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LXVI. THE OLD BATTLE-FIELD.
1. ONCE upon a time, it matters little when, and in stalwart England, it matters little where, a fierce battle was fought. It was fought upon a long summer day when the waving grass was green. Many a wild flower, formed by the almighty Hand to be a perfumed goblet for the dew, felt its enameled cup filled high with blood that day, and shrinking dropped. Many an insect deriving its delicate color from harmless leaves and herbs was stained anew that day by dying men, and marked its frightened way with an unnatural track. The painted butterfly took blood into the air upon the edges of its wings. The stream ran red. The trodden ground became a quagmire whence, from sullen pools collected in the prints of human feet and horses' hoofs, the one prevailing hue still glimmered in the sun.
2. Heaven keep us from a knowledge of the sights the moon beheld upon that field when, coming up above the black line of distant rising ground, softened and blurred at the edge by trees, she rose into the sky and looked upon the plain, strewn with upturned faces that had once at mothers' breasts sought mothers' eyes, or slumbered happily. Heaven keep us from a knowledge of the secrets whispered afterward upon the tainted wind that blew across the scene of that day's work and that night's death and suffering. Many a lonely moon was bright upon the battle-ground, and many a star kept mournful watch upon it, and many a wind from every quarter of the earth blew over it, before the traces of the fight were worn away.
3. They lurked and lingered for a long time, but survived in little things, for Nature, far above the evil passions of men, soon recovered her serenity and smiled upon the guilty battleground as she had done before, when it was innocent. The larks sang high above it, the swallows skimmed and dipped and flitted to and fro, the shadows of the flying clouds pursued each other swiftly over grass and corn and turnip-field and wood, and over roof and church-spire in the nestling town
among the trees, away into the bright distance on the borders of the sky and earth, where the red sunsets faded.
4. Crops were sown and grew up and were gathered in; the stream that had been crimsoned turned a water-mill; men whistled at the plow; gleaners and haymakers were seen in quiet groups at work; sheep and oxen pastured; boys whooped and called in fields to scare away the birds; smoke rose from cottage chimneys; Sabbath bells rang peacefully; old people lived and died; the timid creatures of the field and simple flowers of the bush and garden grew and withered in their destined terms, and all upon the fierce and bloody battle-ground, where thousands upon thousands had been killed in the great fight.
5. But there were deep green patches in the growing corn, at first, that people looked at with awe. Year after year those fertile spots reappeared, and it was known that under them lay heaps of men and horses, buried indiscriminately and enriching the ground. The husbandmen who plowed those places shrunk from them, and the sheaves they yielded were for many a long year called the "battle sheaves" and set apart. For a long time every furrow that was turned revealed some fragments of the fight. For a long time there were wounded trees upon the battle-ground, and scraps of hacked and broken fence and wall where deadly struggles had been made, and trampled parts where not a leaf or blade would grow. For a long time no village girl would dress her hair or bosom with the sweetest flower from that field of death, and after many a year had come and gone the berries growing there were still believed to leave too deep a stain upon the hand that plucked them.
6. The seasons in their course, however, though they passed as lightly as the summer clouds themselves, obliterated in the lapse of time even these remains of the old conflict, and wore away such legendary traces of it as the neighboring people carried in their minds, until they dwindled into old wives' tales dimly remembered round the winter fire and waning every year. Where the wild flowers and berries had so long remained upon the stem untouched, gardens arose and houses were built, and children played at battles upon the turf. The
wounded trees had long ago made Christmas logs, and blazed and roared away. The deep green patches were no greener now than the memory of those who lay in the dust below. The plowshare still turned up from time to time some rusty bits of metal, but it was hard to say what use they had ever served, and those who found them wondered and disputed.
7. An old dinted corselet and a helmet had been hanging in the church so long that the same weak, half-blind old man who tried in vain to make them out above the whitewashed arch had marveled at them as a baby. If the host slain upon the field could have been for a moment re-animated in the forms in which they fell, each upon the spot that was the bed of his untimely death, gashed and ghastly soldiers would have stared in, hundreds deep, at household door and window, and would have risen on the hearths of quiet homes, and would have started up between the cradled infant and its nurse, and would have floated with the stream and whirled round on the mill, and crowded the orchard and burdened the meadow, and piled the rick-yard high with dying men. So altered was the battleground, where thousands upon thousands had been killed in the great fight. DICKENS.
SELECT ETYMOLOGIES.-Alter: L. alter, the other of two; fr. al'ius, another. . . . Corselet: fr. the L. cor'pus, body. . . . Goblet: L. cu'pa, a tub; h., cup, cupola, etc. Host, an army: L. hos'tis, an enemy. Insect: L. insectum; fr. in'seco, insec'tum, to cut into; fr. in and sec'o, I cut; the name insect being given to certain small animals, like the ants, wasps, etc., whose bodies appear cut in or almost divided; h., bi-sect (bi= bis, twice), dis-sect, inter-sect, sect, section, segment, etc. ... Lapse: L. lab'or, lap'sus, to fall, to slide; h., col-lapse, e-lapse, re-lapse. . . . Legendary : v. ELECT. Prevail: L. præval'eo; fr. præ and val'eo, val'itum, to be strong, to be of value; va'le, farewell; h., a-vail, con-valescent (becoming wholly sound), equi-valent (æquus, equal), in-valid, valiant, valid, valor, value, etc. Reveal: L. rev'elo, rev-ela'tum, to unveil; re, back, and vello, I veil or cover; h., de-velop, en-velop, revelation, veil. . Season: F. sai'son; fr. the L. sta'tio, station; h., the point fixed, the propitious moment; fr. sto, I stand. Spire: L. spi'ra; Gr. spei'ra, that which is wreathed or coiled.... Stalwart or Stalworth, strong, bold: A. S. stælweordh, worth stealing or taking, and afterward extended to other causes of estimation. Survive: contr. fr. the L. supervi'vo, I outlive; sup'er, above or beyond, vi'vo, vic'tum, to live; h., con-vivial, re-vive, viand, victual, vital, vivacity, vivid, etc. Timid: L. tim'idus; fr. tim'eo, I fear; h., intimidate, timorous.
LXVII.-MORNING HYMN OF ADAM AND EVE.
THESE are thy glorious works, Parent of good,
Thus wondrous fair! Thyself how wondrous then!
In these thy lowest works; yet these declare
Fairest of stars, last in the train of night,
Sure pledge of day, that crowned the smiling morn
Moon, that now meet'st the Orient sun, now fly'st
In honor to the world's great Author, rise;
His praise, ye winds, that from four quarters blow,
Ye that in waters glide, and ye that walk
SELECT ETYMOLOGIES.-Choral : relating to a choir; fr. L. chor'us; Gr. chor'Ŏs, a dance in a ring, a company of singers; h., choir (a band of singers in a church), chorister, etc. . . . Divine: L. divi'nus, belonging to a deity; fr. di'vus, a god; h., divination, etc. . . . Exhalation: L. exhala'tio; fr. ex and ha'lo, hala'tum, to breathe; h., ex-hale, in-hale. . . . Extol: L. extollo, I raise up; fr. ex and tollo, I raise. . . . Orb: L. or'bis, a circle, a ring; h., ex-orbitant (deviating from the usual orbit or track, excessive), orbicular, orbit, etc. . . . Pine: L. pi'nus, a pine tree. Rejoice: F. re'jouir (rě-joo-eer); fr. L. re and gau'deo, I rejoice; h., joy, joyous.. Symphony: Gr. sumphō'nia, a harmony of sounds; fr. sun, with, and phō'nē, a sound, the voice; h., eu-phony (an agreeable sound, eu, well), phonetic, phor ic. . . . Throne: Gr. thròn'os, a seat.