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human soul shall henceforth recognize it for a heroism, but all souls shall fly from it as from a chaotic torpor, an insanity and horror, - I will back our English genius against the world in such a problem!
“ Truly we have done great things in that sort, down from Norman William all the way, and earlier; and to the English, mind at this hour the past history of England is little other than a dull, dismal labyrinth, in which the English mind, if «andid, will confess that it has found of knowable (meaning eren (onceivable), of lovable, or memorable, next to nothing. As if we had done no brave thing at all in this earth! As if not men, but nightmares, had written of our history! The English, one van discern withal, have been, perhaps, as brave a people as their neighbors, — perhaps, for valor of action and true hard labor in this earth, since brave peoples were first made in it, there has been none braver anywhere or anywhen ; but also, it must be owned, in stupidity of speech they have no fellow. What can poor English heroisms do in such case but fall torpid into the domain of ihe nightmares? For, of a truth, stupidity is strong, most strong. As the poet Schiller sings, ' Against stupidity the very gods fight unvictorious.' There is in it a placid inexhaustibility, a calm, viscous infinitude, which will baffle even the gods; which will say calmly, “Try all your lightnings here; see whether I can not quench them!
Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter se’bst vergebens.?”. Has our friend forgotten that it is destiny withal, as well as “stupidity ;” that such is the case, more or less, with human history always ? By very nature, it is a labyrinth and chaos, this that we call human history; an abatis of trees and brushwood; a world-wide jungle, at once growing and dying. Under the green foliage and blossoming fruit-trees of to-day, there lies rotting, slower or faster, the forests of all other years and days. Some have rotted fast (plants of annual growth), and are long since quite gone to inorganic mold; others are like the aloe, - growth that lasts a thousand or three thousand years. You will find them in all stages of decay and preservation, down deep to the beginnings of the history of man. Think where our alphabetic letters came from, where our speech itself came from, the cookeries we live by, the masonries we lodge under! You will find fibrous roots of this day's occurrences among the dust of Cadmus and Trismegistus, of Tubal Cain and Triptolemus: the tap-roots of them are with Father Adam himself, and the cinders of Eve's first fire! At bottom, there is no perfect history: there is none such conceivable.
All past centuries have rotted down, and gone confused!y dumb
and quiet, even as that seventeenth is now threatening to do. Histories are as perfect as the historian is wise, and is gifted with an eye and a soul; for the leafy, blossoming Present Time springs from the whole Past, remembered and un rememberable, so confusedly as we say. And truly the art of history, the grand difference between a Dryasdust and a sacred poet, is very much even this: To distinguish well what does still reach to the surface, and is alive and frondent for us; and what reaches no longer to the surface, but molders safe underground, never to send forth leaves or fruit for mankind any more. Of the former we shall rejoice to hear: to hear of the latter will be an affliction to us; of the latter, only pedants and dullards, and disastrous malefactors to the world, will find good to speak. By wise memory and by wise oblivion, it lies all there. Without oblivion, there is no remembrance possible. When both oblivion and memory are wise; when the general soul of man is clear, melodious, true, — there my come a modern Iliad as memorial of the past: when both are foolish, and the general soul is overclouded with confusions, with unveracities and discords, there is a “Rushworthian chaos."
Let Dryasdust be blamed, beaten with stripes, if you will; but let it be with pity, with blame to Fate chiefly. Alas! when sacred priests are arguing about “ black and white surplices," and sacred poets have long professedly deserted truth, and gone a wool-gathering after “ideals” and such like, what can you expect of poor secular pedants ? The labyrinth of history must grow ever darker, more intricate and dismal; vacant cargoes of “ideals” will arrive yearly, to be cast into the oven; and noble heroisms of fact, given up to Dryasdust, will be buried in a very disastrous manner.
But the thing we had to say and repeat was this, — that Puritanism is not of the nineteenth century, but of the seventeenth; that the grand unintelligibility for us lies there. The fast-day sermons of St. Margaret's Church, Westminster, in spite of printers, are all grown dumb. In long rows of little dumpy quartos, gathered from the bookstalls, they indeed stand here bodily before us: by human volition they can be read, but not by any human memory remembered. We forget them as soon as read: they have becoine a weariness to the soul of man. They are dead and gone, — they, and what they shadowed: the liuman soul, got into other latitudes, can not now give harbor to them. Alas! and did not the Houses of Parliament listen to them with rapt earnestness, as to an indisputable message from Heaven itself ? Learned and painful Dr. Owen, learned and painful Dr. Burgess, Stephen Marshall, Mr. Spurstow, Adoniram Bytield, Hugh Peters, Philip Nye, — the printer has done for them what he could, and Mr.
Speaker gave them the thanks of the House; and no most astonishing Review article of our day can have half such “brilliancy," such potency, half such virtue for producing belief, as these their poor little dumpy quartos once had. And, behold! they are become inarticulate men, spectral; and, instead of speaking, do not screech and gibber! All Puritanism is grown inarticulate : its fervent preachings, prayings, pamphleteerings, are sunk into one indiscriminate, moaning hum, mournful as the voice of subterranean winds. So much falls silent: human speech, unless by rare chance it touch on the “eternal melodies," and harmonize with them; human action, interest, if divorced from the eternal melodies, — sinks all silent. The fashion of this world passeth away.
The age of the Puritans is not extinct only, and gone away from us; but it is as if fallen beyond the capabilities of Memory herself: it is grown unintelligible; what we may call incredible. Its earnest purport awakens now no resonance in our frivolous hearts. We understand, not even in intagination, one of a thousand of us, what it ever could have meant. It seems delirious, delusive: the sound of it has become tedious as a tale of past stupidities. Not the body of heroic Puritanism only, which was bound to die, but the soul of it also, which was, and should have been, and yet shall be, immortal, has for the present passed away. As Harrison said of his “ Banner and Lion” of the tribe of Judah, “Who shall rouse him up ?” “For indisputably,” exclaims the above-cited author in his vehement way, " this, too, was a heroism ; and the soul of it remains part of the eternal soul of things. Here, of our own land and lineage, in practical English shape, were heroes on the earth once more, who knew in every fiber, and with heroic daring laid to heart, that an Almighty Justice does verily rule this world; that it is good to fight on God's side, and bad to fight on the Devil's side, the essence of all heroisms and veracities that have been, or that will be. Perhaps it was among the nobler and noblest human heroisms, this Puritanism of ours : but English Dryasdust could not discern it for a heroism at all; as the Heaven's lightning, born of its black tempest, and destructive to pestilential mud-giants, is mere horror and terror to the pedant species everywhere, which, like the owl in any sudden brightness, has to shut its eyes, or hastily procure smoked spectacles on an improved principle. Heaven's brightness would be intolerable otherwise. Only your eagle dares look direct into the fire-radiance; only your Schiller climbs aloft to discover whence the lightning is coming. Godlike men love lightning,' says one. Our old Norse fathers called it a God, — the sunny, blue-eyed Thor, with his all-conquering thunder-hammer, — who again, in calmer season, is beneficent
summer-heat. Godless men love it not; shriek murder when they see it, shutting their eyes, and hastily procuring smoked spectacles. O Dryasdust! thou art great and thrice great."
“But, alas !” exclaims he elsewhere, getting his eye on the real nodus of the matter, “ what is it, all this Rushworthian inarticulate rubbish-continent, in its ghastly, dim twilight, with its haggard wrecks and pale shadows, — what is it but the common kingdom of death ? This is what we call death, this moldering dumb wilderness of things once alive. Behold here the final evanescence of formed human things! They had form ; but they are changing into sheer formlessness: ancient human speech itself has sunk into unintelligible maundering. This is the collapse, the etiolation of human features into moldy blank, dissolution, progress towards utter silence and disappearance, disastrous, ever-deepening dusk of gods and men ! Why has the living ventured thither, down from the cheerful light, across the Lethe swamps and Tartarean Phlegethons, onwards to these baleful halls of Dis and the three-headed Dog? Some destinydrives him. It is his sins, I suppose : perhaps it is his love, strong as that of Orpheus for the lost Eurydice, and likely to have no better issue.”
Well, it would seem the resuscitation of a heroism from the past time is no easy enterprise. Our impatient friend seems really getting sad. We can well believe him. There needs pious love in any Orpheus that will risk descending to the gloomy halls, — descending, it may be, and fronting Cerberus and Dis to no purpose : for it oftenest proves so; nay, as the mythologists would teach us, always. Here is another mythus : “Balder, the white Sun-God,” say our Norse skalds, — “Balder, beautiful as the summer dawn, loved of gods and men, was dead. His brother Hermoder, urged by his mother's tears and the tears of the universe, went forth to seek him. He rode through gloomy winding valleys of a dismal leaden color, full of howling winds and subterraneous torrents, nine days, ever deeper, down toward Hela's death-realm. At Lonesome Bridge, which, with its gold gate, spans the River of Moaning, he found the portress, an ancient woman called Modgudr, the Vexer of Minds,' keeping watch as usual. Modgudr answered him, “Yes, Balder passed this way: but he is not here; he is down yonder, — far, still far to the north, within Hela's gates, yonder.' Hermoder rode on, still dauntless, on his horse named "Swiftness,' or
Mane of Gold;' reached Hela's gates; leaped sheer over them, mounted as he was; saw Balder, the very Balder, with his eyes, but could not bring him back. The Nornas were inexorable: Balder was never to come back. Balder beckoned him mournfully a still adieu. Nanna, Balder's wife, sent ó a thimble' to
her mother as a memorial. Balder never could return !” Is not this an emblem ? Old Portress Modgudr, I take it, is Dryasdust in Norse petticoat and hood, — a most unlovely beldam, the Vexer of Minds.
We will here take final leave of our impatient friend, occupied in this almost desperate enterprise of his. We will wish him, which is very easy to do, more patience and better success than he seems to hope. And now to our own small enterprise, and solid dispatch of business in plain prose.
OF OLIVER'S LETTERS AND SPEECHES. Letters and authentic utterances of Oliver lie scattered, in print and manuscript, in a hundred repositories, in all varieties of condition and environment. Most of them -- all the important of them — have already long since been printed, and again printed; but we can not, in general, say ever read. Too often it is apparent that the very editor of these very utterances had, if reading mean understanding, never read them. They stand in their old spelling, mispunctuated, misprinted, unelucidated, unintelligible, defaced with the dark incrustations too well known to students of that period. The speeches, above all, as hitherto set forth in “ The Somers Tracts,” in “ The Milton State Papers," in Burton's “ Diary,” and other such books, excel human belief. Certainly no such agglomerate of opaque confusions, printed and reprinted, of darkness on the back of darkness, thick and threefold, is known to me elsewhere in the history of things spoken or printed by human creatures. Of these speeches, all except one, which was published by authority at the time, I have to believe myself, not very exultingly, to be the first actual reader for nearly two centuries past.
Nevertheless, these documents do exist, authentic, though defaced; and invite every one, who would know that period, to study them until they become intelligible again. The words of Oliver Cromwell, the meaning they had, must be worth recovering in that point of view. To collect these “ Letters and Authentic Utterances,” as one's reading yielded them, was a comparatively grateful labor; to correct them, elucidate, and make them legible again, was a good historical study. Surely “ a wise memory” would wish to preserve among men the written and spoken words of such a man; and as for the 6 wise oblivion," that is already, by time and accident, done to our hand. Enough is already lost and destroyed. We need not in this particular case omit further.
Accordingly, whatever words authentically proceeding from Oliver himself I could anywhere find yet surviving, I have here gathered; and will now, with such minimum of annotation as may