140. Ground-fires.


Jacob Bryant refers to the Saxon Chronicles, to Roger de Hoveden, Brompton, and Simon Dunelmensis for various accounts of fires breaking out from the earth in this country during 267various earthquakes, which occurred from the year 1032 to 1135, when the last eruption was recorded. “Fires” says Holinshed, “burst out of certain riffes of the earth, in so huge flames that neither by water nor otherwise it could be quenched.” Bryant would fain prove the impossible authenticity of Rowley’s poem by these phenomena, insisting that they are the gronfers which Chatterton interprets fires exhaled from a fen.

The ground-fire of 1048 is said to have burnt towns as well as fields of corn; villas et segetes multas ustulavit. Sim. Dun. This broke out in Derbyshire and the adjoining counties; but it is difficult if not impossible to conceive how any volcanic flames should have extended to towns, there being no mountain in eruption. The fiery vapour, whatever it may have been, seems more analogous to the sea-fire which extended so far into Spain.

In turning over a most worthless volume entitled Reflexions sur le Desastre 268de Lisbonne, an extract from Mezerai reminds me of what I have read in many old historians, that the pestilence which in the 14th century spread from the East over the whole of Europe, was believed to have been produced by a fiery vapour, horriblement puante, which issued from the earth in the province of Catag, in China, and consumed every thing within a circuit of two hundred leagues. I do not know to what authority this news from China is to be traced.

In 1802 a gentleman who is a native of Llantrissant in the county of Glamorganshire, was shooting upon the hills near that town; he had occasion to pass what appeared to him a patch of red mire, over which one step would have carried him; but having set his foot on it, it sunk; he fell and found his leg burnt through the boot so severely that he was confined many weeks by the wound. The place is remote from any path, but it was found upon enquiry 269that a few old persons knew that such a ground fire existed there, where it had been burning time out of mind. This is not related upon any doubtful authority. I heard the fact from the person to whom it happened. Some scientific traveller will do well to find out this singular spot, over which, if it were in their country, the Parsees would build a temple.


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