Page images

"And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer;
Which pierces so, that it assaults
Mercy itself, and frees all faults."

And so, too, I will end—how better?—with those lessons of Freedom and Forgiveness: the true Freedom which only comes from service, the true Pardon which only comes to those who forgive, because they have been forgiven.

Have you learnt those lessons? The root of all true religion, believe me, lies there. What do you know of the true "service which is perfect freedom"? What is your definition of life? How do you conceive of it to yourself? Is it, do you think, as Shakespeare has elsewhere said,—" a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing "? or is it a mission of service to your fellows for Christ's sake? God grant you may answer—Life is service! Life is duty! Life is a mission! All for Love and the world well lost. For Jesus said—" Whosoever would save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake shall save it."

And the lesson of Pardon—have you made that, too, yours?"The tongues of dying men"—our poet says— "enforce attention like deep harmony." And from the Cross of Jesus and His last dying prayer—" Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do "—we have all learnt—God grant it!—to recognize the ethical beauty of the spirit of forgiveness; but do we equally acknowledge its moral power? its redeeming power? "Father! forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us." So daily we pray. Brothers! Sisters! do we truly realize this power of forgiveness, this social power of remitting or retaining sins, this priestly power of humanity? Ah! believe me, just so far as we exercise it lovingly and wisely in our lives and with our lips we help men away from sin: just so far as we do not exercise it, or exercise it wrongly, we drive men into sin. And, my friends, from which of your Christian teachers will you learn of that unstrained "quality of mercy "—of that earthly power of free forgiveness "which then shows likest God's when mercy seasons justice"—more un~ erringly than you will from Shakespeare? He was no priest, I repeat, he waved no censer. But just as in regard to that other lesson of Freedom, Shakespeare does seem to give to each one of us courage, and energy, and strength to dedicate ourselves and our work to that service, to that mission—whatever it may be—which life has revealed to us as best, and highest, and most real,—so, also, with regard to this other lesson of the Redemptive Power of a priestly Humanity, this social force of true forgiveness, I do not hesitate to say that in Shakespeare's genius there burns truly, and fragrantly, and steadily—

"Such incense as of right belongs
To the true shrine,
Where stands the Healer of all wrongs,
In light Divine."



[Address by David Swing, clergyman, and platform speaker, founder of the Central (Independent) Church, Chicago, of which he remained minister until his death. He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, August 23, 1830; died in Chicago, 111., October 3, 1894.]

In speaking of the novel, it is not my purpose to eulogize nor to decry it, but simply in an impartial manner, to inquire as to the position in literature that the novel should occupy. I shall speak only of the ideal novel, and shall say little of it in the concrete.

Every branch of fine art springs out of something within human nature. All of the arts are the external expression of something in the spirit, and literature, being one of the arts, must also be the external expression of something within. In seeking for the cause of some branches of the fine arts, it is often essential that we fall back upon our rights as human beings, and placing our hands upon our hearts, say, "I love this or I love that because—I do." None of you can rise in your place and tell why you love music.

Very often we have to be like the young man who was walking in the garden among the Romans—I am sure it was in the Roman days—with an old philosopher, and, having come to a bed of poppies, the young man said, "Father, why is it the poppy makes people sleepy?" Now, the custom of these old Latin and Greek professors was never to admit ignorance of anything, but always to know the whole reason—and there are men vet living of that class, theologians generally. The old philosopher

From "Old Pictures of Life." Copyright, by Stone & Kimball, and published by Herbert S. Stone & Co. 1114

looking upon the ground said: "My son, the poppy makes people sleepy because it possesses a soporific principle "; and the young man was happy. Walking through this garden of literature, this flower called the novel—not this poppy, for the sermon is the true poppy of literature— this rose rises up before you and asks if you can tell the source of its gorgeous coloring. In doing this it is necessary to go back.

First, having found out what literature is, we may infer whether the novel is a part of true literature. Literature is that thought which is universal. True literature must be universal truth appealing to man as man, not to man as a Methodist, Calvinist, an Englishman, or an American. Hence the writings of Shakespeare, of Homer, of Milton pass into all languages, because the great thoughts of those writers belong to the human heart. But the element of universality is not sufficient, because the truths of the multiplication table are universal. The whole human family believe that twice two makes four. Besides the universality, you will find that all the thoughts of literature spring from the soul, that is, from the emotions, from the sentiments, rather than from the intellect alone. So that in literature you must have a universality of thought, and thought ornamented, thought decorated— the thoughts of the heart. This is sufficiently inclusive, if it includes poetry, the drama, the great histories, the great essays, and religion, and is sufficiently exclusive if it throws out encyclopedias, "The Congressional Globe," and, what is better yet, arithmetic, and also dogmatic theology—which is no part of literature.

Secondly, all the fine arts spring from a basis of sentiment. They are the outward expressions of sentiment, and for the most part all fine arts spring from a single sentiment, that of the beautiful. Music, statuary, painting, architecture are the outward expressions of our sense of beauty. Literature is nothing else than thought ornamented. Where, then, is this element of beauty that makes the novel a part of literature, and secures for it an admittance into the great world of art? Go back with me, if you choose, two thousand years, and you will see upon the walls of every old temple, of every palace, of every dwelling-house a certain form or figure, and the likeness is—woman. The forehead is not high, as our girls used to think twenty years ago—I believe the notion has perished, that thought made the forehead high; nor is the hair black, as our girls still think, but brown. The cheek, the chin, the nose, the shoulders all express beauty in the undulating lines that are supposed to convey it.

The Greeks called this image Andromeda, or Helen. Along came the Latins and called it Minerva, or Zenobia. Along came the Italians and called it Beatrice. The Bible built a beautiful garden around it and called it Eve. But call this creature what you may, this is the Atlas upon whose shoulders the world of the novel turns and passes through the vicissitudes of day and night, summer and winter. This is the element of beauty that entered into that part of literature, and for the most part acts as the adorning element, the decoration of the thought.

I affirm, therefore, that of the novel woman is the satisfactory explanation, the ample apology. The novel is that part of literature which is decorated, for the most part, by the beauty of woman. It is the woman in literature. I mean by this, not that woman is the whole subject-matter. She cannot be; but she is the inspiration, the central figure in the group, the reason of the grouping, the apology for it, the explanation of it, the decoration, the golden light flung over the thought. Let me illustrate. While Madame Recamier lived the great men of France—generals, statesmen, scientific men, literary men of every kind, and even clergymen—met in her parlors every day at four o'clock. Not because they loved her or she them—for it is said she loved nobody deeply—and they met not because of her conversation, for she said little, but they convened every day because there was an inspiration in her presence, something that sweetly molded the hour. They met because her beauty, her friendship, was a glorious flag under which to convene, and when she departed from life those great men convened no more. Not because the questions of war or theology had been answered, but because their hearts had been freed from that charming entanglement. This is all. What a power to inspire has the single sentiment called "love "! I believe that is the best name for it—or friendship. What

« PreviousContinue »