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THE SE A S O N S.
REAL joy, it has well been said, exists only in circles where the individual gives up his own self, and makes it his main object to give pleasure to others. In Grecian mythology, therefore, the Graces—those charming goddesses who presided over all that is graceful and amiable in the domestic and social relations—were never represented single or alone. In painting and in sculpture, the three were always shown in social attitudes, as dancing with themselves, or associating with other divinities. In the same manner, in the frontispiece of this volume of The Guardian, we think the artist has done well to represent the Seasons, not separated from each other, as is often done by their portrayers, but united in a friendly circle. Thus he has imparted to them a social grace. Not only that, but to set them off still more he has thrown in some additional, attendant figures. Over Spring a Cupid is hovering, and behind Summer, the mower or harvester, is seen a maiden with a rake—the occupation of the Season, no doubt, having brought up to his mind such harvest stories as that of Obed and Ruth, and for the life of him he could not leave the maiden out. What a hospitable charm is given to Autumn—the vintager, in his interesting attitude of proffering to venerable old Frosty Beard, hanging over his coals, that cup of generous wine, which, when it has been taken by the old gentleman, we trust will cheer him up a little and do him good.
The Flóræ in Grecian mythology were not just the Seasons personified, but their adorners, being the goddesses which presided over the order of nature. They were beautiful nymphs, the ministers of Jove, promoting the fertility of the earth by the various kinds of weather they sent down. While the Graces imparted their charms to social life, the Floræ had more to do with the decorations of outward nature. Still, like the former, they were represented by painters and sculptors in graceful attitudes, dancing with each other or with the Graces, or attending on some higher divinity. Thus we find they were social beings.
The representations of the Seasons, however, in social circles are properly restricted to painting and sculpture. We look in vain for them thus set forth by the poets. By these, time is made too much account of to crowd them together, even in the most interesting groups, so they represent them as following each other in succession. As a fine specimen of such descriptions, we select that of Spencer. It is nothing the worse for being old:
“So forth issew'd the Seasons of the yeare:
A guilt engraven morion he did weare;
The Aged Christian.
“Then came the idly Sommer, being diglit
Had hunted late the libbard or the bore,
“ Then came the Autumne all in yellow clad,
And in his hand a sickle he did holde
“Lastly, came Winter clothed in frize,
For he was faint with cold, and weak with eld,
That scarse his loose limbes he hable was to weld.” The likeness of the Seasons as represented in our frontispiece, we – fancy, were taken in Germany. The scythe over the shoulder of Summer, in its shape, is decidedly German, and the vine-leaves around the thyrsus of Autumn, tell that he must have been among the vineyards and trodden the grapes; perhaps on the hills of the Rhine. Had he been drawn by an English painter he would have been made to resemble Summer more as seen in this picture, than a vintager. Clad in yellow he would have been, the bearded wheat in his hat, and the sickle in his hand, as may be seen from Spenser's English description of him above. In England the wheat harvest never comes off before Septemher; and in Thomson's Seasons, therefore, the episode of Palemon and Lavinia, so much resembling the story of Boaz and Ruth, is placed in the midst of Autumn. - The Seasons, then, as shown in the frontispiece of this number, are not English. They belong, no doubt, to Germany or France, where the harvest time, we believe, corresponds very nearly with that of our own land.
THE AGED CHRISTIAN.
As he said with his faltering breath;
It is life to prepare for death.”
BY TIL EDITOR.
“ Hail, father Christmas! hail to thee!
A poor man's heart through half the year.” Scott. ONE morning, about five weeks before Christmas, the Pastor's three children, Mary, Wilsie, and Maggie, were playing together in the diningroom of the parsonage. “Aha, I know something good," said Wilsie, the second of the group, jumping up and facing his two little sisters straight, and brave like a little soldier. “Wa' tis it?" asked Maggie quickly, in baby lispings, her eyes glistening the while with hope, and the dawning of joy in that hope, “Wa' tis it, Widdie?" Mary, quick too, but a little more deliberate, being the oldest, and thinking first whether she could not guess the good news, “What is it, Wilsie?”
“I heard mother read a letter from grand-pa, this morning, and what do you think he says ? He says he will come to see us the last Saturday in Advent.”
“Advent," said Mary, “when is that? Advent—that is one of grandpa's hard, old-fashioned words again. But that is his way."
"I just now heard pa come in at the front door,” said Wilsie, “I will go up to the study and ask him what Advent is.”
“I'll go along," said Mary. “Me go 'long, du,” cried Maggie. In a moment they were all ranged around the pastor's arm-chair in the study.
“What now, children? You know you are not to disturb me in my study in the morning. You know I told you at the breakfast table that Christmas is coming, and that I am very busy preparing for it."
“But, pa," said Mary, "you told us that Christmas is a joyful holiday, and that we ought to be glad for it before it comes."
“We are just beginning to be glad,” said Wilsie, “because grand-pa is coming before Christmas.”
“Des, pa, Maggie dlad, du,” lisped the youngest.
“Mother read in the letter," said Wilsie, “that grand-pa is coming the last Saturday in Advent. When is that, pa?"
“Yes, what is that?” added Mary, with a desire to know the why as well as the when.
“I will tell you, children. Advent is a word which comes from two Latin words, which, put together, mean to "come to. You know Christmas is the time when our Saviour 'came to the earth. Good Christians, in very old times already, began by suitable devotions to pre
pare for Christmas four weeks before it came. Thus, the fourth Sabbath before Christmas is already the beginning of the Advent-time. Though little children, as well as grown people, should all the year round think gladly what a great blessing it was that Jesus came into the world; yet, as I told you this morning, they ought especially to be glad when it once comes so near. This is the reason why your grand-pa comes at this time, that we may all be glad together. Next Sabbath is the first of Advent, and in three weeks from Saturday grand-pa will come, and grandmother, and all the rest."
"O, but we are glad,” exclaimed Wilsie, dancing around his pa's big chair.
“Des, pa, we am dlad for dran-pa, for de rest, and fur de Krismas," stammered little Maggie, speaking even less plainly than usual because her heart was so full of joy.
“Now, be good children," said their father; and they all ran down stairs, wild with joy, exclaiming, “they are all coming-grand-pa, grand-ma, and Annie, and Laura, and all.”
This announcement made the hearts of the children glad for the rest of the Advent-time. They frequently spoke of the good, joyful time coming. They were glad that Jesus was born, and that there was a Christmas. If they were too young to know fully the great blessings brought by His birth, they did at least feel them; which is better than to know and not feel. They knew that the coming of Christ made joy. They were glad. It was His coming, and the Christmas which celebrates that joyful event, which would bring their grand-parents, and uncles, and aunts, around them. In being thankful to their Saviour for this, they were really thankful to Him for what are the blessed fruits of His coming into the world. It is His love and grace which makes holy and happy all the ties of kindred, and binds hearts and families together in the strongest love and joy. Thus these children, in being glad for the social happiness which was promised them, were in truth at the same time glad for Jesus and his happy Christmas. Their hearts, which were opening, beautifully and fragrantly like a flower in social love, were also preparing to be possessed and influenced by their Saviour's love. They were receiving Christ, and his grace, as little children: not so much by knowledge as by love; not so much by the mind as by the holiest instincts and affections of the heart. As children lean upon Christ through their parent's faith and piety; so, in this happy waiting for the good Christmas time, their natural social affections were insensibly glorifying themselves, making their joy for the coming of their dear friends bloom in a sacred gladness for the coming of Christ and his happy Christmas.
The good time came. The blessed last Saturday morning in advent dawned. “O mother, here they are all !” exclaimed Wilsie, who had been watching at the window all morning. “Here they all are !” In a moment the front door was flung wide open, and then was a joyful time, of kissing, shaking hands, and stroking heads! We need not enter into particulars, or attempt to describe this scene of family re-union. We have all witnessed it, and experienced its joys.
After the first stir of joy was over, Wilsie sought the earliest opportunity of getting upon his grandfather's knee. This desirable position
attained, he, first of all, caught the venerable man's chin with both hands, and raising it up, began to take him to task for that hard, old-fashioned word in his letter.
* Now grand-pa, what made you say Advent? We did not know what you meant by it. If pa hadn't explained it to us, we would not have known when you would come.”
By this time Maggie had gotten upon the other knee, and Mary was standing by his side with her one hand on his shoulder. “Yes, grandpa, your old-fashioned word made us a good bit of trouble.”
“Dran-pa, I like ole fash; I like yu tu !” said Maggie.
“Children," said the old man, "you must not speak against old fashions. You are too young yet to know which old customs are good, and which are bad. There are some bad old fashions, and some good; we must not put the good ones away with the bad ones. You see, children, when your mother cleans house, she does not cast out the tables, and chairs, and looking glasses ; but only such things that ought not to be in the house. There are some people so foolish in these times as to think all old things are bad, and should be cast aside.
“Yes, grand-pa," said Mary, “the other day when I was fetching things from the store to tie on our Christmas-tree, a little girl told me, their preacher said, Christmas was 'an old rag' of something, I dont mind what it was, and that it ought to be put away."
Yes, children, some would like, not only to have Christmas, but Christ himself out of the way. There are also some good people, like that preacher, who thoughtlessly favor this hatred to all that is old, forgetting that all the good they have is older than themselves. I have lived long enough, not only to hear about putting away old Christmas, but also to see it put away in many families, and neighborhoods, and churches. When I was a young man no one worked on Christmas. In the forenoon all went to church, to learn to love our Saviour. After church, parents, grand-parents, children and grand-children, gathered around the Christmas dinner ; and then the afternoon, evening, and next day, which was second christmas-day, was spent in innocent social pleasures, and in this way they would all learn better to love one another. It was before coal were found, and then we had a large wood-fire in the hearth. In the evening while the cold storm was blustering without, the fire and the nuts were cracking within ; and then we used to listen to the beautiful Christmas stories.
“Grand-pa, tell us some of them,” exclaimed all three at once.
“My grand-father,” said the old man, “used to tell us about the happy Christmas time in Germany, when he was a boy; and he used to say, that as long as he could, he would keep it up in this country. He used to tell us, in solemn words, to do the same when he was dead."
“ Tell us, grand-pa, how they used to keep Christmas in Gerinany ?" said Wilsie, his eyes growing brighter. “Yes, do," said Mary. “Des, du, dran-pa,” added Maggie.
“You see, children, some years ago, my father went out to Germany, to see the old place where my grand-father used to live, and to visit our friends who still live there. I will read you what he says, in a letter which he wrote to us while he was out. I have brought it along for this purpose.”