Robert Bridges, ed. (18441930). The Spirit of Man: An Anthology. 1916.
From French Revolution
Thomas Carlyle (17951881)
OBSERVE,1 however, that of mans whole terrestrial possessions and attainments, unspeakably the noblest are his Symbols, divine or divine-seeming; under which he marches and fights, with victorious assurance, in this life-battle: what we can call his Realised Ideals. Of which realised Ideals, omitting the rest, consider only these two: his Church, or spiritual Guidance; his Kingship, or temporal one. The Church: what a word was there; richer than Golconda and the treasures of the world! In the heart of the remotest mountains rises the little Kirk; the Dead all slumbering round it, under their white memorial-stones, in hope of a happy resurrection: Dull wert thou, .. if never in any hour .. it spoke to thee things unspeakable, that went to thy souls soul. Strong was he that had a Church,what we can call a Church: he stood thereby, though in the center of Immensities in the conflux of Eternities, yet manlike towards God and man; the vague shoreless Universe had become a firm city for him, a dwelling which he knew. Such virtue was in Belief; in these words well spoken: I believe. Well might men prize their Credo, and raise stateliest Temples for it, and reverend Hierarchies, and give it the tithe of their substance; it was worth living for and dying for
But of those decadent ages in which no Ideal either grows or blossoms? when Belief and Loyalty have passed away, and only the cant and false echo of them remains; and all Solemnity has become Pageantry; and the Creed of persons in authority, an Imbecility or a Machiavelism? Alas, of these ages World-history can take no notice; they have to be compressed more and more, and finally suppressed in the Annals of Mankind; blotted out as spurious,which indeed they are. Hapless ages: wherein, if ever in any, it is an unhappiness to be born. To be born, and to learn only, by every tradition and example, that Gods Universe is Belials and a Lie; and the Supreme Quack the hierarch of men! In which mournfullest faith, nevertheless, do we not see whole generations .. live, what they call living; and vanish?
Note 1. Carlyle. French Revolution, I. pp. 12 and 14. In line 19 of extract the text from which this was copied has and dwelling, and in line 31 become compressed. Also in line 13 I have given a capital initial to dull. [back]