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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.
18. 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.
19. 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. It was the loss of their main prop. The father, who was already infirm, grew heartless and melancholy, and sunk into his grave.
20. 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. As no one applied for the cottage in which she had passed so 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.
21. 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 open. 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.
22. He saw her, and hastened toward her, but his steps were faint and faltering; he sunk on his knees before her, and sobbed like a child. 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
c E-ma'-ci-a-ted, reduced in flesh.
a Ru-ral, belonging to the country.
b Parish, district of a priest.
by wounds, by sickness, and foreign imprisonment, had at length dragged his wasted limbs homeward, to repose among the scenes of his childhood.
23. 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 had 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 sufficient. He stretched himself on the pallet, on which his widowed mother had passed many a sleepless night, and he never rose from it again.
24. 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. His mother was his constant attendant; and he seemed unwilling. to be helped by any other hand.
25. There is something in sickness that breaks down the pride of manhood,—that softens the heart, and brings it back to the feelings 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 of the mother "that looked on his childhood," that smoothed his pillow, and administered to his helplessness?
26. Oh there is an enduring tenderness in the love of a mother to a son, that transcends all the other affections of the heart. It is neither to be chilled by selfishness, nor daunted by danger, nor weakened by worthlessness, nor stifled 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 adversity overtake him, he will be the dearer to her by misfortune; and, if disgrace settle upon his name, she will still love and cherish him; and, if all the world beside cast him off, she will be all the world to him.
27. Poor George Somers had known well what it was to be in sickness, and have none to soothe-lonely and in pri son, and none to visit him. He could not endure his mother from his sight: if she moved away, his eye would follow her. She would sit for hours by his bed, watching him as he slept. Sometimes he would start from a feverish dream, and look anxiously up until he saw her venerable form bending over him; when he would take her hand, lay it on his bosom, and fall asleep with the tranquillity of a child:-in this way he
28. 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 other's sorrows, I did not venture to intrude.
29. The next Sunday I was at the village church, when, to my surprise, I saw the old woman tottering down the aisle to her accustomed seat on the steps of the altar. 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:-a black 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.
30. When I looked around upon the storied monuments, the stately hatchments, the cold marble pomp, with which grandeur mourned magnificently over departed pride,—and then 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 a broken heart,-I felt that this living momument of real grief was worth them all.
31. 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 gone to rejoin those she loved, in that world where sorrow is never known, and friends are never parted.
The Blind Preacher.
1. It was one Sunday, as I traveled through the county of Orange, in Virginia, that my eye was caught by a cluster of horses, tied near a ruinous, old, wooden house, in the forest, not far from the road side. Having frequently seen such objects before, in traveling through these states, I had no difficulty in understanding that this was a place of religious worship.
2. Devotion alone should have stopped me, to join in the
a Pe-cun'-la-ry, relating to money.
duties of the congregation; but I must confess, that curiosity to hear the preacher of such a wilderness, was not the least of my motives. On entering the house, I was struck with his preternatural appearance. He was a tall and very spare old man,-his head, which was covered with a white linen cap, his shriveled hands, and his voice, were all shaking under the influence of a palsy; and a few moments ascertained to me that he was perfectly blind.
3. The first emotions which touched my breast, were those of mingled pity and veneration. But how soon were all my feelings changed! The lips of Plato' were never more worthy of a prognostic swarm of bees, than were the lips of this holy man! It was a day of the administration of the sacrament; and his subject, of course, was the passion of our Savior. Í had heard the subject handled a thousand times: I had thought it exhausted long ago. Little did I suppose, that in the wild woods of America, I was to meet with a man, whose eloquence would give, to this topic, a new and more sublime pathos than I had ever before witnessed.
4. As he descended from the pulpit, to distribute the mystic symbols, there was a peculiar-a more than human solemnity in his air and manner, which made my blood run cold, and my whole frame shiver. He then drew a picture of the sufferings of our Savior,-his trial before Pilate,-his ascent up Calvary,-his crucifixion, and his death. I knew the whole history; but never, until then, had I heard the circumstances so selected, so arranged, so colored! It was all new; and I seemed to have heard it for the first time ir my life.
5. His enunciation was so deliberate, that his voice trembled on every syllable; and every heart in the assembly trembled in unison. His peculiar phrases had that force of description, that the original scene appeared to be at that moment acting before our eyes. We saw the very faces of the Jews-the staring, frightful distortions of malice and rage. We saw the buffet: my soul kindled with a flame of indignation; and my hands were involuntarily and convulsively clinched.
6. But when he came to touch on the patience, the forgiving meekness of our Savior; when he drew, to the life,-his blessed eyes streaming in tears to heaven,-his voice breathing to God a soft and gentle prayer of pardon on his enemies,"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do ;"
a Pre-ter-nat'-u-ral, beyond what is natural.
b Pla'-to, a Grecian philosopher.
c Prog-nos'-tic, foreboding.
d Pathos, that which excites to feeling. e Sym'-bols, emblems.
fE-nun-ci-a-tion, utterance of words,
the voice of the preacher, which had all along faltered, grew fainter and fainter, until, his utterance being entirely obstructed by the force of his feelings, he raised his handkerchief to his eyes, and burst into a loud and irrepressible flood of grief. The effect was inconceivable. The whole house resounded with the mingled groans, and sobs, and shrieks of the congregation.
7. It was some time before the tumult had subsided, so far as to permit him to proceed. Indeed, judging by the usual, but fallacious standard of my own weakness, I began to be very uneasy for the situation of the preacher. For I could not conceive how he would be able to let his audience down from the height to which he had wound them, without impairing the solemnity and dignity of his subject, or perhaps shocking them by the abruptness of the fall. But-no: the descent was as beautiful and sublime, as the elevation had been rapid and enthusiastic.
8. The first sentence with which he broke the awful silence, was a quotation from Rousseau ;-"Socrates died like a philosopher, but Jesus Christ like a God!"-I despair of giving you any idea of the effect produced by this short sentence, unless you could perfectly conceive the whole manner of the man, as well as the peculiar crisis in the discourse. Never before, did I completely understand what Demosthenes meant, by laying such stress on delivery.
9. You are to bring before you the venerable figure of the preacher, his blindness constantly recalling to your recollection old Homer, Ossian and Milton, and associate with his performance the melancholy grandeur of their geniuses,you are to imagine that you hear his slow, solemn, wellaccented enunciation, and his voice of affecting, trembling melody-you are to remember the pitch of passion and enthusiasm to which the congregation were raised, and then, the few minutes of portentous, death-like silence which reigned throughout the house,-to see the preacher, removing his white handkerchief from his aged face, even yet wet from the recent torrent of his tears, and slowly stretching forth the palsied hand which holds it, begin the sentence-" Socrates died like a philosopher"-then pausing, raising his other hand, pressing them both, clasped together, with warmth and energy to his breast, lifting his sightless balls to Heaven, and pouring his whole soul into his tremulous voice-"but Jesus Christ-like a God!"-If he had been indeed and in truth an angel of light, the effect could scarcely have been more divine.
a Quo-tation, passage cited.
b Por-tent-ous, ominous.