Page images


Tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing."

My text will be found in the play of "As You Like it," Act II., Scene 1:

"And this our life, exempt from public haunt,

Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.”

Shakspeare was a mental Argus, whose hundred eyes nothing could escape. Men see by their brains still more than they do by their eyes; and his were brains so developed that they enabled his eyes to see what mortal had never beheld before. He was a walking polyglot, with as many tongues as eyes; what his eyes beheld, his tongues had the ability to speak, ability how rare! He peered through the palace walls and beheld the secret deeds of kings; and there was no dungeon so dark but his eye beheld the prisoner. He saw, too, the thought of each; he heard their uttered fancies; he beheld their aspirations, and embodied them in glowing language that speaks to every heart. In him


the silent trees found utterance, the babbling brooks discoursed in rational speech, and the very stones cried out with eloquent tongue.

Nature, the ready-helper of genius, bowed to him, and opened wide the door of her domain for his observance and appropriation. She whispered her choicest secrets into his ear, and found him a worthy listener, a true man, who proclaimed them aloud for the benefit of the world.

I can fancy William Shakspeare, after rambling by the banks of the flowing Avon, and watching the pellucid stream flow over its pebbly bottom, and the trees bending lovingly over it, returning to write," And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in every thing." Let us, this afternoon, hear these tongued trees, read the books that are in the running brooks, listen to the sermons that the stones. dispense, and find and appropriate the good that dwells in every thing.

It is autumn. We lie upon the velvet sward, and watch the squirrels skip. Grand old trees, lordly possessors of the soil, how I love you! You lift your myriad hands to heaven, and wave your tinted banners in your joy, as if a wintry wind could never blow. Generations of leaves have flourished, dropped, and decayed around you; but there you stand, renewing your beauty from year to year. You have put down your radiating roots deep into the soil, have sucked up by a million mouths the nourishment needed for your growth, and transformed the gross, dark mould into

the regal garments you wear; and, though the storm has swept many a time around you, you have only knit your hearts the firmer, and soared daily nearer and nearer to heaven. Beautiful! trees, eloquent trees! we listen to your tongues, and we learn your lessons. So stands the true man: rooted in the earth, watered by its springs, fed by its soil, but using these only as a means to climb into the spiritual realm above him; shedding old opinions, false notions, barbarous creeds, as a tree sheds its leaves; but his firm heart grows but the firmer in the right, his aims the purer, new and true opinions take the place of the old, and he climbs year by year nearer and nearer to perfect manhood.

Down drop the acorns around us. What magical globes are these! The Chinese carve, with admirable skill, half-a-dozen ivory globes one within the other; but what are they to this forest-containing acorn? Folded within this shell is that life which makes the future tree, its leaves, its blossoms, its fruit, and the untold millions of its descendants; an artist lies sleeping here that may beautify a thousand worlds that are yet to be. So the truth, spoken or written, is a seed endowed with perpetual life, and the power to educe new truths and bless the world forever. Error is a stake driven into the ground. Every drop that falls tends to rot it, every wind to blow it down. All nature conspires against it; and its destruction is certain.

How these trees struggle upward for the light! How they "shoulder each other for the sun's smile! Why are these crowded trees so tall, so straight, and

their trunks so small? Every thing is sacrificed for light. The last words of the dying Goethe are their motto,—“Light, more light!" Listen to that tongue, my brother, and learn. Let thy motto be," Up to the sunlight!" What are riches, broad lands, magnificent house, honor, fame, when they go with an ignorant, undeveloped soul? Men squat and spread like toadstools under the dripping trees in the twilight, instead of soaring like pines to live in the sun's continual smile.

See on these trees the effect of surrounding conditions. Mark the one that has had light on every side how symmetrical, how beautiful is that tree! It is, as the poet says, "a thing of beauty and a joy forever." But mark that tree shaded on every side but one, uneven, warped, lopsided: toward the light it grew, toward the shade it refused to grow; and it would rather grow crooked than not at all. Far from it is the beauty and grace that go with the proper conditions for development. Here is an eloquent tongue. Tupper says," Scratch the rind of the sapling, and the knotted oak will tell of it for centuries to come." There is a distorted ash, whose ugliness makes the raven croak, as it flies over it. The hoof of a flying deer trampled it into the earth when it was a tender sapling, and it will bear the brand of it while life lasts. That criminal you clutch by the throat, policeman, and strike with your billy, he, too, was trampled upon in his infancy; nor is the hoof of society off him yet. Lift him up, give him a chance: room for him! air for him! sunshine for him! So much is assured: in the

« PreviousContinue »