Saturday, June 09, 2007

Children and Angels

'There is nothing,' cried her friend, 'no, nothing innocent or
good, that dies, and is forgotten. Let us hold to that faith, or
none. An infant, a prattling child, dying in its cradle, will live
again in the better thoughts of those who loved it, and will play
its part, through them, in the redeeming actions of the world,
though its body be burnt to ashes or drowned in the deepest sea.
There is not an angel added to the Host of Heaven but does its
blessed work on earth in those that loved it here. Forgotten! oh,
if the good deeds of human creatures could be traced to their
source, how beautiful would even death appear; for how much
charity, mercy, and purified affection, would be seen to have their
growth in dusty graves!' [Chapt. 54]

She was dead, and past all help, or need of it. The ancient rooms she had seemed to fill with life, even while her own was waning fast -- the garden she had tended -- the eyes she had gladdened -- the noiseless haunts of many a thoughtful hour -- the paths she had trodden as it were but yesterday -- could know here no more.

'It is not,' said the schoolmaster, as he bent down to kiss her on the cheek, and gave his tears free vent, 'it is not on earth that Heaven's justice ends. Think what it is, compared with the World to which her young spirit has winged its early flight, and say, if one deliberate wish expressed in solemn terms above this bed could call her back to life, which of us would utter it!' [Chapt. 71]

-- Charles Dickens, The Old Curiousity Shop

Dicken's Preaches Christ

And let us linger in this place for an instant to remark that if ever household affections and loves are graceful things, they are graceful in the poor. The ties that bind the wealthy and the proud to home may be forged on earth, but those which link the poor man to his humble hearth are of the true metal and bear the stamp of Heaven. The man of high descent may love the halls and lands of his inheritance as a part of himself, as trophies of his birth and power; his associations with them are associations of pride and wealth and triumph; the poor man's attachment to the tenements he holds, which strangers have held before, and may tomorrow occupy again, has a worthier root, struck deep into a purer soil. His household gods are flesh and blood, with no alloy of silver, gold, or precious stone; he has no property but in the affections of his own heart; and when they endear bare floors and walls, despite of rags and toil and scanty meals, that man has his love of home from God, and his rude hut becomes a solemn place.

Oh! if those who rule the destinies of nations would but remember this – if they would but think how hard it is for the very poor to have engendered in their hearts that love of home from which all domestic virtues spring, when they live in dense and squalid masses where social decency is lost, or rather never found, – if they would but turn aside from the wide thoroughfares and great houses, and strive to improve the wretched dwellings in bye-ways where only poverty may walk – many low roofs would point more truly to the sky, than the loftiest steeple that now rears proudly up from the midst of guilt, and crime, and horrible disease, to mock them by its contrast. In hollow voices from Workhouse, Hospital, and Jail, this truth is preached from day to day, and has been proclaimed for years. It is no light matter – no outcry from the working vulgar – no mere question of the people's health and comforts that may be whistled down on Wednesday nights. In love of home, the love of country has its rise; and who are the truer patriots or the best in time of need – those who venerate the land, owning its wood, and stream, and earth, and all that they produce? or those who love their country, boasting not a foot of ground in all its wide domain?
-- Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop