Page images
PDF
EPUB

Beard not a lion in his den, but fashion the secret pitfall,
So shalt thou conquer the strong, thyself triumphing in weakness.
The hurricane rageth fiercely, and the promontory standeth in its

might,
Breasting the artillery of heaven, as darts glance from the crocodile ;
But the small, continual creeping of the silent footsteps of the sea
Mineth the wall of adamant, and stealthily compasseth its ruin.
The weakness of aceident is strong, where the strength of design is

weak; And a casual analogy convinceth, when a mind beareth not argu

ment. Will not a man listen ? be silent; and prove thy maxim by example: Never fear, thou losest not thy hold, though thy mouth doth not

render a reason. Contend not in wisdom with a fool, for thy sense maketh much of

his conceit; And some errors never would have thriven, had it not been for

learned refutation: Yea, much evil hath been caused by an honest wrestler for truth, And much of unconscious good, by the man that hated wisdom; For the intellect judgeth closely, and if thou overstep thy argument, Or seem not consistent with thyself, or fail in thy direct purpose, The mind that went along with thee shall stop and return without

thee, And thou shalt have raised a foe, where thou mightest have won a

friend.

Hints, shrewdly strown, mightily disturb the spirit,
Where a barefaced accusation would be too ridiculous for calumny:
The sly suggestion toucheth nerves, and nerves contract the fronds,
And the sensitive mimosa of affection trembleth to its root;
And friendships, the growth of half a century, those oaks that

laugh at storms, Have been cankered in a night by a worm, even as the prophet's

gourd. Hast thou loved, and not known jealousy? for a sidelong look Can please or pain thy heart more than the multitude of proofs : Hast thou hated, and not learned that thy silent scorn Doth deeper aggravate thy foe than loud-cursing malice ? A wise man prevaileth in power, for he screeneth his battering engine, But a fool tilteth headlong, and his adversary is aware.

Behold those broken arches, that oriel all unglazed,
That crippled line of columns bleaching in the sun,
The delicate shaft stricken midway, and the flying buttress
Idly stretching forth to hold up tufted ivy;
Thinkest thou the thousand eyes that shine with rapture on a ruin,
Would have looked with half their wonder on the perfect pile ?
And wherefore not -- but that light hints, suggesting unseen beau-

ties,
Fill the complacent gazer with self-grown conceits ?
And so, the rapid sketch winneth more praise to the painter,
Than the consummate work elaborated on his easel:
And so, the Helvetic lion caverned in the living rock
Hath more of majesty and force, than if upon a marble pedestal.

Tell me, daughter of taste, what hath charmed thine ear in music?
Is it the labored theme, the curious fugue or cento, -
Nor rather the sparkles of intelligence flashing from some strange

note,
Or the soft melody of sounds far sweeter for simplicity ?
Tell me, thou son of science, what hath filled thy mind in reading?
Is it the volume of detail where all is orderly set down,
And they that read may run, nor need to stop and think;
The book carefully accurate, that counteth thee no better than a fool,
Gorging the passive mind with annotated notes ; -
Nor rather the half-suggested thoughts, the riddles thou mayst

solve, The fair ideas, coyly peeping like young loves out of roses, The quaint arabesque conceptions, half cherub and half flower, The light analogy, or deep allusion, trusted to thy learning, The confidence implied in thy skill to unravel meaning mysteries ? For ideas are ofttimes shy of the close furniture of words, And thought wherein only is power, may be best conveyed by a sug

gestion. The flash that lighteth up a valley, amid the dark midnight of a

storm, Coineth the mind with that scene sharper than fifty summers.

A WORLDLY man boasteth in his pride, that there is no power but

of money; And he judgeth the characters of men by the differing measures of

their means:

He stealeth all goodly names, as worth, and value, and substance,
Which be the ancient heritage of Virtue, but such a one ascribeth

unto Wealth:
He spurneth the needy sage, whose wisdom hath enriched nations,
And the sons of poverty and learning, without whom earth were a

desert: Music, the soother of cares, the tuner of the dank, discordant heart

strings, It is nought unto such a one but sounds, whereby some earn their

living: The poem, and the picture, and the statue, to him seem idle baubles, Which wealth condescendeth to favor, to gain him the name of

patron. But little wotteth he the might of the means his folly despiseth; He considereth not that these be the wires which move the puppets

of the world. non A sentence hath formed a character, (+) and a character subdued a

kingdom;
A picture hath ruined souls, or raised them to commerce with the

skies:
The pen hath shaken nations, and stablished the world in peace;
And the whole, full horn of plenty been filled from the vial of science.
He regardeth man as sensual, the monarch of created matter,
And careth not aught for mind, that linketh him with spirits un-

seen;
He feedeth his carcass and is glad, though his soul be faint and

famished, And the dull, brute power of the body bindeth him a captive to him

self.

Man liveth from hour to hour, and knoweth not what may happen;
Influences circle him on all sides, and yet must he answer for his

actions;
For the being that is master of himself, bendeth events to his will,
But a slave to selfish passion is the wavering creature of circum-

stance.
To this man temptation is a poison, to that man it addeth vigor ;
And each may render to himself influences good or evil.
As thou directest the power, harm or advantage will follow,
And the torrent that swept the valley may be led to turn a mill;
The wild, electric flash, that could have kindled comets,

May by the ductile wire give case to an ailing child.
For outward matter or event fashion not the character within,
But each man, yielding or resisting, fashioneth his mind for himself.

SOME have said, What is in a name? -- most potent, plastic in

fluence; A name is a word of character, and repetition stablisheth the fact; A word of rebuke, or of honor, tending to obscurity or fame; And greatest is the power of a name, when its power is least sus

pected. A low name is a thorn in the side, that hindereth the footman in his

running; But a name of ancestral renown shall often put the racer to his

speed. Few men have grown unto greatness whose names are allied to

ridicule. And many would never have been profligate, but for the splendor of

a name. - A wise man scorneth nothing, be it never so small or homely,

For he knoweth not the secret laws that may bind it to great effects. The world in its boyhood was credulous, and dreaded the vengeance

of the stars, The world in its dotage is not wiser, fearing not the influence of

small things; Planets govern not the soul, nor guide the destinies of man, But trifles, lighter than straws, are levers in the building up of

character. A man hath the tiller in his hand, and may steer against the cur

rent, Or may glide down idly with the stream, till his vessel founder in

the whirlpool.

OF MEMORY.

WHERE art thou, storehouse of the mind, garner of facts and fan

cies, In what strange firmament are laid the beams of thine airy cham

bers ? Or art thou that small cavern, (8) the centre of the rolling brain, Where still one sandy morsel testifieth man's original ? Or hast thou some grand globe, some common hall of intellect, Some spacious market-place for thought, where all do bring their

wares, And gladly rescued from the littleness, the narrow closet of a self, The privileged soul hath large access, coming in the livery of learn

ing?

Live we as isolated worlds, perfect in substance and spirit,
Each a sphere, with a special mind, prisoned in its shell of matter?
Or rather, as converging radiations, parts of one majestic whole,
Beams of the Sun, streams from the River, branches of the mighty

Tree,
Some bearing fruit, some bearing leaves, and some diseased and bar-

ren, — Some for the feast, some for the floor, and some, - how many!

for the fire ? Memory may be but a power of coming to the treasury of Fact, A momentary self-desertion, an absence in spirit from the now, An actual coursing hither and thither, by the mind, slipped from its

leash, A life, as in the mystery of dreams, spent within the limits of a

moment.

A BRUTISH man knoweth not this, neither can a fool comprehend it, But there be secrets of the memory, deep, wondrous, and fearful. Were I at Petra, could I not declare, My soul hath been here before

me? Am I strange to the columned halls, the calm, dead grandeur of

Palmyra?

« PreviousContinue »