صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

up in Romanism, and never led into circumstances where its errors become known, yet are raised by spiritual light far above the superstitions of their creed, and, though professing connexion with Rome, yet practise a piety far different from that of the Roman model. It will be remarked that Lamartine himself notes that her piety was peculiar. "She was not a devotee;" no, we do not read of pilgrimages, or patron saints, or austerities, or a Father Confessor, not one word of the Virgin, or any of the ten thousand forms into which Popery guides the earnestness of the earnest, whom it knows not how to lead to the true Source of life. She appears to have unconsciously freed herself from these trammels, and to have lived a life that would have better harmonized with a scriptural ritual than with the usages of Romanism. "The only lessons of religion given us by my mother were limited to her being herself religious before us, and along with us." This he disproves immediately after, by showing that she carefully taught them the spirit and the practice of piety; but it would appear she did not care to teach them Romish doctrine.

"The unceasing stream of love, of adoration, of gratitude, and prayer, which gushed from her heart, was her sole and natural preaching. Prayer —but rapid, lyric, winged prayer-was associated in our minds with the slightest actions of the day. This invocation was so naturally associated with them, that it was always a pleasure and a recreation for us, in place of being a wearisome obligation. Our life was, in the hands of this kind parent, a perpetual sursum corda. She elevated her thoughts to God as naturally as the plant stretches upwards to the air and the light. Our mother, to accomplish this, took a contrary course from that generally adopted. Instead of enjoining on us an annoying devotion, which would take children from their sports or their sleep, to force them to pray to God, frequently amidst their repugnance and tears, she made these short invocations a sort of feast of the soul, to which she invited us with smiles. She did not mingle prayer with our tears, but with all the little happy events which occurred to us during the day. Thus, when we awakened in the morning in our little beds, when the cheerful morning sun shone through our windows, when the birds carolled their songs, perched in the rosebushes or in their cages, when the footsteps of the servants had long echoed through the house, and when we impatiently awaited her coming to rise, she mounted the stairs, she entered, her features radiant with kindness, with tenderness, and joy; she embraced us in our beds; she assisted us to dress; she listened to the joyous little chirping, which children, whose imagination is refreshed by the night's repose, carol on awakening, like a nest of swallows beneath the eave, on the approach of their mother. Then she said to us: To whom do we owe this happiness which we are about to enjoy together? It is to God; it is to our heavenly Father. Without Him this lovely sun would not perhaps have risen ; these trees would have lost their leaves; these gay and happy birds would have died of hunger and cold on the naked ground; and you, my poor children, would have had neither bed, nor house, nor garden, nor mother, to shelter and nourish you, or to gladden your hearts during the season of life. It is most just, therefore, to thank Him for all that He gives us on this day, and to pray to Him that He will give us many other such days.' Then she kneeled down beside our bed; she joined our little hands together, frequently covering them with kisses as she did so, and repeated slowly, and in an under-voice, the short morning prayer, which we repeated with her accent, and in her words."

This picture is very beautiful; but perhaps the next will more surprise some ladies who, though living in far more tranquil times, and amid far brighter light, could hardly find courage to invite their poor neighbours to the solemnity of domestic prayer.

"In the evening, she did not wait until our eyes, weighed down with sleep, were half closed, to make us stammer out, as if in a dream, the words which delayed, to our pain and discomfort, the hour for repose: she collected around her in the saloon, immediately after supper, the domestics, and even the peasants of the nearest hamlets who were most intimate in the house. She took a book of pious Christian instruction for the people, and read a few short passages to her rustic audience. This reading was followed by a prayer, which she repeated herself in an audible and distinct voice, or which my sisters said in her place when they grew older. I fancy I still hear the responses of these monotonous litanies, which echoed in a deep hollow murmur through the beams of the roof, resembling the regular ebb and flow of the waves of the heart, breaking on the shores of life, and sending their voice to the ears of the Creator.


"One of us had always the task assigned him of offering up, in his turn, a short prayer for travellers, for the poor, for the sick, and for any private necessity of the village or the house. In thus appointing us a little part to perform in the serious act of prayer, she gave us an interest in it, by associating us with it, and prevented us from joining in it as a cold and lifeless habit, an empty ceremony, or even from looking on it with disgust. Besides these two almost public prayers, the rest of the day had, in addition, frequent and irregular raisings of our infant hearts to God. But these prayers, springing out of passing circumstances in the heart and rising to the lips of our mother, were merely the inspiration of the moment: they had nothing regular or fatiguing for us in their nature. On the contrary, they completed and consecrated, as it were, each of our impressions and our joys."

Mark again how pervasively her piety diffused itself through all the duties of life.

“Thus, when a frugal, but to us delicious, repast was spread on the table, our mother, before taking her seat and breaking the bread, made us a little sign which we understood. We restrained for a few moments the impatience of our appetite, to offer up a prayer to God that He would bless the food which He gave us. After the meal was over, and before we hastened back to our sports, we returned thanks in a few brief words. If we were setting out on some distant and anxiously wished-for excursion, on a lovely morning in summer, our mother, when leaving the house, made us offer up in a low voice, and without being perceived, a short mental invocation to God to bless this great joy, and to preserve us from all accidents. If our excursion led us to visit some sublime or graceful object in nature, which we had not before seen; into some gloomy and extensive pine-forest, in which the solemnity of the shades, and the gleams of light streaming through the branches, thrilled our youthful imaginations; past a beautiful sheet of water dashing down in cascades, and dazzling us with the spray and foam, the movement and the noise; if a lovely sunset grouped around the mountain-summits clouds of unusual shape and colours, and bade, whilst disappearing from our sight, a magnificent adieu to this little corner of the earth which it had illumined for a moment,-she rarely failed to take advantage of the grandeur or the novelty of the impression, to make us raise our souls to the Author of all these wonders, and to

place us in communication with Him by a few half-breathed sighs of adoration.

"How often, in the summer evenings, when walking with us through the fields, where we gathered flowers and insects, and picked up shining pebbles in the bed of the rivulet which flowed through Milly, did she make us seat ourselves beside her, at the foot of a willow; and, her heart overflowing with pious enthusiasm, converse with us for a few moments on the hidden and religious meaning of this lovely creation, which delighted our eyes and our hearts! I know not if her explanations of nature, of the elements, of the properties of plants, and of the purposes which the insect tribe were intended to serve, were exactly in accordance with the teachings of science. She took them from Pluche, Buffon, and Bernardin de St. Pierre; but if she did not produce irreproachable systems of nature, she aroused in our minds a deep sentiment of a protecting Providence, and a religious adoration for this boundless ocean of God's wisdom and compassion. "When we were deeply touched and impressed by her sublime commentaries, and when our eyes began to glisten with admiration, she did not allow these soft tears to dry up at the breath of frivolous amusement, or light and passing thoughts. She hastened to convert all this contemplative enthusiasm into chaste and softened feeling. Some verses of the Psalms, which she knew by heart, appropriate to the impressions awakened by the scene, were pronounced with solemn earnestness. They gave a pious meaning to all the works of creation, and lent a divine utterance to all our sentiments."

We were hardly prepared to find that the worthy Dr. Buchan, whose "Domestic Medicine" is among the familiar acquaintances of many a British home, had a place under the roof where grew the young Lamartine, and an influence among the rural invalids of Mâcon. But the passage that discloses this fame of our countryman discloses also another trait in the character of Lamartine's mother. As we see that noble lady training her sons and daughters to frequent the bed-sides of the invalid poor, we cannot but hope that her example will tend to raise many a mother above that pitiful littleness which would bound young charities by the limit of that most contemptible of fripperies,-genteelism. To withhold your children from moving among the poor, on errands of zeal or charity, because the "better families" of the neighbourhood do not practise such intercourse, is so mean, that it would be only despicable, were it not that everything which is guilty is too awful to be despised.

"When returning, she almost always led our steps past the humble cottages of the ailing or indigent inhabitants of the village. She approached their bed-sides, she gave them some words of advice, and a few remedies. She derived her prescriptions from Tissot or Buchan, those two Physicians of the people. She made medicine her peculiar study, in order to apply it to the poor. She possessed the instinctive genius, the prompt and comprehensive view, and the skilful hand of the true Physician. We assisted her in her daily visits. One of us carried the lint and the aromatic oil for the wounded, the others the linen bandages for the strained or bruised limb. We learned thus to feel none of that repugnance which renders man in after-life weak and helpless in cases of illness, useless to the sufferer, and timid at the aspect of death. She did not shield us from witnessing the most frightful scenes of poverty, suffering, and even agony. I have often seen her standing, seated, or on her knees, by the pillows of these wretched cabin-beds, or in the stables where the peasants sleep when they are old and worn-out with labour, wiping with her own hands the

cold drops of perspiration from the foreheads of the poor dying sufferers, turning them on their pallets, repeating to them the prayers for the departing, and waiting patiently for whole hours until their soul had fled to God, soothed in its passage by the gentle accents of her voice.

"She made us also the ministers of her alms-deeds. We were unceasingly occupied, I especially as being the largest, in carrying to a distance to the lonely cabins amongst the mountains, sometimes a little white bread for the women in their confinement, sometimes a bottle of old wine and some morsels of sugar, sometimes a little soup, strengthening for the old men who were broken down for want of nourishment. These little errands were even looked on by us in the light of pleasures and rewards. The peasants knew us for two or three leagues around. They never saw us passing without calling us by our childish names, which were familiar to them, without begging us to enter their houses, and to accept a morsel of bread, of bacon, or cheese. We were to the entire canton the children of the lady, the messengers of good tidings, the succouring angels for all the deserted sufferers amongst the rural population of the district. Wherever we entered there entered a providence, a consolation, a ray of joy and of charity. These sweet habits of intimacy with all the unfortunate, of familiar communication with all the dwellings of the neighbours, had led us to look on all the inhabitants of the country around as forming a portion of our family. From the aged man down to the smallest child, we knew every member of this little world by name. In the morning the stone steps of the entrance at Milly, and the corridor, were constantly besieged by the sick, or by the relations of the sick, who came to hold consultations and to seek advice from our mother. After us, it was to them she devoted her mornings. She was unceasingly occupied in making some medicinal preparation or other for the poor, in pounding herbs, in making cough-mixtures, in weighing drugs in little scales, frequently even in dressing wounds or sores of the most disgusting description. She employed our services for this purpose, and we assisted her to the utmost of our power in her labours. Others seek for gold in these alembics; our mother sought there only relief for the miseries of the wretched, and thus stored up for herself in heaven far higher and more precious treasures, the only ones she ever wished for here below, the blessings of the poor and the approbation of God."

Ay, those hands which had been delicately guarded in a court, and had played with the children of the proudest dynasty of Europe, yet rejoiced to "dress wounds or sores of the most disgusting description," though those were borne by the rustic persons of a remote peasantry.

But to the following extract we would call special attention: it more than any of the others admits us to the secret of Madame de Lamartine's life, and the hidden source of her lovingness, her cheerfulness, her outer tokens of piety :

"When all this bustle of the daily occupations was at last over, when we had dined, when the neighbours who occasionally came to pay us a visit had retired, and when the shadow of the mountain, stealing along the little garden, had already wrapped it in the twilight of the closing day, my mother separated herself from us for a short period. She left us either in the little saloon, or in a corner of the garden at some distance from her. She at last took her hour of repose and meditation apart and alone. This was the moment which she devoted to reflection; when, all her thoughts called home, all the wandering aspirations and feelings of the day turned inwards, she communed with God who formed her surest solace and support.

Young as we were, we knew the private hour which she reserved to herself amidst the busy duties of the day. We moved away instinctively from the alley of the garden where she was wont to walk at this hour, as if we had feared to interrupt, or to overhear, the mysterious and confidential outpourings of her heart to her Creator. It was a little walk formed of yellow sand, approaching to a red colour, bordered with strawberries, and lined on each side by a row of fruit-trees which rose no higher than her head. A large clump of hazel-trees terminated the walk on one side, and a wall on the other. It was the most deserted and sheltered spot of the garden. It was for this reason she preferred it; for what she saw there was within herself, and not in the horizon which bounded her vision. She walked with a rapid but measured step, like one whose thoughts are busily occupied, who marches on to a fixed and certain goal, and whose enthusiasm rises as he proceeds. She had her head usually uncovered, her beautiful black hair half floating in the breeze, her countenance a little graver than during the rest of the day, sometimes slightly bent towards the ground, sometimes raised to heaven, where her gaze seemed to search for the first stars that began to detach themselves from the deep blue of the firmament. Her arms were bare from the elbow downwards, her hands sometimes clasped like those of a person engaged in prayer, sometimes at liberty and plucking absently a rose or a few violet mallows, whose tall stalks sprang up along the margin of the walk. Sometimes her lips were half parted and motionless; sometimes firmly closed and working with a perceptible movement, like those of one talking through a dream.

"She thus paced, for about half an hour, more or less, according to the beauty of the evening, the leisure time at her disposal, or the free current of her mental inspiration, up and down the walk two or three hundred times. What was her occupation at such times? You have guessed it— she lived for a moment alone with God. She soared above earth; she voluntarily separated herself from everything which related to this lower world, to seek in communion with the Creator, even in the bosom of his works, that heavenly comfort which the suffering and loving soul requires to enable it to recruit its strength, and to live and suffer more and more to the close.

"What answer was given from above to her ardent aspirations, God alone knows what these aspirations to heaven were, we knew almost as well as herself. They were confessions, full of sincerity and earnestness, of the slight faults which she might have committed, or the slight omissions of duty she might have made, during the day; tender reproaches which sho addressed to herself to encourage within her a better return for the many blessings of her lot; passionate thanksgivings to Providence for any of those little happinesses of which we were the cause; for her son, who had displayed good dispositions; for her daughters, who were growing in loveliness before her eyes; for her husband, who, by his intelligence, and admirable spirit of order, had slightly increased the little fortune, and the future comfort of the household. Then there were the corn-fields which promised to yield an abundant crop, the vineyards, the source of our principal wealth, the flowers of which scented the air, and foretold an abundant vintage; some sudden and rapturous contemplations of the grandeur of the firmament, of the starry host, of the beauty of the season, the structure of the flowers and insects, the maternal instincts of the birds, some nests of which were always respected by us, and might be seen peeping amidst the branches of the rose-trees, or the shrubs of our domain. All VOL. V.-FOURTH SERIES,

3 A

« السابقةمتابعة »