« PreviousContinue »
7. O daily life! thy fair and crystal page
By erring hands is written o’er and o'er,
In characters that stand forevermore. 8. We cannot pause.
'Tis not for human wili To check the pen or shun its solemn trust; But living souls, discerning good and ill,
May leave their records beautiful and just.
9. The immortal truth demands each thoughtful hour,
Our work must live through all futurity ;
XX. TAKE YOUR CHOICE
1. We should consider this world as a great mart of commerce, where fortune exposes to our view various commodities -- riches, ease, tranquillity, fame, integrity, knowledge. Everything is marked at a settled price. Our time, our labor, our ingenuity, are so much ready money which we are to lay out to the best advantage. Examine, compare, choose, reject, but stand to your own judgment, and do not, like children, when you have purchased one thing, repine that you do not possess another which you did not purchase. Such is the force of well-regulated industry that a steady and vigorous exertion of our faculties, directed to one end, will generally insure success.
2. Would you, for instance, be rich ? do you think that single point worth the sacrifice of everything else? You may, then, be rich. Thousands have become so from the lowest beginnings, by toil, and patient diligence, and
attention to the minutest articles of expense and profit; but you must give up the pleasures of leisure, of a vacant mind, of a free, unsuspicious temper. If you preserve your integrity, it must be, unless you are singularly blessed, a coarse-spun and vulgar honesty. Those high and lofty notions of morals which you brought with you from the schools must be considerably lowered, and mixed with the baser alloy of a jealous and worldly-minded prudence.
3. You must learn to do hard, if not unjust, things, and as for the nice embarrassments of a delicate and ingenuous spirit, it is necessary for you to get rid of them as fast as possible ; you must shut your heart against the Muses, and be content to feed your understanding with plain household truths; in short, you must not attempt to enlarge your ideas, or polish your taste, or refine your sentiments, but must keep on in one beaten track without turning aside to the right or to the left. “But I cannot submit to drudgery like this; I feel a spirit above it.” 'Tis well : be above it, then; only do not repine that you are not rich. Learn to prize what you chose in place of riches.,
4. Is knowledge the pearl of price? That too may be purchased by steady application and long, solitary hours of study and reflection. Bėstow these, and you shall be wise. “But," says the man of letters, “what a hardship is it that many an illiterate fellow, who cannot construe the motto of the arms on his coach, shall raise a fortune and make a figure, while I have little more than the common conveniences of life!" Was it in order to raise a fortune that you consumed the sprightly hours of youth in study and retirement? Was it to be rich that you grew pale over the midnight lamp, and distilled the sweetness from the Greek and Roman spring? You have, then, mistaken your path and ill-employed your industry.
5. “What reward have I, then, for all my labors ?” What reward ! A large, comprehensive soul, well purged from vulgar fears, and perturbations, and prejudices, able to apprehend and interpret the works of man and of God; a rich, flourishing, cultivated mind, pregnant with inexhaustible stores of entertainment and reflection ; a perpetual spring of fresh ideas, and the conscious dignity of superior intelligence; and what reward can you ask beside ?
6. “But is it not some reproach upon the economy of Providence, that such a one, who is a mean, dirty fellow, should have amassed wealth enough to buy half a nation?” Not in the least. He made himself a mean, dirty fellow for that very end. He has paid his health, his conscience, his liberty, for it, and will you envy him his bargain ? Will you hang your head and blush in his presence because he outshines you in equipage and show? Lift up your brow with a noble countenance and say to yourself, “I have not these things, it is true, but it is because I have not sought, because I have not desired them; it is because I possess something better; I have chosen my lot; I am content and satisfied.”
- MRS. BARBAULD.
XXI. PAUL FLEMMING RESOLVES
1. And now the sun was growing high and warm. A little chapel, whose door stood open, seemed to invite Flemming to enter and enjoy the grateful coolness. He went in. There was one there. The walls were covered with paintings and sculpture of the rudest kind, and with a few funeral tablets. There was nothing there to move the heart to devotion ; but in that hour the heart
of Flemming was weak - weak as a child's. He bowed his stubborn knees and wept. And oh! how many disappointed hopes, how many bitter recollections, how much of wounded pride, and unrequited love, were in those tears, through which he read on a marble tablet in the chapel wall opposite, this singular inscription : "LOOK NOT MOURNFULLY INTO THE PAST : Іт COMES
BACK AGAIN. WISELY IMPROVE THE PRESENT: IT IS THINE. GO FORTH TO MEET THE SHADOWY FUTURE, WITHOUT FEAR, AND WITH A MANLY HEART.”
2. It seemed to him as if the unknown tenant of that grave had opened his lips of dust, and spoken to him the words of consolation, which his soul needed, and which no friend had yet spoken. In a moment the anguish of his thoughts was still. The stone was rolled away from the door of his heart; death was no longer there, but an angel clothed in white. He stood up, and his eyes were no more bleared with tears; and, looking into the bright, morning heaven, he said, “I WILL BE STRONG !"
3. Men sometimes go down into tombs, with painful longings to behold once more the faces of their departed friends; and as they gaze upon them, lying there so peacefully with the semblance that they wore on earth, the sweet breath of heaven touches them, and the features crumble and fall together, and are but dust. So did his soul then descend for the last time into the great tomb of the past, with painful longings to behold once more the dear faces of those he had loved; and the sweet breath of heaven touched them, and they would not stay, but crumbled away and perished as he gazed. They, too, were dust. And thus, far-sounding, he heard the great gate of the past shut behind him as the divine poet did the gate of paradise, when the angel pointed him the way up the holy
mountain ; and to him likewise was it forbidden to look back.
4. In the life of every man, there are sudden transitions of feeling, which seem almost miraculous. At once, as if some magician had touched the heavens and the earth, the dark clouds melt into the air, the wind falls, and serenity succeeds the storm. The causes which produce these sudden changes may have been long at work within us, but the changes themselves are instantaneous, and apparently without sufficient cause. It was so with Flemming, and from that hour forth he resolved that he would no longer veer with every shifting wind of circumstance; no longer be a child's plaything in the hands of fate, which we ourselves do make or mar. He resolved henceforward not to lean on others; but to walk self-confident and selfpossessed: no longer to waste his years in vain regrets, nor wait the fulfillment of boundless hopes and indiscreet desires; but to live in the present wisely, alike forgetful of the past, and careless of what the mysterious future might bring. And from that moment he was calm, and strong; he was reconciled with himself !
5. His thoughts turned to his distant home beyond the sea. An indescribable, sweet feeling rose within him. “ Thither will I turn my wandering footsteps,” said he; “and be a man among men, and no longer a dreamer among shadows. Henceforth be mine a life of action and reality! I will work in my own sphere, nor wish it other than it is. This alone is health and happiness. This alone is life
Life that shall send
And when it comes, say, Welcome, friend!' 6. “Why have I not made these sage reflections, this