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A NORTHERN JOURNEY
What have I to do with the Muses? What with northern climes? Where am I being borne on this uncertain course, for a certain time, not only in my imagination but bodily? My mind craves to write I know not what, about that which I did (truth to tell) I know not how; but my mind craves to write, to write down the poem it dictated (if such can be said) and poured forth over the course of the journey: an unsure poem, written in no sure order, a thing I never imagined could befall me. For when I escorted our Dean as he was departing Oxford, as a duty but even more out of affection, I was minded to return home on the selfsame day I went out. Oh, I was forced to go further than I had planned or than my affairs could have carried me! For when I was lured into this long journey, venturing beyond my proposed limit, whether by affection for the fellow (no man more beloved), or by his company (no man more delightful), or by the empty promises and lying talk of Dominus Blenkowe (no man more deceitful), I had no further chance to refuse or make my excuses, or to say my good-byes, obtain permission to travel, or set my affairs in order; and so I, being a bad friend, took leave of my good friends. Hereupon I conceived the desire, insofar as I could, of relieving the tedium of a long journey by means of my chattering Muse, and I poured forth whatever came into my mouth, as if at such a time it was sufficient just to produce such extemporaneous verses and describe our lengthy travels in a lengthy poem.
On the first night Northampton received us weary folk, which wants to be deemed pure, no matter how impure it may be. Its piety exists only in name, for here as everywhere else men live according to unclean habits. If perchance you ask the name of a church, they answer Nicholas’, John’s, Mary’s, or Thomas’, but don’t dare add the word Saint. There is one called by the ancient name of Allhallows, which they mention timidly if at all. Their manner of speaking is not only incorrect, but also blasphemous, and there it is a crime to call the Sabbath Sunday. Here many approached the Dean, asking him to speak. There anyone who gives moral instruction to the people speaks but does not preach, and he who calls this preaching is mistaken.
On the following night Leicester presented itself to us, a large town but a scattered one. There were fields where we see that in olden times there had been many monuments of the ancients. Thence we came to Nottingham, badly laid out and built on a cliff. Here you could see homes hewn out of the living rock, you could also see evil fumes rising up as if from the Inferno. I do not imagine Avernus emits a more horrible stench. We had a drink, like the dog from the Nile, and made our escape, pressing onward to Mansfield. There is nothing notable there, unless it is worthy of note that more than six hundred carrier horses inned there one night (so-called because they do naught but carry baggage). On the following night Rotherham was the first town in Yorkshire to receive us; it only wanted its gamblers, though its landlord and landlady are adroit at all manner of gaming. I shall often speak of the verdant hospitality of greeny Wakefield all on a green, because of its inn where we were received with dainties and fish, where “we had our fill of vintage wine and fat game,” and a drink so strong that one cup is enough for many a man, and one may rightly call it the drink of Mars.
Not far from greeny Wakefield all on a green (for so it says in the song) lies Aberford, a humble village, but it suffices a man to have dwelt content among humble things. Here dwells a Baucis, widowed of her Philemon, living alone but in fact not alone, for she approached us with her two daughters, and I know not whether I should call them more comely than bashful; you would think them lilies mingled with roses. They set before us the ripe fruits of Autumn, apples, pears, and that Bacchus who was born of the grain, not the vine, in great huge mugs (you’d think them Alcmedon’s divine handicraft); “while they slaked one thirst, another grew greater.” Thanks be to Dominus Anthony, to whom our gratitude is expressed with a wide grin.
Tadcaster has nothing worthy of the Muses and my song, save for a grand bridge sans river. The next house to come up belonged to the Archbishop of York, having the name of Thorp, being his estate in fact as well as in name. You’d think it belonged to a Bishop, such was its elegant façade. Here we had cause to rest for a while, and here our Dean built his foundation on sand more safely and soundly than if he had placed his trust in those rugged crags of the North. For though these be durable, I doubt they will endure.
York has what you can find praiseworthy, what you can want. It is a large city, indeed, but not a well built one, and its buildings and streets are not especially fine. Nevertheless once within Petergate we saw no few edifices that were handsome and made for distinguished purposes. But this does not apply to those assigned to the Canons for their use, for instead of the Canonic rules many men live unruly in the Minster Close.
On the dawning of the seventh day, when the Bishop of York led us out to hunt in his forests, only the Dean was absent, either because he was unwilling or because he was invited to tarry in York. First we were received by a park called Rider, a course we traveled with no coursing; for before we could take up the chase the cry went up that the quarry had fallen. We took our leave and went a-nutting (previously we had gone without nuts) when a hallooing summoned us and we saw a deer lying, dyed with its own blood. Next we sought out a second park, named Thorp, a long journey and a pointless one, for there we were cheated of our hopes, and of a good portion of the day, and there is little or no pleasure in that pleasure park, for I do not think it is so stocked with beasts as with brambles. There remained a park called Rest (its nature answered to its name), where we found repose and no mean pleasure. Here one did not see one or perhaps two deer, as at the others, for they gathered in herds from all sides, with great stags. We loosed the hounds and ran down a doe, who was of a right good size. The Bishop averred that he would have granted her to the Dean if the ingrate were not absent, and yet he did could not fail to be mindful of the Dean, ingrate though he might be. Seeing another to be taller than the others with its high neck, he bade a servant string his bow. With his words he dedicated this animal to the Dean before he had made her his own, for he shot his arrow in vain. Thereupon we set loose our dogs, but she outran them all and the dogs retreated in exhaustion, or as if they wished no prey at all to be given the Dean for being absent. Only good luck (not to be undone by arrows or dogs) favored our Dean, and our quarry lay stabbed in the mud. Thus a beast is unlucky by nature, for it lives its life in fear but is cut down by an unexpected sword. And so a deer was granted to the Dean, absent andthus less deserving, a large doe in lieu of a great stag.
Now day was done, when our journey beckoned us elsewhere and we were obliged to abandon the Archbishop’s groaning board. Lo, ministers flocked from all sides to greet our Dean, as the Archbishop had previously invited them so as to celebrate his arrival in the north country. And he had already arranged with the Dean that he should deliver an address to this numerous congregation of clerics. Here I saw (and it was wholesome to see, “and will be wholesome to recall,”) fifty ministers at the Bishop’s table, each one qualified to celebrate the Eucharist.
At this point Bourchier invited us to his manor, a man of great name but greater affection, who sent his firstborn son to lead us along the deep river’s banks and the sweet meadowlands. Each of us made his way towards the sea, seeking to use the river instead of a guide, and the pleasant stream led us to a generous fountain of hospitality, friendly beyond measure. Why relate every detail? The house itself was sumptuously built and furnished. It would be hard work to recount each thing of you might ask. Everything needful is there, though much be lacking. What is the point in making yourself haggard here working a parti-colored garden? Here grows that herb which rejoices in a name taken from the stomach, the garlic called (like the card game) cut-throat. “He who mixes the useful with the pleasant destroys the whole point.”
Topcliff, I would not dignify you with mention in my song, had you not given us well-watered wine and fine plums, although you are well known by name to the Muses, who dwell in a nook on your pinnacle. And now I truly seemed to be seeing northern territory, for no previous terrain looked any different than the southland. Only Northallerton struck me as having been born under the freezing Great Bear, it compelled us to take to hard and narrow beds. Here I saw — saw? rather I experienced in the flesh what chattering but truthful Rumor will tell down South. For at our first entry a cornucopia of townsmen, cattle, and high-horned oxen thronged the market-place, as if come to greet us. The next development mirrored the first, for you’d think the single house seemingly built for human use was a cow-barn. The bread was suitable for horses, nay, heavier than horse-bread, and the drink tasted of charcoal. The rest of the stuff the cook served up consisted of things the Dean had brought along for our personal consumption. But rumbling, harsh-sounding Harrison naughtily ate up all the partridges we had brought (we had told him they were chickens). And so to bed. At this point my mind yearns to pour forth iambics, a lampoon against that accursed bed. “Who in describing the catastrophe of that night,” its injuries, would not invite the Furies’ burning torches into his poem? My bed was hard — why do I say hard? I believe plenty of bones rest more comfortably in the depths of the tomb. Making the beds there is no chore, for they receive no imprint of your body. But I would have been content, save that I was more anguished by the foul stench of the mattress assaulting my nostrils. At this point how I would have enjoyed that deathlike sleep Endymion is supposed to have experienced, as I wished, if this wretched stink had not deprived me of sleep and health! But the fleas forbade sleep, and also the vermin, which seemed even more insolent as they collected at the fleabites. We lay awake most of the night, and rose before sunrise, but still that night seemed the longest in my life. I was hoping the sun was having as bad a night of it as I was, so it would more quickly rise and bathe the land with its light. Need I say more? I’d have rather be locked in jail for three days than sleep a single night in that bed.
Next the Bishop possessing the title of Durham requested us to swerve from our route and track him down, for he had gone off to his secluded retreat, a place to which few men travel or have cause to visit. Since he was a canny fellow, he was aware that the time was now at hand when the Council of the North was to sit in his city. Hence the Earl of Huntingdon was present, whom our sovereign had made President of the North. Why? Because at that time Walsingham had made a long journey to Scotland, and was coming to him, so he feared lest all this would mean not profit but expense. We tracked him down, even though he had retreated to the coast. For the coast supplied him with an estate which took its name from a den in a tree-stock. He received us more lavishly than we had expected, coming out to meet us himself and preceded by many servants, and particularly by his son the Doctor — what a learned man! We were astounded at his size, his huge frame, his haughty expression. When he and the Dean had taken their seats, they produced chicken and ham. A preposterous order of precedence was observed not only in regard to the son, that the Doctor should sit above the learned: it also applied to his children. For we observed that girls who appeared to be newborn were actually wives, though you’d swear they were children if they had not sat at the right hand of the father, in the seat of honor. The Bishop did nothing in the ordinary way, nothing that was not surprising. He had taken a French pullet to wife, for he wanted nothing to do with an Englishwoman. But why be surprised at these things, worthy of an emblem? The man was emblematic through and through. Every part of his house shone with his inventions, and he painted pictures by the same creative impulse that inspired his versification. There was one painting in which he took particular delight, over which he was especially pleased with himself, that he fancied he had executed with Minerva’s guidance, and he had ordered that this be displayed in his hall. ”The mountain labors, and give birth to a ridiculous — pig!” For he had painted the Pope astride a shitting swine, and men befouled by tail-dragging demons, their faces smeared with dung (naught painted better). “Friends, having been let in to see this sight, can you restrain your laughter?” This scene seems to have been devised by a hog rather than about one, for what does it contain worthy of Apollo and the Muses? Though there may be much for me to say, there is more about which I must remain silent, and, when it comes to his follies, “the abundance renders me helpless.”
Refreshed by this stage-play, so to speak, this comedy more laughable than laughter-provoking, we hastened on our way and, with Stockden behind us, had scarcely covered a mile when farmers ran up to us from all directions who had the Dean for their landlord, and greeted him in every way they could, saying his arrival was welcome, and afterwards more and more people came thronging out of the city. In particular there appeared the Prebends, obliged by law to pay their Canons’ duty to their appointed Dean. At length long-awaited Durham came into sight, a distinguished city at least insofar as the Cathedral is placed on its own hill. For it is a rare man who gets a good view of the city once inside it: the street is long but narrow and cuts through the market-place just as a geometer’s lines bisects the center of a circle, but you cannot take this in this save from the Cathedral’s steeple. A river makes a sinuous arc around the city and, doubling back on itself, all but creates an isthmus.
The Deanery, which you come across like a palace as you climb the Cathedral hill, is large to the eye but much larger in relation to its purpose. It is difficult to say whether it is more ample or more apt for all its official requirements. It has comfortable rooms (and how I wished the houses in which we would stay during the return trip would be similar!). Our entire company entered, and Harrison hurled himself about the great hall itself, serving as an ornament to a bounteous dinner served summa cum laude; I do not believe that the noble landlord of The Bear could have taken his seat with greater dignity.
On the following day Bellamy, who is said to have been a rival for the throne, though a rival “unequal to Achilles,” preached to the congregation, reading aloud in a singsong clerical voice. Nonetheless, he vastly exceeded our expectations — when there are no expectations, they are easily surpassed. Next we all went to visit the Dean’s estate, which is called by the ancient but misleading name of Deer Park, for this had been despoiled during a period of interregnum, when the Prebends (who do not get their title from providing anything!) shared the power amongst themselves in the absence of any Dean. And I find it more remarkable that they had done away with all the antler-bearing deer — what possible use had they for antlers? Still, the land is fertile, good sound soil and verdant meadowland, made handsome by a placid brook. It is endowed with all that pleases, all that is needful, and there is no place so fertile down South. You can’t exactly say there’s a horn of plenty here, but an abundance of all good things (minus the horn). In the middle of the park stands a fine manor, somewhat removed from the city, pleasing for its location, even more so for its utility. If the babble of a tranquil fountain delights you, or if you take pleasure in gazing at the lawn of a flowery yard, crave for air so as to breathe its sweet fragrances, or wish to amble in the woods or climb hills, by its nature this place purveys everything for all your senses.
Now it was the Sunday on which the Dean was to take charge of his own pulpit in the Cathedral. The expectation of his arrival was great, the praise given the man even greater (about whom, as about Carthage, it is preferable to say nothing than too little). Previously he had surpassed everyone else; now he outdid himself. He was fortunate in having such a divine appointment, but they were even more fortunate to have the blessed talent of such a learned man. And at the same time he also fed them bodily, a thing rarely possible for a single man, especially because the larger part of the congregation was present. He offered them a spiritual and corporeal feast, for the interior of his hall and his house were thrown open to the public, and Harrison took charge and greatly lightened his burden in this matter, receiving each guest with the greatest ceremony.
After five days had passed, being in the vast North country far from our native land, we were overcome by no small desire to return to Oxford, Oxford which we had put far behind us for so long. But our most deceptive friend Blenkowe (to say nothing worse about him) deceived us, and spoke in his conversation about the return journey, which he had no intention of making. And I won’t say the Dean asked us — he ordered, commanded and exhorted us, holding us against our will, that we linger for a month, even though we were minded (as they say) for a travel-month. Although he saw many men and seemed to be seeing more by the day, he imagined that he would be stranded among those folk with none of his own people. Nor was he as grateful (though he was most grateful) that we had come to these climes for his sake, as he was furious that we were willing to leave him behind in those lands before he had laid the foundations of his Deanship. We humored him, and passed our days now in this recreation, now in that. Hereupon ancient Harrison invited us to play a game of cut-throat, behaving in his typical fashion, for he asked for his cards, as was his wont, and made his discards with unwonted abandon. Blenkowe often wished to visit Newcastle, and I often refused. For Master Jock had made me fearful, since they said this outlaw was ranging freely, murdering sleeping men in their beds. In particular (you must trust me) that boy pleased the others who used to sing calmly at our table, performing Scots songs Scottishly in a Scots dialect.
Afterwards Dunstall preached (you could just as well call him Tall Dunce): unless my judgment fails me, he spoke so drearily on such a trifling theme that you could all but proclaim he was saying nothing. His lungs were more powerful than his eloquence; to be sure, his words had weight, but it was dead weight, insubstantial heaviness. Thus ignorance emboldens the stupid. He took his text from the eleventh chapter of Matthew, I mean that passage in which Christ summoned to Himself all those who labor and know themselves to be oppressed by the weight of their sins, so that He might relieve them of their burden and lighten their heavy load. This donkey fashioned out of lead, or some substance even denser (and when I speak thus, I seem to be flattering the man), spoke of those who labor as those who work for a living and urged everyone to seek employment. “Even if natural talent is wanting, indignation makes one write satire!” Though heavier than lead, the fellow spoke stuff lighter than a feather, but in this one single respect he appeared to be satisfactorily modest, that as he railed against avarice and the crimes of a base life, he thumped himself on the breast, since he scarcely imagined that anyone could move others who wasn’t moved himself. When this gentleman perceived he was Vice-Dean he did not let go one iota of that dignity, nor (saving the title of Dean) will he ever let it go, and in my opinion will always clutch it in his grasp. At this point Lougher made his appearance, and she to whom Youth has given its name, who has deserved it that Youth itself has granted this gift. She enjoyed a fine reputation with everybody for so many good points. For no other reason is Wales renowned than that it has produced Dr. Lougher and Mistress Young. Nowhere will you discover a single man out of thousands who does not yield to these two, thus are they distinguished by their excellent and honest morals. At their arrival our hopes of seeing Oxford were rekindled, a hope that was constantly being dashed: for there arose a new cause for lingering. This lengthy delaying was more oppressive than our long journey, for the hope of making an end to traveling lightened our journey, whereas no hope of making an end lightened our delay. Hope lessens as delay lengthens.
Simple Holiday urged forgiveness of the offences we have received, but in his simplicity lay concealed much subtlety. He mixed morsels of Greek in with his Latin, tidbits of sacred learning in with his secular conversation. But we forgave him on this single score, that what he drew from these sources was readily comprehensible; whatever he said was more Greek-like than actually Greek. Next came a man whose tongue flowed smoother than honey and butter, shining among them like the moon among lesser stars. This person, Naunton, was the Tully of the North, the prince of oratory, the prince of preaching. The great anticipation he had created proved his undoing, for he had a reputation for learning, but was scarcely the shadow of an educated man. He went on and on with his rhetorical tropes, saying all you could say about any text of Scripture you care to name.
The Dean spoke second in his turn; a swan come in among the geese, an Attic bee among the drones, and (as was his habit) he surpassed them all, “just as the cypress are wont to overtop the swaying viburnums.” But what is the use of bees’ honey, what is the value of a swan’s song, when no mere chattering goose or lowborn beast thrusts himself into the light: when indeed Robson, a veritable bird of Juno, shows off his peacock feathers and wings? How I wanted to feel pity for this man! But his vain, colossal ego, full of God knows what, distorted both nature and art so miserably, so wretchedly, that he seemed to have learnt nothing of either nature or art. Whatever he cultivates is his stylistic coloration, but a discolored one; he introduces flowery passages, but florid without beauty or bloom. It is as if he makes a Mercury out of wood and hard marble, who craves to be a new Cicero against Minerva’s will. But they say he is the Bishop of Durham’s darling and they don’t say this amiss, because there’s nothing they could call him except “darling.” Brown is smaller in stature, but larger in accomplishment. He swept along more gently than Robson, though much more substantially, and he speaks in the manner of flowing water, which follows its course with a quiet murmur when it is at the full, but tends to foam when shallow. Bunney is held to be Oxford’s sweet delight, and he seems to have been nursed at Magdalene, the most learned among the Canons. Next Ewbanke, Chaplain to the Dean, came forth, who couldn’t say much well (but who didn’t say everything badly). He waxed chill on a text that required warmth, threadbare on one that demanded amplitude, and the fervent love he urged was frigid.
And now yet another reason delayed us as we were on the point of departing: rumor that the ambassador to Scotland was returning, with the result that the Dean did not wish me to leave his house before I had paid my respects to Walsingham, a Lord I was duty-bound to honor. I had no more legitimate reason for delay than the one then offered, nor one less irksome. And at length Durham had started to please me, and this development gave me an excuse to pay less attention to time’s passage. Scarce had Phoebus thrice completed his course through the sky and plunged his rays in Ocean’s waves, when the Earl of Huntingdon and the Dean rode out on horseback, accompanied by a large retinue, to escort Lord Walsingham into the city. Hereupon the reverend Bishop, so that he might steal a march in gaining Walsingham’s favor, furtively went eastward into the farthest borderland, exposed to the rainy South wind, and waited, covered in mud, from nine in the morning to four in the afternoon. Honors conferred by the sovereign do not alter his contemptible habits. So he was the earlier to meet Walsingham, though our group was much more welcome in his sight, and thus the Bishop “wasted his time and oil.”17 Our number was great, but still was greater that of those who composed the Lord Ambassador’s retinue. Foremost among them was the Earl of Essex, then the two Wardens of the border country, Lord Scrope and fierce Foster (whom they say to be good at guarding himself). There too were two brothers, both distinguished by the golden Garter, the true scions of Russell, that Earl to whom Bedford lends its name. Joined to them were others resplendent in purple and gold, Mildmay, Neville, distinguished for his book-learning, that right noble lad of the North, Lowther, Widdrington, Barnston, the Musgraves, skilled at horse-riding, Fenwick, rich with Scots spoils, a man fiery enough by nature, his flame fanned higher by the hope of exacting revenge on the men who had killed his father in his boyhood. I pretermit the rest, I omit each man’s outriders, as it would be impossible to enumerate them nor, if it were, would there be any point. They all entered along with Walsingham, filling the city, but Durham was not sufficient for such a throng. Because Heath, who himself was leaving town, had promised the hospitality of his house to his Lordship, he enjoyed the pleasure of a night’s stay in that man’s grand manor, scarce one mile distant.
The following day that dawned was called that of St. Matthew, and Dr. Mathew was busied about his own nameday in his own Cathedral. The Ambassador conceived a desire to hear him, and so left old man Heath’s hospitable house in the morning. The Dean was always held to be the best, at first giving pleasure, in the end giving complete delight. He is always the same: they say that even the savage and rebellious so-called Catholics emerged from the city to hear him in droves, though I do not know by what right. The Earl and the Dean took turns entertaining the Lord Ambassador, although he only took advantage of the Dean’s hospitality. He chucked us out of our beds, and we, being thus turfed out, did the same to Harrison and the Major-Domo, so we seemed to be masters of the house. As soon as the Ambassador entered the Dean’s house I delivered a lengthy welcoming sermon, and he accepted it, as was his wont, with a happy and kindly expression, and though he was aware he had favored me, he acknowledged that he was much more indebted to me because he interpreted my duty towards him as a sign of affection. He tarried in the city for five days, either because he was exhausted or (as I prefer to think) since the Dean’s house seemed a small palace for the occasion. Daily messengers flew hither and thither, swifter than the east wind, always bringing news, telling everything done in the court of the Scottish king or of our English sovereign, secrets of state, scarce known or fit to be divulged to any common fellow. A rumor, as it were, is circulating that Scotland has become hostile to us, an enemy land.
At a time propitious for preaching in the Dean’s presence, that ornament (yes, I say that ornament) of his father, Dr. Emanuel with a nice sealed diploma from over the sea, took over the pulpit, for evidently the Bishop did not wish it to be unknown that, though no true Doctor himself, he could procreate one. But this man was not born a Doctor as a boy: they say he took a doctorate at Basle, and he took his one quite legitimately. True creation cannot be said to proceed ex nihilo. This wise donkey did not shrink from trying a tune on David’s lyre, handling the Prophets, spouting metaphors which he himself scarce understood, bawling like one of the Cherubim singing hosanna in the sky, with our expert not only a member of the congregation but also deferring to his talent. He nonetheless obtained his object, for, understandably, he became somebody of whom it could be said “this is the man!” (I forbear to say in what sense).
No further argument could compel us to remain, yet for countless reasons we were obliged to yield, albeit the Dean unwillingly permitted us to go and proffered some coins, as if we were in his employ; we, not so degraded, disdained his money and scorned to accept his offer. Walsingham, on the point of departure, extended unnecessary thanks to the Dean by paying off his debts, and promised his favor to Blenkowe and myself; and indeed I rejoice that our Dean is indebted to such a great man. You would scarce credit the great care and industry with which he dealt with the Bishop and Canons, taking the whole matter upon himself, so that they would turn over to Mathew the rents accrued during the time the Deanship had lain vacant, which they retained by the violence which passes for law in the North. Who would not be astonished at Harrison’s expression? With what groaning he addressed Doll, with what laughter he addressed Furze, and with what dignity he bade farewell to the rest! He stood there, acting the Major-Domo, acting the master of the hall.
Finally, though we could scarce believe it possible, we departed. And just as we were leaving Auckland, the Bishop’s finest manor received us, since he had chanced to return there to entertain the Lord Ambassador, whom he had previously been dodging. He set a table that was neither pleasant nor bountiful. He said that we were welcome, but did not make us such, for his table was not set well or lavishly: I am amazed that he had grown so fat on such thin fare. But he drank more than he ate, uninterruptedly. After the meal he led us from room to room gulping from his foaming tankard, wetting his whistle from a full golden cup. Being a Doctor himself, his son did not yield to his father, showing himself a right germane Doctor and greater than his sire, as he toasted his old cronies with an even larger bumper.
From there, since we hated Northallerton “worse than dog or snake,” we directed our journey by the Richmond road, a place which is “the London of the North country.” Although its name proclaims it is rich and mundane, it ought to be called Richmont rather than Richmond. For it is neither mundane in its elegance, nor rich in commerce, and has nothing to sell beyond mortar and lime. If you look at it from afar, it appears to be Ulysses’ ancient Ithaca, lofty in its site and craggy with its overhanging rocks. Here Ewbanke gave us a meal elegant enough for the occasion, so as to demonstrate that we were welcome to his homeland. He would have done the same thing the next morning, but we made our escape beforehand, mindful of our journey, mindful of the day. And when our clock showed that it was noon (for I think that the sun had gone to sleep and had hidden its beams the whole day) we suddenly swerved aside to the hamlet called Topcliff by the Muses, which I had scarce condescended to include in my poem during the outward trip. But the place was more welcome to us now as we, done in, waited out a rainy aouth wind there. Goose, lark, and game, and the other adornments of the prevalent fare there, were offered us, all better than what the South has to offer. Clever Harrison had already sniffed this out, proclaiming our landlord the spitting image of the master of The Bear. I accept his opinion in such a case with no witnesses being summoned.
After we had rested a long while and the table had been cleared, there could be no more hope of fair weather. Reduced to extremity, we braved the dense rain and, as wet as if we had been ducked in the currents of the Ouse, we arrived at York, but late at night. Ever greater misfortune always hounds those in trouble, and our inn turned out to be even more unwelcome than the rain, for we were given a room, but one unfit for human use, and (what we craved the most) there was no fireplace. Our horses were sent off to a stable which ought to have been farther away. I have never seen a guesthouse less hospitable to its guests.
Hard luck knows no shame: we were at length obliged to foist ourselves and our horses onto Mistress Young, owner of a large house and a larger storehouse. She had previously invited us, and the Dean had promised in all our names that we would come; but our sense of bashfulness had restrained us, since we had entered the city so late. When she saw us coming in, she rejoiced at our presence, and clucked over our misfortune, commiserating with us about our travels and travails; she averred that she was even more indebted to our fortune than to ourselves, for it had brought us hardships but also brought us to her. Hence she gladly opened her home to us, admitting us into its interior, magnificantly decked out with all manner of textiles and tapesties, had a fire laid, and bade a meal be made ready. And with uncommon kindness she pointed out everything she could for our use. Atop of everything else, her face beamed and she was unstinting in disposition and good will. Afterwords she led us down a long gallery, past the splendor of various paintings, to a magnificent, noble room, and there we gave ourselves and our tortured limbs over to slumber. Why should I describe the splendor and brilliance of that edifice and its setting? The house suited its mistress: the house ennobled her and she ennobled the house. Great possessions befit great souls.
Plunged in sleep, as if forgetful of ourselves, we slumbered well into the day unawares, until Dr. Lougher himself arrived and tried to awaken us, bidding us mount our horses and make our way to the Archbishop’s palace. He had already been on the lookout for us and now, learning we had returned, bade us be escorted to dinner. We arose, went out, and quickly flew to him, whose manor lay scarce a mile from the city. Always the same good fellow, he rejoiced at our return, partly on account of the Dean, partly on ours (what single man was more favorable to both us academicians?), and graciously extended us the hospitality of his table in his usual way, asking many questions about the North, many about the South. Here it was yet another chore to get away on schedule. He urged us to tarry for three days, but we could not for even one. Our not inconsiderable affairs and also our weighty promises to Mistress Young recalled Blenkowe and myself to York. The Archbishop commended us and our progeny to God and pressed some coins on me, no matter how much I refused, reluctant as I was. We had scarcely arrived at York’s walls, when Dr. Parsons and the Dean of York issued us an invitation, but our hostess Mistress Young took precedence and gave us an elegant banquet; our hostess entertained us with song while we were at table, for she retained servants for this very purpose. I am not surprised that she has many suitors, but that they have wooed her in vain, for her fortune corresponds to her disposition and, as a Young ought, she preserves her affection for youth. She alone remains young, though no one should stay young but she. Hence when we had departed the city we prayed that for her, since she is a Young, her youth be ever renewed, Phoenix-wise, so that old age would visit her late or never. This we did in the morning, as we were going to pay our respects to Dr. Parsons and his wife, for we were equally beholden to both, for they had prepared a breakfast for us, even though we were protesting.
Tadcaster, previously riverless and dusty, now had an immense river, and mud in place of the dust. Aberford offered us the same produce as before; our stay was shorter, but our gratitude was greater. A fellow was sent to guide out of this unfamiliar region. Wakefield was far distant, so we swerved aside to a village named after a broken bridge, Pomfret, which had nothing beyond a praiseworthy castle. Rotherham had previously lacked gamesters, but now it swarmed with them, and anybody ignorant of gambling was barred from the inn. Although irked at being excluded, we chanced on a bigger and better hospice: sometimes a seeming difficulty works out to one’s advantage. Mansfield always has people transporting goods, and they do not interrupt their work even on festivals and holidays. I say naught of Nottingham, for if I were minded to praise her, I fear that Praise herself would become as shabby as she is. And now Leicester appeared on the far side of the Trent, when Blenkowe began to drop his arrogance and learned to abandon his Northern pride; he also learned that we too could wax haughty on our home ground.
At length, but only after taking many roundabouts, we arrived at Butler’s estate at Aston, named after walls. This was our goal, the object of our journey; we had earmarked a day here for hawking for partridge, and another for rabbiting. But a terrible storm destroyed all our pleasure, and compelled us to break off our hunt in in mid-chase. Blenkowe, so as to be unfailingly deceptive and finish in the manner in which he had started, deserted us here and refused to travel on to Oxford with me, as promised.
When I first caught sight of Oxford’s walls and spires, Oxford, splendid for its excellent studies, most splendid for its learned Muses, in some way I failed to understand, quicker than I could imagine, I perceived my poetic powers failing. My rustic Muse, born under the freezing northern sky, feared lest she make a rude noise amongst the polite Muses, like a gosling amongst swans.As if wafted northwards, she made her escape. I looked over my shoulder, calling her back, but she flew away out of view, fleeing like a shadow, and never looked backwards. How I wanted to use her to bid farewell to the Dean and to the many others I should! But it was she who unexpectedly bade farewell to me. Thus one and the same place began and ended my journey, and the same day that brought it to its conclusion also ended my song.