Слике страница
PDF
ePub

Thougu the whole race of man is doomed to dissolution, apd we are all hastening to our long home; yet at each successive moment life and death seem to divide between

them the dominion of mankind, and life to have the large: 5 share. It is otherwise in war; death reigns there without

a rival, and without control. War is the work, the element, or rather the sport and triumph, of Death, who glories not only in the extent of his conquest, but in the richness of

his spoil. In the other methods of attack, in the other 10 forms which death assumes, the feeble and the aged, who

at the best can live but a short time, are usually the victims; here they are the vigorous and the strong.

It is remarked by the most ancient of poets, that in peace, children bury their parents; in war, parents bury 15 their children: nor is the difference small. Children la

ment their parents, sincerely, indeed, but with that moderate and tranquil sorrow which it is natural for those to feel who are conscious of retaining many tender ties, many

animating prospects. Parents mourn for their children 20 with the bitterness of despair; the aged parent, the wid

Gwed mother, loses, when she is deprived of her children, everything but the capacity of suffering: her heart, withered and desolate, admits no other object, cherishes no

other hope. It is Rachel, weeping for her children, and 25 refusing to be comforted, because they are not.

But to confine our attention to the number of the slain, would give us a very inadequate idea of the ravages of the sword. The lot of those who perish instantaneously may

be considered, apart from religious prospects, as compara3) tively happy, since they are exempt from those lingering

diseases and slow torments to which others are liable. We cannot see an individual expire, though a stranger, or an enemy, without being sensibly moved, and prompted by

compassion to lend him every assistance in our power. 15 Every trace of resentment vanishes in a moment; every

other cmotion gives way to pity and terror.

In these last extremities we remember nothing but the respect and tenderness due to our common nature. What a scene, then, must a field of battle present, where thousands

are left without assistance, and without pity, with their 5 wounds exposed to the piercing air, while the blood, freezing

as it flows, binds them to the earth, amidst the trampling of horses, and the insults of an enraged foe!

If they are spared by the humanity of the enemy, and carried from the field, it is but a prolongation of torment. o Conveyed in uneasy vehicles, often to a remote distance,

through roads almost impassable, they are lodged in illprepared receptacles for the wounded and the sick, where the variety of distress baffles all the efforts of humanity

and skill, and renders it impossible to give to each the 15 attention he demands. Far from their native home, no

tender assiduities of friendship, no well-known voice, no wife, or mother, or sister, is near to soothe their sorrows, relieve their thirst, or close their eyes in death! Unhappy

man ! and must you be swept into the grave unnoticed and 20 unnumbered, and no friendly tear be shed for your sufferings, or mingled with your dust ? We must remember, however, that as a very small

proportion of a military life is spent in actual combat, so it is

a very small part of its miseries which must be ascribed 25 to this source. More are consumed by the rust of inac

tivity than by the edge of the sword; confined to a scanty or unwholesome diet, exposed in sickly climates, harassed with tiresome marches and perpetual alarms; their life is

a continual scene of hardships and dangers. They grow 30 familiar with hunger, cold, and watchfulness. Crowded

into hospitals and prisons, contagion spreads amongst their ranks till the ravages of disease exceed those of the enemy.

We have hitherto only adverted to the sufferings of those who are engaged in the profession of arms, without 35 taking into our account the situation of the countries which

are the scenes of hostilities. How dreadful to hold everyo

thing at the mercy of an enemy, and to receive life itseli as a boon dependent on the sword ! How boundless tbe fears which such a situation must inspire, where the issues of life and death are determined by no known laws, prin. ciples, or customs, and no conjecture can be formed of our destiny, except as far as it is dimly deciphered in characters of blood, in the dictates of revenge, and the caprices of power!

Conceive but for a moment the consternation which the 10 approach of an invading army would impress on the peace

ful villages in our own neighborhood. When you have placed yourselves for an instant in that situation, you will learn to sympathize with those unhappy countries which have sustained the ravages of arms.

But how is it possi15 ble to give you an idea of these horrors ? Here you behold

rich harvests, the bounty of Heaven, and the reward of industry, consumed in a moment, or trampled under foot, while famine and pestilence follow the steps of desolation.

There the cottages of peasants given up to the flames, 20 mothers expiring through fear, not for themselves but their

infants; the inhabitants flying with their helpless babes, in all directions, miserable fugitives on their native soil ! In another part you witness opulent cities taken by storm;

the streets, where no sounds were heard but those of peace25 ful industry, filled on a sudden with slaughter and blood,

resounding with the cries of the pursuing and the pursued ; the palaces of nobles demolished, the houses of the rich pillaged, and every age, sex, and rank, mingled in promiscuous massacre and ruin !

[blocks in formation]

To an American visiting Europe, the long voyage he has to make is an excellent preparative. From the mo

ment you lose sight of the land you have left, all is vacancy until you step on the opposite shore, and are launched at once into the bustle and novelties of another

world. Ő I have said that at sea all is vacancy. I should correct

the expression. To one given up to day-dreaming, and fond of losing himself in reveries, a sea-voyage is full of subjects for meditation ; but then they are the wonders of

the deep, and of the air, and rather tend to abstract the 10 mind from worldly themes. I delighted to loll over the

quarter-railing, or climb to the main-top on a calm day, and muse for hours together on the tranquil bosom of a summer's sea; or to gaze upon the piles of golden clouds

just peering above the horizon, fancy them some fairy 15 realms, and people them with a creation of my own; or to

watch the gentle undulating billows, rolling their silver volumes as if to die away on those happy shores.

There was a delicious sensation of mingled security and awe, with which I looked down, from my-giddy height, on 20 the monsters of the deep at their uncouth gambols, -shoals

of porpoises tumbling about the bow of the ship; the grampus, slowly heaving his huge form above the surface; or the ravenous shark, darting like a spectre through the

blue waters. My imagination would conjure up all that 25 I had heard or read of the watery world beneath me; of

the finny herds that roam its fathomless valleys; of shapeless monsters that lurk

among

the
very

foundations of the earth; and of those wild phantasms that swell the tales of

fishermen and sailors. 30 Sometimes a distant sail, gliding along the edge of the

ocean, would be another theme of idle speculation. How interesting this fragment of a world hastening to rejoin the great mass of existence ! What a glorious monument

of human invention, that has thus triumphed over wind 35 and wave; has brought the ends of the earth in commun.

ion; has established an interchange of blessings, pouring

into the sterile regions of the north all the luxuries of the south; diffused the light of knowledge and the charities of cultivated life; and has thus bound together those scat

tered portions of the human race, between which nature 5 seemed to have thrown an insurmountable barrier !

We one day descried some shapeless object drifting at a distance. At sea, everything that breaks the monotony of the surrounding expanse, attracts attention. It proved

to be the mast of a ship that must have been completely 10 wrecked; for there were the remains of handkerchiefs, by

which some of the crew had fastened themselves to this spar, to prevent their being washed off by the waves. There was no trace by which the name of the ship could

be ascertained. The wreck had evidently drifted about 15 for many months; clusters of shell-fish had fastened about

it, and long sea-weeds flaunted at its sides. But where, thought I, are the crew ? Their struggle has long been over; they have gone down amidst the roar of the tem

pest; their bones lie whitening in the caverns of the deep. 20 Silence oblivion, like the waves, have closed over them, and no one can tell the story of their end.

What sighs have been wafted after that ship! what prayers offered

up

at the deserted fireside of home! How often has the mistress, the wife, and the mother, pored 25 over the daily news to catch some casual intelligence of

this rover of the deep! How has expectation darkened into anxiety, anxiety into dread, and dread into despair! Alas! not one memento shall ever return for love to cher

ish. All that shall ever be known is, that she sailed from 30 her port, “and was never heard of more.”

The sight of the wreck, as usual, gave rise to many dismal anecdotes. This was particularly the case in the evening, when the weather, which had hitherto been fair,

began to look wild and threatening, and gave indications 35 of one of those sudden storms, that will sometimes break

in upon the serenity of a summer voyage. As we sat

« ПретходнаНастави »