Images de page

Starting and shivering in th' inconstant


Meagre and pale, the ghost of what he


and sunk to an untimely grave, before his sun of life had reached its noon. Such was the result of the Reverend Andrew Baxter's theory concerning genius.

The Reverend Francis Halliday had determined, when his son was yet whipping his top, or trundling his hoop, that he should be bred to the law. As the preliminary step to this, no pains were spared to make him an excellent Latin scholar. George had been early taught submission to the dicta of a parent; and when informed of his destination for life, although it gave him no plea sure, he did not start any objection. In the town where his father resided was a Notary, who was reckoned a Solomon for wisdom, and a Machiavel for policy and cunning; to this man George was put as an apprentice, and afterwards sent to study and practise under a friend most learned in the law at Edinburgh; it being his father's intention, that after his head was fully charged, and when he had been nursed to practice, that he should set up for himself in the county town, as a Notary, and pleader in the Sheriff-Court.

George Halliday was a lad of a peculiar turn of mind, had much of the milk of human kindness in his heart; and he had formed what men of the world would term romantic notions of probity and justice, which were often shocked by the specimens of legal quibbling which now came under his notice. He expressed to his father dislike to the law; but the parson replied, "When you find it profitable, it will then become delightful." After what appeared a long and irksome noviciate, George settled as a practitioner in the county town, with a firm determination to consult Concience, along with Coke and Lyttleton. The first cause in which he

was engaged was one of considerable importance and intricacy; he happened to have the right side, and was opposed by a popular pleader of long standing. However, he displayed such a profound knowledge of law, and poured forth such a torrent of eloquence, that his client was victor, and his fame spread over the country. Business poured in upon him; but George was capricious; for if he had doubts about the justice of a cause, he would not undertake it; and when convinced that the litigant was wrong, flatly told him so; not only recommending an amicable settlement, but condescending to become an arbitrator. When he did plead, however skilled in law, his greater zeal was always displayed for equity. Such was his pacific disposition, that frivolous but profitable litigation declined daily. Hence he was considered among his brethren as a dangerous innovator, who would, if not put down, destroy the trade.They endeavoured to propagate a report that his brain was cracked; and litigious men, whose causes he had refused, circulated the tale, till those who doubted its truth were afraid to trust their business in his hands.

He persevered in his system,-his employment fell off,-the disappointed and angry parent remonstrated in vain, and at last, in bitter, wrath, told George he was a romantic and visionary fool; and he, in return, told his father that his counsels and opinions were at variance with, and unbecoming his character as a Minister of the Gospel of peace ;-they quarrelled, and parted in great wrath. Hating the law, and having lost a good part of the respect for his father, George withdrew to a small farm, in a distant and sequestered part of the country. Thus, by the injudicious resolve and pertinacious obstinacy of a parent, were talents and principles buried in obscurity, which would have been useful to society, and an ornament to their country.

[ocr errors]

The Pilgrim's Bream.

Post est occasio calva.

I RESTED at noon in a broad-spreading shade
Which the boughs of the elm and the hazel had made;
And, opening my corban, I took out my bread,
And thank'd the kind God on whose bounty I fed.
All weary and faint with the path I had trod,

I laid myself down on the green grassy sod;

I pillow'd my head on the root of a tree,

While the flowerets of summer a couch spread to me;

Thus lying, I mused upon man's mortal strife,

And I thought that each wight was a pilgrim through life;
That he plods on his way to some far distant shrine,-
The palace of Pleasure, or temple divine;

Till, wearied with years and their troublesome load,
He falters at length, and falls down on the road!
I thought upon this, and I sigh'd from my heart
To think how my brethren winced under the smart ;
And, whether it was that in slumber I dream'd,
(For the sight which I saw like a night-vision seem'd,)
But it fix'd on my bosom with all the controul
Which reality stamps on the high-throbbing soul:
Methought that the summer sun rose on the day,
While I was pursuing my pilgrimage way,

When a stranger o'ertook me, and bade me look back
On the landscape so fair I had left in my track:
I look'd, and I saw a most wonderful scene
Of mountains all rugged, and vallies all green,
Of rocks whose high summits peer'd up in the dawn,
And villas and cottages spread on the lawn;
Along the green path which my footsteps had traced
A crowd of poor mortals their pilgrimage paced;
And, larger in figure, came beings behind,
That seem'd not to be of our own human kind;
I question'd the Stranger, and all that I sought
My mind from his eloquent answers was taught.


Oh! who is that being that stands on the hill,
Whose mantle flows free at the wild breezes' will?
He has climb'd the rough summit so steep and so high,
And his form seems to stand in the blaze of the sky;
The clouds of the morning around him are roll'd,
Like curtains all fringed with the heavens' own gold;
While along the fair east it is lovely and bright,
Like the beautiful hues of the newly-born light,
Save the dark-clouded form of the being that's there,
Obscuring the eye of a morning so fair!

Like the moon, when she labours in gramarye-spell,
Which the old wizard works in his wonderful cell.
He travels this way, though his steps are but slow,
For with caution and care must the aged man go;
Yet methinks if he mend not that tardy degree,
He will never be able to travel with me ;
And 'tis well, for if such a grim figure came near,
My bosom would tremble with horror and fear.-
Oh! who is that being? and what is his name?
And what solemn office on earth doth he claim?


"Tis true that the wight is a reverend man,
And long did he live ere our journey began ;
And yet though the season be far, far away,
In sooth he shall come to his reckoning day!
For he is a mortal of this humble earth,

And here, like ourselves, must he own he had birth.
But though he is ancient and hoary with years,
Though his foot on the mountain so cautious appears,
I trow 'tis as steady as when it first trod,

With the step of a pilgrim, the earth's lowly sod!
Though slow, he is certain, and never will slack

In the course which he plods in, nor ere miss the track.
By the men of this sojourn his name is call'd Time,
And his journey leads on to a far brighter clime.
Oh, then, be not idle! for when he comes by,
He will look upon thee with a soul-piercing eye;
For his office on earth is to summon mankind
To the work which for them was by Heaven design'd.


And who is that being that after him walks
Like a goblin, that over the sepulchres stalks?
All muffled and hid in a horrible shroud,
That darkens the sky like a sulphurous cloud :
It heavily flaps as the light breezes breathe,
And discovers a skeleton figure beneath!
On his white bony cheek is a terrible grin;
No features are there, no complexion nor skin!
And it seems that some spirit, hid under the guise,
Looks forth from the sockets that once held his eyes;
And he grasps in his marrowless fingers a dart
Which is clotted with gore reeking red from the heart!
Oh! what is his name? for, whatever it be,

A murderer vile and relentless is he!

This moment I witness'd him butcher and slay
An innocent infant that sat in his way!

And his truculent arm, without sorrow or ruth,
Strikes the head of the aged and heart of the youth!


His name?-it is Death: and he follows old Time
To kill and destroy, but the deed is no crime;
For first must the hour-glass of Time be all run,
Ere the office of Death upon man dare be done.
To the good and the holy his presence is sweet,
And they hail the blest sound of his skeleton feet!
To the wicked he seems like a fiend from the pit,
And Despair, at his sight, shakes their frame with its fit.
Oh, therefore, be heedful! and fear to do wrong,
Lest thou fear'st when this figure of gloom comes along :
And though he seems now in the distance so far,
A moment may bring him to be where we are!


But who are these beings that walk on the heath,
And appear like the followers of Time and of Death?
Two creatures contrasted in shape to extreme,
Yet equal in office and duty they seem.
The first like an Angel, in garments all bright,
And crown'd with a tiar of pure-streaming light:
He holds in his hands the fair olive and palm,
His deportment is fair, and his spirit seems calm;

His brow and his face are both comely and mild,
Like the beautiful smile of a yellow-hair'd child:
Oh, his eye looks as soft as the glance of the dove,
And his heart, I am sure, must be teeming with love!
The other is hideous and hateful in shape,
And seems less akin unto man than the ape;
Distorted and ugly; a horrible mould,

Which pains the dim eye-balls of man to behold!
With wings like the bat's, yet all meagre and thin,
And pucker'd and knit in a toad's slimy skin:
He is cover'd with hair, and his hard horny foot
Is cloven and fashion'd like that of the brute:
He brandishes fiercely the scorpion's keen lash,
And shackles of iron around his waist clash;
Pain, madness, revenge, from his horrid eyes glare,
And his brow is the throne of the wildest despair.
Oh, who are these beings? and what are their names?
For the work which they do something awful proclaims:
They come to the bodies along the path lying,
And the bright being smiles upon some that are dying;
Then takes from their bosoms a pledge which is there,
And mounts with the treasure far, far through the air!
The other in similar deeds is employ'd,

Though he scowls on the creatures whom Death hath destroy'd ; Then bearing them off in his irons, like slaves,

Sinks down, with a shriek, through earth's bottomless caves! Oh, the one is a dove with his plumage all bright!

And the other a bat from the regions of night!


These two are the agents empower'd to fulfil
The solemn decrees of Eternity's will;
And great is their office in God's mighty plan,
For their object is noble and dignified-man!
From regions extreme to this world they are sent,
And on errands of man's final destiny bent:
For they watch the last groans of mortality's breath,
And the spirit they seize at the moment of death.
By the scenes of disease, want and murder they stand,
And pluck in its season the garland or brand;
And they bear to its last destination the soul-
To bliss everlasting, or measureless dole!
The former to angels of glory lays claim,
The other a demon of darkness we name.
Oh, think on the angel! he's lovely and fair;
And of guilt, with its manifold horrors, beware;
And pray that each virtue thy life may employ,
That thou may'st be crown'd with a garland of joy!
For much have the spirits of piety striven,

By stopping hell's cavern, to plenish bright heaven:
Though man has not yet his sweet pleasures forsworn,
Hell's victims have been, and more victims are born;
And still through the pilgrimage travell'd by Time,
On the journey guilt wallows in darkness and crime:
The thief has his bag, and the murd'rer his knife,
And temptation lays down its bright bubbles of strife;
Idolatry sends its great crowds to those realms,
And Pleasure her thousands on thousands o'erwhelms ;
Pride, malice, and blasphemy, falsehood and lust,
Their crowds through the portals of hell daily thrust:
Oh, therefore, remember that Time's wrinkled face
Never turns to look back on the path of his race;

That Death comes behind, and is anxious to strike,
When the time is expir'd, great and humble alike;
That the Angel or Demon comes ready to grasp
The quivering soul at the body's last gasp

Oh, think that each pulse which thy bosom beats free,
Time, Death, and the Spirits, brings nearer to thee!

The Stranger evanish'd, and left me alone,
Beneath the great load of life's sorrows to groan ;
When raising again my sad eyes from the ground,
And looking once more on the landscape around,
I saw the grim figure of Time drawing near,

And my knees smote each other with trembling and fear.
I look'd on his brow, with the summer sun sear'd,
And I saw the long waves of his winterly beard;
The staff of a Pilgrim he held in his hand,

In the other an hour-glass, that measur'd the sand:
As he pass'd o'er the dew with his sandel-shod feet,
My bosom beat high with a feverish heat;
And scarce from my heart could I throw the full sigh,
As he look'd upon me with his dark sullen eye.-
He came and he held up the hour-glass all run,
For the days of my life and its sorrows were done;
And Death in the rear put an end to my woe,
For I fell, like an old wither'd tree, at his blow!
It seem'd that a stupor came over my soul,
As if bound for a while in Death's awful controul;
Till the Angel came near-clasp'd my spirit-and smil'd,
Like a mother embracing her newly-woke child!
And, clapping his pinions, he rais'd me on high,
Through the untravell'd realms of the beautiful sky.
I look'd upon earth, with its mountains and vales,
And the waves of its ocean, that play'd in the gales ;
I look'd on its cities, its castles, and towers,
And the rural repose of its meadows and bowers;
And scarce had I time, as they sank from my view,
To bid them for ever and ever adieu !

For, fast from the gaze of mine eyes they took leave,
Like the scenery of clouds on a mild summer's eve;
Till, lessening in size, in the distance so far,

Earth seem'd like the moon, and the moon like a star!
I look'd on the sky; and, superb on my sight,
The firmament shone in the beauty of light;

Ten thousand clear suns, with their planets, I saw,
And the universe roll'd in creation's great law,

In harmony moving along the pure clime,

And wheeling on axles of glory, through time.
Then the Angel the heaven of heavens unfurl'd,

And mine eyes caught a sight of the saints' happy_world;

So sweet in mine ears did their golden harps sound,

And so bright were the garlands with which they were bound; And so holy and good was their blissful employ

My throbbing soul quiver'd with rapture and joy!

« PrécédentContinuer »