Immagini della pagina

pelled in the East, for the first time, to incur the enormous perils of the Affghanistan expedition-to hazard, as it were, the very existence of our Eastern empire upon a single throw; and adventure a large proportion of the British army, and the magic charm of British invincibility, upon a perilous advance, far beyond the utmost frontiers of Hindostan, into the heart of Asia? Simply because previous preparation had been abandoned, ultimate danger disregarded; because retrenchment was the order of the day, and Government yielded to the ever popular cry of present economy; because the noble naval and military establishment of former times was reduced one-half, or allowed to expire, in the childish belief that it never again would be required. Rely upon it, a similar conduct will one day produce a similar necessity to the British empire. It will be found, and that too ere many years have passed over, that the Duke of Wellington was right when he said, that a great empire cannot with safety wage a little war; and that nothing but present danger and future disaster, will result from a system which blindly shuts its eyes to the future, and never looks beyond the conciliating the masses by a show of economy at the moment. An Aff ghanistan expedition-a Moscow campaign will be necessary to ward off impending danger, or restore the sunk credit of the British name: happy if the contest can thus be averted from our own shores, and by incurring distant dangers we can escape domestic subjugation.

But let not foreign nations imagine, from all that has been said or may be said by the Conservatives on this vital subject, that Great Britain has now lost her means of defence, or that, if a serious insult or injury is offered to her, she may not soon be brought into a condition to take a fearful vengeance upon her enemies. The same page of history which tells us that

while democratic states never can be brought to foresee remote dangers, or incur present burdens to guard against it, when the danger is present, and strikes the senses of the multitude,

they are capable of the most stupendous exertions. That England, in the event of a war breaking out in her present supine, unprepared state, would sustain in the outset very great disasters, is clear; but it is not by any ordinary calamities that a power of such slow growth and present magnitude as England is to be subdued. She now possesses 2,800,000 tonnage, and numbers 1,600,000 seamen in her commercial navy, and a fleet of seven hundred steam-boats, more than all Europe possesses, daily prowl along her shores. Here are all the elements of a powerful marine; at no period did Great Britain possess such a foundation for naval strength within her bosom. What is wanting, is not the elements of an irresistible naval force, but the sagacity in the people to foresee the approaching necessity for its establishment, and the virtue in the Government to propose the burdens indispensable for its restoration. In the experienced difficulty of either communicating this foresight to the one, or imparting this virtue to the other, may be traced the well-known and often-predicted effects of democratic ascendency. But that same ascendency, if the spirit of the people is roused by experienced disgrace, or their interests affected by present calamity, would infallibly make the most incredible exertions; and a navy, greater than any which ever yet issued from the British harbours, might sally forth from our sea girt isle, to carry, like the French Revolutionary armies, devastation and ruin into all the naval establishments of Europe. No such

career of naval conquest, however, is either needed for the glory, or suited for the interests of England; and it is as much from a desire to avert that ultimate forcible and most painful conversion of all the national energies to warlike objects, as to prevent the immediate calamities which it would occasion, that we earnestly press upon the country the immediate adoption, at any cost, of that great increase to our naval and military establishments which can alone avert one or both of these calamities.



No. VI.


Hark! above the Sea of Things,
How the uncouth mermaid sings;
Wisdom's Pearl doth often dwell,
Closed in Fancy's rainbow shell.

"SISTER," said the little one to her companion," dost thou remember aught of this fair bay, these soft white sands, and yonder woody rocks?"

"Nay," replied the other, who was somewhat taller, and with a fuller yet sweet voice," I knew not that I had ever been here before. And yet it seems not altogether new, but like a vision seen in dreams. The sea ripples on the sand with a sound which I feel as friendly, and not unknown. Those purple shapes that rise out of the distant blue, and float past over the surface like the shadows of clouds, do not fill me with the terror which haunts me when I look on vast and strange appearances."

the sun, which, while we sang, and while it went down, changed the sands that its beams fell on into gold, and the foam that rippled to the shore into silver. We had often watched it before, and we knew that if, without ceasing our song, we gathered the gold sands and silver foam while the sun was on them, into the shells that lay about, they would continue in their changed state. Left till sunset they returned to what they were, and we had only the sands and foam. We thought the sport so pleasant that we had carried it on for some minutes, and even amused ourselves with scattering the shining dust over each other's hair, when I saw something floating between us and the sun. We all looked; and soon it drifted near us, and was entangled in the web of seaweed that waves in the tide round this black single rock. A large sea-eagle at the moment stooped to seize the prize. But I wished myself there beTherefore it, and one bound carried me farther than a long stone's-throw of our dark enemies the mountaineers. Thus the eagle in his descent struck only the waters with his talons, and flew off again, screaming to the clouds, while I brought what I had won to my sisters."

"To me," said the little one, "they look only somewhat more distinct than the marks which I have so often watched upon the sea."

"Oh! far brighter are they in colour, far more peculiar and more various in their forms. My heart beats while I look at them.

are ships and horses; living figures, bearded, crowned, armed, and some bear banners and some books; and softer shapes, waving and glistening with plumes, veils, and garlands. Ah! now 'tis gone."

"Rightly art thou called the Daughter of the Sea, and art indeed our own Sea-Child. Here in this bay did I and my sisters, in this land of Faery, first find our nursling of another race.'

[ocr errors]

"Was this, then, my first name among you, beloved friends? The bay is so beautiful, that even in your land of Faëry I have seen no spot where it were better to open one's eyes upon the light."

“Yes, here did our Sea-Child first meet our gaze. I and a troop of my sisters were singing on the shore our ancient Song of Pearls, and watching


"Dear one!" said the Sea-Child, "I guess what it was. And she kissed the airy face of her companion with her own, which seemed rather of rose-leaves, and the other only of coloured vapour.

"Yes," said she, "my own SeaChild, there was a small basket of palm-leaf lined with the down of the phoenix, and in this the baby lay asleep. Beautiful it was indeed, but far unlike the beauty of my sisters. We cared no more for gold or silver dust, or rippling waves, or the rays of

the setting sun.

We even hushed our

song, and bent over our nursling, and took her to be our own. Thus was it that our Sea-Child came to our Faëryland."

The Sea-Child bent to embrace her friend, for she was somewhat taller than the elfin sprite. They could not hold each other in their arms, for one was gleaming air, and the other human substance. But the fairy hung round the child as the reflection of a figure in bright water round one who bathes at the same spot of the same transparent pool. To the phantom it was more delightful than to rest and breathe upon a bank of flowers: to the mortal it seemed as if she was encompassed by a soft warm air, full of the odours of opening carnations and of ripe fruits.

"Let us sit here," said the Sea-Child, "and look around us, and discourse."

She placed herself on a mossy stone at the foot of a green birch-tree, and the fairy sat on the extremity of one of the sprays, which hung beside her companion's face, and which hardly bent a hair's breadth with her weight; and she held by one hand to a leaf above her, and with the other touched the dark-brown locks that streamed around the mortal head. The child sat, and looked down, and seemed to think, till the fairy said, " Why art thou sad? Of what art thou musing?"

The child blushed, and stooped her head, and at last looked up confusedly and said "I never before felt so strongly the difference between me and you, who call me sister. Here, while we sit together on the spot where I first was wafted to your hands, it seems to me strange-so strange! that ye should have adopted me for your own, and not thrown me back into the waters, or left me a prey to the mountaineers, from whom ye have so long protected me."

"Strange!" said the other, "how strange? We could do no otherwise than we did. I know not how it is that our Sea-Child often speaks as if it were possible to do aught else than what one wishes. We felt we loved you-we saw that, in that pretty but solid mortal frame, there was a breath and beauty like our own, though also something akin to those huge enemies, who, but for our cunning, would swiftly have devoured thee."

"I, too, never thought of it in former

years; but now, when I believe I am really capable of loving you, when I more want to be loved, and to find nothing dividing me from you, it seems so unnatural-so horrible-that I should be altogether unlike you. You are all of sunbeams and bright hues, and are soft like dewy gossamers; and I-my limbs, through which no ray can pass; my head, that crushes the flowers I rest it on, as if it had been a head carved in stone!

Oh, sister! I am wretched at the thought. I touched the wing of a butterfly only yesterday with my finger, and I could perceive it shrink and shiver with pain. My touch had bruised its wing, and I thought I could see it ache, as it flew frightened away."

She burst into tears, and these were the first that had been ever shed in Faëryland. But there they could not long flow, and she soon shook them from her eyes, and looked up smiling and said " There thou see'st, dear sister, how unfit I am to live with such as thou. Better, perhaps, had I met my natural fate, and been destroyed on my first arrival by thy monstrous foes, or by the eagle from which thou didst save me."

"Strange would it have been if we had not had wit enough to disappoint that big and brutal race!"

"I never could well understand why it was that they hated either you

or me."

"They could not do otherwise being what they are thou what thou art-and we the sprites thou knowest us.

Curious is the tale, and long to tell, of all that has happened betwixt them and us."

"How came ye to have such dreadful inhabitants in your isle of Faëry?"

"Ah! that I know not. They and we seem to belong to it by the same necessity. Before thou camest we had no measure of time; which we now reckon, as thou knowest, by thy years, not by ours. Till then, our existence was like what thou describest thy dreams to be. It is in watching thee that we have learned to mark how thy fancies, and wishes, and actions, rise and succeed each other, as the sun and moon, the stars and clouds, travel and change. And even now I hardly 'feel, as thou appearest to do, what is meant by to-day, yesterday, and tomorrow. Of times and years, there

fore, I can tell thee little. We grow not old, nor cease to be young. Nor can we say of each other as we can of thee-thou art such a one, and none else. We discern differences of sunshine and shade, of land and sea, of wind and calm; but all of us feel alike under the same circumstances, and have no fixed peculiarity of be ing, such as that which makes thee so different from us. I know not whether it was I, or some other of my sisters, who visited this field and shore yesterday, and the day before danced in the showering drops of the white waterfall yonder, up the valley. Each of us feels as all do, and all as each. I love thee not more than do my sisters, nor they more than I. Of our past life I only know that we seemed always to have been in this our own land, and to have been happy here. The flowers fill us with odours, the sky with warmth; the dews bathe us in delight, the moonbeams wind us in a ring with filmy threads when we dance upon the sands; and when the woods murmur above us, we have a thrill of quiet joy, which belongs not to me more than to another, but is the common bliss of all. Of all times have the mountains, and deep ravines, and bare and rocky uplands of our isle, been the abode of a fierce and ugly race of giants, whom we have been accustomed to call our brothers, and to believe them allied with us by nature, though between us there has ever been a mortal enmity."

"Often, often," said the Sea- Child, "have I thought how much happier we should be, had there been no giants in the land."

"I know not," replied the fairy, "how that might be. Much is the vexation that they cause us; but it is said that our race is inseparable from theirs, and that if they were altogether destroyed we also must perish. Never, till we had thee among us, did their enmity seem very dangerous, difficult as it often was to avoid their injuries. Always, as now, when the shadows of the storm-cloud swept from the hills over our plains; when the dark mist rolled out of the ravines down to our sunny meadows; the shaggy and huge creatures strode forth from their caves and forests, leaning on their pine clubs, shouting and growling, and with their weighty tramp defacing our green and flowery sward, and scaring us away

before them. When, as it has happened, some of us were trodden beneath their feet, or dashed below their swinging clubs, a faint shriek, a sudden blaze burst from under the blow, and all of us, lurking beneath the waterfalls, clinging amid the hidden nooks of flowers, or shrunken into sparry grottoes in the rocks, felt stricken and agonized, although none of us could cease to live. All round this bay, and others, larger and more broken of our shore, the giant horde of our brothers would sit upon the cliffs and crags, looking themselves like prodigious rocks; and with the rain and storm about them, and the sea-foam dashing up against their knees, would wash their dark beards in the brine, and seem to laugh aloud at the sound of the tempest. But when calm and sunshine were about to return, they always sprang from their places on the shore, and, like one of those herds of wild bulls that they chase before them, hurried back with dizzy bellowings, and rush of limbs and clubs, into their dark mountains. Sometimes, indeed, they were more malicious, and sought more resolutely to do us mischief. I have known them tear asunder the jaws of one of their hill-torrents, so as to pour the waters suddenly on our fields and valleys. Sometimes, too, we have seen them standing upon the mountains, with their figures marked against the sky, plying great stems of trees around a mass of snow and ice, till, loosened at last, it rolled down, mile after mile, crashing through wood and stream, Thus were our warm bright haunts buried under a frozen heap of ruins, while the laughter of the mountainmonsters rang through the air, above the roar of the falling mass. But often had we our revenge. when the storms had gathered fiercely on those far hills, and rushed in rainy gusts and black fogs down every gully, and opened at last over the green vale and sunny bay, our brothers hurried in tumult from their own region, their swinish ears tossing in the dark folds of their locks and beards, and, with mouths like wolves, drinking in the tempest as they ran. They rioted and triumphed on the shore, while the wind whistled loudly round them; and they played with the billows which tumbled on the beach, as I have seen you play with lambs in the green fields. We peeped from the


grottoes where we had hidden our selves, and saw them catch out of the waters some round black heaps, like skins of animals, full of liquid. These they threw at each other, till at last one burst, and covered the giant whom it had struck with a red stain. On this there was a loud shout-they flung the skins about no more, but caught them tenderly in their arms, lifted them to their mouths, bit them open, and drained the contents. This increased their tumult and grim joy; and they turned to the meadow, and began to wrestle, and leap, and tear down the young trees, and disport themselves, till one by one they sank upon the turf in sleep. The storm was clearing off; we ventured from our hiding-places, and looked upon the hairy dismal shapes, that lay scattered and heaped like brown rocks overgrown with weeds and moss. Suddenly we all looked at each other, and determined what to do. We pierced through the crevices of our grottoes till we reached a fount of sunny fire. This we drew upwards by our singing to follow us, and led it in a channel over the grass till it formed a stream of diamond light, dividing this field from the mountains, and encircling the whole host of giants. The warm sunshine at the same time began to play on them. They felt the soft sweet flowery air of our lower land, our songs sounded in their bristled ears, and they began to toss, roll, snort, and endeavoured to rise and escape to their dark hills. But this was not now so easy. They could not pass the bright pure stream. The sunshine in which we revelled weakened them so much that they could not rise and stand, but staggered on their knees, fell upon their hands and faces, and seemed to dissolve away, like their own icecrags when flung with all their clay and withered herbage down into our warm lakes and dells. We thought there was now a chance of seeing our enemies, who were also our brothers, for ever destroyed. We began to deliberate whether we also should necessarily perish with them, when we heard a sudden gust of wind and flash of rain -another storm broke from the mountains-a torrent of snow-water quenched our diamond flame. The giants stood up, bold, wild, and strong as ever -leaped, roared, and swung their clubs, and, with the friendly tempest

playing round them, stormed back into the depths of their own mountain world."

"Could ye not," said the SeaChild, "have always taken refuge from them in the lower garden where I have been with you?"

"We did not know it till thou wert among us, and should perhaps never have ventured thither had we not been driven to distress by the hatred of the giants for thee. When we had thee for our nursling and sister, their attempts were no longer bursts of violence that passed away. They seemed always lying in wait to discover and to destroy thee. Had we not known a strain of music, of power when sung to frighten them away, thou, dear Sea-Child, would long ere this have been taken from us. When they came rushing down in the wind and darkness, and sought for thee in every thicket, and every hollow-tree, and under each of those large pink shells which we often made thy bed, they sang and shouted together such words as these:

Lump and thump, and rattling clatter, These the brawny brothers love; While the lightnings flash and shatter, While the winds the forest tatter, We too spatter, stamp, and batter, Whirling our clubs at whate'er's above.' could these grim wild beasts resist the But we too had our song; and never spell, when we sang together with soft


"The giant is strong, but the fairy is wise : And the clouds cannot wither the stars in the skies.'

"Oh! well I remember," said her companion," with what delight I first heard you sing that song. I fancied that, if I could only listen long enough to it, I should become as airy and gentle as ye are, and no longer be encumbered with this dark, solid flesh. We were in that green chamber in the midst of red rocks, where the pines spread over the brinks of the precipices far above the mossy floor we sat on, and the vines hung their branches down the stony walls from the pineboughs which they cling to on the summit, and drop their clusters into the smooth stream, with its floating water-lilies, which traverses the spot. There, dear sisters, were ye sporting, climbing up the vine. trails, and throwing yourselves headlong down, or

« IndietroContinua »