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who has long communed with Nature, and is familiar with every smile and frown on her changeful, but not capri. cious countenance. Even so with the annual festivals of the heart. Then our thoughts are the stars that illumine those skies-on ourselves it depends whether they shall be black as Erebus or brighter than any Aurora.
(My father's house ! How it is ringing, like a grove in spring, with the din of creatures happier, a thousand times happier, than all the birds in the world! It is the Christmnas holidays—Christmas day itself-Christmas nightand joy intensifies love in every bosom. Never before were we brothers and sisters so dear to one anothernever before had our hearts so yearned towards the authors of our being-our blissful being! There they sit -silent in all that outcry-composed in all that disarray, -still in all that tumult--yet, as one or other flying imp sweeps round the chair, a father's hand will playfully try to catch a prisoner,-a mother's gentler touch on some sylph's disordered cymar be felt almost as a reproof, and, for a moment, slacken the fairy-flight. One old game treads on the heels of another-twenty within the hour,
—and many a new game never heard of before nor since, struck out by the collision of kindred spirits in their glee, the transitory fancies of genius inventive through very delight. Then, all at once, there is a hush, profound as ever falls on some little plat within a forest, when the moon drops behind the mountain, and the small greenrobed people of peace at once cease their pastime and evanish. For she-the silver tongued-is about to sing an old ballad, words and air both hundreds of years old, --and sing she doth, while tears begin to fall, with a voice too mournfully beautiful long to breathe below,--and, ere another Christmas shall come with the falling snows, doomed to be mute on earth—but to be hymning in heaven.
Of that house--to our eyes the fairest of earthly dwellings—with its old ivied turrets, and orchard-garden, bright alike with fruit and flowers, not one stone remaius! The very brook that washed its foundations has vanished along with them,-and a crowd of other buildings, wholly without character, has long stood, where here
a single tree, and there a grove, did once render so lovely that small demesne! Which, how could we, who thought it the very heart of paradise, even for one moment have believed was soon to be blotted out from being, and we our. selves, then so linked in love that the band which bound us all together was, in its gentle pressure, felt not nor understood, to be scattered far and abroad, like so many leaves, that after one wild parting rustle are separated by roaring wind-eddies, and brought together no more! The old abbey,—it still survives,-and there, in that corner of the burial-ground, below that part of the wall which was least in ruins, and which we often climbed to reach the starlings' and martins' nests—there, in hopes of a joyful resurrection, lie the loved and venerated,- for whom, even now that so many long, long, grief-deadening years have fled, I feel, in this hushed and holy hour, as if it were im. piety so utterly to have ceased to weep-so seldom to remember !-and then, with a powerlessness of sympathy to keep pace with youth's frantic grief-the floods we all wept together-at no long interval-on those pale and smiling faces, as they lay in their coffins, most beautiful and most dreadful to behold!
- Childish! childish !" methinks I hear some worldwise thinker cry. But has not one of the wisest of spirits said " The child is father of the man ?" And if so, ought the man ever to lose sight of any single one of those dear, dim, delightful remembrances, far off and remote, of ob. jects whether alive or dead, whether instinct with love and intelligence, or but of the insensate sod, that once were to him all his being -So blended was that being then, with all it saw and heard on this musical and lus. trous earth, that, as it bounded along in bliss, it was but as the same creation with the grass, the flowers, the streams, the trees, the clouds, the sky, and its days and nights, -all of them bound together by one invisible chain,a green, bright, murmuring, shadowy, floating, sunny and starry world, of which the enraptured creature that en. joyed it was felt to be the very centre,-and the very soul!
Then came a new series of Christmasses, celebrated, one year in this family, another year in that,-none present but those whom the delightful Elia, alias Charles Lamb, calleth the sold familiar faces;" something in all features, and all tones of voice, and all manners, betokening origin from one root, relations all, happy, and with no reason either to be ashamed or proud of their neither high nor humble birth-their lot being cast within that pleasant realm, “the golden mean," where the dwellings are connecting links between the hut and hall, fair edifices resembling manse or mansion-house, according as the atmosphere expands or contracts their dimensions, in which competence is next-door neighbour to wealth, and both of them within the daily walk of contentment.
Merry Christmasses they were indeed-one lady al. ways presiding, with a figure that once had been the stateliest among the stately, but then somewhat bent, without being bowed bown, beneath an easy weight of most venerable years. Sweet was her tremulous voice to all her grandchildren's ears! Nor did those solemn eyes, bedimmed into a pathetic beauty, in any degree restrain the glee that sparkled in orbs that had as yet shed not many tears, but tears of pily or of joy. Dearly she loved all those mortal creatures whom she was soon about to leave ; but she sat in sunshine even within the shadow of death; and the “ voice that called her home" had so long been whispering in her ear, that its accents had become dear to her, and consolatory every word that was heard in the silence, as from another world.
Whether we were indeed all so witty as we thought ourselves-uncles, aunts, nephews, cousins, and othe rest,” it might be presumptuous in us, who were considered by ourselves and some few others the most amusing of the whole set, at this distance of time to decide-especially in the affirmative; but how the roof did ring with sally, pun, retort, and repartee! Ay, with pun--a species of impertinence for which we have therefore a kindness even to this day. Had incomparable Thomas Hood had the good fortune to have been born a cousin of ours, how with that fine fancy of his would he have shone at those Christmas festivals, eclipsing us all! Our family, through all its different branches, has ever been famous for bad voices, but good ears; and we think we hear ourselves
all those uncles and aunts, nephews, and njeces, and cousins--singing now! Easy is it to “ warble melody” as to breathe air. But, oh! we hope harmony is the most diffi. cult of all things to people in general, for to us it was im. possible ; and what attempts ours used to be at seconds ! Yet the most woful failures were rapturously encored ; and ere the night was done, we spoke with most extraordinary voices indeed, every one hoarser than another, till at last, walking home with a fair cousin, there was nothing left for it but a tender glance of the eye-a tender pressure of the hand-for cousins are not altogether sisters, and although partaking of that dearest character, possessing, it may be, some peculiar and appropriate charms of their own; as didst thou, Emily the “ Wild-cap !"_That soubriquet all forgotten now--for now thou art a matron, gentle as a dove, and smiling on an only daughter, almost womangrown--fair and frolicsome in her innocence as thou thyself wert of yore, when the gravest and wisest withstood not the witchery of thy dancings, thy singings, and thy showering smiles !
On rolled suns and seasons the old died-the elderly became old-and the young, one after another, were wafted joyously away on the wings of hope, like birds, almost as soon as they can fly, ungratefully forsaking their nests, and the groves in whose sase shadow they first essayed their pinions ; or like pinnaces, that, after having for a few days trimmed their snow-white sails in the land. locked bay, close to whose shores of silvery sand had grown the trees that furnished timber both for hull and mast, slip their tiny cables on some summer day, and gathering every breeze that blows, go dancing over the waves in sunshine, and melt far off into the main ! Or, haply, some were like fair young trees, transplanted during no favourable season, and never to take root in another soil, but soon leaf and branch to wither beneath the tropic sun, and die almost 'unheeded by those who knew not how beautiful they were beneath the dews and mists of their own native clime. Vain images ! and therefore chosen by fancy not too painfully to touch the heart! For some hearts grow cold and forbidding in selfish cares-some, warm as ever in their own generous glow, were touched by the chill of Fortune's frowns, that are ever worst to bear when suddenly succeeding her smiles-some, to rid themselves of painsul regrets, took refuge in forgetfulness, and closed their eyes to the past-duty banished some abroad, and duty imprisoned others at home-estrangements there were, at first unconscious and unintended, yet ere long, though causeless, complete-changes were wrought insensibly, invisibly, even in the innermost nature of those, who being friends knew no guile, yet came thereby at last to be friends no more-unrequited love broke some bonds-requited love relaxed others-the death of one altered the conditions of many-and so-year after year-the Christmas meeting was interrupted-deferred-till finally it ceased, with one accord, unrenewed and unrenewable. For when some things cease-for a time-that time turns out to be for ever. Survivors of those happy circles ! wherever ye be-should these imperfect remembrances of days of old chance, in some thoughtful pause of life's busy turmoil, for a moment to meet your eyes, let there be towards the inditer a few throbs of revived affection in your hearts-for his, though w absent long and distant far," has never been utterly forgetful of the loves and friendships that charmed his youth. To be parted in body is not to be estranged in soul-and many a dreamand many a vision, sacred to memory's best affections, may pass before the mind of one whose lips are silent. " Out of sight out of mind,” is rather the expression of a doubt--of a fear-than of a belief or conviction. The soul surely has eyes that can see the object it loves, through all intervening darkness—and of those more espe.. cially dear it keeps within itself almost undimmed images, on which, when they know it not, think it not, believe it not, it often loves to gaze, as on a relic imperishable as it is hallowed. .
Hail! rising beautiful, and magnificent, through the mists of morning-hail! hail! ye woods, groves, towers, and temples, overshadowing that famous stream beloved by all the Muses! Through this midnight hush-methinks I hear faint and far off a sacred music,
“Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault,
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise!”