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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Nazareth
By George William Curtis (1824–1892)
 
From ‘Howadji in Syria’

THE TRADITIONS which cluster around Nazareth are so tender and domestic that you will willingly believe, or at least you will listen to, the improbable stories of the friars as a father to the enthusiastic exaggerations of his child. With Jerusalem and its vicinity the gravity of the doctrine is too intimately associated to allow the mind to heed the quarrels and theories about the localities. It is the grandeur of the thought which commands you. But in Nazareth it is the personality of the Teacher which interests you. All the tenderness of the story centers here. The youth of the Madonna and the unrecorded years of the Child belong to Nazareth. Therefore imagination unbends to the sweet associations of domestic life. The little picture in the Uffizi recurs again, and the delicate sketches of Overbeck, illustrating the life of Christ, in which as a blooming boy in his father’s shop he saws a bit of wood into the form of a cross, looking up smilingly to the thoughtful Joseph and the yearning Mary, as when he brings her the passion-flower in the pleasant room.  1
  The tranquil afternoon streams up the valley, and your heart is softened as if by that tender smile of Mary; and yielding to soliciting friars, you go quietly and see where Joseph’s house stood, and where the Angel Gabriel saluted Mary, and the chimney of the hearth upon which she warmed food for her young child, and baked cakes for Joseph when he came home from work, and the rock whence the Jews wished to cast Jesus, and another rock upon which he ate with his disciples.  2
  You listen quietly to these stories, and look at the sights. The childish effort to give plausible form to the necessary facts of the history of the place is too natural to offend. When the pretense is too transparent you smile, but do not scold. For whether he lived upon this side of the way or upon that, this is the landscape he saw for thirty years. A quiet workman, doubtless, with his father, strolling among the melancholy hills of Galilee, looking down into the lake-like vastness of Esdraëlon, where the great captains of his nation had fought,—hearing the wild winds blow from the sea, watching the stars, and remembering the three days of his childhood when he sat in the temple at Jerusalem.  3
  Walking in the dying day over the same solitary hills, you will see in the sunset but one figure moving along the horizon,—a grave manly form, outlined upon the west.  4
  Here was the true struggle of his life—the resolve to devote himself to the work. These are the exceeding high mountains upon which he was lifted in temptation; here in the fullness of his youth and hope Satan walked with him, seductive. For every sin smiles in the first address, says Jeremy Taylor, and carries light in the face and honey in the lip. Green and flowery as Esdraëlon lay the valleys of ease and reputation at his feet; but sternly precipitous as the heights of Galilee, the cliffs of duty above him buried their heads in heaven.  5
  Here too was he transfigured; and in the light of thought he floats between Moses and Elias, between faith and duty, and the splendor of his devotion so overflows history with glory that men call him God.  6
 
 
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