Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

They wept, and turning homeward, cried,

"In heaven we all shall meet,"— When in the snow the mother spied

The print of Lucy's feet.

Half breathless, from the steep hill's edge
They tracked the foot-marks small:

And through the broken hawthorn hedge,
And by the long stone wall:

And then an open field they crossed—

The marks were still the same;
They track them on, nor ever lost,

And to the bridge they came.

They followed from the snowy bank

These foot-marks, one by one,
Into the middle of the plank—

And further there were none!

You yet may spy the fawn at play,

The hare upon the green;
But the sweet face of Lucy Gray

Will never more be seen.—Wordsworth.

LESSON LXIX.—NORWEGIAN FIORDS.

Every one who has looked at the map of Norway must have been struck with the singular character of its coast. On the map it looks so jagged, such a strange mixture of land and sea, that it appears as if there must be a perpetual struggle between the two—the sea striving to inundate the land, and the land pushing itself out into the sea, till it ends in their dividing the region

between them. On the spot, however, this coast is very sublime. The long straggling promontories are mountainous, towering ridges of rock, springing up in precipices, from the water; while the bays between them, instead of being rounded with shelving sandy shores, on which the sea tumbles its waves, as in bays of our coast, are in fact long narrow valleys, filled with sea, instead of being laid out in fields and meadows. The high rocky banks shelter these deep bays (called fiords) from almost every wind; so that their waters are usually as still as those of a lake. For days and weeks together, they reflect each separate tree-top of the pine forests which clothe the mountain sides, the mirror being broken only by the leap of some sporting fish, or the oars of the boatman, as he goes to inspect the sea-fowl from islet to islet of the fiord, or carries out his nets or his rod, to catch the sea-trout, or char, or cod, or herrings, which abound in their seasons on the coast of Norway.

It is difficult to say whether these fiords are the most beautiful in summer, or in winter. In summer, they glitter with golden sunshine, and purple and green shadows from the mountain and forest lie on them; and these may be more lovely than the faint light of the winter noons of those latitudes, and the snowy pictures of frozen peaks, which then show themselves on the surface; but before the day is half over, out come the stars—the glorious stars, which shine like nothing that we have ever seen. There, the planets cast a faint shadow, as the young moon does with us; and these planets and the constellations of the sky, as they silently glide over from peak to peak of these rocky passes, are imaged on the waters so clearly that the fisherman, as he unmoors his boat for his evening task, feels as if he were about to shoot forth his vessel into another heaven, and to cleave his way among the stars.

Still, as everything is to the eye, sometimes for a hundred miles together along these deep sea-valleys, there is rarely silence. The ear is kept awake by a thousand voices. In the summer, there are cataracts leaping from ledge to ledge of the rocks, and there is the bleating of the kids that browse there, and the flap of the great eagle's wings, as it dashes abroad from its eyrie, and the cries of whole clouds of sea-birds, which inhabit the islets; and all these sounds are mingled and multiplied by the strong echoes, till they become a din as loud as that of a city. Even at night, when the flocks are in the fold, and the birds at roost, and the echoes themselves seem to be asleep, there is occasionally a sweet music heard, too soft for even the listening ear to catch by day. Every breath of summer wind that steals through the pine-forests wakes this music as it goes. The stiff piny leaves of the fir and pine vibrate with the breeze, like the strings of a musical instrument, so that every breath of the night wind, in a Norwegian forest, wakens a myriad of tiny harps; and this gentle and mournful music may be heard in gushes the whole night through. This music, of course, ceases when each tree becomes laden with snow; but yet there is sound, in the midst of the longest winter-night. There is the rumble of some avalanche, as after a drifting storm a mass of snow, too heavy to keep its place, slides and tumbles from the mountain peak. There is also, now and then, a loud crack of the ice in the nearest glacier; and, as many declare, there is a crackling to be heard by those who listen when the northern lights are shooting and blazing across the sky. Nor is this all. Wherever there is a nook between the rocks on the shore, where a man may build a house, and clear a field or two—wherever there is a platform beside the cataract, where the sawyer may plant his mill and make a path from it to join some great road—there is a human habitation, and the sounds that belong to it. Thence, in winter nights, come music and laughter, and the tread of the dancers and the hum of many voices. The Norwegians are a social and hospitable people; and they hold their gay meetings, in defiance of their arctic climate, through every season of the year.—Miss Martineau.

LESSON LXX.—COMPLAINT OF THE DYING YEAR.

"I am the son of Old Father Time, and the last of a numerous progeny, for he has had upwards of five thousand of us; but it has ever been his fate to see one child expire before another was born. It is the opinion of some, that his own constitution is beginning to break up, and that when he has given birth to a hundred or two more of us, his family will be complete, and then he himself will be no more!"

Thus the Old Year began his complaint. He then called for his account book, and turned over the pages with a sorrowful eye. He has kept, it appears, an accurate account of the moments, minutes, hours, arid months, which he has issued, and subjoined, in some places, memorandums of the uses to which they have been applied, and of the losses he has sustained.

These particulars it would be tedious to detail, but we must notice one circumstance. Upon turning to a certain page in his accounts, the old man was much affected, and the tears streamed down his furrowed cheeks as he examined it. This was the register of the fifty-two Sundays which he had issued; and which, of all the wealth he had to dispose of, has been, it appears, the most scandalously wasted. "These," said he, "were my most precious gifts. Alas! how lightly have they been esteemed!"

"I feel, however," said he, "more pity than indignation towards these offenders, since they were far greater enemies to themselves than to me. But there are a few outrageous ones, by whom I have been defrauded of so much of my substance that it is difficult to think of them with patience, particularly that notorious thief Procrastination, of whom everybody has heard, and who is well known to have wronged my venerable father of much of his property.

"There are also three noted ruffians, Sleep, Sloth, and Pleasure, from whom I have suffered much; besides a certain busybody called Dress, who, under the pretence of making the most of me, steals away more of my gifts than any two of them.

"As for me, all must acknowledge that I have performed my part towards my friends and foes. I have fulfilled my utmost promise, and been more bountiful than many of my predecessors.

"My twelve fair children have, each in their turn, aided my exertions; and their various tastes and dispositions have all conduced to the general good. Mild February, who sprinkled the naked boughs with delicate buds, and brought her wonted offering of early flowers, was not of more essential service than that rude, blustering boy March, who, though violent in his temper, was well-intentioned and useful. April, a gentle, tenderhearted girl, wept for his loss, yet cheered me with many a smile. June came crowned with roses, and sparkling in

« ElőzőTovább »