Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER II.

THERE can be no objection to our admiration of German literature, there is much in it that is rich and beautiful; there can be no objection to our imitation of whatever is simple, honest, economical, cheap, or amusing, in the habits of German life; nay, metaphysical people may even follow Kant and Hegel if they please, but for heaven's sake let us neither copy Metternich nor the King of Prussia. In a cheerful and gay enjoyment of simple things let us retrace our steps, and be German if you will, but from any inoculation of their religion or politics "good Lord deliver us!" In my

“Rural and Social Life of Germany,” I ħave drawn a full picture of their manners and doings; let us now take a view of them with reference to their political character, and we shall see that they are the very last people whom we should imitate in these respects, or whose institutions we should import. As regards their private life, the Germans are a contented and comfortable people, as a nation they are slaves; and every step we approach nearer to them in their machinery of government, the nearer we become such ourselves.

At every

But perhaps there are very few of our countrymen who have sufficiently considered or been struck with the great extent to which we have been Germanized in these respects. It will be well to stand at once, and consider this fact; to examine and get an idea of it in all its extent. After an absence of three years,-three years in which I have been observing the nature, presence, and working of the German police, and of course during which my eyes have been withdrawn from the progress of the police system in England, I must confess that I was startled to see the rapid strides which this German system had made amongst us. turn, in town or country, a policeman! On the highways, a new species of highwaymen, huge fellows on huge horses, riding in broad daylight with huge swords by their sides! Is that a sight which any Englishman ten years ago would have believed ever to see in England ? Not only in the crowded thoroughfares of the metropolis, or of our other great towns, where I left the police, were they now to be found; but like an everspreading torrent, they had overflowed into every quiet town and village, every quiet outskirt and solitary suburb. They stood leaning against every wall that had been only built up yesterday. They were chatting with the servant-maids at every back door, as the mistresses assert to the excessive corruption of the suburban servant-maid race. And if idleness be the devil's workshop, where had he ever such a workshop erected as the lanes and by-streets, in which these lounging, long-legged servants of the public are established, with little to see and nothing to do?

But it was not here only that these belted knightserrant were to be found.

Where the poet and the naturalist were formerly only to be found, on the moor, in the solitary country lane, in the woodpath, by the old brookside, there I now encountered one of these great-coated and numbered musers. It was a comfort to see them numbered, or one would have deemed them numberless. But adieu now to rural musings. Thank heaven, I wrote the Book of the Seasons ten years ago! There is no policeman entered in any list of its migratory birds! Adien now to poetry-who need wonder at its decline! Who can botanize, or entomologize, in the face of a policeman ? Who will venture to stride over a hedge in quest of a flower, or a butterfly, when a big man in a big coat may • stride over after him? Who will venture to capture a fly, when he may himself be clutched by a Harry-longlegs, and instead of enveigling his prize into his box, may be himself consigned to a watchbox? Who will sing a new song of liberty or love, when he may be dragged off for disturbing the public peace? Blessed be the ways of Providence who sent Shakspeare and Milton to wander on the solitary wold, and raise their free and glorious voices, before the days of the RURAL POLICE!

Would Milton ever have said exultingly,

“ To-morrow, to fresh fields and pastures new," if he had been sure to meet a policeman in every one of them? Would Shakspeare have ever “carolled his wood-notes wild,” if he had been in danger of being taken up for a wild man of the woods ? Would even Hervey have ever made his “ Meditations amongst the Tombs,” with a rural Policeman No. 7777! dogging his footsteps? And O thou good, dear shy soul, Cowper, what a fright would a batch of rural police have been to thee! They would have startled thee worse than a greyhound would have startled thy own tame hares. Instead of a mischievous bull, thou wouldst certainly have addressed thy indignant vows to John Bull's new rural creature, the rural policeman :

Go,-thou art all unfit to share

The pleasures of this place,
With such as its old tenants are,

Creatures of gentle race.

I care not whether north or south,

So I no more may find thee;
The angry muse thus sings thee forth,

And claps the gate behind thee!

Praise heaven, all ye lucky fellows of the last generation, Scott, Byron, Coleridge, Southey, and the like, and the five remnants of the old race of giants— Wordsworth, Rogers, Moore, Campbell, and Wilson; and taunt us not that we do not come up to the stature and valour of the first number. Go! you had all the world to yourselves; there were gipsies and stout beggarwomen, leech-gatherers, anglers and pedlars, in your time,none of those locomotive engines of the modern railroad—the RURAL POLICEMEN! If Byron had been obliged to sing

There's a policeman in the pathless wood!

There is another on the lonely shore;
There is security where none intrude

By the deep sea, and music in its roar;
what an odd medley he would have made of it.

To sit on rocks, to muse o'er food and fell,
To slowly trace the solitary scene;

would have had but little fun in it, for Childe Harold, with a burly policeman “slowly pacing the solitary scene," after him, with his oil-cloth cape rolled up at his side, as if it concealed a bludgeon. O George Crabbe, thou Rembrandt of Suffolk-marine alebouses and fishing-creeks, with a tar-brush for thy pencil, what a Borough would have been thine with a squadron of police in it? What an orderly Borough? What a set of sober, straight-walking, and straight-laced fellows, would all thy jolly sailor-boys have been, instead of the riotous roisterers of “The Ship,” “The Boat,” “The Three Jolly Sailor Boys," or "The Anchor," where they met

« PreviousContinue »