Obrazy na stronie


ET my readers imagine my friend and myself in the act of descending the hill of a rugged road, on the edge of a dense forest of Normandy, which stretched far away into an, as yet, untrodden distance of dark foliage of ancient trees, round which ever and anon flashes of lightning played fitfully with an effect grandly gloomy, such as I have never before or since witnessed. We had often, in the course of our rambles, been exposed to many a storm, many a strait, and many dispiriting incidents; but never had we felt so strong a yearning for house and home comforts as on that same dull, sultry afternoon of August, when we rode on our sluggish mules, with the drenching rain in our teeth, along-or rather up and down the rugged road aforesaid. At last, in much thankfulness, we reached a rugged hut, built, if I remember rightly, of equal parts of mud and fern, which, however picturesque from association, and however welcome to weary travelers, was not exactly calculated to make the most ardent of sentimentalists exclaim with Moore,


"If there's peace to be found in this world, A heart that is humble might hope for it here."

a bed, mine host assured us that he had long since dispensed with any other than a couch of dry grass, with his daily apparel rolled up under his head for a pillow. We ate of the simple fare set before us-food sweetened by a knowledge of the honest welcome of our worthy host, whose philosophic content and unlettered naiveté excited the envy and admiration of my friend. We smoked till the room grew more murky with the exhalations of that so-called "pernicious weed, whose scent the fair annoys ;" we listened, in a state of drowsy, self-contented lassitude, to "the short and simple annals of the poor," as enunciated by that untutored "hewer of wood" at our side, till the increasing light of the sky, and golden tints of the fast-fleeting clouds, visible by reason of the chinks which time had made through the lowly roof, warned us that the storm was over, and that day was fast merging into twilight. We had told our host that we were going to visit the Abbey of La Trappe; if he would accompany us as a guide, we would pay him liberally, so that he would have no reason to regret a short absence from home. He was willing; our mules, which on our arrival he had led into the hut that had sheltered us from the pitiless rain, were saddled; and we started, with dry habiliments and lighter hearts, on our weary way. It led us through intricate paths, tangled with a stunted undergrowth of brushwood, and we met no incident worthy of record to

To alight from our jaded mules, and knock loudly at the door of this cheerless tenement, was with us the work of a moment; nor was the summons thus unceremoniously given long unheeded. A picturesque-break the monotony of our route. Here looking vagabond, with unkempt locks, and there a few lonely huts met the eye, tangled beard, and mustache guiltless, and occasionally we caught glimpses of from the boyhood of its wearer, of tonsure some sequestered chapel of our Lady, with of any kind, presented himself at a hole in its fast crumbling cross, gray and mossthe wall, which served the double pur-grown; ever and anon we were startled

pose of letting in light and letting out an unpleasant cloud of wood-smoke, rising from a heap of smoldering boughs and charred leaves employed by our chosen host for a fire. In justice to Pierre Houdet, we must, however, admit that his greeting was unexpectedly cordial. "Perhaps messieurs would not object to a poor man's hut in a storm; there is little to offer, save dry bread, a seat by the hearthside, and some tobacco, with a poor man's welcome," &c.

by the discordant scream of the jay, or the hoarse croak of the raven, perched aloft on his home-a hollow tree, swaying and creaking mournfully in the soft evening breeze. After we had advanced three or four miles we came to a clump of trees, in itself dense enough to deserve the name of a wood in any other locality, situated on a green rise of the road, whence we had a full view of the utter dreariness of the scene; nothing but trees-everywhere dark green desolation, in a silence unbroken by the sound of aught human. Thence we threaded our way through devious turnings, which, winding for a mile or more with every variety of rough and

Thus invited, we wasted few words on our entrance, when we found ourselves in a long, low room, whose sole furniture was a chair, a stool, and a table. As for

smooth ascent and descent, brought us to the brow of a rugged hill. Here we halted, while our guide sat down to rest on the root of an "unwedgeable and gnarled oak."

Twilight was now slowly turning to darkness. The birds were flying home across the saffron-colored sky; the silvery mists were floating over the long, dreary valley beneath us, with its expanse of dusky foliage, interspersed with several lakes of "liquid darkness." Our guide arose, and, standing on that hill, untrodden save by occasional tourists and woodcutting rustics, pointed out to us, with a grave demeanor which, at that time and place, excited no attention and needed little comment, the ancient Abbey of La Trappe, lying in the heart of a valley. The scene seems, to jaundiced minds, a fit retreat for men who have worn out their hearts in our busy world of conflicting interests and cold anomalies. The hour was now somewhat late," too late," said our guide, "for us to disturb the holy men." They were, perhaps, even then returned, under the kindly guidance of sleep, to the past, with its dead hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, and could not, with propriety, be aroused from their sojournings in dream-land by the clear boom of their abbey bell. Therefore we determined to pass the night at a small house in the vicinity of the Abbey. Thence, after a refreshing sleep, we early on the following day sought the monastic gate.

On our knocking, a hoary monk-if a man can be termed hoary whose head is disfigured by the "regulation pattern" tonsure of his order-opened the massive door, dark with age. On our entrance, he fell on his knees, and having, with exemplary fervor, repeated a benediction, he beckoned us to follow him. Thence, passing through a narrow and gloomy passage, which would have enchanted Mrs. Radcliffe or "Monk Lewis," we were ushered into a rude apartment. Its walls were ornamented with prints relating to the Crucifixion, with divers inscriptions taken from Scripture and the works of the Fathers. In a corner of this room were two uncomfortable-looking beds, each of which would have served an ingenious tyrant for a model of a second "little ease;" and over each hung a delf vessel, filled with holy water. Our conductor then bowed low, shut the door on

us, and withdrew. In a short time the monk returned, having obtained permission to speak, a privilege he seemed in no way likely to abuse, when, with a Spartan brevity, he said, "Will you go to mass?" We assented, and were then conducted, by this "living statue," into the Tribune, a gallery for visitors built over the west end of the chapel.


As we entered, the monks were singing. I was peculiarly struck by the stern sorrow visible in their demeanour, and by the mournful energy with which, in deep, strong tone, they lifted up their voices to God. They were clad in long, white choral robes, descending from head to foot. At halfpast ten the prayers were finished. A hand beckoned us from the chapel, and we followed, not knowing whither the uplifted arm would guide us. We reached a door of the inner cloisters, where two brothers awaited us, with a vessel of holy water placed on a ledge before them. Over this we held our hands, while one brother poured water thereon, and the other wiped them with a coarse towel. This ceremony, after taxing our command of the risible muscles most severely, being concluded, one of these austere Trappists unlocked a large door, over which might have been fitly written Dante's inscription for the gates of the infernal regions, "Banish all hope, ye who enter here!" We entered the cloisters, which were then-and doubtless are still-glazed on one side only, and provided with benches for the Society, who, during summer, here hold their public conferences. We then advanced toward the Refectory, a long and low room, somewhat resembling a college-hall, but for the quality of the fare therein discussed, with a recess on the left set apart for the lay brethren and poor strangers. Down the middle ran three long tables, one being at the bottom for the abbot and the prior, who dined apart from the rest, while over their heads hung a picture of the Crucifixion, before which all bowed on entrance and exit. A hand was waved as a signal for our entrance, and a small table pointed out for us by the door, to which we silently retired. The monks were marshaled in two rows, and were chanting the Benedicite. At the Gloria Patri they bent till their heads were but a few inches from the floor, and continued in that wearying attitude for some seconds, when the "Amen" was pronounced, in a sepulchral

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voice, by the superior. They then simultaneously arose, and retired in perfect order to their respective seats.

Our repast consisted of bread, butter, milk, herbs, and fruit; our beverage was equally simple, and far less palatable, being a liquid somewhat like a "half-and-half" mixture of ditch-water and purest Day and Martin in appearance, and in taste resembling nothing so much as "flat" beer, rendered tart by injudicious doses of vinegar. However, there was a jug of excellent water, so that we found no difficulty in conducting our meal on quasi-vegetarian principles. The only difference we observed as existing between the meal of the monks and our own was simply this-that, while we were favored with apples, as a slight rarity at that season, and butter as a luxurious superfluity, they had none of the former, and are forbidden by the rules of their order to touch the latter. The use of eggs and fish, whereby the other monastic orders convert Friday's fast into a day of good living, is likewise forbidden; so that, except at some particular seasons, when they are allowed a little milk to flavor their herb-soup, their diet is rigidly vegetarian. During our repast, we observed a monk rise from his seat, and fall prostrate before each of the brethren, kissing their feet in all humility. This was enjoined as a penance for some slight breach of discipline. The unbroken silence which reigns supreme at La Trappe, produces in itself an effect somewhat weird and other-worldly; (if I may be pardoned the use of a newly-coined and expressive phrase ;) but we were almost inclined to break it, by committing “a bull,” and blurting out Flecknoe's powerful lines:

to fall prostrate in the middle of the refeetory, till the abbot, by knocking with his knife on the table, gave the signal for the ill-starred delinquent to rise. Each member of the society waits on the others at table in turn, bowing whenever he places anything on, or removes anything from the table. Thus, doubtless, officiated the D'Orsay, of Paris, the Beau Brummell of his time, Baron Geramb, who, from being the most elegant sinner in the salons of Paris, afterward, in a fit of spleen, became the most austere anchorite at La Trappe.

While we were discussing our dinner of herbs and fruits, a monk, from a pulpit jutting out from the wall, favored us with some choice extracts from the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, whose nice subtleties of doctrine, I blush to confess, were, for the most part, lost on us, as our gross understandings could perceive no particular profit, spiritual or temporal, likely to accrue from "the angelic" doctor's perverted ingenuity in blending the real facts before him with much of the unreal fancies of his heated brain, till his readers, after much circumlocution, have too often found themselves just as far from truth as at the commencement of their self-imposed labor of love. Mais revenons à nos moutons, as the sheep-stealer observed to his advocate, who, more intent after selfglorification on the score of eloquence than his client's chance of life on the score of facts, was inclined to wander from the evidence. The same uplifted hand which had beckoned us in, performed the like office on our exit. When dinner was over, which was about eleven o'clock, the abbot struck up a Grace in Latin.

On our departure, we scanned the very appropriate motto inscribed over the door of the refectory, "Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox with hatred therewith." We then retired to an outer-room, whither, in a short time, came our monastic guide, who had obtained further permission to speak. From

Silence is so stringently inculcated by the rules of this order, that the slightest in-him I gathered a few facts touching the fringement of established laws is never rules and customs of the society. He suffered to pass unpunished. This point and another brother were at that time, in is pushed to the verge of the ridiculous; their turn, assigned for the reception of so much so, that if any monk rattles his strangers, to whom they were allowed to plate, or drops his fork, &c., he is obliged speak but at certain intervals, and even to do instant penance. An instance of then but with extreme brevity, and only this absurd severity occurred on the second to edification, or in matters of necessity or day of our visit to the Abbey. A monk, for charity. As for the rest, they were as some slight offense of this kind, was obliged silent as the grave, or as the would-be

"Still-born Silence! thou that art
Flood-gate of the deeper heart!
Offspring of a heavenly kind,
Frost o' the mouth and thaw o' the mind,
Secrecy's confidant, and he
Who makes religion mystery!"

disciples of Pythagoras, concerning whose marvelous restraint of tongue we had read and doubted, after the manner of schoolboys, at that abode of learning entitled by us striplings of fourteen, "Tophet Academy."

his life, his every hope, o'er whose grave was quenched the vestal light of love, leaving that poor, serge-clad victim of stern superstition, to grope despairingly, in utter darkness of spirit, through his narrow world, too wide for peace-too real for oblivion! Therefore is dark forest dear to the men of La Trappe. They may have spent happy hours in childhood under a far-distant greenwood tree. Memory is a grand enchantress! By a thought she can cast the reflected light of long-lost scenes even on the silent dreariness of La Trappe, turning that earthly purgatory of mortified ambition, blighted hopes, and worn-out hearts, into the pure, peaceful, dreamvisited home of their earlier and less tearful days. "Naturam furcâ repellas tamen usque recurret"—a Trappist is, after all, but a man who has been, perhaps, a happy child; a happy lover, pure in early truth; a fond father; a doting husband; like yourself, gentlest of readers; therefore you will not wonder how I, meeting a solitary monk under a dark pine shade, and mark

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Whenever a brother accidentally meets a brother Trappist in the cloisters, they both are forbidden to raise their eyes from the ground, on the principle, I suppose, that the first step toward abolition of offenses is the removal of temptation. From Easter till the 10th or 14th of September, the Trappists are allowed to eat, beside their morning meal, a little cheese, and three ounces of bread at five o'clock; as for the rest of the year, they have only two ounces of bread daily. There are six days, out of the three hundred and sixtyfive, on which permission is given them to walk in the neighboring forest for an hour and a half; such, at least, were the regulations during my visit; I do not suppose that they have been in any way altered since then. During these times of socalled recreation, whether the weather being the undried tears in his sunken eyes, mingled my tears with his; thanking God, in deep, voiceless prayer, that he had been pleased to bestow on me, unworthy, all those earthly boons which were denied to the bitter ascetic, wasting his brief span of liberty in vain regrets and blinding tears, by the margin of a dark lake, in a gloomy forest, encircling the hope-abandoned Abbey of La Trappe.

foul or fair, they sally out of their gloomy abbey in pairs, with their abbot at their head; when they have advanced a short distance, the abbot bows, leaving each soul-sick man to retire, book in hand, wherever he pleases. I have heard that during these forest rambles many a Trappist has been seen, by curious rustics, in tears, as he lay moralizing under the greenwood tree. Who may know how the strong, grief-warped heart of the poor Trappist yearns toward the broad expanse before him? Who can tell how long, too, faithful memory plays with the heart-strings of these exiles from the world? Long ago, in the pleasant past, ere he had learned, over the ruins of his heart, how love flatters and is false; how friendship wanes into a selfish, cold conventionality; how "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life," but bring bitter satiety; how soon, before the icy touch of adversity, joy's brightest flowers wither, leaving behind a life-long memory as a sting, as a stern Nemesis, avenging the sins and frailties of the dear, error-blinded past, or the remorseful, tear-dimmed present-long ago, many a time on days brighter than this day of scanty liberty, has that poor, weary, and wayward fanatic, walked under trees, dearer than the dark foliage of La Trappe, with her who was

A brief notice of the manner in which these solitaries wear away their lives in self-mortification and prayer, may not be distasteful. Soon after midnight, at a quarter before two, as nearly as I remember, the abbot rises from his coarse bed of straw, repairs to the chapel, and tolls the bell. At two, the brethren go to prayers, and continue till a quarter past four; from this time till nearly six o'clock they read and pray in private; then begin the Primes; after this they assemble before the abbot, to whom they may speak and accuse each other of any breach of discipline, &c. This being over, they occupy themselves in any laborious work at hand for an hour and a half, when they go to chapel again, and administer High Mass, which ends about ten, the hour of repast; after this meal they spend the time in devotion till noon, when they repeat the "Angelus" in chapel, from whence they retire to their cells, and repose till one

o'clock; thence they return to Nones; from Nones they are called to laborious work till three, when they once more retire for private devotion, preparatory to Vespers, and they end at five, the supperhour at La Trappe. After this meager meal they pray in private until six, when they are called to public reading, and thence to Complines. They conclude at eight o'clock, when the brethren retire to rest, and all is still in their venerable monastery. Their beds are coarse pallets of straw, with single blankets as a covering; the furniture is simply a chair, a ledge, an earthen vessel containing holy water, and a skull.

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On the third morning we left La Trappe in the cold, gray dawn, and having shaken hands with Pierre Houdet, who was little inclined to receive any gratuity for his services as our guide, we struck into the main road, and in due time arrived at our starting-point, a pretty little auberge on the side of a hill, where, as a board intimated, truly in this solitary instance, there was "Good entertainment for horse and And now, most patient of readers, I have told you all I know of La Trappe. I have endeavored to set before your eyes, by a simple, unadorned narrative, the daily life of the recluses of that dreary forest. Little more remains to tell. The erring monk whom I saw doing penance in the refectory, for breaking the general silence, by dropping his plate, or some such bagatelle, was no other than a ci-devant marquis of the old regime, whose witty profligacy had, in the early part of the present century, formed staple topic of conversation for the savants and quid nuncs of the brilliant coteries of the Faubourg St. Honore, till, worn out by dissipation, with a broken constitution, and a remnant of a princely fortune, he sought the gloomy "refugium peccatorum" which is his home, and will be, in all human probability, his unregretted grave. Oblivion has long blotted out his name from the list of the fools of fashion. Alas! poor foolish votary of dissipation! The parasites who drank thy wine, and hung with fawning, feigned eagerness on thy every light bon mot, have long forgotten thee, weak butterfly of a passing moment, who art even now, in thine unhonored old age, reaping the bitter harvest of satiety in thy cold cell, on thy straw pallet, with the grinning skull for thy sole companion!




BOUT the year 1811-a period so memorable in the history of Russiathere lived on his domain of Nenardaof a rich proprietor named Gabrilovitch. He was noted for his kind disposition and hospitable habits. His house was at all times open to his friends and neighbors, who resorted there in the evenings—the elder ones in order to enjoy a quiet game of cards with their host and his wife Petrowna; the younger, in the hope of gaining the good graces of Mari, a fair girl of seventeen, the only child and heiress of Gabrilovitch.


Mari used to read French romances, and, as the natural and necessary consequence, was deeply in love. The object of her affection was an almost penniless young ensign belonging to the neighborhood, and then at home on leave, who returned her love with equal ardor. It is scarcely necessary to add, that the young lady's parents had strictly forbidden her to think of such an alliance; and whenever they met the lover, they received him with about that amount of friendliness which they would have bestowed on an ex-collector of taxes. Our young lovers, however, managed to keep up a correspondence, and used to meet in secret beneath the shadow of the pine-grove or the old chapel. On these occasions, they, of course, vowed eternal constancy, accused fate of unjust rigor, and formed various projects. At le they naturally came to the conclusion that, as the will of cruel parents opposed their marriage, they might very well accomplish it in secret. It was the young gentleman who first propounded this proposition, and it was most favorably received by the young lady.

The approach of winter put a stop to their interviews, but their correspondence went on with increased frequency and fervor. In each of his letters, Vladimir Nicolevitch conjured his beloved to leave her home, and consent to a private marriage. "We will disappear," he said, "for a short time; then, one day, we will go and throw ourselves at your parents' feet, who, touched by our heroic constancy, will exclaim, Children, come to our arms!" "9 For a long time Mari hesitated. At length it was agreed, that on

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