Gray's Garden And House.
Gray wrote very carefully and slowly. I once supposed that he composed the "Elegy" in one brief hour of special inspiration in the churchyard; but in reality he labored seven years upon it, till it became a flawless gem of English literature. There is, in my opinion, no poem in the English language every line of which will bear such careful scrutiny; and it is pleasant to repeat it slowly, and to observe how every word, and, in particular, every adjective (which is, of course, the supreme test of all descriptive writing), fits into its place as perfectly as a piece of Florentine mosaic.
Perhaps the best way to explore the central part of England is to establish one's headquarters in the tranquil old town of Leamington. It is not of itself especially attractive, save for its rare good fortune in forming the centre of a charming circle, since around it, within easy distances, are some of the most interesting objects in Great Britain. The roads which radiate from Leamington to all these points are perfect, and one can easily walk or drive thence in a few hours to Warwick Castle, Coventry, Kenilworth, and Stratford-on-Avon, or go and return by rail in a day to Oxford, Birmingham, or Manchester.
Gray's Monument, Stoke Pogis.
Few tourists in England fail to visit the finest specimen of feudal architecture in the Queen's dominions, - Warwick Castle. I found the approach to it to be a winding avenue, cut for some distance through the solid rock, on which, however, no roughness was discernible, for its sides were almost hidden by a tapestry of ivy. Above it noble trees had interlaced their arms like bosom friends and cast upon the path below a tremulous mosaic of light and shade. At length a sudden turn revealed the castle. It is a sight to thrill the most prosaic traveler. It seemed to me the very ideal of chivalry and poetry crystalized in stone, not merely on account of its architectural beauty, but from the fact that this first glimpse of Warwick placed before me in a concrete form something which had been dear to me ever since the days when I had followed breathlessly the fascinating stories of "Kenilworth" and "Ivanhoe." It called to mind so vividly the age of gallant knights and brave crusaders that I should hardly have been surprised if I had encountered here some horseman clad in suit of mail, leading his armed retainers forth to render service to his king. Many a time have Warwick's chieftains done this. Some of the trees which cast their shadows in the park are genuine descendants of the cedars of Mt. Lebanon, the seeds of which were brought back from the Holy Land by one of Warwick's earls, who was as brave a knight as ever carried lance in rest or fought the Saracen in Palestine. England has hardly a distinguished office on her list that has not been at times held by members of this noble family. One easily understands, in such a place, the law of primogeniture, and comprehends how an old family estate, with its inherited beauty, history, and traditions, should never be divided up and thus eventually lost.
An English Country Road.
An Avenue At Warwick.
On one of the ivied towers of Warwick Castle, as if to emphasize the fact of its antiquity, is an ancient sun-dial, which tells to us the same impressive story that it told to the lords and ladies who rode beneath it centuries ago, - that of the constant and irrevocable flight of Time. No motto is inscribed beneath it; but it recalled to me some words which, when I read them round a sun-dial in Spain, seemed strikingly appropriate, as applied to the passing moments of life: "They all wound; the last kills!" Strolling onward from this gate, we gained a better view of the great court, where knightly tournaments frequently took place in view of England's King, or Queen, and the fairest ladies of the realm. Yet, in striking contrast to this sunlit area, beneath one of the adjoining towers, is a dismal dungeon within which, doubtless, many a prisoner languished - possibly died - while echoes of the joyous sports were borne to him upon the breeze. Little is known of those captives; but they, at least, were human beings like ourselves, with friends who loved them, and whom they loved in turn; and in the gloomy vault may still be seen their names, initials, or a word of prayer traced in the stone by the poor victims who thus appealed from tyranny to God.