It is these multitudinous associations that give life its colour and its poetry. They are the garnerings of the journey, and unlike material gains they are no burden to our backs and no anxiety to our mind. “The true harvest of my life,” said Thoreau, “is something as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning and evening.” It was the summary, the essence, of all his experience. We are like bees foraging in the garden of the world, and hoarding the honey in the hive of memory. And no hoard is like any other hoard that ever was or ever will be. The cuckoo calling over the valley, the blackbird fluting in the low boughs in the evening, the solemn majesty of the Abbey, the life of the streets, the ebb and flow of Father Thames—everything whispers to us some secret that it has for no other ear, and touches a chord of memory that echoes in no other brain. Those deeps within us find only a crude expression in the vehicle of words and actions, and our intercourse with men touches but the surface of ourselves. The rest is “as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning and evening.” It was one of the most companionable of men, William Morris, who said:
That God has made each one
of us as lone
As He Himself sits.
That is why, in moments of exaltation, our only refuge is silence, and the world of memory within answers the world of suggestion without.
“And what does the seaweed remind you of?” said one, as I looked up after smelling it. “It reminds me,” I said, “of all the seas that wash our shores, and of all the brave sailors who are guarding these seas day and night, while we sit here secure. It reminds me also that I have an article to write, and that its title is ‘A Bit of Seaweed.’”
A little group of men, all of whom had achieved conspicuous success in life, were recently talking after dinner round the fire in the smoking-room of a London club. They included an eminent lawyer, a politician whose name is a household word, a well-known divine, and a journalist. The talk traversed many themes, and arrived at that very familiar proposition: If it were in your power to choose, would you live this life again? With one exception the answer was a unanimous “No.” The exception, I may remark, was not the divine. He, like the majority, had found one visit to the play enough. He did not want to see it again.