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But the earth, oppress'd so long
Faithful maiden, gentle heart !
Danger, toil, and grief no more
CHRISTOPHER IN HIS CAVE.
(Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, 1838.)
“ ONE of those heavenly days that cannot die!” So saith Wordsworth, while « his heart rejoiced in nature's joy," as saith Burns—and in these few syllables you feel how happy at the time were both poets. But not happier than you and we have often been and are now, though poets we may not be truly called, except according to the sense in which all human beings are poets who love dearly their mother earth. And are you sure you under. stand the feeling in Wordsworth's beautiful line? Is it that the day itself is too divine to die, and that the sun will never bring himself to set on it; or that the memory of it must needs be immortal ?
Alas! how many heavenly days “ seeming immortal in their depth of rest” have died and been forgotten! Treacherous and ungrateful is our memory even of bliss that overflowed our being as light our habitation. Our spirit's deepest intercommunion with nature has no place in her records—blanks are there that ought to have been painted with imperishable imagery, and steeped in sentiment fresh as the morning on life's golden hills. Yet there is mercy in this dispensation for who can bear to behold the light of bliss rearising from the past on the ghastlier gloom of present misery? The phantoms that will not come when we call on them to comfort us, are too often at our side when in our anguish we could almost pray that they might be reburied in oblivion. Such hauntings as these are not as if they were visionary--they come and go like forms and shapes still embued with life. Shall we vainly stretch out our arms to embrace and hold them fast, or as vainly seek to entrench ourselves by thoughts of this world against their visitation ? The soul in its sickness knows not whether it be the duty of love to resign itself to indifference or to despair. Shall it enjoy life, they being dead! Shall the survivors, for yet a little while, walk in other companionship out into the day, and let the sun. beams settle on their heads as they used to do, or cover them with dust and ashes, and show to those in heaven that love for them is now to be expressed by remorse and penitence!
Christopher in his Cave! and he makes, we assure you, a very pretty hermit. Our beard is not so long as that goat's hanging on the cliff. In Christian countries, recluses shave, and are attentive to their toilet. We even wear not spectacles, for we have come to enjoy the haze our decaying eyesight gives to all objects in nature, nor envy yours, but bless it, that sees them for ever effulgent. World-sick ? Yea, streets are not the channels of the streams we love, whose flowings are in the soul. Earthsick? Nay-filial shall we be to the last-and bless her as she takes us back into her bosom. Life-sick? Oh! say it not-for God is good and grief gracious; and sorrow consecrates the path of fading and faded Powers—yet some among them, O wo! and bliss is me! brighter so help us heaven than ever—that leadeth to the grave.
And where is our cave? Hush—for we must not “ prate of its whereabouts”—were we to do so, it would dissolve. But this much we may reveal- it is in the Highlands. That is a wide word, and will not break the spell. The interior is cool in these the dog-days-nor would be otherwise if Sirius himself were panting at its mouth. Yet perfectly dry—though one wonders how without moisture of some kind or other the moss roof and walls, in their infinite varieties of colouring, can be so freshly beautiful. 'Tis but some four paces widesome six long-and the keystone of the arch little higher than our heads—the roof at no place beyond touch of the long nail or claw on our middle finger. In a niche facing the light we are reposing on a couch covered with the furs of fox, 'wild.cat, and otter-a root-wreathed table, with slate-slab fair as any marble, we ever and anon
leaning on our elbow-keep writing away at—as now soliloquizing pennæ sussuru—of which the whole wide world will be listening delighted, in a week or so-for sound travels slowly through such a solitude to the echo. Friend of our soul! would thou wert here-for the first time in thy life to hear silence.
What! you are eyeing that other table in shadow. That brightest of crystal would seem empty to an inexperienced eye—to yours full to the stopper-of Glenlivet. They who placed it there were far from supposing that we were likely to imbibe the dimidium of a gallon-but ’tis an old saving superstition of the mountains that to place before a solitary man a vessel in which spirits are, yet fill it not, is fatal. Ay—wheaten bread of whitest grain-though grown in the regions of heather. No need of the Po for Parmesan. The meadows here overflow with milk as with honey. Field-strawberries redden the rocks-and these basketfulls by fairy hands were gathered, ere a dew-drop had of itself evanished-though 'tis a wonder, even to ourselves, where can have grown those glorious grapes, pale and purple, in piled-up clusters -all for Christopher in his Cave—the Sardanapalus that he is-yet abstemious as that old Roman at his turnip feast.
A library, too, we declare-and well-selected for there is the face of Maga—these six vols. are manifestly Moxon's edition of Wordsworth-there is no mistaking Pickering's Shakspeare by Campbell—and here, on the table before us, Milton, a mighty mass of ore from the gold mines, and beside him a n ALBUM. In their own handwriting page after page of poetry by the great poets and the good! Creations of the pencil too-landscapes belonging to all the loveliest lands on earth and the most magnificent-by amateurs who are artists indeed—and by famous artists proud to leave some relic of their genius in the Book of Beauty, laid here by beauty's hand, to charm in his soli. tude an old man's eyes!
And what volume is this, annual-like in its primrosecoloured boards, if boards they be, so delicate in their seeming, and with lily-leaves that look as if they were fragrant--and fragrant must they be, if ever breathed