Great Stone Face
( Originally Published 1902 )
NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE has told the beautiful story of the Great Stone Face. A little boy was playing about the door of a cottage in the vale and fastened his eye on a place in the mountain that looked like a human face. It was a huge figure, with forehead a hundred feet high and the rest of the head in proportion. The name of the boy was Earnest. His mother told him that there was a prophecy that some one in the neighborhood was to grow up to be the ideal character, and that in manhood he should resemble the face in the mountain at which he was looking. She said the Indians first told the prophecy and said that the mountain streams murmured, and the winds in the tree-tops whispered to them the prophecy. There was a rumor that the man promised had appeared. A man born in the valley had gone out into a foreign land and had become a successful merchant. The frozen North and the torrid climes poured their treasures into his lap. He owned a fleet of ships, and had accumulated more wealth than he could count in a hundred years. He returned to his native place to spend the rest of his days. On the site of his father's farmhouse, where he was born, he erected a superb marble palace and furnished it at a fabulous cost. Every one said this was the ideal man. Earnest was walking on the road one day, and the millionaire came along riding in his carriage drawn by four horses. The man had his face half out of the carriage window. He was a little man with low forehead, small, sharp eyes, and a wrinkled skin as yellow as saffron. As he rode by Earnest looked at him, and then down the valley at the sublime, benign features in the mountain, and said, " This man is not the image of the Great Stone Face." The man lost his wealth, and with it many of the friends who had admired and flattered him, and the people wondered why they had ever thought that the little man, with a narrow spirit and a cold heart, was the ideal citizen promised.
Years passed by, a native of the village went to war and became a great general. Weary and disabled by wounds he retired from service to his boy-hood home. The people gave him a great reception and banquet in the woods. An arch was made festooned with laurel. In the speeches that were made they said that to a hair he resembled the Stone Face, that he was the old man of the mountain in a looking-glass. The crowd was so great that Earnest could not get a look at him till the banquet was over and the General arose to speak. Earnest saw in his features strong will and courage, but they seemed cold and harsh, and casting his eye toward the mountain and the beautiful stone face there, he said to himself, " He does not look like it ; he is not the man promised." Earnest by this time had grown into middle life and had continued his simple calling of a farmer. Another young man had gone out from the neighborhood, not with purse or sword but a marvellously eloquent tongue. He became a statesman and a candidate for the Presidency. The people gave him a great reception. The soldiers were out, the band played, the farmers in their Sunday clothes rode horseback. The people were wild in their enthusiasm. The big banner had a picture of the statesman and one of the Great Stone Face side by side. The people all said the similarity was complete. As he passed by in a carriage drawn by four white horses, Earnest looked at him and said, " What a massive brow, what a superb countenance, but there is too much ambition, too much self there, too little gentleness, too little love," and as he turned his eye to the lovely features of the man in the mountain he said, " He does not look like it ; he is not the ideal man promised."
Earnest had now grown to be an old, gray-haired man. A brilliant young man had gone from the village to the great city and had become a famous poet. His native mountains often towered in his verses above the spires of the city. A copy of his poems fell into the hands of Earnest, and he was charmed with them, especially the one on the Great Stone Face. And he said, " One who can write such sublime and divine verses must be the image of the Stone Face, and one for whom the generations have longed." Earnest, though but a simple farmer, by his simplicity, his wisdom, his virtue and his love had become known and admired far beyond the boundaries of his native valley. The poet of the great city came out to his country home to see him and learn of him. He found the old man reading a copy of his poems, and introducing himself to him said : " You think I am the image of the stone face, the ideal man ; you are mistaken. My life is not as lofty or beautiful as my song; I am not worthy of the honor you bestow." Earnest had an appointment to speak to the people of the village that evening, and the poet and the old man walked arm in arm to the place of meeting out of doors. His address was so simple, so wise, so pure and so tender, that the poet said he was a prophet, and looking down the valley at the Great Stone Face, lighted up gloriously by the rays of the setting sun, he said : " Earnest is the exact image, he is the ideal man promised." And the people agreed that he was the most truly great man in all the land. The old man modestly protested, and said that the ideal man would appear some day.
The reason why Earnest became like the Stone Face in the mountain was, that from the time he was a little boy he looked upon and admired it. Day by day, hour by hour, he kept his eye and his heart upon it. Another reason why his face was so beautiful, was that he seemed to talk with the angels, and their delicate fingers fashioned his features into comeliness.
The most beautiful face the world has ever seen stands out in bold relief from Mount Calvary, and those who become like him are ideal men and women. And they become like him by looking constantly upon him and loving him. And they become like him because they whisper to the Eternal Spirit whose invisible fingers fashion their spiritual features into the image of their Elder Brother and Heavenly Father.