From: William Godwin (1784). Imogen: A Pastorial Romance
From the Ancient British.
BOOK THE FIRST
CHARACTER OF THE SHEPHERDESS AND HER LOVER.
-FEAST OF RUTHYN.-SONGS OF THE BARDS.
LISTEN, O man! to the voice of wisdom. The world thou inhabitest was not intended for a theatre of fruition, nor destined for a scene of repose. False and treacherous is that happiness, which has been preceded by no trial, and is connected with no desert. It is like the gilded poison that undermines the human frame. It is like the hoarse murmur of the winds that announces the brewing tempest. Virtue, for such is the decree of the Most High, is evermore obliged to pass through the ordeal of temptation, and the thorny paths of adversity. If, in this day of her trial, no foul blot obscure her luster, no irresolution and instability tarnish the clearness of her spirit, then may she rejoice in the view of her approaching reward, and receive with an open heart the crown that shall be bestowed upon her.
The extensive valley of Clwyd once boasted a considerable number of inhabitants, distinguished for primeval innocence and pastoral simplicity. Nature seemed to have prepared it for their reception with all that luxuriant bounty, which characterizes her most favored spots. The enclosure by which it was bounded, of ragged rocks and snow-topped mountains, served but for a foil to the richness and fertility of this happy plain. It was seated in the bosom of North Wales, the whole face of which, with this one exception, was rugged and hilly. As far as the eye could reach, you might see promontory rise above promontory. The crags of Penmaenmawr were visible to the northwest, and the unequalled steep of Snowden terminated the prospect to the south. In its farthest extent the valley reached almost to the sea, and it was intersected, from one end to the other, by the beautiful and translucent waters of the river from which it receives its name.
In this valley all was rectitude and guileless truth. The hoarse din of war had never reached its happy bosom; its river had never been impurpled with the stain of human blood. Its willows had not wept over the crimes of its inhabitants, nor had the iron hand of tyranny taught care and apprehension to seat themselves upon the brow of its shepherds. They were strangers to riches, and to ambition, for they all lived in a happy equality. He v. as the richest man among them, that could boast of the greatest store of yellow apples and mellow pears. And their only objects of rivalship were the skill of the pipe and the favor of beauty. From morn to eve they tended their fleecy possessions. Their reward was the blazing hearth, the nut-brown beer, and the merry tale. But as they sought only the enjoyment of a humble station, and the pleasures of society, their labors were often relaxed. Often did the setting sun see the young men and the maidens of contiguous villages, assembled round the venerable oak, or the wide-spreading beech. The bells rung in the upland hamlets; the rebecs sounded with rude harmony they danced with twinkling feet upon the level green or listened to the voice of the song, which was now gay and exhilarating, and now soothed them into pleasing melancholy.
Of all the sons of the plain, the bravest, and the most comely, was Edwin. His forehead was open and ingenuous, his hair was auburn, and flowed about his shoulders in wavy ringlets. His person was not less athletic than it was beautiful. With a firm hand he grasped the boar-spear, and in pursuit he outstripped the flying fawn. His voice was strong and melodious, and whether upon the pipe or in the song, there was no shepherd daring enough to enter the lists with Edwin. But though he excelled all his competitors, in strength of body, and the accomplishments of skill, yet was not his mind rough and boisterous. Success had not taught him a despotic and untractable temper, applause had not made him insolent and vain. He was gentle as the dove. He listened with eager docility to the voice of hoary wisdom. He had always a tear ready to drop over the simple narrative of pastoral distress. Victor as he continually was in wrestling, in the race, and in the song, the shout of triumph never escaped his lips, the exultation of insult he was never heard to utter. On the contrary, with mild and un-fictitious friendship, he soothed the breast of disappointment, and cheered the spirits of his adversary with honest praise.
But Edwin was not more distinguished among his brother shepherds, than was Imogen among the fair. Her skin was clear and pellucid. The fall of her shoulders was graceful beyond expression. Her eye-brows were arched, and from her eyes shot forth the grateful rays of the rising sun. Her waist was slender; and as she ran, she outstripped the winds, and her footsteps were printless on the tender herb. Her mind, though soft, was firm; and though yielding as wax to the precepts of wisdom, and the persuasion of innocence, it was resolute and inflexible to the blandishments of folly, and the sternness of despotism. Her ruling passion was the love of virtue. Chastity was the first feature in her character. It gave substance to her accents, and dignity to her gestures. Conscious innocence ennobled all her reflections, and gave to her sentiments and manner of thinking, I know not what of celestial and divine.
Edwin and Imogen had been united in the sports of earliest infancy. They had been mutual witnesses to the opening blossoms of understanding and benevolence in each others breasts. While yet a boy, Edwin had often rescued his mistress from the rude vivacity of his playmates, and had bestowed upon her many of those little distinctions which were calculated to excite the flame of envy among the infant daughters of the plain. For her he gathered the vermeil-tinctured pearmain, and the walnut with an unsavory rind; for her he hoarded the brown filberd, and the much prized earth-nut. When she was near, the quoit flew from his arm with a stronger whirl, and his steps approached more swiftly to the destined goal. With her he delighted to retire from the heat of the sun to the center of the glade, and to sooth her ear with the gaiety of innocence, long before he taught her to hearken to the language of love. For her sake he listened with greater eagerness to the mirthful relation, to the moral fiction, and to the song of the bards. His store of little narratives was in a manner inexhaustible. With them he beguiled the hour of retirement, and with them he hastened the sun to sink behind the western hill
But as he grew to manly stature, and the down of years had begun to clothe his blushing cheek, he felt a new sensation in his breast hitherto un-experienced. He could not now behold his favorite companion without emotion; his eye sparkled when he approached her; he watched her gestures; he hung upon her accents; he was interested in all her motions. Sometimes he would catch the eye of prudent age or of sharp-sighted rivalry observing him, and he instantly became embarrassed and confused, and blushed he knew not why. He repaired to the neighboring wake, in order to exchange his young lambs and his hoard of cheeses. Imogen was not there, and in the midst of traffic, and in the midst of frolic merriment he was conscious to a vacancy and a listlessness for which he could not account. When he tended his flocks, and played upon his slender pipe, he would sink in reverie, and form to himself a thousand schemes of imaginary happiness. Erewhile they had been vague and general. His spirit was too gentle for him not to represent to himself a fancied associate; his heart was not narrow enough to know so much as the meaning of a solitary happiness. But Imogen now formed the principal figure in these waking dreams. It was Imogen with whom he wandered beside the brawling rill. It was Imogen with whom he sat beneath the straw-built shed, and listened to the pealing rain, and the hollow roaring of the northern blast. If a moment of forlornness and despair fell to his lot, he wandered upon the heath without his Imogen, and he climbed the upright precipice without her harmonious voice to cheer and to animate him. In a word, passion had taken up her abode in his guileless heart before he was aware of her approach. Imogen was fair; and the eye of Edwin was enchanted. Imogen was gentle; and Edwin loved.
Simple as was the character of the inhabitants of this happy valley, it is not to be supposed that Edwin found many obstacles to the enjoyment of the society of his mistress. Though strait as the pine, and beautiful as the gold-skirted clouds of a summer morning, the parents of Imogen had not learned to make a traffic of the future happiness of their care. They sought not to decide who should be the fortunate shepherd that should carry her from the sons of the plain. They left the choice to her penetrating wit, and her tried discretion. They erected no rampart to defend her chastity; they planted no spies to watch over her reputation. They entrusted her honor to her own keeping. They were convinced, that the spotless dictates of conscious innocence, and that divinity that dwells in virtue and awes the shaggy satyr into mute admiration, were her sufficient defense. They left to her the direction of her conduct. The shepherdess, unsuspicious by nature, and Untaught to view mankind with a wary and a jealous eye, was a stranger to severity and caprice. She was all gentleness and humanity. The sweetness of her temper led her to regard with an eye of candor, and her benevolence to gratify all the innocent wishes, of those about her. The character of a woman undistinguishing 'in her favors, and whose darling employment is to increase the number of her adrnirers, is in the highest degree unnatural. Such was not the character of Imogen. She was artless and sincere. Her tongue evermore expressed the sentiments of her heart. She drew the attention of no swain from a rival; she employed no stratagems to inveigle the affections; she mocked not the respect of the simple shepherd with delusive encouragement. No man charged her with broken vows; no man could justly accuse her of being cruel and unkind.
It may therefore readily be supposed, that the subject of love rather glided into the conversation of Edwin and Imogen, than was regularly and designedly introduced. They were unknowing in the art of disguising their feelings. When the tale spoke of peril and bravery, the eyes of Edwin sparkled with congenial sentiments, and he was evermore ready to start from the grassy hilloc upon which they sat. When the little narrative told of the lovers pangs, and the tragic catastrophe of two gentle hearts whom nature seemed to have formed for mildness and tranquility, Imogen was melted into the softest distress. The breast of her Edwin would heave with a sympathetic sigh, and he would even sometimes venture, from mingled pity and approbation, to kiss away the tear that imperiled her cheek. Intrepid and adventurous with the hero, he began also to take a new interest in the misfortunes of love. He could not describe the passionate complaints, the ingenuous tenderness of another, without insensibly making the case his own. "I lad the lover known my Imogen, he would no longer have sighed for one, who could not have been so fair, so gentle, and so lovely." Such were the thoughts of Edwin; and till now Edwin had always expressed his thoughts. But now the words fell half-formed from his trembling lips, and the sounds died away before they were uttered. "Were I to speak, Imogen, who has always beheld me with an aspect of benignity, might be offended. I should say no more than the truth; but Imogen is modest. She does not suspect that she possesses half the superiority over such as are called fair, which I see in her. And who could bear to incur the resentment of Imogen? Who would irritate a temper so amiable and mild? I should say no more than the truth; but Imogen would think it flattery. Let Edwin be charged with all other follies, but let that vice never find a harbor in his bosom; let the imputation of that detested crime never blot his untarnished name."
Edwin had received from nature the gift of an honest and artless eloquence. His words were like the snow that falls beneath the beams of the sun; they melted as they fell. Had it been his business to have pleaded the cause of injured innocence or unmerited distress, his generous sympathy and his manly persuasion must have won all hearts. Had he solicited the pursuit of rectitude and happiness, his ingenuous importunity could not have failed of success. But where the mind is too deeply interested, there it is that the faculties are most treacherous. Ardent were the sighs of Edwin, but his voice refused its assistance, and his tongue faltered under the attempts that he made. Fluent and voluble upon all other subjects, upon this he hesitated. For the first time he was dissatisfied with the expressions that nature dictated. For the first time he dreaded to utter the honest wishes of his heart, apprehensive that he might do violence to the native delicacy of Imogen.
But he needed not have feared. Imogen was not blind to those perfections which every mouth conspired to praise. Her heart was not cold and unimpassioned; she could not see these perfections, united with youth and personal beauty, Without being attracted. The accents of Edwin were music to her ear. The tale that Edwin told, interested her twice as much as what she heard from vulgar lips. To wander with Edwin along the flowery mead, to sit with Edwin in the cool alcove had charms for her for which she knew not how to account, and which she was at first unwilling to acknowledge to her own heart. When she heard of the feats of the generous lover, his gallantry in the rural sports, and his reverence for the fair, it was under the amiable figure of Edwin that he came painted to her treacherous imagination She was a stranger to artifice and disguise, and the renown of Edwin was to her the feast of the soul, and with visible satisfaction she dwelt upon his praise. Even in sleep her dreams were of the deserving shepherd. The delusive pleasures that follow in the train of dark-browed night, all told of Edwin. The unreal mockery of that capricious being, who cheats us with scenes of fictitious wretchedness' was full of the unmerited calamities, the heartbreaking woe, or the untimely death of Edwin. From Edwin therefore the language of love would have created no disgust. Imogen was not heedless and indiscreet; she would not have sacrificed the dignity of innocence. Imogen was not coy; she would not have treated her admirer with affected disdain. She had no guard but virgin modesty and that conscious worth, that would be wooed, and not unsought be won.
Such was the yet immature attachment of our two lovers, when an anniversary of religious mirth summoned them, together with their neighbor shepherds of the adjacent hamlet, to the spot which had long been consecrated to rural sports and guiltless festivity, near the village of Ruthyn. The sun shone with unusual splendour; the Druidical temples, composed of immense and shapeless stones, heaped upon each other by a power stupendous and incomprehensible, reflected back his radiant beams. The glade, the place of destination to the frolic shepherds, was shrouded beneath two venerable groves that encircled it on either side. The eye could not pierce beyond them, and the imagination was in a manner embosomed in the vale. There were the quivering alder, the upright fir, and the venerable oak crowned with sacred mistletoe. They grew upon a natural declivity that descended every way towards the plain. The deep green of the larger trees was fringed towards the bottom with the pleasing paleness of the willow. From one of the groves a little rivulet glided across the plain, and was intersected on one side by a stream that flowed into it from a point equally distant from either extremity of its course. Both these streams were bordered with willows. In a word, upon the face of this beautiful spot all appeared tranquility and peace. It was without a path, and you would imagine that no human footsteps had ever invaded the calmness of its solitude. It was the eternal retreat of the venerable anchorite; it was the uninhabited paradise in the midst of the trackless ocean.
Such was the spot where the shepherds and shepherdesses of a hundred cots were now assembled. In the larger compartments of the vale, the more muscular and vigorous swains pursued the flying ball, or contended in the swift-footed race. The bards, venerable for their age and the snowy whiteness of their hair, sat upon a little eminence as umpires of the sports. In the smaller compartments, the swains, mingled with the fair, danced along the level green, or flew, with a velocity that beguiled the eager sight, beneath the extended arms of their fellows. Here a few shepherds, apart from the rest, flung the ponderous quoit that sung along the air There two youths, stronger and more athletic than the throng, grasped each others arms with an eager hand, and struggled for the victory. Now with manly vigor the one shook the sinewy frame of the other; now they bended together almost to the earth, and now with double force they reared again their gigantic stature. At one time they held each other at the greatest possible distance; and again, their arms, their legs and their whole bodies entwined, they seemed as if they had grown together. When the weaker or less skilful was overthrown, he tumbled like a vast and mountain oak, that for ages had resisted the tumult of the winds; and the whole plain resounded at his fall. Such as were unengaged formed a circle round the wrestlers, and by their shouts and applause animated by turns the flagging courage of either.
And now the sun had gained his meridian height, and, fatigued with labor and heat, they seated themselves upon the grass to partake of their plain and rural feast. The parched wheat was set out in baskets, and the new cheeses were heaped together. The blushing apple, the golden pear, the shining plum, and the rough-coated chestnut were scattered in attractive confusion. Here were the polished cherry and the downy peach; and here the eager gooseberry, and the rich and plenteous clusters of the purple grape. The neighboring fountain afforded them a cool and sparkling beverage, and the lowing herds supplied the copious bowl with white and foaming draughts of milk. The meaner bards accompanied the artless luxury of the feast with the symphony of their harps.
The repast being finished, the company now engaged in those less active sports, that exercise the subtlety of the wit, more than the agility or strength of the body. Their untutored minds delighted themselves in the sly enigma, and the quaint conundrum. Much was their laughter at the wild guesses of the thoughtless and the giddy; and great the triumph of the swain who penetrated the mystery, and successfully removed the abstruseness of the problem. Many were the feats of skill exhibited by the dexterous shepherd, and infinite were the wonder and admiration of the gazing spectators. The whole scene indeed was calculated to display the triumph of stratagem and invention. A thousand deceits were practiced upon the simple and unsuspecting, and while he looked round to discover the object of the general mirth, it was increased into bursts of merriment, and convulsive gaiety. At length they rose from the verdant green, and chased each other in mock pursuit. Many flew towards the adjoining grove; the pursued concealed himself behind the dark and impervious thicket, or the broad trunk of the oak, while the pursuers ran this way and that, and cast their wary eyes on every side. Carefully they explored the bushes, and surveyed each clump of tufted trees. And now the neighboring echoes repeated the universal shout, and proclaimed to the plain below, that the object of their search was found. Fatigue however, in spite of the gaiety of spirit with which their sports were pursued, began to assert his empire, and they longed for that tranquility and repose which were destined to succeed.
At this instant the united sound of the lofty harp, the melodious rebec, and the cheerful pipe, summoned them once again to the plain. From every side they hastened to the lawn, and surrounded, with ardent eyes, and panting expectation, the honoured troop of the bards, crowned with laurel and sacred mistletoe. And now they seated themselves upon the tender herb; and now all was stillness and Solemn silence. Not one whisper floated on the breeze; not a murmur was heard. The tumultuous winds were hushed, and all was placid composure, save where the gentle zephyr fanned the leaves. The tinkling rill babbled at their feet; the feathered choristers warbled in the grove; and the deep longings of the distant herds died away upon the ear. The solemn prelude began from a full concert of the various instruments. It awakened attention in the thoughtless, and composed the frolic and the gay into unbroken heedfulness. The air was oppressed with symphonious sounds, and the ear filled with a tumult of harmony.
On a sudden the chorus ceased: Those instruments which had united their force to fill the echoes of every grove, and of every hill, were silent. And now a bard, of youthful appearance, but who was treated with every mark of honor and distinction, and seated on the left hand of the hoary Llewelyn, the prince of song, struck the lyre with a lofty and daring hand. His eye sparkled with poetic rapture, and his countenance beamed with the sublime smile of luxuriant fancy and heaven-born inspiration. Ile sung of the wanton shepherd, that followed, with ungenerous perseverance, the chaste and virgin daughter of Cadwallo. The Gods took pity upon her distress, the Gods sent down their swift and winged messenger to shield her virtue, and deliver her from the persecution of Modred. With strong and eager steps the ravisher pursued: timid apprehension, and un-violated honor, urged her rapid flight. But Modred was in the pride of youth; muscular and sinewy was the frame of Modred. Beauteous and snowy was the person of the fair: her form was delicate, and her limbs were tender. If heaven had not interposed, if the Gods had not been on her side, she must have fallen a victim to savage fury and brutal lust. But, in the crisis of her fate, she gradually sunk away before the astonished eyes of Modred. That beauteous frame was now no more, and she started from before him, swifter than the winds, a timid and listening hare. Still, still the hunter pursued; he suspended not the velocity of his course. The speed of Modred was like the roe upon the mountains; every moment he gained upon the daughter of Cadwallo. But now the object of his pursuit vanished from his sight, and eluded his eager search. In vain he explored every thicket, and surveyed all the paths of the forest. While he was thus employed, on a sudden there burst from a cave a hungry and savage wolf; it was the daughter of Cadwallo. Modred started with horror, and in his turn fled away swifter than the winds. The fierce and ravenous animal pursued; fire flashed from the eye, and rage and fury sat upon the crest. Mild and gentle was the daughter of Cadwallo; her heart relented; her soft and tender spirit belied the savage form. They approached the far famed Stream of Conway Modred cast behind him a timid and uncertain eye; the virgin passed along, no longer terrible, a fair and milk white hind. Modred inflamed with disappointment, reared his ponderous boar spear, and hurled it from his hand. Too well, ah, cruel and untutored swain! thou levelest thy aim. Her tender side is gored; her spotless and snowy coat is deformed with blood. Agitated with pain Superiors to fear, she plunges in the flood. When lo! a wonder; on the opposite shore she rises, radiant and unhurt, in her native form. Modred contemplates the prodigy with astonishment; his lust and his brutality inflame him more than ever Eagerly he gazes on her charms; in thought he devours her inexpressive beauties And now he can no longer restrain himself; with sudden start he leaps into the river The waves are wrought into a sudden tempest; they hurry him to and fro. He buffets them with lusty arms; he rides upon the billows. But vain is human strength; the unseen messenger of the Gods laughs at the impotent efforts of Modred. At length the waters gape with a frightful void; the bottom, strewed with shells, and overgrown with sea-weed, is disclosed to the sight. Modred, unhappy Modred, sinks to rise no more. His beauty is tarnished like the flower of the field; his blooming cheek, his crimson lip, is pale and colorless. Learn hence, ye swains, to fear the Gods, and to reverence the divinity of virtue. Modred never melted for another's woe; the tear of sympathy had not moistened his cheek. The heart of Modred was haughty, insolent and untractable; he turned a deaf ear to the supplication of the helpless, he listened not to the thunder of the Gods. Let the fate of Modred be remembered for a caution to the precipitate; let the children of the valley learn wisdom. Heaven never deserts the cause of virtue; chastity wherever she wanders (be it not done in pride or in presumption) is sacred and invulnerable.
Such was the song of the youthful bard. Every eye was fixed upon his visage while he struck the lyre; the multitude of the shepherds appeared to have no faculty but the ear. And now the murmur of applause began; and the wondering swains seemed to ask each other, whether the God of song were not descended among them. "Oh glorious youth," cried they, "how early is thy excellence! Ere manhood has given nerve and vigour to thy limbs, ere yet the flowing beard adorns thy gallant breast, nature has unlocked to thee her hidden treasures, the Gods have enriched thee with all the charms of poetry. Great art thou among the bards; illustrious in wisdom, where they all are wise. 'Should gracious heaven spare thy life, we will cease to weep the death of Hoel; we will lament no longer the growing infirmities of Llewelyn."
While they yet spoke, a bard, who sat upon the right hand of the prince, prepared to sweep the string. He was in the prime of manhood. His shining locks flowed in rich abundance upon his strong and graceful shoulders. His eye expressed more of flame than gaiety, more of enthusiasm than imagination. His brow, though manly, and, as it should seem, by nature erect, bore an appearance of solemn and contemplative. He had ever been distinguished by an attachment to solitude, and a love for those grand and tremendous objects of uncultivated nature with which his country abounded. His were the hanging precipice, and the foaming cataract. His ear drank in the voice of the tempest; he was rapt in attention to the roaring thunder. When the contention of the elements seemed to threaten the destruction of the universe, when Snowdon bowed to its deepest base, it was then that his mind was most filled with sublime meditation. His lofty soul soared above the little war of terrestrial objects, and rode expanded upon the wings of the winds. Yet was the bard full of gentleness and sensibility; no breast was more susceptible to the emotions of pity, no tongue was better skilled in the soft and passionate touches of the melting and pathetic. He possessed a key to unlock all the avenues of the heart
Such was the bard, and this was the subject of his song. He told of a dreadful famine, that laid waste the shores of the Menai. Heaven, not to punish the shepherds, for, alas, what had these innocent shepherds done? but in the mysterious wisdom of its ways, had denied the refreshing shower, and the soft-descending dew. From the top of Penmaenmaur, as far as the eye could reach, all was uniform and waste. The trees were leafless, not one flower adorned the ground, not one tuft of verdure appeared to relieve the weary eye. The brooks were dried up; their beds only remained to tell the melancholy tale, Here once was water; the tender lambs hastened to the accustomed brink, and lifted up their innocent eyes with anguish and disappointment. The meadows no longer afforded pasture of the cattle; the trees denied their fruits to man. In this hour of calamity the Druids came forth from their secret cells, and assembled upon the heights of Mona. This convention of the servants of the Gods, though intended to relieve the general distress, for a moment increased it. The shepherds anticipated the fatal decree; they knew that at times like this the blood of a human victim was accustomed to be shed upon the altars of heaven. Every swain trembled for himself or his friend; every parent feared to be bereaved of the staff of his age. And now the holy priest had cast the lots iI1 the mysterious urn; and the lot fell upon the generous Arthur. Arthur was beloved by all the shepherds that dwelt upon the margin of the main; the praise of Arthur sat upon the lips of all that knew him. But what served principally to enhance the distress, was the attachment there existed between him and the beauteous Evelina. Mild was the breast of Evelina, unused to encounter the harshness of opposition, or the chilly hand and forbidding countenance of adversity. From twenty shepherds she had chosen the gallant Arthur, to reward his pure and constant love. Long had they been decreed to make each other happy. No parent opposed himself to their virtuous desires; the blessing of heaven awaited them from the hand of the sacred Druid. But in the general calamity of their country they had no heart to rejoice; they could not insult over the misery of all around them. "Soon, oh soon," cried the impatient shepherd, "may the wrath of heaven be overpass! Extend, all-merciful divinity, thy benign influence to the shores of Arvon! Once more may the rustling of the shower refresh our longing ears! Once more may our eyes be gladdened with the pearly, orient dew! May the fields be clothed afresh in cheerful green! May the flowers enamel the verdant mead! May the brooks again brawl along their pebbly bed! And may man and beast rejoice together!" Ah, short-sighted, unapprehensive shepherd! thou dost not know the misfortune that is reserved for thyself; thou dost not know, that thou shalt not live to behold those smiling scenes which thy imagination forestallest; thou dost not see the dart of immature and relentless death that is suspended over thee. Think, O ye swains, what was the universal astonishment and pity, when the awful voice of the Druid proclaimed the decree of heaven! Terror sat upon every other countenance, tears started into every other eye; but the mien of Arthur was placid and serene. He came forward from the throng; his eyes glistened with the fire of patriotism. "Hear me, my countrymen," cried he, "for you
I am willing to die. What is my insignificant life, when weighed against the happiness of Arvon? Be grateful to the Gods, that, for so poor a boon, they are willing to spread wide the hand of bounty, and to exhaust upon your favored heads the horn of plenty." While he spoke he turned his head to the spot from which he had advanced, and beheld, a melting object, Evelina, pale and breathless, supported in the arms of the maidens. For a moment he forgot his elevated sentiments and his heroism, and flew to raise her. "Evelina, mistress of my heart, awake. Lift up shine eyes and bless thy Arthur. Be not too much subdued by my catastrophe. Live to comfort the gray hairs, and to succor the infirmities of your aged parent." While the breast of Arthur was animated with such sentiments, and dictated a conduct like this, the priests were employed in the mournful preparations. The altar was made ready; the lambent fire ascended from its surface; the air was perfumed with the smoke of the incense; the fillets were brought forth; and the sacred knife glittered in the hand of the chief of the Druids. The bards had strung their harps, and began the song of death. The sounds were lofty and animating, they were fitted to inspire gallantry and enterprise into the trembling coward; they were fitted to breathe a soul into the clay-cold corset The spirit of Arthur was roused; his eye gleamed with immortal fire. The aged oak, that strikes its root beneath the soil, so defies the blast, and so rears its head in the midst of the whirlwind. But oh, who can paint t he distress of Evelina? Now she dropped her head, like the tender lily whose stalk, by some vulgar and careless hand has been broken; and now she was wild and ungovernable, like the wild beast that has been robbed of its young. For an instant the venerable name of religion awed her into mute submission. But when the fatal moment approached, not the Gods, if the Gods had descended in all their radiant brightness, could have restrained her any longer. The air was rent with her piercing cries. She spoke not. Her eyes, in silence turned towards heaven, distilled a plenteous shower. At length, swifter than the winged hawk, she flew towards the~6pot, and seized the sacred and inviolable arm of the holy Druid, which was lifted up to strike the final blow. "Barbarous and inhuman priest," she cried, "cease your vile and impious mummery! No longer insult us with the name of Gods. If there be Gods, they are merciful; but thou art a savage and unrelenting monster. Or if some victim must expire, strike here, and I will thank thee. Strike, and my bosom shall heave to meet the welcome blow. Do any thing. But oh, spare me the killing, killing spectacle!" During this action the maidens approached and hurried her from the plain. "Go," cried Arthur, "and let not the heart of Evelina be sad. My Death has nothing in it that deserves to be deplored. It is glorious and enviable. It shall be remembered when this frame is crumbled into dust. The song of the bards shall preserve it to never dying fame." The inconsolable fair one had now been forced away. The intrepid shepherd bared his breast to the sacred knife. His nerves trembled not. His bosom panted not. And now behold the lovely youth, worthy to have lived through revolving years, sunk on the ground, and weltering in his blood. Yes, gallant Arthur, thou shalt possess that immortality which was the first wish of thy heart! My song shall embalm thy precious memory, thy generous, spotless fame! But, ah, it is not in the song of the bards to sooth the rooted sorrow of Evelina. Every morning serves only to renew it. Every night she bathes her couch in tears. Those objects, which carry pleasure to the sense of every other fair, serve only to renew thy unexhausted grief. The rustling shower, the pearly dew, the brawling brook, the cheerful green, the flower-enameled mead, all join to tell of the barbarous and untimely fate of Arthur. Smile no more, O ye meads; mock not the grief of Evelina. Let the trees again be leafless; let the rivers flow no longer in their empty beds. A scene like this suits best the settled temper of Evelina.
He ceased. And his pathetic strain had awakened the sympathy of the universal throng Every shepherd hung his mournful head, when the untimely fate of Arthur was related; every maiden dropped a generous tear over the sorrows of Evelina. They listened to the song, and forgot the poet. Their souls were rapt with alternate passions, and they perceived not the matchless skill by which they were excited. The lofty bard hurried them along with the rapidity of his conceptions, and left them no time for hesitahon, and left them no time for reflection. He ceased, and the melodious sounds still hung upon their ear, and they still sat in the posture of eager attention. At length they recollected themselves; and it was no longer the low and increasing murmur of applause: it was the exclamation of rapture; it was the unpremeditated shout of astonishment.
In the mean time, the reverend Llewelyn, upon whose sacred head ninety winters had scattered their snow, grasped the lyre, which had so often confessed the master's hand. Though far advanced in the vale of years, there was a strength and vigor in his age, of which the degeneracy of modern times can have little conception. The fire was not extinguished in his flaming eye; it had only attained that degree of chasteness and solemnity, which had in it by so much the more, all that is majestic, and all that is celestial. His looks held commerce with his native skies. No vulgar passion ever visited his heaven-born mind. No vulgar emotion ever deformed the godlike tranquility of his soul. He had but one passion; it was the love of harmony. He was conscious only to one emotion; it was reverence for the immortal Gods. He sat like the anchorite upon the summit of Snowdon. The tempests raise the foaming ocean into one scene of horror, but he beholds it unmoved. The rains descend, the thunder roars, and the lightnings play beneath his feet.
Llewelyn struck the lyre, and the innumerable crowd was noiseless and silent as the chambers of death. They did not now wait for the pleasing tale of a luxuriant imagination, or the pathetic and melting strain of the mourner. They composed their spirits into the serenity of devotion. They called together their innocent thoughts for the worship of heaven. By anticipation their bosoms swelled with gratitude, and their hearts dilated into praise.
The pious Llewelyn began his song from the rude and shapeless chaos. He magrlified the almighty word that spoke it into form. He sung of the loose and fenny soi1 which gradually acquired firmness and density. The immeasurable, eternal caverns of the ocean were scooped. The waters rushed along, and fell with resounding, foamy violence to the depth below. The sun shone forth from his chamber in the east, and the earth wondered at the object, and smiled beneath his beams. Sudden the whole face of it was adorned with a verdant, undulating robe. The purple violet and the yellow crocus bestrewed the ground. The stately oak reared its branchy head, and the trees and shrubs burst from the surface of the earth. Impregnated by power divine, the soil was prolific in other fruits than these. The clods appeared to be informed with a conscious spirit, and gradually assumed a thousand various forms. The animated earth seemed to paw the verdant mead, and to despise the mould from which it came. A disdainful horse, it shook its flowing mane, and smelled the enlivening breeze, and stretched along the plain. The red-eyed wolf and the unwieldy ox burst like the mole the concealing continent, and threw the earth in hillocs. The stag upreared his branching head. The thinly scattered animals wandered among the unfrequented hills, and cropped the unattested herb. Meantime the birds, with many colored plumage, skimmed along the un-ploughed air, and taught the silent woods and hills to echo with their song.
Creatures, hymn the praises of your creator! Thou sun, prolific parent of a thousand various productions, by whose genial heat they are nurtured, and whose radiant beams give cheerfulness and beauty to the face of nature, first of all the existences of this material universe acknowledge him thy superior, and while thou dispenses" a thousand benefits to the inferior creation, ascribe shine excellencies solely to the great source of beauty and perfection! And when the sun has ceased his wondrous course, do thou, O moon, in milder luster show to people of a thousand names the honors of thy maker! Thou loud and wintry north wind, in majestic and tremendous tone declare his lofty praise! Ye gentle zephyrs, whisper them to the modest, and softly breathe them in the ears of the lowly! Ye towering pines, and humble shrubs, ye fragrant flowers, and, more than all, ye broad and stately oaks, bind your heads, and wave your branches, and adore! Ye warbling fountains, warbling tune his praise! Praise him, ye beasts, in different strains! And let the birds, that soar on lofty wings, and scale the path of heaven, bear, in their various melody, the notes of adoration to the skies! Mortals, ye favoured sons of the eternal father, be it yours in articulate expressions of gratitude to interpret for the mute creation, and to speak a sublimer and more rational homage.
Heard ye not the music of the spheres? Know ye not the melody of celestial voices? On yonder silver-skirted cloud I see them come. It turns its brilliant lining on the setting day. And these are the accents of their worship. "Ye sons of women, such as ye are now, such once were we. Through many scenes of trial, through heroic constancy, and ever-during patience, have we attained to this bright eminence. Large and mysterious are the paths of heaven, just and immaculate his ways. If ye listen to the siren voice of pleasure, if upon the neck of heedless youth you throw the reins, that base and earth-born clay which now you wear, shall assume despotic empire. And when you quit the present narrow scene, ye shall wear a form congenial to your vices. The fierce and lawless shall assume the figure of the unrelenting wolf. The unreflecting tyrant, that raised a mistaken fame from scenes of devastation and war, shall spurn the ground, a haughty and indignant horse; and in that form, shall learn, by dear experience, what were the sufferings and what the scourge that he inflicted on mankind. The sensual shall wear the shaggy vesture of the goat, or foam and whet his horrid tusks, a wild and untamed boar. But virtue prepares its possessor for the skies. Upon the upright and the good, attendant angels wait. With heavenly spirits they converse. On them the dark machinations of witchcraft, and the sullen spirits of darkness have no power. Even the outward form is impressed with a beam of celestial luster. By slow, but never ceasing steps, they tread the path of immortality and honor. Then, mortals, love, support, and cherish each other. Fear the Gods, and reverence their holy, white-robed servants. Let the sacred oak be your care. Worship the holy And everlasting mistletoe. And when all the objects that you now behold shall be involved in universal conflagration, and time shall be no more; ye shall mix with Gods, ye shall partake their thrones, and be crowned like them with never-fading laurel."