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we are — and of beginning our education in manhood! It may be done; but bitter is the cup, and slow and toilsome is the progress.
Previous to my entering college, my mother had died. My father still kept house, managed by servants. I escaped all the evil of such discipline, by being at school; though it would be hard to decide which of the two is the greater evil, the influence of servants over children, or a showy school.
I felt severely the loss of my mother, or rather I have felt it severely, since the actual event. I do not mean that I had not every personal comfort which she could have bestowed upon me, but I felt the loss of her affection — of the inducements to exertion which the love, the tender love, we bear our mothers, furnishes.
Why descant here upon a mother's love ? All the world knows it to be the only pure and hallowed affection this state of existence allows. Deprive a child of its mother, and you take from it its strongest stay against temptation and the allurements of the world. She is the rudder of his heart, and through its tenderness can mould and direct as she pleases. What son can resist her tears? See! she weeps - she implores — she throws her arms about your neck - she covers your face with kisses - she is overcome with the depth of her anxiety. Can you disregard her ? She is the mother who bore you, the nurse who dandled you, and hushed your infant cries. She looked upon you when but a mere mass of flesh, hardly possessed of life, with unutterable affection. Alas! if we do not love our mothers, it must be because we do not think.
My mother's death pained me, but I soon forgot my sorrows in the amusements of the school. I have felt it since; and regret for her loss will ever remain the strongest feeling of my life. To the loss of her, I attribute all my subsequent errors. With a disposition easily yielding to affection, I possessed an unconquerable aversion to force ; and where fear was intended to influence me, I only became stubbornly set in opposition.
When she died, I was away from home. I was immediately sent for. Upon my arrival, I found the house turned up side down, as if preparing for a great party. Beds were taken away, and the rooms furnished with seats to accommodate a great multitude. I was shocked to see all the family so busy, and so much engaged in the labor of preparation. It seemed to me to be disrespect to my mother. My father was about giving orders, with his usual energy. At table, my old grandmother from the country presided, in the place of my mother, and she ate like a cormorant, and praised the dishes.
I had never been in the house of death before, and thought we ought all of us to have been silent and sorrowful. I found out then and since, that when in the very midst of death and disease, the mind accommodates itself to the case, and we look upon the event in a more reasonable light, being compelled to act and behave collectedly by necessity. Imagination in this, as in every thing else, exceeds reality; and the death of an absent friend affects us more severely than the actual seeing of his departure.
My brother and myself occupied a chamber together, when we were at home, nearly over my mother's bed-room. We were obliged to pass her door in getting to our own room. We retired together, both of us timid at the thought of death so near to us.
After we got into bed, and he had fallen asleep, a sudden courage possessed me. I lay and reasoned with myself for a few moments then took the light and went down to my mother's room - turned the sheet from her face, and gazed upon her in the silence and solitude of death. I kissed her pale, cold lips again and again. It seemed to me that she knew I was parting with her for the last time. I retired to my chamber with no sentiment of fear in my heart. I felt lifted above fear. From that time I have never feared death. A full knowledge of what death is, was suddenly revealed to me with that act. The memory of the dignified feeling of ihat hour can never depart. All childish delusions were dispelled by the excess of my affection for her. That affection is as indelible as her memory.
I returned to school, and, as I have said, soon forgot my sorrows; though, when I was sick or low spirited, my mother's image would occur to me, as she used to appear when she soothed my pains, and pacified my childish complaints. The lamp which had guided my feet below, still often shone upon me like a star from above. When, too, the mothers of the other boys came out to see them, and I saw how happy they were, I then wished I had a mother too.
I should have mentioned, before this, that my mother was a piouslydisposed woman. She had been educated — as who in New England is not ? — in respect for the Sabbath. No noise was allowed in the house on Sunday. We were made to sit still, and read the Bible on that day- even the abstruse writings of St. Paul. We understood nothing, except that it was a good act to do so, and pleased God; how, we did not know, nor did we think to inquire — for the impression was an early one, and was received as a matter of course.
Our very early impressions in morals and conduct are like the laws of nature, which are operating so constantly and invariably around us, that they seem matters of course. The theory of gravitation was not inquired into, until lately, though the world had lived in the observance of this law for centuries. What child, born of religious parents, cannot recollect his horror and self-accusation, after committing a sin for the first time, and the gradual wearing away of his scruples? And now, if he is a man, he will find himself doing, daily and hourly, things which once he would have shuddered to commit.
But in our religious reading, we felt that we were doing right, and that was pleasant. At night, after we were snugly in bed, our mother would come and seat herself upon the bedside, and one by one we said our little prayers. She would then kiss us and depart.
I received impressions at this season which have never been obliterated. Strange and beautiful thoughts of God, and Heaven, and my mother, come up to me now — they have often in my weary life — with a spirit of devotion I cannot account for: for I have always tried hard to be skeptical. Philosophers may account for it, if they can; but for myself I believe, truly, that it is the seeds of goodness those infant prayers and bed-side instructions planted, and over which the dross of the world has been heaped up, struggling to come to light, and bear the fruit of true religion.
What a calm such hours have! How placid ! — how grateful to an aching heart! I feel like a child again, at my mother's side; I see her mild angelic face — I hear her sweet voice, and respond her warm kiss. I lay my head upon her bosom — the bosom that nourished me — and weep tears of joy. Call this foolish, unmanly, weak, if you will — but give me many such hours! They are the bright spots in my life. They are all that have kept me pure — morally pure — when, to the world, I seemed like a blasted tree, without greenness or branches.
BeLoveD READER : We parted company at the foot of the staircase, leading from the foamy current of Niagara — up-up, as it were from the caverns of Pandemonium to Paradise — to the American side. Let me act as a guide-book to your eyes, while we proceed.
Look backward, occasionally, whenever you have opportunity, through the apertures of your pathway, at the clouds of mist that circle into rainbows around you, and at the milk-white torrent which rolls and murmurs beneath. Far below you, 'moves one that gathers luggage. You shall see him with your trunks and carpetbags, climbing the dizzy steppes in your trail — the omega of your party — until you find yourselves in the land of Jonathan.
Apparently, you are in a forest. A few cottages are skirting its edge, or the neighborhood round about; but beyond, all seems ancient and primeval. You almost look to encounter an Indian. But the Great Cataract is at your side, and where it breaks off into the cloudy eternity below, which now you cannot see, the green verdure slopes to the very edge of the precipice, marked with the shoeprints of a thousand feet. What fairy shapes of pretty soles are there! Of some, Ollapod was constrained to say, “Surely these delicate marks indicate that the pedal pressure of those who made them would scarcely leave its impress upon the fringed gentian, or the upspringing lily.'
Slowly and contemplatively we lingered about this haunted and hollow-sounding region. It seemed, indeed, as if the earth beneath, to its centre, and the heavens above, even to the abyss of the empyrean, were shaking and vocal with the sound of many waters. There is no escaping from the voice of Niagara. Go where you will — wander for miles and miles from its green and changeful vortex — yet your ear drinks in its deep and solemn melody. For me, in one hour during the many I passed in its hearing, I deserted all my companions, and roamed for a league into the melancholy shades. Was I beyond the warning that Niagara was nigh ? Not so. On every gale came that vast and solemn concert of water-sounds — the humming middle-gush — the high-measured roll and gurgle — the awful under-tone. They seemed to fill all the air. It is not like thundernot like the murmurs of the coming whirlwind, nor the troubled groan of a volcano. It pervades the landscape round; the leaves tremble at its breath; the bird shrieks, as if in fear, and springing from the branch that overlooks the stream, soars through rainbows and bright clouds beyond the scene. The cataract utters its horrid whereabout on every breeze. You listen to its murmurs, until the heart is intoxicated with their sublimity, and the eye most with emotion. Now they sound like the crackling flames, spreading for leagues over mountain woodlands, then like doleful bells, heard at intervals in the pauses of a funeral; then, like
The rolling of triumphant wheels, the harpings in the hall —
Alternately stormy and plaintive, deep and faint, as the wings of the wind aspire or are depressed, they create a mingled and manytoned diapason, which to be felt, must be heard — and to be heard, must be remembered forever. They are like the blast of the tempest, as described in · The Auntient Marinere,' when
L'his sails did sigh like sedge,
While the moon was at its edge :
It did not come anear;
That were so thin and sere.'
Do not, good reader, go bounding rapidly through and among the scenery on the American side of Niagara, with a fleet footstep and an unobservant eye — but use all gently. Thus did we. Every tree you meet, almost, contains the initials of the thousands who have come and gone from that overpowering and magnificent wonder. We pushed onward, without care or sorrow, filled and intoxicated with admiration, and wist not, as it were, whither we went.
Crossing a fearful bridge, we reached Goat-Island; but Ollapod, lagging behind his less imaginative companions, stood in the middle of that frail causeway, and listened and gazed upon the mad waves of a river, as they dashed and growled beneath — seeming himself, meanwhile, to be rushing 'up stream,' as if astride of a comet. Yet this river, as viewed from the Canada side, appears like a silver ribbon, flaunting in bright relief against a back ground of sable rock, and forms but the merest tithe of the American Fall.
How many sublime and pleasant recollections fill my mind, as I call up, in the stillness of this autumnal and contemplative evening, that magnificent scene! In the quiet of my domestic retirement the last leaves of summer quivering at my window, with low and melancholy whispers — pale statues — (thou, Bard of Eden, and thou, Swan of Avon, and ye, Muses of Greece, whose presence still haunts, or seems to haunt, the olive woods, by streams of old renown !) - gleam, and send their shadows along the wall; but I go back, on the wings of memory, to those cloudless and soul-fraught hours, until the voice of Niagara is in my ear, and the bounding impulse of its tide seems gathering in my apartment. I am lost in recollection.
"When eve is purpling cliff and cave,
Thoughts of the heart! how soft ye flow!
The golden lines of sunset glow.
Like spirits, crowd upon the eye ;
That was a beautiful and placid face, which we encountered on our way to the island — yea, and a sweetly-moulded form. I remem