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thee still - not a tint faded, not a feature darkened, not a charm dispelled. In thy ideal presence, the stern realities of city life are scarcely remembered or regarded. The smoke, and dust, and tumult, of these busy thoroughfares, are superseded, for the time being, by the breezy coolness, the flowery sweetness, the pleasant warblings, and the delicious repose, which Nature bestows so lavishly upon those who court her smiles amid the green and peaceful hills. Beautiful scene! - even from my lonely attic, I can look away through the starless midnight, as through a magic vista, and feast with eye unobscured on all thy visioned charms. Fancy annihilates both gloom and distance, and through her gay prism thou smilest upon me then with the same tinted beauty which wooed and won my boyish idolatry. But hush thee, dull Prose, and list a murmur of the scallop shell:
THE LOAFER'S APOSTROPHE.
Of hollow pomp and heartless glee,
Sweet lake, to ihee!
There 'neath the tall Æölian pine,
Whose tapering shadow spans thy breast,
In dreamy rest :
Oft courted in that fairy spot,
O'ercast my lot.
Blest hours! and blest be Fancy's power
That steals me from the walks of men,
A boy again!
Where in each wilding flower and tree,
Each bird, and brook, and crag above,
Of early love.
No charm of all so richly given,
Hath blight assailed or years estranged ;
Calm, bright, unchanged.
Still lingers long the cloud that strays,
Enamored, o'er a scene so fair,
Still brighter seems the summer's bow,
The autumn woods, the evening skies,
They charm mine eyes.
Still near the base of yon slant cliff,
Whose bald scalp tops the towering pine,
And casts his line.
Around, in many an airy ring,
The social swallow twittering steals ;
The heron wheels.
And as his circling shadow glides
Deep in thy breast.
Sweet lake! - 50 tranquil, pure, and bright,
That bome of rest.
And when my last of breathing hours
Be't mine to sleep;
In that calm trance of contrite trust,
To sin no more.
As the loafer pronounced the last stanza, he leaned quietly back against the tall sycamore that curtained the
upon which he was reclining, and gazed musingly on the sunny bay outspread before him, as if in its beautiful presence he beheld the image of that lovely lake so fraught with the hoarded memories of boyhood. His dress, though marked with the wear and tear of years, was tidy and decent; and, attracted by the pleasant cadences of his poetical reverie, I edged nearer to him along the form upon which I chanced to be sitting during his dreamy improvisation. Altogether, there was an air of venerableness about the wra visionary, blended with an expression of habitual benevolence, which seemed calculated to win the notice of even a casual observer. He was, apparently, of that desolate few who have approached the lonely bourne of life's 'three score' years; yet their many ills had not been chronicled in gloom upon his lofty brow. There was nothing of the querulous acerbity of hoary misfortune in his quiet aspect; all there was sunshine, albeit the sunshine of declining day, chastened and mellowed by the melancholy loveliness of approaching eve. He had outlived the chances and changes of more than two generations; yet, like the hardy pine of his native hills, the storms of many winters had not stripped him of his evergreen vigor. His thin locks were indeed gray, but not from the potent and bitter alchemy of grief. His brow was indeed wrinkled, but time, not care, had thus furrowed that tablet of the soul. His clear blue eye, however, shone out undimmed and bright, amidst the crow-feet etchings of time, which seemed to have been formed less by the touch of years, than by the wreathings of habitual smiles. His faded cheek and well-turned mouth still retained traces of the rounded chiselling and warmer coloring of perfect manhood; nor had the grasshopper as yet become a burden, for his form was erect and elastic; and the firm and sonorous voice with which he modulated the simple stanzas above, proved that with him the daughters of music had not yet been brought low.' In fact, time seemed to have forgotten him for the last twenty years, so numerous were the visible tokens of his green old age; or, if indeed the arch destroyer had remembered him, it was with that rare partiality which occasionally permits his favored minion to bear on, undespoiled, the graces and
energies of fifty, even beyond the verge of 'lean and slippered' senility. With the sinews and buoyancy of incipient manhood, (I'm not yet a bachelor, fair lady,) I might perhaps have distanced him in a long race, or outwinded him in a Scotch reel; but I would not have stood foot to foot with him, with right arms crossed, for the guerdon of a golden gauntlet. I have too keen a regard for the unrainbowed integrity of my optics, ever wantonly to incur the iate of Dares pitted against the indurated brawn of unseared eld.
Such was the singular personage before me; and emboldened by his quiet, cheerful countenance, I moved still nearer to him, with the desire of making his acquaintance. My immediate proximity recalled his attention, and as his eye was turned to mine, it seemed to inquire with the kindliest expression, if it were in his power to do me the slightest favor.
• Pardon my incivility,' said I, not a little embarrassed, 'for presuming to intrude on one who seems to find such agreeable companionship in his own pleasant musings.'
'I should rather thank you for the courtesy,' he replied, with a melancholy smile, since I am not of that favored few whose blameless lives would excuse them for preferring their own self-communion even to the society of friends. The generality of men know themselves too intimately, to court such soliloquies at all seasons, particularly when the charm of the present invites to a forgetfulness of the past.'
My best bow acknowledged the gracefulness of the compliment, and he proceeded.
* I cannot say with Law, that I know something worse of myself than of others, but at the same time I must plead guilty to many errors and many foibles, the remembrance of which is not so agreeable as the converse of the companionable.'
• Yet is that remembrance not devoid of benefit,' I observed, if pondered with a right spirit.'
• By no means,' he continued; 'but it must not always be pondered. The Egyptian's monitory skeleton was placed only at his occasional banquet, not at his every meal. The past cannot be amended, but the passing hour may be improved. Still it is well, nay a duty, that the mind should often retire into its inner sphere, and survey the changes it must witness there. Over the desolation which shall there surround it - over the ruins of baseless hopes - over the wrecks of noble resolutions - over the broken images of truth and innocence – over the shattered idols of affection over the priceless and untold sands of misspent hours — yea, over the oft trampled and unextinguishable beacons of divine conscience it cannot choose but weep; but its tears shall be balmy and remedial — the earnest, perchance, of early and lasting reform. And when the melancholy task is ended, the spiritual troglodyte must go forth again to the outward world, to expatiate in its sunshine to wrestle with its storms. Thus shall its powers be unfolded and invigorated, amid the changes of its own proper sphere. Temptation shall test its prudence, suffering its forbearance, and the harsh discipline of wrong, the meek wisdom of forgiveness. The sublimest virtues are not exhibited amid the dreary cloister or lonely hermitage; but in the great theatre of busy life,
where mighty and multitudinous passions have free scope to mingle in fiëry collision. It is there that the soul is best developed and inured to the rugged and bleak scenes to which its probation is allotted. But pardon my idle garrulity: age, methinks, would play the oracle, even though Apollo graced the tripod.'
• Though you moralized less wisely,' I remarked, “it were becoming that my younger experience should listen to the teachings of riper years. But by the favor of your courtesy, I would fain ask if you do not, at times, become weary of that same busy world, and long to steal away forever from its boisterous and dusty haunts, to some green, quiet, untrampled scene, like the Eden of that sweet lake, for instance, which you so feelingly apostrophized just now?'
• Time was,' he replied calmly, when I used to indulge such anticipations. It was in other days, when in the most thronged of yonder noisy thoroughfares, I was actively engaged in the pursuit of wealth. Then, as I watered the sickly plants which pined in my gloomy windows for the fresh dews and balmy air of their native fields — as I thridded the sultry and obscure streets, or looked forth from
my narrow counting-room upon the cumbrous walls which lie, like a dark incubus, on the smothered verdure of this once leafy isle – walls whose dusty and smoke-stained summits shut out the free breeze and blessed light of heaven — then, I say, fond was the hope that, after I had borne the burden and heat of busy manhood in the service of worldly care, fortune would transport me and mine, to enjoy the evening of life's feverish day amid the peaceful scenes of my own native valleys. The feeling is natural, and if to indulge it be a weakness, few men, I believe, are exempt from at least one foible. Years passed on, till at last my wealth took wings, and left me but a bare competence. One after another of my household nestlings was snatched from my embrace, till at last the grave closed over my dearer self, and I stood alone, a bowed and bruised reed, amid the sullen waters of affliction. It was then that
"I flew to the pleasant fields traversed so oft
In life's morning march, when my bosom was young;' but my wounded heart found not there the healing balm for which it yearned. The elm-shaded cottage of my fathers still looked out upon the bloomy lawn, but where were the home-faces which once watched and welcomed my coming? The swallow still twittered from its roof, and the oriole sang blithely from the bough which rustled against its casement; but where were the familiar voices within? Where the fireside melody of kindred hearts, ever vocal with sympathy and love? Alas! hushed was the harp of home, and the silence of the grave had settled forever upon its broken chords. I turned away to the groves whose shadowy and green recesses were so dear to my boyhood, but the axe of the speculator had prostrated their leafy magnificence, and I listened in vain for the light step of the squirrel, and the merry warblings of the woodland choir. I turned to the streams whose pleasant banks in my schoolboy days had been the scene of so many truant steps, when, in summer, their bright waters lured me to their cool embrace, or when, in winter,
I bound the smooth skate to my buoyant heel,
while the ribbed ice rung cheerily beneath the dash of my merry mates, and the mountains echoed and rëechoed our boisterous glee; but the hand of the utilitarian had not been idle upon their borders, and the music of those sweet waters was lost in the clack of the noisy shuttle, and the clang of the smoky forge. I looked around for those companions of my careless hours, but they had been scattered to the winds, and their places were filled by a younger brotherhood, who knew me but by name. With these I had no common associations — no partnership of life's morning memories; and while my presence excited their curiosity, and the rumor of my misfortunes their sympathies, the aching void in my lonely heart lost none of its bitter poignancy. A change, indeed, had passed over all the scenes of my childhood, peopling the old familiar haunts with strange forms and features which bore no semblance to the shrined archetypes of memory, and leaving the returned pilgrim to wander, like one lost, even in the home-paths around his father's cottage.
In the revulsion of my feelings, the aspect of that placid lake seemed less bright and less lovely than in earlier years, though the rude hand of improvement had not yet profaned its sylvạn beauty; and after a few rambles upon its peaceful borders, I turned to the city again, as to a retirement less fraught with regret, and far more profound, than my native wilds could promise or bestow. Talk as we may of the country's seclusion, there is no solitude so deep, as the solitude of a great city —no hermitage so inviolate, as that of a retired attic in some obscure street. No where else does the sense of loneliness strike so forcibly to the heart, as in the noisy thoroughfares of a mighty metropolis, amidst whose motley multitudes one hears no familiar voice, feels no pressure of a friendly hand, and gazes on no face but the face of a stranger. The intensity of this feeling is rarely, if ever, experienced by him whose home is in the country, for there the spirit of nature is around and above him, and the demonstration of her living presence is written on all outward things as with the beams of the noon-day sun. It smiles on him with the gentle witchery of untold flowers which haunt the wild with sweetness and with beauty; it whispers to him in the rustling of fragrant leaves, and in the breathing of summer winds; it murmurs to him in the liquid cadences of tuneful streams, and the hum of happy insects which sport above their waters; it sings to him with the winged lyres whose varied minstrelsy fills the woodlands with gladness and sweet echoes; it speaks to him in the blast which strips the forest of its green garniture, and in the voice of the mountain cataract, whose solemn harp sounds on untired, when day has sunk to rest, and nought but night and her vestal stars are listening to its deep-toned anthem.'
* And is not this soothing communion with nature,' I inquired, sweeter to the soul, and more to be desired, than the deepest seclusion which the city's wilderness of men can offer ?'
* Doubtless it would be,' replied the philosopher, but for the annoyance of curiosity. In the country, where the population is scarcely fifty to the square mile, each is known to all; and in the leisure which waits upon their lingering occupations, each finds opportunity to scan the prospects, habits, and even domestic arrangements of his neighbors. As the postman brings no daily budget of wonderments