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THE THORNY ROAD OF HONOUR

 

THERE is an old story calledThe Thorny Road of Honour”,trod by a marksman named Brydewho indeed came to great honour and dignitybut only after long and great adversity and peril of lifeMany a one of us has certainly heard the tale as a childand perhaps when older has read itand thought of his own unregarded thorny road andgreat adversity”.Romance is very closely akin to realitybut romance has its harmonious explanation here on earthwhile reality often points beyond this earthly life to the regions of eternityThe history of the world is like a magic lantern that displays to usin light pictures upon the dark ground of the presenthow the benefactors of mankindthe martyrs of geniuswandered a-long the thorny road of honour

From all periodsand from every countrythese shining pictures display themselves to useach only appears for a few momentsbut each represents a whole lifesometimes a whole agewith its conflicts and victoriesLet us contemplate here and there one of the company of martyrsthe company which will receive new members until the world itself shall pass away

We look down upon a crowded amphitheatreOut of theCloudsof Aristophanessatire and humour are pouring down in streams upon the audienceon the stage Socratesthe most remarkable man in Athenshe who had been the shield and defense of the people against the thirty tyrantsis held up mentally and bodily to ridiculeSocrateswho saved Alcibiades and Xenophon in the turmoil of battleand whose genius soared far above the gods of the ancientsHe himself is presenthe has risen from the spectators’ benchand has stepped forwardthat the laughing Athenians might see what likeness there was between himself and the caricature on the stagethere he stands before themtowering high above them all

The juicygreenpoisonous hemlockthrow they shadow over Athens and not the olive tree

Seven cities contended for the honour of giving birth to Homerthat is to sayafter his deathLet us look at him as he was in his lifetimeHe wanders on foot through the citiesand recites his verses for a livelihoodthe thought for the morrow turns his hair greyHethe great seeris blind and lonelythe sharp thorn tears the mantle of the king of poetsHis songs yet liveand through them alone live all the heroes and gods of antiquity

One picture after another springs up from the eastfrom the westfar removed from each other in time and placeand yet each one forming a portion of the thorny road of honouron which the thistle indeed displays a flow-erbut only to adorn the grave

The camels pass along under the palm treesthey are richly laden with indigo and other treasures of pricesent by the ruler of the land to him whose songs are the delight of the peoplethe fame of the countryhe whom envy and falsehood have driven into exile has been foundand the caravan approaches the little town in which he has taken refugeA poor corpse is carried out of the town gateand the funeral procession causes the caravan to haltThe dead man is he whom they have been sent to seekFirdusiwho has wandered the thorny road of honour even to the end

The Africanwith blunt featuresthick lipsand woolly hairsits on the marble steps of the palace in the capital of Portugaland begshe is the faithful slave of Camoensand but for himand for the copper coins thrown to him by the passers-byhis masterthe poet of the Lusiad”,would die of hungerNowa costly monument marks the grave of Camoens

There is a new picture

Behind the iron grating a man appearspale as deathwith long unkempt beard

I have made a discovery,”he says,“the greatest that has been made for centuriesand they have kept me looked up here for more than twenty years!”

Who is the man

A madman,”replies the keeper of the madhouse.“What whimsical ideas these lunatics haveHe imagines that one can propel things by means of steam.”

It is Salomon de Causthe discoverer of the power of steamwhose theoryexpressed in dark wordswas not understood by Richelieuand he dies in the madhouse

Here stands Columbuswhom the street boys used once to follow and jeerbecause he wanted to discover a new worldand he has discovered itThe clash of bells sounds to celebrate his triumphant returnbut the clash of the bells of envy soon drowns the othersThe discoverer of a world he who lifted the American gold land from the seaand gave it to his Kinghe is rewarded with iron chainsHe wishes that these chains may be placed in his coffinfor they witness to the worldof the way in which a man's contemporaries reward good service

One picture after another comes crowding onthe thorny path of honour and of fame is over-filled

Here in dark night sits the man who measured the mountains in the moonhe who forced his way out into the endless spaceamong stars and planetshethe mighty man who understood the spirit of natureand felt the earth moving beneath his feetGalileoBlind and deaf he sitsan old man thrust through with the spear of sufferingand amid the torments of neglectscarcely able to lift his footthat foot with whichin the anguish of his soulwhen men denied the truthhe stamped upon the ground with the exclamation,“Yet it moves!”

Here stands a woman of childlike mindyet full of faith and inspirationshe carries the banner in front of the combating armyand brings victory and salvation to her fatherlandThe sound of shouting arisesand the pile flames upthey are burning the witchJoan of ArcYesand a future century jeers at the White LilyVoltairethe satyr of human intellectwritesLa Pucelle”.

At the Thing or Assembly at Viborgthe Danish nobles burn the laws of the Kingthey flame up highilluminating the period and the law-giverand throw a glory into the dark prison towerwhere an old man is growing grey and bentWith his finger he marks out a groove in the stone tableIt is the popular King who sits thereonce the ruler of three kingdomsthe friend of the citizen and the peasantit is Christian the SecondEnemies wrote his historyLet us remember his imprisonment of seven-and-twenty yearsif we cannot forget his crime

A ship sails away from Denmarka man leans against the mastcasting a last glance towards the Island HveenIt is Tycho BraheHe raised the name of Denmark to the starsand was rewarded with injurylossand sorrowHe is going to a strange country

The sky is everywhere,”he says,“and what do I want more?”

And away sails the famous Danethe astronomerto live honoured and free in a strangs land

Ayefreeif only from the unbearable sufferings of the body!”comes in a sigh through timeand strikes upon our earWhat a pictureGriffenfeldta Danish Prometheusbound to the rocky island of Munkholm

We are in Americaon the margin of one of the largest riversan innumerable crowd has gatheredfor it is said that a ship is to sail against wind and weatherbidding defiance to the elementsthe man who thinks he can do this is named Robert FultonThe ship begins its passagebut suddenly it stopsThe crowd begins to laugh and whistle and hissthe very father of the man whistles with the rest

ConceitFoolery!”is the cry.“It has happened just as he deservedput the crackbrain under lock and key!”

Then suddenly a little nail breakswhich had stoppen the machine for a few momentsand now the wheels turn againthe floats break the force of the waitersand the ship continues its courseand the beam of the steam engine shortens the distance between far lands from hours into minutes

O human racecanst thou grasp the happiness of such a minute of consciousnessthis penetration of the soul by its missionthe moment in which all dejectionand every woundeven those caused by one's own faultis changed into health and strength and clearnesswhen discord is converted to harmonythe minute in which men seem to recognize the manifestation of the heavenly grace in one manand feel how this one imparts it to all

Thus the thorny path of honour shows itself as a glorysurrounding the earththrice happy he who is chosen to be a wanderer thereandwithout merit of his ownto be placed among the builders of the bridgebetween Providence and the human race

On mighty wings the spirit of history floats through the agesand showsgiving courage and comfortand awakening gentle thoughtson the dark nightly back-groundhut in gleaming picturesthe thorny path of hon-ourwhich does notlike a fairy taleend in brilliancy and joy here on earthbut points out beyond all timeeven into eternity

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