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'Tis sunset, and the heron wading in
The shallows, 'mong the reeds now spreads her wings,
A. J. SYMINGTON.
"It is a strange thing how little, in general, people know about the sky. It is the part of the creation in which nature has done more for the sake of pleasing man, more for the sole and evident purpose of talking to him and teaching him, than in any other of her works, and it is just the part in which we least attend to her. There are not many of her dim works in which some more material or essential purpose than the mere pleasing of man is not answered by every part of their organisation; but every essential purpose of the sky might, so far as we know, be answered if once in three days, or thereabouts, a great, ugly, black, rain-cloud were brought up over the blue, and everything well watered, and so all left blue again till the next time, with perhaps a film of morning and evening mist for dew. And instead of this, there is not a moment of any day of our lives, when nature is not producing scene after scene, picture after picture, glory after glory, and working still upon such exquisite and constant principles of the most perfect beauty, that it is quite certain it is all done for us, and intended for our profit, not pleasure. And every man, wherever placed, however far from other sources of interest or beauty, has this doing for him constantly. The noblest scenes of the earth can be seen and known but by few; it is not intended that man should live always in the midst of them; he injures them by his presence; he ceases to feel them if he be always with them; but the sky is, for all; bright as it is, it is not
Too bright, nor good
it is fitted in all its functions for the perpetual comfort and exalting of the heart, for soothing it and purifying it from its dross and dust. Sometimes gentle, sometimes capricious,
STORY OF THE HEAVENS.
sometimes awful, never the same for two moments together; almost human in its passions, almost spiritual in its tenderness, almost divine in its affinity; its appeal to what is immortal in us, is as distinct as its ministry of chastisement or of blessing to what is moral is essential. And yet we never attend to it, we never make it a subject of thought, but as it has to do with our animal sensations; we look upon all which bears witness to the intention of the Supreme, that we are to receive more from the covering vault than the light and the dew which we share with the weed and the worm, only as a succession of meaningless and monotonous accidents, too common and too vain to be worthy of a moment of watchfulness, or a glance of admiration. If in our moments of utter idleness and insipidity we turn to the sky as a last resource, which of its phenomena do we speak of? One says, it has been wet; and another, it has been windy; and another, it has been warm. Who, among the whole chattering crowd, can tell me of the forms and the precipices of the chain of tall white mountains that girded. the horizon at noon, yesterday? Who saw the narrow sunbeam that came out of the south, and smote upon their summits until they melted and mouldered away in a mist of blue rain ? Who saw the dance of the dead clouds when the sunlight left them last night, and the west wind blew them before it like withered leaves ? All has passed unregretted as unseen; or if the apathy be ever shaken off even for an instant, it is only by what is gross, or what is extraordinary; and yet it is not in the broad and fierce manifestations of the elemental energies, not in the crash of the hail, nor the drift of the whirlwind, that the highest characters of the sublime are developed. God is not in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but in the still small voice. They are but the blunt and the low faculties of his nature, which can only be addressed through lampblack and lightning. It is in quiet and subdued passages of unobtrusive majesty, the deep and the calm, and the perpetual; that which must be sought ere it can be seen, and loved ere it is understood; things which the angels work out for us daily, and yet vary eternally; which are never wanting and never repeated; which are to be found always, yet each found but once; it is through these that her lesson of
How affluent in beauty the gardens are at this season!
A thousand flowers-each seeming one
Red roses, used to praises long,
The nightingale's being over;
Deep violets, you liken to
Pansies for ladies all! I wis
And tulips, children love to stretch
"Nothing can be more delicious than the rural paradises which now surround our country-houses. Walks, waters, lawns of velvet softness, trees casting broad shadows, or whispering in the stirrings of the breeze; seclusion, and yet airiness; flowers from all regions, besides all the luxuries which the kitchen-garden, the orchard, conservatories, hothouses, and sunny-walls, pour upon our tables, are 80 blended and diffused around our dwellings, that nothing on earth can be more delectable. It is impossible, without looking back through many ages of English life, to form any idea of the real advantages which we enjoy of this kind-of the immense stride we have made from the bare and rigid life of our ancestors. How many of the fruits, or flowers, or culinary vegetables, which we possess in such excellence and perfection, did this country originally pro