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Dr. Chalmers
by [?]

“Fervet immensusque ruit.”–HOR.

His memory long will live alone
In all our hearts, as mournful light
That broods above the fallen sun,
And dwells in heaven half the night.”


He was not one man, he was a thousand men.”–SYDNEY SMITH.

When, towards the close of some long summer day, we come suddenly, and, as we think, before his time, upon the broad sun, “sinking down in his tranquillity” into the unclouded west, we cannot keep our eyes from the great spectacle,–and when he is gone the shadow of him haunts our sight: we see everywhere,–upon the spotless heaven, upon the distant mountains, upon the fields, and upon the road at our feet,–that dim, strange, changeful image; and if our eyes shut, to recover themselves, we still find in them, like a dying flame, or like a gleam in a dark place, the unmistakable phantom of the mighty orb that has set,–and were we to sit down, as we have often done, and try to record by pencil or by pen, our impression of that supreme hour, still would IT be there. We must have patience with our eye, it will not let the impression go,–that spot on which the radiant disk was impressed, is insensible to all other outward things, for a time: its best relief is, to let the eye wander vaguely over earth and sky, and repose itself on the mild shadowy distance.

So it is when a great and good and beloved man departs, sets–it may be suddenly–and to us who know not the times and the seasons, too soon. We gaze eagerly at his last hours, and when he is gone, never to rise again on our sight, we see his image wherever we go, and in whatsoever we are engaged, and if we try to record by words our wonder, our sorrow, and our affection, we cannot see to do it, for the “idea of his life” is forever coming into our “study of imagination “–into all our thoughts, and we can do little else than let our mind, in a wise passiveness, hush itself to rest. The sun returns–he knows his rising–

“To-morrow he repairs his drooping head,
And tricks his beams, and with new spangled ore
Flames in the forehead of the morning sky;”

but man lieth down, and riseth not again till the heavens are no more. Never again will he whose “Meditations” are now before us, lift up the light of his countenance upon us.

We need not say we look upon him, as a great man, as a good man, as a beloved man,–quis desiderio sit pudor tam cari capitis? We cannot now go very curiously to work, to scrutinize the composition of his character,–we cannot take that large, free, genial nature to pieces, and weigh this and measure that, and sum up and pronounce; we are too near as yet to him, and to his loss, he is too dear to us to be so handled. “His death,” to use the pathetic words of Hartley Coleridge, “is a recent sorrow; his image still lives in eyes that weep for him.” The prevailing feeling is,–He is gone–“abiit ad plures–he has gone over to the majority, he has joined the famous nations of the dead.”

It is no small loss to the world, when one of its master spirits–one of its great lights–a king among the nations–leaves it. A sun is extinguished; a great attractive, regulating power is withdrawn. For though it be a common, it is also a natural thought, to compare a great man to the sun; it is in many respects significant. Like the sun, he rules his day, and he is “for a sign and for seasons, and for days and for years;” he enlightens, quickens, attracts, and leads after him his host–his generation.

To pursue our image. When the sun sets to us, he rises elsewhere–he goes on rejoicing, like a strong man, running his race. So does a great man: when he leaves us and our concerns–he rises elsewhere; and we may reasonably suppose that one who has in this world played a great part in its greatest histories–who has through a long life been preeminent for promoting the good of men and the glory of God–will be looked upon with keen interest, when he joins the company of the immortals. They must have heard of his fame; they may in their ways have seen and helped him already.