Die when you may, you will not wear
At heaven's court a form more fair
Than beauty at your birth has given;
Keep but the lips, the eyes we see,
The voice we hear, and you will be
An angel ready-made for heaven.
THE MOLLY O'MOLLY PAPERS.
Better than wealth, better than hosts of friends, better than genius, is a mind that finds enjoyment in little things—that sucks honey from the blossom of the weed as well as from the rose—that is not too dainty to enjoy coarse, everyday fare. I am thankful that, though not born under a lucky star, I wasn't born under a melancholy one; that, though there were at my christening no kind fairies to bestow on me all the blessings of life—there was no malignant elf to 'mingle a curse with every blessing.' I'd rather have a few drops of pure sweet than an overflowing cup tinctured with bitterness.
Not that sorrow has never blown her chill breath on my spirit—yet it has never been so iced over that it would not here and there bubble forth with a song of gladness.... There are depths of woe that I have never fathomed, or rather, to which I have never sunken—for there are no line and plummet to sound the dreary depths—yet the waves have overwhelmed me, as every human being, but I soon rose above them.
'One by one thy griefs shall meet thee,
Do not fear an armed band;
One shall fade as others greet thee—
Shadows passing through the land.'
I have found this true—I know there are some to whom it is not true—that, though sorrows come not to them 'in battalions,' the shadow of the one huge Grief is ever on their path, or on their heart; that at their down-sittings and their up-risings it is with them, even darkening to them the night, and making them almost curse the sunshine; for it is ever between them and it—not a mere shadow, nor yet a substance, but a vacuum of light, casting also a shadow. Neither substance nor shadow, it must be a phantom—it may be of a dead sin—and against such, exorcism avails. I opine this exorcism lies in no cabalistic words, no crossing of the forehead, no holy name, in nothing that one can do unto or for himself, but in entire self-forgetfulness—in doing for, in sympathizing with, others. So shall this Grief step aside from your path, get away from between you and the sunshine, till finally it shall have vanished.
I know—not, however, by experience—that a great sorrow-berg, with base planted in the under-current of a man's being, has been borne at a fearful rate, right up against all his nobly-built hopes and projects, making a complete wreck of them. May God help him then! But must his being ever after be like the lonely Polar Sea on which no bark was ever launched?
But surely we have troubles enough without borrowing from the future or the past, as we constantly do. It is often said, it is a good thing that we can't look into the future. One would think that that mysterious future, on which we are the next moment to enter, in which we are to live our everyday life—one would think it a store-house of evils. Do you expect no good—are there for you no treasures there?
How often life has been likened to a journey, a pilgrimage, with its deserts to cross, its mountains to climb!... The road to—— Lake, distant from my home some eight or ten miles, partly lies through a mountain pass. You drive a few miles—and a beautiful drive it is, with its pines and hemlocks, their dark foliage contrasting with the blue sky—on either hand high mountains; now at your left, then at your right, and again at your left runs now swiftly over stones, now lingering in hollows, making good fishing-places, a creek, that has come many glad miles on its way to the river. But how are you to get over that mountain just before you? Your horse can't draw you up its rocky, perpendicular front! Never mind, drive along—there, the mountain is behind you—the road has wound around it. Thus it is with many a mountain difficulty in our way, we never have it to climb. There is now and then one, though, that we do have to climb, and we can't be drawn or carried up by a faithful nag, but our weary feet must toil up its steep and rugged side. But many a pilgrim before us has climbed it, and we will not faint on the way. 'What man has done, man may do.' ... Yet, till I have found out to a certainty, I never will be sure that the mountain that seemingly blocks up my way, has not a path winding round it.
Then the past.... Some one says we are happier our whole life for having spent one pleasant day. Keats says: 'A thing of beauty is a joy forever.' I believe this: to me the least enjoyment has been like a grain of musk dropped into my being, sending its odor into all my after-life—it may be that centuries hence it will not have lost its fragrance. Who knows?
But sorrows—they should, like bitter medicines, be washed down with sweet; we should get the taste of them out of our mouth as soon as possible.
We are as apt to borrow trouble from the might-have-beens of our past life as from any thing else. We mourn over the chances we've missed—the happiness that eel-like has slipped through our fingers. This is folly; for generally there are so many ifs in the way, that nearly all the might-have-beens turn into couldn't-have-beens. Even if they do not, it is well for us when we don't know them.... The object of our weary search glides past us like Gabriel past Evangeline, so near, did we only know it: happy is it for us if we do not, like her, too late learn it; for
'Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these—it might have been!'
So sad are they, that they would be a suitable refrain to the song of a lost spirit.
Well, I might have been ——, but am ——
If one wishes to know how barren one's life is of events, the best way is to try to keep a journal. I tried it in my boarding-school days. With a few exceptions, the record of one day's outer life was sufficient for the week; the rest might have been written ditto, ditto. Even then, the events were so trifling that, like entries in a ledger, they might have been classed as sundries. How I tried to get up thoughts and feelings to make out a decent day's chronicle! How I threw in profound remarks on what I had read, sketches of character, caricatures of the teachers, even condescending to give the bill of fare; here, too, there might have been a great many dittos. Had I kept a record of my dream-life, what a variety there would have been! what extravagances, exceeded by nothing out of the Arabian Nights' Entertainments. Then, if I could have illuminated each day's page with my own fancy portrait of myself, the Book of Beauty would not have been a circumstance to my journal. Certainly, among these portraits would not have been that plain, snub-nosed daguerreotype, sealed and directed to a dear home friend; but to the dear home friend no picture in the Book of Beauty or my fancy journal would have had such charms; and if the daguerreotype would not have illuminated this journal, it was itself illuminated by the light of a mother's love. Alas! this light never more can rest on and