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Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 54, No. 334, August 1843 online

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While all their Royal progeny "love, honour, and obey!"

May peace long smile on Britain's isle! may Blackwood's Magazine,
If possible, be better still than it hath ever been;
May every thing that's good increase, and what to goodness tends;
And may the writer always have the ladies for his friends!

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote K: "L'Etat. C'est moi!" Quoth some French Roi; but which of
the "most Christian" set it was, I do not now recollect, and being from
home at this present writing, have no means of reference.]




THE CRY OF THE CHILDREN.

BY ELIZABETH B. BARRET.


Do ye hear the children weeping, O my brothers!
Ere the sorrow comes with years?
They are leaning their young heads against their mothers,
And _that_ cannot stop their tears.
The young lambs are bleating in the meadows,
The young birds are chirping in the nest,
The young fawns are playing with the shadows,
The young flowers are blowing from the west;
But the young young children, O my brothers!
They are weeping bitterly!
They are weeping in the playtime of the others -
In the country of the free.

Do you question the young children in the sorrow,
Why their tears are falling so?
The old man may weep for his to-morrow
Which is lost in long ago.
The old tree is leafless in the forest -
The old year is ending in the frost;
The old wound, if stricken, is the sorest -
The old hope is hardest to be lost!
But the young young children, O my brothers!
Do ye ask them why they stand
Weeping sore before the bosoms of their mothers,
In our happy fatherland?

They look up with their pale and sunken faces,
And their looks are sad to see;
For the man's grief untimely draws and presses
Down the cheeks of infancy.
"Your old earth," they say, "is very dreary -
Our young feet," they say, "are very weak!
Few paces have we taken, yet are weary -
Our grave-rest is very far to seek!
Ask the old why they weep, and not the children;
For the outside earth is cold -
And we young ones stand without, in our bewild'ring,
And the graves are for the old.

"True," say the young children, "it may happen
That we die before our time!
Little Alice died last year - the grave is shapen
Like a snowball, in the rime.
We look'd into the pit prepared to take her -
Was no room for any work in the close clay!
From the sleep wherein she lieth none will wake her,
Crying - 'Get up, little Alice, it is day!'
If you listen by that grave in sun and shower,
With your ear down, little Alice never cries;
Could we see her face, be sure we should not know her,
For the new smile which has grown within her eyes.
For merry go her moments, lull'd and still'd in
The shroud, by the kirk-chime!
It is good when it happens," say the children,
"That we die before our time!"

Alas, the young children! they are seeking
Death in life, as best to have!
They are binding up their hearts away from breaking,
With a cerement from the grave.
Go out, children, from the mine and from the city -
Sing out, children, as the little thrushes do!
Pluck your handfuls of the meadow cowslips pretty -
Laugh aloud to feel your fingers let them through!
But the children say - "Are cowslips of the meadows
Like the weeds anear the mine?[L]
Leave us quiet in the dark of our coal-shadows,
From your pleasures fair and fine.

"For oh!" say the children, "we are weary -
And we cannot run or leap:
If we cared for any meadows, it were merely
To drop down in them and sleep.
Our knees tremble sorely in the stooping -
We fall upon our face, trying to go;
And underneath our heavy eyelids drooping,
The reddest flower would look as pale as snow.
For, all day, we drag our burden tiring,
Through the coal-dark underground -
Or, all day, we drive the wheels of iron
In the factories, round and round.

"All day long, the wheels are droning, turning -
Their wind comes in our faces!
Till our hearts turn, and our heads with pulses burning,
And the walls turn in their places!
Turns the sky in the high window blank and reeling -
Turns the long light that droppeth down the wall -
Turn the black flies that crawl along the ceiling -
All are turning all the day, and we with all!
All day long, the iron wheels are droning -
And sometimes we could pray -
'O ye wheels' (breaking off in a mad moaning)
Stop! be silent for to-day!'"

Ay! be silent! let them hear each other breathing,
For a moment, mouth to mouth;
Let them touch each other's hands, in a fresh wreathing
Of their tender human youth;
Let them feel that this cold metallic motion
Is not all the life God giveth them to use;
Let them prove their inward souls against the notion
That they live in you, or under you, O wheels!
Still, all day, the iron wheels go onward,
As if Fate in each were stark!
And the children's souls, which God is calling sunward,
Spin on blindly in the dark.


Now, tell the weary children, O my brothers!
That they look to Him, and pray
For the blessed One, who blesseth all the others,
To bless _them_ another day.
They answer, "Who is God that he should hear us,
While this rushing of the iron wheels is stirr'd?
When we sob aloud, the human creatures near us
Pass unhearing - at least, answer not a word;
And _we_ hear not (for the wheels in their resounding)
Strangers speaking at the door.
Is it likely God, with angels singing round him,
Hears our weeping any more?

"Two words, indeed, of praying we remember;
And, at midnight's hour of harm,
_Our Father_, looking upward in the chamber,
We say softly for a charm.[M]
We say no other words except _our Father!_
And we think that, in some pause of angels' song,
He may pluck them with the silence sweet to gather,
And hold both within his right hand, which is strong.
_Our Father!_ If he heard us, he would surely
(For they call him good and mild)
Answer - smiling down the steep world very purely -
'Come and rest with me, my child.'

"But no," say the children, weeping faster;
"He is silent as a stone,
And they tell us, of his image is the master
Who commands us to work on.
Go to!" say the children; "up in heaven,
Dark, wheel-like, turning clouds are all we find!
Do not mock us! we are atheists in our grieving -
We look up for HIM - but tears have made us blind."
Do ye hear the children weeping and disproving,
O my brothers, what ye teach?
For God's possible is taught by his world's loving -
And the children doubt of each!

And well may the children weep before ye -
They are weary ere they run!
They have never seen the sunshine, nor the glory
Which is brighter than the sun!
They know the grief of men, but not the wisdom -
They sink in the despair, with hope at calm -
Are slaves, without the liberty in christdom -
Are martyrs by the pang without the palm!
Are worn as if with age; yet unretrievingly
No joy of memory keep -
Are orphans of the earthly love and heavenly -
Let them weep - let them weep!

They look up with their pale and sunken faces,
And their look is dread to see;
For you think you see their angels in their places,
With eyes meant for Deity.
"How long," they say, "how long, O cruel nation!
Will you stand, to move the world, on a child's heart,
Trample down with a mail'd heel its palpitation,
And tread onward to your throne amid the mart?
Our blood splashes upward, O our tyrants!
And your purple shows your path -
But the child's sob curseth deeper in the silence,
Than the strong man in his wrath!"

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote L: A commissioner mentions the fact of weeds being thus
confounded with the idea of flowers.]

[Footnote M: The report of the commissioners represents instances of
children, whose religious devotion is confined to the repetition of the
two first words of the Lord's Prayer.]




LETTER TO CHRISTOPHER NORTH, ESQ.


RESPECTED CHRISTOPHER,

As an appendage to the "_Whippiad_," so happily rescued from the fate
designed for it by its author, to be embalmed in the never-dying pages
of Maga, the following _jeu d'esprit_, connected with its hero, may not
be unacceptable, especially as both productions were generally
attributed to the same pen. A note on the line -

"And cuckoo mingle with the thoughts of Bell,"

towards the end of the first canto, alludes to "a young lady of singular
elegance and personal accomplishments," to whom Dr Toe's attentions were
supposed not to have been unacceptable. This elegant and accomplished
young lady, however, (a certain Miss Bell H - - ,) is said to have
eventually jilted the Doctor, and married her footman; a circumstance
which gave rise to the following stanzas: -

'Twixt footman John and Dr Toe
A rivalship befell,
Which of the two should be the Beau
To bear away the _Belle_!

The Footman won the Lady's heart,
And who can blame her? - No man.
The _whole_ prevail'd against the _part:_
'Twas _Foot_-man _versus Toe_-man.

By the way, Christopher, your compositor has "misused the queen's press
most damnably" in the quotation from Coriolanus prefixed to the second
canto, where he converts the "Great _Toe_ of the Assembly" into its
"Great _Foe_." Rap his knuckles with your crutch, old Gentleman; and
tell him, too, that the "Shawstone's party" he speaks of was a very
jolly _symposium_, given by a very hearty fellow of the name of
"Rawstorne," whose _cognomen_ stands _sic in orig._

Thine ever.

My dear Christopher,

ERIGENA.

BRAZENOSE QUAD., _July_ 15, 1843.




THE REPEAL AGITATION.


No popularity does, or can exist which is not liable to collapses.
Two-fold infirmity, alike for him who judges, and for him who suffers
judgment, will not allow it to be otherwise. Sir Robert Peel, a minister
more popular by his tenure of office than any whom this generation will
perhaps again behold, has not been able to escape that ordinary trial of
human prosperity. Suddenly a great cloud of public danger has gathered
around him: upon every path there were seen to lie secret snares: no
wisdom could make an election amongst them absolutely safe: he made that
election which comparison of the cases and private information seemed to
warrant: and immediately, of his own supporters many are offended. We
believe it to be a truth, one amongst those new truths whose aspiring
heads are even now rising above our horizon, that the office of first
minister, either for France or England, is becoming rapidly more trying
by the quality of its duties. We talk of energy: we invoke the memories
of Pitt and of Chatham: "oh, for one hour," we exclaim, of those great
_executive_ statesmen - who "trampled upon impossibilities," or glorified
themselves in a "vigour beyond the law!" Looking backwards, we are
right: in our gratitude we do not err. But those times are past. For Sir
Robert Peel no similar course is open. Changes in the temper of the age,
changes in the constitution of public bodies, absolute revolutions in
the _kind_ of responsibilities by which a minister is now fettered,
forbid us to imagine that any raptures of national sympathy will ever
crowd forward to the support of extreme or summary measures, such as
once might have been boldly employed. That style of aspiring action
presumes some approach to unity in public opinion. But such unity we
shall hardly witness again, were a hostile invader even landed on our
shores.

Meantime it will add weight to any thing we can offer in behalf of the
Irish policy now formally avowed by Government, if we acknowledge
ingenuously that for some weeks we ourselves shared in the doubts upon
its wisdom, not timidly expressed by weighty Conservatives. We believe
it, indeed, natural and honourable that the first movement of feeling
upon cases such as those now proceeding in Ireland, should be one of
mere summary indignation. Not that scurrility and the basest of
personalities from Mr O'Connell are either novelties, or difficult to
bear. To hear an old man, a man whose own approach to the period of
physical decay, is the one great hope and consolation of all good
subjects in Ireland, scoffing at grey hairs in the Duke of
Wellington - calling, and permitting his creatures to call, by the name
of "vagabonds" or "miscreants," the most eminent leaders of a sister
nation, who are also the chosen servants of that mistress whom he
professes to honour: this might have been shocking in any man who had
not long since squandered his own ability to shock. As it is, these
things move only laughter or silent disgust, according to the temper of
readers. And we are sure that not merely the priests, or men of
education amongst Mr O'Connell's followers, but even the peasantry, must
in their hearts perceive how indispensable is a _general_ habit of
self-restraint and abstinence from abusive language to the effect of any
individual insult These were _not_ the causes of public indignation. Not
what Mr O'Connell said, but what he did, kindled the general wrath. To
see him marching and countermarching armies, to find him bandying
menaces with the Government of this great nation, and proclaiming
(openly or covertly) that he would not be the party to strike the first
blow, but that assuredly he would strike the second - thinking it little
to speak as a traitor, unless also he spoke as an European potentate;
this was the spectacle before which the self-control of so many melted
away, and which raised the clamour for vindictive justice. It quickened
the irritation to know, that hostile foreigners were looking on with
deep interest, and every where misinterpreting the true readings of the
case. Weeks passed before we could thoroughly reconcile our own feelings
to the passive toleration, or apparent apathy, of the Government. Our
sense of prudence took the alarm, not less than our feelings. And
finally, if both could have acquiesced, our sense of consistency was
revolted by what met the public eye; since, if the weak were to be
punished, why should the strong be connived at? Magistrates, to the
amount of three score, had been dismissed for giving their countenance
to the Repeal meetings; and yet the meetings themselves, which had
furnished the very principle of the reproach, and the ground of
punishment, were neither dispersed nor denounced.

Rarely, however, in politics, has any man final occasion to repent of
forbearance. There may be a tempest of provocation towards the policy of
rigour; that policy may justify itself to the moral sense of men; modes
even of prudence may be won over to sanction it; and yet, after all the
largest spirit of civil prudence, such as all of us would approve in any
historical case removed from the passions of the times, will suggest a
much nobler promise of success through a steady adherence to the
counsels of peace, than any which could attend the most efficient
prosecution of a hostile intervention. The exceeding weight of the
crisis has forced us into a closer comparison than usual of the
consequences probably awaiting either course. Usually in such cases, we
are content to abide the solutions of time; the rapid motion of events
settling but too hastily all doubts, and dispensing with the trouble of
investigation. Here, however, the coincidence of feelings, heavily
mortified on our own part, with the serious remonstrances in the way of
argument from journals friendly to Sir Robert Peel's government, would
not suffer us to rest in the uneasy condition of dissatisfied suspense.
We found ourselves almost coerced into pursuing the two rival policies,
down to their separate issues; and the result has satisfied ourselves,
that the minister is right. We shall make an effort for bringing over
the reader to our own convictions. Sir Robert, we shall endeavour to
show, has _not_ been deficient in proper energy; his forbearance, where
it has been most conspicuous, is either absolute - in which case it will
be found to justify itself, even at present, to the considerate - or it
is but provisional, and waiting for contingencies - in which case it will
soon unmask itself more terrifically than either friend or enemy,
perhaps, anticipates.

The Minster's defence is best pursued through the turns of his own
admirable speech in the recent debates on the grievances of Ireland.
But, previously, let us weigh for a moment Mr O'Connell's present
position, and the chances that seem likely to have attended any attempt
to deal with him by blank resistance. It had been always understood, by
watchful politicians, that the Repeal agitation slumbered only until the
reinstalment of a Conservative administration. The Whigs were
notoriously in collusion at all times, more or less openly, with this
"foul conspiracy:"[N] a crime which, in them, was trebly scandalous; for
they it was, in times past, who had denounced the conspiracy to the
nation as ruinous; in _that_ they were right: but they also it was, who
had pointed out the leading conspirator as an individual to national
indignation in a royal speech; and in _that_ they degraded, without a
precedent, the majesty of that high state-document. Descending thus
abjectly, as regarded the traitor, the Whigs were not unwilling to
benefit by the treason. They did so. They adulterated with treason
during their term of power: the compact being, that Mr O'Connell should
guide for the Government their exercise of Irish patronage so long as he
guaranteed to them an immunity from the distraction of Irish
insubordination. When the Tories succeeded to power, this
armistice - this treasonable capitulation with treason - of necessity fell
to the ground; and once again Mr O'Connell prepared for war. _Cessante
mercede cessat opera_. How he has conducted this war of late, we all
know. And such being the brief history of its origin, embittered to him
by the silent expression of defiance, unavoidably couched in any
withdrawal of the guilty commerce, we all guess in what spirit he will
wish to conduct it for the future. But _there_ presents itself the
question of his ability - of his possible resources - for persevering in
his one mode of hostility. He would continue his array of mobs, but
_can_ he? We believe not. Already the hours of his sorceries are
numbered: and now he stands in the situation of an officer on some
forlorn outpost, before a superior enemy, and finding himself reduced to
half a dozen rounds of ammunition. In such a situation, whatever
countenance he may put on of alacrity and confidence, however rapidly he
may affect to sustain his fire in the hope of duping his antagonist into
a retreat, he cannot surmount or much delay the catastrophe which faces
him. More and more reluctantly Mr O'Connell will tell off the few
lingering counters on his beadroll: but at length comes the last; after
which he is left absolutely without resources for keeping the agitation
alive, or producing any effect whatever.

Many fancy _not_. They suppose it possible that these parades or
field-days may be repeated. But let us consider. Already it impresses a
character of childishness on these gatherings of peasants; and it is a
feeling which begins to resound throughout Ireland, that there is
absolutely no business to be transacted - not even any forms to be gone
through - and, therefore, no rational object by which such parades can be
redeemed from mockery. Were there a petition to be subscribed, a vote to
be taken, or any ostensible business to furnish an excuse for the
meeting - once, but once only, in each district, it might avail. As it
is, we have the old nursery case before us -

"The king of France march'd up the hill,
With twenty thousand men,"

followed by his most Christian majesty's successful countermarch. The
very children in the streets would follow them with hootings, if these
fooleries were reiterated. But, if that attempt were made, and in some
instances should even succeed, so much the worse for the interests of
Repeal. The effect would be fatal. No device could be found more
excellent for killing the enthusiasm which has called out such
assemblies, than the evidence thus forced upon the general mind - that
they were inoperative, and without object, either confessed or
concealed. Hitherto the toil and exhaustion of the day had been
supported, doubtless, under a belief that a muster of insurrectionary
forces was desired, with a view to some decisive course of action, when
all should be found prepared. The cautionary order issued for total
abstinence from violence had been looked upon, of course, as a momentary
or _interim_ restraint. But if once it were understood that this order
was absolute, or of indefinite application, the chill to the national
confidence would be that of death. For we are not to suppose that the
faith and love of the peasantry _can_ have been given, either personally
to Mr O'Connell, or to Repeal, as a cause for itself. Both these names
represent, indirectly, weightier and dearer objects, which are supposed
to stand behind: even Repeal is not valued as an end - but simply as a
means to something beyond. But let that idea once give way, let the
present hope languish, let it be thrown back to a period distant or
unassigned - and the ruin of the cause is sealed. The rural population of
Ireland has, it is true, been manoeuvred and exhibited merely as a
threatening show to England; but, assuredly, on that same day when the
Irish peasants, either from their own sagacity, or from newspapers,
discover that they have been used as a property by Mr O'Connell, for
purposes in which their own interest is hard to be deciphered,
indifference and torpor will succeed. For this once, the nationality of
Ireland has been too frantically stimulated for the toleration of new
delays. Mr O'Connell is at last the martyr of his own success. Should
the priestly order refuse to advance further on a road nominally
national, but from which, at any moment, the leader may turn off, by
secret compromise, into a by-road, leading only to family objects,
universal mutiny must _now_ follow. The general will of the priesthood
has thus far quelled and overruled the individual will; but that
indignant recusants amongst that order _are_ muttering and brooding we
know, as well from the necessities of human nature, as from actual
letters already beginning to appear in the journals. Under all these
circumstances, a crisis is to be dreaded by the central body of
Repealers, which body is doubtless exceedingly small. And what will
hasten this crisis is the inevitable result from a fact noticed as yet
only for ostentation. It is this. The weekly contributions in money, and
their sudden overflow, have occasioned some comments in the House of
Lords; on the one side with a view to the dishonesty apparent in the
management of this money, and to the dark purposes which it may be
supposed to mask - on the other, with a view to the increasing heartiness
in the service, which it seems to express. It is, however, a much more
reasonable comment upon this momentary increase, so _occasional_ and
timed to meet the sudden resurrection of energy in the general movement,
that the money has flowed so freely altogether under that sane
persuasion which also has drawn the peasantry to the meetings - viz. the
fixed anticipation of an immediate explosion. Multitudes in the belief,
suddenly awakened and propagated through Ireland - that now at length,
all further excuses laid aside, the one great national enterprize, so
long nursed in darkness, had ripened for execution, and would at last
begin to move - have exerted themselves to do what, under other
circumstances, they would not have done. Even simple delay would now
irritate these men beyond control. They will call for an account. This
will be refused, and cannot _but_ be refused. The particular feeling of
these men, that they have been hoaxed and swindled, concurring with the
popular rage on finding that this storm also, like all before it, is to
blow over - if there be faith in human nature, will do more to shake the
Repeal speculation than any possible course of direct English


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Online LibraryVariousBlackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 54, No. 334, August 1843 → online text (page 21 of 23)