Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

5. With whatever penetration man may contemplate, and with whatever ingenuity he may endeavor to account for the origin in the heights of the atmosphere,1' of these myriads of starry crystals of inimitable beauty and wondrous shape, there must evei remain to the inquirer an unanswerable how? Zschokex

XXVI. — THE TWO ROADS.

1. It was New Year's night. An aged man was standing at a window.94 He mournfully raised his eyes towards" the deep blue sky, where the stars were floating like white lilies on the surface of a clear calm lake. Then he cast them on the earth, where'08 few more helpless beings than himself were moving towards their inevitable goal — the tomb.45 Already he had passed sixty of the stages which lead to it, and he had brought from his journey nothing but errors and remorse. His health was destroyed, his mind unfurnished, his heart sorrowful, and his old age devoid of comfort.

2. The days of his youth rose up in a vision before him. and he recalled the solemn50 moment91 when his father had placed him at the entrance of two roads, one leading into a peaceful, sunny land, covered with a fertile harvest, and resounding with soft, sweet songs; while the other conducted the wanderer into a deep, dark cave, whence there was no issue,35 where poison flowed instead of water, and where serpents hissed and crawled.

3. He looked towards the sky, and cried out, in his anguish: — "0, youth, return! 0, my father, place me once more at the eiossway of life, that I may choose the better road!" But the days of his youth had passed away, and his parents were with the departed. He saw wandering lights float over dark marshes, and then disappear. "Such," he said, "were the days of my wasted life!" He saw a star" shoot from Heaven, and vanish in darkness athwart the church-yard. "Behold an emblem of myself!" he exclaimed; and the sharp arrows of unavailing remorse struck him to the heart.

4. Then he remembered his early companions, who had entered life with him, but who, having trod the paths"6 of virtue and industry, were now happy and honored on this New Year's night. The clock in the high church-tower struck, and the sound, falling on his ear, recalled the many tokens of the love of his parents for him, their erring son; the lessons they had taught him; the prayers they had offered up in his behalf. Overwhelmed with shame and grief, he dared no longer look towards that Heaven where they dwelt. His darkened eyes dropped tears, and, with one despairing effort, he cried aloud, "Come back, my early days! Come buck!"

5. And his youth did return; for all this had been but a dream, visiting his slumbers on New Year's night. He was still young; his errors only were no dream. He thanked God fervently that time was still his own; that he had not yet entered the deep, dark cavern, but that he was free to tread the road leading to the peaceful land where sunny harvests wave.

6. Ye who still linger on the threshold of life, doubting whick. path to choose, remember that when years shall be passed, and your feet shall stumble on the dark mountain,03 you will cry bitte-'.y, but cry in vain, "O, youth, return! O, give me back my «"»rly days!" Richter.

XXVII. THE PRESENT9' TIME.

1. Of Memory many a poet sings;

And Hope hath oft inspired the rhyme ,
But who the charm of music brings
To celebrate the present'^ time i

2. Let the past guide, the future cheer,

While youth and health are in their prime;
But, O, be still thy greatest care

That awful" point — the present time!

3. Fulfil the duties95 of the day —

The next may hear thy funeral-chime;
So shalt thou wing thy glorious way,
Where all shall be the present time

XXVIII. THE BLIND STREET-EIDDLER.

1. An Orpheus !" an Orpheus ! — he works on the crowd
He sways them with harmony merry and loud;

He fills with his power all their hearts to the brim —
Was aught ever heard like his fiddle and him!

2. What an eager assembly! what an empire is this!
The weary have life, and the hungry have bliss;
The mourner is cheered, and the anxiouB have rest,
Aad the guilt-burthened soul is no longer opprest.

3. That errand-bound 'prentice'4' was passing in haste —
What matter? he's caught — and his time runs to wu=tc.

The newsman"3 is stopped, though he stops on the fret,
And the half-breathless lamplighter — he's in the net!

1. The porter gits down on the weight which he bore;
The lass with her barrow wheels102 hither her store ; —
If a thief could be here, he might pilfer at ease ; —
She sees the musician, 't is all that she sees!

5. He stands backed by the wall ; — he abates not his din,
His hat gives him vigor, with boons" dropping in,

From the old and the young, from the poorest, — and tliew
The one-pennied" boy has his penny to spare.

6. O, blest are the hearers, and proud be the hand

Of the pleasure it spreads through so thankful a band;

I am glad for him, Mind as he is ; — all the while

If they speak't is to praise, and they praise with a smile

7. That tall man, a giant in bulk and in height,—
Not an inch of his body is free from delignt;

Can he keep himself still, if he would > O, not he'
The music stirs in him like wind through a tree.

8. Mark that cripple ! —but little would tempt him to try
To dance to the strain and to fling his crutch by ! —
That mother! whose spirit in fetters is bound

While she dandles the Dabe in her arms to the sound.

9. Now, coaches and chariots! roar on like a stream;
Here are twenty souls happy as souls in a dream;
They are deaf to your murmurs — they care not for you,
Njr what ye are flying, nor what ye pursue!

WORDSWORTH.

XXIX. GLADIATORIAL COMBAT WITH A TIGER.

1. Insine of the great amphitheatre" of Alexandria,*' sixty thousand spectators were assembled; and an equal number surrounded the outside. The hum of voices, the uproar which proceeded from this immense assemblage, resembled the noise of the ocean in a storm. Indeed, the amphitheatre itself might be compared to a vessel, the hold of which has been invaded by the waves and filled to overflowing, while, outside, other waves are climbing its sides and dashing over its deck. A horrible roaring, responded to by the cries of the multitude,85 announced the arrival of a tiger who had just been let out of his cage.'

2. At one of the extremities of the arena," a man lay couched half-naked upon the sand, and apparently asleep, 98 little interest did he seem to take in the affair which was vehe tnontly agitating the crowd., This man, while the tiger, impatient to encounter his expected prey, rushed from side to side through the empty arena, leaned himself unconcernedly upon his elbow, his eyes languid and heavy, like those of a hay-maker, who fatigued with toil on a warm summer-day, throws himself on the grass and is about falling asleep.

3. Meanwhile,6 from the crowded benches a number of eager spectators called upon the munerator, or intendant of the games, to bring forward the victim; for either the tiger had not discovered him, or had disdained to touch him, seeing him so resigned and passive. The officers of the arena, armed with long pikes, hastened to obey the will of the cruel and bloody-minded people, and with the sharpened ends of their weapons stirred up the gladiator."

4. No sooner did he feel the puncture of their lances, than he rose with a cry so wild and terrible that the savage beasts, shut up in the cells of the vast amphitheatre, responded with a howl of affright. Snatching at one of the lances with which his skin had been pricked, he wrested it, by a single effort, from the hand which held it, broke it into two pieces, threw one at the intendant's head, prostrating him by the blow, and then, retaining the sharpened remainder of the lance, went, provided with this weapon, to meet his ferocious foe.

5. When the gladiator had first'0' risen from the sand, and offered to the multitude the spectacle of the shadow cast by liif colossal" stature, a murmur of astonishment0' ran through the crowd, and more than one voice, calling him by name, recounted anecdotes of his prowess in the circus and his exploits in moment of popular sedition. The multitude were well content: tiger an gladiator were worthy of each other.

6. In the mean time, the gladiator advanced with measurec steps to the very centre of the arena, turning occasionally tow ard the imperial box, and letting fall his arms with a rud* show of obeisance,32 or scooping with the point of his lance the earth which he was about to crimson with gore. As it was contrary to custom for criminals to be armed, several voices exclaimed: "No arms for the bes'tia'ry!" The bestiary without irms!" Uut he, brandishing the fragment which he had -etained, and exhibiting it to the multitude, exclaimed between his teeth, with pale lips, and *a hoarse voice, almost stifled with rage, " Gome and take it!"

7. The cries having redoubled, however, he haughtily raised his head, skimmed his glance over the whole assembly, smiled on them disdainfully, and then, breaking anew33 between his hands the weapon he had been called upon 'o lay down, threw the remnants at the head of the tiger, who was, at the moment, sharpening his teeth and claws against the so'cle" of a column.4* Here was a defiance! The animal, feeling himself struck, turned his head, and, seeing his adversary standing in the middle of the arena, rushed with a single bound towards" him. But the gladiator avoided the assault by stooping nearly to a level with the earth; and the tiger, with a howl of rage, fell some paces distant from the mark at which ho had aimed in his spring.

8. Rising to his feet, the gladiator, by the same manoeuvre," thrice baffled the fury of his savage enemy. At length the tiger approached him with slow, cautious, cat-like steps. The eyes of the beast glittered like flame ; his tail was straight, his tongue already bloody, aud he showed his teeth, and protruded his nose, as if to snuff his prey with the more certainty. But this time it was the gladiator who made a leap. At the moment the beast drew" near to seize him, he cleared him by a bound which called down the furious applauses of the spectators, already mastered by the emotions which this extraordinary struggle excited.

9. At length, after having for some time fatigued his ferocious foe, the gladiator, more wearied by the exclamations of the crowd than by the delays of a combat which had seemed so unequal at the outset, awaited with firm-set foot the approach of the tiger. The latter ran panting towards him, with a howl of satisfaction. A cry of horror, perhaps of joy also, escaped at the same time from the occupants of all the benches, as the animal, raising himself on his hind legs, placed his fore-paws'i8 on the naked shoulders of the gladiator, and thrust forward his jaws to devour him. But the gladiator bent backward to protect his head, and seizing, with both his stiffened arms, the animal's silken neck, he squeezed it with such force, that the tiger, without letting go his hold, struggled violently to throw up his head, and let the air reach his lungs, the passage to which was closed, as if by a vice, by the gladiator's hands.

10. The gladiator, however, perceiving that with his loss of blood his strength was failing him, under the tenacious claws of his antagonist, now redoubled his efforts to hasten the termination of the contest; for, with its prolongation, his chances were diminishing every moment. Erecting himself on his feet, and bearing with all his weight on his enemy, whose legs bent under the pressure, he broke the ribs of the animal, and made the jammed chest give forth a gurgling sound, followed by an effusion of blood and foam from the tightened throat.

11. Then, all at once, half-raising himself, and disengaging his shoulders, a shred of flesh from which remained attached to one of the animal's claws, the victor placed a knee upon the

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »