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A New Atmosphere by Gail Hamilton

And unto dust shalt thou return


if the true object of marriage be to help accumulate or frugally to manage a fortune, to cook dinners, and act as a sewing-machine, "warranted not to ravel," say that frankly also in the beginning. Tell women plainly what you want of them. Do not lure them into your service under false pretences. Do not wait till they are irrevocably fastened to you, and then lay on them the burdens of labor and take away the supports of love, and lecture them into acquiescence through the newspapers. While there is yet left to them a freedom of choice, make them fully acquainted with the circumstances of the case, that they may be able to choose intelligently. When one does not expect much, one is not disappointed at receiving little. One is not chilled at heart by snow in winter. It is walking over sunny Southern lands, and finding frosts when you looked for flowers, that freezes the fountains of life. If you do not overwhelm a woman with your protestations, if you do not lure her to your heart by presenting yourself to her and praying her to be to you friend, comrade, and lover, when what you really want is cook, laundress, and housekeeper, she will at least know what is before her. But do not swear to her eternal fidelity, knowing that, as soon as you thoroughly understand each other, there will be an end of all little tendernesses of expression. Do not span her with a rainbow, and spread diamond-dust beneath her feet, knowing all the while that a very little time will bring for the one but
a cold, penetrating rain, and will change the other into coarse, sharp pebbles that shall bruise her tender feet. Change the formula of your marriage vows, and instead of promising to love, honor, and cherish till death you do part, promise to do it only till you understand her thoroughly, and then to make the best of the bargain!

If we were forced to believe that these right-hand fallings-off and left-hand defections were indeed the legitimate workings of the human heart, the natural history of mankind, then should we be forced to believe that this world is a stupendous failure, and the sooner it is burned up the better. We should be forced to believe in the thorough degradation and destructibility of both mind and matter. For the essence of value is durability. A soap-bubble is as beautiful as a pearl and as brilliant as a diamond; for what is called practical service, for warmth, or shelter, or sustenance, one is quite as good as another. What makes their different worth is, that the soap-bubble yields up its lovely life to the first molecule that sails through the air to solicit it, while the gems outlast a thousand years. But if life is a soap-bubble, and not a pearl, shall a woman sell all that she has and buy it? What advantageth the possession of a happiness which melts in the grasp,--which is satisfactory only for the short time that it is novel? Who would care to enter a path of roses, knowing that a few steps will take him into a vast and barren desert, whence escape is impossible? If this is real life, let us rather pitch our tents in fairy-land; for then, when the Prince is at last restored to his true manly form and his rightful throne, and united to the beautiful, constant Princess, we invariably find, not only that their happiness was quite inexpressible, but it lasted to the end of their lives.

If we are to believe such propositions, we might as well call ourselves infidels, and have done with it. To deny the existence of love takes away no more hope from humanity than to deny the immortality of love. It is no worse to take away life from the soul than to give it a life which is but a protracted death. To make a distinction between earthly and heavenly love hardly affects the case. The direction of love is not love. All love is heavenly,--"bright effluence of bright essence increate." If a man gives himself to the pursuit of unworthy objects, or to the indulgence of unhallowed pleasures, a pure name need not be dragged down into the mire that his error may have a seemly christening. If that is love which fades out long before its object; if, when its object disappears behind the veil love rightly returns to earth, then are we of all creatures most miserable; for we abnegate a future. We thought it had been he which should have redeemed Israel; but thou shalt return unto the ground, for out of it wast thou taken. Dust art thou, O love, and unto dust shalt thou return.

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