Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

LAST ILLNESS OF MRS. HEMANS.

[ocr errors]

ples of right and wrong, and consequently stand con- to believe they would have been finally lost. But by demned by the apostle's rule; their conscience bearing the encouragements of the Gospel they have been led witness against them, and their own thoughts accusing to repentance, and to seek and obtain pardon through them of wrong before God. This is the condition in the merits of Christ; and are now living witnesses that which I have found all the Indian tribes which I have Christ has power on earth to forgive sins, and to change visited. They have departed from their own principles our fallen nature. They are bright ornaments in the of rectitude, and are ready to acknowledge that they Christian militant Church, and we have no doubt many have not even kept the good advice handed down to of them will be numbered with those who have washed them from their forefathers by tradition; and that they their robes, and made them white in the blood of the have not acted according to what they have felt in their Lamb. For one, I cannot throw off the conviction own hearts to be right. They know they are a wicked which irresistibly forces itself upon my mind, that those people, and believe that the Great Spirit is angry with who have it in their power to give the heathen the Gosthem for their wickedness; and they believe that this is pel, either by going in person and preaching to them, one of the chief causes of their present calamities and or by furnishing the means to enable others to go, and degradation. But they know not what source to apply neglect it, will be held accountable for this neglect in to for help. They seem still to have a faint impression the day of judgment. O what an account will this be resting on their minds, that their forefathers were good for us to settle in that "great day," when we shall be people, and that if they could find the way to live as charged with the destruction of immortal souls for their forefathers did, they would still be happy. But whom Christ died! May God help the whole Church even here they disagree among themselves in reference to arise and gird herself for this work, and never stop to what was taught by their forefathers; and their moral until the Gospel of the kingdom is preached to every energies are so enfeebled by their vicious habits, that nation under heaven, for a witness unto all people. In they are much inclined to give way to general despon- the providence of God, the Church is blessed with dency. And if they entertain any hope of future hap-means for the accomplishment of this important enterpiness, it is merely this-that perhaps God may pity prise. May we be wise stewards of the manifold grace them at last because they are poor and ignorant. They of God! cherish no hope of the pardon of past sins, and the renovation of their natures. They do not see how this can be, and consequently, all is uncertainty and desponding fear. But when we approach them with the glad tidings of great joy, and tell them that there is a Savior born, even Christ the Lord; and that through him repentance and remission of sins are offered to all people, inasmuch as he has, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man; and that the Holy Spirit has been given to change our hearts, and give us good hearts, that we may love him and serve him in newness of life, hope springs up. And though they may, like the poor Shawnee above alluded to, be struck with astonishment at first; yet, if they have confidence in the messenger, they will, like him, be led to say, if these things are so, we are glad of it: now we will go to meeting, and try to be Christians. And like him, when they hear the||cipal compositions are penned, combine to render her

FEW writers of the age, it is obvious, have imparted so much pleasure to persons of cultivated minds, poetic taste and sensibility, in every district of the land, as the late Mrs. Hemans; and in the productions of few female authors do we find more beautiful specimens of polished language, vigorous imagination, graceful, tender, and glowing thought. The versification of her poems, the imagery employed, the range of subject, and the vivid and impressive manner in which her prin

Gospel preached, they will receive it in the love of it, and find that there is a way for as great sinners as they have been to obtain pardon and get new hearts.

one of the most captivating and influential writers of the British empire. How delightful, then, is it for the Christian to be able to cherish the hope that, during her last illness, she was brought effectually to the Savior; and that when she expired, she died calmly and happily in the Lord.

If this is a correct view of the heathen world without the Gospel, is it not clear to every reflecting mind that many hundreds and thousands of them, who are now in the broad road to destruction, and who will be finally ||". lost without the Gospel, might, by its encouragements, be rescued from their downward course, and brought to trust in the Savior of a ruined world, obtain the pardon of sin, the spirit of adoption, and become heirs of eternal glory? We could name more than one hundred Indians within our own acquaintance among the tribes west of the Missouri, who, like the one alluded to, were great sinners; for many of them were the most beastly drunkards I ever saw-and but for the introduction of the Gospel among them, we have every reason

175

From the London Evangelical Magazine.
LAST ILLNESS OF MRS. HEMANS.

"For she was born beyond the stars to soar,
And kindling at the source of life adore."

Soaring to the world of light, and fadeless joys above." A few concise notes to exemplify the correctness of these observations, may prove interesting and beneficial to every enlightened believer in Jesus who peruses these pages, and may augment the gratification of those who often read her exquisite poems, "A Domestic Scene;" "The Graves of a Household;" "The Better Land;" 66 The Silent Multitude."

Shortly after her arrival in Ireland, where Mrs. Hemans died, she was extremely unwell. When among the mountain scenery of the fine country of Wicklow,

176

LAST ILLNESS OF MRS. HEMANS.

during a storm she was struck by one beautiful effect || at the feet of my Redeemer, hearing the music of his on the hills; it was produced by a rainbow diving down voice, and learning of him to be meek and lowly;' and into a gloomy mountain-pass, which it seemed really then she would say, 'O, Anna, do you not love your to flood with its colored glory. "I could not help think-kind Savior? The plan of redemption was, indeed, a ing," she remarked, "that it was like our religion, pier- glorious one; humility was, indeed, the crowning work. cing and carrying brightness into the depth of sorrow I am like a quiet babe at his feet, and yet my spirit is and of the tomb." All the rest of the scene around full of his strength. When any body speaks of his that one illuminated spot was wrapt in darkness. love to me, I feel as if they were too slow; my spirit can mount alone with Him into those blissful realms with far more rapidity.""

During her last illness, Mrs. Hemans delighted in the study of sacred literature, and particularly in the writings of some of our old and choice divines. This The sufferings of Mrs. Hemans, prior to death, were became her predominant taste, and it is mentioned re-most severe and agonizing; but all were borne in the specting her, that the diligent and earnest perusal of most uncomplaining manner. Never was her mind the Holy Scriptures was a well-spring of daily and in- overshadowed by gloom; never would she allow those creasing comfort. She now contemplated her afflic-around her to speak of her condition as one deserving tions in the right manner, and through the only true of commiseration. and reconciling medium, "and that relief from sorrow and suffering for which she had been apt to turn to the fictitious world of imagination, was now afforded her by calm and constant meditation on what alone can be called 'the things that are.""

While the work of decay was going on surely and progressively, with regard to the earthly tabernacle, the bright flame within continued to burn with a steady and holy light, and at times even to flash forth with more than wonted brightness. On one occasion she finely expressed, when there was a favorable change in her condition, "Better far than these indications of recovery is the sweet religious peace which I feel gradually overshadowing me, with its dove-pinions, excluding all that would exclude thoughts of God."

This gifted lady wrote, with peculiar beauty, on another occasion, "I wish I could convey to you the deep feelings of repose and thankfulness with which I lay, on Friday evening, gazing from my sofa upon a sunsetsky of the richest suffusions, silvery green and amber kindling into the most glorious tints of the burning rose. I felt his holy beauty sinking through my inmost being with an influence drawing me nearer and nearer to God."

|

When the cholera was raging in Dublin, she wrote to a dear relative, "To me there is something extremely solemn, something which at once awes and calms the spirit, instead of agitating it, in the presence of this viewless danger, between which and ourselves we cannot but feel that the only barrier is the mercy of God. I never felt so penetrated by the sense of entire depen-would entreat to be left perfectly alone, in stillness and dence upon Him, and though I adopt some necessary darkness, to commune with her own heart, and reflect precautions on account of Charles, (her son,) my mind on the mercies of her Savior. She continually spoke is in a state of entire serenity." of the unutterable comfort which she derived from dwelling on the contemplation of the atonement, and stated that this alone was her rod and staff when all earthly supports were failing.

ess

In the heaviest affliction, she desired the assurance to be given to one of her friends, that the tende and affectionateness of the Redeemer's character, which they had contemplated together, was a source, not merely of reliance, but of positive happiness to her:

"The sweetness of her couch."

Her sister finally remarks, "The dark and silent chamber seemed illumined by light from above, and cheered with songs of angels, and she would say, that, in her intervals from pain, no poetry could express, nor imagination conceive, the visions of blessedness that flitted across her fancy, and made her waking hours more delightful than those even that were given to temporary repose."

At times her spirit would appear to be already half etherealized. Her mind would seem to be fraught with deep, and holy, and incommunicable thoughts, and she

Her confidential attendant, a most interesting young female, devotedly attached to her mistress, expressed herself respecting her in the following delightful and impressive manner: "It may well be said this was not her rest. She ever seemed to me as a wanderer from her heavenly Father's mansion, who knew too much of that home to seek a resting-place here. She often said to me, 'I feel like a tired child, wearied and longing to mingle with the pure in heart.' At other times she would say, 'I feel as if I were sitting with Mary

"I feel," she would say, "as if hovering between heaven and earth;" and she seemed so raised towards the sky, that all worldly things were obscured and diminished to her view, while the ineffable glories of eternity dawned upon it more and more brightly.

When her spirit was nearly gone, she said to her darling Charles, and her faithful sister Anna, that she felt at peace within her bosom. Her calmness continued unbroken, till, at 9 o'clock on the evening of Saturday, May 16, 1835, her spirit passed away, without pain or the endurance of a struggle. The remains of this gifted lady were deposited in a vault beneath St. Anne's Church, in Dublin. A small tablet was placed above the spot where she lies, inscribed as follows:

"Calm on the bosom of thy God,
Fair spirit rest thee now;

E'en while with us thy footsteps trod,

His seal was on thy brow.

Dust, to its narrow house beneath:
Soul, to its place on high:

They that have seen thy look in death,
No more may fear to die."

177

INFANT CHARACTER.

have as yet no possible clue to the fact as it is. The being promptly punished for my misdemeanors, in my As far back as I can remember, I was living a petted estimate of justice, settled the account. And I thought child in the lap of indulgence, in the home of plenty. it ungenerous and unjust to reproach with the epithet All the answerings of affection were given to my own "bad child," one who, if they would only not thwart abundant household yearnings. I was caressed by me, was so full of affection and good will to all others mother, grandmother, brothers, and sisters. But all as I was. This was not, at five or seven years of age, an this was not enough for me. There was a superior intellectual logic as you may believe. But it was the want in my heart. My father I can barely remember. | true ratiocination of natural feeling, unenlightened of We were a numerous family. I was one amongst piety to God, and unrebuked by a better consciousness three yet in the nursery; and we were all cared for within myself. alike. Yet we were not alike. Could my strong tendencies have been noticed and directed, what a well and welling of youthful charity had been opened and || rendered efficient and habitual. But this incipient power was unknown to any other than the bosom in which it worked-rendering me a child hard to be contented, impatient, irrascible, and sometimes contumacious to those I most doated on; and this, followed by correction, as it ever was, occasioned me to be noticed as a rebellious and bad child.

In the meantime, I was a most unhappy little being. It is very generally said that childhood is a happy state. But I can truly say that I realized a much better contentment at a later period-after philosophy and the discipline of necessity had regulated my consciousness and my outgoings of character. I believe, too, that a word of comment, or remonstrance, would have been, young as I was, of better effect than instant punishment was. Distress of mind, I think, brought on a nervous and low state of health, which for many years rendered me susceptible, in a most uncommon degree, to all that befell me, as well as that its results were a cause of still increasing evils.

Of the propriety of the former epithet there is no question; but of the latter, I felt it, in its extent, to be unfair and unsuitable. This was in the growth of character and in the progress of development. Others looked at my behavior and my outward actions only; whilst I had a full sense of the workings of my heart.

This misappreciation, as I judged it to be, rendered me sullen and unamiable-excepting at such moments as my mother, weeping over my utter wretchedness at her condemnation, would soothe me into confession and contrition for the matter of present unhappiness. And though I was habitually regardless, and took very little pains to please, yet my disposition was obliging, and I could make any sacrifice for those I loved-in a spe-place-the better capabilities are merged in a softness, cific sense. No idea, I think, was ever proposed to me of my general disobedience, excepting, as I have said, under the sweeping clause of "a bad child;" and as that was said only at moments of exasperated feeling in those that denounced me, so my logic set it down to the account of offense conceived at the particular act in question, and not to any general faultiness of character in myself.

not so much of amiability as of sensitive indulgenceof feeling in opposition to virtue.

Original.

INFANT CHARACTER.

Now I certainly was, in one sense, a bad child. In my acts and deeds, I certainly was not a good one. Yet as I understood the words to imply a total depravity of disposition, I repelled the charge by that innate sense of truth, even in my own case, as yet possessing affections both generous and kind, with possibilities of magnanimity unaccounted of by any but myself. Yet truly such did exist. May be that at this early date there had never occurred an instance in which they did act. But the suggestions were no less evident and undoubted to my own heart. The hindering cause of their exhibition was an excessive bashfulness and hiding away of self.

Over and above the extenuation which I have mentioned, was, no doubt, the predominance of that selflove which lives and acts before we are aware there is such a principle. We know it not by name, and we

Apart from the suffering, it is a very great misfortune for a child to be sickly. The moral evil is, out of all proportion, greater than the physical. A sickly child is so petted and humored that little by little it loses its sense of what should be, in the indulgence that is accorded to its weakness; and demands by habit, when recovered, the same course of selfishness as when sick; also, by the pity excited and constant interchange of fondnesses with a mother, the character loses tone and balance, and becomes unduly softened. A waste takes

This was a bad state of things; but where was the fault? The fault was that I had not half enough afforded me to do, and to engage my energetic and forthgoing character. For this omission I do not blame my poor mother; for she was habitually an invalid, and besides had so very numerous a family that she had never accounted of this in my character. Indeed, she was sometimes excited to praise me for some signal act of ability or helpfulness. I well recollect of overhearing her say to a friend, "Here is one that will help me as soon as she is old enough;" and this praise, which I took in at my ear, seemed to commence at my heart and tingled sensibly to my fingers ends. It is true that I would have done much to assist my mother, had she trained me to it, or insisted on it; as it was I was only trained to attend to my own purposes. My elder sisters, being already expert in house arrangements, it seemed in my case not so necessary. But that was the relative and not the particular view of the subject.

I was indeed sometimes made over to the servants for some particular instructions; but they finding more facility in doing the service themselves than in teaching a novice, mystified my mother and excused me too

INFANT CHARACTER.

178

easily; and as it was managed, I rather received injury || for which I have now learned to make some allowance on the debit side of the account. than benefit from these practices; yet I was by nature a most industrious child.

And here let me mention-for I love to commend However, there was some amelioration of my condi- goodness-the great kindness of this excellent family, tion at hand-some relief of this tedium vitæ of my who took an obscure female into their house, a cousin, infant state; for I was learning to read. And as soon and allowed her the privilege of receiving a school into as I had become initiated in this greatest mystery, and their small orderly establishment. They were themsupreme mistress of all science-"letters, the best gift selves able to live only by an exact frugality. But beof Heaven"-they did indeed seem of such exceeding cause they could not afford to support her outright, they worth to my craving appetite of knowing, my necessi- did not cast her off, but made a noble effort in her favor, ty of engrossment, that when I could read continuous- the humble accommodations afforded being additiona Scotch famly, it seemed to me as if a new world were opening al proof of their merit. They were upon me; and a sort of overpowering satisfaction pre-ily by the name of Sterling. A sterling worth indeed sided until the novelty had passed away, and then the was theirs, which it fortifies the heart to think upon. privilege of reading was no less valued-nor is it now. I must not, in my deprecating of insufficient leadings, omit, in common decency, to mention what little really was afforded me in the way of religious instruction. After I was old enough, I was always and regularly called to the knee of my mother or grandmoth-less person to point a poor pun against the existing biter, with the rest of the children, and taught to rehearse my nightly prayers in a reverent and impressive manNeither was there any neglect of occasional admonition of sin and its consequences, and of deathespecially when some juvenile companion had received the awful summons. We, my young sister and my-pecially characterized gentleness, yet do I believe self, were made to attend the funeral, and to observe a that there was much of patience exhausted, if that is proper solemnity of behavior; and we were from time not a contradiction, in the conduct of her little band. to time reminded of our departed mate. So that the However, she learned all her little crew of hoyden tenor of religion was presented to me in rather a sad- girls and baby boys to spell and to read; and many a dening aspect. more ambitious academy of the present day should boast This is not good philosophy; for a child is revolted less correctness in these items than Ma'am Tenty effectat whatever contradicts the gushings of its natural glad-ed within her little apartment of twelve by fifteen feet.

Our teacher's name, which I then did not conceive to be a burlesque upon her temper, was Content Sweet. Alas, the consolations and assuaging influences of sweet content had passed away in their significance, and left her but the name! and I will not be the heart

terness of her lot. The children called her Ma'am Tenty. Her school, as far as it went, was essentially a good one. What she engaged to do, she did. The teaching was thorough. The discipline was ascertained and uniform; and though her methods were not es

ner.

ness.

I think the strengthening and cheering power of religion, as mixed with the occurring circumstances of life, is what is most needed in the training of youthful character; also, there should be great carefulness observed in the manner. And avoiding of flippancy, or familiarity, there should yet be no strangeness, which is a sort of abstraction, blended with the service.

This room-and I can still see it-had two windows. I now believe, by a retrospective glance, that the glass was about six by eight inches. It was quite sufficient for our keen sight, and even too much for our truant glances, when the season of roses had rendered the little beyond a treat to our infant senses. And I recollect, with true respect of her discipline, that when It so happened that the good dame who initiated us we were allowed a few minutes recess morning and into the alphabetical mysteries, was of a most severe evening, and to saunter along the little garden walks, and bilious temperament. She had been unfortunate no vagrant foot ever overstepped its discretion, or from her early days. Her lover had died; and no suc- Ma'am Tenty's law not to invade the border, but a sumceeding engagement of feelings had cheered her life. mary justice awaited the sin of disobedience at her She was, in the strict sense of the word, a lone wo-hand. And that is a precise word; for in those days man. Left an orphan at an early age, without either the hand was the allowed executive of school legislation. brother or sister, she was indeed alone. She was destitute of property, though she had been trained a gentlewoman, with the additional misfortune of having become lame by a diseased limb. Such were the circumstances of her condition. And however much I then feared and dreaded her, she was just such an one as I would now often visit and console by conversation and sympathy. The consequence of these deprivations and bereavements was that she was dejected, splenetic, and peevish. But she had one friend, had found an asylum in the house of a cousin, and was allowed a room in which she received her little school, and exercised her dominion and her tyranny,

Ma'am Tenty, on account of her lameness, had, as auxiliary, an assortment of long sticks, by which she could give a tap of admonishment to some idler in the remote corners of the room. That room, with all its little school paraphernalia, will never be obliterated from my mind; for during the long ages, some fifteen or eighteen months perhaps, which I passed there, being of my earliest observing, it seemed to be burnt in on the very retina of my mind. Yes, there it is-the old-fashioned case of drawers, the round-leaved table, with the large clasp Bible upon it, the writing desk, in which our "works" were folded and laid, and the hour-glass, that accompaniment of Time-a practical treatise upon pa

INFANT CHARACTER.

tience-six times each day were its sands exhausted. || quence, thoroughly if not patiently; then the spelling Three honest long hours each morning, and as many in the evening, marked the term of our enlargement and our joy.

Those were the days when there was, as now, no remission of about half an hour in the morning, and a similar cutting short in the evening, for special purposes, or for no purposes at all, allowed. Yes, how many|| honest long three hours have been endured by every reluctant urchin there. Parents and teacher both required it. And it was a discipline from which a dull child did not suffer much; and which, to an active one, was of salutary restraint. Of the latter class was I. Yet it so happened that I never demurred at going to school but one day in my life, and that was the first day. It was, upon the whole, fortunate that my paroxysm of suffering then sufficed to control me ever afterwards.

class; then the reading class-always of the Bible, verse and verse, and additionally of the "third part," i. e., of Noah Webster's series of reading books-with the sup-excellent Fables of Esop, of which nothing was ever more pertinently penned-not a word too much, or a word too little, or a misplaced word; and what logic—what morality—what knowledge of nature-what adroitness of inference-what sapience of experience-what wisdom, goodness, truth, are contained and elucidated in the Fables of Æsop! And the child who should have heard read, for half a year or a year, the eight or ten of them as contained in Webster's Spelling Book, although she was then too young to read them herself, shall, when she is grown, by memory, know how to appreciate simplicity, beauty, cogency, and strength of style; and such is the unconscious influence upon even the very young of opportunities of oral excellence.

Each little class, upon giving place to another, and resuming their seats, took their work-generally plain sewing, or may be a sampler. The little boys were kept busy by knitting, or sewing carpet rags. I had, with much tribulation, become mistress of hemming, over-seaming, and felling, &c.; and complimented and bepraised at home, I was forthwith fitted out with a large piece of double linen, the threads drawn, to be initiated into the mysteries of stitching, that is, stitching proper. And many a long line, side by side, attests to enforced perseverance.

I was, as I am told, about three and a half years old, and the house being rather too populous, and too lively at home, at least for the comfort of adults, a sister and a brother, with myself, were regularly entered and inducted to school. All of us being very young, it was not so much for what we might do there, as for what we might leave undone at home.

179

I recollect that, notwithstanding my grief and my reluctance, a tall negro took me on his shoulder, and|| carried me through the street to school. But my rebellion, to the untried horror of the place, was such, and so vociferously expressed, that my screeches and screaming attracted the attention of a number of gentlemen that were being dressed at a barber's shop on the way; and they ran simultaneously to the door to know "what was the matter." The servant answered, "Nothing, gentlemen, only young missus being broke into school." At which explanation there was a general and obstreperous burst of laughter, and my young being was subdued to silence, and overborne by the bitterness of disgrace. I felt as if the whole world was looking upon me, and considering me alone. I was as hush as death; and when the school-room door shut me in, I had only the feeling of being screened from that laugh of derision. I dreaded to see again my scoffers; but when I was carried home at noon, they were all dispersed, never to think of me again, whilst I have remembered it for ever. Such is the comparative value of the world's comment upon us, and our own overweening self-estimation.

Once in awhile, when the joyous sun and the balmy air, drew and dissipated my attention irresistibly, I would become confused in my work-literally my right hand would forget its cunning-I would forget the stitch. My female reader will know my dilemma. I would pass the needle forwards instead of backwards, and wonder with all my might what was the matter. But there was a vigilant eye, and instant correction set me in the right way again, and the error was never repeated of carelessness; and, indeed, the difficulty was pretty soon surmounted.

At the expiration of a time, which, by its tediousness, seemed of interminable length, the task was accomplished; and in great triumph my forty or fifty rows of stitching were carried home for my mother's inspection. And my heart dilated to the commendation which indeed I had earned, by toil, and endurance, and perseverance, and sacrifice. Although then I knew not either of these fine epithets, yet no less did they appertain to my achievement. And I slept well that night. I had a sense of enlargement and freedom. It seemed to me that the difficulties of school were surmounted.

My mother, in pity to my extreme humiliation, was not harsh, but told me that it was wrong, and never to do so again. And I never did; and though I suffered when any thing called this scene to my mind, yet it had the best effect in subduing my behavior to the rule of obedience ever after; and whenever the boy appeared, to take me on his shoulder, I offered no resistance. But no, this was but the beginning of sorrows; for I felt then, and believe now, that necessity saves us no sooner had I swallowed my breakfast the next mornfrom much conflict, and is the ameliorating circum-ing, than "little Miss Industry" was presented with a stance of every evil that is inevitable.

similar piece of double linen, and I was told that I must But I must tell you something more of Ma'am Ten- now learn to make button-holes. This was the drop ty's school. Nine o'clock was the precise hour; and too much; and though I had the grace not to repel my first in order the A B C D-rians were taken in se-mother's fond compliment of "Miss Industry," yet I

« PoprzedniaDalej »