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of her sorrow and despair was gradually transmuted into an
And it is not as if her case were solitary. It was very far from being so. The name is legion of those maimed and suffering people who, "like the wounded oyster, mend their shell with pearl." It often seems as if the energy needful for the supply of any functional part of a man's nature were dammed up in him by the ruin of that part, so that, unless it can be diverted into some other channel, where it will strike some other wheel and set other machinery in motion, it must spread itself abroad with ruinous desolation, either converting into vast malarious pools wide reaches of the mind and heart or hopelessly denuding them of all fair and fruit
ful earth. But the energy that is thwarted can be diverted and economized for noble ends. The thwarted energy of sight can be transmuted into quicker hearing and into nicer touch. And the principle holds good with every part. There are men who never know the strength of their reserves of aptitude and skill, of manual or intellectual ability, till they are pressed back upon them by the bayonet points of some calamity that seems about to overwhelm them, but, on the contrary, is the sign by which they conquer gloriously. A lingering convalescence sets a man to reading books that turn his thoughts to natural history, and he becomes one of the first naturalists of Europe. Within ten minutes after his eyes had been put out, by the discharge close to them of his. father's gun, Henry Fawcett had determined that the political career on which he had resolved should not be forfeited by the untoward circumstance; and his resolve was kept. And it is difficult to imagine how, with every sense complete, his political career could have been more successful than it actu ally was; while, in political economy, without eyesight, he perceived great laws and principles which many now, as then, cannot or will not see. Who does not know that it was Francis Huber's ruined sight that determined the beeline of his lifelong study and investigation into the nature and the habits of the little creatures that he could no longer see. Forced into a narrower channel, the struggling river gets more deep and clear. With a man's life it is not otherwise than so. I doubt not that a thousand instances could be discovered, which would be exponental of ten thousand more, of lives shaped by the blows of adverse circumstance into instruments of higher good than they would otherwise have accomplished. Where would be Milton's "song to generations," if his political ambition had been realized? Where Dante's glorious trilogy, if Florence had not thrust him out? Did not the music of a deaf Beethoven have to be of a more penetrating sweetness, that his soul might hear it? Jesus, when asked, "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" answered, "Neither this man nor his parents,
but that the glory of God might be revealed in him." Now, we know well enough that the physical defect of children is oftentimes the product of parental sin. But we also know that, be that as it may, the glory of God is frequently revealed by such defect, and no less the glory of man, in that such defect summons the unfortunate to completer self-control, self-possession, and self-consecration. It were foolish to pretend to any preference for a maimed and thwarted to a complete and sovereign life. But we can be sincerely glad that it is possible for men to convert the energy of their maimed and thwarted powers into the energy of others that are entirely sound; or, if this form of statement is objectionable, the energy of their disappointment and despair into an energy of resolve and patience and persistency that shall accomplish more with the five talents left to them than they might have acomplished with the ten of which at first they seemed to be secure.
But maimed and thwarted powers are not the only circumstances in man's average lot that produce an energy of conscious misery and loss which is capable of transmutation into an energy of self-development and social use. Ever beautiful to me is the story of Richard Cobden's visit to John Bright, when the latter's wife was lying dead and the heart of the great Commoner was shattered by the dreadful blow. "There are thousands of homes in England,” Cobden said, "that are full of sorrow, if different from yours, still very hard to bear, because of unjust laws which protect a few, while they impoverish many. When the first bitterness of your grief is past, you will come to me, and we will give ourselves no rest until these unjust laws have been repealed." And Bright responded to these words of generous invitation, and the thing was done. The wicked Corn Laws were repealed; and the industrialism of England immediately rallied from the depression which the disease of governmental interference, raging for centuries, had produced. It is not as if for every suffering heart, made sorrowful by the loss of some dear relative or friend, there were always some great cause
at hand, like that to which Cobden and Bright consecrated their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. But for every suffering heart there is at hand, or can be found, some noble task into the energy necessary for the doing of which it can transmute the energy of its grief and pain. For one it shall be the daily honorable strife for maintenance or competence; for another it shall be the steady household care or the endeavor to make good to those remaining at least a part of the fidelity and wisdom that have been withdrawn; or some high work of literature or art; or some enterprise of social good; or some enthusiasm of political reform. And let no one imagine that by such conversion of the energy of grief into the energy of labor and beneficence we wrong our dead, we make more sure that swift forgetfulness of the departed which is more tragical than death itself. The sorrow that can be cured so easily must be a very superficial wound. To consecrate a sorrow is not to forget it, is not to lose its sacred presence with us, its sublime companionship, the solemn radiance of its majestic face. When Mahomet was questioned by a follower what monument he should devise for his departed mother, the prophet answered, "Dig her a well in the desert." If the advice was taken, the mother was not on this account forgotten sooner than she might otherwise have been. There is never any lack of
deserts in the wide stretch of human life between the mountainous boundaries of birth and death, wherein, if he will, a man of sorrows may dig a well, so husbanding the energy of his sorrow, to the end that weary, faint, and thirsty travellers may find a moment of refreshment there, a thought of human providential care.
"What shall I do with all the days and hours
That must be counted ere I see thy face?
Between this time and that sweet time of grace?
"I'll tell thee: for thy sake I will lay hold
Of all good aims, and consecrate to thee,
"So may this darksome time build up in me
And thoughts of thee an influence divine."
This is the true economy of grief. There is none other that is so high and good. And, whatever be the occasion of our sorrow, there is always ready for our refuge and defence this law of transmutation, this possibility of converting the energy of our sorrow into an energy of use and good. There is one book in my library which I have occasion frequently to take in hand. No duller book was ever made, and yet I always find a poem in it as I turn the arid leaves. It is Cruden's Biblical Concordance, the result of task-work which the man imposed upon himself when tortured by "the pangs of despised love," and threatened with the loss of reason by the violence of his grief. A very modest instance, but it is an illustration of the law. Savonarola furnishes another. The energy of hopeless passion has been a thousand and ten thousand times converted into the energy of public spirit, of political sagacity, of triumphant music, poetry, and art. Men learn in suffering what they teach in song. The torrents, which, if not diverted, would have scoured men's lives bare of all pleasant verdure and all fruitful soil, have been so economized that barren places-thanks to their fertilizing streams have laughed for joyousness of flower and fruit. As with the energy of passionate sorrow and of hopeless love, so with the energy of disappointment and despair, when darling schemes have come to nought, when through the stupidity or dishonesty of others, or some lack of foresight or persistence in ourselves, the plans which seemed to promise. great success and happiness fall flatter than a house of cards.
"The mill-wheel of the human heart
Is ever going round:
If it has nothing else to grind,
It must itself be ground."
And how often does it grind itself away in useless dust, or