Imatges de pÓgina


We should read history as little critically as we consider the landscape, and be more interested by the atmospheric tints, and various lights and shades which the intervening spaces create, than by its groundwork and composition. It is the morning now turned evening and seen in the west, the same sun, but a new light and atmosphere. Its beauty is like the sunset; not a fresco painting on a wall, flat and bounded, but atmospheric and roving or free. In reality history fluctuates as the face of the landscape from morning to evening. What is of moment is its hue and color. Time hides no treasures; we want not its then but its now. We do not complain that the mountains in the horizon are blue and indistinct; they are the more like the heavens.

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Of what moment are facts that can be lost, which need to be commemorated? The monument of death will outlast the memory of the dead. The pyramids do not tell the tale that was confided to them; the living fact commemorates itself. Why look in the dark for light? Strictly speaking, the historical societies have not recovered one fact from oblivion, but are themselves instead of the fact that is lost. The reseacher is more memorable than the researched. The crowd stood admiring the mist, and the dim outlines of the trees seen through it, when one of their number advanced to explore the phenomenon, and with fresh admiration, all eyes were turned on his dimly retreating figure. It is astonishing with how little coöperation of the societies, the past is remembered. Its story has indeed had a different muse than has been assigned it. There is a good instance of the manner in which all history began, in Alwakidi's Arabian Chronicle. "I was informed by Ahmed Almalin Aljorhami, who had it from Rephaa Ebn Kais Alámiri, who had it from Saiph Ebn Fabalah Alchátquarmi, who had it from Thabet Ebn Alkamah, who said he was present at the action." These fathers of history were not anxious to preserve, but to learn the fact; and hence it was not forgotten. Critical acumen is exerted in vain to uncover the past; the past cannot be presented; we cannot know what we are not. But one veil hangs over past, present,


and future, and it is the province of the historian to find out not what was, but what is. Where a battle has been fought, you will find nothing but the bones of men and beasts; where a battle is being fought there are hearts beating. We will sit on a mound and muse, and not try to make these skeletons stand on their legs again. Does nature remember, think you, that they were men, or not rather that they are bones?

Ancient history has an air of antiquity; it should be more modern. It is written as if the spectator should be thinking of the backside of the picture on the wall, or as if the author expected the dead would be his readers, and wished to detail to them their own experience. Men seem anxious to accomplish an orderly retreat through the centuries, earnestly rebuilding the works behind, as they are battered down by the encroachments of time; but while they loiter, they and their works both fall a prey to the arch enemy. It has neither the venerableness of antiquity, nor the freshness of the modern. It does as if it would go to the be-ginning of things, which natural history might with reason assume to do; but consider the Universal History, and then tell us when did burdock and plantain sprout first? It has been so written for the most part, that the times it describes are with remarkable propriety called dark ages. They are dark, as one has observed, because we are so in the dark about them. The sun rarely shines in history, what with the dust and confusion; and when we meet with any cheering fact which implies the presence of this luminary, we excerpt and modernize it. As when we read in the history of the Saxons, that Edwin of Northumbria "caused stakes to be fixed in the highways where he had seen a clear spring," and "brazen dishes were chained to them, to refresh the weary sojourner, whose fatigues Edwin had himself experienced." This is worth all Arthur's twelve battles.

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But it is fit the past should be dark; though the darkness is not so much a quality of the past, as of tradition. It is not a distance of time but a distance of relation, which makes thus dusky its memorials. What is near to the heart of this generation is fair and bright still. Greece lies outspread fair and sunshiny in floods of light, for there is the sun and day-light in her literature and art, Homer does not

allow us to forget that the sun shone nor Phidias, nor the Parthenon. Yet no era has been wholly dark, nor will we too hastily submit to the historian, and congratulate ourselves on a blaze of light. If we could pierce the obscurity of those remote years we should find it light enough; only there is not our day. Some creatures are made to see in the dark. There has always been the same amount of light in the world. The new and missing stars, the comets and eclipses do not affect the general illumination, for only our glasses appreciate them. The eyes of the oldest fossil remains, they tell us, indicate that the same laws of light prevailed then as now. Always the laws of light are the same, but the modes and degrees of seeing vary. The gods are partial to no era, but steadily shines their light in the heavens, while the eye of the beholder is turned to stone. There was but the eye and the sun from the first. The ages have not added a new ray to the one, nor altered a fibre of the other.




LOVE of friendship also there is
Which maketh no man done amis,
Of will knitté betwixt two,

That woll not breake for wele ne wo,

Which long is likely to contune,
Whan will and goods been in commune.
Grounded by God's ordinaunce,
Hoolé without discordaunce,
With hem holding commauncé
Of all her good in charité,
That there be none exceptioun,
Through chaunging of ententioun,
That each help other at her nede,




And wisely hele both word and dede,
True of meaning, devoid of slouth,
For wit is nought without trouth:
So that the tone dare all his thought
Saine to his friend, and spare nought,
As to himselfe without dreding
To be discovered by wreiying,
For glad is that conjunction
Whan there is non suspection,
Whom they wold prove

That true and perfite weren in love:
For no man may be amiable,

But if he be so firme and stable
That fortune change him not ne blinde,
But that his friend alway him finde
Both poore and riché in o state :
For if his friend through any gate
Woll complaine of his poverté,
He should not bide so long, till he
Of his helping him require,
For good deed done through praiere
Is sold and bought too deare iwis
To herte that of great valour is.
For herte fulfilled of gentlenesse
Can evill demeane his distresse,
And man that worthy is of name
To asken often hath great shame.

A good man brenneth in his thought
For shame when he asketh ought,
He hath great thought, and dredeth aie
For his disease when he shall praie
His friend, least that he warned be
Till that he preve his stabilitie :
But when that he hath founden one
That trustie is and true as stone,
And assayed him at all,

And found him stedfast as a wall,
And of his friendship be certaine,

He shall him shew both joy and paine,
And all that he dare thinke or say,
Without shame, as he well may,
For how should he ashamed be
Of such one as I told thee?

For whan he wote his secret thought,

The third shall know thereof right nought,
For twey in number is bet than three,
In everie counsaile and secree :
Repreve he dredeth never a dele,
Who that beset his wordes wele,
For everie wise man, out of drede,
Can keepe his tongue till he see nede.
And fooles cannot hold hir tongue,

A fooles bell is soone ronge;
Yet shall a true friend doe more

To helpe his fellow of his sore,
And succour him whan he hath need,
In all that he may done indeed,
And gladder that he him pleaseth
Than his felowe that he easeth,
And if he doe not his request,
He shall as muche him molest
As his felowe, for that he
Maie not fulfill his volunté
Fully, as he hath required;
If both the hertes love hath fired
Joye and woe they shall depart,
And take evenly each his part,
Halfe his annoy he shall have aie
And comforte what that he may,
And of this blisse part shall he,
If love woll departed be.

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