« السابقةمتابعة »
thoroughly to feel the humble and prostrate piety of a true Christian, was a poor decrepit old woman, bending 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 palsied hand and failing eyes could not permit her to read, but which she evidently knew by heart; I felt persuaded that the faltering 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
churchyard, where, by the number of nameless graves
old woman whom I had seen seated on the steps of the altar. She was supported by an humble friend, who was endeavouring to comfort her. A few of the neighbouring poor had joined the train, and some childrei of the village were running hand in hand, now shouting with unthinking mirth, and now pausing to gaze, with childish curiosity, 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 in clerk. The service, however, was a mere act of charity. The deceased had been destitute, and the survivor 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
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 Somers, 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 deposit the coffin in the earth. There was that bustling stir, which breaks so harshly on the feelings of grief and affection : direc: tions 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 waken the mother from a wretched reverie. She raised her glazed eyes, and looked about with a faint wildness. As the men ap: proached 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, endeavoured 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 creak
ing 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 see 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 churchyard, 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 al} 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 beneath the pressure--their green and ductile aflections soon twine around 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 after-growth 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 churchyard. On my way homeward, I met with the woman who had. acted as comforter: she was just returning from accompanying her 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, had supported themselves creditably and comfortably, and led a hap. py and a blameless life. They had 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 good to see him of a Sunday, drest out in his best, so tall, so straight, so cheery, supporting bis 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 service of one of the small craft that plied on a neighbouring river. He had not been long in this employ, when he was entrapped by a press-gang, and carried off to sea. His parents received tidings of his seizure, but beyond that they could learn nothing. It was the loss of their main prop. The father, who was already infirm, grew heartless and melancholy, and sunk into his grave. The widow, left lonely in her age and feebleness, could no longer support her