Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHRISTMAS FESTIVITIES. mysteries, and summoned elements, hitherto the

most dreaded or intangible, to do bim service and BY W. G. J. BARKER, ESQ.

minister to bis wants. His genius, heaven's direct gift, has overcome obstacles apparently insurmountable by mental might. Borne by an agent

whose speed rivals that of the wind, he hurries “ England was merry England, when

from place to place, traversing in his transit the Old Christmas brought his sports again. bowels of mountains, and crossing wide valleys by 'Twas Christmas broached the mightiest ale ; diving bridges ; on, on, like an arrow in its fight 'Twas Christnas told the merriesi tale ;

loftiest hills cannot stop his course, nor deep A Christmas gambol oft could cheer

ravines arrest him. Upon the sea be launches his The poor man's heart through half the year."

barque without mast, or sail, or oar; and whether MARMION. the wares be rough or smooth, whether the wind

blow high or low, the fire-directed ship speeds on “ In this age of improvement, in earth, air, and her trackless way, secure and fearless as an ocean steam,

bird. Science bas penetrated the secrets of the Old customs are waping away ; Our grandsire's gay Chrisimas to us is a dream into silent but visible communion with us; we

starry heavens, bringing the moon and planets So coldly 'tis kept in our day.

know their appointed times and seasons, and the But though Fashion's hand

immutable laws of the vast universe are being Has polish'd our land,

gradually unfolded to our view. Already we And made us more elegant now;

literally paint in sunbeams, and write with lightHave we friends more sincere,

ning !* Lips more templing and dear

Neither is the knowledge of these wonders conThan they bad 'neath ihe misletoe bough ?"

fined to the wise or learned only. If the astonished Mrs. C. B. Wilson,

villager hears of them in his humble coltage, and wishes for more information than his untravelled

neighbours can give, he may readily obtain cheap We live in an age of perpetual change, sur productions descriptive of their causes and effects; rounded by improvements and inventions which and for a few pence, or shillings at most, become our grandfathers in their most dreamy moods possessed of a fund of useful information, which a could hardly have conceived, and certainly would century ago was not attainable by men who had not have credited. Feats which they, good worthy access to the most expensive libraries. Probably souls ! must have pronounced beyond man's we shall not reap all the benefits to be derived from achievement, are lo us every day occurrences; and the present advanced state of science, and the inknowledge which it took them the studious labour creasing diffusion of literature ; but yearly, nay of half a long life to acquire, may now be easily daily, their salotary influence begins 10 be sensibly attained in a six months course of attentive read felt. The power of Tyranny is broken--- Justice ing. Steam and Penny Magazines have unques- and Truth lift up their voices—Intolerance and tionably wrought wonders marvellous as ihose Superstition tremble in their strongholds, and all parrated in Eastern fairy tales : the first, if it has things point to that desirable and fast approaching not quite enabled us to realize Puck's boast of period when the might shall be with the right putting

when the oppressors and the unjust shall cease

throughout the kingdoms, and “knowledge cover “ A girdle round about the earth the earth as the waters cover the sea." In forty minules"

Far from us be the wish to check, were such a thing

possible, the progress of improvements, or the ad has, at least, brought America within fourteen vances of reforms which are so acceptable to every days' sail of our shorts, and the remote provinces honest mind; yet we cannot help heaving a sigh within about as many hours of safe travelling from when we see them producing effects which all who London; and the second, although they have not entertain any lingering affection for the memory of exactly initiated hedgers in Euclid's abstruse pro- by-gone times must, we think, equally lament. blems, or chimney-sweepers in the metaphysical The spirit of alteration, which, it is useless to vagaries of Aristotle, have nevertheless placed deny, pervades in a greater or less degree all ranks within reach of our “ unlettered swains” a vast at present, is silently but surely banishing the obmass of serviceable knowledge at an easy rate and servance of every trace of those "ancient customs in a familiar forin.

and merrie practices,” which formerly marked in Glorious, indeed, has been the progress made so peculiar a manner the recurrence of all great by the human mind during the last century, and festivals of the church, and which were certainly, brilliant are the conquests it has achieved in the however rude, sufficiently harmless. fields of art and science. Man, boldly asserting We do not mean to assert that all the boisterous the powers conferred upon him at the first by his sports which our ancestors so highly prized, and divine and all-beneficent Creator, not contented regularly indulged in when the wonted seasons with reducing the beasts of the forest to subjection, and compelling earth and sea to yield up their hidden treasures for his use, has, though but * The Daguerreotype and Electro-Magnetic Telepartially, withdrawn the veil that covers Nature's

grapb.

Came round, were of a nature fitting to be pre-, while the proud and plumed sons of chivalry served, or that we have any great reason to regret seemed of a truth conscious that The VIRGINthat some of them have fallen into disuse ; but Born, whose cradle was an ox's manger, and his there were many innocent and kindly customs, life a pattern of humility, died afterwards for the now forgolten or despised, which had indeed their sins of their vassals as well as for their own. origin in a simpler state of society, yet spoke the It was in times fraught with strange anomalies, silent language of benevolence, inculcating lessons yet not so evil and oppressive as many think, that of friendliness and good-will to all. And here we Christmas festivities fourished in splendour which may observe that it is a misfortune attendant upon they have long since lost. The rude gambols so the march of refinement, that as men become freely indulged in were well calculated to be polished, and consequently fastidious, they usually played beneath the arched rafters of baronial halls, grow sensitively desirous to spread the mantle and suited the taste of high born but unlettered of oblivion over every habit which reminds them of men, to whom our more refined entertainments their forefathers’ mode of life, and, by a praise-would perhaps have proved insipid, and whose worthy eagerness to abolish barbaric or idle prace unenlightend minds delighted in exhibitions of tices, too frequently destroy much that is good giants, wizards, dwarfs, satyrs, and errant knights, also.

resembling the characters whose valorous or evil We have been led to these remarks by the great deeds they heard narrated in the improbable tales alteration which has of late years taken place in the recited by wandering jongleurs. Various were the manner of keeping CHRISTMAS. In other times ceremonies observed in noble households when the the arrival of that holy season was a signal for yule log was brought in on Christmas Eve, and general rejoicing ; the prince in his palace, the the duly garnished boar's head placed with much baron in his fortalice, ihe peasant in his cabin, solemnity on the table of dais, accompanied with gave for a little while their troubles to the winds, loud strains of music, and the still louder shouts and united as one man to celebrate the anniversary of noisy retainers; yet amid the boisterous mirth of our Redeemer's birth with glad hearts and a vast deal of benevolence and mutual good feeling community of joy. From one extremity of the prevailed, so that men of all ranks, when the land to the other the voice of festivity was heard, autumn leaves had fallen, and winter stole and all, according to their ability, willingly did gradually on, looked forward with eager impatience honour to the commemoration of an event which for the arrival of Christmas. brought salvation to the fallen sons of Adam. Ay, and even in later days, when the feudal

Then were the portals of each castle thrown system with its mingled good and evil had passed open to welcome the stranger and the poor ; failed away-when a strange faith had arisen in the beeves and sheep were plentifully slaughtered land, and the holy festivals of the church were capacious casks of generous and long-kept liquors presumptuously railed against-Christians still broached to supply the wants of the numerous brought hilarity to every dwelling, from the splenguests. From morning till night the spacious did mansion of the duke to the wayside abode of kitchens were redolent of savoury fumes from the day-labourer. Presents were exchanged, and roast and boiled; while the active foresters kind messages sent; those whose business combrought in large stores of game from wood, and pelled them to be far from home during the rest of meadow, and moor, and river. No wayfarer was ibe year, returned to the bosoms of their families; sent empty away-no child of poverty chidden friends met friends with cordial congratulations, from the hospitable doors; and when ihe wintry and hearty good wishes for each other's success blasts howled through loophole and turret during even enemies forgot their bickerings. The hospitathe hours of darkness, and drifting snow or cutting ble board was plenteously spread with choicest hail showers fell on the naked country without, viands-dainties gathered from earth, air, and how cheerfully, in oak-raftered halls, around blazing sea—and all were welcome to partake; whilst the fires, rang mirth's careless laugh and the unceasing nut-brown ale circled briskly round, and songs of song, while, quaint devices amused alike the gladness burst from every lip. How comfortable, haughty nobles and their humble dependants. ioo, during the long evenings, looked the snug Pride, stooping from his eminence, deigned to rooms trimmed with different evergreens, and participate in the games that cheered the bosom of illuminated with sparkling lights, not half so the lowliest husbandman; mingling, with relaxed brilliant as the eyes that beamed around them! brow, in the general dance, and smilingly sharing How musical were the old carols chaunted by in the accustomed mummings.

young voices-carols that had been sung in the The baron for a space forgot his rank in the re- land for many ages! membrance that he was a man; and the serf for- Alas! for the mirth and feasting--the bright got his bondage, recollecting that he was a Christian. eyes and merry faces that so smilingly welcomed Only once in all the year did the iron law of Christmas in, and grew dim with a transient pang feudal times permit the slightest approach to when it departed. Alas! for those blithe old equality; and it was on the celebration of that carols that sounded so cheerfully, and for the deat glorious night when a seraphic choir hymned the boughs of dark glossy holly, with their richly Saviour's birth, and the humble shepherds of contrasting berries, that used to decorate every Bethlehem listened to strains more heavenly than window, or form a becoming garnish for the were vouchsafed to a monarch's ears. Then in- antique mantel-shelf. Alas! for the mysterious deed might the peasant give vent to the expressions mistletoe, beneath which a kiss, albeit imprinted of his joy, unchecked by the presence of his lord; on the coy lips of some most prudish damsel, was

no cause of offence! All, all are either gone or ble world"—and the busy dwellers in crowded rapidly departing.

towns, now know little of these, and other customs No eyes grow brighter, save those of schoolboys, which their grandfathers most punctually observed. when Christmas approaches ; and few faces wear a The next generation will, in all likelihood, be merrier look. The carols are hushed, except in wholly ignorant of them. remote villages, the inhabitants of which have not We admire the improvements effected by modern wholly shook off ancient usages ; and the holly ingenuity, as much as any one can do. We like and mistletoe are to be found chiefly in the houses to be whirled along a railroad, in an elegant and of old-fashioned people. It is true that some comfortable carriage, at the rate of twenty miles symptoms of feasting appear-that the poulterers an hour ; and feel pleasure in finding ourselves hang their shops round with a superfuity of “careering o'er the billowy deep,” on board of a splendid geese and turkeyshe dealers in game well-appointed steamer. But, greatly as we apexbibit an abundance of hares, pheasants, and prove of these things, their conveniency and utility, partridges—and the butchers display their very and unwilling, as we probably should be to exprimest meat; but the true spirit of Christmas is change places with a mail-burthened ancestor of in reality defunct, and the cold, formal dinners 1444, we still retain a lurking fondness for the given by some families, which just serve to dis- unpolished, but innocent sports and blameless tinguish the season, differ as widely from the customs to which our progenitors were so partial. warm hospitality of past ages, as the dishes com- The great, who have long been sleeping, once posing them do from those of Archbishop Neville's joined in them; and good men of the “olden famous installation banquet.

iyme" have participated in the amusement they
Little reverence pay we to those holy tides our afford. Let no one forget this, who seels inclined
forefathers loved so well, and still less notice do to condemn them, because lacking refinement; if
many of us take of the sports by them appro- they are now too antiquated to be pursued, let us
priated to high festivals : but then they were plain at least treasure the remembrance of them, as of
homely men, artless in manners and speech; and things dear to those whom it is our duty as well
we are too refined, too spiritual to find any pleasure as our pride to honour and revere.
in the simple amusements that gladdened their Christm: "* Christmas still the seasons never
honest hearis. In fact, we carry in us a second alter, thou¡ b fashion may. It will, perbaps, be
nature, the fruit of education and habit, which no longer marked by boisterous festivity and un-
teaches us to despise the pastimes most highly ap- bounded hospitality; but it will always be the
proved in former ages; and whilst the poet and anniversary of that glorious time, when angels pro-
antiquary must always muse over them as over a claimed “Peace upon earth and good will to-
dream of other years, mournful but pleasant to wards men !" and may it ever remain in future
the soul, when we remember the stern character of years, what it has been for ages past, a season
the times in which they chiefly flourished, we can peculiarly devoted 10 THE RECONCILIATION
scarcely with honesty lay our hands upon our ENEMIES, AND THE REUNION OF PARTED FRIENDS.
breasts and say—“Give us these again!"

Banks of the Yore.
“What, is this so ?" asks an illfated Prince, in
a very solemn* scene of one of Shakspere's
grandest tragedies; and the awful response sounds

MYSTERY.
the knell of hope upon the doomed one's ear.
Aye, sir, all this is so !"

Behold strange life in things inanimale,
If an Englishman, of the fourteenth century,
were to rise from his grave at Christmas, he might

Or things so called, and in this mortal state

An immortality? There are no bounds
put that question to his astonished descendants,

To life but MYSTERY, and that surrounds
and their reply be given in the selfsame words.
The festivities and amusements, which once pre-

All forms of earth, and with its dread control

Aye checks the curious and in patient soul, eminently marked the season, are becoming--many Whose aims al hidden things are grasps at air, have already become—“ tales of other times." The lapse of a few more years will probably suffice

Whose eager gaze is but a bliod man's stare ! to extinguish them altogether. The yule log is Bewildered with blank nothingness-a deose still burnt, and the frumenty made on Christmas- Objectless glare-how oft a horrid sense eve, in our peaceful rural districts; and still, early Of loneliness and littleness prevails, on the succeeding morn, the village choristers While the frame trembles and the spirit quails ! serenade their sleeping neighbours with songs long consecrated to the sacred day-songs which,

But, oh! this dream-delirium may not lastheard in the breathless stillness of that quiet hour,

We wake, and when the hideous dream is past simple as their words and music alike are, seldom

The mystery remains, but not the fear : fail to carry the mind back to the fragrant fields of

We know that God himself is everywhere. Bethlehem, where a heavenly host sang the first And while this faith can animate and bless, carol in honour of His birth, who was a Light to We feel no more forlorn and fatherless : lighten the Gentiles. The polite—the fashiona- With humbled thought, calm hope, and sweet

content,

We cease to sigh for things for man unmeant, * “ Macbeth," ACT IV., SCENE I. Not the acting But wait the uplisting of ihe curtain vast, version.

By hands unseen, around the wide world cast,

OF

BY DAVID LESTER RICHARDSON.

[ocr errors]

THE POET'S COMPLAINT.

BY C, D. HITCHINGS.

Oh! ye that think the poet's life

A paradise of endless joy, Which not the war of outward strise

Or inward sorrow can destroy ; If ye but knew, who read his lays,

How biller is the poet's lot, Ye never would withhold the praise

In which his sorrows are forgot.

Perchance some high ambition lost

First clouds the poet's atmospherePerchance the heari's affection crossed

First stays him in his bright careerPerchance some secret, private woe,

Stamps on bis brow the curse of Cain“ A wanderer for aye”—and lo!

The poet never smiles again.
I can no more--false muse, farewell !

I've worn thy livery all too long :
Thou'st bound my spirit with a spell,

And paid me with an empty song. Farewell ! farewell! If not for me

The world's prosperity, at least I will be from thy fetters free

Let others taste thy baleful feast. Let others tread thy fairy land,

Let others chase thy specious lights, And frolic with thine elfish band,

That are at best misleading sprites : If not for me life's better game,

At least some hermit's frugal cell, Where, till life's close, without a name

I may live on. False muse, farewell !

I murmur at the poet's fate

Unwept, unpitied, and unknown-E'en though, perchance, in every gate

The trumpet of his fame is blown. Then let me to the world complain,

And tell my sorrows everywhere, And strike my lute but once again,

Tho' it be only to the air.

Life's garden gates are open wide,

Where every man is bid to toil; And plenteous fruils, I ween, betide

The patient tiller of the soil. The hours of labour wane apace,

Those hours in which I should have wrought : What have I done all day, but chace

Some butterfly of idle thought?

At first, indeed, I took the spade,

And 'gan to labour with the rest; But soon my tools aside were laid

The sunshine fell upon my breast, And beauty on my raptured heart

Pour'd all the magic of its powers : I wandered to a spot apart,

And wreathed the summer's brightest Aow'rs.

THE SUICIDE'S GRAVE.
The deep sounds of sadness

Are borne on the gale,
And o'er the wind's moaning

Comes woman's sad wail : While through the drear darkness

A dense crowd are seen, Who with low-whisper'd murmurs

Wind up the church-green.

And still my ground untilled remains,

And still io me no fruits can fall; Yet, if ye bid me count my gains,

One flower of mine is worth them all ; But that the winter comes apace,

And all my wreaths of fancy fade; While others who forbore that chace,

A plenteous husbandry bave made.

The dark shades of evening

Told midnight's sad hour, And the Autumn wind moan'd

As it swept round the low'r : While amidst the deep gusts

Was, at intervals, seen, All alone, in her sadness,

The heaven's pale queen!

And still through winter's freezing hours,

While fruits of labour crown each heartb, I look upon my faded Aowers,

And curse the hour that gave me birth. No butterfly to lead me now

Through painted fields with treacherous art, For poverty makes pale my brow

And dries the life-blood in my heart.

Now the silence of night

O'er that vast crowd was shed, And low o'er the green-sward

Was bent every bead;
While a coffin was lower'd-

A form was consign'd
To the earth, and in silence

To dust was resign'd !

I grant ye, that the passing time

Of childhood is a lovely thing ; I grant ye, flowers of every clime

Adorn the poet's happy spring : But summer comes, and autumn bears

The rugged winter at his back, And age—that curse of all things~tears

Sweet fancy to a mournful wrack.

For the sweet voice of prayer

Was not murmur'd around,
And the wail of the mourner

Fell dead on the ground;
And the sad moun's pale beams,

Which the dark ground did lave,
Shone not on the sod
Of a Suicide's grave!

ELIZABETH.

BY ELIZABETII YOU ATT.

manily.

LITTLE LETTY.

has a significance far too comfortable to be applied

to those ruined and desolate abodes, although they (A Tale of the Mines.)

were generally called so : and ibither accordingly they bent their steps, being too well known to have any fear, and yet few of the townspeople cared 10

venture among a class bearing the character of Author of the Blind Man and his Guide." being little better than sayages. As if, even if it

were so, their only chance of redeeming them

rested not in the interchange of kindness and hu" It is good when it happens," say the children, that we die before our time!"

The scene ibat presented itself as the good sis. Miss E. B. LarrETT.

lers entered, was one calculated to arrest imme. diate attention ; llie invalid lay still and quiet, with her fair round face half concealed in a profusion

of golden curls, smiling softly, as if listening 10 It was in the summer of 183—, that two sounds which none else were permitted to hear ; maiden sisters, with a small independent property, while gathered silently about the bed stood a group and large, warm, benevolent hearts, came to take of thin, hollow-eyed children, their features darkup their abode in a certain mining district that ened and obscured with the dust of the coalshall be nameless; for, after all, it was but one mines from which they had evidently but recently among many, and the tale we are about to relale, emerged; emaciated and feeble, wiib vacant and but 100 common, alas ! in the annals of our coun- wandering looks, crowding around and gazing (at iry, only that no record is kept of such, at least least the sisters thought so) like lost spirits upon upon earth. It was a strange place for those a being of another world! Hard-featured, and yet lonely women 10 choose, but ihey may have had shadowy and spectral, towered the tal! gaunt their own peculiar reascus for selecting such a vi. form of the mother of that little band—they had cinity. If it were so, however, they never men- no father. While afar off, rocking herself to and tioned them, or mingled with those in their own fro, and muttering at intervals in ihe dim imbestation of life beyond what the mere courtesies of cility of helpless old age, sat the aged owner of a society required. World-wearied and disappointed, place which was soon to know her no more. they yet pursed a sweet dream of happiness to be The children shrank away like a Rock of frightfound in making others happy; somewhat 100 ened sheep at Miss Dorvil!e's approach, all but fanciful and visionary perhaps, for the stern reali- one, a girl of sonje thirteen years of age or thereties of life, but active and praiseworthy never- about; although she looked a woman in suffering, theless. It is true, the sisters were frequently im- ! and was sadly deformed in consequence, as she posed upon, and their charity was bestowed on told them afterwards, of the heavy loads she had 10 unworthy objects ; but then they some:imes did a drag, and that half the children down in the mines great deal of real good as well, and were on the were just the same, and some worse. ller glittering whole thankful for being permitted to be Ileaven's eyes followed every movement of the little invalid; agents of mercy to ibe poor bard-working children and fairly danced for joy 10 see how eagerly she of toil.

ate the grapes which ihey fortunately had with But it is not of them only we are about to write; them; the mother looking on the wbile with an individually they have no history, or only that of unmoved and slony glance. thousands who daily walk the earth with pale, Are they very nice, Lelly?" asked her sister, quiet faces, and smiling eyes, purified by suffering, as she bent fondlý over her; for they were sisters, and waiting patiently, and yet not idly, until it is although no one would have guessed it to look at His will to call then home. Lucy Ann Dorville, them. the younger by many years, although her hair “Taste," replied the little girl, holding them was prematurely grey, contrasting strangely with temptingly to her thin, pale lips; buil she only the youthful brow over which it swept, wore a preiended, and yet they were parched and burnplain gold ring on her third finger, which she ing with thirst. kissed frequently when she thought no one saw The others were less scrupulous, but the cuher, and wept ove: like a child. But then it riosity of one got the better of his selfishness. might have belonged 10 her parents, or some lost “ Who made them ?” asked he, looking up in relative, for both sisters were in deep mourning; Lucy Ann's face; and when she told him that it or it might have been the last pledge of a dead or was God, was never a bit the wiser. faithless lover. God send it be the former, in Somehow, children always loved Lucy Ann; that case, that her tears may have less of bitterness it had been so ever since she could remember: in them; knowing that “ a niche is kept in heaven they would even stand still and smile, as she to hold our idols.” but would she cherish il passed through the streets; but we cannot help thus ? would she press it so often 10 her lips were fancying it must have been partly from a habit she it otherwise ? Ay, lo love once is to love for ever! had, of smiling first at them. The little invalid, They may change, but we cannot, even if we when they went away, put out her burning hand, would. But to our tale.

and asked her to come again soon, very soon, lest During one of their visits to the neighbouring she should not find her. poor, the sisters chanced to hear that a lillle child

“ But you cannot go down into the mine now lay sick in an adjoining hur; for the word collage you are so weak and ill; even mother says so.”

« PreviousContinue »