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Parables of Life



Hamilton Wright Mabie



ABERKELEY"\
LI&RARY

I UNIVERSITY OF 1



Parables of Life



Parables of Life



Hamilton Wright Mabie



New York

The Outlook Company
1903



Copyright, 1902, by
The Outlook Company



THE DEVINNE PHESS



To

Lyman Abbott



793



Contents

The Inflexible Guide .... 9

The Waiting Figure . . . . -*9

The Last Judgment .... 25

Behind the Mask 3 l

At the End of the Journey . . 37

That Which Abides .... 45

The Touch of Nature . ... 53

Out of the Agony 63

Dream and Reality 7 1

Out of Pain 8l

The Awakening 95



THE INFLEXIBLE GUIDE



THE INFLEXIBLE GUIDE

THEY stood together in a fra
grant garden, Love holding
the child by the hand and looking
down into its face with a tender
ness so deep that it held in its heart
the compassion, the sacrifice, the
passionate yearning of universal
motherhood. Long ago Love had
come into the world, and through
immemorial years she had walked
the stony and terrible ways of life
with innumerable children, but the
light of heaven had not vanished
from her face and the purity of

II



PARABLES OF LIFE

God lay inviolate in the depths of
her beautiful eyes. There was so
much gaiety in her mood that
sunny morning, such joy radiated
from her face, that the child thought
his companion the most winning
playfellow in the world. In those
deep eyes, luminous with devotion,
no denial could find a home ;
within those tender and protecting
arms no sorrow or bitterness could
come ! So Love always seems to
those who watch her face and do
not know her heart. Two things
Love learned in heaven: infinite
tenderness and perfect loyalty to
truth. The child saw the play of
the tenderness rising like a great

12



THE INFLEXIBLE GUIDE

tide from unfathomable springs; far
beyond, in the years that were to
come, he was to learn the deeper
compassion of truth.

The journey lengthened and still
the boy looked up to the face of
Love, and Love smiled like an un
clouded sun. But there came a
time when he would walk alone
and find his own way, and the boy
loosed his hand from the hand of
Love and chose another path. Un
seen, Love still walked beside him
and stood between him and many
a peril, and in the darkness made a
light about him which came the
man knew not whence. But the
face of Love was often infinitely

13



PARABLES OF LIFE

sad, and sometimes there shone
through its beautiful tenderness a
flash of white light which smote
the very heart of the man, so that
he cried out in pain and turned to
Love to be comforted ; and, be
hold ! the hand of Love grasped his
as firmly as before, but there was
infinite sternness, touched with pas
sionate sorrow, in her eyes. And
while the man looked to be led
gently in fragrant places, Love
guided him along perilous preci
pices and over bitter roads and up
great heights, relentlessly urging
him forward, herself silent, resolute,
inflexible. And the man rebelled
in his heart and strove to free him-



?HE INFLEXIBLE GUIDE

self, and cried out that another had
usurped the place of Love and
stolen her raiment. And Love made
no answer, but strode on, inflexible
as the will of God and terrible as
his purity. Her face was turned
away and the man did not see the
anguish there, the drops of blood,
the print of thorns ; did not know
that his suffering was but a shaded
of the pain in the heart of Love,
and the weariness of the way on his
soul but a dim reflection of its bit
terness in hers. By as much as her
heart was deeper and her spirit
purer than his was her cross heavier
and her anguish more poignant.
He suffered because the way was

15



PARABLES OF LIFE

hard; she suffered because the end
of it was shame and misery and
death.

As he strove to break away, she
held his hand the more firmly; as
he strove to find the easier path, she
implacably set his feet in the harder
road. He thought her harsh and
stern and unseeing ; and her eyes
were wide with the terror of that
to which he was blind, and in her
agony she wept great tears of an
guish.

And when the man found she
would not leave him, he ceased to
resist and let her take her way ;
and after a little the road began to
grow easier, the ascent less precipi-

16



THE INFLEXIBLE GUIDE

tous, the trial of strength less pain
ful. And presently they came to
a height, and the man looked back
and saw whither the path he had
meant to take led, and he shud
dered and fell at the feet of the
inflexible and terrible figure at his
side. And again, as in childhood,
he looked up into the face of his
guide ; and, behold ! Love smiled
down on him with eyes full of in
finite tenderness.



i7



THE WAITING FIGURE



THE WAITING FIGURE

ArlOST of stars watching in
the vast silence of the night;
the earth, a great ball, still and
white and dim with sleep, sweeping
through illimitable space; fading
in the distance the long, faint glow
of time, visible for a moment like
a beam of light on a measureless
sea; suddenly an apparition, born
of the night and the stars and the
endless movement of the years as
they steal out of eternity and recede
again into its depths, which every
man sees and no one knows. The



21



P4R4BLES OF LIFE

figure is vague, mysterious, veiled
from head to foot in soft radiancy ;
a form undefined and elusive, but
with hidden nobility of line, molded
like a goddess, and like a goddess
shielded from the intimate gaze of
men. About this sublime figure
floats a mist, in which light and
darkness are magically blended, half
revealing and half concealing, as if
a soul were in the process of birth
a soul penetrated with strange,
dim, obscure radiations of the re
mote past, and waiting for the plas
tic touch of the future; old as the
stars, but wearing the garb of im
mortal youth; bearing the impress
of immemorial years, and yet sensi-

22



<?HE WAITING FIGURE

tive to the stir of the forces that
play through the life of to-day, and
to the shaping touch of to-morrow.
A mysterious figure, seen by all and
known by none, with a face that
seems on the verge of clear revela
tion into familiar features, with in
timations of lifelong acquaintance,
and yet waiting for some final act
of creation, some touch that shall
define and fix and turn the plastic
stuff" of life into perfect distinctness
and immortality. Beside every man
the figure seems to stand silent, ex
pectant, mysterious ; waiting the
impress of his hand ; full of all no
bility of line and feature; a shape
for the touch of genius to mold



P4R4BLES OF LIFE

into a beauty akin with the stars,
and yet at the mercy of the hand
that strikes blindly, passionately,
idly, ignobly; the stuff of immor
tality waiting for myriad-handed
time to mar or glorify; coming
from the Infinite to set the eternal
beauty again in the ways of men,
or to bear again the old marks of
those who waste and spoil and de
stroy the fair visions of the soul:
the veiled figure of the New Year,
standing mysterious and silent be
side every man, under the vast and
solemn arch of the midnight sky.



THE LAST JUDGMENT



THE LAST JUDGMENT

SLOWLY and painlessly con
sciousness returned. He looked
about him and remembered. It
seemed but a moment, and yet the
life he had lived on earth was as
far from him as if he had died a
century ago. In the stillness and
the measureless quiet which en
folded him after those last agoniz
ing hours he knew that he had
already entered into rest. So deep
was the peace which fell softly as
if from the vast heights above him
that he felt no curiosity and was

27



PARABLES OF LIFE

without fear. He was in a new
life and he must find his place in
it, but he was content to wait; and
while he waited his thought went
swiftly back to the days when, a
little child, he looked up at the sky
and wondered if the stars were the
lights in the streets of heaven. One
by one the years rose out of the
depths of his memory and he re
called, step by step, all the way he
had come : childhood, youth, man
hood, and age. He read with deep
ening interest the story of his life
all his thoughts, his words, the
things he had done and left undone.
And as he read he knew what was
good and what was ill; everything

28



THE L4S? JUDGMENT:

was clear, not only in the unbroken
record of what he had been, but in
a sudden perception of what he
was. At last he knew himself.
And while he pondered one stood
beside him, grave and calm and
sweet with the purity that is per
fect strength. Into the face which
turned toward him, touched with
the light of immortal joy, he looked
up and asked, "When shall I be
judged?"

And the answer came: "You
have judged yourself. You may
go where you will."



29



BEHIND THE MASK



BEHIND THE MASK

A FIERCE wind beating against
the trees and lashing them
with merciless severity ; vast drifts
of snow filling every hollow and
drifting aimlessly from point to
point; the landscape white and
bleak from horizon to horizon,
locked by the cold into desolate
stillness, without sound or sight of
life from sky to sky across the world ;
the heavens cold, steel-blue, re
mote, inaccessible, penetrated by an
arctic chill ; the air bitter, remorse
less, with a hint of death in the icy

33



PARABLES OF LIFE

breath of the gale ; everywhere si
lence save for the rush of the wind ;
everywhere bonds and fetters and
desolation : hard, glittering, inex
orable Death supreme in earth and
air.

So it looked to the solitary man
who braced himself to meet the
force of the gale, and, in the par
tial shelter of a great oak, gazed
across the shining fields to the hills
whose lines, in the crystalline air,
seemed to cut into the blue. So it
would have been, in reality, to a
man less wise in the wisdom of
Nature. This man smiled as he
looked, and, if Nature had been
less intent on her work far away,

34



BEHIND THE M A S K

she too would have smiled ; for we
always smile when some one recog
nizes us behind our masks. This
man knew the mask so well that,
perfect as was its counterfeit of
death, he was not for a moment in
doubt. He knew that behind the
mask life was pulsing, coursing,
throbbing, beating, gathering vol
ume for a tide that should presently
break like a fountain out of the
depths of the earth and strew the
world with flowers from sky to sky.
Behind that mask, secure from all
prying eyes, from profane curiosity,
from the cold searching of the fact-
gatherer, the ancient mysteries were
being enacted the primeval miracle

35



PARABLES OF LIFE

was being wrought again ; in dark
ness and silence all things were
moving to birth ; behind the face
of Death, Life was passionately
brooding over the radiant loveliness
asleep in her heart.



AT THE END OF THE
JOURNEY



AT THE END OF THE
JOURNEY

SHE had come a long way, and
the fatigue of the journey was
on her face and the stains of it on
her garments. She walked slowly
and painfully, and in her uncertain
step there was the record of leagues
of travel. She had forgotten many
hardships, for memory often sleeps
in order that the spirit whose record
it keeps may regain lost strength
and refill the depleted lamp of life;
but she remembered many bitter
griefs, and the hand of sorrow had

39



PARABLES OF LIFE

left a visible impress on her coun
tenance. And the way had long
been lonely as well as sorrowful;
for they who set out with her had
vanished from her side, and she had
gone on in a solitude that seemed to
deepen about her. Far behind, as
she traveled on, was the glow of
the morning light, once gloriously
glad over the whole earth, now faint
and distant as the light of a sun
that has long set. And after the
morning passed there had come
midday with its heat, its far-reach
ing activities, its strenuous energy,
its deepening experience; and after
noontide, evening ; and so long had
she traveled in the darkness, the

40



THE END OF THE J GURNET

little group about her silently steal
ing away one by one from her side,
that it seemed to her as if it had
always been night and she had al
ways been alone. Of late she had
lost the feeling of motion, although
she was conscious that the landscape
about her was changing.

She had set out with a high spirit
and with a deep sense of joy in ac
tion and movement and life; but
years and sorrows had saddened her,
and she had come to think of her
self not only as weary and alone,
but old. There was bitterness in
the thought because it seemed a
denial of her nature. In youth the
fountain of life in her soul had



PARABLES OF LIFE

seemed inexhaustible; and in later
years, when the rare times of rest
from grief and travel came, it had
leaped up and sent a gush of joy to
her heart. But now, for a long
time, there had been no stir of the
waters, and age had touched all that
she possessed; and so, traveling
slowly and painfully with set pur
pose but with fading hope, she came
one dark night to the gate which
closes the road. She knocked feebly
and the gate swung wide on noise
less hinges. No one stood beside
it, for it marked neither end nor
beginning of journey, and the road
ran straight through it unbroken
and unchanged, save that a soft light

42



THE END OF <THE J GURNET

rested on it and in the air there was
infinite content. No landscape was
visible for the mist that lay over it,
and no sounds were heard; but
when one passed through, he knew
without knowing that nature
bloomed there with a fulfilled love
liness, and he heard without hear
ing the songs of birds which are
never hushed by wintry skies. The
woman rested within the gate, and
as she rested she was conscious of
no change in herself, but the raiment
which she had worn thin and bare
fell away and vanished, and she saw
that the fading and fraying and
wearing away had despoiled only
her garments and left her untouched ;

43



PARABLES OF LIFE

and as she rested, the lines vanished
from her face and the pain from her
limbs, and silently the fountain rose
once more. The stains of travel
were gone, the signs of age had
vanished; once more young, but
with a wisdom beyond youth, she
started with buoyant step and with
a rising hope in her heart; for
through the soft mist beautiful forms
seemed to be moving, and faint and
far she heard voices that seemed to
come out of her childhood, fresh
with the freshness of the morning,
and her spirit grew faint for joy at
the sound of them.



44



THAT WHICH ABIDES



THAT WHICH ABIDES

THE throng was moving on
without order and apparently
without purpose; though here and
there in the crowd there were faces
set toward some invisible goal, and
eyes which glowed with exaltation
and shone like stars in a heavenly
order. The road was broad, rough,
and full of pitfalls ; low clouds
hung over it, sometimes lifting and
showing a clear sky, sometimes
settling about it so closely that its
boundaries vanished in obscurity.
The throng swept along as if driven

47



PARABLES OF LIFE

forward by some inward impulse ; a
few pressing on with steady step;
many hurrying or loitering as the
mood seized them ; and here and
there one vanished with despairing
face into the fog and was seen no
more. Some ran freely, with buoy
ant and active step ; many wavered,
broke from the crowd, rested awhile,
and then patiently set out again.
And ever and anon, in the hurry or
the loitering, one stumbled and fell
and lay prone, bewildered and ex
hausted; or rose again, stunned and
hurt and soiled, and slipped back
into the crowd and was swallowed
up in the disorderly ranks.

One there was who seemed born

48



t WHICH JBIDES

to run well and with speed, and at
times he shot far ahead as if he saw
his goal; then, when the light was
on his face, he stumbled and fell
headlong and lay apparently with
out consciousness. But after a time
he lifted himself and looked about
him with despair on his face. Some
times a hand was stretched out
toward him; oftener the throng
swept on and left him prone in the
mire. He staggered to his feet and
began to walk slowly, as if in great
pain ; and he was filled with shame,
for his garments were defiled from
head to foot and he was one mass
of uncleanness. And some who
were near drew away, that their

49



PARABLES OF LIFE

own raiment might not be defiled;
and he crept on, solitary and sor
rowful. Now this man, whose steps
were so unsteady that he seemed to
fall into the pitfalls against his will
and often unaware, hated his own
uncleanness and counted himself
unworthy the companionship of the
white-robed men and women about
him. And ever as he fell he loathed
the more the mire which clung to
him and thought himself the more
unfitted to touch hands with the
clean. But in his soul there was
something, he knew not what,
which sent him forward in spite of
hurt and pain and mire. When he
lay prone, a great sickness of heart

50



cfHA^ WHICH ABIDES

smote him and a great longing for
cleanness, and so, with shame and
much defiled and with loathing of
himself, he pressed on with little
help, with many cold glances, with
a deep sense of repulsion borne to
him from many faces.

At last, footsore and weary and
faint in heart, he came to a place
where the mist lay on the road and
many halted, fearful of what might
lie beyond ; but he, caring only to
be clean and fleeing from his own
defilement, ran into the mist. And,
behold, the mist lifted and a fair
country lay smiling about him, and
hands were held out to him in wel
come. But when he looked into



PARABLES OF LIFE

the pure faces of those who stood
guardians of the country, he drew
back, crying, in great agony of
spirit, "I cannot enter, for I am
unclean/

And they smiled and pointed to
his garments; and he looked, and,
behold, his garments were like
snow. And he stood trembling,
knowing not what had befallen him
and doubting if he were himself.
And while he doubted, a voice
came to him saying: "In thy heart
thou didst hate uncleanness and love
purity, and that only which we love
abides."



THE TOUCH OF NATURE



THE TOUCH OF NATURE

IT was the stillest of June morn
ings; nothing stirred save that
deep, mysterious life which had
risen again out of the heart of the
earth, and, like some divine emo
tion, brought the soul of nature to
shy disclosure. The flight of birds
did not break the silence, and their
songs seemed hardly to ripple the
quiet of the solitude which folded
all things in its heart. There was
no priestess at the shrine; there
were no sacred vessels of gold ; no
censers swung; no chorused praise

55



P^RJBLES OF LIFE

floated from adoring hearts like a
mist heavenward; but the woods
were silent with adoration, and the
very earth seemed to worship in a
deep quietude which was tremulous
with life. A sense of infinite peace
brooded over the place, and in the
soft shadows of the trees a fragrant
coolness enfolded and calmed and
soothed.

Into this refuge came a woman
whose step was agitated and whose
face was convulsed with anguish.
She came alone, but something
seemed to be pursuing her; she
walked swiftly, fearfully, as if car
ried forward by dread of that which
followed her. In the heart of the

56



<?HE TOUCH OF NATURE

wood she paused a moment, struck,
apparently, by a sudden recognition
of the vast change between the
world from which she had fled and
that into which she had come; and
it seemed as if an impassable gulf
opened between her agitated spirit
and the deep tranquillity of the
shaded solitude. She glanced over
her shoulder as if she half expected
some torturing vision, as if some
agonizing grief were swiftly ap
proaching ; but there was no stir in
the woodland paths and the silence
was unbroken. At a distance a
clear, sweet, mysterious note floated
upward, untouched by human pas
sion or care or toil; a note which

57



PARABLES OF LIFE

flowed through the upper air with
the purity, the stainlessness, the
lonely freedom, of the mountain
brook. The trembling woman lis
tened; it came again and again,
borne to her as if from a distance,
and bringing with it subtle sugges
tions of remoteness, of the ancient
quiet of immemorial woods, of the
vast, impersonal repose of nature,
whose years are forgotten in the
abyss of time. In that clear, pene
trating note, held in the air by the
silence which it penetrated, nothing
spoke to the woman s anguish, to
her tortured fancy, to the throbbing
pain in her heart; there was no
tone of consolation for the grief

58



THE TOUCH OF NATURE

which had driven her into that soli
tude; no balm for the suffering of
the moment; but something was
borne in upon her spirit; a sooth
ing and quieting touch was gently
laid upon her soul. The measure
less life of the world spoke to the
immortal life in her.

She waited, still suffering, but
calmed and expectant. And as she
waited in the silence and solitude,
with the distant song of the lonely
thrush in her ears, the tumult in her
heart subsided, the murky air of her
mind cleared, the strain of her spirit
relaxed. Out of the depths of
the woods there came a solemn
peace.

59



PARABLES OF LIFE

She looked up, and through the
network of trees the sky was radi
ant as of old; she looked back to
the life from which she had fled,
and she saw that her pain was only
a part of it, and that the universe
had not become a great instrument
of torture ; that the place where
she had suffered was only a point
in a world which spread out to far
horizons on every side; and the
anguish which had seemed to en
velop earth and sky no less than
her own heart appeared but an
incident in an endless life. No
voice yet spoke to her pain, but
there came a calmness, a sanity, an
opening of mind and heart for the

60



<fHE TOUCH OF NJfURE

comfort which was moving toward
her, borne onward by slow-footed
time. She had found that quiet
ness which is the open door for the
incoming of truth and strength and
peace.



61



OUT OF THE AGONY



OUT OF THE AGONY

IT was midday, and the sun beat
on the course with merciless in
tensity; a cloud of dust hung over
the track and enfolded the runners
so that they saw neither the sky nor
the crowd that waited and watched,
excited, eager, ready to break into
thunders of applause. They saw
one another only indistinctly
vague figures moving in a suffocat
ing fog. The agony of the contest
had entered their souls ; their faces
were strained, sweat poured from
them ; they ran with a silent, steady

65



PARABLES OF LIFE

persistence that was full of pain and
yet indifferent to it. The few who
still ran had ceased to count suffer
ing ; that was part of the price of
the reward, and they paid it with
out questioning. It was, after all,
only a kind of acute fatigue, and the
brave spirit makes sport of fatigue.
The weak, the irresolute, the
fickle-minded, had long since fallen
out of the race. They had started
with assurance on their faces ; for
the course lay so clearly before them
that it seemed but a little way to
the goals shining in the fresh morn
ing air. There was an eager throng
cheering the runners as they sped
away from the starting-post, and
66



U <f OF THE A G N T

friendly faces and shouts lined the
path or followed them long. It
was pure pleasure to run in the
bracing air, with flying competi
tors, with goals to guide the feet,
and vociferous praise following like
a noisy wave. But the distance
lengthened, the morning passed, the
heat grew bitter, the dust of racing
feet rose in a suffocating cloud,
sweat ran from every pore, the strug
gle became agonizing. Those who
were untrained, who had borne no
yoke of discipline, who needed the
stimulus of applause or of visible
rewards, grew faint and weary and
ceased to run. In the cloud of dust
which moved along the course there

67



PARABLES OF LIFE

was left only the little group of
those whose sinews were steel, whose
wills were iron, who cared neither
for applause nor for rewards if only
the race might be well run. They
had ceased to hear the cheers so
long that they had forgotten that
there were any spectators ; they
were so intent upon putting forth
their full strength that they had
ceased to think of the goals. They
ran as if running were life and
nothing else were worth while.
They had given themselves to the
race, they were paying the price;
that was the whole of their simple,
heroic story.

And while they ran, long for-

68



U <? OF <f HE A G N T


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