« VorigeDoorgaan »
upon the matter in discussion, which, if not always judicious, was always received indulgently. If wages were a little higher, or expected to be so, or the quartern loaf a little lower, or it was reported that onions and butter were expected to fall, I was glad: yet, if the contrary were true, I drew from opium some means of consoling myself. For opium (like the bee, that extracts its materials indiscriminately from roses and from the soot of chimneys) can overrule all feelings into a compliance with the master-key. Some of these rambles led me to great distances: for an opium-eater is too happy to observe the motion of time. And sometimes in my attempts to steer homewards, upon nautical principles, by fixing my eye on the pole-star, and seeking ambitiously for a north-west passage, instead of circumnavigating all the capes and headlands I had doubled in my outward voyage, I came suddenly upon such knotty problems of alleys, such enigmatical entries, and such sphinx's riddles of streets without thoroughfares, as must, I conceive, baffle the audacity of porters, and confound the intellects of hackney-coachmen. I could almost have believed, at times, that I must be the first discoverer of some of these terræ incognitæ, and doubted whether they had yet been laid down in the modern charts of London. For all this, however, I paid a heavy price in distant years, when the human face tyrannized over my dreams, and the perplexities of my steps in London came back and haunted my sleep, with the feeling of perplexities moral or intellectual, that brought confusion to the reason, or anguish and remorse to the conscience.
Thus, I have shown that opium does not, of necessity, produce inactivity or torpor; but that, on the contrary, it often led me into markets and theatres. Yet, in candour, I will admit that markets and theatres are not the appropriate haunts of the opium-eater, when in the divinest state incident to his enjoyment. In that state crowds become an oppression to him; music even, too sensual and gross. He naturally seeks solitude and silence, as indispensable conditions of those trances, or profoundest reveries, which are the crown and consummation of what opium can do for human nature. I, whose disease it was to meditate too much, and to observe too little, and who, upon my first entrance at college, was nearly falling into a deep melancholy, from brooding too much on the sufferings which I had witnessed in London, was sufficiently aware of the tendencies of my own thoughts to do all I could to counteract them.—I was, indeed, like
pleasure, I have said, was to be had only on a Saturday night. What then was Saturday night to me more than any other night? I had no labours that I rested from; no wages to receive: what needed I to care for Saturday night, more than as it was a summons to hear Grassini? True, most logical reader: what you say is unanswerable. And yet so it was, and is, that, whereas different men throw their feelings into different channels, and most are apt to show their interest in the concerns of the poor, chiefly by sympathy, expressed in some shape or other, with their distresses and sorrows, I, at that time, was disposed to express my interest by sympathizing with their plea sures. The pains of poverty I had lately seen too much of; more than I wished to remember: but the pleasures of the poor, their consolations of spirit, and their reposes from bodily toil, can never become oppressive to contemplate. Now Saturday night is the season for the chief, regular, and periodic return of rest to the poor: in this point the most hostile sects unite, and acknowledge a common link of brotherhood: almost all Christendom rests from its labours. It is a rest introductory to another rest: and divided by a whole day and two nights from the renewal of toil. On this account I feel always, on a Saturday night, as though I also were released from some yoke of labour, had some wages to receive, and some luxury of repose to enjoy. For the sake, therefore, of witnessing, upon as large a scale as possible, a spectacle with which my sympathy was so entire, I used often, on Saturday nights, after I had taken opium, to wander forth, without much regarding the direction or the distance, to all the markets, and other parts of London, to which the poor resort on a Saturday night, for laying out their wages. Many a family party, consisting of a man, his wife, and sometimes one or two of his children, have I listened to, as they stood consulting on their ways and means, or the strength of their exchequer, or the price of household articles. Gradually I became familiar with their wishes, their difficulties, and their opinions. Sometimes there might be heard murmurs of discontent: but far oftener expressions on the countenance, or uttered in words, of patience, hope, and tranquillity. And, taken generally, I must say, that, in this point at least, the poor are far more philosophic than the rich-that they show a more ready and cheerful submission to what they consider as irremediable evils, or irreparable losses. Whenever I saw occasion, or could do it without appearing to be intrusive, I joined their parties; and gave my opinion
a person, who, according to the old legend, had entered the cave of Trophonius; and the remedies I sought were to force myself into society, and to keep my understanding in continual activity upon matters of science. But for these remedies I should certainly have become hypochondriacally melancholy. In after years, however, when my cheerfulness was more fully re-established, I yielded to my natural inclination for a solitary life. And, at that time, I often fell into these reveries upon taking opium; and more than once it has happened to me, on a summer night, when I have been at an open window, in a room from which I could overlook the sea at a mile below me, and could command a view of the great town of L-, at about the same distance, that I have sat, from sunset to sunrise, motionless, and without wishing to move.
to the feelings associated with all Oriental names or images. In China, over and above what it has in common with the rest of Southern Asia, I am terrified by the modes of life, by the manners, and the barrier of utter abhorrence and want of sympathy placed between us by feelings deeper than I can analyze. I could sooner live with lunatics or brute animals. All this, and much more than I can say, or have time to say, the reader must enter into before he can comprehend the unimagin able horror which these dreams of Oriental imagery and mythological tortures impressed upon me. Under the connecting feeling of tropical heat and vertical sunlights, I brought together all creatures, birds, beasts, reptiles, all trees and plants, usages and appearances, that are found in all tropical regions, and assembled them together in China or Indostan. From kindred feelings, I soon brought Egypt and all her gods under the same law. I was stared at, hooted at, grinned at, chattered at, by monkeys, by parroquets, by cockatoos. I ran into pagodas: and was fixed, for centuries, at the summit or in secret rooms; I was the idol; I was the priest; I was worshipped; 1 was sacrificed. I fled from the wrath of Brama through all the forests of Asia: Vishnu hated me: Seeva laid wait for me. I came suddenly upon Isis and Osiris: I had done a deed, they said, which the ibis and the crocodile trembled at. I was buried, for a thousand years, in stone coffins, with mummies and sphinxes, in narrow chambers at the heart of eternal pyramids. I was kissed, with cancerous kisses, by crocodiles; and laid, confounded with all unutterable slimy things, amongst reeds and Nilotic mud.
I know not whether others share in my feelings on this point; but I have often thought that if I were compelled to forego England, and to live in China, and among Chinese manners and modes of life and scenery, I should go mad. The causes of my horror lie deep; and some of them must be common to others. Southern Asia, in general, is the seat of awful images and associations. As the cradle of the human race, it would alone have a dim and reverential feeling connected with it. But there are other reasons. No man can pretend that the wild, barbarous, and capricious superstitions of Africa, or of savage tribes elsewhere, affect him in the way that he is affected by the ancient, monumental, cruel, and elaborate religions of Indostan, &c. The mere antiquity of Asiatic things, of their institutions, histories, modes of faith, &c., is so impressive, that to me the vast age of the race and name overpowers the sense of youth in the individual. A young Chinese seems to me an antediluvian man renewed. Even Englishmen, though not bred in any knowledge of such institutions, cannot but shudder at the mystic sublimity of castes that have flowed apart, and refused to mix, through such immemorial tracts of time; nor can any man fail to be awed by the names of the Ganges or the Euphrates. It contributes much to these feelings, that Southern Asia is, and has been for thousands of years, the part of the earth most swarming with human life; the great officina gentium. Man is a weed in those regions. The vast empires also, into which the enormous population of Asia has always been cast, give a further sublimity
I thus give the reader some slight abstraction of my Oriental dreams, which always filled me with such amazement at the monstrous scenery, that horror seemed absorbed, for a while, in sheer astonishment. Sooner or later came a reflux of feeling that swallowed up the astonishment, and left me, not so much in ter ror, as in hatred and abomination of what I saw. Över every form, and threat, and punishment, and dim sightless incarceration. brooded a sense of eternity and infinity that drove me into an oppression as of madness. Into these dreams only it was, with one or two slight exceptions, that any circumstances of physical horror entered. All before had been moral and spiritual terrors. But here the main agents were ugly birds, or snakes, or crocodiles; especially the last. The cursed crocodile became to me the object of more horror than almost all the rest. I was com
pelled to live with him; and (as was always the case almost in my dreams) for centuries. I escaped sometimes, and found myself in Chinese houses, with cane tables, &c. All the feet of the tables, sofas, &c., soon became instinct with life: the abominable head of the crocodile, and his leering eyes, looked out at me, multiplied into a thousand repetitions: and I stood loathing and fascinated. And so often did this hideous reptile haunt my dreams, that many times the very same dream was broken up in the very same way: I heard gentle voices speaking to me (I hear everything when I am sleeping); and instantly I awoke: it was broad noon; and my children were standing, hand in hand, at my bedside; come to show me their coloured shoes, or new frocks, or to let me see them dressed for going out. I protest that so awful was the transition from the crocodile, and the other unutterable monsters and abortions of my dreams, to the sight of innocent human natures and of infancy, that, in the mighty and sudden revulsion of mind, I wept, and could not forbear it, as I kissed their faces.
garden gate; and immediately I saw upon the left a scene far different; but which yet the power of dreams had reconciled into harmony with the other. The scene was an Oriental one; and there also it was Easter Sunday, and very early in the morning. And at a vast distance were visible, as a stain upon the horizon, the domes and cupolas of a great city-an image or faint abstraction, caught perhaps in childhood from some picture of Jerusalem. And not a bowshot from me, upon a stone, and shaded by Judean palms, there sat a woman; and I looked; and it was-Ann! She fixed her eyes upon me earnestly; and I said to her at length: "So then I have found you at last.” I waited, but she answered me not a word. Her face was the same as when I saw it last, and yet again how different! Seventeen years ago, when the lamplight fell upon her face, as for the last time I kissed her lips (lips, Ann, that to me were not polluted), her eyes were streaming with tears: the tears were now wiped away; she seemed more beautiful than she was at that time, but in all other points the same, and not older. Her looks were tranquil, but with unusual solemnity of expression; and I now gazed upon her with some awe, but suddenly her countenance grew dim, and, turning to the mountains, I perceived vapours rolling between us; in a moment all had vanished; thick darkness came on; and, in the twinkling of an eye, I was far away from mountains, and by lamplight in Oxford Street, walking again with Ann-just as we walked seventeen years before, when we were both children.
I thought that it was a Sunday morning in May, that it was Easter Sunday, and as yet very early in the morning. I was standing, as it seemed to me, at the door of my own cottage. Right before me lay the very scene which could really be commanded from that situation, but exalted, as was usual, and solemnized by the power of dreams. There were the same mountains, and the same lovely valley at their feet; but the mountains were raised to more than Alpine height, and there was interspace far larger between them of meadows and forest lawns; the hedges were rich with white roses; and no living creature was to be seen, excepting that in the green churchyard there were cattle tranquilly reposing upon the verdant graves, and particularly round about the grave of a child whom I had tenderly loved, just as I had really beheld them, a little before sunrise in the same summer, when that child died. I gazed upon the well-known scene, and I said aloud (as I thought) to myself, "It yet wants much of sunrise; and it is Easter Sunday; and that is the day on which they celebrate the first-fruits of resurrection. I will walk abroad; old griefs shall be forgotten to-day; for the air is cool and still, and the hills are high, and stretch away to heaven; and the forest-glades are as quiet as the church-able from my confusion as to its place, its yard; and, with the dew, I can wash the fever cause, its nature, and its possible issue. I, as from my forehead, and then I shall be unhappy is usual in dreams (where, of necessity, we no longer." And I turned, as if to open the make ourselves central to every movement),
The dream commenced with a music which now I often hear in dreams—a music of preparation and of awakening suspense; a music like the opening of the Coronation Anthem, and which, like that, gave the feeling of a vast march-of infinite cavalcades filing off-and the tread of innumerable armies. The morning was come of a mighty day-a day of crisis and of final hope for human nature, then suffering some mysterious eclipse, and labouring in some dread extremity. Somewhere, I knew not where somehow, I knew not how-by some beings, I knew not whom-a battle, a strife, an agony, was conducting,―was evolving like a great drama, or piece of music; with which my sympathy was the more insupport
As a final specimen, I cite one of a different character.
had the power, and yet had not the power, to
And I awoke in struggles, and cried aloud"I will sleep no more!"-Confessions of an English Opium-Eater.
THE WORTH OF HOURS.
Believe not that your inner eye
For every man's weak self, alas!
But if in earnest care you would
Those surely are not fairly spent,
And more,--though free from seeming harm,
If then a painful sense comes on
Of something from your being's chain
Upon your heart this truth may rise,--
So should we live, that every hour
That every thought and every deed
Esteeming sorrow, whose employ
FANCIES ON A TEA-CUP.
BY THOMAS HOOD.
I love to pore over old china-and to specu late, from the images, on Cathay. I can fancy that the Chinese manners betray themselves, like the drunkard's, in their cups.
How quaintly pranked and patterned is their vessel!-exquisitely outlandish, yet not bar barian. How daintily transparent! It should be no vulgar carth that produces that superlative ware, nor does it so seem in the ena melled landscape.
There are beautiful birds; there, rich flowers and gorgeous butterflies, and a delicate clime, if we may credit the porcelain. There be also horrible monsters, dragons, with us obsolete and reckoned fabulous; the main breed, doubtless, having followed Fohi (our Noah) in his wanderings thither from the Mount Ararat But how does that impeach the loveliness of Cathay? There are such creatures even in Fairy-land.
I long often to loiter in those romantic para dises-studded with pretty temples, holiday pleasure-grounds-the true Tea-Gardens. I like those meandering waters, and the abounding little islands.
And here is a Chinese nurse-maid, Ho-Fi, chiding a fretful little Pekin child. The urchin hath just such another toy, at the end of a string, as might be purchased at our own Mr. Dunnett's. It argues an advanced state of civilization where the children have many playthings; and the Chinese infants, witness their flying fishes and whirligigs, sold by the stray natives about our streets, are far gone in such juvenile luxuries.
But here is a better token. The Chinese are a polite people; for they do not make household, much less husbandry drudges, of their wives. You may read the women's for
tune in their tea-cups.
In nine cases of ten, the female is busy only in the lady-like toils of the toilette. Lo! here, how sedulously the blooming Hyson is pencilling the mortal arches and curving the crossbows of her eyebrows. A musical instrument, her secondary engagement, is at her almost invisible feet. Are such little extremities likely to be tasked with laborious offices? Marry, in kicking they must be ludicrously impotent; but then she hath a formidable growth of nails.
By her side the obsequious Hum is pouring his soft flatteries into her ear. When she walketh abroad (here it is on another sample) he shadeth her at two miles off with his umbrella. It is like an allegory of love triumphing over space. The lady is walking upon one of those frequent pretty islets, on a plain as if of porcelain, without any herbage, only a solitary flower springs up, seemingly by enchantment, at her fairy-like foot. The watery space between the lovers is aptly left as a blank, excepting her adorable shadow, which is tending towards her slave.
How reverentially is yon urchin presenting his flowers to the Gray-beard! So honourably Is age considered in China! There would be some sense, there, in birth-day celebrations. Here, in another compartment, is a solitary scholar, apparently studying the elaborate didactics of Con-Fuse-Ye.
The Chinese have, verily, the advantage of us upon earthen-ware! They trace themselves as lovers, contemplatists, philosophers: whereas, to judge from our jugs and mugs, we are nothing but sheepish piping shepherds and fox-hunters.
THE FAINT-HEARTED LOVER. Why so pale and wan, fond lover?
Prithee why so pale?
Will, when looking well can't move her, Looking ill prevail?
Prithee why so pale?
Why so dull and mute, young sinner?
Will, when speaking well can't win her,
Quit, quit, for shame; this will not move, This cannot take her;
If of herself she will not love,
Nothing can make her:
The devil take her.
SIR JOHN SUCKLING (1638).
The evening of Thursday, the 15th of February, 1827, was one of the most delightful I ever remember to have spent. I was alone; my heart beat lightly; my pulse was quickened by the exercise of the morning; my blood flowed freely through my veins, as meeting with no checks or impediments to its current; and my spirits were elated by a multitude of happy remembrances and of brilliant hopes. My apartments looked delightfully comfortable, and what signified to me the inclemency of the weather without. The rain was pattering upon the sky-light of the staircase; the sharp east wind was moaning angrily in the chimney; but as my eye glanced from the cheerful blaze of the fire to the ample folds of my closed window curtains-as the hearth-rug yielded to the pressure of my foot, while beating time to my own music, I sung, in rather a louder tone than usual, my favourite air of "Judy O'Flannigan;" the whistling of the wind and the pattering of the rain only served to enhance, in my estimation, the comforts of my home, and inspire a livelier sense of the good fortune which had delivered me from any evening engagements. Men-married men-may expatiate if they will, in good published sentences, on the delights of their firesides, and the gay cheerfulness of their family circles; but I do not hesitate to affirm that we, in our state of single blessedness, possess not only all the sweets of our condition, but derive more solid advantages from matrimony itself than any of these solemn eulogists of their own happiness can dare to pretend to derive from it. We have their dinners, without the expense of them; we have their parties, without the fatigue of those interminable domestic discussions which are inseparable from the preliminary arrangements; we share the gay and joyous summer of their homes when they are illuminated for company, and escape the intervening winter of darkness and economy; and having participated in the sunny calm, the halcyon hours of the establishment, we depart before the unreal and transitory delusion is dispersed, and leave the husband to contemplate the less brilliant changes of the lady's countenance and temper, and to maintain a single combat against the boisterous perversities of her offspring. No man can be really chez soi-can be in the full enjoyment of all the accommodation afforded by his own house, and fireside, and furniture, and presume to exercise the right of a master over them, unless