صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

question the infallibility of government; that as to their advice and concurrence, he did not care a whiff of tobacco for either; that he had long been harassed and thwarted by their cowardly councils; but that they might thence forth go home, and go to bed like old women, for he was determined to defend the colony himself, without the assistance of them or their adherents! So saying, he tucked his sword under his arm, cocked his hat upon his head, and girding up his loins, stumped indignantly out of the council-chamber, every body making room for him as he passed, * No sooner had he gone than the busy burgomasters called a public meeting in front of the Stadt-house, where they appointed as chairman one Dofue Roerback, a mighty gingerbread-baker in the land, and formerly of the cabinet of William the Testy. He was looked up to with great reverence by the populace, who considered him a man of dark knowledge, seeing he was the first that imprinted new-year cakes with the mysterious hieroglyphics of the cock and breeches, and such like magical devices.

This great burgomaster, who still chewed the cud of ill will against the valiant Stuyvesant, in consequence of having been ignominiously kicked out of his cabinet at the time of his taking the reins of government, addressed the greasy multitude in what is called a patriotic speech ; in which he informed them of the courteous summons to surrender—of the governor's refusal to comply therewithof his denying the public a sight of the summons, which, he had no doubt, contained conditions highly to the honour and advantage of the province.

He then proceeded to speak of his excellency in high sounding terms, suitable to the dignity and grandeur of his station, comparing him to Nero, Caligula, and those other great men of yore, who are generally quoted by popular orators on similar occasions. Assuring the peo. ple that the history of the world did not contain a despotic outrage to equal the present for atrocity, cruelty, tyranny, and blood-thirstiness; that it would be recorded in letters of fire on the blood stained tablet of history! that ages would roll back with sudden horror, when they came to view it! That the womb of time-(by the way your orators and writers take strange liberties with the womb of time, though some would fain have us believe that time is an old gentleman)—that the womb of time, pregnant as it was with direful horrors, would never produce a parallel enor. mity !-with a variety of other heart-rending, soul-stirring tropes and figures, which I cannot enumerate. Neither, indeed need I, for they were exactly the same that are use in all popular harangues and patriotic orations at the preseni day, and may be classed in rhetoric under the general title of RIGMAROLE.

The speech of this inspired burgomaster being finished, the meeting fell into a kind of popular fermentation, which produced not only a string of right wise resolutions, but likewise a most resolute memorial, addressed to the governor, remonstrating at his conduct; which was no sooner handed to him, than he harded it into the fire; and thus deprived posterity of an invaluable document, that might have served as a precedent to the enlightened cobblers and tailors of the present day; in their sage intermeddlings with politics.

THE WIDOW AND HER SON.

DURING my residence in the country, I used frequently to attend at the old village church. Its shadowy aisles, its mouldering monuments, its dark oaken pannelling, all reverend with the gloom of departed years, seemed to fit it for the haunt of solemn meditation. A Sunday, too, in the country, is so holy in its repose ; such a pensive quiet reigns over the face of nature, that every restless passion is charmed down, and we feel all the natural religion of the soul gently springing up within us.

“Sweet day, so pure, so calm, so bright,

The bridal of the earth and sky." I do not pretend to be what is called a devout man; but there are feelings that visit ine in a country church, amid the beautiful serenity of nature, which I experience no where else; and if not a more religious, I think I am a better man on Sunday, than on any other day of the seven.

But in this church I felt myself continually thrown back upon the world by the frigidity and pomp of the poor worms around me. The only being that seemed thoroughly to feel the humble and prostrate piety of a true Christian, was a poor decrepid old woman, hending under the weight of years and infirmities. She bore the traces of something better than abject poverty. The

lingerings of decent pride were visible in her appearance, Her dress, though humble in the extreme, was scrupulously clean. Some trivial respect, too, had been awarded her, for she did not take her seat among the village poor, but sat alone on the steps of the altar. She seemed to have survived all love, all friendship, all society; and to have nothing left her but the hopes of heaven. When I saw her feebly rising and bending her aged form in prayer-habitually conning her prayer book, which her palšied hand and failing eyes would not permit her to read, but which she evidently knew by heart-I felt persuaded that the faultering voice of that poor woman arose to heaven far before the responses of the clerk, the swell of the organ, or the chanting of the choir,

I am fond of loitering about country churches, and this was so delightfully situated, that it frequently attracted me. It stood on a knoll, round which a small stream made a beautiful bend, and then wound its way through a long reach of soft meadow scenery. The church was surrounded by yew trees which seemed almost coeval with itself. Its tall Gothic spire shot up lightly from among them, with rooks and crows generally wheeling about it. I was seated there one still sunny morning, watching two labourers who were digging a grave. They had chosen one of the most remote and neglected corners of the church-yard; where, from the number of nameless graves around, it would appear that the indigent and friendless were huddled into the earth. I was told that the new made grave was for the only son of a poor widow. While I was meditating on the distinctions of worldly rank, which extend thus down into the very dust, the toll of the bell announced the approach of the funeral. They were the obsequies of poverty, with which pride had nothing to do. A coffin of the plainest materials, without pall or other covering, was borne by some of the villagers. The sexton walked before with an air of cold indifference. There were no mock mourners in the trappings of affected wo; but there was one real mourner who feebly tottered after the corpse. It was the aged mother of the deceased—the poor old woman whom I had seen seated on the steps of the altar. She was supported by a humble friend, who was endeavouring to comfort her. A few of the neighbouring poor had joined the train, and some children of the village were running hand in hand, now shouting with unthink

ing mirth, and now pausing to gaze with childish curio. sity, on the grief of the mourner.

As the funeral train approached the grave, the parson issued from the church porch, arrayed in the surplice, with prayer-book in hand, and attended by the clerk. The service however, was å mere act of charity. The deceased had been destitute, and the surviver was pennyless. It was shuffled through, therefore, in form, but coldly and unfeelingly. The well fed priest moved but a few steps from the church door; his voice could scarcely be heard at the grave; and never did I hear the funeral service, that sublime and touching ceremony, turned into such a frigid mummery of words.

I approached the grave. The coffin was placed on the ground. On it were inscribed the name and age of the deceased“George Sommers, aged 26 years." The poor mother had been assisted to kneel down at the head of it. Her withered hands were clasped, as if in prayer, but I could perceive, by a feeble rocking of the body, and a convulsive motion of the lips, that she was gazing on the last relics of her son, with the yearnings of a mother's heart.

Preparations were made to deposite the coffin into the carth. There was that bustling stir which breaks so harshly on the feelings of grief and affection; directions given in the cold tones of business: the striking of spades into sand and gravel; which, at the grave of those we love, is, of all sounds, the most withering. The bustle around seemed to awaken the mother from a wretched reverie. She raised her glazed eyes, and looked about with a faint wildness. As the men approached with cords to lower the coffin into the grave, she wrung her hands and broke into an agony of grief. The poor woman who attended her took her by the arm, endeavouring to raise her from the earth, and to whisper something like consolation—"Nay, now-nay, now-don't take it so sorely to heart.” She could only shake her head and wring her hands, as one not to be comforted.

As they lowered the body into the earth, the creaking of the cords seemed to agonize her; but when, on some accidental obstruction, there was a jostling of the coffin. all the tenderness of the mother burst forth; as if any harm could come to him who was far beyond the reach of worldly suffering.

I could soe no more-my heart swelled into my throat

-my eyes filled with tears- I felt as if I were acting a barbarous part in standing by and gazing idly on this scene of maternal anguish. I wandered to another part of the church-yard, where I remained until the funeral train had dispersed.

When I saw the mother slowly and painfully quitting the grave, leaving behind her the remains of all that was dear to her on earth, and returning to silence and destitution, my heart ached for her. What, thought I, are the distresses of the rich! they have friends to soothe-pleasures to beguile-a world to divert and dissipate their griefs. What are the sorrows of the young! Their growing minds soon close above the wound-their elastic spirits soon rise above the pressure their green and ductile affections soon twine round new objects. But the sorrows of the poor, who have no outward appliances to soothe the sorrows of the aged, with whom life at best is but a wintry day, and who can look for no aftergrowth of joy—the sorrows of a widow, aged, solitary, destitute, mourning over an only son, the last solace of her years; these are indeed sorrows which make us feel the impotency of consolation.

It was some time before I left the church-yard. On my way homeward I met with the woman who had acted as comforter : she was just returning from accompanying the mother to her lonely' habitation, and I drew from her some particulars connected with the affecting scene I had witnessed.

The parents of the deceased had resided in the village from childhood. They had inhabited one of the neatest cottages, and by various rural occupations, and the assistance of a small garden, bad supported themselves creditably and comfortably, and led a happy and a blameless life.

They had only one son, who had grown up to be the staff and pride of their age."Oh, Sir!" said the good woman, "he was such a comely lad, so sweet-tempered, so kind to every one around him, so dutiful to his parents! It did one's heart goud, to see him of a Sunday, dressed out in his best, so tall, so straight, so cheery, supporting his old mother to church-for she was always fonder of leaning on George's arm, than on her good man's; and, poor soul, she might well be proud of him, for a finer lad there was not in the country round.”

Unfortunately the son was tempted, during a year of scarcity and agricultural hardship to enter into the ser

« السابقةمتابعة »