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Thus, then, does the view of death become changed in every respect by means of love. Henceforth it can separate us from nothing that we care for; the world is grown for us desolate.
If you see the trees
Widow'd of leaves, the earth grown hard, and spoil'd
You wonder not if winter then appears,
And all things haste to die."
So when the kaleidoscope of love is removed without hope of recovery, youth itself soon finds that life is colourless, as, in fact, the pleasant sorceries that keep us within the circle of mortality such willing worshippers are then for most men at an end. Then, wherever walks such youth or manhood lonely and forsaken, the melancholy feet of him that is the father of decay seem to have left their traces, as when
"The cold wind breathes from a chillier clime,
To think how the bright months had spent their prime."
But such is the thus bereft fear Have they not
Gone are the flowers and fruits; gone the pale lovers who used
"They have done their journey here, their day is out;
Labour, and loss of time. What should they live for?
Such a disease, that hangs like lead upon us.
As it increases, so vexations,
Griefs of the mind, pains of the feeble body.
Besides, the fair soul's old too, it grows covetous;
And we are earth again!
To die a young man is to be an angel;
Our great good parts put wings unto our souls."
Accordingly, apart from those divine considerations which of themselves loosen earthly chains, you shall now see death so scorned by youth-I mean for any terror or regrets-that you shall think him its slave to take its upper garment off. But hear still what it then whispers to itself:
On the damp grass myriads of lingering leaves,
To die, when summer dies on the cold sward.
We miscall grief, fate, sorrow, heart-break, woe,
All this, then, however childish it may seem to some, involves the principle of what is most ancient in history, and reveals one real and efficacious force existing in our nature to arm it against the fear of death; for then men are ready and resigned to die, wishing even that the form and shape of human being may no more cross their vision. On earth there is no more joy for them; their sun is set; the lustre of their life is gone; the lute has lost its tone, the flower its perfume, the bird its airy wing. You cannot reason with such tenderness and grief as this; nor, indeed, would it much avail to make them cling to existence here under such conditions, since life without love and the sense of being loved has no attractions, and little prospect of utility, for those who have no reason founded on especial vocations to dispense with it. They feel that it is love which gives it value, energy, fruitfulness; as in truth it is the want of love that lies at the bottom of all our sorrows and inactivity; but here springs the advantage of this mysterious power, for then death itself, that would otherwise be so abhorred perhaps, seems in a certain sense to answer some of love's purposes; and, therefore, the last and only act that they can now perform well is prized by them, showing that their gentleness does as well accord with death as life. They do not believe with the author of Venetia that the links of passion, formed by love at first sight, which elsewhere he thinks alone the true love, are as fragile as they are glittering; that the bosom on which they have reposed all their secret sorrows and sanguine hopes would ever become the very heart to triumph in their perishing. No. They are woodmen, and can choose their deer, though it be in the dark; their discretion is not lost; for our reasons are not prophets when oft our fancies are; and so whatever may have occurred to shake their youthful confidence in man's integrity, they have still an unbroken reliance on woman's faith. Human, she will not deceive; woman, she will not forsake them. She has found them noble; they shall find her true. Now "of all the paths that lead to a woman's love, pity," says the poet, "is among the straightest." They would, therefore, suffer for her sake, and
even endure death, only saying with Virolet to Juliana, "Think of me, but not often, for fear my faults should burthen your affections; but pray for me."
"Tu tamen amisso non numquam flebis amico:
Fas est præteritos semper amare viros."
They feel assured that the sweet face which smiled upon their love will be raised in their behalf over their grave; that when they are dead their memory will be secreted in the unfathomed depth of a woman's heart; for they do not go out like tedious tales forgotten; they die young, and they believe that however their body fall into dust, perhaps, when they are ashes the ruby lips they hung upon will vow to keep a requiem in the soul as for a friend close treasured in the bosom. They think affections never die; that, when life is over, they take the wings of a diviner world, and grow immortal. These lovers' unities they will not doubt of; and such a faith is enough to change their whole view of what is best for themselves. Addressing in their mind the beloved one, they can say truly,
"All that was earth falls off; my spirit's free;
I have nothing left now, but my soul and thee."
And, in fact, love can do more than fortune or than death, and so the sequel often verifies what ancient harps have said,
"Love never dies, but lives, immortal Lord!
The body itself, though dead, is loved, as in the poem of Keats
"Pale Isabella kiss'd it, and low moan'd.
'Twas love cold,-dead indeed, but not dethroned."
So death will be welcomed, or as Schiller says, "The grave will seem to be a bridal bed, over which Aurora spreads her golden canopy, and spring strews her fairest flowers. Death to him who has such thoughts blending eventually with diviner hopes is not a skeleton; he is a gentle, smiling boy, blooming as the divinity of love; a silent ministering spirit, who guides the exhausted pilgrim through the desert of eternity, unlocks for him the fairy palace of everlasting joy, invites him in with friendly smiles, and vanishes for ever!" These are occasions when Ford's beautiful lines may be repeated, as expressing personal experience :
"I did not think that death had been so sweet,
Nor I so apt to love him. I could ne'er die better
For I'm in charity with all the world."
These are occasions when Bellario's apostrophe to the wild flowers, as he lies down on the grass, will seem the spontaneous effusion of the heart:
Bear me, thou gentle bank,
For ever, if thou wilt. You sweet ones all,
Thus does death itself, by means of nature and its heavenly ally, that central truth which employs, and, as it were, consecrates all its genuine attributes, enter into the beautiful view of the universal order of which we form parts, and leave each observer to exclaim,
"How bold the flight of passion's wandering wing!
The natural desire is suffered to combat the natural horror of dissolution, and thenceforth the field is open for the action of those divine motives into which the central wisdom knows how to transfuse all others.
THE ROAD OF THE TOMBS (terminated).
EVER is the path we tread so dreary, but, if we comply with what is prescribed by central truth, the favouring smiles of Heaven will shed some solace. Here through the external instruments that faith provides, assistance comes to us without our co-operation. It is not alone by changing the mere natural view of death, and by sanctioning and confirming the vital principles of our nature, that proof is given of the presence of a central attraction upon this road. Catholicism draws men towards itself by the direct positive assistance and by the great practical benefit which it yields in furnishing those who are migrating hence with persons eminently qualified to console them, and those who have left this life not alone with mourners for a day, but with assistants who will supply what is
required both for what has departed and for what remains, which is a benefit of which our nature feels the want, since, with the exception of a kind of governmental class in some northern countries, during the last three hundred years, the whole human race seems from the beginning to have agreed in recognizing that there are things which both the soul and the body continue after death to demand, namely, prayer, remembrance, and a tomb.
During the sufferings of one kind or other which frequently precede his departure from this world, man has need of living comforters and of living advisers; of friends, in other words, to stand by his side in this last action. " Through necessity," says the author of the Magnum Speculum, we relate the bodily pains of this holy man, in order that we may not be disturbed when any sufferings of this kind befal just men in their sickness." It is not every one who on such occasions can dispense with the assistance of persons devoted to such works of charity as visiting the sick. It is not every one who can say with Marina de Escobar, that if they knew they could recover their health by the simple act of extending their hand, they would not do so, being so impressed with a conviction that it is good to suffer in this life. Neither, again, can persons in general expect that extraordinary assistance which is said to have been vouchsafed to her; for during thirty years she had borne a painful sickness in a dark little chamber, eleven feet high and broad, and thirteen feet long, which had no other light but candles which burned by night and some hours of the day; while notwithstanding, the air, we are told, of this little room struck every one as if it was in the midst of a field open to the winds of heaven t. According to our common lot, afflictions, or at least peculiar wants of some kind or other, precede our death, and therefore men must be attracted by whatever yields cheerful, sensible, and affectionate persons devoted to the care and consolation of the sick and dying. The world without Catholicism is not so richly provided with characters of this description that it can dispense with a supernatural source which forms them. Its friends are not often met with in a sick room at midnight. They will avoid the contagion of what at least seems to them as sorrow, and often act the part of the captain in the Diary of a Physician, who, on being sent for by his former intimate acquaintance, Effingstone, on his deathbed, sends back a viva voce message that for the moment he is making up a match at billiards, and who rides up to the door next day and leaves a card for him, without asking to see him. If moved to spend a few minutes in such a room, it will be a distasteful meeting to all parties. Its philanthropist + P. ii. lib. iii. c. 2.
Vit. ejus, P. ii. lib. iii. c. 3.