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07-CONSIDERATIONS

By Ernest Rose,2014-06-01 12:17
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07-CONSIDERATIONS VII CONSIDERATIONS BY THE WAY HEAR WHAT BRITISH MERLIN SUNG,...

     VII

     CONSIDERATIONS BY THE WAY

     Hear what British Merlin sung,

     Of keenest eye and truest tongue.

     Say not, the chiefs who first arrive

     Usurp the seats for which all strive;

     The forefathers this land who found

     Failed to plant the vantage-ground;

     Ever from one who comes to-morrow

     Men wait their good and truth to borrow.

     But wilt thou measure all thy road,

     See thou lift the lightest load.

     Who has little, to him who has less, can spare,

     And thou, Cyndyllan's son! beware

     Ponderous gold and stuffs to bear,

     To falter ere thou thy task fulfil, --

     Only the light-armed climb the hill.

     The richest of all lords is Use,

     And ruddy Health the loftiest Muse.

     Live in the sunshine, swim the sea,

     Drink the wild air's salubrity:

     Where the star Canope shines in May,

     Shepherds are thankful, and nations gay.

     The music that can deepest reach,

     And cure all ill, is cordial speech:

     Mask thy wisdom with delight,

     Toy with the bow, yet hit the white.

     Of all wit's uses, the main one

     Is to live well with who has none.

     Cleave to thine acre; the round year

     Will fetch all fruits and virtues here:

     Fool and foe may harmless roam,

     Loved and lovers bide at home.

     A day for toil, an hour for sport,

     But for a friend is life too short.

     _Considerations by the Way_

     Although this garrulity of advising is born with us, I confess

    that life is rather a subject of wonder, than of didactics. So much

    fate, so much irresistible dictation from temperament and unknown

    inspiration enters into it, that we doubt we can say anything out of

    our own experience whereby to help each other. All the professions

    are timid and expectant agencies. The priest is glad if his prayers

    or his sermon meet the condition of any soul; if of two, if of ten,

    'tis a signal success. But he walked to the church without any

    assurance that he knew the distemper, or could heal it. The

    physician prescribes hesitatingly out of his few resources, the same

    tonic or sedative to this new and peculiar constitution, which he has

    applied with various success to a hundred men before. If the patient

    mends, he is glad and surprised. The lawyer advises the client, and

    tells his story to the jury, and leaves it with them, and is as gay

    and as much relieved as the client, if it turns out that he has a

    verdict. The judge weighs the arguments, and puts a brave face on

    the matter, and, since there must be a decision, decides as he can,

    and hopes he has done justice, and given satisfaction to the

    community; but is only an advocate after all. And so is all life a

    timid and unskilful spectator. We do what we must, and call it by

    the best names. We like very well to be praised for our action, but

    our conscience says, "Not unto us." 'Tis little we can do for each

    other. We accompany the youth with sympathy, and manifold old

    sayings of the wise, to the gate of the arena, but 'tis certain that

    not by strength of ours, or of the old sayings, but only on strength

    of his own, unknown to us or to any, he must stand or fall. That by

    which a man conquers in any passage, is a profound secret to every

    other being in the world, and it is only as he turns his back on us

    and on all men, and draws on this most private wisdom, that any good

    can come to him. What we have, therefore, to say of life, is rather

    description, or, if you please, celebration, than available rules.

     Yet vigor is contagious, and whatever makes us either think or

    feel strongly, adds to our power, and enlarges our field of action.

    We have a debt to every great heart, to every fine genius; to those

    who have put life and fortune on the cast of an act of justice; to

    those who have added new sciences; to those who have refined life by

    elegant pursuits. 'Tis the fine souls who serve us, and not what is

    called fine society. Fine society is only a self-protection against

    the vulgarities of the street and the tavern. Fine society, in the

    common acceptation, has neither ideas nor aims. It renders the

    service of a perfumery, or a laundry, not of a farm or factory. 'Tis

    an exclusion and a precinct. Sidney Smith said, "A few yards in

    London cement or dissolve friendship." It is an unprincipled decorum;

    an affair of clean linen and coaches, of gloves, cards, and elegance

    in trifles. There are other measures of self-respect for a man, than

    the number of clean shirts he puts on every day. Society wishes to

    be amused. I do not wish to be amused. I wish that life should not

    be cheap, but sacred. I wish the days to be as centuries, loaded,

    fragrant. Now we reckon them as bank-days, by some debt which is to

    be paid us, or which we are to pay, or some pleasure we are to taste.

    Is all we have to do to draw the breath in, and blow it out again?

    Porphyry's definition is better; "Life is that which holds matter