Pausing on the summit to consider which way I should go, inland, towards Axminister, or along the coast by Beer, Seton, Axmouth, and so on to Lyme Regis, I turned to have a last look and say a last good-bye to Branscombe and could hardly help waving my hand to it.
Why, I asked myself, am I not a poet, or verse-maker, so as to say my farewell in numbers? My answer was, Because I am too much occupied in seeing. There is no room and time for ‘tranquillity,’ since I want to go on to see something else. As Blake has it: “Natural objects always did and do, weaken, deaden and obliterate imagination in me.”
We know however that they didn’t quite quench it in him.
Abbotsbury is an old unspoilt village, not on but near the sea, divided from it by half a mile of meadowland where all sorts of meadow and water plants flourish, and where there are extensive reed and osier beds, the roosting-place in autumn and winter of innumerable starlings. I am always delighted to come on one of these places where starlings congregate, to watch them coming in at day’s decline and listen to their marvellous hubbub, and finally to see their aerial evolutions when they rise and break up in great bodies and play at clouds in the sky. When the people of the place, the squire and keepers and others who have an interest in the reeds and osiers, fall to abusing them on account of the damage they do, I put my fingers in my ears. But at Abbotsbury I did not do so, but listened with keen pleasure to the curses they vented and the story they told. This was that when the owner of Abbotsbury came down for the October shooting and found the starlings more numerous than ever, he put himself into a fine passion and reproached his keepers and other servants for not having got rid of the birds as he had desired them to do. Some of them ventured to say that it was easier said than done, whereupon the great man swore that he would do it himself without assistance from any one, and getting out a big duck-gun he proceeded to load it with the smallest shot and went down to the reed bed and concealed hiniself among the bushes at a suitable distance. The birds were pouring in, and when it was growing dark and they had settled down for the night he fired his big piece into the thick of the crowd, and by and by when the birds after wheeling about for a minute or two settled down again in the same place he fired again. Then he went