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A LARGE garden is undoubtedly a source of large enjoyment; but a small garden has this advantage, that it brings under your notice the personal and domestic concerns of every inmate of its narrow boundaries. In the former case, you must admit the aid of a gardener, who, whatever predilection he may have for his calling, will never enter fully into your views and wishes. His professional wisdom will clash with your secret partialities: he will see a necessity for closely pruning some shrubs in the wild luxuriance of which you take especial delight: he will straighten, to your great discomfiture, shoots that naturally incline to the curving line of grace; and leave indelible traces of art where you would rather dispense with such appearances. A large garden is at best but a very limited monarchy, where all the power is vested in the administration; your Premier will indeed allow you to walk round it, and see how he manages matters; but beyond that, your privileges are wofully curtailed.
Now, in my own little territory I am a perfect autocrat; shrubs may run as wild, twigs grow as awry, and flowers spread as unrestrainedly as I please. Not a leaf can unfold but I take personal cognizance of it; not a blossom expands that I cannot rejoice over as the fruit of my special culture. No intermediate link separates me from my loving subjects: the royal prerogative of doing no wrong is mine, upon the agreeable principle that, having nobody else to please or to dissatisfy by my proceedings, my rule of right
is simply to do whatever I like best. I therefore recommend to all lovers of floriculture who are troubled with more ground than they can manage alone, that they forth with enclose a very limited space, with a strict prohibition against intrusive hoe, rake, or pruning knife. They will find it a most interesting experiment, if they do really love flowers as flowers deserve to be loved ; and not like caps and ribbons, merely for the effect of form and colouring, irrespective of any peculiar interest in the article itself. Probably this is not so often the case as florists may presume it to be. Few, perhaps, have accustomed themselves to particular trains of thought as they looked on the various individuals which, in their parterre, represent so many families: fewer have traced so close a connection between the flower and its appropriate meditation as to find in the former a note book of ideas and events which but for such a memorandum would be forgotten, or very slightly retained. This habit may be unconsciously acquired while life itself is but a gay garden of sweets, and the secret language of inexperienced confidence is, “I shall see no sorrow :” but it needs somewhat more than a sip of the bitters mingled for God's children in this mortal state to excite a relish for the mysterious sweetness thus reserved to qualify the unpalatable draught. God has given us richly all things to enjoy: the worldling may possess, but the Christian alone can enjoy those gifts. And as through the merely mechanical arrangement of types and paper, ink and pasteboard, into certain forms, a book is produced which shall contain a correct transcript of the revealed word, and become, under divine operation, the means of bringing life eternal within the grasp of its readers, so on many an inanimate object, formed, like ourselves, from the element of earth, a blessing is made to rest,--a name is written, which no man can know save he that receiveth it as a gift from God. Over and over again have I noticed in these pages the strange power of sympathy conferred on these lovely preachers; and still, as the season of their glowing abundance returns, I am constrained to acknowledge it anew. It is indeed one of those impressions that cannot be swept away by the current of time; because every succeding year adds something to the store of recollections, and something also to the sad experience of this world’s nothingness—if that can be called nothing which has so much power to sting. Man's corruption disposes him to be fickle, ungrateful, unkind; this inflicts a wound, on some hearts, an almost intolerable wound; and when it comes from a quarter where the reverse was confidently expected, a chilling sense of the universal depravity seems to cast a blight over the whole face of the earth, and, blindly unconscious of our own participation in the general spot, we seem to stand alone, cast out and disowned by a race with whom we hardly care to claim the affinity which, nevertheless, exists in all its natural force. Under such a feeling there are some who know what it is to turn a retrospective eye, and to call up images of the departed, with the fond regretful thought, “ They loved truly, loved always—they would not have changed with the changeful world; or if they were liable so to do, how sweet to know that they were taken away before that hour arrived—that nothing damped their warm affection, or clouded the brightness of their confiding looks with mistrust and displeasure.” At such a moment the slightest relic of a departed friend is doubly precious: a line of his writing, a sketch by his pencil, a trifle that once was his—all are invaluable: but to me the smiling aspect of a living flower, connected by one of the links so often inscribed with the memory of that departed friend, comes home to the bosom with greater power, inasmuch as it both partakes of the vitality which in the other
things is wholly wanting, and also inevitably leads me to the contemplation of that which is not earthly. There is something awful in the beauty and symmetry of a flower; even when without the superaddition of that fragrance which extends the influence of the lovely production to the atmosphere around it. That such a thing should have been made to spring out of the colourless and scentless dust is strange; that it should be made but to wither is stranger yet: that the only abiding part, in many of the most exquisite flowers—the seed-vessel—should present an unsightly contrast to the glowing blossom which ushered it in, and become, in general, more displeasing to the sense, in proportion to its increasing value —all is a mystery: but, oh! how instructive that mystery is, when read by the revealing light of God’s word! Dear, precious little comforters the flowers of the field and garden are: they first meet me on my own ground, indulging the selfish mood, saying, Those of whom we now tell you smiled on you to the last of their mortal existence, as we shall do: they fell, but never till they fell were their loving looks averted. * This is the language that soothes a "natural feeling, partaking no doubt, and largely, of natural discontent and rebellion: but the Lord has altered his beautiful world to suit the altered condition of his sinful creatures ; and the flowers that in Eden might have bloomed unchangeably under the easy culture of a faithful vicegerent, an ever-present type of his own holy, safe, and rejoicing state, now wither and die, to bring spiritual comfort home to the dying rebel. Yes, I think they die to soothe us: for I could not so love, or so intimately connect the memento with what it commemorates, if it was itself exempt from change. It seems fitting that its tints should wax pale, and its petals shrink and fall, leaving me half-reconciled to a lot so universal, and giving me the promise of again watching every budding indication of their annual return. Here it is that the natural feelings begin to rise into something more elevating. I look on the still blooming flower, and acknowledging its imaginary language, another shade of regret steals over me as I ponder on the shortness of its stay to soothe an aching heart. But I know it will return. Why? Because God has said that while the earth endures, summer and winter, seed-time, and harvest, shall not cease. I have the experience of my own life added to the record of some thousands of years, that one word of his good promise has never yet failed; and I know assuredly that it never can fail, but must stand fast for ever and ever, when all seasons, with the earth itself, shall have passed away. And then some one of those rich promises will come to my mind, dissipating in its glorious light every lingering shadow, whether of discontent or of unbelief. Am I afflicted ? It must needs be so, for he has spoken it. “In the world ye shall have tribulation.” It is no matter whence it springs: an unkind word, or injurious suspicion, is as heavy a trial to some minds as a very serious calamity is to others: and herein, by the way, do good people so grievously err in rebuking another for smarting under what would be utterly unfelt by themselves. The Lord knows in what particular direction the patient requires to be probed; and it is singularly presumptuous on the part of an ignorant, blind standerby, to pronounce that he means nothing by the operation, just because the creature's wisdom would suggest a different mode of applying the instrument from that which the Creator judges best. There are some who can bear me witness, because they have experienced both, that a bodily affliction of some magnitude is light, is nothing, in comparison with unkindness, or even cold indifference, where the heart might naturally turn for the reverse. To such, sickness and pain are half welcome for the sake of the tender soothings that they call forth from beloved friends; while health and prosperity are embittered by the lack of those sympathies on which the spirit loves to repose itself. God gives or takes away accordingly. Let him do what seemeth him good. I have not been able to select a particular flower for this paper. The burst of beauty in my little garden bewilders me; and having peopled it with mementos already recorded, I am at a loss to add another to the wreath. One, indeed, there is, a stranger altogether, both there and in the soil of England; but so humble, yet so dear! It died down to the ground, and
totally disappeared in the winter: that hard season levelled many a stately tree and luxuriant shrub, and I dared not to hope that it had spared my poor wild flower. I guarded the spot, however, from
the spade, and watched with as little of
hope as could possibly be mingled with such anxious longing. It re-appeared— and when the long feathery leaves stretched out on every side, not rising from the ground, but overspreading it, and the small germ of a future flower was discernible in the centre, I know not for what upon this earth I would have exchanged it. It bears a little yellow cup, much like a buttercup, though larger, and is as common a weed as can be pointed out in the meadows of its native isle, near the water's edge: and on such an edge I found it. I stood for the first, and I suppose the last time, on the margin of the most lovely lake that spreads its bright bosom to the sunbeam: several miles in circumference, yet lying before the eye like a mirror, with its boundaries distinctly marked out, and the swelling banks so gently diversified, here with a plantation, there a meadow of emerald green, and several little islands speckling the bright surface with their beautiful verdure crowned with tufts of trees—I have it before me now, and shall have it before me while I live. On the spot where I stood, a light and buoyant step had rested, one sunny day in June, previous to entering a small boat. Ten minutes afterwards, that spot was pressed again beneath the heavy tread of those who landed a drowned corpse and bore it away. Years had passed—I visited the place, and looked around, and amid the bewildered feeling of the moment my brain seemed to receive an uneffaceable transcript of the whole scene, and there it remains. I looked down and beheld this simple wild flower laving its long leaves in the ripple that evermore rolled a refreshing moisture to the root: I scooped it up from the bed of transparent pebbles where it grew, a solitary green thing, with its cup of living gold turned sunward. I rooted it in native earth, and it grew under my eye, by day and night ever near me, travelling many hundred miles on my knee, until it reached the selected spot in my small garden, where a young hawthorn waves a faint shadow near it, and
a daily watering supplies the refreshment it was wont to derive from the hundred sweet springs of Lough Ouel. I have said it was planted in Irish earth: true to its character, that handful of soil threw up a little weak seedling shamrock, which, strange to say, never once quailed nor changed its vivid green during the past destructive winter. They grow together, and my hand shall never part them: for God has united the spirits in heaven, and why should I divorce the poor memorials below 3 Their near neighbour is the heartsease; and many a sweet recollection, many a far sweeter hope is clustered in a space too homely to attract the glance of taste, and so narrow as to render it a marvel that such a volume of consolation should be written there. Yet written it is, and daily read, and frequently resorted to, for that same mild lesson alluded to in the foregoing pages. The white stone-crop from Vinegar-Hill fell beneath the frost; a plant from the walls of Derry died likewise, though both were cherished in a sheltered room: but the wild weed of Lough Ouel, and the shamrock of the meadow outlived it in the open air. It is better to receive whatever changes the Lord may appoint, whether atmospheric or otherwise, in the situation where he has originally placed us. How many a constitution is ruined by over-nursing, I have often remarked; how many a mind is unnerved, and unfitted for the endurance of inevitable evils, by being too carefully guarded from all that might shock its sensibilities, I also know too well. An early blighting of luxuriant leaves may preserve the root for future and vigorous vegetation, when the artificial covert of a roof would retain the evanescent bloom at the imminent risk of immediate destruction from any accidental admission of external air. This is also instructive, as are most of the peculiarities attending the delightful employment of horticulture: and I think such teaching finds a readier admission to the mind, when we voluntarily draw it, as the bee does his honey, from the nectary of a sweet flower. But still the charm that most endears the flower is that resemblance to what was kind, and loving, and confiding. Guileless itself, the mind does not suspect others of sordid or unworthy motives; and such a
mind is well depicted in the aspect of a flower. Perhaps, in the whole range of intellectual suffering, not resulting from conscious guilt, there is nothing more trying than to know one’s-self the object of unjust suspicion: to perceive that what is done in perfect integrity of heart and uprightness of intention, with a single eye to some evident duty, or service of love, is viewed through a false, distorted medium: or misrepresented by the craft of Satan, to alienate the affections that would otherwise flow naturally towards an individual disinterestedly employed in the service of others. There is a remedy in this case: there is an appeal that is never unanswered in the end. One alone has the power of searching the human heart: we cannot try and know our heart, but He can and does; and although a fearful mass of undetected sin cleaves to all that we do, or say, or think, still there is a relative uprightness of purpose, which may challenge a just judgment, as between man and man, at the hand of the Omniscient. It is when vexed by a collision with the injurious and unkind, who too often lead us to complain of being wounded in the house of our sriends, that the dead pass before our mental view with all the confiding candour which belongs to a noble, loving disposition; and we feel the bereavement in a new, an almost insupportable sense of its irreparable character. The sting of a nettle will endear the harmlessness of a violet, though the latter needs no such enhancement. Oh what a day will that be, when every noxious thing is uprooted, and cast forth from the fair garden of this renovated earth ! The figure is of constant recurrence in scripture. “Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree; and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle-tree.” “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad because of them; and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.” Before that day of the church's triumph and blessedness, I shall be gathered among the clods of the valley; and the bright offspring of the soil, which now soothe and cheer my heart, will be blossoming over my head, and telling forth to others the same precious truths that they declare to me. It is not to be supposed that such a book has been spread before
man for six thousand years in characters illegible to those who glanced upon it. Isaac's meditations in the field at eventide may have partaken of the same nature, as the gorgeous blossoms of the East unfolded their glowing tints around him. David, from considering the starry heavens, may have turned his regards to the flowers of earth, and read their declaration of the glory of God in terms no less emphatic than the voiceless testimony of the skies. The skill that hung those elegant pendants on their slender stalks, and arranged a drapery of foliage around them, had a meaning in the act. I will not reject the comfort nor disregard the instruction that they seem designed to yield me. What my gracious Lord and Saviour has invited me to consider, I will not overlook; what he tells me that Solomon in all his glory could not equal, I will not refuse to admire; and what he represents as being clothed by the hand of God, as a symbol of his providential care over me, I will not fail to recognize as among the sweetest tokens of his love. While I live, flowers shall multiply in my garden, and be cherished in my bosom; and when I die, if any kind hand will place them there, flowers shall smile upon my grave.
CHAPTER I. THE LILY OF THE WALLEY.
SPRING is yet young; and the severity of a biting winter has retarded the appearance of much that would, in milder seasons, have shown itself. It was unreasonable to stroll with inquiring looks into the shady corner of my little garden allotted to that lovely summer flower, the Lily of the Valley, and examine the unstirred earth for tokens of what I had as yet no right to expect. The flower was before my mental eye, in all the delicate grace for which it is so conspicuous; and the train of thought whence originated my premature search will not allow itself to be banished. I must, then, forestal the Lily, and permit imagination to furnish the type while in sorrowful reality the antitype engrosses my feelings.
It is now some years since the association was formed between the flower and the individual: far more probable it was, in the course of nature, and under existing circumstances, that both should have bent over my humble grave, than that the secret link which my fancy formed between them should ever be recorded in these faint outlines of the departed. But thus the Lord has willed; and we poor children of mortality can only lay our mouths to kindred dust, and say, “Even so, Father.” Flowers often appear to me to have been made for the express purpose of affording admonition to the fair and blooming: at least in their wrecked condition. I know not if the flowers in the garden that Adam was set to dress and to keep were perishable before his act of sin brought death into the world: I only know that now “the grass withereth, the flower fadeth ;” and in sad unison with them “the fashion of this world passeth away.” And “as for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.” We naturally bear witness to the beauty and applicability of the symbol, even before it has been brought home to our hearts by an unwilling appropriation—before the bright blossom that decked our own bower has been prostrated at our feet by the rending blast, the devouring worm, or the mysterious process of unexplained decay; but when that has occurred—-when the flower to which the loved one was likened becomes the sad remembrancer of what has left our sight for ever, how thrilling is the appeal contained in those numerous passages of holy writ that afford us a higher than human authority for the symbol that naturally commends itself to the mind'
When I first beheld Zelia, she was as yet a bride; and certainly the loveliness of her aspect could not be surpassed. I had heard of her as being singularly handsome; but the portraiture my fancy drew came far short of the original. Her tall, elegant form, the exquisite symmetry of her features, and that delicate transparency of complexion that distinguishes the maidens of her native country—the land of soft zephyrs and gentle dews— struck me at once as entitling her to a place among the fairest flowers of the garden; and a subsequent acquaintance