THE VOICES OF THE EARTH
"Let everything that hath breath, praise the Lord."
—PS. cl. 6.
 "WOULD that I could pass away, and cease to be!"
murmured the Wind, as it performed its circuits round
the earth, long ages ago. "Would that I could cease to
be! Since the creation of man, existence has become
"Thou art mad!" cried the Mountains and Valleys, over
whom the wind was passing, with its outcry of
lamentation. "Is not man the glory of the world, the
favourite of Heaven? Surely thou art mad, or else
jealous of the greatness of others—jealous of the
masterpiece of creation. Oh thou, ungrateful and
unwise, to whom is committed the privilege of
refreshing the earth and its inhabitants, why turn
aside to hold judgment and condemn? Enough that thou
fulfil thine own appointed work, and, in so doing,
exist to the glory of the Creator."
"Yet, hear me in patience," wailed the Wind. "It is for
the honour of man, and the glory of his Creator, that I
am so troubled. Hence comes all my misery. I, who know
no rest but in His will, and once went on my way
rejoicing—I now am, of all creatures, the most
 Oh Earth, with thy mountains and valleys,
and forests, and fast-flowing rivers and seas, do me
justice! Thou knowest it was not so with me of old,
when I was first called into being. Thou knowest with
what joy I roamed over thy confines, and beheld the
universal beauty that then was spread around; how
tenderly I whispered through thy flowers, how joyfully
I carried up their fragrant odours as a thank-offering
to heaven; how merrily I sported on the hills, or
taught the branches of thy lofty trees to bow, as in
obeisance to Him who made them!
"Thou knowest that I
even failed not in due obedient love, when storms were
needed; whether to drive the sluggish vapours through
the sky, or rouse the sea itself to healthy action.
When have I ever failed? Have I not always fulfilled
His word? For even now, in these my days of misery, I
carry out unwearyingly the great decree. Still I bear
aloft from tropical seas, in ceaseless revolution round
the world, those vapours which must descend in northern
latitudes as dew, or rain, or snow. Still I
labour—still I love to labour in the way ordained.
woe for me! another burden than labour is upon me now!
Woe for the pollution I have suffered, since the earth
was overspread by the wretched race of men! Woe for
their civilised lands, which I must needs pass through!
Woe for the cities, and towns, and villages, their
haunts and habitations, which I cannot avoid! Woe! for
I bear thence in my bosom the blasphemies of the
multitudes, and am laden with the burden of
ingratitude, denial, and doubt. Woe that I must spread
these black results of misguided reason from pole to
pole! Woe that I must carry up the jests of the scorner
and the oaths of the intemperate, as incense from man
 his Maker: from man formed in His image, and
boasting in his faculties of sense!
What room is there for boasting in man? Can he create the hills and the valleys?
Oh that I could
pass away, and cease from being! and that with me might
perish these fruits of an evil heart of unbelief!"
"Thou hast numbered curses," breathed the Mountains and
Valleys in reply; "and alas! that such should ever
defile thee, thou messenger of blessing. But this is
not all thou bearest upon thy wings. Other outpourings
stream into thy bosom; other voices are wafted upon
thee to the skies; other sounds are spread by thee from
pole to pole. Hast thou weighed in the balance, against
the utterances of the rebellious, the prayers of the
faithful, the childlike, and the pure; the steadfast
avowal of martyrs; the daily thanksgiving of saints;
the songs of holy praise and joy?"
"Yet what are these but what are due, and more than
due, ten hundred thousand fold?" exclaimed the angry
Wind. "What merit can you find in these? How strike a
balance between them and the unnatural sin which says,
'There is no God'? All His works everywhere have
praised Him from the beginning: only among men is there
silence and doubt. And shall the remnant take credit
for not joining in their sin? Inanimate creation and
the beasts have never swerved from their allegiance.
What room is there for boasting in man? Has he done
more than these, from the foundation of the world?"
"But he alone of all creation, with a free, intelligent
will."—The words came up in soft response from the
Earth, and spread like harmony upon the air.—"He alone
of all creation, with a free, intelligent will. Merit
there can be none, indeed; but acceptability—where can
it ever be found, but in the free-will worship
 of a
spirit which has choice? And if choice, then, of
necessity, liberty to err. And with liberty to err,
comes, alas! the everlasting contest between right and
wrong. Yet why do I say, 'alas'? Obedience to a law
which cannot be resisted is not the service of the
heart—not the highest tribute to the Creator's glory.
Far dearer to Him may be the struggle by which the
human will is subdued to unison with the will Divine,
in anticipation of that day when all its wisdom shall
be made known. Have patience, then, with the contest
between good and evil, so long as the good is accepted
of Heaven; and while this is so, be contented to labour
and to be!"
"Yet listen once again," sighed the Wind. "I have been
jealous for the glory of the Maker, it is true, and
troubled for the honour of man. But I am also wretched
for myself. Oh Earth, Earth, Earth! The Creator has
made His human favourite mortal! The mountains stand
fast for ever, the hills cannot be moved, the very
trees survive from generation to generation; but
man—the chosen—passes away like a shadow; he cometh up
and is cut down as the grass; I go over him, and his
place knows him no more. Alas for the misery I am
doomed to share! The breath of the dying has passed
into my soul for ages; it is borne upon every breeze;
it has tainted every air. I am filled with those bitter
agonies, and loathe my very being. Would that I could
pass away into nothing, and be as though I had never
been, that so I might taste no more the vile dishonour
"Thou judgest with the judgment of those who see and
know but in part," came up the soothing answer from the
Hills. "What, if the dying breath, which falls so sadly
on thy breast, releases from its
prison-  house of clay
some spirit more ethereal than thine own, some essence
subtler far than thine, which thou must bear before the
mercy-seat? Shall not the Judge of all the earth do
right? Canst thou not trust the Almighty with His own?
Why grieve for the last sigh of perishing flesh, if it
be also the first breathing of a freed immortal soul?
How rail at death, if it is He who strikes the chord of
"Yet once more hear me, and be just," persisted the
Wind. "Not the breath of the dying only overwhelms me
with this wild desire to be at rest. The breath of the
living who suffer on is even worse. The sigh of natural
grief, which none can blame; the moanings of the
afflicted in mind, body, or estate; the outcries of the
oppressed and desperate; the shrieks of madness and of
pain, the groanings of despair; all, all are outpoured
on me! Those dreadful voices haunt me from all sides.
This mass of human woe corrodes my soul. I meet it in
the cottage, and pass through to find it in the palace;
I rush from the battle-field to the cloister, but in
vain! for no seclusion can shut out man from sorrow.
Wherever the chosen creature is found, there must I
gather up the voices of grief; for lo! as the sparks
fly upwards, so man is born to trouble. Oh that I might
pass away for ever, and cease to know the wretchedness
I have no power to avert!"
"Yet wait, wait, wait," implored another whisperer from
the Earth. "What, if in human sorrow may be found an
answer to the riddle of human guilt? What, if amidst
its saddest cries, thou carriest up the voice of
heartfelt penitence on high? Wilt thou not weigh
against the transient earthly grief the joy in heaven
for one repenting sinner? Or, if amidst the mortal
agony of the righteous, the triumph-songs
 of faith grow
loud as those the angels sing round the throne,—'Thy
will, Thy will, Thy will—doing or suffering—Thy will be
done;'—wouldst thou not fear to take away the one, lest
the other perchance should fail from off the earth?
Watch well the balance between suffering and its
fruits; but while these rise acceptable on thee to
Heaven, well mayst thou rest contented in thy work, and
rejoice both to labour and to be."
"Yet is man—the favourite—of all creatures the most
wretched," moaned the Wind, "since he alone must
purchase happiness with pain."
"Unjust! unjust!" expostulated the Earth. "Thou keepest
record of men's sighs, hast thou no consciousness of
the unceasing breathings of simple, natural joys? Yet,
number the one by thousands, and by tens of thousands
of the other will I answer and refute thy words. The
peaceful respirations of health, unnoticed and, alas!
how often unthankfully enjoyed through years, count
them if thou canst! Count them as they float to thee,
while the night hours pass over the sleeper's head:
count them when he wakes with the young daylight to a
fresh existence. Count the laughs of frolic childhood.
Count the murmurs of happy love. Count the stars if
thou wilt, but thou canst never count the daily
outpourings of common earthly joys. Alas for those who
judge of life only by startling periods, and are deaf
to the still small voices, which tell of hourly
mercies, hour by hour!"
"Yet once more listen," cried the Wind, "for more and
worse remains behind. The utterances of vice—oh
innocent Earth, in whom the glory of the Creator is yet
left visible to all!—I sicken at the thought of what I
know; of what I bear unwillingly about.
 The loathsome
words of sin—the lies of the deceiver—the prating of
the fool—the seductions of the dissolute—the shouts of
drunken revelry—the songs of the profane—the gifts of
speech and thought misused to evil:—those voices
horrible to God and man. . . ."
"Be they as dust before thee, and thou as the angel of
the Lord scattering them!" shouted a cry of indignation
from the Earth. "Yet wait, wait, wait! For thyself, be
thou still contented to labour and to be. Wouldst thou
be wiser than the Judge? Wilt thou lose patience, while
He yet forbears? No! watch the balance as before, and
weigh the evil and the good. And so long as the prayers
which the faithful pour on thy bosom outvalue the words
of the scorner; so long as the blessings of the
righteous float above the curses of the blasphemer; so
long as the voice of penitence follows close upon the
utterances of sin; so long as pious submission makes
harmony of the cries of grief; so long as thou carriest
up daily thanksgiving for unnumbered daily mercies; so
long as souls of saints are breathed up to Heaven by
death:—so long be thou contented to have patience, and
labour and be."
"But should the day ever come," shouted the Wind in
return, "when the balance is reversed; when vice, only
tolerated now, becomes triumphant; when sin reigns on
the altars, and no man pulls it down; when the voice of
the good man's worship is drowned in the bad man's
scorn, and I cannot lift it to the skies; when the
wretched curse God and die, and men have forgotten to
be thankful;—then, then at last wilt thou acknowledge
the justice of my complaints, and help me to pass away
in peace? Promise this, and till then I will watch the
struggle, and be contented to labour and to be."
 And the Earth paused and consented, and the Wind fled
L'envoi to the Reader.
And he is still careering round the world; still
gathering "the Voices of the Earth;" still watching the
struggle between good and evil. In our public walks he
meets us face to face. In our private chambers he is
with us still. There is no secret corner where he
cannot come; no whisper which is not breathed into his
ear. It behoves us well, then, to be careful, lest, by
thoughtlessness or sin, we add weight to the wrong side
of the scales. For if the balance should ever incline
to evil, and the wind cease to blow—what would become
of the world?