صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

of a human body. Upon this I began to consider with myself, what innumerable multitudes of people lay confused together under the pavement of that ancient cathedral; how men and women, friends and enemies, priests and soldiers, monks and prebendaries, were crumbled amongst one another, and blended together in the same common mass; how beauty, strength, and youth, with old age, weakness, and deformity, lay undistinguished, in the same promiscuous heap of matter.

After having thus surveyed this great magazine of mortality, as it were in the lump, I examined it more particularly by the accounts which I found on several of the monuments which are raised in every quarter of that ancient fabric. Some of them were covered with such extravagant epitaphs, that if it were possible for the dead person to be acquainted with them, he would blush at the praises which his friends have bestowed upon him. There are others so excessively modest, that they deliver the character of the person departed in Greek or Hebrew, and by that means are not understood once in a twelvemonth. In the poetical quarter, I found there were poets who had no monuments, and monuments which had no poets. I observed, indeed, that the present war had filled the church with many of these uninhabited monuments, which had been erected to the memory of persons whose bodies were perhaps buried in the plains of Blenheim, or in the bosom of the ocean.

I could not but be very much delighted with several modern epitaphs, which are written with great elegance of expression and justness of thought, and therefore do honour to the living as well as the dead. As a

foreigner is very apt to conceive an idea of the igno. rance or politeness of a nation from the turn of their public monuments and inscriptions, they should be submitted to the perusal of men of learning and genius before they are put in execution. Sir Cloudesley Shovel's monument has very often given me great offence. Instead of the brave rough English admiral, which was the distinguishing character of that plain gallant man, he is represented on his tomb by the figure of a beau, dressed in a long periwig, and reposing himself upon velvet cushions, under a canopy of state. The inscription is answerable to the monument; for instead of celebrating the many remarkable actions he had performed in the service of his country, it acquaints us only with the manner of his death, in which it was impossible for him to reap any honour. The Dutch, whom we are apt to despise for want of genius, show an infinitely greater taste of antiquity and politeness in their buildings and works of this nature, than what we meet with in those of our own country. The monuments of their admirals, which have been erected at the public expense, represent them like themselves, and are adorned with rostral crowns and naval orna. ments, with beautiful festoons of sea-weed, shells, and coral.

But to return to our subject. I have left the repository of our English kings for the contemplation of another day, when I shall find my mind disposed for so serious an amusement. I know that entertainments of this nature are apt to raise dark and dismal thoughts in timorous minds, and gloomy imaginations; but for my own part, though I am always serious, I do not know what it is to be melancholy; and can therefore take a

view of nature, in her deep and solemn scenes, with the same pleasure as in her most gay and delightful ones. By this means I can improve myself with those objects, which others consider with terror. When I look upon the tombs of the great, every emotion of envy dies in me; when I read the epitaphs of the beautiful, every inordinate desire goes out; when I meet with the grief of parents upon a tomb stone, my heart melts with compassion; when I see the tomb of the parents themselves, I consider the vanity of grieving for those whom we must quickly follow. When I see kings lying by those who deposed them, when I consider rival wits placed side by side, or the holy men that divided the world with their contests and disputes, I reflect with sorrow and astonishment on the little competitions, factions, and debates of mankind. When I read the several dates of the tombs, of some that died yesterday, and some six hundred years ago, I consider that great day when we shall all of us be con. temporaries, and make our appearance together.


[ocr errors]

R. EDWARD EVERETT HALE addressed the

Twentieth Century Club last night in their room, 14 Ashburton Place, on "The Influence of Emerson." In introducing the speaker, President Edwin D. Mead recalled the fact that Dr. Hale had christened the club five years ago with an address upon Phillips Brooks, and would now close the fifth year of the organization with a paper on the man whom J. R. Lowell called the Yankee Plato and Dr. O. W. Holmes the Buddha of the West.

Dr. Hale began with some reflections upon the uni. versality of Emersonian ideas in society to-day. “No matter to what church you may go," said he, "you will hear Emerson from the pulpit. From the fact that two publishing houses in this country have sold about 2,500,000 copies of his essays during the past few years, it has been estimated that one family out of every four in the United States has one of his books.

He was my friend for many years, visited repeatedly at my house, and talked familiarly as one does with a friend. The thing I want to emphasize is his deep and tender sympathy with all men, and his way of applying all his ideals to his everyday life. He hoed his own corn on his Concord farm, lived most of his life in comparative poverty, went to the postoffice early in order to have a chance to talk with the men about the door, and bought cheap mutton bones to keep down expenses. Here is where the difference appears between the great idealist and the chipped-off reformers who disgrace the name. So unworldly was he, so completely devoted to his mission of preaching

the greatness of truth and right, that at the age of forty-six he received his first check from a publisher, and did not know how to cash it. His books had then been before the public for sixteen years.

"In the last nineteen centuries," said Dr. Hale, "I can think of only five or six great prophets who have been strong and brave enough to stand alone by them. selves, and take their knowledge direct from the Father God, and then speak it forth to the world. Thousands of others have been to the original source, but have not told the rest of us about it. But the great majority of men are turned aside by the sirens of wealth, or something else commanding stones to be made bread, and so have lost the power that was in them.

"The last of these great world prophets, of this inner circle of five or six that I have mentioned, was Ralph Waldo Emerson. He heard the voice of Jesus Christ teaching men to go directly to God the Father, climb like a little child upon his knee and tell him all the troubles of life, leaving cares with him. To Emerson the life of God is the same as that which pulsates in the hearts of men and it reaches out beyond the limits of Arcturus and Orion. His common words exalted themselves into the oracles of our times, which compel us to see something of our Father's business, of the exalted human life that is open to the kings and priests of God."

« السابقةمتابعة »