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BY MISS AGNES STRICKLAND.
FOWLER once, as I have heard,
Gave to a little girl a bird, Who, pleased and charmed beyond all measure, Called it her darling and her treasure; And all believed the bird would prove Most happy in its owner's love.
But, oh! too closely to her breast,
'Tis thus affection oft we find,
THE CHILDREN OF THE POOR.
BY THE AUTHOR OF THE “ BOOK OF THE SEASONS."
HEN we think of childhood, I believe we
naturally think of it as a happy period of life; as a sort of fairy-land into which care has not found its way; where fear is unknown, where pain is transitory, and comes not near the heart; and where the dark ideas of crime and death have no being. The poets are all accustomed to speak of it thus; and turning back into our own memories, there we find it 80. A happy land, all shining with an unsetting sun; all full of morning dews and opening flowers; all full of curiosity, and a thousand things on which curiosity may feed: bird, and blossom, and green waving tree; running waters, and humming bees; sounds of delight; scents of delicious fragrance, spirits of exulting buoy
ancy; followed by sleep, balmy and deep, and filled with dreams of heaven. It is thus that my imagination involuntarily paints childhood. Thinking of it, I see rosy children rolling on green slopes; wandering through dells, and woods of wonder; laughing and singing, and shouting in glad little groups beneath the village tree; or busy on some sunshiny bank, making mills, and weighing out dust for sugar. Or I see them collected round the cottage hearth at night, listening to tales of rustic marvel-Jack and his Bean-stalk, Tom Thumb, and Little Red Riding Hood; or playing on the ample carpeted floor of the hall, the object of fond contemplation to those happy and refined beings who regard them as the most precious of their many possessions, and whose names and virtues they are to perpetuate.
So, say, we involuntarily regard childhood, but real life soon forces more sober realities upon us. We soon are brought to witness the angry and unreasonable petulance with which the ignorant tyrannise over their own offspring; the weak indulgence by which the rich sap the bodily and mental strength of theirs. We soon find scores of little creatures shut up in a
hot and murky atmosphere, under the dolorous rod of the schoolmaster; we meet shivering imps of poverty in the blackest of winter's bitter days; and are startled from our dreams of childish happiness. We hear the little sweep knocking in our chimneys in the dark morning, or screaming from their tops with a voice, the sound of which, in the sharp winter air, goes to our hearts as we lie in our warm beds. We soon hear of, if we do not see, the woes of orphans, and the hard destinies, the privations, and the blows, and the pinings of little wretches that have fallen into the fangs of poverty, and of poverty's hardest tyrantcruel taskmasters and taskmistresses over those who have none to defend them.
Ah me! we soon find it a hard world, and that children must bear a full portion of its hardness. Even in the department of rural labor, which one would fain believe a happy one, we soon see that it is not so; and yet things so much darker come upon our experience that we soon cease to pity what we once pitied sorely.
I have seen laborers dibbling in beans, as the farmers call it, that is, walking backwards with a sharp