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Title: Heart of Man
Author: Woodberry, George Edward, 1855-1930
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Heart of Man" ***

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"Deep in the general heart of man"






February 18, 1899.


OF the papers contained in this volume
"Taormina" was published in the _Century
Magazine_; the others are new. The intention
of the author was to illustrate how poetry, politics,
and religion are the flowering of the same
human spirit, and have their feeding roots in
a common soil, "deep in the general heart of


February 22, 1809.








What should there be in the glimmering lights of a poor fishing-village
to fascinate me? Far below, a mile perhaps, I behold them in the
darkness and the storm like some phosphorescence of the beach; I see the
pale tossing of the surf beside them; I hear the continuous roar borne
up and softened about these heights; and this is night at Taormina.
There is a weirdness in the scene--the feeling without the reality of
mystery; and at evening, I know not why, I cannot sleep without stepping
upon the terrace or peering through the panes to see those lights. At
morning the charm has flown from the shore to the further heights above
me. I glance at the vast banks of southward-lying cloud that envelop
Etna, like deep fog upon the ocean; and then, inevitably, my eyes seek
the double summit of the Taorminian mountain, rising nigh at hand a
thousand feet, almost sheer, less than half a mile westward. The nearer
height, precipice-faced, towers full in front with its crowning ruined
citadel, and discloses, just below the peak, on an arm of rock toward
its right, a hermitage church among the heavily hanging mists. The other
horn of the massive hill, somewhat more remote, behind and to the old
castle's left, exposes on its slightly loftier crest the edge of a
hamlet. It, too, is cloud-wreathed--the lonely crag of Mola. Over these
hilltops, I know, mists will drift and touch all day; and often they
darken threateningly, and creep softly down the slopes, and fill the
next-lying valley, and roll, and lift again, and reveal the flank of
Monte d'Oro northward on the far-reaching range. As I was walking the
other day, with one of these floating showers gently blowing in my face
down this defile, I noticed, where the mists hung in fragments from the
cloud out over the gulf, how like air-shattered arches they groined the
profound ravine; and thinking how much of the romantic charm which
delights lovers of the mountains and the sea springs from such Gothic
moods of nature, I felt for a moment something of the pleasure of
recognition in meeting with this northern and familiar element in the
Sicilian landscape.

One who has grown to be at home with nature cannot be quite a stranger
anywhere on earth. In new lands I find the poet's old domain. It is not
only from the land-side that these intimations of old acquaintance come.
When my eyes leave, as they will, the near girdle of rainy mountain
tops, and range home at last upon the sea, something familiar is there
too,--that which I have always known,--but marvellously transformed and
heightened in beauty and power. Such sudden glints of sunshine in the
offing through unseen rents of heaven, as brilliant as in mid-ocean, I
have beheld a thousand times, but here they remind me rather of
cloud-lights on far western plains; and where have I seen those still
tracts of changeful colour, iridescent under the silvery vapours of
noon; or, when the weather freshens darkens, those whirlpools of pure
emerald in the gray expanse of storm? They seem like memories of what
has been, made fairer. One recurring scene has the same fascination for
my eyes as the fishers' lights. It is a simple picture: only an arm of
mist thrusting out from yonder lowland by the little cape, and making a
near horizon, where, for half an hour, the waves break with great dashes
of purple and green, deep and angry, against the insubstantial mole. All
day I gaze on these sights of beauty until it seems that nature herself
has taken on nobler forms forever more. When the mountain storm beats
the pane at midnight, or the distant lightnings awake me in the hour
before dawn, I can forget in what climate I am; but the oblivion is
conscious, and half a memory of childhood nights: in an instant comes
the recollection, "I am on the coasts, and these are the couriers, of

The very rain is strange: it is charged with obscure personality; it is
the habitation of a new presence, a storm-genius that I have never
known; it in born of Etna, whence all things here have being and draw
nourishment. It is not rain, but the rain-cloud, spread out over the
valleys, the precipices, the sounding beaches, the ocean plain; it is
not a storm, but a season. It does not rise with the moist Hyades, or
ride with cloudy Orion in the Mediterranean night; it does not pass like
Atlantic tempests on great world-currents: it remains. Its home is upon
Etna; thence it comes and thither it returns; it gathers and disperses,
lightens and darkens, blows and is silent, and though it suffer the
clear north wind, or the west, to divide its veils with heaven, again it
draws the folds together about its abode. It obeys only Etna, who sends
it forth; then with clouds and thick darkness the mountain hides its
face: it is the Sicilian winter.


But Etna does not withdraw continuously from its children even in this
season. On the third day, at farthest, I was told it would bring back
the sun; and I was not deceived. Two days it was closely wrapped in
impenetrable gray; but the third morning, as I threw open my casement
and stepped out upon the terrace, I saw it, like my native winter,
expanding its broad flanks under the double radiance of dazzling clouds
spreading from its extreme summit far out and upward, and of the
snow-fields whose long fair drifts shone far down the sides. Villages
and groves were visible, clothing all the lower zone, and between lay
the plain. It seemed near in that air, but it is twelve miles away.
From the sea-dipping base to the white cone the slope measures more than
twenty miles, and as many more conduct the eye downward to the western
fringe--a vast bulk; yet one does not think of its size as he gazes; so
large a tract the eye takes in, but no more realizes than it does the
distance of the stars. High up, forests peer through the ribbed snows,
and extinct craters stud the frozen scene with round hollow mounds
innumerable. A thousand features, but it remains one mighty mountain.
How natural it seems for it to be sublime! It is the peer of the sea and
of the sky. All day it flashed and darkened under the rack, and I
rejoiced in the sight, and knew why Pindar called it the pillar of
heaven; and at night it hooded itself once more with the winter cloud.


Would you see this land as I see it? Come then, since Etna gives a fair,
pure morning, up over the shelving bank to the great eastern spur of
Taormina, where stood the hollow theatre, now in ruins, and above it the
small temple with which the Greeks surmounted the highest point. It is
such a spot as they often chose for their temples; but none ever
commanded a more noble prospect. The far-shining sea, four or five
hundred feet below, washes the narrow, precipitous descent, and on each
hand is disclosed the whole of that side of Sicily which faces the
rising sun. To the left and northward are the level straits, with the
Calabrian mountains opposite, thinly sown with light snow, as far as the
Cape of Spartivento, distinctly seen, though forty miles away; in front
expands the open sea; straight to the south runs the indented coast, bay
and beach, point after point, to where, sixty miles distant, the great
blue promontory of Syracuse makes far out. On the land-side Etna fills
the south with its lifted snow-fields, now smoke-plumed at the languid
cone; and thence, though lingeringly, the eye ranges nearer over the
intervening plain to the well-wooded ridge of Castiglione, and, next, to
the round solitary top of Monte Maestra, with its long shoreward
descent, and comes to rest on the height of Taormina overhead, with its
hermitage of Santa Maria della Rocca, its castle, and Mola. Yet further
off, at the hand of the defile, looms the barren summit of Monte
Venere, with Monte d'Oro and other hills in the foreground, and
northward, peak after peak, travels the close Messina range.

A landscape of sky, sea, plain, and mountains, great masses majestically
grouped, grand in contour! Yet to call it sublime does not render the
impression it makes upon the soul. Sublime, indeed, it is at times, and
dull were he whose heart from hour to hour awe does not visit here; but
constantly the scene is beautiful, and yields that delight which dwells
unwearied with the soul. One may be seldom touched to the exaltation
which sublimity implies, but to take pleasure in loveliness is the habit
of one who lives as heaven made him; and what characterizes this
landscape and sets it apart is the permanence of its beauty, its
perpetual and perfect charm through every change of light and weather,
and in every quarter of its heaven and earth, felt equally whether the
eye sweeps the great circuit with its vision, or pauses on the nearer
features, for they, too, are wonderfully composed. This hill of my
station falls down for half a mile with broken declivities, and then
becomes the Cape of Taormina, and takes its steep plunge into the sea.
Yonder picturesque peninsula to its left, diminished by distance and
strongly relieved on the purple waves, is the Cape of Sant' Andrea, and
beside it a cluster of small islands lies nearer inshore. On the other
side, to the right of our own cape, shines our port, with Giardini, the
village of my fishers' lights, the beach with its boats, and the white
main road winding in the narrow level between the bluffs and the sands.
The port is guarded on the south by the peninsula of Schiso, where
ancient Naxos stood; and just beyond, the river Alcantara cuts the plain
and flows to the sea. At the other extremity, northward of Sant' Andrea,
is the cove of Letojanni, with its village, and then, perhaps eight
miles away, the bold headland of Sant' Alessio closes the shore view
with a mass of rock that in former times completely shut off the land
approach hither, there being no passage over it, and none around it
except by the strip of sand when the sea was quiet. All this ground,
with in several villages, from Sant' Alessio to the Alcantara, and
beyond into the plain, was anciently the territory of Taormina.

The little city itself lies on its hill, between the bright shore and
the gray old castle, on a crescent-like terrace whose two horns jut out
into the air like capes. The northern one of these is my station, the
site of the old temple and the amphitheatre; the southern one opposite
shows the facade of the Dominican convent; and the town circles between,
possibly a mile from spur to spur. Here and there long broken lines of
the ancient wall, black with age, stride the hillside. A round Gothic
tower, built as if for warfare, a square belfry, a ruined gateway, stand
out among the humble roofs. Gardens of orange and lemon trees gleam like
oblong parks, principally on the upper edge toward the great rock. If
you will climb, as I have done, the craggy plateau close by, which
overhangs the theatre and obstructs the view of the extreme end of the
town at this point, you will see from its level face, rough with the
plants of the prickly-pear, a cross on an eminence just below, and the
gate toward Messina.

The face of the country is bare. Here beneath, where the main ravine of
Taormina cuts into the earth between the two spurs of the city, are
terraces of fruit trees and vegetables, and, wherever the naked rock
permits, similar terraces are seen on the castle hill and every less
steep slope, looking as if they would slide off. Almond and olive trees
cling and climb all over the hillsides, but their boughs do not clothe
the country. It is gray to look at, because of the masses of natural
rock everywhere cropping out, and also from the substructure of the
terraces, which, seen from below, present banks of the same gray stone.
The only colour is given by the fan-like plants of the prickly-pear,
whose flat, thick-lipped, pear-shaped leaves, stuck with thorns, and
often extruding their reddish fruit from the edge, lend a dull green to
the scene. This plant grows everywhere, like wild bush, to a man's
height, covering the otherwise infertile soil, and the goats crop it. A
closer view shows patches of wild candytuft and marigolds, like those at
my feet, and humble purple and blue blossoms hang from crannies or run
over the stony turf; but these are not strong enough to be felt in the
prevalent tones. The blue of ocean, the white of Etna, the gray of
Taormina--this is the scene.

Three ways connect the town with the lower world. The modern carriage
road runs from the Messina gate, and, quickly dropping behind the
northern spur, winds in great serpentine loops between the Campo Santo
below and old wayside tombs, Roman and Arabic, above, until it slowly
opens on the southern outlook, and, after two miles of tortuous courses
above the lovely coves, comes out on the main road along the coast. The
second way starts from the other end of the town, the gate toward Etna,
and goes down more precipitously along the outer flank of the southern
spur, with Mola (here shifted to the other side of the castle hill)
closing the deep ravine behind; and at last it empties into the torrent
of Selina, in whose bed it goes on to Giardini. The third, or short way,
leaps down the great hollow of the spurs, and yet keeps to a ridge
between the folds of the ravine which it discloses on each side, with
here and there a contadino cutting rock on the steep hillsides, or a
sportsman wandering with his dog; or often at twilight, from some coign
of vantage, you may see the goats trooping home across the distant sands
by the sea. It debouches through great limestone quarries on the main
road. There, seen from below, Taormina comes out--a cape, a town, and a
hill. It is, in fact, a long, steep, broken ridge, shaped like a wedge;
one end of the broad lace dips into the sea, the other, high on land,
exposes swelling bluffs; its back bears the town, its point lifts the

This is the Taorminian land. What a quietude hangs over it! How poor,
how mean, how decayed the little town now looks amid all this silent
beauty of enduring nature! It could not have been always so. This
theatre at my feet, hewn in the living rock, flanked at each end by
great piers of massive Roman masonry, and showing broken columns thick
strewn in the midst of the broad orchestra, tells of ancient splendour
and populousness. The narrow stage still stands, with nine columns in
position in two groups; part are shattered half-way up, part are yet
whole, and in the gap between the groups shines the lovely sea with the
long southern coast, set in the beauty of these ruins as in a frame.
Here Attic tragedies were once played, and Roman gladiators fought. The
enclosure is large, much over a hundred yards in diameter. It held many
thousands. Whence came the people to fill it? I noticed by the
roadside, as I came up, Saracenic tombs. I saw in the first square I
entered those small Norman windows, with the lovely pillars and the
round arch. On the ancient church I have observed the ornamentation and
mouldings of Byzantine art. The Virgin with her crown, over the
fountain, was paltry enough, but I saw that this was originally a
mermaid's statue. A water-clock here, a bath there; in all quarters I
come on some slight, poor relics of other ages; and always in the faces
of the people, where every race seems to have set its seal, I see the
ruins of time. These echoes are not all of far-off things. That lookout
below was a station of English cannon, I am told; and the bluff over
Giardini, beyond the torrent, takes its name from the French tents
pitched there long ago. The old walls can be traced for five miles, but
now the circuit is barely two. I wonder, as I go down to my room in the
Casa Timeo, what was the past of this silent town, now so shrunken from
its ancient limits; and who, I ask myself, Timeo?


I thought when I first saw the inaccessibility of this mountain-keep
that I should have no walks except upon the carriage road; but I find
there are paths innumerable. Leap the low walls where I will, I come on
unsuspected ways broad enough for man and beast. They ran down the
hillsides in all directions, and are ever dividing as they descend, like
the branching streams of a waterfall. Some are rudely paved, and hemmed
by low walls; others are mere footways on the natural rock and earth,
often edging precipices, and opening short cross-cuts in the most
unexpected places, not without a suggestion of peril, to make eye and
foot alert, and to infuse a certain wild pleasure into the exercise. The
multiplicity of these paths is a great boon to the lover of beauty, for
here one charm of Italian landscape exists in perfection. Every few
moments the scene rearranges itself in new combinations, as on the
Riviera or at Amalfi, and makes an endless succession of lovely
pictures. The infinite variety of these views is not to be imagined
unless it has been witnessed; and besides the magic wrought by mere
change of position, there is also a constant transformation of tone and
colour from hour to hour, as the lights and shadows vary, and from day
to day, with the unsettled weather.

Yet who could convey to black-and-white speech the sense of beauty which
is the better part of my rambles? It is only to say that here I went up
and down on the open hillsides, and there I followed the ridges or kept
the cliff-line above the fair coves; that now I dropped down into the
vales, under the shade of olive and lemon branches, and wound by the
gushing streams through the orchards. In every excursion I make some
discovery, and bring home some golden store for memory. Yesterday I
found the olive slopes over Letojanni--beautiful old gnarled trees, such
as I have never seen except where the nightingales sing by the eastern
shore of Spezzia. I did not doubt when I was told that those orchards
yield the sweetest oil in the world. It was the lemon harvest, and
everywhere were piles of the pale yellow fruit heaped like apples under
the slender trees, with a gatherer here and there; for this is always a
landscape of solitary figures. To-day I found the little beach of San
Nicolo, not far from the same place. I kept inland, going down the
hollow by the Campo Santo, where there is a cool, gravelly stream in a
dell that is like a nook in the Berkshire hills, and then along the
upland on the skirts of Monte d'Oro, till by a sharp turn seaward I came
out through a marble quarry where men were working with what seemed slow
implements on the gray or party-coloured stone. I passed through the
rather silent group, who stopped to look at me, and a short distance
beyond I crossed the main road, and went down by a stream to the shore.
I found it strewn with seaside rock, as a hundred other beaches are, but
none with rocks like these. They were marble, red or green, or shot with
variegated hues, with many a soft gray, mottled or wavy-lined; and the
sea had polished them. Very lovely they were, and shone where the low
wave gleamed over them. I had wondered at the profusion of marbles in
the Italian churches, but I had not thought to find them wild on a
lonely Sicilian beach. Once or twice already I had seen a block rosy in
the torrent-beds, and it had seemed a rare sight; but here the whole
shore was piled and inlaid with the beautiful stone.

I have learned now that Taormina is famous for these marbles. Over
thirty varieties were sent to the Vienna Exhibition, and they won the
prize. I got this information from the keeper of the Communal Library,
with whom I have made friends. He recalls to my memory the ship that
Hieron of Syracuse gave to Ptolemy, wonderful for its size. It had
twenty banks of rowers, three decks, and space to hold a library, a
gymnasium, gardens with trees in them, stables, and baths, and towers
for assault, and it was provided by Archimedes with many ingenious
mechanical devices. The wood of sixty ordinary galleys was required for
its construction. I describe it because its architect, Filea, was a
Taorminian by birth, and esteemed in his day second only to Archimedes
in his skill in mechanics; and in lining the baths of this huge galley
he used these beautiful Taorminian marbles. My friend the librarian told
me also, with his Sicilian burr, of the wine of Taormina, the Eugenaean,
which was praised by Pliny, and used at the sacred feasts of Rome; but
now, he said sadly, the grape had lost its flavour.

The sugar-cane, which nourished in later times, is also gone. But the
mullet that is celebrated in Juvenal's verse, and the lampreys that once
went to better Alexandrian luxury, are still the spoil of the fishers,
the shrimps are delicate to the palate, and the marbles will endure as
long as this rock itself. The rock lasts, and the sea. The most ancient
memory here is of them, for this is the shore of Charybdis. It is stated
in Sallust and other Latin authors, as well as by writers throughout the
Middle Ages, that all which was swallowed up in the whirlpool of the
straits, after being carried beneath the sea for miles, was finally cast
up on the beach beneath the hill of Taormina.

The rock and the sea were finely blended in one of my first discoveries
in the land, and in consequence they have seemed, to my imagination,
more closely united here than is common. On a stormy afternoon I had
strolled down the main road, and was walking toward Letojanni. I came,
after a little, to a great cliff that overhung the sea, with room for
the road to pass beneath; and as I drew near I heard a strange sound, a
low roaring, a deep-toned reverberation, that seemed not to come from
the breaking waves, loud on the beach: it was a more solemn, a more
piercing and continuous sound. It was from the rock itself. The grand
music of the rolling sea beneath was taken up by the hollowed cliff, and
reechoed with a mighty volume of sound from invisible sources. It seemed
the voice of the rock, as if by long sympathy and neighbourhood in that
lonely place the cliff were interpenetrated with the sea-music, and had
become resonant of itself with those living harmonies heard only in the
Psalmist's song. It seemed a lyre for the centuries; and I thought over
how many a conqueror, how many a race, that requiem had been lifted upon
it as they passed to their death on this shore. I came back slowly in
the twilight, and was roused from my reverie by the cold wind breathing
on me as I reached the top of the hill, pure and keen and frosted like
the bright December breezes of my own land. It was the kiss of Etna on
my cheek.


Will you hear the legend of Taormina?--for in these days I dare not call
it history. Noble and romantic it is, and age-long. I had not hoped to
recover it; but my friend the librarian has brought me books in which
patriotic Taorminians have written the story celebrating their dear
city. I was touched by the simplicity with which he informed me that the
town authorities had been unwilling to waste on a passing stranger these
little paper-bound memorials of their city. "But," he said, "I told them
I had given you my word." So I possess these books with a pleasant
association of Sicilian honour, and I have read them with real interest.
As I turned the pages I was reminded once more how impossible it is to
know the past. The past survives in human institutions, in the
temperament of races, and in the creations of ideal art; but only in the
last is it immortal. Custom and law are for an age: race after race is
pushed to the sea, and dies; only epic and saga and psalm have one date
with man, one destiny with the breath of his lips, one silence at the
last with them. Least of all does the past survive in the living
memories of men. Here and there the earth cherishes a coin or a statue,
the desert embalms some solitary city, a few leagues of rainless air
preserve on rock and column the lost speech of Nile; so the mind of man
holds in dark places, or lifts to living fame, no more than ruins and
fragments of the life that was. I have been a diligent reader of books
in my time; and here in an obscure corner of the Old-World I find a
narrative studded with noble names, not undistinguished by stirring
deeds, and, save for the great movements of history and a few shadowy
figures, it is all fresh to my mind. I have looked on three thousand
years of human life upon this hill; something of what they have yielded,
if you will have patience with such a tract of time, I will set down.

My author is Monsignore Giovanni di Giovanni, a Taorminian, who
flourished in the last century. He was a man of vast erudition, and
there is in his pages the Old-World learning which delights me. He was
born before the days of historic doubt. He tells a true story. To allege
an authority is with him to prove a fact, and to cite all writers who
repeat the original source is to render truth impregnable. Rarely does
he show any symptom of the modern malady of incredulity. _Scripta
littera_ is reason enough, unless the fair fame of his city chances to
be at stake. He was really learned, and I do wrong to seem to diminish
his authority. He was a patient investigator of manuscripts, and did
important service to Sicilian history. The simplicity I have alluded to
affects mainly the ecclesiastical part of his narrative. A few
statements also in regard to the prehistoric period might disturb the
modern mind, but I own to finding in them the charm of lost things. In
my mental provinces I welcome the cave-man, the flint-maker, the
lake-dweller, and all their primitive tribes to the abode of science;
but I feel them to be intruders in my antiquity. I was brought up on
quite other chronologies, and I still like a history that begins with
the flood. I will not, however, ask any one of more serious mind to go
back with Monsignore and myself to the era of autochthonous Sicily, when
the children of the Cyclops inhabited the land, and Demeter in her
search for Proserpina wept on this hill, and Charybdis lay stretched out
under these bluffs watching the sea. It is precise enough to say that
Taormina began eighty years before the Trojan War. Very dimly, it must
be acknowledged, the ancient Sicani are seen arriving and driven, like
all doomed races, south and west out of the land, and in their place the
Siculi flourish, and a Samnite colony voyages over the straits from
Italy and joins them. Here for three centuries these sparse communities
lived along these heights in fear of the sea pirates, and warred
confusedly from their mainhold on Mount Taurus, or the Bull, so called
because the two summits of the mountain from a distance resemble a
bull's horns; and they left no other memory of themselves.

Authentic history begins toward the end of the eighth century before our
era. It is a bright burst; for then, down by yonder green-foaming rock,
the young Greek mariners leaped on the strand. This was their first
land-fall in Sicily; that rock, their Plymouth; and here, doubtless, the
alarmed mountaineers stood in their fastness and watched the bearers of
the world's torch, and knew them not, bringing daybreak to the dark
island for evermore, but fought, as barbarism will, against the light,
and were at last made friends with it--a chance that does not always
befall. Then quickly rose the lowland city of Naxos, and by the river
sprang up the temple to Guiding Apollo, the earliest shrine of the
Sicilian Greeks, where they came ever afterward to pray for a prosperous
voyage when they would go across the sea, homeward. They were from the
first a fighting race; and decade by decade the cloud of war grew
heavier on each horizon, southward from Syracuse and northward from
Messina, and swords beat fiercer and stronger with the rivalries of
growing states--battles dimly discerned now. A single glimpse flashes
out on the page of Thucydides. He relates that when once the Messenians
threatened Naxos with overthrow, the mountaineers rushed down from the
heights in great numbers to the relief of their Greek neighbours, and
routed the enemy and slew many. This is the first bloodstain, clear and
bright, on our Taorminian land. Shall I add, from the few relics of that
age, that Pythagoras, on the journey he undertook to establish the
governments of the Sicilian cities, wrought miracles here, curing a mad
lover of his frenzy by music, and being present on this hill and at
Metaponto the same day--a thing not to be done without magic? But at
last we see plainly Alcibiades coasting along below, and the ill-fated
Athenians wintering in the port, and horsemen going out from Naxos
toward Etna on the side of Athens in the death-struggle of her glory.
And then, suddenly, after the second three hundred years, all is over,
the Greek city betrayed, sacked, destroyed, Naxos trodden out under the
foot of Dionysius the tyrant.

Other fortune awaited him a few years later when he came again, and our
city (which, one knows not when, had been walled and fortified) stood
its first historic siege. Dionysius arrived in the dead of winter. Snow
and ice--I can hardly credit it--whitened and roughened these ravines, a
new ally to the besieged; but the tyrant thought to betray them by a
false security in such a season. On a bitter night, when clouds hooded
the hilltop, and mists rolled low about its flanks, he climbed
unobserved, with his forces, up these precipices, and gained two outer
forts which gave footways to the walls; but the town roused at the sound
of arms and the cries of the guards, and came down to the fray, and
fought until six hundred of the foe fell dead, others with wounds
surrendered, and the rest fled headlong, with Dionysius among them, hard
pressed, and staining the snow with his blood as he went. This was the
city's first triumph.

Not only with brave deeds did Taormina begin, but, as a city should,
with a great man. He was really great, this Andromachus. Do you not
remember him out of Plutarch, and the noble words that have been his
immortal memory among men? "This man was incomparably the best of all
those that bore sway in Sicily at that time, governing his citizens
according to law and justice, and openly professing an aversion and
enmity to all tyrants." Was the defeat of Dionysius the first of his
youthful exploits, as some say? I cannot determine; but it is certain
that he gathered the surviving exiles of Naxos, and gave them this
plateau to dwell upon, and it was no longer called Mount Taurus, as had
been the wont, but Tauromenium, or the Abiding-place of the Bull. A few
years later Andromachus performed the signal action of his life by
befriending Timoleon, as great a character, in my eyes, as Plutarch
records the glory of. Timoleon had set out from Corinth, at the summons
of his Greek countrymen, to restore the liberty of Syracuse, then
tyrannized over by the second Dionysius; and because Andromachus, in his
stronghold of Taormina, hated tyranny, Plutarch says, he "gave Timoleon
leave to muster up his troops there and to make that city the seat of
war, persuading the inhabitants to join their arms with the Corinthian
forces and to assist them in the design of delivering Sicily." It was on
our beach that Timoleon disembarked, and from our city he went forth to
the conquest foretold, by the wreath that fell upon his head as he
prayed at Delphi, and by the prophetic fire that piloted his ship over
the sea. The Carthaginians came quickly after him from Reggio, where he
had eluded them, for they were in alliance with the tyrant; and from
their vessels they parleyed with Andromachus in the port. With an
insolent gesture, the envoy, raising his hand, palm up, and turning it
lightly over, said that even so, and with such ease, would he overturn
the little city; and Andromachus, mocking his hand-play, answered that
if he did not leave the harbour, even so would he upset his galley. The
Carthaginians sailed away. The city remained firm-perched. Timoleon
prospered, brought back liberty to Syracuse, ruled wisely and nobly, and
gave to Sicily those twenty years of peace which were the flower of her
Greek annals. Then, we must believe, rose the little temple on our
headland, the Greek theatre where the tongue of Athens lived, the
gymnasium where the youths grew fair and strong. Then Taormina struck
her coins: Apollo with the laurel, with the lyre, with the grape;
Dionysus with the ivy, and Zeus with the olive; for the gods and temples
of the Naxians had become ours, and were religiously cherished; and with
the rest was struck a coin with the Minotaur, our symbol. But of
Andromachus, the founder of the well-built and fairly adorned Greek city
that then rose, we hear no more--a hero, I think, one of the true breed
of the founders of states. But alas for liberty! A new tyrant,
Agathocles, was soon on the Syracusan throne, and he won this city by
friendly professions, only to empty it by treachery and murder; and he
drove into exile Timaeus, the son of Andromachus. Timaeus? He,
evidently, of my Casa Timeo. I know him now, the once famed historian
whom Cicero praises as the most erudite in history of all writers up to
his time, most copious in facts and various in comment, not unpolished
in style, eloquent, and distinguished by terse and charming expression.
Ninety years he lived in the Greek world, devoted himself to history,
and produced many works, now lost. The ancient writers read him, and
from their criticism it is clear that he was marked by a talent for
invective, was given to sharp censure, and loved the bitter part of
truth. He introduced precision and detail into his art, and is credited
with being the first to realize the importance of chronology and to seek
exactness in it. He never saw again his lovely birthplace, and I easily
forgive to the exile and the son of Andromachus the vigour with which he
depicted the crimes of Agathocles and others of the tyrants. In our
city, meanwhile, the Greek genius waning to its extinction, Tyndarion
ruled; and in his time Pyrrhus came hither to repulse the ever invading
power of Carthage. But he was little more than a shedder of blood; he
accomplished nothing, and I name him only as one of the figures of our

The day of Greece was gone; but those two clouds of war still hung on
the horizon, north and south, with ever darker tempest. Instead of
Syracuse and Messina, Carthage and the new name of Rome now sent them
forth, and over this island they encountered. Our city, true to its
ancient tradition, became Rome's ever faithful ally, as you may read in
the poem of Silius Italicus, and was dignified by treaty with the title
of a confederate city; and of this fact Cicero reminded the judges when
in that famous trial he thundered against Verres, the spoiler of our
Sicilian province, and with the other cities defended this of ours,
whose people had signalized their hatred of the Roman praetor by
overthrowing his statue in the market-place and sparing the pedestal, as
they said, to be an eternal memorial of his infamy. From the Roman age,
however, I take but two episodes, for I find that to write this town's
history were to write the history of half the Mediterranean world. When
the slaves rose in the Servile War, they intrenched themselves on this
hill, and in their hands the city bore its siege by the Roman consul as
hardily as was ever its custom. Cruel they were, no doubt, and
vindictive. With horror Monsignore relates that they were so resolved
not to yield that, starving, they ate their children, their wives, and
one another; and he rejoices when they were at last betrayed and
massacred, and this disgrace was wiped away. I hesitate. I cannot feel
regret when those whom man has made brutal answer brutally to their
oppressors. I have enough of the old Taorminian spirit to remember that
the slaves, too, fought for liberty. I am sorry for those penned and
dying men; their famine and slaughter in these walls were least horrible
for their part in the catastrophe, if one looks through what they did to
what they were, and remembers that the civilization they violated had
stripped them of humanity. After the slave, I make room--for whom else
than imperial Augustus? Off this shore he defeated Sextus Pompey, and he
thought easily to subdue the town above when he summoned it. But Taormina
was always a loyal little place, and it would not yield without a siege.
Then Augustus, sitting down before it, prayed in our temple of Guiding
Apollo that he might have the victory; and as he walked by the beach
afterward a fish threw itself out of the water before him--an omen,
said the diviners, that even so the Pompeians, who held the seas, after
many turns of varied fortune, should be brought to his feet. Pompey
returned with a fleet, and in these waters again the battle was fought
and Augustus lost it, and the siege was raised. But when a third time
the trial of naval strength was essayed, and the cause of the Pompeians
ruined, Augustus remembered the city that had defied him, sent its
inhabitants into exile, and planted a Roman colony in its place. Latin
was now the language here. The massive grandeur of Roman architecture
replaced the old Greek structures. The amphitheatre was enlarged and
renewed in its present form, villas of luxury bordered the coasts as in
Campania, and coins were struck in the Augustan name.

The Roman domination in its turn slowly moved to its fall; and where
should the new age begin more fitly than in this city of beginnings? As
of old the Greek torch first gleamed here, here first on Sicilian soil
was the Cross planted. The gods of Olympus had many temples about the
hill slopes, shrines of venerable antiquity even in those days; but if
the monkish chronicles be credited, the new faith signalized its victory
rather over three strange idolatries,--the worship of Falcone, of
Lissone, and of Scamandro, a goddess. I refuse to believe that the
citizens were accustomed to sacrifice three youths annually to Falcone;
and as for the other two deities, little is known of them except that
their destruction marked the advent of the young religion. Pancrazio was
the name of him who was destined to be our patron saint through the
coming centuries. He was born in Antioch, and when a child of three
years, going with his father into Judea, he had seen the living Christ;
now, grown into manhood, he was sent by St. Peter to spread the gospel
in the isles of the sea. He disembarked on our beach, and forthwith
threw Lissone's image into the waves, and with it a holy dragon which
was coiled about it like a garment and was fed with sacrifices; and he
shattered with his cross the great idol Scamandro: and so Taormina
became Christian, welcomed St. Peter on his way to Rome, and entered on
the long new age. It was here, as elsewhere, the age of
martyrs--Pancrazio first, and after him Geminiano, guided hither with
his mother by an angel; and then San Nicone, who suffered with his one
hundred and ninety-nine brother monks, and Sepero and Corneliano with
their sixty; the age of monks--Luca, who fled from his bridal to live on
Etna, with fasts, visions, and prophecies; and, later, simple-minded
Daniele, the follower of St. Elia, of whom there is more to be recorded;
the age of bishops, heard in Roman councils and the palace of Byzantium,
of whom two only are of singular interest--Zaccaria, who was deprived,
evidently the ablest in mind and policy of all the succession, once a
great figure in the disputes of East and West; and Procopio, whom the
Saracens slew, for the Crescent now followed the Cross.

The ancient war-cloud had again gathered out of Africa. The Saracens
were in the land, and every city had fallen except Syracuse and
Taormina. For sixty years the former held out, and our city for yet
another thirty, the sole refuge of the Christians. Signs of the
impending destruction were first seen by that St. Elia already
mentioned, who wandered hither, and was displeased by the manners and
morals of the citizens. I am sorry to record that Monsignore believed
his report, for only here is there mention of such a matter. "The
citizens," says my author, "lived in luxury and pleasure not becoming to
a state of war. They saw on all sides the fields devastated, houses
burnt, wealth plundered, cities given to the flames, friends and
companions killed or reduced to slavery, yet was there no vice, no sin,
that did not rule unpunished among them." Therefore the saint preached
the woe to come, and, turning to the governor, Constantine Patrizio, in
his place in the cathedral, he appealed to him to restrain his people.
"Let the philosophy of the Gentiles," he exclaimed, "be your shame.
Epaminondas, that illustrious _condottiere_, strictly restrained himself
from intemperance, from every lust, every allurement of pleasure. So,
also, Scipio, the Roman leader, was valorous through the same continence
as Epaminondas; and therefore they brought back signal victory, one over
the Spartans, the other over the Carthaginians, and both erected
immortal trophies." He promised them mercy with repentance, but ended
threateningly: "So far as in me lies I have clearly foretold to you all
that has been divinely revealed to me. If you believe my words, like
the penitents of Nineveh, you shall find mercy; if you despise my
admonitions, bound and captive you shall be reduced to the worst
slavery." He prophesied yet more in private. He went to the house of a
noble citizen, Crisione, who esteemed him as a father, and, lying in
bed, he said to him: "Do you see, Crisione, the bed in which I now lie?
In this same bed shall Ibrahim sleep, hungry for human blood, and the
walls of the rooms shall see many of the most distinguished persons of
this city all together put to the edge of the sword." Then he left the
house and went to the square in the centre of the city, and, standing
there, he lifted his garments above the knee. Whereupon simple Daniele,
who always followed him about, marvelling asked, "What does this thing
mean, father?" The old man had his answer ready, "Now I see rivers of
blood running, and these proud and magnificent buildings which you see
exalted shall be destroyed even to the foundations by the Saracens." And
the monk fled from the doomed city, like a true prophet, and went

The danger was near, but perhaps not more felt than it must always have
been where the prayer for defence against the Saracens had gone up for a
hundred years in the cathedral. The governor, however, had taken pains
to add to the strength of the city by strong fortifications upon Mola.
Ahulabras came under the walls, but gave over the ever unsuccessful
attempt to take the place, and went on to ruin Reggio beyond the
straits. When it was told to his father Ibrahim that Tabermina, as the
Saracens called it, had again been passed by, he cried out upon his son,
"He is degenerate, degenerate! He took his nature from his mother and
not from his father; for, had he been born from me, surely his sword
would not have spared the Christians!" Therefore he recalled him to the
home government, and came himself and sat down before the city. The
garrison was small and insufficient, but, says my author, following old
chronicles, "youths, old men, and children, without distinction of age,
sex, or condition, fearing outrage and all that slavery would expose
them to, all spontaneously offered themselves to fight in this holy war
even to death: with such courage did love of country and religious zeal
inspire the citizens." Ibrahim had other weapons than the sword. He
first corrupted the captains of the Greek fleet, who were afterward
condemned for the treason at Byzantium. Then, all being ready, he
promised some Ethiopians of his army, who are described as of a
ferocious nature and harsh aspect, that he would give them the city for
booty, besides other gifts, if they would devote themselves to the bold
undertaking. The catastrophe deserves to be told in Monsignore's own

"This people, accustomed to rapine, allured by the riches of the
Taorminians and the promises of the king, with the aid of the traitors
entered unexpectedly into the city, and with bloody swords and mighty
cries and clamour assailed the citizens. Meanwhile King Ibrahim, having
entered with all his army by a secret gate under the fortress of Mola,
thence called the gate of the Saracens, raged against the citizens with
such unexpected and cruel slaughter that not only neither the weakness
of sex, nor tender years, nor reverence for hoary age, but not even the
abundance of blood that like torrents flowed down the ways, touched to
pity that ferocious heart. The soldiers, masters of the beautiful and
wealthy city, divided among them the riches and goods of the citizens
according as to each one the lot fell; they levelled to the ground the
magnificent buildings, public or private, sacred or profane, all that
were proudest for amplitude, construction, and ornament; and that not
even the ruins of ancient splendour should remain, all that had survived
they gave to the flames."

This city, which the Saracens destroyed, is the one the Taorminians
cherish as the culmination of their past. In the Greek, the Roman, and
the early Christian ages it had flourished, as both its ruins and its
history attest, and much must have yet survived from those times; while
its station as the only Christian stronghold in the island would
naturally have attracted wealth hither for safety. In this first sack of
the Saracens, the ancient city must have perished, but the destruction
could hardly have been so thorough as is represented, since some of the
churches themselves, in their present state, show Byzantine workmanship.

There remains one bloody and characteristic episode to Ibrahim's
victory. The king, says the Arab chronicler, was pious and naturally
compassionate, but on this occasion he forgot his usual mildness. In the
midst of fire and blood he ordered the soldiers to search the caverns of
the hills, and they dragged forth many prisoners, among whom was the
Bishop Procopio. The king spoke to him gently and nobly, "Because you
are wise and old, O Bishop, I exhort you with soft words to obey my
advice, and to have foresight for your own safety and that of your
companions; otherwise you shall suffer what your fellow-citizens have
suffered from me. If you will embrace my laws, and deny the Christian
religion, you shall have the second place after me, and shall be more
dear to me than all the Agarenes." The prelate only smiled. Then, full
of wrath, the king said: "Do you smile while you are my prisoner? Know
you not in whose presence you are?" "I smile truly," came the answer,
"because I see you are inspired by a demon who puts these words into
your mouth." Furious, the king called to his attendants, "Quick, break
open his breast, tear out his heart, that we may see and understand the
secrets of his mind." While the command was being executed, Procopio
reproved the king and comforted his companions. "The tyrant, swollen
with rage, and grinding his teeth," says the narrative, "barbarously
offered him the torn-out heart that he might eat it." Then he bade them
strike off the bishop's head (who, we are told, was already half dead),
and also the heads of his companions, and to burn the bodies all
together. And as St. Pancrazio of old had thrown the holy dragon into
the sea, so now were his own ashes scattered to the winds of heaven; and
Ibrahim, having accomplished his work, departed.

Some of the citizens, however, had survived, and among them Crisione,
the host of St. Elia. He went to bear the tidings to the saint; and
being now assured of the gift of prophecy possessed by the holy man,
asked him to foretell his future. He met the customary fate of the
curious in such things. "I foresee," said the discomfortable saint,
"that within a few days you will die." And to make an end of St. Elia
with Crisione, let me record here the simple Daniele's last act of piety
to his master. It is little that in such company he fought with devils,
or that after he had written with much labour a beautiful Psalter, the
old monk bade him fling it and worldly pride together over the cliff
into a lake. Such episodes belonged to the times; and, after all, by
making a circuit of six miles he found the Psalter miraculously unwet,
and only his worldly pride remained at the lake's bottom. But it was a
mind singularly inventive of penance that led the dying saint to charge
poor Daniele to bear the corpse on his back a long way over the
mountains, merely because, he said, it would be a difficult thing to do.
Other survivors of the sack of Taormina, more fortunate than Crisione,
watched their opportunity, and, at a moment when the garrison was weak,
entered, seized the place, fortified it anew, and offered it to the
Greek emperor once more. He could not maintain war with the Saracens,
but by a treaty made with them he secured his faithful Taorminians in
the possession of the city. After forty years of peace under this treaty
it was again besieged for several months, and fell on Christmas night.
Seventeen hundred and fifty of its citizens were sent by the victors
into slavery in Africa. Greek troops, however, soon retook the city in
a campaign that opened brilliantly in Sicily only to close in swift
disaster; but for five years longer Taormina sustained continual siege,
and when it fell at last, with the usual carnage of its citizens and the
now thrice-repeated fire and ruin of Saracenic victory, we may well
believe that, though it remained the seat of a governor, little of the
city was left except its memory. Its name even was changed to Moezzia.

The Crescent ruled undisturbed for a hundred years, until the landing of
Count Roger, the Norman, the great hero of mediaeval Sicily, who
recovered the island to the Christian faith. Taormina, true to its
tradition, was long in falling; but after eighteen years of desultory
warfare Count Roger sat down before it with determination. He surrounded
it with a circumvallation of twenty-two fortresses connected by ramparts
and bridges, and cut off all access by land or sea. Each day he
inspected the lines; and the enemy, having noticed this habit, laid an
ambush for him in some young myrtles where the path he followed had a
very narrow passage over the precipices. They rushed out on him, and, as
he was unarmed and alone, would have killed him, had not their cries
attracted one Evandro, a Breton, who, coming, and seeing his chief's
peril, threw himself between, and died in his place. Count Roger was not
forgetful of this noble action. He recovered the body, held great
funeral services, and gave gifts to the soldiers and the church. The
story appealed so to the old chronicler Malaterra, that he told it in
both prose and verse. After seven months the city surrendered, and the
iron cross was again set up on the rocky eminence by the gate. It is a
sign of the ruin which had befallen that the city now lost its bishopric
and was ecclesiastically annexed to another see.

Taormina, compared with what it had been, was now a place of the desert;
but not the less for that did the tide of war rage round it for five
hundred years to come. It was like a rock of the sea over which
conflicting billows break eternally. I will not narrate the feudal story
of internecine violence, nor how amidst it all every religious order set
up monasteries upon the beautiful hillsides, of whose life little is now
left but the piles of books in old bindings over which my friend the
librarian keeps guard, mourning the neglect in which they are left.
Among both the nobles and the fathers were some examples of heroism,
sacrifice, and learning, but their deeds and virtues may sleep unwaked
by me. The kings and queens who took refuge here, and fled again,
Messenian foray and Chiaramontane faction, shall go unrecorded. I must
not, however, in the long roll of the famous figures of our beach forget
that our English Richard the Lion-hearted was entertained here by
Tancred in crusading days; and of notable sieges let me name at least
that which the city suffered for its loyalty to the brave and generous
Manfred when the Messenians surprised and wasted it, and that which with
less destruction the enemies of the second Frederick inflicted on it,
and that of the French under Charles II, who, contrary to his word, gave
up the surrendered city to the soldiery for eight whole days--a terrible
sack, of which Monsignore has heard old men tell. What part the citizens
took in the Sicilian Vespers, and how the Parliament that vainly sought
a king for all Sicily was held here, and in later times the marches of
the Germans, Spaniards, and English--these were too long a tale. With
one more signal memory I close this world-history, as it began, with a
noble name. It was from our beach yonder that Garibaldi set out for
Italy in the campaign of Aspromonte; hither he was brought back,
wounded, to the friendly people, still faithful to that love of liberty
which flowed in the old Taorminian blood.

I shut my books; but to my eyes the rock is scriptured now. What a leaf
it is from the world-history of man upon the planet! Every race has
splashed it with blood; every faith has cried from it to heaven. It is
only a hill-station in the realm of empire; but in the records of such a
city, lying somewhat aside and out of common vision, the course of human
fate may be more simply impressive than in the story of world-cities.
Athens, Rome, Constantinople, London, Paris, are great centres of
history; but in them the mind is confused by the multiplicity and awed
by the majesty of events. Here on this bare rock there is no thronging
of illustrious names, and little of that glory that conceals imperial
crime, the massacre of armies, and the people's woe. Again I use the
figure: it is like a rock of the sea, set here in the midst of the
Mediterranean world, washed by all the tides of history, beat on by
every pitiless storm of the passion of man for blood. The torch of
Greece, the light of the Cross, the streaming portent of the Crescent,
have shone from it, each in its time; all governments, from Greek
democracy to Bourbon tyranny, have ruled it in turn; Roman law and
feudal custom had it in charge, each a long age: yet civilization in all
its historic forms has never here done more, seemingly, than alleviate
at moments the hard human lot. And what has been the end? Go down into
the streets; go out into the villages; go into the country-side. The men
will hardly look up from their burdens, the women will seldom stop to
ask alms, but you will see a degradation of the human form that speaks
not of the want of individuals, of one generation, or of an age, but of
the destitution of centuries stamped physically into the race. There is,
as always, a prosperous class, men well to do, the more fortunate and
better-born; but the common people lead toilsome lives, and among them
suffering is widespread. Three thousand years of human life, and this
the result! Yet I see many indications of a brave patriotism in the
community, an effort to improve general conditions, to arouse, to
stimulate, to encourage--the spirit of free and united Italy awakening
here, too, with faith in the new age of liberty and hope of its promised
blessings. And for a sign there stands in the centre of the poor
fishing-village yonder a statue of Garibaldi.


The rain-cloud is gone. The days are bright, warm, and clear, and every
hour tempts me forth to wander about the hills. It is not spring, but
the hesitancy that holds before the season changes; yet each day there
are new flowers--not our delicate wood flowers, but larger and coarser
of fibre, and it adds a charm to them that I do not know their names.
The trees are budding, and here and there, like a wave breaking into
foam on a windless sea, an almond has burst into blossom, white and
solitary on the gray slopes, and over all the orchards there is the
faint suggestion of pale pink, felt more than seen, so vague is it--but
it is there. I go wandering by cliff or sea-shore, by rocky beds of
running water, under dark-browed caverns, and on high crags; now on our
cape, among the majestic rocks, I watch the swaying of the smooth
deep-violet waters below, changing into indigo as they lap the rough
clefts, or I loiter on the beach to see the fishers about their boats,
weather-worn mariners, and youths in the fair strength of manly beauty,
like athletes of the old world: and always I bring back something for
memory, something unforeseen.

I have ever found this uncertainty a rare pleasure of travel. It is
blessed not to know what the gods will give. I remember once in other
days I left the beach of Amalfi to row away to the isles of the Sirens,
farther down the coast. It was a beautiful, blowing, wave-wild morning,
and I strained my sight, as every headland of the high cliff-coast was
rounded, to catch the first glimpse of the low isles; and there came by
a country boat-load of the peasants, and in the bows, as it neared and
passed, I saw a dark, black-haired boy, bare breast, and dreaming eyes,
motionless save for the dipping prow--a figure out of old Italian
pictures, some young St. John, inexpressibly beautiful. I have
forgotten how the isles of the Sirens looked, but that boy's face I
shall never forget. It is such moments that give the Italy of the
imagination its charm. Here, too, I have similar experiences. A day or
two ago, when the bright weather began, I was threading the rough edge
of a broken path under the hill, and clinging to the rock with my hand.
Suddenly a figure rose just before me, where the land made out a little
farther on a point of the crag, so strange that I was startled; but
straightway I knew the goatherd, the curling locks, the olive face, the
garments of goatskin and leather on his limbs. It came on me like a
flash--_eccola_ the country of Theocritus!

I have never seen it set down among the advantages of travel that one
learns to understand the poets better. To see courts and governments,
manners and customs, works of architecture, statues and pictures and
ruins--this, since modern travel began, is to make the grand tour; but
though I have diligently sought such obvious and common aims, and had my
reward, I think no gain so great as that I never thought of, the light
which travel sheds upon the poets; unless, indeed, I should except that
stronger hold on the reality of the ideal creations of the imagination
which comes from familiar life with pictures, and statues, and kindred
physical renderings of art. This latter advantage must necessarily be
more narrowly availed of by men, since it implies a certain peculiar
temperament; but poetry, in its less exalted forms, is open and common
to all who are not immersed in the materialism of their own lives, and
whatever helps to unlock the poetic treasures of other lands for our
possession may be an important part of life. I think none can fully
taste the sweetness, or behold the beauty, of English song even, until
he has wandered in the lanes and fields of the mother-country; and in
the case of foreign, and especially of the ancient, poets, so much of
whose accepted and assumed world of fact has perished, the loss is very
great. I had trodden many an Italian hillside before I noticed how
subtly Dante's landscape had become realized in my mind as a part of
nature. I own to believing that Virgil's storms never blew on the sea
until once, near Salerno, as I rode back from Paestum, there came a
storm over the wide gulf that held my eyes enchanted--such masses of
ragged, full clouds, such darkness in their broad bosoms broken with
rapid flame, and a change beneath so swift, such anger on the sea, such
an indescribable and awful gleaming hue, not purple, nor green, nor red,
but a commingling of all these--a revelation of the wrath of colour! The
waves were wild with the fallen tempest; quick and heavy the surf came
thundering on the sands; the light went out as if it were extinguished,
and the dark rain came down; and I said, "'Tis one of Virgil's storms."
Such a one you will find also in Theocritus, where he hymns the children
of Leda, succourers of the ships that, "defying the stars that set and
rise in heaven, have encountered the perilous breath of storms. The
winds raise huge billows about their stern, yea, or from the prow, or
even as each wind wills, and cast them into the hold of the ship, and
shatter both bulwarks, while with the sail limits nil the gear confused
and broken, and the wide sea rings, being lashed by the gusts and by
showers of iron hail."

I must leave these older memories, to tell, so far as it is possible in
words, of that land of the idyl which of all enchanted retreats of the
imagination is the hardest for him without the secret to enter. Yet here
I find it all about me in the places where the poets first unveiled it.
Once before I had a sight of it, as all over Italy it glimpses at times
from the hills and the campagna. Descending under the high peak of
Capri, I heard a flute, and turned and saw on the neighbouring slopes
the shepherd-boy leading his flock, the music at his lips. Then the
centuries rolled together like a scroll, and I heard the world's morning
notes. That was a single moment; but here, day-long is the idyl world. I
read the old verses over, and in my walks the song keeps breaking in.
The idyls are full of streams and fountains, just such as I meet with
wherever I turn, and the water counts in the landscape as in the poems.
It is always tumbling over rocks in cascades, brawling with rounded
forms among the stones of the shallow brooks, bubbling in fountains, or
dripping from the cliff, or shining like silver in the plain. The run
that comes down from Mola, the torrent under the olive and lemon
branches toward Letojanni, the more open course in the ravine of the
mill down by Giardini, the cimeter of the far-seen Alcantara lying on
the campagna in the meadows, and that further _fiume freddo_, the cold
stream,--"chill water that for me deep-wooded Etna sends down from the
white snow, a draught divine,"--each of these seems inhabited by a
genius of its own, so that it does not resemble its neighbours. But all
alike murmur of ancient song, and bring it near, and make it real.

On the beach one feels most keenly the actuality of much of the idyls,
and finds the continuousness of the human life that enters into them. No
idyl appeals so directly to modern feeling, I suspect, as does that of
the two fishermen and the dream of the golden fish. Go down to the
shore; you will find the old men still at their toil, the same
implements, the same poverty, the same sentiment for the heart. Often as
I look at them I recall the old words, while the goats hang their heads
over the scant herbage, and the blue sea breaks lazily and heavily on
the sands.

"Two fishers, on a time, two old men, together lay and slept; they had
strewn the dry sea-moss for a bed in their wattled cabin, and there lay
against the leafy wall. Beside them wore strewn the instruments of their
toilsome bands, the fishing-creels, the rods of reed, the hooks, the
sails bedraggled with sea-spoil, the lines, the weels, the lobster-pots
woven of rushes, the seines, two oars, and an old cobble upon props.
Beneath their heads was a scanty matting, their clothes, their sailors'
caps. Here was all their toil, here all their wealth. The threshold had
never a door nor a watch-dog. All things, all, to them seemed
superfluity, for Poverty was their sentinel; they had no neighbour by
them, but ever against their narrow cabin gently floated up the sea."

This is what the eye beholds; and I dare not say that the idyl is
touched more with the melancholy of human fate for us than for the poet.
Poverty such as this, so absolute, I see everywhere at every hour. It is
a terrible sight. It is the physical hunger of the soul in wan limbs and
hand, and the fixed gaze of the unhoping eyes--despair made flesh. How
long has it suffered here? and was it so when Theocritus saw his fishers
and gave them a place in the country of his idyls? He spreads before us
the hills and fountains, and fills the scene-with shepherds, and
maidens, and laughing loves, and among the rest are these two poor old
men. The shadow of the world's poverty falls on this paradise now as
then. With the rock and sea it, too, endures.

A few traces of the old myths also survive on the landscape. Not far
from here, down the coast, the rocks that the Cyclops threw after the
fleeing mariners are still to be seen near the shore above which he
piped to Galatea. Some day I mean to take a boat and see them. But now I
let the Cyclops idyls go, and with them Adonis of Egypt, and Ptolemy,
and the prattling women, and the praises of Hiero, and the deeds of
Herakles; these all belong to the cities of the pastoral, to its
civilization and art in more conscious forms; but my heart stays in the
campagna, where are the song-contests, the amorous praise of maidens,
the boyish boasting, the young, sweet, graceful loves. Fain would I
recover the breath of that springtime; but while from my foot "every
stone upon the way spins singing," make what speed I can, I come not to
the harvest-feast. Bees go booming among the blossoms, and the flocks
crop their pasture, and night falls with Hesperus; but fruitless on my
lips, as at some shrine whence the god is gone, is Bion's prayer:
"Hesperus, golden lamp of the lovely daughter of the foam--dear
Hesperus, sacred jewel of the deep blue night, dimmer as much than the
moon as thou art among the stars preeminent, hail, friend!" Dead now is
that ritual. Now more silent than ever is the country-side, missing
Daphnis, the flower of all those who sing when the heart is young. Sweet
was his flute's first triumph over Menaleas: "Then was the boy glad, and
leaped high, and clapped his hands over his victory, as a young fawn
leaps about his mother"; but sweeter was the unwon victory when he
strove with Damoetas: "Then Damoetas kissed Daphnis, as he ended his
song, and he gave Daphnis a pipe, and Daphnis gave him a beautiful
flute. Damoetas fluted, and Daphnis piped; the herdsmen, and anon the
calves, were dancing in the soft green grass. Neither won the victory,
but both were invincible." And him, too, I miss who loved his friend,
and wished that they twain might "become a song in the ears of all men
unborn," even for their love's sake; and prayed, "Would, O Father
Cronides, and would, ye ageless immortals, that this might be, and that
when two generations have sped, one might bring these tidings to me by
Acheron, the irremeable stream: the loving-kindness that was between
thee and thy gracious friend is even now in all men's mouths, and
chiefly on the lips of the young." Hill and fountain and pine, the gray
sea and Mother Etna, are here; but no children gather in the land, as
once about the tomb of Diocles at the coming in of the spring,
contending for the prize of the kisses--"Whoso most sweetly touches lip
to lip, laden with garlands he returneth to his mother. Happy is he who
judges those kisses of the children." Lost over the bright furrows of
the sea is Europa riding on the back of the divine bull as Moschus
beheld her--"With one hand she clasped the beast's great horn, and with
the other caught up the purple fold of her garment, lest it might trail
and be wet in the hoar sea's infinite spray"; and from the border-land
of mythic story, that was then this world's horizon, yet more faintly
the fading voice of Hylas answers the deep-throated shout of Herakles.
Faint now as his voice are the voices of the shepherds who are gone,
youth and maiden and children; dimly I see them, vaguely I hear them; at
last there remains only "the hoar sea's infinite spray." And will you
say it was in truth all a dream? Were the poor fisherman in their toil
alone real, and the rest airy nothings to whom Sicily gave a local
habitation and a name? It was Virgil's dream and Spenser's; and some
secret there was--something still in our breasts--that made it immortal,
so that to name the Sicilian Muses is to stir an infinite, longing
tenderness in every young and noble heart that the gods have softened
with sweet thoughts.

And here I shut in my pages the one laurel leaf that Taormina bore. She,
too, in her centuries has had her poet. Perhaps none who will see these
words ever gave a thought to the name and fame of Cornelius Severus. Few
of his works remain, and little is known of his life. He is said to have
been the friend of Pollio, and to have been present in the Sicilian war
between Augustus and Sextus Pompey. He wrote the first book of an epic
poem on that subject, so excellent that it has been thought that, had
the entire work been continued at the same level, he would have held the
second place among the Latin epic poets. He wrote also heroic songs, of
which fragments survive, one of which is an elegy upon Cicero, which
Seneca quotes, saying of him, "No one out of so many talented men
deplored the death of Cicero better than Cornelius Severus." Some
dialogues in verse also seem to have been written by him. These
fragments may not he easily obtained. But take down your Virgil; and, if
it be like this of mine which I brought from Rome, you will find at the
very end, last of the shorter pieces ascribed to the poet, one of the
length of a book of the "Georgics," called "Etna." This is the work of
Cornelius Severus. An early death took from him the perfection of his
genius and the hope of fame; but happy was the fortune of him who wrote
so well that for centuries his lines were thought not unworthy of
Virgil, whose name still shields this Taorminian verse from oblivion.


It is my last day at Taormina. I have seen the sunrise from my old
station by the Greek temple, and watched the throng of cattle and men
gathered on the distant beach of Letojanni and darkening the broad bed
of the dry torrent that there makes down to the sea, and I wished I
were among them, for it is their annual fair; and still I dwell on every
feature of the landscape that familiarity has made more beautiful. The
afternoon I have dedicated to a walk to Mola. It is a pleasant, easy
climb, with the black ancient wall of the city on the left, where it
goes up the face of the castle-rock, and on the right the deep ravine,
closed by Monte Venere in the west. All is very quiet; a silent, silent
country! There are few birds or none, and indeed I have heard no
bird-song since I have been here. Opposite, on the other side of the
wall of the ravine, are some cows hanging in strange fashion to the
cliff, where it seems goats could hardly cling; but the unwieldy,
awkward creatures move with sure feet, and seem wholly at home,
pasturing on the bare precipice. I cannot hear the torrent, now a narrow
stream, deep below me, but I see the women of Mola washing by the old
fountain which is its source. There is no other sign of human life. The
fresh spring flowers, large and coarse, but bright-coloured, are all I
have of company, and the sky is blue and the air like crystal. So I go
up, ever up, and at last am by the gate of Mola, and enter the
stony-hearted town. A place more dreary, desolate to the eye, is seldom
seen. There are only low, mean houses of gray stone, and the paved ways.
If you can fancy a prison turned inside out like a glove, with all its
interior stone exposed to the sunlight, which yet seems sunlight in a
prison, and silence over all--that is Mola. The ruins of the fortress
are near the gate on the highest point of the crag. Within is a barren
spot--a cistern, old foundations, and some broken walls. Look over the
battlement westward, and you will see a precipice that one thinks only
birds could assail; and, observing how isolated is the crag on all
sides, you will understand what an inaccessible fastness this was, and
cannot be surprised at its record of defence.

Perhaps here was the oldest dwelling-place of man upon the hill, and it
was the securest retreat. Monsignore, indeed, believes that Ham, the son
of Noah, who drove Japhet out of Sicily, was the first builder; but I do
not doubt its antiquity was very great, and it seems likely that this
was the original Siculian stronghold before the coming of the Greeks,
and the building of the lower city of Taormina. The ruins that exist are
part of the fortress made by that governor who lost the city to the
Saracens, to defend it against them on this side; and here it stood for
nigh a thousand years, like the citadel itself, an impregnable hold of
war. It seldom yielded, and always by treachery or mutiny; for more than
once, when Taormina was sacked, its citadel and Mola remained untaken
and unconquerable on their extreme heights. I shall not tell its story;
but one brave man once commanded here, and his name shall be its fame
now, and my last tale of the Taorminian past.

He was Count Matteo, a nobleman of the days when the Messenians revolted
against the chancellor of Queen Margaret. He was placed over this
castle; and when a certain Count Riccardo was discovered in a conspiracy
to murder the chancellor, and was taken captive, he was given into
Matteo's charge, and imprisoned here. The Messenians came and surprised
the lower city of Taormina, but they could not gain Mola nor persuade
Matteo to yield Riccardo up to them. So they thought to overcome his
fidelity cruelly. They took his wife and children, who were at Messina,
threw them into a dungeon, and condemned them to death. Then they sent
Matteo's brother-in-law to treat with him. But when the count knew the
reason of the visit he said: "It seems to me that you little value the
zeal of an honest man who, loyal to his office, does not wish, neither
knows how, to break his sworn faith. My wife and children would look on
me with scornful eyes should I be renegade; for shame is not the reward
that sweetens life, but burdens it. If the Messenians stain themselves
with innocent blood, I shall weep for the death of my wife and sons, but
the heart of an honest citizen will have no remorse." Then he was
silent. But treachery could do what such threats failed to accomplish.
One Gavaretto was found, who unlocked the prison, and Riccardo was
already escaping when Matteo, roused at a slight noise, came, sword in
hand, and would have slain him; but the traitor behind, "to save his
wages," struck Matteo in the body, and the faithful count fell dead in
his blood. I thought of this story, standing there, and nothing else in
the castle's filled with bloom; then the infinite beauty, slowly
fading, withdrew the scene, and sweetly it parted from my eyes.


Yet once more I step out upon the terrace into the night. I hear the
long roar of the breakers; I see the flickering fishers' lights, and
Etna pale under the stars. The place is full of ghosts. In the darkness
I seem to hear vaguely arising, half sense, half thought, the murmur of
many tongues that have perished here, Sicanian and Siculian and the lost
Oscan, Greek and Latin and the hoarse jargon of barbaric slaves,
Byzantine and Arabic confused with strange African dialects, Norman and
Sicilian, French and Spanish, mingling, blending, changing, the sharp
battle-cry of a thousand assaults rising from the low ravines, the
death-cry of twenty bloody massacres within these walls, ringing on the
hard rock and falling to silence only to rise more full with fiercer
pain--century after century of the battle-wrath and the battle-woe. My
fancy shapes the air till I see over the darkly lifted, castle-rock the
triple crossing swords of Greek, Carthaginian, and Roman in the
age-long duel, and as these fade, the springing brands of Byzantine,
Arab, and Norman, and yet again the heavy blades of France, Spain, and
Sicily; and ever, like rain or snow, falls the bloody dew on this lone
hill-wide. "Oh, wherefore?" I whisper; and all is silent save the surge
still lifting round the coast the far voices of the old Ionian sea. I
have wondered that the children of Etna should dwell in its lovely
paradise, as I thought how often, how terribly, the lava has poured
forth upon it, the shower of ashes fallen, the black horror of volcanic
eruption overwhelmed the land. Yet, sum it all, pang by pang, all that
Etna ever wrought of woe to the sons of men, the agonies of her
burnings, the terrors of her living entombments, all her manifold deaths
at once, and what were it in comparison with the blood that has flowed
on this hillside, the slaughter, the murder, the infinite pain here
suffered at the hands of man. O Etna, it is not thou that man should
fear! He should fear his brother-man.


The stars were paling over Etna, white and ghostly, as I came out to
depart. In the dark street I met a woman with a young boy clinging to
her side. Her black hair fell down over her shoulders, and her bosom was
scantily clothed by the poor garment that fell to her ankles and her
feet. She was still young, and from her dark, sad face her eyes met mine
with that fixed look of the hopeless poor, now grown familiar; the
child, half naked, gazed up at me as he held his mother's hand. What
brought her there at that hour, alone with her child? She seemed the
epitome of the human life I was leaving behind, come forth to bid
farewell; and she passed on under the shadows of the dawn. The last star
faded as I went down the hollow between the spurs. Etna gleamed white
and vast over the shoulder of the ravine, and, as I dipped down, was


There was an old cry, Return to Nature! Let us rather return unto the
soul. Nature is great, and her science marvellous; but it is man who
knows it. In what he knows it is partial and subsidiary. Know thyself,
was the first command of reason; and wisdom was an ancient thing when
the sweet influences of the Pleiades and the path of Arcturus with his
sons were young in human thought. These late conquests of the mind in
the material infinities of the universe, its exploring of stellar space,
its exhuming of secular time, its harnessing of invisible forces, this
new mortal knowledge, its sudden burst, its brilliancy and amplitude of
achievement, thought winnowing the world as with a fan; the vivid
spectacle of vast and beneficent changes wrought by this means in human
welfare, the sense of the increase of man's power springing from
unsuspected and illimitable resources,--all this has made us forgetful
of truth that is the oldest heirloom of the race. In the balances of
thought the soul of man outweighs the mass that gravitation measures.
Man only is of prime interest to men; and man as a spirit, a creature
but made in the likeness of something divine. The lapse of aeons touches
us as little as the reach of space; even the building of our planet, and
man's infancy, have the faint and distant reality of cradle records.
Science may reconstruct the inchoate body of animal man, the clay of our
mould, and piece together the primitive skeleton of the physical being
we now wear; but the mind steadily refuses to recognize a human past
without some discipline in the arts, some exercise in rude virtue, and
some proverbial lore handed down from sire to son. The tree of knowledge
is of equal date with the tree of life; nor were even the tamer of
horses, the worker in metals, or the sower, elder than those twin
guardians of the soul,--the poet and the priest. Conscience and
imagination were the pioneers who made earth habitable for the human
spirit; they are still its lawgivers and where they have lodged their
treasures, there is wisdom. I desire to renew the long discussion of the
nature and method of idealism by engaging in a new defence of poetry,
or the imaginative art in any of its kinds, as the means by which this
wisdom, which is the soul's knowledge of itself, is stored up for the
race in its most manifest, enduring, and vital forms. It is, by literary
tradition and association, a proud task. May I not take counsel of
Spenser and be bold at the first door? Sidney and Shelley pleaded this
cause. Because they spoke, must we be dumb? or shall not a noble example
be put to its best use in trying what truth can now do on younger lips?
The old hunt is up in the Muses' bower; and I would fain speak for that
learning which has to me been light. I use this preface not unwillingly
in open loyalty to studies on which my youth was nourished, and the
masters I then loved whom the natural thoughts of youth made eloquent;
my hope is to continue their finer breath, as they before drank from old
fountains; but chiefly I name them as a reminder that the main argument
is age-long; it does not harden into accepted dogma; and it is thus
ceaselessly tossed because it belongs in that sphere of our warring
nature where conflict is perpetual. It goes on in the lives as well as
on the lips of men. It is a question how to live as well as how to
express life. Each race uses its own tongue, each age its dialect; but,
change the language as man may, he ever remains the questioner of his
few great thoughts.

The defenders of the soul inherit an old cause that links them together
in a long descent; but the battle is always to a present age.
Continually something is becoming superfluous, inapplicable, or wanting
in the work of the past. Victory itself makes arms useless, and consigns
them to dark closets. New times, new weapons, is the history of all
warfare. The doubt of the validity of the ideal, never absent from any
intellectual period, is active on all sides, and in more than one
quarter passes into denial. Literature and the other arts of expression
suffer throughout the world. To that point is it come that those of the
old stock who believe that the imagination exercises man's faculty at
its highest pitch, and that the method of idealism is its law, are bid
step down, while others more newly grounded in what belongs to
literature possess the city; but seeing the shrines interdicted, the
obliteration of ancient names, the heroes' statues thrown down, shall
we learn what our predecessors never knew--to abdicate and abandon? I
hear in the temples the footsteps of the departing gods--

    Di quibus imperium hoc steterat;

but no; for our opponents are worse off than those of whom it was said
that though one rose from the dead they would not believe,--Plato, being
dead, yet speaks, Shakspere treads our boards, and (why should I
hesitate?) Tennyson yet breathes among us though already immortal. That
which convinced the master minds of antiquity and many in later ages is
still convincing, if it be attended to; the old tradition is yet
unbroken; therefore, because I was bred in this faith, I will try to set
forth anew in the phrases of our time the eternal ground of reason on
which idealism rests.

The specific question concerns literature and its method, but its import
is not mainly literary. Life is the matter of literature; and thence it
comes that all leading inquiries to which literature gives rise probe
for their premises to the roots of our being and expand in their issues
to the unknown limits of human fate. It is an error to think of idealism
as a thing remote, fantastic, and unsubstantial. It enters intimately
into the lives of all men, however humble and unlearned, if they live at
all except in their bodies. What is here proposed is neither
speculative, technical, nor abstruse; it is practical in matter,
universal in interest, and touches upon those things which men most
should heed. I fear rather to incur the reproach of uttering truisms
than paradoxes. But he does ill who is scornful of the trite. To be
learned in commonplaces is no mean education. They make up the great
body of the people's knowledge. They are the living words upon the lips
of men from generation to generation; the real winged words; the matter
of the unceasing reiteration of families, schools, pulpits, libraries;
the tradition of mankind. Proverb, text, homily,--happy the youth whose
purse is stored with these broad pieces, current, in every country and
for every good, like fairy gifts of which the occasion only when it
arises shows the use. It is with truth as with beauty,--familiarity
endears and makes it more precious. What is common is for that very
reason in danger of neglect, and from it often flashes that divine
surprise which most enkindles the soul. Why must Prometheus bring fire
from heaven to savage man? Did it not sleep in the flint at his feet?
How often, at the master stroke of life, has some text of Holy
Scripture, which lay in the mind from childhood almost like the debris
of memory, illuminated the remorseful darkness of the mind, or
interpreted the sweetness of God's sunshine in the happy heart! Common
as light is love, sang Shelley; and equally common with beauty and truth
and love is all that is most vital to the soul, all that feeds it and
gives it power; if aught be lacking, it is the eye to see and the heart
to understand. Grain, fruit and vegetable, wool, silk and cotton, gold,
silver and iron, steam and electricity,--were not all, like the spark,
within arm's reach of savage man? The slow material progress of mankind
through ages is paralleled by the slow growth of the individual soul in
laying hold of and putting to use the resources of spiritual strength
that are nigh unto it. The service of man to man in the ways of the
spirit is, in truth, an act as simple as the giving of a cup of cold
water to him who is athirst.

Can there be any surprise when I say that the method of idealism is that
of all thought? that in its intellectual process the art of the poet, so
far from being a sort of incantation, is the same as belongs to the
logician, the chemist, the statesman? It is no more than to say that in
creating literature the mind acts; the action of the mind is thought;
and there are no more two ways of thinking than there are two kinds of
gravitation. Experience is the matter of all knowledge. It is given to
the mind as a complex of particular facts, a series, ever continuing, of
impressions outward and inward. It is stored in the memory, and were
memory the only mental faculty, no other knowledge than this of
particular facts in their temporal sequence could be acquired; the sole
method of obtaining knowledge would be by observation. All literature
would then be merely annals of the contents of successive moments in
their order. Reason, however, intervenes. Its process is well known. In
every object of perception, as it exists in the physical world and is
given by sensation to our consciousness, there is both in itself and in
its relations a likeness to other objects and relations, and this
likeness the mind takes notice of; it thus analyzes the complex of
experience, discerns the common element, and by this means classifies
particular facts, thereby condensing them into mental conceptions,--
abstract ideas, formulas, laws. The mind arrives at these in the
course of its normal operation. As soon as we think at all, we speak
of white and black, of bird and beast, of distance and size,--of
uniformities in the behaviour of nature, or laws; by such classification
of qualities, objects, and various relations, not merely in the sensuous
but in every sphere of our consciousness, the mind simplifies its
experience, compacts its knowledge, and economizes its energies. To this
work it brings, also, the method of experiment. It then interferes
arbitrarily with the natural occurrence of facts, and brings that to
pass which otherwise would not have been; and this method it uses to
investigate, to illustrate what was previously known, and to confirm
what was surmised. Its end, whether through observation or experiment,
is to reach general truth as opposed to matter-of-fact, universals more
or less embracing as opposed to particulars, the units of thought as
opposed to the units of phenomena. The body of these constitutes
rational knowledge.

Nature then becomes known, not as a series of impressions on the retina
of sense merely, but as a system seized by the eye of reason; for the
senses show man the aspect worn by the world as it is at the moment, but
reason opens to him the order obtaining in the world as it must be at
every moment; and the instrument by which man rises from the phenomenal
plane of experience to the necessary sphere of truth is the generalizing
faculty whose operation has just been described. The office of the
reason in the exercise of this faculty is to find organic form in that
experience which memory preserves in the mass,--to penetrate, that is,
to that mould of necessity in the world which phenomena, when they
arise, must put on. The species once perceived, the mind no longer cares
for the individual; the law once known, the mind no longer cares for the
facts; for in these universals all particular instances, past, present,
and to come, are contained in their significance. All sciences are
advanced in proportion as they have thus organized their appropriate
matter in abstract conceptions and laws, and are backward in proportion
as there remains much in their provinces not yet so coordinated and
systematized; and in their hierarchy, from astronomical physics
downward, each takes rank according to the nature of the universals it
deals with, as these are more or less embracing.

The matter of literature--that part of total experience which it deals
with--is life; and, to confine attention to imaginative literature where
alone the question of idealism arises, the matter with which imaginative
literature deals is the inward and spiritual order in man's breast as
distinguished from the outward and physical order with which science
deals. The reason as here exercised organizes man's experience in this
great tract of emotion, will, and meditation, and so possesses man of
true knowledge of himself, just as in the realm of science it possesses
him of true knowledge of the physical world, or, in psychology and
metaphysics, of the constitution and processes of the mind itself. Such
knowledge is, without need of argument, of the highest consequence to
mankind. It exceeds, indeed, in dignity and value all other knowledge;
for to penetrate this inward or spiritual order, to grasp it with the
mind and conform to it with the will, is not, as is the case with every
other sort of knowledge, the special and partial effort of selected
minds, but the daily business of all men in their lives. The method of
the mind here is and must be the same with that by which it accomplishes
its work elsewhere, its only method. Here, too, its concern is with the
universal; its end is to know life--the life with which literature
deals--not empirically in its facts, but scientifically in its necessary
order, not phenomenally in the senses but rationally in the mind, not
without relation in its mere procession but organically in its laws; and
its instrument here, as through the whole gamut of the physical sciences
and of philosophy itself, is the generalizing faculty.

One difference there is between scientific and imaginative truth,--a
difference in the mode of statement. Science and also philosophy
formulate truth and end in the formula; literature, as the saying is,
clothes truth in a tale. Imagination is brought in, and by its aid the
mind projects a world of its own, whose principle of being is that it
reembodies general or abstract truth and presents it concretely to the
eye of the mind, and in some arts gives it physical form. So, to draw an
example from science itself, when Leverrier projected in imagination the
planet Uranus, he incarnated in matter a whole group of universal
qualities and relations, all that go to make up a world, and in so doing
he created as the poet creates; there was as much of truth, too, in his
imagined world before he found the actual planet as there was of reality
in the planet itself after it swam into his ken. This creation of the
concrete world of art is the joint act of the imagination and the reason
working in unison; and hence the faculty to which this act is ascribed
is sometimes called the creative reason, or shaping power of the mind,
in distinction from the scientific intellect which merely knows. The
term is intended to convey at once the double phase, under one aspect of
which the reason controls imagination, and under the other aspect the
imagination formulates the reason; it is meant to free the idea, on the
one hand, from that suggestion of abstraction implied by the reason, and
to disembarrass it, on the other, of any connection with the irrational
fancy; for the world of art so conceived is necessarily both concrete,
correspondent to the realities of experience, and truthful, subject to
the laws of the universe; it cannot contain the impossible, it cannot
amalgamate the actual with the unreal, it cannot in any way lie and
retain its own nature. The use of this rational imagination is not
confined to the world of art. It is only by its aid that we build up the
horizons of our earthly life and fill them with objects and events
beyond the reach of our senses. To it we are indebted for our knowledge
of the greater part of others' lives, for our idea of the earth's
surface and the doings of foreign nations, of all past history and its
scene, and the events of primaeval nature which were even before man
was. So far as we realize the world at all beyond the limit of our
private experience of it, we do so by the power of the imagination
acting on the lines of reason. It fills space and time for us through
all their compass. Nor is it less operative in the practical pursuits of
men. The scientist lights his way with it; the statesman forecasts
reform by it, building in thought the state which he afterward realizes
in fact; the entire future lives to us--and it is the most important
part of life--only by its incantation. The poet acts no otherwise in
employing it than the inventor and the speculator even, save that he
uses it for the ends of reason instead of for his private interest. In
some parts of this field there is, or was once, or will be, a physical
parallel, an actuality, containing the verification of the imagined
state of things; but so, for the poet, there is a parallel, a conception
of the reason just as normal, which is not the less real because it is a
tissue of abstract thought. In art this governance of the imagination by
the reason is fundamental, and gives to the office of the latter a
seeming primacy; and therefore emphasis is rightly placed on the
universal element, the truth, as the substance of the artistic form. But
in the light of this preliminary description of the mental processes
involved, let us take a nearer view of their particular employment in

Human life, as represented in literature, consists of two main branches,
character and action. Of these, character, which is the realm of
personality, is generalized by means of type, which is ideal character;
action, which is the realm of experience, by plot, which is ideal
action. It is convenient to examine the nature of these separately. A
type, the example of a class, contains the characteristic qualities
which make an individual one of that class; it does not differ in this
elementary form from the bare idea of the species. The traits of a tree,
for instance, exist in every actual tree, however stunted or imperfect;
and in the type which condenses into itself what is common in all
specimens of the class, these traits only exist; they constitute the
type. Comic types, in literature, are often simple abstractions of some
single human quality, and hence easily afford illustrations. The
braggart, the miser, the hypocrite, contain that one trait which is
common to the class; and in their portrayal this characteristic only is
shown. In proportion as the traits are many in any character, the type
becomes complex. In simple types attention is directed to some one vice,
passion, or virtue, capable of absorbing a human life in to itself. This
is the method of Jonson, and, in tragedy, of Marlowe. As human energy
displays itself more variously in a life, in complex types, the mind
contemplates human nature in a more catholic way, with a less exclusive
identification of character with specific trait, a more free conception
of personality as only partially exhibited; thus, in becoming complex,
types gather breadth and depth, and share more in the mystery of
humanity as something incompletely known to us at the best. Such are the
characters of Shakspere.

The manner in which types are arrived at and made recognizable in other
arts opens the subject more fully and throws light upon their nature.
The sculptor observes in a group of athletes that certain physical
habits result in certain moulds of the body; and taking such
characteristics as are common to all of one class, and neglecting such
as are peculiar to individuals, he carves a statue. So permanent are the
physical facts he relies upon that, centuries after, when the statue is
dug up, men say without hesitation--here is the Greek runner, there the
wrestler. The habit of each in life produces a bodily form which if it
exists implies that habit; the reality here results from the operation
of physical laws and can be physically rendered; the type is
constituted of permanent physical fact. There are habits of the soul
which similarly impress an outward stamp upon the face and form so
certainly that expression, attitude, and shape authentically declare the
presence of the soul that so reveals itself. In the Phidian Zeus was all
awe; in the Praxitelean Hermes all grace, sweetness, tenderness; in the
Pallas Athene of her people who carved or minted her image in statue,
bas-relief, or coin, was all serene and grave wisdom; or, in the glowing
and chastened colours of the later artistic time, the Virgin mother
shines out, in Fra Angelico all adoration, in Bellini all beatitude, in
Raphael all motherhood. The sculptor and the painter are restricted to
the bodily signs of the soul's presence; but the poet passes into
another and wider range of interpretation. He finds the soul stamped in
its characteristic moods, words, actions. He then creates for the mind's
eye Achilles, Aeneas, Arthur; and in his verse are beheld their spirits
rather than their bodies.

These several sorts of types make an ascending series from the
predominantly physical to the predominantly spiritual; but, from the
present point of view, the arts which embody their creations in a
material form should not be opposed to literature which employs the
least interrelation of sensation, as if the former had a physical and
the last a spiritual content. All types have one common element, they
express personality; they have for the mind a spiritual meaning, what
they contain of human character; they differ here only in fulness of
representation. The most purely physical types imply spiritual
qualities, choice, will, command,--all the life which was a condition
precedent to the bodily perfection that was its flower; and, though the
eye rests on the beautiful form, it may discern through it the human
soul of the athlete as in life; and, moreover, the figure may be
represented in some significant act, or mood even, but this last is
rare. The more plainly spiritual types, physically rendered, are most
often shown in some such mood or act expressive in itself of the soul
whose habit lives in the form it has moulded. It is not that the plastic
and pictorial arts cannot spiritualize the stone and the canvas as well
as humanize it bodily; equally with the poetic art they reveal
character, but within narrower bounds. The limitation of these arts in
embodying personality is one of scope, not of intention; and though it
springs out of their use of material forms, it does so in a peculiar
way. It is not the employment of a physical medium of communication that
differentiates them, for a physical medium of some sort is the only
means of exchange between mind and mind; neither is it the employment of
a physical basis, for all art, being concrete, rests on a physical
basis--the world of imagination is exhaled from things that are. The
physical basis of a drama, for instance, is manifest when it is enacted
on the stage; but it is substantially the same whether beheld in thought
or ocularly.

The fact is that the limitation of sculpture and painting and their
kindred arts results from their use of the physical basis of life only
partially, and not as a whole as literature uses it. They set forth
their works in the single element of space; they exclude the changes
that take place in time. The types they show are arrested, each in its
moment; or if a story is told by a series of representations, it is a
succession of such moments of arrested life. The method is that of the
camera; what is given is a fixed state. But literature renders life in
movement; it revolves life through its moments as rapidly as on the
retina of sense; its method is that of the kinetoscope. It holds under
its command change, growth, the entire energy of life in action; it can
chase mood with mood, link act to act. It alone can speak the word,
which is the most powerful instrument of man. Hence the types it shows
by presenting moods, words, and acts with the least obstruction of
matter and the slightest obligation to the active senses, are the most
complete. They have broken the bonds of the flesh, of moment and place.
They exhibit themselves in actions; they speak, and in dialogue and
soliloquy set forth their states of mind lying before, or accompanying,
or following their actions, thus interpreting these more fully. Action
by itself reveals character; speech illumines it, and casts upon the
action also a forward and a backward light. The lapse of time, binding
all together, adds the continuous life of the soul. This large compass,
which is the greatest reached by any art, rests on the wider command and
more flexible control which literature exercises over that physical
basis which is the common foundation of all the arts. Hence it abounds
in complex types, just as other arts present simple types with more
frequency. All types, however, in so far as they appeal to the mind and
interpret the inward world, under which aspect alone they are now
considered, have their physical nature, materially or imaginatively,
even though it be solely visible beauty, in order to express

The type, in the usage of literature, must be further distinguished from
the bare idea of the species as it has thus far been defined. It is more
than this. It is not only an example; it is an example in a high state
of development, if not perfect. The best possible tree, for instance,
does not exist in nature, owing to a confused environment which does not
permit its formation. In literature a type is made a high type either by
intensity, if it be simple, or by richness of nature, if it be complex.
Miserliness, braggadocio, hypocrisy, in their extremes, are the
characters of comedy; a rich nature, such as Hamlet, showing variety of
faculty and depth of experience, is the hero of more profound drama.
This truth, the necessity of high development in the type, underlay the
old canon that the characters of tragedy should be of lofty rank, great
place, and consequence in the world's affairs, preferably even of
historic fame. The canon erred in mistaking one means of securing
credible intensity or richness for the many which are possible. The end
in view is to represent human qualities at their acme. In other times as
a matter of fact persons highly placed were most likely to exhibit such
development; birth, station, and their opportunities for unrestrained
and conspicuous action made them examples of the compass of human
energy, passion, and fate. New ages brought other conditions. Shakspere
recognized the truth of the matter, and laid the emphasis where it
belongs, upon the humanity of the king, not on the kingly office of the
man. Said Henry V: "I think the king is but a man as I am; the violet
smells to him as it doth to me; the element shows to him as it doth to
me; all his senses have but human conditions; his ceremonies laid by, in
his nakedness he appears but a man; and though his appetites are higher
mounted than ours, yet, when they stoop, they stoop with like wing."
Such, too, was Lear in the tempest. And from the other end of the scale
hear Shylock: "Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, appetites, passions? fed with the same food, hurt
with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same
means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian
is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh?
if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not
revenge?" Rank and race are accidents; the essential thing is that the
type be highly human, let the means of giving it this intensity and
richness be what they may.

It is true that the type may seem defective in the point that it is at
best but a fragment of humanity, an abstraction or a combination of
abstracted qualities. There was never such an athlete as our Greek
sculptor's, never a pagan god nor Virgin Mother, nor a hero equal to
Homer's thought, so beautiful, brave, and courteous, so terrible to his
foe, so loving to his friend. And yet is it not thus that life is known
to us actually? does not this typical rendering of character fall in
with the natural habit of life? What man, what friend, is known to us
except by fragments of his spirit? Only one life, our own, is known to
us as a continuous existence. Just as when we see an orange, we supply
the further side and think of it as round, so with men we supply from
ourselves the unseen side that makes the man completely and continuously
human. Moreover, it is a matter of common experience that men, we
ourselves, may live only in one part, and the best, of our nature at one
moment, and yet for the moment be absorbed in that activity both in
consciousness and energy; for that moment we are only living so; now, if
a character were shown to us only in the moments in which he was living
so, at his best and in his characteristic state as the soldier, the
priest, the lover, then the ideal abstraction of literature would not
differ from the actuality of our experience. In this selfsame way we
habitually build for ourselves ideal characters out of dead and living
men, by dwelling on that part of their career which we most admire or
love as showing their characteristic selves. Napoleon is the conqueror,
St. Francis the priest, Washington the great citizen, only by this
method. They are not thereby de-humanized; neither do the ideal types of
imagination fail of humanization because they are thus fragmentarily,
but consistently, presented.

The type must make this human appeal under all circumstances. Its whole
meaning and virtue lie in what it contains of our common humanity, in
the clearness and brilliancy with which it interprets the man in us, in
the force with which it identifies us with human nature. If it is
separated from us by a too high royalty or a too base villany, it loses
intelligibility, it forfeits sympathy, it becomes more and more an
object of simple curiosity, and removes into the region of the unknown.
Even if the type passes into the supernatural, into fairyland or the
angelic or demoniac world, it must not leave humanity behind. These
spheres are in fact fragments of humanity itself, projections of its
sense of wonder, its goodness, and its evil, in extreme abstraction
though concretely felt. Fairy, angel, and devil cease to be conceivable
except as they are human in trait, however the conditions of their
nature may be fancied; for we have no other materials to build with save
those of our life on earth, though we may combine them in ways not
justified by reason. In so far as these worlds are in the limits of
rational imagination, they are derived from humanity, partial
interpretations of some of its moods, portions of itself; and the beings
who inhabit them are impaired for the purposes of art in the degree to
which their abstract nature is felt as stripping them of complete
humanity. For this reason in dealing with such simple types, being
natures all of one strain, it has been found best in practice to import
into them individually some quality widely common to men in addition to
that limited quality they possess by their conception. Some touch of
weakness in an angel, some touch of pity in a devil, some unmerited
misfortune in an Ariel, bring them home to our bosoms; just as the
frailty of the hero, however great he be, humanizes him at a stroke.
Thus these abstract fragments also are reunited with humanity, with the
whole of life in ourselves.

Types, then, whether simple or complex, whether apparently physical or
purely spiritual, whether given fragmentary or as wholes of personality,
express human character in its essential traits. They may be narrow or
broad generalizations; but if to know ourselves be our aim, those
types, which show man his common and enduring nature, are the most
valuable, and rank first in importance; in proportion as they are
specialized, they are less widely interpretative; in proportion as they
escape from time and place, race, culture, and religion, and present man
eternal and universal in his primary actions, moods, and passions, they
appeal to a greater number and with more permanence; they become
immortal in becoming universal. To preserve this universality is the
essence of the type, and the degree of universality it reaches is its
measure of value to men. It is immaterial whether it be simple as Ajax
or complex as Hamlet, whether it be the work of imagination solely as in
Hercules, or have a historical basis as in Agamemnon; its exemplary
rendering of man in general is its substance and constitutor its

Action, the second great branch of life, is generalized by plot. It
lies, as has been said, in the region of experience. Character, though
it may be conceived as latent, can be presented only energetically as it
finds outward expression. It cannot be shown in a vacuum. It embodies or
reveals itself in an act; form and feature, as expressive of character,
are the record of past acts. This act is the link that binds type to
plot. By means of it character enters the external world, determining
the course of events and being passively affected by them. Plot takes
account of this interplay and sets forth its laws. It is, therefore,
more deeply engaged with the environment, as type is more concerned with
the man in himself. It is, initially, a thing of the outward as type is
a thing of the inward world. How, then, does literature, through plot,
reduce the environment in its human relations to organic form?

The course of events, taken as a whole, is in part a process of nature
independent of man, in part the product of his will. It is a continuous
stream of phenomena in great multiplicity, and proceeding in a temporal
sequence. Science deals with that portion of the whole which is
independent of man, and may be called natural events, and by discerning
causal relations in them arrives at the conception of law as a principle
of unchanging and necessary order in nature. Science seeks to reduce the
multiplicity and heterogeneity of facts as they occur to these simple
formulas of law. Science does not begin in reality until facts end;
facts, ten or ten thousand, are indifferent to her after the law which
contains them is found, and are a burden to her until it is found.
Literature, in its turn, deals with human events; and, in the same way
as science, by attending to causal relations, arrives at the conception
of spiritual law as a similarly permanent principle in the order of the
soul. This causal unity is the cardinal idea of plot which by
definition is a series of events causally related and conceived as a
unit, technically called the action. Plot is thus analogous to an
illustrative experiment in science; it is a concrete example of law,--it
is law operating.

The course of events again, so far as they stand in direct connection
with human life, may be thought of as the expression of the individual's
own will, or of that of his environment. The will of the environment may
be divided into three varieties, the will of nature, the will of other
men, and the will of God. In each case it is will embodied in events. If
these ideas be all merged in the conception of the world as a totality
whose course is the unfolding of one Divine will operant throughout it
and called Fate or Providence, then the individual will, through which,
as through nature also, the Divine will works, is only its servant.
Action so conceived, the march of events under some heavenly power
working through the mass of human will which it overrules in conjunction
with its own more comprehensive purposes, is epic action; in it
characters are subordinate to the main progress of the action, they are
only terms in the action; however free they may be apparently,
considered by themselves, that freedom is within such limits as to allow
entire certainty of result, its mutations are included in the
calculation of the Divine will. The action of the Aeneid is of this
nature: a grand series of destined events worked out through human
agency to fulfil the plan of the ruler of all things in heaven and
earth. On the other hand, if the course of events be more narrowly
attended to within the limits of the individual's own activity, as the
expression primarily and significantly of his personal will, then the
successive acts are subordinate to the character; they are terms of the
character which is thereby exhibited; they externalize the soul. Action,
so conceived, is dramatic action. If in the course of events there
arises a conflict between the will of the individual and that of his
environment, whether nature, man, or God, then the seed of tragedy,
specifically, is present; this conflict is the essential idea of
tragedy. In all these varieties of action, the scene is the external
world; plot lies in that world, and sets forth the order, the causal
principle, obtaining in it.

It is necessary, however, to refine upon this statement of the matter.
The course of external events, in so far as it affects one person,
whether as proceeding from or reacting upon him, reveals character, and
has meaning as an interpretation of inward life. It is a series outward
indeed, but parallel with the states of will, intellect, and emotion
which make up the consciousness of the character; and it is interesting
humanly only as a mirror of them. It is not the murderous blow, but the
depraved will; not the pale victim, but the shocked conscience; not the
muttered prayer, the frantic penance, the suicide, but remorse working
itself out, that hold our attention. Plot here manifests the law of
character outwardly; but the human reality lies within, and to be seen
requires the illumination which only our own hearts can give. All
fiction is such a shadowing forth of the soul. The constancy, the
intimacy, the profundity with which Shakspere felt this, from the
earliest syllables of his art, and the frequency with which he dwells
upon it, mark a characteristic of genius. Says Richard II:--

    "'Tis very true, my grief lies all within;
    And those external manners of lament
    Are merely shadows to the unseen grief
    That swells in silence in the tortured soul;
    There lies the substance."

So Theseus, of the play of the rude artisans of Athens, excusing all
art: "The best in this kind are but shadows." So Hamlet; so Prospero.

Action is vital in us, and has a double order of phenomena; so far as
these are physical, their law is one of the physical world, and
interests us no more than other physical laws; so far as they belong in
the inward world of self-consciousness, their law is spiritual, and has
human interest as being operant in a soul like our own. The external
fact is seized by the eye as a part of nature; the internal fact is of
the unseen world, and is beheld only in the light which is within our
own bosoms--it is spiritually discerned. On the stage plainly this is
the case. So far as the actions are for the eye of sense alone they are
merely spectacular; so far as they express desires and energies, they
are dramatic, and these we do not see but feel according as our
experience permits us so to comprehend them. We contemplate a world of
emotion there in connection with the active energy of the will, a world
of character in operation in man; we feed it from our life, interpret it
therefrom, build it up in ourselves, suffering the illusion till
absorbed in what is arising in our consciousness under the actor's
genius we become ourselves the character. The greatest actor is he who
makes the spectator play the part. So far is the drama from the scene
that it goes on in our own bosoms; there is the stage without any
illusion whatsoever; the play in vital for the moment in ourselves.

And what is true of the stage is true of life. It is only through our
own hearts that we look into the hearts of others. We interpret the
external signs of sense in terms of personality and experience known
only within us; the life of will, head, and heart that we ascribe to
our nearest and dearest friends is something imagined, something never
seen any more than our own personality. Thus our knowledge of them is
not only fragmentary, as has been said; it is imaginative even within
its limits. It is, in reality as well as in art, a shadow-world we live
in, believing that within its sensuous films a spirit like unto
ourselves abides,--the human soul, though never seen face to face. To
enter this substantial world behind the phenomena of human life as
sensibly shown in imagination, to know the invisible things of
personality and experience, and to set them forth as a spiritual order,
is the main end of ideal art. Though in plot the outward order is
brought into the fullest prominence, and may seem to occupy the field,
yet it is significantly only the shadow of that order within.

In thus presenting plot as the means by which the history of a single
soul is externalized, one important element has been excluded from
consideration. The causal chain of events, which constitutes plot, has a
double unity, answering to the double order of phenomena in action as a
state of mind and a state of external fact. Under one aspect, so much
of the action as is included in any single life and is there a linked
sequence of mental states, has its unity in the personality of that
individual. Under the other aspect, the entire action which sets forth
the relations of all the characters involved, of their several courses
of experience as elements in the working out of the joint result, has
its unity in the constitution of the universe,--the impersonal order,
that structure of being itself, which is independent of man's will,
which is imposed upon him as a condition of existence, and which he must
accept without appeal. This necessity, to give it the best name, to
which man is exposed without and subjected within, is in its broadest
conception the power that increases life, and all things are under its
sway. Its sphere is above man's will; he knows it as immutable law in
himself as it is in nature; it is the highest object of his thoughts.
Its workings are submitted to his observation and experiment as a part
of the world of knowledge; he sees its operation in individuals, social
groups, and nations, and sets it forth in the action of the lyric, the
drama, and the epic as the law of life. In its sphere is the higher
unity of plot by virtue of which it integrates many lives in one main
action. Such, then, is the nature of plot as intermediary between man
and his environment, but deeply engaged in the latter, and not to be
freed from it even by a purely spiritualistic philosophy; for though we
say that, as under one aspect plot shadows forth the unseen world of the
soul's life, so under the other it shadows forth the invisible will of
God, we do not escape from the outward world. Sense is still the medium
by which only man knows his brother man and God also as through a glass

    "The painted veil which those who live call life."

It separates all spirits, the beautiful but dense element in which the
pure soul is submerged.

It is necessary only to summarize the characteristics of plot which are
merely parallel to those of type already illustrated. Plot may be simple
or complex; it may be more or less involved in physical conditions in
proportion as it lays stress on its machinery or its psychology; it must
be important, as the type must be high, but important by virtue of its
essential human meaning and not of its accidents; it is a fragment of
destiny only, but in this falls in with the way life in others is known
to us; if it passes into the superhuman world, it must retain human
significance and be brought back to man's life by devices similar to
those used in the type for the same purpose; it rises in value in
proportion to the universality it contains, and gains depth and
permanence as it is interpretative of common human fate at all times and
among all men; it may be purely imaginary or founded on actual
incidents; and its exemplary interpretation of man's life is its
substance, and constitutes its ideality.

In the discussion of type and plot, the concrete nature of the world of
art, which was originally stated to be the characteristic work of the
creative reason, or imagination acting in conformity with truth, has
been assumed; but no reason has been given for it, because it seemed
best to develop first with some fulness the nature of that inward order
which is thus projected in the forms of art. It belongs to the frailty
of man that he seizes with difficulty and holds with feebleness the pure
ideas of the intellect, the more in proportion as they are removed from
sense; and he seeks to support himself against this weakness by framing
sensible representations of the abstract in which the mind can rest.
Thus in all lands and among savage tribes, as well as in the most
civilized nations, symbols have been used immemorially. The flag of a
nation has all its meaning because it is taken as a physical token of
national honour, almost of national life itself. The Moslem crescent,
the Christian cross, have only a similar significance, a bringing near
to the eye of what exists in reality only for the mind and heart. A
symbol, however, is an arbitrary fiction, and stands to the idea as a
metaphor does to the thing itself. In literature the parable of the
mustard seed to which the kingdom of heaven was likened, exemplifies
symbolical or metaphorical method; but the tale of the court of Arthur's
knights, ideal method; between them, and sharing something of both, lies
allegorical method. Idolatry is the religion of symbolism, for the image
is not the god; Christianity is the religion of idealism, for Christ is
God incarnate. Idealism presents the reality itself, the universal truth
made manifest in the concrete type, and there present and embodied in
its characteristics as they are, not merely arbitrarily by a fiction of
thought, symbolically or allegorically.

The way in which type concretes truth is sufficiently plain; but it may
be useful, with respect to plot, to draw out more in detail the analogy
which has been said to exist between it and an illustrative scientific
experiment. If scientific law is declared experimentally, the course of
nature is modified by intent; certain conditions are secured, certain
others eliminated; a selected train of phenomena is then set in motion
to the end that the law may be illustrated, and nothing else. In a
perfect experiment the law is in full operation. In plot there is a like
selection of persons, situations, and incidents so arranged as to
disclose the working of that order which obtains in man's life. The law
may be simple and shown by means of few persons and incidents in a brief
way, as in ancient drama, or complex and exhibited with many characters
in an abundance of action over a wide scene as in Shakspere; in either
case equally there is a selection from the whole mass of man's life of
what shall illustrate the causal union in its order and show it in
action. The process in the epic or prose narrative is the same. The
common method of all is to present the universal law in a particular
instance made for the purpose.

In thus clothing itself in concrete form, truth suffers no
transformation; it remains what it was, general truth, the very essence
of type and plot being, as has been said, to preserve this universality
in the particular instance. There is a sense in which this general truth
is more real, as Plato thought, than particulars; a sense in which the
phenomenal world is less real than the system of nature, for phenomena
come and go, but the law remains; a sense in which the order in man's
breast is more real than he is, in whom it is manifest, for the form of
ideas, the mould of law, are permanent, but their expression in us
transitory. It is this higher realism, as it was anciently called, that
the mind strives for in idealism,--this organic form of life, the object
of all rational knowledge. Types, under their concrete disguise, are
thus only a part of the general notions of the mind found in every
branch of knowledge and necessary to thought; plots, similarly, are only
a part of the general laws of the ordered world; literature in using
them, and specializing them in concrete form by which alone they differ
in appearance from like notions and laws elsewhere, merely avails itself
of that condensing faculty of the mind which most economizes mental
effort and loads conceptions with knowledge. In the type it is not
personal, but human character that interests the mind; in plot, it is
not personal, but human fate.

While it is true that the object of ideal method is to reach universals,
and reembody them in particular instances, this reasoning action is
often obscurely felt by the imagination in its creative process. The
very fact that its operation is through the concrete complicates the
process. The mind of genius working out its will does not usually start
with a logical attempt consciously; it does not arrive at truth in the
abstract and then reduce it to concrete illustration in any systemic
way; it does not select the law and then shape the plot. The poet is
rather directly interested in certain characters and events that appeal
to him; his sympathies are aroused, and he proceeds to show forth, to
interpret, to create; and in proportion as the characters he sets in
motion and the circumstances in which they are placed have moulding
force, they will develop traits and express themselves in influences
that he did not foresee. This is a matter of familiar knowledge to
authors, who frequently discover in the trend of the imaginary tale a
will of its own, which has its unforeseen way. The drama or story, once
set in motion, tends to tell itself, just as life tends to develop in
the world. The vitality of the clay it works in, is one of the curious
experiences of genius, and occasions that mood of mystery in relation to
their creatures frequently observed in great writers. In fact, this mode
of working in the concrete, which is characteristic of the creative
imagination, gives to its activity an inductive and experimental
character, not to be confounded with the demonstrative act of the
intellect which states truth after knowing it, and not in the moment of
its discovery. In literature this moment of discovery is what makes that
flash which is sometimes called intuition, and is one of the great
charms of genius.

The concrete nature of ideal art, to touch conveniently here upon a
related though minor topic, is also the reason that it expresses more
than its creator is aware of. In imaging life he includes more reality
than he attends to; but if his representation has been made with truth,
others may perceive phases of reality that he neglected. It is the mark
of genius, as has hitherto appeared, to grasp life, not fragmentarily,
but in the whole. So, in a scientific experiment, intended to illustrate
one particular form of energy, a spectator versed in another science may
detect some truth belonging in his own field. This richer significance
of great works is especially found where the union of the general and
the particular is strong; where the fusion is complete, as in Hamlet. In
a sense he is more real than living men, and we can analyze his nature,
have doubts about his motives, judge differently of his character, and
value his temperament more or less as one might with a friend. The more
imaginative a character is, in the sense that his personality and
experience are given in the whole so that one feels the bottom of
reality there, the more significance it has. Thus in the world of art
discoveries beyond the intention of the writer may be made as in the
actual world; so much of reality does it contain.

Will it be said that, in making primary the universal contents and
spiritual significance of type and plot, I have made literature
didactic, as if the word should stop my mouth? If it is meant by this
that I maintain that literature conveys truth, it may readily be
admitted, since only thus can it interest the mind which has its whole
life in the pursuit and its whole joy in the possession of truth. But if
it be meant that abstract or moral instruction has been made the
business of literature, the charge may be met with a disclaimer, as
should be evident, first, from the emphasis placed on its concrete
dealing with persons and actions. On the contrary, literature fails in
art precisely in proportion as it becomes expressly such a teacher.
Secondly, the life which literature organizes, the whole of human nature
in its relation to the world, is many-sided; and imaginative genius, the
creative reason, grasps it in its totality. The moral aspect is but one
among many that life wears. If ethics are implicit in the mass of life,
so also are beauty and passion, pathos, humour, and terror; and in
literature any one of these may be the prominent phase at the moment,
for literature gives out not only practical moral wisdom, but all the
reality of life. Literature is didactic in the reproachful sense of the
word only in proportion as type and plot are distinctly separated from
the truth they embody, and ceases to be so in proportion as these are
blended and unified. The fable is one of the most ancient forms of such
didactic literature; in it a story is told to enforce a lesson, and
animals are made the characters, in consequence of which it has the
touch of humour inseparable from the spectacle of beasts playing at
being men; but the very fact that the moral is of men and the tale is of
beasts involves a separation of the truth from its concrete embodiment,
and besides the moral is stated by itself. In the Oriental apologue an
advance is made. The parables of our Lord, in particular, are admirable
examples of its method. The characters are few, the situations common,
the action simple, and the moral truth or lesson enforced is so
completely clothed in the tale that it needs no explanation; at the same
time, the mind is aware of the teacher. In the higher forms of
literature, however, the fusion of ethics with life may be complete.
Here the poet works so subtly that the mind is not aware of the
illumination of this light which comes without the violence of the
preacher, until after the fact; and, indeed, the effect is wrought more
through the sympathies than the reason. In such a case literature,
though it conveys moral with other kinds of truth, is not open to the
charge of didacticism, which is valid only when teaching is explicit and
abstract. The educative power of literature, however, is not diminished
because in its art it dispenses with the didactic method, which by its
very definiteness is inelastic and narrow; in fact, the more imaginative
a character is, the more fruitful it may be even in moral truth; it may
teach, as has been said, what the poet never dreamed his work contained.

If, then, to sum up the argument thus far, the subject-matter of
literature is life in the forms of personality and experience, and the
particular facts with respect to these are generalized by means of type
and plot in concrete form, and so are set forth as phases of an ordered
world for the intelligence, to the end that man may know himself in the
same way as he knows nature in its living system--if this be so, what
standing have those who would restrict literature to the actual in life?
who would replace ideal types of manhood by the men of the time, and
the ordered drama of the stage by the medley of life? They deny art,
which is the instrument of the creative reason, to literature; for as
soon as art, which is the process of creating a rational world, begins,
the necessity for selection arises, and with it the whole question of
values, facts being no longer equal among themselves on the score of
actuality, nor in fitness for the work in hand. The trivial, the
accidental, the unmeaning, are rejected, and there will be no stopping
short of the end; for art, being the handmaid of truth, can employ no
other than the method of all reason, wherefore idealism is to it what
abstraction is to logic and induction to natural science,--the breath of
its rational being. Those who hold to realism in its extreme form, as a
representation of the actual only, behave as if one should say to the
philosopher--leave this formulation of general notions and be content
with sensible objects; or to the scientist--experiment no more, but
observe the course of nature as it may chance to arise, and describe it
in its succession. They bid us be all eye, no mind; all sense, no
thought; all chance, all confusion, no order, no organization, no
fabric of the reason. But there are no such realists; though pure
realism has its place, as will hereafter be shown, it is usually found
mixed with ideal method; and as commonly employed the word designates
the preference merely for types and plots of much detail, of narrow
application, of little meaning, in opposition to the highly generalized
and significant types and plots usually associated with the term
idealism. In what way such realism has its place will also appear at a
later stage. Here it is necessary to say no more than that in proportion
as realism uses the ideal method only at the lowest, it narrows its
appeal, weakens its power, and takes from literature her highest
distinction by virtue of which she grasps the whole of character and
fate in her creation and informs man of the secrets of his human heart,
the course of his mortal destiny, and the end of all his spiritual
effort and aspiration.

I am aware that I have not proceeded so far without starting objections.
To meet that which is most grave, what shall I say when it is alleged
that there is no order such as I have assumed in life; or, if there be,
that it is insufficiently known, too intangible and complex, too
various in different races and ages, to be made the subject of such an
exposition as obtains of natural order? Were this assertion true, yet
there would be good reason to retain our illusion; for the mind delights
in order, and will invent it. The mind is perplexed and disturbed until
it finds this order; and in the progressive integration of its
experience into an ordered world lies its work. Art gives pleasure to
the intellect, because in its structure whatever is superfluous and
extrinsic has been eliminated, so that the mind contemplates an artistic
work as a unity of relations bound each to each which it fully
comprehends. Such works, we say, have form, which is just this
interdependence of parts wholly understood which appeals to the
intellect, and satisfies it: they would please the mind, though the
order they embody were purely imaginary, just as science would delight
it, were the order of nature itself illusory. Creative art would thus
still have a ground of being under a sceptical philosophy; man would
delight to dream his dream. But it is not necessary to take this lower
line of argument.

It does not appear to me to be open to question that there is in the
soul of man a nature and an order obtaining in it as permanent and
universal as in the material world. The soul of man has a common being
in all. There could be no science of logic, psychology, or metaphysics
on the hypothesis of any uncertainty as to the identity of mind in all,
nor any science of ethics on the hypothesis of any variation as to the
identity of the will in all, nor any ground of expression even, of
communication between man and man, on the hypothesis of any radical
difference in the experience and faculties to which all expression
appeals for its intelligibility; neither could there be any system of
life in social groups, or plan for education, unless such a common basis
is accepted. The postulate of a common human nature is analogous to that
of the unity of matter in science; it finds its complete expression in
the doctrine of the brotherhood of man, for if race be fundamentally
distinguished from race as was once thought, it is only as element is
distinguished from element in the old chemistry. So, too, the postulate
of an order obtaining in the soul, universal and necessary, independent
of man's volition, analogous in all respects to the order of nature, is
parallel with that of the constancy of physical law. A rational life
expects this order. The first knowledge of it comes to us, as that of
natural law, by experience; in the social world--the relations of men to
one another--and in the more important region of our own nature we learn
the issue of certain courses of action as well as in the external world;
in our own lives and in our dealings with others we come to a knowledge
of, and a conformity to, the conditions under which we live, the laws
operant in our being, as well as those of the physical world. Literature
assumes this order; in Aeschylus, Cervantes, or Shakspere, it is this
that gives their work interest. Apart from natural science, the whole
authority of the past in its entire accumulation of wisdom rests upon
the permanence of this order, and its capacity to be known by man; that
virtue makes men noble and vice renders them base, is a statement without
meaning unless this order is continuous through ages; all principles of
action, all schemes of culture, would be uncertain except on this

So near is this order to us that it was known long before science came
to any maturity. We have added, in truth, little to our knowledge of
humanity since the Greeks; and if one wonders why ethics came before
science, let him own at least that its priority shows that it is near
and vital in life as science is not. We can do, it seems, without
Kepler's laws, but not without the Decalogue. The race acquires first
what is most needful for life; and man's heart was always with him, and
his fate near. A second reason, it may be noted, for the later
development of science is that our senses, as used by science, are more
mental now, and the object itself is observable only by the intervention
of the mind through the telescope or microscope or a hundred instruments
into which, though physical, the mind enters. Our methods, too, as well
as our instruments, are things of the mind. It behooves us to remember
in an age which science is commonly thought to have materialized, that
more and more the mind enters into all results, and fills an ever larger
place in life; and this should serve to make materialism seem more and
more what it is--a savage conception. But recognizing the great place of
mind in modern science, and its growing illumination of our earthly
system, I am not disposed to discredit its earliest results in art and
morals. I find in this penetration of the order of the world within us
our most certain truth; and as our bodies exist only by virtue of
sharing in the general order of nature, so, I believe, our souls have
being only by sharing in this order of the inward, the spiritual world.

What, then, is this order? We do not merely contemplate it: we are
immersed in it, it is vital in us, it is that wherein we live and move
and have our being, ever more and more in proportion as the soul's life
outvalues the body in our experience. It is necessary to expand our
conception of it. Hitherto it has been presented only as an order of
truth appealing to the intellect: but the intellect is only one function
of the soul, and thinkers are the merest fraction of mankind. We know
this order not only as truth, but as righteousness; we know that certain
choices end in enlarging and invigorating our faculties, and other
choices in their enfeeblement and extinction; and the race adds, acting
under the profound motive of self-preservation, that it is a duty to do
the one thing and avoid the other, and stores up this doctrine in
conscience. We know this order again under the aspect of joy, for joy
attends some choices, and sorrow others; and again under the aspect of
beauty, for certain choices result in beauty and others in deformity.
What I maintain is that this order exists under four aspects, and may be
learned in any of them--as an order of truth in the reason, as an order
of virtue in the will, as an order of joy in the emotions, as an order
of beauty in the senses. It is the same order, the same body of law,
operating in each case; it is the vital force of our fourfold life,--it
has one unity in the intellect, the will, the emotions, the senses,--is
equal to the whole nature of man, and responds to him and sustains him
on every side. A lover of beauty in whom conscience is feeble cannot
wander if he follow beauty; nor a cold thinker err, though without a
moral sense, if he accept truth; nor a just man, nor a seeker after pure
joy merely, if they act according to knowledge each in his sphere. The
course of action that increases life may be selected because it is
reasonable, or joyful, or beautiful, or right; and therefore one may say
fearlessly, choose the things that are beautiful, the things that are
joyful, the things that are reasonable, the things that are right, and
all else shall be added unto you. The binding force in this order is
what literature, ideal literature, most brings out and emphasizes in its
generalizations, that causal union which has hitherto been spoken of in
the region of plot only; but it exists in every aspect of this order,
and literature universalizes experience in all these realms, in the
provinces of beauty and passion no less than in those of virtue and
knowledge, and its method is the same in all.

Is not our knowledge of this fourfold order in its principles, in those
relations of its phenomena which constitute its laws, of the highest
importance of anything of human concern? In harmony with these laws, and
only thus, we ourselves, in whom this order is, become happy, righteous,
wise, and beautiful. In ideal literature this knowledge is found,
expressed, and handed down age after age--the knowledge of necessary and
permanent relations in these great spheres which, taken together,
exhaust the capacities of life. Man's moral sense is strong in
proportion as he apprehends necessity in the sequence of will and act;
his intellect is strong, his emotions, his sense of beauty, are strong
in the same way in proportion as he apprehends necessity in each several
field of experience. And conversely, the weakness of the intellect lies
in a greater or less failure to realise relations of fact in their
logic; and the other faculties, in proportion as they fail to realize
such relations in their own region, have a similar incapacity. Insanity,
in the broad sense, is involuntary error in a nature incapable of
effectual enlightenment, and hence abnormal or diseased; but the state
of error, whether more or less, whether voluntary or involuntary,
whether curable or incurable, in itself is the same. To take an example
from one sphere, in the moral world the criminal through ignorance of or
distrust in or revolt from the supreme divine law seeks to maintain
himself by his own power solitarily as if he might be a law unto
himself; he experiences, without the intervention of any human judge,
the condemnation which consigns him to enfeeblement and extinction
through the decay and death of his nature, as a moral being, stage by
stage; this is God's justice, visiting sin with death. Similarly, and to
most more obviously, in society itself, the criminal against society,
because he does not understand, or believe, or prefers not to accept
arbitrary social law as the means by which necessarily the general good,
including his own, is worked out, seeks to substitute for it his own
intelligence, his cunning, in his search for prosperity, as he conceives
it, by an adaptation of means to ends on his own account. This is why
the imperfection of human law is sometimes a just excuse for social
crime in those whom society does not benefit, its slaves and pariahs.
But whether in God's world or in man's, the mind of the criminal,
disengaging itself from reliance on the whole fabric for whatever
reason, pulverizes because he fails to realize the necessary relations
of the world in which he lives in their normal operation, and has no
effectual belief in them as unavoidably operant in his nature or over
his fortunes. This was the truth that lay in the Platonic doctrine that
all sin is ignorance; but Plato did not take account of any possible
depravity in the will. Nor is what has been illustrated above true of
the mind and the will only. In the region of emotion and of beauty,
there may be similar aberration, if these are not grasped in their vital
nature, in organic relation to the whole of life.

These several parts of our being are not independent of one another, but
are in the closest alliance. They act conjointly and with one result in
the single soul in which they find their unity as various energies of
one personal power. It cannot be that contradiction should arise among
them in their right operation, nor the error of one continue undetected
by the others; that the base should be joyful or the wicked beautiful in
reality, is impossible. In the narrow view the lust of the eye and the
pride of life may seem beautiful, but in the broad perspective of the
inward world they take on ugliness; in the moment they may seem
pleasurable, but in the backward reach of memory they take on pain; to
assert eternity against the moment, to see life in the whole, to live as
if all of life were concentrated in its instant, is the chief labour of
the mind, the eye, the heart, the enduring will, all together. To
represent a villain as attractive is an error of art, which thus
misrepresents the harmony of our nature. Satan, as conceived by Milton,
may seem to be a majestic figure, but he was not so to Milton's
imagination. "The Infernal Serpent" is the first name the poet gives
him; and though sublime imagery of gloom and terror is employed to
depict his diminished brightness and inflamed malice, Milton repeatedly
takes pains to degrade him to the eye, as when in Paradise he is
surprised at the ear of Eve "squat like a toad"; and when he springs up
in his own form there, as the "grisly king," he mourns most his beauty
lost; neither is his resolute courage long admirable. To me, at least,
so far from having any heroic quality, he seems always the malign fiend
sacrificing innocence to an impotent revenge. In all great creations of
art it is necessary that this consistency of beauty, virtue, reason, and
joy should he preserved.

It is true that the supremacy of law in this inward world, so
constituted, is less realized than in the physical world; but even in
the latter the wide conviction of its supremacy is a recent thing, and
in some parts of nature it is still lightly felt, especially in those
which touch the brain most nearly, while under the stress of exceptional
calamity or strong desire or traditional religious beliefs it often
breaks down. But if the order of the material universe seems now a more
settled thing than the spiritual law of the soul, once the case was
reversed; God was known and nature miraculous. It must be remembered,
too, in excuse of our feebleness of faith, that we are born bodily into
the physical world and are forced to live under its law; but life in the
spiritual world is more a matter of choice, at least in respect to its
degree; its phenomena are, in part, contingent upon our development and
growth, on our living habitually and intelligently in our higher nature,
the laws of which as communicated to us by other minds are in part
prophecies of experience not yet actual in ourselves. It is the
touchstone of experience, after all, that tries all things in both
worlds, and experience in the spiritual world may be long delayed; it is
power of mind that makes wide generalizations in both; and the
conception of spiritual law is the most refined as perhaps it is the
most daring of human thoughts.

The expansion of the conception of ideal literature so as to embrace
these other aspects, in addition to that of rational knowledge which has
thus far been exclusively dwelt upon, requires us to examine its nature
in the regions of beauty, joy, and conscience, in which, though
generalization remains its intellectual method, it does not make its
direct appeal to the mind. It is not enough to show that the creative
reason in its intellectual process employs that common method which is
the parent of all true knowledge, and by virtue of its high matter,
which is the divine order in the soul, holds the primacy among man's
faculties; the story were then left half told, and the better part yet
to come. To enlighten the mind is a great function; but in the mass of
mankind there are few who are accessible to ideas as such, especially on
the unworldly side of life, or interested in them. Idealism does not
confine its service to the narrow bounds of intellectuality. It has a
second and greater office, which is to charm the soul. So characteristic
of it is this power, so eminent and shining, that thence only springs
the sweet and almost sacred quality breathing from the word itself.
Idealism, indeed, by the garment of sense does not so much clothe wisdom
as reveal her beauty; so the Greek sculptor discloses the living form by
the plastic folds. Truth made virtue is her work of power, and she
imposes upon man no harder task than the mere beholding of that sight--

    "Virtue in her shape how lovely,"

which since it first abashed the devil in Paradise makes wrong-doers
aware of their deformity, and yet has such subtle and penetrating might,
such fascination for all finer spirits, that they have ever believed
with their master, Plato, that should truth show her countenance
unveiled and dwell on earth, all men would worship and follow her.

The images of Plato--those images in which alone he could adequately
body forth his intuitions of eternity--present the twofold attitude of
our nature, in mind and heart, toward the ideal with vivid distinctness;
and they illustrate the more intimate power of beauty, the more
fundamental reach of emotion, and the richness of their mutual life in
the soul. Under the aspect of truth he likens our knowledge of the ideal
to that which the prisoners of the cave had of the shadows on the wall;
under the aspect of beauty he figures our love for it as that of the
passionate lover. As truth, again,--taking up in his earliest days what
seems the primitive impulse and first thought of man everywhere and at
all times,--under the image of the golden chain let down from the
throne of the god, he sets forth the heavenly origin of the ideal and
its descent on earth by divine inspiration possessing the poet as its
passive instrument; and later, bringing in now the cooperation of man in
the act, he again presents the ideal as known by reminiscence of the
soul's eternal life before birth, which is only a more defined and
rationalized conception of inspiration working normally instead of by
the special act and favour of God. As beauty, again, he shows forth the
enthusiasm evoked by the ideal in the image of the charioteer of the
white and black horses mastering them to the goal of love. In these
various ways the first idealist thought out these distinctions of truth
and beauty as having a real community, though a divided life in the mind
and heart; and, as he developed,--and this is the significant
matter,--the poet in him controlling his speech told ever more
eloquently of the charm with which beauty draws the soul unto itself,
for to the poet beauty is nearer than truth. It is the persuasion with
which he sets forth this charm, rather than his speculation, which has
fastened upon him the love of later ages. He was the first to discern in
truth and beauty equal powers of one divine being, and thus to effect
the most important reconciliation ever made in human nature.

So, too, from the other great source of the race's wisdom, we are told
in the Scriptures that though we be fallen men, yet is it left to us to
lift our eyes to the beauty of holiness and be healed; for every ray of
that outward loveliness which strikes upon the eye penetrates to the
heart of man. Then are we moved, indeed, and incited to seek virtue with
true desire. Prophet and psalmist are here at one with the poet and the
philosopher in spiritual sensitiveness. At the height of Hebrew genius
in the personality of Christ, it is the sweet attractive grace, the
noble beauty of the present life incarnated in his acts and words, the
divine reality on earth and not, as Plato saw it, in a world removed,
that has drawn all eyes to the Judean hill. The years lived under the
Syrian blue were a rending of the veil of spiritual beauty which has
since shone in its purity on men's gaze. It is this loveliness which
needs only to be seen that wins mankind. The emotions are enlisted; and,
however we may slight them in practice, the habit of emotion more than
the habit of mind enters into and fixes inward character. More men are
saved by the heart than by the head; more youths are drawn to excellence
by noble feelings than are coldly reasoned into virtue on the ground of
gain. Some there are among men so colourless in blood that they embrace
the right on the mere calculation of advantage, but they seem to possess
only an earthly virtue; some, beholding the order of the world, desire
to put themselves in tune with nature and the soul's law, and these are
of a better sort; but most fortunate are they who, though well-nurtured,
find virtue not in profit, nor in the necessity of conforming to
implacable law, but in mere beauty, in the light of her face as it first
comes to them with ripening years in the sweet and noble nature of those
they grow to love and honour among the living and the dead. For this is
Achilles made brave, that he may stir us to bravery; and surely it were
little to see the story of Pelops' line if the emotions were not
awakened, not merely for a few moments of intense action of their own
play, but to form the soul. The emotional glow of the creative
imagination has been once mentioned in the point that it is often more
absorbed in the beauty and passion than in the intellectual
significance of its work; here, correspondingly, it is by the heart to
which it appeals rather than by the mind it illumines that it takes hold
of youth.

What, then, is the nature of this emotional appeal which surpasses so
much in intimacy, pleasure, and power the appeal to the intellect? It is
the keystone of the inward nature, that which binds all together in the
arch of life. Emotion has some ground, some incitement which calls it
forth; and it responds with most energy to beauty. In the strictest
sense beauty is a unity of relations of coexistence in coloured space
and appeals to the eye; it is in space what plot is in time. Like plot,
it is deeply engaged in the outward world; it exists in the sensuous
order, and it shadows forth the spiritual order in man only in so far as
a fair soul makes the body beautiful, as Spenser thought,--the mood, the
act, and the habit of heroism, love, and the like nobilities of man,
giving grace to form, feature, and attitude. It is primarily an outward
thing, as emotion, which is a phase of personality, is an inward thing;
what the necessary sequence of events, the chain of causation, is to
plot,--its cardinal idea,--that the necessary harmony of parts, the
chime of line and colour, is to beauty; thus beauty is as inevitable as
fate, as structurally planted in the form and colour of the universe as
fate is in its temporal movement. And as plot has its characteristic
unity in the impersonal order of God's will, shown in time's event, so
beauty has its characteristic unity in the same order shown in the
visible creation of space. It is true that all phenomena are perceived
by the mind, and are conditioned, as is said, by human modes of
perception; but within the limits of the relativity of all our
knowledge, beauty is initially a sensuous, not a spiritual, thing, and
though the structure of the human eye arranges the harmonies of line and
colour, it is no more than as the form of human thought arranges cause
and effect and other primary relations in things; beauty does not in
becoming humanly known cease to be known as a thing external,
independent of our will, and imposed on us from without. It is this
outward reality, the harmony of sense, that sculpture and painting add
in their types to the interpretation they otherwise give of personality,
and often in them this physical element is predominant; and in the
purely decorative arts it may be exclusive. In landscape, which is in
the realm of beauty, personality altogether disappears, unless, indeed,
nature be interpreted in the mood of the Psalmist as declaring its
Creator; for the reflection which the presence of man may cast upon
nature as his shadow is not expressive of any true personality there
abiding, but enters into the scene as the face of Narcissus into the
brook. The pleasure which the mind takes in beauty is only a part of its
general delight in order of any sort; and visible artistic form as
abstracted from the world of space is merely a species of organic form
and is included in it.

The eye, however, governs so large a part of the sensuous field, the
idea of beauty as a unity of space-relations giving pleasure is so
simple, and the experience is so usual, that the word has been carried
over to the life of the more limited senses in which analogous phenomena
arise, differing only in the fact that they exist in another sense. Thus
in the dominion of the ear especially, we speak commonly of the beauty
of music; but the life of the minor senses, touch, taste, and smell, is
composed of too simple elements to allow of such combination as would
constitute specific form in ordinary apprehension, though in the blind
and deaf the possibility of high and intelligible complexity in these
senses is proved. Similarly, the term is carried over to the invisible
and inaudible world of the soul within itself, and we speak of the
beauty of Sidney's act, of Romeo's nature, and, in the abstract, of the
beauty of holiness, and, in a still more remote sphere, of the beauty of
a demonstration or a hypothesis; by this usage we do not so much
describe the thing as convey the charm of the thing. This charm is more
intimate and piercing to those of sensuous nature who rejoice in visible
loveliness or in heard melodies; but to the spiritually minded it may be
as close and penetrating in the presence of what is to them dearer than
life and light, and is beheld only by the inner eye. It is this charm,
whether flowing from the outward semblance or shining from the unseen
light, that wins the heart, stirs emotion, wakes the desire to be one
with this order manifest in truth and beauty, in the spirit and the body
of things, to go out toward it in love, to identify one's being with it
as the order of life, mortal and immortal; last the will quickens, and
its effort to make this order prevail in us and possess us is virtue.
The act through all its phases is, as has been said, one act of the
soul, which first perceives, then loves, and finally wills. Emotion is
the intermediary between the divine order and the human will; it
responds to the beauty of the one and directs the choice of the other,
and is felt in either function as love controlling life in the new
births of the spirit.

The emotion, to return to the world of art, which is felt in the
presence of imaginary things is actual in us; but the attempt is made to
fix upon it a special character differentiating it from the emotion felt
in the presence of reality. One principle of difference is sought in the
point that in literature, or in sculpture and painting, emotion entails
no action; it has no outlet, and is without practical consequences; the
will is paralyzed by the fatuity of trying to influence an unreal series
of events, and in the case of the object of beauty in statue or painting
by the impossibility of possession. The world of art is thus thought of
as one of pure contemplation, a place of escape from the difficulties,
the pangs, and the incompleteness that beset all action. It is true that
the imagined world creates special conditions for emotion, and that the
will does not act in respect to that world; but does this imply any
radical difference in the emotion, or does it draw after it the
consequence that the will does not act at all? Checked emotion, emotion
dying in its own world, is common in life; and so, too, is contemplation
as a mode of approach to beauty, as in landscape, or even in human
figures where there is no thought of any other possession than the
presence of beauty before the eye and soul; escape, too, into a sphere
of impersonality, in the love of nature or the spectacle of life, is a
common refuge. Art does not give us new faculties, generate unknown
habits, or in any way change our nature; it presents to us a new world
only, toward which our mental behaviour is the same as in the rest of
life. Why, then, should emotion, the most powerful element in life, be
regarded as a fruitless thing in that ideal art which has thus far
appeared as a life in purer energy and higher intensity of being than
life itself?

The distinction between emotion depicted and that felt in response must
be kept in mind to avoid confusion, for both sorts are present at the
same time. In literature emotion may be set forth as a phase of the
character or as a term in the plot; it may be a single moment of high
feeling as in a lyric or a prolonged experience as in a drama; it may be
shown in the pure type of some one passion as in Romeo, or in the
various moods of a rich nature as in Hamlet; but, whether it be
predominant or subordinate in any work, it is there treated in the same
way and for the same purpose as other materials of life. What happens
when literature gives us, for instance, examples of moral experience? It
informs the mind of the normal course of certain lines of action, of the
inevitable issues of life; it breeds habits of right thinking in respect
to these; it is educative, and though we do not act at once upon this
knowledge, when the occasion arises we are prepared to act. So, when
literature presents examples of emotional experience, it informs us of
the nature of emotion, its causes, occasions, and results, its value in
character, its influence on action, the modes of its expression; it
breeds habits of right thinking in respect to these, and is educative;
and, just as in the preceding case, though we do not act at once upon
this knowledge, when the occasion arises we are prepared to act.
Concurrently with emotions thus objectively presented there arises in us
a similar series of emotions in the beholding; by sympathy we ourselves
feel what is before us, the emotions there are also in us in proportion
as we identify ourselves with the character; or, in proportion as our
own individuality asserts itself by revolt, a contrary series arises of
hatred, indignation, or contempt, of pity for the character or of terror
in the feeling that what has happened to one may happen to us in our
humanity. We are taught in a more intimate and vital way than through
ideas alone; the lesson has entered into our bosoms; we have lived the
life. Literature is thus far more powerfully educative emotionally than
intellectually; and if the poet has worked with wisdom, he has bred in
us habits of right feeling in respect to life, he has familiarized our
hearts with love and anger, with compassion and fear, with courage, with
resolve, has exercised us in them upon their proper occasions and in
their noble expression, has opened to us the world of emotion as it
ought to be in showing us that world as it is in men with all its
possibilities of baseness, ugliness, and destruction. This is the
service which literature performs in this field. Imagination shows us a
scheme of emotion attending the scheme of events and presents it in its
general connection with life, in simple, powerful, and complete
expression, on the lines of inevitable law in its sphere. We go out from
the sway of this imagined world, more sensitive to life, more accessible
to emotion, more likely and more capable, when the occasion arises, to
feel rightly, and to carry that feeling out into an act. In all
literature the knowledge gained objectively, whether of action or
emotion, is a preparation for life; but this intimate experience of
emotion in connection with an imagined world is a more vital
preparation, and enters more directly, easily, and effectually into
men's bosoms.

Two particular phases of this educative power should be specifically
mentioned. The objective presentation of emotion in literature, as has
been often observed, corrects the perspective of our own lives, as does
also the action which it envelops; and by showing to us emotion in
intense energy, which by this intensity corresponds to high type and
important plot, and in a compass far greater than is normal in ordinary
life, the portrayal leads us better to bear and more justly to estimate
the petty trials, the vexations, the insignificant experiences of our
career; we see our lives in a truer relation to life in general, and
avoid an overcharged feeling in regard to our private fortune. And,
secondly, the subjective emotion in ourselves is educative in the point
that by this outlet we go out of ourselves in sympathy, lose our egoism,
and become one with man in general. This is an escape; but not such as
has been previously spoken of, for it is not a retreat. There is no
escape for us, except into the lives of others. In nature it is still
our own face we see; and before the ideal creations of art we are still
aware, for all our contemplation, of the ineffable yearning of the
thwarted soul, of the tender melancholy, the sadness in all beauty,
which is the measure of our separation therefrom, and is fundamental in
the poetic temperament. This is that pain, which Plato speaks of--the
pain of the growing of the wings of the spirit as they unfold. But in
passing into the lives of other men, in sharing their joys, in taking on
ourselves the burden of humanity, we escape from our self-prison, we
leave individuality behind, we unite with man in common; so we die to
ourselves in order to live in lives not ours. In literature, sympathy
and that imagination by which we enter into and comprehend other lives
are most trained and developed, made habitual, instinctive, and quick.
It begins to appear, I trust, that ideal art is not only one with our
nature intellectually, but in all ways; it is the path of the spirit in
all things. Moreover, emotion is in itself simple; it does not need
generalization, it is the same in all. It is rather a means of
universalizing the refinements of the intellect, the substantive
idealities of imagination, by enveloping them in an elementary,
primitive feeling which they call forth. Poetry, therefore, especially
deals, as Wordsworth pointed out, in the primary affections, the
elementary passions of mankind; and, whatever be its intellectual
contents of nature or human events, calls these emotions forth as the
master-spirit of all our seeing. Emotion is more fundamental in us than
knowledge; it is more powerful in its working; it underlies more
deliberate and conscious life in the mind, and in most of us it rules,
as it influences in all. It is natural, therefore, to find that its
operation in art is of graver importance than that of the intellectual
faculty so far as the broad power of art over men is concerned.

Another special point arises from the fact that some emotions are
painful, and the question is raised how in literature painful emotions
become a pleasure. Aristotle's doctrine in respect to certain of these
emotions, tragic pity and terror, is well known, though variously
interpreted. He regards such emotions as a discharge of energy, an
exhaustion and a relief, in consequence of which their disturbing
presence is less likely to recur in actual life; it is as if emotional
energy accumulated, as vital force is stored up and requires to be
loosed in bodily exercise; but this, except in the point that pity and
terror, if they do accumulate in their particular forms latently, are
specifically such as it is wise to be rid of, does not differentiate
emotion from the rest of our powers in all of which there is a similar
pleasure in exercising, an exhaustion and a relief, with less liability
of immediate recurrence; this belongs to all expenditure of life. It is
not credible to me that painful emotion, under the illusions of art, can
become pleasurable in the common sense; what pleasure there is arises
only in the climax and issue of the action, as in case of the drama when
the restoration of the order that is joyful, beautiful, right, and wise
occurs; in other words, in the presence of the final poetic justice or
reconciliation of the disturbed elements of life. But here we come upon
darker and mysterious aspects of our general subject, now to be slightly
touched. Tragedy dealing with the discords of life must present painful
spectacles; and is saved to art only by its just ending. Comedy, which
similarly deals with discords, is endurable only while these remain
painless. Both imply a defect in order, and neither would have any place
in a perfect world, which would be without pity, fear, or humour, all of
which proceed from incongruities in the scheme. Tragedy and comedy
belong alike to low civilizations, to wicked, brutal, or ridiculous
types of character and disorderly events, to the confusion, ignorance,
and ignominies of mankind; the refinement of both is a mark of progress
in both art and civilization, and foretells their own extinction, unless
indeed the principle of evil be more deeply implanted in the universe
than we fondly hope; pathos and humour, which are the milder and the
kindlier forms of tragedy and comedy, must also cease, for both are
equally near to tears. But before leaving this subject it is interesting
to observe how in the Aristotelian scheme of tragedy, where it was
little thought of, the appeal is made to man's whole nature as here
outlined--the plot replying to reason, the scene to the sense of beauty,
the katharsis to the emotions, and poetic justice to the will, which
thus finds its model and exemplar in the supremacy of the moral law in
all tragic art.

This, then, being the nature of the ideal world in its whole range
commensurate with our being, and these the methods of its intellectual
and emotional appeal, it remains to examine the world of art in itself,
and especially its genesis out of life. The method by which it is built
up has long been recognized to be that of imitation of the actual, as
has been assumed hitherto in the statement that all art is concrete. But
the concrete which art creates is not a copy of the concrete of life;
it is more than this. The mind takes the particulars of the world of
sense into itself, generalizes them, and frames therefrom a new
particular, which does not exist in nature; it is, in fact, nature made
perfect in an imagined instance, and so presented to the mind's eye, or
to the eye of sense. The pleasure which imitation gives has been often
and diversely analyzed; it may be that of recognition, or that of new
knowledge satisfying our curiosity as if the original were present, or
that of delight in the skill of the artist, or that of interest in
seeing how his view differs from our own, or that of the illusion
created for us; but all these modes of pleasure exist when the imitation
is an exact copy of the original, and they do not characterize the
artistic imitation in any way to differentiate its peculiar pleasure. It
is that element which artistic imitation adds to actuality, the
difference between its created concrete and the original out of which
that was developed, which gives the special delight of art to the mind.
It is the perfection of the type, the intensity of the emotion, the
inevitability of the plot,--it is the pure and intelligible form
disclosed in the phases and movement of life, disengaged and set apart
for the contemplation of the mind,--it is the purging of the sensual
eye, enabling it to see through the mind as the mind first saw through
it, which renders the world of art the new vision it is, the revelation
accomplished by the mind for the senses. If the world of art were only a
reduplication of life, it would give only the pleasures that have been
mentioned; but its true pleasure is that which it yields from its
supersensual element, the reason which has entered into it with ordering
power. In the world thus created there will remain the imperfections
which are due to the limitation of the artist, in knowledge, skill, and

It will be said at once that all these concrete representations
necessarily fail to realize the artist's thought, and are inadequate,
inferior in exactness, to scientific and philosophic knowledge; in a
measure this is true, and would be important if the method of art were
demonstrative, instead of being, as has been said, experimental and
inductive. So, too, all thinkers, using the actual world in their
processes, are at a disadvantage. The figures of the geometer, the
quantities of the chemist, the measurements of the astronomer, are
inexact approximations to their equivalent in the mind. Art, as an
embodiment in mortal images, is subject to the conditions of mortality.
Hence arises its human history, the narrative of its rise, climax, and
decline in successive ages. The course of art is known; it has been run
many times; it is a simple matter. At first art is archaic, the sensible
form being rudely controlled by the artist's hand; it becomes, in the
second stage, classical, the form being adequate to the thought, a
transparent expression; last, it is decadent, the form being more than
the thought, dwarfing it by usurping attention on its own account. The
peculiar temptation of technique is always to elaboration of detail;
technique is at first a hope, it becomes a power, it ends in being a
caprice; and always as it goes on it loses sight of the general in its
rendering, and dwells with a near eye on the specific. Nor is this
attention to detail confined to the manner; the hand of the artist draws
the mind after it, and it is no longer the great types of manhood, the
important fates of life, the primary emotions in their normal course,
that are in the foreground of thought, but the individual is more and
more, the sensational in plot, the sentimental in feeling. This
tendency to detail, which is the hallmark of realism, constitutes
decline. It arises partly from the exhaustion of general ideas, from the
search for novelty of subject and sensation, from the special phenomena
of a decaying society; but, however manifold may be the causes, the fact
of decline consists in the lessened scope of the matter and the
increased importance of the form, both resulting in luxuriant detail.
Ideas as they lose generality gain in intensity, but in the history of
art this has not proved a compensation. In Greece the three stages are
clearly marked both in matter and manner, in Aeschylus, Sophocles, and
Euripides; in England less clearly in Marlowe, Shakspere, and Webster.
How monstrous in the latter did tragedy necessarily become! yet more
repulsive in his tenderer companion-spirit, Ford. In Greek sculpture,
passing into convulsed and muscular forms or forms of relaxed
voluptuousness, in Italian painting, in the romantic poetry of this
century with us, the same stages are manifest. Age parallels age.
Tennyson in artistic technique is Virgilian, we are aware of the style;
but both Virgil and Tennyson remain classic in matter, in universality,
and the elemental in man. Browning in substance is Euripidean, being
individualistic, psychologic, problematic, with special pleading;
classicism had departed from him, and left not even the style behind.
The great opposition lies in the subject of interest. Is it to know
ourselves in others? Then art which is widely interpretative of the
common nature of man results. Is it to know others as different from
ourselves? Then art which is specially interpretative of abnormal
individuals in extraordinary environments results. This is the
opposition between realism and idealism, while both remain in the limits
of art, as these terms are commonly used. It belongs to realism to tend
to the concrete of narrow application, but with fulness of special trait
or detail. It belongs to idealism to tend to the concrete of broad
application, but without peculiarity. The trivial on the one hand, the
criminal on the other, in the individual, are the extremes of realistic
art, while idealism rises to an almost superhuman emphasis on that
wisdom and virtue, and the beauty clothing them, which are the goal of a
nation's effort. Race-ideas, or generalizations of a compact and
homogeneous people summing up their serious interpretations of life,
their moral choices, their aspiration and hope in the lines of effort
that seem to them highest, are the necessary matter of idealism; when
these are expressed they are the Greek spirit, the Roman genius, great
types of humanity on the impersonal, the national scale. As these
historic generalizations dissolve in national decay, art breaks up in
individual portrayal of less embracing types; the glorification of the
Greek man in Achilles yields place to the corruptions of the homunculus;
and in general the literature of nationality gives way to the unmeaning
and transitory literature of a society interested in its vices,
superstitions, and sensations. In each age some genius stands at the
centre of its expression, a shining nucleus amid its planetary stars;
such was Dante, such Virgil, such Shakspere. Few indeed are the races
that present the spectacle of a double-sun in their history, as the
Hebrews in Psalm and Gospel, the Greeks in Homer and in Plato. And yet,
all this enormous range of life and death, this flowering in centuries
of the human spirit in its successive creations, reposes finally on the
more or less general nature of the concretes used in its art, on their
broad or narrow truth, on their human or individualistic significance.
The difference between idealism and realism is not more than a question
which to choose. At the further end and last remove, when all art has
been resolved into a sensation, an effect, lies impressionism, which, by
its nature, is a single phase at a single moment as seen by a single
being; but even then, if the mind be normal, if the phase be veritable,
if the moment be that of universal beauty which Faust bade be eternal,
the artistic work remains ideal; but on the other hand, it is usually
the eccentric mind, the abnormal phase, the beauty of morbid sensation
that are rendered; and impressionism becomes, as a term, the
vanishing-point of realism into the moment of sense.

The world of art, to reach its last limitation, through all this wide
range is in each creation passed through the mind of the artist and
presented necessarily under all the conditions of his personality. His
nature is a term in the process, and the question of imperfection or of
error, known as the personal equation, arises. Individual differences of
perceptive power in comprehending what is seen, and of narrative skill,
or in the plastic and pictorial arts of manual dexterity, import this
personal element into all artistic works, the more in proportion to the
originality of the maker and the fulness of his self-expression. In
rendering from the actual such error is unavoidable, and is practically
admitted by all who would rather see for themselves than take the
account of a witness, and prefer the original to any copy of it, though
they thereby only substitute their own error for that of the artist.
This personal error, however, is easily corrected by the consensus of
human nature.

The differences in personality go far deeper than this common liability
of humanity to mere mistakes in sight and in representation. The
isolating force that creates a solitude round every man lies in his
private experience, and results from his original faculties and the
special conditions of his environment, his acquired habits of attending
to some things rather than others open to him, the choices he has made
in the past by which his view of the world and his interest in it have
been determined. Memory, the mother of the Muses, is supreme here; a
man's memory, which is the treasury of his chosen delights in life,
characterizes him, and differentiates his work from that of others,
because he must draw on that store for his materials. Thus a man's
character, or, what is more profound, his temperament, acting in
conjunction with the memory it has built up for itself, is a controlling
force in artistic work, and modifies it in the sense that it presents
the universal truth only as it exists in his personality, in his
apprehension of it and its meaning.

Genius is this power of personality, and exists in proportion as the man
differs from the average in ways that find significant expression. This
difference may proceed along two lines. It may be aberration from normal
human nature, due to circumstances or to inherent defect or to a
thousand causes, but existing always in the form of an inward perversion
approaching disease of our nature; such types of genius are pathological
and may be neglected. It may, on the other hand, be development of
normal human nature in high power, and it then exists in the form of
inward energy, showing itself in great sensitiveness to outward things,
in mental power of comprehension, in creative force of recombination
and expression. Of genius of this last sort the leaders of the human
spirit are made. The basis of it is still, human faculty dealing with
the universe--the same faculty, the same universe, that are common to
mankind; but with an extraordinary power, such that it can reveal to men
at large what they of themselves might never have arrived at, can
advance knowledge and show forth goals of human hope, can in a word
guide the race. The isolation of such a nature is necessarily profound,
and intense loneliness has ever been a characteristic of genius. The
solvent of all personality, however, lies at last in this fact of a
common world and a common faculty for all, resulting in an experience
intelligible to all, even if unshared by them. The humanity of genius
constitutes its sanity, and is the ground of its usefulness; though it
lives in isolation, it does so only as an advanced outpost may; it
expects the advent of the race behind and below it, and shows there its
signal and sounds there its call. Its escape from personality lies in
its identifying itself with the common order in which all souls shall
finally be merged and be at one. The limitations of genius are
consequently not so much limitations as the abrogation of limits in the
ordinary sense; its originality of insight, interpretation, and
expression broadens the human horizons and enriches the fields within
them; it tells us what we may not have known or felt or guessed, but
what we shall at last understand. Thus, as the theory of art is most
fixed in the doctrine of order, so here it is most flexible in the
doctrine of personality, through which that order is most variously set
forth and illustrated. Imitation, so far from becoming a defective or
false method because of personality, is really made catholic by it, and
gains the variety and breadth that characterizes the artistic world as a

The element of self which thus enters into every artistic work has
different degrees of importance. In objective art, it is clear that it
enters valuably in proportion as the universe is seized by a mind of
right reason, of profound penetration, of truthful imagination; and if
the work be presented enveloped in a subjective mood, while it remains
objective in contents, as in Virgil the mood pervades the poem so deeply
as to be a main part of it, then the mood must be one of those felt or
capable of being felt universally,--the profound moods of the meditative
spirit in grand works, the common moods of simple joy and sorrow in less
serious works. In proportion as society develops, whether in historic
states singly or in the progress of mankind, the direct expression of
self for its own sake becomes more usual; literature becomes more
personal or purely subjective. If the poet's private story be one of
action, it is plain that it has interest only as if it were objectively
rendered, from its being illustrative of life in general; so, too, if
the felt emotion be given, this will have value from its being treated
as typical; and, in so far as the intimate nature of the poet is
variously given as a whole in his entire works, it has real importance,
has its justification in art, only in so far as he himself is a high
normal type of humanity. The truth of the matter is, in fact, only a
detail of the general proposition that in art history has no value of
its own as such; for the poet is a part of life that is, and his nature
and career, like that of any character or event in history, have no
artistic value beyond their universal significance. In such
self-portraiture there may be sometimes the depicting of a depraved
nature, such as Villon; but such a type takes its place with other
criminal types of the imagination, and belongs with them in another

This element of self finds its intense expression in lyrical
love-poetry, one of the most enduring forms of literature because of its
elementariness and universality; but it is also found in other parts of
the emotional field. In seeking concrete material for lyrical use the
poet may take some autobiographical incident, but commonly the world of
inanimate nature yields the most plastic mould. It is a marvellous
victory of the spirit over matter when it takes the stars of heaven and
the flowers of earth and makes them utter forth its speech, less as it
seems in words of human language than in the pictured hieroglyph and
symphonic movement of natural things; for in such poetry it is not the
vision of nature, however beautiful, that holds attention; it is the
colour, form, and music of things externalizing, visualizing the inward
mood, emotion, or passion of the singer. Nature is emptied of her
contents to become the pure inhabitancy of one human soul. The poet's
method is that of life itself, which is first awakened by the beauty
without to thought and feeling; he expresses the state evoked by that
beauty and absorbing it. He identifies himself with the objects before
him through his joy in them, and entering there makes nature translucent
with his own spirit.

Shelley's Ode to the West Wind is the eminent example of such magical
power. The three vast elements, earth, air, and water, are first brought
into a union through their connection with the west wind; and, the wind
still being the controlling centre of imagination, the poet, drawing all
this limitless and majestic imagery with him, by gradual and spontaneous
approaches identifies himself at the climax of feeling with the object
of his invocation,--

    "Be thou me, impetuous one!"

and thence the poem swiftly falls to its end in a lyric burst of
personality, in which, while the body of nature is retained, there is
only a spiritual meaning. So Burns in some songs, and Keats in some
odes, following the same method, make nature their own syllables, as of
some cosmic language. This is the highest reach of the artist's power
of conveying through the concrete image the soul in its pure emotional
life; and in such poetry one feels that the whole material world seems
lent to man to expand his nature and escape from the solitude in which
he is born to that divine union to which he is destined. The evolution
of this one moment of passion is lyric form, whose unity lies in
personality exclusively, however it may seem to involve the external
world which is its imagery,--its body lifted from the dust, woven of
light and air, but alive only while the spirit abides there. And here,
too, as elsewhere, to whatever height the poet may rise, it must be one
to which man can follow, to which, indeed, the poet lifts men. Nor is it
only nature which thus suffers spiritualization through the stress of
imagination interpreting life in definite and sensible forms of beauty,
but the imagery of action also may be similarly taken possession of,
though this is rare in merely lyrical expression.

The ideal world, then, to present in full summary these views, is thus
built up, through personality in all its richness, by a perfected
imitation of life itself, and is set forth in universal unities of
relation, causal or formal, to the intellect in its inward, to the sense
of beauty in its outward, aspects; and thereby delighting the desire of
the mind for lucid and lovely order, it generates joy, and thence is
born the will to conform one's self to this order. If, then, this order
be conceived as known in its principles and in operation in living
souls, as existing in its completeness on the simplest scale in an
entire series of illustrative instances but without multiplicity,--if it
be conceived, that is, as the model of a world,--that would be to know
it as it exists to the mind of God; that would be to contemplate the
world of ideas as Plato conceived it seen by the soul before birth. That
is the beatific vision. If it be conceived in its mortal movement as a
developing world on earth, that would be to know "the plot of God," as
Poe called the universe. Art endeavours to bring that vision, that plot,
however fragmentary, upon earth. It is a world of order clothing itself
in beauty, with a charm to the soul, such is our nature,--operative upon
the will to live. It is preeminently a vision of beauty. It is true that
this beauty which thus wins and moves us seems something added by the
mind in its great creations rather than anything actual in life; for it
is, in fact, heightened and refined from the best that man has seen in
himself, and it partakes more of hope than of memory. Here is that woven
robe of illusion which is so hard a matter to those who live in horizons
of the eye and hand. Yet as idealism was found on its mental side
harmonious with reason in all knowledge, and on its emotional side
harmonious with the heart in its outgoings, so this perfecting
temperament that belongs to it and most characterizes it, falls in with
the natural faith of mankind. Idealism in this sense, too, existed in
life before it passed into literature. The youth idealizes the maiden he
loves, his hero, and the ends of his life; and in age the old man
idealizes his youth. Who does not remember some awakening moment when he
first saw virtue and knew her for what she is? Sweet was it then to
learn of some Jason of the golden fleece, some Lancelot of the tourney,
some dying Sydney of the stricken field. There was a poignancy in this
early knowledge that shall never be felt again; but who knows not that
such enthusiasm which earliest exercised the young heart in noble
feelings is the source of most of good that abides in us as years go on?
In such boyish dreaming the soul learns to do and dare, hardens and
supples itself, and puts on youthful beauty; for here is its palaestra.
Who would blot these from his memory? who choke these fountain-heads,
remembering how often along life's pathway he has thirsted for them?
Such moments, too, have something singular in their nature, and almost
immortal, that carries them echoing far on into life where they strike
upon us in manhood at chosen moments when least expected; some of them
are the real time in which we live. It was said of old that great men
were creative in their souls, and left their works to be their race;
these ideal heroes have immortal souls for their children, age after
age. Shall we in our youth, then, in generous emulation idealize the
great of old times, and honour them as our fair example of what we most
would be? Shall we, in our hearts, idealize those we love,--so natural
is it to believe in the perfection of those we love,--and even if the
time for forgiveness comes, and we show them the mercy that our own
frailty teaches us to exercise, shall we still idealize them, since love
continues only in the persuasion of perfection yet to come, and is the
tenderer because it comes with struggle? Whether in our acts or our
emotions shall we give idealism this range, and deny it to literature
which discloses the habits of our daily practice in more perfection and
with greater beauty? There we find the purest types to raise and sustain
us; to direct our choice, and reenforce us with that emotion, that
passion, which most supports the will in its effort. There history
itself is taken up, transformed, and made immortal, the whole past of
human emotion and action contained and shown forth with convincing
power. Nor is it only with the natural habit of mankind that idealism
falls in, but with divine command. Were we not bid be perfect as our
Father in heaven is perfect? And what is that image of the Christ, what
is that world-ideal, the height of human thought, but the work of the
creative reason,--not of genius, not of the great in mind and fortunate
in gifts, but of the race itself, in proud and humble, in saint and
sinner, in the happy and the wretched, in all the vast range of the
millions of the dead whose thoughts live embodied in that great
tradition,--the supreme and perfected pattern of mankind?

Is it nevertheless true that there is falsehood in all this? that men
were never such as the heart believes them, nor ideal characters able to
breathe mortal air? by indulging our emotions, do we deceive ourselves,
and end at last in cynicism or despair? Why, then, should we not boldly
affirm that the falsehood is rather in us, in the defects by which we
fail of perfection, in our ignorant error and voluntary wrong? that in
the ideal, free as it is from the accidental and the transitory,
inclusive as it is of the common truth, lies, as Plato thought, the only
reality, the truth which outlasts us all? But this may seem a subtle
evasion rather than a frank answer. Let us rather say that idealism is
one of the necessary modes of man's faith, brings in the future, and
assumes the reality of that which shall be actual; that the reality it
owns is that of the rose in the bud, the oak in the acorn, the planet in
its fiery mist. I believe that ideal character in its perfection is
potentially in every man who is born into the world. We forecast the
future in other parts of life; why should we not forecast ourselves?
Would he not be thought foolish who should refuse to embark in great
enterprises of trade, because he does not already hold the wealth to be
gained? The ideal is our infinite riches, more than any individual or
moment can hold. To refuse it is as if a man should neglect his estate
because he can take but a handful of it in his grasp. It is the law of
our being to grow, and it is a necessity that we should have examples
and patterns in advance of us, by which we can find our way. There is no
falsehood in such anticipation; there is only a faith in truth instead
of a possession of it. Will you limit us to one moment of time and
place? will you say to the patriot that his country is a geographical
term? and when he replies that rather is it the life of her sons, will
you point him to human nature as it seems at the period, to corruption,
folly, ignorance, strife, and crime, and tell him that is our actual
America? Will he not rather say that his America is a great past, a
future whose beneficence no man can sum? Is there any falsehood in this
ideal country that men have ever held precious? Did Pericles lie in his
great oration, and Virgil in his noble poem, and Dante in his fervid
Italian lines? And as there are ideals of country, so also of men, of
the soldier, the priest, the king, the lover, the citizen, and beside
each of us does there not go one who mourns over our fall and pities us,
gladdens in our virtue, and shall not leave us till we die; an ideal
self, who is our judgment? and if it be yet answered that this in truth
is so, and might be borne but for the errors of the idealizing
temperament, shall we not reply that the quack does not discredit the
art of medicine, nor the demagogue the art of politics, and no more does
the fool in all his motley the art of literature.

Must I, however, come back to my answer, and meet those who aver that
however stimulating idealism is to the soul, yet it must be remembered
that in the world at large there is nothing corresponding to ideal
order, to poetic ethics, and that to act these forth as the supremacy of
what ought to be is to misrepresent life, to raise expectations in youth
never to be realized, to pervert practical standards, and in brief to
make a false start that can be fruitful only in error, in subsequent
suffering of mind, and with material disadvantage? I must be frank: I
own that I can perceive in Nature no moral order, that in her world
there is no knowledge of us or of our ideals, and that in general her
order often breaks upon man's life with mere ruin, irrational and
pitiful; and I acknowledge, also, the prominence of evil in the social,
and its invasion in the individual, life of man. But, again, were we so
situated that there should be no external divine order apparent to our
minds, were justice an accident and mercy the illusion of wasted prayer,
there would still remain in us that order whose workings are known
within our own bosom, that law which compels us to be just and merciful
in order to lead the life that we recognize to be best, and the whole
imperative of our ideal, which, if we fail to ourselves, condemns us,
irrespective of what future attends us in the world. Ideal order as the
mind knows it, the mind must strive to realize, or stand dishonoured in
its own forum. Within us, at least, it exists in hope and somewhat in
reality, and following it in our effort, though we come merely to a
stoical idea of the just man on whom the heavens fall, we should yet be
nobler than the power that made us souls betrayed. But there is no such
difference between the world as it is and the world as ideal art
presents it.

What, then, is the difference between art and nature? Art is nature
regenerate, made perfect, suffering the new birth into what ought to be;
an ordered and complete world. But this is the vision of art as the
ultimate of good. Idealism has also another world, of which glimpses
have already appeared in the course of this argument, though in the
background. In the intellectual sphere evil is as subject to general
statement as is good, and there is in the strict sense an idealization
of evil, a universal statement of it, as in Mephistopheles, or in more
partial ways in Iago, Macbeth, Richard III. In the emotional sphere also
there is the throb of evil, felt as diabolic energy and presented as the
element in which these characters have their being. Even in the sphere
of the will, who shall say that man does not knowingly choose evil as
his portion? So, too, as the method of idealism in the world of the good
tends to erect man above himself, the same generalizing method in the
world of the evil tends to degrade human nature below itself; the
extremes of the process are the divine and the devilish; both transcend
life, but are developed out of it. The difference between these two
poles of ideality is that the order of one is an order of life, that of
the other an order of death. Between these two is the special province
of the human will. What literature, what all art, presents is not the
ultimate of good or the ultimate of evil separately; it is, taking into
account the whole range, the mixed world becoming what it ought to be in
its evolution from what it is, and the laws of that progress. Hence
tragedy on the one hand and comedy, or more broadly humour, on the other
hand, have their great place in literature; for they are forms of the
intermediate world of conflict. I speak of the spiritual world of man's
will. We may conceive of the world optimistically as a place in which
all shall issue in good and nothing be lost; or as a place in which, by
alliance with or revolt from the forces of life, the will in its
voluntary and individual action may save or lose the soul at its choice.
We may think of God as conserving all, or as permitting hell, which is
death. We do not know. But as shown to us in imagination, idealism,
which is the race's dream of truth, hovers between these two worlds
known to us in tendency if not in conclusion,--the world of salvation on
the one hand, in proportion as the order of life is made vital in us,
the world of damnation on the other hand, in proportion as the order of
death prevails in our will; but the main effort of idealism is to show
us the war between the two, with an emphasis on the becoming of the
reality of beauty, joy, reason, and virtue in us. Not that prosperity
follows righteousness, not that poverty attends wickedness, in worldly
measure, but that life is the gift of a right will is her message; how
we, striving for eternal life, may best meet the chances and the bitter
fates of mortal existence, is her brooding care; ideal characters, or
those ideal in some trait or phase, in the midst of a hostile
environment, are her fixed study. So far is idealism from ignoring the
actual state of man that it most affirms its pity and evil by setting
them in contrast with what ought to be, by showing virtue militant not
only against external enemies but those inward weaknesses of our
mortality with its passion and ignorance, which are our most undermining
and intimate foes. Here is no false world, but just that world which is
our theatre of action, that confused struggle, represented in its
intelligible elements in art, that world of evil, implicit in us and the
universe, which must be overcome; and this is revealed to us in the ways
most profitable for our instruction, who are bound to seek to realize
the good through all the strokes of nature and the folly and sin of men.
Ideal literature in its broad compass, between its opposed poles of good
and evil, is just this: a world of order emerging from disorder, of
beauty and wisdom, of virtue and joy, emerging from the chaos of things
that are, in selected and typical examples.

It follows from this that what remains in the world of observation in
personality or experience, whether good or evil, whether particular or
general, not yet coordinated in rational knowledge as a whole, all for
which no solution is found, all that cannot be or has not been made
intelligible, must be the subject-matter of realism in the exact use of
that term. This must be recorded by literature, or admitted into it, as
matter-of-fact which is to the mind still a problem. Earthly mystery
therefore is the special sphere of realism. The borderland of the
unknown or the irreducible is its realm. This old residuum, this new
material, is not yet capable of art. Hence, too, realism in this sense
characterizes ages of expansion of knowledge such as ours. The new
information which is the fruit of our wide travel, of our research into
the past, has enlarged the problem of man's life by showing us both
primitive and historical humanity in its changeful phases of progress
working out the beast; and this new interest has been reenforced by the
attention paid, under influences of democracy and philanthropy, to the
lower and baser forms of life in the masses under civilization, which
has been a new revelation of persistent savagery in our midst. Here
realism illustrates its service as a gatherer of knowledge which may
hereafter be reduced to orderliness by idealistic processes, for
idealism is the organizer of all knowledge. But apart from this incoming
of facts, or of laws not yet harmonized in the whole body of law, for
which we may have fair hope that a synthesis will be found, there
remains forever that residuum of which I spoke, which has resisted the
intelligence of man, age after age, from the first throb of feeling,
the first ray of thought; that involuntary evil, that unmerited
suffering, that impotent pain,--the human debris of the social
process,--which is a challenge to the power of God, and a cry to the
heart of man that broods over it in vain, yet cannot choose but hear. In
this region the near affinity of realism to pessimism, to atheism, is
plain enough; its necessary dealing with the base, the brutal, the
unredeemed, the hopeless darkness of the infamies of heredity, criminal
education, and successful malignity, eating into the being as well as
controlling the fortune of their victims, is manifest; and what answer
has ever been found to the interrogation they make? It is not merely
that particular facts are here irreconcilable; but laws themselves are
discernible, types even not of narrow application, which have not been
brought into any relation with what I have named the divine order.
Millions of men in thousands of years are included in this holocaust of
past time,--eras of savagery, Assyrian civilizations, Christian
butcheries, the Czar yet supreme, the Turk yet alive.

And how is it at the other pole of mystery, where life rises into a
heavenly vision of eternities of love to come? There is no place for
realism here, where observation ceases and our only human outlook is by
inference from principles and laws of the ideal world as known to us;
yet what problems are we aware of? Must,--to take the special problem of
art,--must the sensuous scheme of life persist, since of it warp and
woof are woven all our possibilities of communication, all our
capabilities of knowledge? it is our language and our memory alike. Must
God be still thought of in the image of man, since only in terms of our
humanity can we conceive even divine things, whether in forms of mortal
pleasure as the Greeks framed their deities, or in shapes of spiritual
bliss as Christians fashion saint, angel, and archangel? These are
rather philosophical problems. But in art, as at the realistic end of
the scale, we admit the portraiture, as a part of life, of the bestial,
the cruel, the unforgiven, and feel it debasing, so must we at the
idealistic end admit the representation of the celestial after human
models, and feel it, even in Milton and in Dante, minimizing. The
mysticism of the borderland at its supreme is a hope; at its nadir, it
is a fear. We do not know. But within the narrow range of the
intelligible and ordered world of art, which has been achieved by the
creative reason of civilized man in his brief centuries and along the
narrow path from Jerusalem and Athens to the western world, we do know
that for the normal man born into its circle of light the order of life
is within our reach, the order of death within reach of us. Shut within
these limits of the victory of our intellect and the upreaching of our
desires and the warfare of our will, we assert in art our faith that the
divine order is victorious, that the righteous man is not forsaken, that
the soul cannot suffer wrong either from others or from nature or from
God,--that the evil principle cannot prevail. It is faith, springing
from our experience of the working of that order in us; it transcends
knowledge, but it grows with knowledge; and ideal literature asserts
this faith against nature and against man in all their deformity, as the
centre about which life revolves so far as it has become subject to
rational knowledge, to beautiful embodiment, to joyful being, to the
will to live.

Can the faith of which idealism is the holder of the keys, the faith as
nigh to the intellect as to the heart, to the senses as to the spirit,
exceed even this limit, and affirm that if man were perfect in knowledge
and saw the universe as we believe God sees it, he would behold it as an
artistic whole even now? Would it be that beatific vision, revolving
like God's kaleidoscope, momentarily falling at each new arrangement
into the perfect unities of art? and is our world of art, our brief
model of such a world in single examples of its scheme, only a way of
limiting the field to the compass of human faculties that we may see
within our capacities as God sees, and hence have such faith? Is art
after all a lower creation than nature, a concession to our frail
powers? Has idealism such optimistic reach as that? Or must we see the
evil principle encamped here, confusing truth, deforming beauty,
depraving joy, deflecting the will, with wages of death for its victims,
and the hell of final destruction spreading beneath its sway? so that
the world as it now is cannot be thought of as the will of God exercised
in Omnipotence, but a human opportunity of union with or separation from
the ideal order in conflict with the order of death. I recall Newman's
picture: "To consider the world in its length and breadth, its various
history, the many races of men, their starts, their fortunes, their
mutual alienation, their conflicts, and then their ways, habits,
governments, forms of worship; their enterprises, their aimless courses,
their random achievements and acquirements, the impotent conclusion of
long-standing facts, the tokens so faint and broken of a superintending
design, the blind evolution of what turn out to be great powers or
truths, the progress of things, as if from unreasoning elements, not
toward final causes, the greatness and littleness of man, his
far-reaching aims, his short duration, the curtain hung over his
futurity, the disappointments of life, the defeat of good, the success
of evil, physical pain, mental anguish, the prevalence and intensity of
sin, the pervading idolatries, the corruptions, the dreary hopeless
irreligion, that condition of the whole race, so fearfully yet exactly
described in the Apostle's words, 'having no hope and without God in the
world,'--all this is a vision to dizzy and appall; and inflicts upon the
mind the sense of a profound mystery which is absolutely beyond human
solution." In the face of such a world, even when partially made
intelligible in ideal art, dare we assert that fatalistic optimism which
would have it that the universe is in God's eyes a perfect world? I can
find no warrant for it in ideal art, though thence the ineradicable
effort arises in us to win to that world in the conviction that it is
not indifferent in the sight of heaven whether we live in the order of
life or that of death, in the faith that victory in us is a triumph of
that order itself which increases and prevails in us, is a bringing of
Christ's kingdom upon earth. Art rather becomes in our mind a function
of the world's progress, and were its goal achieved would cease; for
life would then itself be one with art, one with the divine order. So
much of truth there is in Ruskin's statement that art made perfect
denies progress and is its ultimate. But perfection in life, as ideal
art presents it, it is a prophecy which enlists us as soldiers militant
in its fulfilment. Its optimism is that of the issue, and may be that of
the process; but it surely is not that of the state that now is in the

It thus appears more and more that art is educative; it is the race's
foreknowledge of what may be, of the objects of effort and the methods
of their attainment under mortal conditions. The difficulty of men in
respect to it is the lax power they have to see in it the truth, as
contradistinguished from the fact, the continuous reality of the things
of the mind in opposition to the accidental and partial reality of the
things of actuality. They think of it as an imagined, instead of as the
real world, the model of that which is in the evolution of that which
ought to be. In history the climaxes of art have always outrun human
realization; its crests in Greece, Italy, and England are crests of the
never-attained; but they still make on in their mass to the yet rising
wave, which shall be of mankind universal, if, indeed, in the
cosmopolitan civilization which we hope for, the elements of the past,
yet surviving from the accomplishment of single famous cities and great
empires, shall be blended in a world-ideal, expressing the spiritual
uplifting to God of the reconciled and unified nations of the earth.

There remains but one last resort; for it will yet be urged that the
impossibility of any scientific knowledge of the spiritual order is
proved by the transience of the ideals of the past; one is displaced by
another, there is no permanence in them. It is true that the concrete
world, which must be employed by art, is one of sense, and necessarily
imports into the form of art its own mortality; it is, even in art, a
thing that passes away. It is also true that the world of knowledge,
which is the subject-matter of art, is in process of being known, and
necessarily imports into the contents of art its errors, its hypotheses,
its imperfections of every kind; it is a thing that grows more and more,
and in growing sheds its outworn shells, its past body. Let us consider
the form and the contents separately. The element of mortality in the
form is included in the transience of imagery. The poet uses the world
as he knows it, and reflects in successive ages of literature the
changing phases of civilization. The shepherd, the tiller of the soil,
the warrior, the trader yield to him their language of the earth, the
battle, and the sea; from the common altar he learns the speech of the
gods; the elemental aspects of nature, the pursuits of men, and what is
believed of the supernatural are the great storehouses of imagery. The
fact that it is at first a living act or habit that the poet deals with,
gives to his work that original vivacity, that direct sense of
actuality, of contemporaneousness, which characterizes early
literatures, as in Homer or the Song of Roland: even the marvellous has
in them the reality of being believed. This imagery, however, grows
remote with the course of time; it becomes capable of holding an inward
meaning without resistance from too high a feeling of actuality; it
becomes spiritualized. The process is the same already illustrated in
lyric form as an expression of personality; but here man universal
enters into the image and possesses it impersonally on the broad human
scale. The pastoral life, for example, then yields the forms of art
which hold either the simple innocence of happy earthly love, as in
Daphnis and Chloe, or the natural grief of elegy made beautiful, as in
Bion's dirge, or the shepherding of Christ in his church on earth, as in
many an English poet; the imagery has unclothed itself of actuality and
shows a purely spiritual body.

This growing inwardness of art is a main feature of literary history. It
is illustrated on the grand scale by the imagery of war. In the
beginning war for its own sake, mere fighting, is the subject; then war
for a cause, which ennobles it beyond the power of personal prowess and
justifies it as an element in national life; next, war for love, which
refines it and builds the paradox of the deeds of hate serving the will
of courtesy; last, war for the soul's salvation, which is unseen battle
within the breast. Achilles, Aeneas, Lancelot, the Red Cross Knight are
the terms in this series; they mark the transformation of the most
savage act of man into the symbol of his highest spiritual effort.
Nature herself is subject to this inwardness of art; at first merely
objective as a condition, and usually a hostile, or at least dangerous,
condition of human life, she becomes the witness to omnipotent power in
illimitable beauty and majesty, its infinite unknowableness, and its
tender care for all creatures, as in the Scriptures; and at last the
words of our Lord concentrate, in some simple flower, the profoundest of
moral truths,--that the beauty of the soul is the gift of God, out of
whose eternal law it blossoms and has therein its ever living roots, its
air and light, its inherent grace and sweetness: "Consider the lilies of
the field, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I
say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like
one of these. Shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?"
Such is the normal development of all imagery; its actuality limits it,
and in becoming remote it grows flexible. It is only by virtue of this
that man can retain the vast treasures of race-imagination, and continue
to use them, such as the worlds of mythology, of chivalry, and romance.
The imagery is, in truth, a background, whose foreground is the ideal
meaning. Thus even fairyland, and the worlds of heaven and hell, have
their place in art. The actuality of the imagery is in fact irrelevant,
just as history is in the idealization of human events. Its transience,
then, cannot matter, except in so far as it loses intelligibility
through changes of time, place, and custom, and becomes a dead language.
It follows that that imagery which keeps close to universal phases of
nature, to pursuits always necessary in human life, and to ineradicable
beliefs in respect to the supernatural, is most permanent as a language;
and here art in its most immortal creations returns again to its
omnipresent character as a thing of the common lot.

The transience of the contents of art may be of two kinds. There is a
passing away of error, as there is in all knowledge, but such a loss
need not detain attention. What is really in issue is the passing away
of the authority of precept and example fitted to one age but not to
another, as in the case of the substitution of the ideal of humility for
that of valour, owing to a changed emphasis in the scale of virtues. The
contents of art, its general ideals, reproduce the successive periods of
our earth-history as a race, by generalizing each in its own age. A
parallel exists in the subject-matter of the sciences; astronomy,
geology, paleontology are similar statements of past phases of the
evolution of the earth, its aspects in successive stages. Or, to take a
kindred example, just as the planets in their order set forth now the
history of our system from nascent life to complete death as earths, so
these ideals exhibit man's stages from savagery to such culture as has
been attained. They have more than a descriptive and historical
significance; they retain practical vitality because the unchangeable
element in the universe and in man's nature is in the main their
subject-matter. It is not merely that the child repeats in his
education, in some measure at least, the history of the race, and hence
must still learn the value of bravery and humility in their order; nor
that in the mass of men many remain ethically and emotionally in the
characteristic stages of past culture; but these various ideals of what
is admirable have themselves identical elements, and in those points in
which they differ respond to native varieties of human capacity and
temperament. The living principles of Hebrew, Greek, Roman, and
Christian thought and feeling are at work in the world, still formative;
it is only by such vitality that their results in art truly survive.

There has been an expansion of the field, and some rearrangement within
it; but the evolution of human ideals has been, in our civilization, the
growth of one spirit out of its dead selves carrying on into each
reincarnation the true life that was in the form it leaves, and which is
immortal. The substance in each ideal, its embodiment of what is
cardinal in all humanity, remains integral. The alloy of mortality in a
work of art lies in so much of it as was limited in truth to time,
place, country, race, religion, its specific and contemporary part; so
great is this in detail that a strong power of historical imagination,
the power to rebuild past conditions, is a main necessity of culture,
like the study of a dead language; an interpretative faculty, the power
to translate into terms of our knowledge what was stated in terms of
different beliefs, must go with this; and also a corrective power, if
the work is to be truly useful and enter into our lives with effect.
Such an alloy there is in nearly all great works even; much in Homer,
something in Virgil, a considerable part of Dante, and an increasing
portion in Milton have this mixture of death in them; but if by keeping
to the primary, the permanent, the universal, they have escaped the
natural body of their age, the substance of the work is still living;
they have achieved such immortality as art allows. They have done so,
not so much by the personal power of their authors as by their
representative character. These ideal works of the highest range, which
embody in themselves whole generations of effort and rise as the
successive incarnations of human imagination, are products of race and
state, of world experience and social personality; they differ, race
from race, civilization from civilization, Hebrew or Greek, Pagan or
Christian, just as on the individual scale persons differ; and they are
solved, as personality in its individual form is solved, in the element
of the common reason, the common nature in the world and man, which they
contain,--in man,

    "Equal, unclassed, tribeless, and nationless";

in the unity of the truth of his spirit they are freed from mortality,
they are mutually intelligible and interchangeable, they survive,--
racial and secular states and documents of a spiritual evolution yet
going on in all its stages in the human mass, still barbarous, still
pagan, still Christian, but an evolution which at its highest point
wastes nothing of the past, holds all its truth, its beauty, its vital
energy, in a forward reach.

The nature of the changes which time brings may best be illustrated from
the epic, and thus the opposition of the transient and permanent
elements in art be, perhaps, more clearly shown. Epic action has been
defined as the working out of the Divine will in society; hence it
requires a crisis of humanity as its subject, it involves the conflict
of a higher with a lower civilization, and it is conducted by means of a
double plot, one in heaven, the other on earth. These are the
characteristic epic traits. In dealing with ideas of such importance,
the poets in successive eras of civilization naturally found much
adaptation to new conditions necessary, and met with ever fresh
difficulties; the result is a many-sided epic development. The idea of
the Divine will, the theory of its operation, and the conception of
society itself were all subject to change. Epics at first are
historical; but, sharing with the tendency of all art toward inwardness
of meaning, they become purely spiritual. The one thing that remains
common to all is the notion of a struggle between a higher and a lower,
overruled by Providence. They have two subjects of interest, one the
cause, the other the hero through whom the cause works; and between
these two interests the epic hovers, seldom if ever identifying them and
yet preserving their dual reality.

The Iliad has all the traits that have been mentioned, but society is
still loose enough in its bonds to give the characters free play; it is,
in the main, a hero-epic. The Aeneid, on the contrary, exhibits the
enormous development of the social idea; its subject is Roman dominion,
which is the will of Zeus, localized in the struggle with Carthage and
with Turnus, but felt in the poem pervasively as the general destiny of
Rome in its victory over the world; and this interest is so overpowering
as to make Aeneas the slave of Jove and almost to extinguish the other
characters; it is a state-epic. So long as the Divine will was conceived
as finding its operation through deities similar to man, the double plot
presented little difficulty; but in the coming of Christian thought,
even with its hierarchies of angels and legions of devils, the
interpretation became arduous. In the Jerusalem Delivered the social
conflict between Crusader and infidel is clear, the historical crisis in
the wars of Palestine is rightly chosen, but the machinery of the
heavenly plot is weakened by the presence of magic, and is by itself
ineffectual in inspiring a true belief. So in the Lusiads, while the
conflict and the crisis, as shown in the national energy of colonization
in the East, are clear, the machinery of the heavenly plot frankly
reverts to mythologic and pagan forms and loses all credibility.

In the Paradise Lost arises the spiritual epic, but still historically
conceived; the crisis chosen, which is the fall of man in Adam, is the
most important conceivable by man; the powers engaged are the superior
beings of heaven and hell in direct antagonism; but here, too, the
machinery of the heavenly plot is handled with much strain, and, however
strongly supported by the Scriptures, has little convincing power. The
truth is that the Divine will was coming to be conceived as implicit in
society, being Providence there, and operating in secret but normal ways
in the guidance of events, not by special and interfering acts; and also
as equally implicit in the individual soul, the influence of the Spirit,
and working in the ways of spiritual law. One change, too, of vast
importance was announced by the words "The Kingdom of Heaven is within
you." This transferred the very scene of conflict, the theatre of
spiritual warfare, from an external to an internal world, and the social
significance of such individual battle lay in its being typical of all
men's lives. The Faerie Queene, the most spiritual poem in all ways in
English, is an epic in essence, though its action is developed by a
revolution of the phases of the soul in succession to the eye, and not
by the progress of one main course of events. The conflict of the higher
and the lower under Divine guidance in the implicit sense is there
shown; the significance is for mankind, though not for a society in its
worldly fortunes; but there is little attempt to externalize the
heavenly power in specific action in superhuman forms, though in mortal
ways the good knights, and especially Arthur, shadow it forth. The
celestial plot is humanized, and the poem becomes a hero-epic in almost
an exclusive way; though the knight's achievement is also an achievement
of God's will, the interest lies in the Divine power conceived as man's
moral victory. In the Idyls of the King there are several traits of the
epic. There is the central idea of the conflict between the higher and
lower, both on the social and the individual side; the victory of the
Round Table would have meant not only pure knights but a regenerate
state. Here, however, the externalization of the Divine will in the Holy
Grail, and, as in the Christian epic generally, its confusion on the
marvellous side with a world of enchantment passing here into the
sensuous sphere of Merlin, are felt to be inadequate. The war of "soul
with sense" was the subject-matter, as was Spenser's; the method of
revolution of its phases was also Spenser's; but the two poems differ in
the point that Spenser's knight wins, but Tennyson's king loses, so far
as earth is concerned; nor can it be fairly pleaded that as in Milton
Adam loses, yet the final triumph of the cause is known and felt as a
divine issue of the action though outside the poem, so Arthur is saved
to the ideal by virtue of the faith he announces in the New Order coming
on, for it is not so felt. The touch of pessimism invades the poem in
many details, but here at its heart; for Arthur alone of all the heroes
of epic in his own defeat drags down his cause. He is the hero of a lost
cause, whose lance will never be raised again in mortal conflict to
bring the kingdom of Christ on earth, nor its victory be declared except
as the echo of a hope of some miraculous and merciful retrieval from
beyond the barriers of the world to come. But in showing the different
conditions of the modern epic, its spirituality, its difficulties of
interpreting in sensuous imagery the working of the Divine will, its
relaxed hold on the social movement for which it substitutes man's
universal nature, and the mist that settles round it in its latest
example, sufficient illustration has been given of the changes of time
to which idealism is subject, and also of the essential truth surviving
in the works of the past, which in the epics is the vision of how the
ends of God have been accomplished in the world and in the soul by the
union of divine grace with heroic will,--the interpretation and
glorification, of history and of man's single conflict in himself ago
after age, asserting through all their range the supremacy of the ideal
order over its foes in the entire race-life of man.

Out of these changes of time, in response to the varying moods of men in
respect to the world they inhabit, arise those phases of art which are
described as classical and romantic, words of much confusion. It has
been attempted to distinguish the latter as having an element of
remoteness, of surprise, of curiosity; but to me, at least, classical
art has the same remoteness, the same surprise, and answers the same
curiosity as romantic art. If I were to endeavour to oppose them I
should say that classical art is clear, it is perfectly grasped in form,
it satisfies the intellect, it awakes an emotion absorbed by itself, it
definitely guides the will; romantic art is touched with mystery, it has
richness and intricacy of form not fully comprehended, it suggests more
than it satisfies, it stirs an unconfined and wandering emotion, it
invigorates an adventurous will; classicism is whole in itself and lives
in the central region, the white light, of that star of ideality which
is the light of our knowledge; romanticism borders on something
else,--the rosy corona round about our star, carrying on its dawning
power into those unknown infinities which embosom the spark of life. The
two have always existed in conjunction, the romantic element in ancient
literature being large. But owing to the disclosure of the world to us
in later times, to the deeper sense of its mysteries which are our
bounding horizons round about, and especially to the impulse given to
emotion by the opening of the doors of immortality by Christianity to
thought, revery, and dream, to hope and effort, the romantic element has
been more marked in modern art, has in fact characterized it, being fed
moreover by the ever increasing inwardness of human life, the greater
value and opportunity of personality in a free and high civilization,
and by the uncertainty, confusion, and complexity of such masses of
human experience as our observation now controls. The romantic temper is
inevitable in men whose lives are themselves thought of as, in form, but
fragments of the life to come, which shall find their completion an
eternal task. It is the natural ally of faith which it alone can render
with an infinite outlook; and it is the complement of that mystery which
is required to supplement it, and which is an abiding presence in the
habit of the sensitive and serious mind. Yet in classical art the
definite may still be rendered, the known, the conquered. Idealism has
its finished world therein; in romanticism it has rather its prophetic

Such, then, as best I can state it in brief and rapid strokes, is the
world of art, its methods, its appeals, its significance to mankind.
Idealism, so presented, is in a sense a glorification of the
commonplace. Its realm lies in the common lot of men; its distinction is
to embrace truth for all, and truth in its universal forms of experience
and personality, the primary, elementary, equally shared fates,
passions, beliefs of the race. Shakspere, our great example, as
Coleridge wisely said, "kept in the highway of life." That is the royal
road of genius, the path of immortality, the way ever trodden by the
great who lead. I have ventured to speak at times of religious truth.
What is the secret of Christ's undying power? Is it not that he stated
universal truth in concrete forms of common experience so that it comes
home to all men's bosoms? Genius is supreme in proportion as it does
that, and becomes the interpreter of every man who is born into the
world, makes him know his brotherhood with all, and the incorporation of
his fate in the scheme of law, and ideal achievement under it, which is
the common ground of humanity. Ideal literature is the treasury of such
genius in the past; here, as I said in the beginning, the wisdom of the
soul is stored; and art, in all its forms, is immortal only in so far as
it has done its share in this same labour of illumination, persuasion,
and command, forecasting the spirit to be, companioning the spirit that
is, sustaining us all in the effort to make ideal order actual in

What, then, since I said that it is a question how to live as well as
how to express life,--what, then, is the ideal life? It is to make
one's life a poem, as Milton dreamed of the true poet; for as art works
through matter and takes on concrete and sensible shape with its mortal
conditions, so the soul dips in life, is in material action, and,
suffering a similar fate, sinks into limitations and externals of this
world and this flesh, through which it must live. In such a life, mortal
in all ways, to bring down to earth the vision that floats in the soul's
eyes, the ideal order as it is revealed to the poet's gaze,
incorporating it in deed and being, and to make it prevail, so far as
our lives have power, in the world of our life, is the task set for us.
To disengage reason from the confusion of things, and behold the eternal
forms of the mind; to unveil beauty in the transitory sights of our
eyes, and behold the eternal forms of sense; so to act that the will
within us shall take on this form of reason and our manifest life wear
this form of beauty; and, more closely, to live in the primary
affections, the noble passions, the sweet emotions,--

    "Founded in reason, loyal, just, and pure,
    Relations dear, and all the charities
    Of father, son, and brother,--"

and also in the general sorrows of mankind, thereby, in joy and grief,
entering sympathetically into the hearts of common men; to keep in the
highway of life, not turning aside to the eccentric, the sensational,
the abnormal, the brutal, the base, but seeing them, if they must come
within our vision, in their place only by the edges of true life; and,
if, being men, we are caught in the tragic coil, to seek the restoration
of broken order, learning also in such bitterness better to understand
the dark conflict forever waging in the general heart, the terror of the
heavy clouds hanging on the slopes of our battle, the pathos that looks
down even from blue skies that have kept watch o'er man's
mortality,--so, even through failure, to draw nearer to our race; this,
as I conceive it, is to lead the ideal life. It is a message blended of
many voices of the poets whom Shelley called, whatever might be their
calamity on earth, the most fortunate of men; it rises from all lands,
all ages, all religions; it is the battle-cry of that one great idea
whose slow and hesitating growth is the unfolding of our long
civilization, seeking to realize in democracy the earthly, and in
Christianity the heavenly, hope of man,--the idea of the community of
the soul, the sameness of it in all men. To lead this life is to be one
with man through love, one with the universe through knowledge, one with
God through the will; that is its goal, toward that we strive, in that
we believe.

And Thou, O Youth, for whom these lines are written, fear not; idealize
your friend, for it is better to love and be deceived than not to love
at all; idealize your masters, and take Shelley and Sidney to your
bosom, so shall they serve you more nobly and you love them more sweetly
than if the touch and sight of their mortality had been yours indeed;
idealize your country, remembering that Brutus in the dagger-stroke and
Cato in his death-darkness knew not the greater Rome, the proclaimer of
the unity of our race, the codifier of justice, the establisher of our
church, and died not knowing,--but do you believe in the purpose of God,
so shall you best serve the times to be; and in your own life, fear not
to act as your ideal shall command, in the constant presence of that
other self who goes with you, as I have said, so shall you blend with
him at the end. Fear not either to believe that the soul is as eternal
as the order that obtains in it, wherefore you shall forever pursue that
divine beauty which has here so touched and inflamed you,--for this is
the faith of man, your race, and those who were fairest in its records.
And have recourse always to the fountains of this life in literature,
which are the wells of truth. How to live is the one matter; the wisest
man in his ripe age is yet to seek in it; but Thou, begin now and seek
wisdom in the beauty of virtue and live in its light, rejoicing in it;
so in this world shall you live in the foregleam of the world to come.


Democracy is a prophecy, and looks to the future; it is for this reason
that it has its great career. Its faith is the substance of things hoped
for and the evidence of things unseen, whose realization will be the
labour of a long age. The life of historic nations has been a pursuit
toward a goal under the impulse of ideas often obscurely
comprehended,--world-ideas as we call them,--which they have embodied in
accomplished facts and in the institutions and beliefs of mankind,
lasting through ages; and as each nation has slowly grown aware of the
idea which animated it, it has become self-conscious and conscious of
greatness. That men are born equal is still a doctrine openly derided;
that they are born free is not accepted without much nullifying
limitation; that they are born in brotherhood is less readily denied.
These three, the revolutionary words, liberty, equality, fraternity, are
the substance of democracy, if the matter be well considered, and all
else is but consequence.

It might seem singular that man should ever have found out this creed,
as that physical life could invent the brain, since the struggle for
existence in primitive and early times was so adverse to it, and rested
on a selfish and aggrandizing principle, in states as well as between
races. In most parts of the world the first true governments were
tyrannies, patriarchal or despotic; and where liberty was indigenous, it
was confined to the race-blood. Aristotle speaks of slavery without
repugnance save in Greeks, and serfdom was incorporated in the northern
tribes as soon as they began to be socially organized. Some have alleged
that religious equality was an Oriental idea, and borrowed from the
relation of subjects to an Asiatic despot, which paved the way for it;
some attribute civil equality to the Roman law; some find the germ of
both in Stoical morals. But so great an idea as the equality of man
reaches down into the past by a thousand roots. The state of nature of
the savage in the woods, which our fathers once thought a pattern, bore
some outward resemblance to a freeman's life; but such a condition is
rather one of private independence than of the grounded social right
that democracy contemplates. How the ideas involved came into historical
existence is a minor matter. Democracy has its great career, for the
first time, in our national being, and exhibits here most purely its
formative powers, and unfolds destiny on the grand scale. Nothing is
more incumbent on us than to study it, to turn it this way and that, to
handle it as often and in as many phases as possible with lively
curiosity, and not to betray ourselves by an easy assumption that so
elementary a thing is comprehended because it seems simple. Fundamental
ideas are precisely those with which we should be most familiar.

Democracy is not merely a political experiment; and its governmental
theory, though so characteristic of it as not to be dissociated from it,
is a result of underlying principles. There is always an ideality of the
human spirit in all its works, if one will search them, which is the
main thing. The State, as a social aggregate with a joint life which
constitutes it a nation, is dynamically an embodiment of human
conviction, desire, and tendency, with a common basis of wisdom and
energy of action, seeking to realize life in accordance with its ideal,
whether traditional or novel, of what life should be; and government is
no more than the mode of administration under which it achieves its
results both in national life and in the lives of its citizens. All
society is a means of escape from personality, and its limitations of
power and wisdom, into this larger communal life; the individual, in so
far, loses his particularity, and at the same time intensifies and
strengthens that portion of his life which is thus made one with the
general life of men,--that universal and typical life which they have in
common and which moulds them with similar characteristics. It is by this
fusion of the individual with the mass, this identification of himself
with mankind in a joint activity, this reenforcement of himself by what
is himself in others, that a man becomes a social being. The process is
the same, whether in clubs, societies of all kinds, sects, political
parties, or the all-embracing body of the State. It is by making himself
one with human nature in America, its faith, its methods, and the
controlling purposes in our life among nations, and not by birth
merely, that a man becomes an American.

The life of society, however, includes various affairs, and man deals
with them by different means; thus property is a mode of dealing with
things. Democracy is a mode of dealing with souls. Men commonly speak as
if the soul were something they expect to possess in another world; men
are souls, and this is a fundamental conception of democracy. This
spiritual element is the substance of democracy, in the large sense; and
the special governmental theory which it has developed and organized,
and in which its ideas are partially included, is, like other such
systems, a mode of administration under which it seeks to realize its
ideal of what life ought to be, with most speed and certainty, and on
the largest scale. What characterizes that ideal is that it takes the
soul into account in a way hitherto unknown; not that other governments
have not had regard to the soul, but, in democracy, it is spirituality
that gives the law and rules the issue. Hence, a great preparation was
needed before democracy could come into effective control of society.
Christianity mainly afforded this, in respect to the ideas of equality
and fraternity, which were clarified and illustrated in the life of the
Church for ages, before they entered practically into politics and the
general secular arrangements of state organization; the nations of
progress, of which freedom is a condition, developed more definitely the
idea of liberty, and made it familiar to the thoughts of men. Democracy
belongs to a comparatively late age of the world, and to advanced
nations, because such ideas could come into action only after the crude
material necessities of human progress--illustrated in the warfare of
nations, in military organizations for the extension of a common rule
and culture among mankind, and in despotic impositions of order,
justice, and the general ideas of civilization--had relaxed, and a free
course, by comparison at least, was opened for the higher nature of man
in both private and public action. A conception of the soul and its
destiny, not previously applicable in society, underlies democracy; this
is why it is the most spiritual government known to man, and therefore
the highest reach of man's evolution; it is, in fact, the spiritual
element in society expressing itself now in politics with an unsuspected
and incalculable force.

Democracy is contained in the triple statement that men are born free,
equal, and in brotherhood; and in this formula it is the middle term
that is cardinal, and the root of all. Yet it is the doctrine of the
equality of man, by virtue of the human nature with which he is clothed
entire at birth, that is most attacked, as an obvious absurdity, and
provocative more of laughter than of argument. What, then, is this
equality which democracy affirms as the true state of all men among
themselves? It is our common human nature, that identity of the soul in
all men, which was first inculcated by the preaching of Christ's death
for all equally, whence it followed that every human soul was of equal
value in the eyes of God, its Creator, and had the same title to the
rites of the Christian Church, and the same blessedness of an infinite
immortality in the world to come; thence we derived it from the very
fountain of our faith, and the first true democracy was that which
levelled king and peasant, barbarian and Roman, in the communion of our
Lord. Yet nature laughs at us, and ordains such inequalities at birth
itself as make our peremptory charter of the value of men's souls seem a
play of fancy. There are men of almost divine intelligence, men of
almost devilish instincts, men of more or less clouded mind; and they
are such at birth, so deeply has nature stamped into them heredity,
circumstance, and the physical conditions of sanity, morality and
wholesomeness, in the body which is her work. Such differences do exist,
and conditions vary the world over, whence nature, which accumulates
inequalities in the struggle for life, "with ravin shrieks against our
creed." But we have not now to learn for the first time that nature,
though not the enemy of the human spirit, is indifferent to all the soul
has erected in man's own realm, peculiar to humanity. What has nature
contributed to the doctrine of freedom or of fraternity? Man's life to
her is all one, tyrant or slave, friend or foe, wise or foolish,
virtuous or vicious, holy or profane, so long as her imperative physical
conditions of life, the mortal thing, are conformed to; society itself
is not her care, nor civilization, nor anything that belongs to man
above the brute. Her word, consequently, need not disturb us; she is
not our oracle. It rather belongs to us to win further victory over her,
if it may be, by our intelligence, and control her vital, as we are now
coming to control her material, powers and their operation.

This equality which democracy affirms--the identity of the soul, the
sameness of its capacities of energy, knowledge, and enjoyment--draws
after it as a consequence the soul's right to opportunity for
self-development by virtue of which it may possess itself of what shall
be its own fulness of life. In the inscrutable mystery of this world,
the soul at birth enters on an unequal struggle, made such both by
inherent conditions and by external limitations, in individuals,
classes, and races; but the determination of democracy is that, so far
as may be, it will secure equality of opportunity to every soul born
within its dominion, in the expectation that much in human conditions
which has hitherto fed and heightened inequality, in both heredity and
circumstance, may be lessened if not eradicated; and life after birth is
subject to great control. This is the meaning of the first axiom of
democracy, that all have a right to the pursuit of happiness, and its
early cries--"an open career," and "the tools to him who can use them."
In this effort society seems almost as recalcitrant as nature; for in
human history the accumulation of the selfish advantage of inequality
has told with as much effect as ever it did in the original struggle of
reptile and beast; and in our present complex and extended civilization
a slight gain over the mass entails a telling mortgage of the future to
him who makes it and to his heirs, while efficiency is of such high
value in such a society that it must needs be favoured to the utmost; on
the other hand a complex civilization encourages a vast variety of
talent, and finds a special place for that individuation of capacity
which goes along with social evolution. The end, too, which democracy
seeks is not a sameness of specific results, but rather an equivalence;
and its duty is satisfied if the child of its rule finds such
development as was possible to him, has a free course, and cannot charge
his deficiency to social interference and the restriction of established

The great hold that the doctrine of equality has upon the masses is not
merely because it furnishes the justification of the whole scheme,
which is a logic they may be dimly conscious of, but that it establishes
their title to such good in human life as they can obtain, on the
broadest scale and in the fullest measure. What other claim, so rational
and noble in itself, can they put forth in the face of what they find
established in the world they are born into? The results of past
civilization are still monopolized by small minorities of mankind, who
receive by inheritance, under natural and civil law, the greater
individual share of material comfort, of large intelligence, of
fortunate careers. It does not matter that the things which belong to
life as such, the greater blessings essential to human existence, cannot
be monopolized; all that man can take and appropriate they find
preoccupied so far as human discovery and energy have been able to
reach, understand, and utilize it; and what proposition can they assert
as against this sequestering of social results and material and
intellectual opportunity, except to say, "we, too, are men," and with
the word to claim a share in such parts of social good as are not
irretrievably pledged to men better born, better educated, better
supplied with the means of subsistence and the accumulated hoard of the
past, which has come into their hands by an award of fortune? It is not
a fanciful idea. It is founded in the unity of human nature, which is as
certain as any philosophic truth, and has been proclaimed by every
master-spirit of our race time out of mind. It is supported by the
universal faith, in which we are bred, that we are children of a common
Father, and saved by one Redeemer and destined to one immortality, and
cannot be balked of the fulness of life which was our gift under divine
providence. I emphasize the religious basis, because I believe it is the
rock of the foundation in respect to this principle, which cannot be
successfully impeached by any one who accepts Christian truth; while in
the lower sphere, on worldly grounds alone, it is plain that the immense
advantage of the doctrine of equality to the masses of men, justifies
the advancement of it as an assumption which they call on the issue in
time to approve.

It is in this portion of the field that democracy relies most upon its
prophetic power. Within the limits of nature and mortal life the hope
of any equal development of the soul seems folly; yet, so far as my
judgment extends, in men of the same race and community it appears to me
that the sameness in essentials is so great as to leave the differences
inessential, so far as power to take hold of life and possess it in
thought, will, or feeling is in question. I do not see, if I may
continue to speak personally, that in the great affairs of life, in
duty, love, self-control, the willingness to serve, the sense of joy,
the power to endure, there is any great difference among those of the
same community; and this is reasonable, for the permanent relations of
life, in families, in social ties, in public service, and in all that
the belief in heaven and the attachments to home bring into men's lives,
are the same; and though, in the choicer parts of fortunate lives,
aesthetic and intellectual goods may be more important than among the
common people, these are less penetrating and go not to the core, which
remains life as all know it--a thing of affection, of resolve, of
service, of use to those to whom it may be of human use. Is it not
reasonable, then, on the ground of what makes up the substance of life
within our observation, to accept this principle of equality, fortified
as it is by any conception of heaven's justice to its creatures? and to
assume, if the word must be used, the principle primary in democracy,
that all men are equally endowed with destiny? and thus to allow its
prophetic claim, till disproved, that equal opportunity, linked with the
service of the higher to the lower, will justify its hope? At all
events, in this lies the possibility of greater achievement than would
otherwise be attained within our national limits; and what is found to
be true of us may be extended to less developed communities and races in
their degree.

The doctrine of the equality of mankind by virtue of their birth as men,
with its consequent right to equality of opportunity for
self-development as a part of social justice, establishes a common basis
of conviction, in respect to man, and a definite end as one main object
of the State; and these elements are primary in the democratic scheme.
Liberty is the next step, and is the means by which that end is secured.
It is so cardinal in democracy as to seem hardly secondary to equality
in importance. Every State, every social organization whatever, implies
a principle of authority commanding obedience; it may be of the absolute
type of military and ecclesiastical use, or limited, as in
constitutional monarchies; but some obedience and some authority are
necessary in order that the will of the State may be realized. The
problem of democracy is to find that principle of authority which is
most consistent with the liberty it would establish, and which acts with
the greatest furtherance and the least interference in the
accomplishment of the chief end in view. It composes authority,
therefore, of personal liberty itself, and derives it from the consent
of the governed, and not merely from their consent but from their active
decree. The social will is impersonal, generic, the will of man, not of
men; particular wills enter into it, and make it, so constituted,
themselves in a larger and external form. The citizen has parted with no
portion of his freedom of will; the will of the State is still his own
will, projected in unison with other wills, all jointly making up one
sum,--the authority of the nation. This is social self-government,--not
the anarchy of individuals each having his own way for himself, but
government through a delegated self, if one may use the phrase,
organically combined with others in the single power of control
belonging to a State. This fusion is accomplished in the secondary
stage, for the continuous action of the State, by representation,
technically; but, in its primary stage and original validity, by
universal suffrage; for the characteristic trait of democracy is that in
constituting this authority, which is social as opposed to personal
freedom,--personal freedom existing in its social form,--it includes
every unit of will, and gives to each equivalence. Democracy thus
establishes the will of society in its most universal form, lying
between the opposite extremes of particularism in despotism and anarchy;
it owns the most catholic organ of authority, and enters into it with
the entire original force of the community.

This universal will of democracy is distinguished from the more limited
forms of states partially embodying democratic principles by the fact
that nothing enters into it except man as such. The rival powers which
seek to encroach upon this scheme, and are foreign elements in a pure
democracy, are education, property, and ancestry, which last has its
claim as the custodian of education and property and the advantages
flowing from their long possession; the trained mind, the accumulated
capital, and the fixed historic tradition of the nation in its most
intense and efficient personal form are summed up in these, and would
appropriate to themselves in the structure of government a
representation not based on individual manhood but on other grounds. If
it be still allowed that all men should have a share in a
self-government, it is yet maintained that a share should be granted, in
addition, to educated men and owners of property, and to descendants of
such men who have founded permanent families with an inherited capacity,
a tradition, and a material stake. Yet these three things, education,
property, and ancestry, are in the front rank of those inequalities in
human conditions which democracy would minimize. They embody past custom
and present results which are a deposit of the past; they plead that
they found men wards and were their guardians, and that under their own
domination progress was made, and all that now is came into being; but
they must show farther some reason in present conditions under
democracy now why such potent inequalities and breeders of inequality
should be clothed with governing power.

Universal suffrage is the centre of the discussion, and the argument
against it is twofold. It is said that, though much in the theory of
democracy may be granted and its methods partially adopted, men at large
lack the wisdom to govern themselves for good in society, and also that
they control by their votes much more than is rightfully their own. The
operation of the social will is in large concerns of men requiring
knowledge and skill, and it has no limits. In state affairs education
should have authority reserved to it, and certain established interests,
especially the rights of property, should be exempted from popular
control; and the effectual means of securing these ends is to magnify
the representatives of education and property to such a degree that they
will retain deciding power. But is this so? or if there be some truth in
the premises, may it not be contained in the democratic scheme and
reconciled with it? And, to begin with, is education, in the special
sense, so important in the fundamental decisions which the suffrage
makes? I speak, of course, of literary education. It may well be the
case that the judgment of men at large is sufficiently informed and
sound to be safe, and is the safest, for the reason that the good of
society is for all in common, and being, from the political point of
view, in the main, a material good, comes home to their business and
bosoms in the most direct and universal way, in their comfort or
deprivation, in prosperity and hard times, in war and famine, and those
wide-extended results of national policies which are the evidence and
the facts. Politics is very largely, and one might almost say normally,
a conflict of material interests; ideas dissociated from action are not
its sphere; the way in which policies are found immediately to affect
human life is their political significance. On the broad scale, who is a
better judge of their own material condition and the modifications of it
from time to time, of what they receive and what they need from
political agencies, than the individual men who gain or suffer by what
is done, on so great a scale that, combined, these men make the masses?
Experience is their touchstone, and it is an experience universally
diffused. Education, too, is a word that will bear interpretation. It is
not synonymous with intelligence, for intelligence is native in men,
and, though increased by education, not conditioned upon it.
Intelligence, in the limited sphere in which the unlearned man applies
it, in the things he knows, may be more powerful, more penetrating,
comprehensive, and quick, in him, than in the technically educated man;
for he is educated by things, and especially in those matters which
touch his own interests, widely shared. The school of life embodies a
compulsory education that no man escapes. If politics, then, be in the
main a conflict of material interests broadly affecting masses of men,
the people, both individually and as a body, may well be more competent
to deal with the matter in hand intelligently than those who, though
highly educated, are usually somewhat removed from the pressure of
things, and feel results and also conditions, even widely prevalent, at
a less early stage and with less hardship, and at best in very mild
forms. Besides, to put it grossly, it is often not brains that are
required to diagnose a political situation so much as stomachs. The
sphere of ideas, of reason and argument, in politics, is really
limited; in the main, politics is, as has been said, the selfish
struggle of material interests in a vast and diversified State.

Common experience furnishes a basis of political fact, well known to the
people in their state of life, and also a test of any general policy
once put into operation. The capacity of the people to judge the event
in the long run must be allowed. But does broad human experience,
however close and pressing, contain that forecast of the future, that
right choice of the means of betterment, or even knowledge of the remedy
itself, which belong in the proper sphere of enlightened intelligence? I
am not well assured that it is not so. The masses have been long in
existence, and what affects them is seldom novel; they are of the breed
that through

    "old experience do attain
    To something like prophetic strain."

The sense of the people, learning from their fathers and their mothers,
sums up a vast amount of wisdom in common life, and more surely than in
others the half-conscious tendencies of the times; for in them these are
vital rather than reflective, and go on by the force of universal
conditions, hopes, and energies. In them, too, intelligence works in
precisely the same way as in other men, and in politics precisely as in
other parts of life. They listen to those they trust who, by
neighbourhood, by sympathetic knowledge of their own state, or actual
share in it, by superior powers of mind and a larger fund of
information, are qualified to be their leaders in forming opinion and
their instruments in the policy they adopt. These leaders may be called
demagogues. They may be thought to employ only resources of trickery
upon dupes for selfish ends; but such a view, generally, is a shallow
one, and not justified by facts. It is right in the masses to make men
like themselves and nigh to them, especially those born and bred in
their own condition of life, their leaders, in preference to men,
however educated, benevolent, and upright, who are not embodiments of
the social conditions, needs, and aspirations of the people in their
cruder life, if it in fact substantially be so, and to allow these men,
so chosen, to find a leader among themselves. Such a man is a true chief
of a party, who is not an individual holding great interests in trust
and managing them with benevolent despotism by virtue of his own
superior brain; he is the incarnation, as a party chief, of other brains
and wills, a representative exceeding by far in wisdom and power
himself, a man in whom the units of society, millions of them, have
their governmental life. No doubt he has great qualities of sympathy,
comprehension, understanding, tact, efficient power, in order to become
a chief; but he leads by following, he relies on his sense of public
support, he rises by virtue of the common will, the common sense, which
store themselves in him. Such the leaders of the people have always

If this process--and it is to be observed that as the scale of power
rises the more limited elements of social influence enter into the
result with more determining force--be apparently crude in its early
stages, and imperfect at the best, is it different from the process of
social expansion in other parts of life? Wherever masses of men are
entering upon a rising and larger life, do not the same phenomena occur?
in religion, for example, was there not a similar popular crudity, as it
is termed by some, a vulgarity as others name it, in the Methodist
movement, in the Presbyterian movement, in the Protestant movement,
world-wide? Was English Puritanism free from the same sort of
characteristics, the things that are unrefined as belong to democratic
politics in another sphere? The method, the phenomena, are those that
belong to life universal, if life be free and efficient in moving masses
of men upward into more noble ranges. Men of the people lead, because
the people are the stake. On the other hand, educated leaders, however
well-intentioned, may be handicapped if they are not rooted deeply in
the popular soil. Literary education, it must never be forgotten, is not
specially a preparation for political good judgment. It is predominantly
concerned, in its high branches, with matters not of immediate political
consequence--with books generally, science, history, language, technical
processes and trades, professional outfits, and the manifold activity of
life not primarily practical, or if practical not necessarily political.
Men of education, scholars especially, even in the field of political
system, are not by the mere fact of their scholarship highly or
peculiarly fitted to take part in the active leadership of politics,
unless they have other qualifications not necessarily springing from
their pursuits in learning; they are naturally more engaged with ideas
in a free state, theoretical ideas, than with ideas which are in reality
as much a part of life as of thought; and the method of dealing with
these vitalized and, as it were, adulterated ideas has a specialty of
its own.

It must be acknowledged, too, that in the past, the educated class as a
whole has commonly been found to entertain a narrow view; it has been on
the side of the past, not of the future; previous to the revolutionary
era the class was not--though it is now coming to be--a germinating
element in reform, except in isolated cases of high genius which
foresees the times to come and develops principles by which they come;
it has been, even during our era, normally in alliance with property and
ancestry, to which it is commonly an appurtenance, and like them is
deeply engaged in the established order, under which it is comfortable,
enjoying the places there made for its functions, and is conservative of
the past, doubtful of the changing order, a hindrance, a brake, often a
note of despair. I do not forget the great exceptions; but revolutions
have come from below, from the masses and their native leaders, however
they may occasionally find some preparation in thinkers, and some
welcome in aristocrats. The power of intellectual education as an
element in life is always overvalued; and, within its sphere, which is
less than is represented, it is subject to error, prejudice, and
arrogance of its own; and, being without any necessary connection with
love or conscience, it has often been a reactionary, disturbing, or
selfish force in politics and events, even when well acquainted with the
field of politics, as ever were any of the forms of demagogy in the
popular life. Intelligence, in the form of high education, can make no
authoritative claim, as such, either by its nature, its history, or, as
a rule, its successful examples in character. The suffrage, except as by
natural modes it embodies the people's practical and general
intelligence, in direct decisions and in the representatives of
themselves whom it elects to serve the State, need not look to high
education as it has been in the privileged past, for light and leading
in matters of fundamental concern; education remains useful, as expert
knowledge is always useful in matters presently to be acted on; but in
so far as it is separable from the business of the State, and stands by
itself in a class not servants of the State and mainly critical and
traditionary, it is deserving of no special political trust because of
any superiority of judgment it may allege. In fact, education has
entered with beneficent effect into political life with the more power,
in proportion as it has become a common and not a special endowment, and
the enfranchisement of education, if I may use the term, is rather a
democratic than an aristocratic trait. Education, high education even,
is more respected and counts for more in a democracy than under the
older systems. But in a democracy it remains true, that so far as
education deserves weight, it will secure it by its own resources, and
enter into political results, as property does, with a power of its own.
There, least of all, does it need privilege. Education is one inequality
which democracy seems already dissolving.

What suffrage records, in opposition it may be to educated opinion, as
such, is the mental state of the people, and their choices of the men
they trust with the accomplishment of what is to be done. If the
suffrage is exposed to defect in wisdom by reason of its dulness and
ignorance, which I by no means admit, the remedy lies not in a
guardianship of the people by the educated class, but in popular
education itself, in lower forms, and the diffusion of that general
information which, in conjunction with sound morals, is all that is
required for the comprehension of the great questions decided by
suffrage, and the choice of fit leaders who shall carry the decisions
into effect. The vast increase of this kind of intelligence, bred of
such schools and such means for the spread of political information as
have grown up here, has been a measureless gain to man in many other
than political ways. No force has been so great, except the discussion
of religious dogma and practice under the Reformation in northern
nations, in establishing a mental habit throughout the community. The
suffrage also has this invaluable advantage, that it brings about a
substitution of the principle of persuasion for that of force, as the
normal mode of dealing with important differences of view in State
affairs; it is, in this respect, the corollary of free speech and the
preservative of that great element of liberty, and progress under
liberty, which is not otherwise well safe-guarded. It is also a
continuous thing, and deals with necessities and disagreements as they
arise and by gradual means, and thus, by preventing too great an
accumulation of discontent, it avoids revolution, containing in itself
the right of revolution in a peaceable form under law. It is, moreover,
a school into which the citizen is slowly received; and it is capable of
receiving great masses of men and accustoming them to political thought,
free and efficient action in political affairs, and a civic life in the
State, breeding in them responsibility for their own condition and that
of the State. It is the voice of the people always speaking; nor is it
to be forgotten, especially by those who fear it, that the questions
which come before the suffrage for settlement are, in view of the whole
complex and historic body of the State, comparatively few; for society
and its institutions, as the fathers handed them down, are accepted at
birth and by custom and with real veneration, as our birthright,--the
birthright of a race, a nation, and a hearth. The suffrage does not
undertake to rebuild from the foundations; the people are slow to remove
old landmarks; but it does mean to modify and strengthen this
inheritance of past ages for the better accomplishment of the ends for
which society exists, and the better distribution among men of the goods
which it secures.

Fraternity, the third constituent of democracy, enforces the idea of
equality through its doctrine of brotherhood, and enlarges the idea of
liberty, which thus becomes more than an instrument for obtaining
private ends, is inspired with a social spirit and has bounds set to its
exercise. Fraternity leads us, in general, to share our good, and to
provide others with the means of sharing in it. This good is
inexhaustible and makes up welfare in the State, the common weal. It is
in the sphere of fraternity, in particular, that humanitarian ideas, and
those expressions of the social conscience which we call moral issues,
generally arise, and enter more or less completely into political life.
In defining politics as, in the main, a selfish struggle of material
interests, this was reserved, that, from time to time, questions of a
higher order do arise, such as that of slavery in our history, which
have in them a finer element; and, though it be true that government has
in charge a race which is yet so near to the soil that it is never far
from want, and therefore government must concern itself directly and
continuously with arrangements for our material welfare, yet the higher
life has so far developed that matters which concern it more intimately
are within the sphere of political action, and among these we reckon all
those causes which appeal immediately to great principles, to liberty,
justice, and manhood, as things apart from material gain or loss, and in
our consciousness truly spiritual; and such a cause, preeminently, was
the war for the Union, heavy as it was with the fate of mankind under
democracy. In such crises, which seldom arise, material good is
subordinated for the time being, and life and property, our great
permanent interests, are held cheap in the balance with that which is
their great charter of value, as we conceive our country.

Yet even here material interests are not far distant. Such issues are
commonly found to be involved with material interests in conflict, or
are alloyed with them in the working out; and these interests are a
constituent, though, it may be, not the controlling matter. It is
commonly felt, indeed, that some warrant of material necessity is
required in any great political act, for politics, as has been said, is
an affair of life, not of free ideas; and without such a plain
authorization reform is regarded as an invasion of personal liberty of
thought, expression, or action, which is the breeding-place of
progressive life and therefore carefully guarded from intrusion. In
proportion as the material interests are less clearly affected
injuriously, a cause is removed into the region of moral suasion, and
loses political vigour. Religious issues constitute the extreme of
political action without regard to material interests, wars of
conversion being their ultimate, and they are more potent with less
developed races. For this reason the humanitarian and moral sphere of
fraternity lies generally outside of politics, in social institutions
and habits, which political action may sometimes favour as in public
charities, but which usually rely on other resources for their support.
On occasions of crisis, however, a great idea may marshal the whole
community in its cause; and, more and more, the cause so championed
under democracy is the spiritual right of man.

But fraternity finds, perhaps, its great seal of sovereignty in that
principle of persuasion which has been spoken of already, and in that
substitution of it for force, in the conduct of human affairs, which
democracy has made, as truly as it has replaced tyranny with the
authority of a delegated and representative liberty. Persuasion, in its
moral form, outside of politics,--which is so largely resorted to in a
community that does not naturally regard the imposition of virtue, even,
with favour, but believes virtue should be voluntary in the man and
decreed by him out of his own soul,--need not be enlarged upon here; but
in its intellectual form, as a persuasion of the mind and will
necessarily precedent to political action, it may be glanced at, since
law thus becomes the embodied persuasion of the community, and is itself
no longer force in the objectionable sense; even minorities, to which it
is adversely applied, and on which it thus operates like tyranny,
recognize the different character it bears to arbitrary power as that
has historically been. But outside of this refinement of thought in the
analysis, the fact that the normal attitude of any cause in a democracy
is that men must be persuaded of its justice and expediency, before it
can impose itself as the will of the State on its citizens, marks a
regard for men as a brotherhood of equals and freemen, of the highest
consequence in State affairs, and with a broad overflow of moral habit
upon the rest of life.

That portion of the community which is not reached by persuasion, and
remains in opposition, must obey the law, and submit, such is the nature
of society; but minorities have acknowledged rights, which are best
preserved, perhaps, by the knowledge that they may be useful to all in
turn. Those rights are more respected under democracy than in any other
form of government. The important question here, however, is not the
conduct of the State toward an opposition in general, which is at one
time composed of one element and at another time of a different element,
and is a shifting, changeable, and temporary thing; but of its attitude
toward the more permanent and inveterate minority existing in class
interests, which are exposed to popular attack. The capital instance is
property, especially in the form of wealth; and here belongs that
objection to the suffrage, which was lightly passed over, to the effect
that, since the social will has no limits, to constitute it by suffrage
is to give the people control of what is not their own. Property,
reenforced by the right of inheritance, is the great source of
inequality in the State and the continuer of it, and gives rise
perpetually to political and social questions, attended with violent
passions; but it is an institution common to civilization, it is very
old, and it is bound up intimately with the motive energies of
individual life, the means of supplying society on a vast scale with
production, distribution, and communication, and the process of taking
possession of the earth for man's use. Its social service is
incalculable. At times, however, when accumulated so as to congest
society, property has been confiscated in enormous amounts, as in
England under Henry VIII, in France at the Revolution, and in Italy in
recent times. The principle of paramount right over it in society has
been established in men's minds, and is modified only by the
social conviction that this right is one to be exercised with the
highest degree of care and on the plainest dictates of a just necessity.
Taxation, nevertheless, though a power to destroy and confiscate in its
extreme exercise, normally takes nothing from property that is not due.
It is not a levy of contributions, but the collection of a just debt;
for property and its owners are the great gainers by society, under
whose bond alone wealth finds security, enjoyment, and increase,
carrying with them untold private advantages. Property is deeply
indebted to society in a thousand ways; and, besides, much of its
material cannot be said to be earned, but was given either from the
great stores of nature, or by the hand of the law, conferring privilege,
or from the overflowing increments of social progress. If it is
naturally selfish, acquisitive, and conservative, if it has to be
subjected to control, if its duties have to be thrust upon it
oftentimes, it has such powers of resistance that there need be little
fear lest it should suffer injustice. Like education, it has great
reserves of influence, and is assured of enormous weight in the life of
the community. Other vested interests stand in a similar relation to the
State. These minorities, which are important and lasting elements in
society, receive consideration, and bounds are set to liberty of dealing
adversely with them in practice, under that principle of fraternity
which seeks the good of one in all and the good of all in one.

Fraternity, following lines whose general sense has been sufficiently
indicated, has, in particular, established out of the common fund public
education as a means of diffusing intellectual gain, which is the great
element of growth even in efficient toil, and also of extending into all
parts of the body politic a comprehension of the governmental scheme and
the organized life of the community, fusing its separate interests in a
mutual understanding and regard. It has established, too, protection in
the law, for the weak as against the strong, the poor as against the
rich, the citizen as against those who would trustee the State for their
own benefit; and, on the broad scale, it provides for the preservation
of the public health, relief of the unfortunate, the care of all
children, and in a thousand humane ways permeates the law with its
salutary justice. It has, again, in another great field, established
toleration, not in religion merely, but of opinion and practice in
general; and thereby largely has built up a mutual and pervading faith
in the community as a body in all its parts and interests intending
democratic results under human conditions; it has thus bred a habit of
reserve at moments of hardship or grave difficulty,--a respect that
awaits social justice giving time for it to be brought about,--which as
a constituent of national character cannot be too highly prized.

The object of all government, and of every social system is, in its end
and summary, to secure justice among mankind. Justice is the most sacred
word of men; but it is a thing hard to find. Law, which is its social
instrument, deals with external act, general conditions, and mankind in
the mass. It is not, like conscience, a searcher of men's bosoms; its
knowledge extends no farther than to what shall illuminate the nature of
the event it examines; it makes no true ethical award. It is in the main
a method of procedure, largely inherited and wholly practical in intent,
applied to recurring states of fact; it is a reasonable arrangement for
the peaceful facilitation of human business of all social kinds; and to
a considerable degree it is a convention, an agreement upon what shall
be done in certain sets of circumstances, as an approximation, it may
be, to justice, but, at all events, as an advantageous solution of
difficulties. This is as true of its criminal as of its civil branches.
Its concern is with society rather than the individual, and it
sacrifices the individual to society without compunction, applying one
rule to all alike, with a view to social, not individual, results, on
the broad scale. Those matters which make individual justice
impossible,--especially the element of personal responsibility in
wrong-doing, how the man came to be what he is and his susceptibility to
motives, to reason and to passion, in their varieties, and all such
considerations,--law ignores in the main question, however it may admit
them in the imperfect form in which only they can be known, as
circumstances in extenuation or aggravation. This large part of
responsibility, it will seem to every reflective moralist, enters little
into the law's survey; and its penalties, at best, are "the rack of
this rude world." Death and imprisonment, as it inflicts them, are for
the protection of society, not for reformation, though the philanthropic
element in the State may use the period of imprisonment with a view to
reformation; nor in the history of the punishment of crime, of the
vengeance as such taken on men in addition to the social protection
sought, has society on the whole been less brutal in its repulse of its
enemies than they were in their attack, or shown any eminent justice
toward its victims in the sphere of their own lives. It is a terrible
and debasing record, up to this century at least, and uniformly
corrupted those who were its own instruments. It was the application of
force in its most material forms, and dehumanized those upon whom it was
exercised, placing them outside the pale of manhood as a preliminary to
its work. The lesson that the criminal remains a man, was one taught to
the law, not learned from it. On the civil side, likewise, similar
reservations must be made, both as regards its formulation and
operation. The law as an instrument of justice is a rough way of dealing
with the problems of the individual in society, but it is effective for
social ends; and, in its total body and practical results, it is a
priceless monument of human righteousness, sagacity, and mercy, and
though it lags behind opinion, as it must, and postpones to a new age
the moral and prudential convictions of the present, it is in its
treasury that these at last are stored.

If such be the case within the law, what indifference to justice does
the course of events exhibit in the world at large which comes under the
law's inquisition so imperfectly! How continuous and inevitable, how
terrible and pitiful is this aspect of life, is shown in successive ages
by the unending story of ideal tragedy, in poem, drama, and tale, in
which the noble nature through some frailty, that was but a part, and by
the impulse of some moment of brief time, comes to its wreck; and, in
connection with this disaster to the best, lies the action of the
villain everywhere overflowing in suffering and injury upon his victims
and all that is theirs. What is here represented as the general lot of
mankind, in ideal works, exists, multiplied world-wide in the lives and
fortunes of mankind, an inestimable amount of injustice always
present. The sacrifice of innocence is in no way lessened by aught of
vengeance that may overtake the wrong-doer; and it is constant. The
murdered man, the wronged woman, can find no reparation. What shall one
say of the sufferings of children and of the old, and of the great curse
that lies in heredity and the circumstances of early life under
depraved, ignorant, or malicious conditions? These brutalities, like the
primeval struggle in the rise of life, seem in a world that never heard
the name of justice. The main seat of individual justice and its
operation is, after all, in the moral sense of men, governing their own
conduct and modifying so far as possible the mass of injustice
continually arising in the process of life, by such relief as they can
give by personal influence and action both on persons and in the realm
of moral opinion.

But, such questions apart, and within the reach of the rude power of the
law over men in the mass, where individuality may be neglected, there
remains that portion of the field in which the cause of justice may be
advanced, as it was in the extinction of slavery, the confiscation of
the French lands, the abolition of the poor debtor laws, and in similar
great measures of class legislation, if you will. I confess I am one of
those who hold that society is largely responsible even for crime and
pauperism, and especially other less clearly defined conditions in the
community by which there exists an inveterate injustice ingrained in the
structure of society itself. The process of freeing man from the fetters
of the past is still incomplete, and democracy is a faith still early in
its manifestation; social justice is the cry under which this progress
is made, and, being grounded in material conditions and hot with men's
passions under wrong, it is a dangerous cry, and unheeded it becomes
revolutionary; but in what has democracy been so beneficent to society
as in the ways without number that it has opened for the doing of
justice to men in masses, for the moulding of safe and orderly methods
of change, and for the formation as a part of human character of a habit
of philanthropy to those especially whose misfortunes may be partly laid
to the door of society itself? Charity, great as it is, can but
alleviate, it cannot upon any scale cure poverty and its attendant ills;
nor can mercy, however humanely and wisely exerted, do more than
mollify the misfortune that abides in the criminal. Social justice asks
neither charity nor mercy, but such conditions, embodied in institutions
and laws, as shall diminish, so far as under nature and human nature is
possible, the differences of men at birth, and in their education, and
in their opportunity through life, to the end that all citizens shall be
equal in the power to begin and conduct their lives in morals, industry,
and the hope of happiness. Social justice, so defined, under temporal
conditions, democracy seeks as the sum and substance of its effort in
governmental ways; some advance has been made; but it requires no wide
survey, nor long examination, to see that what has been accomplished is
a beginning, with the end so far in the future as to seem a dream, such
as the poets have sung almost from the dawn of hope. What matters it? It
is not only poets who dream; justice is the statesman's dream.

Such in bold outline are the principles of democracy. They have been
working now for a century in a great nation, not wholly unfettered and
on a complete scale even with us, but with wider acceptance and broader
application than elsewhere in the world, and with most prosperity in
those parts of the country where they are most mastering; and the nation
has grown great in their charge. What, in brief, are the results, so
clear, so grand, so vast, that they stand out like mountain ranges, the
configuration of a national life? The diffusion of material comfort
among masses of men, on a scale and to an amount abolishing peasantry
forever; the dissemination of education, which is the means of life to
the mind as comfort is to the body, in no more narrow bounds, but
through the State universal, abolishing ignorance; the development of
human capacity in intelligence, energy, and character, under the
stimulus of the open career, with a result in enlarging and
concentrating the available talent of the State to a compass and with an
efficiency and diversity by which alone was possible the material
subjugation of the continent which it has made tributary to man's life;
the planting of self-respect in millions of men, and of respect for
others grounded in self-respect, constituting a national characteristic
now first to be found, and to be found in the bosom of every child of
our soil, and, with this, of a respect for womanhood, making the common
ways safe and honourable for her, unknown before; the moulding of a
conservative force, so sure, so deep, so instinctive, that it has its
seat in the very vitals of the State and there maintains as its blood
and bone the principles which the fathers handed down in institutions
containing our happiness, security, and destiny, yet maintains them as a
living present, not as a dead past; the incorporation into our body
politic of millions of half-alien people, without disturbance, and with
an assimilating power that proves the universal value of democracy as a
mode of dealing with the race, as it now is; an enthronement of reason
as the sole arbiter in a free forum where every man may plead, and have
the judgment of all men upon the cause; a rooted repugnance to use
force; an aversion to war; a public and private generosity that knows no
bounds of sect, race, or climate; a devotion to public duty that excuses
no man and least of all the best, and has constantly raised the standard
of character; a commiseration for all unfortunate peoples and warm
sympathy with them in their struggles; a love of country as
inexhaustible in sacrifice as it is unparalleled in ardour; and a will
to serve the world for the rise of man into such manhood as we have
achieved, such prosperity as earth has yielded us, and such justice as,
by the grace of heaven, is established within our borders. Is it not a
great work? and all these blessings, unconfined as the element, belong
to all our people. In the course of these results, the imperfection of
human nature and its institutions has been present; but a just
comparison of our history with that of other nations, ages, and systems,
and of our present with our past, shows that such imperfection in
society has been a diminishing element with us, and that a steady
progress has been made in methods, measures, and men. No great issue, in
a whole century, has been brought to a wrong conclusion. Our public life
has been starred with illustrious names, famous for honesty, sagacity,
and humanity, and, above all, for justice. Our Presidents in particular
have been such men as democracy should breed, and some of them such men
as humanity has seldom bred. We are a proud nation, and justly; and,
looking to the future, beholding these things multiplied million-fold
in the lives of the children of the land to be, we may well humbly own
God's bounty which has earliest fallen upon us, the first fruits of
democracy in the new ages of a humaner world.

It will be plain to those who have read what has elsewhere been said of
the ideal life, that democracy is for the nation a true embodiment of
that life, and wears its characteristics upon its sleeve. In it the
individual mingles with the mass, and becomes one with mankind, and
mankind itself sums the totality of individual good in a well-nigh
perfect way. In it there is the slow embodiment of a future nobly
conceived and brought into existence on an ideal basis of the best that
is, from age to age, in man's power. It includes the universal wisdom,
the reach of thought and aspiration, by virtue of which men climb, and
here manhood climbs. It knows no limit; it rejects no man who wears the
form Christ wore; it receives all into its benediction. Through
democracy, more readily and more plainly than through any other system
of government or conception of man's nature and destiny, the best of men
may blend with his race, and store in their common life the energies of
his own soul, looking for as much aid as he may give. Democracy, as
elsewhere has been said, is the earthly hope of men; and they who stand
apart, in fancied superiority to mankind, which is by creation equal in
destiny, and in fact equal in the larger part of human nature, however
obstructed by time and circumstance, are foolish withdrawers from the
ways of life. On the battle-field or in the senate, or in the humblest
cabin of the West, to lead an American life is to join heart and soul in
this cause.


Mystery is the natural habitat of the soul. It is the child's element,
though he sees it not; for, year by year, acquiring the solid and
palpable, the visible and audible, the things of mortal life, he lives
in horizons of the senses, and though grown a youth he still looks
intellectually for things definite and clear. Education in general
through its whole period induces the contempt of all else, impressing
almost universally the positive element in life, whose realm in early
years at least is sensual. So it was with me: the mind's eye saw all
that was or might be in an atmosphere of scepticism, as my bodily eye
beheld the world washed in colour. Yet the habitual sense of mystery in
man's life is a measure of wisdom in the man; and, at last, if the mind
be open and turn upon the poles of truth, whether in the sage's
knowledge or the poet's emotion or such common experience of the world
as all have, mystery visibly envelops us, equally in the globed sky or
the unlighted spirit,

I well remember the very moment when a poetical experience precipitated
this conviction out of moods long familiar, but obscurely felt and
deeply distrusted. I was born and bred by the sea; its mystery had
passed into my being unawares, and was there unconscious, or, at least,
not to be separated from the moods of my own spirit. But on my first
Italian voyage, day by day we rolled upon the tremendous billows of a
stormy sea, and all was strange and solemn--the illimitable tossing of a
wave-world, darkening night after night through weird sunsets of a
spectral and unknown beauty, enchantments that were doorways of a new
earth and new heavens; and, on the tenth day, when I came on deck in
this water-world, we had sighted Santa Maria, the southernmost of the
Azores, and gradually we drew near to it. I shall never forget the
strangeness of that sight--that solitary island under the sunlit showers
of early morning; it lay in a beautiful atmosphere of belted mists and
wreaths of rain, and tracts of soft sky, frequent with many near and
distant rainbows that shone and faded and came again as we steamed
through them, and the white wings of the birds, struck by the sun, were
the whitest objects I have ever seen; slowly we passed by, and I could
not have told what it was in that island scene which had so arrested me.
But when, some days afterward, at the harbor of Gibraltar I looked upon
the magnificent rock, and saw opposite the purple hills of Africa, again
I felt through me that unknown thrill. It was the mystery of the land.
It was altogether a discovery, a direct perception, a new sense of the
natural world. Under the wild heights of Sangue di Christo I had dreamed
that on the further side I should find the "far west" that had fled
before me beyond the river, the prairies, and the plains; but there was
no such mystery in the thought, or in the prospect, as this that saluted
me coming landward for the first time from the ocean-world. Since that
morning in the Straits, every horizon has been a mystery to me, to the
spirit no less than to the eye; and truths have come to me like that
lone island embosomed in eternal waters, like the capes and mountain
barriers of Africa thrusting up new continents unknown, untravelled, of
a land men yet might tread as common ground.

"A poet's mood"--I know what once I should have said. But mystery I then
accepted as the only complement, the encompassment, of what we know of
our life. In many ways I had drawn near to this belief before, and I
have since many times confirmed it. One occasion, however, stands out in
my memory even more intensely than those I have made bold to
mention,--one experience that brought me near to my mother earth, as
that out of which I was formed and to which I shall return, and made
these things seem as natural as to draw my breath from the sister
element of air. I had returned to the West; and while there, wandering
in various places, I went to a small town, hardly more than a hamlet,
some few hundred miles beyond the Missouri, where the mighty railroad,
putting out a long feeler for the future, had halted its great steel
branch--sinking like a thunderbolt into the ground for no imaginable
reason, and affecting me vaguely with a sense of utmost limits. There a
younger friend, five years my junior, in his lonely struggle with life
bore to live, in such a camp of pioneer civilization as made my heart
fail at first sight, though not unused to the meagreness, crudity, and
hardness of such a place; but there I had come to take the warm welcome
of his hands and look once more into his face before time should part
us. He flung his arms about me, with a look of the South in his eyes,
full of happy dancing lights, and the barren scene was like Italy made
real for one instant of golden time.

But if we had wandered momentarily, as if out of some quiet sunlit
gallery of Monte Beni, I soon found it was into the frontier of our
western border. A herd of Texas ponies were to be immediately on sale,
and I went to see them--wild animals, beautiful in their wildness, who
had never known bit or spur; they were lariated and thrown down, as the
buyers picked them out, and then led and pulled away to man's life. It
was a typical scene: the pen, the hundred ponies bunched together and
startled with the new surroundings, the cowboys whose resolute habit sat
on them like cotillion grace--athletes in the grain--with the gray,
close garb for use, the cigarette like a slow spark under the broad
sombrero, the belted revolver, the lasso hung loose-coiled in the hand,
quiet, careless, confident, with the ease of the master in his craft,
now pulling down a pony without a struggle, and now showing strength and
dexterity against frightened resistance; but the hour sped on, and our
spoil was two of these creatures, so attractive to me at least that
every moment my friend's eye was on me, and he kept saying, "They're
wild, mind!" The next morning in the dark dawn we had them in harness,
and drove out, when the stars were scarce gone from the sky, due north
to the Bad Lands, to give me a new experience of the vast American land
that bore us both, and made us, despite the thousands of miles that
stretched between ocean and prairie, brothers in blood and
brain,--brothers and friends.

Yet how to tell that ride, now grown a shining leaf of my book of
memory! for my eyes were fascinated with the land, in the high blowing
August wind, full of coolness and upland strength, like new breath in my
nostrils; and forward over the broken country, fenceless, illimitable,
ran the brown road, like a ploughed ribbon of soil, into the distance,
where pioneer and explorer and prospector had gone before, and now the
farmer was thinly settling,--the new America growing up before my eyes!
and him only by me to make me not a stranger there, with talk of absent
friends and old times, though scarce the long age of a college course
had gone by,--talk lapsing as of old on such rides into serious strains,
problems such as the young talk of together and keep their secret,
learning life,--the troubles of the heart of youth. And if now I recur
to some of the themes we touched on, and set down these memoranda,
fragments of life, thinking they may be of use to other youths as they
were then to us, I trust they will lose no privacy; for, as I write, I
see them in that place, with that noble prospect, that high sky, and him
beside me whose young listening yet seems to woo them from my breast.

We mounted the five-mile ridge,--and, "Poor Robin," he said, "what of
him?" "Poor Robin sleeps in the Muses' graveyard," I laughed, "in the
soft gray ashes of my blazing hearth. One must live the life before he
tells the tale." "I loved his 'awakening,'" he replied, "and I have
often thought of it by myself. And will nothing come of him now?" "Who
can tell?" I said, looking hard off over the prairie. "The Muses must
care for their own. That 'awakening,'" I went on, after a moment of
wondering why the distant stream of the valley was called "the
Looking-glass," and learning only that such was its name, "was when
after the bookish torpor of his mind--you remember he called books his
opiates--he felt the beauty of the spring and the marvel of human
service come back on him like a flood. It was the growing consciousness
of how little of life is our own. Youth takes life for granted; the hand
that smoothed his pillow the long happy years, the springs that brought
new blossoms to his cheeks, the common words that martyr and patriot
have died to form on childish lips, and make them native there with
life's first breath, are natural to him as Christmas gifts, and bring no
obligation. Our life from babyhood is only one long lesson in
indebtedness; and we best learn what we have received by what we give.
This was dawning on my hero then. I recall how he ran the new passion.
That outburst you used to like, amid the green bloom of the prairies,
like the misted birches at home, under the heaven-wide warmth of April
breathing with universal mildness through the softened air--why, you can
remember the very day," I said. "It was one--" "Yes, I can remember more
than that," he interrupted; "I know the words, or some of them; what you
just said was the old voice--tang and colour--Poor Robin's voice;" and
he began, and I listened to the words, which had once been mine, and now
were his.

"By heaven, I never believed it. 'Clotho spins, Lachesis weaves, and
Atropos cuts,' I said, 'and the poor illusion vanishes; the loud
laughter, the fierce wailing, die on pale lips; the foolish and the
wise, the merciful and the pitiless, the workers in the vineyard and the
idlers in the market-place, are huddled into one grave, and the heart of
Mary Mother and of Mary Magdalen are one dust.' Duly in those years the
sun rose to cheer me; the breath of the free winds was in my nostrils;
the grass made my pathways soft to my feet. Spring with its blossomed
fruit trees, and the ungarnered summer, gladdened me; the flame of
autumn was my torch of memory, and winter lighted my lamp of solitude.
Men tilled the fields to feed me, and worked the loom to clothe me, and
so far as in them was power and in me was need, brought to my doors
sustenance for the body and whatsoever of divine truth was theirs for my
soul. Women ministered to me in blessed charities; and some among my
fellows gave me their souls in keeping. How true is that which my friend
said to the poor boy-murderer condemned to die,--'I tell you, you cannot
escape the mercy of God;' and tears coursed down the imbruted face, and
once more the human soul, that the ministers of God could not reach,
shone in its tabernacle. Now the butterfly has flown in at the
tavern-window, and rebuked me. I go out, and on the broad earth the warm
sun shines; the spring moves throughout our northern globe as when first
man looked upon it; the seasons keep their word; the birds know their
pathways through the air; the animals feed and multiply; the succession
of day and night has no shadow of turning; the stars keep their order in
the blue depths of infinite space; Sirius has not swerved from his
course, nor Aldebaran flamed beyond his sphere; nature puts forth her
strength in all the vast compass of her domain, and is manifest in life
that continues and is increased in fuller measures of joy, heightened to
fairer beauty, instinct with love in the heart of man. Wiser were the
ascetics whom I used to scorn; they made themselves ascetics of the
body, but I have been an ascetic of the soul."

       *       *       *       *       *

"_Eccola!_" I said, "was it like that? But a heady rhetoric is not
inconsistent with sobriety of thought, as many a Victorian page we have
read together testifies. The style tames with the spirit; and wild blood
is not the worst of faults in poets or boys. But I will change old coin
for the new mintage with you, if you like, and it is not so very
different. There is a good stretch ahead, and the ponies never seem to
misbehave both at once." In fact, these ponies, who seemed to enjoy the
broad, open world with us, had yet to learn the first lesson of
civilization, and unite their private wills in rebellion; for, while one
or the other of them would from time to time fling back his heels and
prepare to resist, the other dragged him into the course with the steady
pace, and, under hand and voice, they kept going in a much less
adventurous way than I had anticipated. And so I read a page or two from
the small blank-book in which I used to write, saying only, by way of
preface, that the April morning my friend so well remembered marked the
time when I began that direct appeal to life of which these notes were
the first-fruits.

The waters of the Looking-glass had been lost behind its bluffs to the
west as we turned inland, though we still rose with the slope of the
valley; and now on higher land we saw the open country in a broad sweep,
but with bolder configuration than was familiar to me in prairie
regions, the rolling of the country being in great swells; and this
slight touch of strangeness, this accentuation of the motionless lines
of height and hollow, and the general lift of the land, perhaps, was
what first gave that life to the soil, that sense of a presence in the
earth itself, which was felt at a later time. Then I saw only the
outspread region, with here and there a gleam of grain on side-hills and
far-curved embrasures of the folded slopes, or great strands of Indian
corn, acres within acres, and hardly a human dwelling anywhere; the
loneliness, the majesty, the untouched primitiveness of it, were the
elements I remember; and the wind, and the unclouded great expanse of
the blue upper sky, like a separate element lifted in deep color over
the gold of harvest, the green of earth, and the touches of brown road
and soil. So, with pauses for common sights and things, and some word of
comment and fuller statement and personal touches that do not matter
now, I read my brief notes of life in its most sacred part.

"The gift of life at birth is only a little breath on a baby's lips; the
air asks no consent to fill the lungs, the heart beats, the senses
awaken, the mind begins, and the first handwriting of life is a child's
smile; but as boyhood gathers fuller strength, and youth hives a more
intimate sweetness, and manhood expands in richer values, life is not
less entirely a gift. As well say a self-born as a self-made man. Nature
does not intrust to us her bodily processes and functions, and the
fountains of feeling within well up, and the forms of thought define,
without obligation to man's wisdom; body and soul alike are above his
will--our garment of sense comes from no human loom, nor were the bones
of the spirit fashioned by any mortal hands; in our progress and growth,
too, bloom of health and charm of soul owe their loveliness to that law
of grace that went forth with the creative word. Slow as men are to
realize the fact and the magnitude of this great grant, and the supreme
value of it as life itself in all its abundance of blessings, there
comes a time to every generous and open heart when the youth is made
aware of the stream of beneficence flowing in upon him from the forms
and forces of nature with benedictions of beauty and vigour; he knows,
too, the cherishing of human service all about him in familiar love and
the large brothering of man's general toil; he begins to see, shaping
itself in him, the vast tradition of the past,--its mighty sheltering of
mankind in institution and doctrine and accepted hopes, its fostering
agencies, its driving energies. What a breaking out there is then in him
of the emotions that are fountain-heads of permanent life,--filial love,
patriotic duty, man's passion for humanity! It is then that he becomes a
man. Strange would it be, if, at such tidal moments, the youth should
not, in pure thankfulness, find out the Giver of all good!

"As soon as man thus knows himself a creature, he has established a
direct relation with the Creator, did he but realize it,--not in mere
thought of some temporal creation, some antecedent fact of a beginning,
but in immediate experience of that continuing act which keeps the
universe in being,

    'Which wields the world with never wearied love,
    Sustains it from beneath and kindles it above,'--

felt and known now in the life which, moment to moment, is his own. The
extreme sense of this may take on the expression of the pantheistic
mood, as here in Shelley's words, without any logical irreverence: for
pantheism is that great mood of the human spirit which it is, permanent,
recurring in every age and race, as natural to Wordsworth as to Shelley,
because of the fundamental character of these facts and the
inevitability of the knowledge of them. The most arrogant thought of
man, since it identifies him with deity, it springs from that same sense
of insignificance which makes humility the characteristic of religious
life in all its forms. A mind deeply penetrated with the feeling that
all we take and all we are, our joys and the might and grace of life in
us, are the mere lendings of mortality like Lear's rags, may come to
think man the passive receptacle of power, and the instrument scarce
distinguishable from the hand that uses it; the thought is as nigh to
St. Paul as to Plato. This intimate and infinite sense of obligation
finds its highest expression, on the secular side, and takes on the
touch of mystery, in those great men of action who have believed
themselves in a special manner servants of God, and in great poets who
found some consecration in their calling. They, more than other men,
know how small is any personal part in our labours and our wages alike.
But in all men life comes to be felt to be, in itself and its
instruments, this gift, this debt; to continue to live is to contract a
greater debt in proportion to the greatness of the life; it is greatest
in the greatest.

"This spontaneous gratitude is a vital thing. He who is most sensitive
to beauty and prizes it, who is most quick to love, who is most ardent
in the world's service, feels most constantly this power which enfolds
him in its hidden infinity; he is overwhelmed by it: and how should
gratitude for such varied and constant and exhaustless good fail to
become a part of the daily life of his spirit, deepening with every hour
in which the value, the power and sweetness of life, is made more plain?
Yet at the same instant another and almost contrary mood is twin-born
with this thankfulness,--the feeling of helplessness. Though the secret
and inscrutable power, sustaining and feeding life, be truly felt,--

    'Closer is He than breathing and nearer than
    hands and feet,'--

though in moments of life's triumphs it evokes this natural burst of
happy gratitude, yet who can free himself from mortal fear, or dispense
with human hope, however firm and irremovable may be his confidence in
the beneficent order of God? And especially in the more strenuous trials
of later ages for Christian perfection in a world not Christian, and
under the mysterious dispensation of nature, even the youth has lived
little, and that shallowly, who does not crave companionship, guidance,
protection. Dependent as he feels himself to be for all he is and all
he may become, the means of help--self-help even--and the law of it must
be from that same power, whose efficient working he has recognized with
a thankful heart. Where else shall he look except to that experience of
exaltation during whose continuance he plucked a natural trust for the
future, a reasonable belief in Providence, and a humble readiness to
accept the partial ills of life? In life's valleys, then, as on its
summits, in the darkness as in the light, he may retain that once
confided trust; not that he looks for miracle, or any specific and
particularizing care, it may be, but that in the normal course of things
he believes in the natural alliance of that arm of infinite power with
himself. In depression, in trouble, in struggle, such as all life
exhibits, he will be no more solitary than in his hours of blessing.
Thus, through helplessness also, he establishes a direct relation with
God, which is also a reality of experience, as vital in the cry for aid
as in the offering of thanks. The gratitude of the soul may be likened
to that morning prayer of the race which was little more than praise
with uplifted hands; the helplessness of man is rather the evening
prayer of the Christian age, which with bowed head implores the grace of
God to shield him through the night. These two, in all times, among all
races, under ten thousand divinities, have been the voices of the heart.

"There is a third mood of direct experience by which one approaches the
religious life. Surely no man in our civilization can grow far in years
without finding out that, in the effort to live a life obeying his
desires and worthy of his hopes, his will is made one with Christ's
commands; and he knows that the promises of Christ, so far as they
relate to the life that now is, are fulfilled in himself day by day; he
can escape neither the ideal that Christ was, nor the wisdom of Christ
in respect to the working of that ideal on others and within himself. He
perceives the evil of the world, and desires to share in its redemption;
its sufferings, and would remove them; its injustice, and would abolish
it. He is, by the mere force of his own heart in view of mankind, a
humanitarian. But he is more than this in such a life. If he be sincere,
he has not lived long before he knows in himself such default of duty
that he recognizes it as the soul's betrayal; its times and occasions,
its degrees of responsibility, its character whether of mere frailty or
of an evil will, its greater or less offence, are indifferent matters;
for, as it is the man of perfect honour who feels a stain as a wound,
and a shadow as a stain, so poignancy of repentance is keenest in the
purest souls. It is death that is dull, it is life that is quick. It may
well be, in the world's history in our time, that the suffering caused
in the good by slight defections from virtue far overbalances the
general remorse felt for definite and habitual crime. Thus none--those
least who are most hearts of conscience--escapes this emotion, known in
the language of religion as conviction of sin. It is the earliest moral
crisis of the soul; it is widely felt,--such is the nature and such the
circumstances of men; and, as a man meets it in that hour, as he then
begins to form the habit of dealing with his failures sure to come, so
runs his life to the end save for some great change. If then some
restoring power enters in, some saving force, whether it be from the
memory and words of Christ, or from the example of those lives that
were lived in the spirit of that ideal, or from nearer love and more
tender affection enforcing the supremacy of duty and the hope of
struggle,--in whatever way that healing comes, it is well; and, just as
the man of honest mind has recognized the identity of his virtue with
Christ's rule, and has verified in practice the wisdom of its original
statement, so now he knows that this moral recovery, and its method, is
what has been known on the lips of saint and sinner as the life of the
Spirit in man, and even more specially he cannot discriminate it from
what the servants of Christ call the life of Christ in them. He has
become more than a humanitarian through this experience; he is now
himself one of those whom in the mass he pities and would help; he has
entered into that communion with his kind and kin which is the earthly
seal of Christian faith.

"Yet it seems to me a profound error in life to concentrate attention
upon the moral experience here described; it is but initial; and, though
repeated, it remains only a beginning; as the vast force of nature is
put forth through health, and its curative power is an incident and
subordinate, so the spiritual energy of life is made manifest, in the
main, in the joy of the soul in so far as it has been made whole. A
narrow insistence on the fact of sin distorts life, and saddens it both
in one's own conscience and in his love for others. Sin is but a part of
life, and it is far better to fix our eyes on the measureless good
achieved in those lines of human effort which have either never been
deflected from right aims, or have been brought back to the paths of
advance, which I believe to be the greater part, both in individual
lives of noble intention, and in the Christian nations. Sin loses half
its dismaying power, and evil is stripped of its terrors, if one
recognizes how far ideal motives enter with controlling influence into
personal life, and to what a degree ideal destinies are already
incarnate in the spirit of great nations.

"However this may be, I find on examination of man's common experience
these three things, which establish, it seems to me, a direct relation
between him and God: this spontaneous gratitude, this trustful
dependence, this noble practice, which is, historically, the Christian
life, and is characterized by its distinctive experiences. They are
simple elements: a faith in God's being which has not cared further to
define the modes of that being; a hope which has not grown to specify
even a Resurrection; a love that has not concentrated itself through
limitation upon any instrumental conversion of the world; but, inchoate
as they are, they remain faith, hope, love--these three. Are they not
sufficient to be the beginnings of the religious life in the young? To
theological learning, traditional creeds, and conventional worship they
may seem primitive, slight in substance, meagre in apparel; but one who
is seeking, not things to believe, but things to live, desires the
elementary. In setting forth first principles, the elaboration of a more
highly organized knowledge may be felt as an obscuration of truth, an
impediment to certainty, a hindrance in the effort to touch and handle
the essential matter; and for this reason a teacher dispenses with much
in his exposition, just as in talking to a child a grown man abandons
nine-tenths of his vocabulary. In the same way, learning as a child,
seeking in the life of the soul with God what is normal, vital, and
universal, the beginner need not feel poor and balked, because he does
not avail himself as yet of resources that belong to length of life,
breadth of scholarship, intellectual power, the saint's ardour, the
seer's insight.

"The spiritual life here defined, elementary as it is, appears
inevitable, part and parcel of our natural being. Why should this be
surprising? Surely if there be a revelation of the divine at all, it
must be one independent of external things; one that comes to all by
virtue of their human nature; one that is direct, and not mediately
given through others. Faith that is vital is not the fruit of things
told of, but of things experienced. It follows that religion may be
essentially free from any admixture of the past in its communication to
the soul. It cannot depend on events of a long-past time now disputable,
or on books of a far-off and now alien age. These things are the
tradition and history of the spiritual life, but not the life. To the
mass of men religion derived from such sources would be a belief in
other men's experience, and for most of them would rest on proofs they
cannot scrutinize. It would be a religion of authority, not of personal
and intimate conviction. Just as creation may be felt, not as some
far-off event, but a continuing act, revelation itself is a present
reality. Do not the heavens still declare the glory of God as when they
spoke to the Psalmist? and has the light that lighteth every man who is
born into the world ceased to burn in the spirit since the first candle
was lit on a Christian altar? If the revelation of glory and mercy be an
everlasting thing, and inextinguishable save in the life itself, then
only is that direct relation of man with God, this vital certainty in
living truth,--living in us,--this personal religion, possible.

"What has reform in religion ever been other than the demolition of the
interfering barriers, the deposit of the past, between man and God? The
theory of the office of the Holy Spirit in the Church expresses man's
need of direct contact with the divine; the doctrine of
transubstantiation symbolizes it; and what is Puritanism in all ages,
affirming the pure spirit, denying all forms, but the heart of man in
his loneliness, seeking God face to face? what is its iconoclasm of
image and altar, of prayer-book and ritual, of the Councils and the
Fathers, but the assertion of the noble dignity in each individual soul
by virtue of which it demands a freeman's right of audience, a son's
right of presence with his father, and believes that such is God's way
with his own? This immediacy of the religious life, being once accepted
as the substance of vitality in it, relieves man at once of the greater
mass of that burden in which scepticism thrives and labours. The
theories of the past respecting God's government, no longer possible in
a humaner and Christianized age, the impaired genuineness of the
Scriptures and all questions of their text and accuracy, even the great
doctrine of miracles, cease to be of vital consequence. A man may
approach divine truth without them. Simple and bare as the spiritual
life here presented is, it is not open to such sceptical attack, being
the fundamental revelation of God bound up in the very nature of man
which has been recognized at so many critical times, in so many places
and ages, as the inward light. We may safely leave dogma and historical
criticism and scientific discovery on one side; it is not in them that
man finds this inward wisdom, but in the religious emotions as they
naturally arise under the influence of life.

"This view is supported rather than weakened by such records of the
spiritual life in man as we possess. Man's nature is one; and, just as
it is interpreted and illuminated by the poets from whom we derive
direction in our general conduct, it is set forth and illustrated by
saintly men and holy women in the special sphere of the soul's life with
God. Our nature is one with theirs; but as there are differences in the
aptitudes, sensibilities, and fates of all men, so is it with spiritual
faculties and their growth; and, from time to time, men have arisen of
such intense nature, so sensitive to religious emotions, so developed in
religious experience, through instinct, circumstance, and power, that
they can aid us by the example and precept of their lives. To them
belongs a respect similar to that paid to poets and thinkers. Yet it is
because they tell us what they have seen and touched, not what they have
heard,--what they have lived and shown forth in acts that bear testimony
to their words, that they have this power. Such were St. Augustine, St.
Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas à Kempis, and many a humbler name whose
life's story has come into our hands; such were the Apostles, and,
preeminently, Christ. It is the reality of the life in them, personal,
direct, fundamental, that preserves their influence in other lives. They
help us by opening and directing the spiritual powers we have in common;
and beyond our own experience we believe in their counsels as leading to
what we in our turn may somewhat attain to in the life they followed. It
is not what they believed of God, but what God accomplished in them,
that holds our attention; and we interpret it only by what ourselves
have known of his dealing with us. It is life, and the revelation of God
there contained, that in others or ourselves is the root of the
matter--God in us. This is the corner stone."

       *       *       *       *       *

The sun was high in the heavens when we ceased talking of these matters
and saw in a lowland before us a farmhouse, where we stopped. It was a
humble dwelling--almost the humblest--partly built of sod, with a barn
near by, and nothing to distinguish it except the sign, "Post Office,"
which showed it was the centre of this neighborhood, if "the blank miles
round about" could be so called. We were made welcome, and, the ponies
being fed and cared for, we sat down with the farmer and his wife and
the small brood of young children, sharing their noonday meal. It was a
rude table and a lowly roof; but, when I arose, I was glad to have been
at such a board, taking a stranger's portion, but not like a stranger.
It was to be near the common lot, and the sense of it was as primitive
as the smell of the upturned earth in spring; it had the wholesomeness
of life in it. Going out, I lay down on the ground and talked with the
little boy, some ten years old, to whom our coming was evidently an
event of importance; and I remember asking him if he ever saw a city. He
had been once, he said, to--the hamlet, as I thought it, which we had
just left--with his father in the farm-wagon. That was his idea of the
magnificence of cities. I could not but look at him curiously. Here was
the creature, just like other boys, who knew less of the look of man's
world than any one I had ever encountered. To him this overstretching
silent sky, this vacant rolling reach of earth, and home, were all of
life. What a waif of existence!--but the ponies being ready, we said our
good-byes and drove on along fainter tracks, still northward. We talked
for a while in that spacious atmosphere--the cheerful talk, half
personal, half literary, lightly humorous, too, which we always had
together; but tiring of it at last, and the boy still staying in my mind
as a kind of accidental symbol of that isolated being whom my notes had
described, and knowing that I had told but half my story and that my
friend would like the rest, I turned the talk again on the serious
things, saying--and there was nothing surprising in such a change with
us--"After all, you know, we can't live to ourselves alone or by
ourselves. How to enter life and be one with other men, how to be the
child of society, and a peer there, belongs to our duty; and to escape
from the solitude of private life is the most important thing for men of
lonely thought and feeling, such as meditation breeds. There is more of
it, if you will listen again;" and he, with the sparkle in his eyes, and
the youthful happiness in the new things of life for us, new as if they
had not been lived a thousand years before,--listened like a child to a
story, grave as the matter was, which I read again from the memoranda I
had made, after that April morning, year by year.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Respect for age is the natural religion of childhood; it becomes in men
a sentiment of the soul. An obscure melancholy, the pathos of human
fate, mingles with this instinctive feeling. The fascination of the sea,
the sublimity of mountains, are indebted to it, as well as the beautiful
and solemn stars, which, like them, the mind does not distinguish from
eternal things, and has ever invested with sacred awe. It is the sense
of our mortality that thus exalts nature. Yet before her antiquity
merely, veneration is seldom full and perfect; her periods are too
impalpable, and, in contemplating their vastness, amazement dissipates
our faculties. Rather some sign of human occupancy, turning the desert
into a neglected garden, is necessary to give emotional colour and the
substance of thought; some touch of man's hand that knows a writing
beyond nature's can add what centuries could not give, and makes a rock
a monument. The Mediterranean islet is older for the pirate tower that
caps it, and for us the ivied church, with its shadowed graves, makes
England ancestral soil. Nor is it only such landmarks of time that bring
this obscure awe; occupations, especially, awake it, and customary
ceremonies, and all that enters into the external tradition of life,
handed down from generation to generation. On the Western prairies I
have felt rather the permanence of human toil than the newness of the

"The sense of age in man's life, relieved, as it is, on the seeming
agelessness of nature, is a meditation on death, deep-set far below
thought. We behold the sensible conquests of death, and the sight is so
habitual, and remains so mysterious, that it leaves its imprint less in
the conscious and reflective mind than in temperament, sentiment,
imagination, and their hidden stir; the pyramids then seem fossils of
mankind; Stonehenge, Indian mounds, and desolate cities are like broken
anchors caught in the sunken reef and dull ooze of time's ocean, lost
relics of their human charge long vanished away. Startling it is, when
the finger of time has touched what we thought living, and we find in
some solitary place the face of stone. I learned this lesson on the low
marshes of Ravenna, where, among the rice-fields and the thousands of
white pond lilies, stands a lonely cathedral, from whose ruined sides
Christianity, in the face and figure it wore before it put on the form
and garb of a world-wide religion, looked down on me with the unknown
eyes of an alien and Oriental faith. 'Stranger, why lingerest thou in
this broken tomb,' I seemed to hear from silent voices in that death of
time; and still, when my thoughts seek the Mother-Church of Christendom,
they go, not to St. John Lateran by the Roman wall, but are pilgrims to
the low marshes, the white water lilies, the lone Byzantine ruin that
even the sea has long abandoned.

"The Mother-Church?--is then this personal religious life only a state
of orphanage? Because true life necessarily begins in the independent
self, must it continue without the sheltering of the traditional past,
the instructed guidance of older wisdom, and man's joint life in common
which by association so enlarges and fortifies the individual good? Why
should one not behave with respect to religion as he does in other
parts of life? It is our habit elsewhere in all quarters to recognize
beyond ourselves an ampler knowledge, a maturer judgment, a more
efficient will enacting our own choice. To obey by force is a childish
or a slavish act, but intelligently and willingly to accept authority
within just limits is the reasonable and practical act of a free man in
society; the recognition of this by a youth marks his attainment of
intellectual majority. Authority, in all its modes, is the bond of the
commonwealth; until the youth comprehends it he is a ward; thereafter he
is either a rebel or a citizen, as he lists. For us, born to the largest
measure of freedom society has ever known, there is little fear lest the
principle of authority should prove a dangerous element. The right of
private judgment, which is, I believe, the vital principle of the
intellectual life, is the first to be exercised by our young men who
lead that life; and quite in the spirit of that education which would
repeat in the child the history of the race, we are scarce out of the
swaddling bands of the primer and catechism before we would remove all
questions to the court of our own jurisdiction. The mind is not a
_tabula rasa_ at birth, we learn, but, so soon as may be, we will remedy
that, and erase all records copied there. The treasure doors of our
fathers' inheritance are thrown open to us; but we will weigh each gold
piece with balance and scale. All that libraries contain, all that
institutions embody, all the practice of life which, in its innocence,
mankind has adopted as things of use and wont, shall be certified by our
scrutiny. So in youth we say, and what results? What do the best become?
Incapables, detached from the sap of life, forced to escape to the
intellectual limbo of a suspension of judgment, extending till it fills
heaven and earth. We no longer discuss opinions even; the most we can
attain to is an attitude of mind. In view of the vast variety of phases
in which even man's great ideas have been held, a sense of indifference
among them, a vacuity in all, grows up. Pilate's question, 'What is
truth?' ends all.

"This is the extreme penalty of the heroic sceptical resolve in strong
and constant minds; commonly those who would measure man's large scope
by the gauge of their own ability and experience fall into such
idiosyncrasy as is the fruitful mother of sects, abortive social
schemes, and all the various brood of dwarfed life; but, for most men,
the pressure of life itself, which compels them, like Descartes,
doubting the world, to live as if it were real, corrects their original
method of independence. They find that to use authority is the better
part of wisdom, much as to employ men belongs to practical statecraft;
and they learn the reasonable share of the principle of authority in
life. They accept, for example, the testimony of others in matters of
fact, and their mental results in those subjects with which such men are
conversant, on the ground of a just faith in average human capacity in
its own sphere; and, in particular, they accept provisional opinions,
especially such as are alleged to be verifiable in action, and they put
them to the test. This is our habit in all parts of secular life--in
scholarship and in practical affairs. 'If any man will do His will, he
shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God,' is only a special
instance of this law of temporary acceptance and experiment in all life.
It is a reasonable command. The confusion of human opinion largely
arises from the fact that the greater part of it is unverifiable, owing
to the deficient culture or opportunity of those who hold it; and the
persistency with which such opinion is argued, clung to, and cherished,
is the cause of many of the permanent differences that array men in
opposition. The event would dispense with the argument; but in common
life, which knows far more of the world than it has in its own
laboratory, much lies beyond the reach of such real solution. It is the
distinction of vital religious truth that it is not so withdrawn from
true proof, but is near at hand in the daily life open to all.

"Such authority, then, as is commonly granted in science, politics, or
commerce to the past results and expectations of men bringing human life
in these provinces down to our time and delivering it, not as a new, but
as an incomplete thing, into the hands of our generation, we may yield
also in religion. The lives of the saints and all those who in history
have illustrated the methods and results of piety, their convictions,
speculations, and hopes, their warning and encouragement, compose a
great volume of instruction, illustration, and education of the
religious life. It is folly to ignore this, as it would be to ignore
the alphabet of letters, the Arabic numerals, or the Constitution; for,
as these are the monuments of past achievement and an advantage we have
at our start over savage man, so in religion there are as well
established results of life already lived. Though the religious life be
personal, it is not more so than all life of thought and emotion; and in
it we do not begin at the beginning of time any more than in other parts
of life. We begin with an inheritance of many experiments hitherto, of
many methods, of a whole race-history of partial error, partial truth;
and we take up the matter where our fathers laid it down, with the
respect due to their earnest toil, their sincere effort and trial, their
convictions; and the youth who does not feel their impressiveness as
enforcing his responsibility has as nascent a life in religion as he
would have, in the similar case, in learning or in citizenship.

"The question of authority in the religious life, however, is more
specific than this, and is not to be met by an admission of the general
respect due to the human past and its choicer spirits, and our
dependence thereon for the fostering of instinctive impulses,
direction, and the confirmation of our experience. It is organized
religion that here makes its claim to fealty, as organized liberty,
organized justice do, in man's communal life. There is a joint and
general consent in the masses of men with similar experience united
into the Church, with respect to the religious way of life, similar to
that of such masses united into a government with respect to secular
things. The history of the Church with its embodied dogmas--the past of
Christendom--contains that consent; and the Church founds its claim to
veneration on this broad accumulation of experience, so gathered from
all ages and all conditions of men as to have lost all traces of
individuality and become the conviction of mankind to a degree that no
free constitution and no legal code can claim. To substitute the simple
faith of the young heart, however immediate, in the place of this hoary
and commanding tradition is a daring thing, and may seem both arrogance
and folly; to stand apart from it, though willing to be taught within
the free exercise of our own faculties, abashes us; and it is necessary,
for our own self-respect, to adopt some attitude toward the Church
definitely, not as a part of the common mass of race-tradition in a
diffused state like philosophy, but as an institution like the Throne or
the Parliament.

"But may it not be pleaded that, however slight by comparison personal
life may seem, yet if it be true, the Church must include this in its
own mighty sum; and that what the Church adds to define, expand, and
elevate, to guide and support, belongs to growth in spiritual things,
not to those beginnings which only are here spoken of? And in defence of
a private view and hesitancy, such as is also felt in the organized
social life elsewhere, may it not be suggested that the past of
Christendom, great as it is in mental force, moral ardour, and spiritual
insight, and illustrious with triumphs over evil in man and in society,
and shining always with the leading of a great light, is yet a human
past, an imperfect stage of progress at every era? Is its historic life,
with all its accumulation of creed and custom, not a process of
Christianization, in which much has been sloughed off at every new birth
of the world? In reading the Fathers we come on states of mind and forms
of emotion due to transitory influences and surroundings; and in the
history of the Church, we come upon dogmas, ceremonials, methods of work
and aims of effort, which were of contemporary validity only. Such are
no longer rational or possible; they have passed out of life, belonging
to that body of man which is forever dying, not to the spirit that is
forever growing; and, too, as all men and bodies of men share in
imperfection, we come, in the Fathers and in the Church, upon passions,
persecutions, wars, vices, degradation, and failure, necessarily to be
accounted as a portion of the admixture of sin and wrong, of evil, in
the whole of man's historic life. In view of these obvious facts, and
also of the great discrepancies of such organic bodies as are here
spoken of in their total mass as the Church, and of their emphasis upon
such particularities, is not an attitude of reserve justifiable in a
young and conscientious heart? It may seem to be partial scepticism,
especially as the necessity for rejection of some portion of this
embodied past becomes clearer in the growth of the mind's information
and the strengthening of moral judgment in a rightful independence. But
if much must be cast away, let it not disturb us; it must be the more
in proportion as the nature of man suffers redemption. Let us own, then,
and reverence the great tradition of the Church; but he has feebly
grasped the idea of Christ leavening the world, and has read little in
the records of pious ages even, who does not know that even in the
Church it is needful to sift truth from falsehood, dead from living

"If, however, a claim be advanced which forbids such a use of reason as
we make in regard to all other human institutions, viewing them
historically with reference to their constant service to mankind and
their particular adaptation to a changing social state; if, as was the
case with the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings, the Church
proclaims a commission not subject to human control, by virtue of which
it would impose creed and ritual, and assumes those great offices,
reserved in Puritan thought to God only,--then does it not usurp the
function of the soul itself, suppress the personal revelation of the
divine by taking from the soul the seals of original sovereignty, remove
God to the first year of our era, relying on his mediate revelation in
time, and thus take from common man the evidence of religion and
therewith its certainty, and in general substitute faith in things for
the vital faith? If the voice of the Church is to find only its own echo
in the inner voice of life, if its evidences of religion involve more
than is near and present to every soul by virtue of its birth, if its
rites have any other reality than that of the heart which expresses
itself in them and so gives them life and significance, then its
authority is external wholly and has nothing in common with that
authority which free men erect over themselves because it is themselves
embodied in an outward principle. If personality has any place in the
soul, if the soul has any original office, then the authority that
religion as an organic social form may take on must lie within limits
that reserve to the soul its privacy with God, to truth an un-borrowed
radiance, and to all men its possession, simple or learned, lay or
cleric, through their common experience and ordinary faculties in the
normal course of life. Otherwise, it seems to me, personal experience
cannot be the beginning of Christian conviction, the true available test
of it, the underlying basis of it as we build the temple of God's
presence within us, and, as I have called it, the vitality of the whole

"Within these limits, then, imposed by the earlier argument, what, under
such reserves of the great principles of liberty, democracy, and justice
in which we are bred and which are forms of the cardinal fact of the
value of the personal soul in all men,--what to us is the office of the
Church? In theology it defines a philosophy which, though an
interpretation of divine truth, takes its place in the intellectual
scheme of theory like other human philosophies, and has a similar value,
differing only in the gravity of its subject-matter, which is the most
mysterious known to thought. In its specific rites it dignifies the
great moments of life--birth, marriage, and death--with its solemn
sanctions; and in its general ceremonies it affords appropriate forms in
which religious emotion finds noble and tender expression; especially it
enables masses of men to unite in one great act of the heart with the
impressiveness that belongs to the act of a community, and to make that
act, though emotional in a multitude of hearts, single and whole in
manifestation; and it does this habitually in the life of its least
groups by Sabbath observances, and in the life of nations by public
thanksgivings, and in the life of entire Christendom by its general
feasts of Christmas and Easter, and, though within narrower limits, by
its seasons of fasting and prayer. In its administration it facilitates
its daily work among men. The Church is thus a mighty organizer of
thought in theology, of the forms of emotion in its ritual, and of
practical action in its executive. Its doctrines, however conflicting in
various divisions of the whole vast body, are the result of profound,
conscientious, and long-continued thought among its successive synods,
which are the custodians of creeds as senates are of constitutions, and
whose affirmations and interpretations have a like weight in their own
speculative sphere as these possess in the province of political thought
age after age. Its counsels are ripe with a many-centuried knowledge of
human nature. Its joys and consolations are the most precious
inheritance of the heart of man. Its saints open our pathways, and go
before, following in the ways of the spirit. Its doors concentrate
within their shelter the general faith, and give it there a home. Its
table is spread for all men. I do not speak of the Church Invisible,
but mean to embrace with this catholicity of statement all
organizations, howsoever divided, which own Christ as their Head.
Temple, cathedral, and chapel have each their daily use to those who
gather there with Christian hearts; each is a living fountain to its own
fold. The village spire, wherever it rises on American or English
ground, bespeaks an association of families who find in this bond an
inward companionship and outward expression of it in a public habit
continuing from the fathers down, sanctified by the memories of
generations gone, and tender with the hope of the generation to come;
and this is of measureless good within such families for young and old
alike. It bespeaks also an instrument of charity, unobtrusive, friendly,
and searching, and growing more and more unconfined; it bespeaks a rock
of public morality deep-set in the foundations of the state.

"It is true that in uniting with such a Church, under the specific
conditions natural to both temperament and residence, a man yields
something of private right, and sacrifices in a greater or less degree
his personality; but this is the common condition of all social
cooperation, whether in party action or any union to a common end. The
compromise, involved in any platform of principles, tolerates essential
differences in important matters, but matters not then important in view
of what is to be gained in the main. The advantages of an organized
religious life are too plain to be ignored; it is reasonable to go to
the very verge in order to avail of them, both for a man's self and for
his efficiency in society, just as it is to unite with a general party
in the state, and serve it in local primaries, for the ends of
citizenship; such means of help and opportunities of accomplishment are
not to be lightly neglected. Happy is he who, christened at the font,
naturally accepts the duties devolved upon him, and stands in his
parents' place; and fortunate I count the youth who, without stress and
trouble, undertakes in his turn his father's part. But some there are,
born of that resolute manliness of the fathers, which is finer than
tempered steel, and of the conscience of the mothers which is more
sensitive than the bare nerve,--the very flower of the Puritan
tradition, and my heart goes out to them. And if there be a youth in
our days who feels hesitancy in such an early surrender into the bosom
of a Church, however broadly inclusive of firm consciences, strong
heads, and free hearts; if primitive Puritanism is bred in his bone and
blood and is there the large reserve of liberty natural to the American
heart; if the spirit is so living in him that he dispenses with the
form, which to those of less strenuous strain is rather a support; if
truth is so precious to him that he will not subscribe to more or less
than he believes, or tolerate in inclusive statements speculative and
uncertain elements, traditional error, and all that body of rejected
doctrine which, though he himself be free from it, must yet be slowly
uprooted from the general belief; if emotion is so sacred to him that
his native and habitual reticence becomes so sensitive in this most
private part of life as to make it here something between God and him
only; if his heart of charity and hand of friendship find out his
fellow-men with no intervention; if for these reasons, or any of them,
or if from that modesty of nature, which is so much more common in
American youth than is believed, he hesitates, out of pure awe of the
responsibility before God and man which he incurs, to think himself
worthy of such vows, such hopes, such duties,--if in any way, being of
noble nature, he keeps by himself,--let him not think he thereby
withdraws from the life of Christendom, nor that in the Church itself he
may not still take some portion of its great good. So far as its
authority is of the heart only, so far as it has organized the religious
life itself without regard to other ends and free from intellectual,
historical, and governmental entanglements that are supplementary at
most, he needs no formal act to be one with its spirit; and, however
much he may deny himself by his self-limitation, he remains a

       *       *       *       *       *

There was no doubt about it; we were lost. The faint tracks in the soil
had long ago disappeared, and we followed, as was natural, the draws
between the slopes; and now, for the last quarter-hour, the grass had
deepened till it was above the wheels and to the shoulders of the
ponies. They did not mind; they were born to it. What solitude there was
in it, as we pulled up and came to a stand! What wildness was there!
Only the great blue sky, with a westward dropping sun of lonely
splendour, and green horizons, broken and nigh, of the waving prairie,
whispering with the high wind,--and no life but ours shut in among the
group of low, close hills all about, in that grassy gulf! The earth
seemed near, waiting for us; in such places, just like this, men lost
had died and none knew it; half-unconsciously I found myself thinking of
Childe Roland's Tower,--

        "those two hills on the right

and the reality of crossing the prairie in old days came back on me.
That halt in the cup of the hills was our limit; it was a moment of
life, an arrival, an end.

The sun was too low for further adventuring. We struck due west on as
straight a course as the rugged country permitted, thinking to reach the
Looking-glass creek, along which lay the beaten road of travel back to
mankind. An hour or two passed, and we saw a house in the distance to
which we drove,--a humble house, sod-built, like that we had made our
nooning in. We drove to the door, and called; it was long before any
answer came; but at last a woman opened the door, her face and figure
the very expression of dulled toil, hard work, bodily despair. Alone on
that prairie, one would have thought she would have welcomed a human
countenance; but she looked on us as if she wished we would be gone, and
hardly answered to our question of the road. She was the type of the
abandonment of human life. I did not speak to her; but I see her now, as
I saw her then, with a kind of surprise that a woman could come to be,
by human life, like that. There was no one else in the house; and she
shut the door upon us after one sullen look and one scant sentence, as
if we, and any other, were naught, and went back to her silence in that
green waste, now gilded by the level sun, miles on miles. I have often
thought of her since, and what life was to her there, and found some
image of other solitudes--and men and women in them--as expansive, as
alienating as the wild prairie, where life hides itself, grows
dehumanized, and dies.

We drove on, with some word of this; and, eating what we had with us in
case of famine, made our supper from biscuit and flask; and, before
darkness fell, we struck the creek road, and turned southward,--a
splendour of late sunset gleaming over the untravelled western bank, and
dying out in red bloom and the purple of slow star-dawning overhead; and
on we drove, with a hard road under us, having far to go. At the first
farmhouse we watered the willing ponies, who had long succumbed to our
control, and who went as if they could not tire, steadily and evenly,
under the same strong hand and kindly voice they had felt day-long. It
was then I took the reins for an easy stretch, giving my friend a
change, and felt what so unobservably he had been doing all day with
wrist and eye, while he listened. So we drove down, and knew the moon
was up by the changed heavens, though yet unseen behind the bluffs of
the creek upon our left; and far away southward, in the evening light,
lay the long valley like a larger river. We still felt the upland,
however, as a loftier air; and always as, when night comes, nature
exercises some mysterious magic of the dark hour in strange places,
there, as all day long, we seemed to draw closer to earth--not earth as
it is in landscape, a thing of beauty and colour and human kinship, but
earth, the soil, the element, the globe.

This was in both our minds, and I had thought of it before he spoke
after a long pause over the briar pipes that had comraded our talk since
morning. "I can't talk of it now," he said; "it's gone into me in an
hour that you have been years in thinking; but that is what you are to
us." I say the things he said, for I cannot otherwise give his way, and
that trust of love in which these thoughts were born on my lips; all
those years, in many a distant place, I had thought for him almost as
much as for myself. "You knighted us," he said, "and we fight your
cause,"--not knowing that kingship, however great or humble, is but the
lowly knights made one in him who by God's grace can speak the word. "I
have no doubt it's true, what you say; but it is different. I expected
it would be; but we used to speak of nature more than the soul, and of
nature's being a guide. Poor Robin, I remember, began with that." "There
is a sonnet of Arnold's you know," I answered, "that tells another
tale. But I did not learn it from him. And, besides, what else he has to
say is not cheerful. Nothing is wise," I interjected, "that is not

But without repeating the wandering talk of reality with its changeful
tones,--and however serious the matter might be it was never far from a
touch of lightness shuttling in and out like sunshine,--I told him, as
we drove down the dark valley, my hand resting now on his shoulder near
me, how nature is antipodal to the soul; or, if not the antipodes, is
apart from us, and cares not for the virtues we have erected, for
authority and mercy, for justice, chastity, and sacrifice, for nothing
that is man's except the life of the body itself, the race-life, as if
man were a chemical element or a wave-motion of ether that are parts of
physics. "I convinced myself," I said, "that the soul is not a term in
the life of nature, but that nature is in it as a physical vigour and to
it an outward spectacle, whereby the soul acquires a preparation for
immortality, whether immortality come or not. And I have sometimes
thought," I continued, "that on the spiritual side an explanation of the
inequalities of human conditions, both past and present, may be
contained in the idea that for all alike, lowly and lofty, wretched and
fortunate, simple and learned, life remains in all its conditions an
opportunity to know God and exercise the soul in virtue, and is an
education of the soul in all its essential knowledge and faculties, at
least within Christian times, broadly speaking, and in more than one
pagan civilization. Material success, fame, wealth, and power--birth
even, with all it involves of opportunity and fate--are insignificant,
if the soul's life is thus secured. I do not mean that such a thought
clears the mystery of the different lots of mankind; but it suggests
another view of the apparent injustice of the world in its most rigid
forms. This, however, is a wandering thought. The great reversal of the
law of nature in the soul lies in the fact that whereas she proceeds by
the selfish will of the strongest trampling out the weak, spiritual law
requires the best to sacrifice itself for the least. Scientific ethics,
which would chloroform the feeble, can never succeed until the race
makes bold to amend what it now receives as the mysterious ways of
heaven, and identifies a degenerate body with a dead soul. Such a code
is at issue with true democracy, which requires that every soul, being
equal in value in view of its unknown future, shall receive the benefit
of every doubt in earthly life, and be left as a being in the hands of
the secret power that ordained its existence in the hour when nature was
constituted to be its mode of birth, consciousness, and death. And if
the choice must be made on the broad scale, it is our practical faith
that the service of the best, even to the point of death, is due to the
least in the hope of bettering the lot of man. Hence, as we are willing
that in communities the noblest should die for a cause, we consent to
the death of high civilizations, if they spread in some Hellenization of
a Roman, some Romanizing of a barbaric world; and to the extinction of
aristocracies, if their virtues thereby are disseminated and the social
goods they monopolized made common in a people; and to the falling of
the flower of man's spirit everywhere, if its seeds be sown on all the
winds of the future for the blessing of the world's fuller and more
populous life. Such has been the history of our civilization, and still
is, and must be till the whole earth's surface be conquered for
mankind, embodied in its highest ideals, personal and social. This is
not nature's way, who raises her trophy over the slain; our trophy is
man's laurel upon our grave. So, everywhere except in the physical
sphere of life, if you would find the soul's commands, reverse nature's
will. This superiority to nature, as it seems to me, this living in an
element plainly antithetical to her sphere, is a sign of 'an ampler
ether, a diviner air.'"

So I spoke, as the words came to me, while we were still driving down
the dark valley, in deeper shadows, under higher bluffs, looking out on
a levelled world westward, stretching off with low, white, wreathing
mists and moonlit distances of plains beyond the further bunk. We turned
a great shoulder of the hills, and the moon shone out bright and clear,
riding in heaven; and the southward reach unlocked, and gave itself for
miles to our eyes. At the instant, while the ponies came back upon their
haunches at the drop of the long descent ahead, we both cried out, "the
Looking-glass!" There it was, about a mile away before and below us, as
plain as a pikestaff,--a silvery reach, like a long narrow lake, smooth
as the floor of cloud seen from above among mountains, silent,
motionless,--for all the world like an immense, spectral looking-glass,
set there in the half-darkened waste. It was evidently what gave the
name to the creek, and I have since noticed the same name elsewhere in
the Western country, and I suppose the phenomenon is not uncommon. For
an hour or more it remained; we never seemed to get nearer to it; it was
an eerie thing--the earth-light of the moon on that side,--I saw it all
the time.

"The difference you spoke of," I began, with my eyes upon that spectral
pool, "is only that change which belongs to life, dissolving like
illusion, but not itself illusion. I am not aware of any break; it is
the old life in a higher form with clearer selfhood. Life, in the soul
especially, seems less a state of being than a thing of transformation,
whose successive shapes we wear; and so far as that change is
self-determined," I continued, making almost an effort to think, so
weird was that scene before us, "the soul proceeds by foreknowledge of
itself in the ideal, and wills the change by ideal living, which is not
a conflict with the actual but a process out of it, conditioned in
almost a Darwinian way on that brain-futuring which entered into the
struggle for animal existence even with such enormous modifying power.
In our old days, under the sway of new scientific knowledge, we
instinctively saw man in the perspective of nature, and then man seemed
almost an after-thought of nature; but having been produced, late in her
material history, and gifted with foresight that distinguished him from
all else in her scheme, his own evolution gathered thereby that speed
which is so perplexing a contrast to the inconceivable slowness of the
orbing of stars and the building of continents. He has used his powers
of prescience for his own ends; but, fanciful as the thought is, might
it happen that through his control of elemental forces and his
acquaintance with infinite space, he should reach the point of applying
prescience in nature's own material frame, and wield the world for the
better accomplishment of her apparent ends,--that, though unimaginable
now, would constitute the true polarity to her blind and half-chaotic
motions,--chaotic in intelligence, I mean, and to the moral reason.
Unreal as such a thought is, a glimpse of some such feeling toward
nature is discernible in the work of some impressionist landscape
painters, who present colour and atmosphere and space without human
intention, as a kind of artistry of science, having the same sort of
elemental substance and interest that scientific truth has as an object
of knowledge,--a curious form of the beauty of truth."

We spoke of some illustrations of this, the scene before us lending
atmosphere and suggestion to the talk, and enforcing it like nature's
comment. "But," I continued, "what I had in mind to say was concerning
our dead selves. The old phrase, _life is a continual dying_, is true,
and, once gone life is death; and sometimes so much of it has been
gathered to the past, such definite portions of it are laid away, that
we can look, if we will, in the lake of memory on the faces of the dead
selves which once we were." Instinctively we looked on the mystic
glamour in the low valley, as on that Lake of the Dead Souls I spoke of.
I went on after the natural pause,--I could not help it,--"'I was a
different man, then,' we say, with a touch of sadness, perhaps, but
often with better thoughts, and always with a feeling of mystery. How
old is the youth before he is aware of the fading away of vitality out
of early beliefs? and then he feels the quick passing of the enthusiasms
of opening life, as one cause after another, one hero, one poet,
disclosing the great interests of life, in turn engages his heart. As
time goes on, and life comes out in its true perspective, one thing with
another, and he discovers the incompleteness of single elements of
ardour in the whole of life, and also the defects of wisdom, art, and
action in those books and men that had won his full confidence and what
he called perfect allegiance, there comes often a moment of pause, as if
this growth had in it some thing irrational and derogatory. The thinkers
whose words of light and leading were the precious truth itself, the
poets he idolized, the elders he trusted, fall away, and others stand in
their places, who better appeal to his older mind, his finer impulses,
his sounder judgment; and what true validity can these last have in the
end? After a decade he can almost see his youth as something dead, his
early manhood as something that will die. The poet, especially, who
gives expression to himself, and puts his life at its period into a
book, feels, as each work drops from his hand, that it is a portion of a
self that is dead, though it was life in the making; and so with the
embodiments of life in action, the man looks back on past greatness,
past romance; for all life, working itself out--desire into
achievement--dies to the man. Vital life lies always before. It is a
strange thought that only by the death of what we now are, can we enter
into our own hopes and victories; that it is by the slaying of the self
which now is that the higher self takes life; that it is through such
self-destruction that we live. The intermediate state seems a waste, and
the knowledge that it is intermediate seems to impair its value; but
this is the way ordained by which we must live, and such is life's magic
that in each stage, from childhood to age, it is lived with trustfulness
in itself. It is needful only, however much we outlive, to live more and
better, and through all to remain true to the high causes, the faithful
loves, the sacred impulses, that have given our imperfect life of the
past whatever of nobility it may have; so shall death forever open into
life. But," I ended, lifting my moist eyes toward the sweep of the dark
slopes, "the wind blows, and leaves the mystic to inquire whence and
whither, the wild shrub blossoms and only the poet is troubled to excuse
its beauty, and happy is he who can live without too much thought of

The sheen of the river had died out, and the creek was only a common
stream lit with the high moon, and bordered far off to the west with the
low indistinguishable country. We drove in silence down the valley along
that shelf of road under the land. The broken bluffs on the left rose
into immense slopes of rolling prairie, and magnified by the night
atmosphere into majesty, heavy with deep darkness in their folds, stood
massive and vast in the dusk moonlight, like a sea. Then fell on me and
grew with strange insistence the sense of this everlasting mounded power
of the earth, like the rise and subsidence of ocean in an element of
slower and more awful might. The solid waste began to loom and lift,
almost with the blind internal strength of the whirl of the planet
through space. Deeper into the shadow we plunged with every echoing
tread of the hoofs. The lair of some mysterious presence was about
us,--unshaped, unrealized, as in some place of antique awe before the
time of temples or of gods. It seemed a corporal thing. If I stretched
out my hand I should touch it like the ground. It came out from all the
black rifts, it rolled from the moonlit distinct heights, it filled the
chill air,--it was an envelopment--it would be an engulfment--horse and
man we were sinking in it. Then it was--most in all my days--that I felt
dense mystery overwhelming me. "O infinite earth," I thought, "our
unknowing mother, our unknowing grave!"--"What is it?" he said, feeling
my wrist straighten where it lay on his shoulder, and the tremor and the
hand seeking him. Was it a premonition? "Nothing," I answered, and did
not tell him; but he began to cheer me with lighter talk, and win me
back to the levels of life, and under his sensitive and loving ways, the
excitement of the ride died out, and an hour later, after midnight, we
drove into the silent town. We put the ponies up, praising them with
hand and voice; and then he took both my hands in his and said, "The
truest thing you ever said was what you wrote me, 'We live each others'
lives.'" That was his thanks.

O brave and tender heart, now long lapped under the green fold of that
far prairie in his niche of earth! How often I see him as in our first
days,--the boy of seventeen summers, lying on his elbows over his
Thackeray, reading by the pictures, and laughing to himself hour after
hour; and many a prairie adventure, many happy days and fortunate
moments come back, with the strength and bloom of youth, as I recall the
manly figure, the sensitive and eager face, and all his resolute ways.
Who of us knows what he is to another? He could not know how much his
life entered into mine, and still enters. But he is dead; and I have set
down these weak and stammering words of the life we began together, not
for the strong and sure, but for those who, though true hearts, find it
hard to lay hold of truth, and doubt themselves, in the hope that some
younger comrade of life, though unknown, may make them of avail and find
in them the dark leading of a hand.

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