Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

selfishness; but, How can we fulfill our obli- tor Hawley declared that the pension system gations to peoples weaker than ourselves and would make wars so expensive as to end dependent on us for that which is the foun- them, he held out a gleam of hope which, dation of community life-law, order, justice, unhappily, has not been realized. The same and liberty ?

wholesale business methods which have de graded the idea of the pension and have

gone far to vulgarize the position of the The South and Pensions

pensioner will undoubtedly be applied in the

case of the men who have served in Cuba The suggestion made in some quarters and Manila. It is not too early to raise a that ex-Confederate soldiers should be added voice of protest, and to call for a sound, to the pension list is grateful as a sign of the wise, honorable pension system which shall final passing of ancient animosities and the make, by its discrimination, every bestowal of final triumph of the feeling of nationality; a pension a badge of honor. but the Southern press is showing great wisdom in putting aside, almost without exception, the suggestion as improper. All Character and Fate that remains of the lost cause is a splendid tradition of heroism. That tradition is of There has always been a passionate pro. priceless value to the South; it enriches the test in the heart of the race against that life of the Southern people by the sentiment element in life which men call fate; the play and poetry which come with it; and to put upon unprotected natures of those events, the Confederate veterans upon the pension accidents, calamities, which are beyond human list would go a long way toward destroying control. These arbitrary happenings are that sentiment and blurring the memory of often tragic in their consequences; they often heroism which the South now sacredly pre- seem wholly irrational; they have at times a serves. The indiscriminate extension of the touch of brutal irony. In many cases one is pension system in the North has cost the tempted to personify fate as a malignant country an enormous amount of money; but spirit, studiously and with malicious cunning it has cost the North still more in the sacrifice seeking ways of wounding, stinging, bruising, of a noble sentiment. It has gone far to blur and poisoning the most sensitive souls. There the fair memory of the heroisms of thirty-five have been human careers so completely disyears ago.

torted and thwarted that it has seemed as if That there ought to have been a generous the gods were jealous of men, and anxious to provision for those who were in any way rob the great rewards of their sweetness and disabled in that tremendous struggle may be the noblest achievements of their fruit. So taken for granted this country is never often are the prizes snatched from the strong otherwise than generous—but the mechani- hand that had grasped them that the Greek cal and unscrupulous way in which the poets could not withdraw their gaze from pension business has been handled, the vast that irony which at times appears to make commercial element which has entered into human life the mere sport of the higher it, the condition of semi-pauperism which in powers. The gods seemed to be mocking too many cases it has introduced, have men by holding out glittering gifts and then wounded the country at a very sensitive suddenly snatching them away. And this point. We may be rich enough to pay play of what appears to be blind force still $145,000,000 a year on the pension account; has its way in the world. The noblest cathewe are not rich enough to capitalize in money dral is at the mercy of the earthquake; the that heroism and sacrifice which are the divinest picture or poem may be turned to expression of the spiritual life of a people. asbes in a brief quarter of an hour; the misWe have done a host of men irreparable placing of a switch may wreck the most com. injury, as those know who know anything manding intellect; a moment's inattention about the practical working of the pension may break the happiest circle and cloud the system; and we have lacked the courage to fairest sky. deal honestly and frankly with the whole matter. Leading public men have all along The conditions under which men live have said privately about the system what they remained unchanged except as human forehave not dared to say publicly. When Sena- sight and skill have changed them; but in that simple statement lies an immense change women suffer themselves to be comforted of point of view. There are still mysteries and deceived all their lives by these illusive in the ordering of the world which have not agencies or specters of their own making. The been solved and probably are insoluble in results of their own blindness, carelessness, this stage of development; but we have dis- lack of judgment, neglect of opportunities, covered that nature is our friend and teacher misleading egotism, are quietly and persistin the exact degree in which we learn her ently put to the charge of luck or fate; and ways and co-operate with her. The area of the self-fashioned sufferer takes another step what once appeared to be mere blind inter- in self-deception by drugging himself with ferences with human activity and happiness that most enervating of all forms of consolasteadily contracts; the area of beneficent and tion, self-pity. Hosts of men and women go helpful relationship steadily widens. Men through their lives without once looking their are now safe where they were once in peril; deeds in the face or seeing themselves with they are now masters where they were once clear eyes. They comfort themselves with servants. Through what seemed the play of lies until they lose the power of sight; they mere physical force there now shines the disown the fruits of their own sowing. light of that great movement upward which we call development; that sublime concep- No words have pierced this demoralizing tion which, as one of the most spiritual illusion with more searching force than Emthinkers of our generation has said, has come erson's great phrase, “ Character is destiny." to light just in time to save some of the finest When a man perceives that he is living in a and most sensitive spirits from despair. For world of absolute moral order, witnessed that conception not only involves a progress- alike in the obediences and disobediences of ive order working in the place of what seemed men; that what he reaps he has sown, and to be blind force; it involves also a pro- that he can and will reap nothing else; that gressive inclusion of all human interests in a his career is shaped and framed by his own system vast as the universe and old as eter- will; that the great experiences which come nity, and yet mindful of each soul's welfare to him for good or ill, for misery or blessedand growth. A vision of order slowly becom- ness, do not pursue him, but are invited by ing clearer as all things work together for him; that a man's spirit attracts the things the good of those who obey, throws new light which are congenial to it and rejects those on what appeared to be the waste and sheer which are alien—when a man perceives these brutality of the past; and where we do not things, he is in the way of honest living and understand, we can wait; since we may rest of spiritual growth. Until he does see these in the assurance that we are not the victims facts and accept them, he deludes himself, of a merciless physical order nor the sport of and his judgment of life is worthless. those who have power but not righteousness, the willingness to hurt but not the wish to Few things are more significant than the heal.

slow and often unconscious building of a

home for his spirit which every man carries We are learning, also, that a very large part to completion. When the birds build their of the happenings and experiences which once nests, they have access to the same materials, seemed to come to men unsought are really but what different selections they make and invited, and are only the outward and visible how far apart their methods are! Every one fruits of inward dispositions and tendencies. who comes into life has access to substantially Human responsibility is very much more in the same material; but each selects that clusive than it appears to be at the first which belongs to him. By instinct or by glance; and men are far more completely the intelligence he builds his home with unerring masters of their fate than they are prone to adaptation to the needs and quality of his believe or confess. In fact, in any searching nature. To the pure all things are pure; to the analysis the power of what we call fate impure all things are impure. The unselfish shrinks to very small proportions. It is our construct a beautiful order of service and habit to relieve ourselves of our own respon- helpfulness about them; the selfish make their sibility in small matters by invoking the bogy own places. Honor and confidence and rectiof bad luck, and in large matters by charging tude are in the air when the man of sensitive upon fate the ill fortune which we have integrity appears; suspicion, mistrust, and brought upon ourselves. Many men and doubt pervade the place where the man with

out character abides. Clean and comforting An Overrated Virtue thoughts fly to the pure in heart; debasing fancies gather like foul birds around the man Submission appears to us to be a greatly whose imagination is a home of corruption. overrated virtue. To submit is, etymologically, If we look deeply, a wonderful fitness reveals to be sent under; and, by inference, to allow itself between those we know well and their one's self to be sent under, or put under the will several fortunes. Calamity may bear heavily or authority of another. When an enemy bad upon them, but the moral world they con- been conquered by a Roman army, the con. struct for themselves out of the substance of quered foe was compelled to pass under a their own natures is indestructible. Life is yoke formed by two spears stuck in the august and beautiful or squalid and mean as ground, with another fastened transversely we interpret and use it; the materials are in over their tops. This passing under the all men's hands, and the selection and struc. yoke was a submission to the will or power of ture inevitably and infallibly disclose the the Roman Emperor. If one has been fightcharacter of the builder. As a beautiful ing against God, and comes reluctantly to woman furnishes her home until it becomes an the conclusion that it is useless to fight externalization of her own ideals and qualities, longer, and accedes to the divine will because and then fills it with the charm and sweet it cannot be resisted, he submits—that is, he ness of her own personality until it becomes consents to pass under the authority or the a material expression of her own nature, so power of God; and certainly it is wiser and in do we all silently, and for the most part every way better to do this cheerfully than unconsciously, form spiritual environments grudgingly and whiningly. If one has been and fashion the world in which we live. all his life fighting God, and late learns of

God's love, and yields, not to his power, but There are few sublimer promises in the to his goodness and his gentleness, this is a Bible than that yhich the words, “ Light is better submission. sown for the righteous," convey but cannot B ut surely the Christian, who knows himcontain. This sublime phrase points the way self God's child, should be able to do someto that complete freedom which the human thing better than submit to a will that he spirit craves; that final emancipation from cannot resist, or even to a victorious love. the forces which it does not choose and can. If he trusts his Father's judgment, if he not control, which marks the full maturity believes in the wisdom of his Father's love, of spiritual development. It promises the and the love in his Father's wisdom, he will gradual supremacy of the soul over all acci. not merely consent to come under his Father, dents, happenings, forces, and materials; its but he will not be willing to live except in final emancipation from all servitude. As subjection to that will. Christ did not sublife goes on, fate grows less and less, charac- mit when in Gethsemane he prayed, Thy will. ter grows more and more; the fields become not mine, be done: it was his will that his more completely our own, and yield nothing Father's will should be done; this was the which we have not sown; the correspondence burden of his prayer; his will was not under between our spirits and our fortunes becomes his Father's will, it was one with his Father's more complete, until fate is conquered by and will. It is a mistake to suppose that Christ merged into character. In the long run a was in agony unspeakable because he dreaded man becomes what he purposes, and gains the shame and the pains of the morrow. He for himself what he really desires. We not feared lest, in this critical and culminating only fashion our own lives, but, in a very true hour of his life, he might fail to fulfill the missense, as Omar Khayyam intimates, we make sion with which he deemed himself charged; heaven or hell for ourselves. It is idle to the cup which he besought might pass from him talk about luck, fortune, or fate; these words was the cup of failure; yet even this he was survive from the childhood of the race; they willing to drink, if in his failure his Father's have historical interest, but they have no success might be won; and his prayer was moral value to-day. No one can hide behind not, My will be done-nevertheless, I submit them or bring them into court as competent to thine; but, Thy will, not mine, be done. witnesses on his behalf. It is wise to face So in the prayer which he has given to the the ultimate truth which must sooner or later world, its culmination is, “ Thy will be done confront us: we make or mar ourselves, and on earth as it is in heaven." So Paul, are the masters of our own fates and fortunes. proud and self-reliant and strong of will

though he was, did not merely submit to A Poet's Centenary tribulation; he gloried in tribulation.

When Hobson wished men to join him in the three hundredth anniversary of the his desperate undertaking, his companions death of Edmund Spenser will not pass did not submit to the will, authority, or power unnoticed here or in England; for, however of the commander. They were but seven deeply engaged in practical affairs the Engchosen out of over three hundred eager to lish race may be, it is never wholly forgetful hazard all in a forlorn hope for their country of that still small voice of the human spirit No one waited to be ordered; there was no which, like the song of the almost invisible room for submission. This should be the lark, is heard far and wide over the fields spirit of the child of God, and will be if he in which men toil. It gives art its highis truly one with his Father, if he believes in est significance that its noblest works are his Father's love and trusts his Father's wis born in the travail of great experiences, and dom. He will never find occasion to submit that without contact with life the creative He will be eager to do and to endure what imagination is the prey of idle dreams, and ever his Father's wise love appoints. The misses its splendid vision of the tragedy and larger the service, the greater the task, beauty of life. It is not surprising, therefore, the heavier the burden, the more exhilaration that the race which has given the world will he feel in the confidence which the Drake, Frobisher, Nelson, and Wellington Father shows by reposing so great a trust in has also given it Chaucer, Spenser, Shakehim.

speare, Milton, Shelley, and Tennyson; that the race which, in power of organization and

in genius for government, is the successor of George Kennan in Cuba the Roman, has also sustained, in the modern

world, the Greek tradition of the free imagiGeorge Kennan, whose "Story of the War” nation, the creative spirit, the passion for published during the summer in The Outlook beauty. It is this range of spiritual life attracted wide attention for its thoroughness which gives the English race its vitality; the of investigation and brilliancy of description, springs of its immense practical activity are sailed for Santiago recently, having fully re in its latent idealism, and its heroes of action covered from the attack of fever which pros- are never without affinity with its poets. trated him last August. Mr. Kennan is un. It is significant that the earliest English dertaking, as Special Commissioner for The poet sang because he was commanded to Outlook, a thorough inspection of the island sing by a higher power; it was in response of Cuba, and a study of its present condition to a vision that Cædmon struck the first reand its possibilities, social, political, and in sounding note; and from that day English dustria. He will be occupied for several poetry, although sinking at times perilously months in the work, and the record of his near mere verse-making, has never wholly investigations will be published in successive lost that vision. If at times the English issues of The Outlook, beginning about the people have seemed indifferent to it and it first of February.

has hung like a mirage on the far horizon, it Readers of Mr. Kennan's “Story of the has never wholly vanished, and it has found War” cannot have failed to note that the in their hearts that home which their hands evidence taken before the Army Investi. have for the moment seemed to deny it. gating Commission has confirmed fully Mr. When the storm of the Civil War was apKennan's criticisms on the failure to provide proaching in this country, the voices of the suitable transports, adequate means of land- poets were heard above the turmoil in tones ing the troops, and sufficient ambulance and as clear and penetrating as the moving convicmedical equipment. In short, the very points tions which rose to music in them; and when, upon which our correspondent laid greatest not long ago, the greatest of modern empires stress in his articles have been shown to be gathered in its ancient capital the representthe really vital defects of the campaign. atives of the peoples who acknowledge its

This first series of articles written for authority, in all the splendid pageantry, aside The Outlook, revised and expanded, will from the spectacle of the aged and lonely before long be issued in book form by the Queen, nothing moved the heart of the EngCentury Company, under the title “Cam- lish people as did Mr. Kipling's lines. The paigoing in Cuba."

poet as the voice of the spirit was never more potential than in the fierce commercialism of It was in a happy moment that Charles an age which has heard the voice of Tennyson Lamb called Spenser the poet's poetHe freighted with the deepest truth, the ringing has not spoken and does not speak directly tones of Browning affirming the sovereignty to the great mass of English readers; he is of the spirit over fate and evil, and the elegiac not a voice for the multitude; he is a voice notes of Arnold touched with the pathos of for those who reach and inspire the multiebbing faith. If the time ever comes when tude. It is safe to say that very few, even life divorces itself from art, the activities of among those who are richly endowed with the race will bring neither peace nor joy, and imagination, read the “ Faerie Queene" in its its pleasures will turn to ashes in its hand. entirety. The reading of the poem as a

There are no signs of that day, so long whole belongs to the adolescence of the young predicted by the pessimists ; on the con- imagination. It came to Keats on a memoratrary, there are many evidences that the ble afternoon, and was the opening of a door English race, on both sides of the sea, be into the fairyland of dreams and beauty and comes more dissatisfied with merely material delight; it came to Tennyson also, and the achievement, and craves more passionately impress of its influence is found again and than ever the satisfactions of spiritual achieve again in the verse of our latest master of the ment. In such a time-the power of the mighty line. So Spenser serves his race by race felt at the ends of the earth and its making a home for the spirits which need a responsibilities matching its power—the vision retreat from tumult and turmoil, and by of life must grow clearer, and the sovereignty inspiring and enriching the poets who are of the spirit over all its activities must be to stand nearer their time and their fellows. more distinctly affirmed. The “Faerie The “Faerie Queene" is overweighted with Queene” was not written amid the lovely allegory, but it is rich in the elements of surroundings of Penshurst, in the gracious the greatest poetry: a world built by a poet, society of a time prodigal of great men; it full of beautiful figures, breathing fragrance was written in the ungenial air of Ireland, and music; a place for our poets when they amid the turbulence of an angry and op- are learning to sing, and for our own spirits pressed people. Its music was like the song in moments of weariness and loneliness—this of birds heard on the edge of a tempest. is the work which Spenser has done for us. Before it was completed the tempest broke and the poet was flying for his life, as a writer in another column reminds us. So out of the stress and strise the most poetic of English poems was born! The The Spectator had a most interesting talk, fact is significant; and so is the genius of the other day, with two women who have the poet. There is none other in the long grown gray in the public school service in this history of our literature so remote from the city, and some of whose side-lights on school every-day work of the English race, so com questions were infinitely diverting. By the pletely detached from its ordinary occupa. way, the Spectator feels moved to observe tions, so apparently removed from its sym- that talking “ shop,” which is so reprobated pathies. In the" Faerie Queene" one moves by some high authorities on conversation, is in enchanted forests, in sunny meadows, in to him, of all kinds of conversation, the most fragrant gardens. Since the leaves fell from truly valuable. Why should one prefer, for the trees in the Garden of Hesperides there instance, to hear a philosopher talk of affairs, have been no such gardens as those which and a man of affairs talk philosophy-with have sent their fragrance, these three cen- the same muddled effect, usually, in each turies, from Spenser's imagination. The case-rather than to hear a luminous comgarden of Proserpina and that of Adonis, the ment by each upon the things he has masisle of Phædria and Acacia's bower—these tered? Why, oh, why, should one turn from are among those homes of the imagination to eager talk, full of the information and insight which the spirit, weary with the strife of the that a life-work gives, and label it, loftily and time and the ugliness of so much contemporary scornfully,“ shop "conversation? The Specmaterialism, retreats and restores itself. Airs tator has heard more illuminating-and amusfrom these sweet and fragrant places are blown ing-remarks under this despised head than across all English poetry, and are breathed would fill a book; and he proposes to retail again through many a later flute.

a few of those be heard from the teachers

The Spectator

« AnteriorContinuar »