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very difficult; yet the result of our efforts will be peace to our souls and happiness in this life. All other means are useless to secure it, for no human power can relieve the true weight of existence.1


BROWNING. (1809–1861)


THINK we are too ready with complaint

In this fair world of God's. Had we no hope Indeed beyond the zenith and the slope Of yon grey blank of sky, we might grow faint To muse upon eternity's constraint Round our aspirant souls; but since the scope Must widen early, is it well to droop, For a few days consumed in loss and taint ? O pusillanimous Heart, be comforted And, like a cheerful traveller, take the road, Singing beside the hedge. What if the bread Be bitter in thine inn, and thou unshod To meet the flints ? At least it may be said “ Because the way is short, I thank thee, God.” 2

God keeps a niche
In Heaven to hold our idols; and albeit
He brake them to our faces and denied
That our close kisses should impair their white,
I know we shall behold them raised, complete,

1 From A Year's Meditations.
2 « Cheerfulness Taught by Reason” (published 1844).

And dust swept from their beauty, -glorified

New Memnons singing in the great God-light. The truth, as God sees it, must be something so different from these opinions about truth-these systems which fit different classes of men like their coats, and wear brown at the elbows always ! I believe in what is divine and floats at highest, in all these different theologies ; and because the really Divine draws together souls, and tends so to a unity, I could pray anywhere and with all sorts of worshippers, from the Sistine Chapel to Mr. Fox's, those kneeling and those standing. Wherever you go, in all religious societies, there is a little to revolt, and a good deal to bear withbut it is not otherwise in the world without; and, within, you are especially reminded that God has to be more patient than yourself after all.2 We sow the glebe, we reap


We build the house where we may rest,
And then, at moments, suddenly
We look up to the great wide sky,
Inquiring wherefore we were born,

For earnest or for jest?
The senses folding thick and dark

About the stifled soul within,
We guess diviner things beyond,
And yearn to them with yearning fond;
We strike out blindly to a mark

Believed in, but not seen.

1 From “Futurity” (published 1844).
2 From letter to Robert Browning, August 15, 1846.

God keeps His holy mysteries

Just on the outside of man's dream;
In diapason slow, we think
To hear their pinions rise and sink,
While they float pure beneath His eyes

Like swans adown a stream.

Abstractions, are they, from the forms

Of His great beauty ?-exaltations
From His great glory ?-strong previsions
Of what we shall be ?-intuitions
Of what we are—in calms and storms

Beyond our peace and passions ?

And sometimes horror chills our blood

To be so near such mystic Things,
And we wrap round us for defence
Our purple manners, moods of sense-
As angels from the face of God

Stand hidden in their wings.

And sometimes through life's heavy swound

We grope for them ; with strangled breath
We stretch our hands abroad and try
To reach them in our agony,
And widen, so, the broad life-wound

Soon large enough for death.1

I have been long convinced that what we call death is a mere incident in life—perhaps scarcely a greater one than the occurrence of puberty, or the revolution which comes with


new emotion or influx of new know1 From “Human Life's Mystery” (published 1850).

ledge. I believe that the body of flesh is a mere husk which drops off at death, while the spiritual body (see St. Paul) emerges in glorious resurrection at once. Swedenborg says, some persons do not immediately realise that they have passed death, and this seems to me highly probable. . . . I believe in an active, human life, beyond death as before it, an uninterrupted human life. I believe in no waiting in the grave, and in no vague effluence of spirit in a formless vapour.


ROM the idea of God I descended to the concep

tion of progress; from the conception of progress to a true conception of life; to faith in a mission and its logical consequence-duty the supreme rule of life; and having reached that faith, I swore to myself that nothing in this world should again make me doubt or forsake it. It was, as Dante says, passing through martyrdom to peace; for I fraternised with sorrow, and enwrapped myself in it as a mantle; but yet it was peace, for I learned to suffer without rebellion, and to live calmly, and in harmony with my own spirit. I bade a long, sad farewell to all individual hopes for me on earth. I dug with my own hands the grave, not of my affections -God is my witness that now, gray-headed, I feel them yet as in the days of my earliest youth,—but to all the desires, exigencies, and ineffable comforts of affection ; and I covered the earth over that grave, so that none might ever know the


buried beneath. From reasons —some of them apparent, some of them unknown

1 From letter to Miss Mitford, October 19, 1854.

my life was, is, and were it not near the end, would remain unhappy; but never since that time have I for an instant allowed myself to think that my own unhappiness could in any way influence my actions. I reverently bless God the Father for what consolations of affection—I can conceive of no other—he has vouchsafed to me in my later years, and in them I gather strength to struggle with the occasional returns of weariness of existence. But even were these consolations denied me, I believe I should still be what I am. Whether the sun shine with the serene splendour of an Italian morn, or the leaden corpse-like hue of the northern mist above us, I cannot see that it changes our duty. God dwells above the earthly heaven, and the holy stars of faith and the future still shine within our own souls, even though their light consume itself unreflected as the sepulchral lamp.1


(1809–1882) I MAY say that the impossibility of conceiving that

, scious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God; but whether this is an argument of real value I have never been able to decide. I am aware that if we admit a first cause, the mind still craves to know whence it came, and how it

Nor can I overlook the difficulty from the immense amount of suffering through the world. I am also induced to defer to a certain extent to the

1 From Life and Writings, vol. iii.


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