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Book-shelf or picture-frame, or brightening up
Oh precious seed !
We have now reached the close of the “Birth-Day,” and of this number of Maga, which we are confident will be felt to be a delightful one, were it but for our profuse quotations from this delightful poem. It has already had a pretty wide circulation; but in a few days hence it will have been perused by thousands and tens of thousands, in our pages--and by and by the volume itself will find its way into many a quiet “homestead” seldom visited by books. The plan of the poem might be extended so as to include another season-or age of life. Yet it is now a whole ; and we believe that it is best it should remain in its present shape. Let us hope ere long to have another volume.
(Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, 1834.)
We used to spend the opening year in the country, but for a good many seasons have been tied to town by setters as fine as frostwork filigree, which we could not break without destroying a whole world of endearment. That seems an obscure image—but it means what the Germans would call in English-our winter environment. We are imprisoned in a net of our own weaving-an invisible net-yet we can see it when we choose—just as a bird can see, when he chooses, the wires of his cage, that are invisible in his happiness, as he keeps hopping and fluttering about all day long, or haply dreaming on his perch with his poll under his plumes—as free in confinement as if let loose into the boundless sky. That seems an obscure image too; but we mean what Wordsworth says, that the prison to which we doom ourselves is in truth no prison at all-and we have improved on that idea, for we have built our own and are prisoner, turnkey, and jailer all in one, and 'tis noiseless as the house of sleep. Or what if we declare that Christopher North is a king in his palace, with no subjects but his own thoughts-his rule peaceful over those lights and shadows—and undisputed to reign over them his right divine.
The opening year in a town, now, answers in all things to our heart's desire. How beautiful the smoky air! The clouds have a homely look as they hang over the happy families of houses, and seem as if they loved their birthplace ;-all unlike those heartless clouds that keep stravaiging over mountain tops, and have no domicile in the sky!—Poets speak of living rocks, but what is their life to that of houses? Who ever saw a rock with eyes, that is, with windows ? Stone-blind all, and stone-deaf, and with hearts of stone ; whereas who ever saw a house without eyes—that is, windows? Our own is an Argus; yet the good old Conservative grudges not the assessed taxes, his optics are as cheerful as the day that lends them light, and they love to salute the setting sun, as if a hundred beacons, level above level, were kindled along a mountain side. He might safely be pronounced a madman who preferred an avenue of trees to a street. Why, trees have no chimneys; and, were you to kindle a fire in the hollow of an oak, you would soon be as dead as a Druid. It won't do to talk to us of sap, and the circulation of sap. A grove in winter, bole and branch-leaves it has noneis as dry as a volume of sermons. But a street, or a square, is full of " vital sparks of heavenly flame” as a volume of poetry, and the heart's blood circulates through the system like rosy wine.
But a truce to comparisons ; for we are beginning to feel contrition for our crime against the country, and, with humbled head and heart, we beseech you to pardon usye rocks of Pavey-Ark, the pillared palace of the storms
-ye clouds, now wreathing a diadem for the forehead of Helvellyn--ye trees, that hang the shadows of your undy. ing beauty over the “ one perfect chrysolite" of blessed Windermere!
Our meaning is transparent now as the hand of an apparition waving peace and goodwill to all dwellers in the land of dreams. In plainer but not simpler words (for words are like flowers, often radiant in their simplicitywitness the lily, and Solomon's Song) contributors, and subscribers, and readers, all, we wish you a happy new year, in town or in country-or in ships at sea!
A happy new year !-Ah! ere this ARIA, sung sotto voce, reach your ears, (eyes are ears, and ears eyes,) the week of all weeks will be over and gone, and the new year will seem growing out of the old year's ashes !
For the year is your only Phænix. But what with time to do has a wish-a hope, a prayer? Their power is in the Spirit that gives them birth, and there they are immortal for spirit never dies. And what is spirit but the well-head of thoughts and feelings flowing and overflowing all life, yet leaving the well-head full of water as ever-so lucid, that on your gazing intently into its depths, it seems to become a large soft spiritual eye, reflecting the heavens and the earth! And no one knows what the heavens and the earth are, till he has seen them therefor that God made the heavens and the earth we feel from that beautiful revelation-and where feeling is not, knowledge is dead, and a blank the universe. Love is life. The unloving merely breathe. A single sweet beat of the heart is token of something spiritual that will be with us again in Paradise. “0, bliss and beauty! are these our feelings”—thought we once in a dream-call circling in the sunshine-fair-plumed in a flight of doves!” The vision kept sailing on the sky-to and fro for our delight
no sound on their wings more than on their breasts and they melted away in light as if they were composed of light-and in the hush we heard high-up and far-off music-as of an angel's song.
That was a dream of the mysterious night; but now we are broad awake-and see no emblematical phantoms, but the mere sights of the common day. But sufficient for the day is the beauty thereof—and it inspires us with affection for all beneath the skies. Will the whole world, then, promise henceforth to love us and we will promise henceforth to love the whole world ?
It seems the easiest of all easy things to be kind and good-and then it is so pleasant ! “ Self-love and social are the same,” beyond all question ; and in that lies the nobility of our nature. The intensest seeling of self is that of belonging to a brotherhood. All selves then know they have duties which are in truth loves- and loves are joys- whether breathed in silence, or uttered in words, or embodied in actions-and if they filled all life, then all life would be good and heaven would be no more than a better earth. And how may all men go to heaven? By