'A happy new year.'—From how many thousands of voices is that greeting heard ! I love to receive it even when friendships are so young, that it is the first occasion offered of exchanging the kindly salutation; but there is a feeling that does not display itself; an under-current, deep and strong, rolling over the graves of by-gone years, and sounding in secret a knell that is not heard amid the cheerful tones of the upper world. True, by the mercy of God, a happy new year may be mine; truly happy, if his grace render it a year of spiritual improvement, of perceptible progress towards the consummation of all real bliss: but flesh is very slow to receive such interpretation of a term long applied to the pleasant things of time and sense; and instead of being rejoiced at having learned the truest meaning of an abused term,—of being brought to understand the right appropriation of the emphatic words, ' Happy are ye,'—how prone are we to look back upon the worldly substance—or worldly shadows—that we have bartered ; while the pearl of great price, though perhaps acknowledged to be our own, may lie before us almost unheeded—certainly undervalued—as the regretful sigh escapes.
This, at least, is my case : knowing and closing with the announcement, that we must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of heaven; and being well assured, that He who spake the word, " In the world ye shall have tribulation," hath in him no variableness, neither shadow of turning; how wonderful it is that every light affliction, sent to wean me from earth, should be regarded as a strange thing; and a sort of careful account-book kept from year to year, of what has been done against my will, though in answer to my prayers: as I number successive bereavements, and secretly ask, " was there ever any sorrow like my sorrow, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me ?" I meet a funeral party, perhaps in my daily walk, and compassionate thoughts may follow the weeping mourners, as they hold their sad, slow progress towards the grave: but the emotion is very transient, and the scene soon fades into forgetfulness ; but when I betake myself to the numbering of my past funerals, when I contemplate some dreary blank left in my bosom by the removal of a cherished object, it will almost seem that all other griefs are common and poor— mine only deserving to be chronicled in those fleshly tables of the heart, which God has prepared for the reception of his own laws—the manifold tokens of his unchangeable and everlasting love.
All this, or something resembling it, has doubtless been said or sung, on a topic, as old, nearly, as the globe which we inhabit. Nevertheless, I have repeated it, in order to account for my peculiar taste in new-years' salutations. I love the old custom, and cannot dispense with it among friends; but my special delight is to exchange greetings with some little flower that may have outlived the prefatory blasts of mid-winter, and lingered to welcome another year. In seasons of severity, when intense frost has cut down, or deep snow overlaid the tender blossoms, I am driven to my in-door collection; but far better do I love to search the garden, the hedge-row, and the field; if perchance some native production may reward my diligent scrutiny.
There is one, not uncommon at this season; the Christmas rose. It is the saddest, in aspect, of the numerous family that bear that distinguished name : but the scene where I first remember to have met with it was characterized by any thing rather than sadness.
It was a new-year's party of youthful guests, many being accompanied by their elder connexions, at the house of an opulent and most hospitable family, in my native place. The noble sirloin, with his attendant turkey, not then considered intrusive even at three o'clock, having led the van of a most substantial dinner, a body of much lighter auxiliaries brought up the rear. As a finale, after my plumb-pudding, I received a portion of sweet jelly : and with it one of the Christmas roses that, mingled with sprigs of myrtle and geranium, had graced the epergne. I was then about nine years old, and have a distinct recollec tion of sitting, with my eyes cast down on the flower,—which I retained to the close of the feast, —while innumerable thoughts arose, forming a link hardly broken at this distant day, between my then habits and enjoyments, and that world of flowers of which a few fragments were scattered before me.
I know that, when our glasses were replenished, "with orange wine, to drink a happy new-year all round, the Christmas rose which I held in my hand formed a portion of my new-year's happiness, by no means inconsiderable : and strange is the vision that flits before my mind's eye, when, under similar circumstances, I now meet one of that unpretending race. I can better bear to go back so far, than to let my thoughts rest half-way between that early period and the present. I cannot wish myself a child again, even in my saddest moments : for who that has trod so far on a thorny path would desire to retrace the whole road! But the new year's salutations that ensued, when childhood had ripened into youth, and, yet more, those which gladdened seasons of longer experience—-oh, it is hard to feel that they must never again be mine !
The happiest part of the happiest new year, was that, when I could reiterate the warmest wishes of the season to one on whom I might look with the sweet retrospections, combined with recent fears and present security, so beautifully expressed in those simple lines,
' We twa ha'e rin about the braes,
And pu'd the gowans fine, But we've wander'd mony a weary foot
Sin' auld lang syne, We twa ha'e paid let i' the burn
Frae mornin's sun till dine, But seas between us braid ha'e roare
Sin' auld lang syne'.
No : this world can afford us nothing, fully to occupy the chasm that remains, after the removal of an object endeared by first and fondest associations. Some, I know, have not their warm affections fully drawn out until, beyond the circle of their home, they meet with one capable of attracting them : and, no doubt, the feeling is then more intense, and absorbing; but as deep it cannot be: because it cannot carry its associations so far back, into early years ; nor trace the happy tie entwined even amid the scenes and sensations of childhood, to which no human being can avoid sometimes recurring with fond recollection. But, whatever may have been the duration of such endearing attachments, that chasm of which I speak can never be filled up. It is as when a mould is delicately taken from a peculiar countenance ; with which no other features will be found exactly to correspond. The many millions of earth's inhabitants may be numbered over in vain, to discover a face upon which that mould shall fit: resemblances there are, and strong ones ; but a counterpart the world cannot furnish—the mould will remain, an unappropriated memento of what we can no more recall. It may multiply by thousands the lifeless images of what once was; but the reality is gone forever.