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Mark the broad land glowing in a soft haze, every tree and grove wearing its gorgeous autumnal drapery ; observe the vivid freshness of the evergreen verdure ; note amid the gold and crimson woods the blue lake, deeper in tint at this season than at any other ; see a more quiet vein of shading in the paler lawns and pastures, and the dark-brown earth of the freshly-ploughed fields ; raise your eyes to the cloudless sky above, filled with soft and pearly tints, - and then say, what has gloom to do with such a picture? Tell us, rather, where else on earth shall the human eye behold coloring so magnificent and so varied, spread over a field so vast, within one noble view ? In very truth, the glory of these last waning days of the season proclaims a grandeur of beneficence which should rather make our poor hearts swell with gratitude at each return of the beautiful autumn accorded to us.
XXVI. — THE DEATH OF THE FLOWERS.
[WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT is a native of Cummington, in Massachusetts, was admitted to the bar, but soon left the profession of the law, and has for many years resided in or near the city of New York, as one of the editors and proprietors of the New York Evening Post, a daily paper which has a wide circulation and much influence. It is not necessary to point out at any length the merits of a poet whose productions were the delight of his own countrymen, and were well-known abroad, long before the young persons for whose use this work is intended were born. It is enough to say that his poems are distinguished by the perfect finish of their style, their elevated tone, their dignity of sentiment, and their lovely pictures of American scenery. He is at once the most truthful and the most delightful of painters. We find in his pages all the most obvious and all the most retiring graces of our native landscapes, but nothing borrowed from books - nothing transplanted from a foreign soil.]
THE melancholy days are come, the saddest of the year,
Where are the flowers, the fair young flowers, that lately
sprung and stood In brighter light and softer airs, a beauteous sisterhood ? Alas! they all are in their graves ; the gentle race of flowers Are lying in their lowly beds, with the fair and good of ours. The rain is falling where they lie; but the cold November rain Calls not from out the gloomy earth the lovely ones again.
The wind-flower and the violet, they perished long ago,
stood, Till fell the frost from the clear, cold heaven, as falls the plague
on men, And the brightness of their smile was gone from upland, glade,
And now, when comes the calm, mild day, as still such days
To call the squirrel and the bee from out their winter home, When the sound of dropping nuts is heard, though all the
trees are still, And twinkle in the smoky light the waters of the rill, The south wind searches for the flowers, whose fragrance late
he bore, And sighs to find them in the wood and by the stream no more.
And then I think of one who in her youthful beauty died -
XXVII. - A NOVEMBER WALK.
The farmers are busy with their later autumn tasks, closing the work of the present year; while, at the same time, they are already looking forward to another summer. There is something pleasing in these mingled labors beneath the waning sun of November. It is autumn grown old, and lingering in the field with a kindly smile, while they are making ready for the young spring to come. Here a farmer was patching up barns and sheds, to shield his flocks and stores against the winter storms. There ploughmen were guiding their teams over a broad field, turning up the sod for fresh seed, while other laborers were putting up new fences about a meadow which must lie for months beneath the snow, ere the young grass will need to be protected in its growth. Several wagons passed us loaded with pumpkins, and apples, and potatoes, the last crops
of the farm, way from one granary to another. Thus the good man, in the late autumn of life, gathers cheerfully the gifts which Providence bestows for that day, despising no fruit of the season; however simple or homely, he receives each with thankfulness, while, looking forward beyond the coming snows, he sees another spring, and prepares with trustful hope for that brighter season.
Half an hour's walk upon a familiar track brought us to a gate opening into an old by-road which leads over the hills to the little village where we were bound; it was formerly the lighway, but a more level track has been opened, and this is now abandoned, or only used as a foot path. These lanes are charming places for a walk; there are cross roads about the country in every direction, but they are all pretty well travelled, and it is a pleasant variety, once in a while, to follow a silent by-way like this, which is never dusty and always quiet. It carried us first over a rough, open hill-side used as a sheep pasture; a large flock were nibbling upon the scraps of the summer's grass among the withered mulleins ; we went quietly on our way, but as usual, our approach threw the simple creatures into a panic, disturbing their noonday meal.
Having reached the brow of a hill, we turned to enjoy the view: the gray meadows of the valley lay at our feet, and cattle were feeding in many of them. At this season the flucks and herds become a more distinct feature of the landscape than during the leafy luxuriance of summer; the thickets and groves no longer conceal them, and they turn from the sheltered spots to seek the sunshine of the open fields, where their forms rise in full and warm relief upon the fading herbage. The trees have lost nearly all their leaves, now scattered in russet showers about their roots, while the branches are drawn in shadowy lines by the autumn's sun upon the bleached grass and withering foliage with which it is strewn. The woods are absolutely bare; however, there are yet patches in the forest where the warm coloring of October has darkened into a reddish brown; and here and there a tree still throws a fuller shadow than belongs to winter.
The waters of the river were gleaming through the bare thickets on its banks, and the pretty pool on the next farm looked like a clear, dark agate, dropped amid the gray fields. A column of smoke, rising slowly from the opposite hill, told of a wood which had fallen, of trees which had seen their last summer. The dun stubble of the old grain fields, and the darker soil of the newly-ploughed lands, varied the grave November tints, while here and there in their midst lay a lawn of young wheat, sending up its green blades, soft and fresh as though there were no winter in the year, growing more clear and life-like as all else becomes more dreary — a ray of hope on the pale brow of resignation.
So calm and full of repose was the scene, that we turned from it unwillingly, and with as much regret as though it were still gay with the beauty of summer.
Just beyond the brow of the hill the road enters a wood:
here the path was thickly strewn with fallen leaves, still crisp and fresh, rustling at every step as we moved among them, while on either side the trees threw out their branches in bare lines of gray. Old chestnuts, with blunt and rough notches ; elms with graceful, waving spray ; vigorous maples, with the healthful, upright growth of their tribe; the glossy beech, with its friendly arms stretched out, as if to greet its neighbors ; and among them all, conspicuous as ever, stood the delicate birch, with its alabaster-like bark, and branches of a porphyry color, so strangely different from the parent stem. Every year as the foliage falls, and the trees reappear in their wintry form, the eye wonders a while at the change, just as we look twice ere we make sure of our acquaintance in the streets, when they vary their wardrobe for the season.
The very last flowers are withering. The beautiful fern of the summer lies in rusty patches on the open hill-side, though within the woods it is still fresh and green.
We found only here and there a solitary aster, its head drooping and discolored, showing but little of the grace of a flower. Even the hardy little balls of the everlasting, or moonshine, as the country people call it, are getting blighted and shapeless, while the haws on the thorn bushes, the hips of the wild-rose and sweetbrier, are already shrunken and faded. It is singular, but the native flowers seem to wither earlier than those of the garden, many of which belong to warmer climates. It is not uncommon to find German asters, flos Adonis, heartsease, and a few sprigs of the monthly honeysuckle, here and there in the garden even later than this ; some seasons we have gathered quite a pretty bunch of these flowers in the first week of December. At that time nothing like a blossom is to be found in the forest.