Recreations for Solitary Hours
Note I.—Page 2.
"What deaf'ning noise,
Tis as 'twere groaning, sensible of pain,
From its decursion steep."
I know not whether any have observed it or not, when beside a fall of water, or cascade, but I have heard, when listening attentively to the sound of the pouring waters, now and then a sound something like the last groan of a dying man, but of short duration, and heard through the noise produced by the dashing of the falling waters. The word decursion simply means the act of running down, and it can be well applied here, as the cascade is not altogether a sheer perpendicular steep, but is, as it were, one large rock tumbled on the top of another, and lying in a slanting position, so that in an ordinary state of the rivulet, the water runs down, dashing from one rock to another, until it falls hissing into the basin below.
Note II.—Page 4.
"And forth has wandered, 'lured by Aurora's smiles,
To kiss the lips of Hygeia, and converse
With Nature's progeny. Bright Flora joy'd
To see him as he paced the dewy lawn,
page 71 Encompassed by our neighbouring Nymphs, displaying
The beauties of their treasure."
Aurora, according to heathen mythology, is called the goddess of the morning.—How pleasant indeed it is to leave the bed of sloth, and in the early dawn, allured by the smiling morn, and beauty of the rising sun, to go forth to the enjoyment of a morning walk, and kiss the lips of Hygeia, i. e., to breathe health in all its balmy sweetness from the freshness of the morning air. Nature's progeny then looks charmingly, and shows itself in all its parts to be most worthy of our meditations. Flora is the goddess of flowers, and the Nymphs are the goddesses of the woods or small plantations, surrounding parks and level lawns. Have woodland scenes and flowery fields no beauties to display? Yes, these are treasures from which fancy delights to draw her sweetest cup of pleasure, to entertain contemplative minds. How pleasant it is to be enjoying one's self amid fiowery fields early in a sunny morning, when all nature bathed in dew looks gay, and to hear at a short distance the rushing sound of a waterfall, when every thing else is still, and nought disturbs the mind contemplating the beauties of distant and surrounding scenery.
Note III.—Page 5.
"On him We called, and at our voice he came."
This simply refers to the sound of the waterfall attracting my attention, when during my morning walk I admired the beauties of nature,—being led to view the appearance of the place by a love of romantic scenery, and when drawing nearer, the sound of the water dashing down the rocks became more distinct. This is personified by the Nymphs shouting for joy when coming forth to greet my approach.
Note IV.—Page 5.
"Now on that lofty rock reclines the Muse,
While guardian Genii hover round his seat."
The "lofty rock" here referred to, is a high peak overlooking the deep dell, and is, I think, upwards of seventy feet from the bottom. "Genii" simply signifies guardian angels, which attendants, it was believed, every one had to shield him from the ills of life, or any other danger to which he might be exposed.
Note V.—Page 6.
"They'd gaze around, but with a thoughtless gaze—
Nor seemed they to have pleasure in our wilds."
They who have little taste for romantic scenery, can see nothing in the most picturesque scenes of nature fit to attract their attention, and when placed in such situations, and looking around, it may well be said of them—
They gaze around, but with a thoughtless gaze.
Yet many there are, who, placed in the same situation, are so enraptured with what they see that they even can scarce contain themselves, as the pleasure they feel then rises high beyond expression. This I confess was the case with me when first I visited the place.
Note VI.—Page 6.
"Be roused Apollo to the sacred lute."
Apollo, according to mythology, is the god of poetry and music, and is so called on to unite in the general joy of the happy Nymphs, to delight their visitor with his powers of music, for being the first who has taken notice of their habitation in the strains of poetry.
Note VII.—Page 9.
"Down on a rocky rampart of the scene
There stands the mill, and eyes the passing brook."
The mill here mentioned stands upon a rock close to the water edge, round the corner, as it were, from the basin of the waterfall. It only consists of two flats, and is used for spinning a coarse kind of cotton yarn. Its chief window looks into the water, and so may be said to eye the passing brook, &c. It bears the name of the spectacle-eye-mill, from the following circumstance,—Two men, at one time not far back, stood candidates for becoming its tenant. The unsuccessful one, to be revenged on the good fortunes of his more successful neighbour, one sabbath day in the middle of summer, took the advantage of the family being at church, and with a magnifying spectacle-eye, held to the rays of the sun over the dry thatch of the house, set the roof on fire, which nearly consumed the mill before it was discovered by the proprietor; since that time it has borne the name of the spectacle-eye-mill.
Note VIII.—Page 10.
"There Dryades round encamp, with all their
train Of joyful songsters, which united choir."
Dryades are the nymphs of the woods; the songsters here re- ferredto are the singing birds which warble sweetest in the morning. The Robin red-breast, the thrush, and blackbird, along with many others, give a pleasing effect to the wildness of the surrounding scenery, when they strain their musical powers.
Note IX.—Page 10.
"Whilst others sportive buzz about mine ears,
All in perfection's height of joyfulness."
Where can such joy be found as is displayed among the smaller page 74insect tribes in a warm and sunny morning. Then all is life and motion—restless to the extreme, whose flightiness can be compared to nothing else on earth. However much some may be plagued by them, when on a warm day in summer they take their walk at morning or at noon, while the sun shines brightly, still there is a pleasure to be felt, even though often annoyed by their buzzing round our ears, when we contemplate their joy in common with the rest of creation, and consider that these too are the works of Him that made us.
Note X.—Page 11.
"How soon my joy was changed to wonder wild,
When great Naiade in majesty appeared."
Naiade here mentioned is one of the river nymphs, who is thus personified as the chief, and come on embassage as representative of the whole. I introduce this personage to change the scene, who relates the appearance of the cascade, and its scenery, during the time of a storm.
Note XI.—Page 12.
"Ah, Dryade then could no defence maintain,
While sorely laboured by th' afflicting scourge."
Dryade, a nymph of the woods, here represents the trees in general round the scenery, which, during the prevailing storm of wind represented by "great Æolus," the god of winds, are like to be overthrown in the tempest.
Note XII.—Page 15.
"While o'er th' obstructing rocks the troubled floods
Sprung high t' escape the horrors of th' abyss."
When the river is full, and during a storm, the cascade presents page 75a scene of the wildest grandeur. Instead of the water running down and dashing from one rock to another, the floods roll on with such force as to leap over, clearing the slanting descent altogether, and dash into the foaming gulf. At the under end of this, some huge loose-like rocks lie in the water course, obstructing as it were, the escape of the mass of waters from the over-full basin, over which the water, from the force of the heavy fall, springs with fury, forming as it were a minor cascade, thus giving to the whole a full and grand appearance.
Note XIII.—Page 40.
"Such virtues, beauty grace, &c."
This signifies that the virtues she possessed adorn her beauty the more.
Note XIV.—Page 41.
"And vanity so spare"
Spare here signifies superfluous—see Walker's and Johnson's Dictionaries.
Note XV.—Page 46.
"But prudence bids me haste to sing of Lady Well."
Lady Well thus personifiied, is only the name given to a well of excellent spring water in the neighbourhood of a village called Motherwell. Being at one time introduced to one of the name of King, there, and taking a walk with him, he took me away to see his favourite well—and telling me how some ill designed persons had at one time destroyed it, making it a puddle for watering cattle, only, to the great inconvenience of the villagers—and how he stirred up the people to assert their right to it, and so got page 76it repaired by subscription. After giving this detail of Lady Well, he asked me if I would make it the subject of a verse or two. I replied I would try; so in the course of a week, I sent him the Narration of Lady Well.
Note XVI.—Page 49.
"And how would Nature feel, was then suppressed,
The sustenance of her incumbent train," &c.
Thus Lady Well, as personified, mourns the sad distress all nature would be under, and especially man, were all the pleasant streams of water stopped, for the great ingratitude so often displayed to the giver of all good.—There was a certain shepherd who was a very pious man,—one day on eating a piece of dry bread, felt himself thirsty, and looking for a drink of clear water, he thought to himself on finding what he sought, that surely he was indebted to God as much for the water he drank as for the bread he ate—and why, said he, should I not bless the giver of all good for the one benefit as well as for the other, seeing they both come from the same bountiful hand for my good. After this he was never seen taking a drink of cold water without giving thanks to God in the same manner as when he sat down to his meals.
"Was I translated to the Arabian wild,
Where barren seas of sand, extending lie;
What blessings oft would be on me compiled
By panting travellers, when they'd me descry,—
When prayers are answered, how th' expressive eye
In heartfelt thanks, they'd raise to bounteous heaven;—"
Any who are acquainted with the geography of the Arabian wild, need not be told here how seldom water is there to be found, page 77and how much it is valued by all who then feel their want of it. I have heard some old soldiers, who had at times to march over such places, declare that they were glad to content themselves with their own water, after marching for days under a scorching sun. I trust it will not be out of place here to relate an anecdote of my father during the time he was in the Cape of Good Hope. He and other two of his comrades were sent on despatch with orders to another regiment lying at a distance. They accordingly set out next morning on their march, intending to reach their destination by night fall. About mid-day, travelling under a vertical sun, they came to a trackless desert, across which lay their nearest route. The supply of water which they had in their canteens failed them by the time they reached the desert, without knowing when or where they would find more. After travelling five or six miles over fervid sand, under a cloudless sky and scorching sun, my father, the weakest of the three, began much to fail through weariness and thirst. He bore up as much as he could, and exerted himself to the utmost to endure the fatigue, while every eye was in search of a water spring; the other two supported him as far as they could, but still he grew weaker and weaker, till at last all strength failed him, and he could proceed no farther. His assistants also felt themselves failing through thirst and fatigue, so there they had to leave Kim to the mercy of Heaven, lying on a sandy waste beneath a burning sun. What else could they do; so they took farewell of him and proceeded on their journey, not knowing when they would next drop down as dead, and far from any help. After travelling the space of four miles they discovered a small muddy spring of fresh water, which created no little joy to the panting travellers. After scraping away the sand a little, and the water becoming clearer, they refreshed themselves a little, and filling their canteens, they hasted back in search of my father, and found him writhing in the greatest distress, and seemingly at the point of death. They made page 78no delay in administering relief, first by washing the sand and froth from his mouth, bathing his face, and giving him of the water to drink, thus by degrees they revived him, and in a short time got him again to his feet. After a little rest, they again proceeded on their way, till they reached the water spring, where they sat down and renewed their strength, and thanked a bountiful providence for such an inestimable blessing, and the escape they had from a painful death. I may just say in conclusion, that they reached their destination about three hours after the time appointed.