stay still longer upon an earth that for him is grown so cold. You know what the poet says, without ever having been blamed, that I am aware of, for saying it,—

"Soon may I follow

When friendships decay,
And from Love's shining circle
The gems drop away!
When true hearts lie wither'd

And fond ones are flown,
Oh! who would inhabit
This bleak world alone?"

Ay, truly, who would? Well, then, grim censor, for instinctively one fears your presence, pardon the steps which lead to a result that even you will approve of; for then there is no longer an obstacle to the thought of eternity, by means of which central principles obtain their victory. Then, if not before, man learns in a kind of practical familiar manner, that the great invisible God, who in Catholicism is all in all, its beginning and its end, is, notwithstanding the impenetrable mystery that envelopes his omnipresence, the friend of friends, the companion of companions, the only one that endures, the only one even, perhaps, that lasts out his life, the only one who knows all his secrets, whom he has always known, and who has always known him. No other heart remembers the adventures, joys, and sorrows, of his youth and manhood; no one else is left to approve of what might pass for blameless in them, or to pardon what assuredly merited reprobation. The days of love may be passed away; but He who witnessed and ordained them is not passed away. One is remaining who knew the young man and his innocent companion-one eterna lfriend wno knew both, who was with them when the lover sat by the side of the guide and charmer of his youth; who was with them when they boated, when they sauntered, when they reposed on the bank where wild-flowers grew who noted all the raptures of their heart which his creative hand imparted to them, counted all the tears, marked all the silent anguish of their chequered state, as men and women exiled from Paradise; and so now, in that divine retentive bosom the desolate hopes in reality, and not in a dream, to recover all that was inestimable without its alloy, the rose without the thorn, the friend of sweetest intimacy without the separation, the playmate without weariness, the companion without leave-taking, the loved one without death. For think not that the souls, too, when they depart hence are old and loveless.


No, sure; 'tis ever youth there; Time and Death follow our flesh no more; and that forced opinion that spirits have no affections I believe not. There must be love; hereafter there

is love." "Old age," says a French writer, "is a traveller by night; the earth is hidden; it sees only the sky, shining with stars over its head." "Which is the happiest season of life?" was the question asked at a festal party, when the host, upon whom was the burden of fourscore years, replied, "You know our forest. When the spring comes, and in the soft air the buds are breaking on the trees, and they are covered with blossoms, I think, How beautiful is spring! And when the summer comes, and covers the trees with its heavy foliage, and singing birds are among the branches, I think, How beautiful is summer! When the autumn loads them with golden fruit, and their leaves bear the gorgeous tint of frost, I think, How beautiful is autumn! And it is sere winter, and there is neither foliage nor fruit, then I look up, through the leafless branches, as I never could until now, and see the stars shine!" Such old age can see also the stars of the spiritual firmament shining for its direction; it can more easily see the beacon of faith, the column of fire, whose light's reflexion shall create a day in the Cimmerian valleys. It can recognize, in other words, the Catholic church, which opens a blissful passage to that realm where night doth never spread

"Her ebon wings; but daylight's always there
And one blest season crowns th' eternal year."

So then at length, if not before, as undeceived it goes its way.

But, lo! this night of old age, that proves to be so useful and so beautiful, is spent. The dawn of the natural morning is symbolical of what awaits those who have journeyed through that night, though when it is said, in reference to death,



Look, the gentle day

Before the wheels of Phoebus, round about

Dapples the drowsy east with spots of gray,"

we should reply, in consideration of the far more glorious phenomena that we hope to witness on the road that next awaits us,

Blush, gray-ey'd morn, and spread
Thy purple shame upon the mountain-tops!
Or pale thyself with envy, since here comes
A brighter herald than the dull-ey'd star
That lights thee up."


G g




T is the remark of an ancient Italian writer, that when Piero di Cosimo represented at Florence, in a kind of dramatic show, the Triumph of Death, which was altogether strange and terrible, the colossal figure of Death bearing the scythe, standing on a funeral black car, which moved on between covered tombs that opened as he passed, and displayed skeletons raising themselves at the sound of a plaintive music summoning them, while troops of dead on horseback followed, chanting the Miserere, the spectacle, though so lugubrious, gave no small pleasure to the people, and proved, contrary to what one might have supposed, an acceptable provision for the amusements of the Carnival; for besides that it was within the reach of every man's comprehension, it is certain, he adds, "that the people, as in their food they sometimes prefer sharp and bitter savours, so in their pastimes are they attracted by things mournful, which, when presented with art and judgment, do most wonderfully delight the human heart." All nature seems to participate in this feeling.


"What bird so sings, yet so does wail?
"Tis Philomel, the nightingale;
Jugg, jugg, jugg, terue, she cries,
And, hating earth, to heaven she flies."

As far as mankind are concerned, the remark of Vasari-for it is he who makes it can be daily verified if we mix with the lower classes of the community, the sum of all whose poor faults with which so often they are charged is found to be a merry heart, showing how we should be right in generalizing from what Montague says in the Honest Man's Fortune:

When I had store of money,

I simper'd sometime, and spoke wondrous wise,
But never laugh'd outright; now I am empty

My heart sounds like a bell, and strikes at both sides."

Though we seem led into a digression thus on setting out, it is well to lose no occasion of representing the kindness of heart in union with lightness of spirits and great simplicity of character which belongs to the common people, and of blending the expression of warm, and generous, and exalted affections with scenes and persons that are in themselves but lowly.

Nevertheless, the name of this, the last road leading out of the forest, seems chosen with a view to avoid, as far as possible, leaving any impressions on the mind that are formidable or repulsive to that nature which is so powerful with us all; for there is nothing to raise a cloud in the smiling countenance of any one when he hears of the place of sleep, the cemetery, or of those who pass to it-transeuntium-as when the bodies of the kings of Spain were borne from Madrid to the Escurial in hearses on which was written "Transeuntibus ;" an expression adopted even by historians, as when William of Newbury proceeds to write De transitu Regis Scottorum *, meaning his journey to a better life. Poets say,

"To one who has been long in city pent,
'Tis very sweet to look into the fair
And open face of heaven."

We in London at least think so, as our suburbs every evening in summer can bear witness. It is even sweet to take this pensive road of the tombs, and to see no other verdure than that to which it leads; while amidst tall shrubs one searches about through wavy grass, and reads some gentle tale of love and sorrow. Though the first thought may have been only to saunter through the lane, up hill, and across the green, toying by each bank and trifling at each stile till we can frolic it within the woods, following the nimble-footed youth, who, as on the day of the Holy Rood in former times, are all wont upon some holiday to take their way a-nutting; it is often a second thought to visit the encompassed close adjoining, "seen but by few, and perhaps blushing to be seen;" for there is nothing to mar that sweet gaiety which seems unacquainted with grief in passing near the graceful sculptured buildings which line the sunny walks, adorned with laurels, eglantine, and cypress spires. Sunshine makes us all courageous, and here is added even the charm of the arts. An oracle of Apollo spoke of those heroes on the banks of the Asopus, whose tombs are lighted by the setting sun; and without attending to any such fabled admonition, it is certainly a beautiful thing in autumn to see the roseate light of evening warming the marble with a glance of gold, while the yellow leaves are carried off by the wind, causing these tombs to

* ii. 18.

glitter through the grove. No one, then, need feel repugnance here to proceed; for young men and maidens, who by no means smell of the grave, and who know as yet too little of life to think of death, in the days of their love's enchantment, when every thing looked bright wherever they in their gladness roved, have often, as at Norwood, where the Rambler's Rest attracted them, turned aside first and entered the verdant enclosure to explore the sepulchres, moved with pity and delight, breathing perhaps with a blush some name that before had never passed the lips, while talking of their friends or kinsfolk, and telling some little sad tale of brother Harry or their sister Anne, whose bones are there long mingled with their native clay, and from each of whose graves they seem to think a voice can be heard, saying,

"Thus let my memory be with you, friends!
Thus ever think of me !


Kindly and gently, but as of one

For whom 'tis well to be fled and gone

As of a bird from a chain unbound,

As of a wanderer whose home is found."


It has been remarked as an "exquisite and beautiful thing in our nature, that when the heart is touched and softened by some tranquil happiness or affectionate feeling, the memory of the dead comes over it most powerfully and irresistibly." So it is felt here. These young women of the common people, whom Richardson describes when relating how he used to write letters for them in answer to their lovers, one of whom, when asked to indite, said, I cannot tell you what to write, but," her heart on her lips, "you cannot write too kindly," seem to have quite a predilection for reading tumular inscriptions, which, to say the truth, can be made to accord easily with sweet love-anthologies and songs of the affections; for oh! how many disappointed hopes, how many tender recollections, how much of generosity and affection, are implied in many of the simple words that meet our eyes in this place, where Love might be represented kneeling at the feet of some sleeping figure, his smart bow broken; Faith at the head; Youth and the Graces mourners. The lines for the epitaph, without being necessarily exclusive of highest thoughts, might stand as of old,

Qui nunc jacet horrida pulvis,

Unius hic quondam servus amoris erat."

In one of our old plays, Cleanthes, while taking such a walk as this, says,

"I wonder whence that tear came, when I smiled
In the production on't; sorrow's a thief

That can, when joy looks on, steal forth a grief."

* Mrs. Hemans.

« VorigeDoorgaan »