« ПредишнаНапред »
BUDS AND BIRD-VOICES.
BALNY Spring-weeks later than we expected, and months later than we longed for her-comes at last, to revive the moss on the roof and walls of our old mansion. She peeps brightly into my study-window, inviting me to throw it open, and create a summer atmosphere by the intermixture of her genial' breath with the black and cheerless comfort of the stove. As the casement ascends, forth into infinite space fly the innumerable forms of thought or fancy that have kept me company in the retirement of this little chamber, during the sluggish lapse of wintry weather ;visions, gay, grotesque, and sad; pictures of real life, tinted with nature's homely grey and russet; scenes in dreain-land, bedi. zened with rainbow hues, which faded before they were well laid on ;-all these may vanish now, and leave me to mould a fresh existence out of sunshine. Brooding meditation may flap her dusky wings, and take her owl-like flight, blinking amid the cheerfulness of noontide. Such companions befit the season of frosted window.panes and crackling fires, when the blast howls through the black ash-trees of our avenue, and the drifting snow. storm chokcs up the wood-paths, and fills the highway from stonewall to stone-wall. In the spring and summer time, all sombre thoughts should follow the winter northward, with the sombre and thoughtful crows. The old paradisiacal economy of life is again in force; we live, not to think, nor to labor, but for the simple end of being happy; nothing, for the present hour, is worthy of man's infinite capacity, save to imbibe the warm smile of heaven, and sympathize with the reviving earth.
The present spring comes onward with fleeter footsteps, be. cause winter lingered so unconscionably long, that with her best diligence she can hardly retrieve half the allotted period of her reign. It is but a fortnight since I stood on the brink of our swollen river, and beheld the accumulated ice of four frozen months go down the stream. Except in streaks here and there upon the hill-sides, the whole visible universe was then covered with deep snow, the nethermost layer of which had been deposited by an early December storm. It was a sight to make the beholder torpid, in the impossibility of imagining how this vast white napkin was to be removed from the face of the corpse-like world, in less time than had been required to spread it there. But who can estimate the power of gentle influences, whether amid mate. rial desolation, or the moral winter of man's heart! There have been no tempestuous rains—even no sultry days—but a constant breath of southern winds, with now a day of kindly sunshine, and now a no less kindly mist, or a soft descent of showers, in which a smile and a blessing seemed to have been steeped. The snow has vanished as if by magic; whatever heaps may be hidden in the woods and deep gorges of the hills, only two solitary specks remain in the landscape; and those I shall almost regret to miss, when, to-morrow, I look for them in vain. Never before, methinks, has spring pressed so closely on the footsteps of retreating winter. Along the road-side, the green blades of grass have sprouted on the very edge of the snow-drifts. The pastures and mowing fields have not yet assumed a general aspect of verdure; but neither have they the cheerless brown tint which they wear in latter autumn, when vegetation has entirely ceased; there is now a faint shadow of life, gradually brightening into the warm reality. Some tracts, in a hapliy exposure-as, for instance, yonder south-western slope of an orchard, in front of that old red farm-house, beyond the river-such patches of land already wear a beautiful and tender green, to which no future luxuriance can add a charm. It looks unreal-a prophecy-a hope-a transitory effect of some peculiar light, which will vanish with the slightest motion of the eye. But beauty is never a delusion ; not these verdant tracts, but the dark and barren landscape, all around them, is a shadow and a dream. Each moment wins some por. tion of the earth from death to life ; a sudden gleam of verdure brightens along the sunny slope of a bank, which, an instant ago, was brown and bare. You look again, and behold an apparition of green grass !
The trees, in our orchard and elsewhere, are as yet naked, but already appear full of life and vegetable blood. It seems as if, by one magic touch, they might instantaneously burst into full foliage, and that the wind, which now sighs through their naked branches, might make sudden music amid innumerable leaves. The moss-grown willow-tree, which for forty years past has over. shadowed these western windows, will be among the first to put on its green attire. There are some objections to the willow; it is not a dry and cleanly tree, and impresses the beholder with an association of sliminess. No trees, I think, are perfectly agreeable as companions, unless they have glossy leaves, dry bark, and a firm and hard texture of trunk and branches. But the willow is almost the earliest to gladden us with the promise and reality of beauty, in its graceful and delicate foliage, and the last to scatter its yellow yet scarcely withered leaves upon the ground. All through the winter, too, its yellow twigs give it a sunny aspect, which is not without a cheering influence, even in the greyest and gloomiest day. Beneath a clouded sky, it faithfully remembers the sunshine. Our old house would lose a charm, were the willow to be cut down, with its golden crown over the snow. covered roof, and its heap of summer verdure.
The lilac-shrubs, under my study.windows, are likewise almost
in leaf; in two or three days more, I may put forth my hand, and pluck the topmost bough in its freshest green. These lilacs are very aged, and have lost the luxuriant foliage of their prime. The heart, or the judgment, or the moral sense, or the taste, is Jissatisfied with their present aspect. Old age is not venerable, when it embodies itself in lilacs, rose-bushes, or any other orna. mental shrubs; it seems as if such plants, as they grow only for beauty, ought to flourish only in immortal youth, or, at least, to die before their sad decrepitude. Trees of beauty are trees of Paradise, and therefore not subject to decay, by their original nature, though they have lost that precious birth-right by being transplanted to an earthly soil. There is a kind of ludicrous unfitness in the idea of a time-stricken and grandfatherly lilac. bush. The analogy holds good in human life. Persons who can only be graceful and ornamental—who can give the world nothing but flowers-should die young, and never be seen with grey hair and wrinkles, any more than the flower-shrubs with mossy bark and blighted foliage, like the lilacs under my window. Not that beauty is worthy of less than immortality,-no, the beautiful should live for ever,--and thence, perhaps, the sense of impropriety, when we see it triumphed over by time. Apple-trees, on the other hand, grow old without reproach. Let them live as long as they may, and contort themselves into whatever perversity of shape they please, and deck their withered limbs with a springtime gaudiness of pink-blossoms, still they are respectable, even if they afford us only an apple or two in a season. Those few apples-or, at all events, the remembrance of apples in by-gone years-are the atonement which utilitarianism inexorably de. mands, for the privilege of lengthened life. Human flower. shrubs, if they will grow old on earth, should, beside their lovely blossoms, bear some kind of fruit that will satisfy earthly appetites; else neither man, nor the decorum of nature, will deem it fit that the moss should gather on them.
One of the first things that strikes the attention, when the white sheet of winter is withdrawn, is the neglect and disarray that lay hidden beneath it. Nature is not cleanly, according to our prejudices. The beauty of preceding years, now transformed to brown and blighted deformity, obstructs the brightening loveliness of the present hour. Our avenue is strewn with the whole crop of autumn's withered leaves. There are quantities of decayed branches, which one tempest after another has flung down, black and rotten; and one or two with the ruin of a bird's nest clinging to them. In the garden are the dried bean-vines, the brown stalks of the asparagus-bed, and melancholy old cabbages which were frozen into the soil before their unthrifty cultivator could find time to gather them. How invariably, throughout all the forms of life, do we find these intermingled memorials of death! On the soil of thought, and in the garden of the heart, as well as in the sensual world, lie withered leaves; the ideas and feelings that we have done with. There is no wind strong enough to sweep them away; infinite space will not garner them from our sight. What mean they? Why may we not be per. mitted to live and enjoy, as if this were the first life, and our own the primal enjoyment, instead of treading always on these dry bones and mouldering relics, from the aged accumulation of which springs all that now appears so young and new? Sweet must have been the spring-time of Eden, when no earlier year had strewn its decay upon the virgin turf, and no former experience had ripened into summer, and faded into autumn, in the hearts of its inhabitants! That was a world worth living in! Oh, thou murmurer, it is out of the very wantonness of such a life, that thou feignest these idle lamentations! There is no decay. Each human soul is the first created inhabitant of its own Eden. We dwell in an old moss-covered mansion, and tread in the worn footprints of the past, and have a grey clergyman's ghost for our daily and nightly inmate ; yet all these outward circumstances