Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

Thou art not tender of thy precious fame,
But comest, like the clouds, soft-stealing on;
Thou soundest in a careless key the name
Of him, who to thy boundless treasury is won;
And yet he quickly cometh; for to die

Is ever gentlest, to both low and high.
Thou, therefore, hast humanity's respect;
They build thee tombs upon the green hill-side,
And will not suffer thee the least neglect,
And tend thee with a desolate, sad pride;

For thou art strong, O Death, though sweetly so,
And in thy lovely gentleness sleeps woe.

O, what are we, who swim upon this tide,
Which we call life, yet to thy kingdom come?
Look not upon us till we chasten pride,
And preparation make for thy high home;
And, might we ask, make measurely approach,
And not upon these few, smooth hours encroach.

I come I come think not I turn away!

[ocr errors]

Fold round me thy gray robe! I stand to feel
The setting of my last, frail, earthly day;
I will not pluck it off, but calmly kneel,
For I am great as thou art, though not thou,
And thought, as with thee, dwells upon my brow.

Ah! might I ask thee, spirit, first to tend
Upon those dear ones whom my heart has found,
And supplicate thee, that I might them lend
A light in their last hours, and to the ground
Consign them still. Yet think me not too weak;
Come to me now, and thou shalt find me meek.
Then let us live in fellowship with thee,

And turn our red cheeks to thy kisses pale,
And listen to thy song as minstrelsy,

And still revere thee, till our heart's throbs fail,

Sinking within thy arms, as sinks the sun
Beyond the farthest hills, when his day's work is done.

THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF DR. FOLLEN.*

THERE are two classes of men that have a wide and reformatory influence on the world; who write out their thoughts and sentiments, not in words only, but in things. The one consists of men of great intellectual power, but no special goodness of heart. They see, in the "dry light" of the understanding, what is false, what wrong, what ludicrous in man's affairs, and expose it to be rejected, to be abhorred, or to be laughed at. Their eye is keen and farreaching in the actual; but their insight is not the deepest, nor does the sphere of their reason include all things of human concern. Of these men, you do not ask, What was their character? how did they live in their day and their place? but only, What did they think of this thing and of that? Their lives may have been bad, their motives, both for silence and for speech, may have been ignoble and selfish, and their whole life, but a long attempt to build up for themselves a fortune and a name, but that does not mar their influence, except in the narrow sphere of their personal life. The good they do lives after them; the evil sleeps with their buried bones. The world looks on them as half-men; expects from them no wholeness of action, but takes their good gift, and first forgives and then forgets their moral obliquity, or defects. It is often painful to contemplate such men. The brightness of their intellect leads us to wish for a corresponding beauty on their moral side. If a man's wisdom does not show itself in his works; if his Light does not become his Life, making his pathway radiant-why our moral anticipation is disappointed, and we turn away in sadness. Men of a giant's mind and a pigmy's heart; men capable of spanning the Heavens, of fathoming the depths of all human science, of mounting with vigorous and untiring pinions above the roar of the crowd and the prejudice of the schools, and continuing their flight before the admiring eyes of lesser men, till distance and loftiness swallows them up; men, who bring back from their adventurous voyagings new discoveries for

The Works of Charles Follen, with volumes. Boston: Hilliard, Gray & Co.

Memoir of his Life, in five 1841.

human wonder, new truths for daily use men too, that with all this wondrous endowment of intellect are yet capable of vanity, selfish ambition, and the thousand little arts which make up the accomplished worldling, such men are a sore puzzle to the young and enthusiastic moralist. "What," he says, "is God unjust? Shall the man, whose eye is ever on himself, keen as the Eagle's, to look for his own profit, yet dull as the Blindworm's or the Beetle's to the shadows of wrong in his own bosom, shall he be gifted with this faculty to pierce the mystic curtains of nature, and see clearly in his ignoble life, where the saint groped for the wall, and fell, not seeing?" Such is the fact, often as he may attempt to disguise it. The world, past and present, furnishes us with proofs that cannot be winked out of sight. Men capable of noble and reformatory thought, who lack the accomplishment of goodness and a moral life- we need not pause to point out men of this character, both present and departed; that would be an ungrateful work; one not needed to be done.

[ocr errors]

The other class is made up of men of moral powers. Their mental ability may be small or great, but their goodness is the most striking, and the fundamental thing. They may not look over a large field, nor be conversant with all the nooks and crevices of this wondrous world, where science each day brings some new miracle to light, — but in the sphere of morals they see as no others. Fast as Thought comes to them it turns into action; what was at first but Light, elementary and cold, is soon transformed into life, which multiplies itself and its blessings. These men look with a single eye to the everlasting Right. To them God's Law is a Law to be kept, come present weal, or present woe. They ask not, What shall accrue to me — or praise or blame? But contentedly they do the work of Righteousness their hands find to do, and this with all their might. They live faster than they see for with a true moral man, the Spontaneous runs before the Reflective, as John outran Peter in seeking the risen Son of Man. When these men have but humble minds, they are worthy of deep homage from all mankind. In solitude and in silence, seen by no eye but the All-seeing, they plant with many and hopeful prayers the seed that is one day to spread wide its branches, laden with all manner of fruit, its

--

very leaves for the healing of the nations. How often has it happened that some woman, uncouth, not well bred, and with but little of mind, has kindled in some boy's bosom a love of Right, a sense of the sweetness of Charity, of the beauty of Religion, which grew with his growth, and strengthened with his strength, and at last towered forth, strong and flame-like, in the moral heroism of a man whom Heaven employs to stir the world, and help God's kingdom come! It was only a Raven which the boys, resting at noon-day beside the brook Cherith, saw slowly flying towards the mountain. But he bore in his beak food for the fainting prophet - the last of the faithful.

When this moral power is found with great intellectual gifts, as it sometimes is, then have we the fairest form of humanity; the mind of a giant, and an angel's heart. These act, each on each. The quickening sentiment fires the thought; this gives the strength back again to the feelings. The eye is single; the whole body is full of light. The intellect of such an one attracts admiration; his moral excellence enforces love. He teaches by his words of wisdom; by his works of goodness. Happy is the age that beholds a conjunction so rare and auspicious, as that of eminent genius and moral excellence as eminent. A single man of that stamp gives character to the age; a new epoch is begun. Men are forced to call themselves after his name, and that may be said of him which was said of Elias the Prophet, "After his death, his body prophesied." But such are the rarest sons of God.

• Dr. Follen belonged to the class of men that act on the world chiefly by their MORAL power. Certainly it was that which was most conspicuous in him; in his countenance; his writings; his life. Some live for Study; their books, both what they read and what they write, are their life; and others for Action. They write their soul out in works their name may perish; their usefulness remains, and widens, and deepens, till time and the human race shall cease to be. Dr. Follen belonged to the class then, of men of moral ACTION. In saying this, we do not mean to imply, that there was little of intellectual force only that the moral power cast it into the shade; not that he could not have been eminent in the empire of abstract thought, but only that he chose the broad realm of benevolent action.

VOL. III.

NO. III.

44

Others, better fitted for the task, and with more space and time at command, will doubtless judge his writings from the intellectual point of view, and mankind will pass the irreversible decree on his recorded thoughts, and bid them live or die. We shall confine ourselves to the first volume of his works, containing a biography, written by his wife, and only attempt a delineation of the moral life and works of the man.

The main points of his history are briefly summed up. Charles Theodore Follen was born on the 4th of September, 1796, at Romrod, in the western part of Germany; became obnoxious to the government at an early age; fled to Switzerland for an asylum in 1820; came to America, as the only civilized land that offered him life and liberty in 1824, and ceased to be mortal in the beginning of 1840.

There is a rare unity in his life, such as we scarce remember to have noticed in any modern biography. It is a moral-heroic drama, in one Act, though the scene shifts from the college to the camp; from the thundering storm of a meeting of Reformers to the Christian pulpit, and the Sunday school, where children are taught of the Great Reformer of the world. Dr. Follen's work began in early life; while yet a stripling at college we see the same qualities, working for the same end, as in the very last scenes of his life. His pious love of freedom; his abhorrence of all that had the savor of oppression about it; his disinterested zeal for mankind; his unconcern for himself, so long as God saw him at his post and his work — these began early; they continued till the last. His whole life was a warfare against Sin, that had slain and taken possession of what belongs to mankind. But we must speak of the details of his history more minutely.

He was the son of a counsellor at Law, and judge in Hesse Darmstadt. When a child he was serious and earnest beyond his years. He received his education at the Seminary and University of Giessen, devoting himself to the study of the Law. His enthusiasm against the French kindled with the uprising of his Father-land, and in 1813, we find him a soldier in the army of Patriots. The return of Peace, the next year, restored him to his studies at the University. At the age of twelve, says his

« AnteriorContinua »