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Chambers, Robert, 1802-1871 / Chambers's book of days, a miscellany of popular antiquities in connection with the calendar, including anecdote, biography & history, curiosities of literature and oddities of human life and character
Vol. I (1879)

June,   pp. [unnumbered]-832 PDF (75.4 MB)


Page 716

THE BOOK OF DAYS.
blushing roses round about her blow.' This is
the season to wander into the fields and woods,
with a volume of sterling poetry for companion-
ship, and compare the descriptive passages
with the objects that lie around. We never
enjoy reading portions of Spenser's Faery Queen
so much as when among the great green trees
in summer. We then feel his meaning, where
he describes arbours that are not the work
of art, 'but by the trees' own inclination made.'
We look up at the great network of branches,
and think how silently they have been fa-
shioned. Through many a quiet night, and many
a golden dawn, and all day long, even when the
twilight threw her grey veil over them, the
work advanced; from     when the warp was
formed of tender sprays and tiny buds, until the
woof of leaves was woven with a shuttle of'
sunshine and showers, which the unseen wind
sent in and out through the branches. No
human eye could see how the work was done,
for the pattern of leaves was woven motionless-
here a brown bud came, and there a dot of green
was thrown in; yet no hand was visible during
the workmanship, though we know the great
Power that stirred in that mysterious loom, and
wove the green drapery of summer.     Now in
the woods, like a fair lady of the olden time
peeping through her embowered lattice, the tall
woodbine leans out from among the leaves, as
if to look at the procession that is ever passing,
of golden-belted bees, and gauze-winged dragon.
fliesi, birds that dart by as if sent with hasty
messages, and butterflies, the gaudy outr'ders,
that make for themselves a pathway between
the overhanging blossoms. All these she sees
from the green turret in which she is imprisoned,
while the bees go sounding their humming horns
through every flowery town in the forest. The
wild roses, compelled to obey the commands of
summer, blush as they expose their beauty by
the wayside, and hurry to hide themselves again
amid the green when the day is done, seeming
as if they tried 'to shut, and become buds again.'
Like pillars of fire, the foxgloves blaze through
the shadowy green of the underwood, as if to
throw a light on the lesser flowers that grow
around their feet. Pleasant is it now after a
long walk to sit down on the slope of some hill,
and gaze over the outstretched landscape, from
the valley at our feet to where the river loses
itself in the distant sunshine.  In all those
widely-spread farmhouses and cottages-some
so far away that they appear but little larger
than mole-hills-the busy stir of every-day life
is going on, though neither sound nor motion
are audible or visible from this green slope.
From those quiet homes move christening,
marrying, and burying processions. Thousands
who have tilled the earth within the space our
eye commands, 'now sleep beneath it.' There is
no one living who ever saw yonder aged oak look
younger that it does now. The head lies easy
which erected that grey old stile, that has stood
bleaching so many years in sun and wind, it
looks like dried bones; the very step is worn
hollow by the feet of those who have passed
away for ever. How quiet yonder fields appear
through which the brown footpath stretches;
716
there those that have gone walked and talked,
and played, and made love, and through them
led their children by the hand, to gather the
wild roses of June, that still flower as they did
in those very spots where their grandfathers
gathered them, when, a century back, they were
children. And yet it may be that these fields,
which look so beautiful in our eyes, and awaken
such pleasant memories of departed summers,
bring back no such remembrances to the un-
lettered hind; that he thinks only of the years
he has toiled in them, of the hard struggle he
has had to get bread for his family, and the
aching bones he has gone home with at night.
Perhaps, when he walks out with his children,
he thinks how badly he was paid for plashing
that hedge, or repairing that flowery embank-
ment; how long it took him to plough or harrow
that field; how cold the days were then, and,
when his wants were greatest, what little wages
he received. The flaunting woodbine may have
no charms for his eye, nor the bee humming
round the globe of crimson clover; perhaps he
pauses not to listen to the singing of the birds,
but, with eyes bent on the ground, he 'homeward
plods his weary way.' Cottages buried in wood-
bine or covered with roses are not the haunts
of peace and homes of love which poets so
often picture, nor are they the gloomy abodes
which some cynical politicians magnify into dens
of misery.
How peaceably yonder village at th*e foot of
this hill seems to sleep in the June sunshine,
beneath the overshadowing trees, above which
the blue smoke ascends, nothing else seeming
to stir! What rich colours some of those thatched
roofs present-moss and lichen, and stonecrop
which is now one blaze of gold. That white-
washed wall, glimmering through the foliage,
just lights up the picture where it wanted
opening; even the sunlight, flashed back from the
windows, lets in golden gleams through the
green. That bit of brown road by the red wall,
on one side of which runs the brook, spanned by
a rustic bridge, is of itself a picture-with the
white cow standing by the gate, where the great
elder-tree is now covered with bunches of creamy-
coloured bloom. Water is always beautiful in
a landscape ; it is the glass in which the face of
heaven is mirrored, in which the trees and flowers
can see themselves, for aught we know, so hidden
from us in the secret of their existence and the
life they live. Now, one of those out-of-door
pictures may be seen which almost every land-
scape painter has tried to fix on canvas-that of
cattle standing in water at noon-day. We always
fancy they look best in a large pond overhung
with trees, that is placed in a retiring corner of
rich pasture lands, with their broad sweeps of
grass and wild flowers. In a river or a long
stream the water stretches too far away, and
mars the snugness of the picture, which ought
to be bordered with green, while the herd is of
various colours. In a pond surrounded with
trees we see the sunlight chequering the still
water as it streams through the branches, while
a mass of shadow lies under the lower boughs-
part of it falling on a portion of the cattle,
while the rest stand in a warm, green light; and


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