Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

This is the freedom of the universe;
Unfolded still the more, more visible,
The more we know; and yet is reverenced least,
And least respected, in the human mind,
Its most apparent home. The food of hope
Is meditated action; robb'd of this
Her sole support, she languishes and dies.
We perish also; for we live by hope
And by desire; we see by the glad light,
And breathe the sweet air of futurity,
And so we live, or else we have no life.
To-morrow--nay, perchance this very hour,-
(For every moment hath its own to-morrow!)
Those blooming boys, whose hearts are almost sick
With present triumph, will be sure to find
A field before them freshen'd with the dew
Of other expectations;-in which course
Their happy year spins round. The youth obeys
A like glad impulse; and so moves the man
'Mid all his apprehensions, cares, and fears;
Or so he ought to move. Ah! why in age
Do we revert so fondly to the walks
Of childhood, but that there the soul discerns
The dear memorial footsteps unimpair'd
Of her own native vigour, thence can hear
Reverberations, and a choral song,
Commingling with the incense that ascends
Undaunted, toward the imperishable heavens,
From her own lonely altar? Do not think
That good and wise ever will be allow'd,
Though strength decay, to breathe in such estate
As shall divide them wholly from the stir
Of hopeful nature. Rightly is it said

That man descends into the VALE of years;
Yet have I thought that we might also speak,
And not presumptuously, I trust, of age,
As of a final EMINENCE, though bare
In aspect and forbidding, yet a point
On which 'tis not impossible to sit
In awful sovereignty-a place of power-
A throne, that may be liken'd unto his,
Who, in some placid day of summer, looks
Down from a mountain top,-say one of those
High peaks that bound the vale where now we are,
Faint, and diminish'd to the gazing eye,
Forest and field, and hill and dale appear,

With all the shapes upon their surface spread:
But, while the gross and visible frame of things
Relinquishes its hold upon the sense,
Yea almost on the mind herself, and seems
All unsubstantialized, how loud the voice
Of waters, with invigorated peal
From the full river in the vale below,
Ascending! For on that superior height
Who sits, is disencumber'd from the press
Of near obstructions, and is privileged
To breathe in solitude above the host
Of ever-humming insects, 'mid thin air
That suits not them. The murmur of the leaves,
Many and idle, visits not his ear;
This he is freed from, and from thousand notes
Not less unceasing, not less vain than these,—
By which the finer passages of sense

Are occupied; and the soul, that would incline
To listen, is prevented or deterr'd.

"And may it not be hoped, that, placed by age

In like removal tranquil though severe,
We are not so removed for utter loss;
But for some favour, suited to our need?
What more than that the severing should confer
Fresh power t' commune with the invisible world,
And hear the mighty stream of tendency
Uttering, for elevation of our thought,
A clear sonorous voice, inaudible
To the vast multitude: whose doom it is
To run the giddy round of vain delight,
Or fret and labour on the plain below.

"But, if to such sublime ascent the hopes
Of man may rise, as to a welcome close
And termination of his mortal course,
Them only can such hope inspire whose minds
Have not been starved by absolute neglect;
Nor bodies crush'd by unremitting toil;
To whom kind nature, therefore, may afford
Proof of the sacred love she bears for all;
Whose birthright reason, therefore, may ensure.
For me, consulting what I feel within
In times when most existence with herself
Is satisfied, I cannot but believe,
That, far as kindly nature hath free scope
And reason's sway predominates, e'en so far,
Country, society, and time itself,
That saps the individual's bodily frame,
And lays the generations low in dust,
Do, by the Almighty Ruler's grace, partake
Of one maternal spirit, bringing forth
And cherishing. with ever-constant love,
That tires not, nor betrays. Our life is turn'd
Out of her course, wherever man is made
An offering or a sacrifice, a tool

Or implement, a passive thing employ'd
As a brute mean, without acknowledgment
Of common right or interest in the end;
Used or abused, as selfishness may prompt.
Say, what can follow for a rational soul
Perverted thus, but weakness in all good,
And strength in evil? Hence an after call
For chastisement, and custody, and bonds,
And oft-times death, avenger of the past,
And the sole guardian in whose hands we dare
Intrust the future. Not for these sad issues
Was man created; but t' obey the law
Of life, and hope, and action. And 'tis known
That when we stand upon our native soil,
Unelbow'd by such objects as oppress

Our active powers, those powers themselves become
Strong to subvert our noxious qualities:
They sweep distemper from the busy day,
And make the chalice of the big round year
Run o'er with gladness; whence the being moves
In beauty through the world; and all who see
Bless him, rejoicing in his neighbourhood."

"Then," said the solitary, "by what force
Of language shall a feeling heart express
Her sorrow for that multitude in whom

We look for health from seeds that have been sown
In sickness, and for increase in a power
That works but by extinction? On themselves
They cannot lean, nor turn to their own hearts
To know what they must do: their wisdom is
To look into the eyes of others, thence
To be instructed what they must avoid:

Or rather, let us say, how least observed,
How with most quiet and most silent death,
With the least taint and injury to the air
Th' oppressor breathes, their human form divine
And their immortal soul may waste away."
The sage rejoin'd, "I thank you; you have
spared

My voice the utterance of a keen regret,
A wide compassion which with you I share.
When, heretofore, I placed before your sight
A little one, subjected to the arts
Of modern ingenuity, and made

The senseless member of a vast machine,
Serving as doth a spindle or a wheel;
Think not, that, pitying him, I could forget
The rustic boy, who walks the fields, untaught
The slave of ignorance, and oft of want
And miserable hunger. Much, too much
Of this unhappy lot, in early youth
We both have witness'd, lot which I myself
Shared, though in mild and merciful degree;
Yet was the mind to hinderances exposed,
Through which I struggled, not without distress
And sometimes injury, like a lamb enthrall'd
'Mid thorns and brambles; or a bird that breaks
Through a strong net, and mounts upon the wind,
Though with her plumes impair'd. If they, whose

souls

Should open while they range the richer fields
Of merry England, are obstructed less
By indigence, their ignorance is not less,
Nor less to be deplored. For who can doubt
That tens of thousands at this day exist
Such as the boy you painted, lineal heirs
Of those who once were vassals of her soil,
Following its fortunes like the beast or trees
Which it sustain'd. But no one takes delight
In this oppression; none are proud of it;
It bears no sounding name, nor ever bore;
A standing grievance, an indigenous vice
Of every country under heaven. My thoughts
Were turn'd to evils that are new and chosen,
A bondage lurking under shape of good,-
Arts in themselves beneficent and kind,
But all too fondly follow'd and too far;
To victims, which the merciful can see
Nor think that they are victims; turn'd to wrongs?
By women, who have children of their own,
Beheld without compassion, yea with praise!
I spake of mischief by the wise diffused
With gladness, thinking that the more it spreads
The healthier, the securer we become;
Delusion which a moment may destroy!
Lastly, I mourn'd for those whom I had seen
Corrupted and cast down, on favour'd ground,
Where circumstance and nature had combined
To shelter innocence, and cherish love;
Who, but for this intrusion, would have lived,
Possess'd of health, and strength, and peace of mind,
Thus would have lived, or never have been born.
"Alas! what differs more than man from man!
And whence that difference? whence but from
himself?

For see the universal race endow'd
With the same upright form! The sun is fix'd,
And th' infinite magnificence of heaven,

Fix'd within the reach of every human eye;
The sleepless ocean murmurs for all ears;
The vernal field infuses fresh delight

Into all hearts. Throughout the world of sense,
E'en as an object is sublime or fair,
That object is laid open to the view
Without reserve or veil; and as a power
Is salutary, or an influence sweet,
Are each and all enabled to perceive

That power, that influence, by impartial law.
Gifts nobler are vouchsafed alike to all;
Reason, and, with that reason, smiles and tears;
Imagination, freedom in the will,

Conscience to guide and check; and death to be
Foretasted, immortality presumed.

Strange, then, nor less than monstrous might be deem'd

The failure, if th' Almighty, to this point
Liberal and undistinguishing, should hide
The excellence of moral qualities

From common understanding; leaving truth
And virtue difficult, abstruse, and dark;
Hard to be won, and only by a few;
Strange, should he deal herein with nice respects,
And frustrate all the rest! Believe it not:
The primal duties shine aloft, like stars ;
The charities that soothe, and heal, and bless,
Are scatter'd at the feet of man, like flowers;
The generous inclination, the just rule,
Kind wishes, and good actions, and pure thoughts,
No mystery is here; no special boon
For high and not for low, for proudly graced
And not for meek of heart. The smoke ascends
To heaven as lightly from the cottage hearth
As from the haughty palace. He, whose soul
Ponders this true equality, may walk

The fields of earth with gratitude and hope;
Yet, in that meditation, will he find
Motive to sadder grief, as we have found,-
Lamenting ancient virtues overthrown,
And for th' injustice grieving, that hath made
So wide a difference betwixt man and man.

But let us rather turn our gladden'd thoughts
Upon the brighter scene. How blest the pair
Of blooming boys (whom we beheld e'en now)
Blest in their several and their common lot!
A few short hours of each returning day
The thriving prisoners of their village school:
And thence let loose, to seek their pleasant homes
Or range the grassy lawn in vacancy,

To breathe and to be happy, run and shout
Idle, but no delay, no harm, no loss:
For every genial power of heaven and earth,
Though all the seasons of the changeful year,
Obsequiously doth take upon herself

To labour for them; bringing each in turn
The tribute of enjoyment, knowledge, health,
Beauty, or strength! Such privilege is theirs
Granted alike in th' outset of their course
To both; and, if that partnership must cease,
I grieve not," to the pastor here he turn'd,
"Much as I glory in that child of yours,
Repine not, for his cottage comrade, whom
Belike no higher destiny awaits
Than the old hereditary wish fulfill'd,
The wish for liberty to live, content

484

With what Heaven grants, and dic, in peace of Long-reverenced titles cast away as weeds ;
mind,

Within the bosom of his native vale.
At least, whatever fate the noon of life
Reserves for either, this is sure, that both
Have been permitted to enjoy the dawn;
Whether regarded as a jocund time,
That in itself may terminate, or lead
In course of nature to a sober eve.
Both have been fairly dealt with; looking back,
They will allow that justice has in them
Been shown, alike to body and to mind."

Laws overturn'd; and territory split,
Like fields of ice rent by the polar wind,
And forced to join in less obnoxious shapes,
Which, ere they gain consistence, by a gust
Of the same breath are shatter'd and destroy'd.
Meantime the sovereignty of these fair is les
Remains entire and indivisible:

He paused, as if revolving in his soul
Some weighty matter, then, with fervent voice
And an impassioned majesty, exclaim'd,
"O for the coming of that glorious time
When, prizing knowledge as her noblest wealth
And best protection, this imperial realm,
While she exacts allegiance, shall admit
An obligation, on her part, to teach
Them who are born to serve her and obey;
Binding herself by statute* to secure

For all the children whom her soil maintains
The rudiments of letters, and inform
The mind with moral and religious truth,
Both understood and practised, so that none,
However destitute, be left to droop

By timely culture unsustain'd, or run
Into a wild disorder; or be forced

And, if that ignorance were removed, which breeds
Within the compass of their several shores
Dark discontent, or loud commotion, each
Might still preserve the beautiful repose

Of heavenly bodies shining in their spheres.-————
The discipline of slavery is unknown
Amongst us, hence the more do we require
The discipline of virtue; order else
Cannot subsist, nor confidence, nor peace.
Thus, duties rising out of good possess'd,
And prudent caution needful to avert
Impending evil, equally require

This sacred right is fruitlessly announced,
This universal plea in vain address'd,

To drudge through weary life without the aid
Of intellectual implements and tools;
A savage horde among the civilized,

A servile band among the lordly free!
This sacred right, the lisping babe proclaims
To be inherent in him, by Heaven's will,
For the protection of his innocence:
And the rude boy-who having overpast
The sinless age, by conscience is enroll'd,
Yet mutinously knits his angry brow,
And lifts his wilful hand on mischief bent,
Or turns the godlike faculty of speech
To impious use-by process indirect

Declares his due, while he makes known his need. On every shore whose aspect favours hope

Or bold adventure; promising to skill
And perseverance their deserved reward.
Yes," he continued, kindling as he spake,
"Change wide, and deep, and silently perform'd,
This land shall witness; and as days roll on,
Earth's universal frame shall feel th' effect,
E'en till the smallest habitable rock,
Beaten by lonely billows, hear the songs
Of humanized society; and bloom
With civil arts, that send their fragrance forth,
A grateful tribute to all-ruling Heaven.
From culture, unexclusively bestow'd
On Albion's noble race in freedom born,
Expect these mighty issues: from the pains
And faithful care of unambitious schools

That the whole people should be taught and train'd.
So shall licentiousness and black resolve
Be rooted out, and virtuous habits take
Their place; and genuine piety descend,
Like an inheritance, from age to age.

"With such foundations laid, avaunt the fear
Of numbers crowded on their native soil,
To the prevention of all healthful growth
Through mutual injury! Rather in the law
Of increase and the mandate from above
Rejoice and ye have special cause for joy.
For as the element of air affords

An easy passage to th' industrious bees
Fraught with their burdens; and a way as smooth
For those ordain'd to take their sounding flight
From the throng'd hive, and settle where they list
In fresh abodes, their labour to renew;
So the wide waters, open to the power,

The will, the instincts, and appointed needs
Of Britain, do invite her to cast off

Her swarms, and in succession send them forth;
Bound to establish new communities

To eyes and ears of parents who themselves
Did, in the time of their necessity,

Urge it in vain; and, therefore, like a prayer
That from the humblest floor ascends to heaven,
It mounts to reach the state's parental ear;
Who, if indeed she own a mother's heart,
And be not most unfeelingly devoid
Of gratitude to Providence, will grant
Th' unquestionable good; which England, safe
From interference of external force,

May grant at leisure; without risk incurr'd
That what in wisdom for herself she doth,
Others shall e'er be able to undo.

"Look! and behold, from Calpe's sunburnt cliffs Instructing simple childhood's ready ear:
To the flat margin of the Baltic sea,

Thence look for these magnificent results!
Vast the circumference of hope; and ye
Are at its centre. British lawgivers;

Ah! sieep not there in shame! Shall wisdom's

voice
From out the bosom of these troubled times
Repeat the dictates of her calmer mind,

* The discovery of Dr. Bell affords marvellous facilities for carrying this into effect; and it is impossible to overrate the benefits which might accrue to humanity from the universal application of this simple engine under an enlightened and conscientious government.

[ocr errors]

And shall the venerable halls ye fill
Refuse to echo the sublime decree?
Trust not to partial care a general good;
Transfer not to futurity a work

Of urgent need. Your country must complete
Her glorious destiny. Begin e'en now,
Now, when oppression, like th' Egyptian plague
Of darkness, stretch'd o'er guilty Europe, makes
The brightness more conspicuous that invests
The happy island where ye think and act;
Now, when destruction is a prime pursuit,
Show to the wretched nations for what end
The powers of civil polity were given !"

Abruptly here, but with a graceful air,
The sage broke off. No sooner had he ceased
Than, looking forth, the gentle lady said,
"Behold the shades of afternoon have fallen
Upon this flowery slope; and see-beyond-
The lake, though bright, is of a placid blue;
As if preparing for the peace of evening.
How temptingly the landscape shines! The air
Breathes invitation; easy is the walk
To the lake's margin, where a boat lies moor'd
Beneath her sheltering tree." Upon this hint
We rose together: all were pleased, but most
The beauteous girl, whose cheek was flush'd with
joy.

Light as a sunbeam glides along the hills
She vanished, eager to impart the scheme
To her beloved brother and his shy compeer.
Now was there bustle in the vicar's house
And earnest preparation. Forth we went,
And down the vale along the streamlet's edge
Pursued our way, a broken company,
Mute or conversing, single or in pairs.
Thus having reach'd a bridge, that overarch'd
The hasty rivulet where it lay becalm'd
In a deep pool, by happy chance we saw
A twofold image; on a grassy bank
A snow-white ram, and in the crystal flood
Another and the same! Most beautiful,
On the green turf, with his imperial front
Shaggy and bold, and wreathed horns superb,
The breathing creature stood; as beautiful,
Beneath him, show'd his shadowy counterpart.
Each had his glowing mountains, each his sky,
And each seem'd centre of his own fair world:
Antipodes unconscious of each other,
Yet, in partition, with their several spheres,
Blended in perfect stillness, to our sight!

"Ah! what a pity were it to disperse,
Or to disturb, so fair a spectacle ;
And yet a breath can do it!"

These few words The lady whisper'd, while we stood and gazed Gather'd together, all, in still delight, Not without awe. Thence passing on, she said In like low voice to my particular ear, "I love to hear that eloquent old man Pour forth his meditations, and descant On human life from infancy to age. How pure his spirit! in what vivid hues His mind gives back the various forms of things, Caught in their fairest, happiest attitude! While he is speaking, I have power to see E'en as he sees; but when his voice hath ceased,

Then, with a sigh, sometimes I feel, as now,
That combinations so serene and bright,
Like those reflected in yon quiet pool,
Cannot be lasting in a world like ours,
To great and small disturbances exposed."
More had she said, but sportive shouts were heard ;
Sent from the jocund hearts of those two boys,
Who, bearing each a basket on his arm,
Down the green field came tripping after us.-
When we had cautiously embark'd, the pair
Now for a prouder service were addrest.
But an inexorable law forbade,

And each resign'd the oar which he had seized.
Whereat, with willing hand I undertook
The needful labour; grateful task-to me
Pregnant with recollections of the time
When, on thy bosom, spacious Windermere !
A youth, I practised this delightful art;
Toss'd on the waves alone, or 'mid a crew
Of joyous comrades. Now, the reedy marge
Clear'd, with a strenuous arr I dipp'd the oar,
Free from obstruction, and the boat advanced
Through crystal water smoothly as a hawk,
That, disentangled from the shady boughs
Of some thick wood, her place of covert, cleaves
With correspondent wings th' abyss of air.
"Observe," the vicar said, "yon rocky isle
With birch trees fringed; my hand shall guide the
helm,

While thitherward we bend our course; or while
We seek that other, on the western shore,--
Where the bare columns of those lofty firs,
Supporting gracefully a massy dome
Of sombre foliage, seem to imitate

A Grecian temple rising from the deep."

"Turn where we may," said I," we cannot err
In this delicious region." Cultured slopes,
Wild tracts of forest ground, and scatter'd groves,
And mountains bare or clothed with ancient woods
Surrounded us; and, as we held our way
Along the level of the glassy flood,

They ceased not to surround us: change of place,
From kindred features diversely combined,
Producing change of beauty ever new.
Ah! that such beauty, varying in the light
Of living nature, cannot be portray'd

By words, nor by the pencil's silent skill;
But is the property of him alone
Who hath beheld it, noted it with care,
And in his mind recorded it with love!
Suffice it, therefore, if the rural muse
Vouchsafe sweet influence, while her poet speaks
Of trivial occupations well devised,

And unsought pleasures springing up by chance;
As if some friendly genius had ordain'd
That, as the day thus far had been enrich'd
By acquisition of sincere delight,

The same should be continued to its close.

One spirit animating old and young,

A gipsy fire we kindled on the shore

Of the fair isle with birch trees fringed; and there
Merrily seated in a ring, partook

The beverage drawn from China's fragrant herb.
Launch'd from our hand, the smooth stone skimm’{
the lake;
With shouts we roused the echoes: stiller sounds

Vivid as fire-clouds separately poised,
Innumerable multitudes of forms
Scatter'd through half the circle of the sky;
And giving back, and shedding each on each
With prodigal communion, the bright hues
Which from the unapparent fount of glory
They had imbibed, and ceased not to receive.
That which the heavens display'd, the liquid deep
Repeated; but with unity sublime!

The lovely girl supplied, a simple song,
Whose low tones reach'd not to the distant rocks
To be repeated thence, but gently sank
Into our hearts, and charm'd the peaceful flood.
Rapaciously we gather'd flowery spoils
From land and water; lilies of each hue-
Golden and white, that float upon the waves,
And court the wind; and leaves of that shy plant,
(Her flowers were shed,) the lily of the vale,
That loves the ground, and from the sun withholds
Her pensive beauty, from the breeze her sweets.
Such product and such pastime did the place
And season yield; but, as we re-embarked,
Leaving, in quest of other scenes, the shore
Of that wild spot, the solitary said
In a low voice, yet careless who might hear,
"The fire, that burned so brightly to our wish,
Where is it now? Deserted on the beach,
It seems extinct; nor shall the fanning breeze
Revive its ashes. What care we for this,
Whose ends are gain'd? Behold an emblem here
Of one day's pleasure, and all mortal joys!
And, in this unpremeditated slight
Of that which is no longer needed, see
The common course of human gratitude!"

While from the grassy mountain's open side
We gazed, in silence hush'd, with eyes intent
On the refulgent spectacle,-diffused
Through earth, sky, water, and all visible space,-
The priest in holy transport thus exclaim'd:-

-

"Eternal Spirit! universal God!

Power inaccessible to human thought,

This plaintive note disturb'd not the repose
Of the still evening. Right across the lake
Our pinnace moves: then, coasting creek and bay,
Glades we behold, and into thickets peep,
Where couch the spotted deer; or raised our eyes
To shaggy steeps on which the careless goat
Browsed by the side of dashing waterfalls.
Thus did the bark, meandering with the shore,
Pursue her voyage, till a natural pier
Of jutting rock invited us to land.
Alert to follow as the pastor led,
We clomb a green hill's side; and as we clomb,
The valley, opening out her bosom, gave
Fair prospect, intercepted less and less,
Of the flat meadows and indented coast
Of the smooth lake, in compass seen, far off.
And yet conspicuous stood the old church tower
In majesty presiding over fields

Save by degrees and steps which thou hast deign'd
To furnish; for this effluence of thyself,
To the infirmity of mortal sense
Vouchsafed; this local transitory type
Of thy paternal splendours, and the pomp
Of those who fill thy courts in highest heaven,
The radiant cherubim ;-accept the thanks
Which we, thy humble creatures, here convened,
Presume to offer; we, who from the breast
Of the frail earth, permitted to behold
The faint reflections only of thy face,
Are yet exalted, and in soul adore!
Such as they are who in thy presence stand
Unsullied, incorruptible, and drink
Imperishable majesty stream'd forth
From thy empyreal throne, th' elect of earth
Shall be divested at th' appointed hour
Of all dishonour-cleansed from mortal stain.
Accomplish, then, their number; and conclude
Time's weary course! Or if, by thy decree,
The consummation that will come by stealth
Be yet far distant, let thy word prevail,
O! let thy word prevail, to take away
The sting of human nature. Spread the law,
As it is written in thy holy book,
Throughout all lands: let every nation hear
The high behest, and every heart obey;
Both for the love of purity, and hope
Which it affords, to such as do thy will
And persevere in good, that they shall rise,
To have a nearer view of thee, in heaven.

And habitations,' seemingly preserved
From the intrusion of a restless world,
By rocks impassable and mountains huge.

Soft heath this elevated spot supplied,

And choice of moss-clad stones, whereon we couch'd Father of good! this prayer in bounty grant,
Or sate reclined-admiring quietly
The general aspect of the scene; but each
Not seldom over-anxious to make known
His own discoveries; or to favourite points
Directing notice, merely from a wish
T'impart a joy, imperfect while unshared.
That rapturous moment ne'er shall I forget,
When these particular interests were effaced
From every mind! Already had the sun,
Sinking with less than ordinary state,
Attain'd his western bound; but rays of light-
Now suddenly diverging from the orb
Retired behind the mountain tops or veil'd
By the dense air-shot upwards to the crown
Of the blue firmament-aloft and wide:
And multitudes of little floating clouds,
Ire we, who saw, of change were conscious, pierced
Through their ethereal texture, had become

In mercy grant it to thy wretched sons.
Then, nor till then, shall persecution cease,
And cruel wars expire. The way is mark'd,
The guide appointed, and the ransom paid.
Alas! the nations, who of yore received
These tidings, and in Christian temples meet
The sacred truth t' acknowledge, linger still;
Preferring bonds and darkness to a state
Of holy freedom, by redeeming love
Proffer'd to all, while yet on earth detain'd.

"So fare the many; and the thoughtful few,
Who in the anguish of their souls bewail
This dire perverseness, cannot choose but ask,
Shall it endure? Shall enmity and strife,
Falsehood and guile, be left to sow their seed
And the kind never perish? Is the hope
Fallacious, or shall righteousness obtain
A peaccable dominion, wide as earth,

« FöregåendeFortsätt »