Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

How many

to the stars, rocks, mountains, and waves, and courage, paralyzing the understanding, I feel time passing away as an ebbing sea. and that without producing indignation, I feel the eternity of man, the identity of his but only fear and obedience, and even much thought. The Greek had, it seems, the sympathy with the tyranny,—isa familiar fact same fellow-beings as I. The sun and explained to the child when he becomes a moon, water and fire, met his heart pre- man, only by seeing that the oppressor of cisely as they meet mine. Then the vaunted his youth is himself a child tyrannized over distinction between Greek and English, by those names and words and forms, of between Classic and Romantic schools, whose influence he was merely the organ to seems superficial and pedantic. When a the youth. The fact teaches him how thought of Plato becomes a thought to me, Belus was worshipped, and how the Pyra-when a truth that fired the soul of Pindar mids were built, better than the discovery fires mine, time is no more. When I feel by Champollion of the names of all the that we two meet in a perception, that our workmen and the cost of every tile. He two souls are tinged with the same hue, finds Assyria and the Mounds of Cholula and do, as it were, run into one, why should at his door, and himself has laid the courses. I measure degrees of latitude, why should I Again, in that protest which each concount Egyptian years?

siderate person makes against the superThe student interprets the age of chivalry stition of his times, he repeats step for step by his own age of chivalry, and the days of the part of old reformers, and in the search maritime adventure and circumnavigation after truth finds like them new perils to by quite parallel miniature experiences of virtue. He learns again what moral vigour his own. To the sacred history of the is needed to supply the girdle of a superworld, he has the same key. When the stition. A great licentiousness treads on voice of a prophet out of the deeps of anti- the heels of a reformation. quity merely echoes to him a sentiment of times in the history of the world has the his infancy, a prayer of his youth, he then Luther of the day had to lament the decay pierces to the truth through all the confusion of piety in his own household !

“Doctor," of tradition and the caricature of institutions. said his wife to Martin Luther, one day,

Rare, extravagant spirits come by us at 'how is it that, whilst subject to papacy, intervals, who disclose to us new facts in we prayed so often and with such fervour, nature. I see that men of God have, from whilst now we pray with the utmost coldness time to time, walked among men and made and very seldom?" their commission felt in the heart and soul The advancing man discovers how deep of the commonest hearer. Hence, evidently, a property he has in literature,-in all fable the tripod, the priest, the priestess inspired as well as in all history. He finds that the by the divine afflatus.

poet was no odd fellow who described Jesus astonishes and overpowers sensual strange and impossible situations, but that people. They cannot unite him to history, universal man wrote by his pen a confession or reconcile him with themselves. As they true for one and true for all. His own come to revere their intuitions and aspire to secret biography he finds in lines wonderlive holily, their own piety explains every fully intelligible to him, dotted down before fact, every word.

he was born. One after another he comes How easily these old worships of Moses, up in his private adventures with every fable of Zoroaster, of Menu, of Socrates, domes- of Æsop, of Homer, of Hafiz, of Ariosto, of ticate themselves in the mind. I cannot find Chaucer, of Scott, and verifies them with any antiquity in them. They are mine as his own head and hands. much as theirs.

The beautiful fables of the Greeks, being I have seen the first monks and anchorets proper creations of the imagination and without crossing seas or centuries. More not of the fancy, are universal verities. than once some individual has appeared to What a range of meanings and what perme with such negligence of labour and such petual pertinence has the story of Promecommanding contemplation, a haughty theus ! Beside its primary value as the beneficiary, begging in the name of God, first chapter of the history of Europe (the as made good to the nineteenth century mythology thinly veiling authentic facts, Simeon the Stylite, the Thebais, and the the invention of the mechanic arts, and first Capuchins.

the migration of colonies), it gives the The priestcraft of the East and West, of history of religion with some closeness to the Magian, Brahmin, Druid, and Inca, is the faith of later ages. Prometheus is the

He is the expounded in the individual's private life. Jesus of the old mythology. The cramping influence of a hard formalist friend of man ; stands between the unjust on a young child in repressing his spirits “justice" of the Eternal Father and the race of mortals, and readily suffers all things changes come, all putting questions to the on their account. But where it departs human spirit. Those men who cannot from the Calvinistic Christianity, and ex- answer by a superior wisdom these facts hibits him as the defier of Jove, it repre- or questions of time, serve them. Facts sents a state of mind which readily appears encumber them, tyrannize over them, and wherever the doctrine of Theism is taught make the men of routine the men of in a crude, objective form, and which seems sense, in whom a literal obedience to facts the self-defence of man against this untruth, has extinguished every spark of that light namely, a discontent with the believed fact by which man is truly man. But if the that a God exists, and a feeling that the man is true to his better instincts or sentiobligation of reverence is onerous. It would ments, and refuses the dominion of facts, steal, if it could, the fire of the Creator, and as one that comes of a higher race, remains live apart from him, and independent of fast by the soul and sees the principle, then him. Prometheus Vinctus is the romance the facts fall aptly and supple into their of scepticism. Not less true to all time are places; they know their master, and the the details of that stately apologue. Apollo meanest of them glorifies him. kept the flocks of Admetus, said the poets. See in Goethe's Helena the same desire When the gods come among men, they are that every word should be a thing. These not known. Jesus was not ; Socrates and figures, he would say, these Chirons, Griffins, Shakspeare were not. Antæus was suffo- Phorkyas, Helen, and Leda, are somewhat, cated by the gripe of Hercules, but every and do exert a specific influence on the time he touched his mother earth, his mind. So far then are they eternal entities, strength was renewed. Man is the broken as real to-day as in the first Olympiad. giant, and, in all his weakness, both his Much revolving them, he writes out freely body and his mind are invigorated by habits his humour, and gives them body to his own of conversation with nature. The power of imagination. And although that poem be music, the power of poetry to unfix, and, as as vague and fantastic as a dream, yet is it it were, clap wings to solid nature, interprets much more attractive than the more regular the riddle of Orpheus. The philosophical dramatic pieces of the same author, for the perception of identity through endless reason that it operates a wonderful relief to mutations of form makes him know the the mind from the routine of customary Proteus. What else am I who laughed or images, - awakens the reader's invention wept yesterday, who slept last night like a and fancy by the wild freedom of the design, corpse, and this morning stood and ran? and by the unceasing succession of brisk And what see I on any side but the trans- shocks of surprise. migrations of Proteus ? I can symbolize The universal nature, too strong for the my thought by using the name of any petty nature of the bard, sits on his neck creature, of any fact, because every creature and writes through his hand; so that when is man agent or patient. Tantalus is but he seems to vent a mere caprice and wild a name for you and me. Tantalus means romance, the issue is an exact allegory. the impossibility of drinking the waters of Hence Plato said that “poets utter great thought which are always gleaming and and wise things which they do not themwaving within sight of the soul. The trans- selves understand." All the fictions of the migration of souls is no fable. I would it Middle Age explain themselves as a masked were ; but men and women are only half or frolic expression of that which in grave human. Every animal of the barn-yard, earnest the mind of that period toiled to the field, and the forest, of the earth and achieve. Magic, and all that is ascribed to of the waters that are under the earth, has it, is a deep presentiment of the powers of contrived to get a footing and to leave the science. The shoes of swiftness, the sword print of its features and form in some one of sharpness, the power of subduing the or other of these upright, heaven-facing elements, of using the secret virtues of speakers. Ah! brother, stop the ebb of thy minerals, of understanding the voices of soul,-ebbing downward into the forms into birds, are the obscure efforts of the mind whose habits thou hast now for many years in a right direction. The preternatural slid. As near and proper to us is also that prowess of the hero, the gift of perpetual old fable of the Sphinx, who was said to sit youth, and the like, are alike the endeavour in the roadside and put riddles to every of the human spirit to bend the shows of passenger. If the man could not answer, things to the desires of the mind.” she swallowed him alive. If he could solve In Perceforest and Amadis de Gaul, a the riddle, the Sphinx was slain. What garland and a rose bloom on the head of is our life but an endless flight of winged her who is faithful, and fade on the brow ficts or events ! In splendid variety these I of the inconstant. In the story of the

Boy and the Mantle, even a mature reader It is of such a spacious, lofty pitch, may be surprised with a glow of virtuous Your roof were not sufficient to contain it." pleasure at the triumph of the gentle

Henry VI. Genelas ; and, indeed, all the postulates of Columbus needs a planet to shape his elfin annals,--that the fairies do not like course upon. Newton and Laplace need to be named ; that their gifts are capricious myriads of ages and thickstrewn celestial and not to be trusted ; that who seeks a areas, One may say a gravitating solar treasure must not speak; and the like, -I system is already prophesied in the nature find true in Concord, however they might of Newton's mind. Not less does the brain be in Cornwall or Bretagne.

of Davy or of Gay-Lussac, from childhood Is it otherwise in the newest romance? exploring the affinities and repulsions of I read the Bride of Lammermoor. Sir particles, anticipate the laws of organization. William Ashton is a mask for a vulgar Does not the eye of the human embryo temptation, Ravenswood Castle a fine name predict the light? the ear of Handel predict for proud poverty, and the foreign mission the witchcraft of harmonic sound Do of state only a Bunyan disguised for honest not the constructive fingers of Watt, Fulton, industry. We may all shoot a wild bull Whittemore, Arkwright, predict the fusible, that would toss the good and beautiful, by hard, and temperable texture of metals, the fighting down the unjust and sensual. Lucy properties of stone, water, and wood? Do Ashton is another name for fidelity, which not the lovely attributes of the maiden child is always beautiful and always liable to predict the refinements and decorations of calamity in this world.

civil society? Here also we are reminded

of the action of man on man. A mind But along with the civil and metaphysical might ponder its thought for ages, and not history of man, another history goes daily gain so much self-knowledge as the passion forward,—that of the external world, --in of love shall teach it in a day. Who knows which he is not less strictly implicated. himself before he has been thrilled with He is the compend of time; he is also the indignation at an outrage, or has heard an correlative of nature. His power consists eloquent tongue, or has shared the throb in the multitude of his affinities, in the fact of thousands in a national exultation or that his life is intertwined with the whole alarm ? No man can antedate his exchain of organic and inorganic being. In perience, or guess what faculty or feeling old Rome the public roads beginning at a new object shall unlock, any more than the Forum proceeded north, south, east, he can draw to-day the face of a person west, to the centre of every province of the whom he shall see to-morrow for the first empire, making each market-town of Persia, time. Spain, and Britain pervious to the soldiers I will not now go behind the general of the capital : so out of the human heart statement to explore the reason of this corgo, as it were, highways to the heart of respondency. Let it suffice that in the light every object in nature, to reduce it under of these two facts, namely, that the mind is the dominion of man. A man is a bundle One, and that nature is its correlative, his. of relations, a knot of roots, whose flower tory is to be read and written. and fruitage is the world. His faculties Thus in all ways does the soul concentrate refer to natures out of him, and predict the and reproduce its treasures for each pupil. world he is to inhabit, as the fins of the He, too, shall pass through the whole cycle fish foreshow that water exists, or the wings of experience. He shall collect into a focus of an eagle in the egg presuppose air.

He the rays of nature. History no longer shall cannot live without a world. Put Napoleon be a dull book. It shall walk incarnate in in an island prison, let his faculties find no every just and wise man. You shall not tell men to act on, no Alps to climb, no stake to me by languages and titles a catalogue of play for, and he would beat the air and the volumes you have read. You shall make appear stupid. Transport him to large me feel what periods you have lived. A countries, dense population, complex in- man shall be the Temple of Fame. He terests, and antagonist power, and you shall shall walk, as the poets have described that see that the man Napoleon, bounded, that goddess, in a robe painted all over with is, by such a profile and outline, is not the wonderful events and experiences ; his own virtual Napoleon. This is but Talbot's form and features by their exalted intelshadow ;

ligence shall be that variegated vest. I “His substance is not here :

shall find in him the Foreworld ; in his For what you see is but the smallest part

childhood the Age of Gold ; the Apples of And least proportion of humanity;

Knowledge ; the Argonautic Expedition ; But were the whole frame here,

the calling of Abraham ; the building of the Temple ; the Advent of Christ ; Dark Ages ; the Revival of Letters; the Reformation ;

SELF-RELIANCE. the discovery of new lands; the opening of new sciences, and new regions in man.

He

Ne te quæsiveris extra." shall be the priest of Pan, and bring with

Man is his own star; and the soul that can him into humble cottages the blessing of Render an honest and a perfect man, the morning stars and all the recorded

Commands all light, all influence, all fate ; benefits of heaven and earth.

Nothing to him falls early or too late. Is there somewhat overweening in this Our acts our angels are, or good or ill, claim ? Then I reject all I have written,

Our fatal shadows that walk by us still.” for what is the use of pretending to know

Epilogue to Beaumont and Fletcher's

Honest Man's Fortunes. what we know not? But it is the fault of our rhetoric that we cannot strongly state Cast the bantling on the rocks, one fact without seeming to belie some Suckle him with the she-wolf's teat; other. I hold our actual knowledge very

Wintered with the hawk and fox, cheap. Hear the rats in the wall, see the

Power and speed be hands and feet. lizard on the fence, the fungus under foot, I READ the other day some verses written the lichen on the log. What do I know by an eminent painter which were original sympathetically, morally, of either of these and not conventional. The soul always worlds of life? As old as the Caucasian hears an admonition in such lines, let the man,-perhaps older,—these creatures have subject be what it may. The sentiment kept their counsel beside him, and there is they instil is of more value than any thought no record of any word or sign that has they may contain. To believe your own passed from one to the other. What con- thought, to believe that what is true for you nection do the books show between the fifty in your private heart is true for all men,or sixty chemical elements and the historical that is genius. Speak your latent conviceras?' Nay, what does history yet record tion, and it shall be the universal sense ; of the metaphysical annals of man? What for the inmost in due time becomes the outlight does it shed on those mysteries which most,—and our first thought is rendered we hide under the names Death and Im- back to us by the trumpets of the Last mortality. Yet every history should be Judgment. Familiar as the voice of the written in a wisdom which divined the mind is to each, the highest merit we range of our affinities and looked at facts ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is, that as symbols. I am ashamed to see what a they set at naught books and traditions, shallow village tale our so-called History is. and spoke not what men but what they How many times we must say Rome, and thought. A man should learn to detect Paris, and Constantinople! What does and watch that gleam of light which flashes Rome know of rat and lizard ?

What are

across his mind from within, more than the Olympiads and Consulates to these neigh- lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. bouring systems of being?. Nay, what food Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, or experience or succour have they for the because it is his. In every work of genius Esquimaux seal-hunter, for the Kanåka in we recognize our own rejected thoughts : his canoe, for the fisherman, the stevedore, they come back to us with a certain alienthe porter ?

ated majesty. Great works of art have no Broader and deeper we must write our more affecting lesson for us than this. annals,—from an ethical reformation, from They teach us to abide by our spontaneous an influx of the ever new, ever sanative impression with good-humoured inflexibility conscience,-if we would truly express our then most when the whole cry of voices is central and wide-related nature, instead of on the other side. Else, to-morrow a this old chronology of selfishness and pride stranger will say with masterly good sense to which we have too long lent our eyes. precisely what we have thought and felt all Already that day exists for us, shines in on the time, and we shall be forced to take us at unawares, but the path of science and with shame our own opinion from another. of letters is not the way into nature. The There is a time in every man's education idiot, the Indian, the child, and unschooled when he arrives at the conviction that envy farmer's boy stand nearer to the light by is ignorance ; that imitation is suicide ; which nature is to be read, than the dis- that he must take himself for better, for sector or the antiquary.

worse, as his portion ; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The

can

events.

power which resides in him is new in Bashful or bold, then, he will know how to nature, and none but he knows what that make us seniors very unnecessary. is which he can do, nor does he know until The nonchalance of boys who are sure of he has tried. Not for nothing one face, a dinner, and would disdain as much as a one character, one fact, makes much im- lord to do or say aught to concilitate one, pression on him, and another none. This is the healthy attitude of human nature. sculpture in the memory is not without pre- A boy is in the parlour what the pit is in established harmony. The eye was placed the playhouse ; independent, irresponsible, where one ray should fall, that it might looking out from his corner on such people testify of that particular ray. We but half and facts as pass by, he tries and sentences express ourselves, and are ashamed of that them on their merits, in the swift, summary divine idea which each of us represents. way of boys, as good, bad, interesting, It may be safely trusted as proportionate silly, eloquent, troublesome. He cumbers and of good issues, so it be faithfully im- himself never about consequences, about parted, but God will not have his work interests; he gives an independent, genuine made manifest by cowards. A man is re- verdict. You must court him : he does not lieved and gay when he has put his heart court you. But the man is, as it were, clapped into his work and done his best ; but what into jail by his consciousness. As soon as he has said or done otherwise, shall give he has once acted or spoken with eclat, him no peace. It is a deliverance which he is a committed person, watched by the does not deliver. In the attempt his genius sympathy or the hatred of hundreds, whose deserts him ; no muse befriends; no in- affections must now enter into his account. vention, no hope.

There is no Lethe for this. Ah, that he Trust thyself : every heart vibrates to that could pass again into his neutrality! Who iron string. Accept the place the divine can thus avoid all pledges, and having providence has found for you, the society observed, observe again from the same unof your contemporaries, the connection of affected, unbiassed, unbribable, unaffrighted

Great men have always done so, innocence, must always be formidable. He and confided themselves childlike to the would utter opinions on all passing affairs, genius of their age, betraying their percep- which being seen to be not private, but tion that the absolutely trustworthy was necessary, would sink like darts into the ear seated at their heart, working through their of men, and put them in fear. hands, predominating in all their being. These are the voices which we hear in And we are now men, and must accept in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible the highest mind the same transcendent as we enter into the world. Society everydestiny ; and not minors and invalids in a where is in conspiracy against the manhood protected corner, not cowards fleeing before of every one of its members. Society is a à revolution, but guides, redeemers, and joint-stock company, in which the members benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, agree, for the better securing of his bread to and advancing on Chaos and the Dark. each shareholder, to surrender the liberty

What pretty oracles nature yields us on and culture of the eater. The virtue in most this text, in the face and behaviour of request is conformity. Self-reliance is its children, babes, and even brutes! That aversion. It loves not realities and creators, divided and rebel mind, that distrust of a but names and customs. sentiment because our arithmetic has com- Whoso would be a man must be a nonputed the strength and means opposed to conformist. He who would gather immortal our purpose, these have not. Their mind palms must not be hindered by the name of being whole, their eye is as yet unconquered, goodness, but must explore if it be goodand when we look in their faces, we are ness. Nothing is at last sacred but the disconcerted. Infancy conforms to nobody: integrity of your own mind. Absolve you all conform to it, so that one babe com- to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage monly makes four or five out of the adults of the world. I remember an answer which who prattle and play to it. So God has when quite young I was prompted to make armed youth and puberty and manhood no to a valued adviser, who was wont to imless with its own piquancy and charm, and portune me with the dear old doctrines of made it enviable and gracious and its claims the church. On my saying, What have I not to be put by, if it will stand by itself. to do with the sacredness of traditions, if I Do not think the youth has no force, be- live wholly from within? my friend sugcause he cannot speak to you and me. gested : “But these impulses may be from Hark! in the next room his voice is suffi- below, not from above. I replied : 'They ciently clear and emphatic. It seems he do not seem to me to be such ; but if I am knows how to speak to his contemporaries. I the Devil's child, I will live then from the

« PředchozíPokračovat »