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A New Atmosphere by Gail Hamilton

I breathe no blight upon the hawthorn


style="text-align: justify;"> L'ENVOI.

O sweet my friend, hastening with happy steps to your marriage-morn, O my poet, singing under your hawthorn-tree the song that never can grow old, am I then a bird of evil omen? Does it thunder towards the left as I pass by? Be not so credulous. I take no lustre from the golden-bright day that lies half-hidden under the mild haze of September: but I would that fair day's light should shine as the brightness of the firmament for ever and ever. I breathe no blight upon the hawthorn, no discord to the song; but I would the bloom of the one and the melody of the other might never die away. Dream, O maiden! your pleasant dreams; sing, O poet! your happy songs; but while the flush of the sunrise is yet ruddy on your brows, think it not strange that I leave your sweet light and go down to them who are sitting in the region and shadow of death.

Have _I_ written this book? It is but the voice of a thousand aching hearts. Ten thousand dreary lives are wrought into its pages. It is the sorrow of just such hearts as yours, the disappointment of just such hopes, that have found a record here. The gloom that gathers on these leaves is gloom that hangs over paths just as fair as yours in their glad beginning. I feast my eyes on the beautiful temple of your promise, and I pray that you may go no more out of it forever; but I cannot forget that all my life I have seen highway and byway

strewn with the fragments of temples which in their majesty of completeness must have been just as marvellous as yours. And being fully persuaded in my own mind that there is a way whereby the wondrous edifice may be made as enduring as it is brilliant, shall I not proclaim it throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof, that the trumpet of the jubilee may sound? You shall not make the darkness your pavilion, because the world is hung with gloom; but neither shall you reckon it offence, if I cannot wholly rejoice in your light for thinking of the great multitudes who are sitting in a darkness which may be felt. To-day is lost, but it is not too late for the morrow. Wasted life can never be restored;--

"Though every summer green the plain, This harvest cannot bloom again."

Only beyond the grave can a new life spring into beauty, and the death of this be swallowed up in victory. But for the lives that have not yet been lavished, for the "poor little maidens" of great-hearted Dr. Luther, for gentle Magdalenchen, fiery young Lenore, merry Beatrice, skipping along their separate paths, each to her unknown womanhood, or walking already through its shadowy ways,--how earnestly for them do we covet the best gift! But if they fail of this, shall not one show them how to live worthily without it? Shall not one bid them see how poor and false and mean is everything which offers itself instead; how sad were the exchange of an ideal good for a base reality; how fatal the disaster when the sacred torch pales before a grosser flame? So through these summer days, my little maid, when all sweet summer sounds but echo to you the music of one low voice, add to the happy thought within your heart this happiest thought of all: There shall come a day when the same sky that bends in blessing above your head shall bend,--no cloud to darken, but only to adorn, no fogs to hide, but only mist-wreaths to deck its blue,--soft, serene, and beautiful, above an earth purified by the same love which makes to you all things pure. Through that new atmosphere, my poet, the tuneful voices of your song shall go, wakening all the woods to melody, summoning shy response from the ever-charmed hills, ringing out over the listening waters, giving and gathering sweetness wherever a human heart throbs; till earth, all a-quiver with the harmony, shall lift from the dust her long-neglected lyre, sweep once more to her place among the stars, and raise again her happy voice in the unforgotten music of the spheres.

Cambridge: Stereotyped and Printed by Welch, Bigelow, & Co.


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