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work and truth and tenderness, and though like all lives it has its light and shade, remember that we know all the worst as well as the best.
His was a soul bathed in crystal. He hurried to avow everything. There was no reticence in him. The only obscure passage in his life is the love-passage with Highland Mary, and as to that he was silent not from shame, but because it was a sealed and sacred episode. “What a flattering idea,” he once wrote, “is a world to come. There shall I with speechless agony or rapture recognize my lost, my ever dear Mary, whose bosom was fraught with truth, honor, constancy and love.” But he had, as the French say, the defects of his qualities. His imagination was a supreme and celestial gift, but his imagination often led him wrong and never more than with woman. The chivalry that made Don Quixote see the heroic in all the common events of life made Burns (as his brother tells us) see a goddess in every girl he approached; hence many love affairs, and some guilty ones; but even these must be judged with reference to time and circumstances. This much is certain-had he been devoid of genius they would not have attracted attention. It is Burns' pedestal that affords a target. And why, one may ask, is not the same treatment measured out to Burns as to others? The illegitimate children of great captains and statesmen and princes are treated as historical and ornamental incidents. They strut the scene of Shakespeare and ruffle it with the best. It is for the illegitimate children of Burns, though he and his wife cherished them as if born in wedlock, that the vials of wrath are reserved. They were two brilliant figures both descended from the Stuarts who were alive during Burns' life. We occupy ourselves endlessly and severely with the offences of Burns, we heave an elegant sigh over the hundred lapses of Charles James Fox and Charles Edward Stuart. [Cheers.]
Again, it is quite clear that, though exceptionally sober in his earlier years, he drank too much in later life, but this, it must be remembered, was but an occasional condescendence to the vice and habit of the age. The gentry who pressed him to their houses and who were all convivial have much to answer for. His admirers who
thronged to see him, and who could only conveniently sit with him in a tavern, are also responsible for this habit so perilously attractive to men of genius, from the decorous Addison and the brilliant Bolingbroke onward. The Eighteenth century records hard drinking as the common incident of intellectual eminence. To a man who had shone supreme in the most glowing society, and who was now an exciseman in a country town, with a home which cannot have been very exhilarating, with the nervous system highly strung, the temptation of the warm tavern and the admiring circle there may well have been almost irresistible.
Some attempt to say that his intemperance was exaggerated. I neither affirm nor deny it. If he succumbed it was to good-fellowship and cheer. Remember, I do not seek to palliate or excuse, and, indeed, none will be turned to dissipation by Burns' example—he paid too dearly for it. But I will say this, that it all seems infinitely little, infinitely remote. Why do we strain at this distance to discern this dim spot on the poet's mantle? Shakespeare and Ben Jonson took their cool tankard at the
Mermaid.” We cannot afford, in the strictest view of dietary responsibility, to quarrel with them for it. When we consider Pitt and Goethe we do not concentrate our vision on Pitt's bottles of port or Goethe's bottles of Moselle. Then why, we ask, is there such a chasm between the “Mermaid " and the “Globe”; and why are the vintages of Wimbledon and Weimar so much more innocent than the simple punch-bowl of Inverary marble and its contents ? [Cheers.]
I should like to go a step further and affirm that we have something to be grateful for even in the weaknesses of men like Burns. Mankind is helped in its progress almost as much by the study of imperfection as by the contemplation of perfection. Had we nothing before us in our futile and halting lives but saints and the ideal, we might well fail altogether. We grope blindly along the catacombs of the world, we climb the dark ladder of life, we feel our way to futurity, but we can scarcely see an inch around or before us. We stumble and falter and fall, our hands and knees are bruised and sore, and we look up
for light and guidance. Could we see nothing but distant,
unapproachable impeccability we might well sink prostrate in the hopelessness of emulation, and the weariness of despair. Is it not then, when all seems blank and lightless and lifeless, when strength and courage flag, and when perfection seems remote as a star, is it not then that imperfection helps us? When we see that the greatest and choicest images of God have had their weaknesses like ours, their temptations, their hour of darkness, their bloody sweat, are we not encouraged by their lapses and catastrophes to find energy for one more effort, one more struggle? Where they failed, we feel it a less dishonor to fail; their errors and sorrows make, as it were, an easier ascent from infinite imperfection to infinite perfection.
Man, after all, is not ripened by virtue alone. Were it so, this world were a paradise of angels. No. Like the growth of the earth, he is the fruit of all seasons, the accident of a thousand accidents, a living mystery moving through the seen to the unseen; he is sown in dishonor; he is matured under all the varieties of heat and cold, in mists and wrath, in snow and vapors, in the melancholy of autumn, in the torpor of winter as well as in the rapture and fragrance of summer, or the balmy affluence of spring, its breath, its sunshine; at the end he is reaped, the product not of one climate but of all, not of good alone but of sorrow, perhaps mellowed and ripened, perhaps stricken and withered and sour. How, then, shall we judge any one?-how, at any rate, shall we judge a giant, great in gifts and great in temptation, great in strength, and great in weakness? Let us glory in his strength and be comforted in his weakness, and when we thank Heaven for the inestimable gift of Burns, we do not need to remember wherein he was imperfect, we cannot bring ourselves to regret that he was made of the same clay as ourselves. [Cheers.]
THE TRUE AMERICANISM
[Address by Carl Schurz, publicist and statesman (born at Liblar, near Cologne, Germany, March 2, 1829; -), delivered in New York City at a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York, January 2, 1896, Mr. Schurz rising to second the resolutions embodied in a report to the Chamber by its Committee on For. eign Commerce and the Revenue Laws upon the then pending Venezuelan question.]
MR. PRESIDENT:-As an honorary member of the Chamber of Commerce, I am thankful for the privilege of seconding the resolutions offered by the Committee. I yield to no one in American feeling or pride; and, as an American, I maintain that international peace, kept in justice and honor, is an American principle and an American interest. As to the President's recent message on the Venezuela case, opinions differ. But I am sure that all good citizens, whether they approve or disapprove of it, and while they would faithfully stand by their country in time of need, sincerely and heartily wish that the pending controversy between the United States and Great Britain be brought to a peaceable issue.
I am well aware of the strange teachings put forth among us by some persons, that a war, from time to time, would by no means be a misfortune, but rather a healthy exercise to stir up our patriotism, and to keep us from becoming effeminate. Indeed, there are some of them busily looking round for somebody to fight, as the crazed Malay runs amuck looking for somebody to kill. The idea that the stalwart and hard-working American people, engaged in subduing to civilization an immense continent,