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The theme of this selection is growth towards an ideal character by the constant worship of that ideal.

This growth is based on the fundamental fact of human nature already discussed ; namely, that of the tension between the real and the ideal. And since it is the whole of life to grow into the ideal which the soul projects, this theme is a universal and fundamental one. A consciousness of the tension between the ideal and the real is the law and the fundamental fact of every life. Ernest did precisely what every individual does, in a way and to a degree.

In the case of Ernest the growth was not made by a conscious effort to reach a definitely formed ideal, but by the worship of an ideal which lies beyond the conscious possibilities of his attainment. While" he still loved to go

and meditate upon

the Great Stone Face,” it was with no thought that he himself was to be the man of prophecy so long looked for by the inhabitants of the valley. He was industrious, kind, and neighborly, and neglected no duty for the sake of indulging his idle habit," as his neighbors thought. And neither did Ernest know that he was engaged in a great work while he was meditating upon the Great Stone Face; he certainly expected nothing from it, but worshipped unselfishly, hoping only to find the realization in another. He was simple-hearted and labored unobtrusively for his bread, living in true charity with his neighbors.

There can be no growth towards an ideal except in self

apart and


forgetfulness in some disinterested objective good. An ideal cannot be realized by merely thinking upon it. Selfsacrifice is the law of self-realization. Ernest was stantly engaged in doing good deeds and in uttering helpful words. His hope was that some one might come who would be the realization of his ideal as embodied in the Great Stone Face. This was a disinterested and generous hope ; it was a longing for the ideal purely for the sake of the ideal.

Thus the theme is the deepest principle of human life, the

purpose of the writer being to exhibit the method of growth to higher life. Man unconsciously realizes the ideal which he worships with his heart and in his deed. If Ernest had set up the ambition to be the fulfilment of the prophecy, and had performed his deeds with reference to that end, he would have missed the goal which he attained.

As to fundamental and comprehensive character this theme is on the same plane as that in “ The Vision of Sir Launfal.” The theme is not some phase of life, but comprehends the whole of life. It is the solution of the problem of life. Man's whole development is included; his education completed.

The theme is not only fundamental, but it is ideal. Such devotion to an ideal is seldom, if ever, found; and such broad and generous sympathy is all that can be required of man for man. Ernest really attained to an ideal eminence in human development, a sweet and pure life, - a deep insight into the worth of the soul, and a heavenly wisdom which seemed to come from a communion with the angels. If the theme could be more exalted, then the writer has not done his work well. If the height attained is not up to the full possibilities of human nature, the theme is not well conceived. It must be a perfect case of spiritual growth ; education must have done its best work.

Furthermore, the theme is brought home to the reader in idealized experience; he does not merely cognize it; he feels it. The reader has a vicarious experience through Ernest; he too worships the ideal of human excellence as manifested in the Great Stone Face, and with Ernest has “unworldly hopes for some great good to mankind.” The great strength of the poem is tested in the fact that the reader really lives, while reading it, a highly idealized life of generous sympathy and unworldly hopes; of deep devotion to the highest ideal of human life.


While the title of the selection is “ The Great Stone Face,” the embodiment is Ernest ; but Ernest with all his surroundings, which produced his development, — conspicuously the Great Stone Face. Ernest was confronted by the Great Stone Face, as Sir Launfal was confronted by the leper; and as Sir Launfal could not recognize himself in the leper who was so far below him, so Ernest could not recognize himself in the Great Stone Face, so far was it above him.

The embodiment also includes the whole of the spacious valley, with its many thousands of inhabitants, who, with Ernest, grew up in the presence of the Great Stone Face. The embodiment is the whole of the imagery, with Ernest in the foreground and the Great Stone Face as the conspicuous feature. And all this must be conceived as covering a period of time from Ernest's infancy to his old age ; during which time there are brought upon the scene Gathergold, Old Blood-and-Thunder, Old Stony Phiz, and the poet, - all in a succession of events to exhibit the development of Ernest's character. Thus the embodiment is quite complex and picturesque.

The theme is developed through the relation of Ernest to the Great Stone Face, with the aid of the characters in contrast to it. The Great Stone Face was Ernest's projection of himself. It was only a heap of ponderous and gigantic rocks, which assumed the semblance of the human countenance when distance lent enchantment to the view. To Ernest it assumed, not merely the semblance of a human face, but “the glow of a vast warm heart, that embraced all mankind in its affections, and had room for more.” Since the Great Stone Face was the projection of Ernest's own ideal self, it, as well as he, may therefore be taken as the embodiment of the theme. It was the ideal self of Ernest; but with him it was yet to be realized.

While Ernest did not recognize that the Great Stone Face was the expression of his own true self, yet Hawthorne would have us understand that it was so ; that Ernest saw in the Great Stone Face what was working as potency in himself. This thought Hawthorne brings clearly out in the third paragraph. He presents us with the picture of an extensive valley occupied by thousands of inhabitants of various conditions and interests of life. “ The inhabitants of this valley, in short, were numerous, and of many modes of life.

But all of them ... had a kind of familiarity with the Great Stone Face, although some possessed the gift of distinguishing this grand natural phenomenon more perfectly than many of their neighbors.” Note that all had a kind of familiarity ; that is, all persons project more or less vividly their possibilities; have a greater or less degree of tension with their ideal.

The object upon which they gazed was the same; the difference must have been in the observer. Ernest was distinguished from his neighbors by the vividness with which he saw the perfection of humanity mirrored in the Great Stone Face; or, what was the same thing, the degree of potency with which his own ideal was striving within him. 66 When the toil of the day was over, he would gaze at it for hours, until he began to imagine that those vast features recognized him, responsive to his own look of veneration. We must not take upon us to affirm that this was a mistake, although the face may have looked no more kindly at Ernest than at all the world besides. But the secret was that the boy's tender and confiding simplicity discerned what other people could not see, and thus the love, which was meant for all, became his peculiar portion.”

Ernest's clearer insight is further indicated when the supposed men of prophecy came in the form of Gathergold, Blood-and-Thunder, and Old Stony Phiz. The crowd then, as they do yet, expected the ideal of humanity in the form of external splendor. Ernest invariably shook his head in sadness, but, gazing upon the Great Stone Face, was reassured, and ever hoped and worshipped. How true is all this to human life as we ordinarily find it! Greatness is looked for in the outward display of position and power, rather than as something intrinsic in the individual. Only the select few can penetrate the disguise, and seek greatness in the simple worth of the soul itself. Greatness, too, is expected to come from remote quarters; it was not supposed to be found in the valley, yet it was there in Ernest himself. The knights of the Round Table searched in all lands for the Holy Grail, while it might have been found, and could only be found, at their own castle gates. In due course of time it was discerned that Ernest, who was the very opposite of outward splendor of life, living in a log hut in the most unobtrusive way, and who had not wandered beyond his native valley, was the realization of the hopes of the people ; and yet this fact was discerned fully only by

the poet.


In the living presence of a vast, warm heart” Ernest passed his days from childhood to old age, — and what chiefly concerns us with respect to the embodiment is how it manifests the development of character under the constant worship of the ideal. To this end the writer narrates the stages of unfolding of Ernest's life.

At first he is presented as a mere child, with helpful hands and a loving heart, talking with his mother about the Great Stone Face, and delighted to hear the story of things to come, that in due time there would appear one

6 whose countenance,

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