Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Years ago, when I used to wander of an evening from the fireside to the pleasant land of fairy-tales, I met a doughty knight and true. Many dangers had he overcome, in many lands had been; and all men knew him for a brave and well-tried knight, and one that knew not fear; except, maybe, upon such seasons when even a brave man might feel afraid and yet not be ashamed. Now, as this knight one day was pricking wearily along a toilsome road, his heart misgave him and was sore within him because of the trouble of the way. Rocks, dark and of a monstrous size, hung high above his head, and like enough it seemed unto the knight that they should fall and he lie low beneath them. Chasms there were on either side, and darksome caves wherein fierce robbers lived, and dragons, very terrible, whose jaws dripped blood. And upon the road there hung a darkness as of night. So it came over that good knight that he would no more press forward, but seek another road, less grievously beset with difficulty unto his gentle steed. But when in haste he turned and looked behind, much marveled our brave knight, for lo! of all the way that he had ridden there was naught for eye to see; but at his horse's heels there yawned a mighty gulf, whereof no man might ever spy the bottom, so deep was that same gulf. Then when Sir Ghelent saw that of going back there was none, he prayed to good Saint Cuthbert, and setting spurs into his steed rode forward bravely and most joyously. And naught harmed him.

There is no returning on the road of life. The frail bridge of time on which we tread sinks back into eternity at every step we take. The past is gone from us forever. It is gathered in and garnered. It belongs to us no more. No single word can ever be unspoken; no single step retraced. Therefore it beseems us as true knights to prick on bravely, not idly weep because we cannot now recall.

A new life begins for us with every second. Let us go forward joyously to meet it. We must press on whether we will or no, and we shall walk better with our eyes before us than with them ever cast behind.

A friend came to me the other day and urged me very eloquently to learn some wonderful system by which you never forgot anything. I don't know why he was so eager on the subject, unless it be that I occasionally borrow an umbrella and have a knack of coming out, in the middle of a game of whist, with a mild "Lor! I've been thinking all along that clubs were trumps." I declined the suggestion, however, in spite of the advantages he so attractively set forth. I have no wish to remember everything. There are many things in most men's lives that had better be forgotten. There is that time, many years ago, when we did not act quite as honorably, quite as uprightly, as we perhaps should have done--that unfortunate deviation from the path of strict probity we once committed, and in which, more unfortunate still, we were found out--that act of folly, of meanness, of wrong. Ah, well! we paid the penalty, suffered the maddening hours of vain remorse, the hot agony of shame, the scorn, perhaps, of those we loved. Let us forget. Oh, Father Time, lift with your kindly hands those bitter memories from off our overburdened hearts, for griefs are ever coming to us with the coming hours, and our little strength is only as the day.

Not that the past should be buried. The music of life would be mute if the chords of memory were snapped asunder. It is but the poisonous weeds, not the flowers, that we should root out from the garden of Mnemosyne. Do you remember Dickens' "Haunted Man"--how he prayed for forgetfulness, and how, when his prayer was answered, he prayed for memory once more? We do not want all the ghosts laid. It is only the haggard, cruel-eyed specters that we flee from. Let the gentle, kindly phantoms haunt us as they will; we are not afraid of them.

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