Page images
PDF
EPUB

legate, and received it again as his master's gift; now when he had owned the pope's supremacy, confessed himself his vassal, and by a most disgraceful concession consented to bow to the decrees of the church of Rome ;—now his life was assailed. A monk, employed about his person, had infused into his food a poison so deadly that, in tasting it, an office deputed to him, he had presently fallen sick, and his bowels burst out : the portion which John had taken was less violent and sudden in its operation, but not the less excruciating ; he was now shivering with cold and now burning with fever ; his brain was disordered, and he alternately raved, wept, and sung. His young son hung over him with tenderness, but all aid was vain. In one of his intervals of reason he expressed a wish to be removed into the open air ; and was conducted into the orchard of Swinstead Abbey, where he had taken

[graphic]

shelter for a few days ; but the effect was transient. Faulconbridge arrived just in time to behold him ere he expired : he requested to hear the news of the last day's battle ; but nature, exhausted, was unable longer to endure; and even while Faulconbridge was repeating the sad tale of his loss and defeat, the king expired.

Thus perished John, in the fifty-first year of his age; bequcathing to posterity a loathed name, despised and detested by his subjects, over whom he had tyrannized for eighteen years; and, in his whole kingdom, there was scarcely

a heart which mourned his loss, save only his son Prince Henry, and the grateful Faulconbridge.

Ambition, thou, who dost Colossus like
Bestride the earth; whose greedy appetite,
Like the devouring sea, is never gorged;
Thou fiend ! cased in the human form divine ;
That fattenest on destruction! Ah, no throb
Of pity dwells within thy marble breast;
Nor tenderness, nor joy, inhabits there :
A wide interminable waste, where pride
Insatiate reigns; and worlds to thee appear
Made for thy use, and for their own decay.

Yet, what avail ! but a brief while, and all
This turmoil ends in powerless death. The grave
Swallows ambition ; and the womb of earth
Contains in one poor little space, the pride
And brilliant pomp of splendour, power, and greatness;
And this the limit frail mortality
Commands ; the utmost limit given to man.
Poor compensation for the loss of bliss
On earth, and hope in heaven. Then what reward
Does mad ambition yield its votaries ?
The widow's tears—the orphan's cries—the good
Man's scorn-the world's abhorrence ! loss of peace ;
Self reprobation; and almighty vengeance,
Perchance unchangeable.-

What mighty loss,
What thriftless gain ambition leaves its slaves !

[ocr errors]
[merged small][graphic]

Upon my troubled mind at last

Kind fate has poured a friendly balm ; So, after dreadful perils pass’d,

At length succeeds a smiling calm. ***

IN a beautiful village on the banks of the river Avon, not far distant from Stratford, birth place of our immortal Shakspeare, there lived a benevolent Quaker, named Steady; he was rich, and his utmost delight was to see the villagers happy. Being a great admirer of learning, he was sorry to see any of his fellow men, however lowly their station, steeped in ignorance : he was therefore at the expense of supporting a free school, at which all the poor children of the neighbourhood were educated ; and every May-day rewards were given to those who succeeded best in their various studies. Questions were also proposed, and he who was skilful enough to expound these questions received a sum of money as a marriage portion with the girl he loved, provided he bad, or was likely to obtain her parents' consent ;

and so

[ocr errors]

and it very seldom occurred that any father or mother refused their consent, if good Mr. Steady asked it : he was, in short, the blessing of his tenantry, and every body loved him.

In this village lived a farmer whose name was Easy, and it seemed as if his name was a part of himself; he was a good-natured quiet man, careless in his disposition that if his corn did but grow, and his hay was got in well, he was as merry as the day was long. If there came an indifferent season, he contented himself with hoping the next would be better. So long as he had a mug of ale and a nap in the corner after dinner, he cared little how the world went on; whether the nation was rich or poor, at peace or in war; whether times were good or bad, all was the same to Farmer Easy. He took every thing in good heart, whilst his wife, Dame Cicely, ruled the roast ; -whatever she proposed, the farmer replied, “ Yes, sure, if thee likest, dame."

Farmer Easy had one daughter called Gillian, a very pretty girl, admired by the whole village. Mr. Steady had often noticed her modest artless manner, and proposed to her father and mother that she should become his wife : they were both highly delighted at this proposal. Dame Cicely was almost out of her wits with joy, to have her daughter the mistress of the great house, ride in her own coach, and to be herself dressed out in fine clothes ; oh, how charming! She looked in the glass to see whạt colours were the most becoming to her complexion ; and determined that her dress on the day of her daughter's wedding should be the gayest that had ever been seen in the village of Maybury : she would wear a pink silk petticoat, and a blue silk gown, with yellow trimmings; scarlet ribbon on her cap, and green bows on her shoes; and she could not help thinking, if she were only twenty

years younger, and unmarried, how many sweethearts she should get.

Dame Easy had all the joy to herself, for poor Gillian was wretched; being attached to Lubin, an honest lad, who had been brought up in a neighbouring village with his uncle. "He had asked the consent of Farmer and Dame Easy to marry Gillian, who had agreed to it ; and he was now gone to the west country to ask his father's consent also : and on his return, the wedding was to take place directly. $ Gillian could not bear the thoughts of giving up Lubin, who was young and handsome, for old Steady, who was ugly and formal. She did not care for riches; she would rather milk the cows and feed tho poultry, with Lubin for her husband, than be the greatest lady of the land without him ; but her mother told her she must marry Mr. Steady. Gillian believed that no young woman ever dared to disobey her parents ; and she knew her mother would be obeyed, for her father did every thing she bid him, and never said nay.

Gillian was taken to live in the great house ; was dressed out in nice clothes ; had masters to teach her dancing and music, and servants to wait upon her ; but Gillian was very unhappy : day and night she thought of Lubin, and when alone, was always in tears. She was afraid to tell Mr. Steady that she disliked him and loved another ; still hoping Lubin would return and find some way of getting her out of Mr. Steady's hands : and, if she was but once the wife of Lubin, why then it would be her duty to obey him, and no sin to disobey her mother.

Day after day she watched and waited, but Lubin did not return; and her mother began to taunt her, saying, he was unfaithful and had forsaken her. Gillian knew better, she felt assured Lubin was true ; she was always trying his truth, and in all her trials he was ever constant : when she tied her garters

« PreviousContinue »