ePub 版

agitated at my intrusion, and her powers flickered for a moment. They were soon steady again; and, perhaps gratified with my interest in her affairs, she gave me in a few brief sentences the solution of the mystery. When her husband's death occurred, she was herself confined to a sick bed, which she did not leave for a long while after he was buried. Still longer days passed before she had permission, or even strength, to go into the open air. When she did, her first efforts were essayed to reach Gilbert's grave. What a pang sunk to her heart when she found it could not be pointed out to her! With the careless indifference which is shown to the corpses of outcasts, poor Delaree had been thrown into a hastily dug hole, without any one noting it, or remembering which it was. Subsequently, several other paupers were buried in the same spot; and the sexton could only show two graves to the disconsolate woman, and tell her that her husband's was positively one of the twain. During the latter stages of her recovery, she had looked forward to the consolation of coming to his tomb as to a shrine, and wiping her tears there; and it was bitter that such could not be. The miserable widow even attempted to obtain the consent of the proper functionaries that the graves might be opened, and her anxieties put at rest! When told that this could not be done, she determined in her soul that at least the remnant of her hopes and intentions should not be given up. Every Sunday morning, in the mild seasons, she went forth early, and gathered fresh flowers, and dressed both the graves. So she knew that the right one was cared for, even if another shared that care. And lest she should possibly bestow the most of this testimony of love on him whom she knew not, but whose spirit might be looking down invisible in the air, and smiling upon her, she was ever careful to have each tomb adorned in an exactly similar manner. In a strange land, and among a strange race, she said, it was like communion with her own people to visit that burial-mound.

"If I could only know which to bend over when my heart feels heavy," thus finished the sorrowing being as she rose to depart, "then it would be a happiness. But perhaps I am blind to my dearest mercies. God in his great wisdom may have sent that I should not know which grave was his, lest grief over it should become too common a luxury for me, and melt me away."

I offered to accompany her, and support her feeble steps; but she preferred that it should not be so. With languid feet she moved on. I watched her pass through the gate and under the arch; I saw her turn, and in a little while she was hidden from my view. Then I carefully parted the flowers upon one of the

graves, and sat down there, and leaned my face in

and thought.

my open hands

What a wondrous thing is woman's love! Oh Thou whose most mighty attribute is the Incarnation of Love, I bless Thee that Thou didst make this fair disposition in the human heart, and didst root it there so deeply that it is stronger than all else, and can never be torn out! Here is this aged wayfarer, a woman of trials and griefs, decrepit, sore, and steeped in poverty; the most forlorn of her kind; and yet, through all the storm of misfortune, and the dark cloud of years settling upon her, the Memory of her Love hovers like a beautiful spirit amid the gloom; and never deserts her, but abides with her while life abides. Yes; this creature loved: this wrinkled, skinny, grayhaired crone had her heart to swell with passion, and her pulses to throb, and her eyes to sparkle. Now, nothing remains but a Lovely Remembrance, coming as of old, and stepping in its accustomed path, not to perform its former object, or former duty but from long habit. Nothing but that! Ah! is not that a great deal?

[ocr errors]

And the buried man he was happy to have passed away as he The woman she was the one to be pitied. Without doubt

[ocr errors]


did. she wished many times that she were laid beside him. And not only she, thought I, as I cast my eyes on the solemn memorials around me; but at the same time there were thousands else on earth, who panted for the Long Repose, as a tired child for the night. The grave the grave what foolish man calls it a dreadful place? It is a kind friend, whose arms shall compass us round about, and while we lay our heads upon his bosom, no care, temptation, nor corroding passion shall have power to disturb us. Then the weary spirit shall no more be weary; the aching head and aching heart will be strangers to pain; and the soul that has fretted and sorrowed away its little life on earth will sorrow not any more. When the mind has been roaming abroad in the crowd, and returns sick and tired of hollow hearts, and of human deceit let us think of the grave and of death, and they will seem like soft and pleasant music. Such thoughts then soothe and calm our pulses; they open a peaceful prospect before us. I do not dread the grave. There is many a time when I could lay down, and pass my immortal part through the valley of the shadow, as composedly as I quaff water after a tiresome walk. For what is there of terror in taking our rest? What is there here below to draw us with such fondness? Life is the running of a race -a most weary race, sometimes. Shall we fear the goal, merely because it is shrouded in a cloud?

I rose, and carefully replaced the parted flowers, and bent my steps homeward.

If there be any sufficiently interested in the fate of the aged woman, that they wish to know further about her, for those I will add, that ere long her affection was transferred to a Region where it might receive the reward of its constancy and purity. Her last desire and it was complied with—was that she should be placed midway between the two graves.



HONORED be the hero evermore,

Who at mercy's call has nobly died!
Echoed be his name from shore to shore,
With immortal chronicles allied!

Verdant be the turf upon his dust,

Bright the sky above, and soft the air!

In the grove set up his marble bust,

And with garlands crown it, fresh and fair.

In melodious numbers, that shall live
With the music of the rolling spheres,

Let the minstrel's inspiration give
His eulogium to the future years!

Not the victor in his country's cause,
Not the chief who leaves a people free,
Not the framer of a nation's laws,

Shall deserve a greater fame than he !

Hast thou heard, in Rome's declining day,
How a youth, by Christian zeal impelled,

Swept the sanguinary games away,

Which the Coliseum once beheld ?*

Filled with gazing thousands were the tiers,
With the city's chivalry and pride,
When two gladiators, with their spears,
Forward sprang from the arena's side.

Rang the dome with plaudits loud and long,
As, with shields advanced, the athletes stood:
Was there no one in that eager throng
To denounce the spectacle of blood?

* See Gibbon's Decline and Fall, ii. 223, Harpers' Ed.

Aye! Telemachus, with swelling frame,

Saw th'inhuman sport renewed once more: Few among the crowd could tell his name,

For a Cross was all the badge he wore!

Yet, with brow elate and godlike mien,

Stepped he forth upon the circling sand; And, while all were wond'ring at the scene, Checked th'encounter with a daring hand.

"Romans!" cried he-"Let this reeking sod Never more with human blood be stained! Let no image of the living God

In unhallowed combat be profaned!

"Ah! too long has this colossal dome

Failed to sink and hide your brutal shows! Here I call upon assembled Rome

Now to swear, they shall for ever close!"

Parted thus, the combatants, with joy,
'Mid the tumult, found the means to fly;
In th'arena stood th'undaunted boy,

And, with looks adoring, gazed on high.

Pealed the shout of wrath on ev'ry side;
Ev'ry hand was eager to assail!
"Slay him! slay!" a hundred voices cried,
Wild with fury,-but he did not quail!

Hears he, as entranced he looks above,

Strains celestial, that the menace drown?

Sees he angels, with their eyes of love,

Beck'ning to him, with a martyr's crown?

Fiercer swelled the people's frantic shout! Launched against him flew the stones like rain!

Death and terror circled him about,—

But he stood and perished—not in vain!

Not in vain the youthful martyr fell!

Then and there he crushed a bloody creed!

And his high example shall impel

Future heroes to as great a deed!

Stony answers yet remain for those

Who would question and precede the time!

In their season, may they meet their foes,
Like Telemachus, with front sublime!

[blocks in formation]

THE second morning after the defeat of the Routiers, and the death of Matthieu de Montmesnil, broke fair and cloudless; there had been a smart hoar frost on the preceding night, and although the sun was already high in the heavens, the crystal fretwork of the rime still glittered on the fern and briers, bright as a warrior's mail; the air was clear and sharp, and full of that invigorating freshness which is even more agreeable to the senses of a healthful frame than the luxurious stillness of a summer day, and all the forest, in which our scene still lies, was alive with the gay notes of a thousand tiny warblers.

Faint, however, was the impression produced by the bright sunshine, or the bracing gale, or the continued melody with which the woods were vocal, on the spirits of the stout champion Hugues de Coucy, as he rode onward through the woody passes, attended only by the page Ermold, deep sorrow brooding on his bold lineaments and broad fair brow. He was sheathed once again from head to foot in his own splendid panoply, which had been won back from the robbers, perfect and uninjured; he backed, too, as before, the beautiful gray Arab Termagaunt; but the three stout and valiant soldiers, who had so lately followed him in all the pride and power of noble manhood, now lay beneath the frozen earth, cold, voiceless, deaf- even to the soul-stirring trumpets! and for the superb charger, clad like its rider in complete war array, and like him panting for the shock of battle, a slow and sober mule, heavily laden with the demipique and bardings of the slain destrier, plodded along with drooping crest and dogged air, shrewdly exercising the patience of the young fiery page who led him by the rein, with many an execration at the slow gait from which neither blows nor caresses could compel him. No word spoke Hugues, except at times a call to Ermold "in God's name to scourge on that lazy garron, else should night fall and find them in the forest." Thus passed the morning, dully and wearily indeed; but as the sun reached the zenith, the travellers gained the summit of a long sandy hill, whence they might see the woodlands melting, as it were, gradually into cultivated fields; and beyond these a wide tract of fertile champaign, intersected by many broad streams of water, all gleaming gayly to the sunlight; and in the middle ground of the picture the tall Gothic steeples and grotesque tow

« 上一頁繼續 »