Billeder på siden

a wild and almost uninhabited tract of country, extending for many miles in all directions, and covered with a luxuriant growth of old forest trees, under whose shade herds of deer browsed, and in whose branches innumerable birds had built their nests. Already were there in the wilds of this vast forest many who had been "outlawed for venyson;" that is, for the infraction of the barbarous game laws, which forbade any the privilege of killing deer without the royal authority, and reserved the vast forests of the country, with all their antlered inhabitants, for the sole use of the king and his court. These, uniting with the outlaws who collected here soon after the great political crisis of which we have spoken, soon became an organized force, with a chosen leader, ready and able to provide for their support, either by the pursuits of the chase, or if need be, by appropriating the goods and chattels of some fat prior, who could well afford to contribute to their necessities.

Here it is, that we first hear of the bold yeoman Robin Hood, the outlaw of Sherwood forest, at whose exploits, recorded in the “veritable history" above mentioned, our youthful eye used so often to kindle. Whether he was engaged in the great civil conflict above mentioned or not, we have no means of determining. The Latin chronicles of that period are silent on this point, and the ballad literature of the age seems to regard the later actions of "bowld Robyn,” rather than the events of his early life. In an age, however, when the existence of extraordinary personal strength was far more requisite in a soldier than now, an individual like Robin Hood would naturally be found wherever the danger was greatest, or wherever the most strenuous and persevering resistance to tyranny could be made.

It is difficult to conceive of a robber as a brave, free-hearted, noble man. The profession has in our day sadly degenerated, and so long have we been accustomed to associate the name with all that is vile, cowardly, and mean, that the famous wand of the ‘Magician' can scarce avail to rescue the name of Robin Hood from an undeserved ignominy. That he was a brave, and withal a kind-hearted man, we cannot doubt. Though driven forth by a cruel king from a participation in the rights of subjects, though the leader of an obstinate band of insurgents, an outlaw, and a freebooter, he was a redresser of injuries and a succorer of the oppressed. Many a poor yeoman or unfortunate knight who stopped in his course to contribute to the funds of the outlaw, was regaled with the best of cheer and sent on his way with a loaded purse. Among other characteristics of the outlaw, we may notice his devotion to the Virgin and his respect for the female sex. He had, to be sure, no great affection for the wealthy ecclesiastics of his day, and not unfrequently helped himself from their golden store ; yet, as our “ veritable history” declares,

“He loved our dere ladye,

And for doute of deadly synne
Wolde he never do company harm

That ony woman was ynne."

From such characteristics as these, as well as from his personal prowess, the fame of which was widely spread through that region, he soon became a great favorite among the neighboring people. The age gressions of royal power, and the enormous exactions of the clergy, had caused much dissatisfaction in the minds of the free-hearted sons of “merrie England,” and he who so successfully withstood the former and refused to comply with the latter, could scarcely fail to acquire their good will. He soon became the hero of their ballads, and on May days and other festivals, the wandering minstrel (the sole source of information in that rude and uncultivated age-for the chronicles of pious monks were not open to the body of the people) would chant to eager ears the story of his deeds. Nor are these old ballads to be rejected as mere fables, composed to satisfy a love of the marvelous. Like the rhapsodies of Homer, they give us the best picture of the age in which they were written. They describe to us the forestlife of old England's sons. They tell us what objects they admired, what pleasures they pursued. Though irregular and unpolished, they are full of enthusiasm, and their uncouth and antiquated expressions are more than balanced by their animation and vehemence. It is from them that we gain our knowledge of the popular heroes of the times which they describe, of the manners and customs of the people themselves, in short, of the whole character and framework of the society in which they were originated. Hence, they are not inaptly termed "veritable historys,” for we learn from them more accurately than we do from the dry details of diplomacy and court intrigue, the true character and condition of a nation. We have loved to linger over their descriptions of old baronial halls, decked with the implements of warfare and the chase, and while reading these descriptions, we have seemed to listen in very truth to the hearty songs and tales of the old barons, over their old oak tables, groaning with good cheer. We have, in imagination, walked in the shade of those pathless wilds, and we have there seen the woodmen engaged in their rural sports, wrestling, leaping, or perchance, feasting on the rich food which the forest furnished.

“ Bread and wyne they had ynough,

And nombles of the dere ;
Swannes and fesanntes they had full good,

And foules of the revere."

of the events of Robin Hood's life we have said but little ; most persons are familiar with them, and they who are not may find much concerning them in the works of Scott ; more in the “ veritable historys" of the age. Our object has been rather to give a brief sketch of the times in which he lived, and if any are led by these desultory remarks to peruse the old ballads of that period, they will not fail to be charmed with their glowing descriptions of forest-life, as well as with the simplicity and beauty which everywhere pervade these rude memorials of a distant age.




Hail! all hail to thee, thou glorious, " leafy month" of June ! Thou deckest the green earth with flowers, and makest the air as mild and fragrant as gentle gales from Arahy the blest ! “ Meadows trim with daisies pied” are thy pathway; sweet vales, all strewn with pink and pansy and gay primrose, with gorgeous “ flowrets of a thousand hues," lap thee in their soft and grateful couch! Pale and dewy violets, ruddy, buxom roses, kiss thy feet, as with step all music, and with voice all song, thou trippest merrily onward-onward—to join the numerous throng of months and years gone by!

“ The milkmaid singeth blithe,

And the mower whets his scythe,” as the rising day-god pours his flood of golden light along the hills. Sweet month, would thou wert longer!

I love at this season to go forth among the quiet and hallowed haunts of Nature, and listen to her gentle teachings. Her mild whispers fall on my ear like voices from the spirit-land. love to steal away from the hurly-burly of this noisy and work-day world, and

“ In closo covert by some brook,
Where no profaner eye may look,
Hide me from day's garish eye;
While the bee with honeyed thigh,
That at her flowery work doth sing,
And the waters murmuring,
With such consort as they keep,

Entice the dewy, feather'd sleep." Ay, that last is the pleasantest part of it. “Blessings on the man who invented sleep,” saith Sancho Panza, and the doughty squire knew a thing or two, if he had a fool for his master. Tell me not that it is shameful to part with one's precious hours in the unprofitable way of sleeping when he should be up and doing. Call me sluggard, call me what you will ; but give me that blessed morning nap. Pleasant a thing as it is at all hours, it is thrice pleasant at that time. Tired nature has been restored; the deep, death-like 'slumber which has prisoned both body and soul is partially broken, and you can lie there in a half-unconscious sort of existence, with pleasant fancies floating through your brain and wafting you gently off, as on angel's wings, to the bright fairy-land of dreams. Oh! 'ris delicious sweet. I hate your early riser. He tumbles out before he is half rested, gets his body saturated with those execrable morning damps, goes round with his flesh as blue as boarding-house cream, and his visage as dark and lowering as the northwest corner of a thunder cloud, becomes hungry and fretful before breakfast, and with limbs all shivering and teeth all chattering, he looks like a very goblin sent from that big, infernal hole which Symmes supposed to exist in the Polar regions. It makes one cross and ill-natured all day. Give me the easy soul, who takes his sleep out and gets up jolly and good-natured. "I'is a blessed, blessed thing, this sleep. The ancient mariner of Coleridge, after “seven days, seven nights" of wakeful suffering, with a bloody, burning sky above, a sluggish, slimy sea below, and ghastly forms, all rotting round him, with living curses in their moveless eyes, is then relieved, and thus he gratefully relates it :

“O sleep! it is a gentle thing,

Beloved from pole to pole!
To Mary, queen, the praise be given;
She sent the gentle sleep from heaven,

That slid into my soul."

'Tis now the very witching time of night, that I am struggling to keep off the gentle influence, that fain would steal over my senses, and lock me in its soft embrace. The dim lamp flickering over the pale and thoughtsul face of the student, hath long been extinguished. Darkness hath long since shrouded these time-stained walls with its thick gloomy curtain,

“And tortured melody hath ceased

Her sufferings on the evening flute.” All is solemn, death-like stillness. Not a leaf rustles in the branches that overhang my window. The streets are silent and voiceless. Innocence is softly sleeping, and ministering spirits are hovering round. Guilt is vainly wooing slumber to its relief, while tossing in feverish restlessness upon its uneasy couch. And if slumber does at length come, it is to unfold new scenes of terrors. He who has broken the laws of God and man, cannot enjoy the sweet influence that seals his eyelids. Visions of horror await him in his dreams. It is not osten that his spirit then wanders to the scenes of youth and early innocence; it is not often that he “babbles of green fields." Though he may still be in all the pride and glow and lustihood of youth, it is all the same to him. With no bright pictures will dreams cheer his vision. With no sweet voices will they whisper in his ear. With wailings such as “goblins damned" might utter, will they cause him to start from his troubled repose. With adders will they bind him round, which with their cloven tongues will “ hiss him into madness.” The black and fearful gallows will they show him, higher than Haman ever reared ; ay, and there will glide around him gaunt and ghastly spectres, with their bony hands all clutching at his throat. Nothing can deliver him from the direful visions, when Guilt,“ with fingers bloody red,” doth draw his midnight curtains. Yes, there are

“Shapes that walk
At dead of night and clank their chains, and wave

The torch of Hell around the murderer's bed." But softly: it is not quite so still as I was talking of a short while since. Sounds now break upon the midnight air, and such soundsoh, heavens! It is a troop of maudlin serenaders, “making night hideous” with their most unmusical performance. I love a good serenade. It steals in at your window, like a strain from heavenly visitants, soothing the restless soul and filling it with sweet harmony. But from such a serenade as that, good lord deliver us! Learning to play on a French horn is seraph-music, in comparison with it. As Holmes says,

“ You'd think they are crusaders, sent

From some infernal clime,
To pluck the eyes of Sentiment,

And dock the tail of Rhyme,
To crack the voice of Melody,

And break the legs of Time."

Jeremiah Jennings-or Jerry, as he was familiarly called-was my "chum” during my first two years in College. What on earth brought us together, I never could fully understand; for we were the very antipodes in our habits. I had “come to College”-how that old Freshman phrase calls up to mind that period of my course, which Mrs. Child would reckon among the “sunny spots of greeneryin life ; and in sooth, there is something sunny and pleasant about it, with all its toil and trouble anā timorous apprehension—I had come here, as I was saying, to study. As for Jerry, that was no part of his design. I don't believe he had ever thought of such a thing. He used to say he thought before coming, that College was a great place, full of a literary atmosphere, where one would suck in wisdom at every breath, without any kind of effort on his own part. Or else he thought knowledge would grow upon him, in some way or other; a sort of accretion, was his idea. How in the world he ever studied enough to gain admission, I am at a loss to imagine.

“ This is a devil of a hard world to live in,” would Jerry say, as he tilted back in his easy chair, with his feet against the top of the stove.

Jerry had an unconquerable propensity to put his feet upon the stove ; and he never sat in the room five minutes at a time, in


other position. I have known him burn out half a dozen pair of boots in a single winter, besides ruining the tops of three stoves. College stoves, dear reader, are fancy articles, and will not endure rough usage.

Always when I returned from my morning walk-chum never went with me ; indeed, he would always take it as an insult to be asked to walk, save to his dinner-I found him with his feet in the aforesaid position, with Handy Andy, Boz's works illustrated, or some book with similar embellishments, lying open on his knees. Strange as it may seem, it was always open at a picture. He never seemed to be read



« ForrigeFortsæt »