Favorite authors in prose and poetry online

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COME, I will sing you some low, sleepy tune,
Not cheerful, nor yet sad ; some dull old thing
Some outworn and unused monotony,
Such as our country gossips sing and spin,
Till they almost forget they live : lie down !
So ; that will do. Have I forgot the words ?
Faith ! they are sadder than I thought they wer


False friend, wilt thou smile or weep
When my life is laid asleep ?
Little cares for a smile or a tear
The clay-cold corpse upon the bier ;

Farewell! Heigh-ho!

What is this whispers low ?
There is a snake in thy smile, my dear
And bitter poison within thy tear.

Sweet sleep ! were death like to thee,
Or if thou couldst mortal be,
I would close these eyes of pain ;
When to wake ? Never again.

O World ! farewell !

Listen to the passing bell !
It says, thou and I must part,
With a light and a heavy heart



TO him who, in the love of Nature, holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language : for his gayer hours
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
And eloquence of beauty ; and she glides
Into his darker musings with a mild
And gentle sympathy, that steals away
Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts
Of the last bitter hour come like a blight
Over thy spirit, and sad images
Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,
And breathless darkness, and the narrow house.
Make thee 'to shudder, and grow sick at heart,
Go forth under the open sky, and list
To Nature's teachings, while from all around
Earth and her waters, and the depths of air
Comes a still voice, Yet a few days, and thee
The all-beholding sun shall see no more
In all his course ; nor yet in the cold ground,
Where thy pale form was laid, with many tears,
Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist
Thy image. Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim
Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again ;
And, lost each human trace, surrendering up


Thine individual being, shalt thou go

To mix forever with the elements ;

To be a brother to the insensible rock,

And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain

Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak

Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould.

Yet not to thine eternal resting-place
Shalt thou retire alone, nor couldst thou wish
Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down
With patriarchs of the infant world, with kings,
The powerful of the earth, the wise, the good.
Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past,
All in one mighty sepulchre. The hills,
Rock-ribbed, and ancient as the sun ; the vales
Stretching in pensive quietness between ;
The venerable woods; rivers that move
In majesty, and the complaining brooks,
That make the meadows green ; and, poured round all,
Old ocean's gray and melancholy waste,
Are but the solemn decorations all
Of the great tomb of man ! The golden sun,
The planets, all the infinite host of heaven,
Are shining on the sad abodes of death,
Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread
The globe are but a handful to the tribes
That slumber in its bosom. Take the wings
Of morning, traverse Barca's desert sands,
Or lose thyself in the continuous woods
Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound
Save his own dashings, yet the dead are there !
And millions in those solitudes, since first
The flight of years began, have laid them down
In their last sleep, the dead reign there alone !
So shalt thou rest ; and what if thou withdraw


In silence from the living, and no friend
Take note of thy departure ? All that breathe
Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh
When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care
Plod on, and each one, as before, will chase
His favorite phantom ; yet all these shall leave
Their mirth and their employments, and shall come
And make their bed with thee. As the long train
Of ages glide away, the sons of men
The youth in life's green spring, and he who goes
In the full strength of years, matron and maid,
And the sweet babe, and the gray-headed man
Shall, one by one, be gathered to thy -side
By those who in their turn shall follow them.

So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan that moves
To the pale realms of shade, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained ami 1 auulhud
Span 'unfaltering trust, approach thy grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

: : UC -(T^ S*r*~*-



'Good Company .... well approved in all."



JOHN G. WHITTIER: Yankee Gypsies ... 1


THOMAS CARLYLE : Cromwell 19

T. WESTWOOD: Little Bell 86

ROSE TERRY : The Mormon's Wife .... 89

JOHN GIBSON LOCKHART : Beyond .... 109

JOHN MILTON : Autobiographical Passages . . . 110
WILLIAM ALLINGHAM : Wakening . . . .117

EDMUND LODGE : John Graham . . . . 118


Dundee 128

GOETHE : Mignon as an Angel . . . . . 134

MRS. GASKELL: The Cage at Cranford. . . .136

EDMUND SPENSER : Verses on Sir Philip Sidney . 150

GEORGE TICKNOR : Prescott's Infirmity of Sight . .152

DANTE: Beatrice 168



ROBERT SOUTHEY: A Love Story . . . .170

BAYARD TAYLOR : The Mystic Summer ... 236

MRS. JAMESON : Two of the Old Masters . . .239

FREDERICK TENNYSON: The Poet's Heart . . 261

GIORGIO VASARI : Character of Fra Angelico . .265


J. HAIN FRISWELL: Upon Growing Old . . .277

R. W. EMERSON: The Titmouse . . . . 284

NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE : Little Pansie . . . 288

H. W. LONGFELLOW: Palingenesis .... 305

WASHINGTON IRVING : Rip Van Winkle . . . 308



" Here 's to budgets, packs, and wallets ,
Here's to all the wandering train." BURNS.

I CONFESS it, I am keenly sensitive to " skyey influ-
ences." I profess no indifference to the movements of
that capricious old gentleman known as the clerk of the
weather. I cannot conceal my interest in the behavior of
that patriarchal bird whose wooden similitude gyrates on
the church spire. Winter proper is well enough. Let the
thermometer go to zero if it will ; so much the better, if
thereby the very winds are frozen and unable to flap their
stiff wings. Sounds of bells in the keen air, clear, musical,
heart-inspiring; quick tripping of fair moccasoned feet on
glittering ice-pavements ; bright eyes glancing above the
uplifted muff like a sultana's behind the folds of her yash-
mack\ school-boys coasting down street like mad Green-
landers; the cold brilliance of oblique sunbeams flashing
back from wide surfaces of glittering snow or blazing upon
ice-jewelry of tree and roof. There is nothing in all this to
complain of. A storm of summer has its redeeming sublim-
ities, its slow, upheaving mountains of cloud glooming in
the western horizon like new-created volcanoes, veined with
fire, shattered by exploding thunders. Even the wild gales
of the equinox have their varieties, sounds of wind-shaken
woods, and waters, creak and clatter of sign and casement,

1 A


hurricane puffs and down-rushing rain-spouts. But this
dull, dark autumn day of thaw and rain, when the very
clouds. seom too spiritless and languid to storm outright or
take themselves out of the way of fair weather; wet beneath
and above, reminding one of that ray less atmosphere of
Dante's Thiid Circle, where the infernal Priessnitz admin-
isters his hydropathic torment,

" A heavy, cursed, and relentless drench,
The land it soaks is putrid " ;

or rather, as everything, animate and inanimate, is seething
in warm mist, suggesting the idea that Nature, grown old
and rheumatic, is trying the efficacy of a Thompsonian
sieam-box on a grand scale ; no sounds save the heavy plash
of muddy feet on the pavements ; the monotonous, melan-
choly drip from trees and roofs ; the distressful gurgling of
water-ducts, swallowing the dirty amalgam of the gutters ; a
dim, leaden-colored horizon of only a few yards in diameter,
shutting down about one, beyond which nothing is visible
save in faint line or dark projection ; the ghost of a church
spire or the eidolon of a chimney-pot. He who can extract
pleasurable emotions from the alembic of such a day has a
trick of alchemy with which I am wholly unacquainted.

Hark ! a rap at my door. Welcome anybody just now.
One gains nothing by attempting to shut out the sprites of
the weather. They come in at the keyhole ; they peer
through the dripping panes ; they insinuate themselves
through the crevices of the casement, or plump down chim-
ney astride of the rain-drops.

I rise and throw open the door. A tall, shambling, loose-
jointed figure ; a pinched, shrewd face, sunbrown and wind-
dried ; small, quick-winking black eyes. There he stands,
the water dripping from his pulpy hat and ragged elbows.

I speak to him ; but he returns no answer. With a
dumb show of misery quite touching he hands me a soiled


piece of parchment, whereon I read what purports to be a
melancholy account of shipwreck and disaster, to the par-
ticular detriment, loss, and damnification of one Pietro
Frugoni, who is, in consequence, sorely in want of the alms
of all charitable Christian persons, and who is, in short, the
bearer of this veracious document, duly certified and in-
dorsed by an Italian consul in one of our Atlantic cities, of a
high-sounding, but to Yankee organs unpronounceable, name.

Here commences a struggle. Every man, the Mahome-
tans tell us, has two attendant angels, the good one on his
right shoulder, the bad on his left. " Give," says Benevo-
lence, as with some difficulty I fish up a small coin from the
depths of my pocket. " Not a cent," says selfish Prudence ;
and I drop it from my fingers. " Think," says the good an-
gel, "of the poor stranger in a strange land, just escaped
from the terrors of the sea storm, in which his little prop-
erty has perished, thrown half naked and helpless on our
shores, ignorant of our language, and unable to find employ-
ment suited to his capacity." " A vile impostor ! " replies
the left-hand sentinel. " His paper, purchased from one of
those ready writers in New York who manufacture beggar
credentials at the low price of one dollar per copy, with
earthquakes, fires, or shipwrecks, to suit customers."

Amidst this confusion of tongues I take another survey
of my visitant. Ha ! a light dawns upon me. That
shrewd, old face, with its sharp, winking eyes, is no stran-
ger to me. Pietro Frugoni, I have seen thee before. Si,
signor, that face of thine has looked at me over a dirty white
neckcloth, with the corners of that cunning mouth drawn
downwards, and those small eyes turned up in sanctimonious
gravity, while thou wast offering to a crowd of half-grown
boys an extemporaneous exhortation in the capacity of a
travelling preacher. Have I not seen it peering out from
under a blanket, as that of a poor Penobscot Indian who had
lost the use of his hands while trapping on the Madawaska ?


Is it not the face of the forlorn father of six small childrer,
whom the " marcury doctors " had " pisened " and crippled ?
Did it not belong to that down-east unfortunate who had
been out to the " Genesee country " and got the " fevern-
nager," and whose hand shook so pitifully when held out to
receive my poor gift ? The same, under all disguises
Stephen Leathers, of Barrington him, and none other!
Let me conjure him into his own likeness:

" Well, Stephen, what news from old Barrington ? "

" O, well I thought I knew ye," he answers, not the least
disconcerted. " How do you do ? and how 's your folks ?
All well, I hope. I took this 'ere paper you see, to help a
poor furriner, who could n't make himself understood any
more than a wild goose. I thought I 'd just start him for-
'ard a little. It seemed a marcy to do it."

Well and shiftily answered, thou ragged Proteus. One
cannot be angry with such a fellow. I will just inquire into
the present state of his Gospel mission and about the condi-
tion of his tribe on the Penobscot ; and it may be not amiss
to congratulate him on the success of the steam doctors in
sweating the "pisen" of the regular faculty out of him.
But he evidently has no wish to enter into idle conversation.
Intent upon his benevolent errand, he is already clattering
down stairs. Involuntarily I glance out of the window just
in season to catch a single glimpse of him ere he is swal-
lowed up in the mist.

He has gone ; and, knave as he is, I can hardly help ex-
claiming, "Luck go with him!" He has broken in upon
the sombre train of my thoughts and called up before me
pleasant and grateful recollections. The old farm-house
nestling in its valley ; hills stretching off to the south and
green meadows to the east ; the small stream which came
noisily down its ravine, washing the old garden wall and
softly lapping on fallen stones and mossy roots of beeches
and hemlocks ; the tall sentinel poplars at the gateway ; the


oak forest, sleeping unbroken to the northern horizon ; the
grass-grown carriage-path, with its rude and crazy bridge,
the dear old landscape of my boyhood lies outstretched be-
fore me like a daguerrotype from that picture within which
I have borne with me in all my wanderings. I am a boy
again, once more conscious of the feeling, half terror, half
exultation, with which I used to announce the approach of
this very vagabond and his " kindred after the flesh."

The advent of wandering beggars, or, " old stragglers," as
we were wont to call them, was an event of no ordinary in-
terest in the generally monotonous quietude of our farm life.
Many of them were well known ; they had their periodical
revolutions and transits ; we could calculate them like eclipses
or new moons. Some were sturdy knaves, fat and saucy ;
and, whenever they ascertained that the " men folks " were
absent, would order provisions and cider like men who
expected to pay for it, seating themselves at the hearth or
table with the air of Falstaff, " Shall I not take mine ease
in mine own inn ? " Others, poor, pale, patient, like Sterne's
monk, came creeping up to the door, hat in hand, standing
there in their gray wretchedness with a look of heartbreak
and forlornness which was never without its effect on our
juvenile sensibilities. At times, however, we experienced a
slight revulsion of feeling when even these humblest chil-
dren of sorrow somewhat petulantly rejected our proffered
bread and cheese, and demanded instead a glass of cider.
"Whatever the temperance society might in such cases have
done, it was not in our hearts to refuse the poor creatures a
draught of their favorite beverage ; and was n't it a satisfac-
tion to see their sad, melancholy faces light up as we handed
them the full pitcher, and, on receiving it back empty from
their brown, wrinkled hands, to hear them, half breathless
from their long, delicious draught, thanking us for the favor,
as " dear, good children " 1 Not unfrequently these wander-
ing tests of our benevolence made their appearance in inter-


esting groups of man, woman, and child, picturesque in their
squalidness, and manifesting a maudlin affection which would
have done honor to the revellers at Poosie-Nansie's, immor-
tal in the cantata of Burns. I remember some who were
evidently the victims of monomania haunted and hunted
by some dark thought possessed by a fixed idea. One, a
black-eyed, wild-haired woman, with a whole tragedy of sin,
shame, and suffering written in her countenance, used often
to visit us, warm herself by our winter fire, and supply her-
self with a stock of cakes and cold meat ; but was never
known to answer a question or to ask one. She never
smiled ; the cold, stony look of her eye never changed ; a si-
lent, impassive face, frozen rigid by some great wrong or sin.
We used to look with awe upon the "still woman," and
think of the demoniac of Scripture who had a " dumb spirit."
One I think I see him now, grim, gaunt, and ghastly,
working his slow way up to our door used to gather herbs
by the wayside and call himself doctor. He was bearded
like a he-goat and used to counterfeit lameness, yet, when he
supposed himself alone, would travel on lustily as if walking
for a wager. At length, as if in punishment of his deceit,
he met with an accident in his rambles and became lame in
earnest, hobbling ever after with difficulty on his gnarled
crutches. Another used to go stooping, like Bunyan's pil-
grim, under a pack made of an old bed sacking, stuffed out
into most plethoric dimensions, tottering on a pair of email,
meagre legs, and peering out with his wild, hairy face from
under his burden like a big-bodied spider. That " man with
the pack" always inspired me with awe and reverence.
Huge, almost .suUime, in its tense rotundity, the father of
all packs, never laid aside and never opened, what might
there not be within it ? With what flesh-creeping curiosity
I used to walk round about it at a safe distance, half expect-
ing to see its striped covering stirred by the motions of a
mysterious life, or that some evil monster would leap out of


it, like robbers from All Baba's jars or armed men from the
Trojan horse !

There was another class of peripatetic philosophers
half peddler, half mendicant who were in the habit of
visiting us. One we recollect, a lame, unshaven, sinister-
eyed, unwholesome fellow, with his basket of old news-
papers and pamphlets, and his tattered blue umbrella, serv-
ing rather as a walking-staff than as a protection from the
rain. He told us on one occasion, in answer to our inquir-
ing into the cause of his lameness, that when a young man
he was employed on the farm of the chief magistrate of a
neighboring State ; where, as his ill luck would have it, the
governor's handsome daughter fell in love with him. He
was caught one day in the young lady's room by her father ;
whereupon the irascible old gentleman pitched him uncere-
moniously out of the window, laming him for life, on the
brick pavement below, like Vulcan on the rocks of Lemnos.
As for the lady, he assured us " she took on dreadfully about
it." "Did she die?" we inquired anxiously. There was a
cunning twinkle in the old rogue's eye as he responded,
" Well, no, she did n't. She got married."

Twice a year, usually hi the spring and autumn, we were
honored with a call from Jonathan Plummer, maker of
verses, pecller and poet, physician and parson, a Yankee
troubadour, first and last minstrel of the valley of the
Merrimac, encircled, to my wondering young eyes, with the
very nimbus of immortality. He brought with him phis,
needles, tape, and cotton thread for my mother; jackknives,
razors, and soap for my father ; and verses of his own com-
posing, coarsely printed and illustrated with rude woodcuts,
for the delectation of the younger branches of the family.
No lovesick youth could drown himself, no deserted maiden
bewail the moon, no rogue mount the gallows without fitting
memorial in Pluinmer's verses. Earthquakes, fires, fevers,
and shipwrecks he regarded as personal favors from Provi-


dence, furnishing the raw material of song and ballad.
Welcome to us in our country seclusion as Autolycus to the
clown in Winter's Tale, we listened with infinite satisfaction
to his readings of his own verses, or to his ready improvisa-
tion upon some domestic incident or topic suggested by his
auditors. When once fairly over the difficulties at the out-
set of a new subject his rhymes flowed freely, " as if he had
eaten ballads and all men's ears grew to his tunes." His
productions answered, as nearly as I can remember, to
Shakespeare's description of a proper ballad "doleful
matter merrily set down, or a very pleasant theme sung
lamentably." He was scrupulously conscientious, devout,
inclined to theological disquisitions, and withal mighty in
Scripture. He was thoroughly independent ; flattered no-
body, cared for nobody, trusted nobody. When invited to
sit down at our dinner-table, he invariably took the precau-
tion to place his basket of valuables between his legs for
safe keeping. "Never mind thy basket, Jonathan," said
my father ; " we sha' n't steal thy verses." " I 'm not sure
of that," returned the suspicious guest. " It is written,
4 Trust ye not in any brother.' "

Thou too, O Parson B., with thy pale student's brow
and rubicund nose, with thy rusty and tattered black coat
overswept by white, flowing locks, with thy professional
white neckcloth scrupulously preserved when even a shirt
to thy back was problematical, art by no means to be
ove rlooked in the muster-roll of vagrant gentlemen possess-
ing the entree of our farm-house. Well do we remember
with what grave and dignified courtesy he used to step over
its threshold, saluting its inmates with the same air of gra-
cious condescension and patronage with which in better
days he had delighted the hearts of his parishioners. Poor
old man ! He had once been the admired and almost wor-
shipped minister of the largest church in the town where
he afterwards found support in the winter season as a pau-


per He had early fallen into intemperate habits ; and at
the age of threescore and ten, when I remember him, he
was only sober when he lacked the means of being other-
wise. Drunk or sober, however, he never altogether forgot
the proprieties of his profession ; he was always grave,
decorous, and gentlemanly ; he held fast the form of sound
words, and the weakness of the flesh abated nothing of the
rigor of his stringent theology. He had been a favorite
pupil of the learned and astute Emmons, and was to the
last a sturdy defender of the peculiar dogmas of his school.
The last time we saw him he was holding a meeting in our
district school-house, with a vagabond pedler for deacon
and travelling companion. The tie which united the ill-
assorted couple was doubtless the same which endeared
Tarn O'Shanter to the souter :

" They had been fou for weeks thegither."

He took for his text the first seven verses of the concluding
chapter of Ecclesiastes, furnishing in himself its fitting
illustration. The evil days had come ; the keepers of the
house trembled; the windows of life were darkened. A
few months later the silver cord was loosened, the golden
bowl was broken, and between the poor old man and the
temptations which beset him fell the thick curtains of the

One day we had a call from a " pawky auld carle " of a
wandering Scotchman. To him I owe my first introduction
to the songs of Burns. After eating his bread and cheese
and drinking his mug of cider he gave us Bonnie Doou,
Highland Mary, and Auld Lang Syne. He had a ri sh, full
voice, and entered heartily into the spirit of his lyrics. I
have since listened to the same melodies from the lips of
Dempster (than whom the Scottish bard has had no
sweeter or truer interpreter) ; but the skilful performance
of the artist lacked the novel charm of the gaberlunzie's


singing in the old farm-house kitchen. Another wanderer
made us acquainted with the humorous old ballad of " Our
gude man cam hame at e'en." He applied for supper and
lodging, and the next morning was set at work splitting
stones in the pasture. While thus engaged the village
doctor came riding along the highway on his fine, spirited
horse, and stopped to talk with my father. The fellow
eyed the animal attentively, as if familiar with all his good
points, and hummed over a stanza of the old poem :

" Our gude man cam hame at e'en,

And hame cam he ;
And there he saw a saddle horse

Where nae horse should be.
How cam this horse here *

How can it be ?
How cam this horse here

Without the leave of me * '
' A horse ? ' quo she.
' Ay, a horse/ quo he.
1 Ye auld fool, ye blind fool,

And blinder might ye be,
'T is naething but a milking cow

My mamma sent to me.'
A milch cow ? ' quo he.
Ay, a milch cow/ quo she.
Weel, far hae I ridden,

And muckle hae I seen ;
But milking cows wi' saddles on

Saw I never nane.' "

That very night the rascal decamped, taking with him
the doctor's horse, and was never after heard of.

Often, in the gray of the morning, we used to see one or
more " gaberluuzie men," pack on shoulder and staff in
hand, emerging from the barn or other out-building where
they had passed the night. I was once sent to the bam to

Online Libraryi00bostFavorite authors in prose and poetry → online text (page 43 of 66)