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النشر الإلكتروني

THE MOTHER OF LAMARTINE.

(To the Editor of the Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine.)

On the 24th of February, 1848, a tempest of popular fury swept the gay capital of France. It passed over the streets, and legions of noble soldiery mutely retired from its rage; it beat upon the palace of the strong-willed Monarch, and he fled from its encounter; it reached the hall of the Legislature, and there howled with indomitable fury; while the men who were at the helm of the nation tried in vain to raise their voices above the roar. As a perilled passenger on a wrecking ship, there stood a Princess clothed in black; two noble children were at her side: some hoped that those tender faces of widowhood and orphanage would be as propitious stars above the hurricane, and that beneath their gentle influence the howl and struggle would gradually subside. While the tempest continued to darken and to menace, one man, of noble form and imposing countenance, sat by in silence. "1," said Alphonse de Lamartine, “had remained upon my seat, isolated, pensive, and silent, contemplating that catastrophe so sudden, that it did not even leave time to measure its depth. Moved even to melting by that misfortune, and by that infancy escaping from a throne into a revolution, my heart struggled within me against my reason. The people and some of my colleagues took me by the arm, and beckoned to me to cast myself between the country and anarchy, called me by my name, and pushed me towards the tribune. M. Barrot was descending from it, vanquished in his efforts to arrest the monarchy in its descent. A gun was pointed at me; an unknown hand turned aside the weapon. I pronounced, in a few words, in favour of a Provisional Government."

The man whom the necessities of the crisis thus made arbiter of the destiny of France, has played a part of immense importance in the history of our boastful Europe. During the earlier months of the new Republic, his genius was the sole star that shed upon her hope or mildness; his eloquence the sole music that relieved the turmoil and trepidation of her march; his courage the sole defence that breasted the surges of mob passion, and forbade them to pass the bounds of order; his good faith the sole warranty that bade anxious Europe confide. He had taken upon his head an awful responsibility by those few words, when he "pronounced in favour of a Provisional Government." He had daringly turned the endangered vessel towards a lee shore; and he evidently felt that upon him lay the obligation of carrying her into the haven. Though we may strongly blame the temerity of his first act, we cannot deny that his after-efforts bore a stamp of transcendent energy and disinterestedness. During the most stirring scenes of 1848, this one man moves as the central figure, and vast circles of human interest revolve around him. Even fifty years hence, the intimate knowledge of such a man's childhood would be coveted: those who relished his poetry, or glowed with the picture-narratives of his history, or traced his gigantic efforts in the political struggles of France, would feel curious to know under what influences had grown up a man, in whose character met so much genius, religious sentimentalism, political extravagance, and private magnanimity. History would never have told the tale of Lamartine's childhood. Even biography could not have disclosed all its secrets: his own memory alone could retrace the impressions that a mother had made upon his young heart, and show to the world how it was that the man who had enough of passion and of ambition to be a

revolutionist, had yet principles and feelings pervading his heart which led him to chain even the lion of revolution, and forbid him to shed blood. We owe to the poverty of M. Lamartine the knowledge of his childhood. Fain would he have held in sacred quiet the records of those morning hours of life, which are naturally given to privacy, before we rush out into the heat and struggle of the day. But necessitated to procure funds, he gives to the world the reminiscences of his first years, not calling them "Confessions," as has been common since the days of Rousseau, but "Confidences ;" a name which, we suppose, indicates what they were meant to be when written.

"I remember," says Lamartine, "to have once seen a willow-branch broken by a hurricane, and borne down by the river Saone, then overflowing a female nightingale was sitting close upon her nest, which was scarcely raised above the river's foam, and the male, on the wing, followed his beloved ones, thus housed in the midst of ruins." By this touching. figure he describes the circumstances of his own parents, at the moment when he was born, amid the hurricane of the great French Revolution. No childhood could be more romantic than his. His father, a soldier and a nobleman, is cast into prison. His mother had been brought up at court, in the household of the Duke of Orleans, "along with the King LouisPhilippe, sharing the same lessons and the same sports." She found herself in the town of Mâcon, with her child, in a house right opposite that in which her husband was prisoner. She could see him from her garretwindow. She tied a thread to an arrow, and a letter to the thread, shot the arrow into the prison-window, and left her husband to pull the thread over. In the same way he replied. "She carried me every day to the garret-window, showed me to my father, suckled me in his sight, made me stretch out my little hands towards the bars of the prison, and then, pressing my forehead to her breast, she devoured me with kisses in the sight of the prisoner; seeming thus to waft to him the fondnesses which, for his sake, she lavished upon me." The prisoner thus excited must needs embrace his wife and child. "Some hours of happiness snatched from persecutions and death were well worth a few moments of danger. Who could tell if tomorrow the prisoners might not be transferred to Lyons, to Paris, or to the scaffold?" A file was conveyed to the prisoner, a bar removed from the window, a stout rope stretched across the street; and in a dark night, "clinging to it by his hands and feet, and sliding himself along from knot to knot above the heads of the sentinels, he crossed the street, and found himself in the arms of his wife, and by the cradle of his infant son." The prisoner, having thus a door of escape for a time of need, returned to his cell. The perilous interview, though often repeated, was so prudently arranged as to escape detection. Finally, this noble young wife and mother ventured to cast herself at the feet of the coarse and brutal men who wielded republican power, imploring the liberation of her husband. Approaching one of these, she carried her boy in her arms, "that compassion might appeal to him with two faces instead of one." This official was one Citizen Javoques, and seems to have been of milder mood than comported with the sternness of his times and his party; for the sight of the beautiful young mother with her child so melted him, that he made her sit down, and took the little fellow on his knee. She could not conceal her dread at seeing her infant in the hands of a Republican; but Javoques said, "Don't fear, Citizeness: Republicans also have children." Then, as the babe played with his tri-coloured scarf, and smiled, he added, "Your boy is very handsome for the child of an aristocrat: bring him up for his

country, and make a citizen of him." How little did the mother or the Magistrate foresee, that when both of them were beyond the region of aristocratic and plebeian rivalry, that hand, now playing unconsciously with the tri-colour, should lift up that ensign in spite of yells, and bayonets, and levelled guns, and hoist it triumphantly on the rampart of a new republic, tearing down the red flag of blood!

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The father was eventually liberated, and settled on a little estate, called Milly, near Mâcon, in circumstances which "balanced between pinching poverty and frugal competence." And here we begin to see what kind of a mother nursed the young emotions of Lamartine. "Happiness," she said, speaking of their narrow means, "is not measured by acres as land is; it is measured by resignation of heart: for God has willed that the poor should have an equal share with the rich, so that neither poor nor rich should dream of asking happiness from any but himself." Had we only seen this glance of Madame de Lamartine, she would have shone in the memoirs of her son, as we have seen a beam from a single star gently relieve the darkness of a stream rolling hastily on by night. But, though her renowned son has better reflected her talents than her virtues, he has reverenced that which he had not grace to imitate, and presents us, in the records of his own childhood, with the portraiture of his mother, while a sense of his own inferiority is not so much paraded by way of confession, as permitted to escape out in involuntary and, he perhaps thinks, inaudible sighs. Before proceeding to give his delineations of her moral and religious character, we cannot deny ourselves the pleasure of quoting his sketch of her personal appearance, as recalled in his recollection of a scene of childhood :—“ On a couch is seated a woman who appears still young, although she is already bordering on her thirty-fifth year. Her figure, tall also, has all the suppleness and all the elegance of that of a young girl. Her features are so delicately formed; her black eyes have a look so open and penetrating; her transparent skin permits the blue veins and the ever-changing colour, called up by the slightest emotion, to be so clearly visible beneath its snowy surface; her jet-black, but fine and glossy, tresses fall in such wavy folds and graceful ringlets around her cheeks, and rest upon her shoulders, that it is impossible to say whether she is eighteen or thirty years of age. No one could wish to strike off from her age one of those years, which have only served to perfect her physiognomy and ripen her beauty. This beauty, although pure in every feature if they are examined in detail, is peculiarly apparent in the ensemble, by its harmony, its grace, and, above all, by that radiance of inward tenderness, that true beauty of the soul, which lights up the body from within,—a radiance of which the loveliest face is only the outward reflection."

Did a son too highly colour the portrait of his mother's person, who would love him the less for the unconscious flattery? But all who have seen the son of Madame de Lamartine will readily believe that even in personal charms she was all that he has painted her. Perhaps the sun of France does not shine on a finer man; and he, describing his own appearance at the age of ten, says, "In a word, the portrait of my mother with a manly cast and expression, such was I then."

And now we would wish all mothers to come with us under the guidance of this brilliant son, and mark how the foot that has trampled on a throne, and stamped till the tigers of a revolution grew tame, becomes gentle and reverent as it approaches the grave of a godly mother. Let them mark how that heart, over which have passed the transformations of travel, the

chills of diplomacy, the searing-irons of dissipation, the inflations of fame, and the harrows of fierce political strife, retains, as fresh as if no air but that of his native valley had ever breathed upon him, the impressions of a godly mother's life. Ah! mothers, ye have an awful power: not only do ye bend the twig, but when the tree is full-grown and fruit-bearing, its roots, though all unseen, are feeding upon your moisture.

"My education," says Lamartine, speaking of his childhood, "was wholly centred in the look, more or less serene, in the smile, more or less open, of my mother. The reins of my heart were in her hand..........My sole masters were my father and mother. I saw them read; I wished to read: I watched them writing, and asked them to help me to make letters..........A taste for reading had early taken possession of me: it was with difficulty my parents could find a sufficient number of books appropriate to my age, to gratify my curiosity..........But, above all, I drank deep from my mother's mind: I read through her eyes; I felt through her impressions; I lived through her life..........In a word, the insensible instruction I derived was not a lesson; it was an act of living, of thinking, and of feeling, which I performed under her eye, along with her, like her, and through her. We lived a double life."

We now give that which is directly his sketch of religious character, drawn partly from his memory of her life, and partly from "twenty volumes of intimate communings with herself and with God," which she wrote, and often consulted, "in order to compare her progress and amend her life." Her son can only trace her piety in its outward actions: to him, alas! the inner springs are still secret; so secret, that he will be found saying, that "she was born pious, just as others are born poets." Amongst those who have never been clearly taught that necessity of faith in Christ for pardon and regeneration, which applies equally to all, nothing is more common than to ascribe to an original diversity of nature the difference which marks the character of the regenerate. In reading Lamartine's notes of his mother's piety, we shall find that he often errs in expression; but that all her acts which he names are consistent and beautiful. He says:

"The predominant feeling of this heart was a boundless, tender, and consoling sense of the infinite. She was too sensible, and too large-minded, for the miserable, petty ambitions of the world. She was a sojourner in it, but not an inhabitant of it. This sense of the infinite in all objects, and, above all, in love, was converted in her mind into an invocation and a perpetual aspiration to Him who is the source of it; that is, to God. One might say that she lived in God, as much as it is permitted to any creature to do so. There was not one of the phases of her soul which was not unceasingly turned towards the ray from on high, which was not penetrated, irradiated, and warmed by it, as it flowed directly from God upon our thoughts, and penetrated to us, through the shadows and the chaos of our souls, like the light of heaven through the crystal panes of our closed dwellings. She reaped, as the result, a feeling of piety which never clouded her brow. She was not a devotee; she had none of that stupid terror of God, of those childish fears, those slavish emotions of the soul, and those prostrations of the intellect, which compose the devotion of so many women, and which are in them only a childhood prolonged during their whole life, or an old age, peevish and jealous, which revenges itself by a sacred passion for the profane passions which they can no longer feel.

"Her religion, like her genius, was wholly centred in her soul. She

believed humbly, she loved ardently, she hoped firmly. Her faith was an act of virtue, and not an act of reason. She looked on it as the gift of God, received from the hands of her mother, and which it would have been culpable in her to examine, or to allow to be tossed about by every breath which crossed her path. Later in life, all the raptures of prayer, all the tears of admiration, all the outpourings of her heart, all the anxieties of her life, and all her hopes of immortality, were so identified with her faith, that they formed, as it were, a portion of it in her thoughts; and, in losing or in altering her belief, she would have thought she had lost at once her innocence, her virtue, her affections, her happiness here below, and her pledge of happiness in a better world,-in short, her hopes on earth and in heaven! Therefore she clung to it as to her heaven and her earth. And then she was born pious, as others are born poets. Her piety was her nature; the love of God her passion! But this passion, by the immensity of its object, and by the very security of its enjoyment, was serene, happy, and tender, like all her other passions.

"This piety was the portion of herself which she desired the most ardently to communicate to us. To make us creatures of God in spirit and in truth was the most cherished wish of her motherly heart. In this also she succeeded without system, and without effort, and with that marvellous skill of nature which no artifice can equal. Her piety, which flowed from every breath she drew-from every action and from every gesture-enveloped us, as it were, in an atmosphere of heaven here below. We believed that God was behind her, and that we were about to hear Him, and to see Him, as she seemed herself to hear, and see, and converse with Him in each impression of the day. God was, as it were, one amongst us. He was formed in us with our earliest and most undying impressions. We never remembered a day when we had been first spoken to of Him. We had always seen Him forming one with our mother and ourselves. His name had been drunk in by our lips along with our mother's milk; we had learned to speak of Him amidst our infant prattle. In proportion as we grew up, the actions which rendered Him present and even perceptible to the soul, had taken place twenty times a day before our eyes. In the morning and in the evening, before and after our repasts, we had been made to address Him in short prayers. Our mother's knees had been long our familiar altar. Her radiant features were ever veiled at this moment by a respectful and rather solemn shade of reflection, which had impressed on ourselves a feeling of the seriousness of the act to which she prompted us. When she had prayed along with us and over us, her lovely countenance became even sweeter and gentler than before. We felt that she had summoned up all her strength and all her joy, in order to shed them over our own hearts in a fuller stream."

It would be difficult to present a stronger picture of a walk indeed close with God, than is here drawn; and, considering the defective light of the mother, and the defective religious character of the son, we should probably imagine that filial ardour and habitual imaginativeness had no small part in brightening the colours which are here so glowing. But when we carefully analyze the details of fact which follow, the prayerfulness, the meditation, the care to point out God in providence and nature, joined to the beautiful and constant works of charity, we become satisfied that even the great poet was dealing in fact when drawing the above portrait of his mother. We should not have been prepared to find a habit of free ejaculatory prayer cherished by a Roman Catholic; but it is plain, from the whole account, that Madame de Lamartine was one of the few who, brought

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