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First Impressions of England and its People
Chapter IV


Quit Manchester for Wolverhampton. — Scenery of the New Red Sandstone ; apparent Repetition of Pattern. — The frequent Marshes of England; curiously represented in the National Literature; Influence on the National Superstitions. — Wolverhampton. — Peculiar Aspect of the Dudley Coal-field ; striking Passage in its History. —The Rise of Birmingham into a great Manufacturing Town an Effect of the Development of its Mineral Treasures. — Upper Ludlow Deposit; Aymestry Limestone; both Deposits of peculiar Interest to the Scotch Geologist. — The Lingula Lewisii and Terebrat Wilson. — General Resemblance of the Silurian Fossils to those of the Mountain Limestone. — First-born of the Yertebrata yet known. — Order of Creation. — The Wren’s Nest. — Fossils of the Wenlock Limestone ; in a State of beautiful Keeping. — Anecdote. —    Asaphus Caudatus; common, it would seem, to both the Silurian and Carboniferous Rocks. — Limestone Miners. — Noble Gallery excavated in the Hill.

I quitted Manchester by the morning train, and travelled through a flat New Red Sandstone district, on the Birmingham Railway, for about eighty miles. One finds quite the sort of country here for travelling over by steam. If one misses seeing a bit of landscape, as the carriages hurry through, and the objects in the foreground look dim and indistinct, and all in motion, as if seen through water, it is sure to be repeated in the course of a few miles, and again and again repeated. I was reminded, as we hurried along, and the flat country opened and spread out on either side, of webs of carpet stuff nailed down to pieces of boarding, and presenting, at regular distances, returns of the same rich pattern. Red detached houses stand up amid the green fields; little bits of brick villages lie grouped beside cross roads; irregular patches of wood occupy nooks and corners; lines of poplars rise tali and taper amid straggling cottages ; and then, having once passed houses, villages, and woods, we seem as if we had to pass them again and again ; the red detached houses return, the bits of villages, the woody nooks and corners, the lines of taper poplars amid the cottages; and thus the repetitions of the pattern run on and on.

In a country so level as England there must be many a swampy hollow furnished with no outlet to its waters. The bogs and marshes of the midland and southern counties formed of old the natural strongholds, in which the people, in times of extremity, sheltered from the invader. Alfred’s main refuge, when all others failed him, was a bog of Somersetshire. When passing this morning along frequent fields of osiers and widespread marshes, bristling with thickets of bulrushes and reeds, I was led to think of what had never before occurred to me, — the considerable amount of imagery and description which the poets of England have transferred from scenery of this character into the national literature. There is in English verse much whispering of osiers beside silent streams, and much waving of sedges over quiet waters. Shakspeare has his exquisite pictures of slow-gliding currents,

“Making sweet music with the enamelled stones,
And giving gentle kisses to each sedge
They overtake in their lone pilgrimage.”

And Milton, too, of water-nymphs

“Sitting by rushy fringed bank,
Where grows the willow and the osier dank ;

“Under the glassy, cool, translucent wave,
In twisted braids of lilies knitting
The loose train of their amber-dropping hair;

or of “sighing sent,” by the “parting genius,”

“From haunted spring and dale,
Edged with poplar pale.”

We find occasional glimpses of the same dank scenery in Collins, Cowper, and Crabbe ; and very frequent ones, in our own times, in the graphic descriptions of Alfred Tennyson and Thomas Hood.

“One willow o’er the river wept,
And shook the wave as the wind did sigh;
Above in the wind sported the swallow,
Chasing itself at its own wild will;
And far through the marish green, and still,
The tangled water-courses slept,
Shot over with purple, and green, and yellow.”

Not less striking is at least one of the pictures drawn by Hood: —

“The coot was swimming in the reedy pool,
Beside the water-hen, so soon affrighted;
And in the weedy moat, the heron, fond
Of solitude, alighted;
The moping heron, motionless and stiff,
That on a stone as silently and stilly
Stood, an apparent sentinel, as if
To guard the water-lily.”

The watery flats of the country have had also their influence on the popular superstitions. The delusive tapers that spring up a-nights from stagnant bogs and fens must have been of frequent appearance in the more marshy districts of England ; and we accordingly find, that of all the national goblins, the goblin of the wandering night-fire, whether recognized as Jack-of-the-Lantern or Will-of-the-Wisp, was one of the best known.

“She was pinched and pulled, she said,
And he by friar’s lantern led.”

Or, as the exquisite poet who produced this couplet more elaborately describes the apparition in his “Paradise Lost,”

A wandering fire,
Compact of unctuous vapor, which the night
Kindles through agitation to a flame,
Which oft, they say, some evil spirit attends,
Hovering and blazing with delusive light,
Leading the amazed night-wanderer from his way
Through bogs and mires, and oft through pond or pool,
There swallowed up and lost, from succor far.”

Scarce inferior to even the description of Milton is that of Collins: —

"Ah, homely swains ! your homeward steps ne’er lose ;
Let not dank Will mislead you on the heath :
Dancing in mirky night, o’er fen and lake,
He glows, to draw you downward to your death,
In his bewitched, low, marshy willow’-brake.
What though, far off1 from some dark dell espied,
His glimmering mazes cheer the excursive sight?

Yet turn, ye wanderers, turn your steps aside,
Nor trust the guidance of that faithless light;
For watchful, lurking, ’mid the unrustling reed,
At these mirk hours, the wily monster lies,
And listens oft to hear the passing steed,
And frequent round him rolls his sullen eyes,
If chance his savage wrath may some weak wretch surprise.”

One soon wearies of the monotony of railway travelling, — of hurrying through a country, stage after stage, without incident or advantage ; and so I felt quite glad enough, when the train stopped at Wolverhampton, to find myself once more at freedom and afoot. There will be an end, surely, to all works of travels, when the railway system of the world shall be completed. I passed direct through Wolverhampton, —a large but rather uninteresting assemblage of red-brick houses, copped with red-tile roofs, slippered with red-tile floors, and neither in its component parts nor in its grouping differing in any perceptible degree from several scores of the other assemblages of red-brick houses that form the busier market-towns of England. The town has been built in the neighborhood of the Dudley coal-basin, on an incoherent lower deposit of New Red Sandstone, unfitted for the purposes of the stone-mason, but peculiarly well suited, in some of its superficial argillaceous beds, for those of the brick-maker. Hence the prevailing color and character of the place; and such, in kind, are the circumstances that impart to the great majority of English towns so very different an aspect from that borne by our Scottish ones. They are the towns of a brick and tile manufacturing country, rich in coal and clay, but singularly poor in sandstone quarries.

I took the Dudley joad, and left the scattered suburbs of the town but a few hundred yards behind me, when the altered appearance of the country gave evidence that I had quitted the New Red Sandstone, and had- entered on the Coal Measures. On the right, scarce a gun-shot from the way-side, there stretched away a rich though comparatively thinly-inhabited country, — green, undulated, lined thickly, lengthwise and athwart, with luxuriant hedge-rows, sparsely sprinkled with farm-houses, and over-canopied this morning by a clear blue sky; while on the left, far as the eye could penetrate through a mud-colored atmosphere of smoke and culm, there spread out a barren uneven wilderness of slag and shale, the debris of lime-kilns and smelting works, and of coal and ironstone pits; and amid the dun haze there stood up what seemed a continuous city of fire-belching furnaces and smoke-vomiting chimneys, blent with numerous groups of little dingy buildings, the dwellings of iron-smelters and miners. Wherever the New Red Sandstone extends, the country wears a sleek unbroken skin of green; wherever the Coal Measures spread away, lake-like, from the lower edges of this formation, all is verdureless, broken, and gray. The coloring of the two formations could be scarcely better defined in a geological map than here on the face of the landscape. There is no such utter ruin of the surface in our mining districts in Scotland. The rubbish of the subterranean workings is scarce at all suffered to encroach, save in widely-scattered hillocks, on the arable superficies; and these hillocks the indefatigable agriculturist is ever levelling and carrying away, to make way for the plough ; whereas, so entirely has the farmer been beaten from off the field here, and so thickly do the heaps cumber the surface, that one might almost imagine the land had been seized in the remote past by some mortal sickness, and, after vomiting out its bowels, had lain stone-dead ever since. The laboring inhabitants of this desert—a rude, improvident, Cyclopean race, indifferent to all save the mineral treasures of the soil — are rather graphically designated in the neighboring districts, where I found them exceedingly cheaply rated, as “the lie-wasters.” Some six or eight centuries ago, the Dudley coalfield existed as a wild forest, in which a few semi-barbarous iron-smelters and charcoal-burners carried on their solitary labors ; and which was remarkable chiefly for a seam of coal thirty feet in thickness, which, like some of the coal-seams of the United States, cropped out at the surface, and was wrought among the trees in the open air. A small colony of workers in iron of various kinds settled in the neighborhood, and their congregated forges and cottage-dwellings formed a little noisy hamlet amid the woodlands. The miner explored, to greater and still greater depths, the mineral treasures of the coal-field; the ever-resounding, ever-smoking village added house to house and forge to forge, as the fuel and the ironstone heaps accumulated ; till at length the three thick bands of dark ore, and the ten-yard coal-seam of the basin, though restricted to a space greatly less in area than some of our Scottish lakes, produced, out of the few congregated huts, the busy town of Birmingham, with its two hundred and twenty thousand inhabitants. And as the rise of the place has been connected with the development of the mineral treasures of its small but exceedingly rich coal-field, their exhaustion, unless there open up to it new fields of industry, must induce its decline. There is a day coming, though a still distant one, when the miner shall have done with this wilderness of debris and chimneys, just as the charcoal-burner had done with it when the woodlands were exhausted ages ago, or as the farmer had done with it at a considerably later period; and when it shall exist as an uninhabited desert, full of gloomy pitfalls, half-hidden by a stunted vegetation, and studded with unseemly ruins of brick; and the neighboring city, like a beggared spendthrift, that, after having run through his patrimony, continues to reside in the house of his ancestors, shall have, in all probability, to shut up many an apartment, and leave many a forsaken range of offices and outhouses to sink into decay.

The road began to ascend from the low platform of the coalfield, along the shoulder of a green hill that rises some six or seven hundred feet over the level of the sea, — no inconsiderable elevation in this part of the kingdom. There were no longer heaps of dark-colored debris on either hand; and I saw for the first time in England, where there had been a cutting into the acclivity, to lower the angle of the ascent, a section of rock much resembling our Scotch grauwacke of the southern counties. Unlike our Scotch grauwacke, however, I found that almost every fragment of the mass contained its fossil, — some ill-preserved terebratula or leptsena, or some sorely weathered coralline: but all was doubtful and obscure; and I looked round me, though in vain, for some band of lime compact enough to exhibit in its sharp-edged casts the characteristic peculiarities of the group. A spruce wagoner, in a blue frock much roughened with needle-work, came whistling down the hill beside his team, and I inquired of him whether there were limestone quarries in the neighborhood. “Yez, yez, lots of lime just afore thee,” said the wagoner; “can’t miss the way, if thou lookest to the hill-side.” I went on for a few hundred yards, and found an extensive quarry existing as a somewhat dreary-looking dell, deeply scooped out of the acclivity on the left, with heaps of broken grass-grown debris on the one side of the excavation, and on the other a precipitous front of gray lichened rock, against which there leaned a line of open kilns and a ruinous hut.

The quarriers were engaged in playing mattock and lever on an open front in the upper part of the dell, which, both from its deserted appearance and the magnitude of its weather-stained workings, appeared to be much less extensively wrought than at some former period. I felt a peculiar interest in examining the numerous fossils of the deposit, — such an interest as that experienced by the over-curious Calender in the Arabian Nights, when first introduced into the hall of the winged horse, from which, though free to roam over all the rest of the palace, with its hundred gates and its golden doors, he had been long sedulously excluded. I had now entered, for the first time, into a chamber of the grand fossiliferous museum, — the great stone-record edifice of our island, — of which I had not thought the less frequently from the circumstance that I was better acquainted with the chamber that lies directly over head, if I may so speak, with but a thin floor between, than with any other in the erection. I had been laboring for years in the Lower Old Red Sandstone, and had acquainted myself with its winged and plate-covered, its enamelled and tubercle-roughened ichthyolites; but there is no getting down in Scotland into the cellarage of the edifice: it is as thoroughly a mystery to the mere Scotch geologist as the cellarage of Todgers’ in Martin Chuzzlewit, of which a stranger kept the key, was to the inmates of that respectable tavern. Here, however, I had got fairly into the cellar at last. The frontage of fossiliferous grauwacke-looking rock, by the way-side, which I had just examined, is known, thanks to Sir Roderick Murchison, to belong to the Upper Ludlow deposit, — the Silurian base on which the Old Red Sandstone rests; and I had now got a story further down, and was among the Aymestry Limestones.

The first fossil I picked up greatly resembled in size and form a pistol-bullet. It proved to be one of the most characteristic shells of the formation, — the Wilsoni.

Nor was the second I found — the Lingula, a bivalve formed like the blade of a wooden shovel — less characteristic. The Lingula still exists in some two or three species in the distant Moluccas. There was but one of these known in the times of Cuvier, the Lingula anatina; and so unlike was it deemed by the naturalist to any of its contemporary moliusca, that of the single species he formed not only a distinct genus, but also an independent class. The existing, like the fossil shell, resembles the blade of a wooden shovel; but the shovel has also a handle, and in this mainly consists its dissimilarity to any other bivalve: a cylindrical cartilaginous stem or footstalk elevates it some three or four inches over the rocky base

to which it is attached, just as the handle of a shovel, stuck half a foot into the earth, at the part where the hand grasps it, would elevate the blade over the surface, or as the stem of a tulip elevates.the flower over the soil. A community of Lin-gulae must resemble, in their deep-sea haunts, a group of Lilliputian shovels, reversed by the laborers to indicate their work completed, or a bed of half-folded tulips, raised on stiff, dingy stems, and exhibiting flattened petals of delicate green. I am not aware that any trace of the cartilaginous foot-stalk has been yet detected in fossil Lingulae; — like those of this quarry, they are mere shovel-blades divested of the handles: but in all that survives of them, or could be expected to survive, — the calcareous portion, — they are identical in type with the living mollusc of the Moluccas. What most strikes in the globe-shaped terebratula, their contemporary, is the singularly antique character of the ventral margin: it seems moulded in the extreme of an ancient fashion, long since gone out. Instead of running continuously round in one plane, like the margins of our existing cockle, venus, or mactra, so as to form, when the valves are shut, a rectilinear line of division, it presents in the centre a huge dovetail, so that the lower valve exhibits in its middle front a square gateway, which we see occupied, when the mouth is closed, by a portcullis-like projection, dependent from the margin of the upper valve. Margins of this antique form characterize some of the terebratulse of even the Chalk, and the spirifers of the Carboniferous Limestone ; but in none of the comparatively modem shells is the square portcullis-shaped indentation so strongly indicated as in the Terebratula    Wilsoni. I picked up several other fossils in the quarry: the Orthis orbicularis and Orthis lunata; the Atrypa ajffinis; several ill-preserved portions of orthoceratite, belonging chiefly, so far as their state of keeping enabled me to decide, to the Orthoceras lua small, imperfectly-conical coral, that more resembled the Stromatopora concentrica of the Wenlock rocks, than any of the other Silurian corals figured by Murchison; and a few minute sprigs of the Favosites polymorpha. The concretionary character of the limestone of the deposit has militated against the preservation of the larger organisms which it encloses. Of the smaller shells, many are in a beautiful state of keeping : like some of the comparatively modern shells of the Oolite, they still retain unaltered the silvery lustre of the nacre, and present outlines as sharp and well defined, with every delicate angle unworn, and every minute stria undefaced, as if inhabited but yesterday by the living molluscs; whereas mbst of the bulkier fossils, from the broken and detached nature of the rock, — a nodular limestone embedded in strata of shale, — exist as mere fragments. What perhaps first strikes the eye is the deep-sea character of the deposit, and its general resemblance to the Mountain Limestone. Nature, though she dropped between the times of the Silurian and Carboniferous oceans many of her genera, and, with but a few marked exceptions, all her species,1 seems to have scarce at all altered the general types after which the productions of both oceans were moulded.

I could find in this quarry of the Aymestry Limestone no trace of aught higher than the Cephalopoda, — none of those plates, scales, spines, or teeth, indicative of the vertebrate animals, which so abound in the Lower Old Red Sandstones of Scotland. And yet the vertebrata seem to have existed at the time. The famous bone-bed of the Upper Silurian system, with its well-marked ichthyolitic remains, occurs in the Upper Ludlow Rock, — the deposit immediately over head. We find it shelved high, if I may so speak, in the first story of the system, reckoning from the roof downwards; the calcareous deposit in which this hill-side quarry has been hollowed forms a second story; the Lower Ludlow Rock a third; and in yet a fourth, the Wenlock Limestone: just one remove over the Lower Silurians, — for the Wenlock Shale constitutes the base story of the upper division, — there have been found the remains of a fish, or rather minute portions of the remains of a fish, the most ancient yet known to the geologist. “Take the Lower Silurians all over the globe,” says Sir Roderick Murchison, in a note to the writer of these chapters, which bears date no further back than last July, “and they have never yet ofifered the trace of a fish.” It is to be regretted that the ich-thyolite of the Wenlock Limestone — the first-born of the ver-tebrata whose birth and death seem entered in the geologic register — has not been made the subject of a careful memoir, illustrated by a good engraving. One is naturally desirous to know all that can be known regarding the first entrance in the drama of existence of a new class in creation, and to have the place and date which the entry bears in the record fairly established. The evidence, however, though not yet made patent to the geological brotherhood, seems to be solid. It has at least satisfied a writer in the 'Edinburgh Revieio of last year, generally recognized as one of the master-geologists of the age. “We have seen,” says Mr. Sedgwick, the understood author of the article, “ characteristic portions of a fish derived from the shales alternating with the Wenlock Limestone. This ichthy-olite, to speak in the technical language of Agassiz, undoubtedly belongs to the Cestraciont family, of the Placoid order, — proving to demonstration that the oldest known fossil fish belongs to the highest type of that division of the vertebrata.’

A strange debut this, and of deep interest to the student of nature. The veil of mystery must forever rest over the act of creation; but it is something to know of its, — to know that, as exhibited in the great geologic register, graven, like the decalogue of old, on tables of stone, there is an analogy maintained, that indicates identity of style with the order specified in the Mosaic record as that observed by the Creator in producing the scene of things to which we ourselves belong. In both records, — the sculptured and the written, — periods of creative energy are indicated as alternating with periods of rest, — days in which the Creator labored, with nights in which He ceased from his labors, again to resume them in the morning. According to both records, higher and lower existences were called into being successively, not simultaneously; — according to both, after each interval of repose, the succeeding period of activity witnessed loftier and yet loftier efforts of production; — according to both, though in the earlier stages there was incompleteness in the scale of existence, there was yet no imperfection in the individual existences of which the scale was composed; — at the termination of the first, as of the last day of creation, all in its kind was good. Ere any of the higher natures existed,

“God saw that all was good,
When even and morn recorded the third day.”

I quitted the quarry in the hill-side, and walked on through the village of Sedgley, towards a second and much more striking hill, well known to geologists and lovers of the picturesque as the “ Wren’s Nest.” A third hill, that of Dudley, beautifully wooded and capped by its fine old castle, lies direct in the same line so that the three hills taken together form a chain of eminences, which run diagonally, for some four or five miles, into the middle of the coal-basin ; and which, rising high from the surrounding level, resemble steep-sided islets in an Alpine lake. It is a somewhat curious circumstance, that while the enclosing shores of the basin are formed of the Lower New Red Sandstone, and the basin itself of the Upper and Lower Coal Measures, these three islets are all Silurian; the first,—that of Sedgley, — which I had just quitted, presenting in succession the Upper Ludlow Rock and Aymestry Limestone, with some of the inferior deposits on which these rest; and the second and third the Wenlock Shale and Wenlock Limestone. The “Wren’s Nest,” as I approached it this day along green lanes and over quiet fields, fringed with trees, presented the appearance of some bold sea-promontory, crowned atop with stunted wood, and flanked by a tall, pale-gray precipice, continuous as a rampart for a full half-mile. But, to borrow from one of Byron’s descriptions,

“There is no sea to lave its base,

But a most living landscape, and the 'wave Of woods and corn-fields, and the abodes of men Scattered at intervals, and wreathing smoke Rising from rustic roofs.”

Such is the profile of the hill on both sides. Seen in front, it presents the appearance of a truncated dome; while atop we find it occupied by an elliptical, crater-like hollow, that has been grooved deep, by the hand of Nature, along the flat summit, so as to form a huge nest, into which the gigantic roc of eastern story might drop a hundred such eggs as the one familiar to the students of the great voyager Sinbad. And hence the name of the eminence. John Bull, making merry, in one of his humorous moods, with its imposing greatness, has termed it the “Wren's Nest.” I came up to its gray lines of sloping precipice, and found them so thickly charged with their sepulchral tablets and pictorial epitaphs, that, like the walls of some Egyptian street of tombs, almost every square yard bears its own lengthened inscription. These sloping precipices, situated as they now are in central England, once formed a deep-sea bottom, far out of reach of land, whose green recesses were whitened by innumerable corals and corallines, amid which ancient shells, that loved the profounder depths, terebratula, leptaena, and spirifer, lay anchored ; while innumerable trilobites crept sluggishly above zoophyte and mollusc, on the thickly-inhabited platform; and the orthoceras and the bellerophon floated along the surface high over head. A strange story, surely, but not more strange than true : in at least the leading details there is no possibility of mistaking the purport of the inscriptions.

The outer front of precipice we find composed of carbonate of lime, alternating with thin layers of a fine-grained aluminous shale, which yields to the weather, betraying, in every more exposed portion of the rock, the organic character of the lime-stone. Wherever the impalpable shale has been washed away, we find the stone as sharply sculptured beneath as a Chinese snuff-box; with this difference, however, that the figures are more nicely relieved, and grouped much more thickly together. We ascertain that every component particle of the roughened ground on which they lie, even the most minute, is organic. It is composed of portions of the most diminutive zoophytes,—retipora, or festinella, or the microscopic joints of thread-like crinoideal tentacula ; while the bolder figures that stand up in high relief over it are delicately sculptured shells of antique type and proportions, crustacea of the trilobite family, corals massive or branched, graceful gorgonia, and the stems and pelvic bulbs of crinoidea. The impalpable shales of the hill seem to have been deposited from above, — the soil of aluminous shores carried far by the sea, and thrown down in the calm on beds of zoophytes and shells ; whereas the lime appears to have been elaborated, not deposited: it grew upon the spot slowly and imperceptibly as age succeeded age, — a secretion of animal life.

After passing slowly around the hill, here striking off a shell, there disinterring a trilobite, — here admiring some huge mass of chain-coral, that, even when in its recent state, I could not have raised from the ground, — there examining, with the assistance of the lens, the minute meshes of some net-like festinella, scarce half a nail’s breadth in area,— I sat me down in the sunshine in the opening of a deserted quarry, hollowed in the dome-like front of the hill, amid shells and corallines that had been separated from the shaly matrix by the disintegrating influences of the weather. The organisms lay as thickly around me as recent shells and corals on a tropical beach. The labors of Murchison had brought me acquainted with their forms, and with the uncouth names given them in this late age of the world, so many long creations after they had been dead and buried, and locked up in rock; but they were new to me in their actually existing state as fossils ; and the buoyant delight with which I squatted among them, glass in hand, to examine and select, made me smile a moment after, when I bethought me that my little boy Bill could have shown scarce greater eagerness, when set down, for the first time, in his third summer, amid the shells and pebbles of the sea-shore. But I daresay most of my readers, if transported for a time to the ocean shores of Mars or of Venus, would manifest some such eagerness in ascertaining the types in which, in these remote planets, the Creator exhibits life. And here, strewed thickly around me, were the shells and corals of the Silurian ocean, — an ocean quite as dissimilar in its productions to that of the present day, as the oceans of either Mars or Venus. It takes a great deal to slacken the zeal of some pursuits. I have been told by a relative, now deceased, — a man strongly imbued with a taste for natural history, who fought under Abercromby in Egypt, — that though the work was rather warm on the day he first leaped ashore on that celebrated land, and the beach somewhat cumbered by the slain, he could not avoid casting a glance at -the white shells which mingled with the sand at his feet, to see whether they greatly differed from those of his own country; and that one curious shell, which now holds an honored place in my small collection, he found time to transfer, amid the sharp whizzing of the bullets, to his waistcoat pocket.

I filled a small box with minute shells and corals, — terebra-tulss of some six or eight distinct species, a few leptsense and orthes, a singularly beautiful astrea, figured by Murchison as Astrea ananas, or the pine-apple astrea, several varieties of eyathophyllum, and some two or three species of porites and limaria. To some of the corals I found thin mat-like zoophytes of the character of flustrae attached; to others, what seemed small serpulse. Out of one mass of shale I disinterred the head of a stone lily, — the Cyathocrinites,    —    beautifully preserved; in a second mass I found the fully-expanded pelvis and arms of a different genus, — the Actinocrinites niliformis, — but it fell to pieces ere I could extricate it. I was more successful in detaching entire a fine specimen of what I find figured by Murchison, though with a doubtful note of interrogation attached, as a gorgonia or sea-fan. I found much pleasure, too, in acquainting myself, though the specimens were not particularly fine, with disjointed portions of trilobites, — now a head turned up, — now the caudle portion of the shell, exhibiting the inner side and abdominal rim,— now a few detached joints. In some of the specimens,— invariably headless ones, — the body seems scarce larger than that of a common house-fly. Here, as amid the upper deposits at Sedgley, I was struck with the general resemblance of the formation to the Carboniferous Limestone: not a few of the shells are at least generically similar; there is the same abundance of crinoideas and festinellse; and in some localities nearly the same profusion of the large and the minuter corals. And though trilobites are comparatively rare in the Mountain Limestone of Britain, I have found in that of Dry den, in the neighborhood of Edinburgh, the body of at least one trilobite, which I could not distinguish from a species of frequent occurrence in the Wenlock Limestone, — the    Caudatus. I may remind the reader, in corroboration of the fact, that Buckland, in his “Bridgewater Treatise,” figures two decapitated specimens of this trilobite, one of which was furnished by the Carboniferous Limestone of Northumberland, and the other by the Transition Limestone near Leominster. There obtains, however, one striking difference between the more ancient and more modern deposits: I have rarely explored richly fossiliferous beds of the Mountain Limestone, without now and then finding the scales of a fish, and now and then the impression of some land-plant washed from the shore; but in the Silurian hills of the Dudley coal-field, no trace of the vertebrata has yet been found, and no vegetable product of the land.

The sun had got far down in the west ere I quitted the deserted quarry, and took my way towards the distant town, not over, but through the hill, by a long gloomy corridor. I had been aware all day, that though apparently much alone, I had yet near neighbors: there had been an irregular succession of dull, half-smothered sounds, from the bowels of the earth; and at times, when in contact with the naked rock, 1 could feel, as the subterranean thunder pealed through the abyss, the solid mass trembling beneath me. The phenomena were those described by Wordsworth, as eliciting, in a scene of deep solitude, the mingled astonishment and terror of Peter Bell,—

“When, to confound his spiteful mirth,
A murmur pent within the earth,
In the dead earth, beneath the road,
Sudden arose ! It swept along,
A muffled noise, a rumbling sound :
’Twas by a troop of miners made,
Plying with gunpowder their trade,
Some twenty fathoms under ground.”

I was scarce prepared, however, for excavations of such imposing extent as the one into which I found the vaulted corridor open. It forms a long gallery, extending for hundreds of yards on either hand, with an overhanging precipice bare to the hilltop leaning perilously over on the one side, and a range of supporting buttresses cut out of the living rock, and perforated with lofty archways, planting at measured distances their strong feet, on the other. Through the openings between the buttresses, — long since divested, by a shaggy vegetation, of every stiff angularity borrowed from the tool of the miner, — the red light of evening was streaming, in well-defined patches, on the gray rock and broken floor. Each huge buttress threw its broad bar of shadow in the same direction; and thus the gallery, through its entire extent, was barred, zebra-like, with alternate belts of sun-light and gloom,—the “ebon and ivory” of Sir Walter’s famed description. The rawness of artificial excavation has long since disappeared under the slow incrustations of myriads of lichens and mosses, — for the quarrier seems to have had done with the place for centuries ; and if I could have but got rid of the recollection that it had been scooped out by handfuls for a far different purpose than that of making a grotto, I would have deemed it one of the finest caverns I ever saw. Immediately beside where the vaulted corridor enters the gallery, there is a wide dark chasm in the floor, furnished with a rusty chain-ladder, that gives perilous access to the lower workings of the hill. There was not light enough this evening to show half-way down ; but far below, in the darkness, I could see the fiery glimmer of a torch reflected on a sheet of pitch-black water; and I afterwards learned that a branch of the Dudley and Birmingham Canal, invisible for a full mile, has been carried thus far into the bowels of the hill. I crossed over the nest-like valley scooped in the summit of the eminence, — a picturesque, solitary spot, occupied by a cornfield, and feathered all around on the edges with wood; and then crossing a second deep excavation, which, like the gallery described, is solely the work of the miner, I struck over a range of green fields, pleasantly grouped in the hollow between the Wren’s-Nest-hill and the Castle-hill of Dudley, and reached the town just as the sun was setting. The valleys which interpose between the three Silurian islets of the Dudley basin are also Silurian; and as they have been hollowed by the denuding agencies out of useless beds of shale and mudstone, the miner has had no motive to bore into their sides and bottom, or to cumber the surface, as in the surrounding coal-field, with the ruins of the interior; and so the valleys, with their three lovely hills, form an oasis in the waste.


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