No other noise was heard, except alone,
The wind deep sighing, or the prisoner's moan,
Or the chain clanking, while the drear night blast
Shook the cold licobs that shiver'd as it passed.
On the cold ground the prisoner lay — to-morrow
Would see the ending of his earthly sorrow.
To die, indeed, he thought a little thing :
When from the clay the struggling soul takes wing,
To fly she knows not whither, or to bear
The endless, hopeless, torments of despair. —
The livid, quivering lip ! — the gasp for breath !
And all the unknown agonies of death !
There is a small, but wide meandering stream,
Where falls, in Summer's days, the chequered beam.
Through the thick trees, whose deep and leafy shade
Invites the zephyrs to their cooling glade ;
The rays that fall glance brightlj' on the wave,
While the green bank its rippling waters lave.
Just by that stream, the home, where once his mind
Had tasted pleasures simple, but refined, —
The joys of boyhood — when the happy child
Saw smiling Nature, and on nature smil'd.
Felt the delights that swell the youthful heart,
By crime untainted, and unbound by art ;
Soon dash'd the tear from pleasure's eye of light^
A moment clouded, but forever bright ;
Sprung forth to catch the earliest gleam of day,
And brush'd the sparkling drops of dew away;
And, in the evening, laid him down to rest,
Calm as the infant on its mother's breast.
There too his manhood passed — that cot had been
Of many a harmless joy the happy scene :
There, when the ended labors of the day
Gave rest to ag'e — to laughing- childhood play —
His children, crowding for their father's kiss.
Gave the fine thrill of warm paternal bliss ;
While the fond mother standing joyful by,
Wip'd the soft tear of gladness from her eye,
Felt all the richness of maternal love,
And bless'd the hand that shower'd it from above.
And now how chang'd he was ! This thought alone
Gave death new horrors that were not his own.
If he look'd back, he scarce could mark the time
When first he trod the devious ways of crime :
He rather found that virtue had given way
Beneath the influence of unmarked decay;
And then a wretched interval of life, •
Fill'd with the wiidness of chaotic strife,
When passion''s maddening tumult strangely rose,
Crime following crime, and woes succeeding woes |
Lash''d by remorse, and goaded by despair.
And worn by all the torturous stings of care ;
With ruined prospects, and each hope o'erthrown.
He did the deed of blood, that calls for blood alone.
Since, had tempestuous feelings reachM his breast.
The whirl of passion, without hope of rest;
Remorse, despair, and mingling dread combin'd
To tix, and sink, and rankle in his mind.
Turn'd on himself— his fall, his loss, his crime,
His future fate, his hopelessness in time,
He little thought of Law's avenging doom,
The waiting scaiTold, or the gaping tomb,
Nor valued safety, which could only give
Remorse's scorpions longer time to live.
But Law had seiz'd him, and his doom was past;
And death's grim angel near approach'd at last;
The torpor, which had held his soul, gave way,
Like darkness yielding to the beam of day.
Less painful if forever coldly there
Had dwelt the freezing numbness of despair:
For now, awakened on the verge of (ate.
He gaz'd on danger — but he gaz'd too late —
'Twas but to shrink — to dread to yield his breath- —
Yet see no gleam of blessing after death ; —
Shivering to stand upon the dreadful shore,
View the broad sea, and hear the billows roar;
Yet catch no cherub voice of heavenly love,
To whisper peace and mercy from above.
His eyes were opened, and, in full display,
Outstretch'd eternity before him lay.
Without one blessed hope to lull to rest
The rising tumult of his heaving breast.
I said, 'twas like the beam of early light.
That streaks the sombre canopy of night ;
'Twas rather like the red portentous gleam,
That flashes o'er the melting lava-stream.
The night was i=pent in tossing? to and fro
The wretched oflspring of despair and wo; —
Wo that had torn his lacerated heai^t, —
Despair that bade the angel Hope, depart :
And if exhaustion e'er availed to steep
His wearied senses in the balm of sleep;
He groaned and started, till the rattling chain
CallM back his dungeon and his fate again ;
Dreamed that he held the brandish'd knife on high,
Marked the pale lip, and caught the dying sigh,
Cleansed the dim weapon of the reeking gore,
And washed his hands of murder, o'er and o'er,
Till flames infuriate wildly round him roll.
Rock the wide earth, and shake the sounding pole ;
While hp, all trembling 'mid the general tire.
Stands the sole mark of heaven's avenging ire ;
Till starting wild, he almost found relief
Amid the cold realities of grief.
The sua arose. O'erwhelm'd with shame and crime,
About to cross the narrow bound of time ;
Sadly he watched the morning's ruddy beam,
Which through the gratings now began to stream.
The bolts fly back — the prisoner heard the sound,
And slowly, sternlj', rais'd him from the ground;
Collecting all the calmness of despair,
What must be borne, with dignity to bear.
'Twas like a dream before his wildering eyes,
A flash of mingled horror and surprise.
Through (he low porch a woman rnsh'd, whose face
Bore all the lines intensest grief can trace ;
And with a feeble cry, that yet express'd
Her hopeless sorrow, sunk upon his breast.
And did that cry remind him of a voice
Whose sound could once bid all around rejoice 1
And had he seen that rayless eye before,
Whence tears had flow'd till tears could flow no more,
Reflect each gentle look of bliss and love.
As the clear lake the sunbeam from above ?
Yes, it was she, — the injured, the betrayed — ■
Her joys all faded, and her hope decayed —
And still adhering to her husband''s breast,
As the dove flutters round her falling nest.
His children too were there ; and stood amaz'd ;
GazM on their mother — on the pris'ner gaz'd :
Scarce in the altered visage could they trace
The former features of their father''s face.
They heard their mother's sighs, and gathered near,
While each young eye grew sparkling with a tear.
Upon its sister's arm the youngest slept ;
Then waked to smile, when all around it wept.
Oh ! this was bitter! amid all his woes
To lose the only thought that gave repose ;
And Gnd commingled with the draught of wo
What filled the bitter cup to overflow.
Amid remorse, and shame, and restless grief,
One hope administered some faint relief —
That all his shame and grief were hid from those
Who still might share, but not relieve, his woes ;
On whom disgrace, deserved by him alone,
Would throw dishonor that was not their own ;
With crimson dye the most unsullied fame.
And add to sorrow's pangs the bitterer pangs of shame.
To die is bitter : but to die alone,
Unwept, unblessed, unpitied, and unknown,
AVithout one friend to close the swimming eye.
Wipe the damp brow, and catch the parting sigh —
Oh ! — this to death can keener pangs impart,
Can pierce the soul, and rankle at the heart.
But oh ! when crowds intently gazing round.
Watch every look, and wait for every sound.
To mark how death, and dread, and guilt, and shame.
And blasted hope, and character and fame.
Fear of the future, horror for the past,
Can shake the wavering, trembling soul at last —
Then, if some friend, whose image once arose.
Balm of our fears, and comfort of our woes.
For whom our love the tinest feelings twined
With all the finer texture of the mind.
Has mixed with every better thought — has been
The brightest ray in every brighter scene ;
Or if misfortune's clouds around us lower,
A beam of sunshine peeping through the shower —
If such a friend step forward, calmly bold.
To brave the frown, himself that frown withhold;
Nor join the coldly virtuous, cheaply-good.
Who hate the fall, where they themselves have stood
— Then varied feelings dwell within the heart,
The balm is soothing', althoug-h sharp the smart.
Dear as a gleam of mercy from on hig'h,
One glance of friendship's sympathising- eye :
But deep the grief, to know its glance takes la
The proof of crime, the dread reward of sin. ,
But for the prisoner, where the potent charm
To still his pangs, or quiet bis alarm ?
The heart, o'er which the potent spells that bind
In chains of adamant, the human mind —
Alike, in every age, in every hour —
O'ercorae by love for him — had lost their power —
This was the heart, o'er which his crimes had thrown
A hue of sorrow dark as was his own.
To her the cruel smile of scornful hate,
Which the world turns upon the desolate,
While even gentle pity ill can hide
The rising struggle of offended pride j
To her the frown that lowers upon the few
Who dare to face what others fear to view —
To face the poisoned darts by slander hurled,
To face the scorn and anger of the world —
To her the praise and censure others prized,
Alike indifferent, and alike despised.
I will not strive, beyond my feeble power,
To paint the horrors of that dreadful hour.
How vain the words of soothing comfort flow,
Like the pure moon-beam on the polar snow —
The silvery light may spread a second day,
But the cold frost-work wiil not melt away.
His children's looks of love, each fond caress
Received from cherished infant tenderness,
But pierced his heart with keener anguish through,
And cast o'er all the scene a darker hue.
My mind retains no more. Each image glancing,
Like light upon the dark blue ocean dancing ;
Or like a flitting, dying, wavering flame,
In broken indistinctness went and came.
As this fragment closes the extracts from essays of the
second session at college, I take the liberty of present-
ing the testimonial of Professor Jardine, in whose class
William spent a large portion of that time, though he
generally attended the Greek with the late Professor
Young, and not unfrequently (I think) the Lectures of
Professor Walker. This testimonial is given rather in
the form of a certificate than in that of a letter.
Glasgow College, Feb. 16, 1822.
I cERTrFY that Mr William F. Durant attend-
ed the Logic and Rhetoric Class in this University ; and,
in the examinations and exercises, gave most satisf)'ing
j)roofs of Tincommon abilities, vigorous application, and
great success ; and, at the end of the session, the first
and highest prize was bestowed on him by the unani-
mous approbation of his fellow students. To the above,
I have only to add, that no student ever recommended
himself more to my good opinion, than Mr Durant did,
by a promise of great future attainments — or to my af-
fections, by more amiable dispositions — more pleasing
manners — by a conduct more regular or more strictly
academical. In testimony whereof,
Log. el Rhet. P.
He returned in May, 1820, found us happy, and made
us more so. Time had softened down our grief, had
given a mellowness to the scenes of 1818; and we
could dare to talk, for the first time, without agony, and
even with a soothing pleasure, of the dear departed.
His aunt, though far from strong, was in better health ;
lie was peculiarly well ; and we had scarcely ever
known a more peaceful summer. During this vacation,
he undertook to write for a University prize ; the com-
petition for which, open to graduates and undergradu-
ates, lay among fit'teen hundred young men. Earl Glas-
gow, who had been Lord Rector of the College, had
proposed a ten-guinea prize for the best Essay " on the
ADVANTAGES OF CLASSICAL LEARNiiNG."' When William an-
nounced to me his intention, he candidly said, " 1 think
I have no chance of getting it ; hut in such a struggle,
it is no dishonor to fail : and, at any rate, the effort will
do me good." It cost him certainly no small labour ;
and displayed great improvement in composition, in nice
discrimination, and in general learning. He did not
gain that prize : but as the contest had been so severe
— for sixteen, I think, wrote for it — and as many of the
essays were very superior, the professors had deter-
mined on adding another prize to that of Lord Glasgow
• — and that prize, after a high compliment on the essay
in the Public Hall, from one of the professors, before it
was known by whom it was composed — fell to the lot
of my dear son. The first was gained by a gentleman,
some years older than himself, and whose family had
all been distinguished, at that seat of learning, for their
high intellectual character. The rest, it may be pretty
confidently asserted, were not younger than he, and
some of them were unquestionably much older ; for he
was, when he wrote it, only between seventeen and
eighteen. None, I believe, envied him his honors ;
they knew that he deserved them ; and the modesty
with which he bore them, conciliated universal esteem.
The e^say, as large or larger than that on the Tribuni-
cial Power, is too extensive for this work ; nor will it
well bear compression.
He renewed, in this vacation, his Latin composition
and Greek reading. But as he was about to enter the
mathematical and moral philosophy classes, he prepar-
ed himself by getting through the first six, and the
eleventh books of Euclid ; Bonnycastle's Algebra, &;c. ;
and by reading Paley and some other works on mental
and moral philosophy. He contrived, amidst all his
other engagements, to read a great deal of general and
ephemeral literature ; and begun a pretty little piece
on an affecting incident with which he met in M'Cree's
Life of Melville.
Fired with the love of liberty ; and with a detesta-
tion of slavery, so natural to a youthful and ardent mind^
he felt indignant at the restraints imposed upon the con-
tinental nations, by those very men, who had, in the
hour of extieme danger, thrown themselves upon the
patriotism of their people, and promised them, as the
reward of their exertions, liberal and beneticent polit-
ical institutions ; but had, in many cases, redeemed their
pledge, by imprisoning-, chaining, or expatriating some
of those who had fought and bled in the cause of legiti-
macy and order. His society at College, where almost
every youth of talent was an avowed admirer of free-
dom, was not likely to cool his political ardor ; and he
brought home a much larger share of " whiggery," as
he terms it in his letters, than he had carried thither.
Whig principles were, indeed, those in which he had
been educated ; for they are the principles to which
protestant dissenters owe all their religious liberties ;
but they had, about this time, acquired considerable
force. Under the strong impressions of the moment,
he began a poem, entitled, " Ji review of Modern Des-
potsy My son greatly admired monarchical power, as
limited by the British constitution : he was, indeed, en-
thusiastically attached to it, as he was to every thing
belonging to his own country. The piece was written
just as the patriotic Spaniards were making their last —
and let it be hoped, their successful — struggle for liber-
ty. From the temper displayed by nearly all the con-
tinental cabinets, it is pretty clear, that had not France
— yet agitated with the shock of the Revolution — and
the Pyrenees interposed between Germany and Spain,
the peninsular revolutionists would have shared the fate
of the Neapolitan. How far William intended to pro-
ceed when he began the sketch, 1 know not. His sense
of justice and his loj'alty would unquestionably have
confined him to the continent — some of whose monarchs
would furnish no scanty materials for the indignant num-
bers of the satirist : but, as the royal mantuamaker of
Spain claimed the first niche in the panbasilicon, the
writer fixed him there, and seems to have been, for the
moment, satisfied with his achievement; for he never
proceeded farther. The piece, though very spirited, is
too imperfect to be offered to the pubUc. But a part
of the poem on Melville, with a few short fragments
besides, written at this time, will be found in the follow-
MELVILLE AND HIS PUPIL.
" In 1566, Admiral Coligne, at the head of the pro-
testant army, laid siege to the city of Poictiers, which
was vigorously defended by the young Duke of Guise.
The classes in the University being broken up, Melville
entered into the family of a counsellor of parliament as
tutor to his only son. When he was making rapid im-
provement in his education, this promising hoy was pre-
maturely cut off. Coming into his room one day, Mel-
ville found his little pupil bathed in blood, and mortally
wounded by a cannon ball from the camp of the besieg-
ers, which had pierced the house. He lingered for a
short time, during which he employed the religious
instructions which he had received, in comforting his
afflicted parent ; and expired, in his tutor''s arras, pro-
nouncing the words in Greek, jtcdaaxuXe, rov d^Ofiov
uov reteXf/a — ' Master^ I have finished my course."^ Mel-
ville continued to retain the most lively recollection of
this affecting scene, to which he could never refer with-
* M'Cree's Life of Melville, vol. i. p. 29.
Thy race was run — too quickly run —
As clouds, before the morning sun,
A moment gilded by his rays,
Are lost amid the solar blaze :
So life, the vapour life, from thee,
A moment hid eternity ;
Then, mist-like, melted quite away,
And left thee in immortal day.
Soon did thy star in shades decline ;
'Tvvas but to rise in happier spheres,
Where fields of cloudless ether shine,
And heaven's unveiled light appears :
As if the sun should just arise,
And cast a gleam of golden light,
Then hasten from our turbid skies,
And leave us in eternal night ;
Nor on a world of sin and wo
His pure celestial radiance throw.
Melville ! affection such as thine,
Round meaner objects would not twine :
But once embraced — not death could part
The close attachments of thy heart,
Resembling, in their strong control.
The giant firmness of thy soul.
Then — the last glance ! — that spoke to thee
When scarce the dying lip could move, -
And that one word, Didascale^
Which fold his reverence and his love t
And in the last, the parting hour,
When death exerts his dreaded power.
Called back the fleeting' moments past —
Your mutual studies, mutual care —
And, the' that minute was the last,
Showed that nor time nor pain should wear
A single cruel trophy won
From such a mind as his oppressed ;
But that as sets the tropic sun,
In more than rising glory dressed ;
So the warm feelings of his soul
Would beam with unremitted flame,
Till lifer's faint current ceased to roll,
Till life's last crimson drop should flow,
In health and sickness, weal and wo.
Remaining still the same.
Memory will sometimes cast a shade
Of sadness o'er the brightest day ;
And gloom is sometimes gloomier made,
When from the past there comes no ray
To pieixe the deep obscure, and throw
A tint of lustre over wo :
And yet her darker scenes possess,
Sometimes, a passing loveliness.
Thus oft doth evening's yellow light
Gleam thro' the clouds, more mildly bright
Than when the glorious day declining,
Through pure unsullied azure shining.
Diffuses radiance o'er the skies,
And in its own effulgence dies :
And so when years had brou^'ht relief,
Or stolen the sharpest sting of grief,
Remembrance, Melville, then to thee
Was melancholy's luxury.
As through the parting cloud we view
A little spot of heavenly blue,
And almost dream that we can see
The splendors of eternity.
How amid azure fields of light,
The choral song may ever rise ;
While with unearthly splendors bright,
Soar the fair children of the skies : —
So when we tliink of those we love,
Who since have left their earthly home,
We see them crowned with joy above,
And trace them, as their spirits roam,
Now free as light, from star to star.
Amid unfathomed space afar.
And while the fine illusion stays,
A beam of passing brilliance plays,
Pierces the clouds that roil below.
And spreads aroimd a brighter glow ;
Till smiles the king, in terror drest,
An angel in a darker vest ;
And gleaming on his ebon gate,
And on his shade-encircled throne.
Where all the ministers of fate
The monarch of destruction own.
Gilds the clouds that round him rise ;
While faint and dim the happier skies
Of life and peace are viewed between,
Just glimmering through the darker scene.
The ripple that the zephyr's breath
On ocean's breast hath made,
Is gilded by the sun-beam,
And darkened by the shade.
The rainbow tints, athwart the sky,
That brightly bloom awhile,-
May now with brilliance glitter,
Now wear a fainter smile ;
But soon the lovely vision's hues
Entirely fly away ;
Tho' brilliant ev'n in fading,
And beauteous in decay.
The eye to-day that glances bright,
To-morrow morn may fade ;
And with it perish each delight,
That its own beam had made.
The flower that now is opening fair
May fall ere evening close,
And not a leaf hang withering there.
To tell where bloomed the rose.
All the world are sleeping-,
Save the broken-hearted weeping,
And the Power Eternal keeping
This universal frame.
The silent stars are glowing
O'er a world where tears are flowing,
And the mourner only knowing
How beauteous shines their flame.
The world are slumbering lightly,
And dreams are flitting brightly,
While God above us nightly
The universe unveils :
But they, whose tears are streaming,
View the pure starlight gleaming
Through darkness clearly beaming,
#t With light that never fails.
FRIENDS OF INFANCY AND YOUTH MEETING AFTER LONO
Thine eye was bright, thy brow was fair,
Grief's withering hand had not been there
To mark the furrowed lines of care.
When last we parted.
Young Hope's deceitful brilliance shining
Show'd many a wreath of roses twining
Round many a bower for soft reclining,
When last we parted.
QuenchM are the rays so richly beaming,
On all the future prospect streaming,
With life and love and glory gleaming,
When last we parted.
Yet tho' these fairy colors fly,
And joy's young flow'rets bloom to die ;
Tho' youth, and love, and hope, are by,
Since last we parted ;
Life's cheerless tide may ebb away,
But hearts can never know decay,
And friendship is as true to-day,
As when we parted.
HIS RETURN TO COLLEGE, 1820.
On his return to College in 1S20, he entered the Math-
ematical and Moral Philosophy Classes, intending to
hear occasionally the Greek lectures of ProfessoF
Young. The exquisite ability and urbanity ofMrMylne
quite captivated him. Under this learned professor he
was in his very element. Subjects, the profoundest
that have ever exercised human ingenuity, and to which
he had, almost from his childhood, paid uncommon at-
tention, were now fairly thrown before his mind by a
master who knew how to simplify the most abstruse,
to arrange the most confused, and to shed a light over
the darkest, speculations of ancient and modern philos-
ophers. He found, in this class, many gentlemen of
most powerful and accomplished minds — who witnessed
his efforts that session, and will bear testimony to his
intense labors, his accurate thinking, his brilliant suc-
cess. From Mr Mylne himself, he received, on many
occasions, the most unequivocal testimonies of approba-
tion — may it not be added, of admiration also ? With
the exception of one class-fellow, he distanced all his
competitors. That gentleman — who will, I trust, be
equally distinguished i'or usefulness in the ministry of
the gospel, as for literary attainments at College — was
accomplished beyond many, was a most diligent student,
had spent four years at a respectable theological semi-
nary in England, and was, at least, ten years older than
my son — that gentleman just carried the first prize ; and
Wiliiam, without the slightest question, took the second.
The rivalship* was too honorable to admit one petty
feeling of pride or envy-^and no young man at the Uni-
versity was more disposed than Mr to do justice
to the intellectual and moral worth of his honorable an-
tagonist and friend.
On presenting the third series of extracts from his
letters, a reference to the remarks which introduced
the second, might seem sufficient : but there are here,
it must be admitted, many statements of his success