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the human mind. All false That excitement is uniformly the accomreligions have been built upon this founda- paniment of mystery, is owing to this cause; tion, and even the true has its mysteries, for mystery is not the subject of any one particwhich we reverence it the more. Those ular train of ideas, nor can it exclusively ocsubjects which excite the deepest veneration cupy the reasoning powers, for want of someand awe, strike us with an indefinite sense thing tangible to lay hold of; but while the of something which we do not-which we senses or feelings are strongly affected by cannot, understand ; and the throne of the that which is new, or strange, or fearful, or the monarch, by being veiled from vulgar eyes, magnificent, it opens a field in which all the is thus invested with a mystery to which it faculties of the mind, set at liberty from phyis greatly indebted for its support. Were sical restraint, may rush forth to expatiate all mankind clearly convinced of the inesti- or combat, without any one gaining the asmable value of true virtue, were they all cendency. Sometimes fear for a moment noble, generous, and devoted, and were all takes the lead, but the want of sufficient sovereigns immaculate, they might then go proof or fact to establish any definite cause forth amongst their people, defended only by of alarm, encourages hope; love peoples their own dignity, supported only by the the unfathomable void with creatures of affection and esteem of their subjects. But its own formation; or hate, revenge, and since we have learned in these degenerate malice wreak their fury upon they know times that kings are but men, and since not what; while imagination, the sovereign there are base natures abroad, ever ready queen of mystery, reigns supreme and unto lay hold of and expose the slightest proof disturbed over her own aerial realm. Thus of fallibility in their superiors, it is highly does mystery afford illimitable scope for necessary to the maintenance of regal ma the perpetual activity and play of all the jesty, that the sovereign should be raised thoughts or passions of which we are capaabove the cognizance of vulgar penetration; ble. By allowing liberty of operation to all, that properly initiated members should con the violence of each is neutralized, and hence stitute the court, within whose penetralia the power of mystery over the mind of man. the ignorant and common herd are not per It may be argued, that mystery has often mitted to intrude; and that in order to give been the means of exciting the most violent the mandate which issues from the throne, passions, such as fear or superstition. Mysthe awful solemnity of an oracle, its irrevo- tery has unquestionably been made by artcable veto should be uttered unseen.
ful men the means of exciting the curiosity, It next becomes our business to inquire and arresting the attention of their deluded how mystery possesses this power to lisci- followers; and thus rendering them more nate the strongest mind, and to lead captive willing and servile recipients of false views, the most tumultuous passions.
or base desires. But in order that either Along with mystery, there is invariably fear or superstition should be excited to any some degree of excitement; and excitement, violent degree, it must have been necessary if we may judge by the general conduct to dissolve the veil of mystery, and reveal and pursuits of mankind, is, when not ex- distinctly some palpable object of dread, or tended so as to create a feeling of pain, a subject of mistaken worship. universally delightful sensation. In speak But to return from this digression to the ing of a love of excitement, those who look more pleasing consideration of that delightgloomily upon human nature, are apt to ful hour of day, which brings to every creadescribe it as a defect; but would it not be ture the most powerful and indissoluble assomore philosophical, as well as more consis-ciations with what it loves best. tent with a grateful disposition, to regard
“ Home to the weary, to the hungry cheer, this principle as having been implanted in
To the young bird its mother's brooding wings." our nature to stimulate us to exertion, and to render the various occupations of life a Before the mystery of evening, if not in a succession of pleasing duties, rather than of higher degree, we are charmed with its reirksome toils ?
pose. The stillness that gradually steals
over the creation extends to our own hearts. might have been forgotten. The evening Passion is lulled, and if we are not, we long melody of the birde, stealing gently upon the to be at rest.
humid air, and heard more distinctly than “I will return at the close of day,” says their noon-day song, calls up the image of the wanderer as he goes forth ; and in some friend with whom we have listened to the evening we begin to listen for his wel- that sound; nor can we pursue our wonted come, though weary step. “It is but an evening walk without being reminded by the other day of toil,” says the labourer as he very path, the trees, the flowers, and even brushes away the morning dew, “In the the atmosphere, of that familiar interchange evening I shall rest again;" and already his of thought and feeling, never enjoyed in such children are watching at the cottage door, perfection as at the close of day. But, and his wife is preparing his evening meal. above all other ideas connected with this All day the rebellious child has resisted the hour, we love the repose of evening. Every chastisements of love; but in the evening living creature is then sinking to rest, darkhis soul is subdued, and he weeps upon ness is stealing around us like a misty curhis mother's bosom. We can appease the tain, a dreamy languor subdues our harsher yearnings of the heart, and drive away re- feelings, and makes way for the flow of all flection-nay, we can live without sympathy, that is tender, affectionate, or refined. It is until evening steals around our path, and scarcely possible to muse upon this subject tells us with a voice which makes itself be without thinking of the return of the wanheard, that we are alone. In the freshness derer, the completion of labour, the folding of morning, and through all the stirring oc- of the weary wing, the closing of innocent cupations of busy noon, man can forget his eyes in peaceful slumber, the vesper hymn, Maker; but in the solemn evening hour he and the prayer or thanksgiving with which feels that he is standing in the presence of every day should be closed. his God. In the day-time we move on with How is it, that when there is so much the noisy multitude, in their quest of sordid even in external nature to remind ungrategain, or we wear without weariness or com- ful man of his duty, he should be backward plaint the gilded chains which bind down in offering that tribute which is due to the the soul, or we struggle against the tide of Author of all his blessings? Is it so hard a time and circumstance, battling with straws, thing to be thankful for the bountiful sun, and spending our strength in fruitless war- when we see what a train of glory goes fare; but in the evening we long to find a path along with his departing light ? For the where the flowers are not trampled down by gentle and refreshing dews which come many feet, to burst the degrading bonds of with timely nourishment to the dry and custom, and to think and feel more like im- drooping plants ? For those very plants, mortal beings; we see the small importance and their unspeakable utility and beauty ? of those contested points about which so ma- For all that the eye beholds of loveliness or ny parties are at war, and we become willing magnificence, or that the ear distinguishes to glide on with the stream, without fretting of harmony? But above all, for that unourselves about every weed or feather on its wearied sense of enjoyment with which it is surface; esteeming peace of mind and good possible for man to walk through the creawill towards men far before the defence of tion, rendering thanks to his Creator at any particular set of opinions, or even the every step. establishment of our own.
Far be it from the writer of these pages to Evening is the time for remembrance; for advocate the vain philosophy of past agesthe powers of the mind having been all day the vague notion long since discarded from in exercise, still retain their activity, and the rational world, that the contemplation being no longer engaged in necessary or of the grandeur, beauty, or even perfection worldly pursuits, branch out into innumera- of the universe, is sufficient of itself to lead ble associations, from things present and the heart to God. I speak of such contemvisible, to those which are unseen and re- plation as being the natural and suitable mote, and which but for such associations exercise of an immortal mind, and of the
glories of creation as corroborating evidence her purity; nor have all the scenes of dethat a gracious will has designed the mys- gradation, fraud, or cruelty, which her tery of our being, and that a powerful hand mysterious light has illuminated, been able, continues to uphold the world which we in- even in these clear-sighted and practical habit. I speak of the soothing calm of even- times, to render less solemn and imposing, ing, not with the puerile notion that mere that soul-pervading influence, with which the sentimental musing is conducive to the vi- moon is still capable of inspiring those who tality of the true spirit of Christianity—that have not entirely subdued or sacrificed the spirit which is compelled to engage in active tender, generous, or sublime emotions of warfare with the world, and sometimes to their nature. maintain its stand amidst all that is repulsive In power, and majesty, and glory, the sun to the poetic mind; but I speak of the even- unquestionably clainis our regard before all ing hour as a season of repose and whole- other objects of creation. But the sun is some refreshment to this spirit, and of all less poetical than the moon, because his atother enjoyments derived from the admira- tributes are less exclusively connected with tion of nature as lawful, natural, and highly our mental perceptions. By combining the conducive to the feeling of thankfulness idea of heat with that of light, our associawhich unfailingly pervades the soul of the tions become more sensitive and corporeal, true Christian.
and consequently less refined. The light of the sun is also too clear, and too generally pervading in its nature, to be so poetical as
that of the moon. It leaves too little for the THE POETRY OF THE MOON.
imagination. All is revealed to the eye;
and myriads of different objects being thus To write a chapter on the moon, appears, made distinctly visible, the attention wants at first sight, a task no less presumptuous that focus of concentration which gives inin itself, than inevitably fruitless in its con- tensity and vividness to all our impressions. sequences-fruitless as regards that kind of “ But the stars," some may ask, “ are they interest which on behalf of the queen of not sufficiently distant and magnificent for night has been called forth and sanctified sublimity-mild enough for purity-beautiful by the highest powers of genius, as well as enough for love ?" Yes; but they are too abused and profaned by the lowest. To distant—100 pure-too cold for human love. apostrophize the moon, even in the most They come not near our troubled world, they ecstatic lays, would, in the present day be smile not upon us like the moon. We feel little less absurd than to attempt
that they are beautiful. We behold and
admire. No wonder that the early dwellers " To gild refined gold, to paint the lily, To throw a perfume o'er the violet,
upon earth should have been tempted to beTo smoothe the ice, or add another hue
hold and worship. But one thing is wanting, Unto the rainbow, or with lantern light
that charm, whether real or ideal, which To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish.”
connects or seems to connect, our mental Yet in order to prove that the moon is of sufferings, wants, and wishes, with sonie all natural and sensible objects, pre-eminent- high and unattainable source of intelligence ly poetical, no other facts need be adduced —the charm of sympathy. Thousands of than these ; that all the effusions of disordered purified and elevated minds have expatiated fancy which have been offered at her shrine, upon the stars as the most sublime of all since first the world began, have not deprived created objects, and so unquestionably they the queen of night of one iota of her regal are ;* but sublimity is not all that constitutes dignity; not all the abortive efforts of deceptive art, (and not a few have presented a
Every one disposed to doubt this truth, may find mockery of her inimitable beauty,) have, in full conviction by reading in Montgomery's Lectures on the slightest degree impaired the charm of Poetry, a few pages devoted to this subject ; perhaps
the most poetical effusion that ever flowed from an elo. her loveliness; not all the allusions of sickly
quent pen, inspired by a refined imagination, a highly sentiment, or vulgar affectation, have sullied gined mind, and a devout spirit.
the essence of poetic feeling. The spirit of of these lays is proof of a totally different poetry dwells not always in the high and nature, and has nothing to do with the case in distant heavens, but loves to vary its exist- point; the inspiration being in the moon hertence by the enjoyment of tender and home- self—the virtue of that inspiration in the souls felt delights. Thus, we are not satisfied, of her votaries. Here however we find adeven in our hightest intellectual pursuits, ditional, and perhaps stronger proof of the unless we find something to appropriate, and same fact; for not only have poets of every call our own; and thus while we admire the age, and every country, found in the queen of stars as splendid portions of the heavens, we night a never-tiring theme; but she has unboth admire and love the moon, because, questionably the honour of having called forth still retaining her heavenly character, she some of the most memorable, and most brilapproaches nearer to our earth. We can- liant effusions of poetic genius. To quote not look upon the stars without being struck illustrative passages on this subject would with a sense of their distance, their unattain- be to fill volumes, and to make selections able height, the immeasurable extent of would be almost impossible, amongst inspace that lies between the celestial fields stances so numerous and so fraught with inwhich they traverse with a perpetual har- terest; but there is one scene in the Mermony of motion, and the low world of petty chant of Venice which deserves particular nocares where we lie grovelling. But the tice, for the natural and simple manner in moon—the placid moon, is just high enough which the poet has given us the most perfect for sublimity, just near enough for love. So idea of an exquisite moonlight night, apbenign, and bland, and softly beautiful is her parently without effort, and almost without ever-beaming countenance, that when per description. It is where the two lovers, essonifying, as we always'do, the moon, she caped from danger and suspicion, first find seems to us rather as purified than as having time and opportunity for the quiet enjoyment been always pure. We feel as if some fel- which is best appreciated after imminent lowship with human frailty and suffering risk. In this picture (for it is nothing less) had brought her near us, and almost wonder we behold most strikingly the master hand whether her seasons of mysterious darkness by which the scene is drawn. Here is no babare accompanied with that character of high bling about silver rays,''sost influence,''smiand unimpeachable dignity which attends ling light;' the passage commences merely her seasons of light. Her very beams, when with— The moon shines bright;' and then they steal in upon our meditations, seem so perfect is the enjoyment of the lovers, both fraught with tenderness, with charity, and in each other and in all that surrounds them, love: so that we naturally associate them that they immediately strike off comparisons in our own minds, not so much with super- between that particular night, and others that natural perfection, as with that which has have been vividly impressed upon their imbeen refined and sublimated by a moral | aginations, not by observation, but by pasprocess. We call to remembrance the dark- sages from (perhaps their favourite) authors, est imputation ever cast upon the moon, in where the moon has been called in to aid those dark times when to be a goddess was the representation of some of the most strikby no means to be free from every moral ing scenes. Had the happiness of Lorenzo stain ; and then, in fanciful return for all her and Jessica been less absorbing, or had the sweet, and cheering, and familiar light, we night been less beautiful, they might have sometimes offer a sigh of pity to the vestal told us how, and upon what objects the Dian, that she should have paid so dearly moon was then shining. But with them all for having loved but once, and that with so was complete. They had no comments to pure a flame, that it disturbed not the dreams make upon the lovely night, which we are of a slumbering shepherd boy.
left to suppose too exquisite for description; To prove that the moon is of all visible ob- and after amusing themselves and each jects the most poetical, there needs no other other with simple, but most beautiful alluevidence than the number of poetic lays in sions to classic history, they very naturally which she has been celebrated. The merit fall into that playful humour, which belongs
to perfect happiness, and descending from deep gloom of the surrounding woods, the their poetic flights, turn upon each other the narrow defile, or the hollow cave, within sportive badinage, which is more familiar whose confines the queen of night, with all to those who are but “earthly happy.” her power, and all her splendour, is unable They are then interrupted by the entrahce to penetrate. of a messenger; but still the mind of the Another striking attribute of the moon, poet having been filled to overflowing with and one which seems more especially to his own idea, or rather his own intense feel bring her within the sphere of human syming of this ecstatic night, he goes on after the pathy, is her alternate darkness and illumifirst exuberance of fancy has been expended nation; which last is familiarly spoken of as in mere association, to give us some de- a periodical visitation ; for so powerful are scription of the scene; and then follows that the senses of the imagination, that it is with passage so highly imaginative and poetical, some difficulty we realize the truth, that yet withal so simple, that it seems but to em- when the moon is invisible to our eyes, she body in words, the faint dreams that have is in reality as present with us as when her floated through our own minds a thousand soft light salutes us in our nightly wandertimes without finding utterance:
ings. Thus we hear perpetually of the con
stancy, as well as the inconstancy of the “How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit, and let the sounds of music moon; just as a similitude with either qualCreep in our ears; soft stillness, and the night, ity may suit the poet's need. Of her conBecome the touches of sweet harmony.
stancy, because, lost as she is to our ouiSit, Jessica. Look how the floor of Heaven Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold ;
ward perceptions, we are able to calculate There's not the smallest orb, which thou behold'st, with undeviating certainty the hour of her But in his motion like an angel sings, Still quiring to the young-ey'd cherubims.
return; of her inconstancy, because how Such harmony is in immortal souls ;
profound soever are the devotions offered at But, whilst this muddy vesture of decay
her shrine, that shrine is no sooner invested Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it."
with the full splendour of her celestial In contemplating the different attributes brightness, than the ineffable light begins to of the moon, first, and most striking, is that wane, and finally disappears. distinctness of light and shade which charac- From the long established custom of apterise her influence over external nature. pealing to the moon in our descriptions of Here are no lesser lights, no minor shadows mental suffering, we might almost be led to to constitute a medium between the two ex- pronounce that melancholy was one of her tremes. The whole earth is under the do- chief characteristics, were not this poetical minion of two ruling powers; and every ma- propensity easily accounted for, by the enterial object presents on one side a surface joyments of the generality of mankind being distinctly visible, while the other is lost in of such a nature as to confine their attention impenetrable darkness. Not a wreath of to social, stirring, mundane subjects of interivy, a projecting cornice, or a broken turret, est or excitement; and thus to leave little but the moon invests it with a beauty of her time, and less inclination, for making obserown, more attractive to the eye, and more vations upon the moon: while under the inpotent in its influence upon the imagination, fluence of melancholy, which has in all from the depth of mysterious shadow by minds the same tendency to silence, solitude, which it is contrasted. Beautiful as her and contemplation, the eye is naturally dilight unquestionably is, when it falls upon rected to scenes of repose and serenity, and the verdure of the sloping bank, where every more than all, to the solemn aspect of the flower, and leaf and tendril have their shining heavens. It is here that we look for peace; surface contrasted with their shadow, we and we all can remember, when through the should scarcely pause to offer our tribute of long watches of the sleepless night, the admiration, by telling how often the poet's lay moon was our only companion, the only has recorded events which took place "on friend who was near us under the pressure such a night,” but that in glancing from this of our calamity, or who appeared to sympascene of silvery brightness, we behold the thize in our distress.