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ing for school with my new and clean writing-book buttoned undoi my jacket, my inkstand in my pocket, a bundle of necessary books in one hand, and in the other my ruler and swinging plummet, which I flourished in the air and around my head, till the sharpened lead made its first mark on my own face. My long, white-feathered goose-quill was twisted into my hat-band, like a plumy badge of the distinction to which I had arrived, and of the important enterprise before me.
5. On arriving at the school-house I took a seat higher up and more honorable than the one I occupied the winter before. At the proper time, my writing-book, which with my quill I had handed to the master on entering, was returned to me, with a copy set, and paper ruled and pen made. My copy was a single straight mark at the first corner of my sheet of paper. "A straight mark! who could not make so simple a thing as that 1" thought I. I waited, however, to see how the boy next to me, a beginner also, should succeed, as he had got ready a moment91 before me.
6. Never shall I forget the first chirographical" exploit of this youth. That inky image will never fade from my memory, so long as a single trace of early experience is left on its tablet. The fact is, it was an epoch" in my life: something great was to be done, and my attention was intensely awake to whatever had a bearing on this new33 and important trial of my powers. I looked to see a mark as straight as a ruler, having its four corners as distinctly defined as the angles of a parallelogram."
7. But, O me! what a spectacle! What a shocking contrast to my anticipation! That mark had as many crooks as a ribbon in the wind, and nearer eight angles than four; and its two sides were nearly as rough and as notched as a fine handsaw; and, indeed, the mark somewhat resembled it in width, for the fellow94 had laid in a store of ink sufficient to last the journey of the whole line. "Shame on him!" said I, internally. "I can beat that, I know."
8. I began by setting my pen firmly on the paper, and 1 brought a mark half-way down with rectilinear" precision. But by this time my head began to swim, and my hand to tremble. I was, as it were, in vacancy, far below the upper ruling, and as far above the lower. My self-possession failed; my pen diverged to the right, then to the left, crooking all the remainder of its way, with as many zig-zags as could well be in so short a distance. Mine was as sad a failure as my neighbor's. I covered it over with my fingers, and did not jog him with a "see there," as I had vainly anticipated.
9. So much for pains-taking,—now for chance. By good luck
the next effort was quite successful. I now dashed on, for better or worse, till in one half-hour I had covered the whole page. In the afternoon a similar copy was set, and I dashed on again, as if I had taken so much writing by the job, and my only object was to save time. Now and then there was quite a reputable mark; but, alas for him whose perception of the beautiful was particularly delicate, should he get a glimpse of these sloughs5* of ink!
10. The third morning, my copy was the first101 element of the m and n, or what in burlesque is called a hook. On the fourth, I had the last half of the same letters, or the trammel; and indeed they were the similitudes40 of hooks and trammels, forged in a country plenteous in iron, and by the youngest apprentice at the hammer and anvil. In this way I went through all the small letters, as they are called. Then I must learn to make the capitals, before entering on joining hand. Capital letters !13! They were capital offences against all that is graceful, indeed decent, yea" tolerable, in that art which is so capable of beautiful forms and proportions.
11. I came next to joining hand, about three weeks after my commencement; and joining hand indeed it was 1. It seemed as if my hooks and trammels were overheated in the forge, and were melted into one another; the shapeless masses so clung
> together at points where they ought to have been separate,80 and so very far were they from all resemblance to conjoined yet distinct and well-defined characters.
12. Thus I went on, a perfect little prodigal in the expenditure of paper, ink, pens and time. The first winter I splashed two, and the next three writing-books with inky puddle, in learning coarse hand; and, after all, I had gained not much in penmanship, except a workmanlike assurance and celerity of execution, such as is natural to an old hand at the business.
BURTON. XXIV. — THE LIFE-BOAT.
1. Quicr! man the life-boat I96 See yon bark,
Avert the doom that's o'er her 1
2. Quick! man the life-boat! hark! the gun
Boo us" through the vapory air;
3. Quick! man the life-boat! See — the crew88
Are battling with the wave;
As thoughts of home come o'er him;
4. Speed, speed the life-boat! Off she goes!
And, as they pulled the oar,
That startled ship and shore.
Has human lives within her;
Thou 'It save if thou canst win her.
5. Hurra! the life-boat dashes on,
Though darkly the reef may frown;
Full twenty fathoms down.
With the billows single-handed:
And now they are safely landed,
By the life-boat! Cheer the life-boat!
XXV. — THE SNOW OF WINTER.
1. What can surpass, in festal90 magnificence, a clear winter morning, when all things are firm with the cold? The early sunbeams play upon the glittering frost. The crystal icicles, like pend'ulous" diamonds, adorn every branch. Hills, valleys34 and plains, are robed in a pure attire of snow, upon the delicate and Icy points of which103 the hues of the rainbow seem dancing. The once variegated36 and wide-spreading landscape is transformed, by its white and dazzling mantle, into a scene simple and uniform as some ex'quisite marble statue. What profound stillness far and near !. What a hush in the forest, as if the very winds were frozen!
2. And yet it is not the universal stillness which broods over the snow-clad plains, not the icy jewels which adorn both twig and branch, not the mirror-like surface of the ice on river and lake, which are worthy of our admiring wonder; but the creative power of the Father of the universe, and the plenitude95 of His divine goodness. Thus did David contemplate84 the wonders of nature. Ever did his adoring soul ascend from the incomprehensible grandeur of creation, to the Omnipotent Creator. "Great is the Lord," he sang, "and great is His power; yea," and His wisdom is infinite." "He giveth snow like wool, and scattereth the hoar frost like ashes." "He casteth His ice like morsels: who is able to abide His frost?"
3. Yes, great is He, and incomprehensible, as He governs !M But how few are they who are sensible of the greatness and mysterious wonder displayed in the benevolent91 appearances of nature! And yet, each single snow-flake, as it floats down from its cloud, is a subject for wonder, and proclaims He is great, and incomprehensible, as He governs! How do these mighty masses of delicately frozen water originate in the chambers of the heavens f3 Who holds these weighty volumes of snow, under which the branches of the trees are broken, and many huts are hidden91 from sight; volumes which in the aggregate weigh many thousand tons, yet which float with feathery lightness, long invisible, in the expanse of the heavens, in order that they may not sink to earth till the proper time, and then so softlv t*s to be rendered harmless, and which give a nourishing warmth to the seeds of the fields, the food of the ensuing year for man and beast?
4. If we examine with minuteness the falling snow, we will observe, particularly if the air be calm, that each flake consists of a number of exceedingly delicate particles of ice, which are united together with wonderful regularity. Thus they usually form little, six-cornered, and finely-united stars, the half-transparent crystals of which are exquisitely pointed. Now they resemble fur with its regularly shooting points; now they assume the form of feathers; and now they may be likened unto fibrous flowers, as if of braid and moss. So extremely delicate are these heavenly images, that the gentlest breeze severs them, and givoa them another form.
5. With whatever penetration man may contemplate, and with whatever ingenuity he may endeavor to account for the origin, in the heights of the atmosphere," of these myriads of starry crystals of inimitable beauty and wondrous shape, there must ever remain to the inquirer an unanswerable how? Zschorre.
XXVI. — THE TWO ROADS.
1. It was New Year's night. An aged man was standing at a window.94 He mournfully raised his eyes towards" the deep blue sky, where the stars were floating like white lilies on the surface of a clear calm lake. Then he cast them on the earth, where103 few more helpless beings than himself were moving towards their inevitable goal — the tomb.45 Already he had passed sixty of the stages which lead to it, and he had brought from his journey nothing but errors and remorse. His health was destroyed, his mind unfurnished, his heart sorrowful, and his old age devoid of comfort.
2. The days of his youth rose up in a vision before him. and he recalled the solemn59 moment91 when his father had placed him at the entrance of two roads, one leading into a peaceful, sunny land, covered with a fertile harvest, and resounding with soft, sweet songs; while the other conducted the wanderer into a deep, dark cave, whence there was no issue,95 where poison flowed instead of water, and where serpents hissed and crawled.
3. He looked towards the sky, and cried out, in his anguish: — "O, youth, return! O, my father, place me once more at the crossway of life, that I may choose the better road!" But the days of his youth had passed away, and his parents were with the departed. He saw wandering lights float over dark marshes, and then disappear. "Such," he said, "were the days of my wasted life!" He saw a star" shoot from Heaven, and vanish in darkness athwart the church-yard. "Behold an emblem of myself!" he exclaimed; and the sharp arrows of unavailing remorse struck him to the heart.
4. Then he remembered his early companions, who had entered life with him, but who, having trod the paths08 of virtue and industry, were now happy and honored on this New Year's night. The clock in the high church-tower struck, and the sound, falling on his ear, recalled the many tokens of the love of his parents for him, their erring son; the lessons they had taught him; the prayers they had offered up in his behalf. Overwhelmed with shame and grief, he dared no longer look towards