One of my motivations for moving to England was all the history to explore. Coming from a province that will be 140 years old next year and a country that has written history only from the late 15th century, it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around just how old some of the buildings are around here. Saturday I went to one such place.
A friend picked me up and we went the 8ish miles to Penshurst Place, a beautiful country manor house.
I’ve looked Penshurst Place on Wikipedia and here are some fascinating tidbits:
-The present mansion was built in 1341 for Sir John de Pulteney at the time when such properties ceased to be castles: they were more dwellings that could be defended in an emergency.
-It was enlarged after 1552 when King Edward VI granted the house to Sir William Sidney (1482–1554), who had been a courtier to the King’s father, Henry VIII. Sir William’s son Henry (1529–1586) married Lady Mary Dudley, whose family became implicated in the Lady Jane Grey affair, although Henry himself escaped any such implications. During his lifetime he added apartments and the “King’s Tower” to Penshurst. He also created what is now one of England’s oldest private gardens.
-The Baron’s Hall was used as a set for the Hollywood film The Other Boleyn Girl based on the novel by Philippa Gregory.
-The Baron’s Hall was used as a set for the film The Princess Bride.
The famous poet Ben Jonson, not to be confused with the infamous Ben Jonhson, wrote a poem called To Penhurst.
T H E F O R E S T .
II. — TO PENSHURST.
Thou art not, PENSHURST, built to envious show
Of touch, or marble ; nor canst boast a row
Of polish’d pillars, or a roof of gold :
Thou hast no lantern whereof tales are told ;
Or stair, or courts ; but stand’st an ancient pile,
And these grudg’d at, art reverenced the while.
Thou joy’st in better marks, of soil, of air,
Of wood, of water ; therein thou art fair.
Thou hast thy walks for health, as well as sport :
Thy mount, to which thy Dryads do resort, 10
Where Pan and Bacchus their high feasts have made,
Beneath the broad beech, and the chestnut shade ;
That taller tree, which of a nut was set,
At his great birth, where all the Muses met.
There, in the writhed bark, are cut the names
Of many a sylvan, taken with his flames ;
And thence the ruddy satyrs oft provoke
The lighter fauns, to reach thy lady’s oak.
Thy copse too, named of Gamage, thou hast there,
That never fails to serve thee season’d deer, 20
When thou wouldst feast or exercise thy friends.
The lower land, that to the river bends,
Thy sheep, thy bullocks, kine, and calves do feed ;
The middle grounds thy mares and horses breed.
Each bank doth yield thee conies ; and the tops
Fertile of wood, Ashore and Sydneys copp’s,
To crown thy open table, doth provide
The purpled pheasant, with the speckled side :
The painted partridge lies in ev’ry field,
And for thy mess is willing to be kill’d. 30
And if the high-swoln Medway fail thy dish,
Thou hast thy ponds, that pay thee tribute fish,
Fat aged carps that run into thy net,
And pikes, now weary their own kind to eat,
As loth the second draught or cast to stay,
Officiously at first themselves betray.
Bright eels that emulate them, and leap on land,
Before the fisher, or into his hand,
Then hath thy orchard fruit, thy garden flowers,
Fresh as the air, and new as are the hours. 40
The early cherry, with the later plum,
Fig, grape, and quince, each in his time doth come :
The blushing apricot, and woolly peach
Hang on thy walls, that every child may reach.
And though thy walls be of the country stone,
They’re rear’d with no man’s ruin, no man’s groan ;
There’s none, that dwell about them, wish them down ;
But all come in, the farmer and the clown ;
And no one empty-handed, to salute
Thy lord and lady, though they have no suit. 50
Some bring a capon, some a rural cake,
Some nuts, some apples ; some that think they make
The better cheeses, bring them ; or else send
By their ripe daughters, whom they would commend
This way to husbands ; and whose baskets bear
An emblem of themselves in plum, or pear.
But what can this (more than express their love)
Add to thy free provisions, far above
The need of such ? whose liberal board doth flow
With all that hospitality doth know ! 60
Where comes no guest, but is allow’d to eat,
Without his fear, and of thy lord’s own meat :
Where the same beer and bread, and self-same wine,
That is his lordship’s, shall be also mine.
And I not fain to sit (as some this day,
At great men’s tables) and yet dine away.
Here no man tells my cups ; nor standing by,
A waiter, doth my gluttony envý :
But gives me what I call, and lets me eat,
He knows, below, he shall find plenty of meat ; 70
Thy tables hoard not up for the next day,
Nor, when I take my lodging, need I pray
For fire, or lights, or livery ; all is there ;
As if thou then wert mine, or I reign’d here :
There’s nothing I can wish, for which I stay.
That found King JAMES, when hunting late, this way,
With his brave son, the prince ; they saw thy fires
Shine bright on every hearth, as the desires
Of thy Penates had been set on flame,
To entertain them ; or the country came, 80
With all their zeal, to warm their welcome here.
What (great, I will not say, but) sudden chear
Didst thou then make ’em ! and what praise was heap’d
On thy good lady, then ! who therein reap’d
The just reward of her high huswifry ;
To have her linen, plate, and all things nigh,
When she was far ; and not a room, but drest,
As if it had expected such a guest !
These, Penshurst, are thy praise, and yet not all.
Thy lady’s noble, fruitful, chaste withal. 90
His children thy great lord may call his own ;
A fortune, in this age, but rarely known.
They are, and have been taught religion ; thence
Their gentler spirits have suck’d innocence.
Each morn, and even, they are taught to pray,
With the whole household, and may, every day,
Read in their virtuous parents’ noble parts,
The mysteries of manners, arms, and arts.
Now, Penshurst, they that will proportion thee
With other edifices, when they see 100
Those proud ambitious heaps, and nothing else,
May say, their lords have built, but thy lord dwells.
Perhaps the other thing of note, was this was my first ever first date. And he wants to see me again.