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Green Pastures and Still Waters.
THERE is no other portion of the Old Testament that has so much endeared itself to human hearts as the Twentythird Psalm,—“The Lord is my shepherd.” The dearest verse in this, no doubt, is that which runs, “ Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil”; but hardly less dear to many, tired and overborne with life's intolerable day, and to many others, however generally happy, in special moods of weariness and languor and disgust, the verse which reads, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures : he leadeth me beside the still waters.'' The psalm in its entirety is one that sentiment has yielded, or will yield, to criticism very grudgingly. If sentiment could keep one word, one psalm, and but one, for the Shepherd King, it would be this, its tender words a reminiscence of the time his father's tinkling sheep were round about him in gray dawns and purple eves, and beneath the stars that gave to him another psalm, or when the noon lay broad and clear on the Judean hills. But the psalm loses nothing of its beauty when its Davidic authorship is successfully impeached. The freebooter David never could have written it; only a poet into whose heart had passed the beauty of the shepherd's life and grown into a symbol there of eternal guidance and almighty love and care.
The summer which is ending as we gather here to-day has been such a summer of green pastures as few of us had ever seen before. No wonder that my neighbor's cows have straggled home with dripping udders from the luxurious feast. I went back to Marblehead, and the Lower Division,
September 22, 1889, first Sunday after the Vacation.
of which I still know every nook and hollow better than I know our city streets, and which often I have seen parched that hardly one green blade of grass was visible, was like an emerald for greenness, high and low; while our Chesterfield pastures kept till the September drouth, which lately has been drowned, as fresh as when I saw them on my arrival in the early summer.
One doesn't have to be a silly sheep or munching cow to know what pasture-sweetness is. A man may know as much. The punishment of Nebuchad
who was turned out to grass, you will remember has always seemed to me a punishment that was as little disagreeable as any could well be. I count that man unfortunate who has never had a pasture-side to his experience in boyhood, youth, or prime. But there are pastures and pastures, as there are deacons and deacons, in the proverbial phrase. Those of my boyhood and my youth were, for the most part, of the simplest elements, the thick, hard turf almost unbroken save by the ledges cropping from it all about, whose harvest of crinkled lichens I used to gather with remorseless hands,- since bitterly accused,- for my grandmother to steep into a golden dye. But Salem Great Pasture was another matter, - resinously sweet with savin and with bay, with ground-nine tangle for our feet, and blackberries, low and high, to teach me self-denial if I would, robbing my mouth to heap the shining pail. If I should try to tell you of the beauty of our mountain pastures, I should want a language charactered with moss and fern, with trees and shrubs more numerous than our common alphabet, with glorious outlooks on the hills beyond the river. They are beautiful with such rare and glorious beauty that the poet or the painter who could put them into picture or into song would do for them what the presence of Emerson (as Father Taylor said) would do for hell, - I don't mean “change the temperature,” but “
cause the emigration to set that way.”
If this has been a summer of green pastures, it has not been a summer of still waters. The floods have been abroad.