Thursday, November 18, 2010


Revenge of the Hamadryads

John Aubrey (1626-1697), The Natural History and Antiquities of the County of Surrey, Vol. II (London: E. Curll, 1718), pp. 33-34:
In this Parish lies the great Wood, call'd Norwood, belonging to the See of Canterbury, wherein was an antient, remarkable Tree, call'd Vicar's Oak, where four Parishes meet in a Point. This Wood wholly consists of Oaks. There was one Oak that had Misselto, a Timber Tree, which was felled about 1657. Some Persons cut this Misselto, for some Apothecaries in London, and sold them a Quantity for Ten Shillings, each time, and left only one Branch remaining for more to sprout out; One fell lame shortly after: Soon after, each of the others lost an Eye, and he that fell'd the Tree, about 1678 (tho' warned of these Misfortunes of the other Men) would, notwithstanding, adventure to do it, and shortly after broke his Leg; as if the Hamadryades had resolved to take an ample Revenge for the injury done to that sacred and venerable Oak.

I cannot here omit taking Notice of the great Misfortunes in the Family of the Earl of Winchelsea, who at Eastwell in Kent, felled down a most curious Grove of Oaks, near his own noble Seat, and gave the first Blow with his own Hands. Shortly after, his Countess died in her Bed suddenly, and his eldest Son, the Lord Maidstone, was killed at Sea by a Cannon Bullet. It is a common Notion, that a strange Noise proceeds from a falling Oak, so loud, as to be heard at half a Mile distant, as if it were the Genius of the Oak lamenting.
Anne Finch, Countess of Winchelsea (1661-1720), Upon My Lord Winchelsea's Converting the Mount in his Garden to a Terras (1702), in The Poems of Anne, Countess of Winchilsea, ed. Myra Reynolds (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1903), pp. 33-36:
If we those Gen'rous Sons deserv'dly Praise
Who o're their Predecessours Marble raise,
And by Inscriptions, on their Deeds, and Name,
To late Posterity, convey their Fame,
What with more Admiration, shall we write, 5
On Him, who takes their Errours from our sight?
And least their Judgments be in question brought,
Removes a Mountain, to remove a fault?
Which long had stood (though threatnd oft in vain),
Concealing all the beautys of the Plaine. 10
Heedlesse when Yong, cautious in their decline,
None gone before persu'd the vast dessign,
Till ripen'd Judgment, joyn'd with Youthfull Flame,
At last but Came, and Saw, and Overcame.
And as old Rome refin'd what ere was rude, 15
And Civiliz'd, as fast as she subdu'd,
So lies this Hill, hew'n from itts rugged height,
Now levell'd to a Scene of smooth delight,
Where on a Terras of itts spoyles we walk,
And of the Task, and the performer talk; 20
From whose unwearied Genius Men expect
All that can farther Pollish or Protect;
To see a sheltring grove the Prospect bound,
Just rising from the same proliffick ground,
Where late itt stood, the Glory of the Seat, 25
Repell'd the Winter blasts, and skreen'd the Sommer's heat;
So prais'd, so lov'd, that when untimely Fate,
Sadly prescrib'd itt a too early Date,
The heavy tidings cause a gen'ral Grief,
And all combine to bring a swift relief. 30
Some Plead, some Pray, some Councel, some Dispute,
Alas in vain, where Pow'r is Absolute.
Those whom Paternal Awe, forbid to speak,
Their sorrows, in their secret whispers break,
Sigh as they passe beneath the sentenc'd Trees, 35
Which seem to answer in a mournfull Breeze.
The very Clowns (hir'd by his dayly Pay),
Refuse to strike, nor will their Lord obey,
Till to his speech he adds a leading stroke,
And by Example does their Rage provoke. 40
Then in a moment, ev'ry arm is rear'd,
And the robb'd Palace sees, what most she fear'd,
Her lofty Grove, her ornamental shield,
Turn'd to a Desert, and forsaken Field.
So fell Persepolis, bewail'd of all 45
But Him, whose rash Resolve procur'd her Fall
No longer now, we such Destructions fear,
No longer the resounding Axe we hear,
But in Exchange, behold the Fabrick stand,
Built, and Adorn'd by a supporting hand; 50
Compleat, in all itts late unequall Frame,
No Loame, and Lath, does now the Building shame,
But gracefull simetry, without is seen,
And Use, with Beauty are improv'd within.
And though our Ancestors did gravely Plott, 55
As if one Element they vallu'd nott,
Nor yet the pleasure of the noblest sence,
Gainst Light and Air to raise a strong defense;
Their wiser Offspring does those gifts renew,
And now we Breath[e] and now the eager View 60
Through the enlarged Windows take[s] her way,
Does beauteous Fields, and scatter'd Woods survey,
Flyes or'e th' extended Land, and sinks but in the Sea.
Or when contented with an easyer flight,
The new wrought Gardens, give a new delight, 65
Where ev'ry fault, that in the Old was found,
Is mended, in the well disposed Ground.
Such are th' Effects, when Wine, nor loose delights,
Devour the Day, nor waste the thoughtlesse Nights,
But gen'rous Arts, the studious Hours engage, 70
To blesse the present, and succeeding Age.
Oh! may Eastwell, still with their aid encrease,
Plenty surround her, and within be peace.
Still may her temp'rate Air his Health maintain,
From whom she does such Strength and Beauty gain. 75
Florish her Trees, and may the Verdant Grasse
Again prevail, where late the plough did passe,
Still may she boast a kind and fruitfull soyle,
And still new pleasures give to crown his Toyle,
And may some one, with Admiration fill'd, 80
In just Applauses, and in Numbers skill'd,
Not with more Zeal, but more poetick heat,
Throughly Adorn, what barely we Relate.
Then, shou'd th' Elysian Groves no more be Nam'd,
Nor Tempe's Vale, be any longer Fam'd, 85
She shou'd the Theame, to ev'ry Verse affoard,
Until the Muse, when to advantage soar'd,
Shou'd take a nobler Aim, and dare describe her Lord.
Reynolds (note on p. 419) cites Aubrey and comments:
The destruction of the oak-grove took place, then, about 1669 or 1670. The earl referred to would be Heneage Finch, the second Earl of Winchilsea. In the MS. after l. 77 the following lines have been crossed out:
When by a Consort's too prevailing Art,
The Park was rifl'd of so fair a part,
Which now restor'd like itt's new Master's Mind
Is with the whole, but in just bounds confln'd.
The "consort" here referred to would be the second of the Earl's four wives, Mary Seymour, daughter of William, Duke of Somerset.


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