« ZurückWeiter »
perhaps, are tripled. This does not argue, as is obvious from the explanations which we have now given, that they must therefore be three times worse fed than usual. The food of the country may only, for aught we know, have been lessened by a fourth part of its usual supply; or, in other words, the families may, at an average, be served with three-fourths of their usual subsistence, at the very time that the cost of it is three times greater than usual. And, to make out this larger payment, they have just for a year to retrench in other articles-altogether, it is likely, to give up the use of comforts, and to limit themselves more largely in the second than they can possibly do in the first necessaries of life-to forego, perhaps, many of the little seasonings wherewith they were wont to impart a relish to their coarse and humble fare, to husband more strictly their fuel, and be satisfied for awhile with vestments more threadbare, and even more tattered, than what, in better times, they would choose to appear in. It is thus that, even although the first necessaries of life should be tripled in price for a season, and although the pecuniary income of the labouring classes should not at all be increased, yet they are found to weather the hardships of such a visitation. The food is still served out to them in a much larger proportion than the cost of it would, in the first instance, appear to indicate. And in the second instance they are enabled to . purchase at this cost; because, and more especially if they be a well-habited and a well-conditioned peasantry, with a pretty high standard of enjoyment in ordinary years, they have the more that they can save and retrench upon in a year of severe scarcity. They can disengage much of that revenue which before went to the purchase of dress, and of various luxuries that might, for a season, be dispensed with—and so have the more to expend on the materials of subsistence. It is this which explains how roughly a population can bear to be handled, both by adverse seasons and by the vicissitudes of trade—and how, after all, there is a stability about a people's means which will keep its ground against many shocks, and amidst many fluctuations. It is a mystery and a marvel to many an observer, how the seemingly frail and precarious interest of the labouring classes should, after all, have the stamina of such endurance, as to weather the most fearful reverses both of commerce and of the seasons; and that, somehow or other, you find, after an interval of gloomy suffering and still gloomier fears, that the families do emerge again into the
same state of sufficiency as before. We know not a fitter study for the philanthropist than the workings of that mechanism by which a process so gratifying is caused, or in which he will find greater reason to admire the exquisite skill of those various adaptions, that must be referred to the providence of Him who framed society, and suited so wisely to each other the elements whereof it is composed.
203.—THE VISION OF OLIVER CROMWELL.
COWLEY. [ABRAHAM COWLEY, who at one time was ranked amongst the greatest of our poets, is now read by few. He is a curious relic of that school of poetry which rejected simplicity as beneath the dignity of verse, and aimed at expressing the most extravagant thoughts in the most hyperbolical language. Wit and learning he undoubtedly had ; but in his poetry his learning becomes pedantry and his wit affectation. He was the son of a grocer in Fleet Street, and was born in 1618. The works of Spenser, which he says used to lie in his mother's parlour, were the delight of his boyhood, and made him an early poet. He was educated at Westminster School, and at Trinity College, Cambridge; and having adhered to the royal cause, left his country for ten years, At the Restoration he obtained a beneficial lease of crown lands at Chertsey, where he died in 1667. His prose writings, unlike his poetry, are elegant without exaggeration.]
I was interrupted by a strange and terrible apparition; for there appeared to me (arising out of the earth as I conceived) the figure of a man taller than a giant, or indeed than the shadow of any giant in the evening. His body was naked, but that nakedness adorned, or rather deformed, all over with several figures, after the manner of the ancient Britons, painted upon it; and I perceived that most of them were the representation of the late battles in our civil wars, and (if I be not much mistaken) it was the battle of Naseby that was drawn upon his breast. His eyes were like burning brass ; and there were three crowns of the same metal (as I guessed), and that looked as red-hot, too, upon his head. He held in his right hand a sword that was yet bloody, and nevertheless the motto of it was Pax quæritor bello; and in his left hand a thick book, on the back of which was written, in
letters of gold, Acts, Ordinances, Protestations, Covenants, Engagements, Declarations, Remonstrances, &c.
Though this sudden, unusual, and dreadful object might have quelled a greater courage than mine, yet so it pleased God (for there is nothing bolder than a man in a vision) that I was not at all daunted, but asked him resolutely and briefly • What art thou?' And he said, “I am called the north-west principality, his highness, the protector of the commonwealths of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the dominions belonging thereunto, for I am that angel to whom the Almighty has committed the government of those three kingdoms, which thou seest from this place.' And I answered and said, “If it be so, sir, it seems to me that for almost these twenty years past your highness has been absent from your charge : for not only if any angel, but if any wise and honest man had since that time been our governor, . we should not have wandered thus long in these laborious and endless labyrinths of confusion ; but either not have entered at all into them, or at least have returned back ere we had absolutely lost our way; but, instead of your highness, we have had since such a protector as was his predecessor Richard III. to the king, his nephew; for he presently slew the commonwealth, which he pretended to protect, and set up himself in the place of it; a little less guilty, indeed, in one respect, because the other slew an innocent, and this man did but murder a murderer. Such a protector we have had as we would have been glad to have changed for an enemy, and rather received a constant Turk than this every month's apostate ; such a protector as man is to his flocks which he shears, and sells, or devours himself; and I would fain know what the wolf, which he protects him from, could do more? Sach a protector'-and, as I was proceeding, methought his highness seemed to put on a displeased and threatening countenance, as men use to do when their dearest friends happen to be traduced in their company; which gave me the first rise of jealousy against him; for I did not believe that Cromwell, among all his foreign correspondence, had ever held any with angels. However, I was not hardened enough yet to venture a quarrel with him then; and therefore (as if I had spoken to the protector himself in Whitehall) I desired him, that his highness would please to pardon me, if I had unwittingly spoken any thing to the disparagement of a person whose relations to bis highness I had not the honour to know.' At which he told me, that he had
no other concernment for his late highness, than as he took him to be the greatest man that ever was of the English nation, if not (said he) of the whole world ; which gives me a just title to the defence of his reputation, since I now account myself, as it were, a naturalized English angel, by having had so long the management of the affairs of that country. And pray, countryman,' said he, very kindly, and very flatteringly, for I would not have you fall into the general error of the world, that detests and decries so extraordinary a virtue; what can be more extraordinary than that a person of mean birth, no fortune, no eminent qualities of body, which have sometimes, nor of mind, which have often, raised men to the highest dignities, should have the courage to attempt, and the happiness to succeed in, so improbable a design, as the destruction of one of the most ancient and most solidly founded monarchies upon the earth ? that he should have the power or boldness to put his prince and master to an open and infamous death; to banish that numerous and strongly allied family; to do all this under the name and wages of a parliament; to trample upon them, too, as he pleased, and spurn them out of doors when he grew weary of them; to raise up a new and unheard-of monster out of their ashes; to stifle that in its very infancy, and set up himself above all things that ever were called sovereign in England; to oppress all his enemies by arms, and all his friends afterwards by artifice; to serve all parties patiently for awhile, and to command them victoriously at last; to overrun each corner of the three nations, and to overcome with equal facility both the riches of the south and the poverty of the north; to be feared and courted by all foreign princes, and adopted a brother to the gods of the earth; to call together parliaments with a word of his pen, and scatter them again with the breath of his mouth; to be humbly and daily petitioned, that he would please to be hired, at the rate of two millions a-year, to be the master of those who had hired him before to be their servant; to have the estates and lives of three kingdoms as much at his disposal, as was the little inheritance of his father, and to be as noble and liberal in the spending of them; and lastly (for there is no end of all the particulars of his glory), to bequeath all this with one word to his posterity; to die with peace at home and triumph abroad, to be buried among kings, and with more than regal solemnity; and to leave a name behind him not to be extinguished but with the whole world; which, as it is now too little for
his praises, so might have been, too, for his conquests, if the short line of his human life could have been stretched out to the extent of his immortal designs ?
DONNE. [COWLEY was called by Dr. Johnson the last and the best of the metaphysical poets. He enumerates Donne amongst them, and quotes some of his “quaint conceits." There is no writer in our language who is such a master of the subtleties of thought as he whose“ Holy Sonnets” we now extract. But at the same time there are few authors who excel him in strength and fervour. The life of John Donne has been written by Izaak Walton. He entered the church late in life, and died Dean of Saint Paul's, in his fifty-fourth year, being born in 1573.]