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A LESSON OF HOPE
"Oh, yet we trust that, somehow, good
Will be the final goal of ill!"
From TENNYSON'S In Memoriam.
 "HOW the rising blast is driving through the ancient
forest! What a dismal roaring there is among the
pine-trees! What a sharp clattering among the
half-dried poplar-leaves! What a sighing among the
beeches! A wild mysterious hour, and full of strange
fantastic types of mortal life!"
It was thus I spoke, when, having wandered out one
gloomy autumn night to muse on Nature and her laws, I
found myself contemplating, in the deep recesses of a
wood, the progress of a violent storm. And as I paused,
I leant back, in sad reflections lost, against an oak,
and, looking upwards to the sky, tried to gaze into the
depths of those black vapoury masses that had arisen,
one knew not how or whence, to darken over the expanse
of heaven; when, all at once there shone down upon me,
from an opening in the clouds, the full rays of a
bright October moon.
The light was sudden, and a sudden revulsion took place
within my heart. I had been thinking that, like the
cruel storm, and like the heavy clouds, were the
troubles and the trials of human existence:
 and now,
when that sweet radiance broke upon my eyes, I heard a
voice exclaim, as if in echo to my thoughts—"It is the
moon that shone in Paradise!" It was the Bird of Night,
quite near me, in the hollow of a tree. Looking to see
from whence the sound had come, I met his large, grave,
meditative eyes fixed on my moonlit face, and then I
heard the voice exclaim again—"The moon that
Oh, what a thought to come across the tumult of that
hour! The moon that shone in Paradise!—up to whose
radiant orb the eyes of countless generations have been
turned—from the first glance of spotless innocence, to
the last yearning gaze of sorrow-stricken manhood! And
why?—but that in that calm unchanging glory there
shines forth a promise of eternal, everlasting peace.
But now another voice was heard, despite the howling of
the storm. It was a croaking Raven, swinging on a
branch beside me. He came between me and the light, and
ever and anon his coal-black wings seemed spreading for
"Deluded fool," he muttered, "with your endless myths!
This comes of living in the dark all day, and spending
all your time in guess-work! See! your precious moon is
"Not gone, though hidden," was the answer.
But I heard no more than this, for here the frightful
wind grew louder still. He roared in fury all around,
scattering the last leaves from the bending trees, as
if he hated the very relics of the gentle summer. And
many bowed their heads, and others moaned in grief.
"Hast thou come with mighty news from distant lands,"
shouted the Pine-tree scornfully, as he tossed his
branches to the storm, "that thou bringest such
 confusion in thy path? Ambassador of evil, who hast
sent thee here?"
"Cannot yonder moon teach thee milder thoughts?" cried
the Elm-tree, as he stood majestic in his sorrow and
"Our hour is come," exclaimed the softer Beech. "My
leaves lie scattered all around. Our life is closing
fast. Naked and forlorn we stand amid the ruins of the
"What mockery of existence," stormed the black-leaved
Poplar in his wrath, "to be placed here, and clothed in
such sweet beauty, nurtured by gentle dews and tender
sunshine, and then be left at last the victims of
reckless fury, with all our glories torn by force away!
Would I had never risen from the ground!"
"Oh, my aspiring friend," the ill-mouthed Raven cried,
"the few months' splendour does not satisfy your heart!
You aim too high, methinks. Well, well! aspiring
thoughts are very fine; but were I you, I would
accommodate myself to facts. A short spring, a shorter
summer, and then to perish. Ha! here you are again, my
ancient worthy friend!"
And then another gust broke in with savage fury on the
forest, and many a stalwart branch crashed down upon
the ground. The wailings of afflicted Nature rose
amidst the storm.
"Is there no refuge from this end?" enquired the Oak.
"Why have I lived at all?"
"Because destruction is the law of life," the Raven
uttered, with his fiercest croak. "Where would
destruction be, were there no life to be destroyed? It
is a glorious law."
"No law, but only an exception," cried the Bird of
 And as he spoke there streamed once more from out the
clouds that type of peace that passeth not away—the
moon that shone in Paradise. Oh, what a silver mantle
she let fall upon the disrobed branches of those trees!
Wet as they were with rain-drops, and waving in the
gale, it seemed as if they shone in robes of starlight
glory. What gracious promises seemed streaming down
with that sweet light!
"Lift up your heads, ye forest trees, once more!" so
sang the mild-eyed Bird of Night. "Fury is
short-lived—love alone enduring. All that destroys is
transitory, but order is everlasting. The unbridled
powers of cruelty may rage—it is but for a time! And ye
may darken over the blue heavens, ye vapoury masses in
the sky. It matters not! Beyond the howling of that
wrath, beyond the blackness of those clouds, there
shines, unaltered and serene, the moon that shone in
"Your myth again, detested Bird of Night! Here to the
rescue, ancient friend!"
And louder then than ever came that cruel, cruel wind.
"It matters not," once more the Owl exclaimed. "The
stormy winds must cease, the clouds must pass away, and
yonder sails the light that tells of harmony restored."
"Infatuated fool, to live on hope, with death around
you and before you!" groaned the Raven—and then a crash
like thunder rent the air. The Oak had fallen to the
ground. I started at the shock.
"Will the day ever come," I cried aloud, as if
addressing some mysterious friend, "will the day ever
come when storms and woe shall cease? Order and peace
seem meant, but death and ruin come to pass."
 "Oh, miserable doubter, do you ask? Must the brute
beasts and mute creation rise to give an answer to your
fears? Look in the heaven above, and in the earth
below, and in the water deep beneath the earth. One
only law is given—the law of order, harmony, and joy."
"Alas, how often broken!" I exclaimed.
"Ay, but disturbance is no law, and therefore cannot
last. Disorder, death, and destruction:—by their own
nature they are transitory—rebellious powers that
struggle for a time, and frustrate here and there the
gracious purposes ordained. But they exist not of
themselves; have neither law nor being in themselves;
exist but as disturbers of a scheme whose deep
foundations cannot be overthrown. Life, order, harmony,
and peace; means duly fitting ends; the object,
universal joy. This is the law. Believe in it, and
And as the voice grew silent, from the sky beamed over
all the scene the placid moon once more. The wind had
lulled or passed away to other regions of the earth,
and over all the forest streamed the brilliant light.
Once more the lit-up trees shone spangled o'er with
rays; and happy murmurs broke upon my ear, instead of
"We have been wild and foolish, gracious moon!"
exclaimed the tender Beech. "We doubted all the
promises and hopes that you shed so freely down. In
pity to the terrors of the night, forgive us once
"You have said right, my sister," said the Oak. "That
heavenly power, whom neither winds nor storms can
reach, will view with tenderness our troubled lot, who
live amid the tempests of the earth. She will forgive,
she hath forgiven us all. Hath
 she not clothed us now
with robes more brilliant than the summer ones we
"The robes of hope and promise," wept the Poplar, as he
spoke, for all his branches trembled with delight, and
stars seemed dropping all around.
"I mourn my dark despair," bewailed the Elm. "I should
have called the past to memory! We never are deserted
in our need. The winter tempests rage, and terrible
they are; but always the bright moon from time to time
returns, to shed down rays of hope and promises of
glory on our heads; and still we doubt and fear, and
still the patient moon repeats her tale. And then the
spring and summer time return, and life, and joy, and
all our beauteous robes. Oh, what weak tremblers we
And so, through all the rest of that strange night,
murmurs of comfort sounded through the wood, and I
returned at last to the poor lonely cottage that I
called my home, and wept mixed tears of sorrow and of
joy. Father and mother lost, swept suddenly away, and
I, with straitened means, left alone to struggle
through the world! Did I not stand before my desolate
hearth, like one awakened from a dream, a
vision—(surely such it was!)—exclaiming in despair, as
did the weeping Beech, "Naked and forlorn I stand amid
the ruins of the past." But through the casement glided
in on me, me also, as I stood, the blessed rays of that
eternal moon—the moon that shone in Paradise—the moon
that promises a Paradise restored.
And ever and anon, throughout the struggle of my life,
I would return for wisdom and for hope to the old
forest where I dreamt the dream. As time passed on, and
winter snows came down, a cold,
 unmeaning sleep seemed
to bind up the trees—but still, at her appointed time,
the moon came out, and lit up even snow with robes of
light and hope.
And then the spring-time burst the
cruel bonds that held all Nature in a stagnant state.
Verdure and beauty came again; and, as I listened to
the gales that breathed soft music through the trees, I
thought, "If I could dream again, I should hear songs
of exquisite delight." But that was not to be. Still, I
could revel in the comfort of the sight, and watch the
moonbeams glittering in triumphant joy through the now
verdant bowers of those woods, playing in happy sport
amid the shadows of the leaves.
And to me also came a spring! From me, too, passed away
the winter and its chill! And now I take the children
of my love, and the sweet mother who has borne them, to
those woods; and ever and anon we tell long tales of
Nature and her ways, and how the poor trees moan, when
storms and tempests come; and how the wise Owl talks to
heedless ears his deep philosophy of law, of order that
must one day certainly prevail, and how the patient
moon is never weary of her task of shedding rays of
hope and promise on the world; and even while we speak,
the children clap their hands for joy, and say they
never will despair for anything that comes, for, lo!
above their heads there suddenly shines
out—THE MOON THAT SHONE IN PARADISE!