Olive Leaves; Or, Sketches of Character by Sigourney, L. H. (Lydia Howard)
This work has no errata. The following typos were corrected:
* p. 82: chesnuts -> chestnuts
In this text-only version, italic was marked with _, and text in small capitals was converted to uppercase.
[Illustration: The Indian Chief.--_P._ 229.]
SKETCHES OF CHARACTER.
MRS. L. H. SIGOURNEY.
GALL & INGLIS.
London: 25 PATERNOSTER SQUARE.
Edinburgh: 20 BERNARD TERRACE.
An Olive Leaf was the first gift of the Earth after the Flood, to the sole survivors of a buried race. It was borne by the Dove, spreading a timid wing over the surging waters, so lately without a shore.
The plant thus honoured, as the love-token of a World, rising in freshness from the wrecks of the Deluge, has long been a consecrated emblem of peace. It then brought the joyful tidings to the voyagers in the lonely Ark, of a home once more upon the green earth; and has since cheered many a Christian heart, with the assurance that the bitter waters of strife had abated.
These, my simple "Olive Leaves," would fain be love-tokens to you, sweet young friends, who may chance to take them in your hand. Buds of the olive and of the rose, are ye: pour forth the spirit of peace and love, as ye unfold and ripen on the pilgrimage of life, that you may be gathered at its close, where their bloom is eternal.
L. H. S.
THE LOST AND FOUND, 9
CHILDHOOD'S PIETY, 18
FRANK LUDLOW, 19
SILENT PEOPLE, 37
LAURA BRIDGMAN, 53
HUMBLE FRIENDS, 55
BUTTERFLY IN A SCHOOL-ROOM, 61
A BRAVE BOY, 63
MAY MORNING, 66
THE HUGUENOT GRANDFATHER'S TALE, 67
THE OLD WATCH, 86
ENTERTAINING BOOKS, 88
THE NEW YEAR, 91
ROME AND ITS RULERS, 97
THE PLOUGHING OF THE SWORD, 105
THE GOOD AND BAD EMPEROR, 108
BONAPARTE AT ST. HELENA, 120
CHRISTMAS HYMN, 127
THE FRIVOLOUS KING, 128
TO A PUPIL LEAVING SCHOOL, 131
PIOUS PRINCES, 132
EVILS OF WAR, 138
THE LIBERATED FLY, 143
THE GOOD BROTHER AND SISTER, 146
THE WAITING CHILD, 155
THE ADOPTED NIECE, 156
THE ORPHAN, 160
THE ONLY SON, 163
A REMARKABLE CHILD, 177
THE DYING SUNDAY SCHOOL BOY, 187
THE PRECOCIOUS INFANT, 189
THE LAST ROSE BUD, 195
THE CHERUB'S WELCOME, 197
THE BABE, AND THE FORGET-ME-NOT, 199
TREATMENT OF ANIMALS, 201
THE TREMBLING EYELID, 207
PEACEFUL DISPOSITIONS, 213
JOHN AND JAMES WILLIAMS, 220
THE INDIAN KING, 227
THE DOVES, 232
THE WAR-SPIRIT, 236
EARLY RECOLLECTIONS, 238
HUGUENOT FORT, 243
I HAVE SEEN AN END OF ALL PERFECTION, 252
The Lost and Found.
I have something to say to the young, about the advantage, as well as duty of obeying their parents. My story will be of an interesting boy, by the name of Charles Morton. He had a pleasant temper, and almost always wore a smile. He ardently loved his sister Caroline, who was several years younger than himself; and whenever he came from school, would ask for her, and take her in his arms, or guide her tottering footsteps.
But Charles, with all his kindness of heart, had a sad fault. He would sometimes disobey his parents, when he was out of their sight. He did not remember that the Eye of God always saw him, both in darkness and in light, and would take note of the sin that he committed, though his parents knew it not. At a short distance from his home, was a beautiful river, broad and deep. His parents had strictly charged him never to venture in, and had explained to him the danger which a boy of eight years old would incur, in a tide so strong. Notwithstanding this, he would sometimes seek a spot where the banks, or the trees upon the shore, concealed him, and take off his shoes, and step into the water. He grew fond of wading, and would occasionally stay in the water a long time. Then, he greatly desired to swim. He frequently saw larger boys amusing themselves in this way, and longed to join them. But he feared lest they might mention it to his father, and determined to go alone.
Here was the sin of the little boy, not only in continuing to disobey, but in studying how to deceive his kind parents. One fine afternoon in summer, school was dismissed at an earlier hour than usual. Now, thought Charles, I can make a trial at swimming, and get home, before my mother misses me. He sought a retired spot, where he had never seen his companions go, and hastened to throw off his clothes, and plunge into the water. He did not imagine that it was so deep there, and that the current was so exceedingly swift. He struggled with all his might, but was borne farther and farther from the shore. The sea was not a great distance from the mouth of the river, and the tide was driving on violently, and what could he do? Nothing, but to exhaust his feeble strength, and then give up, and be carried onwards. He became weary of beating the water with his feet and hands to no purpose, and his throat was dry with crying, and so he floated along, like a poor, uprooted weed. It was fearful to him to be hurried away so, with the waters roaring in his ears. He gave up all hope of seeing his dear home again, and dreaded the thought of being drowned, and devoured by monstrous fishes. How he wished that he had not disobeyed his good parents; and he earnestly prayed God to forgive him, and have mercy upon his soul.
At Charles Morton's home, his mother had prepared a bowl of bread and milk for him, because he usually was hungry when he came from school.
At length she began to look from the window, and to feel uneasy. Little Caroline crept to the door, and continually called "Tarle, Tarle!" But when the sun disappeared, and Mr. Morton returned, and nothing had been seen of the dear boy, they were greatly alarmed. They searched the places where he had been accustomed to play, and questioned his companions, but in vain. The neighbours collected, and attended the father in pursuit of his lost son. What was their distress, at finding his clothes in a remote recess, near the river's brink! They immediately gave him up as drowned, and commenced the search for his body. There was bitter mourning in his once happy home, that night. Many weeks elapsed, ere little Caroline ceased calling for her "_dear Tarle_," or the sad parents could be comforted. And it was remembered amid their affliction, that the beloved child whom they had endeavoured to teach the fear of God, had forgotten that All-seeing Eye, when he disobeyed his parents.
But while they were lamenting their lost son, he was not dead. While faintly struggling on the river, he had been discovered, and taken up by an Indian canoe. He had been borne by the swift current far from the place where he first went into the water. And it was very long after he was rescued, before he came to his senses, so as to give any connected account of himself. Then, he was greatly shocked at finding himself in a boat, with two huge Indians. He shrieked, and begged to be taken to his father's house; but they paid no attention to his cries, and silently proceeded on their voyage. They wrapped a blanket around him, because he had no clothes, and offered him some parched corn, but he had no heart to eat. By the rough tossing of the boat, he discovered that they were upon the deep sea, and the broad moon rose high, and shone long, ere they drew near to land. Stupefied with terror, one of the Indians carried him in his arms to a rude hut, and gave him to his wife.
"What have you brought?" said she, as she loosened the blanket, and discovered the dripping locks and shivering form of the affrighted child.
"A white pappoose," answered the hoarse voice of the husband. Poor Charles looked up with a cry of horror and despair. The woman regarded him earnestly for a moment.
"He is like my son that I buried," said she, and she folded her dark arms around him, and wept. She kindled a fire to warm him, and pressed food upon him, but he was sick at heart. She laid him in the rude bed of her dead child, and he sobbed himself into a deep, long sleep. It was late in the morning when he opened his eyes. Who can describe his distress! No kind parent to speak to him, no little sister to twine her arms around his neck. Nothing but a dark hovel, and strange Indian faces. The woman, with her husband and father, were the sole inhabitants of the hut, and of this lone, sea-girt island. A dreadful feeling of desolation came over him, and he laid down his head, and mourned bitterly. The red-browed woman pitied him, and adopted him into her heart, in place of the child she had lost. She brought him the coarse garments of her dead son, and he was obliged to put them on, for he had no other.
His heart sunk within him, when on going out of the door, he could see no roof save the one where he had lodged. Some little rocky islands were in sight, but none of them inhabited. He felt as if he was alone in the world, and said, "This is the punishment of my disobedience." Continually he was begging with tears, to be taken to his home, and the men promised "when we go so far again in the boat, we will carry you." But their manners were so stern, that he began to fear to urge them as much as he wished. So every night, when he had retired to sleep, the woman said to her husband, "We will keep him. He will be contented. His beautiful blue eye is not so wild and strained, as when you brought him. My heart yearns towards him, as it did over the one that shall wake no more."
She took him with her to gather the rushes, with which she platted mats and baskets, and showed him where the solitary bittern made her nest, and how to trace the swift steps of the heron, as with whirring wing half spread it hasted through the marshes to the sea. And she taught him to dig roots, which contain the spirit of health, and to know the herbs that bring sleep to the sick, and staunch the flowing blood: for she trusted that in industry, and the simple knowledge of nature, he would find content. At first, she brought him wild flowers, but she perceived that they always made him weep, for he had been accustomed to gather them for his little Caroline. So she passed them by, blooming in their wild recesses, and instructed him how to climb the trees where the grape-vine hung its airy clusters. And she gave him a choice bow and arrow, ornamented with brilliant feathers, and encouraged him to take aim at the birds that sang among the low branches. But he shrank back at the thought of hurting the warbler, and she said silently,
"Surely, the babe of the white woman is not in spirit like his red brother. He who sleeps in the grave was happy when he bent the bow and followed his father to the chase."
Little Charles spent a part of each day in watching the sails, as they glided along on the broad sea. For a long time, he would stand as near the shore as possible, and make signs, and shout, hoping they might be induced to come and take him to his home. But an object so diminutive, attracted no attention, and the small island, with its neighbouring group of rocks, looked so desolate, and the channel so obstructed and dangerous, that vessels had no motive to approach it.
When the chill of early autumn was in the air, the Indian woman invited him to assist her in gathering the golden ears of the maize, and in separating them from their investing sheath. But he worked sorrowfully, for he was ever thinking of his own dear home. Once the men permitted him to accompany them, when they went on a short fishing excursion; but he wept and implored so violently to be taken to his parents, that they frowned, and forbade him to go any more in the boat. They told him, that twice or thrice in the year they performed a long voyage, and went up the river, to dispose of the articles of their manufacture and purchase some necessary stores. They should go when spring returned, and would then carry him to his parents. So the poor little boy perceived that he must try to be patient and quiet, through the long, dreary winter, in an Indian hut. The red-browed woman ever looked smilingly upon him, and spoke to him with a sweet, fond tone. She wished him to call her mother, and was always trying to promote his comfort. After Charles had obtained the promise of her husband and father, to take him home in the spring, his mind was more at rest. He worked diligently as his strength and skill would permit, on the baskets, mats, and brooms, with which the boat was to be freighted. He took pleasure in painting with the bright colours which they obtained from plants, two baskets, which were intended as presents for his mother and Caroline.
The Indian woman often entertained him with stories of her ancestors. She spoke of their dexterity in the chase, of their valour in battle. She described their war-dances, and the feathery lightness of their canoes upon the wave. She told of the gravity of their chiefs, the eloquence of their orators, the respect of the young men for those of hoary hairs. She related instances of the firmness of their friendship, and the terror of their revenge.
"Once the whole land was theirs, said she, and no white man dwelt in it, or had discovered it. Now, our race are few and feeble, they are driven away and perish. They leave their fathers' graves, and hide among the forests. The forests fall before the axe of the white man, and they are again driven out, we know not where. No voice asks after them. They fade away like a mist, and are forgotten."
The little boy wept at the plaintive tone in which she spoke of the sorrows of her people, and said, "_I_ will pity and love the Indians, as long as I live." Sometimes, during the long storms of winter, he would tell them of the Bible, in which he had loved to read, and would repeat the hymns and chapters which he had learned at the Sabbath school. And then he regretted that he had not exerted himself to learn more when it was in his power, and that he had ever grieved his teachers. He found that these Indians were not able to read, and said, "Oh that I had now but _one_ of those books, which I used to prize so little when I was at home, and had so many." They listened attentively to all that he said. Sometimes he told them what he had learned of God, and added,
"He is a good God, and a God of truth, but I displeased him when I was disobedient to my parents."
At length, Spring appeared. The heart of little Charles leaped for joy, when he heard the sweet song of the earliest bird. Every morning he rose early, and went forth to see if the grass had not become greener during the night. Every hour, he desired to remind them of the long-treasured promise. But he saw that the men looked grave if he was impatient, and the brow of his Indian mother became each day more sad.
The appointed period arrived. The boat was laden with the products of their industry. All was ready for departure. Charles wept when he was about to take leave of his kind Indian nurse.
"I will go also," said she; and they made room for her in the boat. The bright sun was rising gloriously in the east, as they left the desolate island. Through the whole voyage she held the boy near her, or in her arms, but spoke not. Birds were winging their way over the blue sea, and, after they entered the river, poured forth the clearest melodies from shore and tree, but still she spoke not. There seemed a sorrow at her breast, which made her lip tremble, yet her eye was tearless. Charles refrained to utter the joy which swelled in his bosom, for he saw she was unhappy. He put his arm round her neck, and leaned his head on her shoulder. As evening approached, they drew near the spot, where she understood she must part from him. Then Charles said eagerly to her,
"Oh, go home with me to my father's house. Yes, yes, come all of you with me, my dear, good people, that all of us may thank you together for having saved my life."
"No," she answered sorrowfully: "I could not bear to see thy mother fold thee in her arms, and to know that thou wert mine no more. Since thou hast told me of thy God, and that he listened to prayer, my prayer has been lifted up to Him night and day, that thy heart might find rest in an Indian home. But this is over. Henceforth, my path and my soul are desolate. Yet go thy way, to thy mother, that she may have joy when she rises up in the morning, and at night goes to rest."
Her tears fell down like rain, as she embraced him, and they lifted him upon the bank. And eager as he was to meet his parents, and his beloved sister, he lingered to watch the boat as it glided away. He saw that she raised not her head, nor uncovered her face. He remembered her long and true kindness, and asked God to bless and reward her, as he hastened over the well known space that divided him from his native village.
His heart beat so thick as almost to suffocate him, when he saw his father's roof. It was twilight, and the trees where he used to gather apples, were in full and fragrant bloom. Half breathless, he rushed in at the door. His father was reading in the parlour, and rose coldly to meet him. So changed was his person, and dress, that he did not know his son. But the mother shrieked. She knew the blue eye, that no misery of garb could change. She sprang to embrace him, and fainted. It was a keen anguish to him, that his mother thus should suffer. Little Caroline clung around his neck, and as he kissed her, he whispered "Remember, God sees, and punishes the disobedient." His pale mother lifted up her head, and drew him from his father's arms, upon the bed, beside her. "Father, Mother," said the delighted boy, "forgive me." They both assured him of their love, and his father looking upward said, "My God, I thank thee! for this my son was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found."
If the meek faith that Jesus taught, Admission fail to gain Neath domes with wealth and splendour fraught, Where dwell a haughty train,
Turn to the humble hearth and see The Mother's tender care, Luring the nursling on her knee To link the words of prayer:
Or to the little bed, where kneels The child with heaven-raised eye, And all its guileless soul reveals To Him who rules the sky;
Where the young babe's first lispings keep So bright the parents tear, The "_Now, I lay me down to sleep_," That angels love to hear.
"It is time Frank and Edward were at home," said Mrs. Ludlow. So she stirred and replenished the fire, for it was a cold winter's evening.
"Mother, you gave them liberty to stay and play after school," said little Eliza.
"Yes, my daughter, but the time is expired. I wish my children to come home at the appointed time, as well as to obey me in all other things. The stars are already shining, and they are not allowed to stay out so late."
"Dear mother, I think I hear their voices now." Little Eliza climbed into a chair, and drawing aside the window-curtain, said joyfully, "O yes, they are just coming into the piazza."
Mrs. Ludlow told her to go to the kitchen, and see that the bread was toasted nice and warm, for their bowls of milk which had been some time ready.
Frank and Edward Ludlow were fine boys, of eleven and nine years old. They returned in high spirits, from their sport on the frozen pond. They hung up their skates in the proper place, and then hastened to kiss their mother.
"We have stayed longer at play than we ought, my dear mother," said Edward.
"You are nearly an hour beyond the time," said Mrs. Ludlow.
"Edward reminded me twice," said Frank, "that we ought to go home. But O, it was such excellent skating, that I could not help going round the pond a few times more. We left all the boys there when we came away. The next time, we will try to be as true as the town-clock. And it is not Edward's fault now, mother."
"My sons, I always expect you to leave your sports, at the time that I appoint. I know that you do not intend to disobey, or to give me anxiety. But you must take pains to be punctual. When you become men, it will be of great importance that you observe your engagements. Unless you perform what is expected of you, at the proper time, people will cease to have confidence in you."
The boys promised to be punctual and obedient, and their mother assured them, that they were not often forgetful of these important duties.
Eliza came in with the bread nicely toasted, for their supper.
"What a good little one, to be thinking of her brothers, when they are away. Come, sweet sister, sit between us."
Eliza felt very happy, when her brothers each gave her a kiss, and she looked up in their faces, with a sweet smile.
The evening meal was a pleasant one. The mother and her children talked cheerfully together. Each had some little agreeable circumstance to relate, and they felt how happy it is for a family to live in love.
After supper, books and maps were laid on the table, and Mrs. Ludlow said,
"Come boys, you go to school every day, and your sister does not. It is but fair that you should teach her something. First examine her in the lessons she has learned with me, and then you may add some gift of knowledge from your own store."
So Frank overlooked her geography, and asked her a few questions on the map; and Edward explained to her a little arithmetic, and told a story from the history of England, with which she was much pleased. Soon she grew sleepy, and kissing her brothers, wished them an affectionate good-night. Her mother went with her, to see her laid comfortably in bed, and to hear her repeat her evening hymns, and thank her Father in heaven, for his care of her through the day.
When Mrs. Ludlow returned to the parlour, she found her sons busily employed in studying their lessons for the following day. She sat down beside them with her work, and when they now and then looked up from their books, they saw that their diligence was rewarded by her approving eye.
When they had completed their studies, they replaced the books which they had used, in the bookcase, and drew their chairs nearer to the fire. The kind mother joined them, with a basket of fruit, and while they partook of it, they had the following conversation.
_Mrs. Ludlow._ "I should like to hear, my dear boys, more of what you have learned to-day."
_Frank._ "I have been much pleased with a book that I borrowed of one of the boys. Indeed, I have hardly thought of any thing else. I must confess that I put it inside of my geography, and read it while the master thought I was studying."
_Mrs. Ludlow._ "I am truly sorry, Frank, that you should be willing to deceive. What are called _boy's tricks_, too often lead to falsehood, and end in disgrace. On this occasion you cheated yourself also. You lost the knowledge which you might have gained, for the sake of what, I suppose, was only some book of amusement."
_Frank._ "Mother, it was the life of Charles the XII. of Sweden. You know that he was the bravest soldier of his times. He beat the king of Denmark, when he was only eighteen years old. Then he defeated the Russians, at the battle of Narva, though they had 80,000 soldiers, and he had not a quarter of that number."
_Mrs. Ludlow._ "How did he die?"
_Frank._ "He went to make war in Norway. It was a terribly severe winter, but he feared no hardship. The cold was so great, that his sentinels were often found frozen to death at their posts. He was besieging a town called Frederickshall. It was about the middle of December. He gave orders that they should continue to work on the trenches, though the feet of the soldiers were benumbed, and their hands froze to the tools. He got up very early one morning, to see if they were at their work. The stars shone clear and bright on the snow that covered every thing. Sometimes a firing was heard from the enemy. But he was too courageous to mind that. Suddenly, a cannon-shot struck him, and he fell. When they took him up, his forehead was beat in, but his right hand still strongly grasped the sword. Mother, was not that dying like a brave man?"
_Mrs. Ludlow._ "I should think there was more of rashness than bravery in thus exposing himself, for no better reason. Do you not feel that it was cruel to force his soldiers to such labours in that dreadful climate, and to make war when it was not necessary? The historians say that he undertook it, only to fill up an interval of time, until he could be prepared for his great campaign in Poland. So, to amuse his restless mind, he was willing to destroy his own soldiers, willing to see even his most faithful friends frozen every morning into statues. Edward, tell me what you remember."
_Edward._ "My lesson in the history of Rome, was the character of Antoninus Pius. He was one of the best of the Roman Emperors. While he was young, he paid great respect to the aged, and when he grew rich he gave liberally to the poor. He greatly disliked war. He said he had 'rather save the life of one subject, than destroy a thousand enemies.' Rome was prosperous and happy, under his government. He reigned 22 years, and died, with many friends surrounding his bed, at the age of 74."
_Mrs. Ludlow._ "Was he not beloved by the people whom he ruled? I have read that they all mourned at his death, as if they had lost a father. Was it not better to be thus lamented, than to be remembered only by the numbers he had slain, and the miseries he had caused?"
_Frank._ "But mother, the glory of Charles the XII. of Sweden, was certainly greater than that of a quiet old man, who, I dare say, was afraid to fight. Antoninus Pius was clever enough, but you cannot deny that Alexander, and Cæsar, and Bonaparte, had far greater talents. They will be called heroes and praised, as long as the world stands."
_Mrs. Ludlow._ "My dear children, those talents should be most admired, which produce the greatest good. That fame is the highest, which best agrees with our duty to God and man. Do not be dazzled by the false glory that surrounds the hero. Consider it your glory to live in peace, and to make others happy. Believe me, when you come to your death-beds, and oh, how soon will that be, for the longest life is short, it will give you more comfort to reflect that you have healed one broken heart, given one poor child the means of education, or sent to one heathen the book of salvation, than that you lifted your hand to destroy your fellow-creatures, and wrung forth the tears of widows and of orphans."
The hour of rest had come, and the mother opened the large family Bible, that they might together remember and thank Him, who had preserved them through the day. When Frank and Edward took leave of her for the night, they were grieved to see that there were tears in her eyes. They lingered by her side, hoping she would tell them if any thing had troubled her. But she only said, "My sons, my dear sons, before you sleep, pray to God for a heart to love peace."
After they had retired, Frank said to his brother,
"I cannot feel that it is wrong to be a soldier. Was not our father one? I shall never forget the fine stories he used to tell me about battles, when I was almost a baby. I remember that I used to climb up on his knee, and put my face close to his. Then I used to dream of prancing horses, and glittering swords, and sounding trumpets, and wake up and wish I was a soldier. Indeed, Edward, I wish so now. But I cannot tell dear mother what is in my heart, for it would grieve her."
"No, no, don't tell her so, dear Frank, and pray, never be a soldier. I have heard her say, that father's ill health, and most of his troubles, came from the life that he led in camps. He said on his death-bed, that if he could live his youth over again, he would be a meek follower of the Saviour, and not a man of blood."
"Edward, our father was engaged in the war of the Revolution, without which we should all have been slaves. Do you pretend to say that it was not a holy war?"
"I pretend to say nothing, brother, only what the Bible says, Render to no man evil for evil, but follow after the things that make for peace."
The boys had frequent conversations on the subject of war and peace. Their opinions still continued to differ. Their love for their mother, prevented their holding these discourses often in her presence; for they perceived that Frank's admiration of martial renown gave her increased pain. She devoted her life to the education and happiness of her children. She secured for them every opportunity in her power, for the acquisition of useful knowledge, and both by precept and example urged them to add to their "knowledge, temperance, and to temperance, brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness, charity."
This little family were models of kindness and affection among themselves. Each strove to make the others happy. Their fire-side was always cheerful, and the summer evening walks which the mother took with her children were sources both of delight and improvement.
Thus years passed away. The young saplings which they had cherished grew up to be trees, and the boys became men. The health of the kind and faithful mother became feeble. At length, she visibly declined. But she wore on her brow the same sweet smile which had cheered their childhood.
Eliza watched over her, night and day, with the tenderest care. She was not willing that any other hand should give the medicine, or smooth the pillow of the sufferer. She remembered the love that had nurtured her own childhood, and wished to perform every office that grateful affection could dictate.
Edward had completed his collegiate course, and was studying at a distant seminary, to prepare himself for the ministry. He had sustained a high character as a scholar, and had early chosen his place among the followers of the Redeemer. As often as was in his power, he visited his beloved parent, during her long sickness, and his letters full of fond regard, and pious confidence, continually cheered her.
Frank resided at home. He had chosen to pursue the business of agriculture, and superintended their small family estate. He had an affectionate heart, and his attentions to his declining mother, were unceasing. In her last moments he stood by her side. His spirit was deeply smitten, as he supported his weeping sister, at the bed of the dying. Pain had departed, and the meek Christian patiently awaited the coming of her Lord. She had given much council to her children, and sent tender messages to the absent one. She seemed to have done speaking. But while they were uncertain whether she yet breathed, she raised her eyes once more to her first-born, and said faintly, "My son, follow peace with all men."
These were her last words. They listened attentively, but her voice was heard no more.
Edward Ludlow was summoned to the funeral of his beloved mother. After she was committed to the dust, he remained a few days to mingle his sympathies with his brother and sister. He knew how to comfort them, out of the Scriptures, for therein was his hope, in all time of his tribulation.
Frank listened to all his admonitions, with a serious countenance, and a sorrowful heart. He loved his brother with great ardour, and to the mother for whom they mourned, he had always been dutiful. Yet she had felt painfully anxious for him to the last, because he had not made choice of religion for his guide, and secretly coveted the glory of the warrior.
After he became the head of the household, he continued to take the kindest care of his sister, who prudently managed all his affairs, until his marriage. The companion whom he chose was a most amiable young woman, whose society and friendship greatly cheered the heart of Eliza. There seemed to be not a shadow over the happiness of that small and loving family.
But in little more than a year after Frank's marriage, the second war between this country and Great Britain commenced. Eliza trembled as she saw him possessing himself of all its details, and neglecting his business to gather and relate every rumour of war. Still she relied on his affection for his wife, to retain him at home. She could not understand the depth and force of the passion that prompted him to be a soldier.
At length he rashly enlisted. It was a sad night for that affectionate family, when he informed them that he must leave them and join the army. His young wife felt it the more deeply, because she had but recently buried a new-born babe. He comforted her as well as he could. He assured her that his regiment would not probably be stationed at any great distance, that he would come home as often as possible, and that she should constantly receive letters from him. He told her that she could not imagine how restless and miserable he had been in his mind, ever since war was declared. He could not bear to have his country insulted, and take no part in her defence. Now, he said, he should again feel a quiet conscience, because he had done his duty, that the war would undoubtedly soon be terminated, and then he should return home, and they would all be happy together. He hinted at the promotion which courage might win, but such ambition had no part in his wife's gentler nature. He begged her not to distress him by her lamentations, but to let him go away with a strong heart, like a hero.
When his wife and sister found that there was no alternative, they endeavoured to comply with his request, and to part with him as calmly as possible. So Frank Ludlow went to be a soldier. He was twenty-five years old, a tall, handsome, and healthful young man. At the regimental trainings in his native town, he had often been told how well he looked in a military dress. This had flattered his vanity. He loved martial music, and thought he should never be tired of serving his country.
But a life in camps has many evils, of which those who dwell at home are entirely ignorant. Frank Ludlow scorned to complain of hardships, and bore fatigue and privation, as well as the best. He was undoubtedly a brave man, and never seemed in higher spirits, than when preparing for battle.
When a few months had past, the novelty of his situation wore off. There were many times in which he thought of his quiet home, and his dear wife and sister, until his heart was heavy in his bosom. He longed to see them, but leave of absence could not be obtained. He felt so unhappy, that he thought he could not endure it, and, always moved more by impulse than principle, absconded to visit them.
When he returned to the regiment, it was to be disgraced for disobedience. Thus humbled before his comrades, he felt indignant and disgusted. He knew it was according to the rules of war, but he hoped that _he_ might have been excused.
Some time after, a letter from home informed him of the birth of an infant. His feelings as a father were strong, and he yearned to see it. He attempted to obtain a furlough, but in vain. He was determined to go, and so departed without leave. On the second day of his journey, when at no great distance from the house, he was taken, and brought back as a deserter.
The punishment that followed, made him loathe war, in all its forms. He had seen it at a distance, in its garb of glory, and worshipped the splendour that encircles the hero. But he had not taken into view the miseries of the private soldier, nor believed that the cup of glory was for others, and the dregs of bitterness for him. The patriotism of which he had boasted, vanished like a shadow, in the hour of trial; for ambition, and not principle, had induced him to become a soldier.
His state of mind rendered him an object of compassion. The strains of martial music, which he once admired, were discordant to his ear. His daily duties became irksome to him. He shunned conversation, and thought continually of his sweet, forsaken home, of the admonitions of his departed mother, and the disappointment of all his gilded hopes.
The regiment to which he was attached, was ordered to a distant part of the country. It was an additional affliction to be so widely separated from the objects of his love. In utter desperation he again deserted.
He was greatly fatigued, when he came in sight of his home. Its green trees, and the fair fields which he so oft had tilled, smiled as an Eden upon him. But he entered, as a lost spirit. His wife and sister wept with joy, as they embraced him, and put his infant son into his arms. Its smiles and caresses woke him to agony, for he knew he must soon take his leave of it, perhaps for ever.
He mentioned that his furlough would expire in a few days, and that he had some hopes when winter came of obtaining a substitute, and then they would be parted no more. He strove to appear cheerful, but his wife and sister saw that there was a weight upon his spirit, and a cloud on his brow, which they had never perceived before. He started at every sudden sound, for he feared that he should be sought for in his own house, and taken back to the army.
When he dared no longer remain, he tore himself away, but not, as his family supposed, to return to his duty. Disguising himself, he travelled rapidly in a different direction, resolving to conceal himself in the far west, or if necessary, to fly his country, rather than rejoin the army.
But in spite of every precaution, he was recognized by a party of soldiers, who carried him back to his regiment, having been three times a deserter. He was bound, and taken to the guard-house, where a court-martial convened, to try his offence.
It was now the summer of 1814. The morning sun shone forth brightly upon rock, and hill, and stream. But the quiet beauty of the rural landscape was vexed by the bustle and glare of a military encampment. Tent and barrack rose up among the verdure, and the shrill, spirit-stirring bugle echoed through the deep valley.
On the day of which we speak, the music seemed strangely subdued and solemn. Muffled drums, and wind instruments mournfully playing, announced the slow march of a procession. A pinioned prisoner came forth from his confinement. A coffin of rough boards was borne before him. By his side walked the chaplain, who had laboured to prepare his soul for its extremity, and went with him as a pitying and sustaining spirit, to the last verge of life.
The sentenced man wore a long white mantle, like a winding-sheet. On his head was a cap of the same colour, bordered with black. Behind him, several prisoners walked, two and two. They had been confined for various offences, and a part of their punishment was to stand by, and witness the fate of their comrade. A strong guard of soldiers, marched in order, with loaded muskets, and fixed bayonets.
Such was the sad spectacle on that cloudless morning: a man in full strength and beauty, clad in burial garments, and walking onward to his grave. The procession halted at a broad open field. A mound of earth freshly thrown up in its centre, marked the yawning and untimely grave. Beyond it, many hundred men, drawn up in the form of a hollow square, stood in solemn silence.
The voice of the officer of the day, now and then heard, giving brief orders, or marshalling the soldiers, was low, and varied by feeling. In the line, but not yet called forth, were eight men, drawn by lot as executioners. They stood motionless, revolting from their office, but not daring to disobey.
Between the coffin and the pit, he whose moments were numbered, was directed to stand. His noble forehead, and quivering lips were alike pale. Yet in his deportment there was a struggle for fortitude, like one who had resolved to meet death unmoved.
"May I speak to the soldiers?" he said. It was the voice of Frank Ludlow. Permission was given, and he spoke something of warning against desertion, and something, in deep bitterness, against the spirit of war. But his tones were so hurried and agitated, that their import could scarcely be gathered.
The eye of the commanding officer was fixed on the watch which he held in his hand. "The time has come," he said, "Kneel upon your coffin."
The cap was drawn over the eyes of the miserable man. He murmured, with a stifled sob, "God, I thank thee, that my dear ones cannot see this." Then from the bottom of his soul, burst forth a cry,
"O mother! mother! had I but believed"--
Ere the sentence was finished, a sword glittered in the sunbeam. It was the death-signal. Eight soldiers advanced from the ranks. There was a sharp report of arms. A shriek of piercing anguish. One convulsive leap. And then a dead man lay between his coffin and his grave.
There was a shuddering silence. Afterwards, the whole line was directed to march by the lifeless body, that every one might for himself see the punishment of a deserter.
Suddenly, there was some confusion; and all eyes turned towards a horseman, approaching at breathless speed. Alighting, he attempted to raise the dead man, who had fallen with his face downward. Gazing earnestly upon the rigid features, he clasped the mangled and bleeding bosom to his own. Even the sternest veteran was moved, at the heart-rending cry of "_Brother! O my brother!_"
No one disturbed the bitter grief which the living poured forth in broken sentences over the dead.
"Gone to thine account! Gone to thine everlasting account! Is it indeed thy heart's blood, that trickles warmly upon me? My brother, would that I might have been with thee in thy dreary prison. Would that we might have breathed together one more prayer, that I might have seen thee look unto Jesus of Nazareth."
Rising up from the corpse, and turning to the commanding officer, he spoke through his tears, with a tremulous, yet sweet-toned voice.
"And what was the crime, for which my brother was condemned to this death? There beats no more loyal heart in the bosom of any of these men, who do the bidding of their country. His greatest fault, the source of all his misery, was the love of war. In the bright days of his boyhood, he said he would be content to die on the field of battle. See, you have taken away his life, in cold blood, among his own people, and no eye hath pitied him."
The commandant stated briefly and calmly, that desertion thrice repeated was death, that the trial of his brother had been impartial, and the sentence just. Something too, he added, about the necessity of enforcing military discipline, and the exceeding danger of remissness in a point like this.
"If he must die, why was it hidden from those whose life was bound up in his? Why were they left to learn from the idle voice of rumour, this death-blow to their happiness? If they might not have gained his pardon from an earthly tribunal, they would have been comforted by knowing that he sought that mercy from above, which hath no limit. Fearful power have ye, indeed, to kill the body, but why need you put the never-dying soul in jeopardy? There are those, to whom the moving of the lips that you have silenced, would have been most dear, though their only word had been to say farewell. There are those, to whom the glance of that eye, which you have sealed in blood, was like the clear shining of the sun after rain. The wife of his bosom would have thanked you, might she but have sat with him on the floor of his prison, and his infant son would have played with his fettered hands, and lighted up his dark soul with one more smile of innocence. The sister, to whom he has been as a father, would have soothed his despairing spirit, with the hymn which in infancy, she sang nightly with him, at their blessed mother's knee. Nor would his only brother thus have mourned, might he but have poured the consolations of the Gospel, once more upon that stricken wanderer, and treasured up one tear of penitence."
A burst of grief overpowered him. The officer with kindness assured him, that it was no fault of theirs, that the family of his brother was not apprized of his situation. That he strenuously desired no tidings might be conveyed to them, saying that the sight of their sorrow would be more dreadful to him than his doom. During the brief interval between his sentence and execution, he had the devoted services of a holy man, to prepare him for the final hour.
Edward Ludlow composed himself to listen to every word. The shock of surprise, with its tempest of tears, had past. As he stood with uncovered brow, the bright locks clustering around his noble forehead, it was seen how strongly he resembled his fallen brother, ere care and sorrow had clouded his manly beauty. For a moment, his eyes were raised upward, and his lips moved. Pious hearts felt that he was asking strength from above, to rule his emotions, and to attain that submission, which as a teacher of religion he enforced on others.
Turning meekly towards the commanding officer, he asked for the body of the dead, that it might be borne once more to the desolate home of his birth, and buried by the side of his father and his mother. The request was granted with sympathy.
He addressed himself to the services connected with the removal of the body, as one who bows himself down to bear the will of the Almighty. And as he raised the bleeding corpse of his beloved brother in his arms, he said, "O war! war! whose tender mercies are cruel, what _enmity_ is so fearful to the soul, as _friendship_ with thee."
Waft not to me the blast of fame, That swells the trump of victory, For to my ear it gives the name Of slaughter, and of misery.
Boast not so much of honour's sword, Wave not so high the victor's plume, They point me to the bosom gor'd, They point me to the blood-stained tomb.
The boastful shout, the revel loud, That strive to drown the voice of pain, What are they but the fickle crowd Rejoicing o'er their brethren slain?
And, ah! through glory's fading blaze, I see the cottage taper, pale, Which sheds its faint and feeble rays, Where unprotected orphans wail:
Where the sad widow weeping stands, As if her day of hope was done; Where the wild mother clasps her hands And asks the victor for her son:
Where the lone maid in secret sighs O'er the lost solace of her heart, As prostrate in despair she lies, And feels her tortur'd life depart:
Where midst that desolated land, The sire, lamenting o'er his son, Extends his pale and powerless hand, And finds its only prop is gone.
See, how the bands of war and woe Have rifled sweet domestic bliss; And tell me if your laurels grow And flourish in a soil like this?
It was supposed in ancient times, that those who were deprived of hearing and speech, were shut out from knowledge. The ear was considered as the only avenue to the mind. One of the early classic poets has said.
"To instruct the deaf, no art could ever reach, No care improve them, and no wisdom teach."
But the benevolence of our own days has achieved this difficult work. Asylums for the education of mute children are multiplying among us, and men of talents and learning labour to discover the best modes of adding to their dialect of pantomime the power of written language. The neighbourhood of one of these Institutions has furnished the opportunity of knowing the progress of many interesting pupils of that class. Their ideas, especially on religious subjects, are generally very confused at their arrival there, even when much care has been bestowed upon them at home.
A little deaf and dumb boy, who had the misfortune early to lose his father, received tender care and love from his mother and a younger sister, with whom it was his chief delight to play, from morning till night. After a few years, the village where they resided was visited with a dangerous fever, and this family all lay sick at the same time. The mother and daughter died, but the poor little deaf and dumb orphan recovered. He had an aged grandmother who took him to her home, and seemed to love him better for his infirmities. She fed him carefully, and laid him in his bed with tenderness; and in her lonely situation, he was all the world to her. Every day she laboured to understand his signs, and to communicate some new idea to his imprisoned mind. She endeavoured to instruct him that there was a Great Being, who caused the sun to shine, and the grass to grow; who sent forth the lightning and the rain, and was the Maker of man and beast. She taught him the three letters G O and D; and when he saw in a book this name of the Almighty, he was accustomed to bow down his head with the deepest reverence. But when she sought to inform him that he had a soul, accountable, and immortal when the body died, she was grieved that he seemed not to comprehend her. The little silent boy loved his kind grandmother, and would sit for hours looking earnestly in her wrinkled face, smiling, and endeavouring to sustain the conversation. He was anxious to perform any service for her that might testify his affection; he would fly to pick up her knitting-bag or her snuff-box when they fell, and traverse the neighbouring meadows and woods, to gather such flowers and plants as pleased her. Yet he was sometimes pensive and wept; she knew not why. She supposed he might be grieving for the relatives he had lost, and redoubled her marks of tenderness. She often perused with great interest, accounts of the intelligence and happiness of the deaf and dumb, who enjoy a system of education, adapted to their necessities, and thought if any thing could separate her from her beloved charge, it would be that he might share such an inestimable privilege.
At length, the eyes of this benevolent lady grew dim through age, and when the little suppliant, by his dialect of gestures, besought her attention, she was unable to distinguish the movements of his hands, or scarcely the form of his features. It was then her earnest request that he might be placed at the American Asylum in Hartford, for the education of the deaf and dumb. There, when his first regrets at separation had subsided, he began to make rapid improvement. He became attached to his companions and teachers, and both in his studies and sports, was happy. When he had nearly completed the period allotted for a full course of instruction, a conversation like the following took place one evening, between him and a preceptor whom he loved:
"I have frequently desired to ask what were some of your opinions, before you became a pupil in this Institution. What, for instance, were your ideas of the sun and moon?"
"I supposed that the sun was a king and a warrior, who ruled over, and slew the people, as he pleased. When I saw brightness in the west, at closing day, I thought it was the flame and smoke of cities which he had destroyed in his wrath. The moon, I much disliked. I considered her prying and officious, because she looked into my chamber when I wished to sleep. One evening, I walked in the garden, and the half-moon seemed to follow me. I sought the shade of some large trees, but found she was there before me. I turned to go into the house, and advised her not to come, because I hated her. But when I lay down in my bed, she was there. I arose and closed the blinds. Still there were crevices through which she peeped. I bade her _go away_, and wept with passion, because she disregarded my wishes. I suspected that she gazed at me, more than at others, because I was deaf and dumb, and that she would tell strangers of it, for I felt ashamed of being different from other children."
"What did you think of the stars?"
"They were more agreeable to me. I imagined that they were fair and well-dressed ladies, who gave brilliant parties in the sky; and that they sometimes rode for amusement, on beautiful horses, carrying large candles in their hands."
"Had you any conception of death?"
"When my little sister died, I wondered why she lay still so long. I thought she was lazy to be sleeping when the sun had arisen. I gathered violets, and threw them in her face, and said in my dialect of signs, "Wake up; wake up!" And I was displeased at her, and went so far as to say, "What a fool you are!" when she permitted them to put her in a box, and carry her away, instead of getting up to play with me.
"Afterwards, when my mother died, they told me repeatedly, that she was _dead, dead_; and tried to explain to me what death meant. But I was distressed when I asked her for bread, that she did not give it to me; and when she was buried, I went every day where they had laid her, waiting, and expecting that she would rise. Sometimes I grew impatient, and rolled upon the turf that covered her, striking my forehead against it, weeping and saying, "Mother, get up! get up! why do you sleep there so long with the child? I am sick, and hungry, and alone. Oh, Mother! mother! get up!" When I was taken to my grandmother's house, I could no longer visit the grave, and it grieved me; for I believed if I continued to go and cry there, she would at length hear me and come up."
"I know that more pains were taken to instil religious principles into your mind, than are commonly bestowed upon the deaf and dumb. Will you tell me what was your opinion of the Supreme Being?"
"My kind grandmother laboured without ceasing, to impress me with reverence for the Almighty. Through her efforts I obtained some idea of the power and goodness which are visible in creation; but of HIM, who wrought in the storm and in the sunshine, I was doubtful whether it were a strong man, a huge animal, or a vast machine. I was in all the ignorance of heathen sin, until by patient attendance on your judicious course of instruction, knowledge entered into my soul."
He then expressed to his teacher, the gratitude he felt for the blessings of education, and affectionately wishing him a good night, retired to repose.
Instances of the development of kind affections and religious hopes, are often touchingly displayed among the children who share in the privation of hearing and speech. This was peculiarly the case with two little silent sisters, beautiful in person and of gentle dispositions. Their names were Phebe and Frances Hammond. The eldest was a very fair, interesting child. She was deaf and dumb from her birth, but from infancy showed quick perceptions and a lively attention to every object that passed before the eye. She seemed perfectly happy, when the little sister, two and a half years younger, and like herself mute, was old enough to play with her. She would lead her with the greatest gentleness, keeping watch lest she should get hurt, with a tender, continual care. When they were permitted to amuse themselves out of doors, if she saw any thing approaching which she feared, she thought not of herself, but encircled the little one in her arms, and by cries sought for her relief and protection. If they wished to climb a fence, she would proceed at first, alone, trying every part, to be sure of its safety, ere she returned to aid her darling sister, keeping a firm hold on her as she ascended, and jumping over on the other side, to extend her little arm and lift her tenderly down. It was a touching sight, to view these silent children, at their healthful sports upon the smooth green lawn, or beneath the shade of spreading trees, supplying as it were, the deficiency of Nature, by an increased exercise of the sweetest, most sustaining affections.
Ere long, they expressed their desire to attend school, that they might "learn to do, like other children." Here they were very diligent, and by great attention from the instructress were taught to sew, to write, and to spell many words. Visitants of the school expressed surprise at the neatness of their needle-work, and chirography.
When they were brought by their father, from their home in Massachusetts, to the Asylum for the deaf and dumb, in Hartford, Phebe was ten, and Frances seven and a half years old. There was at that time a regulation in force, that no pupil under the age of ten years, could be received, being supposed unable to derive full benefit from their system of instruction.
Yet these little silent sisters, who had been together night and day, whose features and garb were the same, the smile or the sadness of one face being suddenly reflected on the other, as if but one soul animated two bodies, how could they be parted? The idea of a separate existence, a divided pleasure, had never entered their minds. Now, they gazed on each other with an expression of the deepest anguish. They folded each other in their arms. No power of speech was so eloquent as their imploring looks. The law relaxed its prohibition in their case. They were permitted to remain together.
Phebe took her seat immediately among the one hundred and forty pupils, forgetting in her desire to learn, the embarrassment of a stranger. Little Frances was more diffident, and clung to her as to a mother, never for a moment disappointed in finding the tenderest sympathy and love. Soon they became cheerful and happy. Their affectionate hearts were open to every innocent pleasure. Though the youngest in school, they were so docile and industrious as to obtain a rank among the best scholars; and when the lessons of each day were over, they comforted themselves with their sweet, sisterly love. If one received the simplest gift, it was instantly shared; if it could not be divided it was considered as the property of both.
Phebe taught the little one to keep her clothes without spot or stain, and to put every article in its proper place. She led her by the hand wherever she went, and if there was a tear on her cheek she kissed it away. Little Frances looked up to her, with the most endearing and perfect confidence. When they went home, at the vacations in spring and autumn, the affectionate deportment of these beautiful mute children, and their progress in the dialect of signs, as well as in written speech, was admired by all. After they had enjoyed the benefit of instruction somewhat more than two years, Phebe was observed to have a slight cough, and being taken ill, was obliged to return to her parents. Symptoms of consumption were too plainly revealed to be mistaken. As she became more emaciated and feeble, she desired to be carried every day at a certain hour, into an unoccupied room, and left for a while, by herself. On being asked why she wished this, she answered that she might better lift up her thoughts to Him who heareth prayer.
"In heaven," she said, "there are babes, and children, and persons of every age. I think I have seen this in my mind, in a bright dream. I am so weak, I shall die. I pray that I may go to heaven. Oh! I wish Frances to love God. She is my good sister."
She was asked if it was her wish to live and be restored to health. She replied,
"No, I would see Jesus."
So, in quietness and peace, the voiceless spirit of the loving child departed, to rejoice, we trust, amid the melodies of heaven. Sweet, sisterly affection seemed to have been her principal solace, here below. And if it was capable of imparting such happiness to these deaf mutes, surely the children who are blessed with hearing and speech, might still more fully enjoy, and exemplify it. All who have brothers and sisters should perform their duty tenderly towards them, with constant gratitude to Him who has vouchsafed them the comfort of such relations.
Any little departure from kindness, will cause painful remembrances in a time of bereavement. A boy was seen often at the grave of a brother, younger than himself. He hid his face upon the grassy mound and wept bitterly. A friend who once saw him there, said, "How much you loved your brother." But he replied through his tears, "My grief is because I did not love him more."
We have spoken of silent people. I can tell you of one who suffers a still heavier calamity. At the same Institution for the deaf and dumb, is a girl, to whom noonday and midnight are the same, who takes no pleasure in the summer landscape or the fair changes of nature, hears not the sound of brooks bursting loose in spring, nor the song of birds, nor the laughter of the young child, neither looks upon the face of mother or of friend. She is not only deaf and dumb, but blind. Her name is Julia Brace. Her earliest years were spent in the home of her parents, who were poor, and had several younger children. Of all their movements she was observant, as far as her state would allow; and when the weather was cold, would sometimes kneel on the floor of their humble dwelling, to feel if their little feet were naked as well as her own. If she ascertained that others, and not herself, were furnished with shoes and stockings, she would express uneasiness at the contrast. Her perception, with regard to articles of dress, was more accurate than could have been expected, and when any gifts were presented her, soon ascertained and preferred those which were of the most delicate texture. Seated on her little block, weaving thin strips of bark with bits of leather, which her father who was a shoemaker threw away, she constructed for her cat, strange bonnets, or other ornaments, equally rude, and yet not wholly discordant with the principles of taste.
Sometimes, when the mother went out to a day's work of washing, she left Julia, notwithstanding her peculiar helplessness, with the care of the younger children. On such occasions, she evinced more of maternal solicitude, and even of skill in domestic legislation than could have been rationally expected.
Once, when a dish had been broken, she imitated what she supposed might be her mother's discipline, and shook the little careless offender with some force. Then placing her hand upon its eyes, and discovering that it wept, and considering the act of discipline complete, she hastened to take it in her arms and press it to her bosom, and by preserving tenderness, soothe it into good-humour and confidence.
While yet a child, her parents were relieved from the expense of her maintenance, by some charitable ladies, who placed her in the family of an elderly matron who kept a small day-school. Her curiosity was now called forth into great activity, to search out the employments of the scholars, and try to imitate them. She observed that much of their time was occupied with books. So she held a book long before her own sightless eyes. But no knowledge visited her imprisoned mind. Then, she held an open book before the face of her favourite kitten, feeling its mouth at the same time, and perceiving that its lips did not move, shook its shoulder and rapped its ear, to quicken its imitation of the studious children.
Trifling as these circumstances are in themselves, they show perception, and perseverance, struggling against the barriers that Nature had interposed. Needle-work and knitting had been taught her, and from these employments she drew her principal solace. With these she would busy herself for hours, until it became necessary to prompt her to the exercise that health required. Counterpanes, patiently constructed by her, of small pieces of calico, were sold to aid in supplying her wardrobe, and specimens of her work were distributed by her patrons, to prove of what nicety and industry the poor, blind, and silent girl was capable.
It was sometimes an amusement to her visitants to give into her hand their watches, and test a peculiar sagacity which she possessed, in restoring each to its owner. Though their position with regard to her, or to each other, was frequently and studiously varied, and though she might hold at the same time, two or three watches, neither stratagem nor persuasion could induce her to yield either, except to the person from whom she received it. This tenacity of principle, to give every one his own, might be resolved into that moral honesty which has ever formed a conspicuous part of her character. Though nurtured in poverty, and after her removal from the parental roof, in the constant habit of being in contact with articles of dress or food which strongly tempted her desires, she has never been known to appropriate to herself, without permission, the most trifling object. In a well-educated child, this might be no remarkable virtue; but in one, whose sealed ear can receive no explanation of the rights of property, and whose perfect blindness must often render it difficult even to define them, the incorruptible firmness of this innate principle is truly laudable. There is also connected with it a delicacy of feeling, or scrupulousness of conscience, which renders it necessary, in presenting her any gift, to assure her repeatedly, by a sign which she understands, that it is _for her_, ere she will consent to accept it.
After her admission into the Asylum for the deaf and dumb, in Hartford, her native place, efforts were made by one of the benevolent instructors in that Institution to teach her the alphabet. For this purpose raised letters, as well as those indented beneath a smooth surface, were put in requisition. Punctually she repaired to the school-room, with the seeing pupils, and spent hour after hour in imitating with pins upon a cushion, the forms of each separate letter. But all in vain. However accurate her delineations might sometimes be, they conveyed no idea to the mind, sitting in thick darkness. It was therefore deemed best that it should pursue those occupations which more immediately ministered to its comfort and satisfaction.
It has been observed that persons who are deprived any one sense, have additional vigour infused into those that remain. Thus blind persons are distinguished by exquisite delicacy of touch, and the deaf and dumb concentrate their whole souls in the eye, their only avenue to knowledge. But with her, whose ear, eye, and tongue, are alike dead to action, the power of the olfactory organs is so heightened, as almost to form a new and peculiar sense. It almost transcends the sagacity of the spaniel.
As the abodes which from her earliest recollection she had inhabited, were circumscribed and humble, it was supposed that at her first reception into the Asylum, she might testify surprise. But she immediately busied herself in quietly exploring the size of the apartments, and smelled at the thresholds, and then, as if by the union of a mysterious geometry with a powerful memory, never made a false step upon a flight of stairs, or entered a wrong door, or mistook her seat at the table. At the tea-table with the whole family, on sending her cup to be replenished, if one is accidentally returned to her, which has been used by another person, she perceives it in a moment, and pushes it from her with some slight appearance of disgust, as if her sense of propriety had been invaded. There is not the slightest difference in the cups, and in this instance she seems endowed by a sense of penetration not possessed by those in the full enjoyment of sight.
Among her various excellencies, neatness and love of order are conspicuous. Her simple wardrobe is systematically arranged, and it is impossible to displace a single article in her drawers, without her perceiving and reinstating it. When the large baskets of clean linen are weekly brought from the laundress, she selects her own garments without hesitation, however widely they may be dispersed among the mass. If any part of her dress requires mending, she is prompt and skilful in repairing it, and her perseverance in this branch of economy greatly diminishes the expense of her clothing.
The donations of charitable visitants are deposited in a box with an inscription, and she has been made to understand that the contents are devoted to her benefit. This box she frequently poises in her hand, and expresses pleasure when it testifies an increase of weight, for she has long since ascertained that money is the medium for the supply of her wants, and attaches to it a proportionable value.
Though her habits are perfectly regular and consistent, yet occasionally, some action occurs which it is difficult to explain. One summer morning, while employed with her needle, she found herself incommoded by the warmth of the sun. She arose, opened the window, closed the blinds, and again resumed her work. This movement, though perfectly simple in a young child, who had seen it performed by others, must in her case have required a more complex train of reasoning. How did she know that the heat which she felt was caused by the sun, or that by interposing an opaque body she might exclude his rays?
Persons most intimately acquainted with her habits assert, that she constantly regards the recurrence of the Sabbath, and composes herself to a deeper quietness of meditation. Her needle-work, from which she will not consent to be debarred on other days, she never attempts to resort to, and this wholly without influence from those around her. Who can have impressed upon her benighted mind the sacredness of that day? and by what art does she, who is ignorant of all numerical calculation, compute without error the period of its rotation? A philosopher who should make this mysterious being his study, might find much to astonish him, and perhaps something to throw light upon the structure of the human mind.
Before her entrance at the Asylum, it was one of her sources of satisfaction to be permitted to lay her hand upon the persons who visited her, and thus to scrutinize with some minuteness, their features, or the nature of their apparel. It seemed to constitute one mode of intercourse with her fellow-beings, which was soothing to her lonely heart, and sometimes gave rise to degrees of admiration or dislike, not always to be accounted for by those whose judgment rested upon the combined evidence of all their senses. But since her removal to this noble institution, where the visits of strangers are so numerous as to cease to be a novelty, she has discontinued this species of attention, and is not pleased with any long interruption to her established system of industry.
The genial influences of spring wake her lone heart to gladness, and she gathers the first flowers, and even the young blades of grass, and inhales their freshness with a delight bordering on transport. Sometimes, when apparently in deep thought, she is observed to burst into laughter, as if her associations of ideas were favourable, not only to cheerfulness, but to mirth. The society of the female pupils at the Asylum is soothing to her feelings, and their habitual kind offices, their guiding arm in her walks, or the affectionate pressure of their hands, awaken in her demonstrations of gratitude and friendship. One of them was sick, but it was not supposed that amid the multitude that surrounded her, the blind girl would be conscious of her absence. A physician was called, and she was made to understand his profession by placing a finger upon her pulse. She immediately arose, and led him with the earnest solicitude of friendship to the bedside of the invalid, placing her hand in his with an affecting confidence in the power of healing. As she has herself never been sick, it is the more surprising that she should so readily comprehend the efficacy and benevolence of the medical profession.
Julia Brace is still an inmate of the Asylum at Hartford. She leads a life of quiet industry, and apparent contentment. Some slight services in the domestic department supply the exercise that health requires, and the remainder of the time she chooses to be employed in sewing or knitting. Visitants often linger by her side, to witness the mystical process of threading her needle, which is accomplished rapidly by the aid of her tongue. So, the tongue that hath never spoken is still in continual use.
Her youth is now past, and she seems to make few, if any, new mental acquisitions. Her sister in calamity, Laura Bridgman, of the Institution for the Blind in Boston, has far surpassed her in intellectual attainments, and excites the wondering admiration of every beholder. The felicity of her position, the untiring philanthropy of her patron, Dr. Howe, and the constant devotion of an accomplished teacher, have probably produced this difference of result, more than any original disparity of talents or capacity.
Julia, in her life of patient regularity, affords as strong a lesson as can be given of the power of industry to soothe privation and to confer content. While employed she is satisfied, but if at any time unprovided with work, her mind preys upon itself, not being able to gather ideas from surrounding objects, and having but a limited stock of knowledge to furnish material for meditation. If this poor heart which is never to thrill at the sound of a human voice, or be lifted up with joy at the fair scenery of earth, and sky and waters, finds in willing diligence a source of happiness, with how much more gladness should we turn to the pursuits of industry, who are impelled by motives and repaid by results which she must never enjoy!
Dear young friends, who can see the smile on the faces of those whom you love, who can hear their approving voices, who can utter the words of knowledge, and rejoice in the glorious charms of nature, who know also that life is short, and that you must give strict account of it to God, how faithfully and earnestly should you improve your time! You who have the great, blessed gift of speech, be careful to make a right use of it. Yes: speak kind, and sweet, and true words, and so help your own souls on their way to Heaven.
THE DEAF, DUMB, AND BLIND GIRL, AT THE INSTITUTION FOR THE BLIND, IN BOSTON
Where is the light that to the eye Heaven's holy message gave, Tinging the retina with rays From sky, and earth, and wave?
Where is the sound that to the soul Mysterious passage wrought, And strangely made the moving lip A harp-string for the thought?
All fled! all lost! Not even the rose An odour leaves behind, That, like a broken reed, might trace The tablet of the mind.
That mind! It struggles with its fate, The anxious conflict, see! As if through Bastile-bars it sought Communion with the free.
Yet still its prison-robe it wears Without a prisoner's pain; For happy childhood's beaming sun Glows in each bounding vein.
And bless'd Philosophy is near, In Christian armour bright, To scan the subtlest clew that leads To intellectual light.
Say, lurks there not some ray of heaven Amid thy bosom's night, Some echo from a better land, To make the smile so bright?
The lonely lamp in Greenland cell, Deep 'neath a world of snow, Doth cheer the loving household group Though none around may know;
And, sweet one, hath our Father's hand Plac'd in thy casket dim Some radiant and peculiar lamp, To guide thy steps to Him?
[Footnote 1: Laura is deprived of the sense of smell, which in Julia's case is so acute.]
Kindness to animals shows an amiable disposition, and correct principles. The inferior creation were given for our use, but not for our abuse or cruelty. Many of them add greatly to the comfort of domestic life, and also display qualities deserving of regard. The noble properties of the dog, the horse, and the "half-reasoning elephant," have long been known and praised. But among the lower grades of animals, especially if they receive kind treatment, traits of character are often discovered that surprise or delight us.
Cats, so frequently the objects of neglect or barbarity, are more sagacious than is generally supposed. The mother of four young kittens missed one of her nurslings, and diligently searched the house to find it. Then she commenced calling upon the neighbours, gliding from room to room, and looking under sofas and beds with a troubled air. At length she found it in a family in the vicinity, where it had been given by her mistress. Taking it in her mouth, she brought it home and bestowed on it her nursing cares and maternal caresses for a few weeks, then carried it back to the same neighbour, and left it in the same spot where she found it. It would seem as if she wished to testify her approbation of the home selected for her child, and desired only to nurture it until it should be old enough to fill it properly.
A cat who had repeatedly had her kittens taken from her and drowned immediately after their birth, went to a barn belonging to the family, quite at a long distance from the house. She so judiciously divided her time, as to obtain her meals at home and attend to her nursery abroad. At length she entered the kitchen, followed by four of her offspring, well-grown, all mewing in chorus. Had she foresight enough to conclude, that if she could protect them until they reached a more mature age, they would escape the fate of their unfortunate kindred?
A little girl once sat reading, with a large favourite cat in her lap. She was gently stroking it, while it purred loudly, to express its joy. She invited a person who was near, to feel its velvet softness. Reluctant to be interrupted in an industrious occupation that required the use of both hands, the person did not immediately comply, but at length touched the head so abruptly that the cat supposed itself to have been struck. Resenting the indignity, it ceased its song, and continued alternately rolling and closing its eyes, yet secretly watching, until both the busy hands had resumed their employment. Then, stretching forth a broad, black velvet paw, it inflicted on the back of one of them a quick stroke, and jumping down, concealed itself beneath the chair of its patron. There seemed in this simple action a nice adaptation of means to ends: a prudent waiting, until the retaliation that was meditated could be conveniently indulged, and a prompt flight from the evil that might ensue.
The race of rats are usually considered remarkable only for voraciousness, or for ingenious and mischievous inventions to obtain the gratification of appetite. A vessel that had been much infested by them, was when in port fumigated with brimstone, to expel them. Escaping in great numbers, they were dispatched by people stationed for that purpose. Amid the flying victims a group was observed to approach slowly, upon the board placed between the vessel and the shore. One of those animals held in his mouth a stick, the extremities of which were held by two others, who carefully led him. It was discovered that he was entirely blind. The executioners making way for them, suffered them to live. It was not in the heart of man to scorn such an example.
Another of our ships, while in a foreign port, took similar measures to free itself from those troublesome inmates. Amid the throngs that fled from suffocating smoke to slaughtering foes, one was seen moving laboriously as if overburdened. Climbing over the bodies of his dead companions, he bore upon his back another, so old as to be unable to walk. Like Eneas, escaping from the flames of Troy, perhaps it was an aged father that he thus carried upon his shoulders. Whether it were filial piety or respect for age, his noble conduct, as in the previous instance, saved his life and that of his venerable friend.
Sheep are admired for their innocence and meekness, more than for strong demonstrations of character. Yet the owner of a flock was once surprised by seeing one of his fleecy people rushing to and fro beneath his window, in great agitation and alarm. Following her to the pasture, where she eagerly led the way, he found a fierce dog tearing the sheep. Having put him to flight, he turned in search of the messenger, and found her in a close thicket, where she had carefully hidden her own little lamb, ere she fled to apprize the master of their danger. This strangely intelligent animal was permitted to live to the utmost limit of longevity allotted to her race.
The instinct of the beaver approaches the bounds of reason. Their dexterity in constructing habitations and rearing mounds to repel the watery element, surpasses that of all other animals. A gentleman who resided where they abound, wished to ascertain whether this was inherent, or the effect of imitation. He took therefore, to his house, an infant beaver, ere its eyes were opened. It was an inmate of his kitchen, where one day, from a leaky pail, a small stream of water oozed out upon the floor. Out ran the little beaver, and collected sticks and clay, with which it built a dam to stop the passage of the tiny brook.
An Indian, going out to shoot beaver, saw a large one felling a lofty tree. Ere he gave the finishing strokes, he ascended a neighbouring hill, throwing his head about, and taking deep draughts of air. The Indian, who stedfastly regarded him, supposed that he was taking an observation of which way the wind blew: as when he made his last effort on the tree, he made use of this knowledge to shelter himself from injury at its fall. He then measured the trunk into equal lengths for the height of the house he was to build, and loading his broad tail with wet clay, made a mark at each division. Uttering a peculiar cry, three little beavers appeared at their father's call, and began to knaw asunder the wood at the places which he had designated.
"When I saw this," said the Indian, "I turned away. Could I harm such a creature? No. He was to me as a brother."
Among the insect tribes, the ant sustains a good character for foresight and industry, having been cited by the wise monarch of Israel as an example and reproof to the sluggard. Their almost resistless force in the tropical countries, where they move in bodies, shows the power that the feeble may acquire through unity of effort and design.
When Dr. Franklin was on his embassy in France, soon after our Revolution, he one morning sat musing over his solitary breakfast, and perceived a legion of large black ants taking possession of the sugar-bowl. His philosophic mind being ever ready for experiments, he caused it to be suspended from the ceiling by a string. They returned. The sweet food was above their reach. It was worth an effort to regain it. One placed himself in a perpendicular position, and another mounted upon his shoulders. Others ascended the same scaffolding, each stretching to his utmost altitude. Down fell the line. Yet it was again and again renewed. Then the Babel-builders disappeared. Had they given up the siege? No. They had only changed their mode of attack. Soon they were seen traversing the ceiling, and precipitating themselves upon the coveted spoil, by the string that sustained it. Here was somewhat of the same boldness and perseverance that led Hannibal across the Alps, to pour his soldiers down upon astonished Italy.
Thus the spider that sought so many times to fasten its frail thread, and at length succeeded, gave a profitable lesson to King Robert the Bruce, when he ruminated in discouragement and despair on his failing enterprises.
Parrots are generally considered as senseless repeaters of sounds and words, that convey neither sentiment nor feeling. Now and then, there seems some variation from this rule. A parrot who had been reared with kindness, selected as his prime favourite the youngest child in the family. By every means in his power he expressed this preference. The little girl was seized with a severe sickness. He missed her in her accustomed haunts, and turning his head quickly from side to side, called loudly for her.
At length, the fair form, stretched in its coffin, met his view. In wild and mournful tones, he continued to utter her name. He was removed far from the room, but the shrill echo of his voice was still heard amid the funeral obsequies, pronouncing with frantic grief the name of his lost Mary. Ever afterwards, when the sound of the tolling bell met his ear, the fountains of memory were troubled, and the cry of "Mary! Mary!" mingled with the mournful knell, till it ceased.
Since so many interesting properties are discovered in the inferior creation, where, perhaps, we least expected them, it is well to search for such traits of character as deserve our regard, and consider them as humble friends, that we may better do our duty to them, and please Him who has entrusted them to our protection.
Butterfly in a School-Room.
Gay inmate of our studious room. Adorn'd with nature's brightest dyes, Whose gadding wing, and tissued plume, Allure so many wandering eyes.
The breath of eve is gathering bleak, And thou dost shrink beneath its power, And faint, or famish'd, seem'st to seek The essence from yon withering flower
Haste to thine own secluded cell, And shield thee from the chilling blast, And let the honied casket well Supply a fresh and free repast.
Hast thou no home? Didst thou provide No shelter from autumnal rain? Hast thou no cheering board supplied From all the treasures of the plain?
What wilt thou do 'neath wintry skies? Behold! the charms of summer fade, Thy friend, the labouring bee, was wise Ere on their stalks the plants decay'd,
Frail insect! shivering 'mid the storm, Thy season of delight is past, And soon that gaudy, graceful form, Shall stiffen on the whelming blast.
Companions dear! whose frequent glance Marks yon fair creature's brilliant hue, Methinks, its wing in frolic dance, Doth speak in wisdom's lore to you:
Seek not to flutter, and to flaunt, While a few years their courses roll, But heed approaching winter's want, And store the sweetness of the soul.
A Brave Boy.
There are ways in which boys may show true courage, without being forward and bold in contention. It often requires more to avoid it. To show forbearance when they are provoked, or to tell the whole truth when they have committed faults, are proofs of more lofty and high principle than to imitate the fighting animals, and repel force by force, or the fox-like ones, and practise cunning. To live at peace, may need more firmness than to quarrel; because one is to control our passions, and the other to indulge them.
The bravest boy is he who rules himself, and does his duty without boasting. I have known some beautiful instances of this class of virtues, and will mention one that is now in my mind.
A widow, who was the mother of several children, resided in a pleasant part of New England. She faithfully nurtured and instructed them, and one of her precepts was, that when they had any difficult duty to perform, they should ask strength from above. Her youngest was a boy of eight years old, active and intelligent. He was not only obedient to her, but attentive to his studies, and beloved by his instructors.
One fine summer afternoon, when there was no school, he was walking on the banks of a river that beautified the scenery of his native place. He admired the silver stream as it sparkled in the sunbeams, and the rich verdure that clothed its banks. Suddenly, a large boy plunged in, as if for the purpose of bathing, though he did not divest himself of any part of his clothing. Soon, he struggled in distress, as if ready to sink.
Ralph Edward, the son of the widow, had been taught to swim. Throwing off his boots and his little coat, he hastened to the relief of the drowning stranger. He found him nearly senseless, and though much larger than himself, and nearly twice his age, succeeded by great exertions in bringing him to the shore. There, he supported him against a bank, until he had thrown from his mouth a quantity of water, and was able to thank his benefactor. He confessed that he was ignorant of the art of swimming, but had a great desire to learn, and had no idea that the river was so deep and swift. When he was able to proceed on his way, Ralph Edward returned home. His head was giddy, and his breast throbbed with the efforts he had made He went to his little chamber, and throwing himself upon the bed, wept bitterly. His mother heard him moaning, and inquired the cause of his grief. He told her he could not forget the convulsed features of a half-drowned boy, and the pain he seemed to feel when he gasped for breath upon the bank. Then, in compliance with her request, he related all the circumstances.
"My son, do you know that you have been in great danger? Have you never heard that the grasp of drowning persons is fatal?"
"Oh, yes. But mother, what could I do? Should I stand still, and see him die? Had I waited for other help, he must have sunk to rise no more."
"Was he your friend?"
"I do not even know his name. I think he is a servant in some family not far off. I have seen him driving a cow to pasture, but never spoke to him until to-day."
"How were you able to swim, and support a boy so much larger than yourself?"
"Mother, I cannot say. I only know that I remember what you told us to do when we had any difficult duty to perform, and I begged for strength of our Father who is in Heaven."
The mother comforted her child, and soothed his agitated nerves, and gave him her blessing. After that he slept sweetly and awoke refreshed. Trembling at the risk he had run, she still was thankful for the spirit that had moved him to do good to a stranger, and the piety that had made him mindful of the great Giver of strength and Hearer of prayer.
She reflected with gratitude also, upon his humility. He did not say boastfully, "I have rescued a boy from the river, when he was ready to sink. He was larger than I, but I did it all alone. He is almost twice as old too, and does not even know how to keep himself up in the water, while I can swim as well and boldly as a man."
No. He came home without alluding to the occurrence, as if it were a matter of course, to help those who were in need. He complained not of fatigue, though every nerve was strained and tremulous. He went silently to his own secluded room, and shed tears of pity at the remembrance of the struggles of the sufferer. The true greatness that prompted this forgetfulness of self, was as remarkable as the courage that snatched a fellow-creature from danger.
May is here, with skies of blue, Tuneful birds of varied hue, Blossoms bright on plant and tree: Ye, who love her smile of glee, Leave the city's thronging streets, Meet her in her green retreats, And, with thrilling heart inhale Perfumes from her balmy gale.
Come! for countless gifts she bears; Take her cordial for your cares: Cull the charms that never cloy, Twine the wreaths of social joy, And with liberal hand dispense Blessings of benevolence: For when Spring shall fade away, And the year grow dim and gray, These, with changeless warmth shall glow Mid the hills of wintry snow, And undying fragrance cast, When the _Spring of life_ is past.
The Huguenot Grandfather's Tale.
It is doubtless known to my readers, that the Huguenots were French Protestants, who on account of religious persecution fled from their country. The Edict of Nantz was a law made by Henry IV. of France, allowing liberty of conscience, and safety to those who dissented from the faith of the Church of Rome, the established religion of the realm. This edict was repealed by Louis XIV. in 1685; and the Protestants, or Huguenots, as they were generally called, left their country in great numbers and sought refuge in foreign lands. Thousands found a peaceful home in this western world, and their descendants are among the most respected and honoured inhabitants of our happy country.
Once, on a cold wintry evening, somewhat more than a century since, a bright light was seen streaming from the casement of a pleasant abode in Boston, casting cheerful radiance upon the snow-covered pavement. Within, by a blazing hearth, a group of children gathered around their mother, and the white-haired grandsire, singing with sweet voices, their evening hymn. Then, as the mother led away the little ones to their rest, the eldest, a boy of about twelve years old, drew his seat near the arm-chair of the aged man, and gazing affectionately on his mild, venerable countenance, said,
"Please, dear grandfather, tell me another of your good stories about our ancestors."
"So, I asked, in my boyhood, of our blessed grandmother, tales of olden times, sitting close at her feet, when the lamps were just lighted. Even now, I think I see her before me, with her silver locks, her brow but slightly wrinkled, and her eye beaming with a brilliance like youth, as she granted my request. My brothers and sisters loved and respected her, as a being of a superior order. Her memory of early scenes was clear and vivid, even in extreme age, when passing events made but a slight impression. I perceive that my own memory is assuming somewhat of the same character, and dwells with peculiar delight among the people and events of ancient times."
"Those are exactly what I delight to hear. I love the conversation of those who can tell what happened long before I was born. I will listen most attentively to whatever you shall be pleased to relate."
"I shall tell you of my grandfather's first visit to Paris. He was then about two years older than yourself, and was taken thither by his father, who held a military command under Lord Teligny, who, you remember to have seen in history, was son-in-law to the great Admiral Coligny. They were summoned to attend and take part in the public demonstrations of joy which marked the nuptials of young Henry of Navarre, and the princess Margaret. This was in the spring of 1572. The Queen of Navarre, with her son and suite, had just arrived, and were received with great pomp and festivity. Charles IX. was at that time king of France. He was a treacherous, vacillating character, and ruled by his mother, Catharine de Medicis, who was far more wicked than himself. To further her own plots, she induced him to treat the Protestant noblemen with marked attention. He complimented the manly beauty of De Teligny, the dignified deportment of the Baron de Rosny, and the philosophy of the Count de la Rochefaucault. He was fond of being seen walking arm in arm with the great Admiral Coligny, whom he often addressed by the title of "_Mon Pere_." Among the gallant, high-spirited Huguenots of rank, who dared and did so much for conscience' sake, Coligny was at that period the most distinguished.
His whole life was marked by decided and habitual piety. Prayers, and the chanted praise of psalms, arose up twice a day from his household. The officers both of France and Germany, who often surrounded his hospitable table, were the witnesses of his humble devotion. For as soon as the cloth was removed, he rose up, with all who were present, and if there was no minister there, rendered himself, earnest thanks to Almighty God. The sacred worship which he enjoyed in the quiet of his family, he endeavoured as far as possible to establish in the camp and in the army.
Many of the French nobles followed under their own roofs the religious example of Coligny. For he was ever exhorting and impressing on them the importance of daily, practical piety, saying that it was not enough that the father of a family should himself lead a holy life, unless he led and induced his household to follow his footsteps and imitate his example."
"Was Jane, Queen of Navarre, a Protestant?"
"Yes, and distinguished by the most devoted piety. She had not been long in Paris, ere she was seized with mortal sickness. Some suspected it to be the effect of poison, administered by Catharine, that this formidable protector of the Protestants might be out of the way, ere her plot to destroy them was hazarded. When the Queen of Navarre saw that her end drew nigh, she called her son to her bedside, and charged him solemnly to maintain the true religion, to take a tender care of the education of his sister, to avoid the society of vicious persons, and not to suffer his soul to be diverted from duty, by the empty pleasures of the world. With patience and even cheerful serenity of countenance, she endured the pains of her disease, and to her mourning friends said, "I pray you not to weep for me. God by this sickness calleth me to the enjoyment of a better life." It was on the 9th of June, 1572, that she departed, with the prayer of faith on her lips, and the benignity of an angel."
"Was your grandfather in Paris at the time of the marriage of Henry and Margaret?"
"He was, and attentively observed the splendid scene. The 18th of August was appointed for the nuptial ceremony. An ample pavilion was erected opposite to the great church of Notre Dame. It was magnificently covered with cloth of gold. The concourse of spectators was immense, and their shouts seemed to rend the sky, as the youthful pair appeared in their royal garments. When Henry, bowing almost to the feet of his beautiful bride, took from his brow the coronet of Navarre, the ladies admired his gracefulness, and the freshness of his auburn hair, which inclining to red, curled richly around his noble forehead. The princess had a highly brilliant complexion, and was decorated with a profusion of splendid jewels.
The Cardinal of Bourbon received their vows. There seemed some degree of displeasure to curl his haughty lip. Probably he was dissatisfied that all the ceremonies of the Romish church were not observed. For as the prince was a Protestant, and the princess Catholic, the solemnities were of a mixed nature, accommodated to both. It had been settled in the marriage contract, that neither party should interfere with the other, in the exercise of their different religions. To give public proof of this, as soon as the nuptial ceremony was performed, the bride left the pavilion to attend mass, and the bridegroom to hear the sermon of a Protestant divine. Acclamations and music from countless instruments loudly resounded, when the royal couple again appeared, and proceeded together to the magnificent bridal banquet. Charles presented his sister with 100,000 crowns for her dower, and in the festivities which succeeded the marriage, who could have foreseen the dreadful massacre of St. Bartholomew?"
"I have read in my history of that frightful scene. Dear Grandfather, how soon did it follow the nuptials which you have described?"
"Less than a week intervened. The ringing of the bells for morning prayers, at three o'clock, on Sunday, August 24th, was the signal for the Catholics to rush forth and murder the Protestants. The holy Sabbath dawned in peace. The matin-bell, calling the devout to worship a God of mercy, was heard. Man came forth to shed the blood of his unsuspecting brother. The work of destruction began in many parts of the city, at the same moment. Tumult and shrieks and uproar increased, until they deepened into a terrible and universal groan. The streets were filled with infuriated soldiers, and almost every habitation of the Huguenots became a slaughter-house. Infants were transfixed on pikes, and women precipitated themselves from high windows and battlements, that they might die without outrage. Thirty thousand fell victims in this horrible massacre, which extending itself from Paris to the provinces, was not satiated until more than twice that number had been sacrificed."
"What became of your grandfather during this scene of horror?"
"At the commencement of the tumult, his father hastily armed himself, and supposing it some temporary disturbance, went forth to aid in quelling it, commanding him to remain in the house. He obeyed until he was no longer able to endure the tortures of suspense, and then rushed out in search of a father whom he was never more to behold. Hasting to the quarters of Lord Teligny, his friend and benefactor, he found him mortally wounded, and faintly repeating the names of his wife and children. He then flew to the Hotel de St. Pierre, where Admiral Coligny lodged. But his headless trunk was precipitated from the window, and dragged onward by blood-smeared men, with faces scarcely human.
He had been wounded previous to the massacre. On Friday, the 22nd, he was coming from the Louvre, with a group of noblemen. He walked slowly, reading a petition which had been presented him. As he passed the cloister of St. Germain, he was shot by an arquebus loaded with three balls. His left arm was deeply wounded, and the fore-finger of his right hand carried away. No trace of the assassin, who had been employed by the Duke of Guise, could be found, though the friends of the Admiral made persevering search.
As the surgeon on examination feared that the copper balls were poisoned, this illustrious man supposed that his hour had come, and turning to his lamenting friends, said,
"Why do you weep? For myself, I am honoured to receive these wounds, for the holy cause of my God. Pray him to strengthen me."
The massacre commenced while it was yet dark, on Sunday morning, and the Duke of Guise, dreading lest Coligny, notwithstanding his injuries, should escape, and by his courage and influence reanimate the Protestants, hastened to his lodgings with three hundred soldiers. Knocking at the outer gate, they demanded admission in the name of the king. The gentleman who opened it, fell, stabbed to the heart.
The wounded Admiral, in his apartment, was engaged in prayer with a minister who attended him. A terrified servant rushed in, exclaiming,
"My Lord, the inner gate is forced. We have no means of resisting."
"It is long since," replied Coligny, calmly, "that I prepared myself to die. Save yourselves all who can. Me, you cannot defend. I commend my soul to the mercy of God."
He arose from his bed, and being unable to stand upright, on account of his wounds, supported himself with his back against the wall. The first who burst into his chamber was a grim German, servant to the Duke of Guise.
"Are you the Admiral?"
"Yes. I am he."
And the illustrious man, fixing his eyes without emotion on the naked sword of his murderer, said, with the dignity of a Christian,
"Young man! you ought to respect my age and infirmities."
The answer of the assassin was to plunge his weapon deep in that noble bosom. The Duke of Guise traversed the court below, with breathless impatience. To his fierce spirit, every moment seemed an age.
"Is the work done?" he asked.
"It is finished, my Lord!"
He demanded to see it, with his own eyes. They raised the body of the Admiral to cast it down to him. Still faintly respiring, it seemed to cling to the casement.
At length, the ruthless murderers precipitated it into the court-yard. Guise wiped with his handkerchief the face suffused with blood, and gazing intensely upon it by the flaring lamps, exclaimed,
"It is the man."
Rushing into the streets, he bade, with hoarse cries, the work of death to proceed, in the name of the king.
While our ancestor was hurrying in amazement and terror from place to place, he met a boy of nearly his own age, whose placid countenance and unmoved deportment strongly contrasted with the surrounding horrors. Two soldiers apparently had him in charge, shouting "_To mass! to mass!_" while he, neither in compliance nor opposition, calmly continued his course, until they found some more conspicuous object of barbarity, and released him from their grasp. This proved to be Maximilian Bethune, afterwards the great Duke of Sully, prime minister of Henry IV., who by a wonderful mixture of prudence and firmness, preserved a life which was to be of such value to the realm. He was at this time making his way through the infuriated mob, to the College of Burgundy, where in the friendship of its principal, La Faye, he found protection and safety."
"Please not to forget what befell our relative."
It was in vain that he attempted to imitate this example of self-command. Distracted with fear for his father, he searched for him in scenes of the utmost danger, wildly repeating his name. A soldier raised over his head a sword dripping with blood. Ere it fell, a man in a black habit took his arm through his, and with some exertion of strength led him onward. They entered less populous streets, where carnage seemed not to have extended, before he perfectly recovered his recollection. Then he would have disengaged himself, but his arm was detained, as strongly as if it were pinioned. "Let me seek my father!" he exclaimed. "Be silent!" said his conductor, with a voice of power that made him tremble. At length he knocked at the massive gate of a monastery. The porter admitted them, and they passed to an inner cell. Affected by his passionate bursts of grief, and exclamations of 'Father, dear father!' his protector said, 'Thank God, my son, that thy own life is saved. I ventured forth amid scenes of horror, hoping to bring to this refuge a brother, whom I loved as my own soul. I found him lifeless and mangled. Thou wert near, and methought thou didst resemble him. Thy voice had his very tone, as it cried, 'Father, father!' My heart yearned to be as a father to thee. And I have led thee hither through blood and death. Poor child, be comforted, and lift up thy soul to God.'"
"Was it not very strange, that a Catholic should be so good?"
"There are good men among every sect of Christians, my child. We should never condemn those who differ from us in opinion, if their lives are according to the Gospel. This ecclesiastic was a man of true benevolence. Nothing could exceed his kindness to him whose life he had saved. It was ascertained that he was not only fatherless but an orphan, for the work of destruction, extending itself into many parts of the kingdom, involved his family in its wreck. The greatest attention was paid to his education, and his patron instructed him in the sciences, and particularly from the study of history he taught him the emptiness of glory without virtue, and the changeful nature of earthly good. He made him the companion of his walks, and by the innocent and beautiful things of nature, sought to win him from that melancholy which is so corrosive to intellect, and so fatal to peace. He permitted him to take part in his works of charity, and to stand with him by the beds of the sick and dying, that he might witness the power of that piety which upholds when flesh and heart fainteth.
During his residence here, the death of Charles IX. took place. He was a king in whom his people and even his nearest friends had no confidence. After the savage massacre of St. Bartholomew, which was conducted under his auspices, he had neither satisfaction nor repose. He had always a flush and fierceness upon his countenance, which it had never before worn. Conscience haunted him with a sense of guilt, and he could obtain no quiet sleep. He seemed to be surrounded by vague and nameless terrors. He fancied that he heard groans in the air, and suffered a strange sickness which forced blood from all the pores of his body.
He was attended in his illness by a faithful old nurse, to whom, notwithstanding she was a Huguenot, he affectionately trusted. One who has described the close of his life, says, that two nights before his death, she was sitting near him on a chest, almost overcome with the drowsiness of fatigue. She was aroused by hearing the king bitterly moan and weep. As she softly approached his bed, he exclaimed, through sighs and sobs, so interrupting his voice that it was difficult to understand him,
"Ah! my nurse, my dear nurse, what blood! what murders! Alas! what evil counsels have I followed! Oh my God! pardon me! and have mercy on me, if thou canst. What shall I do? I am lost! I see it but too well."
The pitying nurse answered with tears.
"Sire! let the guilt rest on those who counselled you to it. For if you consented not in your heart to those murders, and are repentant, trust that God will not charge them to you, but will cover them with the mantle of his Son's great love, to whom alone you should turn."
He listened mournfully to her words, and taking from her hand a handkerchief, his own being saturated with tears, gave a sign that she should retire, and take a little rest.
His attachment to this pious nurse was strongly contrasted with his shrinking aversion whenever his mother approached him. He viewed her as the instigator to that horrible massacre which troubled his conscience, and her presence greatly distressed him. This miserable monarch died on the 30th of May, 1574, at the age of 23, having sinned much and suffered much, though his years were few.
He was succeeded by his brother Henry III., against whom, and Catharine, the Queen-mother, three powerful armies were opposed, one led by the King of Navarre, one by the Prince of Condé, and the other by the Duke of Anjou. The tidings of these civil wars penetrated into the seclusion of the religious house where my grandfather had already passed three years in quiet study. They kept alive the martial spirit which he inherited, and quickened his desire to partake in their tumultuous scenes. At length he communicated to his patron his discontentment with a life of inaction, and his irrepressible wish to mingle again with the world. Unusual paleness settled on the brow of the venerable man, as he replied,
"I have long seen that thy heart was not in these quiet shades, and I have lamented it. Yet thus it is with the young: they will not be wise from the experience of others. They must feel with their own feet, the thorns in the path of pleasure. They must grasp with their own hand, the sharp briers that cling around the objects of their ambition. They must come trusting to the world's broken cisterns, find the dregs from her cup cleaving in bitterness to their lip, and feel her in their bosom, ere they will believe."
The youth enlarged with emotion on his gratitude to his benefactor. He mentioned the efforts he had made to comply with his desires, and lead a life of contemplative piety, but that these efforts were overpowered by an impulse to mingle in more active pursuits, and to visit the home of his ancestors.
"Go, then, my son, and still the wild throbbings of thy heart over the silent beds of those who wake no more till the resurrection morn. Think not that I have read thy nature slightly, or with a careless glance. The spirit of a warrior slumbers there. Thou dost long to mix in the battle. I have marked, in thy musings, the lightning of thine eye shoot forth, as if thou hadst forgotten Him who said: 'Vengeance is mine.' Would that thou hadst loved peace. Go; yet remember, that 'he who taketh the sword shall perish by the sword.' As for me, my path on earth is short, or I should more deeply mourn thy departure. Thou hast been but too dear to me; and when thou art gone, my spirit shall cast from its wings the last cumbrance of earthly love."
He gave him his benediction with great tenderness and solemnity, and the parting was tearful and affectionate. But the young traveller soon dismissed his sorrow, for the cheering influence of the charms of nature, and the gladness of liberty.
The genial season of spring diffused universal beauty. The vales spread out their green mantles to catch the showers of blossoms, with which every breeze covered them. Luxuriant vines lifted up their fragrant coronets. Young lambs playfully cropped the tender leaves. Quiet kids stood ruminating by the clear streams. Music was in all the branches. The father-bird cheered his companion, who, patient on her nest, brooded their future hopes.
"Surely," thought he, "the peasant is the most happy of men, dwelling in the midst of the innocence and beauty of creation."
Then, with the inconsistency natural to youth, he would extol the life of the soldier, its energy, hardihood, and contempt of danger; forgetting that, in this preference of war, he was applauding the science of all others the most hostile to nature and to man.
In the midst of such reflections he reached the spot of his nativity. The home of his ancestors was in the possession of others, a new and lordly race. Strange eyes looked upon him, where the voice of his parents was wont to welcome his returning steps with delight. He could not endure the grief in which none participated, and this solitude among scenes which his childhood loved. He sought to shake off at once his sorrow and his loneliness, and enlisted as a volunteer in the Protestant army. He flattered himself that religion dictated the measure: yet sometimes, in a sleepless hour, the monition of his distant benefactor would come mournfully, "He that taketh the sword shall perish by the sword." His first exploit in arms was at the siege of Ville-Franche, in Perigord, in the year 1576. He continued to follow the fortunes of the King of Navarre, and to endure without shrinking the dangers and privations of a soldier, with scarcely any intervals of peaceful life, until the battle of Coutras, where he fell, covered with wounds. This severe combat took place on the morning of October 20th, 1587. There, the King of Navarre, who, you remember, was afterwards Henry the Great, of France, distinguished himself by a daring courage. He first forced the ranks of the enemy. He seized several prisoners with his own hand. Conspicuous by the plume of white feathers in his lofty helmet, he was continually singled out as a mark, and yet escaped uninjured. Perceiving the Prince of Condé and the Count de Soissons, in the most exposed parts of the field, he exclaimed, 'All that I shall say to you, is, that you are of the house of Bourbon, and please God, I will show you that I am your elder brother.' The victory of the Protestants was complete. The contest lasted scarcely an hour, yet 5000 of their opponents were left dead upon the field. They were led on by the Duke de Joyeuse, who with his haughty brother, St. Sauveur, were drawn lifeless from among heaps of slain, their brows still fierce and frowning, as if they hated that death which could thus level all distinctions. I have mentioned that our ancestor fell in this engagement. He was not thirty years old, and left a wife and infant son, to mourn his untimely departure."
"Is it then from our grandmother that you learned all the circumstances of his story?"
"All these and many more. She was never weary of relating the changes of his life, and the sorrows of her early widowhood. Deeply did she impress on the mind of her son, and of his offspring, the evils of war, and the blessings of peaceful Christianity. Under his roof she dwelt, cherished and venerated, till the children of the third generation rose up to call her blessed. Never shall I forget with what emotions of grief and reverence he laid his hand upon her dying eyes, and wept at her tomb. The piety and love of peace which she had early instilled into his heart, rendered his home the abode of tranquillity, and domestic happiness. His industry, and correct judgment restored competence to a family, which the desolations of war had impoverished, and almost annihilated. Our paternal residence, even now, seems to rise up before me, visible and distinct, as in a picture. Uniting simplicity with comfort, it stood on a gentle slope of ground. In front, a row of chestnuts reared a canopy of lofty shade. Here the traveller sometimes rested, refreshing himself with the water of a little fountain, which, clear as crystal, oozed into a rustic limestone reservoir. In the rear of our residence, rose a hill where our goats found herbage. There they might sometimes be seen, maintaining so slight a footing on projecting cliffs, that they seemed to hang suspended by the mouth from the slight branch they were cropping. The tall poplars, which were interspersed among the foliage, conveyed to us the pensive murmur of approaching storms, and around their trunks, mossy seats were constructed, where we sometimes sat, watching the chequered rays of the moon, and singing our simple provincial melodies. Stretching at the foot of this hill, was the small domain whence we drew our subsistence. Diligence and economy made it fully equal to our wants, and to the claims of charity. Over the roots of the filbert, fig, and mulberry, crept the prolific melon. The gourd, supporting itself by their trunks, lifted its yellow globes into the air like orbs of gold, while still higher rose the aspiring vine, filling its glowing clusters for the wine-press. Our fields of wheat gave us bread, and the bearded oat rewarded the faithful animal that gathered in our harvest. Bees, hastening with busy hum to their sheltered cells, provided the luxury of our evening repast. The olive yielded us its treasures, and furnished an emblem of the peace that pervaded our abode. A genial soil made our labours light, and correct principles converted those labours into happiness. Our parents early taught their large family of twelve children, that indolence was but another name for vice and disgrace; that he, who for his subsistence rendered no return of usefulness, was unjust to society, and disobedient to God. So our industry commenced in infancy. In our hive there were no drones. We early began to look with pity on those whose parents neglected to teach them that well-directed industry was bliss. Among us there were no servants. With the first beams of morning, the band of brothers were seen cheerfully entering on their allotted employments. Some broke the surface of the earth, others strowed seeds or kernels of fruits, others removed the weeds which threatened to impede the harvest. By the same hands was our vintage tended, and our grain gathered into the garner. Our sisters wrought the flax which we cultivated, and changed the fleece of our flocks into a wardrobe for winter. They refreshed us after our toil with cakes flavoured with honey, and with cheeses, rivalling in delicacy those of Parma. They arranged in tasteful baskets of their own construction, fresh fruits or aromatic herbs, or rich flowers for the market. They delighted sometimes to mingle in our severer labours; and when we saw the unwonted exertion heightening the bloom of their cheeks, or placed in their hair the half-blown wild rose, to us, who had seen nothing more fair, they were perfect in grace and beauty. Sometimes at twilight, or beneath the soft evening air of summer, we mingled in the dance, to the music of our flute and viol. Our parents and our grandmother seated near, enjoyed the pastime, and spoke of their own youth, and of the goodness of the Almighty Sire. Often, assembled in our pleasant parlour, each read in turn to the listening auditory, histories of what man has been, or fictitious representations of what he might be, from the pages of the moral painter or the poet. The younger ones received regular lessons in the rudiments of education, and the elder ones, in succession, devoted a stated portion of each day to the pursuit of higher studies, under the direction of their parents. When the family circle convened in the evening, he was the happiest who could bring the greatest amount of useful and interesting information to the general stock. The acquisition of knowledge, which to indolent minds is so irksome, was to us a delightful recreation from severer labours. The exercise which gave us physical vigour, seemed also to impart intellectual energy. The application to which we were inured gave us the more entire control of our mental powers, while the almost unvaried health that we enjoyed preserved elasticity of spirits, and made all our pleasures more sweet. Such was our mode of life, that we were almost insensible to inconvenience from the slight changes of the seasons. In any temporary indisposition or casualty, our mother was our ministering angel. Her acquaintance with the powers of the medicinal plants, that filled her favourite part of the garden, and still more, her intimate knowledge of the little diversities in our constitutions, usually produced a favourable result. She also perfectly understood the slight shades in our disposition and character, and by thus tracing the springs of action to their minuter sources, advanced with more certainty to the good ends of education. Mingled with her love, was a dignity, a decision that commanded our respect. Without this, the parental relation loses its influence, and sacrifices that attribute of authority with which it was invested by the Eternal. Piety was taught us by the example of our parents. We were early led to consider the morning and evening orison and the Sabbath, as periods in which we were invited to mingle our thoughts with angels; and that he who was negligent or indifferent to them, forfeited one of the highest privileges of his nature.
Thus happy was our domestic government. It mingled the pastoral and patriarchal features. I have never seen any system more favourable to individual improvement, and the order, harmony, and prosperity of the whole.
But I am forgetting, dear child, that you must be wearied with my wandering tale and numerous reflections. It is so pleasant to recall the days of childhood, and the images of my parents and brothers and sisters, that I may have taken an old man's privilege too freely, and talked beyond your patience."
"How much I am indebted to you, my dear grandfather, for your kind evening's entertainment. I hope I shall profit from the moral of your story, as well as from the pleasure of listening to it. I trust I shall learn to love peace, and industry, and piety."
"Strive to do so, my dear boy, and ask God's help, and you will be sure to be happy. Obey your parents, and respect all who are wiser and better than yourself, whether rich or poor. This will lay the foundation of that virtue and subordination to the laws of the land, which make a good citizen.
Should you live to be old, like me, you will view objects differently from what you do now. You will stand upon an isthmus, between the _things that have been, and the things that are_. On one hand, will come up the waves of memory, bold and strong; on the other, the little billows of hope, like such bubbles as children play with. Experience will be there, gathering riches even from rocks and quicksands. Then, when you look back, like me, and find your dear parents gone, you will wish that you might for one moment recall them from the grave, to render them your undying offering of gratitude, not for that indulgence which blinded their eye to your faults, and gave you the weak gratification of an hour, perhaps, at the expense of an eternity, but for that salutary discipline which uprooted error, established good habits, and taught that 'fear of God which maketh wise unto salvation.'"
The Old Watch.
My Father's watch! Thy face is dear, And still thou speak'st to me The self-same words that met my ear, When in old times of joyous cheer I gladly climb'd his knee.
For oft as to his side I clung, Thou wert mine own to hold, Though to my simple mind, thy tongue Uttering "_tick, tick_", to old and young Seem'd mystery untold.
And still thy wondrous movements too Amaz'd my gazing eye, Thy hands that to their purpose true Their undeclining circles drew, Were magic strange and high.
But thou from days of toil and care, That manhood's powers employ, Didst duly point him home to share The garden-walk, the fireside chair, The feast of social joy.
When those whom most he loved were nigh, And with beguiling flight, The downy-pinioned hours swept by, Thou, with a calm, unswerving eye Didst note their numbers right.
And he, who knew so well to test Of time, the fleeting prize, Did on thy meek monitions rest And take their wisdom to his breast, And gird him for the skies.
But now, no more serenely sweet He turns to thee for aid, Yet still thy bloodless heart doth beat. Though summon'd to a lone retreat His own in dust is laid.
My Father's Friend! what memories bless'd Thy lingering accents wake, Here, in my sacred casket rest, Or slumber on my filial breast, Most honour'd for his sake.
The age in which we live abounds with entertaining books. Stories of every description, some of them containing good lessons, are exceedingly numerous. Those of the better class furnish food for fancy and feeling.
Fiction has its peculiar attractions, and so has truth. Imagination can scarcely devise more strange events, more striking characters, or more romantic results, than occur on the pages of history. The entertainment derived from true books is the most valuable, because it is the most worthy of being remembered. The mind rests upon it with satisfaction. It accords with its native tastes. The child as soon as it can speak, says, "Please to tell me a _true_ story." Those who are most familiar with unfolding infancy, agree, that incidents simplified from the Scriptures, delight it, though they may be frequently repeated.
So, from the great storehouse of history, the young may entertain and enrich themselves at the same time. By extending their acquaintance through past ages and distant nations, the powers of thought expand themselves, an acquaintance with illustrious characters is formed, and knowledge gained which will be profitable through life, both for reflection and conversation.
Some have objected, that a wide range of history may give the young mind a premature introduction to the vices and follies that disgrace mankind. Yet thus to study them on the map of man, and to form a correct opinion of good and evil, and to deepen the love of virtue, and the hatred of vice, by the force of selected examples, might prepare the young better to understand character, and resist temptation, in the actual struggle of life. The entertainments of history may be as safe as those of fiction, and more salutary. If they sometimes reveal the whirlpools of ambition or the abysses of cruelty, they change the scene, and present the quiet waters of peace fertilizing the valleys, and the pure rose of virtue blooming in the wilderness. Examples of true greatness, generosity, and piety, if less frequent than those of an opposite nature, borrow force from contrast, and may therefore make a deeper impression, and awaken a stronger desire of imitation.
The entertainments of history aid in acquiring a knowledge of human nature. We there see what man has been from the beginning, and what motives or temptations have moved him to good or to evil. Great care should be taken to form a correct judgment, and to measure by a true standard of excellence those whom the world has called illustrious.
Especially, should opinions be cautiously formed, of those whose fame rests only upon military exploits. Though the pride, cruelty, and revenge, that stain many of those whom the Old World applauded as heroes, are in a measure palliated because they were heathen, still _we_ are bound to judge of right and wrong, as Christians. When we think of the misery, mourning, and death, that marked their course upon the earth, we cannot but wonder by what rule of equity, "_one_ murder should make a _villain_, and _many, a hero_!"
To purchase a single conquest, how many eyes have wept, how many bosoms been pierced, how many hearts broken. If victories, and triumphs, and trophies, dazzle the eye, look at their dark reverse: torrents of blood flowing, widows and orphans plunged in despair, throngs of unprepared souls driven into the presence of their Maker.
The patriotism that dares danger for the preservation of liberty, the firmness that repels the encroachments of tyranny, the courage that protects those whose lives are entrusted to its care, differ from the ambition that is willing to build its glory on contention, suffering, and death. This spirit is at war with His precepts, at whose birth the harps of angels breathed the song of "Peace on earth, and good-will to men."
History may be read by the young with a resolution of transcribing into their own character, whatever it exhibits that is "just, lovely, and of good report." Thus will its pages not only afford rational entertainment, but be subservient to usefulness and piety in this life, and to the happiness of that which is to come.
The New Year.
Who, with smiles, and wishes fair, Through drifted snows and branches bare, Comes, and liberal-handed brings Countless gifts, and pleasant things, Many a cake, and many a kiss, Gilded toys, and sports of bliss, Pictured books, with covers gay: Who thus crowns our holiday? While the sleigh-bells' merry peal Rings, and glides the skater's heel? The glad New Year.
Who, a tablet in his breast Hides, with characters impress'd, Mystic signs, and tints that show Chance, and change of joy and woe, Wreaths of hope in darkness laid Boasted wealth a winged shade, Brows that fade in youthful bloom, Empty cradle, open tomb: Who, alas! such course shall tread Ere his farewell words are said? The sad New Year.
Who, of those that never stray Wilfully, from Duty's way, Seek for knowledge, prize the truth, Wisdom gain in early youth, With a pure, and peaceful mind Live in love with all mankind, And a Saviour's precepts dear, Treasure in His holy fear: Who, of such leaves record high On the pages of the sky? The bless'd New Year.
Cyrus is among the most interesting characters described in ancient history. He seemed fitted by nature, as well as by education, for the exalted sphere that was allotted him. He is usually considered as the founder of the Persian empire, and was born about 600 years before the Christian era. He was beautiful in person, and still more admirable for the amiable qualities of his mind. His early training inured him to study, the endurance of fatigue, and the control of his appetites and passions. In his first twelve years of life, he was said to surpass all of his own age in knowledge, and a frank, noble dignity of carriage.
At this early period, he was sent to the court of his grandfather, Astyages, the Median king, where he remained for five years. There, the temptations of luxury and self-indulgence, by which he was surrounded, had no power to draw him from temperance and simplicity. He was ever anxious to make peace between those who differed, and to obtain pardon for such as had offended. So gentle, generous, and beneficent was he, as to become the idol of the people among whom he dwelt.
In his expedition into Assyria with his father, though still but a youth, he discovered great judgment, courage, and presence of mind. Military talents and skill, were in those times held essential to every illustrious man, and these he eminently possessed. After his conquest of Babylon and marriage with a Median princess, three kingdoms were united under his sway: Persia, Media, and Assyria. When he was peacefully settled in his great empire, he busied himself with framing laws for its prosperity and repose. "For a king," said he, "should be the shepherd of his people, and exercise vigilance and care over his flock."
This sentiment reminds us of the prophecy of Isaiah, uttered more than a century before the birth of this prince, and 170 years before the fall of Babylon, which it also predicts: "That saith of Cyrus, he is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure."
Prosperity crowned his efforts for the good of his people; and unbroken health, the reward of temperance and tranquillity of spirit, enabled him to persevere in these efforts. Yet he kept in his secret heart, a fear, founded on the changes of this mortal life, and the frailty of man, which restrained all pride, and kept him as humble as he was active and powerful. Of him it might have been said, as it was of our own Washington, that true merit was the foundation of his greatness.
Therefore, he affected no self-importance, but was affable to all, and repaid by cordial attachment. Cicero asserts that during the whole period of his reign, he was never heard to speak a rough or angry word. Xenophon speaks of him, as exhibiting the "model of a perfect government." Herodotus modifies this praise, and charges him with some faults. But the most exalted characters are subject to error, and the purest may be misunderstood or misrepresented. Even patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, have taught us by their own failings, the infirmity of our nature, and we should not require or expect perfection in others, until we are able to give an example of it ourselves.
When Cyrus approached death, he called around him his children and chief officers, gave them solemn and excellent advice by which to regulate their future conduct, and, thanking Heaven for all its blessings, calmly resigned his breath.
Cambyses, his successor, supplied mournful proof of the contrast that may exist between the son and the father. He was barbarous both at home and abroad, and put to death his own brother, from malignant envy, because he was able to shoot with a larger bow than himself. We will turn from the contemplation of such wickedness, to some of the last words of the great Cyrus to his children, which are here presented in a poetical garb:
Behold, I die! Restore my form To dust, to darkness, and the worm: For from the earth it first arose. And there, at last, it finds repose.
Yet when this breath forsakes the clay, Think ye the spirit shall decay? No, no, my sons! Its mystic flight Hath ever mock'd your keenest sight, Even when it deign'd with mortal care This prison of the flesh to share: So, when stern Death my frame shall blot, It lives, though you perceive it not.
Believe you trace through yonder sky Your disembodied father's eye, And be your motives pure and high: But dread the ages yet unborn Who stamp your deeds with praise or scorn: Dread more than all, the Powers who seal That sentence, man can ne'er repeal.
Rome and its Rulers.
The magnificent city of Rome was at first a rude hamlet of ruder people. Its earliest buildings were upon the Palatine Hill, near the Tiber. In process of time, it extended itself over the six adjacent eminences. Hence the name that it sometimes bears of the "seven-hilled city."
Two brothers, Romulus and Remus, were its founders, 752 years before the birth of Christ. They were twins, and trained up in the humble and hardy habits of a shepherd's life. But from feeding their peaceful flocks they aspired to rule men.
Romulus reared a wall around a portion of the new settlement, in which he took pride. Remus, in sport, or contempt, jumped over it, saying that he had given proof it would afford no protection against invaders. Romulus, forgetting the love he should have borne to his twin-brother, in a transport of rage struck him dead upon the spot. Thus, to the first king of Rome, as to the first-born of Eden, might have been said, "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto thee from the ground." He who gave his own name to the Mistress of the World, left that name stained with the crime of fratricide.
The kings of Rome were the same in number as the hills on which she seated herself. The seventh, and last, was Tarquinius Superbus. After the abolition of the royal sway she had various forms of government. Sometimes her rulers bore the title of Consuls, Dictators, Tribunes, Ediles, and Questors. Then the supreme power was vested in Emperors, of whom there were fifty-five. Some of these were fearful examples of every vice. The excess of luxurious indulgence and pitiless cruelty darken their names in history.
Among this mass of shameless rulers, five appeared in regular succession, who, by their comparatively virtuous course, have obtained the honourable distinction of the "good Emperors." The first of this line was Nerva, who began his reign in the year 96 after the Christian era, when he was himself quite advanced in age. He was a native of Spain, and the first foreigner who had been permitted to wear Rome's imperial purple. He was welcomed with great joy, for the people had just been suffering from the monstrous barbarities of Domitian. Nerva was a man of gentle temper, and like Numa Pompilius, the second king, who had reigned about eight centuries before him, a true lover of peace. With paternal care he used the public money for the public good, instead of wasting it in mad extravagance, like his predecessors. Unfortunately, his sway was short, only about sixteen months, when he fell a victim to a sudden fever, at the age of sixty-six. His memory was gratefully embalmed, for his justice and generosity, and the tranquillity he had given to the empire.
[Illustration: "Continue the command of your passions; make virtue the scope of all your actions."--p. 98]
Trajan, his successor, was also born in Spain. In his youth he had been the pupil of Plutarch, the philosopher, who after his elevation thus addressed him in an affectionate speech "Continue the command of your passions. Make virtue the scope of all your actions. You have it in your power to render me the most honoured of men, by continuing your present course of conduct. If you follow my instructions, I shall glory in having given them. If you neglect them, this address shall be my testimony, that you have not erred through the counsel or authority of Plutarch."
The Emperor did not disregard the motives set before him by his revered teacher. The principles that had been impressed on his boyhood, were as a guiding helm amid the cares of state. He carefully improved his time, was moderate in expense, and modest amid pomp and power. Among his public works was a noble bridge over the Danube, whose massy ruins are still seen by the traveller. He adorned the city of Rome with splendid and substantial buildings, and delighted to draw men of merit from obscurity. His faults were, great fondness for war, and persecuting the Christians, which his strong attachment to the heathen ritual in which he had been educated made him consider as a duty, or a proof of sincerity. He died, during an absence from home, of apoplexy, at the age of sixty-three, having reigned nineteen years.
Adrian, the fifteenth Roman Emperor, began his reign in 117. He had received an excellent education. He was an eloquent speaker, and wrote well, both in prose and poetry. One of his greatest virtues was, that he truly loved peace. He treated those who were in humble stations with kindness. He said that the chief ruler of a nation should be "like the sun, giving warmth to the lowly vales as well as to the mountains." He travelled to France, to Germany, and to Holland; not to make war, but to show himself friendly to their inhabitants. From thence he went to England, and built a wall from Cumberland to Northumberland, to assist in protecting that part of the island from the natives of the north, who were unfriendly and barbarous. He visited Spain and Athens, showing kindness to the people, and went also to many parts of Asia and Africa. He made just laws, and favoured men of learning. He had so remarkable a memory, that he could repeat the substance of a book after once reading it, and he knew the name of every soldier in the Roman army. Though he had so many virtues, he had also great faults. He committed some acts of cruelty, and was very unkind to the Jews. He banished them from their beloved city Jerusalem, and forbade them to come even in sight of it, or to enter it, except one day in the year. In his last sickness he became impatient of pain, and even entreated those around him to take away his life. He cried out, "How miserable a thing it is to seek death and not to find it!" Being a heathen, he had not the comfort of hope in another life. Just before he expired, he composed some verses addressed to his soul, expressing uncertainty with regard to its immortality. He died at the age of sixty-two, having reigned twenty-two years.
Titus Antoninus Pius was one of the most faultless of the good emperors. As his father died in his childhood, his mother and grandfather conducted his education. To them, as well as to all aged persons, he habitually paid great respect. In his youth, his temper was so mild and affectionate, that he gained the love of all with whom he associated. After he became Emperor, he distributed among the poor the greater part of the revenue from his own estates. He completed a magnificent tomb for his predecessor Adrian, repaired many of the edifices of ancient Greece, and built a wall in Britain, between the rivers Esk and Tweed. He laboured to prevent wars, and uttered the noble sentiment,
"I had rather save the life of one citizen than to destroy a thousand enemies."
He was friendly to the Christians, and showed them favour. He sought to be a peace-maker between all contending persons, and to set a consistent example of moral excellence. In these respects he has been compared both to Nerva and to Numa, the latter of whom preserved the blessings of peace to the people during his whole reign of forty-three years. Marcus Antoninus reigned somewhat more than half as long, namely, twenty-two years. During a residence at one of his country-seats, he was attacked by a fever which proved fatal to him at the age of seventy-four. He was loved and lamented by the whole empire, over which he had ruled as a father, seeking the welfare of his children.
Marcus Aurelius is a favourite with historians, and has been ranked among the greatest of the good emperors. He made his predecessor, who was his father-in-law, his model in the affairs of government. He took pleasure in praising his virtues, and thus affectionately mentions some of them, in a work of which he was the author:
"I have much observed his meekness, and his constancy without wavering, in those things which after due deliberation he had determined. I remember his freedom from all vanity, his patient industry, his readiness to hear any man that had aught to say tending to the common good. How readily and impartially would he give every man his due. How modestly would he condescend to other men, as though he was an ordinary man himself. How accurately would he examine and consult, and how patiently would he hear others. Neither would he hastily give over the search of difficult matters, or be easily satisfied with sudden notions and opinions. How carefully would he preserve his friends, never treating them with neglect, or growing weary of them.
I love to remember his contented mind, his cheerful countenance, his care to foresee things afar off, and to give orders without noise or clamour. How was all flattery repressed by him, and how carefully did he observe all things necessary to the government, and keep an account of all the common expenses. And when he was reproached by some for this very strictness, how patiently did he bear it. He was neither studious to please men, nor ambitious of popular applause, but sober in all things, every where observant of that which was fitting. In those things which conduce to ease and convenience, of which his great fortune allowed him a plentiful supply, he was without pride or boasting. He freely enjoyed them when they were present, and when they were absent, was never uneasy for the want of them. He was commended as a man that could not endure to be flattered, but was able to govern both himself and others. He honoured all true philosophers, without upbraiding those who were not so. In his conversation he was sociable and delightful. How gently would he yield to those who had any peculiar talent, such as eloquence, or knowledge of the laws, or ancient customs, and how heartily he endeavoured that everyone might, according to their excellence, be regarded and esteemed. How constant was he in his attention to business; and after his great fits of headache, how fresh and vigorous would he return to his wonted affairs. In all things having respect unto men, only as men, and to the equity of things, and not unto the glory that might follow."
Marcus Aurelius still further evinced his gratitude and reverence for Antoninus Pius, by erecting to his memory a beautifully sculptured marble column, more than a hundred feet in height, and surmounted by his statue, which may still be seen at Rome, though more than 1700 years old.
He was a lover of knowledge. Through his whole life he laboured to obtain it. After he became an emperor, he used to go, and sometimes on foot, to the house of a man of wisdom, named Apollonius, that he might take lessons of him. He valued intellectual riches more than gold or power. Among all the cares of state, he found time for it, saying that it was his desire to learn as long as he lived.
He was particularly attached to the study of philosophy, and used to call it his mother, to prove his affection. He established schools for it, both at Rome and Athens. He often gave lectures in that science to the people, deeming it no derogation from imperial dignity to instruct and elevate the public mind. Especially, when about to be absent from the city, for any length of time, he thus addressed his people, that if he never returned, their last remembrance of him might be connected with precepts of virtue.
His principal faults were allowing the Christians to be persecuted, and being often engaged in war, though his principles revolted against it, and he considered it a calamity. He died at Vindobona, where the city of Vienna, in Austria, now stands, after the sickness of a week, on March 17th, 180; having lived fifty-nine years, and reigned nineteen. He was so much beloved, that many kept his image or statue in their houses, offering it flowers and incense, as one of their heathen gods.
The two last of these Emperors were called Antonines. Their united periods of sway amounted to forty-one years, and Rome never enjoyed greater happiness than during their sovereignty. Afterwards, it declined both in prosperity and virtue.
The reigns of the five good Emperors extended over a period of eighty-four years, just the length of one of the revolutions of the planet Herschel around the sun. With a single one of his years he measured out the earthly span of all these mighty monarchs. Ere he returned to his annual goal, they had risen, and flourished, and fallen.
A hoary-headed man might have seen the whole of their imperial sway. An aged English statesman, Sir John Mason, outlived five of his own sovereigns. In looking back upon so long a life, he said that he had received favours from them all, and been promoted to many honours, but that religion and hope in heaven were the truest riches, and all things else forsook him, but his God, his duty, and his prayers.
The study of history is salutary to the young mind. To know what has been done in all countries, since man was placed upon the earth, is a laudable curiosity, and an ennobling pursuit. To form a correct opinion of the characters thus presented us, affords useful exercise to the judgment. Those who have delighted only to shed blood, and to build their fame on the misery of mankind, should not be admired though the world may pronounce them heroes.
In reading of the truly wise and good, we should strive to imbibe their spirit and tread in their steps. The highest end of knowledge is to advance in goodness and piety, and to make the heart and life more acceptable to God.
The Ploughing of the Sword.
"They shall beat their swords into Plough-shares." Isaiah, II, 4.
The ploughing of the Sword Breaks up the greensward deep, And stirs the old foundations Where the baleful passions sleep; The quiet beauty of the vales It rudely rends away, And turns the roots of the riven flowers To the scorching eye of day.
And then, they madly sow The seeds of bitter strife, Ambition, wrath, revenge, And stern contempt of life. They wildly scatter o'er the land Dissension, pain, and care, And fright away the birds of peace That fain would carol there.
Now call the reapers forth, With the thundering cannon's roar, Hark! to the rush of an armed host Like the surge on a rocky shore, With tramp and clang, the warrior's heel Doth the red wine-press tread, And heavily roll the loaded wains With their burdens of the dead.
They reap with murderous sickle, Mid the shrill trumpet's cry, Till the mightiest and the lowest, In equal ruin lie. Till the screaming vulture whets his beak, Where the blood-pools blot the green, And the gaunt hyena prowls at night His dire repast to glean.
They store their carnage spoil In History's garner wide, A reeking overflowing crop Of crime, and woe, and pride, The widow's pang, the orphan's tear The exulting tyrant's might, And the cry of souls for ever lost, As they take their fearful flight.
Oh! mourning Mother Earth, Lift up thy heart and pray That the ploughing of the sword Be for ever done away, And thine own meekly-cultur'd fields With nodding corn be dress'd, To feed thy children, ere they take Their slumber in thy breast.
And thou, terrific Sword! Whose ministry accurs'd Doth waste the span of mortal life That was so brief at first, God speed the day when promis'd Peace Shall reign from shore to shore, And thou, into a plough-share beat, Convulse the world no more.
The Good and Bad Emperor.
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus was the seventeenth Emperor of Rome, and began his reign on the 2nd of March, 161 years before the Christian era. Besides these three names, he had several others, _Annius Verus_, after his grandfather; _Elius_, which was given him by the Emperor Adrian; _Verissimus_, from his constant regard to truth; and _Philosophos_, from his love of wisdom.
In early childhood he was instructed by his mother, who took great pains to teach him not to do wrong, or to think unkindly of any person. She would not permit him to be dainty in his food, or to partake in luxuries that might be hurtful to his health; and though he saw much to tempt his taste, he regarded the restrictions of his mother. She also counselled him not to be proud, but to relieve the poor whenever he had opportunity. By his respect and obedience to her, he began life with the elements of virtue and happiness.
His grandfather also conducted a part of his education, in childhood. He listened reverently to his words, and followed all his directions. Thus, he began to honour and love the aged, and to bow down before them. In one of the wise books which he wrote in manhood, the very first sentences are expressive of gratitude to these his earliest teachers.
"Of my grandfather, I learned to be gentle and meek, and to refrain from all anger and passion. Of my mother, I learned to be religious and bountiful, to forbear not only to do, but to intend any evil; to content myself with a spare diet, and to fly all the excesses that come from great wealth."
Not content with the high moral training of his immediate instructors, he was careful to imitate whatever he saw that was praiseworthy in the conduct of others. "Of my brother," he writes, "I have learned to be kind and loving to all of my house and family, bountiful and liberal in the largest measure, always to hope for the best, and to believe that my friends love me."
As he grew older, masters were called in to direct his studies. Two of these were from Greece, and he acquired the language of that classic clime with great accuracy. Junius Rusticus, his instructor in philosophy, he says, "taught me to write letters simply, and without affectation, to be easily reconciled to those who had offended me, as soon as any of them would be content to seek unto me again; also, to read with diligence, and never to be content with light and superficial knowledge."
He was particularly partial to that department of philosophy which teaches the regulation of the temper and conduct. Such excellence did he attain in its principles and their exemplification, that he was permitted to assume, at the age of twelve, the philosophical gown. His rapid progress in knowledge, and preeminence for truth and integrity, gained him the favour of the Emperor Adrian, who was a patron of learning and virtue. Among other distinctions, he appointed him prefect of the city, when only fifteen years old. It was an office of power and importance, comprising the superintendence of buildings, and navigation, and the judging of causes, as a chief magistrate, if the Emperor should be absent from the city. In this responsible station, he acquitted himself with justice and dignity, not at all vain of his elevation, but improving every opportunity to advance in knowledge.
Amid the pressure of his public offices and private studies, he did not overlook the domestic affections. To his sister Annia Corneficia, he showed the utmost tenderness. He liked to impart his knowledge to her, and to have her enjoy the new ideas that he gathered. After the death of their father, he became her watchful protector, and the paternal estate having been left to him, he presented it to her, rejoicing at having it in his power to make her so valuable a gift. His generosity was equalled by his gratitude. When he became Emperor of Rome, he remembered all who had done him services, and recompensed them. Especially to his teachers, his regard was unbounded. His obligations to them he frequently mentioned, and said the knowledge with which they had stored his mind was more precious than the wealth of an empire. While they lived, he loaded them with benefits. When they died, he paid to their memories the tribute of affectionate respect. He laid chaplets of flowers on their tombs, and caused their statues to be made of gold, which he kept in his domestic chapel.
In this feature of attachment to his instructors he resembled Alexander the Great, who was never weary of testifying gratitude to his master, Aristotle. Comparing it to the affection for his father, he said, "I am indebted to Philip for _living_, and to Aristotle for _living well_." He rebuilt and beautified Stagyra, after it had been destroyed, because it was the native place of Aristotle, and enclosed a copy of Homer's poems, to which this beloved preceptor had written notes, in a gold box, carrying it wherever he went with his armies, and laying it under his head every night, when he retired to rest. In a letter to his teacher, he says, "I had rather surpass the rest of men in the knowledge of sublime and excellent things, than in greatness and extent of power."
More truly great was Alexander in this sentiment, than in his renown as a warrior. And surely, in the beautiful sentiment of gratitude to our instructors in knowledge and virtue, we, who are Christians, ought not to suffer ourselves to be surpassed by the followers of false gods.
When Marcus Aurelius was raised to the highest office in the Empire, he felt it incumbent on him to be the father of his people. He strove to do good to all. He laboured to frame just laws. He directed the courts to take a longer time for the transaction of business, that they might not be tempted, through haste, to neglect the causes of the poor. So great was his own industry and patience, that he not unfrequently gave ten days to the study of a case whose decision was important or difficult.
He showed great respect for the opinion of the Senate, and never took any portion of the revenue for public expenses without their permission. He evinced much prudence in the use of what they entrusted to him. Once, when the claims of the nation were peculiarly pressing, he said to his wife, the Empress Faustina,
"I will sell the furniture of my palace, and you can dispose of your richest clothing, rather than burden our people to part with more than they can spare."
He was anxious for the improvement of the young, and appointed a magistrate to whom minors might apply, who needed protection or assistance. He was careful to add an example of morality to the precepts that he impressed on others. Though he had power to punish, it was his practice to forgive those who had done him personal injuries. He had a foe, named Avidius, whose slanders he generously pardoned. Afterwards, hearing that Avidius had destroyed his own life, he said, "Ah! I have now lost the opportunity of changing an enemy into a friend."
He also cultivated the virtue of patience with the infirmities of others. "If we cannot make them in all things as we wish them to be," he used to say, "we must take them as they are, and do the best with them that lies in our power." This principle of forbearance was strongly put to the test by Lucius Verus, his colleague during the earlier part of his reign. This person rendered little aid in the cares of the government, whose authority he partook. He led an idle life, and selfishly regarded only his own wishes. He possessed much vanity, and coveted popular applause, though he did nothing to deserve it. He liked the pomp and pageantry of war, but not its hardships. Though he was forward to promote it, yet he threw its toils upon others, and when in distant countries with the Roman armies, spent his time in indolence or unmanly sports. He was addicted to indulgence in wine, and a luxurious table. Hence he injured his health, and probably shortened his days, dying suddenly in a fit, ere he was forty years old.
The efforts that Marcus Aurelius made for his improvement and reformation, were like those of a kind father, anxious for his erring son. He mildly reasoned with him, and faithfully advised him, and laboured to excuse his faults, even when the whole nation was exasperated.
The command over his passions, which was so conspicuous in Marcus Aurelius, he derived from long study and practice of that Philosophy to which he was so much attached, as to call it his "mother." He made choice of the sect of the Stoics, who were sometimes called scholars of the Portico, because their master gave his lectures in a portico adorned with pictures, at Athens, in Greece. Zeno, the founder of this school of philosophers, discouraged luxury, and the pride of wealth. He set an example of great simplicity of life, dressing plainly, and being frugal in all his expenses. Bread, figs, and honey, were his principal diet, and when the most distinguished men sat at his table, he made no change in its provisions. He was modest in the estimation of himself, and amid any concourse of people, sought the humblest and lowest place. To poor men of merit, he paid the same respect as if they had been rich. He had many opposers, but never lost his temper through their provocations. He taught that virtue was the true good, that happiness existed in the mind and not in outward circumstances, and that men should be unmoved either by pleasure or pain. His temperance and tranquil spirit were probably favourable to longevity, as he died on the verge of ninety-nine, two hundred and sixty-four years before the Christian era.
Marcus Aurelius embodied some of the precepts of his philosophy in a book which has been praised by wise and learned men. As a specimen of its style, I will extract some of his sentiments on the diligent improvement of time.
"In the morning, if thou feelest reluctant to rise, consider how much work thou hast to do. Say to thy heart, Am I unwilling to go about that for which I was born, and brought into this world? Was I made to please myself idly, in a warm bed?
"Wert thou born only to enjoy pleasure? Was it not rather that thou mightest be always busy, and in action? Seest thou not how every tree and plant, how sparrows and ants, spiders and bees, are industrious and intent to perform what belongs unto them? And wilt not thou hasten to do that which thy nobler nature doth require?"
In his Meditations he thus reasons on the firmness with which this mortal existence should be resigned; and his argument is as strong as any that philosophy, unenlightened by the Gospel, could furnish.
"Thou hast taken ship. Thou hast sailed. Thou hast come to land. Get out of the ship into another life. The Gods are there."
Yet this good Emperor, who seemed as perfect as it was possible for pagan morality and belief to make any human being, still had faults. One of the most prominent of these was persecuting the Christians. That a man so habitually mild should have been thus severe, can only be explained on the principle that he believed himself to be doing right. Thus the Apostle Paul, when he imprisoned and punished the followers of Christ, and consented to the stoning of Stephen, "calling upon God," persuaded himself that he was discharging a sacred duty.
Marcus Aurelius was much influenced by the priests of the heathen temples, who were jealous of whatever interfered with their own idol-worship, and also by the philosophers, who despised the Christians. Much of the barbarity to which they were subjected was hidden from him, as the governors of the distant provinces put many to death without his knowledge. Still, he ought to have more thoroughly investigated the truth with regard to them, and had he been acquainted with the New Testament, would doubtless have admired its pure and sublime morality.
Another of his faults was, that he so often engaged in war when he did not approve of it, but considered it both a calamity and disgrace. It has been already mentioned that his colleague, Lucius Verus, was proud of military parade, and encouraged bloodshed. The Romans, also, were an iron-hearted people, placing their glory in foreign conquest. Any disorder in the countries that they had subjected, they were prompt to punish by the sword.
On one such occasion, when Marcus Aurelius led an army into Germany, to chastise the Quadi, a tribe who had rebelled against the sway of Rome, some remarkable circumstances occurred. It was a wild region which he traversed, where it was difficult to obtain sustenance. The troops were in danger of famine. The heat was intense, and no rain had fallen for a long time, so that the grass was withered, and many of their horses perished. The brooks and fountains wasted away, and they endured distressing thirst. The enemy shut them up between the mountains and themselves, preventing as far as possible their approach to the rivers. Then in this weak condition they forced them to give battle or be cut off.
It was pitiful to see the Roman soldiers standing in their ranks, with enfeebled limbs and parched lips, almost suffocated with heat. For four days they had scarcely tasted water. As their barbarous enemies pressed closely and fiercely upon them, the Emperor advanced to the head of his forces, and, oppressed with anxiety, raised his eyes to heaven, and said,
"By this hand, which hath taken no life away, I desire to appease Thee. Giver of life! I pray unto Thee."
Poor and empty, indeed, was this form of heathen devotion, contrasted with the triumphant trust of the king of Judah, who, when the mighty host of the Ethiopians stood ready to swallow him up, exclaimed,
"It is nothing for God to help, whether by many or by them that have no power."
Then it was told the Emperor, that there was in the camp an Egyptian, who boasted that the gods of his country could give rain.
"Call him forth!" was the imperial command, "bid him pray for water to relieve our thirst, and make to his gods any offerings that spirit propitiate them."
The dark-browed man came forward and with many ceremonies invoked Isis, the goddess who presided over the waters. He implored her with the most piercing earnestness to be gracious, and give rain. Thus the idol-priests, during the long drought in Israel, under Ahab, when the grass and brooks dried up, and the cattle died, cried in their frantic sacrifices, "from morning until noon, Oh Baal! hear us. But there was no voice, neither any that regarded."
In the pause of despair that ensued, some Christian soldiers, who had been constrained to join the army, were led forward. Kneeling on the glowing sands, they besought the Great Maker of heaven and earth, for the sake of their dear crucified Saviour, to pity, and to save. Solemnly arose their voices in that time of trouble.
But the interval allotted to this supplication of faith was brief. The conflict might no longer be deferred. As they approached to join in battle, the enemy exulted to see the Roman soldiers perishing with thirst, and worn almost to skeletons, through famine and hardship.
Suddenly the skies grew black. At first a few large drops fell, Heaven's sweet promise of mercy. Then came a plentiful shower, then rain in torrents. The sufferers, with shouts of joy, caught it in their helmets, and in the hollow of their shields. The blessed draught gave them new strength and courage.
While they were yet drinking, their foes rushed upon them, and blood was mingled with the water that quenched their thirst. But the storm grew more terrible, with keen flashes of lightning, and thunder heavily reverberating from rock to rock. The barbarians, smitten with sudden panic, exclaimed that the gods fought against them with the fires of heaven, and fled from the field. Thus the fortune of the day was turned, and the vanquished left victors.
Marcus Aurelius received this deliverance with deep gratitude. In his heart he connected it with the prayer of the Christians, and caused their persecutions to cease. An ancient historian mentions that the soldiers who had thus supplicated for relief, received the name of the "thundering legion," and were permitted to have a thunderbolt graven on their shields, as a memorial of the tempest that had discomfited their enemies, and saved the Roman forces, when ready to perish. The Emperor, in his letter to the Senate, recorded the events of that wonderful occasion, which, among others connected with the war he then conducted, were sculptured on the Antonine column, still standing in the city of Rome.
When the career of Marcus Aurelius terminated, and his time came to die, he gave parting advice to his son and successor, Commodus, solemnly charging his chief officers and the friends who loved him, to aid him in the discharge of his duties. Though he uttered so many precepts of wisdom and fatherly tenderness, it still seemed as if much was left unspoken, which he would fain have said. Anxious care sat upon his brow after his pale lips breathed no sound. It was supposed that this trouble was for his son, in whose right dispositions and habits he could have little confidence.
Commodus was the only son of Marcus Aurelius, his twin brother having died during infancy. The utmost pains had been taken with his education. But he had no love of knowledge, preferring sports or idleness, having no correct value of the preciousness of time.
When he was but fourteen years of age, his father permitted him to have a share in the government, hoping thus to elevate him above trifling pursuits, and implant in his young heart an interest for the people over whom he was appointed to rule. But no sooner was he in possession of power, than he began to abuse it. He grew haughty, and despised the rights of others, studying only his own selfish gratification.
He was nineteen, when, by the death of his father, he assumed the supreme authority. For a time his course was more judicious than could have been expected, as he consented to take the advice of aged counsellors, who were experienced in the cares of state. Afterwards, he rejected their guidance, and would listen only to the suggestions of young and rash advisers. Ere long he became unjust and cruel, taking away life as his own caprices dictated.
Among some of his most illustrious victims were the Quintillian brothers, Maximin and Cardianus. They were distinguished for wealth and liberality, and a zealous kindness in relieving the poor. They were also remarkable for their mutual affection, their studies and pleasures being the same. They read the same books, and so uniform was their flow of thought, that they could pursue together the composition of the same treatise. Such delight had they in each other's company, that they were seldom seen separate, and had no idea of divided or opposing interests. Rome admired this beautiful example of fraternal love, pointing them out as two forms animated by one soul. Without just cause, Commodus put to death these two brothers, who, having lived in each other's life, were executed at the same time.
In the midst of such barbarities, this bad Emperor was amusing himself with the hunting of wild beasts, and the company of vain and vicious people. His excesses were at length terminated by violence, being strangled after a reign of twelve years, December 31st, 192. His memory was execrated by those over whom he had ruled. Indolence and hatred of knowledge in his boyhood, and love of wicked associates in youth, brought the vices of a bad heart to early ripeness, so that he was at once dreaded and despised.
In analyzing his character, it will be found in two respects similar to that of Rehoboam, king of Israel, in his rejection of the advice of aged counsellors, to follow the guidance of the young, and in being the unwise son of a wise father.
We see that the honours won by illustrious ancestors will avail us nothing, unless by our own virtues we sustain their reputation. Indeed, if we take a different course, our disgrace will be deeper, as the career of the bad Emperor, which we have briefly traced, seems darker when contrasted with the lustre and glory of his predecessor.
Therefore, let every child of a good and distinguished parent, give added diligence, that he may not blemish the memory of those whom he loves, or stain the brightness of a transmitted name.
Bonaparte at St. Helena.
The drama sinks, the tragic scene is o'er, And he who rul'd their springs, returns no more; He, who with mystery cloth'd, pale wonder chain'd, And all mankind his auditors detain'd, Whose plot unfolding agoniz'd the world, Resigns his mask, and from the stage is hurl'd. When from the wilds of Corsica he broke, To snatch the sceptre and to bind the yoke, He rais'd the curtain with his dagger's blade, And pour'd red carnage o'er the slumbering shade. His fearful plan, terrific, strange, and new, Nor Fancy prompted, nor Experience drew, It sprang inventive from a daring mind Where dauntless nerve and intellect combined; Thence bursting wildly, like the lightning's flame, Gave birth to deeds that language fails to name. With battle-clouds the shrinking sun he veil'd, With flashing fires astonish'd Night assail'd, By ravag'd fields, and streams with carnage red, Trac'd o'er the earth his desolating tread:
Without a signal to the conflict rush'd O'er friends enslav'd, foes wounded, allies crush'd; High from the Alps, amid eternal snow, Pour'd his fierce legions on the vale below, With tramp of hurrying steed and armour's clang War followed war; from conquest, conquest sprang. In Scythian caves he fought; on Afric's sands, Chas'd the wild Arab and his roving bands; Perch'd on the pyramids in dizzy height. Look'd scornful down on Alexander's might; O'er Europe's realm like Attila he rush'd, Snatch'd, rent, divided, subjugated, crush'd; _Here_, planted minions in his smile to reign, _There_, loaded monarchs with his vassal chain. Rome's haughty pontiff trembled at the nod That dar'd to threat the altar of his God; While Albion's ships, whose bristled lightnings glow, Were seen like Argus watching for their foe, And her white cliffs in close array were lin'd With sleepless soldiers, on their arms reclin'd.
Far distant realms beheld his glories tower, And France forgot her wrongs, to boast his power; The pale-brow'd conscript left, without a sigh, Home, love, and liberty, for him to die. Even heaven-taught Genius proffer'd venal lays, The servile arts enlisted in his praise, And the rich spoils of old Italia's shore As trophies proud, his pirate legions bore. In that gay city where his lofty throne On run rear'd, in sudden brilliance shone, The Old World met the New, and sons of fame Who fill'd with awe, in long procession came, Rais'd the imploring eye, to ask sublime A milder sentence on the tyrant's crime. But how can Europe grant their warm appeal, Reft of her sons, and mangled by his steel? Hath she a couch so dark, a cell so deep, That burning Moscow's memory there may sleep? What can the scenes of purple Jaffa blot? And when shall Lodi's slaughter be forgot? Who from a race unborn shall hide the view Of Jena, Austerlitz, and Waterloo? Earth, clad in sable, never can forego The deep-grav'd trace, nor man forget the woe.
Yet, _let him live_, if life can yet be borne, Disrob'd of glory, and depress'd with scorn; Yes, _let him live_, if he to life can bend, Without a flatterer, and without a friend; If from the hand he hated, he can bear To take the gift, his stain'd existence spare. But who from yon lone islet shall exclude The fearful step of Conscience, foul with blood? What diamond shield repel the impetuous force Or break the shafts of pitiless remorse? Oh! in his sea-girt cell of guilt and fear, Stretch the red map that marks his dire career, Light the funereal torch, in terror spread His reeking hecatombs of slaughter'd dead, And if to hearts like his, Contrition comes, There let him seek her 'mid impending glooms; _There_ let him live, and to mankind display The mighty miseries of Ambition's sway; There let him sink, to teach them by his fate, The dread requital of the falsely great. Great, in the stores of an ambitious mind; Great, in the deeds that desolate mankind; Great, like the pestilence in mystic shroud That darts its arrow from the midnight cloud; Great, like the whirlwind in its wrecking path, To sow in evil, and to reap in wrath.
There have been in all ages some firm and consistent Christians, who, rather than deny the true faith, have chosen martyrdom. Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna, in Asia, was one of the earliest of these. He had become very old and venerable, when, during one of the persecutions under the Roman Emperors, his life was taken away. No accusation was ever made against him, except that he was a follower of Christ.
Suddenly there was a great noise in the streets, and multitudes shouted, "Let Polycarp be brought!" Not dismayed at the tumult, he retired to pray, as was his custom at that hour. Then his enemies rushed forcibly into his house, and foreseeing their purpose, he said,
"The will of the Lord be done."
Calmly he talked with them, and as some seemed weary and exhausted, he commanded food to be set before them, remembering the words of the forgiving and compassionate Redeemer, "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink."
He requested that he might have one hour for his devotions, ere they took him from his home, to which he felt persuaded that he should return no more. This they granted, and when the hour was passed, placed him on an ass, to carry him to the city. Two Romans of wealth and power, passing by, took him up into their chariot. There they endeavoured to persuade him to sacrifice to the heathen gods. He replied, "I shall never do what you advise." Then they threw him out of the chariot so roughly, that he was bruised and hurt. But rising, he walked on cheerfully, notwithstanding his great age. When he was brought before the tribunal, the Governor urged him to deny the Saviour. "Reverence thine age," said he. "Repent. Swear by the fortunes of Cæsar. Reproach Christ, and I will set thee at liberty."
But Polycarp replied, "Fourscore and six years have I served him, and he hath never done me an injury. How then can I blaspheme my King and Saviour?"
"I have wild beasts," said the furious governor. "I will cast you unto them, unless you change your mind."
"Call for them," answered Polycarp.
"Nay, if you dread not the lions," said the Roman, "I will order you to be consumed by fire, except you repent."
"Threatenest thou me," said the gray-haired Christian, "with the fire that burns for an hour, and then is extinguished? And art thou ignorant of the fire of the future judgment, and of the everlasting punishment reserved for the wicked?"
Then the whole multitude, both of Jews and Gentiles that inhabited Smyrna, cried out furiously, "This is the father of the Christians, who teaches all Asia not to worship our gods. Let a lion loose upon him, or let him be cast into the flame."
They hastened to raise a pile of wood and dry branches. He unclothed himself at their command, and endeavoured to stoop down and take off his shoes, which he had long been unable to do, because of his age and infirmity. When all things were ready, they were going to nail him to the stake. But he said, "He who gives me strength to bear this fire, will enable me to stand unmoved without being fastened with nails." Then he thus prayed:
"Oh Father of the beloved and blessed Son, Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained the knowledge of Thee, Oh God of angels and principalities, of all creation, and of all the just who live in thy sight, I bless Thee that Thou hast counted me worthy of this day, and at this hour, to receive my portion in the number of martyrs, in the cup of Christ, for the resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and body, in the incorruption of the Holy Ghost, among whom may I be received before Thee, as an acceptable sacrifice, which Thou, the faithful and true God, hast prepared, promised, and fulfilled accordingly. Wherefore, I praise Thee for all these things, I bless Thee, I glorify Thee, by the eternal High Priest, Jesus Christ, thy well-beloved Son, through whom and with whom, in the Holy Spirit, be glory to Thee, both now and for ever."
Scarcely had the hoary-headed saint uttered his last earnest _Amen_, ere the impatient officers kindled the pile. Flame and smoke enwrapped the blackening body of the martyr. It was long in consuming, and so they ran it through with a sword. Thus died the faithful and venerable Polycarp in the year 168, at the age of eighty-six.
"Peace on earth, and good-will to men."
Lift up the grateful heart to Him, The Friend of want and pain, Whose birth the joyous angels sang, On green Judea's plain;
"Good-will and peace!" how sweet the sound Upon the midnight air, While sleep the fleecy flocks around, Watched by their shepherd's care.
So we, within this Christian fold, Lambs of our teacher's love, Who hear that melody divine, Still echoing from above,
Would fain, through all of life, obey The spirit of the strain, That so the bliss by angels sung Might not to us be vain.
The Frivolous King.
Richard the Second was grandson of Edward the Third, and the only son of the celebrated Black Prince. He ascended the throne at the age of eleven, with every advantage that could be derived from the partiality of the people for his illustrious ancestors. Especially the firmness and magnanimity of his father, and his union of goodness with greatness, won the favour of the historians of his times, who assert that he left a stainless honour and an unblemished name.
The young king, during an insurrection, gave some proofs of courage and presence of mind that impressed the nation favourably: and as he approached maturity, his graceful, majestic person awakened their admiration and pride. Had he by wise conduct and deportment confirmed these impressions, he might have swayed their affections, and firmly established himself in their love. But his demeanour was so light and frivolous, that he commanded no respect, while his self-confidence and contempt of wise counsel plunged him into misfortune. And as the mind that indulges itself in error is never stationary, he passed from indolence to acts of injustice, and even of cruelty.
He banished for life the Duke of Norfolk, against whom no crime had been proved, and condemned to a ten years' exile the young Duke of Bolingbroke, against whom no offence had been alleged. The last named nobleman was his own cousin, the son of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, brother of the Black Prince. The aged father deeply mourned this disgrace and unjust punishment inflicted on his only son. Had not Richard been destitute of true sympathy, it would have grieved him to see his white-haired relative sinking in despondence, and mourning night and day for the absence of his son. Borne down by sorrow, and the infirmities of declining years, he died, and his large estates were immediately taken for the use of the crown.
The banished Bolingbroke, exasperated at the seizure of his paternal inheritance, returned before the term of his exile had expired. When he entered his native land, some followers joined him, and as he passed onward, they increased to a formidable force. Richard was dilatory in his preparations to oppose them, and unfortunate in his encounters. He was defeated, and made prisoner by him who had once been the victim of his own tyranny.
The weather was cold and cheerless, when, on almost the last day of December, 1399, a strange and sad scene was exhibited in the streets of London. There, Bolingbroke, with the title of Henry Fourth, appeared riding in great pomp, with a vast retinue, who filled the air with acclamations, followed by the drooping and degraded Richard, exposed to the insults of those who flattered or feared him in his day of power, and now spared not to cast dust and rubbish upon him. Shakspeare has given a most striking description of this entrance into the city, which seems to bring it before the eye like a picture.
Though the fickle throng showered their praises upon the fortunate monarch, there were some left to pity the fallen. He was kept a close prisoner in Pomfret Castle, and subjected to many sufferings and indignities. There he died, some historians say by the stroke of an axe, and others, by the slow torture of starvation.
From his untimely grave, a voice seems to rise, warning the young against the folly and rashness that were his ruin. Let them avoid this thoughtlessness and waste of time, and if they are ever tempted to frivolity, or contempt of the rights of others, remember what this prince might have been, and what he became, nor pass by this melancholy monument of blasted hope without learning a lesson of wisdom.
To a Pupil Leaving School.
Farewell! Farewell! Once more regain Your happy home, your native plain; Yet here, in Learning's classic fane, None have discharg'd the allotted part With firmer zeal or fonder heart. And true affection still shall hold Your image, set in Memory's gold. Yet think, sweet friend, where'er you rove, That He who strews your path with love, Accords no boon of which to say, "'Tis light, go trifle it away." No. Every fleeting hour survives; It seems to vanish, yet it lives; Though buried, it shall burst the tomb, And meet you at the bar of doom. But _how_ it rises, _how_ appears, With smiles or frowns, with joys or fears. And ah! what verdict then it bears, Rests on your labours, and your prayers.
The pomp with which royalty is surrounded must be unfavourable to a right education. Its proud expectations are often destructive to humility, and its flatteries blind the mind to a knowledge of itself.
Yet History records a few instances, where the young heart has escaped these dangers, and chosen truth for its guide, and wisdom as its portion. Here and there, we find one, whom the possession of an earthly crown did not deter from the pursuit of that which is incorruptible and eternal.
Josiah, the king of Judah, was one of these rare examples. He was born about the year six hundred and thirty-three, before the Christian era, and at the early age of eight was called to succeed his father on the throne. The temptations of kingly power, which are so often a hindrance to piety, seemed rather to dispose his heart to its influence, for the sacred historian records that in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, "he began to seek after the God of David his father."
The religion of this young prince of sixteen soon unfolded itself in earnest deeds; the overthrow of idolatry, the repair of the Holy Temple, and the establishment of laws for the welfare of his people and realm.
Modern history, also, describes some young heirs of royalty, whom it is pleasant to contemplate. Conspicuous among these is Edward VI. of England, who began his reign in 1547, at the age of nine years. His mother died almost immediately after his birth, and until he was nearly seven he was under the care of females, whose virtues and accomplishments were calculated to make the happiest impression on his character. Thus, by the grace of God, was laid the foundation of that deep, tender, and consistent piety, that marked his conduct through life, and left him, at death, an unblemished fame.
In early childhood he discovered strong powers of mind, and a conscientious heart. His reverence for the Scriptures was remarkable. Once, while playing with some infantine companions, he desired to reach an article that was considerably above their heads. So they moved a large book for him to stand upon. Scarcely had he placed his foot upon the covers when he saw it was the Bible. Instantly drawing back, he folded his arms around it and said seriously to his play-fellows, "Shall I trample under my feet that which God hath commanded me to treasure up in my heart?"
On his seventh birth-day he was placed under the tuition of learned men, to study such branches of knowledge as they considered best for him, among which were the Latin and French languages. He was docile to all their directions, and frequently expressed his gratitude for their instructions. Letters elegantly written in Latin, at the age of eight, to his father, Henry Eighth, Queen Catharine Parr, his mother-in-law, and the Earl of Hertford, his uncle, are preserved as curiosities in the annals of those times.
At his coronation, being then nine years old, three swords were laid before him to signify that he was the monarch of three separate kingdoms.
"There is another sword yet wanting," said the child-prince, "one more, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Without that we are nothing, we can do nothing; we have no power. Through that, we are what we are, at this day. From that Book alone, we obtain all virtue and salvation, and whatever we have of divine strength."
Constancy and regularity in prayer was among his early traits of character. After he became a king, and was subject to the interruptions and temptations of a court, nothing could induce him to neglect his daily seasons of private devotion. One day, he was told, that Sir John Cheeke, who had given him lessons in Latin, when quite a young child, was dangerously sick. With deep solemnity on his countenance, he went to his stated retirement, and afterwards hearing that the physician had said there was little hope of his recovery, replied in the simple fervour of faith,
"Ah! but I think there is. For I have most earnestly begged of God, in my prayers, this morning, to spare him."
When the sufferer was restored to health, and informed of this circumstance, he was deeply touched by the grateful affection and confiding piety of his royal pupil.
Edward Sixth kept an exact diary of all the memorable events that passed under his observation. The conferring of every office, civil or ecclesiastical, the receipts and expenditure of the revenue, the repairs or erection of forts, the sending forth or reception of ambassadors, and indeed, all matters of business that occurred during his reign, were legibly recorded by his own hand, with their appropriate dates. This diary, which evinces industry and uprightness of purpose, is often quoted by historians.
But pulmonary consumption early made fatal inroads on his health, and he prepared for a higher and happier state with the benignity of one whose heart was already there. The following prayer, which is among those which he used as the close of life drew nigh, will show how much the progress of true religion among his people dwelt on his mind, when about to be taken from them:
"My Lord God! if thou wilt deliver me from this miserable and wretched life, take me among thy chosen. Yet, not _my_ will, but _Thy_ will be done. Lord I commit my spirit unto Thee. Thou knowest how happy it were for me to be with Thee. But if Thou dost send me life and health, grant that I may more truly serve Thee.
"Oh my God! save thy people, and bless thine inheritance. Preserve thy chosen realm of England, and maintain Thy true religion, that both king and people may praise Thy holy name, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Edward Sixth died at the age of sixteen, July 6th, 1553, beloved and lamented by all over whom he had reigned.
The historians of France record, with high encomium, the virtues of one of their princes, a son of Louis Fifteenth, who died before his father. He possessed a noble spirit, amiable manners, and in all the duties and sympathies of private life was so exemplary, that he was pronounced by national enthusiasm, "too perfect to continue on earth." He was exceedingly attentive to the education of his children, and vigilant in guarding them against the pride and arrogance of royalty. He continually endeavoured to impress upon their minds, that though they had been placed by Heaven in an elevated station, yet virtue and religion were the only true and enduring distinctions. His death, which was deeply mourned by the nation over which he had expected one day to rule, took place on the 20th of December, 1765, when he had just attained the age of thirty-seven years.
He directed the preceptor of his children to take them to the abodes of the poor, and let them taste the coarsest bread, and lie down upon the hardest pallet, that they might know how the needy live, and learn to pity them.
"Ah! suffer them also to weep," he would say, "for a prince who has never shed tears for the woes of others can never make a good king."
Yes, take them to the peasant's cot, Where penury shrinks in pain and care, Spread to their view the humblest lot, And let them taste the coarsest fare,
And bid their tender limbs recline Upon the hard and husky bed, Where want and weary labour pine, Diseased, unpitied, and unfed;
And let them weep; for if their eyes With tender Pity ne'er o'erflow, How will they heed their subjects' signs, Or learn to feel a nation's woe?
Oh children! though your Maker's hand, Hath mark'd for you a lofty sphere, And though your welfare and command Are now to partial Gallia dear;
Yet many a child from lowliest shed, Whose peasant father turns the sod, May in the righteous day of dread Be counted _greater_ by his God.
Evils of War.
"From whence come wars and fightings?" James, iv. 1.
You will perhaps say they have been from the beginning. The history of every nation tells of the shedding of blood. In the Bible and other ancient records of man, we read of "wars and fightings," ever since he was placed upon the earth.
Yet there have been always some to lament that the creatures whom God has made should thus destroy each other. They have felt that human life was short enough, without its being made still shorter by violence. Among the most warlike nations there have been wise and reflecting minds, who felt that war was an evil, and deplored it as a judgment.
Rome was one of the most warlike nations of the ancient world. Yet three of her best Emperors gave their testimony against war, and were most reluctant to engage in it. Adrian truly loved peace, and endeavoured to promote it. He saw that war was a foe to those arts and sciences which cause nations to prosper. Titus Antoninus Pius tried to live in peace with every one. He did all in his power to prevent war, and said he would "rather save the life of one citizen, than destroy a thousand enemies." Marcus Aurelius considered war both as a disgrace and a calamity. When he was forced into it, his heart revolted.
Yet these were heathen emperors. They had never received the Gospel, which breathes "peace and good-will to man." The law of Moses did not forbid war "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth," was the maxim of the Jewish people. But the law of Jesus Christ is a law of peace. "I say unto you, that ye resist not evil," were the words not only of his lips, but of his example. His command to his disciples was, "See that ye love one another."
The spirit of war, therefore, was not condemned by the Jewish law, or by the creeds of the heathen. But it is contrary to the spirit of the Gospel.
Have you ever seriously considered the evil and sorrow of war? how it destroys the lives of multitudes, and makes bitter mourning in families and nations? You are sorry when you see a friend suffering pain, or a lame man with a broken bone, or even a child with a cut finger. But after a battle, what gashes and gaping wounds are seen, while the ground is red with the flowing blood, and the dying in their agony are trampled under the feet of horses, or covered with heaps of dead bodies.
Think too of the poverty and distress that come upon many families, who have lost the friend whose labour provided them with bread, upon the mourning of gray-headed parents from whose feeble limbs the prop is taken away; upon the anguish of wives for their slaughtered husbands; and the weeping of children, because their dear fathers must return to them no more.
All these evils, and many which there is not room to mention, come from a single battle. But in one war there are often many battles. Towns are sometimes burned, and the aged and helpless destroyed. The mother and her innocent babes perish in the flames of their own beloved homes.
It is very sad to think of the cruelty and bad passions which war produces. Men, who have no cause to dislike each other, meet as deadly foes. They raise weapons of destruction, and exult to hear the groans of death. Rulers who make war, should remember the suffering and sin which it occasions, and how much more noble it is to save life than to destroy it.
Howard visited the prisons of Europe, and relieved the miseries of those who had no helper, and died with their blessings on his head. Bonaparte caused multitudes to be slain, and multitudes to mourn, and died like a chained lion upon a desolate island. Is not the fame of Howard better than that of Bonaparte?
The religious sect of Friends, or Quakers, as they are sometimes called, never go to war. The beautiful State of Pennsylvania was originally settled by them. William Penn, its founder, would not permit any discord with the Indians, its original inhabitants. He obtained the land of them by fair purchase, and set the example of treating them with justice and courtesy.
In most of the other colonies there had been fearful wars with the savages. In ambush and massacre, the blood of the new-comers had been shed; and they had retaliated on the sons of the forest with terrible vengeance. Older States looked upon this proffer of peace as a dangerous experiment. They said, "These Quakers have put their heads under the tomahawk." But on the contrary, no drop of their blood was ever shed by the Indians in Pennsylvania. They gathered around William Penn with reverence and love. Rude warriors as they were, they admired his peaceful spirit. He explained his views to them with cordiality, and they listened to his words.
"We will not fight with you," he said, "nor shed your blood. If a quarrel arise, six of our people and six of your own, shall meet together and judge what is right, and settle the matter accordingly."
Subdued by his spirit of kindness and truth, they promised to live in peace with him and his posterity "so long as the sun and moon shall endure."
On his return to England, among the friends who gathered around the ship to bid him farewell, were groups of Indians with mournful brows, the women holding up their little ones, that they might have one more sight of the great and good man, whom they called their Father. Was not this more acceptable to Heaven than the din of strife, and the false glory of the conqueror?
So earnest was William Penn to convince his fellowmen that it was both their duty and privilege to live in peace, that he travelled into foreign countries for that purpose, using his eloquence, and knowledge of various languages with considerable success. Peter the Great, when studying the arts of civilization in England, was much interested by visits from this teacher of Peace, who conversed fluently with him in German. The young Czar listened with great attention and courtesy, while he unfolded his system. He then earnestly requested that it might be expressed for him in a few words, and William Penn wrote,
"Men must be holy, or they cannot be happy; they should be few in words, peaceable in life, suffer wrongs, love enemies, and deny themselves: without which, faith is false; worship, formality, and religion, hypocrisy."
The future Emperor of the Russians, though not a convert to the doctrine of the Quakers, regarded it with so much respect, that he repeatedly attended their meetings, evincing deep and interested attention. To his mind, the theory of peace seemed beautiful, yet he considered it impossible that wars should be prevented. He did not believe that contending nations could be made to settle their differences without an appeal to arms, or that their anger might be soothed by the mediation of a friendly people, as a good man makes peace between offended neighbours. It did not occur to him that a Christian ruler might mediate with the soothing policy of the patriarch Abraham to his wrathful kinsman:
"Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, or between my herdsmen and thy herdsmen, for we be brethren."
The Liberated Fly.
A Fly was struggling in a vase of ink, Which with my feathery quill-top I releas'd, As the rope saves the drowning mariner. I thought at first the luckless wight was dead, But mark'd a quivering of the slender limbs, And laid him on a paper in the sun, To renovate himself. With sudden spasm Convulsion shook him sore, and on his back Discomfited he lay. Then, by his side I strew'd some sugar, and upon his breast Arrang'd a particle, thinking, perchance, The odour of his favourite aliment Might stimulate the palate, and uncoil The folded trunk. But, straight, a troop of friends Gather'd around him, and I deem'd it kind To express their sympathy, in such dark hour Of adverse fortune. Yet, behold! they came To forage on his stores, and rudely turn'd And toss'd him o'er and o'er, to help themselves With more convenience. Quite incens'd to see Their utter want of pitying courtesy, I drove these venal people all away, And shut a wine-glass o'er him, to exclude Their coarse intrusion. Forthwith, they return'd, And through his palace peer'd, and, round and round Gadding, admission sought: yet all in vain. And so, a wondrous buzzing they set up, As if with envy mov'd to see him there, The untasted luxury at his very lips, For which they long'd so much. Then suddenly, The prisoner mov'd his head, and rose with pain, And dragg'd his palsied body slow along, Marking out sinuous lines, as on a map, Coast, islet, creek, and lithe promontory, Blank as the Stygian ink-pool, where he plung'd So foolishly. But a nice bath was made In a small silver spoon, from which he rose Most marvellously chang'd, stretching outright All his six legs uncramp'd, and, opening wide And shutting with delight his gauzy wings, Seem'd to applaud the cleansing properties Of pure cold water. Then with appetite, He took the food that he had loath'd before; And in this renovation of the life Of a poor noteless insect, was a joy, And sweet content, I never could have felt From taking it away. Still let us guard, For every harmless creature, God's good gifts Of breath and being; since each beating heart Doth hide some secret sense of happiness Which he who treadeth out can ne'er restore.
The Good Brother and Sister.
Jacob Bicks was a native of Leyden, in Holland, and born in the year 1657. His parents were religious, and gave strict attention to his early education, and their efforts were rewarded. He became tenderly conscientious, and in all his conduct sought to obey them and please God.
When the plague raged in Holland, in 1664, he was seized with the fatal infection. At first he seemed drowsy and lethargic, but during his waking intervals, was observed to be engaged in prayer.
"This," said he, "gives me comfort in my distress."
Perceiving that he suffered pain, he was asked if he would like again to see the physician.
"No," he earnestly answered, "I wish to have him no more. The Lord will help me, for I well know that He is about to take me to himself."
"Dear child," said his father, "this grieves us to the heart."
"Father," answered the meek sufferer, "let us pray. The Lord will be near for my helper."
After prayer, he spoke with a stronger and more joyful voice, his parting words,
"Come now, father and mother, come and kiss me, I feel that I am to die. Farewell, dear parents, farewell, dear sister, farewell all. Now shall I go to heaven, and to the holy angels. Remember ye not what is said by Jeremiah, 'Blessed is he who trusteth in the Lord.' I trust in Him, and lo! he blesseth me. 'Little children, love not the world, for it passeth away.' Away then with the pleasant things of the world, away with my toys, away with my books, in heaven I shall have a sufficiency of the true wisdom without them."
"God will be near thee," said the father. "He shall uphold thee."
"It is written," answered the child, "that He giveth grace unto the humble. I shall humble myself under His mighty hand, and He will lift me up."
"Hast thou indeed, so strong a faith, my dear son?" asked the afflicted father.
"Yes," said the dying boy, "He hath given me this strong faith in Jesus Christ. He that believeth on Him hath everlasting life, and shall overcome the wicked one. I believe in Jesus Christ, my Redeemer. He will never leave nor forsake me. He will give me eternal life. He will let me sing, 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth.'"
Then, with his failing breath, they heard upon his lips the softly murmured prayer, "Lord, be merciful to me a poor sinner," as with a trusting smile his spirit passed away, just as he had completed his seventh year.
His sister, Susanna, seven years older than himself, was smitten by the same terrible pestilence, a few weeks after his death. She had been from the beginning a child of great sweetness of disposition, attentive to her studies, and so faithful in her religious duties as to be considered an example for other young persons, and even for older Christians.
Bending beneath the anguish of her disease, like a crushed and beautiful flower she sustained herself and comforted others with the words of that Blessed Book, in which was her hope.
"If Thy law were not my delight, I should perish in this my affliction. Be merciful to me, oh Father! be merciful to me a sinner, according unto thy word."
Fixing her eyes tenderly upon her mourning parents, she said,
"Cast your burden upon the Lord. He shall sustain you. He will never suffer the righteous to be moved. Therefore, dearest mother, be comforted. He will cause all things to go well that concern you."
Her mother answered with tears,
"O, our dear child, God, by his grace, hath given me great comfort in thee, in thy religious temper, and thy great attention to reading the Scriptures, prayer, and pious discourse, edifying us as well as thyself. He, even He Himself, who gave thee to us, make up this loss, if it be His pleasure to take thee away."
"Dear mother, though I must leave you, and you me, God will never leave either of us. Is it not written, Can a woman forget her child? Yea, she may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands. Oh! most comfortable words, both for parents and child."
Fatigued with speaking, she fell into a deep slumber, and on awaking, asked what day it was. She was told it was Sabbath morning.
"Father, have you commended me to be remembered in the prayers of the Church?"
"Yes, my daughter."
"This comforts me. For I have learned to believe that the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much."
She had a peculiarly warm and grateful love for her teachers and pastor, and a veneration for all ministers of the Gospel. She delighted to listen to their conversation wherever she met them, and counted any attention from them as an honour. But now, she would not consent that they should approach her, lest they might take the fearful disease that was hurrying her to the tomb.
"I will not expose their valuable lives," she said. "I cast myself wholly upon the mercies of God. His word is my comforter."
Her knowledge of the Scriptures was uncommon. She had committed large portions of it to memory, which gave hallowed themes to her meditation, and naturally mingled with her discourse in these solemn, parting moments.
She felt a deep desire for the progress of true religion, whose worth she was now able more fully to appreciate than in the days of health. One morning, she was found bathed in tears, and when the cause was inquired, exclaimed,
"Have I not cause to weep? Our dear minister was taken ill in his pulpit this morning, and went home very sick. Is it not a sign of God's displeasure against our country, when such a faithful pastor is smitten?"
She had shed no tear for her own severe pains, but she bemoaned the sufferings of others, and the afflictions that threatened the Church. Of her own merits she entertained a most humble opinion, and would often repeat with deep feeling,
"The sacrifices of God are a contrite heart. A broken and a contrite spirit He will not despise. I desire that brokenness of heart which flows from faith, and that faith which is built upon Christ, the only sacrifice for sin."
Waking from a troubled sleep, she said in a faint voice,
"O dear father, dear mother, how very weak I am."
"God in his tender mercy," said the sorrowing parents, "strengthen your weakness."
"Yea, this is my confidence. A bruised reed will He not break, and the smoking flax will He not quench."
Her parents, surprised and moved at a piety so far beyond her years, could not refrain from a strong burst of tears at the affliction that awaited them in her loss. Greatly grieved at their sorrow, she soothed them and argued with them against its indulgence.
"Oh! why should you so weep over me? Is it not the good Lord that takes me out of this miserable world? Shall it not be well with me, through all eternity? Ought you not to be satisfied, seeing God is in heaven, and doeth whatsoever he pleaseth? Do you not pray every day, that His will may be done? Should we not be content when our prayers are answered? Is not extreme sorrow murmuring against Him? Although I am struck with this sad disease, yet because it is His will, let that silence us. For as long as I live, shall I pray, that _His will, and not mine_, be done."
She then spoke of the plague that was raging throughout the country with violence, and said she chose to consider it as the especial allotment of the Almighty, and not, as some supposed, the result of disorder in the elements. After a pause, she added,
"This is the day appointed for explaining the first question in the Catechism. Were I able to meet with the class, I should hear, that whether in life or death, a true believer is the Lord's. Then be comforted, for whether I live or die, I am his. Oh! why do you afflict yourselves so? Yet, with weeping came I into this world, and with weeping must I go out. But, dear parents, better is the day of my death, than the day of my birth."
She requested her father to go to those who had instructed her in religion, and catechized her, and thank them in the name of a dying child, and tell them how precious was the memory of their words, now in the time of her extreme distress. She desired, also, that her gratitude might be expressed to those who had taught her, when very young, to read and work, and to all who had at any time shown her kindness and attention. When he told her of the satisfaction he had enjoyed in her proficiency in the various branches she had pursued, especially in her study of the Bible, her readiness to express her thoughts in writing, her constant filial obedience, and reverence for the ordinances of religion, she replied with a touching humility and sweetness,
"I bless God for granting me the means of education, and the example of such parents and ministers. This is a far better portion than gold, for thus have I been enabled to comfort myself from His Holy Book, with a comfort that the world could never have afforded."
"My child," said her mournful father, "I perceive that you are very weak."
"It is true, Sir, and my weakness increases. I see that your affliction also, increases, and this is a part of my affliction. Yet be content, I pray you, and let us both say with David, 'Let me now fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercies are great.'"
She besought her parents not to indulge in immoderate grief, when she should be taken away. She adduced the example of the King of Israel, who after the death of his child, arose, and took refreshment, saying, "He is dead. Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." So ought you to say, when I am no longer here, 'Our child is well.' Dear mother, who has done so much for me, promise me this one thing before I die, not to sorrow too much for me. I am afraid of your great affliction. Consider other losses. Remember Job. Forget not what Christ foretold: 'In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.'"
While thus comforting those whom she loved out of the Scriptures, it seemed as if she herself attained greater confidence of faith, for she exclaimed with a joyful voice:
"Who shall separate me from the love of Christ? I am persuaded, neither life, nor death, nor angels, principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature. Behold, Death is swallowed up in victory."
Afterwards, she spoke of the shortness of human life, quoting passages from the Bible, and of the necessary law of our nature, appointing that all who are born must die. Wisdom far beyond her years, flowed from her lips, for she had early sat at the feet of Jesus, and learned his holy word.
"And now, what shall I say? I cannot continue long, for I feel much weakness. O Lord, look upon me graciously, have pity upon me. I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. Dearest parents, we must shortly part. My speech faileth me. Pray for a quiet close to my combat."
She expressed, at various times during her sickness, the most earnest solicitude for the souls of many of her relatives, solemnly requesting and enforcing that her young sister should be religiously educated. Throwing her emaciated arms around her, she embraced her with great affection, and desired that the babe of six months old might be brought her once more. With many kisses she took her last farewell, and those who stood around the bed were greatly affected at the tender parting of these affectionate children.
"I go," said the dying one, "to heaven, where we shall find each other again. I go to Jesus Christ. I go to my dear brother, who did so much cry and call upon God, to the last moment of his breath. I go to my little sister, who was but three years old when she died. Yet when we asked her if she would die, she answered, 'Yes, if it be the Lord's will: or I will stay with my mother, if it be His will; but yet, I know that I shall die and go to heaven and to God.' Oh! see how so small a babe could behave itself so submissively to the will of God, as if it had no will of its own. Therefore, dear father and mother, give the Lord thanks for this his free and rich grace: and then I shall the more gladly be gone. Be gracious, then, O Lord, unto me, also: be gracious unto me. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin."
Prayer was offered for her, and her spirit seemed anew refreshed with a sense of pardon and reconciliation to her Father in heaven. She conversed with pleasure of the last sermon that she had been permitted to hear in the house of God, little supposing at that time, her mortal sickness was so near. With surprising accuracy, she quoted several texts that had been used in the different parts of that discourse, proving with what profound attention she had listened, and how perfectly her retentive powers were preserved to the last.
She lay some time, absorbed in mental devotion, and then raising her head from her feverish pillow, besought her parents to forgive the errors of her childhood, and every occasion throughout her whole life, wherein she had grieved them or given them trouble. Then, with a clear judgment, she addressed herself to the only unfinished business of earth, the distribution of her books and other articles that she had considered her own. To her little brother she made an earnest request, that he would never part with the copy of 'Lectures on the Catechism,' that she gave him, but study it faithfully for her sake, and in remembrance of her. Being seized with a sharp and severe pain in her breast, she said that she felt assured her last hour drew nigh. Her parents, suppressing their grief, repeated their hope and trust, that God would support her in the last dread extremity.
In a dying voice, yet clear and animated by unswerving faith, she replied,
"He is my shepherd. Though I walk through the dark valley of the shadow of death, shall I fear when _He_ comforteth me? The sufferings of this present life are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed.
My end approacheth. Now shall I put on white raiment, and be clothed before the Lamb with a spotless righteousness. Angels are ready to carry me to the throne of God." Her last words were,
"Lord God, into thy hands, I commend my spirit. Oh Lord! be gracious, be merciful to me a poor sinner."
Thus fell asleep, on the evening of the first of September, 1664, at the early age of fourteen, one, who for profound knowledge of the pages of Inspiration, judgment in applying them, love of their spirit, and faith in their promises, might serve as an example not only to those of her own age, but to Christians of hoary hairs. This good brother and sister teach, both in life and death, the priceless value of religious nurture, and of the fear and love of God, infused into the tender truthful heart.
The Waiting Child.
She lay, in childhood's sunny hour, The loving and the fair, A smitten bud, a drooping flower, For death was with her there.
One only unfulfilled desire Oppress'd her heart with care: "Make smooth the ocean waves, dear Lord, And home my mother bear."
Up rose that prayer, both night and day, Heaven heard the tender claim, The favour'd ship its haven found, The absent mother came;
So then, like dove with folded wing. Enwrapp'd in calm content, A mother's kiss upon her lips, She to her Saviour went.
The Adopted Niece.
Those who have extended to lonely orphan hearts the protection of home, and a fostering kindness, are often repaid by the most tender and grateful affections. A peculiarly striking instance of this kind occurred in the case of an adopted niece of the Rev. John Newton, of London, England. Suddenly bereaved of her parents and an only brother, she found the arms of sympathizing relatives open to receive her, as a trust and a treasure. She had just entered her twelfth year when she came to them, and was possessed of an agreeable person, a lively disposition, with a quick and inventive genius. Her judgment and sense of propriety were advanced beyond her years, but her most endearing qualities were sweetness of temper and a heart formed for the exercise of gratitude and friendship. No cloud was seen upon her countenance, and when it was necessary to overrule her wishes, she acquiesced with a smile.
To her uncle and aunt, her returns of affection were ardent and touching. She was watchful not to offend, or interfere with their convenience in the slightest degree, and often said, with her peculiarly sweet tones, "I should be very ungrateful if I thought any pleasure equal to that of pleasing you."
Her health, which had been for some time frail, began, in a year or two, sensibly to decline, with marked hectic symptoms. Whenever she was able, she patiently employed herself with her needle or book, her guitar or harpsichord. Though she knew no hour of perfect ease, she was remarkably placid and cheerful, and attentive to the wishes and comfort of others. If at any time the severity of pain caused a silent tear to steal down her cheek, and she saw that her uncle or aunt observed it, she would instantly turn to them with a smile or kiss, and say,
"Do not be uneasy. I am not so very ill. I can bear it. I shall be better presently."
Her religious education had been early attended to by her parents; and the excellent relatives who supplied their place, saw with the deepest gratitude the strengthening of her faith, for support in the season of trial. She said to her aunt,
"I have long and earnestly sought the Lord, with reference to the change that is now approaching. I trust He will fit me for himself, and then, whether sooner or later, it signifies but little."
Sufferings the most acute were appointed her, which medical skill was unwearied in its attempts to mitigate. To her attentive physician who expressed his regret one morning, at finding her more feeble than on the previous day, she replied,
"I trust all will be well soon."
Her spirit was uniformly peaceful, and her chief attention of an earthly nature seemed directed to the consolation of those who were distressed at her sufferings. The servants, who waited on her from love, both night and day, she repeatedly thanked in the most fervent manner, adding her prayer that God would reward them. To her most constant attendant, she said,
"Be sure to call upon the Lord. If you think He does not hear you now, He will at last. So it has been with me."
As the last hours of life drew nigh, she had many paroxysms of agony. But her heart rested on the Redeemer. To one who inquired how she was, she sweetly answered,
"Truly happy. And if this is dying, it is a pleasant thing to die."
In the course of her illness, to the question of her friends if she desired to be restored and to live long, she would reply, "Not for the world," and sometimes, "Not for a thousand worlds." But as she approached the verge of heaven, her own will seemed wholly absorbed in the Divine Will, and to this inquiry she meekly answered,
"I desire to have no choice."
For the text of her funeral sermon, she chose, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord," and also selected an appropriate hymn to be sung on that occasion. "Do not weep for me, dear aunt," she tenderly said, "but rather rejoice, and give praise on my account."
As the close of her last day on earth approached, she desired to hear once more the voice of prayer. Her affectionate uncle, who cherished for her the love of a father, poured out his soul fervently at the Throne of Grace. Her lips, already white in death, clearly pronounced "Amen," and soon after added, "Why are his chariot-wheels so long in coming? Yet I hope he will enable me to wait His hour with patience."
Fixing her eyes on her mourning aunt, it seemed as if the last trace of earthly anxiety that she was destined to feel, was on her account. To one near her pillow, she said in a gentle whisper.
"Try to persuade my aunt to leave the room. I think I shall soon sleep. I shall not remain with you until the morning."
No. Her morning was to be where there is no sunset. All pain was for her ended. So quiet was the transition, that those whose eyes were fixed earnestly upon her, could not tell when she drew her last breath. She lay as if in childlike slumber, her cheek reclining upon her hand, and on her brow a smile.
She died on the 6th of October, 1785, at the age of fourteen years. During her short span, she communicated a great amount of happiness to those who adopted her as a child into their hearts and homes. The sweet intercourse and interchange of love more than repaid their cares.
They were permitted to aid in her growth of true religion, and to see its calm and glorious triumph over the last great enemy. That a child, under fifteen, should have been enabled thus to rejoice amid the wasting agony of sickness, and thus willingly leave those whom she loved, and whose love for her moved them to do all in their power to make life pleasant to her young heart, proves the power of a Christian's faith.
She desired to be absent from the body, that she might be present with the Lord. Now, before his Throne, whom not having seen, she loved, and raised above the clouds that break in tears, and all shafts of pain and sorrow, she drinks of the rivers of pleasure that flow at his right hand, and shall thirst no more.
I love 'mid those green mounds to stray Where purple violets creep, For there the village children say That both my parents sleep.
Bright garlands there I often make Of thyme and daisies fair, And when my throbbing temples ache, I go and rest me there.
If angry voices harshly chide, Or threatening words are said, I love to lay me by their side Close in that silent bed.
I wish'd a sportive lamb to bide My coming o'er the lea. It broke away and bleating cried, "My mother waits for me."
"Stay, stay, sweet bird!" On pinion strong It fled with dazzling breast, And soon I heard its matron song Amid its chirping nest.
"Why dost thou fade, young bud of morn, And hide thy drooping gem?" And the bud answered, "They have torn Me from my parent stem."
Go happy warbler to thy bower, White lambkin, gambol free, I'll save this lone and wither'd flower, It seems to pity me.
"Come mother, come! and soothe thy child!" Methinks I hear her sigh, "Cold clods are on my bosom pil'd, And darkness seals my eye."
She cannot burst the chain of fate By which her limbs are pressed. "Dear father rise! and lift the weight That loads my mother's breast."
In vain I speak, in vain the tear Bedews the mouldering clay, My deep complaint they do not hear, I may not longer stay.
Yet ere I go, I'll kneel and say The humble prayer they taught, When by their side at closing day I breath'd my infant thought.
God will not leave my heart to break, The Orphan He'll defend, Father and mother may forsake, But He's the Unchanging Friend.
The Only Son.
How deep and full of anxiety is the love that centres upon an only child, none but parents who have watched over such an one can realise. "We trusted our all to _one_ frail bark," says a touching epitaph, "and the wreck was total."
Those who have neither brother nor sister, and feel the whole tenderness of parental affection centring in themselves, should strive to render in proportion to what they receive. The care and solicitude that might have been divided among other claimants is reserved for them alone. No common measure of obedience and gratitude, and love, seems to be required of them. Any failure in filial duty is, in them, an aggravated offence. It should be the study of their whole life to appreciate, if they cannot repay, the wealth of love of which they are the sole heirs.
Perhaps there has never been an instance, where this sweet indebtedness of the heart was more beautifully and perfectly reciprocated, than in the life of Joshua Rowley Gilpin. He was the only son of the Rev. J. Gilpin, of Wrockwardine, in the county of Salop, England, and born January 30th, 1788. During infancy, when the texture of character slowly, yet surely discovers itself, he displayed a mild, loving disposition, with no propensity to anger when what he desired was withheld. The sole care of his education was assumed by his parents, who found it a source of perpetually increasing delight.
His first infantine taste was for drawing. To imitate the forms of animals, and other objects with which he was daily conversant, gave him much pleasure. His friends discovered in these rude attempts, accuracy of execution, and progressive improvement. A dissected alphabet was among his toys, and a desire to furnish his little drawings with appropriate letters induced him to make himself master of it. Now a new field of pleasure opened to his mind, and from the amusements of the pencil he turned to the powers and combination of the letters; and at the age when many children are unacquainted with their names, he was forming them into phrases and short sentences. These were sometimes playful, and sometimes of such a devotional cast, that his watchful and affectionate parents cheered themselves with the hope that his tender spirit was even then forming an acquaintance with things divine. So docile, so industrious, so gentle was the young pupil, that they had never occasion to resort to punishment, or even to address to him an expression of displeasure.
As the higher branches of knowledge unfolded themselves, he devoted to them a studious and willing attention. He was ever cheerfully ready for any necessary exercise, and inclined rather to exceed than to fall short of his allotted task. He complained of no difficulty, he solicited no aid: the stated labours of each day he considered a reasonable service, and constantly and sweetly submitted his own will to that of his parents.
In the prosecution of the different sciences, his lovely and placid disposition was continually displaying itself. The rudiments of the Latin tongue, with which he very early became familiar, he wished to teach to the young servant woman who attended him from his infancy. By many fair words he persuaded her to become his scholar. He told her of the great pleasure there was in knowledge, and left no method untried to gain and fix her attention. If he thought her not sufficiently engaged in the pursuit, he would set before her the honourable distinction of surpassing in intellectual attainments, all the other young women of her acquaintance. He made for her use an abridgment of his Latin grammar, to which he added a brief vocabulary, and was never without a few slips of paper in his pocket, on which was some noun regularly declined, or some verb conjugated, for his humble friend and pupil. If the services of the day had failed to afford her sufficient time for his lessons, he redoubled his assiduity when she conducted him to his chamber at night, and was never contented without hearing her repeat the Lord's Prayer in Greek. This perseverance showed not only the kindness of his heart, but his love for those parts of learning which childish students are prone to think tedious, or are desirous to curtail and escape.
While busily pursuing classic studies, he saw one day a treatise on arithmetic, and immediately went to work on that untried ground. Such satisfaction did he find in it, that he begged to be allowed the same exercise whenever he should be at a loss for amusement. For three weeks it formed a part of his evening employment, or as he expressed it, his "entertainment," and during that brief period, he proceeded to the extraction of the square and cube root, with ease and pleasure. His father thought it best to withdraw him at that time from the science of numbers, lest it should interfere with his progress in the languages. Still, he would occasionally surprise him with abstruse numerical calculation, and, when permitted regularly to pursue mathematics, found in the difficult problems of Euclid an intense delight. He would willingly have devoted days and nights to them, and no youth was ever more intent on the perusal of a fairy tale or romance, than he to solve and demonstrate those propositions in their regular order.
Under the tuition of his father, he went through the text-books and authors used in the established seminaries, and probably with a less interrupted attention than if he had been a member of their classes. His memory was durably retentive, and whatever passage he could not perfectly repeat, he could readily turn to, whether in the writings of the poets, the historians, or the divines. His accuracy was admirable; he would never pass over a sentence till he had obtained a satisfactory view of its meaning, or lay aside a book without forming a critical acquaintance with its style and scope of sentiment. Earnest and untiring industry was one of the essential elements of his great proficiency; employment was to him the life of life, and whatsoever his hand found to do, was done with a whole-souled energy. His love of order was equal to his diligence. From early childhood, he discovered in all his little undertakings an attention to method, and a desire to finish what he began. These dispositions gathered strength as he became more fully acquainted with the importance of time. To each employment or recreation he assigned its proper place and season, filling each day with an agreeable and salutary variety, so as to be free on one side from listlessness and apathy, and on the other, from perplexity and haste. Highly gratifying was his improvement to his faithful parental teachers, and this species of intercourse heightened and gave a peculiar feature to their mutual love. Still, their attention was not confined to his intellectual attainments. It was their constant prayer and endeavour, that he might be enabled to blend with these the "wisdom that cometh from above." Anxious that he should not be unprepared for the honourable discharge of duty in the present life, they were far more solicitous to train him up as a candidate for glory in that which is to come.
Avoiding the danger of over-pressing or satiating him with theological doctrines which transcend the comprehension of childhood, they commenced their religious instructions with the greatest simplicity and caution. They put on no appearance of formality or austerity.
"We will show you, my dear son," said the father, with a smiling countenance, "a way that will lead you from earth to heaven."
The gentle pupil listened with an earnest attention. His tender mind was solemnized, yet filled with joyful and grateful hope. At his first introduction to the house of God, he was filled with reverential awe, and ever afterwards, when attending its sacred services, his deportment evinced the most unaffected decorum, humility, and piety. The greatest care was taken that the observance of the Sabbath at home, as well as in church, should be accounted a sweet and holy privilege.
"On that day," says his father, "we gave a more unlimited indulgence to our affectionate and devotional feelings. We conversed together as parts of the same Christian family, we rejoiced over each other as heirs of the same glorious promises. Some interesting passage of Scripture, or some choice piece of divinity, generally furnished the matter of our discourse, and while we endeavoured to obtain a clear, comprehensive view of the subject before us, it seemed as if a blessed light sometimes broke in upon us, removing our doubts, exalting our conceptions, and cheering our hearts. Then, with one consent, we have laid aside the book, that we might uninterruptedly admire the beauties of the opening prospect. Thus solacing ourselves with a view of our future enjoyments, and the place of our final destination, we have solemnly renewed our vows, resolving for the joy that was set before us, to endure the Cross, despising the shame, in humble imitation of our adorable Master. In such a frame of mind we found it possible to speak of probable sufferings, or painful separations, with the utmost composure. With such a termination of our course in sight, we could cheerfully leave all the casualties of that course to the Divine disposal; fully persuaded that whatever evil might befall us on the way, an abundant compensation for all awaited us on our arrival at home."
As he advanced in boyhood, his love of study and sedentary habits became so strong that it was feared he might not take sufficient exercise for the preservation of health. The friends of the family, therefore, urgently advised that he might be placed in a public school, hoping that the influence of companions of his own age would allure him to athletic sports.
In this counsel his parents acquiesced, but finding the idea of separation insupportably painful, they removed, and took a temporary residence near the Seminary of which he became a member. Here, every thing was novel, and his enthusiastic mental picture of what a school must be, was considerably darkened by discovering so much indolence and irregularity, where he supposed all would be order, intelligence, and progress. His academic exercises were performed with entire ease, so thorough and extensive had been his home culture; and though there were many in the different classes who were his seniors in age, he rapidly rose to the first and highest place. Of this post he had not been ambitious, and he occupied it with such modesty and affability, so as to conciliate his school-fellows, between whom and himself there was still such diversity of habit and feeling, as to repress all familiarity of intercourse. But with his instructors, a true and reciprocal friendship was established. Especially did the head master distinguish the talents of the young student with the strongest marks of esteem, designating him as the "pride of his school, and the pride of his heart."
The return of this excellent family to their beloved village, formed a delightful scene. An affectionate flock thronged to welcome their Pastor, while the youth on whose account they had for a time left their endeared habitation, gazed with unutterable joy on the trees, the cottages, the cliffs that varied the spot of his nativity, on every room in the parsonage, every plant in the garden, every vine that clasped the walls, and on the far blue hills, behind which he had watched from infancy the glories of the setting sun. To the congratulations of his friends, some of which alluded to the brilliancy of his prospects as a distinguished scholar, he replied with ineffable sweetness,
"No possible change in my situation can make any addition to my present happiness."
The love of home was one of the strongest features in his character. The vanities and gayeties of London had no power to diminish or modify it. After passing two months there, at the age of sixteen, he came to his retired abode with the same delight, the same unassuming manners and simplicity of taste. On entering the secluded vale where their humble rural habitation was situated, he expressed his feelings in a few extempore Latin verses, which at the request of his mother, were thus translated,
"Lives there a youth, who far from home, Through novel scenes exults to roam? Then let the restless vagrant go, And idly pass from show to show; While in my native village bless'd, Delighted still, and still at rest, Without disturbance or alloy, Life's purest pleasures I enjoy."
While thus bearing in his bosom the elements of happiness, true piety, active goodness, and love to all creatures, and while diligently preparing for the sacred profession to which he was destined, a sudden attack of pulmonary disease, attended with hemorrhage, alarmed those to whom he was dear. But the consequent debility readily yielded to medical treatment, and a journey and residence of several weeks amid the pure atmosphere and rural scenery of Wales, combining with uncommon salubrity of weather, seemed to restore the gentle invalid to his usual state of health.
He was able again to resume his course of academic studies, and after the midsummer vacation, which he spent in a pleasant journey with his beloved parents, was summoned to sustain an examination as a candidate for two vacant exhibitions. When he took his seat before the collegiate tutors, clergy, magistrates, and a concourse of assembled visitors, a degree of that diffidence was observable, which is so often the concomitant of genius. But in every exercise and test of knowledge, he was so self-possessed, so prompt, so perfect, that there was an unanimous burst of approbation and applause. His parents were loaded with congratulations for possessing the treasure of such a son, and a paper signed by all present was addressed to the manager of the Funds, requesting that the sum allotted to a successful candidate might be doubled on account of his extraordinary attainments. With entire meekness he bore this full tide of honour, manifesting no satisfaction in hearing his own praises, and after his return home, never made the most distant allusion to this flattering event in the life of a young student. He was now entered a fellow-commoner at Christ Church College, Oxford, with the intention of not taking his residence there till the commencement of the ensuing term.
He most assiduously devoted himself to his studies, rising early and finding the day too short for his active mind. Knowledge was dear to him for its own sake, and not for the flattering distinctions accorded to it among men: for while advancing in scholastic acquirements, he was evidently an humble peaceful student in the school of Christ. His parents were comforted amid the painful prospect of separation, with the hope that from his early and growing piety, his temperance and modesty, his untiring diligence, and a certain firmness of mind, of which he had given indisputable evidence, he would in time of temptation choose the good, and refuse the evil.
In the meantime, his birth-day arrived, the last that he was to spend on earth. It had ever been their household custom to mark it, not by sumptuous entertainments or the invitation of guests, but by expressions of affection among themselves, and the most fervent ascriptions of praise to God, for the gift he had accorded and preserved. But it seems that their sacred anniversary had been discovered and was cherished by others. While interchanging their sweet and secluded memorials of love, a letter arrived addressed to the young student, containing a large number of banknotes, "as a joint token of the affection of a few friends, who desired permission to repeat the same expression of their regard on each return of his natal day, until he should have taken his first degree at the University."
This unexpected mark of the high esteem in which he was held, was received by him with strong indications of astonishment and gratitude. As the time drew near for his departure to Oxford, his parents could scarcely be restrained from uttering the impassioned words, "Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee, for where thou goest I will go, where thou lodgest I will lodge;" not knowing that it was the appointment of God, that only the cold hand of death should divide them.
Spring approached, and the wound in his lungs, which it had been hoped was permanently healed, burst forth afresh. Aggravated by the influenza, then an epidemic, it soon took the form of an incurable malady. With entire submission he met this sudden change in his state and prospects. No murmuring word was uttered, no trace of anxiety visible on his countenance. Neither loss of appetite nor decay of strength could impair his settled composure of mind. So admirable was the mixture of meekness and manliness in his deportment, that it was difficult to say whether patience or fortitude most predominated.
Constantly advancing in the knowledge of divine things, he withdrew himself from every pursuit that might divert his thoughts from the great end of his being, the entrance to a higher state of existence. The poets and orators of Greece and Rome, in which his proficiency had been so great, were meekly exchanged for works of experimental religion; and he sat daily at the feet of some master in Israel, from whose teachings he hoped to gain heavenly wisdom. By the advice of physicians, the scene was changed for a short time; but wherever they journeyed he was still making his solitary passage through the valley of the shadow of death. As the last hope of success, the waters of Bristol were proposed; and though he at first mildly resisted it, from an inward conviction that the trouble would be in vain, yet unwilling to crush the expectations of his beloved parents, he yielded to their wishes. On all similar occasions he had required quite a package of books; now he requested only an English Bible and a Greek Testament.
Notwithstanding every precaution of medical skill and care, consumption was accomplishing its fatal work. The parents and their only child, though convinced of what the result must be, still shrank back from harrowing up each other's feelings, by full conversation on the subject that most occupied their thoughts.
"As it was with Elijah and his attached successor," writes the sorrowing father, "at their approaching separation, so it was with us. They maintained towards each other a delicate reserve, as they proceeded from Bethel to Jericho, and from Jericho to Jordan; the one not daring to glory in his expected ascension, nor the other to express his mournful forebodings, lest they might mutually agitate the other, or disturb the order of the holy solemnity. But as the awful moment drew near and he was about to be gone, Elijah rose above the weakness of humanity, and openly asserted the purpose of Heaven. Thus the dear invalid, when made certain by some invisible token that his hour was at hand, thought it unsuitable to our common character to leave this world without giving glory to God."
With entire tranquillity and the utmost tenderness, he introduced the subject of his departure, spoke of his trust in his Redeemer, his gratitude for the goodness and mercy that had followed him throughout the whole of his earthly pilgrimage, and the joy he felt in having his own will perfectly bowed to the will of God. Even then, the last messenger was waiting for him. He accepted the anxious attentions of his agonized parents with ineffable sweetness, regarding them with a thoughtful benignity, not wholly restraining his feelings, nor yet allowing them a free indulgence.
It was in the autumn of 1806, at the age of eighteen, that his last day on earth closed. He lay as in calm and beautiful repose, seeming to have opened a communication with the celestial world, and fully resigned himself to intercourse with its unseen inhabitants. Kneeling around his couch in trembling expectation, were those whose sole earthly hopes had been bound up in him. There was a short and solemn pause, a few soft moans, and then, without the slightest change of posture, he peacefully breathed out his soul into the bosom of his Father and his God.
Life is beautiful! its duties Cluster round each passing day, While their sweet and solemn voices spot Warn to work, to watch, to pray; They alone its blessings forfeit Who by sin their spirits cheat, Or to slothful stupor yielding, Let the rust their armour eat.
Life is beautiful! affections Round its roots with ardour cling, 'Mid its opening blossoms nestle, Bird-like, in its branches sing, Smiling lull its cradle slumbers, Guard with pride its youthful bloom, Fondly kiss its snow-white temples, Dew the turf-mound o'er its tomb.
Life is beautiful with promise Of a joy that cannot fade, Life is fearful, with the threatening Of an everlasting shade. May no thoughtless wanderer scorn it, Blindly lost in folly's maze, Duty, love, and hope adorn it: Let its latest breath be praise.
A Remarkable Child.
The child of whose virtues and attainments the following pages give but an imperfect sketch, was the son of the late Dr. J. Smyth Rogers, and born in the city of New York, on the 28th of January, 1825. The beauty of his infancy struck every observer, and this continued to increase as added intelligence lighted up his noble features. As his brilliant mind expanded, amiable and generous dispositions were revealed, clothed with peculiarly winning manners. It would seem also that these graces and virtues, like wreaths of bright buds, and clusters of rich fruit, sprang from the best of all roots: a truthful and pious heart.
At the early age of three years, his excellent mother was suddenly taken away. That mournful event made a deep impression upon his unfolding character. For three years she had been permitted to watch over this fair opening flower; in three more it was to be laid on her bosom in heaven.
The night after the death of this beloved parent, his deportment was remarked as evincing a degree of reflection and sensibility to the magnitude of his loss, surpassing what is usually seen in infancy. It was Sabbath evening, the period in which she had been accustomed to gather her little ones around her, and impart religious instruction. Now, at the fireside, the happy circle was broken: the blessed mother's seat vacant. He yearned for her sweet smile, the sound of her tuneful voice. Turning from the other children, he walked long by himself with a slow and noiseless step; often fixing his eyes on his bereaved father with an expression of the deepest commiseration. No attitude of grief escaped his mournful notice, and it seemed as if he restrained his own sorrow that he might offer consolation to his afflicted parent. That mingling of perfect sympathy with the exceeding beauty of his infant countenance, neither pen nor pencil could adequately describe.
But the early maturity of his heart was fully equalled by the development of his intellect. Before acquiring the elements of reading, he listened so attentively to the recitations of an elder brother and sister, as to become master of much correct information. His desire for knowledge was insatiable. He was sensible of no fatigue while employed in attaining it. Though fond of amusements, he was always happy to quit them when the allotted hours for study arrived. The rudiments of science he acquired with astonishing rapidity. Before the completion of his fourth year he could read any English book with ease, and also with a propriety and understanding of the varieties of style, not often discovered by students at twice his age. At this period he was expert in the simple rules of arithmetical calculation. With the geography of his own country, and with the outlines of that of the world, he was intimately acquainted. At five years old he was well versed both in ancient and modern geography. In mental arithmetic, many problems requiring thought even in mature and long disciplined minds, he solved readily, and as if with intuitive perception. Of the history of his own country, his knowledge was well digested and chronologically arranged. At the age of six years, he could with the greatest fluency give a judicious abstract of it, placing in due order the events connected with its discovery and settlement, the period of its several wars, their causes, results, and the circumstances by which they were modified. From the characters who were conspicuous in its annals, he evinced discrimination in selecting those most worthy of admiration. The biography of the celebrated John Smith he related with animation, often mentioning their similarity of name. In repeating his feats of heroism and endurance, he seemed to identify himself with the actor and to partake of his spirit. But he regarded with still higher enthusiasm the illustrious Pitt. When rehearsing his speech in favour of America, he would involuntarily add the most bold and graceful gestures. These lofty and noble sentiments seemed to awaken a warm response in his bosom, and to rule, as if with congenial force, the associations of thought and feeling.
In the science of geometry he displayed a vigorous and highly disciplined mind, by the ready demonstration of some of its most difficult propositions. But in no attainment was the superiority of his intellect more clearly defined than in his acquisition of the Hebrew language. He commenced this pursuit when four years of age, at the suggestion of a cousin older than himself, to whose recitations he had attentively listened. Having been restrained by modesty for several days from mentioning his wishes, he at length ventured to ask his preceptor if he might be permitted to study Hebrew. Happy to gratify such a desire, he called him to his side, intending to teach him two or three letters, when he discovered, to his surprise, that he already knew the whole alphabet. From that time he continued to study the language with perseverance, and constantly increasing fondness. Soon, without aid, except from the grammar and lexicon, he could read, translate, and parse the Hebrew, with an elegance that might have done honour to an adept in that sacred language. Before his death he had read more than fifty chapters; and so great was his ardour and delight in prosecuting this study, that after having received two exercises daily, throughout the week, he would often be found on Sabbath with his Hebrew Bible, earnestly engaged in reviewing passages by himself. On one occasion, when his tutor was to be absent for a few days, he inquired, "How will you spend your time?" The prompt reply was, "In studying Hebrew." In Greek, also, he made such proficiency as to read the original of the New Testament with accuracy and ease. On every attainment, however difficult or abstruse, his genius seized, and almost without effort rendered it his own; so that this infant student seemed to adopt the sentiment of the great Bacon, and to "take all knowledge to be his province."
Yet with these astonishing acquisitions there mingled no vanity, no consciousness of superior talent, nor distaste for the simplest pleasures of childhood. He had all the docility and playfulness that belong to the first years of life. In the delightful country residence where the family were accustomed to pass the summer months, those who saw him only at the period allotted to sport and exercise, would have remarked him as an exceedingly beautiful, vigorous, light-hearted boy, without imagining him possessed of accomplishments that might have put manhood to the blush. Amid a flow of animal spirits that were sometimes deemed excessive, he was never regardless of the feelings of others. During the active sports of childhood, if he received unintentional injury from his companions, he was anxious to assure them, by an affectionate kiss, of his recovery and reconciliation. He possessed the most lively and amiable sensibility. This was fully depicted upon his countenance, so that the most careless observer could scarcely have mistaken its lineaments. He ardently participated in the joys and sorrows of those around him. His love for his friends was testified by the most tender care for their accommodation and comfort. He was found one evening in a flood of tears, because he feared his teacher had gone out in the rain without great-coat or umbrella. So great was his generosity, that whatever was given him he desired to share with another. He seemed incapable of selfish gratification. When from delicacy of health his appetite had been long subjected to restraint, if a small portion of cake or fruit was allowed him, he was never satisfied until he had imparted it. He would even urge the domestics to participate in his gifts. On one occasion, after a period of abstinence from fruit, four grapes were given him. Two of these he ate, and saved the remaining two to give to his nurse. The merit of this self-denial was enhanced by the circumstance often remarked by the servants, that the nurse was far less fond of him than of his elder brother, who, from being more immediately under her care, was the object of her partiality. But there was nothing of vindictiveness in his nature. His generosity was as disinterested as it was unbounded.
One morning his father testified approbation of his conduct by saying, "You may go into the garden and gather twelve strawberries." "And may I divide them equally?" he inquired with great animation. Amid a profusion of the finest fruits, for which he had an extreme fondness, and which he was accustomed to see hospitably dispensed to numerous guests, he would never transgress a prohibition to partake, or a limitation with regard to quantity. Obedience had been taught him from the beginning, and his fidelity in keeping the law of those who directed him, whether they were present or absent, was one of his prominent virtues. In the indispositions to which he was occasionally subject, he would cheerfully take the most unpleasant medicines, and submit to the most irksome regulations, if simply told that his father had desired it.
Openness and integrity of character were conspicuous in him. He seemed to have nothing to conceal. He had no disposition to practise mischief, or to devise means that any thing which he had done should be kept secret from those who had the charge of his education. As his course of instruction was pursued entirely at home, he was preserved from the contagion of bad example, and from many temptations to deceit. The little faults which he committed he confessed with the utmost ingenuousness, and complied with the precept which had been early impressed upon him by parental care, to solicit the forgiveness of his Father in heaven, if he hoped to obtain that of his best friends on earth. When he received any punishment, he made immediate returns of penitence and affection. He considered it as the appointed way in which he was to be made better, and so far from indulging in complaint or sullenness, was inclined to think it lighter than he deserved.
A tender and true piety pervaded his heart, and breathed its fragrance over a life as beautiful and transient as the flower of the grass. Accustomed from infancy never to neglect his prayers, morning or evening, and to keep the day of God sacred, he delighted in these exercises. To lay aside all implements of light amusement, and to read or hear only books adapted to that consecrated day, had been required of him from his earliest recollection. He was grieved if he saw any violate these injunctions. There seemed to have been laid in his heart a firm basis of Christian principle, on which he was beginning to rear a noble superstructure. He never discovered more ardent delight than while listening to the inspired pages, or greater brilliancy of intellect than when conversing on their doctrines and practical illustrations. The life and sufferings of the Redeemer, and the hopes held out to sinners through his mercy, were his treasured and favourite subjects. He often with great earnestness solicited instruction respecting them, and his absorbed and delighted attention would survive the endurance of his physical strength. Of religious books he was particularly fond. He conceived the strongest attachment for 'Doddridge's Family Expositor.' He would voluntarily resort to its perusal with the greatest apparent satisfaction. Observing that his cousin and sister received weekly lessons from that excellent volume, in the explanation of difficult passages, he said to his instructor with a mournful air, "You give the elder children a lesson in Doddridge, but you don't let me recite with them." He was told that it was probably too difficult an exercise for him, and that therefore he had not been permitted to join them. On being asked what he understood as the meaning of the expression, where John is said to come in the "spirit and power of Elias," and to "turn the hearts of the fathers to the children," he gave without mistake the two interpretations to which he had listened some time before. Thus, while this infant disciple was pursuing religious knowledge as a delightful and congenial study, he was also cherishing a lively sense of the obligations that it imposed. He received the truth in its love and in its power. It began to be within him a prompting and regulating principle. Whenever the full flow of childish spirits became excessive or ill-timed, they were restrained by suggesting a precept drawn from the Scriptures.
Among his modes of recreation, riding on horseback in the freshness of the morning was highly enjoyed and prized. One morning, when the usual period for this exercise had been somewhat delayed, his tutor asked, "Would you like to take your ride?" and he replied, "I am afraid we shall not be back in time for prayers. So I would rather not go."
Of his departed mother his recollections were tender and vivid. He delighted to speak of her as the habitant of a world of joy. His affectionate spirit seemed content to resign her that she might be with Christ. To a beloved relative, whose efforts for his religious instruction were unceasing, he said, soon after the death of his mother, "Aunt, do you not wish that the judgment day was come?" "Why, my son?" she enquired. "Because then I should see my _dear mamma_ and my blessed Saviour."
The religious exercises of Sabbath evening were to him a season of high enjoyment. After the catechism and other appropriate duties, some book of piety was read, and the children indulged in such discourse as its contents naturally elicited. Piety, disrobed of gloom, was presented to them as an object of love, and by his heart was most fondly welcomed.
On Sabbath evening preceding the Christmas of 1831, he was observed to enter with extreme ardour into the conversation that flowed from the perusal of 'Parlour Lectures,' an analysis of Sacred History adapted to juvenile minds. His father, whose labours in the pious nurture of his children had been as untiring as successful, being absent from the city, he drew his chair as near as possible to his aunt, listened eagerly to every remark, poured forth the rapturous pleasure that filled his breast, and desired to protract the enjoyment beyond its usual period. It was to be his last Sabbath on earth. In the course of the ensuing week he became a victim to the scarlet fever, and on Friday, December 24th, 1831, went to his Father in heaven.
Thus passed away, at the age of nearly seven years, a being formed to excel in all that was beautiful, intellectual, and heavenly. Precocity in him was divested of the evils that are wont to attend it. All his associations of thought were healthful and happy. There was no undue predominance of one power at the expense of the rest. No one department of character eclipsed the other. The mind and the heart pressed on together with equal steps, in a vigorous and holy brotherhood. The soul, like a lily, fed with dews of Hermon, breathed its first freshest incense in piety to God.
That he was highly gifted by nature none can doubt. That he owed much to education is equally certain. It would be difficult to define the precise point where the influence of the one ceased and that of the other began; so finely did their hues and pencillings blend in the flower thus early offered to its Maker.
Strict obedience to his superiors, and the duty of stated prayer, were so early impressed as to be incorporated with the elements of his character. Simple habits, rural tastes, control of the animal appetites, and correct deportment to all around him, were carefully inculcated, while a thorough course of classical instruction under his father's roof protected him from the dangers of promiscuous association and sinful example. The most favourable results might reasonably be anticipated from a system of culture so vigilant that temptation could not assail from without, nor spring up within, without being detected; so judicious that wealth had no power to enervate either the body or the mind; so affectionate that the tendrils of the heart were free to expand in innocent happiness; so faithful in its ministrations to the soul, that the Divine blessing seemed visibly to descend upon it. This wise discipline combining with the Creator's exceeding bounty, rendered him what he was: a being to be loved by all who looked upon him, and to be held in lasting remembrance by all who knew him.
To borrow the expressive language of one who had long superintended his education, and was intimately acquainted with his mental and moral structure, "So insensible was he to all those passions which prompt to self-defence and self-protection, and so entirely under the influence of that forgiving spirit which being smitten on the one cheek would turn the other also, and that overflowing generosity, which, after the cloak is taken, would give the coat likewise, as utterly to unfit him for the society of selfish, avaricious, overbearing men, whence I have fondly thought, that he was thus early invited to a mansion where he might enjoy the communion of more congenial spirits."
The Dying Sunday School Boy.
His hands were clasp'd, his eyelids clos'd, As on his couch he lay, While slumber seem'd to wrap the form That pain had worn away:
But still the watching mother marked His pallid lips to part, As if some all-absorbing thought Lay on his dreaming heart;
For yet he slept not. Silent prayer Commun'd with God alone, And then his glazing eyes he rais'd, And spoke with tender tone:
"Oh mother! often in my class, I've heard the teacher say, That those who to the Saviour turn He would not cast away;
And so, beside my bed I knelt While early morn was dim, Imploring Heaven to teach my soul The way to turn to Him;
And now, behold! through golden clouds, A pierced hand I see, And listen to a glorious Voice, Arise! and come to Me."
His breath grew faint, but soft and low The parting whisper sigh'd, "I come, dear Lord, I come!" and so, Without a pang he died.
Oh blessed child! with whom the strife Of fear and care are o'er, Methinks thine angel smile we see From yon celestial shore,
And hear thee singing to His praise Whose boundless mercy gave Unto thy meek and trusting soul, The victory o'er the Grave.
The Precocious Infant.
The infant of whom the following traits will be remembered by many, was the son of the Rev. Dr. H. N. Brinsmade, and born in Hartford, Connecticut, February 28th, 1827. At an age when babes are considered little more than attractive objects to the loving eye, or toys to amuse a leisure hour, he was acquiring new ideas, and a subject of discipline; for his parents became convinced, through his example, that the mind in its earliest developments is susceptible of culture.
From the age of four months, he was observed to regard surrounding objects with a fixed attention. During those periods of inspection, the name of the article thus regarded was slowly repeated to him, until he associated it with the sound, and afterwards, would earnestly turn his eyes to any prominent piece of furniture, or particular portions of his own dress, or parts of his body, when designated by their respective names. At ten months he commenced learning the alphabet, from small wooden cubes, on which each letter was separately painted. This process was soon completed: not that he was able to utter the corresponding sounds, but would point out any letter that was inquired for, without mistake; and if he saw one in an inverted position, was never easy until he had restored it to its true attitude.
By the aid of prints pasted on cards, he readily acquired the names of animals and birds, arranged according to a judicious system of Natural History. He was encouraged to become thoroughly familiar with one print ere he was permitted to take another. Thus a basis was laid for habits of application, and the idle curiosity restrained, with which children are wont to wander from picture to picture. His parents in showing him a landscape or historical painting, accustomed him to regard every object, however minute, with an accurate eye, and so retentive was his memory, that what had been thoroughly impressed he seldom forgot. There were few toys from which he derived satisfaction, but seemed to find in pictures and books, with the explanations which they elicited, his principal delight. His careful treatment of books was remarkable, and this was undoubtedly in a measure produced by a little circumstance which occurred when he was quite young. He had torn the paper cover of a small volume. His mother remarked upon it with a serious countenance, and as the members of the family entered, mentioned what had been done, in a tone of sadness.
Presently his lip quivered, and a tear glistened in his eye. The lesson had been sufficiently strong, and it was necessary to comfort him. Afterwards, expensive volumes were fearlessly submitted to him, and the most splendid English annuals sustained no injury from his repeated examinations.
Geography, as exhibited on maps, became a favourite study, and ere he had numbered his second birthday, I saw him with surprise and admiration point out upon an atlas, seas, rivers, lakes, and countries, without hesitation or error.
A short time after, I found that he had made acquaintance with the rudiments of geometry, and was continually increasing his knowledge of printed words, which, with their definitions and combinations in simple phrases, were rapidly initiating him into his native language. It may possibly be imagined that he was made a mere book-worm, or might have been naturally deficient in animal spirits. On the contrary, nothing was taught him by compulsion, and no child could be more full of happiness. His sports, his rambles in the garden, and the demonstrations of infantine pleasure, were sweet to him. His mother was his companion, his playmate, and his instructress. Deeming her child's mind of more value than any other feminine pursuit or enjoyment, she devoted her time to its cultivation; and to her perseverance and the entire concurrence of his father in the intellectual system devised for him, his uncommon attainments may be imputed, more than to any peculiar gift of nature. Still, I am not prepared to say, that there was not something originally extraordinary in his capacity; at least I have never seen his docility, application, and retentive power, equalled in the early stages of existence. Portions of every day, suited in their length to his infancy, were regularly devoted to the business of instruction. But these were often unconsciously extended in their limits, by his eager desire to learn something more; and the winning and repeated entreaty of "Pray, _dear mother_, teach me," was wont to secure him an additional indulgence of "line upon line, and precept upon precept." His love of knowledge was becoming a passion, still there seemed no undue prominence of one department of intellect to the injury of another. Perception, understanding, and memory, advanced together, and seemed equally healthful.
He was destined for a learned education; a great part of which it was deemed preferable that he should receive under the parental roof; and his mother was preparing herself to become an assistant to his father in teaching him different languages. So indefatigable were her attentions to him, that she never left him to the care of a servant; and thus correct habits and purity of feeling, were preserved from contamination.
Among the pleasing traits of character which revealed themselves in him, his love of home was conspicuous. Though fond of seeing new objects, yet home was the spot most desirable to him. During a journey to New York, after the completion of his second year, where museums, and every alluring curiosity were inspected by him with delighted attention, the prospect of returning to his own flowers, shells, and books, gave him inexpressible joy.
He also manifested great ardour of affection for his parents. He could form no idea of happiness independent of their presence and participation. Though exceedingly fond of seeing collections of animals, which his knowledge of Natural History led him to regard with peculiar interest, he insisted that his father should take him from the first exhibition of the kind which he had ever witnessed, and when he was highly entertained by an elephant, ostrich, and some monkeys, because he discovered that his mother had withdrawn. The attachment usually felt by children for the tender guides of their infant hours, seemed in his case heightened by the consciousness that they were the dispensers of that knowledge with whose love he was smitten. When heaven was represented to him as a delightful abode, and rendered still more alluring by the image of a beloved and departed relative, whom he was taught to consider as among its inhabitants, he would express his unwillingness to be removed there unless "dear father and mother would go too."
A grateful spirit seemed to mingle with his filial affection, and moved him to an expression of thanks for every little favour. When given only a piece of bread, if a few moments happened to intervene between its reception and the customary acknowledgment, he would inquire as if troubled at the omission, "Did I forget to thank mother?" He was often told that to his Father in heaven, he was indebted for what he most loved, and with an affecting earnestness and graceful gesture of his little head, would say, "_Thank God_." At the period of family devotion he was early taught a quiet and reverent deportment, and after books became so interesting to him, preferred to look over when his father read the Scriptures, and to have it spread before him when he knelt during the prayer.
It might possibly have been feared that the mind, by starting into such sudden expansion, would have left the heart at a distance, but the germs of gentleness and virtue kept pace with the growth of intellect. There was also preserved a fine and fortunate balance between mind and body, for his physical education had been considered an important department of parental care and responsibility. His erect form, and expanded chest, revealed the rudiments of a good constitution, while his fair brow, bright black eye, and playful smile, bespoke that union of health, beauty, and cheerfulness, which never failed of attracting attention. There was less of light and boisterous mirth about him than is common to children of his age. His features expressed rather a mild and rational happiness than any exuberance of joy. This might have arisen partly from the circumstance of his having no young companion to encourage wild or extravagant sports; but principally, that the pleasures of thought were so continually resorted to, as to modify and elevate the countenance. His whole appearance was that of a healthful, happy, and beautiful infant, in the possession of a degree of learning and intelligence, to which infancy usually has no pretensions.
But it was forbidden us to witness the result of this interesting experiment upon mind; or to trace the full development of a bud whose unfolding was so wonderful. An acute dysentery which prevailed in the neighbourhood, numbered him among its victims, and after a fortnight's painful languishing, he died on the 11th of August, 1829, at the age of two years and five months.
After the breath had forsaken him he was still lovely, though emaciated. Fresh roses and orange flowers were around his head and on his bosom, and a bud clasped in his snowy hand. He seemed like one who had suffered and fallen asleep, and there lingered a peaceful and patient spirit around his silent wasted lips. His mother was seated by her dead son, pale, but resigned. She had never been separated from him since his birth, and she wished to continue near him till the grave should claim its own. The parents were strengthened as true Christians, to yield their only one to the will of his Father in heaven. And the anguish of their affliction was undoubtedly mitigated by the recollection, that nothing in their power had been omitted to promote his improvement and heighten his felicity, and that his dwelling was now to be where knowledge is no longer gained by slow laborious efforts, but where light is without cloud, and the soaring soul freed from its encumbrances of clay.
The Last Rose-bud.
The child was radiant with delight, As from the garden's shade, With golden ringlets clustering bright, She burst upon the mother's sight, And in her hand, like fairy sprite, A blooming rose-bud laid.
'Twas the last wreath by summer wove That thus the darling brought, For Autumn's breath had chill'd the grove; Oh mother! was that gift of love With aught of sadness fraught?
Say, didst thou think how soon that head In silent earth would rest? A solemn curtain o'er it spread, And the green turf she joy'd to tread, A covering for her breast?
But, for the buds that fade no more, Look thou in faith above, Look, mother! where the seraphs soar, Where countless harps their music pour, And raptur'd cherubim adore The God of boundless love.
The Cherub's Welcome.
Among the bright-robed host of heaven, two cherubs were filled with new rapture. Gladness that mortal eye hath never seen beamed from their brows, as with tuneful voices they exclaimed,
"Joy! joy! He cometh! Welcome, welcome, dear brother!" And they clasped in their arms a new immortal.
Then to their golden harps they chanted, "Thou shalt weep no more, our brother, neither shall sickness smite thee. For here is no death, neither sorrow, nor sighing."
At the Saviour's feet they knelt together with their warbled strain, "Praise be unto Thee, who didst say, 'Suffer little children to come unto Me.'
"Thou didst take them to Thy bosom upon earth, and through Thy love they enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Endless praise and glory be Thine, Oh Lord most High!"
They led the little one to amaranthine bowers, and wreathed around his temples the flowers that never fade. They gave him of the fruit of the Tree of Life, and of the water that gusheth forth clear as crystal from before the Throne of God and of the Lamb.
And they said, "Beautiful one! who wert too young to lisp the dialect of earth, sweet to thee will be the pure language of heaven. Bringest thou to us no token from the world that was once our home?"
Then answered the babe-cherub, "Here is our mother's last kiss with a tear upon it, and the prayer with which our father gave me back to God."
And they said, "Their gifts are sweet to us. We remember _her_ smile who lulled us on her breast, whose eye was open through the long night, when sickness smote us; and _his_ voice who taught us the name of Jesus.
Oft-times do we hover about them. We are near them though they see us not. While they mourn we drop into their hearts a balm drop and a thought of heaven, and fly back hither, swifter than the wing of morning.
We keep watch at the shining gates for them, and for the white-haired parents whom they honour, and for our fair sister, that we may be the first to welcome them. Lo! when all are here, our joy shall be full."
Long they talked together, folding their rainbow wings. They talked long with their music tones, yet the darkness came not. For there is no night there.
Then there burst forth a great song, choirs of angels saying, "Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty: Just and true are thy ways, thou King of Saints." And the lyres of the cherub brothers joined the chorus, swelling the melody of heaven.
The Babe, and the Forget-Me-Not.
A babe, who like the opening bud Grew fairer day by day, Made friendship with the loving flowers Amid his infant play;
And though full many a gorgeous plant Display'd its colours bright, Yet with the meek Forget-me-not He took his chief delight.
From mantel-vase, or rich bouquet, He cull'd his favourite gem, Well pleas'd its lowly lips to kiss, And gently clasp its stem.
So, when to dreamless rest he sank, For soon he was to fade, That darling friend, Forget-me-not, Was on his bosom laid;
And when, beside the mother's couch, Who weepeth for his sake, Some vision of his heavenly joy Doth midnight darkness break,
He cometh with a cherub smile In garments of the bless'd, And weareth a Forget-me-not Upon his sinless breast.
Treatment of Animals.
A grateful disposition, should teach us to be kind to the domestic animals. They add much to our comfort. How should we bear the winter's cold, were it not for the coat of wool, which the sheep shares with us? How would journeys be performed, or the mail be carried, or the affairs of government be conducted, without the aid of the horse?
Did you ever think how much the comfort of families depends upon the cow? Make a list of articles for the table, or for the sick, to which milk is indispensable. Perhaps you will be surprised to find how numerous they are.
When the first settlers of New England, came to Plymouth, in the winter of 1620, four years elapsed, before any cows were brought them. During all this time, their bread was made of pounded corn, and they had not a drop of milk for the weaned infant, or the sickly child, or to make any little delicacy for the invalid.
There was great rejoicing in the colony, when a ship arrived, bringing a few small heifers. Remember how patiently our good ancestors endured their many hardships; and when you freely use the milk of which they were so long deprived, be kind to the peaceable, orderly quadruped, from whom it is obtained.
Domestic animals, are sensible of kindness, and improved by it. They are made happier and more gentle, by being caressed and spoken to with a pleasant voice. Food, shelter, needful rest, and good treatment, are surely due to them, for their many services to man.
The Arab treats his horse like his child, and the noble animal loves him, and strains every nerve to do his bidding. I have seen a horse, when wearied with heat and travel, erect his head, and show evident signs of pleasure, and renew his labours with fresh zeal, if his master patted his neck, and whispered with a kind voice into his ear.
It is delightful to see the young show a protecting kindness to such harmless creatures as are often harshly treated. It seems difficult to say why the toad is so generally singled out for strong dislike. Is it only because Nature has not given it beauty? Surely its habits are innocent, and its temper gentle.
The scientific gardeners of Europe encourage toads to live in their gardens, and about their green-houses. They find them useful assistants in guarding their precious plants from insects. So, they wisely make them allies, instead of torturing and destroying them.
A benevolent English gentleman, once took pains to reclaim a toad from its timid habits. It improved by his attentions. It grew to a very large size, and at his approach, came regularly from its hole, to meet him, and receive its food.
Ladies, who visited the garden, sometimes desired to see this singular favourite. It was even brought to the table, and permitted to have a dessert of insects, which it partook, without being embarrassed by the presence of company.
It lived to be forty years old. What age it might have attained, had it met with no accident, it would be difficult to say. For it was in perfect health when wounded by a fierce raven, as it one day was coming from its house, under the steps of the door, which fronted the garden.
The poor creature languished a while, and then died; and the benevolent man who had so long protected it, took pleasure in relating its history, and in remembering that he had made its life happy.
Cruelty to animals is disgraceful and sinful. If I see even a young child pull off the wings of an insect, or take pains to set his foot upon a worm, I know that he has not been well instructed, or else that there is something wrong and wicked in his heart.
The Emperor Domitian loved to kill flies, and at last became a monster of cruelty. Benedict Arnold, the traitor, when he was a boy, liked to give pain to every thing, over which he could get power.
He destroyed birds' nests, and cut the little unfledged ones in pieces, before the eyes of their agonised parents. Cats and dogs, the quiet cow, and the faithful horse, he delighted to hurt and distress.
I do not like to repeat his cruel deeds. He was told that they were wrong. An excellent lady with whom he lived, use to warn and reprove him. But he did not reform. For his heart was hard, and he did not heed the commands of God.
He grew up without good principles. He became a soldier, and had command in the army. But he laid a plan to betray his country, and sell it into the hands of the enemy.
His wickedness was discovered, and he fled. He never dared to return to his native land, but lived despised, and died in misery. We know not how much of the sin which disgraced his character, sprang out of his hardness of heart, and cruelty to animals.
Many of the inferior creation display virtues which are deserving of respect. How many remarkable instances have we heard of the sagacity of the elephant, and the grateful attachment and fidelity of the dog.
A shepherd, who lived at the foot of the Grampian mountains, one day, in going to look after his flock, took with him his little boy of four years old. Some of his sheep had strayed. In pursuing them, he was obliged to climb rocks, so steep, that the child could not follow.
The shepherd charged the child to remain where he left him, until he should return. But while he was gone, one of those thick fogs arose, which in that part of Scotland are not uncommon. With difficulty he groped his way back again. But the child was gone.
All his search was vain. There was sorrow that night in the lowly cottage of his parents. The next day, the neighbours joined, and continued their pursuit for several days and nights. But in vain.
"Is my dog lost too?" said the father, as he one day entered his dwelling, and sat down in weariness and despair. "He has come here daily," said his little daughter, "while you and mother, have been searching for poor Donald. I have given him a piece of cake, which he has taken, and ran hastily away."
The household bread of the poor, in Scotland, is made of oatmeal, and being not baked in loaves, but rolled out thin, is often called cake. While they were speaking, the dog rushed in, and leaped upon his master, whining earnestly.
An oatmeal cake was given him. He appeared hungry but ate only a small portion of it. The remainder he took in his mouth, and ran away. The shepherd followed him. It was with difficulty, that he kept his track, fording a swift streamlet, and descending into a terrible ravine.
Then he entered a cave. And what was his joy to see there his little, lost son. He was eating heartily the bread which the dog had brought him, while he, standing by, and wagging his tail, looked up in his face with delight, as he took the food, which he nobly denied himself.
It seems that the dog was with the child, when, in the dimness of the mist, he wandered away. He must have aided him to pass the deep waters that crossed his path. And when he found shelter in that rude cavern, and mourned for his parents, the faithful dog guarded him like a father, and fed him with a mother's tenderness.
How can we fail to treat with kindness, a race of animals, that are capable of such virtues. Others, that are less celebrated, often show traits of character, which are worthy of imitation. Let us hear the opinion of the poet Cowper, on this interesting subject.
"We too might learn, if not too proud to stoop To animal instructors, many a good And useful quality, and virtue too, Rarely exemplified among ourselves. Fidelity, that neither bribe nor threat Can move, or warp, and gratitude for small And trivial favours, lasting as the life, And glistening even from the dying eye."
Birds give us an example of tender affection. There is no warfare in their nests. The little brothers and sisters dwell together in harmony, till they are able to stretch out the newly-plumed wing, and quit the care of the parent. Say they not to us, as they sing among the branches, "_Live in love!_"
The innocent dove, is cited as a model in the Book of God. "Be ye harmless as doves," said our Saviour, to his disciples. The stork spreads out its broad pinions, and bears its aged parents, on their journey through the air. It feeds and cherishes them with the same care, that it received in its own helpless infancy. Shall we not learn from it a lesson of filial piety?
Once, a robin, in returning to her nest, was shot dead. The mate mourned bitterly for her loss, but took her place upon the nest. There he brooded, until the young came forth from the egg, and then he sought food, and fed them like a mother, until they were able to fly away.
Often while he was performing her duties, and always at the close of day, his plaintive note was heard, lamenting his lost love. Ah! who could be so wicked as to destroy the nest, or the eggs, or the young, of those affectionate creatures. Our Father in Heaven, "taketh care of sparrows, and feedeth the young ravens that cry."
The Trembling Eyelid.
It was the day before Christmas, in the year 1778, during our war of revolution, that an armed vessel sailed out of Boston. She was strongly built, and carried twenty guns, and a crew of one hundred and five persons; with provisions for a cruise of six months.
She made a fine appearance, as she spread her broad sails, and steered out of the harbour. Many hearts wished her success. And she bore as goodly a company of bold and skilful seamen, as ever braved the perils of the deep.
Soon the north wind blew, and brought a heavy sea into the bay. The night proved dark, and they came to anchor with difficulty, near the harbour of Plymouth. The strong gale that buffeted them became a storm, and the storm a hurricane.
Snow fell, and the cold was terribly severe. The vessel was driven from her moorings, and struck on a reef of rocks. She began to fill with water, and they were obliged to cut away her masts. The sea rose above her main deck, sweeping over it with its dark surges.
They made every exertion that courage could prompt, or hardihood endure. But so fearful were the wind and cold, that the stoutest man was not able to strike more than two or three blows, in cutting away the masts, without being relieved by another.
The wretched people thronged together upon the quarter-deck, which was crowded almost to suffocation. They were exhausted with toil and suffering, but could obtain neither provisions, nor fresh water. These were all covered by the deep sea, when the vessel became a wreck.
But, unfortunately, the crew got access to ardent spirits, and many of them drank, and became intoxicated. Insubordination, mutiny, and madness ensued. The officers, remained clear-minded, but lost all authority over the crew, who raved around them.
A more frightful scene, can scarcely be imagined: the dark sky, the raging storm, the waves breaking wildly over the rocks, and threatening every moment to swallow up the broken vessel; and the half-frozen beings who maintained their icy hold on life, lost to reason, and to duty, or fighting fiercely with each other.
Some lay in disgusting stupidity; others, with fiery faces, blasphemed God. Some, in temporary delirium, fancied themselves in palaces, surrounded by luxury, and brutally abused the servants, who, they supposed, refused to do their bidding.
Others there were, who, amid the beating of that pitiless tempest, believed themselves in the homes that they never more must see, and with hollow, reproachful voices, besought bread, and wondered why water was withheld from them by the hands that were most dear.
A few, whose worst passions were quickened by alcohol to a fiend-like fury, assaulted or wounded those who came in their way, making their shrieks of defiance, and their curses heard above the roar of the storm. Intemperance never displayed itself in more distressing attitudes.
At length, Death began to do his work. The miserable creatures fell every hour upon the deck, frozen, stiff, and hard. Each corpse, as it became breathless, was laid upon a heap of dead, that more space might be left for the survivors. Those who drank most freely, were the first to perish.
On the third day of these horrors, the inhabitants of Plymouth, after making many ineffectual attempts, reached the wreck, not without danger. What a melancholy spectacle! Lifeless bodies, hardened into every form that suffering could devise.
Many lay in a vast pile. Others sat, with their heads reclining on their knees; others, grasping the ice-covered ropes; some in a posture of defence like the dying gladiator: and others, with hands held up to heaven, as if deprecating their awful fate.
Orders were given to search earnestly for every mark or sign of life. One boy was distinguished amid a mass of dead, only by the trembling of one of his eyelids. The poor survivors were kindly received into the houses of the people of Plymouth, and every effort used for their restoration.
The captain and lieutenant, and a few others, who had abstained from the use of ardent spirits, survived. The remainder were buried, some in separate graves, and others in a large pit, whose hollow is still to be seen, on the south-west side of the burial ground in Plymouth.
The funeral obsequies were most solemn. When the clergyman, who was to perform the last services, first entered the church, and saw more than seventy dead bodies; some fixing upon him their stony eyes, and others, with faces, stiffened into the horrible expression of their last mortal agony, he was so affected as to faint.
Some, were brought on shore alive, and received every attention, but survived only a short time. Others, were restored after long sickness, but with limbs so injured by frost, as to become cripples for life.
In a village, at some distance from Plymouth, a widowed mother, with her daughter, were seen constantly attending a couch, on which lay a sufferer. It was the boy, whose trembling eyelid attracted the notice of pity, as he lay among the dead.
"Mother," he said in a feeble tone, "God bless you for having taught me to avoid ardent spirits. It was this that saved me. After those around me grew intoxicated, I had enough to do to protect myself from them.
"Some attacked, and dared me to fight; others pressed the poisonous draught to my lips, and bade me drink. My lips and throat were parched with thirst. But I knew if I drank with them, I must lose my reason as they did, and perhaps, blaspheme my Maker.
"One by one they died, those poor infuriated wretches. Their shrieks and groans, still seem to ring in my ears. It was in vain that the captain and their officers, and a few good men, warned them of what would ensue, if they thus continued to drink, and tried every method in their power, to restore them to order.
"They still fed upon the fiery liquor. They grew delirious. They died in heaps. Dear mother, our sufferings from hunger and cold, you cannot imagine. After my feet were frozen, but before I lost the use of my hands, I discovered a box, among fragments of the wreck, far under water.
"I toiled with a rope to drag it up. But my strength was not sufficient. A comrade, who was still able to move a little, assisted me. At length, it came within our reach. We hoped that it might contain bread, and took courage.
"Uniting our strength we burst it open. It contained only a few bottles of olive oil. Yet we gave God thanks. For we found that by occasionally moistening our lips with it, and swallowing a little, it allayed the gnawing, burning pain in the stomach.
"Then my comrade died. And I lay beside him, like a corpse, surrounded by corpses. Presently, the violence of the tempest, that had so long raged, subsided, and I heard quick footsteps, and strange voices amid the wreck, where we lay.
"They were the blessed people of Plymouth, who had dared every danger, to save us. They lifted in their arms, and wrapped in blankets, all who could speak. Then they earnestly sought all who could move. But every drunkard, was among the dead.
"And I was so exhausted with toil, and suffering, and cold, that I could not stretch a hand to my deliverers. They passed me again and again. They carried the living to the boat. I feared that I was left behind.
"Then I prayed earnestly, in my heart, 'Oh, Lord, for the sake of my widowed mother, for the sake of my dear sister, save me.' I believed that the last man had gone, and besought the Redeemer to receive my spirit.
"But I felt a warm breath on my face. I strained every nerve. My whole soul strove and shuddered within me. Still my body was immovable as marble. Then a loud voice said, 'Come back and help me out with this poor lad. One of his eyelids trembles. He lives!'
"Oh, the music of that voice to me! The trembling eyelid, and the prayer to God, and your lessons of temperance, my mother, saved me." Then the loving sister embraced him with tears, and the mother said, "Praise be to Him who hath spared my son, to be the comfort of my old age."
The history of every nation tells of the shedding of blood. The most ancient annals record "wars and fightings," ever since man was placed upon the earth. Both savage and civilized nations have prized the trappings of the warrior, and coveted the glory of victory.
Yet have there always been some reflecting minds, to lament that the beings whom God had so nobly endowed, should delight to destroy each other. They have felt that there was suffering enough in the world, without man's inflicting it on his brother; and that life was short enough, without being made still shorter by violence.
Among the most warlike nations, there have been a few calm and philanthropic spirits, to perceive that war was an evil, or to deplore it as a judgment, even before the Gospel breathed "good-will and peace," in an angel's song. Though Rome grew up by bloodshed, and gained her dominion by the sword, yet some of her best emperors deplored the evils of war.
Adrian loved peace, and endeavoured to promote it. He saw that war was a foe to those arts and sciences, through which nations become prosperous and refined. He felt that the cultivation of the earth, the pursuits of commerce, and the progress of intellect, must alike be obstructed and languish, while the business of men was in the field of battle.
Titus Antoninus Pius desired to live in peace with every one. "I had rather save the life of one citizen," he nobly said, "than destroy a thousand enemies." His successor, Marcus Aurelius, considered war both as a disgrace and calamity. Though the necessity of the times sometimes forced him into it, his heart revolted, for he was inspired with the love of learning and philosophy.
Yet these were heathen emperors. They had never imbibed the spirit of the Gospel. They were not followers of Him, whose last accents was a prayer for his murderers. The maxim of the ancient Jews was, "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." But the precept of Jesus Christ is, "see that ye love one another." The contentious spirit was not therefore condemned by the law of Moses, nor by the mythology of the heathen.
Have you ever thought much, my dear young friends, of the miseries of war? of the waste of human life which it causes? of the bitter mourning which it makes in families? You pity a friend who suffers pain, a poor cripple upon crutches, or even a child with a cut finger.
But, after a battle, what gashes and gaping wounds are seen, what multitudes of mangled carcases. How red is the earth with flowing blood, how terrible are the groans of the dying, trampled beneath the feet of horses, or suffocated under heaps of dead. How fearful to see strong men convulsed with agony, and imploring help in vain.
Think too, of the sorrow in their distant homes. Grey-headed parents, from whom the last prop is taken away, lamenting their sons fallen in battle. Wives mourning for their husbands, little children weeping because their fathers must return no more. Neighbourhoods, once happy and prosperous, plunged into poverty, by the loss of those who provided them with bread.
All these evils, and many more, which we have neither room nor time to mention, may come from a single battle. Towns and cities are sometimes burned, and the aged and helpless destroyed. Mothers, and their innocent babes, perish in the ruins of their own beloved abodes.
War produces cruelty, and bad passions. Men, who have no cause to dislike each other, meet as deadly foes. They raise weapons of destruction, and exult in the misery they inflict. Rulers, should take a solemn view of the sufferings and sins of war, ere they plunge the people into it, for differences which might have been amicably settled.
War is expensive. The political economist should therefore oppose it. Great Britain, in her last war with France, is said to have spent more than seven hundred millions of pounds. But the immediate cost of armies, is but a part of the expense of war.
Who can compute the amount of losses by the obstruction of tillage and commerce, and the waste of life; for every full-grown, able-bodied man, is of value to the country that reared him. We may say with the poet,
"War is a game, that, were their subjects wise, Kings would not play at."
Howard, who felt that it was more noble to save life than to destroy it, visited the prisons of distant lands, to relieve such as have no helper; and blessings, in foreign languages, were poured upon his head. Bonaparte caused multitudes to be slain and multitudes to mourn, and died in exile, on a desolate island. When death approached, to strip the pomp from titles, whose bosom must have been the most peaceful, when about to pass into the presence of God?
The religious sect, who are called Friends, never engage in warfare. The State of Pennsylvania, was settled by them. William Penn, its founder, purchased it of the natives, and lived with them in amity. They gathered around him, with their dark, red brows, and, gazing earnestly in his face, said, "You are our father. We love you."
When he purchased the land of them, he appeared unarmed, under the spreading branches of a lofty oak, and conferred with their chiefs. He paid them to their satisfaction, gave them gifts, and entered into articles of friendship with them and their descendants. "This is the only treaty which was confirmed without an oath," said an historian, "and the only one that was never broken."
These men of peace, treated the sons of the forest as brethren. But in other colonies, there were distressing wars. The settlers carried their guns to the corn-field, and laboured in fear, for the safety of their households. The tomahawk and scalping-knife were sometimes secretly raised, so that when they returned home, there was no wife or children there, only dead bodies. A savage foe had chosen this terrible form of vengeance, for real or supposed wrongs.
If true glory belongs to those who do great good to mankind, is not the glory of the warrior a false glory? Does not History sometimes confer on her heroes, a fame which religion condemns? But we ask how are wars to be prevented? Might not one nation act as mediator between others, as a good man makes peace between contending neighbours?
Why should not one Christian ruler address another, as the patriarch Abraham did his kinsman? "Let there be no strife, betwixt us, I pray thee; _for we are brethren_." If there have been always wars from the beginning, is this any reason why there should be unto the end? Do not the Scriptures of Truth foretell a happy period on earth, when there shall be war no more? How beautifully has a poet versified the cheering prediction:
"No more shall nation against nation rise, Nor ardent warriors meet, with hateful eyes, Nor fields with gleaming steel be cover'd o'er, But brazen trumpet kindle rage no more, The useless lances into scythes shall bend, And the broad faulchion in a ploughshare end. For wars shall cease, and ancient fraud shall fail, Returning Justice lift aloft her scale. Peace o'er the earth her olive wand extend, And white-rob'd righteousness from Heaven descend."
War proceeds from the unbridled passions, or restless ambition of men. Unkind and quarrelsome dispositions in children are the germs of such evil fruit. Ought not then, the remedy to be early applied to the heart, from whence they spring? For if the love of peace, was planted, and cherished carefully in the breast of every little child, would there not grow up a generation, who would help to banish war from the earth?
Avoid contention with your companions. Use no offensive words, and when you see others disagree, strive to reconcile them. Repress every revengeful feeling. If any one has injured you, do not injure them. Try to set them a better example. If any speak unfavourably of you, it is well to do them some good office. Perhaps you can lend them an interesting, instructive book, whose perusal would lead them to kinder dispositions.
To render evil for evil, would make perpetual discord in society. Try, therefore, to be gentle and patient to those who seem to dislike you. Their cold treatment may often proceed from some trifle, which your pleasant manners may reconcile. And it is a pity, to lose for any trifle, the benefits of friendly intercourse.
When in company with your associates, do not insist always on having your own way. If you are in the habit of cheerfully consulting their wishes, they will seek your society, and enjoy it. Thus you will acquire influence over them, and this influence should be exerted for their good.
You know that he who does good to another, uniformly, and from a right principle, promotes his own happiness. It is indeed, easy to love those who love us, but to be kind to those who are unkind to us is not so easy, though it is a nobler virtue.
"Do not suffer yourself to hate even your enemies," said Plutarch, "for in doing so, you contract a vicious habit of mind, which will by degrees break out, even upon your friends, or those who are indifferent to you." This is the advice of a heathen philosopher. But more definite and sublime are the words of our Redeemer, "Love your enemies, that ye may be the children of your Father in Heaven, who doeth good unto the evil and unthankful."
By preserving peaceful dispositions, and persuading those who are at variance, to be reconciled, you will be serene and happy. You will be pursuing an education which will fit you for the society of angels. Have we not read of a country, where there is no war? where peace and love reign in the bosom of all its inhabitants?
That country is Heaven. We hope to dwell there when we die. We would strive to cultivate its spirit while on earth. How else can we be permitted to remain there? The scorpion cannot abide in the nest of the turtle-dove, nor the leopard slumber in the lamb's fold. Neither can the haters of peace find a home in those blissful regions.
That holy Book, which is the rule of our conduct, the basis of our hope, has promised no reward to those who delight in the shedding of blood. But our Saviour, when his dwelling was in tents of clay, when he taught the listening multitude what they must do, to inherit eternal life, said, "Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called the children of God."
John and James Williams.
John and James Williams, were the sons of a New England farmer. In summer, they took an active part in his labours, and during the winter attended to their school-education. Both were fond of books, but their tastes and dispositions were different.
One cold evening in winter, they were sitting beside a bright fire of wood. Their lamp cast a cheerful ray over the snow-covered landscape. Several books lay on the table, from which they had been studying their lessons for the following day.
"John," said the youngest, who was about thirteen years old, "John, I mean to be a soldier. I have lately been reading the life of Alexander of Macedon, and a good deal about Bonaparte. I think there is nothing in this world like the glory of the warrior."
"It does not strike me so, James. To destroy life, and to cause mourning in such a multitude of families, and to bring so much poverty and misery into the world, seems to me, more cruel than glorious."
"But John, to be so praised and honoured, to have hosts of soldiers under your command, and to have the pages of history filled with the fame of your victories, how can you be blind to such glory as that?
"Brother, the minister said last Sunday, that the _end of life was the test of its goodness_. Now, Alexander the Great got intoxicated, and died like a madman; and Bonaparte was shut up to pine away on a desolate island, as if he was a wild beast, chained in a cage."
"John, your ideas are very limited. I am sorry to see that you are not capable of admiring heroes. You are just fit to be a farmer. I dare say that to break a pair of steers, is your highest ambition, and to spend your days in ploughing and reaping, is all the glory that you would covet."
Their father's voice was now heard, calling, "Boys, go to bed." Thus ended their conversation for that night. These brothers loved each other, and seldom disagreed on any subject, except on trying to settle the point, in what the true glory of the warrior consisted.
Fifteen years glided away, and the season of winter again returned. From the same window, a bright lamp gleamed, and on the same hearth glowed a cheerful fire. The farm-house seemed unaltered, but among its inmates, there had been changes.
The parents, who had then retired to rest, were now mouldering in the grave. They were good and pious, and among the little circle of their native village, their memory was still held in sweet remembrance.
In the corner, which they used to occupy, their eldest son, and his wife, were seated. A babe lay in the cradle, and two other little ones, breathed quietly from their trundle-bed, in the sweet sleep of childhood. A strong blast, with snow, shook the casement.
"I always think," said John Williams, "about my poor brother, in stormy nights, especially in winter. So many years have past, since we have heard from him, and his way of life is so full of danger, that I fear he must be numbered with the dead."
"Husband, did I hear a faint knock! or was it the wind among the trees?" said his wife. The farmer opened the door, and a traveller entered, leaning heavily on a crutch. His garments were old and thin, and his countenance haggard.
He sank into a chair, and gazed earnestly around on every article of furniture, as on some recollected friend. Then, extending a withered hand, he uttered in a tone scarcely audible, "Brother! brother!"
That word, opened the tender memories of other years. They hastened to welcome the wanderer, and to mingle their tears with his. "Sister, brother, I have come home to _die_." They found him too much exhausted to converse, and after giving him comfortable food, induced him to retire to rest.
The next morning, he was unable to rise. They sat by his bedside, and soothed his worn heart with kindness, and told him the simple narrative of the changes in the neighbourhood, and what had befallen them, in their quiet abode.
"I have had many troubles," said he, "but none have bowed me down, like the sin of leaving home to be a soldier, without the knowledge of my parents, and against their will. I have felt the pain of wounds, but there is nothing like the sting of conscience.
"I have endured hunger, and thirst, and imprisonment, and the misery of sickness in an enemy's land; and then the image of my home, and my disobedience and ingratitude, were with me when I lay down, and when I rose up, and when I was sleepless and sick in the neglected hospitals.
"In broken visions, I would see my dear mother bending tenderly over me, as she used to do, when I had only a headache; and my father with the great Bible in his hand, reading as he used to do before prayer; but when I cried out in agony. 'I am no more worthy to be called thy son,' I awoke, and it was all a dream."
His brother assured him of the perfect forgivenness of his parents, and that duly, at morn and eve, he was borne upon their supplications at the family altar, as the son, erring, yet beloved. "Ah, yes, and those prayers followed me. But for them I should have been a reprobate, forsaken both of God and man."
As strength permitted, he told them the story of his wanderings. He had been in battles, on land and sea. He had heard the deep ocean echo to the cannon's thunder, and seen earth drink the red shower from the bosoms of her slaughtered sons.
He had stood in the martial lists of Europe, and hazarded his life for a foreign power, and had pursued, in his native land, the hunted Indian, flying at midnight from the flames of his own hut. He had ventured with the bravest, into the deepest danger, seeking every where for the glory which had dazzled his boyhood, but in vain.
He found that it was the lot of the soldier to endure hardship, that others might reap the fame. He saw what fractures and mutilations, what misery, and mourning, and death, were necessary to purchase the reward of victory. He felt how light was even the renown of the conqueror, compared with the good that he forfeits, and the sorrow that he inflicts to obtain it.
"Sometimes," he said, "just before rushing into battle, I felt a shuddering, and inexpressible horror, at the thought of butchering my fellow-creatures. But in the heat of contest, all such sympathies vanished, and madness and desperation possessed me, so that I cared neither for this life nor the next.
"I have been left wounded on the field, unable to move from among the feet of trampling horses, my open gashes stiffening in the chilly night air, and death staring me in the face, while no man cared for my soul. Yet I will not distress your kind hearts, by describing my varieties of pain.
"You, who have always lived amid the influences of mercy; who shrink to give unnecessary suffering, even to an animal, cannot realize what hardness of heart, comes with the life of a soldier, familiar as he must be with groans, and violence, and cruelty.
"His moral and religious feelings, are in still greater danger. Oaths, imprecations, and contempt of sacred things, are mingled with the elements of his trade. The sweet and holy influences of the Sabbath, and the precepts of the Gospel, impressed upon his childhood, are too often swept away.
"Yet though I exerted myself to appear bold and courageous, and even hardened, my heart reproached me. Oh, that it might be purified by repentance, and at peace with God, before I am summoned to the dread bar of judgment, to answer for my deeds of blood."
His friends flattered themselves, that, by medical skill, and careful nursing, he might be restored to health. But he answered, "No, it can never be. My vital energies are wasted. Even now, is Death standing at my right hand."
"When I entered this peaceful valley, my swollen limbs tottered, and began to fail. Then I prayed to the Almighty, whom I had so often forgotten, 'Oh, give me strength but a little longer, that I may reach the home where I was born, and die there, and be buried by the side of my father and my mother.'"
The sick and penitent soldier, sought earnestly for the hope of salvation. He felt that a great change was needed in his soul, ere it could be fitted for the holy employments of a realm of purity and peace. He prayed, and wept, and studied the Scriptures, and listened to the counsel of pious men.
"Brother, dear brother," he would say, "you have obeyed the precepts of our parents. You have chosen the path of peace. You have been merciful even to the inferior creatures. You have shorn the fleece, but not wantonly destroyed the lamb. You have taken the honey, and spared the labouring bee.
"But I have destroyed man, and his habitation; the hive and the honey; the fleece and the flock. I have defaced the image of God, and crushed out that breath, which I can never restore. You know not how bitter is the warfare of my soul with the 'Prince of the power of the air, the spirit that ruleth in the children of disobedience.'"
As the last hour approached, he laid his cold hand on the head of his brother's eldest child, who had been named for him, and said faintly, "Little James, obey your parents, and never be a soldier. Sister, brother, you have been angels of mercy to me. The blessing of God be upon you, and your household."
The venerable minister who instructed his childhood, and laid his parents in the grave, had daily visited him in his sickness. He stood by his side, as he went down into the valley of the shadow of death. "My son, look unto the Lamb of God." "Yes, father, there is a fullness in Him for the chief of sinners."
The aged man lifted up his fervent prayer for the departing soul. He commended it to the boundless compassions of Him who receiveth the penitent; and besought for it, a gentle passage to that world, where there is no more sin, neither sorrow, nor crying.
He ceased. The eyes of the dying were closed. There was no more heaving of the breast, or gasping. They thought the breath had quitted the clay. They spoke of him as having passed where all tears are wiped from the eyes for ever.
But again there was a faint sigh. The white lips slowly moved. His brother bending over him caught the last, low whisper,--"Jesus! Saviour! take a repentant sinner to the world of peace."
The Indian King.
Among the early settlers of these United States, were some pious people, called Hugenots, who fled from the persecutions in France, under Louis the Fourteenth. It has been said, that wherever the elements of their character mingled with the New World, the infusion was salutary.
Industry, patience, sweet social affections, and piety, firm, but not austere, were the distinctive features of this interesting race. A considerable number of them, chose their abode in a part of the State of Massachusetts, about the year 1686, and commenced the labours inseparable from the formation of a new colony.
In their vicinity, was a powerful tribe of Indians, whom they strove to conciliate. They extended to them the simple rites of hospitality, and their kind and gentle manners, wrought happily upon the proud, yet susceptible nature of the aborigines.
But their settlement had not long assumed the marks of regularity and beauty, ere they observed in their savage neighbours, a reserved deportment. This increased, until the son of the forest, utterly avoided the dwellings of the new comers, where he had been pleased to accept a shelter for the night, or a covert for the storm.
Occasionally, some lingering one might be seen near the cultivated grounds, regarding the more skilful agriculture of the white inhabitants with a dejected and lowering brow. It was rumoured that these symptoms of disaffection arose from the influence of an aged chief, whom they considered a prophet, who denounced the "pale intruders;" and they grieved that they should not have been more successful in conciliating their red brethren.
Three years had elapsed since the establishment of their little colony. Autumn was now advancing towards its close, and copse and forest exhibited those varied and opposing hues, which clothe in beauty and brilliance, the foliage of New England. The harvest was gathered in, and every family made preparation for the approach of winter.
Here and there groups of children might be seen, bearing homeward baskets of nuts, which they had gathered in the thicket, or forest. It was pleasant to hear their joyous voices, and see their ruddy faces, like bright flowers, amid wilds so lately tenanted by the prowling wolf, the fierce panther, and the sable bear.
In one of these nut-gatherings, a little boy and girl, of eight and four years old, the only children of a settler, whose wife had died on the voyage hither, accidentally separated from their companions. They had discovered on their way home, profuse clusters of the purple frost-grape, and entering a rocky recess to gain the new treasure, did not perceive that the last rays of the setting sun were fading away.
Suddenly they were seized by two Indians. The boy struggled violently, and his little sister cried to him for protection, but in vain. The long strides of their captors, soon bore them far beyond the bounds of the settlement. Night was far advanced, ere they halted. Then they kindled a fire, and offered the children some food.
The heart of the boy swelled high with grief and anger, and he refused to partake. But the poor little girl took some parched corn from the hand of the Indian, who held her on his knee. He smiled as he saw her eat the kernels, and look up in his face with a wondering, yet reproachless eye. Then they lay down to sleep, in the dark forest, each with an arm over his captive.
Great was the alarm in the colony, when those children returned not. Every spot was searched, where it was thought possible they might have lost their way. But, when at length their little baskets were found, overturned in a tangled thicket, one terrible conclusion burst upon every mind, that they must have been captured by Indians.
It was decided, that ere any warlike measures were adopted, the father should go peacefully to the Indian king, and demand his children. At the earliest dawn of morning, he departed with his companions. They met a friendly Indian, pursuing the chase, who had occasionally shared their hospitality and consented to be their guide.
They travelled through rude paths, until the day drew near a close. Then, approaching a circle of native dwellings, in the midst of which was a tent, they saw a man of lofty form, with a cornet of feathers upon his brow, and surrounded by warriors. The guide saluted him as his monarch, and the bereaved father, bowing down, addressed him:
"King of the red men, thou seest a father in pursuit of his lost babes. He has heard that your people will not harm the stranger in distress. So he trusts himself fearlessly among you. The king of our own native land, who should have protected us, became our foe. We fled from our dear homes, from the graves of our fathers.
"The ocean-wave brought us to this New World. We are a peaceful race, pure from the blood of all men. We seek to take the hand of our red brethren. Of my own kindred, none inhabit this wilderness save two little buds from a broken, buried stem.
"Last night, sorrow entered into my soul, because I found them not. Knowest thou, O king, if thy people have taken my babes? Knowest thou where they have concealed them? Cause them, I pray thee, to be restored to my arms. So shall the Great Spirit bless thine own tender plants, and lift up thy heart when it weigheth heavily in thy bosom."
The Indian monarch, bending on him a piercing glance, said, "Knowest thou me? Look in my eyes! Look! Answer me! Are they those of a stranger?" The Hugenot replied that he had no recollection of having ever before seen his countenance.
"Thus it is with the white man. He is dim-eyed. He looketh on the garments, more than on the soul. Where your ploughs wound the earth, oft have I stood, watching your toil. There was no coronet on my brow. But I was a king. And you knew it not.
"I looked upon your people. I saw neither pride nor violence. I went an enemy, but returned a friend. I said to my warriors, do these men no harm. They do not hate Indians. Then our white-haired Prophet of the Great Spirit rebuked me. He bade me make no league with the pale faces, lest angry words should be spoken of me among the shades of our buried kings.
"Yet again I went where thy brethren have reared their dwellings. Yes, I entered thy house. _And thou knowest not this brow!_ I could tell thine at midnight, if but a single star trembled through the clouds. My ear would know thy voice, though the storm were abroad with all its thunders.
"I have said that I was a king. Yet I came to thee an hungered. And thou gavest me bread. My head was wet with the tempest. Thou badest me to lie down on thy hearth, and thy son for whom thou mournest, covered me.
"I was sad in spirit. And thy little daughter whom thou seekest with tears, sat on my knee. She smiled when I told her how the beaver buildeth his house in the forest. My heart was comforted, for I saw that she did not hate Indians.
"Turn not on me such a terrible eye. I am no stealer of babes. I have reproved the people who took the children. I have sheltered them for thee. Not a hair of their heads is hurt. Thinkest thou that the red man can forget kindness? They are sleeping in my tent. Had I but a single blanket, it should have been their bed. Take them, and return unto thy people."
He waved his hand to an attendant, and in a moment the two children were in the arms of their father. The white men were hospitably sheltered for that night, and the twilight of the next day, bore upward from the rejoicing colony, a prayer for the heathen of the forest, and that pure praise which mingles with the music around the throne.
A Sea-king on the Danish shore, When the old time went by, Launch'd his rude ship for reckless deeds, Beneath a foreign sky.
And oft on Albion's richer coast, Where Saxon Harold reign'd, With a fierce foe's marauding hate, Wild warfare he maintained.
From hamlet-nook, and humble vale, Their wealth he reft away, And shamed not with his blood-red steel, To wake the deadly fray.
But once within an islet's bay, While summer-twilight spread A curtain o'er the glorious sun, Who sank to ocean's bed,
He paus'd amid his savage trade, And gaz'd on earth and sea, While o'er his head a nest of doves, Hung in a linden tree.
They coo'd and murmur'd o'er their young, A loving, mournful strain. And still the chirping brood essay'd, The same soft tones again.
The sea-king on the rocky beach; Bow'd down his head to hear, Yet started on his iron brow, To feel a trickling tear.
He mus'd upon his lonely home, Beyond the foaming main; For nature kindled in his breast, At that fond dovelet's strain.
He listen'd till the lay declin'd, As slumber o'er them stole: "_Home, home, sweet home!_" methought they sang; It enter'd to his soul.
He linger'd till the moon came forth, With radiance pure and pale, And then his hardy crew he rous'd, "Up! up! and spread the sail."
"Now, whither goest thou, master bold?" No word the sea-king spake, But at the helm all night he stood, Till ruddy morn did break.
"See, captain, yon unguarded isle! Those cattle are our prey;" Dark grew their brows, and fierce their speech: No word he deign'd to say.
Right onward, o'er the swelling wave, With steady prow he bore, Nor stay'd until he anchor'd fast, By Denmark's wave-wash'd shore.
"Farewell, farewell, brave men and true, Well have you serv'd my need; Divide the spoils as best ye may, Rich boon for daring deed."
He shook them by the harden'd hand, And on his journey sped, Nor linger'd till through shades he saw, His long-forsaken shed.
Forth came the babe, that when he left, Lay on its mother's knee; She rais'd a stranger's wondering cry: A fair-hair'd girl was she!
His far-off voice that mother knew, And shriek'd in speechless joy, While, proudly, toward his arms she drew His bashful, stripling boy.
They bade the fire of pine burn bright, The simple board they spread; And bless'd and welcom'd him, as one Returning from the dead.
He cleans'd him of the pirate's sin, He donn'd the peasant's stole, And nightly from his labours came, With music in his soul.
"Father! what mean those words you speak Oft in your broken sleep? _The doves! the doves!_ you murmuring cry, And then in dreams you weep:
"Father, you've told us many a tale, Of storm, and battle wild; Tell us the story of the doves," The peasant-father smil'd:
"Go, daughter, lure a dove to build Her nest in yonder tree, And thou shalt hear the tender tone, That lured me back to thee."
War-spirit! War-spirit! how gorgeous thy path Pale earth shrinks with fear from thy chariot of wrath, The king at thy beckoning comes down from his throne, To the conflict of fate the armed nations rush on, With the trampling of steeds, and the trumpets' wild cry, While the folds of their banners gleam bright o'er the sky.
Thy glories are sought, till the life-throb is o'er, Thy laurels pursued, though they blossom in gore, Mid the ruins of columns and temples sublime, The arch of the hero doth grapple with time; The muse o'er thy form throws her tissue divine, And history her annal emblazons with thine.
War-spirit! War-spirit! thy secrets are known; I have look'd on the field when the battle was done, The mangled and slain in their misery lay, And the vulture was shrieking and watching his prey, And the heart's gush of sorrow, how hopeless and sore, In those homes that the lov'd ones revisit no more.
I have trac'd out thy march, by its features of pain, While famine and pestilence stalk'd in thy train, And the trophies of sin did thy victory swell, And thy breath on the soul, was the plague-spot of hell; Death laudeth thy deeds, and in letters of flame, The realm of perdition engraveth thy name.
War-spirit! War-spirit! go down to thy place, With the demons that thrive on the woe of our race; Call back thy strong legions of madness and pride, Bid the rivers of blood thou hast open'd be dried, Let thy league with the grave and Aceldama cease, And yield the torn world to the Angel of Peace.
The years of my childhood passed away in contentment and peace. My lot was in humble and simple industry; yet my heart was full of gladness, though I scarcely knew why. I loved to sit under the shadow of the rugged rocks, and to hear the murmured song of the falling brook.
I made to myself a companionship among the things of nature, and was happy all the day. But when evening darkened the landscape, I sat down pensively; for I was alone, and had neither brother nor sister.
I was ever wishing for a brother who should be older than myself, into whose hand I might put my own, and say, "Lead me forth to look at the solemn stars, and tell me of their names." Sometimes, too, I wept in my bed, because there was no sister to lay her head upon the same pillow.
At twilight, before the lamps were lighted, there came up out of my bosom, what seemed to be a friend. I did not then understand that its name was Thought. But I talked with it, and it comforted me. I waited for its coming, and whatsoever it asked of me, I answered.
When it questioned me of my knowledge, I said, "I know where the first fresh violets of spring grow, and where the lily of the vale hides in its broad green sheath, and where the vine climbs to hang its purple clusters, and where the forest nuts ripen, when autumn comes with its sparkling frost.
"I have seen how the bee nourishes itself in winter with the essence of flowers, which its own industry embalmed; and I have learned to draw forth the kindness of domestic animals, and to tell the names of the birds which build dwellings in my father's trees."
Then Thought enquired, "What knowest thou of those who reason, and to whom God has given dominion over the beasts of the field, and over the fowls of the air?" I confessed, that of my own race I knew nothing, save of the parents who nurtured me, and the few children with whom I had played on the summer turf.
I was ashamed, for I felt that I was ignorant. So I determined to turn away from the wild herbs of the field, and the old trees where I had helped the gray squirrel to gather acorns, and to look attentively upon what passed among men.
I walked abroad when the morning dews were lingering upon the grass, and the white lilies drooping their beautiful heads to shed tears of joy, and the young rose blushing, as if it listened to its own praise. Nature smiled upon those sweet children, that were so soon to fade.
But I turned toward those whose souls have the gift of reason, and are not born to die. I said, "If there is joy in the plant that flourishes for a day, and in the bird bearing to its nest but a broken cherry, and in the lamb that has no friend but its mother, how much happier must they be, who are surrounded with good things, as by a flowing river, and who know that, though they seem to die, it is but to live for ever."
I looked upon a group of children. They were untaught and unfed, and clamoured loudly with wayward tongues. I asked them why they walked not in the pleasant paths of knowledge. And they mocked at me. I heard two who were called friends, speak harsh words to each other, and was affrighted at the blows they dealt.
I saw a man with a fiery and a bloated face. He was built strongly, like the oak among trees; yet his steps were weak and unsteady as those of the tottering babe. He fell heavily, and lay as one dead. I marvelled that no hand was stretched out to raise him up.
I saw an open grave. A widow stood near it, with her little ones. They looked downcast, and sad at heart. Yet, methought it was famine and misery, more than sorrow for the dead, which had set on them such a yellow and shrivelled seal.
I said, "What can have made the parents not pity their children when they hungered, nor call them home when they were in wickedness? What made the friends forget their early love, and the strong man fall down senseless, and the young die before his time?" I heard a voice say, "Intemperance. And there is mourning in the land, because of this."
So I returned to my home, sorrowing; and had God given me a brother or a sister, I would have thrown my arms around their neck, and entreated, "Touch not your lips to the poison cup, and let us drink the pure water which God hath blessed, all the days of our lives."
Again I went forth. I met a beautiful boy weeping, and I asked him why he wept. He answered, "Because my father went to the wars and is slain; he will return no more." I saw a mournful woman. The sun shone upon her dwelling. The honeysuckle climbed to its windows, and sent in its sweet blossoms to do their loving message. But she was a widow. Her husband had fallen in battle. There was joy for her no more.
I saw a hoary man, sitting by the wayside. Grief had made furrows upon his forehead, and his garments were thin and tattered. Yet he asked not for charity. And when I besought him to tell me why his heart was heavy, he replied faintly, "I had a son, an only one. From his cradle, I toiled, that he might have food and clothing, and be taught wisdom.
"He grew up to bless me. So all my labour and weariness were forgotten. When he became a man, I knew no want; for he cherished me, as I had cherished him. Yet he left me to be a soldier. He was slaughtered in the field of battle. Therefore mine eye runneth down with water, because the comforter that should relieve my soul returns no more."
I said, "Show me, I pray thee, a field of battle, that I may know what war means." But he answered, "Thou art not able to bear the sight." "Tell me, then," I entreated, "what thou hast seen, when the battle was done."
"I came," he said, "at the close of day, when the cannon ceased their thunder, and the victor and vanquished had withdrawn. The rising moon looked down on the pale faces of the dead. Scattered over the broad plain were many who still struggled with the pangs of death.
"They stretched out the shattered limb, yet there was no healing hand. They strove to raise their heads, but sank deeper in the blood which flowed from their own bosoms. They begged in God's name that we would put them out of their misery, and their piercing shrieks entered into my soul.
"Here and there horses, mad with pain, rolled and plunged, mangling with their hoofs the dying, or defacing the dead. And I remember the mourning for those who lay there; of the parents who had reared them, or of the young children who used to sit at home upon their knee."
Then I said, "Tell me no more of battle or of war, for my heart is sad." The silver-haired man raised his eyes upward, and I kneeled down by his side.
And he prayed, "Lord, keep this child from anger, and hatred, and ambition, which are the seeds of war. Grant to all that own the name of Jesus, hearts of peace, that they may shun every deed of strife, and dwell at last in the country of peace, even in heaven."
Hastening home, I besought my mother, "Shelter me, as I have been sheltered, in solitude, and in love. Bid me turn the wheel of industry, or bring water from the fountain, or tend the plants of the garden, or feed a young bird and listen to its song, but let me go no more forth among the vices and miseries of man."
AT OXFORD, MASSACHUSETTS.
I stood upon a breezy height, and marked The rural landscape's charms: fields thick with corn, And new-mown grass that bathed the ruthless scythe With a forgiving fragrance, even in death Blessing its enemies; and broad-armed trees Fruitful, or dense with shade, and crystal streams That cheered their sedgy banks.
But at my feet Were vestiges, that turned the thoughts away From all this summer-beauty. Moss-clad stones That formed their fortress, who in earlier days, Sought refuge here, from their own troubled clime, And from the madness of a tyrant king, Were strewed around.
Methinks, yon wreck stands forth In rugged strength once more, and firmly guards From the red Indian's shaft, those sons of France, Who for her genial flower-decked vales, and flush Of purple vintage, found but welcome cold From thee, my native land! the wintry moan Of wind-swept forests, and the appalling frown Of icy floods. Yet didst thou leave them free To strike the sweet harp of the secret soul, And this was all their wealth. For this they blest Thy trackless wilds, and 'neath their lowly roof At morn and night, or with the murmuring swell Of stranger waters, blent their hymn of praise. Green Vine! that mantlest in thy fresh embrace Yon old, grey rock, I hear that thou with them Didst brave the ocean surge.
Say, drank thy germ The dews of Languedoc? or slow uncoiled An infant fibre, mid the fruitful mould Of smiling Roussillon? or didst thou shrink From the fierce footsteps of a warlike train Brother with brother fighting unto death, At fair Rochelle?
Hast thou no tale for me? Methought its broad leaves shivered in the gale, With whispered words.
There was a gentle form, A fair, young creature, who at twilight hour Oft brought me water, and would kindly raise My drooping head. Her eyes were dark and soft As the gazelle's, and well I knew her sigh Was tremulous with love. For she had left One in her own fair land, with whom her heart From childhood had been twined.
Oft by her side, What time the youngling moon went up the sky, Chequering with silvery beam their woven bower; He strove to win her to the faith he held, Speaking of heresy with flashing eye, Yet with such blandishment of tenderness, As more than argument dissolveth doubt With a young pupil, in the school of love. Even then, sharp lightning quivered thro' the gloom Of persecution's cloud, and soon its storm Burst on the Huguenots.
Their churches fell, Their pastors fed the dungeon, or the rack; And mid each household-group, grim soldiers sat, In frowning espionage, troubling the sleep Of infant innocence.
Stern war burst forth, And civil conflict on the soil of France Wrought fearful things.
The peasant's blood was ploughed In with the wheat he planted, while from cliffs That overhung the sea, from caves and dens, The hunted worshippers were madly driven Out 'neath the smiling sabbath skies, and slain, The anthem on their tongues.
The coast was thronged With hapless exiles, and that dark-haired maid, Leading her little sister, in the steps Of their afflicted parents, hasting left The meal uneaten, and the table spread In their sweet cottage, to return no more. The lover held her to his heart, and prayed That from her erring people she would turn To the true fold of Christ, for so he deemed That ancient Church, for which his breast was clad In soldier's panoply.
But she, with tears Like Niobe, a never-ceasing flood, Drew her soft hand from his, and dared the deep. And so, as years sped on with patient brow She bare the burdens of the wilderness, His image, and an everlasting prayer, Within her soul.
And when she sank away, As fades the lily when its day is done, There was a deep-drawn sigh, and up-raised glance Of earnest supplication, that the hearts Severed so long, might join, where bigot zeal Should find no place.
She hath a quiet bed Beneath yon turf, and an unwritten name On earth, which sister angels speak in heaven.
When Louis Fourteenth, by the revocation of the Edict of Nantz, scattered the rich treasure of the hearts of more than half a million of subjects to foreign climes, this Western World profited by his mad prodigality. Among the wheat with which its newly broken surface was sown, none was more purely sifted than that which France thus cast away. Industry, integrity, moderated desires, piety without austerity, and the sweetest domestic charities, were among the prominent characteristics of the exiled people.
Among the various settlements made by the Huguenots, at different periods upon our shores, that at Oxford, in Massachusetts, has the priority in point of time. In 1686, thirty families with their clergyman, landed at Fort Hill, in Boston. There they found kind reception and entertainment, until ready to proceed to their destined abode. This was at Oxford, in Worcester county, where an area of 12,000 acres was secured by them, from the township of eight miles square which had been laid out by Governor Dudley. The appearance of the country, though uncleared, was pleasant to those who counted as their chief wealth, "freedom to worship God." They gave the name of French River to a stream, which, after diffusing fertility around their new home, becomes a tributary of the Quinabaug, in Connecticut, and finally merged in the Thames, passes on to Long Island Sound.
Being surrounded by the territory of the Nipmug Indians, their first care was to build a fort, as a refuge from savage aggression. Gardens were laid out in its vicinity, and stocked with the seeds of vegetables and fruits, brought from their own native soil. Mills were also erected, and ten or twelve years of persevering industry, secured many comforts to the colonists, who were much respected in the neighbouring settlements, and acquired the right of representation in the provincial legislature.
But the tribe of Indians by whom they were encompassed, had, from the beginning, met with a morose and intractable spirit, their proffered kindness. A sudden, and wholly unexpected incursion, with the massacre of one of the emigrants and his children, caused the breaking up of the little peaceful settlement, and the return of its inmates to Boston. Friendships formed there on their first arrival, and the hospitality that has ever distinguished that beautiful city, turned the hearts of the Huguenots towards it as a refuge, in this, their second exile. Their reception, and the continuance of their names among the most honoured of its inhabitants, proved that the spot was neither ill-chosen, nor uncongenial. Here, their excellent pastor, Pierre Daille, died, in 1715. His epitaph, and that of his wife, are still legible in the "Granary Burying Ground." He was succeeded by Mr. Andrew Le Mercier, author of a History of Geneva. Their place of worship was in School Street, and known by the name of the French Protestant Church.
About the year 1713, Oxford was resettled by a stronger body of colonists, able to command more military aid; and thither, in process of time, a few of the Huguenot families resorted, and made their abode in those lovely and retired vales.
A visit to this fair scenery many years since, was rendered doubly interesting, by the conversation of an ancient lady of Huguenot extraction. Though she had numbered more than fourscore winters, her memory was particularly retentive, while her clear, black eye, dark complexion, and serenely expressive countenance, displayed some of the striking characteristics of her ancestral clime, mingled with that beauty of the soul which is confined to no nation, and which age cannot destroy. This was the same Mrs. Butler, formerly Mary Sigourney, whose reminiscences, the late Rev. Dr. Holmes, the learned and persevering annalist, has quoted in his "Memoir of the French Protestants."
With her family, and some other relatives, she had removed from Boston to Oxford, after the revolutionary war, and supposed that her brother, Mr. Andrew Sigourney, then occupied very nearly, if not the same precise locality, which had been purchased by their ancestor, nearly 150 years before. During the voyage to this foreign clime, her grandmother was deprived by death of an affectionate mother, while an infant only six months old. From this grandmother, who lived to be more than eighty, and from a sister six years older, who attained the unusual age of ninety-six, Mrs. Butler had derived many legends which she treasured with fidelity, and related with simple eloquence. Truly, the voice of buried ages, spake through her venerated lips. The building of the fort; the naturalization of French vines and fruit-trees in a stranger soil; the consecrated spot where their dead were buried, now without the remaining vestige of a stone; the hopes of the rising settlement; the massacre that dispersed it; the hearth-stone, empurpled with the blood of the beautiful babes of Jeanson; the frantic wife and mother snatched from the scene of slaughter by her brother, and borne through the waters of French River, to the garrison at Woodstock; all these traces seemed as vivid in her mind, as if her eye had witnessed them. The traditions connected with the massacre, were doubtless more strongly deepened in her memory, from the circumstance that the champion who rescued his desolated sister from the merciless barbarians, was her own ancestor, Mr. Andrew Sigourney, and the original settler of Oxford.
Other narrations she had also preserved, of the troubles that preceded the flight of the exiles from France, and of the obstacles to be surmounted, ere that flight could be accomplished. The interruptions from the soldiery to which they were subject, after having been shut out from their own churches, induced them to meet for Divine worship in the most remote places, and to use books of psalms and devotion, printed in so minute a form, that they might be concealed in their bosoms, or in their head-dresses. One of these antique volumes, is still in the possession of the descendants of Gabriel Bernon, a most excellent and influential man, who made his permanent residence at Providence, though he was originally in the settlement at Oxford.
Mrs. Butler mentioned the haste and discomfort in which the flight of their own family was made. Her grandfather told them imperatively, that they must go, and without delay. The whole family gathered together, and with such preparation as might be made in a few moments, took their departure from the house of their birth, "leaving the pot boiling over the fire!" This last simple item reminds of one, with which the poet Southey deepens the description of the flight of a household, and a village, at the approach of the foe.
"The chestnut loaf lay broken on the shelf."
Another Huguenot, Henry Francisco, who lived to the age of more than one hundred, relates a somewhat similar trait of his own departure from his native land. He was a boy of five years old, and his father led him by the hand from their pleasant door. It was winter, and the snow fell, with a bleak, cold wind. They descended the hill in silence. With the intuition of childhood, he knew there was trouble, without being able to comprehend the full cause. At length, fixing his eyes on his father, he begged, in a tremulous voice, to be permitted "just to go back, and get his little sled," his favourite, and most valued possession.
A letter from the young wife of Gabriel Manigault, one of the many refugees who settled in the Carolinas, is singularly graphic. "During eight months we had suffered from the quartering of the soldiers among us, with many other inconveniences. We therefore resolved on quitting France by Night. We left the soldiers in their beds, and abandoned our house with its furniture. We contrived to hide ourselves in Dauphiny for ten days, search being continually made for us; but our hostess, though much questioned, was faithful and did not betray us."
These simple delineations, more forcibly than the dignified style of the historian, seem to bring to our ears the haughty voice of Ludovico Magno, in his instrument revoking the edict of Henry IV.: "We do most strictly repeat our prohibition, unto all our subjects of the pretended reformed religion, that neither they, nor their wives, nor children, do depart our kingdom, countries, or lands of our dominion, nor transport their goods and effects, on pain, for men so offending, of their being sent to the gallies, and of confiscation of bodies and goods, for the women."
The information derived from this ancient lady, who, in all the virtues of domestic life, was a worthy descendant of the Huguenots, added new interest to their relics, still visible, among the rural scenery of Oxford. On the summit of a high hill, commanding an extensive prospect, are the ruins of the Fort. It was regularly constructed with bastions, though most of the stones have been removed for the purposes of agriculture. Within its enclosure are the vestiges of a well. There the grape vine still lifts its purple clusters, the currant its crimson berries, the rose its rich blossoms, the asparagus its bulbous head and feathery banner.
To these simple tokens which Nature has preserved, it might be fitting and well, were some more enduring memorial added of that pious, patient, and high-hearted race, from whom some of the most illustrious names in different sections of our country, trace their descent with pleasure and with pride.
"I have seen an end of all Perfection."
I have seen a man in the glory of his days, in the pride of his strength. He was built like the strong oak, that strikes its root deep in the earth; like the tall cedar, that lifts its head above the trees of the forest.
He feared no danger, he felt no sickness; he wondered why any should groan or sigh at pain. His mind was vigorous like his body. He was perplexed at no intricacy, he was daunted at no obstacle. Into hidden things he searched, and what was crooked he made plain.
He went forth boldly upon the face of the mighty deep. He surveyed the nations of the earth. He measured the distances of the stars, and called them by their names. He gloried in the extent of his knowledge, in the vigour of his understanding, and strove to search even into what the Almighty had concealed.
And when I looked upon him, I said with the poet, "What a piece of work is man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in action, how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god!"
I returned, but his look was no more lofty, nor his step proud. His broken frame was like some ruined tower. His hairs were white and scattered, and his eye gazed vacantly upon the passers by. The vigour of his intellect was wasted, and of all that he had gained by study, nothing remained.
He feared when there was no danger, and when there was no sorrow, he wept. His decaying memory had become treacherous. It showed him only broken images of the glory that was departed.
His house was to him like a strange land, and his friends were counted as enemies. He thought himself strong and healthful, while his feet tottered on the verge of the grave.
He said of his son, "he is my brother;" of his daughter, "I know her not." He even inquired what was his own name. And as I gazed mournfully upon him, one who supported his feeble frame and ministered to his many wants, said to me, "Let thine heart receive instruction, for thou hast seen an end of all perfection."
I have seen a beautiful female, treading the first stages of youth, and entering joyfully into the pleasures of life. The glance of her eye was variable and sweet, and on her cheek trembled something like the first blush of morning; her lips moved, and there was melody; and when she floated in the dance, her light form, like the aspen, seemed to move with every breeze.
I returned; she was not in the dance. I sought her among her gay companions, but I found her not. Her eye sparkled not there, the music of her voice was silent. She rejoiced on earth no more.
I saw a train, sable, and slow paced. Sadly they bore toward an open grave what once was animated and beautiful. As they drew near, they paused, and a voice broke the solemn silence.
"Man, that is born of a woman, is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down; he fleeth also as a shadow, and never continueth in one stay."
Then they let down into the deep, dark pit, that maiden whose lips, but a few days since, were like the half-blown rosebud. I shuddered at the sound of clods falling upon the hollow coffin.
Then I heard a voice saying, "earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust." They covered her with the damp soil, and the uprooted turf of the valley, and turned again to their own homes.
But one mourner lingered to cast himself upon the tomb. And as he wept, he said, "There is no beauty, nor grace, nor loveliness, but what vanisheth like the morning dew. I have seen an end of all perfection."
I saw a fair white dwelling, behind shady trees. Flowers were cultivated around it. The clustering vine wreathed above its door, and the woodbine looked in at its windows. A mother was there fondling her young babe. Another, who had just learned to lisp its first wishes, sat on the father's knee. He looked on them all with a loving smile, and a heart full of happiness.
I returned, the flowers had perished, the vine was dead at the root. Weeds towered where the woodbine blossomed, and tangled grass sprung up by the threshold where many feet used to tread. There was no sound of sporting children, or of the mother singing to her babe.
I turned my steps to the church-yard. Three new mounds were added there. That mother slept between her sons. A lonely man was bowing down there, whose face I did not see. But I knew his voice, when he said in his low prayer of sorrow, "Thou hast made desolate all my company." The tall grass rustled and sighed in the cold east wind. Methought it said, "See, an end of all perfection."
I saw an infant with a ruddy brow, and a form like polished ivory. Its motions were graceful, and its merry laughter made other hearts glad. Sometimes it wept, and again it rejoiced, when none knew why. But whether its cheeks dimpled with smiles, or its blue eye shone more brilliant through tears, it was beautiful.
It was beautiful, because it was innocent. And careworn and sinful men admired, when they beheld it. It was like the first blossom which some cherished plant has put forth, whose cup sparkles with a dew-drop, and whose head reclines upon the parent stem.
Again I looked. It had become a child. The lamp of reason had beamed into his mind. It was simple, and single-hearted, and a follower of the truth. It loved every little bird that sang in the trees, and every fresh blossom. Its heart danced with joy, as it looked around on this good and pleasant world.
It stood like a lamb before its teachers, it bowed its ear to instruction, it walked in the way of knowledge. It was not proud, or stubborn, or envious; and it had never heard of the vices and vanities of the world. And when I looked upon it, I remembered our Saviour's words, "Except ye become as little children, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven."
I saw a man whom the world calls honourable. Many waited for his smile. They pointed to the fields that were his, and talked of the silver and gold which he had gathered. They praised the stateliness of his domes, and extolled the honour of his family.
But the secret language of his heart was, "By my wisdom have I gotten all this." So he returned no thanks to God, neither did he fear or serve him. As I passed along, I heard the complaints of the labourers who had reaped his fields, and the cries of the poor, whose covering he had taken away.
The sound of feasting and revelry was in his mansion, and the unfed beggar came tottering from his door. But he considered not that the cries of the oppressed were continually entering into the ears of the Most High.
And when I knew that this man was the docile child whom I had loved, the beautiful infant on whom I had gazed with delight, I said in my bitterness, "_I have seen an end of all perfection_." So I laid my mouth in the dust.
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