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MY OWN FIRESIDE.
“ It is a mystic circle, that surrounds Comforts and virtues never known beyond Its hallow'd limit."
Let others seek for empty joys
At ball or concert, rout or play; Whilst, far from Fashion's idle noise,
Her gilded domes and trappings gay, I wile the wintry eve away,
'Twixt book and lute the hours divide; And marvel how I e'er could stray
From thee-my own fireside!
Can bid the sweetest dreams arise,
And fill with tears of joy mine eyes. What is there my wild heart can prize,
That doth not in thy sphere abide; Haunt of my home-bred sympathies,
My own-my own fireside! A gentle form is near me now;
Å small white hand is clasp'd in mine; I gaze upon her placid brow,
And ask, what joys can equal thine ? A babe, whose beauties half divine,
In sleep his mother's eyes doth hide; Where may Love seek a fitter shrine
Than thou, my own fireside! My refuge ever from the storm
Of this world's passion, strife, and care; Though thunder-clouds the skies deform,
Their fury cannot reach me there: There all is cheerful, calm, and fair:
Wrath, Envy, Malice, Strife, or Pride Hath never made its hated lair
By thee—my own fireside! Shrine of my household deities !
Bright scene of home's unsullied joys; To thee my burden'd spirit flies
When Fortune frowns, or Care annoys ! Thine is the bliss that never cloys;
The smile whose truth has oft been tried ;What, then, are this world's tinsel toys
To thee-my own fireside !
That bid my thoughts be all of thee,
To thy heart-soothing sanctuary! Whate'er my future years may be,
Let joy or grief my fate betide, Be still an Eden bright to me,
My own-my own fireside!
THE GRAY HAIR.
Come, let me pluck that silver hair
Which mid thy clustering curls I see; The withering type of Time or Care
Hath nothing, sure, to do with thee. Years have not yet impair'd the grace
That charm'd me once, that chains me now; And Envy's self-love cannot trace
One wrinkle on thy placid brow. Thy features have not lost the bloom
That brighten'd them when first we met: No; rays of softest light illume
Their unambitious beauty yet. And if the passing clouds of Care
Have cast their shadows o'er thy face, They have but left, triumphant, there
A holier charm-more witching grace. And if thy voice hath sunk a tone,
And sounds more sadly than of yore, It hath a sweetness all its own,
Methinks I never mark'd before. Thus young, and fair, and happy, too,
If bliss indeed may here be won, In spite of all that care can do,
In spite of all that Time hath done; Is yon white hair a boon of love,
To thee in mildest mercy given; A sign, a token from above,
To lead thy thoughts from earth to heaven ? To speak to thee of life's decay;
Of beauty, hastening to the tomb; Of hopes, that cannot fade away;
Of joys, that never lose their bloom? Or springs the thread of timeless snow,
With those dark, glossy locks entwined, Mid Youth's and Beauty's morning glow,
To emblem thy maturer mind ? It does, it does ;-then let it stay,
Even Wisdom's self were welcome now: Who'd wish her soberer tints away,
When thus they beam from Beauty's brow!
No work pretending to give an account of the prominent English authors of the nineteenth century would be complete without the name of this charming and instructive writer.' Accident, she says, made her an author, and she thus expounds some of her aims in continuing to write: “It is not by exposing folly and scorning fools that we make other people wiser or ourselves happier. But to soften the heart by images and examples of the kindly and generous affections to show how the human soul is disciplined and perfected by suffering--to prove how much of possible good may exist in things evil and perverted-how much hope there is for those who despair-how much comfort for those whom a heartless world has taught to contemn both others and themselves, and to put barriers to the hard, cold, selfish, mocking, and levelling spirit of the day.”
This high and noble aim she has successfully carried out in many of her works, but in none more than in that by which she is best known, "Characteristics of Women, Moral, Poetical, and Historical.” These are designed to illustrate the Female Characters of Shakspeare, and never did commentator catch more perfectly the spirit of an author, or convey to the reader a inore exact or a more vivid impression of his genius and scope. It is more than interesting; it is bewitching; for, take it up where you will, you will not find it easy to lay it down. “ The secret of this excellence of Mrs. Jameson's book we take to be the fact that it is a woman, a very woman, who undertakes the task-none so well able as those to approve or condemn, as one who, being of a like nature, has in herself had the same feelings excited in her own heart during her life-who, as lover, wife, mother, and friend, has in turn acted all these parts in real history, and has not gone to other commentators for her criticism." 2
In her “Essays,” Mrs. Jameson has an admirable chapter on our own country. man, Washington Allston, whose peculiar genius and power she well appreciates; for, an artist herself, she can enter into an artist's hopes and fears, his disappointments and his triumphs. In her chapter, in the same book, entitled, “ Woman's Mission and Woman's Position,” she takes a plain, practical common-sense view of that hackneyed themo on which so much nonsense has been spoken and written. In short, in most of her works, she aims to be practical—“to bring the flowers of art and genius to glorify our coinmon household lives, and render them more sweet by the beatification."
Portia is endued with her own share of those delightful qualities which Shakspeare has lavished on many of his female characters;
"I may add prolific, too, for her mine of intellectual wealth seems to be inexhaustible. The following are the chief works rhe has hitherto published: “ Diary of an Ennuyée;" "Che
but besides the dignity, the sweetness, and tenderness which should distinguish her sex generally, she is individualized by qualities peculiar to herself: by her high mental powers, her enthusiasm of temperament, her decision of purpose, and her buoyancy of spirit. These are innate : she has other distinguishing qualities more external, and which are the result of the circumstances in which she is placed. Thus she is the heiress of a princely name and countless wealth; a train of obedient pleasures have ever waited round her; and from infancy she has breathed an atmosphere redolent of perfume and blandishment. Accordingly there is a commanding grace, a high-bred, airy elegance, a spirit of magnificence in all that she does and says, as one to whom splendor had been familiar from her very birth. She treads as though her footsteps had been among marble palaces, beneath roofs of fretted gold, o'er cedar floors and pavements of jasper and porphyry-amid gardens full of statues, and flowers, and fountains, and haunting music. She is full of penetrative wisdom, and genuine tenderness, and lively wit; but, as she has never known want, or grief, or fear, or disappointment, her wisdom is without a touch of the sombre or the sad; her affections are all mixed up with faith, hope, and joy; and her wit has not a particle of malevolence or causticity.
But all the finest parts of Portia's character are brought to bear in the trial scene.
There she shines forth all her divine self. Her intellectual powers, her elevated sense of religion, her high honorable principles, her best feelings as a woman, are all displayed. She maintains at first a calm self-command, as one sure of carrying her point in the end ; yet the painful, heart-thrilling uncertainty in which she keeps the whole court, until suspense verges upon agony, is not contrived for effect merely; it is necessary and inevitable. She has two objects in view : to deliver her husband's friend, and to maintain her husband's honor by the discharge of his just debt, though paid out of her own wealth ten times over. It is evident that she would rather owe the safety of Antonio to any thing rather than the legal quibble with which her cousin Bellario has armed her, and which she reserves as a last resource. Thus all the speeches addressed to Shylock in the first instance, are either direct or indirect experiments on his temper and feelings. She must be understood, from the beginning to the end, as examining with intense anxiety the effect of her own words on his mind and countenance; as watching for that relenting spirit, which she hopes to awaken either by reason or persuasion. She begins by an appeal to his mercy, in that matchless piece of eloquence which, with an irresistible and solemn pathos, falls upon the heart like “ gentle dew from heaven :" but in vain; for that blessed dew drops not more fruitless and unfelt on the parched sand of the desert than do these heavenly words upon the ear of Shylock. She next attacks his avarice :
“Shylock, there's thrice thy money offered thee!" Then she appeals, in the same breath, both to his avarice and his pity
“ Be merciful! Take thrice thy money.
Bid me tear the bond."
All that she says afterwards—her strong expressions, which are calculated to strike a shuddering horror through the nerves—the reflections she interposes-her delays and circumlocution, to give time for any latent feeling of commiseration to display itself—all, all are premeditated, and tend in the same manner to the object she has in view. Thus
“You must prepare your bosom for his knife.
Therefore lay bare your bosom !" These two speeches, though addressed apparently to Antonio, are spoken at Shylock, and are evidently intended to penetrate his bosom. In the same spirit she asks for the balance to weigh the pound of flesh; and entreats of Shylock to have a surgeon ready :
“Have by some surgeon, Shylock, on your charge,
'Twere good you do so much, for charity!" So unwilling is her sanguine and generous spirit to resign all hope, or to believe that humanity is absolutely extinct in the bosom of the Jew, that she calls on Antonio, as a last resource, to speak for himself. His gentle, yet manly resignation—the deep pathos of his farewell, and the affectionate allusion to herself in his last address to Bassanio
“ Commend me to your honorable wife!
Say how I loved you, speak me fair in death,” &c. are well calculated to swell that emotion which, through the whole scene, must have been laboring suppressed within her heart.
At length the crisis arrives, for patience and womanhood can endure no longer; and when Shylock, carrying his savage bent