IN an old wood, stands a great oak tree. It braves the winds, and courts the fury of the storm, and challenges the forked points of the lightning; and keeps off, from the young trees and the new grass and the dear flowers, what would kill them, at the risk of its own life. This is its work. And, yet, it has time to shade the little children, and give the acorns for their play; and time to make a winter home for squirrels, and a hive for the wild bees; and time, to throw its leaves out, for coolness and for beauty; and time, to change them, in the autumn glory, for our eyes to look on; and time, to give its dry and withered leaves to God's great winter wind, to play its solemn music. And the leaves crown all. It is mighty in its roots, gnarled in its trunk, great in its branches. It can be a ship to carry the world's treasures, or a nation's armies; it can be the arched roof of a cathedral. And yet, its Spring leaves are as tender as a sapling's; its Summer emeralds, as green as the grass blades; its Autumn colours, as deep, as though its only care were beauty. And the leaves are the crown of all. So God glorifies strength with beauty; as, in the old fable, Venus was the wife of Vulcan; and the highest human glory, of the greatest life, is God's adorning of a brave, great soul, with the loveliness, of grace and beauty. Such greatness, did He give my Father. And with the earnest seal, which death sets, on reverent and abiding love, this crown of the oak's own leaves--the beauty of a strong, enduring soul--hangs round the arms of the Cross, that marks his first and final rest.
My Father's poems were not the labour of his life. His own name for them, "Songs by the Way," is the best and truest name. Poems are creations. And in the truest sense, the creations of his [5/6] life are poems, permanent and beautiful, in all their usefulness and strength. His poems either bloomed, out of the deep valleys of suffering, which duty made in his life; or were the graceful vine, that grew unsolicited, over the rough rocks, of his steep pathway into glory. His heart was full o fthem; and when the rod smote the rock; when he was touched by kindness, or by suffering, by a child's gift of a violet, or some heroic deed of man; they just flowed out, in the force and fervour, of nature and necessity. And like all his life, they were all tributary streams, of that great ocean of worship, that gathers round the Church's Altar, and dashes its eternal waves against the very Throne of God. The hard workman, beguiled the weariest task, setting its labour, to the music of his soul.
Many of these verses were published, in A.D. 1824, in a volume now out of print; bearing the title of this book. Many others, from time to time, have appeared in newspapers,--and there are many, beside these, whose echoes linger round his beautiful home, and in our loving hearts; that will not go beyond those sacred shrines.
RIVERSIDE, May 15, A. D. 1859.