90 THE BOOK OF CHRISTMAS.
varied occupations which call the sons of labor abroad into the fields are suspended by the austerities of the time ; and to the cottage of the poor man has come a season of temporal repose, concurrently with the falling of that period which seals anew for him, as it were, the promises of an eternal rest. At no other portion of the year could a feast of equal duration find so many classes of men at leisure for its reception.—
" With his ice, and snow, and rime, Let bleak winter sternly come ! There is not a sunnier clime, Than the love-lit winter home."
Amid the comforts of the fireside, and all its sweet companionships and cheerful inspirations, there is something like the sense of a triumph obtained over the hostilities of the season. Nature, which at other times promotes the expansion of the feelings, and contributes to the enjoyments of man, seems here to have promulgated her fiat against their indulgence ;—and there is a kind of inner world created, in evasion of her law—a tract won by the genius of the affections from the domain of desolation—spots of sunshine planted, by the heart, in the very bosom of shadow—a pillar of fire lit up in the darkness ! And thus the sensation of a respite from toil—the charms of renewed companionship—the consciousness of a general sympathy of enjoyment running along all the links of the social chain—and the contrasts established within to the discomforts without—are all components of that propitious feeling to which the religious spirit of the season, and all its quaint and characteristic observances, make their appeal. There is, too (connected with these latter feelings, and almost unacknowledged by the heart of man), another moral element of that cheerful sentiment which has sprung up within it. It consists in the prospect, even at this distant and gloomy period, of a coming spring. This is peculiarly the season of looking for. ward. Already, as it were, the infant face of the new year is perceived, beneath the folds of the old one's garment. The business of the present year has terminated ; and, along the night which has succeeded to its season of labor, have been set up a