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worth commemoration) one relic of nearer personality : ( the name written by the hand. . . . Lately I lighted on
the torn fragment, in one of those reliquaries of the past that gather round us as the faith and fire of youth gro feeble; the dreadful drawer which we think we shall never open again by choice, and under some sad impulse open at last without necessity. The paper, gazed at once with such fond intensity that her countenance had appeared often to look out on me from the letters, was covered also with many prayers for Désirée, remembrances dated at each famous city on journeys through France and Italy. I looked : I read these defeated supplications : but I could not recall her face now ; but I could pray no longer.
It was not so in those ages of faith. In the expectant silence of the central cricket-field, in the hubbub of the classroom (to venture on one picture more), I saw a village church near the sea, and Darling and I were together in the little Gothic crypt, and wandering over the roof, or touching hands as I aided her blithe ascent to the highest tower : and how I drove her home through narrow lane and common-place street, and we talked of friends, and books, and sky, and scenery, and everything together, and I could so little doubt of love for love, childhood's blessed faith, that I never inquired whether her eyes answered mine with an equal animation. How often, and what words she spoke!' the breezes should have borne them, or fancy fools me, within the golden halls of heaven. These thoughts were my waking dream amongst young companions : as I looked at their happy faces, an eternity of their joys, it seemed, was far outweighed by one instant of my happiness.
X The events of those days were trivial, little things truly, although the little things of love, it is not the facts,
as I have said, but the glory of their investing sensations I wish to narrate. Yet one there was so special, so delightful from the accident of its occurrence, that I cannot pass by the bitter pleasure of recording it. I had returned (for two or three years have now passed) from a college success, to be welcomed at school with the honours set apart on such conjunctures for schoolboys. There was the feast at the Master's house, the congratulation of the seniors, the welcome from those already successful; a little intoxication of pleasure ; a sense of first entry on real life.
And, this concluded, without I found the blither and more demonstrative greeting from my comrades, shouts, and brave good wishes, and warm hands clasped in mine, and the rude and animated procession which carried me in triumph round the playing field. But on that afternoon, by a coincidence heartfelt and striking the more, because sight of her, as we passed childhood but had not reached independent years (with the further impediment of school-residence), had now grown rarer, a far other triumph awaited me. That was the • beyond beyond', to take Imogen's phrase, an hour with Désirée. Who would pretend to recall the words spoken, and fifteen years intervening? But she had come to give me joy of my success; it was enough : I fell down in spirit,
; and worshipped the dear child whose lightsome glee and
sorrise parolette' of congratulation were more animating than contest, more satisfying than victory.
XI In those years she was not only, as one said felicitously of his love, plus femme que les autres':
Désirée was all womanhood to me. When with others, \ I laughed to myself in triumph to think by what im
measurable space any and every other was distanced from her. I might have met the ladies of Arthur's court,
Helen and Beatrice, Perdita and Una, and the interest to me would have been only their privilege of sharing her sex, and reflecting so much of her excellences as allowed me to recognize how far she exceeded them. That antagonism I have noticed between Absence and Presence, the with her and the without her, extended its subtle contrast through every moment of the day; through all the particulars of life. Désirée, and Not Désirée, were truly more to me than the “Not I' and the 'I' to the Idealist Philosopher. To listen for the arrival of the noble child, to think myself, as it were, into her thoughts, to call on Heaven to sever the too strictly inseparable bond between Flesh and Spirit and take me to the desired presence,—to put on and cast myself upon the wings of thought' thither with such intensity of longing, that my own soul must, I fancied, have been with her, as we read of the second sight, in actual vision :- - not for days, but years, these were my follies perhaps, but follies beyond the world's choicest wisdom. Often I gave her books, not so much for the gift's sake, as that I might give myself beforehand the physical pleasure of writing Désirée's name on the title-page. Treasures of art or wonders of science appeared now unlovely sources of bare instruction, not of enjoyment : "the light that never
was on sea or land' often extinguished the splendour of lake and mountain. Even on distant journeys, whilst delighting in the spectacle, I found a secret irony of further delight in the simple remembrance of her dearness. To see the glory and the gloom of Florence, the pomp and pathos of Rome, Alps and Apennines, Aegaean and Adriatic, these men counted amongst the golden hours, the choice circumstances of life:- but God had blessed me with loftier privileges in an English nursery.
XII Thus the period of my school-life passed away : amidst the fitful earnestness of boyish study, with its hours of laborious despair and trances of the first delight in Beauty and Greatness : amidst the emulous animation of boyish games, the weeks of happiness by seaside or river, the wild pulsation and tumult of coming life, the laughter of friends, the peace of home, the reveries of passion. Meanwhile, to match the enlargement of years, the inward service' of the mind had in some degree grown wider, and that childly love, a trifle and unworthy record even in memory, if evanescent with childhood, had passed also from a simple, unreflecting, all-satisfying Delight into some consciousness of hope and fear, something of manlier aim, if not to definite plan, or spoken words, or such con-. fessions as were whispered across the balcony of Verona. I had been a child
that thought there was no more behind But such a day to-morrow as to-day,
And to be boy eternal. But now the relations of individual desire to the circumstances of life; the relations of my individual life to kindred, friends, neighbours, the world without; the larger relations, lastly, of our own age to the many centuries preceding, and, even more imaginatively impressive, our yet hidden and unrealized partnership in futurity,--all these began dimly to unfold themselves. And as in such lessons something is learned from actual life, but more, during the limited experiences of boyhood, from books and the thoughts they suggest, a few words on the writings which most affected my mind will be excused, let me anticipate, by the friend or two for whom I write, and the unknown friends by sympathy for whom I hope I am writing. At least I ask their pardon if, once or twice, I
indulge the egotism of tracing the successive gradations of delight or instruction through which the master-spirits of the world led me; if I turn from the image of Désirée to the inward efforts to make myself more worthy her ; if (and by quotation also I shall take the license)
Intesso fregi al ver, s'adorno in parte
XIII Without reference to the journal, written when each day was golden and appeared to deserve an immediate commemoration, I could not retraverse the exact steps of this progress.
But the oldest leaves, like the Annals of the Pontifex of Rome in brevity and want of colour, give only the titles of the books read; I must supply from memory what comparative value and pleasure I gained in the reading. Dante and Shakspeare are first and most recurrent in that chronicle. Then during the earlier holidays, I find efforts to master Sophocles and Juvenal ; efforts mainly of freewill, and hence likelier to teach appreciation of these books than the fated taskwork of school, in which, as other boys, I could not at first separate the pleasure of learning from the sensation that I was compelled to learn. But the ponderous sentences and emphatic one-sidedness of the Satirist affected me then far more than the large wisdom of the Poet, his crystal tranquillity, his modest grace and refined passion. He was too remote from our thoughts and ways : the love of his heroic world, not mine ; too sensual at once, and too little earthly. Sympathizing rather after my own measure with Dante, I could not worship that beauty in Antigone which had touched me to the life in Beatrice, the golden-haired Christian child who had walked the actual streets of Florence, while the passers-by cried · Miracle', and her young lover fainted