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that must inevitably come as something of an anti-climax to the scene that we have just been witnessing. On the road to the hotel we overtake the bishop, wending a leisurely way back to dinner. Two Belgian women kneel down to kiss the big amethyst ring that is the sign of his office, the bond of their common Catholicity lying too deep for any interference of race or language. Must we believe these things 2 We know already that to do so is no essential canon of the Catholic faith, and this bishop, humblest of prelates, is yet something of a statesman. No doubt, he assures us, for every temporal blessing these poor folk receive they will receive twenty spiritual ones; and how can so great a faith be spent in vain : So we return together rather silently, and one of us, at any rate, with the conviction that he has been admitted to the inner sanctum of a great and vital creed. The details might have jarred perhaps upon a too asthetic purist; even the objective of it all, to the large majority, this apparently whimsical interference of the Divine Pity, after much beseeching, in the humdrum earthly ailments of so tiny a proportion, might have seemed crude beyond belief. Yet we knew that, for all that, these acres of sunbaked gravel had still been holy ground; while if this afternoon had been in any degree typical, then its consecration rested upon a tradition scarcely less sacred perhaps than that assigned to it by its most literal believers. And yet perhaps, of all hours spent at Lourdes, it will not be this, but one later, that will remain longest in the memory of a brief visit—an hour that struck a note no less ardent than that of its predecessors, but with a certain added quality of rejoicing, that came as a fitting crown upon the day's devotion. Between eight and nine o'clock, as we drank our after-dinner coffee in the little boulevard, there came up to us the first bars of the Lourdes hymn, and presently between the trees we could see a growing myriad of tiny lights flashing about the Grotto. The hymn waxed stronger, Ave, Ave, Ave Maria—Ave, Ave, Ave Maria, with a slow and almost barbaric, yet joyful, monotony. And as we went down towards the scene of the afternoon’s service, we could see it gathering shape, this giant procession of candle-bearers, men, women, and children—French, Flemish, English, American, priests, peasants and gentry—moving towards us with no semblance of confusion, but after a settled plan, a river of light in the soft June darkness. Above it the outlines of the Basilica had already been pencilled out in electric lights, its delicate spire, in a haze of pale-blue radiance, lifting itself up against the deepening violet of the sky.
At the opposite end of the dim arena the head of the carved
Virgin was surrounded with a bright halo of tiny lamps; and upon
the summit of the Pic du Ger, three thousand feet high over the little town, there blazed out among the stars a flaming cross, the last word, if one may so put it, in the stage-management, as though the very heavens themselves had declared themselves in worship. For an hour we stood there, while they filed past us, rank upon rank, each separate battalion of singers, renewing the melody of the hymn in all manner of different keys, and with a hundred varying accents, but never conveying the least impression of discord—a spectacle and chorus unique surely in two hemispheres. They were still singing when the bells struck nine, and it must have been nearly ten o'clock when at last the whole vast gathering assembled before the Rosary Chapel to recite the Credo with such an intensity of unquestioning conviction that our young priest of the morning, if he were present, must have felt his very being leap out to embrace them. It would have been the day's last note for him, no doubt— a note of triumphant justification. For ourselves, as we returned finally to our hotel, there remained perhaps another one. In a shady corner, yet still in the very heart of all that had been taking place, we came accidentally upon a lover and his sweetheart. We saw him stooping in the act of bestowing upon her a very leisurely embrace—not an uncommon sight, perhaps, but one that gave us just then a distinct sensation of shock. It served, at any rate, to remind us how far, in twenty-four hours, we had diverged from a normal humanity.
H. H. BASHFoRD.
AccIDENT, often the best friend of the author, brought me the other day a letter from a stranger containing invaluable information concerning the poet of ‘The Female Friend’ (that masterpiece). It was particularly welcome to me because ever since I quoted part of ‘The Female Friend’ in a book, I have had to parry not only questions as to its authorship, but, by the less discerning, compliments too. In spite of what I have said, and in spite also of only too great a body of evidence proving my incapacity, I am still occasionally credited with these faultless stanzas; which may now be quoted once again, in their entirety, the better to make it clear to the reader how far they are beyond anything within my limited range :
In this imperfect gloomy scene
But no, I will not quote it yet. “The Female Friend’ is so incomparably the best of its author's poems that I will keep it to the end and first say something of the poet and of his other work. The author of ‘The Female Friend’ was the Reverend Cornelius Whur, a clergyman ministering in East Anglia, in—one need hardly inform the discriminating reader—the first half of the nineteenth century. His poetical effusions are to be found in two volumes, ‘Willage Musings on Moral and Religious Subjects,’ published at Norwich in 1837, and ‘Gratitude's Offering, being Original Productions on a Variety of Subjects,’ published also at Norwich, in 1845. Both collections were published by subscription, and many well-known Norfolk and Suffolk names may be found in the list. In ‘Village Musings’ I find the beneficent Joseph John Gurney (two copies) and Bernard Barton of Woodbridge (two copies). Joseph John Gurney, however, soon had enough, for when ‘Gratitude’s Offering' came out he declined to subscribe at all, while Bernard Barton reduced his risk by half. Amelia Opie had one of each book.
Before coming to the poems themselves, let me quote from the poet's two prefaces, the latter of which is dated from Pulham, St. Mary Magdalen, and so pave the way for the Whur anthology. He thus introduced ‘Willage Musings”:
The author of the following pages is conscious of possessing but few attractions to recommend himself to public notice; nor does he feel any disposition to impose upon society a false representation, either of his abilities or situation in life. The information which he possesses was acquired in a confined circle—under great disadvantages—and with habits of an exceedingly retired character.
To persons of respectability and talent he, however, has had access, and to add to their amusement has sometimes repeated the productions of his own pen. His having done so ultimately led to pressing solicitations to appear in the character which he has here assumed, but it will be to him a source of deep regret if the productions of his leisure hours be the occasion of offence to any, his desire and intention having been to amuse and benefit all—to offend none.
That was in 1837. Eight years later he wrote, on the threshold of ‘Gratitude’s Offering’:
The title which this volume bears was adopted by the author in consequence of the unanticipated patronage he has received—the success that attended his former work, ‘Village Musings,’ three large editions having been called for in a very short time. No one, he thinks, can have been treated more handsomely. To ladies and gentlemen who adorn the first circles he considers himself under special obligations.
The life of the writer, he may observe, has been rather eventful, and he cannot but say that the encouragement he has received from the Rev. Dr. Hall forms one of the most gratifying circumstances of his history. . . . In conclusion it is necessary only to add that the great diversity in the character of his readers appeared to the author to call for a diversity in his productions; but as none of the pieces, however amusing they may be, are altogether destitute of a moral bearing, a hope is cherished that the work will in some degree meet the taste of society, and afford not only innocent amusement, but perhaps a measure of consolation.
One discerns in those prefaces a very charming blend of modesty and pardonable vanity. The good Cornelius was very well satisfied with his rhyming gift. He did not rank it high, but he esteemed it, as indeed a really simple honest soul would and must. It is the complex folk who depreciate their wares and shrink from reading or repeating their verses in public. Mr. Whur had no false shame. I like to think of the low-toned, moist-eyed clergyman listening to tales of woe about ladies and gentlemen, amiable wives and intelligent children, and then hurrying off to poetise them, and returning with the effusion all hot for quiet yet effective declamation. We may laugh now, but it was no laughing matter then. I can believe that among the simple East Anglian gentry these little metrical pocket-handkerchiefs (so to speak) helped to dry many a tear, even if they made new ones first. Tears can wash away tears, as all comforters know. Of Cornelius's pulpit successes no evidence remains, and such specimens of his intellect as are contained in these two volumes are not impressive; but he fulfilled one part of a pastor's duty as it probably has rarely been fulfilled by a cleverer man—he comforted the unhappy. I cannot do better than begin this examination of his consoling muse by describing the first poem in Mr. Whur's second book, for he deliberately placed it in that proud position, and it illustrates his manner. I will not quote the poem, but the poet's prologue to it—the composition of a prose argument being as dear to his heart as that of verse. For he knew exactly what he wanted to say: his mind was perfectly clear; and it was because he wished others to be equally so that he enforced his poetry with prose— as wise travellers used to carry a brace of pistols. The poem is entitled ‘The Lady's Affecting Tale.”
The following remarkable narrative was put into the author's hands by the lady to whom it refers, and who expresses herself as follows: “My father was a clergyman of the Church of England, and lived and died at L-, in the county of Suffolk. He was twenty-nine years old at the time of his decease. My mother was the only daughter of a gentleman who lived at B– in the county of Essex, where she had been tenderly brought up ; she likewise died at L- in her twentyseventh year. They left at their decease three children, all of whom are still living. I, who am the youngest, am in my sixtieth year. My father died three weeks before I was born, and my mother in twelve weeks after. My grandfather, who then took the charge of us, died when I was four years old. We were then received under the care of an uncle and aunt, who also died a few years afterwards, and both in one year. Our principal executor acted most dishonourably, and lived to feel its melancholy result. I have seen him in business and flourishing like the ‘green bay tree” as we read in the thirty-seventh Psalm. His wife, a comely looking woman, was the subject of severe mental affliction for upwards of twenty years, and he himself received relief from the parish for several years before he died; and none of his children prospered in the world. But towards me, unworthy as I am, this scripture hath been fulfilled—“I will be a father to the fatherless.” Such is the lady's affecting tale, and the writer will in conclusion add that she who had been a neglected orphan, was afterwards married to a gentleman who knows her worth, and who seeks her happiness. She is also blessed with two daughters and three sons, all of whom are sources of comfort, and conspire to render the close of her earthly pilgrimage beautiful and serene. Upon several occasions the author was entertained at the residence of this amiable female, and it was by her request that the following lines were written, and occupy their present situation.
The ‘Lady's Affecting Tale’ is typical; it offered the kind of material that Mr. Whur liked best. You see him here in his glory:
the confidential friend with that firm basis for friendly confidence, a series of bereavements. You see him full of sympathy and