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There's silence in the harvest field;
And blackness in the mountain glen, And cloud that will not pass away From the hill-tops for many a day;
And stillness round the homes of men.
The old tree hath an older look ;
The lonesome place is yet more dreary; They go not now, the young and old, Slow wandering on by wood and wold; The air is damp, the winds are cold,
And summer paths are wet and weary.
No longer floats the thistle-down ;
And the broad fern is rent and brown.
The cold has pierced his body thorough; The patient cattle hang their head; The deer are 'neath their winter shed; The ruddy squirrel's in his bed,
And each small thing within its burrow. In rich men's halls the fire is piled,
And ermine robes keep out the weather ; In poor
men's huts the fire is low, Through broken panes the keen winds blow,
And old and young are cold together.
Its pains are many, its foes are strong;
Prays God that winter be not long!
How beautiful the earth is now !
All aspect of decay is gone,
And clothéd is the forest bough.
Turn to the wide, white waste thy view;
And to those skies intensely blue.
And fancy, like a vagrant breeze,
Beyond the icy Orcades.
The land that hath no summer flowers,
How different from this land of ours !
Walk now among the forest trees, –
Said'st thou that they were stripped and bare ?
Which Winter regally doth wear. 'Tis well; thy summer garden ne'er
Was lovelier with its birds and flowers
A wrinkled, crabbed man they picture thee,
Old Winter, with a rugged beard as grey
Close muffled up, and on thy dreary way,
They should have drawn thee by the high-heapt hearth,
Old Winter! seated in thy great armed-chair, Watching the children at their Christmas mirth,
Or circled by them, as thy lips declare Some merry jest, or tale of murder dire,
Or troubled spirit that disturbs the night, Pausing at times to rouse the mouldering fire, Or taste the old October brown and bright.
TRAVELLING AT CHRISTMAS.
Of all the old festivals, that of Christmas awakens the strongest and most heartfelt of associations. There is a tone of solemn and sacred feeling that blends with our conviviality, and lifts the spirit to a state of hallowed, elevated enjoyment. The services of the church about this season are extremely tender and inspiring. They dwell on the beautiful story of the origin of our faith, and the pastoral scenes that accompanied its announcement. They gradually increase in fervour and pathos during the season of Advent, until they break forth in full jubilee on the morning that brought peace and good-will to men. I do not know a grander effect of music on the moral feelings, than to hear a full choir and the pealing organ performing a Christmas anthem in a cathedral, and filling every part of the vast pile with triumphant harmony.
It is a beautiful arrangement, also, derived from days of yore that this festival, which commemorates the announcement of the religion of peace and love, has been made the season for gathering together of family connections, and drawing closer again those bands of kindred hearts, which the cares and pleasures and sorrows of the world are continually operating to cast loose ; of calling back the children of a family who have launched forth in life, and wandered widely asunder, once more to assemble about the paternal hearth, that rallying-place of the affections, there to grow young and loving again among the endearing mementos of childhood.
TRAVELLING AT CHRISTMAS.
There is something in the very season of the year that gives a charm to the festivities of Christmas. At other times we derive a great portion of our pleasures from the mere beauties of nature. Our feelings sally forth and dissipate themselves over the sunny landscape, and we "live abroad and everywhere." But in the depth of winter, when nature lies despoiled of every charm, and wrapped in her shroud of sheeted snow, we turn for our gratifications to moral sources. Our thoughts are more concentrated. Our friendly sympathies more aroused. We feel more sensibly the charm of each other's society, and are brought more closely together by dependence on each other for enjoyment. Heart calleth unto heart.
The pitchy gloom without makes the heart dilate on entering the room filled with the glow and warmth of the evening fire. The ruddy blaze diffuses an artificial summer and sunshine through the room, and lights up each countenance in a kindlier welcome. Where does the honest face of hospitality expand into a broader and more cordial smile —where is the shy glance of love more sweetly eloquent -than by the winter fireside ? And as the hollow blast of wintry wind rushes through the hall, claps the distant door, whistles about the casement, and rumbles down the chimney, what can be more grateful than that feeling of sober and sheltered security, with which we look around upon the comfortable chamber and the scene of domestic hilarity ?
In the course of a December tour in Yorkshire, I rode for a long distance in one of the public coaches, on the day preceding Christmas. The coach was crowded, both inside and out, with passengers, who by their talk seemed principally bound to the mansions of relations or friends to eat the Christmas-dinner. It was loaded also with hampers of game, and baskets and boxes of delicacies ; and hares hung dangling their long ears about the coachman's box, presents from distant friends for the impending feast. I had three fine rosy-cheeked school-boys for my fellow-passengers inside, full of the buxom health and manly spirit which I have observed in the children of this country. They were returning home for the holidays in high glee, and promising themselves a world of enjoyment. It was delightful to hear the gigantic plans of the little rogues, and the impracticable feats they were to perform during their six weeks' emancipation from the abhorred thraldom of book, birch, and pedagogue. They were full of anticipations of the meeting with the family and household down to the very cat and dog; and of the joy they were to give their little sisters by the presents with which their pockets were crammed ; but the meeting to which they seemed to look forward with the greatest impatience was with Bantam, which I found to be a pony, and according to their talk, possessed of more virtues than any steed since the days of Bucephalus. How he could trot! how he could run! and then such leaps as he could take !—there was not a hedge in the whole country that he could not clear.
They were under the particular guardianship of the coachman, to whom whenever an opportunity presented, they addressed a host of questions, and pronounced him one of the best fellows in the world. Indeed I could not but notice the more than ordinary air of bustle and importance of the coachman, who wore his hat a little on one side, and had a large bunch of Christmas greens stuck in the buttonhole of his coat.
Perhaps it might be owing to the pleasing serenity that reigned in my own mind, that I fancied I saw cheerfulness in every countenance throughout the journey. Perhaps the impending holiday might have given a more than usual animation to the country, for it seemed to me as if everybody was in good looks and good spirits. Game, poultry, and other luxuries of the table, were in brisk circulation in the villages; the grocers', butchers', and fruiterers' shops were thronged with customers. The housewives were stirring briskly about, putting their dwellings in order; and the glossy branches of holly with their bright red berries, began to appear at the windows. The scene brought to mind an old writer's account of Christmas preparations :—“Now capons and hens, besides turkeys, geese and ducks, with beef and mutton, must all die—for in twelve days a multitude of people will not be fed with a little. Now plums and spice, sugar and honey, among pies and broth. Now or never must music be in tune, for the youth must dance and sing to get them a heat, while the aged sit by the fire. The country maid