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Sir Francis Drake . ..
An Inquisitive Yankee . .
A Time of
Advice to a Reckless Youth · 257 | The Shipwreck .. ..
Oʻer wayward childhood would'st thou hold firm rule,
Love, too, will sink and die.
When overtask'd, at length
SIXTH STANDARD' READER.
IT WILL NEVER DO TO BE IDLE. One day I was driven to take shelter from a rain-storm in a little hovel by the road-side-a sort of cobbler's stall. The tenant and his son were at work. After the customary greetings, I entered familiarly into talk with them—as, indeed, I always do-seeing that your cobbler is often a man of thought as well as a man of action. Before I had been with them long, the old man found that he required something for the purpose of finishing a piece of work, and sent his son out for the article. The interval was short, but it was too long for his active in patience : he became uneasy, shuffled about the room, and at last took up a scrap or two of leather, and fell to work upon them—“For,” said he, “it will never do, you know, sir, to be idle-not on any pretence I should faint away.”
I happened just then to be in an impressible mood, without occupation myself, and weighed somewhat down by the want of it; accordingly the phrase, the oddness of it in the first place, and still more the sense, made a deep and lasting impression upon me.
As soon as the rain had spent itself, I went my way homeward, ruminating and revolving what I had heard, like a curious man over a riddle. I could not have occupied my thoughts better: the subject concerned me nearly—it went to the very heart of my happiness. Some people are perpetual martyrs to idleness; other have only their turns and returns of it. I was of the latter class-an impatient idler. Nevertheless, I was so far on the safe side of the mischief as to feel that the words ca
home to me. They stung my conscience severely; they were gall and wormwood to me. Nevertheless, I dwelt so long-though, perhaps, willingly—upon the expression, that it became as it were part of me. I was in a condition to feel and revere its efficacy. I determined to make much of it; to realise it in use; to act it out. I had heard and read repeatedly that idleness is a very great evil; but the censure did not now appear to me to come up to the real truth. I began to think that it was not only a very great evil, but the greatest evil.
No man is wretched in his energy. There can be no pain in a fit; a soldier, in the full height of his spirit, and in the heat of contest, is unconscious even of a wound; the orator, in the full flow of eloquence, is altogether exempt from the gout and rheumatism. To be occupied, in its first meaning, is to be possessed as by a tenant. When the occupation is once complete, there can be no entry for any evil spirit. But idleness is emptiness : where it is, there the doors are thrown open, and the devils troop in.
The words of the old cobbler were oracular to me. They were constantly in my thoughts, like the last voice of his victim in those of the murderer.
It is the odds and ends of our time, its orts and offals, laid up, as they usually are, in corners, to rot and stink there, instead of being used up as they should be-these, I say, are the occasions of our moral unsoundness and corruption. A dead fly, little thing as it is, will spoil a whole box of the most precious ointment; and idleness, if it be once suffered, though but for a brief while, is sure, by the communication of its listless quality, to clog and cumber the clockwork of the whole day. It is the ancient enemy--the old man of the Arabian Tales. Once take him upon your shoulders, and he is not to be shaken off so easily. I now gained an insight into these truths, and I framed my plans upon them. I resolved that every moment should be occupied by thought, word, or act, or, if none of these, by intention. Vacancy was my only outcast-the scapegoat of my future.
For this, my purpose, I required a certain energy of will; as, indeed, this same energy of will is requisite for every other good thing of whatever sort or kind: without it we are as powerless as grubs; noisome as ditch-water; vague, loose, and changeable as the clouds above urr heads. If I ever felt the approach, the