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Ey'n the wild heath displays her purple dyes, 25 And 'midst the desert fruitful fields arise,
That crown'd with tufted trees and springing corn, Like verdant isles the sable waste adorn.
Let India boast her plants, nor envy we
Ver. 33. Not proud Olympus, &c.] Sir J. Denham, in his Cooper's Hill, had said,
"Than which a nobler weight no mountain bears,
But Atlas only, which supports the spheres."
The comparison is childish, as the taking it from fabulous history destroys the compliment. Our Poet has shewn more judgment; he has made as manly use of as fabulous a circumstance by the artful application of the mythology.
"Where, in their blessings, all those Gods appear," &c. Making the nobility of the hills of Windsor-Forest to consist in. supporting the inhabitants in plenty. Warburton.
This appears an idle play on the word "supporting." Warton. Ver. 37. The word crown'd is exceptionable; it makes Pan crowned with flocks.
Ver. 25. Originally thus:
Why should I sing our better suns or air,
Whose vital draughts prevent the leach's care,
While through fresh fields th' enliv'ning odours breathe,
Here Ceres' gifts in waving prospect stand,
And kings more furious and severe than they;
Ver. 45. savage laws] The Forest Laws. See the account of them in Blackstone's excellent Lectures; the killing a deer, boar, or hare, was punished with the loss of the delinquent's eyes.
Ver. 49. Originally thus in the MS.
From towns laid waste, to dens and caves they ran
(For who first stoop'd to be a slave was man).
Ver. 57, &c.
No wonder savages or subjects slain—
But subjects starv'd, while savages were fed.
It was originally thus, but the word "savages" is not properly applied to beasts, but to men; which occasioned the alteration. P.
Both doom'd alike, for sportive Tyrants bled,
Ver. 65. The fields are ravish'd, &c.] Alluding to the destruction made in the New Forest, and the tyrannies exercised there by William I.
I have the authority of three or four of our best antiquarians to say, that the common tradition of villages and parishes, within the compass of thirty miles, being destroyed, in the New Forest, is absolutely groundless, no traces or vestiges of such being to be discovered, nor any other parish named in Doomsday Book, but what now remains. Of late years, some minute enquiries have been made on this subject, by accurate and well-informed judges, who are clearly of this opinion. The President Hainault has given us a more amiable idea of our Norman Conqueror than is here exhibited. Warton.
Ver. 65. The fields are ravish'd from th' industrious swains,
"Templa adimit divis, fora civibus, arva colonis,"
an old monkish writer, I forget who.
In Camden's Britannia, first edition, in the account of Somersetshire, it is said of Edgar,
"Templa Deo, Templis Monachos, Monachis dedit agros."
The fox obscene to gaping tombs retires,
Ver. 74.] A fine remain of ancient art and ancient customs, a piece of tapestry, said to be the work of Queen Matilda, is annually exhibited in the cathedral church of Bayeux, in Normandy, representing the expedition of William the Conqueror, and containing a most minute picture of every part of that event, from his landing in England to the battle of Hastings. An engraving of it is given in the tenth volume of the Memoirs of the Academy of Belles Lettres. Warton.
Ver. 80.] In St. Foix's entertaining historical Essays on Paris, it is related, p. 95, tom. 5, that just as the body of William I. was going to be put into the grave, a voice cried aloud," I forbid his interment. When William was only Duke of Normandy, he seized this piece of Land from my father, on which he built this abbey of St. Stephen, without making me a recompence, which I now demand." Prince Henry, who was present, called out the man, who was only a common farrier, and agreed to give him an hundred crowns for this burial-place. Except the former conquest of England by the Saxons, (says Hume, vol. 1.) who were induced, by peculiar circumstances, to proceed even to the extermination of the natives, it would be difficult to find in all history, a revolution
Ver. 72. And wolves with howling fill, &c.]
The author thought this an error, wolves not being common in England at the time of the Conqueror.
Stretch'd on the lawn his second hope survey,
And secret transports touch'd the conscious swain.
a revolution more destructive, or attended with a more complete subjection of the ancient inhabitants. Warton. The circumstance of William's laying waste so much territory very doubtful. I believe the fact can be disproved. Bowles. Ver. 81. second hope.] Richard, second son of William the Conqueror. Warburton.
Ver. 83.] The moment Walter Tyrrel had shot him, without speaking of the accident, he instantly hastened to the sea-shore and embarked for France, and from thence hurried to Jerusalem to do penance for his involuntary crime. The body of Rufus was found in the forest by a countryman, whose family are still said to be living near the spot, and was buried, without any pomp, before the altar of Winchester cathedral, where the monument still remains. Though the Monkish historians, who hated him, may perhaps have exaggerated his vices, yet he seems really to have been a violent, prodigal, proud, perfidious, ungenerous, and tyrannical prince. There was however something of magnificence in his building the Tower, Westminster-hall, and London-bridge. Warton.
The oak, under which Rufus was shot, was standing till within these few years. Bowles.
Ver. 89. “Miraturque novas frondes et non sua poma." Virg.