Leaving at last this interesting cottage, I made my way to the beautiful old church of Stratford, which, standing in the shade of ancient elms, and with the silvery Avon slipping by its walls, is almost ideal in its peaceful beauty. It was a perfect day when I approached it. The paths were flecked with sun-light, filtering through the trees; and as I leaned upon the ivied wall, and looked across the quaint old tombstones toward the open door, I heard the music of the organ, now rising in well-rounded harmony, now sinking into dreamy melody, above which rose the murmur of the Avon at my feet.
"Is there a service going on? " I asked of the old sexton.
"O, no, Sir," he replied," the organist is only practicing. You may go in, Sir, if you like".
Accordingly I crossed the churchyard - which seemed almost too beautiful to leave - and stepped within the sacred edifice. I do not recollect a more impressive moment in my life. This is indeed a place thrice hallowed: first, by its dedication to Almighty God; secondly, by the priceless dust which it contains; and, thirdly, by the universal reverence of mankind. Here one believes and must believe in immortality.
Trinity Church, Stratford-ON-Avon.
What! shall such intellect as that of Shakespeare dissolve to nothingness like an extinguished flame? Impossible. Great genius is a connecting link between man and God. The walls of this old church contain some beautiful memorial windows; but, ere I could bestow a glance on them, my gaze was drawn, as by a magnet, to a marble bust set in a sculptured frame. Below it was a large flat stone. I walked slowly on till I stood beside it, and on its surface read the well-known lines:
"Good Friend, for Jesus' sake forbear To dig the dust enclosed here. Blest be the man that spares these stones, And curst be he that moves my bones".
For three long centuries this epitaph has guarded Shakespeare's sepulchre, like the destroying angel's sword of flame. Protected by that awful imprecation the Bard of Avon has slept undisturbed. At first I could not understand why the writer of the grand soliloquy of "Hamlet" should not have ordered for his tomb a nobler sentiment than this. One from a thousand of his well-known lines on death, or immortality, or that "un-dis c overed country, from whose bourne no traveler returns," would have been more appropriate to his majestic intellect; but Death, when looked upon and described poetically, is very different from the Death that summons us to follow him. Before the first, one may be philosophic; before the second, he is practical. World-weary, weak, and longing for repose, the poet then becomes again the man.
Interior Of Trinity Church.
A remarkable proof that Shakespeare's mighty spirit was never more potent than it is at the present time is the Shakespeare Memorial, completed here in 1880. It is a combination of theatre, library, and museum, forever dedicated to the man whose name it bears; and on its stage Shakespearean plays are annually presented by gifted artists of the English-speaking race. Americans appear in them as well as English. Within its walls, for example, Mary Anderson has acted, assuming here for the first time the character of Rosalind, and she is, today, one of the directors of the institution; while among the first contributors to the memo rial fund which made this building pos-sible, was Edwin Booth. Within its library are more than six thousand books on Shakespeare, written in various languages, and here are, also, most of the editions of his plays. American tourists in Stratford note with interest the memorial fountain, presented to the town, in 1887, by the munificent citizen of Philadelphia, George W. Childs. At its dedication the English actor, Sir Henry Irving, delivered an address, and read a poem, written for the occasion by Oliver Wendell Holmes. It is a handsome structure, the utility of which is proved by the stream of water which flows cont inuall y into a polished granite basin; while among its Gothic towers is a clock, whose deep-toned voice proclaims the passing hours to a town that will be world-renowned while Time endures.