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assumption very common in deciding that it is to "a country afar off” that the spirit bas departed. mode of expressing the sense of separation it is natural, but in other respects it is without authority, and too often tends to a thought of utter annihilation in death. One of the great English divines says, “ Little know we, how little away a soul hath to go to heaven, when it departs from the body; whether it must pass locally through moon, sun, and firmament, (and, if all that must be done, it may be done
n less time than I have proposed the doubt in,) or whether that soul find new light in the same room, and be not carried into any other, but that the glory of heaven be diffused over all, I know not, I dispute not, I inquire
It is a belief which imaginative wisdom asserts in poetry, that after the material presence has passed away from sight and hearing, there may be a spiritual presence nearer, closer, and more real. The popular and vulgar belief in the gross fictions of ghosts and phantoms is perhaps an attestation of truth distorted.† Southey, in one of his prose works, said that the most entire constancy to the memory of the dead can be found only where there is the union of a strong imagination and a strong heart, and in his ode to the memory of Bishop Heber
“Heber, thou art not dead, thou canst not die !
Nor can I think of thee as lost.
* Donne's Sermons, vol. ii. p. 400.
† It is a pity, it seems to me, that the word "ghost” has become so perverted and debased from its high and pure spiritual meaning, for in common speech it signifies the fantastic notion of an immaterialism something sensualized, for if impalpable yet visible, too refined for one sense, but gross enough for another, and therefore belonging to sense, and not to spirit. Thus it is that truth first is materialized and
ed, and then wholly denied. H. R.
A little portion of this little isle
The same earth held us still; but when,
The breaking of a shell,
The rending of a veil !" And Wordsworth, in one of his elegies, boldly pro claims :
“ Thou takest not away, 0 Death!
Indifference is no more;
That tempts us to adore."
I have apparently stepped aside from my subject in citing these authorities, but the truth they sanction is set forth in this poem in the manifold forms into which the poet's genius has fashioned it, showing how that spiritual presence has been a reality to him, helping him onward in the destiny of life. The manly loyalty of his sorrow never fails him, but, conscious of the wisdom which sorrow brings, he clings to it with gratitude.
The deep mystery that wraps the whole subject of the relation between the living and the dead is in most minds barren of all belief; and, often worse than mere negative unbelief, it boldly denies that which lies much farther beyond the reach of denial than of assertion : that any influence of the spirits of the departed upon the spirits of the living is possible, and so covenant with the dead is boldly broken. One of the most learned and logical theologians among English laymen, in the present century, the late Alexander Knox, said that there was no opinion on which his mind rested with stronger assurance than that the spirits of the departed have a larger knowledge of transactions on earth than they had in life; and that having lost his father at twelve years of age, he felt, after the lapse of half a century, that all his days had been overshadowed by paternal solicitude. These opinions occur in an argument to prove the concern felt by departed spirits for those left behind, and I refer to it because it shows one of the prime truths of this poem reached by another path, the process of strict argumentation.*
The study of “In Memoriam” will also show how it vindicates other truths affecting the life and destiny of manelemental truths which have been assailed by some of the philosophical heresies of the day; and, indeed, there is to my mind something sublime in the poet's strong affection to his friend, passed from mortal sight, having power to sweep these heresies away. The notion, coupled perhaps with pantheism, which would deny individuality of existence in the hereafter, is dissipated by the assurance which affection gives—the feeling that it
“Is faith as vague as all unsweet:
Eternal form shall still divide
The eternal soul from all beside,
Sombre as the poem at first appears, it works its way on to happy hopes—the confidence of future recognitions, and a cheerful faith.
The poet's voice is heard, too, against another error of the times that which would give intellect supremacy over the higher powers which are in the soul, confounding knowledge with wisdom, or even making wisdom the subordinate. The better truth comes from the memory and imaginative contemplation of the character of his friend, when, speaking of knowledge falsely elevated, he says
* Alexander Knox's Remains, vol. i.
“Half grown as yet, a child and vain,
She cannot fight the fear of death:
What is she, cut from love and faith,
Of demons? fiery-hot to burst
All barriers in her onward race
For power. Let her know her place;
A higher hand must make her mild,
If all be not in vain; and guide
Her footsteps, moving side by side
For she is earthly of the mind,
O friend, who camest to thy goal
I would the great world grew like thee,
Who grewest not alone in power
And knowledge, but from hour to hour
The effect of a sorrow not weakly indulged, but at once faithfully cherished and wisely disciplined, is perhaps most comprehensively shown in those stanzas which affirm the need, for the highest purposes of sorrow, of health and strength, in all that makes up our moral being.
In concluding this lecture, let me say that I have made no attempt to make choice among the poems with a view to present effect, but rather, in this desultory way, to illustrate the general purpose and character of the work, and some of the principles involved in it. I have thus passed in silence by many of the most admirable pieces in the volume, and have not stopped to speak of the superior motrical art which pervades the verse. Indeed, I am well aware, that in many respects this is rude handling of a poem which peculiarly demands the meditative study of silent reading. It is then that you may
hear and see this stream of song and of sorrow—at first flowing deeply but darkly, contending alike against its own force and against resistance, light from the sky breaking only fitfully through the gloom : you may follow it after a while, gathering its strength into a more placid channel, and you will behold it at the last flowing as deeply as at first, but calmly, and in the light of peaceful memories and tranquil hopes, and bearing in the bosom of its own deep tranquillity the reflection of the deep tranquillity of the heavens.