How cheerless an aspect would our gardens wear, in this dreary month of December, had not some plants been indued writh hardihood to retain their leaves, when the greater proportion was stripped bare by chilling frosts and blighting winds. It is a point of wisdom, plentifully to intersperse our evergreens among the brighter, but more transitory children of summer ; and now that the dead leaves are finally swept ofT, and my garden looks once more perfectly tidy, I can appreciate the taste that, in first laying it out—long before I had ever seen it—allotted no small space to plants that would defy the season's severity. Of grass there is abundance ; but that being easily buried under a light fall of snow, I will not glory in it. There is a full proportion of classic laurel, the slender Alexandrine, the towering Portuguese, and our more common species, distinguished by the glossy polish of its leaves. The fir, the cypress, and the yew, present their varied, yet not dissimilar foliage: and, in a conspicuous place stands the spreading rhododendron, prepared to unfold its exquisite blossoms to the first warm breath of spring. An arbutus of large growth displays its mimic straw-berries, pendant among the leaves, where lately shone those elegant white clusters that so remarkably attract the roving butterfly, and the diligent bee. This tree I reckon among the gems of the garden. Farther on, where my rose bushes have well nigh perished from the antique wall, a profusion of ivy flings its straggling shoots downwards from the summit, as if solicitous to occupy the vacant space. There too, the lauristinus flourishes, in full vigour and beauty ; while the dwarf box, well trimmed, edges my flower beds, and trained into shrubs, affords a pleasant variety, where the china rose retains its pale green leaf, with firm, upright buds, ready to expand in succession throughout the year. The variegated bay occupies a conspicuous post; and, last not least, the Holly-bush abounds, valuable as a fence, beautiful in the lustre of its highly polished leaves, sprinkled with berries of vivid red ; and endeared by the sweetest, the purest, the most sacred associations that can interest the mind, and elevate the soul.
I wish, with all my heart, that the grandsires and granddames of this generation would do something to stem that sweeping tide of oblivious folly, yclept the march of intellect—the progress of refinement. Is now intolerably vulgar, insupportably childish, and popishly superstitious, to deck our houses of Christmas-tide with the shining holly, the absence of which was almost unknown among some who may yet be proved to have excelled in true wisdom this our vaunted age of reason. I have fought many battles with my pious friends, in defence of my pertinacious adherence to this good old custom. Sorry should I be, to leave the holly uncrop-ped, or the house unadorned with its bright honours, on that most blessed anniversary. Roast beef and plum-pudding, home-brewed ale, and Christmas berries, have certainly, no necessary connection with the spiritual aspirations required of us; and which the renewred heart will delight in breathing forth, while reminded, in the beautiful services of our scriptural church, that on the occasion commemorated, a great multitude of the heavenly host disdained not to take the lead in songs that were made for poor sinners of the dust, " Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good-will towards men." But this I will maintain, that our non-observance of ancient usages is any thing but a proof of growing spirituality of feeling ; and I very much question whether those who contemn the sprigs of * Christmas' stuck over my mantle-piece in honour of this precious festival, are wiser than the disciples of old, who cut down branches of palm-trees, and strewed them in the way.
Four years since, when the dumb boy was fast sinking under the fatal disease that, in a few weeks, was to terminate his mortal career, we went out, on Christmas eve, by his desire, to bring him some holly. One of our party, who to say truth, was then still under the dominion of popery, carried her zeal so far, that almost a forest was brought into Jack's sitting-room ; and I was remonstrating, when he interrupted me with 'Good, good !' An expression of the most divine sweetness overspread his countenance, while, raising his meek eyes to me, he took a small sprig of the holly, pricking the back of his hand with its pointed leaf, and shewed me the little scars left by it. Then, selecting a long shoot, he made a sign to twist it about his head, described the pain that it would give him to do so : and with starting tears said, 'Jesus Christ.' Who could fail to read in ; those eloquent looks and actions, his vivid recollection of the crown of thorns ? He then pointed to the berries, thinly scattered on the holly bough ; and told me God put them there to remind him of the drops of blood that stained his Saviour's brow, when so crowned. I stood before the boy, filled with conscious shame, for that I had never traced the touching symbol : while the piteous expression of his pale countenance bespoke that exquisite realization of the scene, to which I never could attain. How cold and hard did I feel my own heart to be, when I might even see the melting of that poor boy's, under the sense of what his Redeemer had suffered for him. For him, indeed; such an un-doubling appropriation of the work to his own eternal gain, few are privileged to witness—fewer to experience.
After this, he requested us to surround the room on all sides with the holly, until he sat as in a bower; and then endeavoured to instruct his sister on the great difference between loving the symbol and regarding it superstitiously. He adverted with grief and indignation to the popish chapels, where at this season, a more abundant measure of adoration is offered at the idol shrines : and strongly insisted that all honours should be paid to the living God alone.