January 7

January 7, 1864

Thursday. Officer of the guard again and in camp as a natural consequence. The weather is quite mild. Rain keeps coming. It is the rainy season for this country, and we must put up with it. Lieutenant Ames is celebrating his full pockets. I am saving mine until I hear from my application and maybe then I'll celebrate.

Quite cold and disagreeable; got up about 10 a. m. feeling as well as could be expected after a hard day's march. The men had been to breakfast and were in fine spirits; were relating their experiences in the late engagement at Locust Grove. Banty—a little, jolly, duck-legged Frenchman—started for camp this forenoon for more rations and the mail, but after he had been gone about a half hour a man from Company E. came from camp with both. The weather has moderated and it is snowing this evening.

Athenæum Jan. 7, 1882

... I met three Ministers last night at dinner, and the impression is that Mr. Gladstone is remarkably well. But the Conservatism of London is something too excessive.

I met at the Russells', Maine, Monck, F. Leveson, and Reay. At the Athenæum, Hayward, H. Spencer, May; and there are much worse croakers than these.

It will be quite refreshing to spend Monday at Seacox, with a man[157 ] who is understood to be travelling towards the Ministry, and no longer away from them. It has been impossible to call in Downing Street; and I dare say your mother was rushing about. But I am to meet them, thanks to you as usual, at Lansdowne House this evening.

At the Museum, Poole gave me the papers to read that Mr. Gladstone spoke of.

[157 ] Mr. Goschen.

Thursday, January 7th.—We moved out of Boulogne about 4 a.m., and reached Merville (with many long waits) at 2 p.m. Loaded up there, and filled up at Hazebrouck on way back. Many cases of influenza with high temperatures, also rheumatisms and bad feet, very few wounded. When they got the khaki hankies they said, "Khaki? that's extra!"

9.30 p.m.—We have 318 on board this time, including four enterics, four diphtherias, and eighteen convalescent scarlets (who caught it from their billet). A quiet-looking little man has a very fine new German officer's helmet and sword. "He gave it to me," he said. "I had shot him through the lung. I did the wound up as best I could and tried to save him, but he died. He was coming for me with his sword." Seems funny to first shoot a man and then try to mop it up. The Germans don't; they finish you off.

An officer on the train told me how another officer and twenty-five men were told off to go and take a new trench which had been dug in the night. Instead of the few they expected they found it packed with Germans, all asleep. "It's not a pretty story," he said, "but you can't go first and tell them you're coming when you are outnumbered three to one." They had to bayonet every one of those sleeping Germans, and killed every one without losing a man.

All my half of the train had khaki hankies and sweets; they simply loved them. They are all, except the infectious cases, just out of the trenches, and such things make them absurdly happy; you would hardly believe it. I am keeping the writing-cases and bull's-eyes for the next lot. There were just enough mufflers to muffle the chilly necks of those who hadn't already got them.

The wet has outwetted itself all day—it must be a record flood everywhere. We shall not unload to-night, so I had better think about turning in, as I have the third watch at 4 a.m.

I found some lovely eau-de-Cologne and shampoo powders from R. among the mufflers, and a pet aluminium candlestick from G. Such things give a Sister on an A.T. absurd pleasure; you'd hardly believe it.

January Seventh

A WELL-KNOWN TYPE OF SOUTHERN MATRON BEFORE THE WAR

Full well she knew the seriousness of life. Over and over the cares and responsibilities of her station as the mother of so many children, the mistress of so many servants and the hostess of so many guests, had utterly overwhelmed her. * * * * * Into how many negro cabins had she not gone, when the night was far spent and the lamp of life flickered low in the breast of the dying slave! How often she ministered to him with her own hands! * * * * Nay, had she not knelt by his lowly bed and poured out her heart to God as his soul winged its flight, and closed his glazed and staring eyes as the day was dawning? Yet the morning meal found her at her accustomed seat, tranquil and helpful, and no one but her husband the wiser for her night's ministrations.

George W. Bagby

 

Fort Marion, Florida, seized by order of the Governor of Florida, 1861

 

 

January 7

January 7, 1866.--Our life is but a soap-bubble hanging from a reed; it is formed, expands to its full size, clothes itself with the loveliest colors of the prism, and even escapes at moments from the law of gravitation; but soon the black speck appears in it, and the globe of emerald and gold vanishes into space, leaving behind it nothing but a simple drop of turbid water. All the poets have made this comparison, it is so striking and so true. To appear, to shine, to disappear; to be born, to suffer, and to die; is it not the whole sum of life, for a butterfly, for a nation, for a star?

Time is but the measure of the difficulty of a conception. Pure thought has scarcely any need of time, since it perceives the two ends of an idea almost at the same moment. The thought of a planet can only be worked out by nature with labor and effort, but supreme intelligence sums up the whole in an instant. Time is then the successive dispersion of being, just as speech is the successive analysis of an intuition or of an act of will. In itself it is relative and negative, and disappears within the absolute being. God is outside time because he thinks all thought at once; Nature is within time, because she is only speech--the discursive unfolding of each thought contained within the infinite thought. But nature exhausts herself in this impossible task, for the analysis of the infinite is a contradiction. With limitless duration, boundless space, and number without end, Nature does at least what she can to translate into visible form the wealth of the creative formula. By the vastness of the abysses into which she penetrates, in the effort--the unsuccessful effort--to house and contain the eternal thought, we may measure the greatness of the divine mind. For as soon as this mind goes out of itself and seeks to explain itself, the effort at utterance heaps universe upon universe, during myriads of centuries, and still it is not expressed, and the great harangue must go on for ever and ever.

The East prefers immobility as the form of the Infinite: the West, movement. It is because the West is infected by the passion for details, and sets proud store by individual worth. Like a child upon whom a hundred thousand francs have been bestowed, he thinks she is multiplying her fortune by counting it out in pieces of twenty sous, or five centimes. Her passion for progress is in great part the product of an infatuation, which consists in forgetting the goal to be aimed at, and absorbing herself in the pride and delight of each tiny step, one after the other. Child that she is, she is even capable of confounding change with improvement--beginning over again, with growth in perfectness.

At the bottom of the modern man there is always a great thirst for self-forgetfulness, self-distraction; he has a secret horror of all which makes him feel his own littleness; the eternal, the infinite, perfection, therefore scare and terrify him. He wishes to approve himself, to admire and congratulate himself; and therefore he turns away from all those problems and abysses which might recall to him his own nothingness. This is what makes the real pettiness of so many of our great minds, and accounts for the lack of personal dignity among us--civilized parrots that we are--as compared with the Arab of the desert; or explains the growing frivolity of our masses, more and more educated, no doubt, but also more and more superficial in all their conceptions of happiness.

Here, then, is the service which Christianity--the oriental element in our culture--renders to us Westerns. It checks and counterbalances our natural tendency toward the passing, the finite, and the changeable, by fixing the mind upon the contemplation of eternal things, and by Platonizing our affections, which otherwise would have too little outlook upon the ideal world. Christianity leads us back from dispersion to concentration, from worldliness to self-recollection. It restores to our souls, fevered with a thousand sordid desires, nobleness, gravity, and calm. Just as sleep is a bath of refreshing for our actual life, so religion is a bath of refreshing for our immortal being. What is sacred has a purifying virtue; religious emotion crowns the brow with an aureole, and thrills the heart with an ineffable joy.

I think that the adversaries of religion as such deceive themselves as to the needs of the western man, and that the modern world will lose its balance as soon as it has passed over altogether to the crude doctrine of progress. We have always need of the infinite, the eternal, the absolute; and since science contents itself with what is relative, it necessarily leaves a void, which it is good for man to fill with contemplation, worship, and adoration. "Religion," said Bacon, "is the spice which is meant to keep life from corruption," and this is especially true to-day of religion taken in the Platonist and oriental sense. A capacity for self-recollection--for withdrawal from the outward to the inward--is in fact the condition of all noble and useful activity.

This return, indeed, to what is serious, divine, and sacred, is becoming more and more difficult, because of the growth of critical anxiety within the church itself, the increasing worldliness of religious preaching, and the universal agitation and disquiet of society. But such a return is more and more necessary. Without it there is no inner life, and the inner life is the only means whereby we may oppose a profitable resistance to circumstance. If the sailor did not carry with him his own temperature he could not go from the pole to the equator, and remain himself in spite of all. The man who has no refuge in himself, who lives, so to speak, in his front rooms, in the outer whirlwind of things and opinions, is not properly a personality at all; he is not distinct, free, original, a cause--in a word, some one. He is one of a crowd, a taxpayer, an elector, an anonymity, but not a man. He helps to make up the mass--to fill up the number of human consumers or producers; but he interests nobody but the economist and the statistician, who take the heap of sand as a whole into consideration, without troubling themselves about the uninteresting uniformity of the individual grains. The crowd counts only as a massive elementary force--why? because its constituent parts are individually insignificant: they are all like each other, and we add them up like the molecules of water in a river, gauging them by the fathom instead of appreciating them as individuals. Such men are reckoned and weighed merely as so many bodies: they have never been individualized by conscience, after the manner of souls.

He who floats with the current, who does not guide himself according to higher principles, who has no ideal, no convictions--such a man is a mere article of the world's furniture--a thing moved, instead of a living and moving being--an echo, not a voice. The man who has no inner life is the slave of his surroundings, as the barometer is the obedient servant of the air at rest, and the weathercock the humble servant of the air in motion.