Abbildungen der Seite



A the glance

Of Buonarotti's* eyes, Which brightened in their solemn deeps,

Like meteor-lighted skies.
And one who stood beside him listened,

Smiling as he heard ;
For “I will make an angel of it,”

Was the sculptor's word.


And mallet soon and chisel sharp

The stubborn block assailed,
And blow by blow, and pang by pang,

The prisoner unveiled.
A brow was lifted, high and pure;

The waking eyes outshone;
And as the master sharply wrought,

A smile broke through the stone!


Beneath the chisel's edge the hair

Escaped in floating rings;
And, plume by plume, was slowly freed

The sweep of half-furled wings.
The stately bust and graceful limbs

Their marble fetters shed; And where the shapeless block had been,

An angel stood instead!


O blows that smite! O hurts that pierce

This shrinking heart of mine!
What are ye but the Master's tools,

Forming a work divine ?
O hope that crumbles at my feet!

O joy that mocks and flies!
What are ye but the clogs that bind

My spirit from the skies !

* Pronounced Bwö-nä-rot'-te.


Sculptor of souls! I lift to Thee

Encumbered heart and hands;
Spare not the chisel, set me free,

However dear the bands.
How blest, if all these seeming ills,

Which draw my thoughts to Thee,
Should only prove that Thou wilt make

An angel out of me!


OOKING about us during a walk to see what subject

we could write upon that should afford a striking specimen of the entertainment to be found in the commonest objects, our eyes lighted upon a stone. It was a common pebble, a flint; such as a little boy kicks before him as he goes, by way of making haste with a message, and saving his new shoes.

2. "A stone!" cries a reader, "a flint !—the very symbol of a miser! What can be got out of that ?”

3. The question is well put; but a little reflection would soon rescue the poor stone from the comparison. Strike him at any rate, and you will get something out of him; warm his heart, and out come the genial sparks that shall gladden your hearth and put hot dishes on your table. This is not miser's work.

4. A French poet has described the process, well known to the maid-servant (till lucifers came up), when she stooped with flashing face over the tinder-box on a cold morning and rejoiced to see the first laugh of the fire. A sexton, in the poem we allude to, is striking a light in a church:

“The prudent sexton, studious to reveal
Dark holes, here takes from out his pouch a steel,
Then strikes upon a flint. In many a spail.
Forth leaps the sprightly fire against the dark:
The tinder feels the little lightning hit,
The match provokes it, and a candle's lit.”

5. We shall not stop to pursue this fiery point into all its consequences; to show what a world of beauty or of formidable power is contained in that single property of our friend flint; what fires, what lights, what conflagrations, what myriads of clicks of triggers,-awful sounds before battle, when, instead of letting his flint do its proper good-natured work of cooking his supper and warming his wife and himself over their cottage fire, the poor fellow is made to kill and be killed by other poor fellows, whose brains are strewed about the place for want of knowing better.

6. But to return to the natural, quiet condition of our friend. What think you of him as the musician of the brooks? as the unpretending player on those watery pipes and flageolets during the hot noon or the silence of the night? Without the pebble the brook would want its prettiest murmur; and then, in reminding you of these murmurs, he reminds you of the poets.

“A noise as of a hidden brook

In the leafy month of June,
That to the sleeping woods all night

Singeth a quiet tune.” 7. Yes, the brook singeth ; but it would not sing so well, it would not have that tone and ring in its music, without the stone.

“Then 'gan the shepherd gather into one

His straggling goats, and drove them to a ford,
Whose cerule streams, rumbling in pebble-stone,

Crept under moss as green as any gourd.” 8. See how one pleasant thing reminds people of another ! A pebble reminded us of the brooks; and the brooks of the poets; and the poets reminded us of the beauty and comprehensiveness of their words, whether belonging to the subject in hand or not. No true poet makes use of a word for nothing. “Cerule stream,” says Spenser; but why cerule,

" which comes from the Latin and seems a pedantic word, especially as it signifies blue, which he might have had in English ?

[ocr errors]


9. The reason is, not only that it means sky-blue, and therefore shows us how blue the sky was at the time, and the cause why the brook was of such a color; but the word cerule was also a beautiful word, beautiful for the sound, and expressive of a certain liquid yet neat softness, somewhat resembling the mixture of soft hissing, rumbling, and inward music of the brook.

10. So much for the agreeable sounds of which the sight of a common stone may remind us. Let us see now how pleasant the sight itself may be rendered. Mr. Wordsworth shall do it for us in his exquisite little poem on the fair maiden who died by the river Dove. It is where he compares his modest, artless, and sequestered beauty with

“A violet by a mossy stone,

Half hidden from the eye;
Fair as the star, when only one

Is shining in the sky."

11. Is not that beautiful? Can anything express a lovelier loneliness than the violet half hidden by the mossy stone,—the delicate blue-eyed Hower against the country green? And then the loving imagination of this fine poet, exalting the object of his earthly worship to her divine birthplace and future abcde, suddenly raises his eyes to the firmament, and sees her there, the solitary star of his heaven.

12. But Stone does not want even moss to render him interesting. Here is another stone, and another solitary evening star, as beautifully introduced as the others, but for a different purpose. It is in the opening words of Mr. Keats' poem of “Hyperion,” where he describes the de throned monarch of the gods sitting in his exile :

“Deep in the shady sadness of a vale,
Far sunken from the healthy breath of Morn,
Far from the fiery Noon and Eve's one star,
Sate gray-haired Saturn, quiet as a stone."

13. Quiet as a stone! Nothing certainly can be more quiet than that. Not a syllable or a sigh will a stone utter, though you watch and bear him company for a whole week on the most desolate moor in Cumberland. Thus silent, thus unmoved, thus insensible to whatever circumstances might be taking place, or spectators might think of him, was the soul-stunned old patriarch of the gods. We may picture to ourselves a large or a small stone, as we please, Stone-henge, or a pebble. The simplicity and grandeur of truth do not care which. The silence is the thing, -its intensity, its unalterableness. 14. Our friend Pebble is here in grand company,


you may think him (though we hope not) unduly bettered by it. But see what Shakspeare will do for him in his hardest shape, and in no finer company than a peasant's :

C'an snore upon the flint, when restive Sloth
Finds the down pillow hard.”

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

15. Sleeping on hard stone would have been words strong enough for a common poet; or perhaps he would have said "resting" or "profoundly reposing," or that he could have made his “bed of the bare floor;” and the last saying would not have been the worst: but Shakspeare must have the very strongest words and really profoundest expressions, and he finds them in the homeliest and most primitive. He does not mince the matter, but goes to the root of both sleep and stone,-can snore upon the flint. We see the fellow hard at it, bent upon it; deeply drinking of the forgetful draft.

16. Hear, too, what a great critic of art has to say of a stone: "A stone, when it is examined, will be found a mountain in miniature. The fineness of Nature's work is so great, that, into a single block, a foot or two in diameter, she can compress as many changes of form and structure, on a small scale, as she needs for her mountains on a large one; and, taking moss for forests, and grains of crystal for

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »