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glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness:" May that crown in due time be mine!
Our frugal and quiet dinner over, I generally betake myself to my Library, there to ruminate through the twilight hour-the sweetest hour to me of all the twenty-four. Poised on my chair, and looking through my southern window, I cannot tell what a soothing calm it gives me to watch the rooks coming home from their sea-side foraging to their inland roost in the ancient woods. High and silent in the yellow light they float into ken in long, sparse, and intermitting trains; and straightway sail out of view onwards. Successful quest, contentment, home, peace, and sleep, are all associated in that lofty, direct, and quiet flight. And then, how delicious the idlesse, as twilight darkens, of balancing our poker; and watching faces in the fire; and listening to the intermittent flapping of the flame, or the hoarse angry fizz of the white jets of gas, that curl and catch the keen momentary flame, as they come out in fat puffs from the frying bitumen of the cleft coal; and building our castles in the air! With regard to seeing faces in the fire, I believe I have the involuntary faculty as strong as any other man has. Some, however, can see anything they wish in the very blankest object they steadfastly look upon. The late Dr Macnish told me that, when he happened to be sitting smoking amidst other smokers, in that state of pleasing listlessness which the luxury of tobacco engenders, he used to see through the cloudy fumes that curled trailingly through the room faces moping and mowing, with huge noses and peaked chins, in every form of the grotesque. The ludicrous distress of the Barber of Gottingen was first conceived, as he looked through these pipe-born picturesque mists. It is recorded of one of our eminent painters, that he had the same power of observing visages on a damp wall, where the paint was beginning to peel off; and he filled his portfolio with studies made in this singular manner. I myself have often noticed the swarming hints to shaping fancy which such a wall presents. But there are more wonderful examples still of the faculty of which I have been speaking. Without the help of any
suggestion whatever from any external object on which he might be gazing, that sweet strange enthusiast, the painter Blake, had the power, sometimes voluntary and sometimes involuntary, of calling up a face, and seeing it with his bodily eyes projected in palpable semblance on the air, or on the wall before him: And it often remained steadfast to his actual organs of sight, till he took down its features on his canvass. That singular, headlong, abandonné creature, Benvenuto Cellini, when lying in a jail, saw the thick atmosphere of his nightly cell peopled with thronging visages of supernatural visitants, open and clear to his bodily eye. That no less strange being, Jerome Cardan, in his Autobiographical Confessions, states that he had the same faculty; not an involuntary disease (as in the celebrated case of Nicolai), but an active power, subject to his will. Of all the suggestive haunts of the face-watcher, however, none is like the half-ruddy, half-white embers of a fire of wood, when you are in that right gloaming mood which is the best master of ekeing out into perfect forms the queer miniatures that rise on the brooding eye. But ha! down goes the bridge of the nose, and the filmy torso quivers and sinks into nothing!
Would I had Blake's faculty, and something more, namely, the power of calling up the faces of the dead, as they appeared when living. And let us have their fulllength figures, too; ay, and their dresses. How delightful thus to bring up our ancestors, pair by pair, back to Adam and Eve; making them pass over before us in our evening chamber, like the shadows of Banquo's unborn line. Two hundred ancestors, with their respective spouses, by the father's side, and as many by the mother's, would carry us back to our First Parents. How curiously pleasing to note the family resemblances, now lost, and now re-appearing in the varied countenances of the back-stretching generations; now soft and meek in the mild light of civilization, now bold and picturesquely wild out of the strange depths of savage life, with a fir-tree smell from their native woods. A word or two of their respective histories, as they defiled past us, how it would enhance the charm. Let them
know, too, before whom they are passing, so that we may see what sort of regards they bend down upon us. But lo! now the General Father and Mother. What a broad, ripe, serene, and gracious composure of love about them. O! could that Mother of us all be but permitted to make a pilgrimage over the earth, to see her many sons and daughters! How kindly would the kings and queens of the world entreat her in their palaces; how affectionately would her outcast children of the wilderness give her honey and milk, and wash her feet! No thought of the many woes she brought upon us! No reproaches! Nothing but love! So generous is the soul of this world!
The most uncomfortable weather on earth is the breaking up of a snow storm at a lonely farm-house in the country, on a cold and clayey bottom. The sickly feeling of reading a book by the fire in the forenoon could still be endured, were there a book to read; but there is not a fresh page in the house. Out then you must sally, but what to do? The hills are cheerlessly spotted; the unmelted snow is still lying up the furrows with indentations, like the backbone of a red herring; a cold blashy rain is driven from the spongy west by a wind that would certainly blow you away, did not your feet stick fast in the mud, as you wade along the sludgy road. Determined to have
some exercise, you set your face winkingly against the storm, and make for the black Scotch firs on the hill side. Finding no shelter, you return to the farm soaked to the skin, and the leather of your shoes like boiled tripe. Hearing the fanners at work in the barn, you make for the stir; and winking against the stour as you bolt in, step up to the ankles in chaff, which sticks to you like a bur. The dusty atmosphere clings lovingly to you, and in a trice you are cased in drab. The luxury of clean dry clothes is now fairly earned; the change is truly an enjoyment, and doubly so in helping you to loiter away an hour. But would, would the evening were come! Such were the leading features of a late visit I paid to a farming acquaintance some three miles off from our Village. I don't like such visits at all, now. I confess myself afraid
of unused bedrooms, glazed curtains, and cold sheets. Ah! I fear I am getting old.
Forgetting his character, January is sometimes singularly mild. He was so this year, till near his close. The thermometer has been standing occasionally at 60°; crocuses and other spring flowers are out; and the gooseberry bushes are quite green. There were few haws last autumn, but the small birds have had no lack of food; and in consequence of this, and the mildness of the season, they are exceedingly numerous. Many are the flocks of linnets that rise ever and anon from the bare stubbles with their wings thin-twinkling in the pale glint of the wintry sun, or sit drowsily churming on the tops of the trees in the still soft-dropping days. The worst of this sort of weather is, that we have strong dashes of rain every other morning; down go the rivers tumbling brown; and the over-soaked soil spews out water at every pore. Bad the country, but worse the town, in such weather. Oh! the cheerless shedward flight from its dun shower, vile hybrid betwixt rain and soot! Oh! the fierce fulzie of its gutter-flood! Oh! the swallowing of its raw fuzzy fog and smoke carded together, which you might gather in your hands like wool, put on the distaff, and spin into petticoats for the Dorcas Society! Upon the whole, though winter is slipping gently away, I cannot but sigh for a fortnight of good black frost to break down the stubborn glebe, to kill myriads of noxious insects that infest the soil, to check the contagion of fever, and give us a bonspiel or two to brace our nerves, which are almost melted into a dew by this weeping weather. The present moon, we are told by the knowing ones, has a bad appearance: It is pitiful to see her pale and watery sickle struggling through the great blotches of clouds that so often possess the firmament. Unless the weather clear up gradually, and dry the ground by degrees, we can hardly have a permanent frost: It can't fix its fangs when the earth is so full of moisture. But ha! lightning and thunder at this season of the year! All the day we had a preternaturally clear yellowish gleam in the skies, with ranges of towered and battlemented clouds
in the south, garrisoned, I doubt not, with showers and winged gusts which will let loose their archery on us ere the morrow be by.
The morrow dawned. All was mildness. But it was the still, muffled, brooding mildness of a shrew, who comes smiling forth upon the world (as Washington Irving somewhere says) after playing the lioness in her own house. Out of this ominous stillness burst wild-winged winter, with its whirling blasts of soft snow, dimming the very wind, and blinding and sealing up the eyes of the world. The evening was dry, with a hard penetrative air. How frore the frost at night, with what Thomson calls "its hooked salts!" O'er the pool (to use another of his expressions of the subtlest delicacy) it "breathed a blue film." In the morning,
"How cold, how clear, how marvellously keen,
But what does "effluence" mean, Master? Nothing that mere mortal eyes ever saw, Gentle Inquirer; though to the "vision and faculty divine" of William Wordsworth it is as gross and palpable as the reek of a fen. In the afternoon, streamings of cloudy hair all round the horizon, now pale as paper, and now of a copper cast, foretold the eddying blasts that issued at night. And so January closed in full style of vindicated character.
February is the most comfortless month in the calendar. This year we have had all its worst characteristics-plashy fields, through which the plough could not go; miry roads; battering rains and melting snows, that spit in your face, and make you pucker your cheeks, as you bend down your head and lean to the blast; brown swollen floods, enriched with the mould of many a fertile haugh; fat lazy mists as thick as buttermilk, that feed those barking catarrhs, and fill the rotten kirk-yards; anon a levy of winds from the four hinges of heaven, that tirl the kirks, and whelm the stranded navies, while the cross blue lightning plays fugleman to the elements, and the jammed thunders thicken the uproar, and Boreas, whistling through the tumult, slings about his hitting hail in all directions. All these