MacMillan's Reading Books
Part 4 out of 6
The troops exulting sat in order round,
And beaming fires illumined all the ground.
As when the moon, refulgent lamp of night!
O'er heaven's clear azure spreads her sacred light,
When not a breath disturbs the deep serene,
And not a cloud o'ercasts the solemn scene;
Around her throne the vivid planets roll,
And stars unnumbered gild the glowing pole;
O'er the dark trees a yellower verdure shed,
And tip with silver every mountain's head.
Then shine the vales, the rocks in prospect rise,
A flood of glory bursts from all the skies:
The conscious swains, rejoicing in the sight,
Eye the blue vault, and bless the useful light.
So many flames before proud Ilion blaze,
And lighten glimmering Xanthus with their rays:
The long reflections of the distant fires
Gleam on the walls, and tremble on the spires.
A thousand piles the dusky horrors gild,
And shoot a shady lustre o'er the field.
Full fifty guards each flaming pile attend,
Whose umbered arms, by fits, thick flashes send,
Loud neigh the coursers o'er their heaps of corn,
And ardent warriors wait the rising morn.
[Notes:_Rest from battle_. This is part of Pope's translation of the
Iliad of Homer (Book 8, l. 605).
_Stamander_. One of the rivers in the neighbourhood of Troy.
_Dardan bands_. Trojan lands. Dardanus was the mythical ancestor of the
_Generous aids_ = allies.
_From age inglorious and black death secure_ = safe from inglorious age
and from black death.
_Hecatombs_. Sacrifices of 100 oxen.
_Ungrateful offering_ = unpleasing offering.
_Xanthus_. The other river in the neighbourhood of Troy.
_Umbered_ = thrown into shadow, and glimmering in the darkness.]
* * * * *
Aristides at first was loved and respected for his surname of _the
Just_, and afterwards envied as much; the latter, chiefly by the
management of Themistocles, who gave it out among the people that
Aristides had abolished the courts of judicature, by drawing the
arbitration of all causes to himself, and so was insensibly gaining
sovereign power, though without guards and the other ensigns of it. The
people, elevated with the late victory at Marathon, thought themselves
capable of everything, and the highest respect little enough for them.
Uneasy, therefore, at finding any one citizen rose to such extraordinary
honour and distinction, they assembled at Athens from all the towns in
Attica, and banished Aristides by the Ostracism; disguising their
envy of his character under the specious pretence of guarding against
For the _Ostracism_ was not a punishment for crimes and misdemeanours,
but was very decently called an humbling and lessening of some excessive
influence and power. In reality it was a mild gratification of envy; for
by this means, whoever was offended at the growing greatness of another,
discharged his spleen, not in anything cruel or inhuman, but only in
voting a ten years' banishment. But when it once began to fall upon
mean and profligate persons, it was for ever after entirely laid aside;
Hyperbolus being the last that was exiled by it.
The reason of its turning upon such a wretch was this. Alcibiades and
Nicias, who were persons of the greatest interest in Athens, had each
his party; but perceiving that the people were going to proceed to
the Ostracism, and that one of them was likely to suffer by it, they
consulted together, and joining interests, caused it to fall upon
Hyperbolus. Hereupon the people, full of indignation at finding this
kind of punishment dishonoured and turned into ridicule, abolished it
The Ostracism (to give a summary account of it) was conducted in the
following manner. Every citizen took a piece of a broken pot, or a
shell, on which he wrote the name of the person he wanted to have
banished, and carried it to a part of the market-place that was enclosed
with wooden rails. The magistrates then counted the number of the
shells; and if it amounted not to six thousand, the Ostracism stood for
nothing: if it did, they sorted the shells, and the person whose name
was found on the greatest number, was declared an exile for ten years,
but with permission to enjoy his estate.
At the time that Aristides was banished, when the people were inscribing
the names on the shells, it is reported that an illiterate burgher came
to Aristides, whom he took for some ordinary person, and, giving him his
shell, desired him to write Aristides upon it. The good man, surprised
at the adventure, asked him "Whether Aristides had ever injured him?"
"No," said he, "nor do I even know him; but it vexes me to hear him
everywhere called _the Just_." Aristides made no answer, but took the
shell, and having written his own name upon it, returned it to the man.
When he quitted Athens, he lifted up his hands towards heaven, and,
agreeably to his character, made a prayer, very different from that of
Achilles; namely, "That the people of Athens might never see the day
which should force them to remember Aristides."
[Notes: _Aristides_. A prominent citizen of Athens (about the year 490
B.C.) opposed to the more advanced policy of Themistocles, who wished to
make the city rely entirely upon her naval power. He was ostracised in
489, but afterwards restored.
_Marathon_. The victory gained over the Persian invaders, 490 B.C.]
* * * * *
THE VENERABLE BEDE.
Baeda--the venerable Bede as later times styled him--was born about ten
years after the Synod of Whitby, beneath the shade of a great abbey
which Benedict Biscop was rearing by the mouth of the Wear. His youth
was trained and his long tranquil life was wholly spent in an offshoot
of Benedict's house which was founded by his scholar Ceolfrid.
Baeda never stirred from Jarrow. "I spent my whole life in the same
monastery," he says, "and while attentive to the rule of my order and
the service of the Church, my constant pleasure lay in learning, or
teaching, or writing." The words sketch for us a scholar's life, the
more touching in its simplicity that it is the life of the first great
English scholar. The quiet grandeur of a life consecrated to knowledge,
the tranquil pleasure that lies in learning and teaching and writing,
dawned for Englishmen in the story of Baeda. While still young, he
became teacher, and six hundred monks, besides strangers that flocked
thither for instruction, formed his school of Jarrow. It is hard to
imagine how, among the toils of the schoolmaster and the duties of the
monk, Baeda could have found time for the composition of the numerous
works that made his name famous in the West. But materials for study had
accumulated in Northumbria through the journeys of Wilfrith and Benedict
Biscop, and Archbishop Eegberht was forming the first English library at
York. The tradition of the older Irish teachers still lingered to direct
the young scholar into that path of scriptural interpretation to which
he chiefly owed his fame. Greek, a rare accomplishment in the West,
came to him from the school which the Greek Archbishop Theodore founded
beneath the walls of Canterbury. His skill in the ecclesiastical chaunt
was derived from a Roman cantor whom Pope Vilalian sent in the train of
Benedict Biscop. Little by little the young scholar thus made himself
master of the whole range of the science of his time; he became,
as Burke rightly styled him, "the father of English learning." The
tradition of the older classic culture was first revived for England
in his quotations of Plato and Aristotle, of Seneca and Cicero, of
Lucretius and Ovid. Virgil cast over him the same spell that he cast
over Dante; verses from the. Aeneid break his narratives of martyrdoms,
and the disciple ventures on the track of the great master in a little
eclogue descriptive of the approach of spring. His work was done with
small aid from others. "I am my own secretary," he writes; "I make my
own notes. I am my own librarian." But forty-five works remained after
his death to attest his prodigious industry. In his own eyes and
those of his contemporaries, the most important among these were the
commentaries and homilies upon various books of the Bible which he had
drawn from the writings of the Fathers. But he was far from confining
himself to theology. In treatises compiled as text-books for his
scholars, Baeda threw together all that the world had then accumulated
in astronomy and meteorology, in physics and music, in philosophy,
grammar, rhetoric, arithmetic, medicine. But the encyclopaedic character
of his researches left him in heart a simple Englishman. He loved his
own English tongue, he was skilled in English song, his last work was a
translation into English of the gospel of St. John, and almost the last
words that broke from his lips were some English rhymes upon death.
But the noblest proof of his love of England lies in the work which
immortalizes his name. In his 'Ecclesiastical History of the English
Nation,' Baeda was at once the founder of medieval history and the first
English historian. All that we really know of the century and a half
that follows the landing of Augustine, we know from him. Wherever his
own personal observation extended, the story is told with admirable
detail and force. He is hardly less full or accurate in the portions
which he owed to his Kentish friends, Alewine and Nothelm. What he owed
to no informant was his own exquisite faculty of story-telling, and yet
no story of his own telling is so touching as the story of his death.
Two weeks before the Easter of 735 the old man was seized with an
extreme weakness and loss of breath. He still preserved, however, his
usual pleasantness and gay good-humour, and in spite of prolonged
sleeplessness continued his lectures to the pupils about him. Verses
of his own English tongue broke from time to time from the master's
lip--rude rhymes that told how before the "need-fare," Death's stern
"must-go," none can enough bethink him what is to be his doom for good
or ill. The tears of Baeda's scholars mingled with his song. "We never
read without weeping," writes one of then. So the days rolled on to
Ascension-tide, and still master and pupils toiled at their work, for
Baeda longed to bring to an end his version of St. John's Gospel into
the English tongue, and his extracts from Bishop Isidore. "I don't want
my boys to read a lie," he answered those who would have had him
rest, "or to work to no purpose, after I am gone." A few days before
Ascension-tide his sickness grew upon him, but he spent the whole day in
teaching, only saying cheerfully to his scholars, "Learn with what speed
you may; I know not how long I may last." The dawn broke on another
sleepless night, and again the old man called his scholars round him and
bade them write. "There is still a chapter wanting," said the scribe, as
the morning drew on, "and it is hard for thee to question thyself any
longer." "It is easily done," said Baeda; "take thy pen and write
quickly." Amid tears and farewells the day wore on to eventide. "There
is yet one sentence unwritten, dear master," said the boy. "Write it
quickly," bade the dying man. "It is finished now," said the little
scribe at last. "You speak truth," said the master; "all is finished
now." Placed upon the pavement, his head supported in his scholar's
arms, his face turned to the spot where he was wont to pray, Baeda
chaunted the solemn "Glory to God." As his voice reached the close of
his song, he passed quietly away.
J. R. GREEN.
[Note: _Baeda_. The father of literature and learning in England
* * * * *
THE DEATH OF ANSELM.
Anselm's life was drawing to its close. The re-enactment and
confirmation by the authority of the great Whitsuntide Assembly of the
canons of the Synod of London against clerical marriage, and a dispute
with two of the Northern bishops--his old friend Ralph Flambard, and the
archbishop-elect of York, who, apparently reckoning on Anselm's age and
bad health, was scheming to evade the odious obligation of acknowledging
the paramount claims of the see of Canterbury--were all that marked the
last year of his life. A little more than a year before his own death,
he had to bury his old and faithful friend--a friend first in the
cloister of Bee, and then in the troubled days of his English
primacy--the great builder, Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester. Anselm's last
days shall be told in the words of one who had the best right to record
the end of him whom he had loved so simply and so loyally--his attendant
"During these events (of the last two years of his life) he wrote a
treatise 'Concerning the Agreement of Foreknowledge, Predestination, and
the Grace of God, with Free Will,' in which contrary to his wont, he
found difficulty in composition; for after his illness at Bury St.
Edmund's, as long as he was spared to this life, he was weaker than
before; so that, when he was moving from place to place, he was from
that time carried in a litter, instead of riding on horseback. He was
tried, also, by frequent and sharp sicknesses, so that we scarce dared
promise him life. He, however, never left off his old way of living, but
was always engaged in godly meditations, or holy exhortations, or other
"In the third year after King Henry had recalled him from his second
banishment, every kind of food by which nature is sustained became
loathsome to him. He used to eat, however, putting force on himself,
knowing that he could not live without food; and in this way he somehow
or another dragged on life through half a year, gradually failing day by
day in body, though in vigour of mind he was still the same as he used
to be. So being strong in spirit, though but very feeble in the flesh,
he could not go to his oratory on foot; but from his strong desire to
attend the consecration of the Lord's body, which he venerated with a
special feeling of devotion, he caused himself to be carried thither
every day in a chair. We who attended on him tried to prevail on him to
desist, because it fatigued him so much; but we succeeded, and that with
difficulty, only four days before he died.
"From that time he took to his bed? and, with gasping breath, continued
to exhort all who had the privilege of drawing near him to live to God,
each in his own order. Palm Sunday had dawned, and we, as usual, were
sitting round him; one of us said to him, 'Lord father, we are given to
understand that you are going to leave the world for your Lord's Easter
court.' He answered, 'If His will be so, I shall gladly obey His will.
But if He willed rather that I should yet remain amongst you, at least
till I have solved a question which I am turning in my mind, about the
origin of the soul, I should receive it thankfully, for I know not
whether any one will finish it after I am gone. Indeed, I hope, that if
I could take food, I might yet get well. For I feel no pain anywhere;
only, from weakness of my stomach, which cannot take food, I am failing
"On the following Tuesday, towards evening, he was no longer able to
speak intelligibly. Ralph, Bishop of Rochester, asked him to bestow
his absolution and blessing on us who were present, and on his other
children, and also on the king and queen with their children, and the
people of the land who had kept themselves under God in his obedience.
He raised his right hand, as if he was suffering nothing, and made the
sign of the Holy Cross; and then dropped his head and sank down. The
congregation of the brethren were already chanting matins in the great
church, when one of those who watched about our father the book of the
Gospels and read before him the history of the Passion, which was to be
read that day at the mass. But when he came to our Lord's words, 'Ye are
they which have continued with me in my temptations, and I appoint unto
you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me, that ye may eat and
drink at my table,' he began to draw his breath more slowly. We saw
that he was just going, so he was removed from his bed, and laid upon
sackcloth and ashes. And thus, the whole family of his children being
collected round him, he gave up his last breath into the hands of his
Creator, and slept in peace."
[Note:_Anselm_. An Italian by birth (1033-1109), was Abbot of Bee, in
Normandy, and afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, in both succeeding
his countryman Lanfranc. He was famous as a scholastic philosopher; and,
as a Churchman, he struggled long for the liberties of the Church with
William II. and Henry I.]
* * * * *
THE MURDER OF BECKET.
The vespers had already begun, and the monks were singing the service in
the choir, when two boys rushed up the nave, announcing, more by their
terrified gestures than by their words, that the soldiers were bursting
into the palace and monastery. Instantly the service was thrown into the
utmost confusion; part remained at prayer, part fled into the numerous
hiding-places the vast fabric affords; and part went down the steps of
the choir into the transept to meet the little band at the door. "Come
in, come in!" exclaimed one of them; "Come in, and let us die together."
The Archbishop continued to stand outside, and said, "Go and finish the
service. So long as you keep in the entrance, I shall not come in." They
fell back a few paces, and he stepped within the door, but, finding the
whole place thronged with people, he paused on the threshold, and asked,
"What is it that these people fear?" One general answer broke forth,
"The armed men in the cloister." As he turned and said, "I shall go out
to them," he heard the clash of arms behind. The knights had just forced
their way into the cloister, and were now (as would appear from their
being thus seen through the open door) advancing along its southern
side. They were in mail, which covered their faces up to their eyes, and
carried their swords drawn. Three had hatchets. Fitzurse, with the axe
he had taken from the carpenters, was foremost, shouting as he came,
"Here, here, king's men!" Immediately behind him followed Robert
Fitzranulph, with three other knights, and a motley group--some their
own followers, some from the town--with weapons, though not in armour,
brought up the rear. At this sight, so unwonted in the peaceful
cloisters of Canterbury, not probably beheld since the time when the
monastery had been sacked by the Danes, the monks within, regardless
of all remonstrances, shut the door of the cathedral, and proceeded
to barricade it with iron bars. A loud knocking was heard from the
terrified band without, who having vainly endeavoured to prevent the
entrance of the knights into the cloister, now rushed before them to
take refuge in the church. Becket, who had stepped some paces into the
cathedral, but was resisting the solicitations of those immediately
about him to move up into the choir for safety, darted back, calling
aloud as he went, "Away, you cowards! By virtue of your obedience I
command you not to shut the door--the church must not be turned into a
castle." With his own hands he thrust them away from the door, opened it
himself, and catching hold of the excluded monks, dragged them into the
building, exclaiming, "Come in, come in--faster, faster!"
* * * * *
The knights, who had been checked for a moment by the sight of the
closed door, on seeing it unexpectedly thrown open, rushed into the
church. It was, we must remember, about five o'clock in a winter
evening; the shades of night were gathering, and were deepened into
a still darker gloom within the high and massive walls of the vast
cathedral, which was only illuminated here and there by the solitary
lamps burning before the altars. The twilight, lengthening from the
shortest day a fortnight before, was but just sufficient to reveal the
outline of objects.
* * * * *
In the dim twilight they could just discern a group of figures mounting
the steps of the eastern staircase. One of the knights called out to
them, "Stay." Another, "Where is Thomas Becket, traitor to the King?"
No answer was returned. None could have been expected by any one who
remembered the indignant silence with which Becket had swept by when the
same words had been applied by Randulf of Broc at Northampton. Fitzurse
rushed forward, and, stumbling against one of the monks on the lower
step, still not able to distinguish clearly in the darkness, exclaimed,
"Where is the Archbishop?" Instantly the answer came: "Reginald, here I
am, no traitor, but the archbishop and priest of God; what do you wish?"
and from the fourth step, which he had reached in his ascent, with a
slight motion of his head--noticed apparently as his peculiar manner in
moments of excitement--Becket descended to the transept. Attired, we
are told, in his white rochet, with a cloak and hood thrown over his
shoulders, he thus suddenly confronted his assailants. Fitzurse sprang
back two or three paces, and Becket passing by him took up his station
between the central pillar and the massive wall which still forms the
south-west corner of what was then the chapel of St. Benedict. Here they
gathered round him, with the cry, "Absolve the bishops whom you have
excommunicated." "I cannot do other than I have done," he replied, and
turning to Fitzurse, he added, "Reginald, you have received many favours
at my hands; why do you come into my church armed?" Fitzurse planted the
axe against his breast, and returned for answer, "You shall die--I will
tear out your heart." Another, perhaps in kindness, struck him between
the shoulders with the flat of his sword, exclaiming, "Fly; you are a
dead man." "I am ready to die," replied the primate, "for God and the
Church; but I warn you, I curse you in the name of God Almighty, if you
do not let my men escape."
The well-known horror which in that age was felt at an act of sacrilege,
together with the sight of the crowds who were rushing in from the town
through the nave, turned their efforts for the next few moments to
carrying him out of the church. Fitzurse threw down the axe, and tried
to drag him out by the collar of his long cloak, calling, "Come with
us--you are our prisoner." "I will not fly, you detestable fellow," was
Becket's reply, roused to his usual vehemence, and wrenching the cloak
out of Fitzurse's grasp. The three knights struggled violently to put
him on Tracy's shoulders. Becket set his back against the pillar, and
resisted with all his might, whilst Grim, vehemently remonstrating,
threw his arms around him to aid his efforts. In the scuffle, Becket
fastened upon Tracy, shook him by his coat of mail, and exerting his
great strength, flung him down on the pavement. It was hopeless to carry
on the attempt to remove him. And in the final struggle which now began,
Fitzurse, as before, took the lead. He approached with his drawn sword,
and waving it over his head, cried, "Strike, strike!" but merely dashed
off his cap. Tracy sprang forward and struck a more decided blow.
* * * * *
The blood from the first blow was trickling down his face in a thin
streak; he wiped it with his arm, and when he saw the stain, he said,
"Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit." At the third blow, he
sank on his knees--his arms falling, but his hands still joined as if
in prayer. With his face turned towards the altar of St. Benedict, he
murmured in a low voice, "For the name of Jesus, and the defence of the
Church, I am willing to die." Without moving hand or foot, he fell fiat
on his face as he spoke, and with such dignity that his mantle, which
extended from head to foot, was not disarranged. In this posture he
received a tremendous blow, aimed with such violence that the scalp or
crown of the head was severed from the skull, and the sword snapped in
two on the marble pavement. Hugh of Horsea planted his foot on the neck
of the corpse, thrust his sword into the ghastly wound, and scattered
the brains over the pavement. "Let us go--let us go," he said, in
conclusion, "the traitor is dead; he will rise no more."
[Note: _Thomas Becket_ (1119-1170). Chancellor and afterwards Archbishop
of Canterbury under Henry II.; maintained a heroic, though perhaps
ambitious and undesirable struggle with that king for the independence
of the clergy; and ended his life by assassination at the hands of
certain of Henry's servants.]
* * * * *
THE DEATH OF ELIZABETH
The triumph of her lieutenant, Mountjoy, flung its lustre over the last
days of Elizabeth, but no outer triumph could break the gloom which
gathered round the dying queen. Lonely as she had always been, her
loneliness deepened as she drew towards the grave. The statesmen and
warriors of her earlier days had dropped one by one from her council
board; and their successors were watching her last moments, and
intriguing for favour in the coming reign. The old splendour of her
court waned and disappeared. Only officials remained about her, "the
other of the council and nobility estrange themselves by all occasions."
As she passed along in her progresses, the people, whose applause she
courted, remained cold and silent. The temper of the age, in fact, was
changing and isolating her as it changed. Her own England, the England
which had grown up around her, serious, moral, prosaic, shrank coldly
from this child of earth, and the renascence, brilliant, fanciful,
unscrupulous, irreligious. She had enjoyed life as the men of her day
enjoyed it, and now that they were gone she clung to it with a fierce
tenacity. She hunted, she danced, she jested with her young favourites,
she coquetted, and scolded, and frolicked at sixty-seven as she had
done at thirty. "The queen," wrote a courtier, a few months before her
death, "was never so gallant these many years, nor so set upon jollity."
She persisted, in spite of opposition, in her gorgeous progresses from
country-house to country-house. She clung to business as of old, and
rated in her usual fashion, "one who minded not to giving up some matter
of account." But death crept on. Her face became haggard, and her frame
shrank almost to a skeleton. At last, her taste for finery disappeared,
and she refused to change her dresses for a week together. A strange
melancholy settled down on her: "she held in her hand," says one who saw
her in her last days, "a golden cup, which she often put to her lips:
but in truth her heart seemed too full to need more filling." Gradually
her mind gave way. She lost her memory, the violence of her temper
became unbearable, her very courage seemed to forsake her. She called
for a sword to lie constantly beside her, and thrust it from time to
time through the arras, as if she heard murderers stirring there. Food
and rest became alike distasteful. She sate day and night propped up
with pillows on a stool, her finger on her lip, her eyes fixed on the
floor, without a word. If she once broke the silence, it was with a
flash of her old queenliness. Cecil asserted that she "must" go to bed,
and the word roused her like a trumpet. "Must!" she exclaimed; "is
_must_ a word to be addressed to princes? Little man, little man! thy
father, if he had been alive, durst not have used that word." Then, as
her anger spent itself, she sank into her old dejection. "Thou art so
presumptuous," she said, "because thou knowest I shall die." She rallied
once more when the ministers beside her bed named Lord Beauchamp, the
heir to the Suffolk claim, as a possible successor. "I will have no
rogue's son," she cried hoarsely, "in my seat." But she gave no sign,
save a motion of the head, at the mention of the King of Scots. She was
in fact fast becoming insensible; and early the next morning the life
of Elizabeth, a life so great, so strange and lonely in its greatness,
passed quietly away.
[Notes: _Mountjoy_. The Queen's lieutenant in Ireland, who had had
considerable success in dealing with the Irish rebels.
_This chill of ... the renascence._ In her irreligion, as well as in
her brilliancy and fancy, Elizabeth might fitly be called the child
or product of the Pagan renascence or new birth, as the return to the
freedom of classic literature, so powerful in the England of her day,
_Thy father_ = the great Lord Burghley, who guided the counsels of the
Queen throughout all the earlier part of her reign.
_The Suffolk claim, i.e.,_ the claim derived from Mary, the sister of
Henry VIII., who married Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. James, who
succeeded Elizabeth, was descended from the elder sister, Margaret,
married to James IV. of Scotland.]
* * * * *
THE SAXON AND THE GAEL.
So toilsome was the road to trace,
The guide, abating of his pace,
Led slowly through the pass's jaws,
And ask'd Fitz-James by what strange cause
He sought these wilds? traversed by few,
Without a pass from Roderick Dhu.
"Brave Gael, my pass, in danger tried,
Hangs in my belt, and by my side;
Yet sooth to tell," the Saxon said,
"I dreamed not now to claim its aid.
When here but three days since, I came,
Bewildered in pursuit of game,
All seemed as peaceful and as still
As the mist slumbering on yon hill:
Thy dangerous chief was then afar,
Nor soon expected back from war."
"But, Stranger, peaceful since you came,
Bewildered in the mountain game,
Whence the bold boast by which you show
Vich-Alpine's vowed and mortal foe?"
"Warrior, but yester-morn, I knew
Nought of thy Chieftain, Roderick Dhu,
Save as an outlaw'd desperate man,
The chief of a rebellious clan,
Who in the Regent's court and sight,
With ruffian dagger stabbed a knight;
Yet this alone might from his part
Sever each true and loyal heart."
Wrathful at such arraignment foul,
Dark lowered the clansman's sable scowl.
A space he paused, then sternly said,--
"And heard'st thou why he drew his blade?
Heards't thou that shameful word and blow
Brought Roderick's vengeance on his foe?
What reck'd the Chieftain if he stood
On Highland-heath, or Holy-Rood?
He rights such wrong where it is given,
If it were in the court of heaven."
"Still was it outrage:--yet, 'tis true,
Not then claimed sovereignty his due;
While Albany, with feeble hand,
Held borrowed truncheon of command,
The young King mew'd in Stirling tower,
Was stranger to respect and power.
But then, thy Chieftain's robber life!
Winning mean prey by causeless strife,
Wrenching from ruined lowland swain
His herds and harvest reared in vain,
Methinks a soul like thine should scorn
The spoils from such foul foray borne."
The Gael beheld him grim the while,
And answered with disdainful smile,--
"Saxon, from yonder mountain high,
I marked thee send delighted eye
Far to the south and east, where lay
Extended in succession gay,
Deep waving fields and pastures green,
With gentle slopes and groves between:--
These fertile plains, that softened vale,
Were once the birthright of the Gael;
The stranger came with iron hand,
And from our fathers reft the land.
Where dwell we now? See, rudely swell
Crag over crag, fell over fell.
Ask we this savage hill we tread,
For fattened steer or household bread;
Ask we for flocks these shingles dry,
And well the mountain might reply,--
"To you, as to your sires of yore,
Belong the target and claymore!
I give you shelter in my breast,
Your own good blades must win the rest."
Pent in this fortress of the North,
Think'st thou we will not sally forth,
To spoil the spoiler as we may,
And from the robber rend the prey?
Aye, by my soul!--While on yon plain
The Saxon rears one shock of grain;
While of ten thousand herds, there strays
But one along yon river's maze,--
The Gael, of plain and river heir,
Shall, with strong hand, redeem his share.
Where live the mountain Chiefs who hold
That plundering Lowland field and fold
Is aught but retribution true?
Seek other cause 'gainst Roderick Dhu."
Answered Fitz-James--"And, if I sought,
Think'st thou no other could be brought?
What deem ye of my path waylaid,
My life given o'er to ambuscade?"
"As of a meed to rashness due:
Hadst thou sent warning fair and true,--
I seek my hound, or falcon strayed.
I seek, good faith, a Highland maid.--
Free hadst thou been to come and go;
But secret path marks secret foe.
Nor yet, for this, even as a spy,
Hadst thou unheard, been doomed to die,
Save to fulfil an augury."
"Well, let it pass; nor will I now
Fresh cause of enmity avow,
To chafe thy mood and cloud thy brow.
Enough, I am by promise tied
To match me with this man of pride:
Twice have I sought Clan-Alpine's glen
In peace: but when I come again,
I come with banner, brand, and bow,
As leader seeks his mortal foe.
For love-lorn swain, in lady's bower,
Ne'er panted for the appointed hour,
As I, until before me stand
This rebel Chieftain and his band."
"Have, then, thy wish!"--he whistled shrill,
And he was answered from the hill:
Wild as the scream of the curlew,
From crag to crag the signal flew.
Instant, through copse and heath, arose
Bonnets and spears, and bended bows.
On right, on left, above, below,
Sprung up at once the lurking foe;
From shingles grey their lances start,
The bracken bush sends forth the dart.
The rushes and the willow wand
Are bristling into axe and brand,
And every tuft of broom gives life
To plaided warrior armed for strife.
That whistle garrison'd the glen
At once with full five hundred men,
As if the yawning hill to heaven
A subterraneous host had given.
Watching their leader's beck and will,
All silent there they stood and still.
Like the loose crags whose threatening mass
Lay tottering o'er the hollow pass,
As if an infant's touch could urge
Their headlong passage down the verge,
With step and weapon forward flung.
Upon the mountain-side they hung.
The mountaineer cast glance of pride
Along Benledi's living side,
Then fixed his eye and sable brow
Full on Fitz-James--"How says't thou now?
These are Clan-Alpine's warriors true,
And, Saxon,--I am Roderick Dhu!"
Fitz-James was brave:--Though to his heart
The life-blood thrilled with sudden start,
He mann'd himself with dauntless air,
Returned the Chief his haughty stare,
His back against a rock he bore,
And firmly placed his foot before:--
"Come one, come all! this rock shall fly
From its firm base as soon as I."
Sir Roderick marked--and in his eyes
Respect was mingled with surprise,
And the stern joy which warriors feel
In foemen worthy of their steel.
Short space he stood--then waved his hand;
Down sunk the disappearing band:
Each warrior vanished where he stood,
In broom or bracken, heath or wood:
Sunk brand and spear, and bended bow,
In osiers pale and copses low;
It seemed as if their mother Earth
Had swallowed up her warlike birth.
The wind's last breath had tossed in air
Pennon, and plaid, and plumage fair,--
The next but swept a lone hill-side,
Where heath and fern were waving wide;
The sun's last glance was glinted back,
From spear and glaive, from targe and jack,--
The next, all unreflected, shone
On bracken green and cold grey stone.
Fitz-James looked round--yet scarce believed
The witness that his sight received;
Such apparition well might seem
Delusion of a dreadful dream.
Sir Roderick in suspense he eyed,
And to his look the Chief replied,
"Fear nought--nay, that I need not say--
But--doubt not aught from mine array.
Thou art my guest:--I pledged my word
As far as Coilantogle ford:
Nor would I call a clansman's brand,
For aid against one valiant hand,
Though on our strife lay every vale
Rent by the Saxon from the Gael.
So move we on;--I only meant
To show the reed on which you leant,
Deeming this path you might pursue
Without a pass from Roderick Dhu."
* * * * *
The Chief in silence strode before,
And reached that torrent's sounding shore,
Which, daughter of three mighty lakes,
From Vennachar in silver breaks
Sweeps through the plain, and ceaseless mines,
On Bochastle the mouldering lines.
Where "Rome, the Empress of the world.
Of yore her eagle wings unfurl'd.
And here his course the Chieftain staid;
Threw down his target and his plaid,
And to the Lowland warrior said:--
"Bold Saxon! to his promise just,
Vich-Alpine has discharged his trust.
This murderous Chief, this ruthless man.
This head of a rebellious clan,
Hath led thee safe, through watch and ward,
Far past Clan-Alpine's outmost guard.
Now, man to man, and steel to steel,
A Chieftain's vengeance thou shalt feel,
See, here, all vantageless, I stand,
Armed like thyself, with single brand:
For this is Coilantogle ford,
And thou must keep thee with thy sword."
The Saxon paused:--"I ne'er delayed,
When foeman bade me draw my blade;
Nay more, brave Chief, I vow'd thy death:
Yet sure thy fair and generous faith,
And my deep debt for life preserved,
A better meed have well deserved:--
Can nought but blood our feud atone?
Are there no means?"--"No, stranger, none!
And hear,--to fire thy flagging zeal,--
The Saxon cause rests on thy steel;
For thus spoke Fate by prophet bred
Between the living and the dead:
"Who spills the foremost foeman's life,
His party conquers in the strife."--
"Then by my word," the Saxon said,
"The riddle is already read.
Seek yonder brake beneath the cliff,--
There lies Red Murdoch, stark and stiff.
Thus Fate has solved her prophecy,
Then yield to Fate, and not to me.
To James, at Stirling, let us go,
When, if thou wilt be still his foe,
Or if the King shall not agree
To grant thee grace and favour free,
I plight mine honour, oath, and word,
That, to thy native strengths restored,
With each advantage shalt thou stand,
That aids thee now to guard thy land."--
Dark lightning flashed from Roderick's eye--
"Soars thy presumption then so high,
Because a wretched kern ye slew,
Homage to name to Roderick Dhu?
He yields not, he, to man nor Fate!
Thou add'st but fuel to my hate:--
My clansman's blood demands revenge.--
Not yet prepared?--By Heaven, I change
My thought, and hold thy valour light
As that of some vain carpet-knight,
Who ill-deserved my courteous care,
And whose best boast is but to wear
A braid of his fair lady's hair."--
"I thank thee, Roderick, for the word!
It nerves my heart, it steels my sword;
For I have sworn this braid to stain
In the best blood that warms thy vein.
Now, truce, farewell; and ruth, begone!
Yet think not that by thee alone,
Proud Chief! can courtesy be shown:
Though not from copse, or heath, or cairn,
Start at my whistle, clansmen stern,
Of this small horn one feeble blast
Would fearful odds against thee cast.
But fear not--doubt not--which thou wilt--
We try this quarrel hilt to hilt."--
Then each at once his faulchion drew,
Each on the ground his scabbard threw,
Each looked to sun, and stream, and plain,
As what they ne'er might see again:
Then foot, and point, and eye opposed,
In dubious strife they darkly closed.
Ill-fared it then with Roderick Dhu,
That on the field his targe he threw,
Whose brazen studs and tough bull-hide
Had death so often dashed aside:
For, trained abroad his arms to wield,
Fitz-James's blade was sword and shield.
He practised every pass and ward,
To thrust, to strike, to feint, to guard;
While less expert, though stronger far,
The Gael maintained unequal war.
Three times in closing strife they stood,
And thrice the Saxon blade drank blood:
No stinted draught, no scanty tide,
The gushing flood the tartans dyed.
Fierce Roderick felt the fatal drain,
And showered his blows like wintry rain;
And, as firm rock or castle-roof,
Against the winter shower is proof,
The foe invulnerable still
Foiled his wild rage by steady skill;
Till, at advantage ta'en, his brand
Forced Roderick's weapon from his hand,
And, backward borne upon the lea,
Brought the proud Chieftain to his knee.
"Now, yield thee, or, by Him who made
The world, thy heart's blood dyes my blade!"--
"Thy threats, thy mercy, I defy!
Let recreant yield, who fears to die."--
Like adder darting from his coil,
Like wolf that dashes through the toil,
Like mountain-cat who guards her young,
Full at Fitz-James's throat he sprung,
Received, but reck'd not of a wound,
And locked his arms his foeman round.--
Now gallant Saxon, hold thine own!
No maiden's hand is round thee thrown!
That desperate grasp thy frame might feel,
Through bars of brass and triple steel!--
They tug, they strain!--down, down they go,
The Gael above, Fitz-James below.
The Chieftain's gripe his throat compress'd,
His knee was planted on his breast;
His clotted locks he backward threw,
Across his brow his hand he drew,
From blood and mist to clear his sight,
Then gleam'd aloft his dagger bright!
--But hate and fury ill supplied
The stream of life's exhausted tide,
And all too late the advantage came,
To turn the odds of deadly game;
For, while the dagger gleam'd on high,
Keeled soul and sense, reeled brain and eye,
Down came the blow! but in the heath
The erring blade found bloodless sheath.
The struggling foe may now unclasp
The fainting Chief's relaxing grasp;
Unbounded from the dreadful close,
But breathless all, Fitz-James arose.
[Notes: _Fitz-James_ is James V. in disguise.
_Holy Rood_, or Holy Cross, where was the royal palace of the Scottish
_Albany_. The Duke of Albany, who was regent of Scotland during part of
the minority of James V.
_Where Rome, the Empress, &c._ And where remnants of Roman encampments
are still to be traced.]
* * * * *
THE BATTLE OF NASEBY.
BY five o'clock in the morning, the whole army, in order of battle,
began to descry the enemy from the rising grounds about a mile from
Naseby, and moved towards them. They were drawn up on a little ascent in
a large common fallow-field, in one line, extending from one side of the
field to the other, the field something more than a mile over; our army
in the same order, in one line, with the reserves.
The king led the main battle of foot, Prince Rupert the right wing of
the horse, and Sir Marmaduke Langdale the left. Of the enemy Fairfax and
Skippon led the body, Cromwell and Roseter the right, and Ireton the
left. The numbers of both armies so equal, as not to differ five hundred
men, save that the king had most horse by about one thousand, and
Fairfax most foot by about five hundred. The number was in each army
about eighteen thousand men.
The armies coming close up, the wings engaged first. The prince with his
right wing charged with his wonted fury, and drove all the parliament's
wing of horse, one division excepted, clear out of the field. Ireton,
who commanded this wing, give him his due, rallied often, and fought
like a lion; but our wing bore down all before them, and pursued
them with a terrible execution.
Ireton, seeing one division of his horse left, repaired to them, and
keeping his ground, fell foul of a brigade of our foot, who coming up to
the head of the line, he like a madman charges them with his horse. But
they with their pikes tore them to pieces; so that this division was
entirely ruined. Ireton himself, thrust through the thigh with a pike,
wounded in the face with a halberd, was unhorsed and taken prisoner.
Cromwell, who commanded the parliament's right wing, charged Sir
Marmaduke Langdale with extraordinary fury; but he, an old tried
soldier, stood firm, and received the charge with equal gallantry,
exchanging all their shot, carabines, and pistols, and then fell on
sword in hand, Roseter and Whaley had the better on the point of
the wing, and routed two divisions of horse, pushed them behind the
reserves, where they rallied, and charged again, but were at last
defeated; the rest of the horse, now charged in the flank, retreated
fighting, and were pushed behind the reserves of foot.
While this was doing, the foot engaged with equal fierceness, and for
two hours there was a terrible fire. The king's foot, backed with
gallant officers, and full of rage at the rout of their horse, bore
down the enemy's brigade led by Skippon. The old man wounded, bleeding,
retreats to their reserves. All the foot, except the general's brigade,
were thus driven into the reserves, where their officers rallied them,
and brought them on to a fresh charge; and here the horse having driven
our horse above a quarter of a mile from the foot, face about, and fall
in on the rear of the foot.
Had our right wing done thus, the day had been secured; but Prince
Rupert, according to his custom, following the flying enemy, never
concerned himself with the safety of those behind; and yet he returned
sooner than he had done in like cases too. At our return we found all in
confusion, our foot broken, all but one brigade, which, though charged
in the front, flank, and rear, could not be broken, till Sir Thomas
Fairfax himself came up to the charge with fresh men, and then they
were rather cut in pieces than beaten; for they stood with their pikes
charged every way to the last extremity.
In this condition, at the distance of a quarter of a mile, we saw the
king rallying his horse, and preparing to renew the fight; and our wing
of horse coming up to him, gave him opportunity to draw up a large body
of horse; so large, that all the enemy's horse facing us, stood still
and looked on, but did not think fit to charge us, till their foot, who
had entirely broken our main battle, were put into order again, and
brought up to us.
The officers about the king advised his majesty rather to draw off; for,
since our foot were lost, it would be too much odds to expose the horse
to the fury of their whole army, and would be but sacrificing his best
troops, without any hopes of success.
The king, though with great regret at the loss of his foot, yet seeing
there was no other hope, took this advice, and retreated in good order
to Harborough, and from thence to Leicester.
This was the occasion of the enemy having so great a number of
prisoners; for the horse being thus gone off, the foot had no means
to make their retreat, and were obliged to yield themselves.
Commissary-General Ireton being taken by a captain of foot, makes the
captain his prisoner, to save his life, and gives him his liberty for
his courtesy before.
Cromwell and Roseter, with all the enemy's horse, followed us as far as
Leicester, and killed all that they could lay hold on straggling from
the body, but durst not attempt to charge us in a body. The
king expecting the enemy would come to Leicester, removes to
Ashby-de-la-Zouch, where we had some time to recollect ourselves.
This was the most fatal action of the whole war; not so much for the
loss of our cannon, ammunition, and baggage, of which the enemy boasted
so much, but as it was impossible for the king ever to retrieve it. The
foot, the best that he was ever master of, could never be supplied; his
army in the west was exposed to certain ruin; the north overrun with the
Scots; in short, the case grew desperate, and the king was once upon the
point of bidding us all disband, and shift for ourselves.
We lost in this fight not above two thousand slain, and the parliament
near as many, but the prisoners were a great number; the whole body of
foot being, as I have said, dispersed, there were four thousand five
hundred prisoners, besides four hundred officers, two thousand horses,
twelve pieces of cannon, forty barrels of powder; all the king's
baggage, coaches, most of his servants, and his secretary; with his
cabinet of letters, of which the parliament made great improvement, and,
basely enough, caused his private letters between his majesty and the
queen, her majesty's letters to the king, and a great deal of such
stuff, to be printed.
[Note: _The battle of Naseby_, fought on June 14th, 1645. The king's
forces were routed, and his cannon and baggage fell into the enemy's
hands. Not only was the loss heavy, but it was made more serious by his
correspondence falling into the hands of the parliamentary leaders,
which exposed his dealings with the Irish Roman Catholics. The most
remarkable point about this description is the air of reality which
Defoe gives to his account of an event which took place nearly twenty
years before his birth.]
* * * * *
THE PILGRIMS AND GIANT DESPAIR.
Now there was, not far from the place where they lay, a castle, called
Doubting Castle, the owner whereof was Giant Despair, and it was in his
grounds they now were sleeping; wherefore he, getting up in the morning
early, and walking up and down in his fields, caught Christian and
Hopeful asleep in his grounds. Then with a grim and surly voice he bid
them awake, and asked them whence they were, and what they did in his
grounds. They told him that they were pilgrims, and that they had lost
their way. Then said the giant. You have this night trespassed on me by
trampling in and lying on my grounds, and therefore you must go along
with me. So they were forced to go, because he was stronger than they.
They also had but little to say, for they knew themselves in a fault.
The giant, therefore, drove them before him, and put them into his
castle, into a very dark dungeon, nasty, and loathsome to the spirits of
these two men. Here, then, they lay from Wednesday morning till Saturday
night, without one bit of bread or drop of drink, or light, or any to
ask how they did; they were, therefore, here in evil case, and were far
from friends and acquaintance. Now, in this place Christian had double
sorrow, because it was through his unadvised haste that they were
brought into this distress.
Now Giant Despair had a wife, and her name was Diffidence; so when he
was gone to bed, he told his wife what he had done, to wit, that he
had taken a couple of prisoners, and cast them into his dungeon for
trespassing on his grounds. Then he asked her also what he had best to
do further to them. So she asked him what they were, whence they came,
and whither they were bound, and he told her. Then she counselled him,
that when he arose in the morning he should beat them without mercy. So
when he arose, he getteth him a grievous crabtree cudgel, and goes down
into the dungeon to them, and there first falls to rating of them as if
they were dogs, although they never gave him a word of distaste. Then he
falls upon them, and beats them fearfully, in such sort that they were
not able to help themselves, or to turn them upon the floor. This done,
he withdraws, and leaves them there to condole their misery, and to
mourn under their distress: so all that day they spent their time in
nothing but sighs and bitter lamentations. The next night, she, talking
with her husband further about them, and understanding that they were
yet alive, did advise him to counsel them to make away with themselves.
So when morning was come, he goes to them in a surly manner, as before,
and perceiving them to be very sore with the stripes that he had given
them the day before, he told them, that since they were never like to
come out of that place, their only way would be forthwith to make an end
of themselves, either with knife, halter, or poison; for why, said
he, should you choose to live, seeing it is attended with so much
bitterness? But they desired him to let them go. With that he looked
ugly upon them, and, rushing to them, had doubtless made an end of them
himself, but that he fell into one of his fits (for he sometimes, in
sunshiny weather, fell into fits), and lost for a time the use of his
hands; wherefore he withdrew, and left them as before to consider what
Well, towards evening the giant goes down into the dungeon again, to see
if his prisoners had taken his counsel. But when he came there, he found
them alive; and, truly, alive was all; for now, what for want of bread
and water, and by reason of the wounds they received when he beat them,
they could do little but breathe. But, I say, he found them alive; at
which he fell into a grievous rage, and told them, that seeing they had
disobeyed his counsel, it should be worse with them than if they had
never been born.
At this they trembled greatly, and I think that Christian fell into
a swoon: but coming a little to himself again, they renewed their
discourse about the giant's counsel, and whether yet they had best take
it or no.
Now night being come again, and the giant and his wife being in bed, she
asked him concerning the prisoners, and if they had taken his counsel;
to which he replied. They are sturdy rogues; they choose rather to bear
all hardships than to make away with themselves. Then said she, Take
them into the castle-yard to-morrow, and show them the bones and skulls
of those that thou hast already despatched, and make them believe, ere a
week comes to an end, thou wilt tear them in pieces, as thou hast done
their fellows before them.
So when the morning was come, the giant goes to them again, and takes
them into the castle-yard, and shows them as his wife had bidden him.
These, said he, were pilgrims as you are once, and they trespassed on my
grounds as you have done; and when I thought fit, I tore them in pieces;
and so within ten days I will do you. Go get you down to your den again.
And with that he beat them all the way thither. They lay therefore all
day on Saturday in lamentable case as before. Now when night was come,
and when Mrs. Diffidence and her husband the giant were got to bed, they
began to renew their discourse of the prisoners; and withal the old
giant wondered that he could neither by his blows nor counsel bring them
to an end. And with that his wife replied, I fear, said she, that they
live in hopes that some will come to relieve them, or that they have
picklocks about them, by the means of which they hope to escape. And
sayest thou so, my dear? said the giant; I will therefore search them in
Well, on Saturday about midnight, they began to pray, and continued in
prayer till almost break of day.
Now, a little before it was day, good Christian, as one half amazed,
broke out into this passionate speech: What a fool, quoth he, am I, to
lie in a dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty! I have a key in
my bosom called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any lock in
Doubtful Castle. Then said Hopeful, That's good news; good brother,
pluck it out of thy bosom and try.
Then Christian pulled it out of his bosom, and began to try at the
dungeon-door, whose bolt, as he turned the key, gave back, and the door
flew open with ease, and Christian and Hopeful both came out. Then he
went to the outward door that leads into the castle-yard, and with his
key opened that door also. After that he went to the iron gate, for that
must be opened too, but that lock went desperately hard, yet the key did
open it. Then they thrust open the gate to make their escape with speed;
but that gate, as it opened, made such a creaking, that it waked Giant
Despair, who, hastily rising to pursue his prisoners, felt his limbs to
fail; for his fits took him again, so that he could by no means go after
them. Then, they went on, and came to the king's highway again, and so
were safe, because they were out of his jurisdiction.
[Note: _John Bunyan_ (1628-1688), the Puritan tinker, author of the
* * * * *
THE WINTER EVENING.
Hark! 'tis the twanging horn o'er yonder bridge,
That with its wearisome but needful length
Bestrides the wintry flood, in which the moon
Sees her unwrinkled face reflected bright!--
He comes, the herald of a noisy world,
With spatter'd boots, strapped waist, and frozen locks!
News from all nations lumb'ring at his back.
True to his charge, the close-pack'd load behind.
Yet careless what he brings, his one concern
Is to conduct it to the destined inn;
And, having dropp'd th' expected bag, pass on.
He whistles as he goes, light-hearted wretch,
Cold and yet cheerful: messenger of grief
Perhaps to thousands, and of joy to some;
To him indiff'rent whether grief or joy.
Houses in ashes, and the fall of stocks,
Births, deaths, and marriages, epistles wet
With tears, that trickled down the writer's cheeks
Fast as the periods from his fluent quill.
Or charged with am'rous sighs of absent swains,
Or nymphs responsive, equally affect
His horse and him, unconscious of them all.
But oh the important budget; usher'd in
With such heart-shaking music, who can say
What are its tidings? have our troops awak'd?
Or do they still, as if with opium drugged,
Snore to the murmurs of the Atlantic wave?
Is India free? and does she wear her plumed
And jewell'd turban with a smile of peace,
Or do we grind her still? The grand debate,
The popular harangue, the tart reply,
The logic, and the wisdom, and the wit,
And the loud laugh--I long to know them all;
I burn to set the imprison'd wranglers free,
And give them voice and utt'rance once again.
Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer, but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
Not such his evening, who with shining face
Sweats in the crowded theatre, and, squeez'd
And bor'd with elbow-points through both his sides.
Outscolds the ranting actor on the stage;
Nor his, who patient stands till his feet throb.
And his head thumps, to feed upon the breath
Of patriots bursting with heroic rage,
Or placemen, all tranquillity and smiles.
This folio of four pages, happy work!
Which not e'en critics criticise; that holds
Inquisitive attention, while I read.
Fast bound in chains of silence, which the fair,
Though eloquent themselves, yet fear to break:
What is it, but a map of busy life,
Its fluctuations, and its vast concerns?
Here runs the mountainous and craggy ridge,
That tempts ambition. On the summit, see,
The seals of office glitter in his eyes;
He climbs, he pants, he grasps them! At his heels.
Close at his heels, a demagogue ascends,
And with a dext'rous jerk, soon twists him
And wins them, but to lose them in his turn.
Here rills of oily eloquence in soft
Meanders lubricate the course they take;
The modest speaker is asham'd and grieved
To engross a moment's notice; and yet begs.
Begs a propitious ear for his poor thoughts,
However trivial all that he conceives.
Sweet bashfulness! it claims at least this praise;
The dearth of information and good sense,
That it foretells us, always comes to pass.
Cataracts of declamation thunder here;
There forests of no meaning spread the page,
In which all comprehension wanders lost;
While fields of pleasantry amuse us there
With merry descants on a nation's woes.
The rest appears a wilderness of strange
But gay confusion; roses for the cheeks,
And lilies for the brows of faded age,
Teeth for the toothless, ringlets for the bald,
Heaven, earth, and ocean, plunder'd of their sweets,
Nectareous essences, Olympian dews,
Sermons, and city feasts, and fav'rite airs,
Ethereal journeys, submarine exploits.
And Katerfelto, with his hair on end
At his own wonders, wond'ring for his bread.
'Tis pleasant, through the loopholes of retreat,
To peep at such a world; to see the stir
Of the great Babel, and not feel the crowd;
To hear the roar she sends through all her gates
At a safe distance, where the dying sound
Falls a soft murmur on the uninjur'd ear.
Thus sitting, and surveying thus at ease
The globe and its concerns, I seem advanc'd
To some secure and more than mortal height.
That liberates and exempts me from them all
It turns submitted to my view, turns round
With all its generations; I behold
The tumult, and am still. The sound of war
Has lost its terrors ere it reaches me;
Grieves, but alarms me not. I mourn the pride
And avarice that make man a wolf to man;
Hear the faint echo of those brazen throats
By which he speaks the language of his heart,
And sigh, but never tremble at the bound.
He travels and expatiates, as the bee
From flower to flower, so he from land to land:
The manners, customs, policy, of all
Pay contribution to the store he gleans;
He sucks intelligence in every clinic,
And spreads the honey of his deep research
At his return--a rich repast for me.
He travels, and I too. I tread his deck,
Ascend his topmast, through his peering eyes
Discover countries, with a kindred heart
Suffer his woes, and share in his escapes;
While fancy, like the finger of a clock,
Runs the great circuit, and is still at home.
[Note:_Katerfelto_. A quack then exhibiting in London.]
* * * * *
A HARD WINTER.
There were some circumstances attending the remarkable frost of January
1776 so singular and striking, that a short detail of them may not be
The most certain way to be exact will be to copy the passages from my
journal, which were taken from time to time, as things occurred. But it
may be proper previously to remark, that the first week in January was
uncommonly wet, and drowned with vast rain from every quarter; from
whence may be inferred, as there is great reason to believe is the case,
that intense frosts seldom take place till the earth is completely
glutted and chilled with water; and hence dry autumns are seldom
followed by rigorous winters.
January 7th.--Snow driving all the day, which was followed by frost,
sleet, and some snow, till the twelfth, when a prodigious mass
overwhelmed all the works of men, drifting over the tops of the gates,
and filling the hollow lanes.
On the 14th, the writer was obliged to be much abroad; and thinks he
never before, or since, has encountered such rugged Siberian weather.
Many of the narrow roads are now filled above the tops of the hedges;
through which the snow was driven in most romantic and grotesque shapes,
so striking to the imagination as not to be seen without wonder and
pleasure. The poultry dared not stir out of their roosting-places; for
cocks and hens are so dazzled and confounded by the glare of the snow,
that they would soon perish without assistance. The hares also lay
sullenly in their seats, and would not move till compelled by hunger;
being conscious, poor animals, that the drifts and heaps treacherously
betray their footsteps, and prove fatal to numbers of them.
From the 14th, the snow continued to increase, and began to stop the
road-waggons and coaches, which could no longer keep in their regular
stages; and especially on the western roads, where the fall appears to
have been greater than in the south. The company at Bath, that wanted to
attend the Queen's birthday, were strangely incommoded; many carriages
of persons who got, in their way to town from Bath, as far as
Marlborough, after strange embarrassment, here came to a dead stop. The
ladies fretted, and offered large rewards to labourers if they would
shovel them a track to London; but the relentless heaps of snow were too
bulky to be removed; and so the 18th passed over, leaving the company in
very uncomfortable circumstances at the _Castle_ and other inns.
On the 20th, the sun shone out for the first time since the frost
began; a circumstance that has been remarked before, much in favour
of vegetation. All this time the cold was not very intense, for the
thermometer stood at 29 deg., 28 deg. 25 deg. and thereabout; but on the 21st it
descended to 20 deg.. The birds now began to be in a very pitiable and
starving condition. Tamed by the season, sky-larks settled in the
streets of towns, because they saw the ground was bare; rooks frequented
dung-hills close to houses; hares now came into men's gardens, and
scraping away the snow, devoured such plants as they could find.
On the 22nd, the author had occasion to go to London; through a sort
of Laplandian scene very wild and grotesque indeed. But the metropolis
itself exhibited a still more singular appearance than the country; for,
being bedded deep in snow, the pavement could not be touched by the
wheels or the horses' feet, so that the carriages ran about without the
least noise. Such an exemption from din and clatter was strange, but not
pleasant; it seemed to convey an uncomfortable idea of desolation.
On the 27th, much snow fell all day, and in the evening the frost became
very intense. At South Lambeth, for the four following nights, the
thermometer fell to 11 deg., 7 deg., 0 deg., 6 deg.; and at Selborne to 7 deg., 6 deg., 10 deg.; and
on the 31st of January, just before sunrise, with rime on the trees, and
on the tube of the glass, the quicksilver sunk exactly to zero, being
32 deg. below freezing point; but by eleven in the morning, though in the
shade, it sprung up to 16-1/2 deg.--a most unusual degree of cold this
for the south of England. During these four nights the cold was so
penetrating that it occasioned ice in warm and protected chambers; and
in the day the wind was so keen that persons of robust constitutions
could scarcely endure to face it. The Thames was at once so frozen over,
both above and below the bridge, that crowds ran about on the ice. The
streets were now strangely encumbered with snow, which crumbled and trod
dusty, mid, turning gray, resembled bay-salt; what had fallen on the
roofs was so perfectly dry, that from first to last it lay twenty-six
days on the houses in the city--a longer time than had been remembered
by the oldest housekeepers living. According to all appearances, we
might now have expected the continuance of this rigorous weather for
weeks to come, since every night increased in severity; but behold,
without any apparent on the 1st of February a thaw took place, and some
rain followed before night; making good the observation, that frosts
often go off, as it were, at once, without any gradual declension of
cold. On the 2nd of February, the thaw persisted; and on the 3rd, swarms
of little insects were frisking and sporting in a court-yard at South
Lambeth, as if they had felt no frost. Why the juices in the small
bodies and smaller limbs of such minute beings are not frozen, is a
matter of curious inquiry.
REV. GILBERT WHITE.
[Note: _Rev. Gilbert White_ (1720-1793), author of the 'Natural History
of Selborne,' one of the most charming books on natural history in the
* * * * *
A PORTENTOUS SUMMER.
The, summer of the year 1783 was an amazing and portentous one, and full
of horrible phenomena; for, besides the alarming meteors and tremendous
thunder and storms that affrighted and distressed the different counties
of this kingdom, the peculiar haze, or smoky fog, that prevailed for
many weeks in this island, and in every part of Europe, and even beyond
its limits, was a most extraordinary appearance, unlike anything known
within the memory of man. By my journal I find that I had noticed this
strange occurrence from June 23 to July 20 inclusive, during which
period the wind varied to every quarter, without making any alteration
in the air. The sun, at noon, looked as black as a clouded moon, and
shed a rust-coloured feruginous light on the ground and floors of
rooms, but was particularly lurid and blood-coloured at rising and
setting. All the time the heat was so intense that butchers' meat could
hardly be eaten the day after it was killed; and the flies swarmed so
in the lanes and hedges that they rendered the horses half frantic, and
riding irksome. The country-people began to look with a superstitious
awe at the red, lowering aspect of the sun; and, indeed, there was
reason for the most enlightened person to be apprehensive, for all the
while Calabria, and part of the isle of Sicily, were torn and convulsed
with earthquakes; and about that juncture a volcano sprang out of the
sea on the coast of Norway. On this occasion Milton's noble simile of
the sun, in his first book of 'Paradise Lost,' frequently occurred to
my mind; and it is indeed particularly applicable, because, towards the
end, it alludes to a superstitious kind of dread with which the minds of
men are always impressed by such strange and unusual phenomena:--
"As when the sun, new risen,
Looks through the horizontal, misty air
Shorn of his beams; or, from behind the moon.
In dim eclipse, disastrous twilight sheds
On half the nations, and with fear of change
REV. GILBERT WHITE.
* * * * *
On the 5th of June, 1784, the thermometer in the morning being at 64,
and at noon at 70, the barometer at 29.6 1/2, and the wind north, I
observed a blue mist, smelling strongly of sulphur, hang along our
sloping woods, and seeming to indicate that thunder was at hand. I was
called in about two in the afternoon, and so missed seeing the gathering
of the clouds in the north, which they who were abroad assured me had
something uncommon in its appearance. At about a quarter after two the
storm began in the parish of Hartley, moving slowly from north to south;
and from thence it came over Norton Farm and so to Grange Farm, both in
this parish. It began with vast drops of rain, which were soon succeeded
by round hail, and then by convex pieces of ice, which measured three
inches in girth. Had it been as extensive as it was violent, and of
any continuance (for it was very short), it must have ravaged all the
neighbourhood. In the parish of Hartley it did some damage to one farm;
but Norton, which lay in the centre of the storm, was greatly injured;
as was Grange, which lay next to it. It did but just reach to the middle
of the village, where the hail broke my north windows, and all my garden
lights and hand-glasses, and many of my neighbours' windows. The extent
of the storm was about two miles in length, and one in breadth. We were
just sitting down to dinner; but were soon diverted from our repast by
the clattering of tiles and the jingling of glass. There fell at the
same time prodigious torrents of rain on the farm above mentioned, which
occasioned a flood as violent as it was sudden, doing great damage to
the meadows and fallows by deluging the one and washing away the soil of
the other. The hollow lane towards Alton was so torn and disordered as
not to be passable till mended, rocks being removed that weighed two
hundredweight. Those that saw the effect which the great hail had on the
ponds and pools, say that the dashing of the water made an extraordinary
appearance, the froth and spray standing up in the air three feet above
the surface. The rushing and roaring of the hail, as it approached, was
Though the clouds at South Lambeth, near London, were at that juncture
thin and light, and no storm was in sight, nor within hearing, yet the
air was strongly electric; for the bells of an electric machine at that
place rang repeatedly, and fierce sparks were discharged.
REV. GILBERT WHITE.
* * * * *
CHARACTER OF SIR WALTER SCOTT.
About half-past one P.M. on the 21st of September, 1832, Sir Walter
Scott breathed his last, in the presence of all his children. It was
a beautiful day--so warm, that every window was wide open--and so
perfectly still, that the sound of all others most delicious to his ear,
the gentle ripple of the Tweed over its pebbles, was distinctly audible
as we knelt around the bed, and his eldest son kissed and closed his
eyes. No sculptor ever modelled a more majestic image of repose.
It will, I presume, be allowed that no human character, which we have
the opportunity of studying with equal minuteness, had fewer faults
mixed up in its texture. The grand virtue of fortitude, the basis of all
others, was never displayed in higher perfection than in him; and
it was, as perhaps true courage always is, combined with an equally
admirable spirit of kindness and humanity. His pride, if we must call it
so, undebased by the least tincture of mere vanity, was intertwined with
a most exquisite charity, and was not inconsistent with true humility.
If ever the principle of kindliness was incarnated in a mere man, it
was in him; and real kindliness can never be but modest. In the social
relations of life, where men are most effectually tried, no spot can be
detected in him. He was a patient, dutiful, reverent son; a generous,
compassionate, tender husband; an honest, careful, and most affectionate
father. Never was a more virtuous or a happier fireside than his. The
influence of his mighty genius shadowed it imperceptibly; his calm good
sense, and his angelic sweetness of heart and temper, regulated and
softened a strict but paternal discipline. His children, as they grew
up, understood by degrees the high privilege of their birth; but the
profoundest sense of his greatness never disturbed their confidence in
his goodness. The buoyant play of his spirits made him sit young among
the young; parent and son seemed to live in brotherhood together;
and the chivalry of his imagination threw a certain air of courteous
gallantry into his relations with his daughters, which gave a very
peculiar grace to the fondness of their intercourse.
Perhaps the most touching evidence of the lasting tenderness of his
early domestic feelings was exhibited to his executors, when they opened
his repositories in search of his testament, the evening after his
burial. On lifting up his desk we found arranged in careful order a
series of little objects, which had obviously been so placed there that
his eye might rest on them every morning before he began his tasks.
These were the old-fashioned boxes that had garnished his mother's
toilet when he, a sickly child, slept in her dressing-room; the silver
taper-stand which the young advocate had bought for her with his first
five-guinea fee; a row of small packets inscribed with her hand, and
containing the hair of those of her offspring that had died before her;
his father's snuff-box and pencil-case; and more things of the like
sort, recalling the "old familiar faces." The same feeling was apparent
in all the arrangement of his private apartment. Pictures of his father
and mother were the only ones in his dressing-room. The clumsy antique
cabinets that stood there--things of a very different class from the
beautiful and costly productions in the public rooms below--had all
belonged to the furniture of George's Square. Even his father's rickety
washing-stand, with all its cramped appurtenances, though exceedingly
unlike what a man of his very scrupulous habits would have selected in
these days, kept its ground. Such a son and parent could hardly fail
in any of the other social relations. No man was a firmer or more
indefatigable friend. I know not that he ever lost one; and a few
with whom, during the energetic middle stage of life, from political
differences or other accidental circumstances, he lived less familiarly,
had all gathered round him, and renewed the full warmth of early
affection in his later days. There was enough to dignify the connexion
in their eyes; but nothing to chill it on either side. The imagination
that so completely mastered him when he chose to give her the rein, was
kept under most determined control when any of the positive obligations
of active life came into question. A high and pure sense of duty
presided over whatever he had to do as a citizen and a magistrate; and,
as a landlord, he considered his estate as an extension of his hearth.
* * * * *
There is, or rather I should say there _was_, a little inn, called
Mumps's Hall--that is, being interpreted, Beggar's Hotel--near to
Gilsland, which had not then attained its present fame as a Spa. It
was a hedge alehouse, where the Border farmers of either country often
stopped to refresh themselves and their nags, in their way to and from
the fairs and trysts in Cumberland, and especially those who came from
or went to Scotland, through a barren and lonely district, without
either road or pathway, emphatically called the Waste of Bewcastle. At
the period when the adventure about to be described is supposed to have
taken place, there were many instances of attacks by freebooters, on
those who travelled through this wild district; and Mumps's Hall had
a bad reputation for harbouring the banditti who committed such
An old and sturdy yeoman belonging to the Scottish side, by surname an
Armstrong or Elliot, but well known by his sobriquet of Fighting Charlie
of Liddesdale, and still remembered for the courage he displayed in
the frequent frays which took place on the Border fifty or sixty years
since, had the following adventure in the Waste, one of many which gave
its character to the place:--
Charlie had been at Stagshaw-bank fair, had sold his sheep or cattle, or
whatever he had brought to market, and was on his return to Liddesdale.
There were then no country banks where cash could be deposited, and
bills received instead, which greatly encouraged robbery in that wild
country, as the objects of plunder were usually fraught with gold. The
robbers had spies in the fair, by means of whom they generally knew
whose purse was best stocked, and who took a lonely and desolate road
homeward--those, in short, who were best worth robbing, and likely to be
most easily robbed.
All this Charlie knew full well; but he had a pair of excellent pistols,
and a dauntless heart. He stopped at Mumps's Hall, notwithstanding the
evil character of the place. His horse was accommodated where it might
have the necessary rest and feed of corn; and the landlady used all the
influence in her power to induce him to stop all night. The landlord was
from home, she said, and it was ill passing the Waste, as twilight must
needs descend on him before he gained the Scottish side, which was
reckoned the safest. But fighting Charlie, though he suffered himself to
be detained later than was prudent, did not account Mumps's Hall a safe
place to quarter in during the night. He tore himself away, therefore,
from Meg's good fare and kind words, and mounted his nag, having first
examined his pistols, and tried by the ramrod whether the charge
remained in them.
He proceeded a mile or two, at a round trot, when, as the Waste
stretched black before him, apprehensions began to awaken in his mind,
partly arising out of Meg's unusual kindness, which he could not help
thinking had rather a suspicious appearance. He therefore resolved to
reload his pistols, lest the powder had become damp; but what was his
surprise, when he drew the charge, to find neither powder nor ball,
while each barrel had been carefully filled with _tow_, up to the space
which the loading had occupied! and, the priming of the weapons being
left untouched, nothing but actually drawing and examining the charge
could have discovered the inefficiency of his arms till the fatal minute
arrived when their services were required. Charlie reloaded his pistols
with care and accuracy, having now no doubt that he was to be waylaid
and assaulted. He was not far engaged in the Waste, which was then, and
is now, traversed only by such routes as are described in the text, when
two or three fellows, disguised and variously armed, started from a
moss-hag, while, by a glance behind him (for, marching, as the Spaniard
says, with his beard on his shoulder, he reconnoitred in every
direction), Charlie instantly saw retreat was impossible, as other two
stout men appeared behind him at some distance. The Borderer lost not a
moment in taking his resolution, and boldly trotted against his enemies
in front, who called loudly on him to stand and deliver. Charlie spurred
on, and presented his pistol. "A fig for your pistol!" said the foremost
robber, whom Charlie to his dying day protested he believed to have been
the landlord of Mumps's Hall--"A fig for your pistol! I care not a curse
for it."--"Ay, lad," said the deep voice of Fighting Charlie, "but the
_tow's out now_". He had no occasion to utter another word; the rogues,
surprised at finding a man of redoubted courage well armed, instead of
being defenceless, took to the moss in every direction, and he passed on
his way without further molestation.
* * * * *
THE PORTEOUS MOB.
The magistrates, after vain attempts to make themselves heard and
obeyed, possessing no means of enforcing their authority, were
constrained to abandon the field to the rioters, and retreat in all
speed from the showers of missiles that whistled around their ears.
The passive resistance of the Tolbooth-gate promised to do more to
baffle the purpose of the mob than the active interference of the
magistrates. The heavy sledge-hammers continued to din against it
without intermission, and with a noise which, echoed from the lofty
buildings around the spot, seemed enough to have alarmed the garrison in
the Castle. It was circulated among the rioters that the troops would
march down to disperse them, unless they could execute their purpose
without loss of time; or that even without quitting the fortress, the
garrison might obtain the same end by throwing a bomb or two upon the
Urged by such motives for apprehension, they eagerly relieved each other
at the labour of assailing the Tolbooth door; yet such was its strength,
that it still defied their efforts. At length, a voice was heard to
pronounce the words, "Try it with fire!" The rioters, with an unanimous
shout, called for combustibles, and as all their wishes seemed to be
instantly supplied, they were soon in possession of two or three empty
tar-barrels. A huge red glaring bonfire speedily arose close to the door
of the prison, sending up a tall column of smoke and flame against
its antique turrets and strongly-grated windows, and illuminating the
ferocious and wild gestures of the rioters who surrounded the place, as
well as the pale and anxious groups of those who, from windows in the
vicinage, watched the progress of this alarming scene. The mob fed the
fire with whatever they could find fit for the purpose. The flames
roared and crackled among the heaps of nourishment piled on the fire,
and a terrible shout soon announced that the door had kindled, and was
in the act of being destroyed. The fire was suffered to decay, but, long
ere it was quite extinguished, the most forward of the rioters rushed,
in their impatience, one after another, over its yet smouldering
remains. Thick showers of sparkles rose high in the air, as man after
man bounded over the glowing embers, and disturbed them in their
passage. It was now obvious to Butler, and all others who were present,
that the rioters would be instantly in possession of their victim, and
have it in their power to work their pleasure upon him, whatever that
The unhappy object of this remarkable disturbance had been that day
delivered from the apprehension of a public execution, and his joy was
the greater, as he had some reason to question whether government would
have run the risk of unpopularity by interfering in his favour, after he
had been legally convicted by the verdict of a jury, of a crime so very
obnoxious. Relieved from this doubtful state of mind, his heart was
merry within him, and he thought, in the emphatic words of Scripture on
a similar occasion, that surely the bitterness of death was past. Some
of his friends, however, who had watched the manner and behaviour of
the crowd when they were made acquainted with the reprieve, were of a
different opinion. They augured, from the unusual sternness and silence
with which they bore their disappointment, that the populace nourished
some scheme of sudden and desperate vengeance; and they advised Porteous
to lose no time in petitioning the proper authorities, that he might
be conveyed to the Castle under a sufficient guard, to remain there
in security until his ultimate fate should be determined. Habituated,
however, by his office to overawe the rabble of the city, Porteous could
not suspect them of an attempt so audacious as to storm a strong and
defensible prison; and, despising the advice by which he might have
been saved, he spent the afternoon of the eventful day in giving an
entertainment to some friends who visited him in jail, several of whom,
by the indulgence of the Captain of the Tolbooth, with whom he had
an old intimacy, arising from their official connection, were even
permitted to remain to supper with him, though contrary to the rules of
It was, therefore, in the hour of unalloyed mirth, when this unfortunate
wretch was "full of bread," hot with wine, and high in mis-timed and
ill-grounded confidence, and, alas! with all his sins full blown,
when the first distant shouts of the rioters mingled with the song
of merriment and intemperance. The hurried call of the jailor to the
guests, requiring them instantly to depart, and his yet more hasty
intimation that a dreadful and determined mob had possessed themselves
of the city gates and guard-house, were the first explanation of these
Porteous might, however, have eluded the fury from which the force of
authority could not protect him, had he thought of slipping on some
disguise, and leading the prison along with his guests. It is probable
that the jailor might have connived at his escape, or even that, in the
hurry of this alarming contingency, he might not have observed it. But
Porteous and his friends alike wanted presence of mind to suggest or
execute such a plan of escape. The former hastily fled from a place
where their own safety seemed compromised, and the latter, in a state
resembling stupefaction, awaited in his apartment the termination of the
enterprise of the rioters. The cessation of the clang of the instruments
with which they had at first attempted to force the door, gave him
momentary relief. The flattering hopes that the military had marched
into the city, either from the Castle or from the suburbs, and that the
rioters were intimidated and dispersing, were soon destroyed by the
broad and glaring-light of the flames, which, illuminating through the
grated window every corner of his apartment, plainly showed that the
mob, determined on their fatal purpose, had adopted a means of forcing
entrance equally desperate and certain.
The sudden glare of light suggested to the stupefied and astonished
object of popular hatred the possibility of concealment or escape. To
rush to the chimney, to ascend it at the risk of suffocation, were the
only means which seem to have occurred to him; but his progress was
speedily stopped by one of those iron gratings, which are, for the sake
of security, usually placed across the vents of buildings designed for
imprisonment. The bars, however, which impeded his farther progress,
served to support him in the situation which he had gained, and he
seized them with the tenacious grasp of one who esteemed himself
clinging to his last hope of existence. The lurid light, which had
filled the apartment, lowered and died away; the sound of shouts was
heard within the walls, and on the narrow and winding stair, which,
cased within one of the turrets, gave access to the upper apartments of
the prison. The huzza of the rioters was answered by a shout wild and
desperate as their own, the cry, namely, of the imprisoned felons, who,
expecting to be liberated in the general confusion, welcomed the mob as
their deliverers. By some of these the apartment of Porteous was
pointed out to his enemies. The obstacle of the lock and bolts was
soon overcome, and from his hiding-place the unfortunate man heard
his enemies search every corner of the apartment, with oaths and
maledictions, which would but shock the reader if we recorded them, but
which served to prove, could it have admitted of doubt, the settled
purpose of soul with which they sought his destruction.
A place of concealment so obvious to suspicion and scrutiny as that
which Porteous had chosen, could not long screen him from detection.
He was dragged from his lurking place, with a violence which seemed to
argue an intention to put him to death on the spot. More than one weapon
was directed towards him, when one of the rioters, the same whose female
disguise had been particularly noticed by Butler, interfered in an
authoritative tone. "Are ye mad?" he said, "or would ye execute an act
of justice as if it were a crime and a cruelty? This sacrifice will lose
half its savour if we do not offer it at the very horns of the altar. We
will have him die where a murderer should die, on the common gibbet--we
will have him die where he spilled the blood of so many innocents!"
A loud shout of applause followed the proposal, and the cry, "To the
gallows with the murderer!--to the Grassmarket with him!" echoed on all
"Let no man hurt him," continued the speaker; "let him make his peace
with God, if he can; we will not kill both his soul and body."
"What time did he give better folk for preparing their account?"
answered several voices. "Let us mete to him with the same measure he
measured to them."
But the opinion of the spokesman better suited the temper of those
he addressed, a temper rather stubborn than impetuous, sedate though
ferocious, and desirous of colouring their cruel and revengeful action
with a show of justice and moderation.
[Notes: _The Porteous Mob_ occurred in 1736. At the execution of a
smuggler named Wilson, a slight commotion amongst the crowd was made by
Captain Porteous the occasion for ordering his men who were on guard to
fire upon the people. He was tried and sentenced to death, but reprieved
by Queen Caroline, then regent in the absence of George II. The reprieve
was held so unjust by the people that they stormed the Tolbooth, and
hanged Porteous, who was a prisoner there.]
* * * * *
THE PORTEOUS MOB--_continued._
The tumult was now transferred from the inside to the outside of the
Tolbooth. The mob had brought their destined victim forth, and were
about to conduct him to the common place of execution, which they had
fixed as the scene of his death. The leader, whom they had distinguished
by the name of Madge Wildfire, had been summoned to assist at the
procession by the impatient shouts of his confederates.
"I will ensure you five hundred pounds," said the unhappy man, grasping
Wildfire's hand,--"five hundred pounds for to save my life."
The other answered in the same undertone, and returning his grasp with
one equally convulsive. "Five hundred-height of coined gold should not
save you--Remember Wilson!"
A deep pause of a minute ensued, when Wildfire added, in a more composed
tone, "Make your peace with Heaven. Where is the clergyman?"
Butler, who, in great terror and anxiety, had been detained within a
few yards of the Tolbooth door, to wait the event of the search after
Porteous, was now brought forward, and commanded to walk by the
prisoner's side, and to prepare him for immediate death.
They had suffered the unfortunate Porteous to put on his night-gown
and slippers, as he had thrown off his coat and shoes, in order to
facilitate his attempted escape up the chimney. In this garb he was now
mounted on the hands of two of the rioters, clasped together, so as to
form what is called in Scotland, "The King's Cushion." Butler was placed
close to his side, and repeatedly urged to perform a duty always the
most painful which can be imposed on a clergyman deserving of the name,
and now rendered more so by the peculiar and horrid circumstances of the
criminal's case. Porteous at first uttered some supplications for mercy,
but when he found that there was no chance that these would be attended
to, his military education, and the natural stubbornness of his
disposition, combined to support his spirits.
The procession now moved forward with a slow and determined pace. It was
enlightened by many blazing links and torches; for the actors of this
work were so far from affecting any secrecy on the occasion, that they
seemed even to court observation. Their principal leaders kept close to
the person of the prisoner, whose pallid yet stubborn features were seen
distinctly by the torch-light, as his person was raised considerably
above the concourse which thronged around him. Those who bore swords,
muskets, and battle-axes, marched on each side, as if forming a regular
guard to the procession. The windows, as they went along, were filled
with the inhabitants, whose slumbers had boon broken by this unusual
disturbance. Some of the spectators muttered accents of encouragement;
but in general they were so much appalled by a sight so strange and
audacious, that they looked on with a sort of stupefied astonishment. No
one offered, by act or word, the slightest interruption.
The rioters, on their part, continued to act with the same air
of deliberate confidence and security which had marked all their
proceedings. When the object of their resentment dropped one of his
slippers, they stopped, sought for it, and replaced it upon his foot
with great deliberation. As they descended the Bow towards the fatal
spot where they designed to complete their purpose, it was suggested
that there should be a rope kept in readiness. For this purpose the
booth of a man who dealt in cordage was forced open, a coil of rope fit
for their purpose was selected to serve as a halter, and the dealer next
morning found that a guinea had been left on his counter in exchange; so
anxious were the perpetrators of this daring action to show that they
meditated not the slightest wrong or infraction of law, excepting so far
so as Porteous was himself concerned.
Leading, or carrying along with them, in this determined and regular
manner, the object of their vengeance, they at length reached the place
of common execution, the scene of his crime, and destined spot of
his sufferings. Several of the rioters (if they should not rather be
described as conspirators) endeavoured to remove the stone which filled
up the socket in which the end of the fatal tree was sunk when it
was erected for its fatal purpose; others sought for the means of
constructing a temporary gibbet, the place in which the gallows itself
was deposited being reported too secure to be forced, without much loss
of time. Butler endeavoured to avail himself of the delay afforded by
these circumstances, to turn the people from their desperate design.
"For God's sake," he exclaimed, "remember it is the image of your
Creator which you are about to deface in the person of this unfortunate
man! Wretched as he is, and wicked as he may be, he has a share in every
promise of Scripture, and you cannot destroy him in impenitence without
blotting his name from the Book of Life--Do not destroy soul and body;
give time for preparation."
"What time had they," returned a stern voice, "whom he murdered on this
very spot?--The laws both of God and man call for his death."
"But what, my friends," insisted Butler, with a generous disregard to
his own safety--"what hath constituted you his judges?"
"We are not his judges," replied the same person; "he has been already
judged and condemned by lawful authority. We are those whom Heaven, and
our righteous anger, have stirred up to execute judgment, when a corrupt
government would have protected a murderer."
"I am none," said the unfortunate Porteous: "that which you charge upon me
fell out in self-defence, in the lawful exercise of my duty."
"Away with him--away with him!" was the general cry. "Why do you trifle
away time in making a gallows?--that dyester's pole is good enough for
The unhappy man was forced to his fate with remorseless rapidity.
Butler, separated from him by the press, escaped the last horrors of
his struggles. Unnoticed by those who had hitherto detained him as a
prisoner, he fled from the fatal spot, without much caring in what
direction his course lay. A loud shout proclaimed the stern delight with
which the agents of this deed regarded its completion. Butler, then,
at the opening into the low street called the Cowgate, cast back a
terrified glance, and, by the red and dusky light of the torches, he
could discern a figure wavering and struggling as it hung suspended
above the heads of the multitude, and could even observe men striking at
it with their Lochaberaxes and partisans. The sight was of a nature to
double his horror, and to add wings to his flight.
* * * * *
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