STONEHENGE. Dr. Warton has, in the following sonnet, interwoven the sentiments of the learned on this subject.

Thou noblest monument of Albion's isle !
Whether by Merlin's aid from Scythia's shore
To Amber's fatal plain Pendragon bore,
Huge frame of giant-hands, the mighty pile,
Tentomb his Britons, slain by Hengist's guile;
Or Druid priests, sprinkled with human gore,
Taught, ’mid thy massy maze, their mystic lore:
Or Danish chiefs, enrich'd with savage spoil,
To victory's idol vast an unhewn shrine,
Reard the rude heap: or, in thy hallow'd round,
Repose the kings of Brutus' genuine line ;
Or here those kings in solemn state were crown'd;
Studious to trace thy wondrous origin,
We muse on many an ancient tale renown'd!

These ruins are, in their appearance, peculiarly solemn, and their isolated situation in the midst of the plain, heightens the sensations with which they are contemplated. The idea is taken up with success in these line, which will please you:


Was it a SPIRIT on yon shapeless pile?
It wore, methought, an hoary Druid's form,
Musing on ancient days ! the dying storm
Moan'd in his lifted locks; thou night! the while
Dost listen to his sad harp's wild complaint,
Mother of shadows ! as to thee he pours
The broken strain, and plaintively deplores
The fall of Uruid fame! Hark! murmurs faint
Breathe on the wavy air! and now more loud
Swells the deep dirge, accustom’d to complain.

[blocks in formation]

Of holy rites uupaid, and of the crowd,
Whose careless steps these sacred haunts profane,
O'er the wild plain the hurrying tempest flies.
And ’mid the storm unheard—the song of sorrow dies !

I have dwelt the longer on this phænomenon, because it is confessed to be the most interesting relic of antiquity, by which Britain is distinguished. Its form, situation, and history, are calculated to generate profound impressions.

But we must not forget that STONEHENGE and its vicinity have been rendered sacred to science by Dr. Stukeley, the antiquarian, who here observed the total eclipse of THE SUN, May 22, 1724-his own interesting account, transmitted to the celebrated astronomer, Dr. Edmund Halley, is too curious to be omitted.

“ According to my promise I send you what I observed of the SOLAR ECLIPSE, and proposed to myself only to watch the appearances that nature would present to the naked eye upon so remarkable an occasion, and which, generally, are overlooked, or but rarely regarded.

"I chose for my situation Haradon Hill, near Amsbury, and full east from STONEHENGE AVENUE. Before me lay the vast plain on which that 'celebrated work stands, this being the highest hill hereabouts, and nearest the middle of the shadow. About twenty miles west of me lay Clay Hill, which rises pretty high above the horizon, and being near the central line of darkness afforded sufficient notice of its approach.

“ Having two men in company, looking through smoked glasses, though the day was cloudy, yet


SALISBURY. we had some gleams of sunshine. We soon perceived that the eclipse was begun, when by my watch I found it half an hour after five, p. m. and, accordingly, from thence, the progress of it was visible, and very often to the naked eye, the thin clouds doing the office of glasses. From the time of the sun's body being half covered, there was a very conspicuous circular iris around the Sun with perfect colours ! On all sides we beheld the shepherds hurrying their flocks into the folds, the darkness coming on; for they expected nothing less than a total eclipse for an hour and a quarter.

“When the sun looked very sharp, like a new moon, the sky was pretty clear in that spot; but soon after a thicker cloud covered it, at which time the iris vanished. Clay Hill, before mentioned, grew very dark, together with the horizon on both sides; that is, to the north and south, and looked blue. In a few seconds, Salisbury Steeple, six miles off southward, became very black; Clay Hill quite-lost; and a most gloomy night, with full career, came upon us. At this instant we lost sight of THE SUN, whose place among the clouds was hitherto sufficiently distinguishable; but now not the least trace of it to be found, no more than if really absent! Then I saw by my watch, with some difficulty, and only by help of some light from the northern quarter, that it was six hours thirty-five minutes. Just before this the whole compass of the heavens and earth looked of a lurid complexion, properly speaking; for it was black and blue : there was likewise in the heavens,


129. among the clouds, much green interspersed. The whole appearance was very dreadful, and as symptoms of sickening nature ! Now I perceived us involved in total darkness and palpable. Though it came quickly, yet I was so intent that I could perceive its steps, and feel, as it were, drop on us like a great mantle! The horses we held in our hands were very sensible of it, and drawed close to us, starting with great surprise—as much as I could see of the men's faces that stood by me had a horrible aspect! At this instant I looked around me, not without exclamation of admiration, and could discern colours in the heavens; but the earth had lost its blue, and was wholly black. For some time, among the clouds, there were visible streaks of rays tending to the place of THE SUN as their centre; but immediately after, the whole appearance of the earth and sky was entirely black. Of all things I ever saw in my life, or can by imagination fancy, it was a sight the most tremendous !

6 All the change I could perceive during the to, tality was, that the horizon by degrees drew into parts, light and dark; the northern hemisphere growing still longer, lighter, and broader; and the two opposite dark parts uniting into one, and swallowing up the southern enlightened part.

“At length, upon the first lucid point appearing in the heavens where THE SUN was, I could distinguish pretty plainly a rim of light running along side of us, a good while together; or sweeping by our elbows west to east : just then having good



SALISBURY. reason to suppose that the totality ended with us, . I looked on my watch, and found it to be full three minutes and a half more. Now the hill tops changed their black into blue again; immediately we heard the larks chirping and singing very briskly for joy of the restored luminary, after all this had been hushed with a most profound and universal silence! The heavens and the earth now appeared like morning before sun-rise, of a greyish cast; but rather more blue interspersed ; and the earth, so far as the verge of the hill reached, was of a dark green or russet colour. After about the middle of the totality, and so after the emersion of THE SUN, we saw Venus very plainly; but no other star. The cloudiness of the day added much to the solemnity of the sight, and which incomparably exceeded in my apprehension that of 1715, which I saw very perfectly from the top of Boston Steeple, in Lincolnshire, where the air was very clear.”

Before the total eclipse of the Sun in 1715, May 3, at nine in the morning, none had been visible in Britain since that of July, 1684; and none previous to that for many years. For the sketch of a phenomenon that occurs not more than once or twice in a century, no apology is necessary; and it cannot fail, when thus minutely described with its attendant circumstances, to prove acceptable to the rising generation.

Driving along, about six miles over these dreary plains, we soon reached the neat and pleasant city of SALISBURY. It lies in a vale, and is of consi

« ElőzőTovább »