Page images
PDF
EPUB

That some unlucky messenger had brought
The news of those mischances they forethought.
And if, with care and grief o'er-tired, they slept,
They dream’d of ghosts and graves, and shriekt and wept.”

Here is a picture from the life.

“But, when the morning came, it little shewed,
Save light, to see discomfortings renewed :
For, if I staid within, I heard relations
Of nought but dying pangs and lamentations.
If, in the streets, I did my footing set,
With many sad disasters there I met.
And objects of mortality and fear,

I saw in great abundance ev'ry where.
• Here, one man stagger'd by, with visage pale;

There, lean’d another, grunting on a stall.
A third, half dead, lay gasping for his grave;
A fourth did out at window call and rave;
Yon came the bearers, sweating from the pit,
To fetch more bodies to replenish it.
A little further off, one sits and shows
The spots, which he Death's tokens doth suppose,
(E’re such they be) and makes them so indeed.”

Again, a similar one.

“This way, a stranger by his host expell’d,
That way, a servant, shut from where he dwell’d,
Came weakly stagg’ring forth, and, crush'd beneath
Diseases and unkindness, sought for death;
Which soon was found; and glad was he, they say,
Who for his death-bed gain'd a cock of hay.
At this cross path, were bearers fetching home
A neighbour, who in health did thither come:
Close by were others digging up the ground,
To hide a stranger whom they dead had found.
Before me, went with corpses many a one;
Behind, as many more did follow on."

Burials, graves, and corpses, of course, are as conspicuous objects here as in all the rest.

“ You scarce could make a little infant's bed
In all those plots, but you should pare a head,
An arm, a shoulder, or a leg away,
Of one or other who there buried lay.

One grave did often many scores enclose
Of men and women: and it may be those,
That could not in two parishes agree,
Now in one little room at quiet be.

Yon lay a heap of skulls; another there;
Here, half unburied, did a corpse appear.
Close by, you might have seen a brace of feet,
That had kickt off the rotten winding-sheet.
A little further saw we othersome,
Thrust out their arms for want of elbow room.
A lock of woman's hair; a dead man's face
Uncover'd; and a ghastly sight it was.
Oh! here, here view'd I what the glories be
Of pamper'd flesh: here plainly did I see
How grim those beauties will ere long appear,
Which we so dote on, and so covet here.
Here was enough to cool the hottest flame
Of lawless lust. Here was enough to tame
The madd’st ambition. And all they that go
Unbetter'd from such objects, worse do grow.”

Much of this poem is taken up with Wither's own contemplations during the plague, and more especially with arguments relative to his stay in the city or flight into the country. He determines, at length, upon the former, and appears to have shut himself up in a kind of solitary imprisonment.

“So long the solitary nights did last,
That I had leisure my accounts to cast;
And think upon, and over-think those things,
Which darkness, loneliness, and sorrow brings
To their consideration, who do know
From whence they came, and whither they must go.

My chamber entertain'd me all alone,
And in the rooms adjoining lodged none.
Yet, through the darksome silent night, did fly
Sometime an uncouth noise; sometime a cry;
And sometime mournful callings pierc'd my room,
Which came, I neither knew from whence, nor whom.
And oft, betwixt awaking and asleep,
Their voices who did talk, or pray, or weep,
Unto my list’ning ears a passage found,
And troubled me, by their uncertain sound."

[ocr errors]

His morning was not much to be preferred to his night.

“ No sooner wak’d I, but twice twenty knells,
And many sadly-sounding passing-bells,
Did greet mine ear, and by their heavy tolls,
To me gave notice, that some early souls
Departed whilst I slept: that other some
Were drawing onward to their longest home;
And, seemingly, presag'd that many a one
Should bid the world good night, ere it were noon.”

The poet, however, is far from repining, and, like a true enthusiast, glories in his resolution. He thus expresses his satisfaction at remaining to record the suffering of the city, and thanks the Almighty for his preservation in the midst of danger.

“Oh! God, how great a blessing, then, didst thou
Confer upon me! And what grace allow!
Oh! what am I, and what my parentage ?
That thou, of all the children of this age,
Didst chuse out me, so highly to prefer,
As of thy acts, to be a register?
And give me fortitude and resolution
To stay, and view thy judgement's execution ;
That I should live to see thy angel here,
Ev’n in his greatest dreadfulness appear?
That when a thousand fell before my face,
And at my right hand, in as little space,
Ten thousand more, I should be still protected
From that contagious blast, which them infected!
That, when of arrows thou didst shoot a flight
So thick by day, and such a storm by night
Of poison'd shafts; I, then, should walk among
The sharpest of them; and yet pass along
Unharm'd ? And that I should behold the path
Which thou dost pace in thy hot burning wrath,
Yet not consume to ashes.”

Thus far had we advanced in this review, when we cast a glance on the heap of blotted papers which had already accumulated before us. The ghost of allour good resolutions about short articles, variety, &c. &c.struck us with horror. “A plague upon the plague,” we exclaimed. It used to be reckoned a rapid disorder, but us (we hope not our readers also) it keeps in lingering torments—we fear we shall be thought to have it periodically, and that, like the tertian ague, the Plague will recur in every third number. Not so. In the next number, or the next but one, “ the Plague” shall positively die. But it would be unpardonable to rake up the ashes of the excellent M. Bertram, for a hasty gaze at the end of an article, and the glorious bishop of Marseilles, Henry de Belzune, must be treated ceremoniously and with reverence. If, too, we should drop the curtain over this great tragedy at this moment, we should eternally close a book, which ought to be looked into again before its leaves for ever lose the light. We are certain that the Britain's Remembrancer never will be opened again ; when we came to the FINIS, we suggested to the little fat volume, that it should now take leave of mortal readers ; for there was something within us (whether sleep, or fatigue, or what not) which instinctively revealed, that this book would be a sealed book for all future ages.

ART. II.The History of the famous Preacher Friar Gerund de

Campazas, otherwise Gerund Zotes. Translated from the Spanish, 2 vols. T. Davies. London, 1772.

pore serious traShould we humorousing our r
and tips in the Wa of Reviewer this, howet, jocose, ers

: We partly meditate the surprising our readers with certain indiscretions—witty, humorous, or jocose,—“ pleasant, but wrong :”-Should we do this, however, and aberrate from the serious track of Reviewers, it must be at another season,perhaps in the warm July weather, when our fancy is heated and the air is clear, and we can both see our way through the humours of the multitude, and handle them with becoming spirit. It is not in these cold days of March, when the sharp winds are abroad, blowing even the critics (the sturdiest of the wit tribe) home to their chimney corners, that we shall undertake the task. But, let the mild May open her blossoms, and June tinge the roses, and July bring forth the red peeping strawberries—and then, with the golden air about us, and the bright blue roof to look at, we may try what we can do. Then, indeed, we may luxuriate in witty indolence, and tell our readers gaily all we know of the gay and gallant spirits that have gone before us. We assure them, that there is a fine host, a dazzling array; and it will be hard indeed if we cannot catch a little of the lustre which will envelope us. There is the Senor Miguel de Cervantes; the historian of Gil Blas (“ Blas of Santillane,” the reader recollects him); the renowned Philibert de Grammont; and the wittiest of historians, the Count Antony Hamilton: there is the famous outhor (and true father, we understand) of Mr. Thomas Jones, " a foundling ;" to say nothing of Dr. Tobias Smollett, and M.Pigault Le Brun, and others, equally though differently delightful. A wit in France is an ordinary production of the soil, indigenous : a wit in England, keen, bitter, caustic, is not extraordinary. In Italy, which is extraordinary, they are not remarkable for wit; and Holland is out of the latitude. But in Spain !-that is what strikes us,-in Spain, where it should seem that nothing by right should be, save gravity and green olives, wit sprouts up like a mushroom,—and in truth, it is an exemplary birth, a fine antithesis to the common solemnity of the Spanish character.

Don Quixote is not the only instance of a Spaniard forgetting what is due to gravity, and making his readers laugh. One smiles with Guzman d'Alfarache, the Spanish rogue; and one laughs at the Fray Gerundio, the Spanish friar. And who is the Spanish friar ?--Is it possible that the reader does not know ?—that he does not know the Friar of Campazas, which is in the province of Campos, which is in Old Castile?-Does he not know the son of Antony Zotes and Catanla his wife? But we see how it is ; we must inform him.

Friar Gerund (de Campazas), then, otherwise El Fray Gerundio, otherwise Gerund Zotes, (for, like all people of a wide renown, from kings to pickpockets, our hero had a choice of names at his service) was, in truth, a somewhat remarkable person. Not that he was like Picus de Mirandula, or Crichton, or Zerah Colburn, who have put to shame all people knowing only half a dozen languages, or requiring pen or pencil to make up their minds to certain intricacies of decimals and fractions.On the contrary, our hero did not puzzle himself much on those or any other points, however he might perplex his hearers.

Being a friar by profession, he was necessarily somewhat of a parson in practice. Yet even there he was not a parson of the order of Jeremy Taylor, or Lowth, or Porteus; but of that wider range which boasts of Thwackum (was not Thwackum a parson ?) of Trulliber, and others, as its disciples; true proprietors of tythes, men who know the points of a pig, and who can preach and flog to perfection. Every man, however, has his weakness. Parson Adams (good Parson Adams!) was fond of ale, Trulliber of pork, Wildgoose of preaching, and Friar Gerund loved them all. Nothing came amiss to him, unless, indeed, it might be good advice. That, as the reader knows, or may know, has an unsavoury flavour, which, however wholesome to the stomach, invariably affronts the palate. Accord. ingly our friar rejected it, and arrived at notoriety without its

help.

The history (for after all there is a history) of Friar Gerund,

« PreviousContinue »