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distant thunder. Many a boat has been upset, and many a life lost through those " Agars.” Strange and mysterious have these tides ever appeared to us from our boyish days. The sun lighting, warming, and impregnating the earth with life, we seem somehow to understand; but that the moon should attract and influence such immense bodies of water-should beckon the tides, and they obey her bidding, and follow her from out their " deepest caverns ”—appears, even through the grand reasoning of Newton, to be set in motion by a mighty and unseen power, too vast for our comprehension. Neither does the Aeger (to give it its old Runic name, which signifies the ocean come without calling up“ monsters from the vasty deep;” and loud has been the cry of fear, amongst the poor Osier-peelers, when returning home by the boat of an evening, at beholding some unwieldy porpoise, ten or twelve feet long, rolling itself up on the surface of the water, within an oar's length of the boat. Large sturgeons also come up the river Trent with the tide, to the great consternation of the humble fisherman, in whose slender nets they sometimes become entangled ; and one man, if we remember rightly, had a very narrow escape from being drowned, whilst trying to capture one of these unwelcome visiters, which, however, broke through the net, and escaped.
A beautiful sight, on a spring evening, is that boat returning homeward, laden with osiers, piled so high, that the steersman cannot see the head of the little barque, but is compelled to take his instructions from the man seated on the top of the snow-white bunches. The Osier-peelers are stowed, thick as bees, in the head and stern of the
and the screams of the women, when danger is far distant, form matter of merriment to the passing boatmen,
who sometimes 'steer nearer than they otherwise would do, were it not for the pleasure they take in raising a needless alarm. But morning is the time for the great trial of temper: the boat leaves the town-side at a stated hour; a few minutes' grace is given, and all who exceed this last limit, must find their way to the distant Osier Holt as they
Should an additional minute or two be allowed by the master, or foreman, to some especial favourite, what a tossing of heads is there amongst the elder women, and the younger too, who have not the good luck to be so handsome as the envied rival; while she, poor girl, sits mute as a mouse, and colours up to the very ears. Sweet were those early rows on the river, over which the morning mist ofttimes hung, wrapping ship and shore in a dim haze, until dispersed by the strengthening sun-beams, when the very willows on the banks become visible, and you could see almost every water-flag, that bent and nodded amongst the ripples. Then to reach the Osier Holt, and gaze over it; to mark where one variety was in the full leaf, whilst the hard, black-stone rod was still covered with its goldencoloured palms, without a vestige of green; or to see the men cutting, in their huge jack-boots, knee-deep in water, in a wet spring, to prevent the too-forward kinds from becoming “ double-skinned;" which means, the ring of the wood forming for a second year's growth, as in trees, where each circle around the pith, up to the very bark, is said to be the number of years the tree has stood, until it ceases “ to make wood."
But supposing the osier bed is cleared all but the last stock; a fine one, left, like the last rose of summer, to be cut down when all its companions are gone; yet more honoured than all the rest, for it is decorated with ribbons ;
and loud huzzas, from young and old, accompany each stroke of the cutter, until the last willow bows its tufted head. Then comes the Osier-feast supper, where there is more laughter than luxury; where the variety of games outnumber the change of courses; and such appetites are there found, as an alderman would give his gown for. The tales and songs we must pass over; although no collection of old English ballads can be complete, unless enriched by such as may be gathered on occasions like these. You will hear many a
“ choice ditty” at these rural merrymakings, which have escaped Percy and Ritson, and all other collectors.
Nor does the labour of the Holt end with osierpeeling: as the summer advances so do the weeds; and these must be kept down, or they would overtop and smother the young shoots. To prevent this, women are often employed as weeders. The fences must also be looked
for if cattle should chance to get in, they would crop the tender heads of the young willows, and leave only a stunted growth on the stocks, instead of those fine, pointed, tapering heads, which add so much to the beauty and value of the osiers. Beside cattle, there is another plague, in a peculiar kind of fly, which come in clouds, and make such havoc, that acres are cut and laid aside as unfit for peeling and can only be worked up into coarse fish-hampers. This is one of the heaviest losses the osier-grower has to encounter; for the flies attack the willows whilst the latter are in a soft, juicy state, piercing the tender peeling before any substance of wood is formed, and leaving everywhere black and unsightly blotches, which remain visible after the peeling is stripped off in the ensuing spring.
Planting, and such like, we pass over; for almost every
one knows, that if a green osier is stuck into a damp soil, it will grow, especially if planted very early in the spring, before the sap begins to flow. Thick osiers, cut into lengths of about eighteen inches, are the best, leaving them about one-third above the ground. The engraving at the head of our article will be new to those who have never seen this early field employment—this first gathering in of springwhich sometimes comes
“ Before the swallow dares, And takes the wings of March with beauty."
“ When the merry bells ring round,
And the jocund rebecks sound
Milton's “ L'ALLEGRO."
HERE we are at liberty to walk over hill and valley, under the shadows of tall elm trees, and along avenues of broadbranching chesnuts, where the antlered deer are crossing your path with stately tread, or some old Greenwich pensioner, leaning on his staff, peeps out from the