Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

Frank William Boreham 1871-1959
A photo F W Boreham took of himself in 1911

Monday, October 15, 2007

Boreham on the World as a Mirror

In the days of the Maori War [1860s] some hostile natives resolved to insult Bishop Selwyn. They arranged to offer him a pigsty for his accommodation. The Bishop accepted; drove out the pigs; gathered some fern from the bush for his bed; and occupied his lowly residence with such charm and dignity that the Maoris exclaimed: ‘You cannot degrade that man!’ Precisely! He politely declined to identify himself with his environment.

The other story is from John Wesley's Journal. John Nelson, one of Wesley's original helpers, was arrested and thrust into a horrible dungeon. His record of the experience makes good reading: ‘When I came into the dungeon, that stank worse than a hog-sty, by reason of the blood and filth that ran into it from the slaughter-house above, my soul was so filled with the love of God that it was a paradise to me!’ Now, I ask again, what is the good of putting people like these into pigsties and prisons?

This is a wonderful thing—perhaps the most wonderful of all wonderful things. It means that the world through which I move is simply a reflection of my own inmost self. It is a mirror, as George Eliot said. ‘Laugh, and it laughs back; frown, and your gloom is recast.’ If I have a princely soul, every prison or pigsty that I enter flashes by this wondrous magic into a palace. If I am a felon, I may live in a palace, but the palace will be as gloomy as a jail.

That is a tremendous saying of Maeterlinck's: ‘Nothing befalls us that is not of the nature of ourselves. Whether you climb up the mountain, or go down to the valley, none but yourself shall you meet on the highway of fate. If Judas go forth tonight, it is towards Judas that his steps will tend, nor will chance for betrayal be lacking; but let Socrates open his door, he shall find Socrates asleep on the threshold before him, and there will be occasion for wisdom.’

Wordsworth was once asked why he wrote of ‘dancing daffodils’. Daffodils do not dance. He reflected for a long time, and then replied that he could only suppose that, since the sight of the daffodils set his soul dancing with delight, he had unconsciously transferred the inward sensation to the outward object. Of course!

F W Boreham, ‘The Dainties in the Dungeon’, Mountains in the Mist (London: Charles H Kelly, 1914), 125-127.

Image: “the world as a mirror.”