Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

fine frost has ir, rusted it with small sparkling diamonds, the prevalent e tion is joy. So Cowper felt, when he simply said,

6. The vault is blue, Without a cloud, and white without a speck

The dazzling splendour of the scene below.” There is a charm in the sudden and total disappearance even of the grassy green.

All the 6 old familiar faces" of nature are for a while out of sight, and out of mind. That white silence shed by heaven over earth carries with it, far and wide, the pure peace of another region-almost another life. No image is there to tell of this restless and noisy world. The cheerfulness of reality kindles up our revery ere it becomes a dream; and we are glad to feel our whole being complexioned by the passionless repose. If we think at all of human life, it is only of the young, the fair, and the innocent. Pure as snow,” are words then felt to be most holy, as the image of some beautiful and beloved being comes and goes before our eyes brought from a far distance in this our living world or, from a distance-far, far, farther still-in the world be. yond the grave—the image of virgin growing up sinlessly to womanhood among her parents' prayers, or of some spiritual creature who expired long ago, and carried with her her native innocence unstained to heaven.

Such spiritual creature—too spiritual long to sojourn below the skies—wert thou—whose rising and whose setting—both most starlike-brightened at once all thy native vale, and at once left it in darkness. Thy name has long slept in our heart—and there let it sleep unbreathed-even as, when we are dreaming our way through some solitary place, without speaking we bless the beauty of some sweet wild-flower, pensively smiling to us through the snow !

The Sabbath returns on which, in the little kirk among the hills, we saw thee baptized. Then comes a wavering glimmer of seven sweet years, that to thee, in all their varieties, were but as one delightful season, one blessed life-and, finally, that other Sabbath, on which, at thy own dying request-between services thou wert buried !

How mysterious are all thy ways and workings, O gra

cious Nature! Thou who art but a ; me given by our souls, seeing and hearing through the ..ses, to the Being in whom all things are and have life! Ere two years old. she, whose dream is now with us, all over the small sylvan world, that beheld the revelation, how evanescent! of her pure existence—was called the “ holy child!" The taint of sin inherited from those who disobeyed in paradiseseemed from her fair clay to have been washed out at the baptismal font, and by her first infantine tears. So pious people alnıost believed, looking on her so unlike all other children, in the serenity of that habitual smile that clothed the creature's countenance with a wondrous beauty, at an age when on other infants is but faintly seen the dawn of reason, and their eyes look happy, just like the thoughtless flowers. So unlike all other children but unlike only because sooner than they-she seemed to have had given to her-even in the communion of the cradlean intimation of the being and the providence of God. Sooner, surely, than through any other clay that ever enshrouded immortal spirit, dawned the light of reason and of religion on the face of the “ holy child.”

Her lisping language was sprinkled with words alien from common childhood's uncertain speech, that murmurs only when indigent nature prompts;—and her own parents wondered whence they came in her simplicity, when first they looked upon her kneeling in an unbidden prayer. As one mild week of vernal sunshine covers the braes with primroses, so shone with fair and fragrant feelingsunfolded, ere they knew, before her parents' eyes—the divine nature of her who, for a season, was lent to them from the skies. She learned to read out of the Biblealmost without any teaching—they knew not how-just by looking gladly on the words, even as she looked on the pretty daisies on the green-till their meanings stole insensibly into her soul, and the sweet syllables, succeeding each other on the blessed page, were all united by the memories her heart had been treasuring every hour that her father or her mother had read aloud in her hearing from the Book of Life. 6. Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven”-how wept her parents, as these the most

affecting of our Saviour's words dropt silver-sweet from her lips, and continued in her upward eyes among the swimming tears!

Be not incredulous of this dawn of reason, wonderful as it may seem to you, so soon becoming morn-almost 'perfect daylight-with the “holy child.” Many: such miracles are set before us—but we recognise them not, or pass thein by, with a word or a smile of short surprise. How leaps the baby in its mother's arms, when the mys. terious charm of music thrills through its little brain! And how learns it to modulate its feeble voice, unable yet to articulate, to the melodies that bring forth all round: its eyes a delighted smile! Who knows what then may be the thoughts and feelings of the infant awakened to the sense of a new world, alive through all its being to sounds that haply glide past our ears, unmeaning as the breath of the common air! Thus have mere infants sometimes: been seen inspired by music, till like small genit they warbled spell-strains of their own, powerful to sadded and: subdue our hearts. So, too, have infant eyes been so charmed by the rainbow irradiating the earth, that almost infant hands have been taught, as if by inspiration, the power to paint in finest colours, and to imitate with a wondrous art, the skies so beautiful to the quick-awakened spirit of delight. What knowledge have not some children acquired, and gone down scholars to their small untimely graves! Knowing that such things have been-are-and will be--why art thou incredulous of the divine expansion of soul-so soon understanding the things that are divine -in the “ holy child ?”

Thus grew she in the eye of God, day by day waxing wiser and wiser in the knowledge that tends towards: the skies, and as if some angel visitant were nightly with her in her dreams, awakening every morn with a new dream of thought that brought with it a gift of more comprehensive speech. Yet merry she was at times with her companions among the woods and braes, though while they all were laughing, she only smiled; and the passing traveller, who. might pause a moment to bless the sweet creatures in their. play, could not but single out one face among the many sair, so pensive in its paleness, a face to be remembered,

.coming from afar, like a mournful thought upon the hour of joy!

Sister or brother of her own had she none-and often both her parents—who lived in a hut by itself up among the mossy stumps of the old decayed forest—had to leave her alone-sor imes even all the day long from morning till night. But she no more wearied in her solitariness than does the wren in the wood. All the flowers were her friends—all the birds. The linnet ceased not his

song

for her, though her footsteps wandered into the green glade among the yellow broom, almost within reach of the

spray from which he poured his melody—the quiet eyes of his mate feared her not when her garments almost touched the bush where she brooded on her young. Shyest of the winged silvans, the cushat clapped not her wings away on the soft approach of her harmless footsteps to the pine that concealed her slender nest. As is blown from heaven, descended round her path the showers of the painted butterflies, to feed, sleep, or die—undisturbed by her-upon the wild flowers—with wings, when motionless, undistinguishable from the blossoms. And well she loved the brown, busy, blameless bees, come thither for the honey. dews from a hundred cots sprinkled all over the parish, and all high overhead sailing away at even, laden and wearied, to their straw-roofed skeps in many a hamlet garden. The leaf of every tree, shrub, and plant, she knew familiarly and lovingly in its own characteristic beauty; and was loath to shake one dew-drop from the sweetbrier-rose. - And well she knew that all nature loved her in return-that they were dear to each other in their innocence—and that the very sunshine, in motion or in rest, was ready to come at the bidding of her smiles. Skilful those small white hands of hers among the reeds and rushes and osiers—and many a pretty flower-basket grew beneath their touch, her parents wondering on their return home to see the handiwork of one who was never idle in her happiness. Thus early-ere yet but five years old—did she earn her mite for the sustenance of her own beautiful life! The russet garb she wore she herself had won, and thus poverty, at the door of that hut, became even like a guardian angel, with the lineaments of heaven on her brow, and the quietude of heaven beneath her feet. But these were but her lonely pastimes, or gentle taskwork self-imposed among her pastimes; and itself, the sweetest of them all, inspired by a sense of duty, that still brings with it its own delight-and hallowed by religion, that even in the most adverse lot changes slavery into freedom-till the heart, insensible to the bonds of necessity, sings aloud for joy. The life within the life of the “ holy child,” apart from even such innocent employments as these, and from such recreations as innocent, among the shadows and the sunshine of those silvan haunts, was passed, let us not fear to say the truth, wondrous as such worship was in one so very young—was passed in the worship of God; and her parents-though sometimes even saddened to see such piety in a small creature like her, and afraid, in their exceeding love, that it betokened an early removal from this world of one too perfectly pure ever to be touched by its sins and sorrows-forbore, in an awful pity, ever to remove the Bible from her knees, as she would sit with it there, not at morning and at evening only, or all the Sabbath long as soon as they returned from the kirk, but often through all the hours of the longest and sunniest week-days, when there was nothing to hinder her from going up to the hill-side, or down to the little village, to play with the other children, always too happy when she appeared—nothing to hinder her but the voice she heard speaking in that book, and the hallelujahs that, at the turning over of each blessed page, came upon the ear of the “ holy child” from white-robed saints all kneeling before His throne in heaven!

Her life seemed to be the same in sleep. Often at midnight, by the light of the moon shining in upon her little bed beside theirs, her parents leant over her face, diviner in dreams, and wept as she wept, her lips all the while murmuring, in broken sentences of prayer, the name of Him who died for us all. But plenteous as were her penitential tears—penitential, in the holy humbleness of her stainless spirit, over thoughts that had never left a dimming breath on its purity, yet that seemed, in those strange visitings, to be haunting her as the shadows of sinswere they all dried up in the lustre of her returning smiles ! Waking, her voice in the kirk was the sweetest among many sweet, as all the young singers, and she the youngest

soon

« PředchozíPokračovat »