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evil feature in other people's lives. They keep scribbling at little articles until their would be happier if he were dead. They temper is a cross to all who come about could easier do without his services in them, as though Pharaoh should set the. the Circumlocution Office, than they can Israelites to make a pin instead of a pyratolerate his fractious spirits. He poisons mid; and fine young men who work themlife at the well-head. It is better to be selves into a decline, and are driven off beggared out of hand by a scapegrace
in a hearse with white plumes upon it. nephew, than daily hag-ridden by a peev- Would you not suppose these persons had ish uncle.
been whispered, by the Master of the And what, in God's name, is all this Ceremonies, the promise of some momenpother about? For what cause do they tous destiny? and that this lukewarm embitter their own and other people's bullet on which they play their farces lives? That a man should publish three was the bull's-eye and centrepoint of all or thirty articles a year, that he should the universe? And yet it is not so. The finish or not finish his great allegorical ends for which they give away their pricepicture, are questions of little interest less youth, for all they know, may be to the world. The ranks of life are full; chimerical or hurtful; the glory and riches and although a thousand fall, there are they expect may never come, or may find always some to go into the breach. When them indifferent; and they and the world they told Joan of Arc she should be at they inhabit are so inconsiderable that home minding women's work, she an- the mind freezes at the thought. swered there were plenty to spin and wash. And so, even with your own rare gifts !
ÆS TRIPLEX When nature is “so careless of the single life," why should we coddle ourselves The changes wrought by death are in into the fancy that our own is of ex- themselves so sharp and final, and so ceptional importance? Suppose Shake- terrible and melancholy in their consespeare had been knocked on the head
quences, that the thing stands alone in some dark night in Sir Thomas Lucy's man's experience, and has no parallel preserves, the world would have wagged upon earth. It outdoes all other accion better or worse, the pitcher gone to dents because it is the last of them. Somethe well, the scythe to the corn, and the times it leaps suddenly upon its victims, student to his book; and no one been any like a Thug; sometimes it lays a regular the wiser of the loss. There are not many siege and creeps upon their citadel during works extant, if you look the alternative a score of years. And when the business all over, which are worth the price of a is done, there is sore havoc made in other pound of tobacco to a man of limited people's lives, and a pin knocked out by means. This is a sobering reflection for which many subsidiary friendships hung the proudest of our earthly vanities. together. There are empty chairs, soliEven a tobacconist may, upon considera- tary walks, and single beds at night. tion, find no great cause for personal Again in taking away our friends, death vainglory in the phrase; for although does not take them away utterly, but tobacco is an admirable sedative, the leaves behind a mocking, tragical, and qualities necessary for retailing it are soon intolerable residue, which must be neither rare nor precious in themselves. hurriedly concealed. Hence a whole chapAlas and alas! you may take it how you ter of sights and customs striking to the will, but the services of no single individual mind, from the pyramids of Egypt to are indispensable. Atlas was just a gentle- the gibbets and dule trees of mediæval man with a protracted nightmare! And Europe. The poorest persons have a yet you see merchants who go and labour bit of pageant going towards the tomb; themselves into a great fortune and thence memorial stones are set up over the least into bankruptcy court; scribblers who memorable; and, in order to preserve
some show of respect for what remains it calmly, the situation of these South of our old loves and friendships, we must American citizens forms only a very pale accompany it with much grimly ludicrous figure for the state of ordinary mankind. ceremonial, and the hired undertaker This world itself, travelling blindly and parades before the door. All this, and swiftly in overcrowded space, among a much more of the same sort, accompanied million other worlds travelling blindly by the eloquence of poets, has gone a and swiftly in contrary directions, may great way to put humanity in error; nay, very well come by a knock that would in many philosophies the error has been set it into explosion like a penny squib. embodied and laid down with every cir- And what, pathologically looked at, is cumstance of logic; although in real the human body with all its organs, but life the bustle and swiftness, in leaving a mere bagful of petards ? The least of people little time to think, have not left these is as dangerous to the whole economy them time enough to go dangerously as the ship's powder-magazine to the wrong in practice.
ship; and with every breath we breathe, As a matter of fact, although few things and every meal we eat, we are putting are spoken of with more fearful whisper- one or more of them in peril. If we clung ings than this prospect of death, few have as devotedly as some philosophers pretend less influence on conduct under healthy we do to the abstract idea of life, or were circumstances. We have all heard of half as frightened as they make out we cities in South America built upon the are, for the subversive accident that ends side of fiery mountains, and how, even it all, the trumpets might sound by the in this tremendous neighbourhood, the hour and no one would follow them into inhabitants are not a jot more impressed battle - the blue-peter might fly at the by the solemnity of mortal conditions truck, but who would climb into a seathan if they were delving gardens in the going ship? Think (if these philosophers greenest corner of England. There are were right) with what a preparation of serenades and suppers and much gallantry spirit we should affront the daily peril among the myrtles overhead; and mean- of the dinner-table: a deadlier spot than while the foundation shudders underfoot, any battlefield in history, where the far the bowels of the mountain growl, and at greater proportion of our ancestors have any moment living ruin may leap sky- miserably left their bones! What woman high into the moonlight, and tumble man would ever be lured into marriage, so much and his merry-making in the dust. In more dangerous than the wildest sea? the eyes of very young people, and very And what would it be to grow old? For, dull old ones, there is something inde- after a certain distance, every step we scribably reckless and desperate in such take in life we find the ice growing thinner a picture. It seems not credible that re- below our feet, and all around us and spectable married people, with umbrellas, behind us we see our contemporaries going should find appetite for a bit of supper through. By the time a man gets well within quite a long distance of a fiery into the seventies, his continued existence mountain; ordinary life begins to smell is a mere miracle; and when he lays his of high-handed debauch when it is car- old bones in bed for the night, there is an ried on so close to a catastrophe; and overwhelming probability that he will even cheese and salad, it seems, could never see the day. Do the old men mind hardly be relished in such circumstances it, as a matter of fact? Why, no. They without something like a defiance of the never merrier; they have their Creator. It should be a place for nobody grog at night, and tell the raciest stories; but hermits dwelling in prayer and macera- they hear of the death of people about tion, or mere born-devils drowning care their own age, or even younger, not as in a perpetual carouse.
as if was a grisly warning, but with a And yet, when one comes to think upon simple childlike pleasure at having out
lived someone else; and when a draught it fast; and yet, unless it be some martinet might puff them out like a fluttering of a professional mariner or some landsman candle, or a bit of a stumble shatter them with shattered nerves, every one of God's like so much glass, their old hearts keep creatures makes it fast. A strange insound and unaffrighted, and they go on, stance of man's unconcern and brazen bubbling with laughter, through years boldness in the face of death! of man's age compared to which the valley We confound ourselves with metaphysiat Balaclava was as safe and peaceful as cal phrases, which we import into daily a village cricket-green on Sunday. It talk with noble inappropriateness. We may fairly be questioned (if we look to have no idea of what death is, apart from the peril only) whether it was a much more its circumstances and some of its consedaring feat for Curtius to plunge into the quences to others; and although we have gulf, than for any old gentleman of ninety some experience of living, there is not a to doff his clothes and clamber into bed. man on earth who has flown so high into
Indeed, it is a memorable subject for abstraction as to have any practical guess consideration, with what unconcern and at the meaning of the word life. All gaiety mankind pricks on along the Valley literature, from Job and Omar Khayyam of the Shadow of Death. The whole to Thomas Carlyle or Walt Whitman, way is one wilderness of snares, and the is but an attempt to look upon the human end of it, for those who fear the last pinch, state with such largeness of view as shall is irrevocable ruin. And yet we go spin- enable us to rise from the consideration ning through it all, like a party for the of living to the Definition of Life. And Derby. Perhaps the reader remembers our sages give us about the best satisfacone of the humorous devices of the deified tion in their power when they say that it Caligula: how he encouraged a vast is a vapour, or a show, or made out of concourse of holiday-makers on to his the same stuff with dreams. Philosophy, bridge over Baiæ bay; and when they in its more rigid sense, has been at the were in the height of their enjoyment, same work for ages; and after a myriad turned loose the Prætorian guards among bald heads have wagged over the problem, the company, and had them tossed into and piles of words have been heaped one the sea.
This is no bad miniature of the upon another into dry and cloudy volumes dealings of nature with the transitory without end, philosophy has the honour race of man. Only, what a chequered of laying before us, with modest pride, picnic we have of it, even while it lasts ! her contribution towards the subject : and into what great waters, not to be that life is a Permanent Possibility of crossed by any swimmer, God's pale Sensation. Truly a fine result! A man Prætorian throws us over in the end ! may very well love beef, or hunting, or a
We live the time that a match flickers; woman; but surely, surely, not a Permawe pop the cork of a ginger-beer bottle, nent Possibility of Sensation. He may and the earthquake swallows us on the be afraid of a precipice, or a dentist, or a instant. Is it not odd, is it not incon- large enemy with a club, or even an undergruous, is it not, in the highest sense of taker's man; but not certainly of abstract human speech, incredible, that we should death. We may trick with the word life think so highly of the ginger-beer, and in its dozen senses until we are weary regard so little the devouring earthquake? of tricking; we may argue in terms of all The love of Life and the fear of Death the philosophies on earth, but one fact are two famous phrases that grow harder remains true throughout
that we do to understand the more we think about not love life, in the sense that we are them. It is a well-known fact that an greatly preoccupied about its conservaimmense proportion of boat accidents tion; that we do not, properly speaking, would never happen if people held the love life at all, but living. Into the views
, sheet in their hands instead of making of the least careful there will enter some degree of providence; no man's eyes ure of the eyes in nature, and the pride are fixed entirely on the passing hour; of our own nimble bodies. but although we have some anticipation We all of us appreciate the sensations; of good health, good weather, wine, active but as for caring about the Permanence employment, love, and self-approval, the of the Possibility, a man's head is generally sum of these anticipations does not amount very bald, and his senses very dull, before to anything like a general view of life's he comes to that. Whether we regard possibilities and issues; nor are those life as a lane leading to a dead wall — a who cherish them most vividly, at all mere bag's end, as the French say — or the most scrupulous of their personal whether we think of it as a vestibule or safety. To be deeply interested in the gymnasium, where we wait our turn and accidents of our existence, to enjoy keenly prepare our faculties for some more noble the mixed texture of human experience, destiny; whether we thunder in a pulpit,
, rather leads a man to disregard pre- or pule in little atheistic poetry-books, cautions, and risk his neck against a about its vanity and brevity; whether straw. For surely the love of living we look justly for years of health and is stronger in an Alpine climber roping vigour, or are about to mount into a Bathover a peril, or a hunter riding merrily chair, as a step towards the hearse; in at a stiff fence, than in a creature who each and all of these views and situations lives upon a diet and walks a meas- there is but one conclusion possible: that ured distance in the interest of his consti- a man should stop his ears against paralystution.
ing terror, and run the race that is set There is a great deal of very vile non- before him with a single mind. No one sense talked upon both sides of the matter : surely could have recoiled with more tearing divines reducing life to the dimen- heartache and terror from the thought sio of a mere funeral procession, so of death than our respected lexicographer; short as to be hardly decent; and melan- and yet we know how little it affected his choly unbelievers yearning for the tomb conduct, how wisely and boldly he walked, as if it were a world too far away. Both and in what a fresh and lively vein he sides must feel a little ashamed of their spoke of life. Already an old man, he performances now and again when they ventured on his Highland tour; and his draw in their chairs to dinner. Indeed, a heart, bound with triple brass, did not good meal and a bottle of wine is an answer recoil before twenty-seven individual cups to most standard works upon the question. of tea. As courage and intelligence are When a man's heart warms to his viands, the two qualities best worth a good man's he forgets a great deal of sophistry, and cultivation, so it is the first part of insoars into a rosy zone of contemplation. telligence to recognise our precarious Death may be knocking at the door, like estate in life, and the first part of courage the Commander's statue; we have some- to be not at all abashed before the fact. thing else in hand, thank God, and let A frank and somewhat headlong carriage, him knock. Passing bells are ringing not looking too anxiously before, not all the world over. All the world over, and dallying in maudlin regret over the past, every hour, someone is parting company stamps the man who is well armoured for with all his aches and ecstasies. For this world. us also the trap is laid. But we are so And not only well armoured for himself, fond of life that we have no leisure to en- but a good friend and a good citizen to tertain the terror of death. It is a honey- boot. We do not go to cowards for tender moon with us all through, and none of dealing; there is nothing so cruel as panic; the longest. Small blame to us if we give the man who has least fear for his own our whole hearts to this glowing bride of carcass, has most time to consider others. ours, to the appetites, to honour, to the That eminent chemist who took his walks hungry curiosity of the mind, to the pleasa abroad in tin shoes, and subsisted wholly
upon tepid milk, had all his work cut out blocks of prudence. Think of the herofor him in considerate dealings with his ism of Johnson, think of that superb inown digestion. So soon as prudence has difference to mortal limitation that set begun to grow up in the brain, like a him upon his dictionary, and carried him dismal fungus, it finds its first expression through triumphantly until the end ! in a paralysis of generous acts. The Who, if he were wisely considerate of victim begins to shrink spiritually; he things at large, would ever embark upon develops a fancy for parlours with a regu- any work much more considerable than a lated temperature, and takes his morality halfpenny post card? Who would proon the principle of tin shoes and tepid ject a serial novel, after Thackeray and milk. The care of one important body or Dickens had each fallen in mid-course? soul becomes so engrossing, that all the Who would find heart enough to begin noises of the outer world begin to come to live, if he dallied with the consideration thin and faint into the parlour with the of death? regulated temperature; and the tin shoes And, after all, what sorry and pitiful go equably forward over blood and rain. quibbling all this is! To forego all the To be overwise is to ossify; and the scru- issues of living in a parlour with a reguple-monger ends by standing stockstill. lated temperature
as if that were not Now the man who has his heart: on his to die a hundred times over, and for ten sleeve, and a good whirling weathercock years at a stretch! As if it were not to of a brain, who reckons his life as a thing die in one's own lifetime, and without to be dashingly used and cheerfully haz- even the sad immunities of death! As arded, makes a very different acquaintance if it were not to die, and yet be the patient of the world, keeps all his pulses going spectators of our own pitiable change! true and fast, and gathers impetus as he The Permanent Possibility is preserved, runs, until, if he be running towards any- but the sensations carefully held at arm's thing better than wildfire, he may shoot length, as if one kept a photographic plate up and become a constellation in the end. in a dark chamber. It is better to lose Lord look after his health, Lord have a health like a spendthrift than to waste it care of his soul, says he; and he has at like a miser. It is better to live and be the key of the position, and swashes done with it, than to die daily in the sickthrough incongruity and peril towards his room. By all means begin your folio; aim. Death is on all sides of him with even if the doctor does not give you a year, pointed batteries, as he is on all sides of even if he hesitates about a month, make all of us; unfortunate surprises gird him one brave push and see what can be acround; mim-mouthed friends and rela- complished in a week.
complished in a week. It is not only tions hold up their hands in quite a little in finished undertakings that we ought elegiacal synod about his path: and what to honour useful labour. A spirit goes cares he for all this? Being a true lover of out of the man who means execution, living, a fellow with something pushing which outlives the most untimely ending. and spontaneous in his inside, he must, All who have meant good work with their like any other soldier, in any other stirring, whole hearts, have done good work, aldeadly warfare, push on at his best pace though they may die before they have until he touch the goal. “A peerage or the time to sign it. Every heart that has Westminster Abbey !” cried Nelson in beat strong and cheerfully has left a hopehis bright, boyish, heroic manner. These ful impulse behind it in the world, and are great incentives; not for any of these, bettered the tradition of mankind. And but for the plain satisfaction of living, even if death catch people, like an open of being about their business in some sort pitfall, and in mid-career, laying out vast or other, do the brave, serviceable men of projects, and planning monstrous foundaevery nation tread down the nettle danger, tions, flushed with hope, and their mouths and pass flyingly over all the stumbling- full of boastful language, they should be