Page images

With hesitating step, at last,
The embattled portal-arch he pass'd,
Whose ponderous gate and massy bar
Had oft rollid back the tide of war,
But never closed the iron door
Against the desolate and poor.
The duchess marked his weary pace,
His timid mien, and reverend face,
And bade her page the menials tell
That they should tend the old man well:
For she had known adversity,
Though born in such a high degree:
In pride of power, in beauty's bloom,
Had wept o'er Monmouth's bloody tomb!

When kindness had his wants supplied,
And the old man was gratified,
Began to rise his minstrel pride,
And, would the noble duchess deign
To listen to an old man's strain ?
Though stiff his hand, his voice though weak,
He thought e’en yet, the sooth to speak,
That, if she loved the harp to hear,
He could make music to her ear.

The humble boon was soon obtained;
The aged minstrel audience gained.
But, when he reached the room of state
Where she, with all her ladies, sate,
Perchance he wished his boon denied
For when to tune his harp he tried,
His trembling hand had lost the ease
Which marks security to please :

And scenes long past of joy and pain,
Came wildering o'er his aged brain-
He tried to tune his harp in vain!
The pitying duchess praised its chime,
And gave him heart, and gave him time,
Till every string's according glee
Was blended into harmony.
And then he said he would full fain
He could recall an ancient strain
He never thought to sing again.
It was not framed for village churls,
But for high names and mighty earls;
He had played it to King Charles the Good,
When he kept court at Holyrood;
And much he wished, yet feared, to try
The long-forgotten melody.
Amid the strings his fingers stray'd,
And an uncertain warbling made,
And oft he shook his hoary head.
But when he caught the measure wild,
The old man raised his face, and smiled,
And lighten'd up his faded eye
With all a poet's ecstasy.
In varying cadence, soft or strong,
He swept the sounding chords along:
The present scene, the future lot,
His toils, his wants, were all forgot.
Cold diffidence, and age's frost,
In the full tide of song were lost;
Each blank in faithless memory void
The poet's glowing thought supplied ;
And, while his harp responsive rung,
'Twas thus the LATEST MINSTREL sung.

In varying cadence, soft or strong,
He swept the sounding chords along :
The present scene, the future lot,
His toils, his wants, were all forgot :
Cold diffidence, and age's frost,
In the full tide of song were lost ;
Each blank in faithless memory void
The poet's glowing thought supplied ;
And, while his harp responsive rung,
'Twas thus the Latest Minstrel sung.




On the fifth day of the moon, which, according to the custom of my forefathers, I always keep holy, having washed myself, and offered up my morning devotions, I ascended the high hills of Bagdad, in order to pass the rest of the day in meditation and prayer. As I was here airing myself on the tops of the mountains, I fell into a profound contemplation on the vanity of human life; and, passing from one thought to another, “Surely,” said I, “man is but a shadow, and life a dream.' Whilst I was thus musing, I cast my eyes towards the summit of a rock that was not far from me, when I discovered one in the habit of a shepherd, with a little musical instrument in his hand. As I looked upon him he applied it to his lips, and began to play upon it. The sound of it was exceeding sweet, and wrought into a variety of tunes that were inexpressibly melodious, and altogether different from anything I had ever heard; they put me in mind of those heavenly airs that are played to the departed souls of good


men upon their first arrival in Paradise, to wear out the impressions of the last agonies, and qualify them for the pleasures of that happy place. My heart melted away in sweet raptures.

I bad been often told that the rock before me was the haunt of a genius, and that several had been entertained with that music who had passed by it, but never heard that the musician had before made himself visible. When he had raised my thoughts by those transporting airs which he played, to taste the pleasures of his conversation, as I looked like one astonished, he beckoned to me, and, by the waving of his hand, directed me to approach the spot where he sat. I drew near with that reverence which is due to a superior nature, and as my heart was entirely subdued by the captivating strains I had heard, I fell down at his feet and wept. The genius smiled upon me with a look of compassion and affability that familiarised him to my imagination, and at once dispelled all the fears and apprehensions with which I approached him. He lifted me from the ground, and, taking me by the hand, “ Mirza," said he, I have heard thee in thy soliloquies; follow me.”

He then led me to the highest pinnacle of the rock, and placing me on top of it, “ Cast thine eyes eastward,” said he, “ and tell me what thou seest.” “ I see,” said I, “ a huge valley, and a prodigious tide of water rolling through it." “The valley that thou seest," said he, “is the Vale of Misery; and the tide of water that thou seest is the great Tide of Eternity.” “What is the reason," said I,“ that the tide I see rises out of a thick, mist at one end, and again loses itself in a thick mist at the other?What thou seest,” said he," is that portion of eternity which is called Time, measured out by the sun, and reaching from the beginning of the world to its consummation. Examine now,"

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


“I see a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

said he,“ this sea that is bounded with darkness at both ends, and tell me what thou discoverest in it?" bridge,” said I,“ standing in the midst of the tide.” “The bridge thou seest,” said he, “is human life; consider it attentively." Upon a more leisurely survey of it, I found that it consisted of threescore and ten entire arches, with several broken arches, which, added to those that were entire, made


the number to about a hundred. As I was counting the arches, the genius told me that the bridge consisted at first of a thousand arches, but that a great flood swept away the rest, and left the bridge in the ruinous condition in which I now beheld it. “But tell me further,” said he,“ what thou discoverest on it?" “I see multitudes of people passing over it,” said I, “and a black cloud hanging at each end of it.” As I looked more attentively, I saw several of the passengers dropping through the bridge into the great tide that flowed underneath it; and, upon further examination, perceived there were innumerable trap-doors that lay concealed in the bridge, which the passengers no sooner trod upon but they fell through them into the tide, and immediately disappeared. These hidden pitfalls were set very thick at the entrance to the bridge, so that throngs of people no sooner broke through the cloud but many of them fell into them. They grew thinner towards the middle, but multiplied and laid closer together towards the end of the arches that were entire. There were indeed, some persons, but their number was very small, who continued a kind of hobbling march on the broken arches, but fell through one after another, being quite tired and spent with so long a walk.

I passed some time in the contemplation of this wonderful structure, and the great variety of objects which it presented. My heart was filled with a deep melancholy to see


« PreviousContinue »