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fodder the cattle late in the evening, and, climbing into the


mow to pitch down hay for that purpose, I was startled by
the sudden apparition of a man rising up before me, just
discernible in the dim moonlight streaming through the
seams of the boards. I made a rapid retreat down the lad-
der ; and was only reassured by hearing the object of my
terror calling after me, and recognizing his voice as that of
a harmless old pilgrim whom I had known before. Our
farm-house was situated in a lonely valley, half surrounded
with woods, with no neighbors in sight. One dark, cloudy
night, when our parents chanced to be absent, we were sit-
ting with our aged grandmother in the fading light of the
kitchen fire, working ourselves into a very satisfactory state
of excitement and terror by recounting to each other all the
dismal stories we could remember of ghosts, witches,
haunted houses, and robbers, when we were suddenly start-
led by a loud rap at the door. A stripling of fourteen, I
was very naturally regarded as the head of the household ;
so, with many misgivings, I advanced to the door, which I
slowly opened, holding the candle tremulously above my
head and peering out into the darkness. The feeble glim-
mer played upon the apparition of a gigantic horseman,
mounted on a steed of a size worthy of such a rider
colossal, motionless, like images cut out of the solid night.
The strange visitant gruffly saluted me ; and, after making
several ineffectual efforts to urge his horse in at the door,
dismounted and followed me into the room, evidently enjoy-
ing the terror which his huge presence excited. Announc-
ing himself a~ the great Indian doctor, he drew himself up
before the fire, stretched his arms, clinched his fists, struck
his broad chest, and invited our attention to what he called
his " mortal frame." He demanded in succession all kinds
of intoxicating liquors ; and, on being assured that we had
none to give him, he grew angry, threatened to swallow my
younger brother alive, and, seizing me by the hair of my
head as the angel did the prophet at Babylon, led me about


from room to room. After an ineffectual search, in the
course of which he mistook a jug of oil for one of brandy,
and, contrary to my explanations and remonstrances, insisted
upon swallowing a portion of its contents, he released me,
fell to crying and sobbing, and confessed that he was so drunk
already that his horse was ashamed of him. After bemoan-
ing and pitying himself to his satisfaction he wiped his ejes,
and sat down by the side of my grandmother, giving her to
understand that he was very much pleased with her appear-
ance ; adding, that, if agreeable to her, he should like the
privilege of paying his addresses to her. While vainly
endeavoring to make the excellent old lady comprehend his
very flattering proposition he was interrupted by the return
of my father, who, at once understanding the matter, turned
him out of doors without ceremony.

On one occasion, a few years ago, on my return from the
field at evening, I was told that a foreigner had asked for
lodgings during the night, but that, influenced by his dark,
repulsive appearance, my mother had very reluctantly re-
fused his request. I found her by no means satisfied with
her decision. " What if a son of mine was in a strange
land ? " she inquired, self-reproachfully. Greatly to her re-
lief, I volunteered to go in pursuit of the wanderer, and,
taking a crosspath over the fields, soon overtook him. He
had just been rejected at the house of our nearest neighbor,
and was standing in a state of dubious perplexity in the
street. His looks quite justified my mother's suspicions.
He was an olive-complexioned, black-bearded Italian, with
an eye like a live coal, such a face as perchance looks out
on the traveller in the passes of the Abruzzi, one of those
bandit visages which Salvator has painted. With some dif-
ficulty I gave him to understand my errand, when he over-
whelmed me with thanks and joyfully followed me back.
He took his seat with us at the supper-table ; and, when we
were all gathered around the hearth that cold autumnal


evening, he told us, partly by words and partly by gestures,
the story of his life and misfortunes, amused us with descrip-
tions of the grape-gatherings and festivals of his sunny clime,
edified my mother with a recipe for making bread of chest-
nuts ; and in the morning, when, after breakfast, his dark,
sullen face lighted up and his fierce eye moistened with
grateful emotion as in his own silvery Tuscan accent he
poured out his thanks, we marvelled at the fears which had
so nearly closed our door against him ; and, as he departed,
we all felt that he had left with us the blessing of the poor.

It was not often that, as in the above instance, my moth-
er's prudence got the better of her charity. The regular
" old stragglers " regarded her as an unfailing friend ; and
the sight of her plain cap was to them an assurance of forth-
coming creature comforts. There was indeed a tribe of lazy
strollers, having their place of rendezvous in the town of
Barringtou, New Hampshire, whose low vices had placed
them beyond even the pale of her benevolence. They were
not unconscious of their evil reputation ; and experience had
taught them the necessity of concealing, under well-contrived
disguises, their true character. They came to us in all
shapes and with all appearances save the true one, with
most miserable stories of mishap and sickness and all "the
ills which flesh is heir to." It was particularly vexatious
to discover, when too late, that our sympathies and chari-
ties had been expended upon such graceless vagabonds as
the " Barrington beggars." An old withered hag, known by
the appellation of Hopping Pat, the wise woman of her
tribe, was in the habit of visiting us, with her hopeful
grandson, who had "a gift for preaching" as well as for
many other things not exactly compatible with holy orders.
He sometimes brought with him a tame crow, a shrewd,
knavish-looking bird, who, when in the humor for it, could
talk like Barnaby Rudge's raven. He used to say he could
"do nothin' at exhortin' without a white handkercher on hig


neck and money in his pocket " a fact going far to confirm
the opinions of the Bishop of Exeter and the Puseyites gen-
erally, that there can be no priest without tithes and surplice.

These people have for several generations lived distinct
from the great mass of the community, like the gypsies of
Europe, whom in many respects they closely resemble.
They have the same settled aversion to labor and the same
disposition to avail themselves of the fruits of the industry
of others. They love a wild, out-of-door life, sing songs,
tell fortunes, and have an instinctive hatred of " missionaries
and cold water." It has been said I know not upon what
grounds that their ancestors were indeed a veritable im-
portation of English gypsyhood ; but if so, they have un-
doubtedly lost a good deal of the picturesque charm of its
unhoused and free condition. I very much fear that my
friend Mary Russell Mitford, sweetest of England's rural
painters, who has a poet's eye for the fine points in
gypsy character, would scarcely allow their claims to frater-
nity with her own vagrant friends, whose camp-fires wel-
comed her to her new home at Swallowfield.

" The proper study of mankind is man " ; and, according
to my view, no phase of our common humanity is altogether
unworthy of investigation. Acting upon this belief two or
three summers ago, when making, in company with my sis-
ter, a little excursion into the hill country of New Hamp-
shire, I turned my horse's head towards Barrington for the
purpose of seeing these semi-civilized strollers in their own
home, and returning, once for all, their numerous visits.
Taking leave of our hospitable cousins in old Lee with
about as much solemnity as we may suppose Major Laing
parted with his friends when he set out in search of desert-
girdled Timbuctoo, we drove several miles over a rough
road, passed the Devil's Den unmolested, crossed a fretful
little streamlet noisily working its way into a valley where
it turned a lonely, half-ruinous mill, and climbing a steep


hill beyond, saw before us a wide sandy level, skirted on the
west and north by low, scraggy hills, and dotted here and
there with dwarf pitch pines. In the centre of this desolate
region were some twenty or thirty small dwellings, grouped
together as irregularly as a Hottentot kraal. Unfenced,
unguarded, open to all comers and goers, stood that city of
the beggars no wall or paling between the ragged cabins
to remind one of the jealous distinctions of property. The
great idea of its founders seemed visible in its unappropri-
ated freedom. Was not the whole round world their own ?
and should they haggle about boundaries and title deeds ?
For them, on distant plains, ripened golden harvests; for
them, in far-off workshops, busy hands were toiling ; for
them, if they had but the grace to note it, the broad earth
put on her garniture of beauty, and over them hung the
silent mystery of heaven and its stars. That comfortable
philosophy which modern transcendentalism has but dimly
shadowed forth that poetic agrarianism, which gives all
to each and each to all is the real life of this city of un-
work. To each of its dingy dwellers might be not unaptly
applied the language of one who, I trust, will pardon me for
quoting her beautiful poem in this connection :

" Other hands may grasp the field or forest,
Proud proprietors in pomp may shine ;
Thou art wealthier all the world is thine.''

But look ! the clouds are breaking. " Fair weather com-
eth out of the north." The wind has blown away the mists ;
on the gilded spire of John Street glimmers a beam of sun-
shine ; and there is the sky again, hard, blue, and cold in its
eternal purity, not a whit the worse for the storm. In the
beautiful present the past is no longer needed. Reverently
and gratefully let its volume be laid aside ; and when again
the shadows of the outward world fall upon the spirit, may
I not lack a good angel to remind me of its solace, even if
he comes in the shape of a Barrington beggar.

D A R A.


WHEN Persia's sceptre trembled in a hand
Wilted with harem-heats, and all the land
Was hovered over by those vulture ills
That snuff decaying empire from afar,
Then, with a nature balanced as a star,
Dara arose, a shepherd of the hills.

He who had governed fleecy subjects well,

Made his own village by the self-same spell

Secure and quiet as a guarded fold ;

Then, gathering strength by slow and wise degrees,

Under his sway, to neighbor villages

Order returned, and faith, and justice old.

Now when it fortuned that a king more wise
Endued the realm with brain, and hands, and eyes,
He sought on every side men brave and just ;
And having heard our mountain shepherd's praise,
How he refilled the mould of elder days,
To Dara gave a satrapy in trust.

So Dara shepherded a province wide,

Nor in his viceroy's sceptre took more pride

Than in his crook before ; but envy finds

DARA. 17

More food in cities than on mountains bare ;
And the frank sun of spirits clear and rare
Breeds poisonous fogs in low and marish minds.

Soon it was whispered at the royal ear
That, though wise Dara's province, year by year,
Like a great sponge, sucked wealth and plenty up,
Yet, when he squeezed it at the king's behest,
Some yellow drops more rich than all the rest
Went to the filling of his private cup.

For proof, they said that, wheresoe'er he went,
A chest, beneath whose weight the camel bent,
Went with him ; and no mortal eye had seen
What was therein, save only Dara's own.
But, when 't was opened, all his tent was known
To glow and lighten with heaped jewels' sheen.

The king set forth for Dara's province straight,
Where, as was fit, outside the city's gate,
The viceroy met him with a stately train,
And there, with archers circled, close at hand,
A camel with the chest was seen to stand.
The king's brow reddened, for the guilt was plain.

" Open me here," he cried, " this treasure chest."

'T was done, and only a worn shepherd's vest

Was found within. Some blushed and hung the head ;

Not Dara ; open as the sky's blue roof

He stood, and " O my lord, behold the proof

That I was faithful to my trust," he said.

" To govern men, lo, all the spell I had !
My soul in these rude vestments ever clad
Still to the unstained past kept true and leal,


Still on these plains could breathe her mountain air,

And fortune's heaviest gifts serenely bear,

Which bend men from their truth and make them reel.

" For ruling wisely I should have small skill,
Were I not lord of simple Dara still :
That sceptre kept, I could not lose my way."
Strange dew in royal eyes grew round and bright,
And strained the throbbing lids ; before 't was night,
Two added provinces blest Dara's sway.




HUNTINGDON itself lies pleasantly along the left
bank of the Ouse, sloping pleasantly upwards from
Ouse Bridge, which connects it with the old village of God-
manchester ; the Town itself consisting mainly of one fair
street, which towards the north end of it opens into a kind
of irregular market-place, and then contracting again soon
terminates. The two churches of All-Saints' and St. John's,
as you walk up northward from the Bridge, appear success-
ively on your left ; the church-yards flanked with shops or
other houses. The Ouse, which is of very circular course
in this quarter, winding as if reluctant to enter the Fen-
country, says one topographer, has still a respectable
drab-color gathered from the clays of Bedfordshire, has
not yet the Stygian black which in a few miles further it
assumes for good. Huntingdon, as it were, looks over into
the Fens; Godmanchester, just across the river, already
stands on black bog. The country to the East is all Fen
(mostly unreclaimed in Oliver's time, and still of a very
dropsical character) ; to the West it is hard green ground,
agreeably broken into little heights, duly fringed with wood,
and bearing marks of comfortable long-continued cultivation.
Here, on the edge of the firm green land, and looking ovei
into the black marshes with their alder-trees and willow
trees, did Oliver Cromwell pass his young years.



WHILE Oliver Cromwell was entering himself of Sidney-
Sussex College, William Shakespeare was taking his fare-
well of this world. Oliver's Father had, most likely, cr.me
with him ; it is but some fifteen miles from Huntingdon ;
you can go and come in a day. Oliver's Father saw Oliver
write in the Album at Cambridge : at Stratford, Shake-
speare's Ann Hathaway was weeping over his bed. The
first world-great thing that remains of English History, the
Literature of Shakespeare, was ending; the second world-
great thing that remains of English History, the armed
Appeal of Puritanism to the Invisible God of Heaven
against many very visible Devils, on Earth and Elsewhere,
was, so to speak, beginning. They have their exits and their
entrances. And one People, in its time, plays many parts.

Chevalier Florian, in his " Life of Cervantes," has re-
marked that Shakespeare's death-day, 23d April, 1616,
was likewise that of Cervantes at Madrid. " Twenty-third
of April " is, sure enough, the authentic Spanish date : but
Chevalier Florian has omitted to notice that the English
twenty-third is of Old Style. The brave Miguel died ten
days before Shakespeare ; and already lay buried, smoothed
right nobly into his long rest. The Historical Student can
meditate on these things.


IN those years it must be that Dr. Simcott, Physician in
Huntingdon, had to do with Oliver's hypochondriac mala-
dies. He told Sir Philip Warwick, unluckily specifying no
date, or none that has survived, " he had often been sent for


at midnight:" Mr. Cromwell for many years was very
" splenetic " (spleen-struck), often thought he was just about
to die, and also " had fancies about the Town Cross."
Brief intimation, of which the reflecting reader may make a
great deal. Samuel Johnson, too, had hypochondrias; all
great souls are apt to have, and to be in thick darkness
generally, till the eternal ways and the celestial guiding-
stars disclose themselves, and the vague Abyss of Life knit
itself up into Firmaments for them. Temptations in the
wilderness, Choices of Hercules, and the like, in succinct or
loose form, are appointed for every man that will assert a
soul in himself and be a man. Let Oliver take comfort in
his dark sorrows and melancholies. The quantity of sor-
row he has, does it not mean withal the quantity of sym-
pathy he has, the quantity of faculty and victory he shall
yet have ? Our sorrow is the inverted image of our noble-
ness. The depth of our despair measures what capability
and height of claim we have to hope. Black smoke as of
Tophet filling all your universe, it can yet by true heart-
energy become flame, and brilliancy of Heaven. Courage !
It is therefore in these years, undated by History, that we
must place Oliver's clear recognition of Calvinistic Chris-
tianity ; what he, with unspeakable joy, would name his Con-
version, his deliverance from the jaws of Eternal Death.
Certainly a grand epoch for a man : properly the one
epoch ; the turning-point which guides upwards, or guides
downwards, him and his activity for evermore. Wilt thou
join with the dragons ; wilt thou join with the Gods ? Of
thee, too, the question is asked ; whether by a man in
Geneva gown, by a man in " Four surplices at Allhallow-
tide," with words very imperfect ; or by no man and no
words, but only by the Silences, by the Eternities, by the
Life everlasting and the Death everlasting. That the
" Sense of difference between Right and Wrong " had filled
all Time and all Space for man, and bodied itself forth into


a Heaven and Hell for him ; this constitutes the grand fea-
ture of those Puritan, Old-Christian Ages ; this is the
element which stamps them as Heroic, and has rendered
their works great, manlike, fruitful to all generations. It is
by far the memorablest achievement of our Species ; with-
out that element in some form or other, nothing of Heroic
ha/1 ever been among us.

For many centuries Catholic Christianity a fit embodi-
ment of that divine Sense had been current more or less,
making the generations noble : and here in England, in the
Century called the Seventeenth, we see the last aspect of it
hitherto, not the last of all, it is to be hoped. Oliver
was henceforth a Christian man ; believed in God, not on
Sundays only, but on all days, in all places, and in all case:


SIR OLIVER CROMWELL has faded from the Parliament
ary scene into the deep Fen-country, but Oliver Cromwell
Esq. appears there as Member for Huntingdon, at West-
minster "on Monday, the 17th of March," 1627-8. This
was the Third Parliament of Charles ; by much the most
notable of all Parliaments till Charles's Long Parliament
met, which proved his last.

Having sharply, with swift impetuosity and indignation,
dismissed two Parliaments because they would not " supply "
him without taking " grievances " along with them ; and,
meanwhile and afterwards, having failed in every operation
foreign and domestic, at Cadiz, at Rhe, at Rochelle ; and
having failed, too, in getting supplies by unparliamentary
methods, Charles " consulted with Sir Robert Cotton what
was to be done ; " who answered, Summon a Parliament
again. So this celebrated Parliament was siimmoned. It


met, as we said, in March, 1628, and continued with one
prorogation till March, 1629. The two former Parliaments
had sat but a few weeks each, till they were indignantly
hurled asunder again ; this one continued nearly a year.
Wentworth (Strafford) was of this Parliament ; Hampden,
too, Selden, Pym, Holies, and others known to us ; all these
had been of former Parliaments as well ; Oliver Cromwell,
Member for Huntingdon, sat there for the first time.

It is very evident, King Charles, baffled in all his enter-
prises, and reduced really to a kind of crisis, wished much
this Parliament should succeed ; and took what he must have
thought incredible pains for that end. The poor King
strives visibly throughout to control himself, to be soft and
patient; inwardly writhing and rustling with royal rage.
Unfortunate King, we see him chafing, stamping, a very
fiery steed, but bridled, check-bitted, by innumerable straps
and considerations ; struggling much to be composed.
Alas ! it would not do. This Parliament was more Puri-
tanic, more intent on rigorous Law and divine Gospel,
than any other had ever been. As indeed all these Parlia-
ments grow strangely in Puritianism ; more and ever more
earnest rises from the hearts of them all, " Sacred Majes-
ty, lead us not to Antichrist, to Illegality, to temporal and
eternal Perdition ! " The Nobility land Gentry of England
were then a very strange body of men. The English
Squire of the Seventeenth Century clearly appears to have
believed in God, not as a figure of speech, but as a very
fact, very awful to the heart of the English Squire. " He
wore his Bible doctrine round him," says one, "as our
Squire wears his shotbelt ; went abroad with it, nothing
doubting." King Charles was going on his father's course,
only with frightful acceleration: he and his respectable
Traditions and Notions, clothed in old sheepskin and
respectable Church-tippets, were all pulling one way;
England and the Eternal Laws pulling another; the rent
fast widening till no man could heal it.


This was the celebrated Parliament which framed the Peti-
tion of Right, and set London all astir with " bells and bon-
fires " at the passing thereof ; and did other feats not to be
particularized here. Across the murkiest element in which
any great Entity was ever shown to human creatures, it still
rises, after much consideration, to the modern man, in a dim
but undeniable manner, as a most brave and noble Parlia-
ment. The like of which were worth its weight in dia-
monds even now ; but has grown very unattainable now
next door to incredible now. We have to say that this Par-
liament chastised sycophant Priests, Mainwaring, Sibthorp,
and other Arminian sycophants, a disgrace to God's
Church; that it had an eye to other still more elevated
Church-sycophants, as the mainspring of all ; but was cau-
tious to give offence by naming them. That it carefully
" abstained from naming the Duke of Buckingham." That
it decided on giving ample subsidies, but not till there were
reasonable discussion of grievances. That in manner it was
most gentle, soft-spoken, cautious, reverential ; and in sub-
stance most resolute and valiant. Truly with valiant, pa-
tient energy, in a slow, steadfast English manner, it car-
ried, across infinite confused opposition and discouragement,
its Petition of Right, and what else it had to carry. Four
hundred brave men, brave men and true, after their sort !
One laments to find such a Parliament smothered under
Dryasdust's shot-rubbish. The memory of it, could any
real .memory of it rise upon honorable gentlemen and us,
might be admonitory, would be astonishing at least.


IN or soon after 1631, as we laboriously infer from the
imbroglio records of poor Noble, Oliver decided on an


enlarged sphere of action as a Farmer ; sold his properties
in Huntingdon, all or some of them ; rented certain grazing-
lands at St. Ives, five miles down the River, eastward of his
native place, and removed thither. The Deed of Sale is
dated 7th May, 1631 ; the properties are specified as in the
possession of himself or his Mother ; the sum they yielded
was 1800. With this sum Oliver stocked his Grazing-
Farm at St. Ives. The Mother, we infer, continued to
reside at Huntingdon, but withdrawn now from active occu-
pation, in the retirement befitting a widow up in years.
There is even some gleam of evidence to that effect : her
properties are sold ; but Oliver's children born to him at St.
Ives are still christened at Huntingdon, in the Church he
was used to ; which may mean also that their good Grand-
mother was still there.

Properly this was no change in Oliver's old activities ; it

Online Libraryi00bostFavorite authors in prose and poetry → online text (page 44 of 66)