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93. The Memory of Conscience.
It has been remarked by one of the most distinguished philosophers of our own day, that no atmospheric vibration ever becomes extinct; that the pulses of speech, when they have done their work, and become, to our ear, inaudible, pass in waves away, but wander still, reflected hither and thither through the regions of the air eternally. He conceives that, as the atmosphere comprises still within itself the distinct trace of every sound impressed on any portion of it, the record indestructibly exists, - we have only to suffer a change of position, and receive the endowment of an acuter sense, to hear again every idle word that we have spoken, and every sigh that we have caused.
The truth is, that already, and within the limits of our mental nature, there is a power that will effect all this; it is fully within the scope of our natural faculties of association and memory. It may be doubted whether any idea once in the mind is ever lost, and past recall: it may drop, indeed, into the gulf of forgotten things, and the waves of successive thought roll over it; but there are in nature possible and even inevitable convulsions which may displace the waters, heave up the deep, and disentomb whatever may be fair or hideous there.
It is necessary only that associated objects should be presented, and the whole past, its most trivial features even,
the remnant of a school-boy task or the mere snatches of a dream,
- will rise up to view. Make but a pilgrimage to the scenes of your early days, when more than half of life is gone; wander again over the peaceful fields, and stand on the brink of the yet gliding stream, the silent witnesses of youthful sports and cares ; — and how the recollections of early years will throng around you. Does not remembrance seem inspired and commissioned to render back the dead?. And do they not come crowding on your sense, faces, and voices, and moving shapes, and the tones of bells, and the very feeling, too, which these things awakened once ?
If remembrance can do this, surely the memory of conscience, commissioned as it is by God to exercise a preternatural watch, will present the past in such true coloring, that the guilty soul will find itself standing in a theatre peopled with the collected images of the ills it has done; and turn where it may, the features it has made sad with grief, the eyes it has lighted with passion, the infant faces it has suffused with tears, stare upon it with insufferable fixedness. And if thus the past be truly indestructible; if thus its fragments may be regathered; if its details of evil thought and act may be thus brought together, and fused into one big agony, - why, then, it may be left to fools to maba a mock at sin.
94. Morning Hymn.
These are thy glorious works, Parent of good!
While day arises, that sweet hour of prime.
To give us only good; and if the night
95. The Idiot.
A POOR widow, in a small town in the north of England, kept a booth or stall of apples and sweetmeats. She had an idiot child, so utterly helpless and dependent, that he did not appear to be ever alive to anger or self-defence. He sat all day at her feet, and seemed to be possessed of no other sentiment of the human kind, than confidence in his mother's love, and a dread of the schoolboys, by whom he was often annoyed. His whole occupation, as he sat on the ground, was in swinging backwards and forwards, singing " Pal-lal," in a low, pathetic voice, only interrupted at intervals on the appearance of
any of his tormentors, when he clung to his mother in alarm.
From morning till evening, he sung his plaintive and aimless ditty. At night, when his poor mother gathered up her little wares to return home, so deplorable were his defects, that, while she carried her table on her head, her stock of little merchandise in her lap, and her stool in one hand, she was obliged to lead him by the other. Ever and anon, as any of the school-boys appeared in view, the harmless thing clung close to her, and hid his face in her bosom for protection. A human creature so far below the standard of humanity, was nowhere ever seen : he had not even the shallow cunning which is often found among such unfinished beings; and his simplicity could not even be measured by the standard we would apply to the capacity of a lamb. Yet he had a feeling rarely manifested even in the affectionate dog, and a knowledge never shown by any mere animal.
He was sensible of his mother's kindness, and how much he owed to her care. At night, when she spread his humble pallet, though he knew not prayer, nor could comprehend the solemnities of worship, he prostrated himself at her feet, and, as he kissed them, mumbled a kind of mental orison, as if in fond and holy devotion. In the morning, before she went abroad to resume her station in the market-place, he peeped anxiously out to reconnoitre the street; and as often as he saw any of the school;boys in the way, he held her firmly back, and sung his sorrowful “pal-lal.”
One day, the poor woman and her idiot boy were missed from the market-place, and the charity of some of the neighbors induced them to visit her hovel. They found her dead on her sorry couch, and the boy sitting beside her, holding her hand, swinging, and singing his pitiful lay more sorrowfully than he had ever done before. He could not speak, but only utter a brutish gabble. Sometimes, however, he looked as if he comprehended something of what was said. On this occasion, when the neighbors spoke to him, he looked up with a tear in his eye, and, clasping the cold hand more tenderly, sunk the strain of his mournful “pal-lal ” into a softer and sadder key.
The spectators, deeply affected, raised him from the body and he surrendered his hold of his mother's hand without resistance, retiring in silence to an obscure corner of the room. One of thein, looking towards the others, said to them, “ Poor wretch! what shall we do with him?" At that moment, he resumed his chant, and, lifting two handfuls of dust from the floor, sprinkled it on his head, and sung, with a wild and clear, heart-piercing pathos, “Pal-lal — pal-lal.”
Pallet, a small bed. - Orison, a prayer, a supplication. — Reconnoitre, to survey, to take a general view, to examine by the eye. - Resume, to take again, to begin again: re, 48. — Pathos, passion: the term is now re stricted to that which awakens tender emotions.