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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,
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.
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;
And our griefs are but light and but few:
Some musing for sadness we find;
In age we leave pleasure behind.
Beautiful and splendid as the summer morning are the
ASPIRATIONS OF YOUTH.
Up the mount of glory,
In our country's story;
Deeper, deeper, let us toil
In the mines of knowledge ;
Win from school and college ;
Onward, onward, may we press,
Through the path of duty;
Excellence true beauty.
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 :
TO MISS C-, ON HER BIRTHDAY.
between East and West,
The day that gave them birth;
Revolving months restore,
And wish her born once more.
TO A VIRTUOUS YOUNG LADY.
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 :
ODE TO SIR WILLIAM SIDNEY,* ON HIS
Now that the hearth is crowned with smiling fire, And some do drink and some do dance,
Wherefore should I
Who not the least
Give me my cup, but from the Thespian well,
may tell to Sidney what
think on that Which I do tell ;
When all the noise
Are fled and gone,
This day says, then, the number of glad years
can, T' outstrip your peers:
Eldest son of Robert Sidney, Earl of Leicester, and nephew of Sir Philip Sidney.
Since he doth lack
Little whose will
Nor can a little of the common store
Nor weary rest
For they that swell
Which must be now,
And he that stays
If with this truth you be inspired;
Of love he bright
Of bonfires ! then