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And halcyon skies that prospered my delight.
I pine for spring
I saw beneath that tree a woman mourn
Of her solicitude; and as her eyes,
Bedimmed with scalding tears, surveyed the skies,
“The friends of youth are dead,
Say! ye down-peering stars
That high above me shine
Say! can ye aught relieve
This suffering soul of mine?
Ye know why I repine.
Darkness suits best a mood
I feel not their bleak breath,
I pray for death.
C. FROM WINCHESTER TO STONEHENGE.
"Lift up thy head, renowned Salisbury." How beautiful Winchester looks on a bright Spring morning, as I leave her to visit her sister Salisbury, who, as some will say, is even more beautiful, and is certainly more aspiring. As we travel southwards, noting the various evidences of taste and comfort in the suburban lanes of her citizens, observe the gray Cathedral and the College Tower, pass the venerable St. Cross, embowered in trees, as seen from the railway; and beyond, St. Catherine's Hill, heaving its bare and ridgy back against the sky, we are reminded of the many pleasant reminiscences the “White City" has afforded us. We travel southwards through fertile plains to the busy junction of Bishopstoke ; then, turning westward, come to the pretty and flourishing Borough of Romsey, after which a spell of interesting and varied scenery brings us in sight of the majestic spire of Salisbury, the tallest which England can boast. Shooting up, exquisitely-proportioned, to the height of 400 feet, it is interesting even when seen behind a foreground of flooded meadows and a timber yard ; but, as with all perfect architecture, every view you take of it gives fresh sense of its grace and loveliness. What wonder that I quickly left the bustling railway station, pushed my way through the modern and interesting part of Salisbury, dived through the quaint mediæval streets under a still quainter city arch, and found myself shortly in the wide and peaceful precincts of the Cathedral Close.
This Cathedral Close deserves a word. So wide are the bright green meadows before the West front of the Cathedral, so various in architecture, of styles from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century, and withal, so thoroughly English are the houses bordering it on nearly every side, with their comfortable shrubs and front garden enclosures, that you seem to have stepped out of the land of steam and telegraph to the days when grand scholars and gray divines studied in learned ease within sound of the Cathedral bells, or sipped their port and discoursed learnedly on dusty problems long since forgotten. But how pleasant it is to linger in the mid-career of life and watch this peace-pervading scene, which breathes a spirit of slumberous content, showing how great a contrast were the habits of our fathers to those of their restless and ever-hurrying children, always panting in the race for something new.
But the Cathedral ! A matchless example of the pure unmixed Gothic of England, its outline boldly broken by two transepts, instead of being divided by the great buttresses you observe in Winchester, gives a masterly and striking effect. Then the spire, which, though the work of a later date, was evidently intended at first, leads the idea up to heaven with a sense of fitness and majesty which fills the soul with satisfied joy. Coming to the west front, its richness and delicacy are surprising Strangely enough, it reminded me of Notre Dame de Paris. I could not explain why until the painful modernism and newness of the restored sculptures and statues supplied the requisite link of connection. It is very wrong to rail at restorers, say many worthy people, and even the Italians, artists by inheritance and tradition, as one might suppose, appear to be angry with us for opposing the restoration of St. Mark's, at Venice; nevertheless, I cannot help thinking that restorers fail through lack of reverence or through abundance of egotism. I recollect, some few years since, spending some hours in the beautiful interior of St. Mary's, Shrewsbury, in company with the Vicar, who, with his predecessor, had spent an enormous amount of time and money in restoring and beautifying his church. After going through it, and listening with charmed ears to his explanation of what had been done, I ventured to suggest that he would leave the church “a monument of his thoughtful care."
“Do not say our thoughtful care," he replied, quickly ; "we have only tried to make this House just what the good old people who built it would have had it."
This modest, yet generous, clergyman had touched the true purpose of restoration in that simple sentence. If a man can set aside his own self for awhile, and can earnestly and reverently sit down before the mighty relics of the past till he has learned their mystery, if he can then force himself humbly to renew what is decaying and to replace what is lost, in the very spirit of his forefathers, then he may begin to restore a Cathedral. But if a man brings his pert individualism, and his nineteenth-century notions to bear on the work of the past, he is a mere Vandal, how much soever he may claim to be a Goth.
I know this is blank heresy to some, but I cannot avoid expressing it as I look at the brand new west front of Salisbury. I ought to admire it-the perfect early English arrangement is there; the five tiers of statues, illustrating the five orders of beings referred to in the “ Te Deum laudamus," with the figure of the Lord in the oval at the summit, are there; the harmony of style is there, yet is a something wanting. The newness of the one part and the age of the other have a certain influence, but I am satisfied that the main element is the modern and somewhat Frenchy treatment of the figures which form so important a feature of this front. Angels, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, and worthies of the Church, wherever restored, are in striking contrast to the severe, staid, yet quite human presentments of the thirteenth century, which originally stood in those niches. If you compare the really ancient tombs and figures inside the Cathedral with those in front, which are modern, this will be at once apparent. Thu stolid, heavy faces, showing far less intellectual life and much more physical force, are in front exchanged for an exaggerated ecclesiasticism or intellectualism of type,
noses only proper for consumptives, eyebrows of impossible projection, mouths and chins of the most feminine insipidity. The figures, which in the old statues are of solemn and severe rigidity of line, are in the modern ones twisted about in all the contortions of a Paris danseuse in order to produce what the modern modeller calls an effective “pose.” This impression which the figures had upon me as I saw the restorations in the group, was deepened by the examination of the full-sized plaster models of many of them which are now placed in the cloisters, and can thus be closely inspected.
A truce to complaining. We enter the edifice, and the clustered columns, vari-coloured, the blaze of light, the lofty roof, rivet by turns the attention. Winchester is still too near in memory to prevent some unfavourable comparisons, but we soon find that Salisbury has a beauty of its own. The result suggests at once the lines many of us have learned in youth
“As many days as in one year there be,
So many windows in this Church we see;
Strange tale :o tell! Yet not more strange than true.”
“ Pity the sorrows of a Poore old man,
The founder of the stately Church of Sarum." After an account of the life and doings of the good Bishop, assumed to be given by himself in a half-serious, half-jesting manner, the Vandalism is thus described :
“North of the Altar in my bed of state,
Five centuries and a half I lay in quiet;
To feel the ruthless rage of Gothic Wyatt.
My bones disturbed, my shrine was rent and torn,
Spoiled of the arch that canopied my slumber,
And thrown into a corner like old lumber.” Poore fellow! We could have spared a little time to examine such a monument, for the rest of the memorials, though numerous, are of local rather than of general interest.
The Chapter House is one of the charms of Salisbury; and this, I must agree
has been restored with equal taste and feeling. It is an octagon in shape, supported in the centre by one small pillar, whence spring all the groinings of the ceiling. The effect is unique. Eight windows, all in stained glass, the whole surface decorated, the lines of painted sculpture, the glazed floor, and the exquisite vaulted roof, produce a result which must be seen to be appreciated. There are two remarkable series of sculpture on the walls. First a series of heads representing the various conditions of life at the time the edifice was constructed : the shaven monk, the in and out-door costume of the fine lady, the nun, the merchant, the sailor, the countryman, and many others. Then above these, and filling the spandrils of the arcade running below the windows, is a history of man from the Creation to the delivery of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. These are the quaintest mediæval sculptures I remember to have seen. Many of the ivory diptychs in the Sir Francis Scott collection at Aston Hall will give a fair idea of them.
Now for a walk in the Cloisters, which is again a special delight in the precincts of this Cathedral. They are open; the fair green enclosure is a foreground to the opposing grey walls and perfect arches. Beyond the fine old yew in the centre, you see the mighty proportions of the Cathedral rising above, and in one angle the matchless tower with gothic arch, pillar, and tracery defined in dream-like delicacy against the light flying clouds, while the spire shoots calmly into the upper sky, with which it almost seems to mingle.
Farewell, Salisbury, as I take a fond, last look at the glorious pile, pursue my way along the spacious Market-place, with its respectable houses and good shops, intent on finding my way to Old Sarum and Stonehenge.