No. CCCXXXIV AUGUST, 1843. VOL. LIV.
FORMS AND BALLADS OF SCHILLER. BY SIR EDWARD LYTTON BULWER.
PART THE LAST.
We here close our attempts to convey to the English reader some notion, however inadequate, of the genius and mind of Schiller. It is in these Poems, rather, perhaps, than in his Dramas and Prose works, that the upright earnestness of the mind, and the rich variety of the genius, are best displayed. Here, certainly, can best be seen that peculiar union of intellect and imagination which Mr Carlyle has so well distinguished as Schiller's characteristic attribute, and in which it would be difficult to name the modern poet by whom he is surpassed; and here the variety of the genius is least restrained and limited by the earnestness of the mind. For Schiller's variety is not that of Shakspeare, a creative and universal spirit, passing with the breath of life into characters the most diverse, and unidentified with the creations its invisible agency invokes. But it is the variety of one in whom the consciousness of his own existence is never laid aside; shown not so much in baring the minds and hearts of others, as in developing the progress and the struggles of his own, in the infinite gradations of joy and of sorrow, of exquisite feeling and solemn thought. Hence, in the drama, arise his faults and deficiencies; in his characters, he himself speaks. They are gigantic images of his own moods at different epochs of his life—impassioned with Moor—philosophizing with Posa—stately, tranquil, and sad, with Wallenstein. But as, in his dramas, this intense perception of self—this earnest, haunting consciousness—this feeling of genius as a burden, and of life as a religion—interferes with true dramatic versatility; so, on the contrary, these qualities give variety in his poems to the expositions of a mind always varying, always growing—always eager to think, and sensitive to feel. And his art loved to luxuriate in all that copious fertility of materials which the industry of a scholar submitted to the mastery of a poet; to turn to divine song whatever had charmed the study or aroused the thought: philosophy, history, the dogma, or the legend, all repose in the memory to bloom in the verse. The surface of knowledge apparent in his poems is immense; and this alone suffices to secure variety in thought. But the aspiring and ardent nature of his intellect made him love to attempt also constant experiments in the theme and in the style. The romantic ballad, the classical tale, the lyric, the didactic, the epigrammatic—the wealth of his music comprehended every note, the boldness of his temper adventured every hazard. Yet still, (as in our Byron, in our Goldsmith, and as, perhaps, in every mind tenacious of its impressions,) some favourite ideas take possession of him so forcibly, as to be frequently repeated as important truths. The sacred and majestic office of the poet—the beauty of ideal life, (in which the author of the "Robbers" and "William Tell" deemed, at last, that the only liberty was to be found)—the worship of Virtue and the Beautiful, for their own sake, and without hope of reward;—these, and many ideas minor to, and proceeding from them, revisit us in a thousand tones of eloquent and haunting music.
Reluctantly we tear ourselves from a task which has indeed been a labour of love. Many poets may inspire as high an admiration as Schiller; few so tender a personal affection. Even in his doubts and his errors, we have that interest in his struggles which arises from the conviction of his sound heart and his manly nature. Wrestling at one time with bitter poverty, at one with unhappy passion—lonely in his habits, prematurely broken in his health, his later wisdom dispelling his early dreams of Utopian liberty—still, throughout all, his bravery never fails him, his gentleness is never soured; his philanthropy changes its form, but it is never chilled. Even when he wanders into error, it is from his search for truth. That humanity which the French writers of the last century sought to preach, Schiller took from the scoffing wit of Voltaire, and the unhealthy enthusiasm of Rousseau, to invest it with the thoughtful sweetness and the robust vigour of his own great soul. And we believe that no one can depart from the attentive study of that divine bequest he has left the world, without a more serious respect for virtue, and a more genial affection for mankind.
E. LYTTON BULWER.
The Poems included in the Second Period of Schiller's literary career are few, but remarkable for their beauty, and deeply interesting from the struggling and anxious state of mind which some of them depict. It was, both to his taste and to his thought, a period of visible transition. He had survived the wild and irregular power which stamps, with fierce and somewhat sensual characters, the productions of his youth; but he had not attained that serene repose of strength—that calm, bespeaking depth and fulness, which is found in the best writings of his maturer years. In point of style, the Poems in this division have more facility and sweetness than those that precede them, and perhaps more evident vigour, more popular verve and gusto, than some that follow: in point of thought, they mark that era through which few men of inquisitive and adventurous genius—of sanguine and impassioned temperament—and of education chiefly self-formed, undisciplined, and imperfect, have failed to pass—the era of doubt and gloom, of self-conflict, and of self-torture.—In the "Robbers," and much of the poetry written in the same period of Schiller's life, there is a bold and wild imagination, which attacks rather than questions—innovates rather than examines—seizes upon subjects of vast social import, that float on the surface of opinion, and assails them with a blind and half-savage rudeness, according as they offend the enthusiasm of unreasoning youth. But now this eager and ardent mind had paused to contemplate; its studies were turned to philosophy and history—a more practical knowledge of life (though in this last, Schiller, like most German authors, was ever more or less deficient in variety and range) had begun to soften the stern and fiery spirit which had hitherto sported with the dangerous elements of social revolution. And while this change was working, before its feverish agitation subsided into that Kantism which is the antipodes of scepticism, it was natural that, to the energy which had asserted, denounced, and dogmatized, should succeed the reaction of despondency and distrust. Vehement indignation at "the solemn plausibilities" of the world pervades the "Robbers." In "Don Carlos," (commenced in this period, though published much later,) the passion is no longer vehement indignation, but mournful sorrow—not indignation that hypocrisy reigns, but sorrow that honesty cannot triumph—not indignation that formal vice usurps the high places of the world, but sorrow that, in the world, warm and generous virtue glows, and feels, and suffers—without reward. So, in the poems of this period, are two that made a considerable sensation at their first appearance—"The Conflict," published originally under the title of "The Freethinking of Passion," and "Resignation." They present a melancholy view of the moral struggles in the heart of a noble and virtuous man. From the first of these poems, Schiller, happily and wisely, at a later period of his life, struck the passages most calculated to offend. What hand would dare restore them? The few stanzas that remain still suggest the outline of dark and painful thoughts, which is filled up in the more elaborate, and, in many respects, most exquisite, poem of "Resignation." Virtue exacting all sacrifices, and giving no reward—Belief which denies enjoyment, and has no bliss save its own illusions; such is the sombre lesson of the melancholy poet—the more impressive because so far it is truth—deep and everlasting truth—but only, to a Christian, a part of truth. Resignation, so sad if not looking beyond the earth, becomes joy, when assured and confident of heaven. Another poem in this intermediate collection was no less subjected to severe animadversion, but with infinitely less justice. We mean "The Gods of Greece." This lament for the beautiful old mythology, is but the lament of a poet for the ancient founts of poetry; and few, now-a-days, can be literal enough to suppose it seriously intended to set up Paganism, to the disparagement of Christianity. But the fact is, that Schiller's mind was so essentially religious, that we feel more angry, when he whom we would gladly hail as our light and guide, only darkens us or misleads, than we should, with a less grave and reverent genius. Yet a period—a transition state—of doubt and despondency is perhaps common to men in proportion to their natural dispositions to faith and veneration. With them, it comes from keen sympathy with undeserved sufferings—from wrath at wickedness triumphant—from too intense a brooding over the great mysteries involved in the government of the world. Scepticism of this nature can but little injure the frivolous, and will be charitably regarded by the wise. Schiller's mind soon outgrew the state which, to the mind of a poet, above all men, is most ungenial, but the sadness which the struggle bequeathed, seems to have wrought a complete revolution in all his preconceived opinions. The wild creator of the "Robbers," drunk with liberty, and audacious against all restraint, becomes the champion of "Holy Order,"—the denouncer of the French republic—the extoller of an Ideal Life, which should entirely separate Genius the Restless from Society the Settled. And as his impetuous and stormy vigour matured into the lucent and tranquil art of "Der Spaziergang," "Wallenstein," and "Die Braut von Messina," so his philosophy threw itself into calm respect for all that custom sanctioned, and convention hallowed.
But even during the painful transition, of which, in his minor poems, glimpses alone are visible, Scepticism, with Schiller, never insults the devoted, or mocks the earnest mind. It may have sadness—but never scorn. It is the question of a traveller who has lost his way in the great wilderness, but who mourns with his fellow-seekers, and has no bitter laughter for their wanderings from the goal. This division begins, indeed, with a Hymn which atones for whatever pains us in the two whose strain and spirit so gloomily contrast it, viz. the matchless and immortal "Hymn to Joy"—a poem steeped in the very essence of all-loving and all-aiding, Christianity—breathing the enthusiasm of devout yet gladsome adoration, and ranking amongst the most glorious bursts of worship which grateful Genius ever rendered to the benign Creator.
And it is peculiarly noticeable, that, whatever Schiller's state of mind upon theological subjects at the time that this hymn was composed, and though all doctrinal stamp and mark be carefully absent from it, it is yet a poem that never could have been written but in a Christian age, in a Christian land—but by a man whose whole soul and heart had been at one time (nay, was at the very moment of composition) inspired and suffused with that firm belief in God's goodness and His justice—that full assurance of rewards beyond the grave—that exulting and seraphic cheerfulness which associates joy with the Creator—and that animated affection for the Brotherhood of Mankind, which Christianity—and Christianity alone, in its pure, orthodox, gospel form, needing no aid from schoolman or philosopher—taught and teaches. Would, for objects higher than the praise which the ingenuity of labour desires and strives for—would that some faint traces of the splendour which invests the original, could attend the passage of thoughts so noble and so tender, from the verse of a poet to the rhyme of a translator!
HYMN TO JOY.
Spark from the fire that Gods have fed— JOY—thou Elysian Child divine, Fire-drunk, our airy footsteps tread, O Holy One! thy holy shrine. The heart that Custom from the other Divides, thy charms again unite, And man in man but hails a brother, Wherever rest thy wings of light.
Chorus—Embrace ye millions—let this kiss, Brothers, embrace the earth below! You starry worlds that shine on this, One common Father know!
He who this lot from fate can grasp— Of one true friend the friend to be,— He who one faithful maid can clasp, Shall hold with us his jubilee; Yes, each who but one single heart In all the earth can claim his own!— Let him who cannot, stand apart, And weep beyond the pale, alone!
Chorus—Homage to holy Sympathy, Ye dwellers in our mighty ring; Up to yon Star-pavilions—she Leads to the Unknown King!
All being drinks the mother-dew Of joy from Nature's holy bosom; And Vice and Worth her steps pursue— We trace them by the blossom. Hers Love's sweet kiss—the grape's rich treasure, That cheers Life on to Death's abode; Joy in each link—the worm has pleasure, The Cherub has the smile of God!
Chorus—Why bow ye down—why down—ye millions? O World, thy Maker's throne to see, Look upward-search the Star-pavilions: There must His mansion be!
Joy is the mainspring in the whole Of endless Nature's calm rotation; Joy moves the dazzling wheels that roll In the great Timepiece of Creation; Joy breathes on buds, and flowers they are; Joy beckons—suns come forth from heaven; Joy rolls the spheres in realms afar, Ne'er to thy glass, dim Wisdom, given!
Chorus—Joyous as Suns careering gay Along their royal paths on high, March, Brothers, march our dauntless way, As Chiefs to Victory!
Joy, from Truth's pure and lambent fires, Smiles out upon the ardent seeker; Joy leads to Virtue Man's desires, And cheers as Suffering's step grows weaker. High from the sunny slopes of Faith, The gales her waving banners buoy; And through the shattered vaults of Death, Springs to the choral Angels-Joy!
Chorus—Bear this life, millions, bravely bear— Bear this life for the Better One! See ye the Stars?—a life is there, Where the reward is won.
Man never can the gods requite; How fair alike to gods to be! Where want and woe shall melt in light That plays round Bliss eternally! Revenge and Hatred both forgot; No foe, the deadliest, unforgiven; With smiles that tears can neighbour not; No path can lead Regret to Heaven!
Chorus—Let all the world be peace and love— Cancel thy debt-book with thy brother; For God shall judge of us above, As we shall judge each other!
Joy sparkles to us from the bowl— Behold the juice whose golden colour To meekness melts the savage soul, And gives Despair a Hero's valour. Up, brothers!—Lo, we crown the cup! Lo, the wine flashes to the brim! Let the bright Fount spring heavenward!—Up! To THE GOOD SPIRIT this glass!—To HIM!
Chorus—Praised by the ever-whirling ring Of Stars, and tuneful Seraphim— To THE GOOD SPIRIT—the Father-King In Heaven!—This glass to Him!
Strong-hearted Hope to Sorrow's sloth; Swift aid to guiltless Woe; Eternity to plighted Troth; Truth just to Friend and Foe; Proud men before the throne to stand; (These things are worth the dying!) Good fortune to the Honest, and Confusion to the Lying!
Chorus—Draw closer in the holy ring, Sworn by the wine-cup's golden river— Sworn by the Stars, and by their King, To keep our vow for ever!
THE INVINCIBLE ARMADA.
She comes, she comes—the Burthen of the Deeps! Beneath her wails the Universal Sea! With clanking chains and a new God, she sweeps, And with a thousand thunders, unto thee! The ocean-castles and the floating hosts— Ne'er on their like, look'd the wild waters!—Well May man the monster name "Invincible." O'er shudd'ring waves she gathers to thy coasts! The horror that she spreads can claim Just title to her haughty name. The trembling Neptune quails Under the silent and majestic forms; The Doom of Worlds in those dark sails;— Near and more near they sweep! and slumber all the Storms
Before thee the array, Blest island, Empress of the Sea! The sea-born squadrons threaten thee, And thy great heart, BRITANNIA! Woe to thy people, of their freedom proud— She rests, a thunder heavy in its cloud! Who, to thy hand the orb and sceptre gave, That thou should'st be the sovereign of the nations? To tyrant kings thou wert thyself the slave, Till Freedom dug from Law its deep foundations; The mighty CHART thy citizens made kings, And kings to citizens sublimely bow'd! And thou thyself, upon thy realm of water, Hast thou not render'd millions up to slaughter, When thy ships brought upon their sailing wings The sceptre—and the shroud? What should'st thou thank?—Blush, Earth, to hear and feel: What should'st thou thank?—Thy genius and thy steel. Behold the hidden and the giant fires! Behold thy glory trembling to its fall! Thy coming doom the round earth shall appall, And all the hearts of freemen beat for thee, And all free souls their fate in shine foresee— Theirs is thy glory's fall! One look below the Almighty gave, Where stream'd the lion-flags of thy proud foe; And near and wider yawn'd the horrent grave. "And who," saith HE, "shall lay mine England low— The stem that blooms with hero-deeds— The rock when man from wrong a refuge needs— The stronghold where the tyrant comes in vain? Who shall bid England vanish from the main? Ne'er be this only Eden freedom knew, Man's stout defence from Power, to Fate consign'd." God the Almighty blew, And the Armada went to every wind!
No! I this conflict longer will not wage, The conflict Duty claims—the giant task;— Thy spells, O Virtue, never can assuage The heart's wild fire—this offering do not ask!
True, I have sworn—a solemn vow have sworn, That I myself will curb the self within; Yet take thy wreath, no more it shall be worn— Take back thy wreath, and leave me free to sin.
Rent be the contract I with thee once made;— She loves me, loves me—forfeit be thy crown! Blest he who, lull'd in rapture's dreamy shade, Glides, as I glide, the deep fall gladly down.
She sees the worm that my youth's bloom decays, She sees my springtime wasted as it flees; And, marv'ling at the rigour that gainsays The heart's sweet impulse, my reward decrees.
Distrust this angel purity, fair soul! It is to guilt thy pity armeth me; Could Being lavish its unmeasured whole, It ne'er could give a gift to rival Thee!
Thee—the dear guilt I ever seek to shun, O tyranny of fate, O wild desires! My virtue's only crown can but be won In that last breath—when virtue's self expires!
And I, too, was amidst Arcadia born, And Nature seem'd to woo me; And to my cradle such sweet joys were sworn: And I, too, was amidst Arcadia born, Yet the short spring gave only tears unto me! Life but one blooming holiday can keep— For me the bloom is fled; The silent Genius of the Darker Sleep Turns down my torch—and weep, my brethren, weep— Weep, for the light is dead! Upon thy bridge the shadows round me press, O dread Eternity! And I have known no moment that can bless;— Take back this letter meant for Happiness— The seal's unbrokenen—see! Before thee, Judge, whose eyes the dark-spun veil Conceals, my murmur came; On this our orb a glad belief prevails, That, thine the earthly sceptre and the scales, REQUITER is thy name.
Terrors, they say, thou cost for Vice prepare, And joys the good shall know; Thou canst the crooked heart unmask and bare; Thou canst the riddle of our fate declare, And keep account with Woe. With thee a home smiles for the exiled one— There ends the thorny strife. Unto my side a godlike vision won, Called TRUTH, (few know her, and the many shun,) And check'd the reins of life. "I will repay thee in a holier land— Give thou to me thy youth; All I can grant thee lies in this command." I heard, and, trusting in a holier land, Gave my young joys to Truth.
"Give me thy Laura—give me her whom Love To thy heart's core endears; The usurer, Bliss, pays every grief—above!" I tore the fond shape from the bleeding love, And gave—albeit with tears! "What bond can bind the Dead to life once more? Poor fool," (the scoffer cries;) "Gull'd by the despot's hireling lie, with lore That gives for Truth a shadow;—life is o'er When the delusion dies!" "Tremblest thou," hiss'd the serpent-herd in scorn, "Before the vain deceit? Made holy but by custom, stale and worn, The phantom Gods, of craft and folly born— The sick world's solemn cheat? What is this Future underneath the stone? But for the veil that hides, revered alone; The giant shadow of our Terror, thrown On Conscience' troubled glass— Life's lying likeness—in the dreary shroud Of the cold sepulchre— Embalm'd by Hope—Time's mummy—which the proud Delirium, driv'ling through thy reason's cloud, Calls 'Immortality!' Giv'st thou for hope (corruption proves its lie) Sure joy that most delights us? Six thousand years has Death reign'd tranquilly!— Nor one corpse come to whisper those who die, What after death requites us!" Along Time's shores I saw the Seasons fly; Nature herself, interr'd Among her blooms, lay dead; to those who die There came no corpse to whisper Hope! Still I Clung to the Godlike Word. Judge!—All my joys to thee did I resign, All that did most delight ne; And now I kneel—man's scorn I scorn'd—thy shrine Have I adored—Thee only held divine— Requiter, now requite me! "For all my sons an equal love I know, And equal each condition," Answer'd an unseen Genius—"See below, Two flowers, for all who rightly seek them, blow— The HOPE and the FRUITION. He who has pluck'd the one, resign'd must see The sister's forfeit bloom: Let Unbelief enjoy—Belief must be All to the chooser;—the world's history Is the world's judgment doom. Thou hast had HOPE—in thy belief thy prize— Thy bliss was centred in it: Eternity itself—(Go ask the Wise!) Never to him who forfeits, resupplies The sum struck from the Minute!"
THE GODS OF GREECE.
Ye in the age gone by, Who ruled the world—a world how lovely then!— And guided still the steps of happy men In the light leading strings of careless joy! Ah, flourish'd them your service of delight! How different, oh, how different, in the day When thy sweet fanes with many a wreath were bright, O Venus Amathusia!
Then, through a veil of dreams Woven by Song, Truth's youthful beauty glow'd, And life's redundant and rejoicing streams Gave to the soulless, soul—where'er they flow'd. Man gifted Nature with divinity To lift and link her to the breast of Love; All things betray'd to the initiate eye The track of gods above!
Where lifeless—fix'd afar, A flaming ball to our dull sense is given, Phoebus Apollo, in his golden car, In silent glory swept the fields of heaven! On yonder hill the Oread was adored, In yonder tree the Dryad held her home; And from her Urn the gentle Naiad pour'd The wavelet's silver foam.
Yon bay, chaste Daphne wreathed, Yon stone was mournful Niobe's mute cell, Low through yon sedges pastoral Syrinx breathed, And through those groves wail'd the sweet Philomel; The tears of Ceres swell'd in yonder rill— Tears shed for Proserpine to Hades borne; And, for her lost Adonis, yonder hill Heard Cytherea mourn!—
Heaven's shapes were charm'd unto The mortal race of old Deucalion; Pyrrha's fair daughter, humanly to woo, Came down, in shepherd-guise, Latona's son. Between men, heroes, Gods, harmonious then Love wove sweet links and sympathies divine; Blest Amathusia, heroes, Gods, and men, Equals before thy shrine!
Not to that culture gay, Stern self-denial, or sharp penance wan! Well might each heart be happy in that day— For Gods, the Happy Ones, were kin to Man! The Beautiful alone, the Holy there! No pleasure shamed the Gods of that young race; So that the chaste Camoenae favouring were, And the subduing Grace!
A palace every shrine; Your very sports heroic;—Yours the crown Of contests hallow'd to a power divine, As rush'd the chariots thund'ring to renown. Fair round the altar where the incense breathed, Moved your melodious dance inspired; and fair Above victorious brows, the garland wreathed Sweet leaves round odorous hair!
The lively Thyrsus-swinger, And the wild car the exulting Panthers bore, Announced the Presence of the Rapture-Bringer— Bounded the Satyr and blithe Fawn before; And Maenads, as the frenzy stung the soul, Hymn'd, in their madding dance, the glorious wine— As ever beckon'd to the lusty bowl The ruddy Host divine!
Before the bed of death No ghastly spectre stood—but from the porch Of life, the lip—one kiss inhaled the breath, And the mute graceful Genius lower'd a torch. The judgment-balance of the Realms below, A judge, himself of mortal lineage, held; The very Furies at the Thracian's woe, Were moved and music-spell'd.
In the Elysian grove The shades renew'd the pleasures life held dear: The faithful spouse rejoin'd remember'd love, And rush'd along the meads the charioteer; There Linus pour'd the old accustom'd strain; Admetus there Alcestes still could greet; his Friend there once more Orestes could regain, His arrows—Philoctetes!
More glorious then the meeds That in their strife with labour nerved the brave, To the great doer of renowned deeds, The Hebe and the Heaven the Thunderer gave. To him the rescued Rescuer of the dead, Bow'd down the silent and Immortal Host; And the Twin Stars their guiding lustre shed, On the bark tempest-tost!
Art thou, fair world, no more? Return, thou virgin-bloom on Nature's face; Ah, only on the Minstrel's magic shore, Can we the footstep of sweet Fable trace! The meadows mourn for the old hallowing life; Vainly we search the earth of gods bereft; Where once the warm and living shapes were rife, Shadows alone are left!
Cold, from the North, has gone Over the Flowers the Blast that kill'd their May; And, to enrich the worship of the ONE, A Universe of Gods must pass away! Mourning, I search on yonder starry steeps, But thee no more, Selene, there I see! And through the woods I call, and o'er the deeps, And—Echo answers me!
Deaf to the joys she gives— Blind to the pomp of which she is possest— Unconscious of the spiritual Power that lives Around, and rules her—by our bliss unblest— Dull to the Art that colours or creates, Like the dead timepiece, Godless NATURE creeps Her plodding round, and, by the leaden weights, The slavish motion keeps.
To-morrow to receive New life, she digs her proper grave to-day; And icy moons, with weary sameness, weave From their own light their fullness and decay: Home to the Poet's land the Gods are flown; Light use in them that later world discerns, Which, the diviner leading-strings outgrown, On its own axle turns.
Home!—and with them are gone The hues they gazed on, and the tones they heard, Life's beauty and life's melodies—alone Broods o'er the desolate void the lifeless Word! Yet rescued from Time's deluge, still they throng, Unseen, the Pindus they were wont to cherish, Ah—that which gains immortal life in song To mortal life must perish!
We subjoin a few poems, belonging to the third period, which were omitted in our former selections from that division.
I see her still, with many a fair one nigh, Of every fair the stateliest shape appear: Like a lone son she shone upon my eye— I stood afar, and durst not venture near. Seized, as her presence brighten'd round me, by The trembling passion of voluptuous fear, Yet, swift, as borne upon some hurrying wing, The impulse snatch'd me, and I struck the string!
What then I felt—what sung—my memory hence From that wild moment would in vain invoke— It was the life of some discover'd sense That in the heart's divine emotion spoke; Long years imprison'd, and escaping thence From every chain, the SOUL enchanted broke, And found a music in its own deep core, Its holiest, deepest deep, unguess'd before.
Like melody long hush'd, and lost in space, Back to its home the breathing spirit came: I look'd, and saw upon that angel face The fair love circled with the modest shame; I heard (and heaven descended on the place) Low-whisper'd words a charmed truth proclaim— Save in thy choral hymns, O spirit-shore, Ne'er may I hear such thrilling sweetness more!
"I know the worth within the heart which sighs, Yet shuns, the modest sorrow to declare; And what rude Fortune niggardly denies, Love to the noble can with love repair. The lowly have the loftiest destinies; Love only culls the flower that love should wear; And ne'er in vain for love's rich gifts, shill yearn The heart that feels their wealth—and can return!"
Amidst the cloud-grey deeps afar The Bliss departed lies; How linger on one lonely star The loving wistful eyes! Alas—a star in truth—the light Shines but a signal of the night!
If lock'd within the icy chill Of the long sleep, thou wert— My faithful grief could find thee still A life within my heart;— But, oh, the worse despair to see Thee live to earth, and die to me!
Can those sweet longing hopes, which make Love's essence, thus decay? Can that be love which doth forsake?— That love—which fades away? That earthly gifts are brief, I knew— Is that all heaven-born mortal too?
TO A YOUNG FRIEND DEVOTING HIMSELF TO PHILOSOPHY.
Severe the proof the Grecian youth was doom'd to undergo, Before he might what lurks beneath the Eleusinia know— Art thou prepared and ripe, the shrine—that inner shrine—to win, Where Pallas guards from vulgar eyes the mystic prize within? Know'st thou what bars thy way? how dear the bargain thou dost make, When but to buy uncertain good, sure good thou dost forsake? Feel'st thou sufficient strength to brave the deadliest human fray— When Heart from Reason—Sense from Thought, shall rend themselves away? Sufficient valour, war with Doubt, the Hydra-shape, to wage; And that worst Foe within thyself with manly soul engage? With eyes that keep their heavenly health—the innocence of youth To guard from every falsehood, fair beneath the mask of Truth? Fly, if thou can'st not trust thy heart to guide thee on the way— Oh, fly the charmed margin ere th' abyss engulf its prey. Round many a step that seeks the light, the shades of midnight close; But in the glimmering twilight, see—how safely Childhood goes!
THE PUPPET-SHOW OF LIFE.
(Das Spiel des Lebens.)
A literal version of this pretty little poem, which possibly may have been suggested by some charming passages in Wilhelm Meister, would, perhaps, be incompatible with the spirit which constitutes its chief merit. And perhaps, therefore, the original may be more faithfully rendered (like many of the Odes of Horace) by paraphrase than translation.
Ho—ho—my puppet-show! Ladies and gentlemen, see my show! Life and the world—look here, in troth, Though but in parvo, I promise ye both! The world and life—in my box are they; But keep at a distance, good folks, I pray! Lit is each lamp, from the stage to the porch, With Venus's naphtha, from Cupid's torch; Never a moment, if rules can tempt ye, Never a moment my scene is empty! Here is the babe in his loading-strings— Here is the boy at play; Here is the passionate youth with wings, Like a bird's on a stormy day, To and fro, waving here and there, Down to the earth and aloft through the air! Now see the man, as for combat, enter— Where is the peril he fears to adventure? See how the puppets speed on to the race,} Each his own fortune pursues in the chase; } How many the rivals, how narrow the space! } But, hurry and scurry, O mettlesome game! The cars roll in thunder, the wheels rush in flame. How the brave dart onward, and pant and glow! How the craven behind them come creeping slow— Ha! ha! see how Pride gets a terrible fall! See how Prudence, or Cunning, out-races them all! See how at the goal, with her smiling eyes, Ever waits Woman to give the prize!
THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE NEW CENTURY.
Where can Peace find a refuge?—whither, say, Can Freedom turn?—lo, friend, before our view The CENTURY rends itself in storm away, And, red with slaughter, dawns on earth the New. The girdle of the lands is loosen'd;—hurl'd To dust the forms old Custom deem'd divine,— Safe from War's fury not the watery world;— Safe not the Nile-God nor the antique Rhine. Two mighty nations make the world their field, Deaming the world is for their heirloom given— Against the freedom of all lands they wield This—Neptune's trident; that—the Thund'rer's levin. Gold to their scales each region must afford; And, as fierce Brennus in Gaul's early tale, The Frank casts in the iron of his sword, To poise the balance, where the right may fail— Like some huge Polypus, with arms that roam Outstretch'd for prey—the Briton spreads his reign; And, as the Ocean were his household home, Locks up the chambers of the liberal main. Where on the Pole scarce gleams the faintest star, Onward his restless course unbounded flies; Tracks every isle and every coast afar, And undiscover'd leaves but—Paradise! Alas, in vain on earth's wide chart, I ween, Thou seek'st that holy realm beneath the sky— Where Freedom dwells in gardens ever green— And blooms the Youth of fair Humanity! O'er shores where sail ne'er rustled to the wind, O'er the vast universe, may rove thy ken; But in the universe thou canst not find A space sufficing for ten happy men! In the heart's holy stillness only beams The shrine of refuge from life's stormy throng; Freedom is only in the land of Dreams; And only blooms the Beautiful in Song!
THE MINSTRELS OF OLD.
Where now the minstrel of the large renown, Rapturing with living words the heark'ning throng? Charming the Man to heaven, and earthward down Charming the God?—who wing'd the soul with song? Yet lives the minstrel, not the deeds—the lyre Of old demands ears that of old believed it— Bards of bless'd time—how flew your living fire From lip to lip! how race from race received it! As if a God, men hallow'd with devotion— What Genius, speaking, shaping, wrought below, The glow of song inflamed the ear's emotion, The ear's emotion gave the song the glow; Each nurturing each—back on his soul—its tone Whole nations echoed with a rapture-peal; Then all around the heavenly splendour shone Which now the heart, and scarce the heart can feel.
FAREWELL TO THE READER.
The Muse is silent; with a virgin cheek, Bow'd with the blush of shame, she ventures near— She waits the judgment that thy lips may speak, And feels the def'rence, but disowns the fear. Such praise as Virtue gives, 'tis hers to seek— Bright Truth, not tinsel Folly to revere; He only for her wreath the flowers should cull Whose heart, with hers, beats for the Beautiful.
Nor longer yet these days of mine would live, Than to one genial heart, not idly stealing, There some sweet dreams and fancies fair to give, Some hallowing whispers of a loftier feeling. Not for the far posterity they strive, Doom'd with the time, its impulse but revealing, Born to record the Moment's smile or sigh, And with the light dance of the Hours to fly.
Spring wakes—and life, in all its youngest hues, Shoots through the mellowing meads delightedly; Air the fresh herbage scents with nectar-dews; Livelier the choral music fills the sky; Youth grows more young, and Age its youth renews, In that field-banquet of the ear and eye; Spring flies—lo, seeds where once the flowers have blush'd And the last bloom's gone, and the last muse hush'd.
A READING PARTY IN THE LONG VACATION.
Every one who knows Oxford, and a good many besides, must have heard of certain periodical migrations of the younger members of that learned university into distant and retired parts of her Majesty's dominions, which (on the "lucus a non lucendo" principle) are called and known by the name of Reading Parties. Some half dozen under-graduates, in peril of the coming examination, form themselves into a joint-stock cramming company; take L.30 or L.40 shares in a private tutor; pitch their camp in some Dan or Beersheba which has a reputation for dulness; and, like other joint-stock companies, humbug the public, and sometimes themselves, into the belief that they are "doing business." For these classical bubbles, the long vacation is the usual season, and Wales one of the favourite localities; and certainly, putting "Reading" out of the question, three fine summer months might be worse spent, than in climbing the mountains, and whipping the trout-streams, of that romantic land. Many a quiet sea-side town, or picturesque fishing-village, might be mentioned, which owes no little of its summer gayety, and perhaps something of its prosperity, to the annual visit of "the Oxonians:" many a fair girl has been indebted for the most piquant flirtation of the season to the "gens togata," who were reading at the little watering-place to which fate and papa had carried her for the race-week, or the hunt ball: and whatever the effect of these voluntary rustications upon the class lists in Oxford, they certainly have procured for the parties occasionally a very high "provincial celebrity." I know that when we beat our retreat from summer quarters at Glyndewi in 18—, the sighs of our late partners were positively heart-rending, and the blank faces of the deserted billiard-marker and solitary livery-stable 'groom' haunt me to this day.
I had been endeavouring by hard reading, for the last three months, to work up the arrears of three years of college idleness, when my evil genius himself, in the likeness of George Gordon of Trinity, persuaded me to put the finishing touch to my education, by joining a party who were going down to Glyndewi in ——shire, "really to read." In an unguarded moment, I consented; packed up books enough to last me for five years, reading at the rate of twenty-four hours per day, wrote to the governor announcing my virtuous intention, and was formally introduced to the Rev. Mr Hanmer, Gordon's tutor, as one of his "cubs" for the long vacation.
Six of us there were to be; a very mixed party, and not well mixed—a social chaos. We had an exquisite from St Mary Hall, a pea-coated Brazenose boatman, a philosophical water-drinker and union-debater from Balliol, and a two bottle man from Christ Church. When we first met, it was like oil and water; it seemed as if we might be churned together for a century, and never coalesce: but in time, like punch-making, it turned out that the very heterogeneousness of the ingredients was the zest of the compound.
I had never heard of such a place as Glyndewi, nor had I an idea how to get there. Gordon and Hanmer were gone already; so I packed myself on the top of the Shrewsbury mail, as the direct communication between Oxford and North Wales, and there became acquainted with No. 2 of my fellows in transportation; (for, except Gordon and myself, we were all utter strangers to each other.) "I say, Hawkins; let's feel those ribbons a bit, will you?" quoth the occupant of the box-seat to our respectable Jehu. "Can't indeed, sir, with these hosses; it's as much as ever I can do to hold this here near leader." This was satisfactory; risking one's neck in a tandem was all very well—a part of the regular course of an Oxford education; but amateur drivers of stage coaches I had always a prejudice against: let gentlemen keep their own four-in-hands, and upset themselves and families, as they have an undeniable right to do—but not the public. I looked at the first speaker: at his pea-jacket, that is, which was all I could see of him: Oxford decidedly. His cigar was Oxford too, by the villanous smell of it. He took the coachman's implied distrust of his professional experience good-humouredly enough, proffered him his cigar-case, and entered into a discussion on the near-leader's moral and physical qualities. "I'll trouble you for a light, if you please," said I; he turned round, we stuck the ends of our cigars together, and puffed into each other's faces for about a minute, (my cigars were damp-ish,) as grave as North American Indians. "Thank you," said I, as the interesting ceremony was concluded, and our acquaintance begun. We got into conversation, when it appeared that he, too, was bound for the undiscovered shores of Glyndewi, and that we were therefore likely to be companions for the next three months. He was an off-hand, good-humoured fellow; drank brandy and water, treated the coachman, and professed an acquaintance with bar-maids in general, and pretty ones in particular, on our line of road. He was going up for a class, he supposed, he said; the governor had taken a "second below the line" himself, and insisted upon his emulating the paternal distinction; d——d nonsense, he said, in his opinion; except that the governor had a couple of harriers with Greek names, he did not see that his classics were of any use to him: and no doubt but that Hylax and Phryne would run just as well if they had been called Stormer and Merry Lass. However, he must rub up all his old Eton books this 'long,' and get old Hanmer to lay it on thick. Such was Mr Branling of Brazenose.
At Shrewsbury, we were saluted with the intelligence, "Coach dines here, gentlemen." We found a couple of fowls that the coach might probably have dined upon, and digested with other articles—in the hind boot; to human stomachs they seemed impracticable. We employed the allotted ten minutes upon a leg of mutton, and ascended again to our stations on the roof: and here was an addition to our party. Externally, it consisted of a mackintosh and a fur cap: in the very short interval between the turned-down flap of the one and the turned-up collar of the other, were a pair of grey-glass spectacles, and part of a nose. So far we had no very sufficient premises from which to draw conclusions, whether or not he were "one of us." But there were internal evidences; an odour of Bouquet de Roi or some such villanous compound nearly overpowering the fragrance of some genuine weed which I had supplied my pea-coated friend with in the place of his Oxford "Havannahs"—a short cough occasionally, as though the smoke of the said weed were not altogether "the perfume of the lip he loved;"—and a resolute taciturnity. What was he? It is a lamentable fact that an Oxford under-graduate does not invariably look the gentleman. He vibrates between the fashionable assurance of a London swindler, and the modest diffidence of an overgrown schoolboy. There is usually a degree of unfinishedness about him. He seems to be assuming a character unlike the glorious Burschenschaf of Germany, he has no character of his own. However, for want of more profitable occupation, we set to work in earnest to discover who our fellow traveller really was: and by a series of somewhat American conversational enquiries, we at last fished out that he was going into ——shire like ourselves—nay, in answer to a direct question on the subject, that he hopes to meet Hanmer of Trinity at Glyndewi. But no further information could we get: our new friend was reserved. Mr Branling and I had commenced intimacy already. "My name is Branling of Brazenose;" "and mine Hawthorne of ——;" was our concise introduction. But our companion was the pink of Oxford correctness on this point. He thanked the porter for putting his luggage up called me "Sir" till he found I was an Oxford man; and had we travelled for a month together, would rather have requested the coachman to introduce us, than be guilty of any such barbarism as to introduce himself. So by degrees our intimacy, instead of warming, waxed cold. As night drew on, and the fire of cigars from Branling, self, and coachman, became more deadly, the fur cap was drawn still closer over the ears, the mackintosh crept up higher, and we lost sight of all but the outline of the spectacles.
The abominable twitter of the sparrows in the hedgerows gave notice of the break of day—to travellers the most dismal of all hours, in my opinion—when I awoke from the comfortable nap into which I had fallen since the last change of horses. For some time we alternately dozed, tumbled against each other, begged pardon, and awoke; till at last the sun broke out gloriously as we drove into the cheerful little town of B——.
A good breakfast set us all to rights, and made even our friend in the mackintosh talkative. He came out most in the character of tea-maker: (an office, by the way, which he filled to the general satisfaction of his constituents during our stay in North Wales.) We found out that he was a St Mary Hall man, with a duplicate name: Mr Sydney Dawson, as the cards on his multifarious luggage set forth: that he was an aspirant for "any thing he could get" in the way of honours: (humble aspiration as it seemed, it was not destined to be gratified, for he got nothing.) He thought he might find some shooting and fishing in Wales, so had brought with him a gun-case and a setter; though his pretensions to sportsmanship proved to be rather of the cockney order. For three months he was the happily unconscious butt of our party, and yet never but once was our good-humour seriously interrupted.
From B—— to Glyndewi we had been told we must make our way as we could: and a council of war, which included boots and the waiter, ended in the arrival of the owner of one of the herring-boats, of which there were several under "the terrace." "Was you wish to go to Glyndewi, gentlemen? I shall take you so quick as any way; she is capital wind, and you shall have fine sail." A man who could speak such undeniable English was in himself a treasure; for an ineffectual attempt at a bargain for some lobsters (even with a "Welsh interpreter" in our hands) had warned us that there were in this Christian country unknown tongues which would have puzzled even the Rev. Edward Irving. So the bargain was struck: in half-an-hour ourselves and traps were alongside the boat: and after waiting ten minutes for the embarkation of Mr Sydney Dawson and his dog Sholto, who seemed to have an abhorrence of sea-voyages, Branling at last hauled in the latter in the last agonies of strangulation, and his master having tumbled in over him, to the detriment of a pair of clean whites and a cerulean waistcoat, we—i.e. the rest of us—set sail for Glyndewi in high spirits.
Our boatmen were intelligent fellows, and very anxious to display their little stock of English. They knew Mr Hanmer well, they said—he had been at Glyndewi the summer before; he was "nice free gentleman;" and they guessed immediately the object of our pilgrimage: Glyndewi was "very much for learning;" did not gentlemen from Oxford College, and gentlemen from Cambridge College, all come there? We warned him not on any account to couple us in his mind with "Cambridge gentlemen:" we were quite a distinct species, we assured him. (They had beaten us that year in the eight-oar match on the Thames.) But there seemed no sufficient reason for disabusing their minds of the notion, that this influx of students was owing to something classical in the air of Glyndewi: indeed, supposing this theory to be wrong, it was no easy matter to substitute a sounder one. In what did the superiority of Mrs Jenkins's smoky parlour at Glyndewi consist, for the purposes of reading for a degree, compared with my pleasant rooms looking into —— Gardens at Oxford, or the governor's snug library at home? It is an abstruse question. Parents and guardians, indeed, whose part upon the stage of life, as upon the theatrical stage, consists principally in submitting to be more or less humbugged, attribute surprising effects to a fancied absence of all amusements, with a mill-horse round of Greek, Latin, and logic, early rising, and walks in the country with a pocket Horace. From my own experience of reading parties, I should select as their peculiar characteristics, a tendency to hats and caps of such remarkable shapes, as, if once sported in the college quadrangle, would be the subject of a common-room instanter; and, among some individuals (whom we may call the peripatetic philosophers of the party) a predilection for seedy shooting-coats and short pipes, with which they perambulate the neighbourhood to the marvel of the aboriginal inhabitants; while those whom we may class with the stoics, display a preference for dressing-gowns and meerschaums, and confine themselves principally to the doorways and open windows of their respective lodgings. How far these "helps to knowledge"—for which Oxford certainly does not afford equal facilities—conduce to the required first or second class, is a question I do not feel competent to decide; but if reading-parties do succeed, the secret of their success may at least as probably lie in these hitherto unregarded phenomena.
Five hours of a fair wind brought us to Glyndewi. Here we found Hanmer and Gordon, who had taken a house for the party, and seemed already domesticated. I cannot say that we were royally lodged; the rooms were low, and the terms high; but as no one thought of taking lodgings at Glyndewi in the winter, and the rats consequently lived in them rent-free for six months, it was but fair somebody should pay: and we did. "Attendance" we had into the bargain. Now, attendance at a lodging-house has been defined to be, the privilege of ringing your bell as often as you please, provided you do not expect any one to answer it. But the bell-ropes in Mrs. Jenkins's parlours being only ornamental appendages, our privilege was confined to calling upon the landing-place for a red-headed female, who, when she did come, which was seldom, was terrible to look upon, and could only be conversed with by pantomime.
To do Mrs. Jenkins and "Gwenny" justice, they were scrupulously clean in every thing but their own persons, which, the latter's especially, seemed to have monopolised the dirt of the whole establishment. College bedrooms are not luxurious affairs, so we were not inclined to be captious on that head; and we slept soundly, and awoke with a determination to make out first voyage of discovery in a charitable spirit.
The result of our morning's stroll was the unanimous conclusion, that Glyndewi was a rising place. It did not seem inclined to rise at all at once though; but in patches here and there, with a quarter of a mile or so between, like what we read of the great sea-serpent. (I fear this individual is no more; this matter-of-fact age has been the death of him.) There were two long streets—one parallel to the quay, (or, as the more refined called it, "the terrace,") and the other at right angles to it. The first was Herring Street—the second Goose Street. At least such were the ancient names, which I give for the benefit of antiquarian readers. Since the then Princess Victoria visited B——, the loyalty of the Glyndewi people had changed "Herring" into "Victoria;" and her royal consort has since had the equivocal compliment paid him of transmuting "Goose Street" into "Albert Buildings." I trust it will not be considered disloyal to say, that the original sponsors—the geese and the herrings—seen to me to have been somewhat hardly used; having done more for their namesakes, than, as far as I can learn, their royal successors even promised.
Glyndewi was rising, however, in more respects than in the matter of taste in nomenclature. Tall houses, all front and windows, were stuck up here and there; sometimes with a low fisherman's cottage between then, whose sinking roof and bulging walls looked as if, like the frog in the fable, it had burst in the vain attempt to rival its majestic neighbour. At one end stood a large hotel with a small business, and an empty billiard-room: at the other, a wall some six inches high marked the spot where subscription-rooms were to be built for the accommodation of visitors and the public generally, as set forth in the prospectus, as soon as the visitors and the public chose to find the money. Nearly the whole of the village was the property of a gentleman who had built the hotel and billiard-room, and run up a few lodging-houses on a speculation, which seemed at best a doubtful one, of making it in time a fashionable watering-place.
Glyndewi had been recommended to us as a quiet place. It was quiet—horribly quiet. Not the quiet of green fields and deep woods, the charm of country life; but the quiet of a teetotal supper-party, or a college in vacation. "Just the place for reading: no gayety—no temptations." So I had written to tell the governor, in the ardour of my setting forth as one of a "reading-party:" alas! it was a fatal mistake. Had it been an ordinarily cheerful place, I think one or two of us could and should have read there; as it was, our whole wits were set to work to enliven its dulness. It took us as long to invent an amusement, as would have sufficed elsewhere for getting tired of half a dozen different dissipations. The very reason which made us fix upon it as a place to read in, proved in our case the source of unmitigated idleness. "No temptations" indeed! there were no temptations—the only temptation I felt there was to hang or drown myself, and there was not a tree six feet high within as many miles, and the Dewi was a river "darkly, deeply, beautifully"—muddy; it would have been smothering rather. We should not have staid to the end of the first month, had it not been for very shame; but to run away from a reading-party would have been a joke against us for ever. So from the time we got up in the morning, until we climbed Mrs Jenkins's domestic treadmill again at night, the one question was, what should we do with ourselves? Walk? there were the A—— and B—— roads—three miles of sand and dust either way. Before us was the bay—behind the ——shire mountains, up which one might walk some sixteen miles, (in the month of July,) and yet the same view from each successive point you reached: viz., a hill before you, which you thought must be the top at last, and Glyndewi—of which we knew the number of houses, and the number of windows in each—behind. Ride then? the two hacks kept by mine host of the Mynysnewydd Arms, deserve a history to themselves. Rossinante would have been ashamed to be seen grazing in the same field with such caricatures of his race. There was a board upon a house a few doors off, announcing that "pleasure and other boats" were to be let on hire. All the boats that we were acquainted with must have been the "other" ones—for they smelled of herrings, sailed at about the pace of a couple of freshmen in a "two—oar," and gave very pretty exercise—to those who were fond of it—in baling. As for reading, we were like the performers at a travelling theatre—always "going to begin."
Branling, indeed, did once shut himself up in his bedroom, as we afterwards ascertained, with a box of cigars and a black and tan terrier, and read for three weeks on end in the peculiar atmosphere thus created. Willingham of Christ Church, and myself, had what was called the dining-room in common, and proceeded so far on the third day after our arrival, as to lay out a very imposing spread of books upon all the tables; and there it remained in evidence of our good intentions, until the first time we were called upon to do the honours of an extempore luncheon. Unfortunately, from the very first, Willingham and myself were set down by Hanmer as the idle men of the party; the sort of prophetical discrimination, which tutors at Oxford are very much in the habit of priding themselves upon, tends, like other prophecies, to work its own fulfilment. Did a civil Welshman favour us with a call? "Show him in to Mr Hawthorne and Mr Willingham; I dare say they are not very busy"—quoth our Jupiter tonans from on high in the dining-room, where he held his court; and accordingly in he came. We had Stilton and bottled porter in charge for these occasions from the common stock; but the honours of all these visits were exclusively our own, as far as houseroom went. In dropped the rest of the party, one by one. Hanmer himself pitched the Ethics into a corner to make room, as he said, for substantials, the froth of bottled Guiness damped the eloquence of Cicero, and Branling having twisted up my analysis of the last-read chapter into a light for his cigar, there was an end of our morning's work. How could we read? That was what we always said, and there was some truth in it.
Mr Branling's reading fit was soon over too; and having cursed the natives for barbarians, because there was not a pack of harriers within ten miles, which confirmed him in the opinion he had always expressed of their utter want of civilization, (for, as he justly remarked, not one in a dozen could even speak decent English,) he waited impatiently for September, when he had got leave from some Mr Williams or Jones, I never remembered which, to shoot over a considerable range about Glyndewi.
But with the 20th of August, a change came over the spirit of our dream. Hitherto we had seen little of any of the neighbouring families, excepting that of a Captain George Phillips, who, living only three miles off, on the bank of the river, and having three sons and two daughters, and keeping a pretty yacht, had given us a dinner party or two, and a pleasant day's sail. Capital fellows were the young Phillipses: Nature's gentlemen; unsophisticated, hearty Welshmen; lads from sixteen to twenty. Down they used to come, in a most dangerous little craft of their own, which went by the name of the "Coroner's Inquest," to smoke cigars, (against which the Captain had published an interdict at home,) and question us about Oxford larks, and tell us in return stories of wild-fowl shooting, otter hunting, and salmon fishing, in all which they were proficient.
Our establishment was not an imposing one, but of them we made no strangers. Once they came, I remember, self-invited to dinner, in a most unfortunate state of our larder. The weekly half sheep had not arrived from B——; to get any thing in Glyndewi, beyond the native luxuries of bacon and herrings, was hopeless; and our dinner happened to be a leash of fowls, of which we had just purchased a live supply. Mrs Glasse would have been in despair; we took it coolly; to the three boiled fowls at top, we added three roast ditto at bottom, and by unanimous consent of both guests and entertainers, a more excellent dinner was never put on table.
But the 20th of August! the day of the Glyndewi regatta! that must have a chapter to itself.
When a dull place like Glyndewi does undertake to be gay, it seldom does things by halves. Ordinary doses of excitement fail to meet the urgency of the case. It was the fashion, it appeared, for all the country families of any pretensions to ton, and not a few of the idlers from the neighbouring watering-places, to be at Glyndewi for the race-week. And as far as the programme of amusements went, certainly the committee (consisting of the resident surgeon, the non-resident proprietor of the "hotel," &c., and a retired major in the H.E.I.C.'s service, called by his familiars by the endearing name of "Tiger Jones") had made a spirited attempt to meet the demand. A public breakfast, and a regatta, and a ball—a "Full Dress and Fancy Ball," the advertisement said, on the 20th a Horse-Race; and an Ordinary on the 21st; a Cricket Match, if possible, and any extra fun which the Visitors' own genius might strike out on the following days.
The little bay of Glyndewi was not a bad place for a boat-race on a small scale. The "terrace" commanded the whole of it; there were plenty of herring-boats, about equally matched in sailing deficiencies, ready and willing to "run"—i.e. creep—for the prizes; and an honourable member of the Yacht Club, who for some years past, for reasons which it was said his creditors could explain, had found it more convenient to keep his season at B—— than at Cowes, always paid the stewards the compliment of carrying off the "Ladies' Challenge Cup."
The two or three years' experience which the Glyndewi people had lately gained of the nature and habits of "the Oxonians," made them an article in great demand on these occasions. Mammas and daughters agreed in looking upon us as undeniable partners in the ballroom, while the sporting men booked us as safe for getting up a creditable four-oar, with a strong probability of finding a light weight willing to risk his neck and reputation at a hurdle-race. Certain it is, that from the time the races began to be seriously talked about, we began to feel ourselves invested with additional importance. "Tiger Jones" (who occupied a snug little box about a mile out of Glyndewi, where he lived upon cheroots and brandy and water) called, was exceedingly polite, apologized for not inviting us to dinner—a thing he declared impossible in his quarters—hoped we would call some day and take a lunch with him, spoke with rapture of the capital crew which "the gentlemen who were studying here last summer" had made up, and which ran away from all competitors, and expressed a fervent hope that we should do likewise.
The sporting surgeon (of course he had called upon us long ago) redoubled his attentions, begged that if any of us were cricketers we would endeavour to aid him in getting up a "Glyndewi eleven" against the "Strangers," and fixed himself upon me as an invaluable acquisition, when he found I had actually once played in a match against Marylebone. (I did not tell him that the total score of my innings was "one.") Would I, then, at once take the drilling of as many recruits as he could get together? And would Mr Willingham and Mr Gordon, who "used to play at school," get up their practice again? (It wanted about a fortnight to the races.) The result of this, and sundry other interviews, was, that Branling at length found a vent for the vis inertiae in putting us all, with the exception of Mr Sydney Dawson, whom he declared to be so stiff in the back that he had no hope of him, into training for a four-oar; and the surgeon and myself set off in his gig for B——, to purchase materials for cricket.
It is true, that our respected tutor did look more than usually grave, and shook his head with a meaning almost as voluminous as Lord Burleigh's, when informed of our new line of study. Rowing he declared to be a most absurd expenditure of time and strength; he never could see the fun of men breaking bloodvessels, and getting plucked for their degree, for the honour of "the Trinity Boat." But the cricket touched him on the raw. He was an old Etonian, and had in his time been a good player; and was now as active as any stout gentleman of seven-and-thirty, who had been twelve years a steady admirer of bursary dinners and common-room port. So, after some decent scruples on his part, and some well-timed compliments touching his physical abilities on ours, (he was much vainer of the muscle of his arm than of his high reputation as a scholar,) we succeeded in drawing from him a sort of promise, that if we were so foolish as to get up a match, he would try whether he had forgot all about bowling.
For the next fortnight, therefore, we had occupation enough cut out for us. Branling was unmerciful in his practice on the river; and considering that two of us had never pulled an oar but in the slowest of "Torpids," we improved surprisingly under his tuition. The cricket, too, was quite a new era in our existence. Davson (we told him that the "Sydney" must be kept for Sundays) was a perfect fund of amusement in his zealous practice. He knew as much about the matter as a cow might, and was rather less active. But if perseverance could have made a cricketer, he would have turned out a first-rate one. Not content with two or three hours of it every fine evening, when we all sallied down to the marsh, followed by every idler in Glyndewi, he used to disappear occasionally in the mornings, and for some days puzzled us as to where and how he disposed of himself. We had engaged, in our corporate capacity, the services of a most original retainer, who cleaned boots, fetched the beer, eat the cold mutton, and made himself otherwise useful when required. He was amphibious in his habits, having been a herring-fisher the best part of his life; but being a martyr to the rheumatism, which occasionally screwed him up into indescribable forms, had betaken himself to earning a precarious subsistence as he could on shore. It was not often that we required his services between breakfast and luncheon, but one morning, after having dispatched Gwenny in all directions to hunt for Bill Thomas in vain, we at last elicited from her that "may-be she was gone with Mr Dawson." Then it came out, to our infinite amusement, that Dawson was in the habit, occasionally, of impressing our factotum Bill to carry bat, stumps, and ball down to the marsh, and there commencing private practice on his own account.
Mr Sydney Dawson and Bill Thomas—the sublime and the ridiculous—amalgamating at cricket, was far too good a joke to lose; so we got Hanmer to cut his lecture short, and come down with us to the scene of action. From the cover of a sandbank, we had a view of all that was going on in the plain below. There was our friend at the wicket, with his coat off, and the grey spectacles on, in an attitude which it must have taken him some study to accomplish, and Bill, with the ball in his hand, vociferating "Plaiy." A ragged urchin behind the wicket, attempting to bag the balls as Dawson missed them in what had once been a hat, and Sholto looking on with an air of mystification, completed the picture.
"That's too slow," said Sydney, as Bill, after some awful contortions, at length delivered himself of what he called "a cast." "Diawl!" said Bill, sotto voce, as he again got possession of the ball. "That's too high," was the complaint, as with an extraordinary kind of jerk, it flew some yards over the batsman's head, and took what remained of the crown out of the little lazzaroni's hat behind. "Diawl!" quoth Bill again, apologetically, "She got too much way on her that time." Bill was generally pretty wide of his mark, and great appeared to be the satisfaction of all parties when Dawson contrived to make a hit, and Sholto and the boy set off after the ball, while the striker leaned with elegant nonchalance upon his bat, and Bill mopped his face, and gave vent to a complimentary varety of "Diawl." It was really a pity to interrupt the performance; but we did at last. Bill looked rather ashamed of his share in the business when he saw "Mishtar," as he called Hanmer; but Dawson's self-complacency and good-humour carried him through every thing. "By Jove," said Willingham to him, "no wonder you improve in your style of play; Bill has no bad notion of bowling, has he?" "Why, no; he does very well for practice; and he is to have half-a-crown if he gets me out." "Bowl at his legs, Bill," said Willingham aside, "he's out, you know, if you hit them." "Nay," said Bill, with a desponding shake of the head, "She squat'n hard on the knee now just, and made'n proper savage, but I wasn't get nothing for that."
Positively we did more in the way of reading after the boating and the cricket began, than while we continued in a state of vagrant idleness, without a fixed amusement of any kind. In the first place, it was necessary to conciliate Hanmer by some show of industry in the morning, in order to keep him in good humour for the cricket in the evening; for he was decidedly the main hope of our having any thing like a decent eleven. Secondly, the Phillipses took to dining early at home, and coming to practice with us in the evening, instead of dropping down the river every breezy morning, and either idling in our rooms, or beguiling us out mackerel-fishing or flapper-shooting in their boat. And thirdly, it became absolutely necessary that we should do something, if class lists and examiners had any real existence, and were not mere bugbears invented by "alma mater" to instil a wholesome terror into her unruly progeny. Really, when one compared our actual progress with the Augean labour which was to be gone through, it required a large amount of faith to believe that we were all "going up for honours in October."
We spent a very pleasant morning at Llyn-eiros, the den of "Tiger Jones." He obtained this somewhat appalling soubriquet from a habit of spinning yarns, more marvellous than his unwarlike neighbours were accustomed to, of the dangers encountered in his Indian sports; and one in particular, of an extraordinary combat between his "chokedar" and a tiger—whether the gist of the story lay in the tiger's eating the chokedar, or the chokedar eating the tiger, I am not sure—I rather think the latter. However, in Wales one is always glad to have some distinguishing appellation to prefix to the name of Jones. If a man's godfathers and godmothers have the forethought to christen him "Mountstewart Jones," or "Fitzhardinge Jones," (I knew such instances of cognominal anticlimax,) then it was all very well—no mistake about the individuality of such fortunate people. But "Tom Joneses" and "Bob Joneses" were no individuals at all. They were classes, and large classes; and had to be again distinguished into "Little Bob Joneses" and "Long Bob Joneses." Or if there happened to be nothing sufficiently characteristic in the personal appearance of the rival Joneses, then was he fortunate who had no less complimentary additions to his style and title than what might be derived from the name of his location, or the nature of his engagements. These honours were often hereditary—nay, sometimes descended in the female line. We hear occasionally, in England, of "Mrs Doctor Smith," and "Mrs Major Brown;" and absurd as it is, one does comprehend by intuition that it was the gentleman and not the lady who was the ten-year man at Cambridge, or the commandant of the Boggleton yeomanry; but few besides a Welshman would have learned, without a smile, that "Mrs Jones the officer" was the relict of the late tide-waiter at Glyndewi, or that the quiet, modest little daughter of the town-clerk of B—— was known to her intimates as "Miss Jones the lawyer." Luckily our friend the Tiger was a bachelor; it would have been alarming to a nervous stranger at the Glyndewi ball, upon enquiring the name of the young lady with red hair and cat's eyes, to have been introduced incontinently to "Miss Jones the tiger."
The Tiger himself was a well-disposed animal; somewhat given to solitary prowling, like his namesakes in a state of nature, but of most untiger-like and facetious humour. He generally marched into Glyndewi after an early breakfast, and from that time until he returned to his "mutton" at five, might be seen majestically stalking up and down the extreme edge of the terrace, looking at the fishing-boats, and shaking—not his tail, for, as all stout gentlemen seem to think it their duty to do by the sea-side, he wore a round jacket. From the time that we began our new pursuits, he took to us amazingly—called us his "dear lads"—offered bets to any amount that we should beat the B——Cutter Club, and protested that he never saw finer bowling at Lord's than Hanmer's.
Branling was in delight. He had found a man who would smoke with him all day, (report said, indeed, that the Tiger regularly went to sleep with a cheroot in his mouth,) and he had the superintending of "the boat," which was his thought from morning to night. A light gig, that had once belonged to the custom-house, was polished and painted under his special directions, (often did we sigh for one of King's worst "fours!") and the fishermen marvelled at such precocious nautical talent.
None of these, however—great events as they were in our hitherto monotonous sojourn—were the "crowning mercy" of the Glyndewi regatta. Hitherto the sunshine of bright eyes, and the breath of balmy lips, had been almost as much unknown to us as if we had been still within the monastic walls of Oxford. We had dined in a body at our friend the surgeon's: he was a bachelor. We had been invited by two's and three's at a time to a Welsh squire's in the neighbourhood, who had two maiden sisters, and a fat, good-humoured wife. Captain Phillips had given us a spread more than once at Craig-y-gerron, and, of course, some of us (I was not so fortunate) had handed in the Misses Phillips to dinner; but the greater part of the time from six till eleven (at which hour Hanmer always ordered out our "trap") was too pleasantly occupied in discussing the captain's port and claret, and laughing at his jokes, to induce us to give much time or attention to the ladies in the drawing-room. If some of my fair readers exclaim against this stoic (or rather epicurean) indifference, it may gratify their injured vanity to know, that in the sequel some of us paid for it.
The Phillipses came down in full force, the day before the regatta; they were engaged to lunch with us, and, as it was the first time that the ladies of the party had honoured us with a visit, we spared no pains to make our entertainment somewhat more recherche than was our wont. It was then that I first discovered that Clara Phillips was beautiful. I am not going to describe her now; I never could have described her. All I knew, and all I remember, was, that for a long time afterwards I formed my standard of what a woman ought to be, by unconscious comparison with what she was. What colour her eyes were, was a question among us at the time. Willingham swore they were grey; Dawson insisted that they were hazel; Branling, to whom they referred the point, was inclined to think there was, "something green" in them. But that they were eyes of no common expression, all of us were agreed. I think at least half the party were more than half in love with her when that race-week was over. In one sense it was not her fault if we were; for a girl more thoroughly free from every species of coquetry, and with less of that pitiful ambition of making conquests, which is the curse of half the sex, it was impossible to meet with. But she was to blame for it too, in another way; for to know her, and not love her, would have been a reproach to any man. Lively and good-humoured, with an unaffected buoyancy of spirits, interesting herself in all that passed around her, and unconscious of the interest she herself excited, no wonder that she seemed to us like an angel sent to cheer us in our house of bondage. Of her own family she was deservedly the darling; even Dick Phillips, whom three successive tutors had given up in despair, became the most docile of pupils under his sister Clara; accustomed early to join her brothers in all out-door sports, she was an excellent horsewoman, a fearless sailor, and an untiring explorer of mountains and waterfalls, without losing her naturally feminine character, or becoming in any degree a hoyden or a romp. She sang the sweet national airs of Wales with a voice whose richness of tone was only second to its power of expression. She did every thing with the air of one who, while delighting others, is conscious only of delighting herself; and never seeking admiration, received it as gracefully as it was ungrudgingly bestowed.
If there is one form of taking exercise which I really hate, it is what people call dancing. I am passionately fond of music; but why people should conceive it necessary to shuffle about in all varieties of awkwardness, in order to enjoy it to their satisfaction, has been, is, and probably will ever be, beyond my comprehension. It is all very well for young ladies on the look-out for husbands to affect a fondness for dancing: in the first place, some women dance gracefully, and even elegantly, and show themselves off undoubtedly to advantage; (if any exhibition on a woman's part be an advantage;) then it gives an excuse for whispering, and squeezing of hands, and stealing flowers, and a thousand nameless skirmishings preparatory to what they are endeavouring to bring about—an engagement; but for a man to be fond of shuffling and twirling himself out of the dignity of step which nature gave him—picking his way through a quadrille, like a goose upon hot bricks, or gyrating like a bad tee-totum in what English fashionables are pleased to term a "valse," I never see a man thus occupied, without a fervent desire to kick him. "What a Goth!" I hear a fair reader of eighteen, prettily ejaculate—"thank Heaven, that all men have not such barbarous ideas! Why, I would go fifty miles to a good ball!" Be not alarmed, my dear young lady; give me but a moment to thank Providence, in my turn, that you are neither my sister nor my daughter, and will promise you, that you shall never be my wife.
On the Saturday night then, I made Gordon and Willingham both very cross, and caught Sydney Dawson's eye looking over his spectacles with supreme contempt, when I declared my decided intention of staying at home the night of the ball. Even the Reverend Robert Hanmer, who was going himself, was annoyed when Gordon told him of what he called my wilfulness, having a notion that it was decidedly disrespectful in any of us, either to go when he did not, or to decline going, when he did.
On the Tuesday morning, I sent to B—— for white kids. Gordon looked astonished, Hanmer was glad that I had "taken his advice," and Willingham laughed outright; he had overheard Clara Phillips ask me to dance with her. Men are like green gooseberries—very green ones; women do make fools of them, and a comparatively small proportion of sugar, in the shape of flattery, is sufficient.
Two days before the regatta, there marched into Mrs Jenkins's open doorway, a bewildered looking gentleman, shaking off the dust from his feet in testimony of having had a long walk, and enquiring for Hanmer. Gwenny, with her natural grace, trotted up stairs before him, put her head in at the "drawing-room" door, (she seemed always conscious that the less one saw of her person the better,) and having announced briefly, but emphatically, "a gentlemans," retreated. Hanmer had puzzled himself and me, by an attempt to explain a passage which Aristotle, of course, would have put in plainer language, if he had known what he meant himself—but modern philosophers are kind enough to help him out occasionally—when the entrance of the gentleman in dust cut the Gordian knot, and saved the Stagyrite from the disgrace of having a pretty bit of esoteric abstruseness translated into common sense.
(What a blessing would it be for Dr ——, and Professor ——, if they might be allowed to mystify their readers in Greek! though, to do them justice, they have turned the Queen's English to good account for that purpose, and have produced passages which first-class men, at an Athenian University, might possibly construe, but which the whole board of sophists might be defied to explain.)
The deus ex machina—the gentleman on, or rather off the tramp—who arrived thus opportunely, was no less a person than the Reverend George Plympton, Fellow of Oriel, &c. &c. &c. He was an intimate friend of our worthy tutor's; if the friendship between Oxford dons can be called intimacy. They compared the merits of their respective college cooks three or four times a term, and contended for the superior vintage of the common-room port. They played whist together; walked arm-in-arm round Christchurch meadow; and knew the names of all the old incumbents in each other's college-list, and the value of the respective livings. Mr Plympton and a friend had been making a walking tour of North Wales; that is, they walked about five miles, stared at a mountain, or a fall, or an old castle, as per guide-book, and then coached it to the next point, when the said book set down that "the Black Dog was an excellent inn," or that "travellers would find every accommodation at Mrs Price's of the Wynnstay Arms." Knowing that Hanmer was to be found at Glyndewi, Mr Plympton left his friend at B——, where the salmon was unexceptionable, and had completed the most arduous day's walk in his journal, nearly thirteen miles, in a state of dust and heat far from agreeable to a stoutish gentleman of forty, who usually looked as spruce as if he came out of a band-box. Hanmer and he seemed really glad to see each other. On those "oxless" shores, where, as Byron says, "beef was rare," though
"Goat's flesh there was, no doubt, and kid, and mutton,"
the tender reminiscences of far-off Gaude days and Bursary dinners, that must have arisen in the hearts of each, were enough to make their meeting almost an affecting one. Hanmer must have blushed, I think, though far from his wont, when he asked Mr Plympton if he could feed with us at four upon—hashed mutton! (We consumed nearly a sheep per week, and exhausted our stock of culinary ideas, as well as our landlady's patience, in trying to vary the forms in which it was to appear; not having taken the precaution, as some Cambridge men did at B——s one vacation, to bespeak a French cook at a rather higher salary than the mathematical tutor's.[A]) Probably, however, Mr Plympton's unusual walk made him more anxious about the quantity than the quality of his diet, for he not only attacked the mutton like an Etonian, but announced his intention of staying with us over the ball, if a bed was to be had, and sending to B—— for his decorations. He was introduced in due form to the Phillipses the next day, and in the number and elegance of his bows, almost eclipsed Mr Sydney Dawson, whom Clara never ceased to recommend to her brothers as an example of politeness.
Bright dawned the morning of the 20th of August, the first of the "three glorious days" of Glyndewi. As people came to these races really for amusement, the breakfast was fixed for the very unfashionable hour of ten, in order not to interfere with the main business of the day—the regatta. Before half-past, the tables at the Mynysnewydd Arms were filled with what the ——shire Herald termed "a galaxy of beauty and fashion." But every one seemed well aware, that there were far more substantial attractions present, meant to fill not the tables only, but the guests. The breakfast was by no means a matter of form. People had evidently come with more serious intentions, than merely to display new bonnets, and trifle with grapes and peaches. Sea-air gives a whet to even a lady's appetite, and if the performances that morning were any criterion of the effects of that of Glyndewi, the new Poor Law Commissioners, in forming their scale of allowances, must really have reported it a "special case." The fair Cambrians, in short, played very respectable knives and forks—made no bones—or rather nothing but bones—of the chickens, and ate kippered salmon like Catholics. You caught a bright eye gazing in your direction with evident interest—"Would you have the kindness to cut that pasty before you for a lady?" You almost overheard a tender whisper from the gentleman opposite to the pretty girl beside him. She blushes and gently remonstrates. Again his lip almost touches her cheek in earnest persuasion—yes! she is consenting—to another little slice of ham! As for the jolly Welsh squires themselves, and their strapping heirs-apparent, (you remember that six-foot-four man surely, number six of the Jesus boat)—now that the ladies have really done, and the waiters have brought in the relays of brandered chickens and fresh-caught salmon, which mine host, who has had some experience of his customers, has most liberally provided—they set to work in earnest. They have been only politely trifling hitherto with the wing of a fowl or so, to keep the ladies' company. But now, as old Captain Phillips, at the head of the table, cuts a slice and a joke alternately, and the Tiger at the bottom begins to let out his carnivorous propensities, one gets to have an idea what breakfast means. "Let me advise you, my dear Mr Dawson—as a friend—you'll excuse an old stager—if you have no particular wish to starve yourself—you've had nothing yet but two cups of tea—to help yourself, and let your neighbours do the same. You may keep on cutting Vauxhall shavings for those three young Lloyds till Michaelmas; pass the ham down to them, and hand me those devilled kidneys."
"Tea? no; thank you; I took a cup yesterday, and haven't been myself since. Waiter! don't you see this tankard's empty?"
"Consume you, Dick Phillips! I left two birds in that pie five minutes back, and you've cleared it out!"
"Diawl, John Jones, I was a fool to look into a tankard after you!"
Every thing has an end, and so the breakfast had at last; and we followed the ladies to the terrace to watch the sailing for the ladies' challenge cup. By the help of a glass we could see three yachts, with about half-a-mile between each, endeavouring to get round a small boat with a man and a flag in it, which, as the wind was about the worst they could have had for the purpose, seemed no easy matter. There was no great interest in straining one's eyes after them, so I found out the Phillipses, and having told Dawson, who was escorting Clara, that Hanmer was looking for him to make out the list of "the eleven," I was very sorry indeed when the sound of a gun announced that the Hon. H. Chouser's Firefly had won the cup, and that the other two yachts might be expected in the course of half-an-hour. Nobody waited for them, of course. The herring boats, after a considerable deal of what I concluded from the emphasis to be swearing in Welch, in which, however, Captain Phillips, who was umpire, seemed to have decidedly the advantage in variety of terms and power of voice, were pronounced "ready," and started by gunfire accordingly. A rare start they made of it. The great ambition of every man among them seemed to be to prevent the boats next in the line from starting at all. It was a general fouling match, and the jabbering was terrific. At last, the two outside boats, having the advantage of a clear berth on one side, got away, and made a pretty race of it, followed by such of the rest as could by degrees extricate themselves from the melee.