Imatges de pÓgina
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

propriately enough find room in a second “ The court was opened ; oh! how sad, volume of curiosities of literature. Here is

How mournful was the sight

The fragments on the table lay, one descriptive of a brutal crime committed,

Or bones so spectre-like. like Eugene Aram's, in a lonely wood. The victim was a young girl, and her murderer was a man who had hitherto borne an unsullied reputation. He had held a high * And now his trial-day has come, professional position, and was a member of

And crowds do go to hear ;

Their eyes are fixed upon the one an old and very much esteemed family; and

A murderer's name does bear. when the story of his guilt was told, it struck a pang into many a heart. The whitened “The sentence was that he must die bones of the skeleton of the murdered girl

For the deed that he has done, were by accident discovered by some

The day is drawing very nigh

On which he's to be hung. coloured children, in the forest, half-hidden by tangled brushwood; and the evidence,

“And now a word to all I'll speak circumstantial at first, by the merest acci

And may you list to me : dent turned at a breathless and decisive All those who the commandments break, moment, and broadly revealed the murderer

Let this a warning be.” in full light. He was adjudged guilty, condemned to die, and soon after was executed.

The next story of a murder done is that The ballad-mongers had struck off a batch of a young man of much promise and of of verses, and they were sold about the good abilities, who, led on by intemperance, streets and hawked from door to door. I was tempted to commit a harrowing deed of quote a few verses :

blood. In a drunken fit he killed his wife, and, maddened by liquor, dashed out the

brains of his infant daughter, who lay in the “Come now to me, both one and all, A story I'll relate,

cradle, smiling in its sleep. The plea of The sorrow it is to us all,

insanity was of no avail, and he suffered the The truth I now must state.

extreme penalty of the law. The author of

the ballad written in commemoration of the "Some negroes going through the wood,

event"reserves copyright and the right of For berries were intent,

publication." This is chiefly of the highly In hopes of finding some for food, Onward their footsteps bent.

moral, reflective tone, and although there

are thirty-six verses in all, these few will suf“Nor could we judge their great surprise,

fice to show the reader the general scope of When bones lay on the plain

the whole. We will open about the middle, There, right before their wondering eyes,

where he speaks of the “young man : A human being slain.


[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]


struggling with words, and making long lines And takes him by the hand fit short ones.

Says father, dearest father

On you i leaves no blame Most of these poems are given to the pub

It by me own misconduct lic anonymously, though occasionally we I brought iny self to shame." come across one which bears the name of the bard who wrote it. This one is marred In concluding this paper, an instance may by a little too much poetical license and be given of the work done sometimes by the grammatical elasticity, to say nothing of prisoner in the lonely hours of his solitude. typographical inaccuracy. It is the song of I have a short poem written in a prison by a a girl who “done a fearful thing." We are physician of culture and refinement—a man told :

who enjoyed for many years the confidence

and esteem of all who knew him, until in an ". She had five hundred dollars too,

evil hour he was tempted to do a deed, the Left by her father it is true ;

penalty of which was death. I can rememShe got the money when in need, And then she done the awful deed,

ber the day on which he was hanged, many

years ago. It was on a clear, bright St. “But little did the poor thing think,

Valentine's morning. At eight o'clock the That she was just upon the brink

death-bell tolled, and a convulsive shudder Of death, by one just by her side, Whom she supposed her living guide.”

A little passed through each spectator.

later and the body was cut down and deLast words were often treasured up, and livered for interment to the proper authoriconfessions” of a murderer were usually ties. The doctor was a man who was loved sold for twenty-five cents a copy, with a by all; he had a fine literary taste, and shortly portrait of the criminal emblazoned on a before his death he handed to an acquaintyellow cover on the outside. These ance the following verses. They have never fessions” were generally revised by some

been in type : one, and had the merit, at least, of being evenly worded, and some attempt at literary

“Slowly an ancient long grey-beard

Strolled by a grassy mound, excellence was even aimed at by the compiler.

With a heavy heart and a feeble step I have the confession of a murderer, done

A tiny grave he foundinto verse. It was never revised, but was And on this sward the old man satprinted as originally written. The author And tears fell on the ground. occupies a prominent position on the front

The birdlings piped their tender lays, page, and his face wears a pleased and be

And here the ivy clung, nign expression, as if he were contemplating The murmuring pines took up the strain, the receipts likely to accrue from the sale of The poplar tall had sung, his pamphlet. After asking his audience, The gentle weeping-willow wept

And there the cypress hung. in much the same manner as Mark Antony addressed the ancient Romans, when they

“No sculptured slab the story told assembled to bury Cæsar, to “ lend an ear,' Of one who slept below, until he a story could relate," he dashes But an old man bent with the weight of years, right into his subject, and winds up thus :

And locks white as the snow,
Knelt on the earth and falt'ring sobbed,

A requiem of woe.
“Two long months and better
He morned within these granit wals

“ Wild flowers from a withered hand He bored all with patients

Bloomed on the narrow bed,
Till death did on him call.

And a broken heart and an aching soul

Commingled with the dead* He requested to be taken

The darkening sun rolled to the west,
All from his native town

As onward evening sped,
Where his aged parents

Would not see him hung.


[ocr errors]

“ He walked out upon the galles

So noble and so brave He vews the plesent land around him · And then he vews his grave.

“ The stars lit up the purple plain ;

The old man still was staying
By the grassy mound of his deathless love,

And silent prayers seemed saying-
But when the morning sun arose,

Death took old grey-beard praying.”

“He calls his aged father

[blocks in formation]




HERE are, at times, both confusion of for example, either eat or drink, without a tion when the subject of Free Thought is articles of diet Doubt, followed by its discussed. Free Thought, under one as- natural consequence, inaction, would speedpect of it, is but another name for inde- ily result in death. In the very prime cision. Thought, in this sense, ceases to be and fundamental conditions of life, therefree, so far as a particular subject is con- fore, a fixed conclusion is essential to our cerned, when fixed conclusions thereon have being. been attained. Under another aspect, Free To object to a philosophy of life such as Thought is the power of forming conclu- Christianity is, and to a rule of living such sions without constraint from external autho- as it lays down, in the name of Free rity. Considered in this light, all thought Thought, is a non sequitur ; shall I say, an must be called free ; for, however possible it absurdity? It would be just as reasonable is for one man to put constraint upon another to object, on the same ground, to the conman's actions, it is beyond the power of any clusion that the square of the hypothenuse man, or any set of men, to interfere with the of a right-angled triangle is equal to the freedom of a man's thoughts. It is obvious- sum of the squares of the other two sides. ly impossible to make a man think any. The demonstration of this in the geometry thing, or believe anything, against his will. of Euclid is a conclusion that binds the Our acts or speech can be known and con- mind. After arriving at this, thought, so trolled; but thought is purely for the man far as it is concerned, is no longer free. himself, and it is as impossible to control it Looking at any conceivable system of philby external agencies as it is to know it. osophy, we may object to it on the ground Thought, in fact, can only be influenced by that it is not reasonable, not proven, or not thought ; spirit by spirit ; intellect by in- | true; or we may suspend our conclusion tellect; reason by reason ; each in its pending an examination. But to object own order. The influence of thought to it on the ground that its adoption will upon thought is various in its degrees, rising prevent freedom of thought, can only indifrom the barest perceptible pressure to irre- cate that little thought has been exercised sistible constraint. We speak of an appeal in stating the objection; for such an obas overwhelming, of an argument as irrejection would lie against any conclusions on sistible; and the language is accurate. But any conceivable subject. The object of for the soul to be thus moved is an exercise thought should be to arrive at truth. But of freedom, not an abnegation of it. when truth is arrived at, the mind is bound

It is evident that the practical work of by it. For the very act of receiving truth imlife, to a very large extent, must be the out- plies that this thought, and no other-this come of fixed conclusions. Certain things conclusion and no other-is to be received. must either be known, or believed to be Truth, like noblesse, oblige. When, therefore, true, before we can act. A recluse in his a system of life and morals is declined on the closet may indulge in any airy speculation ground that thought should be free, at all that pleases him, without either harm or times, and on all subjects, the conclusion is good ensuing. But the moment he enters inevitable that it is not truth that is sought the stage of practical life, he must act upon by the objector. definite beliefs and opinions. Even in his If such an indifference to fixed conclucondition of a recluse he is not absolutely sions were carried into the practical conexempt from this necessity. We cannot, cerns of life, it would put a stop to living.

Men could not buy and sell. They could in the light which practical contact with not eat and drink; they could not take the world throws upon them. medicine when sick'; they could not marry The faith upon which so much stress is nor give in marriage. In every one of these laid in the Christian system, largely consists some practical conclusion must be reached of confidence in a person-not simply in before action is taken. Doubt is not an un- the reception of bare doctrine. The same pleasant state of mind when we are not faith which we have in men, in the secular called upon to act. But in the sphere of sphere, is, in the spiritual sphere, applied to action, doubt is horrible. And all experi- the chief and prince of men, the God-man, ence shows that the only rational course for Christ Jesus. This is the faith that is a man to pursue, in either the secular or asserted to carry virtue and power ; and in spiritual sphere, is that of Tennyson's the workings of this subtle spiritual mechanfriend

ism the intellect and the will are equally

active. Hence this faith has a moral quality. “ Who touch'd a jarring lyre at first,

Personal confidence, when exercised in the But ever strove to make it true :

secular sphere, is one of the most potent

factors of life. That all modern comPerplext in faith, but pure in deeds,

merce rests upon it is evident. The infiAt last he beat his music out.

nitely multiplied operations of finance rest There lives more faith in honest doubt, Believe me, than in half the creeds.

almost wholly on what is called “credit."

But credit is nothing more than the exercise “He fought his doubts, and gather'd strength, of faith by one man in another. Such faith,

He would not make his judgment blind, in fact, is the mainspring of civilized life. As

He faced the spectres of the mind, And laid them; thus he came at length

civilization is developed, the sphere of faith

is enlarged. The savage needs some small To find a stronger faith his own.

degree of faith even for his mode of life.

But as savagery and mere solitaryism disDoubt, in fact, either in temporal things appear, and men rise to the exercise of the or in spiritual, when carried to its legitimate arts of government and commerce, they have consequence, results only in death. Free more and more need of the co-operation of Thought, therefore, is properly only a way

their fellows, and of the exercise of faith in station in the journey where truth is sought them. The sphere of actual personal knowas the end. When truth is attained, the ledge, and personal ministry, becomes more function of Free Thought ceases.

and more circumscribed. Every step in this It has been objected to Christianity that development is a step resting more and more the life which it inculcates and develops is

on faith in man, and finally alınost the based on the recognition of the natural evil whole platform of life has this foundation. of humanity, of the necessity of a radical Faith in the men that serve us, or whom we change by Divine interposition,-call it serve; in those who gather and prepare our “spiritual machinery” if we will,—of the food ; in those who furnish for us clothing fact that such an interposition has taken and dwellings; in those who take care of place, and of the availibility of this machin

our money, and in those to whose care we ery to every man who needs it. . It is par- unknown to us; the faith by which we ride

commit ourselves when travelling in regions ticularly objected that this machinery is to in vehicles whose motion we cannot control, be laid hold of by faith, and that, according to Christianity, any efforts of humanity to sail in ships whose construction we never elevate itself are futile. That the whole witnessed; take medicine, which for aught scheme of a man's life, and his whole future

we know, may kill ; sign documents which destiny, should hang upon his acceptance may ruin us ;—this faith in man,


say, is so or rejection of certain doctrines, is said to potent, so penetrating, so far-reaching, so be unreasonable, not to say unfair. Faith, constant, that life could not be passed withor its opposite, cannot have such conse

out it for a single day. quences. Let us examine these objections often delusive work of self-introspection, we

Were we to engage in the difficult and

might sometimes doubt whether we had as *" In Memoriam, xcv."

much of this faith as is asserted to be neces

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinua »