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Early Recollections Post by :clayright Category :Essays Author :Lydia H. Sigourney Date :November 2011 Read :1790

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Early Recollections

The years of my childhood passed away in contentment and peace. My lot was in humble and simple industry; yet my heart was full of gladness, though I scarcely knew why. I loved to sit under the shadow of the rugged rocks, and to hear the murmured song of the falling brook.

I made to myself a companionship among the things of nature, and was happy all the day. But when evening darkened the landscape, I sat down pensively; for I was alone, and had neither brother nor sister.

I was ever wishing for a brother who should be older than myself, into whose hand I might put my own, and say, "Lead me forth to look at the solemn stars, and tell me of their names." Sometimes, too, I wept in my bed, because there was no sister to lay her head upon the same pillow.

At twilight, before the lamps were lighted, there came up out of my bosom, what seemed to be a friend. I did not then understand that its name was Thought. But I talked with it, and it comforted me. I waited for its coming, and whatsoever it asked of me, I answered.

When it questioned me of my knowledge, I said, "I know where the first fresh violets of spring grow, and where the lily of the vale hides in its broad green sheath, and where the vine climbs to hang its purple clusters, and where the forest nuts ripen, when autumn comes with its sparkling frost.

"I have seen how the bee nourishes itself in winter with the essence of flowers, which its own industry embalmed; and I have learned to draw forth the kindness of domestic animals, and to tell the names of the birds which build dwellings in my father's trees."

Then Thought enquired, "What knowest thou of those who reason, and to whom God has given dominion over the beasts of the field, and over the fowls of the air?" I confessed, that of my own race I knew nothing, save of the parents who nurtured me, and the few children with whom I had played on the summer turf.

I was ashamed, for I felt that I was ignorant. So I determined to turn away from the wild herbs of the field, and the old trees where I had helped the gray squirrel to gather acorns, and to look attentively upon what passed among men.

I walked abroad when the morning dews were lingering upon the grass, and the white lilies drooping their beautiful heads to shed tears of joy, and the young rose blushing, as if it listened to its own praise. Nature smiled upon those sweet children, that were so soon to fade.

But I turned toward those whose souls have the gift of reason, and are not born to die. I said, "If there is joy in the plant that flourishes for a day, and in the bird bearing to its nest but a broken cherry, and in the lamb that has no friend but its mother, how much happier must they be, who are surrounded with good things, as by a flowing river, and who know that, though they seem to die, it is but to live for ever."

I looked upon a group of children. They were untaught and unfed, and clamoured loudly with wayward tongues. I asked them why they walked not in the pleasant paths of knowledge. And they mocked at me. I heard two who were called friends, speak harsh words to each other, and was affrighted at the blows they dealt.

I saw a man with a fiery and a bloated face. He was built strongly, like the oak among trees; yet his steps were weak and unsteady as those of the tottering babe. He fell heavily, and lay as one dead. I marvelled that no hand was stretched out to raise him up.

I saw an open grave. A widow stood near it, with her little ones. They looked downcast, and sad at heart. Yet, methought it was famine and misery, more than sorrow for the dead, which had set on them such a yellow and shrivelled seal.

I said, "What can have made the parents not pity their children when they hungered, nor call them home when they were in wickedness? What made the friends forget their early love, and the strong man fall down senseless, and the young die before his time?" I heard a voice say, "Intemperance. And there is mourning in the land, because of this."

So I returned to my home, sorrowing; and had God given me a brother or a sister, I would have thrown my arms around their neck, and entreated, "Touch not your lips to the poison cup, and let us drink the pure water which God hath blessed, all the days of our lives."

Again I went forth. I met a beautiful boy weeping, and I asked him why he wept. He answered, "Because my father went to the wars and is slain; he will return no more." I saw a mournful woman. The sun shone upon her dwelling. The honeysuckle climbed to its windows, and sent in its sweet blossoms to do their loving message. But she was a widow. Her husband had fallen in battle. There was joy for her no more.

I saw a hoary man, sitting by the wayside. Grief had made furrows upon his forehead, and his garments were thin and tattered. Yet he asked not for charity. And when I besought him to tell me why his heart was heavy, he replied faintly, "I had a son, an only one. From his cradle, I toiled, that he might have food and clothing, and be taught wisdom.

"He grew up to bless me. So all my labour and weariness were forgotten. When he became a man, I knew no want; for he cherished me, as I had cherished him. Yet he left me to be a soldier. He was slaughtered in the field of battle. Therefore mine eye runneth down with water, because the comforter that should relieve my soul returns no more."

I said, "Show me, I pray thee, a field of battle, that I may know what war means." But he answered, "Thou art not able to bear the sight." "Tell me, then," I entreated, "what thou hast seen, when the battle was done."

"I came," he said, "at the close of day, when the cannon ceased their thunder, and the victor and vanquished had withdrawn. The rising moon looked down on the pale faces of the dead. Scattered over the broad plain were many who still struggled with the pangs of death.

"They stretched out the shattered limb, yet there was no healing hand. They strove to raise their heads, but sank deeper in the blood which flowed from their own bosoms. They begged in God's name that we would put them out of their misery, and their piercing shrieks entered into my soul.

"Here and there horses, mad with pain, rolled and plunged, mangling with their hoofs the dying, or defacing the dead. And I remember the mourning for those who lay there; of the parents who had reared them, or of the young children who used to sit at home upon their knee."

Then I said, "Tell me no more of battle or of war, for my heart is sad." The silver-haired man raised his eyes upward, and I kneeled down by his side.

And he prayed, "Lord, keep this child from anger, and hatred, and ambition, which are the seeds of war. Grant to all that own the name of Jesus, hearts of peace, that they may shun every deed of strife, and dwell at last in the country of peace, even in heaven."

Hastening home, I besought my mother, "Shelter me, as I have been sheltered, in solitude, and in love. Bid me turn the wheel of industry, or bring water from the fountain, or tend the plants of the garden, or feed a young bird and listen to its song, but let me go no more forth among the vices and miseries of man."

(The end)
Lydia H. Sigourney's essay: Early Recollections

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