Графични страници
PDF файл

man's life, so the false utterance of the true, or the true utterance of the false, is, in one form or other, the whole of trhat is ruinous, chaotic, execrable.

Further, it is manifest that at the highest point to which man can reach there will always be something beyond him, higher, larger, holier, which he cannot yet utter, and can only yearn towards and apprehend. This is necessarily the greatest of all greatnesses, which he,—not as yet knows, but knows of, forebodes, dreamingly clutches. To hurry headlong towards the expression of this which lies as yet altogether inexpressible, profanes and mars the divine work, with regard to it now the only divine work possible, of learning, feeling, embracing, not apprehending, but comprehending it. Unseasonable idle speech, and such upon this matter all must be, scares and irritates the plastic gods, the high working powers in all; for whom the universe and our lives are a pliant material, and with whom our will is, at its best, a patient and devout fellowworker and learner. Hence the meaning and sanctity of silence. But that same mute mysterious developernent, which may be going on for years, and decads of years, in any one soul, and fur ages on ages in the soul of man, comes out at last to inevitable utterauce ; and the word of some one heart expresses for a thousand years after him the feeling of countless millions. Thus do we find that the utterance of truth out of the infinite into the heart of man makes his real inward story; and the utterance of the same out of his heart into the world is all his outward work and duty.

37.

All the instruments that men employ are so many symbols, and, as it were, materializations of corresponding faculties ; as the works which, by means of these instruments, we perform, are expressions of our analogous tendencies, affections, and wants. The knife not only divides all separable substances, but exhibits, and, as it were, prolongs into the outermost region of things about us that dividing faculty of which the rending hands are intermediate agents. So the lever, that is, lifter, embodies and applies our inward capacity of elevating, and consummates the work of our arms an 1 shoulders. The rope which knots two things together is but the perma

nent gripe of one long tenacious finger, which does not relax when the flesh fingers fall loose in weariness or sleep; and it thus displays and exemplifies the uniting power inherent in men's spirits. But as these physical tools can work only with the palpable and visible, and the spirit has another world of its own, neither to be touched nor seen by means of the bodily senses, there must, in this inner and better region, be kindred operations in which the powers that the material images manifest and apply, work for themselves and without tools. Thus to separate by mental scission is to distinguish ; to tie or lash together, is, in the region of mere thought, to combine notions or conceptions by an act of fancy; and to lift is, in the language of oracles, to raise an object out of dark and flat confusion into clear and individual existence; that is, to realize it for the mind. Now, in proportion as men use many and complete tools, they are advanced in mechanical civilisation. But their higher spiritual culture has been forwarded only in the degree in which they have learnt the true laws and aims of these inward powers, which are at once the mainsprings and the archetypes of all our instruments.

38. If man be a reality, no empty vision in the dreaming soul of nature, but, as who shall doubt he is, inwardly substantial and personal, that which he most earnestly desires, which best satisfies his whole being, must be real too. 39. Only by an act of arbitrary self-will dare we fancy that we belong to a system founded on the arbitrary selfwill of any being, however superior to us in power.

40. The fundamental affirmation of all reasonable and, therefore, of all right religion, the highest of truths revealed to man, is this, that the infinite, eternal, and absolute Being, wills all good, and only good, and that by good is meant not merely whatever we may dare to fancy that he might choose to will, but that which suits the wants, and completes, in the fullest form, the existence of all other beings. Kvery doctrine opposed to this is superstitious fanaticism or blasphemous scoffing. 41. That men would be better than they are if they always chose good instead of evil is evident. But that they would be better, or indeed could have a rational existence, if they had not the power of choosing evil instead of good, is the most foolish and presumptuous of fancies.

42. You may indeed add sugar to vinegar, but cannot make it wine again. 43. A man without earnestness is a mournful and perplexing spectacle. But it is a consolation to believe, as we must of any such a one, that he is in the most effectual and compulsive of all schools; not only with the sad sublimity of the stars above him, and the haggard yet ever teeming earth beneath his feet, graves, houses, and temples around him, and the voices of hatred and pain, love and devotion, sounding in his ears, but also with a heart, however weak and dull, essentially capable of feeling and understanding the meaning of all these things. He is at worst a boy, slow at learning to read, and thinking more of toys and cakes than of books, but assuredly neither an idiot, nor incurably deaf, blind, and dumb. He is horrid and disastrous to look upon as we pass him by, but most when we see him coloured by the crimson glare of our own passionate vehemence. Every step forward which we really make, gives us a new mysterious power to draw him too on.

44. Voltaire thought he was looking through a handsome French window at God and the universe, and painting pictures of them, while in truth the glass was a mirror, and he saw and copied only his own scoffing face. 45. The religion of all Pagans, indiscriminately, has often been written of by zealous Christians in the worst spirit of Paine and Voltaire. 46. Whether is it nobler to dwell in Paradise and dream of a cabbage-garden, or to live among pot-herbs and believe in Paradise? 47. Seldom does a truly divine poet arise and teach all the poor toiling men in the land how far nobler an epic is the life of every one of them— did he but know it—than that of the imaginary Ulysses. The Odyssee is

but the little that a man could learn, fancy, and feign of the life of a man. How far is this excelled by the all that the life of a man—of every man—is 1 48. It is no uncommon mistake to suppose that exaggeration is essential or at least proper to fiction. The truth is rather the reverse. A principal use and justification of fiction is to reduce and harmonize the seeming exaggerations of real life.

40. Facts are often extravagant and monstrous, because we do not know the whole system which explains and legitimises them. But none have any business in fiction which are not intelligible parts of the artificial whole that they appear in.

60. Religion, conscience, affection, law, science, poetry, including the kindred arts, are for ever rectifying the disorders and miseries of mankind. But the mode in which the poetic art does this is by presenting a mankind, a world of its own, in which good and evil, true and false, fair and ugly, harmonious and discordant, and all such analogous pairs of contrasts, are mingled by just and intelligible principles of combination, aud point to their own solution—not indeed a solution always for the understanding, but always one adequate for the feelings, and purifying and exalting them. 61. Faith in a better than that which appears, is no less required by art than by religion.

52. The three great perversions of education arc those which tend to make children respectively—Dwarfs—Monkeys—Puppets. The Dwarfs are the prodigies, the over-sharpened, overexcited, over-accomplished, stunted men. In these, as there is no fulness and steadiness, such as belong only to mature life, and yet there is the appearance of these, the very principle of the thing is a quackery and falsehood. The Monkeys are the spoilt; the indulged petted creatures of mere self-will and appetite, in whom the human as distinguished from the animal is faint and undeveloped. The weakness of mind which trains such children, and delights in them, is that which led the ladies of another generation to keep natural and genuine 204 apes for their amusement. The Puppets are produced by the plan of deadening, petrifying the mind, teaching words by rote, compelling obedience for its own sake, and not for that of a future moral freedom. These are the things that move in public only as the wires of masters and committees guide. But, because the life cannot be altogether crushed and turned back, it asserts itself secretly in a sense of benumbed misery and corroding hatred. The first class spoken of are those in whom a true ideal is misapplied. The second, those in whom none is aimed at. The third, those in whom the ideal pursued is altogether false and wretched.

53. Speech is as a pump by which we raise and pour out the water from the great lake of Thought—whither it flows back again.

54. There is a kind of social civilisation which rounds the rough and broken stones into smooth shapeliness, but also into monotonous uniformity. There is also a farther and better kind which again roughens the pebbles, not, however, to reproduce their former rude diversities, but to engrave them with divine heads and figures and significant mottoes.

55. When we see the place to which some natural Reality is degraded by the hands of man,—the stately tree to be a dead wayside post, the fierce and fleet wild ass of the desert to be a broken and starved drudge,—we cannot but reflect that this wreck was once great and goodly, and possessed a wondrous inward endowment of independent life and power, was born out of the eternal Infinite into the sad and narrow round of Time, where men, its fellow-denizens of Time, have thus crushed and ruined it. But poor as is the place and function of each living thing which men enchain and use, when thus no longer existing for and by itself, yet the human order of existence, with all its wants and contrivances, is an immeasurably higher one than any of these systems to which the weaker, meaner beings of earth originally belong. In this superiority of Mun's destiny and rights lies the justification of his subjecting to his own purposes that which, for its pur

Thoughts and Images.

[Aug.poses, he thus frustrates and dislocates.

56.

All France, under Louis XIV., was beaten and bribed into courtiership. Poetry, Law, Theology, all wore courtsuits, and smoothed themselves into flatterers and liars. The Muses became maids of honour, and stage-confidants to royal mistresses; Religion was only permitted to appear masked in the abhorred disguise of a state chaplain, or a gold-laced trumpeter of sovereign worthlessness; and Truth and Conscience, in the mean-while, were fasting at Port-Royal, pining in the Bastile, fighting in the Cevennes, or emigrating to Spitalfields. Honesty could not have where to lay its head, when Falsehood, Cruelty, and insane Vanity had for their lacqueys and pimps Racine, Bossuet, and Moliere. The Regent Orleans was but Louis XIV. in undress and half-intoxicated, and Louis XV. the same type, drunk to stupidity. But while the family was sinking from generation to generation into utter lethargy, the nation was awakening from its sleep, till rising and finding itself starved, bruised, and shackled, it burst the remaining bonds, and strangled for ever the corpse-like royalty which it found lying beside it. 57.

Life of any kind is a confounding mystery; nay, that which we commonly do not call life, the principle of existence in a stone or a drop of water, is an inscrutable wonder. That in the infinity of time and space any thing should be, should have a distinct existence, should be more than nothing! The thought of an immense abysmal Nothing is awful, only less so than that of All and God; and thus a grain of sand being a fact, a reality, rises before us into something prodigious, immeasurable—a fact that opposes and counterbalances the immensity of non-existence. And if this be so, what a thing is the life of man, which not only is, but knows that it is; and not only is wondrous, but wonders I

58.

The beauty of physical Nature strikes us with an immediate impression of harmony and completeness. There is also a sense of harmony, the result of reflection engaged on scientific truth; and there is a livelier and

[ocr errors]

Thoughts and Images.

deeper consciousness of the same kind, in which our personal sympathies and reverential awe of all personality are combined with the feeling of the beautiful, excited by whatever is fair, elevated, and harmonious in human will and character. In the aspect of tho highest human beauty, the immediate impression produced by physical (that is involuntary) Nature, is inseparably united with this last or sympathetic emotion; and the mere beauty of form and colour is regarded as symbolic of the inward and supersensuous loveliness. On the other hand, in the visions of outward things, the evening or nightly sky, the meditative melancholy of a silent autumnal landscape, the blue sea rolling its foam into a rocky bay, the virgin shamefacedness of Nature in forest-nook, we spontaneously transfer in feeling and language something of a purely human quality to that which is properly below the human, but unchangeably connected with it, and pierced in all directions and bound together by the roots of our nobler life.

59. We paint our lives in fresco. The soft and fusile plaster of the moment hardens under every stroke of the brush into eternal rock.

GO. Pain has its own noble joy when it kindles a strong consciousness of life, before stagnant and torpid. 61. The more sides a man has to his mind, the more certain he may be of receiving blows on all of them from one party or other. 62. Persons immediately and universally recognised as laudable, must be either in the main negative characters, or capable of practising a good deal of falsehood and spurious sympathy in their intercourse with others. 63. For a weak man to sympathize with weakness is easy, as for a strong man to sympathize with strength; but it is hard for the weak to sympathize with the strong. Far harder for the strong to sympathize with the weak, to bow down to weakness, and to say to it, "Be thou my better strength." 64. The candles of man's night are doubtless burning out, but, like Alfred's candle-clocks, their decay mea

VOL. XLIV. NO. CCLXXIV.

sures the wearing on of the night itself. When they sink into the socket, lo! it is not dark, but day. 65.

The Caliph Omar, who destroyed the Alexandrian library, the second in succession from Mahomet, and under whom many empires, and Jerusalem itself, were added to Islam, was journeying on the borders of the Egyptian desert, and heard of the fame of a holy! and wise hermit, who lived retired in a cave of the rocks amid the sandy waste. Him he resolved to visit, hoping to learn from him where was concealed the buried treasure of the old idolatrous Kings of Egypt. When the Caliph, attended by several tall and dark Arabs, and by Amrou, the conqueror of Egypt, entered the cavern, he found the hermit seated on a rude bench at a stone table, which supported a written volume. His eyes were bent downwards as if in thought rather than study, and the Arabs were surprised to see a man of low stature, with long and silvery hair floating round a face not like theirs, tawny and scorched, but smooth and ruddy. The large and light grey eyes were raised at their approach with a look of mild abstraction; and Amrou, who had conversed with many men of wisdom at Alexandria, was struck by the breadth of his head, the clear polish of the forehead, the well-cut and rather small nose, and the large, lightlyclosed mouth, which seemed to quiver with feeling, and to be ready for the lively utterance of countless and sage proverbs and comparisons.

"Sage," said the Caliph, "I see that thou wouldst not approve of the act of justice by which I have destroyed the storehouse of Pagan errors, called the Library, in the city of Iskander? Thou hast a book before thee, and I see some others in that half-open chest, which do not resemble the Volumes of believers."

"In my youth, O Caliph! I read many books in that Library which thou hast destroyed, and by the study of these, and their clear presence in my mind, I became capable of sustaining, and even of profiting, by this solitude in which I live, without companions and with few writings."

"What profit couldst thou derive from those infidel volumes? The Koran teachs the one God, and to know him is to know all." o

Thoughts and Images.

20t3

"The Koran indeed teaches truly that there is one God; and because we know that he exists, we should be careful to understand him as displayed in all his works. OF these the noblest is man, and of his mind we have so many several pictures in every book, however mistaken its doctrines J and in books can we also learn more clearly and fully to understand what other works of God inferior to man, but still most wonderful, reveal his will and power."

"Ah! shameless unbeliever!" exclaimed Omar, and stroked his beard, "now would I order thee to be slain

to draw it from the flesh. Her tears fall upon his cheek, and his hand is red with her blood."

'' Look again, and tell me what thou seest."

"I see a mountain covered with trees, fields, and villages, and, by Allah! with Pagan temples. But lo! an earthquake heaves the whole, and half the houses arc overthrown or swallowed up. The survivors arm themselves for battle, and a fierce conflict rages for the enjoyment of those of their possessions which remain. Fire spreads through the ruined vineyards, woods, and houses; and by its upon the spot, but that I have need of light many men are slain, and womenthy wisdom for the good of the faithful and of the true faith. Tell me where are concealed the riches of the Pharaohs, and I will spare thy life."

"Iknow not that lean teach thee this, but what I can show thee, thou shalt know." Then turning to Amrou, the fierce and conquering general of the Moslem armies—"Fetch me, I pray thee, a handful of sand from the desert, at the mouth of the cave." The warrior started, and his eyes turned disdainfully on the hermit. But they sunk under his quiet gaze, and Amrou went and brought the sand. The hermit received it into his palm, and turning to the Caliph, desired him to pick out a single grain, and lay it on the blade of Amrou's dagger. The bright weapon which had so often been red with blood, was drawn from its sheath, and the Caliph held it in his hand. Then following the hermit alone into the dark interior of the cave, he placed upon the blade, held horizontally, a single grain of sand. On this, he fixed his eyes. In the deep gloom, the grain brightened like a spark of fire, and grew larger and larger, even as the brightest planet of evening, and it paused not in its expansion, till it seemed a luminous ball of mild pale fire.

"Look steadily," said the hermit; "fear not; and tell me what thou seest."

"I see," said the Caliph, "a small goat-skin tent, under the shade of rocks, among palm-trees and wild vines. A man, naked save his girdle, sleeps in the cool, with his head upon a dark and sad-looking woman's lap, and two children are not far oft'. A thorn has pierced the foot of the infant girl, and the boy, her brother, is endeavouring

and children made captives. Some of those combatants, O Dervish, are sons of the giants, and the maidens whom I look upon are lovely as the damsels of Paradise."

"Look now again. What seest thou?"

"A lonely waste. The grey desert spreads far and wide, save where a dark sea beats heavily on its coast. Not a ship, not a camel, not a house is there. But among heaps of carved stones and fallen pillars, such as might build a royal city, a white-haired, withered man sits with his eyes upon the ground. A vulture is perched upon a mound near, and looks at him; and a jackal eyes him from a shattered tomb, and gnaws a scull. The wind of the desert has blown the sand over his feet, and almost to his knees, but he cares not to rise and free himself. Dervish 1 God must have fallen asleep in heaven above that place, and left it to die utterly."

"What dost thou now behold?""I see around a broad bay of the ocean, a range of green hills with streams and torrents, and gardens reaching to the skies. Amid these are palaces, with pillars built doubtless by the genii, and along the wide terraces in front of the buildings, sons of wisdom, and daughters of beauty are walking or leaning. One is a storyteller, who has gathered round him a crowd of listeners, young and old. Another seems to have just shaped a figure of a woman out of stone. She is more than half naked, but looks as if none dare think her so. On the torch which she holds up in her hand, a flame of green fire burns like a bright star in the sunshine round her. A band of children are wreathing flowers

« ПредишнаНапред »