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THE EXQUISITE BEAUTY OF THE GARDENS. 405
with the blossom of lilac, laburnum, laurestina, and cyringa. A pretty effect is produced by one alley being bordered with candy-tuft, so that it forms a long line of white, and by the other alley being bordered with alyssum, so as to make a similar line of brilliant yellow. The graceful statue of a girl with flowers in her lap, most appropriately placed a few years
ago on the old stone pedestal in the left alley, irresistibly
“Now the bright morning star, day's harbinger,
The yellow cowslip, and the pale primrose.”
of Queen Mary's Bower—a "dappled path of mingled light and shade”—pass to the old “Pond Garden,” which remains very much as it did when Henry VIII. strolled therein with Anne Boleyn; and where, in the midst of a walled inclosure, surrounded with flowering creepers of all sorts, an old fountain trickles in front of a picturesque arbour. This is indeed a spot of the daintiest and rarest beauty, the product of nigh four centuries of time, which no expenditure of money or art could possibly create.
But even the Public Gardens have still some elements of this kind, which go to intensify a beauty chiefly derived from delightful groves of lime; shelving banks of grass; winding streams with floating water-lilies; wide, level lawns; long, soft walks of velvet turf; evergreen trees of many-toned verdure; dark-boughed yews and variegated hollies; walls with clustering roses and creepers; and borders rich with masses of sweet and lovely flowers. All these cover an expanse of thirty acres; while eleven more-called “the Wilderness,” in which is the Maze-form a pleasant and shady retreat of winding walks, overshadowed by the foliage of ancient trees.
To appreciate, however, the full fascination of the gardens of Hampton Court, they should be seen and enjoyed in all circumstances; at all times of the year; and at every hour of the day-in early spring, when the tender leaves of the limes contrast with the sombre tints of the yews; when the lawns are dressed in the dazzling brightness of fresh green, and the borders lined with crocuses, tulips, and hyacinths ; in the early summer, when the lilacs, laburnums, cyringas, wisterias, and lime trees are flinging their mingled fragrance on the air; and in the height of the summer, when all the flower-beds are ablaze with splendour, and the fountain is joyously spouting its streaming showers, which flash like diamonds in the beams of the golden sun, and then melt into vaporous spray. They should be seen even in winter, when the boughs of the yew trees and hollies are spangled with hoar-frost, or enwreathed with snow; and when the red walls of the old palace, fringed here and there, at “coigns of vantage,” with intercepted flakes, stand out glowing with an unwonted ruddiness, amid the dazzling whiteness of the surrounding scene.
THE GARDENS AND PALACE AT NIGHT.
They should be seen, also, in the freshness of the dewy morning: in the stillness of the midnight hour: when the Long Canal gleams like a sheet of silver in the moonlight, slanting down the avenue; and when naught is heard but the nightingale's distant music, floating across the river from the hedgerows, where they sing embowered. There could, indeed, be no more enchanting scene than is then afforded
VIEW, LOOKING EAST, OF THE LONG CANAL AND GREAT AVENUE
IN THE HOUSE OR HOME PARK.
from the upper windows of the palace, whence the gardens are viewed lying beneath, dimmed in a silvery mist; while, far away, beyond garden, park, and river, the eye can wander over the undulations of a glimmering expanse, reaching to the Surrey hills.
It is at night that the palace, also, is invested with its most romantic garb. Few things, in truth, could be more impressive than the solemn stillness that then pervades the spot, which, but a few hours before, echoed to the sound of thousands of voices and the tramp of thousands of feet; and it would be difficult to match the exquisite beauty of the picturesque old courts, gables, towers, and turrets, when their broken outline stands out against a sky bathed in the radiance of the rising moon; or the poetic aspect of the Fountain Court, when the moonbeams shoot down upon the water of the circular fountain in its midst, glitter on the panes of the old windows, or mingle with the lights that blink and flicker through the arches of the arcade beneath ; while all night through the sound of the cool trickle of the fountain soothes the ear.
Elsewhere, in the courts and cloisters of the vast building, not a sound: only the measured tread of the sentry, as he paces up and down in front of Wolsey's gate; or the clank of the keys, and the groan of the hinge of the old oak door, as the watchman, on his rounds, vanishes with his lantern into the gloom of the Hall or the Haunted Gallery.
It is at such times that a thousand stirring thoughts rush in upon the mind, a thousand swelling feelings fill the heart ---thoughts of the moving scenes these walls have witnessed, of the thrilling deeds which have been done, upon the very spot whereon we stand. And contemplating the visionary pageant of the past, unfolded to the mental view, as the centuries roll by before us, and succeeding generations of the mighty dead step forth to play their transitory part, and disappear, we are drawn to dwell on memories of our own brief time; of happy days gone by for ever; of sweet loved faces passed away; of tender hearts that throb no longer; of gentle voices silent ever more.
And yet, while musing thus, and feeling how short is history, and how fleeting time; how soon the present fades away into the past—there often comes upon us a sense of permanence in change; a thought that, as around us so much still endures unchanged, all things that have been and will be are indissolubly linked with what succeeds; and that time itself is but the ever-varying aspect of eternal things.
And herein lies the deep significance of such a story as we have endeavoured in this volume to set forth; and the high
AN EMBLEM OF ENGLISH HISTORY.
function that, we trust, this antique pile of Hampton Court may long continue to discharge.
And there is yet another aspect in which we may regard it; for it stands to-day, consecrated by antiquity, as an emblem and monument of English history, combining the picturesque and romantic elements of an ancient monarchy with the orderly development of popular freedom; linking together the honour and prosperity of the Royal House with the progress and happiness of the toiling multitude; standing, too, as a symbol, palpable and tangible, of that tender attachment between Queen and people which has distinguished the reign of Victoria among those of all other sovereigns of England; and which inspired the gracious act of freely opening to all her subjects the beautiful home of her ancestors at Hampton Court.