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SONGS IN THE NIGHT;

OR

THE TRIUMPHS OF GENIUS OVER BLINDNESS.

CARE, with its microscopic eye, magnifies our petty troubles, and a complaining murmur becomes the ordinary tone of voice. As years draw on, routine robs existence of its primal freshness; and commonplace, accepted as a destiny, lays on us

“A weight, heavy as frost and deep almost as life.” I am not familiar with the expression of the human face divine; but from what little I have been able to catch of it, I should say its prevailing tone, when in repose, is one of dissatisfaction and discontent. An ear that has become practised and delicate through necessity in interpreting the moods of mind by the inflections of the voice, detects on every hand, in these most subtle exponents of character, the presence of weariness and languor. The world freights us with its burdens, and we bear them, for the most part, at best with a dogged indifference. The spirit hath lost its romance: the glory and the dream have disappeared from our universe; utilitarianism scouts the ideal as a vagary, and we plod through the cold, unpoetic earth, saddened and heavy laden, ofttimes longing for the rest of the last silence.

I know not a more benign office than the ministry of cheerfulness, nor one more needed.

Will you suffer me then to read you a lesson this evening - a lesson of content, strength, and hope, drawn from the story of those whose lot has been far more drear and dismal than your own ? Such have been, who have not found the world a workhouse for vagrants and culprits; nor a hospital tenanted by pestilence and helpless misery; nor yet a Potter's Field for the burial of paupers ; nor an amphitheatre for gladiatorial exhibitions; nor a tavern for drunken revelry, followed hard by deadly despair; nor a Corso in carnival, where giddy folly and masqueradings mirth are bought by a long Lent of vigil, fast, and tearless self-torture.

Such have been, who have found the world a system of nice adjustments and beneficent balances, where hearty labour receives its reward, and patient waiting brings the watcher a priceless boon; where infirmity finds amplest compensation; where eternal laws, in their silent majesty, are enforcing order, restoring chaos to harmony, and bringing out of evil, good.

Such have been - affliction could not subdue them, nor darkness overwhelm them. Would that the chorus of their full voices from their historic heights might fall upon our ears with such stirring power that we should be roused from lethargy and sloth, to walk our way, however rugged, up to the mountain sumınits, where for all the valiant are crowns, and robes, and palms of victory.

Who in fitting strains shall sing the praise of light? It trembles as it flows in sympathetic currents through the deepening dusk from the sweet star of evening, herald of that pomp of worlds which darkness alone reveals, –

“Piles of crystal light,
A glorious company of golden streams,
Lamps of celestial ether burning bright,
Suns lighting systems with their joyous beams."

BEAUTY AND EFFECTS OF LIGHT.

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At dawn it frets and glows along the eastern sky with its grey hue, and then its purpling or its crimson blush. At the hush of summer mid-day, in country places, it seems to flood the firmament and earth with a silent sea of glory. Behind the retiring storm, it builds across the heavens the triple arch of beauty, not in token of the tempest's victory, but in pledge that floods and winds shall no longer be triumphant. At the end of the day's circuit, it gathers the clouds for the pageantry of sunset, arrays them in their thousand liveries of dazzling, softening radiance, and when the bridegroom clad in amber robes is ·gone, sends them to sleep or to float beneath a star-wrought canopy. In the still depths beneath the troubled sea, it works its strange and silent alchemy, and the worthless oyster becomes a pearl of price. It enshrines itself in a a pebble, and thenceforth men call that pebble “the mountain of light.” It is the apocalypse of the universe. And when

you

would render to the intellect the loftiest thought of God, you say that he is Light, and in him is no darkness at all.

But why, with my poor words, do I seek to tell its praise, when those of a master are ready to our purpose ?

“Hail, holy light, offspring of Heaven, first-born,

Or of the eternal co-eternal beam;
May I express thee unblamed ? since God is light,
And never but in unapproached light
Dwelt from eternity, dwelt then in thee,
Bright effluence of bright essence increate;
Or hear'st thou rather, pure, ethereal stream,
Whose fountain, who shall tell ? Before the sun,
Before the Heavens, thou wert, and at the voice
Of God, as with a mantle, didst invest
The rising world of waters, dark and deep,

Won from the void and formless infinite ! On the other hand, consider its complement - the most complex and delicate of our organs, with its lenses, coats,

and humours, constituting the brain's mouth, to drink in the ceaseless tides of knowledge ; its receptacle, in which are garnered the varied and combined impressions of the outer world. Wonderful and fearful organism, the human eye, upon whose retina of a pin's head size is mirrored, in exactest proportion, the scope of the firmament and the reach of the earth, with all the objects, from greatest to least, which they contain! What fountains of benediction are opened, through its magic spell, to the sons of men ! Yet, there are those to whom its exercise is an inscrutable mystery; to whom the light hath ever been a stranger. The daily forms of vision, to you so dull and commonplace, would by them be prized above the wealth of empires. The ruddy glow of the hearth-side, the friend's response to an uttered thought, the deep emotion, which telegraphs its signal to the cheek, the glance of unspeakable affection, which beams in the eye of wife or child, amid household cares and joys, the sympathy, which " is our human nature's highest dower," lending its divine expression to the face of clay - - all these to them are only names, signifying well nigh nothing.

Yet have I never seen or read of a morbid or unhappy blind man.

A tranquil hope, an assurance imparting quiet animation, renders tolerable this great calamity.

Imid the trials of their lot, the ample resources of our nature, latent and undreamed of in ordinary life, vindicate the blessed compensations which attest the government of love.

“ Thus are God's ways vindicated; and at length we slowly gain, As our needs dispel our blindness, some faint glimpses of the chain Which connects the earth with heaven, right with wrong, and

good with illLinks in one harmonious movement."

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The literature of this subject is far more copious than

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one who had not made it a branch of special inquiry would imagine. I need not seek to pierce the mists of antiquity, and lay bare the deeds of those to whom Milton so touchingly alludes, nor sometimes forget

“Those other two equalled with me in fate.

So were I equalled with them in renown —
Blind Thamyris and blind Mæonides,
Tiresias and Phineas - prophets old'

tearing from them the mythologic mantle, with which the Hellenic imagination invested them.

Nor would space serve to detail the lives of Diodotus — Cicero's preceptor in geometry and Greek philosophy — to whose excellence and learning the orator renders his grateful tribute, nor of Didymus, the most famous man for learning in Alexandria in his time (the 4th century)

- the instructor of St. Jerome- the repute of whose wisdom and sanctity attracted the stern hermit, St. Anthony, from his desert home; nor of Democritus the Grecian sage, who is said by some to have put out his eyes, that he might prosecute his speculations to greater advantage. Nor yet, may I linger to detail the struggles and successes of Scapinelli, who stood pre-eminent among his Italian contemporaries for genius and learning, filling the chair of poetry and eloquence in the universities of Pisa, Modena, Bologna, and who contributed as much as any man of the period to the revival of learning; nor of Hulderic Schoenenbergen, a celebrated German scholar and professor of the Oriental languages and literature; nor of Nicasius de Voerda, and Nicholas Bacon — both gentlemen of the Netherlands who by their erudition acquired and deserved the degree of doctor of the canon and civil laws; nor of the Count de Pagan, father of the modern science of fortification. Time would fail me to speak of

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