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it might teach a lesson to the desponding, there, they would not to our taste have lost and show the useless and inactive how in their sweetness. valuable are the stirrings of that energy that The violet, while it pleases by its modest, can work out its purpose in secret, and under retiring beauty, possesses the additional oppression, and be ready in the fulness of charm of the most exquisite of all perfumes, time to make that purpose manifest and com- which, inhaled with the pure and invigoraplete. The snowdrop teaches also another ting breezes of spring, always brings back in lesson. It marks out the progress of time. remembrance a lively conception of that deWe cannot behold it without feeling that an- lightful season. Thus, in the language of other spring has come, and immediately our poetry," the violet-scented gale” is synonythoughts recur to the events which have oc- mous with those accumulated and sweetlycurred since last its fairy bells were ex- blended gratifications which we derive from panded. We think of those who were near odours, flowers, and balmy breezes; and and dear to us then. It is possible they may above all, from the contemplation of renonever be near again; it is equally possible vated nature, once more bursting forth into they may be dear no longer. Memory is beauty and perfection. busy with the past ; until anticipation takes The jessamine, also
, with its dark green up the chain of thought, and we conjure up, leaves, and little silver stars, saluting us with and at last shape out in characters of hope, its delicious scent through the open casea long succession of chances and changes to ment, and impregnating the whole atmosfill up the revolving seasons which must phere of the garden with its sweetness, has come and go before that little flower shall been sung and celebrated by so many poets, burst forth in its loveliness again. Happy that our associations are with their numbers, is it for those who have so counted the cost rather than with any intrinsic quality in the of the coming year, that they shall not find flower itself. Indeed, whatever may have at the end they have expended either hope first established the rank of flowers in the or desire in fruitless speculations.
poetical world, they have become to us like It is of little consequence what flower notes of music, passed on from lyre to lyre ; comes next under consideration. A few and whenever a chord is thrilled with the specimens will serve the purpose of proving, harmony of song, these lovely images prethat these lovely productions of nature are, sent themselves, neither impaired in their in their general associations, highly poetical. beauty, nor exhausted of their sweetness, The primrose is one upon which we dwell for having been the medium of poetic feelwith pleasure proportioned to our taste for ing ever since the world began. rural scenery, and the estimate we have pre- It is impossible to expend a moment's viously formed of the advantages of a peace thought upon the lily, without recurring to ful and secluded life. In connexion with that memorable passage in the sacred volthis flower, imagination pictures a thatched “ Consider the lilies of the field, how cottage standing on the slope of the hill, and they grow. They toil not, neither do they a little woody dell, whose green banks are spin; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon spangled all over with yellow stars, while a in all his glory was not arrayed like one of troop of rosy children are gambolling on the these.” From the little common flower callsame bank, gathering the flowers, as we ed heart's ease, we turn to that well known used to gather them ourselves, before the passage of Shakspeare, were the fairy king toils and struggles of mortal conflict had so beautifully describes the “ little western worn us down to what we are now; and flower.” And the forget-me-not has a thouthus presenting to the mind the combined sand associations tender and touching, but ideas of natural enjoyment, innocence, and unfortunately, like many other sweet things, rural peace-the more vivid, because we rude hands have almost robbed it of its can remember the time when something like charm. Who can behold the pale Narcisthis was mingled with the cup of which we sus, standing by the silent brook, its stately drank-the more touching, because we form reflected in the glassy mirror, without doubt whether, if such pure drops were still losing themselves in that most fanciful of all poetical conceptions, in which the graceful around us through the summer months, youth is described as gazing upon his own without the aid or interference of man, beauty, until he becomes lost in admiration, which seems to defy his art to introduce a and finally enamoured of himself: while rival to his own unparalleled beauty—the hopeless echo sighs herself away into a common wild rose; so luxuriant, that it sound, for the love, which having centred in bursts spontaneously into blushing life, such an object, was never to be bought by sometimes crowning the hoary rock with a her caresses, nor won by her despair. blooming garland, and sometimes struggling
Through gardens, fields, forests, and even with the matted weeds of the wilderness, over rugged mountains, we might wander yet ever finding its way to the open day, on in this fanciful quest after remote ideas that it may bask and smile, and look up with of pleasurable sensation connected with pres- thankfulness to the bright sun, without whose ent beauty and enjoyment; nor would our rays its cheek would know no beauty so tensearch be fruitless so long as the bosom of der, that the wild bee which had nestled in the earth afforded a receptacle for the ger- its scented bosom when that sun went down, minating seed, so long as the gentle gales returns in the morning and beholds the of summer continued to waft them from the colour faded from its cheek, while by its side parent stem, or so long as the welcome sun an infant rose is rising with the blush of a looked forth upon the ever-blooming garden cherub, unfolding its petals to live its little of nature.
day, and then, having expended its sweetOne instance more, and we have done. ness, to die like its fair sisters, without murThe “ lady rose," as poets have designated mur or regret. Blooming in the sterile this queen o beauty, claims the latest, waste, this lovely flower is seen unfolding though not the least consideration in speak- its fair leaves where there is no beauty to ing of the poetry of flowers. In the poetic reflect its own, and thus calling back the world, the first honors have been awarded heart of the weary traveller to thoughts of to the rose, for what reason it is not easy to peace and joy-reminding him that the define; unless from its exquisite combination wilderness of human life, though rugged of perfume, form, and colour, which have and barren to the discontented beholder, has entitled this sovereign of flowers in one also its sweet flowers, not the less welcome for country to be mated with the nightingale, being unlooked for, nor the less lovely for in another, to be chosen with the distinction being cherished by a hand unseen. of red and white, as the badge of two hon- There is one circumstance connected with ourable and royal houses. It would be diffi- the rose, which renders it a more true and cult to trace the supremacy of the rose to its striking emblem of earthly pleasure than origin; but mankind have so generally any other flower—it bears a thorn. While agreed in paying homage to her charms, its odorous breath is floating on the summer that our associations in the present day are gale, and its blushing cheek, half hid chiefly with the poetic strains in which they amongst the sheltering leaves, seems to are celebrated. The beauty of the rose is woo and yet shrink from the beholder's gaze, exhibited under so many different forms, that touch but with adventurous hand the garit would be impossible to say which had the den queen, and you are pierced with her greatest claim upon the regard of the poet; protecting thorns: would you pluck the rose but certainly those kinds which have been and weave it into a garland for the brow recently introduced, or those which are rear- you love best, that brow will be wounded: ed by unnatural means, with care and diffi- or place the sweet blossom in your bosom, culty, are to us the least poetical, because the thorn will be there. This real or ideal our associations with them are comparatively mingling of pain and sorrow, with the exfew, and those few relate chiefly to garden quisite beauty of the rose, affords a neverculture.
ending theme to those who are best acAfter all the pains that have been taken quainted with the inevitable blending of to procure, transplant, and propagate the clouds and sunshine, hope and fear, weal rose, there is one kind perpetually blooming and wo, in this our earthly inheritance.
With every thing fair, or sweet, or exqui- tude or joy. I speak of the thorn which acsite in this world, it has seemed meet to that companies these pleasures not with murmurwisdom which appoints our sorrows, and ing or complaint. I speak of the wounds sets a bound to our enjoyments, to affix some inflicted by this thorn with a living consciousstain, some bitterness, or some alloy, which ness of their poignancy and anguish; bemay not inaptly be called, in figurative lan- cause exquisite and dear as mere earthly guage, a thorn. St. Paul emphatically pleasures may sometimes be, I would still speaks of a “thorn in the flesh,” and from contrast them with such as are not earthly. this expression, as well as from his earnest- I would contrast the thorn and the wound, ness in having prayed thrice that it might the disappointment and the pain which acbe removed, we conclude it must have been company all such pleasures as are merely something particularly galling to the natural temporal, with the fulness of liappiness, the
We hear of the thorn of ingratitude, peace, and the crown, accompanying those the thorn of envy, the thorn of unrequited which are eternal. love-indeed of thorns as numerous as our pleasures; and few there are who can look back upon the experience of life, without acknowledging that every earthly good they have desired, pursued, or attained, has had
THE POETRY OF TREES. its peculiar thorn. Who has ever cast himself into the lap of luxury, without finding In contemplating the external aspect of that his couch was strewed with thorns ? nature, trees, in their infinite variety of form Who has reached the summit of his ambi- and foliage, appear most important and contion without feeling on that exalted pinnacle spicuous; yet so many are the changes which that he stood on thorns? Who has placed they undergo from the influence of the sun the diadem upon his brow, without perceiv- and the atmosphere, that it would be useless ing that thorns were thickly set within the to attempt to speak of the associations beroyal circlet? Who has folded to his bosom | longing to this class of natural productions all that he desired of earth’s treasures, with abstractedly, and detached from collateral out feeling that bosom pierced with thorns ? | circumstances. What poet, for instance, All that we enjoy in this world, or yearn to would describe the rich foliage of the sumpossess, has this accompaniment. The more mer woods, without the radiance of the sumintense the enjoyment, the sharper the thorn; mer sun; the wandering gale that waves and those who have described most feel their leafy boughs; the mountain side to ingly the inner workings of the human heart, which their knotted roots are clinging; the have unfailingly touched upon this fact with green valley where they live and flourish, the melancholy sadness of truth.
safe from raging storms; and the murmurFar be it from one who would not wil- ing stream, over which their branches bend lingly fall under the stigma of ingratitude, to and meet. There is, however, a marked disparage the nature, or the number of distinction in the character of different trees, earthly pleasures-pleasures which and a general agreement amongst mankind spread before us without price or limitation, in the relative ideas connected with each in our daily walk, and in our nightly rest, particular species. pleasures which lie scattered around our It is scarcely necessary to repeat how espath when we go forth upon the hills, or sential to our notions of perfection is the wander in the valley, when we look up to beauty of fitness—that neither colour, form, the starry sky, or down to the fruitful earth nor symmetry, nor all combined in one ob-pleasures which unite the human family ject, can command our unqualified admira. in one bond of fellowship, surround us at tion without adaptation; and that the our board, cheer us at our fire-side, smooth mind, by a sort of involuntary process, the couch on which we slumber, and even and frequently unconsciously to itself, takes follow our wandering steps long-long after note of the right application of means, and we have ceased to regard them with grati- | the relation of certain causes with their na
tural effects. Thus, we admire the stately throw of empires, the destruction of thrones, pine upon the mountain, not merely because and the scattering of multitudes—while the the eye is gratified by a correspondence be- laws and religion of half the world have tween its spiral form pointing upward to- been revolutionized, and what was once wards the sky, and the high projecting pin- deemed a virtue has gradually become punnacles of rock, unbroken by the steps of ishable as a crime-while sterile wastes have time; but because we know that in conse- been reclaimed, and fertilized, and made quence of this particular form, it is peculiarly fruitful, by the power and industry of sucadapted to sustain without injury the tem- cessive generations of men, and arts and pestuous gales which prevail in those inhos- commerce have wrought wonders which pitable regions where it chiefly grows. our unsophisticated forefathers would have There is something fierce, bristling, and de- pronounced miraculous—the same oak has fensive, in the very aspect of the pine; as if stood, perhaps at one time the witness of it set at naught the hollow roar of the tem- Druidical rites, at another affording shelter pest through its scanty foliage, and around to the simple and unlettered peasant tending its firm unshaken stem, while it stands like a the herds of swine that fed upon its falling guardian of the mountain wilds, armed at acorns: until, years rolling on, revolving all points, and proudly looking down upon summers crowning its brow with verdant the flight of the eagle, and the wreaths of beauty, and hoary winter scattering that wandering clouds that flit across the wilder- beauty to the winds, have left it for our ness of untrodden snow. But plant a single warning, an emblem of fallen majesty-its pine upon the gentle slope of a green lawn, once sturdy boughs no sooner attacked by the amongst lilachs, and laburnums, and tender worm of destruction within, than assailed, flowering shrubs, the charm of association is and torn, and broken by the merciless blast broken, and the veteran of the rugged without. mountainous waste is shorn of his honours ; Striking and magnificent as the oak unlike a patriot chief, submitting himself to the questionably is in its peculiar attitude and polished chains of society at the court of his growth, presenting at one view the comtyrant conqueror.
bined ideas of ability to resist the strong, The oak, the monarch of the woods, pre- and power to defend the weak, it is yet sents to the contemplative beholder innu- scarcely less majestic than beautiful. What merable associations by which his mind is a combination of gorgeous hues its autumplunged into the profound ideas of gran- nal foliage displays! The eye of the painter deur, space, and time. We are first struck revels in its sombre glory, its burnished hue, with the majestic form and character of this and its wild fantastic garniture of green and tree-the mass of its foliage, the depth and gold, contrasted with its own hoary stem, extent of its shadow, and the tremendous and the depth of shadow that is thrown by power of resistance bodied forth in its gnarled the rays of the declining sun in lengthening and twisted boughs; but above all other gloom over the quiet earth. considerations connected with it, we are af- Nor is it merely with the outward aspect fected almost with reverence by the lapse of this tree that our most powerful associaof time required to bring those prodigious tions are connected. In a nation perpetually branches to perfection, and the many, many exulting in her maratime supremacy, we tides of human feeling that must ebb and have learned to regard the oak as forming flow, before those firmly knotted roots shall a sort of bulwark for the defence of our libyield to the process of decay. In the na- erties. Thus, the British sailor calls upon tural course of meditation to which such a his comrades by the proud title of "hearts subject leads, we consider the striking truth, of oak," and England is not unfrequently thal while nations have bowed and trembled described as being protected by her “oaken beneath successive tyrants until by the walls." wonted course of nature, the terrors of the There are, besides these, many other oppressed have given place to the reckless characters or points of consideration, in desperation that works its way, by the over- which we regard the oak with feelings of
respect, and sometimes with poetical interest. of the cottage slowly ascending, and clearly Perhaps it is not least in the scale of import- revealed against the sombre darkness of the ance, that many ancient and stately apart- elm, we think of the labourer returning to nients, dedicated to solemn or religious pur- his evening meal, the birds folding their poses, are lined with panels of the wood of weary wings, the coo of the wood pigeon, this tree. The same wood, beautifully carved the gentle fall of evening dew, the lull of and deepened into gloomy magnificence by winds and waves, the universal calm of nathe sombre influence of time, forms one of ture, and a thousand associations rush upon the principal ornaments in many religious us, connecting that lovely and untroubled houses; and when we look back to the cus- scene with vast and profound ideas of solemtoms of our ancestors, and the station which nity and repose. they occupied, with that respect which we To the willow belongs a character pecunaturally feel for their boasted hospitality, liarly its own. It has no stateliness, or magood cheer, and substantial magnificence, jesty, or depth of shadow, to strike the senses we seldorn fail to surround them in imagina- and set the imagination afloat; but this tion with goodly wainscoting of oak, to place mournful tree possesses a claim upon our a log of the same wood upon the blazing attention, as having become the universal hearth, and to endow them with powers both badge of sorrow, fancifully adopted by the mental and bodily, firm, stable, and unbend- victims of despair, and worn as a garland ing as this sturdy tree.
by the broken-hearted. It has also a beauty Amongst the trees of the forest, the elm and a charm of its own. It carries us in may very properly be placed next in rank idea to green pastures, and peaceful herds to the oak, from its majestic size and impor- that browse in deep meadows by the side of tance. Yet the elm has a very different some peaceful river, whose sleepy waters, character, and consequently excites in the silently gliding over their weedy bed, seem contemplative mind a different train of asso- to bear away our anxious and conflicting ciations and ideas. The massive and um- thoughts along with them. Seated by the brageous boughs, or rather arms of the elm, rude and ancient-looking stem of this tree, stretching forth at right angles with its we listen to the soft whispering of the wind stately stem, present to the imagination a among its silvery leaves, and gaze upon the picture of calm dignity rather than defensive glassy surface of the slowly moving stream, power. From the superficial manner in just rippled here and there by a stray branch which the roots of this tree are connected projecting from the flowery bank, or a fairy with the earth, it is ill calcu ed to sustain forest of reeds springing up in spite of th the force of the tempest, and is frequently ceaseless and invincible flow of that unfailtorn from its hold and laid prostrate on the ing tide. We gaze, until the precise disground by the gale, whose violence appears tinctions of past, present, and future fade to be unheeded by its brethren of the forest. away—the ocean of time flows past us like In painting, or in ideal picture-making, we that silent river (would it were as unruffled plant the elm upon the village green, a sort in its real course ;) and while retaining a of feudal lord of that little peopled territory; dim and mysterious consciousness of our or in stately rows skirting the confines of the own existence, we lose all remembrance of dead, where the deep shadow from its dark its rough passages, all perception of its pregreen foliage falls upon the quiet graves, sent bitterness, and all apprehension of its and the long rank grass, and on the village future perils. From such unprofitable muchurch, when from her gray sides and sings, if too frequently indulged, we awake arched windows she reflects the rays of the to a melancholy state of feeling, of which the setting sun, and looks, in her silence and so- willow has by the common consent of manlemnity, like a sister to those venerable trees. kind become emblematical. Morbid, listless, There are no gorgeous hues in the foliage and inactive, we shrink from the stirring neof the elm, no light waving, dancing or glis-cessities of life; we behold the happy flocks tening amongst its heavy boughs. All is still feeding, and almost wish, that like them grave majesty; and when we see the smoke we could be content with a rich pasture, as