« AnteriorContinuar »
have elucidated it to death. That was not a bad description of the art given by the Scotchman: 'Metaphysics, mon, is where the hearers dinna ken what the speaker is talking anent, and he does na ken himsel':' but the following definition of one of the metaphysical tribe, by my friend Norman Leslie, is perhaps as good a one as can be found: Metaphysician: Encountered a Doctor.'
Is it not singular, how one thought brings on another! Now this slight discussion of metaphysics and abstraction, reminds me of a bachelor, an accidental and slight acquaintance of mine, who remains in single blessedness, because, he says, he has always been accustomed, 'e'en from his boyish days,' to look at women in the abstract. Fine eyes, he regards merely as filmy globes of water, that shut their coward gates against an atom; lips, he deems but horizontal lines of flesh, constituting the aperture into which beef, pork, potatoes, and other eatable substances, periodically enter. The bloom on the cheek of woman, he considers superfluous blood, prophetic of speedy decay; smiles, in his esteem, are merely the effect of nervous excitement; and frowns, he thinks, are the proper elucidators of the human heart, especially woman's, which he says has always a small portion of discontent and anxiety predominant therein. Holding such notions, he is, of course, somewhat unhappy; but he dissipates his ennui by a copious reception of vinous fluids; and is, moreover, a potent eater of oysters. I am half inclined to believe in metempsychosis, and to suppose that the souls of these testaceous articles — if souls they have — ascend him into the brain, and give the impetus to his present opinions. At any rate, he is quite a dolt. I always cut him in the street. His reckless life has undone him, as it were. He owes every body; has been often in jail; and those who keep his company, are in something such a situation as one would be at sea, in a leaky boat, —they must be evermore 'bailing him out.' I think he has come to his present sentiments, in consequence of the treatment he receives; every body, females especially, considering him a nonentity, — while he looks at them in the abstract.
To-morrow will be Christmas. Happy day! How I envy the young hearts that its advent will cheer ! —whose elastic and bounding affections it will revive and strengthen! Would to heaven I were a millionaire, for to-morrow only! There should not be a rosy face in the Union, that should not be the brighter for my benefactions. I would distribute presents to every urchin and miss I met; and that holiest of all pleasures, benevolence, should nestle warmly in my bosom. God bless the children! — unsullied by the guileful contacts of the world; fresh in their feelings, simple in their desires, fervent in their loves, they are the emblems of blessedness and peace. Truly of such is the kingdom of Heaven; and sweetly did the characteristic meekness of our Saviour appear when he said,'Suffer little children to come unto me!' Would that I were again a boy! Would that I had my few years to live over again! I would enjoy the present, as it rolled on the future;
I would revel in the light of sparkling eyes, and the smile of lips, that the grave has closed and sealed forever! I would sing, and shout, and fly my kite, and glide down the snowy hill, on my little craft, as in days of yore. I would enjoy the spring, as I used once to do; that pleasant season, as William Lackaday, Esquire, observes in the play, 'when the balmy breezes is a-blowin', and the primroses peeps out, and the little birds begins for to sing;' — and I would make it a point, to have no enemies. I would do this without being a Joseph Surface, too; for I hold insincerity to be the most detestable of all the vices for which men go unhung.
It strikes me, that Christmas is not celebrated with such soberness and godliness as it was wont to be. People drink more than formerly; they do not become devout over the deceased turkey, or adolescent hen, that lies in solemn lifelessness before the eater ; but they meet in clubs, and consort with publicans and sinners. If Christmas happeneth toward the close of the week, they 'keep up' the same until Sunday hath gone by; and it is not until the even song of the second day of the week ensuing the festival, that they can bring themselves to cease from their wassail; and even then they do it with much — oh! considerable — reluctance, — exclaiming, as they ruminate bedward, ' Sic transit gloria Monday f
Before I close with Christmas, let me relate a little story, just now told me, connected in some degree with that glorious holiday.
Publicans are classed, in the New Testament, with sinners, as though there were something demoralizing in the business of keeping open house; but if the conjunction be not an error of the translators, I know of at least one exception to the rule. The individual is hereby immortalized.
Some twenty or twenty-five, or it may be thirty years ago, the landlord of the Bush tavern in Bristol (England) was so far a benevolent man, that on every Christmas-day he used to set an immense table, at which whosoever would was at liberty to sit and replenish his inner man with as much roast beef and plum-pudding as he could dispose of—a privilege of which, it may well be supposed, the poor of that ancient and by no means elegant city were not backward to avail themselves. But the dinner alone, flanked as it was by an ad libitum distribution of stout ale and cider, could not appease the generous propensities of mine host of the Bush: he was in the habit, also, of giving away a score of guineas, upon the same anniversary, which were bestowed, in small sums of from five shillings to twenty, upon such of the free guests as appeared to stand most in need of something more than a dinner.
It had been observed for some weeks, toward the close of a particular year, which I do not remember, that an elderly personage, whom nobody knew, was in the habit of stepping into the Bush every day, and taking a single glass of brandy-and-water, with which he contrived to dally so long as was requisite for the thorough perusal of a London paper, brought down by the guard of one of the night coaches. A London paper was a great thing, at that time, in Bristol. The gentleman was elderly, as I have said; and moreover, his person and garb, as well as his habits, gave token of poverty. He was thin, and apparently feeble; his coat was seedy, his hat rusty, his nether habiliments thread-bare, and otherwise betokening long and arduous service; and his expenditure never exceeded the sixpence required to pay for the one glass of brandy and-water. Nobody seemed to know him; and after a few of his daily calls, he came to be recognised by the waiters and landlord, with that happy adaptation of names for which English landlords and waiters are remarkable, as 'the poor gentleman that reads the paper.'
If any doubts existed as to his poverty, they were dispelled when Christmas-day arrived, and the poor gentleman was seen taking his place at the long table, and demolishing an ample allowance of the beef and the pudding, for which there was nothing to pay. 'Poor fellow!' soliloquized the landlord of the Bush; 'I'm sure he can't afford that sixpence every day, for his brandy-and-water; I must make it up to him again.' His measures were accordingly taken: John the waiter had his instructions; and when the poor gentleman handed his plate for another slice of the pudding, a guinea was slipped into his hand, with the whispered, 'Master's compliments, Sir, and says this will do to lay in some winter flannels for the children.' The poor gentleman looked at the coin, and then at the waiter; then deposited the first in the right hand pocket of his small clothes; and then drew forth a card, which he handed to John, quietly remarking: 'My thanks and compliments to your master, and tell him that if he ever happens to come my way, I hope he'll call upon me.' This was the card:
The 'poor gentleman' was at Bristol, superintending the erection of some thirty or forty houses, which he was building on speculation. What afterward passed between him and the landlord of the Bush, is not recorded; but this much is known, that the said landlord soon after engaged very largely in the coaching business; that his drafts on Coutts and Co., the great bankers, were always duly honored; that he was very successful, and became one of the richest men in Bristol. And it is farther said, that the identical Christmas guinea is still in the possession of the 'poor gentleman's' widow, her Grace the Duchess of St. Albans.
And now, Reader, peace be with you! This salutation by the hand °f rne. Ollapod
Bbhold this glorious Earth! — a church whose roof
Is the bright firmament, whose lamp the sun, —
Of clouds and beams enwoven into one, —
Fragrant with incense that their flowers respire;
Its organ, thunder! — and the winds its choir!
What is he? — trace his fearful history, From earth's first bloom, in characters of blood, Writ by his dabbled hand. The crown that sat Like morning on his brow, when forth he walk'd Amid creation's garden, to the sound Of all its stirring music — see it dash'd,
From the then God-like head, to gem the ground With its lost fragments!
Could a heritage Than his have been more noble — or a hope
And thus he wandered, till the centuries
Had fill'd green fields with graves — and made the earth,
With its cold congregation of the dead,
But one vast surface of mortality,
Where yet th' unsullied spirit might have swept
In the undying brightness of its morn!
And now what is he? The eternal mind,
That when earth sprang from chaos, with it sprang,
To give it radiance, from its heavenly home,
How is it blighted by the breath of years!
How has he cast his purity away,
Nor thought of the exchange, till Evil came,
And, like a serpent, hiss'd within his bower,
That he had dream'd to joy was dedicate,
When fallen from his glory! How his thought,
Bow'd from its cloudless pathway of the stars,
Its eagle flight, and high imaginings,
Creeps earthward, lost in base realities,
That give that sad mortality to mind,
Which ever mantles with the flush of shame,
The brow that is the throne of Intellect!
What is he 7 Follow but the noble powers
That God had made gigantic in him — see
Their very riot in the infamy
Of the fell purpose, and the gory hand '.
See the great glory of all goodness wane
Before that cold and meteor brilliancy,
Which mad ambition points to on the sky,
As its fierce leader! Mark him as he goes
Forth from his cottage home — where he had knelt,
For years, in stated prayer— with lowly heads
Bent reverently round, in brotherhood
Of happiness and holiness — behold!
The lessons which his heart leapt as he heard
Are all forgotten, as the battle noise
Of a great world breaks on him. He believes
Virtue has no reward, unless it move
On its triumphant way, still heralded
By the loud shouts of praise — the maddening
And crazy tribute of the crowded mart!
He feeU thai Heaven is second to the Earth,
And thus dishonoring his destiny,
He points through baser paths his pilgrimage,
That lead him to dark shores — and when he leaps
O, Man —Man!How hast thou sported with thy promises —
'Ullilmm que sagax rerum, et divina futuri.'—Hobacb.
I stood upon the storied rock* which overlooks that spot where two mighty rivers have burst through the rifted mountains, to pour their confluent waters into one majestic stream. The works of nature and the operations of man were strangely mingled. Around me were the awful cliffs, fashioned by the finger of Sublimity; on either hand, a turbulent and rushing flood, chafing and foaming over its rocky bed; while far in the blue distance, my eye could trace the mingled waters, wafting their silvery tribute toward the ocean. Beneath, were the habitations of busy man, from whence arose the varied sounds of active occupation; the rattle of machinery — the clink of distant hammers — the droning hum of business—mixed with the eternal roar of waters. The sparkling furnace belched forth its darksome vapors on the crimson air; the steeple glittered on the hill-side; and beyond, the eye could just discern the tiny vessel, gliding over the smooth canal; while more near, the rattling engine, with wheels of fire, flashed like a meteor through the hewn chasm of the everlasting rocks. It was an epitome of my country! and I read her prosperity and her glory in the impressive scene.
But soon Imagination bore me from this living landscape to the contemplation of dead empires. I stood upon the summit of one of those mysterious structures, the conjectural tombs of long-forgotten kings; the monuments of unknown ages, and unrecorded dynasties. I gazed upon the broken and scattered memorials of Memnon's line; I beheld the still progressive decay, which Destiny, through fabled and historic days, had witnessed from these watch-towers, and visibly inscribed upon their hoary summits. The power of Sesostris, the beauty of Cleopatra, perchance, had mouldered in the sepulchre beneath me; and the religion, the politics, the history of many centuries of happy and glorious civilization, were unveiled in those dim hieroglyphics, which Learning never may decipher.
'Jefferson's Rock,' at Harper's Ferty.