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Piercing to the foundation of all truth - I think we may find the truth concerning self-dependence, which is only real and only valuable when its root is not in self at all; when its strength is drawn not from man, but from that Higher and Diviner Source whence every individual soul proceeds, and to which alone it is accountable. As soon as any woman, old or young, once feels thot, not as a vague sentimental belief, but as a tangible, practical law of life, all weakness ends, all doubt departs; she recognizes the glory, honor, and beauty of her existence; she is no longer afraid of its pains; she desires not to shift one atom of its responsibilities to another. She is content to take it just as it is, from the hands of the AllFather; her only care being so to fulfil it, that, while the world at large may recognize and profit by her self-dependence, she herself, knowing that the utmost strength lies in the deepest humility, recognizes, solely and above all, her dependence upon God.
Would that, instead of educating our young girls with the notion that they are to be wives, or nothing, - matrons, with an acknowledged position and duties, or with no position and duties at all, we could instil into them the principle that, above and before all, they are to be women — women, whose character is of their own making, and whose lot lies in their own hands. Not through any foolish independence of mankind, or adventurous misogamy: let people prate as they will, the woman was never born yet who would not cheerfully and proudly give herself and her whole destiny into a worthy hand, at the right time, and under fitting circumstances, that is, when her whole heart and conscience accompanied and sanctified the gift. But marriage ought always to be a question not of necessity, but choice. Every girl ought to be taught that a hasty, loveless union, stamps upon her as foul dishonor, as one of those connections which omit the legal ceremony altogether; and that, however pale, dreary, and toilsome a single life may be, unhappy married life must be tenfold worse, - an ever-haunting temptation, an incurable regret, a torment from which there is no escape but death. There is many a bridal-chamber over which ought to be placed no other inscription than that well-known one over the gate of Dante's hell:
“Lasciate ogni speranza voi chi entrate."
God forbid that any woman, in whose heart is any sense of real marriage, with all its sanctity, beauty, and glory, should ever be driven to enter such an accursed door!
A finished life - a life which has made the best of all the materials granted to it, and through which, be its web dark or bright, its pattern clear or clouded, can now be traced plainly the hand of the Great Designer,— surely, this is worth living for ? And though at its end it may be somewhat lonely; though a servant's and not a daughter's arm may guide the failing step; though most likely it will be strangers only who come about the dying-bed, close the eyes that no husband ever kissed, and draw the shroud kindly over the poor withered breast where no child's head has ever lain ; still, such a life is not to be pitied, for it is a completed life. It has fulfilled its appointed course, and returns to the Giver of all breath, pure as He gave it. Nor will He forget it when He counteth up His jewels.
On earth, too, for as much and as long as the happy dead, to whom all things have long been made equal, need remembering, such a life will not have been lived in vain :
“Only the memory of the just
EXTRACT FROM “QUEEN'S GARDENS." Ruskin. “Prince of Peace." Note that name. When kings rule in that name, and nobles, and the judges of the earth, they also, in their narrow place and mortal measure, receive the power of it. There are no other rulers than they: other rule than theirs is but misrule ; they who govern verily “ Dei gratiâ ” are all princes, yes, or princesses, of peace. There is not a war in the world, no, nor an injustice, but you women are answerable for it; not in that you have provoked, but in that you have not hindered. Men, by their nature, are prone to fight; they will fight for any cause, or for none. It is for you to choose their cause for them, and to forbid them when there is no cause. There is no suffering, no injustice, no misery in the earth, but the guilt of it lies lastly with you. Men can bear the sight of it, but you should not he able to bear it. Men may tread it down without sympathy in their own struggle ; but men are feeble in sympathy and contracted in hope: it is you only who can feel the depths of pain, and conceive the way of its healing. Instead of trying to do this, you turn away from it; you shut yourselves within your park-walls and garden-gates; and you are content to know that there is beyond them a whole world in wilderness -- a world of
secrets which you dare not penetrate; and of suffering which you dare not conceive.
I tell you that this is to me quite the most amazing among the phenomena of humanity. I am surprised at no depths to which, when once warped from its honor, that humanity can be degraded. I do not wonder at the miser's death, with his hands, as they relax, dropping gold. I do not wonder at the sensualist's life, with the shroud wrapped about his feet. I do not wonder at the singlehanded murder of a single victim, done by the assassin in the darkness of the railway, or reed-shadow of the marsh. I do not even wonder at the myriad-handed murder of multitudes, done boastfully. in the daylight, by the frenzy of nations, and the immeasurable, unimaginable guilt, heaped up from hell to heaven, of their priests and kings. But this is wonderful to me -oh, how wonderful! to see the tender and delicate woman among you, with her child at her breast, and a power, if she would wield it, over it, and over its father, purer than the air of heaven, and stronger than the seas of earth — nay, a magnitude of blessing which her husband would not part with for all the earth itself, though it were made of one entire and perfect chrysolite: - to see her abdicate this majesty to play at precedence with her next-door neighbor! This is wonderful, oh, wonderful! to see her, with every innocent feeling fresh within her, go out in the morning into her garden to play with the fringes of its guarded flowers, and lift their heads when they are drooping, with her happy smile upon her face, and no cloud upon her brow, because there is a little wall around her place of peace; and yet she knows, in her heart, if she would only look for its knowledge, that outside of that little rose-covered wall, the wild grass, to the horizon, is torn up by the agony of men, and beat level by the drift of their life-blood.
Have you ever considered what a deep under-meaning there lies, or, at least, may be read, if we choose, in our custom of strewing flowers before those whom we think most happy? Do you suppose it is merely to deceive them into the hope that happiness is always to fall thus in showers at their feet?-that, wherever they pass they will tread on herbs of sweet scent, and that the rough ground will be made smooth for them by depth of roses ? So surely as they believe that, they will have, instead, to walk on bitter herbs and thorns; and the only softness to their feet will be of snow. But it is not thus intended they should believe; there is a better meaning in that old custom. The path of a good woman is indeed strewwith flowers; but they rise behind her steps, not before then
• Her feet have touched the meadows, and left the daisies rosy." You think that only a lover's fancy ; — false and vain ! How if it be true? You think this also, perhaps, only a poet’s fancy
“ Even the light harebell raised its head,
Elastic from her airy tread.” But it is little to say of a woman, that she only does not destroy where she passes. She should revive ; the harebells should bloom, not stoop, as she passes. You think I am going into wild hyperbole? Pardon me, not a whit,- I mean what I say in calm English, spoken in resolute truth. You have heard it said -(and I believe there is more than fancy in that saying, but let it pass for a fanciful one) — that flowers only flourish rightly in the garden of some one who loves them. I know you would like that to be true; you would think it a pleasant magic if you could flush your flowers into brighter bloom by a kind look upon them; nay, more, if your look had the power, not only to cheer but to guard them,
if you could hid the black blight turn away, and tho knotted caterpillar spare,– if you could bid the dew fall upon them in the drought, and say to the south wind, in the frost,—“Come, thou south, and breathe upon my garden, that the spices of it may flow out.” This you would think a great thing? And do you think it not a greater thing, that all this (and how much more than this !) you can do for fairer flowers than these, flowers that could bless you for having blessed them, and will love you for having loved them ;- flowers that have eyes like yours; which, once saved, you can save forever? Is this only a little power? Far among the moorlands and the rocks, — far in the darkness of the horrible streets, — these feeble flowrets are lying, with all their fresh leaves torn, and their stems broken ;-will you never go down to them, nor set them in order in their little fragrant beds, nor fence them in their shuddering from the fierce wind ? Shall morning follow morning, for you, but not for them; and the dawn rise to watch, far away, those frantic Dances of Death ; but no dawn rise to breathe upon those living banks of wild violets, and woodbine, and rose; nor call to you, through your casement,call, (not giving you the name of the English poet's lady, but the name of Dante's great Matilda, who, on the edge of happy Lethe, stood, wreathing flowers with flowers,) saying:
“Come into the garden, Maud,
And the musk of the roses blown.”
things, whose new courage, sprung from the earth with the deep color of heaven upon it, is starting up in strength of goodly spire; and whose purity, washed from the dust, is opening bud by bud, into the flowers of promise - and still they turn to you, and for you, “ The Larkspur listens - I hear, I hear! And the Lily whispers — I wait.”
Did you notice that I missed two lines when I read you that first stanza ; and think that I had forgotten them? Hear them
“ Come into the garden, Maud,
I am here at the gate, alone.” Who is it, think you, who stands at the gate of this sweeter garden, alone, waiting for you? Did you ever hear, not of a Maude, but a Madeleine, who went down to her garden in the dawn, and found One waiting at the gate, whom she supposed to be the gardener ? Have you not sought him often; sought Him in vain through the night; — sought Him in vain at the gate of that old garden where the fiery sword is set? He is never there; but at the gate of this garden He is waiting always — waiting to take your hand — ready to go down to see the fruits of the valley, to see whether the vine has flourished, and the pomegranate budded. There you shall see with Him the little tendrils of the vines that His hand is guiding,– there you shall see the pomegranate springing where His hand cast the sanguine seed; — more, you shall see the troops of the angelkeepers, that, with their wings, wave away the hungry birds from the pathsides where He has sown, and call to each other between the vineyard rows. Take we the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes.” Oh, you queens – you queens! among the hills and happy greenwood of this land of yours, shall the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; and, in your cities, shall the stones cry out against you, that they are the only pillows where the Son of Man can lay His head?