Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Glad with Morning Light (A Few Words for Wednesday)

Within Charles Dickens' searing, socially realistic novel, The Old Curiosity Shop, he offers us luminous writing about the beauty of the natural world. The story he tells is tragic; it's the tale of a young and virtuous orphan, Little Nell, who dies on a journey with her grandfather to escape their misfortune in London. Soon after she dies, her grandfather does too. Because it now is Advent, I am drawn to images of light. This  passage, from Chapter 15, speaks to me because we all journey.

"The town was glad with morning light; places that had shown ugly and distrustful all night long, now wore a smile; and sparkling sunbeams dancing on chamber windows, and twinkling through blind and curtain before sleepers' eyes, shed light even into dreams,
 and chased away the shadows of the night. 

Birds in hot rooms, covered up close and dark, felt it was morning, and chafed and grew restless in their little cells; bright-eyed mice crept back to their tiny homes and nestled timidly together; the sleek house-cat, forgetful of her prey, sat winking at the rays of sun starting through keyhole and cranny in the door, and longed for her stealthy run and warm sleek bask outside. The nobler beasts confined in dens, stood motionless behind their bars and gazed on fluttering boughs, and sunshine peeping through some little window, with eyes in which old forests gleamed--then trod impatiently the track their prisoned feet had worn--and stopped and gazed again. 

Men in their dungeons stretched their cramp cold limbs and cursed the stone that no bright sky could warm. The flowers that sleep by night, opened their gentle eyes and turned them to the day. The light, creation's mind, was everywhere, and all things owned its power.

. . . Near such a spot as this, and in a pleasant field, the old man and his little guide (if guide she were, who knew not whither they were bound) sat down to rest. She had had the precaution to furnish her basket with some slices of bread and meat, and here they made their frugal breakfast.

The freshness of the day, the singing of the birds, the beauty of the waving grass, the deep green leaves, the wild flowers, and the thousand exquisite scents and sounds that floated in the air--deep joys to most of us, but most of all to those whose life is in a crowd or who live solitarily in great cities as in the bucket of a human well--sunk into their breasts and made them very glad. The child had repeated her artless prayers once that morning, more earnestly perhaps than she had ever done in all her life, but as she felt all this, they rose to her lips again. The old man took off his hat--he had no memory for the words--but he said 'Amen,' and that they were very good."