« PreviousContinue »
harsh coldness of what are called celestial spirit, while the “ tablet of unutierable brows, but which were certainly never in- thoughts is traced” upon it; we tended to relax into the expression of affa- ' diately begin to ponder upon what may be bility, kindness, or sympathy.
the secret springs from whence flow the The faces which are universally consi- thoughts, feelings, and affections of such a dered most interesting, are those which vary character. We bestow upon it much of with every emotion of the soul; which sel- what is closely interwoven with our own. dom fail to please in general society, by We invest it with imaginary powers, and keeping up a sort of corresponding indica- believe it to be possessed of resources from tion with the feelings excited by different which the mind may draw as from unfailing subjects under discussion. Yet these varia- wells, until at last we seem to have estations must not be too rapid, they must not blished an ideal intercourse with the myscorrespond with every trifling change, or the terious unknown, and to have made a friend expression will become puerile; because we by no other agency than the sympathy of are sure that so many different emotions felt the soul. in quick succession must neutralize each What is most generally esteemed in sociother, and we consequently doubt whether ety, might be easily discovered by what the any feeling in connexion with such a coun- greatest number of individuals are disposed tenance can be deep or lasting.
to aflect. Thus, while the affectation of atThere is, however, beyond this charm of tention is often substituted for attention itsell, the human face, another of a more abstruse while dull faces are compelled to brighten and intellectual character, one which more into smiles without the animation of joy, properly entitles it to be called poetical; and while brows are stretched into a mockery of here it may not be improper to remark, that good humour when good humour is wanta certain degree of mystery enhances the ing; there are deeper practitioners playing value of almost all our mental enjoyments. off the art of being mysterious, dealing in The human mind is so constituted, that it half-revealed secrets, concealing their own feels peculiar gratification in being occasion- names, looking abstracted by design, and ally thrown upon its own resources. In- forming plans for their own dignity, mimickstead of being constantly supplied with food ing the Corsair, and fancying they resemble selected and prepared for its use, it delights Lord Byron ; with a hundred absurdities in being sometimes permitted to issue forth besides, too gross or to contemptible to enuon an excursion of discovery, and is satisfied merate, yet all tending to prove that there is on such occasions with very uncertain ali- a disposition prevailing amongst mankind, ment. Mystery offers to the mind this kind to admire and delight in what is mysterious. of liberty. We dwell the longest upon that If we are generally agreed in our notions face which reveals a great deal, but not all of the beauty or deformity of the human of what the thoughts are engaged with; we face, we are still more unanimous in our esrecur with redoubled interest to those sub- timate of that of animal form in general. jects which we do not, on first examination, Some, it is true, may prefer a tall or a broad fully understand.
figure, and others may choose exactly the But to return to the human countenance. opposite, but we are all of one opinion on the We meet with many faces animated, lively, subject of symmetry and proportion; beand quickly affected by the topics or events cause our associations are the same, and we of the moment. We remark of such, that bestow the highest degree of admiration on they are pleasing, and our admiration ends , the bodies, both of men and animals, when here. But if, amongst the crowd, we dis- they posssss the combined qualities of firmtinguish one possessed of this capability in ness, flexibility, and adaptation. the extreme, not always using it, however, All who have bestowed any
attention upon but sometimes looking grave and abstracted, the horse, must regard this noble animal retiring, as it were, from the confusion or with feelings of admiration and delight. It the folly of the passing scene, to listen for needs not the aid of scientific study to perawhile to the inner voice—the voice of the ceive in what perfection he possesses the
combined qualities of strength and swiftness, come, without fear that the fountains should endurance and facility of motion. Had one be sealed, or the waters should become less of these qualities been wanting-had he pure. been feeble or inactive, had his power or his patierce been soon expended, had he moved with awkwardness or difficulty, our admiration would have been considerably less, and we should probably now look with as little
THE POETRY OF FLOWERS. pleasure on the horse as on the rhinoceros. Again, every one thinks the stag a beautiful There are few natural objects more poetanimal, perhaps the most beautiful in nature; ical in their general associations than flowers; but the stag wants the majestic power of the nor has there ever been a poet, simple or horse to give him an aspect of nobility, and, sublime, who has not adorned his verse with therefore, our admiration of him is of a qual- these specimens of nature's cunning workified and secondary nature. In the same manship. From the majestic sunflower, manner, it would not be difficult to trace the towering above her sisters of the garden, correspondence of our ideas through the and faithfully turning to welcome the god whole extent of animal creation, except only of day, to the little humble and well-known where the chain of association is broken by weed that is said to close its crimson eye beaccidental or local circumstances; and hap- fore impending showers, there is scarcely py is it for the human race, that they are so one flower which may not from its loveliness, constituted as to be disposed unanimously to its perfume, its natural situation, or its classavoid what is repulsive, and are able to par- ical association, be considered highly poetitake, in social concord, of the exquisite en-cal. joyment of admiring what is beautiful.
As the welcome messenger of spring, the Had the mind of man been composed of snowdrop claims our first regard ; and countheterogeneous or discordant elements, he less are the lays in which the praises of this must have wanted the grand principle of little modest flower are sung. The contrast happiness-sympathy with his fellow-crea- it presents of green and white, (ever the tures. He might unquestionably have pos- most pleasing of contrasts to the human eye,) sessed his own enjoyments, but he must may be one reason why mankind agree in have been a selfish and isolated being. His their admiration of its simple beauties; but intellectual powers might possibly have been a far more powerful reason is the delightful cultivated, but without the stimulus of social association by which it is connected with the affection, their growth must have been with idea of returning spring; the conviction that out grace, and their fruit without value. To the vegetable world through the tedious wincompute the distance of the planets, to mea- ter months has not been dead, but sleeping; sure the surface of the earth, and penetrate and that long nights, fearful storms, and into its secret mines, are occupations which chilling blasts, have a limitation and a bound might be carried on by man in his solitary assigned them, and must in their appointed and unconnected character; but in order time give place to the fructifying and genial that he might enjoy the benefit of a high | influence of spring. Perhaps we have murtone of moral feeling, and thus be fitted for mured (for what is there in the ordinations a state of existence where knowledge is only of Providence at which man will not dare to less supreme than love, it was necessary murmur?) at the dreariness of winter. Perthat the general current of his feelings haps we have felt the rough blast too piershould be softened and refined, by innumer- cing to accord with our artificial habits. able springs of tenderness and affection, Perhaps we have thought long of the meltflowing through the finer sensibilities of his ing of the snow that impeded our noon-day nature, and filling that ocean of enjoyment walk. But it vanishes at last; and there, of which the human family have drank to- beneath its white coverlet, lies the delicate gether in unity since the world began, and snowdrop. so pure and pale, so true an emmay continue to drink for generations yet to blem of hope, and trust, and confidence, that it might teach a lesson to the desponding, there, they would not to our taste have lost and show the useless and inactive how in- | their sweetness. valuable are the stirrings of that energy that The violet, while it pleases by its modest, can work out its purpose in secret, and under retiring beauty, possesses the additional oppression, and be ready in the fulness of charm of the most exquisite of all perfumes, time to make that purpose manifest and com- which, inhaled with the pure and invigoraplete. The snowdrop teaches also another ting breezes of spring, always brings back in lesson. It marks out the progress of time. remembrance a lively conception of that deWe cannot behold it without feeling that an- lightful season. Thus, in the language of other spring has come, and immediately our poetry, " the violet-scented gale” is synonythoughts recur to the events which have oc- mous with those accumulated and sweetlycurred since last its fairy bells were ex- blended gratifications which we derive from panded. We think of those who were near odours, flowers, and balmy breezes; and and dear to us then. It is possible they may above all, from the contemplation of renonever be near again; it is equally possible vated nature, once more bursting forth into they may be dear no longer. Memory is beauty and perfection. busy with the past; until anticipation takes The jessamine, also, with its dark green up the chain of thought, and we conjure up, leaves, and little silver stars, saluting us withi and at last shape out in characters of hope, its delicious scent through the open casea long succession of chances and changes to ment, and impregnating the whole atmosfill up the revolving seasons which must phere of the garden with its sweetness, has come and go before that little flower shall been sung and celebrated by so many poets, burst forth in its loveliness again. Happy that our assoc ns are with their numbers, is it for those who have so counted the cost rather than with any intrinsic quality in the of the coming year, that they shall not find | flower itself. Indeed, whatever may have at the end they have expended either hope first established the rank of flowers in the or desire in fruitless speculations.
poetical world, they have become to us like It is of little consequence wha: flower notes of music, passed on from lyre to lyre; comes next under consideration. A few and whenever a chord is thrilled with the specimens will serve the purpose of proving, harmony of song, these lovely images prethat these lovely productions of nature are, sent themselves, neither impaired in their in their general associations, highly poetical. beauty, nor exhausted of their sweetness, The primrose is one upon which we dwell for having been the medium of poetic feelwith pleasure proportioned to our taste for ing ever since the world began. rural scenery, and the estimate we have pre- It is impossible to expend a moment's viously formed of the advantages of a peace- thought upon the lily, without recurring to ful and secluded life In connexion with that memorable passage in the sacred volthis flower, imagination pictures a thatched ume: “Consider the lilies of the field, how cottage standing on the slope of the hill, and they grow. They toil not, neither do they a little woody dell, whose green banks are spin; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon spangled all over with yellow stars, while a | in all his glory was not arrayed like one of troop of rosy children are gambolling on the these.” From the little common flower callsa me bank, gathering the flowers, as we ed heart's ease, we turn to that well known used to gather them ourselves, before the passage of Shakspeare, were the fairy king toils and struggles of mortal conflict had so beautifully describes the “little western worn us down to what we are now; and flower.” And the forget-me-not has a thouthus presenting to the mind the combined sand associations tender and touching, but ideas of natural enjoyment, innocence, and unfortunately, like many other sweet things, rural peace-the more vivid, because we rude hands have almost robbed it of its can remember the time when something like charm. Who can behold the pale Narcisthis was mingled with the cup
sus, standing by the silent brook, its stately drank-the more touching, because we form reflected in the glassy mirror, without doubt whether, if such pure drops were still losing themselves in that most fanciful of all
of which we
poetical conceptions, in which the graceful around us through the summer months, youth is described as gazing upon his own without the aid or interference of man, beauty, until he becomes lost in admiration, which seems to defy his art to introduce a and finally enamoured of himself: while rival to his own unparalleled beauty-the hopeless echo sighs herself away into a common wild rose; so luxuriant, that it sound, for the love, which having centred in bursts spontaneously into blushing life, such an object, was never to be bought by sometimes crowning the hoary rock with a her caresses, nor won by her despair. blooming garland, and sometimes struggling
Through gardens, fields, forests, and even with the matted weeds of the wilderness, over rugged mountains, we might wander yet ever finding its way to the open day, on in this fanciful quest after remote ideas that it may bask and smile, and look up with of pleasurable sensation connected with pres- thankfulness to the bright sun, without whose ent beauty and enjoyment; nor would our rays its cheek would know no beauty so tensearch be fruitless so long as the bosom of der, that the wild bee which had nestled in the earth afforded a receptacle for the ger- its scented bosom when that sun went down, minating seed, so long as the gentle gales returns in the morning and beholds the of summer continued to waft them from the colour faded from its cheek, while by its side parent stem, or so long as the welcome sun
an infant rose is rising with the blush of a looked forth upon the ever-blooming garden cherub, unfolding its petals to live its little of nature.
day, and then, having expended its sweetOne instance more, and we have done. ness, to die like its fair sisters, without murThe “ lady rose," as poets have designated
mur or regret. Blooming in the sterile this queen of beauty, claims the latest, waste, this lovely flower is seen unsolding though not the least consideration in speak- its fair leaves where there is no beauty to ing of the poetry of flowers. In the poetic reflect its own, and thus calling back the world, the first honors have been awarded heart of the weary traveller to thoughts of to the rose, for what reason it is not easy to
peace and joy-reminding him that the define ; unless from its exquisite combination wilderness of human life, though rugged of perfume, form, and colour, which have and barren to the discontented beholder, has entiiled this sovereign of flowers in one also its sweet flowers, not the less welcome for country to be mated with the nightingale, being unlooked for, nor the less lovely for in another, to be chosen with the distinction being cherished by a hand unseen. of red and white, as the badge of two hon There is one circumstance connected with ourable and royal houses. It would be diffi- the rose, which renders it a more true and cult to trace the supremacy of the rose to its striking emblem of earthly pleasure than origin; but mankind have so generally any other flower-it bears a thorn. While agreed in paying homage to her charms, its odorous breath is floating on the summer that our associations in the present day are gale, and its blushng cheek, half hid chiefly with the poetic strains in which they amongst the sheltering leaves, seems are celebrated. The beauty of the rose is woo and yet shrink from the beholder's gaze, exhibited under so many different forms, that touch but with adventurous hand the garit would be impossible to say which had the den queen, and you are pierced with her greatest claim upon the regard of the poet; protecting thorns: would you pluck the rose but certainly those kinds which have been and weave it into a garland for the brow recently introduced, or those which are rear- you love best, that brow will be wounded: ed by unnatural means, with care and diffi- or place the sweet blossom in your bosom, culty, are to us the least poetical, because the thorn will be there. This real or ideal our associations with them are comparatively mingling of pain and sorrow, with the exfew, and those few relate chiefly to garden quisite beauty of the rose, affords a neverculture.
ending theme to those who are best acAfter all the pains that have been taken quainted with the inevitable blending of to procure, transplant, and propagate the clouds and sunshine, hope and fear, weal rose, there is one kind perpetually blooming and wo, in this our earthly inheritance.
With every thing fair, or sweet, or exqui- tude or joy. I speak of the thorn which acsite in this world, it has seemed meet to that companies these pleasures not with murmurwisdom which appoints our sorrows, and ing or complaint. I speak of the wounds sets a bound to our enjoyments, to affix some inflicted by this thorn with a living consciousstain, some bitterness, or some alloy, which ness of their poignancy and anguish; bemay not inaptly be called, in figurative lan- cause exquisite and dear as mere earthly guage, a thorn. St. Paul emphatically pleasures may sometimes be, I would still speaks of a “thorn in the flesh,” and from contrast them with such as are not earthly. this expression, as well as from his earnest- I would contrast the thorn and the wound, ness in having prayed thrice that it might the disappointment and the pain which acbe removed, we conclude it must have been company all such pleasures as are merely something particularly galling to the natural temporal, with the fulness of happiness, the
We hear of the thorn of ingratitude, peace, and the crown, accompanying those the thorn of envy, the thorn of unrequited which are eternal. love-indeed of thorns as numerous as our pleasures; and few there are who can look back upon the experience of life, without acknowledging that every earthly good they have desired, pursued, or attained, has had
THE POETRY OF TREES. its peculiar thorn. Who has ever cast himself into the lap of luxury, without finding In contemplating the external aspect of that his couch was strewed with thorns ? nature, trees, in their infinite variety of form Who has reached the summit of his ambi- | and foliage, appear most important and contion without feeling on that exalted pinnacle spicuous; yet so many are the changes which that he stood on thorns? Who has placed they undergo from the influence of the sun the diadem upon his brow, without perceiv- and the atmosphere, that it would be useless ing that thorns were thickly set within the to attempt to speak of the associations beroyal circlet? Who has folded to his bosom longing to this class of natural productions all that he desired of earth’s treasures, with abstractedly, and detached from collateral out feeling that bosom pierced with thorns ? circumstances. What poet, for instance, All that we enjoy in this world, or yearn to would describe the rich foliage of the sumpossess, has this accompaniment. The more mer woods, without the radiance of the sumintense the enjoyment, the sharper the thorn; mer eun; the wandering gale that waves and those who have described most feel their leafy boughs; the mountain side to ingly the inner workings of the human heart, which their knotted roots are clinging; the have unfailingly touched upon this fact with green valley where they live and flourish, the melancholy sadness of truth.
safe from raging storms; and the murmurFar be it from one who would not wil ing stream, over which their branches bend lingly fall under the stigma of ingratitude, to and meet. There is, however, a marked disparage the nature, or the number of distinction in the character of different trees, earthly pleasures-pleasures which and a general agreement amongst mankind spread before us without price or limitation, in the relative ideas connected with each in our daily walk, and in our nightly rest— particular species. pleasures which lie scattered around our It is scarcely necessary to repeat how espath when we go forth upon the hills, or sential to our notions of perfection is the wander in the valley, when we look up to beauty of fitness-that neither colour, form, the starry sky, or down to the fruitful earth
nor symmetry, nor all combined in one ob--pleasures which unite the human family ject, can command our unqualified admira. in one bond of fellowship, surround us at tion without adaptation; and that the our board, cheer us at our fire-side, smooth mind, by a sort of involuntary process, the couch on which we slumber, and even and frequently unconsciously to itself, takes follow our wandering steps long-long after note of the right application of means, and we have ceased to regard them with grati- | the relation of certain causes with their na