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THE WELL-THUMBED PAGE.
How a reverend head, yet lowly,
Weighted with the toil of years, Rises to me, ever holy
With the past of bliss and tears; How, with memory's fond precision,
Flashing childhood back on age, Comes a tender, thankful vision
Of a loved and trusted page!
At my father's knee with wonder,
Oft with wonder and with awe, Did I list as Sinai's thunder
Pealed its sanction to the Law. Oft I seemed to see, with trembling,
Deadly plague or vengeful sword, When the chosen race dissembling
Brought lip-homage to the Lord.
Oft I heard of priest and leader, Forth he looked on plain and river,
And of royal bard and sage; They, he knew, were made for him And-although the painful reader Knew that he should live for ever
Spelt his course along the page- When the sun was old and dim. Rapt I heard—whilst tears out-welling, In this faith, on that dark morrow
Down the quivering furrows ran- When to earth his wife he bore, Heaven had sought an earthly dwelling; Not as hopeless did he sorrow
God had pitched His tent with man! She was only gone before, As my father read the story, Soon he followed; smiled in dying,
Crowning all the wondrous whole, With his hand upon the page Gleamed his face with prophet glory Where my charter-words were lying:
From the light that lit his soul. God the guard of orphanage ! This in joy increased his gladness; Since that time, whate'er betide me,
This in grief rebuked despair; This is still my stay divine: This from anguish rescued sadness : I've my father's Book beside me,
God, the Christ of God, was near! And my father's GOD is mine!
SUNDAY EVENING. Of all the fair sisterhood of the hours the vesper hour is that most sacred to religion and to song. When the tender shadows of evening throw forward their soft shields, like Isaac, I meditate in the fields “at eventide.” The languor of the afternoon wears off before the pure fresh breeze, that comes, we know not whence, with healing in its soft touch, and all colours of indescribable beauty flush the lofty skies, and allure us to thoughts of purity and heavenly truths, if indeed we are willing to receive and entertain these visitations. Take up the multitude of young writers, who, when their minds are fresh, and their untried powers are eager for the race, seem to flower into poetry, as the tree clothes itself with green, or as the young bird flutters into song—they seem nearly all of them to have some loving verse for evening, to feel that mystery and tenderness of twilight which the greatest painters, and the greatest writers have struggled to comprehend and to express. The veteran critic will style this subject of the early muse hackneyed; but from me shall be heard no such unkind epithet, for there is a freshness and solemnity about this feeling which would be least well cxpressed by such a term. Long may they feel that deep religion of the evening hour, which from men of impure heart and selfish hands soon vanishes away! And whatever is most sweet in the evening hour, whatever is most purifying in the evening thought, seem especially present on the hallowed Sunday evening. For the reverie which at other times may be too vague and indeterminate, now gathers into clear thoughts that are at once the most glorious, and the most real of all; they mingle with the roll of the deep tones of the organ to which we have listened in church or minster; with the musical chimes which far and wide have filled the air with solemn gladness; with the pure stars that emerge into the night bringing tidings of the existence of heaven; with the blessed words of divine hope and consolation which have fallen upon our ears in the house of God.
The Arabian magician was willing to accept old lamps for new ones, and often I am willing to exchange new books for old ones. Thus it is that I come to say this: in an old number of “ Blackwood's Magazine,” there is a poem entitled “Sunday Evening,” by an authoress--I am sure an authoress—who is anonymous. The writer has put into simple words feelings that have always been busy in simple hearts; and spoken with a truth, earnestness, and purity of feeling, which have their own rich charm as much as the most elaborate work of art.
“I sat last Sunday evening
From sunset even till night,
The day's departing light.
“Such hours to me are holy,
Holier than tongue can tell-
On the drooping heather bell.
“The sun had shone bright all day
His setting was brighter still ;
As he dropt down the western hill."
At the casement she watched the swarm of the holiday folk in the fields and lanes, heard the passing of the feet, and the music of the laugh. A soothing and peculiar sweetness reigned around, as if nature herself was keeping high festival; the very steer and steed had a look of peace, as if they knew that this day was an exemption to their toil. The vesper song of the lark is now thrilling as he bids the heavens good-night; there is a quieter tone in the murmur of the brook, and a lovelier light in the setting of the sun.
“So I sat that Sunday evening
Musing on all these things,
No thought of this world brings.
“I watched the departing glory
Till its last red streak grew pale,
In twilight's dusky veil.
“All sounds died away-the light laugh,
The far footstep, the merry call —
Might have echoed a rose leaf's fall."
As the charmed twilight died away, and sable night drew on, a thought of gloom and unhappiness would intervene.
" And at last all was dark, then I felt)
A cold sadness steal over my heart,
So its hopes and its pleasures depart.'
“ And when the night comes, the dark night of age,
What remaineth beneath the sun
Of all we have learnt and done?"
When the eye waxes dim, and the car dull, and the fancy burns low, and the heart grows cold, only the bitter lees of life will remain. Such was the momentary, bitter thought which this sweet nature at once rebuked as weak and wicked.