Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

up. In vain he tells himself how splendid, how invigorating will be the plunge from his warm bed right into the fresh, brisk, hygienic morning air.

The fresh, brisk, hygienic morning air does not appeal to him. Unwillingly he recalls a line in the superfurnace advertisement, - 'Get up warm and cosy,' - and helplessly wishes that he had such a furnace. 'Like Andrew

[ocr errors]

Carnegie!' he adds bitterly. At that moment he would anarchistically assassinate Andrew, provided he could do it without getting up. Neverthelesshe gets up! He puts on 'Curse it, where is that sleeve?' - the bath-robe and slippers that have been all night cooling for him, and starts on his lonely journey through the tomblike silence. Now, if ever, is the time to hum, but there is not a hum in him: down, down, down he goes to the cellar and peeks with dull hope through the familiar little door. 'Good morning, Fire.' He shakes, he shovels, he opens drafts and manipulates dampers. And the Furnace, impassive, like a Buddha holding up the house with as many arms as an octopus, seems to be watching him with a grave yet idle interest. Which is all the more horrible because it has no face.

RECEPTACLES

The other day a very kind woman, seeing that I was a soldier, gave me a bag whose name was Tacoma Kit. Kit is a slender thing, green in complexion, and contains no end of objects. She contains a pad and a fine soft pencil, a half-dozen postcards, some envelopes, a comb, a tooth-brush, a small cake of soap. She also contains a housewife, whose name is doubtless Tacoma Dorcas; and Dorcas again contains her quota. Kit contains her thousands but Dorcas contains her tens of thousands. There are safety pins, from the big blanket size down to the little shirt

sleeve size, and there are needles, all arranged like organ-pipes according to height; there are threads — white and black and olive-drab; there are buttons -the kind you sew on and the kind you are told to screw on.

No doubt there are other things. For it is a bag's nature to conceal forever another portion of its riches. Kit has this trait. I found the tooth-brush on my first exploration, but it took two or three to find the pocket-comb. Snuggled against the pencils I found a pair of shoe-laces and just this minute, when I went over her contents to see what I had left out, I found a tiny oval mirror tucked into the pocket which holds the pada mirror which shows its donor's sense of humor and her genuine humanity, for on its celluloid back is a picture of a woman, probably an actress, in tights.

-

Who but a genius could have selected anything more congenial with a soldier's life? As I lie in the trenches next May, I hope, or earlier, I shall have no use for the reflective side of a mirror, unless I can use it for a heliograph; but I can always use its back to brighten my portion of the dug-out. The good creature could not give me the picture alone that would have wounded all her sense of propriety. But she knew that anything that the front side might reflect could not but offset anything that the back might suggest, so that she outdid Munchausen in killing two birds with one stone.

That woman in tights is quite the most useful thing I own. When I look at it I can be homesick for the theatres and lights of San Francisco: for those wonderful cafés where you can make a yellow chartreuse last an evening and not be considered an idler; for Solari's and Jack's and Fleix's and, at times, perhaps, for Coppa's; for the Liberty, where I saw a real Stenterello; forbut let me not think of San Francisco

L

now. Those brown hills and purple trees in the canyons and the blue green bay, and the blue jays among the apricots they too are part of San Francisco. And here in the north it rains every day and we have but a mountain whose name alone interests people. Yes, the woman in tights will bring all that back to me as I fight in the mud. But she will also serve as a reminder of the life I am glad to leave behind. I can point to her and say, 'O naughty world, this is a sweeter place in which to live.'

It is this steady discovery of things in her that makes me enjoy Kit's company so much. It is a quality that only bags have. In that they are like friends. From without they are cut from a universal pattern, but once begin to live with them, to open them up, to explore their depths, to poke here and there, and you find inexhaustible riches. It is never the foresight that you admire, the foresight which put the things together. As in friends, you do not seek a prudent combination of qualities: that each be valuable in itself, even though they are hopeless in relation to one another, is sufficient.

I have a friend who is both a lover of Rabelais and an industrial chemist; the one does not neutralize the other. Similarly the postcards and the toothbrush which Kit offers me are related only in so far as they are both necessities of life, yet I do not hold them in less esteem on that account. It is indeed the apparent chaos which makes a bag, of all receptacles, the most philosophical. It makes it a world in itself; a cosmos whose plan is too deep for the passing glance to comprehend; an order like that of consciousness itself.

I have a leather toilet-case which is the very antithesis of Kit. Everything in it was selected for one purpose-use in the masculine toilet. It has brushes and combs and razors and the like, but

does it have a copy of the 'Marseillaise'? It does not. Does it even have a twist of string? It does not. And yet, suppose amid my shaving I should want to know whether 'Aux armes. citoyens' comes before 'Marchons, marchons,' would this neat leather case help me? Suppose, when I was combing my hair, the mirror fell off the wall and I wanted to tie it up again, of what use would the flat clothes-brush be to me?

But, Kit, Kit, I am sure, would help me. Though I do not intend to verify my suspicions, I am sure that Kit will rise to any occasion, like her namesake, Caterina Sforza. When Caterina held her husband's castle for many weeks against an enemy who kept her children as hostages, she was told to surrender or see her children killed. 'Kill them,' she replied; 'I can make others.'

So Kit, less vehement in deeds, poor inanimate creation, will respond when put to the test. Her great progenitrix was the bag of Mrs. Swiss Family Robinson, a woman who gets all the credit herself-wrongly to my way of thinking. Wrongly, for the bag deserves it all. Given such a receptacle, and I care not who makes the pigeon-holes of a nation; any one can win a reputation for prudence. For bags, like eternity, are all-inclusive: there is nothing that won't go in and nothing that one is not tempted to put in. Hence, when the prim Mrs. Swiss Family went round the sinking ship, she simply dumped in everything from beeswax to Euclid. But like the Elephant's Child, she had to.

A bag is like that most catholic of musical instruments, the comb. It is limited only by the human imagination. It is like the rainbow, without beginning or end, yet tempting one to find its beginning and its end. It is like poetry in the way it distends the fancy and like prose in the way it keeps the world concrete.

FEBRUARY, 1918

PETER SAT BY THE FIRE WARMING HIMSELF

BY JOSEPH H. ODELL

K

NEAR the middle of the third century, A.D., Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, wrote to his friend, Donatus,

This is a cheerful world as I see it from my fair garden, under the shadow of my vines. But if I could ascend some high mountain, and look out over the wide lands, you know very well what I should see: brigands on the highways, pirates on the seas, armies fighting, cities burning, in the amphitheatres men murdered to please applauding crowds, selfishness and cruelty and misery and despair under all roofs. It is a bad world, Donatus, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst

of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any of the pleasures of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people, Donatus, are the Christians - and I am one of them.

Perhaps it is not just to accept this charming letter as a full-length portrait of the famous North African bishop, for he met a martyr's death in the end, with the fortitude we like all true bishops to display. Yet, as a passing picture, we certainly have a glimpse of how a Christian may regard this gruesome world and come to accept the cloistered and sequestered calmness of other-worldliness as the most convincVOL. 121-NO. 2

ing of apologetics. Cyprian's letter might have been written by any one of thousands of American prelates, bishops, dignitaries, and eminent clergymen between August, 1914, and April, 1917, and its reproduction in any one of a hundred ecclesiastical periodicals would have called forth no comment. When it is remembered that even the senior Apostle, surnamed a 'Rock,' hugged the comfortable brazier while the world's greatest tragedy was climbing swiftly to its climax, those who are in the sacred 'succession' may claim a little leniency. But not too much; nineteen centuries of penitent meditation should surely have borne some fruit.

Thoughtful men and women are asking what became of the spiritual leaders of America during those thirty-two months when Europe and parts of Asia were passing through Gehenna. What prelate or bishop or ecclesiastical dignitary essayed the work of spiritual interpretation? What convocation or conference or assembly spoke so convincingly that the national conscience must perforce listen? What book from a clerical study gave the sanctities of humanity and the sanctions of law the foremost place in current thought? What voice from altar or pulpit liberated a passion of righteous indignation and set this continent aflame with holy

wrath? Not all the clergy of the world can be covered by Cardinal Mercier's magnificent heroism. None is absolved by the fact that the see of Canterbury failed as a spiritual primacy. The rank and file of American laymen have not formed the habit of depending upon their ecclesiastical grandparents and second cousins in Europe for spiritual or ethical guidance.

Doubtless it will be urged that the President of these United States had counseled strict neutrality in speech and thought. Even so, the very first question a vigilant spiritual leadership should have asked would concern the right to issue such a command. There may have been an international sense in which the Administration itself was bound to be scrupulously circumspect, but since when has diplomatic usage become binding upon the souls of the successors of Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Micah, John the Baptist, and Paul? Since when, and by whose authority, have prophets and apostles surrendered their spiritual function of interpretation into the keeping of rulers and cabinets? Has it not been ever the chief glory of the Christian ministry that its heights of grandeur and service were found in such independent souls as Thomas à Becket, Savonarola, Huss, Wycliffe, Knox, and John Robinson? The authority of the prophet is withdrawn when he sits on the steps of a throne or the porch of a White House, and becomes the echo of the civil power; or, at least, so history seems to teach.

The situation is not at all improved when the commonalty muses upon the fact that there has been a lofty and soul-moving exposition of the terrible drama which mankind is playing out, and that the spiritual teachers have been laymen. The history, philosophy, poetry, the parables in art, the personal narrative of physical and psychical

adventure, the dispassionate gathering and sifting of evidence, the bitter cry of pain over outraged sanctities, which have built up the present ethical and spiritual consciousness of America, came chiefly from men who never claimed to possess official supernatural discernment. The priesthood which has led us through darkness and doubt, confusion and amazement, has not been of the house of Aaron; that we have reached the place of righteousness, where our spirits may face a Holy God and live, has been an uncovenanted mercy. Into what deep morass or sterile wilderness or Arctic zone we might have wandered with no guidance at all cannot even be imagined; but we surrendered ourselves to Maeterlinck, Arnold Toynbee, Lord Bryce, Raemakers, Maurice Barrès, Alfred Noyes, Owen Wister, Donald Hankey, Masefield, H. G. Wells, J. M. Beck, Frank H. Simonds, Ian Hay Beith; and these, unmitred and unordained, in varying degree and by variant methods brought us to the truth.

In the meantime, while millions of individual Gethsemanes and Calvarys were merging into a real Armageddon, many, many comforting sermons were preached from American pulpits upon Isaiah xxx, 15. 'In returning and in rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength,' until George Adam Smith's exegesis of the passage broke down from old age and malnutrition and overwork.

Ordinary laymen, who have not been accustomed to the limpid simplicity of German Biblical criticism, theology, and philosophy, may be pardoned for failing to divine the temper and trend of Teutonic thought. But every minister knows that from the days of Ferdinand Christian Baur, founder of the Tübingen School, down to the latest word from P. W. Schmiedel, there has been a patient, indefatigable, and re

lentless effort to squeeze every possible trace of the supernatural from the Old and New Testaments. If the task had been undertaken by minions under an imperial fiat it could not have been performed more faithfully. By the time an American scholar has followed his course of training through Wellhausen, Harnack, Wendt, Pfleiderer, Ritschl, and a score of other German authorities, and has made his researches culminate in Von Hartmann and Ernst Haeckel, he has not enough of the supernatural left to run a tin toy, let alone a universe. And no one had any excuse for ignorance concerning the gigantic superman superstition of Nietzsche, Treitschke, and Bernhardi; it was described, discussed, dissected, and damned in all kinds of periodicals within six months of the breaking of the Belgian border. The inference is inevitable, that, when the leaders of a nation's life in theology and philosophy play skittles with every claim to Divine interest in the affairs of mankind, and reduce anything which goes beyond the precincts of the material to a subjective and subconscious phenomenon, they are not likely to base national conduct upon the immutable and eternal foundations of righteousness.

And we have the evidence that such has been the effect. During those awful thirty-two months of Belgium's Via Dolorosa, while our preachers were expounding the gospel of the lotus leaves, -'In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength,' — the German pastors were justifying a debauchery and barbarity which would have been considered immoral even in the days before a word of our Bible was scratched on papyrus. Here are a few of their unctuously impious messages delivered after some of the worst outrages of the war had been committed:

Pastor G. Graub: 'Our troops are assured of their mission; and they recognize

clearly, too, that the truest compassion lies in taking the sternest measures, in order to bring the war itself to an early close.'

Pastor W. Lehmann: 'We are beginning slowly, humbly, and yet with a deep gladness, to divine God's intentions. It may sound proud, my friends, but we are conscious that it is also in all humbleness that we say it: the German soul is God's; it shall and will rule over mankind.'

Pastor J. Rump: 'From all sides testimonies are flowing in as to the noble manner in which our troops conduct the war.'

Pastor H. Francke: Germany is precisely-who would venture to deny it?the representative of the highest morality, tened Christianity. He, therefore, who of the purest humanity, of the most chasfights for its maintenance, its victory, fights for the highest blessings of humanity itself, and for human progress. Its defeat, its decline, would mean a falling back to the worst barbarism.'

Pastor D. Baumgarten: 'We are not only compelled to accept the war that is forced upon us... but are even compelled to carry on this war with a cruelty, a ruthlessness, an employment of every imaginable device, unknown in any previous war. 'Whoever cannot prevail upon himself to approve from the bottom of his heart the sinking of the Lusitania-whoever cannot conquer his sense of the gigantic cruelty [ungeheure Grausamkeit] to unnumbered innocent victims and give himself up to honest delight at this victorious exploit of German defensive power-him we judge to be no true German.'

This pronouncement of the Christian Pastor Baumgarten was deemed worthy of re-publication in a series of pamphlets by notable professors of Berlin University.

'Stale and marked by scissors and paste!' Yes, that is why they are quoted here; they have been the round of the monthlies, weeklies, and dailies; they were sent to America by British scholars to offset the rampant German propaganda. Every clergyman who is not an intellectual mollusk has had a bowing acquaintance with them for a

« AnkstesnisTęsti »