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183

THE ABBEY.

My new and agreeable friends had returned from Cheltenham to their own home in Worcestershire, and as I felt myself a solitary being without any fixed designs, or any particular inclination to one place more than another, I determined upon turning my steps in the same direction in which they had bent theirs, and to go in search of the picturesque, through a part of the country hitherto unknown to me. I, therefore, after some few days spent in Gloucester, set out for the city of Worcester, and in my progress thither had the good fortune to form an acquaintance with a Mr. Jordan, who had taken a place in the same conveyance with myself, and with the intention of visiting the same part of the country. I found him a man of great knowledge of the world and quickness of understanding; - a man, also, of leisure and fortune. His family he had left at Cheltenham, and taking advantage of the opportunity thus afforded him, had set out for a visit to Gloucester, Worcester, Hereford, and Bristol. When he had accidentally informed himself, in the course of our conversation, of my having been through the peninsular war, his attachment to me seemed to heighten, and I soon discovered, in return, that he, also, had a son, who had passed through the continental campaigns, but whom he had recently lost. For him, as it appeared, he was now in mourning; but his countenance and general demeanour showed, still more than his dress, how deeply he was affected by the loss. At Worcester we were to part, as I intended to take my friend Mrs. Richards by surprise, and pass some little time with her and with Eloise, before I went on to the Isle of Wight, where I had determined upon going to meet one or two of my former military acquaintances, who were stationed at the depôt there. When, however, I had reached the place of her residence, and found that my friends had suddenly set out, the day before, for South Wales, upon a tour of pleasure, I returned to Mr. Jordan, and proposed that we should go on to Bristol together; but as I still wished to step out of the road to take a view of Hereford, which he had some reasons for avoiding, it was agreed that we should meet at Ross in a couple

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of days, and then proceed down the Wye to the place of our destination. It happened, however, when I reached this latter place, that found a letter from him, appointing me to meet him at Bristol, as a circumstance had come to his recollection, making it necessary for him to be there sooner than he had at first intended. I therefore engaged a boat, and made my way by myself to Monmouth. Pleased as I was with the scenery through which I passed, I found now, as upon all former occasions, the pleasure of such an excursion to depend upon the companions in whose society it is made ; for the enjoyment of such things lies in communicating with others the impressions made upon ourselves by scenes of this nature, and hearing in return those which they have received from the same objects. The next day, about noon, having failed in meeting with a companion, I set out for Chepstow, taking with me a basket of such provisions as might serve me for the excursion. It was about five o'clock in the afternoon, of one of the finest days of this season of the year, that I entered the beautiful ruins of Tintern Abbey, and was proceeding leisurely down the old nave of it, when my attention was arrested by a party of ladies and gentlemen enjoying a cold collation in the south transept of the building, and in a few minutes, my eyes caught those of my friend Eloise. She instantly arose to meet me, and, accompanied by an elderly gentleman of the party, insisted upon my joining them; and, certainly, upon no occasion of my life did I receive a higher degree of enjoyment than upon this. The beauty of the venerable ruin, --- the deep and cooling shade it afforded, -the rays of the western sun stopped in their course by this goodly pile, and again caught and finally resting upon the green-brown mountain that rose up beyond the eastern window, the easy and cheerful appearance of the company, — the exhilarating mirth that rose as the cooling and sparkling glass circulated, all tended to present a scene the most enchanting, and to give a turn to my mind and thoughts which made this one of the most delightful days that I remember ever to have passed :

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Monastic Tintern! from thy shady brow,
Thou small, but favoured spot of holy ground:
Where'er we gaze, around, above, below,
What rainbow tints, what magic charms are found,
Rock, river, forest, mountain, all abound !

I had often in Spain and Portugal visited the remains of sacred buildings, once splendid and renowned, and had passed through cathedrals and monasteries of the richest architecture, placed in the midst of the grandest scenery of nature. I had, also, frequently met within them the sable-clad, well-formed female, the brilliancy of whose eyes was irresistible; yet, methought, the ruins of this Abbey, though less extensive, and in a situation less wild and picturesque than many of those foreign ones, had charms still more imposing. For here the view was accompanied with the feeling that while in this my own happy country we retained such striking memorials of former piety, we had emerged from the gloom of that superstition by which this piety had been overcast; and that in our existing temples female devotion was no longer, as in the cloister of old, a matter of compulsion and constraint, but the free and pure offering of the heart. It was only a little time after the last rays of the setting sun had tinged the eastern hills and woods that we arose and took our way together to the water-side, where our several boats were in waiting for us. We

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