The Son of God goes forth to
A kingly crown to gain:
His blood-red banner streams afar:
Who follows in His train?
Who best can drink his cup of
Triumphant over pain;
Who patient bears his cross below,
He follows in His train!
They met the tyrant’s brandished
The lions gory mane;
They bowed their necks the death to feel:
Who follows in their train?
They climbed the steep ascent
Through peril, toil, and pain:
O God, to us may grace be given
To follow in their train!_
The universe is not awry. Fate and man are not altogether at odds. Yet there is a perpetual combat going on between man and nature, and between the power of character and the tyranny of circumstance, death, and sin. The great soul is tossed into the midst of the strife, the longing, and the aspirations of the world. He rises Victor who is triumphant in some great experience of the race.
The first energy is combative: the Warrior is the primitive hero. There are natures to whom mere combat is a joy. Strife is the atmosphere in which they find their finest physical and spiritual development. In the early times, there must have been those who stood apart from their tribesmen in contests of pure athletic skill,—in running, jumping, leaping, wrestling, in laying on thew and thigh with arm, hand, and curled fist in sheer delight of action, and of the display of strength. As foes arose, these athletes of the tribe or clan would be the first to rush forth to slay the wild beast, to brave the sea and storm, or to wreak vengeance on assailing tribes. Their valor was their insignia. Their prowess ranked them. Their exultation was in their freedom and strength.
Such men did not ask a life of ease. Like Tortulf the Forester, they learned “how to strike the foe, to sleep on the bare ground, to bear hunger and toil, summer’s heat and winter’s frost,—how to fear nothing but ill-fame.” They courted danger, and asked only to stand as Victors at the last.
Hence we read of old-world warriors,—of Gog and Magog and the Kings of Bashan; of the sons of Anak; of Hercules, with his lion-skin and club; of Beowulf, who, dragging the sea-monster from her lair, plunged beneath the drift of sea-foam and the flame of dragon-breath, and met the clutch of dragon-teeth. We read of Turpin, Oliver, and Roland,—the sweepers-off of twenty heads at a single blow; of Arthur, who slew Ritho, whose mantle was furred with the beards of kings; of Theodoric and Charlemagne, and of Richard of the Lion-heart.