Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

PANEGYRIC ON FOX-HUNTING.

The passion for this pastime is the very strongest that can possess the heart-nor, of all the heroes of antiquity, is there one to our imagination more poetical than Nimrod. His whole character is given, and his whole history, in two words-Mighty Hunter. That he hunted the fox is not probable; for the sole aim and end of his existence was not to exterminate—that would have been cutting his own throat—but to thin man-devouring wild beasts—the Pards—with Leo at their head. But in a land like this, where not even a wolf has existed for centuries—nor a wild boar—the same spirit that would have driven the British youth on the tusk and paw of the Lion and the Tiger, mounts them in scarlet on such steeds as never neighed before the flood, nor • summered high in bliss' on the sloping pastures of undeluged Ararat—and gathers them together in gallant array on the edge of

the cover,

When first the hunter's startling horn is heard
Upon the golden hills.

What a squadron of cavalry! What fiery eyes and flaming nostrils—betokening with what ardent passion the noble animals will revel in the chase! Bay, brown, black, dun, chestnut, sorrel, grey—of all shades and hues--and every courser distinguished by his own peculiar character of shape and form—yet all blending harmoniously as they crown the mount; so that a painter would only have to group and colour them as they stand, nor lose, if able to catch them, one of the dazzling lights or deepening shadows streamed on them from that sunny, yet not unstormy sky.

a common.

After the first Tally-ho, Reynard is rarely seen, till he is run in upon-once, perhaps, in the whole run, skirting a wood, or crossing

It is an Idea that is pursued, on a whirlwind of horses, to a storm of canine music-worthy, both, of the largest lion that ever leaped among a band of Moors, sleeping at midnight by an extinguished fire on the African sands. There is, we verily believe it, nothing Foxy in the Fancy of one man in all that glorious field of Three Hundred. Once off and away-while wood and

PANEGYRIC ON FOX-HUNTING.

215

welkin rings—and nothing is felt-nothing is imaged in that hurricane flight, but scorn of all obstruction, dykes, ditches, drains, brooks, palings, canals, rivers, and all the impediments reared in the way of so many rejoicing madmen, by nature, art, and science, in an enclosed, cultivated, civilised, and Christian country. There they go-prince and peer, baronet and squire—the nobility and gentry of England, the flower of the men of the earth, each on such a steed as Pollux never reined, nor Philips warlike son—for could we imagine Bucephalus here, ridden by his own tamer, Alexander would be thrown out during the very first burst, and glad to find his way

dismounted to a village alehouse for a pail of meal and water. Hedges, trees, groves, gardens, orchards, woods, farmhouses, huts, halls, mansions, palaces, spires, steeples, towers, and temples, all go wavering by, each demigod seeing, or seeing them not, as his winged steed skims or labours along, to the swelling or sinking music, now loud as a near regimental band, now faint as an echo. Far and wide over the country are dispersed the scarlet runners—and a hundred villages pour forth their admiring swarms, as the main current of the chase roars by, or disparted runlets float wearied and all astray, lost at last in the perplexing woods. Crash goes

the top-timber of the five-barred gate-away over the ears flies the ex-roughrider in a surprising somerset-after a succession of stumbles, down is the gallant Grey on knees and nose, making sad work among the fallow. Friendship is a fine thing, and the story of Damon and Pythias most affecting indeed—but Pylades eyes Orestes on his back sorely drowned in sludge, and tenderly leaping over him as he lies, claps his hand to his ear, and with a “hark forward, tantivy!' leaves him to remount, lame and at leisure—and ere the fallen has risen and shaken himself, is round the corner of the white village-church down the dell, over the brook and close on the heels of the straining pack; all a-yell up the hill crowned by the Squire's Folly. 'Every man for himself and God for us all,' is the devout and ruling apothegm of the day. If death befall, what wonder ? since man and horse are mortal ; but death loves better a wide soft bed with quiet curtains and darkened windows in a still room.

Let oak branch smite the too slowly stooping skull, or rider's back not timely levelled with his steed's ; let faithless bank give way, and bury in the brook; let hidden drain yield to fore-feet, and work a sudden wreck; let old coal-pit, with briery mouth, betray ; and roaring river bear down man and horse, to cliffs unscalable by the very Welsh goat; let duke's or earl's

.

son go sheer over a quarry twenty feet deep, and as many high ; yet' without stop or stay, down the rocky way,' the hunter train flows on; for the music grows fiercer and more savage-lo! all that remains together of the pack, in far more dreadful madness than hydrophobia, leaping out of their skins, under insanity from the scent, for Vulpes can hardly now make a crawl of it; and ere he, they, whipper-in, or any one of the other three demoniacs, have time to look in one another's splashed faces, he is torn into a thousand pieces, gobbled up in the general growl; and smug, and smooth, and dry, and warm, and cozy, as he was an hour and twenty-five minutes ago exactly, in his furze bush in the coverhe is now piecemeal in about thirty distinct stomachs; and is he not, pray, well off for sepulture ?

Wilson.

THE SNOWSTORM.

LITTLE Hannah Lee had left her master's house, soon as the rim of the great moon was seen by her eyes, that had been long anxiously watching it from the window, rising, like a joyful dream, over the gloomy mountain-tops; and all by herself she tripped along beneath the beauty of the silent heaven. Still as she kept ascending and descending the knolls that lay in the bosom of the glen, she sang to herself a song, a hymn, or a psalm, without the accompaniment of the streams, now all silent in the frost; and ever and anon she stopped to try to count the stars that lay in some more beautiful part of the sky, or gazed on the constellations that she knew, and called them, in her joy, by the names they bore among the shepherds. There were none to hear her voice, or see her smiles, but the ear and eye of Providence. As on she glided, and took her looks from heaven, she saw her own little fireside - her parents waiting for her arrival —the Bible opened for worship—her own little room kept so neatly for her, with its mirror hanging by the window, in which to braid her hair by the morning light-her bed prepared for her by her mother's hand—the primroses in her garden, peeping through the snow-old Tray, who ever welcomed her home with his dim white eyes—the pony and the cow ;-friends all, and inmates of that happy household. So stepped she along, while the snow diamonds

[blocks in formation]

glittered around her feet, and the frost wove a wreath of lucid pearls round her forehead.

She had now reached the edge of the Black-moss, which lay halfway between her master's and her father's dwelling, when she heard a loud noise coming down Glen-Scrae, and in a few seconds she felt on her face some flakes of snow. She looked up the glen, and saw the snowstorm coming down fast as a flood. She felt no fears; but she ceased her song; and, had there been a human eye to look upon her there, it might have seen a shadow on her face. She continued her course, and felt bolder and bolder every step that brought her nearer to her parents' house. But the snowstorm had now reached the Black-moss, and the broad line of light that had lain in the direction of her home was soon swallowed up, and the child was in utter darkness. She saw nothing but the flakes of snow, interminably intermingled, and furiously wafted in the air, close to her head; she heard nothing but one wild, fierce, fitful howl. The cold became intense, and her little feet and hands were fast being benumbed into insensibility.

• It is a fearful change,' muttered the child to herself; but still she did not fear, for she had been born in a moorland cottage, and lived all her days among the hardships of the hills. What will become of the poor sheep !' thought she,—but still she scarcely thought of her own danger, for innocence, and youth, and joy, are slow to think of aught evil befalling themselves, and, thinking benignly of all living things, forget their own fear in their pity for others' sorrow. At last, she could no longer discern a single mark on the snow, either of human steps, or of sheep-track, or the footprint of a wild-fowl. Suddenly, too, she felt out of breath and exhausted—and, shedding tears for herself at last, sank down in the

snow.

It was now that her heart began to quake with fear. She remembered stories of shepherds lost in the snow—of a mother and a child frozen to death on that very moor-and, in a moment, she knew that she was to die. Bitterly did the poor child weep, for death was terrible to her, who, though poor, enjoyed the bright little world of youth and innocence. The skies of heaven were dearer than she knew to her—so were the flowers of earth. She had been happy at her work, happy in her sleep,-happy in the kirk on Sabbath. A thousand thoughts had the solitary child,—and in her own heart was a spring of happiness, pure and undisturbed as any fount that sparkles unseen all the year through, in some quiet nook among the pastoral hills. But now there was to be an end of all this—she was to be frozen to death—and lie there till the thaw might come; and then her father would find her body, and carry it away to be buried in the kirkyard.

The tears were frozen on her cheeks as soon as shed—and scarcely had her little bands strength to clasp themselves together, as the thought of an overruling and merciful Lord came across her heart. Then, indeed, the fears of this religious child were calmed, and she heard without terror the plover's wailing cry, and the deep boom of the bittern sounding in the moss. 'I will repeat the Lord's Prayer ;' and, drawing her plaid more closely around her, she whispered, beneath its ineffectual cover,— Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name—

e-Thy kingdom come-Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.' Had human aid been within fifty yards, it could have been of no avail-eye could not see herear could not hear her in that howling darkness. But that low prayer was heard in the centre of eternity—and that little sinless child was lying in the snow, beneath the all-seeing eye of God.

The maiden, having prayed to her Father in heaven—then thought of her father on earth. Alas! they were not far separated ! The father was lying but a short distance from his child; he too had sunk down in the drifting snow, after having, in less than an hour, exhausted all the strength of fear, pity, hope, despair, and resignation, that could rise in a father's heart blindly seeking to rescue his only child from death, thinking that one desperate exertion might enable them to perish in each other's arms. There they lay, within a stone's throw of each other, while a huge snow-drift was every moment piling itself up into a more insurmountable barrier between the dying parent and his dying child.

Wilson.

UNCLE JACK.

You never saw a more charming man than Uncle Jack. All plump people are more popular than thin people. There is something jovial and pleasant in the sight of a round face ! What conspiracy could succeed when its head was a lean and hungry

« VorigeDoorgaan »