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The City Of A Day
by [?]

The population of Lowell is constituted mainly of New Englanders; but there are representatives here of almost every part of the civilized world. The good-humored face of the Milesian meets one at almost every turn; the shrewdly solemn Scotchman, the transatlantic Yankee, blending the crafty thrift of Bryce Snailsfoot with the stern religious heroism of Cameron; the blue-eyed, fair-haired German from the towered hills which overlook the Rhine,–slow, heavy, and unpromising in his exterior, yet of the same mould and mettle of the men who rallied for “fatherland” at the Tyrtean call of Korner and beat back the chivalry of France from the banks of the Katzback,–the countrymen of Richter, and Goethe, and our own Follen. Here, too, are pedlers from Hamburg, and Bavaria, and Poland, with their sharp Jewish faces, and black, keen eyes. At this moment, beneath my window are two sturdy, sunbrowned Swiss maidens grinding music for a livelihood, rehearsing in a strange Yankee land the simple songs of their old mountain home, reminding me, by their foreign garb and language, of

“Lauterbrunnen’s peasant girl.”

Poor wanderers, I cannot say that I love their music; but now, as the notes die away, and, to use the words of Dr. Holmes, “silence comes like a poultice to heal the wounded ear,” I feel grateful for their visitation. Away from crowded thoroughfares, from brick walls and dusty avenues, at the sight of these poor peasants I have gone in thought to the vale of Chamouny, and seen, with Coleridge, the morning star pausing on the “bald, awful head of sovereign Blanc,” and the sun rise and set upon snowy-crested mountains, down in whose valleys the night still lingers; and, following in the track of Byron and Rousseau, have watched the lengthening shadows of the hills on the beautiful waters of the Genevan lake. Blessings, then, upon these young wayfarers, for they have “blessed me unawares.” In an hour of sickness and lassitude they have wrought for me the miracle of Loretto’s Chapel, and, borne me away from the scenes around me and the sense of personal suffering to that wonderful land where Nature seems still uttering, from lake and valley, and from mountains whose eternal snows lean on the hard, blue heaven, the echoes of that mighty hymn of a new-created world, when “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.”

But of all classes of foreigners the Irish are by far the most numerous. Light-hearted, wrongheaded, impulsive, uncalculating, with an Oriental love of hyperbole, and too often a common dislike of cold water and of that gem which the fable tells us rests at the bottom of the well, the Celtic elements of their character do not readily accommodate themselves to those of the hard, cool, self-relying Anglo-Saxon. I am free to confess to a very thorough dislike of their religious intolerance and bigotry, but am content to wait for the change that time and the attrition of new circumstances and ideas must necessarily make in this respect. Meanwhile I would strive to reverence man as man, irrespective of his birthplace. A stranger in a strange land is always to me an object of sympathy and interest. Amidst all his apparent gayety of heart and national drollery and wit, the poor Irish emigrant has sad thoughts of the “ould mother of him,” sitting lonely in her solitary cabin by the bog-side; recollections of a father’s blessing and a sister’s farewell are haunting him; a grave mound in a distant churchyard far beyond the “wide wathers” has an eternal greenness in his memory; for there, perhaps, lies a “darlint child” or a “swate crather” who once loved him. The new world is forgotten for the moment; blue Killarney and the Liffey sparkle before him, and Glendalough stretches beneath him its dark, still mirror; he sees the same evening sunshine rest upon and hallow alike with Nature’s blessing the ruins of the Seven Churches of Ireland’s apostolic age, the broken mound of the Druids, and the round towers of the Phoenician sun-worshippers; pleasant and mournful recollections of his home waken within him; and the rough and seemingly careless and light-hearted laborer melts into tears. It is no light thing to abandon one’s own country and household gods. Touching and beautiful was the injunction of the prophet of the Hebrews:

“Ye shall not oppress the stranger; for ye know the heart of the stranger, seeing that ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.”