Page images
PDF
EPUB

with mangoes, spreading bananas, and towering palms!

On entering the library, the large Chinese lanterns attract attention; but the place is full of interest to the oriental scholar, for a copy of every book that has been written relative to the laws and history of Asia, is here deposited, whether its language be European or Asiatic.

In addition to these, a splendid collection of oriental manuscripts enriches the place; they are highly illuminated with vivid colours and burnished gold, while their mythological designs, and the silky paper on which they are written, add to the interest they excite.

Tippoo Saib's copy of the Koran is a curiosity, as well as the book of his dreams, written with his own hand, and accompanied with his own interpretations. The infatuated monarch dreamed, chiefly, of what was uppermost in his mind, the expulsion of the English from India. The dreamer and his dreams are come to nought.

Monarchs, like meaner men, can only live their little hour, for "all flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof as the flower of the field."

Hark! hark I a cry is gone abroad

From every peopled plain;
It sweeps along the sounding shore,

It murmurs from the main;From every varied spot of earth, Where human creatures be,
It echoes loudly through the land, And spreads from sea to sea.

From palace wall, and humble cot, _. ;, ''From town, and village lone;From every newly-open'd grave, j , 'lriAnd every churchyard stone; V'\ ^'^r4* \''fIn every language under heaven A voice repeats the cry,
"Thy days are number'd, mortal man;And thou art born to die."

Of printed Chinese books there are hundreds of volumes before me; they have covers or cases of a blue colour, which fasten with a flap and button. How few of us who visit this place can decipher a single character! The Malayan manuscripts are formed of leaves of the palm-tree, and the characters are scratched on them with a pointed instrument.

Here are Batta and Siamese manuscripts, and Birman in the Sali character, which is considered by the natives to be sacred; warlike weapons and musical instruments, used by the Battas, are abundant; and carved combs, with very long teeth, and Indian dresses, and shirts of gold and silver chain, and work-boxes, and costly books of Indian scenery.

This library is an excellent room to make one humble; and many a proud scholar has no doubt left it with a lowlier estimate of his own attainments. Latin, and Greek, and Hebrew, cannot be brought to bear on the bewildering characters of Malay, Batta and Chinese, Persian, Bengalee and Hindoostanee manuscripts; but the schoolmaster and the missionary are abroad, and in various oriental languages are now made known to eastern lands the unsearchable riches of the gospel of peace.

Great conquests have attached to them great responsibilities. May that influential Company to whom I am indebted for the gratification of the passing hour, be impressed with this serious conviction, and regard the hundred millions of human beings under their control, not only as creatures of time, but as heirs of eternity.

Thus have I wandered through this varied museum without a guide, passing by much more than I have noted down; but even now, before my departure, let me take another peep at the skull of the Batta chief.

Stern chieftain, what avail thy victories and thy renown? Far from the land of thy birth, over the wide world of waters, hast thou been borne, to be made a spectacle to strangers. So much for thy prowess and thy nobility. Yet even here thy influence may be rather increased than diminished.

Grim monitor of dissolution, thou preachest solemn truths, and seemest to say, "If death affright thee, learn to look beyond it." Though thou speakest not, there is language in thy looks, and thus will I translate it:

"Trust not thy hopes, though fair and free,
That merely for a moment shine:
But rather ask what they will be
When thy poor head resembles mine."

THE COLOSSEUM.

The Colosseum is truly one of the "lions" of London, and few strangers visit the metropolis with the intention of seeing the wonders of the place, without entering the gates of the Regent's Park, looking with surprise on the colossal dome before them, mounting by the stair-case, or ascending-room, to the grand painting it contains, and gazing with wonder and admiration on the panoramic view of the capital of England. Often and often have I been here before with city friends or country cousins; and now I am here again. Carriages are standing opposite the gate; the sun is at its greatest height in the clear, blue sky; and visitors of both sexes, and of all ages, are passing onwards to see the Colosseum.

It has been said, with some truth, that of all the panoramic pictures that ever were painted in the world, of the proudest cities, formed and inhabited by the human race, the view of London, contained in the Colosseum, is the most pre-eminent, exhibiting, as it does, at one view, "to the eye and to the mind the dwellings of near a million and a half of human beings; a countless succession of churches, bridges, halls, theatres, and mansions; a forest of floating masts; and the manifold pursuits, occupations, and powers of its ever-active, ever-changing inhabitants."

This splendid picture, painted by Paris, from sketches taken by Hornor, as he sat in a suspended house or box, fixed for the purpose, above the highest cross of the Cathedral of St. Paul, is now before me, and the almost universal encomiums pronounced upon it, have a tendency to repress that freedom of remark in which it is pleasurable to indulge. If I venture an observation, it will only be with the design of preventing disappointment in the mind of the spectator, whose high-wrought fancy, fed by intemperate descriptions, may have made him somewhat unreasonable in his expectations.

It should ever be borne in mind, that in works of art there are unavoidable difficulties in the way of affording a correct representation of persons and things. The most glorious statue that Phidias ever formed, has neither colour nor motion. Think of the arduous task of representing, by colourless and motionless marble, breathing beings who possess both motion and colour! To use an illustration sufficiently homely to be at once comprehended by those who have little taste for works of art, I would say, that we should hardly know the most intimate friend we have in the

« PreviousContinue »