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Dear friends, when the eve of Christmas is at band you will hear through our streets the pleasant cries of those who go about with carts filled with holly and ivy. At every door this cart is welcome. Every cook-maid rushes out to bail it, and is sure to possess herself of an abundance of the beautiful, bright green branches of the holly, and bunches of the wreathing ivy, to decorate her kitchen; every housewife takes care that parlour and sitting apartment shall shine with the emblems of the holy Christmastide
" Each room with ivy-leaves is drest,
And every post with holly," as sung good Master George Withers before he turned Puritan, and took to fighting Well
, just so would we wish it to be between us and you. We would be the welcome visitants to your Christmas hearths we would be your social and your spiritual holly and ivy-shining upon you with pleasant, ever-verdant faces, bringing you the good cheer of tale and of song, and lingering with you, on your shelves, and before your eyes, till the new year shall bring you other leares to take our place
“ Down with the holly, ivy, and all,
Wherewith ye dressed the Christmas hall.” To our thinking, the ivy is one of the loveliest leaf-robes with which the bountiful hand of Nature has decked our fair world. It would be no inappropriate emblem of the great Christian grace of Charity. See how it creepeth now along the ground, and doth not vaunt itself; and if it raises itself upwards, it is not that i: behaveth itself unscemly, but rather, in love and fidelity, clinging to some aged tree, or hoary ruin, to which it bas ministered through the long years that are gone, holding to them in their age and weakness, as it did in their youth and strength-long-suffering, and kind, and loving; hiding and healing all the rents and ravages of time—ever smiling with verdant affection around the witbering trunk, or the crumbling stone ; enduring all things for the sake of those it lovesthe storm, and the frost, and the lightning, and the thunderbolt--that it may cover them with its green drapery, and stay them with its embracing fibres. Bi some such old ruin do we love to sit and muse at eventide, and call up in the dim light the olden memories of the place and people the hall, or the cloister
, with the shadows of those who lived and died within them, ere yet the green iny crept to love, and comfort, and beautify them in their day of desolation and sorrow. Such a ruin as this we know of, with which a legend is connected that we shall tell you. It is one of our famed round towers, and stands at Rattoo, anciently “ Rath Muighe* tuaiscirt," or "The Rath of the Northern Plain," not far from Ardfert, in the county of Kerry. It is covered with ivy and in good pre. servation, and near it are some ecclesiastical ruins. Our friend Dr. Petrie tells us that, according to the tradition of the country, there were formerly seves churches close to the tower, in the upper story of which a remarkably sweet toned silver bell was placed. In the time of the “ troubles" it was thrown for safety into the River Brick, which flows close by. All attempts to recover it have been vain, though it is said occasionally to direct attention to its place of concealment by emitting melancholy tones. Shall we sing to you the thoughts that rose in our mind as we sat one evening by that tower :
THE SILVER BELL OF RATU MUIGUE,
In lonely Rath Muighe when the daylight was gone,
Athwart the deep stream that flowed sluggishly on:
Aloft in the belfry, invited to prayer ;
And chanting of canons rose sweet on the air,
* Pronounced Muee.
The churches, and convents, and cloisters have perished,
And leave scarce a trace of their ruins behind ;
No more flings its sweet silver tones to the wind.
And troubled the peace of those servants of God;
And blessed it, and plunged it far into the flood.
And rustling the ivy-leaves over my head;
Rose solemn and sad from its water-laved bed.
Till past things came back like the spectres of night;
And white-vested priests knelt beneath the moon's light.
That Memory hides each dear image apart;
They well up again from the deeps of the heart.
That loved ones and dead ones are thronging around;
Float mournfully up from the grave's dark profound ! The ivy - the flexile-footed ivy, as Ovid beautifully phrases it - was, you all know, sacred to Bacchus; and all the Muses, too, were wont to bind their brows with it, and the poet's crowns were wrought of ivy—" doctarum hederæ præmia frontium.” It is meet, then, that the Christmas ivy should bring us good cheer and song. And songs ye shall have, dear friends, for your hearths in December, besides those we have just sung to you ourselves; for we have called upon some of our minstrels to cheer you, as did the waits in the good old times. 'So now sit round the fire, and listen to one of our own poets, Mortimer Collins, who shall describe the month for you in his sweet, melodious numbers
No merry maidens wander there
With blossoms in their wind-tossed bair,
And ungloved fingers cannot touch
The turf, where they were wont to clutch
No Summer swallow, flashing down
To cool him in the waters brown;
'Mid many months of greener bough,
No bringer of more joy than thou
There, now, you are fairly launched into the wild wintry December, that month that, as Spencer says
“ Hastes to stirre up Winter sterne, And bids him clayme with rigorous rage his right;
So now he storms with many a sturdy stoure,
So now his blustering blast eche coast doth scoure." When the two sons of Cymbeline sat in the gloomy cave within the mountains of Wales, with Belarius, Arviragus asks the old man
" When we shall hear
Ahl the question was a poser, and Belarius very wisely avoids answering it. These folk had but little book-learning, and we dare be sworn there was not as much as a song-book amongst them. Had they lived in the days of Orlande and Rosalind, then might the old man have answered them cheerfully enough“ sit, sit, and a song.” Better still, had kind fate cast them upon our own times, they would have all sorts of shilling volumes, and penny periodicals; and upon the first day of that same dark December, the gloom even of the Cambrian cavern would have been penetrated by the light from our own Maga; and they would have grave discourse, and song, and tale, such as we now offer you, dear reader, in our pages. Well, there are few pleasanter ways of spending a winter evening than by the fireside--all the pleasanter if we have, during the day, been able to enjoy the out-door world; then young and old, man and boy, maid and matron, each takes his or her place in the sweet, bright picture, and so says another of our bards :
FRER TRANSLATION FROM “LES TROIS REGNES" OF DE LILLE,
“Le foyer des plaisirs est la source feconde," &c.
The hearth, the heart of home,
Set round with joys
* “Oh, cuckoo ! shall I call thee bird,
Or but a wandering voice ?"-Wordsworth.
Shows the true steelly sheen; the crispy road
Soon restless youth
The peerless gallants and the matchless dames
Watchful of the glance
* Ecclesiastes, xii. 2.
Hath made those laughter*), and the games go on;
Pacing to and fro,
In the ingle-nook
Now we pronounce this to be a very good picture—very life-like, and genialfull of strong, cheery lights, and tempered with soft shadows-just such a piece as one of the old Duich masters would have drawn, with all its hearty socialities; or better still, as our own Maclise would produce, with all the wondrous har: monies and contrasts of colour and affluences of domestic detail, which make
Snap-Apple Night" immortal. But enough of songs. Shall we not have a tale-a Christmas tale? Yes, surely, and here comes one
“Who hath a story ready for your ear"
* Genesis, xxi. 6.
† " Les Graces."