Imágenes de página

Countess of Pembroke is well known, and that on Elizabeth L- H-
is nearly equal to it in merit ; that to Sir J. Roe is very pleasing.

I'll not offend thee with a vain tear more,
Glad mentioned Roe. Thou art but gone before
Whither the world must follow; and I now
Breathe to expect my when and make my how,
Which if most gracious Heaven grant like thine,

Who wets my grave can be no friend of mine.
My first ramble was into the church-yard of Paddington, the excel-
lent state of which reflects great credit on the parish. The scenery is
pretty, but the buildings of this limitless city are making rapid 'ad-
vances towards it. The Green on one side, with its huge old elms,
recals ancient times, when the neighbourhood of the dead was that of
sport and merriment during holidays. Shady trees grow in the
church-yard over the tombs, and the nettles and ruder weeds are cleared
away. The number of tombstones is great, but there is scarcely a
striking inscription or noted name recorded among them. On a hum-
ble stone, erected by Lord Petre to the memory of Dr. Geddes, who
died in 1802, aged 65, is the following liberal extract from his works :

_" Christian is my name and Catholic my surname; 1 grant that you are a Christian as well as I, and embrace you as my fellow disciple in Jesus, and if you were not a disciple of Jesus, still I would embrace you as my fellow man.”

The following wretched doggrel appears upon a stone erected to one
J. Russel :-

The grave is a sweet bed of roses
When true believers it encloses ;
When our sweet Saviour left the tomb

He left a long and sweet perfume.
There is something touching in the simplicity of the following :-
“ Farewell, Eliza! The recollection of thy many and rare virtues
will be long and tenderly cherished in the affectionate regrets of thy
afflicted father, sister, and brother !” There are some mortuary in-
scriptions that appear more than once in every church-yard, such as
those beginning " Afflictions sore long time I bore ;" and "The world
is a city full of crooked streets," &c. well known to be from the “
lettered muse.” In these cases, it is probable, the verse of poetry essen-
tial on a tomb-stone in the opinion of the poor man, is left to be se-
lected by the stone-cutter, whose acquaintance with the muse extends
no farther than to two or three well-known ditties, and these he uses
indiscriminately, and generally misspells. There is about some inscrip-
tions, too, an endeavour to render death palatable to survivors, by re-
cording the advantages of it, in order to make the best of an evil (if it
be an evil) which cannot be avoided.

In this burying-ground there is a monument to the memory of Eleanor Boucher, daughter of J. Addison, Esq. of Oxon Hill, Maryland, America, who appears to have been a relative of the noted Addison. It concludes thus :-“ After a long series of ill health, supported with a resignation truly Christian, on the 1st of March 1784, at the age of 44, she closed her valuable life, having, like her relation the celebrated Mr. Addison, been oppressed by a shortness of breath, which was aggravated by a dropsy. Like Addison, also, she shewed in the man



ner of her death, in what peace a Christian can die." Addison's daughter, by the Countess of Warwick, died at Bilton in Warwickshire in 1797, very old and weak in her intellects ; but what other branches of his family, if any, yet remain, either in England or America, is not generally known.

The following is almost the only tolerable epitaph of the more lengthy kind in the burying-ground.

On THOMAS WALKER, born 1777, died 1818.
Bounds the warm tide of youth along thy veins ?
Swells thy aspiring heart with bold designs
Of high accomplishment and lasting praise?
Then, traveller, pause awhile--this huinble stone
Shall speak thee admonitions eloquent.
The strength of manhood flourish'd in the frame
Of him who moulders here beneath thy feet :
Deep admiration of the works of God,
With contemplation patient and profound,
Had now matured his intellectual powers ;
His hand and heart in confidence were raised
To give existence to his teeming thoughts,
When forth the inevitable fiat came
And hurled him in the grave. Dark are the ways
Of Providence-by man inscrutable !
O ponder this in lowliness of soul,
And, with a holy fear pass on--farewell!


Earl March look'd on his dying child,

And smit with grief to view her-
The youth, he cried, whom I exiled,

Shall be restored to woo her.
She's at the window many an hour

His coming to discover;
And her love look'd up to Ellen's bower,

And she look'd on her lover-
But ah! so pale, he knew her not,

Though her smile on him was dwelling.
And am I then forgot-forgot ?-

It broke the heart of Ellen.
In vain he weeps, in vain he sighs,

Her cheek is cold as ashes;
Nor love's own kiss shall wake those eyes

To lift their silken lashes.

[blocks in formation]

immortal spot.

“ But our scene's London now; and by the rout
We perish, if the Round-heads be about."

COWLEY, Prol. to The Guardian. London, the proud metropolis of Britain, the cradle of indepenuont principles in religion and government, the rich, the mighty, the munificent, need scarcely boast, as an adjunct to her fame, of having given birth to great men. And as from a distance I gaze upon the sombre majesty of atmosphere above her, through which are dimly seen, rearing themselves like shadowy giants, her thousand domes and spires, I think how insignificant is man lost amid the stupendous work of his own hands. But to a moment's reflection, what are its riches or its beauty compared to the moral grandeur reaped through many an age of strife and turmoil and revolution. Her aspect is new to me-I am a stranger to her walls, and every step I tread, every name that strikes upon mine ear, recalls vividly the scenes of past history, which till now I had contemplated but in the lifeless page of the historian. The early and imprudent reigns of the first Stuarts are present to my mind:

- Where then was the firm bulwark of English liberty?-_In this City. During the craft-won ascendancy of the hypocritical godly, where did common sense and freedom still find refuge?-In this city. And at the hour of Restoration, who routed the dregs of democracy, and rallied round the throne ?—This City. England's millions of acres, all united, could not sum the host of noble associations excited by this

In itself, in its aspect and age alone, the “ City of the Human Powers" commands an interest mightier than I dare attempt to grasp. A ruin, or a stream, or a village, hallowed by a single name, is quite enough for me; but it would require more than Herculean powers to cope with this hydra of an hundred heads. We may seek to magnify the associations of the rural nook; but this little world must be viewed through the wrong end of the telescope, and even the microcosm would be overpowering. We must select a single name from out the roll, in the worship and admiration of which, must be forgotten the thousand others that are obtruded upon our notice.

And what name shall we choose to be the spirit of so great a shrine? What metropolitan of fame, or, to use the language of the day, what cockney shall be the hero of our theme? Shall it be Hampden, or Milton, or Pope? Shall our pilgrimage be to Bread-street, Cheapside, or Bunhill-fields, in honour of the blind Bard? Or shall we track from lodging to lodging the mighty critic, who preferred Fleet-street even to the Highlands? But age giveth precedency, and our judgment might have anticipated this rule of decision, by fixing at once on the Father of English Poetry to represent the oldest and noblest city of Britain.

There is no poet of the olden time for whom I have such a regard as for Geoffrey Chaucer. Shakspeare is too universal, and Milton too austere, to excite any personal feelings of love towards them. But Chaucer, little as he speaks of himself, is manifested in his writings as a gay, good-humoured, kind-hearted soul, “such as the Muses love."

More thoroughly English than any poet of our land, his prevailing mood, his staple feeling, is rich and exuberant humour. He delights in a broad, but not in a malicious grin. His mirth is always tempered with sensibility, and is of that kind, which is built not on a paucity, but upon a superabundance of feeling. But to me, I must confess, his most pleasing peculiarity is his cockneyism :-he is manifestly the inhabitant of a great city, that has a mass of fellow-creatures ever bustling around him, and hence is possessed of that store of observation and acuteness,—that air of continual society, which the poets of the fields seldom possess. I like also the freshness of feeling, with which he enjoys a green mead, his frequent reference to May and Mayscenes, and the liveliness of spirit which he always assumes the moment he enters on rural description. This to me is far more delicious and poetical than the cold and languid air, with which the dweller among fields generally enumerates in verse the beauties to which he has grown dead, and with which he has become too familiar. Compare parallel passages in Chaucer and Thomson, and the distinction will be instantly perceived. In the pictures of the former, nature brightens up, and the inanimate objects viewed by the poet, seem to catch life from the spirit with which he regards them;-in the descriptions of the latter, every thing is faithfully, but languidly pourtrayed-nature droops with the contemplative spirit of the poet, who moralizes and philosophises over the scene, instead of enjoying it—he finds no matter of excitement in the objects of his every-day life, and when he fancies himself in love with rural and picturesque beauty, he is but fond of ease and languor, and the sloth of an idle day-dream.

But this spirit of painting inanimate nature is not the only peculiarity which Chaucer owed to his town-life. His portraiture of character, and figure, and dress,—the inimitable strokes which rival the palpable power of the artist's pencil, in presenting a picture to one's imagination-all. this is owing to his having spent his days in this busy haunt of men. His power in comic description is amazing-it is not like painting a picture, but unrolling it sometimes a line or a word, aided by the quaintness of the style, flashes a whole picture at once on the view. Às when he calls the Frere " a full solempné man.” It seems at times as if every character had sitten for the picture, so well are not only the general traits, but is each individual mark touched off to the life:

« Somwhat he lisped for his wantonnesse,
To make his English swete upon his tongue;
And in his harping, whan that he hadde songe,
His eyen twinkeled in his head aright,

As don the sterres in a frosty night."
And of the Miller,

“ Upon the copright of his nose he hade

A wert, and thereon stode a tuft of heres,
Rede as the bristles of a sowes eres.

His nose-thirles blacké were and wide,” &c. Of his feelings towards the place of his birth, Chaucer has left one most affectionate record. “ Also the citye of London, that is to me so dere and swete, in which I was forth growen; and more kindely love have I to that place, than to any other in yerth, as every kindly creture hath full appetite to that place of his kindely engendrure, and to wilne

reste and pece in that stede to abide." This passage in his “ Testament of Love” was written in prison, where the poet was confined for having been concerned in a city quarrel, relating to the election of a Lord Mayor. The circumstance explains the plaintive wish at the end of the sentence; which, if it can be taken to mean the “reste and pece” of the grave, the poet obtained after having reached a good old age. And his being buried in the city he loved, acquired for it more honour than he could have foreseen; since it was his tomb that first originated the Poet's Corner, and drew into its company the ashes of so many of his illustrious brethren.

Chaucer's life was one from which we might expect“ The Canterbury Tales,"-a law student, a soldier, a courtier, a diplomatist, an exile, a laureat, a comptroller of the customs,

Qui nullum ferè vivendi genus

Non tetigit,”just fitted to leave, as he did, an epitome of the universal manners of his age. Incited in his youth to literary exertion, most likely by the public honours which at that time were bestowing on Petrarch, he applied himself first to a poetical version of the Roman de Rose, in which occupation he acquired his early taste for allegory, as well as the foreign style of language, which he ever preserved. This is evident on comparing the original with the translation, the lines of the latter being, in many places, word for word the same with those of the former, with merely an English termination to mark the difference. It is nevertheless surprising, notwithstanding his foreign travel and study, how English he is, especially in his later works. Like all men of genius, he was advanced beyond the prejudices of his age, was a follower of Wickliffe, and had adopted those principles of independence suited to the times, the power of the clergy, not that of the sovereign, being the ascendancy most to be dreaded and resisted. He is hard upon the Frere, and all the idle followers of the church; but his picture of the beneficed clergyman marks his respect for true religion. His taste was equally, though perhaps not proportionably advanced : he ridicules the old tales of romance, and tells stories with great seriousness, which are quite as ridiculous. His poetry must have been amazingly popular in its day; and would, no doubt, have given birth to a numerous and talented school of followers, if England had remained happy and prosperous, as it promised in the times of the Third Edward. "But the troubles that followed put good humour, as well as foreign-fetched tales, out of season. It was an age, like the present, self-occupied, with objects of excitement around it daily occurring, that permitted neither leisure nor inclination for bestowing interest on aught but sad reality. And when passing events possess tliis paramount interest and importance, Couriers and Annalists will be considered as the best, and the only poets.

One of the remarkable characteristics of Chaucer, and indeed of Langlande, and all the other early English poets, is the esteem and respect with which they regard and paint the lower orders of their countrymen. This feeling is strongly contrasted with that of the French in those days, whose bias was wholly aristocratic.* Chaucer,

Ellis, in his “ Specimens,” speaking of our Yeomen, says, “ It is very honourable to the good sense of the English nation, that our two best early poets,

« AnteriorContinuar »