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Title: La sagesse et la destinée. English - Wisdom and Destiny
Author: Maeterlinck, Maurice, 1862-1949
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.

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Translated by ALFRED SUTRO





This essay on Wisdom and Destiny was to have been a thing of some
twenty pages, the work of a fortnight; but the idea took root, others
flocked to it, and the volume has occupied M. Maeterlinck continuously
for more than two years. It has much essential kinship with the
"Treasure of the Humble," though it differs therefrom in treatment; for
whereas the earlier work might perhaps be described as the eager
speculation of a poet athirst for beauty, we have here rather the
endeavour of an earnest thinker to discover the abode of truth. And if
the result of his thought be that truth and happiness are one, this was
by no means the object wherewith he set forth. Here he is no longer
content with exquisite visions, alluring or haunting images; he probes
into the soul of man and lays bare all his joys and his sorrows. It is
as though he had forsaken the canals he loves so well--the green, calm,
motionless canals that faithfully mirror the silent trees and
moss-covered roofs--and had adventured boldly, unhesitatingly, on the
broad river of life.

He describes this book himself, in a kind of introduction that is
almost an apology, as "a few interrupted thoughts that entwine
themselves, with more or less system, around two or three subjects." He
declares that there is nothing it undertakes to prove; that there are
none whose mission it is to convince. And so true is this, so
absolutely honest and sincere is the writer, that he does not shrink
from attacking, qualifying, modifying, his own propositions; from
advancing, and insisting on, every objection that flits across his
brain; and if such proposition survive the onslaught of its
adversaries, it is only because, in the deepest of him, he holds it for
absolute truth. For this book is indeed a confession, a naive,
outspoken, unflinching description of all that passes in his mind; and
even those who like not his theories still must admit that this mind is
strangely beautiful.

There have been many columns filled--and doubtless will be again--with
ingenious and scholarly attempts to place a definitive label on M.
Maeterlinck, and his talent; to trace his thoughts to their origin,
clearly denoting the authors by whom he has been influenced; in a
measure to predict his future, and accurately to establish the place
that he fills in the hierarchy of genius. With all this I feel that I
have no concern. Such speculations doubtless have their use and serve
their purpose. I shall be content if I can impress upon those who may
read these lines, that in this book the man is himself, of untrammelled
thought; a man possessed of the rare faculty of seeing beauty in all
things, and, above all, in truth; of the still rarer faculty of loving
all things, and, above all, life.

Nor is this merely a vague and, at bottom, a more or less meaningless
statement. For, indeed, considering this essay only, that deals with
wisdom and destiny, at the root of it--its fundamental principle, its
guiding, inspiring thought--is love. "Nothing is contemptible in this
world save only scorn," he says; and for the humble, the foolish, nay,
even the wicked, he has the same love, almost the same admiration, as
for the sage, the saint, or the hero. Everything that exists fills him
with wonder, because of its existence, and of the mysterious force that
is in it; and to him love and wisdom are one, "joining hands in a
circle of light." For the wisdom that holds aloof from mankind, that
deems itself a thing apart, select, superior, he has scant sympathy--it
has "wandered too far from the watchfires of the tribe." But the wisdom
that is human, that feeds constantly on the desires, the feelings, the
hopes and the fears of man, must needs have love ever by its side; and
these two, marching together, must inevitably find themselves, sooner
or later, on the ways that lead to goodness. "There comes a moment in
life," he says, "when moral beauty seems more urgent, more penetrating,
than intellectual beauty; when all that the mind has treasured must be
bathed in the greatness of soul, lest it perish in the sandy desert,
forlorn as the river that seeks in vain for the sea." But for
unnecessary self-sacrifice, renouncement, abandonment of earthly joys,
and all such "parasitic virtues," he has no commendation or approval;
feeling that man was created to be happy, and that he is not wise who
voluntarily discards a happiness to-day for fear lest it be taken from
him on the morrow. "Let us wait till the hour of sacrifice sounds--till
then, each man to his work. The hour will sound at last--let us not
waste our time in seeking it on the dial of life."

In this book, morality, conduct, life are Surveyed from every point of
the compass, but from an eminence always. Austerity holds no place in
his philosophy; he finds room even "for the hours that babble aloud in
their wantonness." But all those who follow him are led by smiling
wisdom to the heights where happiness sits enthroned between goodness
and love, where virtue rewards itself in the "silence that is the
walled garden of its happiness."

It is strange to turn from this essay to Serres Chaudes and La
Princesse Maleine, M. Maeterlinck's earliest efforts--the one a
collection of vague images woven into poetical form, charming, dreamy,
and almost meaningless; the other a youthful and very remarkable effort
at imitation. In the plays that followed the Princesse Maleine there
was the same curious, wandering sense of, and search for, a vague and
mystic beauty: "That fair beauty which no eye can see, Of that sweet
music which no ear can measure." In a little poem of his, Et s'il
revenait, the last words of a dying girl, forsaken by her lover, who is
asked by her sister what shall be told to the faithless one, should he
ever seek to know of her last hours:

   "Et s'il m'interroge encore
   Sur la derniere heure?--
   Dites lui que j'ai souri
   De peur qu'il ne pleure ..."

touch, perhaps, the very high-water mark of exquisite simplicity and
tenderness blent with matchless beauty of expression. Pelleas et
Melisande was the culminating point of this, his first, period--a
simple, pathetic love-story of boy and girl--love that was pure and
almost passionless. It was followed by three little plays--"for
marionettes," he describes them on the title-page; among them being La
Mort de Tintagiles, the play he himself prefers of all that he has
written. And then came a curious change: he wrote Aglavaine et
Selysette. The setting is familiar to us; the sea-shore, the ruined
tower, the seat by the well; no less than the old grandmother and
little Yssaline. But Aglavaine herself is strange: this woman who has
lived and suffered; this queenly, majestic creature, calmly conscious
of her beauty and her power; she whose overpowering, overwhelming love
is yet deliberate and thoughtful. The complexities of real life are
vaguely hinted at here: instead of Golaud, the mediaeval, tyrannous
husband, we have Selysette, the meek, self-sacrificing wife; instead of
the instinctive, unconscious love of Pelleas and Melisande, we have
great burning passion. But this play, too, was only a stepping-stone--a
link between the old method and the new that is to follow. For there
will probably be no more plays like Pelleas et Melisande, or even like
Aglavaine et Selysette. Real men and women, real problems and
disturbance of life--it is these that absorb him now. His next play
will doubtless deal with a psychology more actual, in an atmosphere
less romantic; and the old familiar scene of wood, and garden, and
palace corridor will be exchanged for the habitual abode of men.

I have said it was real life that absorbed him now, and yet am I aware
that what seems real to him must still appear vague and visionary to
many. It is, however, only a question of shifting one's point of view,
or, better still, of enlarging it. Material success in life, fame,
wealth--these things M. Maeterlinck passes indifferently by. There are
certain ideals that are dear to many on which he looks with the vague
wonder of a child. The happiness of which he dreams is an inward
happiness, and within reach of successful and unsuccessful alike. And
so it may well be that those content to buffet with their fellows for
what are looked on as the prizes of this world, will still write him
down a mere visionary, and fail to comprehend him. The materialist who
complacently defines the soul as the "intellect plus the emotions,"
will doubtless turn away in disgust from M. Maeterlinck's constant
references to it as the seat of something mighty, mysterious,
inexhaustible in life. So, too, may the rigid follower of positive
religion, to whom the Deity is a power concerned only with the
judgment, reward, and punishment of men, protest at his saying that
"God, who must be at least as high as the highest thoughts He has
implanted in the best of men, will withhold His smile from those whose
sole desire has been to please Him; and they only who have done good
for sake of good, and as though He existed not; they only who have
loved virtue more than they loved God Himself, shall be allowed to
stand by His side." But, after all, the genuine seeker after truth
knows that what seemed true yesterday is to-day discovered to be only a
milestone on the road; and all who value truth will be glad to listen
to a man who, differing from them perhaps, yet tells them what seems
true to him. And whereas in the "Treasure of the Humble" he looked on
life through a veil of poetry and dream, here he stands among his
fellow-men, no longer trying to "express the inexpressible," but, in
all simplicity, to tell them what he sees.

"Above all, let us never forget that an act of goodness is in itself an
act of happiness. It is the flower of a long inner life of joy and
contentment; it tells of peaceful hours and days on the sunniest
heights of our soul." This thought lies at the root of his whole
philosophy--goodness, happiness, love, supporting each other,
intertwined, rewarding each other. "Let us not think virtue will
crumble, though God Himself seem unjust. Where could the virtue of man
find more everlasting foundation than in the seeming injustice of God?"
Strange that the man who has written these words should have spent all
his school life at a Jesuit college, subjected to its severe,
semi-monastic discipline; compelled, at the end of his stay, to go,
with the rest of his fellows, through the customary period of
"retreat," lasting ten days, when the most eloquent of the fathers
would, one after the other, deliver sermons terrific to boyish
imagination, sermons whose unvarying burden was Hell and the wrath of
God--to be avoided only by becoming a Jesuit priest. Out of the
eighteen boys in the "rhetorique" class, eleven eagerly embraced this
chance of escape from damnation. As for M. Maeterlinck
himself--fortunately a day-boarder only--one can fancy him wandering
home at night, along the canal banks, in the silence broken only by the
pealing of church bells, brooding over these mysteries ... but how long
a road must the man have travelled who, having been taught the God of
Fra Angelico, himself arrives at the conception of a "God who sits
smiling on a mountain, and to whom our gravest offences are only as the
naughtiness of puppies playing on the hearth-rug."

His environment, no less than his schooling, helped to give a mystic
tinge to his mind. The peasants who dwelt around his father's house
always possessed a peculiar fascination for him; he would watch them as
they sat by their doorway, squatting on their heels, as their custom
is--grave, monotonous, motionless, the smoke from their pipes almost
the sole sign of life. For the Flemish peasant is a strangely inert
creature, his work once done--as languid and lethargic as the canal
that passes by his door. There was one cottage into which the boy would
often peep on his way home from school, the home of seven brothers and
one sister, all old, toothless, worn--working together in the daytime
at their tiny farm; at night sitting in the gloomy kitchen, lit by one
smoky lamp--all looking straight before them, saying not a word; or
when, at rare intervals, a remark was made, taking it up each in turn
and solemnly repeating it, with perhaps the slightest variation in
form. It was amidst influences such as these that his boyhood was
passed, almost isolated from the world, brooding over lives of saints
and mystics at the same time that he studied, and delighted in,
Shakespeare and the Elizabethans, Goethe and Heine. For his taste has
been catholic always; he admires Meredith as he admires Dickens, Hello
and Pascal no less than Schopenhauer. And it is this catholicity, this
open mind, this eager search for truth, that have enabled him to emerge
from the mysticism that once enwrapped him to the clearer daylight of
actual existence; it is this faculty of admiring all that is admirable
in man and in life that some day, perhaps, may take him very far.

It will surprise many who picture him as a mere dreamy decadent, to be
told that he is a man of abiding and abundant cheerfulness, who finds
happiness in the simplest of things. The scent of a flower, the flight
of sea-gulls around a cliff, a cornfield in sunshine--these stir him to
strange delight. A deed of bravery, nobility, or of simple devotion; a
mere brotherly act of kindness, the unconscious sacrifice of the
peasant who toils all day to feed and clothe his children--these awake
his warm and instant sympathy. And with him, too, it is as with De
Quincey when he says, "At no time of my life have I been a person to
hold myself polluted by the touch or approach of any creature that wore
a human shape"; and more than one unhappy outcast, condemned by the
stern law of man, has been gladdened by his ready greeting and welcome.
But, indeed, all this may be read of in his book--I desired but to make
it clear that the book is truly a faithful mirror of the man's own
thoughts, and feelings, and actions. It is a book that many will
love--all those who suffer, for it will lighten their suffering; all
those who love, for it will teach them to love more deeply. It is a
book with its faults, doubtless, as every book must be; but it has been
written straight from the heart, and will go to the heart of many ...

Alfred Sutro


1. In this book there will often be mention of wisdom and destiny, of
happiness, justice, and love. There may seem to be some measure of
irony in thus calling forth an intangible happiness where so much real
sorrow prevails; a justice that may well be ideal in the bosom of an
injustice, alas! only too material; a love that eludes the grasp in the
midst of palpable hatred and callousness. The moment may seem but
ill-chosen for leisurely search, in the hidden recess of man's heart,
for motives of peace and tranquillity; occasions for gladness,
uplifting, and love; reasons for wonder and gratitude--seeing that the
vast bulk of mankind, in whose name we would fain lift our voice, have
not even the time or assurance to drain to the dregs the misery and
desolation of life. Not to them is it given to linger over the inward
rejoicing, the profound consolation, that the satisfied thinker has
slowly and painfully acquired, that he knows how to prize. Thus has it
often been urged against moralists, among them Epictetus, that they
were apt to concern themselves with none but the wise alone. In this
reproach is some truth, as some truth there must be in every reproach
that is made. And indeed, if we had only the courage to listen to the
simplest, the nearest, most pressing voice of our conscience, and be
deaf to all else, it were doubtless our solitary duty to relieve the
suffering about us to the greatest extent in our power. It were
incumbent upon us to visit and nurse the poor, to console the
afflicted; to found model factories, surgeries, dispensaries, or at
least to devote ourselves, as men of science do, to wresting from
nature the material secrets which are most essential to man. But yet,
were the world at a given moment to contain only persons thus actively
engaged in helping each other, and none venturesome enough to dare
snatch leisure for research in other directions, then could this
charitable labour not long endure; for all that is best in the good
that at this day is being done round about us, was conceived in the
spirit of one of those who neglected, it may be, many an urgent,
immediate duty in order to think, to commune with themselves, in order
to speak. Does it follow that they did the best that was to be done? To
such a question as this who shall dare to reply? The soul that is
meekly honest must ever consider the simplest, the nearest duty to be
the best of all things it can do; but yet were there cause for regret
had all men for all time restricted themselves to the duty that lay
nearest at hand. In each generation some men have existed who held in
all loyalty that they fulfilled the duties of the passing hour by
pondering on those of the hour to come. Most thinkers will say that
these men were right. It is well that the thinker should give his
thoughts to the world, though it must be admitted that wisdom befinds
itself sometimes in the reverse of the sage's pronouncement. This
matters but little, however; for, without such pronouncement, the
wisdom had not stood revealed; and the sage has accomplished his duty.

2. To-day misery is the disease of mankind, as disease is the
misery of man. And even as there are physicians for disease, so should
there be physicians for human misery. But can the fact that disease is,
unhappily, only too prevalent, render it wrong for us ever to speak of
health? which were indeed as though, in anatomy--the physical science
that has most in common with morals--the teacher confined himself
exclusively to the study of the deformities that greater or lesser
degeneration will induce in the organs of man. We have surely the right
to demand that his theories be based on the healthy and vigorous body;
as we have also the right to demand that the moralist, who fain would
see beyond the present hour, should take as his standard the soul that
is happy, or that at least possesses every element of happiness, save
only the necessary consciousness.

We live in the bosom of great injustice; but there can be, I imagine,
neither cruelty nor callousness in our speaking, at times, as though
this injustice had ended, else should we never emerge from our circle.

It is imperative that there should be some who dare speak, and think,
and act as though all men were happy; for otherwise, when the day comes
for destiny to throw open to all the people's garden of the promised
land, what happiness shall the others find there, what justice, what
beauty or love? It may be urged, it is true, that it were best, first
of all, to consider the most pressing needs, yet is this not always
wisest; it is often of better avail from the start to seek that which
is highest. When the waters beleaguer the home of the peasant in
Holland, the sea or the neighbouring river having swept down the dyke
that protected the country, most pressing is it then for the peasant to
safeguard his cattle, his grain, his effects; but wisest to fly to the
top of the dyke, summoning those who live with him, and from thence
meet the flood, and do battle. Humanity up to this day has been like an
invalid tossing and turning on his couch in search of repose; but
therefore none the less have words of true consolation come only from
those who spoke as though man were freed from all pain. For, as man was
created for health, so was mankind created for happiness; and to speak
of its misery only, though that misery be everywhere and seem
everlasting, is only to say words that fall lightly and soon are
forgotten. Why not speak as though mankind were always on the eve of
great certitude, of great joy? Thither, in truth, is man led by his
instinct, though he never may live to behold the long-wished-for
to-morrow. It is well to believe that there needs but a little more
thought, a little more courage, more love, more devotion to life, a
little more eagerness, one day to fling open wide the portals of joy
and of truth. And this thing may still come to pass. Let us hope that
one day all mankind will be happy and wise; and though this day never
should dawn, to have hoped for it cannot be wrong. And in any event, it
is helpful to speak of happiness to those who are sad, that thus at
least they may learn what it is that happiness means. They are ever
inclined to regard it as something beyond them, extraordinary, out of
their reach. But if all who may count themselves happy were to tell,
very simply, what it was that brought happiness to them, the others
would see that between sorrow and joy the difference is but as between
a gladsome, enlightened acceptance of life and a hostile, gloomy
submission; between a large and harmonious conception of life, and one
that is stubborn and narrow. "Is that all?" the unhappy would cry. "But
we too have within us, then, the elements of this happiness." Surely
you have them within you! There lives not a man but has them, those
only excepted upon whom great physical calamity has fallen. But speak
not lightly of this happiness. There is no other. He is the happiest
man who best understands his happiness; for he is of all men most fully
aware that it is only the lofty idea, the untiring, courageous, human
idea, that separates gladness from sorrow. Of this idea it is helpful
to speak, and as often as may be; not with the view of imposing our own
idea upon others, but in order that they who may listen shall, little
by little, conceive the desire to possess an idea of their own. For in
no two men is it the same. The one that you cherish may well bring no
comfort to me; nor shall all your eloquence touch the hidden springs of
my life. Needs must I acquire my own, in myself, by myself; but you
unconsciously make this the easier for me, by telling of the idea that
is yours. It may happen that I shall find solace in that which brings
sorrow to you, and that which to you speaks of gladness may be fraught
with affliction for me. But no matter; into my grief will enter all
that you saw of beauty and comfort, and into my joy there will pass all
that was great in your sadness, if indeed my joy be on the same plane
as your sadness. It behoves us, the first thing of all, to prepare in
our soul a place of some loftiness, where this idea may be lodged; as
the priests of ancient religions laid the mountain peak bare, and
cleared it of thorn and of root for the fire to descend from heaven.
There may come to us any day, from the depths of the planet Mars, the
infallible formula of happiness, conveyed in the final truth as to the
aim and the government of the universe. Such a formula could only bring
change or advancement unto our spiritual life in the degree of the
desire and expectation of advancement in which we might long have been
living. The formula would be the same for all men, yet would each one
benefit only in the proportion of the eagerness, purity, unselfishness,
knowledge, that he had stored up in his soul. All morality, all study
of justice and happiness, should truly be no more than preparation,
provision on the vastest scale--a way of gaining experience, a
stepping-stone laid down for what is to follow. Surely, desirable day
of all days were the one when at last we should live in absolute truth,
in immovable logical certitude; but in the meantime it is given us to
live in a truth more important still, the truth of our soul and our
character; and some wise men have proved that this life can be lived in
the midst of gravest material errors.

3. Is it idle to speak of justice, happiness, morals, and all
things connected therewith, before the hour of science has
sounded--that definitive hour, wherein all that we cling to may
crumble? The darkness that hangs over our life will then, it may be,
pass away; and much that we do in the darkness shall be otherwise done
in the light. But nevertheless do the essential events of our moral and
physical life come to pass in the darkness as completely, as
inevitably, as they would in the light, Our life must be lived while we
wait for the word that shall solve the enigma, and the happier, the
nobler our life, the more vigorous shall it become; and we shall have
the more courage, clear-sightedness, boldness, to seek and desire the
truth. And happen what may, the time can be never ill-spent that we
give to acquiring some knowledge of self. Whatever our relation may
become to this world in which we have being, in our soul there will yet
be more feelings, more passions, more secrets unchanged and unchanging,
than there are stars that connect with the earth, or mysteries fathomed
by science. In the bosom of truth undeniable, truth all absorbing, man
shall doubtless soar upwards; but still, as he rises, still shall his
soul unerringly guide him; and the grander the truth of the universe,
the more solace and peace it may bring, the more shall the problems of
justice, morality, happiness, love, present to the eyes of all men the
semblance they ever have worn in the eyes of the thinker. We should
live as though we were always on the eve of the great revelation; and
we should be ready with welcome, with warmest and keenest and fullest,
most heartfelt and intimate welcome. And whatever the form it shall
take on the day that it comes to us, the best way of all to prepare for
its fitting reception is to crave for it now, to desire it as lofty, as
perfect, as vast, as ennobling as the soul can conceive. It must needs
be more beautiful, glorious, and ample than the best of our hopes; for,
where it differ therefrom or even frustrate them, it must of necessity
bring something nobler, loftier, nearer to the nature of man, for it
will bring us the truth. To man, though all that he value go under, the
intimate truth of the universe must be wholly, preeminently admirable.
And though, on the day it unveils, our meekest desires turn to ashes
and float on the wind, still shall there linger within us all we have
prepared; and the admirable will enter our soul, the volume of its
waters being as the depth of the channel that our expectation has

4. Is it necessary that we should conceive ourselves to be superior
to the universe? Our reason may prove what it will: our reason is only
a feeble ray that has issued from Nature; a tiny atom of that whole
which Nature alone shall judge. Is it fitting that the ray of light
should desire to alter the lamp whence it springs?

That loftiness within us, from whose summit we venture to pass judgment
on the totality of life, to absolve or condemn it, is doubtless the
merest pin-prick, visible to our eye alone, on the illimitable sphere
of life. It is wise to think and to act as though all that happened to
man were all that man most required. It is not long ago--to cite only
one of the problems that the instinct of our planet is invited to
solve--that a scheme was on foot to inquire of the thinkers of Europe
whether it should rightly be held as a gain or a loss to mankind if an
energetic, strenuous, persistent race, which some, through prejudice
doubtless, still regard as inferior to the Aryan in qualities of heart
and of soul--if the Jews, in a word, were to vanish from the face of
the earth, or to acquire preponderance there. I am satisfied that the
sage might answer, without laying himself open to the charge of
indifference or undue resignation, "In what comes to pass will be
happiness." Many things happen that seem unjust to us; but of all the
achievements of reason there has been none so helpful as the discovery
of the loftier reason that underlies the misdeeds of nature. It is from
the slow and gradual vindication of the unknown force that we deemed at
first to be pitiless, that our moral and physical life has derived its
chief prop and support. If a race disappears that conforms with our
every ideal, it will be only because our ideal still falls short of the
grand ideal, which is, as we have said, the intimate truth of the

Our own experience has taught us that even in this world of reality
there exist dreams and desires, thoughts and feelings of beauty, of
justice, and love, that are of the noblest and loftiest. And if there
be any that shrink from the test of reality--in other words, from the
mysterious, nameless power of life--it follows that these must be
different, but not that their beauty is less, or their vastness, or
power to console. Till reality confront us, it is well, it may be, to
cherish ideals that we hold to surpass it in beauty; but once face to
face with reality, then must the ideal flame that has fed on our
noblest desires be content to throw faithful light on the less fragile,
less tender beauty of the mighty mass that crushes these desires. Nor
does this seem to me to imply a mere drowsy fatalism, or servile
acquiescence, or optimism shrinking from action. The sage no doubt must
many a time forfeit some measure of the blind, the head-strong,
fanatical zeal that has enabled some men, whose reason was fettered and
bound, to achieve results that are nigh superhuman; but therefore none
the less is it certain that no man of upright soul should go forth in
search of illusion or blindness, of zeal or vigour, in a region
inferior to that of his noblest hours. To do our true duty in life, it
must ever be done with the aid of all that is highest in our soul,
highest in the truth that is ours. And even though it be permissible at
times in actual, every-day life to compromise with events, and not
follow impulse to the ruthless end--as did St. Just, for instance, who
in his admirable and ardent desire for universal peace, happiness,
justice, in all good faith sent thousands to the scaffold--in the life
of thought it is our unvarying duty to pursue our thought right to the

Again, the knowledge that our actions still await the seal of final
truth can deter from action those only who would have remained no less
inert had no such knowledge been theirs. Thought that rises encourages
where it disheartens. And to those of a loftier vision, prepared in
advance to admire the truth that will nullify all they have done, it
seems only natural still to endeavour with all might and main to
enhance what yet may be termed the justice, the beauty, the reason of
this our earth. They know that to penetrate deeper, to understand, to
respect--all this is enhancement. Above all, they have faith in "the
idea of the universe." They are satisfied that every effort that tends
to improvement approaches the secret intention of life; they are taught
by the failure of their noblest endeavours, by the resistance of this
mighty world, to discover anew fresh reasons for wonder, for ardour,
for hope.

As you climb up a mountain towards nightfall, the trees and the houses,
the steeple, the fields and the orchards, the road, and even the river,
will gradually dwindle and fade, and at last disappear in the gloom
that steals over the valley. But the threads of light that shine from
the houses of men and pierce through the blackest of nights, these
shine on undimmed. And every step that you take to the summit reveals
but more lights, and more, in the hamlets asleep at your foot. For
light, though so fragile, is perhaps the one thing of all that yields
naught of itself as it faces immensity. Thus it is with our moral light
too, when we look upon life from some slight elevation. It is well that
reflection should teach us to disburden our soul of base passions; but
it should not discourage, or weaken, our humblest desire for justice,
for truth, and for love.

Whence comes this rule that I thus propound? Nay, I know not myself. To
me it seems helpful and requisite; nor could I give reasons other than
spring from the feelings alone. Such reasons, however, at times should
by no means be treated too lightly. If I should ever attain a summit
whence this law seemed useless to me, I would listen to the secret
instinct bidding me not linger, but climb on still higher, till its
usefulness should once again be clearly apparent to me.

5. This general introduction over, let us speak more particularly
of the influence that wisdom can have upon destiny. And, the occasion
presenting itself here, I shall do well perhaps to state now, at the
very beginning, that in this book it will be vain to seek for any
rigorous method. For indeed it is but composed of oft-interrupted
thoughts, that entwine themselves with more or less system around two
or three subjects. Its object is not to convince; there is nothing it
professes to prove. Besides, in life books have by no means the
importance that writers and readers claim for them. We should regard
them as did a friend of mine, a man of great wisdom, who listened one
day to the recital of the last moments of the Emperor Antoninus Pius.
Antoninus Pius--who was perhaps truly the best and most perfect man
this world has known, better even than Marcus Aurelius; for in addition
to the virtues, the kindness, the deep feeling and wisdom of his
adopted son, he had something of greater virility and energy, of
simpler happiness, something more real, spontaneous, closer to everyday
life--Antoninus Pius lay on his bed, awaiting the summons of death, his
eyes dim with unbidden tears, his limbs moist with the pale sweat of
agony. At that moment there entered the captain of the guard, come to
demand the watchword, such being the custom. AEQUANIMITAS--EVENNESS OF
MIND, he replied, as he turned his head to the eternal shadow. It is
well that we should love and admire that word, said my friend. But
better still, he added, to have it in us to sacrifice, unknown to
others, unknown even to ourselves, the time fortune accords us wherein
to admire it, in favour of the first little useful, living deed that
the same fortune incessantly offers to every willing heart.

6. "It was doubtless the will of their destiny that men and events
should oppress them whithersoever they went," said an author of the
heroes of his book. Thus it is with the majority of men; Indeed, with
all those who have not yet learned to distinguish between exterior and
moral destiny. They are like a little bewildered stream that I chanced
to espy one evening as I stood on the hillside. I beheld it far down in
the valley, staggering, struggling, climbing, falling: blindly groping
its way to the great lake that slumbered, the other side of the forest,
in the peace of the dawn. Here it was a block of basalt that forced the
streamlet to wind round and about four times; there, the roots of a
hoary tree; further on still, the mere recollection of an obstacle now
gone for ever thrust it back to its source, bubbling in impotent fury,
divided for all time from its goal and its gladness. But, in another
direction, at right angles almost to the distraught, unhappy, useless
stream, a force superior to the force of instinct had traced a long,
greenish canal, calm, peaceful, deliberate; that flowed steadily across
the country, across the crumbling stones, across the obedient forest,
on its clear and unerring, unhurrying way from its distant source on
the horizon to the same tranquil, shining lake. And I had at my feet
before me the image of the two great destinies offered to man.

7. Side by side with those whom men and events oppress, there are
others who have within them some kind of inner force, which has its
will not only with men, but even with the events that surround them. Of
this force they are fully aware, and indeed it is nothing more than a
knowledge of self that has far overstepped the ordinary limits of

Our consciousness is our home, our refuge from the caprice of fate, our
centre of happiness and strength. But these things have been said so
often that we need do no more than refer to them, and indicate them as
our starting-point. Ennoblement comes to man in the degree that his
consciousness quickens, and the nobler the man has become, the
profounder must consciousness be. Admirable exchange takes place here;
and even as love is insatiable in its craving for love, so is
consciousness insatiable in its craving for growth, for moral
uplifting; and moral uplifting for ever is yearning for consciousness.

8. But this knowledge of self is only too often regarded as
implying no more than a knowledge of our defects and our qualities,
whereas it does indeed extend infinitely further, to mysteries vastly
more helpful. To know oneself in repose suffices not, nor does it
suffice to know oneself in the past or the present. Those within whom
lies the force that I speak of know themselves in the future too.
Consciousness of self with the greatest of men implies consciousness up
to a point of their star or their destiny. They are aware of some part
of their future, because they have already become part of this future.
They have faith in themselves, for they know in advance how events will
be received in their soul. The event in itself is pure water that flows
from the pitcher of fate, and seldom has it either savour or perfume or
colour. But even as the soul may be wherein it seeks shelter, so will
the event become joyous or sad, become tender or hateful, become deadly
or quick with life. To those round about us there happen incessant and
countless adventures, whereof every one, it would seem, contains a germ
of heroism; but the adventure passes away, and heroic deed is there
none. But when Jesus Christ met the Samaritan, met a few children, an
adulterous woman, then did humanity rise three times in succession to
the level of God.

9. It might almost be said that there happens to men only that they
desire. It is true that on certain external events our influence is of
the feeblest, but we have all-powerful action on that which these
events shall become in ourselves--in other words, on their spiritual
part, on what is radiant, undying within them. There are thousands of
men within whom this spiritual part, that is craving for birth in every
misfortune, or love, or chance meeting, has known not one moment of
life--these men pass away like a straw on the stream. And others there
are within whom this immortal part absorbs all; these are like islands
that have sprung up in the ocean; for they have found immovable
anchorage, whence they issue commands that their destiny needs must
obey. The life of most men will be saddened or lightened by the thing
that may chance to befall them--in the men whom I speak of, whatever
may happen is lit up by their inward life. When you love, it is not
your love that forms part of your destiny; but the knowledge of self
that you will have found, deep down in your love--this it is that will
help to fashion your life. If you have been deceived, it is not the
deception that matters, but the forgiveness whereto it gave birth in
your soul, and the loftiness, wisdom, completeness of this
forgiveness--by these shall your life be steered to destiny's haven of
brightness and peace; by these shall your eyes see more clearly than if
all men had ever been faithful. But if, by this act of deceit, there
have come not more simpleness, loftier faith, wider range to your love,
then have you been deceived in vain, and may truly say nothing has

10. Let us always remember that nothing befalls us that is not of the
nature of ourselves. There comes no adventure but wears to our soul the
shape of our everyday thoughts; and deeds of heroism are but offered to
those who, for many long years, have been heroes in obscurity and
silence. And whether you climb up the mountain or go down the hill to
the valley, whether you journey to the end of the world or merely walk
round your house, none but yourself shall you meet on the highway of
fate. If Judas go forth to-night, it is towards Judas his steps will
tend, nor will chance for betrayal be lacking; but let Socrates open
his door, he shall find Socrates asleep on the threshold before him,
and there will be occasion for wisdom. Our adventures hover around us
like bees round the hive when preparing to swarm. They wait till the
mother-idea has at last come forth from our soul, and no sooner has she
appeared than they all come rushing towards her. Be false, and
falsehoods will haste to you; love, and adventures will flock to you,
throbbing with love. They seem to be all on the watch for the signal we
hoist from within: and if the soul grow wiser towards evening, the
sorrow will grow wiser too that the soul had fashioned for itself in
the morning.

11. No great inner event befalls those who summon it not; and yet is
there germ of great inner event in the smallest occurrence of life. But
events such as these are apportioned by justice, and to each man is
given of the spoil in accord with his merits. We become that which we
discover in the sorrows and joys that befall us; and the least expected
caprices of fate soon mould themselves on our thoughts. It is in our
past that destiny finds all her weapons, her vestments, her jewels.
Were the only son of Thersites and Socrates to die the same day,
Socrates' grief would in no way resemble the grief of Thersites.
Misfortune or happiness, it seems, must be chastened ere it knock at
the door of the sage; but only by stooping low can it enter the
commonplace soul.

12. As we become wiser we escape some of our instinctive destinies.
There is in us all sufficient desire for wisdom to transform into
consciousness most of the hazards of life. And all that has thus been
transformed can belong no more to the hostile powers. A sorrow your
soul has changed into sweetness, to indulgence or patient smiles, is a
sorrow that shall never return without spiritual ornament; and a fault
or defect you have looked in the face can harm you no more, or even be
harmful to others.

Instinct and destiny are for ever conferring together; they support one
another, and rove, hand in hand, round the man who is not on his guard.
And whoever is able to curb the blind force of instinct within him, is
able to curb the force of external destiny also. He seems to create
some kind of sanctuary, whose inviolability will be in the degree of
his wisdom and the consciousness he has acquired becomes the centre of
a circle of light, within which the passer-by is secure from the
caprice of fate. Had Jesus Christ or Socrates dwelt in Agamemnon's
palace among the Atrides, then had there been no Oresteia; nor would
Oedipus ever have dreamed of destroying his sight if they had been
tranquilly seated on the threshold of Jocasta's abode. Fatality shrinks
back abashed from the should that has more than once conquered her;
there are certain disasters she dare not send forth when this soul is
near; and the sage, as he passes by, intervenes in numberless tragedies.

13. The mere presence of the sage suffices to paralyse destiny; and of
this we find proof in the fact that there exists scarce a drama wherein
a true sage appears; when such is the case, the event needs must halt
before reaching bloodshed and tears. Not only is there no drama wherein
sage is in conflict with sage, but indeed there are very few whose
action revolves round a sage. And truly, can we imagine that an event
shall turn into tragedy between men who have earnestly striven to gain
knowledge of self? But the heroes of famous tragedies do not question
their souls profoundly; and it follows therefrom that the beauty the
tragic poet presents is only a captive thing, is fettered with chains;
for were his heroes to soar to the height the real hero would gain,
their weapons would fall to the ground, and the drama itself become
peace--the peace of enlightenment. It is only in the Passion of Christ,
the Phaedo, Prometheus, the murder of Orpheus, the sacrifice of
Antigone--it is only in these that we find the drama of the sage, the
solitary drama of wisdom. But elsewhere it is rarely indeed that tragic
poets will allow a sage to appear on the scene, though it be for an
instant. They are afraid of a lofty soul; for they know that events are
no less afraid, and that a murder committed in the presence of the sage
seems quite other than the murder committed in the presence of those
whose soul still knows not itself. Had Oedipus possessed the inner
refuge that Marcus Aurelius, for instance, had been able to erect in
himself--a refuge whereto he could fly at all times--had he only
acquired some few of the certitudes open to every thinker--what could
destiny then have done? What would she have entrapped in her snares?
Would they have contained aught besides the pure light that streams
from the lofty soul, as it grows more beautiful still in misfortune?

But where is the sage in Oedipus? Is it Tiresias? He reads the future,
but knows not that goodness and forgiveness are lords of the future. He
knows the truth of the gods, but not the truth of mankind. He ignores
the wisdom that takes misfortune to her arms and would fain give it of
her strength. Truly they who know still know nothing if the strength of
love be not theirs; for the true sage is not he who sees, but he who,
seeing the furthest, has the deepest love for mankind. He who sees
without loving is only straining his eyes in the darkness.

14. We are told that the famous tragedies show us the struggle of man
against Fate. I believe, on the contrary, that scarcely a drama exists
wherein fatality truly does reign. Search as I may, I cannot find one
which exhibits the hero in conflict with destiny pure and simple. For
indeed it is never destiny that he attacks; it is with wisdom he is
always at war. Real fatality exists only in certain external
disasters-as disease, accident, the sudden death of those we love; but
INNER FATALITY there is none. Wisdom has will power sufficient to
rectify all that does not deal death to the body; it will even at times
invade the narrow domain of external fatality. It is true that we must
have amassed considerable and patient treasure within us for this will
power to find the resources it needs.

15. The statue of destiny casts a huge shadow over the valley, which it
seems to enshroud in gloom; but this shadow has clearest outline for
such as look down from the mountain. We are born, it may be, with the
shadow upon us; but to many men is it granted to emerge from beneath
it; and even though infirmity or weakness keep us, till death, confined
in these sombre regions, still we can fly thence at times on the wings
of our hopes and our thoughts. There may well be some few over whom
Fate exerts a more tyrannous power, by virtue of instinct, heredity and
other laws more relentless still, more profound and obscure; but even
when we writhe beneath unmerited, crushing misfortune; even when
fortune compels us to do the thing we should never have done, had our
hands been free; even then, when the deed has been done, the misfortune
has happened, it still rests with ourselves to deny her the least
influence on that which shall come to pass in our soul. She may strike
at the heart that is eager for good, but still is she helpless to keep
back the light that shall stream to this heart from the error
acknowledged, the pain undergone. It is not in her power to prevent the
soul from transforming each single affliction into thoughts, into
feelings and treasure she dare not profane. Be her empire never so
great over all things external, she always must halt when she finds on
the threshold a silent guardian of the inner life. And if it be granted
her then to pass through to the hidden dwelling, it is but as a
bountiful guest she will enter, bringing with her new pledges of peace:
refreshing the slumberous air, and making still clearer the light, the
tranquillity deeper--illumining all the horizon.

16. Let us ask once again: what had destiny done if she had, by some
blunder, lured Epicurus, or Marcus Aurelius, or Antoninus Pius into the
snares that she laid around Oedipus? I will even assume that she might
have compelled Antoninus, for instance, to murder his father, and, all
unwittingly, to profane the couch of his mother. Would that noble
sovereign's soul have been hopelessly crushed? Would the end of it all
not have been as the end of all dramas must be wherein the sage is
attacked--great sorrow surely, but also great radiance that springs
from this sorrow, and already is partly triumphant over the shadow of
grief? Needs must Antoninus have wept as all men must weep; but tears
can quench not one ray in the soul that shines with no borrowed light.
To the sage the road is long that leads from grief to despair; it is a
road untravelled by wisdom. When the soul has attained such loftiness
as the life of Antoninus shows us that his had acquired, then is each
falling tear illumined by beautiful thought and by generous feeling. He
would have taken calamity to him, to all that was purest, most vast, in
his soul; and misfortune, like water, espouses the form of the vase
that contains it. Antoninus, we say, would have brought resignation to
bear; but this is a word that too often conceals the true working of a
noble heart. There is no soul so petty but what it too may believe that
it is resigned. Alas! it is not resignation that comforts us, raises
and chastens; but indeed the thoughts and the feelings in whose name we
embrace resignation; and it is here that wisdom doles out the rewards
they have earned to her faithful.

Some ideas there are that lie beyond the reach of any catastrophe. He
will be far less exposed to disaster who cherishes ideas within him
that soar high above the indifference, selfishness, vanities of
everyday life. And therefore, come happiness or sorrow, the happiest
man will be he within whom the greatest idea shall burn the most
ardently. Had fate so desired it, Antoninus also, perhaps, had been
guilty of incest and parricide; but his inward life would not have been
crushed thereby, as was that of Oedipus; nay, these very catastrophes
would have given him mightier strength, and destiny would have fled in
despair, strewing the ground by the emperor's palace with her nets and
her blunted weapons; for even as triumph of dictators and consuls could
be celebrated only in Rome, so can the true triumph of Fate take place
nowhere save in our soul.

17. Where do we find the fatality in "Hamlet," "King Lear," in
"Macbeth"? Is its throne not erected in the very centre of the old
king's madness, on the lowest degree of the young prince's imagination,
at the very summit of the Thane's morbid cravings? Macbeth we may well
pass by; not need we linger over Cordelia's father, for his absence of
consciousness is all too manifest; but Hamlet, Hamlet the thinker--is
he wise? Is the elevation sufficient wherefrom he looks down on the
crimes of Elsinore? He seems to regard them from the loftiest heights
of his intellect; but in the light-clad mountain range of wisdom there
are other peaks that tower far above the heights of the intellect--the
peaks of goodness and confidence, of indulgence and love. If he could
have surveyed the misdeeds of Elsinore from the eminence whence Marcus
Aurelius or Fenelon, for instance, had surely surveyed them, what would
have resulted then? And, first of all, does it not often happen that a
crime which is suddenly conscious of the gaze of a mightier soul will
pause, and halt, and at last crawl back to its lair; even as bees cease
from labour when a gleam of sunshine steals into the hive?

The real destiny, the inner destiny would in any event have followed
its course in the souls of Claudius and Gertrude; for these sinful ones
had delivered themselves into its hands, as must needs be the case with
those whose ways are evil; but would it have dared to spread its
influence abroad if one of those sages had been in the palace? Would it
have dared to overstep the shining, denouncing barrier that his
presence would have imposed, and maintained, in front of the palace
gates? When the sage's destiny blends with that of men of inferior
wisdom, the sage raises them to his level, but himself will rarely
descend. Neither on earth nor in the domain of fatality do rivers flow
back to their source. But to return: let us imagine a sovereign,
all-powerful soul--that of Jesus, in Hamlet's place at Elsinore; would
the tragedy then have flown on till it reached the four deaths at the
end? Is that conceivable? A crime may be never so skilfully
planned--when the eyes of deep wisdom rest on it, it becomes like a
trivial show that we offer to very small children at nightfall: some
magic-lantern performance, whose tawdry imposture a last gleam of
sunshine lays bare. Can you conceive Jesus Christ--nay, any wise man
you have happened to meet--in the midst of the unnatural gloom that
overhung Elsinore? Is not every action of Hamlet induced by a fanatical
impulse, which tells him that duty consists in revenge alone? and does
it need superhuman effort to recognise that revenge never can be a
duty? I say again that Hamlet thinks much, but that he is by no means
wise. He cannot conceive where to look for the weak spot in destiny's
armour. Lofty thoughts suffice not always to overcome destiny; for
against these destiny can oppose thoughts that are loftier still; but
what destiny has ever withstood thoughts that are simple and good,
thoughts that are tender and loyal? We can triumph over destiny only by
doing the very reverse of the evil she fain would have us commit. For
no tragedy can be inevitable. At Elsinore there is not a soul but
refuses to see, and hence the catastrophe; but a soul that is quick
with life will compel those around it to open their eyes. Where was it
written that Laertes, Ophelia, Hamlet, Claudius, Gertrude, should
die--where, save in Hamlet's pitiful blindness? But was this blindness
inevitable? Why speak of destiny when a simple thought had sufficed to
arrest all the forces of murder? The empire of destiny is surely
sufficiently vast. I acknowledge her might when a wall crashes down on
my head, when the storm drives a ship on the rocks, when disease
attacks those whom I love; but into man's soul she never will come,
uncalled. Hamlet is unhappy because he moves in unnatural darkness; and
his ignorance puts the seal upon his unhappiness. We have but to issue
commands and fate will obey--there is nothing in the world that will
offer such long and patient submission. Horatio, up to the last, could
have issued commands; but his master's shadow lay on him, and he lacked
the courage to shake himself free. Had there been but one soul
courageous enough to cry out the truth, then had the history of
Elsinore not been shrouded in tears of hatred and horror. But
misfortune, that bends beneath the fingers of wisdom like the cane that
we cut from the tree, becomes iron, and murderously rigid, in the hand
of unconsciousness. Once again, all depended here, not on destiny, but
on the wisdom of the wisest, and this Hamlet was; therefore did he, by
his presence, become the centre of the drama of Elsinore; and on
himself only did the wisdom of Hamlet depend.

18. And if you look distrustfully on imaginary tragedies, you have only
to investigate some of the greatest dramas of authentic history to find
that in these too the destinies of men are no different: that their
ways are the same, and their petulance, their revolt and submission.
You will discover that there too it is a force of man's own creating
that plays the most active part in what if pleases us to term
"fatality." This fatality, it is true, is enormous, but rarely
irresistible. It does not leap forth at a given moment from an
inexorable, inaccessible, unfathomable abyss. It is build up of the
energy, the desires and suffering, the thoughts and passions of our
brothers; and these passions should be well known to us, for they
differ not from our own. In our most inexplicable moments, in our most
mysterious, unexpected misfortunes, we rarely find ourselves struggling
with an invisible enemy, or one that is entirely foreign to us. Why
strive of our own free will to enlarge the domain of the inevitable?
They who are truly strong are aware that among the forces that oppose
their schemes there are some that they know not; but against such as
they do know they fight on as bravely as though no others existed; and
these men will be often victorious. We shall have added most strangely
to our safety and happiness and peace the day that our sloth and our
ignorance shall have ceased to term fatal. What should truly be looked
on as human and natural by our intelligence and our energy.

19. Let us consider one noteworthy victim of destiny, Louis XVI. Never,
it would seem, did relentless fatality clamour so loudly for the
destruction of an unfortunate man; of one who was gentle, and good, and
virtuous, and honourable. And yet, as we look more closely into the
pages of history, do we not find that fatality distils her poison from
the victim's own wavering feebleness, his own trivial duplicity,
blindness, unreason, and vanity? And if it be true that some kind of
predestination governs every circumstance of life, it appears to be no
less true that such predestination exists in our character only; and to
modify character must surely be easy to the man of unfettered will, for
is it not constantly changing in the lives of the vast bulk of men? Is
your own character, at thirty, the same as it was when you were ten
years younger? It will be better or worse in the measure that you have
believed that disloyalty, wickedness, hatred and falsehood have
triumphed in life, or goodness, and truth, and love. And you will have
thought that you witnessed the triumph of hatred or love, of truth or
of falsehood, in exact accord with the lofty or baser idea as to the
happiness and aim of your life that will slowly have arisen within you.
For it is our most secret desire that governs and dominates all. If
your eyes look for nothing but evil, you will always see evil
triumphant; but if you have learned to let your glance rest on
sincerity, simpleness, truth, you will ever discover, deep down in all
things, the silent overpowering victory of that which you love.

20. It is scarcely from this point of view, however, that Louis XVI.
should be Judged. Let us rather imagine ourselves in his place, in the
midst of his doubt and bewilderment, his darkness and difficulties. Now
that we know all that happened it is easy enough to declare what should
have been done; but are we ourselves, at this moment, aware of what is
our duty? Are we not contending with troubles and doubts of our own?
and were it not well that they who one day shall pass judgment upon us
should seek out the track that our footsteps have left on the sands of
the hillock we climbed, hoping thence to discover the future? Louis
XVI. was bewildered: do we know what ought to be done? Do we know what
we best had abandon, what we best had defend? Are we wiser than he as
we waver betwixt the rights of human reason and those that circumstance
claims? And when hesitation is conscientious, does it not often possess
all the elements of duty? There is one most important lesson to be
learned from the example of this unfortunate king: and it is that when
doubt confronts us which in itself is noble and great, it is our duty
to march bravely onwards, turning neither to right nor to left of us,
going infinitely further than seems to be reasonable, practical, just.
The idea that we hold to-day of duty, and justice, and truth, may seem
clear to us now, and advanced and unfettered; but how different will it
appear a few years, a few centuries later! Had Louis XVI. done what we
should have done--we who now are aware of what had been the right thing
to do--had he frankly renounced all the follies of royal prerogative,
and loyally adopted the new truth and loftier justice that had sprung
into being, then should we to-day be admiring his genius. And the king
himself, perhaps--for he was not a foolish man, or wicked--may have for
one instant beheld his own situation with the clear eye of an impartial
philosopher. That at least is by no means impossible, historically or
psychologically. Even in our most solemn hours of doubt it is rare that
we know not where we should look for the fixed point of duty, its
unalterable summit; but we feel that there stretches a distance too
wide to be travelled between the actual thing to be done and this
mountain-peak, that glitters afar in its solitude. And yet it is proved
by man's whole history--by the life of each one of us--that it is on
the loftiest summit that right has always its dwelling; and that to
this summit we too at the end must climb, after much precious time has
been lost on many an intermediate eminence. And what is a sage, a great
man, a hero, if not one who has dared to go, alone and ahead of the
others, to the deserted table-land that lay more or less within sight
of all men?

21. We do not imply that Louis XVI. should necessarily have been a man
of this stamp, a man of genius; although to have genius seems almost
the duty of him who sways in his hands the destiny of vast numbers of
men. Nor do we claim that the best men among us to-day would have been
able to escape his errors, or the misfortunes to which they gave rise.
And yet there is one thing certain: that of all these misfortunes none
had super-human origin; not one was supernaturally, or too
mysteriously, inevitable. They came not from another world; they were
launched by no monstrous god, capricious and incomprehensible. They
were born of an idea of justice that men failed to grasp; an idea of
justice that suddenly had wakened in life, but never had lain asleep in
the reason of man. And is there a thing in this world can be more
reassuring, or nearer to us, more profoundly human, than an idea of
justice? Louis XVI. may well have regretted that this idea, that
shattered his peace, should have awakened during his reign; but this
was the only reproach he could level at fate; and when we murmur at
fate ourselves our complaints have much the same value. For the rest,
it is legitimate enough to suppose that there needed but one single act
of energy, absolute loyalty, disinterested, clear-sighted wisdom, to
change the whole course of events. If the flight to Varennes--in itself
an act of duplicity and culpable weakness--had only been arranged a
little less childishly, foolishly (as any man would have arranged it
who was accustomed to the habits of life), there can be not a doubt
that Louis XVI. would never have died on the scaffold. Was it a god, or
his blind reliance on Marie Antoinette, that led him to entrust de
Fersen--a stupid, conceited, and tactless creature--with the
preparations and control of this disastrous journey? Was it a force
instinct with great mystery, or only his own unconsciousness,
heedlessness, thoughtlessness, and a kind of strange apathetic
submission--such as the weak and the idle will often display at moments
of danger, when they seem almost to challenge their star--that induced
him again and again, at each change of horses, to put his head out of
the carriage window, and thus be recognised three or four times? And at
the moment that decided all, in that throbbing and sinister night of
Varennes--a night indeed when fatality should have been an immovable
mountain governing all the horizon--do we not see this fatality
stumbling at every step, like a child that is learning to walk and
wonders, is it this white pebble or that tuft of grass that will cause
it to fall to right or to left of the path? And then, at the tragic
halt of the carriage, in that black night: at the terrible cry sent
forth by young Drouet, "In the name of the Nation!" there had needed
but one order from the king, one lash of the whip, one pull at the
collar--and you and I would probably not have been born, for the
history of the world had been different. And again, in presence of the
mayor, who stood there, respectful, disconcerted, hesitating, ready to
fling every gate open had but one imperious word been spoken; and at
the shop of M. Sauce, the worthy village grocer; and, last of all, when
Goguelat and de Choiseul had arrived with their hussars, bringing
rescue, salvation--did not all depend, a hundred times over, on a mere
yes or no, a step, a gesture, a look? Take any ten men with whom you
are intimate, let them have been King of France, you can foretell the
issue of their ten nights. Ah, it was that night truly that heaped
shame on fatality, that laid bare her weakness! For that night revealed
to all men the dependence, the wretched and shivering poverty of the
great mysterious force that, in moments of undue resignation, seems to
weigh so heavily on life! Never before has she been beheld so
completely despoiled of her vestments, of her imposing, deceptive
robes, as she incessantly came and went that night, from death to life,
from life to death; throwing herself at last, like a woman distraught,
into the arms of an unhappy king, whom she besought til dawn for a
decision, an existence, that she herself never can find save only in
the depths of the will and the intellect of man.

22. And yet this is not the entire truth. It is helpful to regard
events in this fashion, thus seeking to minimise the importance of
fatality, looking upon it as some vague and wandering creature that we
have to shelter and guide. We gain the more courage thereby, the more
confidence, initiative; and these are qualities essential to the doing
of anything useful; and they shall stand us in good stead, too, when
our own hour of danger draws nigh. But for all that, we do not pretend
that there truly is no other force--that all things can be governed by
our will and our intellect. These must be trained to act like the
soldiers of a conquering army; they must learn to thrive at the cost of
all that opposes them; they must find sustenance even in the unknown
that towers above them. Those who desire to emerge from the ordinary
habits of life, from the straitened happiness of mere pleasure-seeking
men, must march with deliberate conviction along the path that is known
to them, yet never forget the unexplored regions through which this
path winds. We must act as though we were masters--as though all things
were bound to obey us; and yet let us carefully tend in our soul a
thought whose duty it shall be to offer noble submission to the mighty
forces we may encounter. It is well that the hand should believe that
all is expected, foreseen; but well, too, that we should have in us a
secret idea, inviolable, incorruptible, that will always remember that
whatever is great most often must be unforeseen. It is the unforeseen,
the unknown, that fulfil what we never should dare to attempt; but they
will not come to our aid if they find not, deep down in our heart, an
altar inscribed to their worship. Men of the mightiest will--men like
Napoleon--were careful, in their most extraordinary deeds, to leave
open a good share to fate. Those within whom there lives not a generous
hope will keep fate closely confined, as they would a sickly child; but
others invite her into the limitless plains man has not yet the
strength to explore, and their eyes follow her every movement.

23. These feverish hours of history resemble a storm that we see on the
ocean; we come from far inland; we rush to the beach, in keen
expectation; we eye the enormous waves with curious eagerness, with
almost childish intensity. And there comes one along that is three
times as high and as fierce as the rest. It rushes towards us like some
monster with diaphanous muscles. It uncoils itself in mad haste from
the distant horizon, as though it were bearer of some urgent, complete
revelation. It ploughs in its wake a track so deep that we feel that
the sea must at last be yielding up one of her secrets; but all things
happen the same as on a breathless and cloudless day, when languid
wavelets roll to and fro in the limpid, fathomless water; from the
ocean arises no living thing, not a blade of grass, not a stone.

If aught could discourage the sage--though he is not truly wise whose
astonishment is not enlightened, and his interest quickened, by the
unforeseen thing that discourages--it would be the discovery, in this
French Revolution, of more than one destiny that is infinitely sadder,
more overwhelming, more inexplicable, than that of Louis XVI. I refer
to the Girondins: above all, to the admirable Vergniaud. To-day even,
though we know all that the future kept hidden from him, and are able
to divine what it was that was sought by the instinctive desire of that
exceptional century--to-day even it were surely not possible to act
more nobly, more wisely, than he. Let fortune hurl any man into the
burning centre of a movement that had swept every barrier down, it were
surely not possible to reveal a finer character or loftier spirit.
Could we fashion, deep down in our heart, out of all that is purest
within us, out of all our wisdom and all our love, some beautiful,
spotless creature with never a thought of self, without weakness or
error--such a being would desire a place by the side of Vergniaud, on
those deserted Convention seats, "whereon the shadow of death seemed
already to hover," that he might think as Vergniaud thought, and so
speak, and act. He saw the infallible, eternal, that lay the other side
of that tragical moment; he knew how to be humane and benevolent still,
through all those terrible days when humanity and benevolence seemed
the bitterest enemies of the ideal of justice, whereto he had
sacrificed all; and in his great and noble doubt he marched bravely
onwards, turning neither to right nor to left of him, going infinitely
further than seemed to be reasonable, practical, just. The violent
death that was not unexpected came towards him, with half his road yet
untravelled; to teach us that often in this strange conflict between
man and his destiny, the question is not how to save the life of our
body, but that of our most beautiful feelings, of our loftiest thoughts,

"Of what avail are my loftiest thoughts if I have ceased to exist?"
there are some will ask; to whom others, it may be, will answer, "What
becomes of myself if all that I love in my heart and my spirit must
die, that my life may be saved?" And are not almost all the morals, and
heroism, and virtue of man summed up in that single choice?

24. But what may this wisdom be that we rate thus highly? Let us not
seek to define it too closely; that were but to enchain it. If a man
were desirous to study the nature of light, and began by extinguishing
all the lights that were near, would not a few cinders, a smouldering
wick, be all he would ever discover? And so has it been with those who
essayed definition. "The word wise," said Joubert, "when used to a
child, is a word that each child understands, and that we need never
explain." Let us accept it even as the child accepts it, that it may
grow with our growth. Let us say of wisdom what Sister Hadewijck, the
mysterious enemy of Ruijsbroeck the Admirable, said of love: "Its
profoundest abyss is its most beautiful form." Wisdom requires no form;
her beauty must vary, as varies the beauty of flame. She is no
motionless goddess, for ever couched on her throne. She is Minerva who
follows us, soars to the skies with us, falls to the earth with us,
mingles her tears with our tears, and rejoices when we rejoice. Truly
wise you are not unless your wisdom be constantly changing from your
childhood on to your death. The more the word means to you, the more
beauty and depth it conveys, the wiser must you become; and each step
that one takes towards wisdom reveals to the soul ever-widening space,
that wisdom never shall traverse.

25. He who knows himself is wise; yet have we no sooner acquired real
consciousness of our being than we learn that true wisdom is a thing
that lies far deeper than consciousness. The chief gain of increased
consciousness is that it unveils an ever-loftier unconsciousness, on
whose heights do the sources lie of the purest wisdom. The heritage of
unconsciousness is for all men the same; but it is situate partly
within and partly without the confines of normal consciousness. The
bulk of mankind will rarely pass over the border; but true lovers of
wisdom press on, till they open new routes that cross over the
frontier. If I love, and my love has procured me the fullest
consciousness man may attain, then will an unconsciousness light up
this love that shall be quite other than the one whereby commonplace
love is obscured. For this second unconsciousness hedges the animal
round, whereas the first draws close unto God; but needs must it lose
all trace of the second ere it become aware of itself. In
unconsciousness we ever must dwell; but are able to purify, day after
day, the unconsciousness that wraps us around.

26. We shall not become wise through worshipping reason alone; and
wisdom means more than perpetual triumph of reason over inferior
instincts. Such triumphs can help us but little if our reason be not
taught thereby to offer profoundest submission to another and different
instinct--that of the soul. These triumphs are precious, because they
reveal the presence of diviner instinct, that grows ever diviner still.
And their aim is not in themselves; they serve but to clear the way for
the destiny of the soul, which is a destiny, always, of purification
and light.

27. Reason flings open the door to wisdom; but the most living wisdom
befinds itself not in reason. Reason bars the gate to malevolent
destiny; but wisdom, away on the horizon, throws open another gate to
propitious destiny. Reason defends and withdraws; forbids, rejects, and
destroys. Wisdom advances, attacks, and adds; increases, creates, and
commands. Reason produces not wisdom, which is rather a craving of
soul. It dwells up above, far higher than reason; and thus is it of the
nature of veritable wisdom to do countless things whereof reason
disapproves, or shall but approve hereafter. So was it that wisdom one
day said to reason, It were well to love one's enemies and return good
for evil. Reason, that day, tiptoe on the loftiest peak in its kingdom,
at last was fain to agree. But wisdom is not yet content, and seeks
ever further, alone.

28. If wisdom obeyed reason only, and sought nothing more than to
overcome instinct, then would wisdom be ever the same. There would be
but one wisdom for all, and its whole range would be known to man, for
reason has more than once explored its entire domain.

Certain fixed points there well may be that are common to all classes
of wisdom; but there exists none the less the widest possible
difference between the atmospheres that enwrapped the wisdom of Jesus
Christ and of Socrates, of Aristides and Marcus Aurelius, of Fenelon
and Jean Paul. Let the same event befall these men on the self-same
day: if it fall into the running waters of their wisdom, it will
undergo complete transformation, becoming different in every one; if it
fall into the stagnant water of their reason, it will remain as it was,
unchanged. If Jesus Christ and Socrates both were to meet the
adulterous woman, the words that their reason would prompt them to
speak would vary but little; but belonging to different worlds would be
the working of the wisdom within them, far beyond words and far beyond
thoughts. For differences such as these are of the very essence of
wisdom. There is but one starting-point for the wise--the threshold of
reason. But they separate one from the other as soon as the triumphs of
reason are well understood; in other words, as soon as they enter
freely the domain of the higher unconsciousness.

29. To say "this is reasonable" is by no means the same as to say "this
is wise." The thing that is reasonable is not of necessity wise, and a
thing may be very wise and yet be condemned by over-exacting reason. It
is from reason that justice springs, but goodness is born of wisdom;
and goodness, we are told by Plutarch, "extends much further than
justice." Is it to reason or wisdom that heroism should be ascribed?
Wisdom, perhaps, is only the sense of the infinite applied to our moral
life. Reason, it is true, has the sense of the infinite also, but dare
not do more than accord it bare recognition. It would seem opposed to
the very instinct of reason to regard the sense of the infinite as
being of importance in life; but wisdom is wise in the measure that the
Infinite governs all she procures to be done.

In reason no love can be found--there is much love in wisdom; and all
that is highest in wisdom entwines around all that is purest in love.
Love is the form most divine of the infinite, and also, because most
divine, the form most profoundly human. Why should we not say that
wisdom is the triumph of reason divine over reason of man?

30. We cannot cultivate reason too fully, but by wisdom only should
reason be guided. The man is not wise whose reason has not yet been
taught to obey the first signal of love. What would Christ, all the
heroes, have done had their reason not learned to submit? Is each deed
of the hero not always outside the boundary of reason? and yet, who
would venture to say that the hero is not wiser by far than the
sluggard who quits not his chair because reason forbids him to rise?
Let us say it once more--the vase wherein we should tend the true
wisdom is love, and not reason. Reason is found, it is true, at the
root-springs of wisdom, yet is wisdom not reason's flower. For we speak
not of logical wisdom here, but of wisdom quite other, the favourite
sister of love.

Reason and love battle fiercely at first in the soul that begins to
expand; but wisdom is born of the peace that at last comes to pass
between reason and love; and the peace becomes the profounder as reason
yields up still more of her rights to love.

31. Wisdom is the lamp of love, and love is the oil of the lamp. Love,
sinking deeper, grows wiser; and wisdom that springs up aloft comes
ever the nearer to love. If you love, you must needs become wise; be
wise, and you surely shall love. Nor can any one love with the
veritable love but his love must make him the better; and to grow
better is but to grow wiser. There is not a man in the world but
something improves in his soul from the moment he loves--and that
though his love be but vulgar; and those in whom love never dies must
needs continue to love as their soul grows nobler and nobler. Love is
the food of wisdom; wisdom the food of love; a circle of light within
which those who love, clasp the hands of those who are wise. Wisdom and
love are one; and in Swedenborg's Paradise the wife is "the love of the
wisdom of the wise."

32. "Our reason," said Fenelon, "is derived from the clearness of our
ideas." But our wisdom, we might add--in other words, all that is best
in our soul and our character, is to be found above all in those ideas
that are not yet clear. Were we to allow our clear ideas only to govern
our life, we should quickly become undeserving of either much love or
esteem. For, truly, what could be less clear than the reasons that bid
us be generous, upright, and just; that teach us to cherish in all
things the noblest of feelings and thoughts? But it happily so comes to
pass that the more clear ideas we possess, the more do we learn to
respect those that as yet are still vague. We must strive without
ceasing to clarify as many ideas as we can, that we may thus arouse in
our soul more and more that now are obscure. The clear ideas may at
times seem to govern our external life, but the others perforce must
march on at the head of our intimate life, and the life that we see
invariably ends by obeying the invisible life. On the quality, number,
and power of our clear ideas do the quality, number, and power depend
of those that are vague; and hidden away in the midst of these vague
ones, patiently biding their hour, there may well lurk most of the
definite truths that we seek with such ardour. Let us not keep them
waiting too long; and indeed, a beautiful crystal idea we awaken within
us shall not fail, in its turn, to arouse a beautiful vague idea; which
last, growing old, and having itself become clear (for is not perfect
clearness most often the sign of decrepitude in the idea?), shall also
go forth, and disturb from its slumber another obscure idea, but
loftier, lovelier far than it had been itself in its sleep; and thus,
it may be, treading gently, one after the other, and never
disheartened, in the midst of those silent ranks--some day, by mere
chance, a small hand, scarce visible yet, shall touch a great truth.

33. Clear ideas and obscure ideas; heart, intellect, will, and reason,
and soul--truly these words that we use do but mean more or less the
same thing: the spiritual riches of man. The soul may well be no more
than the most beautiful desire of our brain, and God Himself be only
the most beautiful desire of our soul. So great is the darkness here
that we can but seek to divide it; and the lines that we trace must be
blacker still than the sections they traverse. Of all the ideals that
are left to us, there is perhaps only one that we still can accept; and
that one is to gain full self-knowledge; but to how great an extent
does this knowledge truly depend on our reason--this knowledge that at
first would appear to depend on our reason alone? Surely he who at last
had succeeded in realising, to the fullest extent, the place that he
filled in the universe--surely he should be better than others, be
wiser and truer, more upright; in a word, be more moral? But can any
man claim, in good faith, to have grasped this relation; and do not the
roots of the most positive morals lie hidden beneath some kind of
mystic unconsciousness? Our most beautiful thought does no more than
pass through our intelligence; and none would imagine that the harvest
must have been reaped in the road because it is seen passing by. When
reason, however precise, sets forth to explore her domain, every step
that she takes is over the border. And yet is it the intellect that
lends the first touches of beauty to thought; the rest lies not wholly
with us; but this rest will not stir into motion until intellect
touches the spring. Reason, the well-beloved daughter of intellect,
must go take her stand on the threshold of our spiritual life, having
first flung open the gates of the prison beneath, where the living,
instinctive forces of being lie captive, asleep. She must wait, with
the lamp in her hand; and her presence alone shall suffice to ward off
from the threshold all that does not yet conform with the nature of
light. Beyond, in the regions unlit by her rays, obscure life
continues. This troubles her not; indeed, she is glad. ... She knows
that, in the eyes of the God she desires all that has not yet crossed
her arcade of light--be it dream, be it thought, even act--can add
nothing to, can take nothing from, the ideal creature she is craving to
mould. She watches the flame of her lamp; needs must it burn brightly,
and remain at its post, and be seen from afar. She listens, untroubled,
to the murmur of inferior instincts out there in the darkness. But the
prisoners slowly awake; there are some who draw nigh to the threshold,
and their radiance is greater than hers. There flows from them a light
less material, softer and purer than that of the bold, hard flame which
her hand protects. They are the inscrutable powers of goodness and
love; and others follow behind, more mysterious still, and more
infinite, seeking admission. What shall she do? If, at the time that
she took her stand there on the threshold, she had still lacked the
courage to learn that she could not exist alone, then will she be
troubled, afraid; she will make fast the gates; and should these be
ever reopened, she would find only quivering cinders at the foot of the
gloomy stairs. But if her strength be unshaken; if from all that she
could not learn she has learned, at least, that in light there can
never be danger, and that reason itself may be freely staked where
greater brightness prevails--then shall ineffable changes take place on
the threshold, from lamp unto lamp. Drops of an unknown oil will blend
with the oil of the wisdom of man; and when the white strangers have
passed, the flame of her lamp shall rise higher, transformed for all
time; shall shed purer and mightier radiance amidst the columns of the
loftier doorway.

34. So much for isolated wisdom; now let us return to the wisdom that
moves to the grave in the midst of the mighty crowd of human destinies;
for the destiny of the sage holds not aloof from that of the wicked and
frivolous. All destinies are for ever commingling; and the adventure is
rare in whose web the hempen thread blends not with the golden. There
are misfortunes more gradual, less frightful of aspect, than those that
befell Oedipus and the prince of Elsinore; misfortunes that quail not
beneath the gaze of truth or justice or love. Those who speak of the
profit of wisdom are never so wise as when they freely admit, without
pride or heart-burning, that wisdom grants scarcely a boon to her
faithful that the foolish or wicked would prize. And indeed, it may
often take place that the sage, as he moves among men, shall pass
almost unnoticed, shall affect them but slightly; be this that his stay
is too brief, that he comes too late, that he misses true contact; or
perchance that he has to contend with forces too overwhelming, amassed
by myriad men from time immemorial. No miracles can he perform on
material things; he can save only that which life's ordinary laws still
allow to be saved; and himself, it may be, shall be suddenly seized in
a great inexorable whirlwind. But, though he perish therein, still does
he escape the fate that is common to most; for at least he will die
without having been forced--for weeks, or it may be for years, before
the catastrophe--to be the helpless, despairing witness of the ruin of
his soul. And to save some one--if we admit that in life there are
truly two lives--does not of necessity mean that we save him from death
and disaster; but indeed that we render him happier, inasmuch as we try
to improve him. Moral salvation is the greatest salvation; and yet,
what a trifle this seems, as everything seems that is done on the
loftiest summits of soul. Was the penitent thief not saved; and that
not alone in the Christian sense of the word, but in its fullest, most
perfect meaning? Still had he to die, and at that very hour; but he
died eternally happy; because at the very last moment he too had been
loved, and a Being of infinite wisdom had declared that his soul had
not been without value; that his soul, too, had been good, and had not
passed through the world unperceived of all men.

35. As we go deeper down into life we discover the secret of more and
more sorrow and helplessness. We see that many souls round us lead idle
and foolish lives, because they believe they are useless, unnoticed by
all, unloved, and convinced they have nothing within them that is
worthy of love. But to the sage the hour must come when every soul that
exists claims his glance, his approval, his love--if only because it
possesses the mysterious gift of existence. The hour must come when he
sees that falsehood and weakness and vice are but on the surface; when
his eye shall pierce through, and discover the strength, and the truth,
and the virtue that lie underneath. Happy and blessed hour, when
wickedness stands forth revealed as goodness bereft of its guide; and
treachery is seen to be loyalty, for ever astray from the highway of
happiness; and hatred becomes only love, in poignant despair, that is
digging its grave. Then, unsuspected of any, shall it be with all those
who are near the good man as it was with the penitent thief; into the
humblest soul that will thus have been saved by a look, or a word, or a
silence, shall the true happiness fall--the happiness fate cannot
touch; that brings to all men the oblivion it gave unto Socrates, and
causes each one to forget, until nightfall, that the death--giving cup
had been drained ere the sun went down.

36. The inner life, perhaps, is not what we deem it to be. There are as
many kinds of inner lives as there are of external lives. Into these
tranquil regions the smallest may enter as readily as he who is
greatest, for the gate that leads thither is not always the gate of the
intellect. It often may happen that the man of vast knowledge shall
knock at this gate in vain, reply being made from within by the man who
knows nothing. The inner life that is surest, most lasting, possessed
of the uttermost beauty, must needs be the one that consciousness
slowly erects in itself, with the aid of all that is purest in the
soul. And he is wise who has learned that this life should be nourished
on every event of the day: he to whom deceit or betrayal serves but to
enhance his wisdom: he in whom evil itself becomes fuel for the flame
of love. He is wise who at last sees in suffering only the light that
it sheds on his soul; and whose eyes never rest on the shadow it casts
upon those who have sent it towards him. And wiser still is the man to
whom sorrow and joy not only bring increase of consciousness, but also
the knowledge that something exists superior to consciousness even. To
have reached this point is to reach the summit of inward life, whence
at last we look down on the flames whose light has helped our ascent.
But not many can climb so high; and happiness may be achieved in the
less ardent valley below, where the flames spring darkly to life. And
there are existences still more obscure which yet have their places of
refuge. There are some that instinctively fashion inward lives for
themselves. There are some that, bereft of initiative or of
intelligence, never discover the path that leads into themselves, and
are never aware of all that their refuge contains; and yet will their
actions be wholly the same as the actions of those whose intellect
weighs every treasure. There are some who desire only good, though they
know not wherefore they desire it, and have no suspicion that goodness
is the one fixed star of loftiest consciousness. The inner life begins
when the soul becomes good, and not when the intellect ripens. It is
somewhat strange that this inner life can never be formed out of evil.
No inner life is for him whose soul is bereft of all nobleness. He may
have full knowledge of self; he may know, it may be, wherefore he shuns
goodness; and yet shall he seek in vain for the refuge, the strength,
the treasure of invisible gladness, that form the possessions of him
who can fearlessly enter his heart. For the inward life is built up of
a certain rejoicing of soul; and the soul can never be happy if it
possess not, and love not, something that is pure. It may perhaps err
in its choice, but then even will it be happier than the soul to which
it has never been given to choose.

37. And thus are we truly saving a man if we bring about that he loves
evil somewhat less than he loved it before; for we are helping that man
to construct, deep down in his soul, the refuge where--against destiny
shall brandish her weapons in vain. This refuge is the monument of
consciousness, or, it may be, of love; for love is nothing but
consciousness, still vaguely in search of itself; and veritable
consciousness nothing but love that at last has emerged from the
shadow. And it is in the deepest recess of this refuge that the soul
shall kindle the wondrous fire of her joy. And this joy of the soul is
like unto no other joy; and even as material fire will chase away
deadly disease from the earth, so will the joy of the soul scatter
sorrow that malevolent destiny brings. It arises not from exterior
happiness; it arises not from satisfied self-love; for the joy that
self-love procures becomes less as the soul becomes nobler, but the joy
of pure love increases as nobility comes to the soul. Nor is this joy
born of pride; for to be able to smile at its beauty is not enough to
bring joy to the soul. The soul that has sought in itself has the right
to know of its beauty; but to brood on this beauty too much, to become
over-conscious thereof, were perhaps to detract somewhat from the
unconsciousness of its love. The joy that I speak of takes not from
love what it adds unto consciousness; for in this joy, and in this joy
alone, do consciousness and love become one, feeding each on the other,
each gaining from that which it gives. The striving intellect may well
know happiness beyond the reach of the satisfied body; but the soul
that grows nobler has joys that are often denied to the striving
intellect. These two will often unite and labour together at building
the house within. But still it will happen at times that both work
apart, and widely different then are the structures each will erect.
And were this to be so, and the being I loved best of all in the world
came and asked me which he should choose--which refuge I held to be
most unattackable, sweetest, profoundest--I would surely advise him to
shelter his destiny in the refuge of the soul that grows nobler.

38. Is the sage never to suffer? Shall no storm ever break on the roof
of his dwelling, no traps be laid to ensnare him? Shall wife and
friends never fail him? Must his father not die, and his mother, his
brothers, his sons--must all these not die like the rest? Shall angels
stand guard at each highway through which sorrow can pass into man? Did
not Christ Himself weep as He stood before Lazarus' tomb? Had not
Marcus Aurelius to suffer--from Commodus, the son who already showed
signs of the monster he was to become; from Faustina, the wife whom he
loved, but who cared not for him? Was not destiny's hand laid heavy on
Paulus Aemilius, who was fully as wise as Timoleon? did not both his
sons die, one five days before his triumph in Rome, and the other but
three days after? What becomes of the refuge, then, where wisdom keeps
watch over happiness? Must we take back all we have said? and is wisdom
yet one more illusion, by whose aid the soul would fain conciliate
reason, and justify cravings that experience is sure to reject as being
opposed to reason?

39. Nay, In truth, the sage too must suffer. He suffers; and suffering
forms a constituent part of his wisdom. He will suffer, perhaps, more
than most men, for that his nature is far more complete. And being
nearer to all mankind, as the wise ever must be, his suffering will be
but the greater, for the sorrows of others are his. He will suffer in
his flesh, in his heart, in his spirit; for there are sides in all
these that no wisdom on earth can dispute against destiny. And so he
accepts his suffering, but is not discouraged thereby; not for him are
the chains that it fastens on those who cringe down before it, unaware
that it is but a messenger sent by a mightier personage, whom a bend in
the road hides from view. Needs must the sage, like his neighbour, be
startled from sleep by the shouts of the truculent envoy, by the blows
at the door that cause the whole house to tremble. He, too, must go
down and parley. But yet, as he listens, his eyes are not fixed on this
bringer of evil tidings; his glance will at times be lifted over the
messenger's shoulder, will scan the dust on the horizon in search of
the mighty idea that perhaps may be near at hand. And indeed, when our
thoughts rest on fate, at such times as happiness enfolds us, we feel
that no great misfortune can be suddenly burst upon us. The proportions
will change, it is true, when the blow falls; but it is equally true
that before the misfortune can wholly destroy the abiding courage
within us, it first must triumph in our heart over all we adore, over
all we admire, and love. And what alien power can expel from our soul a
feeling and thought that we hurl not our selves from its throne?
Physical suffering apart, not a single sorrow exists that can touch us
except through our thoughts; and whence do our thoughts derive the
weapons wherewith they attack or defend us? We suffer but little from
suffering itself; but from the manner wherein we accept it overwhelming
sorrow may spring. "His unhappiness was caused by himself," said a
thinker of one whose eyes never looked over the brutal messenger's
shoulder--"his unhappiness was caused by himself; for all misery is
inward, and caused by ourselves. We are wrong in believing that it
comes from without. For indeed we create it within us, out of our very

40. It is only in the manner of our facing the event that its active
force consists. Assemble ten men who, like Paulus Aemilius, have lost
both their sons at the moment when life seemed sweetest, then will the
misfortune appear to vary in every one. Misfortune enters within us,
but must of necessity yield obedience to all our commands. Even as the
order may be that it finds inscribed on the threshold, so will it sow,
or destroy, or reap. If my neighbour, a commonplace man, were to lose
his two sons at the moment when fate had granted his dearest desires,
then would darkness steal over all, unrelieved by a glimmer of light;
and misfortune itself, contemptuous of its too facile success, would
leave naught behind but a handful of colourless cinders. Nor is it
necessary for me to see my neighbour again to be aware that his sorrow
will have brought to him pettiness only; for sorrow does merely restore
to us that which our soul had lent in happier days.

41. But this was the misfortune that befell Paulus Aemilius. Rome,
still aglow with his triumph, waited, dismayed, wondering what was to
happen. Were the gods defying the sage, and how would the sage reply?
Would the hero be crushed by his sorrow, or would sorrow acknowledge
its master? Mankind, at moments like these, seems aware that destiny is
yet once again making trial of the strength of her arm, and that change
of some kind must befall if her blow crush not where it alights. And
see with what eagerness men at such moments will question the eyes of
their chiefs for the password against the invisible.

But Paulus Aemilius has gathered together an assembly of the people of
Rome; he advances gravely towards them, and thus does he speak: "I, who
never yet feared anything that was human, have, amongst such as were
divine, always had, a dread of fortune as faithless and inconstant;
and, for the very reason that in this war she had been as a favourable
gale in all my affairs, I still expected some change and reflux of
things. In one day I passed the Ionian Sea, and reached Corcyra from
Brundisium; thence in five more I sacrificed at Delphi, and in other
five days came to my forces in Macedonia, where, after I had finished
the usual sacrifices for the purifying of the army, I entered on my
duties, and in the space of fifteen days put an honourable period to
the war. Still retaining a jealousy of fortune, even from the smooth
current of my affairs, and seeing myself secure and free from the
danger of any enemy, I chiefly dreaded the change of the goddess at
sea, whilst conveying home my victorious army, vast spoils, and a
captive king. Nay, indeed, after I was returned to you safe, and saw
the city full of joy, congratulating, and sacrifices, yet still I
distrusted, well knowing that fortune never conferred any great
benefits that were unmixed and unattended with probabilities of
reverse. Nor could my mind, that was still as it were in labour, and
always foreseeing something to befall this city, free itself from this
fear, until this great misfortune befell me in my own family, and till,
in the midst of those days set apart for triumph, I carried two of the
best of sons, my only destined successors, one after another to their
funerals. Now therefore, I am myself safe from danger, at least as to
what was my greatest care; and I trust and am verily persuaded that,
for the time to come, fortune will prove constant and harmless unto
you; since she has sufficiently wreaked her jealousy at our great
successes on me and mine, and has made the conqueror as marked an
example of human instability as the captive whom he led in triumph,
with this only difference, that Perseus, though conquered, does yet
enjoy his children, while the conqueror Aemilius is deprived of his."

42. This was the Roman fashion of accepting the greatest sorrow that
can befall a man at the moment when sorrow is felt the most keenly--at
the moment of his greatest happiness. And there are many ways of
accepting misfortune--as many, indeed, as there are generous feelings
or thoughts to be found on the earth; and every one of those thoughts,
every one of those feelings, has a magic wand that transforms, on the
threshold, the features and vestments of sorrow. Job would have said,
"The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the name of the
Lord"; and Marcus Aurelius perhaps, "If it be no longer allowed me to
love those I loved high above all, it is doubtless that I may learn to
love those whom I love not yet."

43. And let us not think that these are mere empty words wherewith they
console themselves, words that in vain seek to hide the wound that
bleeds but the more for the effort. But if it were so, if empty words
could console, that surely were better than to be bereft of all
consolation. And further, if we have to admit that all this is
illusion, must we not, in mere justice, also admit that illusion is the
solitary thing that the soul can possess; and in the name of what other
illusion shall we venture to rate this illusion so lightly? Ah, when
the night falls and the great sages I speak of go back to their lonely
dwelling, and look on the chairs round the hearth where their children
once were, but never shall be again--then, truly, can they not escape
some part of the sorrow that comes, overwhelming, to those whose
suffering no noble thought chastens. For it were wrong to attribute to
beautiful feeling and thought a virtue they do not possess. There are,
external tears that they cannot restrain; there are holy hours when
wisdom cannot yet console. But, for the last time let us say it,
suffering we cannot avoid for suffering there ever must be; still does
it rest with ourselves to choose what our suffering shall bring. And
let us not think that this choice, which the eye cannot see, is truly a
very small matter, and helpless to comfort a sorrow whose cause the
eyes never cease to behold. Out of small matters like these are all
moral joys built up, and these are profounder far than intellectual or
physical joys. Translate into words the feeling that spurs on the hero,
and how trivial it seems! Insignificant too does the idea of duty
appear that Cato the younger had formed, when compared with the
enormous disturbance it caused in a mighty empire, or the terrible
death it brought on. And yet, was not Cato's idea far greater than the
disturbance, or death, that ensued? Do we not feel, even now, that Cato
was right? And was not his life rendered truly and nobly happy, thanks
to this very idea, that the reason of man will not even consider, so
unreasonable does it appear? All that ennobles our life, all that we
respect in ourselves, the mainsprings of our virtue, the limits that
feeling will even impose upon vices or crimes--all these appear veriest
trifles when viewed by the cold eye of reason; and yet do they fashion
the laws that govern every man's life. Would life be endurable if we
did not obey many truths that our reason rejects? The wretchedest even
obeys one of these; and the more truths there are that he yields to,
the less wretched does he become. The assassin will tell you, "I
murder, it is true, but at least do not steal." And he who has stolen
steals, but does not betray; and he who betrays would at least not
betray his brother. And thus does each one cling for refuge to his last
fragment of spiritual beauty. No man can have fallen so low but he
still has a retreat in his soul, where he ever shall find a few drops
of pure water, and be girt up anew with the strength that he needs to
go on with his life. For here again reason is helpless, unable to
comfort; she must halt on the threshold of the thief's last asylum,
even as she must halt on the threshold of Job's resignation, of the
love of Marcus Aurelius, of the sacrifice made by Antigone. She halts,
is bewildered, she does not approve; and yet knows full well that to
rise in revolt were only to combat the light whereof she is shadow; for
amidst all this she is but as one who stands with the sun full upon
him. His shadow is there at his feet; as he moves, it will follow; as
he rises or stoops, its outline will alter; but this shadow is all he
commands, that he masters, possesses, of the dazzling light that
enfolds him. And so has reason her being, too, beneath a superior
light, and the shadow cannot affect the calm, unvarying splendour. Far
distant as Marcus Aurelius may be from the traitor, it is still from
the selfsame well that they both draw the holy water that freshens
their soul; and this well is not to be found in the intellect. For,
strangely enough, it is not in our reason that moral life has its
being; and he who would let reason govern his life would be the most
wretched of men. There is not a virtue, a beautiful thought, or a
generous deed, but has most of its roots hidden far away from that
which can be understood or explained. Well might man be proud could he
trace every virtue, and joy, and his whole inward life, to the one
thing he truly possesses, the one thing on which he can depend--in a
word, to his reason. But do what he will, the smallest event that
arrives will quickly convince him that reason is wholly unable to offer
him shelter; for in truth we are beings quite other than merely
reasonable creatures.

44. But if it be not our reason that chooses what suffering shall bring
us, whereby is the choice then made? By the life we have lived till
then, the life that has moulded our soul. Wisdom matures but slowly;
her fruits shall not quickly be gathered. If my life has not been as
that of Paulus Aemilius, there shall be no comfort for me in the
thoughts whereby he was consoled, not though every sage in the world
were to come and repeat them to me. The angels that dry our eyes bear
the form and the features of all we have said and thought--above all,
of what we have done, prior to the hour of misfortune. When Thomas
Carlyle (a sage, although somewhat morbid) lost the wife he had
tenderly loved, with whom he had lived forty years, then did his sorrow
too, with marvellous exactness, become as had been the bygone life of
his love. And therefore was this sorrow of his majestic and vast;
consoling and torturing alike in the midst of his self-reproach, his
regret, and his tenderness--as might be meditation or prayer on the
shore of a gloomy sea. In the sorrow that floods our heart we have, as
it were, a synthetic presentment of all the days that are gone; and as
these were, so shall our sorrow be poignant, or tender and gentle. If
there be in my life no noble or generous deeds that memory can bring
back to me, then, at the inevitable moment when memory melts into
tears, must these tears, too, be bereft of all that is generous or
noble. For tears in themselves have no colour, that they may the better
reflect the past life of our soul; and this reflection becomes our
chastisement or our reward. There is but one thing that never can turn
into suffering, and that is the good we have done. When we lose one we
love, our bitterest tears are called forth by the memory of hours when
we loved not enough. If we always had smiled on the one who is gone,
there would be no despair in our grief; and some sweetness would cling
to our tears, reminiscent of virtues and happiness. For our
recollections of veritable love--which indeed is the act of virtue
containing all others--call from our eyes the same sweet, tender tears
as those most beautiful hours wherein memory was born. Sorrow is just,
above all; and even as the cast stands ready awaiting the molten
bronze, so is our whole life expectant of the hour of sorrow, for it is
then we receive our wage.

45. Here, standing close to the mightiest pillar of destiny's throne,
we may see once again how restricted her power becomes on such as
surpass her in wisdom. For she is barbarian still, and many men tower
above her. The commonplace life still supplies her with weapons, which
today are old-fashioned and crude. Her mode of attack, in exterior
life, is as it always has been, as it was in Oedipus' days. She shoots
like a blear-eyed bow-man, aiming straight ahead of her; but if the
target be raised somewhat higher than usual, her arrows fall harmless
to earth.

Suffering, sorrow, tears, regrets--these words, that vary so slightly
in meaning, are names that we give to emotions which in no two men are
alike. If we probe to the heart of these words, these emotions, we find
they are only the track that is left by our faults; and there where
these faults were noble (for there are noble faults as there are mean
or trivial virtues) our sorrow will be nearer akin to veritable
happiness than the happiness of those whose consciousness still is
confined within narrowest limits. Would Carlyle have desired to
exchange the magnificent sorrow that flooded his soul, and blossomed so
tenderly there, for the conjugal joys, superficial and sunless, of his
happiest neighbour in Chelsea? And was not Ernest Renan's grief, when
Henriette, his sister, died, more grateful to the soul than the absence
of grief in the thousands of others who have no love to give to a
sister? Shall our pity go forth to him who, at times, will weep on the
shore of an infinite sea, or to the other who smiles all his life,
without cause, alone in his little room? "Happiness, sorrow"--could we
only escape from ourselves for one instant and taste of the hero's
sadness, would there be many content to return to their own superficial

Do happiness and sorrow, then, only exist in ourselves, and that even
when they seem to come from without? All that surrounds us will turn to
angel or devil, according as our heart may be. Joan of Arc held
communion with saints, Macbeth with witches, and yet were the voices
the same. The destiny whereat we murmur may be other, perhaps, than we
think. She has only the weapons we give her; she is neither just nor
unjust, nor does it lie in her province to deliver sentence on man. She
whom we take to be goddess, is a disguised messenger only, come very
simply to warn us on certain days of our life that the hour has sounded
at last when we needs must judge ourselves.

46. Men of inferior degree, it is true, are not given to judging
themselves, and therefore is it that fate passes judgment upon them.
They are the slaves of a destiny of almost unvarying sternness, for it
is only when man has been judged by himself that destiny can be
transformed. Men such as these will not master, or alter within them,
the event that they meet; nay, they themselves become morally
transformed by the very first thing that draws near them. If misfortune
befall them, they grovel before it and stoop down to its level; and
misfortune, with them, would seem always to wear its poorest and
commonest aspect. They see the finger of fate in every least thing that
may happen--be it choice of profession, a friendship that greets them,
a woman who passes, and smiles. To them chance and destiny always are
one; but chance will be seldom propitious if accepted as destiny.
Hostile forces at once take possession of all that is vacant within us,
nor filled by the strength of our soul; and whatever is void in the
heart or the mind becomes a fountain of fatal influence. The Margaret
of Goethe and Ophelia of Shakespeare had perforce to yield meekly to
fate, for they were so feeble that each gesture they witnessed seemed
fate's own gesture to them. But yet, had they only possessed some
fragment of Antigone's strength--the Antigone of Sophocles--would they
not then have transformed the destinies of Hamlet and Faust as well as
their own? And if Othello had taken Corneille's Pauline to wife and not
Desdemona, would Desdemona's destiny then, all else remaining
unchanged, have dared to come within reach of the enlightened love of
Pauline? Where was it, in body or soul, that grim fatality lurked? And
though the body may often be powerless to add to its strength, can this
ever be true of the soul? Indeed, the more that we think of it, the
clearer does it become that there could be one destiny only that might
truly be said to triumph over man, the one that might have the power
loudly to cry unto all, "From this day onward there shall come no more
strength to thy soul, neither strength nor ennoblement." But is there a
destiny in the world empowered to hold such language?

47. And yet virtue often is chastised, and the advent of misfortune
hastened, by the soul's very strength; for the greater our love may be,
the greater the surface becomes we expose to majestic sorrow; wherefore
none the less does the sage never cease his endeavours to enlarge this
beautiful surface. Yes, it must be admitted, destiny is not always
content to crouch in the darkness; her ice-cold hands will at times go
prowling in the light, and seize on more beautiful victims. The tragic
name of Antigone has already escaped me; and there will, doubtless, be
many will say, "She surely fell victim to destiny, all her great force
notwithstanding; and is she not the instance we long have been seeking
in vain?" It cannot be gainsaid: Antigone fell into the hands of the
ruthless goddess, for the reason that there lay in her soul three times
the strength of any ordinary woman. She died; for fate had contrived it
so that she had to choose between death and what seemed to her a
sister's imperative duty. She suddenly found herself wedged between
death and love--love of the purest and most disinterested kind, its
object being a shade she would never behold on earth. And if destiny
thus has enabled to lure her into the murderous angle that duty and
death had formed, it was only because her soul, that was loftier far
than the soul of the others, saw, stretching before it, the
insurmountable barrier of duty--that her poor sister Ismene could not
see, even when it was shown her. And, at that moment, as they both
stood there on the threshold of the palace, the same voices spoke to
them; Antigone listening only to the voice from above, wherefore she
died; Ismene unconscious of any save that which came from below--and
she lived. But instil into Antigone's soul something of the weakness
that paralysed Ophelia and Margaret, would destiny then have thought it
of service to beckon to death as the daughter of Oedipus issued from
the doorway of Creon's palace? It was, therefore, solely because of the
strength of her soul that destiny was able to triumph. And, indeed, it
is this that consoles the wise and the just--the heroes; destiny can
vanquish them only by the good she compels them to do. Other men are
like cities with hundred gates, that she finds unguarded and open; but
the upright man is a fortified city, with the one gate only--of light;
and this gate remains closed till love be induced to knock, and to
crave admission. Other men she compels to obey her; and destiny, doing
her will, wills nothing but evil; but would she subdue the upright, she
needs must desire noble acts. Darkness then will no longer enwrap her
approach. The upright man is secure in the light that enfolds him; and
only by a light more radiant still can she hope to prevail. Destiny
then will become more beautiful still than her victim. Ordinary men she
will place between personal sorrow and the misfortune of others; but to
master the hero or saint, she must cause him to choose between the
happiness of others and the grief that shall fall on himself. Ordinary
men she lays siege to with the aid of all that is ugly; against the
others she perforce must enlist whatever is noblest on earth. Against
the first she has thousands of weapons, the very stones in the road
becoming engines of mischief; but the others she can only attack with
one irresistible sword, the gleaming sword of duty and truth. In
Antigone's story is found the whole tale of destiny's empire on wisdom.
Jesus who died for us, Curtius who leaped into the gulf, Socrates who
refused to desist from his teaching, the sister of charity who yields
up her life to tending the sick, the humble wayfarer who perishes
seeking to rescue his fellows from death--all these have been forced to
choose, all these bear the mark of Antigone's glorious wound on their
breast. For truly those who live in the light have their magnificent
perils also; and wisdom has danger for such as shrink from
self-sacrifice, though it may be that they who shrink from
self-sacrifice are perhaps not very wise.

48. Pronounce the word "destiny," and in the minds of all men an image
arises of gloom and of terror--of death. In their thoughts they regard
it, instinctively, as the lane that leads straight to the tomb. Most
often, indeed, it is only the name that they give unto death, when its
hand is not visible yet. It is death that looms in the future, the
shadow of death upon life. "None can escape his destiny" we often
exclaim when we hear of death lying in wait for the traveller at the
bend of the road. But were the traveller to encounter happiness
instead, we would never ascribe this to destiny; if we did, we should
have in our mind a far different goddess. And yet, are not joys to be
met with on the highways of life that are greater than any misfortune,
more momentous even than death? May a happiness not be encountered that
the eye cannot see? and is it not of the nature of happiness to be less
manifest than misfortune, to become ever less apparent to the eye as it
reaches loftier heights? But to this we refuse to pay heed. The whole
village, the town, will flock to the spot where some wretched adventure
takes place; but there are none will pause for an instant and let their
eyes rest on a kiss, or a vision of beauty that gladdens the soul, a
ray of love that illumines the heart. And yet may the kiss be
productive of joy no less great than the pain that follows a wound. We
are unjust; we never associate destiny with happiness; and if we do not
regard it as being inseparable from death, it is only to connect it
with disaster even greater than death itself.

49. Were I to refer to the destiny of OEdipus, Joan of Arc, Agamemnon,
you would give not a thought to their lives, but only behold the last
moments of all, the pathway of death. You would stoutly maintain that
their destiny was of the saddest, for that their end was sad. You
forget, however, that death can never be happy; but nevertheless it is
thus we are given to judging of life. It is as though death swallowed
all; and should accident suddenly end thirty years Lot unclouded joy,
the thirty years would be hidden away from our eyes by the gloom of one
sorrowful hour.

50. It is wrong to think of destiny only in connection with death and
disaster. When shall we cease to believe that death, and not life, is
important; that misfortune is greater than happiness? Why, when we try
to sum up a man's destiny, keep our eyes fixed only on the tears that
he shed, and never on the smiles of his joy? Where have we learned that
death fixes the value of life, and not life that of death? We deplore
the destiny of Socrates, Duncart, Antigone, and many others whose lives
were noble; we deplore; their destiny because their end was sudden and
cruel; and we are fain to admit that misfortune prevails over wisdom
and virtue alike. But, first of all, you yourself are neither just nor
wise if you seek in wisdom and justice aught else but wisdom and
justice alone. And further, what right have we thus to sum up an entire
existence in the one hour of death? Why conclude, from the fact that
Socrates and Antigone met with unhappy ends, that it was their wisdom
or virtue brought unhappiness to them? Does death occupy more space in
life than birth? Yet do you not take the sage's birth into account as
you ponder over his destiny. Happiness or unhappiness arises from all
that we do from the day of our birth to the day of our death; and it is
not in death, but indeed in the days and the years that precede it,
that we can discover a man's true happiness or sorrow--in a word, his
destiny. We seem to imagine that the sage, whose terrible death is
written in history, spent all his life in sad anticipation of the end
his wisdom prepared; whereas in reality, the thought of death troubles
the wise far less than it troubles the wicked. Socrates had far less
cause than Macbeth to dread an unhappy end. And unhappy as his death
may have been, it at least had not darkened his life; he had not spent
all his days in dying preliminary deaths, as did the Thane of Cawdor.
But it is difficult for us not to believe that a wound, that bleeds a
few hours, must crumble away into nothingness all the peace of a

51. I do not pretend that destiny is just, that it rewards the good and
punishes the wicked. What soul that were sure of reward could ever
claim to be good? But we are less just than destiny even, when it is
destiny that we judge. Our eyes see only the sage's misfortune, for
misfortune is known to us all; but we see not his happiness, for to
understand the happiness of the wise and the just whose destinies we
endeavour to gauge, we must needs be possessed of wisdom and justice
that shall be fully equal to theirs. When a man of inferior soul
endeavours to estimate a great sage's happiness, this happiness flows
through his fingers like water; yet is it heavy as gold, and as
brilliant as gold, in the hand of a brother sage. For to each is the
happiness given that he can best understand. The sage's misfortune may
often resemble the one that befalls other men; but his happiness has
nothing in common with that which he who is not wise terms happiness.
In happiness there are far more regions unknown than there are in
misfortune. The voice of misfortune is ever the same; happiness becomes
the more silent as it penetrates deeper.

When we put our misfortunes into one scale of the balance, each of us
lays, in the other, all that he deems to be happiness. The savage
flings feathers, and powder, and alcohol into the scale; civilised men
some gold, a few days of delirium; but the sage will deposit therein
countless things our eyes cannot see--all his soul, it may be, and even
the misfortune that he will have purified.

52. There is nothing in all the world more just than happiness, nothing
that will more faithfully adopt the form of our soul, or so carefully
fill the space that our wisdom clings open. Yet is it most silent of
all that there is in the world. The Angel of Sorrow can speak every
language--there is not a word but she knows; but the lips of the Angel
of Happiness are sealed, save when she tells of the savage's joys. It
is hundreds of centuries past that misfortune was cradled, but
happiness seems even now to have scarcely emerged from its infancy.
There are some men have learned to be happy; why are there none whose
great gladness has urged them to lift up their voice in the name of the
silent Archangel who has flooded their soul with light? Are we not
almost teaching happiness if we do only speak of it; invoking it, if we
let no day pass without pronouncing its name? And is it not the first
duty of those who are happy to tell of their gladness to others? All
men can learn to be happy; and the teaching of it is easy. If you live
among those who daily call blessing on life, it shall not be long ere
you will call blessing on yours. Smiles are as catching as tears; and
periods men have termed happy, were periods when there existed some who
knew of their happiness. Happiness rarely is absent; it is we that know
not of its presence. The greatest felicity avails us nothing if we know
not that we are happy; there is more joy in the smallest delight
whereof we are conscious, than in the approach of the mightiest
happiness that enters not into our soul. There are only too many who
think that what they have cannot be happiness; and therefore is it the
duty of such as are happy, to prove to the others that they only
possess what each man possesses deep down in the depths of his heart.
To be happy is only to have freed one's soul from the unrest of
happiness. It were well if, from time to time, there should come to us
one to whom fortune had granted a dazzling, superhuman felicity, that
all men regarded with envy; and if he were very simply to say to us,
"All is mine that you pray for each day: I have riches, and youth, and
health; I have glory, and power, and love; and if to-day I am truly
able to call myself happy, it is not on account of the gifts that
fortune has deigned to accord me, but because I have learned from these
gifts to fix my eyes far above happiness. If my marvellous travels and
victories, my strength and my love, have brought me the peace and the
gladness I sought, it is only because they have taught me that it is
not in them that the veritable gladness and peace can be found. It was
in myself they existed, before all these triumphs; and still in myself
are they now, after all my achievement; and I know full well that had
but a little more wisdom been mine, I might have enjoyed all I now
enjoy without the aid of so much good fortune. I know that today I am
happier still than I was yesterday, because I have learned at last that
I stand in no need of good fortune in order to free my soul, to bring
peace to my thoughts, to enlighten my heart."

53. Of this the sage is fully aware, though no superhuman happiness may
have descended upon him. The upright man knows it too, though he be
less wise than the sage, and his consciousness less fully developed;
for an act of goodness or justice brings with it a kind of inarticulate
consciousness that often becomes more effective, more faithful, more
loving, than the consciousness that springs into being from the very
deepest thought. Acts of this nature bring, above all, a special
knowledge of happiness. Strive as we may, our loftiest thoughts are
always uncertain, unstable; but the light of a goodly deed shines
steadily on, and is lasting. There are times when deep thought is no
more than merely fictitious consciousness; but an act of charity, the
heroic duty fulfilled--these are true consciousness; in other words,
happiness in action. The happiness of Marcus Aurelius, who condones a
mortal affront; of Washington, giving up power when he feared that his
glory was leading his people astray--the happiness of these will differ
by far from that of some mean-souled, venomous creature who might (if
such a thing may be assumed) by mere chance have discovered some
extraordinary natural law. Long is the road that leads from the
satisfied brain to the heart at rest, and only such joys will nourish
there as are proof against winter's storms. Happiness is a plant that
thrives far more readily in moral than in intellectual life.
Consciousness--the consciousness of happiness, above all--will not
choose the intellect as a hiding-place for the treasure it holds most
dear. At times it would almost seem as if all that is loftiest in
intellect, fraught with most comfort, is transformed into consciousness
only when passed through an act of virtue. It suffices not to discover
new truths in the world of thought or of fact. For ourselves, a truth
only lives from the moment it modifies, purifies, sweetens something we
have in our soul. To be conscious of moral improvement is of the
essence of consciousness. Some beings there are, of vigorous intellect,
whose intellect never is used to discover a fault, or foster a feeling
of charity. And this happens often with women. In cases where a man and
a woman have equal intellectual power, the woman will always devote far
less of this power to acquiring moral self-knowledge. And truly the
intellect that aims not at consciousness is but beating its wings in
the void. Loss and corruption needs must ensue if the force of our
brain be not at once gathered up in the purest vase of our heart. Nor
can such an intellect ever know happiness; nay, it seems to invite
misfortune. For intellect may be of the loftiest, mightiest, and yet
perhaps never draw near unto joy; but in the soul that is gentle, and
pure, and good, sorrow cannot for ever abide. And even though the
boundary line between intellect and consciousness be not always as
clearly defined as here we seem to assume, even though a beautiful
thought in itself may be often a goodly action--yet, none the less will
a beautiful thought, that springs not from noble deed, or wherefrom
noble deed shall not spring, add but little unto our felicity; whereas
a good deed, though it father no thought, will ever fall like soft
bountiful rain on our knowledge of happiness.

54. "How final must his farewell to happiness have been," exclaims
Renan, speaking of the renouncement of Marcus Aurelius--"how final must
his farewell to happiness have been, for him to be capable of such
excess! None will ever know how great was the suffering of that poor,
stricken heart, or the bitterness the waxen brow concealed, calm
always, and even smiling. It is true that the farewell to happiness is
the beginning of wisdom, and the surest road to happiness. There is
nothing sweeter than the return of joy that follows the renouncement of
joy, as there is nothing more exquisite, of keener, deeper delight,
than the enchantment of the disenchanted."

In these terms does a sage describe a sage's happiness; but is it true
that the happiness of Marcus Aurelius, as of Renan himself, arose only
from the return of joy that followed the renouncement of joy, and from
the enchantment of the disenchanted? For then were it better that
wisdom be less, that we be the less disenchanted. But what can the
wisdom desire that declares itself thus disenchanted? Was it not truth
that it sought? and is there a truth that can stifle the love of truth
in the depths of a loyal heart? The truth that has taught you that man
is wicked and nature unjust; that justice is futile, and love without
power, has indeed taught you nothing if it have not at the same time
revealed a truth that is greater still, one that throws on these
disillusions a light more brilliant, more ample, than the myriad
flickering beams it has quenched all around you, For there lurks
unspeakable pride, and pride of the poorest kind, in thus declaring
ourselves satisfied because we can find satisfaction in nothing that
is. Such satisfaction, in truth, is discontent only, too sluggish to
lift its head; and they only are discontented who no longer would

Does not the man who conceives it his duty to forswear all happiness
renounce something as well that, as yet, has not turned into happiness?
And besides, what are the joys to which we bid this somewhat affected
farewell? It must surely be right to discard all happiness injurious to
others; but happiness that injures others will not long wear the
semblance of happiness in the eyes of the sage. And when his wisdom at
length has revealed the profounder joys, will it not be in all
unconsciousness that he renounces those of lesser worth?

Let us never put faith in the wisdom or gladness that is based on
contempt of a single existing thing; for contempt and renouncement, its
sickly offspring, offer asylum to none but the weak and the aged. We
have only the right to scorn a joy when such scorn is wholly
unconscious. But so long as we listen to the voice of contempt or
renouncement, so long as we suffer these to flood our heart with
bitterness, so long must the joy we discard be a joy that we still

We must beware lest there enter our soul certain parasitic virtues. And
renouncement, often, is only a parasite. Even if it do not enfeeble our
inward life, it must inevitably bring disquiet. Just as bees cease from
work at the approach of an intruder into their hive, so will the
virtues and strength of the soul into which contempt or renouncement
has entered, forsake all their tasks, and eagerly flock round the
curious guest that has come in the wake of pride; for so long as
renouncement be conscious, so long will the happiness found therein
have its origin truly in pride. And he who is bent on renouncement had
best, first of all, forswear the delights of pride, for these are
wholly vain and wholly deceptive.

55. Within reach of all, demanding neither boldness nor energy, is this
"enchantment of the disenchanted!" But what name shall we give to the
man who renounces that which brought happiness to him, and rather would
surely lose it to-day than live in fear lest fortune haply deprive him
thereof on the morrow? Is the mission of wisdom only to peer into the
uncertain future, with ear on the stretch for the footfall of sorrow
that never may come--but deaf to the whirr of the wings of the
happiness that fills all space?

Let us not look to renouncement for happiness till we have sought it
elsewhere in vain. It is easy to be wise if we be content to regard as
happiness the void that is left by the absence of happiness. But it was
not for unhappiness the sage was created; and it is more glorious, as
well as more human, to be happy and still to be wise. The supreme
endeavour of wisdom is only to seek in life for the fixed point of
happiness; but to seek this fixed point in renouncement and farewell to
joy, is only to seek it in death. He who moves not a limb is persuaded,
perhaps, he is wise; but was this the purpose wherefor mankind was
created? Ours is the choice--whether wisdom shall be the honoured wife
of our passions and feelings, our thoughts and desires, or the
melancholy bride of death. Let the tomb have its stagnant wisdom, but
let there be wisdom also for the hearth where the fire still burns.

56. It is not by renouncing the joys that are near us that we shall
grow wise; but as we grow wise we unconsciously abandon the joys that
now are beneath us. Even so does the child, as years come to him, give
up one by one without thinking the games that have ceased to amuse. And
just as the child learns far more from his play than from work that is
given him, so does wisdom progress far more quickly in happiness than
in misfortune. It is only one side of morality that unhappiness throws
into light; and the man whom sorrow has taught to be wise, is like one
who has loved and never been loved in return. There must always be
something unknown to the love whereto no other love has made answer;
and this, too, will remain unknown to him whose wisdom is born of

"Is happiness truly as happy as people imagine?" was asked of two happy
ones once by a philosopher whom protracted injustice had saddened. No;
it is a thing more desirable far, but also much less to be envied, than
people suppose; for it is in itself quite other than they can conceive
who have never been perfectly happy. To be gay is not to be happy, nor
will he who is happy always be gay. It is only the little ephemeral
pleasures that forever are smiling; and they die away as they smile.
But some loftiness once obtained, lasting happiness becomes no less
grave than majestic sorrow. Wise men have said it were best for us not
to be happy, so that happiness thus might be always the one thing
desired. But how shall the sage, to whom happiness never has come, be
aware that wisdom is the one thing alone that happiness neither can
sadden nor weary? Those thinkers have learned to love wisdom with a far
more intimate love whose lives have been happy, than those whose lives
have been sad. The wisdom forced into growth by misfortune is different
far from the wisdom that ripens beneath happiness. The first, where it
seeks to console, must whisper of happiness; the other tells of itself.
He who is sad is taught by his wisdom that happiness yet may be his; he
who is happy is taught by his wisdom that he may become wiser still.
The discovery of happiness may well be the great aim of wisdom; and we
needs must be happy ourselves before we can know that wisdom itself
contains all.

57. There are some who are wholly unable to support the burden of joy.
There is a courage of happiness as well as a courage of sorrow. It may
even be true that permanent happiness calls for more strength in man
than permanent sorrow; for the heart wherein wisdom is not delights
more in the expectation of that which it has not yet, than in the full
possession of all it has ever desired. He in whom happiness dwells is
amazed at the heart that finds aliment only in fear or in hope, and
that cannot be nourished on what it possesses, though it possess all it
ever desired.

We often see men who are strong and morally prudent whom happiness yet
overcomes. Not finding therein all they sought, they do not defend it,
or cling to it, with the energy needful in life. We must have already
acquired some not inconsiderable wisdom to be undismayed at perceiving
that happiness too has its sorrow, and to be not induced by this sorrow
to think that ours cannot be the veritable happiness. The most precious
gift that happiness brings is the knowledge that springs up within us
that it is not a thing of mere ecstasy, but a thing that bids us
reflect. It becomes far less rare, far less inaccessible, from the
moment we know that its greatest achievement is to give to the soul
that is able to prize it an increase of consciousness, which the soul
could elsewhere never have found. To know what happiness means is of
far more importance to the soul of man than to enjoy it. To be able
long to love happiness great wisdom needs must be ours; but a wisdom
still greater for us to perceive, as we lie in the bosom of cloudless
joy, that the fixed and stable part of that joy is found in the force
which, deep down in our consciousness, could render us happy still
though misfortune wrapped us around. Do not believe you are happy till
you have been led by your happiness up to the heights whence itself
disappears from your gaze, but leaving you still, unimpaired, the
desire to live.

58. There are some profound thinkers, such as Pascal, Schopenhauer,
Hello, who seem not to have been happy, for all that the sense of the
infinite, universal, eternal, was loftily throned in their soul. But it
may well be an error to think that he who gives voice to the
multitude's sorrow must himself always be victim to great personal
despair. The horizon of sorrow, surveyed from the height of a thought
that has ceased to be selfish, instinctive, or commonplace, differs but
little from the horizon of happiness when this last is regarded from
the height of a thought of similar nature, but other in origin. And
after all, it matters but little whether the clouds be golden or gloomy
that yonder float over the plain; the traveller is glad to have reached
the eminence whence his eye may at last repose on illimitable space.
The sea is not the less marvellous and mysterious to us though white
sails be not for ever flitting over its surface; and neither tempest
nor day that is radiant and calm is able to bring enfeeblement unto the
life of our soul. Enfeeblement comes through our dwelling, by night and
by day, in the airless room of our cold, self-satisfied, trivial,
ungenerous thoughts, at a time when the sky all around our abode is
reflecting the light of the ocean.

But there is a difference perhaps between the sage and the thinker. It
may be that sorrow will steal over the thinker as he stands on the
height he has gained; but the sage by his side only smiles--and this
smile is so loyal, so human and natural, that the humblest creature of
all must needs understand, and will gladly welcome it to him, as it
falls like a flower to the foot of the mountain. The thinker throws
open the road "which leads from the seen to the unseen;" the sage
throws open the highway that takes us from that which we love to-day to
that which we yet shall love, and the paths that ascend from that which
has ceased to console to that which, for long time to come, shall be
laden with deep consolation. It is needful, but not all-sufficient, to
have reflected deeply and boldly on man, and nature, and God; for the
profoundest thought is of little avail if it contain no germ of
comfort. Indeed, it is only thought that the thinker, as yet, does nor
wholly possess; as the other thoughts are, too, that remain outside our
normal, everyday life. It is easier far to be sad and dwell in
affliction than at once to do what time in the end will always compel
us to do: to shake ourselves free from affliction. He who spends his
days gloomily, in constant mistrust of his fellows, will often appear a
profounder thinker than the other, who lives in the faith and honest
simplicity wherein all men should dwell. Is there a man can believe he
has done all it lay in his power to do if, as he meditates thus, in the
name of his brethren, on the sorrows of life, he hides from
them--anxious, perhaps, not to weaken his grandiose picture of
sorrow--the reasons wherefore he accepts life, reasons that must be
decisive, since he himself continues to live? The thought must be
incomplete surely whose object is not to console. It is easier for you
to tell me the cause of your sorrow than, very simply, to speak of the
deeper, the weightier reasons that induce your instinct to cling to
this life whose distress you bemoan. Which of us finds not, unsought,
many thousands of reasons for sorrow? It is doubtless of service that
the sage should point out those that are loftiest, for the loftiest
reasons for sorrow must be on the eve of becoming reasons for gladness
and joy. But reasons that have not within them these germs of greatness
and happiness--and in moral life open spaces abound where greatness and
happiness blend--these are surely not worthy of mention. Before we can
bring happiness to others, we first must be happy ourselves; nor will
happiness abide within us unless we confer it on others. If there be a
smile upon our lips, those around us will soon smile too; and our
happiness will become the truer and deeper as we see that these others
are happy. "It is not seemly that I, who, willingly, have brought
sorrow to none, should permit myself to be sad," said Marcus Aurelius,
in one of his noblest passages. But are we not saddening ourselves, and
learning to sadden others, if we refuse to accept all the happiness
offered to man?

59. The humble thought that connects a mere satisfied glance, an
ordinary, everyday act of simple kindness, or an insignificant moment
of happiness, with something eternal, and stable, and beautiful, is of
far greater value, and infinitely nearer to the mystery of life, than
the grand and gloomy meditation wherein sorrow, love, and despair blend
with death and destiny and the apathetic forces of nature. Appearances
often deceive us. Hamlet, bewailing his fate on the brink of the gulf,
seems profounder, imbued with more passion, than Antoninus Pius, whose
tranquil gaze rests on the self-same forces, but who accepts them and
questions them calmly, instead of recoiling in horror and calling down
curses upon them. Our slightest gesture at nightfall seems more
momentous by far than all we have done in the day; but man was created
to work in the light, and not to burrow in darkness.

60. The smallest consoling idea has a strength of its own that is not
to be found in the most magnificent plaint, the most exquisite
expression of sorrow. The vast, profound thought that brings with it
nothing but sadness is energy burning its wings in the darkness to
throw light on the walls of its prison; but the timidest thought of
hope, or of cheerful acceptance of inevitable law, in itself already is
action in search of a foothold wherefrom to take flight into life. It
cannot be harmful for us to acknowledge at times that action begins
with reality only, though our thoughts be never so large and
disinterested and admirable in themselves. 'For all that goes to build
up what is truly our destiny is contained in those of our thoughts
which, hurried along by the mass of ideas still obscure, indistinct,
incomplete, have had strength sufficient--or been forced, it may be--to
turn into facts, into gestures, into feelings and habits. We do not
imply by this that the other thoughts should be neglected. Those that
surround our actual life may perhaps be compared with an army besieging
a city. The city once taken, the bulk of the troops would probably not
be permitted to pass through the gates. Admission would be doubtless
withheld from the irregular part of the army--barbarians, mercenaries,
all those, in a word, whose natural tendencies would lead them to
drunkenness, pillage, or bloodshed. And it might also very well happen
that fully two-thirds of the troops would have taken no part in the
final decisive battle. But there often is value in forces that appear
to be useless; and the city would evidently not have yielded to panic
and thrown open her gates, had the well-disciplined force at the foot
of the walls not been flanked by the hordes in the valley. So is it in
moral life, too. Those thoughts are not wholly vain that have been
unable to touch our actual life; they have helped on, supported, the
others; yet is it these others alone that have fully accomplished their
mission And therefore does it behove us to have in our service, drawn
up in front of the crowded ranks of our sad and bewildered thoughts, a
group of ideas more human and confident, ready at all times to
penetrate vigorously into life.

61. Even when our endeavour to emerge from reality is due to the purest
desire for immaterial good, one gesture must still be worth more than a
thousand intentions; nor is this that intentions are valueless, but
that the least gesture of goodness, or courage, or justice, makes
demands upon us far greater than a thousand lofty intentions.
Chiromantists pretend that the whole of our life is engraved on our
palm; our life, according to them, being a certain number of actions
which imprint ineffaceable marks on our flesh, before or after
fulfilment; whereas not a trace will be left by either thoughts or
intentions. If I have for many long days cherished projects of murder
or treachery, heroism or sacrifice, my hand will tell nothing of these;
but if I have killed some one--involuntarily perhaps, imagining he was
about to attack me; or if I have rescued a child from the flames that
enwrapped it--my hand will bear, all my life, the infallible sign of
love or of murder. Chiromancy maybe delusion or not--it matters but
little; here we are concerned with the great moral truth that underlies
this distinction. The place that I fill in the universe will never be
changed by my thought; I shall be as I was to the day of my death; but
my actions will almost invariably move me forwards or backwards in the
hierarchy of man. Thought is a solitary, wandering, fugitive force,
which advances towards us today and perhaps on the morrow will vanish,
whereas every deed presupposes a permanent army of ideas and desires
which have, after lengthy effort, secured foot-hold in reality.

62. But we find ourselves here far away from the noble Antigone and the
eternal problem of unproductive virtue. It is certain that
destiny--understood in the ordinary sense of the word as meaning the
road that leads only to death--is wholly disregardful of virtue. This
is the gulf, to which all systems of morality must come, as to a
central reservoir, to be purified or troubled for ever; and here must
each man decide whether he will justify fate or condemn it. Antigone's
sacrifice may well be regarded as the type of all such as are made in
the cause of duty. Do we not all of us know of heroic deeds whose
reward has been only misfortune? A friend of my own, one day, as he lay
on the bed he was never to leave save for that other one only which is
eternal, pointed out to me, one after the other, the different
stratagems fate had contrived to lure him to the distant city, where
the draught of poisonous water awaited him that he was to swallow,
wherefrom he must die. Strangely clear were the countless webs that
destiny had spun round this life; and the most trivial event seemed
endowed with marvellous malice and forethought. Yet had my friend
journeyed forth to that city in fulfilment of one of those duties that
only the saint, or the hero, the sage, detects on the horizon of
conscience. What can we say? But let us leave this point for the
moment, to return to it later. My friend, had he lived, would on the
morrow have gone to another city, called thither by another duty; nor
would he have paused to inquire whether it was indeed duty that
summoned him. There are beings who do thus obey the commands that their
heart whispers low. They fret not at fortune's injustice; they care not
though virtue be thankless; theirs it is only to fight the injustice of
men, which is the only injustice whereof they, as yet, seem aware.

Ought we never to hesitate, then? and is our duty most faithfully done
when we ourselves are wholly unconscious that this thing that we do is
a duty? Is it most essential of all that we should attain a height
whence duty no longer is looked on as the choice of our noblest
feelings, but as the silent necessity of all the nature within us?

63. There are some who wait and question themselves, who ponder,
consider, and then at length decide. They too are right, for it matters
but little whether the duty fulfilled be result of instinct or
intellect. The gestures of instinct will often recall the delicate,
naive and vague, unexpected beauty that clings to the child's least
movement, and touches us deeply; but the gestures of matured resolve
have a beauty, too, of their own, more earnest and statelier, stronger.
It is given to very few hearts to be naively perfect, nor should we go
seek in them for the laws of duty. And besides, there is many a
sober-hued duty that instinct will fail to perceive, that yet will be
clearly espied by mature resolution, bereft though this be of illusion;
and man's moral value is doubtless established by the number of duties
he sees and sets forth to accomplish.

It is well that the bulk of mankind should listen to the instinct that
prompts them to sacrifice self on the altar of duty, and that without
too close self-questioning; for long must the questioning be ere
consciousness will give forth the same answer as instinct. And those
who do thus close their eyes, and in all meekness follow their
instinct, are in truth following the light that is borne at their head,
though they know it not, see it not, by the best of their ancestors.
But still this is not the ideal; and he who gives up the least thing of
all for the sake of his brother, well knowing what it is he gives up
and wherefore he does it, stands higher by far in the scale of morality
than the other, who flings away life without throwing one glance behind.

64. In this world there are thousands of weak, noble creatures who
fancy that sacrifice always must be the last word of duty; thousands of
beautiful souls that know not what should be done, and seek only to
yield up their life, holding that to be virtue supreme. They are wrong;
supreme virtue consists in the knowledge of what should be done, in the
power to decide for ourselves whereto we should offer our life. The
duty each holds to be his is by no means his permanent duty. The
paramount duty of all is to throw our conception of duty into clearest
possible light. The word duty itself will often contain far more error
and moral indifference than virtue. Clytemnestra devoted her life to
revenge--she murdered her husband for that he had slain Iphigenia;
Orestes sacrificed his life in avenging Agamemnon's death on
Clytemnestra. And yet it has only needed a sage to pass by, saying,
"pardon your enemies," for all duties of vengeance to be banished for
ever from the conscience of man. And so may it one day suffice that
another sage shall pass by for many a duty of sacrifice too to be
exiled. But in the meanwhile there are certain ideas that prevail on
renouncement, resignation, and sacrifice, that are far more destructive
to the most beautiful moral forces of man than great vices, or even
than crimes.

65. There are some occasions in life, inevitable and of general
bearing, that demand resignation, which is necessary then, and good;
but there are many occasions when we still are able to fight; and at
such times resignation is no more than veiled helplessness, idleness,
ignorance. So is it with sacrifice too, which indeed is most often the
withered arm resignation still shakes in the void. There is beauty in
simple self-sacrifice when its hour has come unsought, when its motive
is happiness of others; but it cannot be wise, or of use to mankind, to
make sacrifice the aim of one's life, or to regard its achievement as
the magnificent triumph of the spirit over the body. (And here let us
add that infinitely too great importance is generally ascribed to the
triumph of spirit over body, these pretended triumphs being most often
the total defeat of life.) Sacrifice may be a flower that virtue will
pluck on its road, but it was not to gather this flower that virtue set
forth on its travels. It is a grave, error to think that the beauty of
soul is most clearly revealed by the eager desire for sacrifice; for
the soul's fertile beauty resides in its consciousness, in the
elevation and power of its life. There are some, it is true, that awake
from their sleep at the call of sacrifice only; but these lack the
strength and the courage to seek other forms of moral existence. It is,
as a rule, far easier to sacrifice self--to give up, that is, our moral
existence to the first one who chooses to take it--than to fulfil our
spiritual destiny, to accomplish, right to the end, the task for which
we were created. It is easier far, as a rule, to die morally, nay, even
physically, for others, than to learn how best we should live for them.
There are too many beings who thus lull to sleep all initiative,
personal life, and absorb themselves wholly in the idea that they are
prepared and ready for sacrifice. The consciousness that never succeeds
in travelling beyond this idea, that is satisfied ever to seek an
occasion for giving all that which it has, is a consciousness whose
eyes are sealed, and that crouches be-numbed at the foot of the
mountain. There is beauty in the giving of self, and indeed it is only
by giving oneself that we do, at the end, begin to possess ourselves
somewhat; but if all that we some day shall give to our brethren is the
desire to give them ourselves, then are we surely preparing a gift of
most slender value. Before giving, let us try to acquire; for this last
is a duty where from we are not relieved by the fact of our giving. Let
us wait till the hour of sacrifice sounds; till then, each man to his
work. The hour will sound at last; but let us not waste all our time in
seeking it on the dial of life.

66. There are many ways of sacrifice; and I speak not here of the
self-sacrifice of the strong, who know, as Antigone knew, how to yield
themselves up when destiny, taking the form of their brothers' manifest
happiness, calls upon them to abandon their own happiness and their
life. I speak of the sacrifice here that is made by the feeble; that
leans for support, with childish content, on the staff of its own
inanity--that is as an old blind nurse, who would rock us in the
palsied arms of renouncement and useless suffering. On this point let
us note what John Ruskin says, one of the best thinkers of our time:
"The will of God respecting us is that we shall live by each other's
happiness and life; not by each other's misery or death. A child may
have to die for its parents; but the purpose of Heaven is that it shall
rather live for them; that not by sacrifice, but by its strength, its
joy, its force of being, it shall be to them renewal of strength; and
as the arrow in the hand of the giant. So it is in all other right
relations. Men help each other by their joy, not by their sorrow. They
are not intended to slay themselves for each other, but to strengthen
themselves for each other. And among the many apparently beautiful
things which turn, through mistaken use, to utter evil, I am not sure
but that the thoughtlessly meek and self-sacrificing spirit of good men
must be named as one of the fatallest. They have so often been taught
that there is a virtue in mere suffering, as such . . . that they
accept pain and defeat as if these were their appointed portion; never
understanding that their defeat is not the less to be mourned because
it is more fatal to their enemies than to them."

67. You are told you should love your neighbour as yourself; but if you
love yourself meanly, childishly, timidly, even so shall you love your
neighbour. Learn therefore to love yourself with a love that is wise
and healthy, that is large and complete. This is less easy than it
would seem. There is more active charity in the egoism of a strenuous
clairvoyant soul than in all the devotion of the soul that is helpless
and blind. Before you exist for others it behoves you to exist for
yourself; before giving, you first must acquire. Be sure that, if
deeply considered, more value attaches to the particle of consciousness
gained than to the gift of your entire unconsciousness. Nearly all the
great things of this world have been done by men who concerned
themselves not at all with ideas of self-sacrifice. Plato's thoughts
flew on--he paused not to let his tears fall with the tears of the
mourners in Athens; Newton pursued his experiments calmly, nor left
them to search for objects of pity or sorrow; and Marcus Aurelius above
all (for here we touch on the most frequent and dangerous form of
self-sacrifice) Marcus Aurelius essayed not to dim the brightness of
his own soul that he might confer happiness on the inferior soul of
Faustina. And if this was right in the lives of these men, of Plato and
Newton and Marcus Aurelius, it is equally right in the life of every
soul; for each soul has, in its sphere, the same obligations to self as
the soul of the greatest. We should tell ourselves, once and for all,
that it is the first duty of the soul to become as happy, complete,
independent, and great as lies in its power.' Herein is no egoism, or
pride. To become effectually generous and sincerely humble there must
be within us a confident, tranquil, and clear comprehension of all that
we owe to ourselves. To this end we may sacrifice even the passion for
sacrifice; for sacrifice never should be the means of ennoblement, but
only the sign of our being ennobled.

68. Let us be ready to offer, when necessity beckons, our wealth, and
our time, and our life, to our less fortunate brethren, making them
thus an exceptional gift of a few exceptional hours; but the sage is
not bound to neglect his happiness, and all that environs his life, in
sole preparation for these few exceptional hours of greater or lesser
devotion. The truest morality tells us to cling, above all, to the
duties that return every day, to acts of inexhaustible brotherly
kindness. And, thus considered, we find that in the everyday walk of
life the solitary thing we can ever distribute among those who march by
our side, be they joyful or sad, is the confidence, strength, the
freedom and peace, of our soul. Let the humblest of men, therefore,
never cease to cherish and lift up his soul, even as though he were
fully convinced that this soul of his should one day be called to
console or gladden a God. When we think of preparing our soul, the
preparation should never be other than befits a mission divine. In this
domain only, and on this condition, can man truly give himself, can
there be pre-eminent sacrifice. And think you that when the hour sounds
the gift of a Socrates or Marcus Aurelius--who lived many lives, for
many a time had they compassed their whole life around--do you think
such a gift is not worth a thousand times more than what would be given
by him who had never stepped over the threshold of consciousness? And
if God there be, will He value sacrifice only by the weight of the
blood in our body; and the blood of the heart--its virtue, its
knowledge of self, its moral existence--do you think this will all go
for nothing?

69. It is not by self-sacrifice that loftiness comes to the soul; but
as the soul becomes loftier, sacrifice fades out of sight, as the
flowers in the valley disappear from the vision of him who toils up the
mountain. Sacrifice is a beautiful token of unrest; but unrest should
not be nurtured within us for sake of itself. To the soul that is
slowly awakening all appears sacrifice; but few things indeed are so
called by the soul that at last lives the life whereof self-denial,
pity, devotion, are no longer indispensable roots, but only invisible
flowers. For in truth too many do thus feel the need of
destroying--though it be without cause--a happiness, love, or a hope
that is theirs, thereby to obtain clearer vision of self in the light
of the consuming flame. It is as though they held in their hand a lamp
of whose use they know nothing; as though, when the darkness comes on,
and they are eager for light, they scatter its substance abroad on the
fire of the stranger.

Let us beware lest we act as he did in the fable, who stood watch in
the lighthouse, and gave to the poor in the cabins about him the oil of
the mighty lanterns that served to illumine the sea. Every soul in its
sphere has charge of a lighthouse, for which there is more or less
need. The humblest mother who allows her whole life to be crushed, to
be saddened, absorbed, by the less important of her motherly duties, is
giving her oil to the poor; and her children will suffer, the whole of
their life, from there not having been, in the soul of their mother,
the radiance it might have acquired. The immaterial force that shines
in our heart must shine, first of all, for itself; for on this
condition alone shall it shine for the others as well; but see that you
give not away the oil of your lamp, though your lamp be never so small;
let your gift be the flame, its crown.

70. In the soul that is noble altruism must, without doubt, be always
the centre of gravity; but the weak soul is apt to lose itself in
others, whereas it is in others that the strong soul discovers itself.
Here we have the essential distinction. There is a thing that is
loftier still than to love our neighbour as we love ourselves; it is to
love ourselves in our neighbour. Some souls there are whom goodness
walks before, as there are others that goodness follows. Let us never
forget that, in communion of soul, the most generous by no means are
they who believe they are constantly giving. A strenuous soul never
ceases to take, though it be from the poorest; a weak soul always is
giving, even to those that have most; but there is a manner of giving
which truly is only the gesture of powerless greed; and we should find,
it may be, if reckoning were kept by a God, that in taking from others
we give, and in giving we take away. Often indeed will it so come about
that the very first ray of enlightenment will descend on the
commonplace soul the day it has met with another which took all that it
had to give.

71. Why not admit that it is not our paramount duty to weep with all
those who are weeping, to suffer with all who are sad, to expose our
heart to the passer-by for him to caress or stab? Tears and suffering
and wounds are helpful to us only when they do not discourage our life.
Let us never forget that whatever our mission may be in this world,
whatever the aim of our efforts and hopes, and the result of our joys
and our sorrows, we are, above all, the blind custodians of life.
Absolutely, wholly certain is that one thing only; it is there that we
find the only fixed point of human morality. Life has been given
us--for a reason we know not--but surely not for us to enfeeble it, or
carelessly fling it away. For it is a particular form of life that we
represent on this planet--the life of feeling and thought; whence it
follows perhaps that all that inclines to weaken the ardour of feeling
and thought is, in its essence, immoral. Our task let it be then to
foster this ardour, to enhance and embellish it; let us constantly
strive to acquire deeper faith in the greatness of man, in his strength
and his destiny; or, we might equally say, in his bitterness, weakness,
and wretchedness; for to be loftily wretched is no less soul-quickening
than it is to be loftily happy. After all, it matters but little
whether it be man or the universe that we admire, so long as something
appear truly admirable to us, and exalt our sense of the infinite.
Every new star that is found in the sky will lend of its rays to the
passions, and thoughts, and the courage, of man. Whatever of beauty we
see in all that surrounds us, within us already is beautiful; whatever
we find in ourselves that is great and adorable, that do we find too in
others. If my soul, on awaking this morning, was cheered, as it dwelt
on its love, by a thought that drew near to a God--a God, we have said,
who is doubtless no more than the loveliest desire of our soul--then
shall I behold this same thought astir in the beggar who passes my
window the moment thereafter; and I shall love him the more for that I
understand him the better. And let us not think that love of this kind
can be useless; for indeed, if one day we shall know the thing that has
to be done, it will only be thanks to the few who love in this fashion,
with an ever-deepening love. From the conscious and infinite love must
the true morality spring, nor can there be greater charity than the
effort to ennoble our fellows. But I cannot ennoble you if I have not
become noble myself; I have no admiration to give you if there be
naught in myself I admire. If the deed I have done be heroic, its
truest reward will be my conviction that of an equal deed you are
capable too; this conviction ever will tend to become more spontaneous
within me, and more unconquerable. Every thought that quickens my heart
brings quickening, too, to the love and respect that I have for
mankind. As I rise aloft, you rise with me. But if, the better to love
you, I deem it my duty to tear off the wings from my love, your love
being wingless as yet; then shall I have added in vain to the plaints
and the tears in the valley, but brought my own love thereby not one
whit nearer the mountain. Our love should always be lodged on the
highest peak we can attain. Let our love not spring from pity when it
can be born of love; let us not forgive for charity's sake when justice
offers forgiveness; nor let us try to console there where we can
respect. Let our one never-ceasing care be to better the love that we
offer our fellows. One cup of this love that is drawn from the spring
on the mountain is worth a hundred taken from the stagnant well of
ordinary charity. And if there be one whom you no longer can love
because of the pity you feel, or the tears that he sheds; and if he
ignore to the end that you love him because you ennobled him at the
same time you ennobled yourself, it matters but little after all; for
you have done what you held to be best, and the best is not always most
useful. Should we not invariably act in this life as though the God
whom our heart desires with its highest desire were watching our every

72. In a terrible catastrophe that took place but a short time
ago,[Footnote: The fire at the Bazar de la Charite in Paris.] destiny
afforded yet another, and perhaps the most startling instance of what
it pleases men to term her injustice, her blindness, or her
irresponsibility. She seemed to have singled out for especial
chastisement the solitary external virtue that reason has left us--our
love for our fellow-man. There must have been some moderately righteous
men amongst the victims, and it seems almost certain that there was at
least one whose virtue was wholly disinterested and sincere. It is the
presence of this one truly good man that warrants our asking, in all
its simplicity, the terrible question that rises to our lips. Had he
not been there we might have tried to believe that this act of
seemingly monstrous injustice was in reality composed of particles of
sovereign justice. We might have whispered to ourselves that what they
termed charity, out yonder, was perhaps only the arrogant flower of
permanent injustice.

We seem unwilling to recognise the blindness of the external forces,
such as air, fire, water, the laws of gravity and others, with which we
must deal and do battle. The need is heavy upon us to find excuses for
fate; and even when blaming her, we seem to be endeavouring still to
explain the causes of her past and her future action, conscious the
while of a feeling of pained surprise, as though a man we valued highly
had done some dreadful deed. We love to idealise destiny, and are wont
to credit her with a sense of justice loftier far than our own; and
however great the injustice whereof she may have been guilty, our
confidence will soon flow back to her, the first feeling of dismay
over; for in our heart we plead that she must have reasons we cannot
fathom, that there must be laws we cannot divine. The gloom of the
world would crush us were we to dissociate morality from fate. To doubt
the existence of this high, protecting justice and virtue, would seem
to us to be denying the existence of all justice and of all virtue.

We are no longer able to accept the narrow morality of positive
religion, which entices with reward and threatens with punishment; and
yet we are apt to forget that, were fate possessed of the most
rudimentary sense of justice, our conception of a lofty, disinterested
morality would fade into thin air. What merit in being just ourselves
if we be not convinced of the absolute injustice of fate? We no longer
believe in the ideals once held by saints, and we are confident that a
wise God will hold of as little account the duty done through hope of
recompense, as the evil done for sake of gain; and this even though the
recompense hoped for be nothing but the self-ensuing peace of mind. We
say that God, who must be at least as high as the highest thoughts He
has implanted in the best of men, will withhold His smile from those
who have desired but to please Him; and that they only who have done
good for the sake of good and as though He existed not, they only who
have loved virtue more than they loved God Himself, shall be allowed to
stand by His side. And yet, and for all this, no sooner does the event
confront us, than we discover that we still are guided by the "moral
maxims" of our childhood. Of more avail would be a "List of chastised
virtues." The soul that is quick with life would find its profit
therein; the cause of virtue would gain in vigour and in majesty. Let
us not forget that it is from the very nonmorality of destiny that a
nobler morality must spring into life; for here, as everywhere, man is
never so strong with his own native strength as when he realises that
he stands entirely alone. As we consider the crowning injustice of
fate, it is the negation of high moral law that disturbs us; but from
this negation there at once arises a moral law that is higher still. He
who no longer believes in reward or punishment must do good for the
sake of good. Even though a moral law seem on the eve of disappearing,
we need have no cause for disquiet; its place will be speedily filled
by a law that is greater still. To attribute morality to fate is but to
lessen the purity of our ideal; to admit the injustice of fate is to
throw open before us the ever-widening fields of a still loftier
morality. Let us not think virtue will crumble, though God Himself seem
unjust. Where shall the virtue of man find more everlasting foundation
than in the seeming injustice of God?

73. Let us not cavil, therefore, at nature's indifference to the sage.
It is only because we are not yet wise enough that this indifference
seems strange; for the first duty of wisdom is to throw into light the
humbleness of the place in the universe that is filled by man.

Within his sphere he seems of importance, as the bee in its cell of
honey; but it were idle to suppose that a single flower the more will
blossom in the fields because the queen bee has proved herself a
heroine in the hive. We need not fear that we depreciate ourselves when
we extol the universe. Whether it be ourselves or the entire world that
we consider great, still will there quicken within our soul the sense
of the infinite, which is of the life-blood of virtue. What is an act
of virtue that we should expect such mighty reward? It is within
ourselves that reward must be found, for the law of gravitation will
not swerve. They only who know not what goodness is are ever clamouring
for the wage of goodness. Above all, let us never forget that an act of
goodness is of itself always an act of happiness. It is the flower of a
long inner life of joy and contentment; it tells of peaceful hours and
days on the sunniest heights of our soul. No reward coming after the
event can compare with the sweet reward that went with it. The upright
man who perished in the catastrophe I mentioned was there because his
soul had found a peace and strength in virtue that not happiness, love,
or glory could have given him. Were the flames to retreat before such
men, were the waters to open and death to hesitate, what were
righteousness or heroism then? Would not the true happiness of virtue
be destroyed? virtue that is happy because it is noble and pure, that
is noble and pure because it desires no reward? There may be human joy
in doing good with definite purpose, but they who do good expecting
nothing in return know a joy that is divine. Where we do evil our
reasons mostly are known to us, but our good deed becomes the purer for
our ignorance of its motive. Would we know how to value the righteous
man, we have but to question him as to the motives of his
righteousness. He will probably be the most truly righteous who is
least ready with his answer. Some may suppose that as intellect widens
many a motive for heroism will be lost to the soul; but it should be
borne in mind that the wider intellect brings with it an ideal of
heroism loftier and more disinterested still. And this much at least is
certain: he who thinks that virtue stands in need of the approval of
destiny or of worlds, has not yet within him the veritable sense of
virtue. Truly to act well we must do good because of our craving for
good, a more intimate knowledge of goodness being all we expect in
return. "With no witness save his heart alone," said St. Just. In the
eyes of a God there must surely be marked distinction between the soul
of the man who believes that the rays of a virtuous deed shall shine
through furthest space, and the soul of the other who knows they
illumine his heart alone. There may be greater momentary strength in
the overambitious truth, but the strength that is brought by the humble
human truth is far more earnest and patient. Is it wiser to be as the
soldier who imagines that each blow he strikes brings victory nearer,
or as the other who knows his little account in the combat but still
fights sturdily on? The upright man would scorn to deceive his
neighbour, but is ever unduly inclined to regard some measure of
self-deception as inseparable from his ideal.

If there were profit in virtue, then would the noblest of men be
compelled to seek happiness elsewhere; and God would destroy their main
object in life were He to reward them often. Nothing is indispensable,
perhaps, or even necessary; and it may be that if the joy of doing good
for sake of good were taken from the soul, it would find other, purer
joys; but in the meantime, it is the most beautiful joy we know,
therefore let us respect it. Let us not resent the misfortunes that
sometimes befall virtue, lest we at the same time disturb the limpid
essence of its happiness. The soul that has this happiness dreams no
more of reward, than others expect punishment because of their
wickedness. They only are ever clamouring for justice who know it not
in their lives.

74. There is wisdom in the Hindu saying: "Work as they work, who are
ambitious. Respect life, as they respect it who desire it. Be happy, as
they are happy who live for happiness alone."

And this is indeed the central point of human wisdom--to act as though
each deed must bear wondrous, everlasting, fruit, and yet to realise
the insignificance of a just action before the universe; to grasp the
disproportion of things, and yet to march onwards as though the
proportions were established by man; to keep our eyes fixed on the
great sphere, and ourselves to move in the little sphere with as much
confidence and earnestness, with as much assurance and satisfaction, as
though the great sphere were contained within it.

Is there need of illusion to keep alive our desire for good? then must
this desire stand confessed as foreign to the nature of man. It is a
mistake to imagine that the heart will long cherish within it the ideas
that reason has banished; but within the heart there is much that
reason may take to itself. And at last the heart becomes the refuge to
which reason is apt to fly, ever more and more simply, each time that
the night steals upon it; for it is to the heart as a young,
clairvoyant girl, who still at times needs advice from her blind, but
smiling, mother. There comes a moment in life when moral beauty seems
more urgent, more penetrating, than intellectual beauty; when all that
the mind has treasured must be bathed in the greatness of soul, lest it
perish in the sandy desert, forlorn as a river that seeks in vain for
the sea.

75. But let us exaggerate nothing when dealing with wisdom, though it
be wisdom itself. The external forces, we know, will not yield to the
righteous man; but still he is absolute lord of most of the inner
powers; and these are for ever spinning the web of nearly all our
happiness and sorrow. We have said elsewhere that the sage, as he
passes by, intervenes in countless dramas. Indeed his mere presence
suffices to arrest most of the calamities that arise from error or
evil. They cannot approach him, or even those who are near him. A
chance meeting with creature endowed with simple and loving wisdom has
stayed the hands of men who else had committed countless acts of folly
or wickedness; for in life most characters are subordinate, and it is
chance alone that determines whether the track which they are to follow
shall be that of suffering or peace. The atmosphere around Jean-Jacques
Rousseau was heavy with lamentation and treachery, delirium, deceit,
and cunning; whereas Jean Paul moved in the midst of loyalty and
nobility, the centre of peace and love. We subdue that in others which
we have learned to subdue in ourselves. Around the upright man there is
drawn a wide circle of peace, within which the arrows of evil soon
cease to fall; nor have his fellows the power to inflict moral
suffering upon him. For indeed if our tears can flow because of our
enemies' malice, it is only because we ourselves would fain make our
enemies weep. If the shafts of envy can wound and draw blood, it is
only because we ourselves have shafts that we wish to throw; if
treachery can wring a groan from us, we must be disloyal ourselves,
Only those weapons can wound the soul that it has not yet sacrificed on
the altar of Love.

76. The dramas of virtue are played on a stage whose mysteries not even
the wisest can fathom. It is only as the last word is spoken that the
curtain is raised for an instant; we know nothing of all that preceded,
of the brightness or gloom that enwrapped it. But of one thing at least
the just man may be certain; it will be in an act of charity, or
justice, that his destiny will meet him face to face. The blow must
inevitably find him prepared, in a state of grace, as the Christian
calls it; in other words, in a state of inner happiness. And that in
itself bars the door on evil destiny within us, and closes most of the
gates by which external misfortune can enter. As our conception of duty
and happiness gains in dignity, so does the sway of moral suffering
become the more restricted and purer. And is not moral suffering the
most tyrannical weapon in the armoury of destiny? Our happiness mainly
depends on the freedom that reigns within us; a freedom that widens
with every good deed, and contracts beneath acts of evil. Not
metaphorically, but literally, does Marcus Aurelius free himself each
time he discovers a new truth in indulgence, each time that he pardons,
each time he reflects. Still less of a metaphor is it to declare that
Macbeth enchains himself anew with every fresh crime. And if this be
true of the great crimes of kings and the virtues of heroes, it is no
less true of the humblest faults and most hidden virtues of ordinary
life. Many a youthful Marcus Aurelius is still about us; many a
Macbeth, who never stirs from his room. However imperfect our
conception of virtue, still let us cling to it; for a moment's
forgetfulness exposes us to all the malignant forces from without. The
simplest lie to myself, buried though it may be in the silence of my
soul, may yet be as dangerous to my inner liberty as an act of
treachery on the marketplace. And from the moment that my inner liberty
is threatened, destiny prowls around my external liberty as stealthily
as a beast of prey that has long been tracking its victim.

77. Can we conceive a situation in life wherein a man who is truly wise
and noble can be made to suffer as profoundly as the man who follows
evil? In this world it is far more certain that vice will be punished,
than that virtue will meet with reward; yet we must bear in mind that
it is the habit of crime to shriek aloud beneath its punishment,
whereas virtue rewards itself in the silence that is the walled garden
of its happiness. Evil drags horrid catastrophe behind it; but an act
of virtue is only a silent offering to the profoundest laws of life;
and therefore, doubtless, does the balance of mighty justice seem more
ready to incline beneath deeds of darkness than beneath those of light.
But if we can scarcely believe that "happiness in crime" be possible,
have we more warrant for faith in the "unhappiness of virtue"? We know
that the executioner can stretch Spinoza on the rack, and that terrible
disease will spare Antoninus Pius no more than Goneril or Regan; but
pain such as this belongs to the animal, not the human, side of man.
Wisdom has indeed sent science, the youngest of her sisters, into the
realm of destiny, with the mission to bring the zone of physical
suffering within ever-narrowing limits; but there are inaccessible
regions within that realm, where disaster ever will rule. Some stricken
ones there will always be, victims to irreducible injustice; and yet
will the true wisdom, in the midst of its sorrow, only be fortified
thereby, only gain in self-reliance and humanity all that it, may lose
in more mystic qualities. We become truly just only when it is finally
borne home to us that we must search within ourselves for our model of
justice. Again, it is the injustice of destiny that restores man to his
place in the universe. It is not well that he should for ever be
pasting anxious glances about him, like the child that has strayed from
its mother's side. Nor need we believe that these disillusions must
necessarily give rise to moral discouragement; for the truth that seems
discouraging does in reality only transform the courage of those strong
enough to accept it; and, in any event, a truth that disheartens,
because it is true, is still of far more value than the most
stimulating of falsehoods. But indeed no truth can discourage, whereas
much that passes as courage only bears the semblance thereof. The thing
that enfeebles the weak will but help to strengthen the strong. "Do you
remember the day," wrote a woman to her lover, "when we sat together by
the window that looked on to the sea, and watched the meek procession
of white-sailed ships as they followed each other into harbour? . . .
Ah! how that day comes back to me! . . . Do you remember that one ship
had a sail that was nearly black, and that she was the last to come in?
And do you remember, too, that the hour of separation was upon us, and
that the arrival of the last boat of all was to be our signal for
departure? We might perhaps have found cause for sadness in the gloomy
sail that fluttered at her mast; but we who loved each other had
'accepted' life, and we only smiled as we once more recognised the
kinship of our thoughts." Yes, it is thus we should act; and though we
cannot always smile as the black sail heaves in sight, yet is it
possible for us to find in our life something that shall absorb us to
the exclusion of sadness, as her love absorbed the woman whose words I
have quoted. Complaints of injustice grow less frequent as the brain
and the heart expand. It is well to remind ourselves that in this
world, whose fruit we are, all that concerns us must necessarily be
more conformable with our existence than the most beneficent law of our
imagination. The time has arrived perhaps when man must learn to place
the centre of his joys and pride elsewhere than within himself. As this
idea takes firmer root within us, so do we become more conscious of our
helplessness beneath its overwhelming force; yet is it at the same time
borne home to us that of this force we ourselves form part; and even as
we writhe beneath it, we are compelled to admire, as the youthful
Telemachus admired the power of his father's arm. Our own instinctive
actions awaken within us an eager curiosity, an affectionate, pleased
surprise: why should we not train ourselves thus to regard the
instinctive actions of nature? We love to throw the dim light of our
reason on to our unconsciousness: why not let it play on what we term
the unconsciousness of the universe? We are no less deeply concerned
with the one than the other. "After he has become acquainted with the
power that is in him," said a philosopher, "one of the highest
privileges of man is to realise his individual powerlessness. Out of
the very disproportion between the infinite which kills us and this
nothing that we are, there arises within us a sensation that is not
without grandeur; we feel that we would rather be crushed by a mountain
than done to death by a pebble, as in war we would rather succumb
beneath the charge of thousands than fall victim to a single arm. And
as our intellect lays bare to us the immensity of our helplessness, so
does it rob defeat of its sting." Who knows? We are already conscious
of moments when the something that has conquered us seems nearer to
ourselves than the part of us that has yielded. Of all our
characteristics, self-esteem is the one that most readily changes its
home, for we are instinctively aware that it has never truly formed
part of us. The self-esteem of the courtier who waits on the mighty
king soon finds more splendid lodging in the king's boundless power;
and the disgrace that may befall him will wound his pride the less for
that it has descended from the height of a throne. Were nature to
become less indifferent, it would no longer appear so vast. Our
unfettered sense of the infinite cannot afford to dispense with one
particle of the infinite, with one particle of its indifference; and
there will ever remain something within our soul that would rather weep
at times in a world that knows no limit, than enjoy perpetual happiness
in a world that is hemmed in.

If destiny were invariably just in her dealings with the wise, then
doubtless would the existence of such a law furnish sufficient proof of
its excellence; but as it is wholly indifferent, it is better so, and
perhaps even greater; for what the actions of the soul may lose in
importance thereby does but go to swell the dignity of the universe.
And loss of grandeur to the sage there is none; for he is as profoundly
sensitive to the greatness of nature as to the greatness that lurks
within man. Why harass our soul with endeavour to locate the infinite?
As much of it as can be given to man will go to him who has learned to

78. Do you know a novel of Balzac, belonging to the "Celibataires"
series, called Pierrette? It is not one of Balzac's masterpieces, but
it has points of much interest for us. It is the story of an orphaned
Breton girl, a sweet, innocent child, who is suddenly snatched away, by
her evil star, from the grandparents who adore her, and transferred to
the care of an aunt and uncle. Monsieur Rogron and his sister Sylvia. A
hard, gloomy couple, these two; retired shopkeepers, who live in a
dreary house in the back streets of a dreary country town. Their
celibacy weighs heavily upon them; they are miserly, and absurdly vain;
morose, and instinctively full of hatred.

The poor inoffensive girl has hardly set foot in the house before her
martyrdom begins. There are terrible questions of money and economy,
ambitions to be gratified, marriages to be prevented, inheritances to
be turned aside: complications of every kind. The neighbours and
friends of the Rogrons behold the long and painful sufferings of the
victim with unruffled tranquillity, for their every natural instinct
leads them to applaud the success of the stronger. And at last
Pierrette dies, as unhappily as she has lived; while the others all
triumph--the Rogrons, the detestable lawyer Vinet, and all those who
had helped them; and the subsequent happiness of these wretches remains
wholly untroubled. Fate would even seem to smile upon them; and Balzac,
carried away in spite of himself by the reality of it all, ends his
story, almost regretfully, with these words: "How the social villainies
of this world would thrive under our laws if there were no God!"

We need not go to fiction for tragedies of this kind; there are many
houses in which they are matters of daily occurrence. I have borrowed
this instance from Balzac's pages because the story lay there ready to
hand; the chronicle, day by day, of the triumph of injustice. The very
highest morality is served by such instances, and a great lesson is
taught; and perhaps the moralists are wrong who try to weaken this
lesson by finding excuses for the iniquities of fate. Some are
satisfied that God will give innocence its due reward. Others tell us
that in this case it is not the victim who has the greatest claim upon
our sympathy. And these are doubtless right, from many points of view;
for little Pierrette, miserable though she was, and cruelly tormented,
did yet experience joys that her tyrants never would know. In the midst
of her sorrow, she remained gentle, and tender, and loving; and therein
lies greater happiness than in hiding cruelty, hatred, and selfishness
beneath a smile. It is sad to love and be unloved, but sadder still to
be unable to love. And how great is the difference between the petty,
sordid desires, the grotesque delights, of the Rogrons, and the mighty
longing that filled the child's soul as she looked forward to the time
when injustice at last should cease! Little wistful Pierrette was
perhaps no wiser than those about her; but before such as must bear
unmerited suffering there stretches a wide horizon, which here and
again takes in the joys that only the loftiest know; even as the
horizon of the earth, though not seen from the mountain peak, would
appear at times to be one with the corner-stone of heaven. The
injustice we commit speedily reduces us to petty, material pleasures;
but, as we revel in these, we envy our victim; for our tyranny has
thrown open the door to joys whereof we cannot deprive him--joys that
are wholly beyond our reach, joys that are purely spiritual. And the
door that opens wide to the victim is sealed in the tyrant's soul; and
the sufferer breathes a purer air than he who has made him suffer. In
the hearts of the persecuted there is radiance, where those who
persecute have only gloom; and is it not on the light within us that
the wellbeing of happiness depends? He who brings sorrow with him
stifles more happiness within himself than in the man he overwhelms.
Which of us, had he to choose, but would rather be Pierrette than
Rogron? The instinct of happiness within us needs no telling that he
who is morally right must be happier than he who is wrong, though the
wrong be done from the height of a throne. And, even though the Rogrons
be unaware of their Injustice, it alters nothing; for, be we aware or
unaware of the evil we commit, the air we breathe will still be heavily
charged. Nay, more--to him who knows he does wrong there may come,
perhaps, the desire to escape from his prison; but the other will die
in his cell, without even his thoughts having travelled beyond the
gloomy walls that conceal from him the true destiny of man.

79. Why seek justice where it cannot be? and where can it be, save in
our soul? Its language is the natural language of the spirit of man;
but this spirit must learn new words ere it can travel in the universe.
Justice is the very last thing of all wherewith the universe concerns
itself. It is equilibrium that absorbs its attention; and what we term
justice is truly nothing but this equilibrium transformed, as honey is
nothing but a transformation of the sweetness found in the flower.
Outside man there is no justice; within him injustice cannot be. The
body may revel in ill--gotten pleasure, but virtue alone can bring
contentment to the soul. Our inner happiness is measured out to us by
an incorruptible Judge and the mere endeavour to corrupt him still
further reduces the sum of the final, veritable happiness he lets fall
into the shining scale. It is lamentable enough that a Rogron should be
able to torture a helpless child, and darken the few hours of life the
chance of the world had given; but injustice there would be only if his
wickedness procured him the inner happiness and peace, the elevation of
thought and habit, that long years spent in love and meditation had
procured for Spinoza and Marcus Aurelius. Some slight intellectual
satisfaction there may be in the doing of evil; but none the less does
each wrongful deed clip the wings of our thoughts, till at length they
can only crawl amidst all that is fleeting and personal. To commit an
act of injustice is to prove we have not yet attained the happiness
within our grasp. And in evil--reduce things to their primal elements,
and you shall find that even the wicked are seeking some measure of
peace, a certain up-lifting of soul. They may think themselves happy,
and rejoice for such dole as may come to them; but would it have
satisfied Marcus Aurelius, who knew the lofty tranquillity, the great
quickening of the soul? Show a vast lake to the child who has never
beheld the sea, it will clap its hands and be glad, and think the sea
is before it; but therefore none the less does the veritable sea exist.

It may be that a man will find happiness in the puny little victories
that his vanity, envy, or indifference win for him day after day. Shall
we begrudge him such happiness, we, whose eyes can see further? Shall
we strive for his consciousness of life, for the religion that pleases
his soul, for the conception of the universe that justifies his cares?
Yet out of these things are the banks made between which happiness
flows; and as they are, so shall the river be, in shallowness or in
depth. He may believe that there is a God, or that there is no God;
that all ends in this world, or that it is prolonged into the next;
that all is matter, or that all is spirit. He will believe these things
much as wise men believe them; but do you think his manner of belief
can be the same? To look fearlessly upon life; to accept the laws of
nature, not with meek resignation, but as her sons, who dare to search
and question; to have peace and confidence within our soul--these are
the beliefs that make for happiness. But to believe is not enough; all
depends on how we believe. I may believe that there is no God, that I
am self-contained, that my brief sojourn here serves no purpose; that
in the economy of this world without limit my existence counts for as
little as the evanescent hue of a flower--I may believe all this, in a
deeply religious spirit, with the infinite throbbing within me; you may
believe in one all-powerful God, who cherishes and protects you, yet
your belief may be mean, and petty, and small. I shall be happier than
you, and calmer, if my doubt is greater, and nobler, and more earnest
than is your faith; if it has probed more deeply into my soul,
traversed wider horizons, if there are more things it has loved. And if
the thoughts and feelings on which my doubt reposes have become vaster
and purer than those that support your faith, then shall the God of my
disbelief become mightier and of supremer comfort than the God to whom
you cling. For, indeed, belief and unbelief are mere empty words; not
so the loyalty, the greatness and profoundness of the reasons wherefore
we believe or do not believe.

80. We do not choose these reasons; they are rewards that have to be
earned. Those we have chosen are only slaves we have happened to buy;
and their life is but feeble; they hold themselves shyly aloof, ever
watching for a chance to escape. But the reasons we have deserved stand
faithfully by us; they are so many pensive Antigones, on whose help we
may ever rely. Nor can such reasons as these be forcibly lodged in the
soul; for indeed they must have dwelt there from earliest days, have
spent their childhood there, nourished on our every thought and action;
and tokens recalling a life of devotion and love must surround them on
every side. And as they throw deeper root--as the mists clear away from
our soul and reveal a still wider horizon, so does the horizon of
happiness widen also; for it is only in the space that our thoughts and
our feelings enclose that our happiness can breathe in freedom. It
demands no material space, but finds ever too narrow the spiritual
fields we throw open; wherefore we must unceasingly endeavour to
enlarge its territory, until such time as, soaring up on high, it finds
sufficient aliment in the space which it does of itself fling open.
Then it is, and then only, that happiness truly illumines the most
eternal, most human part of man; and indeed all other forms of
happiness are merely unconscious fragments of this great happiness,
which, as it reflects and looks before it, is conscious of no limit
within itself or in all that surrounds it.

81. This space must dwindle daily in those who follow evil, seeing that
their thoughts and feelings must of necessity dwindle also. But the man
who has risen somewhat will soon forsake the ways of evil; for look
deep down enough and you shall ever find its origin in straitened
feeling and stunted thought. He does evil no longer, because his
thoughts are purer and higher; and now that he is incapable of evil,
his thoughts will become purer still. And thus do our thoughts and
actions, having won their way into the placid heaven where no barrier
restrains the soul, become as inseparable as the wings of a bird; and
what to the bird was only a law of equilibrium is here transformed into
a law of justice.

82. Who can tell whether the satisfaction derived from evil can ever
penetrate to the soul, unless there mingle with it a vague desire, a
promise, a distant hope, of goodness or of pity?

The joy of the wretch whose victim lies in his power is perhaps
unredeemed in its gloom and futility, save by the thought of mercy that
flashes across him. Evil at times would seem compelled to beg a ray of
light from virtue, to shed lustre on its triumph. Is it possible for a
man to smile in his hatred and not borrow the smile of love? But the
smile will be short-lived, for here, as everywhere, there is no inner
injustice. Within the soul the high-water mark of happiness is always
level with that of justice or charity--which words I use here
indifferently, for indeed what is charity or love but justice with
naught to do but count its jewels? The man who goes forth to seek his
happiness in evil does merely prove thereby that he is less happy than
the other who watches, and disapproves. And yet his object is identical
with that of the upright man. He too is in search of happiness, of some
sort of peace and certainty. Of what avail to punish him? We do not
blame the poor because their home is not a palace; it is sad enough to
be compelled to live in a hovel. He whose eyes can see the invisible,
knows that in the soul of the most unjust man there is justice still:
justice, with all her attributes, her stainless garments and holy
activity. He knows that the soul of the sinner is ever balancing peace
and love, and the consciousness of life, no less scrupulously than the
soul of philosopher, saint, or hero; that it watches the smiles of
earth--and sky, and is no less aware of all whereby those smiles are
destroyed, degraded, and poisoned. We are not wrong, perhaps, to be
heedful of justice in the midst of a universe that heeds not at all; as
the bee is not wrong to make honey in a world that itself can make
none. But we are wrong to desire an external justice, since we know
that it does not exist. Let that which is in us suffice. All is for
ever being weighed and judged in our soul. It is we who shall judge
ourselves; or rather, our happiness is our judge.

83. It may be urged that virtue is subject to defeat and
disappointment, no less than vice; but the defeats and disappointments
of virtue bring with them no gloom or distress, for they do but tend to
soothe and enlighten our thoughts. An act of virtue may sink into the
void, but it is then, most of all, that we learn to gauge the depths of
life and of soul; and often will it fall into these depths like a
radiant stone, beside which our thoughts loom pale. With every vicious
scheme that fails before the innocence of Pierrette, Madame Rogron's
soul shrivels anew; whereas the clemency of Titus, falling on thankless
soil, docs but induce him to lift his eyes on high, far beyond love or
pardon. There is no gain in shutting out the world, though it be with
walls of righteousness. The last gesture of virtue should be that of an
angel flinging open the door. We should welcome our disillusions; for
were it the will of destiny that our pardon should always transform an
enemy into a brother, then should we go to our grave still unaware of
all that springs to light within us beneath the act of unwise clemency,
whose unwisdom we never regret. We should die without once having
matched all that is best in our soul against the forces that hedge life
around. The kindly deed that is wasted, the lofty or only loyal thought
that falls on barren ground--these too have their value, for the light
they throw differs far from the radiance triumphant virtue suffuses;
and thus may we see many things in their differing aspect. There were
surely much joy in the thought that love must invariably triumph; but
greater joy is there still in tearing aside this illusion, am marching
straight on to the truth. "Man has been but too prone," said a
philosopher, whom death carried off too soon--"man has been but too
prone, through all the course of his history, to lodge his dignity
within his errors, and to look upon truth as a thing that depreciated
himself. It may sometimes seem less glorious than illusion, but it has
the advantage of being true. In the whole domain of thought there is
nothing loftier than truth." And there is no bitterness herein, for
indeed to the sage truth can never be bitter. He, too, has had his
longings in the past, has conceived that truth might move mountains,
that a loving act might for ever soften the hearts of men; but to-day
he has learned to prefer that this should not be so. Nor is it
overweening pride that thus has changed him; he does not think himself
more virtuous than the universe; it is his insignificance in the
universe that has been made clear to him. It is no longer for the
spiritual fruit it bears that he tends the love of justice he has found
implanted in his soul, but for the living flowers that spring up within
him, and because of his deep respect for all created things. He has no
curses for the ungrateful friend, nor even for ingratitude itself. He
does not say, "I am better than that man," or "I shall not fall into
that vice." But he is taught by ingratitude that benevolence contains
joys that are greater than those that gratitude can bestow; joys that
are less personal, but more in harmony with life as a whole. He finds
more pleasure in the attempt to understand that which is, than in the
struggle to believe that which he desires. For a long time he has been
like the beggar who was suddenly borne away from his hut and lodged in
a magnificent palace. He awoke and threw uneasy glances about him,
seeking, in that immense hall, for the squalid things he remembered to
have had in his tiny room. Where were the hearth, the bed, the table,
stool, and basin? The humble torch of his vigils still trembled by his
side, but its light could not reach the lofty ceiling. The little wings
of flame threw their feeble flicker on to a pillar close by, which was
all that stood out from the darkness. But little by little his eyes
grew accustomed to his new abode. He wandered through room after room,
and rejoiced as profoundly at all that his torch left in darkness as at
all that it threw into light. At first he could have wished in his
heart that the doors had been somewhat less lofty, the staircases not
quite so ample, the galleries less lost in gloom; but as he went
straight before him, he felt all the beauty and grandeur of that which
was yet so unlike the home of his dream. He rejoiced to discover that
here bed and table were not the centre round which all revolved, as it
had been with him in his hut. He was glad that the palace had not been
built to conform with the humble habits his misery had forced upon him.
He even learned to admire the things that defeated his hopes, for they
enabled his eyes to see deeper. The sage is consoled and fortified by
everything that exists, for indeed it is of the essence of wisdom to
seek out all that exists, and to admit it within its circle.

84. Wisdom even admits the Rogrons; for she holds life of profounder
interest than even justice or virtue; and where her attention is
disputed by a virtue lost in abstraction, and by a humble, walled-in
life, she will incline to the humble life, and not to the magnificent
virtue that holds itself proudly aloof. It is of the nature of wisdom
to despise nothing; indeed, in this world there is perhaps only one
thing truly contemptible, and that thing is contempt itself. Thinkers
too often are apt to despise those who go through life without
thinking. Thought is doubtless of high value; our first endeavour
should be to think as often and as well as we can; but, for all that,
it is somewhat beside the mark to believe that the possession, or lack,
of a certain faculty for handling general ideas can interpose an actual
barrier between men. After all, the difference between the greatest
thinker and the smallest provincial burgher is often only the
difference between a truth that can sometimes express itself and a
truth that can never crystallise into form. The difference is
considerable--a gap, but not a chasm. The higher our thoughts ascend,
the vainer and the more arbitrary seems the distinction between him who
is thinking always and him who thinks not yet. The little burgher is
full of prejudice and of passions at which we smile; his ideas are
small and petty, and sometimes contemptible enough; and yet, place him
side by side with the sage, before essential circumstance of life,
before love, grief, death, before something that calls for true
heroism, and it shall happen more than once that the sage will turn to
his humble companion as to the guardian of a truth no less profound, no
less deeply human, than his own. There are moments when the sage
realises, that his spiritual treasures are naught; that it is only a
few words, or habits, that divide him from other men; there are moments
when he even doubts the value of those words. Those are the moments
when wisdom flowers and sends forth blossom. Thought may sometimes
deceive; and the thinker who goes astray must often retrace his
footsteps to the spot whence those who think not have never moved away,
where they still remain faithfully seated round the silent, essential
truth. They are the guardians of the watch-fires of the tribe; the
others take lighted torches and go wandering abroad; but when the air
grows heavy and threatens the feeble flame, then is it well to turn
back and draw close to the watch-fires once more. These fires seem
never to stir from the spot where they always have been; but in truth
they ever are moving, keeping time with the worlds; and their flame
marks the hour of humanity on the dial of the universe. We know exactly
how much the inert forces owe to the thinker; we forget the deep
indebtedness of the thinker to inert force. In a world where all were
thinkers, more than one indispensable truth might perhaps for ever be
lost. For indeed the thinker must never lose touch with those who do
not think, as his thoughts would then quickly cease to be just or
profound. To disdain is only too easy, not so to understand; but in him
who is truly wise there passes no thought of disdain, but it will,
sooner or later, evolve into full comprehension. The thought that can
travel scornfully over the heads of that great silent throng without
recognising its myriad brothers and sisters that are slumbering there
in its midst, is only too often merely a sterile, vicious dream. We do
well to remind ourselves at times that the spiritual, no less than the
physical, atmosphere demands more nitrogen than oxygen for the air to
be breathed by man.

85. It need not surprise us that thinkers like Balzac should have loved
to dwell on these humble lives. Eternal sameness runs through them, and
yet does each century mark profoundest change in the atmosphere that
enwraps them. The sky above has altered, but these simple lives have
ever the self-same gestures; and it is these unchanging gestures that
tell of the altered sky. A great deed of heroism fascinates us; our eye
cannot travel beyond the act itself; but insignificant thoughts and
deeds lead us on to the horizon beyond them; and is not the shining
star of human wisdom always situate on the horizon? If we could see
these things as nature sees them, with her thoughts and feelings, we
should realise that the uniform mediocrity that runs through these
lives cannot truly be mediocre, from the mere fact of its uniformity.
And indeed this matters but little; we can never judge another soul
above the high-water mark of our own; and however insignificant a
creature may seem to us at first, as our own soul emerges from shadow,
so does the shadow lift from him. There is nothing our eyes behold that
is too small to deserve our love; and there where we cannot love, we
have only to raise our lamp till it reaches the level of love, and then
throw its light around. Let only one ray of this light go forth every
day from our soul, we may then be content. It matters not where the
light falls. There is not a thing in this world whereupon your glance
or your thought can rest but contains within it more treasure than
either of these can fathom; nor is there a thing so small but it has a
vastness within that the light that a soul can spare can, at best, but
faintly illumine.

86. Is not the very essence of human destiny, stripped of the details
that bewilder us, to be found in the most ordinary lives? The mighty
struggle of morality on the heights is glorious to witness; but so will
a keen observer profoundly admire a magnificent tree that stands alone
in a desert, and, his contemplation over, once more go back to the
forest, where there are no marvellous trees, but trees in countless
abundance. The immense forest is doubtless made up of ordinary branches
and stems; but is it not vast, is it not as it should be, seeing that
it is the forest? Not by the exceptional shall the last word ever be
spoken; and indeed what we call the sublime should be only a clearer,
profounder insight into all that is perfectly normal. It is of service,
often, to watch those on the peaks who do battle; but it is well, too,
not to forget those in the valley below, who fight not at all. As we
see all that happens to these whose life knows no struggle; as we
realise how much must be conquered in us before we can rightly
distinguish their narrower joys from the joy known to them who are
striving on high, then perhaps does the struggle itself appear to
become less important; but, for all that, we love it the more. And the
reward is the sweeter to us for the silence that enwraps its coming;
nor is this from a desire to keep our happiness secret--such as a
crafty courtier might feel who hugs fortune's favours to him--but,
perhaps, because it is only when happiness thus whispers low in our
ear, and no other men know, that it is not according us joys that are
filched from our brother's share. Then do we no longer say to
ourselves, as we look on those brothers: "How great is the distance
between such as these and myself," but in all simplicity do we murmur
at last to ourselves: "The loftier my thoughts become, the less is
there to divide me from the humblest of my fellow-creatures, from those
who are most plentiful on earth; and every step that I take towards an
uncertain ideal, is a step that brings me the nearer to those whom I
once despised, in the vanity and ignorance of my earliest days."

After all, what is a humble life? It is thus we choose to term the life
that ignores itself, that drains itself dry in the place of its
birth--a life whose feelings and thoughts, whose desires and passions,
entwine themselves around the most insignificant things. But it
suffices to look at a life for that life to seem great. A life in
itself can be neither great nor small; the largeness is all in the eye
that surveys it; and an existence that all men hold to be lofty and
vast, is one that has long been accustomed to look loftily on itself
from within. If you have never done this, your life must be narrow; but
the man who watches you live will discern, in the very obscurity of the
corner you fill, an element of horizon, a foothold to cling to, whence
his thoughts will rise with surer and more human strength. There is not
an existence about us but at first seems colourless, dreary, lethargic:
what can our soul have in common with that of an elderly spinster, a
slow-witted ploughman, a miser who worships his gold? Can any
connection exist between such as these and a deep-rooted feeling, a
boundless love for humanity, an interest time cannot stale? But let a
Balzac step forward and stand in the midst of them, with his eyes and
ears on the watch; and the emotion that lived and died in an
old-fashioned country parlour shall as mightily stir our heart, shall
as unerringly find its way to the deepest sources of life, as the
majestic passion that ruled the life of a king and shed its triumphant
lustre from the dazzling height of a throne. "There are certain little
agitations," says Balzac in the Cure de Tours, the most admirable of
all his studies of humble life--"there are certain little agitations
that are capable of generating as much passion within the soul as would
suffice to direct the most important social interests. Is it not a
mistake to imagine that time only flies swiftly with those whose hearts
are devoured by mighty schemes, which fret and fever their life? Not an
hour sped past the Abbe Troubert but was as animated, as laden with its
burden of anxious thought, as lined with pleading hope and deep
despair, as could be the most desperate hour of gambler, plotter, or
lover. God alone can tell how much energy is consumed in the triumphs
we achieve over men, and things, and ourselves. We may not be always
aware whither our steps are leading, but are only too fully conscious
of the wearisomeness of the Journey. And yet--if the historian may be
permitted to lay aside, for one moment, the story he is telling, and to
assume the role of the critic--as you cast your eyes on the lives of
these old maids and these two priests, seeking to learn the cause of
the sorrow which twisted their heartstrings, it will be revealed to
you, perhaps, that certain passions must be experienced by man for
there to develop within him the qualities that make a life noble, that
widen its area, and stifle the egoism natural to all."

He speaks truly. Not for its own sake, always, should we love the
light, but for the sake of what it illumines. The fire on the mountain
shines brightly, but there are few men on the mountain; and more
service may often be rendered by the torchlight, there where the crowd
is. It is in the humble lives that is found the substance of great
lives; and by watching the narrowest feelings does enlargement come to
our own. Nor is this from any repugnance these feelings inspire, but
because they no longer accord with the majestic truth that controls us.
It is well to have visions of a better life than that of every day, but
it is the life of every day from which elements of a better life must
come. We are told we should fix our eyes on high, far above life; but
perhaps it is better still that our soul should look straight before
it, and that the heights whereupon it should yearn to lay all its hopes
and its dreams should be the mountain peaks that stand clearly out from
the clouds that gild the horizon.

87. This brings us back once again to external destiny; but the tears
that external suffering wrings from us are not the only tears known to
man. The sage whom we love must dwell in the midst of all human
passions, for only on the passions known to the heart can his wisdom
safely be nourished. They are nature's artisans, sent by her to help us
construct the palace of our consciousness--of our happiness, in other
words; and he who rejects these workers, deeming that he is able,
unaided, to raise all the stones of life, will be compelled for ever to
lodge his soul in a bare and gloomy cell. The wise man learns to purify
his passions; to stifle them can never be proof of wisdom. And, indeed,
these things are all governed by the position we take as we stand on
the stairs of time. To some of us moral infirmities are so many stairs
tending downwards; to others they represent steps that lead us on high.
The wise man perchance may do things that are done by the unwise man
also; but the latter is forced by his passions to become the abject
slave of his instincts, whereas the sage's passions will end by
illumining much that was vague in his consciousness. To love madly,
perhaps, is not wise; still, should he love madly, more wisdom will
doubtless come to him than if he had always loved wisely. It is not
wisdom, but the most useless form of pride that can flourish in vacancy
and inertia. It is not enough to know what should be done, not though
we can unerringly declare what saint or hero would do. Such things a
book can teach in a day. It is not enough to intend to live a noble
life and then retire to a cell, there to brood over this intention. No
wisdom thus acquired can truly guide or beautify the soul; it is of as
little avail as the counsels that others can offer. "It is in the
silence that follows the storm," says a Hindu proverb, "and not in the
silence before it, that we should search for the budding flower."

88. The earnest wayfarer along the paths of life does but become the
more deeply convinced, as his travels extend, of the beauty, the
wisdom, and truth of the simplest and humblest laws of existence. Their
uniformity, the mere fact of their being so general, such matter of
every day, are in themselves enough to compel his admiration. And
little by little he holds the abnormal ever less highly, and neither
seeks nor desires it; for it is soon borne home to him, as he reflects
on the vastness of nature, with her slow, monotonous movement, that the
ridiculous pretensions our ignorance and vanity put forth are the most
truly abnormal of all. He no longer vexes the hours as they pass with
prayer for strange or marvellous adventure; for these come only to such
as have not yet learned to have faith in life and themselves. He no
longer awaits, with folded arms, the chance for superhuman effort; for
he feels that he exists in every act that is human. He no longer
requires that death, or friendship, or love should come to him decked
out with garlands illusion has woven, or escorted by omen, coincidence,
presage; but they come in their bareness and simpleness, and are always
sure of his welcome. He believes that all that the weak, and the idle,
and thoughtless consider sublime and exceptional, that the fall
equivalent for the most heroic deed, can be found in the simple life
that is bravely and wholly faced. He no longer considers himself the
chosen son of the universe; but his happiness, consciousness, peace of
mind, have gained all that his pride has lost. And, this point once
attained, then will the miraculous adventures of a St. Theresa or
Jean-de-la-Croix, the ecstasy of the mystics, the supernatural
incidents of legendary loves, the star of an Alexander or a
Napoleon--then will all these seem the merest childish illusions
compared with the healthy wisdom of a loyal, earnest man, who has no
craving to soar above his fellows so as to feel what they cannot feel,
but whose heart and brain find the light that they need in the
unchanging feelings of all. The truest man will never be he who desires
to be other than man. How many there are that thus waste their lives,
scouring the heavens for sight of the comet that never will come; but
disdaining to look at the stars, because these can be seen by all, and,
moreover, are countless in number! This craving for the extraordinary
is often the special weakness of ordinary men, who fail to perceive
that the more normal, and ordinary, and uniform events may appear to
us, the more are we able to appreciate the profound happiness that this
uniformity enfolds, and the nearer are we drawn to the truth and
tranquillity of the great force by which we have being. What can be
less abnormal than the ocean, which covers two-thirds of the globe; and
yet, what is there more vast? There is not a thought or a feeling, not
an act of beauty or nobility, whereof man is capable, but can find
complete expression in the simplest, most ordinary life; and all that
cannot be expressed therein must of necessity belong to the falsehoods
of vanity, ignorance, or sloth.

89. Does this mean that the wise man should expect no more from life
than other men; that he should love mediocrity and limit his desires;
content himself with little and restrict the horizon of his happiness,
because of the fear lest happiness escape him? By no means; for the
wisdom is halting and sickly that can too freely renounce a legitimate
human hope. Many desires in man may be legitimate still,
notwithstanding the disapproval of reason, sometimes unduly severe. But
the fact that our happiness does not seem extraordinary to those about
us by no means warrants our thinking that we are not happy. The wiser
we are, the more readily do we perceive that happiness lies in our
grasp; that it has no more enviable gift than the uneventful moments it
brings. The sage has learnt to quicken and love the silent substance of
life. In this silent substance only can faithful joys be found, for
abnormal happiness never ventures to go with us to the tomb. The day
that comes and goes without special whisper of hope or happiness should
be as dear to us, and as welcome, as any one of its brothers. On its
way to us it has traversed the same worlds and the self-same space as
the day that finds us on a throne or enthralled by a mighty love. The
hours are less dazzling, perhaps, that its mantle conceals; but at
least we may rely more fully on their humble devotion. There are as
many eternal minutes in the week that goes by in silence, as in the one
that tomes boldly towards us with mighty shout and clamour. And indeed
it is we who tell ourselves all that the hour would seem to say; for
the hour that abides with us is ever a timid and nervous guest, that
will smile if its host be smiling, or weep if his eyes be wet. It has
been charged with no mission to bring happiness to us; it is we who
should comfort the hour that has sought refuge within our soul. And he
is wise who always finds words of peace that he can whisper low to his
guest on the threshold. We should let no opportunity for happiness
escape us, and the simplest causes of happiness should be ever stored
in our soul. It is well, at first, to know happiness as men conceive
it, so that, later, we may have good reason for preferring the
happiness of our choice. For, herein, it is not unlike what we are told
of love. To know what real love should be we must have loved
profoundly, and that first love must have fled. It is well to know
moments of material happiness, since they teach us where to look for
loftier joys; and all that we gain, perhaps, from listening to the
hours that babble aloud in their wantonness is that we are slowly
learning the language of the hours whose voice is hushed. And of these
there are many; they come in battalions, so close on the heels of each
other that treachery and flight cannot be; wherefore it is on them
alone that the sage should depend. For he will be happy whose eyes have
learned to detect the hidden smile and mysterious jewels of the myriad,
nameless hours; and where are these jewels to be found, if not in

90. But there is a kind of ignoble discretion that has least in common,
of all things, with the wisdom we speak of here; for we had far better
spend our energy round even fruitless happiness, than slumber by the
fireside awaiting joys that never may come. Only the joys that have
been offered to all, and none have accepted, will knock at his door who
refuses himself to stir forth. Nor is the other man wise who holds the
reins too tight on his feelings, and halts them when reason commands,
or experience whispers. The friend is not wise who will not confide in
his friend, remembering always that friendships may come to an end; nor
the lover, who draws back for fear lest he may find shipwreck in love.
For here, were we twenty times unfortunate, it is still only the
perishable portion of our energy for happiness that suffers; and what
is wisdom after all but this same energy for happiness cleansed of all
that is impure? To be wise we must first learn to be happy, that we may
attach ever smaller importance to what happiness may be in itself. We
should be as happy as possible, and our happiness should last as long
as is possible; for those who can finally issue forth from self by the
portal of happiness, know infinitely wider freedom than those who pass
through the gate of sadness. The joy of the sage illumines his heart
and his soul alike, whereas sadness most often throws light on the
heart alone. One might almost compare the man who had never been happy
with a traveller whose every journey had been taken by night. Moreover,
there is in happiness a humility deeper and nobler, purer and wider,
than sorrow can ever procure. There is a certain humility that ranks
with parasitic virtues, such as sterile self-sacrifice, arbitrary
chastity, blind submission, fanatic renouncement, penitence, false
shame, and many others, which have from time immemorial turned aside
from their course the waters of human morality, and forced them into a
stagnant pool, around which our memory still lingers. Nor do I speak of
a cunning humility that is often mere calculation, or, taken at its
best, a timidity that has its root in pride--a loan at usury that our
vanity of to-day extends to our vanity of to-morrow. And even the sage
at times conceives it well to lower himself in his own self-esteem, and
to deny superior merits that are his when comparing himself with other
men. Humility of this kind may throw a charm around our ways of life,
but yet, sincere as it doubtless may be, it nevertheless attacks the
loyalty due to ourselves, which we should value high above all. And it
surely implies a certain timidity of conscience; whereas the conscience
of the sage should harbour neither timidity nor shame. But by the side
of this too personal humility there exists another humility that
extends to all things, that is lofty and strong, that has fed on all
that is best in our brain and our heart and our soul. It is a humility
that defines the limit of the hopes and adventures of men; that lessens
us only to add to the grandeur of all we behold; that teaches us where
we should look for the true importance of man, which lies not in that
which he is, but in that which his eyes can take in, which he strives
to accept and to grasp. It is true that sorrow will also bring us to
the realm of this humility; but it hastens us through, branching off on
the road to a mysterious gate of hope, on whose threshold we lose many
days; whereas happiness, that after the first few hours has nothing
else left to do, will lead us in silence through path after path till
we reach the most unforeseen, inaccessible places of all. It is when
the sage knows he possesses at last all man is allowed to possess, that
he begins to perceive that it is his manner of regarding what man may
never possess, that determines the value of such things as he truly may
call his own. And therefore must we long have sunned ourselves in the
rays of happiness before we can truly conceive an independent view of
life. We must be happy, not for happiness' sake, but so that we may
learn to see distinctly that which vain expectation of happiness would
for ever hide from our gaze.

91. Economy avails us nothing in the region of the heart, for it is
there that men gather the harvest of life's very substance, it were
better that nothing were done there than that things should be done by
halves; and that which we have not dared to risk is most surely lost of
all. To limit our passions is only to limit ourselves, and we are the
losers by just so much as we hoped to gain. There are certain
fastnesses within our soul that lie buried so deep that love alone dare
venture down; and it returns laden with undreamed-of jewels, whose
lustre can only be seen as they pass from our open hand to the hand of
one we love. And indeed it would seem that so clear a light springs
from our hands as they open thus to give, that it penetrates substance
too opaque to yield to the mysterious rays just discovered.

92. It avails us nothing unduly to bemoan our errors or losses. For
happen what may to the man of simple faith, still, at the last minute
of the sorrow-laden hour, at the end of the week or year, still will he
find some cause for gladness as he turns his eyes within. Little by
little he has learned to regret without tears. He is as a father might
be who returns to his home in the evening, his day's work done. He may
find his children in tears perhaps, or playing dangerous, forbidden
games; the furniture scattered, glasses broken, a lamp overturned; but
shall he therefore despair? It would certainly have been better had the
children been more obedient, had they quietly learned their
lessons---this would have been more in keeping with every moral theory;
but how unreasonable the father who, in the midst of his harsh rebuke,
could withhold a smile as he turned his head away! The children have
acted unwisely, perhaps, in their exuberance of life; but why should
this distress him? All is well, so long as he return home at night, so
long as he ever keep about him the key of the guardian dwelling. As we
look into ourselves, and pass in review what our heart, and brain, and
soul have attempted and carried through while we were away, the benefit
lies far more in the searching glance itself than in the actual
inspection. And if the hours have not once let fall their mysterious
girdle on their way past our threshold; if the rooms be as empty as on
the day of departure, and those within have but sat with folded arms
and worked not at all---still, as we enter, shall something be learned
from our echoing footsteps, of the extent, and the clearness, and the
fidelity, of our home.

93. No day can be uneventful, save in ourselves alone; but in the day
that seems most uneventful of all, there is still room for the loftiest
destiny; for there is far more scope for such destiny within ourselves
than on the whole continent of Europe. Not by the extent of empire is
the range of destiny governed, but, indeed, by the depth of our soul.
It is in our conception of life that real destiny is found; when at
last there is delicate balance between the insoluble questions of
heaven and the wavering response of our soul. And these questions
become the more tranquil as they seem to comprise more and more; and to
the sage, whatever may happen will still widen the scope of the
questions, still give deeper confidence to the reply. Speak not of
destiny when the event that has brought you joy or sadness has still
altered nothing in your manner of regarding the universe. All that
remains to us when love and glory are over, when adventures and
passions have faded into the past, is but a deeper and ever-deepening
sense of the infinite; and if we have not that within us, then are we
destitute indeed. And this sense of the infinite is more than a mere
assemblage of thoughts, which, indeed, are but the innumerable steps
that thither lead. There is no happiness in happiness itself, unless it
help our comprehension of the rest, unless it help us in some measure
to conceive that the very universe itself must rejoice in existence.
The sage who has attained a certain height will find peace in all
things that happen; and the event that saddens him, as other men,
tarries but an instant ere it goes to strengthen his deep perception of
life. He who has learned to see in all things only matter for unselfish
wonder, can be deprived of no satisfaction whatever without there
spring to sudden life within him, from the mere feeling that this joy
can be dispensed with, a high protecting thought that enfolds him in
its light. That destiny is beautiful wherein each event, though charged
with joy or sadness, has brought reflection to us, has added something
to our range of soul, has given us greater peace wherewith to cling to
life. And, indeed, the accident that robs us of our love, that leads us
along in triumph, or even that seats us on a throne, reveals but little
of the workings of destiny; which, indeed, lie far more in the thoughts
that arise in our mind as we look at the men around us, at the woman we
love; as we dwell on the feelings within us; as we fix our eyes on the
evening sky with its crown of indifferent stars.

94. A woman of extraordinary beauty and talent, possessed of the rarest
qualities of mind and soul, was one day asked by a friend, to whom she
seemed the most perfect creature on earth: "What are your plans? Can
any man be worthy of your love? Your future puzzles me. I cannot
conceive a destiny that shall be lofty enough for a soul such as
yours." He knew but little of destiny. To him, as to most men, it meant
thrones, triumphs, dazzling adventures: these things seemed to him the
sum of a human destiny; whereby he did but prove that he knew not what
destiny was. And, in the first place, why this disdain of to-day? To
disdain to-day is to prove that yesterday has been misunderstood. To
disdain to-day is to declare oneself a stranger, and what can you hope
to do in a world where you shall ever pass as a stranger? To-day has
this advantage over yesterday, that it exists and was made for us. Be
to-day what it will, it has wider knowledge than yesterday; and by that
alone does it become more beautiful, and vaster. Why should we think
that the woman I speak of would have known a more brilliant destiny in
Venice, Florence, or Rome? Her presence might have been sought at
magnificent festival, and her beauty have found a fitting surrounding
in exquisite landscape. She might have had princes and kings, the elect
of the world, at her feet; and perhaps it had needed but one of her
smiles to add to a great nation's gladness, to ennoble or chasten the
thought of an epoch. Whereas here all her life will be spent among four
or five people--four or five souls that know of her soul, and love her.
It may be that she never shall stir from her dwelling; that of her
life, of her thoughts, and the strength that is in her, there will
remain not a trace among men. It may be that her beauty, her force and
her instinct for good, will be buried within her: in her heart and the
hearts of the few who are near. And even then, and if this be so, the
soul of this woman doubtless shall find its own thing to do. The mighty
gates through which we must pass to a helpful and noteworthy life no
longer grate on their hinges with the deafening clamour of old. They
are smaller, perhaps, than they were; less vast and imposing; but their
number is greater to-day, and they admit us, in silence, to paths that
extend very far. And even though the home of this woman be not
brightened by one single gleam from without, will she have failed to
fulfil her destiny because her life is lived in the shade? Cannot
destiny be beautiful and complete in itself, without help from without?
As the soul that has truly conquered surveys the triumphs of the past,
it is glad of those only that brought with them a deeper knowledge of
life and a nobler humility; of those that lent sweeter charm to the
moments when love, glory, and enthusiasm having faded away, the fruit
that a few hours of boiling passion had ripened was gathered in
meditation and silence. When the feasting is over: when charity,
kindness and valorous deed all lie far behind us: what is there left to
the soul but some stray recollections, a gain of some consciousness,
and a feeling that helps us to look on our place in the world with more
knowledge and less apprehension--a feeling blent with some wisdom, from
the numberless things it has learned? When the hour for rest has
sounded--as it must sound every night and at every moment of
solitude--when the gaudy vestments of love, and glory, and power fall
helplessly round us; what is it we can take with us as we seek refuge
within ourselves, where the happiness of each day is measured by the
knowledge the day has brought us, by the thoughts and the confidence it
has helped us to acquire? Is our true destiny to be found in the things
which take place about us, or in that which abides in our soul? "Be a
man's power or glory never so great," said a philosopher, "his soul
soon learns how to value the feelings that spring from external events;
and as he perceives that no increase has come to his physical
faculties, that these remain wholly unchanged, neither altered nor
added to, then does the sense of his nothingness burst full upon him.
The king who should govern the world must still, like the rest of his
brothers, revolve in a limited circle, whose every law must be obeyed;
and on his impressions and thoughts must his happiness wholly depend."
The impressions his memory retains, we might add, because they have
chastened his mind; for the souls that we deal with here will retain
such impressions only as have quickened their sense of goodness, as
have made them a little more noble. Is it impossible to find--it
matters not where, nor how great be the silence--the same undlssolvable
matter that lurks in the cup of the noblest external existence? and
seeing that nothing is truly our own till it faithfully follow us into
the darkness and silence, why should the thing that has sprung to life
there be less faithful in silence and darkness? But we will pursue this
no farther, for it leads to a wisdom of over-much theory. For all that
a brilliant exterior destiny is not indispensable, still should we
always regard it as wholly desirable, and pursue it as keenly as though
we valued it highly. It behoves the sage to knock at the door of every
temple of glory, of every dwelling where happiness, love, and activity
are to be found. And if his strenuous effort and long expectation
remain unrewarded, if no door fly open, still may he find, perhaps, in
the mere expectation and effort an equivalent for all the emotions and
light that he sought. "To act," says Barres, "is to annex to our
thoughts vaster fields of experience." It is also, perhaps, to think
more quickly than thought, as more completely; for we no longer think
with the brain alone, but with every atom of life. It is to wrap round
with dream the profoundest sources of thought, and then to confront
them with fact. But to act is not always to conquer. To attempt, to be
patient, and wait--these, too, may be action; as also, to hear, to
watch, and be silent.

If the lot of the woman we speak of had been cast in Athens, or
Florence, or Rome, there had been, in her life, certain motives of
grandeur, occasions for beauty and happiness, that she may well never
meet with to-day. And she is the poorer for lacking the efforts she
might have put forth, the memory of what might have been done; for in
these lies a force that is precious and vital, that often indeed will
transform many more things within us, than a thought which is morally,
mentally worth many thousand such efforts and memories. And indeed it
is therefore alone that we should desire a brilliant, feverish destiny;
because it summons to life certain forces and feelings that would
otherwise never emerge from the slumberous peace of an over-tranquil
existence. But from the moment we know, or even suspect, that these
feelings lie dormant within us, we are already giving life to all that
is best in those feelings; and it is as though we were, for one brief
moment, looking down upon a glorious external destiny from heights such
destiny shall only attain at the end of its days; as though we were
prematurely gathering the fruit of the tree, which it shall itself
still find barren until many a storm has passed.

95. Last night, re-reading Saint-Simon--with whom we seem to ascend a
lofty tower, whence our gaze rests on hundreds of human destinies,
astir in the valley below--I understood what a beautiful destiny meant
to the instinct of man. It would doubtless have puzzled Saint-Simon
himself to have told what it was that he loved and admired in some of
his heroes, whom he enwraps in a sort of resigned, and almost
unconscious, respect. Thousands of virtues that he esteemed highly have
ceased to exist to-day, and many a quality now seems petty indeed that
he commended in some of his great ones. And yet are there, unperceived
as it were by him, four or five men in the midst of the glittering
crowd hard by the monarch's throne, four or five earnest benevolent
faces on whom our eye still rests gladly; though Saint-Simon gives them
no special attention or thought, for in his heart he looks with
disfavour on the ideas that govern their life. Fenelon is there; the
Dukes of Chevreuse and Beauvilliers; there is Monsieur le Dauphin.
Their happiness is no greater than that of the rest of mankind. They
achieve no marked success, they gain no resplendent victory, They live
as the others live--in the fret and expectation of the thing that we
choose to call happiness, because it has yet to come. Fenelon incurs
the displeasure of the crafty, bigoted king, who, for all his pride,
would resent the most trivial offence with the humbleness of humblest
vanity; who was great in small things, and petty in all that was
great--for such was Louis XIV. Fenelon is condemned, persecuted,
exiled. The Dukes of Chevreuse and Beauvilliers continue to hold
important office at Court, but none the less deem it prudent to live in
a kind of voluntary retirement. The Dauphin is not in favour with the
King; a powerful, envious clique are for ever intriguing against him,
and they finally succeed in crushing his youthful military glory. He
lives in the midst of disgrace, misadventure, disaster, that seem
irreparable in the eyes of that vain and servile Court; for disgrace
and disaster assume the proportions the manners of the day accord.
Finally he dies, a few days after the death of the wife he had loved so
tenderly. He dies--poisoned, perhaps, as she too; the thunderbolt
falling just as the very first rays of kingly favour, whereon he had
almost ceased to count, were stealing over his threshold. Such were the
troubles and misfortunes, the sorrows and disappointments, that wrapped
these lives round; and yet, as we look on this little group, standing
firm and silent in the midst of the feverish, intermittent glitter of
the rest, then do these four destinies seem truly beautiful to us, and
enviable. Through all their vicissitudes one common light shines
through them. The great soul of Fenelon illumines them all. Fenelon is
faithful to his loftiest thoughts of piety, meekness, wonder, justice,
and love; and the other three are faithful to him, who was their master
and friend. And what though the mystic ideas of Fenelon be no longer
shared by us: what though the ideas that we cling to ourselves, and
deem the profoundest and noblest--the ideas that live at the root of
our every conviction of life, that have served as the basis of all our
moral happiness--what though these should one day fall in ruins behind
us, and only arouse a smile among such as believe that they have found
other thoughts still, which to them seem more human, and final?
Thought, of itself, is possessed of no vital importance; it is the
feelings awakened within us by thought that ennoble and brighten our
life. Thought is our aim, perhaps; but it may be with this as with many
a journey we take--the place we are bound for may interest us less than
the journey itself, the people we meet on the road, the unforeseen that
may happen. Here, as everywhere, it is only the sincerity of human
feeling that abides. As for a thought, we know not, it may be
deceptive; but the love, wherewith we have loved it, will surely return
to our soul; nor can a single drop of its clearness or strength be
abstracted by error. Of that perfect ideal that each of us strives to
build up in himself, the sum total of all our thoughts will help only
to model the outline; but the elements that go to construct it, and
keep it alive, are the purified passion, unselfishness, loyalty,
wherein these thoughts have had being. The extent of our love for the
thing which we hold to be true is of greater importance than even the
truth itself. Does not love bring more goodness to us than thought can
ever convey? Loyally to love a great error may well be more helpful
than meanly to serve a great truth; for in doubt, no less than in
faith, are passion and love to be found. Some doubts are as generous
and passionate as the very noblest convictions. Be a thought of the
loftiest, surest, or of the most profoundly uncertain, the best that it
has to offer is still the chance that it gives us of loving some one
thing wholly, without reserve. Whether it be to man, or a God; to
country, to world or to error, that I truly do yield myself up, the
precious ore that shall some day be found buried deep in the ashes of
love will have sprung from the love itself, and not from the thing that
I loved. The sincerity of an attachment, its simplicity, firmness, and
zeal--these leave a track behind them that time can never efface. All
passes away and changes; it may be that all is lost, save only the glow
of this ardour, fertility, and strength of our heart.

96. "Never did man possess his soul in such peace as he," says
Saint-Simon of one of them, who was surrounded on all sides by malice,
and scheming, and snares. And further on he speaks of the "wise
tranquillity" of another, and this "wise tranquillity" pervades every
one of those whom he terms the "little flock." The "little flock,"
truly, of fidelity to all that was noblest in thought; the "little
flock" of friendship, loyalty, self-respect, and inner contentment,
that pass along, radiant with peace and simplicity, in the midst of the
lies and ambitions, the follies and treacheries, of Versailles. They
are not saints, in the vulgar sense of the word. They have not fled to
the depths of forest or desert, or sought egotistic shelter in narrow
cells. They are sages, who remain within life and the things that are
real. It is not their piety that saves them; it is not in God alone
that their soul has found strength. To love God, and to serve Him with
all one's might, will not suffice to bring peace and strength to the
soul of man. It is only by means of the knowledge and thought we have
gained and developed by contact with men that we can learn how God
should be loved; for, notwithstanding all things, the human soul
remains profoundly human still. It may be taught to cherish the
invisible, but it will ever find far more actual nourishment in the
virtue or feeling that is simply and wholly human, than in the virtue
or passion divine. If there come towards us a man whose soul is truly
tranquil and calm, we may be certain that human virtues have given him
his tranquillity and his calmness. Were we permitted to peer into the
secret recesses of hearts that are now no more, we might discover,
perhaps, that the fountain of peace whereat Fenelon slaked his thirst
every night of his exile lay rather in his loyalty to Madame Guyon in
her misfortune, in his love for the slandered, persecuted Dauphin, than
in his expectation of eternal reward; rather in the irreproachable
human conscience within him, overflowing with fidelity and tenderness,
than in the hopes he cherished as a Christian.

97. Admirable indeed is the serenity of this "little flock!" No virtue,
here, to kindle dazzling fires on the mountain, but heart and soul that
are alive with flame. No heroism but that of love, of confidence and
sincerity, that remember and are content to wait. Some men there are
whose virtue issues from them with a noise of clanging gates; in others
it dwells as silent as the maid who never stirs from home, who sits
thoughtfully by the fireside, always ready to welcome those who enter
from the cold without. There is less need of heroic hours, perhaps, in
a beautiful life, than of weeks that are grave, and uniform, and pure.
It may be that the soul that is loyal and perfectly just is more
precious than the one that is tender or full of devotion It will enter
less wholly perhaps, and with less exaltation, into the more exuberant
adventures of life; but in the events that occur every day we can trust
it more fully, rely more completely upon it; and is there a man, after
all, no matter how strange and delirious and brilliant his life may
have been, who has not spent the great bulk of his time in the midst of
most ordinary incident? In our very sublimest hour, as we stand in the
midst of the dazzling circles it throws, are we not startled to find
that the habits and thoughts of our soberest hour are whirling around
with the rest? We must always come back to our normal life, that is
built on the solid earth and primitive rock. We are not called upon to
contest each day with dishonour, despair, or death; but it is
imperative, perhaps, that I should be able to tell myself, at every
hour of sadness, that there exists, somewhere, an unchangeable,
unconquerable soul that has drawn near to my soul--a soul that is
faithful and silent, blind to all that it deems not conformable with
the truth. We can only have praise for heroism, and for surpassingly
generous deeds; but more praise still--as it demands a more vigilant
strength--for the man who never allows an inferior thought to seduce
him; who leads a less glorious life, perhaps, but one of more uniform
worth. Let us sometimes, in our meditations, bring our desire for moral
perfection to the level of daily truth, and be taught how far easier it
is to confer occasional benefit than never to do any harm; to bring
occasional happiness than never be cause of tears.

98. Their refuge, their "firm rock," as Saint-Simon calls it, lay in
each other, and, above all, in themselves; and all that was blameless
within their soul became steadfastness in the rock. A thousand
substances go to form the foundations of this "firm rock," but all that
we hold to be blameless within us will sink to its centre and base. It
is true that our standard of conduct may often be sadly at fault; and
the vilest of men has a moment each night when he proudly surveys some
detestable thought, that seems wholly blameless to him. But I speak of
a virtue, here, that is higher than everyday virtue; and the most
ordinary man is aware what a virtue becomes, when it is ordinary virtue
no longer. Moral beauty, indeed, though it be of the rarest kind, never
passes the comprehension of the most narrow-minded of men; and no act
is so readily understood as the act that is truly sublime. We may
admire a deed profoundly, perhaps, and yet not rise to its height; but
it is imperative that we should not abide in the darkness that covers
the thing we blame. Many a happiness in life, as many a disaster, is
due to chance alone; but the peace within us can never be governed by
chance. Some souls, I know, for ever are building; others have
preference for ruins; and others, still, will wander, their whole life
through, seeking shelter beneath strange roofs. And difficult as it may
be to transform the instincts that dwell in the soul, it is well that
those who build not should be made aware of the joy that the others
experience as they incessantly pile stone upon stone. Their thoughts,
and attachments, and love; their convictions, deceptions, and even
their doubts--all stand in good service; and when the passing storm has
demolished their mansion, they build once again with the ruins, a
little distance away, something less stately perhaps, but better
adapted to all the requirements of life. What regret, disillusion, or
sadness can shatter the homestead of him who, in choosing the stones
for his dwelling, Was careful to keep all the wisdom and strength that
regret, disillusion, and sadness contain? Or might we not say that it
is with the roots of the happiness we cherish within as with roots of
great trees? The oaks that are subject the most to the stress of the
storm thrust their roots the most staunchly and firmly, deep down in
eternal soil; and the fate that unjustly pursues us is no more aware of
what comes to pass in our soul, than the wind is aware of what happens
below in the earth.

99. Here let us note how great is the power, how mysterious the
attraction, of veritable happiness. Something of a hush comes over
Saint-Simon's stirring narrative as one of the members of the "little
flock" passes through the careless, triumphant crowd, unceasingly busy
with intrigue and salutation, petty love and petty triumph, amidst the
marble staircases and magnificent halls of Versailles. Saint-Simon goes
calmly on with his story; but for one second we seem to have compared
all this jubilant vanity and ephemeral rejoicing, this brazen-tongued
falsehood that secretly trembles, with the serene, unvarying loftiness
of those strenuous, tranquil souls. It is as though there should
suddenly appear in the midst of a band of children--who are plucking
flowers, it may be, stealing fruit, or playing forbidden games--a
priest or an aged man, who should go on his way, letting fall not one
word of rebuke. The games are suddenly stopped; startled conscience
awakens; and unbidden thoughts of duty, reality, truth, rush in on the
mind; but with men no more than with children are impressions of long
duration, though they spring from the priest, or the sage, or only the
thought that has passed and gone on its way. But it matters not, they
have seen; and the human soul, for all that the eyes are only too
willing to close or turn away, is nobler than most men would wish it to
be, for it often troubles their peace; and the soul is quick to declare
its preference for that it has seen, and fain would abandon its
enforced and wearisome idleness. And although we may smile and make
merry as the sage disappears in the distance, he has, though he know it
not, left a clear track in the midst of our error and folly, where,
haply, it still will abide for a long time to come. And when the sudden
hour of tears bursts upon us, then most of all shall we see it
enwrapped in light. We find again and again, in Saint-Simon's story,
that sorrow no sooner invades a soul somewhat loftier than others,
somewhat nearer to life perhaps, than it speedily flies for comfort to
one it has thus seen pass by in the midst of the uneasy silence and
almost malevolent wonder, that in this world too often attend the
footsteps of a blameless life. It is not our wont to question happiness
closely in the days when we deem ourselves happy; but when sorrow draws
nigh, our memory flies to the peace that somewhere lies hidden: the
peace that depends not on the rays of the sun, or the kiss that has
been withheld, or the disapproval of kings. At such moments we go not
to those who are happy, as we once were happy; for we know that this
happiness melts away before the first fretful gesture of fate. Would
you learn where true happiness dwells, you have only to watch the
movements of those who are wretched, and seek consolation. Sorrow is
like the divining-rod that used to avail the seekers of treasure or of
clear running water; for he who may have it about him unerringly makes
for the house where profoundest peace has its home. And this is so true
that we should be wise, perhaps, not to dwell with too much
satisfaction on our own peace of mind and tranquillity, on the
sincerity of our own acquiescence in the great laws of life, or rely
too complacently on the duration of our own happiness, until such time
as the instinct of those who suffer impels them to knock at our door,
and their eyes can behold, shining bright on the threshold, the steady,
unwavering flame of the lamp that burns on for ever. Yes; only they, it
may be, have the right to deem themselves safe to whose arms there come
to weep those whose eyes are heavy with tears. And indeed there are not
a few in this world whose inner smile we can only behold when our eyes
have been cleansed by the tears that lay bare the mysterious sources of
vision; and then only do we begin to detect the presence of happiness
that springs not from the favour or gleam of an hour, but from widest
acceptance of life. Here, as in much beside, desire and necessity
quicken our senses. The hungry bee will discover the honey, be it hid
never so deep in the cavern; and the soul that mourns will spy out the
joy that lies hidden in its retreat, or in most impenetrable silence.

100. Destiny begins when consciousness wakes, and bestirs itself within
man; not the passive, impoverished consciousness of most souls, but the
active consciousness that will accept the event, whatever it may be, as
an imprisoned queen will accept a gift that is offered to her in her
cell. If nothing should happen, your consciousness yet may create
important event from the manner in which it regards the mere dearth of
event; but perhaps to each man there occurs vastly more than is needed
to satisfy the thirstiest, most indefatigable consciousness. I have at
this moment before me the history of a mighty and passionate soul, whom
every adventure that makes for the sorrow or gladness of man would seem
to have passed by with averted head. It is of Emily Bronte I speak,
than whom the first fifty years of this century produced no woman of
greater or more incontestable genius. She has left but one book behind
her, a novel, called "Wuthering Heights," a curious title, which seems
to suggest a storm on a mountain peak. She was the daughter of an
English clergyman, the Rev. Patrick Bronte, who was the most
insignificant, selfish, lethargic, pretentious creature the mind can
conceive. There were only two things in life that seemed of importance
to him--the purity of his Greek profile, and solicitude for his
digestion. As for Emily's unfortunate mother, her whole life would seem
to have been spent in admiring this Greek profile and in studying this
digestion. But there is scarcely need to dwell upon her existence, for
she died only two years after Emily's birth. It is of interest to note,
however--if only to prove once again that, in ordinary life, the woman
is usually superior to the man she has had to accept--that long after
the death of the patient wife a bundle of letters was found, wherein it
was clearly revealed that she who had always been silent was fully
alive to the indifference and fatuous self-love of her vain and
indolent husband. We may, it is true, be conscious of faults in others
from which we are ourselves not exempt; although to discover a virtue,
perhaps, we must needs have a germ of it in us. Such were Emily's
parents. Around her, four sisters and one brother gravely watched the
monotonous flight of the hours. The family dwelling, where Emily's
whole life was spent, was in the heart of the Yorkshire Moors, at a
place called Haworth, a gloomy, desolate village; barren, forsaken, and

There can never have been a childhood and youth so friendless,
monotonous, and dreary as that of Emily and her sisters. There came to
them none of those happy little adventures, bright gleams from the
unexpected, which we broider and magnify as the years go by, and store
at last in our soul as the one inexhaustible treasure acquired by the
smiling memory of life. Each day was the same, from first to
last--lessons, meals, household duties, work beside an old aunt, and
long solitary walks that these grave little girls would take hand in
hand, speaking but seldom, across the heather now gay with blossom, now
white beneath the snow. At home the father they scarcely saw, who was
wholly indifferent, who took his meals in his room, and would come down
at night to the rectory parlour and read aloud the appallingly dreary
debates of the House of Commons: without, the silence of the adjoining
graveyard, the great treeless desert, and the moors that from autumn to
summer were swept by the pitiless wind from the north.

The hazard of life--for in every life some effort is put forth by
fate--the hazard of life removed Emily three or four times from the
desert she had grown to love, and to consider--as will happen to those
who remain too long in one spot--the only place in the world where the
plants, and the earth, and the sky were truly real and delightful. But
after a few weeks' absence the light would fade from her ardent,
beautiful eyes; she pined for home; and one or another of the sisters
must hasten to bring her back to the lonely vicarage.

In 1843--she was then twenty-five--she returned once again, never more
to go forth until summoned by death. Not an event, or a smile, or a
whisper of love in the whole of her life to the day of this final
return. Nor was her memory charged with one of those griefs or
deceptions, which enable the weaklings, or those who demand too little
of life, to imagine that passive fidelity to something that has of
itself collapsed is an act of virtue; that inactivity is justified by
the tears wherein it is bathed; and that the duty of life is
accomplished when suffering has been made to yield up all its
resignation and sorrow.

Here, in this virgin soul, whose past was a blank, there was nothing
for memory or resignation to cling to; nothing before that last
journey, as nothing after; unless it be mournful vigils by the side of
the brother she nursed--the almost demented brother, whose life was
wrecked by his idleness and a great unfortunate passion; who became an
incurable opium-eater and drunkard. Then, shortly before her
twenty-ninth birthday, on a December afternoon, as she sat in the
little whitewashed parlour combing her long black hair, the comb
slipped from the fingers that were too weak to retain it, and fell into
the fire; and death came to her, more silent even than life, and bore
her away from the pale embraces of the two sisters whom fortune had
left her.

101. "No touch of love, no hint of fame, no hours of ease lie for you
across the knees of fate," exclaims Miss Mary Robinson, who has
chronicled this existence, in a fine outburst of sorrow. And truly,
viewed from without, what life could be more dreary and colourless,
more futile and icily cold, than that of Emily Bronte? But where shall
we take our stand, when we pass such a life in review, so as best to
discover its truth, to judge it, approve it, and love it? How different
it all appears as we leave the little parsonage, hidden away on the
moors, and let our eyes rest on the soul of our heroine! It is rare
indeed that we thus can follow the life of a soul in a body that knew
no adventure; but it is less rare than might be imagined that a soul
should have life of its own, which hardly depends, if at all, on
incident of week or of year. In "Wuthering Heights"--wherein this soul
gives to the world its passions, desires, reflections, realisations,
ideals, which is, in a word, its real history--in "Wuthering Heights"
there is more adventure, more passion, more energy, more ardour, more
love, than is needed to give life or fulfilment to twenty heroic
existences, twenty destinies of gladness or sorrow. Not a single event
ever paused as it passed by her threshold; yet did every event she
could claim take place in her heart, with incomparable force and
beauty, with matchless precision and detail. We say that nothing ever
happened; but did not all things really happen to her much more
directly and tangibly than unto most of us, seeing that everything that
took place about her, everything that she saw or heard, was transformed
within her into thoughts and feelings, into indulgent love, admiration,
adoration of life? What matter whether the event fall on our
neighbour's roof or our own? The rain-drops the cloud brings with it
are for him who will hold out his vessel; and the gladness, the beauty,
the peace, or the helpful disquiet that is found in the gesture of
fate, belongs only to him who has learned to reflect. Love never came
to her: there fell never once on her ear the lover's magical footfall;
and, for all that, this virgin, who died in her twenty-ninth year, has
known love, has spoken of love, has penetrated its most impenetrable
secrets to such a degree, that those who have loved the most deeply
must sometimes uneasily wonder what name they should give to the
passion they feel, when she pours forth the words, exaltation and
mystery of a love beside which all else seems pallid and casual. Where,
if not in her heart, has she heard the matchless words of the girl, who
speaks to her nurse of the man who is hated and harassed by all, but
whom she wholly adores? "My great miseries in this world have been
Heathcliff's miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning;
my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and HE
remained, _I_ should still continue to be; and if all else remained,
and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger;
I should not seem a part of it. My love for Linton is like the foliage
in the woods: time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes
the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks
beneath--a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I AM
Heathcliff! He's always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more
than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being. ... I do
not love him because he's handsome, but because he's more myself than I
am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same." ...

She has but little acquaintance with the external realities of love,
and these she handles so innocently at times as almost to provoke a
smile; but where can she have acquired her knowledge of those inner
realities, that are interwoven with all that is profoundest and most
illogical in passion, with all that is most unexpected, most
impossible, and most eternally true? We feel that one must have lived
for thirty years beneath burning chains of burning kisses to learn what
she has learned; to dare so confidently set forth, with such
minuteness, such unerring certainty, the delirium of those two
predestined lovers of "Wuthering Heights"; to mark the self-conflicting
movements of the tenderness that would make suffer and the cruelty that
would make glad, the felicity that prayed for death and the despair
that clung to life; the repulsion that desired, the desire drunk with
repulsion--love surcharged with hatred, hatred staggering beneath its
load of love. ...

And yet it is known to us--for in this poor life of hers all lies
open--that she neither loved nor was loved. May it be true then that
the last word of an existence is only a word that destiny whispers low
to what lies most hidden in our heart? Have we indeed an inner life
that yields not in reality to the outer life; that is no less
susceptible of experience and impression? Can we live, it matters not
where, and love, and hate, listening for no footfall, spurning no
creature? Is the soul self-sufficient; and is it always the soul that
decides, a certain height once gained? Is it only to those whose
conscience still slumbers that events can seem sad or sterile? Did not
love and beauty, happiness and adventure--did not all that we go in
search of along the ways of life congregate in Emily Bronte's heart?
Day after day passed by, with never a joy or emotion; never a smile
that the eye could see or the hand could touch; wherefore none the less
did her destiny find its fulfilment, for the confidence within her, the
eagerness, hope, animation, all were astir; and her heart was flooded
with light, and radiant with silent gladness. Of her happiness none can
doubt. Not in the soul of the best of all those whose happiness has
lasted the longest, been the most active, diversified, perfect, could
more imperishable harvest be found than in the soul Emily Bronte lays
bare. If to her there came nothing of all that passes in joy and in
love, in sorrow, passion, and anguish, still did she possess all that
abides when emotion has faded away. Which of the two will know more of
the marvellous palace--the blind man who lives there, or the other,
with wide-open eyes, who perhaps only enters it once? "To live, not to
live"--we must not let mere words mislead us. It is surely possible to
live without thought, but not to think, without active life. The
essence of the joy or sorrow the event contains lies in the idea the
event gives birth to: our own idea, if we are strong; that of others,
if we are weak. On your way to the grave there may come a thousand
external events towards you, whereof not one, it may be, shall find
within you the force that it needs to turn to moral event. Then may you
truthfully say, and then only, "I have perhaps not lived." The intimate
happiness of our heroine, as of every human being, was in exact
proportion to her morality and her sense of the universe; and these
indeed are the clearings in the forest of accidents whose area it is
well we should know when we seek to measure the happiness a life has
experienced. Who that had gained the altitude of peace and
comprehension whereon her soul reposed would still be wrought to
feeble, bitter, unrefreshing tears by the cares and troubles and
deceptions of ordinary life? Who would not then understand why it was
that she shed no tears, unlike so many of her sisters, who spend their
lives in plaintive wanderings from one broken joy to another? The joy
that is dead weighs heavy, and bids fair to crush us, if we cause it to
be with us for ever; which is as though a wood-cutter should refuse to
lay down his load of dead wood. For dead wood was not made to be
eternally borne on the shoulder, but indeed to be burned, and give
forth brilliant flame. And as we behold the names that soar aloft in
Emily's soul, then are we as heedless as she was of the sorrows of the
dead wood. No misfortune but has its horizon, no sadness but shall know
comfort, for the man who in the midst of his suffering, in the midst of
the grief that must come to him as to all, has learned to espy Nature's
ample gesture beneath all sorrow and suffering, and has become aware
that this gesture alone is real. "The sage, who is lord of his life,
can never truly be said to suffer." wrote an admirable woman, who had
known much sorrow herself. "It is from the heights above that he looks
down on his life, and if to-day he should seem to suffer, it is only
because he has allowed his thoughts to incline towards the less perfect
part of his soul." Emily Bronte not only breathes life into tenderness,
loyalty, and love, but into hatred and wickedness also; nay, into the
very fiercest revengeful ness, the most deliberate perfidy; nor does
she deem it incumbent upon her to pardon, for pardon implies only
incomplete comprehension. She sees, she admits, and she loves. She
admits the evil as well as the good, she gives life to both; well
knowing that evil, when all is said, is only righteousness strayed from
the path. She reveals to us--not with the moralist's arbitrary formula,
but as men and years reveal the truths we have wit to grasp--the final
helplessness of evil, brought face to face with life; the final
appeasement of all things in nature as well as in death, "which is only
the triumph of life over one of its specialised forms." She shows how
the dexterous lie, begotten of genius and strength, is forced to bow
down before the most ignorant, puniest truth; she shows the
self-deception of hatred that sows, all unwilling, the seeds of
gladness and love in the life that it anxiously schemes to destroy. She
is, perhaps, the first to base a plea for indulgence on the great law
of heredity; and when, at the end of her book, she goes to the village
churchyard and visits the eternal resting-place of her heroes, the
grass grows green alike over grave of tyrant and martyr; and she
wonders how "any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the
sleepers in that quiet earth."

102. I am well aware that here we are dealing with a woman of genius;
but genius only throws into bolder relief all that can, and actually
does, take place in the lives of all men; otherwise were it genius no
longer, but incoherence or madness. It becomes clear to us, after a
time, that genius is by no means confined to the extraordinary; and
that veritable superiority is composed of elements that every day
offers to every man. But we are not considering literature now; and
indeed, not by her literary gifts, but by her inner life, was Emily
Bronte comforted; for it by no means follows that moral activity waits
on brilliant literary powers. Had she remained silent, nor ever grasped
a pen, still had there been no diminution of the power within her, of
the smile and the fulness of love; still had she worn the air of one
who knew whither her steps were tending; and the profound certainty
that dwelt within her still had proclaimed that she had known how to
make her peace, far up on the heights, with the great disquiet and
misery of the world. We should never have known of her--that is all.

There is much to be learned from this humble life, and yet were it
perhaps not well to hold it forth as an example to such as already
incline overmuch to resignation, for these it might mislead. It is a
life that would seem to have been wholly passive--and to be passive is
not good for all. She died a virgin in her twenty-ninth year: and it is
sad to die a virgin. Is it not the paramount duty of every human being
to offer to his destiny all that can be offered to the destiny of man?
And indeed we had far better leave behind us work unfinished than life
itself incomplete. It is good to be indifferent to vain or idle
pleasures; but we have no right almost voluntarily to neglect the most
important chances of indispensable happiness. The soul that is unhappy
may have within it cause for noble regret. To look largely on the
sadness of one's life is to make essay, in the darkness, of the wings
that shall one day enable us to soar high above this sadness. Effort
was lacking, perhaps, in Emily Bronte's life. (In her soul there was
wealth of passion and freedom and daring, but in her life timidity,
silence, inertness, conventions, and prejudice; the very things that in
thought she despised.) This is the history often of the too-meditative
soul. But it is difficult to pass judgment on an entire existence; and
here there were much to be said of the devotion wherewith she
sacrificed the best years of her youth to an undeserving, though
unfortunate, brother. Our remarks then, in a case such as this, must be
understood generally only; but still, how long and how narrow is the
path that leads from the soul to life! Our thoughts of love, of justice
and loyalty, our thoughts of bold ambition--what are all these but
acorns that fall from the oak in the forest? and must not thousands and
tens of thousands be lost and rot in the lichen ere a single tree
spring to life? "She had a beautiful soul," said, speaking of another
woman, the woman whose words I quoted above, "a wide intellect, and
tender heart, but ere these qualities could issue forth into life they
had perforce to traverse a straitened character. Again and again have I
wondered at this want of self-knowledge, of return to self. The man who
would wish us to see the deepest recess of his life will begin by
telling us all that he thinks and he feels, will lead as to his point
of view; we are conscious, perhaps, of much elevation of soul; then, as
we enter with him still further into his life, he tells of his conduct,
his joys and his sorrows; and in these we detect not a gleam of the
soul that had shone through his thoughts and desires. When the trumpet
is sounded for action, the instincts rush in, the character hastens
between; but the soul stands aloof: the soul, which is man's very
highest, being like the princess who elects to live on in arrogant
penury rather than soil her hands with ordinary labour." Yes, alas, all
is useless till such time as we have learned to harden our hands; to
transform the gold and silver of thought into a key that shall open,
not the ivory gate of our dreams, but the very door of this our
dwelling--into a cup that shall hold, not only the wondrous water of
dreams, but the living water that falls, drop by drop, on our
roof--into scales, not content vaguely to balance schemes for the
future, but that record, with unerring accuracy, what we have done
to-day. The very loftiest ideal has taken no root within us, so long as
it penetrate not every limb, so long as it palpitate not at our
finger-tip. Some there are whose intellect profits by this return to
self; with others, the character gains. The first have clearest vision
for all that concerns not themselves, that calls them not to action;
but it is above all when stern reality confronts them, and time for
action has come, that the eyes of the others glow bright. One might
almost believe in there being an intellectual consciousness, languidly
resting for ever upon an immovable throne, whence she issues commands
to the will through faithless or indolent envoys, and a moral
consciousness, incessantly stirring, afoot, at all times ready to
march. It may be that this latter consciousness depends on the
former--indeed who shall say that she is not the former, wearied from
long repose, wherein she has learned all that was to be learned; that
has at last determined to rise, to descend the steps of inactivity and
sally forth into life? And all will be well, if only she have not
tarried so long that her limbs refuse their office. Is it not
preferable sometimes to act in opposition to our thoughts than never
dare to act in accord with them? Rarely indeed is the active error
irremediable; men and things are quickly on the spot, eager to set it
right; but they are helpless before the passive error that has shunned
contact with the real. Let all this, however, by no means be construed
into meaning that the intellectual consciousness must be starved, or
its growth arrested, for fear lest it outpace the moral consciousness.
We need have no fear; no ideal conceived by man can be too admirable
for life to conform with it. To float the smallest act of justice or
love requires a very torrent of desire for good. For our conduct only
to be honest we must have thoughts within us ten times loftier than our
conduct. Even to keep somewhat clear of evil bespeaks enormous craving
for good. Of all the forces in the world there is none melts so quickly
away as the thought that has to descend into everyday life; wherefore
we must needs be heroic in thought for our deeds to pass muster, or at
the least be harmless.

103. Let us once again, and for the last time, return to obscure
destinies. They teach us that, physical misfortune apart, there is
remedy for all; and that to complain of destiny is only to expose our
own feebleness of soul. We are told in the history of Rome how a
certain Julius Sabinus, a senator from Gaul, headed a revolt against
the Emperor Vespasian, and was duly defeated. He might have sought
refuge among the Germans, but only by leaving his young wife, Eponina,
behind him, and he had not the heart to forsake her. At moments of
disaster and sorrow we learn the true value of life; nor did Julius
Sabinus welcome the idea of death. He possessed a villa, beneath which
there stretched vast subterranean caverns, known only to him and two
freedmen. This villa he caused to be burned, and the rumour was spread
that he had sought death by poison, and that his body was consumed by
the flames. Eponina herself was deceived, says Plutarch, whose story I
follow, with the additions made thereto by the Comte de Champagny, the
historian of Antoninus; and when Martialis the freedman told her of her
husband's self-slaughter, she lay for three days and three nights on
the ground, refusing all nourishment. When Sabinus heard of her grief,
he took pity and caused her to know that he lived. She none the less
mourned and shed floods of tears, in the daytime, when people were
near, but when night fell she sought him below in his cavern. For seven
long months did she thus confront the shades, every night, to be with
her husband; she even attempted to help him escape; she shaved off his
hair and his beard, wrapped his head round with fillets, disguised him,
and then had him sent, in a bundle of clothes, to her own native city.
But his stay there becoming unsafe, she soon brought him back to his
cavern; and herself divided her stay between town and the country,
spending her nights with him, and from time to time going to town to be
seen by her friends. She became big with child, and, by means of an
unguent wherewith she anointed her body, her condition remained
unsuspected by even the women at the baths, which at that time were
taken in common. And when her confinement drew nigh she went down to
her cavern, and there, with no midwife, alone, she gave birth to two
sons, as a lioness throws off her cubs. She nourished her twins with
her milk, she nursed them through childhood; and for nine years she
stood by her husband in the gloom and the darkness. But Sabinus at last
was discovered and taken to Rome. He surely would seem to have merited
Vespasian's pardon. Eponina led forth the two sons she had reared in
the depths of the earth, and said to the Emperor, "These have I brought
into the world and fed on my milk, that we might one day be more to
implore thy forgiveness." Tears filled the eyes of all who were there;
but Caesar stood firm, and the brave Gaul at last was reduced to demand
permission to die with her husband. "I have known more happiness with
him in the darkness," she cried, "than thou ever shalt know, O Caesar,
in the full glare of the sunshine, or in all the splendour of thy
mighty empire."

Who that has a heart within him can doubt the truth of her words, or
think without longing of the darkness that so great a love illumined?
Many a dreary, miserable hour must have crawled by as they crouched in
their hiding-place; but are there any, even among those who care only
for the pettiest pleasures of life, who would not rather love with such
depth and fervour in what was almost a tomb, than flaunt a frigid
affection in the heat and light of the sun? Eponina's magnificent cry
is the cry of all those whose hearts have been touched by love; as it
is also the cry of those whose soul has discovered an interest, duty,
or even a hope, in life. The flame that inspired Eponina inspires the
sage also, lost in monotonous hours as she in her gloomy retreat. Love
is the unconscious sun of our soul; and it is when its beams are most
ardent, and purest, that they bear most surprising resemblance to those
that the soul, aglow with justice and truth, with beauty and majesty,
has kindled within itself, and adds to, incessantly. Is not the
happiness that accident brought to the heart of Eponina within reach of
every heart, so the will to possess it be there? Is not all that was
sweetest in this love of hers--the devotion of self, the transformation
of regret into happiness, of pleasure renounced into joy that abides in
the heart for ever; the interest awakened each day by the feeblest
glimmer of light, so it fall on a thing one admires; the immersion in
radiance, in happiness susceptible of infinite expansion, for one has
only to worship the more--are not all these, and a thousand other
forces no less helpful, no less consoling, to be found in the intensest
life of our soul, of our heart, of our thoughts? And was Eponina's love
other than a sudden lightning flash from this life of the soul, come to
her, all unconscious and unprepared? Love does not always reflect;
often indeed does it need no reflection, no search into self, to enjoy
what is best in thought; but, none the less, all that is best in love
is closely akin to all that is best in thought. Suffering seemed ever
radiant in aspect to Eponina, because of her love; but cannot this
thing that love brings about, all unknowing, by fortunate accident, be
also achieved by thought, meditation, by the habit of looking beyond
our immediate trouble, and being more joyous than fate would seem to
demand? To Eponina there came not a sorrow but kindled yet one more
torch in the gloom of her cavern; and does not the sadness that forces
the soul back into itself, to the retreat it has made, kindle deep
consolation there? And, as the noble Eponina has taken us back to the
days of persecution, may we not liken such sorrow to the pagan
executioner who, suddenly touched by grace, or perhaps admiration, in
the very midst of the torture that he was inflicting, flung himself
down headlong at the feet of his victim, speaking words of tenderest
sympathy; who demanded to share her suffering, and finally besought, in
a kiss, to be told the way to her heaven.

104. Go where we will, the plentiful river of life flows on, beneath
the canopy of heaven. It flows between prison walls, where the sun
never gleams on its waters; as it flows by the palace steps, where all
is gladness and glory. Not our concern the depth of this river, or its
width, or the strength of its current, as it streams on for ever,
pertaining to all; but of deepest importance to us is the size and the
purity of the cup that we plunge in its waters. For whatever of life we
absorb must needs take the form of this cup, as this, too, has taken
the form of our thoughts and our feelings; being modelled, indeed, on
the breast of our intimate destiny as the breast of a goddess once
served for the cup of the sculptor of old. Every man has the cup of his
fashioning, and most often the cup he has learned to desire. When we
murmur at fate, let our grievance be only that she grafted not in our
heart the wish for, or thought of, a cup more ample and perfect. For
indeed in the wish alone does inequality lie, but this inequality
vanishes the moment it has been perceived. Does the thought that our
wish might be nobler not at once bring nobility with it; does not the
breast of our destiny throb to this new aspiration, thereby expanding
the docile cup of the ideal--the cup whose metal is pliable, still to
the cold stern hour of death? No cause for complaint has he who has
learned that his feelings are lacking in generous ardour, or the other
who nurses within him a hope for a little more happiness, a little more
beauty, a little more justice. For here all things come to pass in the
way that they tell us it happens with the felicity of the elect, of
whom each one is robed in gladness, and wears the garment befitting his
stature. Nor can he desire a happiness more perfect than the happiness
which he possesses, without the desire wherewith he desired at once
bringing fulfilment with it. If I envy with noble envy the happiness of
those who are able to plunge a heavier cup, and more radiant than mine,
there where the great river is brightest, I have, though I know it not,
my excellent share of all that they draw from the river, and my lips
repose by the side of their lips on the rim of the shining cup.

105. It may be remembered perhaps that, before these digressions, we
spoke of a woman whose friend asked her, wonderingly, "Can any man be
worthy of your love?" The same question might have been asked of Emily
Bronte, as indeed of many others; and in this world there are thousands
of souls, of loftiest intention, that do yet forfeit the best years of
love in constant self-interrogation as to the future of their
affections. Nay, more--in the empire of destiny it is to the image of
love that the great mass of complaints and regrets come flocking; the
image of love around which hover sluggish desire, extravagant hope, and
fears engendered of vanity. At root of all this is much pride, and
counterfeit poetry, and falsehood. The soul that is misunderstood is
most often the one that has made the least effort to gain some
knowledge of self. The feeblest ideal, the one that is narrowest,
straitest, most often will thrive on deception and fear, on exaction
and petty contempt. We dread above all lest any should slight, or pass
by unnoticed, the virtues and thoughts, the spiritual beauty, that
exist only in our imagination. It is with merits of this nature as it
is with our material welfare--hope clings most persistently to that
which we probably never shall have the strength to acquire. The cheat
through whose mind some momentary thought of amendment has passed, is
amazed that we offer not instant, surpassing homage to the feeling of
honour that has, for brief space, found shelter within him. But if we
are truly pure, and sincere, and unselfish; if our thoughts soar aloft
of themselves, in all simpleness, high above vanity or instinctive
selfishness, then are we far less concerned than those who are near us
should understand, should approve, or admire. Epictetus, Marcus
Aurelius, Antoninus Pius are not known to have ever complained that men
could not understand them. They hugged no belief to themselves that
something extraordinary, incomprehensible, lay buried within them; they
held, on the contrary, that whatever was best in their virtue was that
which it needed no effort for all men to grasp and admit. But there are
some morbid virtues that are passed by unnoticed, and not without
reason--for there will almost always be some superior reason for the
powerlessness of a feeling--morbid virtues to which we often ascribe
far too great an importance; and that virtue will surely be morbid that
we rate over highly and hold to deserve the respectful attention of
others. In a morbid virtue there is often more harm than there is in a
healthy vice; in any event it is farther removed from truth; and there
is but little to hope for when we are divided from truth. As our ideal
becomes loftier so does it become more real; and the nobler our soul,
the less does it dread that it meet not a soul of its stature; for it
must have drawn near unto truth, in whose neighbourhood all things must
take of its greatness. When Dante had gained the third sphere, and
stood in the midst of the heavenly lights, all shining with uniform
splendour, he saw that around him naught moved, and wondered was he
standing motionless there, or indeed drawing nearer unto the seat of
God? So he cast his eyes upon Beatrice; and she seemed more beautiful
to him; wherefore he knew that he was approaching his goal. And so can
we too count the steps that we take on the highway of truth, by the
increase of love that comes for all that goes with us in life; the
increase of love and of glad curiosity, of respect and of deep

106. Men, as a rule, sally forth from their homes seeking beauty and
joy, truth and love; and are glad to be able to say to their children,
on their return, that they have met nothing. To be for ever complaining
argues much pride; and those who accuse love and life are the ones who
imagine that these should bestow something more than they can acquire
for themselves. Love, it is true, like all else, claims the highest
possible ideal; but every ideal that conforms not with some strenuous
inward, reality is nothing but falsehood--sterile and futile,
obsequious falsehood. Two or three ideals, that lie out of our reach,
will suffice to paralyse life. It is wrong to believe that loftiness of
soul is governed by the loftiness of desire or dream. The dreams of the
weak will be often more numerous, lovelier, than are those of the
strong; for these dreams absorb all their energy, all their activity.
The perpetual craving for loftiness does not count in our moral
advancement if it be not the shadow thrown by the life we have lived,
by the firm and experienced will that has come in close kinship with
man. Then, indeed, as one places a rod at the foot of the steeple to
tell of its height by the shadow, so may we lead forth this craving of
ours to the midst of the plain that is lit by the sun of external
reality, that thus we may tell what relation exists between the shadow
thrown by the hour and the dome of eternity.

107. It is well that a noble heart should await a great love; better
still that this heart, all expectant, should cease not from loving; and
that, as it loves, it should scarcely be conscious of its desire for
more exquisite love. In love as in life, expectation avails us but
little; through loving we learn to love; and it is the so-called
disillusions of pettier love that will, the most simply and faithfully,
feed the immovable flame of the mightier love that shall come, it may
be, to illumine the rest of our life.

We treat disillusions often with scantiest justice. We conceive them of
sorrowful countenance, pale and discouraged; whereas they are really
the very first smiles of truth. Why should disillusion distress you, if
you are a man of honest intention, if you strive to be just, and of
service; if you seek to be happy and wise? Would you rather live on in
the world of your dreams and your errors than in the world that is
real? Only too often does many a promising nature waste its most
precious hours in the struggle of beautiful dream against inevitable
law, whose beauty is only perceived when every vestige of strength has
been sapped by the exquisite dream. If love has deceived you, do you
think that it would have been better for you all your life to regard
love as something it is not, and never can be? Would such an illusion
not warp your most significant actions; would it not for many days hide
from you some part of the truth that you seek? Or if you imagine that
greatness lay in your grasp, and disillusion has taken you back to your
place in the second rank; have you the right, for the rest of your
life, to curse the envoy of truth? For, after all, was it not truth
your illusion was seeking, assuming it to have been sincere? We should
try to regard disillusions as mysterious, faithful friends, as
councillors none can corrupt, And should there be one more cruel than
the rest, that for an instant prostrates you, do not murmur to yourself
through your tears that life is less beautiful than you had dreamed it
to be, but rather that in your dream there must have been something
lacking, since real life has failed to approve. And indeed the
much-vaunted strength of the strenuous soul is built up of disillusions
only, that this soul has cheerfully welcomed. Every deception and love
disappointed, every hope that has crumbled to dust, is possessed of a
strength of its own that it adds to the strength of your truth; and the
more disillusions there are that fall to the earth at your feet, the
more surely and nobly will great reality shine on you--even as the rays
of the sun are beheld the more clearly in winter, as they pierce
through the leafless branches of the trees of the forest.

108. And if it be a great love that you seek, how can you believe that
a soul shall be met with of beauty as great as you dream it to be, if
you seek it with nothing but dreams? Have you the right to expect that
definite words and positive actions shall offer themselves in exchange
for mere formless desire, and yearning, and vision? Yet thus it is most
of us act. And if some fortunate chance at last accords our desire, and
places us in presence of the being who is all we had dreamed her to
be--are we entitled to hope that our idle and wandering cravings shall
long be in unison with her vigorous, established reality? Our ideal
will never be met with in life unless we have first achieved it within
us to the fullest extent in our power. Do you hope to discover and win
for yourself a loyal, profound, inexhaustible soul, loving and quick
with life, faithful and powerful, unconstrained, free: generous, brave,
and benevolent--if you know less well than this soul what all these
qualities mean? And how should you know, if you have not loved them and
lived in their midst, as this soul has loved and lived? Most exacting
of all things, unskilful, thick-sighted, is the moral beauty,
perfection, or goodness that is still in the shape of desire. If it be
your one hope to meet with an ideal soul, would it not be well that you
yourself should endeavour to draw nigh to your own ideal? Be sure that
by no other means will you ever obtain your desire. And as you approach
this ideal it will dawn on you more and more clearly how fortunate and
wisely ordained it has been that the ideal should ever be different
from what our vague hopes were expecting. So too when the ideal takes
shape, as it comes into contact with life, will it soften, expand, and
lose its rigidity, incessantly growing more noble. And then will you
readily perceive, in the creature you love, all that which is eternally
true in yourself, and solidly righteous, and essentially beautiful; for
only the good in our heart can advise us of the goodness that hides by
our side. Then, at last, will the imperfections of others no longer
seem of importance to you, for they will no longer be able to wound
your vanity, selfishness, and ignorance; imperfections, that is, which
have ceased to resemble your own; for it is the evil that lies in
ourselves that is ever least tolerant of the evil that dwells within

109. Let us have the same confidence in love that we have in life; for
confidence is of our essence; and the thought that works the most harm
in all things is the one that inclines us to look with mistrust on
reality. I have known more than one life that love broke asunder; but
if it had not been love, these lives would no doubt have been broken no
less by friendship or apathy, by doubt, hesitation, indifference,
inaction. For that only which in itself is fragile can be rent in the
heart by love; and where all is broken that the heart contains, then
must all have been far too frail. There exists not a creature but must
more than once have believed that his life was crushed; but they whose
life has indeed been shattered, and has fallen to ruin, owe their
misfortune often to some strange vanity of the very ruin. Fortunate and
unfortunate hazards there must of necessity be in love as in all the
rest of our destiny. It may so come about that one whose spirit and
heart are abounding with tenderness, energy, and the noblest of human
desires, shall meet, on his first setting forth, all unsought, the soul
that shall satisfy each single craving of love in the ecstasy of
permanent joy; the soul that shall content the loftiest yearning no
less than the lowliest: the vastest, the mightiest no less than the
daintiest, sweetest: the most eternal no less than the most evanescent.
He, it may be, shall instantly find the heart whereto he can give--the
heart which will ever receive--all that is best in himself. It may
happen that he shall at once have attained the soul that perchance is
unique; the soul that is satisfied always, and always filled with
desire; the soul that can ever receive many thousand times more than is
given, and that never fails to return many thousand times more than it
receives. For the love that the years cannot alter is built up of
exchanges like these, of sweet inequality; and naught do we ever truly
possess but that which we give in our love; and whatever our love
bestows, we are no longer alone to enjoy.

110. Destinies sometimes are met with that thus are perfectly happy;
and each man, it may be, is entitled to hope that such may one day be
his; yet must his hope be never permitted to fasten chains on his life.
All he can do is to make preparation one day to deserve such a love;
and he will be most patient and tranquil who incessantly strives to
this end. It might so have happened that he whom we spoke of just now
should, day after day, from youth to old age, have passed by the side
of the wall behind which his happiness lay waiting, enwrapped in too
secret a silence. But if happiness lie yonder side of the wall, must
despair and disaster of necessity dwell on the other? Is not something
of happiness to be found in our thus being able to pass by the side of
our happiness? Is it not better to feel that a mere slender
chance--transparent, one almost might call it--is all that extends
between us and the exquisite love that we dream of, than to be divided
for ever therefrom by all that is worthless within us, undeserving,
inhuman, abnormal? Happy is he who can gather the flower, and bear it
away in his bosom; yet have we no cause to pity the other who walks
until nightfall, steeped in the glorious perfume of the flower no eyes
can behold. Must the life be a failure, useless and valueless, that is
not as completely happy as it possibly might have been? It is you
yourself would have brought what was best in the love you regret; and
if, as we said, the soul at the end possess only what it has given,
does not something already belong to us when we are incessantly seeking
for chances of giving? Ah yes--I declare that the joy of a perfect,
abiding love is the greatest this world contains; and yet, if you find
not this love, naught will be lost of all you have done to deserve it,
for this will go to deepen the peace of your heart, and render still
braver and purer the calm of the rest of your days.

111. And, besides, we always can love. If our own love be admirable,
most of the joys of admirable love will be ours. In the most perfect
love, the lovers' happiness will not be exactly the same, be their
union never so close; for the better of the two needs must love with a
love that is deeper; and the one that loves with a deeper love must be
surely the happier. Let your task be to render yourself worthy of
love--and this even more for your own happiness than for that of
another. For be sure that when love is unequal, and the hours come
clouded with sorrow, it is not the wiser of the two who will suffer the
most--not the one that shows more generosity, justice, more high-minded
passion. The one who is better will rarely become the victim deserving
our pity. For, indeed, to be truly a victim it must be our own faults,
our injustice, wrongdoing, beneath which we suffer. However imperfect
you be, you still may suffice for the love of a marvellous being; but
for your love, if you are not perfect, that being will never suffice.
If fortune one day should lead to your dwelling the woman adorned with
each gift of heart and of intellect--such a woman as history tells of,
a heroine of glory, happiness, love--you will still be all unaware if
you have not learned, yourself, to detect and to love these gifts in
actual life; and what is actual life to each man but the life that he
lives himself? All that is loyal within you will flower in the loyalty
of the woman you love; whatever of truth there abides in your soul will
be soothed by the truth that is hers; and her strength of character can
be only enjoyed by that which is strong in you. And when a virtue of
the being we love finds not, on the threshold of our heart, a virtue
that resembles it somewhat, then is it all unaware to whom it shall
give the gladness it brings.

112. And whatever the fate your affections may meet with, do you never
lose courage; above all, do not think that, love's happiness having
passed by you, you will never, right up to the end, know the great joy
of human life. For though happiness appear in the form of a torrent, or
a river that flows underground, of a whirlpool or tranquil lake, its
source still is ever the same that lies deep down in our heart; and the
unhappiest man of all men can conceive an idea of great joy. It is true
that in love there is ecstasy that he doubtless never will know; but
this ecstasy would leave deep melancholy only in the earnest and
faithful heart, if there were not in veritable love something more
stable than ecstasy, more profound and more steadfast; and all that in
love is profoundest, most stable and steadfast, is profoundest in noble
lives too--is most stable and steadfast in them. Not to all men is it
given to be hero or genius, victorious, admirable always, or even to be
simply happy in exterior things; but it lies in the power of the least
favoured among us to be loyal, and gentle, and just, to be generous and
brotherly; he that has least gifts of all can learn to look on his
fellows without envy or hatred, without malice or futile regret; the
outcast can take his strange, silent part (which is not always that of
least service) in the gladness of those who are near him; he that has
barely a talent can still learn to forgive an offence with an ever
nobler forgiveness, can find more excuses for error, more admiration
for human word and deed; and the man there are none to love can love,
and reverence, love. And, acting thus, he too will have drawn near the
source whither happy ones flock--oftener far than one thinks, and in
the most ardent hours of happiness even--the source over which they
bend, to make sure that they truly are happy. Far down, at the root of
love's joys--as at the root of the humble life of the upright man from
whom fate has withheld her smile--it is confidence, sincerity,
generosity, tenderness, that alone are truly fixed and unchangeable.
Love throws more lustre still on these points of light, and therefore
must love be sought. For the greatest advantage of love is that it
reveals to us many a peaceful and gentle truth. The greatest advantage
of love is that it gives us occasion to love and admire in one person,
sole and unique, what we should have had neither knowledge nor strength
to love and admire in the many; and that thus it expands our heart for
the time to come, And at the root of the most marvellous love there
never is more than the simplest felicity, an adoration, a tenderness
within the understanding of all, a security, faith, and fidelity all
can acquire an intensely human admiration, devotion--and all these the
eager, unfortunate heart could know too, in its sorrowful life, had it
only a little less impatience and bitterness, a little more initiative
and energy.


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