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abject, is higher than that of slavery to inanimate nature. I am aware that I shall displease many of my rhyming friends, and be thought to mar many a pleasant sonnet ;, but I must nevertheless assert my conviction, that surrounding nature often appeareth as an enemy, when we reflect on progress.

Ernest. Nay, this is most unpleasant doctrine. Nature, with all her bounties and beauties, to be regarded as a foe!

Anselm. Be not alarmed. I mean a foe only in that sense in which the marble may be called a foe to the sculptor, when it resists to his force and blunts the edge of his chisel. Between the cases which we have stated is another in which the miserable man-not yet in communication with others-digs himself a rude cave to avert the inclemencies of the weather. Nature, by her very resistance, hath roused the freedom of the man. The condition of his progress was one of war, and he cannot fulfil it without an enemy. The sculptor cannot carve an image out of water; the very power which resisteth him is necessary for the existence of his statue.

Antonio. The Platonists placed their evil principle in matter, which resisted, as it were, the forming energy. It seemeth thou art speaking somewhat after the same fashion.

Ernest. Nay, thou must not confound nature, on which the Divine form is so plainly impressed, with that inert or even resisting matter which defies, or at any rate yields not readily to, a forming power.

Anselm. Thou art right, 0 Ernest, speaking from the point of view to which we ourselves have attained ; for, to the man scientifically cultivated, the essential laws of nature are revealed, and he can appreciate the unity which is manifested through the variety. But in these rude stages of mankind, which we have been con. sidering, no such revelation hath been made, and nature will appear either as a foe or as a capricious friend, on whom reliance may not be placed. To observe nature as the artist, or as the scientific man, belongeth to another position; freedom from nature is to be gained by the first contest.

Lorenzo. And now let me return to the position I took ere this digression on the relation between man and nature arose. I am willing to admit that the guidance of the chief is a higher state than mere obedience to nature. But still, methinks, it is a low state; for the other men have exhibited, as it were, only a faculty of being guided, and have not developed that peculiar essence of man, which is displayed in the chief-I mean the power of being an originating cause.

Anselm. Right, 0 most excellent Lorenzo; and now do I believe we have gained a point upon which we can be of accord. The essential of mankind is freedom ; and accordingly, as that is developed in the greater number of individual men, the greater is the progress. First cometh freedom from surrounding nature, then cometh freedom from other men ; but so long as there is one man in whom the originating power is not, so long is perfection not attained. It is to extend this power, to multiply its possessors, that we feel to be our mission, endeavouring gradually to abolish the subservience of any human being to any authority, the lawfulness of which he doth not perceive from his own conviction. There arə times in which passive, irrational obedience is necessary to discipline mankind; but such are not the times which, according to our standard, we can admit to be those of a high state of progress. On some future occasion we may apply this standard to particular questions, and perhaps we may find we have a key to their solution. Our great doctrine, I repeat it again, is this—that freedom is the essential of humanity.

AN OPTIMIST.

DEATH AND THE HANGMAN.

Up at a crazy old house-top,
In a dreary room, whose walls were hung
With pictures grim of the gallows drop,
And the doggrel rhymes by felons sung:
There at the close of a Sabbath night,
The hangman sat as mute as stone;
There he sat in the murky light,
He and his shadow alone-alone !
The hum of the streets had died away,
And the mighty city held its breath,
As though it knew that the coming day
Had been set apart by man, for Death.
The hangman rose, and paced the room
(The curse of Cain is a weary curse !)
He paused to look at the felon's doom,
And he tried to hum the felon's verse.

At length to his shadowy self he spoke :
“ Two living creatures of flesh and bone,
I on the morrow must help to choke,
Doing to them what to others they've done !
“ When first I took to the hangman's trade,
I'd many qualms at the gallows tree;
But I said, 'Tis law, and those who made
The law must answer for such as me.'
“ The makers of law have honour and wealth,
But I, who finish what they begin,
Can only creep among men by stealth ;
For somehow, they think my craft a sin.
“ Two on the morrow must hang till they 're dead,
And I must hang them, nor pause nor quail ;
For where should I look for my daily bread,
If the gallows' gains, alas ! should fail ?
“We have nothing to fear !” said a voice and the room
Was fill'd with a damp and fetid air,
And the walls all reek'd like a long-closed tomb,
For lo ! the PRESENCE OF Death was there.)
“We have nothing to fear! Good men may preach
That life is sacred !-that none must slay !--
But we have the rope and the beam, to teach
That the LAW CAN KILL its two a-day.
And the gallows-lesson SOME WILL LEARN ;
So hangman mine, there is always hope
That we must thrive until all men spurn
Those grisly teachers—the beam and rope."

M. L.

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117

ENGLISH SCENES AND CHARACTERS.

BY WILLIAM HOWITT.

No. II.-Dick REDFERN, THE COUNTRY Wag.' Ir every man who was brought up in a thoroughly old-fashioned country village, would turn back to the memory of his boyish days, and call to mind the people and their habits that he finds there, what a curious assemblage would they be! Never was there a part of the nation where a more odd set of fellows lived and flourished than in the very neighbourhood where I was born. I have given some good specimens of this free and humorsome race, both in the “ Boy's Country Book," and the nooks included in my “Rural Life of England." These were so uncommon, that there were sagacious readers who winked knowingly, and set them down, in their superior sagacity, for inventions of my own ; while so true were they, and so immediately recognised in the place itself, that more than one burly son of queer independence threatened hard with actions of libel, but felt the sketches of himself or his fathers so true that he grumbled, bit his lips, and died like the wolf in silence. Like many another neighbourhood, the flood of population and taste has now rushed in there, washed away many a gathering heap of eccentricities, which time would otherwise have matured into racy richness, and left a bustling, and yet poor generation, where all, fifty years ago, was still as Sleepy Hollow, except when the little knot of its roystering eccentrics made the public-house ring with their fits of laughter, and gave birth to anecdotes which still live and circulate among st a less old-fashioned tribe. It is time to snatch a few moe. shadows from the retreating past, and let them live a little longer as they lived in the days of our fathers.

Oh, for a few years of leisure to wander about in the rural districts of Old England ; to sit on the bench of the village alehouse, or by the farm or cottage-fire, and hear the stories of the country round circulate, as I used to hear them in my boyhood ! There would be more knowledge of English country life and character thus brought to light than has ever yet been by the keenest or most honest observer. What tales, what jokes, what scenes and characters, has every old village, that live only there, and die for ever to the world at large! Sunlit side of the odorous haycock ; 'russet and shady side of the corn-shock; sweet shadow of the summer tree where the labouring rustics and the rustic dames and damsels refresh themselves from their fieldlabours ; sunny ingle of farm and hamlet-inn! what wealth of wit and humour, story and exhibition of life, do you daily enjoy and then let perish, that would enrich the written page, beyond the proudest stretch of imagination! Where was it but here that Shakspeare picked up his exhaustless affluence of sly humour, quaint adage, flash of rustic wit, snatch of merry or melancholy song, and rare treasury of home knowledge of human nature ? What a field for him would have been my native hamlet! What a strange old scene it must have been in my father's time! There was old Squire Fletcher that lived at the Hall, and old Kester Colclough that lived at Godkin House up in the fields ; they were the old gentlemen of the place, and the centre of the village knot of merry fellows that made the King of Prussia, the chief alehouse, ring with their mirth. And how often was the mirth at their expense! For there was Dick Redfern the wit, to turn it against them, and Sammy Hand, a new purchaser in the parish, and Adam Woodward the baker, and Tom Marshall the shopkeeper, and Bill Newton, and Jack Shelton, the greatest scapegrace of the place, to join in the laugh.

Old Squire Fletcher was the very soul of good-nature, and old Kester Colclough “as soft as a boiled turnip,” to use the phrase that Dick Redfern used in describing him. These two old worthies were like many others who have lived on their hereditary property, without exertion, labour or care, till their very intellect seemed to have turned into fat and good fellowship, till te last both family and estate expired of inanition. So simple was old Kester, or, as the village in its dialect called him, “Old Mester Colclough,” that he was the perpetual butt of the wags, and when he heard of any pranks or mischief, he declared positively that it must be done by “Bill Newton, Jack Shelton, or somebody else!

Dick Redfern was the only one of those jolly companions who was left in my time. I remember him a thin old fellow, as crazy as one much more renowned for wit, Dean Swift, was in his latter days. He was the last melancholy relie of his generation ; all his

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