"The home of my youth stands in silence and sadness: None that tasted its simple enjoyments are there,
* * * * *
"Why, memory, cling thus to life's jocund morning?
"On the past sadly musing, oh pause not a moment;
"But time ne'er retraces the footsteps he measures; In fancy alone with the past we can dwell;
CHIEF JUSTICE GIBSON.
The bereavements of home fill up the urn of memory with its most hallowed treasures. Though these memories of the household have an alloy of sorrow and are the product of its adversities, yet there is no pleasure so delicate, so pure, so painful, so much longed after, as that which they afford. They bring to our hearts the purest essence of the past, and cause us to live it over again. They come over us like the "breath of the sweet south breathing over a bed of violets." When we revert to the happy scenes of our childhood, we live amid them in spirit again, and remembrance swells with many a proof of recollected love; sweet ideals of all that lived under the parental roof spring up within us, and pass before us in visions of delight; the home of the past becomes the home of the present. The things of that home are spiritualized and changed into the thoughts of home; we enjoy them again; and we live our life over again with those we loved the most.
"Why in age
The memories of home are both pleasing and painful. When we leave the parental home for some distant land, how many pleasing recollections sweep over our spirits then. Even when tossed to and fro upon the angry wave, far from our native land.
"There comes a fond memory
The memory of departed worth is a kind of compensation for the loss we sustain. The pious mother's recollection of her sainted husband or child becomes the soother of her grief, and casts a pleasing light along her pathway, and awakens a new joy in her widowed heart. Pious memories, when they reflect the hope of reunion in heaven, are like the radiant sky studded with brilliant stars, each shining through the clouds which move along the verge of the horizon. They sweep as gently over the troubled heart as the summer zephyr over the blushing rose, touching all the chords of holy feeling, making them vibrate sadly sweet, in blended tones, too sweet to last.
"Here a deeper and serener charm
How indelibly does memory paint the image of a departed child upon the mother's heart! No flight of years; no distance from the grave in which he slumbers, can erase the image. It will be ever fresh, and, with awakening power, mingle with her tears and glow in her fondest hopes. Though time and distance and vicissitudes may calm her troubled heart, and cause her to settle down into tranquility of feeling; but these can never destroy the tenacity and vividness of her memory. Even then those objects to which it fondly clings, become the theme of her holiest and her happiest thoughts; and she retains them with a passionate ardor, exceeded only by that with which she clung to the living child. Her greatest pleasure is, to retire from the busy cares of the world, to some solitude where she may sit among flowers that remind her of the one that withered in her arms, and meditate upon him who slumbers beneath the clods of the valley. Oh, these are sweet and precious moments to her; and the tears which are then drawn from the deep well-springs of reminiscence, are sacred to him with whom she in spirit there communes. There with, rapture she remembers
"All his winning ways,
Memory links together the loved, ones of home though they be widely separated from each other, some on earth, and some in eternity. There is a mystic chain which binds them together, and brings them in spirit near to each other and infuses, as it were, with electric power, a realizing sense of each other, while their past life under the same roof, "like shadows o'er them sweep." In the light of memory their faded forms are vividly brought back to view; they see each other as when they rambled over their childhood haunts; and the echo of their playful mirth comes booming back in deep reverberations through their souls. In this respect the memory of the dead is a pleasure so deep and delicate, and withal so melancholy, yea, so painful, that the heart shrinks from its intensity. This we experience when we ramble through the family graveyard, and bring within the sweep of recollection our past communion with the loved who slumber there. There is a mysterious feeling awakened in our hearts, -- a feeling of peculiar melancholy, which, combines two opposite emotions, -- that of pleasure and that of pain. These seem to embrace each other, and their union in our hearts affords us a strange enjoyment. We enjoy the pain; the agony awakened by the remembrance of those who lie beneath the sod is pleasing to us. It is a bitter cup we love to drink; we love to keep open the wounds there inflicted. The sadness we then feel we dearly cherish; and we linger around these tombs as if bound to them by some mystic chord we could not break; we are loth to leave a spot in which are accumulated the fondest associations of early life. Would the mother, if she could, forget the child that slumbers beneath the flower-crowned sod of the family cemetery? "Where," in the beautiful language of Irving, "is the child, that would willingly forget the most tender of parents, though to remember be but to lament? Who, even in the hour of agony, would forget the friend over whom he mourns? Who, even when the tomb is closing upon the remains of her he most loved and he feels his heart, as it were, crushed in the closing of its portals, would accept consolation that was to be bought by forgetfulness? And when the overwhelming burst of grief is calmed into the gentle tear of recollection, when the sudden anguish and the convulsive agony over the present ruins of all that we most loved, is softened away into pensive meditation on all that it was in the days of its loveliness, who would root out such a sorrow from the heart? Though it may sometimes throw a passing cloud even over the bright hour of gayety, yet who would exchange it even for the song of pleasure or the burst of revelry? No; there is a voice from the tomb sweeter than song; there is a recollection of the dead to which we turn even from the charms of the living!" How passionately we cling to those memories of a sainted mother, which crowd in rapid succession upon our minds!
"Weep not for her! Her memory is the shrine
What a purifying and restraining influence does the memory of a pious parent's love, exert upon the wayward child! When he bends in mournful recollection over the grave of a sainted mother, how must every heart-string break, and with what remorse he reviews his past life of wickedness and filial disobedience. The memory of that mother's love and kindness to him, haunts him in all his revels, and draws him back, as if by magnetic force, from scenes of riot and of ruin. Can he think of that mother's prayers and teachings and tears of solicitude, and not feel deeply, and often savingly, his own guilt and ingratitude? If there is a memory of home-life which allures him to heaven, it is the recollection of her love and pious efforts to save him.
The child who lives in exile from his country and his home, is soothed in the midst of his cares and disappointments, by the stirring imagery of his far-distant friends and home. And oh, if he has been unfaithful to the ministrations of that home; if he has trodden under foot the proffered love of his parents, and repulsed all the overtures of their pious solicitude, will not the memory of their anguish haunt his soul, and plough deep furrows of remorse in his conscience? The sense of past filial ingratitude, and the recollection of a parent's injured love and disappointed hope, constitute one of the most powerful incentives to repentance and reformation. It was thus with the prodigal son. As soon as he came to himself, he remembered the dear home of his youth, the kind love of his father, and his own unworthiness and ingratitude; and this brought him to repentance and to the resolution to return to his father, confess his sin, and seek pardon. How many now, in thus looking back upon the home of their childhood, do not remember their abuse of parental love and kindness!
"Oh! in our stern manhood, when no ray
We see, therefore, that there are painful, as well as pleasant, memories of home. When the absent disobedient child remembers how he abused the privileges of the parental home, and brought the gray hairs of his parents down with sorrow to the grave, and turned that household into a desolation; when
"Pensive memory lingers o'er
how dark and painful must be the shadows which then sweep over his penitent spirit! "If thou art a child, and hast ever added a sorrow to the soul or a furrow to the silvered brow of an affectionate parent; if thou art a husband, and hast ever caused the fond bosom that ventured its whole happiness in thy arms, to doubt one moment of thy kindness or thy truth; if thou art a friend, and hast ever wronged the spirit that generously confided in thee; if thou art a lover, and hast ever given one unmerited pang to that true heart that now lies cold and still beneath thy feet; then be sure that every unkind look, every ungracious word, every ungentle action, will come thronging back upon thy memory; then be sure that thou wilt lie down sorrowing and penitent on the grave!"
If we would avoid the agony of declining age, let us be faithful to our childhood-home. What must be the anguish of that wretch who has brought infamy upon it; how painful must be every recollection of it, when in the distance of years and of space, from its scenes and its loved ones, his remembrance hails them with its burning tear.
"I am far from the home that gave me birth,
Every thing within the memory of home will question our hearts whether we have been faithful to her parental ministry. Every cherished association; every remembered object, and even the old scenes and objects around the homestead, will challenge our faithfulness. The trees under whose shade we frolicked and of whose fruit we ate; the streams that meandered through the meadow; the hills and groves over which we gamboled in the sunny days of childhood; the old oaken bucket and the old ancestral walls that yet stand as monuments of the past, -- these will all question your fidelity to the training you received in their midst; and oh, if they assume, in the courts of memory, the attitude of witnesses against you; if nursery recollections speak of forgotten prayers and abandoned habits, what a deep and painful sense of guilt and ingratitude will this testimony develop in your bosom, and
"Darken'd and troubled you'll come at last,
How precious are the mementoes of home! Memory needs such auxiliaries. That lock of silken hair which the mother holds with tearful contemplation, and wears as a precious relic, near her heart, what recollections of the buried one it awakens within her!
"Thou bringest fond memories of a gentle girl,
And that picture of a departed mother which the orphan child presses with holy reverence to her bosom! As she gazes upon those familiar features, and reads in them a mother's love and kindness, what scenes of home-life rise upon the troubled thought, and what echoes of love come through the lapse of years from the old homestead, touching all the fires of her soul, and causing them to thrill with plaintive sadness and with painful joy. What mementoes of a sad, yet pleasing memory are found in the chamber of bereavement, where death has done his work; the empty chair; the garments laid by; playthings idly scattered there; -- these are pictures upon which the eye of memory rests with pensive meditation. And our letters from home! What sweet recollections they awaken as we read line after line; and what volumes of love they contain from those dear ones who now moulder in the narrow vaults of death! Oh, how miserable must he be who has no recollections of home, who is not able to revert to the scenes of childhood, and amid whose cherished memories of life, the image of a mother does not glow!
Let us lay the foundation of a joyful, grateful memory. Let us be faithful to home, that when we leave it, and when the members of it leave us, we may delight in all the memories which loom up from the scenes of home-life:
"Oh, friends regretted, scenes forever dear,