« AnteriorContinuar »
On Christmas eve there sat a cheerful family in the late Mr. Flok's house near the canal. The child had quite recovered, and Frants, filling the old silver goblet with wine, drank many happy returns of the season to his dear Johanna.
“How little we expected a short time ago to be so comfortable now !" he exclaimed. “ Here we are in our own house, which was intended for us by your kind uncle. I am no longer compelled to nail away alone at coffins until midnight, but can undertake more pleasant work, and keep apprentices and journeymen to assist me. My good old master's name is freed from reproach, and his remains now rest in consecrated ground, awaiting a blessed and joyful resurrection.”
The lumber-room, with its fearful recollections, was shut up, the outside of the house was painted anew, and the mysterious inscription on the wall, thus obliterated, never reappeared.
One day, shortly after this favourable turn in their affairs, Frants had occasion to cross the Long Bridge, and as he passed near the dead-house for the drowned, he went up to the little window, saying to himself, “ Now I can look in without any superstitious fears, for I know that my old master never drowned himself. That foul stain is no longer attached to his memory, and his remains have at length obtained Christian burial,"
But when he glanced through the window he started back in horror, for the discoloured and swollen features of a dead man met his view; and in the dreadful-looking countenance before him he recognised that of the murderer Stork, who had been missing for some time.
“ Miserable being!” he exclaimed, “and you have ended your guilty career by the same crime with which you charged an innocent man! None will miss you in this world, except the executioner, whose office you have taken on yourself. I know that you had planned my death; but, enemy as you were, I shall have you laid decently in the grave, and may the Almighty have mercy on your soul!"
Prosperity continued to attend the young couple; but the lessons of the past had taught them how unstable is all earthly good. The old family Bible now a frequent and favourite study—became the guide of their conduct; and when their happiness was clouded by any misfortune, as all the happiness of this passing life must sometimes be, they resigned themselves without a murmur to the will of Providence, reminding each other of the watchman's song on the memorable night when all hope seemed to have abandoned them :
Redeemer, grant thy blessed help
BY SIR NATHANIEL.
No. VI.-OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES. PROFESSOR HOLMES is distinguished in materia medica as well as in lays and lyrics. He is familiar with the highways and byways of those
Realms unperfumed by the breath of song,
Save one gaunt mocker, the Sardonic grin*and with rare devotion he pursues the sternly prosaic calls of the healing art—unable as his poetic temperament sometimes may be to repress a sigh for the beautiful, or a sonnet on the sublime, and, in passing disgust at the restraints of professional study, to ask himself,
Why dream I here within these caging walls,
Through blinding lenses, or in wearying books ? + But, resisting temptation, and cleaving with full purpose of heart to M.D. mysteries, with leech-like tenacity to the leech's functions, he secures a more stable place in medical annals than many a distinguished medico-literary brother, such as Goldsmith, or Smollett, or Akenside. Nor can the temptation have been slight, to one with so kindly a penchant towards the graces of good fellowship, and who can analyse with such sympathetic gusto what he calls “ the warm, champagny, oldparticular, brandy-punchy feeling”—and who may arrogate a special mastery of the
Quaint trick to cram the pithy line
That cracks so crisply over bubbling wine. Evidently, too, he is perfectly alive to the pleasure and pride of social applause, and accepts the “ three times three” of round-table glorification as rightly bestowed. Indeed, in more than one of his morceaux, he plumes himself on a certain irresistible power of waggery, and even thinks it expedient to vow never to give his jocosity the full length of its tether, lest its side-shaking violence implicate him in unjustifiable homicide.
His versification is smooth and finished, without being tame or straitlaced. He takes pains with it, because to the poet's paintings 'tis
Verse bestows the varnish and the frameand study, and a naturally musical ear, have taught him that
Our grating English, whose Teutonic jar
Fast in its place each many-angled word.
The proud heroic, with its pulse-like beat,
Till the ninth billow melts along the shore. His management of the “ proud heroic,” in serious and sustained efforts, reminds us more of Campbell than any other poet we can name. But it is in that school of graceful badinage and piquant satire, represented among ourselves by such writers as Frere, and Spencer, and Mackworth Praed, that Dr. Holmes is most efficient. Too earnest not to be sometimes a grave censor, too thoughtful not to introduce occasionally didactic passages, too humane and genial a spirit to indulge in the satirist's scowl, and sneer, and snappish moroseness, he has the power to be pungent and mordant in sarcasm to an alarming degree, while his will is to temper his irony with so much good-humour, fun, mercurial fancy, and generous feeling, that the more gentle hearts of the more gentle sex pronounce him excellent, and wish only he would leave physic for song.
In some of his poems the Doctor is not without considerable pomp and pretension—we use the terms in no slighting tone. “Poetry: a Metrical Essay,” parts of “ Terpsichore," " Urania,” and “ Astræa," “ Pittsfield Cemetery,” “ The Ploughman," and various pieces among the lyrical effusions, are marked by a dignity, precision, and sonorous elevation, often highly effective. The diction occasionally becomes almost too ambitious— verging on the efflorescence of a certain English M.D., yclept Erasmus Darwin—so that we now and then pause to make sure that it is not the satirist in his bravura, instead of the bard in his solemnity, that we hear. Such passages as the following come without stint:
If passion's hectic in thy stanzas glow,
Thy own broad signet stamps thy song divine !* Fragments of the Lichfield physician's “ Botanic Garden,” and “ Loves of the Plants," seem recalled-revised and corrected, if you will-in lines where the Boston physician so picturesquely discriminates
The scythe's broad meadow with its dusky blush ;
The green-haired maize, her silken tresses laid,
Arched, like the banyan, o'er its hasty props ; &c.* Many of the more laboured efforts of his Muse have an imposing eloquence ——rather crude and unchastened, however, and to be ranked perhaps with what himself now calls his “questionable extravagances.” To the class distinguished by tenderness of feeling, or a quietly pervading pathos, belong—with varying orders of merit—the touching stanzas entitled “Departed Days," the pensive record of " An Evening Thought,” “From a Bachelor's Private Journal,” “ La Grisette," " The Last Reader,” and “A Souvenir.” How natural the exclamation in one for the first time conscious of a growing chill in the blood and calmness in the brain, and an ebbing of what was the sunny tide of youth:
Oh, when love's first, sweet, stolen kiss
Burned on my boyish brow,
Was that flushed cheek as now?
Like these, which vainly strive,
To dream themselves alive?t And again this mournful recognition of life's inexorable onward march, and the “dislimning" of what memory most cherishes:
But, like a child in ocean's arms,
We strive against the stream,
Where life's young fountains gleam ;
And wider rolls the sea ;
Day breaks-and where are we?I An interfusion of this pathetic vein with quaint humour is one of Dr. Holmes's most notable qualities :" as in the stanzas called “The Last Leaf,” where childhood depicts old age tottering through the streets -contrasting the shrivelled weakness of the decrepit man with the wellvouched tradition of his past comeliness and vigour:
But now he walks the streets,
Sad and wan ;
“ They are gone."
The mossy marbles rest
In their bloom,
On the tomb.
In the snow.
Like a staff,
In his laugh.
At him here ;
Are so queer!
In the spring, -
Where I cling. These admirable verses set in so aptly framed a metre too-would alone suffice to make a reputation. In a like spirit, dashed with a few drops of the Thackeray essence, are the lines headed “Questions and Answers,"-among the queries and responses being these sarcastic sentimentalisms :
Where, O where are the visions of morning,
Married and dead by the score. In such alliance of the humorous and fanciful lies a main charm in this writer's productions. Fancy he has in abundance, as he proves on all occasions, grave and gay. Sometimes, indeed, he indulges in similes that may be thought rather curious than felicitous : as where he speaks of the "half-built tower," which, thanks to Howe's artillery,