Page images
PDF
EPUB

Dearer to me the little stream,

Whose unimprisoned waters run,
Wild as the changes of a dream,

By rock and glen, through shade and sun ;
Its lovely links had power to bind
In welcome chains my wandering mind.

She cast her glory round a court,

And fro.icked in the gayest ring,
Where fashion's high-born minions sport

Like sparkling fireflies on the wing;
But thence when love had touched her scud,
To nature and to truth she stole.

So thought I when I saw the face,

By happy portraiture revealed,
Of one adorned with every grace,

Her name and date from me concealed,
But not her story; she had been
The pride of many a splendid scene.

From din, and pageantry, and strife,

'Midst woods and mountains, vales and She treads the paths of lowly life, (plains

Yet in a bosom-circle reigns,
No fountain scattering diamond-showers,
But the sweet streamiet watering flowers

ARNOLD OF WINKELRIED.

(On the achievement of Arnold de Winkelried at the battle of Sempach, in which the Swiss insurgents secured the freedom of their country, against the power of Austria, in the fourteenth century.) MAKE way for liberty!” he cried ;

They came to conquer or to fall, Made way for liberty, and died.

Where he who conquered, he who fell,

Was deemed a dead or living Tell; In arms the Austrian phalanx stood,

Such virtue had that patriot breathed, A living wall, a human wood;

So to the soil his soul bequeathed,
A wall, - where every conscious stone That wheresoe'er his arrows flew,
Seemed to its kindred thousands grown, Heroes in his own likeness grew,
A rampart all assaults to bear,

And warriors sprang from every sod,
Till time to dust their frames should wear; Which his awakening sootstep trod.
A wood, - like that enchanted grove
In which with fiends Rinaldo strove,

And now the work of life and death
Where every silent tree possessed

Hung on the passing of a breath; A spirit imprisoned in its breast,

The fire of conflict burned within, Which the first stroke of coming strife The battle trembled to begin ; Might startke into hideous life:

Yet while the Austrians held their ground, So still, so dense the Austrians stood,

Point for assault was nowhere found; A living wall, a human wood.

Where'er th' impatient Switzers gazed, Impregnable their front appears,

Th' unbroken line of lances blazed ; All-horrent with projected spears,

That line 'twere suicide to meet, Whose polished points before them shine, And perish at their tyrants' feet; From flank to flank, one brilliant line, How could they rest within their graves, Bright as the breakers' splendors run To leave their homes the haunts of slaves? Aong the billows to the sun.

Would they not feel their children treach

With clanking chains, above their head? Opposed to these, a hovering band Contended for their fatherland;

It must not be; this day, this hour Peasants, whose new-found strength had Annihilates the invader's power; broke

All Switzerland is in the field, From many necks th' ignoble yoke, She wi l not fly, she cannot yield, And beat their fetters into swords,

She must not fall; lier better fate On equal terms to fight their lords,

Here gives her an immorial date. And what insurgent rage had gained,

Few were the numbers she could boast, In many a mortal fray maintained.

Yet every freeman was a host, Marshalled once more, at freedom's call And felt as 'twere a secret krown,

Then ran, with arms extended wide,
As if his dearest friend to clasp ;
Ten spears he swept within his grasp ;
“Make way for liberty !” he cried ;
Their keen points crossed from side to side;
He bowed amidst them, like a tree,
And thus made way for liberty.

That one should turn the scale alone,
While each unto himseif was he,
On whose sole arm hung victory.
It did depend on one indeed :
Behold him – Arnold Winkelried;
There sounds not to the trump of fame
The echo of a nobler name.
Unmarked he stood amidst the throng,
In rumination deep and long,
Till you might see, with sudden grace,
The very thought come o'er his face,
Aed by the motion of his form
Anicipate the bursting storm,
And by the uplifting of his brow
Tell where the bolt would strike, and how.

Swift to the breach his comrades fly;
“Make way for liberty !" they cry,
And through the Austrian phalanx dart,
As rushed the spears through Arnold's heart.
While, instantaneous as his fall,
Rout, ruin, panic seized them all;
An earthquake could not overthrow
A city with a surer blow.

Bat 'twas no sooner thought than done ;
The field was in a moment won ;
*Make way for liberty!” he cried,

Thus Switzerland again was free;
Thus death made way for liberty.

SYDNEY SMITH.

The Rev. Sydney Smith was born in 1771. He was the son of an eccentric English gentleman, who had married an extremely beautiful woman from Languedoc, a certain Mlle

. Olier, the daughter of a Protestant emigrant. Our author's vigorous faculties were inherited from his father ; his vivacity, wit, and cheerful temper from his mother. He 928 educated at Winchester and at Oxford; and though easily chief among his fellows in the niceties of classical learning, he had the good sense to retain the kernel and drop the shell, instead of remaining merely a first-form boy all his life, as some scholars do hereabcuts

. He used to say, "I believe, while a boy at school, I made above ten thousand Latin verses; and no man in his senses would dream in after life of ever making another. So much for life and time wasted.” One of his most powerful essays, written in maturity, is devoted to the undue prominence given to mere classical learning in comparison with general culture and a knowledge of the more practical sciences. He became a curate in a small village, where he attracted the regard of the “Squire," who engaged him to accompaay his son to Germany. But, the war breaking out, the vessel put in to Scotland, and there Smith remained five years. At this time the Edinburgh Review was established by Jeffrey, Smith, Brougham, Murray, and others. Later he removed to London, where his career as preacher and essayist began. His talents were sufficient to have brought him to the bench of bishops, had he been less human in his sensibilities, less witty, or more prudent in speech, less buoyant in spirits, less powerful in argument, and less independent in temper. The prizes of the English church were not for such men as Sydney Smith. He became canon of St. Paul's, the highest dignity for which he could hope. If Jeremy Taylor is allowed to be his superior in the high quality of imagination and in afluence of diction; if Dean Swift surpassed him in invention and downright force ; if Lamb was more quaintly humorous ; if Newton was more sainty; if Burke was a more apt constructor of the balanced Ciceronian period: if Brougham was a more thunderous advocate fe reform ; still, it must be allowed that in native manly energy, in the ready use of clearly linked sentences, informed with learning and brist ing with unexpected wit, in religious principle combined with common sense in its application, in the foresight of a liberal statesman, controled by a wise conservative's caution, no writer, either lay or clerical, in the last Eentury has surpassed Sydney Smith.

His Essays have been published in this country in a large octavo volume. His life, in two volumes, has been written by his daughter, Lady Holland. It is not easy to describe the impression made by his life in his daughter's delightful volumes. A colection of his witticisms would serve as a basis for a new jest book, and the picture of his innocent garety and irrepressible spirits at home could hardly be drawn except by some one gifted like himself. He died in 1845.

(From Speeches on Parliamentary Reform.) As for the possibility of the House of Lords preventing ere long a reform of Parliament, I hold it to be the most absurd notion that ever entered into human imagination. I do not mean to be disrespectful ; but the attempt of the lords to stop the progress of reform reminds me very forcibly of the great storm of Sidmouth, and of the conduct of the excellent Mrs. Partington on that occasion. In the winter of 1824 there set in a great food upon that town. The tide rose to an incredible height, the waves rushed in upon the houses, and everything was threatened with destruction. In the midst of this sublime and terrible storm, Dame Partington, who lived upon the beach, was seen at the door of her house, with mop and pattens, trundling her mop, squeezing out the sea-water, and vigorously pushing away the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic was roused, Mrs. Partington's spirit was up; but I need not tell you that the contest was unequal. The Atlantic Ocean beat Mrs. Partington. She was excellent at a slop or a puddle ; but she should not have meddled with a tempest. Gentlemen, be at your ease. Be quiet and steady. You will beat Mrs. Partington.

Then look at the gigantic Brougham, sworn in at twelve o'clock, and before six has a bill on the table abolishing the abuses of a court which has been the curse of the people of England for centuries. For twenty-five long years did Lord Eldon sit in that court, surrounded with misery and sorrow which he never held up a finger to alleviate. The widow and the orphan cried to him as vainly as the town crier cries when he offers a small reward for a full purse; the bankrupt of the court became the lunatic of the court ; estates mouldered away, and mansions fell down ; but the fees came in, and all was well. But in an instant the iron mace of Brougham shivered to atoms this house of fraud and of delay; and this is the man who will help to govern you, who bottoms his reputation on doing good to you, who knows that to reform abuses is the safest basis of fame and the surest instrument of power, who uses the highest gifts of reason and the most splendid efforts of genius to rectify those abuses which all the genius and talent of the profession have hitherto been employed to justify and to protect. Look to Brougham,

and turn you to that side where he waves his long and lean finger, and mark well that face which nature has marked so forcibly – which dissolves pensions, turns jobbers into honest men, scares away the plunderer of the public, and is a terror to him who doeth evil to the people.

There will be mistakes at first, as there are in all changes. All young ladies will imagine, as soon as this bill is carried, that they will be instantly married, school-boys believe that gerunds and supines will be abolished, and that currant tarts must ultimately come down in price ; the corporal and sergeant are sure of double pay; bad poets will expect a demand for their epics; fools will be disappointed, as they always are ; reasonable men, who know what to expect, will find that a very serious good has been obtained.

It is little short of absolute nonsense to call a government good which the great mass of Englishmen would, before twenty years were elapsed, if reform were denied, rise up and destroy. Of what use have all the cruel laws been of Perceval, Eldon, and Castlereagh to extinguish reform ? Lord John Russell and his abettors would have been committed to jail, twenty years ago, for half only of his present reform ; and now relays of the people would drag them from London to Edinburgh, at which latter city we are told by Mr. Dundas that there is no eagerness for reform. Five minutes before Moses struck the rock, this gentleman would have said that there was no eagerness for water.

(From the “Peter Plymley Letters " on the Catholic Question.] I FOUND in your letter the usual remarks about fire, fagot, and Bloody Mary. Are you aware, my dear priest, that there were as many per-. sons put to death for religious opinions under the mild Elizabeth as under the bloody Mary? The reign of the former was, to be sure, ten times as long ; but I only mention the fact merely to show you that something depends upon the age in which men live, as well as on their religious opinions. Three hundred years ago men burned and hanged each other for these opinions. Time has softened Catholic as well as Protestant. They both required it, though each perceives only his own improvement, and is blind to that of the other. We are all the creatures of circumstances. I know not a kinder and better man than yourself ; but you, if you had lived in those times, would certainly have roasted your Catholic; and I promise you, if the first

exciter of this religious mob had been as powerful then as he is now, you would soon have been elevated to the mitre. I do not go the length of saying that the world has suffered as much from Protestant as from Catholic persecution. Far from it; but you should remember the Catholics had all the power when the idea first started up in the world that there could be two modes of faith, and that it was much more natural they should attempt to crush this diversity of opinion by great and cruel efforts, than that the Protestants should rage against those who differed from them, when the very basis of their system was complete freedom in all spiritual matters.

You say that Ireland is a mill-stone about our necks; that it would be better for us if Ireland were sunk at the bottom of the sea; that the Irish are a nation of irreclaimable savages and barbarians. How often have I heard these sentiments fall from the plump and thoughtless squire, and from the thriving English shop-keeper, who has never felt the rod of an Orange master upon his back! Ireland a mill-stone about your neck? Why is it not a stone of Ajax in your hand ? I agree with you most cordially, that, governed as Ireland now is, it would be a vast accession of strength if the waves of the sea were to rise and ingulf her to-morrow.

Why will you attribute the turbulence of our people to any cause but the right — to any cause but your own scandalous oppression ? If you tie your horse up to a gate, and beat him cruelly, is he vicious because he kicks you? If you have plagued and worried a mastiff dog for years, is he mad because he flies at you whenever he sees you ? Hatred is an active, troublesome passion. Depend upon it, whole nations have always some reason for their hatred. Before you refer the turbulence of the Irish to indurable defects in their character, tell me if you have treated them as friends and equals ? Have you protected their commerce ? Have you respected their religion? Have you been as anxious for their freedom as your own? Nothing of all this. What then? Why, you have confiscated the territorial surface of the country twice over ; you have massacred and exported her inhabitants ; you have deprived four fifths of them of every civil privilege ; you have, at every period, made her commerce and manufactures slavishly subordinate to your own ; and yet the hatred which the Irish bear to you is the result of an original turbulence of character, and of a primitive, obdurate wildness utterly incapable of civilization !

« PreviousContinue »