Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

to take a little dinner. At half-past three in the afternoon, while Miss Gales was sitting by his bedside, watching him apparently asleep, a slight change passed over his features. Montgomery was gone. He was buried on the 11th of May, in the cemetery at Sheffield, amid such demonstrations of respect as were never paid to any individual in Sheffield before. The shops were generally closed, and the manufactories deserted. All the official bodies of Sheffield were represented in the procession. The vicar of Sheffield and twenty-four of the clergy formed part of it. The burial service of the Church of England was read by the vicar, and at its conclusion a hymn, written long before by the poet himself, was sung by the parish choir and the children of the boys’ and girls' charity schools. The coffin bore the inscription—“James Montgomery: died April the 30th, 1854, in the 83rd year of his age.’ We have not space to offer anything like a satisfactory estimate of this good man's poetical genius. That he had from an early age the poetic temperament strongly developed cannot be questioned; nor need we hesitate to say that no religious poet has ever surpassed him in the grace and melody of his diction, the purity, pathos, and fervour of his thought. A great charm in Montgomery's sacred poetry results from its evident sincerity: the glittering conceits with which Moore has surrounded pious themes do not ring sound when we compare them with the simple earnestness which breathes from every line of the happiest effusions of the poet of Sheffield. Not force and passion, but chaste beauty and gentle pathos, are the characteristics of what Montgomery wrote; and the piety of the man had so permeated and leavened his entire being that without a thought or effort it coloured everything that proceeded from his pen. No short poems in the language have found a wider circulation or a more universal acceptance than Prayer and The Common Lot ; and we might easily gather from The Pelican Island and The World before the Flood specimens of a more daring flight than are familiar to such as know Montgomery mainly as a hymnologist. We find nowhere in his four volumes that insight, passion, and reach of reflection, which distinguish the highest class of the poetry of to-day. The beautiful Lines to a Mole-hill in a Church-yard, which Montgomery amplified and spoiled in his latest edition, have always appeared to us to comprise, within a short space, the most favourable characteristics of his poetry: there is, indeed, that undue dilution of thought, which marks the composition of one who never learned to compress: but there are likewise a vein of gentle original reflection, a pathos which permeates the whole, a sympathy with all that is or was human,—all sobered somewhat by the poet's pervading sadness, and all expressed in words so choice, so harmonious, so naturally arranged, as prove how lightly the material trammels of verse sat upon his gentle and graceful spirit. No wonder if all who knew him loved the simple, pious, amiable, weak old man; no wonder if Sheffield was and is proud to claim him as her citizen ; no wonder if the little Scotch town by the shore of the Atlantic, that gave him birth, and then saw him no more till he came back a man of threescore years and ten, frail, timid, and famous, makes it her proudest boast that there was born James Montgomery; and preserves in her archives, with maternal solicitude,

the manuscript of The World before the Flood. -

167

V.
FRIENDS IN council.”

THERE is a peculiar pleasure in paying a visit to

a friend whom you never saw in his own house before. Let it not be believed that in this world there is much difficulty in finding a new sensation. The genial, unaffected, hard-wrought man, who does not think it fine to appear to care nothing for anything, will find a new sensation in many quiet places, and in many simple ways. There is something fresh and pleasant in arriving at an entirely new railway station, in getting out upon a platform on which you never before stood; in finding your friend standing there looking quite at home in a place quite strange to you ; in taking in at a glance the expression of the porter who takes your luggage and the clerk who receives your ticket, and reading there something of their character and their life; in going outside, and seeing for the first time your friend's carriage, whether the stately drag or the humbler dog-cart, and beholding horses you never saw before, caparisoned in harness heretofore unseen ; in taking your seat upon cushions hitherto unpressed by you, in seeing your friend take the reins, and then in rolling away over a new road, under new trees, over new bridges, beside new hedges, looking upon new landscapes stretching far away, and breaking in upon that latent idea common to all people who have seen very little, that they have seen almost all the world. Then there is something fresh and pleasant in driving for the first time up the avenue, in catching the first view of the dwelling which is to your friend the centre of all the world, in walking up for the first time to your chamber (you ought always to arrive at a country house for a visit about three quarters of an hour before dinner), and then in coming down and finding yourself in the heart of his belongings; seeing his wife and children, never seen before; finding out his favourite books, and coming to know something of his friends, horses, dogs, pigs, and general way of life; and then after ten days, in going away, feeling that you have occupied a new place and seen a new phase of life, henceforward to be a possession for ever. , But it is pleasanter by a great deal to go and pay a visit to a friend visited several times (not too frequently) before ; to arrive at the old railway station, quiet and country-like, with trees growing out of the very platform on which you step 5 to see your friend's old face not seen for two years; to go out and discern the old drag standing just where you remember it, and to smooth down the horses' noses as an old acquaintance; to discover a look of recognition on the man-servant's

* Friends in Council: a Series of Readings and Discourses thereon. A New Series, Two Volumes. London: R 859.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »