Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 132.djvu/308

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302
THE WORDSWORTHS AT BRINSOP COURT.

Yet I should not say it was discussed. There was much less among those people of the spirit that makes mischief than prevails in a busier, sharper community; less readiness to meddle; more consciousness of responsibility in touching another man's character. Such, at least, was the impression I brought away with me from a two months' sojourn among them; and all the experience of after years has not made the value seem less of such qualities — be the circumstances what they may that foster them. The dullest-minded in the group to whom Pender told his story, felt that it was not a subject for tattle. And it must give some elevation of spirit even to the dullest man when he sets a guard upon his thoughts and words about a possible criminal, in respect for their common manhood.

At any rate, the seriousness that pervaded that whole community, from that day onward, had something dignified in it — rudely as it was sometimes indicated.




From Temple Bar.

THE WORDSWORTHS AT BRINSOP COURT.

Tennyson has immortalized his "moated grange" by placing the love-lorn Mariana there; his brother poet, Wordsworth, had his also, in which he frequently sojourned himself. We are not told the precise locality where the sickly maiden was - "aweary, aweary;" but the spot where the healthful poet occasionally dwelt is in Herefordshire. It is called Brinsop Court, and was, for over twenty years, the residence of Mr. Hutchinson, Wordsworth's brother-in-law, his wife and family. It is, in itself, a remarkable and interesting place; but the interest deepens when we learn that it has frequently received, as guests, the Wordsworths, their relatives the Quillinans, Southey, H. C. Robinson, and other celebrities.

Although essentially "a court" in the olden time, it is now, literally, a "moated grange," surrounded by sounds and sights connected with farming, The broad moat encircling the house and lawn that once served as protection against the foe is now alive with flocks of ducks and geese. The whirr of the threshing and winnowing machines, the crowing of cocks, the grinding of the cider-mill, the low of flocks and herds, and the call of human voices, sound without the moat, while within all is comparative repose.

Having crossed the bridge, formerly a drawbridge, the first object that attracts the eye is a tall cedar which rises above the broad-faced, two-storied court. This was planted by Wordsworth forty years ago, and bids fair to co-exist with the poet's name. We seem to see him, surrounded by relatives and friends, setting the diminutive tree which has now grown to such proportions; and to hear the couplet, jest, or laugh accompanying the act. We do see the walks he paced, the garden he frequented, the sedge-covered, tree-spanned waters at the back of the court beside which he mused, and the ruined arches he inquiringly surveyed. Although antiquarians have been busy with the arches, they do not appear to have ascertained the precise date of our "moated grange." The oldest part is supposed to have been built in Stephen's reign, by a Dauncy or Dansey, who came from Normandy with the Conqueror, and in whose family it remained until the present century. Its antiquity is, indeed, patent to all, for at the back of the commodious dwelling-house is a quadrangular court, surrounded by relics of a past age. Here antiquarians, like doctors, "differ;" for the large ruined apartment to which we mount by crumbling stone steps is by some accounted a chapel with a crypt beneath, and by others a banqueting-room. Whatever its former use, it was called by the common people Holy Stage. Its length and breadth are noble; the rafters of its high, pointed roof, cross both ways; there is fresco painting still remaining, and the imagination as readily conjures up the ghosts of jovial knights and squires at the festive board, as of cowled monks at prayer.

But the poetical touch that would have struck the Wordsworthian chord is a small arched doorway, opening from this hall, or chapel, as may be, and looking in the moat below. All means of ingress have disappeared, and Mariana could scarcely have found her watery solitude more weird or dreary. The moat is so deep and dark, the low trees are so intimately intertwined, and the rushes and sedges are so thick, that even the fowl seem frightened from the spot and leave it to the spirits that haunt it Still we picture Wordsworth here, or at the duck's nest not far off, or by the brook and mimic fall, recalling, possibly, the bolder surroundings of his house at Rydal Mount. But time changes everything, and the Hutchinsons have departed from the court, and Rydal Mount is being, we are told, rebuilt.