« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
is of all sounds the most withering. The bustle around seemed to awaken the mother from a wretched reverie. She raised her glazed eyes, and looked about with a faint wildness. As the men approached with cords to lower the coffin into the grave, she wrung her hands and broke into an agony of grief. The poor woman who attended her, took her by the arm, endeavouring to raise her from the earth, and to whisper something like consolation—" Nay, now—nay, now-don't take it so sorely to heart.” She could only shake her head, and wring her hands, as one not to be comforted.
As they lowered the body into the earth, the creaking of the cords seemed to agonize her ; but when, on some accidental obstruction, there was a jostling of the coffin, all the tenderness of the mother burst forth ; as if any harm could come to him who was far beyond the reach of worldly suffering.
I could see no more my heart swelled into my throat—my eyes filled with tears, I felt as if I were acting a barbarous part in standing by and gazing idly on this scene of maternal anguish. I wandered to another part of the church-yard, where I remained until the funeral train had dispersed.
When I saw the mother slowly and painfully quitting the grave, leaving behind her the remains of all that was dear to her on earth, and returning to silence and destitution, my heart ached for her. What thought I are the distresses of the rich ! they have friends to soothe-pleasures to beguile—a world to divert and dissipate their griefs. What are the sorrows of the young! Their growing minds soon close above the wound—their elastic spirits soon rise beneath the pressuretheir green and ductile affections soon twine round new objects. But the sorrows of the poor, who have no outward appliances to soothethe sorrows of the aged, with whom life at best is but a wintry day, and who can look for no after-growth of joy—the sorrows of a widow, aged, solitary, destitute, mourning over an only son, the last solace of her years :—these are indeed sorrows which make us feel the impotency of consolation.
It was some time before I left the church-yard. On my way homeward I met with the woman who had acted as comforter : she was just returning from accompanying the mother to her lonely habitation, and I drew from her some particulars connected with the affecting scene I had witnessed.
The parents of the deceased had resided in the village from child. hood. They had inhabited one of the neatest cottages, and by various rural occupations, and the assistance of a small garden, had supported themselves creditably and comfortably, and led a happy and a blameless life. They had one son, who had grown up to be the staff and pride of age.-66
-66 Oh, sir !” said the good woman, “ he was such a comely lad,
so sweet-tempered, so kind to every one around him, so dutiful to his parents ! It did one's heart good to see him of a Sunday, dressed out in his best, so tall, so straight, so cheery, supporting his old mother to church—for she was always fonder of leaning on George's arm, than on her goodman's; and, poor soul, she might well be proud of him, for a finer lad there was not in the country round.”
Unfortunately the son was tempted, during a year of scarcity and agricultural hardship, to enter into the service of one of the small craft that plied on a neighbouring river. He had not been long in this employ when he was entrapped by a press-gang and carried off to sea. His parents received tidings of his seizure, but beyond that they could learn nothing. It was the loss of their main prop. The father, who was already infirm, grew heartless and melancholy, and sunk into his grave. The widow, left lonely in her age and feebleness, could no longer support herself, and came upon the parish. Still there was a kind feeling toward her throughout the village, and a certain respect as being one of the oldest inhabitants. As no one applied for the cottage in which she had passed so many happy days, she was permitted to remain in it, where she lived solitary and almost helpless. The few wants of nature were chiefly supplied from the scanty productions of her little garden, which the neighbours would now and then cultivate for her. It was but a few days before the time at which these circumstances were told me, that she was gathering some vegetables for her repast, when she heard the cottage door, which faced the garden, suddenly opened. A stranger came out, and seemed to be looking eagerly and wildly around. He was dressed in seamen's clothes, was emaciated and ghastly pale, and bore the air of one broken by sickness and hardships. He saw her, and hastened toward her, but his steps were faint and faltering ; he sank on his knees before her, and sobbed like a child. The poor woman gazed upon him with a vacant and wandering eye : “ Oh my dear, dear mother ! don't you know your son ? your poor boy George ?” It was indeed the wreck of her once noble lad; who, shattered by wounds, by sickness and foreign imprisonment, had at length dragged his wasted limbs homeward, to repose among the scenes of his childhood.
I will not attempt to detail the particulars of such a meeting, where joy and sorrow were so completely blended ; still he was alive! he was come home! he might yet live to comfort and cherish her old age ! Nature, however, was exhausted in him ; and if any thing had been wanting to finish the work of fate, the desolation of his native cottage would have been sufficient. He stretched himself on the pallet on which his widowed mother had passed many a sleepless night, and he never rose from it again.
The villagers, when they heard that George Somers had returned, crowded to see him, offering every comfort and assistance that their humble means afforded. He was too weak, however, to talk he could only look his thanks. His mother was his constant attendant ; and he seemed unwilling to be helped by any other hand.
There is something in sickness that breaks down the pride of manhood ; that softens the heart and brings it back to the feelings of infancyWho that has languished, even in advanced life, in sickness and despondency; who that has pined on a weary bed in the neglect and loneliness of a foreign land; but has thought on the mother “ that looked on his childhood,” that smoothed his pillow, and administered to his helplessness ? Oh! there is an enduring tenderness in the love of a mother to a son, that transcends all other affections of the heart. It is neither to be chilled by selfishness, nor daunted by danger, nor weakened by worthlessness, nor stifled by ingratitude. She will sacri. fice every comfort to his convenience ; she will surrender every pleasure to his enjoyment; she will glory in his fame, and exult in his prosperity :-and, if misfortune overtake him, he will be the dearer to her from misfortune ; and if disgrace settle upon his name, she will still love and cherish him in spite of his disgrace; and if all the world beside cast him off, she will be all the world to him.
Poor George Somers had known what it was to be in sickness, and none to soothe lonely and in prison, and none to visit him. He could not endure his mother from his sight ; if she moved away, his eye would follow her. She would sit for hours by his bed, watching him as he slept. Sometimes he would start from a feverish dream, and look anxiously up until he saw her bending over him ; when he would take her hand, lay it on his bosom, and fall asleep with the tranquillity of a child. In this way he died.
My first impulse on hearing this humble tale of affliction, was to visit the cottage of the mourner, and administer pecuniary assistance, and, if possible, comfort. I found, however, on inquiry, that the good feelings of the villagers had prompted them to do every thing that the case admitted : and as the poor know best how to console each other's sorrows, I did not venture to intrude.
The next Sunday I was at the village church ; when, to my surprize, I saw the poor old woman tottering down the aisle to her accustomed seat on the steps of the altar,
She had made an effort to put on something like mourning for her son; and nothing could be more touching than this struggle between pious affection and utter poverty : a black riband or so-a faded black handkerchief, and one or two more such humble attempts to express by outward signs that grief which passes show. When I looked round upon the storied monuments; the stately hatchments; the cold marble pomp, with which grandeur mourned magnificently over departed pride, and turned to this poor widow, bowed down by age and sorrow at the altar of her God, and offering up the prayers and praises of a pious, though a broken heart, I felt that this living monument of real grief was worth them all.
I related her story to some of the wealthy members of the congregation, and they were moved by it. They exerted themselves to render her situation more comfortable, and to lighten her afflictions. It was, however, but smoothing a few steps to the grave. In the course of a Sunday or two after, she was missed from her usual seat at church, and before I left the neighbourhood, I heard, with a feeling of satisfaction, that she had quietly breathed her last, and had gone to rejoin those she loved, in that world where sorrow is never known, and friends are never parted.
FIAMMETTA AND BOCCACIO.*
From the “ London Magazine.”
MY story is of that bright time
There is not a spot in Italy,
* This Tale forms an episode in Madame de Genlis' “ Petrarch et Laure." Fiammetta is supposed to have been the Daughter of Robert of Naples by a noble Lady, and, after having been educated in the deepest retirement, to have been publicly acknowledged, at the age of sixteen, by her royal father, and betrothed to the Young Prince of Aragon.
*The voice of a friend in the whispering wind,
-Alas! it was only more fiercely torn.
It chanced as I wander'd, ane sunny eve,
Then my flattered heart grew curious,
-The heart's hopes will not be cheated thus
At last the East grew red, and a warm And purple light o'er the landscape crept, And the morning's breeze o'er my forehead swept,