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And what materials, mystic alchemist!
Dost thou enlist To fabricate this ever varied feast,
For man, bird, beast? Whence the life, plenty, music, beauty, bloom ? From silence, languor, death, unsightliness, and gloom ! From nature's magic hand whose touch makes sadness
The art to turn
Lose we a valued friend ?—To soothe our woe
Let us bestow
So shall we prove,
What thanks we owe
Now does our hope
In losing fortune many a lucky elf
Has found himself.
To brace the mind,
There is no gloom on earth, for God above
Chastens in love ; Transmuting sorrows into golden joy
Free from alloy, His dearest attribute is still to bless, And man's most welcome hymn is grateful cheerfulness. APRIL FOOL'S DAY ALL THE YEAR ROUND.
BY LAMAN BLANCHARD, ESQ.
I was breakfasting alone one drizzly, dismal morning—just about a twelvemonth ago-out of humour, out of heart—worse still, out of appetite. The weather, which cast a cold, dusky, comfortless air over every thing, had a little to do with this dolefulness, for my blue devils themselves were insensibly darkening into a leaden-coloured troop under its influence; but without this, there was enough in my reflections to depress me.
“I wish I had come away sooner last night,” was one of these reflections ; “ it was infernally stupid of me to stop till the cards came, and with them my usual luck."
“What on earth, and a long way below it, could have possessed me to touch one poisonous drop of that fresh bottle, when all my sensations combined to warn me against it! I was a rank idiot.”
"Perhaps I could have managed a little breakfast this morning-one cup of tea at least—if I had not tasted that atrocity at dinner, or those creams, and things—my old consistent and remorseless enemies. I knew they would destroy me utterly for four-and-twenty hours, and yet, with a perfect recollection of the fact, I would have them. What a fool I am !"
“You can't help it,” said a small, clear voice somewhere close by. I looked up, but it was growing so dark that I could hardly see the eggs before me. The voice might have come from one of them, as the starling cried to be let out. The sound seemed distinct; but it must have been the tea-kettle singing.
“What a headach! I'm always doing something at night that I repent of in the morning. I'm a fool!"
“ Not a doubt of it," said the voice that had spoken before, speaking now with greater distinctness, and certainly in the room.
A sunbeam had stolen through the gloom of the morning, and looking towards the opposite window, I saw sliding down the bright line of light, as Munchausen slid down the rainbow, the oddest little sprite imaginable. There was a shapelessness about him that cannot be figured--and a combination of all colours in one, with a continual changeableness superadded, that defies description. There was a wonderful mixture of expressions in his countenance, which was bright and pale in transitions rapid as thought; his eyes were extremely watery, large drops glittering on his lashes and running down his cheeks till they lost themselves in a dimple; but gay, youthful, wanton smiles played in profusion about his mouth like summer lightning. He had a pair of light fleecy wings, like a couple of clouds, and they were edged with sunshine. Sometimes the ragged, Auttering, formless drapery that floated about him, was like a dark vapour, and in an instant it was of the azure of heaven.
As the mysterious visiter took this latter hue, a thought flashed across me.
He was certainly an optical illusion-nothing more-engendered by my headach and low spirits. I rubbed my eyes, but
there he was, restless and real too, looking at me with a most comical expression of mockery and compassion. There was a good humoured and familiar waggishness over all, that won upon me mightily; and remembering that he was my visiter, politeness instinctively came to my aid, and I inquired, signifying of course a desire that he would be seated
“ One of my blue devils possibly?”
But before I had time to utter the last word, he was altogether of a different colour, and my guess was then rendered as ridiculous as can be conceived. I laughed—and so did he, but the next instant he uttered a moan like the wind creeping into a crevice to die. Then he smiled gaily again, and his sky-blue eyes gave out a glittering shower. How absurd and whimsical !
“ Not at all,” said the sprite, replying to my unuttered thought, for I had spoken not a word ; “ on the contrary, it is very consistent and natural; at least, human nature, which it represents and illustrates, is bound to think so. Permit me to introduce myself. Sir, I'm the First of April, at your service."
And I observed that the tones of his voice varied as rapidly as the ever-shifting hues and lines of his face; the sound was sometimes like a lark's song, and then you heard the dismal croak of a frog—but each was momentary.
“Aha!" I ejaculated ; “so this is All-Fools' Day; to be sure it is; and you are April the First, out for a holiday !"
Holiday !" cried Young April—for it was he indeed—“ holiday ! Sir, I have never had one upon earth-not a half-holiday even, no, not since the birthday of Adam, your respected first parent. When his amiable partner began to have a family, I saw clearly enough that work was cut out for me, unintermittingly, till the end of time."
Remembering the waggish propensities of my visiter, I suspected a trick, and reminded him of his reputation as the day of mocks and flouts and deceptions and make-believes—the day of all others dedicated to legitimate folly—the festival of fools.
“ The busiest day in the calendar,” he returned ; “ a day without a night. As you are a fool, reflect; the wise have no time to do so. I am the day on which all the important business of life is performed, all the profound meditations of men are carried on, all their resolutions formed and violated, all their acts settled, all their dreams fabricated. I am the day when courtships are entered upon, and marriages celebrated; when laws are brought in, read, debated, amended, carried, and revoked as soon as the mischief they were to avert has been effected; when wars are proclaimed for the sake of peace, and treaties concluded for the sake of beginning to break them ; when commissions of inquiry are instituted as final measures, excluding the results of investigation; when lawsuits about property are commenced, and the estate is sold to defray a portion of the expenses, the true claimant going to prison to pay the balance satisfactorily; when young congenial minds register vows of eternal friendship, and middle-aged husbands with termagant wives take the temperance-pledge, and elderlies of the feminine gender, rich and invalided, commit wedlock with their young apothecaries in the hope of recovery and long life. I am also the day when"
Here I could not forbear an interruption :-“ Enough, enough, for I see your moments are too precious to be wasted. Yours are no holiday hours it is plain, and you ought to be the longest day in the year, as it is certain you are the busiest.”
“The busiest !” exclaimed my visiter, with a touch of mock-dignity; “ but you are a fool. I am the only one."
“ Yet coming but once a year?
“ I stay with you until my nominal turn comes round again. I am always at your elbow,-I never leave you. The other three hundred and sixty-four only exist in the almanac by sufferance; they are merged in me. I am the Year. Sum up your life, and you will find it but a series of April Fool Days. You Hatter yourself—but then you are a fool-that many of your days have been given to virtue; and you even find some secret sweetness of pleasure in the recollection-but then you are a very great fool that a few of them have passed rather less innocently. Folly was even then your foe, the tyrant that controlled and betrayed you. Men are invariably more stupid than wicked. Folly you would hug, when you shrink from vice. You talk of villany as working daily ruin in the world ; why, villains, it is true, are to be seen here and there, but fools are everywhere. Ignorance being so widely spread, and operating with impunity, perpetrates more mischief than actual crime, besides being the parent of it."
“Dr. Johnson has observed,” said I, prompted by a feeling natural to people who have nothing whatever to say
But before I could recollect a syllable of any observation made by Dr. Johnson, my monitor, whose morality, like his merriment, had worn a jesting air throughout, so that it was clear he meant to make a fool of me in virtue of the day, had darted to the window, and was beckoning me to approach.
“See,” he cried, “how human life goes on. Look at it on AllFools' Day, and say, is there a folly, of all its thousands, undetectable on any other day of the year!"
By this time the clouds had cleared off, the rain which had fallen heavily had dried up, the sky had become marvellously blue, and all else was golden. There was an astonishing clearness in the light as it fell upon the various objects around and before me. As for the solid walls of my room, I could see through them into the next house. The houses opposite, when I went to the window, seemed built of glass, and every thing was transparent.
“'Here's weather !" cried April, with eyes that sparkled as if they had never known water.
“ Beautiful!-but then how long will it last ?"
“ And how long," asked my rapid, restless companion, “would you continue to like it, if it were to last for a year? Turn your eyes opposite-through that house, from the front room into the back, and through the back over the lawn into the shrubbery. There, duly retired, are Miss Spindle and Mr. Shanks, walking, whispering, and making love. Lise to them wears the colours and freshness of morning; Time is now counting out his brightest sands for them ; but happy as they are, they are both eager for a change, and are plotting at this moment how they may terminate courtship. Now look at that lady in the drawing-room; she has a wedding-ring on, you see, but her hus
band is away on a visit. She has shared some years of married happiness, but she is speculating at this very moment on the charms of a gay widowhood in the prime of life. Or if you turn your glance for an instant, not longer, to the dressing-glass in the room to the left, is that pretty widow there, who is so very particular about the adjustment of black crape, thinking of any thing in the world but a speedy change, and an escape from the weeds of buried love into the white blossoms of a bridal ? Change, change, change! Life is all April."
My eyes, however, were more employed than my ears, so curious was the scene on every side. Throughout the long line of streets, the tenements, great and small, from basement to parapet, seemed all window; and what was going on within was as visible as bees in a glasshive. But every body was occupied as every body might be expected to be; there was nothing new except the absence of concealment; in every other respect, the several household spectacles were as familiar to my sight as ihe crowds of pedestrians below who hurried along the streets, hustling each other as they went.
“Everyday pleasures, everyday habits, everyday business !" remarked the first-born of the April family, chiming in with my own silent impressions, in tones that sounded like the pattering of rain against a window.
“ It is Lise all the year round," assented I.
“ And yet,” returned the sprite, “is it not a scene fashioned in all its minutest parts upon a First of April principle, and conforming in every respect to the traditional usages of the day! Where is the creature within view that is not playing the fool on his own account, or making one of his neighbour? Look first upon the throng below.
“How each man pushes to get before the other, and cannot for the life of him tell why. They are all running on false errands. How they check and retard one another in the struggle to get on, every atom of humanity playing its part with industrious energy in the confusion. You would think by the haste, the pressure, the anxious looks, the desire to outstrip, the recklessness of danger, that they must be all very honest people hurrying to pay their debts, or very sanguine folks rushing in the fond expectation of receiving what had been promisedthat they were about to emigrate, and were barely in time for the vessel, or that the dragon of Wantley had only been shamming dead.
“But nothing unusual is the matter, and very few of them are really in a hurry: as you may soon find out, if you watch the people who hazard their lives in flying leaps over the crossings, between vehicles that tear the stones up; all to save one minute, one precious minute of that time, a quarter of an hour of which they can conveniently spare at the next print-shop window. Or having dodged, and jostled, and made desperate way through the throng, apparently on a life-anddeath errand, you will see the man of breathless haste and vital business—having met an acquaintance-stop instinctively, as if he had nothing on earth to do, a long hour in the very middle of the pavement, asking the other man of velocity, whether he thinks it will rain, and informing him that there has been some sharp weather lately.
“ It is not much otherwise with any of them. Those people over the way have merely coine out for a stroll, and what they call a mouth