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cussion I can agree with the atheist or the materialist as to the hopeless insolubility of certain questions; but in the bosom of the country and in the contemplation of nature my soul soars to the vivifying principle that animates all things, to the all-powerful mind that arranges them, to the goodness that invests them with such exquisite charms. Now, when thick walls separate me from my loved ones, when society heaps upon us evil after evil as a punishment for having sought its welfare, I look beyond the bounds of life for the reward of our sacrifices and the felicity of reunion. How ? In what manner? I am ignorant; I only feel that it ought to be so.1
JOSEPH JOUBERT (1754-1824) THE evening of life comes bearing its own lamp.
Life is a country that the old have seen and lived in. Those who have to travel through it can only learn the way from them.
Our life is woven wind.2
A little vanity, and a little gratification of the senses—these are what make up the life of the majority of women and men.
This life is but the cradle of the other. Of what importance, then, are illness, time, old age, and death ?
1 From Private Memoirs.
They are but different stages in a transformation that doubtless has only its beginning here below.
WILLIAM BLAKE. (1757–1828)
KNOW that our deceased friends are more really
with us than when they are apparent to our mortal part. Thirteen years ago I lost a brother, and with his spirit I converse daily and hourly in the spirit, and see him in remembrance in the region of my imagination. I hear his advice, and even now write from his dictates. Forgive me for expressing to you my enthusiasm, which I wish all to partake of, since it is to me a source of immortal joy, even in this world. May you continue to be so more and more, and be more persuaded that every mortal loss is an immortal gain. The ruins of time build mansions in eternity.2
In that I grow
I have been very near the gates of death, and have returned very weak, and an old man, feeble and tottering, but not in spirit and life, not in the real man, the imagination which liveth for ever. stronger and stronger as this foolish body decays. Flaxman is gone, and we must soon follow every one to his own eternal house, leaving the delusions of goddess Nature and her laws to get into freedom from all the laws of the numbers—into the mind in which every one is king and priest in his own house. God grant it on earth as it is in heaven.3
1 From Joubert's Selected Thoughts (trans. by Katharine Lyttelton).
2 From letter to a friend (1800).
3 Ibid. (1827).
I know of no other Christianity and of no other gospel than the liberty both of body and mind to exercise the divine arts of imagination—imagination, the real and eternal world of which this Vegetable Universe is but a faint shadow, and in which we shall live in our eternal or imaginative bodies when these vegetable, mortal bodies are no more. The Apostles knew of no other Gospel. What were all their spiritual gifts ? What is the Divine Spirit ? Is the Holy Ghost any other than an intellectual fountain ? What is the harvest of the Gospel and its labours ? What is that talent which it is a curse to hide ? What are the treasures of Heaven which we are to lay up for ourselves ? Are they any other than mental studies and performances ? What are all the gifts of the Gospel ? Are they not all mental gifts ? Is God a spirit who must be worshipped in spirit and in truth? And are not the gifts of the Spirit everything to man? Oye religious, discountenance every one among you who shall pretend to despise art and science. I call upon you in the name of Jesus! What is the life of man but art and science ? Is it meat and drink ? Is not the body more than raiment? What is mortality but the things relating to the body which dies? What is immortality but the things relating to the spirit which lives eternally? What is the joy of Heaven but improvement in the things of the spirit? What are the pains of Hell but ignorance, idleness, bodily lust, and the devastation of the things of the spirit ?1
The world of imagination is the world of eternity. It is the divine bosom into which we shall all
after 1 From Jerusalem (preface to the fourth chapter).
the death of the vegetated body. The world of imagination is infinite and eternal, whereas the world of generation or vegetation is finite and temporal. There exist in that eternal world the eternal realities of everything which we see reflected in this vegetable glass of nature.
All things are comprehended in their eternal forms in the divine body of the Saviour, the true vine of eternity, the human imagination, Who appeared to me as coming to judgment among His Saints, and throwing off the temporal that the eternal might be established.1
Men are admitted into heaven not because they have curbed and governed their passions, or have no passions, but because they have cultivated their understandings. The treasures of heaven are not negations of passion, but realities of intellect, from which the passions emanate, uncurbed in their eternal glory. The fool shall not enter into heaven, let him be ever so holy. Holiness is not the price of entrance into heaven. Those who are cast out are all those who, having no passions of their own, because no intellect, have spent their lives in curbing and governing other people's by the various arts of poverty and cruelty of all kinds.2
In paradise they have no corporeal and mortal body. That originated with the Fall, and was called Death, and cannot be removed but by a Last Judgment.3
1 From Prose Fragments (“ Identity”).
3 Ibid. (“Good and Evil”).
(1758–1805) THERE is no true happiness in this life, and in my
present state I could quit it with a smile.
Believe me, my only wish is to sink with honour into the grave, and when that shall please God, I shall meet death with a smile. Not that I am insensible to the honours and riches my king and country have heaped upon me -so much more than any officer could deserve; yet am I ready to quit this world of trouble, and envy none but those of the estate six feet by two.2
ROBERT BURNS. (1759–1796)
NEVER hear the loud, solitary whistle of the cur
lew in a summer noon, or the wild, mixing cadence of a troop of grey plovers in an autumnal morning, without feeling an elevation of soul like the enthusiasm of devotion or poetry. Tell me, my dear friend, to what can this be owing? Are we a piece of machinery which, like the Æolian harp, passive takes the impression of the passing accident ? or do these workings argue something within us above the trodden clod? I own myself partial to such proofs of these awful and important realities—a God that made all things-man's immaterial and immortal nature—and a world of weal or woe beyond death and the grave !8
1 From Southey's Life.