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December 27, 2010

Ensemble Organum - Le Chant des Templiers

Ok, so I'm not much for Christian music, except the variety that has fiddles & accordions & banjos & other instruments of devilry, or screaming black people. Or at least some sort of mystery, and please keep it light on the preaching. And if you've been reading this blog a while, you're probably somewhat like me. But believe me, you do not want to pass on this. It is absolutely the most powerful, most mysterious, most gutwardly moving cd of chants I've ever heard. Hair-raising is the adverb. Like a feather and a sledgehammer rolled into one. I've always thought of latin as a logical language, but these chants blow it straight into the realm of post-apocalyptic riddlery of desperation. It feels like sticking a very sharp, very sacred knife into your lungs to force a gasp of air, which is actually a breath of wind, which is actually God.

It's like when you're a baby, laying in your crib, and the voice of the mighty one comes to you, and tells you you're going to live to see the death of all the world, and then rocks you to sleep saying "I know. I know little one. I know." And then you understand. Because you have heard, and you will never forget. Death is a mere point in the turning of the great wheel, and if midwinter isn't about resurrection, it isn't about anything. So if you don't think you'd like this music, it's especially important that you download it. And lock yourself in a room. And listen to this stuff on full blast. And when it's over, you'll be a changed person. And the look in your eyes will say "I know."

And even the Georgia Sea Island Singers won't be able to tell you any different. Because they're singing the exact same thing, in the exact same way, in a different iteration of the harmonic resurrection that is evolution, but don't let their skin fool you. These French singers have grain for grain every bit as much grit as the Sea Islanders, and every drop of mystique.

The Knights Templar were custodians of a secret. Though I cannot tell you the secret, I can tell you this: the Holy Grail is in this music, if you listen closely enough.

Crucem sanctam subiit,
qui infernum confregit,
accinctus est potentia,
surrexit die tertia. Alleluia.

Lapidem quem reprobaverunt
aedeficantes factus est
caput anguli, alleluia.

The Chant of the Templars
The Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem in the twelfth century

It was towards the end of the second decade of the twelfth century that the idea of Hugh de Payns began to be realised: the creation of an Order of knighthood whose purpose was to guard the Holy Places and protect the many pilgrims who flocked to Jerusalem. In 1118 he obtained the assent of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Gormond de Picquigny. He gathered eight knights around him, and the undertaking was considered so important by Baldwin II, King of Jerusalem, that he granted them the use of part of his palace, what was left of the ancient Temple of Solomon. Thus the nascent Order took its name from its place of residence, and became known as Order of the Temple of Solomon.

This first period of the Order was modest and productive, it lasted until 1127. For these nine years, the Order’s membership remained fixed at nine knights. All were nobles, trained in the profession of arms, and this period – which might be described as a novitiate – was the crucible in which the specific spirituality of the Templars gradually took shape. The source of their spiritual consciousness is to be sought in the knights’ assiduous attendance at the Latin liturgy of the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. In 1128, when the Council of Troyes granted them a rule drawn up under the direction of Bernard of Clairvaux, their attachment to the liturgy of the Holy Sepulchre was clearly stated and became the distinctive and specific mark of their canonical condition. ‘You who have renounced your own will, and you others who, for the salvation of your souls, serve the Sovereign King with your horses and weapons, must with pure and pious longing follow Matins and the Divine Service in their entirely, according to the canonical institutions and the Uses of the regular masters of the Holy City.’

Over the next decade or so, the Order enjoyed a spectacular expansion: donations flooded in, and the Templars soon became key players not only in the Holy Land but also throughout Western Europe. Like all religious organizations, the Order of the Temple comprised two categories of brothers those particularly attached to the liturgy – and those charged more especially with the material tasks connected with the subsistence of the Order and its specific missions. However, even in times of war, the Templars were assiduous in their practice of the liturgy. During the siege of Damietta in the Fifth Crusade, a night raid by the Muslims was foiled because the Templars were celebrating the Office of Matins in the tent that served as the Order’s chapel. Thus were able immediately to repulse the attack. The Templars are often described as ‘soldier-monks’, but this term is improper, for it appear only in the nineteenth century. In ecclesiastical law the Templars did not have monastic status. Right from their origins, they were assimilated to the status of canons, taking as their model the Rule of St Augustine, with the obligation of scrupulously observing the liturgical order of the Holy Sepulchre. Nevertheless, although their activities did not permit them to hear the Office in its entirety, they were to say a certain number of paternosters at the hour of prayer in order to make up for their failure to attend the Office.

After the crusaders took control of Jerusalem on 15 July 1099, the organization of the Latin liturgy was entrusted to the clergy of the Church of France, who took the Use of Paris as their chief model. The first preceptor of the Latin Patriarchate was a certain Anselm, a canon of Paris who shaped the Latin liturgy of the Holy Sepulchre. The manuscript […] dates from the third quarter of the twelfth century and comes from the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Having been purchased by the Duc d’Aumale in the mid-nineteenth century, it is now preserved at the Château de Chantilly. It is a breviary, written down when Parisian musical circles were just beginning to formulate square notation. All the vocal subtleties of the chant can be seen in it. In this respect the volume is quite exceptional, since few examples of French music from this period are still extant. Moreover, it contains a number of unique pieces, and others which are presented here in an unusual fashion. The musical notation of this breviary accurately reflects many decisive developments of its time, which were to have a profound influence on European techniques of notation down to the sixteenth century.

The French provenance of this manuscript is a precious indication, for we possess several concordant source of information enabling us to interpret the French notation of the twelfth century. It is necessary to combine the data provided by paleography with the art of making rhythm, which in religious chant has its own name, the tripudium. This essential element for understanding the rhythmic organization of the chant of this period has unfortunately not received sufficient attention from those who study the different types of plainchant. The way in which the theorists of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries describe the formation of the rhythmic architecture of polyphonic chant is a further fundamental element for deciphering this music.

[…] the antiphon Crucem tuam. Its text recalls the foundations of the Christian faith, centring on the resurrection of Christ, who by submitting to the torment of the Cross destroyed the infernal powers of death. This is the kind of multi-usage antiphon that could sometimes be sung outside the liturgical context in order to fan the flames of faith. It is followed by three chants for the Solemnity of the Transfiguration. The responsories Benedicat nos and Honor, virtus et potestas are taken from the Night Office, whereas the antiphon to the Magnificat comes from the Office of Vespers. The Feast of the Transfiguration was particularly observed by the Order of the Temple, which explains this solemn performance practice for the Magnificat, in which part of the antiphon is repeated every three or four verses .

Next comes the celebrated antiphon Media vita, sung for part of the year at Compline – the Office which leads up to nightfall – to introduce and conclude the Gospel canticle Nunc dimittis. This antiphon too was sometimes sung outside its liturgical setting. It was credited with magical powers, which often led the ecclesiastical authorities to control and limit use of it. After this, […] present the Kyrie chant, whose liturgical function, at the beginning of the Mass, is to exalt divine majesty, the only force capable of remedying the weaknesses and imperfections of the human soul. Once a year, the Kyrie was sung outside the Mass, to open Vespers for Easter Day. […] But the Kyrie could also be employed to fortify the souls of the combatants when an army deployed in order of battle. Here the chant alternates between monody and three-part polyphony, following the method of twelfth-century Parisian discantus as it has come down to us in the only extant work of Master Albert of Paris (precentor of the Cathedral of Saint-Étienne), preserved in the Codex Calixtinus: the Congaudeant catholici.

Then come two antiphons which set the spirituality of the Order in context. There is a frequent tendency to see the Templars only as warriors. This is to forget their fundamental condition as men of prayer, who took up arms only to defend peace and thus to allow mankind to hear the splendours of the Word of God. This is the meaning conveyed by the antiphon Da pacem domine in diebus nostris. It punctuates the recitation of Psalm 121, which conjures up all that Jerusalem at peace might reveal to men. Finally, just as each night before going to rest the Templars addressed a last invocation to the Virgin Mary, it is the great Salve Regina that concludes this brief survey of the liturgical life of the Order of the Temple. This antiphon, so wide-spread throughout Western Christendom, is presented here in an unusual form, with three verses which evoke the mystery of the Incarnation.

- Marcel Pérès

Ensemble Organum - Le Chant des Templiers
Manuscrit du Saint Sépulcre de Jérusalem XIIe siècle
Ensemble Organum - Marcel Pérès, dir.

Year: 2006
Label: Ambrosie

Anon., Chantilly, musée Condé, ms XVIII b12
1. Antiphona: Crucem sanctam
2. Responsorium: Benedicat nos deus
3. Responsorium: Honor virtus et potestas
4. Antiphona: Te Deum patrem ingenitum / Magnificat
5. Antiphona: Media vita in morte sumus / Nunc dimittis
6. Kyrie Eleïson
7. Antiphona: Da pacem Domine / Psalm: Fiat pax in virtute tua
8. Antiphona: Salve regina

mp3 vbr | with scans, hopefully

Out of print.

Oh, and if you want to hear any other weird early music, check out Música Medieval y Renacentista

December 26, 2010

Sam Rizzetta - Bucks and Does

Ok, so not a whole lot so say on this one, but you'll probably appreciate a short post after the last few. Nothing shocking or out-of-place here, just extremely beautiful, tonal, resonant, music. Almost totally unaccompanied, the resounding tremors of the dulcimer are allowed to ricochet ad eternitum, and faithfully transcribed from vinylog to digital by yours truly. Enjoy!

by Craig Harris
The strings of the hammered dulcimer come alive with melody and percussive rhythms through the playing of Sam Rizzetta. The founder of multi-dulcimer group, Trapezoid, in 1975, Rizzetta has continued to creatively explore his multi-stringed instrument as a soloist since 1979.

In addition to maintaining a busy schedule as a performer and composer, Rizzetta has become one of the foremost designers and builders of hammered dulcimer. His instruments, which have been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institute and the National Folk Festival, are noted for their expanded tonal range and exquisite sound. Rizzetta, who resides in West Virginia, has continues to teach in the dulcimer department that he helped to launch in 1974


Over the years Sam Rizzetta’s performances, recordings, and craftsmanship have introduced many people to both hammer dulcimer and fretted or “Appalachian” mountain dulcimer, and his joyful and versatile music leave good feelings wherever he plays. Sam’s playing has been heard at numerous festivals as well as at the National Cathedral, the Kennedy Center, on National Public Radio’s A Prarie Home Companion and Mountain Stage, and on public television. And his many design innovations have helped to define the contemporary hammer dulcimer.

Onstage, the tone of Sam’s dulcimers combine with his heartfelt and ornamented playing style for music that has been called “resonantly sensual magic.” Reviewers say his music defies attempts at categorization. A Rizzetta concert may blend classical, folk, gospel, new age, oldtime tunes, ragtime, original music, and other surprises. Of his performance, the National Dulcimer Symposium Journal says, “Sam Rizzetta was just plain awe inspiring! We were privileged to be watching a master player in peak form.” Frets Magazine wrote, “He builds instruments of awesome power and puts them to good use.” “Probably the best dulcimer I’ve heard,” says West Virginia’s Tamarack Center. The New York Times concurs; “songs and reels played with lively charm. …delightful.”

In 1975 Sam created the influential group Trapezoid as a hammer dulcimer quartet, and they made some highly acclaimed, landmark recordings. Since 1978 Sam has performed solo, made 12 solo recordings, and written four books of original music for dulcimer.

Sam has designed and handcrafted musical instruments since childhood, and his dulcimers and guitars have long been prized by musicians. Rizzetta dulcimers have been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution and the National Folk Festival and featured in Fine Woodworking Magazine. Starting in 1974, Sam taught for many years at the Augusta Heritage Center. He has been featured at many other music heritage workshops, and for many years he wrote the Technical Column for the Dulcimer Players News. Sam designs dulcimers for the Dusty Strings Company, and, along with friend and collaborator Nicholas Blanton, continues to build custom and experimental instruments. Many of Sam’s design innovations have become essential to the modern dulcimer and are enjoyed by almost all of today’s players, performers, and builders.

Sam has recently been nominated for a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship for lifetime achievement in the arts.


Sam’s father, Pasquale, played violin and accordian, and his uncle Earl Nott was a great banjo player. So, Sam fell in love with traditional music and stringed instruments at an early age. He experimented with building banjos and guitars as soon as he could use tools. Chet Parker of Grand Rapids, MI was an early hammer dulcimer inspiration. In 1968 Sam met West Virginia hammer dulcimer player Russell Fluharty, Kentucky mountain dulcimer player Jean Ritchie, and dulcimer innovator Howie Mitchell. Later Sam moved to Randolph County, WV and was influenced by his neighbors like guitarist Blackie Cool and fiddler Woody Simmons, as well as by traditional musicians and instrument customers who visited from distant parts of the world.

You can get an album by Chet Parker at Tonal Bride.

if you'd like to read an article about Hammered Dulcimer Making that Sam wrote for Smithsonian, look here.

Or read an interview from Dulcimer Player magazine from right after this album came out.

Sam Rizzetta - Bucks and Does

Year: 1982
Label: Flying Clouds Music

Hammer and mountain dulcimers; cheerful mountain music.

01 Fanny Poer
02 Hoedown
03 Bucks & Does
04 High Falls of Cheat
05 Cobra Waltz
06 Volcano Strut
07 Mother Trucker
08 Cuckoo's Nest
09 Norwegian Waltz / Dolly Sods
10 Snowy Breasted Pearl_Rickett's Hornpipe
11 Peekaboo Waltz
12 Good For the Tongue / Rambling Pitchforks (or The Fisherman's Widow) / Sonny's Mazurka / The Royal Paulownia Hornpipe
13 Paul's New Dulcimer
14 Sweet Hour of Prayer / Angels We Have Heard on High
15 Carolan's Farewell to Music

vinyl -> mp3 vbr>256kbps

very out-of-print

oh, and if you have any of his other albums, I'm looking for them. I'll post the self-titled Trapezoid album at some point, but I have none of the others:
Seven Valleys, 1987
When You And I Were Young, 1989
Christmas In The Air, 1991
In The Garden, Hymns For Hammer Dulcimer, 1992
Ocean's Edge', 1993
Flowing Waters, 1993
Saving Trees, 1999
Dulcimer Boogie, 2000
Peace Of Christmas, 2003

December 25, 2010

Nowell Sing We Clear - A Pageant of Midwinter Carols

More weirdness from old Brittania! I meant to post this earlier, but hopefully you are still in the mood for some festive music. Now as you may have gathered, I'm not particularly keen on Christmas as it's currently celebrated, with people running all over the place spending money trying to appease the gods of consumerism. And I know enough about history to know that even the traditional Christmas is a pale coagulation of various midwinter pagan festivals. With all that being said, I did grow up celebrating 'Xmas' and usually still do to some degree, and I've found a few worthwhile aspects of the tradition, particularly those which have incubated themselves from another time, and still retain the magic and mystery of the great midwinter resurrection festivals.

This group does absolutely the best traditional christmas carols, and other, older midwinter music too. It's ancient, mysterious, beautiful, and danceable! This music shows the soul of our winter holiday in a way that puts every version of 'Rudolf' ever recorded to shame. Long live the mystery of darkness! Long live the sanctity of resurrection! Long live the tradition of wassailing, giving thanks to the trees that provide us with bounty.

In the summer of 1975, dance musicians Fred Breunig and Steve Woodruff moved to southern Vermont and teamed up with the singing duo of John Roberts and Tony Barrand. Nowell Sing We Clear was first performed in December of that same year. I conceived of it as a traveling road show which could visit small communities on a regular basis to broaden the range of music and custom to which people had access in the joyous midwin ter season. The program explores and reveals the active and still vital themes of the birth of Jesus and the celebration of the return of the light at the winter solstice. The combined interests and skills of the performers in contra and morris dancing and in ballads and bawdry afforded an unusual approach to Christmas music.
- Tony Barrand.

Known for their lively and entertaining presentations of English folk songs, John Roberts and Tony Barrand have performed at important festivals, colleges, and coffee houses throughout the United States, Canada, and their native England. Accomplished self-taught folklorists, they typically sing ballads and songs of the sea, of drinking situations, of industrial strife and much more, arranging the material thematically to illustrate the social history and the lives of the people who made up the songs. Performing in unaccompanied two-part harmony, they regularly draw upon a variety of instruments including Anglo-German and English concertinas, button accordion, banjo, guitar, and a variety of rhythm instruments such as bones and spoons. They met at Cornell University in 1968 while studying for Ph.D's in Psychology. After a number of years teaching at Marlboro College in southern Vermont, John Roberts is now a full-time musician; Dr. Tony Barrand teaches psychology, folklore and aesthetics through the University Professors at Boston University, recently co-edited a revised and expanded fourth edition of the shape-note hymnal Northern Harmony: Plain Tunes, Fuging Tunes and Anthems from the Early and Contemporary New England Singing Tradition and authored a major book on seasonal dance customs, Six Fools and a Dancer: The Timeless Way of the Morris and a compilation of sword dance notations, Longsword Compiled by Ivor Allsop(All available from Carriage House Books).

In thirty-one years as a professional team, they have recorded with a number of companies, including Front Hall, Folk Legacy, Swallowtail, and National Geographic. Their most recent production is Heartoutbursts: English Folksongs Collected by Percy Grainger. They recently presented a concert of songs inspired by an exhibit of Maxfield Parrishís paintings at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Brooklyn Musuem of Art. They have also performed settings of Rudyard Kiplingís verse at his restored house, Naulakha, in Dummerston, VT. It is recorded as Naulakha Redux: Songs of Rudyard Kipling (available from Golden Hind Records). Both John and Tony were founding members of the celebrated Marlboro Morris and Sword dance teams which perform the seasonal display dances in communities in Windham County, Vermont. John lives in Schenectady, NY, and Tony in Brattleboro, VT.

Fred Breunig is one of the most influential leaders of the New England contra dance movement and a major resource for the increasingly large following atttracted to the English Playford-style country dances. He has taught workshops and called dances throughout the U.S. and Canada and is a well-known figure leading dances to the accompaniment of his own fiddle playing. A printer by trade, he makes his home and runs his business, Press On! in Putney, VT, and maintains his regular community dance in East Putney on the last friday of each month. Fred has recorded with John and Tony on Front Hall and Folk-Legacy, and was a contributing musician to the influential F&W String Band albums of New England contra dance tunes.

Andy Davis is known nationally as one of the finest piano accompanists for contra dance music and is an outstanding performer on piano accordion and banjo. He teaches music in several schools in Brattleboro where he makes his home and runs the successful operation of New England Dancing Masters, with recordings and publications which make New England dance forms available for use in schools. Andy is a much-loved music teacher in local elementary schools and a leader of popular community dances. In addition to the Nowell recordings, he and guiitarist, Sandy Bradley are the accompanists on Laurie Andresí widely praised accordion, Fantastic Hornpipe.

2010 marks the 36th season of the Pageant of Midwinter Carols tour. Performers John Roberts and Tony Barrand, are widely known for their concerts and recordings of English ballads and songs with New England dance musicians, Fred Breunig and Andy Davis. Much of the singing is 4-part a cappella harmony, with carols worth dancing to, performed by fiddle, accordion, concertina, banjo and piano. The show begins with a fresh look at the telling of the story of Christ's birth through unfamiliar folk carols. The show ends with even less familiar songs associated with midwinter visiting customs such as “Hunting the Wren,” the “Derby Ram,” and "Wassailing on New Year’s Eve.

Drawn mostly from English-language folk traditions, the songs tell both a version of the events and characters involved in the Christmas story and detail the customs that make up the twelve magical days following the return of the light at the winter solstice. The pageant is also stamped with the energetic dance band sound of fiddle, button accordion, electric piano, drums, and concertina and the audience encouraged to sing along. An unusual treat is the enactment of a Mummers Play.

The Wassailing Of Trees

The ancient rite of wassailing trees was well known in Devonshire, Herefordshire and in other parts of the West Country of England (and elsewhere? please let me know). It generally took place on Twelfth Night (January 5th), or sometimes on 17th January, known as Old Twelfth Night. Farmers and their families would feast on hot cakes and cider, then they would go into the orchard with more "supplies."

A cider-soaked cake is laid in the fork of a tree and then more cider is splashed on it. The men fire their guns into the tree and bang on pots and pans while the rest of the people bow their heads and sing the special "Wassail Song." This custom is said to ward off bad spirits from the orchard and encourages the good spirits to provide a bountiful crop for the following year.

In other traditions, the men of the village went out to the orchards carrying the wassail bowl, to alternately serenade and browbeat the apple trees. There were songs, dances and libations (for tree and man alike) until finally, in frustration, the trees would be threatened with the axe if they did not produce well in the coming year. A newspaper account of 1851 documents Devonshire men firing guns (charged only with powder) at the trees.

Concerning this custom, A. H. Bullen writes:

This custom was kept up till the end of the last century. Brand relates that in 1790 a Cornish man informed him it was the custom for the Devonshire people on the eve of Twelfth Day to go after supper into the orchard with a large milk-pan full of cyder with roasted apples in it. Each person took what was called a clayen cup, i.e. an earthenware cup full of cyder, and standing under each of the more fruitful trees, sung —
“Health to thee, good apple-tree,
Well to bear, pocket-fulls, hat-fulls,
Peck-fulls, bushel-bag-fulls.”
After drinking part of the contents of the cup, he threw the rest, with the fragments of the roasted apples, at the trees, amid the shouting of the company. Another song sung on such occasions was
“Here’s to thee, old apple-tree,
Whence thou may’st bud, and whence thou may’st blow,
And whence thou may’st bear apples enow
Hats full! caps full!
Bushel-bushel-sacks full,
And my pockets full, too, huzza!”
It is supposed that the custom was a relic of the sacrifice to Pomona [the Roman Goddess of Fruits].

The American author Henry David Thoreau also cites Brand's Popular Antiquities in his essay Wild Apples: The History of the Apple Tree (published in the Atlantic Monthly, November, 1862), although he states that the practice took place on Christmas Eve, not Twelfth Night. However, he adds the note of an old practice of "apple-howling" in various counties of England on New Year's Eve where a troop of boys visits different orchards, and, encircling the trees, chant the following:
Stand fast, root! bear well, top!
Pray God send us a good howling crop:
Every twig, apples big;
Every bough, apples enow!
Then then shout in chorus, with one accompanying them on a cow's horn, and rap the trees with their sticks (this being called "wassailing" the trees):
WASSAIL the trees, that they may bear
You many a plum and many a pear:
For more or less fruits they will bring,
As you do give them wassailing.
According to a friend of this site, Ellen, wassailing of trees is still practiced in the Gloucestershire region of England.

This practice echoes one practiced by Romanians. As the housewife kneaded special holiday dough in the kitchen, her husband would pass through the house on his way to the orchard, in a vile temper. She followed anxiously behind as he passed from tree to tree, threatening to cut down each barren one. She would urge him to especially spare this one or that, saying: "Oh no, I'm sure this tree will be as heavy with fruit next year as my hands are with dough this day."

Wassailing As "Luck Visits" And Subsequent Traditions

It was only later that these traditions became associated with "luck visits" made around the neighborhood, together with general merry-making (and, as Rev. Bradley pointed out, "fortified by copious quantities of alcohol"). Soon, these traditions would merge with the waits who traveled the streets of the cities (and who were paid to sing and play during the holidays). And voila! we have a tradition: wassailing.

William Henry Husk, writing in 1868, reproduced the Wassailers' Carol (whose well known first verse begins: "Here we come a wassailing"), noting that its last verse was the same as the first verse of a carol reproduced by Ritson in Ancient Songs and Ballads (1829), which, in turn, may have been copied from a source during the reigns of James 1 (1566-1625) or Charles 1 (1600-1649). The verse was:
Good master and mistress,
While you're sitting by the fire,
Pray think of us poor children,
Who are wandering in the mire.
That being the case, the editors of the Oxford Book of Carols (OBC) suggest that Shakespeare (1564-1616) may have heard that fragment sung outside of his house at Christmas.

The wassail was not, however, absolutely confined to the Christmas season, but was used to indicate any convivial and festive meetings. Sandys quotes Shakespeare's Hamlet: —
"The king doth wake to-night, and takes his rouse,
Keeps wassel."
Indeed, says Sandys, the meetings were themselves called after them, again quoting Shakespeare, this time from Love's Labor Lost: —
“He is wit’s peddler, and retails his wares
At wakes and wassels, meetings, markets, fairs.”
Later, the meaning of wassail would become more narrow. By the way, the editors of the OBC suggest that verses two, six and seven of The Wassail Song "are not suitable when the carol is sung in church, but they give a vivid picture of the Waits of old times."

But the discussion of just one song barely scratches the surface of the rich lode of this tradition. Concerning this genre, Edith Rickert writes in 1910:

"The oldest carol known (cf. Appendix I. p. 132 - Seignors Ore Entendez À Nus; translation from Sandys: Lordings, From A Distant Home), although Anglo-Norman, embodies the Saxon phrases used in pledging. The former of these has survived in the refrain of the initial carol of this group (Wassail, Wassail, Out of the Milk Pail), which is otherwise highly religious. In the seventeenth century the wassail was a definite institution — the carrying about of a bowl of spiced ale from house to house to drink healths in expectation of a contribution. Nowadays the utterance of a "Merry Christmas' is often judged sufficient for the tip. Some of the poems here included are mere drinking-songs, but they were probably sung as carols at Christmas."

The word 'wassail' comes from the Old English "Waes hael" — that is, "Good Health!" The correct response was "Drinc hael." In Best-Loved Christmas Carols, Clancy and Studwell notes that the custom of wassailing may go back to the fifth century century, although the first mention in print was in 1140; Vortigern, mentioned below, dates to the early fifth century. Sandys believes that the custom could date to the third century.

Dr. Rickert's mention of "used in pledging" is especially interesting. William Sandys, in his 1853 work Christmas-tide includes the following passages which bear on this theme:

The wassail bowl, of which the skull of an enemy would thus appear to have formed their beau idéal, is said to have been introduced by them. Rowena, the fair daughter of Hengist, presenting the British king, Vortigern, with a bowl of wine, and saluting him with “Lord King Wass-heil;” to which he answered, as he was directed, “Drine heile,” and saluted her then after his fashion, being much smitten with her charms. The purpose of father and daughter was obtained; the king married the fair cup-bearer, and the Saxons obtained what they required of him.
This is said to have been the first wassail in this land; but, as it is evident that the form of salutation was previously known, the custom must have been much older among the Saxons; and, indeed, in one of the histories, a knight, who acts as a sort of interpreter between Rowena and the king, explains it to be an old custom among them.

By some accounts, however, the Britons are said themselves to have had their wassail bowl, or lamb’s wool — La Mas Ubhal, or day of apple fruit — as far back as the third century, made of ale, sugar (whatever their sugar was), toast and roasted crabbs, hissing in the bowl; to which, in later times, nutmeg was added.

The followers of Odin and Thor drank largely in honor of their pagan deities; and, when converted, still continued their potations, but in honor of the Virgin Mary, the Apostles, and Saints; and the early missionaries were obliged to submit to this substitution, being unable to abolish the practice, which afterwards degenerated into drinking healths of other people, to the great detriment of our own. Strange! that even from the earliest ages, the cup-bearer should be one of the principal officers in the royal presence, and that some of the high families take their name from a similar office.

Sandys writes that one of the earliest wassail songs is that introduced by Dissimulation, disguised as a religious person, in Bale’s old play of Kynge Johan [1166-1216], about the middle of the sixteenth century [e.g., circa 1538]. He brings in the cup by which the king is poisoned, stating that it “passith malmesaye, capryck, tyre, or ypocras,” and then sings —
"Wassayle, wassayle out of the mylke payle,
Wassayle, wassayle as white as my nayle,
Wassayle, wassayle in snowe, froste, and hayle,
Wassayle, wassayle with partriche and rayle,
Wassayle, wassayle that muclie doth avayle,
Wassayle, wassayle that never wylle fayle."
In Caxton’s Chronicle [circa 1480] the account of the death of King John represents the cup to have been filled with good ale; and the monk bearing it, knelt down, saying, “Syr, wassayll for euer the dayes so all lyf dronke ye of so good a cuppe.”

As we will see, there were many traditions associated with the practice of wassailing, reflecting the differing traditions of individual communities and regions.

In medieval times, as noted by Keyte and Parrott, in The Shorter New Oxford Book of Carols, wassailers had become were rural luck visitors who toasted householders from their communal bowl. Elizabeth Poston stated that it was a custom connected with children and the Waits, and which took place between Christmas and the New Year. Ian Bradley, quoting Strutt's Sports and Pastimes of the People of England, explains that the wassail bowl was formerly carried about by young women on New-year's eve, who went from door to door in their several parishes singing a few couplets of homely verses composed for the purposes, and presented the liquor to the inhabitants of the house where they called, expecting a small gratuity in return.

As the song states, wassailers wouldn't object to a bit of beer or cheese either.

all this and more from here.

Mumming is also an ancient pagan custom that was an excuse for people to have a party at Christmas! It means 'making diversion in disguise'. The tradition was that men and women would swap clothes, put on masks and go visiting their neighbours, singing, dancing or putting on a play with a silly plot. The leader or narrator of the mummers was dressed as Father Christmas.

The custom of Mumming might go back to Roman times, when people used to dress up for parties at New Year. It is thought that, in the U.K., it was first done on St. Thomas's day or the shortest day of the year.

Different types of entertainments were done in different parts of the U.K. In parts of Durham, Yorkshire and Devon a special sword dance was performed. There were also different names for mumming around the U.K. too. In Scotland it was known as 'Gusards' in Somerset, 'Mumping' in Warwickshire or 'Thomasing' and 'Corning' in Kent.

In Medieval times it had turned into an excuse for people to go begging round the houses and committing crimes. It became so bad that Henry VIII, made a law saying that anyone that was mumming wearing a mask would be put in prison for 3 months!

One poem that people said when mumming was:
Christmas is coming, the beef is getting fat,
Please drop a penny in the old mans hat.
Over the years, this was changed into a very similar poem that is said by some carol singers today:
Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat,
Please put a penny in the old mans hat.
The early settlers from the U.K. took the custom of Mumming to Canada. It is known as Murmuring in Canada, but is banned in most places because people used it as an excuse for begging.

Mumming is still done in parts of the UK, USA and Canada.

Sword dancing

Usually regarded as a type of morris, although many of the performers themselves consider it as a traditional dance form in its own right, is the sword dance tradition, which includes both rapper sword and longsword traditions. In both styles the "swords" are not actual swords, but implements specifically made for the dance. The dancers are usually linked one to another via the swords, with one end of each held by one dancer and the other end by another. Rapper sides consist of five dancers, who are permanently linked-up during the dance. The rapper sword is a very flexible strip of spring-steel with a wooden handle at each end. The longsword is about 2'6" (0.8 metres) long, with a wooden handle at one end, a blunt tip, and no edge. Longsword sides consist usually of five to eight dancers. In both rapper and longsword there is often a supernumerary 'character', who dances around, outside, and inside the set.

Nowell Sing We Clear - A Pageant of Midwinter Carols
Live at the Folk Festival, NPR Radio Broadcast 1977

Never officially released. Extended introductions to each song provide the listener with a wealth of information about these old and mysterious songs.

01 Nowell Sing We Clear
02 intro
03 The Cherry Tree Carol
04 intro to While Shepherds Watch
05 While Shepherds Watch
06 intro to Coventry Carol
07 Coventry Carol
08 intro to Divers & Lazarus
09 Divers & Lazarus
10 intro to King Herod & the Cock & The Miraculous
11 King Herod and the Cock - The Miraculous
12 intro to Joys Seven
13 Joys Seven
14 intro to The Bitter Withy
15 The Bitter Withy
16 intro to The Boar's Head Carol
17 The Boar's Head Carol
18 intro to Lord of the Dance
19 Lord of the Dance
20 program break, credits
21 Green Grow the Rushes-O
22 Intro to The Cutty Wren
23 The Cutty Wren
24 Intro to Wassailing
25 Somerset Wassail
26 intro to Pace Egging Song
27 Pace Egging Song
28 Intro to Queen Mary's Men
29 Queen Mary's Men
30 Intro to Sword Dancing
31 Sword Dance Tunes from the Village of Sleights
32 Intro to Glousteshire Wassail
33 Glousteshire Wassail
34 Intro to Apple Tree Wassail & Darby Ram
35 Apple Tree Wassail & Darby Ram
36 Closing remarks
37 The Wren / The King / Joy, Health, Love and Peace
38 outro, credits

ripped from cassette, taped from radio

And if you're not celebrating, well, have a happy Saturday!

December 20, 2010

Winter Solstice & Abbots Bromley Horn Dance

On Darkness:
The child is born in the darkness of the womb; the chicken hatched after incubation. Birth begins in darkness, as dawn follows the long night, and spring springs from winter. We must not interrupt the incubation period within us, or force it to bear fruit before its time. To pull a seed out of the earth before it sprouts, to open a chrysalis before the emerging butterfly forms its wings may prevent new life from awakening.
- Torrey Philemon

"You darkness, that I come from,
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes
a circle of light for everyone,
and then no one outside learns of you.

But the darkness pulls in everything;
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them!—
powers and people—
and it is possible a great energy
is moving near me.
I have faith in nights."
- Rainer Maria Rilke, On Darkness

Out of darkness, light: Solstice and the lunar eclipse
by Starhawk, 10-20-2010

Winter Solstice--the shortest day and longest night of the year. For Pagans, Wiccans and Goddess worshippers, this is one of our most sacred holidays. As winter closes in, the darkness grows and the light recedes. For Pagans, darkness is the necessary balance to light. We don't conceive of the dark as evil, but as a place of potential, of gestation--the black, fertile soil where the seed puts forth roots and shoots, the dark womb where new life is nurtured. But being humans, we also have a natural affinity for the light, the time of growth and new beginnings, of warmth and color and bright new hopes. Solstice reminds us that no darkness, no loss, no grief or disappointment is final. Out of darkness, light is born. Every ending gives rise to a new beginning. Out of disappointment and despair comes new courage, new hope.

This year, Solstice coincides with a total lunar eclipse. The last time this happened was in 1544. The earth aligns directly with the sun and the moon, casting a shadow on the moon's face. The moon is a Super Moon, at its closest to the earth. And, so my astrologer friends tell me, we are also directly aligned with our Milky Way's Galactic Center, where the galaxy gives birth to stars. We are in a great birth canal, on the night when mythically Mother Night gives birth to the Sun Child of the New Year.
What does this all mean? For those of you who like to align your meditations and your magic with the movements of the stars, we stand tonight between the past and the future. For the first hour and a quarter of the eclipse, (starting at 1:30 am East Coast Standard Time), it's as if we step out of time. We are free of the past, and we can consciously create the future, for ourselves, for our communities, for the earth.

It's a night to take a good look at what you want to shed. What are the behaviors, the beliefs, the patterns that no longer serve? Let them go. Make the commitment to change.

And it's a night to envision the future you want to create. What world do we want to see? How will we step up to face the huge challenges of healing our communities, our economies, our climate and our environment? What risks will we need to take? What will we need to let go of, and what will we need to embrace?

And hey, even if you think all astrology is bunkum, take a moment tonight to go out, to marvel at the moon with the mark of the earth written across her face, to let go of what you no longer need and call in what you want. And if you can do this with friends, and family, in community, with good food and a warm fire and a few candles, and raise a cup of gratitude for all we have and all we share, you may find that the courage, the support, the power, the love and luck you need for this New Year are born in the depths of the night, and awaken at dawn with the rising sun.

A blessed solstice to you all!

And with that in mind I'd like to share with you this special mysterious ancient solstice tradition that was still being performed the last time there was a full-eclipse on a winter solstice, some hundreds of years ago. I'd like to specially dedicate this post to Joski at Merlin's New Rags and Gadaya at the Old Weird America, for their superb scholarly posts and special collections of different versions of ancient folk tunes.

"Besides for solace of our people, and allurement of the savages, we were provided of Musike in good variety not omitting the least toyes, as Morris dancers, Hobby horses, and Maylike conceits to delight the Savage people, whom we intended to winne by all faire means possible."
The Abbots Bromley Horn Dance

The Abbots Bromley Horn Dance is the oldest surviving ritual dance in the northern hemisphere. The dance dates back at least to the early medieval period. The first written record of its performance is from the Barthelmy fair in 1226. Historians have suggested that it celebrates the purchase of hunting rights in Needwood Forest from the Abbot of Bromley, restoring previous Saxon privileges. It is performed every year on Wakes Monday in the village of Abbots Bromley, in the English Midlands. At 8:00 a.m. the horns are taken from the church, where they are kept during the year, and the dancers make their rounds, stopping at various locations throughout the village and its surrounding farms and pubs, a distance of about ten miles. After dancing all day, the horns are returned to the church in the evening.

The Horn Dance team consists of six Deer-men, a Fool, a Hobby Horse, Maid Marion (a man dressed as a woman), a Bowman (Robin Hood or Boy Cupid), and two musicians. The horns are a mystery. They are large reindeer horns mounted on wooden effigies of stags' heads, with the largest pair weighing about 25 pounds. Chemical dating places them at around 1000 years old. Since there are no records of reindeer living in Britain since Neolithic times, there is speculation that these may have been imported especially for the dance. Three of them are painted black, and three brown. Once they were red and white, said to represent the battle between winter and spring, darkness and light.

Does the dance represent a ritual combat between the forces of light and darkness? Or does it reenact a stylized hunt? In primitive societies, the miming of a successful hunt is often used as 'sympathetic magic' to give power over real quarry. The famous wall paintings at Les Trois Frères, France, known as "The Sorcerer" show a naked man dancing in antlers and a deer mask. A carving found at Pin Hole Cave, Creswell Crags, Derbyshire, (known to have been used by Neolithic hunters) portrays a man in an animal headdress. Both suggest that pre-historic shaman used animal disguises in their rituals.

According to the locals, the dance is supposed to bring good fortune to the people and fertility to the crops. In its slow and serpentine windings, is it stirring some ritual magic from a long-forgotten past? There is no way of knowing, and that is part of the enigma of the horn dance.

Although traditionally performed on Wakes Monday, the dance was also performed on other special occasions. For over 400 years now, the leadership of the horn dance has remained in the Bentley family. Although generally performed only by the men, in the 2000 dance Robin Hood was played by a young girl. The mysterious tune generally associated with the dance was first written down in 1857.

There are several theories concerning the roots of this peculiar festival. It may well have begun as a Winter Solstice ritual, but it has also been suggested that it was born when King Henry I (1100-1135 AD) granted hunting rights to the people of the area. The dance was supposed to have been created as a mark of gratitude.

The hunting rights theory is suspect, however, because the Horn Dance shows signs of having had a much earlier, pre-Christian beginning when magic and fertility ceremonies were very much aspects of the lives of ordinary people. It's interesting to note that some of the figures to be seen in the world-famous cave paintings at Lascaux look very like the Abbots Bromley Horn Dancers. These figures are over 20,000 years old, so perhaps the true origins of the dance you can see today at Abbots Bromley are far more ancient than most people realize.

The Abbots Bromley Variations

1. Tony Hall - The Abbot's Bromley Horn Dance
2. Martin & Jessica Simpson & Lisa Ekstrom - Abbotts Bromley Horn Dance/In Winter's Shadow
3. Andrew Cronshaw - Wheelwright Robinson's tune for the Abbots Bromley horn dance
4. Trotto - Abbotts Bromley Horn Dance
5. Leif Alpsjö - The Abbots Bromley
6. Richard Greene & Beryll Mariott - Abbot's Bromley Horn Dance

Tony Hall's and Trotto's versions are probably the most traditional forms of the tune, though one with just tin whistle and drum would be even moreso. And yes, I do realize that Jessica Simpson's voice on "In Winter's Shadow" is totally annoying. But it's a fine poem, and a damn good tune. Richard Greene's version is, unsurprisingly, totally gorgeous.

So. Turn off your lights. Go outside. Look at the moon. Then come in, light a candle, and put the tune on, and drift off into the otherworld. And at the high point of each musical phrase, imagine antlered men clashing heads, locked in a stately, solemn dance.

And, as an extra wintery bonus, some poems:

from FOUR QUARTETS: East Coker by T.S. Eliot
O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark.
The vacant interstellar spaces......
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

HAIKU by Basho
Turn this way,
I also am lonely
This evening of winter.

from OUR QUIET TIME by Nancy Wood
In our quiet time
We do not speak, because the voices are within us.
It is our quiet time.
We do not walk, because the earth is all within us.
It is our quiet time....
We rest with all of nature....

A Cheyenne Poem
I am singing the cold rain
I am singing the winter dawn
I am turning in the gray morning
Of my life
Toward home.

FIRST SNOW by mary oliver

the snow 
began here

this morning and all day

its white

rhetoric everywhere

calling us back to why,

whence such beauty and what

the meaning;

an oracular fever!
past windows,
an energy it seemed

would never ebb,
never settle

less than lovely!
and only now,

deep into night,

it has finally ended.
the silence

is immense,

and the heavens still hold

a million candles;
the familiar things:

stars, the moon, 
the darkness
we expect

and nightly turn from.
glitter like castles

of ribbons, the broad fields

smolder with light, a passing

creekbed lies

heaped with shining hills;
and though the questions

that have assailed us all day

remain--not a single

answer has been found--
walking out now

into the silence and the light

under the trees,

and through the fields,

feels like one.

- from new and selected poems.

December 12, 2010

Artist of the Beautiful

Artist of the Beautiful
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

An elderly man, with his pretty daughter on his arm, was passing along the street, and emerged from the gloom of the cloudy evening into the light that fell across the pavement from the window of a small shop. It was a projecting window; and on the inside were suspended a variety of watches, pinchbeck, silver, and one or two of gold, all with their faces turned from the streets, as if churlishly disinclined to inform the wayfarers what o'clock it was. Seated within the shop, sidelong to the window with his pale face bent earnestly over some delicate piece of mechanism on which was thrown the concentrated lustre of a shade lamp, appeared a young man.

"What can Owen Warland be about?" muttered old Peter Hovenden, himself a retired watchmaker, and the former master of this same young man whose occupation he was now wondering at. "What can the fellow be about? These six months past I have never come by his shop without seeing him just as steadily at work as now. It would be a flight beyond his usual foolery to seek for the perpetual motion; and yet I know enough of my old business to be certain that what he is now so busy with is no part of the machinery of a watch."

"Perhaps, father," said Annie, without showing much interest in the question, "Owen is inventing a new kind of timekeeper. I am sure he has ingenuity enough."

"Poh, child! He has not the sort of ingenuity to invent anything better than a Dutch toy," answered her father, who had formerly been put to much vexation by Owen Warland's irregular genius. "A plague on such ingenuity! All the effect that ever I knew of it was to spoil the accuracy of some of the best watches in my shop. He would turn the sun out of its orbit and derange the whole course of time, if, as I said before, his ingenuity could grasp anything bigger than a child's toy!"

"Hush, father! He hears you!" whispered Annie, pressing the old man's arm. "His ears are as delicate as his feelings; and you know how easily disturbed they are. Do let us move on."

So Peter Hovenden and his daughter Annie plodded on without further conversation, until in a by-street of the town they found themselves passing the open door of a blacksmith's shop. Within was seen the forge, now blazing up and illuminating the high and dusky roof, and now confining its lustre to a narrow precinct of the coal-strewn floor, according as the breath of the bellows was puffed forth or again inhaled into its vast leathern lungs. In the intervals of brightness it was easy to distinguish objects in remote corners of the shop and the horseshoes that hung upon the wall; in the momentary gloom the fire seemed to be glimmering amidst the vagueness of unenclosed space. Moving about in this red glare and alternate dusk was the figure of the blacksmith, well worthy to be viewed in so picturesque an aspect of light and shade, where the bright blaze struggled with the black night, as if each would have snatched his comely strength from the other. Anon he drew a white-hot bar of iron from the coals, laid it on the anvil, uplifted his arm of might, and was soon enveloped in the myriads of sparks which the strokes of his hammer scattered into the surrounding gloom.

"Now, that is a pleasant sight," said the old watchmaker. "I know what it is to work in gold; but give me the worker in iron after all is said and done. He spends his labor upon a reality. What say you, daughter Annie?"

"Pray don't speak so loud, father," whispered Annie, "Robert Danforth will hear you."

"And what if he should hear me?" said Peter Hovenden. "I say again, it is a good and a wholesome thing to depend upon main strength and reality, and to earn one's bread with the bare and brawny arm of a blacksmith. A watchmaker gets his brain puzzled by his wheels within a wheel, or loses his health or the nicety of his eyesight, as was my case, and finds himself at middle age, or a little after, past labor at his own trade and fit for nothing else, yet too poor to live at his ease. So I say once again, give me main strength for my money. And then, how it takes the nonsense out of a man! Did you ever hear of a blacksmith being such a fool as Owen Warland yonder?"

"Well said, uncle Hovenden!" shouted Robert Danforth from the forge, in a full, deep, merry voice, that made the roof re-echo. "And what says Miss Annie to that doctrine? She, I suppose, will think it a genteeler business to tinker up a lady's watch than to forge a horseshoe or make a gridiron."

Annie drew her father onward without giving him time for reply.

But we must return to Owen Warland's shop, and spend more meditation upon his history and character than either Peter Hovenden, or probably his daughter Annie, or Owen's old school-fellow, Robert Danforth, would have thought due to so slight a subject. From the time that his little fingers could grasp a penknife, Owen had been remarkable for a delicate ingenuity, which sometimes produced pretty shapes in wood, principally figures of flowers and birds, and sometimes seemed to aim at the hidden mysteries of mechanism. But it was always for purposes of grace, and never with any mockery of the useful. He did not, like the crowd of school-boy artisans, construct little windmills on the angle of a barn or watermills across the neighboring brook. Those who discovered such peculiarity in the boy as to think it worth their while to observe him closely, sometimes saw reason to suppose that he was attempting to imitate the beautiful movements of Nature as exemplified in the flight of birds or the activity of little animals. It seemed, in fact, a new development of the love of the beautiful, such as might have made him a poet, a painter, or a sculptor, and which was as completely refined from all utilitarian coarseness as it could have been in either of the fine arts. He looked with singular distaste at the stiff and regular processes of ordinary machinery. Being once carried to see a steam-engine, in the expectation that his intuitive comprehension of mechanical principles would be gratified, he turned pale and grew sick, as if something monstrous and unnatural had been presented to him. This horror was partly owing to the size and terrible energy of the iron laborer; for the character of Owen's mind was microscopic, and tended naturally to the minute, in accordance with his diminutive frame and the marvellous smallness and delicate power of his fingers. Not that his sense of beauty was thereby diminished into a sense of prettiness. The beautiful idea has no relation to size, and may be as perfectly developed in a space too minute for any but microscopic investigation as within the ample verge that is measured by the arc of the rainbow. But, at all events, this characteristic minuteness in his objects and accomplishments made the world even more incapable than it might otherwise have been of appreciating Owen Warland's genius. The boy's relatives saw nothing better to be done--as perhaps there was not--than to bind him apprentice to a watchmaker, hoping that his strange ingenuity might thus be regulated and put to utilitarian purposes.

Peter Hovenden's opinion of his apprentice has already been expressed. He could make nothing of the lad. Owen's apprehension of the professional mysteries, it is true, was inconceivably quick; but he altogether forgot or despised the grand object of a watchmaker's business, and cared no more for the measurement of time than if it had been merged into eternity. So long, however, as he remained under his old master's care, Owen's lack of sturdiness made it possible, by strict injunctions and sharp oversight, to restrain his creative eccentricity within bounds; but when his apprenticeship was served out, and he had taken the little shop which Peter Hovenden's failing eyesight compelled him to relinquish, then did people recognize how unfit a person was Owen Warland to lead old blind Father Time along his daily course. One of his most rational projects was to connect a musical operation with the machinery of his watches, so that all the harsh dissonances of life might be rendered tuneful, and each flitting moment fall into the abyss of the past in golden drops of harmony. If a family clock was intrusted to him for repair,--one of those tall, ancient clocks that have grown nearly allied to human nature by measuring out the lifetime of many generations,--he would take upon himself to arrange a dance or funeral procession of figures across its venerable face, representing twelve mirthful or melancholy hours. Several freaks of this kind quite destroyed the young watchmaker's credit with that steady and matter-of-fact class of people who hold the opinion that time is not to be trifled with, whether considered as the medium of advancement and prosperity in this world or preparation for the next. His custom rapidly diminished--a misfortune, however, that was probably reckoned among his better accidents by Owen Warland, who was becoming more and more absorbed in a secret occupation which drew all his science and manual dexterity into itself, and likewise gave full employment to the characteristic tendencies of his genius. This pursuit had already consumed many months.

After the old watchmaker and his pretty daughter had gazed at him out of the obscurity of the street, Owen Warland was seized with a fluttering of the nerves, which made his hand tremble too violently to proceed with such delicate labor as he was now engaged upon.

"It was Annie herself!" murmured he. "I should have known it, by this throbbing of my heart, before I heard her father's voice. Ah, how it throbs! I shall scarcely be able to work again on this exquisite mechanism to-night. Annie! dearest Annie! thou shouldst give firmness to my heart and hand, and not shake them thus; for if I strive to put the very spirit of beauty into form and give it motion, it is for thy sake alone. O throbbing heart, be quiet! If my labor be thus thwarted, there will come vague and unsatisfied dreams which will leave me spiritless to-morrow."

As he was endeavoring to settle himself again to his task, the shop door opened and gave admittance to no other than the stalwart figure which Peter Hovenden had paused to admire, as seen amid the light and shadow of the blacksmith's shop. Robert Danforth had brought a little anvil of his own manufacture, and peculiarly constructed, which the young artist had recently bespoken. Owen examined the article and pronounced it fashioned according to his wish.

"Why, yes," said Robert Danforth, his strong voice filling the shop as with the sound of a bass viol, "I consider myself equal to anything in the way of my own trade; though I should have made but a poor figure at yours with such a fist as this," added he, laughing, as he laid his vast hand beside the delicate one of Owen. "But what then? I put more main strength into one blow of my sledge hammer than all that you have expended since you were a 'prentice. Is not that the truth?"

"Very probably," answered the low and slender voice of Owen. "Strength is an earthly monster. I make no pretensions to it. My force, whatever there may be of it, is altogether spiritual."

"Well, but, Owen, what are you about?" asked his old school-fellow, still in such a hearty volume of tone that it made the artist shrink, especially as the question related to a subject so sacred as the absorbing dream of his imagination. "Folks do say that you are trying to discover the perpetual motion."

"The perpetual motion? Nonsense!" replied Owen Warland, with a movement of disgust; for he was full of little petulances. "It can never be discovered. It is a dream that may delude men whose brains are mystified with matter, but not me. Besides, if such a discovery were possible, it would not be worth my while to make it only to have the secret turned to such purposes as are now effected by steam and water power. I am not ambitious to be honored with the paternity of a new kind of cotton machine."

"That would be droll enough!" cried the blacksmith, breaking out into such an uproar of laughter that Owen himself and the bell glasses on his work-board quivered in unison. "No, no, Owen! No child of yours will have iron joints and sinews. Well, I won't hinder you any more. Good night, Owen, and success, and if you need any assistance, so far as a downright blow of hammer upon anvil will answer the purpose, I'm your man."

And with another laugh the man of main strength left the shop.

"How strange it is," whispered Owen Warland to himself, leaning his head upon his hand, "that all my musings, my purposes, my passion for the beautiful, my consciousness of power to create it,--a finer, more ethereal power, of which this earthly giant can have no conception,--all, all, look so vain and idle whenever my path is crossed by Robert Danforth! He would drive me mad were I to meet him often. His hard, brute force darkens and confuses the spiritual element within me; but I, too, will be strong in my own way. I will not yield to him."

He took from beneath a glass a piece of minute machinery, which he set in the condensed light of his lamp, and, looking intently at it through a magnifying glass, proceeded to operate with a delicate instrument of steel. In an instant, however, he fell back in his chair and clasped his hands, with a look of horror on his face that made its small features as impressive as those of a giant would have been.

"Heaven! What have I done?" exclaimed he. "The vapor, the influence of that brute force,--it has bewildered me and obscured my perception. I have made the very stroke--the fatal stroke--that I have dreaded from the first. It is all over--the toil of months, the object of my life. I am ruined!"

And there he sat, in strange despair, until his lamp flickered in the socket and left the Artist of the Beautiful in darkness.

Thus it is that ideas, which grow up within the imagination and appear so lovely to it and of a value beyond whatever men call valuable, are exposed to be shattered and annihilated by contact with the practical. It is requisite for the ideal artist to possess a force of character that seems hardly compatible with its delicacy; he must keep his faith in himself while the incredulous world assails him with its utter disbelief; he must stand up against mankind and be his own sole disciple, both as respects his genius and the objects to which it is directed.

For a time Owen Warland succumbed to this severe but inevitable test. He spent a few sluggish weeks with his head so continually resting in his hands that the towns-people had scarcely an opportunity to see his countenance. When at last it was again uplifted to the light of day, a cold, dull, nameless change was perceptible upon it. In the opinion of Peter Hovenden, however, and that order of sagacious understandings who think that life should be regulated, like clockwork, with leaden weights, the alteration was entirely for the better. Owen now, indeed, applied himself to business with dogged industry. It was marvellous to witness the obtuse gravity with which he would inspect the wheels of a great old silver watch thereby delighting the owner, in whose fob it had been worn till he deemed it a portion of his own life, and was accordingly jealous of its treatment. In consequence of the good report thus acquired, Owen Warland was invited by the proper authorities to regulate the clock in the church steeple. He succeeded so admirably in this matter of public interest that the merchants gruffly acknowledged his merits on 'Change; the nurse whispered his praises as she gave the potion in the sick-chamber; the lover blessed him at the hour of appointed interview; and the town in general thanked Owen for the punctuality of dinner time. In a word, the heavy weight upon his spirits kept everything in order, not merely within his own system, but wheresoever the iron accents of the church clock were audible. It was a circumstance, though minute, yet characteristic of his present state, that, when employed to engrave names or initials on silver spoons, he now wrote the requisite letters in the plainest possible style, omitting a variety of fanciful flourishes that had heretofore distinguished his work in this kind.

One day, during the era of this happy transformation, old Peter Hovenden came to visit his former apprentice.

"Well, Owen," said he, "I am glad to hear such good accounts of you from all quarters, and especially from the town clock yonder, which speaks in your commendation every hour of the twenty-four. Only get rid altogether of your nonsensical trash about the beautiful, which I nor nobody else, nor yourself to boot, could ever understand,--only free yourself of that, and your success in life is as sure as daylight. Why, if you go on in this way, I should even venture to let you doctor this precious old watch of mine; though, except my daughter Annie, I have nothing else so valuable in the world."

"I should hardly dare touch it, sir," replied Owen, in a depressed tone; for he was weighed down by his old master's presence.

"In time," said the latter,--"In time, you will be capable of it."

The old watchmaker, with the freedom naturally consequent on his former authority, went on inspecting the work which Owen had in hand at the moment, together with other matters that were in progress. The artist, meanwhile, could scarcely lift his head. There was nothing so antipodal to his nature as this man's cold, unimaginative sagacity, by contact with which everything was converted into a dream except the densest matter of the physical world. Owen groaned in spirit and prayed fervently to be delivered from him.

"But what is this?" cried Peter Hovenden abruptly, taking up a dusty bell glass, beneath which appeared a mechanical something, as delicate and minute as the system of a butterfly's anatomy. "What have we here? Owen! Owen! there is witchcraft in these little chains, and wheels, and paddles. See! with one pinch of my finger and thumb I am going to deliver you from all future peril."

"For Heaven's sake," screamed Owen Warland, springing up with wonderful energy, "as you would not drive me mad, do not touch it! The slightest pressure of your finger would ruin me forever."

"Aha, young man! And is it so?" said the old watchmaker, looking at him with just enough penetration to torture Owen's soul with the bitterness of worldly criticism. "Well, take your own course; but I warn you again that in this small piece of mechanism lives your evil spirit. Shall I exorcise him?"

"You are my evil spirit," answered Owen, much excited,--"you and the hard, coarse world! The leaden thoughts and the despondency that you fling upon me are my clogs, else I should long ago have achieved the task that I was created for."

Peter Hovenden shook his head, with the mixture of contempt and indignation which mankind, of whom he was partly a representative, deem themselves entitled to feel towards all simpletons who seek other prizes than the dusty one along the highway. He then took his leave, with an uplifted finger and a sneer upon his face that haunted the artist's dreams for many a night afterwards. At the time of his old master's visit, Owen was probably on the point of taking up the relinquished task; but, by this sinister event, he was thrown back into the state whence he had been slowly emerging.

But the innate tendency of his soul had only been accumulating fresh vigor during its apparent sluggishness. As the summer advanced he almost totally relinquished his business, and permitted Father Time, so far as the old gentleman was represented by the clocks and watches under his control, to stray at random through human life, making infinite confusion among the train of bewildered hours. He wasted the sunshine, as people said, in wandering through the woods and fields and along the banks of streams. There, like a child, he found amusement in chasing butterflies or watching the motions of water insects. There was something truly mysterious in the intentness with which he contemplated these living playthings as they sported on the breeze or examined the structure of an imperial insect whom he had imprisoned. The chase of butterflies was an apt emblem of the ideal pursuit in which he had spent so many golden hours; but would the beautiful idea ever be yielded to his hand like the butterfly that symbolized it? Sweet, doubtless, were these days, and congenial to the artist's soul. They were full of bright conceptions, which gleamed through his intellectual world as the butterflies gleamed through the outward atmosphere, and were real to him, for the instant, without the toil, and perplexity, and many disappointments of attempting to make them visible to the sensual eye. Alas that the artist, whether in poetry, or whatever other material, may not content himself with the inward enjoyment of the beautiful, but must chase the flitting mystery beyond the verge of his ethereal domain, and crush its frail being in seizing it with a material grasp. Owen Warland felt the impulse to give external reality to his ideas as irresistibly as any of the poets or painters who have arrayed the world in a dimmer and fainter beauty, imperfectly copied from the richness of their visions.

The night was now his time for the slow progress of re-creating the one idea to which all his intellectual activity referred itself. Always at the approach of dusk he stole into the town, locked himself within his shop, and wrought with patient delicacy of touch for many hours. Sometimes he was startled by the rap of the watchman, who, when all the world should be asleep, had caught the gleam of lamplight through the crevices of Owen Warland's shutters. Daylight, to the morbid sensibility of his mind, seemed to have an intrusiveness that interfered with his pursuits. On cloudy and inclement days, therefore, he sat with his head upon his hands, muffling, as it were, his sensitive brain in a mist of indefinite musings, for it was a relief to escape from the sharp distinctness with which he was compelled to shape out his thoughts during his nightly toil.

From one of these fits of torpor he was aroused by the entrance of Annie Hovenden, who came into the shop with the freedom of a customer, and also with something of the familiarity of a childish friend. She had worn a hole through her silver thimble, and wanted Owen to repair it.

"But I don't know whether you will condescend to such a task," said she, laughing, "now that you are so taken up with the notion of putting spirit into machinery."

"Where did you get that idea, Annie?" said Owen, starting in surprise.

"Oh, out of my own head," answered she, "and from something that I heard you say, long ago, when you were but a boy and I a little child. But come, will you mend this poor thimble of mine?"

"Anything for your sake, Annie," said Owen Warland,--"anything, even were it to work at Robert Danforth's forge."

"And that would be a pretty sight!" retorted Annie, glancing with imperceptible slightness at the artist's small and slender frame. "Well; here is the thimble."

"But that is a strange idea of yours," said Owen, "about the spiritualization of matter."

And then the thought stole into his mind that this young girl possessed the gift to comprehend him better than all the world besides. And what a help and strength would it be to him in his lonely toil if he could gain the sympathy of the only being whom he loved! To persons whose pursuits are insulated from the common business of life--who are either in advance of mankind or apart from it--there often comes a sensation of moral cold that makes the spirit shiver as if it had reached the frozen solitudes around the pole. What the prophet, the poet, the reformer, the criminal, or any other man with human yearnings, but separated from the multitude by a peculiar lot, might feel, poor Owen felt.

"Annie," cried he, growing pale as death at the thought, "how gladly would I tell you the secret of my pursuit! You, methinks, would estimate it rightly. You, I know, would hear it with a reverence that I must not expect from the harsh, material world."

"Would I not? to be sure I would!" replied Annie Hovenden, lightly laughing. "Come; explain to me quickly what is the meaning of this little whirligig, so delicately wrought that it might be a plaything for Queen Mab. See! I will put it in motion."

"Hold!" exclaimed Owen, "hold!"

Annie had but given the slightest possible touch, with the point of a needle, to the same minute portion of complicated machinery which has been more than once mentioned, when the artist seized her by the wrist with a force that made her scream aloud. She was affrighted at the convulsion of intense rage and anguish that writhed across his features. The next instant he let his head sink upon his hands.

"Go, Annie," murmured he; "I have deceived myself, and must suffer for it. I yearned for sympathy, and thought, and fancied, and dreamed that you might give it me; but you lack the talisman, Annie, that should admit you into my secrets. That touch has undone the toil of months and the thought of a lifetime! It was not your fault, Annie; but you have ruined me!"

Poor Owen Warland! He had indeed erred, yet pardonably; for if any human spirit could have sufficiently reverenced the processes so sacred in his eyes, it must have been a woman's. Even Annie Hovenden, possibly might not have disappointed him had she been enlightened by the deep intelligence of love.

The artist spent the ensuing winter in a way that satisfied any persons who had hitherto retained a hopeful opinion of him that he was, in truth, irrevocably doomed to unutility as regarded the world, and to an evil destiny on his own part. The decease of a relative had put him in possession of a small inheritance. Thus freed from the necessity of toil, and having lost the steadfast influence of a great purpose,--great, at least, to him,--he abandoned himself to habits from which it might have been supposed the mere delicacy of his organization would have availed to secure him. But when the ethereal portion of a man of genius is obscured the earthly part assumes an influence the more uncontrollable, because the character is now thrown off the balance to which Providence had so nicely adjusted it, and which, in coarser natures, is adjusted by some other method. Owen Warland made proof of whatever show of bliss may be found in riot. He looked at the world through the golden medium of wine, and contemplated the visions that bubble up so gayly around the brim of the glass, and that people the air with shapes of pleasant madness, which so soon grow ghostly and forlorn. Even when this dismal and inevitable change had taken place, the young man might still have continued to quaff the cup of enchantments, though its vapor did but shroud life in gloom and fill the gloom with spectres that mocked at him. There was a certain irksomeness of spirit, which, being real, and the deepest sensation of which the artist was now conscious, was more intolerable than any fantastic miseries and horrors that the abuse of wine could summon up. In the latter case he could remember, even out of the midst of his trouble, that all was but a delusion; in the former, the heavy anguish was his actual life.

From this perilous state he was redeemed by an incident which more than one person witnessed, but of which the shrewdest could not explain or conjecture the operation on Owen Warland's mind. It was very simple. On a warm afternoon of spring, as the artist sat among his riotous companions with a glass of wine before him, a splendid butterfly flew in at the open window and fluttered about his head.

"Ah," exclaimed Owen, who had drank freely, "are you alive again, child of the sun and playmate of the summer breeze, after your dismal winter's nap? Then it is time for me to be at work!"

And, leaving his unemptied glass upon the table, he departed and was never known to sip another drop of wine.

And now, again, he resumed his wanderings in the woods and fields. It might be fancied that the bright butterfly, which had come so spirit-like into the window as Owen sat with the rude revellers, was indeed a spirit commissioned to recall him to the pure, ideal life that had so etheralized him among men. It might be fancied that he went forth to seek this spirit in its sunny haunts; for still, as in the summer time gone by, he was seen to steal gently up wherever a butterfly had alighted, and lose himself in contemplation of it. When it took flight his eyes followed the winged vision, as if its airy track would show the path to heaven. But what could be the purpose of the unseasonable toil, which was again resumed, as the watchman knew by the lines of lamplight through the crevices of Owen Warland's shutters? The towns-people had one comprehensive explanation of all these singularities. Owen Warland had gone mad! How universally efficacious--how satisfactory, too, and soothing to the injured sensibility of narrowness and dulness--is this easy method of accounting for whatever lies beyond the world's most ordinary scope! From St. Paul's days down to our poor little Artist of the Beautiful, the same talisman had been applied to the elucidation of all mysteries in the words or deeds of men who spoke or acted too wisely or too well. In Owen Warland's case the judgment of his towns-people may have been correct. Perhaps he was mad. The lack of sympathy--that contrast between himself and his neighbors which took away the restraint of example--was enough to make him so. Or possibly he had caught just so much of ethereal radiance as served to bewilder him, in an earthly sense, by its intermixture with the common daylight.

One evening, when the artist had returned from a customary ramble and had just thrown the lustre of his lamp on the delicate piece of work so often interrupted, but still taken up again, as if his fate were embodied in its mechanism, he was surprised by the entrance of old Peter Hovenden. Owen never met this man without a shrinking of the heart. Of all the world he was most terrible, by reason of a keen understanding which saw so distinctly what it did see, and disbelieved so uncompromisingly in what it could not see. On this occasion the old watchmaker had merely a gracious word or two to say.

"Owen, my lad," said he, "we must see you at my house to-morrow night."

The artist began to mutter some excuse.

"Oh, but it must be so," quoth Peter Hovenden, "for the sake of the days when you were one of the household. What, my boy! don't you know that my daughter Annie is engaged to Robert Danforth? We are making an entertainment, in our humble way, to celebrate the event."

That little monosyllable was all he uttered; its tone seemed cold and unconcerned to an ear like Peter Hovenden's; and yet there was in it the stifled outcry of the poor artist's heart, which he compressed within him like a man holding down an evil spirit. One slight outbreak. however, imperceptible to the old watchmaker, he allowed himself. Raising the instrument with which he was about to begin his work, he let it fall upon the little system of machinery that had, anew, cost him months of thought and toil. It was shattered by the stroke!

Owen Warland's story would have been no tolerable representation of the troubled life of those who strive to create the beautiful, if, amid all other thwarting influences, love had not interposed to steal the cunning from his hand. Outwardly he had been no ardent or enterprising lover; the career of his passion had confined its tumults and vicissitudes so entirely within the artist's imagination that Annie herself had scarcely more than a woman's intuitive perception of it; but, in Owen's view, it covered the whole field of his life. Forgetful of the time when she had shown herself incapable of any deep response, he had persisted in connecting all his dreams of artistical success with Annie's image; she was the visible shape in which the spiritual power that he worshipped, and on whose altar he hoped to lay a not unworthy offering, was made manifest to him. Of course he had deceived himself; there were no such attributes in Annie Hovenden as his imagination had endowed her with. She, in the aspect which she wore to his inward vision, was as much a creature of his own as the mysterious piece of mechanism would be were it ever realized. Had he become convinced of his mistake through the medium of successful love,--had he won Annie to his bosom, and there beheld her fade from angel into ordinary woman,--the disappointment might have driven him back, with concentrated energy, upon his sole remaining object. On the other hand, had he found Annie what he fancied, his lot would have been so rich in beauty that out of its mere redundancy he might have wrought the beautiful into many a worthier type than he had toiled for; but the guise in which his sorrow came to him, the sense that the angel of his life had been snatched away and given to a rude man of earth and iron, who could neither need nor appreciate her ministrations,--this was the very perversity of fate that makes human existence appear too absurd and contradictory to be the scene of one other hope or one other fear. There was nothing left for Owen Warland but to sit down like a man that had been stunned.

He went through a fit of illness. After his recovery his small and slender frame assumed an obtuser garniture of flesh than it had ever before worn. His thin cheeks became round; his delicate little hand, so spiritually fashioned to achieve fairy task-work, grew plumper than the hand of a thriving infant. His aspect had a childishness such as might have induced a stranger to pat him on the head--pausing, however, in the act, to wonder what manner of child was here. It was as if the spirit had gone out of him, leaving the body to flourish in a sort of vegetable existence. Not that Owen Warland was idiotic. He could talk, and not irrationally. Somewhat of a babbler, indeed, did people begin to think him; for he was apt to discourse at wearisome length of marvels of mechanism that he had read about in books, but which he had learned to consider as absolutely fabulous. Among them he enumerated the Man of Brass, constructed by Albertus Magnus, and the Brazen Head of Friar Bacon; and, coming down to later times, the automata of a little coach and horses, which it was pretended had been manufactured for the Dauphin of France; together with an insect that buzzed about the ear like a living fly, and yet was but a contrivance of minute steel springs. There was a story, too, of a duck that waddled, and quacked, and ate; though, had any honest citizen purchased it for dinner, he would have found himself cheated with the mere mechanical apparition of a duck.

"But all these accounts," said Owen Warland, "I am now satisfied are mere impositions."

Then, in a mysterious way, he would confess that he once thought differently. In his idle and dreamy days he had considered it possible, in a certain sense, to spiritualize machinery, and to combine with the new species of life and motion thus produced a beauty that should attain to the ideal which Nature has proposed to herself in all her creatures, but has never taken pains to realize. He seemed, however, to retain no very distinct perception either of the process of achieving this object or of the design itself.

"I have thrown it all aside now," he would say. "It was a dream such as young men are always mystifying themselves with. Now that I have acquired a little common sense, it makes me laugh to think of it."

Poor, poor and fallen Owen Warland! These were the symptoms that he had ceased to be an inhabitant of the better sphere that lies unseen around us. He had lost his faith in the invisible, and now prided himself, as such unfortunates invariably do, in the wisdom which rejected much that even his eye could see, and trusted confidently in nothing but what his hand could touch. This is the calamity of men whose spiritual part dies out of them and leaves the grosser understanding to assimilate them more and more to the things of which alone it can take cognizance; but in Owen Warland the spirit was not dead nor passed away; it only slept.

How it awoke again is not recorded. Perhaps the torpid slumber was broken by a convulsive pain. Perhaps, as in a former instance, the butterfly came and hovered about his head and reinspired him,--as indeed this creature of the sunshine had always a mysterious mission for the artist,--reinspired him with the former purpose of his life. Whether it were pain or happiness that thrilled through his veins, his first impulse was to thank Heaven for rendering him again the being of thought, imagination, and keenest sensibility that he had long ceased to be.

"Now for my task," said he. "Never did I feel such strength for it as now."

Yet, strong as he felt himself, he was incited to toil the more diligently by an anxiety lest death should surprise him in the midst of his labors. This anxiety, perhaps, is common to all men who set their hearts upon anything so high, in their own view of it, that life becomes of importance only as conditional to its accomplishment. So long as we love life for itself, we seldom dread the losing it. When we desire life for the attainment of an object, we recognize the frailty of its texture. But, side by side with this sense of insecurity, there is a vital faith in our invulnerability to the shaft of death while engaged in any task that seems assigned by Providence as our proper thing to do, and which the world would have cause to mourn for should we leave it unaccomplished. Can the philosopher, big with the inspiration of an idea that is to reform mankind, believe that he is to be beckoned from this sensible existence at the very instant when he is mustering his breath to speak the word of light? Should he perish so, the weary ages may pass away--the world's, whose life sand may fall, drop by drop--before another intellect is prepared to develop the truth that might have been uttered then. But history affords many an example where the most precious spirit, at any particular epoch manifested in human shape, has gone hence untimely, without space allowed him, so far as mortal judgment could discern, to perform his mission on the earth. The prophet dies, and the man of torpid heart and sluggish brain lives on. The poet leaves his song half sung, or finishes it, beyond the scope of mortal ears, in a celestial choir. The painter--as Allston did--leaves half his conception on the canvas to sadden us with its imperfect beauty, and goes to picture forth the whole, if it be no irreverence to say so, in the hues of heaven. But rather such incomplete designs of this life will be perfected nowhere. This so frequent abortion of man's dearest projects must be taken as a proof that the deeds of earth, however etherealized by piety or genius, are without value, except as exercises and manifestations of the spirit. In heaven, all ordinary thought is higher and more melodious than Milton's song. Then, would he add another verse to any strain that he had left unfinished here?

But to return to Owen Warland. It was his fortune, good or ill, to achieve the purpose of his life. Pass we over a long space of intense thought, yearning effort, minute toil, and wasting anxiety, succeeded by an instant of solitary triumph: let all this be imagined; and then behold the artist, on a winter evening, seeking admittance to Robert Danforth's fireside circle. There he found the man of iron, with his massive substance thoroughly warmed and attempered by domestic influences. And there was Annie, too, now transformed into a matron, with much of her husband's plain and sturdy nature, but imbued, as Owen Warland still believed, with a finer grace, that might enable her to be the interpreter between strength and beauty. It happened, likewise, that old Peter Hovenden was a guest this evening at his daughter's fireside, and it was his well-remembered expression of keen, cold criticism that first encountered the artist's glance.

"My old friend Owen!" cried Robert Danforth, starting up, and compressing the artist's delicate fingers within a hand that was accustomed to gripe bars of iron. "This is kind and neighborly to come to us at last. I was afraid your perpetual motion had bewitched you out of the remembrance of old times."

"We are glad to see you," said Annie, while a blush reddened her matronly cheek. "It was not like a friend to stay from us so long."

"Well, Owen," inquired the old watchmaker, as his first greeting, "how comes on the beautiful? Have you created it at last?"

The artist did not immediately reply, being startled by the apparition of a young child of strength that was tumbling about on the carpet,--a little personage who had come mysteriously out of the infinite, but with something so sturdy and real in his composition that he seemed moulded out of the densest substance which earth could supply. This hopeful infant crawled towards the new-comer, and setting himself on end, as Robert Danforth expressed the posture, stared at Owen with a look of such sagacious observation that the mother could not help exchanging a proud glance with her husband. But the artist was disturbed by the child's look, as imagining a resemblance between it and Peter Hovenden's habitual expression. He could have fancied that the old watchmaker was compressed into this baby shape, and looking out of those baby eyes, and repeating, as he now did, the malicious question: "The beautiful, Owen! How comes on the beautiful? Have you succeeded in creating the beautiful?"

"I have succeeded," replied the artist, with a momentary light of triumph in his eyes and a smile of sunshine, yet steeped in such depth of thought that it was almost sadness. "Yes, my friends, it is the truth. I have succeeded."

"Indeed!" cried Annie, a look of maiden mirthfulness peeping out of her face again. "And is it lawful, now, to inquire what the secret is?"

"Surely; it is to disclose it that I have come," answered Owen Warland. "You shall know, and see, and touch, and possess the secret! For, Annie,--if by that name I may still address the friend of my boyish years,--Annie, it is for your bridal gift that I have wrought this spiritualized mechanism, this harmony of motion, this mystery of beauty. It comes late, indeed; but it is as we go onward in life, when objects begin to lose their freshness of hue and our souls their delicacy of perception, that the spirit of beauty is most needed. If,--forgive me, Annie,--if you know how--to value this gift, it can never come too late."

He produced, as he spoke, what seemed a jewel box. It was carved richly out of ebony by his own hand, and inlaid with a fanciful tracery of pearl, representing a boy in pursuit of a butterfly, which, elsewhere, had become a winged spirit, and was flying heavenward; while the boy, or youth, had found such efficacy in his strong desire that he ascended from earth to cloud, and from cloud to celestial atmosphere, to win the beautiful. This case of ebony the artist opened, and bade Annie place her fingers on its edge. She did so, but almost screamed as a butterfly fluttered forth, and, alighting on her finger's tip, sat waving the ample magnificence of its purple and gold-speckled wings, as if in prelude to a flight. It is impossible to express by words the glory, the splendor, the delicate gorgeousness which were softened into the beauty of this object. Nature's ideal butterfly was here realized in all its perfection; not in the pattern of such faded insects as flit among earthly flowers, but of those which hover across the meads of paradise for child-angels and the spirits of departed infants to disport themselves with. The rich down was visible upon its wings; the lustre of its eyes seemed instinct with spirit. The firelight glimmered around this wonder--the candles gleamed upon it; but it glistened apparently by its own radiance, and illuminated the finger and outstretched hand on which it rested with a white gleam like that of precious stones. In its perfect beauty, the consideration of size was entirely lost. Had its wings overreached the firmament, the mind could not have been more filled or satisfied.

"Beautiful! beautiful!" exclaimed Annie. "Is it alive? Is it alive?"

"Alive? To be sure it is," answered her husband. "Do you suppose any mortal has skill enough to make a butterfly, or would put himself to the trouble of making one, when any child may catch a score of them in a summer's afternoon? Alive? Certainly! But this pretty box is undoubtedly of our friend Owen's manufacture; and really it does him credit."

At this moment the butterfly waved its wings anew, with a motion so absolutely lifelike that Annie was startled, and even awestricken; for, in spite of her husband's opinion, she could not satisfy herself whether it was indeed a living creature or a piece of wondrous mechanism.

"Is it alive?" she repeated, more earnestly than before.

"Judge for yourself," said Owen Warland, who stood gazing in her face with fixed attention.

The butterfly now flung itself upon the air, fluttered round Annie's head, and soared into a distant region of the parlor, still making itself perceptible to sight by the starry gleam in which the motion of its wings enveloped it. The infant on the floor followed its course with his sagacious little eyes. After flying about the room, it returned in a spiral curve and settled again on Annie's finger.

"But is it alive?" exclaimed she again; and the finger on which the gorgeous mystery had alighted was so tremulous that the butterfly was forced to balance himself with his wings. "Tell me if it be alive, or whether you created it."

"Wherefore ask who created it, so it be beautiful?" replied Owen Warland. "Alive? Yes, Annie; it may well be said to possess life, for it has absorbed my own being into itself; and in the secret of that butterfly, and in its beauty,--which is not merely outward, but deep as its whole system,--is represented the intellect, the imagination, the sensibility, the soul of an Artist of the Beautiful! Yes; I created it. But"--and here his countenance somewhat changed--"this butterfly is not now to me what it was when I beheld it afar off in the daydreams of my youth."

"Be it what it may, it is a pretty plaything," said the blacksmith, grinning with childlike delight. "I wonder whether it would condescend to alight on such a great clumsy finger as mine? Hold it hither, Annie."

By the artist's direction, Annie touched her finger's tip to that of her husband; and, after a momentary delay, the butterfly fluttered from one to the other. It preluded a second flight by a similar, yet not precisely the same, waving of wings as in the first experiment; then, ascending from the blacksmith's stalwart finger, it rose in a gradually enlarging curve to the ceiling, made one wide sweep around the room, and returned with an undulating movement to the point whence it had started.

"Well, that does beat all nature!" cried Robert Danforth, bestowing the heartiest praise that he could find expression for; and, indeed, had he paused there, a man of finer words and nicer perception could not easily have said more. "That goes beyond me, I confess. But what then? There is more real use in one downright blow of my sledge hammer than in the whole five years' labor that our friend Owen has wasted on this butterfly."

Here the child clapped his hands and made a great babble of indistinct utterance, apparently demanding that the butterfly should be given him for a plaything.

Owen Warland, meanwhile, glanced sidelong at Annie, to discover whether she sympathized in her husband's estimate of the comparative value of the beautiful and the practical. There was, amid all her kindness towards himself, amid all the wonder and admiration with which she contemplated the marvellous work of his hands and incarnation of his idea, a secret scorn--too secret, perhaps, for her own consciousness, and perceptible only to such intuitive discernment as that of the artist. But Owen, in the latter stages of his pursuit, had risen out of the region in which such a discovery might have been torture. He knew that the world, and Annie as the representative of the world, whatever praise might be bestowed, could never say the fitting word nor feel the fitting sentiment which should be the perfect recompense of an artist who, symbolizing a lofty moral by a material trifle,--converting what was earthly to spiritual gold,--had won the beautiful into his handiwork. Not at this latest moment was he to learn that the reward of all high performance must be sought within itself, or sought in vain. There was, however, a view of the matter which Annie and her husband, and even Peter Hovenden, might fully have understood, and which would have satisfied them that the toil of years had here been worthily bestowed. Owen Warland might have told them that this butterfly, this plaything, this bridal gift of a poor watchmaker to a blacksmith's wife, was, in truth, a gem of art that a monarch would have purchased with honors and abundant wealth, and have treasured it among the jewels of his kingdom as the most unique and wondrous of them all. But the artist smiled and kept the secret to himself .

"Father," said Annie, thinking that a word of praise from the old watchmaker might gratify his former apprentice, "do come and admire this pretty butterfly."

"Let us see," said Peter Hovenden, rising from his chair, with a sneer upon his face that always made people doubt, as he himself did, in everything but a material existence. "Here is my finger for it to alight upon. I shall understand it better when once I have touched it."

But, to the increased astonishment of Annie, when the tip of her father's finger was pressed against that of her husband, on which the butterfly still rested, the insect drooped its wings and seemed on the point of falling to the floor. Even the bright spots of gold upon its wings and body, unless her eyes deceived her, grew dim, and the glowing purple took a dusky hue, and the starry lustre that gleamed around the blacksmith's hand became faint and vanished.

"It is dying! it is dying!" cried Annie, in alarm.

"It has been delicately wrought," said the artist, calmly. "As I told you, it has imbibed a spiritual essence--call it magnetism, or what you will. In an atmosphere of doubt and mockery its exquisite susceptibility suffers torture, as does the soul of him who instilled his own life into it. It has already lost its beauty; in a few moments more its mechanism would be irreparably injured."

"Take away your hand, father!" entreated Annie, turning pale. "Here is my child; let it rest on his innocent hand. There, perhaps, its life will revive and its colors grow brighter than ever."

Her father, with an acrid smile, withdrew his finger. The butterfly then appeared to recover the power of voluntary motion, while its hues assumed much of their original lustre, and the gleam of starlight, which was its most ethereal attribute, again formed a halo round about it. At first, when transferred from Robert Danforth's hand to the small finger of the child, this radiance grew so powerful that it positively threw the little fellow's shadow back against the wall. He, meanwhile, extended his plump hand as he had seen his father and mother do, and watched the waving of the insect's wings with infantine delight. Nevertheless, there was a certain odd expression of sagacity that made Owen Warland feel as if here were old Pete Hovenden, partially, and but partially, redeemed from his hard scepticism into childish faith.

"How wise the little monkey looks!" whispered Robert Danforth to his wife.

"I never saw such a look on a child's face," answered Annie, admiring her own infant, and with good reason, far more than the artistic butterfly. "The darling knows more of the mystery than we do."

As if the butterfly, like the artist, were conscious of something not entirely congenial in the child's nature, it alternately sparkled and grew dim. At length it arose from the small hand of the infant with an airy motion that seemed to bear it upward without an effort, as if the ethereal instincts with which its master's spirit had endowed it impelled this fair vision involuntarily to a higher sphere. Had there been no obstruction, it might have soared into the sky and grown immortal. But its lustre gleamed upon the ceiling; the exquisite texture of its wings brushed against that earthly medium; and a sparkle or two, as of stardust, floated downward and lay glimmering on the carpet. Then the butterfly came fluttering down, and, instead of returning to the infant, was apparently attracted towards the artist's hand.

"Not so! not so!" murmured Owen Warland, as if his handiwork could have understood him. "Thou has gone forth out of thy master's heart. There is no return for thee."

With a wavering movement, and emitting a tremulous radiance, the butterfly struggled, as it were, towards the infant, and was about to alight upon his finger; but while it still hovered in the air, the little child of strength, with his grandsire's sharp and shrewd expression in his face, made a snatch at the marvellous insect and compressed it in his hand. Annie screamed. Old Peter Hovenden burst into a cold and scornful laugh. The blacksmith, by main force, unclosed the infant's hand, and found within the palm a small heap of glittering fragments, whence the mystery of beauty had fled forever. And as for Owen Warland, he looked placidly at what seemed the ruin of his life's labor, and which was yet no ruin. He had caught a far other butterfly than this. When the artist rose high enough to achieve the beautiful, the symbol by which he made it perceptible to mortal senses became of little value in his eyes while his spirit possessed itself in the enjoyment of the reality.