Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

Save his own dashings-yet—the dead are there,
And millions in those solitudes, since first
The flight of years began, have laid them down
In their last sleep—the dead reign there alone.-
So shalt thou restand what if thou shalt fall
Unnoticed by the living

and no friend
Take note of thy departure? All that breathe
Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh
When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care
Plod on, and each one, as before, will chase
His favorite phantom ; yet all these shall leave
Their mirth and their employments, and shall come,
And make their bed with thee. As the long train
Of ages glide away, the sons of men,
The youth in life's green spring, and he who goes
In the full strength of years, mātron, and maid,
The bowed with age, the infant in the smiles
And beauty of its innocent age cut off,
Shall, one by one, be gathered to thy side,
By those, who in their turn shall follow them.

So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, that moves
To the pale realms of shade, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon ; but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drāpery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

LESSON CXVII.

Charity to Orphans.-STERNE. They whom God hath blessed with the means, and for whom he has done more, in blessing them likewise with a disposition, have abundant reason to be thankful to him, as the Author of every good gift, for the measure he hath bestowed to them of both : it is the refuge against the ptormy wind and tempest, which he has planted in our hearts; and the constant fluctuation of every thing in this world, forces all the sons and daughters of Adam 10 seek shelter under it by turns. Guard it by entails' and settlements as we will, the most affluent plenty may be stripped, and find all its worldly comforts, like so many withered leaves, dropping from us;—the crowns of princes may be shaken; and the greatest that ever awed the world have looked back and moralized upon the turn of the wheel.

That which has happened to one, may happen to every man : and therefore that excellent rule of our Savior, in acts of benevolence, as well as every thing else, sh, uld govern us; that whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye also unlo them.

Hast thou ever lain upon the bed of languishing, or la. bored under a distemper which threatened thy life? Call to mind thy sorrowful and pensive spirit at that time, and say, What it was that made the thoughts of death so bitter ?

-If thou hast children,-I affirm it, the bitterness of death lay there! If unbrought up, and unprovided for, What will become of them? Where will they find a friend when I am gone? Who will stand up for them, and plead their cause against the wicked ?

Blessed God! to thee, who art a father to the fatherless, and a husband to the widow,-I entrust them.

Hast thou ever sustained any considerable shock in thy fortune ? or has the scantiness of thy condition hurried thee into great straits, and brought thee almost to distraction? Consider what was it that spread a table in that wilderness of thought,—who made thy cup to overflow? Was it not a friend of consolation who stepped in, saw thee embarrassed with tender pledges of thy love, and the partner of thy cares,-took them under his protection-Heaven! thou wilt reward him for it!-and freed thee from all the terrifying apprehensions of a pārent's love?

Hast thou

But how shall I ask a question which must bring tears into so many eyes ?-Hast thou ever been wounded in a inore affecting manner still, by the loss of a most obliging friend, or been torn away from the embraces of a dear and promising child by the stroke of death? Bitter remembrance ! nature droops at it--but nature is the same in al conditions and lots of life.-A child thrust forth in an evil hour, without food, without raiment, bereft of instruction, and the means of its salvation, is a subject of more tender heart-aches, and will awaken every power of nature :-as we have felt for ourselves,-let us feel--for Christ's sake, let us feel for theirs.

LESSON CXVIII.

Remarks on the perishable nature of poetical fame.-JEFFREY.

[From a Review of Campbell's Specimens of British Poets..] Next to the impression of the vast fertility, compass, and beauty of our English poetry, the reflection that recurs most frequently and forcibly to us, in accompanying Mr. Campbell through his wide survey, is the perishable nature of poetical fame, and the speedy oblivion that has overtaken so many of the promised heirs of immortality. Of near two hundred and fifty authors, whose works are cited in these volumes, by far the greater part of whom were celebrated in their generation, there are not thirty who now enjoy any thing that can be called popularity-whose works are to be found in the hands of ordinary readers--in the shops of ordinary booksellers--or in the press for republication. About fifty more may be tolerably familiar to men of taste or literature the rest slumber on the shelves of collectors, and are partially known to a few antiquaries and scholars. Now, the fame of a poet is popular, or nothing.

He does not address himself, Kike the man of science, to the learned, or those who desire to learn, but to all mankind; and his purpose being to delight and to be praised, necessarily extends to all who can receive pleasure, or join in applause. It is strange, and somewhat humiliating, to see how great a proportion of those who had once fought their way successfully to distinction, and surmounted the rivalry of contemporary envy, have again sunk into neglect. We have great děference for public opinion; and readily admit that nothing but what is good can be permanently popular.-But while we would foster all that it bids to live, we would willingly revive much that it leaves to die. The very multiplication of works of amusement necessarily withdraws many from notice that deserve to be kept in remembrance ; for we should soon find it labor, and not amusement, if we were obliged to make use of them all, or even to take all

upon trial.

As the materials of enjoyment and instruction accumulate around us, more and more must thus be daily rejected and left to waste: for while our tasks lengthen, our lives remain as short as ever; and the calls on our time multiply, whilo our time itself is flying swiftly away. This superfluity and abundance of our treasures, therefore, necessarily renders much of them worthless; and the veriest accidents may, in such a case, determine what part shall be preserved, and what thrown away and neglected. When an army is decimated, the very bravest may fall ; and many poets, worthy of eternal remembrance, have been forgotten, merely be cause there was not room in our memories for all.

By such a work as the “Specimens," however, this injustice of fortune may be partly redressed--some small fragments of an immortal strain may still be rescued from oblivion--and a wreck of a name preserved, which time appeared to have swallowed up for ever. There is something pious, we think, and endearing, in the office of thus gathering up the ashes of renown that has passed away; or rather, of calling back the departed life of a transitory glow, and enabling those great spirits which seemed to be laid for ever, still to draw a tear of pity, or a throb of admiration, from the hearts of a forgetful generation. The body of their poetry, probably, can never be revived; but some sparks of its spirit may yet be preserved in a narrower and feebler frame.

When we look back upon the havoc which two hundred years have thus made in the ranks of our immortals,--and, above all, when we refer their rapid disappearance to the quick succession of new competitors, and the accumulation of more good works than there is time to peruse, -we can. not help being dismayed at the prospect which lies before the writers of the present day. There never was an age so prolific of popular poetry as that in which we now live ;and as wealth, population, and education extend, the pró'. duce is likely to go on increasing:

The last ten years have produced, we think, an annual supply of about ten thousand lines of good staple poetrypoetry from the very first hands that we can boast of that runs quickly to three or four large editions—and is as likely to be permanent as present success can make it. Now, if this goes .on for a hundred years longer, what a task will await the poetical readers of 1919! Our living poets will then be nearly as old as Pope and Swift are at present but there will stand between them and that generation nearly ten times as much fresh and fashionable poetry as is now interposed between us and those writers :-and if Scott, and Byron, and Campbell, have already cast Pope and Swift a good deal into the shade, in what form and dimensions are

they themselves likely to be presented to the eyes of their great-grandchildren?

The thought, we own, is a little appalling; and, we confess, we see nothing better to imagine than that they may find a comfortable place in some new collection of specimens -the cěn'tenary of the present publication. There-if the future editor have any thing like the indulgence and veneration for antiquity of his prědecessor—there shall posterity still hang with rapture on the half of Campbell—and the fourth part of Byron-and the sixth of Scott—and the scattered tythes of Crabbe-and the three per cent. of Southey, -while some good-natured critic shall sit in our mouldering chair, and more than half prefer them to those by whom they have been superseded !

It is an hyperbole of good nature, however, we fear, to ascribe to them even those dimensions at the end of a century. After a lapse of 250 years, we are afraid to think of the space they may have shrunk inio. We have no Shakspes

alas ! to shed a never-setting light on his contemporaries ;—and if we continue to write and rhyme at ihe present rate for 200 years longer, there must be some new art of short-hand reading invented-or all reading must be given up in despair.

LESSON CXIX,

The Head-Stone --Wilson. The coffin was let down to the bottom of the grave, the planks were removed from the heaped-up brink, the first rattling clods had struck their knell, the quick shovelling was over, and the long, broad, skilfully cut pieces of turf were aptly joined together, and trimly laid by the beating spade, so that the newest mound in the church-yard was scarcely distinguishable from those that were grown over by the undisturbed grăss and daisies of a luxuriant spring. The burial was soon over; and the party, with one consenting motion, having uncovered their heads, in decent reverence of the place and occasion, were beginning to separate, and about to leave the church-yard.

Here, some acquaintances, from distant parts of the parish, who had not had opportunity of addressing each other in the house that had belonged to the deceased, nor

« VorigeDoorgaan »