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EARLY TRAITS OF MARGARET DAVIDSON.
An example of the style of description and narration in the manner of serious and elevated conversation. A clear, distinct utterance, and a lively but gentle tone, deepening into tenderness and solemnity, are the chief characteristics of the appropriate style of reading, in this extract.]
Among the earliest indications of the poetical character in this child, were her perceptions of the beauty of natural scenery. Her home was in a picturesque neighbourhood, calculated to awaken and foster such perceptions. The following description of it is taken from one of her own writings :
“There stood on the banks of the Saranac, a small, neat cottage, which peeped forth from the surrounding foliage, the image of rural quiet and contentment. An old-fashioned piazza extended along the front, shaded with vines and honey-suckles; the turf on the bank of the river, was of the richest and brightest emerald; and the wild rose and sweet brier, which twined over the neat enclosure, seemed to bloom with more delicate freshness and perfume, within the bounds of this earthly paradise.
“The scenery around was wildly yet beautifully romantic: the clear blue river glancing and sparkling at its feet, seemed only the preparation for another and more magnificent view, when the stream, gliding on to the west, was buried in the broad white bosom of Champlain, which stretched back, wave after wave, in the distance, until lost in faint blue mists, that veiled the sides of its guardian mountains, — seeming more lovely from their indistinctness.”
Such were the natural scenes which presented themselves to her dawning perceptions; and she is said to have evinced, from her earliest childhood, a remarkable sensibility to their charms. A beautiful tree, or shrub, or flower, would fill her with delight : she would note, with surprising discrimination, the various effects of the weather upon the surrounding landscape; — the mountains wrapped in clouds; the torrents roaring down their sides, in times of tempest; the “ bright, warm sunshine," the “ cooling showers,” the “pale, cold
moon," — for such was already her poetical phraseology. A bright starlight night, also, would seem to awaken a mysterious rapture in her infant bosom; and one of her early expressions, in speaking of the stars, was, that they “shone like the eyes of angels.”
One of the most beautiful parts of the maternal instruction which she received, was the guiding of these kindling perceptions from nature up to nature's God.
“I cannot say," observes her mother, " at what age her religious impressions were imbibed. They seemed to be interwoven with her existence. From the very first exercise of reason, she evinced strong devotional feelings; and although she loved play, she would, at any time, prefer seating herself beside me, and, with every faculty absorbed in the subject, listen while I attempted to recount the wonders of Providence, and point out the wisdom and benevolence of God, as manifested in the works of creation. Her young heart would swell with rapture, and the tear would tremble in her eye, when I explained to her, that He who clothed the trees with verdure, and gave the rose its bloom, had also created her with capacities to enjoy their beauties; — that the same Power which clothed the mountains with sublimity, made her happiness His daily care. Thus a sentiment of gratitude and affection towards the Creator, entered into all her emotions of delight at the wonders and beauties of the creation.”
W TO MY SISTER LUCRETIA.
[ Admiration and joy, blended with tenderness and solemnity, are the
chief elements in the style of the following piece. The voice is soft but vivid, throughout, and sustained by a gentle warmth of feeling.]
My sister! With that thrilling word
What thoughts unnumbered wildly spring !
While thus I touch the trembling string !
Thy glance of pure seraphic light
Sheds o'er my heart its softening ray;
Thy pinions guard my couch by night,
And hover o'er my path by day.
I cannot weep that thou art fled,
For ever blends my soul with thine;
Is soaring on to realms divine.
Thy glance unfolds my heart of hearts,
And lays its inmost recess * bare;
And soothes each wilder passion there.
I hear thee in the summer breeze,
See thee in all that's pure or fair;
Thy breath, thy spirit everywhere.
Thine eyes, which watch when mortals sleep,
Cast o'er my dreams a radiant hue;
Fall nightly with the glistening dew.
Thou wert unfit to dwell with clay,
For sin too pure, for earth too bright!
Placed on his brow a gem of light !
A gem, whose brilliant glow is shed
Beyond the ocean's swelling wave,
And pours its radiance on thy grave.
When Day hath left his glowing car,
And Evening spreads her robe of love;
Meet in the azure fields above;
When all is still, and fancy's realm
Is opening to the eager view,
Roams o'er that vast expanse of blue.
* Accented récess, - not, in general, appropriately, - but, in this case, forming an example of “poetic license.”
I know that here thy harp is mute,
And quenched the bright poetic fire;
The hymnings of thy seraph lyre
Teach me to fill thy place below,
That I may dwell with thee above;
And prove, like thine, a sister's love!
VOICES OF ENGLISH BIRDS.
[An example of “pure tone,” in the form of “ animated” utterance.]
Rural sounds, the voices, the language of the wild creatures, as heard and recognized by the naturalist, are in concord with the country only. Our sight, our smell may perhaps be deceived, for an interval, by conservatories, horticultural arts, and bowers of sweets; but our hearing can in no way be beguiled by any semblance of what is heard in the grove or the field. The hum, the murmur, the medley of the mead, is peculiarly its own, admits of no imitation; and the voices of our birds convey particular intimations, and distinctly notify the various periods of the year, with an accuracy as certain as they are detailed in our calendars.
The season of spring is always announced as approaching by the notes of the rookery, by the jangle or wooing accents of the dark frequenters of its trees; and that time having passed away, these contentions and cadences are no longer heard. The cuckoo then comes, and informs us that spring has arrived; that he has journeyed to us, borne by gentle gales, in sunny days; that fragrant flowers are in the copse and the mead, and all things telling of gratulation and of joy: the children mark this well-known sound, spring out, and “cuckoo! cuckoo !” as they gambol down the lane: the very ploughboy bids him welcome in the early morn. It is hardly spring without the cuckoo's song; and having told his tale, he has voice for no more, — is silent or away.
Then comes the dark, swift-winged marten, glancing through the air, that seems afraid to visit our uncertain clime: he comes, though late, and hurries through his business here, eager again to depart, all day long in agitation and precipitate flight. The bland zephyrs of the spring have no charms with these birds; but basking and careering in the sultry gleams of June and July, they associate in throngs, and screaming dash round the steeple or the ruined tower, to serenade their nesting mates; and glare and heat are in their train. When the fervour of summer ceases, this bird of the sun will depart.
The evening robin from the summit of some leafless bough, or projecting point, tells us that autumn is come, and brings matured fruits, chilly airs, and sober hours; and he, the lonely minstrel now that sings, is understood by all. These four birds thus indicate a separate season, have no interference with the intelligence of each other, nor could they be transposed, without the loss of all the meaning they convey, which no contrivance of art could supply; and, by long association, they have become identified with the period, and in peculiar accordance with the time.
Those sweet sounds, called the song of birds, proceed only from the male; and, with a few exceptions, only during the season of incubation. Hence the comparative quietness of our summer months, when this care is over, except from accidental causes, where a second nest is formed ; few of our birds bringing up more than one brood in the season.
The red-breast, blackbird, and thrush, in mild winters will continually be heard, and form exceptions to the general procedure of our British birds; and we have one little bird, the wood-lark, that, in the early part of the autumnal months, delights us with its harmony; and its carols may be heard in the air, commonly, during the calm sunny mornings of this season. They have a softness and quietness perfectly in unison with the sober, almost melancholy, stillness of the hour.
The sky-lark also sings now; and its song is very sweet, full of harmony, cheerful as the blue sky and gladdening beam in which it circles and sports, and known and admired by all; but the voice of the wood-lark is local, not so generally heard, and from its softness must almost be listened for, to be distinguished, and has not any pretensions to the hilarity of the former. This little bird sings likewise in the spring; but at that season, the contending songsters of the grove, and the variety of sound proceeding from every thing that has utterance, confuse and almost render inaudible the placid