« AnteriorContinuar »
shovel or wheel them into the place where they were to be laid, and was employed. He received a few pence for the labour ; and then, in pursuance of the saving part of his plan, requested some small gratuity of meat and drink which was given him. He then looked out for the next thing that might chance to offer, and went, with indefatigable industry, through a succession of servile employments, in different places, of longer and shorter duration, still scrupulously avoiding, as far as possible, the expense of a penny. He promptly seized every opportunity which could advance his design, without regarding the meanness of occupation or appearance. By this method he had gained, after a considerable time, money enough to purchase, in order to sell again, a few cattle of which he had taken pains to understand the value. He speedily but cautiously turned his first gains into second advantages; retained without a single deviation his extreme parsimony; and thus advanced by degrees into larger transactions and incipient wealth. I did not hear, or have forgotten, the continued course of his life ; but the final result was, that he more than recovered his lost possessions and died an inveterate miser, worth 60,0001. I have always recollected this as a signal instance, though in an unfortunate and ignoble direction, of decisive character, and of the extraordinary effect, which, according to general laws, belongs to the strongest form of such a character.
But not less decision has been displayed by men of virtue. In this distinction no man ever exceeded, for instance, or ever will exceed, the late illustrious Howard.
The energy of his determination was so great, that if, instead of being habitual, it had been shown only for a short time on particular occasions, it would have appeared a vehement impetuosity ; but by being unintermitted, it had an equability of manner which scarcely appeared to exceed the tone of a calm constancy, it was 60 totally the reverse of any thing like turbulence or agitation. It was the calmness of an intensity kept uniforin by the nature of the human mind forbidding it to be more, and by the character of the individual forbidding it to be less. The habitual passion of his mind was a measure of feeling almost equal to the temporary extremes and paroxysms of common minds : as a great river, in its customary state, is equal to a small or moderate one when swollen to a torrent.
The moment of finishing his plans in deliberation, and commencing them in action, was the same. I wonder what must have been the amount of that bribe in emolument or pleasure, that would have detained him a week inactive after their final adjustment. The law which carries water down a declivity, was not more unconquerable and invariable than the determination of his feelings toward the main object. The importance of this object held his faculties in a state of excitement which was too rigid to be affected by lighter interests, and on which therefore the beauties of nature and of art had no power. He had no leisure feeling which he could spare to be diverted among the innumerable varieties of the extensive scenes which he traversed; all his subordinate feelings lost their separate existence and operation, by falling into the grand one. There have not been wanting trivial minds, to mark this as a fault in his character. But the mere men of taste ought to be silent respecting such a man as Howard; he is above their sphere of judgment. The invisible spirits, who fulfil their commission of philanthropy among mortals, do not care about pictures, statues, and sumptuous buildings ; and no more did he, when the time in which he must have inspected and admired them would have been taken from the work to which he had consecrated his life. The curiosity which he might feel was reduced to wait till the hour should arrive, when its gratification should be presented by conscience, which kept a scrupulous charge of all his time, as the most sacred duty of that hour. If he was still at every hour, when it came, fated to feel the attractions of the fine arts but the second claim, they might be sure of their revenge ; for no other man will ever visit Rome under such a despotic consciousness of duty as to refuse himself time for surveying the magnificence of its ruins. Such a sin against taste is very far beyond the reach of common saintship to commit. It implied an inconceivable severity of conviction, that he had one thing to do, and that he who would do some great thing in this short life, must apply himself to the work with such a concentration of his forces, as, to idle spectators who live only to amuse themselves, looks like insanity.
His attention was so strongly and tenaciously fixed on his object, that even at the greatest distance, as the Egyptian pyramids to travellers, it appeared to him with a luminous distinctness as if it had been nigh, and beguiled the toilsome length of labour and enterprise by which he was to reach it. It was so conspicuous before him, that not a step deviated from the direction, and every movement and every day was an approximation. As his method referred everything he did and thought to the end, and as his exertion did not relax for a moment, he made the trial. so seldom made, what is the utmost effect which may be granted to the last possible efforts of a human agent : and therefore what he did not accomplish, he might conclude to be placed beyond the sphere of mortal activity, and calmly leave to the immediate disposal of Omnipotence.
Unless the eternal happiness of mankind be an insignificant concern, and the passion to promote it an inglorious distinction, I may cite George Whitefield, as a poble instance of this attribute of the decisive character, this intense necessity of action. The great cause which was so languid a thing in the hands of many of its advocates, assumed in his adminstrations an unmitigable urgency. - Many of the Christian missionaries among the heathens, such as Brainerd, Elliot, and Schwartz, have displayed memorable examples of this dedication of their whole being to their office, this eternal abjuration of all the quiescent feelings.
This would be the proper place for introducing (if I did not hesitate to introduce in any connection with merely human instances) the example of him who said, “I must be about my Father's business. My meat and drink is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished.”
34.-DREAM OF EUGENE ARAM.
HOOD. (Thomas Hood, born in London in 1798, was the son of a respectable publisher, of the firm of Vernor, Hood, and Sharpe. He was brought up an engraver ;-he became a writer of • Whims and Oddities,'-and he grew into a poet of great and original power. The slight partition which divides humour and pathos was remarkably exemplified in Hood. Misfortune and feeble health made him doubly sensitive to the ills of his fellow-creatures. The sorrows which he has delineated are not unreal things. He died in 1845, his great merits having been previously recognised by Sir Robert Peel, who bestowed on him a pension, to be continued to his wife. That wife soon followed him to the grave. The pension has been continued to their children.]
'Twas in the prime of summer time,
An evening calm and cool,
Came bounding out of school:
Away they sped with gamesome minds,
And souls untouched by sin;
Over the town of Lynn.
Like sportive deer they coursed about, And how the sprites of injured men
Shriek upward from the sod .
To show the burial clod;
Are scen in dreams from God !
He told how murderers walked the carth To catch heaven's blessed breeze;
Beneath the curse of CainFor a burning thought was in his brow, With crimson clouds before their eyes, And his bosom ill at ease :
And flames about their brain : So he leaned his head on his hands, and read For blood has left upon their souls The book between his knees !
Its everlasting stain ! Leaf after leaf he turned it o'er,
“And well,” quoth he, “I know, for truth, Nor ever glanced aside;
Their pangs must be extreme-
Who spill life's sacred stream!
A murder in a dream ! At last he shut the ponderous tome, “One that had never done me wrongWith a fast and fervent grasp
A feeble man, and old ; He strained the dusky covers close, I led him to a lonely field, And fixed the brazen hasp :
The moon shone clear and cold : "O God, could I so close my mind, Now here, said I, this man shall die, And clasp it with a clasp !".
And I will have his gold ! Then leaping on his feet upright, “Two sudden blows with a ragged stick, Some moody turns he took ;
And one with a heavy stone, Now up the mead, then down the mead, One hurried gash with a hasty knifeAnd past a shady pook :
And then the deed was done : And lo! he saw a little boy
There was nothing lying at my foot, That pored upon a book !
But lifeless flesh and bone ! “My gentle lad, what is 't you read “Nothing but lifeless flesh and bone, Romance or fairy fable ?
That could not do me ill; Or is it some historic page,
And yet I feared him all the more, Of kings and crowns unstable ?
For lying there so still :
That murder could not kill !
Seemed lit with ghastly flame
Were looking down in blame : And down he sat beside the lad,
I took the dead man by the hand, · And talked with him of Cain ;
And called upon his pame; And, long since then, of bloody men, “Oh, God! it made me quake to see Whose deeds tradition saves ;
Such sense within the slain ! Of lonely folk cut off unseen,
But when I touched the lifeless clay, And hid in sudden graves ;
The blood gushed out amain ! Of horrid stabs, in groves forlorn, For every clot, a burning spot And murders done in caves ;
Was scorching in my brain!
but we are apt to believe that those who talk of halcyon skies, of odorous gales, of leafy thickets filled with the chorus of nature's songsters,—to say nothing of Ladies of the May, and morrice-dancers in the sunshine,-have drawn their images from the Southern poets.
In such a season, which makes us linger over our fires, when we ought to be strolling in the shade of bright green lanes, or loitering by a gushing rivulet to watch the trout rise at the sailing fly,—some nameless writer has seen a single feeble swallow, and has fancied the poor bird was a thing to moralize upon :
THE FIRST SWALLOW.
The dangers of those fickle skies ;
The cuckoo's voice not yet is heard, Nipp'd by untimely frosts he dies. The lamb is shivering on the lea,
There is a land in Youth's first dreams The cowering lark forbears to sing,
Whose year is one delicious May, And he has come across the sca
And Life, beneath the brightest beams, To find a winter in the spring.
Flows on, a gladsome holiday ; Oh! he has left his mother's home : Rush to the world, ungvided youth,
He thought there was a genial clime Prove its false joys, its friendships hollow, Where happy birds might safely roam, Its bitter scorns,—then turn to truth,
And he would seek that land in time. And find a lesson in the unwise swallow. Away with these wintry images. There is a south wind rising; the cold grey clouds open ; the sun breaks out. Then comes a warm sunny shower. A day or two of such showers and sunshine, and the branches of the trees that looked so sere
“Thrust out their little hands into the ray." The May of the Poets is come;--at any rate we will believe that it is come. WORDSWORTH shall welcome it in a glorious song :
Now while the birds thus sing a joyous song,
And while the young lambs bound
As to the tabor's sound,
And I again am strong:
And all the earth is gay
Land and sea
And with the heart of May
Thou Child of Joy,
Ye to each other make; I see
My heart is at your festival,
My head hath its coronal,
The fulness of your bliss, I feel I feel it all. • We quote Leigh Hunt from memory; for he has not printed the poem in which this line occurs, in the recent edition of his works.
Oh evil day ! if I were sullen
This sweet May-morning,
On every side,
Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm,
And the babe leaps up on his mother's arm. WORDSWORTH. SPENSER shall paint "fair May” and her train, in noble words
Then come fair May, the fairest maid on ground,
And leapt and danced as they had ravish'd been,
SPENSER. JAMES I. welcomes the May, as if Scotland had no cutting winds to shame his song of “Away, winter, away!"
Now was there made, fast by the Toure's wall,
A garden fair, and in the corners set
Railed about ; and so with trees set,
Was all the place, and hawthorn hedges knet,
Beshaded all the alleys that there were,
The sharpe, greene, sweete juniper,
Growing so fair with branches here and there,
The little sweete nightingale, and sung
Of love's use, now soft now loud among,
That of the gardens and the walles rung
For of your bliss the kalends are begun,
Come, summer, come, the sweet season and sun ;
Awake, for shame! that have your heavens won,
JAMES I OF SCOTLAND.