Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

at twelve. Here coarse, litigious cases are tried, after the manner of the Eng. lish law process, and the contrast between the accused and the seriousness of the actors, who appear in the attire of the English Bar, renders the scene most amusing, and, in a certain sense, instructive. For this is only possible in a country where public life is so thoroughly well known to all, that the entire comicality of the contrast is felt by everybody. The earnestness with which the English nation regards all its public institutions is required in order for these coarse jests to be comprehended as such. Even in this dingy hole, where every man smokes his cigar and drinks his beer, a species of reverence is shown to the actors who represent the authority, and when the man who performs the part of usher to the court shouts “Respect for the Lord Chief Baron Nicholson !" the whole company rise, and with bare heads greet the fat man, who takes his seat on the bench, and opens the proceedings by calling for a glass of brandyand-water and a spill; then he orders the attorney-general to open the case, and nods his judicial head in gentle sleep. Here and there he makes some ludicrous remark, or lights a cigar, while a witness is under examination. Extraordinary fellows in the most eccentric costumes make their appearance, the judge sums up, and a species of public entertainment concludes with the heartiest applause, which, among ourselves, would neither be tolerated by the public, nor obtain the sanction of the police.

We might cull many significant passages from M. Rodenberg's work, but, regarding the present season, we prefer devoting the remainder of our paper to his account of merry Christmas. A merry

Christmas and a happy new year! Such words send a thrill through every heart, and we quite agree with our author, that the foreigner who has not seen London in its Christmas garb knows its splendour not. He is ignorant how gloriously happy, how immeasurably jolly two million five hundred thousand human beings can be for one day in the year. The German Christmas is a festival for the children, and for the grown-up, who become children once again for the nonce. In England, moreover, the whole population rejoices; the richest and the poorest are equal on that occasion only. It may be, as M. Rodenberg remarks, that the greater portion of the Christian festivities date from the Druidical period: we call it Yule, in remembrance of the old Pagan festival held in honour of the December sun, which then held its solstice, and began to turn its “ Iuil,” or cyclus, nearer to the earth : the Yule log, too, is an old heathen reminiscence. But, what then ?” Were we to listen to all this, we should be forced to abolish our mistletoe, because it was held in reverence by the Druids. No; let our good old Christmas customs be maintained, no matter where they came from; and, above all, let us sedulously resist the encroachments of the insidious Christmas-tree. We have no liking for this foreign importation; it has done away with our old friend snap-dragon, and “ hunt the slipper" is now pronounced low. Before long, we dare say that mistletoe will be scouted from respectable society, and then, we ask, what will become of Christmas ? In the words of the orator, we pause for a reply. No Christmas-trees, say we; and the only transient grudge we ever bore our beloved queen was for their introduction among us; we had a prevision of the melancholy state of things to which they must lead.

We are not surprised at finding M. Rodenberg speaking so enthusiastically as he does about our Christmas, for it is really a wonderful sight for a foreigner. Let him visit Leadenhall-market for a week prior to the great event, and he must form a true idea of the nature of our glorious country. Were it our lot to conduct an intelligent foreigner

about London at that sanctified season of the year, we should take him in the first instance to the market at the back of the India House. We visited it this very Christmas, and were astounded at the display. Here were swans, and fine birds, too, probably shot by a silver bullet: they were not worth eating, but went to swell the show. Here we saw an albatross, a peacock, a bittern or so, a brace of herons, and other rare birds. But if you want to see the solidities, there is abundance to satisfy you : ten thousand geese on their way from Norfolk—and they will arrive, too, and be eaten on Christmas-day. Turkeys by thousands, pigs by droves, glorious beef—all collected for this one gobbling day of the nation. It is not surprising that the intelligent foreigner wonders where the money comes from to pay for all these luxuries. But that is not all: let the foreigner regard the purchasers, and his wonderment must be increased. These worn-looking men are our mechanics, who have come to lay in their Christmas dinner. See! oh, intelligent foreigner! we have another class besides the extreme rich and extreme poor. Stay! we will inquire of one of these men, but politely, an it please you, for he has all the pride of the Briton. You hear what he says; he is engaged in a foundry, and earns his thirty shillings a week; he and his old woman mean a goose for Christmas-day, and why shouldn't they? Go back to your countrymen, worthy foreigner, and tell them that they must not listen to the fables about the English proletariat with which partisan writers stuff them. England is not degenerated yet, whatever rumours may be afloat as to Waterloo being speedily avenged. M. Rodenberg will serve as a good guide to his own countrymen so long as he writes in the following sensible manner :

Christmas in England has only one day, but the Christmas pleasures begin earlier, and last longer than among us. In the early days of December, London shops are adorned with the green branches of holly and mistletoe, two bushes little known and regarded among us, but which play a most prominent part in English Christmas festivities. They play the same character there as the fir-tree among us, but with this difference, that by the time Christmas arrives, every room is decorated with them-nay, the very food placed on the table—so that London is converted into an evergreen forest, in which the red and white berries and the million lights of the metropolis glisten. It is a glorious, incomparable sight to see the City of mist thus decorated-house after house displaying the fresh symbol of the universal joy! Holly and mistletoe precede the Christmas festivities, and accompany them faithfully to the last. A painted garland of bolly, with the words “ A merry Christmas and a happy new year!” adorns every letter written at this merry season, and a mistletoe-bough is suspended from the ceiling of every room. And happy the man who meets a pretty girl beneath it: he may venture to kiss her, even if mother and father and half a dozen aunts were present. Heavenly, privilege! blessed pleasure! magic bush which subjugates even the prudish hearts of English girls! Would that there were mistletoe among us, that we miglit wave it over the heads of beloved maidens, and exclaim,“ Sub hoc signo !”

We have not been able to extract one tithe of the remarks M. Rodenberg makes about our happy country; still we think we have shown how impartial a critic he is. We are glad to greet any foreigner who imparts useful information about us, for only in this way can the errors in circulation be removed. We therefore hope that his little work will meet with a hearty reception at home, in which case it will tend to correct a great deal of that acidity which Germans have recently displayed in writing about England.

[blocks in formation]

O MERRY steered the snow-white swans

Under the chesnut-trees, Between

green

dells where dun fawns cropped The crisp grass at their ease. I lay down in the seeding-grass,

That was rich and ripe with June, And dozed asleep with listening

To the lark's exulting tune.
Slowly a balmy, stifling sleep

Dimmed all the outer sounds,
The brooding doves, the soaring larks,

Rising to heaven's bounds.
And I awoke in another world,

With one dead long ago
Beside me, in the rich June grass,

Where the cowslips used to blow.
I was 'ware of a fuller, freer world,

Where cataracts of song
The angel birds exulting cast

Upon us fast and long.
The silver-coated, tumbling fish

Again leaped through the air,
And merry in their racing strife,

Flew semicircling there.
Again all through that summer dream

The swans abreast did go,
Like country brides to village church,

Soft pacing in a row.
Yes! through my gently gliding dream,

Those swans bore down in sail,
Their full white feathers blowing like

The canvas in a gale.
With pouting breast in ermine dress'd,

They puffed and panted on,
Like fat canòns in their full white gowns,

Late for the even song.
It set my poor brain rhyming

To see that swan fleet pass,
As I sat there by my dead, dead love,

Half hidden in June grass.
O grandly bore those birds of snow,

So lordly in their pride!
They went steering down like a fleet in sail,

Seven on either side;

Bound on some fairy enterprise,
Their
orange

beaks in line;
Around them leaped the tumbling fish,

With silvery-spangled shine.
These birds were formed of magic snow,

And drove adown the stream,
Like lovers that rushed to their own love's heart,

Or like sweet thoughts through a dream.
They were shaped, I dreamt, of last April's snow,

The summer had kissed away;
They were made for some little fairy queen

In a region far away.
They were for her car, or were steeds for her,

Toys dazzling silvery white;
The very fish leaped up to see

That strange and royal sight.
They passed like a fleet of fairy boats

Down a fairy river.-See!
The kingfisher on the willow-stump,

The dun deer on the lea.
The poplar green rose maypole high,

A mainmast ’mong the trees,
And round and round the ivy flung

Green streamers to the breeze.
O my swans swam down the merry, merry stream,

Like snow-drifts borne away.
'Twas pleasant to see, above on the lea,

The young fawns bound and play.
The wood-doves, clouding grey and white,

Broke through green tides of leaves ;
Where spiders swung in snug hammocks spun

Under the brown fern's eaves.
The seeded thistles' withered disks

Rose up among the briars,
The holly's glossy prickle-leaves

Burned with unquenching fires.
There, like a blob of lingering snow,

The guelder-rose was lagging;
And black against the spotless blue

The sluggish rook--was-flagging.
On the grass was a bloom of silvery plush,

And every flowering weed
Had a necklace strung of quivering gems-

Opal and the diamond's seed.
A silver fritter of last night's shower

Was on the dark fir-tree,
On the purple bramble's rough green

leaf
That glistened over the lea.
The swans bore down the river, dear,

O merrily floated they ;
Like the ships I saw in full, full sail

Bearing from Cadiz bay.
VOL. XLVII.

The trees shook down their silver, dear,

As my swans with the orange and black Came steering blind and sullenly,

With their cygnets at their back. White mists ran brightening up the hill,

Where the antlered deer were feeding;
Over the rich fat meadows where

The summer grass was seeding.
The swans bore past the crop-eared slopes,

Hot, grassy-mile-on-mile-
Where ranks of squadroned lancer firs

Marched, ranked in file and file. It was O for the mottle of grey-winged cloud,

And O for the mottle of blue, And 0 for the orange that burnt to gold,

Till fire crimson smouldered through. “O fear nor time nor tide, dearest;

Till snow fly back to heaven,
Till the Danube river shall run out,

Till six times six are seven.
“No! Dews melt in the morning sun,

The knave kings fade away, But never, while heart and brain beat true,

Shall this love for thee decay.”
There, yonder, midst the village roofs,

Appears the old church tower,
And, lo! the grave and measured bell
Strikes off another hour.

like a summer goldfinch, dear, As we watched the swans go by, But woke from that fairy summer dream

To see you were not nigh.
The swans passed on to fairy land;

I woke and found my love
Was vanished too-high overhead

I heard the cooing dove.
Then like a curtain from a stage

Sleep's dark veil was upfurled,
And, vision like, I saw appear

The glory of the world.

I sang

« AnteriorContinua »