Imágenes de página

And oh what penance last was mine to bear,

To order-whose? when three came down the stair,
Anselm with coals, and Baptist with a rod,

And who the third bade bind me ?-Allah! God!
Whate'er thy name, thy number, one or three,
Or all in all, if thou hast justice,- see!

By Christian saints though Heaven be half possest,
If there thine old assessor, Justice, rest,
With blindfold brow as idolists invent,

Rend, rend her bandage down!-as mine is rent.
What! Freeze ye now with horror and remorse,
As brigands shudder at their victim's corse?
Yet when, with torture rapt, I burst the bands,
Leap'd to those knees, and kiss'd his bloody hands,
Kneeling, and praying, after half was done,-
Oh, spare the other! Father, leave me one!
You answer'd,-you, Lord Hangman Arundel,—
What for thy soul is echoing since in hell,--
For miscreant lore,-you answer'd with an oath,-
E'en one was one too many-out with both!
Now, with these lids deep withering in their pit,
I see dismay has seized thee as a fit,

Pales that thin cheek, dilates those ghastly eyne,
And smites thy knees, 'mid shadows dark as mine:
And by thy labouring breast, thy tottering throne,
Thy jaws that gibber, but can scarce intone;
And, by the stillness of these slaves, I see,
All recognise a voice from Heaven for thee.
Thy days to-morrow shall have fill'd their sum!
And now I cite and summon thee to come,
And answer all this victim shall assign,
Against thee, then, before her God and thine!'"

There is something very lofty and terrible in that summons; but her spirit, unable to sustain itself at such a pitch, almost faints within her, and she cries for water, and deliriously maunders of the horrors in which she is sunk, and surrounded on every side. "Delusions," she mutters, "have abused my tongue;" and then she cries, "Off, ruffian!" and beseeches them to spare her father, for that he will recant. All-all is false

[ocr errors]

Flattering and false as hope and early love!"

No account is taken of her in heaven

"I seem about to perish like the beasts, Whose mart awaits this holocaust for priests."

Again her spirit is released from its utter despair-and she says,

"Braid-for my chaplet, braid again the band:
Your eyes abhor those traces of your hand.
There!-all is hid below that linen wreath-
Heaven has no eyes can penetrate beneath.
One prophet must be false,-and may be both.
This, for abandoning dear mother's troth;
All this, for grasping thoughts beyond my span.
I stand abandon'd now of God and man.
My lane of life is darkening tow'rd the close.
Some paces on, the boundary pillar shows-
The landmark of existence; whither brought,
I shall shrink up and wither into nought;
Dissolv'd to elements of fire and clay,
Extinct-dispersed-forgotten. Let us pray.

"Too long forsaken, and too ill obey'd,
Thou! by whom I and every thing were made;
Oh, never blamed, though oft misunderstood,
Attest!I loved, I labour'd, to be good;

Content when poor, submissive when opprest,
With grief for faults, with gratitude when blest,
And when in pain not daring to repine,—
It was thy pleasure, and I made that mine.
And since 'tis now thy pleasure-wise and just,
To change this form, and recompose its dust,
God! I once more beg pardon for the past,
And once more offer thee my thanks, my last-
My boundless thanks, for life so long allow'd,
So plenteously sustain'd, so well endow'd,
To contemplate thy works, divine their ends,
Enjoy thought, passion, and discourse with friends.
Thanks! too for death, the term of every grief;
Thanks! even that agonies have this relief-
The long are moderate, and the acute are brief.
Yet, if it suit thy wisdom, give, oh give
That, which within me thinks, again to live!
If this oppose thy providence or power,
Or ill consist with Nature's general dower,
Use these materials for whate'er their worth!
I cast them at thy footstool,-earth to earth!'

So saying, with hands upraised she kneels in prayer, and then, falling on her face, lies mute and motionless, as if dead. The Primate is a controversialist, armed at all points-in every sense a formidable polemic and though Anne in her present posture can hardly be expected to hear distinctly all he says, he rates her sensibly and eloquently, and on some points, perhaps, has the better of the argu

[ocr errors]

ment. At the close of his harangue, he more than hints that after one other spiritual effort, he will leave the servants of the crown to deal with the wretched girl with arguments of their own. She again grows delirious, and "has strange powers of speech"—but in the midst of her ravings we hear speaking a being endowed with "discourse of reason."

"Anne Ayliffe! What! Anne Ayliffe!'

They call!

Lead me before Saint Thomas, or Saint Paul!
Though all the rest disown me, and condemn,-
Saint Paul!-Saint Thomas !-I appeal to them.
For if they needed, to convince mistrust,
This, to put fingers where the spear was thrust,
That, to be call'd from mid-day skies aloud,
And reft of sight, with sight be re-endow'd;
Though both coeval might with men converse,
Who, palsied left their couch, or dead their herse:
Either should pardon one so far removed,
Whose doubt nor sense nor miracle disproved.
They would,-but-thronging monsters, grim and gaunt
'Tis Hyde!-Maud - Father! Father, too?- Avaunt!
Who grasps? who holds me? whom am I among ?-
Some drink, some drink!-to cool my burning tongue.

"Thanks, thanks! I dream'd it. What's the time of night?
Lead me one moment to the old man's sight!

In dust, in dust, beneath his feet, to crawl,
Own all my faults, and make him pardon all:
The times I shunn'd obedience, seem'd ingrate,
Provoked his anger, merited his hate,

Would not repeat what faintly reach'd his ear,
Left him alone, or present fail'd to cheer.
Yet who expected hell for such complaints?
Or him to urge it on those captious saints?

What! thought he I with hypocrites could cower,-
For all the devil o'erlooks from Esher's tower!

Who sigh'd? who is it groans? whose heart has burst?
Who art thou of the damn'd? I rave-I thirst!
Oh, water! Thanks! It calms my nerves and brain.
Let me sit here, and lean upon the chain.
What say you,-am I judged and sentenced,-say?
No respite? no reprieve? not even a day?"

There is deep pathos, surely, in that last line.

His Grace plies her weakness with all his strength, and while he is arguing with her, she seems as if overcome

by his orthodoxy, or yielding to the natural love of life. But all at once,

excited by some sophism, she breaks forth into a reply.

"Reason!'-she cried, and sitting raised her head-
'I too have thought of that, and often read.
Have tried to fathom depths that seem'd profound,
And link'd the chain of causes round and round;
Scann'd many a prophet's visionary page,
And poet's dream, and wildering of the sage:
Books, that profess'd all human wit could find,
And all Heaven deigns reveal to lost mankind;
Yet found in none a verity so great,
So useful, simple, probable, as-Fate.
Fate knows no altar. Fate, of Gods alone,
Adopts no church, nor effigy of stone,
Where men may vainly beg, or falsely swear;
She needs no victim, and she heeds no prayer.
Hers is a car no obstacle may turn,

A heart, that cannot yield, and will not yearn;
An arm, that drives where'er her counsels list :
Great Jove obeys them-how shall man resist?
Such is the power in whose career I stood

And perish ;-blest! were that for others' good.'"

The Primate meets her calmly and convincingly about fate, but stumbling on the question of evil, says

"God's gospel makes the doubts of reason plain,
Faith lightens all-

whereon Anne attacks him with renewed vehemence in a speech of extraordinary power and beauty.

"Then wherefore Sin, and Pain?'

She bounded up with sudden power possess`d,

As all the demon roused within her breast.

[ocr errors]

"Yes, though your Gospel should, methinks, if God's,
Convince like reason, not by fire and rods,-
Yet would I kneel to welcome rods and fire,
Bind the brass bonnet as a bridal tire,
Hear priests for truth, for slumber hail the gin,-
Could faith resolve me-wherefore Pain and Sin.
What says your prophet? Why was evil sent?
God will redress? Why did not God prevent?
Would he, but could not ?-or would not, yet could?—
There's nothing bad, and one thing only good.

One, infinite, eternal Universe!

Whose parts combine, by changes, and disperse ;

Cloud after cloud succeeding evermore,

Leaves of the forest, waves along the shore,
Snows on the mountain, dust in deserts borne,
Meteors of night, and dews that gem the morn.

Be still! I see it. From the foreland's steep,
Lo, mists clear up, I see it, o'er the deep,
Great Nature's will, the universal soul!
Like heat, or light, diffused from pole to pole;

Through space revolving every starry ball,
Each atom entering, vivifying all ;

Varied by various forms where with combined;
Instinct in brutes, and reason in mankind,
Life in the plant, and germin in the clod,
Change, movement, order, cause- and only God!
Whereof some portion all imbibe with breath,
Share while in life, and render back at death,
To mix and merge in God's eternal sum,
As flesh in earth's. Behold the life to come!

Away! Why palter with my heart's despair?
A voice in vain suppress'd is cavilling there,
All, all is darkness, doubt, and ignorance!

Why search for causes more than change and chance?
'Mid chances infinite and endless change,

Why might not atoms thus themselves arrange?
Why not be ruled by uncreated laws,

And be themselves their self-existing cause?
To own such cause, since after all coerced,
And matter is, own matter such at first!
Is life to come like life before our birth?
I prize but this; I, earthy, love the earth.
Oh! murmuring streams, green valleys, sylvan bowers,
Ye starry nights, ye golden-footed hours,
Spring's roseate morn, sweet summer's evening hue,
Still autumn's noon,-my sisters,-all adieu!
Your sun-clad forms shall ever beam in youth,
Nor know time's hand, nor care's corroding tooth.
And Earth!-whose bosom was my place to dwell,
Whose milk my nurse,-hail, mother, and farewell!
Goddess, o'er thee no evil arm has power;
Lo, rifted rocks with lichens germ and flower!
Fire, frost, and flood reanimate thy face;
Each dissolution teems with life and grace.
But woe thy offspring! woe, whose flesh is grass!
Organic forms they all dissolve and pass.
As fades the plant, so withers man and beast.
All die alike, they look alike diseased,
O'er all alike the worm usurps its range,
And gilded flies attest the irremeable change.'

The Primate-in one of his addresses -had alluded to her sorceries, and proofs of her witchcraft found below her father's roof-strange forms of waxdrugs potent over hell, monstrous

shapes, ban-dogs, owls, skeletons of apes, nay, even the skull of a man, and more, a clerk's—as Maud confessed-and now Anne exclaims

"Fools! to suppose they served for arts accurst,
And cite Maud's answers when her nails were burst,-
That one did errands to the full-eyed moon,
And one was call'd the Chaplain, one Baboon ;
One prey'd upon her like an Incubus,
And, Sabbaths, all took sacrament with us.
Could not her muttering lips, fantastic air,
Garb, gesture, pulse, and glassy eye declare-
Her brain, ere hooded in the beaten drum,
Was madder e'en than mine has since become?
Yet I bethink me, with what mystic doubt
She shunn'd the study still, and pried without;
Till once I chiding drew her through the gate,-
Greet an old friend, and view the future state!
Her palm uniting with the bones of one,
By whose young pressure both had been undone :
The wretch, hands shaken, prick'd her wrist, and laugh'd,
And offer'd bonds of blood-to learn the craft.'

But who is Maud-and who is Maud's chaplain, whose skeleton Anne confesses was in her father's house?

'Tis not easy to know without reading the whole poem-but listen to Anne Ayliffe.

"One morning,-years elapsed,-we spied afloat,
Wrapp'd in a gown, a body black and bloat.

Its head droop'd backwards, legs and arms were sunk,
And refluent waters just heaved up the trunk.
'Twas Chaplain Hyde-uncover'd on the sands;
Stones fill'd his hood, a crucifix his hands.
Prayers, tapers, knell, and consecrated earth,
Were forfeit, father thought, whate'er their worth;
Why then should this confession give remorse?—
He did, he did, anatomize that corse.

And I, in wonder gazing, traced his knife,
Through inmost springs of motion, sense, and life;
Limbs, with contractile sinews strung to act,
Nerves, which excite those sinews to contract,
Those nerves excited by the brain I found,
That brain through other nerves by objects round.
That beauteous brain! Man outward moves august;
He lifts his head to heaven, and spurns the dust;
But inward,-oh what work, what art divine!
The shapely bones, the column of the spine,
The conduits laid for blood from chyle derived,
The strange alembics for that chyle contrived;
Like separate creatures, or machines, possest
Of powers distinct, consenting with the rest ;-
The rest may mandates from the brain fulfil,
But these disown obedience to the will,
And, self-inform'd, incessant action keep,
Unknown to error, rest, fatigue, or sleep;
Without our reason's guide, or sense's aid
I saw, adored, and lauded Him who made.
But ah!-I saw no vestige of a soul:
No place for that, no use-throughout the whole.
With that all parts seem'd fashion'd to dispense,
And act by nerves through impulse on the sense.
Nor saw one token that your creed confirms,
One sign of life hereafter, save the worm's.
There, Faith to Heaven, my guardian angel, fled:
I mourn'd, then jeer'd, and envied next, the dead.
Between two prophets wavering till that day,
I after doubted both, and ceased to pray.''

More she said, and more she is going to say, about Chaplain Hyde, and Maud, and her own strange, wild, and miserable self, when she exclaims wildly,

"Hark! this moment here
An angel's voice, or devil's pierced my ear!
Or say, if mortal's, from which side the grave?
Ay, and ere now, methinks, unless I rave,
I have heard sighs, heard moanings, in the

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

tone into his own ear-a revelationof necessity broken, and somewhat difficult to understand—but making much clear that till then was dark. We now learn that Fitz-Hugh's father had left his all in charge to hers, who soon found that that all was but debts, and discharged them without complaint. A wicked uncle of FitzHugh's accused the physician of pillage, and a scheme

"To stain with his the lineage of a lord, And bait the bastard girl to noose the plunder'd ward."

To such loose accusations, Fitz-Hugh had basely lent his ear, and at his uncle's instigation, and that of his own false heart, written a letter to his benefactor, threatening to vindicate

« AnteriorContinuar »