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Demeter - Ah! the world may mock us, and we return their laughter, as we cross the river bridge, and resume common life; but the Initiation survives scorn and thoughtlessness and merriment; but we have seen the Mysteries. Simonides, Lucretius, Tacitus, Augustine, Shakspeare, Kant, Goethe (the spirits are unaware of the humorous irony suggested perhaps by such juxtaposition), were each in turn Hierophants to me of Mother Earth ', Interpreters of Nature. But each, also, implied wonders beyond his explanation ; and when the course of study led me at last to positive science, Physiology and Chemistry, (as already hinted), renewed in another sphere the tangle and the labyrinth of ethical and ontological contradictions.
XXVII Thus, whatever I saw, heard, or read, was the proclamation of a new perplexity. The Sphynx sat by every highway; in churches and libraries she seemed to put forth her riddle with an · Answer this, or die'; in the world without, with deeper scorn, she mocked the solutions and anodynes supplied by books and teachers, ancient or living, -Augustine and Luther, Butler and —
Now I began to think the most commonplace matters of experience the most unfamiliar to men ; now no miracle, I felt, could be half so miraculous as the daily ways of human kind, as the bare sight of this loftiest and lowest of visible things, this amalgam of dust and immortality. Why so much dead • eyeless loss' in God's own world, so much unmerited suffering, so many slight errors, simple thoughtlessness, blind accidents even, converted into shame and ruin? why legions of souls born, of whom it is affronting mockery to say, they were born free to choose the good which no more fell within their possible reach than rivers to the Arab in the Sahara ? To explain these things by Mystery', is to illuminate darkness by darkness. Read the first item in
the list set forth by one of the most competent of observers, • The largest number of young criminals are orphans or
illegitimate; or, if their parents are living, they are of bad conduct or character', and search for a solution, truly satisfying to reason and to conscience, through all the volumes of Mazarin and Russell Street, all the treatises in Bodleian or Vatican. Ah, better say at once, Behold, we “ know not any thing':- When in our frequent College services some familiar voice reached the prayer of the Litany for those in danger, necessity, and tribulation', a phrase drawn out immediately into that pathetic catalogue which in its wide scope embraces so few that hear it, so many thousands to whom it is unknown,-in those days the words fell on me with an intensity of significance which seemed often to transform the moment into hours ;
- I asked, the heart within the heart must ask at times,Can we securely say such supplication is answered, the world's evil appreciably less ?
XXVIII Had this ever-increasing sense of wrong, bewilderment, and ignorance, (extended thus from the metaphysical to the moral world), brought with it results which some, I fear, will gladly assume,- proud contempt of those to whom such thoughts were alien, chilled affection towards friends, thanklessness for the thousand blessings of life, indifference to healthy joy, denial of the consolations of Nature, enfeebled energy in practical duties and action, reason would have been to suspect its origin from some • baseness in the blood', some lurking infirmity. Who would dare assert himself clear of such elements ? Yet, whatever the cause, I could not truthfully confess to these effects. I do wrong indeed even seemingly to apologize for convictions, in all ages regarded with justice as one great lesson of Nature and of Revelation, taught alike by
Aeschylus and by Gerson, reiterated, I cannot say enforced, by speech and writing in every province of Christendom : the moral of creeds, the mainspring of religious ethics. Yet what beyond all added doubt to perplexity, was the contradiction which I found involved in the attitude which Christian counsellors-not mine specially, but through many ages, - maintained towards difficulties which they have by turns used, denied, or refuted; which they have explained to convince the sceptic of the superiority of • faith', or accepted to silence him by the show of • humility'. How often, after sad confession of the feelings here recorded, high-souled and subtle-minded friends, hoarse it might be with preaching on the text Vanity of Vanities', on the groans of creation, the misery of man,—with the same force of conviction said (in other words) · Eat, drink, and be merry : all this is the care of the higher Powers’; laughing down as an idle theorem the existence of that sorrowful mystery they had just set forth, and perhaps with even an over-estimate of its darkness! In truth, as already noticed, I daily marvelled more not at men's scepticism, but at their faith : that those who had proclaimed the Fall of man their fundamental doctrine, should deny sadness and perplexity as its natural consequence, life-abiding recognition of the more than relics of chaos as a morbid folly:-- as if the sphere of religion were in truth alien from real life, "a tale of little ' meaning tho' the words are strong':- as if they too had sworn with the poet's Epicurean voyagers
In the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined
On the hills like Gods together, careless of mankind. I do not hold such separation possible, or I would have omitted from these pages all simply theological considerations. But it is enough : without entering here on
further details, I am content to sum up and to justify by a confession wrung from the deepest of human thinkers, convictions which conscience can neither disown or boast of. For it was none less than Shakspeare who painted the world thus :
Tired with all these, for restful Death I cry,
- Tired with all these, from these would I be gone, Save that to die, I leave my Love alone.
XXIX If however at times oppressed with such feelings, Life and Nature, Thought and Books—messengers often of sadness-- brought me also their contrasting consolations. I shall not speak here of Homer with his great healthy spirit, yet pathetic beyond Dante's pathos, fresh to-day as when sung at the courts of Sardis and Sikyon, of Sappho, Catullus, Milton, and Shakspeare, “joys for ever '. But at this time I owed special thanks to one worthy to be named with these, a poet who seemed sent expressly in the latter days to make the sun more bright, and the winds more musical ; to lighten the weary weight of this unintelligible world', the 'burthen of the mystery', with happiness beyond all hope’; to lead us gently on to some foretaste of the central calm at the heart of all
agitation’; to spread the light that never was on sea or * land’ over the whole domain of Nature. Long, as remarked
before, at strife with my own blessedness, I had rejected his teaching: now
The passion of a moment came
As on the wings of years :
-Wordsworth became at once an early friend : I thought I had always known him. True, that to claim for this great singer priority either in time or in degree as the interpreter of Nature, was to praise him at the sacrifice of truth, and of the noble names (and not those alone) above quoted, -true, that even the peculiar revolution of which he was the leader had been anticipated by other Englishmen; that Gray's · Elegy' for example in thought and style, was almost more Wordsworthine than Wordsworth ; that the fiery genius of Byron had carried the same method into regions beyond ken from Helvellyn, and scaled skies unreflected in Grasmere;-true, that by no poet of Wordsworth's eminence were his favourite Horace's counsels of moderation and finish ever more neglected,—yet also true that none in our days have awakened so many of the truths that never perish, have traced so penetratingly the soul of common things- have afforded the weary and thought-perplexed such deep deep consolation. In hope to render eulogy of such a man not dispraise, I have spoken of Wordsworth mainly in his own language, felicitous (where it is felicitous) beyond expectation or rivalry. To the pleasant temptation of fuller criticism I shall not here give way; adding only as a personal experience (a matter where it would not be without value if lovers of poetry could make comparison of impressions), —that of all English poets, Shakspeare, always exceptional, excepted- Wordsworth most unalterably maintains the interest, affection, and delight with which he first affected