Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

they are not very far from any one of us. Age is bound to age, man is bound to man, in all place and in all time, in bands mysterious, mystical, yet strong as the decrees of Heaven; and the men who made the seventeenth century noble and heroic are a power upon us to this day, and live and breathe in every vein and fibre of English life and civilisation in this nineteenth century.

We in this age, with the prophecy of the Puritan revolt spread out in its completeness before us, can see well enough how its practical issue, the Commonwealth, could not endure. A fortuitous, or, as the Puritans would have said, a providential concourse of circumstances—chief among which was the heroic nature and practical sagacity of Oliver Cromwell --conspired to raise the religious minority of England to the high places of power. The Puritans were the minority, and, even in the zenith of the Commonwealth, there were overwhelming odds against them. Sprung from the spiritual, and based upon it, always stretching forth to the spiritual, strong only in it and by it, they nevertheless raised themselves by the sword: the miry clay was mixed with the iron and precious metals in the colossal image which they had set up, and such a compound could not be enduring. As often as Cromwell essayed (and he did so repeatedly) to trust the Commonwealth in what we should now call a constitutional course, he found it ever ready to diverge into the abyss of royalty, on one hand, or of anarchy, on the other. From the beginning of the civil war to the close of the Protectorate, force was the supreme law; and, though it was force well directed—such as force, or say tyranny, was never directed before, and never has been directed since_still it was force, and must needs come to an end. We have seen how Colonel Pride, acting for the Puritans,“ purged” the Parliament, in order to compass the

death of the king. Cromwell, acting for the Puritans, dissolved it by military force early in 1653, and he and his officers—in other words, a military Directory--were then the supreme power in England. A convocation of Puritan notables, which was nominated by the Directory a few months after, sat only a short time; they spontaneously dissolved themselves, and Cromwell and his officers were again the only semblance of constituted power. Cromwell was nominated Protector by his officers in December, 1653; and from this to his death, 3d September, 1658_five short but eventful years—he summoned two Parliaments, and governed more than a year without a Parliament at all, by major-generals--avowedly a military government. He dismissed both his Parliaments, because they could not, or would not, govern England according to the law of God, as it was understood by him and his Puritan soldiers. According to our constitutional canons, this was an unmitigated despotism; but, as we have said, such another despotism the world has not seen. The Commonwealth was an attempt to antedate the ages, to push forward the index on the horologe of Time—a truly noble and glorious enterprise, in which, in one or other of its forms, seers and sages have been engaged from the beginning, but which the greatest—which even a Divine One—cannot achieve for a whole people, by the sword or otherwise, in the short day of an individual life. Cromwell, the hero, attempted it, and failed. Like a spiritual Alexander or Cæsar, he led a brave and devoted army far into an enemy's country, the little valiant band bore down all opposition, and proceeded to build up a better empire on the ruins of a rough barbarism or effete civilisa

[graphic]

tion. All went well and prospered, so long as the general was at the head of his legions; but he died, and then enemies, that had been conquered but not subdued, lifted up their heads; the pent-up forces broke forth again, and the labours and sorrows of the brave ones seemed as if worse than thrown away. But it was not, and is not so. The best and greatest cannot ante-date the ages, but neither can all the powers of evil arrest their progress. Puritanism seemed to die with its champion; “the reign of the saints” was speedily overturned by the “ Blessed Restoration." “Heroic Puritanism,” as a body politic, then died, and has never since re-appeared on the earth; but the soul of it," which was, and is, and shall be immortal,” did not, and cannot, die. What was good and true of Puritanism yet burns, and will for ever burn, a light and a joy for many hearts; let us hope that what was false in it will pass away. The religious spirit of the seventeenth century was intense, unhesitating, full of fiery zeal; but narrow, sectarian, strait-laced in formulas, and prone to persecution. The religious spirit of the nineteenth century, if less intense, is more charitable; and even its scepticism, of which there are many foreboding fears, is a scepticism of the letter, rather than of the spirit of the concrete, rather than of the abstract. Ours is a doubting, contemplative age, and contrasts strongly with that of the Puritans, with its armed faith and impetuous action; but, fresh as we are from the companionship of Puritans and Cove nanters, we are disposed to look upon our own time with heart of hope, first, for what it is in itself, and, next, for those quivering lines of light where it touches the immediate future, which we welcome, in faith and joy, as the harbingers of a clearer and warmer day than ever yet has blessed the world.

LOVE AND BEAUTY.
One day. Love, in a dream of bliss,

Amidst the flowers was lying,
And idly, for his sunny hair,

A dewy wreath was tying,
When Beauty came to seek the boy,

Amongst the roses hiding-
With flushing cheek and flashing eye,

His thoughtless absence chiding.
But Cupid knew her temper well ;

And, sure at last to melt her,
With the bright flowers that round him lay,

Began, the rogue, to pelt her.
Half pleased, half angry, Beauty stood,

His gentle missiles catching,
Until her snowy hand was torn,

In haste, some rosebuds snatching.
“Ah! Love,” she cried, “ 'tis ever thus,

My harm, you still are working ;
You strew my path with flowers, 'tis true,

But thorns beneath are lurking."

)

A. S.

264

QUEEN VICTORIA'S VISIT TO HOLYROOD.

“ With awe-struck thought and pitying tears,

I view that noble, stately dome,
Where Scotia's kings, in other years,

Famed heroes, had their royal home.
Wild beats my heart to trace your steps,

Whose ancestors, in days of yore,
Through hostile ranks and ruin'd gaps,

Old Scotia's bloody lion bore." -Burns.

The last time I had the honour to see a sovereign returning to his royal residence was to me an interesting scene. Acbar Shah, the reigning king of Delhi, had gone to the country, on a party of pleasure, in all his state magnificence. It was my duty to command a company of sepoys, at the palace-gate, to salute him on his return. Night set in before the royal cavalcade reached the city; the pageant was therefore lighted up by torches. On came, towering, solemn and slow, the majestic, canopied elephants, with the king and court of the Great Mogul; and never were Dryden's lines more truly realised

“Aloft, in awful state,
The god-like monarch sat

On his imperial throne." Fallen as the Timur dynasty was, with little left but their palace, royal state, and splendid insignia, still the king, in his venerable, patriarchal grace, and surpassing graceful costume of an Asiatic monarch, and surrounded by the all-imposing spectacle of an eastern despot procession, was truly majestic. The throned and richly-caparisoned elephants, that seemed conscious of the honour in bearing royalty, moved on with haughty mien. Nor, in his fallen state, had the king ceased to reign, at least in the hearts of his subjected subjects: they still delighted to crowd around their nominal father. There was, on this occasion, none of the loud, heartfelt acclamation that bursts from the breasts of the excited British multitude of loyal and loving lieges, at the sight of their beloved maternal Queen; it was a calm, deep, but no less sincere tribute of devoted affection; soft murmuring from many a subjected heart, imploring a blessing of peace, prosperity, health, and long life, on the head of their paternal prince. The procession approached, with slow and measured steps, the dark, lofty, frowning, arched gateway, at whose base I and my sepoys stood. I saw, far above me, the great, but eclipsed, sun of Timur. The blaze bursts from the cannon, and, for a moment, shows, in sublime relief, the pageant; while the palace echoes announce the return of their royal resident. The sepoys presented arms, and, according to my previous instructions, the native musicians pealed, soft and slow, that melancholy, wailing air, "Lochaber no more, so much in nocordance with the scene and hour. I felt myself in a highly interesting, romantic position. I stood, a solitary Briton, amid a dense population of Asiatics, to pay royal honour to a race that Britons had subjected and supplanted; but, on this occasion, save for myself, and the plaintive Scottish air, mingling with all that was foreign, and in complete contrast, the scene might have been the triumphal entry of an Arunzehe, in all the plenitude of imperial and despotic sway, in which, like the chimera of some enchanting dream, I was destined and delighted to bear a part. It was not the least impressive part of the ceremony to see the different objects of the procession successively and slowly disappearing down the dark, retiring arches of the palace vestibule, like the vanishing vision of an Arabian night's tale

anhelenis

“ Well worthy of the golden prime

Of good Haroun Alraschid.” But wbat, it may justly be asked, has all this about Delhi and its king to do with Queen Victoria and Holyrood? This question awakens us from a reverie into which we had fallen, while sitting, in holiday gaiety of spirit, on a platform overlooking the quadrangle in front of the Scottish Palace, during part of the three hours we had the honour and happiness to wait there, amid the smiles of a fine harvest sun, and the still lovelier sunny smiles of many a “bonnie lassie," who, with gleesome expression at their novel position, to my great delight, had adopted the Eastern manner of sitting cross-legs on the top of the ancient broad boundarywall; whilea stranger, who stood near me, in the shape of a Bengalcolonel, fresh from India, gave vent to his feelings in pure Hindoostanee. With this apology, therefore, for my digression, or rather diversion, from the engrossing subject of the day, and most humbly and respectfully begging her Majesty's and the courteous reader's pardon for the same, I shall now address myself to the scenes I had the pleasure to witness on this joyful occasion; and let it not be forgot, that, as apposite with my apology, the "king of diamonds”—the Koh-i-Noor—the symbolic sun of the house of Timur, has set in the east, and now shines in purer lustre in the west, shedding its radiance on the reign of victorious Victoria.

I know nothing more interestingly in contrast than to leave all the magnificence, gaiety, and improvements in Modern Athens, and turn at once into the Canongate—that venerable vista of “auld Dunedin” that leads down, with such consenting character, to Holyrood-where, at every step, the pilgrim, as if he had just quaffed Lethe’s oblivious stream, loses all remembrance and influence of the present generation, and feels as if realising the days of other times. The lowering, overshadowing, antique, time-worn domiciles have such a mysterious dreaminess about them, while the old-world rustic denizens—with the Dutch-looking dresses of the men, and peaked mutches of the women, issuing from the infernal regions through the Stygian-like closes, their loitering, languid manner and occupations, so completely at variance with the bustle, fashion, and gaiety, of the upper new-born world-give to the whole the unchanged character of the Stuart centuries: and, oh, how unlike the gay, fluttering, gilded, insect race on Prince's Street! But when the visiter stands at last in front of the “noble, stately dome,” he feels (if he feels as I have always felt since a child) a sacred solemnity-an indescribable awe, as if standing on hallowed ground; while the shadowy forms of long-departed kings, knights, squires, and seneschals, seem still fitting around and through the royal residence. And why do not Scotchmen take more pride and interest in this kingly shrine ?

[graphic]

The union of the kingdoms was a desirable and happy event, no doubt; but Scotch patriots ought to have made a better bargain in forming the alliance. The city, however, deprived of its king, court, and Parliament, instead of falling into decay, only rose like the desert-phenix in new-born grandeur from the desolation. A late writer in the PALLADIUM justly observes, that, of all the revenue that flows from Scotland into the English treasury, a very small portion of it returns to benefit our country; and though we are too proud to beg, yet not ashamed to dig, we might have been spared the insult of hearing it discussed, in a Parliament that expends millions on modern gew-gaw senate-houses, whether a few paltry pounds should be granted to make Holyrood meet to receive our most gracious Queen, or to be denounced as a waste of public money: as if Scotland, and all that belongs to it, were beneath the notice of a British Legislature, being but a barren, unprofitable, unclassical, rude, uncultivated, uncivilised, disloyal province of the empire. But we tell the pettifoggers of the House of Commons, that we glory as much in Holyrood, with all its thrilling associations, as England does in Windsor Castle; and, though we disdain to ask it as a favour, we consider ourselves justly entitled to a share of the improvement-money of the empire. The most pitiful part of the unseemly and disreputable altercation in the honourable house was the conditional sanction to the grant by the pound-shilling-and-penny Montrose member. Well might the genius of Scotland have made a senate-house again re-echo with “ Et tu Brute !" O Josephus Humanus! This, indeed, was the “unkindest cut of all.” I rejoice to think that the nation intend to commemorate her Majesty's visit to Holyrood by adorning its vestibule with her statue. This is as it ought to be, for it is as deserved as desired; but let the independent people of Scotland go farther, and do what a parsimonious Parliament demur to do, and honour their Queen and themselves by holding their palace ever in a state meet for the reception of its sovereign, and especially wipe away the reproach that exposes to all eyes a roofless chapel royal, that noble gem of antiquity, buttressed with historic interest.

But to return. 'Tis now “wearing thro' the afternoon," and again, as a citizen of the unrivalled Scottish metropolis, “Queen of the North”—ay, “Queen of the World”-I am standing, an humble but enthusiastic spectator, on the platform on the north side of the square in front of the Palace of Holyrood, to witness the fair-haired Queen of Albion enter her long-forsaken hereditary halls. Oh, what a crowd of thrilling associations come rushing on the heart of the Caledonian at the thought that the royal portals are again thrown open to welcome, for the first time since Mary's day, a Scottish Queen! Yes, a Scottish Queen! Flows there not in her veins the blood of the Stuarts? Does she not reign in the north under the endearing title of the “Queen of Hearts," over a nation of devoted and admiring subjects, from John o' Groat's to the Tweed, traversing, free and happy, her own Highland domain, inlaid with nature's own beautiful mosaic—the bright green and purple heather? A mellow, harvest, declining sun is shedding its softened radiance, through golden drapery-clouds, full on the western front and gate of the palace. The northern towers of the venerable and venerated structure were close to me, on the left, while the whole front declined in fine perspective on the stupendous plutonic columns of

[graphic]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »