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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Some Changes in Modern Life
By Charles Sumner (1811–1874)
 
AUSPICIOUS omens from the past and the present cheer us for the future. The terrible wars of the French Revolution were the violent rending of the body which preceded the exorcism of the fiend. Since the morning stars first sang together, the world has not witnessed a peace so harmonious and enduring as that which now blesses the Christian nations. Great questions between them, fraught with strife, and in another age sure heralds of war, are now determined by mediation or arbitration. Great political movements, which only a few short years ago must have led to forcible rebellion, are now conducted by peaceful discussion. Literature, the press, and various societies, all join in the holy work of inculcating good-will to man. The spirit of humanity now pervades the best writings, whether the elevated philosophical inquiries of the ‘Vestiges of Creation,’ the ingenious but melancholy moralizings of the ‘Story of a Feather,’ or the overflowing raillery of Punch. Nor can the breathing thought and burning word of poet or orator have a higher inspiration. Genius is never so Promethean as when it bears the heavenly fire of love to the hearths of men.  1
  In the last age, Dr. Johnson uttered the detestable sentiment that he liked “a good hater.” The man of this age must say that he likes “a good lover.” Thus reversing the objects of regard, he follows a higher wisdom and a purer religion than the renowned moralist knew. He recognizes that peculiar Christian sentiment, the brotherhood of mankind, destined soon to become the decisive touchstone of all human institutions. He confesses the power of love, destined to enter more and more into all the concerns of life. And as love is more heavenly than hate, so must its influence redound more to the true glory of man, and to his acceptance with God. A Christian poet—whose few verses bear him with unflagging wing on his immortal flight—has joined this sentiment with prayer. Thus he speaks in words of uncommon pathos and power:—

  “He prayeth well who loveth well
  Both man and bird and beast.
  
“He prayeth best who loveth best
  All things both great and small;
For the dear God, who loveth us,
  He made and loveth all.”
  2
 
  Surely the ancient law of hate is yielding to the law of love. It is seen in the manifold labors of philanthropy, and in the voyages of charity. It is seen in the institutions for the insane, for the blind, for the deaf and dumb, for the poor, for the outcast,—in the generous efforts to relieve those who are in prison,—in the public schools, opening the gates of knowledge to all the children of the land. It is seen in the diffusive amenities of social life, and in the increasing fellowship of nations. It is seen in the rising opposition to slavery and to war.  3
  There are yet other special auguries of this great change, auspicating, in the natural progress of man, the abandonment of all international preparations for war. To these I allude briefly, but with a deep conviction of their significance.  4
  Look at the past, and observe the change in dress. Down to a period quite recent, the sword was the indispensable companion of the gentleman, wherever he appeared, whether in the street or in society; but he would be thought a madman or a bully who should wear it now. At an earlier period the armor of complete steel was the habiliment of the knight. From the picturesque sketch by Sir Walter Scott in the ‘Lay of the Last Minstrel,’ we may learn the barbarous constraint of this costume:
          “Ten of them were sheathed in steel,
        With belted sword, and spur on heel;
        They quitted not the harness bright,
        Neither by day, nor yet by night;
                They lay down to rest
                With corslet laced,
        Pillowed on buckler cold and hard;
                They carved at the meal
                With gloves of steel,
And they drunk the red wine through the helmet barred.”
But this is all changed now.
  5
  Observe also the change in architecture and in domestic life. The places once chosen for castles or houses were in savage, inaccessible retreats, where the massive structure was reared, destined to repel attacks and to inclose its inhabitants. Even monasteries and churches were fortified, and girdled by towers, ramparts, and ditches; while a child was often stationed as a watchman, to observe what passed at a distance, and announce the approach of an enemy. The homes of peaceful citizens in towns were castellated, often without so much as an aperture for light near the ground, but with loop-holes through which the shafts of the crossbow might be aimed. From a letter of Margaret Paston, in the time of Henry VII. of England, I draw a curious and authentic illustration of the armed life of that period. Addressing in dutiful phrase her “right worshipful husband,” she asks him to procure for her “some crossbows and wyndnacs” (grappling irons) “to bind them with, and quarrels” (arrows with a square head), also “two or three short pole-axes to keep within doors”; and she tells her absent lord of the preparations made apparently by a neighbor,—“great ordnance within the house; bars to bar the door crosswise, and wickets in every quarter of the house to shoot out at, both with bows and hand-guns.” Savages could hardly live in greater distrust of each other. Let now the poet of chivalry describe another scene:—
  “Ten squires, ten yeomen, mail-clad men,
Waited the beck of the warders ten;
Thirty steeds, both fleet and wight,
Stood saddled in stable day and night,
Barbed with frontlet of steel, I trow,
And with Jedwood axe at saddle-bow;
A hundred more fed free in stall:
Such was the custom at Branksome Hall.”
This also is all changed now.
  6
 
 
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