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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 277 pages of information about Essays in Rebellion.
courageous behaviour when the supreme summons for courage comes, and only those are faultlessly brave who have never known peril.  In reason everyone is convinced that all mankind is mortal, and we hear with vague sympathy of the hosts of dead whose skulls went to pile the pyramids of Tamerlane, or of the thousands that the sea engulfs and earthquakes shatter.  But few realise that the life of each among those thousands was as dear to him as our life is, and, though we congratulate heroes upon the opportunity of their death, the moment when that opportunity would be most happy for ourselves never seems exactly to arrive.  Hardly anyone really thinks he will die, or is persuaded that the limit to his nature has now come.  But it is through realising the incalculable craving of this bodily will to survive that men who have themselves known danger will pay the greater reverence to those who, conscious of mortal fears, and throbbing with the fullness of existence, none the less in the calm ecstasy of their devotion commit themselves to the battle, the firing squad, or the prison death as to a chariot of fire.

XXXIV

THE ELEMENT OF CALM

All are aware that we have no abiding city here, but that, says the hymn-writer, is a truth which should not cost the saint a tear, and our politicians appear to lament it as little as the saints.  Their eyes are dry; it does not distress their mind, it seems hardly to occur to them, unless, perhaps, they are defeated candidates.  One might suppose from their manner that eternal truths depended on their efforts, and that the city they seek to build would abide for ever.  Could all this toil and expenditure be lavished on a transitory show, all this eloquence upon the baseless fabric of a vision, all this hatred and malice upon things that wax old as doth a garment and like a vesture are rolled up?  One would think from his preoccupied zeal that every politician was laying the foundation stone of an everlasting Jerusalem, did not reason and experience alike forbid the possibility.

May it not rather be that the politicians, like the saints, keep the tears of mortality out of their eyes by contemplating this passing dream under the aspect of eternal realities?  In months when the heavens at night are filled with constellations of peculiar beauty, may we not suppose that the politician, emerging from the Town Hall amid the cheers and execrations of the voice that represents the voice of God, lifts up his eyes unto the heavens, where prone Orion still grasps his sword, and Auriga drives his chariot of fire, and the pole star hangs immovable, by which Ulysses set his helm?  And as he gazes, he recognises with joy in his heart that the stars themselves, with all their recurrent comets and flaming meteors and immovable constellations, hardly cast a stain upon the white radiance of eternity, under which he has been striving and crying and perpetrating comparatively trifling deviations from exactness.

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