MacMillan's Reading Books
Part 5 out of 6
"'Bring forth the horse!'--the horse was brought;
In truth, he was a noble steed,
A Tartar of the Ukraine breed,
Who look'd as though the speed of thought
Were in his limbs; but he was wild,
Wild as the wild deer, and untaught,
With spur and bridle undefiled--
'T was but a day he had been caught;
And snorting, with erected mane,
And struggling fiercely, but in vain,
In the full foam of wrath and dread
To me the desert-born was led:
They bound me on, that menial throng;
Upon his back with many a thong;
Then loosed him with a sudden lash--
Away!--away!--and on we dash!
Torrents less rapid and less rash.
* * * * *
"Away, away, my steed and I,
Upon the pinions of the wind,
All human dwellings left behind;
We sped like meteors through the sky,
When with its crackling sound the night
Is chequer'd with the northern light:
Town--village--none were on our track.
But a wild plain of far extent,
And bounded by a forest black;
And, save the scarce seen battlement
On distant heights of some stronghold,
Against the Tartars built of old,
No trace of man. The year before
A Turkish army had march'd o'er;
And where the Spahi's hoof hath trod,
The verdure flies the bloody sod:
The sky was dull, and dim, and gray,
And a low breeze crept moaning by--
I could have answered with a sigh--
But fast we fled, away, away,
And I could neither sigh nor pray;
And my cold sweat-drops fell like rain
Upon the courser's bristling mane;
But, snorting still with rage and fear,
He flew upon his far career:
At times I almost thought, indeed,
He must have slacken'd in his speed;
But no--my bound and slender frame
Was nothing to his angry might,
And merely like a spur became;
Each motion which I made to free
My swoln limbs from their agony
Increased his fury and affright:
I tried my voice,--'t was faint and low.
But yet he swerved as from a blow;
And, starting to each accent, sprang
As from a sudden trumpet's clang:
Meantime my cords were wet with gore,
Which, oozing through my limbs, ran o'er;
And in my tongue the thirst became
A something fiercer far than flame.
"We near'd the wild wood--'t was so wide,
I saw no bounds on either side;
'T was studded with old sturdy trees,
That bent not to the roughest breeze
Which howls down from Siberia's waste,
And strips the forest in its haste,--
But these were few and far between,
Set thick with shrubs more young and green.
Luxuriant with their annual leaves,
Ere strown by those autumnal eves
That nip the forest's foliage dead,
Discolour'd with a lifeless red,
Which stands thereon like stiffen'd gore
Upon the slain when battle's o'er,
And some long winter's night hath shed
Its frost o'er every tombless head,
So cold and stark the raven's beak
May peck unpierced each frozen cheek:
'T was a wild waste of underwood,
And here and there a chestnut stood,
The strong oak, and the hardy pine;
But far apart--and well it were,
Or else a different lot were mine--
The boughs gave way, and did not tear
My limbs; and I found strength to bear
My wounds, already scarr'd with cold;
My bonds forbade to loose my hold.
We rustled through the leaves like wind,
Left shrubs, and trees, and wolves behind;
By night I heard them on the track,
Their troop came hard upon our back,
With their long gallop, which can tire
The hound's deep hate, and hunter's fire:
Where'er we flew they follow'd on,
Nor left us with the morning sun.
Behind I saw them, scarce a rood,
At day-break winding through the wood,
And through the night had heard their feet
Their stealing, rustling step repeat.
* * * * *
"The wood was past; 'twas more than noon,
But chill the air, although in June;
Or it might be my veins ran cold--
Prolong'd endurance tames the bold;
And I was then not what I seem,
But headlong as a wintry stream,
And wore my feelings out before
I well could count their causes o'er:
And what with fury, fear, and wrath,
The tortures which beset my path,
Cold, hunger, sorrow, shame, distress.
Thus bound in nature's nakedness;
Sprung from a race whose rising blood,
When stirr'd beyond its calmer mood,
And trodden hard upon, is like
The rattle-snake's, in act to strike,
What marvel if this worn-out trunk
Beneath its woes a moment sunk?
The earth gave way, the skies roll'd round.
I seem'd to sink upon the ground;
But err'd, for I was fastly bound.
My heart turn'd sick, my brain grew sore.
And throbb'd awhile, then beat no more:
The skies spun like a mighty wheel;
I saw the trees like drunkards reel
And a slight flash sprang o'er my eyes,
Which saw no farther: he who dies
Can die no more than then I died.
O'ertortured by that ghastly ride,
I felt the blackness come and go.
"My thoughts came back; where was I?
And numb, and giddy: pulse by pulse
Life reassumed its lingering hold,
And throb by throb,--till grown a pang
Which for a moment would convulse,
My blood reflow'd, though thick and chill;
My ear with uncouth noises rang,
My heart began once more to thrill;
My sight return'd, though dim; alas!
And thicken'd, as it were, with glass.
Methought the dash of waves was nigh;
There was a gleam too of the sky,
Studded with stars;--it is no dream;
The wild horse swims the wilder stream!
The bright broad river's gushing tide
Sleeps, winding onward, far and wide,
And we are half-way, struggling o'er
To yon unknown and silent shore.
The waters broke my hollow trance,
And with a temporary strength
My stiffen'd limbs were rebaptized.
My courser's broad breast proudly braves,
And dashes off the ascending waves.
We reach the slippery shore at length,
A haven I but little prized,
For all behind was dark and drear,
And all before was night and fear.
How many hours of night or day
In those suspended pangs I lay.
I could not tell; I scarcely knew
If this were human breath I drew.
"With glossy skin and dripping mane,
And reeling limbs, and reeking flank,
The wild steed's sinewy nerves still strain
Up the repelling bank.
We gain the top: a boundless plain
Spreads through the shadow of the night,
And onward, onward, onward, seems,
Like precipices in our dreams
To stretch beyond the sight:
And here and there a speck of white,
Or scatter'd spot of dusky green.
In masses broke into the light.
As rose the moon upon my right:
But nought distinctly seen
In the dim waste would indicate
The omen of a cottage gate;
No twinkling taper from afar
Stood like a hospitable star:
Not even an ignis-fatuus rose
To make him merry with my woes:
That very cheat had cheer'd me then!
Although detected, welcome still,
Reminding me, through every ill,
Of the abodes of men.
"Onward we went--but slack and slow;
His savage force at length o'erspent,
The drooping courser, faint and low,
All feebly foaming went.
A sickly infant had had power
To guide him forward in that hour;
But useless all to me:
His new-born tameness nought avail'd--
My limbs were bound; my force had fail'd,
Perchance, had they been free.
With feeble effort still I tried
To rend the bonds so starkly tied,
But still it was in vain;
My limbs were only wrung the more,
And soon the idle strife gave o'er,
Which but prolonged their pain:
The dizzy race seem'd almost done,
Although no goal was nearly won:
Rome streaks announced the coming sun--
How slow, alas! he came!
Methought that mist of dawning gray
Would never dapple into day;
How heavily it roll'd away--
Before the eastern flame
Rose crimson, and deposed the stars,
And call'd the radiance from their cars,
And fill'd the earth, from his deep throne.
"Up rose the sun; the mists were curl'd
Back from the solitary world
Which lay around, behind, before.
What booted it to traverse o'er
Plain, forest, river? Man nor brute,
Nor dint of hoof, nor print of foot,
Lay in the wild luxuriant soil;
No sign of travel, none of toil;
The very air was mute;
And not an insect's shrill small horn.
Nor matin bird's new voice was borne
From herb nor thicket. Many a werst,
Panting as if his heart would burst.
The weary brute still stagger'd on:
And still we were--or seem'd--alone.
At length, while reeling on our way.
Methought I heard a courser neigh,
From out yon tuft of blackening firs.
Is it the wind those branches stirs?
No, no! from out the forest prance
A trampling troop; I see them come!
In one vast squadron they advance!
I strove to cry--my lips were dumb.
The steeds rush on in plunging pride;
But where are they the reins to guide
A thousand horse, and none to ride!
With flowing tail, and flying mane,
Wide nostrils never stretch'd by pain,
Mouths bloodless to the bit of rein,
And feet that iron never shod,
And flanks unscarr'd by spur or rod,
A thousand horse, the wild, the free,
Like waves that follow o'er the sea,
Came thickly thundering on,
As if our faint approach to meet;
The sight re-nerved my courser's feet,
A moment staggering, feebly fleet,
A moment, with a faint low neigh,
He answer'd, and then fell;
With gasps and glaring eyes he lay,
And reeking limbs immoveable,
His first and last career is done!
On came the troop--they saw him stoop,
They saw me strangely bound along
His back with many a bloody thong:
They stop, they start, they snuff the air,
Gallop a moment here and there,
Approach, retire, wheel round and round,
Then plunging back with sudden bound,
Headed by one black mighty steed,
Who seem'd the patriarch of his breed,
Without a single speck or hair
Of white upon his shaggy hide;
They snort, they foam, neigh, swerve aside.
And backward to the forest fly,
By instinct, from a human eye.
They left me there to my despair,
Link'd to the dead and stiffening wretch,
Whose lifeless limbs beneath me stretch,
Believed from that unwonted weight,
From whence I could not extricate
Nor him nor me--and there we lay,
The dying on the dead!
I little deem'd another day
Would see my houseless, helpless head.
[Notes: _Mazeppa_ (1645-1709) was at first in the service of the King
of Poland, but on account of a charge brought against him suffered the
penalty described in the poem. He afterwards joined the Cossacks and
became their leader; was in favour for a time with Peter the Great; but
finally joined Charles XII., and died soon after the battle of Pultowa
(1709), in which Charles was defeated by Peter.
_Ukraine_ ("a frontier"), a district lying on the borders of Poland and
_Werst_. A Russian measure of distance.]
* * * * *
We make our first introduction to Wedgwood about the year 1741, as the
youngest of a family of thirteen children, and as put to earn his bread,
at eleven years of age, in the trade of his father, and in the branch
of a thrower. Then comes the well-known small-pox: the settling of the
dregs of the disease in the lower part of the leg: and the amputation of
the limb, rendering him lame for life. It is not often that we have such
palpable occasion to record our obligations to the small-pox. But, in
the wonderful ways of Providence, that disease, which came to him as
a two-fold scourge, was probably the occasion of his subsequent
excellence. It prevented him from growing up to the active vigorous
English workman, possessed of all his limbs, and knowing right well the
use of them; it put him upon considering whether, as he could not be
that, he might not be something else, and something greater. It sent his
mind inwards; it drove him to meditate upon the laws and secrets of his
art. The result was, that he arrived at a perception and a grasp of them
which might, perhaps, have been envied, certainly have been owned, by an
Athenian potter. Relentless criticism has long since torn to pieces the
old legend of King Numa, receiving in a cavern, from the Nymph Egeria,
the laws that were to govern Rome. But no criticism can shake the record
of that illness and mutilation of the boy Josiah Wedgwood, which made
for him a cavern of his bedroom, and an oracle of his own inquiring,
searching, meditative, and fruitful mind.
From those early days of suffering, weary perhaps to him as they went
by, but bright surely in the retrospect both to him and us, a mark seems
at once to have been set upon his career. But those, who would dwell
upon his history, have still to deplore that many of the materials are
wanting. It is not creditable to his country or his art, that the Life
of Wedgwood should still remain unwritten. Here is a man, who, in the
well-chosen words of his epitaph, "converted a rude and inconsiderable
manufacture into an elegant art, and an important branch of national
commerce." Here is a man, who, beginning as it were from zero, and
unaided by the national or royal gifts which were found necessary to
uphold the glories of Sevres, of Chelsea, and of Dresden, produced works
truer, perhaps, to the inexorable laws of art, than the fine fabrics
that proceeded from those establishments, and scarcely less attractive
to the public taste. Here is a man, who found his business cooped up
within a narrow valley by the want of even tolerable communications,
and who, while he devoted his mind to the lifting that business from
meanness, ugliness, and weakness, to the highest excellence of material
and form, had surplus energy enough to take a leading part in great
engineering works like the Grand Trunk Canal from the Mersey to the
Trent; which made the raw material of his industry abundant and cheap,
which supplied a vent for the manufactured article, and opened for it
materially a way to the outer world. Lastly, here is a man who found
his country dependent upon others for its supplies of all the finer
earthenware; but who, by his single strength, reversed the inclination
of the scales, and scattered thickly the productions of his factory over
all the breadth of the continent of Europe. In travelling from Paris to
St. Petersburg, from Amsterdam to the furthest point of Sweden, from
Dunkirk to the southern extremity of France, one is served at every inn
from English earthenware. The same article adorns the tables of Spain,
Portugal, and Italy; it provides the cargoes of ships to the East
Indies, the West Indies, and America.
_Speech by_ MR. GLADSTONE.
* * * * *
THE CRIMEAN WAR.
There is one point upon which I could have wished that the noble Lord
had also touched--I know there were so many subjects that he could
not avoid touching that I share the admiration of the House at the
completeness with which he seemed to have mastered all his themes; but
when the noble Lord recalled to our recollection the deeds of admirable
valour and of heroic conduct which have been achieved upon the heights
of Alma, of Balaklava, and of Inkermann, I could have wished that he had
also publicly recognized that the deeds of heroism in this campaign had
not been merely confined to the field of battle. We ought to remember
the precious lives given to the pestilence of Varna and to the
inhospitable shores of the Black Sea; these men, in my opinion, were
animated by as heroic a spirit as those who have yielded up their lives
amid the flash of artillery and the triumphant sound of trumpets. No,
Sir, language cannot do justice to the endurance of our troops under the
extreme and terrible privations which circumstances have obliged them to
endure. The high spirit of an English gentleman might have sustained him
under circumstances which he could not have anticipated to encounter;
but the same proud patience has been found among the rank and file. And
it is these moral qualities that have contributed as much as others
apparently more brilliant to those great victories which we are now
Sir, the noble Lord has taken a wise and gracious course in combining
with the thanks which he is about to propose to the British army and
navy the thanks also of the House of Commons to the army of our allies.
Sir, that alliance which has now for some time prevailed between the two
great countries of France and Britain has in peace been productive
of advantage, but it is the test to which it has been put by recent
circumstances that, in my opinion, will tend more than any other cause
to confirm and consolidate that intimate union. That alliance, Sir, is
one that does not depend upon dynasties or diplomacy. It is one which
has been sanctioned by names to which we all look up with respect or
with feelings even of a higher character. The alliance between France
and England was inaugurated by the imperial mind of Elizabeth, and
sanctioned by the profound sagacity of Cromwell; it exists now not more
from feelings of mutual interest than from feelings of mutual respect,
and I believe it will be maintained by a noble spirit of emulation.
Sir, there is still another point upon which, although with hesitation,
I will advert for a moment. I am distrustful of my own ability to deal
becomingly with a theme on which the noble Lord so well touched; but
nevertheless I feel that I must refer to it. I was glad to hear from
the noble Lord that he intends to propose a vote of condolence with the
relatives of those who have fallen in this contest. Sir, we have already
felt, even in this chamber of public assemblage, how bitter have
been the consequences of this war. We cannot throw our eyes over the
accustomed benches, where we miss many a gallant and genial face,
without feeling our hearts ache, our spirits sadden, and even our
eyes moisten. But if that be our feeling here when we miss the long
companions of our public lives and labours, what must be the anguish
and desolation which now darken so many hearths! Never, Sir, has the
youthful blood of this country been so profusely lavished as it has been
in this contest,--never has a greater sacrifice been made, and for ends
which more fully sanctify the sacrifice. But we can hardly hope now, in
the greenness of the wound, that even these reflections can serve as a
source of solace. Young women who have become widows almost as soon as
they had become wives--mothers who have lost not only their sons, but
the brethren of those sons--heads of families who have seen abruptly
close all their hopes of an hereditary line--these are pangs which even
the consciousness of duty performed, which even the lustre of glory won,
cannot easily or speedily alleviate and assuage. But let us indulge at
least in the hope, in the conviction, that the time will come when
the proceedings of this evening may be to such persons a source of
consolation--when sorrow for the memory of those that are departed may
be mitigated by the recollection that their death is at least associated
with imperishable deeds, with a noble cause, and with a nation's
_Speech by_ MR. DISRAELI.
* * * * *
I believe there is no permanent greatness to a nation except it be based
upon morality. I do not care for military greatness or military renown.
I care for the condition of the people among whom I live. There is no
man in England who is less likely to speak irreverently of the Crown and
Monarchy of England than I am; but crowns, coronets, mitres, military
display, the pomp of war, wide colonies, and a huge empire, are, in my
view, all trifles light as air, and not worth considering, unless with
them you can have a fair share of comfort, contentment, and happiness
among the great body of the people. Palaces, baronial castles, great
halls, stately mansions, do not make a nation. The nation in every
country dwells in the cottage; and unless the light of your Constitution
can shine there, unless the beauty of your legislation and the
excellence of your statesmanship are impressed there on the feelings and
condition of the people, rely upon it you have yet to learn the duties
I have not, as you have observed, pleaded that this country should
remain without adequate and scientific means of defence. I acknowledge
it to be the duty of your statesmen, acting upon the known opinions and
principles of ninety-nine out of every hundred persons in the country,
at all times, with all possible moderation, but with all possible
efficiency, to take steps which shall preserve order within and on
the confines of your kingdom. But I shall repudiate and denounce
the expenditure of every shilling, the engagement of every man, the
employment of every ship which has no object but intermeddling in the
affairs of other countries, and endeavouring to extend the boundaries
of an Empire which is already large enough to satisfy the greatest
ambition, and I fear is much too large for the highest statesmanship to
which any man has yet attained.
The most ancient of profane historians has told us that the Scythians
of his time were a very warlike people, and that they elevated an old
cimeter upon a platform as a symbol of Mars, for to Mars alone, I
believe, they built altars and offered sacrifices. To this cimeter they
offered sacrifices of horses and cattle, the main wealth of the country,
and more costly sacrifices than to all the rest of their gods. I often
ask myself whether we are at all advanced in one respect beyond those
Scythians. What are our contributions to charity, to education, to
morality, to religion, to justice, and to civil government, when
compared with the wealth we expend in sacrifices to the old cimeter? Two
nights ago I addressed in this hall a vast assembly composed to a great
extent of your countrymen who have no political power, who are at work
from the dawn of the day to the evening, and who have therefore limited
means of informing themselves on these great subjects. Now I am
privileged to speak to a somewhat different audience. You represent
those of your great community who have a more complete education, who
have on some points greater intelligence, and in whose hands reside the
power and influence of the district. I am speaking, too, within the
hearing of those whose gentle nature, whose finer instincts, whose purer
minds, have not suffered as some of us have suffered in the turmoil
and strife of life. You can mould opinion, you can create political
power,--you cannot think a good thought on this subject and communicate
it to your neighbours,--you cannot make these points topics of
discussion in your social circles and more general meetings, without
affecting sensibly and speedily the course which the Government of your
country will pursue. May I ask you, then, to believe, as I do most
devoutly believe, that the moral law was not written for men alone in
their individual character, but that it was written as well for nations,
and for nations great as this of which we are citizens. If nations
reject and deride that moral law, there is a penalty which will
inevitably follow. It may not come at once, it may not come in our
lifetime; but, rely upon it, the great Italian is not a poet only, but a
prophet, when he says--
"The sword of heaven is not in haste to smite,
Nor yet doth linger."
We have experience, we have beacons, we have landmarks enough. We
know what the past has cost us, we know how much and how far we have
wandered, but we are not left without a guide. It is true, we have not,
as an ancient people had, Urim and Thummim--those oraculous gems on
Aaron's breast--from which to take counsel, but we have the unchangeable
and eternal principles of the moral law to guide us, and only so far as
we walk by that guidance can we be permanently a great nation, or our
people a happy people.
_Speech by_ MR. BRIGHT.
* * * * *
HYMN TO DIANA.
Queen and huntress, chaste and fair,
Now the sun is laid to sleep,
Seated in thy silver chair.
State in wonted manner keep.
Hesperus entreats thy light,
Goddess excellently bright!
Earth, let not thy envious shade
Dare itself to interpose;
Cynthia's shining orb was made
Heaven to clear, when day did close.
Bless us then with wished sight,
Goddess excellently bright!
Lay thy bow of pearl apart,
And thy crystal-shining quiver:
Give unto the flying hart
Space to breathe how short soever;
Thou that mak'st a day of night,
Goddess excellently bright!
[Notes: _Ben Jonson_ (1574-1637), poet and dramatist; the contemporary
and friend of Shakespeare, with more than his learning, but far less
than his genius and imagination.]
* * * * *
Hence, loathed Melancholy,
Of Cerberus and blackest midnight born,
In Stygian cave forlorn,
'Mongst horrid shapes, and shrieks, and sights
Find out some uncouth cell,
Where brooding darkness spreads his jealous wings,
And the night-raven sings;
There, under ebon shades, and low-brow'd rocks,
As ragged as thy locks,
In dark Cimmerian desert ever dwell.
But come, thou goddess fair and free,
In heaven yclep'd Euphrosyne,
And by men, heart-easing Mirth;
Whom lovely Venus, at a birth,
With two sister Graces more,
To ivy-crowned Bacchus bore:
* * * * *
Haste thee, nymph, and bring with thee
Jest, and youthful jollity,
Quips, and cranks, and wanton wiles,
Nods, and becks, and wreathed smiles,
Such as hang on Hebe's cheek,
And love to live in dimple sleek;
Sport that wrinkled care derides,
And laughter holding both his sides.
Come, and trip it, as you go,
On the light fantastic toe;
And in thy right hand lead with thee
The mountain-nymph, sweet Liberty;
And, if I give thee honour due,
Mirth, admit me of thy crew,
To live with her, and live with thee,
In unreproved pleasures free;
To hear the Lark begin his flight,
And singing startle the dull night,
From his watch-tower in the skies,
Till the dappled dawn doth rise;
Then to come, in spite of sorrow,
And at my window bid good-morrow,
Through the sweet-briar, or the vine,
Or the twisted eglantine:
While the cock, with lively din,
Scatters the rear of darkness thin,
And to the stack, or the barn-door,
Stoutly struts his dames before:
Oft listening how the hounds and horn
Cheerly rouse the slumbering morn,
From the side of some hoar hill,
Through the high wood echoing shrill.
Sometime walking, not unseen,
By hedge-row elms, on hillocks green,
Right against the eastern gate,
Where the great sun begins his state,
Rob'd in flames, and amber light,
The clouds in thousand liveries dight;
While the ploughman, near at hand,
Whistles o'er the furrow'd land,
And the milkmaid singeth blithe,
And the mower whets his scythe,
And every shepherd tells his tale,
Under the hawthorn in the dale.
Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures,
While the landscape round it measures;
Russet lawns, and fallows gray,
Where the nibbling flocks do stray
Mountains, on whose barren breast,
The labouring clouds do often rest;
Meadows trim with daisies pied,
Shallow brooks, and rivers wide;
Towers and battlements it sees
Bosom'd high in tufted trees,
Where perhaps some beauty lies,
The cynosure of neighbouring eyes.
Hard by, a cottage chimney smokes
From betwixt two aged oaks,
Where Corydon and Thyrsis met,
Are at their savoury dinner set
Of herbs, and other country messes,
Which the neat-handed Phillis dresses;
And then in haste her bower she leaves,
With Thestylis to bind the sheaves;
Or, if the earlier season lead,
To the tann'd haycock in the mead.
Sometimes with secure delight
The upland hamlets will invite,
When the merry bells ring round,
And the jocund rebecks sound
To many a youth and many a maid,
Dancing in the checker'd shade;
And young and old come forth to play
On a sun-shine holy-day,
Till the live-long day-light fail:
Then to the spicy nut-brown ale,
With stories told of many a feat,
How faery Mab the junkets eat;
She was pinch'd, and pull'd, she said;
And he, by friar's lantern led.
Tells how the drudging goblin sweat
To earn his cream-bowl duly set,
When in one night, ere glimpse of morn,
His shadowy flail hath thresh'd the corn,
That ten day-labourers could not end;
Then lies him down the lubber fiend,
And, stretch'd out all the chimney's length,
Basks at the fire his hairy strength;
And crop-full out of door he flings,
Ere the first cock his matin rings.
Thus done the tales, to bed they creep,
By whispering winds soon lull'd asleep.
Tower'd cities please us then,
And the busy hum of men,
Where throngs of knights and barons bold,
In weeds of peace high triumphs hold.
With store of ladies, whose bright eyes
Rain influence, and judge the prize
Of wit or arms, while both contend
To win her grace, whom all commend.
There let Hymen oft appear
In saffron robe, with taper clear,
And pomp, and feast, and revelry,
With mask and antique pageantry.
Such sights, as youthful poets dream
On summer eves by haunted stream.
Then to the well-trod stage anon,
If Jonson's learned sock be on.
Or sweetest Shakspeare, Fancy's child,
Warble his native wood-notes wild.
And ever, against eating cares,
Lap me in soft Lydian airs,
Married to immortal verse;
Such as the meeting soul may pierce,
In notes, with many a winding bout
Of linked sweetness long drawn out,
With wanton heed and giddy cunning,
The melting voice through mazes running,
Untwisting all the chains that tie
The hidden soul of harmony;
That Orpheus' self may heave his head
From golden slumber on a bed
Of heap'd Elysian flowers, and hear
Such strains as would have won the ear
Of Pluto, to have quite set free
His half-regain'd Eurydice.
These delights if thou canst give,
Mirth, with thee I mean to live.
[Notes: _L'Allegro_ the Cheerful man: as Il Penseroso, the Thoughtful
man, (the title of the companion poem).
_Cerberus_. The dog that guarded the infernal regions.
_Cimmerian_. The Cimmerians were a race dwelling beyond the ocean
stream, in utter darkness.
_Euphrosyne_ Mirth or gladness.
_In unreproved pleasures_ = In innocent pleasures.
_Then to come_ = Then (admit me) to come.
_Corydon and Thyrsis_. Names for a rustic couple taken from the
mythology of the Latin poets. So _Phillis and Thestylis_.
_Rebecks_. Musical instruments like fiddles.
_Junkets_. Pieces of cheese or something of the kind.
_By friar's lantern_ = Jack o' Lantern or Will o' the Wisp.
_In weeds of peace_ = the dress worn in time of peace.
_Hymen_. God of wedlock.
_Jonson_. (See previous note to _Ben Jonson_.)
_Sock_. The shoe worn on the ancient stage by comedians as the buskin
was by tragedians.
_Lydian airs_. Soft and soothing, as opposed to the Dorian airs, which
expressed the rough and harsh element in ancient music.]
* * * * *
THE PLEASURES OF A LIFE OF LABOUR.
I wish to show you how possible it is to enjoy much happiness in very
mean employments. Cowper tells us that labour, though the primal curse,
"has been softened into mercy;" and I think that, even had he not done
so, I would have found out the fact for myself. It was twenty years
last February since I set out a little before sunrise to make my first
acquaintance with a life of labour and restraint, and I have rarely had
a heavier heart than on that morning. I was but a thin, loose-jointed
boy at the time--fond of the pretty intangibilities of romance, and of
dreaming when broad awake; and, woful change! I was now going to work
at what Burns has instanced in his "Twa Dogs" as one of the most
disagreeable of all employments--to work in a quarry. Bating the passing
uneasiness occasioned by a few gloomy anticipations, the portion of my
life which had already gone by had been happy beyond the common lot. I
had been a wanderer among rocks and wood--a reader of curious books when
I could get them--a gleaner of old traditionary stories; and now I was
going to exchange all my day-dreams, and all my amusements, for the kind
of life in which men toil every day that they may be enabled to eat, and
eat every day that they may be enabled to toil!
The quarry in which I wrought lay on the southern side of a noble inland
bay, or frith rather, with a little clear stream on the one side, and a
thick fir wood on the other. It had been opened in the old red sandstone
of the district, and was overtopped by a huge bank of diluvial clay,
which rose over it in some places to the height of nearly thirty feet,
and which at this time was rent and shivered, wherever it presented an
open front to the weather, by a recent frost. A heap of loose fragments,
which had fallen from above blocked up the face of the quarry, and my
first employment was to clear them away. The friction of the shovel soon
blistered my hands, but the pain was by no means very severe, and I
wrought hard and willingly, that I might see how the huge strata below,
which presented so firm and unbroken a frontage, were to be torn up
and removed. Picks, and wedges, and levers, were applied by my brother
workmen; and simple and rude as I had been accustomed to regard these
implements, I found I had much to learn in the way of using them. They
all proved inefficient, however, and the workmen had to bore into one of
the inferior strata, and employ gunpowder. The process was new to me,
and I deemed it a highly-amusing one: it had the merit, too, of being
attended with some such degree of danger as a boating or rock excursion,
and had thus an interest independent of its novelty. We had a few
capital shots: the fragments flew in every direction; and an immense
mass of the diluvium came toppling down, bearing with it two dead birds,
that in a recent storm had crept into one of the deeper fissures, to die
in the shelter. I felt a new interest in examining them. The one was a
pretty cock goldfinch, with its hood of vermilion, and its wings inlaid
with the gold to which it owes its name, as unsoiled and smooth as if it
had been preserved for a museum. The other, a somewhat rarer bird, of
the woodpecker tribe, was variegated with light blue and a grayish
yellow. I was engaged in admiring the poor little things, more disposed
to be sentimental, perhaps, than if I had been ten years older, and
thinking of the contrast between the warmth and jollity of their green
summer haunts and the cold and darkness of their last retreat, when I
heard our employer bidding the workmen lay by their tools. I looked up,
and saw the sun sinking behind the thick fir-wood beside us, and the
long dark shadows of the trees stretching downwards towards the shore.
This was no very formidable beginning of the course of life I had so
much dreaded. To be sure, my hands were a little sore, and I felt nearly
as much fatigued as if I had been climbing among the rocks; but I had
wrought and been useful, and had yet enjoyed the day fully as much as
usual. It was no small matter, too, that the evening, converted by a
rare transmutation into the delicious "blink of rest," which Burns so
truthfully describes, was all my own. I was as light of heart next
morning as any of my fellow-workmen. There had been a smart frost during
the night, and the rime lay white on the grass as we passed onwards
through the fields; but the sun rose in a clear atmosphere, and the day
mellowed, as it advanced, into one of those delightful days of early
spring which give so pleasing an earnest of whatever is mild and genial
in the better half of the year! All the workmen rested at mid-day, and
I went to enjoy my half-hour alone on a mossy knoll in the neighbouring
wood, which commands through the trees a wide prospect of the bay and
the opposite shore. There was not a wrinkle on the water, nor a cloud in
the sky, and the branches were as moveless in the calm as if they had
been traced on canvas. From a wooded promontory that stretched half-way
across the frith, there ascended a thin column of smoke. It rose
straight as the line of a plummet for more than a thousand yards, and
then, on reaching a thinner stratum of air, spread out equally on every
side like the foliage of a stately tree. Ben Wyvis rose to the west,
white with the yet unwasted snows of winter, and as sharply defined
in the clear atmosphere as if all its sunny slopes and blue retiring
hollows had been chiselled in marble. A line of snow ran along the
opposite hills; all above was white, and all below was purple. They
reminded me of the pretty French story, in which an old artist is
described as tasking the ingenuity of his future son-in-law by giving
him as a subject for his pencil a flower-piece composed of only white
flowers, of which the one-half were to bear their proper colour, the
other half a deep purple hue, and yet all be perfectly natural; and
how the young man resolved the riddle, and gained his mistress, by
introducing a transparent purple vase into the picture, and making the
light pass through it on the flowers that were drooping over the edge. I
returned to the quarry, convinced that a very exquisite pleasure may be
a very cheap one, and that the busiest employments may afford leisure
enough to enjoy it.
The gunpowder had loosened a large mass in one of the inferior strata,
and our first employment, on resuming our labours, was to raise it from
its bed. I assisted the other workmen in placing it on edge, and was
much struck by the appearance of the platform on which it had rested.
The entire surface was ridged and furrowed like a bank of sand that
had been left by the tide an hour before. I could trace every bend and
curvature, every cross-hollow and counter-ridge of the corresponding
phenomena; for the resemblance was no half-resemblance--it was the
thing itself; and I had observed it a hundred and a hundred times when
sailing my little schooner in the shallows left by the ebb. But what had
become of the waves that had thus fretted the solid rock, or of what
element had they been composed? I felt as completely at fault as
Robinson Crusoe did on his discovering the print of the man's foot on
the sand. The evening furnished me with still further cause of wonder.
We raised another block in a different part of the quarry, and found
that the area of a circular depression in the stratum below was broken
and flawed in every direction, as if it had been the bottom of a pool,
recently dried up, which had shrunk and split in the hardening. Several
large stones came rolling down from the diluvium in the course of the
afternoon. They were of different qualities from the sandstone below,
and from one another; and, what was more wonderful still, they were all
rounded and water-worn, as if they had been tossed about in the sea, or
the bed of a river, for hundreds of years. There could not, surely, be
a more conclusive proof that the bank which had enclosed them so long
could not have been created on the rock on which it rested. No workman
ever manufactures a half-worn article, and the stones were all
half-worn! And if not the bank, why then the sandstone underneath? I
was lost in conjecture, and found I had food enough for thought that
evening, without once thinking of the unhappiness of a life of labour.
* * * * *
THE FLIGHT OF BIRDS.
A good ornithologist should be able to distinguish birds by their air,
as well as by their colours and shape, on the ground as well as on the
wing, and in the bush as well as in the hand. For, though it must not be
said that every species of birds has a manner peculiar to itself,
yet there is somewhat in most kinds at least that at first sight
discriminates them, and enables a judicious observer to pronounce upon
them with some certainty.
Thus, kites and buzzards sail round in circles, with wings expanded and
motionless; and it is from their gliding manner that the former are
still called, in the north of England, gleads, from the Saxon verb
_glidan_, to glide. The kestrel, or windhover, has a peculiar mode of
hanging in the air in one place, his wings all the while being briskly
agitated. Hen-harriers fly low over heaths or fields of corn, and beat
the ground regularly like a pointer or setting-dog. Owls move in a
buoyant manner, as if lighter than the air; they seem to want ballast.
There is a peculiarity belonging to ravens that must draw the attention
even of the most incurious--they spend all their leisure time in
striking and cuffing each other on the wing in a kind of playful
skirmish; and when they move from one place to another, frequently turn
on their backs with a loud croak, and seem to be falling on the ground.
When this odd gesture betides them, they are scratching themselves with
one foot, and thus lose the centre of gravity. Rooks sometimes dive and
tumble in a frolicsome manner; crows and daws swagger in their walk;
woodpeckers fly with an undulating motion, opening and closing their
wings at every stroke, and so are always rising and falling in curves.
All of this kind use their tails, which incline downwards, as a support
while they run up trees. Parrots, like all other hooked-clawed birds,
walk awkwardly, and make use of their bill as a third foot, climbing
and descending with ridiculous caution. Cocks, hens, partridges, and
pheasants, etc., parade and walk gracefully, and run nimbly; but fly
with difficulty, with an impetuous whirring, and in a straight line.
Magpies and jays flutter with powerless wings, and make no dispatch;
herons seem encumbered with too much sail for their light bodies; but
these vast hollow wings are necessary in carrying burdens, such as large
fishes, and the like; pigeons, and particularly the sort called smiters,
have a way of clashing their wings, the one against the other, over
their backs, with a loud snap; another variety, called tumblers, turn
themselves over in the air. The kingfisher darts along like an arrow;
fern-owls, or goat-suckers, glance in the dusk over the tops of trees
like a meteor; starlings, as it were, swim along, while missel-thrushes
use a wild and desultory flight; swallows sweep over the surface of the
ground and water, and distinguish themselves by rapid turns and quick
evolutions; swifts dash round in circles; and the bank-martin moves with
frequent vacillations, like a butterfly. Most of the small birds fly by
jerks, rising and falling as they advance. Most small birds hop; but
wagtails and larks walk, moving their legs alternately. Skylarks rise
and fall perpendicularly as they sing; woodlarks hang poised in the air;
and titlarks rise and fall in large curves, singing in their descent.
The white-throat uses odd jerks and gesticulations over the tops of
hedges and bushes. All the duck kind waddle; divers and auks walk as if
fettered, and stand erect on their tails. Geese and cranes, and most
wild fowls, move in figured flights, often changing their position.
Dabchicks, moorhens, and coots, fly erect, with their legs hanging down,
and hardly make any dispatch; the reason is plain, their wings are
placed too forward out of the true centre of gravity, as the legs of
auks and divers are situated too backward.
REV. GILBERT WHITE.
* * * * *
Sweet was the sound, when oft at evening's close
Up yonder hill the village murmur rose.
There as I past with careless steps and slow,
The mingling notes came softened from below;
The swain responsive as the milk-maid sung,
The sober herd that lowed to meet their young,
The noisy geese that gabbled o'er the pool,
The playful children just let loose from school,
The watch-dog's voice that bayed the whispering wind,
And the loud laugh that spoke the vacant mind;
These all in sweet confusion sought the shade,
And filled each pause the nightingale had made.
But now the sounds of population fail,
No cheerful murmurs fluctuate in the gale,
No busy steps the grass-grown foot-way tread,
For all the bloomy flush of life is fled.
All but yon widowed, solitary thing,
That feebly bends beside the plashing spring:
She, wretched matron, forced in age, for bread,
To strip the brook with mantling cresses spread,
To pick her wintry faggot from the thorn,
To seek her nightly shed, and weep till mom;
She only left of all the harmless train,
The sad historian of the pensive plain.
Near yonder copse, where once the garden smiled,
And still, where many a garden-flower grows wild;
There, where a few torn shrubs the place disclose,
The village preacher's modest mansion rose,
A man he was to all the country dear,
And passing rich with forty pounds a year;
Remote from towns he ran his godly race,
Nor e'er had changed, nor wished to change his place;
Unpractised he to fawn, or seek for power,
By doctrines fashioned to the varying hour;
Far other aims his heart had learned to prize,
More skilled to raise the wretched than to rise.
His house was known to all the vagrant train;
He chid their wanderings, but relieved their pain;
The long-remember'd beggar was his guest,
Whose beard descending swept his aged breast,
The ruined spendthrift, now no longer proud,
Claimed kindred there, and had his claims allowed;
The broken soldier, kindly bade to stay,
Sat by his fire, and talked the night away.
Wept o'er his wounds or tales of sorrow done,
Shouldered his crutch, and showed how fields were won.
Pleased with his guests, the good man learned to glow,
And quite forgot their vices in their woe;
Careless their merits or their faults to scan,
His pity gave ere charity began.
Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride,
And e'en his failings leaned to virtue's side;
But in his duty prompt at every call,
He watched and wept, he prayed and felt for all;
And, as a bird each fond endearment tries
To tempt its new-fledged offspring to the skies,
He tried each art, reproved each dull delay,
Allured to brighter worlds, and led the way.
Beside the bed where parting life was laid,
And sorrow, guilt, and pain, by turns dismayed,
The reverend champion stood. At his control
Despair and anguish fled the struggling soul;
Comfort came down the trembling wretch to raise,
And his last faltering accents whispered praise.
At church, with meek and unaffected grace,
His looks adorned the venerable place;
Truth from his lips prevailed with double sway,
And fools, who came to scoff remained to pray.
The service past, around the pious man,
With steady zeal, each honest rustic ran;
E'en children followed with endearing wile,
And plucked his gown, to share the good man's smile.
His ready smile a parent's warmth expressed;
Their welfare pleased him, and their cares distressed:
To them his heart, his love, his griefs were given,
But all his serious thoughts had rest in heaven.
As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form,
Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm,
Though round its breast the rolling clouds are spread,
Eternal sunshine settles on its head.
Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the way,
With blossom'd furze unprofitably gay,
There in his noisy mansion, skilled to rule,
The village master taught his little school.
A man severe he was, and stern to view;
I knew him well, and every truant knew;
Well had the boding tremblers learned to trace
The day's disasters in his morning face;
Full well they laughed with counterfeited glee
At all his jokes, for many a joke had he;
Full well the busy whisper circling round
Conveyed the dismal tidings when he frowned,
Yet he was kind, or, if severe in aught,
The love he bore to learning was in fault;
The village all declared how much he knew;
'Twas certain he could write, and cypher too;
Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage,
And e'en, the story ran, that he could gauge:
In arguing, too, the parson owned his skill;
For e'en though vanquished, he could argue still;
While words of learned length and thundering sound
Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around;
And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew,
That one small head could carry all he knew.
* * * * *
THE BATTLE OF CORUNNA.
All the encumbrances being shipped on the morning of the 16th, it was
intended to embark the fighting men in the coming night, and this
difficult operation would probably have been happily effected; but a
glorious event was destined to give a more graceful, though melancholy,
termination to the campaign. About two o'clock a general movement of
the French line gave notice of an approaching battle, and the British
infantry, fourteen thousand five hundred strong, occupied their
position. Baird's division on the right, and governed by the oblique
direction of the ridge, approached the enemy; Hope's division, forming
the centre and left, although on strong ground abutting on the Mero, was
of necessity withheld, so that the French battery on the rocks raked the
whole line of battle. One of Baird's brigades was in column behind the
right, and one of Hope's behind the left; Paget's reserve posted at the
village of Airis, behind the centre, looked down the valley separating
the right of the position front the hills occupied by the French
cavalry. A battalion detached from the reserve kept these horsemen
in check, and was itself connected with the main body by a chain of
skirmishers extended across the valley. Fraser's division held the
heights immediately before the gates of Corunna, watching the coast
road, but it was also ready to succour any point.
When Laborde's division arrived, the French force was not less than
twenty thousand men, and the Duke of Dalmatia made no idle evolutions of
display. Distributing his lighter guns along the front of his position,
he opened a fire from the heavy battery on his left, and instantly
descended the mountain, with three columns covered by clouds of
skirmishers. The British pickets were driven back in disorder, and the
village of Elvina was carried by the first French column.
The ground about that village was intersected by stone walls and hollow
roads; a severe scrambling fight ensued, the French were forced back
with great loss, and the fiftieth regiment entering the village with the
retiring mass, drove it, after a second struggle in the street, quite
beyond the houses. Seeing this, the general ordered up a battalion of
the guards to fill the void in the line made by the advance of those
regiments; whereupon, the forty-second, mistaking his intention,
retired, with exception of the grenadiers; and at that moment, the enemy
being reinforced, renewed the fight beyond the village. Major Napier,
commanding the fiftieth, was wounded and taken prisoner, and Elvina
then became the scene of another contest; which being observed by
the Commander-in-Chief, he addressed a few animating words to the
forty-second, and caused it to return to the attack. Paget had now
descended into the valley, and the line of the skirmishers being thus
supported, vigorously checked the advance of the enemy's troops in that
quarter, while the fourth regiment galled their flank; at the same time
the centre and left of the army also became engaged, Baird was severely
wounded, and a furious action ensued along the line, in the valley, and
on the hills.
General Sir John Moore, while earnestly watching the result of the
fight about the village of Elvina, was struck on the left breast by a
cannon-shot; the shock threw him from his horse with violence; yet he
rose again in a sitting posture, his countenance unchanged, and his
steadfast eye still fixed upon the regiments engaged in his front, no
sigh betraying a sensation of pain. In a few moments, when he saw the
troops were gaining ground, his countenance brightened, and he suffered
himself to be taken to the rear. Then was seen the dreadful nature
of his hurt. As the soldiers placed him in a blanket, his sword got
entangled, and the hilt entered the wound; Captain Hardinge, a staff
officer, attempted to take it off, but the dying man stopped him,
saying: "It is as well as it is. I had rather it should go out of the
field with me;" and in that manner, so becoming to a soldier, Moore was
borne from the fight.
Notwithstanding this great disaster, the troops gained ground. The
reserve overthrowing everything in the valley, forced La Houssaye's
dismounted dragoons to retire, and thus turning the enemy, approached
the eminence upon which the great battery was posted. In the centre, the
obstinate dispute for Elvina terminated in favour of the British; and
when the night set in, their line was considerably advanced beyond the
original position of the morning, while the French were falling back in
confusion. If Fraser's division had been brought into action along with
the reserve, the enemy could hardly have escaped a signal overthrow;
for the little ammunition Soult had been able to bring up was nearly
exhausted, the river Mero was in full tide behind him, and the difficult
communication by the bridge of El Burgo was alone open for a retreat. On
the other hand, to fight in the dark was to tempt fortune; the French
were still the most numerous, their ground strong, and their disorder
facilitated the original plan of embarking during the night. Hope, upon
whom the command had devolved, resolved therefore, to ship the army,
and so complete were the arrangements, that no confusion or difficulty
occurred; the pickets kindled fires to cover the retreat, and were
themselves withdrawn at daybreak, to embark under the protection of
Hill's brigade, which was in position under the ramparts of Corunna.
From the spot where he fell, the general was carried to the town by his
soldiers; his blood flowed fast, and the torture of the wound was great;
yet the unshaken firmness of his mind made those about him, seeing the
resolution of his countenance, express a hope of his recovery. He looked
steadfastly at the injury for a moment, and said, "No, I feel that to
be impossible." Several times he caused his attendants to stop and turn
round, that he might behold the field of battle; and when the firing
indicated the advance of the British, he discovered his satisfaction
and permitted the bearers to proceed. When brought to his lodgings, the
surgeons examined his wound; there was no hope, the pain increased, he
spoke with difficulty. At intervals, he asked if the French were beaten,
and addressing his old friend, Colonel Anderson, said, "You know I
always wished to die this way." Again he asked if the enemy were
defeated, and being told they were, said, "It is a great satisfaction to
me to know we have beaten the French." His countenance continued firm,
his thoughts clear; once only when he spoke of his mother he became
agitated; but he often inquired after the safety of his friends and the
officers of his staff, and he did not even in this moment forget to
recommend those whose merit had given them claims to promotion. When
life was nearly extinct, with an unsubdued spirit, as if anticipating
the baseness of his posthumous calumniators, he exclaimed, "I hope
the people of England will be satisfied! I hope my country will do me
justice!" In a few minutes afterwards he died; and his corpse, wrapped
in a military cloak, was interred by the officers of his staff, in the
citadel of Corunna. The guns of the enemy paid his funeral honours, and
Soult, with a noble feeling of respect for his valour, raised a monument
to his memory on the field of battle.
[Note:_Battle of Corunna_. The French army having proclaimed Joseph
Buonaparte, King of Spain, the Spanish people rose as one man in
protest, and sought and obtained the aid of England. The English armies
were at first driven back by Napoleon; but the force under Sir John
Moore saved its honour in the fight before Corunna, 16th January, 1809,
which enabled it to embark in safety.]
* * * * *
BATTLE OF ALBUERA.
The fourth division was composed of two brigades: one of Portuguese
under General Harvey; the other, under Sir William Myers, consisting of
the seventh and twenty-third regiments, was called the Fusilier Brigade;
Harvey's Portuguese were immediately pushed in between Lumley's dragoons
and the hill, where they were charged by some French cavalry, whom they
beat off, and meantime Cole led his fusiliers up the contested height.
At this time six guns were in the enemy's possession, the whole of
Werle's reserves were coming forward to reinforce the front column of
the French, the remnant of Houghton's brigade could no longer maintain
its ground, the field was heaped with carcasses, the lancers were riding
furiously about the captured artillery on the upper parts of the
hill, and behind all, Hamilton's Portuguese and Alten's Germans, now
withdrawing from the bridge, seemed to be in full retreat. Soon,
however, Cole's fusiliers, flanked by a battalion of the Lusitanian
legion under Colonel Hawkshawe, mounted the hill, drove off the lancers,
recovered five of the captured guns and one colour, and appeared on the
right of Houghton's brigade, precisely as Abercrombie passed it on the
Such a gallant line, issuing from the midst of the smoke, and rapidly
separating itself from the confused and broken multitude, startled the
enemy's masses, which were increasing and pressing onwards as to an
assured victory; they wavered, hesitated, and then vomiting forth a
storm of fire, hastily endeavoured to enlarge their front, while a
fearful discharge of grape from all their artillery whistled through the
British ranks. Myers was killed, Cole and the three colonels, Ellis,
Blakeney, and Hawkshawe, fell wounded, and the fusilier battalions,
struck by the iron tempest, reeled and staggered like sinking ships; but
suddenly and sternly recovering, they closed on their terrible enemies,
and then was seen with what a strength and majesty the British soldier
fights. In vain did Soult with voice and gesture animate his Frenchmen;
in vain did the hardiest veterans break from the crowded columns and
sacrifice their lives to gain time for the mass to open out on such a
fair field; in vain did the mass itself bear up, and, fiercely striving,
fire indiscriminately upon friends and foes, while the horsemen,
hovering on the flank, threatened to charge the advancing line. Nothing
could stop that astonishing infantry. No sudden burst of undisciplined
valour, no nervous enthusiasm weakened the stability of their order,
their flashing eyes were bent on the dark columns in their front, their
measured tread shook the ground, their dreadful volleys swept away
the head of every formation, their deafening shouts overpowered the
dissonant cries that broke from all parts of the tumultuous crowd, as
slowly and with a horrid carnage it was pushed by the incessant vigour
of the attack to the farthest edge of the hill. In vain did the French
reserves mix with the struggling multitude to sustain the fight; their
efforts only increased the irremediable confusion, and the mighty mass,
breaking off like a loosened cliff, went headlong down the steep; the
rain flowed after in streams discoloured with blood, and eighteen
hundred unwounded men, the remnant of six thousand unconquerable British
soldiers, stood triumphant on the fatal hill!
[Note: _Battle of Albuera_, in which the English and Spanish armies won
a victory over the French under Marshal Soult, on 16th May, 1811.]
* * * * *
CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE AT BALAKLAVA.
The whole brigade scarcely made one efficient regiment according to the
number of continental armies; and yet it was more than we could spare.
As they passed towards the front, the Russians opened on them from the
guns in the redoubt on the right with volleys of musketry and rifles.
They swept proudly past, glittering in the morning sun in all the pride
and splendour of war. We could scarcely believe the evidence of our
senses! Surely that handful of men are not going to charge an army in
position? Alas! it was but too true; their desperate valour knew
no bounds, and far indeed was it removed from its so-called better
part--discretion. They advanced in two lines, quickening their pace
as they closed towards the enemy. A more fearful spectacle was never
witnessed than by those who, without the power to aid, beheld their
heroic countrymen rushing to the arms of death. At the distance of
twelve hundred yards the whole line of the enemy belched forth, from
thirty iron mouths, a flood of smoke and flame through which hissed the
deadly balls. Their flight was marked by instant gaps in our ranks, by
dead men and horses, by steeds flying wounded or riderless across the
plain. The first line is broken, it is joined by the second; they never
halt or check their speed for an instant; with diminished ranks, thinned
by those thirty guns, which the Russians had laid with the most deadly
accuracy, with a halo of flashing steel above their heads, and with a
cheer which was many a noble fellow's death-cry, they flew into the
smoke of the batteries; but ere they were lost to view the plain was
strewn with their bodies and with the carcasses of horses. They were
exposed to an oblique fire from the batteries on the hills on both
sides, as well as to a direct fire of musketry. Through the clouds of
smoke we could see their sabres flashing as they rode up to the guns and
dashed between them, cutting down the gunners as they stood. We saw them
riding through the guns, as I have said: to our delight we saw them
returning, after breaking through a column of Russian infantry, and
scattering them like chaff, when the flank fire of the battery on the
hill swept them down, scattered and broken as they were. Wounded men and
dismounted troopers flying towards us told the sad tale: demigods could
not have done what we had failed to do. At the very moment when they
were about to retreat, an enormous mass of lancers was hurled on their
flank. Colonel Shewell, of the 8th Hussars, saw the danger, and rode his
few men straight at them, cutting his way through with fearful loss.
The other regiments turned and engaged in a desperate encounter. With
courage too great almost for credence, they were breaking their way
through the columns which enveloped them, when there took place an act
of atrocity without parallel in the modern warfare of civilised nations.
The Russian gunners, when the storm of cavalry passed, returned to their
guns. They saw their own cavalry mingled with the troopers who had just
ridden over them, and, to the eternal disgrace of the Russian name, the
miscreants poured a murderous volley of grape and canister on the mass
of struggling men and horses, mingling friend and foe in one common
ruin. It was as much as our Heavy Cavalry Brigade could do to cover
the retreat of the miserable remnants of that band of heroes as they
returned to the place they had so lately quitted in all the pride of
life. At 11:35 not a British soldier, except the dead and dying, was
left in front of the Muscovite guns.
_The "Times" Correspondent_.
* * * * *
THE MERCHANT OF VENICE.
SCENE.--_Venice. A Court of Justice.
Enter the_ DUKE, _the_ Magnificoes, ANTONIO,
BASSANIO, GATIANO, SALARINO, SALANIO, _and
_Duke_. What, is Antonio here?
_Ant_. Ready, so please your grace.
_Duke._ I am sorry for thee; thou art come to
A stony adversary, an inhuman wretch
Uncapable of pity, void and empty
From any dram of mercy.
_Ant_. I have heard
Your grace hath ta'en great pains to qualify
His rigorous course; but since he stands obdurate
And that no lawful means can carry me
Out of his envy's reach, I do oppose
My patience to his fury, and am arm'd
To suffer, with a quietness of spirit,
The very tyranny and rage of his.
_Duke_. Go one, and call the Jew into the court,
_Salan_. He is ready at the door: he comes, my lord.
_Duke_. Make room, and let him stand before our face.
Shylock, the world thinks, and I think so too,
That thou but lead'st this fashion of thy malice
To the last hour of act; and then 'tis thought
Thou'lt show thy mercy and remorse more strange
Than is thy strange apparent cruelty;
And where thou now exact'st the penalty,
(Which is a pound of this poor merchant's flesh),
Thou wilt not only loose the forfeiture,
But, touch'd with human gentleness and love,
Forgive a moiety of the principal;
Glancing an eye of pity on his losses,
That have of late so huddled on his back,
Enow to press a royal merchant down
And pluck commiseration of his state
From brassy bosoms and rough hearts of flint,
From stubborn Turks and Tartars, never train'd
To offices of tender courtesy.
We all expect a gentle answer, Jew.
_Shy._ I have possess'd your grace of what I purpose;
And by our holy Sabbath have I sworn
To have the due and forfeit of my bond:
If you deny it, let the danger light
Upon your charter and your city's freedom.
You'll ask me, why I rather choose to have
A weight of carrion flesh than to receive
Three thousand ducats; I'll not answer that:
But, say, it is my humour; is it answer'd?
* * * * *
_Bass._ This is no answer, thou unfeeling man,
To excuse the current of thy cruelty.
_Shy_. I am not bound to please thee with my answer.
* * * * *
_Ant._ I pray you, think you question with the Jew:
You may as well go stand upon the beach
And bid the main flood bate his usual height;
You may as well use question with the wolf
Why he hath made the ewe bleat for the lamb;
You may as well forbid the mountain pines
To wag their high tops and to make no noise,
When they are fretted with the gusts of heaven;
You may as well do any thing most hard,
As seek to soften that--than which what's harder?--
His Jewish heart: therefore, I do beseech you,
Make no more offers, use no farther means,
But with all brief and plain conveniency
Let me have judgment, and the Jew his will.
_Bass_. For thy three thousand ducats here is six.
_Shy_, If every ducat in six thousand ducats
Were in six parts, and every part a ducat,
I would not draw them; I would have my bond.
_Duke_. How shalt thou hope for mercy, rendering none?
_Shy_. What judgment shall I dread, doing no wrong?
You have among you many a purchased slave,
Which, like your asses and your dogs and mules,
You use in abject and in slavish parts,
Because you bought them: shall I say to you,
Let them be free, marry them to your heirs?
Why sweat they under burthens? let their beds
Be made as soft as yours, and let their palates
Be season'd with such viands? You will answer
"The slaves are ours:" so do I answer you;
The pound of flesh, which I demand of him,
Is dearly bought; 'tis mine, and I will have it:
If you deny me, fie upon your law!
There is no force in the decrees of Venice:
I stand for judgment: answer; shall I have it?
_Duke_. Upon my power, I may dismiss this court,
Unless Bellario, a learned doctor,
Whom I have sent for to determine this,
Come here to-day.
_Salar_. My lord, here stays without
A messenger with letters from the doctor,
New come from Padua.
_Duke_. Bring us the letters; call the messenger.
_Enter_ NERISSA, _dressed like a lawyer's clerk._
_Duke._ Came you from Padua, from Bellario?
_Ner_. From both, my lord. Bellario greets your grace.
[_Presenting a letter_.
_Bass_. Why dost thou whet thy knife so earnestly?
_Shy_. To cut the forfeiture from that bankrupt there.
_Gra_. Not on thy sole, but on thy soul, harsh Jew,
Thou mak'st thy knife keen; but no metal can,
No, not the hangman's axe, bear half the keenness
Of thy sharp envy. Can no prayers pierce thee?
_Shy_. No, none that thou hast wit enough to make.
* * * * *
_Duke_. This letter from Bellario doth commend
A young and learned doctor to our court:--
Where is he?
_Ner_. He attendeth here hard by,
To know your answer, whether you'll admit him.
_Duke_. With all my heart. Some three or four of you,
Go give him courteous conduct to this place.
* * * * *
_Enter_ PORTIA, _dressed like a doctor of laws_.
_Duke_. Give me your hand. Came you from old Bellario?
_Por_. I did, my lord.
_Duke_. You are welcome: take your place.
Are you acquainted with the difference
That holds this present question in the court?
_Por_. I am informed thoroughly of the cause.
Which is the merchant here, and which the Jew?
_Duke_. Antonio and old Shylock, both stand
_Por_. Is your name Shylock?
_Shy_. Shylock is my name.
_Por_. Of a strange nature is the suit you follow;
Yet in such rule that the Venetian law
Cannot impugn you as you do proceed.
You stand within his danger, do you not?
_Ant_. Ay, so he says.
_Por_. Do you confess the bond?
_Ant_. I do.
_Por_. Then must the Jew be merciful.
_Shy_. On what compulsion must I? tell me that.
_Por_. The quality of mercy is not strain'd;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this scepter'd sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself:
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there.
_Shy_. My deeds upon my head! I crave the law,
The penalty and forfeit of my bond.
_Por_. Is he not able to discharge the money?
_Bass_. Yes, here I tender it for him in the court;
Yea, twice the sum: if that will not suffice;
I will be bound to pay it ten times o'er,
On forfeit of my hands, my head, my heart:
If this will not suffice, it must appear
That malice bears down truth. And I beseech you,
Wrest once the law to your authority:
To do a great right, do a little wrong,
And curb this cruel devil of his will.
_Por_. It must not be; there is no power in Venice
Can alter a decree established:
'Twill be recorded for a precedent,
And many an error, by the same example,
Will rush into the state: it cannot be.
_Shy._ A Daniel come to judgment! yea, a Daniel!
O wise young judge, how do I honour thee!
_Por._ I pray you, let me look upon the bond.
_Shy._ Here 'tis, most reverend doctor, here it is.
_Por._ Shylock, there's thrice thy money offer'd thee.
_Shy._ An oath, an oath, I have an oath in heaven:
Shall I lay perjury upon my soul?
No, not for Venice.
_Por._ Why, this bond is forfeit;
And lawfully by this the Jew may claim
A pound of flesh, to be by him cut off
Nearest the merchant's heart. Be merciful:
Take thrice thy money; bid me tear the bond.
_Shy._ When it is paid according to the tenour.
It doth appear you are a worthy judge;
You know the law, your exposition
Hath been most sound: I charge you by the law,
Whereof you are a well-deserving pillar,
Proceed to judgment: by my soul I swear
There is no power in the tongue of man
To alter me: I stay here on my bond.
_Ant._ Most heartily I do beseech the court
To give the judgment.
_Por._ Why then, thus it is:
You must prepare your bosom for his knife.
_Shy._ O noble judge! O excellent young man!
_Por_. For the intent and purpose of the law
Hath full relation to the penalty,
Which here appeareth due upon the bond.
_Shy_. 'Tis very true: O wise and upright judge!
How much more elder art thou than thy looks!
_Por_. Therefore lay bare your bosom.
_Shy_. Ay, his breast:
So says the bond; doth it not, noble judge?
"Nearest his heart:" those are the very words.
_Por_. It is so. Are there balance here to weigh
_Shy_. I have them ready.
_Por_. Have by some surgeon, Shylock, on your charge,
To stop his wounds, lest he do bleed to death.
_Shy_. Is it so nominated in the bond?
_Por_. It is not so express'd: but what of that?
'Twere good you do so much for charity.
_Shy_. I cannot find it; 'tis not in the bond.
_Por_. Come, merchant, have you anything to say?
_Ant_. But little: I am arm'd and well prepared.
Give me your hand, Bassanio: fare you well!
Grieve not that I am fallen to this for you;
For herein Fortune shows herself more kind
Than is her custom: it is still her use
To let the wretched man outlive his wealth,
To view with hollow eye and wrinkled brow
An age of poverty; from which lingering penance
Of such a misery doth she cut me off.
Commend me to your honourable wife:
Tell her the process of Antonio's end;
Say how I loved you, speak me fair in death.
* * * * *
_Shy_. We trifle time: I pray thee, pursue sentence.
_Por_. A pound of that same merchant's flesh is thine:
The court awards it, and the law doth give it.
_Shy_. Most rightful judge!
_Por_. And you must cut this flesh from off his breast:
The law allows it, and the court awards it.
_Shy_. Most learned judge! A sentence; come, prepare.
_Por_. Tarry a little; there is something else.
This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood;
The words expressly are "a pound of flesh:"
Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh;
But, in the cutting it, if thou dost shed
One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods
Are, by the laws of Venice, confiscate
Unto the state of Venice.
_Gra_. O upright judge! Mark, Jew: O learned judge!
_Shy_. Is that the law?
_Por_. Thyself shalt see the act:
For, as thou urgest justice, be assured
Thou shalt have justice, more than thou desirest.
_Gra_. O learned judge! Mark, Jew; a learned judge!
_Shy_. I take this offer, then; pay the bond thrice,
And let the Christian go.
_Bass_. Here is the money.
The Jew shall have all justice; soft! no haste:
He shall have nothing but the penalty.
_Gra_. O Jew! an upright judge, a learned judge!
_Por_. Therefore prepare thee to cut off the flesh.
Shed thou no blood, nor cut thou less nor more
But just a pound of flesh: if thou cut'st more
Or less than a just pound, be it but so much
As makes it light or heavy in the substance,
Or the division of the twentieth part
Of one poor scruple; nay, if the scale do turn
But in the estimation of a hair,
Thou diest and all thy goods are confiscate.
_Gra_. A second Daniel, a Daniel, Jew!
Now, infidel, I have thee on the hip.
_Por_. Why doth the Jew pause? take thy forfeiture.
_Shy_. Give me my principal, and let me go.
_Bass_. I have it ready for thee; here it is.
_Por_. He hath refused it in the open court:
He shall have merely justice and his bond.
_Gra_. A Daniel, still say I, a second Daniel!
I thank thee, Jew, for teaching me that word.
_Shy_. Shall I not have barely my principal?
_Por_. Thou shalt have nothing but the forfeiture,
To be so taken at thy peril, Jew.
_Shy_. Why, then the devil give him good of it!
I'll stay no longer question.
_Por_. Tarry, Jew:
The law hath yet another hold on you.
It is enacted in the laws of Venice,
If it be proved against an alien,
That by direct or indirect attempts
He seek the life of any citizen,
The party 'gainst the which he doth contrive
Shall seize one half his goods; the other half
Comes to the privy coffer of the state;
And the offender's life lies in the mercy
Of the duke only, 'gainst all other voice.
In which predicament, I say, thou stand'st;
For it appears, by manifest proceeding,
That indirectly and directly too
Thou hast contrived against the very life
Of the defendant; and thou hast incurr'd
The danger formerly by me rehearsed.
Down, therefore, and beg mercy of the duke.
_Gra_. Beg that thou mayst have leave to hang thyself:
And yet, thy wealth being forfeit to the state,
Thou hast not left the value of a cord;
Therefore, thou must be hang'd at the state's charge.
_Duke_. That thou shalt see the difference of our spirit,
I pardon thee thy life before thou ask it:
For half thy wealth, it is Antonio's;
The other half comes to the general state,
Which humbleness may drive unto a fine.
_Por_. Ay, for the state, not for Antonio.
_Shy_. Nay, take my life and all; pardon not that:
You take my house when you do take the prop
That doth sustain my house; you take my life
When you do take the means whereby I live.
_Por_. What mercy can you render him, Antonio?
_Gra_. A halter gratis; nothing else, for God's sake.
_Ant_. So please my lord the duke, and all the court
To quit the fine for one half of his goods;
I am content, so he will let me have
The other half in use, to render it,
Upon his death, unto the gentleman
That lately stole his daughter.
* * * * *
_Por_. Art thou contented, Jew? what dost thou say?
_Shy_. I am content.
[Notes: _Merchant of Venice. Obdurate_, with the second syllable long,
which modern usage makes short.
_Frellen_--agitated. A form of participial termination frequently found
in Shakespeare, as _strucken_, &c. It is preserved in _eaten, given,
_Within his danger_ = in danger of him.
_Which humbleness may drive unto a fine_ = which with humility on your
part may be commuted for a fine.]
* * * * *
Hence vain deluding Joys,
The brood of Folly, without father bred!
How little you bestead,
Or fill the fixed mind with all your toys!
Dwell in some idle brain,
And fancies fond with gaudy shapes possess,
As thick and numberless
As the gay motes that people the sunbeams.
Or likest hovering dreams,
The fickle pensioners of Morpheus' train.
But hail, thou Goddess, sage and holy!
Hail, divinest Melancholy!
Whose saintly visage is too bright
To hit the sense of human sight,
And therefore to our weaker view
O'erlaid with black, staid Wisdom's hue:
Black, but such as in esteem
Prince Memnon's sister might beseem
Or that starred Ethiop queen that strove
To set her beauty's praise above
The Sea-Nymphs, and their powers offended;
Yet thou art higher far descended;
Thee bright-haired Vesta, long of yore
To solitary Saturn bore;
His daughter she; in Saturn's reign
Such mixture was not held a stain:
Oft in glimmering bowers and glades
He met her, and in secret shades
Of woody Ida's inmost grove,
While yet there was no fear of Jove.
Come, pensive nun, devout and pure,
Sober, steadfast, and demure
All in a robe of darkest grain,
Flowing with majestic train
And sable stole of cyprus lawn,
Over thy decent shoulders drawn.
Come, but keep thy wonted state,
With even step and musing gait,
And looks commercing with the skies,
Thy rapt soul sitting in thine eyes;
There, held in holy passion still,
Forget thyself to marble, till
With a sad leaden downward cast,
Thou fix them on the earth as fast;
And join with thee calm Peace and Quiet,
Spare Fast, that oft with gods doth diet.
And hears the Muses in a ring
Aye round about Jove's altar sing;
And add to these retired Leisure,
That in trim gardens takes his pleasure;
But first, and chiefest, with thee bring
Him that yon soars on golden wing,
Guiding the fiery-wheeled throne,
The cherub Contemplation;
And the mute Silence hist along,
'Less Philomel will deign a song
In her sweetest, saddest plight,
Smoothing the rugged brow of Night,
While Cynthia checks her dragon yoke,
Gently o'er the accustomed oak;
--Sweet bird, that shunn'st the noise of folly,
Most musical, most melancholy;
Thee, chauntress, oft, the woods among
I woo, to hear thy even-song;
And missing thee, I walk unseen,
On the dry smooth-shaven green,
To behold the wandering Moon,
Riding near her highest noon,
Like one that had been led astray
Through the heaven's wide pathless way;
And oft, as if her head she bowed,
Stooping through a fleecy cloud.
Oft, on a plat of rising ground,
I hear the far-off Curfew sound
Over some wide-watered shore,
Swinging slow with sullen roar.
Or, if the air will not permit,
Some still, removed place will fit,
Where glowing embers through the room
Teach light to counterfeit a gloom,
Far from all resort of mirth,
Save the cricket on the hearth,
Or the bellman's drowsy charm,
To bless the doors from nightly harm.
Or let my lamp at midnight hour
Be seen on some high lonely tower,
Where I may oft out-watch the Bear
With thrice-great Hermes, or unsphere
The spirit of Plato, to unfold
What worlds, or what vast regions hold
The immortal mind, that hath forsook
Her mansion in this fleshly nook;
And of those demons that are found
In fire air, flood, or under ground,
Whose power hath a true consent
With planet, or with element.
Sometime let gorgeous Tragedy
In sceptered pall come sweeping by,
Presenting Thebes, or Pelops' line,
Or the tale of Troy divine,
Or what (though rare) of later age
Ennobled hath the buskined stage.
But, O sad Virgin, that thy power
Might raise Musaeus from his bower,
Or bid the soul of Orpheus sing
Such notes as, warbled to the string,
Drew iron tears down Pluto's cheek,
And made Hell grant what Love did seek!
Or call up him that left half-told
The story of Cambuscan bold,
Of Camball, and of Algarsife,
And who had Canace to wife
That owned the virtuous ring and glass;
And of the wondrous horse of brass
On which the Tartar king did ride;
And if aught else great bards beside
In sage and solemn tunes have sung,
Of tourneys and of trophies hung,
Of forests and enchantments drear,
Where more is meant than meets the ear.
Thus Night, oft see me in thy pale career,
Till civil-suited Morn appear.
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