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5. We shall not stop to pursue this fiery point into all its consequences; to show what a world of beauty or of formidable power is contained in that single property of our friend flint; what fires, what lights, what conflagrations, what myriads of clicks of triggers,-awful sounds before battle, when, instead of letting his flint do its proper good-natured work of cooking his supper and warming his wife and himself over their cottage fire, the poor fellow is made to kill and be killed by other poor fellows, whose brains are strewed about the place for want of knowing better.
6. But to return to the natural, quiet condition of our friend. What think you of him as the musician of the brooks? as the unpretending player on those watery pipes and flageolets during the hot noon or the silence of the night? Without the pebble the brook would want its prettiest murmur; and then, in reminding you of these murmurs, he reminds you of the poets.
“A noise as of a hidden brook
In the leafy month of June,
Singeth a quiet tune.” 7. Yes, the brook singeth ; but it would not sing so well, it would not have that tone and ring in its music, without the stone.
“Then 'gan the shepherd gather into one
His straggling goats, and drove them to a ford,
Crept under moss as green as any gourd.” 8. See how one pleasant thing reminds people of another! A pebble reminded us of the brooks; and the brooks of the poets; and the poets reminded us of the beauty and comprehensiveness of their words, whether belonging to the subject in hand or not. No true poet makes use of a word for nothing. “ Cerule stream,” says Spenser; but why cerule, which comes from the Latin and seems a pedantic word, especially as it signifies blue, which he might have had in English ?
9. The reason is, not only that it means sky-blue, and therefore shows us how blue the sky was at the time, and the cause why the brook was of such a color; but the word cerule was also a beautiful word, beautiful for the sound, and expressive of a certain liquid yet neat softness, somewhat resembling the mixture of soft hissing, rumbling, and inward music of the brook.
10. So much for the agreeable sounds of which the sight of a common stone may remind us. Let us see now how pleasant the sight itself may be rendered. Mr. Wordsworth shall do it for us in his exquisite little poem on the fair maiden who died by the river Dove. It is where he compares his modest, artless, and sequestered beauty with
“A violet by a mossy stone,
Half hidden from the eye;
Is shining in the sky."
11. Is not that beautiful ? Can anything express a lovelier loneliness than the violet half hidden by the mossy stone,—the delicate blue-eyed flower against the country green? And then the loving imagination of this fine poet, exalting the object of his earthly worship to her divine birthplace and future abcde, suddenly raises his eyes to the firmament, and sees her there, the solitary star of his heaven.
12. But Stone does not want even moss to render him interesting. Here is another stone, and another solitary evening star, as beautifully introduced as the others, but for a different purpose. It is in the opening words of Mr. Keats' poem of “Hyperion," where he describes the dethroned monarch of the gods sitting in his exile:
“Deep in the shady sadness of a vale,
13. Quiet as a stone! Nothing certainly can be more quiet than that. Not a syllable or a sigh will a stone utter, though you watch and bear him company for a whole week on the most desolate moor in Cumberland. Thus silent, thus unmoved, thus insensible to whatever circumstances might be taking place, or spectators might think of him, was the soul-stunned old patriarch of the gods. We may picture to ourselves a large or a small stone, as we please, Stone-henge, or a pebble. The simplicity and grandeur of truth do not care which. The silence is the thing,—its intensity, its unalterableness.
14. Our friend Pebble is here in grand company, and you may think him (though we hope not) unduly bettered by it. But see what Shakspeare will do for him in his hardest shape, and in no finer company than a peasant's :
15. Sleeping on hard stone would have been words strong enough for a common poet; or perhaps he would have said "resting" or "profoundly reposing," or that he could have made his "bed of the bare floor;" and the last saying would not have been the worst : but Shakspeare must have the very strongest words and really profoundest expressions, and he finds them in the homeliest and most primitive. He does not mince the matter, but goes to the root of both sleep and stone,-can snore upon the flint. We see the fellow hard at it, bent upon it; deeply drinking of the forgetful draft.
16. Hear, too, what a great critic of art has to say of a stone: "A stone, when it is examined, will be found a mountain in miniature. The fineness of Nature's work is so great, that, into a single block, a foot or two in diameter, she can compress as many changes of form and structure, on a small scale, as she needs for her mountains on a large one; and, taking moss for forests, and grains of crystal for
crags, the surface of a stone, in by far the plurality of instances, is more interesting than the surface of an ordinary hill, more fantastic in form, and incomparably richer in color."
17. But, setting aside the poets and the artists, Pebble, in his own person and by his own family alliances, includes wonders far beyond the most wonderful things they have imagined. Wrongly is Flint compared with the Miser. Bring two friends of his about him, called Potash and Soda, and Flint runs into melting tenderness, and is no longer Flint: he is Glass. You look through him; you drink out of him; he furnishes you beautiful and transparent shutters against the rain and cold; you shave by him; protect pictures with him, and watches and books; are assisted by him in a thousand curious philosophies; are helped over the sea by him; and he makes your cathedral windows divine.
18. But we must hasten to bring his most precious riches down in a shower surpassing the rainbow. Stone is the humble relation, nay, the stock and parent, of Precious Stone ! Ruby, Emerald and Sapphire are of his family !-of the family of the Flints; and Flint is more in them than anything else! Precious stone, for the most part, is stone itself, is flint, with some wonderful circumstance of addition, nobody kaows what; but, without the flint, the preciousness would not be. Here is wealth and honor for the poor Pebble!
19. What now remains for stone, thus filling the coffers of wealth, glorifying the crowns of sultans, and adding beams to beauty itself? One thing greater than all. The oldest and stoniest of stones is granite, and granite (as far as we know) is the chief material of the earth itself,—the bones of the world, the substance of our star.
20. Honored, therefore, be thou, thou small pebble lying in the lane; and, whenever any one looks at thee, may he think of the beautiful and noble world he lives in, and all of which it is capable!
CIII.—THE CHAMBERED NAUTILUS.
HIS is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
The venturous bark that flings
And coral reefs lie bare,
Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl,
Wrecked is the ship of pearl !
And every chambered cell,
Before thee lies revealed,
Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
Built up its idle door,
Child of the wandering sea,
Cast from her lap forlorn!
While on mine ear it rings,
As the swift seasons roll!