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Within the auriole of mine head ;
Softly the carol chant is sung,
Till, by an almond tree,
May o'er it soonest be.
BY N. P. WILLIS.
So down the mansions slippery stair,
Into the midnight weather, Pass, as if sorrow never were,
The weak and strong together. This was the night before the morn On which the Hope of Man was born, And long ere dawn can claim the sky, The tempest rolls subservient by ; While bells on all sides sing and say, How Christ the child was born to-day; Free as the sun's in June, the rays Mix merry with the Yuhl-log's blaze; Some butterflies of snow may float Down slowly, glistening in the mote, But crystal-leaved and fruited trees Scarce lose a jewel in the breeze; Frost-diamonds twinkle on the grass,
Transformed from pearly dew, And silver flowers encrust the glass,
Which gardens never knew. The inmates of the house, before Whose iron-fended heedless door, The children of our nightly tale Were standing, rise refreshed and hale, And run, as if a race to win, To let the Christmas morning in. They find upon the threshold stone, A little child just like their own; Asleep, it seems, but when the head Is raised, it sleeps as sleep the dead The fatal point had touched it, while The lips had just begun a smile, The forehead 'mid the matted tresses A perfect painless end expresses, And, unconvuls'd, the hands may wear The posture more of thanks than prayer.
Tickler.—I will accompany you on the poker and tongs.
SHEPHERD.-I hae nae objections— for you've not only a sowl for music, sir, but a genius too, and the twa dinna always gang thegither-mony a mon haein' as fine an ear for tunes, as the starnies on a dewy nicht, that listen to the grass growin' roun' the vernal primroses, and yet na able to play on ony instrument-on even the flute-let abee the poker and tangs.
Noctes AMBROSIANÆ. I am not known as a lover of music. I seldom praise the player upon an instrument, or the singer of song. I stand aside if I listen, and I keep the mea. sure in my heart without beating it audibly with my foot, or moving my head visibly in a practised abstraction. There are times when I do not listen at all; and it may be that the mood is not on me, or that the spell is mastered by Beauty, or that I hear a human voice, whose every whisper is sweeter than all. There are some who are said to have a passion for music, and they will turn away at the beginning of a song, though it be only a child's lesson, and leave gazing on an eye that was, perhaps, like shad. ed water, or the forehead of a beautiful woman, or the lip of a young girl, to listen. I cannot boast that my love of music is so strong. I confess that there are things I know that are often an overcharm, tho' not always; and I would not give up my slavery to their power, if I might be believed to have gone mad at an opera, or have my · bravo" the signal for the applause of a city.
There is unwritten Music. The world is full of it. I hear it every hour that I wake, and my waking sense is surpassed sometimes by my sleepingthough that is a mystery. There is no sound of sim. ple nature that is not Music. It is all Heaven's work, and so harmony. You may mingle and divide, and strengthen the passages of its great anthem, and and it is still melody-melody. The winds of summer blow over the waterfalls and the brooks, and bring their voices to your ear as if their sweetness was linked by an accurate finger; yet the wind is but a fitful player; and you may go out when the tempest is up, and hear the strong trees moaning as they lean before it, and the long grass hissing as it
They tend it straight in wondering grief,
sweeps through, and its own solemn monotony over, friends comfort me and smile pleasantly on me, and all-and the dimple of that same brook, and the feel willing that I should be released from sorrow, waterfall's unaltered bass, shall still reach you in and perplexity, and disease, and go up, now that my the intervals of its power, as much in harmony as race was finished, joyfully to my reward. And if before, and as much a part of its perfect and perpetu. it be allotted to me, as I pray it will, to die in the al hymn. There is no accident of Nature's causing summer time, I would be borne out into the open which can bring in discord. The loosened rock may sky, and have my pillow lifted that I might see the fall into the abyss, and the overblown tree rush glory of the setting sun, and pass away, like him, down through the branches of the wood, and the with undiminished light, to another world. thunder peal awfully in the sky; and, sudden and It is not mere poetry to talk of the “ voices of violent as these changes seem, their tumult goes up summer." It is the day time of the year, and its with the sound of wind and water; and the exqui- myriad influences are audibly at work. Even at site ear of the musician can detect no jar.
night you may lay yonr ear to the ground, and hear I have read somewhere of a custom in the High- that faintest of murmurs, the sound of growing lands, which, in connection with the principle it in things. I used to think when I was a child that it volves, is exceedingly beautiful. It is believed that, was fairy music. If you have been used to rising to the ear of the dying—which just before death be- early, you have not forgotten how the stillness of comes always exquisitely acute-the perfect harmo- the night seems increased by the timid note of the ny of the voices of nature is so ravishing as to make first bird. It is the only time when I would lay a him forget his suffering, and die gently, like one in finger on the lip of nature-the deep hush is so very a pleasant trance. And so when the last moment solemn. By and by, however, the birds are approaches, they take him from the close shieling, all up, and the peculiar holiness of the hour declines, and bear him out into the open sky, that he may hear but what a world of music does the world shine the familiar rushing the streams. I can believe on! the deep lowing of the cattle blending in with that it is not superstition. I do not think we know the capricious warble of a thousand of heaven's haphow exquisitely nature's many voices are attuned to py creatures, and the stir of industry coming on the harmony, and to each other. The old philosopher we air like the under tones of a choir, and the voice of read of might not have been dreaming when he dis. man; heard in the distance over all, like a singer covered that the order of the sky was a scroll of among instruments, giving them meaning and lanwritten music, and that two stars—which are said to guage! And then, if your ear is delicate, you have lave appeared centuries after his death in the very minded all these sounds grow softer and sweeter, as places he mentioned-were wanting to complete the the exhalations of the dew floated up, and the vibraharmony. We know how wonderful are the phenome- tions loosened in the thin air. na of color ; how strangely like consummate art the You should go out some morning in June and lis. strongest dyes are blended in the plumage of birds, ten to the notes of the birds. They express far and the cups of flowers ; so that to the practised eye more than our own, the characters of their owners. of the painter the harmony is inimitably perfect. It From the scream of the vulture and the eagle, to the is natural to suppose every part of the universe low cooing of the dove, they are all modified by equally perfect, and it is a glorious and elevating their habits of support, and their consequent dispothought, that the stars of heaven are moving on con- sitions.
With the small birds the voice appears to tinually to music, and that the sounds we daily listen be but an outpouring of gladness, and it is a pleato are but a part of a melody that reaches to the sure to see that without one articulate word it is so very centre of heaven's illimitable spheres. sweet a gift to them ; it seems a necessary vent to
Pardon me a digression here, reader. Aside from their joy of existence, and I believe in my heart that the intention of the custom just alluded to, there is a dumb bird would die of its imprisoned fulness. something delightful in the thought of thus dying in Nature seems never so utterly still to me as in the the open air. I had always less horror of death than depths of a summer afternoon. The heat has driven of its ordinary gloomy circumstances. There is in the birds, and the leaves hang motionless on the something unnatural in the painful and extravagant trees, and no creature has the heart, in that faint sul. sympathy with which the dying are surrounded. It triness, to utter a sound. The snake sleeps on the is not such a gloomy thing to die. The world has rock, and the frog lies breathing in the pool, and even pleasant places, and I would hear in my last hour the murmur that is heard at night is inaudible, for the voice and the birds, and the chance music I may the herbage droops beneath the sun, and the seed has have loved; but better music, and voices of more no strength to burst its covering. The world is ravishing sweetness, and far pleasanter places, are still, and the pulses beat languidly. It is a time for found in heaven, and I cannot feel that it is well or sleep. natural to oppress the dying with the distressing But if you would hear one of Nature's most variwretchedness of common sorrow. I would be leted and delicate harmonies, lie down in the edge of go cheerfully from the world. I would have my the wood when the evening breeze begins to stir, and
listen to its coming. It touches first the silver soli. | your mind is not idle. It realizes my dream of anage of the birch, and the slightly hung leaves, at other world, where music is intuitive like a thought, its merest breath, will lift and rustle like a thousand and comes only when it is remembered. tiny wings, and then it creeps up to the tall fir, and And the frost, too, has a melodious “ministry.” the fine tassels send out a sound like a low whisper, You will hear its crystals shoot in the dead of a and as the oak feels its influence, the thick leaves clear night, as if the moonbeams were splintering stir heavily, and a deep tone comes suddenly out like arrows on the ground; and you listen to it the like the echo of a far off bassoon. They are all more earnestly that it is the going on of one the most wind-harps of different power, and as the breeze cunning and beautiful of nature's deep mysteries. I strengthens and sweeps equally over them all, their know nothing so wonderful as the shooting of a crys. united harmony has a wonderful grandeur and tal. Heaven has hidden its principle as yet from the beauty.
inquisitive eye of the philosopher, and we must be Then what is more soothing than the dropping of the content to gaze on its exquisite beauty, and listen in rain? You should have slept in a garret to know how mute wonder to the noise of its invisible workmanit can lull and bring dreams. How I have lain, when ship. It is too fine a knowledge for us. We shall a boy, and listened to the fitful patter of the large comprehend it when we know how the morning drops upon the roof, and held my breath as it grew stars sang together.” fainter and fainter, till it ceased utterly, and I heard You would hardly look for music in the dreari. nothing but the rushing of the strong gust and the ness of the early winter. But before the keener rattling of the panes. I used to say over my pray- frosts set in, and while the warm winds are yet steal. ers and think of the apples I had stolen then! But ing back occasionally, like regrets of the departed were you ever out fishing upon a lake, in a smart summer, there will come a sost rain or a heavy shower ? It is like the playing of musical glasses. mist; and, when the north winds return, there will be The drops ring out with a clear, bell.like tinkle, fol. drops suspended like ear-ring jewels between the lowing each other sometimes so closely that it re. filaments of the cedar tassels and in the feathery sembles the winding of a distant horn ; and then, edges of the dark green hemlocks, and, if the clear. in the momentary intervals, the bursting of the thou-ing up is not followed by a heavy wind, they will all sand tiny bubbles comes stealthily on your ear, more be frozen in their places like well-set gems. The like the recollection of a sound than a distinct murmur. next morning the warm sun comes out, and by the Not that I fish; I was ever a milky-hearted boy, and middle of the calm, dazzling forenoon, they are all had a foolish notion that there was pain in the rest loosened from the close touch which sustains them, less death of those panting and beautiful creatures ; and will drop at the lightest motion. If you go along but I loved to go out with the old men when the day upon the south side of the wood at that hour, you set in with rain, and lie dreamily over the gunwale will hear music. The dry foliage of the summer's listening to the changes of which I have spoken. It shedding is scattered over the ground, and the hard had a quieting effect on my temper, and stilled for round drops ring out clearly and distinctly as awhile the uneasiness of that vague longing that is they are shaken down with the stirring of the like a fever at a boy's heart.
breeze. It is something like the running of deep There is a melancholy music in Autumn. The and rapid water, only more fitful and merrier ; but leaves float sadly about with a peculiar look of deso to one who goes out in nature with his heart open, it lateness, wavering capriciously in the wind, and is a pleasant music, and, in contrast with the stern falling with a just andible sound that is a very sigh character of the season, delightsul. for its sadness. And then, when the breeze is fresher Winter has many other sounds that give pleasure —though the early autumn months are mostly still— to the seeker for hidden sweetness; but they are they are swept on with a cheerless rustle over the too rare and accidental to be described distinctly. naked harvest fields and about in the eddies of the The brooks have a sullen and muffled murmur under blast ; and though I have sometimes, in the glow of their frozen surface; the ice in the distant river exercise, felt my life securer in the triumph of the heaves up with the swell of the current and falls brave contrast, yet in the chillof evening, or when again to the bank with a prolonged echo, and the any sickness of mind or body was upon me, the woodman's axe rings cheerfully out from the bosom moaning of those withered leaves has pressed down of the unrobed forest. These are, at best, however, my heart like a sorrow, and the cheerful fire and the but melancholy sounds, and, like all that meets the voices of my many sisters might scarce remove it. eye in that cheerless season, they but drive in the
Then, for the music of Winter. I love to listen heart upon itself. I believe it is so ordered in heato the falling of the snow. It is an unobstrusive and ven's wisdom. We forget ourselves in the enticesweet music. You may temper your heart to the ment of the sweet summer. Its music and its loveserenest mood by its low murmur. It is that kind liness win away the scenes that link up the affecof music that only intrudes upon your ear when your tions, and we need a hand to turn us back tenderly, thoughts come languidly. You need not hear it if I and hide from us the outward idols in whose wor
ship we are forgetting the higher and more spiritual | one ear listens, and that it is addressed without a witaltars.
ness to one who cannot stand aside from herself and Hitherto I have spoken only of the sounds of separate the enchanter from his music. It is an insidiirrational and inanimate nature. A better than ous and beguiling power; and I have seen men who, these, and the best music under h’aven, is the mu. without any pretensions to dignily or imposing address, sic of the human voice. I doubt whether all voices would arrest attention the moment their voices were are not capable of it, though there must be degrees beard, and who, if they leaned over to murmur in a in its beauty. The tones of affection in all children woman's ear, were certain of pleasing, though the reare sweet, and we know not how much their un mark were the very idlest common-place of conversapleasantness in after life may be the effect of sin,
tion. and coarseness, and the consequent habitual expres.
A sweet voice is indispensable to a woman. I do sion of discordant passions. But we do know that not think I can describe it. It can be, and sometimes the voice of any human being becomes touching by is
, cultivated. It is not inconsistent with great vivacidistress, and that even on the coarse-minded and the ty, but it is oftener the gist of the quiet and unobtruJow, religion and the higher passions of the world sive. Loudness or rapidity of utterance is incompatihave sometimes so wrought, that their eloquence was
ble with it. It is low, but not guttural ; deliberate, like the strong passages of an organ. I have been but not slow. Every syllable is distinctly heard, but much about the world, and with a boy's unrest and they follow each other like drops of water from a foun. a peculiar thirst for novel sensations, have mingled tain. It is like the cooing of the dove—not shrill, nor for a time in every walk of life; yet never have I even clear, but uttered with the subdued and touching
readiness which every voice assumes in moments of known man or woman, under any strong feeling that
deep feeling or tenderness. It is a glorious gift in wowas not utterly degraded, whose voice did not
man. I should be won by it more than by beautydeepen to a chord of grandeur, or soften to cadences to which a harp might have been swept plea- rate them. But I never heard a deep, sweet voice from
more even than by talent, were it possible to sepasantly. It is a perfect instrument as it comes from
a weak woman. It is the organ of strong feeling, and the hand of its Maker, and, though its strings may of thoughts which have lain in the bosom till their sarelax with the atmosphere, or be injured by misuse credness almost bushes utterance. I remember listen. and neglect, it is always capable of being re-strung ing in the midst of a crowd, inany years ago, to the to its compass, until its frame is shattered. Men have seldom musical voices. Whether it is I was bewildered. She was a pure, bigh-hearted, im•
voice of a girl—a mere child of sixteen summers—till that their passions are coarser, or that their life of passioned creature, without the least knowledge of the caution and reserve shuts up the kindliness from which world, or her peculiar gift; but her own thoughts it would spring, a pleasant masculine voice is one of had wrought upon her like the bush of a sanctuary, the rarest gifts of our sex. Whenever you do meet it, and she spoke low as if with an unconscious however, it is always accompanied either by noble awe. I could never trifle in her presence. My nonqualities, or by that peculiar capacity for under. sense seemed out of place, and my practical assustanding all characters, which Goethe calls a “pre. rance forsook me utterly. She is changed now. She sentiment of the universe," and which enables its pos- has been admired, and found out her beauty, and the sessor, without a spark of a generous nature himself, music of her tone is gone. She will recover it by and to know perfectly what it is in others, and to de. by, when the delirium of the world is over, and she ceive the world by assuming all its accompany begins to rely upon her own thoughts for company ; ments and all its outwardy evidence. I speak now, but her extravagant spirits have broken over the thrilland throughout these remarks, only of the conversa- ing timidity of childhood, and the charm is unwound. tional tone. A man may sing never so well, and There was a lady whom I used to meet when a boy, still speak execrably; and I rarely have known a as I loitered to school with my satchel in the summer person who conversed musically, to sing even a mornings, and of whom, by and by, I came to dream, tolerable song.
night and day, with a boy's iropassioned and indefinite A good tone is generally the gift of a gentleman, longing. She was a married women, perhaps twenty for it is always low and deep; and the vulgar never years older than I, but very-very beautiful. She was possess the serenity and composure from which it like one's idea of a Countess—large, but perfectly alone can spring; they are always busy and hurried, light and graceful, with an eye of inexpressible softand a high, sharp tone becomes habitual.
ness and languor. I was certain she had a low, deliThere is nothing like a sweet voice to wir upon cious tone, and as she passed me in the street, I used the confidence. It is the secret of the otherwise unac- to fancy how the words must linger and melt on that countable success of some men in society. They never red lip, with its deep-colored and roluptuous fulness. talk for more than one to hear, and to that one, if a Years after, when I had become a man, I was introduwoman, and attractive, it is a most dangerous, because ced to her. I made some passing remark, and with my unsuspected spell; and everyone knows how the boyish impression still Aoating in my mind, waited al. voice softens instinctively with the knowledge that but most breathlessly for her answer. When she did speak
I was perfectly electrified. Such a wonderful rapidity ations far more calculated to excite terror, but nothing of utterance, such a volume of language, I never heard ever overcome me like that solitary vigil. I bad been from the lips of a woman. My dream was over. up night after night with my friend, and
It was always a wonder to me, that the voice is so certainly much unnerved by fatigue and exhaus. neglected in a fashionable education. There is a pow- tion ; but the circumstance furnishes matter of specuer in it over men, greater even than manner, for it is lation to the inquirer after the phenomena of human never suspected. Nothing repels like indifference, and nature. indifference is a loud talker, to whom any body may The music of church bells has become a matter of listen, and whom, therefore, nobody cares to hear. But poetry. Thomas Moore,whose mere sense of beauty is a low tone is redolent of the great secret of a woman's making him religious, and who knows better than any power-reliance ! Nothing wins like reliance. Be it other man what is beautiful-has sung“ · those evenin manner or tone, it is alike irresistible. I have seen ing bells” in some of the most melodious of bis elaboa woman who would captivate most men by simply rate stanzas. I remember, though somewhat imperleaning on their arın. It was the only thing she knew, fectly, a touching story connected with the church bells and she did that beautifully. It said more plainly than in a town of Italy, which had become famed all over she could bave spoken it, “ I confide in you utterly;" Europe for their peculiar solemnity and sweetness. and who, that had not been initiateil, could resist such They were made by a young Italian artizan, and were an appeal ? There is something in words spoke sost- his heart's pride. During the war, the place was sackly, and meant for one's ear alone, which touches the ed and the bells carried off, no one knew whither. Afheart like enchantment. I never linger by a low. ter the tumult was over, the poor fellow returned to voiced woman if she is not young. It indicates either his work; but it had been the solace of his life to wana childlike innocence and truth, or it is the practised der about at evening and listen to the chime of his witchery of a woman of the world, who knows too bells, and he grew dispirited and sick, and pined for well for me the secret of her power.
them till he could no longer bear it, and left his home, There are circumstances in which the simplest sound determined to wander over the world and hear them becomes awful. I once watched with a dying friend once again before he died. He went from land to in a solitary farm-house. It was a clear still night in land, stopping in every village, till the hope that alone December, and there was not a sound to be heard be. sustained him began to falter, and he knew at last that yond his just audible breathing. It wanted but a quar- he was dying. He lay one evening in a boat that was ter to one, and I began to anticipate the striking of the slowly floating down the Rhine, almost insensible, and large clock which stood in the farthest corner of the scarce expecting to see the sun rise again, that was room in which I sat. It was, at first, simply with now setting gloriously over the vine-covered hills of reference to my friend's comfort, for he was in a gen- Germany. Presently, the vesper bells of a distant tle doze, and I feared it might wake him from the only village began to ring, and as the chimes stole faintly sleep he had got that night. I sat looking at the clock. over the river with the evening breeze, he started from The minute hand crept slowly on. I began to feel an his lethargy. He was not mistaken ; it was the deep, nervous interest in its progress, and, as it advanced solemn, heavenly music of his own bells ; and the visibly, I leaned over and grasped more firmly the arm sounds that he had thirsted for years to hear, were of the huge chair. As it grew near, a strange fear be- melting over the water. He leaned from the boat, with gan to curdle my blood, and I could feel my hair stir, his ear close to the calm surface of the river, and lis. as if each individual filament were withering at tened. They rang out their hymn and ceased—and the root. It crept on-and on. There was but one he still lay motionless in his painful posture. His comminute left! I felt a smothering sensation at my panions spoke to him, but he gave no answer-his heart, and it seemed to me as if my life must stop. But spirit had followed the last sound of the vesper chime. that one minute seemed to me an hour. Before it had There is something exceedingly impressive in the expired, every event of my life had rushed through my breaking in of church bells on the stillness of the Sabmemory, and the awful responsibility of time, and the bath. I doubt whether it is not more so in the heart aggregate of pain, and despair, and agony, that was of a populous city than anywhere else. The presence felt by the hundreds that were dying at that moment, of any single, strong feeling, in the minds of a great and the guilt that was festering in the darkness the people, has something of awfulness in it which exhearts of those who may not sleep, and, over all, my ceeds even the impressiveness of Nature's breathless own thoughtless and immeasurable prodigality of Sabbath. I know few things more imposing than to time, and health, and opportunity, crowded into my walk the street of a city wben the peal of the early bells soul, as if its capacity were equal to the concentrated is just beginning. The deserted pavements, the closed anguish of a demon. The machinery at last began to windows of the places of business, the decent gravity stir. It seemed to me that every vein in my body was of the solitary passenger, and, over all, the feeling in an icy worm. My nerves stretched to an intenser your own bosom that the fear of God is brooding like pitch—large drops of sweat rolled from my forehead, a great shadow over the thousand human beings who and my heart stopped-almost. It struck! and I fell are sitting still in their dwellings around you, were back in my chair, in a paroxysm of hysterical laugh enough, if there were no other circumstance, to bush ter! I have watched often since, and have been in situ-'the heart into a religious fear. But when the belle peal