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Must not ?.
How soon is duty made the slave of will.
Ambitious man ! who in religion finds
An instrument of power, go, rule the throng
Whom hopeless iguorance subjects to your sway,
Me you shall never govern !
You speak you know not what. Thrice happy they
Who thus are ruled! who, reasoning not at all,
And not responsible for true or false,
Obey in their belief; at peace, they feel
The sense of duty in an act of faith.
Would I were one the humblest of a flock
By others led, by others train'd to thought!-
One of that simple subject multitude
The monarch-priest by his bold government
Protects from doubt and anarchy of mind!
A cheap and safe felicity is his
Whose faith, unsought for, lives within his heart
Like blood within his veins, and warms and thrills
Unquestion'd by what title. He who towers
Above his kind, nor can be taught of them,
Who strains his ears for accents from the skies,
Or tasks the solitary oracle
Of a vex'd spirit, task'd beyond its strength,
Shall feed on heavenly whispers, few, and faint,
And dying oft to stillness terrible."
Athelwold replies that he holds in values so highly, he glances, amongst little estimation this government of other topics, at the gross inequality superstition. He says
in the punishment which he, as the
organ of the church, thought proper “ Ye gow fears thick as grass upon the to inflict on the good Edwin and earth,
Elgiva, and that penance which he And call it comfort to the race of man.”
had just imposed on the licentious And, proceeding to criticize this Edgar. Dunstan answersspiritual government which Dunstan
“ Dunstan. What I is the nice adjustment, moralist,
Of one man's punishment with one man's sin,
Laid in the balance with my care to save
That sovereignty of Holy Church whereon
The fate of millions hangs? This pompous man
Finds his own interest in our sacred cause,
And being, as he is, a creature spoil'd,
Caress'd and tempted more than man can bear,
We humour him, indulge, and lead along
Our path with gentleness. His brother braved
Our high authority and supreme rule,
And him we conquer'd, him we tamed with blows
-How could we else ?—and broke upon the wheel
The stubborn rebel. The dread charge is mine
To conquer guilt and doubt in other men;
Nor may I quit dominion.
Ye children of the earth who feel, at worst,
Simply your own sin and its punishment,
Whose heart is rapt in its dividual care,
Who-having to the priest told forth the tale,
With sighs and wailing, of repented crime,
And heard his pardon, authorized by God;
Go straight way to the busy world again,
To daily labour and to social mirth,
Unburden'd save with better purposes
-A load, alas! but little cumbersome-
How might I envy you! With me ye leave
The past transgression-mine the grief,
The constant sorrow of this wilful world;
And I must render to a watchful God
Account of all my stewardship.”
The next scene is one of a very sufficiently gay to please. Here they different description. Edgar gives a are. They are worth, we think, banquet to his courtiers. Here the saving from the flames. beauty of Elfrida is lauded in very gallant terms by one of the guests ; and the king's curiosity being raised, Athelwold is pitched upon, as com
“Go, gather jasmine, gather rose, bining, by consent of all, an excellent
Go, weave and wear thy pleasure
wreath! taste with the clearest honour, to go earest nonour, to go See how the dancing garland glows
se to her residence in Devonshire, and
On the smooth happy brow beneath! bring back a faithful report of her charms. The third act transfers us Still o'er those eyes, with laughter bright, to the castle of Olgar, the father of May never time presume to set Elfrida, where Athelwold-with all More pressing charge-a load less lighthis honour and all his philosophy, and Than such loose festive coronet! in spite of scholarship and meditation Ah me! that festive coronet -is taken captive by that beauty Too light the beauteous wearer finds:which he has come to survey. The The fluttering wreath is known to fret young thane assumes, at first, the The brow it but too loosely binds." habit of a minstrel, and carrying his harp slung across his shoulder, he Whether on account of the song or wanders through the grounds of the singer, the music or the sentiOlgar's residence, in hopes to meet ment, which seems covertly to advise with the fair lady, and in this manner an exchange of the careless gaiety of accomplish his mission. He is fortu« the maiden for the happy cares of the nate enough to encounter Elfrida, wife, the minstrel was much applaudsitting in an open parterre, amidst a ed, and he was invited to enter the bevy of damsels. They are full of mansion. Athelwold had convinced mirth, and engaged in preparing some himself, without a shadow of a doubt, festive ornament- some decorations of the surpassing beauty of Elfrida; or other in which the fair of those his task, therefore, was accomplished ; days bedecked themselves. He has his page was waiting with his steed, an opportunity of looking at Elfrida he had but to mount and return to some minutes before he is observed. Edgar. Instead of which, however, On being detected, his harp and min, we learn that he gave bis harp to the strel habit obtain for him a speedy page, resumed his sword, and making introduction, and he is invited to give some other slight alteration in his them a specimen of his minstrelsy, equipments, introduced bimself to Athelwold still retains something of olgar in his own person, a royal thane his own reflective character in the and a well-known favourite of the verses that he sings; but they are king.
Athelwold at first considers himself out of all danger, because, although fascinated by the beauty of Elfrida, he has no hope and no thought of obtaining her. Some kindness, we suppose, on the part of the lady, took from him the ground of safety, and we found him, apparently with a clear consciousness of his folly, yielding his honour to his passion. Here are some of his reflections under both these predicaments,
“ If on the eye the light of beauty fall,
I needs must see ; if soft melodious speech
Thrill on the ear, I must be sensible
To the sweet summons; if insidious thought
Of that embrace the happy lover wins
Enter the heart, I cannot make it stone,
And it must tremble with the strong conceit.
But whilst I feel, I yield not. Love to me
Is but a pain, an exquisite endurance,
Where reason, listening to the beating heart,
And hanging o'er its sorrows, gazes down,
Like sage physician o'er the restless sick:
Tortured I am, not subjugated.
It has been said, or sung in gentle verse,
That nature's beauty calms the heart of man,
Suffusing its own peace. They find it so
Who bring the peace they wisely love so well
To the mute vision. I have wander'd forth
To this fair solitude :-the placid world
Of trees and waters, hill and verdant plain,
Is all on fire with love; the liquid lake
Glows with a beauty warmer than its own;
In the soft air the breath of woman burns
Upon my blushing cheek. Here do I stand
With head depress'd, in languid attitude,
Paint, motionless, and nothing lives within
But one consuming passion.
A bride-a loving wife--grant it a good,
Of all earth holds the thing most excellent-
And grant that beauty, wit, and happy smiles,
Are in a wife most commendable gifts-
Why, in the name of reason, why alone
This woman's beauty, and why her smiles alone ?
Could never love from other eyes than hers
Look forth upon me? Can no other hand
Give that soft pressure felt upon the heart ?
Can she smile only? Is all womanhood
Summ'd in Elfrida, that I must pursue
Her only at the hazard of my life,
And certain loss of honour ?— So it seems.
Oh madness! madness l_but incurable !
I am destroy'd, lost, blotted from the list
Of reasonable beings. Hour after hour,
Day after day, I sit like any stone,
Musing one endless thought, if thought it be,
Which is a medley not composed at all
Of any jot of reason, a mere maze
Of pain, and pleasure, and delirium." Athelwold's page, talking of his master, as was and is the custom of all pages, lets us know that his courtship was not carried on altogether by sitting still : he gives us this insight into the wooing.
“ Love! you may call it love'tis the old phrase,
And many are the wild things answer to it,
And this the wildest. 'Tis an ecstasy;
The man's enchanted, sir. Now mark you this :
The other day my happy pair rode forth ;
Their very horses, ambling side by side,
Moved in admired accordance, and their heads
Were, like their riders, lovingly inclined
Each to the other. Well, the path they took
Led through a steep defile wallà on each side
By this red rock, which here in Devonshire
Glows 'midst the verdure like an ornament
Green nature wears, por looks like barrenness.
High overhead, perch'd on the precipice,
My pretty mistress spies a little flower,
A solitary rose, against the sky
Blooming aloft and to the circling heavens,
And the great sun holding its beauty up,
Ethereal charm beyond all mortal touch.
She draws her rein a moment to admire
The little dauntless covetable flower:
My gallant knight, whose eye still follows hers,
Caught at the half-form'd fancy; setting spurs
To his astonish'd horse, mad up the height
Where way was none, as if the beast had wings,
He tears his desperate course—and plucks the toy.
My lady shrieks, but ere the blood has time
To quit the cheek it plays in, by her side
He brings his panting steed, and gives the rose.
She blush'd, and chid, and was all rose herself;
Upon her temples, 'midst her silken hair,
She placed the flutter'd blossom; then, I own,
It seem'd worth all the hazard." Athelwold returns to Edgar's court had been loved for beauty only, now and tells that falsehood which was al displays an ungovernable vanity. The most as repugnant to the lover, as it manner in wbich she contrives to was to the man of honour. Many quarrel with her husband, and justify excuses readily occur to cheat his con- the full permission she gives her beau. science; but chiefly this, that his own ty to captivate the king, is managed love was so much more pure, and by the writer not without art; the rewould be so much more constant, than morse, too, of the noble thane, for the that of the roving Edgar. He con- breach of honour he had committed, trives to describe Elfrida as an ordi- mingled as it is with many reflections nary dame, whose renown was owing of a philosophical as well as moral to her secluded position. He adds, nature, is portrayed with some spirit. that she is amiable, her father wealthy, But we are not tempted to rescue and that the match might suit a thane either of these portions of the play not so devoted to beauty as his sove- from the flames. They must burn. reign. He obtains permission to pur. We shall extend our generosity to sue his own courtship.
one more extract only. In the fourth On his second return to court, act, while Athelwold has again left Athelwold begins to betray signs of the court, and is completing his repentance and of a troubled spirit, courtship of Elfrida, we are brought Dunstan, who was desirous that the into closer acquaintance with Dunking should marry, had been disap- stan. We see him not in the moving pointed in the failure of the late pro. world, but in his solitude. He is sit. ject, and who beheld in Athelwold an ting by the side of that most miserable enemy to the Church, is not slow in of all abodes which ascetic ever conframing suspicions adverse to the structed—a kind of open grave which thane. He goes himself to Olgar's he had dug with his own hands for bis castle where the bride was kept im. painful habitation. He here reveals mured much against her will he sees to us a combination, which, in men of at once the treachery that had been such excitable nature and such dubipractised, and does not fail to sow ous morality as Dunstan, has probably some seeds of discord in the mind of often existed; the visions of enthusi. Elfrida. He returns, divulges his asm alternating with religious doubts, discovery to Edgar, and then follows and these, coupled with remorse, leadthe well-known catastrophe. She who ing to renewed severities of penance.
“ Dunstan (alone-midnight.)
Encircle me, ye angels, and ye saints
That once like me were mortal! Lo, I rise,
And, borne upon the wafture of your wings,
I mount-I climb the air-I enter heaven!
Ha! gone! all gone! Deserted here, I rest
On the bare earth, beneath the vacant moon;
Alone with God and nature. Terrible
Is this unseen Omnipotence !
Come back, ye shapes that talk'd with me erewhile !
Oh, stand betwixt this Nature-God and me,
This dread Invisible! Let devils come,
And let me struggle with their grinning spite ;
Their hideous rage were comfortable here,
And social in this blank immensity.
-Down on thy knees! Pray! without ceasing, pray!
So shalt thou find religion, if not God.
Pray—thou hast sins--they are thy bond to Heaven.
It is not joy, it is not innocence,
'Tis guilt that leads to the celestial gates.
Hail, thou mysterious sin!
Now, what is man, O Lord ! that thou should'st have
Regard for him, his virtue, or his guilt ?
What are to thee his follies or his crimes,
More than his grief or joy ? Man tortures man;
Let man see to it, punish, and prevent :
For what end else is he made capable
Of reason, or of social government ?
Creature most sad, weak, and contemptible,
Think'st thou thy little day of vagrant life
Can anger thy Creator, or can please?
Canst thou do honour, puppet, to thy God?
Or vex with errors? Or, poor jealous fool !
Dost hold it for an honour of thine own,
That God should plague thee everlastingly,
For mutual, mad, and transitory sins ?
-Not mine not mine—these thoughts, this blasphemy!
It is the whispering demon at my ear
Utters these impious doubts. O God! O God!
Some say thou didst not of immediate will,
But through subordinates, create this world ;
If that some spirit seized thy vital power,
And used it for his wild and sportive thought,
What huge and dread responsibility
Lies on that reckless angel! I am dark,
I cannot know, by willing more to know ;
But I can suffer ;-suffer for these doubts,
As for all other sins. Here will I lie
In my damp living grave, with crawling worms
Balk'd of their wasting prey. My nourishment
But feeds disease—my life is agony-
What can I suffer more ? Here let him cast
His pangs upon me, and re-string my frame
For the fresh torment; let him doom to hell,
Eternally with devils to abide.
I can but suffer. Here I lay me down,
A prostrate slave before resistless power.
Let the scourge fall ! there is no other help.
-O Christ! The scourge has fallen, and on thee!”
Such is the conception which this writer formed of Dunstan—and such the manner in which he thought the ascetic hermit might be combined with the political highpriest and the most learned person of his age.