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From: The True Citizen How To Become One
(Category: The Man)


Sentiment is nothing but thought blended with feeling.--J. F. Clarke

Sentiment takes part in the shaping of all destinies.--R. Southey

A little child is the sweetest and purest thing in the world.
--J. S. White

Sentiment is the life and soul of poetry and art.--J. Flaxman

Sentiment is emotion precipitated in pretty crystals by the fancy.
--J. R. Lowell

It is quite difficult to define sentiment. This has been done, however,
by the use of the following figures. "We may think of it as color,
without which nothing in nature or art is complete. A colorless
character is as unsatisfactory as a colorless landscape. We may also
think of it as cement; for it serves to bind together the ordinary facts
and incidents of life. Just as the bricks and stones of a building are
useless until held in the places designed for them under some governing
plan, so we may say that a selfish and gross character is not bound
together by noble sentiments. Or we may say, again, that sentiment is
the wing-power of man, whereby he has ability to fly away from the
commonplace and unworthy. By it the ordinary citizen becomes a glowing
patriot; the drudging youth turns into the devoted statesman; and life
is made better in a thousand ways."

In one of our memory gems we find it asserted that "sentiment is the
life and soul of poetry and art." Perhaps this statement may help us
here. Pure poetry is the perfection of prose, or prose idealized. "It is
a dream drawn from the infinite, and portrayed to mortal sense." It
takes a great mind, a great genius to weave into a gossamer web,
complete and perfect in every part, a story, a tale, an idea, which
alike charms the mind, enthralls the sense, and enchains the spirit.
Poetry is the perfection of language. It is not a mere mechanical
contrivance of words, but a glorious picture in which the outward
execution is lost in a glory of expression.

The poet Holmes was brimful of sentiment. Listen to him as he talks
about the flowers.

"Do you ever wonder why poets talk so much about flowers? Did you ever
hear of a poet who did not talk about them? Don't you think a poem,
which, for the sake of being original, should leave them out, would be
like those verses where the letter 'a' or 'e' or some other is omitted?
No,--they will bloom over and over again in poems as in the summer
fields, to the end of time, always old and always new.

"Are you tired of my trivial personalities,--those splashes and streaks
of sentiment, sometimes perhaps of sentimentality, which you may see
when I show you my heart's corolla as if it were a tulip? Pray, do not
give yourself the trouble to fancy me an idiot, whose conceit it is to
treat himself as an exceptional being. It is because you are just like
me that I talk and know that you listen. We are all splashed and
streaked with sentiments,--not with precisely the same tints, or in
exactly the same patterns, but by the same hand and from the same

To say, as some do, that there is no place for sentiment in life, would
be almost equal to saying that life is devoid of joy. But who says there
are no joys in life? Take, for example a good pure natural laugh. We
hear it bubbling, gushing, pealing out, every now and then, from some
glad child of nature; and we say, there _is_ joy in life. The gloom of
ages has been lightened with laughter and song.

There is much to awaken deep and real sentiment in us as we gaze on the
tree-tops, the mountains and hillsides, the gurgling waters and sweeping
billows; on sunlight, shadow, and storm. Behind the forest-leaf we
suddenly discover a songster, the gleam of an oriole's breast in a bed
of mantling green. Nature always rejoices. She has been singing and
laughing all down the ages. She does her part grandly for the happiness
of man; and as we come into closer touch with her, sentiment arises as
naturally in our hearts, as does the water in her bubbling springs.

We may find a place for sentiment in all life's changeful affairs. Even
the stern realities of war do not entirely eradicate from the heart that
feeling for suffering humanity, which is the highest expression of

There were but few who were so thoughtless as not to be stirred with the
feeling which possessed the heart of Captain Phillips, and the crew of
the battleship Texas, when, as they stood on the deck, with uncovered
heads and reverent souls, on the afternoon of the engagement before
Santiago, the knightly old sailor said: "I want to make public
acknowledgment here that I believe in God. I want all you officers and
men to lift your hats, and from your hearts offer silent thanks to the
Almighty for the victory he has given us." But it was not the mere
victory over a foe that caused this general and thoughtful lifting of
heart; it was exultation at the triumph of justice and the progress of

The presence or absence of sentiment in our lives is largely accounted
for by the fact that we usually find what we are looking for. The
geologist sees design and order in the very stones with which the
streets are paved. The botanist reads volumes in the flowers and
grasses which most men tread thoughtlessly beneath their feet. The
astronomer gazes with rapt soul into the starry heavens, while his
fellows seldom glance upward. If we seek for the beautiful and the pure,
it will be quickly revealed to us; and the sentiment of loving gratitude
will arise within us as the result.

Nature takes on our moods; she laughs with those who laugh, and weeps
with those who weep. If we rejoice and are glad, the very birds sing
more sweetly; the woods and streams murmur our song. But if we are sad
and sorrowful, a sudden gloom falls upon nature's face; the sun shines,
but not in our hearts; the birds sing, but not to us. The beauty of
nature's music is lost to us, and everything seems dull and gray. The
lack of sentiment narrows and belittles us; and, for that reason, we
cannot afford to be without it.

We must always strive to keep in mind how important sentiment is to a
happy and useful career, whatever position in life we may happen to
occupy. Noble sentiments are the richest possession we can have. They
cheer us when we are despondent, they sing to us when we are lonesome,
and they help to keep us young. They are like brilliant poets and divine
musicians; by whom the true, the good, and the beautiful are kept
constantly before our minds.

It is this trait of character which has to do greatly with worship,
reverence, and aspiration. Morality needs to be touched by sentiment or
emotion. Sentiment leads us to love sacred spots, to create
commemorative days, and to sing songs of gratitude together. It makes
life of far greater worth to us in every way. We must also glance at
what is known as public sentiment. Public sentiment is not voluntary or
self-creative. It is generally a thing of slow growth, springing from a
gradual accumulation and development of evidences, impressions, and
circumstances. It is a matter of education, impressed upon the masses by
the most intelligent or the most influential forces of a community; and
as it is often merely the adoption by the masses of the opinions of a
class, clique, or ring, it is as likely to be wrong as right, since it
frequently serves to popularize evils, the existence and the continuance
of which, minister only to the benefit of a few.

But public sentiment, is after all, quite largely a personal matter. We
all help in making it; and we should therefore be exceedingly careful as
to the sentiments we personally cherish; for these are a very real part
of the sentiments of the community as a whole.


Perhaps we should be safe in saying that the kingdom of music is
especially the realm of sentiment. Music raises us to a loftier plane of
thought and feeling. It has been beautifully said that "The composer's
world is the world of emotion; full of delicate elations and
depressions, which like the hum of minute insects hardly arrest the
uncultivated ear."

We select as our special illustration Ludwig van Beethoven, who was born
at Bonn, Prussia, in the year 1770. His father was a musician, and
suffered from two great foes,--a violent temper, and a habit of drink.
The family being poor, young Ludwig was made to submit to a severe
training on the violin from the time he was four years old, in order to
obtain money. By the time he reached the age of nine, he had advanced so
far in music that his father could not teach him anything more, and he
was passed over to others for further education. When he was fifteen
years old he was appointed assistant to the court organist; and, in a
description of the various musicians attached to the court, he is
described as "of good capacity, young, of good, quiet behavior, and

At the court he was an object of admiration, and his popularity was
constantly on the increase. Absorbed in meditation, he forgot ordinary
affairs. One illustration is as good as a dozen. He loved the sound of
flowing water, and frequently would let it run over his hands until,
lost in some musical suggestion from the murmur, he would allow the
water to pour over the floor of his apartment until it soaked down and
astonished the dwellers below.

He was very democratic, and desired that all men should enjoy freedom
and equal rights before the law. When asked once, in court, to produce
the proof of his nobility, he pointed to his head and heart, saying, "My
nobility is here, and here." His high-strung nervous system would
account for many of his peculiarities. By those who did not understand
him he was called "a growling old bear." On the other hand, those who
appreciated his genius called him "a cloud-compeller of the world of
music." He is in music what Milton is in poetry,--lofty, majestic,

Beethoven died on March 26, 1827, during a terrible thunderstorm. His
funeral was attended by all the musicians of Vienna. The crowd of people
was so enormous that soldiers had to be called in to make a way for the
procession; and it took an hour and a half to pass the little distance
from the house to the church.

Sentiment in music leaves one in an uplifted and wholesome state of
mind. Sentimentality in music may give a momentary pleasure, but it is
really hostile to strength of character; and this truth applies, with
equal force, to every other feature of our lives.

[Footnote: See Thayer's "Biography of Beethoven" (1879); Schindler's
"Beethoven;" and Grove's "Dictionary of Music and Musicians." Magazine
articles on Beethoven are also numerous.]

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Previous: REVERENCE.

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