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Though I never as yet could his reason explain
sure such confusion was never yet known,
There was Lady Greasewrister,
And old Lady Drouser,
Now why should the Muse, my dear mother, relate
In landing old Lady Bumfidget and daughter
A worst disaster than that which befel Lord Ragamuffin is in store for our good-humoured letterwriter. His friend, Captain Cormorant, who by the way turns out to be no captain at all, and who had undertaken, amongst other fashionable accomplishments, to initiate him in the mysteries of lansquenet, cheats him out of seven hundred pounds; so that Miss Jenny loses her lover and her cousin his money at one stroke. Prudence and Tabitha also come in for their share of misadventures ; and the whole party return, crestfallen and discomfited, to the good old Lady Blunderhead and their Yorkshire Manor House.
JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER-FITZ-GREENE HALLECK. I DID a great injustice the other day when I said that the Americans had at last a great poet. I should have remembered that poets, like sorrows,
“ Come not single spies But in battalions.”
There is commonly a flight of those singing-birds, as we had ourselves at the beginning of the present century; and besides Professor Longfellow, Bryant, Willis, Lowell, and Poe do the highest honour to America.
The person, however, whom I should have most injured myself in forgetting, for my injustice could not damage a reputation such as his, was John G. Whittier, the most intensely national of American bards.
Himself a member of the Society of Friends, the two most remarkable of his productions are on subjects in which that active although peaceful sect take a lively interest : the anti-slavery cause, in the present day; and the persecution of the Quakers, which casts such deep disgrace on the memory of the
Pilgrim Fathers and their immediate successors in the early history of New England.
Strange it seems to us in this milder age, that these men, themselves flying from the intolerance of the Old Country, should, the moment they attained to anything like power, nay even whilst disputing with the native Indians, not the possession of the soil, but the mere privilege of dwelling peaceably therein, at once stiffen themselves into a bigotry and a persecution not excelled by the horrors of the Star Chamber! should, as soon as they attained the requisite physical force, chase and scourge, and burn and sell their fellow-creatures into slavery, for that very
exercise of private judgment on religious subjects, that very determination to interpret freely the Book of Life, which had driven themselves into exile ! Oh! many are the causes of thankfulness which we owe to the Providence that cast us upon a more enlightened age; but for nothing ought we more devoutly to render thanks to God than that in our days the deeds recited in Mr. Whittier's splendid ballad of “ Cassandra Southcote” would be impossible.
His poem itself can scarcely be overrated. The march of the verse has something that reminds us of the rhythm of Mr. Macaulay's fine classical ballads, something which is resemblance, not imitation; whilst in the tone of mind of the author, his earnestness, his eloquence, his pathos, there is much that resembles the constant force and occasional beauty of Ebenezer Elliot. Whilst equally earnest, however, and equally eloquent, there is in Mr. Whittier, not only a more sustained, but a higher tone than that of the Corn-law Rhymer. It would indeed be difficult to tell the story of a terrible oppression and a merciful deliverance, a deliverance springing from the justice, the sympathy, the piety of our countrymen, the English captains, with more striking effect. I transcribe the prose introduction, which is really necessary to render such an outrage credible, although one feels intuitively that the story must have been true, precisely because it was too strangely wicked for fiction.
“This ballad has its foundation upon a somewhat remarkable event in the history of Puritan intolerance. Two young persons, son and daughter of Lawrence Southwick, of Salem, who had himself been imprisoned and deprived of all his property for having entertained two Quakers at his house, were fined ten pounds each for non-attendance at church, which they were unable to pay. The case being represented to the General Court at Boston, that body issued an order which may still be seen on the court records, bearing the signature of Edward Rawson, Secretary, by which the Treasurer of the County was 'fully empowered to sell the said persons to any of the English nation at Virginia or Barbadoes to answer said fines.' An attempt was made to carry this barbarous order into execution, but no shipmaster was found willing to convey them to the West Indies. Vide Sewall’s ‘History, pp. 225–6, G. Bishop.” To the God of all true mercies let my blessing rise to-day, From the scoffer and the cruel He hath plucked the spoil
away, — Yea, He, who cooled the furnace around the faithful three, And tamed the Chaldean lions, hath set His handmaid free!