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perity and success or even of those great changes of fortune which alter the outer current and surface of one's life. These, built up visibly in the sight of other men, may invite glad and congratulatory attention; and surveying them we are content. But looking back on some fortunate achievement, some unexpected success, there is little tenderness in the retrospect, until the remembrance of the hand that was then clasped in ours and of the eyes that then beamed with sympathetic gladness comes before us; and with the realization that we see them no more, our thoughts turn from the contemplation of the gladder visions of past days to the farewell spot a hundred-fold more closely enshrined in our affections. And, in like manner, the yearning recollections of family joys and past reunions which the return of anniversaries and the revisiting of familiar scenes and the sound of some old strain of song bring to our hearts, acquire their intensity and their sacredness from the further memory of the place which retains for us and for them, and for none others, the associations of last words and last looks, as definitely and truly as the lonely pillar which stood with its grey stones around it, holding fast its tradition on the boundary-heights of Gilead.
The parting of one's life! Our Mizpah ! Strangely various are the pictures which come to different minds at the mention of that word. And still more strange the thought that in our common every-day comings and goings, we hurry carelessly past full many a spot thus consecrated in the memories of others concerning whom we know nothing.
It may be that this garden-gate, which to you and me is nothing more, dwells in the recollection of some far-distant ones, encircled with all such associations. Beside it stood, perchance, father, mother, brethren. Upon it, some little one was supported, and waved farewells which it scarcely understood. Around it, last words were spoken, last embraces interchanged. Every shrub, every smallest feature of this site is in some heart sacredly enshrined. We heedlessly follow the path which bends out of sight, and dream not that at this turn of the road the severance was completed which made this place Mizpah, or that in the day which gave it that name it was christened with parting tears.
Or it may be that towards the sea-shore which we are heedlessly treading distant hearts are turning with the yearning unspeakable of farewell memories. That here the little foot of water separating friend from friend, brother from sister, parent from son, widened into the great gulf of pathless distance; that here children wondered why words of good-bye need be spoken seeing that they were so sad, and said within themselves that when they should be grown up and their own masters they would never part; that from hence some turned away exclaiming in the first numb anguish of separation, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.” And in their ears, the rise and fall of the wave to which thousands passing by give little heed, would seem to be repeating over and over, and for them only, the history of that parting, and faintly to echo the longing cry “The Lord watch between me and thee.”
I have sometimes thought the same in marking at some way-side station a little company evidently gathered together for wishing God-speed to one going forth from among them. There is generally on such occasions an absence of demonstrative grief. Many eyes are looking on with
careless, unsympathetic glance. There is nothing to soften those last moments in the business-like hurry and regularity of the departure, or in the necessary despatch and abrupt termination of farewells. But you may yet know that this is a life-parting—that underneath that “Keep up heart mother—I'll be sure and write to you,” and beyond that apparently careless “I wonder what the children will be like when I see them again,” there is a sob which can hardly be kept down ;you may see that those few tears which have welled up slowly, but which yet will not be restrained, come from too deep a source to be unlocked by any mere surface grief, as the “God bless you" of condensed emotion follows the already retreating form of the traveller. Perhaps a flower or two from the home-garden, borne away with an unexpressed idea of their supplying a last link, however frail, with the old familiar life left behind for ever, are held up with answering gesture. And you look back for a moment, ere passing completely out of sight, and see that the barriers of self-restraint have broken down now, and that those who are once more turning slowly towards the homeward path which they must tread alone, have
consigned away from them one whose life was bound up in their own. And the thought that many such scenes daily take place on the right hand and on the left, in no degree lessens the impulse of sympathy which leads you to ponder for a while the farewells by the way.
In our days of much journeying to and fro, these are of necessity accepted as among the ordinary probabilities of life. But the heartstrings quiver not less sensitively at the thought of such sunderings because they belong to the lot of others also. The vacant place speaks not the less appealingly because of vacant places in other homes. Partings may have little now of the solemn ceremonial with which they were invested in those ancient times when families and tribes ordinarily lived and died together, and when departures from amongst them were things of rare occurrence. Yet around us and in our midst, even in these days of hurry and of manifold comings and goings, there are not wanting many for whom the noisy and unvarying circumstances of travel are only as the camels and trains of cattle, and pitching of tents, and change of march in that eastern parting of long ago—ac