And, somehow, as we review the past this evening, pacing the beach in the twilight, the fact accomplished seems to us not smaller, but greater than when we lived in it. There are moments some would say of illusion, some of vision—when the things most familiar to our eyes and thoughts, whether in nature or human society, surprise us with a dignity and beauty not discovered in them before. That glamour is in the air this evening. Perhaps the night-wind, which creeps to us from over the grassy tomb of Taliesin, warrior and bard has touched the fancy with a breath out of his heroic days. What wonder if it were so? Thirteen centuries ago the hero became the guardian of the shore; but the story which ends to-day is, perhaps, as worthy note as any he has watched from his hill-side. Those who rate the dignity of human action by other standards than the breadth and conspicuousness of its stage, will not mock us because we find some stuff of romance in the homely circumstance and not always epic passages of this modern episode of school.
But if the stranger who may read the tale will spare his scorn—those for whom we shall tell it would forgive even a bolder word; for some of them were themselves a part of it, and others will make it a part of their heritage in the past. English schools have always honoured their traditions, counting them the better part of their wealth. Some have majestic memories of royal benefactors, or can point to a muster-roll of splendid names, whose greatness was cradled in their walls. Such traditions are not ours. A past, not brief, but not memorable, has denied us these. But a tradition we have henceforward which is all our own and wholly single in its kind. We persuade ourselves that in far-off years those who bear our name will say that, in the memory of a great disaster overcome, no mean heirloom has been left them. They will not be ashamed of a generation which, in an hour of extreme peril, did not despair of the commonwealth, but dared to trust their faith in a further destiny, and saved for those who should come after them a cause which must else have perished in the dark. Stet fortuna domus. And stand it will if there is assurance in augury. For the fairy legend has a truth in fact, and the luck of a house, grasped daringly and held fast in an act of venturous hardihood, will not break or be lost again until the sons forget to guard it.
Here and there, at any rate, among the posterity which will sometime fill our ranks, there will not be wanting generous and gifted spirits, illustres animae nostrumque in nomen iturae, who will rejoice in making good the forecast that the venture was not made in vain. They will possess more worthily the good which an elder race foresaw and laboured not all unworthily to preserve. To their safe keeping we commend as under a seal, the legacy of hopes which are better left unspoken now.