Page:Poems of Anne Countess of Winchilsea 1903.djvu/129

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INTRODUCTION cxxv ���became the home of legend and myth, a realm of Spenserian enchantment. For hours at a time she wandered about alone, peopling the shades with fawns and sylvans, convert- ing lovely nooks into the secret haunts of nymphs and fairies. Toward individual trees or groups of trees her feeling is almost as intimate as that of Lowell. She addresses them as " numerous brethren of the leafy kind," she applies the adjective "fraternal" to a clump of oaks in quite the manner of Wordsworth in his description of the yew-trees, the ' ' fraternal four of Borrowdale." In recounting the results of the great storm, the frustrated ambitions of the beech, the oak, and the pine are sympathetically recorded along with human fatalities. The destruction of a fine old grove at Eastwell is narrated with dramatic liveliness. The winds sigh through the sentenced trees. The household awaits in dismayed silence the catastrophe it cannot avert. Even the hired clowns refuse at first to lift the ax. But when to his word of command the master adds his example by striking the first blow, all follow suit, and presently the splendid trees lie helpless in the field of their birth. This disaster occurred before Ardelia went to Eastwell, but she commemorates it with a sense of personal hurt and outrage, and one of her reasons for gratitude to Charles was that he replanted the denuded field. �Lady Winchilsea frequently "moralized" her trees, but on the way to the moral we find much excellent description, the outcome of first-hand observation. Willows, for instance, stand for youth, but we discover likewise that they are smooth of rind, straight of bough, moist of fiber, that they throw out at the top a mass of leaves, that they gather in social ranks along little streams. One forgets the moral of the dead tree in the hedge, in looking at the picture of the tree itself. Mischievous, entangling vines encompass it. Dismal-flowered night-shade, and "honesty" with its feath- ��� �