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"Let patience have her perfect work."—Jambs i. 4.
rPHEEE is perhaps no quality which we so much need, and at the same time no quality in which most of us are so deficient, as that of patience. This word means, as you know, the capacity for bearing or enduring. And there are two things in human life which specially call for the exercise of patience—viz., work and trouble. Let me say a word or two about each.
And first, of work. Most people have to work in order to live at all. And those who would live worthily, successfully, greatly, must not only work, but work hard, work continuously, work till they die. There is a pathetic little verse—I forget whose—representing a conversation between Man and Destiny. It is as follows:—
"Does the road wind up hill all the way?
Now all work tends to become monotonous; all long-continued work is fatiguing; all work, just in proportion to its value, necessitates patience—the capacity to endure. But how is this capacity to be acquired and developed? If we are naturally impatient—as most of us are—how can we make ourselves patient? I answer, partly by reflection, and partly by practice.
I would have you all reflect often and long on the power of work. Think of what it has accomplished in the past. We unfortunately believe too much in genius and too little in toil. And yet every one who has been acknowledged by the world as a genius, has toiled just in proportion to his fame. The power of genius is in reality the power of work. The best definition I know of genius is that which calls it the infinite capacity for taking pains. You will find the truth of this definition illustrated by all the world's greatest men. Tennyson wrote "Come into the Garden, Maud" in five minutes, but spent two months in improving it. Goethe worked at "Faust" on and off till he died. Shakespeare, as Mr Swinburne has pointed out, laboured year after year in improving "Hamlet," not for the contemporary stage, but for posterity. Michael Angelo—you know the old story. A friend called one day upon the sculptor, and found him finishing a statue. Some time after, when he called again, Angelo was still engaged upon the same work. His friend, looking at the figure, said, " You have been idle since I saw you last." "By no means," replied Angelo; "I have retouched this part and polished that; I have softened this feature and brought out this muscle; I have given more expression to this lip and more energy to this limb." "Well, well," said his friend, "but all these are trifles." "It may be so," said the sculptor, "but recollect that trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle." And there is the same necessity for diligence in all other departments of work. You think that the laws of nature are discovered by inspiration. Well, inspiration it may be, but it is inspiration that moves very, very slowly. Faraday said the first task of the scientific investigator is to invent hypotheses, and his second task is to feel disgusted with them. Kepler found out the actual movements of the planets, but only after ninetynine failures. Genius is something very different from cleverness; that is merely talent. It would be almost an insult to call the man of genius clever. The clever man will do a hundred things fairly well, while the genius does but the one. The talented man's productions are admired for a little while, and then they are forgotten. The productions of genius live for ever. But for work, the genius would very often rank below his fellows. Newton was the dunce of his school. Demosthenes was at first a stutterer. There is a story told of a teacher of music becoming indignant with a talented but lazy pupil, and saying to him that a good voice was really an obstacle to good singing. And I heard last year in Italy, that when Madame Albani first went to study under Signor Lamperti, she had so poor a voice that the Meister thought she would never succeed as a singer. On every page of history you will find illustrations of the fact that it is not ability but work which makes success.
Perhaps we are all agreed that success cannot be expected without work. But the worst of it is we all of us expect too much success for too little work. We look for the greatest effects from the smallest causes; and these effects we demand with an absolutely impossible celerity. We are ready enough to remind our impetuous neighbour that Borne wasn't built in a day. But our own private Borne, we think, is going to be an exception to the rule. And when we find it isn't, we become impatient and feel ready to throw up the game in despair. We are often dissatisfied, not only with the results of our work, but with the work itself. We think we have not accomplished anything when we have really done very well. I remember when I was writing my thesis for my first doctor's degree, every day I said to myself I have done practically nothing; and yet at the end of three weeks it was finished. That was quick work; but, looked at piecemeal, it seemed to be most hopelessly slow. We must learn to believe in the cumulative effects of work; and we must learn to wait. The child keeps digging up the seed he has planted, and is disappointed because it has not grown. It would have grown fast enough if he had but let it be. "All the performances of human art at which we look with praise or wonder," says Dr Johnson, "are the results of the resistless force of perseverance; it is by this that the quarry becomes a pyramid, and that distant countries are united by canals. If a man was to compare the effect of a single stroke of the pickaxe or of one impression of the spade with the general design and last result, he would be overwhelmed by the sense of their disproportion; yet these petty operations, incessantly continued, in time overcome the greatest difficulties; mountains are levelled and oceans bounded by the slender force of human beings." Sir Jonah Barrington used to tell a story of a carpenter who was making a magistrate's bench, and who was laughed at by his companions for the peculiar pains he took