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looking down with a protecting air on the surrounding scene—all these common features of English landscape evince a calm and settled security, a hereditary transmission of home-bred virtues and local attachments, that speak deeply and touchingly for the moral character of the nation.
It is a pleasing sight, of a Sunday morning, when the bell is sending its sober melody across the quiet fields, to behold the peasantry in their best finery, with ruddy faces, and modest cheerfulness, thronging tranquilly along the green lanes to church; but it is still more pleasing to see them in the evenings, gathering about their cottage doors, and appearing to exult in the humble comforts and embellishments,which their own hands have spread around them.
It is this sweet home feeling, this settled repose of affection in the domestic scene, that is, after all, the parent of the steadiest virtues and purest enjoyments; and I cannot close these desultory remarks better, than by quoting the words of a modern English poet, who has depicted it with remarkable felicity.
Through each gradation, from the castled hall,
LESSON VI. Flowers.—Howitt.
The return of May again brings over us a living sense of the loveliness and delightfulness of flowers. Of all the minor creations of God, they seem to be most completely the effusions of his love of beauty, grace and joy. Of all the natui al objects which surround us, they are the least connected with our absolute necessities.
Vegetation might proceed, the earth might be clothed with a sober green; all the processes of fructification might be perfected, without being attended by the glory with which the flower is crowned; but beauty and fragrance are poured abroad over the earth in blossoms of endless varieties, radiant evidences of the boundless benevolence of the Deity. They are made solely to gladden the heart of man, for a light to his eyes, for a living inspiration of grace to his spirit, for a perpetual admiration. And accordingly, they seize on our affections the first moment that we behold them.
With what eagerness do very infants grasp at flowers! As they become older they would live forever amongst them. They bound about in the flowery meadows like young fawns; they gather all they come near; they collect heaps; they sit among them, and sort them, and sing over them, and caress them, till they perish in their grasp. We see them coming wearily into the towns and villages, loaded with posies half as large as themselves. We trace them in shady lanes, in the grass of far-off fields, by the treasures they have gathered and have left behind, lured on by others still brighter.
As they grow up to maturity, they assume, in their eyes, new characters and beauties. Then they are strewn around them, the poetry of the earth. They become invested by a multitude of associations with innumerable spells of power over the human heart; they are to us memorials of the joys, sorrows, hopes, and triumphs of our forefathers; they are, to all nations, the emblems of youth in its loveliness and purity.
The ancient Greeks, whose souls preeminently sympathized with the spirit of grace and beauty in every thing, were enthusiastic in their love, and lavish in their use of flowers. They scattered them in the porticoes of their temples, they were offered on the altars of some of their deities; they were strewed in the conqueror's path; on all occasions of festivity and rejoicing they were strewn about, or worn in garlands.
Something of the same spirit seems to have prevailed amongst the Hebrews. 'Let us fill ourselves,' says Solomon, with 'costly wine and ointments; and let no flower of the spring pass by us. Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they Dc withered.' But amongst that solemn and poetical people, they were commonly regarded in another and higher sense, they were the favorite symbols of the beauty and the fragility of life. Man is compared to the flower of the field, and it is added, 'the grass withereth, the flower fadeth.'
But of all the poetry ever drawn from flowers, none is so beautiful, none is so sublime, none is so imbued with that very spirit in which they were made as that of Christ. 'And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not neither do they spin, and yet, I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith!'
The sentiment built upon this, entire dependance on the goodness of the Creator, is one of the lights of our existence, and could only have been uttered by Christ; but we have here also the expression of the very spirit of beauty in which flowers were created; a spirit so boundless and overflowing, that it delights to enliven and adorn,with these luxuriant creatures of sunshine.the solitary places of the earth; to scatter them by myriads over the very desert 'where no man is; on the wilderness where there is no man;' sending rain, 'to satisfy the desolate and waste ground, and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth.'
In our confined notions, we are often led to wonder why
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
why beauty, and flowers, and fruit, should be scattered so exuberantly where there are none to enjoy them. But the thoughts of the Almighty are not as our thoughts. He sees them; he doubtlessly delights to behold the beauty of his handiworks, and rejoices in that tide of glory which he has caused to flow wide through the universe.
We know not, either, what spiritual eyes besides may behold them; for pleasant is the belief, that
Myriads of spiritual creatures walk the earth.
And how often does the gladness of uninhabited lands refresh the heart of the solitary traveller! When the distant and sea-tired voyager suddenly descries the blue mountaintops, and the lofty crest of the palm-tree, and makes some green and pleasant island, where the verdant and blossoming forest-boughs wave in the spicy gale; where the living waters leap from the rocks, and millions of new and resplendent flowers brighten the fresh sward, what then is the joy of his heart!
To Omnipotence creation costs not an effort, but to the desolate and the weary, how immense is the happiness thus prepared in the wilderness! Who does not recollect the exultation of Vaillant over a flower in the torrid wastes of Africa? A magnificent lily, which, growing on the banks of a river, filled the air far around with its delicious fragrance, and, as he observes, had been respected by all the animals of the district, and seemed defended even by its beauty.
Bring Flowers.—Mrs. Hemans.
Bring flowers, young flowers, for the festal board,
To wreathe the cup ere the wine is poured;
Bring flowers! they are springing in wood and vale,
Their breath floats out on the southern gale,
And the touch of the sunbeam hath waked the rose, »
To deck the hall where the bright wine flows.
Bring flowers to strew in the conqueror's path—
Bring flowers to the captive's lonely cell,
They have tales of the joyous woods to tell;
Of the free bltie streams, and the glowing sky,
And the bright world shut from his languid eye;
They will bear him a thought of the sunny hours,
And a dream of his youth—bring him flowers, wild flowers
Bring flowers, fresh flowers, for the bride to wear!
Her place is now by another's side—
Bring flowers for the locks of the fair young bride!
Bring flowers, pale flowers, o'er the bier to shed,
A crown for the brow of the early dead!
For this through its leaves hath the white-rose burst,
For this in the woods was the violet nursed.
Though they smile in vain for what once was ours,
They are love's last gift—bring ye flowers, pale flowers!
Bring flowers to the shrine where we kneel in prayer,
They are nature's offering, their place is there!
They speak of hope to the fainting heart,
With a voice of promise they come and part,
They sleep in dust through the wintry hours,
They break forth in glory—bring flowers, bright flowers!
LESSON VIII. The Burial Place.—Bryant.
Erewhile, on England's pleasant shores, our sires
Left not their churchyards unadorned with shades
Or blossoms; and indulgent to the strong
And natural dread of man's last home, the grave,
Its frost and silence—they disposed around,
To soothe the melancholy spirit that dwelt
Too sadly on life's close, the forms and hues
Of vegetable beauty.—There the yew,
Green even amid the snows of winter, told
Of immortality, and gracefully
The willow, a perpetual mourner, drooped;
And there the gadding woodbine crept about,
And there the ancient ivy. From the spot,
Where the sweet maiden, in her blossoming years
Cut off, was laid with streaming eyes, and hands
That trembled as they placed her there, the rose
Sprung modest, on bowed stalk, and better spoke
Her graces, than the proudest monument.
And children set about their playmate's grave
The pansy. On the infant's little bed,
Wet at its planting with maternal tears,
Emblem of early sweetness, early death,