April 17

Weather fine and warm, but some windy with clouds; all quiet along the line to-day; have very poor quarters; has been very quiet in front; it's doubtless the calm which precedes the storm; have little doubt but what the army will move within the next week; beautiful, moonlight, calm evening; it seems ominous.

April 17, 1864

Sunday. Reinforcements having been coming in for some days. I set out this morning to look them over and see if the 128th was here. Sure enough, I found them about a half mile out on the Natchitoches road, feeling fine and ready for business. I staid all day with them, getting back in time for supper and to talk over the hard times we are having doing nothing.

April 17, 1863

Friday. Went to see Walt. I had a first-rate visit. He is about well. I did little but answer questions about what has been going on since we parted at Camp Chalmette, who is living and who have died and what sort of a place we are in. Found three letters for me when I came back.

Later. Marching orders with two days' cooked rations and 100 rounds of ammunition, blankets and overcoats. I am going, too, unless Dr. Andrus stops me. Must stop and write a letter before taps.

April 17

April 17, 1855.--The weather is still incredibly brilliant, warm, and clear. The day is full of the singing of birds, the night is full of stars, nature has become all kindness, and it is a kindness clothed upon with splendor.

For nearly two hours have I been lost in the contemplation of this magnificent spectacle. I felt myself in the temple of the infinite, in the presence of the worlds, God's guest in this vast nature. The stars wandering in the pale ether drew me far away from earth. What peace beyond the power of words, what dews of life eternal, they shed on the adoring soul! I felt the earth floating like a boat in this blue ocean. Such deep and tranquil delight nourishes the whole man, it purifies and ennobles. I surrendered myself, I was all gratitude and docility.

April Seventeenth

The scene [in the Virginia State Convention] is described as both solemn and affecting. One delegate, while speaking against the ordinance, broke down in incoherent sobs; another, who voted for it, wept like a child. The sentiment of the people had run ahead of their leaders.

S. C. Mitchell

 

It may be safely asserted that but for the adoption by the Federal Government of the policy of coercion towards the Cotton States, Virginia would not have seceded.... She simply in the hour of danger and sacrifice held faithful to the principles which she had ofttimes declared and which have ever found sturdy defenders in every part of the Republic.

Beverley B. Munford

 

Virginia secedes, 1861

 

 

April 17, 1843

I was in doubt concerning the Chena Poojah, but it appears that the hooks are fastened to a cord, which cuts into the body, and literally causes the blood to flow in streams. They say also that it is the victims themselves that pass the spears into their bodies, and not the priests.

THE COTTON-TREE.

I may here mention that my compound and garden formerly belonged to a General Carpenter, and he planted and sowed many very rare plants—some from China, from America, and from the islands in the Pacific. There are three trees of a very particular sort, of which I very much wish to know the name. They are generally called the cotton-tree, although altogether different from the ordinary cotton-plant, and I suspect they come from America. The tree is about thirty-five or forty feet in height, not many branches, and a very smooth bark. I cannot describe the leaf, for as yet it is not out; but it has borne flowers and fruit since I have been here; of course, therefore, these were before the leaves. The flower, of a brilliant red, is in appearance half-way between a tulip and a tiger-lily; it grows from buds in the thick branches, and is about twice the size of the latter flower. The blossom gives place to a pod about four or five inches in length, and in the form of a sphere drawn out at both ends. The interior of the pod is divided longitudinally into four segments: the whole contains a great number of black seeds buried in a soft silky cotton. I intend to stuff some pillows with it: I think it will be as soft as down. The fibres are said to be too short to form cloth; but I think if they had this tree in England they would manage to use it, and the cloth would resemble very soft silk.

April 17

April 17, 1860.--The cloud has lifted; I am better. I have been able to take my usual walk on the Treille; all the buds were opening and the young shoots were green on all the branches. The rippling of clear water, the merriment of birds, the young freshness of plants, and the noisy play of children, produce a strange effect upon an invalid. Or rather it was strange to me to be looking at such things with the eyes of a sick and dying man; it was my first introduction to a new phase of experience. There is a deep sadness in it. One feels one's self cut off from nature--outside her communion as it were. She is strength and joy and eternal health. "Room for the living," she cries to us; "do not come to darken my blue sky with your miseries; each has his turn: begone!" But to strengthen our own courage, we must say to ourselves, No; it is good for the world to see suffering and weakness; the sight adds zest to the joy of the happy and the careless, and is rich in warning for all who think. Life has been lent to us, and we owe it to our traveling companions to let them see what use we make of it to the end. We must show our brethren both how to live and how to die. These first summonses of illness have besides a divine value; they give us glimpses behind the scenes of life; they teach us something of its awful reality and its inevitable end. They teach us sympathy. They warn us to redeem the time while it is yet day. They awaken in us gratitude for the blessings which are still ours, and humility for the gifts which are in us. So that, evils though they seem, they are really an appeal to us from on high, a touch of God's fatherly scourge.

How frail a thing is health, and what a thin envelope protects our life against being swallowed up from without, or disorganized from within! A breath, and the boat springs a leak or founders; a nothing, and all is endangered; a passing cloud, and all is darkness! Life is indeed a flower which a morning withers and the beat of a passing wing breaks down; it is the widow's lamp, which the slightest blast of air extinguishes. In order to realize the poetry which clings to morning roses, one needs to have just escaped from the claws of that vulture which we call illness. The foundation and the heightening of all things is the graveyard. The only certainty in this world of vain agitations and endless anxieties, is the certainty of death, and that which is the foretaste and small change of death--pain.

As long as we turn our eyes away from this implacable reality, the tragedy of life remains hidden from us. As soon as we look at it face to face, the true proportions of everything reappear, and existence becomes solemn again. It is made clear to us that we have been frivolous and petulant, intractable and forgetful, and that we have been wrong.

We must die and give an account of our life: here in all its simplicity is the teaching of sickness! "Do with all diligence what you have to do; reconcile yourself with the law of the universe; think of your duty; prepare yourself for departure:" such is the cry of conscience and of reason.

April 17

April 17, 1867.--Awake, thou that sleepest, and rise from the dead.

What needs perpetually refreshing and renewing in me is my store of courage. By nature I am so easily disgusted with life, I fall a prey so readily to despair and pessimism.

"The happy man, as this century is able to produce him," according to Madame ----, is a Weltmüde, one who keeps a brave face before the world, and distracts himself as best he can from dwelling upon the thought which is hidden at his heart--a thought which has in it the sadness of death--the thought of the irreparable. The outward peace of such a man is but despair well masked; his gayety is the carelessness of a heart which has lost all its illusions, and has learned to acquiesce in an indefinite putting off of happiness. His wisdom is really acclimatization to sacrifice, his gentleness should be taken to mean privation patiently borne rather than resignation. In a word, he submits to an existence in which he feels no joy, and he cannot hide from himself that all the alleviations with which it is strewn cannot satisfy the soul. The thirst for the infinite is never appeased. God is wanting.

To win true peace, a man needs to feel himself directed, pardoned, and sustained by a supreme power, to feel himself in the right road, at the point where God would have him be--in order with God and the universe. This faith gives strength and calm. I have not got it. All that is, seems to me arbitrary and fortuitous. It may as well not be, as be. Nothing in my own circumstances seems to me providential. All appears to me left to my own responsibility, and it is this thought which disgusts me with the government of my own life. I longed to give myself up wholly to some great love, some noble end; I would willingly have lived and died for the ideal--that is to say, for a holy cause. But once the impossibility of this made clear to me, I have never since taken a serious interest in anything, and have, as it were, but amused myself with a destiny of which I was no longer the dupe.

Sybarite and dreamer, will you go on like this to the end--forever tossed backward and forward between duty and happiness, incapable of choice, of action? Is not life the test of our moral force, and all these inward waverings, are they not temptations of the soul?

September 6, 1867, Weissenstein. [Footnote: Weissenstein is a high point in the Jura, above Soleure.] (Ten o'clock in the morning ).--A marvelous view of blinding and bewildering beauty. Above a milky sea of cloud, flooded with morning light, the rolling waves of which are beating up against the base of the wooded steeps of the Weissenstein, the vast circle of the Alps soars to a sublime height. The eastern side of the horizon is drowned in the splendors of the rising mists; but from the Tödi westward, the whole chain floats pure and clear between the milky plain and the pale blue sky. The giant assembly is sitting in council above the valleys and the lakes still submerged in vapor. The Clariden, the Spannörter, the Titlis, then the Bernese colossi from the Wetterhorn to the Diablerets, then the peaks of Vaud, Valais, and Fribourg, and beyond these high chains the two kings of the Alps, Mont Blanc, of a pale pink, and the bluish point of Monte Rosa, peering out through a cleft in the Doldenhorn--such is the composition of the great snowy amphitheatre. The outline of the horizon takes all possible forms: needles, ridges, battlements, pyramids, obelisks, teeth, fangs, pincers, horns, cupolas; the mountain profile sinks, rises again, twists and sharpens itself in a thousand ways, but always so as to maintain an angular and serrated line. Only the inferior and secondary groups of mountains show any large curves or sweeping undulations of form. The Alps are more than an upheaval; they are a tearing and gashing of the earth's surface. Their granite peaks bite into the sky instead of caressing it. The Jura, on the contrary, spreads its broad back complacently under the blue dome of air.

Eleven o'clock.--The sea of vapor has risen and attacked the mountains, which for a long time overlooked it like so many huge reefs. For awhile it surged in vain over the lower slopes of the Alps. Then rolling back upon itself, it made a more successful onslaught upon the Jura, and now we are enveloped in its moving waves. The milky sea has become one vast cloud, which has swallowed up the plain and the mountains, observatory and observer. Within this cloud one may hear the sheep-bells ringing, and see the sunlight darting hither and thither. Strange and fanciful sight!

The Hanoverian pianist has gone; the family from Colmar has gone; a young girl and her brother have arrived. The girl is very pretty, and particularly dainty and elegant in all her ways; she seems to touch things only with the tips of her fingers; one compares her to an ermine, a gazelle. But at the same time she has no interests, does not know how to admire, and thinks of herself more than of anything else. This perhaps is a drawback inseparable from a beauty and a figure which attract all eyes. She is, besides, a townswoman to the core, and feels herself out of place in this great nature, which probably seems to her barbarous and ill-bred. At any rate she does not let it interfere with her in any way, and parades herself on the mountains with her little bonnet and her scarcely perceptible sunshade, as though she were on the boulevard. She belongs to that class of tourists so amusingly drawn by Töpffer. Character: naïve conceit. Country: France. Standard of life: fashion. Some cleverness but no sense of reality, no understanding of nature, no consciousness of the manifold diversities of the world and of the right of life to be what it is, and to follow its own way and not ours.

This ridiculous element in her is connected with the same national prejudice which holds France to be the center point of the world, and leads Frenchmen to neglect geography and languages. The ordinary French townsman is really deliciously stupid in spite of all his natural cleverness, for he understands nothing but himself. His pole, his axis, his center, his all is Paris--or even less--Parisian manners, the taste of the day, fashion. Thanks to this organized fetishism, we have millions of copies of one single original pattern; a whole people moving together like bobbins in the same machine, or the legs of a single corps d'armée. The result is wonderful but wearisome; wonderful in point of material strength, wearisome psychologically. A hundred thousand sheep are not more instructive than one sheep, but they furnish a hundred thousand times more wool, meat, and manure. This is all, you may say, that the shepherd--that is, the master--requires. Very well, but one can only maintain breeding-farms or monarchies on these principles. For a republic you must have men: it cannot get on without individualities.

Noon.--An exquisite effect. A great herd of cattle are running across the meadows under my window, which is just illuminated by a furtive ray of sunshine. The picture has a ghostly suddenness and brilliancy; it pierces the mists which close upon it, like the slide of a magic lantern.

What a pity I must leave this place now that everything is so bright!

* * * *

The calm sea says more to the thoughtful soul than the same sea in storm and tumult. But we need the understanding of eternal things and the sentiment of the infinite to be able to feel this. The divine state par excellence is that of silence and repose, because all speech and all action are in themselves limited and fugitive. Napoleon with his arms crossed over his breast is more expressive than the furious Hercules beating the air with his athlete's fists. People of passionate temperament never understand this. They are only sensitive to the energy of succession; they know nothing of the energy of condensation. They can only be impressed by acts and effects, by noise and effort. They have no instinct of contemplation, no sense of the pure cause, the fixed source of all movement, the principle of all effects, the center of all light, which does not need to spend itself in order to be sure of its own wealth, nor to throw itself into violent motion to be certain of its own power. The art of passion is sure to please, but it is not the highest art; it is true, indeed, that under the rule of democracy, the serener and calmer forms of art become more and more difficult; the turbulent herd no longer knows the gods.

* * * *

Minds accustomed to analysis never allow objections more than a half-value, because they appreciate the variable and relative elements which enter in.

* * * *

A well-governed mind learns in time to find pleasure in nothing but the true and the just.