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FOOTSTEPS OF ANGELS.
BY H. W. LONGFELLOW.
When the hours of day are numbered,
And the voices of the night Wake the better soul, that slumbered,
To a holy, calm delight,
Ere the evening lamps are lighted,
And, like phantoms grim and tall, Shadows from the fitful firelight
Dance upon the parlor wall.
Then the forms of the departed
Enter at the open door; The beloved, the true hearted,
Come to visit me once more.
He, the young and strong, who cherished
Noble longings for the strife, By the roadside fell and perished,
Weary with the march of life.
They, the holy ones and weakly,
Who the cross of suffering bore, Foldeu deir pale hands so meekly,
Spoke with us on earth no more.
And with them the being beauteous,
Who unto my youth was given, More than all thing else, to love me,
And is now a saint in heaven.
With a slow and noiseless footstep
Comes that messenger divine, Takes the vacant cbair beside me,
Lays her gentle hand in mine.
And she sits and gazes at me
With those deep and tender eyes, Like the stars go still and saint-like,
Looking downward from the skies.
Uttered not, yet comprehended,
Is the spirit's voiceless prayer, Soft rebukes, in blessings ended,
Breathing from her lips of air.
O, though oft depressed and lonely,
All my fears are laid aside, If I but remember only
Such as these have lived and died.
THE EDUCATION OF THE HEAVENLY BRIDE.
What a torrent of objections and suspicions you have provoked against me? You have handed my letters to some of your female friends, who have related their contents to their husbands. And now your letter gives utterance to individual views on moral culture, taken from different standpoints, all of which challenge an immediate reply. I can therefore not advance anything new in this letter, but will simply endeavor rightly to confirm and clearly prove those points to which we have already alluded.
You impute my assertion to an ignorance of the laws and relations of social life, when I allege that the young lady should be educated with a view of making her a spiritual bride ; and that parents should not esteem their qualifications for marriage and mothers the primary and highest end of their education. You describe to me the trembling anxiety and care of an affectionate father, who has six or seven daughters, none of whom has the faintest prospect of getting married. You depict the bitter anguish which the blasted hopes of such worthy young ladies must excite, when they see that every young man of pure morals and a promising future passes them by unnoticed, while others are preferred, far more homely and unpolished, mere play-things whose only recommendation is a lucrative dowry. I will not repeat all that I have said about marriage; marriages, where the fervent flow of affection is stifled with bickering antipathies, and the breathings of mutual love repressed by sense and sin. That all the prudential art and cunning of parents, employed in dragooning their daughters into a system of wooing, cannot supersede the wisdom and well-meant purposes of God. All these have no bearing upon that particular point, from which your objection proceeds. But I will expand still further those truths at which I have simply hinted in my last letter; namely, that the young lady should be educated to a more perfect feeling of self-dependence than we commonly find-an independence of character altogether foreign to the false premises and blind predjudices upon which our present educational code so prevailingly rests. She must be taught that her eternal destiny should be poised on a surer support than the precarious prospect of a marriage alliance; that she can secure an abiding power in her own soul, which will relieve her from a slavish dependence upon the marriage relation, which Providence for wise purposes may have placed forever beyond her reach.
Christian parents are not only morally bound, but are also under civil obligations to give their children such an education as will secure to them an independent support through life. This duty, of course, varies with the rank and wealth of the parents. If the interest of her father's bequest will furnish her with a competent support, well and good." He may suffer his daughter to grow up and remain ignorant, ill-bred and unlovely. Humanly speaking, her bodily subsistence, food and raiment at least are secure.
But suppose a father has only means sufficient to educate his daughter in keeping with his standing in society, but can leave her no fortune at his death. Under such circumstances, you would say, parents have every reason to be anxiously concerned about the marriage of their daughter. But pray what can the parents do in this case, in educating their daughter for marriage instead of training her for heaven? What are all their endeavors to secure the connubial happiness of their daughter, but a trifling with the solemn business of eternity? They stake the life, happiness and eternal future of their child upon the contingency of a lottery, where a very few draw prizes, and an alarming number the fearful doom of a ruinous blank. Is this right? Should she not be taught to love God more than a suitor or future husband, and esteem the prize of eternal life in Jesus Christ a higher and nobler erd than even marriage itself, however solemn this relation is ? They should regulate the education of their daughter so as to ensure to her a measurable independence of support, whether married or single. How shall this be done?
I admit that persons who have nothing but an annual salary, a bare competency, for their support, have reason to feel uneasy about the temporal welfare of their daughters ; especially if they know nothing but the useless sciences taught in our higher female seminaries ; to sing, dance, and make embroidery, dress gaily, prattle bad French and read novels. The parents of such young ladies may well weep over the cheerless prospects of their children, when every successive birth-day festival brings with it new disappointments, without any hope of suitors or their wedding day. The cause of their tears is appallingly real. The future of their daughters is terribly ominous. What but an education most miserably defective is the ground of all their danger and alarm ? Had they been taught to read, write and cipher; and the common useful arts of life-to sow, knit, cook and wash. Had they been taught to work and pray; carefully to read the Bible instead of sighing away their very existence over sentimental romances and spend their precious time at the toilet preparing for the ball-room, their parents would be saved the fear and dread of future misery and want, even though they should remain single. For they who pray well will not be ashamed to work. It would be the part of wisdom for parents to pursue this course, for by this means they might enhance the true worth of their daughters, and furnish them with attractions worthy of the admiration and love of a much larger class of respectable young men. But in the present age, such an education is too often looked upon as suited only for the poorer classes of society, because it unfits ladies to attain to any extraordinary honor in the eyes of the world, by simply endeavoring to maintain their humble rank in the lowly path of piety and honest labor.
I know full well that you can urge an objection to this by expressing your pity for the daughters of parents who move in fashionable life, and yet are not able to give them enough money to keep up the appearance of such a station, that such ladies after the death of their parents would be obliged to hire themselves out to strangers for a support. How they would have to stoop to toil and drudgery for a living. But in the first place such ladies will not hire out under precisely the same condition as those of an inferior class. Their claims to a situation will be conditioned by their degree of true worth and refinement. A virtuous, cultivated lady, who has been taught to labor rather than command, and who has been educated for a spiritual bride, can lay claim to a higher post of usefulness, and attain to greater respectability, than one educated for mere carnal worldly ends. But again, the arrangement and order of God's Providence in the world, is such that neither sons nor daughter can always retain precisely the same rank and reputation of their parents. Some are more worthy, other more worthless. Some rise above, others sink beneath the social standing of their parents. This is very natural. For where would they get to, if the child would always transcend the compass of the parent's worth ? Parents who lament over this Providential relation, who suppose that a daughter wedded to a young man of an inferior class in society, must necessarily make them unhappy, have never acquired the virtue of humility themselves nor taught it to their children. It is very evident that the wants of young ladies vary with their position in society; and it is no less evident that these wants are best provided for by educating them at least to an outward independence, so that their happiness will not depend upon the uncertainty of marrying a husband. Should their sense of duty prompt them to remain single, so as more successfully to cultivate the graces of spiritual brides, they are free to decline the offers of their suitors. Their parents need have no care or painful anxiety about the future welfare of their children. Their tender solicitude will be soothed with the conviction that it shall be well with them, whether they marry or not.
I have partly anticipated the substance of your second objection. You remark, that even the very expression that young ladies should be educated for spiritual brides savored of the atmosphere of the nunnery, and that very probably the back ground of my assertion is tinged with Catholicism. I thank you kindly, my dear friends, that you give me this opportunity frankly to express my honest convictions. I am no Roman Catholic, neither in theory or practice; nor do I catholicize in that sense which regards the Roman Catholic as the exclusively saving church. I am of the opinion, that among Greeks, Catholics and Protestants, all who fear God and do right, who are baptized in the name of the Trinity, and live conformably to the gospel; who pant after reconciliation with God through the blood of Christ ; that all such belong to the holy Catholic Church, whose invisible vitality extends over the whole earth, and that all such will in the end inherit eternal life and its consequent happiness. But at the same time, I do not belong to that class of protestants who regard every thing as anti-protestant which the impetuous pressure and tempest of the Reformation has abolished and destroyed, simply because destroyed; who forget that what has been impaired by abuse, can be restored by a proper use.
On that account I can never persuade myself that nunneries are in themselves necessarily bad and anti-protestant. I would not wish to have monasteries restored. It is far less frequent, that men fall into that state of mind, which impels them to seek retirement. At least this should not, and with us protestants can not, be the case, so long as it is the leading purpose and desire of their hearts, to devote their life and talents to the service of God, and aspire after that holiness of heart which is the end of all religion. But the leading idea and design of these female convents is so noble and humane, that they need but a slight alteration to make them institutions fruitful in unspeakable blessings, even among protestants.
In the removal and total abolition of nunneries, the reformers acted on the assumption, that woman is socially designed for a wife and a mother; that her education should primarily be regulated with a view to this end. At the time of the reformation, therefore, many nuns married after they detected the im