaller clumps this idea was relinquiſhed, and in it's room we expected a general contraſt in trunks, branches, and foliage. But as the clump becomes larger, and recedes in the landſcape, all theſe pleaſing contraſts are loſt, and we are ſatisfied with a general form. No regular form is pleaſing. A clump on the ſide of a hill, or in any ſituation, where the eye can more eaſily inveſtigate it's ſhape, muſt be circumſcribed by an irregular line; in which it is required that the undulations both at the baſe, and ſummit of the clump ſhould be ſtrongly marked; as the eye probably has a diſtinct view of both. But if it be ſeen only on the top of a hill, or along the diſtant [Page 179] horizon, (as in theſe ſituations the baſe is commonly loſt in the varieties of the ground) a little variation in the line, which forms the ſummit, ſo as to break any diſagreeable regularity there, will be ſufficient.
As a large tract of wood requires a few large clumps to connect it gently with the plain; ſo theſe large clumps themſelves require the ſame ſervice from a ſingle tree, or a few trees, according to their ſize.
Theſe obſervations reſpect chiefly the vaſt ſcenes of nature, which are but little under the controul of art. While they aſſiſt us however in judging of the natural ſcene, they are in many reſpects applicable to the embelliſhed one. To the painters uſe, they are moſt adapted; whoſe buſineſs it is to introduce his trees in the happieſt manner; whether he ſpread them over his canvas in vaſt woods; or break them into ſmaller, or larger combinations.
FROM clumps we naturally proceed to park-ſcenery, which is generally compoſed of combinations of clumps, interſperſed with lawns. It is ſeldom compoſed of any large diſtrict of wood; which is the characteriſtic of foreſt-ſcenery.
The park, which is a ſpecies of landſcape little known, except in England, is one of the nobleſt appendages of a great houſe. Nothing gives a manſion ſo much dignity as theſe home demeiſns; nor contributes more to mark it's conſequence. A great houſe, in a courſe of years, naturally acquires ſpace around it. A noble park therefore is the natural appendage of an ancient manſion.
To the ſize, and grandeur of the houſe, the park ſhould be proportioned. Blenheim-caſtle with a paddock around it; or a ſmall [Page 182] villa in the middle of Woodſtock-park, would be equally out of place.
The houſe ſhould ſtand nearly in the centre of the park; that is, it ſhould have ample room about it on every ſide. Petworth-houſe, one of the grandeſt piles in England, loſes much of it's grandeur from being placed at the extremity of the park, where it is elbowed by a church-yard.
The exact ſpot depends intirely on the ground. There are grand ſituations of various kinds. In general, houſes are built firſt; and parks are added afterwards by the occaſional removal of incloſures. A great houſe ſtands moſt nobly on an elevated knoll, from whence it may overlook the diſtant country; while the woods of the park ſkreen the regularity of the intervening cultivation. Or it ſtands well on the ſide of a valley, which winds along it's front; and is adorned with wood, or a natural ſtream hiding, and diſcovering itſelf among the clumps at the bottom of the vale. Or it ſtands with dignity, as Longleat does, in the centre of demeiſns, which ſhelve gently down to it on every ſide.—Even on a dead flat I have ſeen a houſe draw beauties around it. At the ſeat of the late Mr. Bilſon Legge, (now [Page 183] lord Stawel's) in the middle of Holt-foreſt, a lawn unvaried by a ſingle ſwell, is yet varied with clumps of different forms, receding behind each other, in ſo pleaſing a manner, as to make an agreeable ſcene.
By theſe obſervations I mean only to ſhew, that in whatever part of a park a houſe may have been originally placed, it can hardly have been placed ſo awkwardly, but that, in ſome way or other, the ſcenery may be happily adapted to it. There are ſome ſituations indeed ſo very untoward, that ſcarce any remedy can be applied: as when the front of a houſe immediately urges on a riſing ground. But ſuch awkward ſituations are rare; and in general, the variety of landſcape is ſuch, that it may almoſt always be brought in one form, or other, to ſerve the purpoſes of beauty. The many improvements of the ingenious Mr. Brown, in various parts of England, bear witneſs to the truth of theſe obſervations.— The beauty however of park-ſcenery is undoubtedly beſt diſplayed on a varied ſurface— where the ground ſwells, and falls—where hanging lawns, ſkreened with wood, are connected with vallies—and where one part is continually playing in contraſt with another.
[Page 184] As the park is an appendage of the houſe, it follows, that it ſhould participate of it's neatneſs, and elegance. Nature, in all her great walks of landſcape, obſerves this accommodating rule. She ſeldom paſſes abruptly from one mode of ſcenery to another; but generally connects different ſpecies of landſcape by ſome third ſpecies, which participates of both. A mountainous country rarely ſinks immediately into a level one; the ſwellings and heavings of the earth, grow gradually leſs. Thus as the houſe is connected with the country through the medium of the park; the park ſhould partake of the neatneſs of the one, and of the wildneſs of the other.
As the park is a ſcene either planted by art, or, if naturally woody, artificially improved, we expect a beauty, and contraſt in it's clumps, which we do not look for in the wild ſcenes of nature. We expect to ſee it's lawns, and their appendages, contraſted with each other, in ſhape, ſize, and diſpoſition; from which a variety of artificial ſcenes will ariſe. We expect, that when trees are left ſtanding as individuals, they ſhould be the moſt beautiful of their kind, elegant and well-balanced. We expect, that all offenſive trumpery, and all the [Page 185] rough luxuriance of undergrowth, ſhould be removed; unleſs where it is neceſſary to thicken, or connect a ſcene; or hide ſome ſtaring boundary. In the wild ſcenes of nature we have grander exhibitions, but greater deformities, than are generally met with in the works of art. As we ſeldom meet with theſe ſublime paſſages in improved landſcape; it would be unpardonable if any thing diſguſting ſhould appear.
In the park-ſcene we wiſh for no expenſive ornament. Temples, Chineſe-bridges, obeliſks, and all the laboured works of art, ſuggeſt inharmonious ideas. If a bridge be neceſſary, let it be elegantly plain. If a deer-ſhed, or a keeper's lodge be required; let the faſhion of each be as ſimple, as it's uſe. Let nothing appear with oſtentation, or parade.—Within reſtrictions however of this kind we mean not to include piles of ſuperior grandeur. Such a palace as Blenheim-caſtle diſtributes it's greatneſs far and wide. There, if the bridge be immenſe, or the obeliſk ſuperb, it is only what we naturally expect. It is the chain of ideas properly carried on, and gradually loſt. My remarks regard only ſuch houſes, as may [Page 186] be rich indeed, and elegant; but have nothing in them of ſuperior magnificence.
One ornament of this kind, I ſhould be inclined to allow; and that is a handſome gate at the entrance of the park: but it ſhould be proportioned in richneſs, and elegance to the houſe; and ſhould alſo correſpond with it in ſtile. It ſhould raiſe the firſt impreſſion of what you are to expect. Warwick-caſtle requires a mode of entrance very different from lord Scarſdale's at Kettleſtone; and Burleigh-houſe, very different from both. The park-gate of Sion-houſe is certainly elegant; but it raiſes the idea of a ſtile of architecture, which you muſt drop, when you arrive at the houſe.
The road alſo through the park ſhould bear the ſame proportion. It ſhould be ſpacious, or moderate, like the houſe it approaches. Let it wind: but let it not take any deviation, which is not well accounted for. To have the convenience of winding along a valley, or paſſing a commodious bridge, or avoiding a wood, or a piece of water, any traveller would naturally wiſh to deviate a little; and obſtacles of this kind, if neceſſary, muſt be interpoſed. Mr. Brown was often very happy in creating theſe artificial obſtructions.
[Page 187] From every part of the approach, and from the ridings, and favourite walks about the park, let all the boundaries be ſecreted. A view of paling, tho in ſome caſes it may be pictureſque, is in general diſguſting.
If there be a natural river, or a real ruin in the ſcene, it may be a happy circumſtance: let the beſt uſe be made of it: but I ſhould be cautious in adviſing the creation of either. At leaſt, I have rarely ſeen either ruins, or rivers well manufactured. Mr. Brown, I think, has failed more in river-making than in any of his attempts. An artificial lake has ſometimes a good effect; but neither propriety, nor beauty can ariſe from it, unleſs the heads and extremities of it are perfectly well managed, and concealed: and after all, the ſucceſs is hazardous. You muſt always ſuppoſe it a portion of a larger piece of water; and it is not eaſy to carry on the impoſition. If the houſe be magnificent, it ſeldom receives much benefit from an artificial production of this kind. Grandeur is rarely produced.
—Seldom artCan emulate that magnitude ſublime,Which ſpreads the native lake; and failing there,Her works betray their character, and name;And dwindle into pools—
[Page 188] The moſt natural inhabitants of parks are fallow deer; and very beautiful they are: but flocks of ſheep, and herds of cattle are more uſeful; and, in my opinion, more beautiful. Sheep particularly are very ornamental in a park. Their colour is juſt that dingy hue, which contraſts with the verdure of the ground; and the flakineſs of their wool is rich, and pictureſque. I ſhould wiſh them however to wear their natural livery; and not to be patched with letters, and daubed over with red-ochre. To ſee the ſide of a hill ſpread with groups of ſheep—or to ſee them through openings among the boles of trees, at a little diſtance, with a gleam of light falling upon them, is very pictureſque.
As the garden, or pleaſure-ground, as it is commonly called, approaches nearer to the houſe, than the park, it takes of courſe a higher poliſh. Here the lawns are ſhorn, inſtead of being grazed. The roughneſs of the road is changed into an elegant gravel walk; and knots of flowers, and flowering ſhrubs are introduced, yet blended with clumps of foreſt-trees, which connect it with the park. Single trees alſo take their ſtation here with [Page 189] great propriety. The ſpreading oak, or elm, are no diſgrace to the moſt ornamented ſcene. It is the property of theſe noble plants to harmonize with every ſpecies of landſcape. They equally become the foreſt, and the lawn: only here they ſhould be beautiful in their kind; and luxuriant in their growth. Neither the ſcathed, nor the unbalanced oak would ſuit a poliſhed ſituation.
Here too, if the ſituation ſuits it, the elegant temple may find a place. But it is an expenſive, a hazardous, and often a uſeleſs decoration. If more than one however be introduced in the ſame view, they croud the ſcene, unleſs it be very extenſive. More than two ſhould in no caſe be admitted. In the moſt poliſhed landſcape, unleſs nature, and ſimplicity lead the way, the whole will be deformed.
Under the term wood, we include every extenſive combination of foreſt-trees, in a ſtate of nature. All ſuch combinations, tho without the privilege of foreſts, compoſe the ſame kind of ſcenery. The deſcription therefore of ſuch ſcenes will come moſt properly under the head of foreſt-views; on which we ſhall hereafter dwell at large. At preſent let us examine the ſmaller combinations; and firſt the copſe.
The copſe is a ſpecies of ſcenery compoſed commonly of foreſt-trees intermixed with bruſh-wood; which latter is periodically cut down in twelve, thirteen, or fourteen years. In its diſmantled ſtate therefore, nothing can be more [Page 192] forlorn than the copſe. The area is covered with bare roots, and knobs, from which the bruſh-wood has been cut; while the foreſt-trees, intermingled among them, preſent their ragged ſtems, deſpoiled of all their lateral branches, which the luxuriance of the ſurrounding thickets had choked.
In a very ſhort time however all this injury, which the copſe hath ſuffered, is repaired. One winter only ſees its diſgrace. The next ſummer produces luxuriant ſhoots; and two ſummers more reſtore it almoſt to perfect beauty.
It matters little of what ſpecies of wood the copſe is compoſed, for as it ſeldom, at beſt, exhibits a ſcene of pictureſque beauty, we rarely expect more from it, than a ſhady ſequeſtered path; which it generally furniſhes in great perfection. It is among the luxuries of nature, to retreat into the cool receſſes of the full-grown copſe from the ſeverity of a meridian ſun; and to be ſerenaded by the humming inſects of the ſhade; whoſe continuous ſong has a more refreſhing ſound, than the buzzing vagrant fly, which wantons in the glare of day; and, as Milton expreſſes it, ‘—winds her ſultry horn.’
[Page 193] In diſtant landſcape, the copſe hath ſeldom any effect. The beauty of wood, in a diſtant view, ariſes, in ſome degree, from it's tuftings, which break, and inrich the lights—but chiefly from it's contraſt with the plain—and from the grand ſhapes, and forms, occaſioned by the retiring and advancing parts of the foreſt, which produce vaſt maſſes of light and ſhade; and give effect to the whole.
Theſe beauties appear rarely in the copſe. Inſtead of that rich and tufted bed of foliage, which the diſtant foreſt exhibits, the copſe preſents a meagre, and unaccommodating ſurface. It is age, which gives the tree it's tufted form; and the foreſt, it's effect. A nurſery of ſaplings produce it not; and the copſe is little more. Nor does the intermixture of full-grown trees aſſiſt the appearance. Their clumpy heads blend ill with the ſpiry tops of the juniors. Neither have they any connection with each other. The wood-man's judgment is ſhewn in leaving the timber-trees at proper intervals, that they may neither hinder each other's growth, nor the growth of the underwood. But the wood-man does not pretend to manage his trees with a view to pictureſque beauty; and from his management [Page 194] it is impoſſible they ſhould produce a maſs of light and ſhade.
Beſides, the copſe forms no contraſt with the plain; nor preſents thoſe beautiful projections, and receſſes, which the ſkirts of the foreſt exhibit. A copſe is a plot of ground, portioned off for the purpoſe of nurturing wood. Of courſe it muſt be fenced from cattle; and theſe fences, which are in themſelves diſguſting, generally form the copſe into a ſquare, a rhomboid, or ſome other regular figure; ſo that we have not only a deformity; but a want alſo of a connecting tye between the wood and the plain. Inſtead of a ſoftened, undulating line, we have a harſh fence.
The beſt effect, which the copſe produces, is on the lofty banks of a river. I have the Wye particularly in my view. In navigating ſuch a river; the deficiences of this mode of ſcenery, as you view it upwards from a boat, are loſt; and in almoſt every ſtate it has a good effect. While it inriches the bank, it's uncouth ſhape, unleſs the fence is too much in view, and all it's other unpleaſant appearances, are concealed.
When a winding walk is carried through a copſe, which muſt neceſſarily in a courſe of [Page 195] years, even in point of pictureſque beauty, be given to the axe—ſhall the whole be cut down together? Or ſhall a border be left, as is ſometimes done, on each ſide of the walk?
This is a difficult queſtion; but I think all ſhould go together. Unleſs the border you leave, be very broad, it will have no effect, even at preſent. You will ſee through it: it will appear meagre; and will certainly never unite happily with the neighbouring parts, when they begin to grow. At leaſt let it not ſtand longer than two years. The reſt of the copſe will then be growing beautiful; and the border may be diſpenſed with, till it is replaced. But the beſt way certainly is, if you have courage, to cut the whole down, together. In a little time, as we obſerved above, it will recover it's beauty.
FROM the copſe we proceed to the glen. A wide, open ſpace between hills, is called a vale. If it be of ſmaller dimenſions, we call it a valley. But when this ſpace is contracted to a chaſm, it becomes a glen. A glen therefore is moſt commonly the offspring of a mountainous country; tho it is ſometimes found elſwhere, with it's common accompaniments of woody-banks, and a rivulet at the bottom. Theſe circumſtances, it is evident, admit infinite variety. The glen may be more, or leſs contracted. It may form one ſingle ſweep; or it's deviations may be irregular. The wood may conſiſt of full-grown trees; or of underwood; or of a mixture of both. The path, which winds through it, may run along the upper part, or the lower. Or, laſtly, the rivulet may foam among rocks; or it may murmur [Page 198] among pebbles; or it may form tranſparent pools, overhung with wood; or, which is often the caſe, it may be totally inviſible; and an object only of the ear.
The moſt beautiful circumſtances that attends the internal parts of a glen, are the glades, or openings, which are found in it. If the whole were a thicket, like the full-grown copſe, little beauty would reſult. An agreeable ſhade alone, in that caſe, muſt ſatisfy our expectations. But the glen, whoſe furniture is commonly of more fortuitous growth, than that of the copſe, and not ſo ſubject to periodical defalcations, exhibits generally more beautiful ſcenery. Particularly it abounds with frequent openings. The eye is carried down, from the higher grounds, to a ſweep of the river—or to a little guſhing caſcade—or to the face of a fractured rock, garniſhed with hanging wood —or perhaps to a cottage, with it's ſcanty area of lawn falling to the river, on one ſide; and ſheltered by a clump of oaks, on the other; while the ſmoke wreathing behind the trees, diſperſes, and loſes itſelf, as it gains the ſummit of the glen. Or ſtill more beautifully perhaps the eye breaks out, at ſome opening, into the country; inriched with all the varieties of [Page 199] diſtant landſcape—plains, and woods melting together—a winding river—blue mountains— or perhaps ſome bay of the ſea, with a little harbour and ſhipping.
In many places you ſee the glen under the hands of improvement; and when you happen to have a ſcene of this kind near your houſe, you cannot well have a more fortunate circumſtance. But great care ſhould be taken not to load it with ornament. Such ſcenes admit little art. Their beauty conſiſts in their natural wildneſs; and the beſt rule is to add little; but to be content with removing a few deformities, and obſtructions. A good walk, or a path, there muſt be; and the great art will conſiſt in conducting it, in the eaſieſt and moſt natural way to the ſpot, where the caſcade, the rock, or any other object, which the glen exhibits, may be ſeen to the beſt advantage. If a ſeat or two be thought neceſſary, let them be of the rudeſt materials; and their ſituation no way forced. I have often ſeen ſemi-circular areas, on theſe occaſions, [Page 200] adapted to elegant ſeats, which have been fixed, either where openings happened to be preſented, or were purpoſely cut through the woods. All this is awkward, and diſguſting. Let no formal preparation introduce a view. A parading preface always injures a ſtory. The eye receives more pleaſure from the caſual objects of it's own notice; than from objects perhaps of more real beauty, forced upon it, with parade, and oſtentation.
But tho we are averſe to load theſe ſweet receſſes of nature with falſe ornaments; yet if ſuch ſcenes make a part of the immediate environs, or pleaſure ground, of a houſe; a proper degree of ornament will of courſe be required. The walk muſt be more artificial— it's borders may be ſpread here and there, as in other decorated places, with flowers, and flowering ſhrubs—the ſeats may be more elegant; and a temple, or other building, may perhaps find a place: but ſtill the ſame chaſte ſpirit muſt regulate here, which preſides over all other improvements. To run into exceſs in ornament, is one of the moſt obvious errors of falſe taſte. We frequently ſee the effect both of the natural ſcene and of the artificial repreſentation, deſtroyed merely by adorning.
AS the glen is ſometimes found in the country we are about to deſcribe; it was neceſſary juſt to mention it as a diſtinct ſpecies of woodland ſcenery: yet as it is not one of the common features of the country, we ſhall dwell no longer upon it; but haſten to the open grove. The open grove is compoſed of trees ariſing from a ſmooth area; which may conſiſt either of pines, or of the deciduous race. I have ſeen beautiful groves of both. The pine-grove will always be dry, as it is the peculiar quality of its leaves to ſuck up moiſture: but in lightneſs, variety, and general beauty, the deciduous-grove excels. If indeed you wiſh to compoſe your grove in the gloomy ſtile, the pine-race will beſt ſerve your purpoſe.
[Page 202] The open-grove ſeldom makes a pictureſque appearance. In diſtant ſcenery indeed it may have the effect of other woods; for the trees, of which it is formed, need not be ſeparated from each other, as in the copſe; but being well maſſed together, may receive beautiful effects of light.—When we enter its receſſes, it is not ſo well calculated to pleaſe. There, it wants variety; and that not only from the ſmoothneſs of the ſurface; but from the uniformity of the furniture—at leaſt if it be an artificial ſcene; in which the trees, having been planted in a nurſery, grow all alike, with upright ſtems. And yet a walk, upon a velvet turf, winding at pleaſure among theſe natural columns, whoſe twiſting branches at leaſt admit ſome variety, with a ſpreading canopy of foliage over the head, is pleaſing; and in hot weather, refreſhing. Sometimes we find the open-grove of natural growth. It is then more various, and irregular, and becomes of courſe, a more pleaſing ſcene. And yet when woods of this kind continue, as they ſometimes do, in unpeopled countries, through half a province, they become tireſome; and prove that it is not wood, but variety of landſcape, that delights the eye.
[Page 203] Sometimes the grove, in the neighbourhood of great houſes, demands a little embelliſhment; and as it is naturally leſs rude than the glen, it is therefore more patient of improvement. A ſeat, or a temple according to the ſize, and ſituation of the place, may here be a proper ornament. But if the turf be neat (tho we do not often find it ſo under trees) or cloſe grazed with ſheep, or deer, no artificial walks are neceſſary. If the ſcene command no diſtant landſcape; nor any view of conſequence at hand, it will require in itſelf, a greater ſhare of ornament. But ſtill ſimplicity muſt be the leading idea.—One thing is abſolutely neceſſary to compleat the idea of a grove; which is, that its boundaries ſhould be concealed. It is intended for a ſequeſtered place; and ſhould anſwer that idea.
I remember meeting with an ornamented ſcene of this kind, which was very pleaſing. The grove extended along the brow of a gentle declivity; and aſſumed from that circumſtance, a dark, cloſe, gloomy appearance, in its deeper receſſes: tho its opening on the lawn was light, and airy, and agreeably connected with the ground. In the front of the grove ſtood a rude temple of Pan; and the lawn being a [Page 204] neat ſheep-walk, the whole, tho highly poliſhed, was characteriſtic, harmonious, and beautiful.
—Groves were planted to conſole at noonThe penſive wanderer in their ſhades. At eveThe moon-beam, ſliding ſoftly in betweenThe ſleeping leaves, is all the light he wantsFor meditation—
Indeed no ſpecies of landſcape is ſo fitted for meditation. The foreſt attracts the attention by it's grandeur; and the park-ſcene, by it's beauty: while the paths through copſes, dells, and thickets, are too cloſe, devious, interrupted, and often too beautiful, to allow the mind to be at perfect reſt. But the uniform ſameneſs of the grove leaves the eye diſengaged; and the feet wandering at pleaſure, where they are confined by no path, want little direction. The mind therefore undiſturbed, has only to retire within itſelf. Hence the philoſopher, the devotee, the poet, all retreated to theſe quiet receſſes; and
[Page 205] In claſſic times the grove was the haunt of Gods: ‘—Habitarunt dii quoque ſylvas.’ And in the days of nature, before art had introduced a kind of combination againſt her, man had no idea of worſhipping God in a temple made with hands. The templum nemorale was the only temple he knew.—from the world retired,Converſed with angels, and immortal forms.
And to this idea indeed one of the earlieſt forms of the artificial temple ſeems to have been indebted. Many learned men * have thought the Gothic arch of our cathedral-churches was an imitation of the natural grove. It ariſes from a lofty ſtem; or from two or three ſtems, if they be ſlender; which being bound together, and ſpreading in every direction, cover the whole roof with their ramification. In the cloſe receſſes of the beechen-grove [Page 206] we find this idea the moſt compleat. The lofty, narrow aile—the pointed arch—the cluſtered pillar, whoſe parts ſeparating without violence, diverge gradually to form the fretted roof, find there perhaps their earlieſt archetype.—In the reſounding woodAll vocal beings hymned their equal God.
Groves too were the ſcenes of ſuperſtition, as well as of religion. Here the prieſts of Baal performed their prophane rites: and here the back-ſliding Iſraelites uſed often to ſkreen their idolatries. The ſtrong ideas of ſuperſtition, which theſe gloomy retreats impreſſed upon the ignorance of early ages, are finely touched by Virgil. The paſſage I allude to, is in the eighth book; where the ſtory of Evander is introduced. The whole country was then, as unpeopled countries commonly are, a mere foreſt; and as the groves, and woods preſented themſelves on every ſide, the venerable chief deſcribing each ſcene to his illuſtrious gueſt, annexes to it ſome tale of horror, or ſome circumſtance of religious awe.
Hinc lucum ingentem, quem Romulus acer aſylumRettulit, et gelidâ monſtrat ſub rupe Lupercal,Parrhafio dictum Panos de more Lycaei.Nec non et ſacri monſtrat nemus Argileti;Teſtaturque locum, et lethum docet hoſpitis Argi.Hinc ad Tarpeiam ſedem, et capitolia ducit,Aurea nunc, olim ſylveſtribus horrida dumis.Dira loci: jam tum ſylvam, ſaxumque timebant.Hoc nemus, hunc, inquit, frondoſo vertice collem,(Quis deus, incertum eſt) habitat deus. Arcades ipſumCredunt ſe vidiſſe Jovem, cum ſaepe nigrantemAegida concut [...]ret dextrâ, nimboſque cieret.
—Meditation hereMay think down hours to moments. Here the heartMay give a uſeful leſſon to the head;And learning wiſer grow without it's books.Knowledge, and wiſdom, far from being one,Have ofttimes no connection. Knowledge dwellsIn heads replete with thoughts of other men:Wiſdom, in minds attentive to their own.Knowledge, a rude unprofitable maſs,The mere materials, with which wiſdom builds,Till ſmoothed, and ſquared, and fitted to its place,Does but incumber, whom it ſeems t'enrich.Knowledge is proud, that it has learned ſo much:Wiſdom is humble, that it knows no more.Books are not ſeldom taliſmans, and ſpells,By which the magic art of ſhrewder witsHolds an unthinking multitude inthrall'd.Some to the faſcination of a nameSurrender judgment hood-wink'd. Some the ſtileInfatuates; and through labyrinths, and wildsOf error, leads them by a tune entranc'd.While ſloth ſeduces more, too weak to bearThe inſupportable fatigue of thought;The total griſt unſifted; huſks, and all.But trees, and rivulets, and haunts of deer,And ſheep-walks, populous with bleating lambs,And groves, in which the primroſe e'er her timePeeps through the moſs, that cloaths the haw-thorn root,Deceive no ſtudent. Wiſdom there, and truth,Not ſhy as in the world, and to be wonBy ſlow ſolicitation, ſeize at onceThe roving thought, and fix it on themſelves.
HAVING thus conſidered various kinds of woody ſcenery, and traced the peculiar beauties of each; we proceed next to the foreſt, which in a manner comprehends them all. There are few extenſive foreſts, which do not contain, in ſome part or other, a ſpecimen of every ſpecies of woody-landſcape. The wild foreſt-view indeed differs eſſentially from the embelliſhed one; tho ſometimes we find even the foreſt-lawn in a poliſhed ſtate, when browzed by deer into a fine turf, and ſurrounded by ſtately woods. Beauty however is not the characteriſtic of the foreſt. It's peculiar diſtinction is grandeur, and dignity. The ſcenes we have hitherto conſidered, are all within the reach of art; and in fact, have all been the objects of improvement. But the foreſt diſdains all human culture. On it the [Page 210] hand of nature only is impreſſed. The foreſt, like other beautiful ſcenes, pleaſes the eye; but it's great effect is to rouſe the imagination.
The word foreſt immediately ſuggeſts the idea of a continued uninterrupted tract of woody country. But foreſts in general are much more varied. They conſiſt indeed of tracts of woody country: but theſe tracts are, at the ſame time, intermixed with patches of paſturage, which commonly bear the ſame proportion to the woods of the foreſt, which lawns do to the clumps of a park.—Theſe intermingled ſcenes of wood, and paſturage, are again divided from other intermixtures of the ſame kind, by wide heaths, which are ſometimes bounded by a naked line of horizon; but more frequently ſkirted with wood. This intermixture of wood and paſturage, with large ſeparations of heath, give a variety to the foreſt, which a boundleſs continuance of woody ſcenery could not exhibit: tho it muſt be acknowledged, that in many foreſts, and eſpecially in New-foreſt, theſe tracts of heathy country are often larger, than pictureſque beauty requires.
Having given this general idea of the ſpecies of country, which I mean to treat of under [Page 211] the idea of a foreſt, I ſhall proceed to particulars. Let me juſt recall to the reader's memory, what was obſerved before, that all great woods, diverſified as foreſts are, tho not properly denominated foreſts, as not ſubject to foreſt-laws, will however naturally fall under the deſcription of foreſt-ſcenery*.
The foreſt, under the diviſion of wood, paſturage, and heath, preſents itſelf to us, as a pictureſque object, in a double view—as the ſcenery of a fore-ground; and as the ſcenery of a diſtance. In both views, it is equally an object of pictureſque beauty: but as it's effects are different in each, I ſhall endeavour to delineate their reſpective beauties.
When we ſpeak of foreſt-ſcenery, as a fore-ground, we mean the appearance, which it's woods preſent, when we approach their ſkirts, or invade their receſſes. Foreſts, in their nature, are woods ab origine—not newly planted; but natural woods, ſet apart for the purpoſes of ſheltering, and ſecuring game. The trees [Page 212] therefore, of which theſe natural woods, are compoſed, conſiſt of all ages, and ſizes, from the ancient fathers of the foreſt, to the ſcion, and the ſeedling. They grow alſo in that wild, diſordered manner, which nature preſcribes; as the root caſually runs, which throws up the ſcion; or as the ſeed, or acorn, finds ſoil, and room to eſtabliſh itſelf, and increaſe. But tho the richneſs of the ſcenery depends greatly on this multifarious mixture, which maſſes, and fills up all the various combinations; yet the moſt ancient trees of each ſpecies are the glory of ſylvan landſcape. Young trees, tho even in diſtant views inferior to old, will however in that ſituation exhibit a better appearance, than on the ſpot; where no foreſt-ſcenery can fill the eye, without a proper aſſemblage of ſuch trees, as have ſeen ages paſs over them. Theſe form thoſe bold, and rough exhibitions, in which the pride and dignity of foreſt-views conſiſt. We have already obſerved, that the wild and rough parts of nature produce the ſtrongeſt effects on the imagination; and we may add, they are the only objects in landſcape, which pleaſe the pictureſque eye. Every thing trim, and ſmooth, and neat, affects it coolly. Propriety [Page 213] brings us to acquieſce in the elegant, and well-adapted embelliſhments of art: but the painter, who ſhould introduce them on canvas, would be characterized as a man void of taſte; and utterly unacquainted with the objects of pictureſque ſelection.—Such are the great materials, which we expect to find in the ſkirts, and internal parts of the foreſt— trees of every kind, but particularly the oldeſt, and rougheſt of each.—We examine next the mode of ſcenery which reſults from their combinations.
In ſpeaking of the glen*, we obſerved that the principal beauty of it aroſe from thoſe little openings, or glades, with which it commonly abounds. It is thus in the foreſt-woods. The great beauty of theſe cloſe ſcenes ariſe from the openings and receſſes, which we find among them.
By theſe I do not mean the lawns, and paſturage, which I mentioned as one of the great diviſions of foreſt-ſcenery†; but merely thoſe little openings among the trees, which are produced by various circumſtances. A [Page 214] ſandy bank, or a piece of rocky ground may prevent the contiguity of trees, and ſo make an opening; or a tree or two may have been blaſted, or have been cut down; or, what is the happieſt of all circumſtances, a winding road may run along the wood.—The ſimple idea, which is varied through all theſe little receſſes, is the exhibition of a few trees, juſt ſeen behind others. The varieties of this mode of ſcenery, ſimple as it is, are infinite. Nature is wonderfully fertile. The invention of the painter may form a compoſition more agreeable to the rules of his art, than nature commonly produces: but no invention can reach the varieties of particular objects.
Swanewelt, and Waterlo delighted in theſe cloſe foreſt-ſcenes. They penetrated their retreats; and when they found a little opening, or receſs, that pleaſed them, they fixed it on the ſpot. They ſtudied it's various forms— how the bold portuberances of an old trunk received the light, and ſhade—how eaſily the large boughs parted; and how negligently the ſmaller were interwoven—how elegantly the foliage hung; and what various ſhapes it's little tuftings exhibited. All theſe things they obſerved, and copied with exact attention. [Page 215] Their landſcape, bare of objects, and of the ſimpleſt compoſition, had little to recommend it, but the obſervance of the minutiae of nature. Theſe they characterized with truth; and theſe alone have given a value to their works. This praiſe however is chiefly Waterlo's.
On the other hand, Claude, Pouſin, Salvator, and other maſters, who exhibited nature more at large, took greater liberties. Their landſcapes were generally carried into remote diſtance; and the beauty of their extenſive ſcenes depended more on compoſition, and general effect, than on the exact reſemblance of particular objects.
But the ſcenery of the internal parts of a foreſt is not merely confined to trees. There is often an opportunity of introducing a little more variety. The ſandy bank mentioned above, the piece of rocky ground, or the winding road, are ſometimes found in foreſts; and are always introduced with good effect. Some of the beſt of Waterlo's ſcenes are indebted to theſe circumſtances for their beauty.
A pool of water too is a lucky incident. When it is ſhrouded with trees, and reflects from it's deep, black mirror the moſſy branches of an oak, or other objects in it's neighbourhood, [Page 216] which have received a ſtrong touch of ſun-ſhine, it never fails to pleaſe. But it muſt receive it's black hue from clearneſs. Where a pool is the principal part of a little landſcape, the leaſt muddineſs, or ſtain from clay, or filth of any kind, robs it of it's beauty. ‘—The green mantle of the ſtanding pool,’ as Shakeſpear calls it, hurts the eye exceedingly from it's ambiguous texture. It poſſeſſes neither the character of land, nor of water.
Nor is the cottage, which is often found in the woody ſcenes of the foreſt, a circumſtance without it's effect. In nature at leaſt it pleaſes: nor only as the embelliſhment of a ſcene; but as it ſhews us a dwelling, where happineſs may reſide, unſupported by wealth— as it ſhews us a reſource, where we may ſtill continue to enjoy peace, tho we ſhould be deprived of all the favours of fortune. Yet on canvas, where the foreſt-view is formally introduced, the cottage is an improper decoration. In nature, the eye, ſated with a profuſion of rich foreſt-ſcenes, often ſeizes even the humbleſt circumſtance as an object of [Page 217] relief. But when a foreſt-ſcene is ſimply, and formally introduced, it ought to appear, like itſelf, with the appendages of greatneſs. There are ſeaſons, when a monarch may hold converſe with the meaneſt of his ſubjects, without injuring his dignity; but it is not the ſeaſon, when he is ſeated on his throne. A foreſt-ſcene, introduced in picture, is introduced with diſtinction; and calls for every appendage of grandeur to harmonize with it. The cottage offends. It ſhould be a caſtle, a bridge, an aquaduct, or ſome other object that ſuits it's dignity.
With regard to aquaducts indeed, the Romans never ſuffered wood to grow near them, leſt it's roots, or ſeeds, ſhould inſinuate themſelves into the crannies of the ſtone, and injure the work. But there can be no impropriety, at this day, in the introduction of a ruined aquaduct in a woody ſcene; as trees of any magnitude may be ſuppoſed to have grown up, ſince it had fallen to decay. The ſcenery about the celebrated ruins of Pont-du-Gard in Languedoc is woody; and the immediate environs of it have all the rich furniture, at leaſt they had lately, that a painter would deſire.
[Page 218] Beſides the foreſt-trees, in which the dignity of wood-land ſcenery conſiſts, it is inriched by a variety of humble plants, which filling up the interſtices, maſs and connect the whole. Theſe, however rude, we only wiſh to remove, when they ſtraggle too far from the clumps, with which they are connected, and appear as ſpots in the area, or middle ſpace between different combinations.
A long catalogue might be given of theſe humble plants, which are ſo uſeful in this harmonizing work; but it would lead me into tedious detail. The holly however ſhould be diſtinguiſhed in a general muſter *. In many ſituations it appears to great advantage: but particularly growing round the ſtem, as it often does, of ſome noble oak, on the foreground; and filling up all the ſpace, to his lower boughs. In ſummer it is a fine appendage; and in autumn it's brilliant leaf, and ſcarlet berry make a pleaſing mixture with the wrinkled bark, and hoary moſs, and auburn leaves of the venerable tree, which it incircles.—The haw-thorn too preforms the ſame office with good effect. Tho as [Page 219] a ſingle buſh it is ſometimes offenſive*; yet intangled with an oak, or mixing with other trees, it may be beautiful.
Nor are ſhrubs alone uſeful in harmonizing the foreſt, the larger kinds of weeds, and wild flowers have their effect in filling up the ſmaller vacances near the ground; and add to the richneſs of the whole. Among theſe, the heath, and broom, with their purple, and yellow tints; the fox-glove with it's pale-red pendent bells; the wide-ſpreading dock; and many of the thiſtle-tribe, are very beautiful. The hue of the furze too is pleaſant; but in bloom it's luxuriant yellow is too powerful. Nothing can accompany it.
But among all the minuter plants, fern is the moſt pictureſque. I do not mean where it is ſpread in quantities; but where it is ſparingly, and judiciouſly introduced. In itſelf it is beautiful. We admire the form of it's leaf—it's elegant mode of hanging—and it's dark-brown poliſhed ſtem. As an accompaniment alſo, nothing is better ſuited to [Page 220] unite the higher plants with the ground: while it's bright-green hue in ſummer; and it's ocher-tint in autumn, join each ſeaſon with it's correſpondent tinge.
The poet indeed (who, with all his cant, is ſometimes a truant to nature,) pays, in general, very little attention to theſe rougher objects of beauty. His foregrounds are commonly adorned with the livelier tints of nature;
And if he deign to ſpeak of ground embelliſhed with theſe rough pictureſque beauties, he diſdainfully calls it a place, where— each beauteous flower;Iris all hues, roſes, and jeſſamin,Crocus, and hyacinth, with rich inlayBroidering the ground.—
—nothing teemsBut hateful docks, rough thiſtles, keckſies, burs,Loſing both beauty, and utility.
Of all this undergrowth I know but one plant that is diſagreeable; and that is the bramble. We ſometimes ſee it with effect, ſcrawling along the fragments of a rock, or running among the rubbiſh of a ruin; tho [Page 221] even then it is a coarſe appendage. But as a pendent plant it has no beauty. It does not hang careleſſly, twiſting round every ſupport, like the hop, and others of the creeping tribe, but forms one ſtiff, unpliant curve. Nor has it any foliage to recommend it. In other pendent plants, the leaf is generally luxuriant, and hangs looſely in rich feſtoons: but in the ſuckers of a bramble the leaf is harſh, ſhrivelled, and diſcoloured. In ſhort, it is a plant, which one ſhould almoſt wiſh to have totally exterminated from landſcape; it has neither beauty in itſelf, nor harmonizes with any thing around it; and may be characterized as the moſt inſignificant of all vegetable reptiles.
But however beautiful theſe minuter plants, and wild flowers may be in the natural ſcene; yet no painter would endeavour to repreſent them with exactneſs. They are too common; too undignified; and too much below his ſubject. Inſtead of gaining the character of an exact copier of nature by a nice repreſentation of ſuch trifles, he would be eſteemed puerile, and pedantic. Fern perhaps, or dock, if his piece be large, he might condeſcend to imitate: but if he [Page 222] wanted a few touches of red, or blue, or yellow, to enliven, and inrich any particular ſpot in his foreground; inſtead of aiming at the exact repreſentation of any natural plant; he will more judiciouſly give the tint he wants in a few random general touches of ſomething like nature; and leave the ſpectator, if he pleaſe, to find out a reſemblance. Botanical preciſion may pleaſe us in the flower-pieces of Van Huyſom; but it would be paltry and affected in the landſcapes of Claude, or Salvator.—The following remark I found in a work of Dr. Johnſon's; which I tranſcribe, not only becauſe it is judicious, and may be introduced here in place; but becauſe it affords a new argument to ſhew the reſemblance between poetry and painting. Johnſon was a critic in the former; but I never heard, that he was a judge of the latter. His opinion therefore in a point of this kind, was unbiaſſed. —"The buſineſs of a poet, ſays he, is, to examine—not the individual, but the ſpecies —to remark general, and large appearances. He does not number the ſtreaks of the tulip, nor deſcribe the different ſhades in the verdure of the foreſt. He is to exhibit in his portraits [Page 223] of nature ſuch prominent, and ſtriking features, as recall the original to every mind: and muſt neglect the minuter diſcriminations (which one may have remarked, and another have neglected) for thoſe characteriſtics, which are alike obvious to attention and careleſſneſs."*
HAVING thus taken a view of the internal parts of a foreſt; which conſiſt chiefly of fore-grounds; we ſhall now conſider the foreſt in a light juſt the reverſe, as conſiſting chiefly of diſtances. In both lights, it is greatly pictureſque; and only more, or leſs ſo in either, as the eye is more pleaſed with a cloſe, or a diffuſive landſcape.
We ſkirt, and penetrate the receſſes of the woods for the cloſer view; but we frequent the foreſt-lawn, and heath, for the diſtant one. The beauty of thoſe ſcenes, (eſpecially of the heath, which is a large ſurface) depends, it is true, in a great degree, on the play, and irregularities of the ground; but chiefly it depends on the ſurrounding woods.
[Page 226] The foreſt-heath alſo, when it is level, and bounded only by the horizon, has no charms for the eye. When it conſiſts of well-mixed inequalities of ground, it gains ſomewhat more upon us. But when it is bounded by woods in various parts, and interſperſed, here and there, with clumps, which gently unite it's woody boundaries with it's area, it becomes an intereſting ſcene. Sometimes alſo a variety of furze, fern, and other wild plants, ſtain it, in many parts, with beautiful tints. Often too a winding road paſſes through it; or different roads traverſing each other. Herds of cattle alſo of different kinds continually frequent it's open plains: and when theſe circumſtances happily unite, the heath becomes one of the beautiful ſcenes of the foreſt.
As it is diſtant wood however, on which the foreſt-lawn, and eſpecially the foreſt-heath depend for their principal aid, I ſhall dwell a little on this copious ſubject; and ſhall conſider it's moſt pleaſing circumſtances under the two heads—of ſuch as are permanent, and ſuch as are incidental.
[Page 227] But before I enter on the ſubject it may not be amiſs to remind the reader once more*, that as the vaſt ſcenes of extenſive foreſts, which we are now conſidering as diſtances, are not ſubject to art, the idea of ſuggeſting rules to alter, and improve them, is abſurd. All we mean, is, to endeavour to teach the eye to admire juſtly; and to apply to artificial landſcape, thoſe obſervations, which occur in natural: for the ſource of beauty is the ſame in both.
THE permanent beauties of a diſtant woody ſcene ariſe firſt from it's form. There is as much variety in the form of a diſtant wood, as in that of a ſingle tree. We ſometimes ſee continuous woods ſtretching along the horizon without any break. All ſeems of equal growth; and the ſummit of the wood is contained under one ſtrait line. This, except in very remote diſtance, is formal, heavy, and diſguſting. The ſhape of diſtant woods is then only pictureſque, when it is broken by a varied line. This variation is, in ſome degree, occaſioned by the different ſize of trees; but as the ſize of trees, where the diſtance is great, has little effect, it is chiefly, and moſt eſſentially occaſioned by the inequalities of the ground.
A regular line at the baſe of a long range of woody-ſcenery, is almoſt as diſguſting as at [Page 230] the ſummit of it. The woods muſt in ſome parts approach nearer the eye; and in other parts retire; forming the appearance of bays, and promontories. At leaſt this is the moſt beautiful ſhape, in which they appear, as they ſometimes do, when the diſtance, or the inequalities of the ground, do not prevent the eye from ſeeing, the baſe of the wood. As the baſe is connected with the ground, it is commonly much more obſcured than the ſummit, which ranges along the ſky.
Among the permanent beauties of diſtant woods, may be reckoned alſo the various kinds of trees, of which they are often compoſed. Unleſs the diſtance be great, this mixture has it's effect, in the variety it produces both in form and colour. Large bodies of fir alſo, and other ſpecies of pines, have often a rich appearance in a diſtance among deciduous [Page 231] trees: but they muſt be Scotch-ſirs, pinaſters, cluſter-pines, or other clump-headed trees. The ſpiry-headed race, the ſpruce-fir, the ſilver-fir and the Weymouth-pine, have here too, as well as in the clump, a bad effect. Single they are ſometimes beautiful; or two or three of them, here and there, by way of contraſt, in large plantations, may be pictureſque: but I think they are never ſo in large bodies. In general however the pictureſque eye is little curious with regard to the kind of trees, which compoſe a diſtant ſcene: for there are few kinds, which do not harmonize together. It matters more, in this bold ſtile of landſcape, that the maſſes of each different kind ſhould be large. The oppoſition is then ſtrongly marked; and the contraſt ſtriking, and beautiful. If different trees are grouped in ſmall bodies, the effect is totally loſt in diſtance.
The laſt ſpecies of permanent beauty, which we take notice of in diſtant foreſt-ſcenery, ariſes from works of art. We mean not the embelliſhments of art; but ſuch rude works, as may almoſt be ſtiled the works of nature— [Page 232] the productions of convenience, rather than of taſte. We certainly fetch the moſt pictureſque objects from the grand ſtore-houſe of nature; tho we condeſcend to admit artificial objects alſo: but when they are admitted in this claſs, they muſt always be of the rough, rather than of the poliſhed kind.
Such objects we often meet with in the wild ſcenes of the foreſt, ſpires, towers, lodges, bridges, cattle-ſheds, cottages, winding pales, and other things of the ſame kind; which have often as beautiful an effect, when ſeen at a diſtance, as we have juſt obſerved they have, when ſparingly met with in the internal parts of a foreſt. Only the nearer the object is, we expect it's form muſt be the more pictureſque. Diſtance, no doubt, hides many defects; and many an object may appear well in a remove, which brought nearer, would diſguſt the eye.
HAVING thus conſidered what may properly be called the permanent beauties of diſtant foreſt-ſcenery, we proceed to it's incidental beauties. Theſe ariſe principally from two cauſes; the weather, and the ſeaſons. As both are changeable, they both produce various appearances. The former affects chiefly the ſky: the latter, the earth.
The weather is a fruitful ſource of incidental beauty; and there are few ſtates of it, which do not impreſs ſome peculiar and pictureſque character on landſcape, to which it gives the leading tint.—A country is chiefly affected by the weather, when it is hazy, and miſty—or when the ſky is inveſted [Page 234] with ſome cold tint—or when the ſun riſes —or when it ſhines full at noon—or when it ſets—or laſtly, when the day is ſtormy. Each of theſe different ſtates of the weather admits much variation: but as it would be endleſs to trace theſe variations into detail, I ſhall take notice only of the general effects of each; and of theſe merely as they affect the foreſt. In other works of this kind I have touched upon theſe ſources of incidental beauty, as they affect lakes, and mountains*.
The calm, overcaſt, ſoft, day, ſuch as theſe climates often produce in the beginning of autumn, hazy, mild, and undiſturbed, affords a beautiful medium; ſpreading over the woods a ſ [...]eet, grey, tint, which is eſpecially favourable to their diſtant appearances. The internal parts of the foreſt receive little advantages from this hazy medium: but the various tuftings of diſtant woods, are wonderfully ſweetened by it; and many a form, and many a hue, which in the full glare of ſun-ſhine would be harſh, and diſcordant, [Page 235] are ſoftened, and melted together in harmony. —We often ſee the effects of this mode of atmoſphere in various ſpecies of landſcape; but it has no where a better effect, than on the woods of the foreſt. Nothing appears through miſt more beautiful, than trees a little removed from the eye, when they are oppoſed to trees at hand: for as the foliage of a tree conſiſts of a great number of parts, the contraſt is very pleaſing between the varied ſurface of the tree at hand, and the dead, unvaried appearance of the removed one.
The light-miſt is only a greater degree of hazineſs. It's object is a nearer diſtance; as a remote one is totally obſcured by it.— In this ſituation of the atmoſphere not only all the ſtrong tints of nature are obſcured; but all the ſmaller variations of form are loſt. We look only for a general maſs of ſoftened harmony; and ſober colouring unmarked by any ſtrength of effect. The vivid hues of autumn particularly, appear to great advantage through this medium.—Sometimes theſe miſts are partial; and if they happen to coincide with the compoſition of the landſcape, this partiality is attended with peculiar beauty. [Page 236] I have remarked in other works of this kind*, that when ſome huge promontory emerges from a ſpreading miſt, which hangs over one part of it, it not only receives the advantage of contraſt, but it alſo becomes an object of double grandeur. We often ſee the woods of the foreſt alſo with peculiar advantage, emerging through a miſt in the ſame ſtile of greatneſs.—I have known likewiſe a nearer diſtance, ſtrongly illumined, produce a good effect through a light drizzling ſhower.
Nearly allied to miſts is another incidental appearance, that of ſmoke, which is often attended with peculiar beauty in woody ſcenes. When we ſee it ſpreading in the foreſt glade, and forming a ſoft bluiſh back-ground to the trees, which intercept it; it ſhews their foliage, and ramification to great advantage.
Sometimes alſo a good effect ariſes, when the ſky, under the influence of a bleak north-wind, cold and overcaſt, is hung with blue, or purple clouds lowering over the horizon. If under that part of the atmoſphere the [Page 237] diſtant foreſt happens to range, it is overſpread with a deep blue, or a purple tint from the reflection of the clouds, and makes a very pictureſque appearance.—And yet I ſhould be cautious in adviſing the painter to introduce it with that full ſtrength, in which he may ſometimes perhaps obſerve it. The appearance of blue, and purple trees, unleſs in very remote diſtance, offends: and tho the artiſt may have authority from nature for his practice; yet the ſpectator, who is not verſed in ſuch effects, may be diſpleaſed. Painting, like poetry, is intended to excite pleaſure: and tho the painter, with this view, ſhould avoid ſuch images, as are trite, and vulgar; yet he ſhould ſeize thoſe only, which are eaſy, and intelligible. Neither poetry, nor painting is a proper vehicle for the depths of learning. The painter therefore will do well to avoid every uncommon appearance in nature.
Within this caution however he will ſpread the prevailing tint of the day over his landſcape—over his whole landſape. Nature tinges all her pictures in this harmonious manner. It is the greyiſh tint; or it is the blue; or it is the purple; or it is one of the vivid tints of illumination, red, or yellow—whatever [Page 238] it be, it blends with all the lights and ſhadows of the piece. This great principle of harmony which ariſes from the reflection of colour, (in ſome degree, even when the air is diaphanous,) muſt be obſerved by every painter, who wiſhes to procure an effect. His picture muſt be painted from one pallet: and one key, as in muſic, muſt prevail through his whole compoſition. As the air however is the vehicle of all theſe tints, it is evident, that in diſtances (in which we ſee through a deeper medium of tinged air) they will prevail moſt; and of courſe, very little on foregrounds. The painter muſt obſerve this rule of nature by bringing his tints regularly forward; and his foregrounds he muſt compoſe of ſuch colours (mute, or vivid) as accord beſt with the general hue of his landſcape. Yet ſtill he will be cautious how he ſpreads even the prevailing tint too ſtrongly. Much error hath ariſen from this ſource; and ſome painters under the idea of harmonizing, have given us blue, and purple pictures. I know not whether Pouſſin himſelf did not ſometimes fall into this fault. Nature's veil is always pure, and tranſparent: yet, tho in itſelf hardly diſcoverable, it will ſtill give it's kindred [Page 239] tinge to the features, which are ſeen through it.
We have now conſidered incidental beauty as ariſing from the colder modifications of the air. We uſe the word colder, not in a phyſical, but in a pictureſque ſenſe, as productive only of ſober colouring, unattended with any force of effect.—We come now to a more illuſtrious family of tints, the offspring of the ſun. Theſe are fertile ſources of incidental beauty among the woods of the foreſt. The characteriſtic of them is ſtrong effect.—Let us firſt examine the incident of a riſing ſun.
The firſt dawn of day exhibits a beautiful obſcurity.—When the eaſt begins juſt to brighten with the reflections only of effulgence; a pleaſing, progreſſive light, dubious, and amuſing, is thrown over the face of things. A ſingle ray is able to aſſiſt the pictureſque eye; which, by ſuch ſlender aid creates a thouſand imaginary forms, if the ſcene be unknown; and as the light ſteals gradually on, is amuſed by correcting it's vague ideas by the real objects. What in the confuſion of twilight perhaps ſeemed a ſtretch of riſing [Page 240] ground, broken into various parts, becomes now vaſt maſſes of wood, and an extent of foreſt.
As the ſun begins to appear above the horizon, another change takes place. What was before only form, being now inlightened, begins to receive effect. This effect depends on two circumſtances, the catching lights, which touch the ſummits of every object; and the miſtineſs, in which the riſing orb is commonly inveloped.
The effect is often pleaſing, when the ſun riſes in unſullied brightneſs, diffuſing its ruddy light over the upper parts of objects, which is contraſted by the deeper ſhadows below: yet the effect is then only tranſcendent, when he riſes, accompanied by a train of vapors, in a miſty atmoſphere. Among lakes, and mountains, this happy accompaniment often forms the moſt aſtoniſhing viſions: and yet in the foreſt it is nearly as great. With what delightful effect do we ſometimes ſee the ſun's diſk juſt appear above a woody hill; or in Shakeſpear's language, ‘—ſtand tip-toe on the miſty mountain's top,’ and dart his diverging rays through the riſing vapour. The radiance, catching the tops of [Page 241] the trees, as they hang midway upon the ſhaggy ſteep; and touching here and there, a few other prominent objects, imperceptibly mixes its ruddy tint with the ſurrounding miſts, ſetting on fire, as it were, their upper parts; while their lower ſkirts are loſt in a dark maſs of varied confuſion; in which trees, and ground, and radiance, and obſcurity, are all blended together. When the eye is fortunate enough to catch the glowing inſtant, (for it is always a vaniſhing ſcene) it furniſhes an idea worth treaſuring among the choiceſt appearances of nature.—Miſtineſs alone, we have obſerved, occaſions a confuſion in objects, which is often pictureſque: but the glory of the viſion depends on the glowing lights, which are mingled with it.
Landſcape-painters, in general, pay too little attention to the diſcriminations of morning, and evening. We are often at a loſs to diſtinguiſh in pictures, the riſing from the ſetting ſun; tho their characters are very different, both in the lights, and ſhadows. The ruddy lights indeed of the evening are more eaſily diſtinguiſhed: but it is not perhaps always ſufficiently obſerved, that the ſhadows of the evening are much leſs opaque, than thoſe of the morning. [Page 242] They may be brightened perhaps by the numberleſs rays floating in the atmoſphere, which are inceſſantly reverberated in every direction; and may continue in action after the ſun is ſet. Whereas in the morning, the rays of the preceding day having ſubſided, no object receives any light, but from the immediate luſtre of the ſun. Whatever becomes of the theory, the fact, I believe, is well aſcertained.
In an open country, the moſt fortunate circumſtance, that attends a meridian ſun, is cloudy weather; which occaſions partial lights. Then it is, that the diſtant foreſt-ſcene is ſpread with lengthened gleams; while the other parts of the landſcape are in ſhadow. The tuftings of trees are particularly adapted to catch this effect with advantage. There is a richneſs in them from the ſtrong oppoſition of light, and ſhade, which is wonderfully fine. A diſtant foreſt, thus illumined, wants only a foreground to make it highly pictureſque.
As the ſun deſcends, the effect of it's illumination becomes ſtronger. It is a doubt, [Page 244] whether the riſing, or the ſetting ſun is more pictureſque. The great beauty of both depends on the contraſt between ſplendor, and obſcurity. But this contraſt is produced by theſe different incidents in different ways. The grandeſt effects of the riſing ſun, are produced by the vapors which invelop it. The ſetting ſun reſts it's glory on the gloom, which often accompanies it's parting rays. A depth of ſhadow, hanging over the eaſtern hemiſphere, gives the beams of the ſetting-ſun ſuch powerful effect, that altho in fact they are by no means equal to the ſplendor of a meridian ſun, yet through force of contraſt they appear ſuperior.
A diſtant foreſt-ſcene, under this brightened gloom, is particularly rich; and glows with double ſplendor. The verdure of the ſummer leaf, and the varied tints of the autumnal one, are all lighted up with the moſt reſplendent colours.
We ſometimes alſo ſee in a woody ſcene, coruſcations, like a bright ſtar, occaſioned by a ſun-beam darting through an eyelet-hole among the leaves. Many painters, and eſpecially Rubens, have been fond of introducing this radiant ſpot in their landſcapes. But in painting it is one of thoſe trifles, which produces no effect: nor can this radiance be given. In poetry indeed it may produce a pleaſing image. Shakeſpear hath introduced it beautifully; where ſpeaking of the force of truth entring a guilty conſcience, he compares it to the ſun, which
[Page 246] It is one of thoſe circumſtances, which poetry may offer to the imagination; but the pencil cannot well produce to the eye; and if it could, it were better omitted; as it attracts the eye from what is more intereſting.—fires the proud tops of the eaſtern pines,And darts his light through every guilty hole.
Under the ſameneſs of Italian ſkies the beauties of a ſetting-ſun are hardly known. There the radiant orb courſes his way with equal ſplendor from one end of the hemiſphere to the other. Nothing refracts his beam. To the vapours of groſſer climates, we owe thoſe beautiful tints, which accompany his whole journey through the ſkies; but eſpecially his parting ray.
Thus far the ſources of incidental beauty are all derived from milder ſkies. But the turbulence of the atmoſphere is ſtill a more fruitful ſource of pictureſque effect, in the foreſt, as in other ſcenes. Unaided indeed by ſun-ſhine the ſtorm has little power. But when the force of the tempeſt ſeparates the clouds into large, dark, convex forms; and the rays of the ſun ſtream from behind them athwart a clear horizon, if the objects correſpond, a very ſublime picture is exhibited.
[Page 247] No maſter was better acquainted with theſe circumſtances than the younger Vandervelt. In all his ſea-ſtorms he avails himſelf of them; and is remarkable for the grand maſſes of light, and ſhade, which he produces.
The land-ſtorm is equally a ſource of beauty. When the tempeſt ſcowls over the foreſt, as we traverſe it's deep receſſes, what grandeur do the internal parts of it receive from the caſual ray darting upon them! Or when we view it as a diſtant object, and ſee the ſtorm blackening behind trees; with what wonderful effect does the ſun, in an oppoſite direction, ſtrike their tufted heads! But if that ſun be ſetting, while the tempeſt is brewing over the hemiſphere, black towards the eaſt—lurid—more purple—and glowing with red, as it advances towards the weſt—then it is, that the utmoſt value is given to it's effect. The caſtle, the lake, or the foreſt-ſcene, whether viewed in ſhadow againſt the ruddy light, or illumined under the ſtorm; appear in full grandeur; and we ſee all that light and ſhade in extreme contention, yet fully harmonized, can produce.
[Page 248]Vain are the hopes by colouring to diſplayThe bright effulgence of the noon-tide ray;Or paint the full-orbed ruler of the ſkiesWith pencils dipt in dull, terreſtrial dies.But when mild evening ſheds her golden light,When morn appears, arrayed in modeſt white;When ſoft ſuffuſions of the vernal ſhower,Dims the pale ſun, or, at the thund'ring hour,When wrapt in crimſon clouds, he hides his head;Then catch the glow, and on the canvas ſpread.
I know no appearance indeed in nature, that is more awfully grand, than the conjunction of a ſtorm, and a ſunſet, on ſome noble maſs of foreſt-ſcenery. We may eaſily conceive, that ignorance and ſuperſtition might magnify ſuch a reſplend [...]nt gloom into ſomething ſupernatural. In a paſſage, which I lately quoted from Virgil, an idea of this kind is very pictureſquely, as well as poetically introduced. It is in the interview between Aeneas and Evander, when the old chief informs his noble gueſt, that frequently in tempeſts the ſimple Arcadians believed, they ſaw heavenly forms behind the groves of the Tarpeian rock.
Hoc nemus; hunc, inquit, frondoſo vertice collem,(Quis deus, incertum eſt) habitat deus. Arcades ipſumCredunt ſe vidiſſe Jovem, cum ſaepe nigrantemAegida concuteret dextra, nimboſque cieret.
[Page 249] As theſe great effects are certainly the moſt pictureſque of all aerial appearances, it is rather ſurprizing, that landſcape-painters, in general, make ſo little uſe of them. It is much more common to ſee landſcape painted under the uniform brightneſs of an equal light, than to ſee it illumined by theſe grand circumſtances of the atmoſphere, in which light, and ſhade are ſo happily combined.
The idea is good: but certainly theſe effects are common enough to have been often the object of every one's obſervation. He will not, I ſuppoſe, take the commoneſt objects as he finds them. And if he ſelect his objects; why not the moſt beautiful mode of exhibiting them? The great effects of morning and evening ſuns, of miſts, and ſtorms, are not more uncommon, than natural combinations of beautiful objects.—But the real truth ſeems to be, that ſuch effects are the moſt difficult to manage, and require great [Page 250] ſtudy, and obſervation. The artiſt therefore, who paints for his bread, rather than his character (an evil attending the art, which can never be removed) chooſes ſuch an exhibition of light, and ſhade, as is the moſt eaſy to himſelf; and may likewiſe be moſt pleaſing to the generality of his undiſtinguiſhing employers. Hence we have ſo great a number of glaring landſcapes, which depend on nothing, but the beauty, and colouring of a few particular objects; without any attention to thoſe grand effects, which make landſcape by many degrees, the moſt ſublime, and intereſting.
It is perhaps one of the great errors in painting (as indeed it is in literary, as well as in pictureſque compoſition) to be more attentive to the finiſhing of parts, than to the production of a whole. Whereas the maſter's great care ſhould be, firſt to contrive a whole; and then to adapt the parts, as artificially as he can. I ſpeak of imaginary landſcape: when he paints a particular view, his management muſt be juſt the reverſe. He has the parts given him; and he muſt form them into a whole, as he can: and this is often difficult.
[Page 251] There is nothing however that tends ſo much to produce a whole, as a proper diſtribution of light, and ſhade; which we beſt obtain, when we can preſent our landſcape under one of theſe grand effects of nature. A common ſun-ſhine furniſhes lights—not maſſes—It may throw a beautiful illumination on particular objects; but the grand effects of nature furniſh the beſt opportunities of forming the maſſes of each.
What gives the moſt grandeur to theſe effects is a predominancy of ſhade; which has always more dignified ideas annexed to it, than a predominancy of light. And yet how little is this obſerved? In the generality of pictures, and prints, you ſee the balance on the other ſide; and are often offended with glaring ſpots of light, which deſtroy the idea of a whole. The painter ſhould examine his piece therefore with great care. He may put out one light, after another; and reviewing his work with a freſh eye, may ſtill find ſome glaring part to eraſe, before he venture it abroad. On this occaſion he may apply with good ſenſe, and form into an adage, a very nonſenſical paſſage, (as it appears) in Shakeſpear: ‘Put out the light—and then—put out the light.’
[Page 252] If the artificial repreſentation of every ſubject ſeems rather to require a balance of ſhade, in ſublime ſubjects it is ſtill more required. All writers on ſublime ſubjects deal in ſhadows, and obſcurity*. The grandeur of Jehovah is commonly repreſented by the Hebrew writers behind a cloud. The imagination makes up deficiences by grander ideas, than it is poſſible for the pencil to produce. Many images owe much of their ſublimity to their indiſtinctneſs; and frequently what we call ſublime is the effect of that heat and fermentation, which enſues in the imagination from it's ineffectual efforts to conceive ſome dark, obſcure idea beyond it's graſp. Bring the ſame within the compaſs of it's comprehenſion, and it may continue great; but it will ceaſe to be ſublime. This ſpeces of the ſublime is oftener found in the compoſition of the poet, than of the painter. In general, the poet has great advantages over the painter, in the proceſs of ſublimication, if the term may be allowed. The buſineſs of the former is only to excite ideas; that of the latter, to repreſent them. [Page 253] The advantage of excited, over repreſented ideas is very great, inaſmuch as they are in ſome degree the reader's own production, and are ſuſceptible of thoſe modifications, which make them peculiarly acceptable to the mind, in which they are raiſed. Whereas the others being confined within a diſtinct, and unalterable outline, admit of none of the modifications, which flatter the particular taſte of the ſpectator, but muſt make their way by their own intrinſic force.
The early ſpring is not very favourable to the ſtudy of landſcape. Nature is yet unfolding herſelf, and is in her progreſs only to perfection. The bloom of many trees, gay and fantaſtic in it's colouring, and form, may be beautiful and curious in itſelf; but is ill-adapted to harmonize, and unite with other objects. And yet we ſometimes ſee tints, which produce a pleaſing effect. The budding oak diſplays great variety. Among neighbouring oaks, the bud of one is a tender green; of another almoſt yellow; of a third an oſier-brown, perhaps nearly inclining to red; yet [Page 256] each of theſe, as it opens, will probably accord harmoniouſly with the tint of it's neighbour. But all trees have not the accommodating qualities of the oak: the early ſhoots particularly of ever-greens are ſeldom in harmony with the foliage of the parent-tree.
As ſummer advances, the foreſt aſſumes a more determined, and connected form. The germs and leaves are all unfolded; the hue of the foliage becomes harmonious; the tuftings alſo of the trees are prepared as beds for maſſes of light to reſt on; which the ſpray, and the bloom of early ſpring, unconnected, and unformed, could not fully receive.
So far we have gained by the progreſs of the year. But the great objection to ſummer ariſes from the uniformity of it's hue. The face of nature is covered with one unvaried mantle of green: for tho the nicer eye may trace many ſhades in this general colour; yet, on the whole, it is both too vivid, and too uniform, for the pencil.
[Page 257] The reign of ſummer ſcarcely indures three months. The leaves, within that period, begin to change their hue, and give way to autumn; which preſents an appearance much more pictureſque; and indeed the moſt replete with incidental beauty of any ſeaſon of the year. This is ſo evident, that painters have choſen the autumn, with almoſt univerſal predilection, as the ſeaſon of landſcape. The leafy ſurface of the foreſt is at that time, ſo varied; and the maſſes of foliage are yet ſo full, that they allow the artiſt great latitude in producing his tints, without injuring the breadth of his lights.
—The fading, many-coloured woods,Shade deepening over ſhade, the country roundImbrown; a varied umbrage, duſk, and dun;Of every hue, from wan, declining green,To ſooty dark—
Yet the autumn, in it's wane, is not ſo pleaſing. It has too forlorn an aſpect. The leaves are withered; and their tufts ſhrivelled, and ſhapeleſs. This remark however affects trees only at hand. The home-plantation ſuffers, where you walk ſo near the fading [Page 258] tree, as to ſee nature in decay: but at a diſtance the withered effect is not eaſily diſcerned.— In the wane of autumn however there are other defects. The aſh, and ſome other trees, have deſerted their ſtation in the foreſt: they have ſhed their leaves, and left a cheerleſs blank.—Beſides, the verdure of the foreſt is too much waſted; and the brown, and yellow tints, beautiful as they are, become too predominant: for the prevalence of theſe hues in autumn, fatigues the eye no leſs than the prevalence of green in ſummer. Only indeed the autumnal tints will ever be more varied. But the intermediate time is the ſeaſon of pictureſque beauty; when the greens, and the browns, and the yellows, are blended together by a variety of middle tints, which often create the moſt exquiſite harmony.
Of all the hues of autumn, thoſe of the oak are commonly the moſt harmonious. As it's vernal tints are more varied, than thoſe of other trees; ſo are it's autumnal. In an oaken wood you ſee every variety of green, and every variety of brown; owing either to the different expoſure of the tree; it's different ſoil; or it's different nature: but it is not my buſineſs to enquire into cauſes.
[Page 259] In the beechen grove you ſeek in vain for this variety. In the early autumn indeed you ſee it, when the extremities only of the tree are juſt tinged with ochre: but as the year advances, the eye is generally fatigued with one deep monotony of orange; tho among all the hues of autumn, it is in itſelf perhaps the moſt beautiful. The painter imitates it the moſt happily by a touch of terra de Sienna. But the eye is palled with beauty in profuſion, and calls for contraſt.
The hues however of the diſtant foreſt, when moſt diſcordant, are often harmonized by the intervening trees on the foreground. We can bear the glow of the diſtant beech-wood, when it is contraſted at hand by a ſpreading oak, whoſe foliage hath yet ſcarce loſt it's ſummer-tint—or by an elm, or an aſh, whoſe fading leaves have aſſumed a yellowiſh hue.
But after all, the autumnal foreſt is an inſtrument eaſily untuned. One froſty night, or parching blaſt, may introduce ſome [Page 260] ſtriking diſcord; tho on the other hand, it is true, by ſoftening ſome diſcordant tint, it may as eaſily introduce a harmony, which did not exiſt before. Here art comes to the aid of nature. The pencil fixes the ſcene in the happy moment; and the fading tints of autumn become perennial.
I have known ſome planters endeavour, in their improvements, to range their trees in ſuch a manner; as in the wane of the year, to receive all the beauty of autumnal colouring. The attempt is vain, unleſs they could ſo command the weather as to check, or produce at pleaſure, thoſe tints, which nature hath ſubjected to ſo many accidents. A general direction is all that can be given. Oak is rarely in diſcord; but beech and elm can as rarely be depended on. All muſt be left to chance; and after the utmoſt that art can do, the wild foreſt, with it's caſual diſcords, and monotonies, will preſent a thouſand beauties, which no ſkill of man can rival.
Thus the beauties of the waning year are fixed rather by the weather, than by the calendar. We often ſee them vaniſh in october: and we ſometimes ſee a fine autumnal effect in the beginning of november: nay even later [Page 261] we may trace the beauties of the declining year, and
—catch the laſt ſmileOf autumn beaming o'er the yellow woods.
Even when the beauty of the landſcape is gone, the charms of autumn may remain. After the rage of ſummer is abated; and before the rigours of winter are yet ſet in, there are often days of ſuch heavenly temperature, that every mind muſt feel their effect. Thompſon, to whom the beauties of nature were familiar, thus deſcribes a day of this kind:
To the pictureſque beauties of autumn we may add, that the ſun-ſets, at that ſeaſon, are commonly richer, than when the days are of the ſame length in the ſpring; or indeed at any other ſeaſon.—The morning ſhines,Serene in all it's dewy beauties bright,Unfolding fair the laſt autumnal day.O'er all the ſoul it's ſacred influence breaths,Inflames imagination, through the breaſtInfuſes every tenderneſs, and farBeyond dim earth exalts the ſwelling thought.
But the leafy foreſt is not ſolely the object of incidental beauty. The pictureſque eye finds [Page 262] great amuſement even in it's wintry-ſcenes; when it has thrown it's rich mantle aſide, and appears to the common eye naked, and deformed.
The hazy ſun-ſhine of a froſty morning, is accompanied with an indiſtinctneſs peculiar to itſelf. The common hazineſs of a ſummer-day ſpreads over the landſcape one general grey tint; and as we have had occaſion to remark in different circumſtances, is often the ſource of great beauty. But the effect we are here obſerving, is of a different kind. It is generally more partial—more rich—and mixing with ſtreaks of different coloured clouds, which often form behind it, produces a very pleaſing effect.
Great beauty alſo ariſes from the different tints of the ſpray. The dark brown ſpray of the birch, for inſtance, has a good effect, among that of a lighter tinge: and when the foreſt is deep, all this little buſhineſs of ramification hath, in ſome degree, the effect of foliage.
The boles of trees likewiſe, and all their larger limbs, add a rich variety, and contraſt to the foreſt; the ſmooth and the rough, the light and the dark, often beautifully oppoſing [Page 263] each other. In winter, the ſtem predominates, as the leaf in ſummer. It is amuſing in one ſeaſon to ſee the branches loſing, and diſcovering themſelves among the foliage; and it is amuſing alſo, in the other, to walk through the deſolate foreſt, and ſee the various combinations of ſtems— the traverſing of the branches acroſs each other, in ſo many beautiful directions—and the pains, which nature takes in forming a wood, as well as a ſingle tree *. She leaves no part uncloſed; but puſhing in the branch, or the ſpray, as the opening allows, ſhe fills all vacant ſpace, by uniting the heads of the trees: while every ſtep we take, preſents us with ſome beautiful variety in her mode of forming the fretted roof, under which we walk.
In winter too the effect of ever-greens is often pleaſing. The holly, when it happens to be well combined, and mixed in juſt proportion, makes an agreeable contraſt. The ivy hanging round the oak, if it be not too profuſe, we have already obſerved, is a beautiful [Page 264] appendage to it's grandeur. I have ſeen ſome parts of the foreſt, where the ſtem of almoſt every tree was covered with it. This indeed was not pictureſque; but it gave the wood a very odd appearance, by exhibiting ſo total an inverſion of nature. In ſummer, the tops of the trees are green, and their ſtems commonly bare. Here the tops were bare, while the ſtems were in full leaf.
In a light hoar-froſt, before the ſun, and air begin to ſhake the powder from the trees, the wintry foreſt is often beautiful; and almoſt exhibits the effect of tufted foliage.—As ſingle objects alſo, trees, under this circumſtance, are curious. The black branches, whoſe under-ſides are not covered with rime, often make a ſingular contraſt with the whitened ſpray. Trees of minuter ramification and foliage, as the beech, the elm, and the fir, appear under this circumſtance, to moſt advantage. The aſh, the horſe-cheſnut, and other plants of coarſer form, have no great beauty.—Trees alſo, thus covered with hoar-froſt, have ſometimes—if not a pictureſque—at leaſt an uncommon effect, when they appear againſt a lurid cloud; [Page 265] eſpecially when the ſun ſhines ſtrongly upon them.
But altho many appearances in winter are beautiful, and amuſing; and ſome of them even pictureſque; yet the judicious painter will rarely introduce them in landſcape; becauſe he has choice of more beautiful effects, when nature appears dreſſed to more advantage.
Pictureſque pleaſure ariſes from two ſources —from the beauty, and combination of the objects repreſented; and from the exactneſs of the repreſentation. Thus we are pleaſed with the picture of a noble landſcape, the compoſition of which is juſt, and the lights well-diſpoſed: and yet a ſort of pleaſure ariſes from ſeeing a bright table, a deal-board, or a raſher of bacon naturally repreſented*. But while the [Page 266] former of theſe is the work of genius, the latter is a mere mechanical knack. The one therefore is admired by the man of taſte—the other, except for a moment, only by the ignorant, and uninformed.
This is juſt the caſe before us. The painter, who chooſes a winter-ſubject, in general, gives up compoſition, and effect, to ſhew how naturally he can repreſent ſnow, or hoar-froſt. It is almoſt impoſſible to produce a good effect with theſe appendages of winter: they muſt naturally create falſe, and glaring lights; to which the painter generally makes his compoſition ſubſervient.
Among the ſources of incidental beauty in a foreſt, may be mentioned, (what perhaps may appear odd) the felling of timber. If you wiſh to fell trees with ſome particular view to improvement, the intention is often fruſtrated. It muſt be done very artfully, or, [Page 267] in general, your deſign will be apparent, and diſguſting to the eye. The maſter of the ſcene himſelf, who is always on the ſpot, and examines it frequently from every ſtand, if he be a man of taſte, will be the beſt improver, and direct the felling axe with moſt judgment. At the ſame time, we frequently ſee trees cut down careleſſly, for the purpoſe of utility, which have opened greater beauties, than any they poſſeſſed themſelves, when ſtanding; tho the preconceived loſs of them was greatly lamented. But this can only happen where trees abound.
I ſhall conclude this enumeration of the incidental beauties belonging to foreſt-ſcenery, with an appendage, which we frequently ſee in it—that of a timber-wain, an object of the moſt pictureſque kind, eſpecially when drawn by oxen. Here the tree when dead, adorns again the landſcape, which it adorned when living. A gilded chariot is an object, which art has induſtriouſly tricked out, and decorated. It is of a piece therefore with all ſuch artificial objects, as are the moſt unlike nature. Whereas the timber-wain is [Page 268] at leaſt a piece of ſimple art; and the rudeneſs of it's form, and materials, is a property, which it has in common with the works of nature.—Oxen too are more pictureſque in themſelves than horſes.—Much of the beauty however of this incident ariſes from it's being adapted to the ſcene. A wain of timber is much more beautiful in a foreſt, than it would be in the ſtreets of a town.
Thus I have enumerated the moſt common ſources of permanent, and incidental beauty in foreſt-landſcape. I have inſiſted only on the moſt common ſources. An eye, inquiſitive in the ſcenes of nature, will inveſtigate many others.—Having detained the reader perhaps too long in this examination, I ſhall endeavour to relieve him by a few general obſervations on foreſt-hiſtory.
PERHAPS of all ſpecies of landſcape, there is none, which ſo univerſally captivates mankind, as foreſt-ſcenery: and our prepoſſeſſion in favour of it appears in nothing more, than in this; that the inhabitants of bleak countries, totally deſtitute of wood, are generally conſidered, from the natural feelings of mankind, as the objects of pity.
Pliny has given us a view of this kind, which, he tells us, he took himſelf upon the ſpot. It repreſents a bleak ſea-coaſt in Zealand, before that country was embanked; the inhabitants of which he ſpeaks of as the moſt wretched of human beings. It is true, there are other wants, beſides that of ſcenery, which enter into the idea of their wretchedneſs; but I dare affirm, that if Pliny had found the ſame people, with all their wants [Page 270] about them, in a country richly furniſhed with wood, he would have ſpoken of them in different language.—Pliny's picture is in itſelf ſo good, and is likewiſe ſo excellent a contraſt to the ſcenes, which we have juſt examined, that I think it worth inſerting. I ſhall rather give the general ſenſe of the paſſage, than an exact tranſlation of it.
"This coaſt, ſays he, lies ſo much lower than the ocean, that the tides daily overflow it. The inhabitants build their huts on little eminences, which they either find, or conſtruct on the ſhores; and which ſerve to raiſe their dwellings juſt above the water-mark. Theſe dwellings, or rather cabins, when the tide riſes, often ſeem like floating boats: and when it retires, the inhabitants appear like ſtranded mariners; and their cottages like wrecks. Their harveſt is the ebbing of the ſea; during which they are every where ſeen running about in queſt of fiſh; and purſuing them in each little creek of the ſhore, as the tide deſerts it. They have neither horſe, nor cow, nor domeſtic animal of any kind; and as to game, they have not the leaſt appearance of a buſh, to ſhelter it. The whole employment of this wretched people is fiſhing. They [Page 271] make their nets of ſea-weed; and dry a kind ſlimy mud, for fuel. Rain-water is their only drink, which they preſerve in ditches, dug before their cabins*."
Such is Pliny's picture of this bleak, and deſolate country. From the very feelings of nature, we ſhudder at it. Whereas the idea of the foreſt is pleaſing to every one. The caſe is, tho there may be as much real miſery amidſt beautiful ſcenery; yet beautiful ſcenery covers it. Wretchedneſs is often felt under ſplendid apparel; but it does not ſtrike us in ſuch attire, as it does in rags.
That man was originally a foreſt-animal appears from every page of his early hiſtory. Trace the firſt accounts of any people, and you will find them the inhabitants of woods; if woods were to be found in the countries in which they lived. Caves, thickets, and trunks of trees, were their retreats: and acorns their food; with ſuch beaſts, as they took in hunting; which afforded them only a precarious ſupply.
[Page 272]Haec nemora indigenae Fauni, nymphaeque tenebant,Genſque virum truncis, et duro robore nata*:Queis neque mos, neque cultus erat; nec jungere tauros,Aut componere opes norant, ant parcere parto;Sed rami, atque aſper victu venatus alebat.
If indeed they lived near a coaſt, like the Zealanders deſcribed by Pliny, they obtained a livelihood by fiſhing. But with the ſavages of the coaſt we have nothing to do. Our attention is only engaged by the ſavage of the woods.
While man continued thus an inmate of the foreſt, it is poſſible he might have ſagacity to build himſelf a hut of boughs, which he might cover with clods; and yet it is more probable, that while he continued the mere child of nature, he was contented with the ſimple ſhelter, which Virgil above ſuppoſes his common mother furniſhed; the imbowering thicket, or the hollow trunk; as ſummer, or winter led him to prefer an open, or a cloſer cover. Strabo ſpeaks of certain Aſiatics, even ſo late in the hiſtory of mankind, as the times of Pompey the great, who harboured, like [Page 273] birds, in the tops of trees*. And I think the ſavages about Botany-bay are not repreſented by our late diſcoverers in a much more improved condition.
Man in this ſolitary ſtate (for ſcarcity of food forbad any inlarged ideas of ſociety) waged but unequal war with his brother-ſavages, the brutes. Moſt of them out-ſtripped him in ſpeed: many of them contended with him in ſtrength; and ſome nearly equalled him in ſagacity.
The human ſavage thus finding himſelf hard put to it, even to defend his own, might look round for aſſiſtance. The dog, whoſe friendly manners † might ſolicit his acquaintance, [Page 274] was probably one of his firſt aſſociates in thoſe countries where dogs were to be found. This union made a powerful party in the foreſt. The great object of it however was rather food, than conqueſt. The dog, and his maſter were both carnivorous animals; and they ſoon began to gratify their appetites at the expence of their fellow-brutes. The one conducting, and the other executing the plan, few creatures could oppoſe them.
But man, from the beginning, was an ambitious animal. Having filled his belly, he aſpired after dominion. For this purpoſe it was neceſſary for him to procure a better ally, than that he had choſen. He had yet but little connection with his fellow. To join, now and then, in a hunting-party was all the intercourſe he knew. It was little more than ſuch a league as is found among wolves, jackalls, and other animals, that hunt in packs. Ideas of ſociety however by degrees took place. The dawnings of ſocial [Page 275] compact appeared. Man now threw off the brute, and thought it good to leave his ſcattered tenements, and to aſſemble in hords. The rudiments of law were traced, and ſome rude ſketch of ſubordination. In earneſt he began now to ſhew his dominion. By fellowſhip he had increaſed his ſtrength. The horſe, the bullock, and other animals were reclaimed from the foreſt; ſome for ſocial aſſiſtance; and others for a leſs precarious ſupply of food; while the ſhaggy tenants of the foreſt, which were hoſtile to his plans, began every where to give way; prowling only by night; and ſkulking by day in ſuch deep receſſes, as might beſt ſecure them from the formidable aſſocication, which had taken place.
But ſtill his native foreſt was man's delight. Here, in ſome opening ſurrounded with woods, the hord firſt ſettled. Here the firſt attempts of architecture were made: the krail was laid out by rule, and line; and the firſt draughts of regular defence were imagined. Caeſar, with all his boaſted conqueſts, found the Gauls, the Britons, and the Germans ſcarce emerging from this ſtate of barbariſm. His commentaries every where ſhew them to have [Page 276] been foreſt people; retreating before him into their faſtneſſes, and impeding his march by felling timber in his way. The Britons, he expreſſly tells us*, gave the name of a town to a part of a foreſt, which they had fortified with a rampart, and a ditch.
But Caeſar ſaw the Britiſh town only in time of war. Strabo gives us a picture of one in time of peace. "Foreſts, ſays he, were the only towns in uſe among them, which were formed by cutting down a large circle of wood; and erecting huts within it, and ſheds for cattle."†—The ſame author, afterwards deſcribing a town of this kind, ſhews more exactly the mode of fortifying it. It was the practice, he tells us, to intermix, and weave together, the branches of thorny trees, and ſtrengthen them with ſtakes.
As the arts of civilization increaſed, man began to feel, that the foreſt could not afford him all the conveniences he wiſhed. Wants multiplied upon him; which he could not [Page 277] indulge amidſt it's receſſes. He choſe fertile ſituations for tillage—the neighbourhood of rivers for mills, and manufactures—and deſcended to the ſea-coaſt for commerce, which he extended to the moſt diſtant parts.
Thus genial intercourſe, and mutual aidCheered what were elſe an univerſal ſhade;Called nature from her ivy-mantled den,And ſoftened human rock-work into men.
When man became thus refined, we leave him. When he relinquiſhed the foreſt, we have no farther connection with him. His haunts, and habits are no longer the object of conjecture. They become the ſubject of recorded hiſtory. To the ſage hiſtorian therefore we now conſign him; and return to the foreſt, which at this day in moſt parts of the world, where any foreſts remain, is left in poſſeſſion of the brute creation.
Under the burning ſuns of Lybia, in the foreſts of Zara, and Bildulgerid, the lordly lion reigns. He harbours too in the woods of India; but there he is an ignoble brute, compared with the lion of Africa. The [Page 278] African lion is a beaſt of unrivalled proweſs. Nothing appalls him. From his dark receſſes in the foreſt, he ſometimes eyes the numerous caravan, conſiſting of men, horſes, and camels, marching ſlowly along the burning ſands of Barca. He laſhes his tail; collects his ſtrength; and bounding forward, tho ſingle, attacks the whole. He is received by a brigade of pointed ſpears; and ſoon overpowered: but in the bravery of his ſoul, he dies without a wiſh to retreat.
In the foreſts of Mallabar, and Bengal, the tyger roams. Of this animal there are various kinds; the largeſt and fierceſt is called the royal-tyger. Of all the ſavages of the foreſt, he is the moſt active, the moſt inſidious, and the moſt cruel.
The foreſts of India are inhabited alſo by the gentle and inoffenſive elephant. This animal commonly marches in ſocial bands. The traveller hears them at a diſtance, as they traverſe the foreſt; marking their rout, by the cruſh, and deſolation of thickets, and [Page 279] intervening woods. He liſtens without diſmay; and even waits to be a ſpectator of the unweildy proceſſion, as it moves along.
The monkey inhabits the woods both of Africa, and India; and, what is ſingular, where he chooſes to take poſſeſſion, he may be called the lord of the foreſt. The lion himſelf gives way; not being able to bear, as travellers report, the inceſſant tricking of that miſchievous brute; whoſe agility prevents correction. But the human figure is of all others, the object of his higheſt deriſion. If ſuch a phenomenon appear in his domains, the whole ſociety are called together by a whoop. From curioſity they proceed to inſolence; chattering, grinning, and throwing drown fruit, cones, withered ſticks, or any thing their ſituation furniſhes. Fire-arms can ſcarce repreſs them.—In ſome foreſts where the ape, the baboon, and other larger ſpecies of this diſguſting tribe inhabit, the traveller muſt be well guarded to paſs in ſecurity.
[Page 280] In ſouth-America, in the wide foreſts of Brazil, and Paraguay, along the banks of the Amazon, the cougar, a ſpecies of tyger, is the moſt formidable animal. Poſſeſſed of amphibious nature, he plunges into the river, and carries his devaſtations beyond that mighty ſtream. Buffon relates, that he has been known to croſs the ſea, in large companies, between the continent, and the iſland of Cayenne; and, in the infancy of that colony, to have kept it in conſtant alarms.
In north-America the mooſe-deer ſeems intitled to the appellation of lord of the foreſt; an animal repreſented by many travellers, as high as an elephant, and of a nature as gentle. With ſtately tread he traverſes the vaſt woods of fir; and crops the cones, and pine-tops beyond the reach of any other animal.—When the foreſt is covered with ſnow, and cruſted over with froſt, the wild American marks him for certain deſtruction. His feet ſink deep in the faithleſs ſurface; and his flight is impeded: while his purſuers, mounted on [Page 281] ſnow-ſhoes, attack and retreat at pleaſure; aſſailing him with ſhot, or arrows, on every ſide: and when he falls, half a townſhip is employed to drag him to their habitations; where the noble carcaſe is received in triumph, and at once ſuſpends the effects of famine. If food be plentiful, he is hunted for his ſkin. But tho his nature is gentle, like many other animals, he will turn upon his purſuer, if he be wounded. He fights with his fore-feet. We have a ſtory well authenticated of a hunter, on whom a wounded mooſe-deer turned. He was found in the woods pounded into a jelly: his very bones were broken in pieces; and the deer, having exhauſted his fury, was found lying dead beſide him.
The woods of Germany nouriſh the wild boar, a beaſt by no means among the moſt ignoble of the foreſt. His form, the ſhape of his head, his ſhort erect ears, his tuſks, his thick muſcular ſhoulders, adorned with briſtles, and the lightneſs of his hind quarters, ſo contrary to the domeſtic-hog, which is a round lump, are all highly pictureſque. Such alſo are his colour, a griſly brown; and his [Page 282] coat, covered in many parts, as well as his ſhoulders, with long, ſweeping briſtles. Nor are his gait, attitude, and motion, at all inferior to his form.—This beaſt, during the three firſt years of his life, herds with the litter, among which he was produced. He is then called by foreſters a beaſt of company. In his fourth year he aſſumes the title of a wild boar—ranges the foreſt alone —becomes royal game—and at this day furniſhes the chief amuſement of half the princes of the empire.
From the foreſts of the Pyrennees, when winter rages, the famiſhed wolves ruſh down in troops. All the country is in arms; and the utmoſt vigilance and force, of men and dogs, can ſcarce repreſs ſuch a torrent of invaſion.
In the gloomy foreſts of Lapland, where the pine is covered with black moſs, the hardy rein-deer browzes. If he deſcend into the plain, his food differs only in hue. With theſe two kinds of moſs, the black, and the white, the whole face of Lapland is diſcoloured; [Page 283] and when the diminutive native of the country ſees the waſtes around him, abound with this ſemi-vegetable, he bleſſes his ſtars, and calls it luxury. His rein-deer, ſupported by this cheerleſs paſturage, ſupplies him with every thing that nature wants. It gives him food—it gives him milk—it gives him cloathing—and carries him wrapped in fur, and ſeated in his ſledge, with amazing velocity from one deſert to another.
Thus moſt of the foreſts of the earth became the poſſeſſion of the brute creation. In the foreſts of Sumatra, we are told, that wild-beaſts at this very day, depopulate whole villages*. In other ſavage countries, man and beaſt are ſtill joint-tenants; yet in general, even the barbarian is taught by example to leave the foreſt for a more convenient abode.
BUT tho man had deſerted the foreſt as a dwelling, and had left it to be inhabited by beaſts; it ſoon appeared, that he had no intention of giving up his right of dominion over it. In a courſe of ages, as population increaſed, he began to find it in his way. In one part, it occupied grounds fit for his plough; in another, for the paſturage of his domeſtic cattle; and in ſome parts, it afforded ſhelter for his enemies. He ſoon ſhewed the beaſts, they were only tenants at will. He began amain to lay about him with his axe. The foreſt groaned; and receded from it's ancient bounds. It is amazing, what ravages he made in his original habitation, through every quarter of the globe. The fable was realized: man begged of the foreſt a handle to his hatchet; and when he [Page 286] had obtained the boon, he uſed it in felling the whole.
In very early days this devaſtation began. When Joſhua divided the land of promiſe among the Iſraelites, the children of Joſeph made complaint, that their lot was inſufficient for their numbers: "Get thee up to the wood-country, ſaid Joſhua, and cut down for thyſelf there, in the land of the Perizzites: the mountain ſhall be thine; for it is a wood; and thou ſhalt cut it down; and the out-goings of it ſhall be thine."*
The mighty foreſt of Lebanon, which once found employment for eighty thouſand hewers†, is now dwindled to a dozen trees. The woods, which covered the iſland of Delos, had intirely diſappeared even in the time of Herodotus. In all the new peopled parts of America, it was the ſole employment of each colony to cut down wood; and it is aſtoniſhing what devaſtation the woods of theſe countries have ſuffered during theſe two laſt centuries. In the Weſt-Indies the ſame havoc was made. In Barbadoes, which was [Page 287] once covered with wood, ſcarce a ſingle tree can be found. All the other Weſt-India iſlands, are, more or leſs, in the ſame condition. To prepare the ground for ſugarcanes, the axe has continued to rage in them, ever ſince the time of their diſcovery.
In the Eaſt-Indies, we ſee the ſame ſcenes of deſolation. Wherever ſettlements have been made, the woods have been cut down; and indeed often unneceſſarily. In the iſland of Sumatra, Mr. Marſden tells us*, the inhabitants have no ſettled land for their tillage; but cut down, every year, a part of the ancient foreſts of the country; and meliorate the ſoil by the aſhes of the trees, which they burn upon it. "I could never, ſays he, behold this devaſtation without a ſtrong ſentiment of regret. Perhaps the prejudices of a claſſical education taught me to reſpect thoſe aged trees, as the habitations of an order of ſylvan deities, who were now deprived of exiſtence. But without having recourſe to ſuperſtition, it is not difficult to account for ſuch feelings, at the [Page 288] fight of a venerable wood, old as the ſoil it ſtood on; and beautiful, beyond what the pencil can deſcribe, annihilated for the mere temporary uſe of the ſpace it occupied*."
In part the devaſtation of timber has been owing, in ſome countries, to other cauſes. Among theſe, it is well known, what prodigious quantities of drift-timber are, every year, wrecked on the ſea-coaſt of Greenland, Iceland, Siberia, Kamſkatka, and other northern regions, brought down, as is ſuppoſed, by the great rivers of Tartary, and America; and thrown by the ſetting of the currents on thoſe ſhores. In a voyage related by Purchas, we are told, that the Obi, and the Jeniſca frequently, when the froſts break, and the ſnows diſſolve, overflow their banks, and carry down with them vaſt mountains of ice, which rolling along, through the foreſts, cruſh down all the trees they meet with; and will ſometimes drive whole woods before them to the ſea†.
[Page 289] On the coaſts of Spain, and Portugal alſo, drift-timber is frequently found. At the ſiege of Gibraltar, on the night of the 26th of december 1779 (ſays captain Drinkwater, in his hiſtory of that ſiege) "we had a moſt violent rain, with dreadful thunder, and lightening. The ſucceeding morning a vaſt quantity of wood was floating under our walls. The rain had waſhed it from the banks of the Palmone, and Guadaranque; and it was wafted by the wind over to our ſide of the bay. Fuel had long been a ſcarce article: this ſupply was therefore conſidered as a miraculous inſtance of providence in our favour."—In the Eaſt-Indies we have likewiſe accounts of the devaſtation of timber from the ſame cauſe.— This cauſe however operates only on the banks of large rivers, or near the coaſts of the ſea*.
But tho in all countries woods have been diſmantled, yet this devaſtation of timber hath raged with the greateſt ardour in Europe. France is almoſt intirely deprived of wood. [Page 290] All timber of ſuch a ſize belonged to the king. The conſequence was, nobody would ſuffer trees to attain that ſize. In the internal parts of Spain, and Germany, ſome woody tracts ſtill remain; but the grandeur of thoſe ancient foreſts, which Hannibal, and Caeſar traverſed, is no where to be found. Where ſhall we now hear of a foreſt, that took a period of ſixty days to paſs through it*? But if ſome woody ſcenery is ſtill found in the internal parts of theſe countries, yet along the coaſts, from the Baltic to the Rhine, and from the Rhine to the ſtreights of Gibraltar, all is laid waſte.
In Italy too the ſame havoc has been made. In Calabria indeed are ſtill ſome tracts of wood; but, I believe, in few other parts. Thoſe vaſt pine-foreſts, which had rooted themſelves, from the beginning of time, on the ridges of the Appennines, are now in moſt parts of that chain of mountains, recorded only by a few ſcattered clumps.
Even the bleak clime of Iceland is ſuppoſed to have been once covered with large foreſts; [Page 291] tho it is now almoſt totally bare of wood. It is probable however that other cauſes, beſides that of making room for tillage, of which there is but little in that iſland, have contributed to this event*.
From theſe varied ſcenes of devaſtation, the Turkiſh dominions, I believe, are the moſt exempted. The Turks venerate trees; and cheriſh them in all places, where the ſoil is not abſolutely required. They may almoſt be ſaid to live under them; for they are continually reclining beneath their ſhade. In Turkey it is common to ſee inferior buildings raiſed around the bole of a large plantain; which riſing through the roof, covers the whole with it's expanded boughs. We may ſuppoſe therefore, what we ſometimes hear, is true, that ſome of the moſt pictureſque ſcenery in the world may be found among the iſlands of the Egean; and along the ſhores of the Dardanells; many of which, are beautifully covered with wood.—Theſe woods account probably for an appearance, which is ſingular to [Page 292] a ſtranger navigating thoſe narrow ſeas. As the corn-veſſels ſail through them, in their way to Conſtantinople, innumerable flights of pigeons, which find ſhelter in theſe woody receſſes, hover round the boats, demanding a ſort of toll from each, which the Turks never fail to pay them. Theſe domeſtic birds acquire the ſagacity to diſtinguiſh the corn-boat from every other ſpecies of navigation; and ſettling upon it's deck, they eat their dole at perfect eaſe. As the veſſel approaches Conſtantinople, the tame pigeons of that capital, and all it's ſuburbs, ſcruple not, if they chooſe it, to take the ſame liberty. Doves of every kind are ſacred in Turkey.
BRITAIN, like other countries, abounded once in wood. When Caſſibalan, Caractacus, and Boadicia, defended their country's rights, the country itſelf was a fortreſs. An extenſive plain was then as uncommon, as a foreſt is now. Fitz-Stephen, a monk of Canterbury, in the time of Henry II, tells us, that a large foreſt lay round London; "in which were woody groves; in the covers whereof lurked bucks and does, wild boars, and bulls." To ſhelter beaſts of the latter kind we know a foreſt muſt be of ſome magnificence. Theſe woods, contiguous even to the capital, continued cloſe and thick many ages afterwards. Even ſo late as Henry VII's time we are informed by Polidore Virgil, that, "Tertia propemodum Angliae pars pecori, aut cervis, damis, capreolis (nam et ii quoque [Page 294] in ea parte ſunt, quae ad ſeptentrionem eſt) cuniculiſve nutriendis relicta eſt inculta: quippe paſſim ſunt ejuſmodi ferarum vivaria, ſeu roboraria, quae lignis roboreis ſunt clauſa: unde multa venatio, qua ſe nobiles cum primis exercent."
As Britain became more cultivated, it's woods of courſe receded. They gave way, as in other places, to the plough, to paſturage, to ſhip-building, to architecture; and all other objects of human induſtry, in which timber is the principal material; obtaining for that reaſon, among the Romans, the pointed appellation of materies.
That our woods were often cut down, merely for the ſake of tillage, and paſturage, without any reſpect to the uſes of timber, ſeems to be evident from the great quantities of ſubterraneous trees, dug up in various parts of England. They are chiefly found in marſhy grounds; which abounded indeed [Page 295] every where, before the arts of draining were in uſe. Nothing was neceſſary in ſuch places, to produce the future phenomenon of ſubterraneous timber; but to carry the trees upon the ſurface of the bog; which might eaſily be done in dry ſummers. Their own weight, the ouzing of the ſprings, and the ſwelling of the moſſy ground would ſoon ſink them; as they were generally ſtripped of their branches, which were probably burnt. Dr. Plot, who had examined ſubterraneous timber with great exactneſs, gives good reaſons for ſuppoſing, it might have been buried in this way merely to make way for the plough; and imagines that the Engliſh might begin to clear their wood-lands for tillage as early as the times of Alfred the great*.— Others account for the phenomenon of ſubterraneous timber from the havoc made in woods by the violence of ſtorms. In marſhy grounds eſpecially, where trees take but feeble hold, they would be moſt liable to this deſtruction.—Both this hypotheſis, and Dr. Plot's, may be equally true.
[Page 296] But notwithſtanding this general extermination of timber for the purpoſes of human induſtry, ſtill many foreſts were left, in the time of our anceſtors, in every part of the iſland, under the denomination of royal chaces; which our ancient kings preſerved ſacred for their amuſement.—Foreſts indeed have ever been in uſe, in all parts, and ages of the world, as the appendages of royalty. We read of them thus appropriated, even in the times of ſacred ſtory. When Nehemiah was in captivity, in the court of Artaxerxes; and had obtained leave of that prince to rebuild Jeruſalem, Artaxerxes granted him, we read, among other favours, a letter to Aſaph the keeper of the king's foreſt, to ſupply him with timber*.
In England, the royal appropriation of moſt of our foreſts, ſeems to have been at leaſt as early, as the times of the heptarchy. Every petty prince had then his royal demeiſns. Afterwards when one ſovereign obtained poſſeſſion of the whole iſland, he found himſelf the proprietor of a number of [Page 297] theſe foreſts ſcattered over the different parts of it.
In Scotland alſo ſeveral foreſts exiſted: but whether they were in general the ſoverign's property; or indeed any of them under the juriſdiction of foreſt-law, might be matter of inquiry. Some of them undoubtedly belonged to private perſons; but on the whole, the foreſts of England were both more numerous in proportion, and more appropriated to the crown, than the foreſts of Scotland. How many of theſe diſtricts exiſted between the foreſt of Englewood in Cumberland, and New-foreſt in Hampſhire, may eaſily be ſuppoſed; when we are aſſured, that in the laſt named county alone there were anciently at leaſt a dozen; tho we can ſcarce at this time trace above half that number.
At preſent indeed even the veſtiges of moſt of our Engliſh foreſts are obliterated. Of a few of them we find the ſite marked in old maps; but as to their ſylvan honours, ſcarce any of them hath the leaſt remains to boaſt. Some of the woods were deſtroyed in licentious times: and many have been ſuffered, through mere negligence, to waſte away—the pillage of a diſhoneſt neighbourhood.
[Page 298] The pictureſque eye, in the mean-time, is greatly hurt with the deſtruction of all theſe ſylvan ſcenes. Not that it delights in a continued foreſt; nor wiſhes to have a whole country covered with wood. It delights in the intermixture of wood, and plain; in which beauty conſiſts. It is not it's buſineſs to conſider matters of utility. It has nothing to do with the affairs of the plough, and the ſpade; but merely examines the face of nature as a beautiful object. At the ſame time, it is more than probable, that if at leaſt ſome of our ancient foreſts, in different parts of the kingdom, had been preſerved, the ends of public utility might have been anſwered, as well as thoſe of pictureſque beauty. This was at leaſt the opinion of our enemies. We are informed, that in the intended invaſion of 1588, the Spaniards, among other miſchief, that was meditated, had orders to cut down all the foreſts of England, which they could meet with; particularly the foreſt of Dean in Gloceſterſhire. John of Ghent indeed acted this part in Scotland; when, to revenge an inroad, he ſet twenty-four thouſand axes at work in the foreſt of Caledonia.
[Page 299] Out of reſpect however to the noble ſcenes, which the foreſts of Britain once preſented, I ſhall endeavour to preſerve the remembrance of as many of them, as I can. I ſhall carry my reader firſt into the northern parts of Scotland; and ſhall from thence proceed regularly through all the foreſts, of which we have any knowledge, to the ſouthern parts of England.
THE character of the Scotch-foreſt is very different from that of the Engliſh one. It commonly extends over a mountainous country, abounding with vallies, rocks, precipices, torrents, cataracts, lakes, and all the accompaniments of the wildeſt, and grandeſt ſpecies of landſcape. It is chiefly compoſed of pines, which give it a melancholy, gloomy aſpect. In ſome parts this gloomy tinge is varied by birch; and in other parts inlivened by the cheerful green, and brilliant berries of the mountain-aſh. The pine-foreſts often climb precipices of very towering height; diminiſhing to the gazing eye, when ſtationed at the bottom, till the loftieſt pines almoſt appear melting into air.
The woods, that rear themſelves over the ſteeps of the Alps, and Appennines, often form [Page 302] appearances of this kind, but of a more cheerful caſt. The following deſcription is a beautiful contraſt to the gloomy aſpect of a Scotch-foreſt; tho I fancy the poet has drawn a more woody ſpecies of ſcenery, than is at this time commonly to be found in Italy.
Far to the right, where Appennine aſcends,Bright as the ſummer, Italy extends.Woods over woods, in gay, theatric pride,Well maſſed, yet varied, deck the mountain's ſide.While towering oft, amidſt the tufted green,Some venerable ruin marks the ſcene.
The animals which inhabit the Scotch-foreſt, are the roe-buck, the eagle, and the falcon. Heretofore it was frequented by the cock of the wood, a noble bird, dreſſed in ſplendid plumage, of nearly the ſize of a turkey. He was often ſeen, amidſt the dark foliage of the pine, rearing his gloſſy creſt, and crowing at intervals: but he is now ſeldom found. The ſtag alſo ſometimes ſhelters himſelf among the thickets of the foreſt: but it is the heat only of a meridian ſun, that drives him thither. The ſtorm he values not; but continues browzing in defiance of it, on the ſide of the bleakeſt [Page 303] mountain, on which it happens to overtake him.
The Engliſh foreſt, (except in the northern counties, which border on Scotland) exhibits a very different ſpecies of landſcape. It is commonly compoſed of woodland views, interſperſed, as we have deſcribed them*, with extenſive heaths, and lawns. It's trees are oak, and beech; whoſe lively green correſponds better than the gloomy pine, with the nature of the ſcene, which ſeldom aſſumes the dignity of a mountain one; but generally exhibits a cheerful landſcape. It aſpires indeed to grandeur; but it's grandeur does not depend, like that of the Scottiſh foreſt, on the ſublimity of the objects; but on the vaſtneſs of the whole— the extent of it's woods, and wideneſs of it's plains.—In it's inhabitants alſo the Engliſh foreſt differs from the Scotch. Inſtead of the ſtag, and the roe-buck, it is frequented by cattle, and fallow-deer: and exchanges the ſcreams of the eagle and the falcon, for the crowing of pheaſants, and the melody of nightingales. The Scotch-foreſt, no doubt, [Page 304] is the ſublimer ſcene; and ſpeaks to the imagination in a loftier language, than the Engliſh foreſt can reach. This latter indeed often rouſes the imagination, but ſeldom in ſo great a degree; being generally content with captivating the eye.
The ſcenery too of the Scotch-foreſt is better calculated to laſt through ages, than that of the Engliſh. The woods of both are almoſt deſtroyed: but while the Engliſh-foreſt hath loſt all it's beauty with it's oaks, and becomes only a deſolate waſte; the rocks and the mountains, the lakes, and the torrents of the Scotch-foreſt, make it ſtill an intereſting ſcene.
In Roſsſhire, in the diſtrict of Aſſynt, lies the foreſt of Coygach: and along the confines of Loch-mari, which is one of the moſt extenſive lakes in Scotland, runs another foreſt, which bears the name of the lake.
[Page 305] In the county of Murray are the foreſts of Abernethy, and Rothimurcha; winding along the banks of the Spey. They both belong to the family of the Grants; and make a part of the extenſive demeiſns of caſtle-Grant; which ſtands in their neighbourhood.
[Page 306] The former is a very romantic ſcene; eſpecially in the eaſtern parts. Here we find in great perfection every ſpecies of the wildeſt, and moſt awful country. The beetling rock aſſumes no where a more tremendous form: nor the pine, burſting from it's fiſſures, a more majeſtic ſtation: nor does the river, in any place, threw itſelf into more furious contortions. This wild, and extenſive foreſt is much frequented by game of every kind; which uſed formerly, in the ſummer ſeaſon, to draw together a great reſort of nobility and gentry, from all parts of Scotland. Their meeting had the appearance of a military expedition. They wore a uniform; and incamped together in temporary huts. Their days were ſpent in the chace; and their evenings in jollity. Such meetings were common in Scotland, and of great antiquity. A hunting-party of this kind gave occaſion to the celebrated ballad of Chevy-chace.
The foreſt of Invercald is likewiſe a very romantic ſcene. The pines, which at this day, grow in ſome parts of it, are thought to be ſuperior to any in Europe, both in ſize, and quality. Many of them attain the height of eighty, or ninety feet, and meaſure [Page 307] four feet and a half in diameter. They are ſold, even in that country, for five, or ſix guineas a tree. The timber, which they yield, is reſinous, heavy, and of a dark-red colour. Conſiderable quantities of it are ſtill carried into the lower parts of Scotland, in floats down the Dee, when that river happens to be ſwoln with rains. The foreſts of Braemar, and Invercald are ſuppoſed to be the remains of the ancient Caledonian wood.
In the county of Athol is the foreſt of Loch-rannoc; and in that of Argyl, the foreſt of Loch-tulla, where Mr. Pennant tells us, he ſaw the laſt pines, which he ſuppoſed to be of ſpontaneous growth in Scotland.
In the county of Stirling lies the foreſt of that name; or Torwood, as it is often called. Here the country, tho ſtill abrupt, and rough, begins to aſſume a milder form. Here too the oak begins to mix it's chearful verdure with the dark green tint of the [Page 308] pine.—As we approach nearer the Engliſh border, it is probable the oak became ſtill more frequent; and occupied large tracts in thoſe vaſt woods, which on better evidence than that of ballad-hiſtory, we believe exiſted formerly in the wilds of Tiviot, and Cheviot.
The wild county of Weſtmorland conſiſted formerly of little beſides foreſts; with the appendages of lakes and mountains. Six are ſtill traced in it. On the north, lies the [Page 309] foreſt of Milburn; in which riſes one of the loftieſt mountains in England, that of Croſs-fell. On the weſt, lie the foreſts of Whinfield, Martindale, and Thornthwait. Martindale is bounded by the beautiful lake of Ullſ-water; and Thornthwait by that of Broad-water. On the eaſtern ſide of this rough county lie the foreſts of Stainmore, and Mellerſtang. Stainmore is a wild ſcene, noted only for being one of the great weſtern paſſes into Scotland. At the northern extremity of it is preſented a grand piece of diſtant mountain ſcenery.—On the borders of Mellerſtang ſtand the ruins of Pendragon-caſtle; the walls of which are full four yards in thickneſs. Pendragon-caſtle gives Weſtmorland perhaps a better title to that celebrated hero, Uter Pendragon, than any the Welſh can boaſt. It ſtands upon the river Eden; and the tradition of the country is, that the noble founder propoſed to draw that great ſtream around it, like a trench. His enterprize miſcarrying gave riſe to the following adage, applied to the attempting of an impoſſibility;
[Page 310] This foreſt was likewiſe celebrated for being formerly the haunt of wild-boars; and a part of it, to this day, retains the name of Wildboar-fell. Here alſo ſtands the mountain of Mowil; from whence three of the largeſt rivers in the north of England take their ſource, the Eden, the Ewer, and the Swale.Let Pendragon do what he can,Eden runs, where Eden ran.
In the biſhoprick of Durham we find only the foreſt of Langden, or Teeſdale, which latter name it aſſumes from running along the banks of the Tees. When the woods of this foreſt were in perfection, they muſt have afforded a great variety of very pictureſque ſcenery. For the Tees is one of the moſt romantic rivers in England; and forms many a furious eddy, and many a foaming caſcade, in it's paſſage through the foreſt; particularly that celebrated cataract, which, by way of eminence, is called the fall of the Tees.
In the northern parts of Yorkſhire lie a cluſter of ſmall foreſts—Lime—Applegarth— Swaledale—and Wenſeley-dale. Whether each of theſe had a ſeparate juriſdiction, or whether their rights were intermingled, would be difficult at this day to aſcertain. They muſt formerly however, in their rude ſtate, have been delightful ſcenes. Even now they contain ſome of the moſt pictureſque country we have in England—rivers—vallies—rocks—and woods in great proſuſion, tho intermingled, and deformed with patches of human induſtry.
On the Eaſtern ſide of Yorkſhire lies the foreſt of Pickering, extending itſelf almoſt to Scarborough. This foreſt, with that of Wireſdale, were royalties belonging to the duchy of Lancaſter; and in the time of John of Ghent, the juriſdiction of foreſt-law was maintained in both of them with ſo much exactneſs, that the determinations of the courts of Lancaſter, and Pickering were always [Page 312] eſteemed ſufficient precedents for all the other foreſt courts in England*.
In the middle of Yorkſhire lies the wide foreſt of Knareſborough, once a very romantic ſcene: a little to the ſouth lies Harewood; and on the eaſt lies Galtries ſtill a woody diſtrict, extending almoſt to the walls of York.
Around Hallifax lies Hardwicke-foreſt, within the precincts of which Hallifax-law, as it was called, took place. It was a very ſevere juriſdiction, veſted in the magiſtrates of the town, to puniſh cloth-ſtealing. The offender within the ſpace of two or three market-days, was tried, condemned, and executed. The inſtrument of his execution was called a maiden. It was a machine, in which an axe was drawn up a conſiderable height between two poſts, and under the preſſure of a heavy weight, fell rapidly on the criminal's neck. The axe is ſtill ſhewn at Hallifax.
There were probably many other foreſts in Yorkſhire, but we can only trace with any degree of certainty the ſite of one more, which is Hatfield-chace: and this might likewiſe [Page 313] have been forgotten, had it not been for a piece of hiſtory belonging to it—the death of Edwin, king of Northumberland, which happened in this foreſt, together with the deſtruction of his army, by Penda, the pagan king of Mercia.
In Cheſhire we have the foreſts of Delamere, and Macclesfield. The former is an extenſive diſtrict of ground, riſing, as it approaches Cheſter, and preſenting, at the extremity, a grand view of the flat country below, bounded by the mountains of Wales. The caſtle of Beeſton, ſeated on a hill, in the ſecond diſtance, appears to great advantage in the view. In this foreſt, Edelfleda, a Mercian princeſs, founded a little town for her retirement; which obtained the title of the happy city. The ſite is ſtill known by the name of the chamber in the foreſt.
Beſides theſe two foreſts in Cheſhire there was formerly another of larger dimenſions, than either of them. It occupied, under the name of Wireall-foreſt, that whole peninſula, which lies between the eſtuaries of the Mercey and the Dee.
[Page 314] In the county of Nottingham is the celebrated foreſt of Sherwood, which was formerly the frequent ſcene of royal amuſement. Mansfield, a town in that foreſt, was the ſeat of the king's reſidence on thoſe occaſions; and it was here that he made an acquaintance with the miller of famous memory.—This foreſt was alſo the retreat of another perſonage equally celebrated in the chronicle of ballad, the illuſtrious Robin Hood, who with little John, and the reſt of his aſſociates, making the woody ſcenes of it his aſylum, laid the whole country under contribution—Sherwood-foreſt is, at preſent, a ſcene of great deſolation; tho it's woods in various parts are reviving under the auſpices of ſeveral eminent patrons*, whoſe eſtates either lie within it, or on it's confines.
In Shropſhire are the veſtiges of at leaſt four foreſts; Huckſtow; King's-wood; Bridge-north; [Page 315] and Clune. Clune-foreſt deſerves ever to be remembered in Britiſh annals as the ſcene, where Caractacus is ſuppoſed * to have made his laſt noble ſtand againſt the Romans. Having reſiſted them nine years with various ſucceſs, and being now puſhed to extremity, he fortified himſelf on a hill in this foreſt. Tacitus tells the ſtory at length†. Oſtorius led his legions againſt him. The Britiſh camp was forced; and through treachery the gallant chief was delivered to his conqueror. At Rome, ſays the hiſtorian, the ſenate conſidered the triumph over Caractacus, as ſplendid as thoſe over Syphax, and Perſes.
In the county of Stafford the foreſt of Needwood ſtill affords a variety of pleaſing country. It is bounded by the Trent, and the Dove; and is in the neighbourhood of thoſe romantic ſcenes, in which the latter of theſe rivers makes ſo pleaſing an appendage.
On the confines of this foreſt ſtand the ruins of Tutbury-caſtle; where the princes of [Page 316] the houſe of Lancaſter formerly held their reſidence. Their hoſpitality, diverſions, and jovial houſe-keeping are not yet forgotten in the traditions of the country. One inſtance, called the bull-running, remains, I believe, to this day. On the 16th of auguſt a bull is turned looſe; and is the property of thoſe, who ſeize him. This amuſement, which was formerly given to the duke of Lancaſter's ſervants, is now become the ſubject of great contention between the youth of Staffordſhire, and Derbyſhire, who exerciſe their proweſs on the occaſion, for the honour of their reſpective counties.
In the ſouthen parts of Leiceſterſhire lies the wide foreſt of Charnwood; in which the park of Beaumanour, twenty miles in circumference, was walled round by the lords of Beaumont; and was thought to be one of the largeſt works of the kind in England. In this county alſo lies the foreſt of Leiceſter; on the borders of which is the celebrated [Page 317] field of Boſworth, where after ſo much bloodſhed in the conteſt between the two houſes of York and Lancaſter, their quarrel was finally decided.
In Rutlandſhire is the foreſt of Lyfield, ſtill in ſome parts in it's original ſtate, and ſtocked with deer: and in Hertfordſhire are the remains of the foreſts of Bring-wood, Deerfield, Hawood, and Acornbury.
Wire-foreſt, once famous for it's ſtately timber, lies on the north-weſt of Worceſterſhire, along the banks of the Severn. In this county alſo we have the foreſt of Malvern, and Feckingham: the former winds among the hills, whoſe name it bears; and and the latter is famous for it's ſalt ſprings, in the boiling of which it's woods have been almoſt exterminated.
More than half the county of Warwick was formerly a continued foreſt-ſcene, and was known by the name of Arden; an old Britiſh [Page 318] word, which ſingnifies a wood. Whether this vaſt diſtrict of wood-land was divided into different juriſdictions, would be difficult to aſcertain. There ſeems at leaſt to have been one ſeparate chace in it, which belonged to the caſtle of Kenelworth; and, it is probable, there might have been others.
In the county of Northampton is the large foreſt of Rockingham; which ſtretches along the river Welland almoſt to Stamford. In this foreſt ſtands the caſtle of Rockingham, formerly a pile of vaſt importance, built by William the Conqueror.—In Northamptonſhire alſo there are three other foreſts; Sacy, Yardly, and Whittlebury.—I have been aſſured, that in the firſt, and laſt of theſe foreſts, Rockingham, and Whittlebury, there remains, at this day, ſufficient timber to build the navy of England twice over; and as canals are now forming in thoſe parts, it may ſoon be no difficult matter to convey it from it's deep receſſes to any of the king's yards. Theſe foreſts alſo, particularly Whittlebury, are infeſted by the wild-cat; which the naturaliſts call the Britiſh tyger.
[Page 319] Huntingdon takes it's name, as etymologiſts ſuppoſe, from being a country adapted to hunting*. We may imagine therefore, that in elder times, when ſuch beaſts were hunted, as required large covers, a great part of the county was foreſt. At preſent, tho we have the veſtiges of ſeveral woods, we meet with no foreſt directly named, but that of Wabridge.
In Gloceſterſhire, the foreſt of Dean has ever been eſteemed one of the moſt celebrated foreſts in England. It is of large extent, not leſs than twenty miles in length; and half as many in breadth; ſtretching, on the ſouth-eaſt, along the Severn; and on the north-weſt along the Wye; the pictureſque ſcenes of which latter river it greatly improves by often preſenting it's woody diſtances. The timber in this foreſt was formerly more in requeſt, than any other timber, for the ſervice [Page 320] of the navy. But it is, at this time, much diminiſhed; owing chiefly to the neighbourhood of ſeveral iron forges, which it has long ſupplied with fuel. There is however ſtill more the appearance of a foreſt preſerved here, both in the ſcenery, and in the juriſdiction, than in almoſt any other part of England. The courts are held in a large houſe, which was built for this purpoſe in the middle of the foreſt.—In the county of Glouceſter alſo is the foreſt of Micklewood; on the confines of which ſtands Berkly-caſtle of celebrated antiquity.—King's-wood too is another foreſt in this county, which being bounded by the Avon, ſpreads itſelf almoſt to the walls of Briſtol.
In Buckinghamſhire, we have thoſe of Bernwood, and Clitern. Bernwood runs along the hilly country from Ayleſbury almoſt to to Oxford. Clitern was formerly a very thick impervious wood, and noted for being [Page 321] the haunt of banditti, who long infeſted the country; till a public-ſpirited abbot of St. Alban's broke their confederacy, by bringing many of them to juſtice, and deſtroying their retreats.
In Eſſex are the two foreſts of Epping, and Hainhault; the latter of which, it is probable, was once an appendage to the former. For Epping-foreſt was anciently a very extenſive diſtrict; and, under the name of the foreſt of Eſſex, included a great part of that county. It afterwards took the name of Waltham-foreſt; but Epping being a place better known, it now commonly takes that denomination.
Wiltſhire alſo was formerly a very woody county; and once probably almoſt the whole of it was a foreſt. Even at this day we find in it the veſtiges of four foreſts. Peeviſham, Blakemore, Bradon, and Savernack. Bradon was a ſcene of dreadful bloodſhed in the year 905; when the Danes under Ethelred, invaded it; and ſlaughtered all the inhabitants of it's environs, among whom were a number [Page 322] of women and children, who had fled for refuge to it's receſſes.—Savernack-foreſt is ſtill a woody ſcene, and adorns a part of the road between Bath and London. It belongs to the earl of Ayleſbury; and is almoſt the only privileged foreſt in England in the hands of a ſubject, by whom in ſtrict language, a chaſe only is tenable. This foreſt is about twelve miles in circuit; and is ſtill well ſtocked with deer, and timber.
In Berkſhire is the celebrated foreſt of Windſor. It was formerly the property of queen Emma; and was afterwards diſtinguiſhed by William the conquerer, who built lodges in it, and eſtabliſhed foreſt-law. He himſelf uſed commonly, after the chaſe, to ſleep at an abbey in the neighbourhood. There is now little ſcenery left in any part of it. Some of the fineſt of the old foreſt-trees, ſtill remaining, ſtand on the left of the road leading from the great park to Cranburn-lodge. The ſcenery here, chiefly from the ornament of the trees, is beautiful.—The moſt pleaſing part of Windſor-foreſt, is the great park; which, tho in many places artificially, and formally, [Page 323] planted, contains great variety of ground. The improvements of duke William, of Cumberland, were magnificent, rather than in a ſtile ſuitable to a foreſt. All formalities ſhould have been, as much as poſſible, avoided; and the whole formed into noble lawns and woods, with views introduced, where they could be, into the country. The great avenue to Windſor-caſtle, tho in a ſtile of great formality, is however in it's kind ſo noble a piece of ſcenery, that we ſhould not wiſh to ſee it deſtroyed.— Beſides great numbers of red, and fallow-deer, this park was in the duke's time, much frequented by wild turkies; the breed of which he encouraged. It could hardly have had a more beautiful decoration. Birds are among the moſt pictureſque objects: their forms, and plumage are both pictureſque: yet they are generally ſo diminutive, that, beautiful as they are, they have little effect. But the turkey is both a large bird; and being gregarious, forms groups, which become objects of conſequence. It's ſhape alſo is pictureſque; and all it's actions. It's colour alſo, eſpecially if it be of the bright copper, varying in the ſun-beam, is more beautiful, than the plumage of any other bird. The peacock neither in form nor [Page 324] in colour, is equal to the turkey. As this bird was reclaimed from the unbounded woods of America, where it is ſtill indigenous, it's habits continue wilder, than thoſe of any domeſtic fowl. It ſtrays widely for it's food— it flies well, conſidering it's apparent inactivity —and it perches, and rooſts on trees. On all theſe accounts it is a proper inhabitant of parks.—Windſor-foreſt is about thirty miles round—the great park fourteen—and the little park three.
In Middleſex is the foreſt of Enfield. After the death of Charles I, it is ſaid, that Cromwell divided it into farms among his veterans: but if they ever took poſſeſſion, they were diſpoſſeſſed at the reſtoration; and deer, it's ancient inhabitants, were again ſettled in their room.
Surry and Kent were formerly very woody counties; of which we need no evidence, beſides that of Caeſar, when he invaded Britain. There are no traces however of any nominal foreſt in either of them, except the foreſt of Tunbridge. Woods indeed there are [Page 325] in various parts; and much more the appearance of a woody country is ſtill left, than in moſt of thoſe countries, in which foreſts are known to have exiſted.
Suſſex, on the other hand, which has ever been remarkable as one of the fineſt timber counties in England, abounds at the ſame time with nominal foreſts. It contains no fewer than ſeven; St. Leonard's; Word; Aſhdown; Waterdown; Dallington; Arundel; and Charlton; which laſt foreſt was ſettled on the dukes of Richmond. Ridings through it have lately been cut; and many plantations made; but I never ſaw them.
In Devonſhire there are two; the foreſt of Dartmore, which runs along the mountainous, and barren country, on both ſides of the river Dart, before it enters the ſouth-Hams: and the foreſt of Exmore, which accompanies the river Ex, till it enter the more fertile country about Dulverton.
[Page 326] In Somerſetſhire there are likewiſe two, Nerohe-foreſt, which lies a little to the ſouth of Taunton; and Selwood-foreſt, a little to the ſouth of Froom.—Theſe ſcenes will ever be famous in Britiſh hiſtory; while the remembrance continues of Alfred the great. Frequent inundations of Danes, and repeated loſſes had driven him from the management of affairs. But he retired before the enemies of his country, only to attack them with more advantage. Seeing the time ripe for action, he emerged from his retreat; ſent his emiſſaries around, and called his friends together in the foreſt of Selwood, which ſheltered, and concealed his numbers. Here arranging his followers, he burſt from the foreſt, like a torrent, upon the Danes. They gave way at once; and ſuffered ſo terrible a defeat, that they never again moleſted his repoſe.
On the north of Dorſetſhire lies Gillingham-foreſt, remarkable alſo for a great defeat, which Edmond Ironſide gave the Danes, on the confines of it. A little to the eaſt lies [Page 327] Cranburn-chaſe; and on the weſt, Blackmore-foreſt, commonly called the foreſt of White-hart; from a celebrated ſtag, which afforded great diverſion to Henry III.—The whole of the iſland of Purbeck was once a foreſt. In the midſt of it ſtands Corf-caſtle; where Elſrida, to open the throne for her ſon Ethelred, murdered her ſon-in-law Edward; when he called for refreſhment at her caſtle after a toilſome chaſe.
In Hampſhire are the veſtiges of five foreſts. On the north near Sylcheſter lies Chute-foreſt; through which paſſes the great ſouthern Roman road, ſtill viſible in many parts. On the weſt lies the foreſt of Harewood, which is ſtill a woody ſcene, tho it's larger trees are in general gone. This place was formerly celebratad for the unfortunate loves of Athelwold, and Elfrida. Here Edgar ſlew his rival; and the ſuppoſed place is traditionally marked by the name of dead-man's plot. The abbey of Whorwell, which Elfrida founded on this occaſion, is not now to be traced, except by a monumental ſtone, which marks it's ſituation. On the eaſt of Hampſhire, [Page 328] lies Holt-foreſt: more to the ſouth, the foreſt of Waltham, which belongs to the Biſhop of Wincheſter: and near Tichfield, the foreſt of Bere. Some parts of theſe foreſts ſtill afford remains of woody ſcenery.
At the ſouth-weſt extremity of Hampſhire lies New-foreſt; which, as it hath given occaſion to theſe remarks, and is beſides the nobleſt ſcene of the kind in England, I ſhall, in the following book, conſider more at large; and endeavour to illuſtrate by it's ſcenes, ſome of the obſervations, which have already been made*.
- Page 5 A pollard, on which a ſingle ſtem has been left to grow into a tree.
- Page 7 An unbalanced tree bending over a road.
- Page 9 A withered top, hiding the upper part of a landſcape.
- Page 9 A curtailed trunk hiding the lower part.
- Page 15 A blaſted tree on a heath.
- Page 89 A formal ſpruce.
- Page 89 A ſpruce ſhattered by age, and ſtorms.
- Page 107 Spray of oak.
- Page 107 Spray of aſh.
- Page 109 Spray of elm, and beech.
- Page 175 Three ill-ſhaped trees formed into a good group.
- Page 177 A well-balanced clump.
- Page 177 An ill-balanced clump.
- Page 229 A remote wood ſtretching along the horizon; and an irregular ſummit with a regular baſe.
- [Page 2] Page 229 An irregular baſe; and ſummit regularly varied.
- Page 243 Effect of a meridian ſun in a foreſt.
- Page 245 Effect of an evening ſun in a foreſt.
- Page 51 Map of New-foreſt.
- Page 89 View of the Needles.
- Page 119 The foreſt-pig.
- Page 177 View of Beaulieu-river.
- Page 191 View at Leap.
- Page 201 Eagle-cliff with a diſtant view of Lutterel's tower; from Staaſwood-cliff.
- Page 209 View from the extremity of Hound's-down.
- Page 255 New-foreſt-horſe.
- Page 257 Different forms of mutilating the tails of horſes.
- Page 267 Paſſions of horſes expreſſed by their ears.
- Page 269 The aſs.
- Page 271 The aſs, and the mule compared.
- Page 273 Stag, and hind.
- Page 275 Fighting ſtags.
- Page 279 Buck and doe.
Of theſe drawings all the landſcape-part, which I hope the public will think with me is very maſterly, was executed by Mr. Alkin. The animals, if I am not prejudiced in favour of the artiſt, who etched them, are excellent.
[Page 3] As ſome people, not much verſed in matters of this kind, have conceived the tint, with which theſe aqua-tinta drawings are ſtained, to be an attempt to colour after nature, I would ſuggeſt, that nothing leſs is intended. Some little idea of the glow of ſun-ſet may be given by it; and this is attempted only in one or two prints. In all the reſt, the deſign of this waſh is only to take off the glaring rawneſs of white-paper; and to harmonize, by a mellow tint, the unpleaſant oppoſition of black, and white.
- Page 14. At the bottom, inſert theſe lines, which have been omitted.
— As when heaven's fire,Hath ſcathed the foreſt-oak, or mountain-pine,With ſinged top it's ſtately growth, tho bare,Stands on the blaſted heath —
- Page 36. For, commonly is, read commonly it is.
- Page 61. For, from that prince, read from Roger, earl of Hereford.
- Page 91. Since this volume was printed, I have had a more exact account of the firs found on Norfolk-iſland. They bear cones; but from the ſample brought into England (in the poſſeſſion of Sir Joſeph Banks) the wood does not appear like deal: it is much heavier; the grain conſiderably cloſer; and the colour browner. The girth of the tree, from which this ſample was cut, was eighteen feet; and the height two hundred and twenty. The firſt branches were at the elevation of ninety feet; but I could not learn, whether this circumſtance was a character; or peculiar only to the individual tree in queſtion. Many of the ſame trees appeared two hundred and thirty feet high, when meaſured by a quadrant.
- [Page 6] Page 118. For camino, read caminos; and for ſponti, read ſponte.
- Page 126. For in the favour, read in favour.
- Page 142. I am doubtful, whether the fair here mentioned, has not been for ſome time diſcontinued.
- Page 144. For grriſons, read garriſons.
- Page 198. For attends, read attend.
- Page 218. For preforms, read performs.
- Page 229. For ſtrait, read ſtraight.
- Page 247. For blackening behind trees, read blackening behind the trees.
- Page 255. For oſier-brown, read oker-brown.
- Page 67. Dele, tho the laſt is more general.
- Page 71. For offend, read they offend.
- Page 96. For chiefly frequented by light ſkiffs, read chiefly navigated by light ſkiffs.
- Page 147. For meadow, read meadows.
- Page 172. For contu, read cantu.
- Page 173. For introduced.—Thoſe, read introduced—thoſe.
- Page 186. For working the ſcenes, read working on the ſcenes.
- Page 210. For ſtrait, read ſtraight.
- Page 219. For ſaw greateſt, read ſaw the greateſt.
- Page 234. For et read and; and for viſpual read viſual.
- Page 236. For be inclined to forget, read overlook.
- Page 256. For is nicked tail, read is the nicked tail.
- Page 257. For, from which no incumbrance ariſes, read which is equally uſeful in a reclaimed, and in a natural ſtate.
- [Page 7] Page 264. For ſaw the matter, read he ſaw the matter.
- Page 306. For remarks where, read remarks were.
- Page 307. For the work, read this work.
- In page forty of this volume, it is ſaid, that where the treſpaſs is inconſiderable, the poſſeſſor has been allowed to pay a fine for his land. But this is inaccurate. The fact is, the fine is paid for the treſpaſs, not for the land: tho if the treſpaſs hath been inconſiderable, it hath been winked at, and the land ſuffered to remain with the treſpaſſer.
Pliny alſo in another place, Lib. xvi. c. 6. plainly diſtinguiſhes between the fagus, and the eſculus. "Fagi glans triangula cute includitur. Folium tenue, populo ſimile, celerrime flaveſcens, &c. Glandem, quae proprie intelligitur, ferunt robur, quercus, eſculus. Continetur hiſpido calyce. Folia, ſinuoſa lateribus; nec, cum cadunt, flaveſcentia, ut fagi. Glans optima in quercu, et grandiſſima; mox eſculo." From this quotation it is plain, that Pliny conſiders the eſculus as a variety of the oak.Olim quas vellent eſſe in tutela ſuaDivi legerunt arbores; quercus Jovi,Et myrtus Veneri placuit—
Ut ſylvae foliis pronos mutantur in annos;Prima cadunt; ita —Debemur morti nos, noſtraque —
As I ſat careleſsly at my window, and threw my eyes upon a large acacia, which grew before me, I conceived it might aptly repreſent a country divided into provinces, towns, and families. The larger branches might hold out the firſt—the ſmaller branches, connected with them, the ſecond—and thoſe combinations of collateral leaves, which ſpecify the acacia, might repreſent families, compoſed of individuals.—It was now late in the year; and the autumnal tint had taken poſſeſſion of great part of the tree.
As I ſat looking at it, many of the yellow leaves (which having been produced earlier, decayed ſooner) were continually dropping into the lap of their great mother. Here was an emblem of natural decay—the moſt obvious appearance of mortality.
The blaſt increaſed, and every branch, that preſented itſelf, bowed before it. A ſhower of leaves covered the ground. The cup of vengeance, ſaid I, is poured out upon the people. Peſtilence ſhakes the land. Nature ſickens in the gale. They fall by multitudes. Whole families are cut off together.
Among the branches was one intirely withered. The leaves were ſhrivelled; yet clinging to it.—Here was an emblem of famine. The nutriment of life was ſtopped. Exiſtence was juſt ſupported: but every form was emaciated, and ſhrunk.
In the neighbourhood ſtretched a branch, not only ſhrivelled, and withered; but having been more expoſed to winds, was ſtripped almoſt intirely of it's leaves. Here and there hung a ſolitary leaf, juſt enough to ſhew, that the whole had lately been alive. Ah! ſaid I, here is an emblem of depopulation. Some violent cauſe hath laid waſte the land. Towns, and villages, as well as families are deſolated. Scarce ten are left to bemoan a thouſand.
How does every thing around us bring it's leſſon to our minds! Nature is the great book of God. In every page is inſtruction to thoſe, who read. Mortality muſt claim it's due. Death in various ſhapes hovers round us.—Thus far went the heathen moraliſt. He had learned no other knowledge from theſe periſhing forms of nature, but that men, like trees, are ſubject to death.
Better inſtructed, learn thou a nobler leſſon. Learn, that that God, who with the blaſt of winter ſhrivels the tree, and with the breezes of ſpring reſtores it, offers it to thee as an emblem of thy hopes. The ſame God preſides over the natural, and moral world. His works are uniform. The truths, which nature teaches, as far as they go, are the truths of revelation alſo. It is written in both theſe books, that, that power, which revives the tree, will revive thee alſo, like it, with increaſing perfection.—ItaDebemur morti nos, noſtraque—
In conſequence of a report, that has prevailed in this country for upwards of two centuries, and which by many has been almoſt conſidered as a matter of faith, that the oak at Cadenham, in the New-foreſt, ſhoots forth leaves on every old Chriſtmas-day, and that no leaf is ever to be ſeen on it, either before, or after that day, during the winter; a lady, who is now on a viſit in this city, and who is attentively curious in every thing relative to art or nature, made a journey to Cadenham on monday the 3d inſtant, purpoſely to enquire, on the ſpot, about the production of this famous tree. On her arrival near it, the uſual guide was ready to attend her; but on his being deſired to climb the oak, and to ſearch whether there were any leaves then on it, he ſaid it would be to no purpoſe, but that if ſhe would come on the wedneſday following, (Chriſtmas-day) ſhe might certainly ſee thouſands. However he was prevailed on to aſcend, and on the firſt branch which he gathered, appeared ſeveral fair new leaves, freſh ſprouted from the buds, and nearly an inch and a half in length. It may be imagined, that the guide was more amazed at this premature production than the lady; for ſo ſtrong was his belief in the truth of the whole tradition, that he would have pledged his life, that not a leaf was to have been diſcovered on any part of the tree before the uſual hour.
But tho the ſuperſtitious part of this ancient legend is hence confuted, yet it muſt be allowed that there is ſomething very uncommon and curious in an oak's conſtantly ſhooting forth leaves at this unſeaſonable time of the year, and that the cauſe of it well deſerves the philoſophical attention of the botaniſt. In ſome years there is no doubt but that this oak may ſhew it's firſt leaves on the Chriſtmas morning, as probably as on a few days before; and this perhaps was the caſe in the laſt year, when a gentleman of this neighbourhood, a nice and critical obſerver, ſtrictly examined the branches, not only on the Chriſtmas morn, but alſo on the day prior to it. On the firſt day not a leaf was to be found, but on the following every branch had it's complement, tho they were then but juſt ſhooting from the buds, none of them being more than a quarter of an inch long. The latter part of the ſtory may eaſily be credited, that no leaves are to be ſeen on it after Chriſtmas-day, as large parties yearly aſſemble about the oak on that morning, and regularly ſtrip every appearance of a leaf from it.
Since this paſſage was written, I have met with the following excellent remark in one of Sir Joſhua Reynold s notes on Mr. Maſon's tranſlation of Freſnoy, p. 114— "Deception, which is ſo often recommended by writers on the theory of painting, inſtead of advancing the art, is in reality carrying it back to it's infant ſtate. The firſt eſſays of painting were certainly nothing but mere imitations of individual objects; and when this amounted to a deception, the artiſt had accompliſhed his purpoſe.