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toiling for the spiritually indispensable-not daily bread, but the bread of life. Is not he, too, in his duty; endeavouring towards inward harmony; revealing this, by act or by word, through all his outward endeavours, be they high or low Highest of all when his outward and his inward endeavours are one: when we can name him artist; not earthly craftsman only, but inspired thinker, who with heaven-made implement conquers heaven for us! If the poor and humble toil that we have food, must not the high and glorious toil for him in return that he may have light, guidance, freedom, immortality? These two, in all their degrees, I honour; all else is chaff and dust, which let the wind blow whither it listeth.
There is a perennial nobleness, and even sacredness, in work. Were he ever so benighted, or forgetful of his high calling, there is always hope in a man that actually and earnestly works; in idleness alone there is perpetual despair. Consider how, even in the meanest sorts of labour, the whole soul of a man is composed into real harmony. He bends himself with free valour against his task; and doubt, desire, sorrow, remorse, indignation, despair itself, shrink murmuring far off in their caves. The glow of labour in him is a purifying fire, wherein all poison is burnt up; and of smoke itself there is made a bright and blessed flame.
Blessed is he who has found his work; let him ask no other blessedness; he has a life purpose. Labour is life. From the heart of the worker rises the celestial force, breathed into him by Almighty God, awakening him to all nobleness, to all knowledge. Hast thou valued patience, courage, openness to light, or readiness to own thy mistakes? In wrestling with the dim brute powers of fact, thou wilt continually learn. For every noble work the possibilities are diffused through immensity, undiscoverable, except to faith.
Man, son of heaven! is there not in thine inmost heart a spirit of active method, giving thee no rest till thou unfold it? Complain not. Look up, wearied brother. See thy fellow-workmen surviving through eternity, the sacred band of immortals.
2.- THE CLOUDS.
[Mr. Ruskin, the eminent art-critic, was born in 1819, and is still living. He was educated at Oxford, and studied the pictorial art under Copley elding and J. D. Harding. His principal works are his “Modern Painters,” “The Seven Lamps of Architecture,” and “The Stones of Venice.”] It is a strange thing how little, in general, people know about the sky. It is the part of creation in which Nature has done more for the sake of pleasing man, more for the sole and evident purpose of talking to him and teaching him, than in any other of her works; and it is just the part in which we least attend to her. There are
not many of her other works in which some more material or essential purpose than the mere pleasing of man is not answered by every part of their organization ; but every essential purpose of the sky might, so far as we know, be answered if, once in three days or thereabouts, a great, ugly, black rain-cloud were brought up over the blue, and everything well-watered, and so all left blue again till next time, with, perhaps, a film of morning and evening mist for dew. And, instead of this, there is not a moment of any day of our lives when Nature is not producing, scene after scene, picture after picture, glory after glory, and working still upon such exquisite and constant principles of the most perfect beauty, that it is quite certain that it is all done for us, and intended for our perpetual pleasure. And every man, wherever placed, however far from other sources of interest or of beauty, has this doing for him constantly. The noblest scenes of the earth can be seen and known but by few; it is not intended that man should live always in the midst of them: he injures them by his presence; he ceases to feel them if he be always with them. But the sky is for all; bright as it is, it is not “too bright nor good for human nature's daily food;" it is fitted, in all its functions, for the perpetual comfort and exalting of the heart; for the soothing it, and purifying it from its dross and dust. Sometimes gentle, sometimes capricious, sometimes awful; never the same for two moments together; almost human in its passions, almost spiritual in its tenderness, almost divine in its infinity, its appeal to what is immortal in us is as distinct, as its ministry of chastisement or of blessing to what is mortal, is essential. we never attend to it; we never make it a subject of thought, but as it has to do with our animal sensations; we look upon all by which it speaks to us more clearly than to brutes, upon all which bears witness to the intention of the Supreme, that we are to receive more from the covering vault than the light and the dew which we share with the weed and the worm, only as a succession of meaningless and monotonous accidents, too common and too vain to be worthy of a moment of watchfulness or a glance of admiration. If, in our moments of utter idleness and insipidity, we turn to the sky as.a last resource, which of its phenomena do we speak of? One says it has been wet, and another it has been windy, and another it has been warm. Who, among the whole chattering crowd, can tell me of the forms and precipices of the chain of tall white mountains that gilded the horizon at noon yesterday? Who saw the narrow sunbeam that came out of the south, and smote upon their summits, until they melted and mouldered away in a dust of blue rain ? Who saw the dance of the dead clouds, when the sunlight left them last night, and the west wind blew them before it like withered leaves ? All has passed unregretted or unseen; or, if the apathy be ever shaken off, even for an instant, it is only by what is gross or what is extraordinary; and yet it is not in the broad and fierce manifestations of the elemental energies, not in the clash of the hail, nor the drift of the whirlwind, that the highest characters of the sublime are developed. God is not in the earthquake nor in the
fire, out in the still small voice. They are but the blunt and the low faculties of our nature which can only be addressed through lampblack and lightning. It is in quiet and subdued passages of unobtrusive majesty; the deep, and the calm, and the perpetual; that which must be sought ere it is seen, and loved ere it is understood; things which the angels work out for us daily, and yet vary eternally; which are never wanting, and never repeated; which are to be found always, yet each found but once. It is through these that the lesson of devotion is chiefly taught and the blessing of beauty given.
(From the “ Stones of Venice." By permission of Messrs. Smith and Elder.)
REV. ARCHIBALD ALISON. [The Rev. Archibald Alison, who was senior minister of St. Paul's Chapel, Edinburgh, was born in 1757, and, after a careful preparation at Glasgow University, he proceeded to Balliol College, Oxford, where he took his degree of B.C.L. in 1784. In 1790 he published an “ Essay on the Nature and Principles of Taste," and in 1814 two volumes of sermons. A selection from the latter, comprising those on the Four Seasons, was afterwards published in a handy volume.—Died 1838.] LET 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.
Let the busy and the active go out, and pause for a time amid the scenes which surround them, and learn the high lesson which nature teaches in the hours of its fall. They are now ardent with all the desires of mortality; and fame, and interest, and pleasure, are displaying to them their shadowy promises, and, in the vulgar race of life, many weak and many worthless passions are too naturally engendered. Let them withdraw themselves, for a time, from the agitations of the world; let them mark the desolation of summer, and listen to the winds of winter, which begin to murmur above their heads. It is a scene which, with all its powers, has yet no reproach ;-it tells them, that such is also the fate to which they must come; that the pulse of passion must one day beat low; that the illusions of time must pass; and that “the spirit must return
to him who gave it.” It reminds them, with gentle voice, of that innocence in which life was begun, and for which no prosperity of vice can make any compensation; and that angel who is one day to stand upon the earth, and “to swear that time shall be no more,” seems now to whisper to them, amid the hollow winds of the year, what manner of men they ought to be, who must meet that decisive hour.
There is “ an even-tide” in human life—a season when the eye becomes dim, and the strength decays; and when the winter of age begins to shed, upon the human head, its prophetic snow. It is the season of life to which the present is most analogous; and much it becomes, and much it would profit you, to mark the instructions which the season brings. The spring and the summer of your days are gone; and with them, not only the joys they knew, but many of the friends who gave them. You have entered upon the autumn of your being; and whatever may have been the profusion of your spring, or the warm intemperance of your summer, there is yet a season of stillness and of solitude, which the beneficence of Heaven affords you, in which you may meditate upon the past and the future, and prepare yourselves for the mighty change which you are soon to undergo.
If thus you have the wisdom to use the decaying season of nature, it brings with it consolations more valuable than all the enjoyments of former days. In the long retrospect of your journey, you have seen, every day, the shades of the evening fall, and, every year, the clouds of winter gather. But you have seen also, every succeeding day, the morning arise in its brightness; and, in every succeeding year, the spring return to renovate the winter of nature. It is now you may understand the magnificent language of heaven; it mingles its voice with that of revelation; it summons you, in these hours when the leaves fall, and the winter is gathering, to that evening study which the mercy of Heaven has provided in the book of salvation: and while the shadowy valley opens, which leads to the abode of death, it speaks of that hand which can comfort and can save, and which can conduct to those “green pastures, and those still waters,” where there is an eternal spring for the children of God.
4.—THE DEATH OF PAUL DOMBEY.
CHARLES DICKENS. [ Mr. Dickens is a native of Portsmouth, and was born 1812. His father being chief of the reporting staff of the Morning Chronicle, his son obtained an engagement on that paper as reporter. His sketches of life and character published in that journal induced Messrs. Chapman and Hall to engage him to supply the letterpress to a series of sketches by the late Mr. Seymour. From these sprung “ The Pickwick Papers,” Mr. Dickens became famous, and at once took, and still retains, the position of the foremost novelist of the age.] Paul had never risen from his little bed. He lay there, listening to the noises in the street, quite tranquilly; not caring much how
The Death of Paul Dombey.
43 the time went, but watching it, and watching everything about him with observing eyes. When the sunbeams struck into his room through the rustling blinds, and quivered on the opposite wall like golden water, he knew that evening was coming on, and that the sky was red and beautiful. As the reflection died away, and a gloom went creeping up the wall
, he watched it deepen, deepen, deepen into night. Then he thought how the long streets were dotted with lamps, and how the peaceful stars were shining overhead. Hisfancy had a strange tendency to wander
to the river, which he knew was flowing through the great city; and now he thought how black it was, and how deep it would look, reflecting the hosts of stars—and more than all, how steadily it rolled away to meet the sea. As it
grew later in the night, and footsteps in the streets became so rare that he could hear them coming, count them as they passed, and lose them in the hollow distance, he would lie and watch the many-coloured ring about the candle, and wait patiently for day. His only trouble was, the swift and rapid river. He felt forced, sometimes, to try to stop it—to stem it with his childish hands-or choke its way with sand—and when he saw it coming on resistless, he cried out. But a word from Florence, who was always at his side, restored him to himself; and leaning his poor
head upon her breast, he told Floy of his dream, and smiled. When day began to dawn again, he watched for the sun; and
l when its cheerful light began to sparkle in the room, he pictured to himself-pictured ?-he saw the high church towers rising up into the morning sky, the town reviving, waking, starting into life once more, the river glistening as it rolled (but rolling fast as ever), and the country bright with dew. Familiar sounds and cries came by degrees into the street below; the servants in the house were roused and busy; faces looked in at the door, and voices asked his attendants softly how he was. Paul always answered for himself, “ I am better. I am a great deal better, thank you! Tell papa so!". By little and little, he got tired of the bustle of the day, the noise of carriages and carts, and people passing and repassing; and would fall asleep, or be troubled with a restless and uneasy sense againthe child could hardly tell whether this were in his sleeping or his waking moments-of that rushing river. “Why, will it never stop, Floy?” he would sometimes ask her. “ It is bearing me away, I think.”
But Floy could always soothe and reassure him; and it was his daily delight to make her lay her head down on his pillow, and take some rest. “You are always watching me, Floy. Let me watch you now!” They would prop him up with cushions in a corner of his bed, and there he would recline the while she lay beside him; bending forward oftentimes to kiss her, and whispering to those who were near that she was tired, and how she had sat up so many nights beside him. Thus the flush of the day, in its heat and light, would gradually decline; and again the golden water would be dancing on the wall.