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LOVE OF NATURE IN THE DECLINE OF LIFE.
(From "Caxtoniana.'') *HERE was one period of my life when I considered every hour spent out of capitals
as time wasted; when, with exhilarated spirits, I would return from truant loiterings under summer trees to the smoke and din of London thoroughfares; I loved to hear
the ring of my own tread on the hard pavements. The desire to compete and combat; the thirst of excitements opening one upon another in the upward march of an opposed career, the study of man in his thickest haunts, the heart's warm share in the passions which the mind, clear from their inebriety, paused to analyze, these gave to me, as they give to most active men in the unflagging energies of youth, a delight in the vistas of gas-lamps, and the hubbub of the great mart for the interchange of ideas. But now, I love the country as I did when a little child, before I had admitted into my heart that ambition which is the first fierce lesson we learn at school. Is it, partly, that those trees never remind us that we are growing
old? Older than we are, their hollow stems are covered with rejoicing leaves. The birds build among their bowering branches rather than in the lighter shade of the saplings. Nature has no voice that wounds the self-love; her coldest wind nips no credulous affection. She alone has the same faith in our age as in our youth. The friend with whom we once took sweet counsel we have left in the crowd, a stranger, perhaps a foe. The woman in whose eyes, some twenty years ago, a paradise seemed to open in the midst of a fallen world, we passed the other day with a frigid bow. She wore rouge and false hair. But those wildflowers under the hedge-rows, those sparkles in the happy waters, no friendship has gone from them; their beauty has no simulated freshness; their smile no fraudulent deceit.
But there is a deeper truth than all this, in the influence which Nature gains over us in proportion as life withdraws itself from struggle and contention. We are placed on earth for a certain period to fulfill, according to our several conditions and degrees of minds, those duties by which the earth's history is carried on. Desk and warehouse, factory and till, forum and senate, schools of science and art, arms and letters; by these we beautify and enrich our common habitation; by these we defend, bind together, exalt the destinies of our common race. And during this period the mind is wisely fitted less to contemplate than to act, less to repose than to toil. The great stream of worldly life needs attrition along its banks in order to maintain the law that regulates the movements of its waves. But when that period of action approaches towards its close, the soul, for which is decreed an existence beyond the uses of earth, an existence aloof from desk and warehouse, factory and till, forum and senate, schools of science and art, arms and letters, gradually relaxes its hold of former objects, and, insensibly perhaps to itself, is attracted ncarer toward the divine source of all being, in the increasing witchery which Nature, distinct from man, reminds it of its independence of the crowd from which it begins to re-emerge.
And in connection with this spiritual process, it is noticeable how intuitively in age we go back with strange fondness to all that is fresh in the earliest dawn of youth. If we never cared for little children before, we delight to see them roll in the grass over which we hobble on crutches. The grandsire turns wearily from his middle-aged, care-worn son, to listen with infant laugh to the prattle of an infant grand-child. It is the old who plant young trees; it is the old who are most saddened by autumn, and feel most delight in the returning spring.
And, in the exquisite delicacy with which hints of the invisible eternal future are conveyed to us, may not that instinctive sympathy, with which life in age rounds its completing circle towards the point at which it touches the circle of life in childhood, be a benign intimation that
“ Death is naught
But the soul's birth, and so we should it call.” And may there be no meaning more profound than the obvious interpretation in the sacred words, “ Make yourselves as little children, for of such is the kingdom of heaven"?
SIR EDWARD BULWER, LORD LYTTON.
(From "The Faery Queen.”') O forth issew'd the seasons of the yeare: That sweetly sung to call forth para• First, lusty Spring all dight in leaves
mours; and flowres
And in his hand a iavelin he did beare, That freshly budded and new bloosmes did And on his head (as fit for warlike stoures) beare,
A guilt engraven morion he did weare; In which a thousand birds had built their That as some did him love, so others did him bowres
The sweat did drop; and in his hand he Had by the belly oft him pinched sore; bore
Upon his head a wreath, that was enroled A bowe and shaftes, as he in forrest greene With eares of corne of every sort, he bore; Had hunted late the libberd or the bore,
And in his hand a sickle he did Ide, And now would bathe his limbs with labor To reape the ripened fruits the which the heated sore.
earth had yold.