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The beautiful prayer of this true Sister of Charity, in a church at midnight, we have never forgotten since we read it, more than twenty years ago ; especially this passage :
“Oh! let me walk the waves of this wild world,
Through faith unsinking ;-stretch thy saving hand
And tell me that my prayers are heard in heaven !" Magdalene first sees her lover die, and then dies also. The scene of the lover's death has this fine passage :“ Frankfort.-A sweet mild voice is echoing far away
In the remotest regions of my soul;
When all the stars of heaven are on its breast.
Woe and death
Weeping in sorrowful dreams!
Her soft hand closed
That they had gone to heaven." They who assert that the City of the Plague has nothing but ghastly and chilling images, can never have read its many passages of human tenderness and deep pathos, nor those of lofty sublimity, from which we must seize on one ere we take our leave of Wilson's poetry—the image of London at noon during the plague :
“* Silent as nature's solitary glens
Slept the long streets, and mighty London seemed,
The Address to a Wild Deer has often been quoted for its brave and buoyant picture of nature and nature's
" Magnificent creature! so stately and bright!" The Scholar's Farewell, and the Children's Dance—the scene of the first being Oxford, and of the last the vale of Grassmere-are delicious poems, full of the saddest and the most joyous pictures of human fife. The music of the latter poem clings to the memory like the tone of sweet bells heard in youth's happiest hours. We could quote it all, but must content ourselves with two stanzas, limning the returning party and the happy poet amongst them :
“ O'er Loughrig cliffs I see one party climb,
Whose empty dwellings, through the bushed midnight,
Floating and sinking soft amid the breath of love !" Meanwhile, the lion-like poet showed no signs of age; the step as firm, the motion seemingly as lithe as ever, when, with one hand rested behind him, the other striking his staff upon the pavement, with broad-brimmed hat, and tawny length of hair, that fell almost to the shoulders, he passed majestic down the Bridges, to sun himself leisurely homeward along Prince's Street, through the stream of human life; to which “the old man eloquent was so well known as to seem scarcely any longer eccentric."
Thus we have before us his life in Edinburgh, his contest for the chair of Moral Philosophy there, which he so long and honourably occupied, his splendid writings in Blackwood, and his association with all the distinguished men of that literary corps and of the Scottish metropolis. The haunts of Wilson in town were the gathering places of genius and conviviality. In the country they were the mountains, the moors, and the streams. His tall and athletic form, and active and ardent character, marked him out for a deep enjoyment of all the loveliness of nature, and the sports of the wild. He had a head like the head of a Jupiter, as may be seen by the fine busts of him. His long locks fell in radiant volumes upon his shoulders; and in all his actions you saw the vigour, and joyous power and freedom of his nature. He was a great wrestler, a great angler, a great shooter, and a great walker. In life or in the pages of Blackwood, the angle and the gun were his companions, amid the most splendid and solitary scenery of the kingdom. At one time he was traversing the ping mountains, and the lonely lochs of the Highlands; at another strolling through the defiles of Patterdale, or scaling
the heights of Skiddaw. Once, taking refuge in a farm-house in the highlands of Scotland, I was told that Professor Wilson and his wife had done the same thing just before, on their way towards the western coast on foot, with a view to visit Staffa and Iona. With a happy family around him, John Wilson seemed for years to breathe nothing but the spirit of happiness and the full enjoyment of life. Labouring away at his lectures and his magazine articles, and partaking the society of Edinburgh during the college terms, he was ever ready to fly off on their close to his beloved hills and streams. In Edinburgh his house was for many years 6, Gloucester-place, in the New Town. In the country his favourite abode was Elleray.
Many anecdotes of his manly humour, kindliness, and exploits of physical vigour, are related of him in that neighbourhood : amongst others, that he was once balloted for the local militia there, and declined finding a substitute, but chose to serve. Here, then, might be seen the poet and philosopher passing his drill, and manæuvring rank and file. He would attend for his ration and his tommy, and sticking them on the point of his bayonet, march down the town where the regiment lay, and present them to the first old woman he met. For these vagaries he was called up before the officers to be reprimanded; but the affair was sure to change very speedily from a grave to a merry one, and to end by the officers inviting him to partake of their mess. How long he continued to indulge his whim does not appear.
Hogg gives somewhere a very amusing account of a week that he spent with him at Elleray, where he says they had curious doings among the gentlemen and the poets of the lakes. According to his account they used to ramble far and wide amongst the lakes and mountains, fishing, and climbing, and talking, and would give each other a challenge to write a poem on some given subject, in the evening after dinner. Hogg's relation of these poetical contests is most laughable. They seated themselves in separate ro ms; but, according to a custom very common, and perhaps universal, amongst poets, of chanting their verses aloud as they form them, Hogg could always hear how the matter was progressing with his antagonist. If the verse did not flow well, there was a dead silence; if it began to flow and expand, there was heard a pleasant murmur, as of a mountain stream. As the inspiration grew, and the work sped, tho sound rose and swelled, like the breeze in the sonorous forest of northern pines ; and when there was a passage of supposed preeminence of beauty and strength struck out, then it rose into a grand and triumphal tide of song, like the wind pealing through the mountain passes, or the ocean pouring in riotous joy on the shore. When it reached so grand a climax, Hogg says he used to exclaim,—“There, it's all over with me; I'm done for!” and with that he gave up the contest for the day, knowing that the case was hopeless.
This humming habit of poets is a singular characteristic. Wordsworth, amongst the woods, and rocks, and solitary crags of Cumberland, might be heard murmuring to himself a music of his own ; so that a stranger, seeing the grave and ancient man strolling along, often with a little bundle of sticks under his arm, that he has unconsciously gathered, and humming out some dimly intelligible stanzas in a breeze-like and Æolian-harp-like wildness of cadence, might take him for a very innocent old man, not over-burdened with business or other matters. Amongst the great luxuriant laurels that flourish round his house, you might trace his retired perambulations by his top-like humming, and say,
« Over its own sweet voice the stock-dove broods." Southey's garden, and that of his only neighbour, were merely divided by a hedge. In the garden of the neighbour was sitting once with the neighbour a visitor from a distance, when a deep and mysterious booming, somewhat near, startled the stranger, and caused him to listen. Recollecting that they were near the lakes, the sound, which at first seemed most novel and unaccountable, arpeared to receive a solution; and the visitor exclaimed,-“What! have you bitterns here?” “Bitterns !” replied the host; "oh no ; it is only Southey humming his verses in the garden walk on the other side of the hedge !”
The cottage of Wilson at Elleray was a simple but elegant little villa, standing on high ground overlooking Windermere, but at the distance of some miles. As you approach Ambleside from Kendal, you pass, as you begin to descend the hill towards Lowood, a gate leading into a gentleman's grounds. The gateway is, on either side, hung with masses of the Ayrshire rose. There is a poetical look about the place; and that place was the country retreat of John Wilson. A carriage road, winding almost in a perfect circle, soon introduces you to a fine lawn, surrounded by plantations, and before you, on a swelling knoll, you discern the cottage. It is hung with ivy and Ayrshire roses; and commands a splendid view over the lake and all the mountains round. At the back & plantation of larches ascends the hill, screening it from the north. At the foot of these plantations, and sheltered in their friendly bosom, lie the gardens, with bees, and pleasant nooks for reading or talk. Walks extend all through these woodlands, and one of them conducts you through the larch copse, up the hill
, and from its sunimit beyond the house, gives you a most magnificent panoramic view of the whole country, with its mountains, and lakes, and plains, and the very
In one direction, you have Morecomb Bay and Ulverstone Sands, with the Crags of Čartmell; in another, Coniston and other Fells; then Eskdale Fells, Dunmail Raise ; Bow Fell, far beyond, and Langdale Pikes. In another you catch the summit of Skiddaw, and the lofty ridges in the neighbourhood of Patterdale, with Shap Fell. Below you is all the breadth and the scenery of Windermere.
Such a view is a perpetual enjoyment. The constant changes of cloud and sun cast over it a constant change of aspect. Now all is shining out airy, and clear, and brilliant; and now dark and solemn lie the shadows, black often as night, and wild from passing tempests, in the mysterious hollows of the hills. When you descend to
the house, the scene around is made all the more soft and attractive to the senses by the change from such immense range of vision, and stern character of many of the objects presented. Here all is beauty and repose. The knoll on which the house stands is particularly round, and is well laid out in lawn and flower-beds. The house itself is simple, and consists principally of one long room, which, by folding-doors, can be formed into two, with a hall between them. Behind this lie the kitchen and offices. At the end, next to Windermere, is a large bay window, overlooking the upper part of the lake, towards Langdale and Coniston Fell
. The window is provided with seats for the full enjoyment of this splendid view. A pleasantly swelling slope descends to the meadows which lie between its feet, and the house of the late Bishop Watson. The front door is in a bay window, lined with stands of plants, and having in direct view Ray Castle on the far side of the lake.
Such is the poet's cottage at Elleray, in itself unostentatious, but surrounded by the magnificence of nature in the distance, and by its quiet sweetness at hand. Years ago, when Mrs. Wilson was living, and the children were young and about them, we can conceive no happier spot of earth. No man was more formed to enjoy all that life had to offer, both at home and abroad, in such scenery; his wife was a most charming woman, and his children full of spirit and promise. The affectionate tenderness which diffused itself through the whole of Wilson's being, and the depth of that happiness which he enjoyed here, are manifested in such poems as the Children's Dance, and the Angler's Tent. When his tent was pitched in a Sabbath valley far off, he thus referred to the homes of both himself and his companion, the poet of Rydal:
“ Yet think not in this wild and fairy spot,
This mingled happiness of earth and heaven,
But the great charm and ornament of that house has vanished , the young steps have wandered forth, and found other homes; and it must now be a somewhat solitary spot to him who formerly found collected into it all that made life beautiful. Nay, steam, as little as time, has respected the sanctity of the poet's home, but has drawn up its roaring iron steeds opposite to its gate, and has menaced to rush through it, and lay waste its charmed solitude.
In plain words, I saw the stakes of a projected railway running in an