« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
' worth looked on the scene with less saddened eyes than Scott; perhaps both
these good and gifted men were raised above the inevitable and transient ills of life by the sight of nature, and the warmth of friendship; by the conscience which, for them more than for most, was without reproof; by the peace which is beyond understanding.
-No public and no private care
The freeborn mind enthralling,
Our happy days recalling.
And down the meadow ranging,
Though we were changed and changing ;
Our inward prospect over,
Its brightness to recover.
A royal vessel, with a sense of propriety rarely shown, was provided for Scott, who sailed in October for the Mediterranean. Malta, Naples, and Rome, mark the successive steps downward of his mind and body. Despite many manly and pathetic efforts to see and enjoy, these scenes, which would once have moved him so deeply, now passed with slighter remark; almost all that struck him were points connected with mediaeval and Scottish history. The Knights of Malta, the Lombard relics at La Cava, the bandits of Calabria, the Orsini castle of Bracciano, the Cardinal of York's villa, the tomb of the last Stuarts in St. Peter's,—they read like a summary of the life which was well-nigh over; they resume many of his deepest interests. But they came too late.
- Nature's loveliest looks,
The news of Goethe's death had been lately brought. Scott's impatience re. doubled : “He at least died at home!” he exclaimed ; " Let us to Abbotsford.” Harrying across Europe, but overtaken again by the disease as he went, he reached London as if only to die (June, 1832). Much public sympathy was roused by the intelligence; the Royal family made daily enquiries; “Do you know if this is the street where he is lying?” was the question of labourers collected in it;- but of all this Scott was unconscious; barely rousing himself for a moment from stupor when friends and children approached him. Then the one passion which had survived all others compelled its way, and he was borne back to draw his last breath at Abbotsford. Scott lay as if insensible in the carriage ; "but as we descended the vale of Gala he began to gaze about him, and by degrees it was obvious that he was recognizing the features of that familiar landscape. Presently he murmured a name or two-Gala Water, surely, Buckholm, Torwoodlee. As we rounded the hill, and the outline of the Eildons burst on him, he became greatly excited ; and when, turning himself on the couch, his eye caught at length his own towers, at the distance of a mile, he sprang up with a cry of delight.”
For a few days, home, Abbotsford, Scotland, wrought on Scott so powerfully that they seemed capable of a cure which would have been hardly less than miraculous. “I have seen much," he kept saying, as they wheeled him through the rooms, “but nothing like my ain house-give me one turn more." At last be begged to be replaced in his study. “Now give me my pen, and leave me for a little to myself.” But the pen dropped from his fingers. “He sank back, silent tears rolling down his cheeks; but composing himself by and by, motioned to me to wheel him out of doors again.” They thought he then slept. “When he was awaking, Laidlaw," one of the many friends who were like brothers to him, “said to me, Sir Walter has had a little repose. No, Willie, said he, no repose for Sir Walter but in the grave."
After this it was a gradual descent to the rest which remained for him. Of all the many gifts that had formed the character of Walter Scott, but one was now recognizeable through the gathering mist of death ; that inexhaustible affectionateness and thought for others which had been the grace of his life. The intensity of love in him had throughout equalled the intensity of imagination ; the most unselfconscious of our poets, he was perhaps also, so far as we can judge, the most unselfish. Scott, with his marked manliness of temperament, possessed in equal measure the best of the qualities which are often called feminine. “For the least chill on the affection of any one dear to him, he had the sensitiveness of a maiden." Warmth of heart and.frankness of love were the very centre of his nature; and to the centre, life, struggling hard, had now retreated. At the final moment, when the sudden lightening of death came upon him, and he took an affecting farewell of Mr. Lockhart, it was proposed to fetch his daughters. “Shall I send for Sophia and Anne?” “No," said he, "do not disturb them. Poor souls! I know they were up all night. God bless you all.” These were his last words. On the 21st of September, 1832, the end arrived with the gentleness of sleep, in the presence of all his children. “It was a beautiful day, so warm that every window was wide open, and so perfectly still that the sound of all others most delicious to his ear, the gentle ripple of the Tweed over its pebbles, was distinctly audible as we knelt around the bed, and his eldest son kissed and closed his eyes."
Scott was laid by his wife within a family grave among the ruins of Dryburgh Abbey, in the centre of the obscure Border province where he was most at home, and which his genius has made a region more familiar than the places that they have themselves seen, to children born in America and Australia. As, looking
back to Homer and Shakespeare, one thinks of them surrounded by the beings to whom they have given a mysterious life, so Scott also lies among the real though shadowy world of his own creation. This, and the memory of his great-heartedness, is what he has left us. Travellers from all lands still throng to visit the scenery of his neighbourhood, the hillsides he planted, the garden he laid out, the house filled with the relics sanctified in his eyes by the love of poetry and of Scotland. To seve that house he fought and suffered. But it was never tenanted by his family; it stands there like the castle of a dream ; as if ready for the master's return, bat silent meanwhile and uncheered by life. His children have been long gathered to their rest; the lands which he bought at the price of genius have passed to another race; and one young girl, the child of his daughter's daughter, now preserves alone the blood of Walter Scott of Abbotsford.
F. T. PALGRAVE