A secret, vague, prophetic
As though by certain mark,
I knew the fore-ordained tree,
Within whose rugged bark,
This warm and living form shall find
Its narrow house and dark.
Not but that such thoughts are well in their due time and place. It is very fit that we should all sometimes try to realize distinctly what is meant when each of us repeats words four thousand years old, and says, ’I know that Thou wilt bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living.’ Even with all such remembrances brought home to him by means to which we are not likely to resort, the good priest and martyr Robert Southwell tells us how hard he found it, while in buoyant life, to rightly consider his end. But in perfect cheerfulness and healthfulness of spirit, the human being who knows (so far as man can know) where he is to rest at last, may oftentimes visit that peaceful spot. It will do him good: it can do him no harm. The hard-wrought man may fitly look upon the soft green turf, some day to be opened for him; and think to himself, Not yet, I have more to do yet; but in a little while. Somewhere there is a place appointed for each of us, a place that is waiting for each of us, and that will not be complete till we are there. Well, we rest in the humble trust, that ’through the grave and gate of death, we shall pass to our joyful resurrection.’ And we turn away now from the churchyard, recalling Bryant’s lines as to its extent:
Yet not to thy eternal resting-place
Shalt thou retire alone; nor couldst thou wish
Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down
With patriarchs of the infant world, with kings,
The powerful of the earth, the wise and good,
Fair forms and hoary seers of ages past,
All in one mighty sepulchre. The hills,
Rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun; the vales,
Stretching in pensive quietness between;
The venerable woods; rivers that move
In majesty, and the complaining brooks
That make the meadows green; and, poured round all,
Old ocean’s gray and melancholy waste,—
Are but the solemn decorations all
Of the Great Tomb of Man!
Concerning summer days.
There are some people whom all nature helps. They have somehow got the material universe on their side. What they say and do, at least upon important occasions, is so backed up by all the surroundings that it never seems out of keeping with these, and still less ever seems to be contradicted by these. When Mr. Midhurst [Footnote: See the New Series of Friends in Council.] read his essay on the Miseries of Human Life, he had all the advantage of a gloomy, overcast day. And so the aspect of the external world was to the essay like the accompaniment in music to a song. The accompaniment, of course, has