' The pale primrose' of early spring has found a laureate in the bard of every age, of every grade. The vernal landscape pictured to our mind's eye, would be incomplete without it. Who can fancy a green bank, beginning to shoot forth its tender blade after shaking off the feathery tufts of snow, without including in the ideal sketch that delicate flower which rises on its slender stalk to grace the slant, and peer into the narrow channel beneath, as if watching the gradual withdrawal of winter's now liquified mantle !
But the primrose of spring has a younger sister appearing later in the year ; one who wears her tint, and borrows her name, and inherits her sweet humility, though towering in stature far above the lowly prototype. The primrose of evening comes not forth to share in the general competition of her many tinted neighbours : she keeps her beautiful petals wrapped closely in their mantle through the day, nor unfolds them until other flowers have shrank from the dewy chill; and then it is astonishing how rapidly the blossoms burst their cerements, expanding in quick succession, while we can scarcely persuade ourselves that the change before us is the work of half an hour.
It was in the haunt of my childhood, the garden of my paternal home, that I learnt to love this primrose. My father had so great a predilection for it, that he scarcely allowed its progress to be checked, even when the increase threatened to overrun the parterre. I knew the reason of this— he had heard me say that I liked nothing so well as, after gazing on the brilliant colours of the western sky, to turn and look upon the cool sweet buds that awoke wrhile all others were at rest. I scarcely dare to call up the images connected with that period of my life : intentionally I never do so, because the scenery on which one ray of gospel light never broke, will not endure the retrospective gaze, without inflicting a pang most trying to poor rebellious nature. Yet that their memory lives in the deep recesses of my heart, I am made to feel, whenever I look upon the plant: and that, with all its sorrowful combinations, the theme is most dear to me, I know by the thrill of secret delight that welcomes its appearance, far beyond that of every bright flower around it.
Not long ago, I was trying to trace to its first origin the character of deep sympathy, wherewith I am conscious of having invested this particular flower, from my very childhood. To me, the evening primrose does not so much represent an individual, as a sentiment; but this assuredly took its rise from its association with my father's image, who, in all that concerned me, presented the most complete personification of delicate sympathy that I have ever witnessed among men. This was the more remarkable, as his mind was particularly masculine, his every taste and pursuit far removed from what was frivolous or idle. Yet was his soaring intellect perpetually bowed, his mighty faculties continually brought down, to reach the level of a weak and wayward child, so as to render his companionship the main ingredient of my happiness ; while others, far my superiors in age and understanding, stood aloof, and wondered at my delighting in what they regarded with no little awe. Certain I am, that at no period of my life have I met, in any human being, with a sympathy so full, so tender, so unfailing, as that of him who left me early to buffet with the storms of life ; and the evening primrose always is, always will be, a memento of what I shall no more enjoy on earth.
The flower too, is an apt emblem of what I would describe. It comes, when the fellowship of many sunshiny friends is withdrawn. The gayest have disappeared from my garden before it is ripe for blossoming; and those of its contemporaries who smile on me through the day, will close the eye, and avert the head, at the cool hour when I am tempted forth to muse among them. A feeling of desertion steals on my spirit, when I look around upon the folded petals, that laughed back my noontide greeting; and then, as if partaking in my thought, the delicate buds of the evening primrose throw wide their silken leaves with a haste that seems to bespeak no slight impulse of benevolent sympathy. The lapse of every year gives additional emphasis of meaning in this contemplation : for each returning summer bears witness to some additional bereavment, while companions long-loved have gone down into the grave, or faces that beamed lovingly on me have become averted in coldness, or estranged by protracted absence. The flower is then a precious remembrancer to tell mc of one who changes not—whose unseen hand upheld my unsteady steps when gambolling in infancy among the blossoms—guided me through the mazes of a perplexing pilgrimage—and is still upon me for good, with the cheering promise, " I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." The sudden bursting of a bud of the evening primrose has power to recall my thoughts, in the moment of inconsiderate levity, with an influence most subduing; and when despondency or discontent pervade the spirit, that little incident will sooth and cheer me, like the words of a tender and sympathizing friend.
How wonderful is the influence that sympathy can exercise over some minds ! And yet it is difficult to define its precise character; for it may exist unseen, where a cold exterior veils its operations ; or it may be so counterfeited as to delude us into a belief of its abiding, where, in reality, it was never known. Besides, different ideas are attached to the word, according to the feelings of individuals ; and when men will call that sympathy, which merely conforms itself to their prevailing humours, taking care not to cross the grain of their inclinations, however wrong or dangerous they may be. An invalid may have a particular liking for something expressly forbidden by the physician: and then he is the sympathizing friend, who will smuggle the prohibited delicacy to the sick patient, or overrule the opposition of more conscientious advisers. Again, a Christian may be—and alas ! there are few who are not—under the influence of some besetting sin, which he conceives to be merely a harmless characteristic of his natural disposition, while to all others, it may evidently appear most unlovely—unseemly—and inconsistent with his profession. To him, that friend will seem the most sweetly sympathizing, who affects not to perceive, or helps him to frame excuses for, the reigning corruption. But that in either of these cases, the seeming kindness is real cruelty, wre need not to be told. True Christian sympathy places its soul in the soul's stead, with which it has to deal, and proceeds as, in such a case, it would desire to be dealt with ; constantly keeping in view the momentous interests of eternity. At the same time, it will infuse all imaginable tenderness into the faithful dealing which conscience dictates; and herein is its peculiar character most brightly developed, that it will stoop to the weakness of the most feeble-minded; studying the very prejudices of its object, in order to avoid any needless infliction.