Page images
PDF
EPUB

brain, and poisons every social feeling; which intrudes itself at the festive banquet, and, like the detestable harpy, pollutes the very viands of the table; which contaminates the refreshing draught while it is inhaled; which prompts the assassin to launch his poisoned arrows from behind the social board; and which renders the bottle, that boasted promoter of good fellowship and hilarity, an infernal engine, charged with direful combustion.

Oh, Asem! Asem! how does my heart sicken when I contemplate these cowardly barbarities! let me, therefore, if possible, withdraw my attention from them for ever. My feelings have borne me from my subject; and from the monuments of ancient greatness, I have wandered to those of modern degradation. My warmest wishes remain with thee, thou most illustrious of slave-drivers; mayest thou ever be sensible of the mercies of our great prophet, who, in compassion to human imbecility, has prohibited *his disciples from the use of the deluding beverage of the grape; that enemy to reason that promoter of defamation-that auxiliary of politics.

Ever thine,

MUSTAPHA.*

* In this letter of the sage Mustapha, there are some fine moral reflections: the satirical portion of it is, likewise, excellent, and we need scarcely add, is susceptible of more extensive application than to the usages of the republic.-EDIT.

No. XVII.-WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 1807.

AUTUMNAL REFLECTIONS.

BY LAUNCELOT LANGSTAFF, ESQ.

WHEN a man is quietly journeying downwards into the valley of the shadow of departed youth, and begins to contemplate in a shortened perspective the end of his pilgrimage, he becomes more solicitous than ever that the remainder of his wayfaring should be smooth and pleasant, and the evening of his life, like the evening of a summer's day, should fade away in mild uninterrupted serenity. If haply his heart has escaped uninjured, through the dangers of a seductive world, it may then administer to the purest of his felicities, and its chords vibrate more musically for the trials they have sustained-like the viol, which yields a melody sweet in proportion to its age.

To a mind thus temperately harmonized, thus matured and mellowed by a long lapse of years, there is something truly congenial in the quiet enjoyment of our early autumn, in the tranquillity of the country. There is a sober and chastened air of gaiety diffused over the face of nature, peculiarly interesting to an old man; and when he views the surrounding landscape withering under his eye, it seems as if he and nature were taking a last farewell of each other, and parting with a melancholy smile-like a couple of

old friends, who, having sported away the spring and summer of life together, part at the approach of winter with a kind of prophetic fear that they are never to meet again.

It is either my good fortune or mishap to be keenly susceptible to the influence of the atmosphere: and I can feel in the morning, before I open my window, whether the wind be easterly. It will not, therefore, I presume, be considered an extravagant instance of vain-glory when I assert, that there are few men who can discriminate more accurately in the different varieties of damps, fogs, Scotch-mists, and north-east storms, than myself. To the great discredit of my philosophy, I confess, I seldom fail to anathematize and excommunicate the weather, when it sports too rudely with my sensitive system; but then I always endeavour to atone therefore, by eulogizing it when deserving of approbation. And as most of my readers, simple folk! make but one distinction, to wit, rain and sunshine-living in most honest ignorance of the various nice shades which distinguish one fine day from another-I take the trouble, from time to time, of letting them into some of the secrets of nature so will they be the better enabled to enjoy her beauties, with the zest of connoisseurs, and derive at least as much information from my pages as from the weather-wise lore of the almanac.

Much of my recreation, since I retreated to the Hall, has consisted in making little excursions through the neighbourhood; which abounds in the variety of wild, romantic, and luxuriant landscape that generally characterizes the scenery in the vicinity of our rivers. There is not an eminence within a circuit of many miles but commands an extensive range of diversified and enchanting prospect.

Often have I rambled to the summit of some

favourite hill, and thence, with feelings sweetly tranquil as the lucid expanse of the heavens that canopied me, have noted the slow and almost imperceptible changes that mark the waning year. There are many features peculiar to our autumn, and which give it an individual character: the " green and yellow melancholy" that first steals over the landscape -the mild and steady serenity of the weather, and the transparent purity of the atmosphere, speak not merely to the senses but the heart; it is the season of liberal emotions. To this succeeds a fantastic gaiety, a motley dress, which the woods assume, where green and yellow, orange, purpel, crimson and scarlet, are whimsically blended together. A sickly splendour this! like the wild and broken-hearted gaiety that sometimes precedes dissolution, or that childish sportiveness of superannuated age, proceeding, not from a vigorous flow of animal spirits, but from the decay and imbecility of the mind. We might, perhaps, be deceived by this gaudy garb of nature, were it not for the rustling of the falling leaf, which, breaking on the stillness of the scene, seems to announce, in prophetic whispers, the dreary winter that is approaching. When I have sometimes seen a thrifty young oak changing its hue of sturdy vigour for a bright but transient glow of red, it has recalled to my mind the treacherous bloom that once mantled the cheek of a friend who is now no more; and which, while it seemed to promise a long life of jocund spirits, was the sure precursor of premature decay. In a little while, and this ostentatious foliage disappears-the close of autumn leaves but one wide expanse of dusky brown, save where some rivulet steals along, bordered with little strips of green grass-the woodland echoes no more to the carols of the feathered tribes that sported in

the leafy covert, and its solitude and silence are un interrupted except by the plaintive whistle of the quail, the barking of the squirrel, or the still more melancholy wintry wind, which, rushing and swelling through the hollows of the mountains, sighs through the leafless branches of the grove, and seems to mourn the desolation of the year.

To one who, like myself, is fond of drawing comparisons between the different divisions of life and those of the seasons, there will appear a striking analogy which connects the feelings of the aged with the decline of the year. Often as I contemplate the mild, uniform, and genial lustre with which the sun. cheers and invigorates us in the month of October, and the almost imperceptible haze which, without obscuring, tempers all the asperities of the landscape, and gives to every object a character of stillness and repose, I cannot help comparing it with that portion. of existence, when the spring of youthful hope and the summer of the passions having gone by, reason assumes an undisputed sway, and lights us on with bright but undazzling lustre, adown the hill of life. There is a full and mature luxuriance in the fields, that fills the bosom with generous and disinterested content. It is not the thoughtless extravagance of spring, prodigal only in blossoms, nor the languid voluptuousness of summer, feverish in its enjoyments, and teeming only with immature abundance-it is that certain fruition of the labours of the past—that prospect of comfortable realities, which those will be sure to enjoy who have improved the bounteous smiles of Heaven, nor wasted away their spring and summer in empty trifling or criminal indulgence.

Cousin Pindar, who is my constant companion in these expeditions, and who still possesses much of the fire and energy of youthful sentiment, and a

« PreviousContinue »