Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

some romantic lake, such was the spell which bound to the house, and such my carefulness not to pass its strict and proper precincts, that the idle waters lay unexplored for me, and not till late in life, curiosity prevailing over elder devotion, I found, to my astonishment, a pretty brawling brook had been the Lacus Incognitus of my infancy. Variegated views, extensive prospects—and those at no great distance froin the house-I was told of such-what were they to me, being out of the boundaries of my Eden? So far from a wish to roam, I would have drawn, methought, still closer the fences of my chosen prison, and have been hemmed in by a yet securer cincture of those excluding garden walls. I could have exclaimed with the garden-loving poet

Bind me, ye woodbines, in your twines;
Curl me about, ye gadding vines;
And oh so close your circles lace,
That I may never leave this place;
But, lest your fetters prove too weak,
Ere I your silken bondage break,
Do you, O brambles, chain me too,

And, courteous briars, nail me through.' I was here as in a lonely temple. Snug fire-sides —the low-built roof-parlours ten feet by tenfrugal boards, and all the homeliness of homethese were the condition of my birth-the wholesome soil which I was planted in. Yet, without impeachment to their tenderest lessons, I am not sorry to have had glances of something beyond, and to have taken, if but a peep, in childhood, at the contrasting accidents of a great fortune.

To have the feeling of gentility, it is not necessary to have been born gentle. The pride of an

[Marvell, on Appleton House, to the Lord Fairfax.]

cestry may be had on cheaper terms than to be obliged to an importunate race of ancestors; and the coatless antiquary in his unemblazoned cell, revolving the long line of a Mowbray's or De Clifford's pedigree, at those sounding names may warm himself into as gay a vanity as those who do inherit them. The claims of birth are ideal merely, and what herald shall go about to strip me of an idea ? Is it trenchant to their swords ? can it be hacked off as a spur can? or torn away like a tarnished garter?

What, else, were the families of the great to us ? what pleasure should we take in their tedious genealogies, or their capitulatory brass monuments ? What to us the uninterrupted current of their bloods, if our own did not answer within us to a cognate and corresponding elevation ?

Or wherefore, else, o tattered and diminished 'Scutcheon that hung upon the time-worn walls of thy princely stairs, BLAKESMOOR! have I in childhood so oft stood poring upon thy mystic characters – thy emblematic supporters, with their prophetic Resurgam”--till, every dreg of peasantry purging off, I received into myself Very Gentility? Thou wert first in my morning eyes; and of nights hast detained my steps from bedward, till it was but a step from gazing at thee to dreaming on thee.

This is the only true gentry by adoption; the veritable change of blood, and not as empirics have fabled, by transíusion.

Who it was by dying that had earned the splendid trophy, I know not, I inquired not; but its fading rags, and colours cobweb-stained, told that its subject was of two centuries back.

And what if my ancestor at that date was some Damætas,-fecding flocks, not his own, upon the

hills of Lincoln-did I in less earnest vindicate to myself the family trappings of this once proud Ægon ? repaying by a backward triumph the insults he might possibly have heaped in his life-time upon my poor pastoral progenitor.

If it were presumption so to speculate, the present owners of the mansion had least reason to complain. They had long forsaken the old house of their fathers for a newer trifle ; and I was left to appropriate to myself what images I could pick up, to raise my fancy, or to soothe my vanity.

I was the true descendant of those old W- S, and not the present family of that name, who had fled the old waste places.

Mine was that gallery of good old family portraits, which as I have gone over, giving them in fancy my own family name, one--and then another -would seem to smile, reaching forward from the canvas, to recognize the new relationship; while the rest looked grave, as it seemed, at the vacancy in their dwelling, and thoughts of fled posterity.

The Beauty with the cool blue pastoral drapery, and a lamb--that hung next the great bay window —with the bright yellow H- shire hair, and eye of watchet hue---so like my Alice !--I am persuaded she was a true Elia-Mildred Elia, I take it.

[From her, and from my passion for her—for I first learned love from a picture-Bridget took the hint of those pretty whimsical lines, which thou mayst see, if haply thou hast never seen them, Reader, in the margin.' But my Mildred grew not old, like the imaginary Helen. ]

Mine, too, BLAKESMOOR, was thy noble Marble Hall, with its mosaic pavements, and its Twelve

· Here was inserted the little poem by Mary Lamb, called “Helen."-ED,

Cæsars-stately busts in marble-ranged round; of whose countenances, young reader of faces as I was, the frowning beauty of Nero, I remember, had most of my wonder ; but the mild Galba had my love. There they stood in the coldness of death, yet freshness of immortality.

Mine, too, thy lofty Justice Hall, with its one chair of authority, high-backed and wickered, once the terror of luckless poacher, or self-forgetful maiden—so common since, that bats have roosted in it.

Mine, too,-whose else?—thy costly fruit-garden, with its sun-baked southern wall; the ampler pleasure-garden, rising backwards from the house in triple terraces, with flower-pots now of palest lead, save that a speck here and there, saved from the elements, bespake their pristine state to have been gilt and glittering; the verdant quarters backwarder still; and, stretching still beyond, in old formality, thy firry wilderness, the haunt of the squirrel, and the day-long murmuring wood-pigeon, with that antique image in the centre, God or Goddess I wist not; but child of Athens or old Rome paid never a sincerer worship to Pan or to Sylvanus in their native groves, than I to that fragmental mystery.

Was it for this that I kissed my childish hands too fervently in your idol-worship, walks and wind. ings of BLAKESMOOR! for this, or what sin of mine, has the plough passed over your pleasant places ? I sometimes think that as men, when they die, do not die all, so of their extinguished habitations there may be a hope-a germ to be revivified.

[graphic][merged small]

POOR RELATION-- is the most irrelevant thing in nature,-a piece of im

pertinent correspondency,- an odious Uzs approximation,--a haunting conscience, --a preposterous shadow, lengthening in the noontide of our prosperity,-an unwelcome remembrancer,-a perpetually recurring mortification, a drain on your purse,-a more intolerable dun upon your pride,-a drawback upon success, -a rebuke to your rising,-a stain in your blood, a blot on your ’scutcheon,-a rent in your garment, --a death's head at your banquet, — Agathocles' pot, —a Mordecai in your gate,-a Lazarus at your door,-a lion in your path,-a frog in your chamber,-a fly in your ointment,-a mote in your eye, -a triumph to your enemy,--an apology to your friends, -the one thing not needful,-the hail in harvest,--the ounce of sour in a pound of sweet.

He is known by his knock. Your heart telleth you “That is Mr. --.A rap, between familiarity and respect; that demands, and at the same time seems to despair of, entertainment. He entereth smiling and- embarrassed. He holdeth out his hand to you to shake, and-draweth it back again. He casually looketh in about dinner-time --when the table is full. He offereth to go away,

« AnteriorContinuar »