Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/75

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JOHN LEYDEN. 445


eager to secure the fruits of knowledge, and held for sufficient reward the fame of having gathered them.

Dr Leyden accompanied the governor-general upon the expedition to Java, [August 1811] for the purpose of investigating the manners, language, and litera- ture of the tribes which inhabit that island, and partly also because it was thought his extensive knowledge of the eastern dialects and customs might be useful in settling the government of the country, or in communicating with the indepen- dent princes in the neighbourhood of the Dutch settlements. His spirit of ro- mantic adventure led him literally to rush upon death ; for, with another volun- teer who attended the expedition, he threw himself into the surf, in order to be the first Briton of the expedition who should set foot upon Java. When the success of the well-concerted movements of the invaders had given them posses- sion of the town of Batavia, Leyden displayed the same ill-omened precipitation in his haste to examine a library in which many Indian manuscripts of value were said to be deposited. A library, in a Dutch settlement, was not, as might have been expected, in the best order, the apartment had not been regularly venti- lated, and, either from this circumstance, or already affected by the fatal sick- ness peculiar to Batavia, Leyden, when he left the place, had a fit of shivering, and declared the atmosphere was enough to give any mortal a fever. The pro- sage was too just ; he took his bed, and died in three days [August 28], on the eve of the battle which gave Java to the British empire.

Thus died John Leyden, in the moment, perhaps, most calculated to gratify the feelings which were dear to his heart ; upon the very day of military glory, and when every avenue of new and interesting discovery was opened to his pene- trating research. In the emphatic words of Scripture, " the bowl was broken at the fountain." His literary remains were intrusted by his last will to the charge of Mr Heber, and Dr Hare of Calcutta, his executors. They are understood to contain two volumes of poetry, with many essays on oriental and general literature. His remains, honoured with every respect by lord Minto, now repose in a distant land, far from the green-sod graves of his ancestors at Hazeldean, to which, with a natural anticipation of such an event, he bids an affecting farewell in the solemn passage which concludes the Scenes of Infancy.

The silver moon, at midnight cold and still, Looks, sad and silent, o'er yon western hill ; While large and pale the ghostly structures grow, Reared on the confines of the world below. Is that dull sound the hum of Teviot's stream ? Is that blue light the moon's or tomb- fire's gleam, By which a mouldering pile is faintly seen, The old deserted church of Hazeldean, Where slept my fathers in their natal clay, Till Teviot's waters roll'd their bones away ? Their feeble voices from the stream they raise, " Rash youth! unmindful of thy early days, Why didst thou quit the peasant's simple lot? Why didst thou leave the peasant's turf-built cot, The ancient graves, where all thy fathers lie, And Teviot's stream, that long has murmured by ? And we when Death so long has closed our eyes How wilt thou bid us from the dust arise, And bear our mouldering bones across the main, From vales, that knew our lives devoid of stain ? Rash youth ! beware, thy home-bred virtues save, And sweetly sleep in thy paternal grave !"