Page:010 Once a week Volume X Dec 1863 to Jun 64.pdf/80

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[Jan. 9, 1864.
ONCE A WEEK.

When thirteen Junes had burnt away,
The house arose as out of a dream:
Wide and stately, and tall and fair,
With windows to catch the sunset gleam;
Fifteen fair miles of subject lands
Girdle it round where it proudly stands.

Two hundred feet of western front,
And chapel and turret, and acres of roof,
And porch, and staircase, and welcoming hall,
And gate, that would keep no beggar aloof;
Three kings had died since it began,
And John had grown old, and pale, and wan.

One day the builder smiling sat,
His red-lined parchments slowly roll’d,
His work was ended—the night had come—
He bound and number’d them fold by fold;
And sat so gravely in the sun,
As if his toil had scarce begun.

Yes, there his life’s work stately stood,
With its shining acres of beaten lead,
Its glittering windows, row on row,
That centuries hence, when he was dead,
Should shine as they were shining then:
A landmark unto other men.

And there were the long white terraces,
And the great wide porch, like an open hand
Stretch’d out to welcome, and the tower
That rose like a fountain o’er the land;
And the great elms bosoming round the walls,
The singing birds’ green citadels.

They found him there when daybreak came,
In the self-same posture, self-same place,
But the plans had dropp’d from his thin wan hands,
A frozen smile was upon his face;
And when they spoke no word he said,
For John of Padua sat there dead.

W. T.




THE AUSTRIANS AT HOME.

 

 

I travelled from Munich to Vienna at night, thereby catching sleepy glances of magnificent forest scenery, and only made aware of Austrian territory by a very military demand for passports. But when daylight came, and every one shook off rugs and drowsiness, it was difficult to believe that we were not in quite another world from the fruity, beery, cabbagy little kingdom of Bavaria. This impression arose quite as much from a difference in the figures as in the background of the scenery around us. The Bavarians, though a worthy, are not a handsome race, and nothing could make them look less so than a comparison with their left-hand neighbours. Bavaria is by no means an ill-governed country; but, by the side of the Imperial Empire, many observers might imagine it to be so. No sooner do you cross the frontiers than you find yourself surrounded by evidences of a methodical, well-organised, practical government; and by a new, handsome, and distinct type of physiognomy. Dark eyes and hair, slight clearly cut—often haughty—features, a spiritual, vivacious expression: these are the chief characteristics of the latter—characteristics which are deteriorated in the peasant, but never obliterated. I shall not easily forget the faces of two country girls I saw from the railway carriage, when within an hour’s journey of the capital. We were waiting for refreshment, which, under ordinary circumstances, means a scramble for something we seldom get, never finish, and pay double for; but, in the present instance, it was otherwise. Just beyond the platform stood a little stall, superintended by two young women, apparently sisters, with tall graceful figures, and as pretty, intelligent, attractive faces as I remember to have seen. Quick as lightning they brought hot coffee, rolls, and cigars to the window, with an ease and charm of manner quite surprising in peasants. I had afterwards frequent occasion to note other instances in point. Do what you will, you cannot make an Austrian woman vulgar; and there are no ladies more lively, more accomplished, more charming, in fine, than those one meets in the middle-class society of Vienna. There is something akin to a prejudice in England against Austrians, for reasons which are obvious enough. This is a pity. Cultivated, sociable, eminently agreeable as they really are, there is no city one finds so pleasant, and quits so regretfully, as their capital. Of course, we must not be too anxious as to the political leanings of our acquaintances; of course, we must turn from their Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament without very exact inquiry regarding the liberty—or non-liberty—of speech existing there: then all goes well, and we shall give Vienna and the Viennese precedence of pleasant places and people. To return to first impressions. Seen by the way, the country reminds you of a Suffolk or Norfolk farm, so great and uniform is the neatness evinced. Not an inch of bank, not a square yard of field, is suffered to look slovenly or uncared-for. The lines of railway tell the same story: the stations are spacious and well-built, the cuttings and embankments are faultless, the carriages of all classes are first-rate and luxurious to a degree. Slovenliness seems a word ignored by the Austrian powers that be ; for everyone knows how generally these effects are due to government vigilance, rather than to private enterprise. Anyhow, the results are good to the eyes.

Arrived at the capital, which lies in a plain, and is not striking in approach, you select a fiacre from the row of brougham-like carriages near, and prepare to pay the porters for rescuing your portmanteaus from the custom-house officials. And here a curious experience