Page images
PDF
EPUB

among the old melancholy-looking yew-trees, or the firs, and picking up the red berries, and the fir apples, which were good for nothing but to look at -or in lying about upon the fresh grass with all the fine garden smells around memor basking in the orangery, till I could almost fancy myself ripening too along with the oranges and the limes in that grateful warmth—or in watching the dace that darted to and fro in the fish-pond, at the bottom of the garden, with here and there a great sulky pike hanging midway down the water in silent state, as if it mocked at their impertinent friskings,- I had more pleasure in these busy-idle diversions than in all the sweet flavours of peaches, nectarines, oranges, and such-like common baits of children.

Here John slyly deposited back upon the plate a bunch of grapes, which, not unobserved by Alice, he had meditated dividing with her, and both seemed willing to relinquish them for the present as irrelevant. Then, in somewhat a more heightened tone, I told how, though their great-grandmother Field loved all her grandchildren, yet in an especial manner she might be said to love their uncle, John L-, because he was so handsome and spirited a youth, and a king to the rest of us; and, instead of moping about in solitary corners, like some of us, he would mount the most mettlesome horse he could get, when but an imp no bigger than themselves, and make it carry him half over the county in a morning, and join the hunters when there were any out-and yet he loved the old great house and gardens too, but had too much

spirit to be always pent up within their boundaries -and how their uncle grew up to man's estate as brave as he was handsome, to the admiration of everybody, but of their great-grandmother Field most especially; and how he used to carry me upon his back when I was a lame-footed boyfor he was a good bit older than me-many a mile when I could not walk for pain ;—and how in after life he became lame-footed too, and I did not always (I fear) make allowances enough for him when he was impatient, and in pain, nor remember sufficiently how considerate he had been to me when I was lame-footed ; and how when he died, though he had not been dead an hour, it seemed as if he died a great while ago, such a distance there is betwixt life and death; and how I bore his death as I thought pretty well at first, but afterwards it haunted and haunted me; and though I did not cry or take it to heart as some do, and as I think he would have done if I had died, yet I missed him all day long, and knew not till then how much I had loved him. I missed his kindness and I missed his crossness, and wished him to be alive again, to be quarrelling with him (for we quarrelled sometimes), rather than not have him again, and was as uneasy without him, as he their poor uncle must have been when the doctor took off his limb.

Here the children fell a-crying, and asked if their little mourning which they had on was not for uncle John; and they looked up, and prayed

not to go on about their uncle, but to

me

tell them some stories about their pretty dead mother. Then I told how for seven long years, in hope sometimes, sometimes in despair, yet persisting ever, I courted the fair Alice Wn; and, as much as children could understand, I explained to them what coyness, and difficulty, and denial, meant in maidens—when, suddenly turning to Alice, the soul of the first Alice looked out at her eyes with such a reality of representment, that I became in doubt which of them stood there before me, or whose that bright hair was; and while I stood gazing, both the children gradually grew fainter to my view, receding, and still receding, till nothing at last but two mournful features were seen in the uttermost distance, which, without speech, strangely impressed upon me the effects of speech: "We are not of Alice, nor of thee, nor are we children at all. The children of Alice call Bartrum father. We are nothing; less than nothing, and dreams. We are only what might have been, and must wait upon the tedious shores of Lethe millions of ages before we have existence, and a name,”—and immediately awaking, I found myself quietly seated in my bachelor arm-chair, where I had fallen asleep, with the faithful Bridget unchanged by my side-but John L. (or James Elia) was gone

for ever,

Charles Lamb.

XII.

SATURN AND THEA.

ONE moon, with alteration slow, had shed
Her silver seasons four upon the night,
And still these two l were postured motionless,
Like natural sculpture in cathedral cavern;
The frozen God still couchant on the earth,
And the sad Goddess weeping at his feet :
Until at length old Saturn lifted up
His faded eyes, and saw his kingdom gone,
And all the gloom and sorrow of the place,
And that fair kneeling Goddess; and then spake
As with a palsied tongue, and while his beard
Shook horrid with such aspen-malady:
“O tender spouse of gold Hyperion,
Thea, I feel thee ere I see thy face ;
Look up, and let me see our doom in it;
Look

up,

and tell me if this feeble shape Is Saturn's; tell me if thou hear'st the voice Of Saturn; tell me if this wrinkling brow, Naked and bare of its great diadem, Peers ? like the front of Saturn. Who had power To make me desolate ? whence came the strength ? How was it nurtured to such bursting forth, While Fate seemed strangled in my nervous grasp ? But it is so; and I am smother'd up, And hurried from all godlike exercise Of influence benign on planets pale, Of admonitions to the winds and seas,

I am gone

Of peaceful sway above man's harvesting,
And all those acts which Deity supreme
Doth ease its heart of love in.
Away from my own bosom: I have left
My strong identity, my real self,
Somewhere between the throne, and where I sit
Here on this spot of earth. Search, Thea, search !
Open thine eyes eterne, and sphere them round
Upon all space : space starr'd, and lorn of light;
Space region'd with life-air; and barren void;
Spaces of fire, and all the yawn of hell.
Search, Thea, search ! and tell me if thou seest
A certain shape or shadow, making way
With wings or chariot fierce to re-possess
A heaven he lost erewhile: it must-it must
Be of ripe progress—Saturn must be king.
Yes, there must be a golden victory;
There must be gods thrown down, and trumpets

blown
By triumph calm, and hymns of festival
Upon the gold clouds metropolitan,
Voices of soft proclaim, and silver stir
Of strings in hollow shells; 5 and there shall be
Beautiful things made new, for the surprise
Of the sky-children; I will give command:
Thea ! Thea ! Thea! where is Saturn ?"

John Keats.

Teoer

« PreviousContinue »