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Two Festivals   By: (1787-1860)

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With Illustrations by Billings and others




It is the evening before the first of May, and the boys are looking forward to a May day festival with the children in the neighborhood. Mrs. Chilton read aloud these beautiful lines of Milton:

Now the bright morning star, Day's harbinger, Comes dancing from the east, and loads with her The flowery May, who from her green lap throws The yellow cowslip, and the pale primrose. Hail beauteous May that dost inspire Mirth, and youth, and warm desire; Woods and groves arc of thy dressing, Hill and dale doth boast thy blessing. Thus we salute thee with our early song, And welcome thee, and with thee long.

"How beautiful!" said Frank and Harry. "Suppose, Mother," said Harry, "it should rain, and hail, and snow to morrow, for it looks like it now, and then you know we cannot go into the woods and gather flowers; and all our plans will be spoiled." "Why, then, my dear, we must enjoy May morning as the great poet did, after he lost his sight, with our mind's eye; and you must bear your disappointment patiently." "Easier said than done, Mother," said Harry. "Why, only think of all our preparations, and the beautiful wreath you made for Lizzy Evans, who is to be queen of the May, and how pretty she would look in it, and then think of the dinner in the woods, we all sitting round in a circle, and she and the king of the May in the midst of us, and Ned Brown playing on his flageolet; and then you know we are all to walk home in procession, and have a dance at his mother's after tea." "You will not lose your dance, Harry," said his mother, "if it should hail, and rain, and snow; but, on the contrary, enjoy it all the more, for then you will riot be fatigued by a long walk; and Lizzy can wear the wreath at any rate." "I don't care for the fatigue, Mother; I want to be in the woods and gather the flowers with my own hands, and smell them as I gather them in the fresh air, and hear the birds sing; and to scream as loud as I please, and kick up my heels, and not hear any one say, 'Don't make such a noise, Harry.' I guess Milton did not take as much pleasure in writing poetry about the spring after he became blind. But please read his May Song again, Mother." She read it again.

"I think he must have felt as glad when he wrote it," said Harry, "as I hope to feel tomorrow. 'Comes dancing from the east' how beautiful it is! What a pity he ever lost his sight!" "Milton," said the mother, "made such a good use of his eyes while he could see, that he laid up stores of beautiful images, which he remembered when he could no longer use his bodily eyes. The poetry he wrote when he was blind shows the most accurate observation of the outward appearances of things, of shades of color, and of all those beauties which only sight could have taught him. It is worth while, boys, for you to imitate him in this, while you admire his poetry."

May morning came. It did not hail, or rain, or snow. The sun shone brightly. The birds seemed to know as well as the children that it was the first of May. The country village in which Mrs. Chilton lived was as noisy as a martin box, at break of day, when doubtless, though we poor wingless bipeds don't understand what the birds are chattering about, they are planning their work and their amusements for the day and why not?

Soon after sunrise, all the children from far and near, dressed in their holiday clothes, with little baskets of provisions, all assembled on a little green before Mrs. Grey's house, and were ready to set out for the woods, about two miles distant. Ned Brown had his flageolet, and another boy had a drum. Lizzy Evans received the wreath which made her queen of the May, and Frank, being the tallest boy, was chosen king... Continue reading book >>

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