图书图片
PDF
ePub

The bliss of that revival, by a feign'd
Or half-feign'd show of conflict still sustain'd.
At last, she look'd :- They looked !--Eye met with eye!

The whole was told! The lover and the loved,
The adored, and the adorer, ecstasy

Never till then experienced-swiftly proved !-
Thanks for his aid were a mean courtesy !

They were forgotten! Transport unreproved,
This was his guerdon; this his rich reward!
An hour's oblivion with Sophronia shared!

Then all the world was lost to them, in one

Fulness of unimaginable bliss Infinity was with them ! and the zone

Unbound whence Venus sheds upon a kiss
Nectareous essences, and raptures known

Ne'er save to moments unprepared as this !
And in that earnest impulse did they find
Peace and intensity, alike combined !
To frame such joy, these things are requisite;

A lofty nature; the exalting stress
Of stimulating trials, which requite,

And antecedent sorrows doubly bless ;
Consummate sympathies, which souls unite;

And a conjuncture, whence no longer press
Impulses-long as these delights we prove-
From one thing foreign to the world of love.
This could not last! Not merely would a word ;-

A gesture would, a look, dissolve the charm -
Could home be mention'd nor the thought restored,

To her remembrance of Gisippus' warm
And manly love 1 Bless'd be ye with your hour

Of transient bliss, and be ye safe from harm,
Ye fond, fond pair! But think not joys so high
Can be inwoven with reality!

At last a swift revulsion through her frame

And o'er her countenance stole : a sudden pause 1
Her eyes which had imbibed a piercing flame,

Fell at once rayless; and her bosom draws
One in-pent sigh; one look imploring came

O'er her fine face! Titus knew well the cause
of this so sudden change : he dared not speak;
He dared not move; dared not its reasons seek!
Some minutes they were silent. Night advanced ;

Titus towards himself Sophronia press'd,
But dumb be stood ; upwards she faintly glanced

A look upbraiding, and upon his breast-
Gently reclining-lay like one entranced!

No longer was happiness her guest.
She starts ! She cries "Gisippus !" all is told !
Cold fell the word, on bosoms still more cold!
They rose and crept along in silentness-

Sophronia reach'd her home, but nothing said,
E'en to her mother, of her past distress.

Her threshold past not Titus-Thence he fled,
Soon as in safety he the maid did guess,

Like to a madman madden'd more with dread!
Nor ever of this night, or of its spell
Of mighty love, did he breathe a syllable!

We now take leave of Mr. Lloyd with peculiar gratitude for the rich materials for thought with which a perusal of his poems has endowed us. We shall look for his next appear. ance before the public with anxiety ;-assured that his powers are not even yet fully deve. loped to the world, and that he is destined to

occupy a high station among the finest spirits of his age.

MR. OLDAKER ON MODERN IMPROVEMENTS.

(New MONTHLY MAGAZINE.]

MR. EDITOR :- I trust that even in this age of the society of a maiden sister, happy if an old improvement you will suffer one of the oldest friend came for a few days to visit me, but of the old school to occupy a small space in chiefly delighting to cherish in silence the reyour pages. A few words respecting myself membrance of my only love, and to anticipate will, however, be necessary to apologize for the time when I shall be laid beside her. At my opinions. Once I was among the gayest last, a wish to settle an orphan nephew in my and sprightliest of youthful aspirants for fame own profession, has compelled me to visit the and fortune. Being a second son, I was bred scenes of my early days, and to mingle, for a to the bar, and pursued my studies with great short time, with the world. My resolution once vigour and eager hope, in the Middle Temple. taken, I felt a melancholy pleasure in the exI loved, too, one of the fairest of her sex, and pectation of seeing the places with which I was beloved in return. My toils were sweet. was once familiar, and which were ever linked ened by the delightful hope that they would in my mind with sweet and blighted hope. procure me an income sufficient for the credi- Every change has been to me as a shock." I table support of the mistress of my soul. Alas! have looked at large on society too, and there at the very moment when the unlooked-for I see little in brilliant innovation to admire. devise of a large estate from a distant relative Returned at last to my own fire-side, I sit down gave me affluence, she for whom alone I de- to throw together a few thoughts on the new sired wealth, sunk under the attack of a fever and boasted Improvements, over which I mourn. into the grave. Religion enabled me to bear her if I should seem too querulous, let it be reloss with firmness, but I determined, for her membered, that my own happy days are long sake, ever to remain a bachelor. Although past, and that recollection is the sole earthly composed and tranquil, I felt myself unable to joy which is left me. endure the forms, or to taste the pleasures of My old haunts have indeed suffered compaLondon. I retired to my estate in the country, ratively small mutation. The princely hall of where I have lived for almost forty years in the Middle Temple has the same venerable as.

t as when, in my boyish days, I felt my eart beating with a strange feeling of mingled pride and reverence on becoming one of its members. ' The fountain yet plays among the old trees, which used to gladden my eye in spring for a few days with their tender green, to become so prematurely desolate. But the front of the Inner Temple hall, upon the terrace, is sadly altered for the worse. When I first knew it, the noble solidity of its appearance, especially of the figure over the gateway, cut massively in the stone, carried the mind back into the deep antiquity of the scene. Now the whole building is white-washed and plastered over, the majestic entrance supplied by an arch of pseudo-gothic, and a new library added, at vast cost, in the worst taste of the modern antique. The view from the garden is spoiled by that splendid nuisance, the Waterloo Bridge. Formerly we used to enjoy the enormous bend of the river, far fairer than the most marvellous work of art; and while our eyes dwelt on the placid mirror of water, our imagination went over it, through calm and majestic windings, into sweet rural scenes, and far inland bowers. Now the river appears only an oblong lake, and the feeling of the country once let into the town by that glorious avenue of crystal, is shut out by a noble piece of mere human workmanship ! But nature never changes, and some of her humble works are ever found to renew old feelings within us, notwithstanding the sportive changes of mortal fancy. The short grass of the Temple garden is the same as when forty years ago I was accustomed to refresh my weary eyes with its greenness. There I have strolled again; and while I bent my head downwards and fixed my eyes on the thin blades and the soft daisies, I felt as I had felt when last I walked there—all between was as nothing, or a feverish dream— and I once more dreamed of the Seals, and of the living Sophia!—I felt—but I dare not trust myself on this subject farther. The profession of the law is strangely altered since the days of my youth. It was then surely more liberal, as well as more rational, than I now find it. The business and pleasure of a lawyer were not entirely separated, as at present, when the first is mere toil, and the second lighter than vanity. The old stout-hearted pleaders threw a jovial life into their tremendous drudgeries, which almost rendered them delightful. Wine did but open to them the most curious intricacies of their art: they rose from it, like giants refreshed, to grapple with the sternest difficulties, and rejoiced in the encounter. Their powers caught a glow in the severity of the struggle, almost like that arising from strong exertion of the bodily frame. Nor did they disdain to enjoy the quaint jest, the far-fetched allusion, or the antique fancy, which sometimes craftily peeped out on them amidst their laborious researches. Poor T–W–– was one of the last of the race. He was the heartiest and most romantic of special pleaders. Thrice happy was the attorney who could engage him to a steak or broiled fowl in the old coffee room in Fleet-street, were I have often met him. How would he then dilate, in the warmth of his heart, on all his professional triumphs-now

chuckling over the fall of a brother into a trap set artfully for him in the fair guise of liberal pleading—now whispering a joy past joy in a stumble of the Lord Chief Justice himself, among the filmy cords drawn about his path ! When the first bottle was despatched, arrived the time for his wary host to produce his papers in succession, to be drawn or settled by the joyous pleader. The well-lauded inspiration of a poet is not more genuine than that with which he then was gifted. All his nice discernment—all his vast memory—all his skill in drawing analogies and discerning principles in the “great obscurity” of the Year Books—were set in rapid and unerring action. On he went—covering page after page, his pen “in giddy mazes running,” and his mind growing subtler and more acute with every glass. How dextrously did he then glide through all the strange windings of the case, with a sagacity which never failed, while he garnished his discourse with many a legal pun and learned conceit, which was as the light bubble on the deep stream of his knowledge ' He is gone!—and I find none to resemble him in this generation—none who thus can put a spirit into their work, which may make cobweb-sophistries look golden, and * a laborious life into one long holiay! In the greater world, I have observed, with sorrow, a prevailing disregard of the past, and a desire to extol the present, or to expatiate in visionary prospects of the future. I fear this may be traced not so much to philanthropy as to self-love, which inspires men with the wish personally to distinguish themselves as the teachers and benefactors of their species, instead of resting contented to share in the vast stock of recollections and sympathies which is common to all. They would fain persuade us that mankind, created “a little lower than the angels,” is now for the first time “crowned with glory and honour;” and they exultingly point to institutions of yesterday for the means to regenerate the earth. Some, for example, pronounce the great mass of the people, through all ages, as scarcely elevated above the brutes which perish, because the arts of reading, writing, and arithmetic, were not commonly diffused among them; and on the diffusion of these they ground their predictions of a golden age. And were there then no virtuous hardihood, no guileless innocence, no affections stronger than the grave, in that mighty lapse of years which we contemptuously stigmatize as dark? Are disinterested patriotism, conjugal love, open-handed hospitality, meek selfsacrifice, and chivalrous contempt of danger and of death, modern inventions 1 Has man's great birth-right been in abeyance even until now Oh, no! The Chaldaean shepherd did not cast his quiet gaze through weeks and years in vain to the silent skies. He knew not, indeed, the discoveries of science, which have substituted an immense variety of figures on space and distance, for the sweet influences of the stars; yet did the heavens tell to him the glory of God, and angel faces smile on him from the golden clouds. Book-learning is, perhaps, the least part of the education of

97.0336

the species. Nature is the mightiest and the kindliest of teachers. The rocks and unchanging hills give to the heart the sense of a duration beyond that of the perishable body. The flowing stream images to the soul an everlasting continuity of tranquil existence. “The brave o'er-hanging firmament,” even to the most rugged swain, imparts some consciousness of the universal brotherhood of those over whom it hangs. The affections ask no leave of the understanding to “glow and spread and kindle,” to shoot through all the frame a tremulous joy, or animate to holiest constancy. We taste the dearest blessedness of earth in our childhood, before we have learned to express it in mortal language. Life has its universal lessons far beyond human lore. Kindness is as cheering, sorrow as purifying, and the aspect of death as softening to the ignorant in this world's wisdom, as to the scholar. The purest delights grow beneath our feet, and all who will stoop may gather them. While sages lose the idea of the Universal Parent in their subtleties, the lowly “reel after Him and find Him.” Sentiment precedes reason in point of time, and is a surer guide to the noblest realities. Thus man hopes, loves, reveres, and enjoys, without the aid of writing or of the press to inspire or direct him. Many of his feelings are even heartier and more genuine before he has learned to describe them. He does not perpetually mistake words for things, nor cultivate his faculties and affections for a discerning public. His aspirations “are raised, not marked.” If he is gifted with divine imagination, he may “walk in glory and in joy beside his plough upon the mountain side,” without the chilling idea that he must make the most of his sensations to secure the apo: of gay saloons or crowded theatres. he deepest impressions are worn out by the multiplication of their copies. Talking has almost usurped the place of acting and of feeling; and the world of authors seem as though their hearts were but paper scrolls, and ink, instead of blood, were flowing in their veins. “The great events with which old story rings, seem vain and hollow.” If all these evils will not be extended by what is falsely termed the Education of the Poor, let us at least be on our guard lest we transform our peasantry from men into critics, teach them scorn instead of humble hope, and leave them nothing to love, to revere, or to enjoy! The Bible Society, founded and supported, no doubt, from the noblest motives, also puts forth pretensions which are sickening. Its advocates frequently represent it as destined to change all earth into a paradise. That a complete triumph of the principles of the Bible would bring in the happy state which they look for can never be disputed; but the history of our religion affords no ground for anticipating such a result from the unaided perusal of its pages. Deep and extensive impressions of the truths of the gospel have never been made by mere reading, but always by the exertions of living enthusiasm in the holy cause. Providence may, indeed, in its inscrutable wisdom, impart new energy to particular instruments; but there appears no sufficient indication of

such a change as shall make the printed Bibl. alone the means of regenerating the species. “An age of Bibles” may not be an age of Christian charity and hope. The word of God may not be revered the more by becoming a common book in every cottage, and a drug in the shop of every pawnbroker. It was surely neither known nor revered the less when it was a rare treasure, when it was proscribed by those who sat in high places, and its torn leaves and fragments were cherished even unto death. In those days, when a single copy chained to the desk of the church was alone in extensive parishes, did it diffuse less sweetness through rustic hearts than now, when the poor are almost compelled to possess it? How then did the villagers flock from distant farms, cheered in their long walks by thoughts not of this world, to converse for a short hour with patriarchs, saints, and apostles! How did they devour the venerable and wellworn page with tearful eyes, or listen delighted to the voice of one gifted above his fellows, who read aloud the oracles of celestial wisdom! What ideas of the Bible must they have enjoyed, who came many a joyful pilgrimage to hear or to read it! Yet even more precious was the enjoyment of those who, in times of persecution, snatched glances in secret at its pages, and thus entered, as by stealth, into the paradisiacal region, to gather immortal fruits and listen to angel voices. The word of God was dearer to them than house, land, or the “ruddy drops which warmed their hearts.” Instead of the lamentable weariness and disgust with which the young now too often turn from the perusal of the Scriptures, they heard with mute attention and serious joy the histories of the Old Testament and the parables of the New. They heard with revering sympathy of Abraham receiving seraphs unawares—of Isaac walking out at eventide to meditate, and meeting the holy partner of his days—of Jacob's dream, and of that immortal Syrian Shepherdess, for whose love he served a hard master fourteen years, which seemed to him but a few days—of Joseph the beloved, the exile, the tempted, and the forgiver—of all the wonders of the Jewish story—and of the character and sufferings of the Messiah. These things were to them at once august realities, and surrounded with a dream-like glory from afar. “Heaven lay about them in their infancy.” They preserved the purity—the spirit of meek submission—the patient confiding love of their childhood in their maturest years. They, in their turn, instilled the sweetness of Christian charity, drop by drop, into the hearts of their offspring, and left their example as a deathless legacy. Surely this was better than the dignified patronage now courted for the Scriptures, or the pompous eulogies pronounced on them by rival orators! The reports of anniversaries of the Bible Society are often, to me, inexpressibly nauseous. The word of God is praised in the style of eulogy employed on a common book by a friendly reviewer. It is evidently used as a theme to declaim on. But the praise of the Bible is almost overshadowed by the flatteries lavished on the nobleman or county member who has condescended to preside, and which it is the highest ambition of the speakersingeniously to introduce and to vary. Happy is he who can give a new turn to the compliment, or invent a new alliteration or antithesis for the occasion! The copious nonsense of the successful orators is even more painful than the failures of the novices. After a string of false metaphors and poor conceits, applauded to the echo, the meeting are perhaps called on to sympathize with some unhappy debutant, whose sense of the virtues of the chairman proves too vast for his powers of expression; and with Miss Peachum in the Beggars' Opera, to lament “that so noble a youth should come to an untimely end.” Alas! these exhibitions have little connection with a deep love of the Bible, or with real pity for the sufferings of man. Were religious tyranny to render the Scriptures scarce, and to forbid their circulation, they would speedily be better prized and honoured than when scattered with gorgeous profusion, and lauded by nobles and princes. The Society for the Suppression of Mendicity is another boasted institution of these coldhearted days. It would annihilate the race of beggars, and remove from the delicate eye the very form and aspect of misery. Strange infatuations as if an old class of the great family of man might be cut off without harm “All are but parts of one stupendous whole,” bound together by ties of antique sympathy, of which the lowest and most despised are not without their uses. In striking from society a race whom we have, from childhood, been accustomed to observe, a vast body of old associations and gentle thoughts must necessarily be lost for ever. The poor mendicants whom we would banish from the earth, are the best sinecurists to whose sustenance we contribute. In the great science—the science of humanity —they not rarely are our first teachers: they affectingly remind us of our own state of mutual dependance; bring sorrow palpably before the eyes of the prosperous and the vain; and prevent the hearts of many from utterly “losing their nature." They give, at least, a salutary disturbance to gross selfishness, and hinder it

[ocr errors]

from entirely forming an ossified crust about the soul. We see them too with gentle interest, because we have always seen them, and were accustomed to relieve them in the spring-time of our days. And if some of them are what the world calls imposters, and literally “dobeguile us of our tears,” and our alms, those tears are not shed, nor those alms given, in vain. If they have even their occasional revellings and hidden luxuries, we should rather rejoice to believe that happiness has everywhere its nooks and corners which we do not see; that there is more gladness in the earth than meets the politician's gaze; and that fortune has her favours, “secret, sweet, and precious,” even for those on whom she seems most bitterly to frown. Well may that divinest of philosophers, Shakspeare, make Lear reply to his daughters, who had been speaking in the true spirit of modern improvements:

“O reason not the need: our basest beggars Are in the poorest thing superfluous: Allow not nature more than nature needs, Man's life is cheap as beasts?”

There are many other painful instances in these times of that “restless wisdom” which “has a broom for ever in its hand to rid the world of nuisances.” There are, for example, the plans of Mr. Owen, with his infallible recipes for the formation of character. Virtue is not to be forced in artificial hot-beds, as he proposes. Rather let it spring up where it will from the seed scattered throughout the earth, and rise hardly in sun and shower, while the “free mountain winds have leave to blow against it.” But I feel that I have already broken too violently on my habits of dreamy thought, by the asperity into which I now and then have fallen. Let me then break off at once, with the single expression of a hope, that this “bright and breathing world” may not be changed into a Penitentiary by the efforts of modern reformers.

I am, Sir, Your hearty well-wisher, - FRANCIS OLDAKER.

[blocks in formation]

BEING AN ATTEMPT TO THROW NEW LIGHT ON AN OLD SUBJECT.

[New Monthly MAgazine.]

* We know what we are,” said poor Ophelia, * but we know not what we may be.” Perhaps she would have spoken with a nicer accuracy had she said, “we know what we have been.” Of our present state we can, strictly speaking, <now nothing. The act of meditation on ourselves, however quick and subtle, must refer

the past and future in each fragment of the instant, even as the flavour of every drop of some delicious liquid is heightened and prolonged on the lips. It is the past only which we really enjoy as soon as we become sensible of duration. Each bygone instant of delight becomes rapidly present to us, and “bears a

to the past, in which alone we can truly be glass which shows us many more.” This is

said to live. Even in the moments of intensest

the great privilege of a meditative being—never casting their delicate shadows on the future. Time, then, is only a notion—unfelt in its passage—a mere measure given by the mind to its own past emotions. Is there, then, any abstract common measure by which the infinite variety of intellectual acts can be meted— any real passage of years which is the same to all—any periodical revolution, in which all who have lived, have lived out equal hours ? Is chronology any other than a fable, a “tale that is told?” Certain outward visible actions have passed, and certain seasons have rolled over them; but has the common idea of time, as applicable to these, any truth higher or surer than those infinite varieties of duration which have been felt by each single heart? Who shall truly count the measure of his own days—much more scan the real life of the millions around him 1 The ordinary language of moralists respecting time shows that we really know nothing respecting it. They say that life is fleeting and short; why, humanly speaking, may they not as well affirm that it is extended and lasting? The words “short” and “long” have only meaning when used comparatively; and to what can we compare or liken this our human existence? The images of fragility—thin vapours, delicate flowers, and shadows cast from the most fleeting things—which we employ as emblems of its transitoriness, really serve to exhibit its durability as great in comparison with their own. If life is short, compared with the age of some fine animals, how much longer is it than that of many, some of whom pass through all the varieties of youth, maturity, and age, during a few hours, according to man's reckoning, and, if they are endowed with memory, look back on their early minutes through the long vista of a summer's day! An antediluvian shepherd might complain with as much apparent reason of the brevity of his nine hundred years, as we of our threescore and ten. He would find as little to confute or to establish his theory. There is nothing visible by which we can fairly reckon the measure of our lives. It is not just to compare them with the duration of rocks and hills, which have withstood “a thousand storms, a thousand thunders;” because where there is no consciousness, there is really no time. The power of imagination supplies to us the place of ages. We have thoughts which “date beyond the pyramids.” Antiquity spreads around us her mighty wings. We live centuries in contemplation, and have all the sentiment of six thousand years in our memories:—

enjoyment, our pleasures are multiplied by the properly to have any sense of the present, but quick-revolving images of thought; we feel to feel the great realities as they pass away,

“The wars we too remember of King Nine, And old Assaracus and Ibycus divine.”

Whence, then, the prevalent feeling of the brevity of our life? Not, assuredly, from its comparison with any thing which is presented to our senses. It is only because the mind is formed for eternity that it feels the shortness of its earthly sojourn. Seventy years, or seventy thousand, or seven, shared as the common lot of a species, would seem alike sufficient to those who had no sense within them

of a being which should have no end. When this sense has been weakened, as it was amidst all the exquisite forms of Grecian mythology, the brevity of life has been forgotten. There is scarcely an allusion to this general sentiment, so deep a spring of the pathetic, throughout all the Greek tragedies. It will be found also to prevail in individuals in proportion as they meditate on themselves, or as they nurse in solitude and silence the instinct of the Eternal. The doctrine that Time exists only in remembrance, may serve to explain some apparent inconsistencies in the language which we use respecting our sense of its passage. We hear persons complaining of the slow passage of time, when they have spent a single night of unbroken wearisomeness, and wondering how speedily hours, filled with pleasure or engrossing occupations, have flown; and yet we all know how long any period seems which has been crowded with events or feelings leaving a strong impression behind them. In thinking on seasons of ennui we have nothing but a sense of length—we merely remember that we felt the tedium of existence; but there is really no space in the imagination filled up by the period. Mere time, unpeopled with diversified emotions or circumstances, is but one idea, and that idea is nothing more than the remembrance of a listless sensation. A night of dull pain and months of lingering weakness are, in the retrospect, nearly the same thing. When our hands or our hearts are busy, we know nothing of time—it does not exist for us; but as soon as we pause to meditate on that which is gone, we seem to have lived long because we look back through a long series of events, or feel them at once peering one above the other like ranges of distant hills. Actions or feelings, not hours, mark all the backward course of our being. Our sense of the nearness to us of any circumstance in our life is determined on the same principles—not by the revolution of the seasons, but by the relation which the event bears in importance to all that has happened to us since. To him who has thought, or done, or suffered much, the level days of his childhood seem at an immeasurable distance, far off as the age of chivalry, or as the line of Sesostris. There are some recollections of such overpowering vastness, that their objects seem ever near; their size reduces all intermediate events to nothing; and they peer upon us like “a forked mountain, or blue promontory,” which, being far off, is yet nigh. How different from these appears some inconsiderable occurrence of more recent date, which a flash of thought redeems for a moment from long oblivion;–which is seen amidst the dim confusion of half-forgotten things, like a little rock lighted up by a chance gleam of sunshine afar in the mighty waters! What immense difference is there, then, in the real duration of men's lives! He lives longest of all who looks back oftenest, whose life is most populous of thought or action, and on every retrospect makes the vastest picture. The man who does not meditate has no real consciousness of being. Such a one gre" to

« 上一页继续 »