moral to be deducted from this instance is obvious.
Compare with the silkworms our mortal selves. These
happy grubs are tended by a kindly boy, who supplies
their every need; they have not a wish unsatisfied.
By a sort of miracle, a supernatural power (as it would
seem to them), they have been removed from the field
of competition. For them the struggle for existence
no longer exists. One imagines that if they were capable
of prayer they could ask no more perfect gift than that
which has been bestowed on them-immunity from strife
and security in the comforts of existence. What more
do we ourselves ask? Our prayer is almost never that
we may persist, endure and overcome, but rather that
we may be removed by a kindly providence from the region
of struggle to some benign sphere where all the delights
of life may fall to our lot without an effort.
is probably an idle and wicked dream; witness the case
of the silkworms. If you would form some notion of what
the imagined heaven might do for us, consider the case
of our small friends among the mulberry leaves. When
we think of the lilies of the field, and promise ourselves
a state like theirs according to the word, "Shall
He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?"
We are prone to forget that every moment of their life
for untold ages has been filled with a strenuous purpose,
quiet and unperceived, yet none the less strong on that
account. Yes, we may have the motive and the vesture
of our little sisters of the field, but we must have
their tenacity and their indomitable endurance as well.
To cease to strive is to begin to degenerate. As Mr.
early stage of that degeneration would be represented
by total incapacity to help ourselves-then we should
begin to lose the use of our higher sense organs-later
on the brain would shrink to a vanishing pin-point of
matter; still later we should dwindle into mere amorphous
sacs, mere blind stomachs. Such would be the physical
consequence of that kind of divine love which we so
lazily wish for. The longing for perpetual bliss and
perpetual peace might well seem a malevolent inspiration
from the lords of death and darkness."
follow these memorable sentences, "All that life
feels and thinks has been, and can continue to be, only
as the product of struggle and pain- only as the outcome
of endless battle with the Powers of Universe. And cosmic
law is uncompromising. Whatever organ ceases to know
pain- whatever faculty ceases to be used under the stimulus
of pain-must also cease to exist. Let pain and its effort
be suspended, and life must shrink back, first into
protoplastic shapelessness, thereafter into dust."
soul of all things! make it mine
To feel, amid the city's jar,
That there abides a peace of thine,
Man did not make and cannot
The will to neither strive nor cry.
The power to feel with others
Calm, calm me more! nor let me die
Before I have begun to live.
is one to reconcile Arnold's prayer for calm with the
remorseless law of perpetual trial, perpetual endeavor?
Is there indeed, a peace "man did not make and
cannot mar?" Is the tremendous strain of modern
life, its killing excitement, its relentless rush, its
breathless haste, its eager and ruthless competition,
a part of the inevitable development of man's existence?
Or should we combat these things as temporary aberrations
from the normal? Shall I serve my hour and generation
best by combating the idea of strife and by insisting
on peace and repose in my own surroundings or by entering
heart and mind into the race and battle of the strong?
Certainly I shall best serve my fellows by following
my own conviction in the matter. That at least is sure;
that at least is the cosmic law; to each individual
his own ideal and the will to follow it. But how to
know in the first place? How to tell the best
ideal from the second best?
is there, perhaps, some way of harmonizing both ideals
in a single line of action?
that great pageant of the seasons which passes by our
door year after year, in the myriad changes of wonderful
spectacle of this greening and blanching orb, in all
the processes of that apparition we call Nature, do
I not see both strife and calm exemplified? That "calm
soul of all things," which Arnold invokes, is really
in constant strife. Every moment the apparent calm of
nature covers a relentless battle for existence, tribe
against tribe, species against species, and the price
of life in unceasing struggle, the whole earth groaning
and travailing together. So that the appearance of calm
which settles on the face of our mother earth, in the
long, slow summer afternoon, is in reality but the veil
and deception of the truth. Is it? Or may we think that
the uncounted powers of life at play in variance through
the world partake of a universal peace as well as of
a universal strain?
is it with ourselves? Is there any man who can wholly
possess his heart in patience? Is there any who must
always be striving? Is it not rather true that to the
most strenuous of us there come fleeting moments when
calm and self-possession seem good? And does there live
the most confirmed quietest who has not at times been
roused to action by love or patriotism or generous indignation?
may very well happen that circumstances have placed
you in the forefront of the fight, where all your splendid
life long you shall have never a minute to call your
own, where you shall never once be able to rest or meditate
or sun your spirit in a basking hour of leisure. Complain
not. This is the fortune of the captains of humanity;
be glad the good gods have laid upon you a work as great
as your powers. The stern struggle and victorious achievement
can never be cramping to the soul. And the vast cisterns
of repose may be opened to you in another incarnation;
indeed they were possibly yours long since and from
them you have derived this burning energy.
may be, on the other hand, that inactive doubt and timorous
certitude beset me, and that I am becoming stale for
lack of use. Never mind, the hour will one day strike,
and the lethargic torpor of temperamental incapacity
will be broken up, and I shall be remoulded into something
more trenchant and available for the forwarding of beneficent
for both of us, it may be, we shall find solace in a
wise philosophic blending of the two ideals. It is somehow
possible, I think, to be as strenuous and efficient
as nature herself in action, and yet to have in mind
always as a standard of normal being the inflexible
serenity of the wheeling sun.