« PreviousContinue »
God, part of the fifteenth Psalm ;" and he read, with a tremulous and broken voice, those beautiful verses,
“ Within thy tabernacle, Lord,
Who shall abide with thee?
Who shall a dweller be?
And worketh righteousness,
So doth he truth express.” Ere the psalm was yet over, the door was opened, and a tall fine-looking man entered, but with a lowering and dark countenance, seemingly in sorrow, in misery, and remorse. Agitated, confounded, and awe-struck by the melancholy and dirge-like music, he sat down on a chair, and looked with a ghastly face towards his father's death-bed. When the psalm ceased, the Elder said with a solemn voice, “ My son—thou art come in time to receive thy father's blessing. May the remembrance of what will happen in this room, before the morning again shine over the Hazel-glen, win thee from the error of thy ways ! Thou art here to witness the mercy of thy God and thy Saviour, whom thou hast forgotten."
The Minister looked, if not with a stern, yet with an upbraiding countenance, on the young man, who had not recovered his speech, and said, “William ! for three years past your
shadow has not darkened the door of the house of God. They who fear not the thunder, may tremble at the still small voice—now is the hour for repentance—that your father's spirit may carry up to Heaven tidings of a contrite soul ved from
of sinners !” The young man, with much effort, advanced to the bedside, and at last found voice to say, “ Father-I am not without affections of nature and I hurried home the moment I heard that the minister had been seen riding towards our house. I hope that you will yet recover, and; if I have ever made you unhappy, I ask your forgiveness—for though I may not think as you do on matters of religion, I have a human heart. Father! I may have been unkind, but I am not cruel. I ask your
“ Come near to me, William ; kneel down by the bedside, and let hand feel the head of
beloved son—for blindness is coming fast upon me. Thou wert my first born, and thou art my only living son. All thy brothers and sisters are lying
in the church-yard, beside her whose sweet face thine own, William, did once so much resemble. Long wert thou the joy, the pride of my soul,—aye, too much the pride, for there was not in all the parish such a man, such a son, as my own Wil. liam. If thy heart has since been changed, God may inspire it again with right thoughts. I have sorely wept for thee - ay, William, when there was none near me-eren as David wept for Absalom-for thee, my son, my son!"
A long deep groan was the only reply; but the whole body of the kneeling man was convulsed ; and it was easy to see his suffering, his contrition, his remorse, and his despair. The Pastor said, with a sterner voice and austerer countenance than were natural to him, “ Know you whose hand is now lying on your rebellious head? But what signifies the word father to him who has denied God, the Father of us all ?” “Oh! press him not too hardly,” said his weeping wife, coming forward from a dark corner of the room, where she tried to conceal herself in grief, fear, and shame. Spare, oh! spare my husband_he has ever been kind to me;" and with that she knelt down beside him, with her long soft white arms mournfully, and affectionately laid across his neck. “Go thou, likewise, my sweet little Jamie,” said the Elder, “ go even out of my bosom, and kneel down beside thy father and thy mother, so that I may bless
you all at once, and with one yearning prayer.” The child did as the solemn voice commanded, and knelt down somewhat timidly by his father's side; nor did the unhappy man decline encircling with his arm, the child too much neglected, but still dear to him as his own blood, in spite of the deadening and debasing influence of infidelity.
“ Put the word of God into the hands of my son, and let him read aloud to his dying father the 25th, 26th, and 27th verses of the eleventh chapter of the Gospel according to St. John." The Pastor went up to the kneelers, and, with a voice of pity, condolence, and pardon, said, “ There was a time when none, William, could read the Scriptures better than couldst thoucan it be that the son of my friend hath forgotten the lessons of his youth?” He had not forgotten them there was no need of the repentant sinner to lift up his eyes from the bed-side. The sacred stream of the Gospel had worn a channel in his heart, and the waters were again flowing. With a choked voice he said, “ Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life: And whosoever liveth, and believeth in me, shall never
die Believest thou this ? She said unto him, Yea, Lord : I believe thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.”
“ That is not an unbeliever's voice,” said the dying man, triumphantly; “nor, William, hast thou an unbeliever's heart. Say that thou believest in what thou hast now read, and thy father will die happy !" I do believe; and as thou forgivest me, so may I be forgiven by my Father who is in heaven.” The Elder seemed like a person suddenly inspired with a new life. His faded eyes kindled—his pale cheeks glowed—his palsied hands seemed to wax strong — and his voice was clear as that of manhood in its prime. “ Into thy bands, O God! I commit my spirit ;” and so saying, he gently sunk back on his pillow; and I thought I heard a sigh. — There was then a long deep silence, and the father, the mother, and the child, rose from their knees. The eyes of us all were turned towards the white placid face of the figure now stretched in everlasting rest ; and without lamentations, save the silent lamentations of the resigned soul, we stood around the DEATH-BED OF THE ELDER.
EXTRACT FROM THE TRAGEDY OF HAMLET.
Ham. Then is dooms-day near: But your news is not true. Let me question more in particular: What have you, my good friends, deserved at the hands of fortune, that she sends prison hither? Guil. Prison,
lord ! Ham. Denmark's a prison. Ros. Then is the world one.
Ham. A goodly one ; in which there are many confines, wards, and dungeons ; Denmark being one of the worst.
Ros. We think not so, my lord.
Ham. Why, then, 'tis none to you ; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me it is a prison.
Ros. Why, then, your ambition makes it one; 'tis too narrow for your mind.
Ham. O! I could be bounded in a nut-shell, and count myself a king of infinite space; were it not that I have bad dreams.
Guil. Which dreams, indeed, are ambition; for the very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.
Ham. A dream itself is but a shadow.
Ros. Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light a quality, that it is but a shadow's shadow.
Ham. Then are our beggars, bodies; and our monarchs, and outstretched heroes, the beggars’ shadows: Shall we to the court ? for, by my say, I cannot reason.
Ros. Guil. We'll wait upon you.
Ham. No such matter: I will not sort you with the rest of my servants ; for, to speak to you like an honest man, I am most dreadfally attended. But, in the beaten way of friendship, what make you at Elsinore ?
Ros. To visit you, my lord; no other occasion.
Ham. Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thanks; but I hank you : and sure, dear friends, my thanks are too dear. Were you not sent for ? Is it your own inclining? Is it a free visitation ? Come, come; deal justly with me: come, come; nay, speak.
Guil. What should we say, my lord ?
You were sent for ; and there is a kind of confession in your looks, which your modesties have not craft enough to colour : I know, the good king and queen have sent for
you. Ros. To what end, my lord ? Ham. That you must teach me.
But let me conjure you, by the rights of our fellowship, by the consonancy of our youth, by the obligation of our ever-preserved love, and, by what more dear a better proposer could charge you withal, be even and direct with me, whether you were sent for, or no?
Guil. My lord, we were sent for.
Ham. I will tell you why ; so shall my anticipation prevent your discovery, and your secrecy to the king and queen moult no feather. I have of late, (but, wherefore, I know not,) lost all my mirth, foregone all custom of exercises : and, indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition, that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me, than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is man ! How noble in reason ! how infinite in faculties ! in form, and moving, how express and admirable ! in action, how like an angel ! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world ! the paragon of animals ! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust ? man delights not me, nor woman neither ; though, by your smiling, you seem to say so.
DEATH OF LORD BYRON.*
SIR WALTER Scott. Amidst the general calmness of the political atmosphere, we have been stunned, from another quarter, by one of those death-notes, which are pealed at intervals as from an Archangel's trumpet, to awaken the soul of a whole people at once. Lord Byron, who has so long and so amply filled the highest place in the public eye, has shared the lot of humanity. His lordship died at Missolonghi on the 19th of April. That mighty genius, which walked amongst men as something superior to ordinary mortality, and whose powers were beheld with wonder, and something approaching to terror, (as if we knew not whether they were of good or of evil,) is laid as soundly to rest as the poor peasant whose ideas never went beyond his daily task. The voice of just blame, and of malignant censure, are at once silenced ; and we feel almost as if the great luminary of Heaven had suddenly disappeared from the sky, at the moment when every telescope was levelled for the examination of the spots which dimmed its brightness. It is not now the question, what were Byron's faults, — what his mistakes ; but, how is the blank which he has left in British literature to be filled up ? Not, we fear, in one generation which, among many highly gifted persons, has produced none who approached Byron in originality, the first attribute of genius. Only thirty-seven years old—so much already done for immortality-so much time remaining, as it seemed to us short
* This brilliant genius was taken from us in his 37th year (April, 1824).