February 5

It has been very much like a beautiful spring morning in Vermont. I wish that I were there to take a walk on the snow crust, but this at present cannot be; were relieved from picket about 1 p. m. by the One Hundred and Twenty-second Ohio Infantry. It is quite cloudy this evening and bids fair for a stormy day to-morrow; received a good letter from home this evening, and have reviewed part fourth in the second volume of tactics.

February Fifth

MAURY

The stars had secrets for him; seas
Revealed the depths their waves were screening;
The winds gave up their mysteries;
The tidal flows confessed their meaning.

Of ocean paths, the tangled clew
He taught the nations to unravel;
And showed the track where safely through
The lightning-footed thought might travel.
Margaret J. Preston

 

 

Friday, February 5th, Boulogne.—We did get in late last night, and got to bed at 1 a.m. They are unloading during the night again now, and also loading up at night.

One boy last night had lost his right hand; his left arm and leg were wounded, and both his eyes. "Yes, I've got more than my share," he said, "but I'll get over it all right." I didn't happen to answer for a minute, and in a changed voice he said, "Shan't I? shan't I?" Of course I assured him he'd get quite well, and that he was ticketed to go straight to an eye specialist. "Thank God for that," he said, as if the eye specialist had already cured him, but it is doubtful if any eye specialist will save his eyes.

To-day has been a record day of brilliant sun, blue sky and warm air, and it has transformed the muddy, sloppy, dingy Boulogne of the last two months into something more like Cornwall. We couldn't stop on the train (there were no orders likely), in spite of being tired, but went in the town in the morning, and on the long stone pier in the afternoon, and then to tea at the buffet at the Maritime (where you have tea with real milk and fresh butter, and jam not out of a tin, and a tablecloth, and a china cup—luxuries beyond description). On the pier there were gulls, and a sunny sort of salt wind and big waves breaking, and a glorious view of the steep little town piled up in layers above the harbour, which is packed with shipping.

February 5

February 5, 1853 (seven o'clock in the morning).--I am always astonished at the difference between one's inward mood of the evening and that of the morning. The passions which are dominant in the evening, in the morning leave the field free for the contemplative part of the soul. Our whole being, irritated and overstrung by the nervous excitement of the day, arrives in the evening at the culminating point of its human vitality; the same being, tranquilized by the calm of sleep, is in the morning nearer heaven. We should weigh a resolution in the two balances, and examine an idea under the two lights, if we wish to minimize the chances of error by taking the average of our daily oscillations. Our inner life describes regular curves, barometical curves, as it were, independent of the accidental disturbances which the storms of sentiment and passion may raise in us. Every soul has its climate, or rather, is a climate; it has, so to speak, its own meteorology in the general meteorology of the soul. Psychology, therefore, cannot be complete so long as the physiology of our planet is itself incomplete--that science to which we give nowadays the insufficient name of physics of the globe.

I became conscious this morning that what appears to us impossible is often an impossibility altogether subjective. Our mind, under the action of the passions, produces by a strange mirage gigantic obstacles, mountains or abysses, which stop us short. Breathe upon the passion and the phantasmagoria will vanish. This power of mirage, by which we are able to delude and fascinate ourselves, is a moral phenomenon worthy of attentive study. We make for ourselves, in truth, our own spiritual world monsters, chimeras, angels, we make objective what ferments in us. All is marvelous for the poet; all is divine for the saint; all is great for the hero; all is wretched, miserable, ugly, and bad for the base and sordid soul. The bad man creates around him a pandemonium, the artist, an Olympus, the elect soul, a paradise, which each of them sees for himself alone. We are all visionaries, and what we see is our soul in things. We reward ourselves and punish ourselves without knowing it, so that all appears to change when we change.

The soul is essentially active, and the activity of which we are conscious is but a part of our activity, and voluntary activity is but a part of our conscious activity. Here we have the basis of a whole psychology and system of morals. Man reproducing the world, surrounding himself with a nature which is the objective rendering of his spiritual nature, rewarding and punishing himself; the universe identical with the divine nature, and the nature of the perfect spirit only becoming understood according to the measure of our perfection; intuition the recompense of inward purity; science as the result of goodness; in short, a new phenomenology more complete and more moral, in which the total soul of things becomes spirit. This shall perhaps be my subject for my summer lectures. How much is contained in it! the whole domain of inner education, all that is mysterious in our life, the relation of nature to spirit, of God and all other beings to man, the repetition in miniature of the cosmogony, mythology, theology, and history of the universe, the evolution of mind, in a word the problem of problems into which I have often plunged but from which finite things, details, minutiae, have turned me back a thousand times. I return to the brink of the great abyss with the clear perception that here lies the problem of science, that to sound it is a duty, that God hides Himself only in light and love, that He calls upon us to become spirits, to possess ourselves and to possess Him in the measure of our strength and that it is our incredulity, our spiritual cowardice, which is our infirmity and weakness.

Dante, gazing into the three worlds with their divers heavens, saw under the form of an image what I would fain seize under a purer form. But he was a poet, and I shall only be a philosopher. The poet makes himself understood by human generations and by the crowd; the philosopher addresses himself only to a few rare minds. The day has broken. It brings with it dispersion of thought in action. I feel myself de-magnetized, pure clairvoyance gives place to study, and the ethereal depth of the heaven of contemplation vanishes before the glitter of finite things. Is it to be regretted? No. But it proves that the hours most apt for philosophical thought are those which precede the dawn.