Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

LOVE FOR THE DEAD.

139

affection rises, purified from every sensual desire, and returns, like a holy flame, to illumine and sanctify the heart of the survivor.

The sorrow for the dead is the only sorrow from which we refuse to be divorced. Every other wound we seek to heal—every other affliction to forget; but this wound we consider it a duty to keep open -this affliction we cherish and brood over in solitude. Where is the mother who would willingly forget the infant that perished like a blossom from her arms, though every recollection is a pang ? Where is the child that would willingly forget the most tender of parents, though to remember be but to lament? Who, even in the hour of agony, would forget the friend over whom he mourns ? Who, even when the tomb is closing upon the remains of her he most loved—when he feels his heart, as it were, crushed in the closing of its portal—would accept of consolation that must be bought hy forgetfulness?-No, the love which survives the tomb is one of the noblest attributes of the soul. If it has its woes, it has likewise its delights; and when the overwhelming burst of grief is calmed into the gentle tear of recollection—when the sudden anguish and the convulsive agony over the present ruins of all that we most loved, is softened away into pensive meditation on all that it was in the days of its loveliness—who would root out such a sorrow from the heart? Though it may sometimes throw a passing cloud over the bright hour of gaiety, or spread a deeper sadness over the hour of gloom, yet who would exchange it, even for the song

of pleasure or the burst of revelry? No, there is a voice from the tomb sweeter than song. There is a remembrance of the dead to which we turn even from the charms of the living. Oh, the grave ! the grave! It buries every error-covers every defect-extinguishes every resentment. From its peaceful bosom spring none but fond regrets and tender recollections. Who can look down upon the grave even of an enemy, and not feel a compunctious throb, that he should ever have warred with the poor handful of earth that lies mouldering before him !

Ay, go to the grave of buried love, and meditate. There settle the account with thy conscience for every past benefit unrequited— every past endearment unregarded, of that departed being, who can never-never-never return to be soothed by thy contrition !

If thou art a child, and hast ever added a sorrow to the soul, or a furrow to the silvered brow of an affectionate parent; if thou art a husband, and hast ever caused the fond bosom that ventured its whole

happiness in thy arms to doubt one moment of thy kindness or thy 'truth; if thou art a friend, and hastever wronged, in thought, or word, ordeed, the spirit that generously confided in thee; if thou arta lover, and hast ever given one unmerited pang to that true heart which now lies cold and still beneath thy feet-then be sure that every unkind look, every ungracious word, every ungentle action, will come thronging back upon thy memory, and knocking dolefully at thy soul; then be sure that thou wilt lie down sorrowing and repentant on the grave, and utter the unheard groan, and pour the unavailing tear--more deep, more bitter, because unheard and unavailing.

Then weave thy chaplet of flowers, and strew the beauties of nature about the grave; console thy broken spirit, if thou canst, with these tender yet futile tributes of regret; but take warning by the bitterness of this thy contrite affliction over the dead, and henceforth be more faithful and affectionate in the discharge of thy duties to the living.

Washington Irving.

CHRISTMAS.

THERE is something in the very season of the year that gives a charm to the festivity of Christmas. At other times we derive a great portion of our pleasures from the mere beauties of nature. Our feelings sally forth and dissipate themselves over the sunny landscape, and we'live abroad and everywhere. The song of the bird, the murmur of the stream, the breathing fragrance of spring, the soft voluptuousness of summer, the golden pomp of autumn--earth with its mantle of refreshing green, and heaven with its deep delicious blue and its cloudy magnificence—all fill us. with mute but exquisite delight, and we revel in the luxury of mere sensation. But in the depth of winter, when nature lies despoiled of every charm, and wrapped in her shroud of sheeted snow, we turn for our gratifications to moral sources. The dreariness and desolation of the landscape, the short gloomy days and darksome nights, while they circumscribe our wanderings, shut in our feelings also from rambling abroad, and make us more keenly disposed for the pleasure of the social circle. Our thoughts are more concentrated-our friendly sympathies more aroused. We

[blocks in formation]

feel more sensibly the charm of each other's society, and are brought more closely together by dependence on each other for enjoyment. IIeart calleth unto heart; and we draw our pleasures from the deep wells of loving-kindness, which lie in the quiet recesses of our bosoms; and which, when resorted to, furnish forth the pure element of domestic felicity.

The pitchy gloom without makes the heart dilate on entering the room filled with the glow and warmth of the evening fire. The ruddy blaze diffuses an artificial summer and sunshine through the room, and lights up each countenance in a kindlier welcome. Where does the honest face of hospitality expand into a broader and more cordial smile—where is the shy glance of love more sweetly eloquent—than by the winter fireside ? and as the hollow blast of wintry wind rushes through the hall, claps the distant door, whistles about the casement, and rumbles down the chimney, what can be more grateful than that feeling of sober and sheltered security, with which we look round upon the comfortable chamber and the scene of domestic hilarity ?

The English, from the great prevalence of rural habit throughout every class of society, have always been fond of those festivals and holidays which agreeably interrupt the stillness of country life; and they were, in former days, particularly observant of the religious and social rites of Christmas. It is inspiring to read even the dry details which some antiquaries have given of the quaint humours, the burlesque pageants, the complete abandonment to mirth and good-fellowship, with which this festival was celebrated. It seemed to throw open every door, and unlock every heart. It brought the peasant and the peer together, and blended all ranks in one warm generous flow of joy and kindness. The old halls of castles and manor-houses resounded with the harp and the Christmas carol, and their ample boards groaned under the weight of hospitality. Even the poorest cottage welcomed the festive season with green decorations of bay and holly; the cheerful fire glanced its rays through the lattice, inviting the passengers to raise the latch, and join the gossip knot huddled round the hearth, beguiling the long evening with legendary jokes and oft-told Christmas tales.

Washington Irving.

COUNTRY LIFE.

So, my friend : you ask me to tell you how I contrive to support this monotonous country life; how, fond as I am of excitement, adventure, society, scenery, art, literature, I go cheerfully through the daily routine of a commonplace country profession, never requiring a six-weeks' holiday; not caring to see the Continent, hardly even to spend a day in London ; having never yet actually got to Paris.

You wonder why I do not grow dull as those round me, whose talk is of bullocks—as indeed mine is often enough; why I am not by this time 'all over blue mould ;' why I have not been tempted to bury myself in my study, and live a life of dreams among old books.

I will tell you. I am a minute philosopher. I am possibly, after all, a man of small mind, content with small pleasures. So much the better for me. Meanwhile, I can understand your surprise, though you cannot my content.

For there were times, full many a year ago, when my brains were full of bison and grizzly bear, mustanç and big-horn, Blackfoot and Pawnee, and hopes of wild adventure in the Far West, which I shall never see; for ere I was three-and-twenty, I discovered, plainly enough, that my lot was to stay at home and earn my bread in a very quiet way; that England was to be henceforth my prison or my palace, as I should choose to make it ; and I have made it, by Heaven's help, the latter.

I am very rich, as every man may be who will. In the doings of our little country neighbourhood I find tragedy and comedy, too fantastic, sometimes too sad, to be written down. In the words of those whose talk is of bullocks, I find the materials of all possible metaphysic, and long weekly that I had time to work them out. In fifteen miles of moorland, I find the materials of all possible physical science, and long, too, that I had time to work out one smallest segment of that great sphere. How can I be richer, if I have lying at my feet all day a thousand times more, wealth than I can use?

Some people-most people—in these run-about railway days,

[blocks in formation]

would complain of such a life, in such a 'narrow sphere,' so they call it, as monotonous. Very likely it is so. But is it to be complained of on that account ? Is monotony in itself an evil? Which is better, to know many places ill, or to know one place well ?

Besides, monotony is pleasant in itself; morally pleasant, and morally useful. Marriage is monotonous: but there is much, I trust, to be said in favour of holy wedlock. Living in the same house is monotonous: but three removes, say the wise, are as bad as a fire. Locomotion is regarded as an evil by our Litany. The Litany, as usual, is right. Those who travel by land and sea’ are to be objects of our pity and our prayers ; and I do pity them. I delight in that same monotony. It saves curiosity, anxiety, excitement, disappointment, and a host of bad passions. It gives a man the blessed invigorating feeling that he is at home; that he has roots, deep and wide, struck down into all he sees; and that only the being who will do nothing cruel or useless can tear them up. It is pleasant to look down on the same parish day after day, and say, I know all that lies beneath, and all beneath know me. If I want a friend, I know where to find him; if I want work done, I know who will do it. It is pleasant and good to see the same trees year after

year; the same birds coming back in spring to the same shrubs; the same banks covered with the same flowers, and broken (if they be stiff ones) by the same gaps. Pleasant and good it is to ride the same horse, to sit in the same chair, to wear the same old coat. That man who offered twenty pounds reward for a lost carpet-bag full of old boots was a sage, and I wish I knew him. Why should one change one's place, any more than one’s wife or one's children? Is a hermit-crab, slipping his tail out of one strange shell into another, in the hopes of its fitting him a little better, either a dignified, safe, or graceful animal ? No; George Riddler was a true philosopher.

Let vules go sarching vur and nigh

We bides at Whum, my dog and I; and become there, not only wiser, but more charitable ; for the oftener one sees, the better one knows; and the better one knows, the more one loves.

Kingsley.

« VorigeDoorgaan »