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He had long been in the habit of 'lamenting' his birthday, though, in earlier days, Stella and other friends had celebrated the anniversary. Now it became a day of unmixed gloom, and the chapter in which Job curses the hour of his birth lay open all day on his table.
Sir Leslie Stephen, Swift, p. 198.
Sept. 6, 1879. Red Sea. I am in a very angry mood. I feel sure that, doing my best, I cannot get with credit out of this business; I feel it is want of faith, but I have brought it on myself, for I have prayed to God to humble me to the dust, and to visit all the sins of Egypt and the Soudan on my head; it would be little to say, take my life for theirs, for I do earnestly desire a speedy death.... Read the third chapter of Job, it expresses the bitterness of my heart at this moment.
Hippocrates after curing many diseases himself fell sick and died. The Chaldeans foretold the death of many, and then fate caught them too. Alexander and Pompey and Caesar, after so often completely destroying whole cities, and in battle cutting to pieces many thousands of cavalry and infantry, themselves too departed at last from life. Marcus Aurelius (iii. 3).
Luxury is indeed possible in the future innocent and exquisite; luxury for all, and by the help of all; but luxury at present can only be enjoyed by the ignorant; the cruelest man living could not sit at his feast, unless he sat blindfold. Raise the veil boldly; face the light; and if, as yet, the light of the eye can only be through tears, and the light of the body through sackcloth, go thou forth weeping, bearing precious seed, until the time come, and the kingdom, when Christ's gift of bread, and bequest of peace, shall be 'unto this last as unto thee'; and when, for earth's severed multitudes of the wicked and the weary, there shall be holier reconciliation than that of the narrow home, and calm economy, where the wicked cease not from trouble, but from troubling and the weary are at rest.
Ruskin, Unto this Last, § 85.
Lockhart narrates how Sir Walter Scott one day, at the sad end of his life, fell asleep in his chair among the pillows, and how, 'when he was awaking Laidlaw said to me "Sir Walter has had a little repose". "No, Willie," said he, "no repose for Sir Walter, but in the grave."'
Compare Charlotte Brontë's words after the death of her sister, Emily, in 1848: 'Some sad comfort I take, as I hear the wind blow and feel the cutting keenness of the frost, in knowing that the elements bring her no more suffering; this severity cannot reach her grave; her fever is quieted, her restlessness soothed; her deep, hollow cough is hushed for ever; we do not hear it in the night nor listen for it in the morning; we have not the conflict of the strangely strong spirit and the fragile frame before us relentless conflict once seen, never to be forgotten. A dreary calm reigns round us, in the midst of which we seek resignation.' 'Youth,' says somebody, 'is a garland of roses.' I did not find it such. 'Age is a crown of thorns.' Neither is this altogether true for me. If sadness and sorrow tend to loosen us from life, they make the place of rest desirable.
'I don't pity anybody who leaves the world,' Thackeray once wrote to Mrs. Brookfield; 'not even a fair young girl in her prime.... On her journey, if it pleases God to send her, depend on it there's no cause for grief, that's but an earthly condition. Out of our stormy life, and brought near the Divine light and warmth, there must be a serene climate. Can't you fancy sailing into the calm?'
References. III. 17. Archbishop Bourne, Sermons Preached in Westminster Abbey, p. 152. A. K. H. Boyd, Counsel and Comfort Spoken from a City Pulpit, p. 128.
Compare Jowett's sentences on Charles Dickens ( Miscellaneous Sermons, pp. 274-75): 'And so we bid him "farewell" once more, and return to our daily occupations. He has passed into the state of being, in which, we may believe, human souls are drawn to one another by nearer ties, and the envious lines of demarcation which separate them here are broken down. And, if we could conceive that other world, we might perhaps imagine him still at home, rejoicing to have a place at that banquet to which the poor and the friendless, the halt and the lame, are specially invited. "The small and the great are there, and the servant is free from his master;" "there the prisoners rest together, they hear not the voice of the oppressor"; "there the weary are at rest".'
We cannot die just when we wish it and because we wish it.... Nature compels us to live on, even with broken hearts as with lopped-off members.
Epictetus (i. 9) depicts pessimists coming to him with the plaint: 'Epictetus, we can no longer endure being bound to this poor body.... Are we not in a sense kinsmen of God, and did we not come from Him? Let us depart to the place whence we came. Here there are robbers and thieves and courts of justice, and those who are named tyrants, and who think they have some power over us thanks to the body and its possessions.... And I,' says Epictetus, 'would reply, "Friends, wait for God: when He gives the signal to release you from this service, then go to Him; but for the present endure to dwell in the place where He has put you".'
Most people's downfalls are not dangerous; they are like children who have not far to fall, and cannot injure themselves; but when a great nature is dashed down, he is bound to fall from a height. He must have been raised almost to the skies; he has caught glimpses of some heaven beyond his reach. Vehement must the storms be which compel a soul to seek peace from the trigger of a pistol.
Balzac in La Peau de Chagrin, chap. 1.
This pathetic inquiry rises from all parts of the globe, from millions of human souls, to that heaven from whence the light proceeds. From the young, full of eager aspirations after virtue and glory; with the glance of a falcon to descry the high-placed aim, but ah! the wing of a wren to reach it! The young enthusiast must often weep.... The old! O their sighs are deeper still! They attempt to unroll their charts for the use of their children, and their children's children. They feed the dark lantern of wisdom with the oil of experience, and hold it aloft over the declivity up which these youths are blundering in vain.
The hardest moment in my present sad life is the morning, when I must wake up and* begin the dreary world again. I can sleep during the night, and I sleep as long as I can; but when it is no longer possible, when the light can no longer be gainsaid, and life is going on everywhere, then I too rise up to bear my burden. How different it used to be. When I was a girl I remember the feeling I had when the fresh morning light came round. Whatever grief there had been the night before, the new day triumphed over it. Things must be better than one thought, must be well, in a world which woke up to that new light, to the sweet dews and sweet air which renewed one's soul. Now I am thankful for the night and darkness, and shudder to see the light and the day returning.
From Mrs. Oliphant's Autobiography, for 1894.
Fair prospects wed happily with fair times; but alas! if times be not fair! Men have oftener suffered from the mockery of a place too smiling for their reason than from the oppression of surroundings over-sadly tinged.
The incline was the same down which D'Urberville had driven with her so wildly on that day in June. Tess went up the remainder of its length without stopping, and on reaching the edge of the escarpment gazed over the familiar green world beyond, now half-veiled in mist. It was always beautiful from here; it was terribly beautiful to Tess today, for since her eyes last fell on it, she had learnt that the serpent hisses where the sweet birds sing, and her views of life had been totally changed for her by the lesson. She could not bear to look forward into the Vale.
Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles.
References. III. 23. R. J. Campbell, A Faith for Today, p. 79. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlvi. No. 2666. IV. A. W. Momerie, Defects of Modern Christianity, p. 93.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Job 3". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
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