« ElőzőTovább »
delight than all the mere worldly advantages accruing from my sin. But there arrived at length an epoch, from which the pleasurable feeling grew, by scarcely perceptible gradations, into a haunting and harassing thought. It harassed because it haunted I could scarcely get rid of it for an instant. It is quite a common thing to be thus annoyed with the ringing in our ears, or rather in our memories, of the burthen of some ordinary song, or some unimpressive snatches from an opera. Nor will we be the less tormented if the song in itself be good, or the opera air meritorious. In this manner, at last, I would perpetually catch myself pondering upon my security, and repeating, in a low, under-tone, the phrase, “I am safe.”
One day, whilst sauntering along the streets, I arrested myself in the act of murmuring, half aloud, these customary syllables. . In a fit of petulance, I re-modelled them thus :—“I am safeI am safe—yes—if I be not fool enough to make open
No sooner had I spoken these words, than I felt an icy chill creep to my heart. I had had some experience in these fits of perversity, (whose nature I have been at some trouble to explain,) and I remembered well, that in no instance, I had successfully resisted their attacks. And now my own casual self-suggestion, that I might possibly be fool enough to confess the murder of which I had been guilty, confronted me, as if the very ghost of him whom I had murdered—and beckoned me on to death.
At first, I made an effort to shake off this nightmare of the soul. I walked vigorously-faster-still faster-at length I ran. I felt a maddening desire to shriek aloud. Every succeeding wave of thought overwhelmed me with new terror, for, alas ! I well, too well understood that, to think, in my situation, was to be lost. I still quickened my pace. I bounded like a madman through the crowded thoroughfares. At length, the populace took the alarm, and pursued me. I felt then the consummation of my fate. Could I have torn out my tongue, I would have done it—but a rough voice resounded in my ears—a rougher grasp seized me by the shoulder. I turned—I gasped for breath. For a moment, I experienced all the pangs of suffocation; I became blind, and deaf, and giddy; and then, some invisible fiend, I thought, struck me
with his broad palm upon the back. The long-imprisoned secret burst forth from my soul.
They say that I spoke with a distinct enunciation, but with marked emphasis and passionate hurry, as if in dread of interruption before concluding the brief but pregnant sentences that consigned me to the hangman and to hell.
Having related all that was necessary for the fullest judicial conviction, I fell prostrate in a swoon.
But why shall I say more? To-day I wear these chains, and am here! To-morrow I shall be fetterless !—but where?
THE ISLAND OF THE FAY.
Nullus enim locus sine genio est.-Servius.
“La musique," says Marmontel, in those “ Contes Moraux"* which, in all our translations, we have insisted upon calling “Moral Tales," as if in mockery of their spirit—“la musique est le seul des talens qui jouissent de lui même ; tous les autres veulent des temoins.” He here confounds the pleasure derivable from sweet sounds with the capacity for creating them. No more than any other talent, is that for music susceptible of complete enjoyment, where there is no second party to appreciate its exercise. And it is only in common with other talents that it produces effects which may be fully enjoyed in solitude. The idea which the raconteur has either failed to entertain clearly, or has sacrificed in its expression to his national love of point, is, doubtless, the
very tenable one that the higher order of music is the most thoroughly estimated when we are exclusively alone. The proposition, in this form, will be admitted at once by those who love the lyre for its own sake, and for its spiritual uses. But there is one pleasure still within the reach of fallen mortality-and perhaps only one-which owes even more than does music to the accessory sentiment of seclusion. I mean the happiness experienced in the contemplation of natural scenery. In truth, the man who would behold aright the glory of God upon earth must in solitude be
* Moraux is here derived from mours, and its meaning is “fashionable," or, more strictly, “of manners."
hold that glory. To me, at least, the presence-not of human life only—but of life in any other form than that of the green things which grow upon the soil and are voiceless—is
upon the landscape-is at war with the genius of the scene. indeed, to regard the dark valleys, and the grey rocks, and the waters that silently smile, and the forests that sigh in uneasy slumbers, and the proud watchful mountains that look down upon N all-I love to regard these as themselves but the colossal members of one vast animate and sentient whole-a whole whose form (that of the sphere) is the most perfect and most inclusive of all; whose path is among associate planets ; whose meek handmaiden is the moon; whose mediate sovereign is the sun ; whose life is eternity; whose thought is that of a God; whose enjoyment is knowledge; whose destinies are lost in immensity; whose cognizance of ourselves is akin with our own cognizance of the animalculce which infestthe brain—a being which we,
consequence, regard as purely inanimate and material, much in the same manner as these animalculo must thus regard us.
Our telescopes, and our mathematical investigations assure us on every hand-notwithstanding the cant of the more ignorant of the priesthood—that space, and therefore that bulk, is an impor- . tant consideration in the eyes of the Almighty. The cycles in which the stars move are those best adapted for the evolution, without collision, of the greatest possible number of bodies. The forms of those bodies are accurately such as, within a given surface, to include the greatest possible amount of matter ;--while the surfaces themselves are so disposed as to accommodate a denser population than could be accommodated on the same surfaces otherwise arranged. Nor is it any argument against bulk being an object with God, that space itself is infinite; for there
may be an infinity of matter to fill it. And since we see clearly that the endowment of matter with vitality is a principle-indeed, as far as our judgments extend, the leading principle in the operations of Deity—it is scarcely logical to imagine it confined to the regions of the minute, where we daily trace it, and not extending to those of the august. As we find cycle within cycle without end-yet all revolving around one far-distant centre which is the Godhead, may we not analogically suppose,
concept ein the same manner, life within life, the less within the greater, and all within the Spirit Divine ? In short, we are madly erring, through self-esteem, in believing man, in either his temporal or future destinies, to be of more moment in the universe than that vast "clod of the valley” which he tills and contemns, and to which he denies a soul for no more profound reason than that he does not behold it in operation.*
These fancies, and such as these, have always given to my meditations among the mountains, and the forests, by the rivers and the ocean, a tinge of what the every-day world would not fail to term the fantastic. My wanderings amid such scenes have been many, and far-searching, and often solitary, and the interest with which I have strayed through many a dim deep valley, or gazed into the reflected Heaven of many a bright lake, has been an interest greatly deepened by the thought that I have strayed and gazed alone. What flippant Frenchmant was it who said, in allusion to the well-known work of Zimmerman, that, “la solitude est une belle chose ; mais il faut quelqu'un pour vous dire que la solitude est une belle chose ?" The epigram cannot be gainsayed; but the necessity is a thing that does not exist.
It was during one of my lonely journeyings, amid a far-distant region of mountain locked within mountain, and sad rivers and melancholy tarns writhing or sleeping within all—that I chanced , upon a certain rivulet and island. I came upon them suddenly in the leafy June, and threw myself upon the turf, beneath the branches of an unknown odorous shrub, that I might doze as I contemplated the scene. I felt that thus only should I look upon it, such was the character of phantasm which it wore.
On all sides-save to the west, where the sun was about sinking--arose the verdant walls of the forest. The little river which turned sharply in its course, and was thus immediately lost to sight, seemed to have no exit from its prison, but to be absorbed by the deep green foliage of the trees to the east-while in the opposite quarter (so it appeared to me as I lay at length and
* Speaking of the tides, Pomponius Mela, in his treatise “ De Sitů Orbis," says
“ either the world is a great animal, or” &c. | Balzac-in substance - I do not remember the words.