Now, the man of culture has pre-eminently the gift of living deeply in his own age, and at the same time of seeing it in relation to all ages. It has no illusion for him; it cannot deceive him with its passionate acceptance or its equally passionate rejection. He sees the crown shining above the cross; he hears the long thunders of applause breaking in upon execrations which they will finally silence; he foresees the harvest in the seed that lies barely covered on the surface; and, afar off, his ear notes the final crash of that which at the moment seems to carry with it the assurance of eternal duration. Such a man secures the vitality of his time, but he escapes its limitation of vision by seeing it clearly and seeing it whole; he corrects the teaching of the time spirit by constant reference to the teaching of the Eternal Spirit imparted in the long training and the wide revelation of history. The day is beautiful and significant, or ominous and tragic, to him as it discloses its relation to the good or the evil of the years that are gone. And these vital associations, these deep historic connections, are brought to light with peculiar clearness in literature. Beyond all other means of enfranchisement, the book liberates a man from imprisonment within the narrow limits of his own time; it makes him free of all times. He lives in all periods, under all forms of government, in all social conditions; the mind of antiquity, of mediaevalism, of the Renaissance, is as open to him as the mind of his own day, and so he is able to look upon human life in its entirety.
Liberation from One’s Place.
The instinct which drives men to travel is at bottom identical with that which fills men with passionate desire to know what is in life. Time and strength are often wasted in restless change from place to place; but real wandering, however aimless in mood, is always education. To know one’s neighbours and to be on good terms with the community in which one lives are the beginning of sound relations to the world at large; but one never knows his village in any real sense until he knows the world. The distant hills which seem to be always calling the imaginative boy away from the familiar fields and hearth do not conspire against his peace, however much they may conspire against his comfort; they help him to the fulfilment of his destiny by suggesting to his imagination the deeper experience, the richer growth, the higher tasks which await him in the world beyond the horizon. Man is a wanderer by the law of his life; and if he never leaves his home in which he is born, he never builds a home of his own.