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She flicker'd with her wing;
But croak'd upon the king."
But Mr. Rose does not rest the machinery of his ballad upon tradition alone, or the assertions of prejudiced chroniclers. Adverting to the disbelief of Woltaire in the early history of the New Forest, he points out, in his notes to the poem, what Voltaire did not know, that “Domesday-Book' establishes the fact that many thousand acres were afforested after the time of Edward the Confessor. The testimony which Mr. Rose himself supplied from his local knowledge is exceedingly curious. “The idea that no vestiges of ancient buildings yet exist in the New Forest, is utterly unfounded, though the fact is certainly little known, and almost confined to the small circle of keepers and ancient inhabitants. In many spots, though no ruins are visible.above ground, either the enceinte of erections is to be traced, by the elevation of the earth, or fragments of building-materials have been discovered on turning up the surface. The names also of those places would almost, if other evidence were wanting, substantiate the general fact, and even the nature of each individual edifice. . . . . The total rasure of buildings, and the scanty remains of materials under the surface, appear at first a singular circumstance. But it is to be observed, that the mansions, and even the churches of the Anglo-Saxons, were built of the slightest materials, frequently of wood ; and that of all countries a forest is the least favourable to the preservation of ruins. As they are the property of the crown, neither the pride nor interest of individuals is concerned in their preservation. . . . . This absence of remains of ruins above the surface need not, therefore, lead us to despair of further discoveries, and these are, perhaps, yet designated by the names of places. May we not consider the termination of ham and ton, yet annexed to some woodlands, as evidence of the former existence of hamlets and towns?” The historical truth, as it appears to us, may be collected from these interesting notices of Mr. Rose's local researches. The remains of buildings are few, and scattered over a considerable district. The names which still exist afford the best indication that the abodes of men were formerly more numerous. The truth lies between the sceptism of Voltaire as to any depopulation having taken place, and the poetical exaggeration of Pope, in his “Windsor Forest:’— “The fields are ravished from industrious swains,
From men their cities, and from gods their fanes:
The levelled towns with weeds lie covered o'er;
The hollow winds through naked temples roar."
The fact is, that from the very nature of the soil no large population could have been here supported in the days of imperfect agriculture. The lower lands are for the most part marshy; the higher ridges are sterile sand. Gilpin has sensibly pointed this out in his book on ‘Forest Scenery:’—“How could William have spread such depopulation in a country which, from the nature of it, must have been from the first very thinly inhabited The ancient Ytene was undoubtedly a woody tract long before the times of William. Voltaire's idea, therefore, of planting a forest is absurd, and is founded on a total ignorance of the country. He took his ideas merely from a French forest, which is artificially planted, and laid out in vistas' and alleys. It is probable that William rather opened his chaces by cutting down wood, than that he had occasion to plant more. Besides, though the internal strata of the soil of New Forest are admirably adapted to produce timber, yet the surface of it is in general poor, and could never have admitted, even if the times had
allowed, any high degree of cultivation.” But, whatever view we take of this historical question, the scenery of the New Forest is indissolubly associated with the memory of the two first Norman hunter-kings. There is probably no place in England which in its general aspect appears for centuries to have undergone so little change. The very people are unchanged. After walking in a summer afternoon for several miles amongst thick glades, guided only by the course of the declining sun,
“Over hill, over dale,
we came, in the low ground between Beaulieu and Denny Lodge, upon two peasants gathering a miserable crop of rowan. To our questions as to the proper path, they gave a grin, which expressed as much cunning as idiotcy, and pointed to a course which led us directly to the edge of a bog. They were low of stature, and coarse in feature. The collar of the Saxon slave was not upon their necks, but they were the descendants of the slave, through a long line who had been here toiling in hopeless ignorance for seven centuries. Their mental chains have never been loosened. A mile or two farther we encountered a tall and erect man, in a peculiar costume, half peasant, half huntsman. He had the frank manners of one of nature's gentlemen, and insisted upon going with us a part of the way which we sought to Lyndhurst. His family, too, had been settled here, time out of mind. He was the descendant of the Norman huntsman, who had been trusted and encouraged, whilst the Saxon churl was feared and oppressed. There is a lesson still to be taught by the condition of the two races in the primitive wilds of the New Forest.
But we are digressing from our proper theme. In these thick coverts, we find not many trees, and especially oaks, of that enormous size which indicates the growth of centuries. The forest has been neglected. Trees of every variety, with underwood in proportion, have oppressed each the other's luxuriance. Now and then a vigorous tree has shot up above its neighbours; but the general aspect is that of continuous wood, of very slow and stunted growth, with occasional ranges of low wet land almost wholly devoid of wood. There are many spots, undoubtedly, of what we call picturesque beauty; but the primitive solitariness of the place is its great charm. We are speaking, of course, of those parts which must be visited by a pedestrian; for the high roads necessarily lead through the most cultivated lands, passing through a few villages which have nothing of the air of belonging to so wild and primitive a region. Lyndhurst, the prettiest of towns, is the capital of the Forest. Here its courts, with their peculiar jurisdiction, are held in a hall of no great antiquity; but in that hall hangs the stirrup which tradition, from time immemorial, asserts was attached to the saddle from which William Rufus fell, when struck by the glancing arrow of Walter Tyrell. There is a circumstance even more remarkably associated with tradition, to be found in the little village of Minested. It is recorded that the man who picked up the body of the Red king was named Purkess; that he was a charcoal-burner; and that he conveyed the body to Winchester in the cart which he employed in his trade. Over the door of a little shop in that village we saw the name of Purkess in 1843—a veritable relic of the old times. Mr. Rose has recorded the fact in prose and verse, of the charcoalburner's descendants still living in this spot, and still possessing one horse and cart, and no more:
“A Minestead churl, whose wonted trade
The monarch found; and in his wain
And still, so runs our forest creed,
And still, in merry Lyndhurst hall,
The “fair stone,” which was erected by Lord Delaware in 1745, is now put into an iron case, of supreme ugliness; and we are informed as follows:—“This stone having been much mutilated, and the inscriptions on each of its three sides defaced, this more durable memorial, with the original inscriptions, was erected in the year 1841, by William Sturges Bourne, Warden.” Another century will see whether this boast of durability will be of any account. In the time of Leland, there was a chapel built on the spot. It would be a wise act of the Crown, to whom this land belongs, to found a school here—a better way of continuing a record than Lord Delaware's stone, or Mr. Sturges Bourne's iron. The history of their country, its constitution, it privileges—the duties and rights of Englishmen—things which are not taught to the children of our labouring millions—might worthily commence to be taught on the spot where the Norman tyrant fell, leaving successors who one by one came to the knowledge that the people were something not to be despised or neglected. The following is the inscription on the original stone:—
“Here stood the oak-tree on which the arrow, shot by Sir William Tyrrel, at a stag, glanced, and struck King William II., surnamed Rufus, on the breast; of which stroke he instantly died, on the second of August, 1100.
“King William II., surnamed Rufus, being slain, as before related, was laid in a cart be. longing to one Purkess, and drawn from hence to Winchester, and buried in the cathedral church of that city.
“That the spot where an event so memorable had happened might nothereafter be unknown, this stone was set up by John Lord Delaware, who had seen the tree growing in this place, anno 1745.”
47.-WALTER TYRREL AND WILLIAM RUFUS.
Rufus. Tyrrel, spur onward we must not await
Tyrrel. Behold, my liege hither they troop amain,
Over yon gap.
Rufus. Over my pales? the dolts Have broken down my pales |
Tyrrel. Please you, my liege,
Unless they had, they must have ridden round Eleven miles. Rufus. Why not have ridden round Eleven miles 1 or twenty, were there need. By our lady! they shall be our carpenters And mend what they have marr'd. At any time I can make fifty lords; but who can make As many head of deer, if mine escape? And sure they will, unless they too are mad. Call me that bishop — him with hunting-cap Surcharged with cross, and scarlet above knee. Tyrrel (galloping forward.) Ho ; my lord bishop ! Bishop. Who calls me. Tyrrel. Your slave. Bishop. Well said, if toned as well and timed as well. Who art thou? citizen or hind what wantest ? Tyrrel. My lord your presence; but before the king; Where it may grow more placid at its leisure. The morn is only streakt with red, my lord : You beat her out and out: how prettily You wear your stockings over head and ears Keep off the gorse and broom they soon catch fire Bishop. The king shall hear of this. I recognise Sir Walter Tyrrel. Tyrrel. And Sir Walter Tyrrel By the same token duly recognises The Church's well-begotten son, well-fed, Well mounted, and all well, except well-spoken, The spiritual lord of Winchester. Bishop. Ay, by God's grace pert losel! Turrel. Prick along Lord bishop quicker catch fresh air we want it; We have had foul enough till dinner time. Bishop. Warlet ! I may chastise this insolence. Tyrrel. I like those feathers; but there crows no cock Without an answer. Though the noisest throat Sings from the belfrey of snug Winchester, Yet he from Winchester hath stouter spurs. Bishop. God's blood were I no bishop — Tyrrel. Then thy own Were cooler. Bishop. Whip that hound aside : O Christ The beast has paw'd my housings : What a day For dirt Tyrrel. The scent lies well; pity no more The housings; look, my lord here trots the king ! Rufus. Which of you broke my palings down?
Bishop. God knows,
Bishop ! could surely teach us what God knows.
Bishop. The command
[Tyrrel rides towards him.
Sir Walter may I task your courtesy
Rufus. Stay with me; I want thee, Tyrrel!
Tyrrel. At nothing.
Rufus. Where are the lords :
Tyrrel. Gone past your grace, bare headed,
I care but little for the chase to-day,
Tyrrel. They hunt not in the summer.
Driven from their hives; they like the flowers much better.