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PART II. Birthdays of Middle Life.



To those persons who disdain to observe or coldly neglect the family birthdays, I would recommend the example of that good and loving man, and immortal musician, whom I have previously mentioned, Felix Mendelssohn, whose domestic life was singularly pure, elevated, and happy. From his twenty-second birthday, when he was serenaded by the military bands of Berlin, to his last, when he was fading in his early prime, in the full enjoyment of love and fame, almost amounting to worship, he regularly honoured the birthdays of those he loved or to whom he owed duty. Musical gems bear on the manuscripts in his own handwriting the dates of birthdays for which they were written or to which they were devoted. In making some of these precious offerings to his father he writes with touching reverence and affection. On one occasion presenting an overture, he speaks of it as “the best gift it is in my power to give, and though I desire to do this every day, still there is a peculiar feeling connected with a birthday. Would I were with you! I need not offer you my good wishes, for you know them already, and the deep interest I, and all of us, take in your happiness and welfare; and that we cannot wish any good for you that is not reflected doubly on ourselves. To-day is a holiday ; I rejoice to think how cheerful you are at home, and when I repeat to you how happily I live here, I feel as if this were also a felicitation. A period like this, when serious thought and enjoyment are combined, is indeed most cheering and invigorating.”

Cheering and invigorating. This was the notable effect of birthday celebrations on his saint-like spirit, which founded its heaven below in the interchange of domestic affections.

Jean Paul Richter was another of the many eminent men who have delighted in birthdays, and found good in treasuring them. He dwelt much on their natural associations, and he found a singular charm in the thoughts suggested by the time of the year when first he beheld the light, “the one which also gave birth to the spring, to that season which brings forth bud and blossom from the bosom of the earth, the fresh and genial showers from the sky, as from gentle maternal eyes, and the callow nestlings from their first shelly habitations.”

This sweet season of spring, like the morning, has always been a favourite symbol of youth, from which we, travellers on life's highway, have now to part. But ere our morning vanish away, like the early dew on the flower, let us take to heart some of its holiest teachings.

When first thine eyes unveil, give thy soul leave

To do the like; our bodies but forerun
The spirit's duty; true hearts spread and heave

Unto their God, as flowers do to the sun :
Give Him thy first thoughts, then, so shalt thou keep
Him company all day, and in Him sleep.

Yet never sleep the sun up; prayer should

Dawn with the day : these are set awful hours 'Twixt heaven and us; the manna was not good

After sunrising; for day sullies flowers : Rise to prevent the sun ; sleep doth sins glut, And heaven's gates open when the world is shut.

Walk with thy fellow-creatures; note the hush

And whisperings amongst them : not spring Or leaf but hath his morning hymn; each bush

And oak doth know I Am. Canst thou not sing? Oh! leave thy cares and follies; go this way, And thou art sure to prosper all the day.

Serve God before the world; let Him not go,

Until thou hast a blessing; then resign 'The whole unto Him, and remember who

Prevailed by wrestling ere the sun did shine. Pour oil upon the stones, seek sin forgiven, Then journey on, and have an eye to heaven.

Mornings are mysteries: the first world's youth,

Man's resurrection, and the future's bud, Shroud in their births; the crown of life, light,

truth, Is styled their star, the stone and hidden food : Three blessings wait upon them, one of which Should move—they make us holy, happy, rich.

When the world's up, and every swarm abroad,

Keep well thy temper, mix not with each clay ; Despatch necessities, life hath a load

Which must be carried on, and safely may : Yet keep those cares without thee; let the heart Be God's alone, and choose the better part.


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