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(Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, 1831.)
A MYRIAD-MINDED vision of winter comes, breathing, frost-work-like, over the mirror of our imagination! And who knows but that the words which give it a second being--words seeming to be things, and things thoughtsafter all that evanescent imagery has relapsed into nothing, may prove a prose-poem, in which the lover of nature may behold some of her most beautiful and sublimest forms, fixed permanently before his gaze—that mental gaze, which, when the bodily eye is shut, or its range limited, continues to behold all creation in boundles reveries and dreams, lying beneath a sweeter or a more sullen light than ever fell from a material sun over a material world?
A prose-poem! The builders of the lofty rhyme are now contented to look back, through the vista of years, on the enduring edifices their genius constructed in its primesome are old and some dead—the right hands of all the living have either forgot their cunning, are idle in the joy of glory achieved, or are loath to essay other works,
“ Lest aught else great might stamp them mortal.” Some hands may have been chilled-almost palsied by doubt—despondency-or “ hope deferred, that maketh the heart sick,” and they who own them, number themselves no more among the Muses' sons. The cares and duties
of life have won away others from the charms of song ; and haply one or two there be, in whom strange and cure. less sorrows have dimmed and deadened
“ The vision and the faculty divine !" Now that those deep diapasons have ceased to roll-now that no more,
" through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault, The pealing anthem swells the note of praise,” in the hush may audience be found to listen even to our humbler strains-provided they are breathed from the inspiration of a not unthoughtful heart, and obey the biddings of that sense of beauty, which is born with every creature “ endowed with discourse of reason ;” and when cherished by conscience, God's vicegerent here below, can clothe insensate things with the charm of life, and imbue life with a spirit that speaks of immortality !
A prose-poem! Yes-prose is poetry, whenever passion and imagination give utterance, in union and in unison, to the dreams by which they are haunted and possessed ! Then from the lips of us all come
“Thoughts that breathe, and words that burn,"
and the whole “ mysterious world of eye and ear” undergoes fair or glorious transfiguration.
This house of ours is a prison—this study of ours a cell. Time has laid his fetters on our feet-fetters fine as the gossamer, but strong as Samson's ribs, silken-soft to wise submission, but to vain impatience galling as cankered wound that keeps ceaselessly eating into the bone. But while our bodily feet are thus bound by an inevitable and inexorable law, lo! our mortal wings are yet free as those of the lark, the dove, or the eagle-and they shall be expanded as of yore, in calm or tempest, now touching with their tips the bosom of this dearly beloved earth, and now aspiring heavenwards, beyond the realms of mist and cloud, even unto the very core of the still heart of that otherwise unapproachable sky, which graciously opens to receive the soul on its flight, when, disencumbered of the burden of all grovelling thoughts, and strong in its spirituality, it exults to soar
“ Beyond this visible diurnal sphere,” nearing and nearing the native region of its own incomprehensible being !
Now touching, we said, with their tips the bosom of this dearly beloved earth! How sweet that attraction to imagination's wings! How delightful in that lower flight to skim along the green ground, or as now along the soft. bosomed beauty of the virgin snow ! We were asleep all night long-sound asleep as children—while the flakes were falling, and soft as snow on snow” were all the descendings of our untroubled dreams. The moon and all her stars were willing that their lustre should be veiled by that peaceful shower—and the sun, pleased with the purity of the morning.earth, all white as innocence, looked down from heaven with a meek unmelting light, and still leaves undissolved the stainless splendour. There is frost in the air-but he « does his spiriting gently,” studding the ground-snow thickly with diamonds, and shaping the tree-snow according to the peculiar and characteristic beauty of the leaves and sprays on which it has alighted almost as gently as the dews of spring. You know every kind of tree still by its own spirit showing itself through that fairy veil-momentarily disguised from recognition but admired the more in the sweet surprise with which again your heart salutes its familiar branches all fancifully ornamented with their snow-foliage, that murmurs not like the green leaves of summer, that like the yellow leaves of autumn strews not the earth with decay, but often melts away into change so invisible and inaudible, that you wonder, in the sunshine, to find that it is all vanished, and to see the old tree again standing in its own faint-green glossy bark, with its many million buds, which perhaps fancy suddenly expands into a power of umbrage impenetrable to the sun in Scorpio.
Lo! a sudden burst of sunshine, bringing back the pensive spirit from the past to the present, and kindling it, till it dances like light reflected from a burning mirror! Behold what a cheerful sun-scene, though almost destitute of life!-An undulating landscape, hillocky and hilly, but not mountainous, and buried under the weight of a day and night's incessant and continuous snowfall! The weather has not been windy-and now that the flakes have ceased falling, there is not a cloud to be seen, except some delicate braidings, here and there along the calm of the great blue sea of heaven. Most luminous is the sun, but you can look straight on his face, almost with unwink ing eyes, so mild and mellow is his large light as it overflows the day. All enclosures have disappeared, and you indistinctly ken the greater landmarks, such as a grove, a wood, a hall, a castle, a spire, a village, a town,-the faint haze of a far off and smokeless city. Most intense is the silence. For all the streams are dumb, and the great river lies like a dead serpent in the strath. Not deadfor, lo! yonder one of his folds glitters—and in the glitter you see him moving—while all the rest of his sullen length is palsied by frost, and looks livid and more livid at every distant and more distant winding. What blackens on that tower of snow ? Crows roosting innumerous on a huge tree—but they caw not in their hunger. Neither sheep nor cattle are to be seen or heard—but they are cared for the folds and the farm-yards are all full of lifeand the ungathered stragglers are safe in their instincts. There has been a deep fall—but no storm-and the silence, though partly that of suffering, is not that of death. Therefore, to the imagination, unsaddened by the heart, the repose
is beautiful. The almost unbroken uniformity of the scene—its simple and grand monotony-lulls all the thoughts and feelings into a calm, over which is breathed the gentle excitation of a novel charm, inspiring fancies, all of a quiet character. Their range, perhaps, is not very extensive, but they all regard the homefelt and domestic charities of life. And the heart burns as here and there some human dwelling discovers itself by a wreath of smoke up the air, or as the robin redbrcast, a creature that is ever at hand, comes flitting before your path with an almost pert flutter of his feathers, bold from ihe acquaintanceship he has formed with you in severer weather at the threshold or window of the tenement, which, for years, may have been the winter sanctuary of the 6 bird whom man loves best,” and who bears a Christian name in every clime he inhabits. Meanwhile the sun
waxes brighter and warmer in heaven—some insects are in the air, as if that moment called to life-and the mosses that may yet be visible here and there along the ridge of a wall or on the stem of a tree, in variegated lustre frostbrightened, seem to delight in the snow, and in no other season of the year to be so happy as in winter. Such gentle touches of pleasure animate one's whole being, and connect by many fine associations, the emotions inspired by the objects of animate and inanimate nature, even sometimes giving to them all
“ The glory and the freshness of a dream !" Ponder on the idea—the emotion of purity—and how finely soul-blent is the delight imagination feels in a bright hush of new-fallen snow! Some speck or stain-however slight—there always seems to be on the most perfect whiteness of any other substance-or dim suffusion veils” it with some faint discolour-witness even the leaf of the lily or the rose. Heaven forbid that we should ever breathe aught but love and delight in the beauty of these consummate flowers ! But feels not the heart, even when the midsummer morning sunshine is melting the dews on their fragrant bosoms, that their loveliness is w of the earth earthy”—faintly tinged or streaked, when at the very fairest, with a hue foreboding languishment and decay? Not the less for its sake are those soulless flowers dear to us—thus owning kindred with them whose beauty is all soul,
“Oh, call it fair, not pale !" enshrined for a short while on that perishable face! Do we not still regard these insensate flowers—so emblema. tical of what, in human lise, we do most passionately love and profoundly pity—with a pensive emotion, often deepening into melancholy, that sometimes, ere the strong fit subsides, blackens into despair! Oh! what pain doubtless was in the heart of the elegiac poet of old, when he sighed over the transitory beauty of flowers,—" Quam brevis gratia florum !”—an imperfect remembrance of a beautiful lament! But over a perfectly pure expanse of nightfallen snow, when, unaffected by the gentle sun, the first