William Chambers.

Chambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) online

. (page 29 of 58)
Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) → online text (page 29 of 58)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

She speaks ! and hark that passion-warbled song-
Still, Fancy, still those mazy notes prolong.
Sweet as the angelic harps, whose rapturous falls
Awake the softened echoes of heaven's halls.
Oh ! (have I sighed) were mine the wizard's rod,
Or mine the power of Proteus, changeful god,
A flower-entangled arbour I would seem,
To shield my love from noontide's sultry beam ;
Or bloom a myrtle, from whose odorous boughs
My love might weave gay garlands for her brows.
When twilight stole across the fading vale,
To fan my love, I'd be the evening gale :
Mourn in the soft folds of her swelling vest,
And flutter my faint pinions on her breast.
On seraph wing I'd float a dream by night,
To soothe my love with shadows of delight ;
Or soar aloft, to be the spangled skies,
And gaze upon her with a thousand eyes.

As when the savage, who his drowsy frame
Had basked beneath the sun's unclouded flame,
Awakes amid the troubles of the air,
The skyey deluge, and white lightning's glare-
Aghast he scours before the tempest's sweep,
And sad recalls the sunny hour of sleep :
So tossed by storms along life's wildering way,
Mine eye reverted, views that cloudless day,


When by my native brook I wont to rove,
While hope with kisses nursed the infant love.
Dear native brook ! like peace, so placidly
Smoothing through fertile fields thy current meek !
Dear native brook ! where first young Poesy
Stared wildly eager in her noontide dream,
Where blameless pleasures dimple Quiet's cheek,
As water-lilies ripple a slow stream.
Dear native haunts ! where Virtue still is gay ;
Where Friendship's fixed star sheds a mellowed ray ;
Where Love a crown of thornless roses wears ;
Where softened Sorrow smiles within her tears ;
And Memory, with a vestal's chaste employ,
Unceasing feeds the lambent flame of joy
No more your skylarks, melting from the sight,
Shall thrill the attuned heart-string with delight ;
No more shall deck your pensive pleasures sweet
With wreaths of sober hue my evening seat.
Yet dear to fancy's eye your varied scene
Of wood, hill, dale, and sparkling brook between ;
Yet sweet to fancy's ear the warbled song,
That soars on morning's wing your vales among.

Scenes of my hope ! the aching eye ye leave
Like yon bright hues that paint the clouds of eve.
Tearful and saddening with the saddened blaze,
Mine eye the gleam pursues with wistful gaze ;
Sees shades on shades with deeper tint impend,
Till, chill and damp, the moonless night descend.


SPIRIT who sweepest the wild harp of time !

It is most hard, with an untroubled ear

Thy dark inwoven harmonies to hear !
Yet mine eye fixed on heaven's unchanging clime
Long when I listened, free from mortal fear,

With inward stillness, and submitted mind ;

When lo ! its folds far waving on the wind,
I saw the train of the departing year !
Starting from my silent sadness,
Then with no unholy madness,
Ere yet the entered cloud foreclosed my sight,
I raised the impetuous song, and solemnised his flight.


Hither from the recent tomb,
From the prison's direr gloom,
From Distemper's midnight anguish ;
And thence, where Poverty doth waste and languish ;
Or where, his two bright torches blending,

Love illumines manhood's maze ;
Or where, o'er cradled infants bending,
Hope has fixed her wishful gaze,

Hither, in perplexed dance,
Ye Woes ! ye young-eyed Joys ! advance !
By time's wild harp, and by the hand
Whose indefatigable sweep

Raises its fateful strings from sleep,
I bid you haste, a mixed tumultuous band i
From every private bower,

And each domestic hearth,
Haste for one solemn hour ;
And with a loud and yet a louder voice,
O'er nature struggling in portentous birth

Weep and rejoice !

Still echoes the dread name that o'er the earth
Let slip the storm, and woke the brood of hell :

And now advance in saintly jubilee
Justice and Truth ! They, too, have heard thy spell ;
They, too, obey thy name, divinest Liberty 1


I marked Ambition in his war-array !

I heard the mailed monarch's troublous cry :
' Ah ! wherefore does the northern conqueress stay ?
Groans not her chariot on its onward way?'

Fly, mailed monarch, fly !
Stunned by Death's twice mortal mace,
No more on Murder's lurid face
The insatiate hag shall gloat with drunken eye !
Manes of the unnumbered slain !
Ye that gasped on Warsaw's plain !
Ye that erst at Ismail's tower,
When human ruin choked the streams,

Fell in conquest's glutted hour,
'Mid women's shrieks and infants, screams !
Spirits of the uncoffined slain,

Sudden blasts of triumph swelling,
Oft at night, in misty train,

Rush around her narrow dwelling !


The exterminating fiend is fled

(Foul her life, and dark her doom)
Mighty armies of the dead

Dance like death-fires round her tomb !
Then with prophetic song relate
Each some tyrant-murderer's fate !


Departing year ! 'twas on no earthly shore

My soul beheld thy vision ! Where alone,

Voiceless and stern, before the cloudy throne,
Aye Memory sits : thy robe inscribed with gore,
With many an unimaginable groan

Thou storiedst thy sad hours ! Silence ensued,

Deep silence o'er the ethereal multitude,
Whose locks with wreaths, whose wreaths with glories shone.
Then, his eye wild ardours glancing,
From the choired gods advancing,
The Spirit of the earth made reverence meet,
And stood up, beautiful, before the cloudy seat.


Throughout the blissful throng
Hushed were harp and song :

Till wheeling round the throne the Lampads seven
(The mystic words of Heaven)
Permissive signal make :

The fervent Spirit bowed, then spread his wings and spake :
' Thou in stormy blackness throning

Love and uncreated Light,
By the Earth's unsolaced groaning,
Seize thy terrors, Arm of might !
By Peace with proffered insult scared,
Masked Hate and envying Scorn !
By years of havoc yet unborn !
And Hunger's bosom to the frost-winds bared !
But chief by Afric's wrongs,

Strange, horrible, and foul !
By what deep guilt belongs
To the deaf Synod, " full of gifts and lies !"
By Wealth's insensate laugh ! by Torture's howl !

Avenger, rise !

For ever shall the thankless island scowl,
Her quiver full, and with unbroken bow ?
Speak ! from thy storm-black heaven, oh, speak aloud !
And on the darkling foe



Open thine eye of fire from some uncertain cloud !

O dart the flash ! O rise and deal the blow !
The past to thee, to thee the future cries !

Hark ! how wide Nature joins her groans below !
Rise, God of Nature ! rise.'


Not yet enslaved, not wholly vile,
O Albion ! O my mother isle !
Thy valleys, fair as Eden's bowers,
Glitter green with sunny showers ;
Thy grassy uplands' gentle swells

Echo to the bleat of flocks
(Those grassy hills, those glittering dells

Proudly ramparted with rocks) ;
And Ocean, 'mid his uproar wild,
Speaks safety to his island-child !

Hence, for many a fearless age

Has social Quiet loved thy shore !
Nor ever proud invader's rage
Or sacked thy towers, or stained thy fields with gore.


Abandoned of Heaven ! mad Avarice thy guide,

At cowardly distance, yet kindling with pride

'Mid thy herds and thy corn-fields secure thou hast stood,

And joined the wild yelling of Famine and Blood !

The nations curse thee !


Away, my soul, away !

In vain, in vain the birds of warning sing
And hark ! I hear the famished brood of prey
Flap their lank pennons on the groaning wind !

Away, my soul, away !
I, unpartaking of the evil thing,
With daily prayer and daily toil
Soliciting for food my scanty soil,
Have wailed my country with a loud lament.
Now I recentre my immortal mind

In the deep sabbath of meek self-content ;
Cleansed from the vaporous passions that bedim
God's image, sister of the seraphim.

EORGE WASHINGTON was born in Westmoreland
County, Virginia, on the 22d of February 1732. He was
the eldest son, by a second marriage, of Augustine
Washington, a gentleman of large property, the" de-

scendant of John Washington, an Englishman who had

emigrated to America during the government of Oliver Cromwell.
The name of Washington's mother was Mary Ball. Her husband
dying suddenly in the year 1743, the charge of educating a large
family, consisting of two surviving sons of her husband by his former
wife and five surviving children of her own, devolved upon her.
George Washington was eleven years of age at the time of his
father's death.

Although cut off in the prime of life, Augustine Washington left
all his children well provided for. Lawrence, the eldest, was left
an estate of twenty-five hundred acres, besides shares in ironworks
57 *


in Maryland and Virginia ; Augustine, who was next oldest,,
inherited an estate in Westmoreland; George inherited the house
and lands in Stafford County, where his father resided at the time
of his death ; his three younger brothers had each a plantation of
six or seven hundred acres assigned him ; and provision was other-
wise made for the sister. By the will of her husband, Mrs Washing-
ton was intrusted with the sole management of the property of her
six children, until they should respectively come of age. Being.
a woman of singular prudence and strength of character, she fulfilled
this important charge with great success. She lived to see her
illustrious son at the height of his greatness.

The means of education were at that time very limited in the
American colonies. Wealthy persons, who wished their sons to
receive a liberal education, were under the necessity of sending them
home to the mother-country for that purpose; but most of the
planters were satisfied with the plain elementary education which
their sons could obtain at the nearest school. Sometimes a man
of superior qualifications would settle down as a schoolmaster in
Virginia ; but the majority of the schoolmasters pretended to nothing
more than being qualified to teach reading, writing, arithmetic, and
book-keeping. It was under a person of this kind that George
Washington acquired all the school education that he ever received ;
and he appears to have left school altogether before arriving at the
age of sixteen. From all that can be learned of this early period
of his life, he seems to have been characterised by great docility
and rectitude of disposition. His schoolfellows, it is said, used
to refer all their disputes to his judgment. As a boy, he was
exceedingly fond of such athletic exercises as leaping, wrestling,
throwing the hammer, swimming, &c. ; and his military propensity
developed itself in the delight which he took in arranging his school-
fellows in companies, making them parade like soldiers, attack
imaginary forts, and fight mimic battles. The best insight, how-
ever, which we obtain into Washington's character and pursuits
when a boy, is derived from fragments of his juvenile copy-books
and manuscripts which have been preserved. They are all written
in a neat and careful hand, with great attention to method and
arrangement. The greater number contain exercises in arithmetic
and practical geometry, especially land-surveying ; and the diagrams
which are drawn to illustrate the geometrical exercises are remark-
able for their accuracy and beauty. The earliest of the manuscripts
is a folio one, entitled ' Forms of Writing,' containing copies of bills
of exchange, receipts, bonds, indentures, bills of sale, land warrants,
leases, deeds, and wills, written out with care, the prominent words
in large and varied characters, in imitation of a clerk's hand. These
' Forms of Writing ' are followed by quotations in verse, more remark-
able, his biographer tells us, for the soundness of the sentiments
which they express, than for their poetical merit; and these quota-


tions, again, are followed by ' Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour
in Company and Conversation.' The rules are a hundred and ten
in number, and appear to have been either copied entire out of one
book, or collected out of several. We may quote two or three as
specimens. Rule 2 : ' In the presence of others, sing not to yourself
with a humming noise, nor drum with your fingers or feet.' Rule 12 :
' Let your discourse with men of business be short and comprehen-
sive.' Rule 29 : ' Utter not base and frivolous things amongst grave
and learned men ; nor very difficult questions or subjects amongst
the ignorant; nor things hard to be believed.' Rule 40: 'Think
before you speak; pronounce not imperfectly, nor bring out your
words too hastily, but orderly and distinctly.' Rule 57: 'Labour
to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called

The methodical habits which we see so clearly manifested in these
juvenile copy-books, were Washington's characteristics through life.

Grammar, or the study of languages, was no part of Washington's
education when a boy. His early letters are sometimes faulty in
point of grammar and expression, and it was only by practice in
writing and conversation that he acquired the accurate and distinct
style which he afterwards wrote. When considerably advanced in
life, he made an attempt to learn French, but appears to have
succeeded but poorly.

When Washington was fourteen years of age, a proposal was
made with his own consent, which, if carried into effect, would have
opened up for him a very different career from that which he was
destined to follow. Observing his liking for adventure and active
exercise, his brother Lawrence exerted his interest to procure for
him a midshipman's warrant in the British navy. The warrant was
procured, and the boy was pleased with a prospect which was at that
time as promising as one in his circumstances could desire; but
as nothing could overcome Mrs Washington's reluctance to let
her son go to sea, the project was at length abandoned : George
Washington remained at school, and some other boy obtained the
midshipman's berth.

After leaving school, at the age of sixteen, Washington resided
some time with his brother Lawrence on his estate of Mount
Vernon ; so called in honour of Admiral Vernon, who was a friend
of Lawrence Washington, and under whose command George was
to have served. Lawrence Washington had married Miss Fairfax,
the daughter of his near neighbour, William Fairfax, a person of
wealth and political station in the colony, and a distant relative
of Lord Fairfax a nobleman of literary tastes and somewhat
eccentric habits, who had left England and come to reside in Vir-
ginia, where he was the proprietor of a vast tract of country lying
between the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers, and stretching across
the Alleghany Mountains. At the time of George Washington's


residence with his brother at Mount Vernon, Lord Fairfax was on
a visit at the house of William Fairfax, the father-in-law of Lawrence ;
and between the two families a constant intercourse was kept up.
As young Washington was continually employed in his favourite
pursuit of land-surveying, putting his art in practice on his brother's
estate, it occurred to Lord Fairfax to engage him in surveying his
own vast property. Various circumstances were rendering such a
survey absolutely necessary. Settlers were squatting down on the
most fertile spots on the extremity of his lordship's lands, without
leave being asked or given ; and to put a stop to such proceedings, it
was essential that the boundaries of the lands should be defined, and
the remoter districts accurately divided into lots. Our young sur-
veyor was intrusted with this very responsible office ; and accordingly,
in the month of March 1748, he set out on his surveying expedition
to the valleys of the Alleghanies, accompanied by George Fairfax,
the son of William Fairfax. The tour lasted two months, and from
the entries in Washington's journal, the labour appears to have been
pretty arduous. On the I5th of March he writes: 'Worked hard
till night, and then returned. After supper, we were lighted into
a room, and I, not being so good a woodsman as the rest, stripped
myself very orderly, and went into the bed, as they called it, when,
to my surprise, I found it to be nothing but a little straw matted
together, without sheet or anything else, but only one threadbare
blanket, covered with vermin. I was glad to get up and put on my
clothes, and lie as my companions did.'

For three years Washington pursued the profession of land-sur-
veyor in the neighbourhood of Mount Vernon, making occasional
journeys as far as the Alleghanies. As he had received a commis-
sion as public surveyor, which gave his surveys authority, and as
there were very few of the profession at that time in Virginia, his
practice was extensive and lucrative. In writing to a friend, describ-
ing the hardships and exposures which he had to undergo in his
surveying tours to the west, he says : ' Nothing could make it pass
off tolerably but a good reward. A doubloon is my constant gain
every day that the weather will permit of my going out, and some-
times six pistoles.' In another letter written during the same period
to a friend, whom he addresses as ' dear Robin,' and who appears
to have been his confidant, he says : ' My place of residence at
present is at his lordship's (Lord Fairfax's), where I might, were my
heart disengaged, pass my time very pleasantly, as there is a very
agreeable young lady in the same house, Colonel George Fairfax's
wife's sister. But that only adds fuel to the fire, as being often and
unavoidably in company with her revives my former passion for your
Lowland beauty ; whereas, were I to live more retired from young
women, I might in some measure alleviate my sorrow by burying
that chaste and troublesome passion in oblivion.' Several other
letters of the same period are written in the same desponding tone ;



but the name of this 'troublesome' Lowland beauty, who was
Washington's first love, has unfortunately perished.

About the year 1751, the French and the Indians were making
themselves very disagreeable neighbours to the British colonists in
Virginia ; the French by their encroachments on the frontier, and
the Indians by the depredations which they committed. To defend
themselves against these, as well as to be prepared for the war which
seemed likely at no distant period to break out between France and
Great Britain, it was resolved to organise the colonial militia, divide
the province into districts, and appoint an adjutant-general, with
the military rank of major, to superintend each district. Washington,
who was now in his twentieth year, was appointed one of these
officers, probably by the interest of his friends the Fairfaxes. The
office, besides bringing him in a hundred and fifty pounds a year,
afforded him opportunities of becoming practically acquainted with
military affairs. He entered with ardour into its duties, taking
lessons from the ablest military men he could meet with, sub-
mitting himself to the drill, and reading numerous books on the
military art.

Shortly after Washington's appointment to the rank of major in
the militia, his brother Lawrence, whose health had been long
declining, was advised to make a voyage to Barbadoes, and reside
a few months there for the benefit of the climate ; and as it was
necessary that he should not go unattended, George accompanied
him. While in Barbadoes, Washington was attacked by small-pox,
but recovered after a short illness. As his brother was not deriving
any benefit from the climate, he resolved to go to Bermuda in the
spring, and in the meantime Washington was to return to Virginia.
From Bermuda, Lawrence was to write to him to rejoin him along
with his wife. This arrangement, however, was never carried into
effect ; for though, in the spring, Lawrence did proceed to Bermuda,
he found himself so much worse, that he saw it to be necessary
to return to Virginia; and on the 26th of July 1752 he died at
Mount Vernon, leaving a wife and an infant daughter. By his will,
the property of Mount Vernon was bequeathed to his daughter ; but
in case of her death without issue, it was to devolve on Washington,
with the reservation of a life-interest in favour of his wife. Wash-
ington was also appointed one of the executors.

Immediately on his return from Barbadoes, Major Washington
had resumed his military duties with great zeal and perseverance ;
and when, on the appointment of Mr Dinwiddie as governor of
Virginia, the whole colony was mapped out into four grand military
divisions, so high was Major Washington's character, that the
northern division was allotted to him. His duties were to 'visit the
several counties, in order to train and instruct the militia officers,
review the companies on parade, inspect the arms and accoutrements,
and establish a uniform system of manoeuvres and discipline.'




Every day fresh accounts were received of the encroachments
which the French were making on the British territory beyond the
Alleghanies. These accounts had reached the government at home,
and the British cabinet had sent out instructions to Governor Din-
widdie to build two forts on the Ohio, for the purpose of driving off
the intruders, and asserting the British claim to the disputed terri-
tory. As a preliminary step, Governor Dinwiddie resolved to send
a commissioner, in the name of his Britannic majesty, to confer with
the commander of the intruding French troops, and demand his
reason for invading the British territory, and also with a view to
collect accurate information respecting the numbers and force of the
invaders, their intended movements, and the extent to which they
had gained the confidence and alliance of the Indians. Major
Washington was selected as a person well qualified for this important
mission, although yet only in his twenty-second year. Accompanied
by seven others, two of whom were to act as his interpreters, one
with the French, the other with the Indians, he performed a difficult
and dangerous journey of 560 miles, in the depth of winter, through
a region of forest, swamp, and wilderness, which had not yet been
penetrated by civilisation ; and after an absence of nearly three
months, returned to Williamsburg, the seat of the Virginia govern-
ment, having fully accomplished the main objects of his expedition.
The three principal objects which Governor Dinwiddie contemplated
by the mission were, the ascertaining of a suitable site for a British
fort, a conference with the Indian tribes, with a view to secure their
assistance against the French, and a visit to the French fort itself.
Major Washington attended to them all. Proceeding to the French
fort, he had several interviews with the commandant ; but as nothing
satisfactory resulted from these conferences, he took his departure,
after having stayed long enough to obtain all the intelligence he
wished to carry back to Governor Dinwiddie. Immediately on
his return to Williamsburg, his journal of the expedition was
published, and being regarded as an important official document, as
affairs then stood between France and Great Britain, it was copied
into almost all the newspapers both in the colony and in the mother-

Governor Dinwiddie commenced his military preparations with
great alacrity. He summoned an early meeting of the legislature,
to adopt such proceedings as might appear proper in the emergency ;
and not content with this, he wrote to the governors of the other
provinces, to rouse their flagging zeal. The colonists, however,
shewed no signs of sympathy with the bustling activity of the gover-
nor. They were in no hurry, they said, to precipitate themselves


into a war with which they had no concern. What business had
the governor of Virginia with the encroachments of the French on
the Ohio ? Was it even certain that they were encroaching on the
king's lands ? What claim had the king of Great Britain to these
lands, any more than the king of France? Or, if the lands did
belong to the king of Great Britain, why did he not send out his
own soldiers to beat back the French, instead of leaving it to be
done by the colonists, to whom it did not matter a pin's point whether
the French kept possession of the lands or not ? Such murmurs
gave the governor great vexation. It is true that, after a long dis-
cussion, the legislature of Virginia voted ten thousand pounds for

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) → online text (page 29 of 58)