« PreviousContinue »
his company were glad as gardens, through their most awful umbrage; and there was beauty in the shadows of the old oaks. Cataracts—in whose lonesome thunder, as it pealed into those pitchy pools, we durst not, by ourselves, have faced the spray-in his presence, dinned with a merry music in the desert, and cheerful was the thin mist they cast sparkling up into the air. Too severe for our uncompanied spirit, then easily overcome with awe, was the solitude of those remote inland lochs. But as we walked with him along the winding shores, how passing sweet the calm of both blue depths—how magnificent the white-crested waves, tumbling beneath the black thunder cloud! More beautiful, because our eyes gazed on it along with his, at the beginning or the ending of some sudden storm, the Apparition of the Rainbow. Grander in its wildness, that seemed to sweep at once all the swinging and stooping woods to our ear, because his too listened, the concerto by winds and waves played at midnight when not one star was in the sky. With him we first followed the Falcon in her flight-he showed us on the Echo-cliff the Eagle's eyry. To the thicket he led us, where lay couched the lovely-spotted Doe, or showed us the mild-eyed creature browsing on the glade with her two fawns at her side. But for him we should not then have seen the antlers of the red-deer, for the forest was indeed a most savage place, and haunted-such was the superstition at which those who scorned it trembled-haunted by the ghost of a huntsman whom a jealous rival had murdered as he stooped, after the chase, at a little mountain well that ever since oozed out blood. What converse passed between us two in all those still shadowy solitudes! Into what ,depths of human nature did he teach our wondering eyes to look down! Oh! what was to become of us, ie sometimes thought in sadness that all at once made our spirits sinklike a lark falling suddenly to earth, struck by the fear of some unwonted shadow from above—what was to become of us when the mandate should arrive for him to leave the Manse for ever, and sail away in a ship to India never more to return! Ever as that dreaded day drew nearer, more frequent was the haze in our eyes; and in our blindness we knew not that such tears ought to have been far more rueful still, for that he then lay under orders for a longer and more lamentable voyage-a voyage over a narrow strait to the eternal shore. All—all at once he drooped : on one fatal morning the dread decay began—with no forewarning, the springs on which his being had so lightly, so proudly, so grandly moved-gave way. Between one sabbath and another his bright eyes darkened—and while all the people were assembled at the sacrament, the soul of Emilius Godfrey soared up to heaven. It was indeed a dreadful death; serene and sainted though it were—and not a hall-not a house—not a hut-not a shieling within all the circle of those wide mountains, that did not, on that night, mourn as if it had lost a son. All the vast parish attended his funeral-Lowlanders and Highlanders, in their own garb of grief. And have time and tempest now blackened the white marble of that monument—is that inscription now hard to be read—the name of Emilius Godfrey in green obliteration—nor haply one surviving who ever saw the light of the countenance of him there interred ! Forgotten as if he had never been! for few were that glorious orphan's kindred—and they lived in a foreign land—forgotten but by one heart; faithful through all the chances and changes of this restless world ! And therein enshrined, amongst all its holiest remembrances, shall be the image of Emilius Godfrey, till it too, like his, shall be but dust and ashes!
Oh! blame not boys for so soon forgetting one another in absence or in death. Yet forgetting is not just the very word; call it rather a reconcilement to doom and destiny-in thus obeying a benign law of nature that soon streams sunshine over the shadows of the grave. Not otherwise could all the ongoings of this world be continued. The nascent spirit outgrows much in which it once found all delight; and thoughts delightful still, thoughts of the faces and the voices of the dead, perish not, lying sometimes in slumber-sometimes in sleep. It belongs not to the blessed season and genius of youth to hug to its heart useless and unavailing griefs. Images of the well-beloved, when they themselves are in the mould, come and go, no unfrequent visitants, through the meditative hush of solitude. But our main business-our prime joys and our prime sorrows ought to be—must be with the living. Duty demands it; and love, who would pine to death over the bones of the dead, soon fastens upon other objects with eyes and voices to smile and whisper an answer to all his vows. So was it with us. Ere the midsummer sun had withered the flowers that spring had sprinkled over our Godfrey's grave, youth vindicated its own right to happiness; and we felt that we did wrong to visit, too often, that corner of the kirkyard. No fears had we of any too oblivious tendencies; in our dreams we saw him-most often all alive as ever-sometimes a phantom away from that grave! If the morning light was frequently hard to be endured, bursting suddenly upon us along with the feeling that he was dead, it more frequently cheered and gladdened us with resignation, and sent us forth a fit playmate to the dawn that rang with all sounds of joy. Again we found ourselves angling down the river, or along the loch-once more following the flight of the
ordinadora the Face on the Falcon along the woods—eying the Eagle on the Echo-cliff. Days
sous passed by, without so much as one thought of Emilius Godfrey pursuing our pastime with all our passion, reading our books intently just as if he had never been! But often and often, too, we thought we saw his figure coming down the hill straight towards us—his very figure-we could not be deceived—but the love-raised ghost disappeared on a sudden—the grief-woven spectre melted into the mist. The strength that formerly had come from his counsels, now began to grow up of itself within our own unassisted being. The world of nature became more our own, moulded and modified by all our own feelings and fancies; and with a bolder and more original eye we saw the smoke from the sprinkled cottages, and saw the faces of the mountaineers on their way to their work, or coming and going to the house of God.
209.-CLOUDS AND WINDS. The season when Autumn is sliding into Winter—the season of alternate sunshine and mist, of blue sky and cloud-has called forth some of the most beautiful imagery of our highest poets. What a charming ode is that of Shelley's . To the wild West Wind
0, wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Thou on whose stream, 'mid the steep sky's commotion,
Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
IV. If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear; If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee; A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share The impulse of thy strength, only less free Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even I were as in my boyhood, and could be The comrade of thy wanderings over heaven, As then, when to outstrip the skyey speed Scarce seemed a vision, I would ne'er have striven As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need. Oh! lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud ! I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed ! A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed One too, like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.
Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is;