« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
coffin, may make answer. The dark spade seem its proper adjuncts. And horror of the walking sprite bangs now moreover the parish guilds are heavy on the merry England of the gone, the band of jovial ringers is knightly years, and something of this scattered, for no more may they ring dread links itself to the person of the the bells on the loved (and superstisullen or jibing clown who in many a tious) eves. There is but one of the village wields the sexton's spade. old servants left to the church in the Hence perchance it is that they men- sexton, and as he nowadays ofttimes tion him so little. A sexton, true, there unites with his old functions those of must be in the parish and paid some- the parish clerk, he rises into repute, how or other he must be, generally until at last on one great day in the from the vestry money, though here golden years of the Merry Monarch, and there we find him taking certain the judges of the King's Bench discovfixed dues, as two pennies from each er that he holds his post by a tenure house in the parish. But how they of the same nature as the dread stew. chose him they say not, and the true ard of the Court Leet. No more an character of his office has been a prob- underling or a clown, he is judged in lem hard of solution for our latter day Banco Regis the dignified possessor of Courts of Justice. Was it for the a freehold office, and though the spiritpriest or was it for the wardens to ap- uality may lecture him, as they will, point to him his tasks? How comes it 'tis (save where they can prove a conto pass, that the custom to appoint and trary custom) beyond their power to remove him varies in different par- turn him out. ishes? Why does the office sometimes And for the most part he wears the seem to pass from father to son for honors and the official garb in which he four generations? We cannot say. is now often clad with befitting dig
But probably the work of the poor nity. May be that 'mid the Somerset mediæval clown varied but little from meadows a kindly fairy arranged the that of his modern representative. To fate of that one wicked sexton, just help the wardens to keep order in ser- "pour encourager les autres." He was vice hours, to provide at their behest in truth a bad fellow, and undignified the bread and wine for the altar and withal, that sexton. Round the village the water for the font, to see that the he went singing his doggerel lights are burning, that the bells chime, and the church floor is swept, to open
All life is grass,
And grass is hay; the vaults and to break the sod in
We're here to morrow, God's acre at the bidding of the parish
And gone to-day priest, these have been for four hun. dred years and more the tasks of the until one hour it entered into his parish sexton.
wicked mind to convert to his own He owes much indeed to those Tudor uses the jewels with which a loving changes in things ecclesiastical. From Romeo had bedecked his dead love. a clown and servant he blossoms forth 'Twas dark when this ruffian entered into a grave public official. And this the vault, and darker when his sacri. comes to pass in two ways. The parish legious tools forced the coffin lid, and church under a minister who frowns on his lantern's light flashed on the face church ales, and ever orates on the of the dead. And then did the blue "wrath to come" is no more the blithe. eyes of a swooning Juliet open on the some religious club of yore. 'Tis all deed of sacrilege, did ghostly so gloomy, that the sexton and his fingers clasp his coat tails with an iron
sun or moon and bad luck in the dark.
And where there was sorrow his heart was ever open:
For all the village came to him,
When they had need to call, His counsel free to all was given,
For he was kind to all.
grasp, until he fled in fear and left them in the open coffin? The good wives round the blazing hearth differ in details; but on this they all agree, that in a few brief hours the wretch had buried forever in the village pond his own villainy and his order's shame.
There were after him none others such as he, or at least we hear not of them. Dignified seems the sexton's life and long the sexton's years in the days that glide away betwixt the tea-cups of good Queen Anne, and the country dances of gentle Jane Austen. Thus you read in the old register:
April 30th, 1759. Died Mary Hall, Sexton of Bishophill, aged 105. “She walked about and retained her senses till within three days of her death."
Or again you turn into an old Yorkshire churchyard and decipher on the tomb of a sexton who “departed this life August 3rd, 1769, in his 70th year.
And then he had his hours of meditation. When the fog was rising, and he was alone in the churchyard with the dead, he would rest on his spade and his aged eyes would strangely hover about between that one mound, which his hand had not reared, for it covered the child of his old age, and those three lorn graves, wherein he had laid the poor victims in that one dark village story, that had so shattered the arcadian peace of his days and had made him put such strange questions to the vicar. And as he gazed it would seem as if those three graves gave up their dead, and the poor creatures all came forth again and played their parts once more. And then he looked up and saw the young poet standing before him, and the sorrows of the old heart broke into words:
Forty-eight years strange to tell,
Except that grave, you scarce see one
That was not dug by me,
Than tread upon those three.
And he had given seven thousand bodies to their last rest.
And our Georgian sexton blent the stateliness and loyalty of old-world rank with the grace of humanity. If the days for the Church were dark, if the Methodist preacher was drawing away the flighty folk from their parents' ways, if there was a Jacobin of the London taverns expounding Tom Paine's blasphemies and treasons to the yokels over their ale at the village hostel, there still was the old man at the churchyard, belauding the Book of Common Prayer, smiling gently on those good young women
And the poet listed to the tale and made it immortal.
Alas! the dear old man is now passing away forever.
Our revival upon selfish hygienic grounds of the pagan cemetery leaves him in many a parish an anachronism. And the church has so many new faces about it now, organist, surpliced choirman, acolyte, what not, that the old parish officer scarcely knows the place. And then our legislative destruction of the old parish system has sorely perplexed him and upset his mind.
And worst of all the parson is say. ing:-“It is an unsatisfactory thing to have a sexton at all. You cannot re
Who kept their church, all church days
and cautioning all and sundry that 'twas wicked to tread o'er the graves in
move him, if you wish."
In many a parish they do not in fact appoint him and in many another, where they do, they mock him with their foolish name of "verger.” The newfangled world seems incompetent to understand, or utilize a freehold officer of the parish. The Saturday Review.
They may then get whom they will to dig the graves and do the work and pay them how they will, these new sort of vicars and these impudent parish councillors. His old friend Death has a kindly eye to the parish sexton, and soon shall he live only in history.
ELIZABETH OF BAVARIA.
"Elisabeth de Bavière,” by Constan- that. A certain part of France went tin Christomanos, is as revolting and off its head recently, and has not yet sickening a book as hysterical and de- recovered its mental or moral balance. cadent literature has produced. This
a professor of France, M. indelicate Greek cad, admitted as read- Gabriel Syveton, disgraced publicly for er, travelling companion and teacher of his political frolics in the unterminated Greek, to an intimacy as strange as it Affair, awaiting the joys of a general was inappropriate with the late Em- rising on a level with that of the Boxpress of Austria, shows his apprecia- ers of China, which he and his extration of that injudicious Royal lady's ordinary party fondly aspire to, emfavor by the publication of a perfervid ploys his leisure in translating into litand maudlin volume, supposed to be erary French the unhealthy ravings the tale of their odd relations. When about an unfortunate sovereign lady of we read, towards the end of this hide- an hysterical Hellene. And M. Maurice ous book, that the Empress said to him: Barrès, that apostle of literary black“I can be influenced neither in good guardism, gravely prefaces the treason nor in evil, for I abandon everything in the high, unmelodious French of to my interior voices and to my des- which he rejoices in the secret. tiny. Have you not remarked that I The woman is dead under tragic cirknow more about you than you your- cumstances, and for this reason, if for self do? At a first glance I know what none other, has a claim upon silence men are worth”-we sincerely wish the and respectful sympathy. Her life poor distraught woman, victim of so was not a happy one; her nature was many unprecedented domestic disasters, not a happy one, and she was mistress had possessed in reality the gift she of neither. Members of her family still boasted of, in which case she would live for whom she is a sacred and have shuddered away from such com- private memory. A whole nation has panionship as she deliberately chose in mourned her as empress; a smaller this maundering rascal.
race has loved her as a queen. Are The book is worthily translated and these things of no account to heartless prefaced by two howling Nationalist outsiders? Must the woman and the humbugs. It is a singular fact that sovereign be held, for the world at the Nationalists cannot possibly touch large, as mere matter for the self-adanything they do not lamentably soil, vertisement of a blatant fool like Con. mar, or render ridiculous. I can only stantin Christomanos, as food for the explain it by the supposition that Na- vulgar and the indiscreet? We will tionalism is a form of madness, and admit-poor crowned eccentric, who not a pleasing or interesting one at could not wear her coronet of thorns
without public revolt—that she gave the certitude that I was on the point of herself as a meal to the indiscreet, but seeing appear what my life would hold is that a reason why the decent among
most precious. Suddenly SHE was be
fore me. I felt HER approach, and the us should not feel an ardent desire to sensation of her coming seemed to have kick and maul the poetical M. Christo- sprung within me as long as if I had manos? Even M. Barrès, with his
lived through it hours and years.
SHE was before me, bent a little forfamous cult of his "moi," and his well- ward. Her head was detached upon a known indelicacy of pen, is obliged to background of white parasol radiant
with sunshine, head a quotation from the learned doc
whence started a
kind of vaporous numbus round tor's pages with this significant state
her forehead. In her left hand ment: "You will realize what faults she held a black fan slightly inclined and qualities are those of our guide
to her cheek. Her eyes of clear gold
looked fixedly at me, scanning the feaonly in reading this first page, charm
tures of my visage, animated with the ing in its love of beauty, and in which desire of discovering something there. we recognize a distant brother, all im- Did they find what they sought? Was pregnated with Orientalism, of our
it later that they smiled upon me, or
from the first did they greet me with Julian Sorel." Now Julian Sorel,
those smiling beams? Stendhal's hero of "Rouge et Noir," is
Poor Elizabeth of Bavaria! Whatthe sorriest, the most squalid and un
ever she may have sought in the visage speakable cad of all French literature.
of the modern Hellene, she assuredly In seeking a fit and base comparison,
could have found no trace of the it would be difficult to sink into a low
gentleman. Now a poet, a romancer, er depth of humanity. Here are ex
may write this sort of stuff by the yard tracts from what M. Barrès calls the
when it is a question of a lover and self-revealing page. The Empress de
an anonymous mistress; but for an unsires to learn Greek, and M. Christo
happy dead lady, but yesterday having manos, a young student at Vienna,
won with her blood a niche in history, having been recommended to her, a
to be made the subject of this tastecourt carriage calls at his door to take
less lyricism, is a revolting thought. him to the palace. He awaits the Em
Did she really pose as he makes her, press by order in the Park:
printing “she” and “her” in capital I was filled with unutterable emotion.
letters, as travelling over an unappreAround a bush trembling under the in
ciative universe in dual solitude with numerable gold flowers of the mimosa, Dr. Christomanos? Wherever you hives of bees hummed. All these lit
meet them-at Lainz, Schönnbrum, in tle balls in flower shed with their intoxicating perfume a golden smile. In
Ionian waters, in the paradise of Cortruth, they knew not that they were fu-it is never the Empress of Austria there as much for me as for the bees,
and her surroundings; it is eternally that their glance, their embalmed breath should render for me the hour
Elizabeth of Bavaria talking of her unforgetable as well as give honey to soul and her philosophy of life in the the bees. .. I still feel the ineffable
hushed twilight of dawn, in the glimpoetry of that hour of waiting, which carried me far away from myself to
mer of russet woods, upon a sunlit sea, wards the distant infinite, which pre
along moonlit lawns and shadowy cipitated me in the abysm. So that, glens with the eloquent Dr. Chriswhen I came back to myself, I was the
tomanos. Like Browning's Star, he prey of a strange sensation as if from greenish and crepuscular depths of the
would have us believe that she opened sea a powerful wave had cast me upon her heart to him, and we feel sorrier a land foreign and unknown to the land
for Elizabeth of Bavaria than a little of life. And while I waited there my
while ago. heart was more and more filled with The Academy.