« السابقةمتابعة »
gan his depredations, till sun-rise the next morning :” this secured their property. Previously to this, many things were stolen, particularly poultry; but after this, nothing was ever taken; and the family became so secure, that for months together, they neither bolted nor locked their doors; nor indeed was it necessary.
There are three or four articles in the little library mentioned above, on which it may be necessary to say a few words, because of the effects produced by them on A. C's. mind; and because of the influence they had on his future life and studies:
-viz. The Arabian Nights' Entertainments, Robinson Crusoe, and L’Estrange's Fables of Æsop.
The reading of the first of these gave him that decided taste for Oriental History which has been so very useful to him in all his biblical studies. He wished to acquaint himself more particularly with a people whose customs and manners, both religious and civil, were so strange and curious; he never lost sight of this till divine providence opened his way, and placed the means in his power, to gain some acquaintance with the principal languages of the East. This also will be noticed in its due place.
The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, he read as a real history: no true tale was ever better or more naturally told: and none, merely fictitious, was ever told more imposingly. No history, true or feigned, had ever a more direct moral tendency. From it, he has often said, he learned more expressly his duty to God, to his parents, and a firmer belief in Divine Providence, than from all he read or heard from books or men during his early years: and as soon as they could read, he took care to put this work into the hands of his own children, from the conviction, that in it were combined the finest lessons, and maxims of religion and morality, with every thing interesting and fascinating in historic detail. He has always stated that the good impressions made on his mind by reading this work were never effaced.
With the Fables of Æsop, and his Life by Planudes, he was always much delighted. It was almost one of the first books that he could read, and it was one of the last of his boyish companions that he relinquished. The little pictures with which it was adorned, were the means of attaching his mind, in the first instance. From the Countryman, whose Wagon had stuck fast in the mud, he learned the necessity of strenuous exertion, while expecting the Divine succour. He often applied the words, Thou fool! whip thy horses and set thy shoulders to the wheels, and call upon Hercules, and he will help thee, to those who expected God by a miracle to bring them out of their difficulties, while sitting down in indolence, and supine self-despair.
The fable of the Lark and Young Ones, taught him the
folly of expecting that help from neighbours and friends which a man owed to himself, and which by the exertions of himself and family, he could furnish. From the fable of the Farmer who wished Rain and Fair Weather in those times which he should judge most proper, and at harvest time had no crop, he learned the folly of human anxiety concerning the weather, and the necessity of depending on divine providence. The Braggart who pretended to have cleared so many yards at one leap in the Island of Rhodes, shewed him the vanity of empty boasting; and of pretending to have done some mighty feat in some distant country, which his friends were at liberty not to credit till they had seen him perform the same at home. The Dog in the Manger, The Trumpeter taken prisoner, The sick Kite, The Daw in borrowed Feathers, &c. &c. were all to him lessons of instruction; and from them he borrowed some of the chief maxims which governed his life.
It may be proper to give here some account how the peasantry spend their long winter's evenings, in that part of Ireland in which young Člarke was born and educated.
The young people of the different families go night about, to each other's houses, and while the female part are employed in carding and spinning, the master and elder males, in weaving linen cloth, and some of the smaller children in filling the lobbins, called there quills, and one holding the lighted wooden candle, a thin lath, split from a block of bog-fir, called there a split ;-a grandfather, grandmother, or some other aged person, tells Tales of other times; chiefly respecting the exploits of their ancestors, especially of Fion ma cool (Fingal) and his family; and their wars with the Danes. Some of these tales employ two or three hours in the telling. And although this custom prevailed long before any thing was heard of Macpherson, and his Fingal and Ossian, and their heroes; yet similar accounts to his relations, were produced in the Noctes Hibernicæ of these people. It is true that in these, there were many wild stories which are not found in Macpherson, but the substance was often the same. Perhaps this may plead something in favour of Macpherson's general accuracy: he did not make all his stories: but he may have greatly embellished them. As for the existence of epic poems, in those times, either in Ireland, or in the Scotch Highlands, it is a fiction too gross to be credited: nothing like these anpear in the best told tales of the most intelligent Shenachies; which they tell as having received them from their fathers, and they from their fathers, and so up to an impenetrable antiquity. A.C. has been heard to say :-“The Gaelic tales are of such a nature, and take possession of the heart and memory so forcibly, that they may be related by different persons again and again, without omitting any one material circumstance. I have heard some of these tales, the telling of which took up
three full hours, that I could repeat, and have repeated after wards, in different companies, without the loss of a single sentence. I have, in telling such, done little else than give a verbal relation, only mending the language, where it appeared particularly faulty.” But were those tales, to which you refer, told in verse? “No; they were all in prose: but they might have been originally in verse; for the persons who related them, translated them out of their maternal tongue, which was Irish, alias Gaelic. I asked no questions relative to the form in which they existed in the original ; because I did not know that any thing depended on it; for of Macpherson and his Ossian, and the controversy on that subject, no man had then heard.”
In one of those tales which relates to Fion ma cool, (Fingal,) there is a statement of his conversion by the preaching of St. Patrick. When the chief of Erin presented himself before the Saint, he found him very decrepit, and obliged to support himself on two crutches, while he performed the ceremony of baptism. When about to sprinkle the water upon Fingal's head, the Saint was obliged to shift his ground, in order to stand more commodiously by the chief. In doing this he unwittingly placed the pike of his crutch upon Fion's foot : the ceremony being ended, when St. Patrick was about to move away, he found the end of his crutch entangled in the foot of the chief, the pike having run through it and pinned it to the ground ! Expressing both his surprise and regret, he asked Fingal, “Why he had not informed him of the mistake at first ?" the noble chief answered, “ I thought, holy father, that this had been a part of the ceremony." He who could have acted so must have been truly magnanimous, and sincerely desirous of becoming a Christian !
When work and tales were ended the supper was intro duced, which was invariably in the winter evenings, a basket of potatoes, boiled, without being peeled ; and either a salt herring, or a little milk, mostly butter-milk. Immediately after this simple repast all went to bed, and generally arose to work a considerable time before day.
In few parts of the world do the peasantry live a more industrious and harmless life. It should also be stated, that sometimes, instead of tales, they employ themselves with riddles, puzzles, and various trials of wit. Sometimes in narrative and national songs, among which are accounts of foreign travels, shipwrecks, the Battle of the Boyne, and the Siege of Londonderry. They are fond also of blazoning the piety, fortitude, noble descent, and valorous achievements of their forefathers. Feats, requiring either much strength or agility, were frequent exercises for their young men in these social meetings; such as lifting weights; and, in moonlight nights, out of doors, putting the stone, and pitching the bar or iron
crow. Balancing was a favorite amusement, but in this very few make much proficiency, because it requires great agility and a very steady eye. Perhaps, few ever carried this to greater perfection than young Clarke; whatever he was able to lift on his chin, that he could balance : iron crows, sledge hammers, ladders, chairs, &c. &c., he could in a great variety of combinations balance to great perfection on chin, nose and forehead. In short, whatever he saw done in this way he could do; so that many of the common people thought he performed these feats by a supernatural agency. How much more rational and manly are such amusements than cards, dice, or degrading games of hazard of any kind! By these, the mind is debased, and the meanest and vilest passions excited, nourished and gratified. By those, emulation, corporeal strength, agility, &c. are produced and maintained. The former may make poltroons and assassins, but can never make a man, a friend, or a hero.
Of his Religious Education, scarcely any thing has been yet spoken; as it was not judged proper to mix his boyish operations and pursuits with matters of a more severe and spiritual cast.
We have already seen that, at a very early age his mind was deeply impressed with subjects of the greatest importance. This was not a transitory impression :-his mother was a woman decidedly religious: she was a Presbyterian of the old Puritanic school. She had been well catechised in her youth, and had read the Scriptures with great care and to much profit. She ever placed the fear of God before the eyes of her children, caused them to read and reverence the Scriptures, and endeavoured to impress the most interesting parts on their minds. If they did wrong at any time, she had recourse uniformly to the Bible, to strengthen her reproofs and to deepen conviction. In these she was so conversant and ready, that there was scarcely a delinquency, for the condemnation of which she could not easily find a portion. She seemed to find them on the first opening, and would generally say, “See what God has guided my eye to in a moment." Her own reproofs her children could in some measure bear; but when she had recourse to the Bible, they were terrified out of measure; such an awful sense had they of the truth of God's Word and the Majesty of the Author. One anecdote will serve to shew her manner of reproving, and the impression made by such reproofs.
Adam one day disobeyed his mother, and the disobedience was accompanied with some look or gesture that indicated an undervaluing of her authority. This was a high affront; she
immediately flew to the Bible, and opened on these words, Prov. xxx. 17, which she read and commented on in a most awful manner :-" The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.” The poor culprit was cut to the heart, believing the words had been sent immediately from heaven: he went out into the field with a troubled spirit, and was musing on this horrible denunciation of Divine displeasure, when the hoarse croak of a raven sounded to his conscience an alarm more terrible than the cry of fire at midnight! He looked up and soon perceived this most ominous bird, and actually supposing it to be the raven of which the text spoke, coming to pick out his eyes, he clapped his hands on them with the utmost speed and trepidation, and ran towards the house as fast as the state of his alarm and perturbation would admit, that he might escape the impending vengeance!
The severe creed of his mother led her more frequently to represent the Supreme Being as a God of justice, than as the God of mercy: the consequence was, the children dreaded God, and obeyed only through fear :-perhaps, this was the only impression that could be made, to awaken conscience and keep it awake.
To the religious instructions of his mother, her son ever attributed, under God, that fear of the Divine Majesty, which ever prevented him from taking pleasure in sin. “My mother's reproofs and terrors never left me," said he, “till I sought and found the salvation of God. And sin was generally so burthensome to me, that I was glad to hear of deliverance from it. She taught me such reverence for the Bible, that if I had it in my hand even for the purpose of studying a chapter in order to say it as a lesson, and had been disposed with my class-fellows to sing, whistle a tune, or be facetious, I dared not do either while the book was open in my hands. In such cases I always shut it and laid it down beside me. Who will dare to lay this to the charge of superstition !” · We need not say that such a mother taught her children to pray. Each night, before they went to bed, they regularly kneeled successively at her knee and said the Lord's Prayer; and implored a blessing on father, mother, relatives, and friends : those who were six years old and upwards, said also the Apostles' Creed. She had also a Morning Prayer and an Evening Prayer, which she taught them : these prayers were in verse; who was the author we know not. As they are simple and expressive, and well suited to infant minds, I shall insert them for their piety, whatever may be thought of their poetry.