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Another peculiarity of Autumn is a diminution both in the varieties and the profusion of its flowers. The blossoms of June had long run to seed, under the excessive heat of July, and had been succeeded by other flowers, chiefly of aromatic, thick-leaved, and succulent plants, and of those called compound-flowered; but now, even these are in general casting their petals, and taking the form of seed. The meadow-saffron and Canterburybells, however, still ornament the English lawns, and the beautiful purple blossoms of the heath shed a rich glow over the uncultivated commons and craggy hills, covered with sheep.
[In New England, the various species of Aster, of Golden Rod, (Solidago,) of Gerardia, of Eupatorium, the wild Sunflower, (Helianthus divaricatus,) the Conyza, and the Life Everlasting, ( Gnaphalium,) are in their glory in this month and the next, and are among the most showy of our wild plants.] This is peculiarly the season of ripeness. It is true, that, during the whole summer, herbs and fruits of various kinds have in succession been coming to maturity, and have thus diffused labor and enjoyment over a wider space. Several productions of the garden have already been gathered; among which, the strawberry, the gooseberry, and the cherry have yielded their grateful fruits, to add to the pleasures of the summer months. But the vegetable productions capable of being stored for use, have been chiefly reserved for the autumnal season. It was not requisite, and would, in various respects, have been attended with disadvantage, both to man and the lower animals, for Nature to give forth her superabundant productions before that period when it should be necessary to lay them up for future supply. According to that admirable forethought, which the inquiring mind never ceases to perceive in the arrangements of the Creator, we find the ripening of corn and of various fruits immediately preceding the sterility of winter, not only that seeds fit for the sustenance of the wild tribes of granivorous animals might thus be more profusely scattered over the surface of the earth, but also that man might hoard in his storehouses whatever is necessary dur
ing the unproductive season, for his own subsistence and that of the animals he domesticates for his use.
It was formerly observed, that labor is most beneficently diffused over the year, so as not to cause too great a pressure of agricultural employment in any one season ;* and this remark, which is true of the whole year, is equally true of Autumn. Harvest, indeed, is the farmer's busiest season; but he is seldom overwhelmed with his labors, which follow in succession; and many hands which, at other times, are engaged in different kinds of employment, are now found unoccupied, and ready to aid in the useful task. The season of reaping oats succeeds that of reaping barley; and this again is followed by the wheat harvest, while the time for gathering peas and beans, potatoes and turnips, is still later, and seldom interferes with the former important operations. Thus it happens, that, while the farmer is enabled to store his produce in safety, the peasant obtains a desirable share of the toil and emolument arising from the operations of the
As the season advances, its character changes. At first it is full of enjoyment; an exhilarating softness is in the air; serenity and beauty is in the bright blue sky; the fields, checkered with gold and lively green, speak of plenty and enjoyment; every living thing is glad. The flocks grazing on the hills, the cattle ruminating in the shaded woodlands; the birds silently flitting from bough to bough, or sporting in flocks through the perfectly transparent air, while they prepare their young for the long migrations which instinct teaches them now to meditate; and not less the bands of reapers plying their task in the harvest field,—and the spectators, who, emancipated from the din and smoke, and artificial employments of the city, come to breathe health and refreshment in the country ;all partake of the general joy of Nature in its most joy
Towards the close of Autumn, however, a deeper sentiment occupies the mind. The warmth and brightness
*Spring,' Art. The Labors of the Husbandman wisely Distributed over the Year.
have gradually diminished; night has stolen slowly, but sensibly, on the day; the bustle and cheerfulness which pervaded the fields have ceased; the yellow grain, which betokened plenty, has been reaped and housed; and the ground, which lately shone in gold, lies withered and bare; the pastures have assumed a darker hue; the woods, although their varied and harmonizing tints are inexpressibly beautiful, speak of decay; and the sober stillness of an autumnal sky sheds a gentle sadness over the scene. It is impossible for a mind of sensibility to resist the spirit of melancholy which rests on the land and on the waters, which broods over the forests, which sighs in the air, which sits in silence on the motionless curtain of the gray clouds. Yet it is a melancholy not unmixed with enjoyment, and nearly allied to deep moral and religious feeling. The decay of Nature reminds us of our own. We too must pass into "the sere and yellow leaf," and fall away. The beauty of the woods, even in their fading, the sober grandeur of the earth and sky, the mild serenity which breathes around, on the mountain, the valley, and the placid lake,-all speak of the solemn but cheerful hour, in which the dying Christian falls asleep in the arms of his Saviour,—all seem to shadow forth the new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness,-all fill the soul with sublime musing on Him, the touch of whose finger changes every thing-Himself unchanged!
AUTUMN IN THE CITY.
How often have our hearts swelled with pride on the view of those tokens of commercial wealth and industry, which, in union with liberty, form the distinguishing characteristics of our country. Harbors crowded with vessels, that import the produce of distant lands, or distribute on remote shores what we have manufactured; rivers, canals,
and railways, groaning under the merchandise of many a city; highways thundering under the hurrying wheels of vehicles of all descriptions; and people of all sorts thronging along, each in eager pursuit of some object, and each bearing on his countenance the expression of business and lively interest;—such is the view which meets us on approaching any of our maritime towns, and it is complicated a hundred-fold when we draw near to a large city. If we enter the huge aggregate of buildings, and consider the public offices, the churches, the monuments, the magazines, these, too, lead the heart to exultation, and we say, what a wonderful creature is man! How indefatigable, how ingenious, how aspiring, how powerful! Walk we the thronged pavements, where our way is threaded through countless masses of human beings, under the influence of all varieties of passion, sordid or generous, vengeful or merciful, how little do we meet with to offend the eye or even the taste of the fastidious. How orderly, how cleanly, how sober; for even in this great wilderness of earthly appetites and passions, order is the rule, the infringement of it the exception. That which shocks and disgusts is met with but rarely, while that which pleases or aids our purposes is frequent and at hand. Or, if we venture to tread the silent midnight streets, still parched or slippery from the thousand footsteps of the previous day, how quiet the repose of the busy souls, who sleep, or seem to sleep. The noise of day, the crash of wheels, the din of men, and bells, and hammers, and machinery, is hushed; and the muffled watchman, eyeing askance the straggler, or urging forward the suspected footstep, is all that meets us to tell of life. But for him, and a few scattered lights in upper casements, we might imagine ourselves perambulating a city of the plague,—a doomed spot,—a forsaken region, to which the rising sun will no more restore life and action, than he will to the mouldering towers of Memphis or of Thebes.
Blessed sleep! thou mercifully designed composer of human irritations, winder up of worldly cares, and soother of drooping infirmities! How well did He who knoweth our frame, and remembereth that we are
dust, consider our necessities, when He bestowed thy periodical return of rest, and dropped the curtain of the night not only on the lonely and tranquil hamlets, but on the great Babels of the world, which send their roar through all their gates by day. The town is wonderful. It is the invention and the handiwork of the gregarious creature, Man.* We admire while we consider it ;-but if our admiration be analyzed, it will be found to partake of a mixture of opposite things. That so much licentiousness should exist, and produce so little that is outwardly disgusting; that so many selfish and grasping creatures should so little betray their rapacity; that so many vindictive and angry beings should so well conceal their hatred or wrath ;-all these subjects are as wonderful, as that such a mass of humanity should be accommodated in so little space, and such an accumulation of bodily necessities find, within the same, meat, drink, and clothing.
The heart is weighed down by the consideration, that a crowd of dying and responsible men is but an aggregation of evil. Were the fair covering withdrawn, what would be the spectacle behind it! Pass through the airless alleys of a city in autumn, look on the languid and pallid faces of its inhabitants; see the poor children, unconscious of the elasticity of their age, and with cheeks on which grime has occupied the place where roses never bloomed; inhale the dull, oily atmosphere which hangs over them for ever; and sicken at the inevitable odors which assault your senses;-then let your imagination convey you to the airy brow of a balmy hill, whence you can survey the valleys covered with corn, inhale the fragrance of the bean and clover fields, and behold the lusty rustics glowing over the sickle; see them breasting the waves of toil, and with light hearts encountering every labor, and you will look back with compassion, tenfold more intense, on those whose lot is cast where man is plentiful as the ears of corn, and where moral and physical evil aggravate each other. Even the balconies of the
* "God made the country, but man made the town."-COWPER.