« AnkstesnisTęsti »
NATURE AS A PAINTER.
golden and ruddy their roofs with lichen, green and grey, as well as with mosses; how great the contrast of the charm of all this colouring with the smoke-stained dingy results of time upon our town edifices! No art or cunning of human hands has ever yet approached the work of unpaid Nature; no artist can paint like her. How lovingly she decorates an old ruin or wall, how tenderly and gracefully she hides the scars of man's destroying hand! First she sends the lowly lichens and meek mosses, then ivy clambers up the ancient walls, bits of green grass, tiny unassuming ferns, and many an idle growing thing finds a home in crevices everywhere; and plants and sweet wild flowers oftentimes make their appearance, if only Nature is left to herself to do as she will-till at last the desecrated fane or battered castle keep is even more lovely in its last estate than in the full glory of its Gothic prime or stately per
Driving on through a pleasantly wooded country we reached Wickham Market, a picturesque though sleepy-looking little town, possessing a rather fine church, which has an interesting octagonal tower built of flint and surmounted by a tall steeple. From this steeple, as at Hadleigh, the ancient Ave Maria bell still projects, supported by a bracket. Strangely enough, during all our wanderings in rural England these are the only two instances that have come under our notice of this quaint old-time manner of hanging a bell being retained until this day. From this tower we were told that forty or more churches could be seen on a fine day, and that the day was
favourable for the view if we cared to mount to the top. We did not care, so took the fact for granted ; we are not of those travellers who feel it obligatory to do' everything there is to do on a journey. Duty is one thing and pleasure another; we happily managed to combine both by making pleasure a duty. A holiday is only half a holiday if we feel compelled to see things we actually care little or nothing about, just for the sake of saying we have seen them. In the niche above the entrance porch of the church we noticed an image of the Virgin Mary and Child, which would have been to Master Will Dowsing and his Puritan friends as a red rag to an enraged bull. Doubtless there was a similar image here in his time, which was carefully destroyed.
Over a house in the town we read the inscription, horse-gentler,' and inquiring the exact interpretation of this we were informed that it meant horse-breaker. In spite of school boards, railways, and telegraphs, there are many such oldfashioned provincialisms still retained in the eastern counties. At Woodbridge we observed in a shop window the notice, Stover sold here.' As we could not imagine what 'stover' could be, we made inquiry, and learnt that stover' was the local term for clover. Tempest' we also heard employed more than once to describe a storm, likewise 'drafting' for 'drawing.' 'What are you drafting?' was one day asked us by a farmer, who discovered us sketching his old homestead. Keeping-room' is a term, too, not infrequently used to describe a living-room.
'Hinder it be,' for 'yonder it is,' was the favourite reply of the rustics when pointing out any place or thing to us, and, as in many other remote parts of England, the old Saxon plural of -en (as still used in men,' children,' and 'oxen') is yet doggedly retained in many words, more especially in housen' for houses.
But better far than these provincialisms, a good deal of folk-lore and many wise sayings may still be picked up by the traveller in the remote rural portions of East Anglia. A few that I have gathered and noted down I give here, as they may interest my readers, and the day may come when they will have disappeared for ever.
Here is one as to the purchase of a horse; this from an ostler :
Four white feet, you may give him away.
Three white feet, don't keep him a day.
Two white feet, you may recommend him to a friend.
One white foot, keep him to his end.
The following relates to cats :
Whoever keeps a black cat
And it was told us, that so great in times past was the value set on a black cat, that it was exceedingly difficult to keep one at all, they were almost sure to be stolen.
Here is a rhyme of advice as to the worth of a swarm of bees, which has some show of reason in it, as July is too late in the year for them to gather a crop of honey :
A swarm of bees in May
Is worth a silver spoon.
A swarm of bees in July
Of weather lore we heard a great deal, possibly because, driving, we were interested in the matter, and often asked of ostlers and others what they thought the morrow would be like. On weatherlore the shepherds are the greatest authorities, and next to them I think sailors, but as our travels were mostly inland we had fewer opportunities of questioning these. Said a shepherd to us one day with whom we got purposely into conversation upon the topic, You see, sir, when the horns of the moon be turned up' (according to such authorities the moon has very much to do with the weather) it's most sure to be fine, but when they be turned down it means rain. It's like this; when the horns be turned up she holds the water in a hollow like, but when they be turned down, why she can't keep it.' Which valuable information was quite fresh to us, and in the worthy shepherd's opinion deserving of a tip. The east coast fishing folk still hold that when the moon's horns are down stormy weather may be looked for with some degree of certainty, or, as they express it in doggerel verse which I trust I have given correctly—
When the young moon's on her back,
Here are two more sayings as to farming to conclude with, which seem to me to contain more wisdom than such sayings generally do. The first relates to sowing. If thou wouldst have a good crop, sow sparingly, pour not out of a sack.' It is well known that seeds too plentifully spread serve but to choke one another when they spring up. The next proverb concerns the suitable position of land for a crop. 'Near trees no corn,' wheat requiring an open country, with a plentiful supply of sun and drying wind, a fact that farmers are not so regardful of as they might be. Doubtless there are many superstitions and curious charms for the cure of various diseases still firmly believed in and practised in country places, but these are mostly held by old wives, who, I fancy, are shy of imparting their cherished knowledge to strangers. However, be that how it may, on this point we could gather nothing. Truly one old body said she had a never-failing charm for the toothache, and offered to cure us were we suffering--for a consideration. We happily were free from that tormenting pain, but nevertheless offered to purchase her secret at our own valuation. But she would not disclose it, not even for half-a-crown, and we did not venture to bid higher for information which, 'could you use it rightly, would make your fortune.' There was a great deal of saving virtue, we imagined, in that one reservation, 'rightly.' If you will only put yourself in the way of it, you may come upon many a curious character whilst wandering in little-travelled parts-the further from