Page images
PDF
EPUB

tions.

Three still retain their roofs, all have their delicate windows, each sixteen feet in hight and eight in breadth. Curious grave stones are in all these chapels, under which many brave men repose. To the left, and in the centre of this part of the building, is the nave, half of which is roofless. A great wall, covered with ivy, where the rooks make their nests, stands here, solitary and dead. On the north of this are the dim, cold cloisters, which we hastily went into, but as soon got out of. And now we enter the chancil, built in the form of a Greek cross, and which still retains much of its original beauty. Away above us

"The darken'd roof rose high aloof

On pillars lofty and light and small;

The key-stone, that lock'd each ribbed aisle,
Was a fleur-de-lys, or a quatre-feuille ;

The Corbells were carved grotesque and grim ;
And the pillars, with cluster'd shaft so trim,

With base and with capital flourish'd around,

Seem'd bundles of lances which garlands had bound."

But how beautiful is that window, its delicate imagery in imitation of wicker-work, traced into many an elegant shaft. It seems as though a breath would make it totter and fall. So slender is it that "Thou would'st have thought some fairy's hand 'Twixt poplars straight the ozier band

In many a freakish knot had twined;

Then framed a spell, when the work was done,

And changed the willow-wreaths to stone."

And as we see the wreck about us we cannot help thinking of the wrecks beneath us.

"The pillar'd arches were over their head,

And beneath their feet were the bones of the dead." Here lies Alexander II, the greatest of Scotland's early kings. There is deposited the heart of good Robert Bruce, which did not get to Jerusalem as its owner had intended. The great Douglas family have many representatives here, and it is contended by some that the wondrous Michael Scott was buried in the Abbey. And we must not forget that near one of the walls lies Sir David Brewster. After inspecting the interior it would be well to go into the old tumble-down grave-yard and see the ruins in all their beauty. Our exit is made through a rich portal in the south transept, "above which is a perfect window in the best style of florid tracery." Higher than this window, in a little tower, is a clock that has been

running for two hundred years. The face has had its figures worn off, but the hands still move, marking each minute and hour. Over the window were formerly images of Christ and the Apostles, standing in niches. Indeed, some of these still remain, but one has lost a head, another an arm, and still another is so battered that it is but a ghost of its former self." Underneath the window is a figure of John the Baptist, with his eye directed upward to, as our guide said, the statue of Christ, which has been cruelly taken down. All about here may be noticed the curious carved figures and devices. The buttresses have them, so have the pinnacles. The waste water flows through heads of dragons and horrid monstrosities. On one of the roofs we noticed the skeleton of a frog with a human skull attached; on another a reptile with wings. Musicians are admirably cut, as well as plants. So delicately are some leaves and stocks chiselled that a straw can penetrate the interstices between them. There are fantastic faces, flowers, vegetables, etc., all carved in stone, "with accuracy and precision so delicate," says Scott, "that we almost distrust our own senses, when we consider the difficulty of subjecting so hard a substance to such intricate and exquisite modulation."

What must the building have been ere the Reformation began. The inmates probably brought down the Abbey to where it is now, for we are told:

"O, the monks of Melrose made good kale

On Fridays when they fasted;

They wanted neither beef nor ale

As long as their neighbors' lasted."

The reformers at least thought this for they made a ruin of this grand old pile. There it is, to-day, roofless, windowless, tenantless, the ivy creeping, over it, grass growing where monks once knelt, the rook, and bat, and owl keeping each other companyoh, how desolate and dead it all is!

"When the broken arches are black in night,

[ocr errors]

And each shafted oriel glimmers white;

When the cold light's uncertain shower

Streams on the ruin'd central tower ;

When buttress and buttress, alternately,

Seem framed of ebon and ivory;

When silver edges the imagery,

And the scrolls to teach thee to live and die;
When distant Tweed is heard to rave,

And the owlet to hoot o'er the dead man's grave,
Then go but go alone the while-
Then view St. David's ruin'd pile ;.
And, home returning, soothly swear,
Was never scene so sad and fair !""

Dryburgh Abbey, another Catholic ruin, is situated five miles from Melrose. It was founded in 1150, and was used by Premonstratensian monks. This, along with Melrose, was destroyed by Ed-. ward II, in his retreat. It was rebuilt soon after, but was again de-. stroyed, in 1544, by the English. The Abbey was not as grand as Melrose, neither are the ruins as beautiful. St. Catharine's ivygrown window, the chapter house, St. Moden's chapel, ends of the transept, parts of the choir and monastry, and St. Mary's aisle, are. all that remain to tell the tale. Among these ruins, in beautiful. St. Mary's aisle, is another ruin, more interesting to me than all. else-Sir Walter Scott, who was buried here, September 26, 1832.. Around him is grouped his family. A fit place, methinks, for the resting place of such a man. But long after these stones have crumbled he will live "forever and ever."

EDUCATION IN COLOMBIA.

BY C. B.

Some time ago an intelligent and dignified American asked of us, "Is there anything like schools in the United States of Colombia?” We heard his words with astonishment, and could hardly mutter an answer at the time. The thought that they had been suggested by our apparent lack of knowledge came to our minds with irresistible force, and we reproached ourselves for not representing more worthily our beloved country. But the same question has since been repeated again and again by a great number of kind friends, and we have become so much reconciled to the insinuation involved in it that we can receive it now without any signs of emotion.

Calmly, then, we will answer, once for all, that there is something like schools in Colombia. Nay, we can say more without deviating from the truth, there are real, genuine schools in Colombia. True,

they are not as good as we want to have them, not as good as those of some of the other civilized nations, yet they are better than is generally supposed by sister countries.

And why have they not reached the standard of similar institutions in the United States, for instance? In order to answer this question fairly we would have to make a comparison of the two countries and trace the causes which have made of the one a more prosperous nation than the other. The subject is a great one and we do not propose to discuss it at present for fear of exceeding our limits. We will only present a brief outline of the history of Colombian education.

Colombia, like all the other South American republics, was once a Spanish colony. Three hundred years-three long centuries-did she groan under the heavy rod of a tyrannical government. Under their chains the people sighed for liberty and coveted after knowledge, but they sighed and coveted in vain. Liberty means independence, and independence was for the Iberian ruler the most odious word. Knowledge means power, and power in the oppressed is a constant threat to the oppressor. It was then consistent with their policy that the Spaniards should try to keep the masses in ignorance and darkness. A distinguished historian, describing the state of public education at the colonial epoch, expresses himself thus: "In the small country villages there were very few persons who knew the alphabet; in the towns and the large cities there were some primary schools, but they had no fixed rules nor were subject to the inspection of higher authority. From these our

*

young men went to the convents or to the colleges and universities. But all such institutions were but so many monuments erected to ignorance. In all of them they put in the hands of the youth books full of errors and fabulous stories. The colleges were nothing else, strictly speaking, than theological seminaries, where the students spent their time in anything but what was useful, and were compelled to attend to too many religious exercises."

In 1810 Colombia declared her independence, and after a cruel and bloody war of fourteen years, she succeeded in getting free from the Spanish yoke. It was not then until 1824 that she began to live, for Colombia's existence does not date from the time when the first Spanish adventurer said: "I like this soil, I like this climate, gold is abundant, I will build a city at the foot of yonder mountain

and make it the cradle of a new empire."

She was born when a few hundred patriots exclaimed, after having consecrated her soil with their blood: "Now that we have routed the last Spanish army let us return to the homes from which we have been absent so long, and let us work actively to preserve the peace and promote the prosperity of the Commonwealth.

And what an arduous task was that of preserving peace and pro. moting prosperity among so many elements of discord and anarchy. Our statesmen understood this and manfully did they strive to make themselves equal to the task. Being aware that one of the greatest foes they had to struggle against was ignorance, they made efforts to advance the cause of education. But the public treasury was poor and books and teachers were scarce. Primary schools were established, but they partook of many of the defects of those organized under the colony. Colleges were founded; but, besides not being accessible to students of limited circumstances, their course of instruction did not fully satisfy the desires of an ambitious youth who wished to drink abundantly in the waters of science: And no wonder, for how can good colleges exist without the cooperation of good institutions of elementary instruction?

Besides, students and teachers were often compelled to leave the library and the class-room in order to go to the battle-field to engage in bloody fratricidal contests. Ignorance that kindled the fire of civil war, and civil war in its turn, prevented the diffusion of learning. Meanwhile the republic suffered and patriotism almost despaired.

True, that in our intervals of peace, some men, more favored by fortune than their brethren, procured for themselves a good education in private institutions. It is true, also, that there were some powerful intellects which, removing every obstacle and overcoming every difficulty, succeeded in opening their way to eminence, distinguishing themselves as scholars and scientists. But these, composing only a comparatively small portion of the population, formed in time a kind of literary oligarchy which, by a very natural process in human society, assumed soon a political dignity, though it never gave itself a name or showed itself a body. Such a state of things could not but be detrimental to the welfare and progress of the republic, for the educated men, in the variety of their duties, at times mistook what was convenient for the people; and when

« PreviousContinue »