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CHRISTOPHER NORT H.
Art thou beautiful, as of old, O wild, moorland, sylvan, and pastoral Parish! the Paradise in which our spirit dwelt beneath the glorious dawning of life--can it be, beloved world of boyhood, that thou art indeed beautiful as of old? Though round and round thy boundaries in half an hour could fly the flapping dove-though the martens, wheeling to and fro that ivied and wall-flowered ruin of a Castle, central in its own domain, seem in their more distant flight to glance their crescent wings over a vale rejoicing apart in another kirk-spire, yet how rich in streams, and rivulets, and rills, each with its own peculiar murmur—art Thou with thy bold bleak exposure, sloping upwards in ever lustrous undulations to the portals of the East! How endless the interchange of woods and meadows, glens, dells, and brooniy nooks, without number, among thy banks and braes! And then of human dwellings-how rises the smoke, ever and anon, into the sky, all neighbouring on each other, so that the cock-crow is heard from homestead to homestead; while as you wander onwards, each roof still rises unexpectedly—and as solitary, as if it had been far remote. Fairest of Scotland's thousand parishes--neither Highland, nor Lowland—but undulating—let us again use the descriptive word—like the sea in sunset after a day of storms—yes,
Heaven's blessing be upon thee! Thou art indeed beautiful as of old !
The same heavens! More blue than any colour that tinges the flowers of earth-like the violet veins of a virgin's bosom. The stillness of those lofty clouds makes them seem whiter than the snow. Return, O lark! to thy grassy nest, in the furrow of the green brairded corn, for thy brooding mate can no longer hear thee soaring in the sky. Methinks there is little or no change on these coppice-woods, with their full budding branches all impatient for the spring. Yet twice have axe and bill-hook levelled them with the mossy stones, since among the broomy and briery knolls we sought the grey linnet's nest, or wondered to spy, among the rustling leaves, the robin-redbreast, seemingly forgetful of his winter benefactor,
Surely there were trees here in former times, that now are gone-tall, far-spreading single trees, in whose shade used to lie the ruminating cattle, with the small herd-girl asleep. Gone are they, and dimly remembered as the uncertain shadows of dreams; yet not more forgotten than some living beings with whom our infancy and boyhood held converse—whose voices, laughter, eyes, forehead-hands so often graspedarms linked in ours, as we danced along the braes—have long ceased to be more than images and echoes, incapable of commanding so much as one single tear. Alas! for the treachery of memory to all the holiest human affections, when beguiled by the slow but sure
It is MAY-DAY, and we shall be happy as the season. What although some sad and solemn thoughts come suddenly across us, the day is not at nightfall felt to have been the less delightful, because shadows now and then bedimmed it, and moments almost mournful, of an unhymning hush, took possession of field or forest. We are all alone-a solitary pedestrian; and obeying the fine impulses of a will, whose motives are changeable as the cameleon's hues, our feet shall bear us glancingly along to the merry music of streams—or linger by the silent shores of lochs—or upon the hill-summit pause, ourselves the only spectator of a panorama painted by Spring, for our sole delight—or plunge into the old wood's magnificent exclusion from sky—where, at midsummer, day is as night—though not so now, for this is the season of buds and blossoins; and the cushat's nest is yet visible on the half-leafed boughs, and the
orcery of time.
sunshine streams in upon the ground-flowers, that in another month will be cold and pale in the forest gloom, almost as those that bedeck the dead when the vault door is closed and all is silence.
What! shall we linger here within a little mile of the MANSE, wherein and among its pleasant bounds our boyish life glided murmuring away, like a stream that never, till it leaves its native hills, knows taint or pollution, and not hasten on to the dell, in which nest-like it is built, and guarded by some wonderful felicity of situation equally against all the winds ? No. Thither as yet have we not courage to direct our footsteps—for that venerable Man has long been dead—not one of his ancient household now remains on earth. There the change, though it was gradual and unpainful, according to the gentlest laws of nature, has been entire and complete. The “old familiar faces" we can dream of, but never more shall seeand the voices that are now heard within those walls, what can they ever be to us, when we would fain listen in the silence of our spirit to the echoes of departed years? It is an appalling trial to approach a place where once we have been happier— happier far than ever we can be on this earth again ; and a worse evil doth it seem to our imagination to return to Paradise, with a changed and saddened heart, than at first to be driven from it into the outer world, if still permitted to carry thither something of that spirit that had glorified our prime.
But yonder, we see, yet towers the Sycamore on the crown of the hill—the first great Tree in the parish that used to get green; for stony as seems the hard glebe, constricted by its bare and gnarled roots, they draw sustenance from afar; and not another knoll on which the sun so delights to pour his beams. Weeks before any other Sycamore, and almost as early as the alder or the birch—the GLORY OF Mount PLEASANT, for so we schoolboys called it, unfolded itself like a banner. You could then see only the low windows of the dwelling—for eaves, roof, and chimneys all disappeared—and then, when you stood beneath, was not the sound of the bees like the very sound of the sea itself, continuous, unabating, all day long unto evening, when, as if the tide of life had ebbed, there was a perfect silence !
MOUNT PLEASANT! well indeed dost thou deserve the name, bestowed on thee perhaps long ago, not by any one of the humble proprietors, but by the general voice of praise, all eyes being won by thy cheerful beauty. For from that shaded platform, what a sweet vision of fields and meadows, knolls, braes, and hills, uncertain gleamings of a river, the smoke of many houses, and glittering perhaps in the sunshine, the spire of the House of God! To have seen Adam Morrison, the Elder, sitting with his solemn, his austere Sabbath-face, beneath the pulpit, with his expressive eyes fixed on the Preacher, you could not but have judged him to be a man of a stern character and austere demeanour. To have seen him at labour on the working days, you might almost have thought him the serf of some tyrant-lord, for into all the toils of the field he carried the force of a mind that would suffer nothing to be undone that strength and skill could achieve; but within the humble porch of his own house, beside his own board, and his own fireside, he was a man to be kindly esteemed by his guests, by his own family tenderly and reverently beloved. His wife was the comeliest matron in the parish, a woman of active habits and a strong mind, but tempering the natural sternness of her husband's character with that genial and jocund cheerfulness, that of all the lesser virtues is the most efficient to the happiness of a household. One daughter only had they, and we could charm our heart even now, by evoking the vanished from oblivion, and imaging her over and over again in the light of words; but although all objects, animate and inanimate, seem always tinged with an air of sadness when they are past —and as at present we are resolved to be cheerful—obstinately to resist all access of melancholy-an enemy to the pathetic ---and a scorner of shedders of tears—therefore let Mary Morrison rest in her grave, and let us paint a pleasant picture of a May-Day afternoon, and enjoy it as it was enjoyed of old, beneath that stately Sycamore, with the grandisonant name of THE GLORY OF MOUNT PLEASANT.
There, under the murmuring shadow round and round that noble stem, used on May-Day to be fitted a somewhat fantastic board, all deftly arrayed in home-spun drapery, white as the patches of unmelted snow on the distant mountain-head; and on various seats-stumps, stones, stools, creepies, forms, chairs, armless and with no spine, or high-backed and elbowed, and the carving-work thereof most intricate and allegorical—took