« PreviousContinue »
IM PRES' SION, idea; notion.
SUC CU LENT, full of sap; juicy.
GORGEOUS, showy; brilliant.
DREAR' I NESS, gloominess.
REG' IS TER, record; note down.
DRA' PER Y, hangings; decorations.
› AR' A BESQUES, is a word, denoting ornaments after the Arabian manner, often intricate and fantastic, from the intermingling of foliage, fruits, &c, with other objects real or imaginary.
HENRY WARD BEECHER.
1. It is the impression of many, that only in summer, including spring and autumn, of course, is the country desirable as a residence. The country in summer, and the city for the winter. It is true, that the winter gives attractions to the city, in endless meetings, lectures, concerts, and indoor amusements; but it is not true that the country loses all interest when the leaves are shed and the grass is gone. On the contrary, to one who has learned how to use his senses and his sensibilities, there are attractions in the winter of a peculiar kind, and pleasures which can be reaped only then.
2. It appears to me, that winter comes in to relieve the head grows, year of satiety. The mind grows sated with greenness. After eight or nine months of luxuriant growths, the eye grows accustomed to vegetation. To be sure, we never are less pleased with the wide prospect; with forms of noble trees, with towns and meadows, and with the whole aspect of nature. But it is the pleasure of one pampered. We lose the keen edge of hunger. The eye enjoys, without the
relish of newness. We expect to enjoy. Every thing loses surprise.
3. Of course, the sky is blue, the grass succulent, the fields green, the trees umbrageous, the clouds silent and mysterious. They were so yesterday, they are so to-day, they will be so to-morrow, next week, next month. In short, the mind does not cease to feel the charm of endless growths; but needs variety, change of diet, less of perpetual feasting, and something of the blessings of a fast. This winter gives. It says to us: You have had too much. You are luxurious and dainty. You need relief and change of diet.
4. The cold blue of the sky, the cold gray of rocks, the sober warmth of browns and russets, take the place of more gorgeous colors. If, now, one will accept this change in the tone of nature, after a time a new and relishful pleasure arises. The month formed by the last fortnight of November and the first two weeks of December, is, to me, the saddest of the year. It most nearly produces the sense of desolateness and dreariness of any portion of the year.
5. From the hour that the summer begins to shorten its days, and register the increasing change along the horizon, over which the sun sets, farther and farther toward the south, we have a genial and gentle sadness. But sadness belongs to all very deep joys. It is almost as needful to the perfectness of joy, as shadows in landscapes are to the charm of the picture. Then, too, comes the fading out of flowers, -each variety in its turn, saying, "Farewell till next
6. Scarcely less suggestive of departing summer are the new-comers, the late summer golden-rod, the asters, and all autumnal flowers. Long experience teaches us that these are the latest blossoms that fall from the sun's lap, and next
to them is snow. By association we already see white in the yellow and blue. Then, too, birds are thinking of other things. No more nests, no more young, no more songs,except signal-notes and rallying-calls; for they are evidently warned, and go about their little remaining daily business, as persons who expect every hour to depart to a distant land.
7. It is scarcely ever that we see the birds go. They are here to-day, and gone to-morrow. They disappear without observation. The fields are empty and silent. It seems as if the winds had blown them away with the leaves. The first sight of northern waterfowl, far up in the air, retreating from Labrador and the short, Arctic summer, is always to us like the declaration: "Summer is gone; winter is behind us; it will soon be upon you." At last come the late days of November. All is gone,-frosts reap and glean more sharply every night.
8. A few weeks bring earnest winter. Then begin to dawn other delights. The bracing air, the clean, snow-paths, the sled and sleigh, the revelation of forms that all summer were grass-hidden; the sharp-outlined hills lying clear upon the sky; the exquisite tracery of trees, especially of all such trees as that dendral child of God, the elm, whose branches are carried out into an endless complexity of fine lines of spray, and which stands up in winter, showing in its whole anatomy, that all its summer shade was founded upon the most substantial reality.
9. In winter, too, particularly in the latter periods of it, the extremities of shrubs and branches begin to take on ruddy hues, or purplish browns, and the eye knows that these are the first faint blushes of coming summer. Now, too, we find how beautiful are the mosses in the woods; and under them we find solitary green leaves, that have laughed all winter because they had outwitted the frost.
10. Wherever flowing springs gush from sheltered spots looking south, one will find many green edges, young grass, and some few tougher leaves. Now, too, in still days, the crow swings heavily through the air, cawing with a pleasing harshness. For dieting has performed its work. Your appetite is eager. A little now pleases you more than abundance did in August. Every tiny leaf is to you like a cedar of Lebanon.
11. All these things are unknown to dwellers in cities. It is nothing to them that a robin appeared for the first time yesterday morning, or that a blue-bird sang over against the house. Some new prima-donna* exhausts their admiration. They are yet studying laces, and do not care for the fringe of swamps, for the first catkins of the willow. They are still coveting the stores of precious stones at the jewelers, and do not care for my ruby buds, and red dogwood, and scarlet winter-berries, and ground pine, and partridge-berry leaves.
12. There is one sight of the country, at about this time of the year—the first of March-that few have seen, or else they have passed it by as if it were not worthy of record. I mean the drapery of rocks in gorges, or along precipitous sides of hills or mountains. The seams of rocks are the outlets of springs. The water, trickling through, is seized by the frost, and held fast in white enchantment. Every day adds to the length of the ice drapery; and, as the surface is overlaid by new issuings, it is furred and fretted with silverwhite chasings, the most exquisite.
13. Thus, one may find a succession, in a single gorge, of extraordinary ice-curtains, and pendent draperies, of varyin lengths, of every fantastic form, of colors varying by thickness, or by the tinge of earth or rock shining through them.
*The first female singer in an opera.
In my boyhood, I used to wander along these fairy halls, imagining them to be now altars in long, white draperies; now, grand cathedral pillars of white marble; then, long tapestries chased in white, with arabesques' and crinkled vines and leaves.
14. Sometimes they seemed like gigantic bridal decorations, or like the robes of beings vast and high, hung in their wardrobes while they slept. But, whatever fancy interpreted them, or whether they were looked upon with two good, sober, literal eyes, they were, and still are, among the most delightful of winter exhibitions, to those who are wise enough to search out the hidden beauty of winter in the country.
QUESTIONS.-1. What are some of the attractions of winter in the city? 2. What are some of the delights of winter in the country? 3. What is said of the drapery of rocks? 4. What did the writer imagine them to be, in boyhood?
1. "Ere yet the clouds let fall the treasured snow,