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and wealth at their disposal, could only be persuaded to thrust aside the petty jealousies and cares, the idle parade and prejudices of society, and join heart and hand in the great work of human improvement, how much might be effected! How much happier, and how much better all might become, if a sound and universal spirit of philanthropy were once awakened, capable of embracing within its pale all orders and conditions of men: considering them as they really are, the children of one common Parent, bound together by the ties of brotherhood, each having a special duty assigned to him to perform, not independently of, but in conjunction with the rest, and exciting all to render each other mutual assistance in surmounting the difficulties and trials of this life of discipline and pupilage.”*
MEDITATIONS ON A BROOMSTICK.
"I am sent with broome before
To sweep the dust behind the doore."
-Midsummer Night's Dream.
SUNSHINE prosper thee, sweet lady-birch! Softest of dews and holiest of showers fall upon thy tasselled sprays and trembling foliage, and ruddiest of morning glances break upon thy silver bark! And thou, bonny broom, hiding thyself in the moorland hollows, how many belted bees have visited thy ringlets since the spring began? how many wanderers hath thy perfume solaced? over how many aching heads hast thou shook thy rushy branches, hushing the lone wayfarer into Elysian dreams as he lay on the pliant moss beneath thee? It is in the greenest of glens and the mossiest of woody nooks that broomstaffs flourish,-on the healthiest of wild moorlands that the bonny broom comes to birth. Blue and golden flowers watch over them in infancy, and bearded oaks bend above their lusty youth. A broomstick! Are proper people" shocked at the suggestion-to themof the vileness and scullery refuse which the broom is used to sweep away? No matter-what is mere fuel to them shall be philosophy to us; and with the reverent
stump of a superannuated besom before us, we will let the caprice have its course, and see for once what suggestions may come from a broomstick.
Were you ever young?-of course you were, and made your first triumph before family friends by trotting, full speed, into the midst of little Jemima's muslin friends astride a broomstick, and had at least a hundred kisses from dear old Granny, who sat in the corner, and vowed it was vulgar to trot broomsticks in doors, while she secretly loved you all the more for it. There, too, was the old Captain, in his skull-cap, and barnacles, and purple nose, who gloried in a romp, and yet, for fear of offending the young ladies, suffered innumerable pangs when he said, "Charley, you're a naughty boy, sir!" Well, that day has blended with the mists of memory, and the broomstick is the only talisman to summon its pictures to the present.
The broomstick went the way of all toys-petted today, burnt to-morrow; and to avenge the degradation inflicted upon it then, its ghost came back to us at school, inflicting stripes, and, in the compound of foolscap and pickled birch, torturing the affections as well as the flesh, and making youth's season of song and sunshine one of wailings and tears. The pickled birchhow barbarous in itself, and still more barbarous in its frequent and untimed use, marking more the phases
of the teacher's temper than the dulness of the pupil's mind. Stupid old doctrine! to imagine that what the mind was incapable of grasping could be beaten into the body-that to make an impression on the memory, blood must trickle from the skin. Well, that time has past also, and memory seems to hallow even those barbarities; and we catch sight of the modern cane, so sparingly used by men who have adopted love as an element of education in the place of the old sottish spite. When we see that, we sometimes imagine that things have sadly degenerated since we went to school, for to us now the pickled birch is a thing of poetry, if it be the poetry of pain, while the cane is mere prose, and suggestive of sugar-candy at the highest. But the birch has its moral for after life,
Having bound up the threatening twigs of birch.
For terror, not to use; in time the rod,
More mocked than feared."
-Measure for Measure.
It is a serious question how far principle actuates us to duty rather than fear of consequences. We are, perhaps, little better than schoolboys, and feel the moral birch of the world, and the stripes of conscience, in more cases than we love its tasks and burdens:
"But though no more his brow severe, nor dread
A sterner tyrant rises to my view,
With deadlier weapon armed."
JAGO, Edge Hill, b. iii.
But leaving private experience, which lacks largeness
and universality, let us take this crippled stump, worn as it is to a mere shadow in the service of that which is next to godliness. It was once a comely, upright, lusty broom, with a stout birchen body, and a green bushy head; and though ever standing with its one leg in the air, yet always ready to be useful, and run the risk of apoplexy for the service of a good cause. Its wretched stump, now reduced to the last extremity of vegetable suffering, was, in time gone by, a waving branch of lady-birch, and was clothed in silver bark, and tasselled over with delicate twigs and little fairy leaves. When spring came, it danced to and fro in the sunlight, and its shadow glided up and down the white ledges of the rocks, over which its pensile sprays peeped to see the water trickle down the ravine. Glorious was the ladybirch at any season; glorious, too, the hale green broom; the one gleaming in the morning sun, where the woodpigeon built her nest, the other dressing the stony moor with yellow livery, and both living to make the world more beautiful. It is this birch* which supplies the best of wood for broomsticks, and whose young feathery branches often take the place of the green broom in the completion of the besom. In the Highlands they use it for tanning, for dyeing wool yellow; its bark supplies Highland candles and Norway bread; its wood, charcoal and printers' ink; its leaves, fodder for horses, kine, sheep, and goats; and its seed, food for that pretty
* BIRCH—Celt., betu; A. S. birc; Dutch, berke; German berkan, birchenbaum; Fr., bouteau; Ital. betulla. Pliny, I. 16, c. 18 speaks of the mirabilis candor of the birch. wonderful white," says Holland.