—Thomas Bailey Aldrich
The most pessimistic poem which has ever been printed in the English language ("The City of Dreadful Night," by James Thomson) chants the weird wail of a city, which, "because there was no light beyond the curtain," because there was no idealism in its heart, no visions at the back of its brain, lost its strength and its youth. Its beauty burned itself out, and it became a thing of the dust. It, being visionless, was dead.
For, "where there is no vision the people perish." Ring it out from your tower-tops as Balaustion did of old, until at length it kindles the souls of the people!
To be visionless is death—mortality; but to dwell in the vision is life—vitality.
Better to be halt and lame and dumb, to be utterly possessionless, to leave the fruits of our labors to rot on the wayside; nay, better to rest our heads amongst the golden butter-cups by the river's grassy brink and go to sleep for ever, than to lose our vision.
Emily Brontë, in "The Old Stoic," expresses this feeling strongly—
That moves my lips for me
Is, 'Leave the heart that now I bear,
And give me liberty'
In passing through life we lose much, but we gain more. It rests with ourselves to what extent we shall gain or lose. Youth is beautiful, but old age is more beautiful.
Lack of vision is at the root of all our social evils. It causes that "leanness of soul" which is a characteristic of the majority of the present day. Our most pressing need is for a simpler, grander, higher life—a life in which we seek to enrich ourselves by the inner wealth of the mind.
The world is flooded with the music of the spheres for those who have the ears to hear it—music that can quell the stormiest passions of the human breast and remove all traces of the sordid and commonplace. "We do not live by bread alone," and none can know the joys of living, or the beauty of being, until he has dipped into the recesses of his own soul and absorbed its visions. That which is within makes the man, not that which is without, and to bring the inner life into harmony with the outer means the perfection of one's nature. No beauty ever comes to one whose mind is bereft of beauty. None but a great soul could write "Do I view the world as a vale of tears? Ah! reverend sir, not l."
But, alas, we are too material, too far absorbed in the things of this earth, and too dulled by the cries of Mammon to give ear to the voices that would woo us into the celestial paths, wherein we should ever have life eternal and feel at peace with ourselves.
The divine Enchantress, Truth, is ever striving to touch our souls. Her voice is heard in the golden cornfields so full of motion and color, in the many-colored sands of the sea-shore, in the mighty waves, lashing with fury the rocks, in the mountains towering far into the heavens, in the stars shimmering overhead, in every leaf of the forest, and in every speck of dust. "Are not these, O soul, the vision of Him who reigns?"
It is the visionary who is the seer, the prophet, the forerunner, he who is chosen to lead men on to dwell forever in the Light of Reason. He is the pioneer who takes away the mist which veils the eyes, and causes them to see clearly the things which only are. For the invisible alone is real.
The best and happiest life is that which possesses the noblest ideals, for ideality elevates the soul of man, giving wealth to the brain and beauty to the form. Where ideality is lacking, there also is lacking depth, beauty, power of life; there no truth can live and no beautiful or holy thought can penetrate; there the subtle, harmonizing forces of Nature are unfelt; there no soul can charm, for "to be carnal-minded is death."
The ideal is omnipresent, leading its followers upwards and onwards to a glorious haven of pure rest and perfect tranquility. At times it may be dimmed by the tarnish of the world, but ere long it will give out its light and life, for the cloud is but a passing one.
To be idealistic is to be grand and strong, full of the power of the magician; but to be materialistic is to live a living death. When once a soul has tasted real life he never can retrace his steps—the taste keeps him in the true path for ever. It is not meet that a soul should taste Paradise and be cast out. When once the All-pervading sends the shaft of Idealism into the heart, there perisheth all meanness, ignobleness, cant and hypocrisy, and all the negations of the carnal nature.
Throughout all difficulties we still can anchor our souls to our "vision," and be ever pure and strong.
Toiling at what it counts as gain;
Laugh with a pitying smile at what
lt seeth and it heareth not;
Gibe at the Truth it dubs 'Ideal,'
And clutch illusions it calls 'Real.'
So whilst the round years onward roll,
Till death itself unloose the soul;
Ay—seeing as I now do see,
For ever mine may this prayer be,
'Voices and visions, come to me.'
—Thomas à Kempis