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solemn monotony over all; and the dimple of that same brook and the waterfall's unaltered base, shall still reach you in the intervals of its power, as much in harmony as before, and as much a part of its perfect and perpetual hymn.
3. There is no accident of nature's causing which can bring in discord. The loosened rock may fall into the abyss, and the overblown tree rush down through the branches of the wood, and the thunder peal awfully in the sky; and sudden and violent as these changes seem, their tumult goes up with the sound of the winds and waters, and the exquisite ear of the musician can detect no jar.
4. I have read somewhere of a custom in the Highlands," which, in connection with the principle it involves, is exceedingly beautiful. It is believed that, to the ear of the dying, which just before death always becomes exquisitely acute, the perfect harmony of the voices of nature is so ravishing, as to make him forget his sufferings, and die gently, like one in a pleasant trance.
5. And so, when the last moment approaches, they take him from within and bear him out into the open sky, that he may hear the familiar rushing of the streams. I can believe that it is not superstition. I do not think we know how exquisitely nature's many voices are attuned to harmony, and to each other.
6. The old philosopher we read of might not have been dreaming when he discovered that the order of the sky was like a scroll of written music, and that two stars, (which are said to have appeared centuries after his death in the very places he mentioned,) were wanting to complete the harmony.
7. We know how wonderful are the phenomena of color; how strangely like consummate art the strongest dyes are blended in the plumage of birds, and in the cups of flowers; so that, to the practiced eye of the painter, the harmony is inimitably perfect. It is natural to suppose every part of the
Highlands; that part of Scotland lying north of the Grampian hills.
universe equally perfect; and it is a glorious and elevating thought, that the stars of heaven are moving on continually to music, and that the sounds we daily listen to are but a part of a melody that reaches to the very center of God's illimitable spheres.
8. It is not mere poetry to talk of the "voices of summer." It is the day-time of the year, and its myriad influences are audibly at work. Even by night you may lay your ear to the ground, and hear that faintest of murmurs, the sound of growing things. If you have been used to rising early, you have not forgotten how the stillness of the night seems increased by the timid note of the first bird. It is the only time when I would lay a finger on the lip of nature, the deep hush is so very solemn.
9. By and by, however, the birds are all up, and the peculiar holiness of the hour declines; but what a world of music does the sun shine on! the deep lowing of the cattle blending in with the capricious warble of a thousand of God's happy creatures, and the stir of industry coming on the air like the under-tones of a choir, and the voice of man, heard in the distance over all, like a singer among instruments, giving them meaning and language!
10. And then, if your ear is delicate, you have minded how all these sounds grew softer and sweeter, as the exhalations of dew floated up, and the vibrations loosened in the thin air. You should go out some morning in June, and listen to the notes of the birds. They express, far more than our own, the characters of their owners. From the scream of the vulture and the eagle, to the low brooding of the dove, they are all modified by their habits of support, and their consequent dispositions.
11. With the small birds, the voice seems to be but an outpouring of gladness; and it is pleasant to see that without one articulate word it is so sweet a gift to them. It seems a necessary vent to their joy of existence, and I believe in
a It is supposed by some, that there is a peculiar indefinable noise produced by the rapid growth of vegetation.
my heart, that a dumb bird would die of its imprisoned full
12. But if you would hear one of nature's most various and delicate harmonies, lie down in the edge of the wood when the evening breeze begins to stir, and listen to its coming. It touches first the silver foliage of the birch, and the slightly hung leaves, at its merest breath, will lift and rustle like a thousand tiny wings; and then it creeps up to the tall fir, and the fine tassels send out a sound like a low whisper; and as the oak feels its influence, the thick leaves stir heavily, and a deep tone comes sullenly out like the echo of a far-off bassoon. They are all wind-harps of different power; and as the breeze strengthens and sweeps equally over them all, their united harmony has a wonderful grandeur and beauty.
13. Hitherto I have spoken only of the sounds of irrational and inanimate nature. A better than these, and the best music under heaven, is the music of the human voice." I doubt whether all voices are not capable of it, though there must be degrees in it as in beauty.
14. The tones of affection in all children are sweet, and we know not how much their unpleasantness in after life may be the effect of sin and coarseness, and the consequent habitual expression of discordant passions. But we do know that the voice of any human being becomes touching by distress, and that even on the coarse-minded and the low, religion and the higher passions of the world have sometimes so wrought, that their eloquence was like the strong passages of an organ.
15. I have been much about in the world, and with a boy's unrest and a peculiar thirst for novel sensations, have mingled for a time in every walk of life; yet never have I known man or woman under the influence of any strong feeling, that was not utterly degraded, whose voice did not deepen to a chord of grandeur, or soften to cadences to which a harp might have swept pleasantly.
16. It is a perfect instrument as it comes from the hand of
a Dr. Reid remarks that five hundred variations of tone may be perceived by the ear, and as many variations of strength of tone.
its Maker, and though its strings may relax with the atmosphere, or be injured by misuse and neglect, it is always capable of being restrung to its compass till its frame is shattered.
17. There is something exceedingly impressive in the breaking in of church bells on the stillness of the Sabbath. I doubt whether it is not more so in the heart of a populous city than any where else. The presence of any single, strong feeling, in the midst of a great people, has something of awfulness in it which exceeds even the impressiveness of nature's breathless Sabbath.
18. I know few things more imposing, than to walk the streets of a city when the peal of the early bells is just beginning. The deserted pavements, the closed windows of the places of business, the decent gravity of the solitary passenger, and, over all, the feeling in your own bosom that the fear of God is brooding like a great shadow over the thousand human beings who are sitting still in their dwellings around you, were enough, if there were no other circumstance, to hush the heart into a religious fear.
19. But when the bells peal out suddenly with a summons to the temple of God, and their echoes roll on through the desolate streets, and are unanswered by the sound of any human voice, or the din of any human occupation, the effect has sometimes seemed to me more solemn than the near thunder.
⚫ 20. Far more beautiful, and, perhaps, quite as salutary as a religious influence, is the sound of a distant Sabbath bell in the country. It comes floating over the hills like the going abroad of a spirit; and as the leaves stir with its vibrations, and the drops of dew tremble in the cups of the flowers, you could almost believe that there was a Sabbath in nature, and that the dumb works of God rendered visible worship for his goodness.
THE FALLS OF NIAGARA.*
1. APPROACHING the falls from Buffalo on the Canadian shore, the first indication of our proximity to them was a hoarse rumbling, which was scarcely audible at the distance of four or five miles, but which opened on the ear, as we advanced, with increasing roar, until, at the distance of two miles, it became loud as the voice of many waters.
2. A column of mist in the mean time ascending, as smoke from a pit, marked more definitely than sound could do, the exact position of this scene of wonders. The sublime arising from obscurity, was now experienced in all its power; it did not appear what we should see, but imagination seized the moment to elevate and fill the mind with expectation and majestic dread.
3. Within a mile of the falls the river rolls smoothly along in rapid silence, as if unconscious of its approaching destiny, till at once, across its entire channel, it falls the apparent distance of ten or twelve feet, when instantly its waters are thrown into consternation and foam, and they boil, and whirl, and run in every direction, as if filled with instinctive dread. At this place the shores recede, and allow the terrified waters to spread out in shallows over an extent twice as broad as the natural channel of the river.
4. A portion of the waters, as if hoping to escape, rushes between the American shore and the island, whose brow forms a part of the continued cliff, which on either side constitutes the falls, and too late to retreat, discovering the mistake, hurries down the precipice, and is dashed on the rocks below. This is the highest part of the fall, and the most nearly approaching to the beautiful; the waters being shallow, and the sheet entirely white below.
a Niagara (Ni-ag'a-ra;) the largest cataract in the world, but not so high as Mont morency in Canada, or Tequendama in New Grenada.