Page images

ingly. The well-fed priest moved but a few steps from the church-door; his voice could scarcely be heard at the grave; and never did I hear the funeral service, that sublime and touching ceremony, turned into such a frigid mummery of words.

9. I approached the grave. The coffin was placed on the ground. On it were inscribed the name and age of the deceased :“George Somers, aged twenty-six years." The poor mother had been assisted to kneel down at the head of it. Her withered hands were clasped, as if in prayer; but I could perceive by a feeble rocking of the body, and a convulsive motion of the lips, that she was gazing on the last relics of her son, with the yearnings of a mother's heart.

10. Preparations were made to deposit the coffin in the earth There was that bustling stir which breaks so harshly on the feelings of grief and affection; directions given in the cold tones of business ; the striking of spades into sand and gravel,—which, at the grave of those we love, is, of all sounds, the most withering: The bustle around seemed to waken the mother from a wretched reverie. She raised her glazed eyes, and looked about with a faint wildness.

11. As the men approached with cords to lower the coffin into the grave, she wrung her hands, and broke into an agony of grief. The poor woman who attended her took her by the arm, endeavoring to raise her from the earth and to whisper something like consolation. “Nay, now,-nay, now,—don't take it so sorely to heart.” She could only shake her head and wring her hands as one not to be comforted.

12. As they lowered the body into the earth, the creaking of the cords seemed to agonize her; but when, on some accidental obstruction, there seemed a jostling of the coffin, all the tenderness of the mother burst forth,--as if any harm could come to him who was far beyond the reach of worldly suffering.

13. I could see no more: my heart swelled into my throat; my eyes filled with tears; I felt as if I were acting a barbarous part in standing by and gazing idly on this scene of maternal anguish. I wandered to another part of the churchyard, where I remained until the funeral train had dispersed.




1. WHEN I saw the mother slowly and painfully quitting the grave, leaving behind her the remains of all that was dear to her on earth, and returning to silence and destitution, my heart ached for her. “What,” thought I, “are the distresses of the rich? they have friends to soothe, pleasures to beguile, a world to divert and dissipate their griefs. What are the sorrows of the young? Their growing minds soon close above the wound; their elastic spirits soon rise beneath the pressure; their green and ductile affections soon twine around new objects.

2. “But the sorrows of the poor, who have no outward appliances to soothe; the sorrows of the aged, with whom life at best is but a wintry day, and who can look for no after-growth of joy; the sorrows of a widow, aged, solitary, destitute, mourning over an only son, the last solace of her years: these are, indeed, sorrows which make us feel the impotency of consolation."

3. It was some time before I left the churchyard. On my way

homeward I met with the woman who had acted as comforter: she was just returning from accompanying the mother to her lonely habitation, and I drew from her some particulars connected with the affecting scene I had witnessed.

4. The parents of the deceased had resided in the village from childhood. They had inhabited one of the neatest cottages, and, by various rural occupations, and the assistance of a small garden, had supported themselves creditably and comfortably, and led a happy and a blameless life. They had one son, who had grown up to be the staff and pride of their age.

5. “Oh, sir,” said the good woman, “he was such a comely lad, so sweet-tempered, so kind to every one around him, so dutiful to his parents ! It did one's heart good to see him of a Sunday, dressed out in his best, so tall, so straight, so cheery, supporting his old mother to church, for she was always fonder of leaning on George's arm than on her goodman's; and, poor soul, she might well be proud of him, for a finer lad there was not in the country round.”

6. Unfortunately, the son was tempted, during a year of scarcity and agricultural hardship, to enter into the service of one of the small craft that plied on a neighboring river. He had not been long in this employ when he was entrapped by a press-gang and carried off to sea. His parents received tidings of his seizure, but beyond that they could learn nothing.

7. It was the loss of their main prop. The father, who was already infirm, grew heartless and melancholy, and sunk into his grave. The widow, left lonely in her age and feebleness, could no longer support herself, and came upon the parish. Still

, there was a kind feeling toward her throughout the village, and a certain respect, as being one of the oldest inhabitants.

8. As no one applied for the cottage in which she had passed 80 many happy days, she was permitted to remain in it, where she lived solitary and almost helpless. The few wants of nature were chiefly supplied from the scanty productions of her little garden, which the neighbors would now and then cultivate for her. It was but a few days before the time at which these circumstances were told me, that she was gathering some vegetables for her repast, when she heard the cottage-door which faced the garden suddenly opened.

9. A stranger came out, and seemed to be looking eagerly and wildly around. He was dressed in seamen's clothes, was emaciated and ghastly pale, and bore the air of one broken by sickness and hardships. He saw her and hastened toward her; but his steps were faint and faltering: he sank on his knees before her, and sobbed like a child.

10. The poor woman gazed upon him with a vacant and wandering eye. “Oh, my dear, dear mother! don't you know your son? your poor boy George?” It was, indeed, the wreck of her once noble lad, --who, shattered by wounds, by sickness and foreign imprisonment, had at length dragged his wasted limbs homeward, to repose among the scenes of his childhood.

11. I will not attempt to detail the particulars of such a meeting, where joy and sorrow were so completely blended: still he was alive! he was come home! he might yet live to comfort and cherish her old age! Nature, however, was exhausted in him; and, if any thing had been wanting to finish the work of fate, the desolation of his native cottage would have been suficient.

12. He stretched himself on the pallet on which his widowed mother had passed many a sleepless night, and he never rose again. The villagers, when they heard that George Somers had returned, crowded to see him, offering every comfort and assistance that their humble means afforded. He was too weak, however, to talk; he could only look his thanks.

13. His mother was his constant attendant; and he seemed to be unwilling to be helped by any other hand. There is something in sickness that breaks down the pride of manhood, that softens the heart and brings it back to the feel.

Ings of infancy. Who that has languished, even in advanced life, in sickness and despondency,—who that has pined on a weary bed in the neglect and loneliness of a foreign land, - but has thought on the mother that looked on his childhood," that smoothed his pillow and administered to his helplessness?

14. Oh, there is an enduring tenderness in the love of a mother to her son that transcends all other affections of the heart. It is neither to be chilled by selfishness, nor daunted by danger, nor weakened by worthlessness, nor stified by ingratitude. She will sacrifice every comfort to his convenience; she will surrender every pleasure to his enjoyment; she will glory in his fame and exult in his prosperity: and, if misfortune overtake him, he will be the dearer to her from misfortune; and, if disgrace settle upon his name, she will still love and cherish him in spite of his disgrace; and, if all the world beside cast him off, she will be all the world to him.

15. Poor George Somers had known what it was to be in sickness and none to soothe, lonely and in prison and none to visit him. He could not endure his mother from his sight; if she moved away,


would follow her. She would sit for hours by his bed watching him while he slept. Sometimes he would start from a feverish dream, and look anxiously up until he saw her bending over him, when he would take her hand, lay it on his bosom, and fall asleep with the tranquility of a child. In this way

he died. 16. My first impulse on hearing this humble tale of affliction was to visit the cottage of the mourner, and administer pecuniary assistance, and, if possible, comfort. I found, however, on inquiry, that the good feelings of the villagers had prompted them to do every thing that the case admitted; and, as the poor know best how to console each others' sorrows, I did not venture to intrude. The next Sunday I was at the village church; when, to my surprise, I saw the poor old woman tottering down the aisle to her accustomed seat on the steps of the altar.

17. She had made an effort to put on something like mourning for her son; and nothing could be more touching than this struggle between pious affection and utter poverty, riband or so, a faded black handkerchief, and one or two more such humble attempts to express by outward signs that grief which passes show.

18. When I looked round upon the storied monuments, the stately hatchments, the cold marble pomp, with which grandeur mourned magnificently over departed pride, and turned to this poor widow bowed down by age and sorrow at the altar of her God, and offering up the prayers and praises of a pious though

La black a broken heart, I felt that this living monument of real grief was worth them all.

19. I related her story to some of the wealthy members of the congregation, and they were moved by it. They exerted themselves to render her situation more comfortable, and to lighten her afflictions. It was, however, but smoothing a few steps to the grave. In the course of a Sunday or two after, she was missed from her usual seat at church; and, before I left the neighborhood, I heard, with a feeling of satisfaction, that she had quietly breathed her last, and had gone to rejoin those she loved, in that world where sorrow is never known and friends are never parted.




THOMAS WOLSEY was born, of poor but respectable parents, at Ipswich, England, in 1471. He was educated at Oxford, where he taught school for some time after his collegiate studies were completed. Being introduced to Henry VIII., he soon became a great favorite with him, and was advanced from one post of honor to another, until he reached the highest office in the gift of the king. His power was now uncontrolled, and his income enormous; but, having offended the king, he was soon deprived of his honors and his wealth. He died in 1530, not without strong suspicions of having poisoned himself in consequence of his disgrace.

THOMAS CROMWELL, born about 1490, was the son of a blacksmith. He became the confidential servant of Cardinal Wolsey; and, when his master was impeached, he defended him with great spirit in the House of Commons, of which he was then a member. After Cardinal Wolsey's death, he was taken into the service of Henry VIII., and rose by degrees, till, in 1539, he was made Earl of Essex and Lord-Chamberlain. He at length fell into disgrace, and was beheaded in 1540.

WOLSEY, (alone.)
FAREWELL, a long farewell, to all my greatness!
This is the state of man; to-day he puts forth
The tender leaves of hope, to-morrow blossoms,
And bears his blushing honore thick upon
The third day comes a frost, a killing frost,
And—when he thinks, good, easy man, full surely
His greatness is a-ripening-nips his root,
And then he falls, as I do. I have ventured,
Like little wanton boys that swim on bladders


« PreviousContinue »