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earthly pilgrimage, the Poison Tree of death, and are so weary and wayworn that we even welcome its horrid silence and its hideous shade.
If men may dare to idolize any sublunary thing, it is a sinless and smiling child. Suffer," says Jesus Christ,“ little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” The author of these beautiful words was
an infant himself, and oh, ineffable glory! the pure light that encircled the child, still shone around the man ! It is a touching, and I hope not an irreverent reflection, that he whose manhood surpassed all human conceptions—he whom men believe to have been the Deity himself-did not, in his earlier years, exhibit to earthly eyes more innocence and beauty than are easily conceivable in a human child. Could we but preserve our first purity with the progress of our intellectual powers, we should indeed be little lower than the angels. The description of our first parents in Paradise is like a radiant vision, but I cannot help regarding it, beautiful as it is, as in some degree deficient in poetical and human interest, when I remember that they knew not the charms of childhood, but came abruptly, I had almost said unnaturally, into mature existence unaccompanied by those earlier associations which like the shadows in the golden light of evening, grow more and more lovely as our day declines, and reflect their lingering hues upon our latest path. Methinks that even Paradise itself would have looked more divine, had little human cherubim fitted gaily over the green velvet slopes, and passed from flower to flower, their light laughs breaking like celestial music on the air, and their golden locks glittering in the sun.
A lovely woman is an object irresistibly enchanting, and the austerer
of manhood fills the soul with a proud sense of the majesty of human nature; but there is something far less earthly and more intimately allied to our holiest imaginings in the purity of a child. It satisfies the most delicate fancy and the
severest judgment. Its happy and affectionate feelings are unchecked by one guileful thought, or one cold suspicion. Its little beauteous face betrays each emotion of its heart, and is as transparent as the silvery cloud-veil of a summer sun that shows all the light within. It is as fearless and as innocent in its waking hours as in its quiet slumbers. It loves every one, and smiles on all !
I have sometimes gazed upon a beautiful child with a passion only equalled in intensity by that of youthful love. The heart at such a time is nearly stifled with a mixed emotion of tenderness, admiration and delight. It almost aches with affection. I can fully sympathize in a mother's deep idolatry. I love all lovely children ; and have often yearned to imprint a thousand passionate kisses upon a stranger's child, though met perhaps but for a moment in theatres or in streets, and passing from me, like a radiant shadow, to be seen no more.
The sudden appearance of a child of extraordinary beauty comes upon the spirit like a flash of light, and often breaks up a train of melancholy thoughts, as a sun-burst scatters the mist of morning.
The changing looks and attitudes of children afford a perpetual feast to every eye that has a true perception of grace and beauty. They surpass the sweetest creations of the poet or the painter*. They are prompted by maternal Nature, who keeps an incessant watch over her infant favorites, and directs their minutest movements, and their most evanescent thoughts. Beneath such holy tutorage they can never err. They throw their sleek and pliant limbs into every variety of posture, and still preserve the true line of beauty, as surely as a ball preserves its roundness. They live in an atmosphere of loveliness, and like moving clouds are ever changing their ethereal aspects, and yet always catch the light. Even the moral defects of maturer years are
Northcote tells us, that when Sir Joshua Reynolds desired to learn what real grace was, he studied it in the natural movements of children.
often beautiful in childhood, and bear a different character. The cunning of the man is innocent archness in the child. Ignorance in the one, is a gross and miserable condition ; in the other, it is purity and bliss. The imperfections that are ludicrous or offensive in manhood, in infancy are inexpressibly engaging. The stammering of an adult, or his mistakes in acquiring a new language, are unpleasing to the most friendly ear, and even lower him in some degree in his own estimation. But the first imperfect sounds and broken words of a child, are as sweet as the irregular music of interrupted rivulets. They stir the heart like magic, and impel us as it were, in the sudden wantonness of affection, to shut the little rosy portals of the cherub's soul with a shower of impetuous kisses. The garrulity of age is not like the eager prattling of infancy. The child's artless talk can never weary us.
Our ears are as tireless as his tongue. Timidity in manhood is degrading, but in a little child it is in. teresting and lovely, whether he flies from the object of alarm like a startled fawn, or nestles closer in his mother's lap. The coquetry of a woman is vanity and deceit, but in a child it is mere playfulness and innocent hilarity. Every thing connected with childhood changes its nature. Words of abuse become words of endearment. Imp and rogue, when applied to an infant, are soft and fond expressions that fall gracefully from the fairest lips.
The drums and rattles of the child are objects of unalloyed delight, but the playthings of the man are grave and terrible delusions. They goad him with secret thorns that rankle in his heart for ever. Envy, avarice, and ambition, mingle their poison in his sweetest cup. Even his superior knowledge is but a source of evil. It surrounds him with temptations, while it throws a shadow upon all his hopes, and takes off the bloom from life. It is too little for his mind, and too much for his heart.
The child, on the other hand, revels in his happy consciousness of present good, and foresees no future ill. He knows neither weariness nor discontent. “Solitude' to him is sometimes blithe society,' and in the thickest crowds, he is as free and unconstrained as in his loneliest haunts. His ingenuous heart is never chilled by the glance of a human eye, nor can he fashion his innocent features into a false expression. His own eye is as lucid as the breeze-bared heavens. If he reads no 'sermons in stones,' he sees 'good in every thing.' He has universal faith. He discovers nothing evil, and sees none but friends. He gives up his whole being to gentle affections, and a sense of unequivocal enjoyment. He is not what cold age would make him, “nothing, if not critical.” To him the rise of the green curtain at the theatre reveals a real world. He has ever a tear for the distresses of the heroine, and breathes harder as he gazes, with all his soul in his eyes, on the hero's adventurous exploits. The tricks and conundrums of the clown are never flat, or stale, or unprofitable to him, and he fitly testifies to their merit, when holding his lovely head aside (his cheek as round and blooming as a sun-kissed peach,) he claps his little palms together in an ecstacy of admiration, and then turns to the maternal face, as if assured of her hearty sympathy in his delight.
It is a sweet employment to watch the first glimmering of the human mind, and to greet the first signs of joy that give life and animation to the passive beauty of an infant's face, like the earliest streaks of sunshine upon opening flowers. But alas ! this pleasure is too often interrupted by the sad reflection, that the bright dawn of existence is succeeded by a comparatively clouded noon, and an almost starless night. Each year of our life is a step lower on the radiant ladder that leads to heaven, and when we at last descend into the horrible vault of death, our best hope is that we may rise again to a state resembling the happy purity of our childhood.
What a holy thing is maternal love! Even its errors reflect honour upon human nature. The mother sees her own offspring through a sweet and peculiar medium, and traces a thousand charms that are undiscovered by less partial eyes, while she is blind to those defects that are palpable to others. The loved are ever lovely. So beautifully does true affection thus qualify every object to our desires !
There is a divine contagion in all beauteous things. We alternately colour objects with our own fancies and affections, or receive from them a kindred hue.
“ Like the sweet South, That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour.” This principle pervades all nature, physical and moral. Let those who would trace an expression of serenity and tenderness on a human face, watch a person of sensibility, as he gazes upon a painting by Claude or Raphael. In contemplating a fine picture, we drink in its spirit through our eyes. If a lovely woman would increase her charms, let her gaze long and ardently on all beauteous images. Let her not indulge those passions which deform the features, but cultivate, on the contrary, every soft affection. It will soon become an easy task, for one good feeling suggests and supports another. We insensibly and involuntarily adapt our aspect to our emotions, and long habits of thought and feeling leave a permanent impression on the counte
Every one believes thus far in physiognomy, and acts more or less decidedly upon his belief. But even the effect upon the features of a transient emotion is truly wonderful. A fierce man often looks beautifully tender and serene when either caressing or caressed, and deceives us like the ocean in a calm, which at times seems “the gentlest of all gentle things."
Who can wonder at the intensity of a mother's love, when even strangers hardened by a struggle with the world are often affected by the engaging ways of children? There is not a more interesting sight in nature than the sudden smile which they sometimes