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The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,
The swallow twittering from her straw-built shed, The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.
For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening care; No children run to lisp their sire's return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.
Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield;
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke: How jocund did they drive their team afield !
How bowed the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!
Let not ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys and destiny obscure; Nor grandeur hear, with a disdainful smile,
The short and simple annals of the poor. The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave, Await alike the inevitable hour:
The paths of glory lead — but to the grave. Nor you, ye proud, impute to these the fault,
If memory o'er their tomb no trophies raise, Where, through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault,
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.
Can storied urn, or animated bust,
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath ? Can honor's voice provoke the silent dust,
Or flattery soothe the dull cold ear of death?
Perhaps, in this neglected spot, is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre:
Rich with the spoils of time, did ne'er unroll:
And froze the genial current of the soul.
Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
Some village Hampden, that with dauntless breast,
The little tyrant of his fields withstood; Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest;
Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's blood.
The applause of listening senates to command,
The threats of pain and ruin to despise, To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,
And read their history in a nation's eyes,
Their lot forbade: nor circumscribed alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined; Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind;
The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide;
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame; Or heap the shrine of luxury and pride
With incense kindled at the muse's flame.
Far from the madding crowds ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learned to stray ; Along the cool sequestered vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way. Yet ev'n these bones, from insult to protect,
Some frail memorial still erected nigh, With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture decked,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.
Their name, their years, spelt by the unlettered muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply; And many a holy text around she strews,
That teach the rustic moralist to die.
For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing anxious being e'er resigned, Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing, lingering look behind ?
On some fond breast the parting soul relies;
Some pious drops the closing eye requires; Ev'n from the tomb the voice of nature cries; Ev'n in our ashes live their wonted fires.
VOL. XVII. - 16
For thee who, mindful of the unhonored dead,
Dost in these lines their artless tale relate, If chance by lonely contemplation led,
Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate.
Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
“Oft have we seen him, at the peep of dawn, Brushing, with hasty steps, the dews away,
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.
“There, at the foot of yonder nodding beech,
That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high, His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
And pore upon the brook that babbles by. “Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Muttering his wayward fancies, he would rove, Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
Or crazed with care, or crossed in hopeless love. “One morn I missed him on the accustomed hill,
Along the heath, and near his favorite tree; Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he. “ The next, with dirges due, in sad array,
Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne: Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay,
Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn."
Here rests his head upon the lap of earth,
A youth to fortune and to fame unknown; Fair science frowned not on his humble birth,
And melancholy marked him for her own.
Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
Heaven did a recompense as largely send : He gave to misery all he had
a tear; He gained from heaven – 'twas all he wished - a friend.
No further seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode; There they alike in trembling hope repose,
The bosom of his Father and his God.
THE OLD RÉGIME IN FRANCE.1
By H. A. TAINE.
(HIPPOLYTE ADOLPIE TAINE, French critic and historical scholar, was born in Vouziers, April 21, 1828. He published, among other works: “French Philosophers in the Nineteenth Century” (1856); “Essays in Criticism and History” (1857); “ Notes on England” (1861); “Contemporary English Writers" (1863); “ History of English Literature," "English Idealism,” and “English Positivism” (1864); “Philosophy of Art” (1865–1870); “ The Ideal in Art” (1867); “The Understanding"
"Origins of Contemporary France," a series comprising, “ The Old Régime in France" (1875), “ Anarchy" (1878), “ The Revolutionary Government" (1884), “ The Modern Régime" (1890).]
LA BRUYÈRE wrote, just a century before 1789, “ Certain savage-looking beings, male and female, are seen in the country, black, livid, and sunburnt, and belonging to the soil, which they dig and grub with invincible stubbornness. They seem capable of articulation, and, when they stand erect, they display human lineaments. They are, in fact, men. They retire at night into their dens, where they live on black bread, water, and roots. They spare other human beings the trouble of sowing, plowing, and harvesting, and thus should not be in want of the bread they have planted." They continue in want of it during twenty-five years after this and die in herds. I estimate that in 1715 more than one third of the population, six millions, perish with hunger and of destitution.
“In 1725," says St. Simon, “ with the profuseness of Strasbourg and Chantilly, the people, in Normandy, live on the grass of the fields. The first king in Europe is great simply by being a king of beggars of all conditions, and by turning his kingdom into a vast hospital of dying people of whom their all is taken without a murmur.” In the most prosperous days of Fleury and in the finest region in France, the peasant hides “his wine on account of the excise and his bread on account of the taille," convinced “that he is a lost man if any doubt exists of his dying of starvation.” In 1739 d'Argenson writes in his journal: “The famine has just occasioned three insurrections in the provinces, at Ruffec, at Caen, and at Chinon. Women carrying their bread with them have been assassinated on the highways.
. . M. le Duc d'Orléans brought to the Council the other day a piece of bread, and placed it on the table before the king ; • Sire,' said he, there is the bread on which your subjects now
1 Copyright, 1876, by Henry Holt & Co. Used by permission.
feed themselves.'” “In my own canton of Touraine men have been eating herbage more than a year.” Misery finds company on all sides.
“It is talked about at Versailles more than ever. The king interrogated the bishop of Chartres on the condition of his people ; he replied that the famine and the mortality were such that men ate grass like sheep and died like so many Alies.'” In 1740 Massillon, bishop of Clermont-Ferrand, writes to Fleury: “ The people of the rural districts are living in frightful destitution, without beds, without furniture ; the majority, for half the year, even lack barley and oat bread, their sole food, and which they are compelled to take out of their own and their children's mouths to pay the taxes. It pains me to see this sad spectacle every year on my visits. The negroes of our colonies are, in this respect, infinitely better off, for, while working, they are fed and clothed along with their wives and children, while our peasantry, the most laborious in the kingdom, cannot, with the hardest and most devoted labor, earn bread for themselves and their families, and at the same time pay the subsidies.”
In 1740, at Lille, the people rebel against the export of grain. “An intendant informs me that the misery increases from hour to hour, the slightest danger to the crops resulting in this for three years past. . .. Flanders, especially, is greatly embarrassed ; there is nothing to live on until the harvesting, which will not take place for two months. The provinces the best off are not able to help the others. Each bourgeois in each town is obliged to feed one or two poor persons and provide them with fourteen pounds of bread per week. In the little town of Chatellerault (of four thousand inhabitants), eighteen hundred poor, this winter, are on that footing.
The poor outnumber those able to live without beg. ging . . . while prosecutions for unpaid dues are carried on with unexampled rigor. The clothes of the poor are seized and their last measure of flour, the latches on their doors, etc. The abbess of Jouarre told me yesterday that, in her canton, in Brie, most of the ground had not been planted.” It is not surprising that the famine spreads even to Paris. “Fears are entertained of next Wednesday. There is no more bread in Paris except that of the damaged flour which is brought in, and which burns (when baking). The mills are working day and night at Belleville, regrinding old damaged flour. The people are ready to rebel ; bread goes up a sol a day; no merchant dares, or is (lisposed, to bring in his wheat. The market on Wednesday was almost in a state of revolt, there being no bread in it after