« PreviousContinue »
We may therefore safely conclude, that some happy chance has restored him to upper air.
But there lay the bell, for many silent years ; and the wonder is, that he did not lie silent there a century, or perhaps a dozen centuries, till the world' should have forgotten not only his voice, but the voices of the whole brotherhood of bells. How would the first accent of his iron tongue have startled his resurrectionists ! But he was not fated to be a subject of discussion among the antiquaries of far posterity. Near the close of the Old French War, a party of New-England axe-men, who preceded the march of Colonel Bradstreet toward Lake Ontario, were building a bridge of logs through a swamp. Plunging down a stake, one of these pioneers felt it graze against some hard, smooth substance. He called his comrades, and by their united efforts, the top of the bell was raised to the surface, a rope made fast to it, and thence passed over the horizontal limb of a tree. Heave-oh! up they hoisted their prize, dripping with moisture, and festooned with verdant water-moss. As the base of the bell emerged from the swamp, the pioneers perceived that a skeleton was clinging with its bony fingers to the clapper, but immediately relaxing its nerveless grasp, sank back into the stagnant water. The bell then gave forth a sullen clang. No wonder that he was in haste to speak, after holding his tongue for such a length of time! The pioneers shoved the bell to-and-fro, thus ringing a loud and heavy peal, which echoed widely through the forest, and reached the ears of Colonel Bradstreet, and his three thousand men. The soldiers paused on their march; a feeling of religion, mingled with hometenderness, overpowered their rude hearts; each seemed to hear the clangor of the old church-bell, which had been familiar to him from infancy, and had tolled at the funerals of all his forefathers. By what magic had that holy sound strayed over the wide-murmuring ocean, and become audible amid the clash of arms, the loud crashing of the artillery over the rough wilderness-path, and the melancholy roar of the wind among the boughs!
The New Englanders hid their prize in a shadowy nook, betwixt a large gray stone and the earthy roots of an overthrown tree; and when the campaign was ended, they conveyed our friend to Boston, and put him up at auction on the side-walk of King-street. He was suspended, for the nonce, by a block and tackle, and being swung backward and forward, gave such loud and clear testimony to his own merits, that the auctioneer had no need to say a word. The highest bidder was a rich old representative from our town, who piously bestowed the bell on the meeting-house where he had been a worshipper for half a century. The good man had his reward. By a strange coincidence, the very first duty of the sexton, after the bell had been hoisted into the belfry, was to toll the funeral knell of the donor. Soon, however, those doleful echoes were drowned by a triumphant peal for the surrender of Quebec.
Ever since that period, our hero has occupied the same elevated station, and has put in his word on all matters of public importance, civil, military, or religious. On the day when Independence was first proclaimed in the street beneath, he uttered a peal which many
deemed ominous and fearful, rather than triumphant. But he has told the same story these sixty years, and none mistake bis meaning now. When Washington, in the fullness of his glory, rode through our flower-strewn streets, this was the tongue that bade the Father of his Country welcome! Again the same voice was heard when La Fayette came to gather in his half-century's harvest of gratitude. Meantime, vast changes have been going on below. His voice, which once floated over a little provincial sea-port, is now reverberated between brick edifices, and strikes the ear amid the buzz and tumult of a city. On the Sabbaths of olden time, the summons of the bell was obeyed by a picturesque and varied throng; stately gentlemen in purple velvet coats, embroidered waistcoats, white wigs, and gold-laced hats, stepping with grave courtesy beside ladies in flowered satin gowns, and hoop-petticoats of majestic circumference; while behind followed a liveried slave or bondsman, bearing the psalm-book and a stove for his mistress's feet. The commonalty, clad in homely garb, gave precedence to their betters at the door of the meeting-house, as if admitting that there were distinctions between them, even in the sight of God. Yet, as their coffins were borne one after another through the street, the bell has tolled a requiem for all alike. What mattered it, whether or no there were a silver scutcheon on the coffin-lid ? Open thy bosom, Mother Earth!' Thus spake the bell. ' Another of thy children is coming to his long rest. Take him to thy bosom, and let him slumber in peace.' Thus spake the bell, and Mother Earth received her child. With the self-same tones will the present generation be ushered to the embraces of their mother; and Mother Earth will still receive her children. Is not thy tongue a-weary, mournful talker of two centuries ? Oh, funeral bell ! wilt thou never be shattered with thine own melancholy strokes ? Yea; and a trumpet-call shall arouse the sleepers, whom thy heavy clang could awake no more!
Again — again, thy voice, reminding me that I am wasting the ‘midnight oil. In my lonely fantasy, I can scarce believe that other mortals have caught the sound, or that it vibrates elsewhere than in my secret soul. But to many hast thou spoken. Anxious men have heard thee on their sleepless pillows, and bethought themselves anew of to-morrow's care.
In a brief interval of wakefulness, the sons of toil have heard thee, and say, 'Is so much of our quiet slumber spent ?— is the morning so near at hand ? Crime has heard thee, and mutters, ' Now is the very hour! Despair answers thee, ' Thus much of this weary life is gone!' The young mother, on her bed of pain and ecstacy, has counted thy echoing strokes, and dates from them her first-born's share of life and immortality. The bride-groom and the bride have listened, and feel that their night of rapture flits like a dream away. Thine accents have fallen faintly on ihe ear of the dying man, and warned him that, ere thou speakest again, his spirit shall have passed whither no voice of time can ever reach. Alas for the departing traveller, if thy voice — the voice of fleeting time — have taught him no lessons for Eternity!
'For I am now ready to be offered; and the time of my departure is at hand.'
Day dawned on old Miletus. Castle wall,
"T was beautiful! 't was wondrous beautiful !
Paul gathered with the elders. From the church
Morning, and noon, and night, ’mid tears and sweat,
The hour had come. From all he saw, he turned
And now they rose to part. The soul of Paul
C. W. D.
A FEW PLAIN THOUGHTS ON POETRY.
When man was banished from the garden of Eden, he received the dread sentence that the ground should be cursed for his sake, and that in sorrow should he eat of it all the days of his life.
We are all aware that this language, however true in its general application, is not to be understood in a literal and exclusive sense.
Man was told that the earth should bring forth thorns and thistles; but it also produces flowers to delight, and fruits to nourish him. The Infinite Being has said that the days of our life shall be marked with sorrow, and they are ; but the afflictions to which we are subject are attended with blessed antidotes: moral sources of enjoyment are given us, as fruits and flowers for the soul, and the teachings of interest, as well as the impulses of gratitude, should lead us to consider with attention those gifts which enlarge the capacities of the spirit, and call forth the affections of the heart. And such a gift is Poetry,
If it be asked, “What is poetry ?' we must confess ourselves unable to afford a minute definition ; for, like the unearthly visitants which the fears of superstition have occasionally summoned to the world, she fascinates the senses, but eludes the grasp of the beholder,
and stands before him, visible, powerful, yet impalpable. The various occupations and pursuits of life may be explained with clearness and accuracy, for they have been created and divided by man; but poetry is above, and not of man, and he cannot, by any array of words, set forth its subtlety, its peculiarities, its perfection, its loveliness, and its universal power. Can the painter place the arched rainbow, or the glittering dew-drop on the canvass ? Can the sculptor invest his image with a soul? Can the sympathies that mysteriously connect us, the unfledged thoughts that rush tumultuously through the brain, be subjected to the process of analysis, and the power of demonstration ?
It seems equally impossible to define poetry. We may pile word upon word, and sentence upon sentence, to attain the object, but the result of our labors, like that of the builders of the tower of Babel, will be discomfiture and confusion; and poetry will still exist, defying the power of language, and soaring above the reach of description. It may naturally be inquired, then, Cannot poetry be defined ? Do we know of what we speak, when we allude to it ?'
We do; for many of its definitions, to a certain extent, are correct: they tell us what poetry is, in a peculiar aspect, but fail to give us sufficiently comprehensive views. We may safely assume the position, that poetry always addresses itself either to the imagination, or the feelings, or to both.
The word poet is derived from the Greek 20180), 'I create,' and its etymological signification is, therefore, the Creator.
Shakspeare has adopted this meaning in his · Midsummer Night's Dream :'
"The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
A local habitation, and a name.' But even the definition of Shakspeare falls far short of conveying to the mind a complete idea of the poet : indeed, the inventor of unnatural or supernatural characters, the poet of ghosts, witches, and fairies, is neither the most useful, nor the most fascinating of his class. The poet of nature stands prëeminent not the one who bodies forth the forms of things unknown,' but he who takes known and familiar subjects, and presents them to the eye with such beauty, delicacy, and force, that we view them in a new light, and connect them with delightful associations. It is the province of Poetry, by some beautiful thought, some apt comparison, some fine illustration, some well-woven fiction, or eloquent exclamation, to fix on the memory the subject of which she speaks; and if it be one connected with the cause of truth, if it be a correct sentiment, or a moral or religious precept, poetry makes it sink deeper into the heart, and take a stronger hold on the feelings. Thus we have often heard that it is right to love our enemies, but the bard adds, 'like a sandal tree that sheds perfume on the axe that fells it.'
It is not our intention to speak particularly of the conventional classifications and divisions of poetry, but merely to offer a few