Page:Household Words - Volume 12.djvu/119

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Charles Dickens.]
[Sept 1, 1835.] 109
THE ROVING ENGLISHMAN.

O sun! thou cherisher of life,
  Thou opposite of death,
Dissolver of the frost-bound strife
  That seals up Nature's breath!

Nurse of the poor man's orphan'd brood,
  God of the harvest fields,
Ripener of all earth grants for food,
  And all her beauty yields;

Deliverer of the prison'd streams
  From winter's joyless reign;
Awakener from mournful dreams
  To sound and sense again.

They fable of thee pleasant things;—
  To bear our loved to thee,
The great ships spread their strong white wings,
  Like angels o'er the sea;

And daily in thy heavenly glow
  Our sick and weak we set;
Watch for the end of anxious woe.
  And sigh, "Not yet—not yet! "

O sun! look down on me and mine
  From that o'erarching sky;
Emblem of God's great glory shine,
  And His all-pitying eye;

Lest when I on that glory gaze,
  Mine eyes through tears look out,
Like one who sees with sore amaze
  And faint distressful doubt,

The changed face of some faithless friend,
  Who promised generous aid,
Was trusted, tried, and in the end,
  The trembling hope betray'd.


THE ROVING ENGLISHMAN.

FROM BUCHAREST TO KRAIOVA.

Fancy an agreeable community of gipsies playing at civilisation, and my reader will not have an erroneous idea of Bucharest. Life is nowhere so free from vain restraints and troublesome formalities. There are no grave worshipful persons about, to shame merry folks into being staid and serious. A true Wallachian looks upon flirtation as the business of life. This may be varied now and then by dancing, gambling, and official peculation; but these are merely casual diversions, and the true-bred Wallachian returns to the first occupation with a quickened sense of enjoyment. He is indeed a political intriguer by nature ; but, after all, politics are merely an amusement to him, and he would give up the schemes of half a lifetime for the smile of some bedizened old coquette of forty-nine. He is not ambitious; but lie likes place for its profits; for the temporary advantage which it gives him over his rivals in love affairs, and over the neighbours who desire to rob him in some way—as most of them do. Every Wallachian nobleman believes devoutly that he has a right to hold some public office, at least once during his life, to divorce his wife when he pleases, and to outwit his neighbour. He would bear the utmost extreme of want and poverty however rather than follow any trade. Recently the prejudice entertained among the nobility against the learned professions, is happily melting away. I take it, they consented to be instructed by the Greeks in, this respect; so it is pleasant to add that the present minister—or, it would be more correct to say, director—of the interior, was a doctor of medicine, and that by far the greatest man in the country, lived long in exile on the honorable earnings of a small professorship in Moldavia.

I know no race of men more winning and interesting than the Roumans, or of conduct more thoroughly objectionable. The men are mostly slight, dark, gipsy-looking fellows, with keen, restless eyes. They are as active as wild men. They are almost as strong and fearless as their old Dacian fore-fathers. But they consider it the height of fashion and good taste to affect an exaggerated effeminacy of demeanour and habits. It is delightful to see some well-knit gentleman, with a sweeping moustache six or seven inches long, a nervous frame, and the glance of a hawk, whose right place would undoubtedly be at the head of a troop of irregular cavalry, placing his trust in eau de Cologne and cambric handkerchiefs, or waltzing with a six-dandy power fifty times round a room which he could clear from one end to the other at a single bound. But conversation, however carefully subdued, breaks out now and then in strange fiery sallies. There is a racy, fine-flavoured smack about it, which speaks of keen wits and hearty animal enjoyment in the midst of the most artificial scenes. Extraordinary intimacies exist among them. Friends are fond of calling each other by some pungent nickname that would torture the ears of a used-up gentleman of the West: a nickname usually derived from some odd act of roguery, which has of course been found out. They walk into each other's houses unannounced. They stay as long as they please, joining in the meals and occupations of the family, and talking, dancing, singing eternally. They are always combining and arranging practical jokes of an elsewhere unheard-of nature. The ladies enter keenly into this sport, and distinguish themselves in it. A gentleman of the French nation who was visiting, not long ago, at the house of a great Boyard, was delighted at the attentions of a lady who formed one of the company. Before the evening was over she implored him to write to her. The enraptured Gaul complied; and, on going out to dinner on the following day, learned to his dismay that his letter was the general topic of conversation in polite society, and had been handed about by his fair friend to all her acquaintances.

Two other stories are worthy of the Deca-