« PreviousContinue »
Hence, then, the incessant motion common to all the poplars, but special to the aspen-poplar. So far back may this pretty and incessant fluttering, which has made a proverb of the aspen, be traced, that the botanist finds a mention of it in the Hebrew Scriptures, though connected by a mistranslation with an entirely different tree. This is the passage, with the correction placed in brackets— "When thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees" [poplar trees] (1 Chron. xiv. 15).*
The aspen is a scarce tree about London, but its fellow-poplars, which share with it the sensitiveness to the least wind, are very common. The grey abele and the black poplar abound in suburban grounds. The Canada balsam poplar (well-known to microscopists who practice "mounting") is also common. It may be known by its great triangular leaves and the powerful balsamic fragrance exhaled from its clammy buds. In the Spring we find its catkins of snowwhite down strewing the suburban highway, and looking like cotton-pods. Its leaf-stalks are not flattened laterally like those of the English species.
Arrived once more at Kensington Gardens, we make our way to the graceful arches which span the Serpentine :
And now upon the bridge we stood.
We linger and enjoy the scene, and then retire to the "shade of melancholy boughs" contiguous, where Jaques undisturbed might still "neglect the creeping hours of time." Here, in Kensington Gardens, away
From the huge world that roars hard by,
we can rest on the greensward, and muse and listen to the birds.
How green under the boughs it is!
How thick the tremulous sheep cries come!
Sometimes a child will cross the glade,
To take his nurse a broken toy;
Sometimes a thrush flit overhead,
Deep in her unknown day's employ.
Trees of Old England.-L. H. GRINDON.
In the tops of immemorial elms around us, aerial cities have been built, and harsh-voiced crows confabulate. Innumerable sparrows share the lower branches, and chirp vociferous. The home of the song-birds is now made secure from wanton and burglarious boys. The blackbird and the thrush are everywhere loud and joyous, the thick-trilled scale of the chaffinch is repeated from tree to tree, and the bird itself, which you may tell by the clean dip which marks its flight, can be seen as you lie on the sward. The titlark and the nuthatch are here, as we learn from the keeper, and the cuckoo has been heard near St. Gova's Well. The starling flies boldly to his nest in the fork of the plane tree with a rapid swimming motion of his wings. It is a spot for a study of birds as well as of trees. But let us rest now, and take into our willing ears the melodies of the feathered songsters who are pouring out their souls in the tenebrous arches above us. We are tempted to take out our tuning-fork and try whether the birds around us are really singing in the key of F with a sharp third, or that of G with a flat third, as most birds are said to do. But our better genius comes to the rescue. For the present we will be content to rest the weary brain, and defer such experiments for another excursion. As we lie on the greensward, how beautiful is the slant sunlight that
Gleams on the columns of chestnut and elm sustaining the arches,
Down through whose broken vaults it falls as through chinks in a ruin !
THE OLD SEA-BED IN MIDDLESEX.
Maw and gulf
Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark.
The sounds and seas with all their finny drove.
E left Hampstead Heath weighted with a good bag of mineral specimens for our microscopes, and with our minds enriched and enlarged by new ideas of the geo graphy of our London environs. We had scanned with scrutinous eye the rival hills of Hampstead and Norwood, separated by the valley of the Thames. In those familiar heights we were enabled to recognize the monuments of an old and wasted world-surface. The vision carried us back into the remote and mysterious past of our earth's history. It linked us to a time with which the mythic period of
Gorgons, and Hydras, and Chimæras dire
is but of yesterday in comparison. So does a little geological light transfigure for us the tame and common-place scenery of our suburbs.
Do we Londoners, then, dwell amid scenes geologically antique? No. Not in the classic and venerable soils of Britain, not in Silurian or other
Regions consecrate to oldest time
is the place of our habitation. Nature's lithographs around London are but of modern date. For a depth of about 200 feet the great mass of the strata in our environs, especially in Middlesex, is so recent in its origin as to have changed but little in appearance and character since its deposition from the parent sea. Our clay has not yet hardened into slate, nor our sand into stone.
beneath us unconsolidated and plastic, or incohesive and powdery as at the first- the manifest sediment of the sea from whose waters they settled. Yet, as we have seen, how compatible this recency of their history, this modernness of their era, with marvellous change in their function, and with stupendous modifications in their bulk, disposition, and range! Even in our suburban haunts how great the scale upon which Nature has commemorated her processes!
To day, our Saturday Half-holiday again releases us from the vast and stony labyrinth of London streets and alleys, from smoky sunlight struggling down steep horizons of parapet and chimneys, and opens to our view the wide expanse of air and sky and green-clad hills and plains. Let us away then from the
Smoke and stir of this dim spot,
and renew our acquaintance with the silent but expressive worlds beneath us.
Our party, now grown larger, decide once more for an excursion to the regions of Highgate and Hornsey. We feel that this area has the first claim upon local geological inquirers. Some good
collectors of fossils live about here. The locality is quite historical for researches into the London Clay, its fossiliferous character, its correlation with the Hampshire and Paris basins, and so on. Still further to stimulate us, we are reminded that on the heights of Hampstead and Highgate are plentifully scattered the small rounded pebbles of Lickey quartz, transported by aqueous action on a grand scale all the distance from the Lickey Hills in Worcestershire. To those of us who are interested in the history of the Glacial era, and who might have preferred another goal for our excursion, this allusion is conclusive, and we start accordingly for the Northern Heights of London.
Arrived at Finsbury Park (via Great Northern Railway), the recent artificial changes in the surface of the ground at once strike us. The gravelly basin, at the bottom of which the clay held up the rainfall, and thus afforded Cockney fishing to the frequenters of the Wood House, is no longer to be recognized. It has been adapted for the ornamental waters which are henceforth to greet
the visitor to the park. The Artesian well, too, which was sunk through gravel and clay for more than 200 feet, is no longer to be seen, for it has been filled up; and Hornsey Wood, with its oakthickets, willows, and thorns, has disappeared. But for all this there is compensation to the eye that loves to rove on Nature. A delightful and almost panoramic landscape has been opened to the general view. As we stand on the north-eastern slope overlooking the Green Lanes, the narrow and sinuous band of the New River shines like silver between green meadows. We are struck with the varied contours of the ground, the singular and beautifully-broken sky-line, and the many rural features of the scene. The view is by far the most country-like of any that is to be had from our London parks. Along the Great Northern Railway, towards Hornsey, the line seems to enter what may be called in Middlesex a wide ravine. It is a deep section through the clay. The brow of the great green mound called Mount Pleasant has been sharply cut down, and forms a bold escarpment.* The rise on the opposite side of the railway is high enough to perfect the chasm, and to give to the scene those vertical lines which Nature unassisted refuses to bestow upon soft and inland soils, but which abound in districts of stony and rocky formation. This exceptional feature in the landscape, seen from the north-east slope of the park, is one of many objects which please the eye as it wanders from the nearer beauties of the foreground to the wooded heights of Hertfordshire and Essex.
Fossil-seeking is naturally the prevailing desire in our party. Enough of living Nature, as she lies before us, decked with grass and trees, her placid and fruitful landscapes the home of a human What memorials of earlier ages, what vestiges of other
*This effect is none the less pleasing for being partly optical. As matter of fact, the angle at which the railway embankments are sloped in cuttings like this at Hornsey are really so low as to tell a tale of the London Clay which the Civil Engineer is sometimes too familiar with How different, on the other hand, are the wall-like embankments which imprison us in the deep cuttings of
the Chalk! But the clay is not to be trusted in section, except at an incline which greatly widens the breadth of the enclosure, and so adds to the cost of railway formation. The perpendicular chalk cutting at Chelsfield, near Knockholt, will occur to many a Londoner as a contrast to the cuttings through the London Clay.