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a hired Cissian mourner” can be likened to these brief words that sting like tears of fire? what milder note of the lesser gods of song has in it such penetrative and piercing gentleness as the softened speech of the thunderbearer ? Where, among the poets who have never gone up to the prophetic heights or down to the tragic depths of thought and passion, is there one who can put forth when he will verse of such sweet and simple perfection as the great tragic and prophetic poet of our own age ? These are some of the first verses inscribed to the baby grandchild whose pretty presence is ever and anon recalled to our mind's eye between the dark acts of the year-long tragedy.
“ Vous eûtes donc hier un an, ma bien-aimée.
Contente, vous jasez, comme, sous la ramée,
As in the look and action of a little child, so in this verse itself there is something of dim and divine pathos, sensible in the very joy of its beauty ; something which touches men not too much used to the melting mood with a smiling sense of tears, an inner pang of delight made up of compassion and adoration before that divine weakness. In the next month's verses addressed to the child in a time of sickness the pathos is more direct and tangible ; more tender and exquisite than this it could not be. Again, in January, we have a glimpse “ between two bombardments” of the growing and changing charm of the newly weaned angel, now ambitious to feel its feet on earth instead of the wings it left in heaven ; on terms of household intimacy with an actual kitten, and old enough to laugh at angels yet unweaned.
« À chaque pas qu'il fait, l'enfant derrière lui
Laisse plusieurs petits fantômes de lui-même.
With the one eternal exception of Shakespeare, what other poet has ever strewn the intervals of tragedy with blossoms of such breath and colour? The very verse seems a thing of flowerlike and childlike growth, the very body of the song a piece of living nature like any bud that bursts or young life that comes forth in spring. We are reminded of the interlude in Macbeth made by the prattle of Macduff's child between the scenes of incantation and of murder. Beside these the student will set in the high places of remembrance the lines on a shell falling where once were the Feuillantines — that garden of now immortal blosson., of unwithering flower and fruit undecaying, where the grey-haired Master was once a fairhaired child, and watched beyond the flight of doves at sunrise the opening in heaven of the chaliced flower of dawn-in the same heaven where now blazes over his head the horrible efflorescence of the bursting shell. “Here his soul flew forth singing ; here before his dreamy eyes sprang flowers that seemed everlasting. Here life was one thing with light; here, under the thickening foliage in April, walked his mother, whom he held by the skirt of her gown.” Here the crowding flowers “seemed to laugh as they warmed themselves in the sun, and himself also was a flower, being a child.”
After five months of siege comes a month of mourning, and after the general agony an individual anguish. Before this we are silent ; only there rises once more in our ears the unforgotten music of the fourth book of the “Contemplations,” and holds us dumb in reverence before the renewal of that august and awful sorrow.
Then come the two most terrible months of the whole hideous year ; the strange vision of that Commune in which heroes were jostled by ruffians, and martyrs fell side by side with murderers; the monstrous figure of that Assembly on whose head lies all the weight of the blood shed on either side, within the city as without; the spectral unspeakable aspect of that fratricidal agony, as of some Dantesque wrestle between devils and lost souls in hell. Against the madness of the besieged as against the atrocity of the besiegers the voice of the greatest among Frenchmen was lifted up in vain. In vain he prophesied, when first a threat of murder was put forth against the hostages, of the murderous reprisals which a crime so senseless and so shameless must assuredly provoke. In vain he reclaimed for Paris, in the face of Versailles, the right of municipal self-government by her own council; in vain rebuked the untimely and inopportune haste of Paris to revindicate this right for herself in a season of such unexampled calamity and peril. On the
23rd of April he wrote from Brussels, where the care of his fatherless grandchildren for the time detained him, a letter to the Rappel, suppressed in their deaf and blind insanity by men who would not hear and could not see ; in this letter he traced with the keen fidelity of science the disease to its head, and with the direct intelligence of simple reason tracked the torrent of civil war to its source ; to the action of the majority, inspired by the terror and ignorance which ere long were to impel them to the conception and perpetration of even greater crimes than they had already provoked from the ignorance and passion of their antagonists. Above all, his faithful and fearless voice was raised before both parties alike against the accursed principle of reprisals. Now as of old, as ever throughout his life of glory and of good, he called upon justice by her other name of mercy; he claimed for all alike the equity of compassion ; he stood up to plead for all his enemies, for all the enemies of his cause-to repudiate for himself and his fellow-sufferers of past time the use of such means as had been used against themselves-of banishment, imprisonment, lifelong proscription, murder in the mass or in detail. But the plague was not so to be stayed ; and when the restored government had set itself steadily to outdo in cold blood the crimes of the conquered populace in its agony, the mighty voice which had appealed in vain against the assassins and incendiaries whose deeds had covered with just or unjust dishonour the name of the fallen party, who had confused in the sight of Europe their own evil works with the noble dreams and deeds of better men, and sullied with the fumes of blood and fire the once sublime and stainless name of “commune "—this same voice was heard to intercede for the outcasts of that party, to offer a refuge to fugitives from the grasp of a government yet guiltier of blood than theirs. This infamous crime had not long to wait for its reward ; a night attack on the house of the criminal with paving-stones and levers and threats of instant death. The year before, in answer to his appeal against invasion, certain bloodhounds of the press in Germany had raised such another yell as these curs in Belgium, bidding “hang the poet at the mast-head ;” this time the cry was “ À la lanterne !” Never was the sanguinary frenzy of the men of revolution, as exemplified in Victor Hugo, set off in stronger relief by the mild wisdom and moderation of the men of order, as exemplified in his assailants. Moved by this consideration, the Belgian government naturally proceeded to expel the offender ; but with a remarkable want of logic omitted to offer the slightest reward to the brave men who had vindicated law and order by leading a forlorn hope against a fortress garrisoned by an old man, four women, and two children, one twenty months of age, one two years and a half. It is almost incredible that some months later the son of a minister, who had taken a leading part in this heroic work, was condemned to a fine of not less than four pounds sterling. Considering that once at least he or another of the crew did very nearly succeed in beating out the brains of the child in arms with a wellaimed Aint, it is simply inexplicable that no mark of honour should have been conferred by royal or national gratitude on so daring a champion of law, so devoted a defender of social order against the horrors of imminent