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“O Mother! this treacherous Spirit, I fear,
to wail and to weep, Deploring the sway of the Spirit of Sleep."
“That Spirit, love, wore not the calm poppy wreath ;
"In this still fragrant grove we may yield to his blow,
“Oh! mother! how awful this Spirit must be,
“The Spirit of Sleep a brief solace bestows,
My parents, I believe, inherited nothing but an honest name, and a pretty little cottage, with its acre of land, in a small village in the south of Ireland, where I was born. The infancy and childhood of the poor are, unfortunately, too much alike; cruel oppression and want often attend their advent to a life of woe, and cling firm as the ivy round their path in after years.
When seven years old I was sent to the village school, and there first met Morgan O'Neil, just eighteen months my elder, and a poor friendless orphan. His mother died in giving him birth, and father he had none to call him child, although the seducer of his mother regularly paid a small pittance to an old woman in the parish for his support; and she had placed him, ill-clad and ill-fed, at this school, to save herself some trouble, and to enable her the better to make a little profit out of the allowance of the poor boy's parent, who had never seen his son.
What a host of melancholy thoughts have since rushed through my brain when I have looked on his handsome and noble face! a man without a name; degraded from the moment he breathed the breath of life; not recognized by the law or the world's law (which visits on the helpless babe and ensnared but often truly loving and faithful mother the sins of the base villain who has been the cause of all their wretchedness); wherever he turns, the hand-writing on the wall proclaims him a bastard !
From the day we met we became friends—such friends as children and school-mates are; we were companions in every sport, and our lessons were never so well said as when we learnt them side by side, strolling along the village walks, or sitting in my father's little arbour; for Morgan soon became my visitor, and many a hearty meal has the then famished child received in our humble cottage.
Years flew by, and I was fast changing from the playful and romping girl to
“ A woman newly ripened." We met less frequently; he became an apprentice to a country cobbler, (the meanest occupation is always chosen for the unfortunate offspring of the licentious passions of the rich), and I worked with my mother to eke out a scanty subsistence. Still, in the summer evenings, from a sympathy of tastes, or by accident, perhaps, we not uncommonly walked the same road, and
together admired the same wild scenery. Then we were happy. He had never spoken of love-such love as woman is anxious to reciprocate, yet fears to have declared; but we each well knew our hearts were united by a tie which forms and ceremonies may render legal, but can never strengthen or make more holy. Then, when the Sabbath came round, and the week's toil was over, we met in God's own house; and after thanking him for our spared lives, and all his heavenly goodness, went forth to admire our Maker in his works, and to pass the day he has set apart for our rest in the innocent recreation such an appointment manifestly recognizes. How I looked forward to Sunday ! None but the poor, who earn their daily bread by hard work, can tell with what delight the Sabbath day is hailed by millions. It is almost the only mark which divides and distinguishes us from the brutes which perish ; and yet, this last remaining privilege is sought to be abridged, if not entirely cut off, by the evangelical reformers, who, not content with distorting their own features, and crushing the intellect Heaven has bestowed upon them, with all indignity will impiously strive to convert the poor man's day of relaxation and enjoyment into a time of fasting and restraint. Out upon these sleek hypocrites! May God judge them with more mercy than they now will grant their fellowmen.
One night when we met, Morgan's face betrayed an anxious care, and a deep misery I shuddered to look on.
He gazed earnestly at me, but never spoke. Alas! his countenance was a too true index to his feelings.
The sky was clear and bright; not a cloud obstructed the progress of the Queen of night towards her heavenly throne; all around was still, and deliciously quiet. I looked up to the starry sky, and, for a moment, all earthly care had ceased. Morgan took my hand, the tears were, almost unknown to myself, creeping down my cheeks, and when aroused by his touch, and I looked at him once more, all was over ; with one passionate burst of grief I fell into his arms, and in hysterical sobs lost for awhile ail sense of existence. Gradually animation returned, and in the first moments of re-awakening life the burning words of passion, of love, of hope, were poured into my ears. One more happy burst of tears, and our lips sealed an engagement nor time nor circumstance can change.
I was not long in discovering the cause of my lover's dejection. The pride of birth could not brook the insult and the contumely which assailed him every day, and, reckless of the consequences, he had left his home, and stood alone in the wide world an exile from commiseration. Sad, indeed, was his lot; the orphan of the beggar will never want-charity will keep his blood warm and feed his empty stomach ; but for him, what
hope remained, what redress but death! From the womb he was stamped with ignominy; as a babe he was cradled in shame and sorrow, and only grew a man to feel more acutely the misery he could not escape. Still, “God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb;" and after a little thought Morgan determined to enlist as a soldier. I heard the resolve with a fearful foreboding, and yet knew it was his only course. Could we part? I paused but a moment, and then, hanging round his neck in all the fresh joy of requited love, I promised—what he was afraid to askthat I would be his companion and wife. The last ray of the moon was disappearing, and dark clouds were gathering around. Can the revolving sky reveal the secrets of the future, or give to man a warning of his fate ?
Evil tidings ever travel swiftest, and the too true report soon reached me that my lover had entered the king's service, and was already marching to the next town. I will not try to tell what I felt; if every word which can express the woe of woman was condensed into one brief syllable, it should not pass my lips ; so miserably weak would be the likeness to the original. Such sorrow cannot be depicted; it
“Ploughs deep furrows in the cheek of beauty," and leaves its wretched victim the ghost of what she was a living monument of man's dishonesty, standing forth in bold relief to warn and guide the unwary.
The breath of time dried up my tears, but my heart still bled, my cheeks were blanched, the freshness of youth was gone, and all hope well nigh vanished; when one long evening as I sat at the casement of our cottage, listlessly watching the return of my father and mother from a wake in the village, I fancied that I heard a step near, and in another minute a rustling in the shrubs convinced me some intruder was at hand; and rising from the bench I was hastily closing the window, when I heard my name rather whispered than spoken aloud, but in the softest accents of that voice there was something too familiar to escape detection. Could it be possible? But before I had time for conjecture, my own dear Morgan stood before me. Neither spoke ; we were too full of joy, too rich in the enjoyment of the moment to permit a thought of past or future to check the pent-up stream of youth's first love. We could not spare one word to purify the air, or waft the perfume of the heart's pure incense back to its native heaven.
At length broken and hurried sentences told the sad story. My father had refused to allow our marriage, and Morgan did not dare to trust himself with me after all hope was extinguished, but immediately joined other recruits marching for the depôt in England. Many of his comrades were light-hearted and gay, more still happy in the anticipation of the future. Not so Morgan ; silent, even to moroseness, it must be supposed few long tried to gain his friendship; and, sick at heart, and disgusted with all around him, he jumped to the only resource (bad and useless as it is) which is allowed to the poor when ruined. Dram succeeding dram drowned all reason; but then it shut the door on the past; and to think of that past-thickly studded as it was with recollections of love requited and destroyed, life and rising spirit all blasted in the summer of existence-could not but conjure up a hell of fearful visions, seen, perhaps, through a long vista of many changes, and some not near, but still too surely terminating in madness-insanity!
Let the most rigorous disciple of the pious Mathew pause a moment ere he condemns the thus endeavouring to stifle “ thickcoming fancies” of a distempered brain.
Philosophy sounds well from the pulpit; is admirable in the abstract, and may be the panacea for a multitude of evils; but it “ cannot minister to a mind diseased,” or heal the broken heart; nought but the hand of God, the influence of true religion, can avail in such a strait. Morgan has often told me since, that the temptation to terminate his weary existence by his own hand, was at this time constantly recurring and with difficulty resisted.
Is it not a strange delusion which prompts man to self-destruction? which prompts him, unsummoned, to rush before Heaven's high tribunal, the gory stains on his hands giving damning evidence of his guilt; his own blood calling for the Eternal's judgment on his soul. What nice distinctions does the world draw on this subject! What strict laws she has been at much pains to lay down for the guidance of the suicide in his horrid deed! The man whose every hope has been ruthlessly nipped in the bud; who mourns a wife or daughter violated; a once happy and cheerful fireside converted into hellish reminiscences; and sees crowding around him on every side nought but demon spectres chuckling over his present anguish, and proclaiming themselves the heralds of torments still to come ;-such a man may, in a moment, cut short the thread of life, determined rather to hazard everlasting bliss than longer submit to earthly misery. But it will depend on the humanity of a jury, whether blessed by the rites of Christian burial the soulless body shall seek its native earth, or lie unmourned in some lone spot unhallowed by human ordinance. Not so with the bold perpetrator of some dark deed, who, having wickedly “earned a deep damnation,” when stung by the ever-speaking but still voice of conscience, will, in the fury of despair, rush to the front of the battle, embracing death, and, by the world's decree, writing his own epitaph on the annals of fame.
But I must hurry on with my story. In one half-hour after we met, I was walking away by his side an exile from my home,