Life's Inspiration. By Lily L. Allen. L. N. Fowler & Co.
Perhaps one cannot better describe this sweet little book by Mrs. James Allen, Editor of The Epoch, than by saying that it comes like a breath of Springtime, bringing messages of hope and restoration and reassurance. Through its pages the soft winds seem to blow and one hears the song of birds, and sees the sky rose-flushed at sunset and early dawn. For its theme is ever of beauty, of color, of smiles and friendship, and all the lovely common things that Nature and our daily life are forever offering to us all and only our own selves can deny us.
It is not necessary to tell those who in The Epoch are familiar with Mrs. Allen's writings, that each sentence of the chapters that make up this charming book, has some word of kindly counsel and homely wisdom.
The world is a lovely home to the writer, and she is certain that only the darkness in the eyes and heart of man hide from him its infinite beauty.
"I sometimes think," she says in the chapter on Beauty, "that maybe we are in heaven now, but our eyes are holden and we cannot see it. I think the morning stars still sing together, but our ears are heavy and we cannot hear their song."
Hers is no metaphysical or merely transcendental word spinning. All her beautiful images and all her inspirations are drawn from the commonplace round of our everyday life—yet because within her own eyes is the beauty, within her own heart the sense of reverence and wonder, the commonplace does not exist for her except in its true meaning of the general and ordinary. Beauty is no rare exotic growth, but general and ordinary and universal as the grass that clothes the earth.
Perhaps there is no more striking passage than the one which describes the beauty of flower and grass and moss and insect, of color and perfume, of all the varied life in exquisite perfection in one square foot of green meadow turf. With Walt Whitman, Mrs. Allen is always saying, "O! amazement of things! even the least particle," and with him she finds never failing hope and consolation in the sense of her unity with Nature.
"I have peeped into the throbbing heart of my Lover, and felt the eternal life-pulses, felt them beating in my own bosom, and I have known in such a moment that I was one with Nature. I have heard the music of the spheres in such moments, and have sensed the eternal harmony of the Cosmos. I have gazed at other times into the depths of the great forest, and my soul has been filled with rapture. The great trees have locked arms high above my head, and I have experienced a worship and devotion and felt an inspiration in those mighty cathedral aisles that I have never touched the fringe of in my deepest moments of thought and aspiration when in our grandest churches?
But beautiful as are these chapters on Nature and Beauty, there may be most help for our need in these sad days, in those on "Sorrow” and "What we call Death." For there are few indeed now-a-days who have not had set for them the lessons of sorrow, and many are finding them very hard to learn. "Sorrow is hard to bear and doubt is slow to clear." Blessed above all others are those who have seen for themselves the Light that shines through all doubt, and the joy that is hidden in all sorrow, it is they alone who may know the meaning of the "worship of sorrow." And it is in the attitude of mind of such worship that Mrs. Allen writes,
"How often we have found sorrow dwelling with infinite peace, with calm joy and a great happiness."
"Think not, dear reader, that I am teaching a life of sorrow. God forbid! In writing about sorrow I am writing about that which is the greatest fact in the world today, and l write not to leave you in sorrow, but to remind you that 'blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted,' and to call again to your hearts the words of One who was ‘exceedingly sorrowful even unto death’; ‘Now have ye sorrow, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy."'
To say what seems indeed to be true, that Mrs. Allen’s work has less of the character of actual creation than of interpretation, is in no sense to belittle its immense value or fail to appreciate its vast importance. Steeped as the author’s mind is in the Scripture—not alone of one religion, as well as in all that is best in poetry and general literature; she has a gift that is exceedingly rare, of presenting the beautiful truths of these as well as those of her life’s experience, in language that cannot fail to appeal to the hearts and the understanding of the simplest. In a word, hers is the language of wisdom and beauty, translated into that of the heart and emotions, and translated so, capable of reaching thousands.
The book is exquisitely produced, and gives a charming portrait of the author.