Page images

over him. Still, he is bound to you by the idea, that we must love our parents. He will say that he loves you, and will resent your wrongs, and be happy in your successes, but you will see that he does this more from childish habit, than from any really hearty feeling between you. He will never seek you in child-like confidence, silently to ask your sympathy, or turn his face, full of the overflowings of a loving heart, to yours to speak his affection. He will never seem pleased in your society, but consider it as a restraint he would gladly be rid of. He will come to you for money, but he will ask it more as a favor due to his wants, than a gift paid for in love for you. He will ask your concurrence in his views, more from a wish to avoid your opposition, than to strengthen the dictates of his own judgment. íf

you endeavor to control him, in the dangerous passage from boy to man, he will view your authority as assumption, and escape from it as tyranny. But this boarding-school education is the education nine-tenths of the sons of rich men receive, in our country.

If it be asked how this result is to be avoided, we answer, by keeping our children with us; by studying their dispositions ; making them our friends ; getting their confidence, and in this way searching their hearts. What a chance does a young man run now! He is thrown boldly into the world to sink or swim. It is a trial by fire by the fire of the passions, untempered by age, unregulated by experience. But the reader is looking for incident, and is weary of my youth. I set out with the intention of writing a 'plain unvarnished tale,' and 'a history of my mind. The reader must know causes. I ask his patience, and if necessary, bis pardon.

[blocks in formation]

SUPERSTITIONS OF BURIAL. It is said of Diogenes, that when his friends asked him, toward the close of his life, how he would be buried, he replied that he did not desire them to bury him at all, but to throw him into the field.' That, they told him, was the way to be devoured by the birds and beasts. "No,' says he, ‘you may put a cudgel by my side.' 'A cudgel! How should you make use of it, when you have neither sense nor feeling ? “'T is there,' said he, that I wanted you. What need I care what is done with me, when I have neither sense nor feeling ?' The satirical reasoning of Diogenes, on the subject of disposing of his body after death, seems strictly rational : for what is the corporeal mass, when the spirit which ennobled it has taken its flight, but inert matter, as insensible and worthless as the clods beneath our feet ? Nay, we are not taught by nature or religion to think it otherwise. The angel of death may


the storm, and doom thousands to wait their judgment in the caverns of the great deep; he may career amid the thunders and lightnings of battle, till myriads of corses fatten the field of conflict, and the living be not able to bury the dead; he may will that the earth open and entomb a nation in undistinguished burial ; he may ordain that fire shall consume the body, the elements waste it, or some violent accident or convulsion scatter it; and yet, we are assured, nothing which can happen to the body can affect our immortal destiny.

With this settled conviction upon our minds, the question may naturally arise, why in this enlightened age is there so much anxiety in regard to the mere body, when nothing can preserve it from corruption and the worm ?

A friend dies — we arrange the mournful ceremonials of his interment we give a tearful tribute to sorrow for his loss, and the memory of his virtues. His spiritual essence is released from its bonds of clay, and all that lies before us is dust, soon to be consigned to its original dust. But do our minds stop here? We follow him to the grave. We look down into his narrow tenement, upon the frail receptacle which hides the progress of decay. A moment more, and the clods are heaped up to the common level of the soil, and the face of nature seems to say, “All is earth — undistinguishable and common. Do our minds stop here? We mark the spot with some slight memorial ; a tablet soon appears, to distinguish and preserve the hallowed ground. We visit it, and our feelings are stirred as we read the name once familiar to our lips and our ears, and associate it with virtues and endearments which once lived in the form that sleeps below. Though that form may have mouldered, we think not of this. Though the reptile may, even at the moment, be rioting upon all that once shone in beauty and grace, yet we think not of this. Our thoughts are not of earth nor of corruption. If our friend is before us, he appears as we once knew him ; and if our thoughts extend to the future, we invest him with new attributes of dignity and beauty, and think not of the time when we too shall moulder, but when we shall put off all that is perishable, and rise to a new and refined existence. I find that, in considering this subject, I have imperceptibly run into



sentiment, though at the same time I have perhaps given the chief reasons for the reverence paid to the bodies of the dead in Christian countries. With the dead is inseparably associated the memory of their lives ; and it is unfeeling and futile presumption, to speak of philosophy- of dust and forgetfulness — among assembled mourners, who recognise in the passive clay the remains of a friend, a husband, or a father. Nay, reverence for our own deceased relatives teaches us respect for the breathless human form, under whatever circumstances of desolation or destitution it may come before us. The unknown and shipwrecked mariner, on a Christian shore, finds a Christian grave. Particular spots are consecrated to this duty, and the dead are carefully watched and guarded, till they are conveyed to their appointed resting-place, and hidden from human eyes for ever.

There is no doubt a strong feeling, somewhat bordering upon superstition, in regard to the dead. How strongly soever Reason may argue, and however ready men may be to submit to the accidental circumstances which deprive their friends of burial, yet the violation of the grave is regarded with the greatest abhorrence. Science, assisted by reason, may appeal to the understanding for liberality, and yet the reclaiming of poor discarded matter from corruption, to assist the knowledge of man, is regarded by many with the utmost abhorrence. It is not my purpose to inquire into the secret causes of this feeling, least of all to blame it.

There are few nations, either civilized or barbarous, that do not venerate the ashes of the dead; and the most barbarous have always been noted as the most irreverent to the bones of their ancestors. In the ancient and modern civilized nations, monuments have been erected to stir up future emulation for the virtues of the individuals they celebrated, and appeals to the memory of their ancestors have always been found inspiring a people of character and honor. A religious veneration for the tombs and traditions of their ancestors, was a striking characteristic of the naturally-gifted aborigines of this country; and ail history shows us, that where this feeling is implanted, it is generally attended with virtues and qualities of a high order of moral dignity.

I have thus far been considering only the feelings and sentiments of the living in regard to the dead. Let me now make a few remarks upon some of the opinions, or rather notions of men, in regard to the disposal of their bodies after death.

Instances have not been unfrequent, of men who seemed to attach some fearful superstition to the situation of their bodies after death, and who have therefore given particular directions to their friends in reference to them. This is not extraordinary, where some religious tenet affords the inducement, as in the desire of burial in consecrated ground; but when we hear of bodies transported beyond seas, in order to be laid in a particular church-yard or family-vault — of the anxiety at times manifested to be laid beside some friend or object of affection-of the pang, which adds keenness to death, of breathing one's last in a foreign land — and of the numberless cares and anxieties which poor frail mortals give themselves, on the confines of eternity, for that, which, whatever is done with it, can have neither sense nor

feeling, nor sympathy nor emotion - it is sufficient to excite philosophic inquiry, if not surprise and wonder.

Few of those who express a desire to be buried beside a friend, or in some particular spot, if asked the reason of their request, would answer that they believed they might have either communion with the loved departed, or the visible works of nature ; and yet the feeling is strong; it is undefinable. It will not admit of subtle inquiry, what it is which induces them to wish when dead, to be among objects loved while living. It may be - it undoubtedly is — a kind of superstition, which occasions the desire, but it is a superstition so closely interwoven with the finest feelings of the human heart, that to tear it away, would injure the whole delicate texture of human sensibility. The philosophy of Diogenes is undoubtedly correct, and yet how few are there, who, while they acknowledge its truth, would be willing to say with him, “What need I care what is done with me, when I have neither sense nor feeling ?'

Every nation has its peculiar customs in regard to burial, and all of them are more or less imbued with superstition. The grave, however, is the link which seems to connect this world with the next, and with the important but shadowy concerns of the future. These concerns are universally allowed to be beyond the reach of cold philosophy. It is then perhaps best, that in our investigations, we pause upon the borders of the grave, and while some of us may way, in relation to our frail bodies, * What need I care what is done with me, when I have neither sense nor feeling?' yet let us at the same time have that charity for the minds of others, which will enforce a reverence and respect for those mysterious thoughts which follow them to their last sleep, and which seem to surround the tomb with a continual and living interest.



The flash at midnight! 't was a light
That gave the blind a moment's sight,

Then sunk in tenfold gloom ;
Loud, deep, and long the thunder broke,
The deaf ear instantly awoke,

Then closed as in the tomb :
An angel might have passed my bed,
Sounded the trump of God, and fed.

So life appears : a sudden birth,
A glance revealing heaven and earth,

It is and it is not !
So fame the poet's hope deceives,
Who sings for after times, and leaves

A name - to be forgot :
Life is a lightning-flash of breath,
Fame but a thunder-clap at death.




[ocr errors]

do ;

I am

OPPRESSJON. • Be not alarmed, fair matron most divine! Was a Di Doria ever ungenerous ?'

• Unhand me, proud noble! You know not what you the wife of Massaniello.'

• Massaniello ? - a fisherman, I suppose. And what is your fisherman, Massaniello, to the mightiest noble in all Naples? By our Lady, madam, you were fit to grace the halls of the mightiest ! Am I not right, Morelli ? Speak, knave !'

* Di Doria, if such you be, again I say, unhand me! I can rouse friends by my own cottage.'

• Humph, and what then ? The times are too unquiet, methinks, for rank to wander thus far unattended. You see my retinue ?'

• And mark it well. I beseech you release me!' * It promises well, when threats turn thus quickly into prayers. Nay, fair lady — wedded you may be - it's all one to me. What say you, Morelli, is 't fair to plunder thus in open day?'

But ere the inebriated noble could obtain reply to his appeal, the matron, whom he detained by the wrist, made one violent effort, and succeeded in releasing herself from his grasp. As she turned to take advantage of her escape in flight, he whose wife she had acknowledged herself, stood before her, gazing with all the indignation of an injured man, at the wretch who thus invaded his fireside rights. She sprang to his side with an exclamation of joy, as at deliverance from a mighty danger, and as if his single arm were to protect her against the armed retinue of the noble. Massaniello comprehended the whole scene at a glance, and the look he bestowed upon Di Doria might have awed any but the senseless inebriate. But this head of one of the most powerful houses in Naples was not inclined to yield his prey thus readily, and he hardly seemed aware of the presence of the fisherman, as he again advanced to the trembling wife. Massaniello placed himself before her, and calmly folded his arms, as he confronted the staggering noble. Quick as thought, the drunkard struck his opponent across the face, but ere the blow was half spent, their eyes met, and, as if awe-stricken, he sallied back between his advancing men, ere the fisherman could raise his hand to parry the assault, or return the blow. He was wholly unarmed, but the flash of his proud eye might well strike terror into the mercenary attendants of the noble. Resistance in him would have been futile and dangerous; but there gathered on his countenance an expression of settled revenge, as, through his clenched teeth, he muttered, in tones of deadly resolution :

Di Doria, proud as you are, that blow shall be avenged, or I forfeit the last drop of blood that runs in


veins!' Nobles were not wont at this time to brook defeat in their mad


* Many theatre-goers, in the Atlantic cities, will recognise in this story the incidents of the fine opera which bears its name. It will be new, however, to a large portion of our readers.


« PreviousContinue »