Page images

And Fate, and dark Alecto and her train,
And Death, and Rhadamanthus, mighty judge,
And the most drear dominion of the dead-
O! speak a word, a glance, a gleam to show me
The world to come. They sleep, or answer not.
And yet will they move from their mighty rest,
To hearken to my frail petitioning?
I cannot hope it. Priscus, Maximus-
Farewell; I faint: My tongue is withered up.
It clings against my mouth. Some air-air. Ah!
This is death, Priscus. Oh! How like a child
A Soldier sinks before him. Jove!

Max. He faints.

Priscus. He does indeed, for ever: his last breath ls mingled with the winds.



RIVER! River! little River!

Bright you sparkle on your way,
O'er the yellow peebles dancing,
Through the flowers and foliage glancing,
Like a child at play.

River! River! swelling River!

On you rush o'er rough and smooth-
Louder, faster, brawling, leaping
Over rocks, by rose-banks sweeping,
Like impetuous youth.

River! River! brimming River!

Broad and deep and still as Time,
Seeming still-yet still in motion,
Tending onward to the ocean,
Just like mortal prime.


River! River! rapid River!

Swifter now you slip away;
Swift and silent as an arrow,
Through a channel dark and narrow,
Like life's closing day.

River! River! headlong River!
Down you dash into the sea;
Sea, that line hath never sounded,
Sea, that voyage hath never rounded,
Like eternity.




A WIDE and a wild parish is that of Calartha. Its aspect is strange and unusual; for the mines with which it abounds are situated on the brink of precipices, and even carried out into the sea. The edifices attached to them are seen fixed on isolated rocks, in the midst of the wave; while the rich produce drawn from the bowels of the deep, far beneath, is conveyed, with singular ingenuity, over the lofty cliffs that tower behind. f any one is satiated with luxurious scenery (and it will sometimes atiate); if he would exchange groves, meadows, and fertile fields, for some new aspect of the evervaried and impressive face of nature, let him come to this territory. The miner thrives, so does the farmer who lives in the few cultivated and romantic valleys; the fisherman, also, plies his trade with great success off the coast; but the clergyman has scarcely enough to keep body and soul together. Notwithstanding the numerous population of the parish, he has only forty pounds a-year. Now, the man who, at the time of our acquaintance with the affairs of Calartha, was the appointed religious instructor of its inhabitants, was, in every respect, admirably suited to his office, His form was spare and fitted for activity; his features aquiline; and his large grey eye for ever restless. Had he doffed the cassock, and assumed the broadbrimmed hat, and the coarse woollen jacket and trowsers of the miner, and descended every day into the earth, he would have found there a better return for his labour than the marble hearts of his parishioners were disposed to give him. But then his profession made him a gentlehe had received a good education, and had lived, for some time at least, among scholars and men of taste,-having been maintained



at the University by one of the foundation societies, who often send

there candidates for holy orders. Poor man! from the moment he set his foot in Calartha, his daily and nightly study seemed to be, how to supply the wants of nature in a comfortable and sufficient manner: it would be profane to say luxurious for what had he to do with luxury? He was acutely sensible he had nothing to do with it.

Men's minds soon grow submissive to their situations! and after a vain and ineffectual struggle of a few weeks to keep up appearances, to vie in many things with his neighbours, to be thought to have a decent table, to be seen to wear a decent dress, he gave it up in despair, just in time to save himself from total ruin. It may be said that a bachelor, in so distant a province, where there was no

*From "The Gem for 1830,"

competition to enhance the price of a single article, need not be ruined, with economy, even on forty pounds a-year: but the curate had a mother and sister to maintain; and they took a little house on the slope of a hill, and lived together in it. How they lived; how they lodged; what they eat and drank,-are mysteries that have never yet been sufficiently explained.

Now, the curate was no economist; had the money found its way entire into his hands, it would have all melted away like the mists on one of the neighbouring hills: he would often give, and wished always to give, to the poor: he loved, but not to excess, a cheerful glass, and sometimes would cast his eye on his threadbare coat, with a determined purpose to have a new one. All these indulgences would quickly have made frightful invasions on the income, if the mother and sister had not received the quarterly ten pounds with an eager grasp, and watched over its little, gradual ebbings, with a lynx eye and iron hand: the money had as well been at the bottom of the tin shaft in the vale below, for any indulgence it brought to him who toiled for it. It was in vain that the son sometimes appealed to the parent in moving terms, when, returned from a hot and dusty walk in the midst of summer, he begged hard for a few shillings: "James," said the old lady, "remember the dignity of the cloth. Would you lower yourself by drinking, may be, more than you can bear? Go and finish the discourse you've been writing, bit by bit, all the week: 'tis a beautiful piece o' writin, and there's no doubt the squire will ask you to dinner after hearin of it." The son looked down at the sound of dignity of the cloth; both his elbows were struggling through the time-worn vestment; yet he rose with a sigh, took down his manuscript, drew the table near the window, and was soon plunged in the very depths of his subject.

It might be thought that the imagination would freeze, and the power of composition be arrested by the hourly pressure of petty sacrifices and denials,-the uncertainty, when he rose in the morning, whether any sufficient refection would be that day given to the outward man: but it did not seem so: at least, his public discourses were oftentimes very good, and even eloquent, and had evidently been the work of care and time. One reason of this perhaps was, that Sunday was his day of triumph; and he felt it to be so. After sinking, in temporal things, below his parishioners during the whole of the week; after pining for comforts which they enjoyed to the full, he found himself on this day elevated above them,-was their instuctor, their pastor, looked on by them as a man of learning and of power. He was far better adorned, also, than on week days: the gown left by his predecessor was in very good condition, and his appearance, on the whole, was respectable and impressive. Then,

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

after the service, the hand was held out more freely and respectfully: the squire stopped in the aisle, and the rich farmer without the door, to exchange kind and friendly words with him: and an invitation to dinner, from some one or another, sometimes followed. There was a singular difference in all his demeanor, and tone, and bearing, on this day: his look was no longer restless and depressed, nor his attitude stooping, nor his air soft and cringing; he spoke fast and free, sat at the friendly table as a gentleman should, and thought no more of his forty pounds a-year. The privations of the whole week rendered the now loaded board an exquisite luxury. Perhaps, for his own peace, he had better never have sat there; for, on his return at night, he was beset with the fruitless remarks and desires of his mother and sister, who were hardly ever asked out on these occasions; and during the ensuing week, the daily and frugal meal was often embittered with their repinings. To entertain a friend in his own house, was a thing that never entered his head; had he dared to make the attempt, he might as well have faced two hungry harpies, as met the looks and words of his rigid relatives. He was often to be seen of an evening seated in the little windowseat, overlooking the road; and there he feasted his eyes on the joyous groups that returned from the market of the neighbouring town, where they had eat and drunk, and were now returning, in the fulness of their hearts, to a comfortable home-to their own warm hearth. And then a knot of farmers would jog merrily by, talking in loud voices, of the current prices, the coming harvests, and of their own well-stored barns and yards. And why should so great a gulf be fixed between the pastor and his flock?" was a question he might well ask himself. Even when twilight had spread its dimness over dwelling and path, the form of the Curate might still be seen seated there: for candle-light was spared, with infinite care and skill, within the walls; and not till the middle of November, was any fire allowed. So he loved to linger over the last gleams of light, rather than turn to the void of his cheerless habitation. To defend himself from the increasing cold, he used to put on his ancient and rusty great coat, and fold it tightly round him. The want of light was supplied from the public house of the village, which was directly opposite, and only a few yards distant; for, the rooms being as usual profusely lighted, a partial glare was received from them through the windows of the Curate's apartment. But this was more to his annoyance than his comfort. Much has been said of the torments of Tantalus; but as much, and with equal justice, might be said of the sufferings of this thirsty, poor, and much desiring man, who sat, from hour to hour, in a partial gloom, in which all the senses are more vividly awake, listening to the ring

ing of glasses, and the calls, continually repeated, for more supplies of some refreshing beverage, of new and old ale, and even wine. Oft did he retire to rest with a spirit tried to the very core. Alas! it needs not a guilty conscience to embitter life; salt tears will stream down blameless cheeks.

Thus passed away two or three years: when one morning saw him summoned to a different scene,-to attend one of his parishioners, whose dwelling was at some distance. The man was dying, and over his bed bent a form and face that the eye would hardly look for within such walls: his condition in life was only that of a peasant, } yet the daughter, who was his only child, was, in all opinions, the loveliest girl in the parish. Often, with surprise, had the Curate marked her beauty from the pulpit; and in his few visits to the cottage, he had entered into conversation with her, and found, by the words that fell gently from her lips, that she had treasured his sermons in her memory and heart-the sweetest flattery, perhaps, that woman can pay to a youthful minister. He thought little of these things at this moment, however, but drew nigh to the side of his parishioner, and spoke to him in earnest and heart-felt tones: the man raised his hand in token of satisfaction, and seemed to devour every word he heard; but his eye, on which the world was now closing, was not lifted to heaven, but bent on the girl who hung over him. She was to be an orphan; and it seemed to be more than he could bear: he strove to man his spirit and call faith to his aid. But it might not be: the dread reality of the moment would not yield to the hope of future protection, which the minister strove to inculcate. The parishioner, a man of strong but untutored mind, listened in seeming calmness for some time; but when death drew near, he struggled against the stern summons, laid one hand firmly on his daughter's form, and when he felt that hand loose its hold, he turned his glazing eye on his pastor, and said, "Man, if there's a love stronger than death, 'tis that for a desolate daughter: watch over mine, if you hope for mercy; for she is an orphan." The tears of the girl did not fall alone; for the feelings of the Curate were moved to the uttermost. Deaths and funerals had, from habit, become to him familiar things; but a death like this assailed every avenue of his heart and memory. The sun was yet rising, and his red beams fell through the cottage window on the face of the dead, whose thin hand was still extended towards his child, as if he miserably mocked the king of terrors; and on the features of that child was utter friendlessness. The Minister stood, with folded arms, on the other side of the bed: his earnest aspect, and compressed lips, showed him to be no passionless spectator: he bent forward, and taking the trembling hand of the girl, led her from the apartment. He hastened to his home;

« PreviousContinue »