Obrázky na stránke

beeches—and a beautiful boundary of blue hills. “Goodday, Sergeant Stewart ! farewell, Ma'am-farewell !” And in half an hour we are sitting in the moss-house at the edge of the outer garden, and gazing up at the manywindowed grey walls of the Mains, and its high steepridged roof, discoloured by the weather-stains of centuries. “ The taxes on such a house," quod Sergeant Stewart, " are of themselves enough to ruin a man of moderate fortune—so the Mains, sir, has been uninhabited for a good many years.” But he had been speaking to one who knew far more about the Mains than he could do—and who was not sorry that the Old Place was allowed to stand, undisturbed by any rich upstart, in the venerable silence of its own decay. And this is the moss-house that we helped to build with our own hands at least to hang the lichen tapestry, and stud the cornice with shells ! We were one of the paviers of that pebbled floor—and that bright scintillating piece of spar, the centre of the circle, came all the way from Derbyshire in the knapsack of a geologist, who died a Professor. It is strange the roof has not fallen in long ago; but what a slight ligature will often hold together a heap of ruins from tumbling into nothing! The old moss-house, though somewhat decrepit, is alive; and, if these swallows don't take care, they will be stunning themselves against our face, jerking out and in, through door and window, twenty times in a minute. Yet with all that twittering of swallows —and with all that frequent crowing of a cock—and all that cawing of rooks—and cooing of doves—and low

ing of cattle along the holms—and bleating of lambs along the braes—it is nevertheless a pensive place; and here sit we like a hermit, world-sick, and to be revived only by hearkening in the solitude to the voices of other years.

What more mournful thought than that of a Decayed Family—a high-born race gradually worn out, and finally ceasing to be ! The remote ancestors of this House were famous men of war---then some no less famous statesmen—then poets and historians—then minds still of fine, but of less energetic mould—and last of all, the mystery of madness breaking suddenly forth from spirits that seemed to have been especially formed for profoundest peace. There were three sons and two daughters, undegenerate from the ancient stateliness of the race—the oldest on his approach to manhood erect as the young cedar, that seems conscious of being destined one day to be the tallest tree in the woods. The twinsisters were ladies indeed! Lovely as often are the lowborn, no maiden ever stepped from her native cottagedoor, even in a poet's dream, with such an air as that with which those fair beings walked along their saloons and lawns. Their beauty no one could at all describe-and no one beheld it who did not say that it transcended all that imagination had been able to picture of angelic and divine. As the sisters were, so were the brothers—distinguished above all their mates conspicuously, and beyond all possibility of mistake; so that strangers could single them out at once as the heirs of beauty, that, according to veritable pictures and true traditions, had

been an unalienable gift from nature to that family ever since it bore the name. For the last three generations none of that house had ever reached even the meridian of life-and those of whom we now speak had from childhood been orphans. Yet how joyous and free were they one and all, and how often from this cell did evening hear their holy harmonies, as the Five united together with voice, harp, and dulcimer, till the stars themselves rejoiced !-One morning, Louisa, who loved the dewy dawn, was met bewildered in her mind, and perfectly astray—with no symptom of having been suddenly alarmed or terrified—but with an unrecognising smile, and eyes scarcely changed in their expression, although they knew not—but rarely—on whom they looked. It was but a few months till she died—and Adelaide was laughing carelessly on her sister's funeral day—and asked why mourning should be worn at a marriage, and a plumed hearse sent to take away the bride. Fairest of God's creatures ! can it be that thou art still alive? Not with cherubs smiling round thy knees—not walking in the free realms of earth and heaven with thy husband—the noble youth, who loved thee from thy childhood when himself a child; but oh! that such misery can be beneath the sunshut up in some narrow cell perhaps—no one knows where—whether in this thy native kingdom, or in some foreign land—with those hands manacled—ademonlight in eyes once most angelical—and ringing through undistinguishable days and nights imaginary shriekings and yellings in thy poor distracted brain !— Down went the ship with all her crew in which Percy sailed ;—the sabre must have been in the hand of a skilful swordsman that in one of the Spanish battles hewed Sholto down; and the gentle Richard, whose soul-while he possessed it clearly—was for ever among the sacred books, although too long he was as a star vainly sought for in a cloudy region, yet did for a short time starlike reappear—and on his death-bed he knew us, and the other mortal creatures weeping beside him, and that there was One who died to save sinners.

Let us away—let us away from this overpowering place—and make our escape from such unendurable sadness. Is this fit celebration of merry May-day? Is this the spirit in which we ought to look over the bosom of the earth, all teeming with buds and flowers just as man's heart should be teeming—and why not ours—with hopes and joys? Yet beautiful as this May-day is and all the country round which it so tenderly illumines, we came not hither, a solitary pilgrim from our distant home, to indulge ourself in a joyful happiness. No, hither came we purposely to mourn among the scenes which in boyhood we seldom beheld through tears. And therefore have we chosen the gayest day of all the year, when all life is rejoicing, from the grashopper among our feet to the lark in the cloud. Melancholy, and not mirth,. doth he hope to find, who after a life of wandering-and maybe not without sorrow—comes back to gaze on the banks and braes whereon, to his eyes, once grew the Aowers of Paradise. Flowers of Paradise are ye still — for, praise be to Heaven ! the sense of beauty is still strong within us—and methinks we could feel the beauty of this scene though our heart were broken.




We have often exposed the narrowness and weakness of that dogma, so pertinaciously adhered to by persons of cold hearts and limited understandings, that Religion is not a fit theme for poetical genius, and that Sacred Poetry is beyond the powers of uninspired

We do not know that the grounds on which that dogma stands have ever been formally stated by any writer but Samuel Johnson; and therefore with all respect, nay, veneration, for his memory, we shall now shortly examine his statement, which, though, as we think, altogether unsatisfactory and sophistical, is yet a splendid specimen of false reasoning, and therefore worthy of being exposed and overthrown. Dr Johnson was not often utterly wrong in his mature and considerate judgments respecting any subject of paramount importance to the virtue and happiness of mankind. He was a good and wise being; but sometimes he did grievously err; and never more so than in his vain


« PredošláPokračovať »