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WOODS IN APRIL.
wood is generally a very pretty place; but this wood.Imagine a small forest, full of glades and sheep-walks, surrounded by irregular cottages with their blooming orchards, a clear stream winding about the brakes, and a road intersecting it, and giving life and light to the picture, and you will have a faint idea of the Penge. Every step was opening a new point of view, a fresh combination of glade, and path, and thicket. The accessories, too, were changing every moment. Ducks, geese, pigs, and children, giving way, as we advanced into the wood, to sheep and forest ponies; and they again disappearing as we became more entangled in its mazes, till we heard nothing but the song of the nightingale, and saw only the silent flowers.
“What a piece of fairy land! The tall elms over-head bursting into tender vivid leaf, with here and there a hoary oak or a silver-barked larch ; every twig swelling with the brown buds, and yet not quite stripped of the tawny foliage of autumn; tall hollies and hawthorn beneath, with their crisp, brilliant leaves mixed with the white blossoms of the sloe, and woven together with garlands of woodbines and wild briars ;—what a fairy-land !
“ Primroses, cowslips, pansies, and the regular, open-eyed white blossom of the wood anemone, or windflower, were set under our feet as thick as daisies in a meadow. And look, there is the wood-sorrel : look at the pendant white flower, shaped like a snowdrop, and veined with purple streaks, and with beautiful trefoil leaves folded like a heart-some, the young ones, so vividly yet tenderly green, that the foliage of the elm and the hawthorn would show dully at their side; others of a deeper tint, and lined, as it were, with a rich and changeful purple. See how beautiful they are, and in what profusion! See how the dark shade of the holly sets off the light and delicate colouring of the flower! And see that other bed of them springing from the rich moss in the roots of that old beech tree!"
FELLING TIMBER.—Let us accompany Miss Mitford still farther, “We had nearly threaded the wood,” says she, “and were approaching an open grove of magnificent oaks on the other side, when sounds, other than of nightingales, burst on our ear, the deep and frequent strokes of the woodman's axe; and emerging from the Penge we
discovered the havoc which that axe had committed. Above twenty of the finest trees lay stretched on the velvet turf. There they lay in every shape and form of devastation; some, bare trunks, stripped ready for the timber-carriage, with the bark built up in long piles at the side ; some with the spoilers busy about them, stripping, hacking, hewing; others with their noble branches, their brown and fragrant shoots all fresh as if they were alive—majestic corpses, the slain of to-day; The grove was like a field of battle. The young lads who were stripping the bark, the very
children who were picking up the chips seemed awed and silent, as if conscious that death was around them. The nightingales sang, faintly and interruptedly, a few low frightened notes like a requiem.
“Ah! here we are at the very scene of murder; the very tree that they are felling; they have just hewn round the trunk with those slaughtering axes, and are about to saw it asunder. After all it is a fine and thrilling operat Into how grand an attitude was that young man thrown as he gave the final strokes round the root; and how wonderful is the effect of that supple and apparently powerless saw, bending like a riband and yet overmastering that giant of the woods, conquering and overthrowing that thing of life! Now it has passed half through the trunk, and the woodman has begun to calculate which way the tree will fall; he drives a wedge to direct its course; now a few more movements of the noiseless saw; and then a larger wedge. See how the branches tremble ! Hark how the trunk begins to crack. Another stroke of the huge hammer on the wedge, and the tree quivers, as with a mortal agony-shakes, reels, and falls. How slow, and solemn, and awful it is! How like to human death, in its commonly esteemed heroic form! Cæsar in the Capitol, Seneca in the bath, could not fall more sublimely than that oak.
“ Even the heavens seem to sympathise with the devastation. The clouds have gathered into one thick low canopy, dark and vapouring as the smoke which overhange London ; the setting sun is just gleaming underneath with a dim and bloody glare, and the crimson rays spreading upwards with a lurid and portentous grandeur, a subdued and dusky glow,
like the light reflected on the sky from some vast conflagration. The deep flush fades away, and the rain begins to descend, and we hurry homeward talking only of the fallen tree.”
Now, as an angler melancholy standing
Justly would all lovers of the “gentle-craft” wax wroth with us, were we to omit to chronicle in this month of April the commencement of their patient labours. In these fresh
early spring mornings the spirit of old Izaak Walton stirs in many a breast, and though the words of the following song may not find an utterance from the lips—the feelings embodied in the words are aroused in many a youth, and drive him forth at dawn with fishing-tackle slung
around him and a good rod in his hand.