Page images
PDF
EPUB

the last drop of their life's blood had ceased to circle round those hearts which beat only for their honor and their God.

But why seek to excuse the Crusades by the motives which led to them? It is their consequences that give them importance in history, and furnish ample apology for all their follies, if not for all their crimes. Apology!

'Sleep, Richard of the lion heart,

Sleep on, nor from thy cerements start,'

at the wrong done thy memory and thy name. But the age of chivalry has passed, like a bright vision of the morning.

If we contemplate for a moment the dreary picture which the civilized world presented in the age of the Crusades, and compare it with the succeeding, we must allow that the political advantages resulting from them were such as Europe will never cease to feel, so long as her hills shall stand, or her name be known.

Torn by intestine feuds, the western world was at that time the scene of the most bloody and atrocious wars that ever disfigured the page of history. The order and beauty of the social compact, like that of the ocean lashed to fury by the rushing tempest, was lost in the wild vortex of raging passions and unbridled licentiousness. Law and right were neither respected nor obeyed. The sword was the only passport to greatness, and opened the only path to fortune and to honor. Human life was held but as the sport of any petty tyrant who chose to take it, and the frequent death-cry of the murdered rolled wildly up to an offended God.

Then came the Crusades. Glory, immortality, religion, all pointed with imploring finger to the scene of a Saviour's sufferings and death. Fame called upon her votaries to battle to the death with Paynim hosts; Religion upon hers to wipe for ever from the escutcheon of the Christian world, the deep, damning disgrace of allowing an unbelieving race to defile the land they loved, the sepulchre they adored. Then warring nations dropped their swords, and gave answer to the cry of vengeance. They came, the noble and the proud, the young and the old, rallying round the crimson standard. Unity of sentiment and community of interest have ever given birth to mutual kindness, and

'All those courtesies that love to shoot
Round virtue's steps, the flowrets of her fruit.'

So was it then; and Europe, purified and enlightened from this and other causes flowing from it, woke from the lethargy which had so long bound her, and advanced rapidly toward that civilization and refinement which now ennoble and adorn her.

The effects of the Crusades upon literature, though not immediate, were no less salutary. Philosophers have moralized, scholars have wept, over the deplorable, the degrading ignorance of the tenth and eleventh centuries. Science slept. A death-like lethargy had come over her, which, like the sultry blast of an eastern noon, had palsied all her efforts, and withered all her energies. The spirit of poetry had long since fled. She seemed for ever to have forsaken those haunts she once loved so well, till the Troubadours, catching up

the lyre, then shattered by Time's careless hand, struck from its long mute strings those strains which roused nations to arms, and a world to madness. Never was music more magically eloquent. The lyre which thrilled beneath a Homer's touch, or the lapses of the cygnet song, might have been sweeter; they could not have been more inspiring. All Europe responded to the strains which swept over the land, and echoed through her old baronial halls.

Then commenced the restoration of letters in the West. The Troubadour's lay was but the prelude to the diviner strains of a Boccacio, a Petrarch, and a Dante. Song again revived, and from the blushing vine hills of France, from the castled crags of Scotland, from the wild glens of Switzerland, and the lovely vegas of romantic Spain, again ascended the poet's breathings, free as their mountain air. The very Crusades themselves, by furnishing the materials from which to weave the gorgeous fictions of the imagination, and by making the Crusaders acquainted with all the glowing imagery and fanciful decorations of oriental literature, gave an impulse to letters which will never cease to be felt, till man shall cease to appreciate and admire the beautiful and the sublime. Can it be, then, that the Crusades retarded the progress of literature? Rather, they cherished and promoted it, when the last flicker of the fire upon her altar had nearly expired, in sadness and in gloom.

Such were the holy wars, their causes, and their effects; and our feelings and sympathies cannot but be gratified at their final success.

[ocr errors]

Ir was sunset. The rich mellow light streamed in a thousand variegated hues over Olivet's green top, the holy city, and the Christian camp, till at last it met Bethsaida's wave, blushing and sparkling in its embrace. Not a ripple disturbed its mirrored stillness, save when the bright-plumed bird stooped to lave his wing, or taste its refreshing coolness. Above, was the deep blue sky, so bright and clear that fancy could almost soar to the regions of the blest could almost catch the harmonies of heaven. All was calm and beautiful. Even the stern sentinel, pacing his lonely round, for a moment relaxed his iron brow, and stopped to gaze upon the surpassing loveliness of that hour. But a far brighter sight met his eye, as he gazed upward, and saw the consecrated folds of the sacred banner floating in triumph over the walls and battlements of Jerusalem. Yes, that day had seen the city theirs, and the knightly, the good, the gallant Godfrey, as he bent to kiss the tomb he had rescued, was seen to dash away a tear of mingled gratitude, penitence, and veneration, and then to lift his hands in mental adoration to that Being who is ever the same, whether amid the burning sands of Syria, or the icy regions of the Pole. Thus should heroes conquer. Blame not hastily their misdirected zeal. enthusiasm. Profane not with sacrilegious tombs where their ashes sleep. Their faults were the faults of their their virtues all their own.

age

Thus did the crusaders. Censure not their holy touch the moss-grown

Ф. В. К.

MY MOTHER.

'Blest mother! I remember thee!'

BLEST mother! I remember thee, from early childhood's hour,
When first my heart awoke to feel maternal love's deep power;
When not a transient tear could dim the smile of infant bliss,
That was not dried beneath the warmth of a mother's fervent kiss.

Ah! yet the prayer I learned to lisp at twilight by thy knee,
Is clear upon the deep-wrought page of hallowed memory!
And those soft tones that rose to heaven from out thy swelling breast,
They seem to sound upon my ear, though thou art gone to rest.

Blest mother! I remember thee, from youth's fresh, buoyant day;
A star thou wert to guide my feet, of pure and constant ray :
Thy love possessed a charm beyond the light of pleasure's beams,
And 't was thy counsel that forbade my trust in earthly dreams.

And I remember a soft hand, that smoothed my aching head,
A tearful, guardian eye, that watched beside my curtained bed;
The careful step, the soothing draught thy kindness had prepared,
And all the tokens of that love thy orphan child once shared.

Blest mother! I remember thee, as guide, companion, friend!
When years mature had taught my heart life's blessings and their end;
When I had learned to share thy griefs, to shed the tear for thee,
Who in my wayward days had turned to pray and weep for me.

'T was mine to cheer thy widowed heart with all a daughter's love,
And lift thy sinking spirit up to brighter scenes above;

To scatter in thy lonely path the flowers which kindness weaves,
And bind around thy temples fair affection's myrtle leaves.

Blest mother! I remember thee, (alas! how sad the spot

On memory's page, which even now the tear of grief must blot!)
When first the blight of fell disease passed o'er thy constant heart,...
And on thy brow, with death's pale hand, 't was written, 'We must part!'

But not a murmur mingled then with faith's assurance given,
And not a fear passed with thee through the darksome vale to heaven;
No! God's own rod and staff were there, nor could I wish thy stay,
When angels beckoned thee from earth and all its ills away.

Blest mother! I remember thee, when on thy sable bier,
And followed by an orphan train, which stranger hands must rear;
When laid within thy narrow bed, where now the green turf grows,
While we were left alone to stem the tide of human woes.

Yet not alone, for One there is, our Father in the sky,
Who stoops to make our cause his own, who listens to our cry;
Upon his arm our strength was stayed, his hand hath been our guide,
And He who gives the ravens food, for us will still provide.

Blest mother! now I think of thee, as one amid that throng
Who chant before the throne of God their 'everlasting song;'
In midnight dreams thy angel form around my couch appears,
And oft thy hand seems stretched again, to wipe away my tears.

When gazing at the shining stars, their fixed and holy light, Recalls thine own unwavering faith, and thy example bright; And in the firmament of heaven, a star thou 'lt ever shine, With beams more beautiful and bright a lustre all divine. Cedar-Brook, 1838.

E. C. 8.

LETTERS

OF LUCIUS M. PISO, FROM ROME, TO FAUSTA, THE DAUGHTER OF GRACCHUS, AT PALMYRA.

BY THE AUTHOR OF THE PALMYRA LETTERS.'

LETTER FOUR.

I PROMISED you, Fausta, before the news should reach you in any other way, to relate the occurrences and describe the ceremonies of the day appointed for the dedication of the new Temple of the Sun. The day has now passed, not without incidents of even painful interest to ourselves, and therefore to you, and I sit down to fulfil my engagements.

Vast preparations had been making for the dedication, for many days or even months preceding, and the day arose upon a city full of expectation of the shows, ceremonies, and games, that were to reward their long and patient waiting. For the season of the year, the day was hot, unnaturally so; and the sky filled with those massive clouds, piled like mountains of snow one upon another, which, while they both please the eye by their forms, and veil the fierce splendors of the sun, as they now and then sail across his face, at the same time portend wind and storm. All Rome was early astir. It was ushered in by the criers traversing the streets, and proclaiming the rites and spectacles of the day, what they were, and where to be witnessed, followed by troops of boys, imitating in their grotesque way the pompous declarations of the men of authority, not unfrequently drawing down upon their heads the curses and the batons of the insulted dignitaries. A troop of this sort passed the windows of the room in which Julia and I were sitting at our morning meal. As the crier ended his proclamation, and the shouts of the applauding urchins died away, Milo, who is our attendant in preference to any other and all others, observed,

'That the fellow of a crier deserved to have his head beat about with his own rod, for coming round with his news not till after the greatest show of the day was over.'

What mean you?' I asked. 'Explain.'

What should I mean,' he replied, but the morning sacrifice at the temple.'

'And what so wonderful,' said Julia, 'in a morning sacrifice? The temples are open every morning, are they not?'

'Yes, truly are they,' rejoined Milo; but not for so great a purpose. Curio wished me to have been there, and says nothing could have been more propitious. They died as the gods love to have them.'

'Was there no bellowing nor struggling, then?' said Julia.

[ocr errors]

'Neither, Curio assures me; but they met the knife of the priest as they would the sword of an enemy on the field of battle.' 'How say you?' said Julia, quickly, turning pale; do I hear aright, Milo, or are you mocking? God forbid that you should speak of a human sacrifice!'

'It is even so, mistress. And why should it not be so? If the favor of the gods, upon whom we all depend, as the priests tell us, is to be purchased so well in no other way, what is the life of one man or of many in such a cause? The great Gallienus, when his life had been less ordered than usual, after the rules of temperance and religion, used to make amends by a few captives slain to Jupiter; to which, doubtless, may be ascribed his prosperous reign. But, as I was saying, there was, as Curio informed me, at the market, not long afterwards, a sacrifice, on the private altar of the temple, of ten captives. Their blood flowed just as the great god of the temple showed himself in the horizon. It would have done you good, Curio said, to - see with what a hearty and dexterous zeal Fronto struck the knife into their hearts- for to no inferior minister would he delegate the

sacred office.'

'Lucius,' cried Julia, 'I thought that such offerings were now no more. Is it so, that superstition yet delights itself in the blood of murdered men?'

[ocr errors]

'It is just so,' I was obliged to reply. With a people naturally more gentle and humane than we of Rome, this custom would long ago have fallen into disuse. They would have easily found a way, as all people do, to conform their religious doctrine and offerings to their feelings and instincts. But the Romans, by nature and long training, lovers of blood, their country built upon the ruins of others and cemented with blood — the taste for it is not easily eradicated. There are temples where human sacrifices have never ceased. Laws have restrained their frequency - have forbidden them under heaviest penalties unless permitted by the state-but these laws ever have been, and are now evaded; and it is the settled purpose of Fronto and others of his stamp to restore to them their lost honors, and make them again, as they used to be, the chief rite in the worship of the gods. I am not sorry, Julia, that your doubts, though so painfully, have yet been so effectually removed.'

Julia had for some time blamed as over-ardent the zeal of the Christians. She had thought that the evil of the existing superstitions was over-estimated, and that it were wiser to pursue a course of more moderation; that a system that nourished such virtues as she found in Portia, in Tacitus, and others like them, could not be so corrupting in its power as the Christians were in the habit of representing it; that if we could succeed in substituting Christianity quietly, without alienating the affections or shocking too violently the prejudices of the believers in the prevailing superstitions, our gain would be double. To this mode of arguing I knew she was impelled by her love and almost reverence of Portia; and how could I blame it, springing from such a cause? I had, almost criminally, allowed her to blind herself in a way she never would have done had her strong mind acted, as on other subjects, untrammelled and free. I was not sorry that Milo had brought before her mind a fact which, however revolting in its horror to such a nature as hers, could not but heal while it wounded.

6

[ocr errors]

Milo,' said Julia, as I ended, 'say now that you have been jesting; that this is a piece of wit with which you would begin in a suitable way an extraordinary day; this is one of your Gallienus fictions,'

VOL. XII,

6

« PreviousContinue »