Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

above me all men must obey. Will is the centre of the practical man, of all force, not moral, but brute or natural, and is identified in the common thought with myself, as I am a natural cause. Will is the sum of physical forces necessary for self-preservation, is reagency against the formidable rivalry of every other organization. In this animal centre the laws are carried up, as reins are gathered to be put into the hands of a driver, and being tied in a knot just where the physical touches the celestial sphere, they seem to be moral, and Will much more than the body is in popular thought inseparable from man. It is an organ into which he has thrown himself in reckless neglect of his privilege,. a grasping hand which rules the world as we see it ruled, masters and takes to itself for extension all laws below its own level, wields Nature as an instrument, breaks down a weaker will, and carries away the material mind until some God from above shall deliver it. Will is that living Fate of which exterior necessity in bnt the form. From it we are instantly delivered in conviction, and find it ever after the servant, not the synonyme of man.

The boy does not choose, neither does the belly choose for him, what object shall be supremely beautiful in his eyes. He has not resolved to see only this splendor of color, and neglect sound, — or to give himself to sound alone, and shut his eyes to sight. If the divine order reaches any mind, those creatures in which it appears will hannt that mind, will take lordly their own place, and hang as contt'-lUtions high overhead in thought. So long as he can turn the eye hither and thither, or lightly determine what he will see, the man is conversant with form alone, and bigots who are on that plane of experience identify him with choice, hold thought to be altogether voluntary, and burn the thinker, as though his view were a fruit, not a root, of him. But truth is that which does not wait for our making, but makes us, — does not lie like water at the bottom of our wells,

but conies like sunshine flooding the air, and compelling recognition. "To believe your own thought," says a master, "that is genius "; but is not genius primarily the arrival of a thought able to authenticate itself, to compel trust, and make its own value known against the sneers or anger of the world? From my own thought once reached there is but one appeal, — to my own thought: from Philip sober to Philip more sober.

The good spirit appears as a spark in our embers, and draws out these careful hands to ward itself from every gust, — sets our tasks and crowns them. We know that from first desire to last performance wisdom is altogether a grace. Wisdom is this wish for wisdom, already given in the readiness to receive. We have not cared for it, but it has cared for us.

Grown stronger, it is a guide, and needs none. Turner sees what he must love; there is no rule for such seeing: what he does not love is hid from him; there is no rule for such omission. It is in the eye, not more a happy opening than a happy closing. A private ordinance, dividing man into men, makes the same creature a wall to one, an open door to his neighbor. The value of man appears to Scott in feudalism, to Wordsworth in contemplation, to Byron in impatience, to Kant in certainty, to Calvin in authority, to Calamo in landscape, to Newton in measure, to Carlyle in retribution, to Shakspeare in society, to Dante in the contrast of right and wrong.

One man by grandeur sees mountains in the coals of his grate; another by gentleness only sunshine and grasses on Monadnock. You will not say that he chooses, but that he is chosen so to see. Light opens the eye without our intention, and we are at no trouble to paint on the retina what must there appear. Success is fidelity to that which must appear. Weak men discuss forever the laws of Art, and contrive how to paint, questioning whether this or that element should have emphasis or be shown. If there is any question, there will be no Art. The man must feel to do, and what ho does from overmastering feeling will convince and be forever right. The work is organic which grows so above composition or plan. After you are engaged by the symphony, there is no escape, no pause; each note springs out of each as branch from branch of a tree. It could be no otherwise; it cannot be otherwise conceived. Why could not I have found this sequence inevitable, as -well as another? Plainly, the symphony was discovered, not made, — was written before man, like astronomy in the sky.

Only the mastery of one who is mastered by Nature will control and renovate mankind. It is easy to recognize the habit of conviction, freedom from within, and personal motive, the man bending himself as for life or death to show exactly what he sees. The inspired man we know who appeals to a divine necessity, and says, "I can do no otherwise; God be my help! amen!" — for whom praise and property and comfortable continuance on this planet are trifles, so great an object has opened to him in the inviolable moral law.

Every perception takes hold at last on duty as well as desire, claims and carries away the man entire, though it were to danger -or death. The system, grown friendly, has grown sacred also; departure from it is shame and guilt, as well aa loss. An artist, therefore, like the Greek, is busy with portraits of the gods, and every celebration of Beauty is another Missa Solemnis, Te Deum, and Gloria.

Whatever object becomes transparent to a man will be his medium of communication with the Maker and with mankind. He hurries to show therein what he has seen, as children run for their companions and point their discoveries. These are his unsolicited angels, higher above his reach than above that of the crowd; for every good thought is more a surprise to the thinker than to any other. The seer points always from himself as a telescope to the sky; he is no creator, but a bit of broken glass in the sun. What is any man in the presence of haunting

Perfection, never to be shown without mutilation and dishonor? Is it ours? In Him we live and move.

While the Ego is pronounced and fills consciousness, man seems to be and do somewhat of himself; but when the universal Soul is manifest above will, his eyes turn away from that old battery ; he is absorbed in what he sees,—forgets himself, his deeds, wants, gains. He is rapt; stands like Socrates a day and a night in contemplation; sits like Newton for twelve hours half dressed on the edge of his bed, arrested in rising. He is that madman to the world who neglects his meat, postpones his private enterprise, regards honor and comfort as so much interruption to this commerce with reality. We are all tired of property which is exclusion, of goods which must be taken from another to serve mo. Good should grow with sharing, — more for me when all is given. In the spirit there are no fences, boxes, or bags.

Presenting truth, I declare it as freely yours as mine. Every act of genius proclaims that the highest gift is no monopoly or singularity, no privilege of one, but the birthright of the race. Shakspeare knows well that we shall easily see what he sees; he considers it no secret. We are always feeling beforehand for every right word now about to be spoken in the world; many men give tokens of the general habit of thought before he is born who clearly knows what all were dreaming. Wisdom has only gone before us on our own path, and we overtake our guide in every perception. Yet we are lifted quite off our feet by any new possibility revealed in life : every circle drawn round our own astonishes, though it bo drawn from our centre. The poet in his certainty appears a child of the heavens, and we strike another foolish line through the crowd, as though every man were not his own poet as truly as he is his own priest and governor, as though each were not entitled to see whatever is to be seen.- The masters of thought may teach us better. They address their loftiest power in us, and never sing to oxen or dogs. The paintmg, poem, statue, oratorio, calls to me by name; the morning is an eye that solicits mine. Shall I take only the husks, and leave to another, contented, always, the life of life?

He is supreme poet who can make me i poet, able to reach the same supplies after he is gone. We are bits of iron charged by this magnet, and lose our quality when it is removed; we are not quite made magnets as we should be by this magnetic planet and the revolutions of the sun; yet the- great polarity of our globe is a sum of little polarities, and every scrap of metal has its own. We are made musical by the passing band; we go on humming and marching to the air; but he who wrote it was made musical by silence and sunshine. . Soon our own vibrations will be more easily induced, as old instruments sound with a touch or breath. We shall throb with inarticulate rhythms, and understand the bard who sings, —

'* Heard melodies ore sweet, but those unheard are sweeter."

The poet is one who has detected this latency of power in -every breast. His delight is a feeling that all doors are open to all, that he is no favorite, but the rest we late sleepers, and he only earlier awake. Depth of genius is measured by depth of this conviction. Egotism is incurable greenness. An artist is one who has more, not less, respect for the common eye. The seer points always from his own to a public privilege, — says never, "I, Jesus, have so received," but, "The Son of Man must so receive "; and Shaktpeare cuts himself into fragments till there is no Shakspeare left behind, as if expressly to testify that this wonderful wisdom is not his, but ours, is not that of the"thinker and penman in his study, but of priests and kings, ladies and courtiers, lovers and warriors, knaves and fools. Paul sees that Moses read his law from tables of the heart. Every wise word is an echo of the wisdom inarticulate in our neighbors which sends them confident about their work and play. The faith of healthy men and women is amazing when

we learn how incapable they are of showing grounds for it. In speculation they hold horrible theories, blackening the day; yet they trust the good which their lips unwittingly deny.

In discourse we arc moved, not by what a man says, but by what he takes for granted. The undertow of power is something unstated to which all his facts and laws refer. But our resource seems to be rather.a reversion, is not quite available; we have blood and a beat at the heart, yet it does not circulate freely, and Nature to every man is *a double of himself, so that the universe seems also cold in extremities, as though there were too little original life to fill her veins. The poet is not fire on the hearth to thaw this numbness by foreign heat. He rubs and rouses us to activity, drags us to the open air, puts us on a glowing chase, provokes us to race and climb with him till we also are .thoroughly alive. No other gift of his is worth much beside this hope of reaching his side. The great know well that all men are approaching their view . even in departing from it, as travellers going from one port turn their backs on each other here and their faces together toward the antipodal point: they can leave their discoveries and fame to the race. . There is one object of sight. Every piece of wisdom is no less my thought because another has found it in my mind. It is more mine than any perception I called my own, for really with that I have unconsciously been living in deeps below thought. The rest I have known, that in all these years I £tm.

No man seriously doubts that he is born to entertain the meaning of the world. Already we are inclined to reckon genius a mere faculty of saying, not of knowing, since it opens a common experience in every example. Minority and obligation to other eyes will cease. We have outgrown many a Magnus Apollo of childhood; his beauty is no longer beautiful, his gold is tinsel, we can dig better for ourselves. Therefore we can draw no line that will stand between poets and pretenders. That is fire which fires me to-day; to-morrow the same influence is frost. The standard is my temperature, a sliding scale. My neighbors are raised to eestasy by what seems a rattle of pots and pans; but I remember when heaven opened to me also in Scheffer, Byron, Bellini. The judge places himself in his judgment, — declares only what is now above him, what below. If I find Milton prosaic beside Swedenborg, perhaps I do Milton no wrong ; perhaps no man in the company so admires his impetuous grandeur; but now the impersonality of the Swede may meet my need more nearly, with his mysteries of correspondence, spiritual law, enduring Nature, and supremacy of Love. Discrimination is worth so much, because there are no great gaps between man and man, between mind and mind: there is no virtuous, no vicious, no poet, no unpoet, and only dnlness lumps one with angels, another with dogs. There are infinite kinds and infinite degrees of intelligence; there is genius in every sort and every stage of adulteration, overlaid by this, by that, by the other grave mistake; and we cannot afford to be inhospitable to the feeblest protest against our condition and ourselves.

We pass all but the few great masters, and they arc only before us on the road. Culture is the opening of spontaneous or liberal activity, and hangs all on the pivotal perception that everything, experience, effort, element, history, tradition, art, science, is another opening to the same centre, and that our life. When the pupil is roused, enchanted, fired, his redemption from sense is begun; he is delivered to the great God, if it were only in a crystal or a caterpillar; he. will never again be the clod he was. The years are cruel and cold, want and appetite devour many a day, but the man can never forget what was promised to the boy. He believes in thought; believes against thought in the mad world, iu foolish man; believes iu himself, and wonders what he could do, if he had yet only half a chance. All that is streams toward the mind, will stream through it and be known.

God would not be God, if He could fill less than the universe, could leave cold and empty corners, could remain beyond thought, could be order around and not also within the brain. Deity is Revelation. Deity means for each the germ of knowledge and the sum of knowledge. Man is the guest of wisdom; he will drop for shame his arrogance, and seek never again to entertain or patronize this architect and master of the house. The triumph of inspiration is an unsealing of my own and of every mind, a delivery of the pupil to private inspiration. When the work of a master is masterly done, he abdicates therein, retires, and becomes unregarded as a flight of stairs behind. The statue is a failure, unless it makes me forget the statue, — the book, unless it makes me forget the book. All the rhyming, painting, singing of sentimental boys and girls springs from an intuition hardly yet more than instinct: that Nature baa special secrets for each, to be by him, by her, alone, divined and published. They reach nothing sincere or unique, yet they feel the individuality and remoteness of experience. They-cannot put forth their conscious power; but who among the gods of fame can put forth- his power? Emerson says Jove cannot get his own thunder; much less can any mortal get bis own thunder, however he may apply to Minerva for the key.

By the cheer of awakening intuition, a dawn which stirs before daylight, all men are secretly sustained. The common life is a borrowing, not a creation and giving: imitation is going on allfours, and man is uneasy in that animal attitude. The horse comes only as horse: I am here not merely as man, but aa John ; I blush and ache till John is something pronounced and maintained against the mob of centuries, till men must feel his singularity and solidity, aa the ocean is displaced and readjusted by every drop of rain. More or less, I must at least purely avail. Erectness is delivery to the private law, and something in each remains erect, and lifts him above the brute and the crowd. He is, and t

him•elf to be: he will advance and give the law of his life.

The brain is itself a nut from the tree Ygdrasil; it carries the world, and in the first glances we anticipate all knowledge. The joy of life does not wait for any theory of life, for we have only slept since the thought in us was embodied in this system; we took part in the making; we are drowsily at home with ourselves therein; we forget, yet do not forget, the roundness of design. As in a common experience we are often close upon some name which we seek to recall, — we feel, but cannot touch it,—so the secret of Nature lies close to the mind, and sustains us as if by magnetic communication, while we have yet no faculty to explore our own being or this apparition of it, the whirl of worlds.

We have rightly held genius to be miracle; but our great hope is postponed ibr lack of perception that all life is miracle, that mini in every endowment is a form of the same plastic, incalculable power. Yet as we are brought to seek goodness, being sinners, so we shall bo brought to seek the last perception, being dolts. The masters have not been quite masters, and, their theory has never respected the natural as opening to a supernatural mind. We eat and drink and .wait to be arrested, not by sunshine, but lightning. It comes at last, revealing from heaven the height and depth of our human prospect. The vision is appalling; the seer is stricken to the ground; hu has no organ able to bear this light; he is blinded; he runs trembling for counsel to Paul, ivho was beaten from his horse, to Samuel, who was called in sleep, to Jesus, who taught the new birth, to John, who saw the white throne. But after a little we learn that the new experience is native to us as breath. No degeneracy of any period, no immersion in war, trade, production, tradition, can quite hide the cardinal fact that this strength of antiquity, of eternity, waits to .descend, and does from time to time deKend, into the private breast. He who prays has made the discovery, and Is put

by his own act in lonely communication with all heavens.

We find the sacred history legible only in the same light by which it was written: we are referred by it, therefore, to sources of interpretation above itself. God was hidden in the sky; the book in another sky; who shall reveal God hidden in the book? After so many age*, it has become a riddle as difficult of solution as any for which it offers solution: the hist and best puzzle of the exulting old Sphinx, who will never be cheated of her jest. Our Christianity misses the highest value of the book, as it indicates the resource of universal man. We use the cover as some charm against danger, but the secret of devotion is not reached. At last it is plain that secular, nigh impenetrable Nature is a door as easily opened as this of the book. We must read upon our knees, we wait for grace to open the text, God must descend to light the page. The Quaker names our interpreter an inner light, the Church a Holy Ghost to purge tie heart and eye. A deity who comes directly, and is no longer to seek when we are ready to read, must abolish the book. Of all gods offered in our Pantheon, of all persons in our Trinity, this must be the first.

I cannot fasten on the revelation which needs another to make it revelation to me; but when the divine aid is given, we seek no farther, for in this communion wo have already all that was sought. The private illumination converts to gospel every creature on which its ray may fall; it makes a Bible of the world, a Bible of the heart. The doctors with dandling have now kept the child from his feet till there is doubt whether he have any feet. In this cradle of the record he shall spend his snug and comfortable life. "Here is safety!" Of course, he is bed-ridden.

But the weakness of man is no impediment to God. Remember who creates, who renews, who goes abroad in perpetual miracle of building, inhabiting, becoming. It is not a question of human power, but of divine.

« ZurückWeiter »