Слике страница
PDF
ePub

And pray'd inaudibly, the Ruler heard
The quickening division of his breath
As he grew earnest inwardly. There came
A gradual brightness o'er his calm, sad face;
And, drawing nearer to the bed, he moved
The silken curtains silently apart,
And looked upon the maiden.

Like a form
Of matchless sculpture in her sleep she lay-
The linen vesture folded on her breast,
And over it her white transparent hands,
The blood still rosy in their taperiny nails.
A line of pearl ran through her parted lips,
And in her nostrils, spiritually thin,
The breathing curve was mockingly like life;
And round beneath the faintly tinted skin
Ran the light branches of the azure veins ;
And on her cheek the jet lash overlay,
Matching the arches pencil'd on her brow.
Her hair had been unbound, and falling loose
Upon her pillow, hid her small round ears
In curls of glossy blackness, and about
Her polish'd neck, scarce touching it, they hung:
Like airy shadows floating as they slept.
'Twas heavenly beautiful.

The Saviour raised
Her hand from off her bosom, and spread out
The snowy fingers in his palm, and said,
Maiden! Arise !”—and suddenly a flush
Shot o'er her forehead, and along her lips
And through her cheek the rallied color ran;
And the still outline of her graceful form
Stirr'd in the linen vesture; and she clasped
The Saviour's hand, and fixing her dark eyes
Full on his beaming countenance-arose!

Upon leaving college, Willis edited The Legendary and The Token, volumes of tales published by S. G. Goodrich. In 1828 he established the American Monthly Magazine, which he conducted two years and a half, when it was Nierged in the New York Mirror, and our author went to Europe.

Here, during a stay of four years, he visited Italy, Greece, Asia Minor, Turkey, and England. As the more immediate fruits of these travels, he published a series of sketches, entitled Pencillings by the Way, and a little later, in 1835, Inklings of Aucenture, a collection of tales which appeared originally in a London magazine.

In 1837, having returned to America, Willis established himself in a lovely rural retreat on the Susquehanna, which he called, in honor of his wife, “Glenmary," and from this spot issued his Letters from Under a Bridge, and Paul Fane.

A few years later his ardent love of travel prompted our author to undertake a second tour of Europe; and while there he added to his former publications the volume Loiterings of Travel, and a couple of plays, under the common title Two Ways of Dying for a Husband.

“As a traveller, Mr. Willis has no superior in representing the humors and experiences of the world. He is sympathetic, witty, observant, and at the same time invent

ive." *

Returning home, Willis shortly afterwards, in company with George P. Morris, begun the publication of the Home Journal, which venture proved an eminent success. His subsequent writings have largely consisted of editorial articles, descriptive of journeys through the Western and Southern States of our Union, the West Indies, and other foreign parts, and of occasional papers written from his latest country residence of “Idlewild” on the Hudson Highlands. These articles and papers have been republished, from time to time, in book form. The following a complete list of them, with the dates of their issue:

Rural Letters, 1849; People I have Met, 1850; Life Here and There, 1850; Hurry-graphs, 1851; Memoranda of the Life of Jenny Lind Goldschmidt, 1851; Health Trip to the Tropics

Duyckinck's Cyclopædia of American Literature.

1853; Summer Cruise on the Mediterranean, 1853; Fun-Jottings, 1853; Prose and Poetry of Europe and America,* 1853; Out Doors at Idlewild, 1854; Famous Places and Persons, 1854; The Rag-Bag, 1855; The Convalescent, 1859; Old Leaves . Gathered from Household Words, 1860.

To which must be added a complete edition of his poetry, published in 1848.

“His decease occurred on the 20th of January, 1867, at Idlewild, being just sixty-one years of age.”+

“Few American authors were known to a wider circle of readers than Mr. Willis. He came before the public for the first time at a moment when our literature was passing from the delicate bloom of infancy to the florid and lusty vigor of early youth. Everything was in a state of transition; everything was unsettled; but everything was rich with the glow of dawning promise. Irving was in the fulness of his fame; Bryant had won the vernal honors which have since ripened into glorious maturity; R. H. Dana had struck a chord in many hearts by the mystic strains of his melancholy music; Percival was hailed by waiting and sanguine spirits as the morning-star of a new poetical day; Pierpont had gathered bright laurels on the banks where 'Hermon sheds its dews,' and 'decked his couch with Sharon's deathless rose;' Everett had returned from his quest of knowledge in distant lands, radiant with enthusiasm and hope; Channing had sent an electric spark into the bosom of society by his seraphic discussion of worldly themes amidst the solemnities of the pulpit; Lyman Beecher was disturbing the repose of the dry bones in the valley of vision by his athletic sledge-hammer blows on the heresies of Boston; Longfellow was beginning to gather around him a cluster of gracious sympathies by the tender pathos of his imagition and the sweet felicities of his diction.

[blocks in formation]

“He will be remembered not as a philosopher or a celes. * Assisted by George P. Morris. † From Biographical Sketch in Clark and Maynard's (1869) Editior.

tial genius; but as a man eminently human, with almost unique endowments, who contributed his share to the good-will, cheerful enjoyment, and intellectual life of the present.

“The prose and poetry of Mr. Willis are alike distinguished for exquisite finish and melody. His language is pure, varied, and rich; his imagination brilliant, and his wit of the finest quality. Many of his descriptions of natural scenery are written pictures; and no other author has represented with equal vivacity and truth the manners of

the age.

[ocr errors]

The following extract from Famous Persons and Places is one of his Letters of a Trip to Scotland, and describes Gordon Castle, the company there, the Park, the duke of Gordon, and the personal beauty of the English aristocracy:

66

66

The last phaeton dashed away, and my chaise advanced to the door. A handsome boy, in a kind of page's dress, immediately came to the window, addressed me by name, and informed me that his Grace was out deer-shooting, but that my room was prepared, and he was ordered to wait on me. I followed him through a hall lined with statues, deers’ horns, and armor, and was ushered into a large chamber, looking out on a park extending with its lawns and woods to the edge of the horizon. A more lovely view never feasted human eye.

Who is at the castle?” I asked, as the boy busied himself in unstrapping my portmanteau.

Oh, a great many, sir.” He stopped in his occupation, and began counting on his fingers: “There's Lord Aberdeen, and Lord Claud Hamilton and Lady Harriette Hamilton, (them's his lordship’s two step-children, you know, sir,) and the Duchess of Richmond, and Lady Sophia Lennox, and Lady Keith, and Lord Mandeville and Lord Aboyne, and Lord Stormont and Lady Stormont, and Lord Morton and Lady Morton, and Lady Alicia, and--andand-twenty more, sir."

'Twenty more lords and ladies ?”
“No, sir! that's all the nobility.”
“And you can't remember the names of the others ?”

* R. W. Griswold's Poets and Poetry of America.

66

“No, sir."

He was a proper page. He could not trouble his memory with the names of commoners.

And how many sit down to dinner ??! “ Above thirty, besides the Duke and Duchess."

“That will do.” And off tripped my slender gentleman with his laced jacket, giving the fire a terrible stir-up in his way out, and turning back to inform me that the dinner-hour was seven precisely.

It was a mild, bright afternoon, quite warm for the end of ani English September, and with a fire in the room, and a soft sun. shine pouring in at the windows, a seat by the open casement was far from disagreeable. I passed the time till the sun set looking out on the park. Hill and valley lay between my eye and the horizon; sheep fed in picturesque flocks, and small fallowdeer grazed near them; the trees were planted and the distant forest shaped by the hand of taste; and broad and beautiful as was the expanse taken in by the eye, it was evidently one princely possession.

A mile from the castle wall the shaven sward extended in a. carpet of velvet softness, as bright as emerald, studded by clumps of shrubbery, like flowers wrought elegantly on tapestry; and across it bounded occasionally a hare, and the pheasants fed undisturbed near the thickets, or a lady with flowing riding-dress and flaunting feather dashed into sight upon her fleet bloodpalfrey, and was lost the next moment in the woods, or a boy put his pony to its mettle up the ascent, or a gamekeeper idled into sight with his gun in the hollow of his arm, and his hounds at his heels; and all this little world of enjoyment and luxury and beauty lay in the hands of one man, and was created by his wealth in these northern wilds of Scotland, a day's journey almost from the possession of another human being. I never realized so forcibly the splendid result of wealth and primogeniture.

The sun set in a blaze of fire among the pointed firs crowning the hills, and by the occasional prance of a horse's feet upon the gravel, and the roll of rapid wheels, and now and then a gay laugh and merry voices, I knew the different parties were returning to the castle. Soon after a loud gong sounded through the gallery, the signal to dress, and I left my musing occupation unwillingly to make my toilet for an appearance in a formid.

[ocr errors]
« ПретходнаНастави »