Page:Once a Week, Series 1, Volume II Dec 1859 to June 1860.pdf/552

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June 2, 1860.]
539
THE HOME AND GRAVE OF BYRON.

when they fell. Some few men got hit—one on the foot, and he was laid up a week from the effects of the blow. I got a hit on two fingers, and the marks remained for ten days, and at first I thought I should lose a nail; and another on my japanned hat, which chipped it. The binnacle glass (plate) was broken, and the sails were riddled as if with small shot from the sharp points. Had I not been on deck for two hours previously I should have fancied we were under an iceberg, and the ice blowing off it on the top of us. It resembled half bricks falling on your head from a high wall: down below, the noise was that of 32-pound shot being thrown about the decks; and, indeed, both those on deck and below were much astonished. I never saw, nor did I ever hear of such a storm as this, although I have heard many strange stories.

The barometer remained steady at 29.86, and the thermometer at 70°. It cleared up afterwards, and gave us plenty to talk about for the rest of the day.




THE HOME AND GRAVE OF BYRON.

alt = View of Newstead Abbey, looking along a raised terrace paved in black-and-white diamonds, with a formal garden below to the right, a vine-covered wall and gate to the left, and a large old building with multiple wings in the back of the image.

On the highway-side from Mansfield to Nottingham, some four miles from the former place, stands an oak of such remarkable growth that attention is arrested by the beauty of its form and the extent of its branches. It partially over-shadows the road, and stretching back its long arms to meet the trees on either side of it, overhangs with a mass of thick foliage a park-gate of unpretending appearance. This is the entrance to the romantic domain of Newstead. There is no lodge—no guardian at the gate, save this noble tree.

Lord George Gordon Byron, the poet, was only six years old when he succeeded to this property, and Moore mentions the delight with which he was here received by some of the tenantry, accompanied by his mother, on their journey from Aberdeen. It was in 1808 that these gates were afterwards thrown open to receive him as the owner and resident of Newstead, which had been occupied, during his minority, by Lord Grey de Ruthyn.

The original carriage-road to the abbey is nearly effaced, and the broad glade is intersected by the tracks of timber-carts. On the occasion of our visit, the rain of the preceding night had filled the turf ruts and washed the sandy road into furrows, while the oppressive heat of the morning sun, and the distant thunder were warnings of the returning storm. Scenes of sylvan beauty succeeded each other under the most brilliant effects of light and shade, until an extensive prospect opened over the woodlands of Nottinghamshire. From a seat on one of the finely grown stems, with which the woodman’s axe had strewn the glade (trees which once must have overshadowed the young poet as he passed), we marked in the landscape such points as were connected with his brief residence among these fair scenes. Looking over a foreground of brake and briar—rich in their early autumn tints, and glittering with rain-drops—beyond yellow hillocks where the rabbits burrowed, and, again, over green slopes, studded with twisted thorns and stag-headed oaks, the eye rested on dark masses of elm, forming the middle distance of the picture. Embedded in that woody declivity lay the Abbey of Newstead:

“perhaps a little low,
Because the monks preferr’d a hill behind
To shelter their devotion from the wind.”

From this point of view the building was concealed, but the further end of the lake, fronting the abbey, was visible,—the brightest object in the landscape. The “hills of Annesley, bleak and