ページの画像
PDF
ePub

welcome was, as I have said, always delivered in a natura delightful chaunt, “far above singing:

Some months after this my Hesperian pilgrimage, I passed a few weeks at Florence, and as I listened to the beautiful recitative discourse of a fair Etruscan, who enchanted my ear daily with the

pure elegance of her own lingua Toscana, and the silver sweetness of her Italian voice, the chaunting answers of the Cornish peasants instantly came into my mind: the similarity of the tones was so forcibly striking.

It was a bright sunny morning in the early part of September, when I left the town called Launceston : in truth a most chivalric namre, which is interpreted "the Town of Lances.” I shaped my course towards a part of the country I had heard much praised by a brother of the long robe, who consumes his brief leisure, upon the circuits, in hunting out all the picturesque spots in the vicinity of their lordships' troublesome resting-places. After a weary march over seven miles of the worst roads in our good king's dominions, up one hill and down another, where, thought I, will all this end, and when shall I come to the wild valley, with its woods, and rocks, and mountain stream? “Hollo, friend, which is the way to the Berah Rocks, and how much farther have I to walk?" "Anan!” was the answer of a cutter of browse by the road-side; by which sign I conjectured that the information was not to be had in a hurry: perhaps busy Francis's “ Anon, Anon, Sir .“ And where do ye come from?” “ Launceston, my good

"O Lanson,-well then, keep along here, and straight athwart the four-eross-way, and so along, ye can't miss it-over the hill, and down the vale, across the ford, and through the mead, and you'll soon have the rocks of Berah right afore ye!"

A short walk brought me to the brow of a hill, from which I looked down upon this romantic valley. It was a wide and winding gorge, through what might be called mountains, with some propriety, in the south: the steep sides were covered with wood, while here and there the grey rocks, partially concealed by bright green ivy, stood boldly out from the luxuriant coppice, which had just begun to shew the first tints of autumn: underneath, a clear stream, brawling and gurgling as it flowed along, wound gracefully through a small meadow, which lay quietly shut in on all sides by the surrounding hills, except where the river entered and ran out of the vale. It was the Tempe of England, a very native Thessaly: you might look for young Dryads peeping among the leafy oaks, ard Naiads sporting upon the margin of the blue stream. Beyond the western boundaries, at some distance, there were large Tors, rising into the air, forming a grand and broken outline to the horizon. These are immense rocks of granite crowning the tops of the highest hills, in

man.

the midst of the moors and most desolate wilds; sometimes they are long jagged ridges of rock, which are remarkably picturesque, but their forms are constantly varied, as the situation of the beholder is changed; Sharp-Tor and Kilman, are the names of those which were seen from Berah ; indeed they were very majestic ornaments to that lovely scene.

The beauty of the whole landscape well repaid the labours of my toilsome walk. I began to descend into the valley by a precipitous path, and at last reached the river, which washes the base of the largest rocks: there was barely space to pass between them and the water. On looking up, the rocks which jutted out from the sides of the lofty hills, seemed much more massive and sublime than when viewed from above. Now every part was visible, and they stood forth grand, awful, and antediluvian. Here they were black, as if scathed or scorched by the lightning, or darkened by the rust of time: in other parts, they were whitened by the ashy lichens, which centuries had spread over them; forming deep contrasts of colours, by which their grandeur, and mysterious awe, was greatly heightened. I paused awhile to gaze on nature in one of her wildest, yet calmest, attitudes: above were these primæval rocks, butting over the transparent stream, ages of ivy clustering around them, varied with the strong lights and shadows of mid-day: below was spread the smooth green meadow, on which the sun seemed to rejoice to throw his golden beams : while the venerable oaks, which hung over some scattered ruins of granite, and shading some languid cattle from the heat, formed altogether a subject which would have demanded the pencil of Poussin or Salvator to do it justice.

While I was meditating with a painter's delight on the landscape, some distant sounds of solemn music, sung in the

open

air, floated towards me: it seemed, as if it were a hymn rising to heaven from a great assemblage of voices in this beautiful wilderness: at times it was low and plaintive, and scarcely to be heard; and then it would break forth into an universal choir of melody. Some very sweet tones, sweeter than the rest, could now and then be distinguished; but to all the air gave a softness and a harmony not their own. I remained to enjoy the pleasing delusion of the senses, till this “concord of sweet sounds was ended, and then, anxious to know from whence they came, continued my

walk round the most projecting rocks, which concealed from me a part of the valley. Înstantly there burst upon my view a great congregation of Methodists,

who had been collected together from many neighbouring villages, for the sake of public worship in this chosen retreat. Rows of seats had been hastily arranged in a retired angle of the meadow; but they were not sufficient for the numbers who were present, so that many groups of peasants, lying on the

[ocr errors]

green turf, or sitting on the huge blocks of granite, were scattered about, without order: some had selected more elevated situations on projecting points of the rock, among the green underwood, sometimes shaded from the sun by the pendant broom, or the large luxuriant fern: there might be seen a father with his wife, and his young children clinging round his knees; and there some shepherd-boys, or a knot of rustic girls, all in their holiday garb, clustering in different situations, about the ivy-mantled precipices, in mute and fixed attention, catching with eager ears the inspiring words of their eloquent minister. He was standing on a single crag, considerably raised above the multitude; and as he delivered his sermon, he leaned on a railing, erected for the purpose,

firm enough to support his energetic action. He was about the middle age, strong and healthy in appearance; his countenance was animated and expressive of great shrewdness, though it did not betray much refinement of mind, nor was remarkable for manly beauty : but earnestness and sincerity were its characteristics. I should say he was, in rank of life, rather above the generality of his hearers: though there were some respectable grey-headed elders there, who if they were not his equals, might have been, by a little only, his superiors: but the constant exercise of his talents, and the study necessary for his occupation, had given a decision to his manner, which was beyond their simplicity. Yet he was by no means wanting in that: there were every now and then bursts of nature, and revealings of the inward spirit, which betrayed unequivocal signs of native genius, in no ordinary degree, and at which no art could ever arrive.

He preached on the mission of John. If there was one subject more appropriate than another to the scene before him, it was this very one. Here was the Jordan of the Baptist; and here was the wilderness of the Eremite; his locusts, and his wild honey: Nothing could be in more perfect harmony. Then how his fervid eloquence rose, as he advanced, into a flame, carrying him beyond himself, with peculiar enthusiasm, while his audience seemed to thrill with awakened emotion. Indeed, I never witnessed such rapt attention: they devoured his words, and hung breathlessly expecting the finest language from his lips. His passionate appeals were ever varied: he embraced many topics, and illustrated them with most beautiful scriptural allusions. I cannot forget how he suddenly brought out that exquisite figure of the Psalmist, after having exhorted his hearers to place their whole trust in their Maker. 66 The hills stand about Jerusalem : even so standeth the Lord round about his people.” I could not but turn to lool upon those very hills, by which we were all environed, and the sentiment, which they had just called forth, added to the appearance of perfect security. The discourse was more an exhor

[ocr errors]

tation than a lecture, mild and conciliatory rather than accusing. The minister was none of that anathematizing, terrifying kind of declaimers, who have been known to make this earth, even, a hell to self-torturing spirits, till in the utter wretchedness of despair they have miserably sought their own destruction. His manner was that of a winning soothing instructor, who preferred using persuasion and consolation to driving weak minds into madness ; yet, if it was required, he had that language on his tongue, which could render the terrors of religion sufficiently awful.

I remained to hear and see all: for besides the singularity of the circumstance and the situation, which were of themselves deeply interesting, it would not have been well to walk away, after having once come among them. I might not altogether have approved of the doctrine, which, I remember, advanced farther than I felt inclined to trust myself: but there was in all a deep confirmed persuasion of the right, a religious devotional feeling throughout, which hallowed their proceedings. I would be most liberal, most charitable in my notions, as touching this matter; and, in my heart, I believe that, among Christians, where there is no wilful perversion, but a steady, firm, conscientious conviction is the ground of difference, the same consideration and respect is due, as to any more general or approved opinion : for with the heart and conscience, it is devotion, it is religion. If any one is startled at what I have said, I think he would not be surprised had he been with me, on that day, under the rocks of Berah.

I am no seceder. I see no reason for separation ; that is, as far as my own feelings are concerned, for I would not be suspected of wishing to bias the opinions of others; but I think that the existence of it in some degree (perhaps it is a cause of regret that it is so prevalent) has a very beneficial tendency in making the members of our own establishment more watchful and alert in their sacred cause ; moreover, I must express my disapprobation of the practice, which some people adopt, of rendering it a matter of mere taste, not one of conscience; and testifying their disdain at the idea of praying in a conventicle when they can worship in a cathedral.

The chasm is too great; the gulf between us is too deep: every nerve should be strained, now that it is beyond hope that the parties will ever reunite, to excell in good deeds. It is become a race; and the foremost will have the greatest opportunities of gaining proselytes, and exalting their opinions to respect among mankind.

Such was the train of thought, which I pursued at the breaking up of this rustie congregation. I was delighted at the harmony which prevailed among them, as they sat down to their simple repasts in different parts of the meadow, and enjoyed with all

the unsuspecting heartiness of union and fellowship sweet converse and harmless communication. They had been led forth beside the waters of comfort, and fed in green pastures, and on their souls descended the influence of holy thoughts and heavenly meditation

EARLY RECOLLECTIONS.

Mr. Edgeworth says, in his Memoirs, that he distinctly recollects transactions which occurred when he was only seven years old; a fact which he mentions with due solemnity, because, as he tells us, he had found persons who had doubted the possibility of the memary reaching back to so early an age. These people must have had a great talent for scepticism. I know very few who do not recollect from a much earlier age than that; for my own part I should esteem it a severe misfortune to have the history of the four years of life, from three to seven, erased from my

mind. The simple existence of a child is poetry. There were giants in those days. Every thing was vast, powerful, and imposing, whereas it has now dwindled into insignificance, at least in effect. Relative magnitude is every thing, and whether the objects around the child shrink down to meet him, or he grow to match them, is a matter of perfect indifference. The vividness of my early recollections gives my native town quite a Lilliputian appearance to me whenever I visit it. There is a garden wall over which I can now lean at ease, which, in my childhood, seemed an impassable barrier, shutting out another world. I had used to hear persons talking and singing on the other side, and employed myself in speculating on the phenomena which nature might exhibiť in that unexplored region. I do not wonder at the ardent wishes of children to be men and women-we forget that every thing is calculated to our own standard. How often have I gazed with wonder on the awful stature of my father, as he stretched forth his arm to reach down my hat from a nail, as inaccessible to my exertions as the summit of Mont Blanc.

But the great subject of childish wonder is the wealth they see spread around them. What has adult life to give compared with the astonishment and delight the child receives the first time it goes to a country fair ?-Well do I remember that great epoch! The fair lasted two days. I was not taken on the first day, but I remember standing on the window-seat of my father's dining-room, watching the people pass to and fro, and listening to the distant murmur of the immense concourse. The second day was the children's fair, the first being employed (sadly mis-spent I thought)

« 前へ次へ »