Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

The effect of nature alone is purifying, and its thousand evidences of wisdom are too eloquent of their Maker not to act as a continual lesson; but combined with the instilled piety of childhood, and the knowledge of the inviolable holiness of the time, the mellow cadences of a church bell give to the hush of the country Sabbath, a holiness to which only a desperate heart could be insensible.

LESSON XVI.

A SUMMER SHOWER.

The rain is o'er-how dense and bright

Yon pearly clouds reposing lie !
Cloud above cloud, a glorious sight,

Contrasting with the dark blue sky!
In grateful silence earth receives

The general blessing; fresh and fair,
Each flower expands its little leaves,

As glad the common joy to share.
The softened sunbeams pour around

A fairy light, uncertain, pale;
The wind blows cool ; the scented ground

Is breathing odors on the gale.
Mid yon rich cloud's voluptuous pile,

Methinks some spirit of the air
Might rest to gaze below a while,

Then turn and bathe and revel there.

The sun breaks forth—from off the scene

Its floating veil of mist is flung;
And all the wilderness of green

With trembling drops of light is hung.

Hear the rich music of that voice

Which sounds from all below, above;
She calls her children to rejoice,

And round them throws her arms of love.

LESSON XVII.

LIFE IN SWEDEN

LIFE in Sweden is for the most part patriarchal. Almost primeval simplicity reigns over this northern land-almost primeval solitude and stillness. You pass out from the gate of the city, and, as if by magic, the scene changes to a wild, woodland landscape. Around you are forests of fir. Over head hang the long, fan-like branches, trailing with moss, and heavy with red and blue cones. Under foot is a carpet of yellow leaves; and the air is warm and balmy.

On a wooden bridge you cross a little silver stream. Anon you come forth into a pleasant and sunny land of farms. Wooden fences divide the adjoining fields. Across the road are gates, which are opened for you by troops of children. The peasants take off their hats as you pass. You sneeze, and they cry, God bless you. The houses in the yillages and smaller cities are all built of hewn timber, and for the most part painted red.

The floors of the taverns are strewn with the fragrant tips of fir boughs. In many villages there are no taverns, and the peasants take turns in receiving travelers. The thrifty housewife shows you into the best chamber, the walls of which are hung round with rude pictures from the Bible; and brings you her heavy silver spoons wherewith to dip the curdled milk from the pan.

You have oaten cakes baked some months before; or bread with anise seed and coriander in it, and perhaps a little pine bark.

Meanwhile the sturdy husband has brought his horses from the plough, and harnessed them to your carriage. Solitary travelers come and go in uncouth one-horse chaises. Most of them have pipes in their mouths, and hanging around their necks in front, a leathern wallet, wherein they carry tobacco. You meet, also, groups of peasant women, traveling homeward, or city-ward in pursuit of work. They walk barefoot, carrying in their hands their shoes, which have high heels under the hollow of the foot, and soles of. birch bark.

Frequent, too, are the village churches, standing by the road-side, each in its own little garden of Gethsemane. In the parish register great events are doubtless recorded. Some old king was christened or buried in that church; and a little sexton, with a great rusty key, shows you the baptismal font, or the coffin. In the church-yard are a few flowers, and much green grass; and daily the shadow of the church spire, with its long tapering finger, counts the tombs, thus repre

а

[ocr errors]

senting an index of human life, on which the hours and minutes are the graves of men.

The stones are flat, and large, and low, and perhaps sunken, like the roofs of old houses. On some are armorial bearings; on others only the initials of the poor tenants, with a date, as on the roofs of Dutch cottages. They all sleep with their heads to the westward. Each held a lighted taper in his hand when he died ; and in his coffin were placed his little hearttreasures, and a piece of money for his last journey.

Near the church-yard gate stands a poor-box, fastened to a post by iron bands, and secured by a padlock, with a sloping wooden roof to keep off the rain. If it be Sunday, the peasants sit on the church steps and con their psalm-books. Others are coming down the road with their beloved pastor, who talks to them of holy things from beneath his broad-brimmed hat. He speaks of fields and harvests, and of the parable of the sower that went forth to sow. He leads them to the good Shepherd, and to the pleasant pastures of the spirit-land. He is their patriarch, and, like Melchisedeck, both priest and king, though he has no other throne than the church pulpit. The women carry psalm-books in their hands, wrapped in silk handker chiefs, and listen devoutly to the good man's words.

I must not forget the sudden changing seasons of the northern clime. There is no long and lingering spring, unfolding leaf and blossom one by one ;--no long and lingering autumn, pompous with many-colored leaves and the glow of Indian summerş. But winter and summer are wonderful, and pass into each other. The quail has hardly ceased piping in the corn, when

[ocr errors]

a

winter, from the folds of trailing clouds, sows broadcast over the land, snow, icicles, and rattling hail.

The days wane apace. Ere long the sun hardly rises above the horizon, or does not rise at all. The moon and the stars shine through the day; only, at noon, they are pale and wan, and in the southern sky a red, fiery glow, as of sunset, burns along the horizon, and then goes out. And pleasantly under the silver moon, and under the silent, solemn stars, ring the steel shoes of the skaters on the frozen sea, and voices, and the sound of bells.

And now the Northern Lights begin to burn, faintly at first, like sunbeams playing in the waters of the blue sea.

Then a soft crimson glow tinges the heavens. There is a blush on the cheek of night. The colors come and go; and change from crimson to gold, from gold to crimson. The snow is stained with rosy light. . Twofold from the zenith, east and west, flames a fiery sword; and a broad band passes athwart the heavens, like a summer sunset. Soft purple clouds come sailing over the sky, and through their vapory folds the winking stars shine white as silver.

With such pomp as this is Merry Christmas ushered in, though only a single star heralded the first Christ

And in memory of that day the Swedish peasants dance on straw; and the peasant girls throw straws at the timbered roof of the hall, and for every one that sticks in a crack shall a groomsman come to their wedding. Merry Christmas indeed!

And now the glad, leafy mid-summer, full of blossoms and the song of nightingales, is come! In every village there is a May-pole fifty feet high, with wreaths

G

mas.

[ocr errors]
« ÎnapoiContinuă »