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of this answer has left it involved in something of the obscurity of the season when it was given. I think that night, however sooty and ill-favored it may be pronounced by those who were born under a day-star, merits a more particular description. I feel peculiarly disposed to arrānge some ideas in favor of this season. I know that the majority are literally blind to its merits; they must be prominenť indeed to be discerned by the closed eyes of the snorer, who thinks that night was made for nothing but sleep. But the student and the sage are willing to believe that it was formed for higher purposes; and that it not only recruits exhausted spirits, but sometimes informs inquisitive, and amends wicked ones.
Duty, as well as inclination, urges the Lay Preacher to sermonize, while others slumber. To read numerous volumes in the morning, and to observe various characters at noon, will leave but little time, except the night, to digest the one or speculate upon the other. The night, therefore, is often dedicated to composition, and while the light of the paly planets discovers at his desk the Preacher, more wan than they, he may be heard repeating emphatically with Dr. Young,
“Darkness has much Divinity for me.” He is then alone, he is then at peace. No companions near, but the silent volumes on his shelf, no noise abroad, but the click of the village clock, or the bark of the village dog, The deacon has then smoked his sixth, and last pipe, and asks not a question more, concerning Josephus, or the church. Stillness aids study, and the sermon proceeds. Such being the obligations to night, it would be ungrateful not to acknowledge them. As my watchful eyes can discern its dim beauties, my warm heart shall feel, and my prompt pen shall describe, the uses and the pleasures of the nocturnal hour.
Watchman, what of the night? I can with propriety imagine this question addressed to myself: I am a professed lucubrator, and who so well qualified to delineate the sable hours, as
“A meagre, muse-rid mope, adust and thin?" However injuriously night is treated by the sleepy moderns, the vigilance of the ancients could not overlook its benefits and joys. In as early a record as the book of Genesis, I find that Isaac, though he devoted his assiduous days to action, reserved speculation till night.
6 He went out to meditate in the field at the eventide.” He chose that sad, that solemn hour, to reflect upon the virtues of a beloved, and departed mother. The tumult and glare of day suited not with the sorrow of his soul. He had lost his most amiable, most genuine friend, and his unostentatious grief was eager for prīvacy and shade. Sincere sorrow rarely suffers its tears to be seen. It was natural for Isaac to select a season to weep in, which should resemble “the color of his fate.” The darkness, the solemnity, the stillness of the eve, were favorable to his melancholy purpose. He forsook, therefore, the bustling tents of his father, the pleasant “south country,” and “well of Lahairoi,” he went out and pensively meditated at the eventide.
The Grecian and Roman philosophers firmly believed that “the dead of midnight is the noon of thought.” One of them is beautifully described by the poet, as soliciting knowledge from the skies, in private and nightly audience, and that neither his theme, nor his nightly walks were forsaken till the sun appeared and dimmed his “nobler intellectual beam.” We undoubtedly owe to the studious nights of the ancients most of their elaborate and immortal productions. Among them it was necessary that every man of letters should trim the midnight lamp. The day might be given to the forum or the circus, but the night was the season for the statesman to project his schemes, and for the poet to pour his verse. Night has likewise with
reat reason been considered in every age as the astronomer's day. Young observes, with energy,
an undevout astronomer is mad.” The privilege of contemplating those brilliant and numerous myriads of planets which bedeck our skies is peculiar to night, and it is our duty, both as lovers of moral and natural beauty, to bless that season, when we are indulged with such a gorgeous display of glittering and useful light. It must be confessed that the seclusion, calmness, and tranquillity of midnight, is most friendly to serious, and even airy contemplations.
I think it treason to this sable power, who holds divided empire with day, constantly to shut our eyes at her approach. To long sleep, I am decidedly a foe. As it is expressed by a quaint writer, we shall all have enough of that in the grave. Those, who cannot break the silence of night by vocal throat, or eloquent tongue, may be permitted to disturb it by a snore. But he, among my readers, who possesses
the power of fancy and strong thought, should be vigilant as a watchman. Let him sleep abundantly for health, but sparingly for sloth. It is better, sometimes, to consult a page of philosophy than the pillow.
Midnight Musings.-W. IRVING.
I am now alone in my chamber. The family have long since retired. I have heard their steps die away, and the doors clap to after them. The murmur of voices and the peal of remote laughter no longer reach the ear. The clock from the church, in which so many of the former inhabitants of this house lie buried, has chimed the awful hour of midnight.
I have sat by the window and mused upon the dusky landscape, watching the lights disappearing one by one from the distant village; and the moon rising in her silent majesty, and leading up all the silver pomp of heaven. As I have gazed upon these quiet groves and shadowing lawns, silvered over and imperfectly lighted by streaks of dewy moonshine, my mind has been crowded by “thick coming fancies" concerning those spiritual beings which
-Walk the earth
Are there, indeed, such beings? Is this space between us and the Deity filled up by innumerable orders of spiritual beings, forming the same gradations between the human soul and divine perfection, that we see prevailing from humanity down to the meanest insect? It is a sublime and beautiful doctrine inculcated by the early fathers, that there are guardian angels appointed to watch over cities and nations, to take care of good men, and to guard and guide the steps of helpless infancy. Even the doctrine of departed spirits returning to visit the scenes and beings, which were dear to them during the bodies' existence, though it has been debased by the absurd superstitions of the vulgar, in itself is awfully solemn and sublime.
However lightly it may be ridiculed, yet, the attention involuntarily yielded to it whenever it is made the subject of serious discussion, and its prev’alence in all ages and countries, even among newly discovered nations that have had no previous interchange of thought with other parts of the world, prove it to be one of those mysterious and instinctive beliefs, to which, if left to ourselves, we should naturally incline.
In spite of all the pride of reason and philosophy, a vague doubt will still lurk in the mind, and perhaps will never be eradicated, as it is a matter that does not admit of positive děmonstration. Who yet has been able to comprehend and describe the nature of the soul; its mysterious connexion with the body; or in what part of the frame it is situated ? We know merely that it does exist: but whence it came, and when it entered into us, and how it is retained, and where it is seated, and how it operates, are all matters of mere speculation, and contradictory theories. If, then, we are thus ignorant of this spiritual essence, even while it forms a part of ourselves, and is continually present to our consciousness, how can we pretend to ascertain or deny its powers and operations, when released from its fleshly prisonhouse?
Every thing connected with our spiritual nature is full of doubt and difficulty. “We are fearfully and wonderfully made :” we are surrounded by mysteries, and we are mysteries even to ourselves. It is more the manner in which this superstition has been degraded, than its intrinsic absurdity, that has brought it into contempt. Raise it above the frivolous purposes to which it has been applied, strip it of the gloom and horror with which it has been enveloped, and there is none, in the whole circle of visionary creeds, that could more delightfully elevate the imagination, or more tenderly affect the heart. It would become a sovereign comfort at the bed of death, soothing the bitter tear wrung from us by the agony of mortal separation.
What could be more consoling than the idea, that the souls of those we once loved were permitted to return and watch over our welfare ?—that affectionate and guardian spirits sat by our pillows when we slept, keeping a vigil over our most helpless hours ?—that beauty and innocence, which had languished into the tomb, yet smiled unseen around us, revealing themselves in those blest dreams wherein we live over again the hours of past endearments ? A belief of this kind would, I should think, be a new incentive to virtue, rendering us circumspect, even in our most secret moments, from the idea that those we once loved and honored were invisible witnesses of all our actions.
It would take away, too, from that loneliness and destitution, which we are apt to feel more and more as we get on in our pilgrimage through the wilderness of this world, and find that those who set forward with us lovingly and cheerily, on the journey, have one by one dropped away from our side. Place the superstition in this light, and I confess I should like to be a believer in it.—I see nothing in it that is incompatible with the tender and merciful nature of our religion, or revolting to the wishes and affections of the heart.
There are departed beings that I have loved as I never again shall love in this world ; that have loved me as I never again shall be loved. If such beings do even retain in their blessed spheres the attachments which they felt on earth; if they take an interest in the poor concerns of transient mortality, and are permitted to hold communion with those whom they have loved on earth, I feel as if now, at this deep hour of night, in this silence and solitude, I could receive their visitation with the most solemn but unalloyed delight.
In truth, such visitations would be too happy for this world: they would take away from the bounds and barriers that hem us in and keep us from each other. Our existence is doomed to be made up of transient embraces and long separations. The most intimate friendship-of what brief and scattered portions of time does it consist! We take each other by the hand; and we exchange a few words and looks of kindness; and we rejoice together for a few short moments; and then days, months, years intervene, and we have no intercourse with each other. Or if we dwell together for a season, the grave soon closes its gates, and cuts off all further communion; and our spirits must remain in separation and widowhood, until they meet again in that more perfect state of being, where soul shall dwell with soul, and there shall be no such thing as death, or absence, or any other interruption of our union.