Page images
PDF
EPUB

GEOGRAPHICAL READINGS.

INTRODUCTORY REMARKS.

nel may

In the present rage for travelling, when they who cannot go to the North-west Passage can at least visit Paris, and when those who cannot even cross the Chan

devour

voyages and travels, to their hearts' content, by the fire-side, it is unnecessary to speak in favour of an early acquaintance with Geography; and perhaps my young readers may think it equally unnecessary that they should be more fully instructed in this pleasing soience. But let me beg to inform them it is not the bare knowledge of names of countries and places which constitutes Geography; it is equally necessary they should be acquainted with the peculiarities of the countries whose capital cities they can so glibly recite. Many a young lady, just fresh from a boarding school, would be puzzled to tell from whence comes the Gamboge which she uses; yet the same person would not be a little annoyed did any one venture to question her knowledge of the situation of Cambodia. It is trusted that the following Sketches may, by giving in a little space the local information, otherwise only to be found by diving through volumes of uninteresting, pay, even useless matter, more fully instruct my young friends in the more interesting part of their geographical studies.

ENGLAND AND WALES. Our own country first claims our attention, and whether we consider its constitution, laws, religion, and commerce, we may be allowed to say, that it is certainly without a rival. Yet this Mistress of the Ocean, this dispenser of good to mankind is, in itself, only three hundred miles from north to south, and three hundred from east to west. Its climate is, as every bypochondriac can

tell, very variable and very damp; yet surely when we consider its other manifold advantages, whether civil or religious, we cannot greatly praise the wisdom of those who run away from its atmosphere, in search of a better. And Charles II. says, (and he was a competent judge,) that in England one may oftener walk out in comfort than in any country in Europe. The face of the country is, generally speaking, hilly, except in Lincolnshire; and in Wales its scenery is mountainous and picturesque. Many rivers water the fertile plains, of which the chief are the Thames, a calm and placid current, worthy of the noble Metropolis it bears, and the Severn, very turbulent, and a true mountain river. Many are the Lakes of England, and though they cannot boast the extent of Huron and Ontario, inland seas, yet none will deny them the praise of picturesque beauty. Though the mountains and hills of our island must bow their heads before Mont Blanc and others, yet we are persuaded whoever has visited Snowdon, Plinlimmon, Cader Idris, Helvellyn, Skiddaw, will find they cede to their rivals only in height, while the valleys of England can compete in beauty with any continental scene. All, at all acquainted with the mineral and vegetable produce of our country, will own that it does not yield to any in really useful productions. Coals, slates, lead, tin, copper, iron, steatite, fuller's earth, salt, and marble, all are found in great abundance in our island, while our beautiful forests and verdant scenery are particularly delightful to foreigners. True it is, that few are our native fruits, but the produce of our country either ripens in our gardens, or matures in our hot-houses, while the choicest plants of India yield their flowers to gratify our sight and smell. Our own flowers, too, though frequently despised by those who are not acquainted with them, will be found equal in beauty to many admired hot-house flowers. I need only mention the flowering rush, the Parnassian Grass, the tribe of Orchisis, or the beautiful Buck-bean of our rivers in proof of my assertion. If nature has done much for our island, art has done more. Look at the countless numbers employed in our manufactories, at the ships employed to transport them when finished, and at the wealth our commerce diffuses through the globe. Our principal manufactures are hard-ware and cutlery, for which we have long been famous, broad cloth, and every description of clothing. These we export in great quantities to foreign nations, and receive in return the richest silks, the most costly spices, and the most luxa. rious wines. The merchant of England is certainly as serviceable as any person in his way; and it is no small honour to our country to reflect, that while our vessels convey our produce to distant shores, and assert the dominion of Britain over countries of more than five times her bulk, they also convey the glad tidings of salvation to the remotest corners of the earth. Never let us for get that England was the first to crush the pest of mankind, the Slave Trade; yet while we exult in the religious and civil superiority of our country, let us remember of whom it is that we enjoy this pre-eminence, and lend a helping hand to others less favoured. And, in conclusion, I would entreat my young readers to remember, that though it is perhaps too much the fashion to depreciate our country and desert it for others whose climate is superior, or whose productions are richer, yet that we may justly say in the words of our delightful poet

« Let India boast her plants, nor envy we
The weeping amber or the balmy tree;
While by our oaks those precious loads are borne,
And realms defended, which those trees adorn.

EUGENIA. (To be continued.)

46

DESCRIPTION OF BRITISH TREES.

No. XIII. Quick-beam, or Mountain Ash-Sorbus. The Sorbus, Quicken, Service or Roan-tree, for it bears all these names, is still better known to us by the name of the Mountain Ash; but it is not connected in class or in character with the Fraxinus, Common Ash-tree. This tree is more likely to attract our attention in the berry even than in the flower, which is very beautiful, and surrounded with leaves of remarkable elegance. Few trees of the forest are so splendid as this, when in the Autumn the large branches of berries are of the brightest red, and the leaves assume a tint scarcely less brilliant.

“ It rises to a reasonable stature, shoots upright and slender, and consists of a fine smooth bark. It delights to be both in mountains and woods, and to fix itself in good light ground. Besides the use of it, for the husbandman's tools, goads, &c., the wheelwright commends it for being all heart; if the tree be large and so well grown, as some there are, it will saw into planks, boards, and timber; our Fletchers commend it for bows next to Yew, which we ought not to pass over, for the glory of our once English ancestors : in a statute of Henry VIII. you have it mentioned. It is excellent fuel, but I have not yet observed any other use, save that the blossoms are of an agreeable scent, and the berries such a tempting bait for Thrushes, that as long as they last, you shall be sure of their company. Ale and beer, brewed from these berries, being ripe, is an incomparable drink, familiar in Wales, where this tree is reputed so sacred, that there is not a church-yard without one of them planted in it, as among us the Yew. So on a certain day in the year, every body religiously wears a cross made of the wood; and the tree is by some authors called Fraxinus Cambro-Britannica ; reputed to be a preservative against fascination and evil spirits; whence, perhaps, we call it Witchen, the boughs being stuek about the house, or the wood used for walking stayes."-EVELYN.

“ In former times this tree was supposed to be possessed of the property of driving away witches and evil spirits; and this property is recorded in a very ancient song.

Their spells were vain. The hags returned
To the queen in sorrowful mood,
Crying that witches have no power

Where there is a Roan-tree wood. “ This tree will grow upon any soil, strong or light, moist or dry. It will flourish on mountains or in woods; and is never affected by

[merged small][merged small][graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][merged small]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »