Изображения страниц



They are all gone into a world of light,
And I alone sit lingering here!
Their very memory is fair and bright,
And my sad thoughts doth clear.

It glows and glitters in my cloudy breast,
Like stars upon some gloomy grove,

Or those faint beams in which the hill is dressed,
After the sun's remove.

I see them walking in an air of glory,

Whose light doth trample on my days,—

My days, which are at best but dull and hoary,
Mere glimmerings and decays.

O holy hope, and high humility,

High as the heavens above!

These are your walks, and ye have showed them me,
To kindle my cold love.

Dear, beauteous Death! the jewel of the just!
Shining nowhere but in the dark!
What mysteries do lie beyond thy dust,

Could man outlook that mark!

He that hath found some fledged bird's nest may know,
At first sight, if the bird be flown;

But what fair field or grove he sings in now,
That is to him unknown.

And yet, as angels, in some brighter dreams,
Call to the soul, when man doth sleep,

So some strange thoughts transcend our wonted


And into glory peep!




"And where have you been, my Mary, And where have you been from me?" "I've been at the top of the Caldon-Low, The midsummer night to see!"

"And what did you see, my Mary, All up on the Caldon Hill ?"

"I heard the drops of the water made, And the green corn ears to fill.”

"Oh tell me all, my Mary,—

All, all that ever you know; For you must have seen the fairies, Last night, on the Caldon-Low."

"Then take me on your knee, mother,

[ocr errors]

And listen, mother of mine :-
A hundred fairies danced last night,
And the harpers they were nine.

"And merry was the glee of the harp-strings, And their dancing feet so small;

But, oh, the sound of their talking

Was merrier far than all !"

"And what were the words, my Mary,

That you did hear them say?" "I'll tell you all, my mother

But let me have my way!

"And some they played with the water,
And roll'd it down the hill;

And this,' they said, shall speedily turn
The poor old miller's mill;

For there has been no water
Ever since the first of May;
And a busy man shall the miller be
By the dawning of the day!

"Oh, the miller, how he will laugh,
When he sees the mill-dam rise!
The jolly old miller, how he will laugh,
Till the tears fill both his eyes!'

"And some, they siezed the little winds,
That sounded over the hill,

And each put a horn into his mouth,
And blew so sharp and shrill-

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

"And some, they brought the brown lint-seed,

And flung it down from the Low-
And this,' said they, by the sunrise,
In the weaver's croft shall grow!

Oh, the poor lame weaver,
How will he laugh outright,
When he sees his dwindling flax field
All full of flowers by night!'

"And then upspoke a brownie,
With a long beard on his chin-

I have spun up all the tow,' said he,
And I want some more to spin.

"I've spun a piece of hempen cloth,
And I want to spin another-
A little sheet for Mary's bed,
And an apron for her mother!'

[blocks in formation]



The custom of saying grace at meals had, probably, its origin in the early times of the world, and the hunter-state of man, when dinners were precious things, and a full meal was something more than a common blessing! when a belly-full was a windfall, and looked like a special providence. In the shouts and triumphal songs with which, after a season of sharp abstinence, a lucky booty of deer's or goat's flesh would naturally be ushered home, existed, perhaps, the germ of the modern grace. It is not otherwise easy to be understood, why the blessing of food-the act of eating-should have had a particular expression of thanksgiving annexed to it, distinct from that implied and silent gratitude with which we are expected to enter upon the enjoyment of the many other various gifts and good things of existence.

I own that I am disposed to say grace upon twenty other occasions in the course of the day besides my dinner. I want a form of prayer for setting out upon a pleasant walk, for a moonlight ramble, for a friendly meeting, or a solved problem. Why have we none for books, those spiritual repasts-a grace before Milton-a grace before Shakspeare-a devotional exercise proper to be said before reading the Fairy Queen?-but the received ritual having prescribed these forms to the solitary ceremony of manducation, I shall confine my observations to the experience which I have had of the grace, properly so called; commending my new scheme for extension to a niche in the grand philosophical, poetical, and perchance in part heretical, liturgy, now compiling by my friend Homo Humanus, for the use of a certain snug congregation of Utopian Rabelæsian Christians, no matter where assembled.

The form, then, of the benediction before eating has its beauty at a poor man's table, or at the simple and unprovocative repasts of children. It is here that the grace becomes exceedingly graceful. The indigent man, who hardly knows whether he shall have a meal the next day or not, sits down to his fare with a present sense of the blessing, which can be but feebly acted by the rich, into whose minds the conception of wanting a dinner could never, but by some extreme theory, have entered. The proper end of food—the animal sustenance-is barely contemplated by them. The poor man's bread is his daily bread, literally his bread for the day. Their courses are perennial.

Again the plainest diet seems the fittest to be preceded by the grace. That which is least stimulative to appetite, leaves the mind most free for foreign considerations. A man may feel thankful, heartily thankful, over a dish of plain mutton with turnips, and have leisure to reflect upon the ordinance and institution of eating; when he shall confess a per

turbation of the mind, inconsistent with the purposes of the grace, at the presence of venison or turtle. When I have sate (a rarus hospes) at rich men's tables, with the savory soup and messes steaming up the nostrils, and moistening the lips of the guests with desire and a distracted choice, I have felt the introduction of that ceremony to be unseasonable. With the ravenous orgasm upon you, it seems impertinent to interpose a religious sentiment. It is a confusion of purpose to mutter our praises from a mouth that waters. The heats of epicurism put out the gentle flame of devotion. The incense which rises round is pagan, and the belly god intercepts it for his own. The very excess of the provision beyond the needs, takes away all the sense of propor tion between the end and means. The giver is veiled by his gifts. You are startled at the injustice of returning thanks-for what?-for having too much, while so many starve. It is to praise the Gods amiss.

I have observed this awkwardness felt, scarce consciously perhaps, by the good man who says the grace. I have seen it in clergymen and others—a sort of shame-a sense of the co-presence of circumstances which unhallow the blessing. After a devotional tone put on for a few seconds, how rapidly the speaker will fall into his common voice! helping himself or his neighbor, as if to get rid of some uneasy sensation of hypocrisy. Not that the good man was a hypocrite, or was not most conscientious in the discharge of his duty; but he felt in his inmost mind the incompatibility of the scene and the viands before him with the exercise of a calm and rational gratitude.

I hear somebody exclaim,-Would you have Christians sit down at table, like hogs to their troughs, without remembering the Giver!-no-I would have them sit down as Christians, remembering the Giver, and less like hogs. Or if their appetites must run riot, and they must pamper themselves with delicacies for which east and west are ransacked, I would have them postpone their benediction to a fitter season, when appetite is laid; when the still small voice can be heard, and the reason of the grace returns-with temperate diet and restricted dishes. Gluttony and surfeiting are no proper occasions for thanksgiving. When Jeshurun waxed fat, we read that he kicked. Virgil knew the harpy-nature better, when he put into the mouth of Celano anything but a blessing. We may be gratefully sensible of the deliciousness of some kinds of food beyond others, though that is a meaner and inferior gratitude: but the proper object of the grace is sustenance, not relishes; daily bread, not delicacies; the means of life, and not the means of pampering the carcass. With what frame or composure, I wonder, can a city chaplain pronounce his benediction at some great Hall-feast, when he knows that his last concluding pious word—and that in all probability, the sacred

tically. I own that (before meat especially) they seem to involve something awkward and unseasonable. Our appetites, of one or another kind, are excellent spurs to our reason, which might otherwise but feebly set about the great ends of preserving and continuing the species. They are fit blessings to be contemplated at a distance with a becoming gratitude; but the moment of appetite (the judicious

name which he preaches-is but the signal for so many impatient harpies to commence their foul orgies, with as little sense of true thankfulness (which is temperance) as those Virgilian fowl! It is well if the good man himself does not feel his devotions a little clouded, those foggy sensuous steams mingling with and polluting the pure altar sacrifice. The severest satire upon full tables and surfeits is the banquet which Satan, in the Paradise Regain-reader will apprehend me) is, perhaps, the least fit ed, provides for a temptation in the wilderness:

A table richly spread in regal mode

With dishes piled, and meats of noblest sort
And savor; beasts of chase, or foul of game,
In pastry built, or from the spit, or boiled,
Gris-amber-steamed; all fish from sea or shore,
Freshet or purling brook, for which was drained
Pontus, and Lucrine bay, and Afric coast.

The Tempter, I warrant you, thought these cates would go down without the recommendatory preface of a benediction. They are like to be short graces where the devil plays the host. I am afraid the poet wants his usual decorum in this place. Was he thinking of the old Roman luxury, or of a gaudy day at Cambridge? This was a temptation fitter for a Heliogabalus. The whole banquet is too civic and culinary, and the accompaniments altogether a profanation of that deep, abstracted, holy scene. The mighty artillery of sauces, which the cook-fiend conjures up, is out of proportion to the simple wants and plain hunger of the guest. He that disturbed him in his dreams, from his dreams might have been taught better. To the temperate fantasies of the famished Son of God, what sort of feasts presented themselves? He dreamed indeed,

-As appetite is wont to dream,

season for that exercise. The Quakers, who go about their business of every description with more calmness than we, have more title to the use of these benedictory prefaces. I have always admired their silent grace, and the more because I have observed their applications to the meat and drink following to be less passionate and sensual than ours. They are neither gluttons nor wine-bibbers as a people. They eat, as a horse bolts his chopped hay, with indifference, calmness, and cleanly circumstances. They neither grease nor slop themselves. When I see a citizen in his bib and tucker, I cannot imagine it a surplice.

I am no Quaker at my food. I confess I am not indifferent to the kinds of it. Those unctuous morsels of deer's flesh were not made to be received. with dispassionate services. I hate a man who swallows it, affecting not to know what he is eating. I suspect his taste in higher matters. I shrink instinctively from one who professes to like minced veal. There is a physiognomical character in the tastes for food. C holds that a man cannot have a pure mind who refuses apple dumplings. I am not certain but he is right. With the decay of my first innocence, I confess a less and less relish daily for those innocuous cates. The whole vegetable tribe have lost their gust with me. Only I stick to aspa

Of meats and drinks, nature's refreshment sweet. ragus, which still seems to inspire gentle thoughts. But what meats?

Him thought, he by the brook of Cherith stood,
And saw the ravens with their horny beaks
Food to Elijah bringing even and morn;

I am impatient and querulous under culinary disappointments; as to come home at the dinner hour, for instance, expecting some savory mess, and to find one quite tasteless and sapidless. Butter ill melted— that commonest of kitchen failures-puts me beside

Though ravenous, taught to abstain from what they my tenor. The author of the Rambler used to make

brought :

He saw the prophet also how he fled
Into the desert and how there he slept,
Under a juniper; then how awaked

inarticulate animal noises over a favorite food. Was this the music quite proper to be preceded by the grace? or would the pious man have done better to postpone his devotions to a season when the blessing might be contemplated with less perturbation? I quarrel with no man's tastes, nor would set my thin face against those excellent things, in their way, jollity and feasting. But as these exercises, however laudable, have little in them of grace or gracefulness, a man should be sure, before he ventures so to grace them, that while he is pretending his devotions otherwise, he is not secretly kissing his hand to some great fish-his Dagon-with a special consecration of no ark but the fat tureen before him. Graces are the sweet preluding strains to the banquets of angels Theoretically I am no enemy to graces; but prac-and children; to the roots and severer repasts of the

He found his supper on the coals prepared,
And by the angel was bid rise and eat,
And ate the second time after repose,
The strength whereof sufficed him forty days:
Sometimes, that with Elijah he partook,
Or as a guest with Daniel at his pulse.
Nothing in Milton is finelier fancied than these tem-
perate dreams of the divine Hungerer. To which of
these two visionary banquets, think you, would the
introduction of what is called the grace have been
the most fitting and pertinent?

Chartreuse; to the slender, but not slenderly acknowledged, refection of the poor and humble man : but at the heaped-up boards of the pampered and the luxurious they become of dissonant mood, less timed and tuned to the occasion, methinks, than the noise of those better befitting organs would be which children hear tales of, at Hog's Norton. We sit too long at our meals, or are too curious in the study of them, or are too disordered in our application to them, or engross too great a portion of those good things (which should be common) to our share, to be able with any grace to say grace. To be thankful for what we grasp exceeding our proportion, is to add hypocrisy to injustice. A lurking sense of this truth is what makes the performance of this duty so cold and spiritless a service at most tables. In houses where the grace is as indispensable as the napkin, who has not seen that never-settled question arise, as to who shall say it? while the good man of the house and the visitor clergyman, or some other guest belike of next authority, from years or gravity, shall be bandying about the office between them as a matter of compliment, each of them not unwilling to shift the awkward burthen of an equivocal duty from his own shoulders ?

I once drank tea in company with two Methodist divines of different persuasions, whom it was my fortune to introduce to each other for the first time that evening. Before the first cup was handed round, one of these reverend gentlemen put it to the other, with all due solemnity, whether he chose to say anything. It seems it is the custom with some sectaries to put up a short prayer before this meal also. His reverend brother did not at first quite apprehend him, but upon an explanation, with little less importance he made answer that it was not a custom known in his church: in which courteous evasion the other acquiescing for good manners' sake, or in compliance with a weak brother, the supplementary or tea-grace was waived altogether. With what spirit might not Lucian have painted two priests, of his religion, playing into each other's hands the compliment of performing or omitting a sacrifice,-the hungry God meantime, doubtful of his incense, with expectant nostrils hovering over the two flamens, and (as between two stools) going away in the end without his supper!

Stone walls do not a prison make,

Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage:

If I have freedom in my love,

And in my soul am free; Angels alone, that soar above, Enjoy such liberty.



Likeness of Heaven!

Agent of power!
Man is thy victim!
Shipwrecks thy dower!
Spices and jewels
From valley and sea,
Armies and banners
Are buried in thee.
What are the riches
Of Mexico's mines,
To the wealth that far down
In the deep water shines?
The proud navies that cover
The conquering west-
Thou flingest them to death
With one heave of thy breast.
From the high hills that view
Thy wreck-making shore,
When the bride of the mariner
Shrieks at thy roar;

When like lambs in the tempest,

Or mews in the blast,

O'er thy ridge broken billows
The canvass is cast.

How humbling to one
With a heart and a soul,
To look on thy greatness
And list to its roll;

To think how that heart
In cold ashes shall be,
While the voice of eternity
Rises from thee!

Yes! where are the cities
Of Thebes and of Tyre?
Swept from the nations
Like sparks from the fire;
The glory of Athens,
The splendor of Rome,
Dissolved-and for ever-
Like dew in thy foam.
But thou art almighty,
Twin brother of Time!
Fleets, tempests, nor nations
Thy glory can bow;

As the stars first beheld thee,
Still chainless art thou!

But hold! when the surges
No longer shall roll,

And that firmament's length
Is drawn back like a scroll;
Then-then shall the spirit
That sighs by thee now,
Be more mighty-more lasting-
More chainless than thou.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »