« PředchozíPokračovat »
While the kindling of life in his bosom remains,
EXTRACT FROM RIENZI.
MARY RUSSELL MITFORD was born at Alresford, in England, December 16, 1786 ; and died January 10, 1855. She published a number of works, comprising poems, sketches, and dramas, of which the best and most popular is “Our Village,” a collection of pictures of rural life and manners, written in a graceful and animated style, and pervaded with a most kindly and sympathetic spirit. She was very friendly to our country, and edited three volumes of “Stories of American Life by American Authors."
The following extract is from “Rienzi,” the most successful of her dramas, founded on the fate and fortunes of a celebrated personage of that name, who in the fourteenth century was for a brief period the ruler of Rome. This speech is made by Rienzi to a Roman noble who was petitioning for the life of a brother who had been condemned to death. A brother of Rienzi's had been killed by a servant of this same noble.
ND darest talk thou to me of brothers ? Thou,
before me all the peers,
Prelates, and potentates of Christendom,
CIII. — BOOKS.
E. P. WHIPPLE.
F such were the tendency of that great invention
which leaped or bridged the barriers separating mind from mind and heart from heart, who shall calculate its effect in promoting private happiness? Books, lighthouses erected in the great sea of time, - books, the precious depositories of the thoughts and creations of genius, — books, by whose sorcery times past become time present, and the whole pageantry of the world's history moves in solemn procession before our eyes, — these were to visit the firesides of the humble, and lavish the treasures of the intellect
poor. Could we have Plato and Shakespeare and Milton in our dwellings, in the full vigor of their imaginations, in the full freshness of their hearts, few scholars would be affluent enough to afford them physical support; but the living images of their minds are within the eyes of all. From their pages their mighty souls look out upon us in all their grandeur and beauty, undimmed by the faults and follies of earthly existence, consecrated by timę. Precious and priceless are the blessings which the books scatter around our daily paths. We walk, in imagination, with the noblest spirits, through the most sublime and enchanting regions, — regions which, to all that is lovely in the forms and colors of earth,
* Add the gleam, The light that never was on sea or land,
The consecration and the poet's dream.” A motion of the hand brings all Arcadia to sight. The war of Troy can, at our bidding, rage in the narrowest chamber. Without stirring from our firesides, we may
roam to the most remote regions of the earth, or soar into realms where Spencer's shapes of unearthly beauty flock to meet us, where Milton's angels peal in our ears the choral hymns of Paradise. Science, art, literature, philosophy, — all that man has thought, all that man has done, — the experience that has been bought with the sufferings of a hundred generations, - all are garnered up for us in the world of books.
There, among realities, in a “substantial world," we move with the crowned kings of thought. There our minds have a free range, our hearts a free utterance. Reason is confined within none of the partitions which trammel it in life. The hard granite of conventionalism melts away as a thin mist. We call things by their right names. Our lips give not the lie to our hearts. We bend the knee only to the great and good. We despise only the despicable; we honor only the honorable. In that world, no divinity hedges a king, no accident of rank or fashion ennobles a dunce or shields a knave. There, and almost only there, do our affections have free play. We can select our companions from the most richly gifted of the sons of God, and they are companions who will not desert us in poverty, or sickness, or disgrace.
When everything else fails, — when fortune frowns, and friends cool, and health forsakes us, — when this great world of forms and shows appears a "two-edged lie, which seems but is not,” — when all our earth-clinging hopes and ambitions melt away into nothingness,
“Like snow-falls on a river,
One moment white, then gone forever," we are still not without friends to animate and console us, — friends, in whose immortal countenances, as they look out upon us from books, we can discern no change;
who will dignify low fortunes and humble life with their kingly presence; who will people solitude with shapes more glorious than ever glittered in palaces; who will consecrate sorrow, and take the sting from care; and who, in the long hours of despondency and weakness, will send healing to the sick heart, and energy to the wasted brain. Well might Milton exclaim, in that impassioned speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing, where every word leaps with intellectual life, “Who kills a man, kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were in the eye. Many a man lives a burden upon the earth; but a good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose for a life beyond life !"
CIV. — ELEGY WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY
TAOMAS GRAY was born in London, December 26, 1716; and died July 30, 1771. Though he has written but little, he holds a high rank in English literature from the energy, splendor, and perfect finish of his poetical style. He was one of the most learned men of his time, and his letters are delightful from their playfulness and grace. His “ Elegy in a Country Churchyard ”is, perhaps, the most popular piece of poetry in the English language. “ It abounds,” says Dr. Johnson, “with images which find a mirror in every mind, and with sentiments to which every bosom returns an echo."
THE curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,