« السابقةمتابعة »
fated to begin the passion of desire and of reverence which, if individuality pursues us there, will attend one soul through eternity. But he cannot realize in words the absolute separation this hour made in the child's life; the new creation, the birth which seemingly wrought a change greater than that from the first nothingness to human existence; the trembling, the great delight, the inner music of crowned triumph, 'the peace' (to quote words of sofamiliar sublimity) which the world cannot give'. Nor can I describe the early steps in that Eden : “non so ben ridir', like Dante wandering into the wood where he was to hear tidings of Beatrice, com' i' v' entrai'. I suppose this is so
, “ with all men. Love, who leads us blindfold, keeps himself | the secret of that labyrinth to which he is at once the
clue and the perplexity. He says, “Ask no more: I did
it': he whispers the warning not to search too curiously ; that his enchantment perhaps gave the freshness to the grass and the glory to the flower, holiness to the shrine, and faith to the pilgrim. There is a special mystery
about many beginnings, and none more than this : a veil I not wisely lifted : a reverential fear which tells us that faith on some things is more secure than knowledge.
If, in truth, I could retrace the looks, words, and doings of that spring afternoon, they would be nothing : two children together in a room ; others coming and going ; furniture around and the things of the most every day ; laughter and trivial syllables, bright hair and bright features, and animation, and the golden atmosphere of youth ; childly inconsecutiveness of discourse, perhaps, plans for future meeting suggested and left incomplete even in words; a gay farewell, quick steps of departure ; and then As the angel's medicinal touch at the pools of Bethesda, a moment's alchemy had transmuted
earth to heaven. But that this miracle should be narrowed to one—that I had gone down alone into what was in after years to be bitter with a more than Marah bitter-) ness-could I have mistrusted Providence so far as to believe such calamity possible? Where two children had met for an hour's play and laughter, and no further thought, an old scene and calamity had renewed itself : Ida and Toggenburg : Dante and Beatrice: Eros and Anteros. Alas, what I drank of, was it the fountains of * God', or the mocking and illusive waters of Gadara ?
VI Immediately the object of existence was to see this lady, or to muse on her after seeing. Any clear sense of pursuit, of ultimate triumph, I had not : these desires, the first thoughts of later and less ideal passion, presented themselves dimly as yet, matters that roused no paramount interest : the joy of the day was, all-sufficient. Thought of Désirée seemed to glorify the simple sense of life into a pure organic pleasure', a delight sublime
in its senselessness': but if seeing her, hearing, sitting by her, at the touch of her hand or dress, I may truly say, I felt love in every limb. . . . One
can hardly put these things into words : if I could, I would hope that some few, here and there, would recognize the truth of the description. My entrance on school life, commenced a few months before, and then the main event of my
little experience, how trivial did it now appear! It had seemed, of course, at the time, the beginning of man's estate: now these matters merged themselves in what had suddenly become the dark ages of childhood, the days of which I could willingly have said, that I was as one of the heathen, and ignorant then of heaven. Whilst to others' eyes remaining, no doubt, miserably childish, love at least so far raised me already to more manly thoughts, that
I was a separate creature at once from the child, without aims or central and guiding passion : I had no interest in the years when I had not truly known Désirée. Henceforth the world was changed, and this great love coloured everything: giving a new life to the studies, which were to make me worthier her: to the games which, at every moment of animation or triumph, seemed to me at once transacted under her eye, where I conquered for her, or if not, her fancied consolation was the victory: to the first friendships of school, pursued with the greater warmth, because I felt that how much ever I might love friends, it was still with a passion differing in essential nature from that which the burning blush of the soul made me conscious of at the least recollection of Désirée. And there is one characteristic of youth which gave a peculiar force and exquisiteness of delight to such recollections.
VII As years advance, and we learn what life is, the common-places of existence strike most men less. We have trodden the daily round so often, that we lose almost the sense of the dust and the monotony: we are at home in the office ; we have learned to like Lombard Street. And then we recognise that it is so with others also. Every day in palace, or counting-house, or cottage, is filled up with a succession of what to the most indolent and independent are nothing less than daily tasks and inevitable. Since this burden of uniform iteration is laid on all, our former envy of those we had once fancied exempt diminishes. We do not perhaps desire wealth less, but we are always more aware of the limitations under which wealth increases happiness of its narrow power, whilst procuring much, to bestow what to most men is the pleasure of pleasures, novelty :)
.... versamur ibidem atque insumus usque,
nec nova vivendo procuditur ulla voluptas. But in boyhood, unbent as yet to the yoke of custom and credulous of an eternity of change, we were sensitive to the monotonous spaces in life, and felt its commonplaceness with a strange intensity. The mind is nearer Nature then, the taste and senses unconsciously more refined, more instinctively fastidious, than when in later life our faculties have been dulled by iteration of experiences, distracted by a thousand arguments. Many a rough English lad, all animal as he seems to foreign critics, incapable of appreciating our noble public education, carries with him to that little arena of clamorous warfare a heart almost too delicately alive to the peace of home and its images of female tenderness : and amidst wild games, or during the first intoxicating glimpses of. the glorious ancient world unfolded • like a banner' before him, thinks of the field and forest he has left as of an imperial palace; a liberty he has surrendered. He does not regret the resumption of study, or find no animation in the return to river or football field: it is the repeated and unswerving routine, the something too well known and hackneyed in every circumstance (I put it to readers' recollections), which depresses him.
VIII But how glorious the contrast, to turn in thought from the midst of that narrow circle of Common-place over-familiar, to the image of Désirée! I feel the subtle sweetness of the fancy now, as I recall those days, in what seems at least all its original freshness. Around were the well-known faces of hearty companions, the rough, the out-speaking, the careless contemporaries, the din, the shouting voices, the reckless murmur, the long room with its worn and dismal formality of furniture, the ragged
benches, scattered books, diagrams dark with neglect, dustlurid air : and at a thought, in the centre of all, that golden vision which appeared almost bodily immanent by the force and passion of loving remembrance: that treasure which was all one's own, and yet seemed, by some mysterious magic, transfused into all around it ; omnipresent as Nature to the youthful Wordsworth, by process of a diviner Pantheism. The desk before me was fretted with a hundred initials; my own, I remember, cut on a scale I thought of magnitude hitherto unreached. I dared not give Désirée's such honours ; I wrote her name everywhere, and effaced it: the very form of the letters, as they disappeared, assumed a talismanic and individual life, a look of superhuman sweetness. If I saw them repeated, as in the initials of a name on a book's title-page, or abroad anywhere in the street, they gave a sanctity to the place of their occurrence; they smiled on me for delight and for encouragement.
IX Again, on any occasion of school-festivity, joyous union for games, or talk, or excursion with the friends of the day, there was yet a further and special happiness to withdraw the mind from circumstances of present pleasure, recalling the moments when I had seen Désirée last. This was a triumph of irony; a contrast that truly seemed, whatever the joy of the moment, between earth and heaven.
I might think of many such scenes. 0! let me pause here an instant,- for we then met often. How one afternoon she had consecrated by exhibition of the toys and treasures of a girl's childhood : a birthday watch-chain I remember especially, because in far other days I saw it again by chance, and the sight pierced me: how we had interchanged little gifts : how I had stolen with success (and my heart swelled with pride at the little ruse, not