The loveliest sight that a woman’s eye opens upon in this world is her first-born child; and the holiest sight upon which the eyes of God settle in Almighty sanction and perfect blessing is the love which soon kindles between the mother and her infant: mute and speechless on the one side, with no language but tears and kisses and looks. Beautiful is the philosophy … which arises out of that reflection or passion connected with the transition that has produced it. First comes the whole mighty drama of love, purified ever more and more, how often from grosser feelings, yet of necessity through its very elements, oscillating between the finite and the infinite: the haughtiness of womanly pride, so dignified, yet not always free from the near contagion of error; the romance so ennobling, yet not always entirely reasonable; the tender dawn of opening sentiments, pointing to an idea in all this which it neither can reach nor could long sustain. Think of the great storm of agitation, and fear and hope, through which, in her earliest days of womanhood, every woman must naturally pass, fulfilling a law of her Creator, yet a law which rests upon her mixed constitution; animal, though indefinitely ascending to what is non-animal — as a daughter of man, frail … and imperfect, yet also as a daughter of God, standing erect, with eyes to the heavens. Next, when the great vernal passover of sexual tenderness and romance has fulfilled its purpose, we see, rising as a Phœnix from this great mystery of ennobled instincts, another mystery, much more profound, more affecting, more divine—not so much a rapture as a blissful repose of a Sabbath, which swallows up the more perishing story of the first; forcing the vast heart of female nature through stages of ascent, forcing it to pursue the transmigrations of the Psyche from the aurelic condition, so glowing in its colour, into the winged creature which mixes with the mystery of the dawn, and ascends to the altar of the infinite heavens, rising by a ladder of light from that sympathy which God surveys with approbation; and even more so as He beholds it self-purifying under His Christianity to that sympathy which needs no purification, but is the holiest of things on this earth, and that in which God most reveals Himself through the nature of humanity.
Well is it for the glorification of human nature that through these the vast majority of women must for ever pass; well also that, by placing its sublime germs near to female youth, God thus turns away by anticipation the divinest of disciplines from the rapacious absorption of the grave. Time is found—how often—for those who are early summoned into rendering back their glorious privilege, who yet have tasted in its first-fruits the paradise of maternal love.
And pertaining also to this part of the subject, I will tell you a result of my own observations of no light importance to women.
It is this: Nineteen times out of twenty I have remarked that the true paradise of a female life in all ranks, not too elevated for constant intercourse with the children, is by no means the years of courtship, nor the earliest period of marriage, but that sequestered chamber of her experience, in which a mother is left alone through the day, with servants perhaps in a distant part of the house, and (God be thanked!) chiefly where there are no servants at all, she is attended by one sole companion, her little first-born angel, as yet clinging to her robe, imperfectly able to walk, still more imperfect in its prattling and innocent thoughts, clinging to her, haunting her wherever she goes as her shadow, catching from her eye the total inspiration of its little palpitating heart, and sending to hers a thrill of secret pleasure so often as its little fingers fasten on her own. Left alone from morning to night with this one companion, or even with three, still wearing the graces of infancy; buds of various stages upon the self-same tree, a woman, if she has the great blessing of approaching such a luxury of paradise, is moving—too often not aware that she is moving—through the divinest section of her life. As evening sets in, the husband, through all walks of life, from the highest professional down to that of common labour, returns home to vary her modes of conversation by such thoughts and interests as are more consonant with his more extensive capacities of intellect. But by that time her child (or her children) will be reposing on the little couch, and in the morning, duly as the sun ascends in power, she sees before her a long, long day of perfect pleasure in this society which evening will bring to her, but which is interwoven with every fibre of her sensibilities. This condition of noiseless, quiet love is that, above all, which God blesses and smiles upon.
We are to content ourselves with the light it pleases the sun to communicate to us, by virtue of his rays; and who will lift up his eyes to take in a greater, let him not think it strange, if for the reward of his presumption, he there lose his sight.
Quotidiana is an online anthology of "classical" essays, from antiquity to the early twentieth century. All essays and images are in the public domain. Commentaries are copyrighted, but may be used with proper attribution. Special thanks to the BYU College of Humanities and English Department for funding, and to Joey Franklin and Lara Burton, for tireless research assisting.