« PreviousContinue »
His years, 'tis true, are few,—his life is long;
19.–LAMENT FOR ABSALOM.
N. P. WILLIS. The waters slept. Night's silvery veil hung low On Jordan's bosom, and the eddies curl'd Their glassy rings beneath it, like the still Unbroken beating of the sleeper's pulse. The reeds bent down the stream; the willow ieaves With a soft cheek upon the lulling tide, Forgot the lifting winds; and the long stems, Whose flowers the water, like a gentle nurse, Bears on its bosom, quietly gave way, And lean'd in graceful attitudes, to rest. How strikingly the course of nature tells, By its light heed of human suffering, That it was fashion'd for a happier world! King David's limbs were weary. He had filed From far Jerusalem; and now he stood, With his faint people, for a little rest Upon the shores of Jordan. The light wind Of morn was stirring, and he bared his brow To its refreshing breath; for he had worn The mourner's covering, and he had not felt That he could see his people until now. They gathered round him on the fresh green bank, And spoke their kindly words; and, as the sun Rose up in heaven, he knelt among them there, And bow'd his head upon his hands to pray. Oh! when the heart is full—when bitter thoughts Come crowding thickly up for utterance, And the poor common words of courtesy Are such an empty mockery–how much The bursting heart may pour itself in prayer! He prayed for Israel—and his voice went up Strongly and fervently. He pray'd for those Whose love had been his shield—and his deep tones Grew tremulous. But, oh! for Absalom, For his estranged, misguided Absalom
The proud, bright being who had burst away
The pall was settled. He who slept beneath Was straightened for the grave; and as the folds Sank to their still proportions, they betray'd The matchless symmetry of Absalom. His hair was yet unshorn, and silken curls Were floating round the tassels as they sway'd To the admitted air, as glossy now As when in hours of gentle dalliance, bathing The snowy fingers of Judea's daughters. His helm was at his feet; his banner, soil'd With trailing through Jerusalem, was laid, Reversed, beside him; and the jewel'd hilt, Whose diamonds lit the passage of his blade, Rested, like mockery, on his cover'd brow. The soldiers of the king trod to and fro, Clad in the garb of battle; and their chief, The mighty Joab, stood beside the bier, And gazed upon the dark pall steadfastly, As if he fear'd the slumberer might stir. A low step startled him. He grasped his blade, As if a trumpet rang; but the bent form Of David enter'd, and he gave command, In a low tone, to his few followers, And left him with his dead. The king stood still Till the last echo died; then, throwing off The sackcloth from his brow, and laying back The pall from the still features of his child, He bowed his head upon him, and broke forth In the resistless eloquence of woe: “Alas! my noble boy! that thou should'st die!
Thou, who wert made so beautifully fair! That death should settle in thy glorious eye,
And leave his stillness in this clustering hair! How could he mark thee for the silent tomb!
My proud boy, Absalom! “Cold is thy brow, my son! and I am chill,
As to my bosom I have tried to press thee: How was I wont to feel my pulses thrill,
Like a rich harp-string, yearning to caress thee, And hear thy sweet 'My Father!' from these dumb
And cold lips, Absalom!
“But death is on thee. I shall hear the gush
Of music, and the voices of the young; And life will pass me in the mantling blush,
And the dark tresses to the soft winds flung; But thou no more, with thy sweet voice, shalt come To meet me,
Absalom! “And oh! when I am stricken, and my heart,
Like a bruised reed, is waiting to be broken, How will its love for thee, as I depart,
Yearn for thine ear to drink its last deep token! It were so sweet, amid death's gathering gloom,
To see thee, Absalom!
With death so like a slumber on thee;-
If from this woe its bitterness had won thee. May God have call’d thee, like a wanderer, home,
My lost boy, Absalom!”
his face, and bow'd himself
20.-DOUGLAS'S ACCOUNT OF HIMSELF.
REV. JOHN HOME. My name is Norval. On the Grampian hills My father feeds his flocks; a frugal swain, Whose constant care was to increase his store, And keep his only son, myself, at home: For I had heard of battles, and I longed To follow to the fields some warlike lord: But heaven soon granted what my sire denied. This moon, which rose last night, round as my shield, Had not yet filled her horns, when, by her light, A band of fierce barbarians, from the hills, Rushed, like a torrent down upon the vale, Sweeping our flocks and herds. The shepherds fled For safety and for succor. I alone, With bended bow and quiver full of arrows, Hovered about the enemy, and markeu The road he took; and hasted to my friends;
Whom, with a troop of fifty chosen men,
21.-NOBILITY OF LABOR.
ORVILLE DEWEY. I call upon those whom I address to stand up for the nobility of labor. It is heaven's great ordinance for human improvement. Let not that great ordinance be broken down. What do I say? It is broken down; and it has been broken down for ages. Let it, then, be built up again; here, if anywhere, on these shores of a new world,—of a new civilization. But how, I may be asked, is it broken down? Do not men toil? it may be said. They do, indeed, toil; but they too generally do it because they must. Many submit to it as, in some sort, a degrading necessity; and they desire nothing so much on earth as escape from it. They fulfill the great law of labor in the letter, but break it in the spirit; fulfill it with the muscle, but break it with the mind. To some field of labor, mental or manual, every idler should fasten, as a chosen and coveted theatre of improvement. But so is he not impelled to do, under the teachings of our imperfect civilization. On the contrary, he sits down, folds his hands, and blesses himself in his idleness. This way of thinking is the heritage of the absurd and unjust feudal system, under which serfs labored and gentlemen spent their lives in fighting and feasting. It is time that this opprobrium of toil were done away. Ashamed of toil, art thou? Ashamed of thy dingy work-shop and dusty labor-field; of thy hard hand, scarred with service more honorable than that of war; of thy soiled and weather-stained garments, on which mother Nature has embroidered, midst sun and rain, her own heraldic honors ? Ashamed of these tokens and titles, and envious of the flaunting robes of imbecile idleness and vanity? It is treason to Nature, -it is impiety to Heaven,-it is breaking Heaven's great ordinance. Toil, I repeat—TOIL, either of the brain, of the heart, or of the hand, is the only true manhood, the only true nobility!
22. MY MIND TO ME A KINGDOM IS.
My mind to me a kingdom is;
Such perfect joy therein I find
That God or nature hath assigned;
I seek no more than may suffice.
Look, what I lack my mind supplies.
And hasty climbers soonest fall;
Mishap doth threaten most of all.
No force to win the victory,
No shape to win a lover's eye,-
I little have, yet seek no more.
And I am rich with little store.
I grudge not at another's gain;
I brook that is another's bane.