April 11

Rested finely last night; weather fair; had a three hours' brigade drill this afternoon; proved more of a march than a drill; regiment very small owing to so many being on detached service, and on other details; men busy, too, on their log cabins in the new camp. Dick is with me to-night; think he prefers being where he isn't so much crowded as in his own quarters.

April Eleventh

Man is so constituted—the immutable laws of our being are such—that to stifle the sentiment and extinguish the hallowed memories of a people is to destroy their manhood.

General John B. Gordon

 

We had, I was satisfied, sacred principles to maintain and rights to defend for which we were in duty bound to do our best, even if we perished in the endeavor.

General Robert E. Lee

 

We must forevermore consecrate in our hearts our old battle flag of the Southern Cross—not now as a political symbol, but as the consecrated emblem of an heroic epoch. The people that forgets its heroic dead is already dying at the heart, and we believe we shall be truer and better citizens of the United States if we are true to our past.

Randolph H. McKim

 

 

April 11, 1864

Monday. We went ashore and put up our two tents as much out of the way as possible, and waited for things to settle down. Wounded men were all the time being brought in, some on stretchers and some on foot. General Ransom went past on a stretcher, with one knee bandaged and bloody. Right behind him walked a man with one arm gone, and who was joking with another who was carrying his cut-off arm in his hand. I got out among them to try and hear what had happened and what I heard was not altogether complimentary to General Banks. But it was Smith's men who were talking and some allowance must be made for that. They say it has all come of poor management on the part of General Banks. If Grant had been in command this would never have happened, from all of which I judge the Rebs have given them a dressing out and they are mad at General Banks about it.

A strong rear guard is all that keeps them from coming and finishing up the job. Lieutenant Bell has been out taking notes and upon a comparison, we have both the same story to tell. Everything is in a mixed-up condition. Everyone is full of trouble but the recruiting squad, and we have nothing to do but look on. The process of unraveling the tangle is very interesting to me, but so much suffering on every hand makes me sick, and I cannot help wondering if it pays.

Sunday Lectures

Sunday, 11.

The course of Sunday lectures at Horticultural Hall opened in January closes to-day. They have proved a brilliant success. Each speaker has attracted, besides the body of steady attendants, his personal friends, thus varying the audiences from Sunday to Sunday, and giving an example of varied teaching unprecedented in our time. The reports of these discourses, imperfect as they are, deserve preservation. They have relation to the drift of thinking in our New-England community especially, and are of historical importance. If not accepting all that has been spoken on this platform by the successive speakers, one may take a hearty interest in these adventures into the world of thought and duty; nor can any who have attended steadily from Sunday to Sunday question their serving a religious need of the time. The views of persons, distinguished as are most of the speakers, are not insignificant, since these are not among the least of the influences secretly, if not openly, moulding the manners and institutions of a community in which the thoughts and aims of the humblest individuals have weight, and the young are so eager to learn of their thoughtful elders.

When I recollect the ardor with which I sought the acquaintance of those whom I imagined had ideas to communicate, and my delight in such when found, I am led to think how very desirable were an institution to which young students might resort during such portion of the year as might be most convenient, to enjoy the fellowship of some of our most cultivated persons,—scholarships being provided for such as had not the means of defraying the necessary expenses,—thus enabling bright young men and women, whether college graduates or not, to complete what colleges do not give. Not every student comes into that intellectual sympathy with his professor, which renders instruction most enjoyable, yet without which the highest ends of culture are not attained. With a faculty composed of persons whose names a moment's thought will suggest, opportunities would be given for that sympathetic communion of mind with mind in which all living instruction and influence consist.

Sunday, April 11th.—This afternoon they shelled Beuvry (the village I went to with Marie Thérèse on Wednesday) and wounded eleven women and children; the advanced dressing station of No.— F.A. took them in. The promise to send us in one of the M.A.'s to "Harley Street" (the name of the first communication trench) has been taken back until things quiet down a little. There was an air battle just above us this evening,—a Taube sailing serenely along not very high, and not altering her course or going up one foot, for all the shells that promptly peppered the sky all round her. You hear a particular kind of bang and then gaze at the Taube; suddenly a shining ball of white smoke appears close to her, and uncurls itself in the sun against the blue of the sky. As it begins to uncurl you hear the explosion, and however much you admire the German's pluck, and hope he'll dodge them safely, you can't help hoping also that the next one will get him and that he'll come crashing down. Isn't it beastly? It was so near that the French were calling out excitedly, "Touché! Il descend," but he got away all right.

Another officer dangerously wounded was transferred to my ward to-day from the French hospital. He was feebly grappling with a Sevenpenny which he could neither hold nor read. "Anything to take my thoughts off that beastly war!" he said.

A small parcel of socks, cigs., and chocs, came to-day. Soon after, I found the road below was covered with exhausted trench stragglers resting on the kerb, the very men for the parcel. They had all that and one mouth-organ—wasn't it lucky? One Jock said, "That's the first time I've heard a woman speak English since I left Southampton six months ago!"

Gabrielle cooked a very nice supper for us to-night—which I dished up when we came in. It is much more fun camping out in our own little empty house than in the grand Château—but I didn't have time to look at nearly all the lovely engravings there.

Streams of columns have been passing all day; one gun-team had to turn back because one of the off horses jibbed and refused to go any farther.

Though it is past 11 p.m. the sounds outside are too interesting to go to sleep; the bangs are getting louder; those who viennent des tranches  are tramping down and transport waggons rattling up!

April 11

April 11, 1865.--I have been measuring and making a trial of the new gray plaid which is to take the place of my old mountain shawl. The old servant which has been my companion for ten years, and which recalls to me so many poetical and delightful memories, pleases me better than its brilliant successor, even though this last has been a present from a friendly hand. But can anything take the place of the past, and have not even the inanimate witnesses of our life voice and language for us? Glion, Villars, Albisbrunnen, the Righi, the Chamossaire, and a hundred other places, have left something of themselves behind them in the meshes of this woolen stuff which makes a part of my most intimate history. The shawl, besides, is the only chivalrous article of dress which is still left to the modern traveler, the only thing about him which may be useful to others than himself, and by means of which he may still do his devoir to fair women! How many times mine has served them for a cushion, a cloak, a shelter, on the damp grass of the Alps, on seats of hard rock, or in the sudden cool of the pinewood, during the walks, the rests, the readings, and the chats of mountain life! How many kindly smiles it has won for me! Even its blemishes are dear to me, for each darn and tear has its story, each scar is an armorial bearing. This tear was made by a hazel tree under Jaman--that by the buckle of a strap on the Frohnalp--that, again, by a bramble at Charnex; and each time fairy needles have repaired the injury.

"Mon vieux manteau, que je vous remercie Car c'est à vous que je dois ces plaisirs!"

And has it not been to me a friend in suffering, a companion in good and evil fortune? It reminds me of that centaur's tunic which could not be torn off without carrying away the flesh and blood of its wearer. I am unwilling to give it up; whatever gratitude for the past, and whatever piety toward my vanished youth is in me, seem to forbid it. The warp of this rag is woven out of Alpine joys, and its woof out of human affections. It also says to me in its own way:

"Pauvre bouquet, fleurs aujourd'hui fanées!"

And the appeal is one of those which move the heart, although profane ears neither hear it nor understand it.

What a stab there is in those words, thou hast been ! when the sense of them becomes absolutely clear to us. One feels one's self sinking gradually into one's grave, and the past tense sounds the knell of our illusions as to ourselves. What is past is past: gray hairs will never become black curls again; the forces, the gifts, the attractions of youth, have vanished with our young days.

"Plus d'amour; partant plus de joie."

How hard it is to grow old, when we have missed our life, when we have neither the crown of completed manhood nor of fatherhood! How sad it is to feel the mind declining before it has done its work, and the body growing weaker before it has seen itself renewed in those who might close our eyes and honor our name! The tragic solemnity of existence strikes us with terrible force, on that morning when we wake to find the mournful word too late ringing in our ears! "Too late, the sand is turned, the hour is past! Thy harvest is unreaped--too late! Thou hast been dreaming, forgetting, sleeping--so much the worse! Every man rewards or punishes himself. To whom or of whom wouldst thou complain?"--Alas!

April 11

April 11, 1868. (Mornex sur Salève ).--I left town in a great storm of wind, which was raising clouds of dust along the suburban roads, and two hours later I found myself safely installed among the mountains, just like last year. I think of staying a week here.... The sounds of the village are wafted to my open window, barkings of distant dogs, voices of women at the fountain, the songs of birds in the lower orchards. The green carpet of the plain is dappled by passing shadows thrown upon it by the clouds; the landscape has the charm of delicate tint and a sort of languid grace. Already I am full of a sense of well-being, I am tasting the joys of that contemplative state in which the soul, issuing from itself, becomes as it were the soul of a country or a landscape, and feels living within it a multitude of lives. Here is no more resistance, negation, blame; everything is affirmative; I feel myself in harmony with nature and with surroundings, of which I seem to myself the expression. The heart opens to the immensity of things. This is what I love! Nam mihires, non me rebus submittere conor. April 12, 1868. (Easter Day ), Mornex Eight A. M.--The day has opened solemnly and religiously. There is a tinkling of bells from the valley: even the fields seem to be breathing forth a canticle of praise. Humanity must have a worship, and, all things considered, is not the Christian worship the best among those which have existed on a large scale? The religion of sin, of repentance, and reconciliation--the religion of the new birth and of eternal life--is not a religion to be ashamed of. In spite of all the aberrations of fanaticism, all the superstitions of formalism, all the ugly superstructures of hypocrisy, all the fantastic puerilities of theology, the gospel has modified the world and consoled mankind. Christian humanity is not much better than pagan humanity, but it would be much worse without a religion, and without this religion. Every religion proposes an ideal and a model; the Christian ideal is sublime, and its model of a divine beauty. We may hold aloof from the churches, and yet bow ourselves before Jesus. We may be suspicious of the clergy, and refuse to have anything to do with catechisms, and yet love the Holy and the Just, who came to save and not to curse. Jesus will always supply us with the best criticism of Christianity, and when Christianity has passed away the religion of Jesus will in all probability survive. After Jesus as God we shall come back to faith in the God of Jesus.

Five o'clock P. M.--I have been for a long walk through Cézargues, Eseri, and the Yves woods, returning by the Pont du Loup. The weather was cold and gray. A great popular merrymaking of some sort, with its multitude of blouses, and its drums and fifes, has been going on riotously for an hour under my window. The crowd has sung a number of songs, drinking songs, ballads, romances, but all more or less heavy and ugly. The muse has never touched our country people, and the Swiss race is not graceful even in its gayety. A bear in high spirits--this is what one thinks of. The poetry it produces, too, is desperately vulgar and commonplace. Why? In the first place, because, in spite of the pretenses of our democratic philosophies, the classes whose backs are bent with manual labor are aesthetically inferior to the others. In the next place, because our old rustic peasant poetry is dead, and the peasant, when he tries to share the music or the poetry of the cultivated classes, only succeeds in caricaturing it, and not in copying it. Democracy, by laying it down that there is but one class for all men, has in fact done a wrong to everything that is not first-rate. As we can no longer without offense judge men according to a certain recognized order, we can only compare them to the best that exists, and then they naturally seem to us more mediocre, more ugly, more deformed than before. If the passion for equality potentially raises the average, it really degrades nineteen-twentieths of individuals below their former place. There is a progress in the domain of law and a falling back in the domain of art. And meanwhile the artists see multiplying before them their bête-noire, the bourgeois, the Philistine, the presumptuous ignoramus, the quack who plays at science, and the feather-brain who thinks himself the equal of the intelligent.

"Commonness will prevail," as De Candolle said in speaking of the graminaceous plants. The era of equality means the triumph of mediocrity. It is disappointing, but inevitable; for it is one of time's revenges. Humanity, after having organized itself on the basis of the dissimilarity of individuals, is now organizing itself on the basis of their similarity, and the one exclusive principle is about as true as the other. Art no doubt will lose, but justice will gain. Is not universal leveling-down the law of nature, and when all has been leveled will not all have been destroyed? So that the world is striving with all its force for the destruction of what it has itself brought forth. Life is the blind pursuit of its own negation; as has been said of the wicked, nature also works for her own disappointment, she labors at what she hates, she weaves her own shroud, and piles up the stones of her own tomb. God may well forgive us, for "we know not what to do."

Just as the sum of force is always identical in the material universe, and presents a spectacle not of diminution nor of augmentation but simply of constant metamorphosis, so it is not impossible that the sum of good is in reality always the same, and that therefore all progress on one side is compensated inversely on another side. If this were so we ought never to say that period or a people is absolutely and as a whole superior to another time or another people, but only that there is superiority in certain points. The great difference between man and man would, on these principles, consist in the art of transforming vitality into spirituality, and latent power into useful energy. The same difference would hold good between nation and nation, so that the object of the simultaneous or successive competition of mankind in history would be the extraction of the maximum of humanity from a given amount of animality. Education, morals, and politics would be only variations of the same art, the art of living--that is to say, of disengaging the pure form and subtlest essence of our individual being.