The Two Souls - Memorial Day 1897
If you have ever read "The Killer Angels" or seen the movie "Gettysburg" and were wondering if Chamberlain ever used the words
"divine spark," well here it is, or close to it anyway, he was not talking of race, but about soldiers.
What they may be able to show us now in the affairs of ordinary life may not be of a kind to waken warm sentiments, or kindle the imagination to marshal with great things.
But I doubt not these men, taking counsel of their cherished ideals, or untaught instincts in the exalted moments of great doings or suffering, rose to such heights of action that a most familiar
friend would scarcely had known them, nor they themselves dreamed they were capable of achieving. Lifted above self, these poor, worn spirits shone with the light of another world. What fortitude;
what cheerfulness; what meekness and patience and long-suffering; what fathomless tenderness one to another; what resplendent courage; what illumined faces and transfigured forms high-born amidst
the wrack and storm! Is there not in such men some breath of the divine, - some spark of the image of the suffering Son of Man? I greet such men when I pass them on the street, for they are known to me!
Many soldiers had fallen on hard times, some like his brother Tom became alcoholics, others like Andrew Tozier
had gotten in trouble with
the law. But in spite of this Chamberlain continued to have love for and faith in these men.
As he stated, "Because they have done these things I reverence these men, whatever their calling. I had almost said, whatever their faults of conduct, -which,
if there be any, we who feel ourselves stronger should help them to correct."
His idealism and trust that good was inside all people was hard for some to understand then and is hard for many to comprehend even today.
The author of "The Killer Angels" created a fictional character, Buster Kilrain, as a way for a more modern
thinking character to have a conversation with the past, the dialogue of Kilrain, I imagine, is the opinion of the
Vietnam era author Michael Shaara. "The truth is, Colonel, that there's no divine spark, bless you. There's many a man alive no more value than a dead dog."
This speech of Chamberlain's is often quoted on memorial day, especially the following lines:
Heroism Latent in Every Human Soul.
I come to this, then, that every man has in him, slumbering somewhere, the potencies of noble action, and on due occasion these are likely to make themselves manifest and effective. Every man has in him the elements of a hero, and if he cherishes these in the ideals of his innermost thoughts, he will be one, in some crisis of life, or unseen, all his life through.
And then, speaking of the soldiers,
However humble or unknown they have renounced what are accounted pleasures, and cheerfully undertaken all self-denials: privations, toils, dangers, sufferings, sickness, mutilations,
life-long hurts and losses, death itself. - for some deep divine behest, for some great good, direly seen but dearly held, which for this world must accrue mainly if not wholly to others, and
not to themselves. Because they have done these things I reverence these men, whatever their calling.