Although Darwin must have been tried sorely by vulgar misrepresentation, partisan spite, ignorant invective and foul traduction, "he never took an ill-natured view of any one's character." His conduct midmost the cataract of abuse let loose upon the "Origin of Species" constitutes a glorious monument to his elevation of soul. His open simplicity earned the reverence no less than the affection of those who were privileged to know him. And, as we now place our bays upon his crowned memory, we may adopt the words of the Scottish poet, an acquaintance of my college days, whose sonnet voices the truth so finely:
Man's thought is like Antæus, and must be
Touched to the ground of Nature to regain
Fresh force, new impulse, else it would remain
Dead in the grip of strong Authority.
But, once thereon reset, 'tis like a tree.
Sap-swollen in spring-time: bonds may not restrain;
Nor weight repress; its rootlets rend in twain
Dead stones and walls and rocks resistlessly.
Thine then it was to touch dead thoughts to earth,
Till of old dreams sprang new philosophies,
From visions systems, and beneath thy spell
Swiftly uprose, like magic palaces,—
Thyself half-conscious only of thy worth—
Calm priest of a tremendous oracle!
- Ibid., pp. 300, 301.