« AnteriorContinuar »
the voice of the preacher, which had all along faltered, grew fainter and fainter, until , his utterance being entirely obstructed by the force of his feelings, he raised his handkerchief to his eyes, and burst into a loud and irrepressible flood of grief. The effect was inconceivable. The whole house resounded with the mingled groans, and sobs, and shrieks of the congregation.
7. It was some time before the tumult had subsided, so far as to permit him to proceed. Indeed, judging by the usual, but fallacious standard of my own weakness, I began to be very uneasy for the situation of the preacher. For I could not conceive how he would be able to let his audience down from the height to which he had wound them, without impairing the solemnity and dignity of his subject, or perhaps shocking them by the abruptness of the fall. But-no: the descent was as beautiful and sublime, as the elevation had been rapid and enthusiastic.
8. The first sentence with which he broke the awful silence, was a quotation from Rousseau ;- Socrates died like a philosopher, but Jesus Christ like a God!"—I despair of giving you any idea of the effect produced by this short sentence, unless you could perfectly conceive the whole manner of the man, as well as the peculiar crisis in the discourse. Never before, did I completely understand what Demosthenes meant, by laying such stress on ilelivery.
9. You are to bring before you the venerable figure of the preacher,-his blindness constantly recalling to your recollection old Homer, Ossian and Milton, and associate with his performance the melancholy grandeur of their geniuses, you are to imagine that you hear his slow, solemn, wellaccented enunciation, and his voice of affecting, trembling melody-you are to remember the pitch of passion and enthusiasm to which the congregation were raised, -and then, the few minutes of portentous, death-like silence which reigned throughout the house,—to see the preacher, removing his white handkerchief from his aged face, even yet wet from the recent torrent of his tears, and slowly stretching forth the palsied hand which holds it, begin the sentence"Socrates. died like a philosopher”—then pausing, raising his other hand, pressing them both, clasped together, with warmth and energy to his breast, lifting his sightless balls to Heaven, and pouring his whole soul into his tremulous voice“but Jesus: Christ-like a God!"- If he had been indeed and in truth an. angel of light, the effect could scarcely have been more divine.
& Quo-ta'-don, passage cited.
b Por-tent'-ous, ominous.
10. Whatever I had been able to conceive of the sublimity of Massillon, or the force of Bourdaloue, had fallen far short of the power which I felt, from the delivery of this simple sentence. The blood, which just before had rushed in a hurricane upon my brain, and, in the violence and agony of my feelings, had held my whole system in suspense, now ran back into my heart, with a sensation which I cannot describe a kind of shuddering delicious horror! The paroxysma of blended pity and indignation to which I had been transported, subsided into the deepest self-abasement, humility, and adoration. I had just been lacerated and dissolved by sympathy for our Savior, as a fellow creature; but now, with fear and trembling, I adored him as
a God!" 11. If this description gives you the impression, that this incomparable minister had any thing of shallow, theatrical trick in his manner, it does him great injustice. I have never seen, in any other orator, such an union of simplicity and majesty. He has not a gesture, an attitude, or an accent, to which he does not seem forced by the sentiment which he is expressing. His mind is too serious, too earnest, too solicitous, and, at the same time too dignified, to stoop to artifice. Although as far removed from ostentation as a man can be, yet it is clear, from the train, the style and substance of his thoughts, that he is not only a very polite scholar but a man of very extensive and profound erudition.d
12. This man has been before my imagination almost ever since. A thousand times as I rode along, I dropped the reins of my bridle, stretched forth my hand, and tried to imitate his quotation from Rousseau; a thousand times I abandoned the attempt in despair, aud felt persuaded that his peculiar manner and power, arose from an energy of soul which nature could give, but which no human being could justly copy.
The Head Stone. 1. The coffin was let down to the bottom of the grave; the planks were removed from the heaped-up brink; the first rattling clods had struck their knell; the quick shoveling was over; and the long, broad, skilfully cut pieces of turf were aptly joined together, and trimly laid by the beating spade; so that the newest mound in the church-yard, was scarcely distinguishable from those that were grown over, a Par'-ox.ysm. periodical return of a fit. c So-lic'-it-ous, anxious, careful. Lac-era-ted, torn, rent.
d E-ru-di-"tion, learning.
by the undisturbed grass and daisies of a luxuriant spring. The burial was soon over; and the party, with one consenting motion, having uncovered their heads, in decent reverence of the place and occasion, were beginning to separate, and about to leave the church-yard.
2. Here some acquaintances, from distant parts of the parish, who had not had an opportunity of addressing each other in the house that had belonged to the deceased, nor in the course of the few hundred yards that the little procession had to move over from his bed to his grave, were shaking hands, quietly and cheerfully, and inquiring after the welfare of each other's families. There, a small knot of neighbors were speaking, without exaggeration, of the respectable character which the deceased had borne, and mentioning to one another, the little incidents of his life, some of them so remote as to be known only to the gray-headed persons of the group:
3. While a few yards farther removed from the spot, were standing together parties who discusseda ordinary concerns, altogether unconnected with the funeral, such as the state of the markets, the promise of the season, or change of tenants; but still with a sobriety of manner and voice, that was insensibly produced by the influeuce of the simple ceremony now closed, -by the quiet graves around, and the shadow of the spire and gray walls of the house of God.
4. Two men yet stood together at the head of the grave, with countenances of sincere, but unimpassioned grief. They were brothers—the only sons of him who had been buried. And there was something in their situation that naturally kept the eyes of many directed upon them for a long time, and more intently than would have been the case, had there been nothing more observable about them, than the common symptoms of a common sorrow. But these two brothers, who were now standing at the head of their father's grave, had for some years been totally enstranged from each other; and the only words that had passed between them. during all that time, had been uttered within a few days past, during the necessary preparations for the old man's funeral.
5. No deep and deadly quarrel was between these brothers, and neither of them could distinctly tell the cause of this unnatural estrangement. Perhaps dim jealousies of their father's favor --selfish thoughts that will sometimes force themselves into poor men's hearts, respecting temporal expectations-—unaccommodating manners on both sides.a Dis-cuss'ed, debated.
6 Es-trang-ed, alienated in affection,
tauntinga words that mean little when uttered, but which rankle and fester in remembrance-imagined opposition of interests, that, duly considered, would have been found one and the same—these, and many other causes, slight when single, but strong when rising up together in one baneful band, had gradually, but fatally infected their hearts, till at last, they who in youth had been seldom separate, and truly attached, now met at market, and, miserable to say, at church, with dark and averted faces, like different clansmen during a feud.
6. Surely if any thing could have softened their hearts towards each other, it must have been to stand silently, side by side, while the earth, stones, and clods, were falling down upon their father's coffin. And doubtless their hearts were so softened. But pride, though it cannot prevent the holy affections of nature from being felt, may prevent them from being shown; and these two brothers stood there together, determined not to let each other know the mutual tenderness that, in spite of them, was gushing up in their hearts, and teaching them the unconfessed folly and wickedness of their causeless quarrel.
7. A head-stone had been prepared, and a person came forward to plant it. The elder brother directed him how to place it-a plain stone, with a sand-glass, skull, and crossbones, chiseled not rudely, and a few words inscribed. The younger brother regarded the operation with a troubled eye, and said, loudly enough to be heard by the by-standers, “William, this was not kind in you ; for you should have told me of this. I loved my father as well as you could love him. You were the elder, and, it may be, the favorite son; but I had a right in nature to have joined you in ordering this head-stone, had I not ?"
8. During these words, the stone was sinking into the earth, and many persons who were on their way from the grave returned. For a while the elder brother said nothing, for he had a consciousness in his heart that he ought to have consulted his father's son, in designing this last becoming mark of affection and respect to his memory; so the stone was planted in silence, and now, stood erect, decently and simply, among the other unostentatious memorials of the humble dead.
9. The inscription merely gave the name and age of the deceased, and told that the stone had been erected “by his affectionate sons.” The sight of these words seemed to soften the displeasure of the angry man, and he said, somewhat a Taunting, upbraiding with words. 6 A-vert'-ed, turned away.
more mildly, “ Yes, we were his affectionate sons, and since my name is on the stone, I am satisfied, brother. We have not drawn together kindly of late years, and perhaps never may; but I acknowledge and respect your worth; and here, before our own friends, and before the friends of our father, with my foot above his head, I express my willingness to be on better terms with you ; and if we cannot command love in our hearts, let us, at least, brother, bar out all unkindness.”
10. The minister, who had attended the funeral, and had something intrusted to him to say publicly before he left the church-yard, now came forward, and asked the elder brother why he spake not regarding this matter. He saw that there was something of a cold, and sullen pride rising up in his heart; for not easily may any man hope to dismiss from the chamber of his heart, even the vilest guest, if once cherished there. With a solemn, and almost severe air, he looked upon the relenting man, and then, changing his countenance into serenity, said gently,–
“ Behold how good a thing it is,
And how becoming well,
In unity to dwell.” 11. The time, the place, and this beautiful expression of a natural sentiment, quite overcame a heart, in which many kind, if not warm affections dwelt; and the man thus appealed to, bowed down his head and wept,—“Give me your hand, brother ;"'—and it was given, while a murmur of satisfaction arose from all present, and all hearts felt kindlier and more humanely toward each other.
12. As the brothers stood, fervently but composedly, grasping each other's hand, in the little hollow that lay between the grave of their mother, long since dead, and of their father, whose shroude was happily not yet still
, from the fall of dust to dust, the minister stood beside them with a pleasant countenance, and said, “I must fulfill the promise I made to your father on his death-bed. I must read to you a few words which his hand wrote, at an hour when his tongue denied its office.
13. " I must not say that you did your duty to your old father ;
for did he not often beseech you, apart from one another, to be reconciled, for your own sakes as Christians, for his sake, and for the sake of the mother who bare you, and, Stephen, who died that you might be born? When thé palsy struck him for the last time, you were both absent, nor was it your fault that you were not beside the old man when he died.
a Shroud, a winding sheet.