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STRE A M S.
[APRIL 1826 ]
How delightful, even to elders like us, to feel Spring breathing once more over air and earth! We have been quite happy and contented with Winter, however severe; nor have we ever felt the slightest inclination to be satirical on that hoary personage. On the contrary, there is not a Season of them all whom we love better than hale, honest, old Winter. But when he has migrated from the lengthening days, we think cheerfully on the last time we shook hands with him ;
and knowing that he is as regular as clockwork, have no doubts of his return as soon as he hears that we have again laid in our November stock of coals and corned beef. Indeed, his son, Spring, has so strong a family resemblance to his father, that were it not for the difference of their complexion, and a totally dissimilar style of dress, we should frequently mistake the one for the other. The likeness, however, wears off as we become better acquainted with the young heir-apparent, and find that, with most of his father's virtues, he possesses many peculiar to himself; while in every point of manners or lesser morals, he bears away both the bell and the palm from his sire. Like the old gentleman, he is occasionally cold to strangers-biting
in his remarks—or wrapt up within himself; but his iciness soon thaws-his face becomes animated in the extreme-his language is even flowery-and putting his arm kindly within yours, there is nothing he likes so well as to propose a walk among the pleasant banks and braes, now alive with the newborn lambs, through whose bleating you can but faintly hear the lark returning from heaven.
We seldom are exposed to any very strong temptation to leave town till about the second week in April. Up to that time the dinners have complete power over us, and we could not tear ourselves away without acute anguish. Lamb (see last paragraph) has been exquisite for weeks; and when enjoyed at the table of a friend, not expensive. Garden stuffs, too, have purified our blood, and, if that be possible, increased our appetite. Spring has agreeably affected our animal being, without having as yet made any very forcible appeal to our intellectual or moral system. To leave town during such a crisis of private affairs, would obviously be inconsistent with our judicious character. Take them on the whole, and the best dinners of a cycle of seven years will be found to fall in the months of March and April. We have verified this fact by tables of observation kept for eight-and-twenty years, now in the temporary possession of Dr Kitchener, who has been anxiously collating them with his own private Gastronomical Journal.
Yet in spite of such tender ties, by which we are bound to the urbane board well on into April, our poetical imagination is frequently tempting us away into the country. All such temptations we manfully resist; and to strengthen us in the struggle, we never refuse a dinner invitation, except when we have reason to know that we shall be asked to eat patés. Mr Coleridge, meaning to be very severe on Mr Jeffrey for having laughed at some verses of Mr Wordsworth's, about “ the child being father of the man,” declares somewhere or other, that not willingly would he gaze on a setting sun with a man capable of the enormity of such a criticism. On the same principles precisely, not willingly would we gaze on the setting sun with any man who, in his own house, had ever asked us to begin dinner with a paté. Such a request shows a littleness of soul and stomach, that could comprehend the glory neither of a setting sun nor a round of beef-two of the very best things in their own way, in heaven or on earth. But about the 66
very middle and waist” of April, we order a search through our wardrobe for trousers, striped and spotted waistcoats, jackets, foraging-caps, and thick-soled shoes, called by our housekeeper, Clampers. Then we venture to open our eyes and look a little abroad over the suburban gardens and nurseries. We had doggedly determined, indeed, not to take any notice of Spring symptoms before that time, for fear of pining away for the green fields. Accordingly, we wore our great-coat as faithfully as if it were part of ourselves, even during the soft days that now and then came balmy over the city gardens during the somewhat surly month of March. We rather kept our eyes on the ground in passing by rows of poplars, which we knew from the sweet scent were more than budding in the sunshine. When a bee hummed past us about the suburbs, we pretended not to hear her; and as to the sparrows, why, they twitter all the year through, almost as heartily as if they were inditing valentines, and their chatter never disturbs us. In short, we wish to enjoy the first gentle embrace of Spring in some solitary spot, where nothing will impede the mutal flow of our spirits, but where, “the world forgetting, by the world forgot," we may wander away together into the ideal lands of the Imagination, nor care if we ever more return to this weary and distracted life.
Perhaps you may be a little surprised at first, when we tell you that we do not like, on our first vernal visit to the country, to go to Buchanan Lodge. We hate having anything to do with a Flitting. These lazy, lubberly porters, pretending that their backs bend under half a load for an ordinary Girzie, try all patience; and there is no standing a whole forenoon's sight of a great blue-railed waggon, with a horse seventeen hands high in the shafts, sound asleep. A Flitting" is a thing to dream of, not to see.” The servants engaged in one have a strange, wild, hurried, flustered, raised look, very alarming to a Sexagenarian: more especially the cook, armed with spit and gridiron, as with spear and shield, like Britomart. The natural impetuosity of the culinary character is exasperated into effervescence; and if she meet us hobbling down or up the front steps, she thinks no more than “ Jenny dang the
weaver" of upsetting, or at least sorely jostling, her unoffending master. The chambermaids have on Flitting-day an incomprehensible giggle, through which they seem to be communicating to one another thick-coming secrets-heaven only knows about what—and “my butler" assumes a more portly and pompous air, in the consciousness of being about to act round about the Lodge as a summer land-agent. Then all within, what a dusty desolation! Only one chair, and that in the lobby, for so many wearied bottoms—"Cupboards vast, and presses idle !” To-morrow will be a fast-day to the mice -and before the week-end, dozens will have paid the forfeit of their lives to the offended laws of their country ; for, next door, there is a maiden lady curious in traps, and inexorably cruel in the executive. You ring the bell by way of a dreary experiment, and a ghostlike echo answers from cellar and garret. For six months, and that is a long time for such an organ, that tongue will be mute. One dead plant is left behind in the lobby-window, close to the front door, for all the other windows in the house are closed up with shutters. No fear of the poor unhappy embers on the kitchen hearth setting fire to the tenement. Bang goes the street-door, like one of those melancholy peals of thunder followed by no other on some unsettled day that wants spirit for a storm-clunk plays the bolt to the strong-wrenched key in the hand of the porter—there is motion visible in the waggon, and the perceptive faculty finally admits that there is a Flitting.
All the miseries above has it frequently been our lot to witness and partake; but of late years it has been too much for us, and we have left the Flitting in the hands of Providence. Besides, how pleasant, on a stated day and hour, to walk into Buchanan Lodge, an expected Head of a House! All the domestics delighted to behold their beloved master hobbling towards the porch. Every window so clear, that you know not there is glass—the oil-skin on the lobby-floor glancing undimmed-nestlings in a twitter over all the clustering verandas; but all this is subject for a future leading article, whereas the title of the present is--Streams.
And first a few words in praise of running streams, and let us panegyrise them in SPATES. Then the rill-pretty pigmy no longer-springs up in an hour to stream's estate. Like a stripling who has been unexpectedly left a fortune by an old
uncle, he gives his home, in a hollow of the broomy braes, the slip, and away off, in full cry and gallop, to "poos his fortune" in the world, down in the “ laigh kintra.” Many a tumble he gets over waterfalls, and often do you hear him shouting before he gets out of the wood. He sings although it be Sunday, and hurries past the kirk during the time of divine service, yet not without joining for a moment in the psalm. As the young lassies are returning from kirk to cottage, he behaves rudely to them, while, high-kilted, they are crossing the fords; and ere their giggle-blended shrieks subside, continues his career, as Dr Jamieson says, in his spirited ballad on the Water-kelpie,“ loud nechering in a lauch.” And now he is all a-foam in his fury, like a chestnut horse. The sheep and lambs stare at him in astonishment; and Mr Wordsworth’s Old Ram, who is so poetically described in the Excursion as admiring his horns and beard, face and figure, in one of the clear pools of the Brathay, the Pride of Windermere, were he now on a visit to Scotland, would die of disappointed self-love, a heart-broken Narcissus. On he goes—the rill- rivulet"neither to haud nor to bin' -a most uproarious hobbletehoy. He is just at that time of life-say about seventeen—when the passions are at their worst or their best—'tis hard to say which -at their newest, certainly, and perhaps at their strongest, and when they listen to no voice but their own, which then seems to fill heaven and earth with music. But what noise is this? Thunder? Noma Corra-Linn, or a Stonebyres of a waterfall. Lo! yonder a great river sweeping along the strath. The rillrivulet, with one shiver and shudder—for now 'tis too late to turn back, and onwards he is driven by his own weight, which is only another name for his own destiny-leaps with a sudden plunge into the red-roaring Spate, and in an instant loses his name and nature, and disappears for ever. Just so is it with the young human prodigal, lost in the Swollen River of Life thundering over the world's precipices.
Turn for a moment to the Grampians. You are all alone quite by yourself-no object seems alive in existence for the eagle is mute—the antlers of the red-deer, though near, invisible—not one small moorland bird is astir among the brackens -no ground bee is at work on the sullen heather—and the aspect of the earth is grim as that of heaven. Hark! From what airt moans the thunder?—'Tis like an earthquake. Now,