Thursday, May 17, 2018

Influence of Darkness

       The nature of most birds seems so full of vitality and gladness that the nocturnal habits of certain species make a more melancholy impression than is their due. The nightingale's song is essentially strong and spirited; but the bird has acquired a lasting reputation for dolorousness, partly owing to the influence of darkness and solitude on the mind of the midnight listener, but largely because of its apparent preference for night over day. Half the impression of melancholy vanishes from the nightingale's nocturnal song, once the hearer has learned to recognize the same music in the confusing midday chorus. The owl's reputation, which is sinister rather than merely mournful, is equally little deserved. We do not set down the jackdaw as a maleficent fowl for haunting church-yards and ruins, or the jay for its harshness of voice; but both these qualities have been enough to excite an historic prejudice against owls. Yet, if once the associations of old superstitions are dispelled, owls are recognized as among the most companionable of birds, and their cries in the winter nights as some of the most heartening sounds in nature.  London Times

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Attraction of The East

Attraction of The East
by Felicia Hemans

What secret current of man's nature turns
Unto the golden East with ceaseless flow?
Still, where the sunbeam at its fountain burns,
The pilgrim spirit would adore and glow;
Rapt in high thoughts, though weary, faint and slow,
Still doth the traveler through the desert's wind,
Led by those old Chaldean stars, which know
Where passed the shepherd fathers of mankind.
Is it some quenchless instinct, which from far
Still points to where our alienated home
Lay in bright peace? O thou true eastern star,
Savior! atoning Lord! where'er we roam,
Draw still our hearts to thee; else, else how vain
Their hope, the fair lost birthright to regain.

Monday, December 11, 2017

An Age of Wonders

       We live in an age of wonders. Great discoveries and startling events crowd upon us so fast that we have scarcely recovered from the bewildering effects of one before another comes, and we are thus kept in a constant whirl of excitement. The heavens are full of shooting stars, and while watching one we are distracted by another. So frequent is this experience that our nerves almost refuse to respond to the shock of a new sensation. We are no longer surprised at surprises. The marvelous has become the commonplace, and the unexpected is what we now expect.
       Yet we are not to suppose that our age is the only one that has had its wonders. Other times had theirs also, only these old-time wonders have become familiar to us and ceased to be wonderful; but in their day they were marvelous, and some of them equaled if they did not surpass any wonders we have witnessed. The Great War was the most cataclysmic eruption that has ever convulsed the world, but it was not more revolutionary and sensational in the twentieth century than the French Revolution was in the eighteenth and the Reformation was in the sixteenth century. The discovery of America in the fifteenth century created immense excitement and was relatively a more colossal and startling occurrence than anything that has happened since.
       The telescope and the Copernican theory- were as great achievements in their day as the spectroscope and the nebular hypothesis are in 1919. The most useful inventions and the most marvelous products of the human brain are not the railway and telegraph after all. The art of printing, which infinitely multiplies thought and sows it in the very air and every morning photographs the world anew, is a more useful invention and in its day was a great wonder. Still farther back, hidden in the mists of antiquity, lies the invention of the alphabet that is even more useful and marvelous. It is when we get back to the oldest tools, the hammer and plogh and loom, that we come to inventions of the greatest fundamental utility, and we could better afford to give up all our modern magic machines than to part with these.
       The oldest literature is ever the ripest, richest and best, and Homer and Shakespeare over,top all our modern writers as the Alps overshadow the hills lying around their feet. What modern preacher can compare in eloquence and power with Paul and Isaiah? Nature is ever full of new wonders, and yet the grass was as green and the mountains as grand and the golden nets and silver fringes of the clouds were as resplendent in the days of Abraham as they are to-day. We are the heirs of the ages, but wonder and wisdom were not born with us, and with us they will not die.
       Where must we go to find the greatest wonder? Not to the scientist's discoveries and the inventor's cunning devices: the greatest marvel is not material but spiritual; and to find it we must not look into the present or future, but go back to the first Christmas morning. On that morning the Judean shepherds had a story to tell which all they that heard it wondered at and which is still the wonder and song of the world. The birth of Jesus is absolutely the greatest event of all time. Whatever view is taken of him he has become the Master of the world. Christ has created Christendom, silently lifting its moral level as mountains are heaved up against the sky from beneath. The coming of such a unique and powerful personality into the world is an infinitely greater wonder than the discovery of a new continent or the blazing out of a new star in the sky. Snowden.


by M. J. Savage

When disease and want and sorrow
Are beneath thy gladsome feet,
When are broken all earth's shackles,
When as one all nations meet,

When the wide earth is a garden,
When love driveth out all hate,
When earth's once terrific forces
Like trained servants on thee wait,-

Then the God who through the ages
Did thy toilsome progress lead,
He who was and is and shall be,
Will have come in very deed!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Longing For Home

Longing For Home

Come away! come away! you can hear them
calling, calling,
Calling us to come to them, and roam no
Over there beyond the ridges and the land
that lies between us,
There's an old song calling us to come!

Come away! come away! for the scenes we
leave behind us
Are barren for the lights of home and a
flame that's young forever;
And the lonely trees around us creak the
warning of the night-wind,
That love and all the dreams of love are
away beyond the mountains,
The songs that call for us to-night, the have
called for men before us,
And the winds that blow the message, they
have blown ten thousand years;
But this will end our wander-time, for we
know the joy that waits us
In the strangeness of home-coming, and a
faithful woman's eyes.
Come away! come away; there is nothing
now to cheer us--
Nothing now to comfort us, but love's road
Over there beyond the darkness there's a
window gleams to greet us,
And a warm hearth waits for us within.

by Edward Arlington Robinson, "The Wilderness." 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Small Beginnings

Jesus as a small babe by Titian.

"Despise not the day of small things." and "Great oaks from little acorns grow."

       A boy used to crush flowers to get their color, and painted the white side of his father's cottage in Tyrol with all sorts of pictures, which the mountaineer gazed at as wonderful. He was the great artist, Titian.
       A old painter watched a little fellow who amused himself making drawing of his pots and brushes, easel and tools, and said, "That boy will beat me some day." So he did, for he was Michelangelo.

The Legend of The Christ Child

       I want to tell you to-night a story which has been told to little children in Germany for many hundreds of years.
       Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, on the night before Christmas, a little child was wandering all alone through the streets of a great city. There were many people on the street, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, uncles and aunts, and even gray-haired grandfathers and grandmothers, all of whom were hurrying home with bundles of presents for each other and their little ones. Fine carriages rolled by, express wagons rattled past, even old carts were pressed into service, and all things seemed in a hurry and glad with expectation of the coming Christmas morning.
       From some of the windows bright lights were already beginning to stream until it was almost as bright as day. But the little child seemed to have no home and wandered about listlessly from street to street. No one seemed to notice him, except perhaps Jack Frost, who bit his bare toes and made the ends of his fingers tingle. The north wind, too, seemed to notice the child, for it blew against him and pierced his ragged garments through and through, causing him to shiver with cold. Home after home he passed, looking with longing eyes through the windows, in upon the glad, happy children, most of whom were helping to trim the Christmas trees for the coming morrow.
       "Surely," said the child to himself, " Where there is so much gladness and happiness, some of it may be for me." So with timid steps he approached a large and handsome house. Through the windows he could see a tall and stately Christmas tree already lighted. Many presents hung upon it. Its green boughs were trimmed with gold and silver ornaments. Slowly he climbed up the broad steps and gently rapped at the door. It was opened by a tall and stately footman, who had on white gloves and shiny shoes and a large white cravat. He looked at the little child for a moment, then sadly shook his head and said, " Go down off the steps. There is no room for such as you here." He looked sorry as he spoke; possibly he remembered his own little ones at home, and was glad that they were not out in this cold and bitter night. Through the open door a bright light shone, and the warm air, filled with the fragrance of the Christmas pine, rushed out through the door and seemed to greet the little wanderer with a kiss. As the child turned back into the cold and darkness, he wondered why the footman had spoken so, for surely, thought he, those little children would love to have another companion join them in their joyous Christmas festival. But the little children inside did not even know that he had knocked at the door.
An antique postcard of the Baby Jesus printed in Germany.
       The street seemed colder and darker to the child than before, and he went sadly forward, saying to himself," Is there no one in all this great city who will share this Christmas with me?" Farther and farther down the street he went, to where the homes were not so large and beautiful. There seemed to be little children inside of nearly all the houses. They were dancing and frolicking about. There were Christmas trees in nearly every window, with beautiful dolls and trumpets and picture books, and balls, and tops, and other nice toys hung upon them. In one window the child noticed a little lamb made of soft white wool. Around its neck was tied a red ribbon. It had evidently been hung on the tree for one of the children. The little wanderer stopped before this window and looked long and earnestly at the beautiful things inside, but most of all was he drawn towards this white lamb. At last, creeping up to the window pane he gently tapped upon it. A little girl came to the window and looked out into the dark street where the snow had now begun to fall. She saw the child, but she only frowned and shook her head and said, " Go away and come some other time. We are too busy to take care of you now." Back into the dark, cold street he turned again. The wind was whirling past him and seemed to say," Hurry on, hurry on, we have no time to stop. 'Tis Christmas eve and everybody is in a hurry to-night."
       Again and again the little child rapped softly at door, or window pane. At each place he was refused admission. One mother feared he might have some ugly disease which her darlings would catch; another father said he had only enough for his own children, and none to spare for beggar brats. Still another told him to go home where he belonged, and not to trouble other folks.
       The hours passed; later grew the night, and colder blew the wind, and darker seemed the street. Farther and farther the little one wandered. There was scarcely anyone left upon the street by this time, and the few who remained did not seem to see the child, when suddenly ahead of him there appeared a bright, single ray of light. It shone through the darkness into the child's eyes. He looked up smiling and said, " I will go where the little light beckons, perhaps they will share their Christmas with me."
       Hurrying past all the other houses he soon reached the end of the street and went straight up to the window from which the light was streaming. It was a poor, little, low house, but the child cared not for that. The light seemed still to call him in. What do you suppose the light came from? Nothing but a tallow candle which had been placed in an old cup with a broken handle, in the window, as a glad token of Christmas eve. There was neither curtain nor shade to the little square window, and as the little child looked in he saw standing upon a small wooden table a branch of a Christmas tree. The room was plainly furnished, but was very clean. Near the fire-place sat a lovely faced mother with a little two-year old on her knee and an older child beside her. The two children were looking into their mother's face and listening to a story. She must have been telling them a Christmas story, I think. A few bright coals were burning in the fire-place, and all seemed light and warm within.
       The little wanderer crept closer and closer to the window pane. So sweet seemed the mother's face, so loving seemed the little children, that at last he took courage and tapped gently, very gently, on the door. The mother stopped talking, the little children looked up. "What was that mother?" asked the little girl at her side. "I think it was some one tapping on the door," replied the mother. '"Run as quickly as you can and open it, dear, for it is a bitter cold night to keep any one waiting in this storm." "Oh, mother, I think it was the bough of the tree tapping against the window pane," said the little girl, "Do please go on with our story." Again the little wanderer tapped upon the door. "My child, my child," exclaimed the mother rising, "That certainly was a rap on the door. "Run quickly and open it. No one must be left out in the cold on our beautiful Christmas eve."
       The child ran to the door and threw it wide open. The mother saw the ragged stranger standing without, cold and shivering, with bare head and almost bare feet. She held out both hands and drew him into the warm bright room. "Oh, you poor, dear child, come in as quickly as you can, and get warm! Where did you come from, and where are you going? Have you no home? Have you no mamma? Have you no Christmas to celebrate.
       The mother put her arms around the strange child, and drew him close to her breast. "He is very cold, my children," said she. "We must warm him and feed him, and give him some clothes." "And," added the little girl, "we must love him and give some of our Christmas, too." "Yes," said the mother, "but first let us warm him."
       So she sat down beside the fire with the child on her lap, and her own two little ones warmed his half-frozen hands in their own, and the mother smoothed his tangled curls, and bending low over his head, kissed the child's face. She gathered the three little ones together in her arms and the candle and the firelight shone over them, and for a few moments the room was very still. Then the mother whispered to the little girl, and the child ran (quickly into the next room and soon returned with a roll of bread and a bowl of milk which had been set aside for her own breakfast the next morning.
       The little two-year-old, who had slipped away from his mother's side, was happy that he, too, could help the little stranger by bringing the wooden spoon from the table. By and by the little girl said softly to her mother, " May we not light the Christmas tree, and let this little child see how beautiful it will look?" "Yes," said the mother. With that she seated the child on a low stool beside the fire, and went herself to fetch the few simple ornaments which from year to year she had saved for her children's Christmas trees. They were soon busy preparing the tree and lighting the candles. So busy were they that they did not notice that the room had filled with a strange and beautiful light. They turned and looked at the spot where the little wanderer sat. His ragged clothes had changed to garments white and beautiful. His tangled curls seemed like a halo of golden light about his head, but most beautiful of all was his face, which shone with a light so dazzling that they could scarcely look upon it.
      In silent wonder they gazed at the child. Their little room seemed to grow larger, the roof of their
low house seemed to expand and rise, until it reached the sky. With a sweet and gentle smile the beautiful child looked upon them for a moment and then slowly rose and floated through the air, above the tree tops, beyond the church spire, higher even than the clouds themselves, until he appeared to them to be a shining star in the sky above, and at last he disappeared from sight. . The wondering children turned in hushed awe to their mother and said in a whisper, " Oh, mother,
it was the Christ Child, was it not?" And the mother said in a low tone, " Yes."
       And so, they say, each Christmas Eve the little Christ Child wanders through some town or village, and those who receive him and take him into their homes and hearts have given to them this marvelous vision which is denied to others. Translated by Elizabeth Harrison from German

"The original lyrics of the song "Stille Nacht" were written in Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria by the priest Father Joseph Mohr. The melody was composed by the Austrian headmaster Franz Xavier Gruber. It was first published and performed in 1818."