Изображения страниц

that to them a gift offered in love is a joy seldom known but very deeply prized. And his gift of song, his poems that had before been tuned to that one sweet note of hope, were they not changed to utter discord? Not so; they were breathed in softer and lower keys, but their utterance was true and pure as ever: full of thankfulness and of a mightier hope than that which he had shaped in words in earlier days, a hope that could know no disappointment, a beacon that shone above the storm, though its reflection was swept away from the breadth of life's troubled sea; even the hope that is attuned to the hymn of praise that shall be sung by those who have "come out of great tribulation."

Among those who there sought Berthold's company was one who often tried to win him to other work than that he had chosen; who told him the crown of the world's approval lay at his feet if he would but stoop to claim it, if he would but turn his powers to the service of less solemn themes, if he would but strive to catch the fancy of the passing hour.

"Cast aside your present work, this tedious Hymn of Praise,” he cried, "you might win wealth and fame from the highborn in all lands. Give us some strains of rich, wild melody, wed some tale to music that shall burn with the passionate life of the mortal; give us mirth, entrancing, maddening mirth that shall have power to cause us, for one moment at least, to forget the misery to which poor humanity is a prey. Why will you be only the teacher of a few instead of the idol of the many? Why should others less skilful than yourself be rich and honoured while you are poor and little known ?"

"I can but write as my heart prompts me,' "answered Berthold, "and leave the outcome of my work to Him Who cares for greater things and lesser things also, than my fame and fortune. The Hymn of Praise may be the work of years, but I grudge no time or thought which will render its meaning truly. As for the kings and princes of the earth, I have written a choral song with notes that ring as if from archangels' lips, calling them to honour the King of kings, and to offer unto Him their glory and dominion and might."

And so he turned his ear from the voice of the tempter, and by his faithful, patient labour, day by day he magnified Him Whom by such

work he served.

But he turned no deaf ear to one of humble birth who spoke out his complaint, saying, "It is hard to see so much that might be done, and


yet to have no share allotted to me in the doing. Great and good work lies undone on all sides, and I, who would fain give my whole existence to it, I have neither rank, nor wealth, nor influence, and can do nothing; a sad life truly!" and for a moment the young man recalled his aspiring thoughts, and looked forward to an aimless, toilsome life with the forlorn patience of despair. He stood on the bridge gazing on the river that divided the busy city, and as he listened to the noise of unseen multitudes on either bank, and the red winter sun glowed on uplifted oars, and on long white steam wreaths that slowly mingled with the gathering evening mist, his thoughts wandered back from that river in its pride of place, to the quiet, far away nook where he had once seen the first gushing of its waters, rippling past the newblown primroses, and carrying along the withered oak leaves that the spring wind had launched upon its tiny stream. And he sighed anew, looking at the broad strong current, and remembering its humble birth, its insignificant beginning, and as Berthold joined him in his homeward walk he turned his long pondered thoughts into words.

"My friend," said Berthold, "have you heard nothing but the music on a few pages when you have taken part in my concerted harmonies? when with well-tuned instrument you now repeated like an echo the loud utterance of some chorus, now swept through a swift variety of notes like the soft wind bearing upward a single voice? Did not that communion of sound teach you a great lesson of life? Did it matter you and your fellow-musicians how much or how little each had to perform, so that each accomplished his allotted part faithfully? Alone you each learnt your portion, in perfect faith that it would work for good in the harmony of the whole."


"But," interrupted the young aspirant, "we can trust you, good master; we know that your plan, though unknown to us, is perfect in its beauty."

"And so must you trust the great Master of all things," replied Berthold. "The apparently unimportant part that is assigned to you in this life, may be as it were just the few, low, monotonous notes that are needed to support and complete His music. We have a few among us," continued Berthold, with a smile, "who will hurry into notice long before their appointed time, who will uplift their special notes when the beauty of their concert should be like that of the tree in full flower, the equal perfection of every blossom making the glory of the whole. We have some too who accept indeed their lesser parts, but

bestow so little care upon them that their voices or their instruments bring among us only discord and confusion instead of the long desired harmony. You know," said Berthold, as he caught a look of assent from his listener, "you know how such work is not only fruitless, but by it the work of many an earnest learner is marred and hindered for many a weary hour. You know also how ill-tuned notes make the best performance worthless, and that unless in hours of solitary study the singer has tuned his voice to perfect truth and purity, power and dexterity are but wasted possessions in his hands. And yet we have some among us who have so neglected to tune their notes, who have used the hours of their daily study so carelessly, that when the great occasion arose, when we called upon them to rehearse their songs in our largest gatherings, their ear had become so corrupted by the sound of their own false notes that in their very harshness they found a wild charm; and though the good work came to a standstill, they were hard to be persuaded that this was the gradual result of their irreverence for their appointed task. What mattered it,' they while there was no ear

had said, as they had sung it carelessly over, to listen, no tongue to approve?' but suddenly they were called on to take their part with others, and amid the keen truth of well ordered notes, theirs have brought trouble to their fellow-workers and disappointment to their hearers.

[ocr errors]

'So, my friend, let us believe that we are all working out the several parts that belong to the great outburst of harmony, which in the fulness of its perfection, only the new heavens and the new earth shall hear, but for which we work, whether in seeming solitude at one time or in concert at others. Let us believe that he to whom the humblest part is assigned is fellow-worker with him who holds the noblest, that in the ordering of that part our Master has bestowed no less care than on those we esteem the highest and so believing let us tune our lives in their aims and aspirations to perfect purity, let us work our work betimes and with the best energy and patience; the faltering, the false and fallen notes, will they not belong to the great wailing cry, that has no concord in its sorrow-the discord of confusion and despair ?"


At length a sorrow fell upon Berthold's life, sharp and sudden as a sword-stroke. And those that loved him said among themselves doubtfully and fearfully, "Will not the notes of praise sink into silence now?” And those who loved him not said scoffingly, "It is easy to watch the

shadows when the sun is shining, and to speak good words to the sorrowful out of the abundance of our joy. But a fainting heart is like a slack harpstring and makes poor music."

Long had Berthold loved a fair woman, sweetest of singers, and of an ordered and hallowed life, that arose like an unbroken melody made in the heart to GOD: a melody of high aims and far reaching prayers and humble acceptance of each hour's work, so it flowed onward through all the variations that change brought to the outward life; shaping the tumult of those thronging notes to its own undercurrent of music, keeping its measure not by the uncertain beatings of the human heart, but by the ear that listened to the wave-beats of time on the shore of Eternity.

He had often watched her among the assembled singers, she standing a little apart, tall, strong, and beautiful as an abele tree by the water side. And when the tide of choral voices ebbed away he had drunk in the music of her rich voice, whose deep notes charmed the ear of the musician, as the brown and ruby tints of autumn woods rejoice the eye of the painter. Her heart's full utterance was in her songs, for she loved the maker of them and his noble work, and looked for its completion with an ardour that was like sunshine to his ripening purposes. In the homes of the needy and suffering she too had her work, and there her sweet influence often turned the discord of repining voices to the melody of thanksgiving, and hushed the tempest of angry words, bringing in its stead a great calm. Berthold had heard her voice not long before, singing a low lullaby in an orphaned home, where she lulled a sickly wailing infant to sleep. Both were sleeping now; both struck by the fell disease that had made the little one motherless; and the singing voice and the wailing voice had passed away into that land where no sorrow cries for soothing.

Then Berthold looked forth with startled eyes upon his future life, as one waking on a spring morning looks on a blank waste of newfallen snow. Dumb, cold, shapeless, all things lay before him, bird voices silent, running waters stilled, and pathways that he longed to tread, hidden from view: and alas, for the green spring buds! for the hopes that were shaping themselves to fulfilment! For this he cried to Heaven, not for her who was gone beyond the sound of recall. "My heart's hope is dead! my life's hope is dead," so he lamented. and for this his spirit went forth to one who could raise the lifeless, saying, "Lay Thy hand upon my dead hope, that it may live." Then

[ocr errors]

over the desolation that surrounded him a voice breathed like the wind of the south, saying, "Arise, arise!" and hope, which was not dead but sleeping," hope which no human love, no earthly music could waken, rose up at the sound of His Voice, at the touch of His Hand.

So when the minstrel's hands again pressed the organ notes, it was to waken no mournful murmurs nor plaintive strains, but a song wherein hope exulted in a foreseen triumph, pointing onward as an angel of prophecy to the day when the dwellers in the dust shall awaken and sing; while the rolling music, as the sound of many waters, told of an unseen multitude, whose numbers are incomplete, yet ever increasing, as one by one death leads the singers out of reach of earth's discords to perfect in peace and purity their future Hymn of praise.

Once again the musician kept his watch through the night listening to the silence of the city. It was a silence that preceded a long desired day of rejoicing, a day when all the inhabitants of the city, and all the great ones of the land were to go forth to cry "Welcome" to one who had wrought great deeds for them, who had vanquished the enemies of his country and established righteous rule, and brought peace and liberty, and plenty, within their doors. Many that had loved and honoured his name only, now looked with joy to behold his face; many that in spirit had shared his dangers and his conflicts, now thanked GOD that they might soon gaze on him in the beauty of his triumph.

Darkness hung over the city, yet as Berthold turned from the window of his upper chamber, he saw here and there lights beaming like stars from other dwellings, and heard, as the chimes rang out each time with added notes the hours of a new day, footsteps moving along the streets. Sleep was not for those who looked forward to the dawn with such intense and ardent longing, and the desire of whose hearts was to be the first and readiest to meet their coming friend.

The stars grew pale, the flame of the watcher's lamp glared an angry red as the shades of night changed stealthily to the blue twilight of dawn. And then a murmur of voices arose from below, and Berthold looking downward beheld thousands now gathered together, each drawn forth by the might of individual expectation. The rosy morning light flashed upwards, turning the grey clouds to wings of fire, beaming on the city spires and on the wings of soaring birds that had left their resting-places among the house-tops, and striking downwards it fell on

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »