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He had flung an alms to leprosie,
’T was water out of a wooden bowl, -
And ’t was red wine he drank with his thirsty soul.
As Sir Launfal mused with a downcast face,
His words were shed softer than leaves from the pine,
This water his blood that died on the tree;
Sir Launfal awoke as from a swound :
And the wanderer is welcome to the hall
No longer scowl the turrets tall, The Summer's long siege at last is o'er; When the first poor outcast went in at the door, She entered with him in disguise, And mastered the fortress by surprise; There is no spot she loves so well on ground, She lingers and smiles there the whole
round; The meanest serf on Sir Launfal's land Has hall and bower at his command ; And there's no poor man in the North Countree But is lord of the earldom as much as he.
ANALYSIS OF THE VISION OF SIR LAUNFAL.1
The basis of this feeling, under all its variety of aspects, as love, benevolence, good will, affection, tenderness, beneficence, liberality, almsgiving, is the feeling of kinship with others.
We have already commented on the more universal feeling of community of life with all the world about us. This feeling restricted to community of life with our fellow-men is charity. Charity is the due recognition of kinship, — of spiritual kinship. Blood kin is a strong bond of unity ; for in this there is readily recognized a community of life. “Kindness ” is from the word “kin,” through kind. Kindness is kindness. A kind act literally is an act which recognizes blood relationship.
The recognition of spiritual kinship is a development out of the preceding; and a kind act in its better sense is an act performed by any one to another as one relative treats another, as a parent treats a child, a child a parent, or a brother and sister each other. The prejudice of the Greek for the barbarian was based on a denial of blood kinship, with the failure to see the spiritual kinship. The Jew and the Gentile were sharply set apart on the ground of race distinction ; and it took centuries for the spiritual life of religion to bring them into the unity of a much more vital kinship. Whatever may have been the immediate political necessity which has given freedom to slaves, the potency Tennyson's
's Holy Grail should be studied parallel with the above, noting likenesses and differences. It would be well, also, to study the whole of The Idylls of the King.
working back of it all was the growing consciousness of the brotherhood of man. Class distinctions have been vanishing under the same force. “ A man 's a man for a' that.” If one should narrate the progress of civilization to show what “increasing purpose runs,” he would have to gather everything into the growth in consciousness of the brotherhood of man and the Fatherhood of God. Monotheism is at the fountain source of charity. There can be no charity without the recognition of a common Father; and there can be no worship of a Divine Father without charity, without the recognition of a universal spiritual kinship. No wonder that the greatest of all is charity. It is
“That thread of the all-sustaining Beauty
Which runs through all and doth all unite." Charity cannot be measured in terms of the outer actu The popular conception of charity as almsgiving is wholly inadequate. The substitution of love for charity, in the revised version of the Scripture was no doubt made to get rid of the superficial and external meaning popularly given to charity. There must be the full recognition of the self in the other, through the unity of both in a common spiritual life. Charity beholds the divinity in the other.
“I behold in thee An image of Him who died on the tree.”
Mild Mary's Son, acknowledge me;
Behold, through him, I give to Thee!” We find the same thought in “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” In speaking of the leper Lowell says:
“ Himself the gate whereby men can
Enter the temple of God in man.” When Launfal had given the water and the crust of bread, a “ voice that was calmer than silence said :
“Who gives himself with his alms feeds three,
and also that
“ The Holy Supper is kept indeed,
In whatso we share with another's need.” The Holy Supper is thus a communion with Christ through our fellow-man. Such is the trinity of spiritual life. The message of Christianity is the brotherhood of man.
That charity is the theme of this poem is not apparent at first. The poet, like the organist, begins “doubtfully and far away, and builds a bridge from Dreamland for his lay.” The organist presented in the introductory stanza represents the poet's method of beginning far away and reaching his theme by gradual approaches. In fact this stanza images a universal method of thought. Always there is an approach to the definite through the vague and indefinite. This stanza seemns to stand apart and to have no connection with the theme. And it has no such connection except as a hint and preparatory mood by which the reader
may readily approach the theme.
The theme in the second stanza of the poem is the unconscious rising to higher life under the heavenly influences that are daily about us through life; not merely, as Wordsworth had said, which lie about us in our infancy. This theme is continued by way of more definite specification in the third stanza. “Over our manhood bend the skies,” etc., specifying the uplifting influences in the winds, the mountains, the woods, and the sea.
So far the reader does not suspect that the theme is charity. But these heavenly influences, inspiring man with a higher life, form the anchorage for the bridge “froin dreamland.”
The theme in the next stanza, “ Earth gets its price,” etc., is that the heavenly influences which lie about us may
be had for the asking, while earthly things must be paid for. God is free; the Devil is expensive. This theme, fused with that of the two preceding stanzas, is growth toward God under the free gift of heavenly influences which daily surround