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Thus he jogs along the beaten track of life, verging neither to the right or left of the high-way. The poet loiters to cull flowers on the road, and the philosopher to smooth its roughness; but the common-place man tarries for nothing but his meals and his hour of repose. When his journey is over, he resigns himself quietly to his last sleep, while a ten-pound marble records his virtues, and his generosity encircles the fingers of his immediate friends and executors.
READING SCHOOL REVISITED.
"Forsan et hæc olim meminisse juvabit."
ON referring a few months since to an odd volume, entitled, "A topographical account of Reading and its Abbey," it suddenly struck me, that I had suffered many eventful years to elapse without once paying a visit to the scene of my school-days. This reflection was accompanied by no ordinary visitations of conscience; to appease which, I dispatched a hasty luncheon, packed up a few shirts, and feeling, with Sempronius, that "conspiracies no sooner should be formed than executed," hurried off incontinently to the White Horse Cellar.
I reached Reading at a late hour, when the bells of Saint Laurence were chiming their last evening peal; and after a lengthened but interesting chit
chat with mine host of the George retired to rest, in expectation of being awoke betimes by that chanticleer of ill omen, the school bell.Although I am not by nature superstitious, yet the very sound of a bell, by recalling the accursed music which used to summon me to punishment, arouses the most sensitive apprehensions; and without forfeiting any pretensions to reason, I may perhaps be permitted to observe, that if ghost ever haunted the scenes of the living, the voice of old Aristarchus the pedagogue assuredly animates the tintinnabulary lungs of modern academies.
Despite however of such awkward reminiscences, the morning sun-shine brought with it unusual buoyancy, mellowed by a shade of reflection which even in the hour of cheerfulness a generous spirit freely offers up at the shrine of departed pleasure. The Abbey, that favorite resort of my childhood, was the first spot to which fancy instinctively allured me, while every step I traced was on ground hallowed by the recollections of the past. Here flowed the dyke which I had so often crossed to escape from the vigilance of ushers; there stood the three posts which marked the boundaries of the play-ground, and to the right in the distance, towered the deep firs of Caversham grove, relieved
by its white chalk-hills which melted away in the mild blue of ether.
As I hastened on my route, the dawning beauties of the day increased the interest of the scene. The sun still lagged in the East, and streamed in a golden light through the ivy-tangled windows of the Abbey; while from the Thames that flowed beneath my feet, rose the silver mist of night. The adjacent meadows sparkled with a thousand burnished hues; large drops of vapor hung half melted on the beard of the thistle, and the distant murmurs of the stirring town, the rumbling of a solitary waggon through the streets, or the careless whistle of the sauntering ploughman, announced that the morning duties were commenced. Often when a boy had I witnessed this graceful spectacle, but the reflections it inspired were then tinged with the happy coloring of youth. When I beheld the sun breaking away from the East amid a delicate variety of clouds, now shrouded in mist, and now climbing triumphant the clear blue vault of heaven, I thought of him only as the herald of a holiday. But the effect was now different; time had thrown over my mind the sober hues of reflection, and the summer sun on which I now gazed seemed at best but an index to the faded volume of the past.
On reaching the Abbey, I seated myself on what had once been a high crowned window, for the situation commanded a well-known prospect. On one side of me rose the venerable school-room with its play-ground in front, and a few stragglers commencing their morning amusements; and to the left of the ruins, flowed the Thames in gentlest undulations, through the well-known "King's Meadows." As I reclined in all the lazy luxury of contemplation against a projecting buttress, the recollection of past glories rushed full upon my mind. Amid these deserted ruins, I internally exclaimed, the strains of merriment were once heard; from these time-worn portals gay ladies, and flaunting minstrels issued in pride of ephemeral greatness; here gallantry once celebrated the praises of love, and devotion offered up incense at the altar of its God. How are the mighty fallen! The lady and her lover-the minstrel and his choir-the abbot-the friar and the nun, have all gone to slumber in the dark night of the tomb, and centuries have elapsed since the very worm their conqueror has mouldered into dust. But time still remains to tell the tale of other days; he shouts aloud in every echo of the gale, he creeps amid every ruin of the Abbey, and mocks the silence