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The fields are lost in blackness,
  The heavens are all cloud;
But the echoes are astir,
  And the night is glad and loud
    With the swinging and the ringing
      Of the massive bells, awaking,
    The rebound of whose sound
      Sets the heavy air a-shaking.

The sullen days of Winter
  Seem past, though but begun;
For, the earth, like Age grown youthful,
  Runs back towards the sun,
The swift and golden fountains
  Of the light again are flowing,
And the infant Year leaps up
  With his visage fresh and glowing;
    And, with swinging and with ringing,
      All the massive bells are waking,
    The rebound of whose sound
      Sets the heavy air a-shaking.

Our mother Earth, this midnight,
  Is merrier than she seems:
A sweet new life is stirring
  In her soul, like loosened streams:
The Spirit of all things living
  Murmurs round her in the gloom;
And she sees the Spring far off.
  Starting out from leaf and bloom
    At the swinging and the ringing
      Of the massive bells, awaking,
    The rebound of whose sound.
      Sets the heavy air a-shaking.

The seeds, abed and sleeping,
  The sap within the boughs.
Give a start of joy, and dumbly
  Join in with our carouse:
The nightmare-like December
  In the fields is lying dead.
And the dawn-Iight of our rooms
  Paints the drifting clouds with red,
    As with swinging and with ringing,
      All the massive bells are waking
    The rebound of whose sound
      Sets the heavy air a-shaking.

The squirrel, snake, and dormouse,
  Wake up in hole and nest.
And feel the New Year coming,
  And relapse into their rest.
With a sense of the hot sunshine
  In a forest full of leaves:
Yea, every living thing
  Freshly-glowing life receives
    From the swinging and the ringing
      Of the massive bells, awaking,
    The rebound of whose sound
      Sets the heavy air a-shaking.

Yet more: Our earth-star ripens
  (What with sun- heat and with tears)
Through the budding and the dying
  Of those endless leaves, the Years.
In the dark yet lustrous Future
  What life-forms may be curl'd!
Every New Year's morn for aye
  Is a birthday to the world:
    When, with swinging and with ringing.
       All the massive bells are waking,
    The rebound of whose sound
      Sets the heavy air a-shaking.

Not a year but has its purpose,
  God-tutored and sublime;
Every moment, like a sculptor,
  Shapes the marble mass of Time.
We shall see, in the great reckoning
  When the final Good is wrought,
That each act was something gain'd
  From the aching realm of Nought;
    Even the swinging and the ringing
      Of the massive bells, awaking,
    The rebound of whose sound
      Sets the heavy air a-shaking.

Daylight dies when night approaches,
  And night when sunbeams range:
The dull days have made a turning:
  Nothing changeless is but Change.
Let us sing, then, and be merry
  (Since earth's dark side is but half),
Yet with conscience in our mirth
  And a graveness in our laugh;
    For, with swinging and with ringing,
      AII the New Year bells are waking,
    The rebound of whose sound
      Sets the heavy air a-shaking,
    And old Death and young breath
      A strange under-song are making.

DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN

There is one great fault in most of the
novels and romances of my acquaintance,
and that is that all the interesting adventures
are limited to persons of extraordinary
personal attractions. Can't an ugly fellow
meet with surprising accidents by flood
or field? Must all the people who run
up ladders when a house is on fire and
save beautiful young ladies from being
burnt to deathmust all the heroes of this
sort be six feet high, five-and-twenty years
of age, and end with a baronetcy and twelve
thousand a year? It is a most unfair
distribution of the gifts of fiction, so perhaps
Truth may be more just; and therefore
I write down what happened, some thirty
years ago, to my friend John Belton, of the
house of Jones, Belton and Jones.

John Belton even then was not handsome;
but he was big. Everything about
him was bighis eyes, his nose, his mouth
but his manner was biggest of all. He was
something like Louis the Fourteenth, only
bigger; and with a considerable quantity of
John Bullism in addition to the French dignity
of the Grand Monarque. When big John Belton
was Sheriff of his native city he expanded
more than ever. It was supposed there
would have been no room for him in the
narrower streets of his jurisdiction if he had
swelled out any more, so they didn't make
him a knight. The consequences might have
been awful. Big men, you may have remarked,
are often addicted to very small pursuits.
Belton was very fond of fishing. We used to
laugh to see him affix a small bait to a small
hook, and bring out at last a very small
trout. But he was as much gratified as if
it had been a whale. So every year when
his principal, as he called old Jones, had gone
for his holiday, and his ships were fairly off
on their long voyages, and the homeward-
bound ones not expected for a month, he used
to pack up his trunk and arrange his fishing
-rods, and away he went to his favourite

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