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A Brown Study.
Break from me all the coarser ties of life, —
The hope of gain, the bitter lust of power, Kind Nature takes my soaring heart to wife,
And bids me taste one uninfected hour.
No freaked silver floats above my head,
No speck of foam dissolves beneath my feet, But has a lesson in it, and a thread
To draw me onward into fancies sweet.
Now all about is harmony,—the waves
Advance and vanish, as a maiden's feet, Nor strive again to kiss the rocky caves
They lightly played with, in the noon-day heat.
iv. The polypi, to which the waves retire,
Work out the end for which they were ordained; Nor cherish hopes, nor kindle with desire,
To shine at once, about a lady's hand.
When I was quite a boy, I yearned towards art;
All outward things stole to my pencil's end; I took sweet Nature to my bounding heart,
And warmed it with the smiling of a friend.
Then men who knew her not, but still would know,
Came to me, lightly saying, “ This is wrong: Clouds float not thus above us, nor doth snow
Give purple tints, when shades are growing long;
And sheep are gray, not spangled is their fleece; And rocks are brown, not of that orange hue.
You masquerade, not imitate her!" "Peace !"
I cried, and cast my pencil from my hand:
“ To paint for blind men is a sorry scheme. I cannot cleanse your eyes with fairy wand,
And will not stoop to your most vulgar theme.
And cast my pencil bravely to the wave:
Sea ! wash it lightly to my dead hope’s grave."
I seized a pen: it laboured o'er my page;
My hand was cramped, my thoughts were all awry; Yet, with a boldness foreign to the age, My mind lay struggling with some mystery.
I said that Nature never did repeat;
That he was great who made some new advance; That you might find in any quiet street
A man to copy-give him but the chance.
The true aim was, from study to deduce;
To read rew truths in the sad lives of men; From old laws winnow happy facts for use,
And garland them with a poetic pen.
I told a story-rough, it may be,-still
The blood of breathing life was in the page ; There were few mysteries foreboding ill,
Few handsome angels in paternal cage.
It was not in three volumes- what of that?
Is human nature always parcelled out To give one book as tangled as a mat,
One yielding a long evening of doubt,
Are voices always in a trio raised ?
How he was loved, and set aside, and praised !
The ship is swiftly sailing from the sun.
Throughout my life, and die with nothing done?
All about Hair and Beards.
It needs no very great stretch of philosophic ken to see that throughout nature it is the surface that plays the most important part. With all living things this is evidently the case, whatever it may be with the face of mother earth, whose vast frame of granite, for all we know to the contrary, is nothing but the same primeval rock down to the very imo penetralia. But directly we come to plants and animals ever so low in the scale, we find they have all an inside and an outside; and what is so remarkable is, that these surfaces are universally covered with hair,not hair always precisely in the form with which our heads are so familiar, but still a sort of finishing pile, whether it be the fine down on the lichen, the cilia upon an animalcule's skin, the powdery feathers of a butterfly's wing, or the shaggy coat of a bear or a buffalo. Before comparing all these very various forms of hair, we can hardly resist following the transcendentalists just so far as to hint that even the earth may be said to have its skin covered with a kind of hair, in the universal crop of plants, all springing from roots not so much unlike the manner in which hair grows. Some of these, such as the rushes and common grass, bear a very close resemblance to hairs. In one other respect, too, vegetation has a remarkable analogy with hair-growth, and that is in being deciduous; that is to say, in falling off at certain periods and growing on again so long as the roots remain.
Hair, however, occupies a neutral ground amongst organic products; it is neither exactly animate or inanimate. It is part of our bodies certainly, almost as much as our bones and teeth; it grows out of our skins, and sometimes, by a rare error of Nature, within the structure and cavities of the body. Aristomenes the Messenian, an Athenian general, when caught and cut up by the Spartans, was found to have hair growing upon his heart; the same singular fact is recorded of Plutarch, king of Sparta, and of Hermogenes the rhetorician. Pliny and Valerius Maximus are the authorities for these curious accounts. Even the blood has been found, according to Cardan and Slonatius, to contain hairs; and in this way has been explained that horrible disease known as the "plica polonica" (Polish plait, because commonest in Poland), in which the hair is matted together, becomes extremely sensitive, and even bleeds when broken. In the natural state it is scarcely necessary to say, that though pulling the hair is sufficiently painful, yet it is the root which feels. We are equally familiar with the proof that the hair is a very complete and significant part of us all, in its constant resemblance of colour and other peculiarities to the paternal crop. No feature is more rigidly reproduced in a race; a dash of fiery red, or a trace of the genuine African friz, will never fail to crop out for centuries after. The persistence, too, with which the distinctive forms and colours of the feathers of birds and the coat of mammals are maintained is another example of the strong connection between the natural covering and the individuality of the animal. All this would lead us to argue that hair was as much alive as the stems and leaves of plants. A canker at the root will destroy both, and we see the prisoner shut up in his dark dungeon soon become blanched, like a plant buried from the light. There are also some other effects which look as if the hair was fed, as plants are, by their sap. The colouring juice of the hair ascends from the root to the tip of the hair, and if any thing happens to interfere with this supply the colour is lost, and frequently the hair falls off dead. Thus from fever and other severe illness the hair may be destroyed root and branch, or it may be turned gray and white; while sudden fright and great anxiety have, as is well known, made strong men go gray in a single night. How this is exactly caused is not quite explicable, but the fact is one that is perfectly well authenticated, and every one may gather something in explanation who has ever felt “ his flesh creep," or, as the French express it, had a crispation. This horrible sensation it is that Shakespeare alludes to in the terrible words of the Ghost in Hamlet:
"I could a tale unfold, whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
No doubt some blighting of the plant, as it were, takes place at the moment of the shock,—this “horripilation,” as the old physicians called it.
On the other hand, how are we to account for the hair not always dying when life is extinct in the body? It is perfectly well known that the hair, particularly the beard, goes on growing after death, very generally for some days, but in rarer instances for a considerable time. Perhaps, were the observation oftener made, many instances would be found similar to that of the woman at Nuremberg, whose coffin, when examined some forty years after her death, was found to be actually bursting with hair springing through the joints of the wood. Wulferus, who relates this, says that the sexton when he opened the coffin found it full of hair, long and curled; he touched the curious remains which still retained the human form, and they all crumbled to dust, leaving the immense crop of hair perfect, and as strong as when the woman was alive.
We might suppose, in attempting an explanation of this case, that the roots remained and sustained the growth, like the low kind of vegetation in mould and fungi, upon the organic matter, which attracted moisture from the damp air of the tomb. A somewhat similar thing is observable in vegetable life; it is very common to see the trunk of a tree that has been cut down putting forth bright and fresh young shoots for many months after it has been completely severed from the ground, and when the tree is as dead as the woman of Nuremberg. Shakespeare seems to