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exist in its individual character ? Why not bow to the penal fiat, and suffer the dust to mingle with its original 2 I like not to see the burial-ground so unsairly apportioned, as that the rich may fence off, from century to century, a spot where no spade can come: while the poor must be often tossed out of their graves, in visible and loathsome fragments, because of a senseless monopoly maintained by, perhaps, old coffins of many hundred years' date. This, however, is a passing remark. However interesting in other respects the scene adverted to might be, there was one prime object of attraction to those who visited it: this was the ancient yew, which seemed to be coeval at least with the oldest of man's surrounding works. The tree was singularly fine: its trunk, of large circumference, was so completely hollowed out by age, that to one who entered the natural alcove thus formed, and calculated the thickness of the outer crust, it was matter of amazement how so slender a support could suffice for the enormous weight of branches that shot out above—or even convey adequate nourishment to those branches. Below, it was to all appearance, a blighted, broken, and crumbling ruin : above, a noble, vigorous, healthy tree, rich in renovated youth, and overshadowing a wide extent of humble graves. Indeed, the very poorest who could not afford even a wooden memorial of their loss, seemed to claim the ancient yew as a sort of natural protector—a monument planted by Him who careth for the poor, to cover their despised remains. I loved to draw the wild plants aside, and peruse the monumental inscriptions, enclosed within their veil: I loved to trace out the remote dates of those old grey head-stones, with their rude carvings of weeping cherubim: and I loved to ponder on the simple, often very touching lines, traced on decaying boards: but my chosen station was amid the cluster of nameless graves overshadowed by the patriarchal yew. On two occasions l visited this spot, under circumstances never to be forgotten. On the first sabbath after the falling of the heaviest blow that ever smote me, I repaired to that comparatively distant church to worship—to bow before the
mysterious hand that had rent away what was most precious to me. This could not be done in a place where I had before attended divine service: the wound was too recent, too agonizingly fresh, to admit of sitting beside his vacant seat, in the temple where we had so often worshipped together. The path to this retired churchyard lay through a corn-field. When last I had visited my favourite yew, that field presented a bare surface, excepting where a tender blade, more forward than its fellows, had here and there struggled through the soil, and looked abroad. On this sad sabbath my thoughts were so confused under their oppressive weight, that I forgot the lapse of time ; and finding myself in a field of rich ripening wheat, I turned back, saying, “This is not the way.” The little gate was silently pointed out to me, and I proceeded. Even at this hour I must again bless the Lord, for what He, who comforteth them that are cast down, then spoke to my heavy heart. It was not long since the seed of divine truth had been sown, by the preaching of the word to that beloved and lamented one : and in the absence of strong evidence (afterwards given) that it had indeed taken root, unbelief was striving desperately within ; and asking, “Was there time for it to shoot forth 7" Here was an answer so scripturally beautiful that I am never weary of dwelling on the type. As far as weeks and months were concerned, a much longer time had been allowed for the spiritual than the natural growth; and the passage was brought before me with a vividness impossible to describe. It was Jesus himself who had said, “So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring, and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of itself; first the blade, then the ear, aster that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth forth the sickle, because the harvest is come.” I might have read the passage a hundred times and not have caught its applicability: but here was the realization—here was the bright golden grain, drooping for very richness its mellow head before me, on the precise spot where I had so lately seen only a cheerless expanse of dull grey soil. The wonders of creative power we make light of through daily familiarity with their stupendous grandeur; but God does sometimes so reveal to the mourning soul the beautisul link which his own sweet parables have woven between them and the wonders of regenerating grace, that a voice comes, mighty alike in power and in love saying, “Be still and know that I am God.” That voice calmed in a moment the tempest of my soul, and He gave me that day the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Blessed be his name! The dumb boy, whose tearful eyes watched every change of my countenance, immediately marked the alteration: he knew not how comfort had been given; but well did he know whence it came: and as we passed the churchyard gate, he made to me the short, but sweet and soothing remark, “Jesus Christ loves poor Mam.” The other particular visit was for a purpose scarcely less touching: in some points even more so. The hand of death was upon that boy; and his days were so evidently numbered, that another week seemed the utmost limit of his mortal existence. I left him under good care, and bent my way, beneath a cold, bleak wintry wind, to the churchyard, to fix on a spot for his mortal remains to rest in, beneath his favourite yew-tree. The design was afterwards abandoned, and another burialplace selected; but at the time I fully purposed to lay him there. How magnificent did the yew-tree look on that day ! Midwinter had stripped every branch beside. Oaks and elms stood bare, with spreading arms, sturdily resisting the gale; and the tall naked poplar waved wildly before its breath. Heavy clouds were drifting, dark and low; while the long, meagre grass clogged with damp, and pressed downward by the sweeping wind, added to the desolate character of a scene that it was wont to embellish with softer loveliness. It was then that the fine outline of the ancient yew appeared in fuller, bolder relief against the sky. Slightly discomposed by the blast, its waving branches only displayed more openly the richness of their abundant foliage. It WOL. II. 34
stood, a green and flourishing thing, where all else was but wreck and deformity. How could I look upon this noble spread of unwithering branches from a poor, decayed, broken trunk, that seemed only fit for firewood, without recurring to the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” that God was preparing for my dying boy, out of the light afflictions” then working the destruction of his mortal frame, that his spirit might flee away and be at rest. There was a sublimity in that scene and hour, to which no effort of man's hand or head can attain. It was the grandeur of a new creation, rising from the emphatic wreck of all below it and around finding a congenial element in the very breath that blasted the fairest things of earth, and typisying what we are so slow of heart to believe—the persevering grace bestowed by the Giver of every good and perfect gift, on the souls that he has brought out from regions of sin and death. “Son of man, can these bones live 7" was the question that made trial of Ezekiel's faith, when he looked round him on the dry and bleaching fragments of mortality, scattered in the valley. In like manner it might be asked can this aged, decayed trunk, scarcely retaining substance enough to support its upright position, shoot out the spreading bough, and toss the vigorous branch on high 7 Even so, likewise, is he who, convinced of the plague of the heart, finds that from the crown of his dead to the sole of the foot there is no sound part in him, but wounds and bruises and putrifying sores, tempted to doubt, can God bring a clean thing out of what is essentially unclean 2 Can he make perfect his strength in weakness like mine? But the dry bones lived, and stood up, an exceeding great army, marching cheerily onward to Canaan. The shattered yewtree—the wreck of unknown centuries— looked down in broad and flourishing vegetation, upon many a successive race crumbling among its roots: and the arm of the Lord, almighty to save, is never shortened, nor his power straitened towards the sinful children of men. No feebleness of body, no prostration of mind, can let him when he wills to work. However degenerate the vine of a strange plant may be before him, he can grast it with a noble vine, wholly a right seed, and crown it with luxuriant fertility. My last view of the stately old tree—for I never revisited the spot—filled me with such rejoicing thoughts; naturally leading to the glorious mystery of the body's resurrection from its sleep in the dust. Every grave before me was the visible portal of a mansion containing many chambers:– who could tell the number of the departed, within the confines of that ancient place of sepulture ' Who could conceive the awful reality of the earth disclosing her dead, and each individual rising with his own body, to give account of the things done therein, during his sojourn here ! There lay the worshipper of beings who could not save him : the poor victim of delusion, whose last cry was to some patron saint, and his strongest hope rested in the masses that should be offered for his deliverance from purgatory. There lay the formalist, whose barren orthodoxy might serve the purposes of self deception to the verge of the grave, but could carry its fictitious aid no farther. The blasphemer was there, the drunkard, the extortioner, yea, the suicide, whose own hand shut fast the door of repentance against himself. And there, too, was the humble believer, who, counting all things but lost for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, won Christ, and will at the last day be found in him, having the righteousness which is by faith of Christ Jesus, and needing nought beside. At such a time and place, how inestimably precious does the gospel of salvation appear ! Blessed be God, that gospel is now proclaimed in the antique village church, and its glad sound rustles through the branches of the venerable yew. There is yet another touching reminiscence connected with the scenery, on which I love to dwell; but the particulars must be reserved for a future chapter.
of the forest advance an irresistible claim to preference. The burning rays of a sultry noon, reflected, as it were, from the highly tinted petals of blushing roses, golden lilies, and the countless varieties which emulate their glowing hues, are almost insupportable, unless some friendly shadow be cast from those patrons of the vegetable world. But who, at such oppressive season, can resist the charms of that wide-spreading foliage which is the pride of our English scenery 2 The flattest prospect is animated by it; the most dull, tame outlay of ploughed fields derives life and beauty from its intersecting hedgerows, if here and there a well-grown tree start up to break the level of their verdant lines. But when the towering monarch of the wood throws high and wide his bold arms, preserving around him a circlet of cool fresh green, where all beyond is parched; or when, from the ridges of hilly ground, dark files of these veteran guardians look down on some peaceful village, the antique little cottages of which have been crumbling away, while they rejoiced in augmenting strength, girding in, with unmoved fidelity, race after race of the sons of men; I think I could be content to pass the longest summer day unenlivened by the smile of a single flower, in meditating on the by-gone years, not merely of my own insignificant span, but of the generations that have appeared and vanished since those plants attained a growth entitling them to the name of trees. Oh, how strongly do they plead against the thoughtless ingratitude of my people ! They seem to say, “Peace has been within our borders, plenteousness within our palaces. No feller has come up against us; no ravaging hand has brought desolation within our rural reign. The Lord has been the defence of our country; the Lord is our lawgiver and our king, He has saved us. A scribe unto the Lord the honour due unto his name.” Thus, listing their graceful heads on high, they seem to say ; but feeble and cold is the response, if any be made to their appeal. Israel was commanded to preserve a special remembrance of her national deliverances –yea, the soul that neglected so to do, was to be cut off. Memorials were instituted, and pillars set up, that no Jew might look thereon without rendering thanks and praise for the wonderful works that his fathers had so declared unto him. Their not keeping these great works in remembrance was an especial charge against them ; and can we stand guiltless before God, when we behold the monuments that tell of centuries past, through which we have experienced a succession of preservations, deliverances, privileges not to be paralleled in any other land, yet glory not God in our hearts, neither are thankfull I have been led into this train of thought while rejoicing in the cool shade of some venerable trees that encircle a buryingground whither I had wandered in the evening of a most sultry day. The surrounding scenery was stamped with character quite dissimilar from that of my distant village church-yard, as were its stately monuments from the lowly graves that swell beneath the antique yew. Nevertheless, the cord was struck; there is a levelling feature in death that may be masked over, but it cannot be obliterated. Croly has finely expressed it: To join the great equality;All alike are humble there: The mighty grave Wraps lord and slave.
Nor pride nor poverty dares come Within that refuge-house, the tomb.
Accordingly the transition was easy from the imposing display around me to the undulating lines of that soft, modest sod, where I once proposed that the clay of my “Happy Mute” should repose until the resurrection morning. And from thence to a more distant spot by me unvisited, where rest the mortal remains of one whose light step loved to accompany me to my favourite yew-tree, and whose active hands often secured some little branch, of fan-like elegance, to ornament my mantel-piece as long as the freshness of its deep green should survive. He was one whom I had before caressed, as a little prattling child, in regions yet farther removed; and when I again saw him, after the lapse of some ten years, a wellgrown youth attired in the showy uniform of his intended profession, the preparatory studies for which he, among many others, was pursuing, I could not detect a change in the character of his well-remembered face. The blue eyes laughed as innocently out, and the flaxen curls as carelessly
played on his open brow; while the dimple retained its individualizing stamp; never failing to deepen with undisguised pleasure at the sight of one whom he loved “with all the veins” of his unsophisticated heart. Guileless he was indeed, and harmless in a degree very unusual among the fierce and forward spirits of that privileged corps—privileged in a sense more gratifying to the carnal heart than conducive to spiritual welfare. But Robert was one not easily to be spoiled: the child of many prayers, I traced in his character the pledge that an answer of peace was being already sent to the secret supplications that daily ascended from the heart of a widowed mother, who sought for her boy better things than the world can give, and who, in placing him where I found him, acted not from choice. Although Robert made no open profession—a thing scarcely possible in his then situation—yet when I marked the genuine humility of his spirit, the docile, patient, loving temper that distinguished him, the meekness of wisdom where with he avoided any participation in the misdoings of others, and the respect with which he evidently though unconsciously inspired not only his giddy comrades but the leading men of the institution, I could not but mentally exclaim, “Surely the grace of God is here !” I once asked a teacher, whose righteous soul was vexed from day to day by deeds that he could not prevent, what was his opinion of young Robert C. His reply was given with energetic brevity and feeling, “He is a lamb.” Yet Robert, though it was pretty well understood that he would not fight, was never insulted; a passing joke he could take with admirable grace, and often by a sportive reply, turn the laugh against its originator: when an act of real aggression seemed in view, he calmly and gravely said, “Gentlemen, this is a breach of discipline; and if you persist, I must report it.” By these means, as he himself told me, he led a quiet life, though not he owned, altogether a happy one: looking forward to entering on a profession from which his mind involuntarily shrunk— surely through the growing operation of that Spirit whose fruits of “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness,” cannot desire to be fed by the blood of wretched men, butchered in unnatural warfare. He once asked me, “How is it that I, a soldier's son, brought up in a garrison, and passing my whole time in military studies, should care so little for what all my comrades are mad about—a commission ?” “Dear Robert, I hope you will never be a soldier; and I think the Lord has some other path open for you.” “Oh, don't encourage my dislike to it: I must be a soldier; and is ever you tell my dear mother that my feelings are against it, I shall lock up all my thoughts from you.” Yet the boy was courageous beyond many who gloried in their bravery. He one day brought me a pretty purse, formed of coloured ribbons, saying, “I netted this myself for you: will you take it !” I told him I wondered at his ingenuity, but much more how he could steal time and privacy to accomplish such a piece of work. “Why,” said he, opening his eyes very wide, “l netted it in the guard room.” “And what did your comrades say? they must have bantered you terribly.” “They tried to do so; but when I told them they would be glad of as kind a friend as you are to me, and that they only envied alike my privileges and my skill, they left of.” It was the remark of one who had served through many a hard campaign and who delighted in Robert, that it required more courage to do this than to fight a dozen battles. Robert's purse is stored among the dearest of my relics. I bless God, that while indulging the dear boy's wish to pass in quiet walks with me and my little party the hours that others devoted to very different pursuits, I did not neglect the one thing needful, but spoke often to him on the concerns of his soul. His grave, sweet looks gave encouragement, though I never could draw from him a word expressive of the effect produced: and his increasing sondness for society that would have become most irk. some had the subject been unwelcome, gave a stronger testimony that his heart went beyond his lips. It was his delight to ramble about the village church-yard with me; and to hunt with Jack for shamrocks among the grass. He was not a whit less national than the dumb boy; and the only flash of anger that I detected in him was one of passionate wrath, on hearing a reflection cast on his country by
some prejudiced person. I calmed him, by taking up the subject in my own way: nor could I tell whether the tears that immediately swelled in his eyes were those of indignation, or of gladness at hearing the calumniator of poor Ireland effectually silenced. The yew-tree, with its venerable trunk dilapidated by the hand of time, and its vigorous shoots of new and glorious vegetation, stands before me now, so vividly drawn out, that I wonder at the perfect picture, after such a lapse of years. Just as distinct is the light figure of the young cadet, standing at full stretch, on tiptoe, perseveringly resolved to bring down, with the handle of a parasol, an elegant little tuft of newly-expanded foilage ; while Jack with vehement gesticulation, tried to dissuade him from endangering “Mam's pet umbrella,” and to cut a hooked stick from the hedge. A simple group—but how touching, when I reflect, that while the aged tree stands unmoved and unchanged, the agile forms of those dear youths are mouldering in graves far far apart from me and from each other ; and their spirits together rejoicing before the throne of the Lamb, while I am left to weep over the recollection of the warm love that their young hearts bore me, and the pleasant smiles with which they gladdened many a sorrowful hour in the very darkest season of my earthly pilgrimage. It was at that season when I was yet unconscious of the fearful blast that had fallen on my pleasant gourd, and withered it away,+it was then, that the mother and sisters of Robert overwhelmed me with such a debt of love and gratitude as none may compute but He who is pledged to repay it a thousand sold into their own kind bosoms. It was a strange dispensation that, some years aster, when all had been arranged to their heart's content for their Robert's settlement in a peaceful and useful walk of life, took him away with a stroke almost as sudden as the one that overwhelmed me; before even the rapid steps of love could reach his dying pillow. But all was well: his gentle spirit returned to the God who gave it, not without leaving a sweet record of simple living faith in the all-sufficient Saviour of sinners. In dreams and visions of the night, I sometimes find myself beneath the aged