And you call to mind now, as I speak, how the poet, with stern fidelity to the history of all humanity, delivers this beautiful child of his heart and his brain over to the trials and sorrows that must come to all, sooner or later, that abide in the earth, and how the pathetic story culminates in that apostrophe--so wild, so regretful, so full of mournful retrospection. The lines run thus:

"Alas!--alas!--a--alas! ----Alas!--------alas!"

--and so on. I do not remember the rest; but, taken together, it seems to me that poem is the noblest tribute to woman that human genius has ever brought forth--and I feel that if I were to talk hours I could not do my great theme completer or more graceful justice than I have now done in simply quoting that poet's matchless words. The phases of the womanly nature are infinite in their variety. Take any type of woman, and you shall find in it something to respect, something to admire, something to love. And you shall find the whole joining you heart and hand. Who was more patriotic than Joan of Arc? Who was braver? Who has given us a grander instance of self-sacrificing devotion? Ah! you remember, you remember well, what a throb of pain, what a great tidal wave of grief swept over us all when Joan of Arc fell at Waterloo. Who does not sorrow for the loss of Sappho, the sweet singer of Israel? Who among us does not miss the gentle ministrations, the softening influences, the humble piety of Lucretia Borgia? Who can join in the heartless libel that says woman is extravagant in dress when he can look back and call to mind our simple and lowly mother Eve arrayed in her modification of the Highland costume? Sir, women have been soldiers, women have been painters, women have been poets. As long as language lives the name of Cleopatra will live. And not because she conquered George III.--but because she wrote those divine lines:

"Let dogs delight to bark and bite, For God hath made them so."

The story of the world is adorned with the names of illustrious ones of our own sex--some of, them sons of St. Andrew, too--Scott, Bruce, Burns, the warrior Wallace, Ben Nevis--the gifted Ben Lomond, and the great new Scotchman, Ben Disraeli.--[Mr. Benjamin Disraeli, at that time Prime Minister of England, had just been elected Lord Rector of Glasgow University, and had made a speech which gave rise to a world of discussion]--Out of the great plains of history tower whole mountain ranges of sublime women: the Queen of Sheba, Josephine, Semiramis, Sairey Gamp; the list is endless--but I will not call the mighty roll, the names rise up in your own memories at the mere suggestion, luminous with the glory of deeds that cannot die, hallowed by the loving worship of the good and the true of all epochs and all climes. Suffice it for our pride and our honor that we in our day have added to it such names as those of Grace Darling and Florence Nightingale. Woman is all that she should be gentle, patient, longsuffering, trustful, unselfish, full of generous impulses. It is her blessed mission to comfort the sorrowing, plead for the erring, encourage the faint of purpose, succor the distressed, uplift the fallen, befriend the friendless--in a word, afford the healing of her sympathies and a home in her heart for all the bruised and persecuted children that knock at its hospitable door. And when I say, God bless her, there is none among us who has known the ennobling affection of a wife, or the steadfast devotion of a mother but in his heart will say, Amen!

WOMAN'S PRESS CLUB

On October 27, 1900, the New York Woman's Press Club gave a tea in Carnegie Hall. Mr. Clemens was the guest of honor.

If I were asked an opinion I would call this an ungrammatical nation. There is no such thing as perfect grammar, and I don't always speak good grammar myself. But I have been foregathering for the past few days with professors of American universities, and I've heard them all say things like this: "He don't like to do it." [There was a stir.] Oh, you'll hear that to-night if you listen, or, "He would have liked to have done it." You'll catch some educated Americans saying that.

Mark Twain's Speeches Page 30

Mark Twain

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book