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himself at the Confessional, must not deliberate, or he is lost.-But in order that these Confessions may not be so many tales “ signifying nothing,”-that they may not be without a moral—it must be borne in mind that they are passages in the life of one who, though love has been the breath and food of his intellectual existence, has all along fallen into the fatal error of loving, as he said in the outset, “too wisely, but not well,”—of one who sought to control that, the essence of which is to be incontrollable; to command that which was made to command; to bind that which is nothing if not free; to capitulate with that which will be obeyed: in short, of one who has treated love like a child, because he looks like one; forgetting, or neglecting to discover till it was too late, that he is—a god!
Prudence is a cardinal virtue in all affairs-except those of love; and there it is a cardinal vice-the worst of all, because it bears the outward aspect of a virtue. Four several times have I essayed to enter the Paradise of Love, linked arm-in-arm with this same worldlyminded Prudence, disguised under different habits; and each time the seraph who guards the entrance has laughed to scorn my companion, and turned from me silently, and with a look of pity, mixed each time with an increased degree of contempt. A fifth time-after wandering alone about the confines, seeking in vain for an entrance, till my feet were as weary as the pilgrim's who has just reached the shrine of his saint; but, unlike him, with my hopes deferred instead of accomplished ;-at last I saw a gate suddenly open of itself to receive me, and heard the voices of a host of unseen seraphs inviting me to enter. But again I paused-again I pondered, debated, deliberated, and was lost! for, before I could determine, the gate had closed, as it had opened, suddenly, and of itself ; the voices changed their singing into shouts of laughter; and I felt at once that I was alone, and without hope, and that I deserved to be so. Before I turned away, to quit the spot for ever, I saw, in a niche beside the portal which had just closed itself upon me, a sculptured image of the god. It seemed instinct with life and motion, and did not frown at me, as I gazed upon it. I approached the beautiful figure-took it in my arms-clasped it to my breast, and, perchance, shed tears over it; but, as I did so, my touch 'seemed to change it into ice, and it struck a mortal coldness to my heart, which has never left it since !
Again I am wandering from my task. I must turn to it abruptly, and at once, or I shall go “about it and about it” for ever, and to no purpose. Love is no respecter of persons. When I had left school "for good,” as the phrase is, (and it is a phrase most "german to the matter” in this case, at least as it respects me, I was fifteen years
of age. At this time there lived, in a court near my father's house, a female fortune-teller.-The reader is mistaken in supposing that I am about to relate my having gone thither to consult her on my future destiny. Young as I was, Reason (twin sister to Prudence, and sworn foe to Love,) was already the goddess of my idolatry. I had exactly as much contempt for whatever could not be reduced to her principles, as I ought to have had respect for it on that very account, if I would fain have made myself a worthy and acceptable servant in the court of the baby monarch. There are times and circumstances in which reason is the worst of folly; but in the affairs of which I am now about to
treat, reason is worse than folly—it is crime. This fortune-teller, who lived in a court near my father's house-(I love to speak of the place, as I do to pass through it, to this day, though I have never any business there) --this fortune-teller had a beautiful daughter ;-stately as an Indian palm-tree-graceful as the branches of a wind-swept willow -with an oval Greek face-eyes like the morning-oh! I have often thought since, if I had but devoted a tithe of the time to the mother that I did to the daughter, I might have been happy! she would have gifted me with faith, perhaps; and faith is as needful in love as it is in animal magnetism; there is no good to be done or suffered in either without it. Perhaps, too, she would have proved to me that the stars had destined me for her daughter; which, in truth, I now begin to think they did, --for I have never since penetrated so near to the real El Dorado. I might then be said to inhabit that narrow slip of “debateable ground” which surrounds the dominions of love on every side, and separates it from the Great Desert which forms the remainder of the intellectual world.
The fortune-teller's daughter was several years older than I was. He who is really capable of feeling the passion of love, is sure to begin by loving a woman older than himself. Incipient lovers may write this down in their common-place book as an axiom. All my readers, except these latter, (and I can reckon on but few of them would grow impatient if I were to detail the various stratagems I put in practice, to attract the attention and gain the acquaintance of the beautiful Nancy L-Suffice it that I waited and waited, and watched and watched, night after night, and week after week, of one of those long dreary winters that we used to have then, only to get a sight of her at the window, which looked up an angle the court made just at the point where her mother's house was situated-or to pronounce her name—“ Nancy!" as she fitted by me on some errand. She soon knew me for what I was; for when did a woman not know the meaning written in a lover's look? And she never passed me-without a smile of recognition; for when did a woman frown on a lover of fifteen ? But she did pass me; for I had never hitherto mustered up courage enough to speak to her. At last, one bitter cold January evening,—(I think we never have such Januaries now—even the seasons themselves have changed—or, is it that they, and every thing else, do but seem to change; while it is we ourselves who change, as “the years bring on the inevitable yoke ?")-one bitter January evening, as she was passing by me rather more deliberately than usual, and, as I thought, with even a more than usually graceful and gracious smile upon her fine imaginative countenance,- I took hold of her arm gently, and—she stopped !-I trembled, smiled, and said nothing; but slowly transferred my hold from her arm to her hand-her bare hand,
-for she never wore gloves, except on Sundays. The magic influence of that touch thrills through me as I write, and awakens my torpid sensibilities into life—"even now, after long seeming'dead.” If the mother could have conjured with only half the power that the daughter did, she would not have been taken to Union-hall, as a cheat and imposter-as I remember she was shortly after the time of which I am now speaking! Her band (Nancy's) was as hard as horn, -for she did all the work of their little household-and as cold as VOL. III, No. 16,-1822.
ice; but its touch turned my blood into liquid flame, and dispersed to the winds, that came whistling by us, all the eloquence I' had for months past been meditating for this long-sought occasion; I could not utter a word.—“Well,” she said, -still smilingly, and without the slightest appearance of anger or confusion,“Well-what do you want with me:"-In reply, I could only ask her—"where she was going ?” This was an unlucky question ; for it reminded her of what she seemed to have forgotten; and, with another smile, she took her hand away from me, and was gone in a moment, into a shop close by. I of course waited till she returned; and, the spell being now broken, I spoke to her again, asking her to "come and take a walk with me. She smiled, shook her head, and again whisked away, leaving me fixed to the spot, in a trance of mingled surprise and happiness. I had spoken to her! touched her! heard the sound of her voice addressed in kindness to me! and the world, for any thing I cared to the contrary, might now be at end; for, steeped as I was in the very fulness of waking bliss, if I did not think, I at least fell, that “if it were now to die, 'twere now to be most happy.”—Why was it not so? I was innocent then; and how can innocence be more richly and appropriately blessed than to be permitted to die in the lap of delight-Even the “gentle” reader, unless he has been in love at the age of fifteen, can have no notion of the fulness, the absolute fruition, of deep and quiet delight, which this interview brought me. It seemed that I had nothing more to do with either hope or fear—that I was beyond the reach of harm or accident-in short, that the end and object of my existence was accomplished : and, without waiting or watching at the window any longer, I went straight home, and slept a whole long night of dreamless sleep,—which I had not done before for many months.
Lovers of five-and-twenty, of both sexes, will smile at the limited nature of my hopes and wishes; and the good-natured among them will think, that, if I was so easily to be made happy, it was a pity I should be miserable. They are right: it was a pity. So thought the kind-hearted and good-natured Nancy L-; and she treated me accordingly. It is thus that women bring into play their natural dispositions to be the creators of nothing but delight. To love and be beloved is at once the duty, the business, and the pleasure of their lives; but an intuitive sense of what it is fitting they should be, and should appear to be, under any given circumstances, teaches them that, in the present state of society, they must, to such of their lovers as are arrived at "years of discretion," be coy and cruel: but, when they are so, it is “only to be kind.” Even while the stream of their affection is thus artificially dammed up at one of its natural outlets, it eagerly seeks for another; and accordingly, you will see a womanwho would die rather than bestow even a smile on a man-lover of fiveand-twenty-lavishing on a boy of fifteen, whose brain and blood are consuming themselves away with passion for her, “o dolci baci, o cosa altra, più cara.” This is as it should be. When the “Bella Età del oro” shall return, this may be safely changed; but, till then, women know what is best for themselves, and for us too.
But my story is standing still again. It lingers round this period as the bee does round its favourite Rower, when it is far from home, and feels that the rain-clouds are gathering over head.
When, at parting from me on the above night, Nancy shook her head in reply to my question, whether she would come and take a walk with me?"-I had the sense to know that she meant “yes;" and I waited as patiently for the coming of the next night, as the female dove waits for the unclosing of her “golden couplets;" for, like her, I knew instinctively that the blessed moment would come, and when it would come. And it did come.-We met the next night, and walked together towards one of the bridges (if I were to say which of them, we might be getting too near home);-she, all the way, inquiring what it was I wanted with her; and I, all the way, feeling, but not knowing how to say, that, now I was with her, I had not a want in the world. I remember, as if it were but yesterday, that, when we came to the other side of the bridge, we could no longer walk along quietly, my arm linked in hers;-(for, as I was only a boy,” she permitted this) --but that, as if by a mutual and simultaneous impulse, we set off (like two long-confined greyhounds when they feel their feet once more on the turf-scampering along the road in the rich moonlight, hand in hand. I remember the very ringing sounds that my feet made, as I wilfully stamped them on the frosty road, -as the young lambs in spring stamp their little feet on the ground, from the very excess of inward joy. I remember, too, that her feet made no sound at all. Best of all I remember, that, when we could run no farther for want of breath, we stopped short to laugh out aloud ; and that then I asked her if her heart did not beat very hard; and that I longed, but did not dare, to ask her if I might feel whether or not it beat as hard as mine did! -Does the reader exclaim, that all this is
“ silly sooth, And dallies with the innocence of love?" Not if he is, or ever has been a lover. And it is for the benefit of such alone that these Confessions are made. I am well content that, to all others, they should be “caviare;" as all that they can have to confess would be to me.
I am afraid the reader will be more surprised than amused, at hearing how this, my first “affair of the heart, ended. In truth, it ended as mine always have done; and as I fear, in spite of dear-bought experience, they always will do:-namely, just where it ought to have begun.-There is an ancient axiom, which says, that nothing can come of nothing—“Ex nihilo nihil fit.” I would fain match this with a modern one, not so generally applicable perhaps; but at least equally true, in particular cases: viz. that nothing can come of any thing. The ancient axiom is, in fact, far from being so true generally, as the modern one is in the particular cases to which this latter applies at all. With relation to many persons and things, it is evident that much may come of “nothing;” and in regard to that other class of persons to whom I refer, it is equally clear, that nothing can come even of much. Their whole being is made up of beginnings; " never ending, still beginning,” they begin and begin, till at last they end exactly where they began-beginning to live when they are called upon to die. And thus, alas! it is with me, and with these several “stories of my love." I am loth to exhibit them in their present form; and would willingly bave thrown them into the shape of fictitious narratives—thus avoiding the egotism which necessarily besets them, and at the same time giving
myself an opportunity of adding and embellishing, in the approved modern taste. But this would not be. Even Mr. Coleridge himself, who can make any thing out of nothing, and nothing out of any thing, might in vain have attempted to work up these "phantoms of the brain," (for facts as they are, in common language, they are, in fact, nothing less) -into regular tales; for they have neither middles nor ends—they have only beginnings. In relating them, I have no occasion to attend to the giant's advice in Rabelais, to “commencer au commencement;" for I can neither begin nor finish any where else. If I were ever so disposed to plunge in medias res," it may not so be. There will be, at all events, one advantage attending this; particularly to those who may peruse my Confessions merely as a matter of curiosity. If they should once find their curiosity excited, they may confidently reckon upon its always remaining so,—for it will never be satisfied. The misery of arriving at the last page of a modern romance, usually more than counterbalances the pleasure which has been experienced during the perusal of it; for every character in it, about whom we have felt any interest, has by this time become either married or buried, and we care no more about them. But the reader need not apprehend any thing of this kind happening during the several chapters of this my Romance of Real Life ;—not even in the last. And, as I shall certainly not leave off loving till one or other of these events befals me, I shall, by the same rule, not leave off having Confessions to make, and making them.
I shall abruptly close this paper here; otherwise it will be running to an unreasonable length. And I do so the rather, because I would, for once, lay down my pen at a point where I shall not tremble to take it up again. In spite of what I have said at the beginning of this paper, the “ricordarsi del tempo felice” has not been absolutely without its delight, though it has been done “nella miseria ;” and I receive this as a good augury. The truth is, that if a gleam of sunshine breaks through surrounding clouds but for a single moment, during that moment it will perform its office-it will cheer, and warm, and enlighten. The clouds may perhaps look blacker after it is gone ; but there is no denying or forgetting that it has been there.
TO A LADY PROFESSING HER BELIEF IN ASTROLOGY,
Diffuse a soft lustre around:
Tbe secrets of fate may be found;
Futurity equally lies:
And study my doom in your eyes.
But yet ’tis obscure and perplext,
And falsehood and sorrow the next:
I pant for my charmer's decree;
And I'll give you my heart for a fee!