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among the legends of the old Teutonic houses. But still the main immediate Mythology.
access to it is through the steep village Naturally, though my rambles have of Hampstead, the houses of which at led me over all London and its vicinity, its topmost slope are sufficiently quaint I have my favourite neighbourhoods. and old; and the detached family-manThe northern suburbs of London-in sions beyond the village, which stand part, I suppose, because circumstances on parts of the Heath itself or nestle made them first familiar to me, and I round it, are mostly of the last or of the can still reach them most easily—have preceding century, and wear, in their always had the strongest attractions for substantial forms and in their oldme. In two out of every three of my fashioned palings, gateways, and shrubFalks I find myself taking that direc- beries, a look in keeping with the nation. Above all I have a liking for tural antiquity around them. When to Hampstead Heath. There is no spot all this is added a series of historical on the skirts of London to which I go associations, investing Hampstead and so often. Tastes for scenery differ, and its vicinity with unusual interest to men zruch depends on habit and association; who read-associations beginning in the
but I really do not think that there is old times of feud and battle, and growanywhere round London a bit of open ing thicker, and more intellectual in country comparable for rough and yet their nature, down to those days, but lovely picturesqueness to the old heath recently gone, when Coleridge and Hunt beyond Hampstead village.
and Keats, and others of a famous litething, the ground is about the highest rary fraternity, had their homes in or near London ; and, though that is not near Hampstead, and used to roam daily saying much, I like the highest ground about the Heath and make this or that that happens anywhere to be accessible. spot of it immortal with their meetings From one point or another on Hamp- or meditations- little wonder that there stead Heath one has a wide view, both should be among so many Londoners a Londonwards to the steeples and smoke, wish for the conservation as it is of this and over the rolling flats and meadows healthy holiday resort for such as know that extend north from the metropolis, its charms. Though not a Londoner promising the richness of middle Eng- born, I have reason to join in this wish. land. And then the Heath itself! It For, as I have said, of all spots round is the most untouched bit of old English London, Hampstead Heath is that with tarth that I know of near London. Every- which my feet are most fondly familiar, thing about it still answers to its name. and which I have taken to my heart by The sandy knolls and hollows of which most frequent intercourse of musing and the whole of it consists, covered with thought.
grass and clumped with furze, sug- I know the Heath by all its apgest that, centuries ago, it was very proaches. Often enough I have made much the same, and that, whatever my way to it by the direct approach up
have been worked by the the steep main street of Hampstead vilFlough and by the art of man all round lage. Sometimes, after rambling about to its very borders, here at least we the neighbouring heights of Highgate, I have a genuine piece of aboriginal heath have come upon it circuitously thence. and hillock as it may have been known But
is by one or other to Boadicea and the Druids. Encroach- of the winding lanes, or of the paths ments are, indeed, being made on the over the fields, striking off to the right Heath from the London side. Even in from the Finchley Road, and leading, the few years since I remember it, the most of them, close past old Hampstead roads across parts of it are new; and
Church, and so by continued ascent to the remorseless brick-and-mortar has the edge of the Heath. Reaching the been creeping towards it, in the shape Heath by any of these approaches, it has of new villas and advancing lines of been my invariable custom, on fine ::
summer-days, after wandering over it It was, however, as might be expected, hither and thither, avoiding as much as a favourite spot of the Heath with Hunt possible the groups and little crowds and Keats; and stray groups and couples that then frequent parts of it, to make are to be seen there even now in the for one spot for which I have a special fine afternoons-seated on the wooden affection. I do not know whether it has seat under the pines where Hunt and any name to distinguish it from the rest Keats, or sometimes Coleridge, may have of the Heath ; but I call it“ The Pines.” sat, or else on the lip of the bank itself
, 1 It is a spot at the farther or northern end where, amid the exposed roots of the of the Heath, just to the left of the road, pines, it slopes down into the hollowwhere it leaves the Heath and passes to and looking thence, as those dead may the country beyond. The striking fea- have done, over the hollow, and away to ture of the spot consists in a few tall the miles of vanishing meadows. Never old pine-trees, which there rise on a kind once, however, have I found the place of bank higher than the general level of so much preoccupied that I could not the heath on that side. The pines are be there in quiet. Oh, how I know the in two rows, and seem to be the last Pines, and the Hollow which they surstragglers, spared by many a tempest, of vey! The Pines and the Hollow-these what may at one time have been a two phrases have come to mean for me stately avenue. Even since I remember, a thousand things more than they one or two have been blown down and themselves express—representations and have left gaps in their places; and those epitomes of often-repeated tissues of that remain have a doomed and blasted thought, the mystic beginnings and ends look—their trunks bent all one way, of which I could not unravel though I showing from what direction has come would, and of which I know not myself the prevailing wind against which, since the full significance. In the summer days first they grew, they have vibrated and I have sat under the Pines, when the struggled ; their ragged tops driven, like whole hollow was abloom with the yellow witch-hair, the same way; and the gorse, and the air was thrilling with the knuckles of the old roots by which they songs of larks, and all was gladness and yet grasp the soil exposed here and there life and sunshine. Even then there was by the crumbling of the bank. From a touch of something haggard and superafar off on the Heath these pines are natural in the spot. The Pines rose conspicuous objects; and whoever had strangely, their stems bent all one way, an eye for the weirdly and venerable in like no ordinary trees; and overhead, if any scene he was exploring would in- one looked up, the witch-hair of their stinctively make for them. On the ragged tops was turned to the Hollow. other hand, from these pines there is But, when I sat on till towards evening,
the best and most commanding and the holiday stragglers began views of the Heath itself—not of the
appear and leave me alone, then the whole heath, but of one considerable sensations of the spot would become, and picturesque tract of it lying like a shade by shade, more and more dark great hollow due underneath, and, be- and mysterious, as of a brow gradually yond that again, of a wide expanse of frowning. As the light waned over the country stretching to the western hori. Hollow, and the steams of evening arose
And yet, though so close to over the far meadows, all things became the road that crosses the Heath, and as if indistinctly changing and moving, within hail of one or two of the old
and put on an appearance
different from mansions that abut upon it, The Pines what they had borne by day; while, as do not seem a much-frequented spot by if reciprocating this change and motion, the holiday ramblers. Probably there and striving to meet it, the pine-trunks is too much of weirdlike and mournful overhead and behind me would seem to in the look of this particular spot to stir and sigh, and in their witch-hair accord with the mood of most of them. aloft would be heard rustlings and whis
perings. At such times it was that re- expectation of apparitions to rise and collections of the Heath, not apt to occur face me, would my feeling be fear. in broad day, would creep unbidden into Last Christmas Eve I had returned to my memory-recollections that not only my rooms after a walk through the had heroic deeds of ancient feud and streets during the whole afternoon. I battle been done among these hillocks had shut myself in, lit the lights, and mounds, and not only had sages wheeled my
chair to the fire, and begun and poets walked amid these scenes, to read, not meaning to go out again meditating and exchanging fancies, that night. But somehow my restlessbut crimes noted in our black calendar ness seized me. Things I had seen had here been enacted, and in that during my walk — various signs and hollow there had been the unavailing preparations for the joyous homeshrieks of murdered victims, feeling the gatherings that were everywhere to cold knife in their throats, and that last be on that evening and on the morsurprised pang of their chief friend row-had reminded me of what, disturned a fiend, and in the same hollow connected as I was from the world, I suicides that had walked from London had otherwise forgotten. Bunches of had lain down to die. But, in the dead holly, which, I suppose, I had seen and darkness of night, when all the in shop-windows, recurred to my vision, Heath is solitary, then do these recol- with their knots of red berries mixed lections come forth most dreadfully to with the pale berries of the mistletoe. mingle with the others, and that spot I remembered that it was Christmas of the Pines, where they command the Eve; and back my thoughts were carHollow, becomes a spot of utter ghast ried to other Christmases, when I had liness. Then, too, I have been there, not been what I then was, and for me and known what I know. In late also, under a roof whence the red and autumn-nights, ay and in nights of white berries had hung over groups of dark winter, I have found myself there. fair dancers, while the old and sedate I have been there alone when the noc- sat round, there had been happy visions turnal tempest was howling to a hurri- and phantasies of the future. Memories cane, and the pines over me and behind came in such crowds as at last to be me groaned as in agony, and their witch- unendurable. That first resource of the hair whistled, and over the hollow and troubled spirit, the walk to and fro the black or shimmering flats the tem- within the room from end to end, failed pest roared its many-tongued music, to calm me; I needed the width and while either the heaven above was one larger locomotion of the open air. At bell of dead opaque, or nought was to length, taking my hat and coat from be seen ! but heaps of cloud-rack and their
stick from the corhere and there in a rift a few keen stars. ner, I again went out. By what precise There was a time when I could not have route I went I know not; but I am dared so awful a solitude—when courage conscious of having passed through Fould have failed me to make the at- streets in which there were crowds, and tempt, or reason might have failed me in which, under flaring jets of gas, there if caught amid such horrors and unable were shops and stalls of butchers and to flee. That time is gone. Tempests poulterers, set out with Christmas fare in my own life have made me a match in all its varieties of raw and plucked, for all that Nature can do in her way while the crowds gathered there thickest, tempest; I have been shattered and and the busy salesmen cut and handled racked by such grief that my being is and shouted their cries. An hour at in calm unison with all other being in least must have passed from
leaving the hour of its utmost conceivable tor. my room when I found myself beyond ture and conflict; and not on the most the region of stated lamps, and in the demon-haunted heath, with laughs and quiet north-stretching darkness of the noises heard behind me, and the firmest Finchley Road, with the hedge and the
rising lands towards Hampstead on the long I sat, gazing where no gaze could one side, and the lower hedge and bring any distinct vision out of the sunken range of fields on the other. gloom, and thinking where no thought My destination was then clear to me. could reach a shore or islet of cerWalking on, and turning up the lane tainty in a boundless sea, that at last
, leading to old Hampstead Church, I I must have lapsed into some kind of deviated into the off-lane that passes tranquil trance, or state between sleepclose by the church and churchyard. ing and waking. This, at least, is what This churchyard, however, is divided happened to me: into two parts--one round the church, The dark Hollow seemed suddenly to walled and railed in ; the other a sort
stir and move.
Far off in it I saw a of supplementary burying-ground, on a spark of green light, like that of a glowdetached slope, with the breadth of the worm ; which light, moving straight lane between. Skirting this supple- across the Hollow towards me, but withmentary burying-ground, there is ano- out increasing, disappeared for a mother narrow ascending lane, at right ment when it came under the high angles to the former, leading to some bank where I sat, but only to reappear solitary houses, and so by various ins again on the edge of the bank close in and outs to the vicinity of the Heath. front of me. Then I saw that the Threading this ascending lane in the green light was borne on the forehead dark, first with the white head-stones of the strangest diminutive creature, of the burying-ground gleaming on my whose eyes also were green, and whose right, and then past the silent houses, long arms all but touched the ground. I came out at last on the cool and The creature seemed to try to speak, houseless heights. Along the road my but to be unable. But, us my eyes were steps led me-one valley of the Heath fixed upon it, I became aware of anodeep on one side of me, and its main ther figure, of which it seemed to be part stretching more extensively and the harbinger. It was the form of a looming more vaguely on the other. female, mantled and hooded in white Here and there at a distance I saw so that I could not see her countenance, lights, coming from one or another of and so tall that, though she seemed to the old mansions hidden in the depths stand, not on the edge of the bank, but around. But I met not a soul; and in on the slope, with only part of her a little while, leaving the road, I was form visible above the bank, that part seated alone in my old spot under the exceeded the ordinary height of woman. Pines, looking into and over the Hol- The green-eyed creature had now vanlow.
ished ; and this feminine apparition The night was dark, yet not very
between me and the Hollow was all that dark, and still and calm enough for that I saw. Standing immoveably as I first season of the year. How long I sat I saw her, and without raising arm or know not; nor can I remember very mantle, she seemed to sing or chaunt exactly the current and sequence of my these words; at least I heard the thoughts. I can remember, generally, words sung solemnly and clearly, and that they began with myself and with they seemed to come from her : those memories of my own past which had driven me thither for solace, and that then they were very bitter, but “Earth and tree, tree and earth, that gradually, as my eyes all the while
Stars and air, air and stars,
These are not all : were peering into the darkness of the great ilollow, and sweeping across it to
Not a thing that e'er had birth
But still it lurks, though past the bars the strange expanses beyond, they en
Of seeing, on this ball ! larged their circle and diffused them
Then follow me, follow selves into a contemplation of time
Into the hollow,
Where to and fro and vicissitude, of Life and Death. So
The dead things go!
“Old and brown, brown and old,
the groups flitting from right to left, Rise the pines, while with moans The night-wind raves ;
or from left to right, across the foreA thousand years lie in their mould;
ground, and others receding orflying from Round their roots are miles of bones, the foreground into the sylvan depths. A silent world of graves !
These phantasmagories were a mystery Yet follow me, follow
to me, until, after there had been many Down to the hollow: I know of breath
of them in succession, I perceived that Where all seems Death!” one tale was variously told by them all.
All the groups, I saw, had consisted Methought I did follow. I seemed from the first of youths and maidensmechanically to rise and descend the each, generally, of one youth and one bank after the spectre, which receded maiden ; and, in each, the action had from me down into the Hollow, always been, in different guises, the same—the at the same distance from me, and the maiden coyly, or in alarm, avoiding the muffled face still towards me. I had youth, and the youth pursuing or wooing gone down into the Hollow, and ad- the maiden. The first groups, I then vanced some little way into its darkness, remembered, had been wild and antique still drawn by the power of the Appa- in their guise and seeming, with somerition, when an impediment seemed to thing about them which I recognised arrest me—no solid impediment, but as as old British or Britanno-Roman. To it were a sudden aerial wall of total these had succeeded others still antiquely blackness, in which I was involved. garbed, but not so antiquely; and still, There I stood foot-bound and fixed, as as the series went on, the way and in a black marble element, wherein, fashion of vestment became more famithough my feet could not move, 'I could liar—more like what I had heard of or yet grope forward with my arms and read of in histories and romances. But hands. The spectral figure that had led then I perceived also—what it surprised me so far had now disappeared-swal- me that I had not observed beforelowed
in the ulterior space of the that, all the while that these phantasHollow, into which she had been re- magories had been presenting themceived when the separating blackness selves to me, the luminous disc wherein had arrested and detained me.
they flitted had been slowly growing While I was thinking what all this larger in circumference, varying its might mean, and groping forward with
scenery of ground and wood, and at my arms and hands to see how I might the same time gradually approaching release myself, lo, another wonder! In So amazed was I at this phenothe blackness straight before me, but, as menon that I took less note of the later it might be, at the distance of fifty and enlarging groups, till suddenly, as yards, there came a luminous haze ; by a leap or burst of the now widelywhich haze, gradually brightening, took diffused space of light towards me, I at last a circular shape, like the lumi- was no longer standing in blackness, nous disc cast on canvass by a magic- gazing at a luminous disc separate from lantern. Gazing on this luminous disc, myself, but was as if caught into the vividly and yet not intolerably bright threshold of a large well-lit room, full of in the darkness in which it was framed, company, into which I could look, so as I could perceive that it was not a plane to see all from floor to roof and from surface, but a natural scene, or cut-out wall to wall. Yes, strange as was the circle of landscape, in which there was transformation, it was a room—a large, level foreground and some depth of sylvan luxurious, modern room, full of merriperspective. Nay, figures began to ap- ment and living people. But all the pear in it in groups of two, one group people were youths and maidens ; there after another, all various in their cos- was not among them, so far as I could tume and action, and yet all somehow see, one person
graver years to representing the same thing—some of exercise rule over the mirth. There were