+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

English manufacturing towns, to see what
fairly-patterned verse may have been woven
there. Or in a green lane we may open such a
book as good Mr. Barnes has published in the
Dorsetshire dialect, to show how ingeniously
music may be got out of a corrupt local English
phraseology. Or we may cross the Channel
to hear Jasmin, the Provençal hairdresser,
recite; or to see Reboul, the Nismes baker,
bring out an ode hot from his oven.—But
our business will be more with deeds than
with words, more with genuine thoughts and
impulses in action, than with second-hand
fancies, faded as the coarse artificial flowers
of a milliner's shop in Leicester Square, when
the season is over, which no passer-by, 'gentle
or simple,' can think of taking home.

We may have to do, moreover, with the
poetry of association as conveyed in those
festivals of joy or of sorrow which mark the
progress of life and the peculiarity of manners.
The nasal, droning burial psalm that may still
be heard in remote places of England, winding
up a hollow lane or across the corner of a
moor,—as some little congregation of friends
or neighbours bears a dead body home,—the
twilight vesper service (intrinsically tuneless
and unmusical) of the Sisters of Charity, who
come back to their Beguinage after a long day
of hard work, hard prayers, hard consolation,
and hard gossip among the poor;—do these
things say nothing to us? Is nothing told us
by the cry of sailors as they warp the ship
into dock at the close of a wild and wintry
voyage? by the serenade-music with which
the impulsive people of a German town
welcome some favourite poet or artist?—Are
these not all, more or less, poems conveying
to us something of feeling, and life, and
youth, be we ever so soured, ever so seared
by perpetual contact with coarser and harsher
contemplations and employments? May we
not call up such pictures,— may we not soothe
ourselves with such harmonies,— may we not
lay them to our souls as evidences? We
must not use them by way of unction flattering
us into the sentimental Waiting Gentlewoman's
notion that crime is to disappear
like a scene in a pantomime, and thieves all
of a sudden to grow as orderly as beadles;
but we may apply them as alteratives when we
are in danger of being wearied into doggedness,
by the man who enacts fits at the street
corneror by the begging-letter Impostor
who wrings crowns out of kind-hearted and
economical souls, who must for their
credulity's sake forego their holidayor by the
Pole with his anti-Russian pamphlet, who
makes his way in, to abase himself by fawning
and genteel mendicity, under pretext of
being a friend's friendor by the sight of such
a pillar of stone as the woman who went into
the confectioner's shop to buy gingerbread,
'because they were going to see our Sally
hanged, and should be hungry!'

Yes: if sights and provocations and
discouragements like theseof the earth, earthy
force themselves into our highways, all the
more need is it that all celestial appearances
and sounds in our bye-ways, be they ever so few,
faint, and far, should be collected, and set down.
Be they ever so rich, they will not be rich
enough to justify an over-complacent or supine
spiritstill less to tempt the healthily-minded
to confound dross with pure gold: be they ever
so meagre, they ought to keep alive in us the
faith, that no portion of the earth is so barren,
that Truth or Beauty, and Love, and Patience,
and Honour, cannot grow therein.




WE must pass over the painful and dreadful
particulars of that night, and of a long time to
come; the maniacal rage of the father, the
shattered heart and feelings of the mother,
the dreadful state of the two remaining
children, to whom their brother was one of
the most precious objects in a world which,
like theirs, contained so few. One moment to
have seen him full of life, and fun, and bravado,
and almost the next a lifeless and battered
corpse, was something too strange and terrible
to be soon surmounted. But this was wofully
aggravated by the cruel anger of their father,
who continued to regard them as guilty of
the death of his favourite boy. He seemed
to take no pleasure in them. He never spoke
to them but to scold them. He drank more
deeply than ever, and came home later; and
when there, was sullen and morose. When
their mother, who suffered severely, but still
plodded on with all her duties, said, 'David,
they are thy children too:' he would reply
savagely, 'Hod thy tongue! What's a pack
o' wenches to my lad?'

What tended to render the miner more
hard towards the two girls was a circumstance
which would have awakened a better feeling
in a softer father's heart. Nancy, the
younger girl, since the dreadful catastrophe,
had seemed to grow gradually dull and
defective in her intellect, she had a slow and
somewhat idiotic air and manner. Her
mother perceived it, and was struck with
consternation by it. She tried to rouse her, but
in vain. She could not perform her ordinary
reading and spelling lessons. She seemed to
have forgotten what was already learned.
She appeared to have a difficulty in moving
her legs, and carried her hands as if she had
suffered a partial paralysis. Jane, her sister,
was dreadfully distressed at it, and she and
her mother wept many bitter tears over her.
One day, in the following spring, they took
her with them to Ashford, and consulted the
doctor there. On examining her, and hearing
fully what had taken place at the time of the
brother's deaththe fact of which he well
knew, for it, of course, was known to the