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A Suburban Sentimentalist
by [?]

That wild and engaging region known as the Salamis Estates has surprising enchantments for the wanderer. Strolling bushrangers, if they escape being pelleted with lead by the enthusiastic rabbit hunters who bang suddenly among thickets, will find many vistas of loveliness. All summer long we are imprisoned in foliage, locked up in a leafy embrace. But when the leaves have shredded away and the solid barriers of green stand revealed as only thin fringes of easily penetrable woodland, the eye moves with surprise over these wide reaches of colour and freedom. Beyond the old ruined farmhouse past the gnarled and rheumatic apple tree is that dimpled path that runs across fields, the short cut down to the harbour. The stiff frozen plumes of ghostly goldenrod stand up pale and powdery along the way. How many tints of brown and fawn and buff in the withered grasses–some as feathery and translucent as a gauze scarf, as nebulous as those veilings Robin Herrick was so fond of–his mention of them gives an odd connotation to a modern reader–

So looks Anthea, when in bed she lyes,
Orecome, or halfe betray’d by Tiffanies.

Our fields now have the rich, tawny colour of a panther’s hide. Along the little path are scattered sumac leaves, dark scarlet. It is as though Summer had been wounded by the hunter Jack Frost, and had crept away down that secret track, leaving a trail of bloodstains behind her.

This tract of placid and enchanted woodland, field, brake, glen, and coppice, has always seemed to us so amazingly like the magical Forest of Arden that we believe Shakespeare must have written “As You Like It” somewhere near here. One visitor, who was here when the woods were whispering blackly in autumn moonlight, thought them akin to George Meredith’s “The Woods of Westermain”–

Enter these enchanted woods,
You who dare.
Nothing harms beneath the leaves
More than waves a swimmer cleaves,
Toss your heart up with the lark,
Foot at peace with mouse and worm.
Fair you fare.
Only at a dread of dark
Quaver, and they quit their form:
Thousand eyeballs under hoods
Have you by the hair.
Enter these enchanted woods,
You who dare.

But in winter, and in such a noonday of clear sunshine as the present, when all the naked grace of trunks and hillsides lies open to eyeshot, the woodland has less of that secrecy and brooding horror that Meredith found in “Westermain.” It has the very breath of that golden-bathed magic that moved in Shakespeare’s tenderest haunt of comedy. Momently, looking out toward the gray ruin on the hill (which was once, most likely, the very “sheepcote fenced about with olive trees” where Aliena dwelt and Ganymede found hose and doublet give such pleasing freedom to her limbs and her wit) one expects to hear the merry note of a horn; the moralizing Duke would come striding thoughtfully through the thicket down by the tiny pool (or shall we call it a mere?). He would sit under those two knotty old oaks and begin to pluck the burrs from his jerkin. Then would come his cheerful tanned followers, carrying the dappled burgher they had ambushed; and, last, the pensive Jacques (so very like Mr. Joseph Pennell in bearing and humour) distilling his meridian melancholy into pentameter paragraphs, like any colyumist. A bonfire is quickly kindled, and the hiss and fume of venison collops whiff to us across the blue air. Against that stump–is it a real stump, or only a painted canvas affair from the property man’s warehouse?–surely that is a demijohn of cider? And we can hear, presently, that most piercingly tremulous of all songs rising in rich chorus, with the plenitude of pathos that masculines best compass after a full meal–