Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

and a reflective nation would neither be ruled by alternate anarchy, fanaticism, or usurpation, in the sacred name of Liberty. They learned that their social constitution was as antagonistic to a complete democracy, as their moral independence was irreconcilable with complete monarchy. They sought a refuge from the anarchy of the Long Parliament in the despotism of Oliver Cromwell; and in recoiling from the tyrannical government of a usurping family, they endeavoured, in shadowing forth a constitutional monarchy based on a revolutionary dynasty, to realise their ideal of political excellence, When this scheme, in turn, faded from their view, it is clear that the thoughts of the great majority, amid the constant vicissitudes of public affairs, were steadfastly and constantly fixed on the conditional restoration of the House of Stuart. And, though the perfidy of the princes whom they too surely trusted thwarted the accomplishment of the popular wisdom, they still looked

forward, with the patience and the foresight of a nation of philosophers, to the accomplishment of the crisis which should carry into practice their long-suffering and consistent will. In the military triumphs of William, of Anne, and of George III.,-in the social prosperity and commercial growth which have characterised the glorious annals of the House of Brunswick,-in the concession of those later rights of which our own contemporaries have witnessed the accomplishment-we see the felicitous result of the practical realisation of those truths and of those convictions--uniting the stability of the State with the freedom and the energy of the people whose political and philosophical force was indelibly graven on the mind of the empire by the innumeraole convulsions which constituted the dawn of the Restoration. And such were the truths and such the convictions which were ultimately realised by the people of the three kingdoms in the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement.

THE BURGOMASTER.

(A VISIT TO REMBRANDT'S STUDIO.)

Once, in old Amsterdam, as noon
Shone over noisy dock and square,
And sluggish stretch of still lagoon,
A wealthy barge, well-oared and fleet,
Slid smoothly down the watery street,
With pennon streaming in the air;
And by its stern a merchant old,
With raisin-coloured cap, and chain
That crossed his garment's velvet fold-
With clear brown eye of wrinkled glee,
And cheek still red, though tropic-tanned
With voyage-full-veined, courteous hand,
And air of antique bonhommie,
Sat calmly:--for that day his brain
Forgot awhile the fight for gold,
And all his ventures on the main.

II.

“Good master, whither shall we row ?
It was the bluff old steersman spoke;
The merchant turned ;-"To-day, good folk,
I mean to pass all leisurely
With Meister Rembrandt whom I know;-
A famous portrait-painter he-

Late come from Leyden, as they tell,
To fill his purse with us, and dwell
In our old town a year or so:
Fair be his chances with us ; well
His craft deserves of all; for me,
I hail his presence joyously ;
For, as the sands of life will pass,
However tight we grasp the glass,
'Tis time, methinks, that my old Hall
Should wear my picture on its wall.
What think you ?" “God withhold the day !"
The oarsmen echoed one and all,
“That takes that kindly face away.”

III.
• Yet must it come:--The rowers swept
In silence down ; broad flashed the sun
Along the glittering path that spun
In whirls behind : by wharf and quay,
With cask and bale redundant heaped,
Tall merchant-barques at moorings lay,
With streamers floating from each mast;
Groups gathered in the leafy screen
Of summer tree rows, dusty green;
And busy bridges, as they passed,
Gloomed o'er them for a second's space;
Now oped some quaint wide market-place,
All bustle, glare, and merchant talk,
And heaped with motley merchant ware;
Now some cathedral's gilded clock
Sprinkled its chimes through the clear air,
Merrily ringing o'er their way,
As it were making holiday.

iv.

At length the river broadened forth,
And sunk the noisy town behind,
And swept the breezy billows by,
Fresh foaming from the distant sky,
Where hosted shipping round the North,
Full breasted in the steady wind,
Came curt'seying along the sea
From the blue spacing Zuyder Zee.
In slanting drifts the city's smoke
Curtained the sinking spires, and o'er
The sidelong stretch of shelving shore
In bursts the sunlit surges broke;
Upon each passing headland's height
Fantastic windmills quaint and brown
Whirr'd busily; and, poised in light,
The gull with red eye peering down :-
Thus on, until at length they reached
A watery suburb, where they beached.

[ocr errors][merged small]

Dim trailers drooping from the eaves,
Hooded with glossy ivy leaves,
O'er gable quaint and window small
Festooned their wind-swung draperies.
Around its portal grey the sun
Played slumbrously, and swooned the air
Up from the glimmering lowland there,
In languid pulses ; while upon
Its tortuous stairs of aged stone
The sea-sand gathered in each nook,
The flaggers waved, the salt grass shook.

VI.

Into its hall the merchant paced,
And from his sunny doze, beside
A window looking o'er the tide,
A quaint old varlet rose in haste;
And, bowing brows of scattered grey,
Along the creaking dusty floors,
And through the echoing corridors,
And noiseless chambers led the way:-
The room is reached, the lock is turned,
The Painter flings his brush aside,
And by the lamp's red glow, that burned
Beside his picture, sees the friend
Of vanished summers o'er him bend;
While hands are clasped, and on each brow
Dead memories kindle, as they say,
In cordial chorus, “Well, and how
How hast thou been this many a day?"

VII.

“ 'Tis twenty years since we have met,"
The Burgomaster cried ; "and yet
As hale and hearty, God be blessed,
Are we as when, in summers past,
We gave our life-sail to the blast.
What matters it, if silvered brows
Bring golden purses, and our thrift
Secures us plenty as we drift
To harbour in the sunless west ?
Mine are the merchant's views of time;
Content to pass my day in trade,
Content at night if I have made
The means to entertain a guest :
A narrow view, a sordid strife,
More selfish, comrade, than sublime
This same-and your good years, I trow,
Are kindled with a nobler glow.”

VIII.

“ It may be but you understand," Said Rembrandt, as he touched the hand Of his old comrade thoughtfully, “ Though heaven has turned our tide of years To flow and flash in separate spheres, It is for happiness alone We live and work in unison ;

Our roads diverse, but one the goals
The brook and river seaward roll
Beneath an ever-changing sky:
One glides along the quiet lands,
And mirrors all it passes by ;
One bears upon its broadening breast
The barque, and lips the golden sands--
And both in ocean find their rest.
So is it with each separate soul.
A sort of strange internal life
We painters lead : your ships at sea
Engross your soul's activity,
And calculation rules ; but we
In dreams beneath the sun and moon
Dally with time, yet would imbue
Our labour with the just and true :
For us, as years steal unaware,
We clear the eye and guard the heart ;-
Our only pleasure in our art,--
Our only care, to banish care."

[ocr errors]

“No doubt,” the other answered slow;
“Our need of joyance is the same;
I work for wealth, and you for fame,
The playthings of this life below-
And each believes his toy the best.
But, tell me, for I fain would know,
How weighs, how weighs the treasure chest ?"
“ Alas!" the Artist said, “my gains
But ill repay my painting pains ;
My brush still toys with light and dark- .
Just so my life: I play the witch
With foolish fortune; when she deems
A smile-why then, I sell my dreams
And shadowy fancies to the rich.
Sometimes my work is-passable;
Sometimes indifferent, or well;
Just as the transient harmony
Or discord, wrought by health or pain,
May jar with feeling, or maintain
The healthy chord 'twixt hand and brain.
In Commerce you have faith. My creed
Is Art-and strange it is indeed
That canvass, though of different kinds,
Should bear our ventures on the winds
Of chance or ocean. But for one
That you unfurl beneath the sun
To fortune westward, or to range
The tropic islets, I'll be bound
To barter all you see around,
Nor die a bankrupt by th' exchange ;
For, faith, I hear that you possess
Fleets of uncounted preciousness.”

[ocr errors][merged small]

« Alas, a troublous time,” quoth he,
“Those winged ventures bring to me;
Howe'er the day may set on gain,
My dreams at night are on the sea;
Two barques of mine were lately hailed
Storm-smitten both off Barbary ;
Another costly cargo sailed
Deep freighted for the Spanish Main-
A year will see her back again.
To Egypt one has weighed for corn ;
A second voyages to Trieste ;
And one, my swiftest and my best,
From the Moluccas surges on
With diamonds, gold, and cinnamon.
Perchance she may arrive some morn,
Together with an argosy
From China, weighed with silk and tea-
Worth somewhat-worth at least the fears
Her lagging trip of some three years
Casts on the brow of industry.
Yes, could I charm the seas awhile,
My heart were easy, but"--and here
He paused and nodded, in th' excess
Of proud pretentious mournfulness,
And fingered the rich aureate gear
Along his robe, with eyebrow raised,
And placid lips that blandly hazed
A calm contented golden smile.

XI. " But come, old comrade, let me guess How speed your ventures--you can make From yonder coloured brush, no less, As rich returns flow to the hand As any barque can bring to land : Methinks yon picture which I see Were worth as rich an argosy As ever homeward breeze may fan From the blue Mediterranean :"— “Well, such,” said Rembrandt," as they are, Behold them-poor enough, in sooth, To me they seem when measured by The ray of high Conception's star ; Just here and there a touch of truth, But chiefly wrought to win the eye.”' Then through a window looking north He let the tempered daylight shower Upon the pictures he had traced, While round in critic calm they paced ; The painter musing on their power, The merchant pondering on their worth.

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »