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THE EXCURSION

BOOK FIFTH

THE PASTOR

          "FAREWELL, deep Valley, with thy one rude House,
          And its small lot of life-supporting fields,
          And guardian rocks!--Farewell, attractive seat!
          To the still influx of the morning light
          Open, and day's pure cheerfulness, but veiled
          From human observation, as if yet
          Primeval forests wrapped thee round with dark
          Impenetrable shade; once more farewell,
          Majestic circuit, beautiful abyss,
          By Nature destined from the birth of things                 10
          For quietness profound!"
                                    Upon the side
          Of that brown ridge, sole outlet of the vale
          Which foot of boldest stranger would attempt,
          Lingering behind my comrades, thus I breathed
          A parting tribute to a spot that seemed
          Like the fixed centre of a troubled world.
          Again I halted with reverted eyes;
          The chain that would not slacken, was at length
          Snapt,--and, pursuing leisurely my way,
          How vain, thought I, is it by change of place               20
          To seek that comfort which the mind denies;
          Yet trial and temptation oft are shunned
          Wisely; and by such tenure do we hold
          Frail life's possessions, that even they whose fate
          Yields no peculiar reason of complaint
          Might, by the promise that is here, be won
          To steal from active duties, and embrace
          Obscurity, and undisturbed repose.
          --Knowledge, methinks, in these disordered times,
          Should be allowed a privilege to have                       30
          Her anchorites, like piety of old;
          Men, who, from faction sacred, and unstained
          By war, might, if so minded, turn aside
          Uncensured, and subsist, a scattered few
          Living to God and nature, and content
          With that communion. Consecrated be
          The spots where such abide! But happier still
          The Man, whom, furthermore, a hope attends
          That meditation and research may guide
          His privacy to principles and powers                        40
          Discovered or invented; or set forth,
          Through his acquaintance with the ways of truth,
          In lucid order; so that, when his course
          Is run, some faithful eulogist may say,
          He sought not praise, and praise did overlook
          His unobtrusive merit; but his life,
          Sweet to himself, was exercised in good
          That shall survive his name and memory.

            Acknowledgments of gratitude sincere
          Accompanied these musings; fervent thanks                   50
          For my own peaceful lot and happy choice;
          A choice that from the passions of the world
          Withdrew, and fixed me in a still retreat;
          Sheltered, but not to social duties lost,
          Secluded, but not buried; and with song
          Cheering my days, and with industrious thought;
          With the ever-welcome company of books;
          With virtuous friendship's soul-sustaining aid,
          And with the blessings of domestic love.

            Thus occupied in mind I paced along,                      60
          Following the rugged road, by sledge or wheel
          Worn in the moorland, till I overtook
          My two Associates, in the morning sunshine
          Halting together on a rocky knoll,
          Whence the bare road descended rapidly
          To the green meadows of another vale.

            Here did our pensive Host put forth his hand
          In sign of farewell. "Nay," the old Man said,
          "The fragrant air its coolness still retains;
          The herds and flocks are yet abroad to crop                 70
          The dewy grass; you cannot leave us now,
          We must not part at this inviting hour."
          He yielded, though reluctant; for his mind
          Instinctively disposed him to retire
          To his own covert; as a billow, heaved
          Upon the beach, rolls back into the sea.
          --So we descend: and winding round a rock
          Attain a point that showed the valley--stretched
          In length before us; and, not distant far,
          Upon a rising ground a grey church-tower,                   80
          Whose battlements were screened by tufted trees.
          And towards a crystal Mere, that lay beyond
          Among steep hills and woods embosomed, flowed
          A copious stream with boldly-winding course;
          Here traceable, there hidden--there again
          To sight restored, and glittering in the sun.
          On the stream's bank, and everywhere, appeared
          Fair dwellings, single, or in social knots;
          Some scattered o'er the level, others perched
          On the hill sides, a cheerful quiet scene,                  90
          Now in its morning purity arrayed.

            "As 'mid some happy valley of the Alps,"
          Said I, "once happy, ere tyrannic power,
          Wantonly breaking in upon the Swiss,
          Destroyed their unoffending commonwealth,
          A popular equality reigns here,
          Save for yon stately House beneath whose roof
          A rural lord might dwell."--"No feudal pomp,
          Or power," replied the Wanderer, "to that House
          Belongs, but there in his allotted Home                    100
          Abides, from year to year, a genuine Priest,
          The shepherd of his flock; or, as a king
          Is styled, when most affectionately praised,
          The father of his people. Such is he;
          And rich and poor, and young and old, rejoice
          Under his spiritual sway. He hath vouchsafed
          To me some portion of a kind regard;
          And something also of his inner mind
          Hath he imparted--but I speak of him
          As he is known to all.
                                  The calm delights                  110
          Of unambitious piety he chose,
          And learning's solid dignity; though born
          Of knightly race, nor wanting powerful friends.
          Hither, in prime of manhood, he withdrew
          From academic bowers. He loved the spot--
          Who does not love his native soil?--he prized
          The ancient rural character, composed
          Of simple manners, feelings unsupprest
          And undisguised, and strong and serious thought
          A character reflected in himself,                          120
          With such embellishment as well beseems
          His rank and sacred function. This deep vale
          Winds far in reaches hidden from our sight,
          And one a turreted manorial hall
          Adorns, in which the good Man's ancestors
          Have dwelt through ages, Patrons of this Cure.
          To them, and to his own judicious pains,
          The Vicar's dwelling, and the whole domain,
          Owes that presiding aspect which might well
          Attract your notice; statelier than could else             130
          Have been bestowed, through course of common chance,
          On an unwealthy mountain Benefice."

            This said, oft pausing, we pursued our way;
          Nor reached the village-churchyard till the sun
          Travelling at steadier pace than ours, had risen
          Above the summits of the highest hills,
          And round our path darted oppressive beams.

            As chanced, the portals of the sacred Pile
          Stood open; and we entered. On my frame,
          At such transition from the fervid air,                    140
          A grateful coolness fell, that seemed to strike
          The heart, in concert with that temperate awe
          And natural reverence which the place inspired.
          Not raised in nice proportions was the pile,
          But large and massy; for duration built;
          With pillars crowded, and the roof upheld
          By naked rafters intricately crossed,
          Like leafless underboughs, in some thick wood,
          All withered by the depth of shade above.
          Admonitory texts inscribed the walls,                      150
          Each, in its ornamental scroll, enclosed;
          Each also crowned with winged heads--a pair
          Of rudely-painted Cherubim. The floor
          Of nave and aisle, in unpretending guise,
          Was occupied by oaken benches ranged
          In seemly rows; the chancel only showed
          Some vain distinctions, marks of earthly state
          By immemorial privilege allowed;
          Though with the Encincture's special sanctity
          But ill according. An heraldic shield,                     160
          Varying its tincture with the changeful light,
          Imbued the altar-window; fixed aloft
          A faded hatchment hung, and one by time
          Yet undiscoloured. A capacious pew
          Of sculptured oak stood here, with drapery lined;
          And marble monuments were here displayed
          Thronging the walls; and on the floor beneath
          Sepulchral stones appeared, with emblems graven
          And foot-worn epitaphs, and some with small
          And shining effigies of brass inlaid.                      170

            The tribute by these various records claimed,
          Duly we paid, each after each, and read
          The ordinary chronicle of birth,
          Office, alliance, and promotion--all
          Ending in dust; of upright magistrates,
          Grave doctors strenuous for the mother-church,
          And uncorrupted senators, alike
          To king and people true. A brazen plate,
          Not easily deciphered, told of one
          Whose course of earthly honour was begun                   180
          In quality of page among the train
          Of the eighth Henry, when he crossed the seas
          His royal state to show, and prove his strength
          In tournament, upon the fields of France.
          Another tablet registered the death,
          And praised the gallant bearing, of a Knight
          Tried in the sea-fights of the second Charles.
          Near this brave Knight his Father lay entombed;
          And, to the silent language giving voice,
          I read,--how in his manhood's earlier day                  190
          He, 'mid the afflictions of intestine war
          And rightful government subverted, found
          One only solace--that he had espoused
          A virtuous Lady tenderly beloved
          For her benign perfections; and yet more
          Endeared to him, for this, that, in her state
          Of wedlock richly crowned with Heaven's regard,
          She with a numerous issue filled his house,
          Who throve, like plants, uninjured by the storm
          That laid their country waste. No need to speak            200
          Of less particular notices assigned
          To Youth or Maiden gone before their time,
          And Matrons and unwedded Sisters old;
          Whose charity and goodness were rehearsed
          In modest panegyric.
                                "These dim lines,
          What would they tell?" said I,--but, from the task
          Of puzzling out that faded narrative,
          With whisper soft my venerable Friend
          Called me; and, looking down the darksome aisle,
          I saw the Tenant of the lonely vale                        210
          Standing apart; with curved arm reclined
          On the baptismal font; his pallid face
          Upturned, as if his mind were rapt, or lost
          In some abstraction;--gracefully he stood,
          The semblance bearing of a sculptured form
          That leans upon a monumental urn
          In peace, from morn to night, from year to year.

            Him from that posture did the Sexton rouse;
          Who entered, humming carelessly a tune,
          Continuation haply of the notes                            220
          That had beguiled the work from which he came,
          With spade and mattock o'er his shoulder hung;
          To be deposited, for future need,
          In their appointed place. The pale Recluse
          Withdrew; and straight we followed,--to a spot
          Where sun and shade were intermixed; for there
          A broad oak, stretching forth its leafy arms
          From an adjoining pasture, overhung
          Small space of that green churchyard with a light
          And pleasant awning. On the moss-grown wall                230
          My ancient Friend and I together took
          Our seats; and thus the Solitary spake,
          Standing before us:--
                                 "Did you note the mien
          Of that self-solaced, easy-hearted churl,
          Death's hireling, who scoops out his neighbour's grave,
          Or wraps an old acquaintance up in clay,
          All unconcerned as he would bind a sheaf,
          Or plant a tree. And did you hear his voice?
          I was abruptly summoned by the sound
          From some affecting images and thoughts,                   240
          Which then were silent; but crave utterance now.

            Much," he continued, with dejected look,
          "Much, yesterday, was said in glowing phrase,
          Of our sublime dependencies, and hopes
          For future states of being; and the wings
          Of speculation, joyfully outspread,
          Hovered above our destiny on earth:
          But stoop, and place the prospect of the soul
          In sober contrast with reality,
          And man's substantial life. If this mute earth             250
          Of what it holds could speak, and every grave
          Were as a volume, shut, yet capable
          Of yielding its contents to eye and ear,
          We should recoil, stricken with sorrow and shame,
          To see disclosed, by such dread proof, how ill
          That which is done accords with what is known
          To reason, and by conscience is enjoined;
          How idly, how perversely, life's whole course,
          To this conclusion, deviates from the line,
          Or of the end stops short, proposed to all                 260
          At her aspiring outset.
                                   Mark the babe
          Not long accustomed to this breathing world;
          One that hath barely learned to shape a smile,
          Though yet irrational of soul, to grasp
          With tiny finger--to let fall a tear;
          And, as the heavy cloud of sleep dissolves,
          To stretch his limbs, bemocking, as might seem,
          The outward functions of intelligent man;
          A grave proficient in amusive feats
          Of puppetry, that from the lap declare                     270
          His expectations, and announce his claims
          To that inheritance which millions rue
          That they were ever born to! In due time
          A day of solemn ceremonial comes;
          When they, who for this Minor hold in trust
          Rights that transcend the loftiest heritage
          Of mere humanity, present their Charge,
          For this occasion daintily adorned,
          At the baptismal font. And when the pure
          And consecrating element hath cleansed                     280
          The original stain, the child is there received
          Into the second ark, Christ's church, with trust
          That he, from wrath redeemed, therein shall float
          Over the billows of this troublesome world
          To the fair land of everlasting life.
          Corrupt affections, covetous desires,
          Are all renounced; high as the thought of man
          Can carry virtue, virtue is professed;
          A dedication made, a promise given
          For due provision to control and guide,                    290
          And unremitting progress to ensure
          In holiness and truth."
                                   "You cannot blame,"
          Here interposing fervently I said,
          "Rites which attest that Man by nature lies
          Bedded for good and evil in a gulf
          Fearfully low; nor will your judgment scorn
          Those services, whereby attempt is made
          To lift the creature toward that eminence
          On which, now fallen, erewhile in majesty
          He stood; or if not so, whose top serene                   300
          At least he feels 'tis given him to descry;
          Not without aspirations, evermore
          Returning, and injunctions from within
          Doubt to cast off and weariness; in trust
          That what the Soul perceives, if glory lost,
          May be, through pains and persevering hope,
          Recovered; or, if hitherto unknown,
          Lies within reach, and one day shall be gained."

            "I blame them not," he calmly answered--"no;
          The outward ritual and established forms                   310
          With which communities of men invest
          These inward feelings, and the aspiring vows
          To which the lips give public utterance
          Are both a natural process; and by me
          Shall pass uncensured; though the issue prove,
          Bringing from age to age its own reproach,
          Incongruous, impotent, and blank.--But, oh!
          If to be weak is to be wretched--miserable,
          As the lost Angel by a human voice
          Hath mournfully pronounced, then, in my mind,              320
          Far better not to move at all than move
          By impulse sent from such illusive power,--
          That finds and cannot fasten down; that grasps
          And is rejoiced, and loses while it grasps;
          That tempts, emboldens--for a time sustains,
          And then betrays; accuses and inflicts
          Remorseless punishment; and so retreads
          The inevitable circle: better far
          Than this, to graze the herb in thoughtless peace,
          By foresight or remembrance, undisturbed!                  330

            Philosophy! and thou more vaunted name
          Religion! with thy statelier retinue,
          Faith, Hope, and Charity--from the visible world
          Choose for your emblems whatsoe'er ye find
          Of safest guidance or of firmest trust--
          The torch, the star, the anchor; nor except
          The cross itself, at whose unconscious feet
          The generations of mankind have knelt
          Ruefully seized, and shedding bitter tears,
          And through that conflict seeking rest--of you,            340
          High-titled Powers, am I constrained to ask,
          Here standing, with the unvoyageable sky
          In faint reflection of infinitude
          Stretched overhead, and at my pensive feet
          A subterraneous magazine of bones,
          In whose dark vaults my own shall soon be laid,
          Where are your triumphs? your dominion where?
          And in what age admitted and confirmed?
          --Not for a happy land do I enquire,
          Island or grove, that hides a blessed few                  350
          Who, with obedience willing and sincere,
          To your serene authorities conform;
          But whom, I ask, of individual Souls,
          Have ye withdrawn from passion's crooked ways,
          Inspired, and thoroughly fortified?--If the heart
          Could be inspected to its inmost folds
          By sight undazzled with the glare of praise,
          Who shall be named--in the resplendent line
          Of sages, martyrs, confessors--the man
          Whom the best might of faith, wherever fixed,              360
          For one day's little compass, has preserved
          From painful and discreditable shocks
          Of contradiction, from some vague desire
          Culpably cherished, or corrupt relapse
          To some unsanctioned fear?"
                                       "If this be so,
          And Man," said I, "be in his noblest shape
          Thus pitiably infirm; then, he who made,
          And who shall judge the creature, will forgive.
          --Yet, in its general tenor, your complaint
          Is all too true; and surely not misplaced:                 370
          For, from this pregnant spot of ground, such thoughts
          Rise to the notice of a serious mind
          By natural exhalation. With the dead
          In their repose, the living in their mirth,
          Who can reflect, unmoved, upon the round
          Of smooth and solemnized complacencies,
          By which, on Christian lands, from age to age
          Profession mocks performance. Earth is sick,
          And Heaven is weary, of the hollow words
          Which States and Kingdoms utter when they talk             380
          Of truth and justice. Turn to private life
          And social neighbourhood; look we to ourselves;
          A light of duty shines on every day
          For all; and yet how few are warmed or cheered!
          How few who mingle with their fellow-men
          And still remain self-governed, and apart,
          Like this our honoured Friend; and thence acquire
          Right to expect his vigorous decline,
          That promises to the end a blest old age!"

            "Yet," with a smile of triumph thus exclaimed            390
          The Solitary, "in the life of man,
          If to the poetry of common speech
          Faith may be given, we see as in a glass
          A true reflection of the circling year,
          With all its seasons. Grant that Spring is there,
          In spite of many a rough untoward blast,
          Hopeful and promising with buds and flowers;
          Yet where is glowing Summer's long rich day,
          That 'ought' to follow faithfully expressed?
          And mellow Autumn, charged with bounteous fruit,           400
          Where is she imaged? in what favoured clime
          Her lavish pomp, and ripe magnificence?
          --Yet, while the better part is missed, the worse
          In man's autumnal season is set forth
          With a resemblance not to be denied,
          And that contents him; bowers that hear no more
          The voice of gladness, less and less supply
          Of outward sunshine and internal warmth;
          And, with this change, sharp air and falling leaves,
          Foretelling aged Winter's desolate sway.                   410

            How gay the habitations that bedeck
          This fertile valley! Not a house but seems
          To give assurance of content within;
          Embosomed happiness, and placid love;
          As if the sunshine of the day were met
          With answering brightness in the hearts of all
          Who walk this favoured ground. But chance-regards,
          And notice forced upon incurious ears;
          These, if these only, acting in despite
          Of the encomiums by my Friend pronounced                   420
          On humble life, forbid the judging mind
          To trust the smiling aspect of this fair
          And noiseless commonwealth. The simple race
          Of mountaineers (by nature's self removed
          From foul temptations, and by constant care
          Of a good shepherd tended as themselves
          Do tend their flocks) partake man's general lot
          With little mitigation. They escape,
          Perchance, the heavier woes of guilt; feel not
          The tedium of fantastic idleness:                          430
          Yet life, as with the multitude, with them
          Is fashioned like an ill-constructed tale;
          That on the outset wastes its gay desires,
          Its fair adventures, its enlivening hopes,
          And pleasant interests--for the sequel leaving
          Old things repeated with diminished grace;
          And all the laboured novelties at best
          Imperfect substitutes, whose use and power
          Evince the want and weakness whence they spring."

            While in this serious mood we held discourse,            440
          The reverend Pastor toward the churchyard gate
          Approached; and, with a mild respectful air
          Of native cordiality, our Friend
          Advanced to greet him. With a gracious mien
          Was he received, and mutual joy prevailed.
          Awhile they stood in conference, and I guess
          That he, who now upon the mossy wall
          Sate by my side, had vanished, if a wish
          Could have transferred him to the flying clouds,
          Or the least penetrable hiding-place                       450
          In his own valley's rocky guardianship.
          --For me, I looked upon the pair, well pleased:
          Nature had framed them both, and both were marked
          By circumstance, with intermixture fine
          Of contrast and resemblance. To an oak
          Hardy and grand, a weather-beaten oak,
          Fresh in the strength and majesty of age,
          One might be likened: flourishing appeared,
          Though somewhat past the fulness of his prime,
          The other--like a stately sycamore,                        460
          That spreads, in gentle pomp, its honied shade.

            A general greeting was exchanged; and soon
          The Pastor learned that his approach had given
          A welcome interruption to discourse
          Grave, and in truth too often sad.--"Is Man
          A child of hope? Do generations press
          On generations, without progress made?
          Halts the individual, ere his hairs be grey,
          Perforce? Are we a creature in whom good
          Preponderates, or evil? Doth the will                      470
          Acknowledge reason's law? A living power
          Is virtue, or no better than a name,
          Fleeting as health or beauty, and unsound?
          So that the only substance which remains,
          (For thus the tenor of complaint hath run)
          Among so many shadows, are the pains
          And penalties of miserable life,
          Doomed to decay, and then expire in dust!
          --Our cogitations, this way have been drawn,
          These are the points," the Wanderer said, "on which        480
          Our inquest turns.--Accord, good Sir! the light
          Of your experience to dispel this gloom:
          By your persuasive wisdom shall the heart
          That frets, or languishes, be stilled and cheered."

            "Our nature," said the Priest, in mild reply,
          "Angels nay weigh and fathom: they perceive,
          With undistempered and unclouded spirit,
          The object as it is; but, for ourselves,
          That speculative height 'we' may not reach.
          The good and evil are our own; and we                      490
          Are that which we would contemplate from far.
          Knowledge, for us, is difficult to gain--
          Is difficult to gain, and hard to keep--
          As virtue's self; like virtue is beset
          With snares; tried, tempted, subject to decay.
          Love, admiration, fear, desire, and hate,
          Blind were we without these: through these alone
          Are capable to notice or discern
          Or to record; we judge, but cannot be
          Indifferent judges. 'Spite of proudest boast,              500
          Reason, best reason, is to imperfect man
          An effort only, and a noble aim;
          A crown, an attribute of sovereign power,
          Still to be courted--never to be won.
          --Look forth, or each man dive into himself;
          What sees he but a creature too perturbed;
          That is transported to excess; that yearns,
          Regrets, or trembles, wrongly, or too much;
          Hopes rashly, in disgust as rash recoils;
          Battens on spleen, or moulders in despair;                 510
          Thus comprehension fails, and truth is missed;
          Thus darkness and delusion round our path
          Spread, from disease, whose subtle injury lurks
          Within the very faculty of sight.

            Yet for the general purposes of faith
          In Providence, for solace and support,
          We may not doubt that who can best subject
          The will to reason's law, can strictliest live
          And act in that obedience, he shall gain
          The clearest apprehension of those truths,                 520
          Which unassisted reason's utmost power
          Is too infirm to reach. But, waiving this,
          And our regards confining within bounds
          Of less exalted consciousness, through which
          The very multitude are free to range,
          We safely may affirm that human life
          Is either fair and tempting, a soft scene
          Grateful to sight, refreshing to the soul,
          Or a forbidden tract of cheerless view;
          Even as the same is looked at, or approached.              530
          Thus, when in changeful April fields are white
          With new-fallen snow, if from the sullen north
          Your walk conduct you hither, ere the sun
          Hath gained his noontide height, this churchyard, filled
          With mounds transversely lying side by side
          From east to west, before you will appear
          An unillumined, blank, and dreary plain,
          With more than wintry cheerlessness and gloom
          Saddening the heart. Go forward, and look back;
          Look, from the quarter whence the lord of light,           540
          Of life, of love, and gladness doth dispense
          His beams; which, unexcluded in their fall,
          Upon the southern side of every grave
          Have gently exercised a melting power;
          'Then' will a vernal prospect greet your eye,
          All fresh and beautiful, and green and bright,
          Hopeful and cheerful:--vanished is the pall
          That overspread and chilled the sacred turf,
          Vanished or hidden; and the whole domain,
          To some, too lightly minded, might appear                  550
          A meadow carpet for the dancing hours.
          --This contrast, not unsuitable to life,
          Is to that other state more apposite,
          Death and its two-fold aspect! wintry--one,
          Cold, sullen, blank, from hope and joy shut out;
          The other, which the ray divine hath touched,
          Replete with vivid promise, bright as spring."

            "We see, then, as we feel," the Wanderer thus
          With a complacent animation spake,
          "And in your judgment, Sir! the mind's repose              560
          On evidence is not to be ensured
          By act of naked reason. Moral truth
          Is no mechanic structure, built by rule;
          And which, once built, retains a stedfast shape
          And undisturbed proportions; but a thing
          Subject, you deem, to vital accidents;
          And, like the water-lily, lives and thrives,
          Whose root is fixed in stable earth, whose head
          Floats on the tossing waves. With joy sincere
          I re-salute these sentiments confirmed                     570
          By your authority. But how acquire
          The inward principle that gives effect
          To outward argument; the passive will
          Meek to admit; the active energy,
          Strong and unbounded to embrace, and firm
          To keep and cherish? how shall man unite
          With self-forgetting tenderness of heart
          An earth-despising dignity of soul?
          Wise in that union, and without it blind!"

            "The way," said I, "to court, if not obtain              580
          The ingenuous mind, apt to be set aright;
          This, in the lonely dell discoursing, you
          Declared at large; and by what exercise
          From visible nature, or the inner self
          Power may be trained, and renovation brought
          To those who need the gift. But, after all,
          Is aught so certain as that man is doomed
          To breathe beneath a vault of ignorance?
          The natural roof of that dark house in which
          His soul is pent! How little can be known--                590
          This is the wise man's sigh; how far we err--
          This is the good man's not unfrequent pang!
          And they perhaps err least, the lowly class
          Whom a benign necessity compels
          To follow reason's least ambitious course;
          Such do I mean who, unperplexed by doubt,
          And unincited by a wish to look
          Into high objects farther than they may,
          Pace to and fro, from morn till eventide,
          The narrow avenue of daily toil                            600
          For daily bread."
                             "Yes," buoyantly exclaimed
          The pale Recluse--"praise to the sturdy plough,
          And patient spade; praise to the simple crook,
          And ponderous loom--resounding while it holds
          Body and mind in one captivity;
          And let the light mechanic tool be hailed
          With honour; which, encasing by the power
          Of long companionship, the artist's hand,
          Cuts off that hand, with all its world of nerves,
          From a too busy commerce with the heart!                   610
          --Inglorious implements of craft and toil,
          Both ye that shape and build, and ye that force,
          By slow solicitation, earth to yield
          Her annual bounty, sparingly dealt forth
          With wise reluctance; you would I extol,
          Not for gross good alone which ye produce,
          But for the impertinent and ceaseless strife
          Of proofs and reasons ye preclude--in those
          Who to your dull society are born,
          And with their humble birthright rest content.             620
          --Would I had ne'er renounced it!"
                                              A slight flush
          Of moral anger previously had tinged
          The old Man's cheek; but, at this closing turn
          Of self-reproach, it passed away. Said he,
          "That which we feel we utter; as we think
          So have we argued; reaping for our pains
          No visible recompense. For our relief
          You," to the Pastor turning thus he spake,
          "Have kindly interposed. May I entreat
          Your further help? The mine of real life                   630
          Dig for us; and present us, in the shape
          Of virgin ore, that gold which we, by pains
          Fruitless as those of aery alchemists,
          Seek from the torturing crucible. There lies
          Around us a domain where you have long
          Watched both the outward course and inner heart:
          Give us, for our abstractions, solid facts;
          For our disputes, plain pictures. Say what man
          He is who cultivates yon hanging field;
          What qualities of mind she bears, who comes,               640
          For morn and evening service, with her pail,
          To that green pasture; place before our sight
          The family who dwell within yon house
          Fenced round with glittering laurel; or in that
          Below, from which the curling smoke ascends.
          Or rather, as we stand on holy earth,
          And have the dead around us, take from them
          Your instances; for they are both best known,
          And by frail man most equitably judged.
          Epitomise the life; pronounce, you can,                    650
          Authentic epitaphs on some of these
          Who, from their lowly mansions hither brought,
          Beneath this turf lie mouldering at our feet:
          So, by your records, may our doubts be solved;
          And so, not searching higher we may learn
          'To prize the breath we share with human kind;
          And look upon the dust of man with awe'."

            The Priest replied--"An office you impose
          For which peculiar requisites are mine;
          Yet much, I feel, is wanting--else the task                660
          Would be most grateful. True indeed it is
          That they whom death has hidden from our sight
          Are worthiest of the mind's regard; with these
          The future cannot contradict the past:
          Mortality's last exercise and proof
          Is undergone; the transit made that shows
          The very Soul, revealed as she departs.
          Yet, on your first suggestion, will I give,
          Ere we descend into these silent vaults,
          One picture from the living.
                                        You behold,                  670
          High on the breast of yon dark mountain, dark
          With stony barrenness, a shining speck
          Bright as a sunbeam sleeping till a shower
          Brush it away, or cloud pass over it;
          And such it might be deemed--a sleeping sunbeam;
          But 'tis a plot of cultivated ground,
          Cut off, an island in the dusky waste;
          And that attractive brightness is its own.
          The lofty site, by nature framed to tempt
          Amid a wilderness of rocks and stones                      680
          The tiller's hand, a hermit might have chosen,
          For opportunity presented, thence
          Far forth to send his wandering eye o'er land
          And ocean, and look down upon the works,
          The habitations, and the ways of men,
          Himself unseen! But no tradition tells
          That ever hermit dipped his maple dish
          In the sweet spring that lurks 'mid yon green fields;
          And no such visionary views belong
          To those who occupy and till the ground,                   690
          High on that mountain where they long have dwelt
          A wedded pair in childless solitude.
          A house of stones collected on the spot,
          By rude hands built, with rocky knolls in front.
          Backed also by a ledge of rock, whose crest
          Of birch-trees waves over the chimney top;
          A rough abode--in colour, shape, and size,
          Such as in unsafe times of border-war
          Might have been wished for and contrived, to elude
          The eye of roving plunderer--for their need                700
          Suffices; and unshaken bears the assault
          Of their most dreaded foe, the strong Southwest
          In anger blowing from the distant sea.
          --Alone within her solitary hut;
          There, or within the compass of her fields,
          At any moment may the Dame be found,
          True as the stock-dove to her shallow nest
          And to the grove that holds it. She beguiles
          By intermingled work of house and field
          The summer's day, and winter's; with success               710
          Not equal, but sufficient to maintain,
          Even at the worst, a smooth stream of content,
          Until the expected hour at which her Mate
          From the far-distant quarry's vault returns;
          And by his converse crowns a silent day
          With evening cheerfulness. In powers of mind,
          In scale of culture, few among my flock
          Hold lower rank than this sequestered pair:
          But true humility descends from heaven;
          And that best gift of heaven hath fallen on them;          720
          Abundant recompense for every want.
          --Stoop from your height, ye proud, and copy these!
          Who, in their noiseless dwelling-place, can hear
          The voice of wisdom whispering scripture texts
          For the mind's government, or temper's peace;
          And recommending for their mutual need,
          Forgiveness, patience, hope, and charity!"

            "Much was I pleased," the grey-haired Wanderer said,
          "When to those shining fields our notice first
          You turned; and yet more pleased have from your lips       730
          Gathered this fair report of them who dwell
          In that retirement; whither, by such course
          Of evil hap and good as oft awaits
          A tired way-faring man, once 'I' was brought
          While traversing alone yon mountain pass.
          Dark on my road the autumnal evening fell,
          And night succeeded with unusual gloom,
          So hazardous that feet and hands became
          Guides better than mine eyes--until a light
          High in the gloom appeared, too high, methought,           740
          For human habitation; but I longed
          To reach it, destitute of other hope.
          I looked with steadiness as sailors look
          On the north star, or watch-tower's distant lamp,
          And saw the light--now fixed--and shifting now--
          Not like a dancing meteor, but in line
          Of never-varying motion, to and fro.
          It is no night-fire of the naked hills,
          Thought I--some friendly covert must be near.
          With this persuasion thitherward my steps                  750
          I turn, and reach at last the guiding light;
          Joy to myself! but to the heart of her
          Who there was standing on the open hill,
          (The same kind Matron whom your tongue hath praised)
          Alarm and disappointment! The alarm
          Ceased, when she learned through what mishap I came,
          And by what help had gained those distant fields.
          Drawn from her cottage, on that aery height,
          Bearing a lantern in her hand she stood,
          Or paced the ground--to guide her Husband home,            760
          By that unwearied signal, kenned afar;
          An anxious duty! which the lofty site,
          Traversed but by a few irregular paths,
          Imposes, whensoe'er untoward chance
          Detains him after his accustomed hour
          Till night lies black upon the ground. 'But come,
          Come,' said the Matron, 'to our poor abode;
          Those dark rocks hide it!' Entering, I beheld
          A blazing fire--beside a cleanly hearth
          Sate down; and to her office, with leave asked,            770
          The Dame returned.
                              Or ere that glowing pile
          Of mountain turf required the builder's hand
          Its wasted splendour to repair, the door
          Opened, and she re-entered with glad looks,
          Her Helpmate following. Hospitable fare,
          Frank conversation, made the evening's treat:
          Need a bewildered traveller wish for more?
          But more was given; I studied as we sate
          By the bright fire, the good Man's form, and face
          Not less than beautiful; an open brow                      780
          Of undisturbed humanity; a cheek
          Suffused with something of a feminine hue;
          Eyes beaming courtesy and mild regard;
          But, in the quicker turns of the discourse,
          Expression slowly varying, that evinced
          A tardy apprehension. From a fount
          Lost, thought I, in the obscurities of time,
          But honoured once, those features and that mien
          May have descended, though I see them here.
          In such a man, so gentle and subdued,                      790
          Withal so graceful in his gentleness,
          A race illustrious for heroic deeds,
          Humbled, but not degraded, may expire.
          This pleasing fancy (cherished and upheld
          By sundry recollections of such fall
          From high to low, ascent from low to high,
          As books record, and even the careless mind
          Cannot but notice among men and things)
          Went with me to the place of my repose.

            Roused by the crowing cock at dawn of day,               800
          I yet had risen too late to interchange
          A morning salutation with my Host,
          Gone forth already to the far-off seat
          Of his day's work. 'Three dark mid-winter months
          'Pass,' said the Matron 'and I never see,
          'Save when the sabbath brings its kind release,
          'My Helpmate's face by light of day. He quits
          'His door in darkness, nor till dusk returns.
          'And, through Heaven's blessing, thus we gain the bread
          'For which we pray; and for the wants provide              810
          'Of sickness, accident, and helpless age.
          'Companions have I many; many friends,
          'Dependants, comforters--my wheel, my fire,
          'All day the house-clock ticking in mine ear,
          'The cackling hen, the tender chicken brood,
          'And the wild birds that gather round my porch.
          'This honest sheep-dog's countenance I read;
          'With him can talk; nor blush to waste a word
          'On creatures less intelligent and shrewd.
          'And if the blustering wind that drives the clouds         820
          'Care not for me, he lingers round my door,
          'And makes me pastime when our tempers suit;--
          'But, above all, my thoughts are my support,
          'My comfort:--would that they were oftener fixed
          'On what, for guidance in the way that leads
          'To heaven, I know, by my Redeemer taught.'
          The Matron ended--nor could I forbear
          To exclaim--'O happy! yielding to the law
          Of these privations, richer in the main!--
          While thankless thousands are opprest and clogged          830
          By ease and leisure; by the very wealth
          And pride of opportunity made poor;
          While tens of thousands falter in their path,
          And sink, through utter want of cheering light;
          For you the hours of labour do not flag;
          For you each evening hath its shining star,
          And every sabbath-day its golden sun.'"

            "Yes!" said the Solitary with a smile
          That seemed to break from an expanding heart,
          "The untutored bird may found, and so construct,           840
          And with such soft materials line, her nest
          Fixed in the centre of a prickly brake,
          That the thorns wound her not; they only guard,
          Powers not unjustly likened to those gifts
          Of happy instinct which the woodland bird
          Shares with her species, nature's grace sometimes
          Upon the individual doth confer,
          Among her higher creatures born and trained
          To use of reason. And, I own that, tired
          Of the ostentatious world--a swelling stage                850
          With empty actions and vain passions stuffed,
          And from the private struggles of mankind
          Hoping far less than I could wish to hope,
          Far less than once I trusted and believed--
          I love to hear of those, who, not contending
          Nor summoned to contend for virtue's prize,
          Miss not the humbler good at which they aim,
          Blest with a kindly faculty to blunt
          The edge of adverse circumstance, and turn
          Into their contraries the petty plagues                    860
          And hindrances with which they stand beset.
          In early youth, among my native hills,
          I knew a Scottish Peasant who possessed
          A few small crofts of stone-encumbered ground;
          Masses of every shape and size, that lay
          Scattered about under the mouldering walls
          Of a rough precipice; and some, apart,
          In quarters unobnoxious to such chance,
          As if the moon had showered them down in spite.
          But he repined not. Though the plough was scared           870
          By these obstructions, 'round the shady stones
          'A fertilising moisture,' said the Swain,
          'Gathers, and is preserved; and feeding dews
          'And damps, through all the droughty summer day
          'From out their substance issuing, maintain
          'Herbage that never fails; no grass springs up
          'So green, so fresh, so plentiful, as mine!'
          But thinly sown these natures; rare, at least,
          The mutual aptitude of seed and soil
          That yields such kindly product. He, whose bed             880
          Perhaps yon loose sods cover, the poor Pensioner
          Brought yesterday from our sequestered dell
          Here to lie down in lasting quiet, he,
          If living now, could otherwise report
          Of rustic loneliness: that grey-haired Orphan--
          So call him, for humanity to him
          No parent was--feelingly could have told,
          In life, in death, what solitude can breed
          Of selfishness, and cruelty, and vice;
          Or, if it breed not, hath not power to cure.               890
          --But your compliance, Sir! with our request
          My words too long have hindered."
                                             Undeterred,
          Perhaps incited rather, by these shocks,
          In no ungracious opposition, given
          To the confiding spirit of his own
          Experienced faith, the reverend Pastor said,
          Around him looking; "Where shall I begin?
          Who shall be first selected from my flock
          Gathered together in their peaceful fold?"
          He paused--and having lifted up his eyes                   900
          To the pure heaven, he cast them down again
          Upon the earth beneath his feet; and spake:--

            "To a mysteriously-united pair
          This place is consecrate; to Death and Life,
          And to the best affections that proceed
          From their conjunction; consecrate to faith
          In him who bled for man upon the cross;
          Hallowed to revelation; and no less
          To reason's mandates: and the hopes divine
          Of pure imagination;--above all,                           910
          To charity, and love, that have provided,
          Within these precincts, a capacious bed
          And receptacle, open to the good
          And evil, to the just and the unjust;
          In which they find an equal resting-place:
          Even as the multitude of kindred brooks
          And streams, whose murmur fills this hollow vale,
          Whether their course be turbulent or smooth,
          Their waters clear or sullied, all are lost
          Within the bosom of yon crystal Lake,                      920
          And end their journey in the same repose!

            And blest are they who sleep; and we that know,
          While in a spot like this we breathe and walk,
          That all beneath us by the wings are covered
          Of motherly humanity, outspread
          And gathering all within their tender shade,
          Though loth and slow to come! A battlefield,
          In stillness left when slaughter is no more,
          With this compared, makes a strange spectacle!
          A dismal prospect yields the wild shore strewn             930
          With wrecks, and trod by feet of young and old
          Wandering about in miserable search
          Of friends or kindred, whom the angry sea
          Restores not to their prayer! Ah! who would think
          That all the scattered subjects which compose
          Earth's melancholy vision through the space
          Of all her climes--these wretched, these depraved,
          To virtue lost, insensible of peace,
          From the delights of charity cut off,
          To pity dead, the oppressor and the opprest;               940
          Tyrants who utter the destroying word,
          And slaves who will consent to be destroyed--
          Were of one species with the sheltered few,
          Who, with a dutiful and tender hand,
          Lodged, in a dear appropriated spot,
          This file of infants; some that never breathed
          The vital air; others, which, though allowed
          That privilege, did yet expire too soon,
          Or with too brief a warning, to admit
          Administration of the holy rite                            950
          That lovingly consigns the babe to the arms
          Of Jesus, and his everlasting care.
          These that in trembling hope are laid apart;
          And the besprinkled nursling, unrequired
          Till he begins to smile upon the breast
          That feeds him; and the tottering little-one
          Taken from air and sunshine when the rose
          Of infancy first blooms upon his cheek;
          The thinking, thoughtless, school-boy; the bold youth
          Of soul impetuous, and the bashful maid                    960
          Smitten while all the promises of life
          Are opening round her; those of middle age,
          Cast down while confident in strength they stand,
          Like pillars fixed more firmly, as might seem,
          And more secure, by very weight of all
          That, for support, rests on them; the decayed
          And burthensome; and lastly, that poor few
          Whose light of reason is with age extinct;
          The hopeful and the hopeless, first and last,
          The earliest summoned and the longest spared--             970
          Are here deposited, with tribute paid
          Various, but unto each some tribute paid;
          As if, amid these peaceful hills and groves,
          Society were touched with kind concern,
          And gentle 'Nature grieved, that one should die;'
          Or, if the change demanded no regret,
          Observed the liberating stroke--and blessed.

            And whence that tribute? wherefore these regards?
          Not from the naked 'Heart' alone of Man
          (Though claiming high distinction upon earth               980
          As the sole spring and fountain-head of tears,
          His own peculiar utterance for distress
          Or gladness)--No," the philosophic Priest
          Continued, "'tis not in the vital seat
          Of feeling to produce them, without aid
          From the pure soul, the soul sublime and pure;
          With her two faculties of eye and ear,
          The one by which a creature, whom his sins
          Have rendered prone, can upward look to heaven;
          The other that empowers him to perceive                    990
          The voice of Deity, on height and plain,
          Whispering those truths in stillness, which the WORD,
          To the four quarters of the winds, proclaims.
          Not without such assistance could the use
          Of these benign observances prevail:
          Thus are they born, thus fostered, thus maintained;
          And by the care prospective of our wise
          Forefathers, who, to guard against the shocks
          The fluctuation and decay of things,
          Embodied and established these high truths                1000
          In solemn institutions:--men convinced
          That life is love and immortality,
          The being one, and one the element.
          There lies the channel, and original bed,
          From the beginning, hollowed out and scooped
          For Man's affections--else betrayed and lost
          And swallowed up 'mid deserts infinite!
          This is the genuine course, the aim, and end
          Of prescient reason; all conclusions else
          Are abject, vain, presumptuous, and perverse.             1010
          The faith partaking of those holy times,
          Life, I repeat, is energy of love
          Divine or human; exercised in pain,
          In strife, and tribulation; and ordained,
          If so approved and sanctified, to pass,
          Through shades and silent rest, to endless joy."

   NOTES

  646 'Or rather, as we stand on holy earth,
      And have the dead around us.'

        Leo. You, Sir, could help me to the history
      Of half these graves?
        Priest.        For eight-score winters past,
      With what I've witnessed, and with what I've heard
      Perhaps I might; . . . . .
      By turning o'er these hillocks one by one,
      We two could travel, Sir, through a strange round;
      Yet all in the broad highway of the world.
                                   'See the Brothers'.

  975 'And suffering Nature grieved that one should die.'
                   "Southey's Retrospect."

  978 'And whence that tribute? wherefore these regards?'

        The sentiments and opinions here uttered are in unison with 
      those expressed in the following Essay upon Epitaphs, which was 
      furnished by me for Mr. Coleridge's periodical work, "The Friend"; 
      and as they are dictated by a spirit congenial to that which 
      pervades this and the two succeeding books, the sympathising 
      reader will not be displeased to see the Essay here annexed.
                             _____________

      ESSAY UPON EPITAPHS

      IT needs scarcely be said, that an Epitaph presupposes a Monument, 
      upon which it is to be engraven. Almost all Nations have wished 
      that certain external signs should point out the places where 
      their dead are interred. Among savage tribes unacquainted with 
      letters this has mostly been done either by rude stones placed 
      near the graves, or by mounds of earth raised over them. This 
      custom proceeded obviously from a twofold desire: first to guard 
      the remains of the deceased from irreverent approach or from 
      savage violation: and secondly to preserve their memory. "Never 
      any," says Camden, "neglected burial but some savage nations; as 
      the Bactrians, which cast their dead to the dogs; some varlet 
      philosophers, as Diogenes, who desired to be devoured of fishes; 
      some dissolute courtiers, as Maecenas, who was wont to say, Non 
      tumulum curo; sepelit natura relictos.

      'I'm careless of a grave:--Nature her dead will save.'"

        As soon as nations had learned the use of letters, epitaphs were 
      inscribed upon these monuments; in order that their intention 
      might be more surely and adequately fulfilled. I have derived 
      monuments and epitaphs from two sources of feeling, but these do 
      in fact resolve themselves into one. The invention of epitaphs, 
      Weever, in his Discourse of Funeral Monuments, says rightly, 
      "proceeded from the presage or fore-feeling of immortality, 
      implanted in all men naturally, and is referred to the scholars of 
      Linus the Theban poet, who flourished about the year of the world 
      two thousand seven hundred; who first bewailed this Linus their 
      Master, when he was slain, in doleful verses, then called of him 
      Oelina, afterwards Epitaphia, for that they were first sung at 
      burials, after engraved upon the sepulchres."

        And, verily, without the consciousness of a principle of 
      immortality in the human soul, Man could never have had awakened 
      in him the desire to live in the remembrance of his fellows: mere 
      love, or the yearning of kind towards kind, could not have 
      produced it. The dog or horse perishes in the field, or in the 
      stall, by the side of his companions, and is incapable of 
      anticipating the sorrow with which his surrounding associates 
      shall bemoan his death, or pine for his loss; he cannot pre-
      conceive this regret, he can form no thought of it; and therefore 
      cannot possibly have a desire to leave such regret or remembrance 
      behind him. Add to the principle of love which exists in the 
      inferior animals, the faculty of reason which exists in Man alone; 
      will the conjunction of these account for the desire? Doubtless it 
      is a necessary consequence of this conjunction; yet not, I think, 
      as a direct result, but only to be come at through an intermediate 
      thought, viz. that of an intimation or assurance within us, that 
      some part of our nature is imperishable. At least the precedence, 
      in order of birth, of one feeling to the other, is unquestionable. 
      If we look back upon the days of childhood, we shall find that the 
      time is not in remembrance when, with respect to our own 
      individual Being, the mind was without this assurance; whereas, 
      the wish to be remembered by our friends or kindred after death, 
      or even in absence, is, as we shall discover, a sensation that 
      does not form itself till the 'social' feelings have been 
      developed, and the Reason has connected itself with a wide range 
      of objects. Forlorn, and cut off from communication with the best 
      part of his nature, must that man be, who should derive the sense 
      of immortality, as it exists in the mind of a child, from the same 
      unthinking gaiety or liveliness of animal spirits with which the 
      lamb in the meadow or any other irrational creature is endowed; 
      who should ascribe it, in short, to blank ignorance in the child; 
      to an inability arising from the imperfect state of his faculties 
      to come, in any point of his being, into contact with a notion of 
      death; or to an unreflecting acquiescence in what has been 
      instilled into him! Has such an unfolder of the mysteries of 
      nature, though he may have forgotten his former self, ever noticed 
      the early, obstinate, and unappeasable inquisitiveness of children 
      upon the subject of origination? This single fact proves outwardly 
      the monstrousness of those suppositions: for, if we had no direct 
      external testimony that the minds of very young children meditate 
      feelingly upon death and immortality, these inquiries, which we 
      all know they are perpetually making concerning the 'whence', do 
      necessarily include correspondent habits of interrogation 
      concerning the 'whither'. Origin and tendency are notions 
      inseparably co-relative. Never did a child stand by the side of a 
      running stream, pondering within himself what power was the feeder 
      of the perpetual current, from what never-wearied sources the body 
      of water was supplied, but he must have been inevitably propelled 
      to follow this question by another: "Towards what abyss is it in 
      progress? what receptacle can contain the mighty influx?" And the 
      spirit of the answer must have been, though the word might be sea 
      or ocean, accompanied perhaps with an image gathered from a map, 
      or from the real object in nature--these might have been the 
      'letter', but the 'spirit' of the answer must have been 'as' 
      inevitably,--a receptacle without bounds or dimensions;--nothing 
      less than infinity. We may, then, be justified in asserting, that 
      the sense of immortality, if not a co-existent and twin birth with 
      Reason, is among the earliest of her offspring: and we may further 
      assert, that from these conjoined, and under their countenance, 
      the human affections are gradually formed and opened out. This is 
      not the place to enter into the recesses of these investigations; 
      but the subject requires me here to make a plain avowal, that, for 
      my own part, it is to me inconceivable, that the sympathies of 
      love towards each other, which grow with our growth, could ever 
      attain any new strength, or even preserve the old, after we had 
      received from the outward senses the impression of death, and were 
      in the habit of having that impression daily renewed and its 
      accompanying feeling brought home to ourselves, and to those we 
      love; if the same were not counteracted by those communications 
      with our internal Being, which are anterior to all these 
      experiences, and with which revelation coincides, and has through 
      that coincidence alone (for otherwise it could not possess it) a 
      power to affect us. I confess, with me the conviction is absolute 
      that, if the impression and sense of death were not thus 
      counterbalanced, such a hollowness would pervade the whole system 
      of things, such a want of correspondence and consistency, a 
      disproportion so astounding betwixt means and ends, that there 
      could be no repose, no joy. Were we to grow up unfostered by this 
      genial warmth, a frost would chill the spirit, so penetrating and 
      powerful that there could be no motions of the life of love; and 
      infinitely less could we have any wish to be remembered after we 
      had passed away from a world in which each man had moved about 
      like a shadow.--If, then, in a creature endowed with the faculties 
      of foresight and reason, the social affections could not have 
      unfolded themselves uncountenanced by the faith that Man is an 
      immortal being, and if, consequently, neither could the individual 
      dying have had a desire to survive in the remembrance of his 
      fellows, nor on their side could they have felt a wish to preserve 
      for future times vestiges of the departed; it follows, as a final 
      inference, that without the belief in immortality, wherein these 
      several desires originate, neither monuments nor epitaphs, in 
      affectionate or laudatory commemoration of the deceased, could 
      have existed in the world.

        Simonides, it is related, upon landing in a strange country, 
      found the corse of an unknown person lying by the seaside; he 
      buried it, and was honoured throughout Greece for the piety of 
      that act. Another ancient Philosopher, chancing to fix his eyes 
      upon a dead body, regarded the same with slight, if not with 
      contempt, saying, "See the shell of the flown bird!" But it is not 
      to be supposed that the moral and tender-hearted Simonides was 
      incapable of the lofty movements of thought to which that other 
      Sage gave way at the moment while his soul was intent only upon 
      the indestructible being; nor, on the other hand, that he, in 
      whose sight a lifeless human body was of no more value than the 
      worthless shell from which the living fowl had departed, would 
      not, in a different mood of mind, have been affected by those 
      earthly considerations which had incited the philosophic Poet to 
      the performance of that pious duty. And with regard to this latter 
      we may be assured that, if he had been destitute of the capability 
      of communing with the more exalted thoughts that appertain to 
      human nature, he would have cared no more for the corse of the 
      stranger than for the dead body of a seal or porpoise which might 
      have been cast up by the waves. We respect the corporeal frame of 
      Man, not merely because it is the habitation of a rational, but of 
      an immortal Soul. Each of these Sages was in sympathy with the 
      best feelings of our nature; feelings which, though they seem 
      opposite to each other, have another and a finer connection than 
      that of contrast.--It is a connection formed through the subtle 
      progress by which, both in the natural and the moral world, 
      qualities pass insensibly into their contraries, and things 
      revolve upon each other. As, in sailing upon the orb of this 
      planet, a voyage towards the regions where the sun sets conducts 
      gradually to the quarter where we have been accustomed to behold 
      it come forth at its rising; and, in like manner, a voyage towards 
      the east, the birth-place in our imagination of the morning, leads 
      finally to the quarter where the sun is last seen when he departs 
      from our eyes; so the contemplative Soul, travelling in the 
      direction of mortality, advances to the country of everlasting 
      life; and, in like manner, may she continue to explore those 
      cheerful tracts till she is brought back, for her advantage and 
      benefit, to the land of transitory things--of sorrow and of tears.

        On a midway point, therefore, which commands the thoughts and 
      feelings of the two Sages whom we have represented in contrast, 
      does the Author of that species of composition, the laws of which 
      it is our present purpose to explain, take his stand. Accordingly, 
      recurring to the twofold desire of guarding the remains of the 
      deceased and preserving their memory, it may be said that a 
      sepulchral monument is a tribute to a man as a human being; and 
      that an epitaph (in the ordinary meaning attached to the word) 
      includes this general feeling and something more; and is a record 
      to preserve the memory of the dead, as a tribute due to his 
      individual worth, for a satisfaction to the sorrowing hearts of 
      the survivors, and for the common benefit of the living: which 
      record is to be accomplished, not in a general manner, but, where 
      it can, in 'close connection with the bodily remains of the 
      deceased': and these, it may be added, among the modern nations of 
      Europe, are deposited within, or contiguous to, their places of 
      worship. In ancient times, as is well known, it was the custom to 
      bury the dead beyond the walls of towns and cities; and among the 
      Greeks and Romans they were frequently interred by the waysides.

        I could here pause with pleasure, and invite the Reader to 
      indulge with me in contemplation of the advantages which must have 
      attended such a practice. We might ruminate upon the beauty which 
      the monuments, thus placed, must have borrowed from the 
      surrounding images of nature--from the trees, the wild flowers, 
      from a stream running perhaps within sight or hearing, from the 
      beaten road stretching its weary length hard by. Many tender 
      similitudes must these objects have presented to the mind of the 
      traveller leaning upon one of the tombs, or reposing in the 
      coolness of its shade, whether he had halted from weariness or in 
      compliance with the invitation, "Pause, Traveller!" so often found 
      upon the monuments. And to its epitaph also must have been 
      supplied strong appeals to visible appearances or immediate 
      impressions, lively and affecting analogies of life as a journey--
      death as a sleep overcoming the tired wayfarer--of misfortune as a 
      storm that falls suddenly upon him--of beauty as a flower that 
      passeth away, or of innocent pleasure as one that may be gathered-
      -of virtue that standeth firm as a rock against the beating waves-
      -of hope "undermined insensibly like the poplar by the side of the 
      river that has fed it," or blasted in a moment like a pine-tree by 
      the stroke of lightning upon the mountain-top--of admonitions and 
      heart-stirring remembrances, like a refreshing breeze that comes 
      without warning, or the taste of the waters of an unexpected 
      fountain. These and similar suggestions must have given, formerly, 
      to the language of the senseless stone a voice enforced and 
      endeared by the benignity of that nature with which it was in 
      unison.--We, in modern times, have lost much of these advantages; 
      and they are but in a small degree counterbalanced to the 
      inhabitants of large towns and cities by the custom of depositing 
      the dead within, or contiguous to, their places of worship; 
      however splendid or imposing may be the appearance of those 
      edifices, or however interesting or salutary the recollections 
      associated with them. Even were it not true that tombs lose their 
      monitory virtue when thus obtruded upon the notice of men occupied 
      with the cares of the world, and too often sullied and defiled by 
      those cares, yet still, when death is in our thoughts, nothing can 
      make amends for the want of the soothing influences of nature, and 
      for the absence of those types of renovation and decay which the 
      fields and woods offer to the notice of the serious and 
      contemplative mind. To feel the force of this sentiment, let a man 
      only compare in imagination the unsightly manner in which our 
      monuments are crowded together in the busy, noisy, unclean, and 
      almost grassless churchyard of a large town, with the still 
      seclusion of a Turkish cemetery, in some remote place, and yet 
      further sanctified by the grove of cypress in which it is 
      embosomed. Thoughts in the same temper as these have already been 
      expressed with true sensibility by an ingenuous Poet of the 
      present day. The subject of his poem is "All Saints Church, 
      Derby:" he has been deploring the forbidding and unseemly 
      appearance of its burial-ground, and uttering a wish that in past 
      times the practice had been adopted of interring the inhabitants 
      of large towns in the country;--

             Then in some rural, calm, sequestered spot
             Where healing Nature her benignant look
             Ne'er changes, save at that lorn season, when,
             With tresses drooping o'er her sable stole,
             She yearly mourns the mortal doom of man,
             Her noblest work, (so Israel's virgins erst,
             With annual moan upon the mountains wept
             Their fairest gone,) there in that rural scene,
             So placid, so congenial to the wish
             The Christian feels, of peaceful rest within
             The silent grave, I would have stayed:
                  *     *     *     *     *
             --wandered forth, where the cold dew of heaven
             Lay on the humbler graves around, what time
             The pale moon gazed upon the turfy mounds,
             Pensive, as though like me, in lonely muse,
             'Twere brooding on the dead inhumed beneath.
             There while with him, the holy man of Uz,
             O'er human destiny I sympathised,
             Counting the long, long periods prophecy
             Decrees to roll, ere the great day arrives
             Of resurrection, oft the blue-eyed Spring
             Had met me with her blossoms, as the Dove,
             Of old, returned with olive leaf, to cheer
             The Patriarch mourning o'er a world destroyed:
             And I would bless her visit; for to me
             'Tis sweet to trace the consonance that links
             As one, the works of Nature and the word
             Of God.--                       JOHN EDWARDS.

        A village churchyard, lying as it does in the lap of nature, may 
      indeed be most favourably contrasted with that of a town of 
      crowded population; and sepulture therein combines many of the 
      best tendencies which belong to the mode practised by the Ancients 
      with others peculiar to itself. The sensations of pious 
      cheerfulness, which attend the celebration of the sabbath-day in 
      rural places, are profitably chastised by the sight of the graves 
      of kindred and friends, gathered together in that general home 
      towards which the thoughtful yet happy spectators themselves are 
      journeying. Hence a parish church, in the stillness of the 
      country, is a visible centre of a community of the living and the 
      dead; a point to which are habitually referred the nearest 
      concerns of both.

        As, then, both in cities and in villages, the dead are deposited 
      in close connection with our places of worship, with us the 
      composition of an epitaph naturally turns, still more than among 
      the nations of antiquity, upon the most serious and solemn 
      affections of the human mind; upon departed worth--upon personal 
      or social sorrow and admiration--upon religion, individual and 
      social--upon time, and upon eternity. Accordingly, it suffices, in 
      ordinary cases, to secure a composition of this kind from censure, 
      that it contain nothing that shall shock or be inconsistent with 
      this spirit. But, to entitle an epitaph to praise, more than this 
      is necessary. It ought to contain some thought or feeling 
      belonging to the mortal or immortal part of our nature touchingly 
      expressed; and if that be done, however general or even trite the 
      sentiment may be, every man of pure mind will read the words with 
      pleasure and gratitude. A husband bewails a wife; a parent 
      breathes a sigh of disappointed hope over a lost child; a son 
      utters a sentiment of filial reverence for a departed father or 
      mother; a friend perhaps inscribes an encomium recording the 
      companionable qualities, or the solid virtues, of the tenant of 
      the grave, whose departure has left a sadness upon his memory. 
      This and a pious admonition to the living, and a humble expression 
      of Christian confidence in immortality, is the language of a 
      thousand churchyards; and it does not often happen that anything, 
      in a greater degree discriminate or appropriate to the dead or to 
      the living, is to be found in them. This want of discrimination 
      has been ascribed by Dr. Johnson, in his Essay upon the epitaphs 
      of Pope, to two causes: first, the scantiness of the objects of 
      human praise; and, secondly, the want of variety in the characters 
      of men; or, to use his own words, "to the fact, that the greater 
      part of mankind have no character at all." Such language may be 
      holden without blame among the generalities of common 
      conversation; but does not become a critic and a moralist speaking 
      seriously upon a serious subject. The objects of admiration in 
      human nature are not scanty, but abundant: and every man has a 
      character of his own to the eye that has skill to perceive it. The 
      real cause of the acknowledged want of discrimination in 
      sepulchral memorials is this: That to analyse the characters of 
      others, especially of those whom we love, is not a common or 
      natural employment of men at any time. We are not anxious 
      unerringly to understand the constitution of the minds of those 
      who have soothed, who have cheered, who have supported us; with 
      whom we have been long and daily pleased or delighted. The 
      affections are their own justification. The light of love in our 
      hearts is a satisfactory evidence that there is a body of worth in 
      the minds of our friends or kindred, whence that light has 
      proceeded. We shrink from the thought of placing their merits and 
      defects to be weighed against each other in the nice balance of 
      pure intellect; nor do we find much temptation to detect the 
      shades by which a good quality or virtue is discriminated in them 
      from an excellence known by the same general name as it exists in 
      the mind of another; and least of all do we incline to these 
      refinements when under the pressure of sorrow, admiration, or 
      regret, or when actuated by any of those feelings which incite men 
      to prolong the memory of their friends and kindred by records 
      placed in the bosom of the all-uniting and equalising receptacle 
      of the dead.

        The first requisite, then, in an Epitaph is, that it should 
      speak, in a tone which shall sink into the heart, the general 
      language of humanity as connected with the subject of death--the 
      source from which an epitaph proceeds--of death, and of life. To 
      be born and to die are the two points in which all men feel 
      themselves to be in absolute coincidence. This general language 
      may be uttered so strikingly as to entitle an epitaph to high 
      praise; yet it cannot lay claim to the highest unless other 
      excellences be superadded. Passing through all intermediate steps, 
      we will attempt to determine at once what these excellences are, 
      and wherein consists the perfection of this species of 
      composition.--It will be found to lie in a due proportion of the 
      common or universal feeling of humanity to sensations excited by a 
      distinct and clear conception, conveyed to the reader's mind, of 
      the individual whose death is deplored and whose memory is to be 
      preserved; at least of his character as, after death, it appeared 
      to those who loved him and lament his loss. The general sympathy 
      ought to be quickened, provoked, and diversified, by particular 
      thoughts, actions, images,--circumstances of age, occupation, 
      manner of life, prosperity which the deceased had known, or 
      adversity to which he had been subject; and these ought to be 
      bound together and solemnised into one harmony by the general 
      sympathy. The two powers should temper, restrain, and exalt each 
      other. The reader ought to know who and what the man was whom he 
      is called upon to think of with interest. A distinct conception 
      should be given (implicitly where it can, rather than explicitly) 
      of the individual lamented.--But the writer of an epitaph is not 
      an anatomist, who dissects the internal frame of the mind; he is 
      not even a painter, who executes a portrait at leisure and in 
      entire tranquillity: his delineation, we must remember, is 
      performed by the side of the grave; and, what is more, the grave 
      of one whom he loves and admires. What purity and brightness is 
      that virtue clothed in, the image of which must no longer bless 
      our living eyes! The character of a deceased friend or beloved 
      kinsman is not seen--no, nor ought to be seen--otherwise than as a 
      tree through a tender haze or a luminous mist, that spiritualises 
      and beautifies it; that takes away, indeed, but only to the end 
      that the parts which are not abstracted may appear more dignified 
      and lovely; may impress and affect the more. Shall we say, then, 
      that this is not truth, not a faithful image; and that, 
      accordingly, the purposes of commemoration cannot be answered?--It 
      'is' truth, and of the highest order; for, though doubtless things 
      are not apparent which did exist; yet, the object being looked at 
      through this medium, parts and proportions are brought into 
      distinct view which before had been only imperfectly or 
      unconsciously seen: it is truth hallowed by love--the joint 
      offspring of the worth of the dead and the affections of the 
      living! This may easily be brought to the test. Let one, whose 
      eyes have been sharpened by personal hostility to discover what 
      was amiss in the character of a good man, hear the tidings of his 
      death, and what a change is wrought in a moment! Enmity melts 
      away; and, as it disappears, unsightliness, disproportion, and 
      deformity, vanish; and, through the influence of commiseration, a 
      harmony of love and beauty succeeds. Bring such a man to the 
      tombstone on which shall be inscribed an epitaph on his adversary, 
      composed in the spirit which we have recommended. Would he turn 
      from it as from an idle tale? No;--the thoughtful look, the sigh, 
      and perhaps the involuntary tear, would testify that it had a 
      sane, a generous, and good meaning; and that on the writer's mind 
      had remained an impression which was a true abstract of the 
      character of the deceased; that his gifts and graces were 
      remembered in the simplicity in which they ought to be remembered. 
      The composition and quality of the mind of a virtuous man, 
      contemplated by the side of the grave where his body is 
      mouldering, ought to appear, and be felt as something midway 
      between what he was on earth walking about with his living 
      frailties, and what he may be presumed to be as a Spirit in 
      heaven.

        It suffices, therefore, that the trunk and the main branches of 
      the worth of the deceased be boldly and unaffectedly represented. 
      Any further detail, minutely and scrupulously pursued, especially 
      if this be done with laborious and antithetic discriminations, 
      must inevitably frustrate its own purpose; forcing the passing 
      Spectator to this conclusion,--either that the dead did not 
      possess the merits ascribed to him, or that they who have raised a 
      monument to his memory, and must therefore be supposed to have 
      been closely connected with him, were incapable of perceiving 
      those merits; or at least during the act of composition had lost 
      sight of them; for, the understanding having been so busy in its 
      petty occupation, how could the heart of the mourner be other than 
      cold? and in either of these cases, whether the fault be on the 
      part of the buried person or the survivors, the memorial is 
      unaffecting and profitless.

        Much better is it to fall short in discrimination than to pursue 
      it too far, or to labour it unfeelingly. For in no place are we so 
      much disposed to dwell upon those points of nature and condition 
      wherein all men resemble each other, as in the temple where the 
      universal Father is worshipped, or by the side of the grave which 
      gathers all human Beings to itself, and "equalises the lofty and 
      the low." We suffer and we weep with the same heart; we love and 
      are anxious for one another in one spirit; our hopes look to the 
      same quarter; and the virtues by which we are all to be furthered 
      and supported, as patience, meekness, good-will, justice, 
      temperance, and temperate desires, are in an equal degree the 
      concern of us all. Let an Epitaph, then, contain at least these 
      acknowledgments to our common nature; nor let the sense of their 
      importance be sacrificed to a balance of opposite qualities or 
      minute distinctions in individual character; which if they do not 
      (as will for the most part be the case), when examined, resolve 
      themselves into a trick of words, will, even when they are true 
      and just, for the most part be grievously out of place; for, as it 
      is probable that few only have explored these intricacies of human 
      nature, so can the tracing of them be interesting only to a few. 
      But an epitaph is not a proud writing shut up for the studious: it 
      is exposed to all--to the wise and the most ignorant; it is 
      condescending, perspicuous, and lovingly solicits regard; its 
      story and admonitions are brief, that the thoughtless, the busy, 
      and indolent, may not be deterred, nor the impatient tired: the 
      stooping old man cons the engraven record like a second horn-
      book;--the child is proud that he can read it;--and the stranger 
      is introduced through its mediation to the company of a friend: it 
      is concerning all, and for all:--in the churchyard it is open to 
      the day; the sun looks down upon the stone, and the rains of 
      heaven beat against it.

        Yet, though the writer who would excite sympathy is bound in 
      this case, more than in any other, to give proof that he himself 
      has been moved, it is to be remembered that to raise a monument is 
      a sober and a reflective act; that the inscription which it bears 
      is intended to be permanent, and for universal perusal; and that, 
      for this reason, the thoughts and feelings expressed should be 
      permanent also--liberated from that weakness and anguish of sorrow 
      which is in nature transitory, and which with instinctive decency 
      retires from notice. The passions should be subdued, the emotions 
      controlled; strong, indeed, but nothing ungovernable or wholly 
      involuntary. Seemliness requires this, and truth requires it also: 
      for how can the narrator otherwise be trusted? Moreover, a grave 
      is a tranquillising object: resignation in course of time springs 
      up from it as naturally as the wild flowers, besprinkling the turf 
      with which it may be covered, or gathering round the monument by 
      which it is defended. The very form and substance of the monument 
      which has received the inscription, and the appearance of the 
      letters, testifying with what a slow and laborious hand they must 
      have been engraven, might seem to reproach the author who had 
      given way upon this occasion to transports of mind, or to quick 
      turns of conflicting passion; though the same might constitute the 
      life and beauty of a funeral oration or elegiac poem.

        These sensations and judgments, acted upon perhaps 
      unconsciously, have been one of the main causes why epitaphs so 
      often personate the deceased, and represent him as speaking from 
      his own tomb-stone. The departed Mortal is introduced telling you 
      himself that his pains are gone; that a state of rest is come; and 
      he conjures you to weep for him no longer. He admonishes with the 
      voice of one experienced in the vanity of those affections which 
      are confined to earthly objects, and gives a verdict like a 
      superior Being, performing the office of a judge, who has no 
      temptations to mislead him, and whose decision cannot but be 
      dispassionate. Thus is death disarmed of its sting, and affliction 
      unsubstantialised. By this tender fiction, the survivors bind 
      themselves to a sedater sorrow, and employ the intervention of the 
      imagination in order that the reason may speak her own language 
      earlier than she would otherwise have been enabled to do. This 
      shadowy interposition also harmoniously unites the two worlds of 
      the living and the dead by their appropriate affections. And it 
      may be observed that here we have an additional proof of the 
      propriety with which sepulchral inscriptions were referred to the 
      consciousness of immortality as their primal source.

        I do not speak with a wish to recommend that an epitaph should 
      be cast in this mould preferably to the still more common one, in 
      which what is said comes from the survivors directly; but rather 
      to point out how natural those feelings are which have induced 
      men, in all states and ranks of society, so frequently to adopt 
      this mode. And this I have done chiefly in order that the laws 
      which ought to govern the composition of the other may be better 
      understood. This latter mode, namely, that in which the survivors 
      speak in their own persons, seems to me upon the whole greatly 
      preferable, as it admits a wider range of notices; and, above all, 
      because, excluding the fiction which is the groundwork of the 
      other, it rests upon a more solid basis.

        Enough has been said to convey our notion of a perfect epitaph; 
      but it must be borne in mind that one is meant which will best 
      answer the 'general' ends of that species of composition. 
      According to the course pointed out, the worth of private life, 
      through all varieties of situation and character, will be most 
      honourably and profitably preserved in memory. Nor would the model 
      recommended less suit public men in all instances, save of those 
      persons who by the greatness of their services in the employments 
      of peace or war, or by the surpassing excellence of their works in 
      art, literature, or science, have made themselves not only 
      universally known, but have filled the heart of their country with 
      everlasting gratitude. Yet I must here pause to correct myself. In 
      describing the general tenor of thought which epitaphs ought to 
      hold, I have omitted to say, that if it be the 'actions' of a man, 
      or even some 'one' conspicuous or beneficial act of local or 
      general utility, which have distinguished him, and excited a 
      desire that he should be remembered, then, of course, ought the 
      attention to be directed chiefly to those actions or that act: and 
      such sentiments dwelt upon as naturally arise out of them or it. 
      Having made this necessary distinction, I proceed.--The mighty 
      benefactors of mankind, as they are not only known by the 
      immediate survivors, but will continue to be known familiarly to 
      latest posterity, do not stand in need of biographic sketches in 
      such a place; nor of delineations of character to individualise 
      them. This is already done by their Works, in the memories of men. 
      Their naked names, and a grand comprehensive sentiment of civic 
      gratitude, patriotic love, or human admiration--or the utterance 
      of some elementary principle most essential in the constitution of 
      true virtue--or a declaration touching that pious humility and 
      self-abasement, which are ever most profound as minds are most 
      susceptible of genuine exaltation--or an intuition, communicated 
      in adequate words, of the sublimity of intellectual power;--these 
      are the only tribute which can here be paid--the only offering 
      that upon such an altar would not be unworthy.

            "What needs my Shakspeare for his honoured bones
             The labour of an age in piled stones,
             Or that his hallowed reliques should be hid
             Under a star-ypointing pyramid?
             Dear Son of Memory, great Heir of Fame,
             What need'st thou such weak witness of thy name?
             Thou in our wonder and astonishment
             Hast built thyself a livelong monument,
             And so sepulchred, in such pomp dost lie,
             That kings for such a tomb would wish to die."


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