Leonard Withington.

The Puritan : a series of essays, critical, moral, and miscellaneous (Volume v. 1) online

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punished me by exposing me to such trials. O, Miss
Oldbug, do you think that for such a sinner as I, there
will be rest in heaven at last ?

The remains of this excellent girl, lie buried in the
Bundleborough grave yard. If you will enter that
red gate, on which a loose staple hangs swinging, and
over which there is a square frame, somewhat like a


gallows, you will see just fifteen feet at your right, a
little brown slate stone, under the wall, apart from
the rest, bending sideways towards the ground, shelter-
ed by a barberry bush and almost covered by the waving
grass. There is a head with wings under it, carved
by some rude sculptor ; and underneath are these
verses, written in the true spirit of puritanical poetry,
by one of those mute inglorious 3Iiltons, found in
every village in New England.

S. L.

Here Sarah Liddell lies, to breathe no more,
Who had of beauty an uncommon store;
A prisoner once to flesh and sin was she ;
Death struck her bloom, but Christ has set her free.


No. 13.


Uirouai d' IXn'iaiv,

OvT' ivQud^ OQOJV, Ot' OTTLffO}.

Sophoclis Oldipus Tyrannus. Line 488.

The following poem was prepared to be delivered before a society in Col-
lege many years ago. It is founded on a story which has been told of several
persons, of two skeptics agreeing that whichever of them should die first,
should appear to his surviving friend to bear ocular testimony to the ex-
istence of the future world. Whether such a wild agreement was ever
made, I know not. The object of the poem is to enforce the truth of
Christianity, from the wants, sorrows, and sins of man. The story is merely
assumed for poetic effect. Morbid misanthropy and snarly infidelity, having
lately been brought into vogue by some popular writers, I wished to turn
them to some account. I have therefore represented a troubled infidel going
into the grave yard, at midnight, to meet the ghost of his friend according
to appointment; and there, though disappointed of the expected witness,
led by reflection to believe in his l^aviour and his God. Perhaps the severest
and most candid criticism that ought to be passed on my piece, is, that it is
College poetry.

, Thronged by a host of doubts, the mind distrest
Looks round for truth, and longs for inward rest :
Tho' Pride and Passion in our hearts rebel,
And sensual nature o'er calm reason swell ;


Though Fancy cheat us with her youthful train,
Her roses dying as her thorns remain ;
Though even Philosophy, the world's delight.
Throw on our path a dim, delusive light ;
Yet who, among the thinking class received.
Would hug the lie, or wish to be deceived ?
Though Error wanders, who would chase the stream ?
Or dream o'er truth 'till truth becomes a dream ?

'Tis night ; and sullen darkness' solemn robe
Envelops in concealment half the globe :
The planetary torches o'er me shine.
Dull sleep embraces every eye but mine.
Here at the feet of these entangled trees.
Whose branches, fretted by the midnight breeze,
O'ershade the ghosts from yonder graves that glide.
And flatter Nature in her silent pride ; —
Here will I muse, till from her secret throne.
Religion make her dubious lessons known :
From these abstracted walks I cannot part.
Till late conviction fasten on my heart.

This is the hour ; and on this grassy side,
Alonzo promised, ere he, trembling, died —
To meet his friend, — yes, I may trust the dead —
The words were uttered on a dying bed :
Long had we doubted — more — we disbelieved
Those mystic doctrines by the world received :
We travelled all the mazes of the mind,
Forever curious, yet forever blind ;
Along the brink of flowery joy we steered,
Believed and doubted, rioted and feared.


At length, in all his bloom, when youthful pride
Her branches stretched in towering hope — he died ;
He died ; and I was there to hear him tell
His last strong promise, still remembered well ;—
" If there 's a world beyond the final urn,
To warn my friend, my spirit shall return.
Beneath the church-yard elm — at midnight — where
The cold dews drop — thou knowest — I'll meet thee

This is the spot, and time ; I come to tread
These walks, and meet alone the enlightened dead.
He was my friend — I need not flinch or fear ;
In friendship's band — the dead— the dead are dear ;
No, not a hair of this sad head, would he
Injure, for kind were all his ways to me ;
I fear not — I am calm — I long to know
Of worlds as yet unknown — of joy and wo. —

The hour has come, from yonder steeple's height.
Twelve times has toU'd the iron tongue of night ;
The wind expires, and weary nature throws
O'er land and sea a most profound repose.
From social life I seem, and pity thrown,
A wanderer m the lonely world alone ;
Like some low worm I creep along this sod,
Without a father and without a God ;
Yet not alone, if vows in Heaven are heard,
If spkits faithful ever keep their word ;
Alonzo, thou art true, and I shall see
One tear, all tender, yet shall fall for me.


Hark ! Did a voice my listening organs seize ?
Was it a spirit passing ? or the breeze ?
Is that a shroud that yonder stands alone ?
Or, flattery buried pride, some polished stone ?
The eye and treacherous ear alike betray ; —
The shroud is gone — the breeze has passed away.

What change is here ! What dreadful silence reigns
Along these moonlight walks and glimmering plains !
To his last mansion Rectitude is fled,
And sleeps with Falsehood in a wormy bed ;
Pleasure has dashed her goblet down ; and Pride
Has laid the tassel'd robe and plume aside ;
Ambition here no rising impulse feels.
Nor yokes his horses to his fiery wheels ;
The wicked from transgression are repressed ; —
They cease from troubling and the weary rest;
The small and great are here ; no lordling's breath
Molests the strict democracy of death.

Why is a terror, so peculiar, shed
O'er human hearts when walking near the dead ?
How can these mouldered hands such tumults weave ?
Why do the disbelieving now believe ?
And why, as if by Heaven's judicial doom,
Is no man atheist, standing near a tomb ?

He comes not, tho' the appointed hour is o'er ;
He comes not — lives not — I shall wait no more.
Long have I forced these trembling limbs to stay,
Midst damps and silence, darkness and dismay ;
The moon in lustre mild, in gloi^ still,


Shines westward of the brow of Heaven's blue hill.
The hour is past. Let me forsake this gloom,
Nor trust the faithful sponsors of the tomb.

My doubts are all confirmed ; when breath retires,
The lamp within goes out with all its fires ;
Soon as we reach these beds of lasting peace,
Our schemes, our hopes, our very beings cease.
This boasted man — this child of Heaven's decree —
This sage— this reasoning angel — what is he ?
A future worm — the victim of a shroud,
A streak of glory fading from a cloud.

If One all-perfect garnished yonder skies,
And bade our peopled globe from nothing rise j
If power and wisdom in his heart combine ;
His high perfections in his works must shine :
So kind his character, his love so bland,
The world must bear the impress of his hand ;
Each stream of influence must its channel keep ;
No foot must deviate and no eye must weep.
We know the sun's refulgence by his beams ;
Pellucid fountains pour pellucid streams ;
So perfect goodness must salute our eyes,
In thornless roses and m cloudless skies ;
If sin, or error shade this earthly sod.
The stain is deep — it reaches up to God, *

What is the truth ? Does pleasure harbor fear ?
Does wisdom waking happiness appear ?
Nature, as onward through her laws, she moves,
To all her progeny a step-dame proves ;


Thrown on her iron lap, the infant lies,
Nor moves her pity by his piercing cries ;
Reason is drowned in passions wailing voice,
We sin by impulse ere we sin by choice ;
No soft provisions woven in her plan
For poor, abandoned, weak, degraded man :
For him, the Fates collected ills prepare,
Joy and deception — wisdom and despair.

Yet still the lonely mind looks round for aid.
Asks — hopes — distrusts — ^believes — is much afraid ;
Whatever doubts our reason may descry.
Some startled feeling gives those doubts the lie ;
Even I, the wretch, that here concluding stand,
Myself the product of no heavenly hand,
Even I, the icy space so bravely passed,
Take every step, but tremble at the last.

Suspecting then the heart — its powerful throes
Suppressed, and sinking into ^oft repose ;
Willing without one cloud the truth to see,
Howe'er it humbles, or distresses rne ;
The awful theme let me review once more,
And justify my reasoning, or deplore.

If from thy breast thou bid the cloud withdraw,
Within is found a clear, commanding law ;
It gives to moral life its noblest shape,
And from its sanctions none, who think, escape ;
It binds our feelings with dominion strong ;
It speaks of life's great end — of right and wrong ;
It is a crowning garland or a rod,


It soothes or punishes — a secret God ;

And all the power, that truth revealed can bring,

Meets this deep law and strikes this inward string.

Then, O thou sun of knowledge, hid in shade,
Hear the first prayer thy suppliant ever made ;
If, midst the streams of joy that round thee shine.
Thine ear can listen to a voice like mine ;
If, midst the rolling orbs that rule the sky,
A floating atom can arrest thine eye ;
If Infinite can look on folly weak ;
If dust and ashes may presume to speak :
Impart that light, which spirits ransomed see,
And make me knov/ — this law — myself and thee.

Behold the skies ; amidst her starry train
The Queen of Heaven looks down on hill and plain !
Eternal harmony is found above.
And every planet seems to twinkle love ;
Deeper and deeper in the blue profound,
New suns arise ; new systems circle round ;
Worlds behind worlds, in vast profusion spread.
Where not a tear perhaps was ever shed ; —
The scene with glorious proofs is sprinkled o'er —
A God — a God is there — ^let worlds adore.

Behold our earth — how wonderfully made !
Sweet interchange appears of light and shade !
Here the tall cliff collects the serial rain ;
There the full river pours it through the plain ;
Here the high cedar spreads its nobler arms ;
There the low lily hides its humbler charms ;


Fairest Spring, in garments green, leads on the year,
Then russet Summer's ripening fruits appear ; —
What sights and sounds of bliss are poured around !
The quail's wild note, the robin's morning' sound,
The mock-bird copying every tuneful bill.
And the low du'ges of the whippowil !
The hayman haply when his toil is done.
The insect cohorts wheeling in the sun ; —
Even Autumn's faded leaf, and, Winter loud.
Present the beauties to the storm and cloud :
We witness changing greens, and snows embossed.
And hardly own that Paradise is lost.

Yet, thus endowed, with all desire can crave,
Man holds the throne, a sufferer and a slave ;
In vain the flowers their richest sweets prepare ;
He wanders through his Eden in despair :
The table spread, he hungers yet ; the burst
Of water meets him, and he dies with thirst..

In this condition, where afflictions roll.
Religion is an impulse of the soul ;
'Tis closely grafted on chastised desire ;
Our wants impress it — even our sins inspire ;
And skeptic reasoning is a vain employ,
Like reasoning down cur sorrow, or our joy.

Here then I rest ; this dark, divided mmd
From all its wandering here repose may find :
As when Columbus left the orient shore.
To plough the waters never ploughed before ;
Still as the day to night her throne resigned^
A deeper darkness rested on his mind ;


More angry tempests drove the midnight clouds,
And strange-voiced demons shrieked around his

shrouds ;
Far darker billows seemed, in ranks, to roll.
And even the lying needle left the pole ;
Oft, oft looked out the eye, and nothing ken'd,
And none could gather where the voyage could end ;
Till just as watery ruin threatened there.
And Hope deferred was changing to despair,
One rising mornmg a new scene unfurled,
And joy, successful, hailed another world ; —
Thus every doubt and eveiy billow past^
My wounded spirit rests in God at last..

Eternal Father, whose pervading breath
Awakes the blossoms from the dust of death,
Whose influence trembles in the morning beam,
Rolls on the cloud and murmurs in the stream ;
All objects speak thy power — below — above.
Power ruled by wisdom and combined with love ;
When winter drives his angry car along.
Thy praise is uttered in the dreadful song ;
When Spring returning, decks her grassy shrine,
Her flowers, her breezes, and her blooms are thine ;
Whatever glories in the heavens we trace.
Are faint reflections of thy brighter face ;
Could these illumined eyes, more vigorous grown,
Pierce through the veil of heaven and see thy throne,.
Could I, replenished with a saint's delight.
Behold the object, not of faith, but sight ;
Not more conviction would be then impressed,.
Than now possesses this believing breast ;


Nor is thy goodness less than bemg proved,

Goodness by noblest angels most beloved ;

Thy laws vi^ith silent influence wide extend,

The bad afilicting and the good befriend ;

In every region, brightened by the sun.

The outlines of thy kingdom are begun ;

Unchanging Wisdom shall complete the plan,

And all be perfect in immortal man.

When wretched man on ruin's waves was tossed.

When innocence and Eden both were lost ;

When, exiled from his God, he wandered round.

Where thorns and thistles sprinkled all the ground

In pity to a wretch, by choice undone,

Thou sendest deliverance by thy sacred Son. .

Then, if thou findest Religion's path obscure,
If passions blind thee, or if vice allure ;
If angel-voices call in vain to save.
And all thy visions darken o'er the grave ;
Still one sweet truth unshaken must remain —
— Ask thine oivn heart and nothing is so plainJ^

O precious system ! blessed, bleeding tree !
Red with the balm compassion shed for me ! '
In mercy to an animated clod,
God sinks to man, that man may soar to God.
Guilt wears the robe of innocence ; the tear,
Once wholly hopeless, turns to rapture here ;
The wretched share a part ; and round the bed,
Where life retires, immortal hopes are shed ;



Life's disappointments, agonies and stings,
But add new feathers to Religion's wings.

So, in the cell, where stern afflictions' prey,
The prisoner weeps his lingering nights away ;
Through the dark grate, whose iron chords so fast,
Have been the Ij^e to many a midnight blast ;
Through that dark grate, the evening sun may shine,
And gild his walls with crimson light divine ,;
Some mournful melody may soothe his pain ;
Some radiant beam may sparkle round his chain ;
Some wandering wind in mercy may repair,
And waft the spirit of the blossoms there.


No. 14.

Oh ! then the longest Summer's day
Seemed too, too much in haste ; still the full heart
Had not imparted half; 'twas happiness
Too exquisite to last. Of joys departed,
Not to return, how painful the remembrance '.

The Qrave-

Great and manifold is the grief, which I have
been compelled to feel, O candid reader, in being
obliged to spend so much time in talking on paper
concerning myself and family. How distressing this
must be to a modest man, thou canst better conceive
than I describe. It is an act of self-denial to which I
have submitted for thy advantage. Pride, I abjure ;
egotism, I detest ; and the very sin I have committed,
I have been witness against and lament. And thus,
having used no less than seven great I's in this very
paragraph, and groaned over my own sin with a hearty
sorrow ; like other offenders, I now return to it again,
and proceed to tell thee more about my family and


My uncle Gideon was a little spindle-shanked man,
whom the wind might have blown away. In his
early youth, he was supposed to be in a consumption,
and spent most of his time in visits to a certain botan-
ical doctor, in a town about ten miles off, who kept
him along between wind and water, never permitting
him to be well, and never to die, until my grand-
father's purse, as well as patience, was almost ex-
hausted ; for he held that neither to kill or cure was
the great reproach of medicine. Some of the pre-
scriptions of this famous doctor, I remember ; and
will here record them for the benefit of all my readers,
who happen to be in a consumption. They are
such as these :■ — the last strippings of a red cow's
milk, taken morning and night, (the cow must be
red;) the root of elecampane, coddled in sugar-baker's
molasses, to be taken at night whenever you wake up
and cough ; ground-ivy tea, sweetened with loaf-sugar,
to be drank any time whenever your imagination is
thirsty, (much better than brandy;) and a conserve
made of red roses, very healing to the stomach, when
overloaded with repletion ; especially if accompanied
with fasting. These prescriptions I have heard my
uncle Gideon praise so much, that I thought it my
duty to preserve them ; and who knows, but my book
may be famous for medicine, as well as morality; so
that if I fail in one object, I may succeed in another.
No man need to starve in New England, who has
abilities enough to become a botanical doctor.


These diseases and medicine kept my uncle from
active life ; so that he grew up a home-bred youth,
with a powerful imagination, a decent mind, but as
ignorant of the ways of the world, as an oyster in his
shell. He was a great reader, a great eater, a great
physic-taker ; but not a great man, for I before told
you he was a very little one. I can seem to see him
now, a mannikin about four feet two inches high ; his
hat cocked on his head ; his crooked elbows swinging
as he walked, until they almost touched behind his
back, his blue serge small clothes, fastened by oval
knee-buckles, his double-breasted waistcoat and his
long chocolate-colored coat, three quarters as long as
himself, and reaching down to the place where the
calves of his legs sliould have hee??,, if he had had any.
Such was the man whose life was one long dream ;
and who sometimes infused his visions with my youth-
ful brains.

In my grandfather's house, my uncle kept a room
»omewhat between a study and shop, where he used
to read his books, and sometimes pursue such handi-
crafts as his leisure or health were supposed to admit
of He had a lapstone, and could mend a pair of
shoes ; he was sometimes seen repairing an old saddle,
putting in a rake handle, or puttying the glass of a
broken window. He was one of those people, who
are always busy, and never bring much to pass.
On the negative side he shone immensely ; never
doing intentional harm to a single creature ; no, not


even to the musquito, who tried in vain to suck his

Thus secluded from the world, and left a prey to
his own thoughts, it is not wonderful, if in the absence
of other interests, my uncle should be deeply in love.
Some fair face was forever setting his heart on fire ;
and even when sober fifty began to shed its discreet
snows among the black locks of his little head, his
brain and his heart were as susceptible as ever — per-
petually lighted up by the fire caught from the mali-
cious eye of some nymph of sixteen. His affections
were always wandering to some false loon of a lass ;
to whom for age he might have been a grandfather ;
and though he was a religious man, he seldom came
from meeting on the Sabbath, but his language and
looks expressed the influence of other faces than those,
which glow in souls divine. In short, the poor man's
heart was tender, and Bundleborough meeting-house
was a magazine of sparks.

It is dangerous to live with a valetudinary man. I
had heard so much in my youth about coughs and
consumption, of suitable and unsuitable diet, of
things healing to the stomach, of ground-ivy tea, red
cow's milk, and elecampane, that I, in my turn, began
to be sick too ; and as I was blessed with a will, and
was generally allowed to gratify it, I became too feeble
to go to school. The deficiency of public instruction
was supplied by what I could learn in my uncle
Gideon's chamber.


There we studied tocrether ; and there he was
pleased to teach just such wisdom as I was pleased to
learn. Never was there a more pleasant instructor,
or a less tj^rannical school. We read together Sal-
mon's Geography, Robertson's History of Greece, Gold-
smith's Rome, Don Quixote and Gil Bias, My dear
uncle tauorht me the mathematics : I went through
the rules of addition, subtraction, multiplication and
scratch division, together with the other mode of per-
forming that useful rule. I was not more than six
months, (besides making four slings, harnessing two
pair of skates, and fixing three sleds,) in learning the
multiplication table ; in short, in the estimation of my
grandfather's family, I bid fair to be a wonderful
mathematician ; had not an unlucky accident, blown
in by the cross wind of fortune, determined me to be
irrevocably a poet.

What due offence from amorous causes springs.
What mighty contests rise from trivial things?

As my uncle's regimen may teach a new course of
medicine, so his shop or chamber may open a new
plan of education. I will tell the truth.

I had cyphered according to the good maxim feS'
tina lente, as far as vulgar fractions, when one day
my uncle being absent, I came to a question which
posed all my powers, and brought me to a dead set.
After performing the operation every way, it would
not come out any thing like the printed answer ;


it was evident the book must be wrong, or I was
wrong ; and as I then had no idea that there could
be a lie in print, I was very distrustful of my own cal-
culations. My uncle had already given me a lecture
for idleness ; and it was expected at least that one
sum should be finished on his return. What could T -
do ? Like a bard in distress, I had recourse to the
Muses ; and wrote on my slate, the following lines,
not without some faint resemblance to an anacreontic
which I had read in our Almanac.

'Tis hard to cypher, I am sure ;
But O ! 'tis harder to endure,
The anguish of a wounded heart.
When Cupid's arrows make it smart.

No language can express the astonishment with
which these lines were read. Applauses rung through
all the rooms of Oldbug house ; my grandfather, aunt
Hannah, even David, swelled the chorus. That a
boy only twelve years old should produce such lines !
Amazing ! unparalleled ! As for my uncle Gideon,
he knew too well what Cupid's arroios were, not to
admire. From that moment away went dull prose
and mathematics ; and we gave ourselves up to all the
sublimities of love and poetry. Early in the morning,
late at night, we were found in the little chamber,
under the back chimney, courting the Muses. I
wrote, and my uncle corrected ; there were produced
rebusses, acrostics, anagrams, on all the beauties of


our village on whom my uncle's eyes had strayed.
Never was a young bard encouraged by more enthusi-
astic admiration ; though I must confess, judging of
my poetry by its effects, I have no reason for self-
gratulation ; for it never softened the hearts of one of
the beauties with whom my uncle was in love. My
verses and his eloquence were alike ineffectual ; the
poor man died an old bachelor. But what can be ex-
pected from the hard hearts of modern women, espe-
cially when addressed by a shrivelled bachelor of
fifty ! They would be too hard for Orpheus himself.
Reader, if you have one son, and wish to make
him a sober, practical man, never suffer him to be
brought up at his grandpa's, nor install his uncle
over him as a schoolmaster. They will ruin him
without intending it ; for though I there learned much

that was excellent, yet, there also but what avail

excuses and reflections. My faults are my own ; and
the only lesson they can now teach me, is, humility
and repentance.


No. 15.

The current, that with gentle murmur glides,
Thou knovvest being stopped impatiently doth rage ;
But when his fair course is not hindered,
. He makes sweet music with the enamel'd stones 5
Giving a gentle kiss to every sedge,
He overtakes thee in his pilgrimage ;

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Online LibraryLeonard WithingtonThe Puritan : a series of essays, critical, moral, and miscellaneous (Volume v. 1) → online text (page 7 of 14)