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Her grace she turned her round about,
As never was in the north before.
Shee caused thirty thousand men be rays'd,
Wi' them the false Erle Warwicke went,
I wiss they never stint ne blan.
Now spred thy ancyent, Westmoreland,
But the dun bulle is fled and gone,
And the halfe moone vanished away :
Thee, Norton, wi' thine eight good sonnes,
Thy reverend lockes thee could not save,
Wi' them full many a gallant wight
They cruellye bereav'd of life :
And widowed many a tender wife.
"Bolton Priory,' says Dr Whitaker in his excellent book-The History and Antiquities of the Deanry of Craven-' stands upon a beautiful curvature of the Wharf, on a level sufficiently elevated to protect it from inundations, and low enough for every purpose of picturesque effect.
"Opposite to the East window of the Priory Church, the river washes the foot of a rock nearly perpendicular, and of the richest purple, where several of the mineral beds, which break out, instead of maintaining their usual inclination to the horizon, are twisted by some inconceivable process, into undulating and spiral lines. To the South all is soft and delicious; the eye reposes upon a few rich pastures, a moderate reach of the river, sufficiently tranquil to form a mirror to the
sun, and the bounding hills beyond, neither too near nor too lofty to exclude, even in winter, any portion of his rays.
"But, after all, the glories of Bolton are on the North. Whatever the most fastidious taste could require to constitute a perfect landscape is not only found here, but in its proper place. In front, and immediately under the eye, is a smooth expanse of park-like enclosure, spotted with native elm, ash, &c. of the finest growth: on the right a skirting oak wood, with jutting points of grey rock; on the left a rising copse. Still forward are seen the aged groves of Bolton Park, the growth of centuries; and farther yet, the barren and rocky distances of Simonseat and Barden Fell contrasted with the warmth, fertility, and luxuriant foliage of the valley below.
"About half a mile above Bolton the Valley closes, and either side of the Wharf is overhung by solemn woods, from which huge perpendicular masses of grey rock jut out at intervals.
"This sequestered scene was almost inaccessible till of late, that ridings have been cut on both sides of the River, and the most interesting points laid open by judicious thinnings in the woods. Here a tributary stream rushes from a waterfall, and bursts through a woody glen to mingle its waters with the Wharf: there the Wharf itself is nearly lost in a deep cleft in the rock, and next becomes a horned flood enclosing a woody island-sometimes it reposes for a moment, and then resumes its native character, lively, irregular, and impetuous. "The cleft mentioned above is the tremendous STRID. This chasm, being incapable of receiving the winter floods, has formed, on either side, a broad strand of naked gritstone full of rock-basons, or "pots of the Linn," which bear witness to the restless impetuosity of so many Northern torrents. But, if here Wharf is lost to the eye, it amply repays another sense by its deep and solemn roar, like "the Voice of the angry Spirit of the Waters," heard far above and beneath, amidst the silence of the surrounding woods.
"The terminating object of the landscape is the remains of Barden Tower, interesting from their form and situation, and still more so from the recollections which they excite.""
The White Doe has been assigned chronologically to the year 1808; although part of it-probably the larger half-was written during the previous autumn, and it remained unfinished in 1810, while the dedication was not written till 1815. In the Fenwick note, Wordsworth tells us that it was begun at Stockton-on-Tees in the autumn of 1807, and "continued" at Dove Cottage, after his return to Grasmere, which was in April 1808. But on the 28th February, 1810, Dorothy Wordsworth, writing from Allan Bank to Lady Beaumont, says, "Before my brother turns to any other labour, I hope he will have finished three Books of the Recluse. He seldom writes less than 50 lines every day. After this task is finished he hopes to complete the 'White Doe,' and proud
should we all be if it should be honoured by a frontispiece from the pencil of Sir George Beaumont. Perhaps this is not impossible, if you come into the north next summer."
The frontispiece referred to was drawn by Sir George Beaumont for the quarto edition of 1815.
From the "advertisement" which Wordsworth prefixed to that edition, I infer that the larger part of the poem was written at Stockton. In the advertisement he says that "the poem of the White Doe was composed at the close of the year" (1807). In constructing the Chronological Table, I accepted this (his own) statement as to the date of the poem. It is, however, another illustration of the vague manner in which he was in the habit of assigning dates. The Fenwick note, and the evidence of his sister's letter, is conclusive; although the fact that The Force of Prayer-written in 1807-is called in the Fenwick note "an appendage to the 'White Doe,"" is farther confirmation of the belief that the principal part of the latter poem was finished in 1807. All things considered, it may be most conveniently placed after the poems belonging to the year 1807, and before those known to have been written in 1808; while The Force of Prayer naturally follows it.
The White Doe of Rylstone-first published in quarto in 1815-was scarcely altered in the editions of 1820, 1827, and 1832. In 1836, however, it was revised throughout, and in that year the text was virtually settled; the subsequent changes being few and insignificant, while those introduced in 1836 were numerous and important. A glance at the foot-notes will show that many passages were entirely rewritten in that year, and that a good many lines of the earlier text were altogether omitted. All the poems were subjected to minute revision in 1836; but few, if any, were more thoroughly recast, and improved, in that year than The White Doe. As a sample of the best kind of changes where a new thought was added to the earlier text with admirable felicity compare the lines in Canto VII., as it stood in 1815, when the Lady Emily first saw the White Doe at the old Hall of Rylstone, after her terrible losses and desolation
Lone Sufferer! will not she believe
The promise in that speaking face,
And take this gift of Heaven with grace?
with the additional thought conveyed in the version of 1836
Lone Sufferer! will not she believe
The promise in that speaking face;
And welcome as a gift of grace,
The saddest thought the Creature brings?
In the "Reminiscences" of Wordsworth-written by the Hon. Mr Justice Coleridge for the Bishop of Lincoln's Memoirs of his uncle-the following occurs. (See Vol. II. p. 311.) "His conversation was on critical subjects, arising out of his attempts to alter his poems. He said hẹ
considered The White Doe as, in conception, the highest work he had ever produced. The mere physical action was all unsuccessful: but the true action of the poem was spiritual—the subduing of the will, and all inferior fancies, to the perfect purifying and spiritualizing of the intellectual nature; while the Doe, by connection with Emily, is raised as it were from its mere animal nature into something mysterious and saint-like. He said he should devote much labour to perfecting the execution of it in the mere business parts, in which, from anxiety 'to get on' with the more important parts, he was sensible that imperfections had crept in which gave the style a feebleness of character."
From this conversation—which took place in 1836, but before the revision of the poem in that year-it will be seen that Wordsworth knew very well that there were feeble passages in the earlier editions of The White Doe; and that, in the thorough revision which he gave to all his poems in that year, this one was specially singled out for "much labour." The result is seen by a glance at the changes of
The notes appended to the edition of 1815 explain some of the historical and topographical allusions in the poem. To these the following may be added
In 1153, the canons of the Augustinian Priory at Embsay, near Skipton, were removed to Bolton, by William Fitz Duncan, and his wife, Cecilia de Romillé, who granted it by charter in exchange for the Manors of Skibdem and Stretton. The establishment at Bolton consisted of a prior and about 15 canons, over 200 persons (including servants and lay brethren) being supported at Bolton. During the Scottish raids of the fourteenth century, the prior and canons had frequently to retreat to Skipton for safety. In 1542 the site of the priory and demesnes were sold to Harry Clifford, first Earl of Cumberland. From the last Earl of Cumberland it passed to the second Earl of Cork, and then to the Devonshire family, to whom it still belongs. The following is part of the excellent account of the Priory, given in Murray's Yorkshire:
"The chief relic of the Priory is the church, the nave of which after the Dissolution was retained as the chapel of this so-called 'Saxon-Cure.'
This nave remains perfect, but the rest of the church is in complete ruin. The lower walls of the choir are Trans-Norman, and must have been built immediately after (if not before) the removal from Embsay. The upper walls and windows (the tracery of which is destroyed) are decorated. The nave is early English, and decorated; and the original west front remains with an elaborate Perpendicular front of excellent design, intended as the base of a western tower, which was never finished. The nave (which has been restored under the
direction of Crace)—the
"One protected part
In the shattered fabric's heart,'
is Early English on the south side, and Decorated on the north... At the end of the nave aisle, enclosed by a Perpendicular screen, is a chantry, founded by the Mauleverers; and below it is the vault, in which, according to tradition, the Claphams of Beamsley and their ancestors the Mauleverers were interred upright—
"Pass, pass who will, yon chantry door;
And through the chink in the fractured floor
A vault where the bodies are buried upright!
The Claphams and Mauleverers stand.'
Whitaker, however, could never see this grisely sight' through the chink in the floor; and it is perhaps altogether traditional. The ruined portion of the church is entirely Decorated, with the exception of the lower walls of the choir. The transepts had eastern aisles. The north transept is nearly perfect: the south retains only its western wall, in which are two decorated windows. The piers of a central tower remain; but at what period it was destroyed, or if it was ever completed, is uncertain. The choir is long and aisleless. Some fragments of tracery remain in the south window, which was a very fine one. Below the window runs a Transitional Norman arcade. Some portions of tomb-slabs remain in the choir. . . The church-yard lies on the north side of the ruins. This has been made classic ground by Wordsworth's poem."
Who sate in the shade of the Prior's Oak.
The place where this Oak tree grew is uncertain. Whitaker says it stood "at a small distance from the great gateway." This old entrance or gateway to the Abbey was through a part of Bolton Hall (now inhabited) under the Tower; and the old sexton at the Abbey tells me that the tree stood near that gateway, at some distance from the ruins of the Abbey.