knife, and with the other-Oh! Cousin-he seized a ham, which hung from the ceiling, cut a slice from it, and retired as he had come. The door was closed again, the lamp disappeared, and I was left alone with my reflections.

As soon as day appeared, all the family making a great noise came to awaken us as we had requested. They brought us something to eat, and gave us a very clean, and a very good breakfast, I assure you. Two capons formed part of it, of which we must, said our hostess, take away one and eat the other. When I saw them I understood the meaning of those terrible words, "Must they both be killed," and I think, Cousin, you have enough penetration to guess now what they signified.

Oblige me, Cousin, do not tell this story. In the first place, as you see, I do not play a good part in it; next, you would spoil it. Stay, I do not flatter you, but your face would destroy the effect of my tale. Without boasting, I have just the countenance to relate a fearful story. But as for you, if you wish to tell a story, choose a subject that suits your face-Psyche, for example.


THE year of the Calendar and the year of the Poets might well have different starting points. The poets would welcome a new year with spring-garlands of the tenderest green, and go forth into the fields to find the first violet giving out its perfume as an offering to the reproductive power which fills the earth with gladness. But the Calendar offers us only the slow lengthening of the days to mark the progress of change; and we have little joy in the lengthening when the old saw tells us

"As day lengthens,
Cold strengthens."

The Poets, however, have their resources, drawn out of the compensations that belong to the condition of us all. Hope with them becomes prophetic. The Dirge for the Old Year" swells and dances into a Bridal-song for the New:


Orphan hours, the year is dead,
Come and sigh, come and weep!
Merry hours, smile instead,

For the year is but asleep:
See, it smiles as it is sleeping,
Mocking your untimely weeping.

As an earthquake rocks a corse
In its coffin in the clay,
So White Winter, that rough nurse,
Rocks the dead-cold year to-day ;
Solemn hours! wail aloud
For your mother in her shroud.

As the wild air stirs and sways
The tree-swung cradle of a child,
So the breath of these rude days
Rocks the year:—be calm and mild,
Trembling hours; she will arise
With new love within her eyes.

January grey is here,

Like a sexton by her grave;
February bears the bier,

March with grief doth howl and rave,
And April weeps-but, O ye hours!
Follow with May's fairest flowers.


Our ancestors assuredly had a more fervent love of nature than we have, when they filled their houses with evergreens while the snow blocked up their doorways, and replaced them with new emblems of the freshness which is never wholly dead, whilst the rains of February and the winds of March were doing their nursing-work. The song for Candlemas-day (February 2) was as true a herald of the spring as the cuckoo and the swallow :

Down with rosemary and bays,

Down with the mistletoe;
Instead of holly, now upraise

The greener box, for show.

The holly hitherto did sway;
Let box now domineer,
Until the dancing Easter-day,
Or Easter's eve appear.

Then youthful box, which now hath grace

Your houses to renew,

Grown old, surrender must his place

Unto the crisped yew.

When yew is out, then birch comes in,
And many flowers beside,

Both of a fresh and fragrant kin,

To honour Whitsuntide.

Green rushes then, and sweetest bents,

With cooler oaken boughs,

Come in for comely ornaments,

To readorn the house.

Thus times do shift; each thing his turn does hold;
New things succeed as former things grow old.


WORDSWORTH, in one of his charming lyrics of the Spring, makes "the opening of the year" begin with "the first mild day of March :"

It is the first mild day of March:
Each minute sweeter than before,
The redbreast sings from the tall larch
That stands beside our door.

There is a blessing in the air,

Which seems a sense of joy to yield
To the bare trees, and mountains bare,
And grass in the green field.

My sister! ('tis a wish of mine)

Now that our morning meal is done,
Make haste, your morning task resign;
Come forth and feel the sun.

[blocks in formation]

The "blessing in the air" is one of the beautiful indications of the awakening of the earth from its winter sleep. It may proclaim the waking hour in March;-the cold north-east wind may permit no sense of joy" till April. But the opening of the year comes to the


Poet when he first hears the voice of gladness in the song of birds or sees the humblest flower putting on its livery of glory. It opened to the Ayrshire ploughman, when he heard "a Thrush sing in a Morning Walk in January ;" and that song filled his heart with thankfulness and contentment :

Sing on, sweet Thrush, upon the leafless bough;

Sing on, sweet bird, I listen to thy strain:
See aged Winter, 'mid his surly reign,
At thy blythe carol clears his furrow'd brow.

So in lone Poverty's dominion drear

Sits meek Content with light unanxious heart,
Welcomes the rapid movements, bids them part,
Nor asks if they bring aught to hope or fear.

I thank thee, Author of this opening day!

Thou whose bright sun now gilds the orient skies!
Riches denied, thy boon was purer joys,

What wealth could never give nor take away!

Yet come, thou child of poverty and care;

The mite high Heav'n bestowed, that mite with thee I'll share.


Spring in the lap of Winter is very beautiful. February smiles and pouts like a self-willed child. We are gladdened by the flower-buds of the elder and the long flowers of the hazel. The crocus and the snowdrop timidly lift up their heads. Mosses, the verdure of winter, that rejoice in moisture and defy cold, luxuriate amidst the general barrenness. The mole is busy in his burrowed galleries. There are clear mornings, not unmusical with the voices of more birds than the thrush of Burns:

The mist still hovers round the distant hills;
But the blue sky above us has a clear
And pearly softness; not a white speck lies
Upon its breast: it is a crystal dome.
There is a quiet charm about this morn

Which sinks into the soul. No gorgeous colours
Has the undraperied earth, but yet she shows
A vestal brightness: not the voice is heard

« VorigeDoorgaan »