« PreviousContinue »
he walked as if he felt himself a king. Men from the country, who knew him not, stared at him as he passed through our streets. The coalheavers and porters of London looked on him as one of the great forces of the globe; they recognized a native king. In the Senate of the United States he looked an emperor in that council. Even the majestic Calhoun seemed common compared with him. Clay looked vulgar, and Van Buren but a fox. What a niouth he had! It was a lion's mouth. Yet there was a sweet grandeur in his smile, and a woman's sweetness when he would. What a brow it was ! What eyes! like charcoal fire in the bottom of a deep, dark well. His face was rugged with volcanic fires, great passions and great thoughts :
"The front of Jove himself;
And eyes like Mars, to threaten and command.” Divide the faculties, not bodily, into intellectual, moral, affectional, and religious; and try him on that scale. His late life shows that he had little religion-somewhat of its lower forms-conventional devoutness, formality of prayer, “the ordinances of religion”; but he had not a great man's all-conquering look to God. It is easy to be “devout." The Pharisee was more so than the Publican. It is hard to be moral. “Devoutness" took the Priest and the Levite to the temple; morality the Samaritan to the man fallen among thieves. Men tell us he was religious, and in proof declare that he read the Bible; thought Job a great epic poem ; quoted Habakkuk from memory, and knew hymns by heart; and latterly agreed with a New Hampshire divine in all the doctrines of a Christian life.
Of the affections he was well provided by nature-though they were little cultivated—very attractable to a few. Those who knew him, loved him tenderly; and if he hated like a giant, he also loved like a king. Of unimpassioned and unrelated love, there are two chief forms: friendship and philanthropy. Friendship he surely had; all along the shore men loved him. Men in Boston loved him ; even Washington held loving hearts that worshipped him.
Of philanthropy, I cannot claim much for him ; I find it not. Of conscience, it seemed to me he had little; in his later life exceeding little; his moral sense seemed long besotted ; almost, though not wholly, gone. Hence, though he was often generous, he was not just. Free to give as to grasp, he was charitable by instinct, not disinterested on principle.
His strength lay not in the religious, nor in the affectional, nor in the moral part of man. His intellect was immense. His power of comprehension was vast. He methodized swiftly. But if you look at the forms of intellectual action, you may distribute them into three great modes of
HENRY WARD BEECHER (1813-1887)
PLYMOUTH'S FAMOUS PASTOR AND ORATOR
HE eloquence of the modern pulpit reached its culmination in
Henry Ward Beecher, who for forty years made Plymouth
Church, Brooklyn, the central point of a great weekly pilgrimage of the lovers of fine pulpit oratory. In breadth of mind, originality of thought, racy and ofter humorous expression, underlined with a deep moral and spiritual earnestness, Beecher dwelt unsurpassed. His fame as an orator was not confined to the pulpit. On the lecture platform he was equally great and popular. Impelled by his training, environment, and hatred of all things evil, he entered earnestly into the crusade against slavery, and won the reputation of being one of the greatest, if not distinctively the greatest, orators of the Civil War period. Certainly, no more splendid bursts of oratory than those of Beecher were called forth by the events of this dread conflict. In the cause of temperance he was also noted, and no reform, social or political, was left without his powerful support.
LINCOLN DEAD AND A NATION IN GRIEF [Of Beecher's secular orations may especially be named, as among his ablest and most striking efforts, that called forth on the replacing of the flag of on Fort Sumter, and that of two days later (April 16, 1865,) on the death of Lincoln. In the former the note of triumph prevails, in the latter the note of pathos. We append the Lincoln oration as one of the finest examples of elegiac oratory.]
In one hour joy lay without a pulse, without a gleam or breath. A sorrow came that swept through the land as huge storms sweep through the forest and field, rolling thunder along the sky, disheveling the flowers, daunting every singer in thicket and forest, and pouring blackness and darkness across the land and up the mountains. Did ever so many hearts, in so brief a time, touch two such boundless feelings? It was the
HENRY WARD BEECHER
uttermost of joy; it was the uttermost of sorrow-noon and midnight, without a space between.
The blow brought not a sharp pang. It was so terrible that at first it stunned sensibility. Citizens were like men awakened at midnight by an earthquake and bewildered to find everything that they were accustomed to trust wavering and falling. The very earth was no longer solid. . The first feeling was the least. Men waited to get straight to feel. They wandered in the streets as if groping after some impending dread, or undeveloped sorrow, or someone to tell them what ailed them. They met each other as if each would ask the other, “Am I awake, or do I dream ?” There was a piteous helplessness. Strong men bowed down and wept. Other and common griefs belonged to some one in chief; this belonged to all. It was each and every man's. Every virtuous household in the land felt as if its first-born were gone. Men were bereaved and walked for days as if a corpse lay unburied in their dwellings. There was nothing else to think of. They could speak of nothing but that; and yet of that they could speak only falteringly. All business was laid aside. Pleasure forgot to smile. The city for nearly a week ceased to roar. The great Leviathan lay down and was still. Even avarice stood still, and greed was strangely moved to generous sympathy and universal sorrow. Rear to his name monuments, found charitable institutions, and write his name above their lintels; but no monument will ever equal the universal, spontaneous, and sublime sorrow that in a moment swept down lines and parties, and covered up animosities, and in an hour brought a divided people into unity of grief and indivisible fellowship of anguish. .
Even he who now sleeps has, by this event, been clothed with new influence. Dead, he speaks to men who now willingly hear what before they refused to listen to. Now his simple and weighty words will be gathered like those of Washington, and your children and your children's children shall be taught to ponder the simplicity and deep wisdom of utterances which in their time passed, in party heat, as idle worlds. Men will receive a new impulse of patriotism for his sake and will guard with zeal the whole country which he loved so well. I swear you, on the altar of his memory, to be more faithful to the country for which he has perished. They will, as they follow his hearse, swear a new hatred to that slavery against which he warred, and which, in vanquishing him, has made him a martyr and a conqueror. I swear you, by the memory of this martyr, to hate slavery with an unappeasable hatred. They will admire and imitate the firmness of this man, his inflexible conscience for the right, and yet his gentleness, as tender as a woman's, his moderation of spirit, which not all the heat of party could inflame, nor all the jars