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Did nature's fair varieties exist:
The next is the parody by Canning, as published in the first number of the Anti-Jacobin, 1797:
previous to her execution.
Adjoining the Keep, or Marten's Tower, is a small chamber, or Oratory, remarkable for the elegance of its proportions, and the chaste but elaborate style of its ornaments. The lancet-pointed window, encircled by rows of delicatelycarved rosettes, is in fine preservation.— See the opposite page.
The narrow path which, at a height of six feet above the ground, connects this portion of the castle with the donjon tower, commands a range of beautiful scenery, the prominent features of which are the lawns and groves of Persefield, , the precipitous but picturesque banks of the river, with a noble background for the picture in the commanding summit of the Wynd Cliff, which overlooks the
The West Gate, a Gothic archway, strongly defended by a double portcullis, with moat and drawbridge, opens into the fourth or principal court already
WEST GATE- VIEW OF THE CASTLE.
noticed; and as portions of Roman brick are here observed in the masonry, some doubts have arisen as to its date : but whether furnished from an earlier building on the spot, or transported hither from the ruins of Caerleon, is a question which, so far as the writer could ascertain, is still undecided. It seems very
probable, however, that the commanding site occupied by the present castle was originally that of a strong military post, built and garrisoned by the Romans, the ruins of which were converted into a Norman fortress by William Fitzosborne.
In the view from the right bank of the Wye, the western gate is seen in all its elegant and massive proportions. The square tower, with its machicolated parapet, angular turrets, and vertical balustrariæ—through which flights of arrows or other missiles met the assailants—give a striking foreground to the picture; while the contiguous towers and bastions, lessening as they recede, and assuming new and often fantastic shapes, present a vast and highly diversified mass of buildings. Here clothed with trees and shrubs, there jutting forward in bare and broken fragments, and here again rising sheer and high from the water's edge, their huge blocks of masonry seem as if they were rather the spon
taneous work of nature than the laborious productions of art. In this view are comprised the whole line of embattled walls flanking the river, the new bridge, and part of the lower town; the rocky boundaries to the southward, with the modern quay, where the daily steamer discharges her cargo and passengers. The precipitous cliffs, by which the river is there confined, terminate upwards in wooded and pastoral scenes-enlivened here and there by cottages and farms, which command some remarkable and striking views of the river, the town and castle, with its western landscapes of hill, forest, and park-like scenery. A short way beyond the extreme verge of the engraving, the river Wye will shortly be spanned by a magnificent bridge, part of the South Wales Railway, now in progress.
An arched Chamber, cut in the natural rock overhanging the river at a great height, is supposed to have been used as a prison, but more probably as a storeroom; for, by anchoring the boats close to the rock, their cargoes for the service of the garrison, whether provisions* or ammunition, could be easily hoisted into security by means of a windlass; and no doubt, under the cloud of night, and
The Lords of Striguil were entitled Swansea and Chepstow.
the prisage and butlerage of all wines brought into the ports of
with a spring-tide, many a goodly bark has been thus relieved of its freight; nor is it improbable that adventurous captives may have thus found their way to some friendly bark, and regained their freedom. * In the hands of a skilful romance writer, this scene might be turned to excellent account—more particularly if the descending basket contained a damsel “flying from tyrants jealous," and her lover-knight stood in the boat to receive her-all heightened by such dramatic machinery as midnight, with the tender hopes and imminent hazards of the enterprise, would easily supply. But all this is foreign to the spirit of archæology, which turns with disdain from such puerile vanities, and beckons us forward to the breach where the iron balls of the Commonwealth were directed with such fury in the last assault. Their batteries played from the opposite height, which the guide will point out as the commanding position which rendered the cause of the defenders so useless and desperate, and added another triumph to the Parliamentary cannon.
The Passage, or gallery, leading down to the vaulted chamber, is accurately shown in the annexed woodcut. It has an air of Gothic antiquity that harmonizes well with the place, for its pointed style and proportions clearly show that it belongs to the earliest portion of the structure. The massive arch, seen through the opening, is that of the mysterious chamber already noticed.
The window,t terminating the vista, overlooks the river, and seems to project from the precipitous rocks that
Tradition relates that an officer actually made his attempt must have been-might be enabled to make escape from this castle in the manner described, and, their escape. This becoming an object of suspicion, a crossing the river by swimming, joined the Protector's soldier of the republican army volunteered to deprive army on the Gloucester heights, where a battery was the governor of this last resource. Throwing himself established.
at midnight into the river, he swam to the barge, and + During the siege, as the tradition runs, a barge there with a knife, which he had carried in his teeth lay at anchor immediately under this window, by for that purpose, severed the cable, sent the boat adrift, means of which, if driven to extremity, the governor and then swam back to his comrades in triumph. at least, and part of the garrison-desperate as the
here form an impregnable barrier to the fortress; and even when the tide is at its full, the window seems suspended at a dizzy height above the water. The uses to which the passage and its chamber were originally applied, were probably those of a temporary refuge and retreat; and were, no doubt, well understood and appreciated by the Norman castellan, to whom the means of successful resistance or safe retreat were the grand objects in a feudal residence.
Such are the general features of this ancient stronghold.* But on the minuter points of its history, architecture, and internal arrangements, our restricted limits will not permit us to enlarge; but, aided by faithful engravings and woodcuts, the descriptions, however brief, may serve to convey a detailed and correct notion of the whole.
Persefield.- In the immediate environs, many objects are found to invite the traveller's attention ; but, as a combination of rich English scenery, the attractions of Persefield, or Piercefield, stand pre-eminent. The house and grounds are thus briefly described : The latter extend westward along the precipitous banks of the Wye, as shown in the engraving. On the north is the Wind-Cliff, or Wynd Cliff. The grounds are divided into the lower and upper lawn by the approach to the house, a modern edifice, consisting of a stone centre and wings, from which the ground slopes gracefully but rapidly into a valley profusely shaded with ornamental trees. To give variety to the views, and disclose the native grandeur of the position, walks have been thrown open through the woods and along the precipitous margin of the river, which command the town, castle, and bridge of Chepstow, with the Severn in the distance, backed by a vast expanse of fertile valleys and pastoral hills. But to describe the romantic features of this classic residence with the minuteness they deserve, would far exceed our limits; it is a scene calculated to inspire the poet as well as the painter; and it is gratifying to add that, by the taste and liberality of the owner, strangers are freely admitted to the grounds and walks of Persefield.
The Mynd Cliff.—This lofty eminence commands one of the finest and most varied prospects in the United Kingdom; while the scenery of the Cliff has a particular charm for every lover of the picturesque. Poet, painter, and historian, have combined their efforts to make it a place of pilgrimage ; but, to be seen in all its beauty, the rich and various tints of autumn and a bright sun are indispensable accessories. It may be called the “Righi” of the Wye, , commanding a vast circumference of fertile plains and wooded hills, all enli
* In 1696, the castle was garrisoned by the royal company of foot, consisting of a captain, 8s.; a lieutroops, the daily expense of which may be estimated by tenant, 4s, ; two sergeants, at 1s. 6d. each, 3s. ; three the following examples :—The governor, in addition to corporals and a drummer, at ls. each, 4s.; sixty-two six captains' pay, had 23. a day; the gunner, 20d.; a soldiers, at 8d. each, 41s. 4d.=£3. 5s. Cd. --Hist. of mathorse, 10d. ; fire and candle for the guard, 8d. ; a Chepstow.