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BLACKWOOD'S

EDINBURGH MAGAZINE.

No. CXXXIV.

JANUARY, 1828.

Vol. XXIII.

CHRISTMAS DREAMS. John Wilson How beautiful are all the subdi. at which memory pauscs, baffled and visions of Time diversifying the dream blindfolded, as she vainly tries to peof human life, as it glides away be netrate and illumine the palpable, the tween earth and heaven! And why impervious darkness that shrouds the should moralists mourn over that mu few first for-ever-forgotten years of tability that gives the chief charm to our wonderful being ? Long, long, long all that passes so transitorily before our ago seems it to be indeed, when we eyes, leaving image upon image fairer now remember it, the Time' we first and dearer far than even the realities, pulled the primroses on the sunny still visible, and it may be for ever, braes, wondering, in our first blissful in the waters of memory sleeping withemotions of beauty, at the leaves with a in the heart? Memory never awakes softness all their own, a yellowness nobut along with imagination, and there where else so vivid, “ the bright confore it is

summate flower," so starlike to our awakened imagination among

the “That she can give us back the dead, Even in the loveliest looks they wore!" lowly grass—lovely, indeed, to our ad

miring eyes, as any one of all the stars The years, the months, the weeks, that, in their turn, did seem themthe days, the nights, the hours, the selves like flowers in the blue fields of minutes, the moments, each is in it- heaven !- long, long, long ago, the self a different living, and peopled, and time when we danced along, hand in haunted world. One Life is a thousand hand with our golden-haired sister, lives, and each individual, as he fully whom all that looked on loved !-long, renews the Past, reappears in a thous long, long ago, the day on which she sand characters, yet all of them bear. died—the hour, so far more dismal ing a mysterious identity not to be than any hour that can now darken us misunderstood, and all of them, while on this earth, when she-her coffinevery passion has been shifting and and that velvet pall descended-and dying away, and reascending into descended-slowly, slowly into the power, still under the dominion of horrid clay, and we were borne deaththe same unchanging Conscience, that like, and wishing to die, out of the feels and knows that it is from God. churchyard, that, from that moment,

Oh! who can complain of the we thought we could enter never more! shortness of human life, that can re And oh! What a multitudinous being travel all the windings and wandere must ours have been, when, before our ings, and mazes that his feet have boyhood was gone, we could have fore trodden since the farthest back hour gotten her buried face! Or at the dream VOL. XXIII.

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of it, dashed off a tear, and away, with Perhaps the sunshine of some one sina bounding heart, in the midst of a

gle Sabbath of more exceeding holicloud of playmates, breaking into frag- ness comes first glimmering, and then ments on the hill side, and hurrying brightening upon us, with the very round the shores of those wild moor

same religious sanctity that filled all land lochs, in vain hope to surprise the air at the tolling of the kirk-bell, the heron, that slowly uplifted his blue when all the parish was hushed, and bulk, and floated away, regardless of the voice of streams heard more disour shouts, to the old castle woods! tinctly among the banks and braes, It is all like a reminiscence of some and then, all at once, a thunder-storm other state of existence! Then, after that many years before, or many years all the joys and sorrows of those few after, drove us, when walking alone years, which we now call transitory, over the mountains, into a shieling, but which our Boyhood felt as if they will seem to succeed, and we behold the would be endless—as if they would en same threatening aspect of the heavens dure for ever — arose upon us the that then quailed our beating hearts, glorious dawning of another new life and frowned down our eye-lids before -Youth ! With its insupportable sun the lightning began to flash, and the shine, and its magniticent storms! black rain to deluge all the glens. No Transitory, too, we now know, and need now for any effort of thought. well deserving the name of dream ! But The images rise of themselves-indewhile it lasted, long, various, and ago. pendently of our volition—as if annizing, while, unable to sustain “ the other being, studying the working of beauty still more beauteous” of the our minds, conjured up the phantaseyes that first revealed to us the light magoria before us, who are beholding of love, we hurried away from the it with love, with wonder, or with fear. parting hour, and, looking up to the Darkness and silence have a power of inoon and stars, hugged the very heas sorcery over the past ; and the soul has vens to our heart. Yet life had not yet then, too, often restored to it feelings nearly reached its meridian, journeying and thoughts that it had lost—and is up the sunbrightfirmament. How long made to know that nothing which it liung it there exulting, when“it flamed once experiences ever perishes, but that on the forehead of the noontide sky!” all things spiritual possess a principle Let not the Time be computed by the of immortal life. lights and shadows of the years, but Why linger on the shadowy wall by the innumerable array of visionary some of those phantasmagoria-rethoughts, that kept deploying, as if turning after they have disappearedfrom one eternity into another-now and reluctant to pass away into their in dark sullen masses, now in long ar former oblivion? Why shoot others ray, brightened as if with spear-points athwart the gloom, quick as spectral and standards, and moving along figures seen hurrying among mounthrough chasm, abyss, and forest, and tains during a great storm? Why do over the summits of the highest moun some glare and threaten-why others tains, to the sound of etherial music, fade away with a melancholy smile now warlike and tempestuous—now, why that one-look! look! a figure as “ from flutes and soft recorders,” all in white, and with white roses in accompanying, not pæans of vietory, its hair, comes forward through the but hymns of peace. That Life, too, haze, beautifying into distincter form seems, now that it is gone, to have and face, till its pale beseeching hands been of a thousand years. Is it gone ? almost touch my bosom—and then, Its skirts are yet hovering on the in a moment it is as nothing ! horizon—and is there yet another Life But now the room is disenchanted destined for us? That Life which we -and feebly my lamp is glimmering, fear to face,-Age, Old Age! Four about to leave me to the light of the dreams within a dream, and then we moon and stars. There is it trimmed may awake in Heaven!

again-and the sudden increase of At dead of night-and it is now the lustre cheers the heart within me like dead of night-how the heart often a festal strain-and To-Morrow-Toquakes on a sudden at the silent resur- Morrow is Merry Christmas, and when rection of buried thoughts !

its night descends, there will be mirth “Thoughts that like phantoms trackless and music, and the light sound of the come and go!"

merry-twinkling feet within these now

so melancholy walls, and sleep now Forest, when the inoon drops behind reigning over all the house-save this the mountain, and the small greenone room- will be banished far over robed People of Peace at once cease the sea—and Morning will be reluc- their pastime, and evanish. For She tant to allow her light to break up the --the Silver-Tongued—is about to innocent orgies.

sing an old ballad, words and air both Were every Christmas of which we hundreds of years old,—and sing she have been present at the celebration, doth; while tears begin to fall, with a painted according to nature—what a voice too mournfully beautiful long to Gallery of Pictures! True, that a same breathe below, — and, ere another ness would pervade them all—but only Christmas shall come with the falling that kind of sameness that pervades snows, doomed to be mute on earth the nocturnal heavens,—one clear night but to be hymning in Heaven ! being always, to common eyes, so like Of that House--to our eyes the faire another,-for what hath any night to est of earthly dwellings-with its old be proud of but one moon and some ivied turrets, and orchard-garden, thousandstars-a vault“ darkly, deep- bright alike with fruit and with Howers, ly, beautifully blue,” here a few braid- not one stone remains! The very brook ed, and there a few castellated clouds?that washed its foundations has vanishYet no two nights ever bore more ed along with them,-and a crowd of than a family resemblance to each other buildings, wholly without chaother before the studious and instruct- racter, has long stood, where here a ed eye of him who has long communed single tree, and there a grove, did once with nature, and is familiar with every render so lovely that small demesne! smile and frown on her changeful, but Which, how could we, who thought not capricious countenance. Even so it the very heart of Paradise, even for with the Annual Festivals of the heart. one moment have believed was soon Then our thoughts are the stars that to be blotted out from being, and we illumine those skies—on ourselves it ourselves, then so linked in love that depends whether they shall be black the band which bound us all together as Erebus, or brighter than any Au. was, in its gentle pressure, felt not rora.

nor understood, to be scattered far My Father's House ! How it is ringe and abroad, like so many leaves, that ing, like a grove in spring, with the after one wild parting rustle are sedin of creatures happier, a thousand parated by roaring wind-eddies, and times happier, than all the birds in the brought together no more! The old world! It is the Christmas Holidays Abbey,-it still survives, -and there, -Christmas Day itself-Christmas in that corner of the burial-ground, Night-and Joy intensifies Love in below that part of the wall which was every bosom. Never before were we least in ruins, and which we often brothers and sisters so dear to one ane climbed to reach the starlings' and other-never before had our hearts so martins' nests—there, in hopes of a yearned towards the authors of our joyful resurrection, lie the Loved and being our blissful being! There they Venerated,--for whom, even now that sit-silent in all that outcry-com so many long, long, grief-deadening posed in all that disarray,—still in all years have fled, I feel, in this hushed that tumult--yet, as one or other fly and holy hour, as if it were impiety so ing imp sweeps round the chair,'a utterly to have ceased to weep--so selfather's hand will playfully try to dom to remember!--and then, with catch a prisoner,-a mother's gentler a powerlessness of sympathy to keep touch on some sylph's disordered cy pace with youth's frantic grief-the mar be felt almost as a reproof, and, Hoods we all wept together--at no long for a moment, slacken the fairy-flight. interval-on those pale and smiling One old game treads on the heels of an faces, as they lay in their coffins, most other—twenty within the hour,-and beautiful and inost dreadful to be. many a new game never heard of be hold ! fore nor since, struck out by the col “ Childish! childish !" methinks I lision of kindred spirits in their glee, hear some world-wise thinker cry. the transitory fancies of genius inven. But has not one of the wisest of spirits

tive through very delight. Then, all said, “ The child is father of the • at once, there is a hush, profound as man.”? And if so, ought the man

ever falls on some little plat within a ever to lose sight of any single one of

those dear, dim, delightful remem Whether we were indeed all so brances, far off and remote, of objects witty as we thought ourselves-uncles, whether alive or dead, whether in aunts, nephews, cousins, and “ the stinct with love and intelligence, or rest,” it might be presumptuous in us, but of the insensate sod, that once who were considered by ourselves and were to him all his being

;-So blend.

some few others the most amusing of ed was that being then, with all it saw the whole set, at this distance of time and heard on this musical and lustrous to decide-especially in the affirmaearth, that, as it bounded along in tive; but how the roof did ring with bliss, it was but as the same creation sally, pun, retort, and repartee! Ay, with the grass, the flowers, the streams, with pun-a species of impertinence the trees, the clouds, the sky and its for which we have therefore a kind. days and nights,-all of them bound ness even to this day. Had incompatogether by one invisible chain,-& rable Thomas Hood had the good forgreen, bright, murmuring, shadowy, tune to have been born a cousin of Hoating, sunny and starry world--of ours, how with that fine fancy of his which the enraptured creature that would he have shone at those Christenjoyed it was felt to be the very cen. mas festivals, eclipsing us all! Our tre, -and the very soul !

family, through all its different Then came a New Series of Christ- branches, has ever been famous for masses, celebrated, one year in this bad voices, but good ears; and we family, another year in that-none think we hear ourselves—all those present but those whom the delightful uncles and aunts, nephews, and nieces, Elia, alias Charles Lamb, calleth the and cousins-singing now! Easy is it “old familiar faces;" something in all to “ warble melody”as to breathe air. features, and all tones of voice, and all But, ch! we hope harmony is the most manners, betokening origin from one difficult of all things to people in geroot-relations all, happy, and with no neral, for to us it was impossible; and reason either to be ashamed or proud what attempts ours used to be at of their neither high nor humble birth Seconds! Yet the most woful fail-their lot being cast within that plea- ures were rapturously encored; and sant realm, “the golden mean," where ere the night was done, we spoke the dwellings are connecting links be with most extraordinary voices indeed, tween the hut and hall, fair edifices every one hoarser than another, till at resembling manse or mansion-house, last, walking home with a fair cousin, according as the atmosphere expands there was nothing left for it but a tenor contracts their dimensions, in which der glance of the eye-a tender pressure Competence is next-door neighbour to of the hand—for cousins are not altoWealth, and both of them within the gether sisters, and although partaking: daily walk of Contentment.

of that dearest character, possessing, it Merry Christmasses they were in- may be, some peculiar and appropriate deed-one Lady always presiding, with charms of their own; as didst thou, a figure that once had been the state- Emily the “Wild-cap!”—That soubrio liest among the stately, but then some- quet all forgotten now—for now thou what bent, without being bowed down, art a matron, gentle as a dove, and beneath an easy weight of most vene- smiling on an only daughter, almost rable years. Sweet was her tremulous woman-grown-fair and frolicsome in voice to all her grandchildren's ears ! her innocence as thou thyself wert Nor did those solemn eyes, bedimmed of yore, when the gravest and wisest into a pathetic beauty, in any degree withstood not the witchery of thy restrain the glee that sparkled in orbs dancings, thy singings, and thy showthat had as yet shed not many tears, ering smiles ! but tears of pity or of joy. Dearly she On rolled Suns and Seasons--the old loved all those mortal creatures whom died--the elderly became old—and the she was soon about to leave ; but she young, one after another, were wafted sat in sunshine even within the sha- joyously away on the wings of hope, dow of death ; and the “ voice that like birds, almost as soon as they can called her home” had so long been fly, ungratefully forsaking their nests, whispering in her ear, that its accents and the groves in whose safe shadow had become dear to her, and consola- they first essayed their pinions; or like tory every word that was heard in the pinnaces, that, after having for a few silence, as from another world. days trimmed their snow-white sails

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