Page images
PDF
EPUB

Armour rusting in his halls
On the blood of Clifford calls ;-
• Quell the Scot,' exclaims the lance-
Bear me to the heart of France,
Is the longing of the shield-
Tell thy name, thou trembling field ;
Field of death, where'er thou be,
Groan thou with our victory!
Happy day, and mighty hour,
When our Shepherd, in his power,
Mailed and horsed, with lance and sword,
To his ancestors restored,
Like a re-appearing star,
Like a glory from afar,
First shall head the flock of war !."

Alas! the fervent harper did not know
That for a tranquil soul the lay was framed,
Who, long compelled in humble walks to go,
Was softened into feeling, soothed, and tamed.

Love had he found in huts where poor men lie;
His daily teachers had been woods and rills,
The silence that is in the starry sky,
The sleep that is among the lonely hills.

In him the savage virtue of the race,
Revenge, and all ferocious thoughts were dead :
Nor did he change; but kept in lofty place
The wisdom which adversity had bred.

Glad were the vales, and every cottage hearth ;
The Shepherd Lord was honoured more and more :
And ages after he was laid in earth,
“ The good Lord Clifford" was the name he bore.

Mr. Southey, describing the mountain scenery of the Lake region, says, “ The story of the Shepherd Lord Clifford, which was known only to a few antiquarians till it was told so beautifully in verse by Wordsworth, gives a romantic interest to Blencathara.” Henry Lord Clifford was the son of John Lord Clifford, who was slain at Towton, which battle placed the House of York upon the throne. His family could expect no mercy from the conqueror; for he was the man who slew the younger brother of Edward IV. in the battle of Wakefielda deed of cruelty in a cruel age. The hero of this poem fled from his paternal home, and lived for twenty-four years as a shepherd. He was restored to his rank and estates by Henry VII. The following narrative is from an old MS. quoted by Mr. Southey :

“ So in the condition of a shepherd's boy at Lonsborrow, where his mother then lived for the most part, did this Lord Clifford spend his youth, till he was about fourteen years of age, about which time his mother's father, Henry Bromflett, Lord Vesey, deceased. But a little after his death it came to be rumoured, at the court, that his daugh. ter's two sons were alive; about which their mother was examined : but her answer was, that she had given directions to send them both beyond seas, to be bred there; and she did not know whether they were dead or alive.

“ And as this Henry Lord Clifford did grow to more years, he was still the more capable of his danger, if he had been discovered. And therefore presently after his grandfather, the Lord Vesey, was dead, the said rumour of his being alive, being more and more whispered at the court, made his said loving mother, by the means of her second husband Sir Lancelot Threlkeld, to send him away with the said shepherds and their wives into Cumberland, to be kept as a shepherd there, sometimes at Threlkeld, and amongst his father-in-law's kindred, and sometimes upon the borders of Scotland, where they took lands, purposely for these shepherds that had the custody of him ; where many times his father-in-law came purposely to visit him, and sometimes his mother, though very secretly. By which mean kind of breeding this inconvenience befel him, that he could neither write nor read; for they durst not bring him up in any kind of learning lest by it his birth should be discovered. Yet, after he came to his lands and honours, he learnt to write his name only.

“ Notwithstanding which disadvantage, after he came to be possessed again, and restored to the enjoyment of his father's estate, he came to be a very wise man, and a very good manager of his estate and fortunes.

“ This Henry Lord Clifford, after he came to be possessed of his said estate, was a great builder and repairer of all his castles in the north, which had gone to decay when he came to enjoy them; for they had been in strangers' hands about twenty-four or twenty-five years. Skipton Castle, and the lands about it, had been given to William Stanley, by King Edward IV., which William Stanley's head was cut off about the tenth year of King Henry VII.; and Westmoreland was given by Edward IV. to his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who was afterwards King of England, and was slain in battle, the 22nd of August, 1485.

This Henry Lord Clifford did, after he came to his estate, exceedingly delight in astronomy, and the contemplation of the course of the stars, which it is likely he was seasoned in during the course of his shepherd's life. He built a great part of Barden Tower, (which is now much decayed,) and there he lived much; which it is thought he did the rather because in that place he had furnished himself with instruments for that study.

“He was a.plain man, and lived for the most part a country life, and came seldom either to the Court or London, but when he was called thither to sit in them as a peer of the realm, in which parliament, it is reported, he behaved himself wisely, and nobly, and like a good Englishman."

24.—THE FIRST MAN.

BUFFON. [The Comte de Buffon, the most eloquent if not the most accurate of naturalists, was born in 1707, and died in 1788. More than two thirds of his fourscore years were passed in unremitting literary labour. He was rich, luxurious, fond of display,—yet he went to bed every night at nine o'clock, and began his appointed task every morning at six. In his latter years, when asked how he could have done 80 much, he replied, “Have I not spent fifty years at my desk ?” The passage which we translate from his chapter on “Man,” will give à notion of the fertility of his imagination, under the guidance of science.]

The first man describes his first movements, his first sensations, and his first ideas, after the creation.

I recollect that moment full of joy and perplexity, when, for the first time, I was aware of my singular existence; I did not know what I was, where I was, or where I came from. I opened my eyes : how my sensations increased! the light, the vault of heaven, the verdure

of the earth, the crystal of the waters, everything interested me, ani. mated me, and gave me an inexpressible sentiment of pleasure. I thought at first that all these objects were in me, and made a part of myself. I was confirming myself in this idea, when I turned my eyes towards the sun : its brilliancy distressed me; I involuntarily closed my eyelids, and I felt a slight sensation of grief. In this moment of darkness I thought I had lost my entire being.

Afflicted and astonished I was thinking of this great change, when suddenly I heard sounds: the singing of the birds, the murmuring of the air, formed a concert the sweet influence of which touched my very soul; I listened for a long time, and I soon felt convinced that this harmony was myself. Intent upon and entirely occupied with this new part of my existence, I had already forgotten light, that other portion of my being, the first with which I had become acquainted, when I reopened my eyes. What happiness to possess once more so many brilliant objects! My pleasure surpassed what I had felt the first time, and for a while, suspended the charming effect of sound.

I fixed my eyes on a thousand different objects; I soon discovered that I might lose and recover these objects, and that I had, at my will, the power of destroying and reproducing this beautiful part of myself; and, although it seemed to me immense in its grandeur, from the quality of the rays of light, and from the variety of the colours, I thought I had discovered that it was all a portion of my being.

I was beginning to see without emotion, and to hear without agitation, when a slight breeze, whose freshness I felt, brought to me perfumes that gave me an inward pleasure, and caused a feeling of love for myself. '

Agitated by all these sensations, and oppressed by the pleasures of so beautiful and grand an existence, I suddenly rose, and I felt myself taken along by an unknown power. I only made one step; the novelty of my situation made me motionless, my surprise was extreme; I thought my existence was flying from me: the movement I had made disturbed the objects around me, I imagined everything was disordered.

I put my hand to my head, I touched my forehead and eyes; I felt all over my body; my hand then appeared to me the principal organ of my existence. What I felt was so distinct and so complete, the enjoyment of it appeared so perfect, compared with the pleasure that

light and sound had caused me, that I gave myself up entirely to this substantial part of my being, and I felt that my ideas acquired profundity and reality.

Every part of my body that I touched seemed to give back to my hand feeling for feeling, and each touch produced a double idea in my mind. I was not long in discovering that this faculty of feeling was spread over every part of my body; I soon found out the limits of my existence, which had at first seemed to me immense in extent. I had cast my eyes over my body; I thought it of enormous dimensions, so large, that all the objects that struck my eye appeared to me, in comparison, mere luminous points. I examined myself for a long time, I looked at myself with pleasure, I followed my hand with my eyes, and I observed all its movements. My mind was filled with the strangest ideas. I thought the movement of my hand was only a kind of fugitive existence, a succession of similar things. I put my hand near my eyes; it seemed to me larger than my whole body, and it hid an infinite number of objects from my view.

I began to suspect that there was an illusion in the sensations that my eyes made me experience. I had distinctly seen that my hand was only a small part of my body, and I could not understand how it could increase so as to appear of immoderate size. I then resolved to trust only to touch, which had not yet deceived me, and to be on my guard with respect to every other way of feeling and being.

This precaution was useful to me. I put myself again in motion, and I walked with my head high and raised towards heaven. I struck myself slightly against a palm tree; filled with fear, I placed my hand on this foreign substance, for such I thought it, because it did not give me back feeling for feeling. I turned away with a sort of horror, and then I knew, for the first time, that there was something distinct from myself. More agitated by this new discovery than I had been by all the others, I had great difficulty in reassuring myself; and, after having meditated upon this event, I came to the conclusion that I ought to judge of external objects, as I had judged of the parts of my own body, that it was only by touching them that I could assure myself of their existence. I then tried to touch all I saw; I wanted to touch the sun; I stretched out my arms to embrace the horizon, and I only clasped the emptiness of air. . At every experiment that I made, I became more and more sur

« PreviousContinue »