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I have been shouldered? Pray, do not finger your eyes any longer! Screw your lyre up to concert pitch, and go on with your stridulous performances! Neither you nor I know how bad may be the taste of our grandchildren, or how high you may stand when they have
"Made prostitute and profligate the Muse."
If you cannot be a poet, be a poetaster; and if you cannot be that, be a poetess, or "she-poet," as Johnson, in his big dictionary, defines the word. So "gently take all that ungently comes," and hammer away as sedulously as old Boileau. Somebody will, undoubtedly, in the next age, relish your rinsings. A poet, you know, is a prophet. Console yourself by vaticinating in the bower of your bedchamber, as you count the feet upon your fingers, your own immortality. If 'tis a delusion, 'tis a cheap one, to which even a poet can afford to treat himself. Play with and humor your life, till you fall asleep, and then the care will be over! Meanwhile, you must be more stupid than I think, if you cannot find somebody to give you your fodder of flattery. You need not blush, for I know that you like it, and you need not be ashamed of liking it. We all do, we are all women in that regard; although the honestest man to confess it that I ever heard of was Sir Godfrey Kneller, who said to Pope, when he was painting his picture, "I can't do so well as I should do, unless you flatter me a little; pray, flatter me, Mr. Pope! You know I love to be flattered."
You see, my excellent Robert, that, by some hocus-pocus which I do not exactly comprehend, myself, I have introduced a wheel within a wheel, a letter within a letter, a play within a play, after the manner of the old dramatists; and I beg you to make a note that the foregoing admonitions and most sapient counsels are not addressed to you. You are something of a philosopher; but you are not, like Mr. Stephen Duck, "something of a
philosopher and something of a poet"; for I do not believe, O fortunate youth, that you ever invoked the ten ladies minus one in your life; and I shrewdly suspect, that, so far from knowing the difference between a male and a female rhyme, you are unfamiliar with the close family connection between "trees" and "breeze," or between "love" and "dove." My episodical remarks are for the benefit of young Dolce Pianissimo, who has taken, I am sorry to say, to gin, shirt-collars prodigious, and the minor magazines, and whose friends are standing aghast and despairing at his lunacy. But, after all, 'tis my best irony quite thrown away; for the foolish boy will believe me quite in earnest, and will still be making love to that jade, Mistress Fame, although he knows well enough how many she has jilted. But as he grows in stature, he may grow in sense. If you see him very savagely cut up in "The Revolver," you will recognize the kindly hands which held the bistoury, scalpel, and tenaculum, and the gentleman who wept while he wounded.
But I have long enough, I fear too long, tormented you with my drivel. It must be your consolation, that, in spirit, you have been with me to-night, as I have thought of the old days, pausing for a moment over these mute but eloquent companions, to dream or to sigh, and then once more turning the old familiar pages as I try to forget, for just a little while, that dear familiar face. If something of indifference has tinctured these hurried lines, if I have been unjust in my estimate of the world's honors and the rewards of the Muses, you will forgive me, if you will remember how the great Burke reduced the value of earthly honors and emoluments to less than that of a peck of wheat. My fire is gone out. My candle is flickering in the socket. There is light in the cold, gray East. Good-morning, Don Bob!good-morning!
AFTER THE BALL.
THEY sat and combed their beautiful hair,
As they laughed and talked in the chamber there,
Idly they talked of waltz and quadrille,
Who over the fire, when all is still,
Comb out their braids and curls.
Robe of satin and Brussels lace,
Knots of flowers and ribbons, too, Scattered about in every place,
For the revel is through.
And Maud and Madge in robes of white,
Sit and comb their beautiful hair,
Those wonderful waves of brown and gold, Till the fire is out in the chamber there,
And the little bare feet are cold.
Then out of the gathering winter chill,
Maud and Madge in robes of white,
The prettiest night-gowns under the sun,
Curtained away from the chilly night,
Float along in a splendid dream,
To a golden gittern's tinkling tune,
While a thousand lustres shimmering stream,
Flashing of jewels, and flutter of laces,
Tropical odors sweeter than musk,
Men and women with beautiful faces
And eyes of tropical dusk,—
And one face shining out like a star,
into form and infuse them with life. In all the distinct creations of God, from the time when the waters first subsided and the dry land appeared, in everything organized and inorganized, earth, air, sea, and their inhabitants, there is no element which was not in existence when the earth was without form and void.
Philosophers tell us that three hundred and fifty millions of years elapsed after the globe began to solidify, before it was fitted for the lowest plants. And more than one million years more were necessary, after the first plants began to grow upon its young surface, to bring it forIward to the condition which the Divine Father deemed suitable for the reception of man. If the days of Cain and Abel were the infancy of the world,—as we have sometimes heard, - when will it come to maturity? Its divisions of life cannot follow the plan of animated beings; for, with an embryonic condition of an indefinite period, and an infancy of three hundred and fifty millions of years, more or less, we can hardly expect that it will really have begun to enjoy the freedom of adult life, before the human race will have attained to its earthly limit of perfectibility, or have so overstocked the surface of the globe as to make it necessary to remove to some larger sphere.
It is curious, we say, to think that everything now on the earth or composing its substance was present, though in far different form, at the beginning, - that the Almighty gathered together in this part of the universe all the materials out of which to create all the forms of things which it was his pleasure to evolve here through all time,-that in that nebulous mass were revolving, not only the gases which were at last to combine in various manners and proportions to form the rocky crust and the watery investment of the earth, but that in that dense and noisome cloud floated also the elements of all the beautiful objects that furnish the daily enchantments of life. Flowers and trees, birds and fishes, locusts and mastodons, all things, from the
tiniest animalcule to man, were there, unmodelled, not even in embryo,—their separate existences then only in the mind of God. There, Christian and Saracen, Jew and Gentile, Caucasian and Negro, Hindoo and Pariah, all the now heterogeneous natures which are as oil and water, were blended in one common vapor.
Finally the condensation of all the gaseous elements began, and the aëriform masses became liquid, and the waters, — what mineral waters they were, when they were saturated with granite and marble, diamonds, rubies, arsenic, and iron-thus deposited by the vapor, left a gas above them light enough to bear some faint resemblance to our air. Still this atmosphere was surcharged with vapors which no lungs could tolerate, whether of man or reptile; and other steps must be taken to clear it of its unwholesome properties. Then did the Almighty will introduce, one after another, the germs of plants, first of all, the lower orders, the ferns, which seek the shade, and the lichens, which grow in damp and dark recesses, mosses, which cling to bare rocks, living almost on air and water alone,— everything which needed not bright sunlight to invigorate it nor soil to cling to. Year by year and age by age did these humble plants extract their nourishment from the murky vapors that shrouded the earth, and, after fashioning those gases into a living tissue of stems and leaves, year after year did they die and lay their remains upon the rocks, accumulating by slow steps a soil which would in time be capable of giving holding-ground to mightier plants. The trees came,—and gigantic they must have been; and every species of tree, shrub, and herb now upon the earth, and of all animals that walk, fly, or swim, was introduced before the creation of man.
It was as if the elements were too gross for the constitution of man, when they were first collected from the nebulous mass, as if they needed to go through the intermediate forms of plants and animals, passing in succession from one to
another, before they could be permitted to enter into the bodies of those beings who were to be in God's likeness. But, in very truth, the elements were unaltered by their many transmigrations. It was the divine act of God which caused every plant to spring forth and gave birth to every living thing. Every seed and every egg was at the first formed by Him. No sudden effort of man's will, such as that by which Pygmalion was believed to have animated the work of his chisel, nor any industrious current of electricity, passed for uninterrupted weeks through the purest gum, and stimulated by the enthusiasm of a Cross, can transform the worm to a breathing being, or reach the human climax by slow steps, even if the first one be in the humble form of a louse. When a new plant appeared, it was the hand of God that formed the seed. When a new species of animal came upon the earth, it was the same Power that created it. But the materials were not new; "out of the dust of the earth' was man created.
Oxygen, Hydrogen, Carbon, and Nitrogen, do not turn away from us, gentle reader, we will not be grimly scientif ic, but a few of the terms of science must be employed, even here,-these four elements are the chief ingredients of all vegetable and animal structures. When separated from their connections, three of them are gases; and the fourth, in union with one of the others, is also a gas. In various combinations they form literally the dust of the earth, they make rock and water, vapor and air. In the hand of the Almighty, they are so many plastic elements, that form now a plant of the lowliest condition, now a magnificent oak, now a fish, and now a man. And the germ of each organized being bequeathes to its offspring the power to reproduce its likeness,-so that each succeeding generation is a repetition of its predecessor. There is no change in plants and animals from the first; the same materials in the same proportions that were selected by the earliest trees for their composition are chosen now;
and in form and function the last animal is a precise copy of the first of his race.
If we attempt to trace a particle of matter, we shall find its wanderings endless. Annihilation is a term which is not applicable to material things. Matter is never destroyed; it rarely rests. Oxygen, for instance, the most important constituent of our atmosphere, is the combining element of all things, the medium of communication between the kingdoms of Nature, the agent of the interchanges that are continually taking place among all created things. Oxygen keeps life in man, by combining with his blood at every inhalation; it is absorbed by flowers, to be employed in the perfection of the fruit; many minerals are incapable of the various uses of society, until oxygen has attacked and united with them. It gives us lime and soda, the oil of vitriol, and common salt; the mineral pigments in common use are impossible without it; and the beautiful colors of our autumn leaves are due to the combination of oxygen with their juices. It enters into all plans and operations with a helping hand; animals and plants owe their lives to it; but when the shadow of death begins to fall upon them, it is as ready to aid in their destruction. Like calumny, which blackens whatsoever is suspected, oxygen pounces upon the failing and completes their ruin. The processes of fermentation and putrefaction cannot commence in any substance, until it has first taken oxygen into combination. Thus, cans of meat, hermetically sealed, with all the air first carefully expelled, undergo no change so long as the air does not get access to them. If the minutest opening remain, the oxygen of the atmosphere combines with the contents of the can, and fermentation or putrefaction follows. Rust, which takes the keen edge from the knife, is only another name for oxydation: keep the knife bright, and no oxygen dares touch it; but the slightest blemish is made a loophole for the entrance of the ever-watchful enemy, who never again leaves it until its destruction is complete.