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Strive to speak big, and clasp their feeble joints
K. Rich. Too well, too well thou tell'st a tale so ill. Where is the Earl of Wiltshire? Where is Bagot ? What is become of Bushy? Where is Green ?
- No matter where ; of comfort no man speak Let's talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs; Make dust our paper, and with rainy eyes Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth. And yet not so — for what can we bequeath, Save our deposéd bodies to the ground? Our lands, our lives, and all are Bolingbroke's; And nothing can we call our own but death, And that small model of the barren earth, Which serves as paste and cover to our bones. For Heaven's sake, let us sit upon the ground, And tell sad stories of the death of kings How some have been deposed; some slain in war, Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed; Some poisoned by their wives ; some sleeping killed ; All murdered. For within the hollow crown, That rounds the mortal temples of a king, Keeps Death his court; and there the antic sits, Scoffing his state, and grinning at his pomp ; Allowing him a breath, a little scene To monarchize, be feared, and kill with looks; Infusing him with self and vain conceit, As if this flesh, which walls about our life, Were brass impregnable; and humored thus, Comes at the last, and with a little pin Bores through his castle walls; and, farewell, king! Cover your heads, and mock not flesh and biood With solemn reverence; throw away respect, Tradition, form, and ceremonious duty,
For you have but mistook me all this while.
51. Every Man is great.
Every man, in every condition, is great. It is only our own diseased sight which makes him little. A man is great as a man, be he where or what he may. The grandeur of his nature turns to insignificance all outward distinctions. His powers of intellect, of conscience, of love, of knowing God, of perceiving the beautiful, of acting on his own mind, on outward nature, and on his fellow-creatures, — these are glorious prerogatives.
Through the vulgar error of undervaluing what is common, we are apt, indeed, to pass these by as of little worth. but, as in the outward creation, so in the soul, the common is the most precious. Science and art may invent splendid modes of illuminating the apartments of the opulent; but these are all poor and worthless, compared with the common light which the sun sends into all our windows, which he pours freely, impartially, over hill and valley, which kindles daily the eastern and western sky; and so the common lights of reason, and conscience, and love, are of more worth and dignity than the rare endowments which give celebrity to a few.
Let us not disparage that nature which is common to all men; for no thought can measure its grandeur. It is the image of God, the image even of his infinity; for no limits can be set to its unfolding. He who possesses the divine powers of the soul is a great being, be his place what it may. You may clothe him with rags, may immure him in a dun.
geon, may chain him to slavish tasks; but he is still great. You may shut him out of your houses ; but God opens to him heavenly mansions.
He makes no show, indeed, in the streets of a splendid city; but a clear thought, a pure affection, a resolute act of a virtuous will, have a dignity of quite another kind, and far higher, than accumulations of brick, and granite, and plaster, and stucco, however cunningly put together, or though stretching far beyond our sight. Nor is this all. If we pass over this grandeur of our common nature, and turn out thoughts to that comparative greatness which draws chief attention, and which consists in the decided superiority of the individual to the general standard of power and character, we shall find this as free and frequent a growth among the obscure and unnoticed as in more conspicuous walks of life.
The truly great are to be found every where; nor is it easy to say in what condition they spring up most plentifully. Real greatness has nothing to do with a man's sphere. It does not lie in the magnitude of his outward agency, in the extent of the effects which he produces. The greatest men may do comparatively little abroad. Perhaps the greatest in our city at this moment are buried in obscurity.
Grandeur of character lies wholly in force of soul, that is, in force of thought, moral principle, and love; and this may be found in the humblest condition of life. A man brought up to an obscure trade, and hemmed in by the wants of a growing family, may, in his narrow sphere, perceive more clearly, discriminate more keenly, weigh evidence more wisely, seize on the right means more decisively, and have more presence of mind in difficulty, than another who has accumulated vast stores of knowledge by laborious study; and he has more of intellectual greatness. Many a man, who has gone but a few miles from home, understands human nature better, detects motives and weighs characters more sagaciously, than another who has travelled over the known world, and made a name by his reports of different countries. It is force of thought which measures intellectual, and
so it is force of principle which measures mural greatness, that highest of human endowments, that brightest manifestation of the Divinity.
52. The Same, continued.
The greatest man is he who chooses the right with invincible resolution, who resists the sorest temptations from within and without, who bears the heaviest burdens cheerfully, who is calmest in storms and most fearless under menace and frowns, whose reliance on truth, on virtue, on God, is most unfaltering; and is this a greatness which is apt to make a show, or which is most likely to abound in conspicuous station ?
The solemn conflict of reason with passion; the victories of moral and religious principle over urgent and almost irresistible solicitations to self-indulgence; the hardest sacrifices of duty, those of deep-seated affection, and of the heart's fondest hopes; the consolations, hopes, joys, and peace of disappointed, persecuted, scorned, deserted virtue, — these are, of course, unseen; so that the true greatness of human life is almost wholly out of sight.
Perhaps in our presence the most heroic deed on earth is done in some silent spirit, the loftiest purpose cherished, the most generous sacrifice made, and we do not suspect it. I believe this greatness to be most common among the multitude, whose names are never heard. Among common people will be found more of hardship borne manfully, more of unvarnished truth, more of religious trust, more of that generosity which gives what the giver needs himself, and more of a wise estimate of life and death, than among the more prosperous.
And even in regard to influence over other beings, which is thought the peculiar prerogative of distinguished station, I
believe that the difference between the conspicuous and this obscure does not amount to much. Influence is to be measured, not by the extent of purpose it covers, but by its kind. A man may spread his mind, his feelings and opinions, through a great extent; but if his mind be a low one, he manifests no greatness.
A wretched artist may fill a city with daubs, and by a false, showy style achieve a reputation; but a man of genius, who leaves behind him one grand picture, in which immorta beauty is imbodied, and which is silently to spread a true taste in his art, exerts an incomparably higher influence. Now, the noblest influence on earth is that exerted on character; and he who puts forth this does a great work, no matter how narrow or obscure his sphere.
The father and mother of an unnoticed family, who, in their seclusion, awaken the mind of one child to the idea and love of perfect goodness, who awaken in him a strength of will to repel all temptation, and who send him out prepared to profit by the conflicts of life, surpass, in influence, a Napoleon breaking the world to his sway. And not only is their work higher in kind, — who knows but that they are doing a greater work, even as to extent or surface, than the conqueror? Who knows but that the being, whom they inspire with holy and disinterested principles, may communicate himself to others ? and that, by a spreading agency, of which they were the silent origin, improvements may spread through a nation, — through a world?
The poet's eye in a fine frenzy rolling,