Page images


[blocks in formation]

Elysian Fields at Lowther in Westmoreland.
Thus face to face the dying and the dead,
Bound in their solemn ever-living bond,
Communed; and I was sad that ancient head
Ever should pass those holy walls beyond.



A YOUTH caress'd and nurtured long,
Beneath the sky, beside the sea,
Where rules a vivid world of song
The clear-eyed Queen Parthenope,-
And wont to blend with outward grace,
The soul Virgilian memory yields,
Might seek with dull, uneager pace,
The cloudy north's Elysian Fields.

"Lowther," he cried, " of ancient strength,
Thy lofty towers the harness wear ;-
Thy terraces their mossy length
Extend through centuries of care.

In thine old oaks may Fancy read

A green traditionary chain

Of Worth and Power ;-Thou dost not need
To take the classic name in vain."

Up Lowther's banks, that very eve,
This scornful youth was seen to wind
Still tardier steps, that seem'd to grieve
For joy or beauty left behind:
But ere he reach'd the lordly roof,
High portal and cathedral stair,
His thoughts in other, fairer, woof,
Were offer'd to the attentive air.

"Not once to Baia's column'd bay,
Or Cuma's glade my spirit fled,
While on that storm-cast trunk I lay,
Above yon torrent's stormy bed:
Crystal and green sufficed so well
To solace and delight mine eyes;
They yearn'd for no remember'd spell
Fashion'd beneath serener skies.

"If golden light, or azure void
The Poet's radiant dream fulfills,
Are clouds and shadows unenjoy'd,
The ghostly guardians of the hills?
Nature an open Faith demands:
And we have little else to do,
But take the blessing from her hands,
Feeling-Here is Elysium too."



A SUMMER nightfall on a summer sea!
From sandy ridges wildering o'er the deep,
The wind's familiar under-song recalls
The fishermen to duty, though that eve
To unversed eyes their embarkation seem'd
Rather a work of festival than toil.
Women were there in gay precise attire,
Girls at their skirts, and boys before at play,
And many an infant sweet asleep on arm.

Emulous which the first shall set his boat
Free-floating from the clutches of deep sand,
Men lean and strive; till one, and two, and all,
Poised in descent, receive the leaping crews:
And following close, where leads the ripply way,
One craft of heavier freight and larger sail.
Serene and silent as th' horizon moon,
That fair flotilla seeks the open main.

Some little room of waters sever'd now
Those seeming sons of peaceful industry
From their diseased and desperate fatherland,
That France, where reign'd and raged for many a year
Madness, (the fearful reservoir of strength
Which God will open, at his own high will,
In men and nations,) so that very babes
Would tear the mother-breast of ancient Faith
To suck the bloody milk of Liberty.
The Christian name was outcast there and then ;
For Power and Passion were the people's gods,
And every one that worshipp'd not must die.

The shore extended one thin glittering line,
When, at the watch'd-for tinkling of a bell,
Fast fall the sails, and round their captain-boat,
Which rested steady as the waters would,
Each other bent its own obedient prow,
Making imperfect rays about a sun :

Nor paused they long before great change of form
Came o'er that centre. From the uncouth deck
Rose a tall altar, 'broider'd curiously,

With clear outcarven crucifix i' th' midst
Of tapers, lambent in the gentle gale :
Before it stood the reverend-robed Priest,
Late a rude fisherman-an awful head,

Veteran in griefs and dangers more than years;
Perchance not finely moulded, but as seen
There upright to the illuminating moon,
With silver halo rather than white hair,
Beauteous exceedingly!

So seem'd to feel
The tender eyes then fix'd on him, while slow
And quiet, as when he perform'd the rites
Of his old village church on Sabbath morn,
He set all things in order and began
That Litany, which, gathering voice on voice,
Made vocal with the names of God and Christ,
And the communion of the blest in heaven,
Space that had lain long silent of all sound

Save the chance greetings of some parting ships,
And elemental utterances confused.

Oh! never in high Roman basilic,
Prime dome of Art, or elder Lateran,
Mother of churches! never at the shrine
That sprang the freshest from pure martyr-blood,
Or held within its clasp a nation's heart
By San Iago or Saint Denys blest,--
Never in that least earthly place of earth,

The Tomb where Death himself lay down and died,
The Temple of Man's new Jerusalem-
Descended effluence more indeed divine,
More total energy of Faith and Hope,
And Charity for wrongs unspeakable,

Than on that humble scantling of the flock,
That midnight congregation of the Sea.

Rise not, good Sun! hold back unwelcome Light
That shall but veil the nations in new crime!
Or hide thy coming; yet some little while
Prolong the stupor of exhausted sin,

Nor with thy tainted rays disturb this peace,,
These hard-won fragmentary hours of peace,
That soon must sink before the warring world!

He hears them not; beneath his splendour fades
That darkness luminous of Love and Joy;
Quickly its aspect of base daily life
The little fleet recovering, plied in haste
Its usual labour, lest suspicious foes
Might catch suspicion in those empty nets;
But every one there toiling, in his heart
Was liken'd to those other Fishermen,
Who on their inland waters saw the form
Of Jesus, toward them walking firm and free.

One moment yet, ere the religious Muse
Fold up these earnest memories in her breast,
Nor leave unutter'd that one Breton name
Which is itself a History-Quiberon!
Was it not heinous? was it not a shame

Which goes beyond its actors, that those men,
Simply adventuring to redeem their own-

Their ravish'd homes, and shrines, and fathers' graves
Meeting that rampant and adulterous power

On its own level of brute force, that they,

Crush'd by sheer numbers, should be made exempt From each humane and generous privilege,

With which the civil use of later times

Has smooth'd the bristling fierceness of old war,
And perish armless-one by one laid low

By the cold sanction'd executioner!

Nor this alone; for fervid love may say,
That death to them, beneath the foulest hood,
Would wear an aureole crown; and martyr palms
Have grown as freely from dry felon dust,
As e'er from field enrich'd with fame and song.
But when they ask'd the only boon brave men
Could from inclement conquerors humbly pray-
To die as men, and not fall blankly down
Into steep death like butcher'd animals,
But to receive from consecrated hands

Those seals and sureties which the Christian soul
Demands as covenants of eternal bliss-

They were encounter'd by contemptuous hate,
And mockery, bitter as the crown of thorns.

Thus pass'd that night, their farewell night to earth,
Grave, even sad,-that should have been so full
Of faith nigh realized, of young and old,
Met hand in hand, indifferent of all time,
On the bright shores of immortality!
Till 'mid the throng about their prison-door,
In the grey dawn, a rustic voice convey'd
Some broken message to a captive's ear,
Low, and by cruel gaolers unperceived;
Which whisper, flitting fast from man to man,
Was like a current of electric joy,

Awakening smiles, and radiant upward looks,
And interchange of symbols spiritual,
Leaving unearthly peace.

So when soon came

The hour of doom, and through the palsied crowd
Pass'd the long file without a word or sound,
The image, gait, and bearing of each man,
In those his bonds, in that his sorry dress,
Defiled with dust and blood, perchance his own,
A squalid shape of famine and unrest,

Was that of some full-sail'd, magnificent ship,
That takes the whole expanse of sea and air
For its own service, dignifying both
As accessories of its single pride.

To read the sense and secret of this change,
Look where beside the winding path that leads
These noble warriors to ignoble death,
Rises a knoll of white, grass-tufted sand,
Upon whose top, against the brightening sky,
Stands a mean peasant, tending with one hand
A heifer browsing on that scanty food.
To the slow-moving line below he turns
An indistinct, almost incurious gaze,

While with a long right arm upraised in air

He makes strange gestures, source of ribald mirth
To some, but unregarded by the most.
Yet could a mortal vision penetrate

Each motion of that scene, it might perceive
How every prisoner, filing by that spot,

Bows his bold head, and walks with lighter steps
Onward to rest but once and move no more:
For in that peasant stands the yearned-for Priest,
Periling life by this last act of love,
And in those gestures are the absolving signs
Which send the heroes to their morning graves
Happy as parents' kisses duly speed
Day-weary children to their careless beds.

Such are memorials, and a hundred more,
Which by the pious traveller haply caught,
Falling from lowly lips and lofty hearts,
Regenerate outward nature, and adorn
With blossoms brighter than the Orient rose,
And verdure fresher than an English spring,
The dull sand-hillocks of the Morbihan.



No. III.


Book III.

AT that time, New-Year's-Day greatly enlivened the city by the general interchange of personal felicitations. He who otherwise hardly left the house, now hurried on his best clothes, that for a moment he might be friendly and courteous to his wellwishers and friends. For us children, the solemnity in our grandfather's house, on this day, was a much desired pleasure. At early dawn the grandchildren were already collected there, to hear the drums, eboes, and clarionets, the trumpets and cornets, played by the soldiers, the city musicians, and others. The new-year's gifts, sealed and superscribed, were divided by us children among the inferior congratulants; and as the day advanced, the numbers of the more distinguished increased. First appeared the intimates and the relatives, then the lower officials; the gentlemen of the Council themselves did not fail to wait on their chief magistrate; and a select party were entertained in the evening in rooms which, except now, were hardly opened through the whole year. The tarts, biscuits, march pane, and sweet wine, had the greatest charm for the children. And besides this, the chief magistrate and the two burgomasters received annually, from certain foundations, some articles of silver ware, which were then bestowed in due gradation among the grand and godchildren. This festival, in fine, had in small whatever usually dignifies the greatest.

The New-Year's-Day of 1759 approached-desired and delightful for us children, like those before it; but full for older persons of anxiety and foreboding. The passage of French troops had indeed become a matter of custom, and happened often, but yet oftenest in the last days of the bygone year. According to the ancient usage of the imperial city, the watchman on the chief tower blew his trumpet whenever troops approached; and on this New Year's

Day he blew incessantly, which was a sign that large bodies were in movement on different sides; and in fact, they passed on this day in greater masses through the city. The crowd ran to look on. In general, people had been used to see them enter only in small parties. These, however, gradually swelled, and there was neither power nor inclination to stop the increase. In fine, on the 2d January, after a column had come through Sachsenhausen, Over the Bridge, through the Fahrgasse as far as the gunner's guard, they halted, overpowered the small party which accompanied them, took possession of that guard, and then marched down the Zeile, till after a slight resistance the main guard was also obliged to yield. Instantly the peaceful streets were changed into a place of arms, where the troops established themselves, and bivouacked until their quarters were provided by regular billeting.

This unexpected, for many years unheard-of, burden pressed severely on the comfortable citizens. It could be more annoying to no one than to my father, who had to receive strange military inhabitants into his hardly finished house, to open for them his well adorned and neatly closed receptionrooms, and to abandon to the wantonness of others all that he had been used to arrange and preserve so accurately. He, moreover, who took the Prussian side, had now to see himself besieged by the French even in his own chambers. It was the greatest grief which, with his mode of thinking, could possibly have befallen him. Yet had it been possible for him to take the thing more easily, as he spoke French well, and could in the intercourse of life comport himself with dignity and grace, he might have saved us and himself from many unpleasant hours. For it was the King's lieutenant who was quartered on us, and he, although a military person, yet had only to arrange the civil occur

« PreviousContinue »