Page images
PDF
EPUB

sound clearly, and their bells jingle merrily through the still air. I turn my eyes within. The glowing embers of the grate send forth their cheerful rays, and the old arm chair, without an occupant, sits invitingly by. On the table are lying choicest morsels of fancy, poesy, and wit. There are Carlyle's vivid sketches of Heroes in History; Burns' more humble though humorous pictures of Tam O'Shanter, and his Auld Grey Maggie, and Dickens' last chirp, chirp, chirp! of the Cricket On The Hearth. But from all these pleasures of sense, or even of the imagination, my mind turns away, and, by very contrast, is led to contemplate the sad condition of him, who, though placed in the midst of this world of happiness, enjoys it not : I mean the Melancholy Man-of all God's creatures the most pitiable, and yet the least pitied.

As our own life glides so cheerily along, we are ever prone to forget that any other person is less happy than ourselves, or than the busy crowd around us. We forget that beneath all this glitter, and noise, and hilarity, apparent upon the surface of society, there are those who spend each live-long day in the gloomier shades below. Even like dark shadows, they pass noiselessly around among their fellow-men, and on their countenances not one single ray of hope or joy ever gleams. Philosophers they are not, who professedly shut themselves out from the empty vanities of life, the better to commune with Na. ture and with Nature's God. Hermits they are not, who bury themselves in solitude, because disgusted with the crimes and follies of their race. Monks they are not, who think by a course of stern and sullen asceticism, that “this spiritual can put off the carnal, and this corruptible put on incorruption,” even though God hath ordained, that in this world it shall never be so. But the vanities of life they do despise ; its follies and crimes they hate, and of all its sensual pleasures they are heartily sick.

Hence the Melancholy Man of the present day, though he does not bear the romantic name of abbot, monk, or hermit, serves to identify those mysterious personages with actual life and blood. In cominon with them, he has a just appreciation of the awful reality of life, and if he seeks retirement at all, like them he seeks to commune with Nature in her grandest forms. His feelings are deep and sad, and find harmonious expression only in the gloomy and profound. The music that most delights his ear, is the deep-toned thunder that rolls and reverberates from cloud to cloud, and from mountain side to mountain side. The paths he delights to tread are by the deep blue sea. There the constant murmur of the breakers lulls his mind to meditation, and in the mighty ocean that rolls at his feet he loves to behold

“ The glorious mirror where the Almighty's form
Glasses itself in tempests ; the image of Eternity,
The throne of the INVISIBLE.”

His favorite retreat is in the woodland glen, or on the mossy mountain side. The temple in which he most delights to worship is beneath

VOL. XI.

20

the solemn arches and lofty domes of the forest trees. There the deep swelling music of the waterfall, and the bolder notes of the raging winds, unite and tune his heart to the Creator's praise.

The most singular example we have ever heard, of any one who has actually led a hermit's life in America, was told us of him who took up his residence on Goat Island, at the very brink of Niagara. In the selection of this place of hermitage, he manifested a taste so noble and refined, that we cannot but allude to him as a most happy illustration of the subject before us. If there is any one spot in the Universe where, above all others, beauty and grandeur are seen, both single and combined, it is on that little island. There, through its sacred groves he wandered silent and alone, now beneath the tall, majestic trees that vie in grandeur with the mighty cataract itself, and now along the banks of the river above, by the foaming rapids, where the wild flowers spring in rich exuberance, and by their tempting beauty provoke the kisses of the glistening spray. Many a time was he known to steal along by moonlight to some craggy rock projecting over the dark abyss, and ihere recline to gaze upon the eternal Flood, until his soul was filled with grandeur, and arose from the solemn scene around, “to Him who pours these waters from His hand.” When oppressed by the heat of summer, he was wont to bathe his fervent limbs in a quiet little cove, formed by the whirling eddies. But at one such unfortunate hour, he was drawn too far into the rapid stream ever to recover his hold upon the shore, and thus

“ He sunk into the depths with bubbling groan,

Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffin'd, and unknown.”

Such was oue of the melancholy men of our own age. It may be difficult for us to conceive, that his feelings should have gained so complete ascendancy over his reason. Yet who has not perceived something of this same influence creeping over himself ? For one, we confess, that at times of serious thought, the world has seemned unattractive; mankind cold, ungenerous, and base. Not that this feeling ever took permanent hold of our existence. For too many warm friends have grasped us by the hand, too often have their eyes spoken sincerity to ours, and their hearts extended freely the rites of hospitality, to permit us long to cherish such a belief. Yet, perchance the evening twilight falls silently around, and finds us musing by the lonely fire. The stillness of the hour, and the vanishing forms of all things, remind us that we too are

“Such stuff as dreams are made of.”

How strange our being, how mysterious our destiny! Now a strain of sweetest music falls upon the ear; it may be the low, sost breathings of a flute, or the plaintive voice of some dear friend, whose touching, pensive notes, remind us that she, alas! is already the fading victim of Consumption. Now our fancy finds delight in the fantasms, which it conjures up, in the burning embers on the hearth. A sweet sense of rest steals over us, and for a moment we desire never again to mingle with the tumult of the world.

Such a reverie, however sad, affords a melancholy pleasure that is often sought. Indeed, there is a class of vain and giddy persons, to whom meditation is never welcome but in such an hour, and even then, their thoughts but ill-directed prove their own worst foe. Yet none the less does it behoove us all, and at all times, to be thoughtful ; and thought, when properly directed, will sometimes lead to sad. ness. A sorry sight it is, to behold human actions and events stripped of all their specious names, and the human heart laid bare before our view. The miseries and follies of mankind are full enough, 10 draw a sigh from the cold heart of the veriest Stoic in the world. All the great men, who have ever accomplished great results for the cause of truth and justice, have had a vein of sadness in their nature; their great souls have been always full of serious, earnest thought. Hence we know better how to sympathize with the melancholy man ; for he commenced his work in the only true way, first thoughtful and sad. But, unfortunately, his sorrow will not leave him, even after it has pointed out the road to some great action, and all its proper work has ceased. Despite his will, it still continues to prey upon him.

It is fair to infer from what has now been said, that he is no ordinary man. He never was intended to be a mere “ hewer of wood and drawer of water.” Nature has given him a reflecting mind, and a most refined sensibility, for noble ends. He was designed to stand among the boldest advocates of justice and humanity, and to fight a valiant fight against the very follies, and deceits, and treacheries of the world, of which he so grievously complains. But by some unhappy stroke, these have triumphed over him—have driven his noble soul from its proper channel, and cast it a miserable wreck upon the shoals of life. It may be that so slight a cause as bodily pain, attend. ed with derangement of the nerves, has turned the contest against him. But whatever may be the cause, let us be lenient in our judg. ment upon one whom the finger of God has so plainly touched. We have no sympathy with that uncharitable philosophy, which taunts his misery as the result of some silly vanity, that has been wounded, or of excessive pride, that has been mortified, or high ambition disappointed. No, Cowper had too long exposed the silly affectation of fashionable life ; his heart had too long been bleeding for the oppressed of every clime, at last to fall the victim of such ignoble causes. Burns had too long exposed hypocrisy and canting in every form, at last to let his heart be broken by their hollow praise or censure ; and Luther had too often bared his arm against wickedness and corruption in high places, at last to let it droop through want of any power which these could bestow. The melancholy of such men, truly, cannot be traced to one, nor all of these unworthy sources; but it must be ascribed to that exquisite sensibility, by which every changing hue of life chases over their souls, like the cold shadows of a moonlit cloud over some sylvan lake.

When the Melancholy Man has once been cast into the gloom, how

vain seems all his toil to search his way out. Not an object meets his view, but it induces sombre thoughts. The fair earth is spread out before him, rejoicing in all the smiles of an autumn day. But has she not been drenched with the blood of as many millions slain in battle, as ever reaped her plenteous harvests? The orchard groans beneath its loads of mellow, golden fruit, and the vineyard is hung with richest clusters of grapes. But is not the liquid fire distilled from these, to degrade man, "the noblest work of God,” lower than the beasts of the field, and to madden his brain with fiendish passions ? The splendid mansion ornamented with every decoration that art can give, or genius can bestow, furnished with every comfort that the most fastidious taste can wish, is presented to his view. But in the truly touching language of Thompson, he exclaims,

“ Ah ! little think the gay, licentious, proud,
Whom pleasure, power, and affluence surround-
Ah! little think they as they dance along,
How many feel, this very moment, death,
And all the sad variety of pain.
How many pine in want, and dungeon glooms.

Sore pierced by wintry winds,
How many shrink into the sordid hut
Of cheerless poverty. How many stand
Around the death bed of their dearest friends,
And point the parting anguish.”

Or perchance some secluded little cottage, whose pure and lovely white melts in so sweetly, with the darker hues of ivy, locust, and evergreen, speaks to him a tale of domestic bliss. But no, the worse than murderous Seducer has insinuated himself even there, and robbed a happy family of their only Jewel. Talk to him of friendship. He silently points to the man, whose every friend deserted him at the sound of the sheriff's hammer, and whose reputation was slandered away by the tongue of envious malice. As a patriot, he would rejoice at the glorious progress of truth and freedom in the land, did he not know, that even now millions of immortal beings are dragging out a life of servitude and bondage. As a philanthropist, he would join in the general jubilee for the triumph of liberty, in the various parts of the world, did he not know that her victories have too often been achieved at the expense of such bloody contests as attended the French Revolution.

Thus his mind has lost all of its recuperative power. The energizing principle is gone, and he is lest the passive prey of his own gloomy thoughts. But reproach him not, for he is overpowered by noble and generous emotions. And though we may not believe that a single ray of light or joy will ever again beam upon his path all of the way down to the grave, yet of him, when laid in that cold and narrow bed, let us devoutly pray

“Requiescat in pace."

MY FOREST HOME.

BY G. C. H.

'Tis a charming spot-my forest home,

Away in the woods so wild : Where the wild-birds soar, and the waters roar,

And the stars look down so mild. Where a shaded bower receives my form,

And the vino entwines the tree; And the mellow call of the waterfall

Invites so lovingly.
'Tis a witching spot-my forest home,

When the moonlight hours come on;
And the little stream throws back its gleam,

Then runneth merrily on!
As it nestleth now in its grassy bed,

Then creepeth slily along;
Like a maiden so shy of the tell-tale eye,

As if stars could hear its song!
'Tis a quiet place—my forest home,

In the lagging summer hours,
With its birds and bees, and leaves and trees,

And the sweet perfume of flowers.
Oh, how deeply still is the place at noon,

Entombed from the noisy world !
When the birds all creep to their noon-day sleep,

And the zephyr's sail is furled !

'Tis a glorious place my forest home,

With its autumn glories on !
It may look sad, but it seemeth glad

To wear its golden crown.
The nuts, they fall like a storm of hail,

And the squirrels busily run ;
And the scraggy moss has a silvered gloss

In the mellow autumn sun!
'Tis a holy spot-my forest home,

When winter reigns supreme;
With its robe of snow, and the smothered flow

Of the frozen little stream!
And the trees hold out their ice-gloved arms,

And the cold winds howl and roam;
Oh, I'll never rove from the home I love,

My happy FOREST HOME!

« PreviousContinue »