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from time to time as having been won from infidelity, to believe in that future state which these manifestations reveal. It had been a charity to leave them in their old belief. For such an immortality who could be grateful ?
Βουλοίμην κ' επάρoυρος έων θητευόμεν άλλα
Ε* πάσιν νεκύεσσι καταφθιμένοισιν ανάσσειν. But we will leave Sludge, without attempting to consider the sly specious argument, wonderfully sustained by Mr. Browning, in which the impostor, half a dupe himself, tries to show that after all there may be something in his science. For one brief picture we must make room; it is that of the literary man, who "makes capital," as the phrase is, for himself out of these " lying wonders.” That the scornful satire is not undeserved, the reader of modern fiction will at once acknowledge :
" Then there's the other picker out of pearl
From dung-heaps,-ay, your literary man,
P. 204. The more ardent admirers of Mr. Browning will think that we might have quoted more characteristic passages. Such stanzas as the following, for instance, ought to have suggested the staple of our criticism. A lover forsaken upbraids his mistress, who, as it would appear, has forsworn him, in order henceforth to live a blameless life. He says:
“Men tell me of truth now—'False !'I cry;
Of beauty- A mask, friend! Look beneath!
With pleasant and fair, and wise and rare :
Which, even in wishing, perhaps we lie !
As you, dear! for ever; and choose the pure,
And strive and strain to be good again,
All glass and gold, with God for its sun.
“Misery! What sball I say or do ?
I cannot advise, or, at least, persuade:
No wbit of the wrong: you endured too long,
Will live the old life out and chance the new.
And I can do nothing -pray, perhaps :
If I pray, if I curse,- for better or worse:
And my heart feels ice while my words breathe flame.
Are you still so fair ? Have you still the eyes ?
Be good! Why want what the angels vaunt ?
Pp. 42, 43. But enough has been said about these vivid, abrupt delineations of exceptional moods. They are often fraught with fiery power. Mr. Browning is not reticent with respect to the stronger passions, nor does he veil his meaning in conventional phrases. Some readers therefore find him coarse ; but we fear not to say that he is the most moral, as he is the most metaphysical and the most Christian, of our modern great poets. And the volume before us, though it has no wrought-out dramas like "Strafford” or “ The Blot on the Scutcheon," no lyrics like “Saul,” no ballads, and very few Ingoldsby-rhymes, is perhaps, on the whole, as complete a representation of Mr. Browning's genius as any other of his works. We recommend it, therefore, as a Primer—an Introduction—and shall be much surprised if many of our readers, after reading it, do not henceforth make Robert Browning's poems a study and delight. We close with some noble lines, different in strain from all that we have quoted before :
The mist in my face,
I am nearing the place,
The post of the foe;
Yet the strong man must go :
And the barriers fall,
The reward of it all.
The best and the last !
I would hate that death bandaged my eyes, and forbore,
And bade me creep past.
The heroes of old,
Of pain, darkness, and cold.
The black minute's at end,
Shall dwindle, shall blend,
Then a light, then thy breast,
Pp. 149, 150.
A CLUSTER OF OLD ENGLISH CHRISTMAS
MORE than fifty generations have come and gone since the plains of Bethlehem were radiant with heavenly glory, and the awestruck shepherds heard the angelic song of“ Glory to God in the highest ; on earth peace, good-will to men.” Through all subsequent ages, even the darkest, have men rejoiced in that light, and amongst the din of arms have the echoes of that song been heard. Genius, in its manifold forms, has gained new inspiration from the wondrous theme. Painting, music, eloquence, poetry, have come with the shepherds and the magi to gaze, and wonder, and adore at the shrine of the Incarnate God, and to lay their offerings at His feet.
The object of this paper is not to deal with these loftier tributes of devout homage to the Divine Child, but to set forth some of its ruder and simpler forms. The progress of civilization and refinement is rapidly putting an end to the old-world customs in which our forefathers delighted. Christmas Waits and Carols will soon be numbered with the things that were. The besotted musicians and draggle-tailed vocalists who make night hideous at Christmas time in our towns and manufacturing districts, only caricature the quaint antique minstrelsy which was wont to usher in the day which celebrates the birth of our Lord. Before Christmas carols are quite forgotten it seems worth while to bring together a few of those which may, even yet, be heard in the few districts of England which the snort and shriek of the steam engine have not invaded.
The first which we give lingers in the North of England, though in a somewhat broken and distorted form. It was printed in Byrd's collection (1587), and is copied with some abridgment in Montgomery's“ Christian Poet." The tendency to alliteration which is observable throughout proves its archaic character. It is undoubtedly amongst the very earliest specimens of old ballad literature now extant. In spite of the rudeness of its versification, this monody of the Virgin over her child has a tenderness and pathos which are very attractive. As sung, there is a soft and plaintive lullaby, forming a chorus at the end of each verse. “My sweet little Baby, what meanest thou to cry?
Be still, my blessed Baby, though cause thou hast to mourn,
Oh! woe and woeful heavy day when wretches have their will! “ Three kings, the King of kings to see, are come from far,
To each unknown,* with offerings great, by guiding of a star;
From fury Thou shall step aside, help have we still in store;
And prophets prophesied
The holly tree is commonly supposed to be the holy tree. What gained for it this reputation and name? The next carol which we give will answer the question. There is much true poetry in the natural symbolism thus quaintly shadowed forth. The carol belongs to a period probably quite as remote as the last.
THE HOLLY AND THE IVY.
Now are both well grown,
The holly bears the crown.
* A reference to the old tradition that the wise men of the East were kings, who each left his own country, without concert or knowledge of the others, and that they met together as perfect strangers at Bethlehem.
The running of the deer,
Sweet singing in the choir.
As white as the lily flower,
To be our sweet Saviour.
As red as any blood,
To do poor sinners good.
As sharp as any thorn,
On Christmas-day in the morn.
As bitter as any gall,
For to redeem us all.
Now are both well grown,
The holly bears the crown.” The origin of the next carol is to be sought in the various Apocryphal Gospels, such as those of Nicodemus and of the Infancy. The legendary Gospels abound in similar incidents, in which the imagination of the early Church endeavoured to fill up the void left by the inspired record. Many of these Apocryphal narratives are found in a great variety of forms, yet are marked by an essential unity; so that it is difficult to avoid the conjecture that they rest upon some common tradition.
“ As it fell out one May morning,
“ 'To play, to play sweet Jesus shall go,
“ Sweet Jesus went down to yonder town
" He said, 'God bless you every one;