Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

You may stand in her amphitheatre, and you shall read utter desolation on its bare and dilapidated walls.

Pompeii! moldering relict of a former world! Strange redemption from the sepulchre! How vivid are the classic memories that cluster around thee! Thy loneliness is rife with tongues; for the shadows of the mighty are thy sojourners! Man walks thy desolated and forsaken streets, and is lost in his dreams of other days. He converses with the genius of the Past, and the Roman stands as freshly recalled as before the billow of lava had stiffened above him. A Pliny, a Sallust a Trajan are in his musing, and he visits their

very homes.

Venerable and eternal city! The storied urn to a nation's memory! A disentombed and risen witness for the dead! Every stone of thee is consecrated and immortal. Rome was--Thebes was-Sparta was-thou wast, and art still. No Goth or Vandal thundered at thy gates or reveled in thy spoil. Man marred not thy magnificence. Thou wert scathed by the finger of Him, who alone knew the depths of thy violence and crime. Babylon of Italy! thy doom was not revealed to thee. No prophet was there, when thy towers were tottering and the ashen darkness obscured thy horizon, to construe the warning. The wrath of God was upon thee heavily; in the volcano was the "hiding of his power," and like thine ancient sisters of the plain, thy judgment was sealed in fire.

LESSON VII.

WESTMINSTER ABBEY.

One sees in Westminster Abbey almost as much as he would have seen had he lived in England for a thousand years. If a great person has died, or a great deed been done in this island for centuries, they have brought some memento and placed ii within these walls. Here we read the story of the virtues and the crimes of England's great men; here we find their monuments, their escutcheons, and their ashes.

In different ages, and from different scenes of action, England's kings have come to these solemn cloisters at last, to forget in the deep slumber of the grave the troubles, the follies, and the guilt of the life just ended. No one of them, as he went to his sepulchre, stopped to listen to the clamors that swelled behind him; to the contentions of fierce and eager aspirants to his vacant throne.

Henry Seventh's chapel is called “the wonder of the world.” It stands at the east end of the Abbey, and is so neatly joined to it that it seems to be part of the main edifice. It is adorned with sixteen Gothic towers, beautifully ornamented, and jutting from the building in different angles. It is built on the plan of a cathedral, with a nave and side aisles. The entrance to this chapel is through curiously wrought, ponderous gates of brass. The lofty ceiling is worked into an astonishing yariety of designs, and you may imagine my surprise when I was told that it was all wrought in solid stone. A celebrated French architect afterward told me that one man could not complete the work upon that ceiling in a less time than a thousand years.

But they are not all of royal or noble blood that rest here. Greater Englishmen than English kings have a name and a grave within these solemn chambers. Bucklers, helmets, and broadswords are spread over the tomb of the bold baron; the cross and the crosier mark the sepulchre of some pious bishop; and over this tomb are banners, streamers, and all the insignia of naval triumph, doing honor to some captain of the sea, who is here alike forgetful of the roar of the battle and the terrors of the wreck.

As you pass along those aisles whose silence is unbroken save by your own footfall, and read the quaint epitaph of heroes of olden time, insensibly will the impression steal over the imagination that it was but yesterday that all these dead were alive, and you, a stranger from the far future, have been carried back to the days of ancient chivalry to converse with walking shadows; to think of the present as though it were a prophecy, a dream, or a hope, and of the past as though it were a reality.

And yet speak to that suit of armor which seems now to threaten as it once did in battle-it returns no answer; the voice is still that once spoke through those iron jaws, and the cold moisture which gathers on its rusied face seems like tears shed over the hero who once wore it.

When the mind is full of thoughts suggested by these relics of antiquity, and the heart full of emotions; when the images of great men who have long fitted around the fancy appear, and we see before us the very sword they once used in battle, and the very banner that once floated over them, there is no room left for other thought; we cannot contemplate modern times or our own existence. While we are lingering in a place where England has preserved all that she could of the great and the virtuous-a place of which we have read and thought from childhood, and around which so many bright recollections cluster—what marvel if hours on hours steal away ere we wake from the strong illusion.

The day had passed away as a night of rich dreams goes by, and we were unconsious how long we had been strolling around the walls, until the evening light. began to stream in niore and more feebly through the lofty stained windows, and a deeper gloom settled upon every part of the Abbey. And when increasing darkness had spread through all the cloisters, chapels, and passages, a more solemn and mysterious gloom, I could not but ask, what is night, deep, dark night - without moon, star, or taper—around these silent poets, barons, priests, sages, heroes, and kings!

Is never a sigh heard to come forth from these damp tombs ? a shout from some sleeping warrior ? Might we not hear from some part of the Abbey a faint voice as if it came from “spirit land ?"

No! these dead do never waken or walk: the battleaxe has fallen from the strong hand oi the Saxon and the Norman, and they rest in stillness together. Genius, which lived in sorrow and died in want, here

D

sleeps as proudly as royalty. All is silence; but here “silence is greater than speech."

This is the great treasure-house of England. If every record on earth besides were blotted out, and the memory of the living should fade away, the stranger could still in Westminster Abbey write the history of the past; for England's records are here: from the rude and bloody escutcheons of the ancient Briton to the ensigns of Norman chivalry, and from these to admiralty stars and civic honors. The changes which civilization has made in its progress through the world, have left their impressions upon these stones and marbles.

On the monument where each great man rests, his age has uttered its language; and among such numbers of the dead there is the language of many ages. England speaks from its barbarity, its revolutions, and its newest civilization. Each generation has laid some of its illustrious ones here, and it is no wonder that there is not a spot to which an Englishman turns his eye with so much pride as to Westminster; nor a spot which the traveler so well loves to visit.

One cannot but feel both gratitude and indignation here: gratitude for every noble effort in behalf of humanity, civilization, liberty, and truth, made by these sleepers ; indignation at every base deed, every effort to quench the light of science or destroy freedom of thought; every outrage inflicted upon man; and every blow aimed against liberty by the oppressors of the race.

There is not a great author here who did not write for us; not a man of science who did not investigate truth for us; we have received advantage from every

[ocr errors]
« ÎnapoiContinuați »