Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Wheo sinks my dust again into the earth,

When all of me has perish'd—that can die; When my free spirit springs to second birth—

O Scotland! may I still thy beauties eye, With feelings strong as those of days gone by,

When the lone stars of heaven have only been Companions in my wanderings. May I fly,

Like spirit of a sound, o'er each loved scene

Thatcharm'd, like thee, Glencoe! my boyhood's hour serene.

[ocr errors][merged small]

A At thou a StatA.m.ir:, in the van
Uf public business trained and bred?
—First learn to love one living man ,-
Then may est thou think upon the dead.

A Lawyer art thou ?—draw not nigh;
Go, carry to some fitter place
The keenness of that practised eye,
The hardness of that sallow face.

Art thou a Man of purple cheer?
A rosy Man, right plump to see f
Approach; yet, Doctor, not too near:
This grave no cushion is for thee.

Or art thou One of gallant pride,
A Soldier, or no man of chaff?
Welcome —but lay the sword aside.
And lean upon a Peasant's staff.
Physician art thou? One, all eyes,
I'hilosopher! a fingering slave,
One that would peep and botanize
Upon his mother's grave?

Wrapt closely in thy sensual fleece,
O turn aside,—and take, I pray,
That he below may rest in peace,
That abject thing, thy soul, away!

—A Moralist perchance appears;
Led, Heaven knows how! to this poor sod:
And He has neither eyes nor ears;
Himself his world, and his own God:

One to whose smooth-rubbed soul can cling
Nor form, nor feeling) yreat nor small ,

A reasoning, self-sufficing thing,
An intellectual All in All!

Shut close the door; press down the latch •
.Sleep ;n thy intellectual crust;
Nor lose ten tickings of thy watch
Near this unprofitable dust.

But who is He, with modest looks,
A ml clad in homely russet brown >
Ho murmurs near the running brooks
A music sweeter than their own.

He is retired as noontide dew,
Or fountain in a noon-day grove;
And you must love him, ere to you
He will seem worthy of your love.

The outward shows of sky and earth.
Of hill and valley, he has viewed;
And impulses of deeper birth
Have come to him in solitude.

In common things that round us lie
Some random truths he can impart,
—The harvest of a quiet eye
That broods and sleeps on his own heart.

But he is weak, both Man and Boy,
Hath been an idler in the land;
Contented if he might enjoy
The things which others understand.

—Come hither in thy hour of strength;
Come, weak as is a breaking wave!
Here stretch thy body at full length;
Or build thy house upon this grave.

Woaoswoath. "The African, a Tale, and Other Poems, Ey D. Moore," Glasgow, 18i9.

The main road from the Lago Maggiore to the western parts of Switzerland at one time ran through the Valley of Anzasca; and it was once my fortune to be detained all night at a cottage in one of its wildest denies, by a storm which rendered my horses ungovernable. While leaning upon a bench, and looking with drowsy curiosity towards the window—for there was no bed except my host's, of which I did not choose to deprive him—I saw a small, faint light among the rocks in the distance. I at first conceived that it might proceed from a cottage-window; but, remembering that that part of the mountain was wholly uninhabited, and indeed uninhabitable, I roused myself, and calling one of the family, inquired what it meant. While I spoke, the light suddenly vanished; but in about a minute re-appeared in another place, as if the bearei had gone round some intervening rock. The storm at that time raged with a fury which threatened to blow our hut, with its men and horses, over the mountains; and the night was so intensely dark that the edges of the horizon were wholly undistinguishable from the sky.

"There it is again!" said I. "What is that, in the name of God?"

"It is Lelia's lamp!" cried the young man eagerly, who was a son of our host. "Awake, father! Ho, Batista!—Vittorio! Lelia is on the mountains 1" At these cries the whole family sprung up from their lair at once, and, crowding round the window, fixed their eyes upon the light, which continued to appear, although at long intervals, for a considerable part of the night. When interrogated as to the nature of this mystic lamp, the cottagers made no scruple of telling me all they knew, on the sole condition that I should be silent when it appeared, and leave them to mark uninterruptedly the spot where it rested.

To render my story intelligible, it is necessary to say that the minerali and farmers form two distinct classes in the valley of Anzasca. f The occupation of the former, when pursued as a profession, is reckoned disreputable by the other inhabitants, who obtain their living by regular industry; and indeed the manners of the

*From "Travelling Sketches in the North of Italy, the Tyrol, and the Rhine." By Leitch Kitchie.—[Heath's Picturesque Annual for 1832.] t The Valley of Anzasca has been for many centuries known for its gold mines. The minertvi Hre those whose occupation it is to look fur ore. In stormy nights small lights are to be seen upon the hills, which are supposed to indicate the presence of gold.

mineral! offer some excuse for what might otherwise be reckoned an illiberal prejudice. They are addicted to drinking, quarrelsome, overbearing—at one moment rich, and at another starving; and in short they are subject to all the calamities, both moral and physical, which beset men who can have no dependence on the product of their labour; ranking in this respect with gamesters, authors,and other vagabonds.

They are, notwithstanding, a fine race of men—brave, hardy, and often handsome. They spend freely what they win lightly; and if one day they sleep off their hunger, lying like wild animals basking in the sun, the next, if fortune has been propitious, they swagger about, gallant and gay, the lords of the valley. Like the sons of God, the minerali sometimes make love to the daughters of men; and, although they seldom possess the hand, they occasionally touch the heart, of the gentle maidens of Anzasca. If their wooing is unsuccessful, there are comrades still wilder that their own, whose arms are always open to receive the desperate and the brave. They change the scene, and betake themselves to the highways when nights are dark and travellers unwary; or they enlist under the banners of those regular banditti, who rob in thousands, and whose booty is a province or a kingdom.

Francesco Martelli was the handsomest gold-seeker in the valley. He was wild, it is true, but that was the badge of his tribe; and he made up for this by so many good qualities, that the farmers themselves—at least such of them as had not marriageable daughters— delighted in his company. Francesco could sing ballads so sweetly and mournfully, that the old dames leant back in the chimney-corner to weep while he sung. He had that deep and melancholy voice which, when once heard, lingers in the ear, and when heard again, however unexpectedly, seems.like a longing realized.

There was only one young lass in the valley who had never heard the songs of Francesco. All the others, seen or unseen, on some pretext or other, had gratified their curiosity. The exception was Lelia, the daughter of one of the richest farmers in Anzasca. Lelia was very young, being scarcely sixteen; but in her quality of an only daughter, with a dowry in expectancy equal to more than one thousand Austrian liras,* she attracted considerable observation. Her face, on minute inspection, was beautiful to absolute perfection: but her figure, although symmetrical, was so petite, and her manner so shy and girlish, that she was thought of more as a child than a young woman. The "heiress of old Niccoli" was the designation nuule Usb of, when parents would endeavour to awaken the ambition of

* The Austrian lira is equal to about eight-pence half penny English.

their sons, as they looked forward to what might be some years hence: but Lelia, in her own person, was a nonentity.

Her mother had died in giving her birth; and for many a year the life of the child had been preserved, or rather her death prevented, by what seemed a miracle. Even after the disease, whatever it might have been, had yielded to the sleepless care of her father, she remained in that state which is described in the expres -sion " not unwell" rather than in perfect health; although the most troublesome memento that remained of her illness was nothing more than a nervous timidity, which in a more civilized part of the country might have passed for delicacy of feeling.

Besides being in some degree shut out from the society of her equals by this peculiarity of her situation, she was prevented from enjoying it by another. While her body languished, the cultivation of her mind had advanced. Music, to which she was passionately attached, paved the way for poetry; and poetry, in spite of the doctrines of a certain school you have in England, unfitted her for association with the ignorant and unrefined. That Lelia, therefore, had never sought to hear the ballads of Francesco was occasioned, it may readily be believed, by nothing more than an instinctive terror, mingled with the dislike with which the name of one of the ruffian minerali inspired her; and, in truth, she listened to the tales that from time to time reached her ear, of the young gold-seeker, with somewhat of the vague and distant interest with which we attend to descriptions of a beautiful but wild and cruel animal of another hemisphere.

There came one at last, however, to whom poor Lelia listened. She was sitting alone, according to her usual custom, at the bottom of her father's garden, singing, while she plied her knitting-needle, in the soft, low tone peculiar to her voice, and beyond which it had no compass. The only fence of the garden at this place was a belt of shrubs, which enriched the border of the deep ravine it overlooked. At the bottom of this ravine flowed the river, rapid and yet sullen: and beyond, scarcely distant two hundred yards, a range of precipitous clifl's shut in the horizon. The wild and desolate aspect of the scene was overshadowed and controlled, as it were, by the stern grandeur of these ramparts of nature; and the whole contributed to form such a picture as artists travel a thousand miles to contemplate. Lelia, however, had looked upon it from childhood. It had never been forced upon her imagination by contrast, for she had never travelled five miles from her father's house, and she continued to knit, and sing, and dream, without even raising her eyes.

Her voice was rarely loud enough to be caught by the echoes of the opposite rocks; although sometimes it did happen that, carried away by enthusiasm, she produced a tone which was repeated by the fair)minstrels of the glen. On the present occasion she listened with surprise to a similar effect, for her voice had died almost in a whisper. She sang another stanza in a louder key. The challenge was accepted; and a rich, sweet voice took up the strain of her favourite ballad where she had dropped it. Lelia's first impulse was to fly; her second, to sit still and watch for a renewal of the music; and her third, which she obeyed, to steal on tiptoe to the edge of the ravine, and look down into the abyss, from whence the voice seemed to proceed. The echo, she discovered, was a young man, engaged in navigating a raft down the river—such as is used by the peasantry of the Alps to float themselves and their wares to market, and which at this moment was stranded on the shore, at the foot of the garden. He leant upon an oar, as if in the act of pushing off his clumsy boat; but his face was upturned, like one watching for the appearranee of a star; andLelia felta sudden conviction, she knew not why, that he had seen her through the trees while she sat singing, and had adopted this method of attracting her attention without alarming her. If such had been his purpose, he seemed to have no ulterior view; for, after gazing for an instant, he withdrew his eyes in confusion, and, pushing off the raft, dropped rapidly down the river, and was soon out of sight.

Lelia's life was as calm as a sleeping lake, which a cloud will blacken, and the wing of an insect disturb. Even this little incident was matter for thought, and entered into the soft reveries of sixteen. She felt her cheeks tingle as she wondered how long the young man had gazed at her through the trees, and why he had floated away without speaking, when he had succeeded in attracting her attention. There was delicacy in his little contrivance, to save her the surprise, perhaps the terror, of seeing a stranger in such a situation; there was modesty in the confusion with which he turned away his head; and, what perhaps was as valuable as either even to the gentle Lelia, there was admiration, deep and devout, in those brilliant eyes that had quailed beneath hers. The youth was as beautiful as a dream; and his voice!—it was so clear, and yet so soft—so powerful, yet so melodious! It haunted her ear like a prediction.

It was a week before she again saw tliis Apollo of her girlish imagination. It seemed as if in the interval they had had time to get acquainted! They exchanged salutations—the next time they spoke—and the next time they conversed. There was nothing mysterious in their communications. He was probably a farmer's son of the upper valley, who had been attracted, like others, by the fame of the heiress of old Niccoli. He, indeed, knew nothing of

"ks, and he loved poetry more for the sake of music than its own:

« AnteriorContinuar »