DRINKING BY THE WAYSIDE BROOK.
Ts there anything more delightful than, on a warm summer's day, to come on a brook < by the wayside? As it crosses the dusty road or bubbles out of the hillside it draws everything to it. The life of Nature seems to crowd about. The- buttercups and daisies find it out. The mosses, with their myriad golden eyes, glitter about it, while the birds mingle their songs with its rippling music. The children gather round it to bathe their pink feet in its curling, caressing waters, or to watch in wonder the little fishes slipping over the shadows in the sand. And in a moment, at the lifting of a hand, there is not left the twinkle of a fin. But delightful as is a brook by the wayside at any time, it is above all delightful on a warm, summer's day. To come on it after a long walk, or after a tiresome climn up the mountain side whan the sun has been fiorce and th} hours full of strenuous toil—then the charm of it! To lift the cool, sparkling water to one's mouth and brow, to bathe one's hands and face in the crystal stream—that is a joy beyond words. In this connection we recall one of th? old Hebrew songs, which toils the story of an enemy in flight and the victor pressing hot and hard upon his heels. The battle has been long and stubborn. The triumphant leader, eager to turn defeat into a rout, hastens on. Up hill and clown dale he pursues the foe as the rising sun with shaft after golden shaft pursues the flying night. Suddenly he comes on a brook by the wayside. He stoops, drinks, rises, lifts up "his headrefreshed—and on again. The water of the wayside brook may not be for him as clear or as copious a> the well at home ; it may not be so full of memories and beauties as others that'he knows elsewhere; but it is the best to be had at the moment, and lie would be a fool not to. avail himself of it. A greater ambition must not hinder a present duty. "He "shall drink of the brook by the way, "therefore shall he,lift up the head." *******
What is all this but a picture of life—of its needs, supply, and triumph? Life is a battle. Since Darwin's clay scientists hav.j set all tongues waging about the struggle for existence. It did not need Daiwin or anybody else to convince us of the truth of this aspect of life. It certainly is, however you look at it, one long fight. With what?_ Tlie answers are rr>anv and various. We have to fight with Nature; wp have to till the soil, to bank 'lie river, to fell the forests, and to battle with the waves. And we have to fight with each other. The law of competition whips us forward against our fellows. By and by we discover that our worst foes are not those without us', but those "-'thin us. They are not in our circumstances, 1 ut in our souls. If we succeed in this endless inner battle we conquer without. If wo fail here we triumph nowhere. Xot in his circumstances, not in his habits, not in his hereditations. but in himself, in a heart ready to give itself up to the worse instead of the better powers oi the world, in a soul that loves baseness, fuvohty, and falseness—there lies tlw real enemy. And then Religion comes and opens up another realm of possible foes. The seen, it tells us, is but a small part. This visible world is played into by the invisible. Man's history and destiny are affected vitally by other worlds and other being?, against which material swords are powerless. This tight of life with perpetual foes is a war in which there is no discharge. Every day and every hour it goes forward. We want to succeed ; we want to tread down our enemies; and in the long, strong warfare we want at times to come on brooks by the wayside, where we mav refresh ourselves, and press on with renewed vigor. The brooks may not be. all that we could desire or all that might be found elsewhere. But they are all that is available at the moment. Our success depends on making the most of what they offer. ******* Brooks by the way ! How numerous they are. We can only mention a few. Take, for instance. Home. What a place for refreshment it is: The old Scottish hero, when wounded in the battle, told his men to continue the contest. I'll lie down and bteed awhile. And then I'll rise and fight again. Men and women wounded in the battle of life find hiding and healing in Home. But multitudes are neglecting this wayside brook. They are not making the most of it. They are grumbling because they have not a better house, or finer furnishings, or lovelier pictures, or no children, or mors children, or few children. And so on. Thus they miss the refreshment which this brook by the wayside might give to their Jives. The other day we came upon, a little half-fledged young bird. It had crept prematurely over the side of the nest, had fallen on the. roadway, and was mangled and ilead. So boys and girls and young men and young women are in ,t hurry to get off from Home, and they fall into divers temptations, cripplings, and death?. This sometimes happens because those who have the making of Home unmake it. They are gloomy, or fretful, or discontented, or dreaming after sojno impossible ideals; and meanwhile the water of this home brook is running by and running dry. The late Dr Dale, of Birmingham, once said that the greatest work that anyone could accomplish in this world was to found and fashion a true Home. Buskin, reviewing his life, its education and its privileges, looks hack hankeringly to Ms early Home.
The personal feeling and native instinct of me had been fashioned irrevocably loner before to things modest, humble, and pure in ponce, under the low roof of Croydon, and by the crossset rivulets in which the sand danced and the minnows darted above the springs of Wandel. *******
Then there is the brook of Nature. What charm and comfort she unfolds to the instructed eyes: People want to travel, are discontented with their poor surroundings, lose the inspiration for duty, because they have not money enough to gratify their greed for groat things. But what then? Wherever we go we find ourselves. Beauty and content are not without us. They depend on the soul within. The mean soul, the little soul, will find itself reflected in the sublimest things. The sensitive, the pure soul, will discover in the fleeting of a blackbird or the fiush of a daisy thoughts '' that do lie too deep for tears." Richard .lefferies wrote :
The commonest pebble seems to me SO wonderful. 1 take it in my lingers. Particles adhere, to my. skin—thousands of years hetwet (my finger and thumb. Th««e atoms 01 quartz and sunlight shining all that time, and flowers blooming, and life glowing on all, from ■ the cold, still limpet on the rock to the burning, throbbing heart of man.
Ac&ssiz, the great American geologist, who once said tint he had not time to make money, tells us that he spent an entire summer exploring his back yard. A friend invited him to take a trip to Kurope at his expei.o«. Tie said hj« was too busy to i'o to Isu.rppe, but proposed
to investigate the treasures, of his kitchen garden. And so for three months he worked through it, finding strango and wonderful things, and published his vacation travels in a garden under the title ' Elements of. Zoology.' And so those who Jearn to drink of this brook by the way will find, as Mts Browning sings, that Xo pebble at your feet but proves a sphere; Xo chaffinch but implies the cherubim ; Earth's crammed with heaven, and -every common Bush's afire with God. ******* And then, in our social relatione, Ave should try to learn to drink of the brook by tho way. How limited are our lives! We are alive only in spots. We touch our fellows at just a few points. Some of us not at all. We find little to interest us in the people me meet every day. We turn up our noses and call them common. But there are no common, things or common people; there are only lazy minds and half-dead souls. It was justin such people as we are meeting every day that Shakespeare, found his immortal characters, and Pickens and Barrie'and Thackeray and lan Maelaren and George Eliot discovered those endlessly fascinating folk that walk up and down their pages. That great artist—great alike with pen and brush—James Smeetham writes :
There is nothing for which I feel more thankful than tho fact that I have hold of the sympathies, of many to whom I could not in the least explain
my views on artistic matters. Then he goes on to speak of the common, stupid poor folk that used to come to his Bible class, and how lie was tempted to make fun of them. But lie suddenly members, and relents. " A redeemed man "is a resplendent thing to meet on a "lawn, or in a parlor, or anywhere. " Your brother whom you have seen, if "you love not," etc.
******* And that word love. What a brook it is to drink at. And it is possible to find it at every wayside of the world. We are s'.ricken with thirst, and the head droops because it so often despises this simple water of life. "To make oneself beloved," says ar. old French proverb, "is after all the best way to be useful." It is. "To try to make others comfortable," says tieorge Mardonaid, "is tho only way to get Tight comfortable ourselves." Surely. And then there are so many other wayside brooks, as, e.g., friendship, books, etc., tViat cross our ps.tti& every kcro :vn<i there in ihe great contest oi life. We have no space now even to name these. We may allow Ruekiu to say our last word:
WJiat is chiefly needed is to show the quantity of pleasure that may be obtained by a consistent, well-adminis-tered competence, modest, confessed, laborious. We need examples of people who resolve to seek, not greater wealth, but simpler pleasures, not higher for-
tunes, but deeper felicity, making the first of possessions self-possession, and knowing themselves in the harmless pride and calm pursuits of peace. To watch the corn grow and the blossom set, t-o draw hard breath over the ploughshare and the spade, to think, to love, to hope, to pray—these are the things that, make men happy.
They are. And so these trayside brooks we commend to our readers as they face the conflicts of the new year, and trust that as they drink of them they, too, like the ancient victor, "may lift up the head."
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DRINKING BY THE WAYSIDE BROOK., Evening Star, Issue 15690, 2 January 1915