From Four Easter Letters

FROM FOUR EASTER LETTERS

"From Four Easter Letters" at The Database of Ornament

I
                                                      Apparently written from
                                                      Athens, about 357 B.C.

'. . . We spoke to-day in the garden of the
manner in which those feelings are preserved in us
that are made necessary by reason of the relation
which men bear to the world. For while no one
of us is now careful to keep in remembrance those
feasts which our forefathers celebrated at this time,
nor listens with any fear to the ancient teaching
as to the Gods, nevertheless it is in our hearts to be
glad at this time when the earth, the fertile mother of all,
is full of new life. We who have learned from Socrates
would not in any wise scoff at those who find delight in the
tale of Dionysus who broke the bonds of his captivity, or of
Persephone who returned at this time from Hades to make
glad the maternal heart of Demeter, or in any such tales which
are in the minds of all. For whether it be because of some
palingenesis whereby the freshened life of some creature which
lived in past times now stirs again in us, as some would say;
or because we are ourselves stirred in our bodies by the warm
sun, as the Physical Philosophers of the school of Anaxagoras
would say, if they dared to speak : or because the Gods still
have power over us, we know not. Yet when the children
gather flowers or set caged birds free, and when the young
men have their revels, or when some one gives freedom to a
slave, it seems to us fitting at this time, when in the world
a new beginning is being made with things. . . .'

56

FROM FOUR EASTER LETTERS






II
                                                      From Drondthem in North
                                                      Norway ; time, probably 145 B.C.

'. . . It has been a long winter, and the darkness seemed more
fearsome than I had ever felt. For before Yule my husband
and most of the men went North in their ships, and it was
lonely for the women and the girls. It was lonely for me in my
child-bearing. We have been telling the little ones all the old
stories, — as of Baldur whom the blind Hodr slew with the
mistletoe, and we wept so much when he died that we could
scarce find words to tell of Ali and his revenging of Baldur's
death. The children were affrighted of the cold snake which
lieth coiled around Brynhild with her treasures, against the day
of her awaking. We girls — for I feel a girl still, and my boy
has not seen his father — used to watch the fire of Odin in
the heavens, and we were glad to know that it was brighter
around the men than with us, for it would help their fishing on
the fjords. But we were more glad when we saw the growing
light in the South at noon ; and now it seems but a short time
of waiting, for the Spring has indeed come. The little lem-
mings have waked from beneath the snow, the reindeer have
come again to eat the salt weed by the shore, the flowers have
risen as though they had waited but for a word, and each lark
that rose yesterday as I walked took from me some of the sore
pain of my longing. ... It was then that I was first to see the
brown-edged sails, and the ships were low in the water. Since
it has been as a feast. We lighted fires and danced around
them, nor forgot to lay out gifts to the gods so that they should
not grudge us our great joy. . . .'

H          57

FROM FOUR EASTER LETTERS






III
                                                      Written from Jerusalem in the eighth
                                                      year of the Governorship of Pilate.

'. . . Of a truth this has been a sad Passover time, though
many of the fears that were heavy upon us are now forgotten.
Many days we went restless, each one with his hand at his
heart, seeking to ease the pain. For that which we had
dreaded in the days of His sojourn, they did : for they crucified
Him whom we loved. Thereat we had no word and no tear ;
yea, we dared not so much as to look one at another. For we
had trusted that it was He who should redeem Israel from
bondage, bringing a comfort for all her rue, and beauty for
ashes, even as it hath been promised from of old. But now we
were of all men most miserable, save only that we had known
Him. It may be that we were hard of heart, for of a surety
we ever had need of Him, to keep our faith alive, that it should
not wax faint and fail us : but for a time there was none found
to say, "Though they have slain Him, yet will I trust." . . .
Nevertheless the darkness has passed ; and though we under-
stand not at all, we rejoice daily. For His love was stronger
than death, and He has come among us and been with us again,
walking and talking, even as He was wont hitherto ; and now
is gone but a little while. For we know surely that in the
same wise, howsoever it may seem strange to them that knew
not Him and His love, He will be with us alway from time to
time, to comfort us, even to the end of the world. And as
there hath been aforetime a feast among us at this season,
so we deem that there shall be one henceforth and for ever;
because that the fear of death has passed over and the Lord is
risen indeed.'

58

FROM FOUR EASTER LETTERS






IV
                                                      Edinburgh, Easter 1887.

'. . . It had gone hard with my friend. One blow after another
had fallen upon him ; he was left like a tree stripped of its
leaves. My travels abroad had kept me from visiting him,
and it was Easter before I returned. I felt that to knock at his
door was to knock at the door of a broken heart. When I
saw him, I began murmuring some empty words of sympathy,
but when I lifted my eyes to his, and saw his face — quiet,
courageous, and with a new refinement, as if he were looking
at far-off hills— I was minded of two old lines, whose they are
I know not,

                                    Hiems abiit, mcestaque crux,
                                    Lucet in eo perpetua lux.

'I could only say, " Surrexit."
'And he did not misunderstand, for he answered softly, " Vere
Surrexit." '

59




MLA citation: . "From Four Easter Letters." The Evergreen 1 (1895): 56-59. The Yellow Nineties Online. Ed. Dennis Denisoff and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra. Ryerson University, 2016. Web. [Date of access] http://1890s.ca/HTML.aspx?s=EGV1_letters.html