Imatges de pÓgina
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is undoubtedly our exclusive property-the art of ringing changes upon church bells, whence England has been sometimes termed "the ringing island.” Although it be simply a melody, the construction of regular peals is susceptible of considerable science, in the variety of interchange, and the diversified succession of consonances in the sounds produced. Many of them bear the names of their composers, who thus bid fair to be rung down to the latest posterity ; and that the exercise of taking part in a peal has never been deemed an ignoble amusement, is attested by the fact, that we have several respectable associations for practising and perpetuating the art, particularly one known by the name of the College Youths, of which Sir Matthew Hale, Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench, was, in his youthful days, a member. Exclusively of the delight arising from the melody itself as it floats along, gladdening hill and dale, tower and hamlet, what can be sweeter or more soothing than all the associations of thought connected with a merry peal of village bells ? Announcing the Sabbath-morning-the common day of rest, when we all cease from our toils, they remind us that the humblest of those whose lot is labour, will now betake themselves in decent garb and with cheerful looks to the Temple, where all the children of the Great Parent, without distinction of rank, assemble together to offer up their general thanksgivings. Nothing can be more natural than the words which Cowper has put into the mouth of Alexander Selkirk, to express the desolation and solitude of the uninhabited island on which he had been cast:

“ The sound of the church-going bell,

These yalleys and rocks never heard;
Never sigh'd at the sound of a knell,

Or smiled when a Sabbath appear'd.”

Of all the public duties which bells are called upon

to perform, the most puzzling and embarrassing must be the due apportionment of their fealty to the old and new monarch, when the former-dies, we were going to say, but kings never die ; when he ceases to reign, and is under the necessity of laying in the dust the head which has worn a crown). Death is a sad radical: Horace assures us, that even in his days it was a matter of perfect indifference to the ghastly destroyer, whether he aimed his dart at the towers of kings or the hovels of the peasantry ; and in these revolutionary times we may be sure that he has lost nothing of his Carbonari spirit. Bells, however, acknowledge the authority of the powers that be; their suffrages obey the inAuence of the clergy, tolerably shrewd calculators of the most beneficial chances of loyalty, and yet the brazen mourners must sometimes be in a sad dilemma between their sorrow for the loss of the old and their joy at the accession of the new king Like Garrick between tragedy and comedy, we may imagine them quite at a loss which expression to assume, whether to toll a knell or ring a peal, or strike a serio-comic chord between the two. Affection for the dead might be construed into disaffection for the living, but a reigning sovereign has so much more power of patronage than a defunct one, that they generally obey the injunction of the royal Henry to his impatient heir,

“ Go, bid the merry bells ring to thine ear,

That thou art crowned, not that I am dead.” Could the bells of even this sequestered village church, said I to myself, recall to us with their iron tongues the various and often contradictory occasions when the passions of man have called forth their echoes, what a humiliating record of human nature would they present! Accession of king after king, public tumult and struggle, curfew and tocsin, civil and foreign war, victories and peace, genera

tion upon generation knelled into the church yard, and again a new king or a new war, and fresh victories and another peace, forming but a recommencement of the old circle of events, ever new and yet the same, ever passing away and recurring, in which nature perpetually moves! Like all other public history, they would announce to us little but suffering and crime ; for tranquillity, happiness, and virtue, seek not to be trumpeted forth by their brazen clarion : and even if they unfolded to us the annals of private life, how often would they have to tell us of Aeeting joys and enduring sorrows, of sanguine hopes and bitter disappointment !

Reaching the gate of the church yard, as this reflection passed through my mind, the first monument I encountered was that of my relative Sir Ralph Wyvill. How well do I remember the morning of his marriage! The ringers loved him, for he would sometimes mingle in their sport. They pulled the ropes with the lusty and willing arms of men who had quaffed his ale and pocketed his money : the bells threw their wide mouths up into the air, and as they roared the glad tidings to the earth, till every hill-top echoed back the sound, they seemed to cry out to the Heavens

Ring out, ye chrystal spheres,
And let your silver chime

Move in melodious time,

And let the base of Heaven's deep organ blow!" From every octagon brick chimney of the ancient hall, wreaths of sinoke streaked the clear sunshine cheerful evidence of the old English hospitality and the expensive preparations for the marriage feast that were operating within : friends and relatives were seen interchanging shakes of the hand and cordial congratulations ; servants were bustling about in new liveries and huge nosegays; the smart postilions, with white favours in their caps, were crack

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ing their whips and their jokes at the gate ; the train of carriages, with beribboned and beflowered coachmen, made a goodly and glittering show ; gossips and rustics, in their holiday clothes, clustered about the church doors and windows;

Quips and cranks and wanton wiles,
Nods and becks and wreathed smiles,"

flickered upon every countenance ; and every tongue prophesied that the happy couple would be permanently blessed, for the bridegroom was young and rich, the maiden fond and fair. Such, however, are the predictions with which every wedding is solemnized; and if the flattering visions of the future prove too often illusory, it is to be attributed to the general lot of humanity, rather than to any inherent defects in the marriage system

Although he seemed to possess all the constituents of conjugal happiness, the sanguine auguries of Sir Ralph's friends were speedily falsified; he parted from his wife, and returned with new ardour to his first loves the bottle and the chase. On his wedding day I had seen him, in this very church yard, step from his carriage fushed with youth and vigour, an elastic specimen of manly beauty. Living to see him crippled, gouty, and infirm, I at last beheld him born once more to this same spot; and methinks I now hear the deepest mouthed of those very bells that had rung out such a merry peal on his marriage, “swinging slow with solemn roar” its sad and solitary toll for his burial-Dong! dong! dong !- What a contrast did the scene present! . Every shutter was closed in the windows of the old hall-its chimneys were cold and smokeless—the whole house looked forlorn and desolate, as if there were no liviig thing within it. The once jovial master of the ar cient mansion was born slowly from its gate beneath the sable plumes of a hearse ; the gay carriage and the four noble horses, of which he was so proud,

followed, as if in mockery of his present state, the servants attesting, by better evidence than their mourning liveries, the sincerity of their grief; a sad procession of coaches with the customary trappings of wo brought up the rear: sorrow was upon every face ; the villagers spoke to one another in whispers ; a hushed silence reigned among the assemblage, only broken by the deep toll of the passing bell; and thus did I follow the body to the family sepulchre, and heard the hollow rattling of the sand and gravel as they were cast down upon the coffin lid of the corpse that was once Sir Ralph Wyvill.

There is not a dell or cover, a woodland or plain, for many miles around, that has not echoed to his Stentorian view-hallo! nay, even the church itself and hollow mansions of the dead, for he was no respecter of localities, have rung with the same cry. Where is that tongue now? The huntsman might wind his horn, the whole pack give cry, and the whole field unite their shouts at the very mouth of his vault, without awakening the keen sportsman who sleeps in its deep darkness. That tongue, whose loud smack pronounced a fiat upon claret, from which there was no appeal-what is it now? a banquet for the worm until both shall be reconverted into dust. And perhaps, ere those bells shall have rang in another new year, and awakened a new race' of candidates for the grave, the hand that traces these thoughts, and the eye that reads them, may be laid also in the earth, withered--decompounded--dust!

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