« ZurückWeiter »
those ruins which bear the names of Nero, Caracalla, and Hadrian. She enjoyed and improved herself much during her stay in the Eternal City. And there she proved that there
she showed herself to be altogether unspoiled by the many attentions and the great admiration which were offered her there. So did last winter pass with her, a season of improvement and great happiness. In the middle of April, she accompanied her parents to Naples. And she reached that city apparently in perfect health. She enjoyed, in her quiet, earnest way, the wonderful neighborhood around her, so beautiful in itself, so rich in the remains of the past, and of such singular interest, as being liable on any day to be blighted from Vesuvius. Just a week she had been at Naples, when suddenly her health failed. For three or four days she coughed incessantly. Soon she was confined to her chamber, and very soon by her physician her disease was pronounced to be mortal.
O the anguish of her parents, and the grief of many hearts on her account, both in Europe and America! But herself she was not troubled. During the whole time while her last days were passing, and while the weary nights of sickness were wearing away, she was calm, patient, and resigned, full of faith and immortal hope. Simple and unaffected in her manners, of a sweet temper and disinterested conduct, pure in heart, well educated as to her mind, and altogether uninjured by the admiration of which she had become the object, evidently she was possessed of a character of great goodness. But it was only as her life was ending, that she was known, even to her nearest friends, in all her worth. In the great dark trial, which had wrapped them all round, she was tenderly and unceasingly thoughtful for her parents ; and she sustained the spirits of her father and mother, being herself sustained from within.
The last Sunday before her health had begun to decline, being then at Naples, she joined with some friends, who
celebrated together the Lord's Supper. This was her first communion. Three days after this began her last illness. The last illness of this young believer, — the words of St. Paul are an exact comment on it,—“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory ?” Helen suffered much pain during the first part of her illness: and for several weeks, it was expected that every day would be her last. She did, as it were, die daily. But never for a moment or one word was she otherwise than patient in her sufferings and entirely submissive to the will of God.
At last came a day, which was the one before her last. On this day she heard or seemed to hear sweet music, and she asked, “ Do you not hear the music?” And who knows but she did hear it? Indeed, is it a thing unreasonable to suppose that possibly a spirit may have some perception of the next world, just at that very time when it is departing from this? And why should it be a thing incredible, that a soul should grow more sensitive as the flesh wears away, and should even hear the music of that world which always is round us, and which perhaps we all of us might sometimes know of, only that we live so much in our human clay, and so little in the pure and everlasting spirit ?
Helen breathed her last at half past eight o'clock, on the . morning of Sunday, July 25th. She looked upwards, and then, as though she saw into heaven, she exclaimed, “ How beautiful! how beautiful !” and these were her last words, “ How beautiful! how beautiful!” And so her spirit passed away, and onwards and upwards.
This frail nature of ours, so mortal, - woe, woe for it, only that it is immortal too. A death like that which is here recorded is a renewal of our faith. And with knowing of a soul over which death has no dominion, our own souls quicken within us, and are made to feel themselves, their unearthly affinities and their immortal instincts. Remarkably was Helen both the victim and the conqueror of death.
But yet — but yet, so young, so fair, so good, so much
beloved, so full of promise, and so suddenly summoned ! All cheerful and happy as it was, still there was in this death a something peculiarly sad, for those who were bereaved by it. A life so fair in its beginning, so hopeful in its future, and closed so suddenly! Still, when we think of the storms which often sweep this world after the brightest, clearest morning, can we be otherwise than thankful, when, safe from every peril, a soul has gained its entrance into our Father's house? And some of us, when we remember what in our younger days we had hoped to be, and what yet we have failed to show ourselves, cannot but feel that even in the earliness of the great summons there may be a high privilege, as well as some mystery of the Divine goodness. And indeed we may well suppose that among the angels almost it may be a subject of congratulation and great joy, when the heavens are entered by a soul which has lived long enough in this world to learn its lessons, and which has then been withdrawn from it, having known of sin almost only by the shadow which it makes.
The body of Helen was deposited in the Protestant cem. etery at Naples.
She was born while it was winter in New England, and she died in the midst of summer, in the land of the olive, the orange, and the vine. And now alive again, she sees the tree of life with its various fruits, and she walks in light among the nations of the saved, in that city which has no need of sun or moon. • And now let us trust that her surviving friends will be comforted in their bereavement, because they sorrow not as without hope. These lines have been inscribed on a stone in the cemetery. Let us join with the parents in their prayer :
* Fold her, O Father, in thine arms,
And let her henceforth be
W. M. Bagni di Lucca, August, 1858.
KNOWLEDGE OF CHARACTER.
It is impossible to have a knowledge of the character of others, without, in the first place, having a knowledge of our own character.
This is a common enough saying, and most likely true for that reason; but, like many another common, true saying, its deepest truth is seldom appreciated, while, as a matter of fact, it is most generally employed by persons whose knowl. edge of human nature is both poor and partial.
It is proposed to inquire how best we can come at a knowledge of character, and the inquiry is, it is presumed, not less important to practical men, than to men of thought, so called; for the basis of all business transactions is the qualities which we ascribe to those with whom we deal. Knowledge of men has come to mean the power which a man has to detect deception, or practise it, rather than the power which a man has for any purpose ; – the force of the man in the world, whether for good or evil. Lowell has said :
“ Each man is some man's servant ; every soul
Is by some other's presence quite discrowned.” By showing the poet to be true in this saying, it will appear that knowledge of men is to be acquired, not as a convenience, but as a duty, and that the grasping, selfish kind of knowledge of men which goes under that name is not, in the long run, even a convenience; that to acquire such knowledge is not a duty, will hardly be questioned.
The tendency of the mind to idealize is much stronger than is commonly supposed. The reason seems to lie in the fact, that there is a genius in every man, making him to differ from all other men. An entirely new combination of qualities necessarily results from the marriage of suitably opposed characters. The child partakes of the character of his parents, but has also a bent of his own, which the circumstances of his life, different in the case of every human soul, will, by the discipline which comes from opposition, develop into a decided genius.
The objection will be made, that, practically, a decided genius is rare; so rare, indeed, that, in the popular phrase, nothing stamps a man as uncommon more effectually than to say of him, he is a genius.
An answer to this objection will serve to establish more firmly the truth of the thought against which the objection is brought. The answer is, that, practically, very few men are at the pains to develop their genius.
It is easy to determine some general features of a man's character from his occupation, and the chief changes of his career. The manner in which success and disappointment are met has always been a test of character. But by most men the changes through which the current of their life passes are not sufficiently taken under conscious control. Introspection, with a view to determining one's work in life, is too rare. An external standard, determined, not by what we are, but by what we think we are, gives the measure of our effort. Judging from this standard, the different departments of labor acquire a value in our eyes which they do not really possess; we lose sight of their historical character, forgetting that they each had once a beginning in the necessities of man, and were erected into their present relations by the unhallowed ambition of men; the stages by which the chief honor in each department is to be reached, become objects for the exercise of our faith and devotion.
Guided by this standard, the life of the man, when once he has chosen his profession, is that of more and more intense absorbment in his chosen department, its cant and its interests, and, instead of being his school, his profession becomes his master.
On the other hand, suppose a man to take conscious control of his own genius, and, while he is led by it in every choice, (as, indeed, he would be in any case,) still to