Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

of the various phenomena peculiar to this inclement season; nor shall I pursue my researches, at present, into more northern regions.-Winter has been defined to be that season of the year in which the days are shortest. It commences on or about the 22d of December, which is called the Winter Solstice, being that day when the sun's distance from the zenith of the place is greatest; and it ends on the 20th of March, when its distance is at a mean between the greatest and the least; that is, at the time of the equinox. But I shall only observe further, that notwithstanding the coldness of this season, it has been demonstrated by astronomers, that the sun is really nearer to the earth in winter than in summer. The principal cause of this difference is, that in winter the sun's rays fall so obliquely upon us, and have so large a portion of the atmosphere to pass through, that any given number of them is spread over a much greater portion of the earth's surface where we live; and therefore each point must then have fewer rays than in summer, or when the sun is at a greater height above the horizon. There comes, moreover, a greater degree of cold in the long winter nights, than can be compensated for by the return of heat in the short days; and, on both these accounts, the cold must necessarily increase. In summer, on the contrary, the rays of the sun fall more perpendicularly upon us, and therefore strike with greater force and in greater numbers on the same place, than when they come more obliquely; and by the longer continuance of the sun above the horizon than in winter, a much greater degree of heat is imparted by day than can fly off by night, so that the heat must increase.

Severe and rigorous as winter is described to be,. its various scenes, however, cannot fail to suggest many subjects of gratitude to the Contempla

tive Philosopher. Few minds are so devoid of sensibility, as not to experience the most grateful emotions, when the inexhaustible bounties of the Supreme Being bloom around in spring, in beautiful profusion; delight the eye in summer with maturing promise; and ripen in autumn into rich and exquisite perfection. In general, even in minds not unsusceptible in other respects, we seldom find a disposition to grateful admiration, when they behold the ravages in the creation; the orchards stripped of their golden fruits; and harmony extinct in the groves, now bending with the snow, their beauty withered, and their verdure lost.'

[ocr errors]

No mark of vegetable life is seen,

No bird to bird repeats his tuneful call,
Save the dark leaves of some rude evergreen,

Save the lone red-breast on the moss-grown wall.

JOHN SCOTT.

In the beautiful invitation to a redbreast by Vincent Bourne, translated by the amiable Cowper, are the following appropriate lines:

Sweet bird, whom the winter constrains--;
And seldom another it can-
To seek a retreat while he reigns,

In the well-sheltered dwelling of man.
Who never can seem to intrude,

Tho' in all places equally free,
Come oft' as the season is rude!

Thou art sure to be welcome to me.

The poet, having promised a feast at his windows,' and convinced of being paid with a song, thus beautifully proceeds:

·

6

Then, soon as the swell of the buds
Bespeaks the renewal of spring,
Fly hence, if thou wilt, to the woods,
Or where it shall please thee to sing:

And should'st thou, compelled by a frost,
Come again to my window or door,
Doubt not an affectionate host,

Only pay as thou pay'dst me before".

But the benign Governor of the universe, who has subjected his creatures to the rigours of this season, has graciously enabled them to mitigate its severity by a variety of resources. The woods, which, in spring, crowned the hills with majestic verdure, now contribute to erect the comfortable mansion; or, added to what is extracted from the bowels of the earth, afford us the unspeakable blessing of fire. The flocks, which no longer gladden our plains, nor, to the poetic eye, revive Arcadian scenes, have given us their summer fleeces to protect us from the piercing cold; and the fruits with which autumn adorned our orchards, are now laid up, with its golden harvests, for our nourishment and support. In a word, the devout mind may have reason, even in winter, to exclaim with the Psalmist, O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.'

Had it been given to us mortals to comprehend the connection of every thing in nature, with what fervour of admiration should we adore the wisdom and goodness of the great Creator! But although we are incapable of forming an idea of the plan and extent of his wondrous works (those works which display infinity in the two extremes of magnitude and minuteness), we may yet perceive enough to convince us, that, with respect to the happiness of the whole, every thing in nature must be ultimately ordered for the best. Winter belongs not less to the divine plan than the more

For the remainder of this translation, and the no less exquisite original, see Cowper's Poems, vol. iii. 355. p.

pleasing seasons of the year. Were there no winter, neither the spring, nor summer, nor autumn, would display such a variety of beauties; for the earth itself would lose those rich stores of nourishment and fertility, to which even the winter so copiously contributes.

The felicities of the golden age are beautiful in poetic vision. A youthful fancy is delighted with fruits and blossoms blushing, in social sweetness, on the self-same bough.' It wanders, with ecstasy, through groves adorned with perennial verdure, while Favonian gales perfume the ever-smiling skies. But these are the enchanted reveries of fiction, not the sober representations of truth. The human mind, which seems ever anxious for new gratifications, would revolt at the idea of perpetual sameness and uniformity, even in the most beautiful scenes and the most exquisite enjoyments. One can have no idea of happiness, when it does not, in some degree, result from comparison: for not only variety contributes much to our sense of happiness, but not unfrequently a recollection of former calamities, or of some recent suffering. That degree of ease which we scarcely regard in the full enjoyment of health, is ecstacy itself, when pain has taught us how to prize the inestimable blessing. In the moral world how sweet are the uses of adversity,' which best instruct us how to estimate and how to enjoy prosperity! In like manner, the recollection of the frowning skies of winter will make us rejoice in the return of that spring, in whose flowery walks, if perpetual, we should have trod with languor and indifference. More cheerily will the heart then dance to the music of the groves, when it recollects how recently their tuneful haunts were dumb. Brighter, then, will be the verdant robes which the woods assume, contrasted with their late leafless and inhospitable appear

ance; and, as hope waits upon the flowery prime,' the fruits and flowers, when they bud, will delight the fancy, in sweet anticipation, with all the pride of summer, and all the riches of autumn. The rigours of departed winter will be forgotten in that all-enlivening renovation of Nature. In fie, our hearts, then attuned to cheerfulness and gaiety, will confess this important truth, that as Providence has made the human soul an active being, always impatient for novelty, and struggling for something yet unenjoyed with unwearied progression, the world seems to have been entirely adapted to this disposition of the mind: it is formed to raise expectation by constant vicissitudes, and to obviate satiety with perpetual change.'

No. II.

ON WINDS AND STORMS.

Ingeminant austri, et densissimus imber:
Nunc nemora ingenti vento, nunc littora plangit,

VIRGIL.

The winds redouble, and the rains augment:
The waves on heaps are dashed against the shore,
And now the woods, and now the billows roar.

DRYDEN.

AS Winter unfolds his awful train, vapours, and clouds, and storms,' the Contemplative Philosopher becomes habituated to views of the stupendous and sublime. Verdant groves, variegated meadows and radiant skies, are now succeeded by leafless woods, dejected wastes, and a frowning atmosphere. But while the incurious and inatten

« ÎnapoiContinuă »