Imágenes de página
[ocr errors]

the writings of Homer, Hesiod, Virgil, and Catullus ; Dante, Tasso, and Ariosto; Garcilaso, Marôt, and Gresset ; Chaucer, Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton. From old legends and traditions, and from the records of Hebrew and Arabian prophets and poets, I gleaned all the most touching and sublime recitals, in which their imagery was drawn from flowers; in all their religious rites, in their festivals, and marriage or funeral services. These I pursued and contrasted with those of other nations, with all their varieties and resemblances in the writings of other poets, arising out of their mythology, the genius of their age and climate. No one feature resulting from the inquiry was more strong and remarkable than their peculiar coincidence, and the invariable and extensive application of the most appropriate, as well as the most touching images, to the subjects they wished to illustrate, in reference to the manners and usages of the people. I found that, like my own, the poet's earliest efforts and admiration were called forth by rural scenes and natural objects; among which the imagery drawn from flowers, along with fables and metamorphoses of them, were some of the most original and pleasing. I saw them scattered from the laps of children, along the path of the palm-crowned victor or the blushing bride; round the youth's and maiden's brows, chanting alternate hymns; in garlands, at the festivals and ancient games; and, lastly, in mourning numbers, wreathed round the funeral urns. Pictured forth in the works of art, the storied hall, the temple, and the bust: wrought into the grandest tapestry by the most delicate hands, their artificial character, also, every where prevailed.

The pattern grows; the well-depicted flower,

Wrought patiently into the snowy lawn,
Unfolds its bosom; buds, and leaves, and sprigs,
And curling tendrils, gracefully disposed,
Follow the nimble finger of the fair;
A wreath that cannot fade, of flowers that blow

With most success when all besides decay.” Cowper. I would not, however, compare these with the more exquisite images and imitations of the poets, applied to delightful or pathetic purposes, and the illustration of moral and religious truth-of pure and elevated views of nature and of man. Here the simple and sublime passages of the Jewish writers unquestionably take the lead, the spirit of which, we trust, is too familiar with all our readers to require our notice. As for man, his days are as grass—as a flower of the field, so he perisheth”—“Behold the lily of the field,” &c.; which, with many more, are quite superior to similar passages in the Pagan writers; who, however, are no less fond of referring to the same sources of poetical beauty and moral feeling. Homer, perhaps, has fewer instances than are to be found in many other poets, but all of a majestic and impressive kind :--

For what are men?--Calamitous by birth,

They owe their life and nourishment to earth;
Like yearly leaves, that now with beauty crown'd

Smile on the sun—now wither on the ground :" Pore. which is not very unlike that of Milton,

“ Thick as autumnal leaves that strew the brooks

In Vallombrosa.”

Cowper, whose poetry abounds in this species of imagery, has also one more nearly resembling that of Scripture :

“ All Aesh is grass, and all its glory fades

Like the fair flower dishevell'd in the wind;

Riches have wings, and grandeur is a dream." But such, like Milton's, are too generally read to need a reference; and those we had prepared to give from Dante, and a few of the less familiar poets, we now feel ourselves compelled to postpone to some future number.



“ Fool that I am ! I have undone myself,

And with mine own hand turn'd my fortune round,
That was a fair one. I have childishly
Play'd with my hope so long, till I have broke it.”

Old Play. Tue reader mást not look for any thing more in the shape of mere amusement from these love-stories; they now grow too serious for that. For the relater of them, they are fraught with nothing but bitter thoughts, and restless fancies and imaginations, that haunt the hollow places of his heart,-peopling it with the phantoms of hopes that are dead and gone, and making it worse than empty. This is all that philosophy itself can make of these stories for me—"unless philosophy can make a Juliet:" it is therefore solely for the benefit of others that I relate them. I will confess that, contrary to my expectations, I have felt some satisfaction in recalling the preceding ones; because they referred to a period when the elasticity of youth was capable of answering all the demands that were made upon it,-a period when the bow cannot be so bent but that it will recover its pristine form, when the influence wbich acted upon it is taken off; and to recall the memory of this period was, in some sort, to restore it. But I have now to speak of what happened when my mind had arrived at “ years of discretion;"and when do the events of these years bear recalling without regret, or recording without sorrow and shame?

It is a remarkable feature of my “ experiences” in the matter of love, that I am not able to fix upon any thing like the precise period at which any one of them either began or ended. In fact their extreme edges blend with and run into each other, exactly as the colours of the prismatic spectrum do; and, perhaps, this is an advantage rather than otherwise--for they thus form an eternal rainbow in the cloudy sky of my existence, which, if it is but an optical illusion, created by the “light o'love” shining through the showers of tears that are perpetually falling there, is at least beautiful to look at; and, like its prototype in external nature, I am willing to accept it as a promise and a prophecy that the world which it hangs over and adorns shall never again be destroyed, at least by the same cause.

For several years before the period of which I am now to speak, I had felt convinced that my sole chance of happiness in after-life depended on my meeting with a being on whom my spirit could rest and repose with an entire and absolute love--to whom it might flee, from itself and all things else, as to a sanctuary-with whom it might become blended and interfused, till it could no longer know or feel that it possessed any power, will, or even identity of its own. To be myself was to be worse than nothing-to live but in and for myself, was to “ die daily”—for my thoughts and feelings to have liberty to range within a sphere of their own creation, was for them to be self-imprisoned in the worst of dungeons. In short, I could never bear to contemplate my own soul, or any of the qualities and attributes belonging to it, except through their effects and consequences in others. If I desired to shine, Heaven knows it was not by means of a self-existent flame, like the sun's, but by a reflected light. The mild glories of the moon were the only ones that I ever coveted or envied : with these, if I could not hope to dispel the clouds that would gather about me, at least I might beautify them ; if I could not melt away into air the mists of evil that are perpetually rising around us, at least I might give them fantastic shapes and colours, and make them look like any thing but what they were. It was just as my mind had permanently attained to this mood, or habit, that I became “ intimate,” as the phrase is, with

(I dare not name even the letters of her name, for the sound of them is fraught with a spell that would strike me back into childhood again, and utterly unfit me for the task I have undertaken—at least, into all the weakness of childhood, but, alas! none of its power. If I thought it could bring back that, I would do nothing but name that name all day long, and teach myself to talk it aloud in my dreams !)

Our families were connected together by marriage, and were in habits of intimacy; but as she had lately been away from home, at school, I had not seen any thing of her for several years: but I had heard much of her from a match-making aunt, who thought we should suit each other very well. It was the only time the silly woman ever thought right in her life! Accordingly, when she had left school for a short time, I was invited down to stay at their house in the country, at the instance of this same aunt; who had not sense enough to know either the mischief or the good she was doing, in thus bringing together two persons who (I will say it) were made for each other ; but whom, if not " Fate,” certainly "metaphysical aid” prevented from ever fulfilling their apparent destiny. To reconcile this seeming contradiction, the reader must here be informed that, in bringing about the consummation which I referred to above,—namely, the fixed conviction that I was formed to "live and move and have my being" not in my own mind and heart, but in those of another, -I had contrived (as I have also hinted above, by "metaphysical aid”) to connect the proposition with one to this effect-namely, that to preserve and enjoy this ideal of what I was seeking I must, on no consideration whatever, think of marrying the person to whom it referred ; and that if I were ever compelled, by whatever circumstances, to marry at all, she must be the very last I must think of: for I held it as an identical proposition, that sensual and intellectual love (not only might exist separately, but) could not possibly exist together; that they are, in fact, antagonist powers, and the natural and necessary antithesis of each other.

Reader, if thou wouldst" enjoy the good the gods provide thee," abjure theories in all things—but most of all in love. They are the bane of truth, even in affairs which relate to the understanding ; but if one of them happens to take root in the heart, there is no end to the destruction it works there : like the Upas-tree of the East, it grows up, and spreading forth its poisonous branches, withers all things around it, blasting the soil that nourishes it, and making a desert of what might have been a garden of Eden! Thus it was with me, and thus it ever will be with all who attempt to play the logician with love. I saw this beautiful young creature, and, after basking for a little while in the sunshine of her looks, I felt my heart warm and expand into a new life; but this snake of a theory, that lay coiled up there while its resting-place remained cold, was also warmed into life at the same moment, and it stung both our hearts to death. I saw this lady, and I loved her ;--I will even say that, as far as the mere sentiment was concerned, I loved her with a strength, a purity, and a simplicity that were not unworthy of her;-I loved her as she deserved to be loved. But this cursed theory about marriage had taken such firm root in my mind and heart, that I never for an instant thought of doing more than love her, or of wishing, or expecting, that she should do more than love me. I believed that she did love me, and was satisfied. I “sought to know no more.” Nay, she did love me, as I learned afterwards, when she had been for four years the wife of another,-deeply, fondly, passionately loved me! (my blood seems turning into cold water as I write the words ;)-she did love me; but either not understanding the theory on which I was acting, (as, how should she?) or not believing that I loved her as I ought, since I did not give her the only unequivocal proof of love that an honourable man can give to a virtuous woman, by seeking to make her wholly mine, she at length listened to the urgent instances of her friends, and consented that her hand should be contracted to another! A blank dismay comes over me again, now, while I think of this final bar,--this death-blow to the hopes and aspirations of my youth,—and shakes my heart even to its foundations. The recalling of this period disturbs me infinitely more than the circumstance itself did; for then, rage, fear, hope, anxiety, disappointment, and a thousand other contending feelings, divided me between them, and left little of me for any one of them to seize hold of to itself; while my wounded pride, erecting itself into a momentary supremacy, and seating itself on the throne of my heart, carried me triumphantly through all. Fool that I was!--much I had to be proud of, truly, when my precious wisdom (or consistency, as I remember I used to term it) had just lost me that, without which all the wisdom in the world is but foolishness, and all the consistency, contradiction !-and to dare to be proud, too, before HER, whose presence created the only pure thoughts and high imaginations I had ever experienced! This beggarly pride, which sustained me then, was soon, as it ought to be, levelled in the dust, never to rise from it again ; and if an all-absorbing sorrow, lying like a dead weight at the bottom of my heart—if sorrow, penitence, and deep humility can atone for a folly that, in this case, amounted to a crime, since it involved the happiness of another, mine is now forgiven. When will the spirit that committed it be allowed to sink into its eternal sleep, and be at rest!

Before concluding this story, I would fain describe the lady who is the subject of it, as she was when I knew her; for, if I do not, the memory of her will soon be lost to a world that can ill afford to part with it. In fact, it is lost already,—for those who belonged to her then

never knew her at all, and those to whom she belongs now are not capable of distinguishing the difference between what she was and what she is. But I must not attempt the task, for both our sakes,-lest at the same time I renew what were best forgotten. And indeed I know no good that would be likely to come of it,-for she is so changed now, that she would not know herself, even if I could paint her as she was; while for me she remains unchanged, since I choose never to see or think of her but through the medium of my imagination. Suffice it, that she was the chosen idol of a heart and mind smitten with the love of all that is good and beautiful in human nature, and finding it all centered in her; and that she looked like what she was: that she is the quiet and contented wife of an honest and good-natured husband, and the mother of his children; and that she looks like what she is!

I shall conclude this story at once, by copying the letter I wrote to her immediately on learning that she had consented to be the wife of another; and, in perusing it, the reader must bear in mind that, during the whole of our intercourse previous to this period, neither love nor marriage had ever for a moment been the subject of our talk; and also that our intimacy had been for a considerable time past broken off by her friends, who had good reason to believe that I had no thoughts of marrying, and who would not have been very ready to sanction my addresses, even if I had been disposed to present them in due form. For the rest, the letter must explain itself.

“ To “(I am totally at a loss by what title to address you. I cannot bring myself to write a chilling “Madam,” and I must not write as I once ventured to do. I'll leave the place vacant. Pray fill it for me as you think I ought to have filled it.)

“Once more, and for the last time in my life, I am going to trouble you with what you will, I'm afraid, think does not concern you. After what I said to you when I saw you last, you will have guessed that I have been informed of your approaching marriage, and will, I suppose, have anticipated most of what I can have to say to you. I know, too, that, under these circumstances, it cannot but be unpleasant and troublesome to you to receive a letter from me at all. I would therefore have sought an opportunity of seeing you, and of saying the little I have to say to you; but I could not have spoken to you if I had; and if I could, I should not have dared to trust myself. Do not, however, fear that, by your indulgence in suffering me to write this once, you will incur the risk of being troubled so again. And, above all, pray do not suppose that I think you can have any desire to know any thing I can have to say to you.

It must be a matter of the merest indifference to you. It is to exculpate myself, for myself, that I write, not to satisfy you,---it is because I desire that you should think I am not inconsistent with myself, in the strange way (“strange,” in the common acceptation of the term) in which I am now going to act. I know that, in all that concerns you, I have hitherto acted, and am still going to act, as no one ever did before under similar circumstances. My past conduct towards you has been the result of a set of thoughts and feelings so entirely unlike the thoughts and feelings of those I hear and read of, and see about me, that, as it concerns merely myself, I shall not attempt to explain it. I am sure I should

« AnteriorContinuar »