88 Glimpses of Our Ancestors.
a wide and changing field of action, and an outlook upon the world. The shepherds of the Alps pursue their task beset by dangers of crevasse, glacier, and cataract—floods and landslips. The shepherds of South America and Australia are armed horsemen, who carry their lives in their hands and must be prepared for attack at any moment from savages or bushrangers. They are often the owners, too, as well as the guardians of the countless flocks which they drive over thousands of miles of almost trackless prairie, scrub, or desert, and often return to the life of cities, which they have left for a time, as millionaires and men of note.
In other parts, too, of Europe, and even of England and Scotland, the shepherd's or drover's life is one of varied change from place to place, of collision and dealings with other men, and has no small amount of incident and excitement and ups and downs in it, such as accompany the dealings of men with men.
But, with the shepherd of the Southdowns, life must be as
peaceful and unchanging—as like from day to day, year to
year, and century to century, as one can well imagine it.
Shakspeare has put into the mouth of Henry the 6th, when
weary of the intrigues of Courts and the tragedies of war, a
picture of the shepherd's life—a Southdown Shepherd, it
must have surely been—in his day, which will serve to picture
it just as truly now:—
O God! methinks it were a happy life,
To be no better than a homely swain;
To sit upon a hill, as I do now,
To carve out dials quaintly, point by point,
Thereby to see the minutes how they run—
How many make the hour full complete,
How many hours bring about the day,
How many days will finish up the year,
How many years a mortal man may live.
"When this is known; then to divide the time:
So many hours must I tend my flock;
So many hours must I take my rest;
So many hours must I contemplate;
So many hours must I sport myself;
So many days my ewes have been with young;
So many weeks ere the poor fools will yean;