Examiner (Launceston, Tasmania)/1929/"A Romany in the Fields"
"A ROMANY IN THE FIELDS"
A book published recently in England, under the title of "A Romany in the Fields," by Rev. G. Bramwell Evens, one time Wesleyan minister at Carlisle, has a certain amount of local interest, in that the sketches deal almost exclusively with an area In the lower stretches of the Eden Valley. which pivots on what the Penrith "Herald" calls "the hospitable home of the Potters, In Old Parks, "Gleasonby". This happens to be the old home of a Launceston resident, Mr. T. Potter, of 4 Paterson-street whose ancestors have lived there for a very long period.
Mr. Evens, says "The Herald," is evidently persona grata there, because the Potters crop up intimately time and again through the Bohemian pages of his book, Mr. Evens has himself Romany blood in his veins, and he is a relative, not far removed, from Gipsy Smith, the well-known evangelist. His wonder-lust is confined to Methodist circuits, but his spirit, intellectually and spiritually, soars over wider hinterlands. But he is at home with all the children of the wild, has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the habits of wild birds and wee beasties as these are understood in the tamer north— the hare in its form, the fox in its fell fastness, the badger in its bastille, the rabbit in its hole, the mole in its burrow, to say nothing of the otter and the water rat plomping Into still pools by the reedy margins of pellucid streams. All these are mobilised as friendly allies when our Romany Is abroad In the fields, and under his sympathetic guidance you see things with his kindly eye which you never saw before, and the under-world of nature teems with new meaning. Mr. Evens has an artist's eye for colour, and the Eden Valley, under the shadow of Crossfell provides him with an immense pallette on which Nature has provided more pigments than he or anyone else could ever hope to see. He quoted on his dedication page:—
"God's finger touched, but did not press,
In making England,"
and then wanders afield through one of the fairest valleys that was ever created, that spacious stretch of pastoral loveliness which has been well named "the Vale of Eden." He seems to have adopted a motto of Robert Louis Stevenson's: "'Tis better to travel hopefully than to arrive," He begins at once by saying that he is a tramp by choice, and not of necessity. which is perhaps the Ideal of the nomad. He says he prefers "to loiter In green meadows, to explore the fringes of quiet pools and the margins of laughing streams, to muse under shadowed hedges—In a word, to potter about where the wild bird sings or where the trout rises to the fly." His companion In this pleasant pastoral vagrancy Is his spaniel Raq, "the most lovable and sensible thing on four legs." The alliance between the writer's sight and the dog's nose is a very strong one, and what the author misses in the bushes the dog points out.
And so with this observant cicerone we are admitted into the fellowship of timid things, wander among their secret haunts, through spring woods which the anemone stars, and over the foothills of the fells, where the wet bracken is red as a fox's brush, and the heather has put aside Its autumn purple for the sombre brown of winter—in fact, in a pilgrimage through the seasons. He begins in the autumn, and we are soon in an enchanted wood:
On all sides the quietness of those shadowed aisles was broken by the protests of those who resented our intrusion. A pair of Jays were not only resentful, but positively abusive. and hurled at us everyin their bird vocabulary. I saw the flash of their saxe-blue markings as they dodged behind the hazel bushes.
Could any artist better capture for is the colours of the jay, or the flash of the kingfisher:
A thrush poured out his heart from an elm. and a kingfisher flashed, like an emerald, up stream. The former Is not much to look at, but what a voice! The latter has no voice, only a grating "Zit. zit." but what robes!
And then follows a chat on the Balance of Nature, which. In the author's opinion, is but another name for the equipoise of God. The book is an illuminated and illuminating procession of the seasons, and there are pleasant encounters and chats with game keepers, shepherds, farmers, and folk, all versed In wood, field, and fell craft, and ail more than legendary figures on the east fellsides. It is full of quiet, kindly humour that comes of an understanding heart. Read this about Christmas morning, with the fields under a white counterpane and a network of foot-prints on the virgin whiteness:
And so we walked down the quaint village street, and, as we journeyed on, faces appeared at the windows and doors, and voices flung me a nosegay of the season's compliments,
"Come in; have a bit o' summat." said one of the many hospitable souls, and, knowing that sooner or later I should have to capitulate to their Importunities. I entered the cottage of Sally Stordy.
"Fancy bein' out in sic weatfer." said my hostess. and when I told her how I enjoyed it, she added, "Well, every man to his taste."
Soon I was seated before a table on which lay a couple of smoking rashers. Raq was contenting himself with a bone.
"You remember Sarah Ann? asked my benefactress.
"When did she die?" I asked guardedly, not being able to recall the owner of the name, and judging by the tone of the question that something tragic had happened.
"We killed her—that's 'er ye're eatin'." said my friend, taking off her apron.
For a moment I had an inward sinking sensation. Then, with infinite relief, it dawned on me that Sarah Ann was the name of their sow, and one which I had often admired.
"She were a right good 'tun, she were." said she, with a sigh.
"She is." said I, interring pieces of Sarah with relish.
"We shall never see 'er likes again," the good soul said regretfully.
"Never again." I murmured. as I finished my repast, and, in spite of its flavour, feeling that somehow or other I had been present at a memorial service.
"Here's a slice or two for your missus." she said, handing me a good-sized parcel, "and here is a bottles of 'cleat' wine. Made it myself. No need to be afeard on it. It's teetotal."
And so on through a most engaging book. There are long summer days caravanning and as a dweller in tents, and the humours of the holiday home as a movable feast, all of which you should read. "A Romany in the Fields" is a most delightful book. It is published by the Epworth Press, London, at 8s. It is worth every penny of it, for it is alive with rural sound and coloured with rural sights. If the gift of the descriptive touch for all things out of doors is one of the things the author inherited from his Romany ancestors, it is a great legacy, and one that gains rather than loses from being shared with others. Mr. Evens may be garbed in the cloth of his calling, but he has the eye of a naturalist and the heart of a Boy Scout, and he has the lore of the fields at the tip of a facile pen.