« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
THE FALL OF THE LEAF.
Carrigbawn, 28th September, 1850. Resolve me, dear Anthony, how it is that the soul of man so finely sympathises with all the changes of scene and season in this changeful and beautiful world? How spring and summer, autumn and winter, as they roll on successively through the varying year, invigorate, inflame, solemnise, and sadden us? Truly the texture of man's inward life is intimately interwoven with the outward world around him, and its influences are not less potent on his physical than on his moral being. The fresh breezy morn and the dewy eventide—the bright blue sky of still sultry summer, and the wild blasts of gloomy winter-day and night, sunshine and shadow, playing upon our spirits as the hand of a cunning musician upon harp-strings, alike admonish us that we are a portion of God's wondrous creation, harmonised with the whole–sentient with insentient—perturbed or tranquillised as his omnipotent hand shakes or stills it, bearing our part involuntarily, often unconsciously, with spheres unnumbered, in that mystical adoration which universal nature is unceasingly offering up to its Divine Author. Sublimely is this consentaneous worship expressed in the fine canticle which our own Church has introduced into her spiritual service. I allude, of course, to the “ Song of the Three Children,”—“O all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord, praise him and magnif him for ever.” Spring, with its bursting life and buoyant feeling, has long since swelled and softened into summer, and summer has ripened into an autumn of plenteous romise—a promise destined to be but partially realised. For men have gathered in the fruits of the earth, and find the gold of her grain scant and alloyed; and with sad hearts and crushed hopes they dig out her diseased and putrescent roots. And now the days are growing short, and the sunshine fitful; the streamlets are swelling, and their silvery currents are running dark and turbid, while the voices of winds and waters are becoming hoarser and more loud. The flush of her beauty is passing away from the face of the earth, but the change is not unmarked with a tender loveliness that is more touching than the brightness of summer. Her flowers are all gone; the purple and gold of her heathery braes are fading, and her foliage of tree and shrub, which “is a glory to her," as long hair is a glory to woman, has already lost gloss and colour, and is now falling away like the dry grey hairs from the head of one past the prime of life. The ash, latest to put forth its green, shows now but naked sprays traced against the sky, and her sister of the mountain has cast to the ground the clusters of her bright red berries, for they, too, are shrunk and faded; the leaves of the beech, and elm, and sycamore are twisted and shrivelled into crisp and dis. coloured shreds, and even the oak-leaf sears in the wind
“And turning yellow,
The day has been one of gloom, and gust, and shower; but as the sun is declining, the masses of clouds are broken and scattered, and the patches of bright blue that shine out between the sun-tinted edges of grey cloud, where
“We can almost think we see,
promise a serene evening. Come, then, dear Anthony, and wander forth with me in the spirit, if you cannot in the flesh. Pass we out through the casement of my sanctum upon £ shining gravel, and along the alley, lately dark and leaf. shadowed, now exposed to light and air; and as we wend upwards, skirting the
ove of oak and pine, mark how the breath of evening shakes down showers of eaves, and bright drops of rain fall glinting from the swaying branches, as if Nature, with tears and sighs, mourned over her decay. How our feet crunch the dry skeleton leaves that lie like a carpet upon the shingles! There is something
in that sound that always saddens me. It speaks of death as loudly to my heart as the peal of the passing bell. “THE FALL of THE LEAF 1" How mysteriously does man's life synchronise with it. With what an agony of solicitude do many fond and fearing hearts take daily note of the process of maceration that eats away the parched leaf to a network of fibre, and then turn their sorrowful eyes to the £ pale forehead and wasting cheek of some dear friend, sure that when the leaves have all laid them down upon earth's lap, the sick one will seek the same place of rest. Oh, mighty mother! all things that spring from thee to thee return, and thou drawest them to thy bosom, and there they take their rest. Some sleep but for a brief season, and rise refreshed and beautified, like a babe whose cheek is flushed from slumber, and thou seest them wake and
again and again; but man—thy last born and thy noblest—him thou hidest in thy heart, and coverest tenderly as for a long, deep sleep—ay, long and deep it is ; still wilt thou behold its waking, but not till thou art thyself in thy death-st ggle. And for man, what a waking ! Stupendous, inconceivable, spiritual, glorified, incorruptible ! What meeting of friends, what renewal of affections, what clearing up of all that is dark! “Behold,” said one who spoke with a heaven-taught tongue, “I show you a mystery.”—a mystery upon whose confines so many with whom we have held converse are already waiting, whose realisation we ourselves so rapidly approach.
“Time draweth onward fast,
And in a little while our lips are dumb.
All things are taken from us, and become
And how does life show now to us, dear Anthony, in the retrospect, as we take it in in a glance, foreshortened in the perspective of memory. Pause a moment, and look on the river rushing at our feet. Far above, near the mountaintop, is its clear and sparkling source, and down along the hill-sides and ravines, here in light, there in gloom, it has sported and leaped, swelling and widening, till it hurries by us, deep in its channel, strong in its current, eddying and chafing–dark, turbid, and sinuous. Look down now and catch a glimpse of it in the far-away plain, in broad and plenteous volume, and thence it rolls away, though we see it no more, into the ocean, and is lost. It is a type of man’s life, my friend, obvious and apt—its bright and joyous infancy—its youth of high, vague hope, how rarely fulfilled—its busy, fretful, toiling manhood—its sobered, ionless senectude, lapsing almost imperceptibly into eternity. A few lines, if you will listen to them, will tell you what I mean by this illustration. I would that you could, for my recitative, substitute the magnificent voice and finished style of my friend, Joseph Robinson, as he chaunts them to one of the fine airs which those great masters of song, the Germans, alone know how to conceive:
Stream! that rushest deep and strong,
Flood! that glidest noiselessly
Come, let us enter the wood, and so on and upwards still to the little moun. tain lake. Is not this a sweet spot even still? But you should have seen it a month since, when the thick-vestured trees stood closer around it, dipping their heavy branches into its margent, like lusty topers crowding round the wine-bowl, or when the stars, of a clear calm night, looked down into its still face, shewing * nether firmament of blue and silver. Now the trees are well-nigh leafless beside it, and the breeze that moans through them has ruffled the mirror of its surface. I assure you it is a favourite spot with me for contemplation. What better place could we find, in which “To lend our hearts and spirits wholly To the influence of mild-minded melancholy; To muse and brood, and live again in memory With those old faces of our infancy, Heaped over with a mound of grass, Two handfuls of white dust shut in an urn of brass."
What fitter time is there for such memories in the year's circuit than “the fall of the leaf?” Here are some of my musings on the spot where we are now standing: they smack, at all events, of the locality, though I will not say they are altogether worthy of the genius loci :
FRIENDS of Youth.
Where are they, whose lightest tones,
Stirred our souls with feelings deep,
As rustling winds through forests cree
Now, then, brave sinews and muscles, for we must thread this rough, steep #. which winds '' the heart of the wood, right over the ridge of the ill. Take good heed of the tangled branches, as they are the worst possible brushes to apply to a silk “Chapeau de Paris,” and the twisted roots may catch your foot, and disturb your vertical elevation. Now turn sharp round that wall of rock, with the light sprays of the feathery rowan waving on its summit, like the crest on a knight's helmet, and There's something “to take the shine out of your eyes.”. Sea, sea, sea! as far as the vision can stretch westward. Those are the billows of the mighty Atlantic, rolling in unbroken swell from a land whose existence was unknown to us a few centuries ago, till they dash against the base of those white cliffs on which we are now £ Look down cautiously over the edge of this beetling rock, and you will see the waves lashing with a deep hoarse roar, and then crumbled into sea-dust, which the ight wind catches and flings up into our very faces. We are just in time to witness a splendid sunset. See, now, the waves flush and glitter as the edge of his deep red disk, apparently enlarged to tenfold its ordinary size, touches them. Look at the black cloud that rises from the horizon and spreads across his face, by little and little, till the whole is hidden; but the golden shafts that shoot u beyond it through the blue ether, shew that he is still battling gallantly wit the darkness that will soon shroud him. Let us sit down here and watch in silence the light fading away through a thousand hues, such as they say mark a dolphin's death, till the last tinge of the palest salmon-colour gives place to the cold greyish blue of twilight...It is all over, dear Anthony—the day is dead, and here are my musings the while upon the sunset. Here, then, to our beautiful air, “The brink of the white rocks”:
THE BRINK OF THE WHITE Rocks.
On the brink of the white rocks at eve I reclined,
As slowly the day-god sank down in the west,
At morning again, when the dark night is past,
I believe there is no vainer sorrow than sorrowing for the dead. If the past be unalterable, and the future inexorable, then is lamentation over the bier vanity itself; but in truth we mourn not for the dead, but after the dead, and for ourselves. And this too is vain—a weakness of our natnre, to be indulged in only so far as it sanctifies and improves us, to be mastered when it would enfeeble our minds or prostrate our energies. I like not the custom of the Hebrews, who honoured their dead with wailings. For myself I would prefer to struggle for the composure of feelings that will permit me to recur with pleasure to all the endearing recollections which restore, to me my friend, unalloyed with gloom or repining. There are few to whom time does not at length bring this tranquillit :-he is the wisest who can reach it soonest. I shall let death rob me of as £ as I can. If he take the body that I loved, I shall not suffer him to mar my spirit's intercourse with that of the departed— with that I shall hold converse in my lonely rambles and in the watches of the night. I will cling to all the endearing and enduring memories that make it oftentimes sweeter to think upon the dead than to commune with the living. And so, dear Anthony, I will sing you
Adieu, dear Anthony, for the present—“sis memor mei.” If you will think of me hereafter, when I have passed away, as I fondly trust you will—for my space is short, but thine is a lengthened one, and I hope my children's children will see thee every, month in thy buff-think of me on some sweet autumn evening, when the heaven promises a bright morrow—when your heart is mellow, and your spirit is jocund. Think of me, my friend, at “THE FALL of THE LEAF.”—Ever, in life and in death, yours,
JonATHAN FREKE SLINGSDY. Te Anthony Poplar, Esq.