AUTUMNAL DAYS

By P. H. Greenleaf

"The melancholy days are come—the saddest of the year,
Of wailing winds and naked woods, and meadows brown and sear;
Heap'd in the hollows of the grove, the summer leaves lie dead;
They rustle to the eddying wind, and to the rabbit's tread:
The robin and the wren are flown, and from the shrubs the jay,
And from the wood-top calls the crow, thro' all the gloomy day."

Stern and forbidding as are the general features of our northern climate—cold and chilling as the gay Southron may deem, even the very air we breathe,—we have still some characteristics of climate peculiar to ourselves, and none the less pleasing to us from this fact. Our hearts must indeed be as hard and as cold as the very granite of our craggy shores, did they not glow with delight in the possession of that, (be it what it may) which is peculiar to and markedly characteristic of our native home. And of all these peculiarities not one is so delightful—not one finds us so rich in New England feeling, as that beautiful season called the Indian Summer. It occurs in October, and is characterized by a soft, hazy atmosphere—by those quiet, and balmy days, which seem so like the last whisperings of a Spring morning. The appearance of the landscape is like any thing, but the fresh and lively scenery of Spring; and yet the delicious softness of the atmosphere is so like it, that it brings back fresh to the mind all the beautiful associations connected with a vernal day. Our forests too, at this season are, for a brief space, clothed in the most gorgeous and magnificent array; their brilliant and changing hues, and the magnificence of their whole appearance, almost give their rich and mellow tint to the atmosphere itself; and render this period unrivalled in beauty, and unequalled in the more equable climes of our western neighbors. The calm sobriety of the scenery—the splendid variety of the forest coloring, from deep scarlet to russet gray, and the quiet and dreamy expression of the autumnal atmosphere make a deeper impression on the mind than all the verdant promises of spring, or the luxuriant possession of summer. The aspen birch in its pallid white—the walnut in its deep yellow—the brilliant maple in its scarlet drapery—and the magical colors of the whole vegetable world, from the aster by the brook to the vine on the trellis, combine to render the autumnal scenery of New-England the most splendid and magnificent in the world.

But we cannot forget, if we would, that this beautiful magnificence of the forests is but the livery of death; and the changing hues of the leaves, beautiful though they are, still are but indications of the sure, but gradual progress of decay.

'Lightly falls the foot of death
Whene'er he treads on flowers:'

and though he has breathed beauty on the clustered trees of the forest—it is to them the breath of the Sirocco.

We have in the wasting consumption a parallel to this splendid decay of the leaves and flowers of Summer. Day by day we see its victim with the seal of death upon him—failing and decaying in strength—increasing in beauty. While the brilliant and intellectual glances of the eye speak, in language too plain for the sceptic's denial, the immortality of the soul. The changing and brilliant hues of the forest trees give to us the most lively type of the frailty of beauty and the brevity of human existence, while their death and burial during the winter and their resurrection in the springtime, are almost an assured pledge of our own immortality and resurrection to an eternity.

Truly 'the melancholy days are come'—Death annually lifts up his solemn hymn, and the rustling of the dying leaves and the certainty of their speedy death afford to us all 'eloquent teachings.' The gay and exhilarating spring has long since passed away—the genial and joyous warmth of summer is no more; and the grateful abundance and varied scenes of Autumn are about yielding to the inclemency of hoary winter. The gay variety of nature has at length departed—the countless throng of the gaudy flowerets of summer are all returned to their native dust—the light of the sun himself is often veiled; and the bright livery of earth is hidden from our sight by the gray mantle of the iron-bound surface, or the unbroken whiteness of a snowy covering. Reading thus the language of decay written by the finger of God upon all the works of nature—reminded too of the rapid flight of time by the ceaseless revolution of seasons, we naturally turn our thoughts from the contemplation of external objects to that of the soul, and of unseen worlds. The appearances of other seasons lead our thoughts to the world we inhabit, and by the variety of objects presented to our view rather confine them to sensible things, and matters immediately connected with them. But the buried flowers and the eddying leaves of this season teach us nobler lessons; and the mind expands, while it loses itself in the infinity of being; and the gloom of the natural world shows us the splendors of other worlds, and other states of being;

'As darkness shows us worlds of light
We never saw by day.'

They tell us, that in the magnificent system of the government of God there exists no evil; and the mighty resurrections annually accomplished in the multitude of by gone years assure us, that the gloom of the night is but the prelude to the brightness of the day—that the funeral pall of autumnal and wintry days is the harbinger of a glorious, joyous and life-giving spring; and to that man the gates of the dark valley of the shadow of death are designed as the crystal portals of an eternity of bliss.

'Of the innumerable eyes, that open upon nature, none but those of man, see its author and its end.' This solemn privilege is the birth-right of the beings of immortality—of those, who perish not in time, but were formed, in some greater hour, to be companions in eternity. The mighty Being, who watches the revolutions of the material world, opens in this manner to our eyes the laws of his government; and tells us, that it is not the momentary state, but the final issue, which is to disclose its eternal design. Indeed the whole volume of nature is a natural revelation to man, often overlooked—often misused—seldom understood—but plain and solemn in its language, and full of the wisdom, justice and mercy of its author.

While, then, all inferior nature shrinks instinctively from the winds of Autumn and the storms of winter, to the high intellect of man they teach ennobling lessons. To him the inclemency of winter is no less eloquent than the abundance of Autumn, or the joyous promise of Spring. He knows, that the fair and beautiful of nature now buried in an icy covering, have still a principle of life within them; and that the gay tendrils of the vine and the blushing buds of the rose will soon be put forth in the breath of summer. The stiffened earth, he knows, will soon send forth her children in renewed beauty, and he believes, that he himself, leaving the chrysalis form of earthly clay will wing his flight in the regions of eternity.