The Natural History of Wiltshire eBook

John Aubrey
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 257 pages of information about The Natural History of Wiltshire.

        “His own small flock each senator did keep.”

Lucretius mentions an extraordinary happinesse, and as it were divinity in a shepherd’s life:  —

        “Thro’ shepherds’ care, and their divine retreats.”

And, to speake from the very bottome of my heart, not to mention the integrity and innocence of shepherds, upon which so many have insisted and copiously declaimed, methinkes he is much more happy in a wood that at ease contemplates the universe as his own, and in it the sunn and starrs, the pleasing meadows, shades, groves, green banks, stately trees, flowing springs, and the wanton windings of a river, fit objects for quiet innocence, than he that with fire and sword disturbs the world, and measures his possessions by the wast that lies about him.

These plaines doe abound with hares, fallow deer, partridges, and bustards. [The fallow deer and bustards have long since disappeared from these plains; but hares and partridges abound in the vicinity of gentlemen’s seats, particularly around Everleigh, Tidworth, Amesbury, Wilbury, Wilton, Earl-Stoke, Clarendon, &c. — Vide ante, p.64. - J. B.] In this tract is ye Earle of Pembroke’s noble seat at Wilton; but the Arcadia and the Daphne is about Vernditch and Wilton; and these romancy plaines and boscages did no doubt conduce to the hightening of Sir Philip Sydney’s phansie.  He lived much in these parts, and his most masterly touches of his pastoralls he wrote here upon the spott, where they were conceived.  ’Twas about these purlieus that the muses were wont to appeare to Sir Philip Sydney, and where he wrote down their dictates in his table book, though on horseback.* For those nimble fugitives, except they be presently registred, fly away, and perhaps can never be caught again.  But they were never so kind to appeare to me, though I am the usufructuary:† it seemes they reserve that grace only for the proprietors, to whom they have continued a constant kindnesse for a succession of generations of the no lesse ingenious than honorable family of the Herberts.  These were the places where our Kings and Queens used to divert themselves in the hunting season.  Cranbourn Chase, which reaches from Harnham Bridge, at Salisbury, near to Blandford, was belonging to Roger Mortimer, Earle of March:  his seate was at his castle at Cranbourne.  If these oakes here were vocall as Dodona’s, some of the old dotards (old stagge-headed oakes, so called) could give us an account of the amours and secret whispers between this great Earle and the faire Queen Isabell.

I remember some old relations of mine and [other] old men hereabout that have seen Sir Philip doe thus.

†[Aubrey held the manor farm of Broad Chalk under a lease from the Earl of Pembroke. — J. B.]

To find the proportion of the downes of this countrey to the vales, I did divide Speed’s Mappe of Wiltshire with a paire of cizars, according to the respective hundreds of downes and vale, and I weighed them in a curious ballance of a goldsmith, and the proportion of the hill countrey to the vale is as .... to .... sc. about 3/4 fere.

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The Natural History of Wiltshire from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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