Imágenes de páginas

Garrick between Tragedy and Comedy, we may imagine them quite at a loss which expression to assume, whether to toll a knell or ring a peal, or strike a serio-comic chord between the two. Affection for the dead might be construed into disaffection for the living, but a reigning sovereign has so much more power of patronage than a defunct one, that they generally obey the injunction of the royal Henry to his impatient heir,

Go, bid the merry bells ring to thine ear
That thou art crowned, not that I am dead.”

Could the bells of even this sequestered village church, said I to myself, recall to us with their iron tongues the various and often contradictory occasions when the passions of man have called forth their echoes, what a humiliating record of human nature would they present! Accession of king after king, public tumult and struggle, curfew and tocsin, civil and foreign war, victories and peace, generation upon generation knelled into the church-yard, and again a new king or a new war, and fresh victories and another peace, forming but a recommencement of the old circle of events, ever new and yet the same, ever passing away and recurring, in which Nature perpetually moves! Like all other public history, they would announce to us little but suffering and crime; for tranquillity, happiness, and virtue, seek not to be trumpeted forth by their brazen clarion : and even if they unfolded to us the annals of private life, how

often would they have to tell us of fleeting joys and enduring sorrows, of sanguine hopes and bitter disappointment !

Reaching the gate of the church-yard, as this reflection passed through my mind, the first monument I encountered was that of my relative Sir Ralph Wyvill. How well do I remember the morning of his marriage! The ringers loved him, for he would sometimes mingle in their sport. They pulled the ropes with the lusty and willing arms of men who had quaffed his ale and pocketed his money; the bells threw their wide mouths up into the air, and they roared the glad tidings to the earth, till every hilltop echoed back the sound, they seemed to cry out to the Heavens

Ring out, ye crystal spheres,
And let your silver chime

Move in melodious time,

And let the base of Heaven's deep organ blow !" From every octagon brick chimney of the ancient hall, wreaths of smoke streaked the clear sunshine,_cheerful evidence of the old English hospitality and the extensive preparations for the marriage-feast that were operating within :-friends and relatives were seen interchanging shakes of the hand and cordial congratulations; servants were bustling about in new liveries and huge nosegays ;--the smart postilions, with white favours in their caps, were cracking their whips and their jokes at the gate ;-the train of carriages, with be-ribboned and be-flowered coachmen, made a goodly

and glittering show ;-gossips and rustics, in their holiday-clothes, clustered about the church-doors and windows ;—

Quips and cranks and wanton wiles,
Nods and becks and wreathed smiles,”

flickered upon every countenance ; and every tongue prophesied that the happy couple would be permanently blessed, for the bridegroom was young and rich, the maiden fond and fair. Such, however, are the predictions with which every wedding is solemnized; and if the flattering visions of the future prove too often illusory, it is to be attributed to the general lot of humanity, rather than to any inherent defects in the marriage system.

Although he seemed to possess all the constituents of conjugal happiness, the sanguine auguries of Sir Ralph's friends were speedily falsified; he parted from his wife, and returned with new ardour to his first-lovesthe bottle and the chase. On his wedding-day I had seen him, in this very church-yard, step from his carriage flushed with youth and vigour, an elastic specimen of manly beauty. Living to see him crippled, gouty, and infirm, I at last beheld him borne once more to this same spot; and methinks I now hear the deepest-mouthed of those very bells that had rung out such a merry peal on his marriage, “swinging slow with solemn roar” its sad and solitary toll for his burial-Dong! dong! dong! dong !-What a contrast did the scene present! Every shutter was closed in the windows of the old hall—its chimneys

were cold and smokeless the whole house looked forlorn and desolate, as if there were no living thing within it. The once jovial master of the ancient mansion was borne slowly from its gate beneath the sable plumes of a hearse; the gay carriage and the four noble horses, of which he was so proud, followed, as if in mockery of his present state, the servants attesting, by better evidence than their mourning liveries, the sincerity of their grief; a sad procession of coaches with the customary trappings of woe brought up the rear: sorrow was upon every face; the villagers spoke to one another in whispers; a hushing silence reigned among the assemblage, only broken by the deep toll of the passing bell; and thus did I follow the body to the family sepulchre, and heard the hollow rattling of the sand and gravel as they were cast down upon the coffin-lid of the corpse that was once Sir Ralph Wyvill.

There is not a dell or cover, a woodland or plain, for many miles around, that has not echoed to his Stentorian view-hallo! nay, even the church itself and hollow mansions of the dead, for be was no respecter of localities, have rung with the same cry. Where is that tongue now? The huntsmant might wind his horn, the whole pack give cry, and the whole field unite their shouts at the very mouth of his vault, without awakening the keen sportsman who sleeps in its deep darkness. That tongue, whose loud smack pronounced a fiat upon claret, from which there was no appeal—what is it now ?-a banquet for the worm until both shall be reconverted into dust. And

And per

[blocks in formation]

haps, ere those bells shall have rung in another new year, and awakened a new race of candidates for the grave, the hand that traces these thoughts, and the eye that reads them, may be laid also in the earth, withered-decompounded-dust!



I'm bubbled, I'm bubbled,
Oh, how I am troubled,
Bamboozled and bit!

Beggar's Opera.

Salve magna parens! All hail to the parent Society for the Suppression of Mendicity!—so far from impugning its merits, I would applaud them to the very

echo that should applaud again, always thanking Heaven that it was not established before the days of Homer, Belisarius, and Bampfylde Moore Carew, in which case we should have had three useful fictions the less, and lost three illustrations that have done yeoman's service, in pointing many a moral, and tagging as many tales. That I reverence the existing Association, and duly appreciate its benevolent exertions, is best evidenced by my proposal for a Branch or Subsidiary Company, not to interfere with duties already so fully and zealously discharged, but to take

« AnteriorContinuar »