time with the captain of the boat. Thirty young men and

All possible thought is IMPLICIT in the mind, and waiting for release -- waiting to become EXPLICIT. "Seek within yourself," says Goethe, "and you will find everything; and rejoice that, without, there lies a Nature that says yea and amen to all you have discovered in yourself." And Mrs. Browning, in the person of Aurora Leigh, writes: "The cygnet finds the water; but the man is born in ignorance of his element, and feels out blind at first, disorganized by sin in the blood, -- his spirit-insight dulled and crossed by his sensations. Presently we feel it quicken in the dark sometimes; then mark, be reverent, be obedient, -- for those dumb motions of imperfect life are oracles of vital Deity attesting the Hereafter. Let who says `The soul's a clean white paper', rather say, a palimpsest, a prophet's holograph defiled, erased, and covered by a monk's, -- the Apocalypse by a Longus! poring on which obscure text, we may discern perhaps some fair, fine trace of what was written once, some off-stroke of an alpha and omega expressing the old Scripture."

time with the captain of the boat. Thirty young men and

This "fair, fine trace of what was written once", it was the mission of Christ, it is the mission of all great personalities, of all the concrete creations of Genius, to bring out into distinctness and vital glow. It is not, and cannot be, brought out, -- and this fact is emphasized in the poetry of Browning, -- it cannot be brought out, through what is born and resides in the brain: it is brought out, either directly or indirectly, by the attracting power of magnetic personalities, the ultimate, absolute personality being the God-man, Christ, qea/nqrwpos.

time with the captain of the boat. Thirty young men and

The human soul is regarded in Browning's poetry as a complexly organized, individualized divine force, destined to gravitate towards the Infinite. How is this force, with its numberless checks and counter-checks, its centripetal and centrifugal tendencies, best determined in its necessarily oblique way? How much earthly ballast must it carry, to keep it sufficiently steady, and how little, that it may not be weighed down with materialistic heaviness? How much certainty must it have of its course, and how much uncertainty, that it may shun the "torpor of assurance", *1* and not lose the vigor which comes of a dubious and obstructed road, "which who stands upon is apt to doubt if it's indeed a road." *2* "Pure faith indeed," says Bishop Blougram, to Gigadibs, the literary man, "you know not what you ask! naked belief in God the Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, sears too much the sense of conscious creatures, to be borne. It were the seeing him, no flesh shall dare. Some think, Creation's meant to show him forth: I say, it's meant to hide him all it can, and that's what all the blessed Evil's for.

time with the captain of the boat. Thirty young men and

Its use in time is to environ us, our breath, our drop of dew, with shield enough against that sight till we can bear its stress. Under a vertical sun, the exposed brain and lidless eye and disimprisoned heart less certainly would wither up at once, than mind, confronted with the truth of Him. But time and earth case-harden us to live; the feeblest sense is trusted most: the child feels God a moment, ichors o'er the place, plays on and grows to be a man like us. With me, faith means perpetual unbelief kept quiet like the snake 'neath Michael's foot, who stands calm just because he feels it writhe." *3


-- *1* `The Ring and the Book', The Pope, v. 1853. *2* `Bishop Blougram's Apology', vv. 198, 199. *3* `Bishop Blougram's Apology', vv. 650-671. --

There is a remarkable passage to the same effect in `Paracelsus', in which Paracelsus expatiates on the "just so much of doubt as bade him plant a surer foot upon the sun-road."

And in `Easter Day': -- "You must mix some uncertainty With faith, if you would have faith BE." And the good Pope in `The Ring and the Book', alluding to the absence of true Christian soldiership, which is revealed by Pompilia's case, says: "Is it not this ignoble CONFIDENCE, cowardly hardihood, that dulls and damps, makes the old heroism impossible? Unless. . .what whispers me of times to come? What if it be the mission of that age my death will usher into life, to SHAKE THIS TORPOR OF ASSURANCE FROM OUR CREED, reintroduce the DOUBT discarded, bring the formidable danger back we drove long ago to the distance and the dark?"

True healthy doubt means, in Browning, that the spiritual nature is sufficiently quickened not to submit to the conclusions of the insulated intellect. It WILL reach out beyond them, and assert itself, whatever be the resistance offered by the intellect. Mere doubt, without any resistance from the intuitive, non-discursive side of our nature, is the dry-rot of the soul. The spiritual functions are "smothered in surmise". Faith is not a matter of blind belief, of slavish assent and acceptance, as many no-faith people seem to regard it. It is what Wordsworth calls it, "a passionate intuition", and springs out of quickened and refined sentiment, out of inborn instincts which are as cultivable as are any other elements of our complex nature, and which, too, may be blunted beyond a consciousness of their possession. And when one in this latter state denies the reality of faith, he is not unlike one born blind denying the reality of sight.

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