Page images
PDF
EPUB

the most profligate principles and manners, that the latter are excused and even sanctioned by the former. The impression which so powerfully seizes all the sympathies, is one; and the ardent youth becomes almost ambitious of a character he ought to abhor. So, too, sentiments from which, in their plain form, delicacy would revolt, are insinuated with the charms of poetical imagery and expression; and even the coarseness of Fielding is probably less pernicious than the seducing refinement of writers like Moore, whose voluptuous sensibility steals upon the heart, and corrupts its purity, as the moon-beams, in some climates, are believed to poison the substances on which they fall.

But in no productions of modern genius is the recipro cal influence of morals and literature more distinctly seen than in those of the author of Childe Harold. His character produced the poems, and it cannot be doubted that his poems are adapted to produce such a character. His heroes speak a language supplied not more by imagination than consciousness. They are not those machines, that, by a contrivance of the artist, send forth a music of their own; but instruments, through which he breathes his very soul, in tones of agonized sensibility, that cannot but give a sympathetic impulse to those who hear.

The desolate misanthropy of his mind rises and throws its dark shade over his poetry, like one of his ruined castles; we feel it to be sublime, but we forget that it is a sublimity it cannot have, till it is abandoned by every thing that is kind, and peaceful, and happy, and its halls are ready to become the haunts of outlaws and assassins. Nor are his more tender and affectionate passages those to which we can yield ourselves without a feeling of uneasiness. It is not that we can, here and there, select a proposition false or pernicious, but that he leaves an impression unfavorable to a healthful state of thought and feeling, peculiarly dangerous to the finest minds and most susceptible hearts. They are the scene of a summer evening, where all is tender, and beautiful, and grand; but the damps of disease descend with the dews of heaven, and the pestilent vapors of night are breathed in with the fragrance and balm, and the delicate and fair are the surest victims of its exposure.

LESSON CXII.

Verses on receiving his Mother's Picture.-CowPER.

O that those lips had language! Life has passed
With me but roughly since I heard thee last.
Those lips are thine—thy own sweet smile I see,
The same, that oft in childhood solaced me :
Voice only fails, else how distinct they say,
“Grieve not my child, chase all thy fears away!"
The meek intelligence of those dear eyes
(Blest be the art that can immortalize,
The art that baffles Time's tyrannic claim
To quench it) here shines on me still the same.

Faithful remembrancer of one so dear,
O welcome guest, though unexpected here !
Who bidd'st me honor, with an artless song,
Affectionate, a mother lost so long.
I will obey, not willingly alone,
But gladly, as the precept were her own:
And, while that face renews my filial grief,
Fancy shall weave a charm for my relief,
Shall steep me in Elysian reverie,
A momentary dream that thou art she.

My mother! when I learned that thou wast dead,
Şay, wast thou conscious of the tears I shed ?
Hovered thy spirit o'er thy sorrowing son,
Wretch, even then, life's journey just begun?

Perhaps thou gav'st me, though unfelt, a kiss;
Perhaps a tear, if souls can weep in bliss
Ah, that maternal smile! it answers

-Yes.
I heard the bell tolled on thy burial day,
I saw the hearse that bore thee slow away,
And, turning from my nursery window, drew
A long, long sigh, and wept a last adieu!
But was it such ?-It was.- - Where thou art gone,
Adieus and farewells are a sound unknown.
May I but meet thee on that peaceful shore,
The parting word shall pass my lips no more.
Thy maidens, grieved themselves at my concern,
Oft gave me promise of thy quick return.
What ardently I'wished, I long believed,
And, disappointed still, was still deceived ;
By expectation every day beguiled,
Dupe of tomorrow even from a child.
Thus many a sad to-morrow came and went,
Till, all my stock of infant sorrow, spent,
I learned, at last, submission to my lot,
But, though I less deplored thee, ne'er forgot.

Where once we dwelt our name is heard no more, Children not thine have trod my nursery floor ; And where the gardener Robin, day by day, Drew me to school along the public way, Delighted with my bauble-coach, and wrapped In scarlet mantle warm, and velvet-capped, 'Tis now become a history little known, That once we called the pastoral house our own. Short-lived possession! but the record fair, That memory keeps of all thy kindness there, Still outlives many a storm, that has effaced A thousand other themes less deeply traced. Thy nightly visits to my chamber made, That thou might'st know me safe and warmly laid ; Thy morning bounties ere I left my home, The biscuit or confectionary plum;

The fragrant waters on my cheeks bestowed
By thy own hand, till fresh they shone and glowed ;-
All this, and, more endearing still than all,
Thy constant flow of love that knew no fall,
Ne'er roughened by those cataracts and breaks,
That humor interposed too often makes ;-
All this, still legible in memory's page,
And still to be so to my latest

age,
Adds joy to duty, makes me glad to pay
Such honors to thee as my numbers may ;-
Perhaps a frail memorial, but sincere,
Not scorned in heaven, though little noticed here.

Could Time, his flight reversed, restore the hours,
When, playing with thy vesture's tissued flowers,
The violet, the pink, and jessamine,
I pricked them into paper with a pin
(And thou wast happier than myself the while,
Wouldst softly speak, and stroke my head, and smile),-
Could those few pleasant days again appear,
Might one wish bring them, would I wish them here?
I would not trust my heart—the dear delight
Seems so to be desired, perhaps I might.-
But no—what here we call our life is such,
So little to be loved, and thou so much,
That I should ill requite thee to constrain
Thy unbound spirit into bonds again.

Thou, as a gallant bark from Albion's coast (The storms all weathered, and the ocean crossed) Shoots into port at some well-havened isle, Where spices breathe, and brighter seasons smile, There sits quiescent on the floods, that show Her beauteous form reflected clear below, While airs impregnated with incense play Around her, fanning light her streamers gay ;So thou—with sails how swift !-hast reached the shore, “Where tempests never beat nor billows roar,"*

* Garth.

And thy loved consort on the dangerous tide
Of life long since has anchored by thy side.
But me-scarce hoping to attain that rest,
Always from port withheld, always distressed-
Me howling blasts drive devious, tempest-tossed,
Sails ripped, seams opening wide, and compass lost ;
And day by day some current's thwarting force
Sets me more distant from a prosperous course.
Yet oh, the thought that thou art safe, and he!
That thought is joy, arrive what may to me.
My boast is not that I deduce my

birth
From loins enthroned, and rulers of the earth;
But higher far my proud pretensions rise-
The son of parents passed into the skies.
And now, farewell! Time unrevoked has run
His wonted.course, yet what I wished is done.
By contemplation's help, not sought in vain,
I seemed † have lived my childhood o'er again ;
To have renewed the joys that once were mine,
Without the sin of violating thine;
And, while the wings of Fancy still are free,
And I can view this mimic show of thee,
Time has but half succeeded in his theft-
Thyself removed, thy power to soothe me left.

LESSON CXIII.

Value of Classical Learning.-PROFESSOR FRISBIE..

In our opinion there are many and great advantages to be derived from a study of the classics. It must be allowed, that even the commentators have not been without their use; they have often thrown much light upon history, as well as their author ; and afforded great facilities to those who would seek, with higher views, what is really

« PreviousContinue »