July 22

The Tenth Vermont has been train guard to-day; marched reasonably; are in camp east of Difficult Creek for the night. Yesterday a boy soldier was shot down in cold blood by a guerilla within sight of the ambulance corps; only heard of it to-day.

July Twenty-Second

In the darksome depths of the fathomless mine
My tireless arm doth play,
Where the rocks never saw the sun's decline,
Or the dawn of the glorious day.
·······
I blow the bellows, I forge the steel,
In all the shops of trade;
I hammer the ore and turn the wheel
Where my arms of strength are made;
I manage the furnace, the mill, the mint,
I carry, I spin, I weave,
And all my doings I put in print
On every Saturday eve.
George W. Cutter
(The Song of Steam )

 

 

July 22, 1863

Wednesday. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday all passed without a thing happening worth recording. Except the regular detail for guard duty there has been little going on except sleeping and eating. It seems as if I would never get sleep enough, now that there is no excitement to keep me awake.

P. M. Have just received a Pine Plains paper which says John Van Alstyne was killed at the Gettysburg fight. Dear me, what will father and mother do now? George Wilson of the same company and regiment is reported wounded. I have seen another paper giving the list of killed and wounded in the regiment and John's name was not in the list. On this peg I hang my hopes of a contradiction of this sad piece of news, and shall feel very anxious until I know the truth. John Thorn, who deserted before we left Hudson, reached us to-day. He says he gave himself up, but more likely some one gave him up, as they ought to. He has missed some hard knocks, and some fun, but he will get his share of each from this on.

July 22

July 22, 1870 (Bellalpe ).--The sky, which was misty and overcast this morning, has become perfectly blue again, and the giants of the Valais are bathed in tranquil light.

Whence this solemn melancholy which oppresses and pursues me? I have just read a series of scientific books (Bronn on the "Laws of Palaeontology," Karl Ritter on the "Law of Geographical Forms"). Are they the cause of this depression? or is it the majesty of this immense landscape, the splendor of this setting sun, which brings the tears to my eyes?

"Créature d'un jour qui t'agites une heure,"

what weighs upon thee--I know it well--is the sense of thine utter nothingness!... The names of great men hover before my eyes like a secret reproach, and this grand impassive nature tells me that to-morrow I shall have disappeared, butterfly that I am, without having lived. Or perhaps it is the breath of eternal things which stirs in me the shudder of Job. What is man--this weed which a sunbeam withers? What is our life in the infinite abyss? I feel a sort of sacred terror, not only for myself, but for my race, for all that is mortal. Like Buddha, I feel the great wheel turning--the wheel of universal illusion--and the dumb stupor which enwraps me is full of anguish. Isis lilts the corner of her veil, and he who perceives the great mystery beneath is struck with giddiness. I can scarcely breathe. It seems to me that I am hanging by a thread above the fathomless abyss of destiny. Is this the Infinite face to face, an intuition of the last great death?

"Créature d'un jour qui t'agites une heure, Ton âme est immortelle et tes pleurs vont finir."

Finir? When depths of ineffable desire are opening in the heart, as vast, as yawning as the immensity which surrounds us? Genius, self-devotion, love--all these cravings quicken into life and torture me at once. Like the shipwrecked sailor about to sink under the waves, I am conscious of a mad clinging to life, and at the same time of a rush of despair and repentance, which forces from me a cry for pardon. And then all this hidden agony dissolves in wearied submission. "Resign yourself to the inevitable! Shroud away out of sight the flattering delusions of youth! Live and die in the shade! Like the insects humming in the darkness, offer up your evening prayer. Be content to fade out of life without a murmur whenever the Master of life shall breathe upon your tiny flame! It is out of myriads of unknown lives that every clod of earth is built up. The infusoria do not count until they are millions upon millions. Accept your nothingness." Amen!

But there is no peace except in order, in law. Am I in order? Alas, no! My changeable and restless nature will torment me to the end. I shall never see plainly what I ought to do. The love of the better will have stood between me and the good. Yearning for the ideal will have lost me reality. Vague aspiration and undefined desire will have been enough to make my talents useless, and to neutralize my powers. Unproductive nature that I am, tortured by the belief that production was required of me, may not my very remorse be a mistake and a superfluity?

Scherer's phrase comes back to me, "We must accept ourselves as we are."

Sleep and Dreams

Thursday, 22.

"When sleep hath closed our eyes the mind sees well,

For Fate by daylight is invisible."

Things admirable for the admirable hours. The morning for thought, the afternoon for recreation, the evening for company, the night for rest. Having drank of immortality all night, the genius enters eagerly upon the day's task, impatient of any impertinences jogging the full glass. The best comes when we are at our best; and who so buoyant as to be always rider of the wave? Sleep, and see; wake, and report the nocturnal spectacle. Sleep, like travel, enriches, refreshes, by varying the day's perspective, showing us the night side of the globe we traverse day by day. We make transits too swift for our wakeful senses to follow; pass from solar to lunar consciousness in a twinkling, lapse from forehead and face to occupy our lower parts, and recover, as far as permitted, the keys of genesis and of the foreworlds. "All truth," says Porphyry, "is latent; but this the soul sometimes beholds when she is a little liberated by sleep from the employments of the body. And sometimes she extends her sight, but never perfectly reaches the objects of her vision. Hence, when she beholds, she does not see it with a free and direct light, but through an intervening veil, which the folds of darkening nature draw over her eye. This veil, when in sleep it admits the light to extend as far as truth, is said to be of horn, whose nature is such, from its tenuity, that it is pervious to the light. But when it dulls the sight and repels its vision of truth, it is said to be of ivory, which is a body so naturally dense, that, however thin it may be scraped, it cannot be penetrated by the visual rays."

Homer says,—

"Our dreams descend from Jove."

That is, from the seat of intellect, and declare their import when our will sleeps. Then are they of weighty and reliable import, yet require the like suppression of our will to make plain their significance. Only so is the oracle made reliable. The good alone dream divinely. Our dreams are characteristic of our waking thoughts and states; we are never out of character; never quite another, even when fancy seeks to metamorphose us entirely. The Person is One in all the manifold phases of the Many through which we transmigrate, and we find ourself perpetually, because we cannot lose ourself personally in the mazes of the many. 'Tis the one soul in manifold shapes, ever the old friend of the mirror in other face, old and new, yet one in endless revolution and metamorphosis, suggesting a common relationship of forms at their base, with divergent types as these range wider and farther from their central archetype, including all concrete forms in nature, each returning into other, and departing therefrom in endless revolution.14

"I catch myself philosophizing most eloquently," wrote Thoreau, "when first returning to consciousness in the night or morning. I make the truest observations and distinctions then when the will is yet wholly asleep, and mind works like a machine without friction. I was conscious of having in my sleep transcended the limits of the individual, and made observations and carried on conversations which in my waking hours I can neither recall nor appreciate. As if, in sleep, our individual fell into the infinite mind, and at the moment of awakening we found ourselves on the confines of the latter. On awakening, we resume our enterprise, take up our bodies, and become limited minds again. We meet and converse with those bodies which we have previously animated. There is a moment in the dawn when the darkness of the night is dissipated, and before the exhalations of the day begin to rise, when we see all things more truly than at any other time. The light is more trustworthy, since our senses are pure and the atmosphere is less gross. By afternoon, all objects are seen in mirage."

All men are spiritualists in finer or coarser manners, as temperament and teaching dictate and determine,—the spiritual world revealing itself accordingly. Speculation has in all ages delighted itself in this preternatural realm from whence have risen the ghosts of realties too unsubstantial and fugitive for ordinary senses to apprehend. Whatever the facts, they receive interpretation according to the spirit and intelligence of the believer. The past is full of such prodigies and phenomena, for whose solution all learning, sacred and profane, is revived in its turn. It appears that like opinions have their rounds to run, like theories with their disciples, reappearing in all great crises of thought, and reaching a fuller solution at each succeeding period. A faith, were such possible, destitute of an element of preternaturalism, or of mysticism, pure or mixed, could not gain general acceptance. Some hold on the invisible connects the known with unknown, yet leaving the copula to be divined. We define it on our lips when we pronounce the word Person, and so approach, as near as we may, to the "I Am" of things.

Unseen our spirits move, are such,

So eager they to clasp, they feel, they touch

While yet our bodies linger, cannot speed

The distance that divides, confines their need.

14. The seeming miracle and mystery of the mesmeric, or clairvoyant vivacity, is best explained by conceiving the instreaming force of the operator driving the magnetic current from cerebrum to the cerebellum of his victim, and there, while under the pressure, reporting the operator's sensations and thoughts through the common brain of both. And this view is confirmed by the further fact that under this dominating force the domain of memory is the more deeply searched, and things revealed which, separate and alone, left unaided by such agencies, neither could have divined. It is like one's adding a double brain to his own, and subsidizing it the while to serve his particular ends.