A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
VOL. XIV.—DECEMBER, 1864.—NO. LXXXVI.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1864, by TICKNOR AND FIELDS, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
THE HIGHLAND LIGHT.
This light-house, known to mariners as the Cape Cod or Highland Light, is one of our "primary sea-coast lights," and is usually the first seen by those approaching the entrance of Massachusetts Bay from Europe. It is forty-three miles from Cape Ann Light, and forty-one from Boston Light. It stands about twenty rods from the edge of the bank, which is here formed of clay. I borrowed the plane and square, level and dividers, of a carpenter who was shingling a barn near by, and, using one of those shingles made of a mast, contrived a rude sort of quadrant, with pins for sights and pivots, and got the angle of elevation of the bank opposite the light-house, and with a couple of cod-lines the length of its slope, and so measured its height on the shingle. It rises one hundred and ten feet above its immediate base, or about one hundred and twenty-three feet above mean low water. Graham, who has carefully surveyed the extremity of the Cape, makes it one hundred and thirty feet. The mixed sand and clay lay at an angle of forty degrees with the horizon, where I measured it, but the clay is generally much steeper. No cow nor hen ever gets down it. Half a mile farther south the bank is fifteen or twenty-five feet higher, and that appeared to be the highest land in North Truro. Even this vast clay-bank is fast wearing away. Small streams of water trickling down it at intervals of two or three rods have left the intermediate clay in the form of steep Gothic roofs fifty feet high or more, the ridges as sharp and rugged-looking as rocks; and in one place the bank is curiously eaten out in the form of a large semicircular crater.
According to the light-house keeper, the Cape is wasting here on both sides, though most on the eastern. In some places it had lost many rods within the last year, and erelong the light-house must be moved. We calculated, from his data, how soon the Cape would be quite worn away at this point,—"for," said he, "I can remember sixty years back." We were even more surprised at this last announcement—that is, at the slow waste of life and energy in our informant, for we had taken him to be not more than forty—than at the rapid wasting of the Cape, and we thought that he stood a fair chance to outlive the former.
Between this October and June of the next year I found that the bank had lost about forty feet in one place opposite the light-house, and it was cracked more than forty feet farther from the edge at the last date, the shore being strewn with the recent rubbish. But I judged that generally it was not wearing away here at the rate of more than six feet annually. Any conclusions drawn from the observations of a few years or one generation only are likely to prove false, and the Cape may balk expectation by its durability. In some places even a wrecker's foot-path down the bank lasts several years. One old inhabitant told us that when the light-house was built, in 1798, it was calculated that it would stand forty-five years, allowing the bank to waste one length of fence each year, "but," said he, "there it is" (or rather another near the same site, about twenty rods from the edge of the bank).
The sea is not gaining on the Cape everywhere: for one man told me of a vessel wrecked long ago on the north of Provincetown whose "bones" (this was his word) are still visible many rods within the present line of the beach, half buried in sand. Perchance they lie along-side the timbers of a whale. The general statement of the inhabitants is, that the Cape is wasting on both sides, but extending itself on particular points on the south and west, as at Chatham and Monomoy Beaches, and at Billingsgate, Long, and Race Points. James Freeman stated in his day that above three miles had been added to Monomoy Beach during the previous fifty years, and it is said to be still extending as fast as ever. A writer in the "Massachusetts Magazine," in the last century, tells us, that, "when the English first settled upon the Cape, there was an island off Chatham, at three leagues' distance, called Webb's Island, containing twenty acres, covered with red-cedar or savin. The inhabitants of Nantucket used to carry wood from it"; but he adds that in his day a large rock alone marked the spot, and the water was six fathoms deep there. The entrance to Nauset Harbor, which was once in Eastham, has now travelled south into Orleans. The islands in Wellfleet Harbor once formed a continuous beach, though now small vessels pass between them. And so of many other parts of this coast.
Perhaps what the ocean takes from one part of the Cape it gives to another,—robs Peter to pay Paul. On the eastern side the sea appears to be everywhere encroaching on the land. Not only the land is undermined, and its ruins carried off by currents, but the sand is blown from the beach directly up the steep bank, where it is one hundred and fifty feet high, and covers the original surface there many feet deep. If you sit on the edge, you will have ocular demonstration of this by soon getting your eyes full. Thus the bank preserves its height as fast as it is worn away. This sand is steadily travelling westward at a rapid rate, "more than a hundred yards," says one writer, within the memory of inhabitants now living; so that in some places peat-meadows are buried deep under the sand, and the peat is cut through it; and in one place a large peat-meadow has made its appearance on the shore in the bank covered many feet deep, and peat has been cut there. This accounts for that great pebble of peat which we saw in the surf. The old oysterman had told us that many years ago he lost a "crittur" by her being mired in a swamp near the Atlantic side, east of his house, and twenty years ago he lost the swamp itself entirely, but has since seen signs of it appearing on the beach. He also said that he had seen cedar-stumps "as big as cart-wheels" (!) on the bottom of the Bay, three miles off Billingsgate Point, when leaning over the side of his boat in pleasant weather, and that that was dry land not long ago. Another told us that a log canoe known to have been buried many years before on the Bay side at East Harbor in Truro, where the Cape is extremely narrow, appeared at length on the Atlantic side, the Cape having rolled over it; and an old woman said,—"Now, you see, it is true what I told you, that the Cape is moving."
The bars along the coast shift with every storm, and in many places there is occasionally none at all. We ourselves observed the effect of a single storm with a high tide in the night, in July, 1855. It moved the sand on the beach opposite the light-house to the depth of six feet, and three rods in width as far as we could see north and south, and carried it bodily off no one knows exactly where, laying bare in one place a large rock five feet high which was invisible before, and narrowing the beach to that extent. There is usually, as I have said, no bathing on the back side of the Cape, on account of the undertow; but when we were there last, the sea had, three months before, cast up a bar near this light-house, two miles long and ten rods wide, over which the tide did not flow, leaving a narrow cove, then a quarter of a mile long, between it and the shore, which afforded excellent bathing. This cove had from time to time been closed up as the bar travelled northward, in one instance imprisoning four or five hundred whiting and cod, which died there, and the water as often turned fresh and finally gave place to sand. This bar, the inhabitants assured us, might be wholly removed, and the water be six feet deep there in two or three days.
The light-house keeper said, that, when the wind blowed strong on to the shore, the waves ate fast into the bank, but when it blowed off, they took no sand away; for in the former case the wind heaped up the surface of the water next to the beach, and to preserve its equilibrium a strong undertow immediately set back again into the sea, which carried with it the sand and whatever else was in the way, and left the beach hard to walk on; but in the latter case the undertow set on, and carried the sand with it, so that it was particularly difficult for shipwrecked men to get to land when the wind blowed on to the shore, but easier when it blowed off. This undertow, meeting the next surface-wave on the bar which itself has made, forms part of the dam over which the latter breaks, as over an upright wall. The sea thus plays with the land, holding a sand-bar in its mouth awhile before it swallows it, as a cat plays with a mouse; but the fatal gripe is sure to come at last. The sea sends its rapacious east-wind to rob the land, but before the former has got far with its prey, the land sends its honest west-wind to recover some of its own. But, according to Lieutenant Davis, the forms, extent, and distribution of sand-bars and banks are principally determined, not by winds and waves, but by tides.
Our host said that you would be surprised, if you were on the beach when the wind blew a hurricane directly on to it, to see that none of the drift-wood came ashore, but all was carried directly northward and parallel with the shore as fast as a man can walk, by the in-shore current, which sets strongly in that direction at flood-tide. The strongest swimmers also are carried along with it, and never gain an inch toward the beach. Even a large rock has been moved half a mile northward along the beach. He assured us that the sea was never still on the back side of the Cape, but ran commonly as high as your head, so that a great part of the time you could not launch a boat there, and even in the calmest weather the waves run six or eight feet up the beach, though then you could get off on a plank. Champlain and Poitrincourt could not land here in 1606, on account of the swell, (la houlle,) yet the savages came off to them in a canoe. In the Sieur de la Borde's "Relation des Caraibes," my edition of which was published at Amsterdam in 1711, at page 530 he says:—
"Couroumon a Caraibe, also a star [i.e. a god], makes the great lames a la mer, and overturns canoes. Lames a la mer are the long vagues which are not broken (entrecoupees), and such as one sees come to land all in one piece, from one end of a beach to another, so that, however little wind there may be, a shallop or a canoe could hardly land (aborder terre) without turning over, or being filled with water."
But on the Bay side, the water, even at its edge, is often as smooth and still as in a pond. Commonly there are no boats used along this beach. There was a boat belonging to the Highland Light, which the next keeper, after he had been there a year, had not launched, though he said that there was good fishing just off the shore. Generally the life-boats cannot be used when needed. When the waves run very high, it is impossible to get a boat off, however skilfully you steer it, for it will often be completely covered by the curving edge of the approaching breaker as by an arch, and so filled with water, or it will be lifted up by its bows, turned directly over backwards, and all the contents spilled out. A spar thirty feet long is served in the same way.
I heard of a party who went off fishing back of Wellfleet some years ago, in two boats, in calm weather, who, when they had laden their boats with fish, and approached the land again, found such a swell breaking on it, though there was no wind, that they were afraid to enter it. At first they thought to pull for Provincetown; but night coming on, and that was many miles distant. Their case seemed a desperate one. As often as they approached the shore and saw the terrible breakers that intervened, they were deterred. In short, they were thoroughly frightened. Finally, having thrown their fish overboard, those in one boat chose a favorable opportunity, and succeeded, by skill and good luck, in reaching the land; but they were unwilling to take the responsibility of telling the others when to come in, and as the other helmsman was inexperienced, their boat was swamped at once, yet all managed to save themselves.
Much smaller waves soon make a boat "nail-sick," as the phrase is. The keeper said that after a long and strong blow there would be three large waves, each successively larger than the last, and then no large ones for some time, and that, when they wished to land in a boat, they came in on the last and largest wave. Sir Thomas Browne, (as quoted in Brand's "Popular Antiquities," p. 372,) on the subject of the tenth wave being "greater or more dangerous than any other," after quoting Ovid,—
"Qui venit hic fluctus, fluctus supereminet omnes: Posterior nono est, undecimoque prior,"—
says, "Which, notwithstanding, is evidently false; nor can it be made out by observation either upon the shore or the ocean, as we have with diligence explored in both. And surely in vain we expect a regularity in the waves of the sea, or in the particular motions thereof, as we may in its general reciprocations, whose causes are constant, and effects therefore correspondent; whereas its fluctuations are but motions subservient, which winds, storms, shores, shelves, and every interjacency irregulates."
We read that the Clay Pounds were so called "because vessels have had the misfortune to be pounded against them in gales of wind," which we regard as a doubtful derivation. There are small ponds here, upheld by the clay, which were formerly called the Clay Pits. Perhaps this, or Clay Ponds, is the origin of the name. Water is found in the clay quite near the surface; but we heard of one man who had sunk a well in the sand close by, "till he could see stars at noonday," without finding any.
Over this bare highland the wind has full sweep. Even in July it blows the wings over the heads of the young turkeys, which do not know enough to head against it; and in gales the doors and windows are blown in, and you must hold on to the light-house to prevent being blown into the Atlantic. They who merely keep out on the beach in a storm in the winter are sometimes rewarded by the Humane Society. If you would feel the full force of a tempest, take up your residence on the top of Mount Washington, or at the Highland Light in Truro.
It was said in 1794 that more vessels were cast away on the east shore of Truro than anywhere in Barnstable County. Notwithstanding this light-house has since been erected, after almost every storm we read of one or more vessels wrecked here, and sometimes more than a dozen wrecks are visible from this point at one time. The inhabitants hear the crash of vessels going to pieces as they sit round their hearths, and they commonly date from some memorable shipwreck. If the history of this beach could be written from beginning to end, it would be a thrilling page in the history of commerce.
Truro was settled in the year 1700 as Dangerfield. This was a very appropriate name, for I read on a monument in the graveyard near Pamet River the following inscription:—
Sacred to the memory of 57 citizens of Truro, who were lost in seven vessels, which foundered at sea in the memorable gale of Oct. 3d, 1841.
Their names and ages by families were recorded on different sides of the stone. They are said to have been lost on George's Bank, and I was told that only one vessel drifted ashore on the back side of the Cape, with the boys locked into the cabin and drowned. It is said that the homes of all were "within a circuit of two miles." Twenty-eight inhabitants of Dennis were lost in the same gale; and I read that "in one day, immediately after this storm, nearly or quite one hundred bodies were taken up and buried on Cape Cod." The Truro Insurance Company failed for want of skippers to take charge of its vessels. But the surviving inhabitants went a-fishing again the next year as usual. I found that it would not do to speak of shipwrecks there, for almost every family has lost some of its members at sea. "Who lives in that house?" I inquired. "Three widows," was the reply. The stranger and the inhabitant view the shore with very different eyes. The former may have come to see and admire the ocean in a storm; but the latter looks on it as the scene where his nearest relatives were wrecked. When I remarked to an old wrecker, partially blind, who was sitting on the edge of the bank smoking a pipe, which he had just lit with a match of dried beach-grass, that I supposed he liked to hear the sound of the surf, he answered, "No, I do not like to hear the sound of the surf." He had lost at least one son in "the memorable gale," and could tell many a tale of the shipwrecks which he had witnessed there.
In the year 1717, a noted pirate named Bellamy was led on to the bar off Wellfleet by the captain of a snow which he had taken, to whom he had offered his vessel again, if he would pilot him into Provincetown Harbor. Tradition says that the latter threw over a burning tar-barrel in the night, which drifted ashore, and the pirates followed it. A storm coming on, their whole fleet was wrecked, and more than a hundred dead bodies lay along the shore. Six who escaped shipwreck were executed. "At times to this day," (1793,) says the historian of Wellfleet, "there are King William and Queen Mary's coppers picked up, and pieces of silver called cob-money. The violence of the seas moves the sands on the outer bar, so that at times the iron caboose of the ship [that is, Bellamy's] at low ebbs has been seen." Another tells us, that, "for many years after this shipwreck, a man of a very singular and frightful aspect used every spring and autumn to be seen travelling on the Cape, who was supposed to have been one of Bellamy's crew. The presumption is that he went to some place where money had been secreted by the pirates, to get such a supply as his exigencies required. When he died, many pieces of gold were found in a girdle which he constantly wore."
As I was walking on the beach here in my last visit, looking for shells and pebbles, just after that storm which I have mentioned as moving the sand to a great depth, not knowing but I might find some cob-money, I did actually pick up a French crown-piece, worth about a dollar and six cents, near high-water mark, on the still moist sand, just under the abrupt, caving base of the bank. It was of a dark slate-color, and looked like a flat pebble, but still bore a very distinct and handsome head of Louis XV., and the usual legend on the reverse, "Sit Nomen Domini Benedictum," (Blessed be the Name of the Lord,)—a pleasing sentiment to read in the sands of the sea-shore, whatever it might be stamped on,—and I also made out the date, 1741. Of course, I thought at first that it was that same old button which I have found so many times, but my knife soon showed the silver. Afterward, rambling on the bars at low tide, I cheated my companion by holding up round shells (Scutellae) between my fingers, whereupon he quickly stripped and came off to me.
In the Revolution, a British ship-of-war, called the Somerset, was wrecked near the Clay Pounds, and all on board, some hundreds in number, were taken prisoners. My informant said that he had never seen any mention of this in the histories, but that at any rate he knew of a silver watch, which one of those prisoners by accident left there, which was still going to tell the story. But this event is noticed by some writers.
The next summer I saw a sloop from Chatham dragging for anchors and chains just off this shore. She had her boats out at the work while she shuffled about on various tacks, and, when anything was found, drew up to hoist it on board. It is a singular employment, at which men are regularly hired and paid for their industry, to hunt to-day in pleasant weather for anchors which have been lost,—the sunken faith and hope of mariners, to which they trusted in vain: now, perchance, it is the rusty one of some old pirate's ship or Norman fisherman, whose cable parted here two hundred years ago; and now the best bower-anchor of a Canton or a California ship, which has gone about her business. If the roadsteads of the spiritual ocean could be thus dragged, what rusty flukes of hope deceived and parted chain-cables of faith might again be windlassed aboard! enough to sink the finder's craft, or stock new navies to the end of time. The bottom of the sea is strown with anchors, some deeper and some shallower, and alternately covered and uncovered by the sand, perchance with a small length of iron cable still attached,—of which where is the other end? So many unconcluded tales to be continued another time. So, if we had diving-bells adapted to the spiritual deeps, we should see anchors with their cables attached, as thick as eels in vinegar, all wriggling vainly toward their holding-ground. But that is not treasure for us which another man has lost; rather it is for us to seek what no other man has found or can find,—not be Chatham men, dragging for anchors.
The annals of this voracious beach! who could write them, unless it were a shipwrecked sailor? How many who have seen it have seen it only in the midst of danger and distress, the last strip of earth which their mortal eyes beheld! Think of the amount of suffering which a single strand has witnessed! The ancients would have represented it as a sea-monster with open jaws, more terrible than Scylla and Charybdis. An inhabitant of Truro told me that about a fortnight after the St. John was wrecked at Cohasset he found two bodies on the shore at the Clay Pounds. They were those of a man and a corpulent woman. The man had thick boots on, though his head was off, but "it was along-side." It took the finder some weeks to get over the sight. Perhaps they were man and wife, and whom God had joined the ocean-currents had not put asunder. Yet by what slight accidents at first may they have been associated in their drifting! Some of the bodies of those passengers were picked up far out at sea, boxed up and sunk; some brought ashore and buried. There are more consequences to a shipwreck than the underwriters notice. The Gulf Stream may return some to their native shores, or drop them in some out-of-the-way cave of ocean, where time and the elements will write new riddles with their bones.—But to return to land again.
In this bank, above the clay, I counted in the summer two hundred holes of the bank-swallow within a space six rods long, and there were at least one thousand old birds within three times that distance, twittering over the surf. I had never associated them in my thoughts with the beach before. One little boy who had been a-bird's-nesting had got eighty swallows' eggs for his share. Tell it not to the Humane Society! There were many young birds on the clay beneath, which had tumbled out and died. Also there were many crow-blackbirds hopping about in the dry fields, and the upland plover were breeding close by the light-house. The keeper had once cut off one's wing while mowing, as she sat on her eggs there. This is also a favorite resort for gunners in the fall to shoot the golden plover. As around the shores of a pond are seen devil's-needles, butterflies, etc., so here, to my surprise, I saw at the same season great devil's-needles of a size proportionably larger, or nearly as big as my finger, incessantly coasting up and down the edge of the bank, and butterflies also were hovering over it, and I never saw so many dor-bugs and beetles of various kinds as strewed the beach. They had apparently flown over the bank in the night, and could not get up again, and some had perhaps fallen into the sea and were washed ashore. They may have been in part attracted by the light-house lamps.
The Clay Pounds are a more fertile tract than usual. We saw some fine patches of roots and corn here. As generally on the Cape, the plants had little stalk or leaf, but ran remarkably to seed. The corn was hardly more than half as high as in the interior, yet the ears were large and full, and one farmer told us that he could raise forty bushels on an acre without manure, and sixty with it. The heads of the rye also were remarkably large. The shadbush, (Amelanchier,) beach-plums, and blueberries, (Vaccinium Pennsylvanicum,) like the apple-trees and oaks, were very dwarfish, spreading over the sand, but at the same time very fruitful. The blueberry was but an inch or two high, and its fruit often rested on the ground, so that you did not suspect the presence of the bushes, even on those bare hills, until you were treading on them. I thought that this fertility must be owing mainly to the abundance of moisture in the atmosphere, for I observed that what little grass there was was remarkably laden with dew in the morning, and in summer dense imprisoning fogs frequently last till mid-day, turning one's beard into a wet napkin about his throat, and the oldest inhabitant may lose his way within a stone's-throw of his house, or be obliged to follow the beach for a guide. The brick house attached to the light-house was exceedingly damp at that season, and writing-paper lost all its stiffness in it. It was impossible to dry your towel after bathing, or to press flowers without their mildewing. The air was so moist that we rarely wished to drink, though we could at all times taste the salt on our lips. Salt was rarely used at table, and our host told us that his cattle invariably refused it when it was offered them, they got so much with their grass and at every breath; but he said that a sick horse, or one just from the country, would sometimes take a hearty draught of salt water, and seemed to like it and be the better for it.
It was surprising to see how much water was contained in the terminal bud of the sea-side golden-rod, standing in the sand early in July, and also how turnips, beets, carrots, etc., flourished even in pure sand. A man travelling by the shore near there not long before us noticed something green growing in the pure sand of the beach, just at high-water mark, and on approaching found it to be a bed of beets flourishing vigorously, probably from seed washed out of the Franklin. Also beets and turnips came up in the sea-weed used for manure in many parts of the Cape. This suggests how various plants may have been dispersed over the world to distant islands and continents. Vessels, with seeds in their cargoes, destined for particular ports, where perhaps they were not needed, have been cast away on desolate islands, and though their crews perished, some of their seeds have been preserved. Out of many kinds a few would find a soil and climate adapted to them, become naturalized, and perhaps drive out the native plants at last, and so fit the land for the habitation of man. It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good, and for the time lamentable shipwrecks may thus contribute a new vegetable to a continent's stock, and prove on the whole a lasting blessing to its inhabitants. Or winds and currents might effect the same without the intervention of man. What, indeed, are the various succulent plants which grow on the beach but such beds of beets and turnips, sprung originally from seeds which perhaps were cast on the waters for this end, though we do not know the Franklin which they came out of? In ancient times some Mr. Bell (?) was sailing this way in his ark with seeds of rocket, saltwort, sandwort, beach-grass, samphire, bayberry, poverty-grass, etc., all nicely labelled with directions, intending to establish a nursery somewhere; and did not a nursery get established, though he thought that he had failed?
About the light-house I observed in the summer the pretty Polygala polygama, spreading ray-wise flat on the ground, white pasture-thistles, (Cirsium pumilum,) and amid the shrubbery the Smilax glauca, which is commonly said not to grow so far north. Near the edge of the banks about half a mile southward, the broom-crowberry, (Empetrum Conradii,) for which Plymouth is the only locality in Massachusetts usually named, forms pretty green mounds four or five feet in diameter by one foot high,—soft, springy beds for the wayfarer: I saw it afterward in Provincetown. But prettiest of all, the scarlet pimpernel, or poor-man's weather-glass, (Anagallis arvensis,) greets you in fair weather on almost every square yard of sand. From Yarmouth I have received the Chrysopsis falcata, (golden aster,) and Vaccinium stamineum, (deer-berry or squaw-huckleberry,) with fruit not edible, sometimes as large as a cranberry (Sept. 7).
The Highland Light-house,[A] where we were staying, is a substantial-looking building of brick, painted white, and surmounted by an iron cap. Attached to it is the dwelling of the keeper, one story high, also of brick, and built by Government. As we were going to spend the night in a light-house, we wished to make the most of so novel an experience, and therefore told our host that we should like to accompany him when he went to light up. At rather early candle-light he lighted a small Japan lamp, allowing it to smoke rather more than we like on ordinary occasions, and told us to follow him. He led the way first through his bedroom, which was placed nearest to the light-house, and then through a long, narrow, covered passage-way, between whitewashed walls, like a prison-entry, into the lower part of the light-house, where many great butts of oil were arranged around; thence we ascended by a winding and open iron stairway, with a steadily increasing scent of oil and lamp-smoke, to a trap-door in an iron floor, and through this into the lantern. It was a neat building, with everything in apple-pie order, and no danger of anything rusting there for want of oil. The light consisted of fifteen argand lamps, placed within smooth concave reflectors twenty-one inches in diameter, and arranged in two horizontal circles one above the other, facing every way excepting directly down the Cape. These were surrounded, at a distance of two or three feet, by large plate-glass windows, which defied the storms, with iron sashes, on which rested the iron cap. All the iron work, except the floor, was painted white. And thus the light-house was completed. We walked slowly round in that narrow space as the keeper lighted each lamp in succession, conversing with him at the same moment that many a sailor on the deep witnessed the lighting of the Highland Light. His duty was to fill and trim and light his lamps, and keep bright the reflectors. He filled them every morning, and trimmed them commonly once in the course of the night. He complained of the quality of the oil which was furnished. This house consumes about eight hundred gallons in a year, which cost not far from one dollar a gallon; but perhaps a few lives would be saved, if better oil were provided. Another light-house keeper said that the same proportion of winter-strained oil was sent to the southernmost light-house in the Union as to the most northern. Formerly, when this light-house had windows with small and thin panes, a severe storm would sometimes break the glass, and then they were obliged to put up a wooden shutter in haste to save their lights and reflectors,—and sometimes in tempests, when the mariner stood most in need of their guidance, they had thus nearly converted the light-house into a dark-lantern, which emitted only a few feeble rays, and those commonly on the land or lee side. He spoke of the anxiety and sense of responsibility which he felt in cold and stormy nights in the winter, when he knew that many a poor fellow was depending on him, and his lamps burned dimly, the oil being chilled. Sometimes he was obliged to warm the oil in a kettle in his house at midnight, and fill his lamps over again,—for he could not have a fire in the light-house, it produced such a sweat on the windows. His successor told me that he could not keep too hot a fire in such a case. All this because the oil was poor. A government lighting the mariners on its wintry coast with summer-strained oil, to save expense! That were surely a summer-strained mercy!
This keeper's successor, who kindly entertained me the next year, stated that one extremely cold night, when this and all the neighboring lights were burning summer oil, but he had been provident enough to reserve a little winter oil against emergencies, he was waked up with anxiety, and found that his oil was congealed, and his lights almost extinguished; and when, after many hours' exertion, he had succeeded in replenishing his reservoirs with winter oil at the wick-end, and with difficulty had made them burn, he looked out, and found that the other lights in the neighborhood, which were usually visible to him, had gone out, and he heard afterward that the Pamet River and Billingsgate Lights also had been extinguished.
Our host said that the frost, too, on the windows caused him much trouble, and in sultry summer nights the moths covered them and dimmed his lights; sometimes even small birds flew against the thick plate-glass, and were found on the ground beneath in the morning with their necks broken. In the spring of 1855 he found nineteen small yellow-birds, perhaps goldfinches or myrtle-birds, thus lying dead around the light-house; and sometimes in the fall he had seen where a golden plover had struck the glass in the night, and left the down and the fatty part of its breast on it.
Thus he struggled, by every method, to keep his light shining before men. Surely the light-house keeper has a responsible, if an easy, office. When his lamp goes out, he goes out; or, at most, only one such accident is pardoned.
I thought it a pity that some poor student did not live there, to profit by all that light, since he would not rob the mariner. "Well," he said, "I do sometimes come up here and read the newspaper when they are noisy down below." Think of fifteen argand lamps to read the newspaper by! Government oil!—light enough, perchance, to read the Constitution by! I thought that he should read nothing less than his Bible by that light. I had a classmate who fitted for college by the lamps of a light-house, which was more light, methinks, than the University afforded.
When we had come down and walked a dozen rods from the light-house, we found that we could not get the full strength of its light on the narrow strip of land between it and the shore, being too low for the focus, and we saw only so many feeble and rayless stars; but at forty rods inland we could see to read, though we were still indebted to only one lamp. Each reflector sent forth a separate "fan" of light: one shone on the windmill, and one in the hollow, while the intervening spaces were in shadow. This light is said to be visible twenty nautical miles and more, to an observer fifteen feet above the level of the sea. We could see the revolving light at Race Point, the end of the Cape, about nine miles distant, and also the light on Long Point, at the entrance of Provincetown Harbor, and one of the distant Plymouth Harbor Lights, across the Bay, nearly in a range with the last, like a star in the horizon. The keeper thought that the other Plymouth Light was concealed by being exactly in a range with the Long Point Light. He told us that the mariner was sometimes led astray by a mackerel-fisher's lantern, who was afraid of being run down in the night, or even by a cottager's light, mistaking them for some well-known light on the coast,—and, when he discovered his mistake, was wont to curse the prudent fisher or the wakeful cottager without reason.
Though it was once declared that Providence placed this mass of clay here on purpose to erect a light-house on, the keeper said that the light-house should have been erected half a mile farther south, where the coast begins to bend, and where the light could be seen at the same time with the Nauset Lights, and distinguished from them. They now talk of building one there. It happens that the present one is the more useless now, so near the extremity of the Cape, because other light-houses have since been erected there.
Among the many regulations of the Light-House Board, hanging against the wall here, many of them excellent, perhaps, if there were a regiment stationed here to attend to them, there is one requiring the keeper to keep an account of the number of vessels which pass his light during the day. But there are a hundred vessels in sight at once, steering in all directions, many on the very verge of the horizon, and he must have more eyes than Argus, and be a good deal farther-sighted, to tell which are passing his light. It is an employment in some respects best suited to the habits of the gulls which coast up and down here and circle over the sea.
I was told by the next keeper, that on the eighth of June following, a particularly clear and beautiful morning, he rose about half an hour before sunrise, and, having a little time to spare, for his custom was to extinguish his lights at sunrise, walked down toward the shore to see what he might find. When he got to the edge of the bank, he looked up, and, to his astonishment, saw the sun rising, and already part way above the horizon. Thinking that his clock was wrong, he made haste back, and, though it was still too early by the clock, extinguished his lamps, and when he had got through and come down, he looked out of the window, and, to his still greater astonishment, saw the sun just where it was before, two-thirds above the horizon. He showed me where its rays fell on the wall across the room. He proceeded to make a fire, and when he had done, there was the sun still at the same height. Whereupon, not trusting to his own eyes any longer, he called up his wife to look at it, and she saw it also. There were vessels in sight on the ocean, and their crews, too, he said, must have seen it, for its rays fell on them. It remained at that height for about fifteen minutes by the clock, and then rose as usual, and nothing else extraordinary happened during that day. Though accustomed to the coast, he had never witnessed nor heard of such a phenomenon before. I suggested that there might have been a cloud in the horizon invisible to him, which rose with the sun, and his clock was only as accurate as the average; or perhaps, as he denied the possibility of this, it was such a looming of the sun as is said to occur at Lake Superior and elsewhere. Sir John Franklin, for instance, says in his "Narrative," that, when he was on the shore of the Polar Sea, the horizontal refraction varied so much one morning that "the upper limb of the sun twice appeared at the horizon before it finally rose."
He certainly must be a son of Aurora to whom the sun looms, when there are so many millions to whom it glooms rather, or who never see it till an hour after it has risen. But it behooves us old stagers to keep our lamps trimmed and burning to the last, and not trust to the sun's looming.
This keeper remarked that the centre of the flame should be exactly opposite the centre of the reflectors, and that accordingly, if he was not careful to turn down his wicks in the morning, the sun falling on the reflectors on the south side of the building would set fire to them, like a burning-glass, in the coldest day, and he would look up at noon and see them all lighted! When your lamp is ready to give light, it is readiest to receive it, and the sun will light it. His successor said that he had never known them to blaze in such a case, but merely to smoke.
I saw that this was a place of wonders. In a sea-turn or shallow fog, while I was there the next summer, it being clear overhead, the edge of the bank twenty rods distant appeared like a mountain-pasture in the horizon. I was completely deceived by it, and I could then understand why mariners sometimes ran ashore in such cases, especially in the night, supposing it to be far away, though they could see the land. Once since this, being in a large oyster-boat two or three hundred miles from here, in a dark night, when there was a thin veil of mist on land and water, we came so near to running on to the land before our skipper was aware of it, that the first warning was my hearing the sound of the surf under my elbow. I could almost have jumped ashore, and we were obliged to go about very suddenly to prevent striking. The distant light for which we were steering, supposing it a light-house five or six miles off, came through the cracks of a fisherman's bunk not more than six rods distant.
The keeper entertained us handsomely in his solitary little ocean-house. He was a man of singular patience and intelligence, who, when our queries struck him, rang as clear as a bell in response. The light-house lamps a few feet distant shone full into my chamber, and made it as bright as day, so I knew exactly how the Highland Light bore all that night, and I was in no danger of being wrecked. Unlike the last, this was as still as a summer night. I thought, as I lay there, half awake and half asleep, looking upward through the window at the lights above my head, how many sleepless eyes from far out on the ocean-stream—mariners of all nations spinning their yarns through the various watches of the night—were directed toward my couch.
[A] The light-house has since been rebuilt, and shows a Fresnel light.
ENGLISH AUTHORS IN FLORENCE.
Bella Firenze, "Flower of all Cities and City of all Flowers," is not only the garden of Italy's intellect, but the hot-house to which many a Northern genius has been transplanted. The house where Milton resided is still pointed out and held sacred by his venerators; and Casa Guidi, gloomier and grayer now that the grand light has gone out of it, is of especial interest to every cultivated traveller. A gratified smile, born of sorrow, passes over the stranger's face, as he reads the inscription upon the tablet that makes Casa Guidi historical,—a tablet inserted by the municipality of Florence as a grateful tribute to the memory of a truly great woman, great enough to love Truth "more than Plato and Plato's country, more than Dante and Dante's country, more even than Shakspeare and Shakspeare's country."
Qui scrisse e mori Elisabetta Barrett Browning Che in cuore di donna conciliava Scienza di dotto o spirito di poeta E fece del suo verso aureo anello Fra Italia e Inghilterra Pone questa memoria Firenze grata 1861
Here wrote and died Elizabeth Barrett Browning!
Tradition says that years ago Casa Guidi was the scene of several dark deeds; and after having wandered through the great rooms, for the most part perpetually in shadow, one's imagination puts full faith in a time-worn story. Whatever may have been the stain left upon the old palace by the Guidi, it has been removed by an alien woman,—by her who sat "By the Fireside," and toiled unceasingly for the good of man and the love, of God. Casa Guidi heard the whispering of "One Word More," the echo of which is growing fainter and fainter to the ear, but subtiler to the soul; and looking up at her house, we hear the murmur of a poet's voice, saying,—
"God be thanked, the meanest of His creatures Boasts two soul-sides, one to face the world with, One to show a woman when he loves her."
The unsuspected prophecy of "One Word More" has been fulfilled,—
"Lines I write the first time and the last time,"—
for Destiny has given to them other than the author's meaning: because of this destiny, we pass from the shadow of Casa Guidi with bowed head.
It is a beautiful custom, this of Italy, marking the spot where noble souls have lived or died, that coming generations may learn to venerate the greatness of the past, and become inspired thereby to exalted deeds in the present. We of America, eagerly busy jostling the elbows of To-Day, have not even a turn of the head for the haunts of dead men whom we honor. No tablets mark their homes; and indeed they would be of little profit to a country where mementos of "lang syne" are never spared, when the requirements of commerce or of real estate issue their universal mandate, "Destroy and build anew!" America shakes all dust from off her feet, even that of great men's bones; though indeed Boston, which is not wanting in esteem for its respectable antecedents, has made a feeble attempt to do honor to the Father of his Country. The tablet is but an attempt, however, which has become thoroughly demoralized by keeping company with attorneys' signs and West-India goods; the bouquet of law-papers, plus coffee and tobacco, has deprived the salt of its savor.
Far different is it in Florence, where the identical houses still remain. Almost every street bears the record of a great man. To walk there is to hold intimate communion with departed genius. What traveller has not mused before Dante's stone? The most careless cannot pass Palazzo Buonarotti without giving a thought to Michel Angelo and his art. An afternoon's stroll along the Lung' Arno to drink in the warmth of an Italian sunset is made doubly suggestive by a glance at the house where set another sun when the Piedmontese poet-patriot, Alfieri, died. We never passed through the Via Guicciardini, as clingy, musty, and gloomy as the writings of the old historian whose palace gives name to the street, without looking up at the weather-beaten casa dedicated to the memory of that wonderfully subtile Tuscan, Niccolo Macchiavelli; and by dint of much looking we fancied ourselves drawn nearer to the Florence of 1500, and read "The Prince," with a gusto and an apprehension which nothing but the old house could have inspired. This, at least, we believed, and our faith in the fancy remains unshaken, now that Mr. Denton, the geologist, has expounded the theory of "Psychometry," which he tells us is the divination of soul through the contact of matter with a psychometrical mind. Had we in those days been better versed in this theory of "the soul of things," we should have made a gentle application of forehead to the door-step of Macchiavelli's mundane residence, and doubtless have arisen thoroughly pervaded with the true spirit of the man whose feet were familiar to a stone now desecrated by wine-flasks, onions, cabbages, and contadini.
Mrs. Somerville, to whom the world is indebted for several developments in physical geography, is almost as fixed a Florentine celebrity as the Palazzo Vecchio; and Villino Trollope has become endeared to many forestieri from the culture and hospitality of its inmates. It is the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Adolphus Trollope, earnest contributors to the literature of England, and active friends of Cavour's Italy. Justice prompts us to say that no other foreigner of the present day has done so much as Mr. Trollope to familiarize the Anglo-Saxon mind with the genius and aspirations of Italy. A constant writer for the liberal press of London, Mr. Trollope is also the author of several historical works that have taken their place in a long-neglected niche. "A Decade of Italian Women" has woven new interest around ten females of renown, while his later works of "Filippo Strozzi" and "Paul the Pope and Paul the Friar," have thrown additional light upon three vigorous historical characters, as well as upon much Romish iniquity. "Tuscany in '48 and '59" is the most satisfactory book of the kind that has been published, Mr. Trollope's constant residence in Florence having made him perfectly familiar with the actual status of Tuscany during these important eras in her history. The old saying, "Merit is its own reward," to which it is usually necessary to give a Pre-Raphaelite interpretation, has had a broader signification to Mr. Trollope, whose efforts in Italy's behalf have been appreciated by the Re Galantuomo, Victor Emanuel, by whom he has been knighted with the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus. As the decoration was entirely unsolicited,—for Mr. Trollope is a true democrat,—and as he is nearly, if not quite, the only Englishman similarly honored, the compliment is as pleasing as it is flattering.
Historian though he be, Mr. Trollope has more recently made his mark as a novelist. "La Beata," an Italian story, published three years ago, is greatly praised by London critics, one strong writer describing it as a "beatific book." The character of the heroine has been drawn with a pathos rare and heart-rending, nor can the reader fail to be impressed with the nobility of the mind that could conceive of such exceeding purity and self-sacrifice in woman. Mr. Trollope's later novels of "Marietta" and "Giulio Malatesta" have also met with great success, and, although not comparable with "La Beata," give most accurate pictures of Italian life and manners,—and truth is ordinarily left out of Anglo-Italian stories. "Giulio Malatesta" is of decided historical interest, giving a side-view of the Revolution of '48 and of the Battle of Curtatone, which was fought so nobly by Tuscan volunteers and students. It is a matter of regret to all lovers of Italy that Mr. Trollope's works have not been republished in America, as no American has labored in the same field, nor do Americans en masse possess very correct ideas of a country whose great future is creating an additional interest in her promising present and wonderful past. Mr. Trollope's "History of Florence," upon which he is now at work, will be his most valuable contribution to literature.
Mrs. Trollope, who from her polyglot accomplishments may be called a many-sided woman, has been, both by Nature and education, most liberally endowed with intellectual gifts. The depressing influence of continual invalidism alone prevents her from taking that literary position which good health and application would soon secure for her. Nevertheless, Mrs. Trollope has for several years been a constant correspondent of the London "Athenaeum," and in all seasons Young Italy has found an enthusiastic friend in her. Many are the machinations of the clerical and Lorraine parties that have been revealed to the English reader by Mrs. Trollope; and when, some time since, her letters upon the "Social Aspects of Revolution in Italy," were collected and published in book-form, they met with the cordial approbation of the critics. These letters are marked by purity of style, quaint picturesqueness, and an admirable couleur locale. As a translator, Mrs. Trollope possesses very rare ability. Her natural aptitude for language is great. A residence in Italy of seventeen years has made her almost as familiar with the mother-tongue of Dante as with that of Shakspeare; and we make bold to say that Giovan Battista Niccolini's most celebrated tragedy, "Arnaldo da Brescia," loses none of its Italian lustre in Mrs. Trollope's setting of English blank-verse,—Ah! we cannot soon forget the first time that we saw this same Niccolini, the greatest poet of modern Italy! It was in the spring of 1860, upon the memorable inauguration of the Theatre Niccolini,—ci-devant Cocomero, (water-melon,)—when Florence gave its first public reception to the poet, who was not only Tuscan, but Italianissimo, and rendered more than a passing homage to his name in the new baptism of a charming theatre. Since 1821 Niccolini had been fighting for the good cause with pen as cutting as Damascus blade; the goal was not reached until the veteran of eighty-two, paralyzed in body and mind, was borne into the presence of an enthusiastic audience to receive its bravos. So lately as the previous year the Ducal government had suppressed a demonstration in Niccolini's favor: this night must have atoned for the persecutions of the past. It was then that we heard Rossi, the great actor, declaim entire scenes from "Arnold of Brescia"; and though he stood before us as plain citizen Rossi in a lustrous suit of broadcloth, the fervor and intensity with which he interpreted the master-thoughts of Niccolini forced the audience to see in him the embodiment of the grand patriot-priest. We have witnessed but few greater dramatic performances; never have we been present at so impassioned a political demonstration. Freedom of speech was but just born to Italy, and Florence drew a long breath in the presence of a national teacher. Eighteen months later Niccolini gazed for the last time upon Italy, and saw the fulfilment of his prophecies.
We wish there were a copy of Mrs. Trollope's translation of "Arnaldo da Brescia" in America, that we might make noble extracts, and cause other eyes to glisten with the fire of its passion. We can recall but one passage, a speech made by Arnaldo to the recreant Pope Adrian. It is as strong and fearless as was the monk himself.
"Adrian, thou dost deceive thyself. The dread Of Roman thunderbolts is growing faint, And Reason slacks the bonds thou'dst have eternal. She'll break them; yet she is not well awake. Already human thought so far rebels, That tame it thou canst not: Christ cries to it, As to the sick of old, 'Arise and walk!' 'T will trample thee, if thou precede it not: The world has other truths than of the altar, Nor will endure a church which hideth Heaven. Thou wast a shepherd,—be a father: men Are tired at last of being called a flock; Too long have they stood trembling in the path Smit by your pastoral staff. Why in the name Of Heaven dost trample on the race of man, The latest offspring of the Thought Divine?"
It is not strange that the emancipated Florentines grow wild with delight when Rossi declaimed such heresy as this.
Mrs. Trollope's later translations of the patriotic poems of Dall' Ongaro, the clever Venetian, are very spirited; nor is she unknown as an original poet. "Baby Beatrice," a poem inscribed to her own fairy child, that appeared several years ago in "Household Words," is exceedingly charming; and one of her fugitive pieces, having naturally transformed itself into "la lingua del si," has ever been attributed to her friend Niccolini.
It was as a poet that Mrs. Trollope, then Miss Garrow, began to write,—and indeed she may be called a protegee of Walter Savage Landor, for through his encouragement and instrumentality she first made her appearance in print as a contributor to Lady Blessington's "Book of Beauty." There are few who remember the old lion-poet's lines to Miss Garrow, and their insertion here cannot be considered mal-a-propos.
"TO THEODOSIA GARROW.
"Unworthy are these poems of the lights That now run over them, nor brief the doubt In my own breast if such should interrupt (Or follow so irreverently) the voice Of Attic men, of women such as thou, Of sages no less sage than heretofore, Of pleaders no less eloquent, of souls Tender no less, or tuneful, or devout. Unvalued, even by myself, are they,— Myself, who reared them; but a high command Marshalled them in their station; here they are; Look round; see what supports these parasites. Stinted in growth and destitute of odor, They grow where young Ternissa held her guide, Where Solon awed the ruler; there they grow, Weak as they are, on cliffs that few can climb. None to thy steps are inaccessible, Theodosia! wakening Italy with song Deeper than Filicaia's, or than his, The triple deity of plastic art. Mindful of Italy and thee, fair maid! I lay this sear, frail garland at thy feet."
Mrs. Trollope is still a young woman, and it is sincerely to be hoped that improved health will give her the proper momentum for renewed exertions in a field where nobly sowing she may nobly reap.
Ah, this Villino Trollope is quaintly fascinating, with its marble pillars, its grim men in armor, starting like sentinels from the walls, and its curiosities greeting you at every step. The antiquary revels in its majolica, its old Florentine bridal chests and carved furniture, its beautiful terra-cotta of the Virgin and Child by Orgagna, its hundred oggetti of the Cinque Cento. The bibliopole grows silently ecstatic, as he sinks quietly into a mediaeval chair and feasts his eyes on a model library, bubbling over with five thousand rare books, many wonderfully illuminated and enriched by costly engravings. To those who prefer (and who does not?) an earnest talk with the host and hostess on politics, art, religion, or the last new book, there is the cozy laisser-faire study where Miss Puss and Bran, the honest dog, lie side by side on Christian terms, and where the sunbeam Beatrice, when very beaming, will sing to you the canti popolari of Tuscany, like a young nightingale in voice, though with more than youthful expression. Here Anthony Trollope is to be found, when he visits Florence; and it is no ordinary pleasure to enjoy simultaneously the philosophic reasoning of Thomas Trollope,—looking half Socrates and half Galileo,—whom Mrs. Browning was wont to call "Aristides the Just," and the almost boyish enthusiasm and impulsive argumentation of Anthony Trollope, who is a noble specimen of a thoroughly frank and loyal Englishman. The unity of affection existing between these brothers is as charming as it is rare.
Then in spring, when the soft winds kiss the budding foliage and warm it into bloom, the beautiful terrace of Villino Trollope is transformed into a reception-room. Opening upon a garden, with its lofty pillars, its tessellated marble floor, its walls inlaid with terra-cotta, bas-reliefs, inscriptions, and coats-of-arms, with here and there a niche devoted to some antique Madonna, the terrace has all the charm of a campo santo without the chill of the grave upon it; or were a few cowled monks to walk with folded arms along its space, one might fancy it the cloister of a monastery. And here of a summer's night, burning no other lights than the stars, and sipping iced lemonade, one of the specialties of the place, the intimates of Villino Trollope sit and talk of Italy's future, the last mot from Paris, and the last allocution at Rome.
Many charming persons have we met at the Villino, the recollection of whom is as bright and sunny to us as a June day,—persons whose lives and motive-power have fully convinced us that the world is not quite as hollow as it is represented, and that all is not vanity of vanities. In one corner we have melodiously wrangled, in a tempo decidedly allegro vivace, with enthusiastic Mazzinians, who would say clever, sharp, cruel things of Cavour, the man of all men to our way of thinking, "the one man of three men in all Europe," according to Louis Napoleon. Gesticulation grew as rampant at the mention of the French Emperor, who was familiarly known as "quel volpone," (that fox,) as it becomes to-day in America at the mention of Wendell Phillip's name to one of the "Chivalry." Politics ran high in Italy in these days of the Renaissance, and to have a pair of stout fists shaken in one's face in a drawing-room for a difference of opinion is not as much "out of order" as it would be on this more phlegmatic side of the Atlantic, where fists have a deep significance not dreamed of by expansive Italians. In another corner we have had many a tete-a-tete with Dall' Ongaro, the poet, who is as quick at an impromptu as at a malediction against "il Papa," and whose spirited recitations of his own patriotic poems have inspired his private audiences with a like enthusiasm for Italian liberty. Not unlike Garibaldi in appearance, he is a Mazzini-Garibaldian at heart, and always knowing in the ways of that mysterious prophet of the "Reds" who we verily believe fancies himself author not only of the phrase "Dio ed il Popolo," but of the reality as well. When Mazzini was denied entrance into Tuscany under pain of imprisonment, and yet, in spite of Governor Ricasoli's decree, came to Florence incognito, it was Dall' Ongaro who knew his hiding-place, and who conferred with him much to the disgust and mortification of the Governor and his police, who were outwitted by the astute republican. Mazzini is an incarnation of the Sub Rosa, and we doubt whether he could live an hour, were it possible to fulminate a bull for the abolition of intrigue and secret societies. Dall' Ongaro was a co-laborer of Mazzini's in Rome in '48; and when the downfall of the Republic forced its partisans to seek safety in exile, he travelled about Europe with an American passport. "I could not be an Italian," he said to us, "and I became, ostensibly, the next best thing, a citizen of the United States. I sought shelter under a republican flag."
It was at Villino Trollope that we first shook hands with Colonel Peard,—"l'Inglese con Garibaldi," as the Italians used to call him,—about whose exploits in sharp-shooting the newspapers manufactured such marvellous stories. Colonel Peard assured us that he never did keep a written account of the men he killed, for we were particular in our inquiries on this interesting subject; but we know that as a volunteer he fought under Garibaldi throughout the Lombard campaign and followed his General into Sicily, where, facing the enemy most manfully, Garibaldi promoted him from the rank of Captain to that of Lieutenant-Colonel. It is good to meet a person like Colonel Peard,—to see a man between fifty and sixty years of age, with noble head and gray hair and a beard that any patriarch might envy surmounting a figure of fine proportions endowed with all the robustness of healthy maturity,—to see intelligence and years and fine appearance allied to great amiability and a youthful enthusiasm for noble deeds, an enthusiasm which was ready to give blood and treasure to the cause it espoused from love. Such a reality is most exhilarating and delightful, a fact that makes us take a much more hopeful view of humanity. We value our photograph of Colonel Peard almost as highly as though the picturesque poncho and its owner had seen service in America instead of Italy. His battle-cry is ours,—"Liberty!"
There, too, we met Frances Power Cobbe, author of that admirable book, "Intuitive Morals." In her preface to the English edition of Theodore Parker's works, of which she is the editor, Miss Cobbe has shown herself as large by the heart as she is by the head. That sunny day in Florence, when she, one of a chosen band, followed the great Crusader to his grave, is a sad remembrance to us, and it seemed providentially ordained that the apostle who had loved the man's soul for so many years should be brought face to face with the man before that soul put on immortality. Great was Miss Cobbe's interest in the bust of Theodore Parker executed by the younger Robert Hart from photographs and casts, and which is without doubt the best likeness of Parker that has yet been taken. Its merits as a portrait-bust have never been appreciated, and the artist, whose sad death occurred two years ago, did not live to realize his hope of putting it into marble. The clay model still remains in Florence.
Miss Cobbe is the embodiment of genial philanthropy, as delightful a companion as she is heroic in her great work of social reform. A true daughter of Erin, she excels as a raconteur, nor does her philanthropy confine itself to the human race. Italian maltreatment of animals has almost reduced itself to a proverb, and often have we been witness to her righteous indignation at flagrant cruelty to dumb beasts. Upon expostulating one day with a coachman who was beating his poor straw-fed horse most unmercifully, the man replied, with a look of wonderment, "Ma, che vole, Signora? non e Cristiano!" (But what would you have, Signora? he is not a Christian!) Not belonging to the Church, and having no soul to save, why should a horse be spared the whip? The reasoning is not logical to our way of thinking, yet it is Italian, and was delivered in good faith. It will require many Miss Cobbes to lead the Italians out of their Egypt of ignorance.
It was at Villino Trollope that we first saw the wonderfully clever author, George Eliot. She is a woman of forty, perhaps, of large frame and fair Saxon coloring. In heaviness of jaw and height of cheek-bone she greatly resembles a German; nor are her features unlike those of Wordsworth, judging from his pictures. The expression of her face is gentle and amiable, while her manner is particularly timid and retiring. In conversation Mrs. Lewes is most entertaining, and her interest in young writers is a trait which immediately takes captive all persons of this class. We shall not forget with what kindness and earnestness she addressed a young girl who had just begun to handle a pen, how frankly she related her own literary experience, and how gently she suggested advice. True genius is always allied to humility, and in seeing Mrs. Lewes do the work of a good Samaritan so unobtrusively, we learned to respect the woman as much as we had ever admired the writer. "For years," said she to us, "I wrote reviews because I knew too little of humanity." In the maturity of her wisdom this gifted woman has startled the world with such novels as "Scenes from Clerical Life," "Adam Bede," "Mill on the Floss," and "Silas Marner," making an era in English fiction, and raising herself above rivalry. Experience has been much to her: her men are men, her women women, and long did English readers rack their brains to discover the sex of George Eliot. We do not aver that Mrs. Lewes has actually encountered the characters so vividly portrayed by her. Genius looks upon Nature, and then creates. The scene in the pot-house in "Silas Marner" is as perfect as a Dutch painting, yet the author never entered a pot-house. Her strong physique has enabled her to brush against the world, and in thus brushing she has gathered up the dust, fine and coarse, out of which human beings great and small are made. It is a powerful argument in the "Woman Question," that—without going to France for George Sand—"Adam Bede" and the wonderfully unique conception "Paul Ferroll" are women's work and yet real. Men cannot know women by knowing men; and a discriminating public will soon admit, if it has not done so already, that women are quite as capable of drawing male portraits as men are of drawing female. Half a century ago a woman maintained that genius had no sex;—the dawn of this truth is only now flashing upon the world.
We know not whether George Eliot visited Florence con intenzione, yet it almost seems as though "Romola" were the product of that fortnight's sojourn. It could scarce have been written by one whose eye was unfamiliar with the tone of Florentine localities. As a novel, "Romola" is not likely to be popular, however extensively it may be read; but viewed as a sketch of Savonarola and his times, it is most interesting and valuable. The deep research and knowledge of mediaeval life and manners displayed are cause of wonderment to erudite Florentines, who have lived to learn from a foreigner. "Son rimasti" to use their own phraseology. The couleur locale is marvellous;—nothing could be more delightfully real, for example, than the scenes which transpire in Nello's barber's-shop. Her dramatis personae are not English men and women in fancy-dress, but true Tuscans who express themselves after the manner of natives. It would be difficult to find a greater contrast than exists between "Romola" and the previous novels of George Eliot: they have little in common but genius; and genius, we begin to think, has not only no sex, but no nationality. "Romola" has peopled the streets of Florence still more densely to our memory.
It would seem as though the newly revived interest in Savonarola, after centuries of apathy, were a sign of the times. Uprisings of peoples and wars for "ideas" have made such a market for martyrs as was never known before. Could we jest upon what is a most encouraging trait in present humanity, we should say that martyrs were fashionable; for even Toussaint L'Ouverture has found a biographer, and Frenchmen are writing Lives of Jesus. Yet Orthodoxy stigmatizes this age of John Browns as irreligious:—rather do we think it the dawn of the true faith. It is to another habitue of Villino Trollope, Pasquale Villari, Professor of History at Pisa, that we owe in great part the revival of Savonarola's memory; and it must have been no ordinary love for his noble aspirations that led the young Neopolitan exile to bury the ten best years of his life in old Florentine libraries, collecting material for a full life of the friar of San Marco. So faithfully has he done his work, that future writers upon Savonarola will go to Villari, and not to Florentine manuscripts for their facts. This history was published in 1859, and it may be that "Romola" is the flower of the sombre Southern plant. Genius requires but a suggestion to create,—though, indeed, Mr. Lewes, who is a wonderfully clever man, au fait in all things, from acting to languages, living and dead, and from languages to natural history, may have anticipated Villari in that suggestion.
Villino Trollope introduced us to "Owen Meredith," the poet from melody,—one far older in experience than in years, looking like his poetry, just so polished and graceful, just so sweetly in tune, just so Gallic in taste, and—shall we say it?—just so blase! We doubt whether Robert Lytton, the diplomate, will ever realize the best aspirations of "Owen Meredith," the poet. Good came out of Nazareth, but it is not in our faith to believe that foreign courts can bear the rare fruit of ideal truth and beauty.—Then there was Blumenthal, the composer, who talked Buckle in admirable English, and played his own Reveries most daintily,—Reveries that are all languor, sighs, and tears, whose fitting home is the boudoirs of French marquises. Blumenthal is a Thalberg in small.—We have pleasant recollections of certain clever Oxonians, "Double-Firsts," potential in the classics and mathematics. A "Double-First" is the incarnation of Oxford, a masterpiece of Art. All that he knows he knows profoundly, nor does it require an Artesian bore to bring that knowledge bubbling to the surface. His mastery over his intellect is as great as that of Liszt over the piano-forte,—it is a slave to do his bidding. He is the result of a thousand years of culture. A "Double-First" never gives way to enthusiasms; his heart never gets into his head. Impulse is snubbed as though it were a poor relation; and argument is carried on by clear, acute reason, independent of feeling. Woe unto the American who loses his temper while duelling mentally with a "Double-First"! Oxford phlegm will triumph. Of course a "Double-First" is conservative; he disbelieves in republics and universal suffrage, attends the Established Church, and won't publicly deny the Thirty-Nine Articles, whatever maybe his very private opinion of them. He writes brilliant articles for the "Saturday Review," (familiarly known among Liberals as the "Saturday Reviler,") and ends by being a learned and successful barrister, or a Gladstone, or both. Genius will rarely subscribe to the Thirty-Nine Articles. With all his conservatism and want of what the French call effusion, a "Double-First" can be a delightful companion and charming man,—even to a democratic American.
We well remember with what admiring curiosity the Italians regarded Mrs. Stowe one evening that she passed at Villino Trollope. "E la Signora Stowe?"—"Davvero?"—"L'autrice di 'Uncle Tom'?"—"Possibile?"—were their oft-repeated exclamations; for "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is the one American book in which Italians are deeply read. To most of them, Byron and "Uncle Tom" comprehend the whole of English literature. However poorly informed an Italian may be as regards America in other respects, he has a very definite idea of slavery, thanks to Mrs. Stowe. To read "Uncle Tom's Cabin" aloud in Italian to an Italian audience is productive of queer sensations. This office an American woman took upon herself for the enlightenment of some contadine of Fiesole with whom she was staying. She appealed to a thoroughly impartial jury. The verdict would have been balm of Gilead to long-suffering Abolitionists. So admirable an idea of justice had these acute peasant-women, so exalted was their opinion of America, which they believed to be a model republic where all men were born free and equal, that it was long before the reader could impress upon her audience the fact of the existence of slavery there. When this fact did take root in their simple minds, their righteous indignation knew no bounds, and, unlike the orator of the Bird o' Freedom, they thanked God that they were not Americans.
Then——But our recollections are too numerous for the patience of those who do not know Villino Trollope; and we shut up in our thoughts many "pictures beautiful that hang on Memory's walls," turning their faces so that we, at least, may see and enjoy them.
But ere turning away, we pause before one face, now no longer of the living, that of Mrs. Frances Trollope. Knowing how thoroughly erroneous an estimate has been put upon Mrs. Trollope's character in this country, we desire to give a glimpse of the real woman, now that her death has removed the seal of silence.
Frances Trollope, daughter of the Reverend William Milton, a fellow of New College, Oxford, was born at Stapleton, near Bristol, where her father had a curacy. She died in Florence, on the sixth of October, 1863, at the advanced age of eighty-three. In 1809 she married Thomas Anthony Trollope, barrister-at-law, by whom she had six children: Thomas Adolphus, now of Florence,—Henry, who died unmarried at Bruges, in Flanders, in 1834,—Arthur, who died under age,—Anthony, the well-known novelist,—Cecilia, who married John Tilley, Assistant-Secretary of the General Post-Office, London,—and Emily, who died under age.
Mr. Thomas Anthony Trollope married and became the father of a family as presumptive heir to the good estate of an uncle. The latter, however, on becoming a widower, unexpectedly married a second time, and in his old age was himself a father. The sudden change thus caused in the position and fortune of Mr. Trollope so materially deranged his affairs as to necessitate the breaking-up of his establishment at Harrow-on-the-Hill, near London. It was at this time that Miss Fanny Wright (whom Mr. and Mrs. Trollope met at the country-house of Lafayette, when visiting the General in France) persuaded Mrs. Trollope to proceed to America with the hope of providing a career for her second son, Henry. Miss Wright was then bent on founding an establishment, in accordance with her cherished principles, at Nashaba, near Memphis, and the career marked out for Henry Trollope was in connection with this scheme, the fruit of which was disappointment to all the parties concerned. Mrs. Trollope afterwards endeavored to establish her son in Cincinnati; but these attempts were ill managed, and consequently proved futile. Both mother and son then returned to England, the former taking with her a mass of memoranda and notes which she had made during her residence in the United States. These were shown to Captain Basil Hall, whose then recent work on America had encountered bitterly hostile criticism and denial with respect to many of its statements. Finding that Mrs. Trollope's account of various matters was corroborative of his own, Basil Hall for this reason, as also from friendly motives, urged Mrs. Trollope to bring out a work on America. "The Domestic Manners of the Americans" was the result, and so immense was its success that at the age of fifty Mrs. Trollope adopted literature as a profession.
In the eyes of the patriots of thirty years ago Mrs. Trollope committed the unpardonable sin, when she published her book on America; and certainly no country ever rendered itself more ridiculous than did ours, when it made the welkin ring with cries of indignation. The sensible American of to-day reads this same book and wonders how his countrymen lashed themselves into such a violent rage. In her comments upon America Mrs. Trollope is certainly frequently at fault, but unintentionally. She firmly believed all that she wrote, and did not romance, as Americans were wont to declare. When she finds fault with the disgusting practice of tobacco-chewing, assails the too common custom of dram-drinking, and complains of a want of refinement in some parts of the country, she certainly has the right on her side. When she speaks of Jefferson's dictum, "All men are born free and equal," as a phrase of mischievous sophistry, and refers to his posthumous works as a mass of mighty mischiefs,—when she accuses us of being drearily cold and lacking enthusiasm, and regards the American women as the most beautiful in the world, but the least attractive,—we may naturally differ from her, but we have no right to tyrannize over her convictions. That she bore us no malice is the verdict of every one who knew her ever so slightly; and her sons, who were greatly subjected to her influence, entertain the kindest and most friendly sentiments towards the United States.
Mrs. Trollope's works, beginning with the "Domestic Manners of the Americans," published in 1832, and ending with "Paris and London," which appeared in 1856, amount to one hundred and fourteen volumes, all, be it remembered, written after her fiftieth year. Of her novels perhaps the most successful and widely known were the "Vicar of Wrexhill," a violent satire on the Evangelical religionists, published in 1837,—"Widow Barnaby," in 1839,—and "The Ward of Thorpe Combe," in 1847. "Michael Armstrong," printed in 1840, was written with a view to assist the movement in favor of protection to the factory-operatives, which resulted in the famous "Ten-Hour Bill." The descriptions were the fruits of a personal visit to the principal seats of factory-labor. At the time, this book created considerable sensation.
Two works of travel and social sketches, "Paris and the Parisians," and "Vienna and the Austrians," were also very extensively read. With regard to the second we deem it proper to observe that Mrs. Trollope suffered herself to be so far dazzled by the very remarkable cordiality of her reception in the exclusive society of Vienna, and by the flattering intimacy with which she was honored by Prince Metternich and his circle, as to have been led to regard the then dominant Austrian political and social system in a more favorable light than was consistent with the generally liberal tone of her sentiments and opinions.
Though late in becoming an author, Mrs. Trollope had at all periods of her life been inclined to literary pursuits, and in early youth enjoyed the friendship of many distinguished men, among whom were Mathias, the well-known author of the "Pursuits of Literature," Dr. Nott, the Italian scholar, one of the few foreigners who have been members of the Della Crusca,—General Pepe, the celebrated defender of Venice, whom she knew intimately for many years,—General Lafayette,—and others.
Both before and after she achieved literary celebrity, Mrs. Trollope was very popular in society, for the pleasures of which she was especially fitted by her talents. In Florence she gathered around her persons of eminence, both foreign and native, and her interest in men and things remained undiminished until within a very few years of her death. Even at an advanced age her mind was ready to receive new ideas and to deal with them candidly. We have in our possession letters written by her in '54 and '55 on the much-abused subject of Spiritualism, which was then in its infancy. They are addressed to an American literary gentleman then resident in Florence, and give so admirable an idea of Mrs. Trollope's clearness of mental vision and the universally inquisitive tendency of her mind that we insert them at large.—Dec. 21st, 1854, Mrs. Trollope writes: "I am afraid, my dear Sir, that I am about to take an unwarrantable liberty by thus intruding on your time, but I must trust to your indulgence for pardon. During the few minutes that I had the pleasure of speaking with you, the other evening, on the subject of spiritual visitations, there was in your conversation a tone so equally removed from enthusiasm on one side and incredulity on the other that I felt more satisfaction in listening to you than I have ever done when this subject has been the theme. That so many thousands of educated and intelligent people should yield their belief to so bold a delusion as this must be, if there be no occult cause at work, is inconceivable. By occult cause I mean, of course, nothing at all analogous to hidden trickery, but to the interference of some power with which the earth has been hitherto unacquainted. If it were not taking too great a liberty, I would ask you to call upon me,... that I might have the pleasure and advantage of having your opinion more at length upon one or two points connected with this most curious subject." The desired interview took place, and a week later Mrs. Trollope returned a pamphlet on spiritual manifestations with the following note: "Many thanks, my dear Sir, for your kindness in permitting me a leisurely perusal of the inclosed. It is a very curious and interesting document, and I think it would be impossible to read it without arriving at the conviction that the writer deserves to be listened to with great attention and great confidence. But as yet I feel that we have no sure ground under our feet. The only idea that suggests itself to me is that the medium is in a mesmeric condition; and after giving considerable time and attention to these mysterious mesmeric symptoms, I am persuaded that a patient liable to such influence is in a diseased state. It has often appeared to me that the soul was partially, as it were, disentangled from the body. I have watched the —— sisters (the well-known patients of Dr. Elliotson) for more than a year, during which interval they were perfectly, as to the mind, in an abnormal state,—not recognizing father, mother, or brothers, or remembering anything connected with the year preceding their mesmeric condition. They learned everything which was submitted to their intellect during this interval with something very like supernatural intelligence. Emma, another well-known patient of Dr. Elliotson, constantly described herself, when in a mesmeric state, as 'greatly better than well,' and this was always said with a countenance expressive of very sublime happiness,—but as if her hearers were not capable of comprehending it. I shall feel very anxious to hear the results of your own experience; for it appears to me that you are in a state of mind equally unlikely to mistake truth for falsehood, or falsehood for truth." Upon receiving a second pamphlet treating on the same subject, Mrs. Trollope wrote as follows: "The document you have sent me, my dear Sir, is indeed full of interest. Had it been less so, I should not have retained it so long. In speaking of a state of mesmerism as being one of disease, I by no means infer that the mesmeric influence is either the cause or effect of disease, but that only diseased persons are liable to it. I have listened to statements from more than one physician in great practice tending very clearly to show that the manifestations of this semi-spiritual state are never observed in perfectly healthy persons. One gentleman in large practice told me that he had almost constantly perceived in the last stage of pulmonary consumption a manifest brightening of the intellect; and children, at the moment of passing from this state to that which follows it, will often (as I well know) speak with a degree of high intelligence that strongly suggests the idea that there are moments when the two conditions touch. That the region next above us is occupied by the souls of men about to be made perfect, I have not the shadow of a doubt. The puzzling part of the present question is this,—Why do we get a dark and uncertain peep at this stage of existence, when philosophy has so long been excluded from it? and I am inclined to say in reply, 'Be patient and be watchful, and we shall all know more anon.'"—Such is the character of notes that Mrs. Trollope wrote at the age of seventy-five.
Mrs. Trollope realized from her writings the large sum of one hundred thousand dollars; but generous tastes and a numerous family created as large a demand as there was supply, and kept her pen constantly busy. She wrote with a rapidity which seems to have been inherited by both her sons, more particularly by Anthony Trollope. One of her novels was written in three weeks; another she wrote at the bedside of a son dying of consumption, she being bound by contract to finish the work at a given time. Acting day and night as nurse, the overtasked mother was obliged to stimulate her nervous system by a constant use of strong coffee, and betweenwhiles would turn to the unfinished novel and write of fictitious joys and sorrows while her own heart was bleeding for the beloved son dying beside her. It was no doubt owing to this constant taxation of the brain that her intellect was but a wreck of its former self during the last four years of her life. During this time her condition was but a living death, though she was physically well. She was watched over and cared for with the most unselfish devotion by her son Thomas Adolphus and his wife, who gave up all pleasures away from home to be near their mother. The favorite reading in these last days was her son Anthony's novels.
And Thomas Trollope, writing of his mother's death, says: "Though we have been so long prepared for it, and though my poor dear mother has been in fact dead to us for many months past, and though her life, free from suffering as it was, was such as those who loved her could not have wished prolonged, yet for all this the last separation brings a pang with it. She was as good and dear a mother as ever man had; and few sons have passed so large a portion of their lives in such intimate association with their mother as I have for more than thirty years."
This is a noble record for both mother and son. To her children Mrs. Trollope was a providence and support in all time of sorrow or trouble,—a cause of prosperity, a confidant, a friend, and a companion.
A grateful American makes this humble offering to her memory in the name of justice.
There is a villa too, near Florence, "on the link of Bellosguardo," as dear from association as Villino Trollope. It has for a neighbor the Villa Mont' Auto, where Hawthorne lived, and which he transformed by the magic of his pen into the Monte Bene of the "Marble Faun." Not far off is the "tower" wherein Aurora Leigh sought peace,—and found it. The inmate of this villa was a little lady with blue-black hair and sparkling jet eyes, a writer whose dawn is one of promise, a chosen friend of the noblest and best, and on her terrace the Brownings, Walter Savage Landor, and many choice spirits have sipped tea while their eyes drank in such a vision of beauty as Nature and Art have never equalled elsewhere.
"No sun could die, nor yet be born, unseen By dwellers at my villa: morn and eve Were magnified before us in the pure Illimitable space and pause of sky, Intense as angels' garments blanched with God, Less blue than radiant. From the outer wall Of the garden dropped the mystic floating gray Of olive-trees, (with interruptions green From maize and vine,) until 't was caught and torn On that abrupt line of dark cypresses Which signed the way to Florence. Beautiful The city lay along the ample vale,— Cathedral, tower and palace, piazza and street; The river trailing like a silver cord Through all, and curling loosely, both before And after, over the whole stretch of land, Sown whitely up and down its opposite slopes With farms and villas."
What Aurora Leigh saw from her tower is almost a counterpart of what Mrs. Browning gazed upon so often from the terrace of Villa Brichieri.
Florence without the Trollopes and our Lady of Bellosguardo would be like bread without salt. A blessing, then, upon houses which have been spiritual asylums to many forlorn Americans!—a blessing upon their inmates, whose hearts are as large and whose hands are as open as their minds are broad and catholic!
A TOBACCONALIAN ODE.
O plant divine! Not to the tuneful Nine, Who sit where purple sunlight longest lingers, Twining the bay, weaving with busy fingers The amaranth eterne and sprays of vine, Do I appeal. Ah, worthier brows than mine Shall wear those wreaths! But thou, O potent plant, Of thy broad fronds but furnish me a crown, Let others sing the yellow corn, the vine, And others for the laurel-garland pant, Content with my rich meed, I'll sit me down, Nor ask for fame, nor heroes' high renown, Nor wine. And ye, ye airy sprites, Born of the Morning's womb, sired of the Sun, Who cull with nice acumen, one by one, All gentle influences from the air, And from within the earth what most delights The tender roots of springing plants, whose care Distils from gross material its spirit To paint the flower and give the fruit its merit, Apply to my dull sense your subtile art! When ye, with nicest, finest skill, had wrought This chiefest work, the choicest blessings brought And stored them at its roots, prepared each part, Matured the bud, painted the dainty bloom, Ye stood and gazed until the fruit should come. Ah, foolish elves! Look ye that yon frail flower should be sublimed To fruit commensurate with all your power And cunning art? Was it for such ye climbed The slanting sunbeams, coaxing many a shower From the coy clouds? Ye did exceed yourselves; And as ye stand and gaze, lo, instantly The whole etherealized ye see: From topmost golden spray to lowest root, The whole is fruit. Well have ye wrought, And in your honor now shall incense rise. The oaken chair, the cheerful blaze, invite Calm meditation, while the flickering light Casts strange, fantastic shadows on the wall, Where goodly tomes, with ample lading fraught Of gold of wit and gems of fancy rare, Poet and sage, mute witnesses of all, Smile gently on me, as, with sober care, I reach the pipe and thoughtfully prepare The sacrifice.
O fragile clay! Erst white as e'er a lily of old Nile, But now imbrowned and ambered o'er and through With richest tints and ever-deepening hue, Quintessence of rare essences the while Uphoarding, as thou farest day by day, Thou mind'st me of a genial face I knew. At first it was but fair, nought but a face; But as I read and learned it, wondrous grace And beauty marvellous did grow and grow, Till every hue of the sweet soul did show Most beautiful from brow and lip and eye. And thus, O clay, Child of the sea-foam, nursed amid the spray, Thy visage changes, ever grows more fair As the fine spirit works expression there! Blest be the tide that rapt thee from the roar And cast thee on the far Danubian shore, And blest the art that shaped thee daintily! And thou, O fragrant tube attenuate! No more in the sweet-blooming cherry-grove, Where the shy bulbul plaintive mourns her love, Shalt thou uplift thy blossoms to the sky, Or wave them o'er the waters rippling by; No more thy fruit shall stud with jewels red The leafy crown thou fashionedst for thy head. Not this thy fate. When the swart damsel from thy parent tree Did lop thee with thy fellows, and did strip From off thee, bleeding, leaf and bud and blossom, And bind the odorous fagot carefully, And bear thee in to whom should fashion thee And set new fruit of amber on thy tip, More grateful than the old to eye and lip, Ambrosial odors thou didst then exhale, Leaving thy fragrance in her tawny bosom. Thou still dost hold it. Nothing may avail To rob thee of the odorous memory Thou sweetly bearest of the cherry-grove, Where blossoms bloom and lovers tell their love. Bright amber, fragrant wood, enamelled clay, Help me to burn the incense worthily! Thou fire, assist! Promethean fire, unbound, The azure clouds go wreathing round and round, Float slowly up, then gently melt away; And in their circling wreaths I dimly spy Full many a fleeting vision's fantasy. Alas! alas! How bright soe'er before my view they pass, Whether it be that Memory, pointing back, Doth show each flower along the devious track By which I came forth from the fields of youth,— Or bright-robed Hope doth deck the sober truth With many-colored garments, pointing on To lighter days and envied honors won,— Or Fancy, taking many a meaner thing, Doth gild it o'er with bright imagining,— Alas! alas! Light as the circling smoke, they fade and pass, What time the last thin wreath hath faintly sped Up from the embers dying, dying, dead! So earth's best blessings fade and fleet away,— Nought left but ashes, smoke, and empty clay.
Awake, my soul! 't is time thou wert awaking! For radiant spirits, innocent and fair, Walking beside thee, hovering in the air Adown the past, thronging thy future way, Wait but thy calling and the thraldom's breaking, Which, all unworthily, to sense hath bound thee, To bless thy days and make the night around thee As bright and beautiful and fair as day. Call thou on these, my soul, and fix thee there! Name nought divine which hath not godlike in it; And if thou burnest incense, let it be That of the heart, enkindled thankfully; And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, Nor let it poison all thy sight forever; Whate'er thou hast to do of worth, begin it, Nor leave the issue free to any doubt, Forgetting never what thou art, and never Whither thou goest, to the far Forever. And then shall gentle Memory, pointing back, Show blessings scattered all along thy track; And bright-robed Hope, shaming thy dreams of youth, Shall lead thee up from dreaming to the truth; And Fancy, leaving every meaner thing, Shall see fulfilled each bright imagining. Then shall the ashes of thy musing be Only the ashes of thy naughtiness; The smoke, the remnant of thy vanity And thorny passions, which entangled thee Till thou didst pray deliverance; the clay, That empty clay e'en, hath a power to bless,— Empty for that a gem hath passed away, To shine forever in eternal day.
"Peace and good-will."
Who hath enchanted Goliath? He sleeps with a smile on his face, but his secret is hid from the charmer. The treacherous will looks abashed on the calm of his slumber, and laments, "The thing that I would I do not!"
Now while the halcyon broods through the Sabbath-days of winter, and, looking from her nest, sees the waves of a summer calm and brightness,—now while she meditates, with the eggs under her wings, of a fast-approaching time when she shall teach her song to the little flock that's coming,—let us also dream. The thing that hath been shall be. Contentment, peace, and love! Fairy folk shall not personate this blessedness for us. Who is your next-door neighbor? One face shines serenely before me, and says, "The world is redeemed!" One voice, sounding clear through all discords, has an echo, fine, true, and eternal, in the midst of the Seraphim's praise.
Therefore, thou blue-winged halcyon, shall I sit beneath the dead sycamore in whose topmost branches thy great nest is built,—finding death crowned here, as everywhere, with life; here shall be told the Christmas tale of contentment, peace, and love.
No tremulous tale of sorrow, of wrong endured and avenged; no report of that Orthodox anguish which, renouncing the present, hopes only by the hereafter; no story of desperate heroic achievement, or of long-suffering patience, or even of martyrdom's glory. The sea is calm, and the halcyon broods, and only love is eternal.
Let us not stint thee, as selfishness must; nor shame thee with praise inadequate; nor walk with shod feet, as the base-bred, into thy palaces; nor as the weak, nor as the wise, who so often profane thee, but as the loving who love thee, holy Love, may we take thy name on our lips, and lay our gift on thine altar! It is a Christmas offering, fashioned, however rudely, from an absolute truth. If thou deem the ointment precious, when I break the unjewelled box, I pour it on thy feet. Let others crown, I would only refresh thee.