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It was two days after this, when the sea had given up many of its dead. The victims of the late disaster, as they had been recovered, were placed in a sort of hovel on the desolate shore, awaiting the recognition of friends. It was a singular and impressive spectacle. They lay there in all attitudes, rigidly frozen; some with their knees bent, and their hands clasped upon the breast, as if they had died in prayer; others exhibiting the contortions of those who had experienced great agony. Before the spirit had winged its flight, it seemed to have left an impress which remained fixed on the countenances of the dead. There you could trace unerringly the last emotions which had agitated their souls in death; the pangs of youth and age, of man and womanhood. There you saw the closed lips and high brow of the strong man who had met his fate with resolution, and the intenser anguish of him who feared to die. Children appeared to be still sobbing, and the half-mumbled cake remained in their clenched fists. Resignation and
calm joy were depicted on the countenances of a few, with an expression so life-like, that one might have deemed them the subjects of sweet dreams, and not of the long, last sleep. Death had spared the bloom on the frozen checks of a young girl. She lay with a crucifix clasped upon her breast. And where was the lover, who now lived in happy ignorance, but would on the morrow kneel at the side of the blooming corse! In the city, looking toward the sea with strained eyes, watching every white sail, and wishing the intervening time to be blotted out which debarred him from so much happiness!
But why should I depict the whole of this sad reality, or bear witness to that last recognition of friends? It is enough to say, that those who were friendless, and had been companions on the melancholy voyage, were buried in a single grave, and that many strangers wept at their burial. Alas! alas! how many a poor emigrant seeks our country as a place of refuge, only to find in it a grave-whose lives have been lost on the capes of the ancient Virginia, or in the dangerous approach to our commercial emporium! They have come here, leaving friends and kindred, and from a country which, with all her faults, they love most dearly still. Yet here had they hoped to find what their hearts had too fondly imagined; a sweeter home, a more unfailing plenty, a larger and more perfect liberty. Every moment have their hopes increased, as they have been wafted nearer and nearer to these shores, until at last they have been condemned to the agony of perishing almost within the haven of safety, and at the very moment when their delusive dreams seemed ready to be fulfilled. Their bones lie buried in the deep sea, or remain undiscovered on the shore, or Charity may have bestowed on them the rites of sepulture, and a monument in a strange land.
The few past years have been remarkable for a series of appalling disasters, both on the broad seas and in our domestic waters. Oh! how much treasure, and wit, and learning, and refulgent beauty, went down in the HOME, while mournfully over the misty deep that midnight bell tolled the knell of the dying! The spectacle has been
WHEN the steamer HOME was wrecked upon the beach at Ocracoke, (N. C.,) they rang the bell incessantly until she went to pieces on the breakers; and that melancholy sound was heard at a distance, above the noise of the wind and waves,
lately seen, of a ship burning at midnight, and blazing like a beaconlight along the ice-bound shores of the Long-Island Sound, while thousands were gazing, gazing with foolish eyes, and arms impotent to save. But never, in the recollection of more recent disasters, will those who live along these shores forget the night when the bark MEXICO was wrecked, and when the multitude upon her decks were frozen to death before their eyes. And never, we trust, will the memory of that brave old man depart, who so nobly did his duty. For that deed he desired no reward, but such as his own heart and conscience could accord him. He had accomplished for that unhappy crew that which he had most earnestly begged of Heaven, that at least one might reach the shore, who might be able to tell the tale of so much suffering; and for the boy who had been saved, he was the darling of his parents, and while they wept for him as lost, with unmingled bitterness, the silver-haired old man replaced him safely in their arms.
THE DEATH OF AN ANGEL.
BY JEAN PAUL.
TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN BY S. c. T.
THE Angel of the Last Hour, whom we so harshly call DEATH, is sent to us as the mildest and most benevolent of angels, that he may gently and tenderly pluck the sinking heart of man from life, and take it in the arms of his love from this cold world to the genial atmosphere of Eden. His brother is the Angel of the First Hour, who twice imprints his holy kiss upon the human soul; the first time, that it may awake to life here below, and once again, when it enters the abode of happiness, that he may begin eternity with joy and smiles, even as he began time in sorrow and in tears.
The battle-field was drenched in blood, and sighs, and tears, and heavy wailings were there. And as the Angel of the Last Hour drew forth the trembling souls of the wounded and suffering warriors, his mild eyes overflowed, and he said:
'Alas for man! I will die once even as he dies, that I may know his last agony, and be enabled to soften and mitigate it, as I loosen him from life.'
The boundless circle of angels who loved him above, drew near to their compassionate brother; and they promised the cherished one that they would be near to him at the moment of his death, and with their radiant heaven would surround him, that he might thereby know that he had passed through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and was again in the home of his love. And his beauteous brother, whose second kiss is to us even as the cheering beams of morning are to the flowers which have been chilled by the night-dews, pressed his cheek tenderly, and said:
'When I kiss thee again, my brother, thou wilt be dead on earth, and once more among us!'
Moved with holy love, the Angel descended upon the battle-field, where now but one yet breathed; an ardent, noble youth, who heaved his crushed breast in expiring agony. By the side of the dying Hero was no one save his betrothed bride; but he could no longer feel even her hot tears, and her lamentations were mistaken by him for the distant battle-cry. The Angel quickly drew nigh, and with a burning kiss he drew the soul from the cleft breast, and committed it to his brother, who kissed it for the second time, and it smiled as it ascended.
The Angel sped like lightning into the deserted soul-case, reänimating the corpse, and the revived heart again circulated the warm life-blood. But how strangely was he affected by his new body! His eye of light became dimmed under the influence of his new nervous system. His formerly elevated and rapid thoughts were now slowly wading through the dull circle of the brain. All objects were merged in a misty and soft-colored vapor, which shaded and tinted them like the autumn, and the hot air seemed to consume him in the burning hectic. All his perceptions became darker, more impetuous, more
centered upon self, and were to him but as the instinct of the lower animals is to us. A fierce hunger raged, and thirst burned within him, and he was agonized with mortal pain. He heaved his severed, bleeding breast, and his first breath was a sigh for a forsaken heaven! This is the death of man!' thought he, but he saw not the concerted signs of Death; no angel, and no radiant heaven; and he perceived that this was only their life.
Toward evening the earthly strength of the Angel failed, and the weight of mortality seemed to rest upon his head for SLEEP sent his messengers. His inward thoughts had lost their brilliancy and light, and had become as a smouldering fire; and the impressions of the day were like monstrous and confused shadows, and the senses seemed lost and unmanageable-for DREAMS sent their messengers. At length the veil of SLEEP was wrapped about him, and he sank into the temporary death of night; and he lay there alone and stiffened, even as we poor mortals. Then a heavenly dream flew with its thousand mirrors before his soul, and showed him in each a circle of angels and a heaven of rays; and the earthly body seemed, with all its sorrows, to fall from him. 'Ah,' exclaimed he, in fruitless transport, 'my first sleep was then my death!' But when he again awakened with the same oppressed heart, full of heavy human blood, and looked upon the earth, and the night, he said: This was but the picture of Death and not itself, even though I saw the heaven of stars and angels.'
The betrothed bride of the Hero perceived not that an angel dwelt in the bosom of her beloved, and still tenderly held the hand of him who had gone so far from her. But the Angel loved the innocent delusion, even as a human being might have loved it; and he wished not to die before her, that she might forgive him in heaven, that he had caused her, in one and the same form, to embrace an angel and her own dearly beloved one. And she did die first. Sorrow had bowed the head of this fair flower too lowly, and it lay broken upon the brink of the grave. She sank before the weeping angel, not as the sun, who in the face of all nature plunges into the far ocean, its gorgeous glory reaching even unto heaven; but as the gentle moon, which at midnight casts around her silver light over the suspended mist-wreaths, and in that veil of beauty vanishes from our sight. Death sent his gentle sister, the Swoon, as his precursor, who stilled her throbbing heart, and fixed her fair face in a still fairer loveliness, as the bloom of the rose faded from it. And her brow became white, even as the snow of winter, beneath which the spring of eternity is silently preparing its verdant beauties. Then burst from the swelling of the Angel one burning tear, which forced itself from his full heart, as a pearl is loosened from the broken shell. The betrothed bride awoke once more. Once more she looked upon him, and drew him to her heart in a long, last embrace; and as she kissed him and said, 'I am indeed with thee again, my own beloved one!' she expired. Then the Angel fancied that his heavenly brother had given him the kiss, and this was Death; but no starry heaven appeared around him, and he sighed when he found that this was not his own death, but only a human pang at the death of another.
'Oh! unhappy mankind!' cried he; 'poor sons of men, how can
ye endure this? How can ye bear to become old, when the circle of the Loved, who have been young with you, is broken, and at last entirely lost? when the graves of friends are but as steps to your own - when old age is but as the sad, empty hour of a cooled battle-field, and ye are left alone? Alas for ye! How can ye endure it?'
By the possession of the body of the departed Hero, the gentle Angel was now placed among stern men, in the midst of their injustice, their crimes, their passions. He was oppressed with sadness at the sight of human tyranny, and he sympathized deeply in the many sorrows which he saw around him. Alas! that the burning sting of enmity should pierce that gentle breast! Alas! that aught of human unkindness should be shown toward one so holy and so pure! One who from all eternity had felt and known nought save the joy and love of heaven in himself and his angelic brethren! Again he exclaimed: The death of man is painful indeed;' but it was not death, for no angel appeared.
In a few days he was fully weary of a life which we drag on for half a century, and longed to be again in his heavenly home. The beautiful evening sun attracted his kindred soul. He was faint with pain, and he went with the glow of evening upon his brow to the grave-yard-that verdant back-ground of life, where the earthly veils of those happy spirits whom he had formerly released from this life were mouldering. Full of sad longings for death, he placed himself upon the newly-made grave of the unspeakably beloved bride, and gazed upon the fading glories of the setting sun. He looked upon his own mangled body, and said :
'Thou too wouldst lie down and die, and give no more pain to any one, if I sustained thee not.' And he thought compassionately of the weary life of man, as his own agony showed him the sorrow with which men purchase their virtue and their death; and he rejoiced that he had been enabled to spare the noble hero whose body he had reanimated, the weariness and pain of a lingering dissolution. He was deeply affected at the thought of human virtue, and his soul was filled with love toward those beings who, amid all the dangers and difficulties in the rugged path of life, yet swerve not from the bright pole-star of duty, but in the beauty of their benevolence stretch forth their hands to aid their weaker brethren, and go down like the sun on earth, that they may arise in heaven in the brightness of their glory. These emotions opened his wound, and his blood flowed afresh upon the hillock, and the exhausted body sank to earth. Tears of joy seemed to break the rich tints of evening into a rosy swimming The air seemed full of music, as it were the echo of far-off strains. For a moment a dark cloud passed over the Angel, as it were a very little sleep; a radiant heaven surrounded him, and myriads of angels were about him. Art thou here again, deceitful Dream?' said he. But the Angel of the First Hour drew near, and embraced him, and gave him the sign of the kiss, and said: That was Death, oh! eternal brother and heavenly friend!' And the Hero and his beloved softly repeated it, as the rays of the setting sun disclosed the bleeding body gently drooping into the open grave of the bride.