« PreviousContinue »
You cannot teach the dead, nor bless the heavens,
And now, what were you, if none did for you
3.—NOTHING LOST IN NATURE.
GAIL HAMILTON. Kindness to animals is, like every other good thing, its own reward. It is homage due to Nature, and Nature takes you into the circle of her sympathies and refreshes you with balsam and opiate. We, too, delight in green meadows and blue sky. Resting with our pets on the southern slope, the heavens lean tenderly over us, and star-flowers whisper to us the brown earth's secrets. Ever wonderful and beautiful is it to see the frozen, dingy sod springing into slender grass-blades, purple violets, and snow-white daisies.
There is no foot so humble, so little beloved, so seldom listened for, that the warm earth will not feel its tread and blossom up an hundredfold to meet her child. And every dainty blossom shall be so distinctly wrought, so gracefully poised, so generously endowed, that you might suppose Nature had lavished all her love on that one fair flower.
As you lie out on the grass, watching the ever-shifting billows of the sheeny sea, that dash with soundless surge against the rough old tree-trunks, marking how the tall grasses bend to every breeze and darken to every cloud, only to arise and shine again when breeze and cloud are passed by, there comes through your charmed silence—which is but the perfect blending of a thousand happy voices—one cold and bitter voice,
“Golden to-day, to-morrow gray:
So fades young love from life away!” O cold, false voice, die thou back again into thine outer darkness! I know the reaper will come, and the golden grain
will bow before him, for this is Nature's law; but in its death lies the highest work of its circling life. All was fair; but this is fairest of all. It dies, indeed, but only to continue its beneficence; and with fresh beauty and new vigor it shall blossom for other springs. Fainter, but distinctly still, comes the chilling voice,
“Though every summer green the plain,
This harvest cannot bloom again.' False still! This harvest shall bloom again in perpetual and ever-increasing loveliness. It shall leap in the grace of the lithe-limbed steed, it shall foam in the milk of gentle-hearted cows, it shall shine in the splendor of light-winged birds, it shall laugh in the baby's dimple, toss in the child's fair curls, and blush in the maiden's cheek. Nay, by some inward way, all wonder and all mystery, it shall spring again in the green pastures of the soul, blossoming in great thoughts, in kindly words, in Christian deeds, till the soul that cherished it shall seem to seeing eyes all consecrate, and the earth that flowers such growths shall be Eden, the Garden of God.
4.-CROSSING THE RUBICON.
J. S. KNOWLES. A gentleman, Mr. Chairman, speaking of Cæsar's benevolent disposition, and of the reluctance with which he entered into the civil war, observes, “How long did he pause upon the brink of the Rubicon!” How came he to the brink of that river? How dared he cross it? Shall private men respect the boundaries of private property, and shall a man pay no respect to the boundaries of his country's rights? How dared he cross that river? Oh! but he paused upon the brink. He should have perished upon the brink ere he had crossed it! Why did he pause? Why does a man's heart palpitate when he is on the point of committing an unlawful deed? Why does the very murderer, his victim sleeping before him, and his glaring eye taking the measure of the blow, strike wide of the mortal part? Because of conscience! 'Twas that made Cæsar pause upon the brink of the Rubicon. Compassion! What compassion? The compassion of an assassin that feels a momentary shudder, as his weapon begins to cut ! Cæsar paused upon the brink of the Rubicon! What was the Rubicon? The boundary of Cæsar's province. From what did it separate his province? From his country. Was that country a desert? No: it was cultivated and fertile, rich and populous ! Its sons were men of genius, spirit, and generosity ! Its daughters were lovely, susceptible, and chaste! Friendship was its inhabitant ! Love was its inhabitant! Domestic affection was its inhabitant ! Liberty was its inhabitant! All bounded by the stream of the Rubicon! What was Cæsar, that stood upon the bank of that stream? A traitor, bringing war and pestilence into the heart of that country! No wonder that he paused, -no wonder if, his imagination wrought upon by his conscience, he had beheld blood instead of water, and heard groans instead of murmurs! No wonder, if some Gorgon horror had turned him into stone upon the spot! But no!
-he cried, “ The die is cast!” He plunged !-he crossed ! and Rome was free no more !
5.—THE AMERICAN REPUBLIC.
Search creation round, where can you find a country that presents so sublime a view, so interesting an anticipation ? What noble institutions ! What a comprehensive policy ! What a wise equalization of every political advantage! The oppressed of all countries, the martyrs of every creed, the innocent victim of despotic arrogance or superstitious frenzy, may there find refuge; his industry encouraged, his piety respected, his ambition animated; with no restraint but those laws which are the same to all, and no distinction but that which his merit may originate. Who can deny that the existence of such a country presents a subject for human congratulation! Who can deny that its gigantic advancement offers a field for the most rational conjecture! At the end of the very next century, if she proceeds as she seems to promise, what a wondrous spectacle may she not exhibit! Who shall say for what purpose mysterious Providence may not have designed her! Who shall say that when in its follies or its crimes the Old World may have buried all the pride of its power, and all the pomp of its civilization, human nature may not find its destined renovation in the New! When its temples and its trophies shall have mouldered into dust; when the glories of its name shall be but the legend of tradition, and the light of its achievements live only in song; philosophy will revive again in the sky of her Franklin, and glory will rekindle at the urn of her Washington. Is this the vision of romantic fancy? Is it even improbable? Is it half so improbable as the events which, for the last twenty years, have rolled like successive tides over the surface of the European world, each erasing the impressions that preceded it?
Many I know there are, who will consider this supposition as wild and whimsical; but they have dwelt with little reflection upon the records of the past. They have but ill observed the never-ceasing progress of national rise and national ruin. They form their judgment on the deceitful stability of the present hour, never considering the innumerable monarchies and republics, in former days, apparently as permanent, their very existence become now the subject of speculation-I had almost said, of skepticism. I appeal to History! Tell me, thou reverend chronicler of the grave, can all the illusions of ambition realized, can all the wealth of a universal commerce, can all the achievements of successful heroism, or all the establishments of this world's wisdom, secure to empire the permanency of its possessions ? Alas, Troy thought so once; yet the land of Priam lives only in song! Thebes thought so once; yet her hundred gates have crumbled, and her very tombs are but as the dust they were vainly intended to commemorate ! So thought Palmyra—where is she? So thought Persepolis, and
“Yon waste, where roaming lions howl,
Where, sceptred once, an earthly god,
Where sports the warbling muse, and fancy soars sublime.” So thought the countries of Demosthenes and the Spartan; yet Leonidas is trampled by the timid slave, and Athens insulted by the servile, mindless, and enervate Ottoman. In his hurried march, Time has but looked at their imagined immortality, and all its vanities, from the palace to the tomb, have, with their ruins, erased the very impression of his footsteps. The days of their glory are as if they had never been; and the island that was then a speck, rude and neglected in the barren ocean, now rivals the ubiquity of their commerce, the glory of their arms, the fame of their philosophy, the eloquence of their senate, and the inspiration of their bards! Who shall say, then, contemplating the past, that England, proud and potent as she appears, may not one day be what Athens is, and the young America yet soar to be what Athens was ! Who shall say, whei. the European column shall have mouldered, and the night of barbarism obscured its very ruins, that that mighty continent may not emerge from the horizon, to rule, for its time, sovereign of the ascendant!
Such, sir, is the natural progress of human operations, and such the unsubstantial mockery of human pride.
6.-THE LOST AND FOUND.