Billeder på siden

Traces of the Ocean.



till the leaves all seem turned to living jewels; spreading a golden veil over the setting sun; or a white gauze around the midnight

Sporting in the cataract; sleeping in the glacier; dancing in the hail-shower; folding its bright snow curtains softly about the wintry world; and waving the many-coloured iris, that seraph’s zone of the sky, whose warp is the rain-drop of earth, whose woof is the sunbeam of heaven; all chequered over with celestial flowers, by the mystic hand of refraction.

Still always it is beautiful, that life-giving water; no poison bubbles on its brink; its foam brings not madness and murder ; no blood stains its liquid glass; pale widows and starving orphans weep no burning tears in its depths; no drunken shrieking ghost from the grave curses it in the words of eternal despair ; speak on, my friends, would you exchange it for demon's drink, alcohol?


HUGH MILLER. [Hugh Miller, the celebrated geologist, was born in Cromarty in 1805. The only education he received was at the burgh school of his native town, and yet his writings are so easy and graceful, his descriptions exhibit such a happy blending of poetry and fancy, that he has been compared, in style, to Goldsmith. He began life as a stonemason, but his literary proclivities early displaying themselves, a more genial occupation was found for him as an accountant in a bank. His works are “Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland,” “The Old Red Sandstone,” “ The Testimony of the Rocks,” &c. At the time of his melancholy death, by his own hand, in 1857, he was the editor of “The Witness.”] Was it the sound of the distant surf that was in mine ears, or the low moan of the breeze, as it crept through the neighbouring wood ? Oh, that hoarse voice of Ocean, never silent since time first began ! —where has it not been uttered? There is stillness amid the calm of the arid and rainless desert, where no spring rises and no streamlet flows, and the long caravan plies its weary march amid the blinding glare of the sand, and the red unshaded rays of the fierce

But once and again, and yet again, has the roar of Ocean been there. It is his sands that the winds heap up; and it is the skeleton remains of his vassals-shells, and fish, and the strong coral—that the rocks underneath enclose. There is silence on the tall mountain-peak, with its glittering mantle of snow, where the panting lungs labour to inhale the thin bleak air,- where no insect murmurs and no bird flies,—and where the eye wanders over multitudinous hill-tops that lie far beneath, and vast dark forests that sweep on to the distant horizon, and along long hollow valleys where the great rivers begin. And yet once and again, and yet again, has the roar of Ocean been there. The elegies of his more ancient denizens we find sculptured on the crags, where they jut from beneath the ice into the mist-wreath; and his later beaches, stage beyond stage, terrace the descending slopes. Where has the great destroyer not been-the devourer of continents, the blue



foaming dragon, whose vocation it is to eat up the land? His icefloes have alike furrowed the flat steppes of Siberia and the rocky flanks of Schehallion, and his nummulites and fish lie embedded in great stones of the Pyramids hewn in the times of the old Pharaohs, and in rocky folds of Lebanon still untouched by the tool. So long as Ocean exists, there must be disintegration, dilapidation, change; and should the time ever arrive when the elevatory agencies, motionless and chill

, shall sleep within their profound depths to awaken no more,—and should the sea still continue to impel its currents and to roll its waves,-every continent and island would at length disappear, and again, as of old, “when the fountains of the great deep were broken up,”

“A shoreless ocean tumble round the globe.” Was it with reference to this principle, so recently recognised, that we are so expressly told in the Apocalypse respecting the renovated earth, in which the state of things shall be fixed and eternal, that “there shall be no more sea ?” or are we to regard the revelation as the mere hieroglyphic—the pictured shape—of some unalogous moral truth? Reasoning from what we know,”—and what else remains to us ?-an earth without a sea would be an earth without rain, without vegetation, without life,

,-a dead and doleful planet of waste places, such as the telescope reveals to us in the moon. And yet the ocean does seem peculiarly a creature of time,-of all the great agents of vicissitude and change, the most influential and untiring; and to a state in which there shall be no vicissitude and no change,-in which the earthquake shall not heave from beneath, nor the mountains wear down and the continents melt


;-it seems inevitably necessary that there should be “



[ocr errors]

no more sea.


LAURENCE STERNE. (Laurence Sterne was born at Clonmel, Ireland, 1713, and educated at Cambridge, in which university he took the degree of M.A. in 1740. Full of wit, and with many Shaksperian touches of character, much of his writing is marred by a want of decency, but his pathetic powers have never been denied. Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim stand out boldly among the long procession of characters which pass before the mental vision of the lovers of fiction. Sterne was over-convivial in his habits, as he was loose in his writings, which were not always quite original. He had Church preferment, but was no favourite with his clerical brethren. He died in lodgings in London, 1768, a hired nurse being his only attendant.] And as for the Bastille, the terror is in the word. Make the most of it you can, said I to myself, the Bastille is but another word for a tower, and a tower is but another word for a house you can't get out of. Mercy on the gouty! for they are in it twice a year; but with nine livres a day, and pen, and ink, and paper, and patience; albeit a man can't get out, he may do very well within, at least for

The Starling; or, Liberty and Slavery.



little cage.


a month or six weeks, at the end of which, if he is a harmless fellow his innocence appears, and he comes out a better and a wiser man than he went in.

I had some occasion (I forget what) to step into the court-yard as I settled this account: and remember I walked downstairs in no small triumph with the conceit of my reasoning. Beshrew the sombre pencil ! said I, vauntingly, for I envy not its powers,

which paints the evils of life with so hard and deadly a colouring. The mind sits terrified at the objects she has magnified herself and blackened; reduce them to their proper size and hue, she overlooks them.

'Tis true, said I, correcting the proposition, the Bastille is not an evil to be despised; but strip it of its towers, fill up the fosse, unbarricade the doors, call it simply a confinement, and suppose 'tis some tyrant of a distemper and not of a man which holds you in it, the evil vanishes, and you bear the other half without complaint.

I was interrupted in the heyday of this soliloquy with a voice which I took to be of a child, which complained " it could not get out.” I looked up and down the passage, and seeing neither man, woman, nor child, I went out without further attention. In my return back through the passage, I heard the same words repeated twice over: and looking up, I saw it was a starling, hung in a

'I can't get out! I can't get out!” said the starling. I stood looking at the bird; and to every person who came through the passage, it ran fluttering to the side towards which they approached it, with the same lamentation of its captivity—“I can't get out!” said the starling.

God help thee! said I; but I'll let thee out, cost what it will; so I turned about the cage to get the door. It was twisted and double twisted so fast with wire, there was no getting it open without pulling the cage to pieces. I took both hands to it. The bird few to the place where I was attempting his deliverance, and thrusting his head through the trellis, pressed his breast against it as if impatient. I fear, poor creature, said I, I cannot set thee at liberty. "“No,” said the starling, “I can't get out! I can't get out!" I vow I never had my affections more tenderly awakened ; nor do I remember any incident in my life where the dissipated spirits, to which my reason had been a bubble, were so suddenly called home. Mechanical as the notes were, yet so true in tune to nature were they chanted, that in one moment they overthrew all my systematic reasonings upon the Bastille, and I heavily walked upstairs, unsaying every word I had said in going down them.

Disguise thyself as thou wilt, still, Slavery, said I, still, thou art a bitter draught; and though thousands in all ages have been made to drink of thee, thou art no less bitter on that account. 'Tis thou, thrice sweet and gracious goddess, addressing myself to Liberty, whom all in public or in private worship, whose taste is grateful, and ever will be so, till Ñature herself shall change: no tint of

words can spot thy snowy mantle, or chemic power turn thy sceptre into iron: with thee to smile upon him as he eats his crust, the swain is happier than his monarch from whose court thou art exiled. Gracious heaven! cried I, kneeling down upon the last step but one in my ascent, grant me but health, thou great bestower of it, and give me but this fair goddess as my companion, and shower down thy mitres, if it seem good unto thy Divine Providence, upon those heads which are aching for them.

The bird in his cage pursued me into my room. I sat down close by the table, and leaning my head upon my hand, I began to figure to myself the miseries of a confinement. I was in a right frame for it, and so I gave full scope to my imagination.

I was going to begin with the millions of my fellow-creatures born to no inheritance but slavery; but finding, however affecting the picture was, that I could not bring it near me, and that the multitude of sad groups in it did but distract me, I took a single captive, and having first shut him up in his dungeon, I then looked through the twilight of his grated door to take his picture.

I beheld his body half wasted away with long expectation and confinement, and felt what kind of sickness of the heart it was which arises from hope deferred. Upon looking nearer, I saw him pale and feverish. In thirty years the western breeze had not once fanned his blood : he had seen no sun, no moon, in all that time, nor had the voice of friend or kinsman breathed through his lattice : his children—but here my heart began to bleed, and I was forced to go on with another part of the portrait.

He was sitting upon the ground upon a little straw, in the furthest corner of his dungeon, which was alternately his chair and bed. A little calendar of small sticks lay at the head, notched all over with the dismal days and nights he had passed there. He had one of these little sticks in his hand, and with a rusty nail he was etching another day of misery to add to the heap. As I darkened the little light he had, he lifted up a hopeless eye towards the door, then cast it down, shook his head, and went on with his work of affliction. I heard his chains upon his legs as he turned his body to lay his little stick upon the bundle. He gave a deep sigh; I saw the iron enter into his soul. I burst into tears—I could not sustain the picture of confinement which my fancy had drawn.

I started up from my chair, and calling La Fleur, I bid him bespeak me a remise, and have it ready at the door of the hotel by nine in the morning.

“I'll go directly,” said I, “myself to Monsieur the Duc .de Choiseul.”

La Fleur would have put me to bed; but, not willing that he should see anything upon my cheek which would cost the honest fellow a heartache, I told him I would go to bed by myself; and bid him go do the same.

On the Death of Lord Brougham.




(MAY 7, 1868.)

Abridged from the Daily Telegraph. HENRY BROUGHAM is dead. “Far stricken” in years, but vigorous in mind to the last, though withered in body, the sturdiest worker of modern history, the vieille moustache of the Old Guard of progress, Lord Brougham and Vaux has “got his route," and * enters into his rest." The venerable nobleman would have reached the age of ninety on his next birthday. He was "in excellent health,” and up to the hour when he died he was in the habit of " taking the air” daily in the soft weather of the Mediterranean spring time-chatting, thinking, eating and drinking, as if death had forgotten him. On Thursday, May 7th, 1868, he dined as usual, and retired to rest, as was his wont, about nine o'clock. It was customary that one of his body servants should visit the chamber to see if the old lord was well disposed for the night; and assuredly he was well disposed, not for that night only, but for ever : the domestic found his master placidly dead.

He had passed away, tranquilly slumbering out of life into death, sick of no disease but old age, and so free from pain or perturbation that he “ died in his sleep." Politically and civilly, he was dead long ago: he has been his own monument for a score of years; and even now, when we say to each other, “ Lord Brougham is no more,” the words impart no shock such as usually accompanies the announcement of great men's deaths; they seem the formal intimation of an incident accomplished long ago. Practically, he went out of the world to die

many lustra since, but the fibre of his body, like that of the mind, was so prodigiously tough that he has been living hale and sound some score of years beyond the span of man's life; like some giant oak of the woodland which, season after season, shoots from its wrinkled bark and decayed branches leaves as fresh and green as when it was a sapling. Decayed ? we do the indomitable deceased wrong; he shot out fresh timber as well as leaves almost up to the end. He was in his place the session before last; he gave us an edition of the “ Principia” in 1855; a treatise on the "Integral Calculus” in 1858; papers on "Light” in 1861; and, quite lately, he presided at the annual meetings of the Social Ścience Association. And, even now, he has not died : he has merely gone to sleep, and declined to wake any more for valet, friend, relative, mathematician, savant, Whig, Tory, reviewer, injured Queen, uneducated proletarian, slave, or senator. In some quarters the close of this amazing and noble life has been announced as" a painful piece of intelligence.” As well call sunset “painful,” or harvest-time, or the dropping of over-ripe fruit upon


grass, or the majestic fall of the ancient tree in the summer air. It was such a death as Henry Brougham would have liked, and certainly deserved—a gentle euthanasia ; atra mors itself did not dare to


« ForrigeFortsæt »