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Gradually, the wretched creature who sate before him, seemed to lose all recollection of surrounding objects, her head sank on her breast, her hands were folded over her knees, she ceased to rock backwards and forwards and even to sigh, and Herbert dared to hope that she slept.
To test this he ventured to drop his knife beside her chair, she did not stir; stooping noiselessly, to recover it, he heard her gentle and measured breathing, which assured him that she was in reality asleep, and delighted with the discovery, he crept to the edge of the settle, and took off the shoes he had until this moment worn.
Still the woman slept, her black hair streaming over her careworn face, and still Herbert watched her : it would have struck any one with surprise, could they have looked, by any chance, into that room, at that moment, and beheld the scene it presented; the school-boy with his beautifully chiselled face, so pale, so determined, gazing wistfully over to the wild looking being with whom he was associated, his beautiful fair hair shading his broad calm brow, and the traces of tears still visible on his cheeks: the woman like one of the terrible creations of physical and mental despair in one of Retschz's compositions, all misery and woe.
But a change seemed to creep over her, as she sat before him. A cold shivering ran through her veins; her head was thrown convulsively back, until the sinews of her throat stood out in bold relief from the fleshless bones; and then Herbert saw that her eyes were glassy and fixed, and that no light shone in them. She was still asleep, he knew, although she suddenly started up, as rigid as if every limb and sinew were twisted iron; her black hair fell over her gaunt shoulders; her blue lips were apart, but no sound proceeded from them; and, before the boy could divine whether it was terror or curiosity that now swayed him, she moved across the floor like some terrible apparition, and opening a door that so closely resembled the wall around it that, in the obscurity of the whole place, he had not before perceived it, passed through.
The boy followed, as if impelled to do so by some unscen power. They were now in a long, dark passage,
which was so narrow that by extending his hands he could touch both the opposite walls at the same moment. Still the woman glided on, with Herbert behind, until they came to another door, which was open; and then a long, winding flight of steps presented itself before them. Round and round they wound, until Herbert felt giddy and sick; and still the woman crept on, until they reached a narrow gallery, around which ran a narrow railing. The walls were disposed in niches, which had at one time con
July, 1848.-VOL. LIII.—NO. CCVII.
tained the figures of holy saints; but their pedestals were now vacant; and then, as if exhausted with her efforts, the woman sank down on one of these, apparently without awaking.
A light seemed to rise up from below, and Herbert, with secret awe, creeping to the edge, peeped through the railing, and then started back in astonishment. The place to which his strange guide had insensibly conducted him was domed at the top, near the roof of which (so near that he could have touched the slope of the ceiling with his hand) a rude gallery had been thrown; and from this Herbert looked down upon the wild and lawless scene beneath, spread out like an act in a theatre, or the changing scenes of a vivid panorama.
A circular apartment displayed itself to his view, in the centre of which stood a small furnace, round which were grouped some eight or ten wild, reckless-looking villains, amongst whom the man called Rudd, by his superior stature, was plainly distinguishable. A dozen or more of thick, black, guttering candles were placed in sconces round the room, beneath which rude benches were placed, and the light of these, added to that of the singularly constructed stove, brought out in strange relief the bold and lawless band assembled therein.
The blackened walls had other strange tools displayed around them, which the boy, in his terror failed to discover the use of; in fact, his whole attention was absorbed by the real actors in the scene, one and all of whom worked away with unceasing indefatigability, the noise of their operations, the quick yet subdued shufiling of feet, the sharp click of hammers, and the opening and closing of the stove-doors, alone breaking the silence that prevailed. What astonished him more than all the rest was, that not a word was exchanged amongst them; not even a syllable was heard ; and except that occasionally the whole band gathered around Rudd, and, with eager looks, watched his countenance whilst he scrutinized and tested the result of their operations, each seemed to work independently of his neighbour, and formed an individual and isolated part of the whole drama.
They all wore dark cloth caps, the peaks of which were turned back upon the back of the neck, thus displaying to view the variety of feature and complexion each man possessed. The very idlest of them displayed a dogged determination and resolution, that bespoke their occupation to be a lawless one, long before Herbert's eye fell upon three heavy bludgeons disposed over the strong, heavily barred door, which were ready' at hand, should any interruption occur to them in the prosecution of their labours.
Frightened as Herbert was, he could notice even the most
minute of these details, for in moments of great excitement the mind, as it were, vividly seizes upon and retains circumstances which in calmer moments pass unheeded, or, if slightly noticed, are soon forgotten. He could even perceive that each man had his own department to superintend, and that no one interfered with his neighbour, and that all implicitly obeyed the superior direction of Rudd, who issued his directions by signals, for no conversation was exchanged amongst them.
Suddenly the woman arose from the recess into which she had sunk, and again approached the door by which they had entered. Herbert darted another glance down upon the striking scene below, just as one man threw something bright and shining from a mould upon one of the benches, around which the whole band instantly crowded; and then, with the same noiseless step, crept after his sleeping guide. The winding staircase was soon descended, and the passage traversed in safety, and in a short time he again found himself in the dark and confined room which had formed his prison during the day.
The woman's trance still continued. With the same measured step that characterised her movements on leaving the room, did she again resume her seat before the fire. Her head sank down upon her breast, her hands once more clasped her knees, her black hair even seemed to fall in the same heavy folds, like a funeral pall, over her vacant features.
Evangeline ; a Tale of Acadie. By Henry Wadsworth Long
fellow. With an Introduction, Historical and Explanatory. London : Kent and RICHARDS, Paternoster Row.
It has generally been charged against American poetry,-indeed, against American literature in general,—that it is not sufficiently true to itself,—that it does but copy feebly the hacknied sentiments, and worn-out emotions of the East. That whereas it might sing the triumphs of democracy, and the unbounded hopes offered to man by his new home in the far West, it contents itself with repeating the feelings engendered in societies with which it has little in common. On behalf of the Americans, much, however, has been, and rightly, urged. The gods now do not permit men to be poetical till the material comforts of life have been first obtained. Man must first be comfortable, before he can emerge into the region of the beautiful and sublime. He is still heroic, but not till after dinner. This materialism exists not in England alone. The contagion is at work in the old world, as well as in the new. From this common decline and fall, to which humanity has been subjected, not even the poet is exempt.
“In the old days of awe and keen-eyed wonder,
The poet's song with blood-warm truth was rife.” But alas,—we write in tears,-a change has come o'er the spirit of the dream,
“But now the poet is an empty rhymer,
Who lies, with idle elbow, on the grass ;
To all men’s prides and fancies as they pass.” Yet, here and there, we have had Voices from the West borne over the Atlantic, that have spoken the universal language of the poet, and that have wakened up,-as all genuine utterances do,-a response, a fellowship of feeling and desire. The name of Longfellow has long been honourably known to English readers. As a poet of progress and hope, he has written much in a manner not unbefitting his "great argument.” He has lately, however, come before the world with a still more “adventurous song." In “ Evangeline" a most difficult metre is mastered, with complete success, - a simple tale is overhung with the choicest flowers poetry can supply. It is one of those rare poems that appear perfect in every part,—that the reader peruses with increasing delight. But we will leave our readers to judge for themselves.
It appears from the Introduction prefixed to this edition,* that a small French colony was seated at the village of Grand Pré, on the shores of the Gaspereau, in Nova Scotia. In 1713 the sovereignty of this colony was transferred to England, but the people were only induced to take the oath of allegiance to the English crown, with the express qualification, that they should not be called to bear arms in defence of the province. Consequently, in the subsequent struggles, they were known as the neutral French. When the war of the Succession was ended in that quarter, it was charged against these people that they had furnished the French and Indians with intelligence, quarters, pro
* This edition, because another has just been published, without the Introduction, the omission of which makes " Evangeline" difficult to be understood.
visions, and assistance. In consequence of this, the Lieut.-Governor of Nova Scotia, with his council, agreed to drive them away from their homes, and to confiscate their goods. Fearing that they would go to recruit the French armies in Canada, the Governor ordered them to be dispersed amongst the British colonies, where “they could not unite in any offensive measures.”
Such is the outline of the cruelty these poor Acadians suffered. But we must make a few extracts from the poem. The following is the description of the village :
“In the Acadian land, on the shores of the Basin of Minas, Distant, secluded, still, the little village of Grand-Pré Lay in the fruitful valley. Vast meadows stretched to the eastward, Giving the village its name, and pasture to flocks without number. Dikes, that the hands of the farmers had raised with labour in
cessant, Shut out the turbulent tides ; but at stated seasons the flood-gates Opened, and welcomed the sea to wander at will o'er the meadows. West and south there were fields of flax, and orchards and cornfields Spreading afar and unfenced o'er the plain ; and away to the north
ward Blomidon rose, and the forests old, and aloft on the mountains Sea-fogs pitched their tents, and mists from the mighty Atlantic Looked on the happy valley, but ne'er from their station descended. There, in the midst of its farms, reposed the Acadian village. Strongly built were the houses, with frames of oak and of chestnut, Such as the peasants of Normandy built in the reign of the Henries. Thatched were the roofs, with dormer-windows; and gables pro
jecting Over the basement below protected and shaded the door-way. There in the tranquil evenings of summer, when brightly the sunset Lighted the village street, and gilded the vanes on the chimneys, Matrons and maidens sat in snow-white caps and in kirtles Scarlet and blue and green, with distaffs spinning the golden Flax for the gossiping looms, whose noisy shuttles within doors Mingled their sound with the whir of the wheels and the songs of
the maidens. Solemnly down the street came the parish priest, and the children Paused in their play to kiss the hand he extended to bless them. Reverend walked he among them; and up rose matrons and maidens, Hailing his slow approach with words of affectionate welcome. Then came the labourers home from the field, and serenely the sun
sank Down to his rest, and twilight prevailed. Anon from the belfry Softly the Angelus sounded, and over the roofs of the village Columns of pale blue smoke, like clouds of incense ascending, Rose from a hundred hearths, the homes of peace and contentment. Thus dwelt together in love these simple Acadian farmers,