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So the heart may grieve at the absence of the light, and tremble beneath the violence of the storm, while unconsciously it may, like the rose, be borrowing from the cloud and the rain-drop a purer freshness and a sweeter perfume. It may be that like the flowers it is guarded and watched by beings of a higher order than itself, who see only good in the storm and tempest, and who watch the moment of its deepest sorrow, to praise and love its beauty the most. There is a principle of vitality within us, which perhaps can only be invigorated by misfortune. Happy is the heart that by its creative fertility can preserve its greenness and bloom in uninterrupted sunshine. But happier still the heart that can turn even the shaft of affliction into a living plant, bearing flowers and fruit!
I passed where the ploughman was rudely tearing the smooth green-sward from the bosom of the earth; and I heard a voice from the earth exclaiming, “Why am I thus deprived of my beauty, and torn ?" But soon the seed which he had planted sprung up, and the earth became covered with a more rich and beautiful mantle than before. Honored, respected, useful and happy, the earth now repented of her complaints, and sent forth a voice of gladness and of praise to God.
I stood upon the sea-shore in the light of a fair summer morning. The waves were still, and from the fair surface of the ocean, as from a polished mirror, the heavens were reflected so perfectly that it seemed but the sky inverted, and the shore seemed the brink of space. But when I looked more closely into the water, it was impure and thick from the calm, and alive with myriads of minute worms and creeping monsters of deformed shapes, twisting and rolling in the stagnant element. But the storm-spirit flew, roaring from the east; and, lashing the whole ocean into foam, drove its heavy waves far
up against the rocks, which beat them back in spray, upon the whips of the Furies from whom they seemed flying: and, thus driven and dashed, the mighty waters seemed to groan and travail with pain. The storm subsided; and, when again I sought the shore, the waters were pure and clear; and far down the pellucid depths I could see the white pearly shell, and the graceful coral, and the gold fish, playing his easy gambols. My heart drank in the lesson. “I will guide myself," I exclaimed, “by the teachings of nature, and repine no more at affliction, but into its troubled waters, as it were into the pool of Siloam, cast my sicknesses, and live.”
A VITAL FORM OF SOCIAL ACTION.
In the physical world about us we see forces of two wholly different kinds, namely, vital forces and mechanical forces; and, in accordance with this distinction, divide bodies into vital and mechanical. The difference alluded to is seen broadly in the difference which exists between a draught-horse and a locomotive engine. It is seen also in the difference between the warming of the horse's blood, and the heating of the water in the locomotive's boiler: or again, in the difference between the movement of the horse's limbs, considered as levers, and the action of the muscles which give play to those limbs.
This distinction, so familiar and plain in the material world, is true also of the mental and moral worlds. Thus, the common processes of arithmetic are mechanical—so entirely mechanical, that Mr. Babbage has made his calculating engine, which is not only far more accurate than man, but is also far more profound, and has succeeded in puzzling even the genius of its inventor. But, while this engine is thus mighty in mere calculation, the elements of which are given it, it is unable to select the elements necessary to the most simple process;
there must come in the vital calculator, man. sic we see the same thing; by no very complex process, the various notes may be combined to an indefinite extent, and every combination be, more or less, a melody. This may be done by wheels and pullies, or by the mind acting mechanically: in truth, the most common form of musical composition is but a mechanical re-combination of the elements derived from old tunes, and might be as well done by an engine as by a mind. But not so with the melodies of the great Italians; not so with the harmonies of Handel and Beethoven. These men acted vitally in their compositions, and no machine, mental or material, can do what they did. In poetry, the rhyme and verse are usually merely mechanical; and all are aware how much of what we call poetry, is called so because it has rhyme and verse.
But the true Poet is no machine; his very verse is alive: he does not count his fingers for his numbers; they, with the sentiments they embody, flow from his soul;
"Spring to their task with energy divine,
Laugh, weep, command, and live in every lino." So, too, in Painting, Statuary and Architecture, we find those who, with mere mechanical industry, re-compose pictures,
statues and buildings, from the materials about them; and those who truly create figures, faces, groups, and columns. The Greeks acted vitally when they built the Parthenon and the temple of Apollo near Miletus; and our ancestors acted vitally when from the Druid forest trees they caught the idea of the great cathedrals of England and France: but we act mechanically, when from fragments of these several buildings, we try to re-compose a consistent whole; placing Gothic spires and Saxon towers over Grecian porticoes.
The power which acts vitally we call Genius; that which acts mechanically we call Talent. The man of talent will construct a most excellent lecture, address, sermon, or anything else which can be constructed. But when the hour of earnest debate comes, and from the very centre of the spirit a word is needed to restrain, to compel, to calm, or to rouse, then the voice of the man of talent is unheard, for construction will not do; not only a living, but a life-giving power is called for; and while a thousand history-quarriers and masters of logic are as if dumb, some son of genius, who can create, lifts his prophetic tone, and the whole world follows him.
And in character we recognise the same distinction. He, whose virtues result from calculated happiness, here or hereafter; who walks by an external law, instead of an internal faith; who moulds his moral nature, as a potter the clay, is a mechanical moralist, and has not yet learned the vital truth of Christianity. Utilitarianism, in every form, whether in the Orthodox Churchman, Paley, or the Atheistic Jurisprudent, Bentham, is mechanical—inconsistent with what is called, in technical but true terms, vital piety. The life of the Christian will be true, because truth is his life, not because truth will buy bread and cloth. Luther was alive, and so was Fenelon, his opposite in faith and spirit, as it would seem at first. Erasmus was, morally, a piece of clock-work, and so, in a great measure, was Benj. Franklin.
But the difference between vital and mechanical action does not stop with individuals. Many social movements belong to each class. Thus, in the French Revolution, the great outbreak was vital, but the Constitutions of that time were mechanical, and could not work or last. So in this country the Republican form is living, but in Mexico it is a mere dead image, moulded after our living form, and there it is powerless.
But Society, which lies behind all Governments, and social arrangements, and of which they are but the outer skin, is always living. If the skin die, it sloughs off, and a new one comes.
It would seem, indeed, as if it were meant that Society, like the silk-worm, should grow toward the perfect state, not gradually and happily, but by fits and starts, with painful moultings, struggles, and sickness, nigh unto death. To certain periods seem to be given institutions fitting for the time, but not growing as the body within grows, and so succeeds a season of Revolution: not only forms of Government, which are commonly the least vital parts of society, change, but social organization throughout, changes; aristocracies cease, democracies come in, or democracies cease and despotisms rise.
Thus, in its day, the feudal system was the vital form of social arrangement; but the day went by; the feudal system was po longer what the spirit of society called for; it was as the second skin of the sỊlk-worm approaching its third state; it grew dry and hard, it no longer yielded, as of old, to the motions of the body within, but cramped it and cut it with its inflexible wrinkles, until at length the expansion of the social juices cracked the hard case, and the great worm was left to struggle out of its prison. This moulting is not yet through.
Meanwhile, as it would appear, society demands, or rather produces unconsciously, many new forms to replace the old ones, which are nearly or wholly done away with, in some parts of the world. It is one of these new forms of social action that I am now about to speak of.
In all times and lands, it is noticeable that men have not acted individually. Even those individuals whose great powers have enabled them to do the most, have acted through bodies of men, classes and castes. Thus in Oriental lands, a Priesthood ruled; in Greece a Faction; in Rome a Patrician order; in Feudal Europe a Church and an Aristocracy. When Peter the Hermit roused Europe, he acted upon classes; when Hildebrand laid his grasp upon temporalities, he acted through his influence upon orders; when Luther effected the Reformation, he relied upon the common interests of many. The Church and the Aristocracy were in the Middle Ages strong enough to produce any result they wished. They were the true product of the time, and suited the time. Had a Temperance reform been then needed, the Church would have wrought it. Had Abolition been called for, the Church would have effected it. Had it been necessary to withstand Democracy and Revolution, the Church and the Nobles would both have helped in the good work. Even now, in England, the reliance of the Tory party is upon the Church and the House of Lords; to them men look in the great warfare of Conservatism with Chartism and Socialism. Now all this is right, and
VOL. VIII. 35.
while we look the Truth fairly in the eye, and see that we, in these United States, have no Church, in the sense in which Rome and England have, and cannot, of course, rely upon a Church, let us not sneer at the Oxford Divines and their followers, who see no hope in this dark day of our mother country, save through the might of Church authority; save through the denial of the doctrines of individual judgment, which have followed the Reformation.
But here the progress of Democracy has been much greater than in Europe, though the tendency of all Christendom has been to give up classes, and corporate bodies of every kind, and to come to simple, direct individualism. In our Government, we recognise only individuals, at least among whites; and in social life, the constant effort is to do away the castes produced by difference of fortune, education, and taste. The motto upon the flag of America should be, "Every man for himself.” Such is the spirit of our land, as seen in our institutions, in our literature, in our religious condition, in our political contests,-for it is this antagonism to all corporations, all privileged bodies, and castes of every kind, which lies at the root even of the present political struggle.
We have then in the U. States a curious condition of things; no recognised orders, and no church, and yet much of the same desire for action in masses, which has always existed, and which must exist until ignorance and vice cease from the earth. One result of this condition of things has been the production of voluntary associations to an immense extent. look, therefore, upon the system of associated effort, now so general, as a true and vital production of our times: by means of this system we strive to supply the want of a Church and an Aristocracy. It is a new form of social development; not a mere mechanical contrivance, which cannot last, but a true living mode of action on the part of society.
From this point of view, all associated effort becomes highly interesting, and worthy of careful examination. Like other living things, it is liable to decease, and with other earthly things, it will in time pass away, but still, like all that has life, it is God's work, and should be reverently dealt with.
Three forms of associated literary effort are seen in our day. First, that which seeks to increase results by a division of labor. This is seen in our Reviews, to which dozens of persons contribute, whereas, in the last century, Johnson, Addison, and Steele wrote their periodicals almost unaided. It is seen in the Encyclopedias, to which contributors are counted by fifties, while in the great works of that kind, published a hun