plaining "all things written in the law of up into heaven? This same Jesus which is Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms con- taken up from you into heaven, shall so come cerning himself.” (Luke, xxiv. 44.)

in like manner as ye have seen him go into When he had fully instructed them in the heaven." The charm was broken. Ascending Messianic Scriptures, he prepared for his as- Mount Olivet from the edge of the village of cension. The power of his presence drew his Bethany (for this was as near, and a more prifriends as well as his disciples close around vate way back to the city), they halted on the him. And in the dusk of the evening, that he summit to look once more into the heavens, might escape the notice of the multitude, he after their ascended Lord. But the sky had passed out of the city eastward, crossing the recovered its usual serenity, and spread out its Kidron, and wound round the southern flank calm blue canopy, lit up with the countless of Mount Olivet, all following slowly and in stars of heaven. On the spot where they silence, while he announced to his disciples the halted, the piety of subsequent ages erected a import and prospect of their perilous mission. | magnificent church, and that same piety, subli6 Ye shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, mated into enthusiasm and credulity, transand in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the ferred the scene of the ascension from the uttermost parts of the earth. Go ye, therefore, humble village of Bethany, far down on the into all the world, teach all nations, and preach southern flank of the mountain, to its summit. the gospel to every creature, baptizing them in Hence the church, which is seen in the engraving, the name of the Father, and of the Son, and is called the Church of the Ascension. It is about of the Holy Ghost. All power is given to me half a mile due east from St. Stephen's gate, in heaven and in earth, and lo! I am with you and about three hundred feet above the city. always even unto the end of the world.” It is alone; neither tent nor hut is near it.

As he pronounced these words he had ad- | And the only worshippers in it are a few vanced round the southern flank of the moun- monks; sometimes of the Greek order, and tain, leading his disciples, “as far as to Beth- sometimes of the Armenian ; as the gold of the any." There, as he uttered the last words of one outweighs, in the judgment of the Pacha of the divine benediction, he lifted up his hands, Jerusalem, the gold of the other. And not spreading them out, perhaps over, and perhaps unfrequently very unchristian contests occur touching the heads of his apostles. While in for the possession of the church; and in these this act he was parted from them. He threw contests, it has more than once been reduced aside the restraint which for the time weigbed to ashes. The traveller sees it from the northdown his glorious resurrection body, and it rose east part of the city, sitting beautifully on the majestically and was carried up into heaven; sacred Mount of Olivet; and if his piety or and the clouds received him out of their sight, curiosity should lead him to ascend to it, he into that spiritual and glorious world where he will be shown the footprint of our Lord, imsat down on the right hand of the throne of pressed in the solid rock, as he made the first God, to make intercession for us.

bound towards Heaven. To this he will kneel, It was at nightfall, and the parting was so so and will kiss it, if his faith waver not; or will lemn and glorious, and his pathway to heaven so turn away with regret and sorrow at the weak resplendent, and the majesty and benignancy superstition that guards and worships an object of his ascending person so enrapturing, that so obviously apocryphal. In the general unhis friends stood motionless and speechless, certainty, and frequent absurdity of the sacred "gazing up into heaven,” through the bright places shown to the traveller in the Holy Land, opening which his ascension had left in the sky. the free and intelligent Christian will see the There probably they would have continued to wisdom and goodness of God. Had he designed stand had not the spell been broken by two of those spots to be reverenced and worshipped, the heavenly visiters who had descended to he would have provided for the certain knowwitness the ascension. From the midst of the ledge of them. But in the kingdom of his Son illuminated clouds, where they lingered in pity he has made the divine glory and power to and admiration of the astonished and bereaved appear in the new and divine life which the disciples, they descended to the earth, and gospel imparts to individuals and to nations, “stood among them in white apparel, and and not in sacred localities, or buildings, or said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing relics.


I LOOKED upon thy youthful face,

It seemed as though the gates of heaven
In all its beauty bright,

Had been unclosed awhile;
"Till like a sunbeam through a cloud,

So radiant was that face of thine,
It gleamed with sudden light;

Lit by that sunny smile.

[merged small][ocr errors]

The Bride of Christi oh, at those words there swept
Bright glories through my spirit! I was deaf
To the deep anthem. Prelate, and cowled priest,
The dim cathedral walls, the kneeling crowd,
The lattice where the black-veiled nuns looked through,
All passed away from mine enraptured eyes!
I saw no more thy bowed form, oh my mother!
Nor his who stood far down the aisle of columns,
Hiding his bent brow with his mantle's fold!

It seems not long since I, a little child,
Trod yon cathedral floors, and in deep awe
First crossed my forehead with the holy water.
It seems not long, Jacopo, since we twain
Prayed, kneeling at one shrine; together winged
Our mated voices like paired larks to heaven,
Or, hand in hand, walked where the garden fountains
Cleft the grim lion mouths!

Have patience, Father,
For I am worn with fasting and much prayer,
And tears flow readily. How many days
Have I lain prostrate at the altar's foot,
The marble striking death into my heart,
Speaking no word, partaking of no food
Save water and the crust that gave me strength
To move my lips in prayer! How oft till morn,
My forehead pressed against His icy feet
Who hangs upon the cross, have I lain here
With but one grim companion. Even thou,
Bymbol of death, gaunt prophet of the tomb,
That in thy cavernous eyes dost hold the night,
Glaring beside my rosary and missal!

There came a message
That said Ginevra, weary of the court,
Returned to us alone.

'Twas early noon;
I, overwearied, dreamed upon my couch,
And when I woke, my sister stood beside me
Ginevra! no! Ah, heaven! was that Ginevra
Who quivered at my fear, and in the sunlight
Stood shivering ere she bent and faintly pressed
Her lips upon my brow!

I never knew
What sorrow, like a tearful angel, rent
The veil between my sister's heart and God.
Her brow was as the forehead of a saint,
Bearing the marks of thorns, and on her face
None looked, except to breathe a sigh that tracked
Some upwinged thought to heaven. Oh, to my sense
Her beauty was unreal; whether she prayed,
Kneeling beneath the altar lights, a glory
Tremulous in her hair; whether we twain
Paced the long galleries, where ranged silver sconces
Studding the walls, cast down before our feet
Black shades like chasms; whether to her voice
I listened, while the stealthy-footed night
Passed by unchallenged! As a captive stands
Vacantly gazing at the world without
Through his barred prison windows, all his heart
Busy with other scenes, go looked the soul
Through her blue, holy eyes. I loved her well-
I stopped my play to watch if she passed by,
Or if she mused beside the gallery windows,
As was her wont, I, stealing to her side,
Stood tiptoe, that my arms might clasp her waist.
And sometimes, cloistered in her chamber, there
We read and talked, till purple twilight stains
Sank through the marble pavement. In that room
There hung a copy of a rare old picture,
The Marriage of Saint Catherine.

I remember
That she grew farther from me, day by day,-
I guessed not wherefore. Over her blue eyes
The lids drooped heavily, as lilies loll
Against the swell of waves. No echo tracked
Her footsteps through the vaulty corridors;
And often in the night I saw her rise
To gaze upon Saint Catherine's blessed face,
Or prone before the crucifix, lie there
Praying till dawn.

Thou knowest well my father was a noble,
That he lived gaily, making his great wealth
The slave of pleasure. I remember still
Revels, where wine flowed free, and festal times
That filled our lone vast palace by the sea
With guests and music. Then, at early twilight,
There ever came a young, bright girl, who took
Me, the weak child, within her gentle hold;
Smiling so softly, while my faint hands passed
Over the roses in her hair, the pearls
Clasped on her throat, and round, pure, dewy arms.
Ginevra! oh I loved to speak her name!
I loved my nurse to bear me to the window,
Where, lying on her shoulder, I could mark
My sister's white robes floating through the trees;
My sister, as she spake, or walked, or rode,
Great nobles at her side, who smiled and bent
Their pluméd heads to catch her lightest word!

But this was for a season-Many months
The palace was deserted. Then, alone,
We wandered freely through the vacant rooms,
I, and my nurse Guiseppa. She would pause
Sometimes, by pictures of worn saints and martyrs;
Saint Lawrence in the flames, his lifted face
Full of sublime forgetfulness of pain;
Or Stephen, stoned and prone; perchance, to mark
Pale hermits watching in their forest caves,
With lamp and book, the inner darkness shapen
Into black fiends; or, sometimes, oh my soul!
An Ecce Homo, with dim, upturned eyes,
And red drops trickling from the crown of thorns!
All these Guiseppa scanned with reverent face,
I, in her arms held level with the canvass,
Looked on in childish fear.

Once more Ginevra stood
Flower-crowned and jewelled, but beneath the light
Of tall cathedral tapers. From the crowd
Quick sobs burst audibly; the very priests
Looked with sad eyes; nuns to the lattice pressed
And blenched away; but she unconscious stood
With folded hands and looks upcast, as though
The vacant space were legible to her gazing.
Then my fair, haughty mother cowered for fear,
My father's gay lips whitened.

From her brow
The wreath was taken; gem and bridal dress
Stripped from her consecrated form, her head
Shorn of its wavy wealth; and now, Ginevra,
Wrapped in the grave's pale robes, with limbs composed,
Looked marble in her coffin. Father! nay!
Forgive me! let me weep! For when again
They bade her rise, lo! in her symbol shroud
The nun lay dead !

We knew bright, silent angels
Had gently loosed the clinging arms of life,
Claiming their Lord's affianced. So she passed!
I bear upon my breast the cross that wore
Its outline upon hers.

Thou camest, Jacopo,–
Playmate and friend!

Do you remember now
How, while you twined the vine leaves in my hair,
I told you saintly legends! When we saw
Fair pictures in the clouds, you made them limn
Chariots and battling horsemen, but to me
Came trooping angels!

Still my sister's chamber
Seemed hallowed by her presence. Crumbling wreaths
Dropped from the crucifix; her favourite books,
Their pages blistered by her frequent tears,
Lay open as she left them, marked with flowers,
Or pencilled down the margin by her hand.
But most I loved the picture of Saint Catherine,
She kneeling, while the holy child whose touch
The virgin guided, on her finger placed
The marriage ring, his face in lovely wonder
Raised questioning to his mother's.

To that place
I crept at noonday. There I treasured all
Linked with Ginevra's memory. 'Twas now
A garland we had woven; now a kerchief
That kept the faint rose odour she had loved.
I vexed my childish brain with pondering o'er
The books she prized. These, histories of saints,
Temptations, miracles, and martyrdoms,
I peopled all the dark nooks of the palace
With phantoms of their raising. There, concealed
All through the slumberous noontide, first I read
Of Augustine, who heard the voice of God
Speak to him in the garden, and of her,
Holy Teresa, who stood face to face
With Mary's son, and carried to the tomb
Remembrance of the vision. When I saw
How laying down love, wealth, the pride of birth,
Bowing her shoulders for the cross, this one
Frail nun obtained a saint's repute, becoming
Founder of monasteries, and of a host
The spiritual mother, all my soul
Thrilled with the rapturous history. I could dream
Only of mysteries; or if light shapes
Beckoned me to the world, there slid between
Visions of her who o'er an open book
Hung pondering steadfastly; one pale, fair hand
Outspread upon the page, and one that held
Her brow within its hollow. Womanhood
Came, and my heart's betraying echoes scarce
Answered her loitering footfall. Life grew vague,
Nothing approached me nearly.

The first star
Was a true prophet of thy step, Jacopo !
My visions fled when up the flinty paths
His courser's hoof struck flashes. With a jest
My father greeted him; my mother gave
Her white hand freely, while her laughter mixed
With their gay talk, and I, a space apart,
Smiled him glad welcome, with my every pulse
Answering the cordial music of his voice.
Oh, he was changed! I dared no longer chide
When his bold mirth trod heedlessly too close
To holy ground. I heard with eyes abased,
Rebuke awed into silence. He had sprung
Suddenly to full manhood. In his words
There was an athlete's sinew, though they played
With great things carelessly, as a fresh wind
Provokes the sea to laughter, and his pride
Ever seemed well placed, like a castle set
Upon a mountain. All my womanhood
Did homage to his strength. The life that coiled
Lazily at my heart leapt through my veins
With crest uplift, if mid the halls I heard

His footfall ring. Oh, Father, when he left,
Gone was the smile from sweet Saint Catherine's lip!
And the grave saints frowned on me, and my thoughts
Shapen to prayer, put on unholy guise,
Mocking my vain devotion! Marvel not
I was a child. Ginevra fled the world,
Like a chased dove that calms its panting heart
Under green forest boughs. Life stood unmasked.
And pleasure mocked her like a garland twined
Round a drained wine cup. As a vine that grows
Over some marble urn, a bird that builds
Under the cornice of some shattered temple,
Making its ruin echo with delight,
So to her heart, rent, filled with bitter dust,
Came one bright hope. Alas! my thrilling soul
Still quivered in the bended bow of life.
Youth was too mighty! I grew faint. My heart
Leapt at a quick word, and light tremors ran
Painfully through my limbs. My brain waxed dizzy
Over my books, and I would ponder hours
Ere I could wrest its meaning from the page
I strove to read; or if I knelt to pray,
My aimless thoughts went wandering blindly on,
The prayer I said suspended. Outward things
Unchallenged touched my senses that dull stupor
Muffled like sleep.

I stood within Saint Peter's
And heard the Miserere. Through the twilight
Burned thirteen starry tapers. One by one,
Amid the chanting of the Lamentations,
These vanished, till the last and brightest, Christ,
Sank into darkness. With that hope's extinction,
Like a retreating wave, the chant withdrew
Beneath the cave-like shadows. Rippling echoes
Tracked it to silence. Father, on my lips
The stillness pressed like a remorseless hand!
Above, the gray-winged twilight, like a moth
Clung to the arches! I did strive to pray,
But through my soul the slow-paced, cloistered thoughts
Trod, saying “Miserere!” Deep the pause
That from the shores of that hushed music stretched
Like a black-throated chasm! I grew sick
Hearing the echoes sound it! While I gasped,
As 'twere a bird borne over an abyss
On one bruised wing, athwart the chapel roof
Fluttered a voice so sad, my panting heart
Breathed in one gush of tears. I doubt not, Priest,
White angels listening in God's presence then
Leant on their harps and wept! The low notes failed
Exhaustedly. But as they ceased, oh heaven!
As 'twere a scimitar quick bared, a shaft
Hurled by a giant, a prolonged, loud shriek
Leapt through the gloom, and like a dart rebounding
Fell, shivered into echoes! Holy Mary!
My every pulse thrilled with a separate pain!
All through the crowd a light electric shiver
Passed like a link. All dimly from mine eyes
Fled the dark forms of priest, and cardinal,
And heaven's vicegerent in his pontiff robes.
I must have fallen but for one steadfast arm
Girding my waist like iron. Scarce I marked
How the whole choir with thick, sore sobs bewailed
Christ's death. I know not what of sudden brightness
Burst on my dazzled sight. Dispute it not!
I saw the darkness cloven by wings that took
Light like a prism, and when the rifted gloom
Closed on their upward flight, my senses, prone,
Met its returning pressure!

This was April ; And ere my dumb soul spake again, the grape Was purple on the hills. Oh, I was weak As a young child! Jacopo in his arms Would bear me to the sea-shore, where I sat Long, vacant hours, numbering the waves, Counting the drifting clouds. They sang me songsThe music pleased me, but the married words


I feared to speak God's after! Then came prayers,
Fasts, and harsh penances. There was a chamber
Ginevra loved; a dim, square, lofty room,
Crossed and re-crossed by arches, paved with marbles
Stained in sea hues. One silver shining lamp
That burned behind a column, brake the night
With its still radiance. There, when midnight came,
Crept I as stealthily, with naked feet
Treading the corridors. There my faint soul
Staggered beneath its cross! The niched saints only
Might hear my heart shriek as I walled it in!
The marble where my forehead lay kept not
Count of my tears! And there, when fasts prolonged
Vanquished my sense, while Life, the jailor, slept
Came angels that unlocked the prison doors
And bade my soul go free. Athwart my brain
Flash and withdraw into the cloud of sense
That holds them captive, memories too bright
For human keeping-dumb, sweet dreams that passed
With finger laid on lip. Oh, gracious Father!
Great is my faith in penance that chains down
The senses in their cells, scourges the passions
Into meek virtues, and converts the house
Where worldly guests held revel, to a cloister
Trod by pure visions, and upglancing prayers!

My dull ear noted not. Yet every day
Lifted my prostrate faculties. At last
The old life came to me again, and I
Lived with my books and memories.

Yet, oh heaven!
The dense gloom of the Roman chapel seemed
Stifting my soul! A horror brooded o'er me;
To my weak brain most dark forebodings came,
As night-birds haunt a ruin! As one left
In a blind labyrinth seeks in vain the outlet,
As a lost bird that beats its wings against
The black roof of a cavern, so my thought
Conscious of light, pursued it. Pleasure came,
And Fear uplifting with unsteady hand
Her wan lamp, by its shifting rays transformed
The siren to a spectre. Did I stoop
To pluck a joy that seemed to common eyes
Dewy with innocence, lo! underneath
There coiled some black temptation! The wide world
Was all a Paradise, where every tree
Held fruit forbidden. Whither coald I fly?
Into dim solitudes, through trooping crowds,
Horror pursued me with extended arms!
Trembling I lingered in Ginevra's chamber,
There forcibly impelled, there paralysed
By the cold, haunting presence of the dead.
Oh God! I heard her footsteps track the floor!
Oh God! I wakened from my sleep to feel
That I had scared away some brooding thing!
And once-believe it, Father!--in the moonlight
I saw her in her death-robes stand, and point
Her white, still finger to the pictured bridal!
They said that I grew like her, like the novice
Some still remembered; she who smiled farewell,
Thrusting her white hands through the convent grating;
Like the pale saint who, with the crucifix
Betwixt her palms, spake softly while she trod
The solitary chambers, with her prayers
Coupling the moments; not like her, the bright
Aurora of my childhood, on whose knee
I have lain listless, through my fingers slipping
Pearl chains like rosaries!

Still, if I walked,
One step kept pace with mine, or if reclining
Mid the cleft rocks, I heard the sea rehearse
Its ancient song of chaos, every wave
Rhyming its fellow, still my heart took note
Of a timed footfall on the upper shore
Advancing and retreating. If I read,
And from my book glanced suddenly, I thrilled,
Knowing who stood apart, and on my face
Looked with a strange intentness.

Oh, thou world!
Thy warm arms clave to me, thy painted lips
Cheated my senses! To my sleep came fiends
That mocked me with his smile, put on his shape,
Suake with his voice, till, starting from my couch,
Thy name, Jacopo, first upon my lips,

There came release. 'Twas midnight, and I seemed
In dreams to kneel, as kneels the Bride of Christ.
Yet not Madonna, bat my sister, guided
The hand that placed the marriage ring on mine.
While yet I slept, a noise of many wings
Filled all the air, and at my ear a voice
Chanted a cradle hymn. Then I awoke.
And heard the echoes keep one lingering note.

They told me 'twas a dream, but felt I not
The constant pressure of the bridal ring?
And knew I not, though dim to human eyes,
How bright 'twould shine hereafter? Up to God
I sped my fresh hopes, that wing-wearied turned
To earth's most blessed shelter. Priest, as pure
As Oatherine, the first nun, I wedded Heaven,
The tresses they have shorn were ne'er unbound
By love's light hand; the beauty that I laid
As 'twere a blossom, on His holy shrine
Kept sacred, all, from love's profaning touch!
Last fled I here. With many tears, my mother,
Wouldst thou have stayed me, and Jacopo--nay!
I was appalled to look on his white lips!
Once, I remember, in my short novitiate,
When by the convent wall I paused to mark
The singing of a bird, and from above
There dropped a written scroll, oh! saints what wild
Idolatrous words de faced its blotted page!
I dared not look upon the writer's name. .
'Twas sin to read, I know, for all the morn
There was that ringing through my unquiet soul,
That outvoiced organ, chorister, and priest!




AE! soft-haired maiden, with the beaming eye,

That plays in wild, that thinks in sober graces, Why must thou make the human heart thy sky,

And read men's star-thoughts in their very faces ? Why, with that truly telescopic smile,

So soft and sadl, so witching and so winning, Dost thou enlarge the nebulæ of guile,

And set the planet-wishes all a-sinning?
Thou Herschel of sweet womankind! when over

The milky way of mankind. fond and fervent
Thou rang'st thy glass, say, wilt thou please discover,

And take a survey of thy “humble servant?" And be assured, if worth in him thou'lt find, That heretofore the whole world has been blind.




AFTER a long illness, during which I never and the Romans drew near, at last, to invade saw a tree in leaf for upwards of five years, the region, and pave a road through it. It and passed my life between my bed and my sofa, must have been a curious sight to the skinI recovered—to my own surprise, and that of clad Britons who were posted as sentinels, when every one who knew me. In September, I crept the Roman standards appeared among the out of doors, and lay on a bit of grass a few trees, and helmets and spears glittered in the yards square. In October, I walked down to pathways of the woods. The Romans took the sea-shore, and by degrees extended my possession of Windermere, and made a camp rambles to a fine beach three miles from home. at its head. If the circles of stones planted By this time there was no doubt of my being by the Druids are visible here and there in the well; but it was evidently desirable to change district, no less distinct are the marks of Roman the scene, and break off all associations of siek- occupation. In a field at the head of Winderness with my daily habits, and I eagerly ac- | mere, the outlines of their camp are obvious cepted the invitation of friends who lived on enough to the eye; and on a mountain ridge, the banks of Windermere, to spend a month still called High Street, are the fragments of with them. That month determined my place pavement, which show that even here, above of residence for, probably, the rest of my life. the highest tree-tops from which the British

I had seen the Lake district in a cursory sentinels could look forth, the Roman soldiers way, some years before, merely passing through made a road for their standards and their it on my way to Scotland. Its beauty had troops. What a sight it must have been struck me with a kind of amazement. As Ifrom below! How the native mother must looked down into some of the vales, or around have shrunk back with her children into upon a wall of mountains, I was almost incre- the caves of the rock, or the covert of the dulous of what I saw. If I had been told that wood,-less afraid of the wild beasts than after a long and dreary season of hopeless ill- of these majestic invaders, against whom her ness, I should come and sit down for life in this husband was gone out with his scythe or his region, I should have looked upon the prospect club! How she and her companions must as one of the most marvellous of the shifting have listened to the shock of falling trees, and scenes of life.

the cleaving of the rocks, which gave notice Its beauty is not the only, nor to some peo- that the enemy were making themselves a ple, the chief interest and charm of the Lake broad highway through the heart of the disdistrict. The mountains, by their conservative trict. I always think of those cowering Britons influence, have here hedged in a piece of old now, when I go by the old Roman road, which English life, such as is to be found nowhere else descends upon Grasmere. The scene is open within the island. They have always hedged enough now, but I can conjure up the forests in a piece of the life that had passed away which clothed the mountain slopes down to the from the rest of the country. When the very brink of the Grasmere lake, in the days Romans were elsewhere building walls around when the wild boar came down to drink, and the towns, and stretching out roads from point the squirrel could (as the country people tell) to point of the island, the Druids were still col- go from Wythburn to Keswick-ten miles on a lecting their assemblage of wild Britons under straight line,-on the tree-tops, without touchthe forest shades of this region. The remains ing the ground. of coppices of oak, ash, birch, and hollies, After all, the Romans passed away before show how high up the mountain sides the the Britons. The natives remained in consiancient forest extended, and under those trees derable numbers in the fastnesses, when the stood of old the long-bearded, shaven-headed, glittering soldiers were no more seen on the white-robed Druidical priests, sending up a paved ways, and the trumpets no longer echoed flame of sacrifice, which scared the red deer, from one mountain peak to another. But the and the wolf, and the wild bull in their coverts, Saxons and Danes came in to take possession of and brought the eagles from their highest the fertile spots as the Romans left them. They perch by the scent of a prey. But even here never obtained possession of the district, howchange must come, though later than elsewhere, I ever. For six hundred years, the Saxons held

« 上一页继续 »