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ago, a goodly portion of the wood broke down from its customary position, and moved near to the river's brink, where it now stands, far, far below me, though it has lost, in a great measure, the more visible appearance of its violent disruption. The road through the wood is almost too steep to be passable. Here have I seen the distressed horses of the loaded wain, straining their sinewy frames, and smiting hard the rocky path with their iron-shod hoofs: their broad-breasted driver, after doubly scotching his wheels, has stood panting for breath.
Here have I seen the good vicar of a neighbouring parish, then a curate, toiling up the steep, on the afternoon of the sabbath day, almost dragging after him, by the bridle, his little black pony; stopping every dozen yards to pat him on the neck, calling him pretty fellow; and standing a minute or two to let him take breath, and to take breath himself also. here, too, I have often loitered in the "gloaming," when the huge trees and heaped-up rocks have cast their dark shadows on the ground. At the moment I am making these remarks, the place is full of interest. What a height from the river! how thick and inaccessible the underwood! What deep holes and dark fissures and crevices in the crags! And what a goodly
canopy of overhanging trees! The huge rocks on the left are piled up as though giants had been building them; and the rude, rifted watercourse, looks as if a thunderbolt had mistaken its course, and had torn itself a path down to the river. There! a hare has crossed the road, with her long hind legs and white-tufted tail, hiding herself in the gloom of the tangled brushwood. I can hear the rooks above me cawing, as they wing their way to their distant rookery. Yesterday I explored, with a respected clerical friend, the remains of the Roman encampment, still visible on an adjoining height.
Time changes much the surface of the world!
If you know the river Wye, you know that it runs in deep romantic hollows; that its high banks are clothed with woods and coppices; that its course is serpentine, and that its current, after the rains, is very rapid; at some places confined within narrow limits, and at others spreading wide into a mighty stream. Near the river I
was once overtaken by a storm.
Not soon shall
I forget that night; for if ever the winds issued forth in their wrath, and the ebon canopy of the
skies poured down a deluge on my head, it was then.
I had quitted a farm-house to walk five or six miles, on my return to the hospitable abode of a friend whose guest I was. Evening was at hand, and the skies suddenly put on a threatening appearance. A sultry stillness, a gathering of dark clouds, and a foreboding suspense prevailed. A sense of awe and danger gave solemnity to my mind.
I hurried on by the pot-house called "The Hole in the Wall," and passed the ferry where the horse-boat was moored to the shore; and had almost reached the wood, when the storm came upon me. The heavens were darkened with the burdened clouds, except in one point, towards Aconbury hill. At the extreme horizon in that direction was a space of lurid red, which gave a deeper gloom to the frowning sky.
At first, a few big, heavy, solitary drops came down, but they told me plainly what was to follow. The wind began to be heard among the trees; and all at once, as I looked up to the coalblack sky, crash came the thunder clap, as if it would crack the solid earth beneath my feet.
Every one knows the astonishing influence of a sudden clap of thunder, under any circumstances; but in a dark night, when we are in
a lonely spot, and at a distance from a comfortable shelter, it comes with additional solemnity. We sensibly feel that God is in the storm, that he is abroad in the awfulness of his power, and that we are altogether dependent on his merciful care. "The Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him," Nah. i. 3, 6.
Though the place was lonely, yet as a road ran between the river and the wood, even at night the footfall of a passer-by was not uncommon. Indeed, on most nights of the year, I should have seen or heard some of the labourers of the surrounding farms coming from their toil, or an errand woman returning from a neighbouring market, or a farmer on horseback jogging from a friend's house towards his own homestead; but no! Not a human being came near me, as the storm was advancing.
Darker and darker grew the threatening heavens. The wind, the thunder, and the rain, seemed to have reserved their strength to grapple together, for in a little space the hurricane rode in its strength.
High over head and around me were the warring winds, and far down below in the valley was the wild sweep of the rushing waters. I could discern the objects that were near: the oak seemed to writhe in agony, and the tall and bulky elm was as a sapling in the hand of the
If a storm be thus terrible on the land, how much more so on the tempest-tost ocean, when mariners are driven to their wits' end, and the billows are strewn with wrecks!
These are seasons in which the accusing conscience wrings from the trembling penitent promises of amendment; and the heart of the infidel, quailing within him, confesses by its fears, that "there is a God that judgeth in the earth.” These are seasons, too, in which, in the midst of mysterious awe, and thrilling consciousness of danger, the humble Christian, reposing in God's unspeakable goodness, feels an inward sense of security.
As I looked up to the darkened canopy above me, the thunder claps came fearfully near, and the fiery flashes seemed to play close around me. For a moment the storm subsided, but it was only to concentrate its strength, and all at once it flung on the raging winds the wild burst of its accumulated thunder.