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seed has no strength to burst its covering. The world is still, and the pulses beat languidly. It is a time for sleep.
But if you would hear one of nature's most various and delicate harmonies, lie down in the edge of the wood when the evening breeze begins to stir, and listen to its coming. It touches first the silver foliage of the birch, and the slightly hung leaves, at its merest breath, will lift and rustle like a thousand tiny wings, and then it creeps up to the tall fir, and the fine tassels send out a sound like a low whisper, and, as the oak feels its influence, the thick leaves stir heavily, and a deep tone comes sullenly out like the echo of a far off bassoon. They are all wind-harps of different power, and as the breeze strengthens and sweeps equally over them all, their united harmony has a wondersul grandeur and beauty.
Then what is more soothing than the dropping of the rain ? You should have slept in a garret to know how it can lull and bring dreams. How I have lain, when a boy, and listened to the fitful patter of the large drops upon the roof, and held my breath as it grew fainter and fainter, till it ceased utterly, and I heard nothing but the rushing of the strong gust and the rattling of the panes. I used to say over my prayers and think of the apples I had stolen, then ! But were you ever out fishing upon a lake in a smart shower? It is like the playing of musical glasses. The drops ring out with a clear belllike tinkle, following each other sometimes so closely that it resembles the winding of a distant horn; and then, in the momentary intervals, the bursting of the thousand tiny bubbles comes stealthily on your ear, more like the recollection of a sound than a distinct
Not that I fish. I was ever a milky-hearted boy, and had a foolish notion that there was pain in the restless death of those panting and beautiful creatures; but I loved to go out with the old men when the day set in with rain, and lie dreamily over the gunwale listening to the changes of which I have spoken. It had a quieting effect on my temper, and stilled for a while the uneasiness of that vague longing that is like a fever at a boy's heart.
There is a melancholy music in Autumn. The leaves float sadly about with a look of peculiar desolateness, wavering capriciously in the wind, and falling with a just audible sound that is a very sigh for its sadness. And then, when the breeze is fresher—though the early autumn months are mostly still—they are swept on with a cheerless rustle over the naked harvest fields and about in the eddies of the blast; and though, I have, sometimes, in the glow of exercise, felt my life securer in the triumph of the brave contrast, yet in the chill of evening, or when any sickness of mind or body was on me, the moanning of those withered leaves has press'd down my heart like a sorrow, and the cheerful fire and the voices of my many sisters, might scarce remove it.
Then, for the music of winter, I love to listen to the falling of the snow. It is an unobtrusive and sweet music. You may temper your heart to the serenest mood by its low murmur. It is that kind of music that only intrudes upon your ear when your thoughts come languidly. You need not hear it if your mind is not idle. It realizes my dream of another world, where music is intuitive like a thought, and comes only when it is remembered.
And the frost too has a melodious ministry. You will hear its crystals shoot in the dead of a clear night as if the moonbeams were splintering like arrows on the ground; and you listen to it the more earnestly that it is the going on of one of the most cunning and beautiful of nature's deep mysteries. I know nothing so wonderful as the shooting of a crystal. God has hidden its principle as yet from the inquisitive eye of the philosopher, and we must be content to gaze on its exquisite beauty, and listen in mute wonder to the noise of its invisible workmanship. It is too fine a knowledge for us. We shall comprehend it when we know how the morning stars sang together.
You would hardly look for music in the dreariness of the early winter. But before the keener frosts set in, and while the warm winds are yet stealing back occasionally like regrets of the departed summer, there will come a soft rain or a heavy mist, and, when the north wind returns, there will be drops suspended like earring jewels between the filaments of the cedar tassels and in the feathery edges of the dark green hemlocks, and, if the clearing up is not followed by a heavy wind, they will all be frozen in their places like well set gems. The next morning the warm sun comes out, and by the middle of the calm, dazzling forenoon, they are all loosened from the close touch which sustained them, and will drop at the lightest inotion. If you go along upon the south side of the wood at that hour,
. you will hear music. The dry foliage of the summer's shedding is scattered over the ground, and the round, hard drops ring out clearly and distinctly as they are shaken down with the stirring of the breeze. It is something like the running of deep and rapid water, only more fitful and merrier; but to one who goes out in nature with his heart open, it is a pleasant music, and, in contrast with the stern character of the season, delightful.
Winter has many other sounds that give pleasure to the seeker for hidden sweetness ; but they are too rare and accidental to be described distinctly. The brooks have a sullen and muffled murmur under their frozen surface; the ice in the distant river heaves up with the swell of the current and falls again to the bank with a prolonged echo, and the woodman's axe rings cheerfully out from the bosom of the unrobed forest. These are, at best, however, but melancholy sounds, and, like all that meets the eye in that VOL. 1.-N0. 1.
cheerless season, they but drive in the heart upon itself. I believe it is so ordered in God's wisdom. We forget ourselves in the enticemert of the sweet summer. Its music and its loveliness win away the senses that link up the affections, and we need a hand to turn us back tenderly, and hide from us the outward idols in whose worship we are forgetting the higher and more spiritual altars.
Hitherto I have spoken only of the sounds of irrational and inanimate nature. A better than these and the best music under Heaven is the music of the human voice. I doubt whether all voices are not capable of it, though there must be degrees in it as in beauty. The tones of affection in all children are sweet, and we know not how much their unpleasantness in after life may be the effect of sin, and coarseness, and the consequent habitual expression of discordant passions. But we do know that the voice of any human being becomes touching by distress, and that, even on the coarse minded and the low, religion and the higher passions of the world have sometimes so wrought, that their eloquence was like the strong passages of an organ. I have been much about in the world, and with a boy's unrest and a peculiar thirst for novel sensations, have mingled for a time in every walk of life ; yet never have I known man or woman under the influence of any strong feeling that was not utterly degraded, whose voice did not deepen to a chord of grandeur, or soften to cadences to which a harp might have been swept pleasantly. It is a perfect instrument as it comes from the hand of its Maker, and, though its strings may relax with the atmosphere, or be injured by misuse and neglect, it is always capable of being re-strung to its compass till its frame is shattered.
Men have seldom musical voices. Whether it is that their passions are coarser or that their life of caution and reserve shuts up the kindliness from which it would spring, a pleasant masculine voice is one of the rarest gifts of our sex. Whenever you do meet it however, it is always accompanied either by noble qualities, or, by that peculiar capacity for understanding all character, which Goethe calls a presentiment of the universe,' and which enables its possessor, without a spark of a generous nature himself, to know perfectly what it is in others, and to deceive the world by assuming all its accompaniments and all its outward evidence. Í speak now, and throughout these remarks, only of the conversational tone.
A man may sing never so well, and still speak execrably, and I rarely have known a person who conversed musically to sing even a tolerable song.
A good tone is generally the gift of a gentleman; for it is always low and deep, and the vulgar never possess the serenity and composure from which it alone can spring. They are always busy and hurried, and a high, sharp tone becomes habitual.
There is nothing like a sweet voice to win upon the confidence.
It is the secret of the otherwise unaccountable success of some men in society. They never talk for more than one to hear, and to that one, if a woman and attractive, it is a most dangerous because unsuspected spell; and every one knows how the voice softens instinctively with the knowledge that but one ear listens, and that it is addressed without witnesses to one who cannot stand aside from herself and separate the enchanter from his music. It is an insidious and beguiling power, and I have seen men, who, without any pretensions to dignity or imposing address, would arrest attention the moment their voices were heard, and who, if they leaned over to murmur in a woman's ear, were certain of pleasing, though the remark were the very idlest commonplace of conversation.
A sweet voice is indispensable to a woman. I do not think I can describe it. It can be, and sometimes is, cultivated. It is not inconsistent with great vivacity, but it is oftener the gift of the quiet and unobtrusive. Loudness or rapidity of utterance is incompatible with it. It is low, but not guttural, deliberate, but not slow. Every syllable is distinctly heard, but they follow each other like drops of water from a fountain. It is like the brooding of a dove—not shrill, nor even clear, but uttered with the subdued and touching reediness which every voice assumes in moments of deep feeling or tenderness. It is a glorious gift in woman. I should be won by it more than by beauty—more even than by talent, were it possible to separate them. But I never heard a deep, sweet voice from a weak woman. It is the organ of strong feeling, and of thoughts which have lain in the bosom till their sacredness almost hushes utterance. I remember listening in the midst of a crowd, many years ago, to the voice of a girl—a mere child of sixteen summers, till I was bewildered. She was a pure, high-hearted, impassioned creature, without the least knowledge of the world or her peculiar gist, but her own thoughts had wrought upon her like the hush of a sanctuary, and she spoke low, as if with an unconscious awe. I could never trifle in her presence. My nonsense seemed out of place, and my practised assurance forsook me utterly. She is changed now. She has been admired and found out her beauty, and the music of her tone is gone! She will recover it by and by, when the delirium of the world is over, and she begins to rely once more upon her own thoughts for company; but her extravagant spirits have broken over the thrilling timidity of childhood, and the charm is unwound.
There was a lady whom I used to meet when a boy, as I loitered to school with my satchel in the summer mornings, and of whom, by and by, I came to dream, night and day, with a boy's impassioned and indefinite longing. She was a married woman, perhaps twenty years older than I, but very-very beautiful. She was like one's idea of a countess—large, but perfectly light and graceful, and with an eye of inexpressible softness and languor. I was certain she had a low, delicious tone, and as she passed me in the street, I used to fancy how the words must linger and melt on that red lip, with its deep colored and voluptuous fulness. Years after, when I had become a man, I was introduced to her. I made some passing remark, and with my boyish impression still floating in my mind, waited almost breathlessly for her answer. When she did speak, I was perfectly electrified. Such a wonderful rapidity of utterance, such a volume of language, I never heard from the lips of a woman! My dream was over.
It was always a wonder to me, that the voice is so neglected in a fashionable education. There is a power in it over men, greater even than manner, for it is never suspected. Nothing repels like indifference, and indifference is a loud talker, to whom any body may listen, and whom, therefore, nobody cares to hear. But a low tone is redolent of the great secret of a woman's power—reliance ! Nothing wins like reliance. Be it in manner or tone it is alike irresistible. I have seen a woman who would captivate most men by simply leaning on their arm. It was the only thing she knew, and she did that beautifully. It said more plainly than she could have spoken it, “ I confide in you utterly”—and who, that had not been initiated, could resist such an appeal ? There is something in words spoken softly, and meant for one's ear alone, which touches the heart like an enchantment. I never linger by a low voiced woman if she is not young. It indicates either a most childlike innocence and truth, or it is the practised witchery of a woman of the world, who knows too well for me the secret of her power.
There are circumstances in which the simplest sound becomes awful. I once watched with a dying friend in a solitary farm house. It was a clear, still night in December, and there was not a sound to be heard beyond his just audible breathing. It wanted but a quarter to one, and I began to anticipate the striking of the large clock which stood in the farthest corner of the room in which I sat. It was, at first, simply with reference to my friend's comfort, for he was in a gentle doze, and I feared it might wake him from the only sleep he had got that night. I sat looking at the clock. The minute hand crept slowly on. I began to feel a nervous interest in its progress, and, as it advanced visibly, I leaned over and grasped closer and more firmly, the arm of the huge chair. As it grew near, a strange fear began to curdle my blood, and I could feel my hair stir, as if each individual filament were withering at the root. It crept onand on. There was but one minute lest! I felt a smothering sensation at my heart, and it seemed to me as if my life must stop: But that one minute seemed to me an hour. Before it had expired every event of my life had rushed through my memory, and the