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And moving, as a sick man in his sleep,
An Evening Sketch.-BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE. THE birds have ceased their song, All, save the black cap, that, amid the boughs Of yon tall ash tree, from his mellow throat, In adoration of the setting sun, Chants forth his evening hymn.
"Tis twilight now; The sovereign sun behind his western hills In glory hath declined. The mighty clouds, Kissed by his warm effulgence, hang around In all their congregated hues of pride, Like pillars of some tabernacle grand, Worthy his glowing presence; while the sky, Illumined to its centre, glows intense, Changing its sapphire majesty to gold. How deep is the tranquillity! the trees Are slumbering through their multitude of boughs, Even to the leaflet on the frailest twig! A twilight gloom pervades the distant hills; An azure softness mingling with the sky. The fisherman drags to the yellow shore His laden nets; and, in the sheltering cove, Behind yon rocky point, his shallop moors, To tempt again the perilous deep at dawn. The sea is waveless, as a lake ingulf'd 'Mid sheltering hills-without a ripple spreads Its bosom, silent, and immense-the hues Of flickering day have from its surface died, Leaving it garb'd in sunless majesty.
With bosoming branches round, yon village hangs
The smoke from many a cheerful hearth ascends,
As I gaze, behold
THERE is an "even tide" in the year,- -a season, as we now witness, when the sun withdraws his propitious light,— when the winds arise, and the leaves fall, and nature around us seems to sink into decay. It is said, in general, to be the season of melancholy; and if, by this word, be meant that it is the time of solemn and of serious thought, it is undoubtedly the season of melancholy;-yet, it is a melancholy so soothing, so gentle in its approach, and so prophetick in its influence, that they, who have known it, feel, as if instinctively, that it is the doing of God, and that the heart of man is not thus finely touched, but to fine issues.
1. It is a season, which tends to wean us from the passions of the world. Every passion, however base or unworthy, is yet eloquent. It speaks to us of present enjoyment;it tells us of what men have done, and what men may do, and it supports us every where by the example of many around us. When we go out into the fields in the even
ing of the year, a different voice approaches us. gard, even in spite of ourselves, the still but steady advances of time.
A few days ago, and the summer of the year was grateful, and every element was filled with life, and the sun of Heaven seemed to glory in his ascendant. He is now en feebled in his power; the desert no more "blossoms like the rose ;" the song of joy is no more heard among the branches; and the earth is strewed with that foliage which once bespoke the magnificence of summer. Whatever may be the passions which society has awakened, we pause amid this apparent desolation of nature. the lodge of the way-faring man in the wilderness,” ana we feel that all we witness is the emblem of our own fate. Such also, in a few years, will be our own condition. The blossoms of our spring,-the pride of our summer will also fade into decay; and the pulse that now beats high with virtuous or with vicious desire, will gradually sink, and then must stop for ever.
We sit down in
We rise from our meditations with hearts softened and subdued, and we return into life as into a shadowy scene, where we have "disquieted ourselves in vain." Such is the first impression which the present scene of nature is fitted to make upon us. It is this first impression which intimidates the thoughtless and the gay; and, indeed, it there were no other reflections that followed, I know not that it would be the business of wisdom to recommend such meditations. It is the consequences, however, of such previous thoughts, which are chiefly valuable; and among these there are two which may well deserve our consideration.
2. It is the peculiar character of the melancholy which such seasons excite, that it is general. It is not an individual remonstrance ;-it is not the harsh language of human wisdom, which too often insults, while it instructs us. When the winds of autumn sigh around us, their voice speaks not to us only, but to our kind; and the lesson they teach us is not that we alone decay, but that such also is the fate of all the generations of man." They are the green leaves of the tree of the desert, which perish and are renewed.”
In such a sentiment there is a kind of sublimity mingled with its melancholy; our tears fall, but they fall not for ourselves; and, although the train of our thoughts may have begun with the selfishness of our own concerns, we feel that, by the ministry of some mysterious power, they
end in awakening our concern for every being that lives. Yet a few years, we think, and all that now bless, or all that now convulse humanity will also have perished. The mightiest pageantry of life will pass,-the loudest notes of triumph or of conquest will be silent in the grave;-the wicked, wherever active, "will cease from troubling," and the weary, wherever suffering, "will be at rest."
Under an impression so profound, we feel our own hearts better. The cares, the animosities, the hatreds which society may have engendered, sink unperceived from our bosoms. In the general desolation of nature, we feel the littleness of our own passions; we look forward to that kindred evening which time must bring to all;—we anticipate the graves of those we hate, as of those we love. Every unkind passion falls, with the leaves that fall around us; and we return slowly to our homes, and to the society which surrounds us, with the wish only to enlighten or to bless them.
3. If there were no other effects of such appearances of nature upon our minds, they would still be valuable, they would teach us humility,-and with it they would teach us charity. In the same hour in which they taught us our own fragility, they would teach us commiseration for the whole family of man.-But there is a farther sentiment which such scenes inspire, more valuable than all; and we know little the designs of Providence, when we do not yield ourselves in such hours to the beneficent instincts of our imagination.
It is the unvarying character of nature, amid all its scenes, to lead us at last to its Author; and it is for this final end that all its varieties have such dominion upon our minds. We are led by the appearances of spring to see his bounty; are led by the splendours of summer to see his greatIn the present hours, we are led to a higher sentiment; and, what is most remarkable, the very circumstances of melancholy are these which guide us most securely to put our trust in him.
We are witnessing the decay of the year; we go back in imagination, and find that such, in every generation, has been the fate of man; we look forward, and we see that to such ends all must come at last ;--we lift our desponding eyes in search of comfort, and we see above us, One, "who is ever the same, and to whose years there is no end." Amid the vicissitudes of nature, we discover that central
majesty "in whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning." We feel that there is a God; and from the tem pestuous sea of life, we hail that polar star of nature, to which a sacred instinct had directed our eyes, and which burns with undecaying ray to lighten us among all the darkness of the deep.
From this great conviction, there is another sentiment which succeeds. Nature, indeed, yearly perishes; but it is yearly renewed. Amid all its changes, the immortal spirit of Him that made it remains; and the same sun which now marks with his receding ray the autumn of the year, will again arise in his brightness, and bring along with him the promise of the spring and all the magnificence of summer.
Under such convictions, hope dawns upon the sadness of the heart. The melancholy of decay becomes the very herald of renewal ;-the magnificent circle of nature opens upon our view;-we anticipate the analogous resurrection of our being; we see beyond the grave a greater spring, and we people it with those who have given joy to that which is passed. With such final impressions, we submit ourselves gladly to the destiny of our being. While the sun of mortality sinks, we trail the rising of the Sun of Righteousness, and, in hours when all the honours of nature are perishing around us, we prostrate ourselves in deeper ado ration before Him who "sitteth upon its throne."
Let, then, the young go out, in these hours, under the descending sun of the year, into the fields of nature. Their hearts are now ardent with hope,—with the hopes of fame, of honour, or of happiness; and in the long perspective which is before them, their imagination creates a world where all may be enjoyed. Let the scenes which they now may witness, moderate, but not extinguish their ambition :—while they see the yearly desolation of nature, let them see it as the emblem of mortal hope ;-while they feel the disproportion between the powers they possess, and the time they are to be employed, let them carry their ambitious eye beyond the world;—and while, in these sacred solitudes, a voice in their own bosom corresponds to the voice of decaying nature, let them take that high decision which becomes those who feel themselves the inhabitants of a greater world, and who look to a being incapable of decay.