One New Year's morning we walked out to a little rise of ground among the hills of southern Kentucky, and watched the sun come up over the eastern slope. First there came a glow of exquisitely soft, pale-green light, such as no artist's canvas ever showed. Gradually it changed into a golden green, and spread out two long slender arms to north and south, as though to gather the world to its warm heart, and always hold it there.
It changed again, and kept changing, but so softly and quietly that we scarcely noticed how the change came, and yet we plainly saw it come. The change was chiefly in the rare colouring, from soft green, to a tinging together of green and yellow-green, and then to gold, each blending into each other, as only hearts that know love can blend. And the reaching arms of light lengthened, and kept lengthening, as though tenderly eager to take in the whole earth and fill it with brightness and warmth.
As the light increased, the central spot on the horizon whence it all came, grew into such a blaze of fiery light that our eyes were bothered quite a bit. The glory was too great for them to gaze fully upon it, and involuntarily we half closed them and turned our faces to one side. And the Damascus traveller's phrase, in the story of another light, came vividly to mind: "When I could not see for the glory of that light." Ambitions that had gripped lost their tenacious clutch upon his heart as the glory of that light flooded his face. Pet plans blurred and faded, and then slipped out of sight; evil passions lost the heat of their flame; and temptations lost their power to attract and sway, as the beauty and splendour of this new glory threw its wondrous light into his eyes and heart.
And a bit of prayer came quickly up from heart to lip that this other light, that in its transforming beauty was so much above the shining of the sunlight, might affect our eyes too, all the new year, and all the years after this one had begun to grow grey.
That burst of dazzling sunlight came to us just over a little hilltop, through two big beeches, and a group of small cedars. We knew that hilltop, for we had been up there more than once. We knew there was a little family burying-place up there, where precious bodies had been tenderly laid away long years before. And carved stones of grey told bits of the life-story of those gone. But the place had fallen into disuse and decay. The stones were leaning over, some this way, and some that, like tottering old men, and some were fallen flat. Small scrubby bushes and underbrush covered the ground. The old fence was badly broken down. Everything seemed to spell out neglect, as though the hands that had once lovingly laid these away, had themselves lost their cunning and life, and in turn had been laid away. The old burying-place was forgot. We knew well that was what the little hilltop looked like in plain prosaic daylight, close to.
But, do you know, all that was changed to our eyes as we looked out over the hill, and through its ragged crown of trees at the blaze of glory beyond. The rising sun idealized the neglected hilltop. It was beautiful, with a real rare beauty, as it stood bathed in the early light of the new year's first morning. All the sharp jaggedness was softened. The halo of the sun was over broken fence and neglected graves. And as we looked we didn't think of the decay, but of the beauty. The decay had passed out of our thought. The beauty swayed us. It seemed prophetic of a new life that would come some day to the hill, and that had already come to the former tenants of those laid-away bodies, and would some glad day come to the bodies themselves, too.