[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

of blind service to its lady: that where that true faith and captivity are not, all wayward and wicked passion must be ; and that in this rapturous obedience to the single love of his youth, is the sanctification of all man's strength, and the continuance of all his purposes. And this, not because such obedience would be safe, or honourable, were it ever rendered to the unworthy; but because it ought to be impossible for every noble youth-it is impossible for every one rightly trained-to love any one whose gentle counsel be cannot trust, or whose prayerful command he can hesitate to obey.

I do not insist by any farther argument on this, for I think it should commend itself at once to your knowledge of what has been and to your feeling of what should be. You cannot think that the buckling on of the knight's armour by his lady's hand was a mere caprice of romantic fashion. It is the type of an eternal truth-that the soul's armour is never well set to the heart unless a woman's band has braced it; and it is only when she braces it loosely that the honour of manhood fails. Know you not those lovely lines—I would they were learned by all youthful ladies of England :

" Ab wasteful woman I she who may

On her sweet self set her own price,
Knowing he cannot choose but pay-

[ocr errors]

How has she cheapen'd Paradise !
How giren for nought her priceless gift,
How spoiled the bread and spilld the wine,
Which, spent with due, respective thrill,
Had made brutes men, and men divine !".

[ocr errors]

Thus much, then, respecting the relations of lovers I believe you will accept. But what we too often doubt is the fitness of the continuance of such a relation throughout the whole of human life. We think it right in the lover and mistress, not in the husband and wife. That is to say, we think that a reverent and tender duty is due to one whose affection we still doubt, and whose character we as yet do but partially and distantly discern ; and that this rererence and duty are to be withdrawn when the affection has become wholly and limitlessly our own, and the character has been so sifted and tried that we fear not to entrust it with the happiness of our lives. Do you not see how ignoble this is, as well as how unreasovable? Do you not feel that marriage—when it is marriage at all,—is only the seal which marks the vowed transition of temporary into untiring service, and of fitful into eternal love ?

But how, you will ask, is the idea of this guiding function of the woman reconcileable with a true wifely subjection ! Simply in that it is a guiding, not a determining, function.

[merged small][ocr errors]

Let me try to show you briefly how these powers seem to be rightly distinguishable.

We are foolish, and without excuse foolish, in speaking of the "superiority” of one sex to the other, as if they could be compared in similar things. Each has what the other has not: each completes the other, and is completed by the other: they are iu nothing alike, and the happiness and perfection of both depends on each asking and receiving from

Now their separate characters are briefly these. The man's power is active, progressive, defensive. He is eminently the doer, the creator, the discoverer, the defender. His intellect is for speculation and invention; his energy for adventure, for war, and for conquest, wherever war is just, wberever conquest necessary. But the woman's power is for rule, not for battle,—and her intellect is not for invention or creation, but for sweet ordering, arrangement, and decision. She sees the qualities of things, their claims and their places. Her great function is Praise : she enters into no contest, but infallibly judges the crown of contest. By her office, and place, she is protected from all danger and temptation. The man, in his rough work in open world, must encounter all peril and trial :-to him, therefore, the failure, the offence, the inevitable error: often he must be. wounded, or subdued, often misled, and alroays hardened. But he guards the

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

woman from all this; within his house, as ruled by ber, unless
she herself has sought it, need enter no danger, no tempta-
tion, no cause of error or offence. This is the true nature
of home—it is the place of Peace; the shelter, not only from
all injury, but from all terror, doubt, and division. In so far
as it is not this, it is not home ; so far as the anxieties of the
outer life penetrate into it, and the inconsistently-minded,
unknown, unloved, or hostile society of the outer world is
allowed by either husband or wife to cross the threshold, it
ceases to be home; it is then only a part of that outer world
which you have roofed over, and lighted fire in. But so far
as it is a sacred place, a vestal temple, a temple of the hearth
watched over by Household Gods, before whose faces none -
may come but those whom they can receive with love,-60
far as it is this, and roof and fire are types only of a nobler
shade and light,-shade as of the rock in a weary land, and
light as of the Pharos in the stormy sea ;-80 far it vindicates
the name, and fulfils the praise, of home.

And wherever a true wife comes, this home is always round her. The stars only diay be over her head; the glowworm in the night-cold grass may be the only fire at her foot: but home is yet wherever she is; and for a noble woman it stretches far round her, better than ceiled with cedar, or painted with vermilion, shedding its quiet light far, for those who else were homeless. .. .

This, then, I believe to be,-will you not admit it to be, the woman's true place and power ? But do not you see that to fulfil this, she must as far as one can use such terms of a human creature—be incapable of error ? So far as she rules, all must be right, or nothing is. She must be enduringly, incorruptibly good; instinctively, infallibly wise-wise, not for self-development, but for self-renunciation : wise, not that she may set herself above her husband, but that she may never fail from his sido : wise, not with tho narrowness of insolent and loveless pride, but with the passionate gentleness of an infinitely variable, because infinitely applicable, modesty of service—the true changefulness of woman. In that great sense" La donna e mobile,” not “Qual pidm' al vento;” no, nor yet “Variable as the shade, by the light quivering aspen made;" but variable as the light, manifold in fair and serene division, that it may take tho colour of all that it falls upon, and exalt it.

II. I have been trying, thus far, to show you what should be the place, and what the power of woman. Now, secondly, we ask, What kind of education is to fit her for these ?

And if you indeed think this a true conception of her office and dignity, it will not be difficult to tràoe the course of education which would fit her for the one, and raise her to the other.

The first of onr duties to her no thoughtful persons now

« ElőzőTovább »