The Free lance. (State College, Pa.) 1887-1904, June 01, 1899, Image 13

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    It needs but the master tones to set the wild echoes flying, and
yet how few the master voices are. If we look to literature, we
find this only too true. Every writer seems to borrow from his
favorite authors, and if we read his authors we find that they,
too, have borrowed. Tasso sounds of Virgil; Virgil echoes
Homer; and Milton's Paradise Lost reflects them all. And so
the debt ever increases, or as Emerson has said, " There is imi
tation, model, and suggestion to the very archangels, if we knew
their history."
The borrowing may be conscious, or unconscious; but it is
there. A thought comes to the author's mind, and, if it ex
presses just what he wishes to say, he does not stop to question
where he obtained it, he clothes it in words and gives it to the
world as the child of hiS brain. Or he may quote with intention
because he wishes to give his expression weight and force, or
because some one else has already expressed his thoughts in
words which he cannot hope to improve.
But are we, then, to accuse all authors of a Eort of Chinese
imitation ? It does not seem so. Great assimilating power is
but the co-function of original power; it proclaims the author's
susceptibility to the voices of others, and his sympathy with their
feelings. For a great mind often reads far deeper than the
writer knew, and hears far more than the orator proclaims. If
then he clothes these deeper thoughts in living words, and gives
us the former rough expression, beautified, the jagged diamond,
cut and polished, who can but praise him ? Would you discard
Shakespeare because some one has accused, him of borrowing
from other writers ? No, you would say with Landor, " And yet
he is more original than his originals." For a single voice can
awake a thousand echoes, so can a thousand voices arouse a single
one; and if all these kindred voices are in sympathy and accord,
then will the echo be a new and perfect song.
And yet as Emerson has said, " The divine never quotes, but
is, and creates;" but how often we dismiss our own thoughts as
worthless, just because they are our own. We fail to realize that
we have been endowed by a Divine Creator with an individual in
tellect, that, although we are a part of a great, social organism,
yet we are different from every other part. And so we live on,
ever belittling our own ideals and thus, by not living up to the
best that is in ourselves, we do not perform our part of the social
organism, and fail to fulfill the Divine Ideal.