Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

there was nothing really repugnant in the taste. As soon as I had got one that seemed well cooked, I invited Mrs. G. to share the feast; she courageously attacked the morsel, but I am compelled to confess it could not pass the vestibule; the sentinel was too many for her. My little boy, however, voted that "'tinny was good," and that “he liked 'tinny ;" and loudly demanded more, like another Oliver Twist. As for me, I proved the truth of the adage, Ce n'est que le premier pas qui coute; for my sentinel was cowed after the first defeat. I left little in the dish.

In truth, the flavour and taste are agreeable, somewhat like those of the soft parts of crab; I ate them hot, with the usual crab condiments of salt, pepper, mustard, and vinegar, mixed into a sauce. The internal parts, including the ovaries and the tentacles, though from their mottled appearance rather repelling to the eye, were the most agreeable in taste; the integuments somewhat reminded me of the jelly-like skin of a calf's head. I wonder they are not commonly brought to table, for they are easily procured, and are certainly far superior to cockles, periwinkles, and muscles. After a very little use, I am persuaded any one would get very fond of boiled Actinias.

A next experiment was still more successful. The anemones were fried in egg and bread-crumbs, and were declared to be equal to the most epicurean dish of Newfoundland—the tongues of the cod taken out as soon as the fish are brought on shore, and fried immediately. Really, considering the abundance of these anemones on some shores, Mr. Gosse ought to be looked upon in the light of a public benefactor. We shall assuredly try fried anemones our very next visit to the sea-coast, despite of the popular superstition as to their poisonous qualities.

The stern iron-bound coast of North Devonshire presents a peculiarly rich and tempting hunting-ground to the naturalist. The excessive productiveness of the coast, to those who know how and where to look, may indeed be judged of by the description of the diverse kinds of organic life detected on a single small fragment of rock.

It is (writes Mr. Gosse) a bit scarcely bigger than a penny-piece, which I detached the other day from a little rock-pool near low-water mark on the seaward side of Capstone Hill. One single polype on it attracted my notice by its beauty; and when I applied my chisel to the fragment, I did not suspect that it was particularly rich in animal life; nor is it richer than usual in the amount of animal life that it supports, but the variety certainly struck me as remarkable on so small a surface, when I came to examine it.

First of all, the surface is largely encrusted with the cells of a Lepralia, the species of which I shall probably better know when the development of some of its granules that I am watching is further advanced. Over these cells a yellow Sponge has spread itself, very thin, and profusely spiculous ; and patches of a scarlet Sponge of another kind occur. Another portion of the surface is occupied by the rose-coloured crust of the common Coralline, overspreading like a beautiful smooth lichen, but without a single shoot or manyjointed stem as yet thrown up, to indicate its true character.

These then may be called the groundwork, for we have not yet got higher than the surface. From this spring up two or three tiny sea-weeds. That very elegant plant, Bryopsis plumosa, is represented by several of its fronds, of a most lovely green hue, pectinated on each side like a comb, with perfect regularity. Then there is a little specimen of Ptilota sericea, also a pectinated species, something like the Bryopsis in delicacy, but of a brownish-red colour, and much less beautiful. Besides these, there are growing parasitically on one of the polypes presently to be mentioned, several very minute ovate fronds, not more than one-eighth of an inch in length, of a rose-red hue, which are probably very young specimens of some of the Rhodymenia

Now let us look at the Zoophytes. Most conspicuous are several of the corkscrew funnels that first caught my eye while undisturbed in the quiet pool, and induced me to secure the fragment of supporting rock—the spiral polypidoms of Cellularia avicularia, one of the most curious of our native zoophytes. The specimens are particularly fine; the cells tenanted with healthy polypes in great numbers, protruding their crystal stars of tentacles, and covered with scores of birds' heads nodding to and fro their bald heads like so many old men sleeping at church, and opening and shutting their frightfully gaping jaws like snapping turtles.

Up the stem of one of these Bird's head Corallines a colony of Pedicellina Belgica has entwined its creeping clinging roots, and is displaying its clubbed polypes with unfolded tentacles in every direction. This is a very common species in our rock-pools, parasitic on many sea-weeds and calcareous polypes.

The most abundant thing of all is Crisia aculeata, a delicate and pretty species, easily recognised by its long slender spine springing from the margin of every cell. The multitude of these spines gives a peculiar lightness to the little shrubs in which this species delights to grow.

Several other species are parasitic on the Crisia. I detect the curious tiny snake-heads of Anguinaria spatulata, entwined about its stems. A stalk of Bowerbankia imbricata also is here, studded with little aggregations of cells in dense clusters, set on the slender thread-like stem at wide intervals. And a few of the pitcher-like cells of that singular zoophyte, Beania mirabilis, set with hooked prickles, I find ; in one of which I can see the polype snugly packed, though I cannot get him to display his beauties outside his door.

Besides all these, there are at least two kinds of Hydroid polypes, both species of the family Corynidæ. The one is a minute sessile Coryne, I believe undescribed; the other is either Clava multicornis or a Hydraclinia, for though two specimens occur of it (as well as of the former) I cannot, from their youth, determine to which genus it is to be referred.

When I first looked over the fragment with a lens, I was sure that I saw Eucratea chelata, with active polypes; but as I cannot by close searching again find it, it is possible I was mistaken.

But even at this moment I discover something new ; for two little Balani have just opened their valve-like shells from amidst the yellow sponge, and are now throwing out their curled fans of most exquisitely fringed fingers, with precise regularity.

The minute Crustacea that hide and play among the tangled stems of the zoophytes I will not mention, because their presence there may be considered as only accidental. But I cannot reckon as transient visitors a brood of infant Brittle-stars which I find creeping about the bases of the Cellularia, because I perceive that they have quite made the spot their home, and though they have been now several days in a vessel of water, free to leave their tiny fragment and visit others, or to roam over the expansive bottom of the glass, if they will, they have no such desire ; but cling to the circumscribed limits of their native rock, with as unconquerable a partiality as if they were Swiss, and these fragments of stone were their own dear Alps. They crawl and twine over the surface and round the edges ; but it is with the utmost reluctance, and only by the use of force and stratagem combined, that I can get one off from the hold to which he tenaciously clings. I am watching the development, and I may say metamorphosis, of the little brood with interest, and cannot yet say what they are ; but I think they will turn out to be either Ophiocoma rosula, or 0. minuta, probably the latter.

Now is not this a very pretty list of the tenantry of a bit of slate-rock two inches square ? And does it not read us an instructive homily-one of those “sermons in stones” that the poet speaks of-on the beneficent care of Him who“ openeth his hand and satisfieth the desire of every living thing?"

Mr. Gosse added, by his researches on this coast, two new species of Æquorea to the British Fauna, and a magnificent species of Chrysaora. He ascertained, in addition to the quantity of information accumulated

upon the structure and habits of these little creatures, that a great portion of the luminousness of the sea in the same district is to be attributed to the presence of the Noctiluca Miliario.

Nor were the scenic beauties of the coast lost upon our ardent lover of marine zoology. He describes in living and admiring terms all that concerns Ilfracombe and the little villages in its neighbourhood. He sketches, with an eye alive to the picturesque, Hele and its lion rock, the prospect from Hillsborough and the Torr Cliffs.

He justly remarks of the sea-side taken altogether:

The sea-side is never dull : other places soon tire us ; we cannot always be admiring scenery, though ever so beautiful, and nobody stands gazing into a field, or on a hedgerow bank, though studded with the most lovely flowers, by the half-hour together. But we can and do stand watching the sea, and feel reluctant to leave it: the changes of the tide and the ever rolling, breaking, and retiring waves, are so much like the phenomena of life, that we look on with an interest and expectation akin to that with which we watch the proceedings of living beings.

He descends to particularities of a still more interesting character when describing favourite localities, as the Smallmouth Caves, Morte Stone, Capstone Hill and Spout-holes, Rapparee Cove, Wildersmouth, the Vale of Lee, Langley Open, Braunton Carn Top, Samson's Bay and Cave, Smallmouth Tunnel, Brier Cave, The Hangman,* and a host of other interesting spots. Few of these on such a rock-girt coast but have their legends of wreck and disasters, some with claims to interest of quite a domestic character. Here is an example:

Some years ago a party of nine ladies went down to the rocks at Wildersmouth, at the part below the Capstone, which is rather secluded by means of the more than usually large masses of rock that rise there. One of the ladies was the aunt of another, the latter a little girl, whose parents were in India. The child was to be bathed, but the sea was high, and she did not like it. When she had been dipped twice, she begged that it might snffice, but all protested that she must have her full allowance of three dips. The aunt accordingly plunged her a third time, but at that instant a heavy wave coming in took the child out of the grasp of her relative, and bore her back beyond reach. The tide was setting down, and the party had the agony of seeing their little companion carried rapidly away across the mouth of the cove towards the Tunnel rocks.

A young man, a relative, I believe, of one of the ladies, instantly stripped and swam after the child, who still floated. He succeeded in catching her, but so fast had the tide swept her down, that he had to land on the Tunnel side of the cove, and then to climb the precipitous cliffs with his helpless burden in one arm. She was found, however, to be quite dead, and no appliances could restore her.

The aunt was like a maniac; crying and tearing her hair in distraction. They put her into one of the bathing-machines until the first paroxysm of grief had exhausted itself; but she never recovered the shock. She used long afterwards to come down to the fatal spot, and gaze out upon the sea in hopeless and speechless melancholy-a melancholy that never left her.

To complete the sad story, the parents of the child, who had not heard of the event, were returning from India shortly after, when the ship was wrecked, and they too were both drowned.

* It is not a little curious, as illustrative of the propagation of legendary lore, that there should be a “Hangman's Stone” at Rottingdean, near Brighton, with precisely the same legend attached to it as to the stone on the coast of North Devon.

There is another story of a similar character associated with a steep flight of steps at the north-east corner of Capstone Promenade:

Four or five years ago the large house from which these steps descend was temporarily occupied by two ladies of rank, one of whom, among other accomplishments not very common to her sex, was distinguished as an expert and fearless swimmer. She was accustomed to plunge from these private steps when the water was high, and swim out to sea, over yonder belt of horrid rocks, in all weathers. On the occasion I speak of, a morning in autumn, she had boldly, nay rashly, sought her favourite amusement, though a gale of wind was blowing, and the foaming sea was breaking in furious violence almost to the very top of the wall.

The fishermen and idlers on the quay were just going to their breakfasts, when the sister of the swimmer rushed out of the house with a scream of distress. “A lady is drowning behind! who will save her?" was hier eager demand, as she passed one young man after another. None replied, for the weather was tremendous; till a poor shoemaker offered himself. “I'll save her, if I can,” said he; and he followed her swiftly through the house and yard to the head of the steps.

There indeed was the lady still bravely breasting the rolling waves; she had taken her outward range, and was returning, but the rebound of the sea from the cliffs was so powerful that she could not come in to the steps ; her strength too was failing fast, and it failed all the faster because she was thoroughly frightened.

The young cordwainer, throwing off his coat and shoes, and taking a rope in his hand, leaped at once into the waves, and being himself a skilful swimmer, he quickly reached the drowning lady. He managed to pass the noose of the cord round her, by means of which she was presently drawn up by other men who had congregated on the steps. “Take care of the poor man!" was her first exclamation, even before her own feet had touched the firm ground. But “the poor man” was past their care ; he had saved her life chivalrously, but it was with the sacrifice of his own.

As soon as he had secured the lady's hold of the rope, he sought the shore for himself, but scarcely had he swam half a dozen strokes, when the spectators on shore beheld his arms suddenly cease their vigorous play and hang down ; his legs, too, sank into the same pendent posture, and his head dropped upon his breast with the face submerged. Thus he continued to float for a short time, but moved no more. He had been subject to occasional swooning fits, from a severe blow which he had received on the head some time before, and his brother, from whose mouth I received these details, conjectured that one of his attacks had suddenly come upon him, his predisposition being perhaps aggravated by his having gone out without having broken his fast.

The tide soon carried the body away out of sight ; efforts were made as soon as practicable to recover it by dragging ; and it was once hooked and brought to the surface, but before it could be hauled into the boat it sank again, and it was not till more than a fortnight after that it was found at Comb-Martin, some five miles to the eastward.

Nothing could exceed the distress of the lady at the death of her courageous deliverer, for awhile she appeared inconsolable, and the effect of the whole transaction is said to have been a permanent melancholy. Her gratitude was shown in providing for the widow and children of her benefactor, who continue to this day her pensioners.

And with this we must conclude our notice of Mr. Gosse's charming work, which is well calculated to render the pursuit of natural history more popular than ever, to show to sea-side visitors that they have other resources at hand besides the monotonous promenade, and to open their hearts by the contemplation of the excellence impressed on everything which God has created.

AMERICAN AUTHORSHIP.

BY SIR NATHANIEL.

No. VIII.-- WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT. Poetry has been pronounced by Wordsworth, the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings-taking its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity ;—“the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of re-action, the tranquillity gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind." In such a mood, according to the great poet, successful composition generally begins, and in a mood similar to this it is carried on.* This species of re-action, this revival of powerful emotion, this living over again the passionate experience, between which in its historical reality and the present time a tranquillising medium has been interposed, -this revivification of olden sensibilities, in all their quick energy and moving influences, we seem to miss in the poetry of Mr. Bryant. The tranquillity somewhat overlays the emotion. The philosophic mind, brought by rolling years, somewhat over-rides, checks, confines the soul of poesy, and sometimes

- lies upon it with a weight

Heavy as frost. Thirty years ago, Mr. Bryant was cavalierly characterised by a Blackwood critic as, “in fact, a sensible young man, of a thrifty disposition, who knows how to manage a few plain ideas in a very handsome way”but wanting fire, wanting the very rashness of a poet—the prodigality and fervour of those who are overflowing with inspiration. The smartest of American satirists thus delineates him:

There is Bryant, as quiet, as cool, and as dignified,
As a smooth, silent iceberg, that rever is ignified,
Save when by reflection 'tis kindled o nights,
With a semblance of flame by the chill Northern Lights.
He may rank (Griswold says so) first bard of your nation,
(There's no doubt that he stands in supreme ice-olation)
Your topmost Parnassus he may set his heel on,
But no warm applauses come, peal following peal on-
He's too smooth and too polished to hang any zeal on :
Unqualified merits, I'll grant, if you choose, he has 'em,t
But he lacks the one merit of kindling enthusiasm ;
If he stir you at all, it is just, on my soul,

Like being stirred up with the very North Pole. I Tuckerman, who is so decided an admirer of this bard, admits a remarkable absence of those spontaneous bursts of tenderness and passion, which

* See Preface to the Second Edition of the Lyrical Ballads.

† We can fancy the “too smooth and too polished" poet looking grim horror. or blank perplexity, at the scansion of this rough-slod line of his critic's.

I A Fable for Critics.

« AnteriorContinuar »