Page:Essays and phantasies by James Thomson.djvu/209

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experience of the senators is their shield, and the daring of the young members their sword; and they are thus, though dispersed throughout all the countries and cycles, ever ready in battle-array to repel or to assault. They are of all characters and professions; and each human being, while belonging supremely to one, belongs in lower degrees to many of them, for every point in the circle of his nature touches a point in the circle of some other nature.

In the noblest of these confraternities, very rarely in the lifetime of any one member does he come into personal contact with another of the same rank, almost never into personal contact with more than two or three others of the same rank; yet their spirit of fraternity is perfect, and with the dead of his brotherhood each may hold frequent and solemn communion. These rare meetings of the living seldom occur in the bustling streets and busy marts; but in places and times of extreme seclusion and tranquillity, or extreme agitation and strife. In the stillness of the library, the oratory, the studio; in the tumult and terror of the battle, the plague, the revolution, the shipwreck; brothers meet unforebodingly by twos and threes. The still meetings are their eucharistic love-feasts, the others are their Thermopylæ banquets: and the rapture of the agony in these transcends the rapture of the joy in those. In the moment of their coming together the whole past life of the one is revealed to the other; infinite mutual love and reverence consecrate their meeting and their parting. From drinking together the glorious wine of communion, they go their ways to live yet more nobly or to die more grandly, rejoicing in the death as in the life.

But it must be admitted that these loftiest of the Open Secret Societies, which exist everywhere and endure with the æon of our race, are parodied and counterfeited and traduced by ingenious Societies of the artificial kind, and