« AnteriorContinuar »
532 BROADWAY, NEW-YORK.
1862, dec 29
A BELIEF in the rewards and punishments of a future state, is, in some form or other, an almost universal one; but the retributions of the present life — the fact that here, as well as hereafter, there is such a connection between conduct and consequences, as to fully verify, even in this world, the truth of the declaration, 'Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap'-has been, in later years at least, too generally overlooked.
Yet it is not more certain that an apple-tree brings forth apples, not cherries or oranges ; that the farmer who sows wheat, reaps wheat, not rye or oats, than it is, that our every action, whether good or evil, contains 'its seed within itself,' and in due season will bring forth fruit, after its kind.' It is true that an evil stem may be dwarfed, perhaps uprooted, by repentance and reparation, or its product may be modified by grafting; but it is not the less true that, left to itself, it will germinate and grow, till like produces like.
The laws which ‘in the beginning' the All-Wise laid down, as governing the natural world, are so frequently figures of those by which the moral universe is governed, that we can scarcely think of any, in the one, that has not its counterpart in the other.
That the retributions, or as the word imports, the repayments of life are so often overlooked, is owing chiefly to the fact, that they do not usually follow directly upon the errors that caused them. Yet this very delay, by lessening the power to bear them, but adds to their weight when they do come. If the effects of an error could always develop themselves while the feelings that led to its commission were still uppermost, the spirit could better nerve itself to meet them ; but thus it cannot be. The seed must lie in the ground awhile VOL. LX,
ere it can even appear above the surface; must grow before it bring forth fruit. The murderer usually meets his doom when time and solitude have done their work, and the anger that impelled the blow has passed away. The 'slow tortures of nervous debility' must be endured when the dissipation, the thoughtless exposure, or the ambitious over-exertion, in which they had their origin, have been long avoided or forgotten. The mischief-maker must wince under the exposure of his nefarious plans long after the selfish interests that prompted them have given place to others. Nor should it be forgotten how often in old age it is, that the errors of our earlier life bring forth their bitterest fruit.
An old age of this kind finds an impressive illustration in that of Elizabeth of England. The life of Elizabeth, though not always prosperous, had yet been one in which prosperity had largely predominated. 'One by one,' says an accomplished writer, she had seen every enemy removed ; every danger, every difficulty overcome ; every undertaking crowned with success. The most elegant men of the age had done homage to her grace and beauty, and the most able to her great ability. Her avarice had been continually gratified by the most costly presents, and her love of pleasure by the most magnificent entertainments;' but her haughtiness, her vanity, and her duplicity, while it had encouraged interested flattery, had of course 'repelled that tenderness and esteem without which old age, however resolute and self-reliant, is desolate indeed.'
The particulars of Elizabeth's later life have been preserved to us with great minuteness, not only in various public archives, but by several whose position gave them every opportunity for personal observation. Lord Bacon has recorded that she was strong and vigorous to the last;' and De Beaumont, the French Ambassador, in a dispatch, dated March, 1602, when Elizabeth was in her sixty-ninth year, informs his sovereign that she still seems to enjoy her daily walk on Richmond Green. In another, dated a month later, he describes her as opening a ball with the Duc de Nevers, and dancing with great agility. The Scottish Ambassador records a similar fact in May, and the Earl of Wor.. cester mentions the dancings' in her privy chamber in July, about seven months before her death. Still these latter 'dancings' show rather a desperate effort to keep up her spirits than a proof of their exuberance, for as early as the beginning of June, Beaumont describes an interview with her, in which she spoke of Essex with sighs and tears,' and admitted that she was ‘aweary of life.'
Flattered as Elizabeth still was by all whom she permitted to approach her, she could not help observing that the acclamations with which the people had always greeted her whenever she appeared in public, had, since the execution of Essex, given place to a gloomy silence; nor was it possible that one who loved and courted popularity, as she had always done, could witness such a change without feeling it intensely.
In December, Sir John Harrington, her god-son, thus alludes to her depression of spirits in a letter to his wife: 'I was bidden to her presence. I blessed the happy moment, but found her in a most pitiable state. She held in her hand a golden cup, which she oft put to her lips, but, in sooth, her heart
seemed too full to lack more filling.
Her Majesty inquired of some matters which I had written; and as she was pleased to note my fanciful brain, I was not unheedful to feed her humor, and read her some verses, whereat she smiled once, and was pleased to say: 'When thou dost feel Time creeping at thy gate, these fooleries will please thee less. I am past my relish for such matters.'
'Still,' says that careful biographer, Miss Strickland, though Elizabeth suffered greatly with the gout in her hands and fingers, she never was heard to complain of what she felt, in the way of personal pain; but continued to talk of progresses and festivities, as though she expected her days to be prolonged through years to come.'
Elizabeth's maternal relative, Robert Carey, thus describes a visit shortly before her death. “She then discoursed to me of her indisposition ; and that her heart had been sad and heavy for ten or twelve days; and in her discourse she fetched not so few as forty or fifty great sighs. After remarking that he had never before heard her 'fetch a sigh, except when the Queen of Scots was beheaded,' he adds: 'I used the best words I could to persuade her from this melancholy humor ; but I found it was too deeply rooted in her heart.' Was she thinking of those whom God had joined together,' but whom she, in her selfish love of rule, had so cruelly 'put asunder'? Of Lady Mary and Lady Catherine Grey ? of Leicester's wife ? of the Scottish Queen ? of Philip Arundel and his broken-hearted Countess ? 'She remained upon her cushions four days and nights, at the least,' continues Carey. All about her could not persuade her to either take any nourishment or go to bed.' De Beaumont mentions the same circumstance in a dispatch dated March nineteenth, 1603. It was probably this fact that encouraged her crafty Secretary of State to venture the report that the mind of his royal mistress was not altogether sane. His motive was, no doubt, to lessen the force of any thing that she might say to his disparagement, or contrary to his interests, as to the succession. “But,' says Lady Southwell — one of Elizabeth's immediate attendants, whose manuscript journal is still in existence — 'though many reports were, by Cecil's means, spread of her distraction, neither myself, nor any other lady about her, could ever perceive that her speeches, ever well applied, proceeded from a distracted mind.' A remark which is borne out by the rebuke which the failing Queen herself addressed to Cecil on the subject.
* The pitiable melancholy of Elizabeth's last days,' says Macaulay, 'has generally been ascribed to the death of Essex; but we are disposed to attribute her dejection partly to physical causes, and partly to the conduct of her ministers and courtiers. They did all in their power to conceal from her the intrigues which they were carrying on at the court of Scotland; but her keen sagacity was not to be so deceived. She did not know the whole, but she did know that she was surrounded by men who were impatient for that new world that was to begin at her death men who had never been attached to her by affection, and who were now but very slightly attached to her by interest. Prostration and flattery could not conceal from her the cruel truth that those whom she had trusted and promoted had never loved her, and were fast ceas