« ElőzőTovább »
The Soul—The Early Dead.
Written for the Ladies' Garland.
Say, would'st thou know the human soul?
It is a spark of heavenly flame,
len upon our hearts, the dew from the bright urn of heaven, the smiles that had brightened the solitary paths of manhood, come back from the land of dreams, re-open the ivory gates of life, and hold out to us the garden of earth—the anticipation of an eternity of happiness and peace.
During the summer that has just passed, I visited a school-mate, residing some twenty miles in the country. A few days after my arrival, I strolled out into the woods. It was a clear summer's evening. The last rays of the setting sun shone upon the calm and waveless waters of a small stream that dashed through the thick woods, and wandered on through one of the loveliest landscapes that ever met the eye of man. By the side of the stream I walked until the shades of night were gathering over the earth, and was about to return, when I came in sight of a cottage —a strange place for so neat a dwelling, I thought. It was situated on a gentle rise of ground, and clustering around its door and windows, were many vines and bushes, the honey-suckle, sweet-briar, lilach and laburnum. Every thing around it bespoke rest and happiness. Near the door was a rustic bench, on which were seated an aged couple; and a young and very beautiful girl, completed in this scene the very poetry of cottage life.
Full of many pleasant thoughts I returned to my present home, and that night attended a little party with my friend. We had scarcely entered the room before I recognised in one of the dancers the beautiful cottage girl whom I had seen in my ramble. I was soon introduced to her. She seemed about seventeen, and never had I beheld such fascinating beauty. Her's was indeed a COUntenance
“Too fair for worship, too divine for love.”
The blood could almost be seen coursing beneath her cheeks. Her dark lustrous eyes seemed the home of some mischievous fay, and every glance a wave of its magic wand. Her hair clustered in natural ringlets around a forehead like ivory, and was entwined with the summer's fairest flower. Her voice was like the glad gay notes of a bird singing merrily from the evening skies, and as she moved in the dance she seemed a wandering Peri, which the spell-bound gazer expected every moment to float away to its paradise. Have you seen a butterfly waving its wings against the breeze 3 Have you seen a rose leaf ere the lip of morn had kissed away its sparkling dew! . Have you seen the fleet antelope wildly bounding over its native hills. She was lighter, fresher, wilder than them all. The hours winged by, and I was still listen
ing to the full rich voice, the sweet words, 206 208
The Early Dead.
and the touching sentiments of my fair companion. Her mind was a spring of crystal waters; and her thoughts were like the element which, borne above the earth, partakes not of its mists and impurities. There was something so rare and beautiful in them, that long after she had ceased, and her voice had been hushed forever, they thrilled upon my heart “like the remembered tones of a mute lyre.”
I called at the cottage next morning, but could not see her, as she was confined with a slight cold. Day after day I called, and she had not recovered. The sixth day came, and I again walked towards the house. As I approached it the physician whom I had seen in attendance, passed out, and I could see that his face was stained with tears. The aged mother stood in the door, and the traces of tears were also visible on her withered cheeks. I enquired after the daughter, and without a word she led me into the sick chamber. With a gentle hand she drew the curtain of the bed aside, and I beheld the bright girl whom I had met but a few days before in the flush of health, but ah! how wasted! The voice with which she welcomed me was faint and indistinct; her eyes were dull, her cheek was, pale and hollow, and moist with death dews. It was a fearful and sickening sight. Day succeeded day until another week had gone, and I was often at her side. At length, all hope of recovery passed away. I shall never forget her appearance when this was told her. The recollection of that despairing look is forever treasured in memory. In a short time, however, she spoke of death calmly. “I know that I am dying,” she said one evening, “but I am prepared. I feel my breath growing fainter, and I must say that mine is not a bitter fate. Perhaps my life would be a long fellowship of pain and sorrow, to which the grave is preferable. Yet I cannot die without a murmur. The valley where I have so often wandered, the tree under whose branches I have set, the flowers that I have tended, the star that I have watched, the mother that I have loved, the father whose eye has brightened at my approach, ah it is a bitter thing to part with them, to bid adieu to all I love on earth, and sink into the grave with none to gladden me: but it must be SO.
flowers. The old forest and the rushing
I stole softly into the room. There lay the cottage girl with her head buried in the pillow, and her hair falling in careless clusters upon her bosom. Alas! the breath was stilled; the eye had looked its last upon earth. The garlands of life had been sundered, and her gentle spirit had passed to its far home in heaven. They buried her in a green and pleasant place. The stream on whose grassy banks she had spent the April of her life, passes by her grave, and the old trees beneath which rang her merry laugh, overshadow it like a temple. And often have I left the noise and strife of the living world around me, and sought that quiet grave, from which has arisen a whisper of something dearer than all this wide and teeming earth, the whisper of an immortality beyond the tomb.
I have beheld woman in many a scene. I have seen her when she first treads the paths of pleasure, as her eye trembled and her cheek was flushed with hope; I have seen her versed in all the pageantry of fashion, in the halls of mirth, panting for conquest, and eager for praise; in the still night, through glade and by waterfall, I have wandered with beauty at my side, and by the curtained bed I have viewed her ministering to the sick, and to the dying breathing words which fall upon the ear like choicest music. I have seen loveliness in all its angel forms, yet never did it awaken such a thrill as when I first beheld the fair girl of whom I have spoken. But in her young years, with her affections still unwithered, she had been stricken down. And such is life; a flower springs up, gives out its fragrance for a moment, and then passes away, leaving no trace of its beauty on the dead waste of years.
Alas! it is nature to yearn, from our birth, after a congenial spirit—a heart to cling to through the dreary day, and a breast to rest upon in the still watches of the night. We sicken for an echo of the heart, until the tomb has closed our pilgrimage upon earth. Beauty! at thy shrine we breathe the purest worship of the heart; awhile the great ocean of life is calm, the tempest comes, the bark is shattered, the hopes that dawned upon the soul disappear in the sable gloom of Death.
As the face of the sunflower follows the life-imparting beams of the heavens from east to west, and when it cannot longer imbibe the rays of the glorious orb, droops its head, so follows the eye of an exile the light of his country.
ed in an elegantly furnished room of a hand-|
some mansion in Broadway. The shaded lamps and bright coal fire in a polished grate, sent out their steady light over the glowing colors of the thick, soft Turkey carpet, which yielded noiselessly to the footstep—the marble tables and ornaments—the rich mirrors— the tea equipage of gilt china, and the heavy curtains of satin damask, which falling over tightly closed shutters, kept from the favored inmates all sight or sense of the piercing air without. The youngest of these favored ones reclined in a careless attitude upon an ottoman of cut velvet, with one arm resting upon a table loaded with annuals and bijouterie, and one hand supporting her head, while the other held a volume which had been opened at chapter first long enough to show that the author's commencement was not so interesting as soon to fix her wandering thoughts upon the creation of his fancy. She was in dishabille, but beautiful, though looking pale and weary—a belle unadorned and tired of a day spent in listless doing-nothingness. Her companion was a lady also; but not young, and apparently not in rude health, though still
good looking, and her delicate fingers were"
busily employed with her silken net work. Mrs. Howard was the widow of a millionaire, and the fair Catherine was her only child. The door opened and another claiming our notice joined the group. She was younger than Catherine, and more slightly formed, and her beauty was not so striking—still she was lovely; but it was the loveliness of expression more than of feature, for you knew not whether her eyes were blue or grey, when meeting their soft intelligent glance, and thought not of the pretty mouth and chiselled lips while listening to the liquid melancholy which flowed from them. Her dress was a white merino richly embroidered. An ermine pelerine had slipped off the right shoulder, displaying a white throat, round which was a string of pearls, and her brown hair was smoothly braided, entwining a bunch of lily of the valley. The sweet girl looked fresh and happy, and her name was Viola. “Tea waits for you, cousin,” said Catherine, lifting her eyes from the book which she was not reading, “but I did not think that you were at the toilet. This is a most ungenteel hour to be arrayed for the ball, and I fear your dress will hardly pass muster with the ton; why did you not ask my advice 4 though I must confess the whole effect is fine, and you really look well, Viola, and not at all like a country girl.” “A compliment from cousin Kate!” said she, clapping her hands and dropping a graceful courtesy. “But I shall dance like a country girl, I do so love the exercise. It truly troubled me to see the young ladies who were here last night, after a cotillion was got up to amuse, lounging through the figure as if they thought themselves to dance.— Any objection to this dress will be useless, for my thoughtful father prescribed it in case of a ball. You know he is a physician, and unless I had promised faithfully to follow all prescriptions while away from his vigilant care, I should not have been permitted to make you this short visit at the season of dissipation. I suppose it matters little how soon we are ready, so we join not the gay circle till an orthodox hour, and I am thus early that I may read to my dear aunt while you are dressing; but come take a look from the window. The moon is full, and as Willis says, “there seems nothing between her and the earth but palpable glittering cold.” If I was home now, what a grand night for a sleigh-ride.” While seated at the tea-table, Viola suddenly exclaimed, “Why, what is the matter, cousin Catherine, you look very pales". Her mother replied that she seemed attacked with a serious cold, and that she had been urging her to give up the dance.
stay here, and Edward shall spend the evening with us, and we will all be social and happy. Then you will not get sick; my dear aunt will be saved many hours of watching, and Viola will escape being laughed at by the fashionable.” But Kate was wistful; and ringing the bell ordered Nancy to bring her fur-lined cloak, that she might not freeze in going to her room, and attend her thither, and when the process of dressing was completed she dismissed the girl, forbidding any one to disturb her till the carriage came, and gave the waiting moments to vain and bitter fancies. She was decked in the usual quantity of lace and satin, which goes to make a gala-dress; the ruby and diamond upon her snowy fingers flashed back the changing light, and gems glittered in her dark redundant tresses. She had taken wine to raise her spirits, the paleness of her cheek had given place to the flush of fever, and her large flashing eyes were full of lustre. She drew the costly cashmere more closely around her, as the cold chill which accompanies fever shook her frame, and admonished her of the rashness which heeded not its warnings.There was one powerful motive of action
which led to this thoughtless trifling with ||P
health. The brilliant Catherine was a careless coquette; but she whose wealth and beauty had led so many captives in her train, was now herself enslaved. Edward Gordon, of the navy, had been in port but a few days, after a three year's cruise, and no little share of his time was given to the fair cousins. Left an orphan in boyhood to the guardianship of the father of Viola, he had resided under the same roof till the world called him forth to seek name and fortune among his fellows; and now he was rejoiced to find the playmate of his childhood in the city to gladly welcome his return, and more than realizing in her improved mind, and expanded charms, all that his dreams or hopes had pictured. The proud Catherine's heart had been won unsought by her handsome and gallant cousin, though she soon saw with pain his partiality for Viola; but trusting to the power of charms which had hitherto been exerted only from a love of conquest, and believing now her heart was interested they could not fail: she determined—as he was to leave for the country on the morrow and join his vessel at another port—to-night to put forth all her witchery, and show herself the star of the ascendant. Meanwhile the gentle Viola had read an interesting tale to her aunt, conversed upon its beauties, and meditated upon its moral, till her head sunk upon the table, even at the risk of disarranging her brown hair's smoothmess, and she slept. Her dreams were not of feathers, or diamonds, or conquest; but of father, mother, and home.
The door opened, and Edward entered unannounced. Casting a smiling look at his aunt, and putting his finger to his lips in token of silence, he stood for a moment contemplating the sleeper ere his musical voice pronounced the name of ‘Viola.” She started, exclaiming, “I am ready, dear father:" at first unconscious of her situation, but Edward's gay greeting soon brought her senses and blushes in requisition.
“Ah coz! you are the first lady I ever caught dreaming other than waking dreams before the ball. I congratulate you upon your composure; it is the more remarkable as this is to be your first appearance on any public stage; but here comes our cousin Kate the peerless.
“The rose in her tresses her bright cheek defies, The diamonds she wears are dark to her eyes!”
“Undoubtly if you keep in their wake, though the course may be erratic. They have been trying to persuade me to stay moping at home this evening, and humor a slight cold, but I am obstinate. Viola shall prescribe for me on our return; you know she professes o be a proficient in the preparation of simes. “Yes, and I can testify from experience that she practises as well as professes, for never in my boyish days did I bump my head, or scratch my finger, but she was ready with opodeldoc and balsam. Ah Viol! how many times have I vexed you by gallantly kissing the careful fingers that bound up my wounds!”
“Yes,” she answered with an arch smile, “you were ever an impertinent youth; but my motto is ‘forget and forgive.’”
“Forgive my many faults, dear cousin, but forget not those golden days which will never return; but come my fair lily and the rose, ‘the glorious rose,' the swift-sliding sleigh waits your pleasure, and it is late, fashionably late. Muffle your face for the air is sharp as a knife, and “the rays of moonlight are almost visibly splintering with the keenness of the frost.’ It chills even me who have experienced the changes of many climates—who have felt the hottest air of the desert, and been ice-bound for months amid the gloomy solitudes of the polar seas.”
“O, Edward ' I shudder to think of it, did you not suffer extremely!”
“Nay Viola; not much—though I occasionally wished myself any where else, but I had my comforts.
“In the desert a fountain was springing,
And a bird in the solitude singing,
They soon joined the gay group already collected—gay did Isay? They were not all No. 9.
Jon Evening Contemplation.
gay, though they might have seemed so to a superficial observer; but there was the languid step and weary look of satiety, roses wreathed the brow of care, jewels and glittering bands oppressed the aching head, and disappointed hearts beat beneath the satin bodice. Among the shining galaxy moved the peerless Catherine, the centre of attraction, the observed of all observers. Her lavish smiles and flashing wit were merciless in their execution, and even Edward's head was almost turned by her fascinations. Viola, too, escaped not without a share of admiration; there was something so lovely and new in her manners, and simplicity in her dress, and grace in her gliding step, that many eyes followed her, while she remained totally unconscious of observation. Her spirits, naturally joyous, were raised by the excitement of the scene, and she moved and looked the embodied genius of happiness. There was a pause, and Viola requested Edward to look for Catherine's shawl. He brought it, and she permitted him to wrap it around her, but soon threw it off, saying she could not endure it for the heat. They passed to the supper room, and the table was loaded with tempting viands. The temperate Viola took only a sandwich and drank nothing, but she saw with anxiety that her cousin ate of the rich cake and preserved fruit; and was raising a glass of cold lemonade to her lips, when she lightly touched her arm, whispering, “taste it not Catherine, I beseech you!” “It will not offend me,” she replied, “I am used to it,” and quenched her feverish thirst with a copious draught. But a cloud was even then dimming the eye of the thoughtless beauty, the red roses forsook her cheek and lip, and her head bowed upon the shoulder of Viola. The messenger of death had visited that gala-throng, and to heronly had he spoken, even there mid that scene of triumph marking her for his own. They carried her home to her weeping mother, and laid her upon the couch which she left not till borne to the grave; though she awoke from the death-like fainting fit and lingered several days, during which the mind of the death-stricken girl was led to the contemplation of holy things, and she sought and obtained that peace which the world cannot give. She requested to see Edward; and taking his hand joined it with Viola's, saying, may you be happy together—I know you love him my cousin, though you have not yet acknowledged it, even in your own heart. I sought to win his love from thee, and become a thorn in thy pathway. O, forgive me the sin, and may heaven bless you with all needed blessings; and amid your happiness banish not wholly the memory of the erring but penitent Catherine. Mother dear mother: rest my head upon your bosom, and let me hold the
hand which would have led me in the right path, but I refused to follow. I have not been all that a daughter should, but I know you love me, and when I am gone your heart will be desolate; but there is balm in Gilead for the deepest affliction, and He, who calls me hence will be your comforter. It is hard for one so young to think of death with composure; to leave the pleasant earth and all who love us, for the still and narrow tomb.But heaven has ordered it, and I pray for resignation; we must part here that we may meet hereafter. I see you no longer m friends, mine eyes are darkened, Viola : }}. ward dear mother, farewell ! Viola's tears fell fast, and she bent to kiss the wan lips already cold in death. A slight convulsion passed over the features, but it was so quickly succeeded by an expression so soft and sweet, you would have thought “she is not dead but sleepeth.” “Like one who folds the drapery of his couch About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.”
Come hither, ye seekers after pleasure ye who are chasing the deceitful phantom which recedes before you—come to the grave of Catherine Howard, and learn to trifle not with health which is more precious than beau§: and that she, whose eye lights up with the smile of contentment at home, is far happier than the idol of fashion, or the brilliant coquette with her countless conquests.
For the Ladies' Garland. AN EVENING CONTEMPLATION.
All nature now has sunk to rest,
The wild bird seeks her early nest,
There's not a cloud or breeze disturbs Sweet nature's calm repose,
The Zeyphyr's closed his weary wing, And sleeps beneath the rose.
Methinks 'twas on a night like this,
That form'd the everlasting hills,
Superior beings saw and gazed
The mountains and the mighty floods,
No earthly sound as yet was heard,
For scarce were called the morning stars,
But soon a distant sound was heard, Of holy, heavenly mirth;
Celestial creatures walk'd and sang, The anthem of its birth.