Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

а.

[ocr errors]

cold. The gander lifted his head with such a deliberate air as only a great goose can assume, and looked very gravely at this monster in the middle bed, Mag, with his sly eye, watching him the while, and wondering to see how wholly unafraid he wasapparently ; for Mag—a great observer-knew that there were dissemblers in this world, who could affect to look calm as custard cooling, while their hearts were dying within them in dread, and therefore his calmness went for nothing.

** Well ? " said the gander, looking as if he saw nothing wonderful in this wonder.

The grave sparrow, ambassador, surprised at his insensibility, said, “ You are not scared by it, I see !

“Why should I?” quoth the gander. “ If you call that a monster, it is a monster of my own making-mine and my family's! I should be a goose indeed to be frightened out of my wits by my own shed feathers, strung on a string stretched from pég to peg, to scare away such fools as sparrows are, between you and I, with all their swaggering. It has no terrors for me! I am in the secret-I know what it is what it is made of how harmless a wild fowl it is, and no foreign wonder to me, and Grubbins the gardener ! It is simply ten yards of twine, two tent-pegs, and my and my wives' cast of finery! Here, Maggy, my fine fellow, come and see for yourself what this terror is made of !” And so saying, with an inward cackling, like the chuckling of some grave old grey-beard among men, when he laughs at the follies of the day, the gander waddled up towards this

Gorgon and chimera dire,”— the ambassador following after him, about a hop, step, and jump, in the rear, for he had his apprehensions still ; and when he saw with his own eyes what it was, and what it was not, that had scared all Sparrowdom, he chuckled too, and indeed screamed with mirth, which the sparrows hearing, set down for screams of horror.

When their merriment was over, the gander, out of his pity for the small birds, said benevolently, “Don't disabuse these simpletons of their terrors, by telling them that it is no monster, or they will come trespassing in these grounds, and get shot down by the

for

my master's man swears he'll have no mercy on them if he catches them grubbing here again. When you go back, Maggy, go among them with all your feathers on end; as though you were woundily frightened ; and beg and pray them to keep

dozen ;

off these premises 'till the monster disappears, which will be the case when the seeds come up. There is room enough in the wide world for them : why should they want to come here in particular? Simply because they are forbidden? Disobedience is delightful, I know; but don't let them pay too much for the pleasure of wilfulness! As a friend to them--a well-meaning friendif you love them, frighten them! Tell them of the terrors you have endured---enough to turn your black feathers to white, your white to grey ; and warn them of Grubbins's great wrath to come. His double-barrelled gun is ready, loaded with small shot, and standing handy in the tool-house; and he is in a horrible humour to-day, because the squire snubbed him for oversleeping bimself. And so good morning, Maggy; for I must about my business--get a gizzardful of early earth-worms for my dear little goslings!"

And so saying, the gander gobbled up a great worm and had his

eye on several more ; while Mag flew screeching back among the simple sparrows, as if awfully horrified at all he had seen and heard. He would never more be seen there, he said, to serve or satisfy anybody, even himself ; and away he went, and they after him, till he alighted five fields off; and there he solemnly warned them to avoid that spot, if they set any value on their lives.

And during all that slow seed-time — for it was a cold, backward spring-not a sparrow was to be seen within gunshot of the tabooed ten acres, till an old bird, noticing how fat, how sleek, how sly and shy Mag had gotten in their abstinence, watched him ; and saw him and the gander grubbing together, and faring sumptuously under the very midriff of the monster. He could hardly believe his old eyes ; but he could his cars when he heard Mag say, and chuckle as he said it, “ What gullible fools your sparrows are !”—and the gander answer him, “ Yes, they are simple believers, truly!” and cackle in contempt of these fools of fowls. “ Phew!” whistled the old sparrow, and went openmouthed to tell his congeners what he had seen and heard ; but they would not believe a word of this tale : “ Tell it to hummingbirds, and they won't swallow it! Mag is too honest and open a fellow for such base hypocrisy !” said one of them ; and not a sparrow, save this spying one, but religiously kept aloof from the sacred soil : till, towards the end of May, Mag himself-as fat as a mortified monk in Lent—announced that the monster had suddenly disappeared, and the interdict was withdrawn.

“ There !” cried three hundred sparrows with one voice, “who dares to disbelieve in Maggy now?"

So, in the good old dark days of superstition, a certain church would scare away its simple spiritual sparrows from the carna! good things of this life in the seedtime of the year, which the priests, careless of their bodies, thoughtful only of their souls, kept them from, and kept unto themselves ; and this they did by setting scarecrows and scaresparrows as sentinels over all things sacred to the church, and setting them in motion, till the uninitiate were subdued by terror, and filed for their lives. Meanwhile all orders of the hierarchy-popes, anti-popes, bishops, archbishops, abbots, priors, monks, friars, priests, deacons, archdeacons, massmen, chaunters, vergers, even beadles and lay brothers, who, like the Goose and Magpie of our story, were in the secret, and knew what sort of scarecrow it was which kept the illiterati from trespassing-enjoyed themselves, entered without fear into these sacred places, strode over the tabooed spots, and gobbled up every good thing they could gather, as proper to geese but improper to sparrows, and from which these only were to be scared away by sweet persuasion where that would do ; and where that failed, by the terrors of the church and the engineery of enormous lying.

New Books.

The Fawn of Sertorius. 2 vols. post 8vo. London : Longman & Co.

This fiction is one of a noble kind: a kind that is not of the highest but still one that is graceful, instructive, and interesting. It has a little fallen into the sere and yellow leaf; and since circulating libraries have become more abundant, and cab-drivers, and turnpike men, and other sedentary personages, beguile their weary hours with works of fiction, a style more illustrative and daguerreotype has somewhat misplaced it.

The novel of the modern age might be divided into as many classes as the drama by Polonius. We certainly have the historical, the historical-political, the historical-domestic, the historical-modern, the historical-middle-aged, the historical-classical, and were we as fluent and as tedious as the old courtier we could outrival his list with the infinite varieties of modern fiction. Sertorius belongs to the historical-classical, a kind that we think may be traced to the elegant and interesting romance of Valerius by Lockhart, who, in more senses than one, is the son of Scott. Sir Walter himself had not much sympathy with the

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

cold and abstracted nature of classical writing, but having brought novels into fashion with the learned, and obtained that great triumph over academic prejudice, the elegant scholars of the time brought forth the historical-classical romance. And it betrays conspicuously its origin. Correctness of manners, archæological accuracy, and the sententious morality of the ancients, as recorded in their precise and logical philosophic moralists, are its distinguishing characteristics.

It possesses a certain cold formality of character, as if the knowledge had been derived from a study of marble and bronzes, and gleaned through “ the spectacles of books." The same earthly, unspiritual, sensual, though refined feelings that are perceptible in all the classical, at the least in the Roman writers, predominate in it, and men and women are delineated on principles akin to those which govern geometrical proportion rather than to that mingled and mingling process

which actual observation of life produces. Still as the product of refined minds, as dealing with remote objects, interesting and suggestive from their very remoteness, this class of writing has many charms, and more especially for the cultivated. A kind of real idealism pervades it too, which precludes its being tested by nature or reality; and although it is felt not to be a true delineation of humanity, nor a spirituel subliming of it, yet it is taken as accordant with a character of its own, and all necessary allowances being made the mind is interested, unreal, and untrue, as it abstractedly is. It is an elegant and stately dream, and as such pleasingly absorbs the reader.

The Fawn of Sertorius is the production of a truly ripe scholar, filled to overflowing with information, which streams with a copiousness and smoothness that proves it is derived from an abundant well of knowledge. We could almost do it the honour to suppose it from the pen of the finest writer of scholastic prose of the day-Walter Savage Landor. We do not perceive, however, the penetrating glances into human character, nor the brief but vivid touches which make his delineations glow with an intense reality. It may be the product of decaying perfection, or the early effort of a ripening genius. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish the extremes of morning and evening. Whoever is the author, it is a proof, with others lately had, that however weary we may grow of forms of fiction, that fiction itself is a necessary offshoot in some shape of humanity itself, and that we shall never be without its manifestation in some phase or other. We trust this work may be the product of a young hand, that we may hope for farther and perhaps still higher works from it.

We have considered the work as a fiction, for it is of little moment whether Sertorius only required an equal historian to have ranked him with Julius Cæsar, as the novelist contends. As the world, however, will judge by results and not by intrinsic merits, it would seem very unlikely that any pen could have given him such renown, even had he been able to wield it as powerfully in his own behalf as Cæsar.

Of Sertorius we know nothing, except from Plutarch, though probably

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

curious scholars are able to piece together some fragmentary information recariling him. In one important particular, affecting completely the entire character of Sertorius, the novelist swerves from the ancient biographer. The latter in most unequivocal terms declares that Sertopins " frigned a lve of the line (in the quaint translation of North), and that " he maile the simple barbarous people believe that it was a gift that Diana hail sent him, by the which she made him understand of many and sunlry thin's to come: knowing well enough of himselfe that the barbarous people were men easily deceived, and quickly caught by any subtile superstition, besides that, by art also he brought them to believe it as a thing very true." The novelist starts with citing that this tale of the Fawn is a proof that the Roman mind was of the same spiritual and superstitious nature that the Teutonic is acknowledged to be. The whole conduct of Sertorius, as related by Plutarch, would lead to a ditterent conclusion, proving him to have been an extremely politic and worldly-mindel gentleman, very wise in his generation.

After reading again the Life of Sortorius, as given in Plutarch, we cannot but think a story of more power and interest might have been given from it. Every paragraph is there a suggestion, and it abounds with scenes of glowing interest. Had any of our old dramatists condensed it into ' some three hours' play," what an intensity of life and action would they have revealeil! In the present work we have some agreeable description, pleasing sentiment, and elegant disquisition, but it wants life and vigour to give it a universal interest. The scholar will be pleased with it, and the reflective man of the world may be interested in its development of the concluct of men engaged in rivalry for power, and bandet together for merely selfish purposes : but the general readler will prefer fictions less elegant but more true; and seek for a more exciting narrative, regardless if it be less didactic.

MEMOIRS OF THE PrincipAL ACTORS IN THE Plays or SHAKESPEARE. By

J. Payne Collier, Esq., F.S.A. l'rinted for the Shakespeare Society.

London : 8vo. Of all the books which the Shakespeare Society has yet issued, we deem this the most interesting. There have been many volumes printed by the Society, for which the lovers of literature must be grateful, and which, by being printed and distributed in various copies, are secured from total destruction. The Coventry Miracle and Chester Whitsun Plays; The Accounts of the Revels at Court; Jonson's Conversations with Drummond ; The Diary of Ilenslowe, and numerous reprints of plays of value and variety, are all and each good ; but they still had only an interest for the highly cultivated reader of our old literature: the present is a handsome volume, which the general reader will find highly interesting.

It is impossible for any one to be in the habit of perusing Shakespeare's

« AnteriorContinuar »