« AnteriorContinuar »
whispers—came around him again; first, from a distance; then, nearer and nearer. At last, he shaped them into words—“Let us walk;” they said— “ though he watches us he fears us.” He l—'twas strange to hear the dim dead speak to a living man, of himself! The maniac laughed again at the fancy, and replied to them :— * “Ay, come appear ! I give leave for it. Ye are about in crowds, I know, not yet daring to take up your old bodies till I please; but up with them graves, split on, and yield me my subjects for am I not king of the churchyard 7 Obey me !—ay, now your mouths gape—and what a yawning !—Are ye musical, too?—A jubilee of groans !—Out with it, in the name of death —Blast it about like giants carousing !” “Well blown —and now a thousand heads popped up at once—there eyes fixed on mine, as if to ask my further leave for a resurrection; and they know I am good-humoured now, and grow upward, accordingly, like a grove of bare trees that have no sap in them. And now they move; passing along in rows, like trees, too, that glide by one on a bank, while one sails merrily down the river—and all stark staring still: and others stand bolt upright against their own head-stones to contemplate. I wonder what they think of ! Move move young, old, boys, men, pale girls, and palsied grandmothers—my churchyard can never hold 'em And yet how they pass each other from corner to corner | I think they make way through one another's bodies, as they do in the grave. They'll dance anon. Minuets, at least. Why they begin already –and what partners! ...-a tall, genteel young officer takes out our village witch of the wield— she that died at Christmas—and our last rector smirks to a girl of fifteen —ha, ha! yon tattered little fellow is a radical, making a leg to the old duchess l—music music —Go, some of you that look on there, and toll the dead bell Well done ! they tie the murderer to the bell-rope, by the neck, (though he was hanged before,) and the bell swings out merrily but what face is here 7” “It was the vision of a child’s face, which he believed he caught staring at him through the glass of his watch-box—the face of an only brother who had died young. The wretch's laughter changed into tears and low wailings. By the time that his mother came to seek him, just at day-break, he was, however, again laughing; but in such a state as to frighten mirth from her heart and lips till the day she died. As has been said, symptoms of positive insanity did not long continue to appear in his words or actions; yet, when he recovered, there was still a change in him—a dark and disagreeable change, under the inveterate confirmation of which, the curious student of human nature may, at this moment, observe him in his native village."—Friendship's Offering, pp. 312–320.
We have already spoken in terms of praise of the plates which embellish ‘The Winter's Wreath, for the new year. In its literary department, we think that the present volume greatly excels all its predecessors. Its poetry, especially, classes above the usual range of the Annuals, and there is among the prose compositions an agreeable mixture of imaginative tales, essays, and sketches from real life. There are few English hearts, we suppose, that will not readily respond to the following strains, expressive of gratitude for a victory at sea, from the classic pen of Mrs. Hemans :—
“Through evening's bright repose
When the sea-fight was done;
For, on the wave, her battle had been won.
“Oh I did not thought of home
‘Yes! bright green spots that lay
“A solemn scene, and dread
The wild, brief signs of human victory!
“A stern, yet holy scene !
‘Borne through such hours afar, Thy flag hath been a star Where eagle's wing ne'er flew ; England the unprofaned, Thou of the homes unstained I Oh ! to the banner and the shrine be true !’ The Winter's Wreath, pp. 53, 54. The venerable Archdeacon Wrangham, we are happy to perceive, frequently avails himself of the medium of the Annuals, in order to keep up the connection that has long subsisted between his name and the elegancies of literature. He has contributed to the present volume two small, but very beautiful translations into Latin, of Sir E. Bridges's well-known lines on “Echo and Silence,” and of Bayley’s song “O 'tis the melody,” &c. We regret that we cannot speak in terms of similar approbation of the same writer's version into English, of Leopardi's fine and indignant address to his native Italy. From the prose articles, we select almost at random the account which the author of “Recollections of the Peninsula,” gives of a duellist who had killed his antagonist. At the same time we are not without a hope that it may, perchance, meet the eye of more than one of the rising generations, to whom those false and pernicious notions of personal dignity are familiar, which too often lead to the calamitous results that are here depicted. Of all the delusions to which the silly pride and real weakness of mankind have given rise, there is none so utterly indefensible as this of our murdering each other, by way of wiping away what is called a stain upon our honour. What stain, we may well ask, can tarnish that honour more indelibly than the blood of a fellow creature? Who deserves to be shunned by society, to be exiled from its ranks, to be driven into the solitude of his own despair, more than the man who, for some hasty word, some unintentional offence, some momentary burst of passion, takes away the life which the Deity has given to one of his children o' But let us hear the remorse of the murderer, from his own confession : we know not whether the story be drawn from fancy, or founded on fact; nor is it of any consequence one way or the other, inasmuch as the moral is true in all its parts, and the example impressive. The adversaries are said to have been friends from their earliest youth, and to have entered the army together. Upon some occasion the spirits of one of them were particularly exuberant, and in a playful mood he tipped off his friend’s cap in the presence of his fellow officers; an act which was unexpectedly repaid by a blow that knocked him down. The consequences are related in these words.
“I was instantly picked up by a tall vulgar young man, who had lately joined the regiment by exchange, in consequence of some affair of honour, in which he had been engaged with his captain, and who was a ready agent of mischief. “This business,” said he, “can only be settled in one way, and the sooner the better.”
‘I cast my eyes round to look for Hill, he had caught up his cap, and was walking away bareheaded, and two brother ensigns were following him—one of whom I knew had a pair of duelling pistols. A little fellow, who had only joined a few days, and was not more than fifteen, and to whom we had both been kind, came to me, “O Vernon,” said he, “, run after him ; unake all up; it was all foolishness; why it was only play till he got vexed; and that was your fault, I am sure he is sorry—let
us all agree to say nothing about it at mess—and to keep it from the Colonel.” ‘Such was the thought of the artless boy. Oh that he had had man's wisdom, I mean not that of such men as were with us then ; for my tall friend called him a young blockhead, and bade him hold his nonsense; and remember that officers were not school-boys. To think that of the seven persons present there was but one peace-maker, and he a child ! Had he but gone to the Colonel or any of the senior officers—there would not have been wanting some worth and wisdom to stand between “the boys” and their calamity. As it was we were both in the hands of wicked and unreasonable men, both the dull and passive slaves of a cruel CuStoin. “My tall friend went home with me to my barrack room, and wrote a challenge, which I copied scarce knowing what I did. He carried it himseif and was long away—how busy were my hopes during that interval— he will make an apology methought, he will do any thing rather than meet me. The mischief-maker at last returned—he brought no note--a verbal consent to meet me. “I never saw such a fellow,” said the wretch who had volunteered to be my second, “knock a man down, and then offer him an apology 1–why you would both be turned out of the service—he for offering, and you for accepting it.” “I would give my life,” I replied, “to avoid this meeting if it were possible.” “Well,” said my second, “it is not possible; however it is a pleasant and safe duel for you, for after receiving your shot he will of course fire in the air and make his apology; but go to the ground he must; and you need not be uneasy, perhaps you may miss him 1" “Perhaps I may miss him 1" said I ; “why I would not fire at him, or hurt a hair of his head for the universe.” “As to that,” replied my mentor—“ aim at him you must —you are the challenger; you must not call out a man, and make a fool of him, and a mockery of a duel: and expect a couple of gentlemen to stand looking on as seconds, at such a piece of chicken-hearted child's play. No-no–that will never do : I feel for you, my dear fellow, but your honour is at stake. It is a sad annoyance, but it can't be helped—I am engaged out to supper, and I shall not go to bed all night, so I shall be with you in time. Five is the hour—you need not worry about any thing, I have got pistols.” ‘The heartless wretch left me—alone—troubled—bewildered—almost out of my senses. I walked about my room ; I sat down; I lay down on my bed. I was in a sad confusion of thought. My brain was wearied with its working. I fell asleep–-I awoke at four o’clock, and got a light, washed and dressed myself. My servant, whom I had roused, stared at me, and asked if I was unwell. I said “A little so.” “Might he fetch the doctor then 2°–4° No.” ‘The only comfort I could find or make was in the resolution to fire wide of the mark—the only prayer my heart could breathe was the fervent wish that I might manage it well. “All's well that ends well,” said I to myself— we shall be friends again at breakfast as if nothing had happened. Arthur loves me, and I him, better than all others. “It wanted some minutes to five, when my odious second arrived, with his pistols wrapped in a silk handkerchief. We exchanged but a very few words. But as we walked to the ground, he said unfeelingly, “this will not be a pistols for two—coffee for one, kind of a duel, but a very harmless one, I’ll answer for it, my younker, so you need not look so pale.” My very blood ran chill as he spoke, and I felt terrified:
“We proceeded in silence to the sands. It was a dull misty morning— Hill and his second were already there. Hill's second joined mine, and they conferred a little together. I hoped that the duel might yet be averted ; I longed to run over to Hill, where he was walking up and down, about thirty yards from me, and to press him to my heart. The delay arose from Hill's second not choosing that the meeting should actually take place till a surgeon was in readiness to give any succour that might be needed. The ground was measured, but they did not suffer us to take post till they saw the assistant-surgeon about half a mile off, walking towards us. My second had so contrived matters, that this amiable doctor should know nothing of the duel, until the parties were going forth; and even then had not informed him who were the principals.
‘As I found myself opposite the youth whom I best loved, with a pistol in my hand—my eyes swam, and I felt sick and giddy—all the presence of mind I had was intent upon making sure to miss him. I heard the words, “ready”—“present.” I raised my pistol with a careful slowness, and (according to the rules, when I had gotten the aim I designed) I fired. In that moment, guilt, remorse, age, and despair, fell, as it were, upon me; and they have dwelt with me ever since—for twenty long years they have held me in their cruel hands. My hope shuddered as my finger pulled the fatal trigger: I dared not follow the shot with my eyes, but I heard the fall—and I fainted upon the earth. When I recovered my senses, I was laid by the side of Arthur Hill upon the sand, and he had got my hand in his—and he was looking at me kinder and sadder than I ever saw any body upon earth look, and in a few minutes, with a heavy sigh, he died. Poor Arthur—I killed him; and I have never been quite well since—not to say quite right. That hymn you heard me speak of was found in Arthur's desk, copied out in his own hand; and his friends sent it to me, two years ago, to comfort me; and it does for the time—but I am very miserable, good sir—very.”—The Winter's Wreath, pp. 129–134.
Miss M. A. Browne has contributed several poetical effusions to the present volume; but we are pained to say that she does not at all improve in our estimation. She labours to be perpetually fine, and in consequence she produces any thing except poetry. What a ridiculous conceit, for instance, is it, to say, as she does say, in her lines addressed to an exquisite picture of ‘Evening near the Bavarian Alps,’ that it reminded her of her own home, where ‘The low murmur of the evening prayer, Stole from the casement, till the passer by Might deem it was the jessamine blossoms there, Breathing a deeper and more fervent sigh Unto His praise, who hung them on their stems,
Like pearls on diadems 1
From such ambitious strainings, it is a real enjoyment to turn