The clergyman now stood up and made a short but very proper discourse on this text: "Not all they who say, Lord, Lord! shall enter the kingdom of heaven." His language was particularly plain, though forcible; his arguments were no less plain, convincing, and earnest, but contained nothing that was particularly striking. I do not think the sermon lasted more than half an hour.
This clergyman had not perhaps a very prepossessing appearance; I thought him also a little distant and reserved, and I did not quite like his returning the bows of the farmers with a very formal nod.
I stayed till the service was quite over, and then went out of the church with the congregation, and amused myself with reading the inscriptions on the tombstones in the churchyard, which in general, are simpler, more pathetic, and better written than ours.
There were some of them which, to be sure, were ludicrous and laughable enough.
Among these is one on the tomb of a smith, which on account of its singularity, I here copy and send you.
"My sledge and anvil he declined,
My bellows too have lost their wind;
My fire's extinct, my forge decayed,
My coals are spent, my iron's gone,
My nails are drove: my work is done."
Many of these epitaphs closed with the following quaint rhymes:
"Physicians were in vain;
God knew the best;
So here I rest."
In the body of the church I saw a marble monument of a son of the celebrated Dr. Wallis, with the following simple and affecting inscription:
"The same good sense which qualified him for every public employment
Taught him to spend his life here in retirement."
All the farmers whom I saw there were dressed, not as ours are, in coarse frocks, but with some taste, in fine good cloth; and were to be distinguished from the people of the town, not so much by their dress, as by the greater simplicity and modesty of their behaviour.
Some soldiers, who probably were ambitious of being thought to know the world, and to be wits, joined me, as I was looking at the church, and seemed to be quite ashamed of it, as they said it was only a very miserable church. On which I took the liberty to inform them, that no church could be miserable which contained orderly and good people.
I stayed here to dinner. In the afternoon there was no service; the young people however, went to church, and there sang some few psalms; others of the congregation were also present. This was conducted with so much decorum, that I could hardly help considering it as actually a kind of church-service. I stayed with great pleasure till this meeting also was over.
I seemed indeed to be enchanted, and as if I could not leave this village. Three times did I get off, in order to go on farther, and as often returned, more than half resolved to spend a week, or more, in my favourite Nettlebed.
But the recollection that I had but a few weeks to stay in England, and that I must see Derbyshire, at length drove me away. I cast many a longing, lingering look on the little church-steeple, and those hospitable friendly roofs, where, all that morning, I had found myself so perfectly at home.
It was now nearly three o'clock in the afternoon when I left this place, and I was still eighteen miles from Oxford. However, I seemed resolved to make more than one stage of it to Oxford, that seat of the muses, and so, by passing the night about five miles from it, to reach it in good time next morning.
The road from Nettlebed seemed to me but as one long fine gravel walk in a neat garden. And my pace in it was varied, like that of one walking in a garden: I sometimes walked quick, then slow, and then sat down and read Milton.
When I had got about eight miles from Nettlebed, and was now not far from Dorchester, I had the Thames at some distance on my left, and on the opposite side I saw an extensive hill, behind which a tall mast seemed to rise. This led me to suppose that on the other side of the hill there must needs also be a river. The prospect I promised myself from this hill could not possibly be passed, and so I went out of the road to the left over a bridge across the Thames, and mounted the hill, always keeping the mast in view. When I had attained the summit, I found (and not without some shame and chagrin) that it was all an illusion. There was, in fact, nothing before me but a great plain, and the mast had been fixed there, either as a maypole only, or to entice curious people out of their way.
I therefore now again, slowly and sullenly, descended the hill, at the bottom of which was a house, where several people were looking out of the window, and, as I supposed, laughing at me. Even if it were so, it seemed to be but fair, and so it rather amused, than vexed me, and I continued to jog on, without much regretting my waste journey to the mast.