網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

there produced by art, are here prepared by nature; a splendid specimen of massy architecture and the distant view of villages are alone wanting to make the similitude complete. 5 In the summer, the prairie is covered with a long, coarse grass, which soon assumes a golden hue, and waves in the wind like a ripe harvest. The first coat of grass is mingled with small flowers—the violet, the bloom of the strawberry, and others of the most minute and delicate

10 texture. As the grass increases in size, these disappear,

and others, taller and more gaudy, display their brilliant

colors upon the green surface; and still later, a larger and

coarser succession rises with the rising tide of verdure.

A fanciful writer asserts that the prevalent color of

15' the prairie flowers is, in the spring, a bluish purple; in midsummer, red; and in the autumn, yellow. This is one of the notions that people get, who study nature by the fireside. The truth is, that the whole of the surface of these beautiful plains is clad throughout the season of

20 verdure with every imaginable variety of color, "from grave to gay." It is impossible to conceive a more infinite diversity, or a richer profusion of hues, or to detect any predominating tint, except the green, which forms the beautiful ground, and relieves the exquisite brilliancy of

25 all the others. The only changes of color, observed at the different seasons, arise from the circumstance, that in the spring the flowers are small, and the colors delicate; as the heat becomes more ardent, a hardier race appears; the flowers attain a greater size, and the hue deepens;

30 and still later, a succession of still coarser plants rises above the tall grass, throwing out larger and gaudier flowers.

In the winter the prairies present a gloomy and desolate appearance. The fire has passed over them, consum

35 ing every vegetable substance, and leaving the soil bare, and the surface perfectly blank. That gracefully-waving outline, so attractive to the eye when clad in green, is now disrobed of all its ornaments; its fragrance, its notes 01 joy, and the graces of its landscape have all vanished, while the bosom of the cold earth, scorched and discolored. 'is alone visible. There is nothing to be seen but the cold, dead earth and the bare mound, which move not; and the traveller, with a strange sensation, feels the blast rushing over him, while not an object visible to the eye is seen to stir. Accustomed as the mind is to associate with the action of the wind its operation upon surrounding objects, there is a novel effect produced on the mind of one who feels the current of air rolling heavily over him, while nothing moves around.

XXV. — HELVELLYN.

Sir Walter Scott.

[This poem commemorates the fate of Mr. Charles Gough, a young man Tplo, In the spring of 1805, attempting to cross the Helvellyn, a mountain in Cumberland, England, to Grasmere, slipped from a steep part of the rock, where the ice was not thawed, and perished. His remains were not discovered till three months afterwards, when they were found guarded by his dog.]

1 I climbed the dark brow of the mighty Helvellyn;

Lakes and mountains beneath me gleamed misty and wide;All was still, save by fits, when the eagle was yelling,

And, starting around me, the echoes replied;
On the right, Striden-edge ° round the Red-tarn° was

bending,
And Catchedicam0 its left verge was defending,
One huge, nameless rock in the front was ascending,
When I marked the sad spot where the wanderer had
died.

* Striden-edge and Catchedicam are subordinate peaks of Helyellyii. The lUd-tarn is the name of a mountain lake.

2 Dark green was that spot 'mid the brown mountain heather, Where the pilgrim of nature lay stretched in decay, Like the corpse of an outcast abandoned to weather,

Till the mountain winds wasted the tenantless clay.
Nor yet quite deserted, though lonely extended,
For, faithful in death, his mute favorite attended,
The much-loved remains of her master defended, And chased the hill-fox and the raven away.

3 How long didst thou think that his silence was slumber?When the wind waved his garment, how oft didst thou start?How many long days and long weeks didst thou number,

Ere he faded before thee, the friend of thy heart?
And, oh, was it meet that, — no requiem read o'er him,
No mother to weep, and no friend to deplore him,
And thou, little guardian, alone stretched before him, — Unhonored the pilgrim from life should depart V

4 When a prince to the fate of the peasant has yielded, The tapestry waves dark round the dim-lighted hall;With scutcheons of silver the coffin is shielded, And pages stand mute by the canopied pall: Through the courts, at deep midnight, the torches are gleaming;In the proudly-arched chapel the banners are beaming; Far adown the long aisle sacred music is streaming, Lamenting a chief of the people should fall.

6 But meeter for thee, gentle lover of nature, To lay down thy head like the meek mountain lamb, When, 'wildered, he drops from some cliff huge in stature, And draws his last sob by the side of his dam. And more stately thy couch, by this desert lake lying,

Thy obsequies sung by the gray plover flying,
With one faithful friend but to witness thy dying,
In the arms of Helvellyn and Catchedicam.

XXVL —THE CAPTIVE.

Sterne.

(laurence Sterne was born in Clonmell, Ireland, November 24,1713, and died in London, March 18, 1768. He was educated at the university of Cambridge, became a clergyman of the church of England, and in that capacity resided for many years in Sutton, in Yorkshire. He was the author of" Tristram Shandy," a novel; "A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy;" and of several published sermons. He was a man of peculiar and original genius, remarkable alike for pathos and humor, and with an unrivalled power of giving truth and consistency to characters marked by whims and oddities. ''Tristram Shandy," his principal story, has little or no story, and fa.ls in interest as a continuous narrative; but the personages are admirably drawn, and it abounds with exquisite scenes and sketches. His writings are defaced by grave offences against decorum, his style is deficient in simplicity, and his sentimentality is often exaggerated and mawkish; but in his airy, fantastic, and indescribable humor, there is a grace and life over which time has no power. Few persons now read Sterne as a whole, and yet few writers are better known, such is the enduring popularity of portions of his writings, such as the story of Le Fevre, from "Tristram Shandy," and the following sketch from the " Sentimental Journey."]

And as for the Bastile! ° the terror is in the word. Make the most of it you can, said I to myself, the Bastile is but another word for a tower, and a tower is but another word for a house you cannot get out of. Mercy on the 5 gouty! for they are in it twice a year — but, with nine livres a day, and pen and ink and paper and patience, albeit a man cannot get out, he may do very well within, — at least for a month or six weeks; at the end of which, if he is a harmless fellow, his innocence appears, and he 10 comes out a better and a wiser man than he went in.

I had some occasion (I forget what) to step into the court-yard, as I settled this account; and remember I walked down stairs in no small triumph with the conceit of my reasoning. Beshrew the sombre pencil! said I, vauntingly, for I envy not its power, which paints the evils of life with so hard and deadly a coloring. The mind sits 5 terrified at the objects she has magnified herself, and blackened: reduce them to their proper size and hue, she overlooks them. It is true, said I, correcting the proposition; the Bastile is not an evil to be despised; but strip it of its towers—fill up the fosse—unbarricade the doors — 20 call it simply a confinement, and suppose it some tyrant' cf a distemper — and not of a man — which holds you in it, the evil vanishes, and you bear the other half without complaint .

* The Bastile was a building in Paris, originally a royal castle, and afterwards used as a state prison. It was destroyed by the populace July 14, ir82( •and thus was commenced the French Revolution.

I was interrupted in the heyday of this soliloquy, with

15 a voice which I took to be of a child, which complained "it could not get out." I looked up and down the passage, and seeing neither man, woman, nor child, I went out without further attention.

In my return back through the passage, I heard the

20 same words repeated twice over; and looking up, I saw it was a starling hung in a little cage. "I can't get out— I can't get out," said the starling.

I stood looking at the bird: and to every person who came through the passage, it ran fluttering to the side

25 towards which they approached it, with the same lamentation of its captivity. "I can't get out," said the starling. God help thee I said I; but I will let thee out, cost what it will; so I turned about the cage, to get the door; it was twisted, and double twisted so fast with wire, there was no

SO getting it open without pulling the cage to pieces. I took both hands to it.

The bird flew to the place where I was attempting his deliverance, and thrusting his head through the trellis, pressed his breast against it, as if impatient. I fear, poor

85 creature! said I, I cannot set thee at liberty. "No," said the starling—"I can't get out — I can't get out"

« 上一頁繼續 »