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FACTS, HINTS, GEMS, AND POETRY.
Ay, true to her, though troubled sore,
I cannot choose but be:
Thou who art peace for evermore Lie not, neither to thyself nor man, Art very true to me. nor God. Let mouth and heart be one;
If I am low and sinful, bring beat and speak together, and make More love where need is rife; each felt in action. It is for cowards Thou knowest what an awful thing
It is to be a life, to lie.-Geo. Herbert. The character of a wise man con
Hast thou not wisdom to enwrap
My waywardness about, sists in three things: To do himself
In doubting safety on the lap what he tells others to do; to act on Of love that knows no doubt? no occasion contrary to justice; and to Lo! Lord, I sit in Thy wide space, bear with the weaknesses of those My child upon my knee; about him.-Samuel Smiles.
She looketh up into my face,
And I look up to Thee. In youth, grief comes with a rush
- George MacDonald. and overflow, but it dries up, too, like a torrent. In the winter of life it re
GIVING AND TAKING. mains a miserable pool, resisting all evaporation.—Madame Swetchine. Who gives and hides the giving hand, Covetousness cracks the sinews of Nor
counts on favour, fame or praise,
Shall find his smallest gift outweighs faith, numbs the apprehension of any; The burden of the sea and land. thing above sense, and, only affected Who gives to whom has nought been given with the certainty of things present, His gift in need, though small, indeed, makes a peradventure of things to As is the grass blade's wind-blown seed, come; lives but unto one world, nor Is large as earth and rich as heaven. hopes but fears another.
Forget it not, Oman, to whom
A gift shall fall, while yet on earth; The Scriptures give four names to
Yes, even to thy seven fold birth, Christians, taken from the four cardi- Recall it in the lives to come. nal graces so essential to man's salva- Who broods above a wrong in thought tion; believers, for their faith; saints, Sins much; but greater sin is his for their holiness; brethren, for their Who, fed and clothed with kindnesses, love; disciples, for their knowledge.—Shall count the holy alms as nought. Andrew Fuller.
Who dares to curse the hands that bless
Shall know of sin the deadliest cost;
The patience of the heaven is lost
Beholding man's unthankfulness.
For he who breaks all laws may still
In Sivam's mercy be forgiven; “ LIKE A LITTLE CHILD."
But none can save in earth or heaven
The wretch who answers good with ill. My child is lying on my knee;
-John G. Whittier. The signs of heaven she reads; My face is all the heaven she sees, Is all the heaven she needs.
WEARY IN WELL-DOING. And she is well, yea bathed in bliss,
I WOULD have gone; God bade me stay; If heaven is in my face;
I would have worked; God bade me rest. Behind it all is tenderness
He broke my will from day to day,
He read my yearnings unexpressed,
And said them nay. Unchanged in changing mood;
Now I would stay; God bids me go; My life would go without a sigh
Now I would rest; God bids me work. To bring her something good.
He breaks my heart tossed to and fro, I also am a child, and I
My soul is wrung with doubts that lurk Am ignorant and weak:
And vex it so. I gaze upon the starry sky,
I go, Lord, where Thou sendest me; And then I must not speak;
Day after day I plod and moil;
But, Christ my Lord, when will it be
That I may let alone my toil
And rest with Thee ?
-Christina G. Rossetti.
CHAUCER AND HIS TIMES.
GEOFFREY CHAUCER is the first great name in English literature. He lived far back in the latter part of the fourteenth century. It was a rude and warlike age when the “Morning Star of English poetry," as Dryden calls him, came upon the world's stage. Edward III. then reigned, and the victories of Cressy and Poictiers made baron and knight more powerful and tyrannical than ever.
There was little comfort for the poor man then. The mud hovel and thatch-roofed cottage of the peasant and the serf stood indeed beside the lordly castle of the noble, but there was no fellowship between their inmates. The nobles lived in splendour, wore velvet and cloth of gold, or more frequently, perhaps, rich armour, and rode prancing steeds. The peasants lived on coarse, scanty food, and their rough garments were seldom changed by night or day. A poor ploughman and his family are touchingly described by our poet. Rags cover the man and his wife from head to foot, and his cattle are so starved that “ mighten reckon each rib.”
As for books in that early time, even the wealthy and powerful had but few, and these were mostly manuscripts written on parchment. Heavy sums were paid for reading matter. Only a few years before Chaucer lived, a Countess of Anjou, in France, paid for a single copy of a small religious book, two hundred sheep, a hundred bushels of wheat, and the same quantity of rye or millet. Most of the learning was confined to the monasteries or religious houses, and there was but little life and spirit even there. Such was the time in which our first great poet lived.
Chaucer was fortunate in his birth. He was neither a great noble nor a humble serf. If he had been born the first, his genius would have been absorbed in war and statesmanship. If the latter, the toil and oppression incident to the class would have kept him for ever lowly. He belonged to a middle rank, which was then first beginning to rise to importance in the cities by means of trade. Little is known of his early life. He seems, however, when quite young, to have ingratiated himself into the friendship of persons of distinction, and was for a time a page in the royal palace. He also served, as is verified by public documents, in the campaign of 1359, which is the only instance of his participation in the military enterprise of his time.
A little later he married one of the maids of honour to the Queen Philippa, whose sister afterwards became the wife of Duke John of Lancaster. This fortunate alliance secured him the
CHAUCER AND HIS TIMES.
patronage of the queen and her royal sons. An annual salary of five thousand dollars was paid him from the king's treasury, and he was several times employed on foreign embassies. On one of these occasions he visited Italy. He resided for a time at Padua, then famous as the chief seat of European learning. He beheld the wonders of Genoa, then in all the pride of wealth and commercial prosperity. His eyes gazed on the beauties of “ Florence the fair," and witnessed the gaieties of the brilliant court of the Visconti at Milan.
He returned to England, a man past the middle age, noted as a savant, polished in all the ways of court and palace, and the greatest poet in all the world, save Petrarch alone, whom he had met at the Paduan court of the enterprising Carrara princes. Chaucer found his native country at this time involved in a religious strife. A very good and a very great man, named John Wickliffe, was preaching against the Pope. He wanted that men should have the liberty to worship God according to the dictates of each one's conscience, and thought that the Bible ought to be read more than it was. This created quite an opposition against him among the Catholic bishops, but many of the nobles supported him. At the head of them all was the great John of Gaunt, « time-honoured Lancaster.' Chaucer naturally joined the side of his potent patron and kinsman, and his genius while he lived did much to help the growing power of Protestantism.
Chaucer, as we have thus far followed his career, seems to have been as much a man of the world, a courtier, a traveller, and a diplomatist, as he was a poet. Up to the age of sixty, his best literary work was the translation of poems from the French and Italian. He now retired from public life, and in the seclusion of his home devoted himself to the composition of that work to which he owes his greatest fame. There was a new king on the throne, Henry, the son of his old friend Lancaster, and by him he was treated with the greatest consideration. As one token of respect, he was presented every day with a pitcher of wine from the cellar of the king.
Surrounded by peace and plenty, the genius of the poet soared aloft to new flights of fancy. The Canterbury Tales, although unfinished, embodied his best creations. The story of the poem, that of a pilgrimage from London to Canterbury, afforded him scope for indulging in all his quaint humours, his love of nature, and his wide experiences of life. Scholar as he was and'a man of books, his poetry partakes more of the character of the life of the world than that of the cloister. The flavour of wild woods is in it. Every phase of English life is found represented in its pages.
A GOOD BOOK FOR YOUNG MEN.
The Canterbury Tales were intended by their great author to convey to posterity a correct idea of the men and manners of his age. A company of pilgrims, while journeying to the shrine of the famous saint, Thomas à Becket, at Canterbury, happen to lodge at the Taborde Inn at Southwark. All classes and professions are represented in the company, from the “ verray perfight gentil knight, to the serjeant of law that ever seemed busier than he was," and the miller and the school-boy. In order to relieve the fatigue of their journey, and enliven the passing hours, they agree to each relate a story. The dramatic unity of the different narratives, the variety, the largeness of the life they illustrate, the breadth of the farce, and the delicacy of the sentiment, render the poem most delightful reading, though no doubt the young reader at first might deem it prolix and perhaps blunder over the ancient orthography, for Chaucer spells “orful," as Billings says, “and one needs a glossary to understand him.
Chaucer did not live to complete the tale, but the story-tellers are talking yet, and from that ancient hostlery by the roadside their voices still echo to tell us how Englishmen thought, spoke, dressed, and acted in that far away time, while the poet has himself been silent these four hundred and seventy years and more. He died in the year 1401, at the age of sixty-two, and his body has turned to dust under the roof of the great Abbey where so many of England's famous ones lie sleeping. His poem, after remaining in manuscript for seventy years, was then published by William Caxton, the first printer ever in England.
A GOOD BOOK FOR YOUNG MEN. WHEN a book reaches its fifth thousand it is evident that the author has made no mistake, and that it is appreciated by those for whom it is intended. “Beacons and Patterns; or, Lessons for Young Men,” by the Rev. W. Landels, D.D., has meet with this deserved success, and we trust another five thousand will soon be demanded. Parents and friends cannot place a better book of scriptural examples in the hands of young men, The following short extract from the chapter of “The Rich Ruler; or, the Young Man inclined to Religion," is a fair specimen of the forcible style which is maintained throughout the work :
“ This young man appears to have been as sincere as he was amiable. There is nothing in his demeanour at variance with the belief that he meant what he said. He really sought instruction, and was willing to profit by it so far. His sorrow when he went
away shows that he had no desire to deceive by assuming an interest which he did not feel, and how sincerely he wished that the conditions of life were easier, so that he might have complied with them without making sacrifices from which he shrank. Sincere he was, no doubt, so far as he went. But unhappily his sincerity did not go far enough. He was ready to receive instruction, but not prepared, to the extent which the Saviour required, to exercise present self-denial for the sake of future good.
“And how many have we seen with a sincere regard for religion, who are not prepared to make any considerable sacrifice for its sake! They perceive its fitness, and appreciate its beauty, and acknowledge the rectitude of its claims. They like to speak of it, and to associate with those who practise it. Not for the world would they do aught to oppose or slander it. It commands their sincere and profound admiration; and if only that were required, few would be more religious than they. But religion requires practice as well as admiration, obedience to its precepts as well as liking for its principles-practice and obedience which involve painful self-denial—the cutting off of the right hand, and the plucking out of the right eye. And that painful practice and self-denying obedience they are not prepared to render; sincere as their admiration is, and far as it goes, it will not carry them so far as that. They like it sufficiently to experience a feeling of regret that its requirements are so hard. But when brought to the point at which decision is required of them, they object to its claims, and turning away sorrowfully, prove themselves desirous, indeed, but, nevertheless, unworthy of everlasting life.”
ONE of the great charms of Dutch life, its chief characteristic, is its simplicity. A Dutchman will not materially alter his mode of living with the increase of wealth. The love of display, of spending money, is not one of his failings. Not so much, perhaps, from the love of the money, a wish to save and accumulate, as that he finds his happiness in quiet unostentation. An affection for everything that is simple and gives no trouble is inherent—a part of his nature. When an Englishman would launch out in display, and all the luxury that wealth can procure, a Dutchman will continue in the same quiet, respectable, undemonstrative manner to which he has always been accustomed. His dependents will not increase in number, or his table groan under the weight of dainties.