Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Biographical > Thomas Hardy's Dorset > CHAPTER IV
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
 BLANDFORD TO DORCHESTER If we return, will England be
Just England still to you and me?
The place where we must earn our bread?—
We who have walked among the dead,
And watched the smile of agony,
And seen the price of Liberty,
Which we have taken carelessly
From other hands. , we shall ,
If we return,
Dread lest we hold blood-guiltily
The thing that men have died to free.
Oh, English fields shall blossom red
In all the blood that has been shed,
By men whose are we,
If we return.
F. W. Harvey.
Blandford, or, to give the town its full title, Blandford , gets its name from the ancient of the Stour, on a bend of which river it is pleasingly placed in the midst of a bountiful district. It is called "Shottsford Forum" in 's Far from the Madding Crowd, and in The Woodlanders we are told that "Shottsford is Shottsford still: you can't victual your carcass there unless you've got money, and you can't buy a cup of genuine there whether or no." The long chief street of the town has a bright, modern aspect, due to the great fire of 1731 whichdestroyed all but forty houses in the place. There is nothing to detain the pilgrim here, but it makes a good centre for any who are exploring the country around it.
Five miles of rather hilly road brings us to Winterborne Whitchurch, which has a very interesting church containing a curious old font dated 1450 and a fine old pulpit removed from Milton. The grandfather of John and Charles Wesley was vicar here from 1658 to 1662. Of the poet George Turberville, born here about 1530, very little is known. He was one of the "wild" Turbervilles, and one would like to learn more about him. Anyway, here is a of his verse:
"Death is not so much to be feared as Daylie Diseases are.
What? Ist not follie to dread and stand of Death in feare
That mother is of quiet rest, and grief away does weare?
Was never none that twist have felt of cruel Death the Knife;
But other griefes and pining paines doe linger on thro life,
And oftentimes one selfsame corse with furious fits
When Death by one dispatch of life doth bring the soul to rest."
When we arrive at Milborne St Andrews we are within eight miles of Dorchester. The Manor[Pg 61] House, up a by-road and past the church of St Andrew, is the original of "Welland House" in Hardy's Two on a Tower. This was once the residence of the Mansell-Pleydell family, but since 1758 it has been used as a farm-house. The village was an important posting-place between Blandford and Dorchester, and we are reminded of the coaching days by the of a white hart on the cornice of the post office, in time past a busy inn.
Puddletown is our next halt on the road. It is a considerable village whose church has a full of ancient monuments to the Martins of Athelhampton. Canon Carter held the living here in 1838, and when he first arrived the news that he neither shot, hunted nor fished disturbed the flock, and they openly expressed their contempt for him. Then he replaced the village church band with a harmonium, and the story gained so much bulk and robustity in travelling, as such stories do in the country, that I have no doubt he seemed a sort of monster.
After this he did a most thing: he with a very ancient rectorial gift of a mince-pie, a loaf of bread and a quart of old ale to every individual in the parish, not even excluding the babies in arms, and ventured to assert that the funds would be better employed in forming a clothing club for the poor. Carter was a very man, but somehow I cannot forgive him for this. He should have placed himself a little nearer to the full current of natural things. In the essence the ancient gift was "clothing"—solid and . It was surely in this spirit that John Still penned his famous drinking song:
"No frost nor snow, no wind, I trow,
Can hurt me if I would,
I am so wrapt and throughly lapt
Of jolly good ale and old."
So at the next tithe-day supper at the Rectory a farmer who had in him the Dorset heart and blood, a very demi-god amongst the poor of Puddletown, arose in his place and asked the good Canon Carter if he still held to his purpose of converting the Christmas ale into garments for little boys, and the Canon replied to the effect that it was his intention to carry out that reform.
Then the farmer, full of the West, who had not come to talk balderdash, shouted: "I ban't agwaine tu see the poor folk put upon. I'll be blamed ef I du." His voice was very strong and echoed in the rafters in an alarming way, for he was of the breed that said "good-morning" to a friend three fields away without much effort. At this point certain people folded their hands, and called out "Fie!" and "Shame!" for it was their purpose to favour with the vicar, they having many small children in need of nether garments.
But the farmer cried out over them all (and all the other farmers cheered him on): "I tellee what tez. I don't care a button for you, with all your penny-loaf ways. That to ye all!" And with that he snapped his fingers in the face of all the company, walked out, mounted his powerful horse and turned back to his great, farm-house. Here he counted out a great bundle of Stuckey's Bank notes, and calling his bailiff sent them post-haste to the landlord of the King's Arms with word to the effect that they were against a quart of Christmas ale for every soul who should care to claim it on Christmas Eve. That is the story of Farmer Dribblecombe, and may we all come out of a trying position as well as he.
But to return to the church. There are the old oak pews of bygone days, a gallery with the date 1635, an ancient pulpit and a curious Norman font shaped like a drinking-bowl. The most interesting corner of the church is the Athelhampton , which is entered through a archway guarded by a tomb on which lies an armed carved in . Buried here are the Martins of many generations. They once owned the old manor-house, with the great barns behind it and the fertile acres spreading far on every hand. They once went swiftly and strongly, on hefty and horses, and worked hotly, and came in wearied with long rides and adventures. Now they rest together, "mediævally recumbent," and when their ghosts walk they do not inquire who owns the land where they tread. They let the hot world go by, and wait with patience the day when all the old of Athelhampton shall be once again. A great company indeed! The offspring of one noble family, who, following each other for nearly four hundred years, ruled as lords of their little holding in Dorset. The first of the family came to Athelhampton in 1250, and the last in 1595. Everywhere is to be found carved on their tombs the dark and menacing motto, beneath their monkey , "He who looks at Martins' Ape, Martins' Ape shall look at him!" The crest is, of course, a play on the word Martin, which is an word for ape. But the menace of the motto has lost its power these three hundred years, and nothing of the might and of the Martins but their mutilated . I have been wondering to-day how they must look out upon us all with our cinematographs, jazzy-dances, lip-sticks, backless gowns, cigarettes, whisky and pick-me-ups, and our immense concern over the immeasurably trivial. I don't know that I said it aloud—such things need not be said aloud—but as I read a epitaph which urged a little prayer for two of the family, I turned almost away, while my whole being seemed to cry out: "God rest your souls, God rest your souls."
Here, since we are on the subject, is the touching prayer from the lips of one of the ancient house of the Martins:
"Here lyeth the body of Xpofer Martyn Esquyer,
Sone and heyre unto Syr Wm: Martyn, knight,
Pray for their souls with harty desyre
That both may be sure of Eternall Lyght;
Calling to Remembrance that evoy wyhgt
Most nedys dye, and therefore lett us pray
As others for us may do Another day."
The last of the Martins was the Knight Nicholas who was buried here in 1595, and the last passage of his epitaph are the words, "Good-night, Nicholas!" With these appropriate words they put Nicholas to rest, like a child who had grown sleepy before it was dark. After all, we are all children, and when the shadows and the birds get back to the protecting eaves, we too grow tired—tired of playing with things much too large for us—much too full of meaning.
The church of Puddletown, or "Weatherbury," brings us to the crowning of the sad love tale of Francis Troy and Fanny , for it is the scene of the sergeant's agony of . Having set up a tombstone over the poor girl's grave, Troy proceeds to plant the beneath with flowers. "There were bundles of snowdrops, hyacinth and crocus bulbs, violets and double daisies, which were to bloom in early spring, and of , pinks, picotees, lilies of the valley, forget-me-not, summer's farewell, meadow saffron, and others, for the later seasons of the year." The author minutely describes the planting of these by Troy, with his "impassive face," on that dark night when the rays from his lantern spread into the old "with a strange, power, , as it seemed, up to the black ceiling of cloud above." He works till midnight and sleeps in the church porch; and then comes the storm and the doings of the . The stream of water from the church roof through the mouth of this "horrible stone " rushes into the new-made grave, turning the mould into a welter of mud and washing away all the flowers so carefully planted by Fanny's lover. At the sight of the , we are told, Troy "hated himself." He stood and , a human derelict. Where should he turn for ? But the words that burnt and his soul could not be : "He that is accursed, let him be accursed still."
The ill-named River Piddle—a , tortoiseshell-coloured stream at times—runs through the streets. An old thatched house is by reason of the fact that it has broken out into a spacious Georgian bow window—a "window worthy of a town hall," as Sir Frederick Treves has remarked. It is supported by pillars, and has a porch-like space beneath to a flower-bed.
"Weatherbury Upper Farm," the home of Bathsheba, which she inherited from her uncle, is not to be found in Puddletown, but if the pilgrim desires to find it he must proceed up the valley of the , in the direction of Piddlehinton. Before reaching the village he will come to Lower Walterstone, where a fine Jacobean manor-house, bearing the date 1586, will be easily recognised as the original which Thomas Hardy made to serve as the "Upper Farm" in Far from the Madding Crowd.
In the story the author has placed the farm a mile or more from its actual position, and it is :
"A building, of the Jacobean stage of Classic as regards its architecture, and of a proportion which told at a glance that, as is so frequently the case, it had once been the hall upon a small estate around it, now altogether as a distinct property, and in the vast of a non-resident landlord, which comprised several such modest demesnes. pilasters, worked from the solid stone, decorated its front, and above the roof pairs of chimneys were here and there linked by an arch, some gables and other unmanageable features still retaining traces of their Gothic extraction. Soft brown , like faded velveteen, formed cushions upon the stone tiling, and tufts of the house-leek or sengreen from the eaves of the low surrounding buildings. A walk leading from the door to the road in front was encrusted at the sides with more moss—here it was a silver-green variety, the nut-brown of the gravel being visible to the width of only a foot or two in the centre. This circumstance, and the generally sleepy air of the whole here, together with the and contrasting state of the reverse façade, suggested to the imagination that on the adaptation of the building for farming purposes the vital principle of the house had turned round inside its body to face the other way."

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved