« ElőzőTovább »
I trust I am neither churl nor bigot in my creed. 1 đo see and feel how hereditary distinction, when it falls to the lot of a generous mind, may elevate that mind into true nobility. It is one of the effects of hereditary rank, when it falls thus happily, that it multiplies the duties, and, as it were, extends the existence of the possessor. He does not feel himself a mere individual link in creation, responsible only for his own brief term of being. He carries back his existence in proud recollection, and he extends it forward in honorable anticipation. He lives with his ancestry, and he lives with his posterity. To both does he consider himself involved in deep responsibilities. As he has received much from those that have gone before, so he feels bound to transmit much to those who are to come after him.
His domestic undertakings seem to imply a longer existence than those of ordinary men. None are so apt to build and plant for future centuries, as noble spirited men who have received their heritages from foregoing ages.
I can easily imagine, therefore, the fondness and pride with which I have noticed English gentlemen, of generous temperaments, but high aristocratic feelings, contem'plating those magnificent trees, which rise like towers and pyramids from the midst of their paternal lands.
There is an affinity between all natures, animate and inanimate. The oak, in the pride and lustihood of its growth, seems to me to take its range with the lion and the eagle, and to assimilate, in the grandeur of its attributes, to heroic and intellectual
With its mighty pillar rising straight and direct toward heaven; bearing up its leafy honors from the impurities of earth, and supporting them aloft in free air and glorious sunshine, it is an emblem of what a true nobleman should be; a refuge for the weak,-a shelter for the oppressed,a defence for the defenceless; warding off from them the peltings of the storm, or the scorching rays of arbitrary power. He who is this, is an ornament and a blessing to his native land. He who is otherwise, abuses his eminent advantages ;-abuses the grandeur and prosperity which he has drawn from the bosom of his country. Should tempests arise, and he be laid prosirate by the storm, who would mourn over his fall ?-Should he be borne down by the oppressive hand of power, who would murmur at his fate?
# Why cumbereth he the ground ?"
Old Mortality.--TALES OF MY LANDLORD. Most readers must have witnessed with delight the joyous burst which attends the dismissing of a village-school, on a fine summer evening. The buoyant spirit of childhood, repressed with so much difficulty during the tedious hours of discipline, may then explode, as it were, in shout, and song, and frolic, as the little urchins join in groups on their playground, and arrange their matches of sport for the evening. But there is one individual who partakes of the relief af. forded by the moment of dismission, whose feelings are not so obvious to the eye of the spectator, or so apt to receive his sympathy.
I mean, the teacher himself, who, stunned with the hum, and suffocated with the closeness of his school-room, has spent the whole day (himself against a host) in controlling petulance, exciting indifference to action, striving to en. lighten stupidity, and laboring to soften obstinacy; and whose very powers of intellect have been confounded by hearing the same dull lesson repeated a hundred times by rote, and only varied by the various blunders of the reciters.
Even the flowers of classic genius, with which his solitary fancy is most gratified, have been rendered degraded, in his imagination, hy their connexion_with tears, with errors, and with punishment: so that the Eclogues of Virgil, and Odes of Horace, are each inseparably allied in association with the sullen figure and monotonous recitation of some blubbering school-boy. If to these mental distresses are added a delicate frame of body, and a mind ambitious of some higher distinction than that of being the tyrant of childhood, the reader
have some slight conception of the relief which a solitary walk, in the cool of a fine summer evening, affords to the head which has ached, and the nerves which have been shattered for so many hours, in plying the irksome task of public instruction.
To me, these evening strolls have been the happiest hours of an unhappy life; and if any gentle reader shall hereafter find pleasure in pursuing these lucubrations, I am not un. willing he should know, that the plan of them has been usually traced in those moments, when relief from toil and clamor, combined with the quiet scenery around me, has disposed my mind to the task of composition.
My chief haunt, in these hours of golden lēisure, is the banks of a small stream, which, winding through 'a lone vale of green bracken,' passes in front of the village schoolhouse of Gandercleuch. For the first quarter of a mile, perhaps, I may be disturbed from my meditations, in order to return the scrape, or doffed bonnet, of such stragglers among my pupils as fish for trout or minnows in the little brook, or seek rushes and wild-flowers by its margin.-But, beyond the space I have mentioned, the juvenile anglers do not, after sun-set, voluntarily extend their excursions.
The cause is, that farther up the narrow valley, and in a recess' which seems scooped out of the side of the steep, heathy bank, there is a deserted burial-ground, which the little cowards are fearful of approaching in the twilight. To me, however, the place has an inexpressible charm. It has been long the favorite termination of my walks, and if my kind pātron forgets not his promise, will (and probably at no very distant day) be my final resting-place after my mortal pilgrimage.
It is a spot which possesses all the solemnity of feeling attached to a burial-ground, without exciting those of a more unpleasant description. Having been very little used, for many years, the few hillocks which rise above the level plain are covered with the same short velvet turf. The monuments, of which there are not above seven or eight, are half sunk in the ground, and overgrown with moss.
No newly erected tomb disturbs the sober serenity of our reflections by reminding us of recent calamity, and no rank springing grass forces upon our imagination the recollection, that it owes its dark luxuriance to the foul and festering remnants of mortality which ferment beneath.
The daisy which sprinkles the sod, and the hare-bell which hangs over it, derive their pure nourishment from the dew of heaven, and their growth impresses us with no degrading or disgusting recollections. Death has, indeed, been here, and its traces are before us; but they are softened and deprived of their horror by our distance from the period when they have been first impressed. Those who sleep beneath are only connected with us by the reflection that they have once been what we now are, and that, as their relics are now identified with their mother earth, ours shall, at some future period, undergo the same transformation.
Yet, although the moss has been collected on the most modern of these humble tombs, during four generations of mankind, the memory of some of those who sleep beneath them is still held in revered remembrance. It is true, that, upon the largest, and, to the antiquary, the most interesting monument of the group which bears the effigies* of a doughty knight in his hood of mail, with his shield hanging on his breast, the armorial bearings are defaced by time, and a few worn-out letters may be read at the pleasure of the decipherer; and it is also true that, of another tomb richly sculptured with an ornamented cross, mitre, and pastoral staff, tradition can only aver, that a certain nameless bishop lies interred there. But upon
other two stones which lie beside, may still be read in rude prose, and ruder rhyme, the history of those who sleep beneath them. They belong, we are assured by the epitaph, to the class of persecuted Presbyterians who afforded a melancholy subject for history in the times of Charles II. and his successors. In returning from the battle of Pentland Hills, party of the insurgents had been attacked in this glen, by a small detachment of the king's troops, and three or four either killed in the skirmish, or shot, after being made prisoners, as rebels taken with arms in their hands.
The peasantry continue to attach to the tombs of those victims of prěl'acy an honor which they do not attach to more splendid mausolēums; and when they point them out to their sons, and narrate the fate of the sufferers, they usually conclude, by exhorting them to be ready, should times call for it, to resist to the death in the cause of civil and religious liberty, like their brave forefathers.
One summer evening, as in a stroll, such as I have described, I approached this deserted mansion of the dead, I was somewhat surprised to hear sounds distinct from those which usually sooth its solitude, the gentle chiding, namely, of the brook, and the sighing of the wind in the boughs of three gigantic ash-trees, which mark the cemetery. The clink of a hammer was, upon this occasion, distinctly heard; and I entertained some alarm that a march-dike, long meditated by the two proprietors whose estates were divided by my favorite brook, was about to be drawn up the glen in order to substitute its rectilinear deformity for the graceful winding of the natural boundary.
As I approached, I was agreeably undeceived. An old man was seated upon the monument of the slaughtered Presbyterians, and busily employed in deepening, with his chisel, the letters of the inscription, which, announcing, in scriptural language, the promised blessings of futurity to be the lot of the slain, anathematized the murderers with corresponding violence.
* Pron. ef-fid'jes.
Å blue bonnet of unusual dimensions covered the gray hairs of the pious workman. His dress was a large old-fashioned coat, of the coarse cloth called hoddin-gray, usually worn by the elder peasants, with waistcoat and breeches of the same; and the whole suit, though still in decent repair, had obviously seen a train of long service. Strong clouted shoes, studded with hob-nails, and gramoches, or leggins, made of thick black cloth, completed his equipment.
Beside him fed, among the graves, a pony, the companion of his journey, whose extreme whiteness as well as its projecting bones and hollow eyes, indicated its antiquity. It was harnessed in the most simple manner, with a hair tether, or halter, and a sunk, or cushion of straw, instead of bridle and saddle. A canvass pouch hung around the neck of the animal, for the purpose, probably, of containing the rider's tools, and any thing else he might have occasion to carry with him. Although I had never seen the old man before, yet, from the singularity of his employment, and the style of his equipage, I had no difficulty in recognizing a religious itinerant whom I had often heard talked of, and who was known in various parts of Scotland by the title of Old Mortality
The same concluded.
WHERE the old man was born, or what was his real name, I have never been able to learn; nor are the motives which made him desert his home, and adopt the erratic mode of life which he pursued, known to me except very generally: According to the belief of most people, he was a native of either the county of Dumfries or Galloway, and lineally descended from some of those champions of the Covenant whose deeds and sufferings were his favorite theme.
He is said to have held, at one period of his life, a small moorland farm; but, whether from pecuniary losses, or do