« ElőzőTovább »
Meanwhile, his friend, through alley and street
Wanders and watches with eager ears, Till, in the silence around him, he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door, The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers Marching down to their boats on the shore. Then he climbed to the tower of the church,
Up the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the somber rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,-
Up the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the
wall, Where he paused to listen, and look down A moment on the roofs of the town,
And the moonlight flowing over all. Beneath, in the church-yard, lay the dead
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper " All is well !”
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,-
A line of black, that bends and floats
On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.
Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side.
Now gazed on the landscape far and near,
Then impetuous stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle-girth ;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and somber and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height,
A glimmer, and then a gleam, of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But singers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns!
A hurry of hoots in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet:
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
It was twelve by the village clock,
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river-fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.
It was one by the village-clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.
It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadows brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by British musket-ball.
You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British regulars fired and fled,-
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farm-yard wall
Chasing the red-coats down the lane,
Then crossing the field to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road ,
And only pausing to fire and load,
From LILLo's tragedy of Fatal CURIOSITY.
OLD WILMOT, the Father,
AGNES, his Wife.
[The annexed extract is from one of the most pathetic of the old English plays. The story of the piece is as full of tragic horror as any of the antique Grecian plays, and is as follows: A young man leaves home, and his aged parents, in consequence of some misunderstanding with his father. After many years of adventure he returns loaded with wealth in gold and jewels. After discovering the abode of his parents whom he finds redured to abject poverty—be determines to stop over night at their humble home, as a guest. His general appearance baving so much altered that they do not recognize him. In the morning he intends to make himself known. Driven to desperation by wretchedness and famine, they determine to take his life. This dialogue gives the fearful reasoning by which they try to justify their intended crime. The passages give opportunity for much expression of strong and varied emotion and passion.
COSTUMES.- Old Wilmot may wear almost any attire-provided it is poor and i breadbare, as the play is not necessarily of any particular period. The same remark applies to the dress of Agnes.
Enter OLD WILMOT, to AGNES.
OLD WILMOT. The mind contented, with how little
The wandering senses yield to soft repose,
And die to gain new life! He's fallen asleep
Already–happy man! What dost thou think,
My Agnes, of our unexpected guest ?
He seems to me a youth of great humanity :
Just ere he closed his eyes, that swam in tears,
He wrung my hand, and pressed it to his lips;
And with a look that pierced me to the soul,
Begged me to comfort thee: and–Dost thou hear me?
What art thou gazing on? Fie, 't is not well!
This casket was delivered to you closed :
Why have you opened it? Should this be known,
How mean we must appear!
AGNES. And who shall know it?
0. WIL. There is a kind of pride, a decent dignity,
Due to ourselves, which, spite of our misfortunes,
May be maintained and cherished to the last.
To live without reproach, and without leave
To quit the world, shows sovereign contempt
And noble scorn of its relentless malice.
AGNES. Shows sovereign madness, and a scorn of sense.
Pursue no further this detested theme:
I will not die! I will not leave the world,
For all that you can urge, until compelled.
0. WIL. To chase a shadow when the setting sun
Is darting his last rays, were just as wise
As your anxiety for fleeting life,
Now the last means for its support are failing :
Were famine not as mortal as the sword,
This warmth might be excused. But take thy choice
Die how you will, you shall not die alone.
AGNES. Nor live, I hope.
O. WIL. There is no fear of that.
AGNES. Then we'll live both.
0. WIL. Strange folly! Where's the means ?
AGNES. The means are there; those jewels.
O. WIL. Ha! take heed:
Perhaps thou dost but try me; yet take heed. ·
"There's naught so monstrous but the mind of man
In some conditions may be brought to approve;
Theft, sacrilege, treason, and parricide,
When flattering opportunity enticed,
And desperation drove, have been committed
By those who once would start to hear them named.
AGNES. And add to these detested suicide,
Which, by a crime much less, we may avoid.
0. WIL. The inhospitable murder of our guest.
How couldst thou form a thought so very tempting,
So advantageous, so secure and easy,–
And yet so cruel, and so full of horror ?
AGNES. 'Tis less impiety, less against nature,
To take another's life, than end our own.
O. Wil. It is no matter whether this or that
Be in itself the less or greater crime:
Howe'er we may deceive ourselves or others,
We act from inclination, not by rule,
Or none could act amiss. And that all err,
None but the conscious hypocrite denies.
0, what is man, his excellence and strength,
When, in an hour of trial and desertion,
Reason, his noblest power, may be suborned
To plead the cause of vile assassination !
AGNES. You're too severe: reason my justly plead
For her own préservation.
O. WIL. Rest contented :
Whate'er resistance I may seem to make,
I am betrayed within: my will's seduced,
And my whole soul infected. The desire
Of life returns, and brings with it a train
Of appetites, that rage to be supplied.
Whoever stands to parley with temptation
Does it to be o'ercome.
AGNES. Then naught remains
But the swift execution of a deed
That is not to be thought on, or delayed.
We must dispatch him sleeping: should he wake,
"T were madness to attempt it.
O. WIL. True, his strength,
Single, is more, much more, than ours united;
So may his life, perhaps, as far exceed
Curs in duration, should he escape this snare.
Generous, unhappy man! O, what could move thee
To put thy life and fortune in the hands
Of wretches mad with anguish!
AGNES, By what means -
By stabbing, suffocation, or by strangling, -
Shall we effect his death ?
O. WIL. Why, what a fiend !
How cruel, how remorseless, how impatient,
Have pride and poverty made thee!
AGNES. Barbarous man!
Whose wasteful riots ruined our estate,
And drove our son, ere the first down had spread
His rosy cheeks, spite of my sad presages,
Earnest entreaties, agonies, and tears,
To seek his bread 'mongst strangers, and to perish
In some remote inhospitable land.
The loveliest youth, in person and in mind,
That ever crowned a groaning mother's pains !
Where was thy pity, where thy patience, then ?
Thou cruel husband ! thou unnatural father!
Thou most remorseless, most ungrateful man!
To wast my fortune, rob me of my son;
To drive me to despair, and then reproach me!
0. WIL. Dry thy tears : I ought not to reproach thee. I confess That thou hast suffered much : so have we both. But chide no more: I'm wrought up to thy purpose. The poor, ill-fated, unsuspecting victim, Ere he reclined him on the fatal couch, From which he's ne'er to rise, took off the sash And costly dagger that thou saw'st him wear; And thus, unthinking, furnished us with arms Against himself. Which shall I use?