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energies of fifty, even beyond the verge of 'lean and slippered' senility. With the sinews and buoyancy of incipient manhood, (I 'm not yet a bachelor, fair lady,) I might perhaps have distanced him in a long race, or outwinded him in a Scotch reel; but I would not have stood foot to foot with him, with right arms crossed, for the guerdon of a golden gauntlet. I have too keen a regard for the unrainbowed integrity of my optics, ever wantonly to incur the îate of Dares pitted against the indurated brawn of unseared eld.
Such was the singular personage before me; and emboldened by his quiet, cheerful countenance, I moved still nearer to him, with the desire of making his acquaintance. My immediate proximity recalled his attention, and as his eye was turned to mine, it seemed to inquire with the kindliest expression, if it were in his power to do me the slightest favor.
• Pardon my incivility,' said I, not a little embarrassed, “for presuming to intrude on one who seems to find such agreeable companionship in his own pleasant musings.'
'I should rather thank you for the courtesy,' he replied, with a melancholy smile, since I am not of that favored few whose blameless lives would excuse them for preferring their own self-communion even to the society of friends. The generality of men know themselves too intimately, to court such soliloquies at all seasons, particularly when the charm of the present invites to a forgetfulness of the past.'
My best bow acknowledged the gracefulness of the compliment, and he proceeded.
* I cannot say with Law, that I know something worse of myself than of others, but at the same time I must plead guilty to many errors and many foibles, the remembrance of which is not so agreeable as the converse of the companionable.'
• Yet is that remembrance not devoid of benefit,' I observed, if pondered with a right spirit.'
* By no means,' he continued; but it must not always be pondered. The Egyptian's monitory skeleton was placed only at his occasional banquet, not at his every meal. The past cannot be amended, but the passing hour may be improved. Still it is well, nay a duty, that the mind should often retire into its inner sphere, and survey the changes it must witness there. Over the desolation which shall there surround it — over the ruins of baseless hopes — over the wrecks of noble resolutions — over the broken images of truth and innocence over the shattered idols of affection
over the priceless and untold sands of misspent hours — yea, over the oft trampled and unextinguishable beacons of divine conscience it cannot choose but weep; but its tears shall be balmy and remedial — the earnest, perchance, of early and lasting reform. And when the melancholy task is ended, the spiritual troglodyte must go forth again to the outward world, to expatiate in its sunshine to wrestle with its storms. Thus shall its powers be unfolded and invigorated, amid the changes of its own proper sphere. Temptation shall test its prudence, suffering its forbearance, and the harsh discipline of wrong, the meek wisdom of forgiveness. The sublimest virtues are not exhibited amid the dreary cloister or lonely hermitage; but in the great theatre of busy life,
where mighty and multitudinous passions have free scope to mingle in fiëry collision. It is there that the soul is best developed and inured to the rugged and bleak scenes to which its probation is allotted. But pardon my idle garrulity: age, methinks, would play the oracle, even though Apollo graced the tripod.?
Though you moralized less wisely,' I remarked, “it were becoming that my younger experience should listen to the teachings of riper years.
But by the favor of your courtesy, I would fain ask if you do not, at times, become weary of that same busy world, and long to steal away forever from its boisterous and dusty haunts, to some green, quiet, untrampled scene, like the Eden of that sweet lake, for instance, which you so feelingly apostrophized just now?'
* Time was,' he replied calmly, · when I used to indulge such anticipations. It was in other days, when in the most thronged of yonder noisy thoroughfares, I was actively engaged in the pursuit of wealth. Then, as I watered the sickly plants which pined in my gloomy windows for the fresh dews and balmy air of their native fields as I thridded the sultry and obscure streets, or looked forth from my narrow counting-room upon the cumbrous walls which lie, like a dark incubus, on the smothered verdure of this once leafy isle walls whose dusty and smoke-stained summits shut out the free breeze and blessed light of heaven - then, I say, fond was the hope
I that, after I had borne the burden and heat of busy manhood in the service of worldly care, fortune would transport me and mine, to enjoy the evening of life's feverish day amid the peaceful scenes of my own native valleys. The feeling is natural, and if to indulge it be a weakness, few men, I believe, are exempt from at least one foible. Years passed on, till at last my wealth took wings, and left me but a bare competence. One after another of my household nestlings was snatched from my embrace, till at last the grave closed over my dearer self, and I stood alone, a bowed and bruised reed, amid the sullen waters of affliction. It was then that
'I flew to the pleasant fields traversed so oft
In life's morning march, when my bosom was young;' but my wounded heart found not there the healing balm for which it yearned. The elm-shaded cottage of my fathers still looked out upon the bloomy lawn, but where were the home-faces which once watched and welcomed my coming? The swallow still twittered from its roof, and the oriole sang blithely from the bough which rustled against its casement; but where were the familiar voices within? Where the fireside melody of kindred hearts, ever vocal with sympathy and love? Alas! hushed was the harp of home, and the silence of the grave had settled forever upon its broken chords. I turned away to the groves whose shadowy and green recesses were so dear to my boyhood, but the axe of the speculator had prostrated their leafy magnificence, and I listened in vain for the light step of the squirrel, and the merry warblings of the woodland choir. I turned to the streams whose pleasant banks in my schoolboy days had been the scene of so many truant steps, when, in summer, their bright waters lured me to their cool embrace, or when, in winter,
I bound the smooth skate to my buoyant heel,
while the ribbed ice rung cheerily beneath the dash of my merry mates, and the mountains echoed and rëechoed our boisterous glee; but the hand of the utilitarian had not been idle upon their borders, and the music of those sweet waters was lost in the clack of the noisy shuttle, and the clang of the smoky forge. I looked around for those companions of my careless hours, but they had been scattered to the winds, and their places were filled by a younger brotherhood, who knew me but by name. With these I had no common associations- no partnership of life's morning memories; and while my presence excited their curiosity, and the rumor of my misfortunes their sympathies, the aching void in my lonely heart lost none of its bitter poignancy. A change, indeed, had passed over all the scenes of my childhood, peopling the old familiar haunts with strange forms and features which bore no semblance to the shrined archetypes of memory, and leaving the returned pilgrim to wander, like one lost, even in the home-paths around his father's cottage. In the revulsion of my feelings, the aspect of that placid lake seemed less bright and less lovely than in earlier years, though the rude hand of improvement had not yet profaned its sylvan beauty; and after a few rambles upon its peaceful borders, I turned to the city again, as to a retirement less fraught with regret, and far more profound, than my native wilds could promise or bestow. Talk as we may of the country's seclusion, there is no solitude so deep, as the solitude of a great city —no hermitage so inviolate, as that of a retired attic in some obscure street. No where else does the sense of loneliness strike so forcibly to the heart, as in the noisy thoroughfares of a mighty metropolis, amidst whose motley multitudes one hears no familiar voice, feels no pressure of a friendly hand, and gazes on no face but the face of a stranger. The intensity of this feeling is rarely, if ever, experienced by him whose home is in the country, for there the spirit of nature is around and above him, and the demonstration of her living presence is written on all outward things as with the beams of the noon-day sun. It smiles on him with the gentle witchery of untold flowers which haunt the wild with sweetness and with beauty; it whispers to him in the rustling of fragrant leaves, and in the breathing of summer winds; it murmurs to him in the liquid cadences of tuneful streams, and the hum of happy insects which sport above their waters; it sings to him with the winged lyres whose varied minstrelsy fills the woodlands with gladness and sweet echoes; it speaks to him in the blast which strips the forest of its green garniture, and in the voice of the mountain cataract, whose solemn harp sounds on untired, when day has sunk to rest, and nought but night and her vestal stars are listening to its deep-toned anthem.'
. And is not this soothing communion with nature,' I inquired, sweeter to the soul, and more to be desired, than the deepest seclusion which the city's wilderness of men can offer ?'
• Doubtless it would be,' replied the philosopher, but for the annoyance of curiosity. In the country, where the population is scarcely fifty to the square mile, each is known to all; and in the leisure which waits upon their lingering occupations, each finds opportunity to scan the prospects, habits, and even domestic arrangements of his neighbors. As the postman brings no daily budget of wonderments
to their retired dwellings, their curiosity, like Crusoe's, is left to seek for whatever of gratification its own little island may chance to afford; and as strange incidents must necessarily be scarce in such a sphere, their value is proportionally enhanced and benevolently reciprocated by the whole community. There is no monopoly of the marvellous there, but all are partakers of its grateful bounty. The lovers who plighted their troth at midnight in the hush of the moonlit grove, may think themselves peculiarly fortunate, if they are not waked in the morning by the rumor of their approaching nuptials. A whisper in secret places takes the rising inflexion,' and presently is heard reverberating on all sides like the report of a culverin. If a stranger appear upon the hills, the dwellers of the valley go up to the house-tops to take an observation of his bearing; if in the valley, the mountaineers lean over the ledges, to see what new-comer has entered the lowlands. The man in the iron mask, yea, be of the claret-colored coat,' could not have maintained their incognito a single week, in the searching focus of rural curiosity. There is no 'great unknown' in the country.
* But in the city, the selfish, man-made city, it is all the reverse. Here every individual feels himself just clever enough to manage his own concerns, and just benevolent enough to leave his neighbors the enjoyment of the same privilege. His appetite for news is never doomed to the horrors of a country lent, for thousands are catering marvels in his behalf, and at every turn the gazette and the bulletin, the penny-post and the placard, invite him to the full-furnished banquet. The only wonder is, that he does not become surfeited with the never-ending repast, and that purblind philosophers should have left it to my modest sagacity to give the first true definition of man; namely, a sempiternal devourer of prodigies. Now as these vital commodities are amply provided in the metropolis, the citizen may concentrate his whole mind on other wares and cares which swell the invoice of his bustling life. And thus absorbed in the microcosm of self, what wonder if the mighty and multitudinous world around him heaves to and fro the while as uncared for as the man in the moon ? Perchance not one in thousands could upbraid him for his unfeeling abstraction, without a ready replication from the divinity within. Each has his, gloomy familiar in the demon of care, invisible yet ever present, engrossing his every thought, and paralyzing all the sympathies which tend to associate his being in kindly reciprocation with the kindred hearts around him. With introverted eye, he passes on amid the crowds that pass him with equal inobservance, each forgetting each, or remembering but to illustrate the truth of that old maxim, which teaches that there is no friendship in trade' cordial sociality in the greetings of the market-place.
• Now it is not this amiable exhibition of humanity that leads me to prefer a residence in town to one in the country ; but the opportunity afforded me by the self-concentration of the busy multitude, to loiter along the pilgrimage of life, unannoyed by curiosity, unknown and unobserved the hermit of a crowd. The country, with all its groves and grottoes, affords no solitude like this. No foot but my own ever crosses the threshhold of my lonely attic, except on the eve of the new-moon, or when I chance upon some forlorn creature,
whose wretchedness of destitution my humble hospitality can for a while alleviate. My immediate neighbors, including my landlord of fifteen years, know me but by externals, and take no note of my loiterings; and I much doubt if Hays himself could syllable my name, or point the way to my hermitage. I have no occasion for the 'magic robe' of Prospero; for the deep guise of poverty renders me invisible at noon-day, even to those who once lived on my bounty; and I pass on through the crowd unquestioned and unnoticed, yet scanning with thoughtful curiousness its living phases. No one stops me to inquire whence I came, or whither I go. No one knows, or cares to know, the quality of my bread and butter, or whether I eat my egg from a tumbler, or have a penchant for a silver fork. No one points me out to his wondering neighbor as an ungrateful anathematizer of the blessings of a bountiful Providence, or an epicurian abuser of those same multifold blessings.
• Therefore commend me to a dity life, for as solitude consists not so much in loneliness as in being let alone, it is here that loaferism, which is but another name for the philosophy of enjoyment, finds its amplest charter, its calmest, sunniest, and most congenial home. Yet, think not I despise the dwellers of the country, or am ignorant of their many excellencies. Though I like not their reciprocal inquisitiveness, and the consequent mutuality of knowledge which is too prone to gossip of the fire-side concernments of every household, I do like their simplicity of manners, their keen moral sense, their expansive community of sympathy, their cordial interest in each other's welfare, and the visible assurance of peacefulness, innocence, and content, which beams from the general aspect of rural society. Yet is there no hermitage within that quiet Eden for him who would commune with meditation alone. But in the city, every dwelling is a cloister, and its inmates, to all but a favored few, are as a different caste of anchorets, as inaccessible and uncompanionable to all others, as the Brahman to the Pariah. Here he may be a recluse indeed — as forgotten of the world around him, as if it had bathed in the waters of Lethe, or fed on the fabled mandragora whose taste was oblivion.
• Did you observe,' inquired the eremite, after a momentary pause, that gentlemanly person who just passed up the avenue ?
‘I did,' said I, and I noticed that he kept his eyes averted the while, as if he did not care to look on the face of strangers.' 'Stranger ! repeated the old man, with a brief, sad smile, it is
Yet that same genteel stranger in my sunnier days, I took from the alms-house an outcast and anonymous foundling, gave him a home and a name, clothed, educated, and at last established him in honorable business, and every thing has flourished with him, as you see, except the grateful memory of a stranger's kindness: that has faded inversely with the bloom of his prosperity, till at length it has vanished in such utter forgetfulness of his benefactor, that to recognise me now, would seem marvellously like a miracle. And after all, had I the mnemonic power of an upbraiding conscience, I would not seek to rëestablish myself in his memory. My wounded pride indeed prompts me at times to disquiet the obliviousness of those who have had cause to remember my friendship; but I soon soothe