Selected writings of A. Jackson Howe.
This exquisite meditation we regard as one of the finest and noblest productions of Professor Howe's pen. It reveals true feeling and is a prose poem well worthy of reproduction. The more one reads and rereads this delicately wrought composition the more he becomes impressed with the wealth of meaning it holds. It uncovers the very soul of the author and gives one a clear insight into the character of the man. After a long and fruitful life, the great surgeon, as the twilight of life approaches, lends himself to revery and meditation. When the night finally came, as it did to Dr. Howe two short years later, it could well be said of him that he had fulfilled the injunction of the Arabic singer (once quoted by him) to
"So live that, sinking in thy last long sleep,
Thou alone may'st smile while all around thee weep."
THE HALF CONSCIOUS STATE.—As we gaze upon the twilight as if to decide just when the waning day ends and the waxing night begins, a state of semi-somnolence creeps upon us—a forgetfulness or unguided thoughtfulness, which resembles a revery. There is a disinclination to move as there is an aversion to think, both body and soul sinking into a sleepy, dreamy mood, as if in accord with changes going on in the physical world. The transition from day to night is bewildering; we are only half conscious of passing events.
In Longfellow's Voices of the Night the "illusion" is happily displayed :
"Ere the evening lamps are lighted,
And like phantoms grim and tall,
Shadows from the fitful firelight
Dance upon the parlor wall."
The evening glow is steady and not fitful like a twilight, yet the blaze is a kind of phantom to be swallowed by gloom slowly moving from the depths of night. The twilight goes, but is soon succeeded by twinkling stars—the "evening"" lamps which light the canopy above, as if to prove that they are faithfully watching over us—twinkling as we sleep.
"Then the forms of the departed
Enter at the open door;
The beloved, the true-hearted,
Come to visit us once more."
Children alone represent the best of life; they are filled with the consciousness of existence; they have confidence in their environment; they look to their parents for protection, and find in them what they most desire. They, at the close of a busy day, sink to sleep as thoughtless of impending harm as birdlings in their nests. It seems a pity that adults can enjoy no such security.—HOWE, Eclectic Medical Journal, 1890.
The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.