Verse > Anthologies > Robert Bridges, ed. > The Spirit of Man: An Anthology

Robert Bridges, ed. (1844–1930).  The Spirit of Man: An Anthology.  1916.
From War and Peace

Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910)
.. DO 1 you believe in a future life? he asked.  1
  In a future life? repeated Prince André: but Pierre gave him no time to answer, taking this repetition of his own words for a negation all the more readily because in earlier days he had known the Prince’s atheistical convictions.  2
  You say that you cannot see the kingdom of goodness and truth on earth. Neither have I seen it: nor is it possible for any one to see it who looks upon this life as the sum and end of all. On the earth, that is to say on this earth (Pierre pointed to the fields), there is no truth; all is falsehood and evil: but in the universe, in the whole universe, truth has its kingdom; and we who are now children of the earth are none the less children of the universe. Do not I feel in my soul that I am actually a member of this vast harmonious whole? Do not I feel that in this countless assemblage of beings, wherein the Divinity, the First Cause—or however you may term it—is manifested, I make one link, one step between the lower beings and the higher? If I see, and clearly see the ladder leading from plant to man, then why must I suppose that it breaks off at me, and does not lead on further and beyond? I feel not only that I cannot utterly perish, since nothing in the universe is annihilated, but that I always shall be, and always was. I feel that besides me are spirits that live above me, and that in this universe there is truth.  3
  Yes, that is Herder’s doctrine, said Prince André; but it is not that, my friend, that will convince me,—life and death—they are what convince a man. The sort of thing that convinces a man is when he sees a being dear to him, with whose life he has been intimately bound up, to whom he has done a wrong, and has wished to make atonement (Prince André’s voice trembled and he turned away), and suddenly this being suffers, is tortured and ceases to be,—Why? It cannot be that there is no answer. And I believe that there is one. That is what convinces a man. That is what has convinced me, said Prince André.  4
  Why, certainly, that is it, said Pierre: is not that just what I was saying?  5
  No. I only say that it is not arguments that convince one of the necessity of a future life, but the fact that one has been going thro’ life in fond companionship with another, and suddenly that dear one vanishes there, into the nowhere; and you yourself are left on the brink of the chasm looking down into it. And I have looked.  6
  Well, and what then? You have known a There and a Someone. The There is the future life, the Someone is God.  7
  Prince André did not reply. The carriage and horses had long been led out on to the further bank, and were already harnessed, the sun was half-sunken beneath the horizon, and the evening frost was beginning to incrust the little pools on the shore with starry crystals, while Pierre and André, to the astonishment of the servants coachmen and ferry-men, still stood in the boat talking.  8
  If God and the future life exist, then truth and virtue exist; and man’s highest happiness consists in striving for their attainment. One must live, said Pierre, one must love, one must believe that we live not merely now on this patch of earth, but that we have lived and shall live eternally there in the universe. He pointed to the sky.  9
  Prince André stood leaning on the rail of the ferry-boat and listening to Pierre. He never moved his eyes, but gazed at the red reflection of the sun in the dark-blue flood. Pierre ceased speaking. All was silent. The ferry-boat lay drifted along the bank, and only the ripples of the current could be heard lapping feebly against its sides. Prince André fancied that this patter of the water babbled a refrain to Pierre’s words ‘That is sooth, accept it: that is sooth, accept it’.  10
Note 1. Tolstoi. From ‘War and Peace’, Vol. ii, ch. xii. All the Russian pieces in this book were Englished by me from literal translations made for me by my friend Mr. Nevill Forbes. [Trans. R. Bridges.] [back]

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