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BOOKS AND BOOKMEN, Issue 15674, 12 December 1914
BOOKS AND BOOKMEN
‘A Soldier of the Legion.’ By C. X. and A. M. Williainaon. Loudon ; Mothven and Co. y The above, though improbable in its sequence of events and unconvincing: as to its characters, is a capital story of little-known places and persons. The main episodes occur in Algeria, where wo are.introduced to the famous but rarely-talkod-about Foreign Legion, of which a striking and interesting detailed description is given. Then wo get to Djazerta, homo of Ben Raana, and as we travel with Sanda Do Lisle (the English girl friend of the chief's daughter) we gather much more that is interesting and informative. Finally, wo are token in the caravan of .Stanton, a famous explorer, in search of the lost oasis, and again wo find our knowledge of desert life corrected and enriched. Mr and Mrs Williamson must know the land whereof they speak so tenderly, and it seems rather a pity, perhaps, that its seductions and charms should bo utilised as the bac-k----gromid for their irritating heroes and heroines and their quite commonplace "goings on." At the same time, a good yarn, if good only in patches. ‘ Germany To-day.’ By Charles Tower. London ; Williams and Xcrgatc. A pleasantlv-written and agreeably-pro-se uted narrative of life in Germany as it appears to an intelligent and observant man. There are. 10 chapters, each of Which treats sympathetically of oua or more of the many institutions that went to the making of the empire. The Reichstag and State Parliaments, the executive, chancellor and bureaucracy, armed forces, finances, colonies, work of the State and municipality. education, agriculture, caste, intellectual life, etc., etc., arc treated brightly, entertainingly, end in a way that brings home to the reader something of the greatness of that land which the crime and folly of its war party have smitten in the dust. ‘ State Marriage and Christian Marriage, with special reference to the No Tcinerc Decree.’ By R. H. Hobday, M.A., of Wellington. London ; Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. This is a learned and patient, endeavor to inquire into the position of the Church of England and churches in communion therewith with regard to the Xe Temcre decree, and also their relations in general to State legislation in the matter of marriage. It is written in a Christian, and therefore courteous, spirit, and occupies some 60 pages. AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF TAGORE S FATHER, [By Arthur Waugh.] Posts are generally supposed to owe a great deal to their parentage, although it does not often happen that the gift of poetic excellence descends directly from father to son. But some degree of inspiration at least is hereditary; the contemplative habit, the desire for self-ex-pression. the capacity for spiritual influences—all these qualities are largely inborn, however much more largely they be developed under fostering skies. Devendranath Tagore, for instance, the father of the Indian poet who is rapidly passing in this country out of the circle of a small and esoteric cult into the light of general recognition, though he was not himself a professed poet, has left his spirit and the liigh example of his life reflected in every facet of his son’s temperament. And those who want to understand the full significance of Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry will find much to exercise their imagination in the father’s autobiography, now first given to a British audience in a thoroughly competent and sympathetic translation. —The Making of a Mystic.— Devendranath Tagore'was born in 1817 and died in 1905, but his autobiography closes abruptly during the years of the Indian Mutiny, at a time when its writer was no more than 41 years old. Though from a structural point of view the narrative is manifestly incomplete, its spiritual record is brought to a fitting close, since it was in the first half of his life that Tagore underwent all those intellectual and religious changes which left him. in the years of early maturity, with his soul well-knit, his philosophy crystallised, and his gospel of life proclaimed. These were the years of seed-time, the most profitable years of all. And in their record will he, found, not only the secret of the father’s austere crusade against certain shortcomings of the Brahmin faith, but also the first faint stirrings of inspiration in the son’s mystical and penetrating symbolism. It is not to be pretended that the book will make easy reading to an English public, for the precise and intricate differences of belief which separated Devendranath Tagore from the religious community of his fathers are so far outside our own experience as to be difficult to disentangle and elucidate. Certain main lines of thought, however, stand out conspicuously. and render the nobility of the mystic's struggle against family association and the strong convictions of a race palpably clear and inspiriting. —The Bane of Idolatry.— The side of the Brahmin worship which first alienated Tagore was its obvious affinity with a crude and unimaginative idolatry. A mystic by temperament, he was led from thli first moment when he thought seriously shout religion to strive towards some establishment of an intellectual balance between the worlds t of spirit and of sense. And the more lie brooded, upon life, the clearer it became to him that whatever was possible of deity and of the divine effluence must be a thing of spirit, intangible, invisible, remote. Tn this remoteness, indeed, he traced the very essence of godhead, and it became apparent to him that until the sonl was freed from temporal hindrances and given liberty to soar, it could never hope even to approach to the reasonable contemplation of God. Mysticism, after alt. as Miss Evelyn Underhill remarks in a very suggestive preface to the present volume, is much the same all the world over. “Those drunk with God, though they are many, are yet one": and though this Eastern seer knew nothing of the seraphic visions of the Catholic saints, and was steeped in a theology untouched by Christian influences, the same stigmata of the mystic's progress appear in his life ns in those of Saint Catherine and Saint Teresa. —The Contemplative Life.— The salvation of the soul, ho perceived, can only he wrought out in solitude, in contemplation, and in stern renunciation of the charms and pleasures of the world. And so Deveiidrauath Tagore left the circle cf his followmon, the comfort? of home, and the conversation of his kindred, and sought for God, as so many mystics have sought for Him shire the days of Elijah, in the earthquake and the fire, upon the mountains, among the torrents, and beside the still, small voice of Nature, speaking perennially to a deaf world from the fields and from the skies. Ho became a wanderer upon the face of the e,arth, communing with Nature, and absorbed in her secrets. The devotion of the mediaeval saints was not more sincere, nor its vision more serenely apocalyptic. Among the rugged passes of the Himalayas he learnt the hitter obligations of the soul’s upward path. “They say all things aro enveloped in God,” he exclaimed. “hntT enveloped all things with God,” Ami having climbed to the shining altitudes of the soul, ho turned again, like n mountain stream, to bring hack into the valley the unfailing refreshment of the heights, to give new life to the world of work and suffering. And the message which he carried back to his people was the gospel of a godhead transcending human understanding, “the eternal spirit immanent in the world without, and in the soiil of a man.” “ The kingdom of. God is within you ” is indeed the bed-rock foundation of every mystical . religion; and if the life of the mystic needs any justification in the eyes of a sclf-satiSfied and material generation, it may perhaps best .be found in the truth, so often repeated and yet so soon forgotten again, that every religion which has helped the struggling soul of man has firsft based its teaching on the essential sanction of the spiritual world and the inevitable necessity of ihe spiritual vitiom
Whatever else is uncertain, this at least is sure : “For the things that are seen are tcjrnporal, but the things that are not scon Ore eternal."—‘ Daily Chronicle.’ MABTERLINCK AND THE ACADEMY. It 'was recently proposed among the littorati of France that Maurice Maeterlinck should by acclar,*.tioji bo elected as a member of tho French" Academy, but the great Belgian author-dramatist replied in a way that does infinite honor to his transparent modesty and rare spirit of self-effacement. This is what he wrote to his would-be sponsors : The Academy would do me a very high honor, which over my' bowed head would pass entirely to my beloved, suffering, and glorious country. I will not venture to advise the Academy, but do you not think that its action would have more significance if it chose my old friend, M. Emile Vcrhaeren ? Fiist, he is my senior, and, next, ho is a very f;reat poet, whilst 1 am but a painsaking and conscientious writer of prose. Anyone with patience can write what 1 have written. No one can do what he has done. A poet alone is qualified to represent worthily the .grandeur and the heroism of a people.
BOOKS AND BOOKMEN, Issue 15674, 12 December 1914
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