Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

which, in terms quite unusual for him, and which seemed as if the shadow of coming events were passing over his mind, he spoke of himself as “an old man who had nothing but his lips left for contributing to the public good.” Nothing but his lips left! Ah, my friends, what lips those were! If ever since, the days of the infant Plato, of whom the story is told, if ever since that age of cunning fable and of deep philosophy with which he was so familiar, the Attic bees have lighted upon any human lips, and left their persuasive honey there without a particle of their sting, it must have been on those of our lamented friend. What lips they were ! And what have they not accomplished since they were first opened in mature, articulate speech ! What worthy topic have they not illustrated! What good and noble cause have they not advocated and adorned! On what occasion of honor to the living or to the dead, at what commemoration of the glorious past, — in what exigency of the momentous present, --- have those lips ever been mute? From what call of duty or of friendship, of charity or of patriotism, have they ever been withheld ?

Turn to those three noble volumes of his works, and follow him in that splendid series of Orations which they contain, from the earliest at Cambridge, in which he pronounced that thrilling welcome to Lafayette a little more than forty years ago, down to that on the 4th of July, 1858, which he concluded by saying, that in the course of nature he should go to his grave before long, and he wished no other epitaph to be placed upon it than this: “ Through evil report and through good report he loved his whole country:” — Follow him, I say, in his whole career as unfolded in those noble volumes, the best manual of American Eloquence, - and then take up the record of those other Orations and Addresses which are still to be included in his collected works, the record of the last few years, as it is impressed upon the minds and hearts of every patriot in our land, with all its grand appeals for Mount Vernon and the memory of Washington, for the sufferers of East Tennesee, for the preservation of the Union, for the defence of the country against rebellion and treason, for the support of the National Administration agreeably to his own honest convictions of duty: Follow him, I say

again, along the radiant pathway of that whole career, illuminated as it is from his earliest manhood to the last week of his life by the sparkling productions of his own genius, and then tell me, you who can, what cause of education or literature, what cause of art or industry, what cause of science or history, what, cause of religion or charity, what cause of philanthropy or patriotism, has not been a debtor — a debtor beyond the power of payment, and now, alas! beyond the power of acknowledgment— to his voice or to his pen! Who has ever more fairly won the title of “the golden-mouthed,” since the sainted Chrysostom of old, than he who, by the music of his voice and the magic of his tongue, has so often coined his thoughts into eagles and turned his words into ingots, at one moment for the redemption of the consecrated home and grave of the Father of his Country, and at another for the relief of an oppressed and suffering people!

And who, my friends, as he reviews this marvellous career, can fail to remember how singularly applicable to him, in view of his earliest as well as of his later callings, are those words in which the immortal dramatist has described the curious felicity and facility of speech, and the extraordinary versatility of powers, of one of the great princes and sovereigns of England:

Hear him but reason in divinity,
And, all-admiring, with an inward wish
You would desire the king were made a prelate:
Hear him debate of commonwealth affairs,
You'd say, it hath been all-in-all his study :
List his discourse of war, and you shall hear
A fearful battle rendered you in music:
Turn him to any cause of policy,
The Gordian knot of it he will unloose,
Familiar as his garter; that when he speaks,
The air, a chartered libertine, is still,
And the mute wonder lurketh in men's ears,
To steal his sweet and honeyed sentences.”

It is hardly too much to say of him that he established a new standard of American eloquence, that he was the founder of a new school of occasional oratory, of which he was at once the acknowledged master and the best pupil, and in which we were all proud to sit at his feet as disciples. Would that we had been

better scholars! Would that, now that he has been snatched so suddenly from our sight, and as we follow him to the skies with our parting acclamations of admiration and affection, we could feel that there were some shoulders not wholly unworthy to wear, not altogether incapable of sustaining, his falling mantle!

I need not dwell for a moment, my friends, upon the details of his official life. We all remember his earlier and his later relations to the University to which he was so ardently attached, and which has ever counted him among its proudest ornaments. We all remember how long and how faithfully he served the State and the Nation in their highest departments at home and abroad. But public office was not necessary to his fame, and he never held his title to consideration at the precarious tenure of public favor or popular suffrage. Office gave no distinction to the man; but the man gave a new distinction and a new dignity to every office which he held. Everywhere he was the consummate scholar, the brilliant orator, the Christian gentleman, greater, even, as a private citizen than in the highest station to which he ever was or ever could have been called.

I need not dwell for a moment, either, my friends, upon the purity and beauty of his daily life, upon his devotion to his family, his fidelity to his friends, his integrity as a man, his untiring willingness and eagerness to do kind and obliging things for all who, reasonably or unreasonably, asked them at his hands, at any cost of time or trouble to himself. I can never fail, certainly, to remember his countless acts of kindness to myself during a friendship of thirty years. I do not forget that at least once in my life I have differed from him on important questions, and that recently; but I can honestly say that there was no living man from whom I differed with a deeper regret, or with a greater distrust of my own judgment. Nor can I fail to remember with inexpressible joy at this hour, that within a week, I had almost said within a day, after that difference was avowed and acted upon, he reciprocated most kindly and most cordially an assurance, that our old relations of friendship and affection should suffer no estrangement or interruption, and that we would never distrust each other's sincerity or each other's mutual regard. “I am not afraid,” he wrote me," that we shall give

[ocr errors]

each other cause of offence; and we will not let others put us at variance.”

Fellow-citizens: I knew not how to commence these imperfect and desultory remarks, and I know not how to close them. There is, I am sensible, much to console us in our bereavement, severe and sudden as it is. We may well rejoice and be grateful to God, that our illustrious and beloved friend was the subject of no lingering illness or infirmity, that he was permitted to die while in the full possession of his powers, while at the very zenith of his fame, and while he had a hold on the hearts of his countrymen such as even he had never before enjoyed. We may well rejoice, too, that his voice was last heard in advocating a measure of signal humanity which appealed to every heart throughout the land, and that he lived to see of the fruit of his lips and to be satisfied. I hold in my hand one of his last notes, – written on Thursday evening to our munificent and excellent fellow-citizen, Mr. William Gray, and which, in his own necessary and regretted absence, he has kindly permitted me to read : -

“ SUMMER STREET, 12 Jan. 1865. “MY DEAR MR. GRAY :-I am greatly obliged to you for sending me word of the success of the Savannah subscription. What a large-hearted, open-handed place we live in! It is on these occasions that I break the tenth commandment, and covet the wealth of you millionnaires. I have been in bed almost ever since Monday, having narrowly escaped an attack of pneumonia. I had been in the courthouse all the morning, and had to return to it for three hours in the afternoon to attend to a harassing arbitration case, and left Faneuil Hall with my extremities ice, and my lungs on fire. But in such a cause one is willing to suffer.

“Ever sincerely yours,

“EDWARD EVERETT."

This little note, my friends, in his own unmistakable and inimitable hand, written within two days of his death, shows clearly what thoughts were uppermost in that noble heart, before it so suddenly ceased to beat. In such a cause he was willing to suffer. In such a cause he was not unwilling to die.

But whatever consolatiuu may be found in the circumstances of his death, or in the occupation of his last years, or months, or days, we still cannot but feel that no heavier public calamity could at this moment, if at any moment, have befallen our community. We cannot but feel that not Boston only, not Massachusetts only, not New England only, but our whole country, is called to deplore the loss of its most accomplished scholar, its most brilliant orator, its most valuable citizen. More and more, as the days and the years roll on, will that loss be perceived and felt by all who have known, admired, and loved him. The public proceedings of this day, the sad ceremonials of to-morrow, will find their place on the page of history. All the customary tributes of respect and gratitude to our lamented friend will at no distant day be completed. We shall hang his portrait on these hallowed walls in fit companionship with the patriot forms which already adorn them. We shall place a statue of him, in due time, I trust, on yonder terrace, not far from that of his illustrious and everhonored friend.

But neither portrait nor statue, nor funeral pomp, nor public eulogy, will have done for his memory, what he has done for it himself. The name and the fame of Edward Everett will in no way more surely be perpetuated than by the want which will be experienced, by the aching void which will be felt, on all our occasions of commemoration, on al] our days of jubilee, on every literary anniversary, at every festive board, in every appeal for education, for charity, for country, in every hour of peril, in every hour of triumph, from the loss of that everready, ever-welcome voice, which has so long been accustomed to say the best, the most appropriate, the most effective word, in the best, the most appropriate, the most effective manner. For nearly half a century no public occasion has ever seemed complete without his presence. By a thousand conspicuous acts of public service, by a thousand nameless labors of love, for young and old, for rich and poor, for friends and for strangers, he has rendered himself necessary so far as any one human being ever can be necessary to the welfare and the honor of the community in which he lived. I can find no words for the oppression I feel, in common, I am sure, with all who hear me, at the idea that we shall see his face and hear his voice no more. As I looked on his lifeless form a few hours only after his spirit had returned to God who gave it, as I saw those lips which we had so often hung upon with rapture, motionless and sealed in death,--and as I reflected that all those marvellous acquisitions and gifts, that matchless memory, that exquisite diction, that

« ZurückWeiter »