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In these benign and memorable words,
At this, flashed forth
Alas ! how few of that surrounding host
And now with horrid laughter mixed with yells
In the dim distance glittered shafts of war ;-
One alone Amid that countless throng now caught mine eye! His was the form I loved not in my youth, And cursed in after We fiercely met,A wild thrust reached him. Then he loudly shrieked, And Death's relieving hand besought in vain, Where Death could never come! With quenchless rage, And strength untamed, on his triumphant foe, Again he turned !—but he was victor now ;And in unutterable pain-I woke !
'Twas morning--and the sun's far-levelled rays Gleamed on the ghastly brows and stiffened limbs Of those that slumbered--ne'er to wake again !
THE NEW YEAR AND THE OLD.
[WRITTEN ON THE 31st OF DECEMBER, 1833.]
The Old Year and the New Year are now quickly meeting, and will separate in less than the shake of a skylark's wing, or the single glimmer of a star !
“We take no note of time but by its loss,” and are not easily reminded of the purport and rapidity of our voyage down the stream of life. If it were not for the land-marks and divisions which are visible in our course, we should glide onwards to the vast waters of eternity with a perfect unconsciousness of our progress. It is well, therefore, to preserve, as far as possible, those ancient customs which celebrate the advent of particular seasons, and render them memorable and distinct. The vigil on the last night of the old year to welcome the arrival of the new one is, abstractedly considered, a beautiful and affecting practice, though it is unhappily too often attended with inebriation and vulgar merriment. Nothing can be less appropriate to the season than jollity and uproar. If there be any one period that seems more essentially suited to sober thought than another, it is this. There is something ungracious in the manner in which we mix our merry welcome of the new year with our farewell to the past year, which is like an old familiar face, fraught with many tender associations.
Though, like other men, I have sometimes looked towards the future with eagerness and curiosity, I am far more disposed to linger over the memory of departed hours. I feel no peculiar satisfaction in parting with an ancient friend, nor can I hail his successor without some feeling of distrust. But the generality of
mankind are naturally gamblers, and are ever ready to risk their accustomed pleasures for the chance of new ones. Those who have once lost their hearts to Fortune can never be persuaded that she will continue indifferent to their claims, however scornfully she may treat them for a while. The advice of the wise, and their own sad experience are equally unprofitable to those who are blinded by ambition and self-will. Men of ardent temperaments, and of an active life which leaves little time for thought, have generally a very slight regard for the past, and launch all their happiness on the deceitful future. They fancy themselves more shrewd and practical than the philosopher, who, because he occasionally retraces his path in the soft twilight of imagination, is considered a visionary idler. They know not the stuff of which life is made, and are themselves in a wild delusion. What is the future, for which they wear out their hearts and minds with such incessant toil ?-a nonentity—the dream of a dream. The past, on the other hand, is a storehouse of treasures that are lodged beyond the reach of fate. While we have life and memory they are ours. We could not have them longer. This is equivalent to an eternity of enjoyment, for it ends but with our consciousness of good and evil. The future is rife with disappointment. The present glides by us while we breathe its name. We may as well endeavour to grasp water in the hand, as to retain such a small and slippery division of human life. It is, indeed, an inexpressibly insignificant portion of existence, and is chiefly valuable as we make it worthy to live in our recollection after its departure. As the past then forms so large a share of our being, it is strange that men should bring themselves to regard it with indifference, and to waste all their thoughts upon things and seasons yet unborn. As we cannot take a last look at the meanest material object around which is breathed an atmosphere of old associations, it seems almost inexplicable that we should be so ready to insult the departing year with the loud peals of joyance. Our ancient friend is laden with a weight of many cares and pleasures ; but because the stores are familiar and the bearer is old, ought both to be despised ? If a strange face and untried goods are at our door, and the old guest must necessarily resign his place to the new one, this merriment at parting with the former is at least ill-timed. As he glides away from the scene into the shades of night, with what a child-like eagerness do men clamorously welcome his successor, who comes like a plausible pedlar from a foreign land. They gaze greedily on his glittering wares, and grasp at the brittle bubbles of hope, the gilded dross of avarice, and the drums and rattles of ambition.
I know nothing of the future. I look upon the past as a welltried friend that has departed for an eternal exile. Its evil qualities are written on water, its good on adamant. I lament that it is gone, and grieve that I did not better appreciate its worth before. · I see it now through an altered medium, unblinded by fear or hope or passion. I cannot scan the advancing year with the same facility and precision. The future is like the mist that hangs about the dawn of day. Coming objects loom largely in the shade, but dwindle as the light increases. The past is like an evening landscape bathed in the lingering glory of a departed sun. Our retrospections are generally of a nature far more pure and holy than our hopes and our desires. The evil-minded do not dwell fondly upon the past. Men love to recall the me. mory of their best actions, and not their worst. The stern and heartless rush recklessly forward,
“ And cast no longing, lingering, look behind.”
The gaiety of ingenuous childhood—the first smile of innocent love-the cordiality and disinterestedness of youthful friendship -our earliest impressions of the beauty of human life and the loveliness of external nature—the whispered prayers at a mother's knee ere the consciousness of sin made us dread our great Crea