Reverence is the crown of moral manhood.--C. Kingsley

No man of sound nature ever makes a mock of reverence.--T. T. Munger

True reverence is homage tempered by love.--W. B. Pope

In the full glow of the light of our times, only the pure are really


Reverence is alike indispensable to the happiness of individuals, of

families, and of nations.--Smiles

Reverence is a word by itself. It has no synonyms, nor does any other

word in the language exactly fill its place. It is not respect; it is

not regard; it is not fear; it is not honor. Perhaps awe comes nearest

to it; and yet reverence is more than awe. It is awe softened and

refined by gentleness and love.

Reverence is a condition of thought and feeling which does not paralyze

action, but kindles it; does not deaden sensibility, but quickens it.

Even when used in a religious sense, reverence does not stand for

religion itself, but as a means or aid to religious thought and life.

The presence or absence of a reverent spirit is of real importance; for

it adds to, or takes away from, our enjoyment of the world in which we

live. One person finds happiness everywhere and in every occasion;

carrying his own holiday with him. Another always appears to be

returning from a funeral. One sees beauty and harmony wherever he looks,

while another is blind to beauty; the lenses of his eyes seem to be made

of smoked glass, draping the whole world in mourning. While one man sees

only gravel, fodder, and firewood, as he looks into a richly-wooded

park; another is ravished with its beauty. One sees in a matchless rose

nothing but an ordinary flower; another penetrates its purpose, and

reads in the beauty of its blended colors and its wonderful fragrance

the very thoughts of God.

Only the truly reverent soul can catch the higher music of sentient

being, with its joys and hopes; its wealth of earnest, aspiring,

struggling souls; tolerant, serious, yet sunny; and read those larger

possibilities which lie hidden in the great deeps of the most ordinary

human life.

While it is true that only the reverent can fully appreciate nature; it

is even more true in regard to human nature. To the reverent mind an old

man or woman is an object of tender regard; while by the irreverent, the

aged are frequently treated with ingratitude, and sometimes even with


One of the lessons most frequently and most strongly impressed upon the

Lacedaemonian youth, was to entertain great reverence and respect for

old men, and to give them proof of it on all occasions, by saluting

them; by making way for them, and giving them place in the streets; by

rising up to show them honor in all companies and public assemblies;

but, above all, by receiving their advice, and even their reproofs,

with docility and submission.

On one occasion, when there was a great play at the principal theater in

Athens, the seats set apart for strangers were filled with Spartan boys;

and other seats, not far distant, were filled with Athenian youth. The

theater was crowded, when an old man, infirm, and leaning on a staff,

entered. There was no seat for him. The Athenian youth called to the old

man to come to them, and with great difficulty he picked his way to

their benches; but not a boy rose and offered him a seat. Seeing this,

the Spartan boys beckoned to the old man to come to them, and, as he

approached their benches, every Spartan boy rose, and, with uncovered

head, stood until the old man was seated, and then all quietly resumed

their seats. Seeing this, the Athenians broke out in loud applause. The

old man rose, and, in a voice that filled the theater, said, "The

Athenians know what is right: the Spartans do it."

The great German thinker, Goethe, claimed that three kinds of reverence

should be taught to youth,--for superiors, for equals, and forinferiors.

This was an advance over the old ideas; but, in a republic

like ours, reverence is not up and down; it is not measured by class

distinctions,--it is a spirit, to be related in sympathetic ways with

all human beings as such; and especially with all whose lives are such

as to command our respect and esteem.

Reverence can be cultivated, and needs to be cultivated in our times.

There is too much mere "smartness" abroad. In society and in the world

we find a flippant, cynical tone; no doubt much of this is reaction from

old-time gloom and severity. But without a reasonable reverence we

cannot have good manners, or loyal citizens, or possessors of really

beautiful characters.

Reverence is developed by looking for the good in others; by avoiding

fault-finding; by associating with high-minded acquaintances; by reading

worthy literature; by using language unstained by vulgarity; by striving

to enter more and more into the spirit of the noblest lives that come

under our notice.

Reverence, then, is not fear; but wonder, solemnity, and veneration. "It

is to cherish a habit of looking upward, and seeing what is noble and

good in all things." Its blessings are many. By it we can win a masterly

judgment to determine the fitness of behavior and habits; it will keep

us from thoughtless words and deeds; it will make us respectful to old

age and appreciative of the past; and, in many other ways, it will prove

itself of real value to all who cultivate and cherish it.


We select, as our special example, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the best

known of our American poets. The great poet, whoever he may be, is

always reverential. His stanzas are crowned with a sacred seriousness.

He gives to life a "grand, true, harmonic interpretation." Longfellow

was born on the 27th of February, 1807, at Portland, Maine. In his

earlier years he displayed the same gentle, amiable spirit which filled

his after-life with sunshine and goodness.

He proved himself to be possessed of a very bright mind even as a boy,

and entered Bowdoin College when only fourteen years of age. He

afterwards served this same institution as professor of modern

languages, and in 1835 was called to fill a similar position in Harvard


He visited Europe, twice at least, for purposes of study; and, on his

return from his second trip, began that illustrious career of

instruction and authorship which has been the source of so much

honorable pride on the part of his countrymen. Longfellow selected a

historic home in Cambridge; it was the house occupied by Washington

when he took command of the United States Army in 1776,--a spacious

structure, full of welcoming windows, and situated in the midst of old

elms. Here he lived till his death; and now the stretch of land, from

the estate to the river Charles, has been bought and adorned as a


The writings of Longfellow are household possessions, fully as much in

England as in America, and we need not enumerate them. They are famous

not so much for originality, as for their calm, spiritual, purifying

messages. They are full of good-will, aspiration, trust, and real

loftiness of tone. Indeed, Longfellow "loved to make clear his

discipleship to him whose ministry was love, whose flock was all

humanity, whose kingdom was peace and righteousness."

So deep was the impression made by Mr. Longfellow's beauty of character,

that it equaled his literary fame. He always responded to callers, and

they came by hundreds; he never refused his autograph; children loved

him; his charities were manifold; young authors received his

encouragement. Modest as to his own writings, he strove to praise the

good in others. Every one who met him perceived the source of all this

rare grace and fascinating nobility of soul to be a sense of the glory

and divineness of all life. His soul stood in a reverential attitude

toward existence, and a marvelous light shone through him and his

poetry as the result.

Down to the last his pen was active. He died on the 24th of March, 1882.

Degrees and honors had been freely bestowed on him; but the highest

tributes came from his admirers on both sides of the Atlantic; and his

reverential spirit still lives in hundreds of those who read his

beautiful verses.

[Footnote: See "Life of Longfellow," and "Final Memorials" both by his

brother; Samuel Longfellow, and articles in all the best magazines.]

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