A nobler, a gentler, a purer, a sweeter soul,—a soul less elated by prosperity, or more constant in adversity—a soul more fitted by virtue, and chastity, and self-denial to enter into the eternal peace, never passed into the presence of its Heavenly Father. We are not surprised that all, whose means permitted it, possessed themselves of his statues, and that they were to be seen for years afterwards among the household gods of heathen families, who felt themselves more hopeful and more happy from the glorious sense of possibility which was inspired by the memory of one who, in the midst of difficulties, and breathing an atmosphere heavy with corruption, yet showed himself so wise, so great, so good a man.
O framed for nobler
times and calmer hearts!
O studious thinker, eloquent for truth!
Philosopher, despising wealth and death,
But patient, childlike, full of life and love!
THE “MEDITATIONS” OF MARCUS AURELIUS.
Emperor as he was, Marcus Aurelius found himself in a hollow and troublous world; but he did not give himself up to idle regret or querulous lamentations. If these sorrows and perturbations came from the gods, he kissed the hand that smote him; “he delivered up his broken sword to Fate the conqueror with a humble and a manly heart.” In any case he had duties to do, and he set himself to perform them with a quiet heroism—zealously, conscientiously, even cheerfully.
The principles of the Emperor are not reducible to the hard and definite lines of a philosophic system. But the great laws which guided his actions and moulded his views of life were few and simple, and in his book of Meditations, which is merely his private diary written to relieve his mind amid all the trials of war and government, he recurs to them again and again. “Plays, war, astonishment, torpor, slavery,” he says to himself, “will wipe out those holy principles of thine;” and this is why he committed those principles to writing. Some of these I have already adduced, and others I proceed to quote, availing myself, as before, of the beautiful and scholar-like translation of Mr. George Long.
All pain, and misfortune, and ugliness seemed to the Emperor to be most wisely regarded under a threefold aspect, namely, if considered in reference to the gods, as being due to laws beyond their control; if considered with reference to the nature of things, as being subservient and necessary; and if considered with reference to ourselves, as being dependent on the amount of indifference and fortitude with which we endure them.
The following passages will elucidate these points of view:—
“The intelligence of the Universe is social. Accordingly it has made the inferior things for the sake of the superior, and it has fitted the superior to one another.” (v. 30.)
“Things do not touch the soul, for they are eternal, and remain immovable; but our perturbations come only from the opinion which is within.... The Universe is Transformation; life is opinion” (iv. 3.)