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"Making sweet music with the enamelled stones."
rational life, and that a very fair allotment of joy and sorrow has been cut out for me from the great web of human circumstances. Yes, let us all be thankful for sorrow as well as for joy, for What a delicious idlesse-idleness is not the without it, where were charity and love, and all those affections that make the human family so interesting in the universe of God? Without it, how could we value aright that Incarnation of
What myriads of fancies rise on the angler's mind, and flow away without one effort place to others in endless succession; as the on his part to control or detain them, giving stream itself by which he saunters
Deity by which our gracious Father has at once provided a remedy for our fall, a perfect motive for us to love Him eternally, and a means of our being able to hold intimate and endearing communion with Him for ever as one of ourselves
-our own Elder Brother? May every successive New Year find us all growing fitter and fitter for that great communion! Amen.
Such a shepherd as he of "Ettrick" never fed his flock upon the green hillside. For still, pure, serene, untroubled, entranced, unearthly beauty, there is not only nothing to be compared with his ballad of "Kilmeny," but nothing even like it in any language. The Elysian fields of the ancients, as illustrated by that divine creature Virgil, are beautiful indeed; but they correspond with the heaven of our Christian faith, and have not at all that mysterious connection with earth, that conception of purity in the flesh--still mortal flesh, though abstracted from this mortal world-and that surrender back to the ways of men, of earthly creatures, awhile withdrawn in a happy swoon to some land far off, no man knows where, which are the peculiar charm of the mythology of fairyland. By what philosophy of sweet and soothing compensation to the human spirit the "silver lining" of this soft creed
was sub-induced under the austere terrors of
Odin, which wrapped round about with gloom the hearts of northern men, it were interesting to inquire. Beautiful indications, and gleams, and snatches of fairyland, are given in our old minstrelsy; but Hogg, in his "Kilmeny," laying asleep the senses in "a dream which is not all a dream," has given us the most serenely continuous picture of that ineffable clime, fusing it by a new art of his own with the blissful feelings of feminine purity and innocence-virginity unstained in the thought and unblemished in the flesh. By this strangely beautiful poem alone, had he written nothing else, our "Shepherd" would for ever have placed himself among the poets,
"Serene creators of immortal things.'
THE GENTLE CRAFT.
Of all the sweet enjoyments on this green earth, I know of nothing more deeply tranquil than having a week by some stream in the pastoral solitudes, where nothing is to be heard the live-long day but the sound of lambs, and the
cuckoo, and the rivulet "wandering at its own sweet will"
"Labitur et labetur in omne volubilis ævum:"
well imitated by Cowley in its liquid reiterating lapses, modulating the very echo of the sense
"Which flows, and, as it flows, for ever shall flow on."
LYRIC POETRY-SCOTTISH POETRY.
William Shakespeare was moody and dull of heart, and could not write a bit. He had the good sense to send for a physician. “I will give you a pill," said the doctor, when he saw what was the matter with the swan of Avon, "and in ten hours, ten pens, could you wield them at once, would not be able to follow your purified and nimble-going brain." "What!" exclaimed a Euphuist, who had come to pay his morning devotions to the bard, "treat the ethereal spark within - the immortal flame, lighted up at the eye of Deity-as if it were the mere attribute of a clod! The imagination, the god-like faculty, the subtlest essence of man's spirit, put in motion-in its far-flashing motion
by a pill!" "Nevertheless," said gentle Willie, smiling, and tapping the shoulder of his transcendental friend, "we'll try the pill." The pill was tried, and next day "Prospero's Enchanted Isle" began to rise on the wondering world.
And where found you that fact, master? Not in Nicholas Rowe, surely? Not in Payne Collier, the last of the gleaners? Never mind, gentle inquirer. Only believe.
Dr Johnson laughed at the notion that Milton's poetry flowed more freely in the seasons of the spring and autumnal equinox than at any other time. Substantially I hold with the doctor. The Bucephalus of the Imagination, I believe, can be backed, ay, and trained to run in harness any day of the calendar. Given a man with sufficient strength and compass of faculties, and practised in his work, and let him sit down doggedly every day to his literary task; and every day he will find, as he warms on it,
that his Minerva is never invita. We know from the late William Laidlaw, under what circumstances, even of prostration, the full, cour ageous, accustomed, ever ready mind of Sir Walter Scott was still able to dictate that world. famous scene between Rebecca and the Templar. And certainly it is a great sight to see a man (Milton at his "Paradise Lost," for instance) bending and bringing, for a continuous stretch of years, the most ethereal powers of the human
soul to the daily labour, till he has built up his immortal work, through all the gradations of disciplined proportion, to consummate completion. Thus far, then, I hold with Dr Johnson. But yet I recur to the seemingly opposite doctrine with which I set out, taking Shakespeare and his physician as my illustration; and no less do I hold that, composite creatures as we are, there are hours when, in the mysterious relationship of soul and body, the whole man is filled, and possessed, and overborne with a more vivid power of conception and embodiment-is more under what of old was thought to be the inspiration of the muse. Now, it is the distinctive excellence, the very essence of lyric poetry - brief, rapid, vehement, intense-to be the instantaneous incarnation of these rarer moods of the poet's spirit. It is curiously corroborative of this, to find men achieving a reputation by some one single lyric outburst. "Mary's Dream" was an only child, so was Laidlaw's "Lucy's Flittin'." It seems as if their hearts, long burdened with the brooding weight of the one conceived feeling, had been suddenly pierced through with some irresistible inpulse, and had bled one small, essential, vital drop of poetry, and no more.
Such being the impulsive, genial nature of lyric poetry, we are prepared to find every body of national poetry, worthy of the name, strong in this department. We find it so, accordingly. The soul of the Hebrew poetry is lyrical. And from the sweet singer of Israel to the burdened spirit of Ezekiel, rushing forth on the whirlwind wings of doom, what compass, what variety! For whether or not we divide the Prophecies into the same measures as Dr Lowth's Isaiah, they have all the characteristics of lyric odes. Greece had her "burning Sappho;" her "tenderhearted pure Simonides;" her choral lyrics in all her dramas; and her Pindar, the great master of the lyre, terrible in his sun-bright beauty, far-darting and decisive as the assault of light, striking the high places of the world with instantaneous illumination. Rome had her Horace, the most national of all her bards. And strong and sweet has been the lyre in Spain, in modern Italy, in Germany, in England.
I come now to Scotland. From that rare old minstrelsy of hers, down to the days of Burns the prevailing style of her song was lyric. Burns extended the style, and completed the fame. As an express image-a perfect embodiment-of an ancient people's traditionary beliefs, living manners, feelings and passions, the history of literature can show us no such body of national poesy properly so called, as this wonderful peasant has given us for Scotland. Such was Burns with the lyre in his hand.
In every free land, of course, nature will never fail in poetic genius. Scotchmen will be poets still, but they will be British rather than Scottish poets. The language of our old kingdom-not a mere provincial dialect, as well remarked by Lord Jeffrey-is fast wearing out, as our manners, customs, feelings, and habits, are merging by rapid assimilation in those of England; while our annals are now the same as hers. We cannot over-estimate the value of Bannockburn to us as a people. Had we been subdued, never would we have mixed kindly in union with England. We should have been like Ireland, full of heartburnings, jealousies, reluctance, hatred, strife, misery. Bannockburn stamped and sealed us as a people with a national history. After that we could well afford to be magnanimous, generous, and friendly in every arrangement with the great sister nation, whom we had so triumphantly repelled. A broad calm of conscious dignity, a liberal national atmosphere, thus settled for ever around the glad head of Scotland. All this has operated in a twofold way upon our distinctive Scottish character and literature. It has made us proud of the "auld Scottish glory," and so far has tended to perpetuate its language and modes of life. But, on the other hand, and with much greater actual effect, I think, it has also tended to break down the barriers betwixt us and England, and make us become one with her the more quickly. Thus our peculiar Scottish character, and with it our peculiar Scottish poetry, is passing away. The introduction of railways into our secluded glens is still further and still more rapidly breaking down our northern individualities, and fusing us in the general vitalities of England.
(From "Modern Painters," ‚”* “Harbours of England," "Seven Lamps of Architecture,” etc.)
THE traveller on his happy journey, as his foot springs from the deep turf and strikes the
"In these books of mine, their distinctive character, as essays on art, is their bringing everything to a root in human passion or human hope. They have been coloured throughout-nay, continually altered in shape, and even warped and broken, by digressions respecting social questions, which had for
pebbles gaily over the edge of the mountain road, sees, with a glance of delight, the clusters
me an interest ten-fold greater than the work I had been forced into undertaking. Every principle of painting which I have stated is traced to some vital or spiritual fact."-Modern Painters.
The present selection is given with the author's permission. The letters at the end of each paragraph refer to the volume from which the extract has been taken.
of nut-brown cottages that nestle among those sloping orchards, and glow beneath the boughs of the pines. Here, it may well seem to him, if there be sometimes hardship, there must be at least innocence and peace, and fellowship of the human soul with nature. It is not so. The wild goats that leap along those rocks have as much passion of joy in all that fair work of God as the men that toil among them. Perhaps more. Enter the street of one of those villages, and you will find it foul with that gloomy foulness that is suffered only by torpor, or by anguish of soul. Here, it is torpor-not absolute suffering-not starvation or disease, but darkness of calm enduring; the spring known only as the time of the scythe, and the autumn as the time of the sickle, and the sun only as a warmth, the wind as a chill, and the mountains as a danger. They do not understand so much as the name of beauty, or of knowledge. They understand dimly that of virtue. Love, patience, hospitality, faith-these things they know. To glean their meadows side by side, so happier; to bear the burden up the breathless mountain flank unmurmuringly; to bid the stranger drink from their vessel of milk; to see at the foot of their low deathbeds a pale figure upon a cross, dying also, patiently-in this they are different from the cattle and from the stones, but in all this unrewarded as far as concerns the present life. For them, there is neither hope nor passion of spirit; for them neither advance nor exultation. Black bread, rude roof, dark night, Laborious day, weary arm at sunset; and life ebbs away. No books, no thoughts, no attainments, no rest; except only sometimes a little sitting in the sun under the church wall, as the bell tolls thin and far in the mountain air; a pattering of a few prayers not understood, by the altar rails of the dimly gilded chapel, and so back to the sombre home, with the cloud upon them still unbroken-that cloud of rocky gloom, born out of the wild torrents and ruinous stones, and unlightened, even in their religion, except by the vague promise of some better thing unknown, mingled with threatening, and obscured by an unspeakable horror-a smoke, as it were, of martyrdom, coiling up with the incense, and, amidst the images of tortured bodies and lamenting spirits in hurtling flames, the very cross, for them, dashed more deeply than for others, with gouts of blood.
Do not let this be thought a darkened picture of the life of these mountaineers. It is literal fact. No contrast can be more painful than that between the dwelling of any well-conducted English cottager, and that of the equally honest Savoyard. The one, set in the midst of its dull flat fields and uninteresting hedgerows, shows in itself the love of brightness and beauty; its daisy-studded garden-beds, its smoothly swept brick path to the threshold, its freshly sanded floor and orderly shelves of household furniture,
all testify to energy of heart, and happiness in the simple course and simple possessions of daily life. The other cottage, in the midst of an in. conceivable, inexpressible beauty, set on some sloping bank of golden sward, with clear fountains flowing beside it, and wild flowers, and noble trees, and goodly rocks gathered round into a perfection as of Paradise, is itself a dark and plague-like stain in the midst of the gentle landscape. Within a certain distance of its threshold the ground is foul and cattle-trampled; its timbers are black with smoke, its garden choked with weeds and nameless refuse, its chambers empty and joyless, the light and wind gleaming and filtering through the crannies of their stones. All testifies that to its inhabitant the world is labour and vanity; that for him neither flowers bloom, nor birds sing, nor fountains glisten; and that his soul hardly differs from the grey cloud that coils and dies upon his hills, except in having no fold of it touched by the sunbeams.
Is it not strange to reflect, that hardly an evening passes in London or Paris, but one of those cottages is painted for the better amusement of the fair and idle, and shaded with pasteboard pines by the scene-shifter; and that good and kind people-poetically minded-delight themselves in imagining the happy life led by peasants who dwell by Alpine fountains, and kneel to crosses upon peaks of rock? that nightly we lay down our gold, to fashion forth simulacra of peasants, in gay ribands and white bodices, singing sweet songs, and bowing gracefully to the picturesque crosses; and all the while the veritable peasants are kneeling songlessly, to veritable crosses, in another temper than the kind and fair audiences deem of, and assuredly with another kind of answer than is got out of the opera catastrophe; an answer having reference, it may be in dim futurity, to those very audiences themselves? If all the gold that has gone to paint the simulacra of the cottages, and to put new songs in the mouths of the simulacra of the peasants, had gone to brighten the existent cottages, and to put new songs in the mouths of the existent peasants, it might in the end, perhaps, have turned out better so, not only for the peasant, but for even the audience. For that form of the false ideal has also its correspondent true ideal-consisting not in the naked beauty of statues, nor in the gauze flowers and crackling tinsel of theatres, but in the clothed and fed beauty of living men, and in the lights and laughs of happy homes. Night after night, the desire of such an ideal springs up in every idle human heart; and night after night, as far as idleness can, we work out this desire in costly lies. We paint the faded actress, build the lath landscape, feed our benevolence with fallacies of felicity, and satisfy our righteousness with poetry of justice. The time will come when, as the heavy-folded curtain
falls upon our own stage of life, we shall begin to comprehend that the justice we loved was intended to have been done in fact, and not in poetry, and the felicity we sympathised in, to have been bestowed and not feigned. We talk much of money's worth, yet perhaps may one day be surprised to find that what the wise and charitable European public gave to one night's rehearsal of hypocrisy-to one hour's pleasant warbling of Linda or Lucia-would have filled a whole Alpine valley with happiness, and poured the waves of harvest over the famine of many a Lammermoor.-M. P.
SUNLIGHT AFTER STORM.
It had been wild weather when I left Rome, and all across the Campagna the clouds were sweeping in sulphurous blue, with a clap of thunder or two, and breaking gleams of sun along the Claudian aqueduct, lighting up the infinity of its arches like the bridge of chaos. But as I climbed the long slope of the Alban Mount, the storm swept finally to the north, and the noble outline of the domes of Albano, and graceful darkness of its ilex grove, rose against pure streaks of alternate blue and amber; the upper sky gradually flushing through the last fragments of rain-cloud in deep palpitating azure, half ether and half dew. The noon-day sun came slanting down the rocky slopes of La Riccia, and their masses of entangled and tall foliage, whose autumnal tints were mixed with the wet verdure of a thousand evergreens, were penetrated with it as with rain. I cannot call it colour, it was conflagration. Purple, and crimson, and scarlet, like the curtains of God's tabernacle, the rejoicing trees sank into the valley in showers of light, every separate leaf quivering with buoyant and burning life; each, as it turned to reflect or to transmit the sunbeam, first a torch and then an emerald. Far up into the recesses of the valley, the green vistas arched like the hollows of mighty waves of some crystalline sea, with the arbutus flowers dashed along their flanks for foam, and silver flakes of orange spray tossed into the air around them, breaking over the grey walls of rock into a thousand separate stars, fading and kindling alternately as the weak wind lifted and let them fall. Every glade of grass burned like the golden floor of heaven, opening in sudden gleams as the foliage broke and closed above it, as sheet-lightning opens in a cloud at sunset; the motionless masses of dark rock-dark though flushed with scarlet lichen, casting their quiet shadows across its restless radiance, the fountain underneath them filling its marble hollow with blue mist and fitful sound; and over all, the multitudinous bars of amber and rose, the sacred clouds that have no darkness, and only exist to illumine, were seen in fathomless intervals, between the solemn and orbed repose of
the stone pines, passing to lose themselves in the last, white, blinding lustre of the measureless line where the Campagna melted into the blaze of the sea.-M. P.
THE OPEN SKY.
It is a strange thing how little in general people know about the sky. It is the part of creation in which Nature has done more for the sake of pleasing man, more for the sole and evident purpose of talking to him and teaching him, than in any other of her works, and it is just the part in which we least attend to her. There are not many of her other works in which some more material or essential purpose than the mere pleasing of man is not answered by every part of their organisation; but every essential purpose of the sky might, so far as we know, be answered, if once in three days, or thereabouts, a great, ugly, black rain-cloud were brought up over the blue, and everything well watered, and so all left blue again till next time, with perhaps a film of morning and evening, mist for dew. And instead of this, there is not a moment of any day of our lives, when Nature is not producing scene after scene, picture after picture, glory after glory, and working still upon such exquisite and constant principles of the most perfect beauty, that it is quite certain it is all done for us, and intended for our perpetual pleasure. And every man, wherever placed, however far from other sources of interest or of beauty, has this doing for him constantly. The noblest scenes of the earth can be seen and known but by few; it is not intended that man should live always in the midst of them; he injures them by his presence, he ceases to feel them if he be always with them: but the sky is for all; brigh as it is, it is not
"Too bright, nor good, For human nature's daily food;"
it is fitted in all its functions for the perpetual comfort and exalting of the heart, for the soothing it and purifying it from its dross and dust. Sometimes gentle, sometimes capricious, sometimes awful, never the same for two moments together; almost human in its passions, almost spiritual in its tenderness, almost divine in its infinity, its appeal to what is immortal in us is as distinct, as its ministry of chastisement or of blessing to what is mortal, is essential. And yet we never attend to it, we never make it a subject of thought, but as it has to do with our animal sensations; we look upon all by which it speaks to us more clearly than to brutes, upon all which bears witness to the intention of the Supreme that we are to receive more from the covering vault than the light and the dew which we share with the weed and the worm, only as a succession of meaningless and monotonous accident, too common and too vain to be worthy of a
moment of watchfulness, or a glance of admiration. If in our moments of utter idleness and insipidity, we turn to the sky as a last resource, which of its phenomena do we speak of? One says, it has been wet; and another, it has been windy; and another, it has been warm. Who, among the whole chattering crowd, can tell me of the forms and the precipices of the chain of tall white mountains that girded the horizon at noon yesterday? Who saw the narrow sunbeam that came out of the south, and smote upon their summits until they melted and mould-like ered away in a dust of blue rain? Who saw the dance of the dead clouds when the sunlight left them last night, and the west wind blew them before it like withered leaves? All has passed, unregretted as unseen; or if the apathy be ever shaken off, even for an instant, it is only by what is gross, or what is extraordinary; and yet it is not in the broad and fierce manifestations of the elemental energies, not in the clash of the hail, nor the drift of the whirlwind, that the highest characters of the sublime are developed. God is not in the earthquake, nor in the fire; but in the still, small voice. They are but the blunt and the low faculties of our nature, which can only be addressed through lampblack and lightning. It is in quiet and subdued passages of unobtrusive majesty, the deep, and the calm, and the perpetual; that which must be sought ere it is seen, and loved ere it is under-will see those watch-towers of vapour swept stood; things which the angels work out for away from their foundations, and waving curtains us daily, and yet vary eternally; which are of opaque rain let down to the valleys, swinging never wanting and never repeated; which are from the burdened clouds in black bending to be found always, yet each found but once; fringes, or pacing in pale columns along the lake it is through these that the lesson of devotion level, grazing its surface into foam as they go. is chiefly taught, and the blessing of beauty And then, as the sun sinks, you shall see the given.-M. P. storm drift for an instant from off the hills, leaving their broad sides smoking, and loaded yet with snow-white, torn, steam-like rags of capricious vapour, now gone, now gathered again; while the smouldering sun, seeming not far away, but burning like a red-hot ball beside you, and as if you could reach it, plunges through the rushing wind and rolling cloud with headlong fall, as if it meant to rise no more, dyeing all the air about it with blood. And then you shall hear the fainting tempest die in the hollow of the night, and you shall see a green halo kindling on the summit of the eastern hills, brighter-brighter yet, till the large white circle of the slow moon is lifted up among the barred clouds, step by step, line by line; star after star she quenches with her kindling light, setting in their stead an army of pale, penetrable, fleecy
ASPECTS OF CLOUDS.
Stand upon the peak of some isolated mountain at daybreak, when the night mists first rise from off the plains, and watch their white and lake-like fields, as they float in level bays and winding gulfs about the islanded summits of the lower hills, untouched yet by more than dawn, colder and more quiet than a windless sea under the moon of midnight; watch when the first sunbeam is sent upon the silver channels, how the foam of their undulating surface parts and passes away, and down under their depths the glittering city and green pasture lie like Atlantis, between the white paths of winding rivers; the flakes of light falling every moment faster and broader among the starry spires, as the wreathed surges break and vanish above them, and the confused crests and ridges of the dark hills shorten their grey shadows upon the plain. Wait a little longer, and you shall see those scattered mists rallying in the ravines, and floating up towards you, along the winding valleys, till they couch in quiet masses, irides
cent with the morning light,* upon the broad breasts of the higher hills, whose leagues of massy undulation will melt back and back into that robe of material light, until they fade away, lost in its lustre, to appear again above, in the serene heaven, like a wild, bright, impossible dream, foundationless and inaccessible, their very bases vanishing in the uusubstantial and mocking blue of the deep lake below. Wait yet a little longer, and you shall see those mists gather themselves into white towers, and stand fortresses along the promontories, massy and motionless, only piled with every instant higher and higher into the sky, and casting longer shadows athwart the rocks; and out of the pale blue of the horizon you will see forming and advancing a troop of narrow, dark, pointed vapours, which will cover the sky, inch by inch, with their grey network, and take the light off the landscape with an eclipse which will stop the singing of the birds and the motion of the leaves, together; and then you will see horizontal bars of black shadow forming under them, and lurid wreaths create themselves, you know not how, along the shoulders of the hills; you never see them form, but when you look back to a place which was clear an instant ago, there is a cloud on it, hanging by the precipices, as a hawk pauses over his prey. And then you will hear the sudden rush of the awakened wind, and you
* I have often seen the white, thin, morning cloud, edged with the seven colours of the prism. I am not aware of the cause of this phenomenon, for it takes place not when we stand with our backs to the sun, but in clouds near the sun itself, irregularly and over indefinite spaces, sometimes taking place in the body of the cloud. The colours are distinct and vivid, but have a kind of metallic lustre upon them.