Everything is Possible to Will
Chapter XVIII. Zee has earned the Right to make her Voice Heard
Chapter XVIII. Zee has earned the Right to make her Voice Heard.
“The true poet, to-day, is God's prophet;
If a singer prove false to his trust,
Make his mission a by-word and scoff it,
'Tis meet he should sink into dust.
Who would wear the life-crown of the poet
Must breathe out a soul in his art—
Stand above the rude throng, not below it;
And his song must be pure, like his heart.”95
Men, brothers, Christians! Be consistent! Make the tree good and its fruit good, or the tree corrupt and its fruit corrupt. If vice is inherent in human nature, as the “total-depravity” dogma teaches, if strength is found in licentiousness alone, it is absurd to attempt to stamp it out; if any vice is necessary all vice is necessary. Now when or where can its proud waves be stayed? If men are to think and drink as suits them, and the drink makes its devotees wise, strong, industrious, loving, gentle; better husbands and wives, better fathers and mothers, better friends and citizens—in short, if “virtue is vice nick-named,” by all means let the harlot, the drunkard, the libertine, rule. If there is no God, no heaven, no hell, give vice a fair field; let it override and choke all that is misnamed “good.” Drink means drunkenness clearly. Well, let men think and drink as suits them; and add to these virtues adultery, murder, theft, lying, cursing, and all the other graces found in combination with a much-vaunted revenue from the gay and lightsome gin-palace. Yes, “overturn, overturn, overturn,” till the earth is drunk with the blood of those now called “saints.”page 212
Exhibit the giants who have grown strong on the temptations the liquor traffic affords. Prove satisfactorily that to be magnificently vile, to do precisely as one likes regardless of consequences, is right and good, that villany of deepest dye is unalloyed happiness, and any number of women, whose courage and capabilities are equal to any demand, will become as Catherine de Medici96 in wickedness.
Verily bad men are gods, their wisdom is infinite. Give the Bible to the dogs; live for the hour, not for the years; goodness is all a sham. Unlawful wedlock is legalised. The animal passions are exalted and their gratification is the be all and the end all of existence. Oh, grandly, noble achievement of Victoria's reign. Make the tree yet more corrupt; permit the now heaving, now smouldering volcano of unbridled lusts to belch forth till the known world is ablaze with the glory that spurns all bounds, and shall ere long eclipse the sun of the moral firmament. Oh, yes, give loose rein to the passions, and the Bible to the dogs, till satiety puts the ring in their nose and pins them to her triumphal car.
Verily Christian England has made her national tree surpassingly beautiful. The birds of the air will not lodge in its branches, the beasts of the field will not lie down beneath its shade; so measureless are its all-embracing arms that the lip curls with incredulity when it is proposed to curb its onward sweep; and well the lip may curl so long as men are content to renew the vigor of its roots by the ceaseless pruning of its branches. The tree is known by its fruits; yes, take a good look at the giants that come under the benignant shadow of this stately Upas. Its fruits are good, yea, very good; it enervates youth, blasts middle-age, produces the mildew and decay, that makes the man of towering intellect, ere yet in his prime, totter to his fall a crumbling ruin—a ruin neither to be averted nor adorned by the clinging ivy of affection, but to be thrust ignominiously out of sight. Pretty giants indeed! Oh beautiful, blessed results of thinking, drinking, and doing as one likes! Honor is nothing, health is nothing, wealth is nothing, woman is less than page 213 nothing; each and all shall go to swell the praises of man, and man alone, doing as he likes! It is well to throw all the might and majesty of the law around such noble doings.
Christian bishops can afford to smile at the drink-tyrant's reign, not so the untutored savage. Deploring alike its ravages among their people, and the facility with which the drink is obtained, notwithstanding that it is illegal to sell intoxicants to the natives, Maori chiefs, despising the Englishman's loved waipiro (stinking water), have prayed earnestly, and in due form, that “its fountain-springs shall be dried up.” Oh, foolish prayer! Only an untaught Maori could expect an avowedly Christian government to value righteousness above gold—to banish the sordid world-liness that covets the drink-traffic gains.
And yet with all their gold and the gratification of the passions, who shall say that the wicked are happy? Their carriage is lofty, it is true; they would if they could sneer down all opposition. But stolen fruit is not sweet in the eating, however tempting it looks in the distance; mock-merriment deludes the thoughtless only. In quest of examples of absolute despair the mind turns involuntarily to the gin-palace and the theatre, whose votaries in their truer moments stand alone, dreadfully alone, and with no eye to pity; smother up out of sight their dearly-bought merriment. It must outrage Satan himself that the men, whom no trade can blacken, should be allowed to traffic in the ruin of their kind. The good, if good there are, need to be protected against the bad; but he who needs protection against woman is no man; and the trade that needs protection is no legitimate trade.
Look at facts! See things as they are and as they ought to be. Right and wrong, truth and falsehood, hold no communion, though they share the same bed and board. Honor and honor only, ever has, ever can, unite man and woman; the bond is violated the instant the heart becomes truant; and that almost no value attaches to the mere form of marriage is proved conclusively by the ease with which its responsibilities are evaded. If two beasts are penned together and one page 214 displays vicious tendencies they are separated forthwith. And when purity innocently marries pollution, a healthy public opinion ought to declare, as does One above, it is a cheat and a lie, and let the woman go blameless. Purity and pollution cannot be left tied together in the bundle of life with impunity. Wrax and Zee were never married, were never one in any true sense, though a parson tied the knot securely enough. When sex is put down and the soul is put uppermost —and the soul is more cared for than its surroundings —every institution will be tested by its effects on the spirit of those concerned in it. Then, be consistent!
Christ-like goodness and truthfulness are all that is needed to make the tree of life “good”—to cut the tap-root of false assumption. To see things as they are and as they ought to be, will directly place them on a sounder footing by drawing the good and true of both sexes into closer, stronger, practical sympathy than has ever yet existed between them, and then the wronged and wretched will not appeal to them in vain. For all practical purposes there are plenty of good men and women in the world if the ripened will of the truest, built up on intelligent conviction, would but utilise the reforming forces at command; and for the sake of every child born and unborn, for the sake of all that is holiest and best in man and woman, and for the sake of all that is vilest in the vile to redeem it, these forces shall be utilised when once woman's God-given work to bless mankind is sufficiently appreciated in its height and depth and length and breadth to allow her to define clearly the line of demarcation between good and evil. Let the moral sun shine and show every fleck of moral filth; this is all that is necessary to revolutionise the world.
Yes, try it, and you will soon learn that the will, and the will alone, is wanted to grapple with existing evils; and so long as this want of will characterises the paltering timidity, amounting almost to imbecility, with which the line is now drawn between right and wrong, no right practical results will be arrived at. Neither poverty, vice, nor crime can be dealt with in detail; reform must go to the roots of each excrescence.page 215
Wrax, the man of passions indulged, is a fair sample of the going man, who ought to go; and Zee, unreasoning Zee, is an equally fair specimen of the going woman; but rising phœanix-like from her ashes, she has caught the music of the spheres, hence her one word is Progress. She has lived the inner, hidden life at great cost, and her one agonising hope is that her experience may be useful in saving others from like blunders. What matters how painful the refining process if the world is saved thereby, since those only are truly blessed whose experience serves to open the eyes of the spiritually blind? Still vicarious suffering has its limits, and is of value only as its precious lessons are turned to good account.
A retrospective view of what she has suffered makes her wince even yet; happily the burden was not present to the mind's eye all at once; her troubles came singly and the day's strength with them; it would have been better, nevertheless, for her peace of mind had she earlier learned that she suffered in others' stead, that she was to drink to the dregs of sorrow's cup, to take a stone out of a weak sister's path: that in electing her to suffer God had made her fitter and stronger to bear his yoke. Nothing but good did she ever receive at the hands of God; there was no night, no frown skyward of the mercy-seat, for all was ever in view even when the powers of evil seemed leagued against her. And the more completely she loses herself in the wide, wide world of wrong and wretchedness, the more certain is she to meet her Lord; a light surprises and she sings with rapture. Loving each and all without distinction—not for what they are, that were impossible, but for what they may become—Zee no longer offers up petitions for her poor lone self. For self, except that she may grow in soul-beauty, she has not one moment's concern; all thought of self she leaves to God with blissful quiet.
Zee is, to all intents and purposes, at least twenty years younger than Wrax, and to see them side by side would convince the most sceptical on the subject that right-doing is health, happiness, beauty; that wrongdoing is pain, shame, idiotcy. She is certainly a credit page 216 to total abstinence. Looking blindly at life and its duties, as the witless Zee once did, it is doubtful whether she could have acted better than she then did, but she could do nothing for Wrax. She taught him to despise his own soul and hers by pandering to his conceit and selfishness—fulfilling the devil's injunction—do evil that good may come; the good never comes; thus the influence of her whole life was wrongly directed. To have given her soul in his soul's stead could not have saved him, because he had no desire to be saved from sin; hence sacrifice for its own sake, instead of being regarded as an amiable weakness, ought to meet with the severest reprobation.
Through all her grief Zee has lived her own strangely happy life, every day finding a fresh-gathered lily in her path. Rude health and its genial influences, but especially the mental wealth she has garnered all along the road, have placed her above the reach of commiseration. Sorrow has not seared her heart, though it has seamed her face and left on it a settled melancholy, as it does on the face of all, perhaps, who have seen God's wonders in the deep. The melancholy tells its own story so faithfully that she would do much to get rid of it, since she lays no claim no martyrdom. Indeed, she feels inwardly so beautiful that she is conscious of a painful revulsion of feeling if she chances to catch a glimpse of her face in the glass; she has never, in truth, become at home with her own features.
95 An obscure poem by relatively-unknown poet Alice Williams Brotherton (1848-1930). The Boston magazine The Writer wrote in 1894 about Alice Brotherton: "Mrs Brotherton is not [...] a writer of devotional poems, but, rather, of those which reflect the ethical in every subject, and make of all ethics a religion" (Mary Cardwill, 88).
96 An Italian noblewoman who became the Queen of France from 1547 till 1559, as the wife of King Henry II. Her legend as a “wicked” Queen began with the persecutions of Protestants under her sons’ rule (during which she was Regent), particularly the St. Bartholomew Day massacre of 1572, in which thousands of French Huguenots were killed.