Chapter 14

A fine old city - Norman master-work - Lollards’ Hole - Good blood - The Spaniard’s sword - Old retired officer - Writing to a duke - God help the child - Nothing like Jacob - Irish brigades - Old Sergeant Meredith - I have been young - Idleness - Only course open - The bookstall - A portrait - A banished priest.

FROM the wild scenes which I have attempted to describe in the latter pages I must now transport the reader to others of a widely different character. He must suppose himself no longer in Ireland, but in the eastern corner of merry England. Bogs, ruins, and mountains have disappeared amidst the vapours of the west: I have nothing more to say of them; the region in which we are now is not famous for objects of that kind: perhaps it flatters itself that it can produce fairer and better things, of some of which let me speak; there is a fine old city before us, and first of that let me speak.

A fine old city, truly, is that, view it from whatever side you will; but it shows best from the east, where the ground, bold and elevated, overlooks the fair and fertile valley in which it stands. Gazing from those heights, the eye beholds a scene which cannot fail to awaken, even in the least sensitive bosom, feelings of pleasure and admiration. At the foot of the heights flows a narrow and deep river, with an antique bridge communicating with a long and narrow suburb, flanked on either side by rich meadows of the brightest green, beyond which spreads the city; the fine old city, perhaps the most curious specimen at present extant of the genuine old English town. Yes, there it spreads from north to south, with its venerable houses, its numerous gardens, its thrice twelve churches, its mighty mound, which, if tradition speaks true, was raised by human hands to serve as the grave-heap of an old heathen king, who sits deep within it, with his sword in his hand, and his gold and silver treasures about him. There is a gray old castle upon the top of that mighty mound; and yonder, rising three hundred feet above the soil, from among those noble forest trees, behold that old Norman master-work, that cloud-encircled cathedral spire, around which a garrulous army of rooks and choughs continually wheel their flight. Now, who can wonder that the children of that fine old city are proud of her, and offer up prayers for her prosperity? I, myself, who was not born within her walls, offer up prayers for her prosperity, that want may never visit her cottages, vice her palaces, and that the abomination of idolatry may never pollute her temples. Ha, idolatry! the reign of idolatry has been over there for many a long year, never more, let us hope, to return; brave hearts in that old town have borne witness against it, and sealed their testimony with their hearts’ blood - most precious to the Lord is the blood of His saints! we are not far from hallowed ground. Observe ye not yon chalky precipice, to the right of the Norman bridge? On this side of the stream, upon its brow, is a piece of ruined wall, the last relic of what was of old a stately pile, whilst at its foot is a place called the Lollards’ Hole; and with good reason, for many a saint of God has breathed his last beneath that white precipice, bearing witness against popish idolatry, midst flame and pitch; many a grisly procession has advanced along that suburb, across the old bridge, towards the Lollards’ Hole: furious priests in front, a calm pale martyr in the midst, a pitying multitude behind. It has had its martyrs, the venerable old town!

Ah! there is good blood in that old city, and in the whole circumjacent region of which it is the capital. The Angles possessed the land at an early period, which, however, they were eventually compelled to share with hordes of Danes and Northmen, who flocked thither across the sea to found hearthsteads on its fertile soil. The present race, a mixture of Angles and Danes, still preserve much which speaks strongly of their northern ancestry; amongst them ye will find the light-brown hair of the north, the strong and burly forms of the north, many a wild superstition, ay, and many a wild name connected with the ancient history of the north and its sublime mythology; the warm heart and the strong heart of the old Danes and Saxons still beats in those regions, and there ye will find, if anywhere, old northern hospitality and kindness of manner, united with energy, perseverance, and dauntless intrepidity; better soldiers or mariners never bled in their country’s battles than those nurtured in those regions, and within those old walls. It was yonder, to the west, that the great naval hero of Britain first saw the light; he who annihilated the sea pride of Spain, and dragged the humbled banner of France in triumph at his stem. He was born yonder, towards the west, and of him there is a glorious relic in that old town; in its dark flint guildhouse, the roof of which you can just descry rising above that maze of buildings, in the upper hall of justice, is a species of glass shrine, in which the relic is to be seen; a sword of curious workmanship, the blade is of keen Toledan steel, the heft of ivory and mother-of-pearl. ‘Tis the sword of Cordova, won in bloodiest

  By PanEris using Melati.

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