صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني


succeeded. It is a blindness pathetic indeed, yet inseparable from any vital act of progress. Practice and theory alike derive no genuine gain from experience or wisdom whilst external to our soul's soul; mere information is no true teacher. (We get knowledge by assimilation only of what we know, and learn life by living. Thus during any period specifically devoted, as college residence, to education, the materials gathered may easily overpass the student's own capacity: may exceed absorption into our intellectual being. A conflict, already alluded to, then arises : we form precipitate conclusions on the new knowledge, or cling with passion to the standing framework of our opinions; and the tongue speaks and the heart believes, what in the innermost soul is perhaps unconsciously discredited. The new faith springs like a covered fire' within the sanctuary of the existing; an old historical cycle repeats itself; national developments are mirrored in individual; the vile superstition of Tiberius

proves the creed of Constantine. When describing the revolution gradually worked in my thoughts, it will be fit to venture a few words on the moral aspect and on the absolute value of such changes. Here it is enough to add that the study of Thucydides, Tacitus, and ancient philosophy, stored up lessons leading finally to results alien far from the expectation of the tutors to whose side I was then attached. But, ignorant of those consequences, I walked still in blind confidence of a knowledge falsely so esteemed. Nor, when placed under one gifted beyond most men with courage and clear insight, for instruction in the pure sciences, were any avenues into truth beyond their own sphere opened : for void, to use scientific terms, of all content, it is at once their glory and their defect that no reality (if matter be reality), no reference to the

sensible world interrupt the calm circle of immutable and irresistible demonstration. Such knowledge is truly its own and amply sufficient reward. But from logic, treated not as a verbal system of deduction, but as the theory at once and the method of all strict thinking, I gained the first insight, however dim, into those ultimate points of human consciousness on which the whole


of opinion rests : into what, with the profoundest sense of its limitations, in quality and in degree, must yet be called there is at least none beyond — ultimate truth. Vivified as he was by the same eloquent and accurate thinker, after more than twenty centuries Aristotle now fulfilled, or seemed to fulfil, the promise of his work, and supplied a young English student with a living method in mind,- an Organ of thinking

IV But although this first introduction to thought upon thought came on me, I remember, with a mighty surprise, a shock and a blind sense of expansion (it was summer, and the days seemed brighter than their wont, the sunbeams of more than common vivacity), it was to other books than those strictly studied, to two writers of our own land especially, that during the latter portion of these three years I look back and am thankful for immediate and almost tangible blessing. Readers will see, perhaps with a smile, that my own wilfulness only had blinded me to sources of delight hardly more distant than sun and air, or the common aspects of Nature. But even this obtuseness, I think, gave me no claim to originality. Strange it is to take down, many others have probably experienced, to take down at last by chance and open some volume, and find that within our own possession treasures of majesty and music, counsels of heroic wisdom set to perfect words, have been long silently laid up for us within the compass of


a few narrow pages, and we knew it not ! It is a common remark, that by the chain of some trivial habit, some mere conventionality, man is often hampered for years from performance of a novel but obvious duty : something which when done at last, we wonder we had not the courage to do years previously. I think it is so not less frequently with the circumstances of our inward life.

A veil rends, a prejudice drops, a foolish criticism is forgotten, a foolish jest has grown flat: sensit puer, salva res est; and the soul, in one happy and memorable half-hour landing in sunshine on a new world, like Columbus and his followers in Turner's exquisite design, sets up the banner of exultant discovery, and takes seisin of her golden inheritance. Then how the birds in the great strange trees are of unlooked-for lustre in plumage and wealth in song, larger constellations * burning', and sunsets of dye and delicacy we never thought could have trembled in flame below the zenith! Not less than such visions I now enjoyed, sitting low over the fire in a dark upper room, or the deep window recesses of our ancient walls in summer sunlight alone, or friends talking blithely by, in these first sympathetic readings of Milton and of Tennyson : names I conjoin with a special pleasure, from the thought that amongst all the holy poets these two are the most absolute masters of English speech, and of the reverent and almost personal affection borne Milton by the younger brother. What I have given here, or attempted, is the pure general impression following acquaintance with the Paradise', 'Comus', Samson', and the two volumes which were the Tennyson of the time : an impression (let me hasten to add) not only confirmed since and deepened by reflection, but unabated of the glory of its original freshness. These works, like God's (and themselves surely God's also) are, in Goethe's splendid language, per

[ocr errors]




fect to me still as on the first day. Indeed the sweetness of the years of hope and Désirée will sometimes, as I read them, “flash along the lines and go': in the verses that added delight to delight, something arises yet which not altogether counterfeits consolation. But these are a fairy treasure of my own; I will not run the risk of loss by naming them. And I should refrain, even were this result impossible, in pages written not for criticism, but Désirée.

V To my confession of confused thoughts, weak aims, and wasted hours, I should add that the pure love of Nature, partly from the pressure of these new experiences in human life, partly from the notorious want of any conspicuous charm in the surrounding country, in part from a cause (presently to be noticed) which during this period disinclined me from travelling, gained also no sensible advance. Except indeed by force of the vague pleasure any contemplation of our own youth gives, as the thought of Spring in December, and what secretly underlies that pleasure, remembrance of so many bright faces, and whole days spent between friend and friend,- that now faint and feeble horizon of college residence would be to the writer no alluring retrospect. The predominance of Love, which, like that "sky-climbing star, the sun's white-winged

o herald', gave a certain promise of day, a manly aspiration and unity to so much else poor and aimless, is the one feature that redeems it into any ideal beauty. Existence was now too varied and vivacious, the warmth and delight of friendship too satisfying, to suggest such contrasts as I have noted during my school-days, or at least to render them a source of special enjoyment: but I may say with truth, the flower and first fruits of this new life were holy to Her. How often I broke away from joyous expedition, or bright

[ocr errors]


society, from Philosopher and Poet, to be more with the thought of Désirée! How many little fragments of the surrounding landscape, copses by the slow-creeping streams, bare hill-sides, green undulations of heath, even dusty high-roads, and the very angles of the way, still, as I have since seen, or remembered them, recall the sweetness of that one image! How often this thought supplied ardour to study, or refreshment to fatigue! ... How often (but that was not so often) praised for any work by the dear dear Friend who wasted precious hours in attempt to raise faint faculties to the level of his own large and subtle comprehension, I recorded the triumph, with the prayer that this might be one step more in elevating me to worthiness of her! How always I lay down to sleep in absolute confidence of God's loving-kindness, the sweet fearless assurance that what so many thousand times I had asked in a Heaven-compelling Name, He would give me ; trusting all to Him, He would give me my heart's desire, knowing He would never leave or forsake me, that He had promised—and this anguish the fulfilment. Deus, Deus meus, quare me dereliquisti ?

VI Heaven and earth, I thought then, would rather pass away than that word fail (the text on the fulfilment of which Arnold, a man blessed with more than common happiness, almost founded his faith), Whatsoever ye ask

. . The writer would be untrue to truth, did he not record the defeat of Faith : but, again, he would not dare record it, had he not in the strictest sense enjoyed entire Faith once, reliance the most childly and reposing on the answers of an all-gracious Providence. Every evening at my own home I heard a voice loved and venerated, for the final blessing of the day, read texts rich in those promises :

« السابقةمتابعة »