Page images
PDF
EPUB

therefore beseeching us to render them an equivalent to a certain degree. Upon this I gave them four rose-nobles, with which they were well contented, and showed so much humanity as to make us an offer to go and search for any acquaintance whom we desired to place in safety with us. I told them I had one particular friend who had escaped to the cathedral, as I conjectured, and promised them a good gratuity on his part if they saved his life. One of them accompanied by my maid-servant went to the church, and called my friend often by name ; but it was all in vain, no one answered, and we never heard mention of him from that period.

Some moments after our colonel returned, and asked if any person had offered us the least incivility. After we had disculpated the soldiers in this respect, he hastened abroad to see if there was any possibility to extinguish the fire, which had already seized great part of the city : he had hardly got into the street, when he returned, with uncommon hastiness, and said, “Show me the way out of the town, for I see plainly we shall perish in the flames if we stay here a few minutes longer." Upon this we threw the best of our goods and movables into a vaulted cellar, covered the trap-door with earth, and made our escape. My wife took nothing with her but my robe ; my maid seized a neighbour's infant child by the hand, whom we found crying at his father's door, and led him away. We found it impossible to pass through the gates of the town, which were all in a flame, and the streets burnt with great fury on either side : in a word, the heat was so intense that it was with difficulty we were able to breathe. Having made several unsuccessful attempts, we determined at last to make our escape on the side of the town next the Elbe. The streets were clogged with dead bodies, and the groans of the dying were insupportable. The Walloons and Croatians attacked us every moment, but our generous colonel protected us from their fury. When we gained the bastion, which stands on the bank of the Elbe, we descended it by the scaling-ladders which the Imperialists had made use of in the assault, and arrived at length in the enemy's camp near Rottensee, thoroughly fatigued and extremely alarmed.

The colonel made us enter his tent, and presented us some refreshments. That ceremony being over, “Well,” said he, “having saved your lives, what return do you make me?" We told him that for the present we had nothing to bestow, but that we would transfer to him all the money and plate that we had buried in the cellar, which was the whole of our worldly possessions. At this instant many Imperial officers came in, and one chanced to say to me, “Ego tibi condoleo, ego sum addictus Fidei Augustanæ.” The distressed state I found myself in made me unable to give a proper reply to the condolences of a man who carried arms against those whose religion he professed, and whose hard fortune he pretended to deplore.

Next day the colonel sent one of his domestics with my maid-servant to search for the treasure we had buried in the cellar, but they returned without success, because as the fire still continued they could not approach the trap-door. In the meanwhile the colonel made us his guests at his own table, and during our whole stay treated us not as prisoners, but as intimate friends.

One day at dinner an officer of the company happened to say, that our sins were the cause of all the evil we suffered, and that God had made use of the Catholic army to chastise us; to whom my wife replied, that the observation perhaps was but too true ; however, take care, continued she, lest God in the end should throw that very scourge into the flames. This sort of prophecy was fulfilled soon afterwards on the selfsame Imperial army, which was almost totally destroyed at the battle of Leipzic.

At length I ventured one day to ask our colonel to give us leave to depart: he complied immediately, on condition that we paid our ransom. Next morning I sent my maid into the town to try if there was any possibility of penetrating into the cellar; she was more fortunate that day, and returned with all our wealth. Having returned our thanks to our deliverer, he immediately ordered a passport to be prepared for us, with permission to retire to whatever place we should think proper, and made us a present of a crown to defray the expense of our journey. This brave Spaniard was colonel of the regiment of Savelli, and named Don Joseph de Ainsa.

0.-A TALE OF TERROR.

COURIER. (Paul LOUIS COURIER, who was born in 1774, served in the French army in Italy, in 1798-9. He was a scholar, and a man of taste; and his letters are full of indignation at the rapacity of the French conquerors. After the peace of Amiens he published several translations from the Greek. On the renewal of the war he served again in Italy; and held the rank of a chief of squadron in the Austrian campaign of 1809. He gave in his resignation in 1800, for his independent spirit made him obnoxious to the creatures of Napoleon. His literary reputation is chiefly built upon the political tracts which he wrote after the restoration of the Bourbons, which, in their caustic humour, are almost unequalled, and have been compared with the celebrated Lettres Provençales' of Pascal. The little piece which we translate gives no notion of his peculiar powers, but it is well adapted for an extract. The story is contained in a letter to his cousin, Madame Pigalle.]

I was once travelling in Calabria ; a land of wicked people, who, I believe, hate every one, and particularly the French; the reason why, would take long to tell you, suffice it to say that they mortally hate us, and that one gets on very badly when one falls into their hands. I had for a companion a young man with a face—my faith, like the gentleman that we saw at Kincy; you remember? and better still perhaps

I don't say so to interest you, but because it is a fact. In these mountains the roads are precipices ; our horses got on with much difficulty ; my companion went first ; a path which appeared to him shorter and more practicable led us astray. It was my fault. Ought I to have trusted to a head only twenty years old ? Whilst daylight lasted we tried to find our way through the wood, but the more we tried, the more bewildered we became, and it was pitch dark when we arrived at a very black-looking house. We entered, not without fear, but what could we do? We found a whole family of colliers at table; they immediately invited us to join them; my young man did not wait to be pressed: there we were eating and drinking; he at least, for I was examining the place and the appearance of our hosts. Our hosts had quite the look of colliers, but the house you would have taken for an arsenal ; there was nothing but guns, pistols, swords, knives and cutlasses. Every thing displeased me, and I saw very well that I displeased them, My companion, on the contrary, was quite one of the family, he laughed and talked with them, and with an imprudence that I ought to have foreseen (but to what purpose, if it was decreed), he told at once where we came from, where we were going, and that we were Frenchmen. Just imagine ! amongst our most mortal enemies, alone, out of our road, so far from all human succour! and then, to omit nothing that might ruin us, he played the rich man, promised to give the next morning, as a remuneration to these people and to our guides, whatever they wished. Then he spoke of his portmanteau, begging them to take care of it, and to put it at the head of his bed ; he did not wish, he said, for any other pillow. Oh, youth, youth! you are to be pitied ! Cousin, one would have thought we carried the crown diamonds. What caused him so much solicitude about this portmanteau was his mistress's letters. Supper over, they left us. Our hosts slept below, we in the upper room, where we had supped. A loft raised some seven or eight feet, which was reached by a ladder, was the resting place that awaited us; a sort of nest, into which we were to introduce ourselves by creeping under joists loaded with provisions for the year. My companion climbed up alone, and, already nearly asleep, laid himself down with his head upon the precious portmanteau. Having determined to sit up, I made a good fire, and seated myself by the side of it. The night, which had been undisturbed, was nearly over, and I began to reassure myself ; when, about the time that I thought the break of day could not be very far off, I heard our host and his wife talking and disputing below; and putting my ear to the chimney which communicated with the one in the lower room, I perfectly distinguished these words spoken by the husband : “Well, Lot us see, must they both be killed ?” To which the wife replied, “Yes ;” and I heard no more. How shall I go on? I stood scarcely breathing, my body cold as marble ; to have seen me, you could hardly have known if I were alive or dead. Good Heavens ! when I think of it now !-We two almost without weapons, against twelve or fifteen who had so many! and my companion dead with sleep and fatigue !

To call him, or make a noise, I dared not: to escape alone was impossible; the window was not high, but below were two large dogs howling like wolves. In what an agony I was, imagine if you can. At the end of a long quarter of an hour I heard some one on the stairs, and, through the crack of the door, I saw the father, his lamp in one hand, and in the other one of his large knives. He came up, his wife after him, I was behind the door ; he opened it, but before he came in he put down the lamp which his wife took. He then entered, barefoot, and from outside the woman said to him, in a low voice, shading the light of the lamp with her hand, “Softly, go softly.” When he got to the ladder, he mounted it, his knife between his teeth, and getting up as high as the bed—the poor young man lying with his throat bare—with one hand he took his knife, and with the other-Oh! Cousinhe seized a ham, which hung from the ceiling, cut a slice from it, and retired as he had come. The door was closed again, the lamp disappeared, and I was left alone with my reflections.

As soon as day appeared, all the family making a great noise came to awaken us as we had requested. They brought us something to eat, and gave us a very clean and a very good breakfast, I assure you. Two capons formed part of it, of which we must, said our hostess, take away one and eat the other. When I saw them I understood the meaning of those terrible words, “Must they both be killed ?” and I think, Cousin, you have enough penetration to guess now what they signified.

6.—THE OPENING YEAR. THE year of the Calendar and the year of the Poets might well have different starting points. The poets would welcome a new year with spring-garlands of the tenderest green, and go forth into the fields to find the first violet giving out its perfume as an offering to the reproductive power which fills the earth with gladness. But the Calendar offers us only the slow lengthening of the days to mark the progress of change; and we have little joy in the lengthening when the old saw tells us

"As day lengthens,

Cold strengthens." The Poets, however, have their resources, drawn out of the compensations that belong to the condition of us all. Hope with them becomes prophetic. “The Dirge for the Old Year swells and dances into a bridal song for the New :Orphan hours, the year is dead,

As an earthquake rocks a corse Come and sigh, come and weep!

In its coffin in the clay, Merry hours, smile instead,

So white Winter, that rough nurse, For the year is but asleep :

Rocks the dead-cold here to-day ; Sce, it smiles as it is sleeping,

Solemn hours ! wail aloud Mocking your untimely weeping.

For your mother in her shroud.

As the wild air stirs and sways

January grey is here
The tree-swung cradle of a child, Like a sexton by her grave;
So the breath of these rude days February bears the bier,

Rocks the year:be calm and mild, March with grief doth howl and rave, Trembling hours ; she will arise

And April weeps—but, О ye hours ! With new love within her eyes.

Follow with May's fairest flowers.

SHELLEY. Our ancestors assuredly had a more fervent love of nature than we have, when they filled their houses with evergreens while the snow blocked up their doorways, and replaced them with new emblems of the freshness which is never wholly dead, whilst the rains of February and the winds of March were doing their nursing-work. The song for Candlemas-day (February 2) was as true a herald of the spring as the cuckoo and the swallow : Down with rosemary and bays,

Grown old, surrender must his place Down with the mistletoe;

Unto the crisped yew. Instead of holly, now upraise

When yew is out, then birch comes in, The greener box for show.

And many flowers beside, The holly hitherto did sway;

Both of a fresh and fragrant kin, Let box now domineer,

To honour Whitsuntide. Until the dancing Easter-day,

Green rushes then, and sweetest bents, Or Easter's eve appear.

With cooler oaken boughs,
Then youthful box, which now hath grace Come in for comely ornaments,
Your houses to renew,

To readorn the house.
Thus times do shift ; each thing his turn does hold;
New things succeed as former things grow old.

HERRICK.
WORDSWORTA, in one of his charming lyrics of the Spring, makes "the opening of the year"
begin with "the first mild day of March."
It is the first mild day of March : Love, now an universal birth,
Each minute sweeter than before,

From heart to heart is stealing, The redbreast sings from the tall larch From earth to man, from man to earth; That stands beside our door.

- It is the hour of feeling. There is a blessing in the air,

One moment now may give us more Which seems a sense of joy to yield Than fifty years of reason : To the bare trees, and mountains bare, Our minds will drink at every pore And grass in the green field.

The spirit of the season. My sister! ('tis a wish of mine)

Some silent laws our hearts will make, Now that our morning meal is done, Which they shall long obey : Make haste, your morning task resign; We for the year to come may take Come forth and feel the sun.

Our temper from to-day. Edward will come with you; and pray And from the blessed power that rolls

Put on with speed your woodland dress: About, below, above, And bring no book ; for this one day We'll frame the measure of our souls : We'll give to idleness.

They shall be tuned to love. No joyless forms shall regulate

Then come, my Sister ! come, I pray, Our living Calendar:

With speed put on your woodland dress: We from to-day, my friend, will date And bring no book; for this one day The opening of the year.

We'll give to idleness.

WORDSWORTH. The "blessing in the air" is one of the beautiful indications of the awakening of the earth from its winter sleep. It may proclaim the waking hour in March ;—the cold north-east wind may permit no “sense of joy” till April. But the opening of the year comes to the Poet when be first hears the voice of gladness in the song of birds, or sees the humblest flower putting on fts livery of glory. It opened to the Ayrshire ploughman, when he heard "a Thrush sing in a Morning Walk in January;" and that song filled his heart with thankfulness and contentment:

Sing on, sweet Thrush, upon the leafless bough,

Sing on, sweet bird, I listen to thy strain:

See aged winter, 'mid his surly reign,
At thy blythe carol clears his furrow'd brow.
So in lone Poverty's dominion drear

Sits meek Content with light unanxious heart,

Welcomes the rapid movements, bids them part,
Nor asks if they bring aught to hope or fear.
I thank thee, Author of this opening day!

Thou whose bright sun now gilds the orient skies!

Riches denied, thy boon was purer joys,
What wealth could never give nor take away!

Yet come, thou child of poverty and care;

The mite high Heav'n bestowed, that mite with thee I'll share. BURNS. Sping in the lap of Winter is very beautiful. February smiles and pouts like a self-willed child. We are gladdened by the flower buds of the elder and the long flowers of the hazel. The crocus and the snow drop timidly lift up their heads. Mosses, the verdure of winter, that rejoice in moisture and defy cold, luxuriate amidst the general barrenness. The mole is busy in his burrowed galleries. There are clear mornings, not unmusical with the voices of more birds than the thrush of Burns. Spenser, the most imaginative of Poets, has painted the March of rough winds—the “ sturdy March" — the March of the bent brow,— with weapon and armour. But he is also the March of gifts and of hope, in whose “sternest frown" there is "a look of kindly promise.* So he is described by one of a band of poets, whose native voice is heard over that mighty continent which our forefathers peopled. The cultivation of the same literature—for that literature is the common property of all “who speak the tongue which Shakspere spake"-ought, amongst other influences, to bind America and England in eternal peace and good fellowship :The stormy March is come at last, When the changed winds are soft and warm

With wind, and cloud, and changingskies; And heaven puts on the blue of May I hear the rushing of the blast,

Then sing along the gushing rills, That through the snowy valley flies. And the full springs, from frost set free, Ah, passing few are they who speak, That, brightly leaping down the hills,

Wild stormy month! in praise of thee; Are just set out to meet the sea. Yet, though thy winds are loud and bleak, The year's departing beauty hides

Thou art a welcome month to me. Of wintry storms the sullen threat; For thou to northern lands again

But in thy sternest frown abides The glad and glorious sun dost bring. A look of kindly promise yet. And thou hast joined the gentle train Thou bring'st the hope of those calm skies,

And wear'st the gentle name of Spring. And that soft time of sunny showers, And, in thy reign of blast and storm, When the wide bloom on earth that lies Smiles many a long, bright, sunny day, Seems of a brighter world than ours.

BRYANT.

7.-A GOOD MAN'S DAY.

Bishop HALL, (JOSEPH HALL, Bishop of Norwich, was born at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, in Leicestershire, on the 1st July, 1574. He received his academical education at Emmanuel College, Cambridge In 1597, he published a volume of Satires, which gave great offence, but which remain to the student of English poetry as amongst the most masterly productions of their class. Pope held them to be the best poetry and the truest satire in the English language. In 1617, he was preferred to the Deanery of Worcester; in 1627, was made Bishop of Exeter; and in

« PreviousContinue »