Concerning Choice Sentiments

I AM not referring to those abstract sentiments of love and loyalty, and honesty and patriotism, which I hope have taken root in the soil of my mind, and which may, it is still more devoutly to be hoped, bring forth fruit in their season; but I am referring now to those sentiments which are printed in red and green and gold, in the most artistic of type, on the choicest of cream-colored paper, or, perchance, are passe-partouted with funereal black edges, and neatly hung by rings from the back.

The sentiments are beautiful, ennobling; but what under the sun shall we do with them all — not the sentiments, but the reiterated expression of them ? The things burden me, and, to tell the truth, not only do the oft-repeated phrases themselves become trite, but I grow positively hostile to them, after having them “ rubbed in,” as it were, season after season.

The first printed sentiment of the sort to which I refer, which came to me nine or ten years ago, gave me great pleasure. It was that paragraph from William Henry Channing, known, far and wide, as My Symphony. I hung my dainty card, from its cord of dull blue silk, up in my room, and was greatly elevated by the perusal of it. “ To live content writh small means ” — certainly that was the road to bliss, and I decided that I could be happier listening to “ babes and sages ” than using the pink lustre tea-set which I had been coveting each time that I passed the window of a certain antique shop.

But by the time that I had been presented with six of those symphonies, — every possible anniversary for the next year bringing one or more, — I grew antagonistic, and read, with rebellion in my heart, “ To live content with small means” and went out and bought a marabout boa, which I knew I could n’t afford (the pink lustre tea-set had been taken from the antique-shop window before this). Then I packed away every blessed one of those symphonies in a drawer of my desk, and went to a club meeting in that distracting feather boa, with an unholy joy in my soul.

The Footpath to Peace was next sent to me. I thought the first one lovely, as indeed it was — so they all are; but by the end of two years I had trod so many footpaths to peace that there was n’t a particle of room left in my soul for flowers or fruit, or even grass to grow; it was positively dusty with footpaths.

The Goodnight sentiment — “ Sleep sweet within this quiet room ” — pleased me mightily the first time and the second that I saw it, and even on the fifth I still remained peaceful; but by the tenth, I was in such state of mind that, when I found it in the guest-chamber where I was visiting, I could n’t get to sleep for at least half an hour — and I am naturally one of those sleepers who simply “ shut their eyes and go,” conscience or a late supper notwithstanding.

I was having a season of the blues, partly from an attack of malaria and partly because Dick had lost a lot in copper, the first time that that sentiment about turning your clouds “ wrong side out to show the lining ” wTas given to me, and I braced right up, and turned my silver lining (though I did wash it was copper!) to the world, with great spirit; but by the time sympathizing friends had sent me nine of those things, I was rebellious clear through, and would n’t even pretend or try to “ turn my cloud about” !

This is all very wrong, I know; as wrong as when, at the age of twelve, I wTas required for the third time to begin at the beginning and read the Bible through (a chapter a day and three for Sundays), and suddenly felt that life was becoming unendurable, and stamped my foot and declared that I hated the Bible, — to the unending horror of the good aunt who was trying to lead my willful soul along the paths of righteousness — but some way I can’t seem to help it.

It’s an awful state of mind to be in, and I am properly worried about the tendencies of my own soul, but I am also perplexed as to wdiat I shall do with the things themselves!

Six Symphonies, eight Footpaths to Peace, four Goodnights, nine Clouds with Silver Linings, seven Smiles, three R. L, S.’s, four Lovesome Gardens, and nobody knows howT many Listens by week after next!

I can’t send them to my best friends on their birthdays, because they have sent them to me, and besides they must themselves have a stock sufficient to set up a store. One thinks of the missionaries, of course; but I have a horrible feeling that everybody else has thought of them, too, in this same connection, and that the walls of their domiciles are so hung with passe-partouted Footpaths and Symphonies that they could n’t find a place for a real jolly poster even if we should be so misguided as to send them one. And then suppose that a poor missionary’s wife, out on the frontier, should get, in the course of time, to feel as I do about them, what an awful responsibility to add to the weight of sin on her already exhausted conscience!

What do other people do with their “ sentiments,” I’d like to know, after they have accumulated them by the dozens ? I really feel the need of advice. I should like to do the reasonable thing.

But sometimes — I blush to write it — I almost wish Dick had invested his money in a printing-press instead of in copper; the printing of “ sentiments ” must be profitable!