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Joy is a weak and giddy thing, that laughs
Yet, when we see, and hear, and feel what one day of birthday joy is to a child that is a child, without taking the previous days of ecstatic anticipation into account, surely the result is worth the cost and trouble. Prosperity, therefore, to children's birthday feasts!
It is not to the children of affluence alone that birthdays come or ought to come with joy. Humble homes on these occasions may be transformed into bowers of fairy bliss. The poor child is as glad and proud as a princess beside the clean-swept hearth, and the tidy table bearing the plainly made cake, and the cheap display of fruit of the season, all in her or his honour. Nowhere, in fact, are birthday enjoyments so keenly appreciated as in cottages and rooms where the rule of life in general is, unfortunately, privation of all but the most absolute necessaries, but where the hardworking father is of the faith of Robert Burns and James Montgomery :
To make a happy fireside clime
To weans and wife,-
Of human life.
Hearts and hands together;
In the wildest weather.
This book is composed of the Poetry of Birthdays —that is to say, of poetry relating to the principal anniversaries of human life from the cradle to the grave—birthdays of the material frame of humanity
-birthdays of the heart, the mind, the soul ; of the entrance into this world and into the next-birthdays of love, of death, and immortality.
The Poetry of Birthdays comprises, therefore, in its wide range, the whole cycle of human existence.
Many deep thinkers have surmised that our birth into this state of existence is not the first we have experienced — so have thought some theological and some poetical writers, including Sir Walter Scott, Bulwer Lytton, and Wordsworth, who says:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting,
The soul that rises in us, our life's star,
And cometh from afar.