The Camera-Obscura.

A Sunday Morning Lecture.

Oh, Nature ! ever wondrous, ever new,1
Whose magic varies with each passing glance ;2
Thy common scenes are lovely as romance ;3
Thy daily life a miracle most true,4
Ever awake, our senses to entrance.5
All thou dost touch, a similar touch can give,6
And all become enchanted who touch thee :7
Thy forms, that breathe in vital energy,8
Are of such power their very shadows live,9
Till Art partakes thine immortality.10
’Tis Sunday morn : a bright and lovely day !11
Come, then, with me, and mark how Nature moves12
In the broad field of Christian faiths and loves ;13
And, in a mirror, lit by her own ray,14
See how her smile all narrow feuds reproves.15
Grey misty light the shadowy disk illumes,16
Which sways and lurches like a deck, at sea ;—17
And clouds, fields, house-tops, in confusion flee,18
Till the round plane a steady blank becomes,19
And all stand round in darkness, silently.20
A mead appears, all bright with pasture green,21
Where moving miniatures of cattle graze :22
A Liliputian herdsman loitering strays23
Across the delicately-pictured scene ;—24
And his dog follows—searches, leaps, and plays.25
Now glides the disk ; a windmill from grey space26
Works threatening into view, with whirling arms,27
Whose fleeting shadow o’er the grass, alarms28
A group of children, coming near the place,29
Who pause—and watch the giant’s dangerous
charms !
The miller’s wife in the trim garden stands,31
And trains the tangled honeysuckle bowers ;32
Then stoops.—Ah, see ! are those enchanted
Which now she gathers in her tiny hands,34
And shakes them clear from recent spring-tide
showers ?
A promenade—with many a varied group :36
Ladies in undulating robes—young maids,37
Old men, and boys—all living, yet all shades !38
And now a child comes with a rolling hoop !39
Tis gone—’tis here again—it nears—it fades !40
Now, in a sandy bay upon the shore,41
Two lovers enter slowly ;— all unseen,42
As they believe—bending with tender mien43
Hand clasping hand, and looks that tell far more,44
While thus they pass, and glide beyond the scene45
A pier slides in !— the masons chip the stone,46
And near them stands a sun-burnt sailor-boy ;47
A horse and cart, no larger than a toy,48
Move onwards, while a distant kite is blown49
Among the clouds, and dances as in joy.50
The harbour, with the shipping ;— masts and spars,51
And miniatures of men, and boys in boats,52
Who row across ; and now all darkly floats53
Black smoke along the air—yon steamer roars !54
But of her storm-song spell-bound are the notes.55
Silence and wonder, darkness, and soft light,56
Surround us—fill us with their influence ;57
We feel strange pleasure, like a novel sense58
Derived from Art and Nature—Science, Sight59
Which God permits, in His munificence.60
Glide onward, disk :— and now we’re in the bay,61
With all its tossing billows, life, and foam ;62
A sea-gull soars above its briny home,63
Descending now, to swim amidst the spray ;64
Now rising, o’er the masts and cliffs to roam.65
Hither the steamer beats her noiseless way !66
Real—yet silent, as ’twere all a dream !67
Men, engines, motion, colour—as we deem68
Proofs of reality—doth she display ;—69
Yet ’tis a picture passing o’er a screen !70
She steams along—her passengers we scan71
She hoists a sail—she tacks—a very sprite72
Smiting the waters backward in her flight ;73
Her size, from stem to stern, not half a span !74
And thus she works her way beyond our sight.75
The lone sea-shore. The tide is coming in,76
And breaks in rows of silver-gushing waves,77
As silently as spirits rise from graves !78
And all is rapture—with no earthly din,—79
Nor e’en a whisper from the hollow caves.80
Divine, bright solitude of soundless motion,81
Whose foam, like year on year, flows up the shore !82
Imagination loves thee evermore,83
Bowing itself in this reflected ocean,84
God’s slightest shadow truly to adore !85
Again the sea-gull passes through the sky86
Dips in the surge, and beats her sparkling wings !87
Rises aloft in widening oval rings !88
Down-slanting near dark rocks, she now doth fly,89
And a white wavering line, soft gleaming, flings.90
Once more green meads, with cattle grazing round !91
A mimic orbit have we traversed, fleet !92
Are we awake ?  This earth—these moving feet93
Seem perfect ; yet no odour, taste, touch, sound !94
The real and the visionary meet !95
’Tis a new planet-surface we behold !96
Our own—yet not our own—diminished—dumb ;97
A world of dream-like coloured shadows come98
And go—more exquisite than e’er was told99
By pen or pencil ; yet they have no home.100
Their birth is from the darkness into light;101
But into darkness when their forms return,102
For them no spheric installations burn103
No glories treasured in the ecstatic night ;104
Poor pilgrims are they of earth’s shows extern !105
Not so, the substances that lend them life ;106
Not so, the human images that give107
These fleeting miniatures the means to live ;108
For we are born with inward essence rife,109
Both substances and shadows to survive.110