The Atlantic Monthly/Volume 2/Number 6/Physical Courage
The Romans had a military machine, called a balista, a sort of vast crossbow, which discharged huge stones. It is said, that, when the first one was exhibited, an athlete exclaimed, "Farewell henceforth to all courage!" Montaigne relates, that the old knights, in his youth, were accustomed to deplore the introduction of fencing-schools, from a similar apprehension. Pacific King James predicted, but with rejoicing, the same result from iron armor. "It was an excellent thing," he said,—"one could get no harm in it, nor do any." And, similarly, there exists an opinion now, that the combined powers of gunpowder and peace are banishing physical courage, and the need of it, from the world.
Peace is good, but this result of it would be sad indeed. Life is sweet, but it would not be sweet enough without the occasional relish of peril and the luxury of daring deeds. Amid the changes of time, the monotony of events, and the injustice of mankind, there is always accessible to the poorest this one draught of enjoyment,—danger. "In boyhood," said the Norwegian enthusiast, Ole Bull, "I loved to be far out on the ocean in my little boat, for it was dangerous, and in danger one draws near to God." Perhaps every man sometimes feels this longing, has his moment of ardor, when he would fain leave politics and personalities, even endearments and successes, behind, and would exchange the best year of his life for one hour at Balaklava with the "Six Hundred." It is the bounding of the Berserker blood in us, —the murmuring echo of the old death-song of Regnar Lodbrog, as he lay amid vipers in his dungeon:—"What is the fate of a brave man, but to fall amid the foremost? He who is never wounded has a weary lot."
This makes the fascination of war, which is in itself, of course, brutal and disgusting. Dr. Johnson says, truly, that the naval and military professions have the dignity of danger, since mankind reverence those who have overcome fear, which is so general a weakness. The error usually lies in exaggerating the difference, in this respect, between war and peace. Madame de Sévigné writes to her cousin, Bussy-Rabutin, after a campaign, "I cannot understand how one can expose himself a thousand times, as you have done, and not be killed a thousand times also." To which the Count answers, that she overrates the danger; a soldier may often make several campaigns without drawing a sword, and be in a battle without seeing an enemy, —as, for example, where one is in the second line, or rear guard, and the first line decides the contest. He finally quotes Turenne, and Maurice, Prince of Orange, to the same effect, that a military life is less perilous than civilians suppose.
It is, therefore, a foolish delusion to suppose, that, as the world grows more pacific, the demand for physical courage passes away. It is only that its applications become nobler. In barbarous ages, men fight against men and animals, and need, like Achilles, to be fed on the marrow of wild beasts. As time elapses, the savage animals are extirpated, the savage men are civilized; but Nature, acting through science, commerce, society, is still creating new exigencies of peril, and evoking new types of courage to meet them. Grace Darling at her oars, Kane in his open boat, Stephenson testing his safety-lamp in the terrible pit,—what were the trophies of Miltiades to these? The ancient Agamemnon faced no danger so memorable as that ocean-storm which beset his modern namesake, bearing across the waters a more priceless treasure than Helen, pride of Greece. And, indeed, setting aside these sublimities of purpose, and looking simply at the quantity and quality of peril, it is doubtful whether any tale of the sea-kings thrills the blood more worthily than the plain newspaper narrative of Captain Thomas Bailey, in the Newburyport schooner, "Atlas," beating out of the Gut of Canso, in a gale of wind, with his crew of two men and a boy, up to their waists in the water.
It is easy to test the matter. Let any one, who believes that the day of daring is past, beg or buy a ride on the locomotive of the earliest express-train, some cold winter-morning. One wave of the conductor's hand, and the live engine springs snorting beneath you, as no Arab steed ever rushed over the desert. It is not like being bound to an arrow, for that motion would be smoother; it is not like being hurled upon an ocean crest, for that would be slower. You are rushing onward, and you are powerless; that is all. The frosty air gives such a brittle and slippery look to the two iron lines which lie between you and destruction, that you appreciate the Mohammedan fable of the Bridge Herat, thinner than a hair, sharper than a scimitar, which stretches over hell and leads to paradise. Nothing has passed over that perilous track for many hours; the cliffs may have fallen and buried it, the frail bridges may have sunk beneath it, or diabolical malice put obstructions on it, no matter how trivial, equally fatal to you; each curving embankment may hide unknown horrors, from which, though all others escape, you, on the engine, cannot; and yet, still the surging locomotive bounds onward, beneath your mad career. You draw a long breath, as you dismount at last, a hundred miles away, as if you had been riding with Mazeppa or Brunechilde, and yet escaped alive. And there, by your side, stands the quiet, grimy engineer, turning already to his tobacco and his newspaper, and unconscious, while he reads of the charge at Balaklava, that his life is Balaklava every day.
Physical courage is not, therefore, a thing to be so easily set aside. Nor is it, as our reformers appear sometimes to assume, a mere corollary from moral courage, and, ultimately, to be merged in that. Moral courage is rare enough, no doubt,—probably the rarer quality of the two, as it is the nobler; but they are things diverse, and not necessarily united. There have been men, and still are such, leaders of their age in moral courage, and yet physically timid. This is not as it should be. God placed man at the head of the visible universe, and if he is to be thrown from his control, daunted by a bullet, or a wild horse, or a flash of lightning, or a lee shore, then man is dishonored, and the order of the universe deranged. No matter what the occasion of the terror is, a mouse or a martyrdom, fear dethrones us. "He that lives in fear of death," said Cæsar, "at every moment feels its tortures. I will die but once."
Having claimed thus much, we can still readily admit that we cannot yet estimate the precise effect upon physical courage of a state of permanent national peace, since indeed we are not yet within sight of that desirable consummation. Meanwhile, let us attempt some slight sketch and classification of the different types of physical courage, as already existing, among which are to be enumerated the spontaneous courage of the blood,—the courage of habit,—magnetic or transmitted courage,—and the courage inspired by self-devotion.
There is a certain innate fire of the blood, which does not dare perils for the sake of principle, nor grow indifferent to them from familiarity, nor confront them under support of a stronger will,—but loves them for their own sake, without reference to any ulterior object. There is no special merit in it, for it is a matter of temperament. Yet it often conceals itself under the finer names of self-devotion and high purpose,—as George Borrow convinced himself that he was actuated by evangelical zeal to spread the Bible in Spain, though one sees, through every line of his narrative, that it was chiefly the adventure which allured him, and that he would as willingly have distributed the Koran in London, had it been equally contraband. No surplices, no libraries, no counting-house desks can eradicate this natural instinct. Achilles, disguised among the maidens, was detected by the wily Ulysses, because he chose arms, not jewels, from the travelling merchant's stores. In the most placid life, a man may pant for danger; and we know quiet, unobtrusive men who have confessed to us that they never step into a railroad-car without the secret hope of a collision.
This is the courage of heroic races, as Highlanders, Circassians, Montenegrins, Afghans, and those Arabs among whom Urquhart finely said that peace could not be purchased by victory. Where destined to appear at all, it is likely to be developed in extreme youth, which explains such instances as the gamins de Paris, and that of Sir Cloudesley Shovel, who in boyhood conveyed a dispatch during a naval engagement, swimming through double lines of fire. Indeed, among heroic races, young soldiers are preferable for daring; such, at least, is the testimony of the highest authorities, as Ney and Wellington. "I have found," said the Duke, "that raw troops, however inferior to the old ones in manoeuvring, may be superior to them in downright hard fighting with the enemy. At Waterloo, the young ensigns and lieutenants, who had never before seen an enemy, rushed to meet death, as if they were playing at cricket."
But though youth is good for an onset, it needs habit and discipline to give steadiness. A boy will risk his life where a veteran will be too circumspect to follow him; but to perform a difficult manœuvre in face of an enemy requires Sicinius with forty-five scars on his breast. "The very apprehension of a wound," said Seneca, "startles a man when he first bears arms; but an old soldier bleeds boldly, for he knows that a man may lose blood and yet win the day." Before the battle of Preston Pans, Mr. Ker of Graden, "an experienced officer," mounted on a gray pony, coolly reconnoitred all the difficult ground between the two armies, crossed it in several directions, deliberately alighted more than once to lead his horse through gaps made for that purpose in the stone walls,—under a constant shower of musket-balls. He finally returned unhurt to Charles Edward, and dissuaded him from crossing. Undoubtedly, any raw Highlander in the army would have incurred the same risk, with or without a sufficient object; but not one of them would have brought back so clear a report,—if, indeed, he had brought himself back.
The most common evidence of this dependence of many persons' courage on habit is in the comparative timidity of brave men against novel dangers,—as of sailors on horseback, and mountaineers at sea. Nay, the same effect is sometimes produced merely by different forms of danger within the same sphere. Sea-captains often attach an exaggerated sense of peril to small boats; Condé confessed himself a coward in a street-fight; and William the Conqueror is said to have trembled exceedingly (rehementer tremens) during the disturbance which interrupted his coronation. It was probably from the same cause, that Mrs. Inchbald, the most fearless of actresses, was once entirely overcome by timidity on assuming a character in a masquerade.
On a larger scale, the mere want of habitual exposure to danger will often cause a whole population to be charged with greater cowardice than really belongs to them. Thus, after the coronation of the Chevalier, in the Scottish insurrection of 1745, although the populace of Edinburgh crowded around him, kissing his very garments when he walked abroad, yet scarcely a man could be enlisted, in view of the certainty of an approaching battle with General Cope. And before this, when the Highlanders were marching on the city, out of a volunteer corps of four hundred raised to meet them, all but forty-five deserted before the gate was passed. Yet there is no reason to doubt that these frightened citizens, after having once stood fire, might have been as brave as the average. It was a saying in Kansas, that the New England men needed to be shot at once or twice, after which they became the bravest of the brave.
This habitual courage mingles itself, doubtless, with the third species, the magnetic, or transmitted. No mental philosopher has yet done justice to the wondrous power of leadership, the "art Napoleon." The ancients stated it best in their proverb, that an army of stags led by a lion is more formidable than an army of lions led by a stag. It was for this reason that the Greeks used to send to Sparta, not for soldiers, but for a general. When Crillon, l'homme sans peur, defended Quilleboeuf with a handful of men against Marshal Villars, the latter represented to him, that it was madness to resist such superiority of numbers, to which the answer was simply,—"Crillon est dedans, et Villars est dehors." The event proved that the hero inside was stronger than the army outside.
Every one knows that there is a certain magnetic power in courage, apart from all physical strength. In a family of lone women, there is usually some one whose presence is held to confer safety on the house; she may be a delicate invalid, but she is not afraid. The same quality explains the difference in the demeanor of different companies of men and women, in great emergencies of danger. Read one narrative of shipwreck, and human nature seems all sublime; read another, and, under circumstances equally desperate, it appears base, selfish, grovelling. The difference lies simply in the influence of a few leading spirits. Ordinarily, as is the captain, so are the officers, so are the passengers, so are the sailors. Bonaparte said, that at the beginning of almost every battle there was a moment when the bravest troops were liable to sudden panic; let the personal control of the general once lead them past that, and the field was half won.
The courage of self-devotion, lastly, is the faculty evoked by special exigencies, in persons who have before given no peculiar evidence of courage. It belongs especially to the race of martyrs and enthusiasts, whose personal terrors vanish in the greatness of the object, so that Joan of Arc, listening to the songs of the angels, does not feel the flames. This, indeed, is the accustomed form in which woman's courage proclaims itself at last, unsuspected until the crisis comes. This has given us the deeds of Flora Macdonald, Jane Lane, and the Countess of Derby; the rescue of Lord Nithisdale by his wife, and that planned for Montrose by Lady Margaret Durham; the heroism of Catherine Douglas, thrusting her arm within the stanchions of the doorway to protect James I. of Scotland, till his murderers shattered the frail barrier; and that sublimest narrative of woman's devotion, Gertrude Van der Wart at her husband's execution. It is possible that all these women may have been timid and shrinking, before the hour of trial; and every emergency, in peace or war, brings out some such instances. At the close of the troubles of 1856, in Kansas, a traveller chanced to be visiting a lady in Lawrence, who, in opening her work-basket, accidentally let fall a small pistol. She smiled and blushed, and presently acknowledged, that, when she had first pulled the trigger experimentally, six months before, she had shut her eyes and screamed, although there was only a percussion-cap to explode. Yet it afterwards appeared that she was one of the few women who remained in their houses, to protect them by their presence, when the town was entered by the Missourians,—and also one of the still smaller number who brought their rifles to aid their husbands in the redoubt, when two hundred were all that could be rallied against three thousand, in September of that eventful year. Thus easily is the transition effected!
This is the courage, also, of Africans, as manifested among ourselves, —the courage created by desperate emergencies. Suppled by long slavery, softened by mixture of blood, the black man seems to pass at one bound, as women do, from cowering pusillanimity to the topmost height of daring. The giddy laugh vanishes, the idle chatter is hushed, and the buffoon becomes a hero. Nothing in history surpasses the bravery of the Maroons of Surinam, as described by Stedman, or of those of Jamaica, as delineated by Dallas. Agents of the "Underground Railroad" report that the incidents which daily come to their knowledge are beyond all Greek, all Roman fame. These men and women, who have tested their courage in the lonely swamp against the alligator and the bloodhound, who have starved on prairies, hidden in holds, clung to locomotives, ridden hundreds of miles cramped in boxes, head downward, equally near to death if discovered or deserted, —and who have then, after enduring all this, gone voluntarily back to risk it over again, for the sake of wife or child,—what are we pale faces, that we should claim a rival capacity with theirs for heroic deeds? What matter, if none, below the throne of God, can now identify that nameless negro in the Tennessee iron-works, who, during the last insurrection, said "he knew all about the plot, but would die before he would tell? He received seven hundred and fifty lashes and died." Yet where, amid the mausoleums of the world, is there carved an epitaph like that?
The courage of blood, of habit, or of imitation is not necessarily a very exalted thing. But the courage of self-devotion cannot be otherwise than noble, however wasted on fanaticism or delusion. It enters the domain of conscience. Yet, although the sublimest, it is not necessarily the most undaunted form of courage. It is vain to measure merit by martyrdom, without reference to the temperament, the occasion, and the aim. There is no passion in the mind of man so weak, said Lord Bacon, but it mates and masters the fear of death. Sinner, as well as saint, may be guillotined or lynched, and endure it well. A red Indian or a Chinese robber will dare the stake as composedly as an early Christian or an abolitionist. One of the bravest of all death-scenes was the execution of Simon, Lord Lovat, who was unquestionably one of the greatest scoundrels that ever burdened the earth. We must look deeper. The test of a man is not in the amount of his endurance, but in its motive; does he love the right, he may die in glory on a bed of down; is he false and base, these things thrust discord into his hymn of dying anguish, and no crown of thorns can sanctify his drooping head. Physical courage is, after all, but a secondary quality, and needs a sublime motive to make it thoroughly sublime.
Among all these different forms of courage it is almost equally true that it is the hardest of all qualities to predict or identify, in an individual case, before the actual trial. Many a man has been unable to discover, till the critical moment, whether he himself possessed it or not. It is often denied to the healthy and strong, and given to the weak. The pugilist may be a poltroon, and the bookworm a hero. We have seen the most purely ideal philosopher in this country face the black muzzles of a dozen loaded revolvers with his usual serene composure. And on the other hand, we have known a black-bearded backwoodsman, whose mere voice and presence would quell any riot among the lumberers,—yet this man, nicknamed by his employees "the black devil," confessed himself to be in secret the most timid of lambs.
One reason of this difficulty of estimate lies in the fact, that courage and cowardice often complicate themselves with other qualifies, and so show false colors. For instance, the presence or absence of modesty may disguise the genuine character. The unpretending are not always timid, nor always brave. The boaster is not always, but only commonly, a coward. Were it otherwise, how could we explain the existence of courage in Frenchmen or Indians? Barking dogs sometimes bite, as many a small boy, too trustful of the proverb, has found to his cost. "If that be a friend of yours," says Brantême's brave Spanish Cavalier, "pray for his soul, for he has quarrelled with me." Indeed, the Gascons, whose name is identified with boasting, (gasconade,) were always among the bravest races in Europe.
Again, the mere quality of caution is often mistaken for cowardice, while heedlessness passes for daring. A late eminent American sculptor, a man of undoubted courage, is said to have always taken the rear car in a railroad train. Such a spirit of prudence, where well-directed, is to be viewed with respect. We ought not to reverence the blind recklessness which sits on the safety-valve during a steamboat-race, but the cool composure which neither underrates a danger nor shrinks from it. The best encomium is that of Malcolm M'Leod upon Charles Edward:—"He was the most cautious man, not to be a coward, and the bravest man, not to be rash, that I ever saw"; or that of Charles VII. of France upon Pierre d'Aubusson:—"Never did I see united so much fire and so much wisdom."
Still again, men vary as to the form of danger which tests them most severely. The Irish are undoubtedly a brave nation, but their courage is apt to vanish in presence of sickness. They are not, however, alone in this, if we may judge from the newspaper statements, that, after the recent quarantine riots in New York, a small-pox patient lay all day untended in the Park, because no one dared to go near him. It is said of Dr. Johnson, that he was a hero against pain, but a coward against death. Probably the contrary emotion is quite as common. To a believer in immortality, death, even when premature, can scarcely be regarded as an unmitigated evil, but pain enforces its own recognition. We can hardly agree with the frightened recruit in the farce, who thinks "Victory or Death" a forbidding war-cry, but "Victory or Wooden Legs" a more appetizing alternative.
Beside these complications, there are those arising from the share which conscience has in the matter. "Thrice is he armed that hath his quarrel just," and the most resolute courage will sometimes quail in a bad cause, and even die in its armor, like Bois-Guilbert. It was generally admitted, on both sides, in Kansas, that the "Border Ruffians" seldom dared face an equal number; yet nobody asserted that these men were intrinsically deficient in daring; it was only conscience which made cowards of them all.
But it is, after all, the faculty of imagination which, more than all else, confuses the phenomena of courage and cowardice. A very imaginative child is almost sure to be reproached with timidity, while mere stolidity takes rank as courage. The bravest boy may sometimes be most afraid of the dark, or of ghosts, or of the great mysteries of storms and the sea. Even the mighty Charlemagne shuddered when the professed enchanter brought before him the vast forms of Dietrich and his Northern companions, on horseback. We once saw a party of boys tested by an alarm which appealed solely to the imagination. The only one among them who stood the test was the most cowardly of the group, who escaped the contagion through sheer lack of this faculty. Any imaginative person can occasionally test this on himself by sleeping in a large lonely house, or by bathing alone in some solitary place by the great ocean; there comes a thrill which is not born of terror, and the mere presence of a child breaks the spell,—though it would only enhance the actual danger, if danger there were.
This explains the effect of darkness on danger. "Let Ajax perish in the face of day." Who has not shuddered over the description of that Arkansas duel, fought by two naked combatants, with pistol and bowie-knife, in a dark room? One thrills to think of those first few moments of breathless, sightless, hopeless, hushed expectation, —then the confused encounter, the slippery floor, the invisible, ghastly terrors of that horrible chamber. Many a man would shrink from that, who would march coolly up to the cannon's mouth by daylight.
It is probably this mingling of imaginative excitement which makes the approach of peril often more terrible than its actual contact. "A true knight," said Sir Philip Sidney, "is fuller of gay bravery in the midst than at the beginning of danger." The boy Condé was reproached with trembling, in his first campaign. "My body trembles," said the hero, "with the actions my soul meditates." And it is said of Charles V., that he often trembled when arming for battle, but in the conflict was as cool as if it were impossible for an emperor to be killed.
These stray glimpses into the autobiography of heroism are of inestimable value, and they are scanty at best. It is said of Turenne, that he was once asked by M. de Lamoignon, at the dinner-table of the latter, if his courage was never shaken at the commencement of a battle? "Yes," said Turenne, "I sometimes undergo great nervous excitement; but there are in the army a great multitude of subaltern officers and soldiers who experience none whatever." This goes to illustrate the same point.
To give to any form of courage an available or working value, it is essential that it have two qualities, promptness and persistency. What Napoleon called "two-o'clock-in-the-morning courage" is rare. It requires great enthusiasm or great discipline to be proof against a surprise. It is said that Suwarrow, even in peace, always slept fully armed, boots and all. "When I was lazy," he said, "and wanted to enjoy a comfortable sleep, I usually took off one spur." In regard to persistency, history is full of instances of unexpected reverses and eleventh-hour triumphs. The battle of Marengo was considered hopeless, for the first half of the day, and a retreat was generally expected, on the part of the French; when Desaix, consulted by Bonaparte, looked at his watch and said,—"The battle is completely lost, but it is only two o'clock, and we shall have time to gain another." He then made his famous and fatal cavalry-charge, and won the field. It was from a noble appreciation of this quality of persistency, that, when the battle of Cannæ was lost, and Hannibal was measuring by bushels the rings of the fallen Roman knights, the Senate of Rome voted thanks to the defeated general, Consul Terentius Varro, for not having despaired of the republic.
Thus armed at all points, incapable of being either surprised or exhausted, courage achieves results which seem miraculous. It is an element of inspiration, something superadded and incalculable, when all the other forces are exhausted. When we consider how really formidable becomes the humblest of quadrupeds, cat or rat, when it grows mad and desperate and throws all personal fear behind, it is clear that there must be a reserved power in human daring which defies computation and equalizes the most fearful odds. Take one man, mad with excitement or intoxication, place him with his back to the wall, a knife in his hand, and the fire of utter frenzy in his eyes,—and who, among the thousand bystanders, dares make the first attempt to disarm him? Desperate courage makes one a majority. Baron Trenck nearly escaped from the fortress of Glatz at noonday, snatching a sword from an officer, passing all the sentinels with a sudden rush, and almost effecting his retreat to the mountains; "which incident will prove," he says, "that adventurous and even rash daring will render the most improbable undertakings successful, and that desperate attempts may often make a general more fortunate and famous than the wisest and best-concerted plans."
It is this miraculous quality which helps to explain the extraordinary victories of history: as where the army of Lucullus at Tigranocerta slew one hundred thousand barbarians with the loss of only a hundred men,—or where Cortés conquered Mexico with six hundred foot and sixteen horse. The astounding narratives in the chivalry romances, where the historian risks his Palmerin or Amadis as readily against twenty giants as one, secure of bringing him safely through,—or the corresponding modern marvels of Alexandre Dumas,—seem scarcely exaggerations of actual events. A Portuguese, at the siege of Goa, inserted a burning match in a cask of gunpowder, then grasped it in his arms, and, crying to his companions, "Stand aside, I bear my own and many men's lives," threw it among the enemy, of whom a hundred were killed by the explosion, the bearer being left unhurt. John Haring, on a Flemish dyke, held a thousand men at bay, saved his army, and finally escaped uninjured. And the motto of Bayard, Vires agrainis unus habet, was given him after singly defending a bridge against two hundred Spaniards. Such men appear to bear charmed lives, and to be identical with the laws of Fate. "What a soldier, what a Roman, was thy father, my young bride! How could they who never saw him have discoursed so rightly upon virtue?"
From popular want of faith in these infinite resources of daring, it is a common thing for persons of eminent courage to be stigmatized as rash. This has been strikingly the case, for instance, in modern times, with the Marquis of Wellesley and Sir Charles Napier. When the Duke of Wellington was in the Peninsula in 1810, the City of London addressed the throne, protesting against the bestowal of "honorable distinctions upon a general who had thus far exhibited, with equal rashness and ostentation, nothing but an useless valor."
But if bravery is liable to exist in excess, on the one side, it is a comfort to think that it is capable of cultivation, where deficient. There may be a few persons born absolutely without the power of courage, as without the susceptibility to music,—but very few; and, no doubt, the elements of daring, like those of musical perception, can be developed in almost all. Once rouse the enthusiasm of the will, and courage can be systematically disciplined. Emerson's maxim gives the best regimen: "Always do what you are afraid to do." If your lot is laid amid scenes of peace, then carry the maxim into the arts of peace. Are you afraid to swim that river? then swim it. Are you afraid to leap that fence? then leap it. Do you shrink from the dizzy height of yonder magnificent pine? then climb it, and "throw down the top," as they do in the forests of Maine. Goethe cured himself of dizziness by ascending the lofty stagings of the Frankfort carpenters. Nothing is insignificant that is great enough to alarm you. If you cannot think of a grizzly bear without a shudder, then it is almost worth your while to travel to the Rocky Mountains in order to encounter the reality. It is said that Van Amburgh attributed all his power over animals to the similar rule given him by his mother in his boyhood: "If anything frightens you, walk up and face it." Applying this maxim boldly, he soon satisfied himself that man possessed a natural power of control over all animals, if he dared to exercise it. He said that every animal divined by unerring instinct the existence of fear in his ruler, and a moment's indecision might cost one's life. On being asked, what he should do, if he found himself in the desert, face to face with a lion, he answered, "If I wished for certain death, I should turn and run away."
Physical courage may be educated; but it must be trained for its own sake. We say again, it must not be left to moral courage to include it, for the two faculties have different elements,—and what God has joined, human inconsistency may put asunder. The disjunction is easy to explain. Many men, when committed on the right side of any question, get credit for a "moral courage," which is, in their case, only an intense egotism, isolating them from all demand for human sympathy. In the best cause, they prefer to belong to a party conveniently small, and, on the slightest indications of popular approbation, begin to suspect themselves of compromise. The abstract martyrdom of unpopularity is therefore clear gain to them; but when it comes to the rack and the thumbscrew, the revolver and the bowie-knife, the same habitual egotism makes them cowards. These men are annoying in themselves, and still worse because they throw discredit on the noble and unselfish reformers with whom they are identified in position. But even among this higher class there are differences of temperament, and it costs one man an effort to face the brute argument of the slung-shot, while another's fortitude is not seriously tested till it comes to facing the newspaper editors.
We have given but a few aspects of a rich and endless theme, and have depicted these more by examples than analysis, mindful of the saying of Sidney, that Alexander received more bravery of mind by the example of Achilles than by hearing the definition of fortitude. If we have seemed to draw illustrations too profusely from the records of battles, it is to be remembered, that, even if war be not the best nurse of heroisms, it is their best historian. The chase, for instance, though perhaps as prolific in deeds of daring as the camp, has found few Cummings and Gerards for annalists, and the more trivial aim of the pursuit diminishes the permanence of its records. The sublime fortitude of hospitals, the bravery shown in infected cities, the fearlessness of firemen and of sailors, these belong to those times of peace which have as yet few historians. But we have sought to exhibit the deep foundations and instincts of courage, and it matters little whence the illustrations come. Doubtless, for every great deed ever narrated, there were a hundred greater ones untold; and the noblest valor of the world may sleep unrecorded, like the heroes before Homer.
But there are things which, once written, the world does not willingly let die; embalmed in enthusiasm, borne down on the unconquerable instincts of childhood, they become imperishable and eternal. We need not travel to visit the graves of the heroes: they are become a part of the common air; their line is gone out to all generations. Shakspeares are but their servants; no change of time or degradation of circumstance can debar us from their lesson. The fascination which every one finds in the simplest narrative of daring is the sufficient testimony to its priceless and permanent worth. Human existence finds its range expanded, when Demosthenes describes Philip of Macedon, his enemy: "I saw this Philip, with whom we disputed for empire. I saw him, though covered with wounds,, his eye struck out, his collar-bone broken, maimed in his hands, maimed in his feet, still resolutely rush into the midst of dangers, ready to deliver up to Fortune any part of his body she might require, provided he might live honorably and gloriously with the rest." Would it not be shameful, that war should leave us such memories as these, and peace bequeathe us only money and repose? True, "peace hath her victories, no less renowned than war." No less! but they should be infinitely greater. Esto miles pacificus, "Be the soldier of peace," was the priestly benediction of mediaeval knights; and the aspirations of humaner ages should lead us into heroisms such as Plutarch never portrayed, and even Bayard and Sidney only prophesied, but died without the sight of.
Much have I spoken of the faded leaf;
Long have I listened to the wailing wind,
And watched it ploughing through the heavy clouds;
For autumn charms my melancholy mind.
When autumn comes, the poets sing a dirge:
The year must perish; all the flowers are dead;
The sheaves are gathered; and the mottled quail
Runs in the stubble, but the lark has fled!
Still, autumn ushers in the Christmas cheer,
The holly-berries and the ivy-tree:
They weave a chaplet for the Old Year's heir;
These waiting mourners do not sing for me!
I find sweet peace in depths of autumn woods,
Where grow the ragged ferns and roughened moss;
The naked, silent trees have taught me this,—
The loss of beauty is not always loss!
- It is worth mentioning, that among the deserters was one valorous writing-master, who had previously prepared a breastplate of two quires of his own foolscap, inscribing thereon, in his best penmanship,—"This is the body of J. M.; pray, give it Christian burial."