Page images

to rush upon death; for, with another volunteer who attended the expedition, he threw himself into the surf, in order to be the first Briton of the expedition who should set foot upon Java. When the success of the well-concerted movements of the invaders had given them possession of the town of Batavia, Leyden displayed the same ill-omened precipitation, in his haste to examine a library, or rather a warehouse of books, in which many Indian manuscripts of value were said to be deposited. library, in a Dutch settlement, was not, as might have been expected, in the best order; the apartment had not been regularly ventilated, and, either from this circumstance, or already affected by the fatal sickness peculiar to Batavia, Leyden, when he left the place, had a fit of shivering, and declared the atmosphere was enough to give any mortal a fever. The presage was too just; he took his bed, and died in three days, on the eve of the battle which gave Java to the British empire.

Thus died John Leyden, in the moment, perhaps, most calculated to gratify the feelings which were dear to his heart; upon the very day of military glory, and when every avenue of new and interesting discovery was opened to his penetrating reo search. In the emphatie words of scripture, the bowl was broken at the fountain. His literary preve

perty was intrusted by his last will to the charge of Mr Heber, and his early and constant friend Mr William Erskine of Calcutta, his executors, under whose inspection his Poetical Remains were given to the public in 1821, with a Memoir of his Life by the Rev. Robert Morton, the friend and relation of the deceased poet. Acquiescing in the sentiment by which it is introduced, it is not easy to resist transcribing from that piece of biography the following affecting passage :

“ The writer cannot here resist his desire to relate an anecdote of Leyden's father, who, though in a humble walk of life, is ennobled by the possession of an intelligent mind, and has all that just pride which characterizes the industrious and virtuous class of Scottish peasantry to which he belongs. Two years ago, when Sir John Malcolm visited the seat of Lord Minto, in Roxburghshire, he requested that John Leyden, who was employed in the vicinity, might be sent for, as he wished to speak with him. He came after the labour of the day was finished, and, though his feelings were much agitated, he appeared rejoiced to see one who he knew had cherished so sincere a regard for his son. In the course of the conversation which took place on this occasion, Sir J. Malcolm, after mentioning his regret at the unavoidable delays which

had occurred in realizing the little property that had been left, said he was authorized by Mr Heber (to whom all Leyden's English manuscripts had been bequeathed) to say, that such as were likely to produce a profit should be published as soon as possible, for the benefit of the family. Sir,' said the old man with animation, and with tears in his eyes, God blessed me with a son, who, had he been spared, would have been an honour to his country! As it is, I beg of Mr Heber, in any publication he may intend to think more of his memory than my wants. The money you speak of would be a great comfort to me in my old age; but thanks to the Almighty, I have good health, and can still earn my livelihood ; and I pray therefore of you and Mr Heber to publish nothing that is not for my son's good fame.'”

Since that period the Commentaries of Baber, translated from the Turki language, chiefly by Dr Leyden, and completed by his friend and executor, William Erskine, were published, in 1826, for the advantage of Mr Leyden, senior. It is a work of great interest to those who love the study of Indian antiquities, being the auto-biography of one of the Mogul Emperors of Hindustan, who, like Cæsar, recorded his own conquests, but, more communicative than the Roman, descended to record his

[ocr errors]

amusements, as well as to relate deeds of policy and arms.

He recapitulates his drinking bouts, which were, in spite of Koran and Prophet, both deep and frequent; and the whole tenor of the History gives us the singular picture of a genuine Sultan of the ancient Tartar descent, in his strength and his weakness, his virtues, his follies, and his crimes.

The remains of John Leyden, honoured with every respect by Lord Minto, now repose in a distant land, far from the green-sod graves of his ancestors at Hazeldean, to which, with a natural anticipation of such an event, he bids an affecting farewell in the solemn passage which concludes the Scenes of Infancy:

The silver moon, at midnight cold and still,
Looks, sad and silent, o'er yon western hill;
While large and pale the ghostly structures grow,
Rear'd on the confines of the world below.
Is that dull sound the hum of Teviot's stream ?
Is that blue light the moon's, or tomb-fire's gleam,
By which a mouldering pile is faintly seen,
The old deserted church of Hazeldean,
Where slept my fathers in their natal clay,
Till Teviot's waters roll’d their bones away?
Their feeble voices from the stream they raise, --
“ Rash youth I unmindful of thy early days,
Why didst thou quit the peasant's simple lot ?
Why didst thou leave the peasant’s turf-built cot,
The ancient graves, where all thy fathers lie,
And Teviot's stream, that long has murmured by ?

And we—when Death so long has closed our eyes,
How wilt thou bid us from the dust arise,
And bear our mouldering bones across the main,
From vales, that knew our lives devoid of stain ?
Rash youth ! beware, thy home-bred virtues save,
And sweetly sleep in thy paternal grave!"

Such is the language of nature, moved by the kindly associations of country and of kindred affections. But the best epitaph is the story of a life engaged in the practice of virtue and the pursuit of honourable knowledge; the best monument, the regret of the worthy and of the wise; and the rest may be summed up in the sentiment of Sannazario :

Haeccine te fessum tellus extrema manebat
Hospitij post tot terræque marisque labores ?
Pone tamen gemitus, nec te monumenta parentum
Aut moveant sperata tuis tibi funera regnis ;
Grata quies patriæ, sed et omnis terra sepulchrum.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »