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AMONG the multitude of books which find their way to the light of my study fire there comes, at long intervals, one which searches my own consciousness to the depths and on the instant compels my recognition of that rare creation, a true work of art. The indefinable atmosphere, the incommunicable touch, of perfection are about and upon it, and one is suddenly conscious of a new and everlasting possession for the race. Such a book lies open before me; it is the "Journal Intime" of Henri Frédéric Amiel. "There is a point of perfection in art," says La Bruyère, "as there is of goodness and ripeness in nature; he who feels and loves it has perfect taste; he who feels it not, and who loves something beneath or beyond it, has faulty taste." The perfection which I feel in this book is something deeper and diviner than taste; it is a matter of soul, and must therefore remain undescribed. Like the flawless line of beauty, it will instantly reveal itself to those who have the instinct for art, and to those who fail to perceive it at the first glance it will remain forever invisible. There is in some natures a quality of ripeness which makes all the hard
processes of growth sweet and, in the general confusion of this workshop stage of life, gives us a sudden glimpse of perfection. Not that Amiel was a man of symmetrical character or life; in neither of these two master lines of action did he achieve anything like complete success; to himself, as to his best friends, he was but a promise, and at his death it seemed as if even the promise had failed. Nevertheless there was in this man of infirm will and imperfect development a quality of soul which must be counted rare at all times, and which, in this present era of bustle and energy, brings something of the surprise of a revelation with it. These disconnected and unmethodical meditations, extending over a period of thirty-three years, are a kind of subtle distillation of life in which one feels in its finer essence the whole body of modern thinking and feeling. This "Journal Intime" is the sole fruit of a period of time long enough to contain the activities of a whole generation; but how much more significant is the silence of such a book than the articulate speech of great masses of men! It is something that, at the bottom of this great restless ocean of modern life, such a pearl as this lay hid.
Amiel stands for a class of men of genius, of keenly receptive and intensely sensitive temperament; men like Joubert and Maurice de Guerin, whose lives are as rich on the side of thought as they are unproductive on the side of action. Such men teach almost as much through their defects as
through their strength. Perhaps it is true that the quality of ripeness one finds in such natures is due to a preponderance of the ideal sufficient to destroy the balance of character. Men of this fiber absorb experience, and produce only scantily, but their production has an unmistakable stamp upon it; they are not interpreters of universal life, but they slowly distill from life a few truths of luminous quality. They recall the profound saying of Alfred de Musset, that it takes a great deal of life to make a little art; the movement of a generation yields them a few meditations, but somehow these seem to open everything up and to make us feel how precious is thought, since such a vast range of action is needed to give it adequate and complete expression. After Napoleon has stormed through Europe and filled the world with the dust and uproar of change, a quiet thinker, living and dying far from the current of events, interprets for us the two or three ideas which gave the sword of the soldier its only significance and dignity.
There are a few eternal elements in life, but these are hidden for the most part by the dust of traffic and travel. Men hurry to and fro in search of truth, and are unconscious that it shines over them with the luster of a fixed star if they would keep silent for a little, and let the air clarify itself, and the heavens become visible once more. No life gains its perfect poise without action, but in the exaggerated emphasis laid upon works of hand in this
Western world one is often tempted at times by the silent solicitation of the meditative East. There, in the hush of thought, men have always been conscious of their souls, and, if they have fallen into the tideless sea of pantheism, have at least been delivered from the hard and dusty ways of materialism. The just balance of life among us is preserved by such men as Amiel; men who keep apart from crowds and in the perpetual presence of the everlasting verities. There is in such men a wonderful freshness of thought, which makes us conscious of the arid atmosphere in which most of us work and suffocate. Life is old only to those who live in its conventions and formulas; the soil is exhausted only for those whose plowshare turns the shallow furrow. To all others it is still fresh with undiscovered truth, still inexhaustible in the wealth with which the Infinite Mind has stored it, as the Infinite Hand has filled its veins with gold and its mountains with iron. Amiel's life was not one of those overflowing rivers which make continents blossom as they sweep to the sea; it was rather one of those deep wells which are fed by hidden rills, into which a few stars shine with strange luster, and which have power to assuage the thirst of the soul.
THE CUCKOO STRIKES TWELVE.
"IF Rosalind were here," I said to myself, as I gave the fire a vigorous stirring-"if Rosalind were here, the fire would burn with better heart." Everything takes advantage of Rosalind's absence; the house is less friendly and hospitable, and has become at times neglectful of that soothing ministration of a home to one's unconscious longings for mute companionship; the study has lost something which I cannot define, but the going of which has carried the charm of the place with it; even here the fire, which has been cheerful in all weathers, and set a persistent glow on the front sluggish and faint-hearted. and shine if there is no face to put a halo about?" it seems to mutter to itself as the sticks fall apart and the blaze smolders again for the twentieth time. It is a still wintry night, and one cannot resist the mood which bears him on into the silence and solitude of meditation. Without, the lonely stars watch the lonely earth across the abysses of space which nothing traverses save the invisible feet of light. The moon is waning below the horizon which shows yet no silvery token of its coming; the earth
of the sullen days, is "Why should I sing