It will be plain to those who have read what has elsewhere been said of the ideal life, that democracy is for the nation a true embodiment of that life, and wears its characteristics upon its sleeve. In it the individual mingles with the mass, and becomes one with mankind, and mankind itself sums the totality of individual good in a well-nigh perfect way. In it there is the slow embodiment of a future nobly conceived and brought into existence on an ideal basis of the best that is, from age to age, in man’s power. It includes the universal wisdom, the reach of thought and aspiration, by virtue of which men climb, and here manhood climbs. It knows no limit; it rejects no man who wears the form Christ wore; it receives all into its benediction. Through democracy, more readily and more plainly than through any other system of government or conception of man’s nature and destiny, the best of men may blend with his race, and store in their common life the energies of his own soul, looking for as much aid as he may give. Democracy, as elsewhere has been said, is the earthly hope of men; and they who stand apart, in fancied superiority to mankind, which is by creation equal in destiny, and in fact equal in the larger part of human nature, however obstructed by time and circumstance, are foolish withdrawers from the ways of life. On the battle-field or in the senate, or in the humblest cabin of the West, to lead an American life is to join heart and soul in this cause.
Mystery is the natural habitat of the soul. It is the child’s element, though he sees it not; for, year by year, acquiring the solid and palpable, the visible and audible, the things of mortal life, he lives in horizons of the senses, and though grown a youth he still looks intellectually for things definite and clear. Education in general through its whole period induces the contempt of all else, impressing almost universally the positive element in life, whose realm in early years at least is sensual. So it was with me: the mind’s eye saw all that was or might be in an atmosphere of scepticism, as my bodily eye beheld the world washed in colour. Yet the habitual sense of mystery in man’s life is a measure of wisdom in the man; and, at last, if the mind be open and turn upon the poles of truth, whether in the sage’s knowledge or the poet’s emotion or such common experience of the world as all have, mystery visibly envelops us, equally in the globed sky or the unlighted spirit,
I well remember the very moment when a poetical experience precipitated this conviction out of moods long familiar, but obscurely felt and deeply distrusted. I was born and bred by the sea; its mystery had passed into my being unawares, and was there unconscious, or, at least, not to be separated from the moods of my own spirit. But on my first Italian voyage, day by day we rolled upon the tremendous billows of a stormy