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one who has many a time and oft charmed and instructed us with his wayside rambles, and his pathetic season-stories. So, dear B., tell your Christmas musings in your own way :
A CHRISTMAS CONTEMPLATION-CHIME-BORN.
“ Glory be to God on high !
Christ is born to-day :
Christ is born to-day.
Glory be to God on high!
Christ is born to-day ;
-Jonx FRANCIS WALLER.
It was my lot to be a sojourner in hawks issuing from captivity into the Shrewsbury on the Christmas-day of glad and eager air,” and rising, and 18—. The weather was open, and floating, and falling, and succeeding without frost; and the morning, which each other, like tempest-tost waves had commenced with clouds, had wept breaking on the shore, and blending its mists away, and by noontide, sun- up, without one discord, in the soundlight poured in broad lines down upon ing and elastic concert that seemed to the streets and sparkling pavé of the pervade all space from sky to earth, beautiful old town, where are to be to welcome in the happy day on which seen, more than perhaps in any other Christ was born. place in the kingdom, the most delight- And oh ! how musical and sweet are fully quaint and ancient houses, rare these Salopian bells, ringing in the specimens of the early English style, “ delicate air” of that lovely pastoral and withal so neat, and triin, and cu. and woodland shire, and along its conrious, that each in its peculiar structure, terminous counties, and onward and if it could be supposed capable of com- northward, from place to place, and up pression into miniature dimensions, and to ancient Oswestry, which takes its of being put under a glass bell, would name from Northumbria's hapless king, grace the table of the most recherche Oswald, slaughtered here by heathen drawing-room as an ornament, or en- Penda, King of Mercia ; and off to rich the shelves of a museum as a cu- verdant Vale Crucis, amidst its wooded rious specimen of obsolete home archi- hills; and to romantic Chirk, and gentecture. Around many of these old tle Wrexbam, where the princely old domiciles the winter sun, like a merry tower of the grand and many-winand hale old man, was shining warmly; dowed church, “ The Pride of Wales," while through the soft, gleaming, misty flings into the air from its exquisite air the bells from the different churches bells a crash of metallic harmony most were clashing and striking in sonorous rich and clear, wakening up the echos, and graceful confusion. Steeple after and filling with music all the soft valsteeple awoke, and tower after tower leys, where Gresford answers from her spoke out, each sending forth its clang- steeples in a ring of bells, the sweetest ing summons, as if in harmonious and to be beard within the whole girth of exciting rivalry with its neighbour. merry England ; and their silvery caFirst the bells from St. Mary's began dence, mingling with the deeper tones the descant, and were answered by the that break from Wrexham's tower, are iron tongues of St. Julian's; and im- borne onward in softer vibrations to mediately after, with brazen voices, the banks of Dee, or die, like the defrom ancient Aukman's, swinging their parting spirit of sound, in a faint and stern challenge to the wind ; then, circling ripple, against the grey and from a distance, more faintly and castled walls of Chester. sweetly, arose upon the ear the Abbey And thus, upon that bright and chimes; while proudly crowning the happy festival, and in the quaint, and river bank, St. Chad sent forth, un- proud, and ancient town, after I had wearied, peal upon peal of loud and joined in the church services, I strolled jubilant notes and lifesome tones, out- down to the Quarry Walk, which leaping from their tower, like wild stretches along the gentle Severn's
sedgy banks,” and again the bells, which had been resting during church hours, suddenly broke out, startling the ear of silence, and filling all the air, and coming hurrying across the fields, and floating over the “crisp
” of the river, and reverberating amidst the denuded branches of the deaf and still old limes which sentinel the Walk, with such a life and exhilaration of sounding, shaking, bursting harmony, as to stir my blood to its fountain, and almost bring tears to my eyes.
And again, in the evening, as I sat in my solitary lodging, the bells once more leaped up into life, but as it seemed to me in a fainter strain, as if their joy were dulled by weariness ; yet still as distinct in their articulation, and as melodious in their roll, and full of mellow sweetness—saluting the night. The full white moon, like a silver Greek shield, lay on the bosom of the sky, and seemed to be looking down calmly, through the air, rent and agitated with sound, on the brave old town and circling hills. Then suddenly the bells ceased, music and motion, their last intonation died into silence, and they hung still as death in their cold tower-tomb; and their soul, which is sound, was suspended, and their sweetness lingered like an echo around my heart.
And then I fell into a musing fit as to what the melody of these bells might be brought to teach, and how I could interpret their tongues into intelligent expression, and what was the actual sentence of distinct speech conveyed in their exulting octaves, and some sweet lines floated into the stream of iny memory, suggestive and descrip
tive of the matter they were from
"Oh te laudum millibus
Laudo, laudo, laudo ;
Plaudo, pluudo, plaudo.
Domino in altis,
Cælicis a psaltis." And I thought of a curious Latin dis tich I had met in an old volume, * which, if my memory betray me not, runs thus “Funera plango—Fulmina frango_Sabbata pango
Excito lentos-Dissipo ventos-Paco cruentos." Thus speak the bells, or rather one, on the part of the whole peal, detail. ing their beneficent uses to the church and mankind in general. The lines, which are monk-Latin, and savour of doggrel, may be rendered thus, though I am afraid they lose but little of their doggrel character by their transposition to the following rhymes :
“Dead bewalling-Thunder breaking
Sabbath hailing-dull awaking :
Calming cruel hearts to peace." But this did not suit the spirit I was then in ; nor a second couplet framed, it would appear, on the same principle of making the sound an echo to the sense, and running thus:
“ Laudo Deum verum-Plebem Foco-conjugo clerum
Defunctos ploro--Pestem fugo-festa decoro,"
which may be rendered, in a free and easy translation, thus
* "Weever on Funeral Monuments." These lines form the motto before Schiller's "Song of the Bell."
my satisfaction, and bestowed upon And then, again, I called back my them so blessed and annunciatory an thoughts from the wide air where they expressiveness, I went back with great were careering like eagles on the wind, delight to their now parted music, and with the vibrations of the bells, and felt that they had been all the day brought them down to bear upon the preaching to my spirit through my OBJECT of all this loud and laudatory sense, and tuning it, while they taught harmony. And here at once the great it, eloquently and well.
fact came in view—the great and maAnd then I found my thoughts es- jestic fact, which brought Heaven saying to consider the action of these down to earth, and lifts earth to Heabells in the light of a moral symbol. ven; which uncurtains the thoughts What large and loving invitations do and the throne of God; which involves they give with their clear, persuasive and affects the eternal future of all voices, calling through the wide-spread rational being, and will yet cause the and unchartered air, sounding, irre- material universe to thrill to her centre, spectively to all alike, as sweet and as and break forth into songs of gratulaimpartial to one as to every one-just' tion. Yet all this majestic fact, and as God's sun and rain shines and all the greatness of circumstance constreams indifferently on the evil and nected with it, is here narrowed down the good — the just and the unjust. to the smallest possible point ; for in How catholic are they in their rever- the manger cradle of Bethlehem was berations, as their reiterating changes Heaven's Glory curtained and containgo pealing up the lawn, and in through ed; and the Day-spring of the world the doors and windows of the noble's eclipsed, and the Bright and Morning castle, and thence, borne on the “invi- Star of all intelligent and spiritual sible and creeping wind," pass on across being suffered occultation. Here it his grounds, to visit, with as full a that_Deity approximated to freight of harmony and song, some dust, that Eternity stooped to Time, poor man's humble cottage which skirts that Infinity put on the trammels of the wood, charming the ear and cheer- Limitation, that Immortality was linked ing the heart of each and all alike in with the sufferings of Nature, and all every rank of life-the lord and the that was loftiest in heaven became all labourer, the sovereign and his serf; that was most lowly on earth ; for unto and thus uniting and inviting all who us this day a SAVIOUR IS BORN-CARIST belong to our common Christendom, to
THE LORD. come to the house of prayer, to hear And from this manger-cradle (my of God's great love to the wide, wide thoughts rapidly assuming a kind of world, because that
visionary character) seemed to pro
ceed rays of yellow golden light, A SAVIOUR IS BORN-CHRIST THE LORD.
which fell upon the forms gathered Ohi large-hearted and liberal bells, round, and associated with its history. how you express, in the outbreakings
I looked at them personally with a of your melody, the illimitable good feeling produced by the individual inwill of Him whose earthly nativity you
terest each possessed ; but I felt mywould celebrate! Your joyous peals self also regarding them as symbols or are heart-music for the million; and representatives of large and distinct Heaven's sweet love, that willeth not
classes among the great believing fathat any should die, is told forth mily, of man-worshippers of " God through the sonorous symbol of your manifest,” and walkers in His ways. wide-sounding peals, which, in notes
There I beheld the gentle Mother, the of varied tone and shifting power and loveliest type of pure and exalted woof pathos, seem to plead chidingly manhood to be found in any history with the dubious, to complain mourn
the fountain of meek thoughts and fully with the wayward, to startle the heart-ponderings the pattern of chasinert to life, to sympathise melodious- tened and reverential love the very ly with the good, and to call and joy- glass and form of humble and unobfully invite all souls, and sinners, and
trusive holiness. And I beheld the shades of the great human family, to angels stooping from heaven to earth the one prepared and happy home,
to minister to their Maker as a man, over whose portal is written
and to wait upon their Creator as upon one created.
And I saw the A SAVIOUR IS BORN-CHRIST THE LORD. magi, star-led and spirit-taught, sons of
the Orient, and legendary kings at all the companions of His ascension, His events full of royal gifts, and therefore worshippers in glory, His winged and powerful, because wealth is power- willing ministers to do His pleasure, eminent, and learned, and wise. And hearkening to the voice of His mouth. I bebeld Joseph, the babe's reputed And I thought that one of the luminous father, with his sense of justice, and paths was occupied by the feminine his spirit of obedience, faithful and body, of whom the Blessed Virgin, the forbearing; of kingly descent, high- mother of our Lord's humanity, was born, but a mechanic, eating indepen. the typ and head; and here were thou. dent bread by the labour of his hands sands of faithful and meek-hearted woand the sweat of his brow-a noble men, who had loved tbeir Lord, and lived artisan. And the shepherds, too, I and died for His sake, sealing their faith saw bending over the infant form of by martyrdom, and writing a record of the feeble one who was to become the their truth in letters of blood on the Head and Pillar of their class the stone-fioor of their dungeon, or on the Good Shepherd-the Great Shepherd sand of the arena, or at the burning -the Chief Shepherd, who lived, and stake. died, and rose again, to serve and save And some of the faithful ones I the flock He loved. And as my fancy could recognise. There was meek-eyed went on creating and moulding things Hannah, and Ruth with the fervent old and new, my mind became con- soul; and the deep-hearted one who centred and was lost in them, and I said, “ All is well,” “ All shall be thought that outward and customary well;" and she who was over-earobjects had all dissolved and passed Diest in her household ; and she who away, and that a broad circle,or radiant
sat at our Lord's feet uplistening; and belt of light, filled all space, sweeping she who washed those feet with tears, round and coextensive with the bounds ommingling grief and love. And noof time—a shining zodiac, having its ble matrons were there, whose fame is periphery graduated by centuries; and written in ancient Church chronicle, its radii were wide, and luminous and thousands of unrecorded ones, but paths, all tending and stretching in to whose names are with God on high; one great and common centre, from and many whose lot was cast in the whence the light went forth, and to fiery days of cruel persecution, marwhich it returned, as earth's rivers tyrs from the Waldensian Valley, or flow and fall into the ocean from whence the wild and heathery moors of Seotthey derive so much of their fulness. land. And I saw that this grand centre con- And I thought that another of these tained two prominent objects, which broad paths of light was trodden by the were the manger and the cross-the rich, represented by one of the magi. alpha and the omega of His earthly There was he, the high father of the an. humiliation who lay in the one, and cient people, opulent in flocks, and died upon the other; but they were herds, and gold, and silver, but richer standing up in a glory from which far in self-denying faith; and he who streamed forth rays of a dazzling and walked in the fields at noon among his intolerable brightness ; and these out- servants, and got and gave the bles ward and material ensigns of his birth sing; and he who came to Jesus and his death seemed inevitably to at- by night; and he who went boldly in tract the regards of the parties who had to the Roman governor for his Lord's gone up to Bethlehem, and who now body, and buried it in his own fresh seemed to occupy each a luminous path, tomb; and millions of the high and as a representative of their own pecu- wealthy-born, occupying all periods of liar class. And I thought that the time, and clime of Christendom. And angels had their path as the work of one among that throng, * of modern His hands, the servants of His throne, days, a son of Britain, who, like the the heralds of His birth, the adminis. Master whom he loved, went about trators to His wants and weariness in doing good, and broke the bars of the wilderness, His strengtheners in many a prison-house, and made the His passion, the watchmen at His captive's heart to sing, and now sleeps tomb, the witnesses of His resurrection, in Jesus, on a savage and far strand,
* John Howard died at Cherson.
washed by the dull Euxine waves, and beside the freezing Dnieper.
And methought another of the radiant roads was occupied by the wise and learned. And this body was represented by a second of the magi. And here were the Prophets, and Evangelists, and Apostles ; and the Christian fathers and confessors of the Gospel; and the stout Reformers, whose eloquence shook the Church, and electrified the world. And he was there,* that rarely gifted one, who, at the age of twenty-four, cast under his feet all the vast honours which successful science had in store for her brilliant son, that he might walk disentangled, serving God with the great heart and wondrous reason he had given him. And het whose glorious mind soared, like an archangel, among the stars on the wings of Science, yet sat at Revelation's footstool in the simplicity of a perfect faith. And hef who, though stained deeply with the clay of earth, yet thought as no man ever thought, and wrote as no man ever wrote; and from the pinnacle of his surpassing intellect, which searched and mastered all knowledge, looked down into the manger cradle, and adored Incarnate - Love, and, doubtless, was forgiven.
And I saw that another of these radiating paths was held by the pow. erful and the kingly class, represented by the third of the magi. And here I saw one with the likeness of a royal crown, in Saxon garb, and eminent in beauty, grace, and attractiveness. His sword was girded on his thigh-his bow was slung across his back-his ready pen was in his hand-his feet were on the necks of the cruel invaders of his country-and his Bible was in his heart. The dauntless soldier, the wise legislator, the scholar, the monarch, and the Christian_and Alfred was before me. And he was there, the monarch with the heavensent crown, whose hands slew the giant, and struck the harpstrings; and when fevered with the heat and thirst of battle, poured the sweet water of his native well upon the ground, because it had been procured at the risk of the life and the blood of his fellow
And he was there, the champion of the truth, the asserter of the freedom of the mind, descending like a lion from the forests of the North. Dauntless of heart, swift of foot, stern of purpose, unswerving of principle ; a great and majestic king, an unconquered soldier, a noble-hearted man, a friend, tender and true, a loving and faithful Christian. See him just before some of those dreadful battles which he fought for the liberties of Europe, and when victory ever sat like a star on his helm. See him and all his splendid army prostrate in prayer for Divine help, and then rising with the war-cry on their lips of “ Immanuel, God with us,” and precipitating themselves on the foe, who fled before the tempest of their battle like a driven leaf. And an aged and illustrious king was there, one whose band could confer the proudest coronet in Europe, and over whose dominions the sun of heaven never went down ; one whose armies marched but where victory met and embraced them, and whose fleet swept through the illimitable main as a queen and mistress. Yet, this man of power and dominion, this exalted monarch, where do we now behold him? He is kneeling on the green sod of his own royal forest, with the great oaks standing, as if in dumb amaze, around him ; kneeling as man and a Christian would kneel, beside one of the meanest of his subjects, a dying gipsy, whose last faint moments he is strengthening and sweetening by his tenderness and his teaching; and the prayer of the loftest in the land and the lowliest went up together to God in that hour through the still forest
And another of the dazzling paths was occupied by the vast thrcng who were employed in mechanical life, or wore the honoured name of artist; and of this class Joseph was the head and type. Amidst this crowd I saw the two artificer Jews whom God did call by name, and fill with knowledge in all manner of workmanship, and Paul the Apostle, a tent-maker, yet a friend of God's. I knew him by the light in his eyes, and the heaven on his brow. And one, in modern days
* Blaise Pascal. § Gustavus Adolphus.
I Bacon. | Alluding to a well-known story of George III.