Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

After their union the names of Mary and Suffolk cease to come prominently before the public. We read of them occasionally being present at some court banquet or other festivity, but their time wast chiefly spent in happy seclusion at their country seat in Suffolk. Their marriage was blessed with two children-Henry, so named from his godfather, Henry VIII.; and Frances, the mother of the unfortunate Lady Jane Grey. After a union of nearly eighteen years, Mary passed away, after a short illness, June 26, 1533. She was buried with all pomp in the abbey church of St. Edmondsbury. On the dissolution of the monasteries the abbey was condemned, and the remains of the Queen-duchess were removed to St. Mary's church in the same town and placed beneath the altar. A small tablet commemorates the fact:

Sacred to the Memory of Mary Tudor, third daughter of Henry VII. of England, and Queen of France: who was married in 1514 to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. She died in his lifetime, 1533, at the manor of Westhorpe in this county: and was interred in the same year in the monastery of St. Edmondsbury: and was removed into this church after the dissolution of the Abbey.

ALEX. CHARLES EWALD.

THE

FRANCES RIDLEY HAVERGAL.

6

HE name of Frances Ridley Havergal has become widely known within the last few years as a sacred lyrist, while her recent death, at a comparatively early age, has attracted attention beyond the circle of her special admirers. The cheap issue of one of her volumes is already in its thirtieth, and another, The Ministry of Song,' has reached its thirty-eighth edition. But her finer hymns and lyrics have been diffused in magazines and hymn collections far beyond the range of even such a circulation. Such a popularity is unprecedented in the history of English Hymnology, and is more than enough to awaken curiosity and justify a brief notice of the career of Miss Havergal, and the characteristics of her poetry.

Frances Ridley Havergal was born on December 14, 1836, at Astley Rectory, Worcestershire. Of a family of six, consisting of two sons and four daughters, she was the youngest. Her father was rector of Astley parish, and was a man of refined tastes and varied acquirements. To the general public he is chiefly known by his first published musical composition-a setting of Bishop Heber's hymn, From Greenland's icy mountains.' The piece brought him 18ol., a sum which he gave to the Church Missionary Society. The same year in which his youngest child was born he won the Gresham prize medal for a 'Cathedral Service in A,' and five years later, for his famous anthem 'Give Thanks,' he was awarded a second gold medal. Astley Rectory was an old house, but its architectural decrepitudes were hid in a covering of greenery: ivy, and roses pink and china, clustered thickly on the walls, and vine and honeysuckle climbed the latticed porch. The grounds were filled with beautiful trees, and in the meadows behind there came forth every summer a wealth of buttercups and meadowsweet. The Rev. Mr. Havergal was in every respect a pattern clergyman, and the domestic influences of the Rectory were in complete keeping with its beautiful environment. Every day his children had solid nurture in things human and divine; and one of the poetess's sisters remembers what delight Frances, when a child, used to take in the Sunday evening hymn-singings, and how she astonished them all by the ease and facility with with she acquired the arts of reading and writing, gaining perfection in them even before they had been set her as stated tasks.

In 1842 the Rev. Mr. Havergal, on account of ill health, resigned the living of Astley, but in 1845 he was preferred by Bishop Pepys to the rectory of St. Nicholas, Worcestershire. After leaving Astley, the family had been staying at Henwick House, in the parish of

Hallow, and the removal from this quiet retreat was most unwelcome to the young poetess. In her 'Autobiography' we find her writing: This made a great difference to me, for I do think that the quiet everyday beauty of the trees and sunshine was the chief external influence upon my early childhood. Waving boughs and golden light always touched and quieted me and spoke to me and told me about God.' It is evident from all her poetry that early communion with rural objects had permanently impressed her poetic sensibilities, and some of her sweetest allusions are to the sights and sounds of country life. In the lore which nature brings instructor she had none, nor did she require any; she seems to have possessed a native talent for the interpretation of all natural phenomena. In all the 391 pages of her Memorials' the name of Wordsworth never occurs, and we have found nothing to show she ever studied his verse with any special appreciation. But there are many internal evidences which show that, whether a student of Wordsworth or not, she had in her somewhat of the genuine Wordsworthian spirit. The following stanzas might almost be taken as a loose leaf from the 'Poems of the Fancy' :-

[blocks in formation]

In that beautiful interlude of her Autobiography Ode' beginning,

[ocr errors]

What if we went in the sweet May weather
To a wood that I know which hangs on a hill,

we have unmistakable suggestions of the Intimations of Immortality.' In her 'Lynton' poem, again, there are imaginative groupings and rhythmical harmonies suggestive of the Yarrow lyrics:

Why does it seem familiar ground?
I was never here before;

I never saw this fairy dream

Of wood and wave, of rock and stream,
Nor watched the snowy foam-line gleam
On Devon's bay-loved shore.

It feels as weird and strange as though
My spirit had been here;

And in the mists of long ago
An outline wavers to and fro,
Now colourless, now all aglow,
Now faint, now wondrous clear.

The steep and dangerous way above,
The winding dell beneath;
The rushing Lyn, the shadowy trees,
The hills that breast the Channel breeze,
The white ships bound for western seas;
One shining marvel-wreath!

A little picture she had brought
Of Lynton's lovely vale:

I fastened it upon my wall,
Half deeming I had seen it all;

While colours came at fancy's call
To deck those outlines pale.

When she was twelve Frances Havergal lost her mother, and, although she confesses that this event did not make at first the impression upon me which might have been expected,' nevertheless, from this period we may roughly date the kindling of that intense religious enthusiasm which burns in all her life and poetry, and which remained unquenched to the last. The history of Miss Havergal's earlier religious experience would form a peculiar psychological study. Bred in the very lap of the Church of England, reflecting in herself her kindliest influences, and seeming a very living embodi ment of her cultured spirit, it touches one to find beneath the surface of her life, a surface apparently so quiet and tranquil, so many conflicting currents of religious feeling. Her bright life of hopefulness and trust had in it many dark days of despondency and misgiving. 'I am quite sure,' she said, 'that nothing in the way of earthly and external trials could have been to me what the inner darkness and strife and utter weariness of spirit, through the greater part of these years, has been. Many have thought mine a comparatively thornless path; but often, when the path was smoothest, there were hidden thorns within, and wounds bleeding and rankling.' Approximating, as her life did, almost to purity itself, it is sad to think her heart was so frequently disquieted at the thought of multitudinous backslidings. Miss Havergal's was a phase of mind which on its religious side had its fuller development in Cowper. A deep longing

after a pure life, united to a remarkable delicacy of conscience, made her very early a partaker of that religious melancholy which so darkened the life of the great Olney hymn writer. She thought when her schooldays were done she had attained to a higher standard of spiritual excellency than ever before; yet,' she was soon to remark, the tide ebbed again before many months had passed, and I remember longing to be able to say, "Oh God, my heart is fixed," in bitter mourning over its weakness and wavering. On another occasion, when the clouds had gathered thickly overhead, we find her writing, 'I often pray in the dark, as it were, and feel no response from above.'

6

Miss Havergal's education was entirely carried on at home until the year 1850, when she was sent to the school of a Mrs. Teed. There she passed six months, when she was transferred to Powick Court, near Worcester. At this school she continued until she was entered by her father a pupil of the Louisenschule, Düsseldorf, in 1852. Pastor Schulze-Berge, who was at the head of this establishment, says, She displayed such rare talent and such depth of comprehension, that he could only speak of her progress as extraordinary.' When Miss Havergal left Germany in 1853 she carried away with her a tolerable knowledge of Italian, and an ability to speak German and French fluently. It might have been thought that such acquirements would have proved sufficient to satisfy her studious ambition, but it was not so; on her arrival in England she set herself in thorough earnest to the acquiring of Greek and Latin and Hebrew ! Miss Havergal being of a fragile constitution, peculiarly susceptible to pain, it is easy to understand how frequent illnesses were the results of her severe mental habits, and how from time to time all engrossing studies had to be positively abandoned. She must choose between writing and living, she can't do both,' was her medical man's ultimatum, and she had to bow to the verdict, exasperating as it was to her active spirit to see the door of the literary world standing open before her, and to be prevented from entering when she stood on its very threshold.

6

Whilst it is true that Miss Havergal learned in suffering what she taught in song, it is also true that she had made her poetic purpose a subject of much serious reflection. It was owing to the fact that she very early apprehended that her poetical efforts must be strictly commensurate with her poetical strength, and that she correctly gauged her poetical capabilities, that we have received at her hands those hymns which for the rich qualities of their music have not been surpassed; and which for chastity of thought, reverence of spirit, and piety of feeling, have not been excelled by any religious writer since the days of Keble. Her song chalice' might be frail, but not less sure was she that it was a work divine. Her lyre was an Æolian harp, but she knew its strings could be sweetly musical when touched by a Higher Breath, and so she beautifully resolved—

6

« AnteriorContinuar »