Page images
PDF
EPUB

1

THE STARLING-CAPTIVITY.

[merged small][ocr errors]

And as for the Bastile, the terror is in the word. Make the most of it you can, said I to myself, the Bastile is but another word for a tower, and a tower is but another word for a house you can't get out of. Mercy on the gouty! for they are in it twice a year; but with nine livres a day, and

pen,

and ink, and paper, and patience, albeit a man can't get out, he may do very well within, at least for a month or six weeks; at the end of which, if he is a harmless fellow, his innocence appears, and he comes out a better and wiser man than he went in.

I had some occasion (I forget what) to step into the court-yard as I settled this account; and remember I walked down stairs in no small triumph with the conceit of my reasoning. Beshrew the sombre pencil ! said I vauntingly, for I envy not its powers which paints the evils of life with so hard and deadly a colouring. The mind sits terrified at the objects she has magnified herself and blackened : reduce them to their proper size and hue, she overlooks them. 'Tis true, said I, correcting the proposition, the Bastile is not an evil to be despised ; but strip it of its towers, fill up the fosse, unbarricade the doors, call it simply a confinement, and suppose 'tis some tyrant of a distemper and not of a man which holds you in it, the evil vanishes, and you

bear the other half without complaint. I was interrupted in the heyday of this soliloquy with a voice which I took to be of a child, which complained “ it could not get out." I looked up and down the passage, and seeing neither man, woman, nor child, I went out without further attention. In my return back through the passage, I heard the same words repeated twice over; and looking up,

I saw it was a starling hung in a little cage ; “I can't get out, I can't get out,” said the starling. I stood looking at the bird; and to every person who came through the passage, it ran fluttering to the side towards which they approached it, with the same lamentation of its captivity—“I can't get out,” said the starling. God help thee ! said but I'll let thee out, cost what it will ; so I turned about the cage to get the door. It was twisted and double twisted so fast with wire there was no getting it open without pulling the cage to pieces. I took both hands to it. The bird flew to the place where I was attempting his deliverance, and thrusting his head through the trellis, pressed his breast against it as if impatient ; I fear, poor creature, said I, I cannot set thee at liberty. “No," said the starling, “I can't get out; I can't get out,” said the starling. I vow I never had my affections more tenderly awakened; or do I remember an incident in my life where the dissipated spirits, to which my reason had been a bubble, were so suddenly called home. Mechanical as the notes were, yet so true in tune to nature were they chanted, that in one moment they overthrew all my systematic reasonings upon the Bastile ; and I heavily walked up stairs, unsaying every word I had said in going down them.

Disguise thyself as thou wilt, still Slavery, said I, still thou art a bitter draught; and though thousands in all ages have been made to drink of thee, thou art no less bitter on that account. 'Tis thou, thrice sweet and gracious goddess, addressing myself to Liberty, whom all in public or in private worship, whose taste is grateful, and ever will be so, till nature herself shall change; no tint of words can spot thy snowy mantle, or chemic power turn thy sceptre into iron ; with thee to smile

him he eats his crust, the swain is happier than his

upon

as

monarch, from whose court thou art exiled. Gracious Heaven ! cried I, kneeling down upon the last step but one in my ascent, grant me but health, thou great bestower of it, and give me but this fair goddess as my companion, and shower down thy mitres, if it seem good unto thy divine providence, upon those heads which are aching for them.

The bird in his cage pursued me into my room. I sat down close to my table, and leaning my head upon my hand, I began to figure to myself the miseries of confinement. I was in a right frame for it, and so I gave full scope to my imagination. I was going to begin with the millions of my fellowcreatures born to no inheritance but slavery; but finding, however affecting the picture was, that I could not bring it near me, and that the multitude of sad groups in it did but distract me, I took a single captive, and having first shut him up in his dungeon, I then looked through the twilight of his grated door to take his picture. I beheld his body half-wasted away with long expectation and confinement, and felt what kind of sickness of the heart it was which arises from hope deferred. Upon looking nearer, I saw him pale and feverish, in thirty years the western breeze had not once fanned his blood; he had seen no sun, no moon, in all that time, nor had the voice of friend or kinsman breathed through his lattice; his childrenbut here my heart began to bleed, and I was forced to go on with another part of the portrait. He was sitting upon the ground upon a little straw, in the furthest corner of his dungeon, which was alternately his chair and bed : a little calendar of small sticks lay at the head, notched all over with the dismal days and nights he had passed there; he had one of these little sticks in his hand, and with a rusty nail he was etching another day of misery to add to the heap. As I darkened the little light he had, he lifted up a hopeless eye towards the door, then cast it down, shook his head, and went on with his work of affliction. I heard his chains upon his legs as he turned his body to lay his little stick upon the bundle. He gave a deep sigh; I saw the iron enter into his soul. I burst into tears; I could not sustain the picture of confinement which my fancy had drawn.

Sterne's Sentimental Journey.

Bishop Latimer, speaking of the clergy, says, “Now I will ask you a strange question. Who is the most diligent bishop and prelate in all England, that passeth all the rest in doing office ? I can tell, for I know who it is, I know him well. But now I think I see you listening and hearkening, that I should name him. There is one that passeth all the other, and is the most diligent prelate and preacher in all England : and will ye know who it is? I will tell you.- It is the devil. He is the most diligent preacher of all other;

he is never out of his diocese ; he is never from his cure; he is ever in his parish; there was never such a preacher in England as he. In the mean time, the prelates take their pleasure ; they are lords, and no labourers : therefore, ye unpreaching prelates, learn of the devil to be diligent in doing of your office. Learn of the devil, if you will not learn of God and good men ; learn of the devil, I say."— Bishop Latimer's Plough Sermon, 1548.

HOSTILE CRITICS.

Get your enemies to read your works, in order to mend them; for your friend is so much your secondself, that he will judge, too, like you.-Pope.

A PARENTAL ODE TO MY SON,

AGED THREE YEARS AND FIVE MONTHS.

Thou happy, happy elf! (But stop-first let me kiss away that tear)

Thou tiny image of myself! (My love, he's poking peas into his ear)

Thou merry, laughing sprite !

With spirits feather light, Untouched by sorrow, and unsoiled by sin, (Good heavens ! the child is swallowing a pin !)

Thou little tricksy Puck ! With antic toys so funnily bestuck, Light as the singing bird that wings the air, (The door ! the door! he'll tumble down the stair !)

Thou darling of thy sire !
(Why, Jane, he'll set his pinafore afire?)

Thou imp of mirth and joy !
In love's dear chain so strong and bright a link,
Thou idol of thy parents (Drat the boy !

There goes my ink !)

Thou cherub—but of earth ;
Fit play fellow for Fays by moonlight pale,

In harmless sport and mirth,
(That dog will bite him if he pulls its tail !)
Thou human humming-bee, extracting honey
From every blossom in the world that blows,
Singing in youth's Elysium ever sunny,
(Another tumble—that's his precious nose !)

Thy father's pride and hope ! (He'll break the mirror with that skipping-rope !) With pure heart newly stamped from nature's mint,

(Where did he learn that squint ?)

[ocr errors]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »