LITERATURE AND NATIONAL POLICY.
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VOL. IV.—OCTOBER, 1863.—No. IV.
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THE FREEDOM OF THE PRESS. THE BROTHERS. UNUTTERED. WILLIAM LILLY ASTROLOGER. JEFFERSON DAVIS—REPUDIATION, RECOGNITION, AND SLAVERY. DIARY OF FRANCES KRASINSKA. MAIDEN'S DREAMING. THIRTY DAYS WITH THE SEVENTY-FIRST REGIMENT. REASON, RHYME, AND RHYTHM. TO A MOUSE. CURRENCY AND THE NATIONAL FINANCES. OCTOBER AFTERNOON IN THE HIGHLANDS. THE ISLE OF SPRINGS. CHAPTER III. CHAPTER IV. THE RESTORATION OF THE UNION. WAS HE SUCCESSFUL? CHAPTER IX. CHAPTER X. AMERICAN FINANCES AND RESOURCES. VOICELESS SINGERS. A DETECTIVE'S STORY. LITERARY NOTICES. CONTENTS.—No. XXIII.
THE FREEDOM OF THE PRESS.
An important discussion has arisen since the commencement of the war, bearing upon the interests of the American Press. The Government has seen fit, at various times, through its authorities, civil and military, to suppress the circulation and even the publication of journals which, in its judgment, gave aid and comfort to the enemy, either by disloyal publications in reference to our affairs, or by encouraging and laudatory statements concerning the enemy. The various papers of the country have severally censured or commended the course of the Government in this matter, and the issue between the Press and the Authorities has been regarded as of a sufficiently serious nature to demand a convocation of editors to consider the subject; of which convention Horace Greeley was chairman. A few remarks on the nature of the liberty of the press and on its relations to the governing powers will not, therefore, at this time, be inopportune.
Men are apt, at times, in the excitement of political partisanship, to forget that the freedom of the press is, like all other social liberty, relative and not absolute; that it is not license to publish whatsoever they please, but only that which is within certain defined limits prescribed by the people as the legitimate extent to which expression through the public prints should be permitted; and that it is because these limits are regulated by the whole people, for the whole people, and not by the arbitrary caprice of a single individual or of an aristocracy, that the press is denominated free. Let it be remembered, then, as a starting point, that the press is amenable to the people; that it is controlled and regulated by them, and indebted to them for whatever measure of freedom it enjoys.
The scope of this liberty is carefully defined by the statutes, as also the method by which its transgression is to be punished. These enactments minutely define the nature of an infringement of their provisions, and point out the various methods of procedure in order to redress private grievance or to punish public wrong, in such instances. These statutes emanate from the people, are the expression of their will, and in consonance with them the action of the executive authorities must proceed, whenever the civil law is sufficient for the execution of legal measures.
But there comes a time, in the course of a nation's existence, when the usual and regular methods of its life are interrupted; when peaceful systems and civilized adaptations are forced to give place to the ruder and more peremptory modes of procedure which belong to seasons of hostile strife. The slow, methodical, oftentimes tedious contrivances of ordinary law, admirably adapted for periods of national quietude, are utterly inadequate to the stern and unforeseen contingencies of civil war. Laws which are commonly sufficient to secure justice and afford protection, are then comparatively powerless for such ends. The large measure of liberty of speech and of the press safely accorded when there is ample time to correct false doctrines and to redress grievances through common methods, is incompatible with the rigorous promptitude, energy, celerity, and unity of action necessary to the preservation of national existence in times of rebellion. If an individual be suspected of conspiring against his country, at such a time, to leave him at liberty while the usual processes of law were being undertaken, would perhaps give him opportunity for consummating his designs and delivering the republic into the hands of its enemies. If a portion of the press circulate information calculated to aid the foe in the defeat of the national armies, to endeavor to prevent this evil by the slow routine of civil law, might result in the destruction of the state. The fact that we raise armies to secure obedience commonly enforced by the ordinary civil officers is a virtual and actual acknowledgment that a new order of things has arisen for which the usual methods are insufficient, civil authority inadequate, and to contend with which powers must be exercised not before in vogue. Codes of procedure arranged for an established and harmoniously working Government cannot answer all the requirements of that Government when it is repudiated by a large body of its subjects, and the existence of the nation itself is in peril.
It is evident, therefore, that at times the accustomed methods of Civil government must, in deference to national safety, be laid aside, to some extent, and the more vigorous adaptations of Military government substituted in their stead. But it does not follow from this that arbitrary power is necessarily employed, or that such methods are not strictly legal. There is a despotic Civil government and a despotic Military government, a free Civil government and a free Military government. The Civil government of Russia is despotic; so would its Military government be if internal strife should demand that military authority supersede the civil; the Civil government of the United States is free, so must its Military government be in order to be sustained.
But what is a free Military government? There is precisely the same difference between a free and a despotic military polity as between a free and a despotic civil polity. It is the essential nature of despotic rule that it recognizes the fountain head of all power to be the ruler, and the people are held as the mere creatures of his pleasure. It is the essence of free government that it regards the people as the source of all power, and the rulers as their agents, possessing only such authority as is committed by the former into the hands of the latter. It matters not, therefore, whether a ruler be exercising the civil power in times of peaceful national life, or whether, in times of rebellion, he wields the military authority essential to security, he is alike, at either time, a despot or a republican, accordingly as he exercises his power without regard to the will of the people, or as he exercises such power only as the national voice delegates to him.
Wendell Phillips said in his oration before the Smithsonian Institute: 'Abraham Lincoln sits to-day the greatest despot this side of China.' The mistake of Mr. Phillips was this: He confounded the method of exercising power with the nature of the power exercised. It is the latter which decides the question of despotism or of freedom. The methods of the republican governor and of the despot may be, in times of war must be, for the most part, identical. But the one is, nevertheless, as truly a republican as the other is a despot. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right of travel, the writ of habeas corpus—these insignia of liberty in a people are dispensed with in despotic Governments, because the ruler chooses to deprive the people of their benefits, and for that reason only; they were suspended in our Government because the national safety seemed to demand it, and because the President, as the accredited executive of the wishes of the people, fulfilled their clearly indicated will. In the former case it is lordly authority overriding the necks of the people for personal pride or power; in the latter, it is the ripe fruit of republican civilization, which, in times of danger, can with safety and security overleap, for the moment, the mere forms of law, in order to secure its beneficial results. They seem to resemble each other; but are as wide apart as irreligion and that highest religious life which, transcending all external observances, seems to the mere religious formalist to be identical with it.
But how is the Executive to ascertain the behest of the people? In accordance with the modes which they, as a part of their behest, indicate. But as there are two methods of fulfilling the wishes of the people, one adapted to the ordinary routine of peaceful times, and another to the more summary necessities of war, so there are two methods, calculated for these diverse national states, by which the Government must discover the will of the people. The slow, deliberate action of the ballot box and of the legislative body is amply expeditious for the purposes of undisturbed and tranquil periods. But in times of rebellion or invasion, the waiting and delay which are often essential to the prosecution of forms prescribed for undisturbed epochs are, as has been said, simply impossible. War is a period in which methods and procedures are required diametrically opposite to those which are so fruitful of good in days of peace. The lawbreaker who comes with an army at his back cannot be served with a sheriff's warrant, nor arrested by a constable. War involves unforeseen emergencies, to meet which there is no time for calling Congress together, or taking the sense of the populace by a ballot. It is full of attempted surprises, which must be guarded against on the instant, and of dangers which must be quickly avoided, but for whose guardance or avoidance the statutes make no provision. Hence arises a necessity for a mode of ascertaining the will of the people other than the slow medium of formal legislation or of balloting.
The Government of the United States is the servant of its people. It was ordained to insure for them 'domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to' themselves and their posterity. Its laws and statutes are but the forms by which the people attempt to secure these things. But the people are sovereign, even over their laws. As they have instituted them for their own good, so may they dispense with them for their own good, whenever the national safety requires this. As they have established certain modes of lawful procedure for their own security, so may they adopt other modes when their safety demands it. Their laws and their codes of procedure are for their uses, not for their destruction. 'When a sister State is endangered, red tape must be cut,' said Governor Seymour, when it was telegraphed to him that some delaying forms must be gone through in order to arm and send off our State troops who were ordered to the defence of Harrisburg; and all the people said, Amen! The people of the United States inaugurated a government, whose forms of law were admirably suited to times of peace, but have been found inadequate to seasons of intestine strife. They have, as we have seen, superadded, in some degree, other methods of action, indorsing and adopting those to which the Executive was compelled to resort as better adapted to changed conditions. They have not done this in accordance with prescribed forms, in all instances, because the forms of civil government do not provide for a condition of society in which civil authority is virtually abrogated, to a greater or less extent, for military authority.
In the same way and by virtue of the same sovereignty, the people of the United States may lay aside the common method of indicating their pleasure to the Executive, and substitute one more in consonance with the requirements of the times. They may make known that they do lay aside an established mode, either by a formal notice or by a general tacit understanding, as the exigencies of the case require. They may recognize the right, aye, the duty of the Executive to act in accordance with other methods than those prescribed for ordinary seasons, in cases where the national security demands this.
But this is not an abandonment of the methods and forms of law! This is not the establishment of an arbitrary government! This is not passing from freedom to despotism! The people of this country are sovereign, let it be repeated. So long as its Government is conducted as its people or as the majority of them wish, it is conducted in accordance with its established principle. There were no freedom if the vital spirit of liberty were to be held in bondage to the dead forms of powerless or obsolete prescriptions in the very crisis of the nation's death struggle! Freedom means freedom to act, in all cases and under all circumstances, so as to secure the highest individual and national well-being. It does not mean freedom to establish certain codes of procedure under certain regulations, and to be forever bound under these when the preservation of liberty itself demands their temporary abeyance. So long as the Government fulfils the wishes of the people, it is not arbitrary, it is not despotic, no matter what methods an emergency may require it to adopt for this purpose, or in what manner it ascertains these wishes; provided always that the methods adopted and the modes of ascertainment are also in accordance with the people's desires.
But how is the Executive to discover the will of the people if he does not wait for its formal expression? How is he to be sure that he does not outrun their desires? How is he to be checked and punished, should he do so? Precisely the same law must apply here as has been indicated to be the true one in reference to the fulfilment of the people's behest. Fixed, definite, precise, formal expressions of popular will, when time is wanting for these, must be replaced by those which are more quickly ascertained and less systematically expressed. The Executive must forecast the general desire and forestall its commands, regarding the tacit acceptance of the people or their informal laws, such as resolutions, conventions, and various modes of expressing popular accord or dissent, as indications of the course which they approve. Nor is this an anomaly in our legal system. The citizen ordinarily is not at liberty to take the law into his own hands; he must appeal to the constituted authorities, and through the machinery of a law court obtain his redress or protection. But there are times when contingencies arise in which more wrong would be done by such delay than by a summary process transcending the customary law. The man who sees a child, a woman, or even an animal treated with cruelty, does not wait to secure protection for the injured party by the common methods of legal procedure, but, on the instant, prevents, with blows if need be, the outrage. He oversteps the forms of law to secure the ends of law, and rests in the consciousness that the law itself will accept his action. When the case is more desperate, his usurpation of power generally prohibited to him is still greater, up to that last extremity in which he deliberately takes the whole law into his own hands, and, acting as accuser, witness, judge, executioner, slays the individual who assaults him with deadly weapons or with hostile intent.
In this case now stands the nation. Along her borders flashes the steel of hostile armies, their cannon thunder almost in hearing of our capitol, their horses but recently trampled the soil of neighboring States. A deadly enemy is trying to get its gripe upon the republic's throat and its knife into her heart. The nation must act as an individual would under similar circumstances; and the nation must act through its Executive. If one person, attacked by another, should snatch from the hands of a passer his cane, in order to defend his life; if, in his struggles with his assailant, he should strike a second through misconception, how immeasurably ridiculous would be the action of these individuals, should they, while the death struggle were still raging, berate the man, one for breaking the law by taking away his cane, and the other for breaking the law by the commission of a battery! Every man feels instinctively that in such a crisis all weapons of defence are at his disposal, and that he takes them, not in violation of law, but in obedience to the law of extraordinary contingencies, which every community adopts, but which no community can inscribe upon its statute book, because it is the law of contingencies.
The Executive of this, as of every country, resorts to this law when, in the nature of things, the statute law is inadequate. In doing this, he does not violate law; he only adopts another kind of law. A subtle, delicate law, indeed, which can neither be inscribed among the enactments, nor exactly defined, circumscribed, or expressed. When it is to be substituted for the ordinary modes of legal procedure, how far it is to be used, when its use must cease—these are questions which the people, as the sole final arbiters, must decide. As the individual in society must judge wisely when the community will sanction his use of the contingent law, the law of private military power, so to speak, in his own behalf; so must the Executive judge when the urgency of the national defence demands the exercise of the summary power in the place of more technical methods. If the public sentiment of the community sustain the individual, it is an indorsement that he acted justifiably in accordance with this exceptional law; if it do not, he is liable for an unwarranted usurpation of power. The Executive stands in the same relation to the nation. The Mohammedans relate that the road to heaven is two miles long, stretching over a fathomless abyss, the only pathway across which is narrower than a razor's edge. Delicately balanced must be the body which goes over in safety! The intangible path which the Executive must walk to meet the people's wishes on the one side, and to avoid their fears upon the other, in the national peril, is narrower than the Mahommedan's road to heaven, and cautiously bold must be the feet that safely tread it! Blessed shall that man be who succeeds in crossing. The nations shall rise up and call him blessed, and succeeding generations shall praise him.
We come then to the relations of the press and the Executive. We have seen that all liberty is relative, and not absolute; that the people, the sovereigns in this country, have prescribed certain methods for securing, in ordinary periods, those blessings which it is their desire to enjoy; that when, under special contingencies, these methods become insufficient for this purpose, the people may, in virtue of their sovereignty, suspend them and adopt others adequate to the occasion; that these may not, indeed, from their very nature, cannot be of a fixed and circumscribed kind, but must give large discretionary power into the hands of the Executive, to be used by him in a summary manner as contingencies may indicate; that this abrogation or suspension, for the time, of so much of the ordinary civil law, in favor of the contingent law, is not an abandonment of free government for arbitary or despotic government, because it is still in accordance with the will of the people, and hence is merely the substitution of a new form of law, which, being required for occasions when instant action is demanded, is necessarily summary in its character; that the extent to which this law is to be substituted for the ordinary one is to be discovered by the Executive from the general sense of the nation, when it cannot be made known through the common method of the ballot box and the legislature; that in the people resides the power ultimately to determine whether their wishes have been correctly interpreted or not; and, finally, that the Executive is equally responsible for coming short of the behests of the nation in the use of the contingent law or for transgressing the boundaries within which they desire him to constrain his actions.
The press of the United States has always been free to the extent that it might publish whatsoever it listed, within certain limits prescribed by the law. The press may still do this. But the nature of the law which prescribes the limits has changed with the times. The constituted authorities of the people of the United States are obliged now, in the people's interest, to employ the processes of summary rather than those of routine law. Hence when the press infringes too violently the boundaries indicated, and persists in so doing, the sterner penalty demanded by the dangers of the hour is enforced by the sterner method likewise rendered necessary. So long as Executive action concerning the press shall be in accordance with the general sentiment of the people, it will be within the strict scope of the highest law of the land. Should the Executive persistently exercise this summary law in a manner not countenanced by the nation, he is amenable to it under the strict letter of the Constitution for high crimes or misdemeanors, not the least of which would be the usurpation of powers not delegated to him by the people.
The Executive of the United States occupies at this time an exceedingly trying and dangerous position, which demands for him the cordial, patient, and delicate consideration of the American nation. He is placed in a situation where the very existence of the republic requires that he use powers not technically delegated to him, and in which the people expect, yea, demand him, to adopt methods transcending the strict letter of statute law, the use of which powers and the adoption of which methods would be denounced as the worst of crimes, even made the basis of an impeachment, should the mass of the populace be dissatisfied with his proceedings. It is easy to find fault, easy in positions devoid of public responsibility to think we see how errors might have been avoided, how powers might have been more successfully employed and greater results achieved. But the American Executive is surrounded with difficulties too little appreciated by the public, while an almost merciless criticism, emanating both from injudicious friends and vigilant foes, follows his every action. Criticism should not be relaxed; but it should be exercised by those only who are competent to undertake its office. The perusal of the morning paper does not ordinarily put us in possession of sufficient information to enable us to understand, in all their bearings, the measures of the Government. Something more is required than a reading of the accounts of battles furnished by the correspondents of the press to entitle one to express an opinion on military movements. It should not be forgotten that the officers engaged in the army of the United States are better judges of military affairs than civilians at home; that the proceedings of the Government, with rare exceptions, possibly, are based upon a fuller knowledge of all the facts relating to a special case, than is obtained by private persons, and that its judgment is therefore more likely to be correct, in any given instance, than our own. The injury done to the national cause by the persistent animadversion of well-intentioned men, who cannot conceive that their judgments may perchance be incorrect, is scarcely less, than the openly hostile invective of the friends of the South. The intelligent citizens of the North, especially those who occupy prominent positions as teachers and instructors of the people through the press, the pulpit, and other avenues, should ever be mindful that the political liberty which they possess of free thought and free speech, has imposed upon them the moral duty of using this wisely for the welfare of humanity, and that they cannot be faithless to this obligation without injuring their fellow men and incurring a heavy moral guilt.
DEDICATION, TO ONE WHO WILL UNDERSTAND IT:
'I love thee freely, as men strive for right; I love thee purely, us they turn from praise I love thee with the passion put to use In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith; I love thee with a love I seemed to lose With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath, Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose, I shall but love thee dearer after death.'
The Creator still loved and guarded the earth, although its children had departed from their early obedience. In evidence of His care, He sent, from time to time, gifted spirits among men to aid them in developing and elevating the souls so fallen from their primal innocence. These spirits He clad in sensuous bodies, that they might be prepared to enter the far country of Human Life. Earth was rapidly falling under the merciless rule of a hopeless and crushing materialism, when He determined upon sending among men, Anselm, the saint; Angelo, the tone artist; Zophiel, the poet; and Jemschid, the painter. The spirits murmured not, although they knew they were to relinquish their heaven life for that torment of perpetual struggle which the forbidden knowledge of Good and Evil has entailed upon all incarcerated in a human form.
For self-abnegation is the law of heaven!
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'Brothers,' said the merciful Father, 'go, and sin not, for of all things that pass among men must a strict account be rendered. For are not their evil deeds written upon the eternally living memory of a just God? Evil lurks in the land of your exile; it may find its way into your own hearts, for you are to become wholly human, and to lose for a time the memory of your home in heaven. But even in that far country you will find the Book of Life, which I have given for the guidance and consolation of the fallen. For it is known even there that 'God is Love!''
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Then the journey of the Heaven Brothers began through the blinding clouds and trailing mists of chaos, in whose palpable gloom all memories are obliterated. Naked, trembling, and human, they arrived upon the shifting sands of the world of Time and Death.
A vague, shadowy sense, like a forgotten dream which we struggle vainly to recall, often flitted through their clay-clogged souls, of a strangely glorious life in some higher sphere; but all attempts to give definite form to such bewildering visions ended but in fantastic reveries of mystic possibilities or dim yearnings of unseen glories. They found the Book of Life, but they remembered not that the Father had told them the Word was His.
For the thread of Identity, on which are strung the pearls of Memory, in the passage through chaos had snapped in twain!
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Like the silver light through the storm clouds flitting over the fair face of the moon, gleam the antenatal splendors through the gloom of the earth life.
As Anselm wonderingly turned the pages of the Book of Life, strange memories awoke within him. So inextricably were the dreams of his past woven with the burning visions of the Prophets, that the darkness of Revelation, like the heaven vault at midnight, was illumined by the light of distant worlds; his own vague reminiscences supplying the inner sense of the inspired but mystic leaves. What wonder that he loved the Book, when in its descriptions of the life to come, he felt the history of the life already past; and through its sternest threatenings, like the rainbow girdling storm clouds, shone the promise of a blessed future!
He spent the hours of exile in a constant effort to commune with the Father; in humble prayer and supplication for strength to resist the power of sin. For he feared the Evil which lurked in the land. He examined the springs of his own actions, analyzed his motives, and tortured himself lest any of the evils denounced in the Book should lurk in the folds of his own soul. In contemplating the awful justice of the Father, he sometimes forgot that He is Love. He feared close commune with the children of the earth, for Evil dwelt among them; he looked not into the winecup, nor danced with the maidens under the caressing tendrils of the vine or the luxuriant branches of the myrtle—nay, the rose cheek of the maiden was a terror to him, for lo! Evil might lurk under its brilliant bloom. The Dread of Evil sapped the Joy of Life!
He turned from all the lovely Present, to catch faint traces of the dim Past, to picture the unseen Future, about which it is vain to disquiet ourselves, since, like everything else, it rests upon the heart of God! His life was holy, innocent, and self-sacrificing. He sought to serve his fellow men, yet feared to give them his heart, lest he should rob the Father of His just due. He knew not from his own experience that Love is infinite, and grows on what it gives. He bore religious consolation to the afflicted, aid to the needy, sympathy to the suffering. He was universally esteemed, but the spirit of his brethren broke not into joy at his approach, for the trusting heart of genial humanity throbbed not in his sad breast. He was no Pharisee, but he dined not with the Publican, and the precious ointment of the Magdalen never bathed his weary head. His language was: 'All is fleeting and evil, save Thee, O my Father; in Thee alone can rest be found!'
Solace for human anguish can only be found upon the heart of love. 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind: and thy neighbor as thyself!' Blessed Son of Mary! Thou alone hast fully kept these two commandments!
'For wisdom is justified of her children!'
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Angelo, Zophiel, and Jemschid also resolved to avoid the Evil spoken of in the Book of Life. But the far country into which the Father had sent them was lovely in their eyes, and they were charmed with the Beauty with which He had surrounded them. They dreamed by the shady fountains, with their silver flow and gentle ripples; roamed by the darker rivers as they hurry on to plunge themselves into the sea; gazed on the restless ocean breakers when the dying sun fringes their crest with rainbow hues, and the flushing sky, to cool her burning blushes, flings herself into the heart of the restless waters. They loved to breathe the 'difficult air' of mountain tops, so softly pillowed and curtained by the fleecy vapors, which they win again from heaven in limpid streams, leading them in wild leaps through gloomy chasms fringed by timid harebells, whose soft blue eyes look love upon the rocks, while the myriad forest leaves musically murmur above their flinty couch. They watched the fitful shadow-dance of clouds over the green earth. They loved to see these heaven tents where Beauty dwells chased by the young zephyrs, or, driven on in heavy masses by the bolder winds, blush under the fiery glances of the sun, and melt into the sky upon his nearer approach. Ah! these clouds and vapors had more than human tenderness, for had they not seen them throng around the ghastly disc of the star-deserted moon, weaving their light webs into flowing veils to shadow the majestic sorrow written upon her melancholy but lovely face, shielding the mystic pallor of the virgin brow from the desecrating gaze of the profane?
The three brothers were happy upon earth, for they looked into the heart of their fellow mortals, and felt the genial feeling beating there; and so luxuriantly twined its vivid green around, that the evil core was hidden from their charmed eyes, and they ceased not to bless the Father for a gift so divine as Human Love! They could not weep and pray the long night through, as did the saintly Anselm, for their eyes were fastened upon the wildering lustre of the thronging stars as they wove their magic rings through the dim abysses of distant space, yet the incense of constant praise rose from their happy souls to the Beauty-giving Father.
They struggled to awake the sleeping powers of men to a perception of the glories of creation; to lead them 'through nature up to nature's God.' The Artist-Brothers were closely united in feeling, striving through different mediums to refine the soul of man.
For the spirit of Beauty always awakens the spirit of Love, sent by God to elevate and consecrate the heart of man!
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Of a more subtle genius and more daring spirit than Zophiel or Jemschid, Angelo boldly launched into the bewildering chaos of the realm of sound. As yet the laws of the Acoustic Prism were unknown; the seven-ranged ladder was all unformed, and without its aid it seemed impossible to scale the ever-renewing heights, to sound the ever-growing depths of this enchanted kingdom. But Angelo was a bold adventurer. Haunted by the heaven sounds, vague memories of his antenatal existence, although he had entirely lost the meaning of their flow, as one may recall snatches of the melody of a song when he cannot remember one of its words—he commenced his subtle task. He resolved the Acoustic Prism; he built the seven-runged ladder; he charmed the wandering Tones, and bound them in the holy laws of Rhythm. Divining the hidden secrets of their affiliations, relations, loves, and hates, he wrought them into gorgeous webs of harmonics, to clothe the tender but fiery soul of ever-living melodies. Soothing their jarring dissonances into sweet accord, he filled their pining wails with that 'divine sorrow,' that mystic longing for the Infinite, which is the inner voice of every created heart. If he could not find the heaven sense of the tones, he found their earthly meaning, and caused them to repeat or suggest every joy and sorrow of which our nature is capable. He forced the heaven tongue to become human, while it retained its divine. Without a model or external archetype, he formed his realm and divined its changing limits; wide enough to contain all that is noble, holy enough to exclude all that is low or profane. He forever exorcised the spirits of Evil—the strong Demons of materialism—from his rhythmed world. Flinging his spells on the unseen air, he forced it to breathe his passion, his sighs; he saddened it with his tears, kindled it with his rapture, until fired and charged with the electric breath of the soul, it glowed into an atmosphere of Life, swaying at will the wild and restless heart. He created Music, the only universal language, holding the keys of Memory, and wearing the crown of Hope. Angelo, strange architect in that dim domain of chaos, thy creation, fleeting, invisible, and unembodied, is in perpetual, flow; changeful as the play of clouds, yet stable as the eternal laws by which they form their misty towers, their glittering fanes, and foam-crested pinnacles! Trackless as the wind, yet as powerful, thy sweet spirit, Music, floats wherever beats the human heart, for Rhythm rocks the core of life. Music nerves the soul with strength or dissolves it in love; she idealizes Pain into soul-touching Beauty; assuming all garbs, robing herself in all modes, and moving at ease through every phase of our complicated existence. White and glittering are her robes, yet she is no aristocrat. She disdains not to soothe the weary negro in his chains, or to rock the cradle of the child of shame, as the betrayed and forsaken girl murmurs broken-hearted lullabies around the young 'inheritor of pain.' She is with the maiden in the graceful mazes of the gay Mazourka; she inflames the savage in the barbaric clang of the fierce war-dance; or marks the measured tramp of the drilled soldiery of civilization. She is in the court of kings; she makes eloquent the ripe lip of the cultured beauty; she chants in the dreary cell of the hermit; she lightens the dusty wallet of the wanderer. She glitters through the dreams of the Poet; she breathes through the direst tragedies of noblest souls. On—on she floats through the wide world, everywhere present, everywhere welcome, refining, and consecrating our dull life from the Baptismal Font to the Grave!
All the inner processes of life are guarded by the hand of nature. In vain would the curiosity of the scalpel knife invade the sanctuary of the beating heart to lay open the burning mystery of Being. The outraged Life retreats before it to its last citadel, and the indignant heart, upon its entrance, refuses to throb more. The citadel is taken; but the secret of Life is not to be discovered in the kingdom of Death. It is because Music is essentially a living art that we find it impossible to read the mystery of its being. If Painting touch us, we can always trace the emotion to its exciting cause; if we weep over the pages of the Poet, it is because we find our own blighted hopes imaged there. But why does Music sway us? Where did we learn that language without words? in what consists its mystic affinities with our spirits? Why does the harp of David soothe the insanity of Saul? Is not its festal voice too triumphant to be the accompaniment of our own sad, fallen being; its breath of sorrow too divine to be the echo of our petty cares? All other arts arise from the facts of our earthly existence, but Music has no external archetype, and refuses to submit her ethereal soul to our curious analysis. 'I am so, because so I am,' is the only answer she gives to the queries of materialism. Like the primitive rock, the skeleton of earth's burning heart, she looms up through the base of our existence. Addressing herself to some mystic faculty born before thought or language, she lulls the suffering baby into its first sleep, using perhaps the primeval and universal language of the race. For the love which receives the New Born, cadences the monotonous chant; and human sympathies are felt by the innocent and confiding infant before his eyes are opened fully upon the light, before his tongue can syllable a word, his ear detect their divisions, or his mind divine their significations. But Music looms not only through the base of our being; like the encompassing sky, her arch spans our horizon. Lo! is it not the language through which the Angels convey the secrets of their profound adoration to the Heart of God!
'Having every one of them harps'—'and they sung a new song'—in which are to join 'every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea'—'and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.' (Revelation, chap, v.)
* * * * *
While Angelo linked the fiery tones in rhythmed laws, Zophiel sketched with glowing pen the joys of virtue, the glories of the intellect, and the pleasures, pains, raptures, woes, and loves of the heart. The deeds of heroes were sung in Epic; Dramas, Elegies, and Lyrics syllabled the inner life; men listened to the ennobling strains, and became freemen as they heard. The intermingling flow of high thought and melodious measures elevated and soothed the soul, and love for, and faith in, humanity, were awakened and nourished by the true Poet.
Jemschid wrought with brush and pencil, until the canvas imaged his loved skies and mountains, glowed with the noble deeds of men, and pictured that spiritual force which strangely characterizes and mingles with the ethereal grace of woman's fragile form.
Through the artists, life grew into loveliness, for all was idealized, and the scattered and hidden beauties of the universe were brought to light. The plan of creation is far too vast to be embraced in its complex unity by the finite: it is the province of art to divide, condense, concentrate, reunite, and rearrange the vast materials in smaller frames, but the new work must always be a whole. Angelo aroused and excited the emotions of the soul, which Zophiel analyzed and described in words most eloquent; while Jemschid made clearer to his brethren that Beauty of creation which is an ever visible proof of the love of God. His portraits illumined the walls of the bereaved, keeping fresh for them the images of the loved and lost. Historical pictures enlarged the mind of his people, keeping before it the high deeds of its children and stimulating to noble prowess. His landscapes warmed the dingy city homes, bringing even there the blue sky, the clouds, the streams, the forests, the mountains, moss, and flowers.
Men became happier and better, for the Brothers, in showing the universal Beauty, awakened the universal Love.
For the true essence of man, made in the image of God, is also Love!
* * * * *
The artists turned not from the rose-cheek of the maiden, nor refused the touch of the ruby lip; but they loved her too well to sully by one wronging thought the tender confidence of perfect innocence, or cause her guileless heart a single pang. For womanhood was holy in their sight!
Among earth's purest maidens shone a fair Lily, whose virgin leaves had all grown toward the sky; whose cup of snow had never been filled save by the dews of heaven; whose tall circlet of golden stamens seemed more like altar lamps arranged to light a sanctuary, than meant to warm and brighten the heart of human love. But the devotion of a noble heart is a holy thing; Genius is full of magic power, and the maiden did not always remain insensible to the love of Angelo, for he was spiritually beautiful, and when he moved in the world of his own creation, his face shone as it were the face of an angel. In ethereal 'fantasies' and divine 'adagios,' he won the Lily to rest its snowy cup upon his manly heart. He soothed the earth cares with the heaven tones and beautified the bitter realities of life by transfiguring them into passionate longings for the Perfect. Bathed in Music's heavenly dew, and warmed by the fire of a young heart, the snow petals of the Lily multiplied, the bud slowly oped, and allowed the perfumed heart to exhale its blessed odor; and as Love threw his glowing light upon the leaves, they blushed beneath his glance of fire—and thus the pale flower grew into a fragrant Rose, around which one faithful Bulbul ever sang. Sheltered in the close folds of the perfumed leaves, what chill could reach the heart of Angelo? His Rose cradled his genius in her heart, while he poured for her the golden flow of the tones, coloring them with the hues of Love, and filling them with the joys of Purity and Peace. Alike in their susceptibility to tenderness and beauty are the woman and the artist; and she who would find full sympathy and comprehension must seek it in his heart!
Time passed on with Anselm, the Saint; Angelo, the Musician; Zophiel, the Poet; Jemschid, the Painter. But the artists grew not old, for Beauty keeps green the heart of her worshippers; and Art, immortal though she be, is indigenous, and, happy in her natal soil, exhausts not the heart of her children. Anselm, however, seemed already old, with his pure heart sick—sick for the Evil possessing the earth. Alas! holiness is an exotic here, soon exhausting the soil of clay in which it pines, and ever sighing to win its transplantation to its native clime.
'The Lethe of Nature Can't trance him again, Whose soul sees the Perfect His eyes seek in vain.'
* * * * *
It was midnight, and Anselm, worn with fasts and pale with vigils, knelt at his devotions in his lonely cell. Lo! a majestic form of fearful but perfect beauty stood beside him. The Angel was clad in linen, white as snow, and his voice startled the soul like the sound of the last trumpet.
'Gird up thy loins like a man, for the darksome doors of Death stand open before thee, and this night thy Lord requires thy spirit!' said the mighty messenger.
Anselm trembled. He feared to stand before the All-seeing Eye, whose dread majesty subdued his soul.
'Behold! He putteth no trust in His saints, and the heavens are not pure in His sight,' he murmured. But he hesitated not to obey, and giving his hand to the Angel, said:
'Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him!'
His earnest lips still thrilling with a prayer for mercy, together they departed 'for that bourne from which no traveller returns.' Between the imperfections of the created and the perfections of the Creator, what can fill the infinite abyss? Infinite Love alone!
* * * * *
The artist-brothers had never separated. Music, Poetry, and Painting spring from the triune existence of man, represent his life in its triune being, and thus move harmoniously together.
They had made their home the happiest spot on earth.
It was evening, and the Poet seemed lost in revery as he gazed on the dying light. His hand rested tenderly on the shoulder of a dark but brilliant woman, who loved him with the strength of a fervid soul.
'Sibyl,' said he softly to his young wife, 'were I now to leave thee, how many of my lines would remain written on thy heart?'
'All! they are all graven there,' replied the enthusiast, 'for the glowing words of a pure poet are the true echoes of a woman's soul!'
The Painter sat near them, putting the last touches upon a picture of a Virgin and Child, which he was striving so to finish that his brethren might be able to grasp more fully that sweet scene of human love and God's strange mercy.
Tender were the shadows that fell from the veiling lashes on the rounded cheek of his fair model; lustrous, yet soft and meek, the light from the maiden's eye as she gazed upon the beautiful infant resting on her bosom. The name of the child was Jemschid, and there was in that name a charm sufficient to awaken her innocent love.
She was the betrothed of the Painter.
'Imogen!' said he to the fair model, 'I know not why the thought rushes so sadly over me, but I feel I shall never finish this picture. The traits escape me—I cannot find them.'
'Never finish the beautiful Madonna, to which you have given so much time, and on which you have expended so much care!' Then with a sudden change of tone, in which astonishment darkened into fear, she exclaimed: 'Are you ill, Jemschid? You have already worked too long upon it. You will destroy your health; you need rest.'
'Nay, sweet Imogen, not so; I am well, quite well, and too happy for words. But I cannot finish the picture. I have lost the expression for the face of the Madonna. Six months ago, when I began it, your face was so meek and tranquil it served me well, but now, even with its present air of meek entreaty, it is too passionate for the mother of God. It is far dearer thus to me, Imogen—but I can never finish the painting now—and only an angel can, for your young face is fairer and purer than aught else on earth.'
Again fell the heavy lashes, half veiling the innocent love in the timid eyes, as the Painter parted the massive braids from the spotless brow, and softly kissed the snowy forehead of his betrothed.
The harp of Angelo quivered, as the sun set behind the crimson clouds, under his nervous touch. Some sadness seemed to weigh upon his buoyant spirit too, in this eventful eve. His music always pictured the depths of his own soul, and he forced the heaven tones to wail the human Miserere. But the Beauty into which the sorrow was transfigured gave promise that it would end in the triumphant chorus of the 'Hosanna in Excelsis.' For music gives the absolute peace in the absolute conflict; the absolute conflict to terminate in the absolute peace.
Fair as the Angel of Hope, the Rose listened with her heart. Her childlike, deep blue eyes were raised to heaven, while her long golden curls, lighting rather than shading her pale brow, like the halos of dim glory which the light vapors wreathe round the moon, mingled with the darker flow of wavy hair falling upon the shoulder of the harpist, on which she leaned as if to catch the flying sounds as they soared from the heart of the loved one.
'Thy song is very sad,' said the Rose, as her eyes rested tenderly upon the inspired face. 'Is there no Gloria to-night, Angelo?'
'I cannot sing it now, sweet Rosalie! The Hosanna is for heaven; not for a world in which Love is, and Death may enter. If I am to lose thee, my soul must chant the Miserere. Ah! that thought unmans me. I cannot part from thee, sweet wife. Cling closer, closer to me, Rosalie. There! Death must be strong to untwine that clasp! But he alone is strong—and Love'—
'Love is stronger far!' cried the startled Rose, as she buried her face in the bosom of her husband, to hide the unwonted tears which dimmed her trustful eyes.
'Parting! there is no parting for those whom God has joined. His ties are for eternity. The Merciful parts not those whom He has made for each other. Even if we must chant the Miserere here, together will we chant the Gloria before the throne of our Creator. Ah, Angelo, do you not feel that but one life throbs in our two hearts? Parting and Death are only seeming!'
Thus sped time on until midnight was upon the earth. The little group were still together; mystic thoughts and previsions were upon them. Zophiel read at intervals weird passages from the Book of Life; Jemschid touched, now and then, the face of the Madonna, and some unwonted spirit of sorrow brooded over the harp of Angelo.
'Rosalie! once more the Miserere ere we sleep,' said he. Scarcely had he commenced the solemn chant, when, suddenly resting his hand on the chords, he cried: 'Hark! brothers. It is the voice of Anselm—he calls he calls us—but I hear not what he says. Listen!'
Lo! a Shining One from the court of the Great King suddenly stands among them. His gossamer robes seemed woven of the deep blue of the fields of space through which he had just passed, and the stars were glittering through the graceful folds bound with rare devices, wrought from the jasper, onyx, and chrysoprase of the heavenly city.
'Brothers!' said the sweet voice of the beautiful vision, 'the term of exile is past; the Father has sent me to recall His children.'
But the heart of the artists sank, for the human love was strong in their bosoms.
Jemschid gazed upon the betrothed bride; the unfinished picture; and tears rushed into his sad eyes.
The Angel was touched with pity for the double grief of artist and lover, and said:
'Gaze not so sorrowfully upon the unwedded maiden; the unfinished picture! She shall yet be thine-and the picture shall be dear to thy fellow men. Lo! I am Rubi, the angel of Beauty!'
Then, taking the brush in his glittering hands, with rapid touch he gave the lovely face an expression of tender innocence, of virgin purity, of maternal love and adoration, which will never cease to thrill the heart of the faithful.
'It is the Mother of our Lord!' said the astonished brothers, as they gazed upon the finished work.
'Zophiel!' continued the pitying angel, 'the lips of Sibyl shall repeat thy songs, for they are all graven upon her heart! But you are now to chant in heaven, and the canticle is to be for His praise who made all; and when you exalt Him, put forth all your strength, and be not weary; for you can never go far enough!
'Angelo! the Hosanna is for heaven. The Rose lingers not here to chant alone the Miserere.'
Alas! the wild human dread and sorrow overpowered all else in the breasts of the brothers as they gazed upon the women of their love. A strange smile played over the heavenly face of the Angel as he murmured: 'Are they not safe in the bosom of the everlasting Love?'
* * * * *
Slowly through the Valley of the Shadow—and then more rapid than the flight of thought, moved the brothers, on—on—through myriads upon myriads of blazing suns, of starry universes; on—on—until they reached the limits of space, the boundary of material worlds. The angels left them as they entered the primeval night of chaos, the shoreless ocean between the sensuous and spiritual life. For alone with God through chaos do we arrive at the sensuous body; alone with God in chaos do we leave this body of corruption, from which is evolved the Body of the Spirit, 'glorious and unchangeable.' And again is clasped the thread of Identity, on which are strung the pearls of memory, and the Past and Future of Time become the Eternal Present!
* * * * *
Clothed in immortal vesture, the brothers now stand before that Great White Throne, which has no shadow, but is built of Light inaccessible, and full of Glory.
Summoned by the Holy Lawgiver, the meek Anselm knelt before Him, blinded with splendor, dazzled with fathomless majesty.
'Behold thy creature before thee for judgment, O Thou in whose sight the angels are not pure! We are born to evil, and who may endure thy justice? Look not into my weak and sinful heart, O God, but upon the face of Thy Anointed, in whom is all my trust! Have mercy upon me!'
Tears of mingled gratitude and penitence welled up, as in the days of exile, from his self-accusing breast.
Wonderful condescension the Father Himself wiped them from the downcast eyes!
And the Saviour of men clothed him in a garment of fine linen, white and pure, and 'to him was given the hidden manna, and a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth but he that receiveth it.'
Then the words over whose mystic meaning he had so often pondered, came, like the sound of many waters, upon his ear:
'And he that shall overcome, and keep my works unto the end, to him I will give power over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, and as the vessel of a potter they shall be broken.
'And I will give him the morning star.'
Thus the humble and self-abnegating Anselm, who had kept the commandments and loved his Maker, passed in glory to the Saints of Power. The morn of the Eternal Present dawned upon him, and the sublime 'vision in God' was open before him.
* * * * *
Then were the artists summoned before the Throne. Awed yet enchanted, they bowed before their Maker, with raised hands clasped in gratitude for the happiness they had known on earth. Then spoke Angelo, the musician:
'Behold thy grateful children at thy feet, O Father of earth and heaven! We truly repent of all we may have done amiss in Thy lower world. Thy heritage was very fair, and the exceeding Beauty thereof covered the Evil, and in all things were planted the germs of Good. 'Our prayer was in our work,' and all things spake to us of Thee, for the hand of a Father made all. Forgive us if we have loved life too well; we have always felt that the rhythmed pulse of our own hearts throbbed but in obedience to Thy tuneful laws! Loving our fellow men, we have labored to awake them to a sense of Thy tenderness, O Creator of Love and of Beauty, so unsparingly casting the ever-new glories around them! Father, we have loved Thee in thy glorious creation.
"For Thou lovest all things that are, and hatest none of the things that thou hast made, for thou didst not appoint or make anything hating it. For He made the nations of the earth for health: and there is no poison of destruction in them, nor kingdom of hell upon earth.
"For justice is perpetual and immortal.'
"We have looked upon the rainbow, and blessed Him that made it: for it was very beautiful in its brightness.'
"For by the greatness of the Beauty, and of the creature, the Creator of them may be seen so as to be known thereby.'
"It is good to give praise to the Lord: to show forth thy loving kindness in the morning, and thy truth in the night;
"Upon an instrument of ten strings, upon the psaltery, upon the harp with a solemn sound.
"For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy works, and in the works of thy hand I shall rejoice.'
'Have mercy upon us for the sake of the Redeemer, whose Perfection crowns the universe, who has not disdained to give Himself to us, and for us: the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely. Mercy for ourselves—and for those whom we have left on earth, we beseech Thee!'
Gently smiled the Virgin Mother, whose humble heart had cradled the Everlasting Love! 'All generations shall call her blessed,' for on that tender woman bosom rests that wondrous God-built arch spanning the awful Chaim between the sinful human and the Perfect Infinite! 'For He was born of a Virgin.'
The heart of Anselm throbbed through his garments white and pure; he loved his brothers, and feared that human art would be deemed vain and worthless in heaven. For the saints forget that God himself is the Great Artist!
Then was there silence in heaven, and the brothers knelt before the Throne.
The Father spoke:
'Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise, be thankful unto him, and bless his name: the Lion of the tribe of Judah hath conquered. He will give to him that overcometh to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the Paradise of God.'
The silence that ensued was the bliss of heaven!
As Rubi, the Angel of Beauty, advanced to greet the spirits whom he had left on the confines of chaos, the triumphant song burst from the young choir of angels: 'For they shall not hunger nor thirst any more; neither shall the sun fall on them or any heat. For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall rule them, and shall lead them to the fountains of the waters of life, and God shall wipe away all tears from their fives.'
Joy! joy! for the soul of the musician! The heart of the Rose had broken while chanting the last Miserere, and she was again at his side to catch his first Hosanna!
'Angelo—Angelo—parting and death are only seeming!'
To the soul of the poet was given the highest theme, the splendor and love of the Eternal City, and power to join the scribes of heaven. And the painter looked upon the face of the Virgin, the strange lights, the forms of Cherubim and Seraphim, and the twelve gates and the golden streets of that city; 'which needeth not sun or moon to shine in it, for the glory of God hath enlightened it; and the Lamb is the light thereof.'
Who can imagine that region of supernal splendor, 'whose glories eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive'?
The strings of Angelo's heaven harp quivered as though stirred by the breath of God.
Then did he first truly discern the soul of that divine language whose form he had made known on earth.
Then arose 'as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying: Alleluia! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.'
Loud rang the heaven harps: 'Holy—Holy—Holy! To Him that sitteth on the Throne, and to the Lamb, Benediction, and Honor, and Glory, and Power, forever and ever!'
Said a poet, sighing lowly, As his life ebbed slowly, slowly, And upon his pallid features shone the sun's last rosy light, Shedding there a radiance tender, Softened from the dazzling splendor Of the burning clouds of sunset, gleaming in the west so bright, Glancing redly, ere forever lost within the gloom of night:
'Gold and crimson clouds of even, Kindling the blue vault of heaven, Ye are types of airy fancies that within my spirit glow! Thou, O Night, so darkly glooming, And those brilliant tints entombing In thy black and heavy shadows, thou art like this life of woe, Prisoning all the glorious visions that still beat their wings to go!
'Oh, what brilliancy and glory Had illumed my life's dull story, Could those thoughts have found expression as within my soul they shone! But though there like jewels gleaming, And with golden splendor streaming, Cold and dim their lustre faded, tarnished, like the sparkling stone That, from out the blue waves taken, looks a pebble dull alone. 'For within my heart forever Was a never-dying river, Was a spring of deathless music welling from my deepest soul! And all Nature's deep intonings, Merry songs, and plaintive meanings, Floated softly through my spirit, swelling where those bright waves stole, Till the prisoning walls seemed powerless 'gainst that billowy rush and roll.
'Oh, the surging thoughts and fancies; Oh, the wondrous, wild romances That from morn till dewy twilight murmured through my haunted brain! Thoughts as sweet as summer roses, And with music's dreamiest closes, Dying faintly into silence, from the full and ringing strain That through all my spirit sounded with a rapture half of pain.
'How I longed those words to utter That within my heart would flutter, Beating wild against their prison, as its walls they'd burst in twain: But it broke not, throbbing only, Aching in a silence lonely, Till my very life was flooded with a wild, delicious pain; Kindled with a blaze illuming all the chambers of my brain!
'And to me death had been glorious, If those burning words, victorious, Had at last surged o'er their prison, bearing my departing soul! Gladly were my heart's blood given, If those bonds I might have riven; If, with every crimson lifedrop that from out my full heart stole, I might hear that swelling chorus upward in its glory roll.
'Sad and low my heart is beating! Each pulsation still repeating 'All in vain those eager longings, all in vain that burning prayer. See the breezes, 'mid the bowers, Sigh above the fragrant flowers, And from out those drooping roses, their heart-folded sweetness bear— But no heaven-sent wind shall whisper thy soul-breathings to the air.'
'But upon my darkened vision Comes a gleam of light Elysian; And a seraph voice breathes softly—'Answered yet shall be that prayer! For the spirit crushed and broken By those burning words unspoken, Soon shall hear them swelling, floating far upon the heavenly air, And its deepest inmost visions shall have perfect utterance there!''
WILLIAM LILLY, ASTROLOGER.
A cunning man, hight Sidrophel, That deals in destiny's dark counsels, And sage opinions of the moon sells, To whom all people, far and near, On deep importances repair.
* * * * *
Do not our great reformers use This Sidrophel to forebode news? To write of victories next year, And castles taken yet i' the air? Of battles fought at sea, and ships Sunk two years hence—the great eclipse? A total overthrow given the king In Cornwall, horse and foot, next spring?'
Thus much, and more, wrote Butler in his 'Hudibras' of William Lilly, who was famous in London during that eventful period of English history from the time of Charles I, onward through the Commonwealth and the Protectorate, to the Restoration: a time of civil commotions and wars, when political parties and religious sects, striving for mastery, or struggling for existence, made the lives and estates of men insecure, and their outlook in many respects a troubled one. Lifelong connections of families and neighbors were then rudely severed, and doubt, distrust, and discontent filled all minds, or most. Of this widespread commotion London was the active centre; and there a judgment of God, called the plague, had, in the year 1625, desolated whole streets. The timid, time-serving, faithless, a wavering host, peered anxiously into the future, eager to know what might be hidden there, so that they could shape their course accordingly for safety or for profit. Finding their own short vision inadequate, they turned for aid to the professional prophets of that troublous time—magicians who could call forth spirits and make them speak, or astrologers who could read the stars, and show how the great Disposer of events could be forestalled. These discoverers of the hidden, disclosers of the future, though branded now as impostors, were not therefore worse than their dupes; for in all ages the two classes, deceivers and deceived, are essentially alike; positives and negatives of the same thing. 'Men are not deceived; they deceive themselves.' Witness a great American nation, in these latter days, electing its ablest man to its highest place, and choosing between a Fremont and a Buchanan! But let us turn quickly to the seventeenth century again, and leave the nineteenth to its day of judgment.
Among the many astrologers dwelling in London at the time of which we treat, William Lilly was the most famous; and his life being of great interest to himself, he wrote an account of it for the instruction of mankind—or for some other purpose; and we will now get from it what we conveniently can.
'I was born,' says this renowned astrologer, 'in the county of Leicester, in an obscure town, in the northwest part thereof, called Diseworth, seven miles south of the town of Derby, one mile from Castle Donnington.' 'This town of Diseworth is divided into three parishes; one part belongs under Lockington, in which stands my father's house (over against the steeple), in which I was born' on the first day of May, 1602. After this rather too minute account of his birthplace, Lilly tells us of his ancestors, substantial yeomen for many generations, who 'had much free land and many houses in the town;' but all the family estates were 'sold by my grandfather and father, so that now our family depends wholly on a college lease.' 'Of my infancy I can speak but little; only I do remember that in the fourth year of my age I had the measles.' 'My mother intended I should be a scholar from my infancy, seeing my father's backslidings in the world, and no hopes by husbandry to recruit a decayed estate.' Therefore, after some schooling at or near home, the boy, when eleven years old, was sent to Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicester, to the school of Mr. John Brinsley, who 'was very severe in his life and conversation, and did breed up many scholars for the universities; in religion he was a strict Puritan.' 'In the fourteenth year of my age, about Michaelmas, I got a surfeit, and thereupon a fever, by eating beechnuts.' 'In the sixteenth year of my age I was exceedingly troubled in my dreams concerning my salvation and damnation, and also concerning the safety and destruction of my father and mother: in the nights I frequently wept and prayed, and mourned, for fear my sins might offend God.' 'In the seventeenth year of my age my mother died.' The next year, 'by reason of my father's poverty, I was enforced to leave school, and so came home to my father's house, where I lived in much penury one year, and taught school one quarter of a year, until God's providence provided better for me. For the last two years of my being at school I was of the highest form of the school, and chiefest of that form. I could then speak Latin as well as English; could make extempore verses upon any theme.' 'If any scholars from remote schools came to dispute, I was ringleader to dispute with them.' 'All and every of those scholars, who were of my form and standing, went to Cambridge, and proved excellent divines; only I, poor William Lilly, was not so happy, fortune then frowning on my father's condition, he not in any capacity to maintain me at the university.'
So this poor scholar, first of his class, bright visions of the university, and of what might lie beyond, all fading into darkness, went down to his father's house in the country, where his acquirements were useless. He says: 'I could not work, drive plough, or endure any country labor; my father oft would say, 'I was good for nothing,' and 'he was willing to be rid of me.' A sorrowful time for the poor young fellow, without any outlook toward a better. But at last, one Samuel Smatty, an attorney, living in the neighborhood, took pity on the lad, and gave him a letter to Gilbert Wright, of London, who wanted a youth who could read and write, to attend him. Thereupon Lilly, in a suit of fustian, with this letter in his pocket, and ten shillings, given him by his friends, took leave of his father, who was then in Leicester jail for debt, and set off for London with 'Bradshaw, the carrier.' He 'footed it all along,' and was six days on the way; spending for food two shillings and sixpence, and nothing for lodgings; but he was in good heart, I think, for almost the only joyous expression in his autobiography is this one, relating to this time: 'Hark, how the wagons crack with their rich lading!'
Gilbert Wright, who had been 'servant to the Lady Pawlet in Hertfordshire,' had married a widow with property, and lived afterward 'on his annual rents;' or on his wife's, and 'was of no calling or profession.' This man had real need of a servant who could read and write, for he himself could do neither; but he was, however, 'a man of excellent natural parts, and would speak publicly upon any occasion very rationally and to the purpose.' Lilly was kindly received by Master Wright, who found, it seems, employment enough for him. 'My work was to go before my master to church; to attend my master when he went abroad; to make clean his shoes; sweep the street; help to drive bucks when he washed; fetch water in a tub from the Thames—I have helped to carry eighteen tubs of water in one morning;—weed the garden. All manner of drudgery I willingly performed.'
Mrs. Wright, who brought money to her husband, brought also a jealous disposition, and made his life uncomfortable. 'She was about seventy years of age, he sixty-six,' 'yet was never any woman more jealous of a husband than she!' She vexed more than one man, too, and her first husband had temptations to cut his own throat and escape from trouble so; but he, as we shall learn by and by, got some relief otherwise, and lived till death came by better means.
Tally had difficulty in keeping on good terms 'with two such opposite natures' as those of his master and mistress, that he managed it somehow, and says: 'However, as to the things of this world, I had enough, and endured their discontents with much sereneness. My mistress was very curious to know of such as were then called cunning, or wise men, whether she should bury her husband. She frequently visited such persons, and this begot in me a little desire to learn something that way; but wanting money to buy books, I laid aside these notions, and endeavored to please both master and mistress.'
This mistress had a cancer in her left breast, and Lilly had much noisome work to do for her; which he did faithfully and kindly. 'She was so fond of me in the time of her sickness, she would never permit me out of her chamber.' 'When my mistress died (1624) she had under her armhole a small scarlet bag full of many things, which one that was there delivered unto me. There were in this bag several sigils, some of Jupiter in Trine; others of the nature of Venus; some of iron, and one of gold, of pure virgin gold, of the bigness of a thirty-three shilling piece of King James coin. In the circumference on one side was engraven, Vicit Leo de Tribu Judae Tetragrammation+: within the middle there was engraven a holy lamb. In the other circumference there was Amraphel, and three + + +. In the middle, Sanctus Petrus, Alpha and Omega.'
This sigil the woman got many years before of Dr. Samuel Foreman, a magician or astrologer; the same who 'wrote in a book left behind him,' 'This I made the devil write with his own hand, in Lambeth Fields, 1596, in June or July, as I now remember.' This sigil the woman got from the doctor, who was evidently a foreman among liars, for her first husband, who had been 'followed by a spirit which vocally and articulately provoked him to cut his own throat.' Her husband, wearing this sigil 'till he died, was never more troubled by spirits' of this kind of call; but on the woman herself it seems to have failed of effect, for though she too wore it till she died, she was continually tormented by an authentic spirit of jealousy—a torment to herself and to her husband.
After this mistress had gone, Lilly lived very comfortably, his 'master having a great affection' for him; and also a great confidence in him, it seems; for when the plague (1625) began to rage in London, the master went for safety into Leicestershire, leaving Lilly and a fellow servant to keep the house, in which was much money and plate, belonging to his master and others. Lilly was faithful to his charge in this fearful time, and kept himself cheerful by amusements. 'I bought a bass viol, and got a master to instruct me; the intervals of time I spent in bowling in Lincoln's Inn Fields with Watt, the cobbler, Dick, the blacksmith, and such-like companions.' Nor did he neglect more serious business, but attended divine service at the church of St. Clement Danes, where two ministers died in this time; but the third, Mr. Whitacre, 'escaped not only then, but all contagion following,' though he 'buried all manner of people, whether they died of the plague or not,' and 'was given to drink, so that he seldom could preach more than one quarter of an hour at a time.' This year of plague was indeed a fearful one in London, and Lilly says elsewhere, 'I do well remember this accident, that going in July, 1625, about half an hour after six in the morning, to St. Antholine's church, I met only three persons on the way, from my house over against Strand bridge, till I came there; so few people were there alive and the streets so unfrequented.' 'About fifty thousand people died that year;' but Lilly escaped death, though his 'conversation was daily with the infected.'
Master Wright did not continue long a widower, but took to himself another wife, and a younger, who was of 'brown ruddy complexion,' and of better disposition than her predecessor in the household. Master Wright was probably a happy man for a time; but only for a short time; for in May, 1627, he died, and the estate, by agreement of the parties in it, was assigned to Lilly for payment of its debts. The trust was not misplaced; the debts were all paid, and the remainder of the estate, except an annuity of twenty pounds, which his master had settled on Lilly, he returned to the executors.
Mistress Wright, the widow, 'who had twice married old men,' had now many suitors; 'old men, whom she declined; some gentlemen of decayed fortunes, whom she liked not, for she was covetous and sparing;' 'however, all her talk was of husbands,' and, in short, William Lilly became the happy man; made happy within four months of the death of the old master. 'During all the time of her life, which was till October, 1633, we lived very lovingly; I frequenting no company at all; my exercises were angling, in which I ever delighted; my companions, two aged men.' 'I frequented lectures, and leaned in judgment to Puritanism; and in October, 1627, I was made free of the Salters' company of London.'
Up to this time, therefore, the history of William Lilly, so far as he has made it known, is briefly this: Born poor, the grandfather and father having wasted the family estates, he was sent by his mother, who intended him from his infancy for a scholar, to the school of Ashby-de-la-Zouch; where, at one time, he was in trouble about his soul and the souls of his parents; and he 'frequently wept, prayed, and mourned, for fear his sins might offend God.' But the mother died, the father got into prison for debt, and poor Lilly, who had made himself the best scholar in the school, could not go up to the university as he had hoped to do, but after a wretched year at his father's house, where he was accounted useless and an encumbrance, he had to become the servant of one who could neither read nor write, doing all kinds of drudgery. Serving faithfully, the much-enduring young man won the love and confidence of the old master and mistress, and at last married the young widow, who was a wholesome-looking woman, of brown ruddy complexion, and had property, which served, among other things, to make Lilly 'free of the Salters' company.' Not a bad history, certainly, if not one of the best: he was a thriving young man, not a complaining one; but one who accepted the conditions under which he was placed, and made the best of them; which is what all young men ought to do.
And now Lilly—being a man of some property and standing, without any profession or regular business, but with an inclination to the occult arts, begot in him probably by the folly of old Mistress Wright—tells us how he 'came to study astrology.' 'It happened on one Sunday, 1632, as myself and a justice of peace's clerk were, before service, discoursing of many things, he chanced to say that such a person was a great scholar; nay, so learned that he could make an almanac, which to me was strange: one speech begot another, till at last he said he could bring me acquainted with one Evans, who lived in Gunpowder alley, who formerly lived in Staffordshire, that was an excellent wise man, and studied the black art. The same week (after) we went to see Mr. Evans. When we came to his house, he, having been drunk the night before, was upon his bed—if it be lawful to call that a bed whereon he lay.' 'He was the most saturnine man my eyes ever beheld either before I practised (astrology) or since: of middle stature, broad forehead, beetle browed, thick shoulders, flat nosed, full lips, down looked, black, curling, stiff hair, splay footed;' 'much addicted to debauchery, and then very abusive and quarrelsome; seldom without a black eye, or one mischief or another.' A very good description this, save that the shoulders of it are between the brow and nose: not a handsome man, certainly; a kind of white negro, we should say, and not the better for being white: nevertheless men of high rank came to see him, and readers who have made acquaintance with Sir Kenelm Digby will not be astonished to learn that he was one of them. He came with Lord Bothwell, and 'desired Evans to show them a spirit.' But 'after some time of invocation, Evans was taken out of the room, and carried into the fields near Battersea causeway, close to the Thames:' taken by the spirits, because the magician 'had not at the time of invocation made any suffumigation;' for spirits must always be treated gingerly. 'Sir Kenelm Digby and Lord Bothwell went home without any harm;' which was better than they deserved.
Lilly, after many lessons given him by this Evans, was doubtful about the black art, as he might well be; but, he says, 'being now very meanly introduced, I applied myself to study those books I had obtained, many times twelve or fifteen or eighteen hours a day and night: I was curious to discover whether there was any verity in the art or not. Astrology at this time, viz. 1633, was very rare in London; few professing it that understood anything thereof.' Lilly gives us next some account of the astrologers of his time; but the reader need form no further acquaintance of this kind; acquaintance with Lilly, who was the best of them, will be enough for him.
In October of this year, 1633, Lilly's wife died, and left him 'very near to the value of one thousand pounds sterling'—all she had to leave. He continued a widower 'a whole year,' which he, as that phrase implies, held to be a long time in such bereavement—and followed his studies in astrology very diligently. So diligently that he soon had knowledge to impart to others, and he 'taught Sir George Knight astrology, that part which concerns sickness, wherein he so profited that in two or three months he would give a very good discovery of any disease only by his figures.'
With a new wife, which he got the next year (1634), Lilly had L500 portion; but 'she was of the nature of Mars,' which is surely not a good nature in a wife. In that same year he, with some 'other gentlemen,' engaged in an adventure for hidden treasure: they 'played the hazel rod round about the cloyster,' and digged, in the place indicated, six feet deep, till they came to a coffin; but they did not open it, for which they were afterward regretful, thinking that it probably contained the treasure. Suddenly, while they were at this work, a great wind arose, 'so high, so blustering, and loud,' that all were frightened, 'and knew not what to think or do;' all save Lilly, who gave 'directions and commands to dismiss the daemons,' and then all became quiet again. These doings Lilly did not approve, and says he 'could never again be induced to join in such kind of work.' He engaged, however, in another transaction of still worse character, which seems to have been even more unpleasant to him; for he says: 'After that I became melancholy, very much afflicted with the hypochondriac melancholy, growing lean and spare, and every day worse; so that in the year 1635, my infirmity continuing and my acquaintance increasing, I resolved to live in the country, and in March and April, 1636, I removed my goods unto Hersham (Horsham in Sussex, thirty-six miles from London), where I continued until 1641, no notice being taken who or what I was:' and in this time he burned some of his books, which treated of things he did not approve, and which he disliked to practise; for this man really had a conscience as good as the average, or even better: he was driven into solitude by the reproaches of it—or, perhaps, by the scoldings of a wife who 'was of the nature of Mars.'
Thus far we have followed Lilly's account of himself closely, using often his own words, because they give a more correct idea of the man than could be got from the words of another; but henceforth to the end, we will skip much and be brief. This astrologer did not always rely on his special art to discover things hidden, but used often quite ordinary means; sometimes such as are common to officers of detective police. His confessions of doings in that kind are candid enough, and we must say of his 'History of his Life and Times' that it is, on the whole, a simple, truthful statement of facts; not an apology for a life at all; for he seldom attempts to excuse or justify his actions, but leaves a plain record with the reader for good or evil.
A man, it is sometimes said, is to be judged by the company he keeps, and we will therefore say a few words of this astrologer's friends. Of men like William Pennington, of Muncaster, in Cumberland, 'of good family and estate,' introduced to Lilly by David Ramsay, the king's clockmaker, in 1634, who are otherwise unknown to us, we will say nothing. But the reader surely knows something of Hugh Peters, the Puritan preacher—who could do other things as well as preach: with him Lilly had 'much conference and some private discourses,' and once in the Christmas holidays, a time of leisure, Peters and the Lord Gray of Groby invited him to Somerset House, and requested him to bring two of his almanacs. At another time Peters took Lilly along with him into Westminster Hall 'to hear the king tried.' But the most influential friend, perhaps, was Sir Bulstrode Whitlocke, a man well known to readers of English history as very prominent in the time of the Commonwealth and Protectorate. He was high steward of Oxford, member of the council of state, one of the keepers of the great seal, a man very learned in the law, who made long discourses to Oliver Cromwell on the matter of the kingship, and on other matters. He went to Sweden as Cromwell's ambassador, and was one of the great men of that time, or one of the considerable men. Sir Bulstrode, according to Ashmole, was Lilly's patron; and indeed the great man did befriend him long, and help him out of difficulties. The acquaintance began in this wise: Sir Bulstrode being sick, Mrs. Lisle, 'wife to John Lisle,' afterward one of the keepers of the great seal, came to Lilly, bringing a specimen of the sick man. Whereupon the astrologer, having inspected the specimen, 'set a figure,' and said, 'the sick for that time would recover, but by means of a surfeit would dangerously relapse within one month; which he did, by eating of trouts at Mr. Sands' house in Surrey.' Therefore, as there could no longer be any doubt of Lilly's skill, he, at the time of Sir Bulstrode's second sickness, was called to him daily; and though the family physician said 'there was no hope of recovery,' the astrologer said there was 'no danger of death,' and 'that he would be sufficiently well in five or six weeks; and so he was.' This Mrs. Lisle, who brought the specimen, being apparently one of Lilly's she friends, we will add that she made herself remarkable by saying at the martyrdom of King Charles I, in 1648, that 'her blood leaped within her to see the tyrant fall.' For this, and for other things, the woman was finally beheaded; it being impossible otherwise to stop her tongue; and I have no tear for her.
Lilly's most intimate friend, however, was Elias Ashmole, Esq. Born in 1617, the name for him agreed on among his friends was Thomas; but at the baptismal font the godfather, 'by a more than ordinary impulse of spirit,' said Elias; and under that prophetic name the boy grew up to manhood, and became for a time rather famous in high places. He was a learned antiquary, and made a description of the consular and imperial coins at Oxford, and presented it, in three folio volumes, to the library there. He made also a catalogue and description of the king's medals; a book on the Order of the Garter; a book entitled, Fasciculus Chemicus, and another, Theatrum Chemicum. He published, moreover, a book called 'The Way to Bliss;' but if he himself ever arrived at that thing, he found the way uncomfortable, if we may judge from his diary, half filled with record of his ailments, surfeits, and diseases, and of the sweatings, purgings, and leechings consequent thereupon, or intended as preventives thereof. To one kind of bliss, however, he did certainly attain—that of high society; dining often with lords, earls, and dukes, bishops and archbishops, foreign envoys, ambassadors, and princes; and they, many of them, came in turn, and dined with him, who had made a book on the Order of the Garter, and who understood the art of dining. Continental kings sent to this man chains of gold, and his gracious majesty, Charles II, was very gracious to him, and gave him fat offices, mostly sinecures: and over and above all he gave a pension. This world is a very remarkable one—especially remarkable in the upper crust of it.
Lilly's acquaintance with Ashmole began in 1646, and continued till death did them part in 1681. Through all these thirty-five years there was a close intimacy, Ashmole being a frequent visitor at Lilly's house in the country, staying there often months at a time, and Lilly in return coming often to London, and staying weeks with his honored friend—a kind of Damon and Pythias affair without the heroics. Ashmole, we said, was famous in his time; but indeed he has a kind of fame now, and cannot soon be altogether forgotten, for he founded the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, and in the library there the curious can probably find all his books, and read them, if they will; but I, who have read one of them, shall not seek for more.
But indeed Lilly attracted the attention of Oliver Cromwell himself, and once had an interview with him—a remarkably silent one. The occasion of it was as follows: The astrologer, in his Martinus Anglicus (astrological almanac) for 1650, had written that 'the Parliament should not continue, but a new government should arise;' and the next year he 'was so bold as to aver therein that the Parliament stood upon a tottering foundation, and that the commonalty and soldiers would join together against it.' These things, and others, published in Anglicus, offended the Presbyterians, and on motion of some one of them, it was ordered that 'Anglicus should be inspected by the committee for plundered ministers;' and the next day thereafter Lilly was brought before the committee, which was very full that day (thirty-six in number), for the matter was an interesting one, whispered of before in private, and now made public by prophecy. The astrologer, by skilful management of friends, and some lies of his own, got off without damage to himself.
At the close of the first day's proceedings in committee, as the sergeant-at-arms was carrying Lilly away, he was commanded to bring him into the committee room again. 'Oliver Cromwell, lieutenant-general of the army, having never seen me, caused me to be produced again, where he steadfastly beheld me for a good space, and then I went with the messenger.' This first meeting was, it appears, the only one, for Lilly speaks of no other; but Cromwell spoke a good word for him that same night, and was ever after rather friendly to him, or at least tolerant of him. The lieutenant-general, looking fixedly at this man 'for a good space,' saw nothing very bad in him; and knowing that his prophecies favored the good cause, he, a man of strong, practical sense, was willing to let him work as one of the influences of that time.
This was not Lilly's only appearance before Parliament; sixteen years later we shall find him there again; but of that at its time; and we will look first at some of his doings in the interim. With another general our astrologer had a meeting too, but with him—General Fairfax—there was talk, not so full of meaning to me as the silence of Cromwell. 'There being,' says Lilly, 'in those times, some smart difference between the army and Parliament, the headquarters of the army were at Windsor, whither I was carried with a coach and four horses, and John Boker (an astrologer) with me. We were welcomed thither, and feasted in a garden where General Fairfax lodged. We were brought to the general, who bid us kindly welcome to Windsor.' Lilly tells what Fairfax said, and what he himself said in reply; but if these speeches were all that was there said and done, the coach and four, and the time spent, seem to me wasteful. The speeches ended, 'we departed, and went to visit Mr. Peters (Hugh Peters), the minister, who lodged in the castle; whom we found reading an idle pamphlet come from London that morning.' He said—what gives proof, if proof be needed, that there was idle talk current in that time, as indeed there is in all times.
Our astrologer, professing a high art, standing above the common level, did not give 'up to party what was meant for mankind.' The stars look down, from their high places, on sublunary things, with a sublime indifference; and he, their interpreter, was at the service of all comers, or of all who could pay. Many came to him; among others came 'Madam Whorwood,' from King Charles, who intended to escape from Hampton Court, where he was held prisoner by the army. She came to inquire 'in what quarter of this nation he (the king) might be most safe?' Lilly, after 'erection of his figure,' said, 'about twenty miles from London, and in Essex,' 'he might continue undisturbed;' but the poor king, misguided by himself, or others, 'went away in the night time westward, and surrendered to Hammond in the Isle of Wight. Twice again, according to Lilly, Madam Whorwood came to him, asking advice and assistance for the king. This Madam Whorwood I have not met with elsewhere in my reading, and the name may be a fictitious one; but that King Charles, in his straits, sought aid of William Lilly, who by repute could read the stars, is not improbable. In 1648, Lilly gave to the council of state 'some intelligence out of France,' which he got by means not astrological, or in any way supernatural; and the council thereupon gave him 'in money fifty pounds, and a pension of one hundred pounds per annum,' which he received for two years, 'but no more.'