The following article was originally published in Notes & Queries for Somerset & Dorset in 1893
Adjoining the town and in the parish of Yeovil there is a well-known plantation called ” Newton Copse,” the greater part of which forms a steep declivity extending from the top of a high hill, called “Summer House Hill,” to a public highway below called “Newton Road,” leading from the town of Yeovil to the villages of Stoford, Barwick, &c. A footpath parallel to Newton Road also runs thro’ the middle of the copse. The plantation is thickly planted with trees, except in one part of it where there is apparently a natural avenue formed, leading from the top of the hill to the road beneath, and crossing in its way the before-mentioned footpath at right angles. This avenue, at the time I knew it, was quite wide enough to allow a carriage and four being driven thro’ it, but it was then over-grown with grass, and did not appear to have been ever used as a road or way. Moreover it was so steep that it was evident that any ordinary mortal who attempted to drive down over it would come to grief. Nevertheless it was called the “Devil’s Drive,” and in the days of my early youth I have often listened in awe to the weird tales that were told me concerning it. It was said that no trees would ever grow on the land which formed the site of this avenue, that the devil and some of his kindred spirits were often to be seen at certain hours of the night, and more especially at that witching time ” when churchyards yawn,” &c., taking a drive down over it, and that once on a time one of the townsmen, having occasion to go through the copse in the middle of the night, had suddenly met with his Satanic majesty taking his usual drive. Not only was the townsman very much alarmed at such an unusual spectacle, but it seems the spirits did not at all like the interruption. No wonder that the Archfiend turned on the intruder and in angry tones addressed him thus:
Walk by day and not by night,
And let the spirits take’ their flight.
Whether the affrighted townsman profited by this suitable admonition or not I do not know. I have now long since left the neighborhood, but the story still remains deeply impressed on my memory. Perhaps some of your readers might be able to give some additional information on the subject. At any rate it is interesting to know that the dwellers on this earth are not the only ones who court the muse, but that her aid is also sought by beings of quite a different order. Possibly, however, the couplet above-mentioned may be traced to an earthly origin after all.
Who knows? His Satanic majesty may yet be convicted of plagiarism.