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account. He has so often escaped before, that he quells every fresh alarm with the hope of similar success. The idea of death, as I have already explained, is received with so much difficulty by those who are conscious of the strong impregnation of life through their whole system, that the most trivial objects may call off their attention from the subject. Such is the power of a happy imagination and a healthy frame.
Were we embarked on a voyage to a hostile foreign shore, and knew ourselves condemned to be stripped, tortured, and hung by savage hands, we should think the longest passage too short, and curse the swiftness of our vessel. A few pleasant islands in our course would not drive away the anticipation of the last port. But as we travel towards the narrow house to lie down in darkness and corruption, we are impatient of a moment's delay, and the great object in life seems to be to shorten its duration. It is a happy thing, however, that the mind is thus strangely constituted, and that we are able to close our eyes against unpleasing prospects, and turn away our thoughts from the end of all things.
There is no period of the life of man so interesting as its close. A birth occasions less excitement than a death. A new-born human being is rarely an object of particular interest to any portion of mankind, except to those who have introduced him to the world;
but the lowliest spirit that ever wore human clay is dignified in the eyes of all men at the final hour. Even the poor fleshly frame which once perhaps afforded food for merriment, or a mark for scorn's poisoned arrows, is then regarded with a profound and mysterious reverence. We enter the death-chamber of the rudest peasant with a slow and solemn step, as if we trod upon holy ground. A too abrupt or a too easy manner would seem a sacrilege. We stand near his simple coffin in religious silence, or speak in whispers, as if fearful of disturbing his awful slumber. All ordinary and familiar sounds are like a mockery of the eternal sleeper. His cold clay is hallowed. The mightiest of earthly potentates would approach him with respect. As he lies in his silent state there is a strange power in his fixed and pallid lineaments. He is the representative of the majesty of death.
The golden portals of palaces fly open at the approach of the King of Terrors, as freely as the shepherd's wicker gate. Neither massy battlements, nor valorous guards, nor the power of the state, nor the prayers of the priesthood, nor the ingenuity of art, nor the magic of beauty, nor the might of genius, nor the holiness of virtue, can protect the domestic hearth from that general and relentless foe. His silent footstep giveth no warning. We know not when he may steal upon us. This uncertainty is an additional horror. We know when the trees are to wither and the flowers are to fade. We prepare for the approach of winter. But death has no stated season. He comes in youth and in age, in sickness and in health. He casts no shade before him. This mighty and mysterious visitor from an unknown world is more terrible than the simoom of the desert. He blasts the greenest landscape of life at a single breath. Like a dread magician, he enters invisibly our most secret haunts, and strikes us to the ground with his unseen wand.
When the sense of our mortality comes heavily upon the heart, what a pitiful delusion is human life! We look around us in this busy scene, and echo the exclamation of the preacher that “all is vanity!” At such a moment a film is removed from our mental vision, “a change comes over the spirit of our dream,” and that which lately seemed serious and important, we discover to be vain and idle ; while all that once charmed or amused us becomes a mournful mockery. We gaze with pity and with wonder upon those who are still labouring under the same delusion from which we ourselves have awaked; their laughter seems hysterical, and their merriment hollow. The feeling in some degree resembles, though it greatly exceeds it in intensity, the effect of closing the ears to the music of a ball room and watching the movements of the dancers. It is recorded of an impassioned Italian poet that he could never look upon such a scene, even with its musical accompaniments, without laughing and shuddering at the same moment. With a similarly blended sentiment of the ludicrous and the sad do we gaze upon Life's giddy whirl, when the golden mist of enchantment evaporates from the scene.
But to return to the consideration of my more immediate subject ;—let me not conclude without hailing the New Year, with a somewhat kinder greeting than it has yet received. I may not look upon
it with the same affection as the old one, but it is not wholly unattractive. The thirst for novelty makes every New Year a welcome visitor to most men. It suggests fresh plans and inspires fresh hopes. Life and the world seem adapted to our impatience of stillness and monotony. The ever-fitting forms and hues of external nature, the endless variety of human faces and human character, and the phantasmagorial progression of events, are all ministrant to our taste for change. If I cannot on the whole be so enthusiastic in my welcome to the present year as in my farewell to the past one, let it be remembered that should I live another season its aspect and character will be changed, and like its predecessor, it will be hailed at parting with a thoughtful sigh,
SOUNDS AT SEA.
The weary sea is tranquil, and the breeze
STANZAS TO MY CHILD,
I GAZE on thy sweet face,
My lightly laughing boy ! And charms no painter's hand could trace
Behold in pride and joy, While pleasure almost turns to pain, (For human hearts may scarce sustain
Such bliss without alloy,) Till tears too sweet for those who grieve Gush forth to chasten and relieve !
And e'en when sorrow's hour
Brings gloom upon my soul, And shades o'er Life's dull landscape lour
Like clouds that slowly roll Round solemn Twilight's dusky car, Thine image kindles as a star,
To cheer me and console, And dreary thoughts and mournful dreams Soon
pass like mist ’neath morning beams.
For in that bright blue eye
Still glow the rays of bliss, Like lustre from an azure sky,
Or realms more fair than this. Though vexed with worldly cares I roam, They shall not darken this dear home,
Nor check the rapturous kiss That greets thy fresh and rosy
charms When clasped within mine eager arms !