Friday, 9 December 2016


Saturday Musings

Spectator December 31, 1915

        A man who loves boys and can sympathize and forgive many of their shortcomings, told the Muser a bit of his own history. He was born on a farm almost within sound of St. Paul’s chimes, and spent the first twelve years of his life clod-hopping on the Flamboro hills. He had a loving mother and a father whose idea was to bring up his children in the fear and admonition of the Lord and to put them at work on the farm as soon as they were old enough to pick bugs from the potato vines, or other work that a great healthy boy of six or seven years ought to be able to do. He was really a kind father in his way, but having been brought up from childhood to hard work (and he never spared himself), he was determined that his boys should be educated in habits of industry, even if they wasted but little time in the country school house. Well, that boy stood it till he was about 14 years of age, and then he determined to paddle his own canoe, and get an education. He was a husky boy and could plow and harrow, plant and sow, and make an ordinary hand in the field. He was just such a boy as the average farmer wanted, because he could hire his services cheaply, and get lots of work out of him. In telling his story, he said a house, despite the grandeur of its architectural proportions, never necessarily constituted a home. There are more boys living in what to them are cages rather than a home. He could not complain of lack of comforts in his father’s home, nor was anything grudgingly withheld from him; but, after all, there was something, he could hardly define what, that was missing. Being a country boy,  his experience had been confined to country life, and now that he had become the father of a family he felt that the country boy was more to be pitied in his home surroundings than the boy brought up in a village or a city. He has but few recreations compared with the town boy, and there are always the odd jobs on the farm requiring his early and late attention. The country boy has his daily duties to perform, and woe be unto him if he ever forgets or neglects them. The cows have to be brought up from the pasture field at night and driven back in the morning; the gaps in the fences must be repaired; weeds must be kept down, the plants hoed; potato bugs must not be allowed to get away with the potato crop; the water must be pumped for the cattle and feed prepared for them. These are the regular routine work on the farm, but the odd jobs are numberless, and by the time that his daily tasks are ended, his wearied body is ready for bed, just about the hour that the town boy is going to singing school or to some place of recreation in which to spend the evening hours. The country boy is even too tired to read a chapter in Baxter`s Saint`s Rest, or some such volume as may be found in the family library.

There is a trite saying that  ``all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy`.`The town boy has his share of odd jobs to perform, but he has also many opportunities for recreation that come not within the reach of the country boy. The father of the country boy rises early and works late because he feels the necessity of making hay while the sun shines; and he argues, if he must do this to make a home for his family, why should not his boys do their part ? He must take advantage of the short Canadian summer to make and gather his harvest. He was born and raised on a farm, and he proudly boasts that there is not a more independent life. He is his own master and is surrounded with every comfort, and can snap his fingers at the tax collector, for he has always the money ready when the time comes to pay his share of running the local government. However, his every effort is expended to accomplish the maximum amount of work in the shortest possible time. The father of the country boy was born and raised on a farm and forgets his boyhood days, since they contained for him some things that were always not pleasant. He is a good man in every sense of the word, but general conditions and surroundings have had a tendency to narrow his views of that which goes to make a happy boy life. He sees the necessity of continued and strenuous effort to accomplish the tasks that he has learned so religiously to respect. “Make hay while the sun shines” was drilled into him in his boyhood days, and he naturally feels that his boy should be brought up in the same way, and do his share from the time he is able to crush a potato bag between two stones.

          A colt born in springtime is pampered and petted for a couple of years because there is money value in the colt. But there comes a time when the colt is broken to harness, and now he must his share in the farm work, or is sold for a good price. He is a silky-nosed colt no longer, just a plain horse. The country boy is a boy only until the time he is big enough to be of service, then, like the colt, he is harnessed up for work, and he is a boy no longer. He is allotted tasks that may not be too much for his strength but they take the boy out of him and have a tendency to make him old before his time. He passes from a stripling in short pants, with freckled legs to the gosling class in long trousers, and the chances are ten to one that the father never notices the transition stage till the boy develops into young manhood. The father does not realize that he is no longer a boy, and that he should have certain liberties and a stipulated allowance for his labor. The boy is modest in his demands and does not ask the same pay that a hired man would get, even though his labor is more profitable, for he feels an interest in his father’s prosperity; but he would like to have some regular amount that he could call his own, so that when the young people in the neighborhood are getting up a garden party or a Sunday school picnic or an excursion, he can pay his share of the expenses. This all he asks, and the father looks in wonder at his audacity. Has he not reared the boy from infancy, clothed and fed him, and now to think he would ask for pay! The day comes when there is an election, and the stripling of only yesterday has now arrived at man’s estate. He announces that he is going to take a half day off and go and vote with his dad. It comes as a shock to dad. The father thinks of him only as a boy yet. Every farmer boy likes to own his own horse and buggy, and when he makes the modest request, the father tells him that boys are incapable of handling a horse, and that when he gets older, he will think about it.

          Our friend to whom we are indebted for this chapter on country boys is now a well-to-do business man in Hamilton. He said, in closing : “I do not intend to cast unworthy reflections upon the father of the country boy, but to make him think that he has other responsibilities than merely raising a boy to the slavish work on the farm when he should be a boy and have a boy’s enjoyment of life. I left home at 14 because I saw no other chance of being anything but a farm hand without pay. I am now a man of 35 years and have a boy of my own. He is no sluggard, but is being trained to usefulness in life. He is getting an education to fit him for the place he may occupy in the world’s activities. I occasionalkly go back to the old Flamboro home and enjoy the day on the farm. My father is still inclined to look upon me as an inexperienced youngster . The farmer should have no work that cannot be paid for and if it is worth paying for, who should deserve pay more than his own son? I have made it a rule to pay my boy when I take him from his boy pleasures. It has taught him industrious habits, and a thrift in saving money, and whenever an opportunity offers to run an errand for someone else, where a penny can be earned, he drops his play to go. This is work with some object in view, and that object is a pleasant one.”

Make men of your boys, but do not lose sight of the fact that in making men of them, you must treat them as such. If this were done, fewer boys would leave the country for city life. Instead of our boys seeking the too-often uncertainties of a city life, they would remain on the farm and be independent. Educate your boys to be business farmers instead of making them slavish farmhands. Never forget that you were a boy yourself, and if you were deprived of the pleasures of boyhood, see to it that your boy has a happy youth at least.


          To brighten the lives with the romance of love, especially of the younger generation, may not be out of the way, now and then, for an old Muser. The stories and songs of other days are full of love and romance. Were the boys and girls of the last century different to those of the present day, or were they brought up in a simpler atmosphere and surrounded by simpler influences? This is a problem hard to solve. Well, at a venture, we will say that the boys of sixty and seventy years ago did not indulge in the cigarette habit, nor did the girls expose the upper part of their upper bodies to the vulgar gaxe in the street. One of those plain, outspoken preachers in a western town said to his congregation, in the course of his sermon, that “Eve in the Garden of Eden never discovered she was naked till she had eaten of the apple; and,” said he, “I wish the young ladies of my congregation would eat more apples.” There are a great many ways for accounting for things now and then. Old-timers will remember the serenaders that made sweet melody at the midnight hour in singing to their lady loves. Hamilton always had a reputation for its singers and its musicians, and this talent was cultivated  in the singing schools which the young people of both sexes attended. One could hear the songs of Stephen Foster, Come Where My Love Lies Dreaming; The Evening Bells by Beethoven; Balfe’s Then You’ll Remember Me; Moore’s Oft in the Stilly Night, and, as a farewell, Hatton’s Goodbye, Sweetheart, Goodbye. Indeed, the jolly singers even attempted that difficult but sweet melody, Shubert’s Serenade, written in the early years of the last century, by the gifted composer as a farewell to the girl he could only love in secret, for in those days it was the height of presumption for the humble composer and teacher, the son of a peasant, to aspire to the hand of his pupil, the daughter of a nobleman.


          If you love the classical in music, attend one of the many recitals at the Conservatory of Music, on James street south, and the chances are Shubert’s Serenade will have a prominent place on the program. If you have not read the history of that masterpiece of Shubert’s, we will give it to you in brief as we found it in a magazine. Captious critics have protested against the popularity of this familiar Serenade, and would even now at this late day., though it was written one hundred years ago, rob the divine author of this graceful little gem. While, the critics say, it is by no means certain that Shubert is actually the author of the Serenade, yet they unwillingly concede that the air reveals many traces of the style of the great composer. The story, as we find it, tells us that  the year 1816 witnessed the beginning of an episode in Shubert’s life, quite different in many respects from what had preceded. He was engaged by a Hungarian count to teach music to his family, two daughters and a son. Shubert’s intercourse with this amiable family was very pleasant, and in the course of it seems to have occurred the nearest approach to a love affair that can be detected in his life. Caroline, the second daughter of Count Esterhazy, was only eleven years of age when she became his pupil. But as time elapsed and she became seventeen or eighteen, it is supposed Shubert manifested symptoms of having fallen in loive with her. Caroline asked him, in a moment of girlish coquetery, why he was dedicating so many delightful works to other people, and he had never dedicated any to her. Shubert is said to have replied, “Why should I?”Is not all that I have done been dedicated to you? How could a man who was never in love have written that Serenade in which all that is beautiful and scared for the love of a woman not come like a breath from heaven? Never was the voice of love so passionate and so pure. He was the son of a peasant, she was the daughter of a count.


          But here is the story as it has been told by one who admired Shubert, and it is so interesting that it will read by the students at the Hamilton Conservatory who have so often played and sung the Serenade. Toward the palace of the great Count Easterhazy a young musician walked rapidly through the streets of Vienna one morning more than a hundred years ago. Little had he slept that night, and with the sun he was up, brushing away at his worn coat, and all the while wondering if it were true, or only a dream, that he, the unknown Franz Shubert, was to have a nobleman’s daughter for a pupil.

          Still, his beloved master, old Master Heizer, often had said that sme day he would become famous as a teacher. Now he was standing in the splendid hall of the palace and to him the Count was saying, “This is my daughter, Caroline.”

She stood before him, that great count’s daughter, a child in years, in innocence. Her ees – what mirrored purities they were! She looked and gently pitied as she looked. She smiled and touched such spark of love that it would glow in song, in other centuries in a world grown old.

Ah ! how he lived for but that lesson after that ! The week was all too long a time to wait. How when he guided her dainty hands over the keys his own hands would tremble. How dumb were words that lay within his heart! Did she understand that day when she said, “Master, speak to me through the keys?”

His souls spoke then. His heart leaped forth as he played ! Could she know? Did she understand?

That evening came a note from her/ “In three days we leave for Hungary to stay till autumn,” it said.

Ah, could he but find a way to give her the message in his heart which his lips refused to utter!

It was the night before she was to leave. The air was still and the moon rode in the high heaven. All the world lay in a shining veil. Love had led the master’s feet till he stood beneath her chamber window, his head bowed to the jeweled sky, in his eyes the purity of love supreme. It was spring, and spring’s spirit spoke through the silver silence of the night, into his mind and heart and soul it crept – ihto a life made magic by its call.

“Nightingales for me imploring,

   Sing in notes divine,’

 Ev’ry tone of sweet lamenting,

   Breaches a sigh of mine.”

So Shubert sang his Serenade, in that, the velvet night of love. So voiced he there, poor lover, the magic of his immortal plea.

Softly it ceased, he had come to the end measure,  that final sighof the most perfect music of love. The Serenade – whose soul-satisfying loveliness has thrilled the hearts of all who since have heard it. When next a recital is announced in the Hamilton Conservatory, if Shubert’s Serenade is in the program, be there to listen to it. If you have not the words, here they are :


Tho’ leaves the night winds moving,

   Murmur low and sweet;

To thy chamber window roving,

   Love hath led my feet.

Silent prayers of blissful feeling

   Link us, though apart,

On the breath of music stealing

   To thy dreaming heart.


Moonlight on the earth is sleeping,

   Winds are rustling low,

Where the darkling streams are creeping,

   Dearest let us go!


All the stars keep watch in heaven,

    While I sing to thee,

And the night for love was given,

   Dearest, come to me.


Sadly in the forest mourning,

   Wails the whippoorwill;

And the heart for thee is yearning,

   Hit it, love, be still.



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