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STUDENT OF NATURE,
As the stars pale before the sun, so does the poetry of man lose its brilliancy, when compared with the wonderful poem of the CREATOR. God is the SUPREME Poet, and he deals not with words mere shadows of things that are but with the actual embodiments of poetry themselves : for there is in every object which He has made something beside an outward, mechanical form : there is a spiritual meaning, a living lesson, to be drawn from every thing.
This world is not merely the rugged spot on which we are to struggle for a foot-hold on life — to toil for daily bread; but a bright member of the starry brotherhood, that range the fields of space, raising from every corner of the universe the harmonious anthem of praise; a region of still waters, and cooling shades, and bright birds, and blessed things, for the comfort of God's weary children. This world is a poem, written in letters of light on the walls of the azure firmament.
Man is not merely a creature displaying the endowment of two legs, and the only being qualified to study grammar; not an animal browsing in the fair fields of creation, and endeavoring with all possible grace to gild and swallow the pill of existence; but the master-piece in the mechanism of the universe, in whom are wedded the visible and the invisible, the material and the spiritual; before whom the waves of the ocean crouch, and on whom the winds and lightnings and the fire all wait to do his bidding; the great gardener in this garden of the LORD; the keeper of His great seal, for he alone is stamped with the image of God. Man is a glorious poem; each life a canto, each day a line. The melody plays feebly at first upon the trembling chords of his little heart, but with time gains power and beauty as it sweeps onward, until at last the final notes die away far, far above the world, amid the melodies of heaven.
Nature is not merely a senseless, arable clod, through which runs the golden vein, and o'er which waves the golden harvest; not a monster, to be bowed down by the iron fetters of rail-roads and telegraphs; but it is a grand old temple, whose star-lit dome and woodland aisles, and bright and happy choir, invite the soul to worship and to gratitude. Nature is a sweet poem: each downy-cheek’d floweret, each uncouth stone, and frowning mountain, and silvery river, are the bright syllables. And though the fall of man has thrown them into confusion, they shall be arranged once more in harmony; and the burthen of that song shall be beauty and praise to Him from whom all beauty radiates.
How often, when the quiet night woos us forth to commune with Nature in her chastened robes, is our spirit thronged almost to oppression by thoughts new and inexpressible! When the bright moon, just risen above the hill-top or the peaceful waters, tinges the cloudy curtains that hang about the couch of the departed day, draws out the long mysterious shadows, and locks in her white arms the slumbering earth; then, as we look above, can we say with him, who knew so well to express his lofty thoughts :
• Ye stars, which are the poetry of heaven!
In us such love and reverence from afar,
Why should we, then, give way to the absurdly-named practical spirit of these days? Physical good is not the only good of earth. The mind, the soul must be fed as well — ay, infinitely, rather than this feeble body. We are in the world to make ourselves blessed; and is not the bliss that comes from purifying the heart and enlightening the intellect more to be desired than the gratification of our sensual appetites ? Let us, then, learn to analyze whatever we meet in the pilgrimage of life, and read the lesson of truth and beauty that God has stamped upon
it. Then will the desert of the world gush out in fountains to refresh our flagging spirits and to brace our sinking frames.
From the depths of the sky comes the blue of her eye,
And her clear ringing laugh from the bright wave that breaks
And gleam in the sun, on the shores of her lakes ;
I see her now smiling-ay, smiling on me!
And bless with thy presence the Land of the Free!
"FOLDED eyes see brighter colors than the open ever do.'- E. B. BARRETT.
My vision was not of the night; I was not revelling in the land of dreams. A mortal, a human being, held over my bodily powers a monarch's sway; and thus my spirit was set free from the bondage of sense.
This person by whose aid I was loosened from consciousness of the fetters of flesh had exerted his power, thinking to guide my thoughts, to direct the workings of my mind also, by mere exercise of his will. But he had attempted that which was beyond his power of accomplishment; he could not control and enslave, even for an instant, the spirit which fled in that moment far beyond his empire, away from the things of time. He had looked upon me, and I know not how it was, but his strange gaze overpowered my nervous system, induced a sleep of the animal life; and then this panting, struggling soul escaped his influence, as it had that of the body. It went forth as the prisoned bird at the opening of its cage; it soared away from the earth which so long bound it. From the earth, I repeat; for its course was not, as had been anticipated, to the far and foreign lands.'
I was sick nigh unto death with the tumult, strife and confusion which had been my portion since my
birth-hour. To a place of rest and peace, of holiness and contentment, to a “house not made with
hands,' like a weary child I bent my course, and for the nonce time had no more dominion over me.
How pleasant, oh! how beautiful was that going home! At the moment of my release, remembrances of preëxistence, of a life which had been mine before ever I became a stranger and a pilgrim in the world, began to crowd upon me, Those moments of exaltation and of intensest yearning which I had known on earth now found a perfect exposition.
Never had the loves, the hopes and the aspirations of my mortal life satisfied me. It had seemed to me always that I had given for my earth-home an existence that was deeper, fuller, grander. Forever a mournful conviction of unfitness, incompleteness and imperfection had attended all my toil. Now for the first time could I understand that most sad, sweet saying, which, while it sets the 'apocalyptic NEVER' on all the hopes of the mortal, sheds brightness and glory on the aspiration of the immortal: “Whatsoever thou desirest shall be granted thee the moment of thy death ;' for now had I anticipated the joyousness of that release, the glory of that freedom, which is the attendant of death. I understood then how it could, how it must be, that the human, groping in thick darkness on the earth, rarely accomplish the deeds and the work for which they are capacitated. They labor under constant difficulties, which astonish, and bewilder, and try the only half sentient soul. I knew at this moment how it could be that in death the veil was removed from their eyes; how they would perceive then, and clearly, the work which is their birthright, which the All-MERCIFUL will suffer them to carry forward to illimitable perfection in the eternal ages. For what is death but the mere closing of eyes on the temporal, that they may open again, and look with perfectly-discerning and clearly-penetrating gaze, on the eternal, the immutable ?
As I said, when the mortal had so unwittingly set my spirit free, I felt that I was going home. Not to the Heaven, the World of the Resurrection, for that only may be entered by those who are forever done with life; and did not one of the earth guard for me my garments of mortality, which must be re-assumed ? Neither to the homes of the dead went I; but into the wide and glorious soul-land, into the realm of the preëxistent!
Going home! to my mother, my blessed angel-mother, my spiritmother; she who gave me to that beloved, my foster-parent, that we might for a few years be a joy and a help to one another. I was going into that land which the darkness knows not, which the light of purity enlivens; from whose altars ascend the incense of knowledge, whose foundations and pillars, whose rivers and whose fruits, whose thought and whose all-in-all, is Gop!
How can I tell with words, how can I speak as to be understood, of that realm upon which rests the eternal calmness, the everlasting beauty? By what terms common among men can I speak of the splendor and the blessedness of soul-land? Can you fix on the blind man's mind an idea of the glory of flowers; of the setting sun; of the face of beauty ? Can you by prayers or groans or shrieks give to the dead assurance of your love ?
Can the heart of the deaf thrill at the glad tones of your voice, or conceive of music?
Weakly, most faintly can I utter, and that with tears as I feel my weakness, what cannot be fully comprehended. How could one, save in soul-language, tell of the soul-life? Or how, with the types and figures of the dull insensate, can be made known the surpassing majesty of that intellectual, that unfading?
I made my journey thought rapid,' with a consciousness of freedom that was ecstacy itself. I had sought clairvoyance in a vague hope of being for a moment released from the sorrows which haunted me,
my dreams. My last thought on earth had been of struggle and weariness, of disappointment and want. In the hard labor for daily bread I was exhausted. I no longer revelled in the idea of a better day. The exultation and defiance with which I had pressed on in the path of exertion was over; the strong will had become paralyzed by incessant reverses and rebuffs.
The awakening from despair, by the communication of glad tidings which overwhelm the troubled one with tumultuous joy, may afford an idea, most shadowy, it is true, but still an idea, of the exultation with which I went forth to my mother — to my home. If ever you have known such moments of sudden, unexpected bliss, you will remember how, when the wild joy had calmed into a blissful certainty, you cradled yourself in an intoxicating kind of rest ; you will have a conception of the steady and buoyant and blessed peace which continued with me as I went my way. But when I entered the world of the preëxistent, I was conscious that a change, a wondrous and awful change, had been wrought in me since I had, years before, gone thence to the earth. *As I moved through the stainless and the undefiled, I knew that I was no longer of them. In amazement they looked on me; none knew, none recognized; yet I knew them. I dared not offer them tokens of friendship and acquaintance; sin and evil had marked my
I was as Cain among them; the brand of guill was upon me; I was of the earth. Oh, with what horror and shame did I confess this to myself! How desperately I strove to hide me from those inquiring glances! With what agony then did I go on my way, seeking for my mother! and with what fear was that search continued ! Would she recognize, would she still love, would she hear me?
I saw her coming up from the far distance; the beautiful, the peer-less, embodied in perfection. With her was another, purely bright as a sunbeam. What a fount of holy recollection opened as I saw those two together thus! So had I stood beside her; so had I listened to her teachings; so had I looked upon her with a boundless love and veneration.
She was speaking, my mother, to the child-soul with her, in that peculiar, touching manner, which I remembered well had been shown toward me that day when she sent me to the mortal state, and I felt that it must be so; she was about to give another of the untried, to battle with the clutching waves of sin.
Inexpressibly grievous was the thought of my earth-home thus forced upon me; and in that moment all that I wished was to save my beauti-