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of it, dashed off a tear, and away, with Perhaps the sunshine of some one sina bounding heart, in the midst of a gle Sabbath of more exceeding holicloud of playmates, breaking into frag- ness comes first glimmering, and then ments on the hill-side, and hurrying brightening upon us, with the very round the shores of those wild moor- same religious sancity that filled all land lochs, in vain hope to surprise the air at the tolling of the kirk-bell, the heron, that slowly uplifted his blue when all the parish was hushed, and bulk, and floated away, regardless of the voice of streams heard more disour shouts, to the old castle woods !
tinctly among the banks and braes, It is all like a reminiscence of some and then, all at once, a thunder-storm other state of existence! Then, after that many years before, or many years all the joys and sorrows of those few after, drove us, when walking alone years, which we now call transitory, over the mountains, into a shieling, but which our Boyhood felt as if they will seem to succeed, and we behold the would be endless--as if they would en- same threatening aspect of the heavens dure for ever-arose upon us the that then quailed our beating hearts, glorious dawning of another new life and frowned down our eye-lids before -Youth! With its insupportable sun- the lightning began to flash, and the shine, and its magnificent storms! black rain to deluge all the glens. No Transitory, too, we now know, and need now for any effort of thought. well deserving the name of dream ! But The images rise of themselves-indewhile it lasted, long, various, and ago- pendently of our volition—as if annizing, while, unable to sustain" the other being, studying the working of beauty still more beauteous" of the our minds, conjured up the phantaseyes that first revealed to us the light magoria before us, who are beholding of love, we hurried away from the it with love, with wonder, or with fear. parting hour, and, looking up to the Darkness and silence have a power of moon and stars, hugged the very hea- sorcery over the past ; and the soul has vens to our heart. Yet life had not yet then, too, often restored to it feelings nearly reached its meridian, journeying and thoughts that it had lost--and up the sunbright firmament. How long made to know that nothing which it hung it there exulting, when “it flamed once experiences ever perishes, but that on the forehead of the noontide sky !" all things spiritual possess a principle Let not the Time be computed by the of immortal life. lights and shadows of the years, but Why linger on the shadowy wall by the innumerable array of visionary some of those phantasmagoria-rethoughts, that kept deploying, as if turning after they have disappearedfrom one eternity into another-now and reluctant to pass away into their in dark sullen masses, now in long ar- former oblivion ? Why shoot others ray, brightened as if with spear-points athwart the gloom, quick as spectral and standards, and moving along figures seen hurrying among mounthrough chasm, abyss, and forest, and tains during a great storm? Why do over the summits of the highest moun- some glare and threaten—why others tains, to the sound of ethereal music, fade away with a melancholy smilenow warlike and tempestuous-now, why that one-look ! look! a figure as " from flutes and soft recorders, all in white, and with white roses in accompanying, not pæans of victory, its hair, comes forward through the but hymns of peace. That Life, too, haze, beautifying into distincter form seems, now that it is gone, to have and face, till its pale beseeching hands been of a thousand years. Is it gone ? almost touch my bosom—and then, Its skirts are yet hovering on the in a moment it is as nothing ! horizon—and is there yet another Life But now the room is disenchanted destined for us? That Life which we -and feebly my lamp is glimmering, fear to face,-Age, Old Age ! Four about to leave me to the light of the dreams within a dream, and then we moon and stars. There is it trimmed may awake in Heaven!
again-and the sudden increase of At dead of night-and it is now the lustre cheers the heart within me like dead of night-how the heart often a festal strain-and To-Morrow-Toquakes on a sudden at the silent resur- Morrow is Merry Christmas, and when rection of buried thoughts !
its night descends, there will be mirth “ Thoughts that like phantoms trackless and music, and the light sound of the come and go!"
merry-twinkling feet within these now so melancholy walls, and sleep, now Forest, when the moon drops behind reigning over all the house-save this the mountain, and the small greenone room—will be banished far over robed People of Peace at once cease the sea-and Morning will be reluc- their pastime, and evanish. For She tant to allow her light to break up the —the Silver-Tongued—is about to innocent orgies.
sing an old ballad, words and air both Were every Christmas of which we hundreds of years old,-and sing she have been present at the celebration, doth, while tears begin to fall, with a painted according to nature—what a yoice too mournfully beautiful long to Gallery of pictures ! True, that a same- breathe below,--and, ere another ness would pervade them all--but only Christmas shall come with the falling that kind of sameness that pervades snows, doomed to be mute on earththe nocturnal heavens, oneclear night but to be hymning in Heaven ! being always, to common eyes, so like Of that House-to our eyes the fairanother,--for what hath any night to est of earthly dwellings—with its old be proud of but one moon and some ivied turrets, and orchard-garden, thousand stars-a vault,“ darkly, deep- bright alike with fruit and with flowers, ly, beautifully blue,” here a few braid- not one stone remains ! The very brook ed, and there a few castellated clouds ? that washed its foundations has vanishYet no two nights ever bore more ed along with them, -and a crowd of than family resemblance to each other buildings, wholly without chaother before the studious and instruct- racter, has long stood, where here a ed eye of him who has long communed single tree, and there a grove, did once with nature, and is familiar with every render so lovely that small demesne! smile and frown on her changeful, but Which, how could we, who thought it not capricious countenance. Even so the very heart of Paradise, even for with the Annual Festivals of the heart. one moment have believed was soon Then our thoughts are the stars that to be blotted out from being, and we illumine those skies-on ourselves it ourselves, then so linked in love that depends whether they shall be black the band which bound us all together as Erebus, or brighter than any Au- was, in its gentle pressure, felt not rora.
nor understood, to be scattered far My Father's House! How it is ring- and abroad, like so many leaves, that ing, like a grove in spring, with the after one wild parting rustle are sedin of creatures happier, a thousand parated by roaring wind eddies, and times happier, than all the birds in the brought together no more! The old world! It is the Christmas Holidays Abbey,-it still survives,—and there, -Christmas Day itself-Christmas in that corner of the burial-ground, Night-and Joy intensifies Love in below that part of the wall which was every bosom. Never before were we least in ruins, and which we often brothers and sisters so dear to one an- climb to reach the starlings' and other-never before had our hearts so martins' nests—there, in hopes of a yearned towards the authors of our joyful resurrection, lie the loved and being—our blissful being! There they venerated,—for whom, even now that sit-silent in all that outcry-com- so many long, long, grief-deadening posed in all that disarray-still in all years have fied, I feel, in this hushed that tumult-yet, as one or other fly- and holy hour, as if it were impiety so ing imp sweeps round the chair, a utterly to have ceased to weep—so selfather's hand will playfully try to dom to remember !-and then, with catch a prisoner,-a mother's gentler a powerlessness of sympathy to keep touch on some sylph's disordered cy- pace with youth's frantic grief_the mar be felt almost as a reproof, and, floods we all wept together-at no long for a moment, slacken the fairy-flight. interval—on those pale and smiling One old game treads on the heels of an- faces, as they lay in their coilins, most other-twenty within the hour,--and beautiful and most dreadful to bemany a new game never heard of be- hold ! fore nor since, struck out by the col- “Childish! childish !" methinks I lision of kindred spirits in their glee, hear some world-wise thinker cry. the transitory fancies of genius inven- But has not one of the wisest of spirits tive through very delight. Then, all said, “The child is father of the at once, there is a hush, profound as man ?" And if so, ought the man ever falls on some little plat within a ever to lose sight of any single one of
those dear, din, delightful remem- Whether we were indeed all so brances, far off and remote, of objects witty as we thought ourselves—uncles, whether alive or dead, -whether in- aunts, nephews, cousins, and “the stinct with love and intelligence, or rest," it might be presumptuous in us, but of the insensate sod, that once who were considered by ourselves and were to him all his being, --so blend- some few others the most amusing of ed was that being then, with all it saw the whole set, at this distance of time and heard on this musical and lustrous to decide—especially in the affirmaearth, that, as it bounded along in tive ; but how the roof did ring with bliss, it was but as the same creation sally, pun, retort, and repartee! Ay, with the grass, the flowers, the streams, with pun—a species of impertinence the trees, the clouds, the sky and its for which we have therefore a kinddays and nights,-all of them bound ness even to this day. Had incompatogether by one invisible chain,-a rable Thomas Hood had the good forgreen, bright, murmuring, shadowy, tune to have been born a cousin of floating, sunny and starry world, of ours, how with that fine fancy of his which the enraptured creature that would he have shown at those Christenjoyed it was felt to be the very cen- mas festivals, eclipsing us all! Our tre, and the very soul !
family through all its different Then came a New Series of Christ- branches has ever been famous for masses, celebrated, one year in this bad voices, but good ears; and we family, another year in that-none think we hear ourselves all those present but those whom the delightful uncles and aunts, nephews, and nieces, Elia, alias Charles Lainh, calleth the and cousins—singing now ! Easy is it “old familiar faces ;" something in all to “ warble melody” as to breathe air. features and all tones of voice, and all But, oh! we hope harmony is the most manners betokening origin from one difficult of all things to people in geroot-relations all, happy, and with no neral, for to us it was impossible ; and reason either to be ashamed or proud what attempts ours used to be at of their neither high nor humble birth Seconds ! Yet the most woful fail-their lot being cast within that plea- ures were rapturously encored ; and sant realm," the golden mean," where ere the night was done we spoke the dwellings are connecting links be- with most extraordinary voices indeed, tween the hut and hall, fair edifices every one hoarser than another, till at resembling manse or mansion-house, last, walking home with a fair cousin, according as the atmosphere expands there was nothing left for it but a tenor contracts their dimensions, in which der glance of the eye-a tender presCompetence is next-door neighbour to sure of the hand—for cousins are not Wealth, and both of them within the altogether sisters, and although partakdaily walk of Contentment.
ing of that dearest character, possessMerry Christmasses they were in- ing, it may be, some peculiar and apdeed—one Lady always presiding, with propriate charms of their own ; as didst a figure that once had been the state- thou, Emily the “Wild-cap !"– That liest among the stately, but then some- soubriquet all forgotten now-for now what bent, without being bowed down, thou art a matron, gentle as a dove, beneath an easy weight of most vene- and smiling on an only daughter, alrable years. Sweet was her tremulous
most woman-grown--fair and frolicvoice to all her grandchildren's ears ! some in her innocence as thou thyself Nor did those solemn eyes, bedimmed wert of yore, when the gravest and into a pathetic beauty, in any degree wisest withstood not the witchery of restrain
the glee that sparkled in orbs thy dancings, thy singings, and thy that had as yet shed not many tears, showering smiles ! but tears of pity or of joy. Dearly she On rolled Suns and Seasons--the old loved all those mortal creatures whom died--the elder became old and the she was soon about to leave ; but she young, one after another, were wafted sat in sunshine even within the sha- joyously away on the wings of hope, dow of death ; and the “ voice that like birds, almost as soon as they can called her home” had so long been fly, ungratefully forsaking their nests, whispering in her car, that its accents and the groves in whose safe shadow had become dear to her, and consola- they first essayed their pinions ; or like tory every word that was heard in the pinnaces that, after having, for a few silence, as from another world.
days, trimmed their snow-white sails in the land-locked bay, close to whose mind,” is rather the expression of a shores of silvery sand had grown the doubt-of a fear-than of a belief or trees that furnished timber both for conviction. The soul surely has eyes bull and mast, slip their tiny cables on that can see the objects it loves, through some summer day, and gathering every all intervening darkness—and of those breeze that blows, go dancing over the more especially dear it keeps within waves in sunshine, and melt far off itself almost undimmed images, on into the main ! Or, haply, some were which, when they know it not, think it like fair young trees, transplanted du- not, believe it not, it often loves to ring no favourable season, and never gaze, as on a relic imperishable as it to take root in another soil, but soon is hallowed. leaf and branch to wither beneath the Hail ! rising beautiful, and magnifitropic sun, and die almost unheeded cent, through the mists of morningby those who knew not how beautiful hail! hail! ye Woods, Groves, Towers, they were beneath the dews and mists and Temples, overshadowing that faof their own native clime. Vain mous Stream beloved by all the Muses ! images ! and therefore chosen by fancy Through this midnight hush--menot too painfully to touch the heart! thinks I hear faint and far off a sacred For some hearts grew cold and for- music, bidding in selfish cares--some, warm “Where through the long-drawn aisle and as ever in their own generous glow, fretted vault, were touched by the chill of Fortune's The pealing anthem swells the note of frowns, that are ever worst to bear praise !" when suddenly succeeding her smiles How steeped in the beauty of moonsome, to rid themselves of painful light are all those pale, pillared churchregrets, took refuge in forgetfulness, es, courts and cloisters, shrines and and closed their eyes to the past-duty altars, with here and there a Statue banished some abroad, and duty impri- standing in the shade, or Monument soned others at home-estrangements sacred to the memory of the piousthere were, at first unconscious and the immortal dead! Some great clock unintended, yet ere long, though cause- is striking from one of many domes less, complete,-changes were wrought from the majestic tower of St. insensibly, invisibly, even in the in- Mary Magdalen-and in the deepened nermost nature of those, who being hush that follows the solemn sound, friends kuew no guile, yet came there hark how the mingling waters of the by at last to be friends no
Cherwell and the Isis soften the severe -unrequited love broke some bonds silence of the holy night! -requited love relaxed others-the Remote from kindred, and from all death of one altered the conditions the friendships that were the native of many—and so-year after year— growth of the fair fields where our boythe Christmas Meeting was interrupt- hood and our youth had roamed, and ed-deferred—till finally it ceased, meditated, and dreamed, those were with one accord, unrenewed and unre- yet years of high and lofty mood, Dewable. For when some things cease
which held us in converse with the --for a time—that time turns out to be shades of great poets and sages of old for ever. Survivors of those happy cir- in Rhedicyna's hallowed groves, still, cles ! wherever ye be-should these serene, and solemn, as that Grecian imperfect remembrances of days of Academe where divine Plato, with all old chance, in some thoughtful pause Hybla on his lips, discoursed such exof life's busy turmoil, for a moment cellent music, that this Life seemed to to meet your eyes, let there be towards the imagination spiritualized—a dim the inditer a few throbs of revived reminiscence of some former state of affection in your hearts-for his, being. How sank then the Christmas though “ absent long and distant Service of that beautiful Liturgy into far," has never been utterly forgetful our hearts ! Not faithless we to the of the loves and friendships that simple worship that our forefathers charmed his youth. To be parted in had loved; but Conscience told us there body is not to be estranged in soul- was no apostacy in the feelings that and many a dream and many a vi- rose within us when that deep organ sion, sacred to nature's best affections, gan to blow, that choir of youthful may pass before the mind of one whose voices so sweetly to join the diapason, lips are silent. “Out of sight out of -our eyes fixed all the while on that
divine Picture over the Altar, of our “ offer not even any show of violence, Saviour
it being a thing so majestical.” And “Bearing his cross up rueful Calvary."
lo! another New Series of Christmas But “a change comes o’er the spi- there are our own Living Flowers in
Festivals has to us been born! For rit of my dream.” How beautiful in the
our family garland ! And as long as setting sunlight are these mountains of soft crimson snow! The sun hath He, who gave them their bloom and
their balm, averts not from them or set, and even more beautiful are the
us the sunshine of his countenance, bright-starred nights of winter, than
content-oh! far beyond contentsummer in all its glories beneath the
would we be with this, the most sacred broad moons of June! Through the woods of Windermere, from cottage to
of all Religious Festivals, were it even cottage, by coppice-pathways winding them in some dungeon's depth !
to be holden by us far apart from up to dwellings among the hill-rocks, where the birch-trees cease to grow,– tude, not in pride—though, at such a
Ay-well may we say-in grati“Nodding their heads, before us go, sight, pride might be thought but a The merry Minstrelsy."
venial "sin within a father's heart, They sing a salutation at every door,
“ There is our Christmas rose”-while familiarly naming old and young by
a blush brightens the beauty of a face their Christian names; and the eyes
that we will call “fair, not pale," and that look upward from the vales to brighter and softer than the leaves of the hanging huts among the plats and any rose, the ringlets dance over her cliffs, see the shadows of the dancers forehead to the breeze of joy, and bliss ever and anon crossing the light of and innocence give themselves vent in the star-like window; and the merry one of our own Scotia's pleasant but music is heard like an echo dweli- pathetic songs ! ing in the sky! across those humble But the heart hugs such treasures as thresholds often did we on Christmas these in secret,--and if revealed at all nights of yore-wandering through to other eyes it must be by but a fleetour solitary sylvan haunts, under the ing and a partial light. Few words branches of trees within whose hollow are needed to awaken, before parental trunk the squirrel slept-venture in, eyes, the visions now stealing before unasked, perhaps, but not unwelcome; mine,-and, broken and all imperfect and in the kindly spirit of the season, though these effusions be, yet may did our best to merrify the Festival by they touch with pensive pleasure some tale or song. And now that we behold simple hearts, that recognise the exthem not, are all those woods, and pression of some of their own emocliffs, and rivers, and tarns, and lakes, tions, --similar, or the same,-although as beautiful as when they softened life and its circumstances may have and brightened beneath our living been different,—for in every single eyes, half-creating, as they gazed, sentence, if it be but sincere, a word the very Paradise that they worship- or two may be found, that shall awaped ? And are all those hearths as ken some complete reminiscence of bright as of yore, without the shadow joy, as the striking but of two notes of our figure ? And the roofs, do they at once fills ear and heart with a wellring as mirthfully, though our voice known tune, and gives it the full power be forgotten ?
of all the melody. But little cause have we to lament The lamp glimmers as it would exthat that Paradise is now to us but as pire,--the few embers are red and low, remembered poetry--poetry got by
-and those are the shadows of moonheart—_deeply engraven there--and to light on the walls. How deep a hush ! be read at any thoughtful hour we Let me go and hear them breathing in choose-charged deeper and deeper
their sleep,--and whisper--for it will still with old memories and new in- not disturb them-a prayer by the bedspirations. The soul's best happiness side of my children. To-morrow is is independent of time and place. Christmas Day—and thankful am I Such accidents touch it not--they indeed to Providence !