Nonfiction > William Jennings Bryan, ed. > The World’s Famous Orations > Vol. X. America: III
See also: Robert Green Ingersoll Quotations
  The World’s Famous Orations.
America: III. (1861–1905).  1906.
II. At His Brother’s Grave
Robert Green Ingersoll (1833–99)
Born in 1833, died in 1899; began to practise law at Peoria, Illinois, in 1857; Colonel of Cavalry in 1862; Attorney-General for Illinois in 1866; afterward settled in New York, where he gained wide reputation as a lecturer and lawyer.
MY FRIENDS:—I am 1 going to do that which the dead oft promised he would do for me.  1
  The loved and loving brother, husband, father, friend, died where manhood’s morning almost touches noon, and while the shadows still were falling toward the west.  2
  He had not passed on life’s highway the stone that marks the highest point, but, being weary for a moment, lay down by the wayside, and, using his burden for a pillow, fell into that dreamless sleep that kisses down his eyelids still. While yet in love with life and raptured with the world, he passed to silence and pathetic dust.  3
  Yet, after all, it may be best, just in the happiest, sunniest hour of all the voyage, while eager winds are kissing every sail, to dash against the unseen rock, and in an instant hear the billows roar above a sunken ship. For, whether in mid-sea or ’mong the breakers of the farther shore, a wreck at last must mark the end of each and all. And every life, no matter if its every hour is rich with love and every moment jeweled with a joy, will, at its close, become a tragedy as sad and deep and dark as can be woven of the warp and woof of mystery and death.  4
  This brave and tender man in every storm of life was oak and rock, but in the sunshine he was vine and flower. He was the friend of all heroic souls. He climbed the heights and left all superstitions far below, while on his forehead fell the golden dawning of the grander day.  5
  He loved the beautiful, and was with color, form, and music touched to tears. He sided with the weak, and with a willing hand gave alms; with loyal heart and with purest hands he faithfully discharged all public trusts.  6
  He was a worshiper of liberty, a friend of the oppressed. A thousand times I have heard him quote these words: “For justice all place a temple, and all seasons, summer.” He believed that happiness was the only good, reason the only torch, justice the only worship, humanity the only religion, and love the only priest. He added to the sum of human joy; and were every one to whom he did some loving service to bring a blossom to his grave, he would sleep to-night beneath a wilderness of flowers.  7
  Life is a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights. We cry aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry. From the voiceless lips of the unreplying dead there comes no word; but in the night of death hope sees a star, and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing.  8
  He who sleeps here, when dying, mistaking the approach of death for the return of health, whispered with his last breath: “I am better now.” Let us believe, in spite of doubts and dogmas, and tears and fears, that these dear words are true of all the countless dead.  9
  And now to you who have been chosen, from among the many men he loved, to do the last sad office for the dead, we give his sacred dust. Speech can not contain our love. There was, there is, no greater, stronger, manlier man.  10
Note 1. Delivered in Washington on June 3, 1879, at the funeral of Ebon C. Ingersoll. Printed in the New York Tribune on the following day. [back]


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