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It is also said that while in this half-oblivious condition, the poet thus rhymed the places and their qualifications, in which he had indulged in "potations pottle deep.” He had drunk, he said, with

Piping Pibworth, dancing Marston,
Haunted Hilborough, hungry Grafton,
Dredging Exall, Papist Wrixford,

Beggarly Browne, and drunken Bidford.” Great improvements, we are glad to say, have taken place in the condition of Bidford during the last few years. One, and the chief, cause has been in the division of property which has taken place. The whole district was formerly the almost sole possession of Sir Grey Skipwith; and then little was done for the improvement either of the property or of the people. In consequence, however, of the necessities of the family, this part of their estate has been sold; and the various purchasers being of course anxious and able to improve their properties, the result has been of great benefit to the inhabitants. Another cause is in the worthy and indefatigable labours of their most exemplary vicar. All that a large-hearted and liberal-minded clergyman can do for his parish and parishioners this minister has done. He has founded infant schools in the place, and it is the just and noble boast of the people, that he has never suffered difference of religious opinion to interfere with its management, or to influence his conduct in relation to the pupils. The school numbers some hundred and fifty scholars, and is, in the

opinion of the government inspector, a model school for efficiency, good management, and general success. The good vicar has also divided his own land into garden allotments, and the same liberal course is pursued in letting them, as in the management of the schools. He makes, and wisely, this part of his undertakings for the improvement of his parish a matter of trade. He asks for his land a fair rent, but affords facilities for those who will, to be their own helpers in the improvement of their condition. He is the President of the Bidford Freehold Land and Building Society; and active in every good work in Bidford and the district. We trust that in many of our remote villages similar labours of benevolence and true philanthropy are being pursued in the same generous and Christian spirit.

Around Bidford are many lovely walks; so before breakfast the next morning we marched out for a ramble. Our first move was to a place called the Marlcliff, about three quarters of a mile or so from the village. It was a good preparation for the enjoyment of the coming meal. Walking through a few fields, with the Avon almost always in sight, we slowly ascended this fine acclivity. When we reached the top there lay, as it were, at our feet, the counties of Warwick, Worcester, and Gloucester; and gently winding its way below us was the lovely Avon, dear to all Englishinen, and now dear to the world. From the top of the Marlcliff you get a dim view of the great Malvern, and immediately spring up in the mind the rich remembrances of that delightful place.

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In a few moments we are down the cliff, and watching the clear waters of the Avon,

Avon-a precious, an immortal name," — and gathering flowers from its banks. A bunch of cowslips with their “crimson drops” are our trophy, and we bear them away for remembrance. Somehow every spot of this famous river seems haunted with the memories of its once great lover; and all sounds seem to echo Shakspere's name.

Just as we were thus thinking the lark poured forth its river of golden song, and there arose the words :

“Hark! hark! the lark at heaven's gate sings,

And Phæbus ’gins arise,
His steeds to water at those springs

On chaliced flowers that lies;
And winking Mary-buds begin

To ope their golden eyes ;
With everything that pretty bin,
My Lady sweet, arise;

Arise, arise.”
Then followed :-

“Lo! here the gentle lark, weary of rest,

From his moist cabinet mounts up on high,
And wakes the morning, from whose silver breast

The sun ariseth in his majesty;
Who doth the world so gloriously behold,

That cedar-tops and hills seem burnish'd gold.” Reciting these and other Shaksperean passages, we ramble on.

Bidford, during the Cromwellian period, was the scene of some severe fighting. Several battles, or sharp skirmishes, were fought about here on the great warrior's march from Edge Hill to Worcester. In nearly all the gravel quarries men's bones are being frequently dug up. Sometimes helmets and spearheads are met with ; and many of the skulls found show unmistakeable marks of the terrible sword-stroke which dismissed them to the nether world. We visited one of these quarries, and saw several leg and arm-bones; and thought of the mighty contest which their owners once waged, and of the ever-memorable day's work which these fierce, stern, liberty-loving men did for this “foremost land of all the world,” when ruled by him of whom Milton wrote:

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Cromwell, our chief of men, who through a cloud
Not of war only, but distractions rude,
Guided by faith, and matchless fortitude,
To peace and truth thy glorious way hast plough’d,
And on the neck of crowned fortune proud
Hast rear'd God's trophies, and His works pursued;
While Darwen stream with blood of Scots imbued,
And Dunbar field resounds thy praises loud,
And Worcester's laureate wreath."

We left Bidford full of hope that the day would come when its distinguishing and once characteristic epithet will be changed ; and as it is now outwardly clean Bidford, so in time it will not be drunken, but sober Bidford. So pleasant a place ought not to be disfigured by such an opprobrious designation, and certainly ought not to deserve it.

On returning home we changed our course, and came through Stratford-on-Avon. Once more we passed in reverence before the house in Henley Street, and thought of him whose birth there had made it

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We passed on to the church where “ “my Shakspere's honoured bones" do lie, which have constituted it a shrine whither come pilgrims from all the nations of the earth. And so on, through rustic Henley-in-Arden, home. A pleasant day, with pleasant reminiscences, with pleasant rambles, and pleasant scenes; with the memory of Shakspere haunting and glorifying them all.

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sacred for ever.

FINIS.

WSSIME

LONDON : PRINTED BY WILLIAM NICHOLS, 33, LONDON WALL.

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