Now, however, it seemed no longer a place upon earth at all. It was a living spirit. Quiet as the sky itself, its bright eyes looked far upward, and it was communing, in the lowliness of Nature, with the constellations.
“This is Life!” cried Quinet, who had hitherto been excited with suppressed feeling. “The vast winds come in to us from Ether. Night hides all that is common, and sprinkles the dark-blue vault with gold-dust; the planets gleam far and pure amidst it, and Space sings his awful solo.”
“All is one mighty Being. There he moves, the Great Creature, his crystal boundlessness encompassing his countless shapes. He faces us from every point. His God-soul looks through to us. He rises at our feet. He surrounds us in ourselves; speaks and lives in us. Is he not resplendent, wondrous?”
“We are out of the world of vain phantoms, Chamilly! We are above the chatter of a wretched spot, a narrow life. Down there, nothing is not ridiculed that is not some phase of a provinciality. The dances in certain houses, the faces of some conceited club, long-spun names, business or gossip, or to drive a double carriage, are the gaslight boundaries of existence! Pah! it is a courtyard, bounded by four square walls, a path or two to walk in, and the eyes of busybodies to order our doings and sneer us out of our souls. How they deny us that the centre of the systems is immeasurably off there in Pleiades! What fools we are. We follow trifles we value at the valuation of idiots; we cherish mean ideas; we believe contracted doctrines; we do things we are ashamed of; dropping at last like the animals, with alarm that we die.”
“Look, off into the heart of It! the heart of It! beyond there!” he exclaimed, stretching his arm. “Forget our courtyard! Nay, returning there, let us remember that this infinite ocean is above it—a boundless sea beneath and around, an unknown universe within. Take in this scene and feel the rich thrills of its majesty stir you. You are of it; you came out of it; it is your mother, father, lover; it will never let you die; that heart of it to which your utmost straining cannot pierce, was once and will again be known to you. Its beauty caresses your soul from another world, and it is Love Divine which moves those stars.[J] Your own sweet passion, Chamilly, is the child of that divine Love, and in it you mount towards the heavens, and yearn as by inspiration, for a mysterious ideal existence? The poets and romancers lightly say of it “a divine power:” they think they say a metaphor—a lie; but I tell you it is true! May it assist you to live the life of the universe.”
[Footnote J: Dante—Divina Commedia.]
“Each man,” he cried, “who pursues his highest is a prophet! Ever there is an inward compulsion in our race to press on, and we hear the heroes of the front as they fall, crying ’Forward, forward, forward, forward, forward!’”
While he spoke, for he said much besides, many of the lights were disappearing, we seemed to be being left alone, and the church-towers of the city chorussed the hour of ten.