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There is a period—it may be earlier or later, according to character—when we are conscious of passing out of childhood, and of entering upon the open arena of human life. Then our birthdays are wonderful epochs, and as we reach one after another we almost expect the whole world to stand still in admiration of our advance.

This state of exalted feeling in a poetic nature has never perhaps been so finely depicted as by Mrs. Browning in “ Aurora Leigh :"

Came a morn,
I stood upon the brink of twenty years
And looked before, and after, as I stood-
Woman and artist- either incomplete,
Both credulous of completion. I held there
The whole creation in my


сир, And smiled with thirsty lips before I drank Good health to you and me, sweet neighbours mine,

, And all these peoples.

I was glad that day.
The June was in me, with its multitudes
Of nightingales, all singing in the dark,
And rosebuds reddening where the calyx split.
I felt so young, so strong, so sure of God!
So glad, I could not choose be very

And, old at twenty, was inclined to pull
My childhood backward, in a childish jest,
To see the face of 't once more, and farewell !
In which fantastic mood I bounded forth
At early morning; would not wait so long
As even to snatch my bonnet by the strings,
But, brushing a green trail across the lawn
With my gown in the dew, took will and way
Among the acacias of the shrubberies,
To fly my fancies in the open air,
And keep my birthday.


This beautiful picture induces us to exclaim with Lover, the humorous Irish poet :

O youth! happy youth! what a blessing!

In thy freshness of dawn and of dew;
When Hope the young heart is caressing,

And our griefs are but light and but few:
Yet in life, as it swiftly flies o'er us,

Some musing for sadness we find;
In youth, we've our troubles before us,

In age we leave pleasure behind.

Beautiful and splendid as the summer morning are the

Higher, higher, will we climb

Up the mount of glory,
That our names may live through time

In our country's story;
Happy, when her welfare calls,
He who conquers, he who falls.

Deeper, deeper, let us toil

In the mines of knowledge ;
Nature's wealth and learning's spoil

Win from school and college ;
Delve we there for richer gems
Than the stars of diadems.

Onward, onward, may we press,

Through the path of duty;
Virtue is true happiness,

Excellence true beauty.
Minds are of celestial birth,
Make we then a heaven of earth.


Well would it be if all the aspirations of youth tended to produce a character deserving similar praise to that contained in the neat and terse tribute by Cowper :


between East and West,
Disgrace their parent earth,
Whose deeds constrain us to detest

The day that gave them birth;
Not so when Stella's natal morn

Revolving months restore,
We can rejoice that she was born,

And wish her born once more.
Or this by Milton :-

Lady, that in the prime of earliest youth

Wisely hath shunnid the broad way and the green,

And with those few art eminently seen That labour up the hill of heavenly truth; The better part with Mary and with Ruth

Chosen thou hast ; and they that overween,

And at thy growing virtues fret their spleen, No

anger find in thee, but pity and ruth. Thy care is fix'd, and zealously attends

To fill thy odorous lamp with deeds of light, And hope that reaps not shame. Therefore be sure, Thou, when the Bridegroom with His feastful

friends Passes to bliss at the mid-hour of night, Hast gain'd thy entrance, virgin wise and pure.

The prime epoch of life to the children of fortune is the “ coming of age.” The best of Ben Jonson's birthday odes is admirable in its moral counsel to the young heir on arriving at his majority :




Now that the hearth is crowned with smiling fire, And some do drink and some do dance,

Some ring,

Some sing,
And all do strive to advance
The gladness higher ;

Wherefore should I
Stand silent by,

Who not the least
Both love the cause and authors of the feast?

Give me my cup, but from the Thespian well,
That I

may tell to Sidney what

This day
Doth say,

And he


think on that Which I do tell ;

When all the noise
Of these forced joys

Are fled and gone,
And he with his best genius left alone.

This day says, then, the number of glad years
Are justly summed that make you man;

Your vow

Must now
Strive all right ways


can, T' outstrip your peers:


Eldest son of Robert Sidney, Earl of Leicester, and nephew of Sir Philip Sidney.

Since he doth lack
Of going back

Little whose will
· Doth urge him to run wrong, or to stand still.

Nor can a little of the common store
Of nobles' virtue show in you;

Your blood,

So good,
And great, must seek for new,
And study more;

Nor weary rest
On what's deceased ;

For they that swell
With dust of ancestors in graves do dwell.
'Twill be exacted of you whose son,
Whose nephew, whose grandchild you are ;

And men

Will then
Say you have followed far,
When well begun :

Which must be now,
They teach you how.

And he that stays
To live unto to-morrow hath lost two days.
So may you live in honour as in name,

If with this truth you be inspired;

So may

This day
Be more and long desired ;
And with the flame

Of love he bright
As with the light

Of bonfires ! then
The birthday shines, when logs not burn, but men.

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