I rose upon the Mountain of
I felt the blazing glory of the Sun;
I heard the Song of Children crying, “Free!”
I saw the face of Freedom—
And I died.
THE IMMORTAL CHILD
If a man die shall he live again? We do not know. But this we do know, that our children’s children live forever and grow and develop toward perfection as they are trained. All human problems, then, center in the Immortal Child and his education is the problem of problems. And first for illustration of what I would say may I not take for example, out of many millions, the life of one dark child.
* * * * *
It is now nineteen years since I first saw Coleridge-Taylor. We were in London in some somber hall where there were many meeting, men and women called chiefly to the beautiful World’s Fair at Paris; and then a few slipping over to London to meet Pan-Africa. We were there from Cape Colony and Liberia, from Haiti and the States, and from the Islands of the Sea. I remember the stiff, young officer who came with credentials from Menelik of Abyssinia; I remember the bitter, black American who whispered how an army of the Soudan might some day cross the Alps; I remember Englishmen, like the Colensos, who sat and counseled with us; but above all, I remember Coleridge-Taylor.
He was a little man and nervous, with dark-golden face and hair that bushed and strayed. His fingers were always nervously seeking hidden keys and he was quick with enthusiasm,—instinct with life. His bride of a year or more,—dark, too, in her whiter way,—was of the calm and quiet type. Her soft contralto voice thrilled us often as she sang, while her silences were full of understanding.
Several times we met in public gatherings and then they bade me to their home,—a nest of a cottage, with gate and garden, hidden in London’s endless rings of suburbs. I dimly recall through these years a room in cozy disorder, strewn with music—music on the floor and music on the chairs, music in the air as the master rushed to the piano now and again to make some memory melodious—some allusion real.
And then at last, for it was the last, I saw Coleridge-Taylor in a mighty throng of people crowding the Crystal Palace. We came in facing the stage and scarcely dared look around. On the stage were a full orchestra, a chorus of eight hundred voices, and some of the world’s famous soloists. He left his wife sitting beside me, and she was very silent as he went forward to lift the conductor’s baton. It was one of the earliest renditions of “Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast.” We sat at rapt attention and when the last, weird music died, the great chorus and orchestra rose as a man to acclaim the master; he turned toward the audience and then we turning for the first time saw that sea of faces behind,—the misty thousands whose voices rose to one strong shout of joy! It was a moment such as one does not often live. It seemed, and was, prophetic.