Page images

curiosity, or, as I afterwards saw, for its spoils. The ceremony over, the priests departed. The sexton, with little regard to its contents, gave the coffin into the hands of four of the children, and it was carried out into a side room. Here, with as much handling as if it had been a bale of goods, it was stripped of its black drapery and of various ornaments of lace, gilding, and artificial flowers. These were eagerly divided and carried off by the children, while the coffin, tossed aside upon some others that stood there, was left a shapeless rough box."

Padua, Oct. 13, 1858: "We here picked up a cicerone, and in a few hours saw all that is worth seeing of this once famous town. There is not much that I shall remember except a picture by Guido Reni of John in the Wilderness,' which impressed me very much. I have seen nothing of Guido's before that I liked. But this is just such a painting as I would like to have in my room, ever before me. The attitude is a wonderful combination of ease with energy. There is a youthful simplicity in the whole figure, which one sees well will grow into manly honor and dignity; and the countenance and eyes are all a-glow with a true boy's enthusiasm, which is to ripen naturally with age into prophetic inspiration. It was but a few moments that I looked upon this picture; but I shall see it all my life-time."

The life-story has been told- an uneventful story, and most inadequately told. Yet it is the best that can be gathered out of the obscurity that always

hangs over the deep things of the human spirit. Such a life as that of William James Potter yields no material for the romancer or the dramatist, and leaves its abiding record chiefly in the lives of others, lifted up to higher planes of thought and feeling and silently influenced to aim more steadily at the "beauty of holiness." Strength and vigor of moral character, loveliness of spirit, saintliness of life, undemonstrative yet tireless enthusiasm in the cause of soul-freedom and soul-fidelity, undaunted pursuit of pure truth in the face of myriad influences in society that tend to tarnish its purity and subordinate it to meaner ends, unbounded faith in the immanent and ever-active presence of the Divine in the human,—in a word, lifelong self-consecration to truth, righteousness, and love: these were the impressions of the man that were left on all who came within reach of his shy yet potent influence. To the few who were admitted into the sacred places of his companionship, veneration and affection contended for the mastery. Yet nothing could be less mystical or unreal than his participation in the commonest affairs of life. Greater than his purely speculative capacity was his rare soundness of judgment in all practical matters, in which he made fewer mistakes than almost any one that could be named. It was this quality that made his opinion weigh so much in his own city, even among hard-headed business men; they saw that he was wise in the things of the world, and this gave them an instinctive confidence that he was wise in things of a higher order. In times of trouble, when ordi

[ocr errors]

nary ambitions lose their hold even on the worldliest minds, a soothing and uplifting influence emanated from his words and manner, nay, even from his mere presence and aspect, which attached to him those who could by no means fathom the depths of his spirit. Little as he performed the ordinary offices of the conventional "pastor," he yet ministered to his people in a way that held them to him with "hooks of steel," and rendered him their helper, comforter, and friend. How sweet and gracious and consoling were his sympathies with their sorrows, they knew, if strangers knew not; and the reluctance with which the long pastorate was at last ended tells its own story in these days of swift and frequent change. Perhaps the secret of his power over their hearts is let out, in part, in a letter of his which may fitly close this sketch of his life, and show the beauty of its sunset.

41 MT. VERNON STREET, BOSTON, December 9, 1893.

MY DEAR FRIEND,- Shortly after you left me to-day, your letter was handed in. Though constrained to silence, we understand each other. Our hearts are linked together, in this experience of a common pain, by the chain of a wordless sympathy. Yet I believe I can assure you that it is a part of "the All-Love" in the nature of things to soften. gradually and tenderly the first sharp pangs of such pain, and that, too, without benumbing our sensibilities to the irreparable loss we have sustained. With the glorious memory of my wife shining

through the fourteen years since she left me, I find in the ties of work and affection that remain so much of satisfaction and joy, that I cannot now quite respond to your expression that "the happiest day that awaits either of us on this earth will be the day when we leave it forever." Yet I can perfectly understand how you, in these desolate days of a bereavement so fresh and poignant, should feel so. But, dear friend, may you live to understand also my present feeling, that life, with all the bereavements behind it, may still have a joy `and beauty which we shall not be eager to leave . . . . Yours most sincerely,



DECEMBER 26, 1893.

Forth went from his dear homestead's doors
The Reaper-Youth at morn,
To toil as toiled his ancestors,

And reap his field of corn.
All day he labored in the sun

And bore the heats of noon, Nor once forgot the task begun, Nor laid his sickle down.

Back to this dearer home returns
The Reaper-Man at night,
And love, exulting while it mourns,
Bends reverent at the sight.
He comes, alas, to reap no more,
But with a wealth of sheaves,
Where once the field he labored o'er,
He now his harvest leaves:

His harvest, not of yellow corn
Such as his fathers prized,
But souls to nobler issues born,
To holier lives baptized,-

Souls stirred to seek the lofty ends
Of freedom, wisdom, love,

And make their own the truth that blends
The Serpent and the Dove.

O prophet-preacher, wise and just,
Pure, gentle, tender, free!
Marble is dust and bronze is rust;
We build not these to thee.
Yet one memorial shall remain,
Long as the seasons roll:
Thy monument of growing grain,
Thy harvest of the soul!

F. E. A.

« PreviousContinue »