Page images
PDF
EPUB

charm, it is at least no bad philosophy to prefer the present good, even whilst looking gratefully back and hopefully forward to the past and the future. And, of a surety, no fairer specimen of a November day could well be found than this, - a day made to wander

“ By yellow commons and birch-shaded hollows,

And hedgerows bordering unfrequented lanes.'' Nor could a prettier country be found for our walk than this shady and yet sunny Berkshire, where the scenery, without rising into grandeur or breaking into wildness, is so peaceful, so cheerful, so varied, and so thoroughly English.

We must bend our steps towards the water-side, for I have a message to leave at Farmer Riley's; and sooth to say, it is no unpleasant necessity; for the road thither is smooth and dry, retired, as one likes a country walk to be, but not too lonely, which women never like; leading past the Loddon, the bright, brimming, transparent Loddon, - a fitting mirror for the bright blue sky, and terminating at one of the prettiest and most comfortable farm-houses in the neighbourhood.

How beautiful the lane is to-day, decorated with a thousand colours! The brown road, and the rich verdure that borders it, strewed with the pale yellow leaves of the elm, just beginning to fall; hedgerows glowing with long wreaths of the bramble, in every variety of purplish red; and, overhead, the unchanged green of the fir, contrasting with the spotted sycamore, the tawny beech, and the dry sere leaves of the oak, which rustle as the light wind passes through them: a few common hardy flowers, (for yellow is the common colour of flowers, whether wild or cultivated, as blue is the rare one,) flowers of many sorts, but almost of one tint, still blooming in spite of the season, and ruddy berries glowing through all. - How very beautiful is the lane!

And how pleasant is this hill where the road widens, with the group of cattle by the way-side, and George Hearn, the little post-boy, trundling his hoop at full speed, making all the better haste in his work, because he cheats himself into thinking it play! And how beautiful, again, is this patch of common at the hill-top, with the clear pool, where Martha Pither's children, - elves of three, and four, and five years old, - without any distinction of sex in their sun-burnt faces and tattered drapery, are dipping up water in their little homely cups shining with cleanliness, and a small brown

pitcher with the lip broken, to fill that great kettle, which, when it is filled, their united strength will never be able to lift! They are quite a group for a painter, with their rosy cheeks, and chubby hands, and round merry faces; and the low cottage in the background, peeping out of its vine leaves and China roses, — with Martha at the door, tidy, and comely, and smiling, preparing the potatoes for the pot, and watching the progress of dipping and filling that useful utensil, — completes the picture.

The Loddon at last! the beautiful Loddon ! and the bridge where every one stops, as by instinct, to lean over the rails, and gaze a moment on a landscape of surpassing loveliness, - the fine grounds of the “ great house," with their magnificent groups of limes, and firs, and poplars, grander than ever poplars were ; the green meadows opposite, studded with oaks and 'elms; the clear winding river; the mill with its picturesque old buildings, bounding the scene; all glowing with the rich colouring of autumn, and harmonized by the soft beauty of the clear blue sky, and the delicious calmness of the hour. The very peasant whose daily path it is, cannot cross that bridge without a pause.

But the day is wearing fast, and it grows colder and colder. I really think there will be a frost. After all, spring is the pleasantest season, beautiful as this scenery is. We must get on. Down that broad yet shadowy lane, beiween the park, dark with evergreens and dappled with deer, and the meadOw's where sheep, and cows, and horses, are grazing undet the tall elms, – that lane, where the wild bank, clothed with fern, and tufted with furze, and crowned by rich berried thorn, and thick shining holly, on the one side, seems to vie in beauty with the picturesque old paling, the bright laurels, and the plumy cedars, on the other :— down that shady lane, until the sudden turn brings us to an opening where four roads meet, where a noble avenue turns down to the “great house;" where the village church rears its modest spire from amidst its venerable yew trees; and where, - embosomed in orchards and gardens, and backed by barns and ricks, and all the wealth of the farm-yard, — stands the spacious and comfortable abode of good Farmer Riley, — the end and object of our walk.

[blocks in formation]

"This piece forms an example in change of expression ;” — the first

part of each stanza being in the bold, joyous, and swelling tones of triumph; the second, in the grave tone of aversion, regret, and dis. appointment, with “low notes,aspirated quality,suppressed force,” and “slow movement.” The close of the last stanza forms an exception, and is read with the tone of triumph.]

A crown for the victor, - a crown of light! -
From the land where the flowers ne'er feel a blight
Was gathered the wreath that around it blows;
And he, who o'ercometh his treacherous foes,

That fadeless crown shall gain. —
A king went forth on the rebel array,
Intrenched where a lovely hamlet lay;
He frowned, — and there's nought save ashes and blood,
And blackened bones, where that hamlet stood,

Yet his treacherous foes he hath not slain.

A crown for the victor, - a crown of light!
Encircled with jewels so pure and bright,
Night never hath gloomed where its lustre flows;
And he, who can conquer his proudest foes,

That glorious crown shall gain. -
A hero came from the gory field,
And low at his feet the pale captives kneeled;
In his might he hath trodden a nation down,
But he may not challenge that glorious crown,

For his proudest foes he hath not slain.

A crown for the victor, - a crown of light !-
Like the morning sun, to the dazzled sight,
From the night of a dungeon raised, it glows
And he, who can slay his deadliest foes,

That shining crown shall gain. -
With searching eye, and stealthy tread,
The man of wrath sought his enemy's bed :
Like festering wounds are the wrongs he hath borne,
And he takes the revenge his soul had sworn,

But his deadliest foe he hath not slain,

A crown for the victor, - a crown of light !-
To be worn with a robe whose spotless white
Makes darkness seem resting on Alpine snows;
And he, who o'ercometh his mightiest foes,

That robe and crown shall gain. –
With eye upraised, and forehead bare,
A pilgrim knelt down in holy prayer :
He hath wrestled with self, and with passion striven;
And to him hath the Sword of the Spirit been given ;-

Oh! crown him, for his foes, — his sins, - are slain.

EXERCISE XLII.

FORTITUDE OF THE PILGRIM FATHERS OF NEW

ENGLAND. Choate.

[The full tone of public address, belongs properly to the following pas

sage. The style of utterance is 6 declamatory orotund,but varies to “ pathos” and “ subdued expression," in the description of suffering and death.]

In a late undesigned visit to Plymouth, I sought the spot where the earlier dead of the Pilgrims were buried. It was on a bank, you remember, somewhat elevated, below the town and between it and the water, near and looking forth upon the waves, symbol of what life had been to them; ascending inland behind and above the rock, a symbol of that “rock of ages,” on which the dying had rested in the final hour. As the pilgrim found these localities, you might stand on that bank and hear the restless waters chafe and melt against its steadfast base : the unquiet of the world composed itself at the portals of the grave. On that spot were laid to rest together, the earth carefully smoothed down, that the Indians might not count the number, - the true, the pious, the beautiful, and the brave, — till the heavens be no more. There certainly was buried the first governor; and there was buried Rose, the wife of Miles Standish. “ You will go to them." wrote Robinson, “ but they shall not return to you."

When this sharp calamity had abated, came famine. “I have seen,” said Edward Winslow, quoted by Mr. Bancroft, “strong men staggering through faintness for want of food;"

and after this, and during all this, and for years, there brooded in every mind not a weak fear, but an intelligent apprehension that at any instant, — at midnight, at noonday, at the mar. riage, the baptism, or the burial of the dead, a foe more cruel than the grave, might blast, in an hour, that which disease and want had so hardly spared.

How they endured all this you have also heard. Let one fact suffice. — When, in April, the May Flower sailed for England, not one pilgrim returned in her!

The peculiarity which has seemed to me to distinguish these trials of the pilgrim age, from the chief of those which the general voice of literature has concurred to glorify, as the trials of heroism ; the peculiarity which gives to these and such as these, the attributes of a truer heroism, is this; that they had to meet them on what was then an humble, obscure, and distant stage; with no numerous audience to look on and applaud, and cast its wreaths on the fainting brow of him, whose life was rushing with his blood; and unsustained by one of those stormier, and more stimulating, impulses, and aims, and sentiments, which carry a soldier to his grave of honour, as joyfully as to the bridal bed.

Where were the pilgrims, while in this furnace of affliction ? And who saw and took thought for them? They were alone on the earth! Directly and solely “in their great Taskmaster's eye." If every one of them had died, the first winter, of lung fever, or been starved to death, or crushed by the tomahawk, who was there to mourn for them ? A few hearts in Leyden would have broken; and that had been all. Unlike the martyr, even, around whose ascended chariot wheels and horses of fire, a congregation might come to sympathize and be exalted, blasphemers to be defied, and struck with unwonted admiration, — they were alone on the earth. Primeval forests, a winter's sea, a winter's sky, circled them about, and excluded every sympathizing human eye.

To play the part of heroism on its high places, and its theatre, is not, perhaps, so very difficult. — To do it alone, as seeing Him who is invisible, was the stupendous trial of the pilgrim heroism.

I have said too, that a peculiarity in their trials, was, that they were unsustained altogether by every one of the passions, aims, stimulants, and excitations : the anger, the revenge, the hate, the pride, the awakened, the dreadful thirst of blood, the consuming love of glory, the feverish rapture of battle, that burn, as on volcanic isles, in the heart of mere secular

« PreviousContinue »