Page images
[ocr errors]

arches, overhung with clustering ivy, wore the appearance of a delightful grove; and at the end of the perspective, the elegant tracery of the opposite window, besprinkled with verdure, was well defined; and in its distant tint had an admirable effect. These views of the mouldering abbey, combined with the wild scenery of the Wye, and the kindred gloom of a lowering atmosphere, were truly impressive and grand; yet they scarcely excited such sensations of awful sublimity' as we felt on our first visit to the interior of the ruin.

In our different walks between the inn and the abbey, we were regularly beset with importunities' for alms: the labouring man abandoned his employment and the housewife her family at the sight of a stranger, to obtain a few pence by debasing clamour. This system of begging we found to arise from the late distresses, particularly that of the preceding year, which, bearing on the great class of the people with an almost annihilating pressure, entitled them to the sympathy and assistance of those whom fortune had blessed with prosperity: they had 'strained their aching sinews to meet the exigence,


yet their utmost exertions proved inadequate to the means of support. Thus situated, alms or outrage formed their alternate resources; but, happily, in the benevolence of the affluent they found an asylum. This pressure was fast withdrawing, but its effects remained; they had tasted the sweets of indolence, of support without exertion; they no longer felt the dignity of independance (for the odium of begging was withdrawn by invincible necessity); and they continued the unworthy trade without remorse. Excepting a few significant curtsies in the manufactories of Neath, this was the first instance of the sort that we met with during our tour.

In other places, industry was urged to its highest exertion; here, by an increased weight of necessity, it sunk beneath the pressure.

The iron-works of Tintern I believe to be almost the only concern in the neighbourhood of Wales where the old method of fusing the ore by charcoal furnaces continues to be practised. The manufacture is pursued to the forming of fine wire and plates.

The mineral wealth of this district was not unknown to the ancients; for large quantities


of scoria imperfectly separated from the metal, which are evidently the refuse of Roman bloomeries, and many furnaces whose origin no tradition reaches, appear in several parts of the country. These Roman cinders have been in many places reworked, according to modern improvements in metallurgy, and made to yield a considerable portion of metal. The decline of the ancient works is justly attributed to their exhausting the forests which formerly overspread Wales, for charcoal, until they were at length entirely stopped for want of fuel. But within this half century, coke made from pit-coal, which possesses the essential principles of charcoal, has been applied with success to the fusing of ore : in consequence, very numerous iron-inines have been opened ; and, aided by an inexhaustible supply of coals, their produce has exceeded even the sanguine hopes of the projectors. It must, however, be remarked, that irop made with pit-coal is of inferior tenacity and ductility to that manufactured by means of charcoal. Whether this arises from a radical defect in the material used, from a too prodigal use of calcareous earth. to facilitate the flux of


the metal, or any other cause, remains yet to be determined.

I cannot take leave of Tintern without mentioning a circumstance for the benefit of those tourists who may have an obstinate beard, or a too pliant skin. Having dispatched an attendant for a barber on my arriving at the inn, a blacksmith was forthwith introduced, who proved to be the only shaver in the village. The appearance of this man, exhibiting, with all the sootiness of his employment, his brawny black arms bare to the shoulders, did not flatter me with hopes of a very mild operation ; nor were they increased upon his producing a razor that for massiveness might have servod a Polypheme. I sat down, however, and was plentifully besineared with suds; after which he endeavoured to supply the deficiency of an edge, by exerting his ponderous strength in three or four such scrapes as, without exciting my finer feelings, drew more tears into my eyes, than might have sufficed for a modern comedy. I waited for no more; but, releasing myself from his gripe, determined to pars for a Jew Rabbi, rather than undergo the penance of any more shaving at Tintern.



We crossed the Wye from Tintern, that we might follow the beauties of the river in our way to Monmouth ; then ascending a precipitous wild-wooded hill, we took a farewel view of our much-loved abbey, and soon looked down on the old village of TINTERN, delightfully placed on the opposite bank of the Wye, and dignified with the ruin of the Abbot's mansion *. Upon completing our descent in traversing the hill, we entered the irregular village of Brook's WEIR, off which a number of sloops of fram 80 to 100 tons were at anchor: these vessels were waiting for their cargoes from Hereford and Monmouth, which are brought hither in flat-bottomed barges, as the tide flows no higher than this place. We had now a delightful ride for several miles over meadows and pastures that skirted the Wye; wl'ose majestic stream, almost filling the narrow valley, reflected the inclosing hills from its surface in a style of inimitable beauty; while the richi ascending woods on either side threw a softened light on the translucent river and

* The neighbourhood that has risen round the abbey is called Abbey Tintern, to distinguish it from this village, which is about a mile distant.

« PreviousContinue »