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A Dream

by S. S.

Methought I was in a lovely vale, a second paradise in seeming, surrounded on all sides by vast mountains, the cloud-capped summits of which stood bathed in the golden rays of the declining sun. The atmosphere was loaded with delicious perfumes; pleasant groves invited to repose; gay parterres, filled with flowers that ravished the eye with the beauty of their tints, stretched as far as the sight could reach; and through the meadows meandered lovely streams, now sparkling in the light of the setting sun, then lost to view amidst the thick foliage of overhanging trees, their course indicated to the ear by the soft murmurs only of their distant cataracts.

Soul-stirring harmony issued from a host of feathered choristers, clothed in rainbow hues, that were darting from bower to bower; whilst others of the winged tribe plucked the ripening berries: but all gave forth their glad notes of joy, seemingly praising the source of all good.

Trees drooped under the load of luscious fruit, tempting by their golden glow the hand of man. All that the eye has seen, or the ear has heard, or the poet has sung, could not compare with the harmony of all around me.—My enrapt sense thus with my soul communed: "Were these things made for man's enjoyment or their own? These delicious groves would still have given shade without their lovely ornaments; man could live without these beauteous flowers robed in their varied tints. These cool streams could still have given moisture to the green plants and flowering shrubs without their gentle cascades; and these golden fish could still enjoy fife with scales less bright; these birds dressed in colours of dazzling brightness, or ravishing the sense with heaven-drawn melody, could still be joyous if clad in russet robes; and this wealth of fruit might be dispensed with, and man still live."

Filled with these thoughts I wandered on, and as I proceeded new beauties spread around me, the rivulets flowed more gently, the songs of the birds appeared to have more sweetness, and the perfume of the flowers seemed more redolent than before; and as I turned to gaze, I beheld near a murmuring waterfall a female form of transcendent beauty, exceeding in her loveliness the charms of nature with which I was surrounded. Her robe was of dazzling brightness, the image of spotless innocence; purity seemed to rest on her brow, and sensibility beamed from her eyes, whilst modesty characterized her whole being.

In a voice that rivalled in sweetness the nightingale's song she bade me approach. "Son of man," she said, "'tis Nature that addresses thee now. In this seclusion I abide; to those that seek me I am a pleased instructress. To his ungrateful creatures the great Creator has given blessings that far outshine the beauties that spread now around thee; for how can the joys of sense compare with those of the mind immortal? Flowers and fruits spring up from the soil, bearing seeds which bring forth again their image, renewing ever the stock from which they sprung; so that mankind might see in this their immortality, and enjoy their present state; seeing that from death springs up a new life, and a fresh existence from corruption. At His word earth clothed herself in beauty, seeing which should plant the seeds of virtue in the heart of man, in order that its flowers might bloom in heaven and yield fruits of immortality.

"Besides all this, the pure affections to man were given that he might join himself to his kind; and like this little streamlet that fructifies the fields through which it flows, before it unites its waters, when they have become a mighty river, with the waves of the ocean, are the gentle charities; they unite mankind in a common bond, and bless all within their reach; for the heart that gives, no less than the one which receives, is filled with gratitude to Heaven, because that it has been permitted to become the messenger of mercy to others around. But those that despise my gifts will pass away unblessed, for their hearts are like the slumbering volcano, where the trees take root and shade its sides, and the purling rills give it coolness; yet vain are the snows that deck its head; the pent up fires burst forth; the trees wither at their malignant breath—the rills are exhausted; but slake not the fury of the fires that burn in the mountain's bosom. Thus are the effects of forgetfulness of the Creator's gifts, of unhallowed passions preferred to virtue; for behold, the flowers thereof are death, the fruit destruction."

At these words I awoke, and behold, it was a dream; but long will it be ere the instructive lesson will fade from my memory.