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And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
All ruins are delightful. Antiquity is a mighty sorceress, that flings a beauty and an interest around whatever she touches, hallowing even the most common-place objects to the contemplative eye! When we look at any structure, however humble, that is fast crumbling to decay, we regard it with feelings which can be traced only to the influence of the fancy. We see it as it now stands; but the mind insensibly turns from present to past times, and takes a pleasure in contrasting what is with what once was. We think of the hands that built it, and which must now be mouldering beneath the sod—we imagine youth and beauty that may have sprung up and flourished within its walls, or warm and honest hearts that may have beat in the bosoms of age and poverty—the happy faces that the winter's eve may have assembled round its hearth—the merry voices that may have sounded through its lowly chambers; and the question involuntarily suggests itself (and one which we cannot answer), “ Where are they now?” And if such thoughts be aroused by even the simplest relics of by-gone days, how are they elevated and heightened by the contemplation of some of the grander remains of architectural pride! Let us pass from the turmoil of the city into the solemn silence of nature. When pleasure is weaving her
brightest spells in the crowded and dazzling halls, and the merry music hardly keeps pace with the merrier feet of the dancers, forsake for a season the noise and glitter of such a scene, and come with me into the solitude I love best. Now we have left the hum of men far behind us, and we stand alone together on the side of a breezy mountain. See! the morning dawns; and we can catch the first faint streaks of her ruby light, gleaming through the scattered columns of that ruined church. How sublimely beautiful is this spot, hallowed by these relics of sacred grandeur! Do not speak, but look around you with that intense holiness of feeling so well in unison with the place. The old sanctuary is entirely unroofed; its only ceiling now is the grey sky; its guardian spirit that single pale star, that must soon fade before the coming of the mightier orb! Let us take a lesson from this; earth may change or decay; trust not to its stability: heaven is sure, confide in it. The long, arched windows are o'ercanopied by the hanging ivy -meet emblem of man's ambition; that, when it has gained the wished-for summit, can merely look down again in drooping despondency and disappointment, that it can mount no farther. How fantastic is the massy gateway, with its fringes of tall grass and wall-flower clustering above and around it! Here we find a picture in the vegetable world—which in the animal creation is but too rare-a type of strong and faithful friendship, that strikes its roots the deeper, the more desolating the ruin of its object. We have passed the portal, and reach the altar-stone, hoary with its partial covering of brown moss. Hush! methinks I hear the low sighing of the organ, and the sweet anthem of the sister choristers! I see the benign countenance of the venerable pastor, in the midst of the whole assembly of his worshipping people. Here is youth and loveliness, forgetful of its smiles and innocent joys, kneeling in prayer and praise, with the meek simplicity of unspotted hearts.
Here is bold and vigorous manhood, unmindful of the fever and fret of life, casting aside, for a season, all the vast plans and projects of his mighty and varied ambition; acknowledging the utter feebleness of human efforts, and bowing in suppliant dependence on a loftier power. Here is wan and wrinkled age, weary of the cares and sorrows of existence, raising the broken spirit and causing all its hopes to bloom afresh in the exercise of a lively faith, and feeling already a peace and a happiness that is the best earnest of future bliss. Ha! did you hear the screech of the owl from his home in the mouldering tower? Was it but a mockery of the senses, and are these walls tenantless? Where are they departed who once consecrated this temple with their pure devotion? Gone—and never to return!—to that region of spirits where thou and I, whether Jew or Gentile, must soon follow. Shall we go back now to the glare of the festival? No; let us rather sit down on this
grey stone, and reason together. What more fitting to wake meditation than these holy ruins? We shall rest here:
“ And thoughts will come of mystic mood,
To make in this deep solitude
OH, thou hast reason, Elgin! to be proud
prayer ascended from the pure and vile
The Stranger marks its ruins, he recals
Perchance he gazeth on a broken arch,
Perceive how frail man is, and aye hath been,
Perchance he thinketh of departed ages,
And gladness reign'd through many a bygone year, And then he trusts that Heaven hath all that's wanting here.
Still thou hast reason, Elgin! to be proud
And arch, and area, may be seen the traits
Yes, there is mind—apparent not alone
Of life for these and all his works be given!
Or ought to aim at, as the heir of heaven,
And many a generation hath gone by,
Thy ruins, mute yet eloquent, have psalm’d,
Hark, how the church-bells' thundering harmony