Rhyme Romance and Revery (I)

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THE CONDEMNED


My first, my holiest love — her broken heart
Lies low — and I — unpardoned, I depart!

FELICIA HEMANS


IT was about the middle of July, when, after many invitations and broken promises, I set out to visit an old schoolfellow, who had taken unto himself a mate, and was comfortably settled at a distance from the smoke and noise of the town in which I resided.  A considerable portion of my way lay through cross-country roads and straggling villages, whose deep quiet had never been broken by the rumble of a stage-coach; I therefore mounted my steed, and proceeded at an easy pace, calculating to reach the end of my journey before nightfall.  I trotted on for an hour or two pleasantly enough, alternately admiring the surrounding scenery, and recalling to my memory the many boyish frolics in which the friend I was visiting and myself had of old indulged.  I had been for sometime absorbed in one of these remembrances, when I was awakened from my revery by the sound of distant thunder; and the hitherto unnoticed clouds, which I perceived gathering above my head, seemed the dark heralds of a coming storm.  Urging my horse to a quicker pace, I was enabled to arrive at a small village before the loaded heavens discharged their freightage.  There was not any place in the village designated by the name of an inn, and I found a difficulty in procuring shelter for myself and horse.  I at length succeeded in providing my steed a defence against the weather in an out-building, and took up my own quarters in an old but comfortable-looking farm-house.  The rain, that now beat violently against the windows, and the increasing denseness of the clouds, afforded me the prospect of a thorough wet day, whilst the only thing on which I could congratulate myself was, that I had escaped being drenched to the skin.

    Washington Irving has well described the monotony of a rainy Sunday to one confined in an inn, but even there I am inclined to think more variety may be found than in a farmhouse.  A rainy day in the country is truly a dreary thing.  There is certainly something to cheer and console a person in town, when confined to the house by incessant rain.  Seated at our casement, what an idea of snugness comes upon us, as we contrast the dryness and warmth of our own situation with that of the poor defenceless wretches who hurry along with garments streaming with the liquid element, and hats whose opposite extremities are converted into water-spouts.  This is all remarkably gratifying, but in the country we have no such amusement.  However, there I sat, determined to be as content as possible, and at least not to lack entertainment from a want of observation.  So I gazed upon the trees, and watched the drops which the wind shook from the leaves; and upon the flowers, which looked as though they actually felt the agonies of drowning; and I also remarked, with no pleasant sensation, the overflowing of a large pool, which threatened shortly to inundate the house.  These things met my eyes until they ached, and I turned away, devoured with spleen and ennui.  My faculties of hearing were as agreeably greeted as those of vision — the ticking of an old clock, the occasional cackle of fowls, the neighing of my horse, and the lowing of cows, were the various and pleasing sounds which saluted me.  I inquired for a book, and was shewn my host's collection.  I found it to consist of an old folio Bible, in which the births and deaths of the family were carefully registered; two prayer books; Sternhold and Hopkins's elegant version of the Psalms; and a volume which seemed the type of eternity, having neither beginning nor end.  I felt still more irritable and melancholy, and had come to the determination of sallying forth, and braving all the fury of the storm, when I was induced to change my resolution by an observation proceeding from my host.  He had hitherto sat reserved and silent, solacing himself with a pipe, which he evidently preferred to my conversation, having answered any remarks I thought proper to address to him with nothing more than a monosyllable.  "Perhaps," said he, withdrawing the tube reluctantly from his lips, and speaking with an effort, in a tone of voice resembling that which one would suppose saluted the ears of Balaam, when his ass was gifted with the power of speech, — "perhaps the gentleman would like to look at the papers left by the stranger."  Though these words were addressed to his wife, I eagerly caught at their import, and inquired to what he alluded.  I was informed that some months ago, a stranger, apparently about five-and-twenty-years of age, with nothing singular in his appearance, except the extreme paleness of his features, and the wild and restless character of his eyes, had resided under their roof for a few days.  It was night, when seemingly exhausted by travel, he knocked at the door of their dwelling and earnestly craved shelter, protesting he was utterly unable to proceed further on his journey.  His request was granted, and at his own wish he was accommodated with a small chamber in the most remote part of the house.  He promised to remunerate them handsomely for his short stay, on condition that they preserved a strict secrecy as to his being an inmate of their habitation.  Having procured paper and writing-materials, he seldom left his room for more than a few moments, and would, on the sound of an approaching footstep, immediately rush into his place of concealment.  At his departure he placed in the hands of the farmer a sealed packet, with an injunction that he should not open it until a month had elapsed.  This packet, which contained the following manuscript, was now produced for my perusal.  My host had broken the seal, but finding the writing unintelligible, he had thrown it aside before he had finished the first page.  I sat down, determined to wade through it, and certainly found some parts of it rather difficult to interpret.  As I was permitted for a trifling consideration to retain possession of the manuscript, I have at my leisure been enabled to unravel its occasional obscurities, and now present to the reader a literal transcript.



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    In a few days I shall be far from England, and all who have ever felt an interest in my fate.  I have no motive in writing this narrative, except that of beguiling the short period of time which I have yet to remain in my native land, ere the vessel that is to bear me hence is in readiness.  Should these pages by chance meet the eyes of any of those who knew me in happier days, let me hope they will pity, if they cannot pardon, one who hath been the victim of his passions.

    My parents were respectable, and though not affluent, above the wants of the world.  One circumstance destroyed their comfort.  They were destined to behold their earliest offspring sink into the grave just as the mind began to unfold itself.  I, more hardy than the rest, struggled with death and overcame him.  Others were born after me, but they all shared the fate of my predecessors, and I — the doomed — the guilty one was alone destined to survive.  It was for this reason that I was so loved, so idolized by my parents they feared that I too should fall beneath the destroyer, and like some florist who finds all the flowers he prized, save one, perish, they built their sole hope on the bud which was still left them.  My disposition was not naturally bad, but my passions were ever easily excited, and from my infancy I have been the victim, the slave of impulse.  Still childhood was unattended with crime, and to it I can look back with feelings of unmixed delight, for even in childhood commenced that love which through my dark career has clung to my heart in its original freshness and purity.  Yes, my Bertha — I cannot choose but call thee mine — amidst the clouds of guilt which overshadow my soul thou art living in my remembrance; thy image is yet unbroken.  Still do I recall the time when first we met thou, a happy child, radiant with innocence and beauty, and I, a glad and careless boy.  Oh, God! when, unconscious that the world held aught of sin, our arms were entwined around each other's forms — when we gathered the daisy and the cup of gold, free from taint as themselves — when we reclined by the glassy stream, or chased the winged insects — who would THEN have thought that the world's sorrow and the world's shame would fall on beings so pure and sinless?  Those were days of joy, of bright, unclouded joy; but I see thee as thou wert in other days — days when, if care and pain at times mingled with our bliss, it was more exquisite and intense.  Well do I remember the time when first we became conscious of the deep, the undying love which was blent with our very existence, with our life's blood, never to die until life itself became extinguished.  I see thee now, my Bertha, as when in pale and dreamy beauty, thou listenedst to my vows of changeless love — the moon, the bright and blessed moon, looked down in smiles upon thee, and the pure stars above our heads shone fair and tremblingly, as though they gazed upon thy gentle breast, and throbbed in sympathy; and oh! the tears, the dewy tears that streamed upon my cheek as in my arms I clasped my first, my last, mine only love.

    I shall hasten over this period of my life, this oasis in the desert of my existence, for it is not the quiet joy of my early youth, but the events of after years that I have taken up my pen to record.  I have said that my love for Bertha commenced in childhood.  It increased with our years, it grew more fervent as time passed over us — at its birth, a small and sparkling brook, it glided on in placid beauty, gathering fresh strength and power in its course, until it burst forth a mighty and a chainless stream.  My equal in society, and the daughter of my father's dearest friend, I saw not the slightest obstacle to our union, and for a while the future seemed as though it were only fraught with blessings.  Jealousy is at once the offspring and the curse of love.  I was susceptible of it to an extraordinary degree.  I could not endure that she should smile, that she should look upon another.  I was miserable if she stirred abroad and I was absent from her side.  She never gave me the slightest reason to doubt her constancy; she knew my foible, yet never breathed a reproach against my causeless doubts.  I strove to subdue, to conquer this baleful passion — in vain — if she unavoidably was constrained to leave her home, and I found her not there, I wandered near the house like an unquiet spirit, pacing with hurried steps, until I saw her return.  I have lain whole nights parched and sleepless, haunted by some chance look or word bestowed by her upon another.  There were moments when it was impossible to control the jealous rage that rankled at my heart, like a serpent devouring its very core, and I would start up and rush from her into the open street, cursing my miserable failing, though unable to get the better of it.  Oh, how I doted on that girl! after passing hours with her, and when prudence at length told me to depart, in the darkness of night, when the blast and the rain beat upon me, I have lingered in the cold and desolate streets gazing on the small window of her sleeping-chamber, until the disappearance of the light told me she sought repose, and I have then left the spot breathing blessings on her name.  I never uttered that dear name save with a tongue faltering at its utterance ― I never heard it casually mentioned in the cold tone of indifference, without feeling as though it were a profanation so to mention it, and yet my soul sickened when the lips of the stranger praised her loveliness.  Perchance I worshipped her as a creature should not be worshipped — perchance I paid to her that adoration which ought only to be paid to the Creator.  I could have bowed down before an inanimate object consecrated by her touch, as bends the devotee before his altar.  I could not deem her a mere mortal — I could have prostrated myself at her feet as a divinity, and kissed the ground she had hallowed by her footsteps.  If, however, I was an idolater, I sought not for proselytes — and I wished to be alone in my idolatry.  I had set up an idol, and I wished to offer my vows in secret, the sole, the only one of my creed.  Indolent, irresolute, and naturally unfitted for business, it was with difficulty I was at length prevailed upon by my parents to make choice of a profession.  I chose the law, and was soon disgusted with the dry and laborious study which it was necessary I should go through, in order to qualify myself for the profession.  I became acquainted with a set of wild and dissolute young fellows, who, like myself, preferred pleasure to business.  I was a frequent visitor at the theatres, and grew enamoured of the stage.  Whilst my eyes travelled mechanically over tedious treatises on conveyancing, my imagination was wandering to the glowing language of Shakspeare, and I fancied myself an embryo Roscius.  How I envied the life of a leading actor!  With what a proud consciousness of the superiority of my own conception and execution did I repeat to myself the passages for the delivery of which I had heard others so loudly applauded.  If once allowed to appear in public, my fame was sealed.  I should start into perfection at once; the splendour of my genius would dispense with and atone for my want of practice and ignorance of the minor requisites of an actor, and I should speedily eclipse all competitors.  A private theatre was formed, in which I and my stage-struck companions might indulge our propensity.  Here we ranted and strutted, much to our own amusement and satisfaction, though, no doubt, greatly to the annoyance of those friends who were patient enough to listen to us.  I became the leader, the hero of the company; and my own opinion as to my talents was fully confirmed by my associates, who pronounced me a star of the first magnitude.  Dazzled and intoxicated with my success in the limited sphere of my exertions, I panted for a wider and more extensive field on which to display my abilities, where I might be seen and appreciated by numerous, and, of course, enraptured auditors.  Being now quite possessed with the theatrical mania, the law became still more hateful and neglected.  How was it possible that I could stoop to its vile drudgery, when I felt within my mind a power which I fondly deemed was destined to shed a lustre over the dramatic horizon?  Why was I to check the aspirings of my spirit, why was I to smother the ambition which burned within my bosom, whilst perfecting myself in the details of a profession which must ever be repugnant to me?  Thus did I foolishly argue with myself.  I saw no reason why I should make this important sacrifice, and I had almost arrived at the determination of making a clandestine retreat, and, under an assumed name, becoming a follower of the sock and buskin, when an unexpected occurrence confirmed my resolution.

    My obvious inattention and carelessness had caused frequent and angry altercations between my master and myself, MY part in which was always supported with an insolence only warranted by the opinion I had formed of my requisites for the stage.  My father was appealed to repeatedly, and these complaints, coupled with the late hours and loose company I was in the habit of keeping, elicited from him severe reprimands and reproaches.  I sometimes resolved to reform and abandon the course of life I was pursuing, but, on meeting with any of my companions, I always found my resolutions too weak to stand against their ridicule at my expressions of remorse, and I plunged still deeper into the vortex of dissipation.

    One evening, after having been embroiled in fresh disputes with my employer, I took my way to a neighbouring tavern, in hopes to drown my vexation by copious draughts of liquor.  Fool that I was! had I but reflected for a moment, I might have known it would produce a contrary effect.  Each glass I swallowed only increased the bitterness of my feelings, until, in a perfect paroxysm of rage, I rapidly bent my steps homeward, vowing I would no longer submit to the will of a mean, pitiful, pettifogging tyrant.  Well had it been for me, if I had directed my feet to any other abode save my own.  How inexplicable is human nature! the mind can often calmly contemplate a great and dire calamity, whilst the most trivial dispute will frequently suffer passion to gain the entire ascendancy over reason, at least so it was with me; I could have heard with comparative composure that all my future prospects were suddenly blasted, and now a few angry words had raised within my breast an ungovernable fury.  I reached home, and flinging myself on a chair, sat for a time in moody silence.  I was roused from this state of sullenness by the loud and reproachful tones of my father's voice.  He was a man of mild and gentle disposition, and little subject to violent emotion, but there are few persons who can calmly submit to be treated contemptuously, especially by their own offspring.  He had been speaking to me some time in a cool and collected tone, reasoning with me on the absurdity of my conduct, and I, wrapt in my own thoughts, had not answered nor even heard his expostulations.  My apparent obstinacy and contempt had roused his anger, and, awakened from my revery, I was compelled to hear a volley of stinging taunts on my behaviour.  I sat awhile, listening to his discourse and endeavouring unavailingly to allay the ferment which boiled tumultuously within my veins.  A spell — a black, — a withering spell came over me — my blood seemed turned to gall — it deserted my cheeks, and in its place, I felt as though a foul and jaundiced tide had imparted to my features a ghastly yellow.  I started up with the intention of quitting the house.  My father rose to impede my progress, and placed himself betwixt me and the door.  My eyes burnt hot as living coals, within their sockets — I was desperate, — mad with rage — I scarce knew what I was about to do — I wished to escape—he endeavoured to compel me to stay — I struggled with him —hell was busy in my heart and brain — I struck him — a vile, a cursed blow laid my parent prostrate at my feet!  I did not stay to contemplate the deed — my mother's shrieks rang in my ears, and like a second Cain, I fled to wander I knew not whither — a wretched, guilty fugitive.

    With rapid strides, unconscious what direction I took, I traversed many streets, and at last halted from very weariness at an obscure public-house.  I had been stunned, horrified with the crime I had committed, but now I beheld it in its most fearful nature.  I procured a bed, and cast myself on it without undressing.  I slept, and sleep was agony, for I dreamt, dreamt that I was a parricide! — I again struck a cursed blow, but I was armed with a murderous weapon — I saw it reek with life-drops from my father's heart — I was seized, tried, condemned; and awoke as the hangman's cord, tightened around my neck, was twisting my features into black and horrible distortion.  In the dark and silent night I longed for morning, and when it dawned I turned shuddering from its light.  What was I to do? home I could not go — no, no, home was no place for me — I could never again encounter the glance of HIS eye, I could not endure to stand before him against whom my arm had been so madly and sinfully uplifted.  A thousand times did I wish that as I had raised it to accomplish my fatal purpose, the Almighty in his wrath had shrunk it into withered impotence, and cast it dangling by my side, a useless excrescence.  One moment's guilt had sealed my fate, and I was now an alien from kindred and friends.  I determined to fly far away from my native town, trusting to chance to decide whether or not I should again re-visit it.  I had but one resource — the stage; and putting in practice my long-cherished scheme, I resolved under a feigned name to become a candidate for theatrical fame.  Bertha, my own — my gentle Bertha, I must leave her too, — leave her without one farewell! for how could I appear before her in her innocent beauty, and tell the tale of my shame unto her unpolluted ears?  It was impossible we should be separated for ever, — but branded as I was, I would depart, leaving no clue by which to trace my destination: nor did I doubt her changeless love would welcome back the sinful wanderer when fate again should bring him to her presence.

    I had heard there was a travelling company of comedians at a small town, about twenty miles distant from my native place, and thither I determined to go in quest of an engagement.  I was scantily provided with money, and carried my wardrobe on my back, so that I thought travelling on foot would be the most eligible method of accomplishing my journey.  I had proceeded about ten miles on my way, and was by this time pretty well lined with dust, and exhausted by the excessive heat, for it was a cloudless summer's day, and the sun was in its meridian, when I was overtaken by a fellow-pedestrian.  He was a man apparently between thirty and forty years of age, possessing a remarkably sallow complexion, features rather prepossessing, though strongly marked; and an eye so bright and restless, that it was hardly possible to name the object on which it glanced, ere it had taken a fresh direction.  His clothes and appearance were of that cast which is usually termed shabby genteel.  He seemed to have gone through no ordinary share of the world's troubles, but he walked along with a light and careless step, twirling about his small bundle and humming a sprightly air, as though he set sorrow at defiance.  He hesitated not to accost me, and after a short conversation, proposed that we should halt at the next inn in order to refresh ourselves.  I willingly acceded to this proposition.  My companion allowed me to defray the expense of our refreshments, observing it would be all as one when we arrived at our next resting-place; and as his spirits became more buoyant each time he applied the tankard to his lips, when we recommenced our journey, the movements of his tongue were as brisk as his steps.  The fellow seemed somewhat of a humorist, and the following dialogue ensued between us.  "You appear, like myself, fond of travelling on foot, and what mode of travelling is more agreeable? especially to a man whose time is in his own hands, and to whom arriving a few hours sooner or later at his place of destination is of no consequence.  Stage-coaches I detest — they are only for your sons of business, your men of trade, who fly from spot to spot with the speed of skyrockets, chasing the phantom wealth, which, when obtained, they cannot appreciate, and want souls to enjoy.  The outside of one of these vehicles is my aversion: if you escape being blinded with dust, you no sooner fix your eyes on a fine prospect, than you are whirled away from it; if you are stationed in the inside, you might as well be incarcerated in a moving dungeon, save that you have the agreeable addition of the eternal rattling of wheels, enlivened ever and anon by the melodious tones of a horn, blown loud enough to split your ears, and the senseless chatter of stupid companions?"

    "Your opinion, I must confess, is at variance with my own; and my being a foot-passenger at the present time is rather a matter of necessity than choice."

    "Oh, I understand — travelling incog.  Mum! you do not wish your route to he traced.  I have often been similarly circumstanced.  God forbid that I should pry into any one's secrets! but may I ask the place of your destination?"

    "Certainly — I am directing my course towards B――, where I may probably stay for a short time."

    "You have friends there, I presume?"

    "No, sir."

    "You are wishful for a change of air?  A journey of pleasure, perhaps?"

    "No, sir."

    "Business, then?"

    "Sir, notwithstanding your entire want of curiosity, for which virtue I am willing to allow you full credit, you seem so anxious to arrive at a knowledge of my affairs that I am perfectly at a loss how to thank you sufficiently for the kind interest you take in my welfare.  However, as I have no motive to induce me to conceal from you the object of the present expedition, I care not if I trust you.  Having heard that there is a company of actors stationed in B――, I am about to apply for an engagement."

    "My dear boy! give me your hand.  You have yet to make your debut — I see it in your countenance.  You are unacquainted with the secrets of the lamp and dagger.  Genius is sometimes hereditary — so is poverty!  I may say I was an actor from my birth — my parents were in the profession — I was cradled in a theatre, and learned to lisp in blank verse.  But, sir, the drama is on the decline, the age of acting is gone by, and the show and glitter of gorgeous spectacles have usurped its place.  Theatrical talent is now a drug in the market, and a sterling comedian, however fortunate, must waste the best of his life and energies in the obscurity of some insignificant provincial theatre — play for a few nights in the metropolis, and then be shelved.  I, sir, have trodden the boards of one of the great theatres; I, sir, have basked for a short period in the favour of a London audience, and then been thrown aside and forgotten.  I have, however, a spirit which cannot tamely submit to neglect, and I therefore preferred poverty and praise to affluence and contempt.  I left my first and last situation in London, to return to my old provincial quarters; and I can safely say, I am more happy now, situated as I am, enjoying to-day, and neither providing nor caring for tomorrow, than I was when in the height of my metropolitan popularity.  I am now hastening to join a company at P――, where I open on Monday next, as Richard.  May I inquire your reasons for wishing to embark in the profession?  From the respectability of your appearance, I should imagine your own inclination and not your necessity dictated the step you are about to take."

    "I am influenced partly by choice, and partly by necessity, but an unfortunate domestic circumstance is the immediate cause of my present journey.  I have long been enamoured of the stage, and having performed with much applause in private, I am wishful to put my abilities to a more impartial test."

    "Ah, my dear sir, I find you are not aware of the difficulties you will have to encounter before becoming a favourite with the public.  Your conceptions may be just, your personal and physical qualifications unexceptionable; but it will require a tedious drudgery in the lower walks of the drama in order to initiate you into what is called the business of the stage, before you will be able to put your conceptions into execution, or move your limbs with ease and freedom.  Private and public acting are distinct things — in the one instance, the audience are alive to all your beauties, and willing to overlook your deficiencies; in the other, they are alive to all your faults, and too often overlook your excellences.  Your salary, too, as a novice, even if you succeed in obtaining a respectable engagement, will barely, with the strictest economy, furnish you a subsistence, and your BENEFITS, if you are hardy enough to take any, will invariably be LOSSES.  Actors are generally censured as leading an idle and dissipated life.  Whatever may be their dissipation, you will find that idleness does not form a part of their character.  You rise at ten — go to rehearsal at eleven — get home again about three or four — your time is fully occupied in studying your parts and dispatching your meals until six o'clock, when you prepare for the night's performance, and away to the theatre, where you remain until twelve or one.  This is the routine of a country actor's life, and I think you will own it is one which does not afford the promise of either idleness or luxury.  But here our roads separate.  I wish you every success in your new pursuit; my name is W―― , and if it can be of the slightest service to you in procuring an engagement, use it without reluctance in whatever way you may think proper.  We shall most likely soon meet again in the course of our peregrinations, and I will then settle with you my share of the reckoning, as cash is at present rather a scarce article with me.  Good bye, my dear fellow! and prosperity attend you."

    After separating from my companion, I made the best of my way to the place of my destination and immediately proceeding to the theatre, I obtained an interview with the manager.  The company not being remarkably full, with some small difficulty I succeeded in procuring an engagement, at a salary barely sufficient to provide me with the common necessaries of life.  It was my only resource, and I was compelled to subscribe to the manager's own terms.  I soon found that public and private acting were indeed distinct things.  I was not permitted to appear in any of my favourite parts, but even in the minor characters I was required to sustain, I had difficulty in acquitting myself either to the satisfaction of the manager or the audience.  My ardour for the profession speedily abated.  The theatre was thinly attended, and we frequently played to almost empty benches.  Salaries began to be less punctually paid.  I will not dwell on the extremities to which I was gradually reduced; suffice it to say, that I was eventually brought to the lowest ebb of poverty and wretchedness, the just reward of my misconduct.  I was one evening seated in my miserable garret, poring over an old newspaper published in my native town, when on looking amongst the deaths, I was startled and awe-struck by an account of my father's decease, who was stated to have died in consequence of the grief occasioned by the mysterious disappearance of his only son.  On examining another part of the paper, I saw an advertisement, earnestly entreating me, if by any chance it should meet my sight, to return to my disconsolate and widowed parent.  I lost no time in complying with this request, and in a few days, after an absence of more than twelve months, the repentant prodigal was again pressed in the arms of his weeping mother.  My father had died in good circumstances, and I found I should have no occasion to engage in business, unless from choice; I accordingly preferred a life of indolence.  It is needless to say that ere long my discourse was of Bertha.  Great God !—she was married!  For sometime I disbelieved the evidence of my senses: the information was, however, too true.  A villain, a fiend, who had once professed himself my friend, had poisoned her father's ears with tales to my disadvantage.  He told her, too, a black and baseless lie, asserting that I had fled with a vile wanton, and when the silence of my parents as to the cause of my absence in some degree sanctioned his story, the wretch preferred his own suit, and being of a wealthy and influential family, he soon ingratiated himself into the old man's favour.  He was received with repulsive coldness by Bertha, but his riches and his flattery had tainted the father's heart, and he peremptorily bid his daughter look on him as her future husband, nor think of the worthless wretch who had left her for another.  Still she held out against the united attacks of her parent and her suitor, until my continued absence, — her despair of my return, and belief in my falsehood, at length made her indifferent as to her fate.  She yielded to the mingled threats and entreaties of her father, and gave her hand where she could not give her heart.

    I need not repeat the many extravagancies I committed on receiving this account of the loss of my first and only love — they were such as to occasion in my mother's mind serious apprehensions for my reason.  I should have been somewhat more reconciled to my fate if Bertha's marriage had been productive of comfort to her.  It was not so.  Her husband, I learned, treated her in the most brutal manner; at times taunting her with her attachment to me, and at others even resorting to blows.  On my return, his brutality increased, and he would not suffer her to stir abroad lest she should meet with me.  Lost as she now was to me for ever, I yet resolved, if possible, to see her once more, to tell her I forgave her, to gaze on the dear features I had loved so, and to bid her a last farewell.  I stationed spies in the neighbourhood of her dwelling, to give me notice if she ventured forth.  Their watchings were in vain — she never left her home.  I had heard that it was her custom to walk in the evening in a particular part of the garden, and I determined to scale the wall and conceal myself until I had an opportunity of accosting her.  At the close of a summer's day I accomplished my purpose, and hiding myself behind a large tree, awaited her coming.  I had not been long in concealment ere I saw her advancing.  Oh, how my frame trembled, and my heart throbbed as I saw that beloved form move gracefully towards me!  Every step, every movement was as familiar to me as my own.  Not a tone, not a look of her's had faded from my memory.  I thought of the many times I had pressed her to my bosom, of the thousand kisses I had imprinted on her lips, on those lips which I had fondly deemed would never be kissed by another.  All but our former love was forgotten.  I sprang forward from my hiding-place.  "Bertha, dearest Bertha!" burst from my lips, and the next moment we were folded in each other's arms.  For an instant, she too had forgotten she was another's — it was only for an instant, and then she tore herself from my embrace, and sank, pale and trembling, on one of the garden-seats.

    "Why is this?" she murmured.  "What do you here?  Begone, begone I conjure you.  This is no place for you.  Wretch that I am — I am married; and I have yielded to your embrace!  Oh, fly, fly, if you value your life; if you value my reputation, fly I entreat you."

    "A moment longer," I exclaimed, "a moment longer, Bertha; it is BUT for a moment.  I have sought you for the last time.  I shall shortly be on my way to a distant land.  I could not depart without one look on her I have loved so long and fervently.  Pardon me, I implore you, for we shall NEVER meet again!"

    "Is it possible," said she, whilst agitation almost choked her utterance, "is it possible they can have deceived me?  Tell me, oh, tell me, did you not fly with a wanton, did you not say, you spurned my love, and jest with a wicked, worthless woman on my credulity?"

    "Never, so help me, Heaven!  It was a lie, a base, a wilful lie, the coinage of his brain, who is your husband; and may my curses light upon his perjured soul ――"

    "Hold, hold! whatever may have been his guilt, remember that he is my husband, and I cannot, must not, hear his name reviled."

    "Oh, Bertha, will you not hear me then — will you not suffer me to justify myself?  As I hope for mercy, I have never loved but you — I have never ceased to think of you.  Through all my wanderings, you have been the star that has cheered the surrounding gloom; your arms have been the haven into which I hoped at last to steer my shattered bark, and find repose and peace.  I returned, and found you wedded to another!  I do not upbraid you, for you have been deceived, betrayed into this hateful union; but, oh, if you knew the many anxious hours, the sleepless nights, I have passed in the hope of this interview, you would not surely bid me quit you thus, without one kind word at parting!"

    As I spoke, I gradually approached nearer to her, until my arms were twined around her frame; and when I concluded, she sank in tears upon my bosom.  Thus for a few moments did we remain, weeping in speechless agony and blending our tears together.  Suddenly she broke from me.  "Hark!" she exclaimed, "did you not hear a footstep?"  I did.  I sprang on my feet, and the destroyer of our happiness stood before me.  At sight of me, his eyes seemed as though they would have burst from their sockets with rage and astonishment.  He shouted for help, and so sudden and unlooked for was his appearance, that, ere I thought of endeavouring to escape, I was seized by his servants.  His every limb shook with passion, and turning, with the countenance of a demon, to his affrighted wife, with one blow he felled her to the earth.  I struggled vainly to free myself from the grasp of those who held me, or I should have taken immediate vengeance on the dastardly oppressor.  "Fellows," said he, to the servants, "drag this man before a justice, and I will follow you.  His purpose was to rob the house, I doubt not.  As I live, the rascal swings for it.  Away with him, I say!"  Surprise at this strange and unexpected speech kept me mute, and casting on him a look of hatred and contempt, I suffered myself to be led away.  I was taken before a neighbouring justice, where the miscreant actually swore that he found me lurking about his grounds, with an intent to enter and rob his dwelling.  The charge was too absurd, and I was liberated.

    This circumstance, and the brutality I had seen him display towards his wife, roused me to madness.  I vowed to sacrifice all for vengeance.  Day after day, night after night, did I wait for an opportunity of meeting my base rival alone.  He was aware of my purpose, and contrived for awhile to shun me.  Chance at length favoured me.  I met him in a lonely spot, as he was one night returning from a revel, flushed with wine.  He started when he beheld me, and endeavoured to pass on, but I effectually opposed his passage.  I had waited my opportunity too long to let it slip now he was in my power.  "Liar! scoundrel! traitor!" I cried, "the hour of retribution hath come at last.  The wrongs and indignities thou hast heaped upon me, shall now be atoned for.  I have watched for thee long.  It has been my nightly prayer thus to confront thee.  I scarce can brook to treat thee as a man, yet I will not play the assassin.  Here," said I, drawing forth a brace of pistols, which I had of late constantly carried about me, "here — take a weapon, for by the God that made us, either thou or I must die before we part."  He attempted to fly.  I seized him with a firm grasp by the throat, and stayed his progress.  He trembled with fear, and his cheeks and lips were pale as ashes.  "Coward!" I articulated, almost suffocated with rage, "take the pistol, and vindicate thy claim to manhood, or, by hell, with one blow will I dash out thy traitorous brains!"  Nought could rouse his dastard soul.  He dropped powerless from my grasp, and fell grovelling at my feet, shrieking in the most abject terms for mercy, and offering to renounce his wife, to quit the country, any thing so that I would but grant him life.  I was deaf to his entreaties, when in a moment, ere I was aware of his intentions, he sprang up from his crouching posture and fled.  Infuriated to desperation at the mean and cowardly traducer, I rushed after him, and flinging at him one of the pistols, I fired the other at his head.  The bullet entered his brain, and he fell DEAD before me!  I stood for several minutes, stupefied and motionless, gazing on the corpse of my enemy, as it lay in the moonlight, drenched and soaking in the pool of his own black blood.  His ghastly eyes were still dilated, and seemed to glare upon me with wild and fearful light.  Never shall I forget their horrid expression.  I fled with the speed of lightning — I knew not where.  I paused from exhaustion; then my dreadful crime rose before me, in its darkest colours, and, ere morning dawned, I had delivered myself up as a murderer.

    My narrative has now reached its close.  I do not seek to justify or palliate my crime, for nothing CAN justify it — blood should pay for blood.  I was tried, and condemned to die; but the disgrace which would fall on my kindred, in the event of my dying on the scaffold, induced me to attempt an escape.  My friends furnished me with the means.  I cared not for myself, yet, for the sake of my poor mother, I used every exertion, and I succeeded.  I am free.  In a short time, a vessel will bear me away in a strange disguise; and I shall end my miserable existence beneath a foreign sky. ― There was one who might perhaps have even rejoiced at the escape of her husband's murderer; but Bertha sleeps in peace — alas! she died broken-hearted!


――――♦――――

 

VISIONS


I dreamt that thou wert a beauteous dame,
     Who liv'd in the days of yore,
And I thought that a myriad of suitors came,
     And knelt thy charms before:
Then I looked on a brilliant tournament,
     And I heard the trumpets' strain,
And a number of gallant knights were bent
     To strive on the martial plain;
There was a laurel crown, and the favour'd knight
     Who bore that prize away,
Might claim the hand of thy beauty bright,
     On the eve of that joyous day;
And I thought that I was a warrior bold,
     And I won the laurel crown —
'Twas dearer to me than a wreath of gold —
     At thy feet I laid it down.

Again I dreamt, and methought that I
     Was a proud young cavalier,
Who liv'd in the glance of his lov'd one's eye,
     And thou wert she most dear;
We dwelt in the sunny land of Spain,
     And a thousand gallants strove
The heart of thy virgin breast to gain,
     Yet thou gav'st to me thy love;
And I came to thy balcony's jutting shade,
     By the light of the moon and star,
And I warbled a pensive serenade,
     To my lightly struck guitar:
I bore thee away in the dreamy night,
     To the holy altar's side,
And there, in thy garments of snowy white,
     I made thee my blessed bride.

Once more I dreamt, and I thought me dead,
     But my spirit left its clay,
As a captive bird its cell, and fled
     Beyond the star-paved way;
And I met thee there in those realms of light,
     With thy shining eyes and hair,
Enrob'd in a halo of glory bright,
     The fairest 'mid angels fair.
We wandered those heavenly scenes among,
     In the shade of celestial groves,
And our voices swell'd in a sacred song,
     And we talk'd of our former loves;
We sigh'd for those friends who remain'd on earth,
     From pleasures so sweet and pure,
And our gladness, that in the soul had birth,
     We knew would for ever endure.

I breathe to thy beauty my true heart's sigh,
     And thou seem'st to my waking gaze,
As fair as thou wert to my dreaming eye
     When a nymph of the olden days;
And I love thee as well as I lov'd in my dream,
     When I thought thee a maiden of Spain,
And sung, in the light of the starry gleam,
     To my sweet guitar a strain. ―
Though the dazzling pageants of vision have fled,
     The star of my dreaming is here,
And though fancy's illusions around it were spread,
     'Tis as fair — to my soul 'tis as dear:
If the spirit of life from my bosom should flee;
     And unto yon far heaven stray,
Though bright as the heaven of my dream it
               should be,
     'Twould avail not if thou wert away.


――――♦――――

 

TO MY FIRST-BORN


Is thy face like thy mother's, my fair child?
Ada! sole daughter of my house and heart.

Byron.


ANOTHER tie is twin'd around my heart,
Another being greet I now with love,
And look into its innocent blue eyes
Until mine own do overflow with tears,
And in my heart spring feelings new and strange.
My first-born babe, — my fair and taintless child!
Thou rainbow that dost tell of sunny hours,
Thou dove of promise to my little ark,
As I do look upon thy features sweet,
I bless thee, and a prayer is on my lips,
That Joy may strew its roses in thy path,
And Happiness attend upon thy steps;
But, as I gaze, a cloud comes o'er my hopes,
Across my soul there flits a crowd of dim
And dark forebodings of thy coming years.
Much do I fear that even as mine own
Thy lot will be, of suffering and of toil;
For I have dwelt amid a sordid race,
And spent my life with profit-seeking men,
Whose heaven was to be rich, whose god was gold;
With men who laugh'd at intellectual wealth ―
To whom the labours of those god-like minds,
Whose thoughts must live through ages yet to
        come,
Were things they cast aside as useless dross.
There have been times — may no such fate be thine
When words indignant have been on my tongue,
But I have forc'd them back upon my heart,
Compell'd by dread necessity's stern law
To bow my head, and clothe my face in smiles,
When my soul writh'd in wordless agony;
And I have almost wish'd I'd ne'er been born,
Or died when like to thee, a sinless babe.
Yet joy, too, hath been mingled with my lot,
And for that joy to God my thanks I give.
Eyes look into mine own with loving light,
Dear voices find an echo in my heart,
And kindred forms give rapture to my sight;
But first of all my blessings do I hold
Thy gentle mother, dearer for thy sake.

Away with mournful presages — if thou
Should'st live to womanhood, and I be spar'd
To guide thee on thy way, thou shalt be taught
To love the lore by mighty minds bequeath'd,
To drink from founts poetic sweetest draughts,
And banquet on the food which is immortal.
The bards and sages of the olden time,
And those which shed around their lustre now,
They shall be thy companions — thou shalt mate
With Shakespeare and with Milton; thou shalt sit,
And converse hold with Wordsworth and with
        Scott;
Byron's proud spirit shall discourse with thine;
And other masters of that glorious art,
Which peoples earth with shapes and thoughts
        divine,
Shall fill thy soul with beauty and delight.
Thou shalt learn with reverence deep to view
The things which God created for us all,
And look on nature with thanksgiving heart,
And mark its mysteries with admiring eyes;
Whether the sun with glory lights up heaven,
Or frowning clouds are lowering o'er the earth;
Whether the stars are thronging round the moon,
Or solemn darkness veils the face of night.
The green earth with its host of smiling flowers,
And trees with dancing leaves and drooping
        fruit;
The winged birds that fill the air with song,
The golden bees that toil with cheerful hum,
The rush of streams whose course is swift as joy,
The blush of morning, and the evening pale —
Thou shalt be taught to look with love on all,
And bless the bounteous Power that made them.

Nor when, with heartfelt bliss, thy gaze hath dwelt
On all which our Creator hath bestow'd
On us his creatures, shalt thou turn away,
And if a homeless wretch do cross thy path,
View him with scornful and contemptuous eye;
But if he ask thy help, him shalt thou aid,
And from thy little store bestow thy mite,
For nature is that wretch's heritage,
As well as thine — thy brother is he too,
And both are equal in the eyes of God,
Who gave the earth to poor and rich alike.

It shall be mine to teach thee, my sweet child,
Not to crouch servilely to pamper'd wealth,
Not to pay homage unto gilded vice,
Nor yet to turn thee from the poor man's prayer,
And spurn the suppliant with a frowning brow,
Merely because he doth not please thine eye;
Look thou into the mind and heart of man,
And pay thy homage to his deeds, not state:
The virtues of the rich do claim our praise,
But virtuous poverty doth claim it more.
Mine then shall be the pleasing task to guide
Thy dawning powers to that which seems most
        good;
To bid thee cherish what most needs thy help;
To view all things with an observant mind;
To torture not the insect on the wing;
Nor kill the harmless reptile at thy feet:—
To bid thee walk erect in virtue's path,
And yet shrink not from stretching forth thy hand,
When guilt repents, to draw the wanderer back.
So shalt thou live, though man perchance may
        frown,
By God himself belov'd, and he will be thy friend.


――――♦――――

 

THE VIOLET AND THE ROSE


"AWAKE my sister!" ― the low words came
    From the bed where a young rose grew ―
"Awake thee, my sister violet,
    And open thine eyes of blue;
Shake the silver dew from thy lovely head,
    And thy perfum'd leaves unfold,
And rejoice like me in the blessed light
    Of the morning's living gold.

"All other fair buds are gazing out,
    And wooing the shining sun,
And I hear the echo of bounding feet,
    By the passing breeze borne on;
Perchance some maiden may wander by,
    And look on our place of rest,
And bear us away from our lowly home,
    To repose on her own fair breast.

"Oh, bliss, to repose on so lovely a couch,
    And be gaz'd on by beauty's eye;
Oh, bliss, to be praised by her gentle voice,
    And be fann'd by her fragrant sigh.
How long must we dwell on the joyless earth?
    How long must we linger here?
Say, do'st thou not pine for a prouder lot?
    Answer me, sister dear."

A faint, sweet sound, like a lute's last note,
    On the morn'ng's stillness broke,
And the air was stirr'd with an odorous breath,
    As the meek young Violet spoke:
"There's a quiet bliss in our own green vale,
    And I love its calm beauty well;
There's a joy, there's a joy in each passing breeze:
    'Tis a home where I love to dwell.

"Our roof is the azure vault of heaven,
    Our food is of dew-drops bright,
The sun sheds its beams on our path by day,
    And the stars are our lamps by night;
We spring up 'mid odour and bloom and light,
    We are woo'd by the minstrel wind—
Here rest then, dear rose, in thine own sweet home,
    For a fairer thou can'st not find."

But the rose still pin'd for a prouder fate,
    And it pin'd not long in vain,
For a maiden, with cheek like its own red leaf,
    Came dancing o'er the plain;
She gaz'd on its hue with admiring eye,
    And she prais'd it with gentle voice,
And plac'd in her bosom of spotless white,
    Oh, then did the rose rejoice.

A few brief hours of light and joy,
    And the flower was all forgot,
And it long'd again for its quiet home,
    For it saw it was heeded not;
It wither'd apace in its high abode,
    Unnotic'd by beauty's eye,
And when the dim shadows of twilight came,
    'Twas cast on its home to die.

The violet still liv'd in its loveliness,
    And the moon and the stars look'd down,
And silver'd the misty veil of dew
    That the even had over it thrown;
The zephyrs woo'd it, and sportively strove
    Its odorous breath to share,
Whilst they turned aside from the faded rose,
    And left it to perish there.

Thus thou may'st learn, from a simple flower,
    A lesson thy course to guide:—
Then cling to the bliss of thy quiet home,
    And dream not of wealth and pride;
And, oh, when ambition would taint thy soul,
    Or thou sighest for pomp and state,
Think thou oft lowly violet's lot,
    And remember the rose's fate.


――――♦――――

 
EARLY RECOLLECTIONS
 


                                            When I was young!
When I was young?—Ah, woeful when!
Ah, for the change 'twixt now and then!
This house of clay not built with hands,
This body that does me grievous wrong,
O'er hill and dale and sounding sands,
How lightly then it flash'd along;
Like those trim boats, unknown of yore,
On winding lakes and rivers wide,
That ask no aid of sail or oar,
That fear no spite of wind or tide:—
Nought cared this body for wind or weather,
When youth and I liv'd in't together.

S. T. COLERIDGE.


IN the whole human race, I believe there are few indeed who do not dwell with pleasure on the recollections of their early days.  Fortune may have smiled upon our more advanced years — knowledge may have been acquired, fame may have been won; yet who would not sacrifice all he has attained and acquired, to return again to the days of his infancy?  They live in the memory with as much vividness as a thing of yesterday; time passes over them in vain — it may destroy all else, but the sports and scenes of childhood ever occupy a green place in the mind — distance has no effect on them — age cannot destroy them — even in our dreams they are with us, a throng of sweet yet sorrowful remembrances.

    If any one absent himself from the place of his birth, for the period of ten or a dozen years, what a change does he perceive on his return, both in the inhabitants and the scenery: — most of the companions of his young days are scattered far and wide, and those that remain have thrown off their wonted habits of gaiety and frankness, and a formal and reserved greeting is all he obtains from them.  A dwelling, unlovely in itself, yet endeared to him as the scene of former mirth and festivity, is now levelled with the dust,

    Never again shall I experience the delight that dwelt in my boyish bosom, when on my annual visit to a country relative; never again shall I feel the unmixed joy I then felt, as I mingled with the haymakers, rolled in the new-mown-hay, or climbed the drooping fruit-tree.  I believe I have somewhere read an anecdote of the celebrated Dr Johnson, who being out with a friend on a rural excursion, and coming to a particular tree, immediately ascended it, and began to swing himself to and fro on one of its boughs; on his companion expressing his surprise at the circumstance, Johnson said it was a tree, on which he had often swung when a boy, and he could not resist the desire of again doing so.  The trundling hoop, the whirling top, the bounding ball; these are all lost to me, but when I have seen a group of light -hearted youngsters engaged in any of these amusements, I must confess I have at times felt such an inclination to join them, that had it not been for very shame, I should have taken a part amongst them.  In after-life we may drink from the "founts of mind;" we may derive a more refined pleasure from books and other sources; but, in the whole round of man's enjoyments he will find none to equal those of his boyhood.  Winter amusements — the war of snow-balls — the accumulated mass which became so ponderous by rolling, that at last it resisted all our efforts to move it — the rude form, fashioned from the white and feathery element, set up at night to frighten the passers-by; the thrilling gratification with which a circle of us gathered round the blazing hearth, and listened to tales of apparitions, haunted halls and haunted chambers, until we fancied every noise a hollow groan; and when we crept fearfully into bed, buried ourselves in the clothes, afraid of encountering the glaring eyes of some ghastly spectre — who would not again experience these things?  With what amazement have I read the wonderful exploits of the renowned "Jack the Giant Killer," or the scarcely less celebrated "Tom Hickathrift;" and how often have I figured to myself the feats I might achieve, if possessed of the invisible coat of the one, or the surprising strength of the other.  These romantic and extravagant notions have faded away like the creations of a dream; it is true more rational ideas now fill their place in the mind, but who does not prefer those boyish fancies to the dull and cold reality that waits on maturer age?

    Often do I revisit the scenes of my childhood — I wander along the banks of the stream, where I used to launch my mimic boats — I seek the leafy recesses, where I loved to read the wild and wondrous tales which were the delight of my youth — I linger amid the woody labyrinths, where it was my wont to loiter in the long summer's day; but the charm which of old haunted those scenes, I can find no more — the spell which was around them, has become powerless — the halo has departed from them.  Everything appears as though it had dwindled into littleness and insignificance; and yet it is not so — the change is with myself.  Is it that the mind has expanded, that the intellect has become enlarged; or is it that my desires are less easily satisfied; that my wishes are more unbounded; that my cravings increase with my years?  Alas! I fear it is man's nature never to be contented with the present; to view with indifference the blessings which are in his power, but ever to be yearning for that which he does not possess.  His memory either recurs to the past, or he paints the future in colours too flattering, and becomes the author of his own disappointments.  We are the children of imagination; the real, the tangible loses its attractions, and on things that are either difficult or impossible to attain, do we fix our affections.  In the early years of life, our desires and wishes are more circumscribed, and, therefore more easily gratified; our wants are provided for; like the flowers, we neither toil nor spin; the future is seldom looked forward to; there is no past to float on the stream of memory, and destroy by contrast the felicity of the present.  Thus it is that the first stages of existence are generally those which yield the most enjoyment; that they are the times to which tend our fondest regrets; and that we so often love to dwell on the bright spring of youth, in the stormy season of our manhood.


――――♦――――

 

THE DESTRUCTION OF SODOM


SHRILL sound the cymbals, and the glad harps ring,
The light foot boundeth, and sweet voices sing,
And eauty's brow is bound with coronal,
And lights are gleaming in the pillar'd hall;
Laugh follows laugh amid the festive throng,
And this the burthen of each swelling song —
"We hold our revel through the dark-hour'd
                  night,
Nor will we sever with the morning's light."

Sin is upon that city, and the brand
Of God's high vengeance, soon will sweep the
                  land;
The eye of brightness, and the lofty brow,
The form of grace, the fair cheek's rose-like glow,
The young and hoary, void of faith or trust,
Blacken'd and sear'd, shall soon be with the dust;
Soon shall th' Almighty, with o'erwhelming flame,
Destroy at once that city's pride and shame.

A crimson glory, spreading o'er the east,
Hath call'd the wakers from the dance and feast;
And now the heavens assume a fearful stain —
Red, deeply-red, as is a battle-plain.
Now like a furnace seems the vaulted sky,
A car of fire each cloud that meets the eye;
A burning shower, like dazzling gold, swift comes,
As though the stars had left their far-off homes.

Shrieks burst from all, and shouts of wild amaze;
The flames descend, and towers and temples blaze;
The mighty roofs of palace and of hall
Upon the heads of crowded victims fall;
Some to the darkling caves of earth repair —
In vain — the wrath of Heaven o'ertakes them there;
Some in the waters seek to find a grave —
The fire consumes them — it hath dried the wave.

The flames have ceas'd, the sky resumes its hue,
The breezes sigh, and falls the evening dew;
But where that city — where its power that shone?
Ask the strewn pillars, ask the crumbling stone!
From fallen relics of its greatness past,
The dull smoke mingles with the rushing blast:
And this the fate of Pride and Sin's abode —
This a dark record of the wrath of God!


――――♦――――

 

NATIVE LAND


WHAT boots it, though the exile strays
    O'er fair and lovely isles,
That bloom beneath the golden rays
    Of sun that ever smiles?
What boots it, though he paces o'er
    A bright and yellow sand?
Still longs he for the parted shore,
    His own dear native land.

What has the warrior's eye in sight?
    What nerves his lifted arm?
What makes him seek the thickest fight,
    As guarded by a charm?
Oh, this thought dwells his heart upon,
    As striving 'gainst the band
Of warlike foes — he rushes on
    To save his native land.

What makes the watchful sailor give,
    When gliding o'er the deep,
One glance unto the star of eve,
    Then turn aside and weep?
'Tis that, when through a lattice stream'd
    Its rays so bright and bland,
A beacon to his love it beam'd,
    In his own native land.

The youth, with glowing fancy, tir'd
    Of the sweet haunts of home,
In search of those which have inspir'd
    His wandering dreams may roam;
Though fragrant beauty deck the spot,
    And slaves await command,
He finds that happiness is not,
    Save in his native land.

The lonely exile sorrowing turns
    Unto his sever'd shore;
The warrior's swelling bosom burns
    To see his hills once more;
The sailor on the dark blue main,
    The youth on foreign strand —
All long to view the scenes again
    Of their own native land.


――――♦――――

 

THE MINSTREL'S FAREWELL
TO HIS LOVE


MY lips are bloodless — tears may speak of grief;
    But grief is transient, when it falls in tears;
My heart is withering, as the dewless leaf —
    Cheek, lip, and brow, — there woe's dark seal
            appears.

The fountain of mine eyes is dry, my soul
    Is as a garden which the blight hath found;
Death and decay amid the flowers have stole,
    Whilst baleful weeds still throw their shade
            around.

The light that lit my life will soon have past —
    Reft of its beauty, then my course will be
As is the bark's that struggles with the blast,
    Without a star to guide it o'er the sea.

Alone, alone!  I soon shall be alone,
    Alone, where crowds of worldly beings press;
The mind will hold communion with none,
    And my sad spirit pine companionless.

We part, and years, long years may intervene,
    Ere I do look on mine own love again;
Yes, viewless space will interpose between
    Those who are bound by strong affection's chain.

My woe can heal not, and as now we part,
    I have one hope, or all would be in vain
To stay the breaking of my lonely heart —
    The one dear hope that we shall meet again.

We meet again! — such hope is theirs who roam,
With yearning souls, across the pathless seas,
Whilst comes the tempest, as they dream of home,
And calls them forth to battle with the breeze.

My swan on life's dark river, my sole joy,
    My star, my dove, my all that's bright or fair,
My fount of bliss, whose waters never cloy,
    My rose, whose perfume I with none would
            share.

The gentle bosom where my brow doth rest,
    Will it e'er pillow other head than mine?
Will those sweet lips by other lips be prest,
    And thy young breast another love enshrine?

Hence with my doubts!   I cannot even brook
    A moment's thought that thou canst know
            a change;
My soul would sicken at thy alter'd look,
    Yet spurn the faith which absence could
            estrange.

My grief is voiceless — one last, wild embrace —
    Words cannot paint my spirit's agony,
To know of thee, I soon shall have no trace,
    Save in the heart — where thou wilt ever be.


――――♦――――

 
THE LEG


I was never remarkable for the beauty of my features, nor the gracefulness of my figure; but I possessed a pair of well-shaped, handsome legs, and with these and the charms of my conversation, I had managed to captivate the heart of the lovely Julia D'Arlincourt.  At least so it was currently reported, and so I myself believed.  There was always a seat reserved for me in her box at the Opera; I used to attend her in her shopping excursions; and sometimes I had the supreme felicity of driving her in my cabriolet.

    I had been supping at a friend's, and the bottle circulated rapidly, for my friend was a noted bon-vivant.  As the wine sunk, our spirits became proportionably elevated.  We agreed each to toast our mistresses.  Of course I drank the health of my adored Julia in a bumper.  I heard a suppressed titter proceed from Herbert Danvers, a conceited young fellow, who had long been an unsuccessful rival of mine.  When it came to his turn to give a pledge, he also named the fair Julia.  I looked fiercely at him, and he answered me with a look as fierce.  All eyes were turned on us, and my next neighbour gave me a nudge, as much as to say "Will you endure this, Vincent?"  I had a somewhat singular oath, which I always made use of in moments of excitation.  I was in the habit of swearing by my right leg, which member I considered to be cast in the very mould of perfection.  I had originally adopted this oath to attract notice to the lower extremities of my person, but custom had rendered it so habitual, that I now used it even when I indulged myself with a little swearing in private.  'By my right leg,' thought I, 'he shall answer this.'  I rose from my chair, and adjusting my neck-cloth the while, to show my nonchalance, I thus accosted him.  "Sir, this is neither place, nor time for quarrel, but by this leg," slightly tapping it, "I swear, that if you do not instantly give up all claims to the lady, whose name has just passed your lips, you shall hear from me."  "Sir," said he, "I care not how soon."  This was enough.  Mr ――, who had sat next me, offered his services as my friend on the occasion, and the harmony of the company was restored.  Myself and rival each affected an hilarity and vivacity of spirits more than usual, as a proof of our unconcern.  The party broke up at a late hour, and we all departed with dizzy heads, stout hearts, and staggering steps.

    My valet awoke me at twelve next morning, and informed me that Mr ――, was waiting my leisure.  I quaked at the recollection of my last night's adventure.  He was ushered in.  "Don't disturb yourself, my dear fellow," he began, "all's settled, all's right; I've arranged it amicably."  "Thank God!" ejaculated I, and my countenance brightened up.  "I knew you would be delighted;" he continued, "Danvers' second appeared wishful the affair should be off."  "No, no," said I, "no flinching — Vincent will never consent to that — they must fight."  And so, my dear sir, we settled it — time, place, and weapons.  My countenance fell alarmingly, and I cursed the busy fellow in my heart most vehemently.  Four o'clock was the hour fixed for the meeting, and I employed the interval in making a few alterations in my will, and arranging my papers.

    A full half-hour before the time, my second made his appearance, for he was a professed duellist, and seemed to enjoy the business exceedingly.  We proceeded to the appointed spot — the signal was given — bang went the pistols — I sprang up three or four feet into the air: alas! that spring was the last I ever made — the bullet had passed through my right leg.  My own shot was near being fatal, for it took off one of my opponents whiskers.  I was conveyed home, and lay for several days in a senseless state.  When I recovered, oh, horror of all horrors!  I was but the portion of a man — the accursed surgeon had amputated my leg; — that beautiful, that treasured limb — my right leg!  I raged, swore, and stamped — no, not stamped; of that I was now incapable.  I execrated the whole tribe of surgeons.  I would rather have died a thousand deaths than have been thus shockingly mutilated: life, I detested it; what was life without my leg?  I vented my wrath on my valet for allowing the awful deed to be perpetrated on his master; but I saw the dog laughing in his sleeve, for he knew I could not kick him.

    My first sensations were of a peculiar nature.  When any of my intimate friends came to condole with me on my calamity, they would sometimes seat themselves on the side of my couch; and I often twitched away my stump, thinking my leg reclined on the place where they were about to be seated, and exclaimed "Take care of my leg!"  These slight intervals of forgetfulness only made me feel my actual loss more grievously, and I muttered "My leg! what leg? — I have no leg!"  At times it seemed as though I felt the twinging of my toes, and involuntarily I put down my hand to the spot they should have occupied, only to find it vacant.  Once, too, when my strength was fast returning, after waking from a refreshing slumber, I sprang out of bed, as had formerly been my custom, entirely forgetting my loss, until I came down at full length on the floor.

    When my health was perfectly restored, I gave orders for a wooden leg.  A wooden leg! oh, insupportable, oh, heavy hour!  It came home, and was buckled to my unfortunate stump.  "Must I endure all this," thought I, "must I drag about this vile piece of timber during the remainder of my existence? must I live on; a very remnant of human nature — an unnatural unity of flesh and timber, a walking scarecrow, a grotesque figure moving along on a cursed lump of wood? — truly I must!"  My favourite amusement, the dance, must be abjured; I was for ever debarred from "ambling in a lady's chamber;" or, rather, I could now do nothing else but amble.  I soliloquized in a style something like Othello's —


                                              "Oh, now, for ever,
Farewell the music's sound! farewell the dance!
Farewell the gay quadrilles, and gallopades
That make existence pleasure, O, farewell!
Farewell the taper foot, and the sweet smile,
The soft voluptuous form, the dear delicious whirl,
The squeaking fiddle! — and all quality,
Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious waltz!
And, oh, ye mortal beauties, whose bright eyes
The immortal Jove's dread lightning's counterfeit.
Farewell!   Alas, my dancing-days are gone!"


    I practised three days in my own room, with my new member, before I ventured abroad; alternately cursing duels, surgeons, and wooden legs.  At length I sallied out, but had not proceeded many paces, ere I was annoyed beyond endurance at the thumping noise which was produced each time that my auxiliary limb descended to the ground.  I was seized with a strange desire, an irresistible inclination to count the sounds that were emitted when my leg came in contact with the pathway.  I strove to divert my attention from this circumstance, yet still every other minute I caught myself numbering my steps.  "One, two, three," and so on.  "Confound the stump," said I, "if it would but move in quietness, I might perchance, enjoy a moment's forgetfulness of my misery; but every step reminds me of my misfortune, each thump increases my unhappiness."  I strode away, without being able to get rid of the habit of reckoning my paces, until, almost unconsciously, I arrived at the abode of Julia D'Arlincourt.  A bright idea struck me.  "I will try her heart — I will put her fidelity to the test;" I said, "if she really loved me, the loss of a limb will not alter her feelings towards me, but she will cherish more tenderly the portion of me which still remains.  If she scorn me, then farewell love, and farewell Julia D'Arlincourt."  I rang the bell, and was shown in.  I began to ascend the lofty staircase, and thought I should never reach the top.  "One, two, three," I commenced — I never knew the quantity of stairs which led to her drawing-room before that day.  I heard, or fancied I heard, a giggling, as the servant announced my approach, and my face became of a crimson hue.  I stumped in, and beheld my rival, Herbert Danvers, the cause of all my sorrows, seated by the fair Julia's side.  She proceeded to condole with me very ceremoniously, on what she termed my "shocking mishap," and ever and anon she turned from me, and cast a languishing glance on Danvers.  My blood boiled tumultuously, and I determined to come to an explanation with her before I quitted the house.  I requested a few minutes private conversation.  She looked at me with evident astonishment, and informed me that whatever communication I had to make, might be made before Danvers, who was entirely in her confidence.  I put on one of my most pathetic looks.  "Is it come to this?" said I, "well so be it then — she whose heart changes in the hour of misfortune, is no fit mate for me.  Adieu then, Julia; I leave you for ever, and may you never have cause to repent of your perfidy."  I rushed from her presence, and the clamour produced by the speed of my exit was greeted with a peal of laughter from my false mistress and my unfeeling rival.  As I was about to descend the stairs, I heard him repeating the following words from one of Hood's ballads:—


"Before you had those timber toes,
     Your love I did allow,
 But then you know you stand upon,
     Another footing now."


"Inhuman villain! " muttered I; and in the hurry of my descent, I made a false step, and was precipitated headlong down stairs.  I was assisted to rise by the servants, who I could plainly perceive, had much ado to keep their countenances.  I darted into the street, and fled along with a velocity, which was absolutely terrific, considering my mutilated condition.  The boisterous merriment of the populace accompanied me in my flight, but it had only the effect of adding to the rapidity of my progress.

    I reached my home.  A large fire was blazing in the first room which I entered.  I wrenched from my stump the infernal wooden leg, and thrust it into the flames.  With a grim delight I beheld it gradually reduced to ashes.  "Perish," I exclaimed, "vile caricature of a leg; never again will I be indebted to thee for support; never will I be doomed to drag about that horrid block of degradation!"  What was next to be done?  I ordered a cork leg, and it was six weeks before I again ventured abroad, when I was enabled to move about something like my former self.  I determined to quit London, and proceed to some distant place, where my misfortune might remain unknown, for I could not endure the thought of living where I might at any time hear my mutilation made the subject of discourse.  I broke up my establishment in town, and having got rid of my servants, travelled alone to the place of my destination, which was situated so far from the metropolis, that I thought I should not stand the slightest chance of meeting with any one who could remind me of my loss.  I took up my abode in a small, but beautiful village in Yorkshire, and was soon on terms of intimacy with the respectable portion of the inhabitants.  At one dwelling I became a frequent visitor.  The members of the family were all unaffected and amiable; and on the heart of a blooming girl, the only daughter of the master of the mansion, I soon began to imagine I had made a favourable impression.  Time passed delightfully, and I was on the point of making a declaration, and asking permission to pay my addresses in form, when I was startled by an unexpected apparition.  I called one day, just to enquire after the health of the family, and pass a pleasant hour in conversation.  The first person whom I beheld seated in the drawing-room, was an individual with whom I had formerly had a slight acquaintance in London.  I shrank from his gaze, as I would have done from the eye of a ravenous beast.  It was in vain: he instantly recognized me, and shook me cordially by the hand; whilst I would as soon have placed my fingers in a cauldron of molten lead as within his grasp.  I, however, pretended to be glad to see him, and we entered into conversation.  I contrived to keep him for awhile on subjects remote from the metropolis; but I found he would not be content until he began to talk of the events which had happened there previously to and since my departure.  He achieved his purpose.  I suppose he thought he had now got the discourse into the only channel which could afford me pleasure, for he rattled away with the utmost volubility scarcely allowing any one else to speak.  I, in the meantime, was sitting in a state of` indescribable torture; every moment expecting him to allude to some circumstance connected with my misfortune.  My expectations were realised.  He was relating the particulars of some affair, the exact date of which he had forgotten.  Suddenly he broke out — "Hum, ah, let me see! yes, by Jove, so it was!  I now remember perfectly — it happened just previously to the time when Mr Vincent met with his unfortunate accident."  "Accident—what accident?" was repeated by several voices.  "Accident — oh, why his leg, to be sure — the time when he lost his leg."  I waited for no more.  I effected an instantaneous retreat from the house.  It was my last visit, and on the morrow I bid adieu to the village for ever.

    Several years have now passed since the period when I fought the fatal duel; I have grown callous to my loss, and can even laugh when I think of the over-sensitiveness which formerly tormented me.  I have again become a resident in the metropolis; and have the consolation of thinking that the sacrifice of a limb in all probability prevented me from sacrificing my fortune.  Julia D'Arlincourt became the wife of Danvers, and after a short career of extravagance and dissipation, he ended this existence in the King's Bench.  I often meet my old flame, and have had sufficient proof that any proposals which might now be made by me, would be thankfully accepted; but, thank God, I am not to be tempted, and can take a warning from the fate of another.  So it is, that what at the time seems our greatest calamity, is often destined to prove our greatest good.  As for my new leg — I can at least console myself with the thought that my right foot is never troubled with corns, and that the shoe cannot pinch in that quarter.


――――♦――――


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