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Discourse ensues, not trivial, yet not dull,
I was in contemplation, sitting on the dry moss that cushioned the roots of a half-perished oak-tree. Surrounding me were all the beauties of the park—of one of those parks where the interference of art has so concealed itself, that nature seems to be the only workman. And it seemed no more to be made for man, than to be the work of man: the turf looked as if no footstep had ever pressed it; the trees as if no hand had ever pruned a bough from them: the squirrel that leaped upon their branches feared no enemy; the deer that grazed beneath were startled by no sound. From object to object, wandering delightedly, not knowing for very pleasure, where to rest, my eyes had been especially attracted by a tree of uncommon beauty, of which the whole trunk and branches were twined with wreaths of ivy. Its leaf, so elegantly cut, so highly glazed, had a stronger, deeper colouring, than those of the tree it hung upon. The twining curvature of the branches gracefully contrasted with the angular projections of the boughs that supported it. The tree, enve
loped in this rich drapery, seemed there but as a support to its more splendid load. I thought-a footstep on the turf broke the train of my reflections, and a woodman passed by where I was sitting. In one hand he bore a small hatchet, with the other balanced on his shoulder a bundle of ozier twigs: from his huge leathern pocket projected the handles of the hammer and the pruning-knife. He passed immediately to the tree I had been admiring, and with pitiless activity began to level the hatchet at the roots of the ivy ; tore it branch by branch from where it hung, and heaping it together, bound it with a thong, as if prepared for burning. It was soon done.
I rose hastily, and approaching the woodman, I said—“ Why have you destroyed so beautiful an object ?” “ Beautiful!” he answered—" that is a growing tree—it will be worth hundreds. The ivy would soon have killed it, and made it like itself, scarce fit for burning.” My poetic meditations took flight at this prosaic truth, and unable to recall them, I followed the woodman to see what other justice he was about to execute on pernicious beauty. He knew his errand, it seemed ; and over brake and brier took his long, heavy strides to a thicker and more sheltered corner of the park. Here the wood, lower and more closely planted, had been formed into a sheltered walk, and terminated in a rustic bower. The first thing that struck me, was the most splendid woodbine I ever looked upon. It was not trained, it was not tied; it threw itself at random over the bushes that were about it, which it literally smothered with its golden flowers, and came again to the ground for want of something to support it. The woodman walked up to it, and began with some caution to raise the boughs. “This,”
I said, “must at least be harmless here?”—“Harmless enough,” he answered me; “ but there is that holly growing up behind it. In a little time it will overhang the honeysuckle, and the dropping from the boughs will kill it. I am only going to turn its branches over that bower, where it will have sun and air, and something to support it.” I was not quite content: it looked so careless, so natural, so beautiful, where it was ; though, left there another season, it would have died.
Must that which is beautiful be removed, when it endangers something of more value than itself? Must that which in its natural growth appeared so flourishing and fair, be trained and pruned, lest it perish in its loveliness? And may we be less provident of our master's garden, than the rude woodman of his lord's domains ? May we see what is brilliant overbearing and destroying what is valuable, amuse ourselves with its attractions, and pay no regard to the effects? May we leave the residue of native beauty in our bosoms to grow as it will, and dispose
of itself as it may for the brief interval of time, when it should be trained and treasured for eternity, at whatever sacrifice of present bent and inclination ?
I was led to these reflections, with a desire that I might say something more than I have already said on the subject of ConvERSATION ; a most important power committed by heaven to our care, and, for the most part, suffered to luxuriate with most irregular and unchecked redundance. The gift of Conversation is that which seems eminently to distinguish the human being from the brute ; his fellow in many things, in some his superior. It is a power, too, not likely to terminate with our mortal existence: but in whatever manner continued, must go
with us to eternity, to hold celestial converse in the presence of God, and speak forth forever the praises of his love. Of such a power it would scarcely seem necessary to urge the importance, did it not appear on observation that nobody regards it; nobody lays it to heart that God has said, “Every idle word will I bring into judgment.” When I say nobody, I limit my meaning to the compass within which all my listenings are made, and the sphere in which I suppose my remarks to circulate. I particularly desire it should be considered that I write for a certain class, and that I hear nothing and say nothing, and design not to censure or expose anything, that lies beyond this compass. I write for youth, or for that early womanhood on which numbers of
readers are perhaps just about to enter; or for those of older years who have an immediate influence on these. I would be understood to speak especially of them, however generally I may seem to express myself
. If any will take the hint for whom it is not intended, and profit by it, I shall be gratified; yet I would still deprecate the feelings of those who may fancy themselves attacked, when they are not understood to be upon the field.
In speaking of the misuse, or at best the waste, habitually made of our conversational powers, I have in mind exclusively the domestic circle, the hometalk of the family, or the communications of intimacy. In company, as generally so called, it seldom rests with the young female to give the tone to the conversation; she may be accessory to its frivolity, or a sharer in its usefulness, and will be surely responsible for her own words; because she might speak better or be silent, and others' wrong will not excuse us; but it is not there that responsibility is quite her own; neither is it there that the evil is
the greatest. We speak well for shame before men, while we care not for conscience how we speak before God.
When my attention had been called to this subject, I determined to listen for one day to the habitual conversation, or talk, or speech, whichever is the better word, of a family circle of very cultivated and religious young people; and to my own, as that day a member of the circle. If I had written on a tablet every word that was spoken, from the first intonation of voices giving notice to those in bed that somebody is up, to the prolonged gossip of the chamber at midnight—including the contributions of a few morning callers, and the stimulus of a chance visiter in the evening-I might submit it to perusal, and leave the comment to the judgment of the reader. This I did not; but of the purport of it all, I made very exact memoranda : and I risk no miscalculation when I assert that the sum of it was this :
:-a large portion were words, for the utterance of which no possible motive could be found neither the speaker nor the hearer being interested in them, nor meaning any thing, nor understanding any thing by them. Another portion were of that dubious nature, that though it would seem harsh to call them false, they wanted every character of simple, unexaggerated truth. Another part were decidedly, though not intentionally, harmful; because they were calculated to give pain to those who heard them, or depreciate those who were the subject of them. A fourth portion of our words I found to be of a very remarkable character: they were in exact opposition to our sentiments: expressions appropriate to a condition in which there should be no God, no providence, no immortality; but, without any purpose of impugning it, in no way applicable