Imatges de pÓgina
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down the passage, and seeing neither man, woman, nor child, I went on without farther attention.

4. On my return through the passage, I heard the same words repeated twice over; and looking up, I saw it was a starling hung in a little cage. "I can't get out, I can't get out," said the starling.

5. I stood looking at the bird; and to every person who came through the passage, it ran fluttering to the side towards which they approached it, with the same lamentation of its captivity. "I can't get out," said the starling. "God help thee!" said I; "but I'll let thee out, cost what it will;" so I turned about the cage to find the door; it was twisted and double twisted so fast with wire, there was no getting it open without pulling the cage to pieces. I took both hands to it.

6. The bird flew to the place where I was attempting his deliverance, and, thrusting his head through the trellis, pressed his breast against it, as if impatient. "I fear, poor creature," said I, "I cannot set thee at liberty." "No," said the starling; "I can't get out, I can't get out," said the starling.

al-be'-it trel'-lis

be-shrew'
so-li-lo-quy

som'-bre

vaunt'-ing-ly

IX.

THE STARLING; OR LIBERTY (2).

7. I vow I never had my affections more tenderly awakened; nor do I remember an incident" in my life where the dissipated spirits, to which my reason had

been a bubble, were so suddenly called home. Mechanical as the notes were, yet so true in tune to nature were they chanted, that in one moment they overthrew all my systematic reasonings upon the Bastile; and I heavily walked upstairs, unsaying every word I had said in going down them.

8. "Disguise thyself as thou wilt, still, Slavery," said I, "still thou art a bitter draught! and though thousands in all ages have been made to drink of thee, thou art no less bitter on that account. 'Tis thou, thrice sweet and gracious goddess," addressing myself to Liberty, "whom all in public or in private worship, whose taste is grateful, and ever will be so, till nature herself shall change. No tint of words can spot thy snowy mantle, or chymic power can turn thy sceptre into iron: with thee to smile upon him as he eats his crust, the swain is happier than his monarch, from whose court thou art exiled.* Gracious Heaven!" cried I, kneeling down upon the last step but one in my ascent, "grant me but health, thou great Bestower of it, and give me but this fair goddess as my companion, and shower down thy mitres, if it seems good unto thy Divine providence, upon those heads which are aching for them!"

*

9. The bird in his cage pursued me into my room. I sat down close to my table, and leaning my head upon my hand, I began to figure to myself the miseries of confinement. I was in a right frame for it, and so I gave full scope to imagination.

10. I was going to begin with the millions of my fellow-creatures, born to no inheritance but slavery: but finding, however affecting the picture was, that I could not bring it near me, and that the multitude of sad groups in it did but distract me, I took a single captive,

and having first shut him up in his dungeon, I then looked through the twilight of his grated door to take his picture.

11. I beheld his body half wasted away with long expectation and confinement, and felt what kind of sickness of the heart it was which arises from hope deferred.* Upon looking nearer, I saw him pale and feverish in thirty years the western breeze had not once fanned his blood; he had seen no sun, no moon, in all that time; nor had the voice of friend or kinsman breathed through his lattice: His children

12. But here my heart began to bleed, and I was forced to go on with another part of the portrait.

13. He was sitting upon the ground, upon a little straw in the furthest corner of his dungeon, which was alternately his chair and bed; a little calendar" of small sticks were laid at the head, notched all over with the dismal days and nights he had passed there: he had one of these little sticks in his hand, and with a rusty nail he was etching* another day of misery to add to the heap. As I darkened the little light he had, he lifted up a hopeless eye towards the door, then cast it down -shook his head, and went on with his work of affliction. I heard his chains rattling upon his legs, as he turned his body to lay his little stick upon the bundle. He gave a deep sigh. I saw the iron enter into his soul. I burst into tears. I could not sustain the picture of confinement which my fancy had drawn.—Sterne.

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X.

THE SKY (1).

1. It is a strange thing how little in general people know about the sky. It is. the part of creation in which nature has done more for the sake of pleasing man, more for the sole and evident purpose of talking to him and teaching him, than in any other of her works, and it is just the part in which we least attend to her.

2. There are not many of her other works in which some more material* or essential purpose than the mere pleasing of man is not answered by every part of their organization; but every essential purpose of the sky might, so far as we know, be answered, if once in three days, or thereabouts, a great ugly black rain-cloud were brought up over the blue, and every thing well watered, and so all left blue again till next time, with perhaps a film of morning and evening mist for dew.

*

3. And instead of this, there is not a moment of any day of our lives, when nature is not producing scene after scene, picture after picture, glory after glory, and working still upon such exquisite* and constant principles of the most perfect beauty, that it is quite certain it is all done for us, and intended for our perpetual pleasure. And every man, wherever placed, however far from other sources of interest or of beauty, has this doing for him constantly.

4. The noblest scenes of the earth can be seen and known but by few; it is not intended that man should live always in the midst of them; he injures them by his presence, he ceases to feel them if he be always

with them. But the sky is for all; bright as it is, it is not "too bright, nor good, for human nature's daily food; "it is fitted in all its functions for the perpetual comfort and exalting of the heart, for the soothing it and purifying it from its dross and dust. Sometimes. gentle, sometimes capricious, sometimes awful, never the same for two moments together; almost human in its passions, almost spiritual in its tenderness, almost divine in its infinity, its appeal to what is immortal* in us is as distinct as its ministry of chastisement or of blessing to what is mortal is essential.1

5. And yet we never attend to it, we never make it a subject of thought, but as it has to do with our animal sensations; we look upon all by which it speaks to us more clearly than to brutes, upon all which bears witness to the intention of the Supreme, that we are to receive more from the covering vault than the light and the dew which we share with the weed and the worm, only as a succession of meaningless and monotonous accident, too common and too vain to be worthy of a moment of watchfulness, or a glance of admiration.

ex'-quis-ite | mon-o'-ton-ous

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XI.

THE SKY (2).

6. If in our moments of utter idleness and insipidity,* we turn to the sky as a last resource, which of its phenomena do we speak of? One says it has been wet,

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