« AnteriorContinuar »
(Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, 1828.)
How beautiful are all the subdivisions of time diversifying the dream of human life, as it glides away between earth and heaven! And why should moralists mourn over that mutability that gives the chief charm to all that passes so transitorily before our eyes, leaving image upon image fairer and dearer far than even the realities, still visible, and it may be for ever, in the waters of memory sleeping
within the heart? Memory never awakes but along with · imagination, and therefore it is
* That she can give us back the dead,
Even in the loveliest looks they wore!" The years, the months, the weeks, the days, the nights, the hours, the minutes, the moments, each is in itself a different living, and peopled, and haunted world. One life is a thousand lives, and each individual, as he fully renews the past, reappears in a thousand characters, yet all of them bearing a mysterious identity not to be misunderstood, and all of them, while every passion has been shifting and dying away, and reascending into power, still under the dominion of the same unchanging conscience, that feels and knows that it is from God.
Oh! who can complain of the shortness of human life, that can retravel all the windings and wanderings, and mazes that his feet have trodden since the farthest back
hour at which memory pauses, baffled and blindfolded, as she vainly tries to penetrate and illumine the palpable, the impervious darkoess that shrouds the few first for ever-forgotten years of our wonderful being? Long, long, long ago seems it to be indeed, when we remember it, the time we first pulled the primroses on the sunny braes, wondering, in our first blissful emotions of beauty, at the leaves with a softness all their own, a yellowness nowhere else so vivid,“ the bright consummate flower," so starlike to our awakened imagination among the lowly grass-lovely, indeed, to our admiring eyes, as any one of all the stars that, in their turn, did seem themselves like flowers in the blue fields of heaven !-long, long, long ago, the time when we danced along, hand in hand with our golden-haired sister, whom all that looked on loved long, long, long ago, the day on which she died—the hour, so far more dismal than any hour that can now darken us on this earth, when sheher coffin—and that velvet pall descended-and descended
-slowly, slowly into the horrid clay, and we were borne deathlike, and wishing to die, out of the churchyard, that, from that moment, we thought we could enter never more! And oh! what a multitudinous being must ours have been, when, before our boyhood was gone, we could have forgot. ten her buried face! Or at the dream of it, dashed off a tear, and away, with a bounding heart, in the midst of a cloud of playmates, breaking into fragments on the hill-side, and hurrying round the shores of those wild moorland lochs, in vain hope to surprise the heron, that slowly uplifted his blue bulk, and floated away, regardless of our shouts, to the old castle woods! It is all like a reminiscence of some other state of existence! Then, after all the joys and sor. rows of those few years, which we now call transitory, but which our boyhood felt as if they would be endless-as ir they would endure for ever-arose upon us the glorious dawning of another new life—Youth! with its insupportable sunshine, and its magnificent storms! transitory, too, we now know, and well deserving the name of dream! But while it lasted, long, various, and agonizing, while, unable to sustain “the beauty still more beauteous” of the eyes that first revealed to us the light of love, we hurried away from the parting hour, and, looking up to the moon and
stars, hugged the very heavens to our heart. Yet life had not yet nearly reached its meridian, journeying up the sunbright firmament. How long hung it there exulting, when “it flamed on the forehead of the noontide sky!” Let not the time be computed by the lights and shadows of the years, but by the innumerable array of visionary thoughts, that kept deploying, as if from one eternity into another-now in dark sullen masses, now in long array, brightened as if with spear-points, and standards, and moving along through chasm, abyss, and forest, and over the summits of the highest mountains, to the sound of ethereal music, now warlike and tempestuous-now, as “ from flutes and soft recorders,” accompanying, not pæans of victory, but hymns of peace. That life, too, seems, now that it is gone, to have been of a thousand years. Is it gone? Its skirts are yet hovering on the horizon—and is there yet another lise destined for us? That life which we fear to face,-age, old age! Four dreams within a dream, and then we may awake in heaven!
At dead of night-and it is now the dead of night-how the heart oflen quakes on a sudden at the silent resurrection of buried thoughts !
“Thoughts that like phantoms trackless come and go!"
Perhaps the sunshine of some one single Sabbath of more exceeding holiness comes first glimmering, and then brightening upon us, with the very same religious sanc. tity that filled all the air at the tolling of the kirk-bell, when all the parish was hushed, and the voice of streams heard more distinctly among the banks and braes,-and then, all at once, a thunder-storm that many years before, or many years after, drove us, when walking alone over the mountains, into a shieling, will seem to succeed, and we behold the same threatening aspect of the hea. vens that then quailed our beating hearts, and frowned down our eyelids before the lightning began to flash, and the black rain to deluge all the glens. No need now for any effort of thought. The images rise of themselves-independently of our volition-as if another being, studying the working of our minds, conjured up the phantasmagoria before us, who are beholding it with love, with wonder, or with fear. Darkness and silence have a power of sorcery over the past; and the soul has then, too, often restored to it feelings and thoughts that it had lost-and is made to know that nothing which it once experiences ever perishes, but that all things spiritual possess a principle of immortal life.
Why linger on the shadowy wall some of those phantasmagoria—returning after they have disappeared—and reluctant to pass away into their former oblivion ? Why shoot others athwart the gloom, quick as spectral figures seen hurrying among mountains during a great storm ? Why do some glare and threaten—why others fade away with a melancholy smile-why that one-look! look! a figure all in white, and with white roses in its hair, comes forward through the haze, beautifying into distincter form and face, till its pale, beseeching hands almost touch my bosom—and then, in a moment it is as nothing !
But now the room is disenchanted—and feebly my lamp is glimmering, about to leave me to the light of the moon and stars. There is it trimmed again-and the sudden increase of lustre cheers the heart within me like a festal strain-and to-morrow-to-morrow is Merry Christmas, and when its night descends, there will be mirth and music, and the light sound of the merry-twinkling feet within these now so melancholy walls, and sleep now reigning over all the house-save this one roomwill be banished far over the sea-and Morning will be reluctant to allow her light to break up the innocent orgies.
Were every Christmas of which we have been present at the celebration, painted according to nature—what a gallery of pictures! True, that a sameness would pervade them all-but only that kind of sameness that pervades the nocturnal heavens,—one clear night being always, to common eyes, so like another,- for what hath any night to be proud of but one moon and some thousand stars-a vault - darkly, deeply, beautifully blue," here a few braided, and there a few castellated clouds ? Yet no two nights ever bore more than a family resemblance. to each other before the studious and instructed eye of him