Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

passage of a shadow, whence the name, assigned by Ausonius :

“ The Umbra swift escapes the quickest eye.”

This graceful species is also found in inland lakes, and streamlets shaded with high trees: and is in none more abundant than in the sparkling waters of Loch Levin, to which the poet thus beautifully alludes :

“ Pure stream, in whose transparent wave,

My youthful limbs I wont to lave;
No torrents stain thy limpid source,
No rocks impede thy dimpled course,
That sweetly wanders o'er its bed,
With white, round, polish'd pebbles spread.
While lightly pois'd, the scaly brood,
In myriads cleave thy crystal flood.
The springing trout in speckled pride,
The salmon, monarch of the tide,
The ruthless pike, intent on war,
The silver eel, and mottled par;
Devolving from thy parent lake,
A charming maze thy waters make,
By bowers of birch, and groves of pine,
And hedges flower'd with eglantine.
Still on the banks so gaily green,
May murmuring flocks and herds be seen;
And lasses chanting o'er the pail,
And shepherds piping in the dale,
And ancient faith that knows no guile,
And industry embrown'd with toil ;
And hearts resolv’d, and hands prepared,
The blessings they enjoy to guard."

Smollett.

The French, who call the Club un villain, give to the Umbra of the lake Leman, the more elegant appellation of Chevalier. Their poets fable, that he feeds on gold ; their naturalists assert that several have been discovered in the Loire, with grains of this precious metal in their stomachs. In order to account for the pleasant scent which distinguishes this species on being taken from the water, they further add, that the Greyling feeds on the aromatic flowers of the water thyme; a supposition confirmed by Walton. “ They think it strange," says he, “with the same reason as we do, that our Smelts scent like violets, on their being first caught, which I know to be a truth." This honest angler is profuse in his admiration of the Umbra. Seated on the brow of a primrose hill, he delighted to observe their agile motions, as they sported through the sparkling waves, beside green sloping banks, covered with wild flowers, and overhung with trees, where the birds seemed to have a friendly contention which should sing the loudest and the clearest, and where, as they sung, they awoke old Echo, whose voice proceeded from the bosom of a hollow tree. While thus reflecting on the tranquil pleasures of a rural life, he quotes the sentiment of Aldrovandus, in confirmation of his opinion, who asserts, “that the Greyling, Salmon, Trout, and those species that live in clear and sharp streams, are made by their

Creator, of such exact shape and pleasant colour, purposely to invite us to joy and contentment while feasting with her.”

Ancient and modern naturalists equally agree in their opinions respecting this graceful little fish. Sal Hippolito Salviani, an Italian physician of the sixteenth century, wrote a particular treatise on the Umbra. St. Ambrose also, the glorious bishop of Milan, who lived, says the same original writer, “when the church kept fasting days, calls him the flower fish, or the flower of fishes, and was so far in love with him, that he could not let him pass without the honour of a long discourse.” He also tells us, “ that in Swabia, this species was considered as the choicest of fishes ; and that in Italy it was so much valued during the month of May, as to be sold at a much higher rate than that of any other kind.” But this superiority is not conferred on the Umbra, merely because of his beauty and agility. Various writers on natural history, endow him with medicinal qualities. Gesner, especially, who informs us that the fat of the Salmo Eperlanus, when compounded with a little honey, and left in the sun for a few days, is a sovereign specific for redness of the eyes.

This elegant and valuable species is generally seen in the rivers of Great Britain. They abound in the shallow and rapid streams of North Wales and Derbyshire, and are nowhere more abundant than in the Dove, where it murmurs through the Tempe of Great Britain.

“ There nature wanders as in her prime,

And plays at will, her virgin fancies."

This celebrated spot is full of studies for the artist. The mountains on either side, all up the dell, are fenced and buttressed by huge masses of rocks, tossed into every form that imagination can devise; and of these a considerable number, appear in the grey of evening, like gigantic forms issuing out of their subterraneous haunts. But what a different aspect is presented by this celebrated valley, when seen, as I have lately seen it, under the celestial influence of chiaro scuro; all then is gay, lovely, and fascinating. Here a lofty eminence ascends to the height of several hundred feet, turreted with rugged crags, and richly mantled with coppice wood, composed of elms, ash, and hazel. There the mimicry of an ancient monastery rises on the view; and now an arched gateway, appears to lead into the deep recesses of a cavern ; again, a noble pile of rocks ascends in stern majesty, broken, and tossed in all directions, and crested with huge branches of knarled oaks, or weather-beaten elms, in a manner that suggests to recollection the pictures of Claude Lorraine, while the high and elegant foliage which aspires to reach them, subdues the feature of ruggedness, and softens the whole into beauty. Further on, at the distance of rather more than a mile, the rocks on each side form an immense portal, through which the river hurries impetuously on, and vanishes behind a mass of beetling crags.

Beyond this point, the dale is rarely visited by human footsteps; except when a solitary angler, in pursuit of his favourite amusement, or an adventurous tourist penetrates, in order to trace the further progress of the Dove. This, however, rarely happens, as the attempt is arduous, and cannot be accomplished without difficulty, perhaps even danger.

“ So high the cliffs of limestone grey,

Hang beetling o'er the torrent's way,
Yielding along their rugged base,
A flinty footpath's rugged space;
Where he who winds 'twixt rock and wave,
May hear the headlong torrent rave;
And like a steed in frantic fit,
That Alings the froth from bit to bit,
May view her chase her waves to play,
O’er every rock that bars her way;
Till foam-globes on the eddies ride,
Thick as the schemes of human pride,
That down life's current drive amain,
As frail, as frothy, and as vain.

Scott.

In less confined channels the river winds more tranquilly. At one time appearing deep, silent, and immoveable, dark with shadow, and scarcely to be distinguished from the overarching rocks and alders

« PoprzedniaDalej »