« AnteriorContinuar »
me, that it was continually running in my mind; I thought of nothing but Richeraud and Hervey reading the heart of a living man. How happy should we have been, thought I, had nature, more skilful than our surgeons and anatomists, made such a window before every heart! Ridiculous idea! for if the heart could be seen like the face, it would soon become deceitful and hypocritical, and we should gain nothing after all. Be that as it may, I could think on nothing else, and the consequence was, that the other night I had a dream on the subject, which, with your permission, I will relate. I presume you have no objection, for many large volumes contain nothing else. My dream was as follows:
I thought I had become prime minister of a great and powerful kingdom. I gave a grand entertainment. The party was numerous, and every one present had, without knowing it, the little window above mentioned in front of his breast.
I first observed two learned men, who were, to all appearance, on very good terms with each other, for they were inseparable during the whole evening. One was on the eve of publishing a new work. I complimented him on his production, and promised to speak favourably of it to the king. At that moment I observed a gentle swelling of his heart. The thing was perfectly natural, and it was only what I expected; but I was not a little astonished to observe a kind of contracting motion in the heart of the other. His breathing was suspended, and I may almost say that he appeared to be stifled by the success of his friend.
Near me stood a man on whom I had conferred the greatest obligations, who hoped that I would render him still further acts of service, and who was continually talking to me of his gratitude. Now gratitude is the memory of the heart, and, like the mental memory, may be expected to leave some traces on the organ which it affects. So at least philosophers explain the matter. Though far from suspecting the sentiments of my friend, I was pleased with this opportunity of ascertaining that my obligations had not been bestowed on one who was unworthy of them. I looked at his heart; but what was my astonishment to find it was as smooth as polished marble,-my favours had made not the slightest impression on it.
A gentleman entered with his wife; their hearts were perfectly tranquil. A young officer appeared. The heart of one of the couple became agitated. It was not the husband's.
At this moment a foreign ambassador was announced. Excellent! thought I; I shall now have the key to all the cabinets in Europe. But how was I disappointed! It was the most impenetrable heart that can be imagined—an absolute labyrinth. I beheld nothing but folds above folds-a mass of intrigues and subterfuges. I turned, and perceived another heart, which I hoped I should be able to comprehend with less difficulty. It was light and slippery, and continually in motion. I was curious to know whether it had ever received a wound; it had received a thousandbut they were all so slight that scarcely a scar was visible. They appeared merely like the pricks of a pin. Several gay gentlemen, however, flattered themselves that they had riveted this heart, but they were deceived. Cupid was out of humour with it, and resolved to be revenged. One of his arrows yet remained untried. It was a golden one, and golden arrows seldom miss their aim. The heart of the fair lady was pierced through and through.
In one corner of the drawing-room sat a philosopher, who was far from being displeased at the notice he attracted. Philanthropy (formerly we should have called it humanity) was his whim. He thought of nothing but charitable institutions, and soup establishments for the poor. A good action in which he did not participate gave him pain. I looked through the little window : his heart was distended to the utmost, but, like a balloon, it was filled only with air.
I detest hypocrites in morality, and coxcombs in virtue; but cold and insensible hearts pleased me as little. I had now one of the latter class before me. It was as smooth and as hard as stone; and had never been moved by any generous sentiment. It was not the heart of a Jew of the Hebrew race (for they are no worse than other people, and do not deserve the insults that are directed against them), but of a Christian Jew, a money-lender and bill discounter.
It may naturally be supposed that in so brilliant a party, some distinguished literary characters were present. There was one author, with whose sentimental verses the company were delighted. He was an elegiac poet. I promised myself much gratification in observing of what elements his impassioned, delicate, and tender heart, was composed. But I could discover nothing remarkable. Indeed, it cost me some trouble to find out whether or not he really had a heart.
I turned to another, who was not a writer of poetry, but who took upon himself to judge of the productions of others. He was a critic by profession. I observed on his heart only a few livid spots, like those which are produced by envy; and some drops of gall were emitted on every motion of the organ.
But though I was unfortunate enough to meet with so many black and impure hearts, it must be acknowledged that there were among the company some of a very opposite stamp.
One person in particular deeply excited my interest, and whose heart I was for some time afraid to look at, lest it should not prove as amiable as I wished. She was a young lady about seventeen years of age, beautiful as an angel, and as modest as she was beautiful. She had not yet uttered a word. What was my joy and astonishment! Her heart was the purest and most candid of any one present. It scarcely appeared to throb, yet it was evident, that when the young lady opened her mouth, it would fly to her lips. I watched the motion of her eyes, and they at length met mine. I was young,
for we are always young in our dreams. She blushed, and at that moment an arrow, darting from I know not whence, struck her heart, and inflicted a deep wound. It was the first she had ever received. The blood which flowed from it was like that of the goddess wounded by Diomede. I wished to examine what was passing in my own heart, for I thought I felt the counter-stroke of the dart which had pierced hers. I looked in vain through the little window in my own breast-the glass was obscure and tarnished-a thick mist seemed to be before it. Thus no mortal can read his own heart.
This reflection vexed me: I became irritated : I awoke, and had the mortification to find that with my dream had vanished the sweetest illusion of my whole life!
ELEGY IN A LONDON THEATRE.
Not by Gray.
The eager crowd along the lobby throng,
Ogling the ladies as they pass along.
The gas-lamps fade, the foot-lights hide their heads,
And not a soul beside myself is seen,
The painted boxes from the dust to screen,
Save that, in yonder gallery enshrined,
Some ragged girl complains in angry tone Of such as, sitting in the seat behind,
Had ta'en her shawl in preference to their own.
There where those rugged planks uneven lie,
There on those dirty boards—that darken'd stage Did Kean and Kemble fill the listener's eye,
And add a lustre to the poet's page.
But they are gone-and never, never more
Shall prompter's summons, nor the tinkling bell, Or call-boy crying at the green-room door,
“The stage waits, gentlemen !"—their dreams dispel.
For them no more the coaches of the great
Shall stop up Catherine Street-for them, alas !
Or polish up the gilded opera-glass.
Their power oft the stubborn heart hath bent,
They sent the harden'd homewards to repent.
There, in that empty box, perchance hath swell’d
A heart with Romeo's burning passion rife, Hands that “poor Yorick’s” skull might well have held,
Or clutch'd at Macbeth's visionary knife.
Full many a pearl of purest ray serene
The rugged oyster-shell doth hold inside, Full many a vot’ry of the tragic queen
The dingy offices of London hide.
Some Lear, whose daughters never turn'd his head,
Nor changed to gall the honey of his life; Some white Othello, who with feather-bed · Had smothered not, his unoffending wife.
The applause of listening houses to command,
The critic's smile and malice to despise, To win reward from lord and lady's hand,
And the approval of the thundering skies,
Their parents hindered, and did thus o'erthrow
The brilliant hopes that in their bosom rose, To tear Macready's laurels from his brow,
And put out Charley Kean's immortal nose.