in ROMAN AND SAXON 25
sides, and regular hollows and slopes, that carry at once the air of vegetative dilatation and expansion :—Or, was there even a time when these immense masses of calcareous matter were thrown into fermentation by some adventitious moisture, were raised and leavened into such shapes by some plastic power ; and so made to swell and heave their broad backs into the sky, so much above the less animated clay of the wild below ? "
The Downs have a human and historic as well as scenic interest. On many of their highest points are the barrows or graves of our British ancestors, who, could they revisit the glimpses of the moon, would find little change, for these hills have been less interfered with than any district within twice the distance from London. The English dislike of climbing has saved them. They will probably be the last stronghold of the horse when petrol has ousted him from every other region.
After the Briton came the Roman, to whose orderly military mind such a chain of hills seemed a series of heaven-sent earthworks. Every point in a favourable position was at once fortified by the legionaries. Standing upon these ramparts to-day, identical in general configuration in spite of the intervening centuries, one may imagine one's self a Caesarian soldier and see in fancy the hinds below running for safety.
After the Romans came the Saxons, who did not, however, use the heights as their predecessors had. Yet they left even more intimate traces, for, as I shall show in a later chapter on Sussex dialect, the language of the Sussex labourer is still largely theirs, the farms themselves often follow their* original Saxon disposition, the field names are unaltered, and the character of the people is of the yellow-haired parent stock. Sussex, in many respects, is still Saxon. In a poem by Mr. W. G. Hole is a stanza which no one that knows Sussex can read without visualising instantly a Sussex hill-side farm :—
The Saxon lies, too, in his grave where the plough-lands swell; And he feels with the joy that is Earth's The Spring with its myriad births ;