Highways and Byways in Sussex - online book

An illustrated appreciation, of the most interesting districts in Sussex.

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xiii                                    GREAT GUNS                                      125
The daughters of the Weald (That in their heavy breasts had long their griefs concealed), Foreseeing their decay each hour so fast come on, Under the axe's stroke, fetched many a grievous groan. When as the anvil's weight, and hammer's dreadful sound, Even rent the hollow woods and shook the queachy ground ; So that the trembling nymphs, oppressed through ghastly fear, Ran madding to the downs, with loose dishevelled hair. The Sylvans that about the neighbouring woods did dwell, Both in the tufty frith and in the mossy fell, Forsook their gloomy bowers, and wandered far abroad, Expelled their quiet seats, and place of their abode, When labouring carts they saw to hold their daily trade, Where they in summer wont to sport them in the shade. " Could we," say they, " suppose that any would us cherish Which suffer every day the holiest things to perish ? Or to our daily want to minister supply ? These iron times breed none that mind posterity. 'Tis but in vain to tell what we before have been, Or changes of the world that we in time have seen ; When, now devising how to spend our wealth with waste, We to the savage swine let fall our larding mast, But now, alas ! ourselves we have not to sustain, Nor can our tops suffice to shield our roots from rain. Jove's oak, the warlike ash, veined elm, the softer beech, Short hazel, maple plain, light asp, the bending wych, Tough holly, and smooth birch, must altogether burn ; What should the builder serve, supplies the forger's turn, When under public good, base private gain takes hold, And we, poor woful woods, to ruin lastly sold."
We shall learn later more of this old Sussex industry, but here, in the heart of St. Leonard's Forest, I might quote also what another old author, with less invention, says of it. Under the heading of Sussex manufactures, Thomas Fuller writes, in the Worthies, of great guns :
" It is almost incredible how many are made of the Iron in this County. Count Gondomer well knew their goodness, when of King James he so often begg'd the boon to transport them. A Monke of Mentz (some three hundred years since)
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