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Brave Words For Brave Soldiers and Sailors

This was written and sent out to the army before Sebastopol in the winter of 1855.


My friends,--I speak to you simply as brave men. I speak alike to Roman Catholic and Protestant. I speak alike to godly men and ungodly. I speak alike to soldiers and sailors. . . . If you are brave, read these words. I call these brave words. They are not my own words, or my own message, but the message to you of the bravest man who ever lived, or who ever will live, and if you will read them and think over them, He will not make you brave (for that, thank God, you are already), but keep you brave, come victory or defeat. I speak to the brave men who have now fought three bloody battles, and fought them like heroes. All England has blessed you, and admired you; all England has felt for you in a way that would do your hearts good to see. For you know as well as I, that nothing is so comforting, nothing so endearing, as sympathy, as to know that people feel for one. If one knows that, one can dare and do anything. If one feels that nobody cares for one's suffering or one's success, one is ready to lie down and die. It is so with a horse or a dog even. If there is any noble spirit in them, a word of encouragement will make them go till they drop. How much more will the spirit of a man? I can well believe that the Queen's beautiful letter put more heart into you, than the hope of all the prize money in the world would have done; and that with the words of that letter ringing in your ears, you will prove true to the last, to the words of the grand old song--

"Hearts of oak are our ships, hearts of oak are our men, And we'll fight, and we'll conquer again, and again."

But, my friends, you know as well as I, that there are times when neither that letter, nor the feeling of duty, nor of honour, nor of glory, can keep your hearts from sinking. Not in battle! No. Only cowards' hearts fail them there; and there are no cowards among you. But even a brave man's heart may fail him at whiles, when, instead of the enemy's balls and bayonets, he has to face delay, and disappointment, and fatigue, and sickness, and hunger, and cold, and nakedness; as you have, my brave brothers, and faced them as well as man ever did on earth. Ah! it must be fearful work to sit still, and shiver and starve in a foreign land, and to think of those who are in comfort and plenty at home; and worse, to think of those, who, even if they are in plenty, cannot be in comfort, because their hearts are breaking for your sake; to think of brother and sister, wife and child, while you are pacing up and down those dreary trenches, waiting for your turn of sickness, perhaps of death. It must be bitter and disheartening at times; you would not be men, if it was not. One minute, perhaps, you remember that those whom you have left at home, love you and pray for you; and that cheers you; then you remember that all England loves you, and prays for you in every church throughout the land; and that cheers you; but even that is not enough, you feel ready to say, "What is the use of my going through all this misery? Why am I not at home ploughing the ground, or keeping a shop, anything rather than throwing away my life by inches thus. My people at home feel for me, but they cannot know, they never will know, the half of what I have gone through. The nation will provide for me if I am crippled, but they cannot make up to me for losing the best years of my life in such work as this; and, if I am killed, can they make up to me for that? Who can make up to me for my life?"

Have you not had such thoughts, my friends, and sadder thoughts still lately? You need not be ashamed of them if you have. For hard work you have had, and it must have told at times on your spirits as heavily as it has on your bodies.

But, my friends, there is an answer for these sad thoughts. There are brave words for you, and a noble message from God, which will cheer you when nothing else can cheer you. If your own people cannot know all that you go through, there is One who can and does; if your own wives and mothers cannot feel enough for you, there is One above who does, and He is the Lord Jesus Christ. You have hungered; so has He. You have been weary; so has He. You have felt cold and nakedness; so has He. You have been houseless and sleepless, so has He. While the foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests, He, the maker of them all, had not where to lay His head. You have felt the misery of loneliness and desolation; but never so much as did He, when not only every earthly friend forsook Him and fled, but He cried out in His very death pangs, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"

Above all, you have felt how difficult it was to die, not fighting sword in hand, but slowly and idly, and helplessly, by cholera or fever, hunger or cold. Terrible it is; but the Lord Jesus Christ has felt that too. For three years He looked death in the face--a death of shame and misery such as you can never die--and faced it, and gave Himself up to it of His own free will; and though He had the most horrible fear of it to the very last, He determined to submit to it, in spite of His own fear of it; and He did submit to it, and died, and so showed, even in His very fear, the most perfect and glorious courage. So if any one of you has ever felt for a single moment afraid; even in that, the Lord Jesus Christ can feel for you; for He, too, has gone through the agony of fear, when His sweat was as great drops of blood falling to the ground, that He might be able to help you, and every man that is tempted, because He can be touched with the feeling of your infirmities, having gone through every temptation which flesh is heir to, and conquered them all.

This, then, is one half (and only one half) of my good news; that you have a Friend in heaven who feels for every trouble of yours, better than your own mothers can feel for you, because He has been through it all already; you have a Friend in heaven who is praying for you day and night, more earnestly, lovingly, wisely, than your own wives and children are praying for you. But that is not all. God forbid! You have a Friend in heaven, for whose sake God will forgive you all your sins and weaknesses, as often as you heartily confess them to Him, and trust in Him for a full and free pardon. You have a Friend in heaven who will help you day by day, where you most need help, in your hearts and spirits; who will give you, if you ask Him, His Spirit, the same spirit of duty, courage, endurance, love, self-sacrifice, which made Him brave to endure ten thousand times more than any soldier or sailor can endure, for the sake of doing His Father's will, and saving a ruined world.

Oh! open your hearts to Him, my brave men, in your lonely night-watches--on your sick beds; ay, in the very roar of battle itself, ask Him to make you true and good, patient, calm, prudent, honourable, obedient, gentle, even in the hottest of the fight. Commit to Him your own lives and fortunes, and the lives and fortunes of those who have been left at home, and be sure that He, your Unseen Friend of friends, is able and willing to help to the uttermost all that you put into His charge.

But, again, my men, if the nation cannot reward you for sacrificing your life in a just war, there is One above who can, and who will, too; for He is as just as He is loving, and as loving as He is just, and that is the same of whom I have spoken already, the Lord Jesus Christ.

I think some of you will fancy this almost too good news to be true, and yet the very news which you want to hear. I think some of you have been saying as you read this, "All this is blessed and comforting news for poor fellows lying wounded in a hospital, or fretting their souls away about the wives and children they have left behind; blessed and comforting news; but we want something more than that even. We have to fight and to kill; we want to be sure that God's blessing is on our fighting and our killing; we have to go into battle; and we want to know that there, too, we are doing God's work, and to be sure that God is on our side."

Well, my brave men, Be sure of it then! Be sure that God's blessing is as much upon you; be sure that you are doing God's work, as much when you are handling a musket or laying a gun in your country's battles, as when you are bearing frost and hunger in the trenches, and pain and weakness on a sick bed.

For the Lord Jesus Christ is not only the Prince of Peace; He is the Prince of War too. He is the Lord of Hosts, the God of armies; and whosoever fights in a just war, against tyrants and oppressors, he is fighting on Christ's side, and Christ is fighting on his side; Christ is his Captain and his Leader, and he can be in no better service. Be sure of it; for the Bible tells you so. The old wars of Abraham against the robber-kings; of Joshua against the Canaanites; of David against the Philistines; of Hezekiah against the Assyrians; of the Maccabees against the Greeks--all tell the soldier the same brave news, that he is doing God's work, and that God's blessing is on him, when he fights in a just cause. And you are fighting in a just cause, if you are fighting for freedom and law. If to you God gives the noble work of fighting for the liberty of Europe, God will reward you according as you do that work like men. You will be fighting in that everlasting war which is in heaven; in God's everlasting war against all injustice and wrong, the Captain and Leader whereof is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Believe that--for the Bible tells it you. You must think of the Lord Jesus Christ, not merely as a sufferer, but as a warrior; not merely as the Man of Sorrows (blessed as that thought is), but as the Lord of Hosts--the God of armies--the King who executes justice and judgment in the earth, who has sworn vengeance against all unrighteousness and wrong, and will destroy the wicked with the breath of His mouth. You must think of Him as the God of the fatherless and the widow; but you must think of Him, too, as the God of the sailor and the soldier, the God of duty, the God of justice, the God of vengeance, the God to whom your colours were solemnly offered, and His blessing on them prayed for, when they were given to your regiment.

I know that you would follow those colours into the mouth of the pit, that you would die twice over sooner than let them be taken. Good! but remember, too, that those colours are a sign to you that Christ is with you, ready to give you courage, coolness, and right judgment, in the charge and in the death grapple, just as much as He is with those ministering angels who will nurse and tend your wounds in hospital. God's blessing is on them; but do you never forget that your colours are a sign to you that Christ's blessing is on you. If they do not mean that to you, what was the use of blessing them with prayer? It must have been a lie and a sham. But it is no lie, brave men, and no sham; it is a glorious truth, of which those noble rags, inscribed with noble names of victory, should remind you every day and every hour, that he who fights for Queen and country in a just cause, is fighting not only in the Queen's army, but in Christ's army, and that he shall in no wise lose his reward.

Are not these brave words for brave soldiers? Well: they are not mine; they are the Bible's. The book of Revelation tells us how St. John saw a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of His everlasting war against wrong, of which I spoke just now. And what did the Lord appear like?

"And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war. And His eyes were as a flame of fire; and He was clothed in a garment dipped in blood; and His name is called the Word of God. And the armies in heaven followed Him, riding upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that He should smite the nations; and He shall rule them with a rod of iron; and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and of the wrath of almighty God" (Rev. xix. 11).

Are not these brave words, my friends? Are not these soldier-like words? Is not this a general worth following? Is not this a charge of cavalry worth sharing in? Then believe that that general, the Lord Jesus Christ, is your general. Believe that you are sharing in that everlasting charge, to which the glorious charge of Balaclava was as nothing; the everlasting war which the Lord Jesus wages against all sin, and cruelty, and wrong--in which He will never draw bridle-rein, or sheath His sword, till He has put all enemies under His feet, and swept all oppression, injustice, and wickedness off the face of the earth which God has given Him.

Therefore I can say to you other brave words, my friends (and not my own, but the words of the same Lord Jesus Christ):--"Fear not them that can kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear; fear him who after he has killed has power to destroy both body and soul in hell."

Now all England knows already that you do not fear those who can kill the body; but I sometimes fear that some of you are not enough afraid of that enemy worst of all, who can kill the soul too. And who is that? St. Paul tells us. He is "the devil, who has the power of death," who lies in ambuscade to destroy your body and soul in hell; and will and can do it; but only if you let him. Now who is the devil? It is worth your while to know; for many a man may be, as you are, in the ranks of God's army, and yet doing the devil's work all the while. Many a man may fancy himself a good soldier, and forget that a soldier is a man, and something more; and that therefore, before you can be a good soldier, you must first be more or less of a good man. Do you think not? Look then, and see whether the most upright and god-fearing men in your ranks are not in the long run the best soldiers. I don't mean merely the best fighters--the bravest men in battle. There goes more than mere bull- dog pluck to the making of a soldier; and to make a good soldier, I hold that a man, though he be afraid of nothing else, must be horribly afraid of the devil, and that the better and braver soldier he is, the more afraid of the devil he will be.

Of course that depends upon who the devil is. I will tell you. He is what his name means, the accuser and the divider--the evil spirit who sets men against each other--men against officers, and officers against men; who sets men grumbling, puts hard suspicious thoughts into their minds; makes them selfish and forgetful of their duty, tempts them to care only for themselves, and help themselves. You must see that if those tempers once got head in an army, there would be an end of all discipline--of all obedience; and what is more, of all courage; for if the devil could completely persuade every man to care only for himself, the plain thing for every man to do, would be to turn round and run for his life. That you will never do; but you may give way to the devil in lesser matters, and so do God's work ill, and lose your own reward from God. All grumbling, and hard speeches, and tale-bearing is doing the devil's work. All disorder and laziness is doing the devil's work. All cruelty and brutality is doing the devil's work.

Now as to cruelty and brutality, some soldiers fancy when towns are taken in war, that they may do things for which (to speak the truth) they ought to be hanged. I mean in plain English, ravishing the women, and ill-treating unarmed men, to make them give up their money. Whosoever does these things, God's curse is on him, and his sin will surely find him out. No excuse of being in hot blood will avail him. No excuse of having fought well beforehand will avail him. Such cant will no more excuse him with God than it will with truly noble-minded men. He may have been brave enough before, but he is doing a coward's deed then; he is doing the devil's work, and the devil, and not God, will pay him his wages, to the uttermost farthing. But though I tell you to fear the devil, it is only to fear his getting the command over you. The devil is a liar, and a liar is always a coward. Be brave in God's service. "Resist the devil and he will flee from you."

One word more. If any of you are maddened by hearing of the enemy murdering some of your wounded--recollect that revenge is one of the devil's works, of which the brave men cannot be too much afraid. God forbid that you should ever be maddened into imitating such cruelty. Fight the enemy in God's name--and strike home; but never have on your conscience the thought that you struck an unnecessary blow. You are to kill for the sake of victory, but never to kill for the sake of killing. You know who it was who prayed for and excused His own murderers as He hung upon the cross. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." That was the same Lord Jesus who, as I told you, is the great Warrior against all wrong. If He was not ashamed to forgive, do you not be ashamed either. You cannot be more brave than He is; try, at least, to be merciful like Him. Overcome evil with good; by returning good for evil you will not only help England's cause by softening the hearts of your enemies, but you will preach Christ's gospel to them--and in nowise lose your reward.

Remember then, always, our Lord Jesus Christ is the pattern of a perfect warrior, whether by land or sea; and if you be like Him, and fighting not only on His side, but as He likes to see you fight, that is, righteously and mercifully against the tyrants of the earth--what harm can happen to you? Be sure that whether you live, you will live to Him; or whether you die, you die to Him; that living or dying you will be His; and that He is merciful (the Bible says) in this, that He rewards every man according to his work. Do you your work like men, and be sure that the Lord Jesus Christ will see that you are right well paid, if not in this life, still in that life to come, to which may He bring you and all brave men, who will strive to do their duty in that station of life to which God has called them.



II. THE STORY OF CORTEZ; OR PLUCK IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY. A LECTURE DELIVERED AT ALDERSHOT CAMP, NOV. 1858.


It seemed to me that, having to speak to-night to soldiers, that I ought to speak about soldiers. Some story, I thought, about your own profession would please you most and teach you most. Some story, I say, for it is not my business to tell you what soldiers ought to be like. That, I daresay, you know a great deal better than I; and I only hope I may do my duty as a parson half as well as British soldiers do their duty, and will always do it.

So I thought of telling you to-night some sort of a story--a true one, of course, about wars and battles--some story about the British army; but then I thought there are plenty of officers who can do that far better than I,--so I will take some story of foreign armies, and one of old times too. And though no soldier myself, but only a scholar, and reader of queer old books, I may make my scholarship of some use to you who have to drill and fight, and die too, for us comfortable folks who sit at home and read our books by our fireside.

Then I thought of the story of Cortez the Spaniard, and how he conquered the great empire of Mexico with a handful of brave men. That, I thought, would be an example to you of what men can do who have stout hearts and good weapons, and who have faith too in God, and believe that if they do their duty God will prosper them. And I thought I could do it all the better, because I like the story, and enjoy reading it again and again; for I know no such dashing and desperate deed of courage in history, except Havelock's advance upon Lucknow.

So now I will begin my story, telling you first where Mexico is, and what it was like when Cortez landed in it, more than three hundred years ago.

You, all of you, have heard of the West India station--some of you have been there. Beyond those West India Islands lies the great Gulf of Mexico, and beyond that the mainland of North America, and Mexico itself. It is now thinly peopled by Spaniards, the descendants of settlers who came over after Cortez's time; and a very lazy, cowardly set most of them are,--very different from the old heroes, their forefathers. Our Yankee cousins can lick them now, one to five, and will end, I believe, in conquering the whole country. But in Cortez's time, the place was very different. It was full of vast numbers of heathens, brownish coloured people, something like the Red Indians you see in Canada, but a fairer, handsomer, stouter, heavier-bodied race; and much more civilised also. They had great cities and idol temples, aqueducts for water, and all sorts of noble buildings, all of most curiously carved stone; which is all the more wonderful and creditable to them, when we remember that they had no iron--not a knife--not a nail of iron among them. But they had found out how to make bronze by mixing tin and copper, and with it could work the hardest stones, as well as we can with iron. They had another stuff which was curious enough, of which they made knives, razors, arrow heads, and saw-edged swords as keen as razors--and that was glass. They did not make the glass--they found it about the burning mountains, of which Mexico is full; itztli they called it; we call it obsidian. It is tougher than our glass, and chips to a fine razor edge. I have seen arrows of it, which I am certain would go clean through a man, and knives which would take his arm off, bone and all. I want you to remember these glass weapons, for Cortez's Spaniards had cause enough to remember them when they came to fight. Gunpowder, of course, they knew nothing of, nor of horses or cattle either. They had no beasts of draught; and all the stones and timber for their magnificent buildings were carried by hand. But they were first-rate farmers; and for handicraft work, such as pottery, weaving, and making all kinds of ornaments, I can answer for it, for I have seen a good deal of their work--they had not then their equals in the world. They made the most beautiful dresses out of the feathers of birds--parrots, humming birds, and such like, which fill the forests in hot countries. And what was more, their country abounded in gold and jewels, and they knew how to work them, just as well as we do. They could work gold into the likeness of flowers, of birds with every feather like life, and into a thousand trinkets. Their soil was most fruitful of all that man can want--there was enough of the best for all to eat; and altogether there never was a richer, and need never have been a happier people, if they had but been good. But that was just what they were not. A bad lot they were, cruel and blood-thirsty, continually at war with each other; and as for cruelty, just take this one story. At the opening of a great temple to one of their idols in 1486, about thirty years before the Spaniards came, they sacrificed to the idol seventy-thousand human beings!

This offering in sacrifice of human beings to their idols was their regular practice. They got these poor creatures by conquering all the nations round, and carrying back their prisoners to sacrifice; and if they failed, they took poor people of their own, for blood they and their false gods must have. Men, and sometimes women and children, were murdered by them in their temples, often with the most horrible tortures, to the number, I am afraid there is no doubt of it, of many thousands every year; and their flesh afterwards cooked delicately, was eaten as a luxury by people who, as far as outward show went, were just as fine gentlemen and ladies as there are now.

When the Spaniards got into Mexico, they found the walls of the temples crusted inches thick in blood, the altars of the idols heaped with smoking human hearts, and whole houses full of skulls. They counted in one house one hundred and thirty-six thousand skulls. It was high time to get rid of those Mexicans off the face of the earth; and in God's good time a man was found to rid the earth of them, and that man was Hernando Cortez.

And who was Cortez? He was a poor young Spanish gentleman, son of an infantry captain, who, in his youth, was sickly and weakly; and his father tried to make a lawyer of him, and would have done it, but young Cortez kicked over the traces, as we say, right and left, and turned out such a wild fellow, that he would not stay at college; and after getting into plenty of scrapes, started as a soldier to the West Indies when he was only nineteen. Little did people think what stuff there was in that wild, sickly lad!

How he got on in the Spanish West Indies would be a long story. I will only tell you that he turned out a thoroughly good soldier, and a very dashing smart fellow, a first-rate rider and fencer, a great dandy in his dress; but also--and if you go to hot climates, keep this in mind--a particularly sober and temperate man, who drank nothing, and could eat anything. And he had, it is said, the most extraordinary power of managing his men. He was always cool and determined; and what he said had to be done, and they knew it; but his way with them was so frank and kind, and he was so ready to be the foremost in daring and enduring, living worse often than his own men, while he was doing every thing for their comfort, that there was nothing they would not do for him, as the event proved--for if those soldiers had not trusted him for life and death, I should not have this grand story to tell.

At last he married a very pretty woman, and got an estate in the West Indies, and settled down there; and the chances were ten to one that no one ever heard of him. However, dim reports came to the West Indies of this great empire of Mexico, and of all its wonders and wealth, and that stirred up Cortez's blood; and nothing would serve him but that leaving wife and estate, he must start out again to seek his fortune.

He got a commission from the Governor, such as it was, for they were lawless places those Spanish West Indies then; and everybody fulfilled a certain Irishman's notion of true liberty--for he did "what was right in the sight of his own eyes, and what was wrong too"--and Cortez's commission was to go and discover this country, and trade with the people, and make Christians of them--that is, if he could.

So he got together a little army, and sailed away with it for the unknown land. He had about one hundred sailors, five hundred and fifty soldiers armed with sword and pike, and among them thirty-two cross-bow men, and thirteen musketeers. Above all, he had sixteen horses, ten heavy guns--or what may be called heavy guns in those times--about 9-pounders, I suppose, and four smaller guns; and with that he set out to conquer a new world; and he conquered it!

He did not know whither he was going. All he knew was, that this wonderful country of Mexico was somewhere, and treasures inestimable in it. And one other thing he knew, that if mortal man could get there, he would.

He landed at Tabasco--where Vera Cruz city stands now--fought with the Indians, who ran away at the sight of the horses and noise of the cannon; and then made friends with them. From them he got presents, and among others, a present which was worth more than its weight in gold to him, namely, a young slave girl, who had been born near Mexico, and knew the language. She was very clever, and very beautiful; and soon learnt to speak Spanish. She had been a princess in her own country, and was sold as a slave by her cruel stepmother. They made a Christian of her, and called her Dona Marina,--her Indian name was Malinche,--and she became Cortez's interpreter to the Indians, and his secretary. And she loved him and served him as faithfully as true woman ever loved man, and saved him and his from a hundred dangers. And the Spaniards reverence her name still; and call a mighty snow mountain after her, Malinche, to this day.

After that he marched inland, hearing more and more of the wonders of Mexico, till he came at last, after many adventures, to a country called Tlascala, up among high mountains.

The men who lived there seem to have been rough honest fellows; and brave enough they showed themselves. The Mexicans who lived in the plains below never could conquer them, though they had been fighting with them for full two hundred years. These Tlascalans turned out like men, and fought Cortez--one hundred Indians to one Spaniard they fought for four mortal hours; but horses and cannon were too much for them, and by evening they were beaten off. They attempted to surprise him the same night, and were beaten off again with great slaughter. Whereon a strange thing happened.

Cortez, through Dona Marina, his interpreter, sent them in fair terms. If they would make peace he would forget and forgive all; if not, he would kill every man of them, and level their city to the ground. Whereon, after more fighting, the Tlascalans behaved like wise and brave men. They understood at last that Cortez's point was not Tlascala, but Mexico; and the Mexicans were their bitterest enemies; and they had the good sense to shake hands with the Spaniards, and make all up. And faithful friends they were, and bravely they fought side by side during all the terrible campaign that followed. Meanwhile, Cortez's own men began to lose heart. They had had terrible fighting already, and no plunder. As for getting to Mexico, it was all a dream. But Cortez and Dona Marina, this wonderful Indian girl, kept them up. No doubt they were in awful danger--a handful of strangers walking blindfold in a vast empire, not one foot of ground of which they knew: but Cortez knew the further they went the further they must go, for it was impossible to go back. So on and on they went; and as they went they met ambassadors from Montezuma, the great Emperor of Mexico. The very sight of these men confirmed all that they had heard of the riches of that great empire, for these Indian lords came blazing with gold and jewels, and the most magnificent dresses; and of their power, for at one city which had let Cortez in peaceably without asking the Emperor's leave, they demanded as a fine five and twenty Indian young men and forty girls to be offered in sacrifice to their idols. Cortez answered that by clapping them in irons, and then sending them back to the Emperor, with a message that whether he liked or not, he was coming to Mexico.

You may call that desperate rashness; but like a good deal of rashness, it paid. This great Emperor Montezuma was utterly panic-stricken. There were old prophecies that white gods should come over the sea and destroy him and his empire; and he took it into his head that these Spaniards were the white gods, and that there was no use resisting them. He had been a brave man in his youth, and a great warrior; but he utterly lost his head now. He sent magnificent presents to the Spaniards to buy them off; but that only made them the more keen to come on; and come they did, till they saw underneath them the city of Mexico, which must have been then one of the wonders of the world.

It lay in the midst of a great salt lake, and could only be reached from shore by long causeways, beautifully built of stone. On this lake were many islands; and what was most curious of all, floating gardens, covered with all sorts of vegetables and flowers.

How big the city was no one will ever know now; but the old ruins of it show how magnificent its buildings must have been, full of palaces and temples of every kind of carved stone, surrounded by flower gardens, while the whole city was full of fountains, supplied with pure water brought in pipes from the mountains round. I suppose so beautiful a sight as that city of Mexico has never been seen since on earth. Only one ugly feature there was in it--great pyramids of stone, hundreds of them, with idol temples on the top, on each of which was kept up a perpetual fire, fed with the fat of human beings.

To their surprise the Emperor received them peaceably, came out to meet them, gave them such presents, that the common soldiers were covered with chains of gold; invited them into the city, and gave them a magnificent palace to live in, and endless slaves to wait upon them. It sounds all like a fairy tale; but it is as true as that you and I are here.

But the cunning emperor had been plotting against them all the while; and no great blame to him; and at last one of those plots came to light; and Cortez made up his mind to take the Emperor prisoner. And he did it. Right or wrong, we can hardly say now. This Montezuma was a bad, false man, a tyrant and a cannibal; but still it looks ugly to seize a man who is acting as your friend. However, Cortez had courage, in the midst of that great city, with hundreds of thousands of Indians round him, to go and tell the Emperor that he must come with him. And--so strong is a man when he chooses to be strong--the Emperor actually went with Cortez a prisoner.

Cortez--and that was an unworthy action--put him in irons for an hour, to show him that he was master; and then took off his irons, and treated him like a king. The poor Emperor had all he wanted--all his wives, and slaves, and finery, and eatables, and drinkables; but he was a mere puppet in the Spaniard's hands; and knew it. And strangely enough, not being able to get out of his mind the fancy that these Spaniards were gods, or at least, the children of the gods, he treated them so generously and kindly, that they all loved him; he obeyed them in everything; took up a great friendship with several; and ended actually by giving them all his treasures of gold to melt down and part among themselves. As I say, it sounds all like a fairy tale, but it happened in this very month of November 1519.

But Cortez had been too prosperous not to meet with a mishap. Every great man must be tried by trouble; and so was Cortez. News came to him that a fresh army of Spaniards had landed, as he thought at first, to help him. They had nine hundred men, eighty of whom were horse soldiers, eighty musqueteers, one hundred and fifty cross-bow men, a good train of heavy guns, ammunition, &c. What was Cortez's disgust when he found that the treacherous Governor of Cuba had sent them, not to help him, but to take him prisoner as a rebel? It was a villainous business got up out of envy of Cortez's success, and covetousness of his booty. But in the Spanish colonies in those days, so far from home, there was very little law; and the governors and adventurers were always quarrelling and fighting with each other.

What did Cortez do? made up his mind as usual to do the desperate thing, and marched against Narvaez with only seventy men, no guns, and hardly any muskets--seventy against nine hundred. It was fearful odds; but he was forced to leave the rest to keep Mexico down. And he armed his men with very long lances, tipped at both ends with copper--for he had no iron; with them he hoped to face Narvaez's cavalry.

And he did it. Happily on his road he met an old friend with one hundred and twenty soldiers, who had been sent off to form a colony on the coast. They were as true as steel to him. And with that one hundred and ninety he surprised and defeated by night Narvaez's splendid little army. And what is more, after beating them, made such friends with them, that he engaged them all next morning to march with him wherever he wanted. The man was like a spider--whoever fell into his net, friend or foe, never came out again till he had sucked him dry.

Now he hurried back to Mexico, and terribly good reason he had; for Alvarado whom he had left in garrison had quarrelled with the Mexicans, and set upon them at one of their idol feasts, and massacred great numbers of their leading men. It was a bloody black business, and bitterly the Spaniards paid for it. Cortez when he heard it actually lost his temper for once, and called his lieutenant-general a madman and a traitor; but he could not afford to cashier him, for after all he was the best and bravest man he had. But the mischief was done. The whole city of Mexico, the whole country round, had risen in fury, had driven the Spanish garrison into the great palace; and worst of all, had burnt the boats, which Cortez had left to get off by, if the bridges were burst down. So there was Alvarado shut up, exactly like the English at Lucknow, with this difference, that the Spaniards deserved what they got, and the English, God knows, did not. And there was Cortez like another Havelock or Colin Campbell marching to deliver them. But he met a very different reception. These crafty Mexicans never struck a blow. All was as still as the grave. As they came over the long causeways and bridges, there was not a canoe upon the lake, not an Indian in the floating gardens. As they marched through the streets of the glorious city, the streets were as empty as a desert. And the Spaniard knew that he was walking into a trap, out of which none of them might come out alive; but their hearts never failed them, and they marched on to the sound of their bugles, and were answered by joyful salutes of cannon from the relieved garrison.

The Mexicans had shut up the markets, and no food was to be got. Cortez sent to open them. He sent another messenger off to the coast to say all was safe, and that he should soon conquer the rebels. But here, a cleverer man than I must tell the story.

"But scarcely had his messenger been gone half an hour, when he returned breathless with terror and covered with wounds. 'The city,' he said, 'was all in arms! the drawbridges were raised, and the enemy would soon be upon them! He spoke truth. It was not long before a hoarse sullen sound became audible, like that of the roaring of distant waters. It grew louder and louder, till from the parapet surrounding the enclosure, the great avenues which led to it might be seen dark with the masses of warriors, who came rolling on in a confused tide towards the fortress. At the same time the terraces and flat roofs in the neighbourhood were thronged with combatants, brandishing their missiles, who seemed to have risen up as if by magic! It was a spectacle to appall the stoutest. The Spanish forces were crowded into a small compact mass in the palace, and the whole army could be assembled at a moment's notice. No sooner, therefore, did the trumpet call to arms, than every soldier was at his post--the cavalry mounted, the artillerymen at their guns, and the archers and arquebusiers stationed so as to give the assailants a warm reception. On they came, with the companies, or irregular masses, into which the multitude was divided, rushing forward each in its own dense column, with many a gay banner displayed, and many a bright gleam of light reflected from helmet, arrow, and spear head, as they were tossed about in their disorderly array. As they drew near, the Aztecs set up a hideous yell, which rose far above the sound of shell and atabat, and their other rude instruments of warlike melody. They followed this by a tempest of missiles--stones, darts, arrows--which fell thick as rain on the besieged. The Spaniards waited till the foremost column had arrived, when a general discharge of artillery and arquebusses swept the ranks of the assailants, and mowed them down by hundreds." [222] . . .

So the fight raged on with fury for two days, while the Aztecs, Indians who only fought by day, howled out to the wretched Spaniards every night. On the third day Cortez brought out the Emperor Montezuma, and commanded him to quiet the Indians. The unhappy man obeyed him. He had made up his mind that these Spaniards were the white gods, who were to take his kingdom from him, and he submitted to them like a sheep to the butcher. He went up to a tower in all his royal robes and jewels. At the sight the Indians who filled the great square below were all hushed--thousands threw themselves on their faces; and to their utter astonishment, he asked them what they meant by rebelling. He was no prisoner, he said, but the Spaniard's guest and friend. The Spaniards would go peaceably, if they would let them. In any case he was the Spaniard's friend.

The Indians answered him by a yell of fury and contempt. He was a dog--a woman--fit only to weave and spin; and a volley of stones and arrows flew at him. One struck him on the head and dropped him senseless. The Indians set up a howl of terror; and frightened at what they had done, fled away ashamed.

The wretched Emperor refused comfort, food, help, tore the bandages from his wounds, and died in two days. He had been a bad man, a cannibal, and a butcher, blood-thirsty and covetous, a ravisher of virgins, and a tyrant to his people. But the Spaniards had got to love him in spite of all; for a true friend he had been to them, and a fearful loss to them just now. The battle went on worse than ever. The great idol temple commanded the palace, and was covered with Mexican warriors. And next day Cortez sent a party to storm it. They tried to get up the winding stairs, and were driven back three times with fearful loss. Cortez, though he had but one hand to fight with, sallied out and cleared the pyramid himself, after a fearful hand-to-hand fight of three hours, up the winding stairs, along the platforms, and at last upon the great square on the top, an acre in breadth. Every Mexican was either killed, or hurled down the sides. The idol, the war god, with its gold disc of bleeding hearts smoking before it, was hurled down and the whole accursed place set on fire and destroyed. Three hundred houses round were also burnt that night; but of what use?

The Spaniards were starving, hemmed in by hundreds of thousands. They were like a single wasp inside a bee-hive. Let him kill the bees by hundreds, he must be killed himself at last. He made up his mind to evacuate the city, to leave all his conquests behind him. It was a terrible disappointment, but it had to be done.

They marched out by night in good order, with all their guns and ammunition, and with immense plunder; as much of poor Montezuma's treasures as they could carry. The old hands took very little; they knew what they were about. The fresh ones from Narvaez's army loaded themselves with gold and jewels, and had to pay dear for them. Cortez, I ought to tell you, took good care of Dona Marina. He sent her forward under a strong guard of Tlascalans, with all the other women. The great street was crossed by many canals. Then the causeway across the lake, two miles long, was crossed by more canals, and at every one of these the Indians had taken away the bridges. Cortez knew that, and had made a movable bridge; but he had only time to make one, and that of course had to be taken up at the rear, and carried forward to the front every time they crossed a dyke; and that made endless delay. As long as they were in the city, however, all went well; but the moment they came out upon the lake causeway, out thundered the serpent-skin drums from the top of every temple, the conch shells blew, and out swarmed the whole hive of bees, against the one brave wasp who was struggling. The Spaniards cleared the dyke by cavalry and artillery, and got to the first canal, laid down the bridge, and over slowly but safely, amid a storm of stones and arrows. They got to the second canal, fifteen or twenty feet broad. Why, in God's name, was not the bridge brought on? Instead of the bridge came news from the rear. The weight of the artillery had been too great for the bridge, and it was jammed fast. And there they were on a narrow dyke fifty feet broad, in the midst of the lake, in the dark midnight, with countless thousands of Indians, around, before, behind, and the lord have mercy on them!

What followed you may guess--though some of the brave men who fought there, and who wrote the story themselves--which I have read--hardly knew.

The cavalry tried to swim their horses over. Some got safe, others rolled into the lake. The infantry followed pell mell, cut down like sheep by arrows and stones, by the terrible glass swords of the Indians, who crowded round their canoes. The waggons prest on the men, the guns on them, the rear on them again, till in a few minutes the canal was choked with writhing bodies of men and horses, cannon, gold and treasure inestimable, over which the survivors scrambled to the further bank. Cortez, who was helping the rear forded the gap on horseback, and hurried on to find a third and larger canal which no one dare cross. But the Indians were not so thick here, and plunging into the water they got through as they could. And woe that night to the soldier who had laden himself with Indian treasure. Dragged to the bottom by the weight of their plunder, hundreds died there drowned by that very gold to find which they had crossed the seas, and fought so many a bloody battle.

What is the use of making a sad story long? They reached the shore, and sat down like men desperate and foredone in a great idol temple. Several of their finest officers, three-fourths of their men, were killed and missing, three-fourths too of their horses--all Cortez's papers, all their cannon, all their treasure. They had not even a musket left. Nothing to face the Indians with but twenty-three crippled horses, a few damaged crossbows, and their good old swords. Cortez's first question was for poor Dona Marima, and strange to say she was safe. The trusty Tlascalan Indians had brought her through it all. Alvarado the lieutenant was safe too. If he had been the cause of all that misery, he did his best to make up for it. He stayed behind fighting at the last canal till all were over, and the Indians closing round him. Then he set his long lance in the water, and to the astonishment of both armies, leapt the canal clean, while the Indians shouted, "This is indeed the Tonatiah, the child of the Sun." The gap is shown now, and it is called to this day, Alvarado's Leap. God forgive him! for if he was a cruel man, he was at least a brave one!

Cortez sat down, a ruined man, and as he looked round for his old comrades, and missed one face after another, he covered his face with his hands and cried like a child.

And was he a ruined man? Never less. No man is ruined till his pluck is gone. He got his starving and shivering men together, and away for the mountains to get back to the friendly people of Tlascala. The people followed them along the hills shouting, "Go on! you will soon find yourselves where you cannot escape." But he went on--till he saw what they meant.

Waiting for him in a pass was an army of Indians--two hundred thousand, some writers say--all fresh and fully armed. What could he do? To surrender, was to be sacrificed every man to the idols; so he marched on. He had still twenty horses, and he put ten on each flank. He bade his men not strike with their sword but give the point. He made a speech to his men. They had beaten the Indians, he said, many a time at just as fearful odds. God had brought them through so far, God would not desert them, for they were fighting on His side against the heathen; and so he went straight at the vast army of Indians. They were surrounded, swallowed up by them for a few minutes. In the course of an hour the Spaniards had routed them utterly with immense slaughter.

Of all the battles I ever read of, this battle of Otumba is one of the most miraculous. Some say that Cortez conquered Mexico by gunpowder: he had none then, neither cannon nor musket. The sword and lance did it all, and they in the hands of men worn out with famine, cold, and fatigue, and I had said broken-hearted into the bargain. But there was no breaking those men's hearts--what won that battle, what won Mexico, was the indomitable pluck of the white man, before which the Indian, whether American or Hindoo, never has stood, and never will stand to the world's end. The Spaniards proved it in America of old, though they were better armed than the Indian. But there are those who have proved it upon Indians as well armed as themselves. Ay, my friends, I should be no Englishman, if while I told this story, I could help thinking all the while of our brave comrades in India, who have conquered as Cortez conquered, and against just as fearful odds; whose enemies were armed, not with copper arrows and glass knives, but with European muskets, European cannon, and most dangerous of all, European discipline. I say Cortez did wonders in his time; but I say too that our Indian heroes have done more, and done it in a better cause.

And that is the history of the conquest of Mexico. What, you may ask, is that the end? When we are leaving the Spaniards a worn-out and starving handful struggling back for refuge to Tlascala, without anything but their old swords; do you call that a conquest?

Yes, I do; just as I call the getting back to Cawnpore, after the relief of Lucknow, the conquest of India. It showed which was the better man, Englishman or sepoy, just as the retreat from Mexico showed which was the better man, Spaniard or Indian. The sepoys were cowed from that day, just as the Mexicans were cowed after Otumba. They had fought with all possible odds on their side, and been licked; and when men are once cowed, all the rest is merely a work of time.

So it was with Cortez. He went back to Tlascala. He got by mere accident, as we say, a reinforcement of Spaniards. He stirred up all the Indian nations round, who were weary of the cruel tyranny of the Mexicans; he made large boats to navigate the lake, and he marched back upon Mexico the next year with about six hundred Spaniards and nine cannon--about half the force which he had had before; but with a hundred thousand Indian allies, who, like the sturdy Tlascalans, proved as true to him as steel. Truly, if he was not a great general, who is?

He marched back, taking city after city as he went, and besieged Mexico. It was a long and weary siege. The Indians fought like fiends. The causeways had to be taken yard by yard; but Cortez, wise by sad experience, put his cannon into the boats and swept them from the water. Then the city had to be taken house by house. The Indians drove him back again and again, till they were starved to skeletons, and those who used to eat their enemies were driven to eat each other. Still they would not give in. At last, after many weeks of fighting, it was all over. The glorious Mexican empire was crumbled to dust. Those proud nobles, who used to fat themselves upon the bodies of all the nations round, were reduced to a handful of starving beggars. The cross of Christ was set up, where the hearts of human creatures were offered to foul idols, and Mexico has been ever since the property of the Spaniards, a Christian land.

And what became of Cortez? He died sadly and in disgrace. He sowed, and other men reaped. If he was cruel and covetous, he was punished for it in this world heavily enough. He had many noble qualities though. He was a better man than those around him; and one good thing he did, which was to sweep off the face of the earth as devilish a set of tyrants as ever defiled the face of the earth. Give him all due honour for it, and let him rest in peace. God shall judge him and not we.

But take home with you, soldiers all, one lesson from this strange story, that while a man can keep his courage and his temper, he is not only never really beaten, but no man can tell what great things he may not do.


[222] Prescott's "History of the Conquest of Mexico." See Book v., ch. 1.


III. PICTURE GALLERIES.

Picture-galleries should be the working-man's paradise, [230] a garden of pleasure, to which he goes to refresh his eyes and heart with beautiful shapes and sweet colouring, when they are wearied with dull bricks and mortar, and the ugly colourless things which fill the town, the workshop and the factory. For, believe me, there is many a road into our hearts besides our ears and brains; many a sight, and sound, and scent, even, of which we have never thought at all, sinks into our memory, and helps to shape our characters; and thus children brought up among beautiful sights and sweet sounds will most likely show the fruits of their nursing, by thoughtfulness and affection, and nobleness of mind, even by the expression of the countenance. The poet Wordsworth, talking of training up a beautiful country girl, says:--

"The floating clouds their state shall lend To her--for her the willow bend; Nor shall she fail to see, Even in the motions of the storm, Grace which shall mould the maiden's form, By silent sympathy.

And she shall bend her ear In many a secret place Where rivulets dance their wayward round, And beauty, born of murmuring sound, Shall pass into her face."

Those who live in towns should carefully remember this, for their own sakes, for their wives' sakes, for their children's sakes. Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful. Beauty is God's handwriting--a wayside sacrament; welcome it in every fair face, every fair sky, every fair flower, and thank Him for it, who is the fountain of all loveliness, and drink it in, simply and earnestly, with all your eyes; it is a charmed draught, a cup of blessing.

Therefore I said that picture-galleries should be the townsman's paradise of refreshment. Of course, if he can get the real air, the real trees, even for an hour, let him take it, in God's name; but how many a man who cannot spare time for a daily country walk, may well slip into the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square (or the South Kensington Museum), or any other collection of pictures, for ten minutes. That garden, at least, flowers as gaily in winter as in summer. Those noble faces on the wall are never disfigured by grief or passion. There, in the space of a single room, the townsman may take his country walk--a walk beneath mountain peaks, blushing sunsets, with broad woodlands spreading out below it; a walk through green meadows, under cool mellow shades, and overhanging rocks, by rushing brooks, where he watches and watches till he seems to hear the foam whisper, and to see the fishes leap; and his hard worn heart wanders out free, beyond the grim city-world of stone and iron, smoky chimneys, and roaring wheels, into the world of beautiful things--the world which shall be hereafter--ay, which shall be! Believe it, toil-worn worker, in spite of thy foul alley, thy crowded lodging, thy grimed clothing, thy ill-fed children, thy thin, pale wife--believe it, thou too and thine, will some day have your share of beauty. God made you love beautiful things only because He intends hereafter to give you your fill of them. That pictured face on the wall is lovely, but lovelier still may the wife of thy bosom be when she meets thee on the resurrection morn! Those baby cherubs in the old Italian painting--how gracefully they flutter and sport among the soft clouds, full of rich young life and baby joy! Yes, beautiful indeed, but just such a one at this very moment is that once pining, deformed child of thine, over whose death-cradle thou wast weeping a month ago; now a child-angel, whom thou shalt meet again never to part! Those landscapes, too, painted by loving, wise old Claude, two hundred years ago, are still as fresh as ever. How still the meadows are! how pure and free that vault of deep blue sky! No wonder that thy worn heart, as thou lookest, sighs aloud, "Oh that I had wings as a dove, then would I flee away and be at rest." Ah, but gayer meadows and bluer skies await thee in the world to come--that fairy-land made real--"the new heavens and the new earth," which God has prepared for the pure and the loving, the just and the brave, who have conquered in this sore fight of life!

These thoughts may seem all too far-fetched to spring up in a man's head from merely looking at pictures; but it is not so in practice. See, now, such thoughts have sprung up in my head; how else did I write them down here? And why should not they, and better ones, too, spring up in your heads, friends? It is delightful to watch in a picture-gallery some street-boy enjoying himself; how first wonder creeps over his rough face, and then a sweeter, more earnest, awestruck look, till his countenance seems to grow handsomer and nobler on the spot, and drink in and reflect unknowingly, the beauty of the picture he is studying. See how some soldier's face will light up before the painting which tells him a noble story of bye-gone days. And why? Because he feels as if he himself had a share in the story at which he looks. They may be noble and glorious men who are painted there; but they are still men of like passions with himself, and his man's heart understands them and glories in them; and he begins, and rightly, to respect himself the more when he finds that he, too, has a fellow-feeling with noble men and noble deeds.

I say, pictures raise blessed thoughts in me--why not in you, my brothers? Your hearts are fresh, thoughtful, kindly; you only want to have these pictures explained to you, that you may know why and how they are beautiful, and what feelings they ought to stir in your minds. Look at the portraits on the walls, and let me explain one or two. Often the portraits are simpler than large pictures, and they speak of real men and women who once lived on this earth of ours--generally of remarkable and noble men--and man should be always interesting to man.


[230] Mr. Kingsley wrote these papers for London working-men, but his words apply just as much to soldiers in London barracks, as to artizans. He thought much of the good of pictures, and all beautiful things for hard-worked men who could see such things in public galleries, though they could not afford to have them in their own homes.


IV. A PORTRAIT IN THE NATIONAL GALLERY.

"Any one who goes to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, may see two large and beautiful pictures--the nearer of the two labelled 'Titian,' representing Bacchus leaping from a car drawn by leopards. The other, labelled 'Francia,' representing the Holy Family seated on a sort of throne, with several figures arranged below--one of them a man pierced with arrows. Between these two, low down, hangs a small picture, about two feet square, containing only the portrait of an old man, in a white cap and robe, and labelled on the picture itself, 'Joannes Bellinus.' Now this old man is a very ancient friend of mine, and has comforted my heart, and preached me a sharp sermon, too, many a time. I never enter that gallery without having five minutes' converse with him; and yet he has been dead at least three hundred years, and, what is more, I don't even know his name. But what more do I know of a man by knowing his name? Whether the man's name be Brown, or whether he has as many names and titles as a Spanish grandee, what does that tell me about the man?--the spirit and character of the man--what the man will say when he is asked--what the man will do when he is stirred up to action? The man's name is part of his clothes; his shell; his husk. Change his name and all his titles, you don't change him--'a man's a man for a' that,' as Burns says; and a goose a goose. Other men gave him his name; but his heart and his spirit--his love and his hatred--his wisdom and his folly--his power to do well and ill; those God and himself gave him. I must know those, and then I know the man. Let us see what we can make out from the picture itself about the man whom it represents. In the first place, we may see by his dress that he was in his day the Doge (or chief magistrate) of Venice--the island city, the queen of the seas. So we may guess that he had many a stirring time of it, and many a delicate game to play among those tyrannous and covetous old merchant-princes who had elected him; who were keeping up their own power at the expense of everyone's liberty, by spies and nameless accusers, and secret councils, tortures, and prisons, whose horrors no one ever returned to describe. Nay, we may guess just the very men with whom he had to deal--the very battles he may have seen fought.

"But all these are circumstances--things which stand round the man (as the word means), and not the whole man himself--not the character and heart of the man: that we must get from the portrait; and if the portrait is a truly noble portrait we shall get it. If it is a merely vulgar picture, we shall get the man's dress and shape of his face, but little or no expression: if it is a pathetic portrait, or picture of passion, we shall get one particular temporary expression of his face--perhaps joy, sorrow, anger, disgust--but still one which may have passed any moment, and left his face quite different; but if the picture is one of the noblest kind, we shall read the man's whole character there; just all his strength and weakness, his kindliness or his sternness, his thoughtfulness or his carelessness, written there once and for ever;--what he would be, though all the world passed away; what his immortal and eternal soul will be, unless God or the devil changed his heart, to all eternity.

"We may see at once that this man has been very handsome; but it is a peculiar sort of beauty. How delicate and graceful all the lines in his face are!--he is a gentleman of God's own making, and not of the tailor's making. He is such a gentleman as I have seen among working men and nine- shilling-a-week labourers, often and often; his nobleness is in his heart--it is God's gift, therefore it shows in his noble looking face. No matter whether he were poor or rich; all the rags in the world, all the finery in the world, could not have made him look like a snob or a swell. He was a thoughtful man, too; no one with such a forehead could have been a trifler: a kindly man, too, and honest--one that may have played merrily enough with his grandchildren, and put his hand in his purse for many a widow and orphan. Look what a bright, clear, straightforward, gentle look he has, almost a smile; but he has gone through too many sad hours to smile much: he is a man of many sorrows, like all true and noble rulers; and, like a high mountain-side, his face bears the furrows of many storms. He has had a stern life of it, with the cares of a great nation on his shoulders. He has seen that in this world there is no rest for those who live like true men: you may see it by the wrinkles in his brow, and the sharp-cut furrows in his cheeks, and those firm-set, determined lips. His eyes almost show the marks of many noble tears,--tears such as good men shed over their nation's sins; but that, too, is past now. He has found out his path, and he will keep it; and he has no misgiving now about what God would have him do, or about the reward which God has laid up for the brave and just; and that is what makes his forehead so clear and bright, while his very teeth are clenched with calm determination. And by the look of those high cheek bones, and that large square jaw, he is a strong-willed man enough, and not one to be easily turned aside from his purpose by any man alive, or by any woman either, or by his own passions and tempers. One fault of character, I think, he may perhaps have had much trouble with--I mean bitterness and contemptuousness. His lips are very thin; he may have sneered many a time, when he was younger, at the follies of the world which that great, lofty, thoughtful brain and clear eye of his told him were follies; but he seems to have got past that too. Such is the man's character: a noble, simple, commanding old man, who has conquered many hard things, and, hardest of all, has conquered himself, and now is waiting calm for his everlasting rest. God send us all the same.

"Now consider the deep insight of old John Bellini, who could see all this, and put it down there for us with pencil and paint. No doubt there was something in Bellini's own character which made him especially best able to paint such a man; for we always understand those who are most like ourselves; and therefore you may tell pretty nearly a painter's own character by seeing what sort of subjects he paints, and what his style of painting is. And a noble, simple, brave, godly man was old John Bellini, who never lost his head, though princes were flattering him and snobs following him with shouts and blessings for his noble pictures of the Venetian victories, as if he had been a man sent from God Himself, as indeed he was--all great painters are; for who but God makes beauty? Who gives the loving heart, and the clear eye, and the graceful taste to see beauty and to copy it, and to set forth on canvas, or in stone, the noble deeds of patriots dying for their country? To paint truly patriotic pictures well, a man must have his heart in his work--he must be a true patriot himself, as John Bellini was (if I mistake not, he had fought for his country himself in more than one shrewd fight). And what makes men patriots, or artists, or anything noble at all, but the spirit of the living God? Those great pictures of Bellini's are no more; they were burnt a few years afterwards, with the magnificent national hall in which they hung; but the spirit of them is not passed away. Even now, Venice, Bellini's beloved mother-land, is rising, new-born, from long weary years of Austrian slavery, and trying to be free and great once more; and young Italian hearts are lighting up with the thoughts of her old fleets and her old victories, her merchants and her statesmen, whom John Bellini drew. Venice sinned, and fell; and sorely has she paid for her sins, through two hundred years of shame, and profligacy, and slavery. And she has broken the oppressor's yoke. God send her a new life! May she learn by her ancient sins! May she learn by her ancient glories!

"You will forgive me for forgetting my picture to talk of such things. But we must return. Look back at what I said about the old portrait--the clear, calm, victorious character of the old man's face, and see how all the rest of the picture agrees with it, in a complete harmony. The dress, the scenery, the light and shade, the general 'tone' of colour should all agree with the character of the face--all help to bring our minds into that state in which we may best feel and sympathise with the human beings painted. Now here, because the face is calm and grand, the colour and the outlines are quiet and grand likewise. How different these colours are from that glorious 'Holy Family' of Francia's, next to it on the right; or from that equally glorious 'Bacchus and Ariadne' of Titian's, on the left! Yet all three are right, each for its own subject. Here you have no brilliant reds, no rich warm browns; no luscious greens. The white robe and cap give us the thought of purity and simplicity; the very golden embroidery on them, which marks his rank, is carefully kept back from being too gaudy. Everything is sober here; and the lines of the dress, how simple they all are--no rich curves, no fluttering drapery. They would be quite stiff if it were not for that waving line of round tassels in front, which break the extreme straightness and heaviness of the splendid robe; and all pointing upwards towards that solemn, thin, calm face, with its high white cap, rising like the peak of a snow mountain against the dark, deep, boundless blue sky beyond. That is a grand thought of Bellini's. You do not see the man's hands; he does not want them now, his work is done. You see no landscape behind--no buildings. All earth's ways and sights are nothing to him now; there is nothing but the old man and the sky--nothing between him and the heaven now, and he knows it and is glad. A few months more, and those way-worn features shall have crumbled to their dust, and that strong, meek spirit shall be in the abyss of eternity, before the God from whence it came.

"So says John Bellini, with art more cunning than words. And if this paper shall make one of you look at that little picture with fresh interest, and raise one strong and solemn longing in you to die the death of the righteous, and let your last end be like his who is painted there--then I shall rejoice in the only payment I desire to get, for this my afternoon's writing."



V. THE BRITISH MUSEUM.

Nature is infinitely more wonderful than the highest art; and in the commonest hedgeside leaf lies a mystery and beauty greater than that of the greatest picture, the noblest statue--as infinitely greater as God's work is infinitely greater than man's. But to those who have no leisure to study nature in the green fields (and there are now-a-days too many such, though the time may come when all will have that blessing), to such I say, go to the British Museum, Bloomsbury Square; there at least, if you cannot go to nature's wonders, some of nature's wonders are brought to you.

The British Museum is my glory and joy; because it is one of the only places which is free to English citizens as such--where the poor and the rich may meet together, and before those works of God's Spirit, "who is no respecter of persons," feel that "the Lord is the maker of them all." In the British Museum and the National Gallery, the Englishman may say, "Whatever my coat or my purse, I am an Englishman, and therefore I have a right here. I can glory in these noble halls, as if they were my own house."

English commerce, the joint enterprise and industry of the poor sailor as well as the rich merchant, brought home these treasures from foreign lands; and those glorious statues--though it was the wealth and taste of English noblemen and gentlemen (who in that proved themselves truly noble and gentle) who placed them here, yet it was the genius of English artists--men at once above and below all ranks--men who have worked their way up, not by money or birth, but by worth and genius, which taught the noble and wealthy the value of those antiques, and which proclaimed their beauty to the world. The British Museum is a truly equalising place, in the deepest and most spiritual sense. And it gives the lie, too, to that common slander, "that the English are not worthy of free admission to valuable and curious collections, because they have such a trick of seeing with their fingers; such a trick of scribbling their names, of defiling and disfiguring works of art. On the Continent it may do, but you cannot trust the English."

This has been, like many other untruths, so often repeated, that people now take it for granted; but I believe that it is utterly groundless, and I say so on the experience of the British Museum and the National Gallery. In the only two cases, I believe, in which injury has been done to anything in either place, the destroyers were neither working-men, nor even poor reckless heathen street-boys, but persons who had received what is too often miscalled "a liberal education." But national property will always be respected, because all will be content, while they feel that they have their rights, and all will be careful while they feel that they have a share in the treasure.

Go to the British Museum in Easter week, and see there hundreds of thousands, of every rank and age, wandering past sculptures and paintings, which would be ruined by a blow--past jewels and curiosities, any one of which would buy many a poor soul there a month's food and lodging--only protected by a pane of glass, if by that; and then see not a thing disfigured--much less stolen. Everywhere order, care, attention, honest pride in their country's wealth and science; earnest reverence for the mighty works of God, and of the God-inspired. I say, the people of England prove themselves worthy of free admission to all works of art, and it is therefore the duty of those who can to help them to that free admission.

What a noble, and righteous, and truly brotherly plan it would be, if all classes would join to form a free National Gallery of Art and Science, which might combine the advantages of the present Polytechnic, Society of Arts, and British Institution, gratis. [243] Manufacturers and men of science might send thither specimens of their new inventions. The rich might send, for a few months in the year--as they do now to the British Institution--ancient and modern pictures, and not only pictures, but all sorts of curious works of art and nature, which are now hidden in their drawing-rooms and libraries. There might be free liberty to copy any object, on the copyist's name and residence being registered. And surely artists and men of science might be found, with enough of the spirit of patriotism and love, to explain gratuitously to all comers, whatever their rank or class, the wonders of the Museum. I really believe that if once the spirit of brotherhood got abroad among us; if men once saw that here was a vast means of educating, and softening and uniting those who have no leisure for study, and few means of enjoyment, except the gin- shop and Cremorne Gardens; if they could but once feel that here was a project, equally blessed for rich and poor, the money for it would be at once forthcoming from many a rich man, who is longing to do good, if he could only be shown the way; and from many a poor journeyman, who would gladly contribute his mite to a truly national museum. All that is wanted is the spirit of self-sacrifice, patriotism and brotherly love--which God alone can give--which I believe He is giving more and more in these very days.

I never felt this more strongly than one day, as I was looking in at the windows of a splendid curiosity-shop in Oxford Street, at a case of humming-birds. I was gloating over the beauty of those feathered jewels, and then wondering what was the meaning, what was the use of it all? why those exquisite little creatures should have been hidden for ages, in all their splendours of ruby, and emerald, and gold in the South American forests, breeding and fluttering and dying, that some dozen out of all those millions might be brought over here to astonish the eyes of men. And as I asked myself, why were all these boundless varieties, these treasures of unseen beauty, created? my brain grew dizzy between pleasure and thought; and, as always happens when one is most innocently delighted, "I turned to share the joy," as Wordsworth says; and next to me stood a huge, brawny coal-heaver, in his shovel hat, and white stockings and high-lows, gazing at the humming-birds as earnestly as myself. As I turned he turned, and I saw a bright manly face, with a broad, soot-grimmed forehead, from under which a pair of keen flashing eyes gleamed wondering, smiling sympathy into mine. In that moment we felt ourselves friends. If we had been Frenchmen, we should, I suppose, have rushed into each other's arms and "fraternised" upon the spot. As we were a pair of dumb, awkward Englishmen, we only gazed a half-minute, staring into each other's eyes, with a delightful feeling of understanding each other, and then burst out both at once with, "Isn't that beautiful?" "Well, that is!" And then both turned back again, to stare at our humming-birds.

I never felt more thoroughly than at that minute (though, thank God, I had often felt it before) that all men were brothers; that this was not a mere political doctrine, but a blessed God-ordained fact; that the party-walls of rank and fashion and money were but a paper prison of our own making, which we might break through any moment by a single hearty and kindly feeling; that the one spirit of God was given without respect of persons; that the beautiful things were beautiful alike to the coal- heaver and the parson; and that before the wondrous works of God and of God's inspired genius, the rich and the poor might meet together, and feel that whatever the coat or the creed may be, "A man's a man for a' that," and one Lord the maker of them all.

For, believe me, my friends, rich and poor--and I beseech you to think deeply over this great truth--that men will never be joined in true brotherhood by mere plans to give them a self-interest in common, as the Socialists have tried to do. No: to feel for each other, they must first feel with each other. To have their sympathies in common, they must have not one object of gain, but an object of admiration in common; to know that they are brothers, they must feel that they have one Father; and one way to feel that they have one common Father, is to see each other wondering, side by side, at His glorious works!


[243] Since this paper was written in 1848 many such institutions have been opened, at South Kensington, and in several great towns.


THE END.

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Charles Kingsley