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With bonnet blue, and capuchine,
And aprons long, they hid their armour,
In pity to the country farmer.
By this time all the parish know it-
A wicked imp they call a poet;
Bewitched the children of the peasants,
And sucked the eggs, and killed the pheasants.
Swore, by her coronet and ermine,
To rid the manor of such vermin.
Through lanes unknown, o'er stiles they ventured,
But bounce into the parlour entered.
They Oirt, they sing, they laugh, they tattle,
And upstairs in a whirlwind rattle," etc.
The ancient pile here mentioned was the Manor-house, Stoke Park, which was then in the possession of Viscountess Cobham. This place and the manor had been in scme remarkable hands. The manor was so called from the Pogies, the ancient lords of that name. The heiress of this family, in the reign of Edward the Third, married Lord Molines, who shortly afterwards procured a licence from the king to convert the Manor-house into a castle. From him it descended to the Lords Hungerford, and from them to the Hastings, Earls of Huntingdon, and was afterwards the residence of Lord Chancellor Hatton. Sir Christopher Hatton had won his promotion with Queen Elizabeth through his graceful person and fine dancing, and is very picturesquely described by Gray, with “his shoe-strings green, high-crowned hat, and satin doublet,” leading off the brawls
, a sort of figure-dance then in vogue, before the queen. Sir Edward Coke, having married an heiress of the Huntingdon family, became the next possessor ; and here, in the year 1601, he was honoured with a visit from Élizabeth, whom he entertained in a very sumptuous style. After the death of the Viscountess Cobham, the estate was purchased by Mr. William Penn, chief proprietor of Pennsylvania, a descendant of the celebrated William Penn, the founder of that State.
This old manor-house has since been swept away, as Gray's residence is also, and a large modern mansion now occupies its place. This was built from a design by Wyatt, in 1789, and has since been altered and enlarged. It is built chiefly of brick, and covered with stucco, and consists of a large square centre, with two wings. The north, or entrance front, is ornamented with a colonnade, consisting of ten Doric columns, and approached by a flight of steps leading to the Marble Hall. The south front, 196 feet long, is also adorned with a colonnade, consisting of twelve fluted columns of the old Doric order. This is surrounded by a projecting portico of four
Ionic columns, sustaining an ornamental pediment; and again on the top of the house by a dome.
Stoke Park, thus interesting both on account of these older associations, and of Penn and Gray, is about a couple of miles from Slough. The country is flat, but its monotony is broken up by the noble character and disposition of its woods. Near the house is a fine expanse of water, across which the eye falls on fine views, particularly to the south, of Windsor Castle, Cooper's Hill, and the Forest Woods. About three hundred yards from the north front of the house stands a column, sixty-eight feet high, bearing on the top a colossal statue of Sir Edward Coke, by Rosa. The woods of the park shut out the view of West End House, Gray's occasional residence, but the space is open from the mansion across the park, so as to take in the view both of the church and of a monument erected by the late Mr. Penn to Gray. Alighting from the carriage at a lodge, I entered the park just at the monument. This is composed of fine freestone, and consists of a large sarcophagus, supported on a square pedestal, with inscriptions on each side. Three of them are selected from the Ode to Eton College and the Elegy. They
"Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Muttering his wayward fancies he would rove;
The second is from the Ode :
" Ye distant spires! ye antique towers !
That crown the watery glade,
A momentry bliss bestow."
“ Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
The fourth bears this inscription :
“This Monument, in honour of
Among the scenery
He died in 1771,
of his Aunt and lamented Mother.”
This monument is enclosed in a neatly kept garden-like enclosure, with a winding walk approaching from the shade of the neighbouring trees. To the right, across the park at some little distance, backed by fine trees, stands the rural little church and churchyard, where Gray wrote his Elegy, and where he lies. As you walk on to this, the mansion closes the distant view between the woods with fine effect. The church has often been engraved, and is therefore tolerably familiar to the general reader. It consists of two barn-like structures, with tall roofs, set side by side, and the tower and finely tapered spire rising above them at the north-west corner. The church is thickly hung with ivy, where
“ The moping owl may to the moon complain
of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
Molest her ancient, solitary reign." The structure is as simple and old-fashioned, both without and within, as any village church can well be. No village, however, is to be seen. Stoke consists chiefly of scattered houses, and this is now in the midst of the park. In the churchyard,
“Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.” All this is quite literal; and the tomb of the poet himself, near the south-east window, completes the impression of the scene. It is a plain brick altar tomb, covered with a blue slate slab, and, besides his own ashes, contains those of his mother and aunt. On the slab are inscribed the following lines by Gray himself :-"In the vault beneath are deposited, in hope of å joyful resurrection, the remains of Mary Antrobus. She died unmarried, Nov: 5, 1749, aged sixty-six. In the same pious confidence, beside her friend and sister, here sleep the remains of Dorothy Gray, widow; the tender, careful mother of many children, one of whom alone had the misfortune to survive her. She died March 11, 1753, aged sixty-seven.”
No testimony of the interment of Gray in the same tomb was inscribed anywhere till Mr. Penn, in 1799, erected the monument already mentioned, and placed a small slab in the wall, under the window, opposite to the tomb itself, recording the fact of Gray's burial there. The whole scene is well worthy of a summer day's stroll, especially for such as, pent in the metropolis, know how to enjoy the quiet freshness of the country, and the associations of poetry and the past. The Great Western Railway now will set such down in about one hour at Slough, a pleasant walk from Stoke.
The late Mr. Penn, a gentleman of refined taste, and a great reverencer of the memory of Gray, possessed his autographs, which have been sold at great prices. It is to be regretted that his house, too, is now gone ; but the church and the tomb will remain to future ages.
Of all our poets, there is none who more completely verified the words of Crabbe than Oliver Goldsmith :
“ And never mortal left this world of sin
More like the infant that he entered in." He was a genuine Irishman, all heart and impulse. Imposed upon, ill-treated, often made the butt of witlings, and compelled to labour and live on with that cancer of the heart, constant anxiety to procure the ordinary means of existence-none of these things could convert the milk of human kindness within him into gall, could teach him one lesson of malevolence, or dim the godlike sense of truth and humanity in his soul. Through a long experience of men and things, living by shifts, and writing for mere bread, he still remained the same simple, warm-hearted, generous, and unsophisticated creature that he was at the beginning. Improvident he was, out of the overflowing goodness of his nature ; ready, at the first cry of distress, to give away that which he had bitterly toiled for, and which had been grudgingly paid; but he never made others the victims of his im