« НазадПродовжити »
The great ocean itself, as it rolls and it swells,
In the bonds of a boundless obedience dwells.” The next section takes up the same theme under another heading, and with a fresh set of variations.
THE SERVICE OF FREEDOM.
St. MATTHEW xi. 29, 30. TT is in tones of winning promise and invitation that men
T are offered the wearing of Christ's yoke. Let all who are weary and heavy laden come to Him : come, that they may take His yoke upon them. There is a seeming paradox in the invitation. Should not the weary be invited by promised freedom from all yoke-bearing ? Should not the heavy-laden be attracted by a pledge of entire immunity from burdens grievous to be borne, whether heavy or light ? Not so. Christ's yoke is easy, but it is a yoke. The burden he imposes is light, but a burden of some sort He does impose. Being made free from sin, men become the servants—servitors, slaves even, dolor, of righteousness. But in so being made free from sin, and becoming servants, douloi, to God, they have their fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. And the yoke of privilege promised by Christ differs from the irksome bonds and rigid constraint of scribes and rabbis ; a yoke which, says St. Peter, neither we nor our fathers were able to bear, inasmuch as it implies and involves a purely spiritual service—that we should serve (dovletecv) in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." Keble says of men, in the “ Christian Year,” that,
"Freely they own, or heedless prove,
The curse of lawless hearts, the joy of self-control.” The joy of self-control. For what Wordsworth expressively calls “unchartered freedom," as revelled in by those who ignore a holy and happy-making law of duty, is not in the long run, a boon, but a bane. True, that, as Cowper has it,
“ 'Tis liberty alone that gives the flower
Is evil." But the constraint that sweetens liberty is excepted; the control that enfranchises from servitude to self, and exalts to a liberty which monarchs cannot grant : “'Tis liberty of heart, derived from Heaven," "and held by charter;" “a clean escape from tyrannizing lust.” “Grace makes the slave a freeman ;" for “He is the freeman whom the truth makes free, and all are slaves beside." Byron was drawing on his own bitter experience when he wrote the lines,
“Lord of himself—that heritage of woe,
That fearful empire which the human breast
But holds to rob the heart within of rest.” Imlac, the sage, describes, in “ Rasselas” the placid flow of life enjoyed by a devout brotherhood, whose “time is regularly distributed; one duty succeeds another, so that they are not left open to the distraction of unguided choice, nor lost in the shades of listless inactivity. There is a certain task to be performed at an appropriated hour,” and the constraint is to them a pledge of happiness, hallowed as it is with a Divine sanction, and promissory of “an ampler ether, a diviner air" to come, in which they shall breathe more freely, and inhale more deeply, the breath of life.
Freedom is not the being free to do nothing, or to do just what one likes, and when, and how, without why or wherefore, La liberté n'est pas oisiveté, says La Bruyère ; and then he proceeds to say what liberty is : “C'est le choix de travail et de l'exercice: être libre, en un mot, n'est pas ne rien faire, c'est être seul arbitre de ce qu'on fait, ou de ce qu'on ne fait point. Quel bien en ce sens que la liberté !" But how much worthier of that note of admiration the gospel definitions, explicit or implicit, of ce que c'est la liberté !
There is a touching suggestiveness in what Frederick Perthes says in a letter after the death of his wife. All his doings and plannings for four and twenty years past had been solely, he declares, in reference to her. “But now all this is over. I am no longer bound; I can do what I will, and next to the yearning after her, I am most oppressed in my solitude by the consciousness of freedom.” Fain would he be in those dear bonds again ; to apply a passage in one of Shakspeare's minor poems, he
“ In her fillet still would bide, And, true to bondage, would not break from thence.” Or as Ferdinand says of Miranda, in the “Tempest,"
"All corners else o' the earth Let liberty make use of; space enough Have I in such a prison."
In this sense may be applied in earnest what Butler writes in sport, of an independent spirit who
“Disdains control, and yet can be
Nowhere, but in a prison, free." So the sculptor in Hawthorne's tale of “Transformation," intent on winning winsome Hilda for his own, “would try if it were possible to take this shy, yet frank and innocently fearless creature captive, and imprison her in his heart, and make her sensible of a larger freedom there than in all the world besides.” “I have read somewhere," says a simple maiden in one of Lord Lytton's fictions, “ that the slave is gay in his holiday from toil; if you free him, the gaiety vanishes, and he cares no more for the dance under the palm-tree.” Don Alphonse, in Madame de Rémusat's “ Lettres Espagnoles," Dom Minhance in Madame da d a writes to his sister an account of the courtiers' embarrassment on being released by the king from ceremonial attendance, and allowed to do each one as he liked. “L'improvisation en tout est chose assez difficile, et particulièrement celle de la liberté. Il faut que je confesse que nous n'avons su que faire de la nôtre.” The moral of the fable may be read in Landor's lines, supposed to be indited by the caged nightingales so tenderly tended by Agapenthe, and brought to Athens for her from Thessaly, and who bid the reader think not
“ That we would gladly fly again
To gloomy wood or windy plain.
A sweeter thing than liberty.” Apply, again, to the general subject the special fact, by way of illustration, that restrictions and shackles are essential to rhythmic writing, and voluntary thraldom the natural condition of poetry. The Chevalier de la Faye, in his “ Apology" for the supposed difficulties of rhyme in our Cisalpine dialects (one Italian poet being “ distinguishable among his fellowcaptives by the light aërial nature of his fetters,”) suggests an ingenious parallel to the jets d'eau that ornament the gardens of the Tuileries, Versailles, and St. Cloud, in a copy of verses which have been thus Englished by Father Prout :
“From the rhyme's restrictive rigour
Thought derives its impulse oft,
Fancy springs and shoots aloft.
By pressure forced to climb :
In Reason's helpmate, Rhyme.” Pithy and pertinent too are Mr. Coventry Patmore's lines on those who
“Live by law, not like the fool,
And finds in them, not bonds, but wings."
They who so live are in every sense the happier, without an
“except these bonds,” but because of them. They find in them not bonds, but wings; and thenceforth have free course, and go on their way rejoicing. They, like the repentant rebels in Shakspeare's “King John," and by the same river metaphor,
“Leaving their rankness and irregular course,
And calmly run on in obedience.” What they are no longer free to do, is to do ill. And that freedom is as perfect servitude as the service of God is perfect
freedom. In fine, and in the words (but expanding the · meaning) of one of Samuel Butler's metrical reflections :
“Law does not put the least restraint
Upon our freedom, but maintain't ;
THE DISCREET SILENCE OF FOLLY.
PROVERBS xvii. 28. TT is written among the Proverbs of Solomon, that “ Even
I a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise.” Even the fool that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding. The wise king declares in another place, that a fool's mouth is his destruction, and that his lips are the snare of his soul. Let him keep his mouth closed, and his folly is an unknown quantity; out of sight, out of mind. Let him keep his lips shut, and wisdom shall be imputed unto him. Of him lookerson will say, a discreet man that. For they are only lookers-on, not listeners. To listen would break the spell. As it is, they are apt to count him as deep as he is still. Do not still waters run deep?
Sir Thomas Browne-himself a silent man, but no fool; quite the other way—bids us, in one of his stately sentences,