HOW WE CAME BACK TO UPPINGHAM.
(From the SCHOOL MAGAZINE.)
(Signifer, statue signum, hic manebimus optime.)
Who has not known the moment when, as he looked on some familiar landscape, its homely features and sober colouring have suddenly, under some chance inspiration of the changing sky, become alive with an unexpected beauty: its unambitious hills take on them the dignity of mountains, its woods and streams swell and broaden with a majesty not their own. Though, perhaps, it is their own, if Nature, like Man, is most herself when seen in her best self; if her brightest moments are her truest.
Shall we be thought fanciful if we confess that we felt something of this same kind when, returning from a year-long exile, in the last gleams of a bright May evening we turned the corner of the High Street of Uppingham, and came face to face with our welcome. The old street, seen again at last after so many months of banishment, the same and not the same; the old, homely street—forgive us, walls and roofs of Uppingham, and forgive us, you who tenant them, if sometimes perhaps to some of us, as our eyes swept the grand range of Welsh mountain-tops, or travelled out over limitless sea distances, there would rise forbidden feelings of reluctance to exchange these fair things for the bounded views and less unstinted beauties of our midland home: forgive us, as you may the more readily because these thoughts, if any such lingered, were charmed away on the instant by the sight of the real Uppingham. There lay the path to our home, an avenue of triumphal arches soaring on pillars of greenery, plumed with sheaves of banners, and enscrolled with such words as those to whom they spoke will know how to read and remember. Our eyes could follow through arch after arch the reaches of the gently-winding street, alive from end to end with waving flags, green boughs, and fanciful devices, till the quiet golden light in the western sky closed the vista, and glorified with such a touch of its own mellow splendour the ranges of brown gables and their floating banners, that for a moment we half dreamed ourselves spectators of an historic pageant in some “dim, rich city” of old-world renown. Only for a moment, though; for when we drop our eyes to the street below us, those are our own townsfolk, well-remembered faces, that throng every doorstep and fill the overflowing pavements and swarming roadway. Yes, they are our own townsfolk, and they are taking care to let us know it—such a welcome they have made ready for us.
We hardly know how to describe with the epic dignity which it merits the act by which they testified their joy at our return. We who saw the sight were reminded of an incident in the AEneid—
Instar montis equum divina Palladis
Aedificant, sectaque intexunt abiete costas;
Votum pro reditu simulant.