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Once he has touched his garment. How his eye
And death came soon, and swift,
The huge pile sunk down at once
103. The Folly of Inconsistent Expectations.
This world may be considered as a great mart of commerce, where fortune exposes to our view various commodities, - riches, ease, tranquillity, fame, integrity, knowledge. Every thing is marked at a settled price. Our time, our labor, our ingenuity, is 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
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. Would you, for instance, be rich? Do you think that single point worth the sacrifice of every thing 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 mental ease, of a free, unsuspicious temper. If you preserve your integrity, it must be 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.
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 either 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.
Is knowledge the pearl of price? That too may be purchased by steady application and long solitary hours of study and reflection. Bestow 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.
“ 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 compreherd and interpret the works of man, 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. Good Heaven! and what reward can you ask besides?
“ 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 confidence, 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.”
You are a modest man. You love quiet and independence, and have a delicacy and reserve in your temper which renders it impossible for you to elbow your way in the world, and be the herald of your own merits. Be content then with a modest retirement, with the esteem of your intimate friends, with the praises of a blameless heart, and a delicate, ingenuous spirit; but resign the splendid distinctions of the world to those who can better scramble for them.
The man whose tender sensibility of conscience, and strict regard to the rules of morality, makes him scrupulous and fearful of offending, is often heard to complain of the disadvantages he lies under in every path of honor and profit. "Could I but get over some nice points, and conform to the practice and opinion of those about me, I might stand as fair a chance as others for dignities and preferment." And why can you not ? What hinders you from discarding this troublesome scrupulosity of yours, which stands so grievously in your way? If it be a small thing to enjoy a healthful mind, sound at the very core, that does not shrink from the keenest inspection ; inward freedom from remorse and perturbation ; unsullied whiteness and simplicity of manners; a genuine integrity,
" Pure in the last recesses of the mind;" if you think these advantages an inadequate recompense for what you resign, dismiss your scruples this instant, and be a slave merchant, or — what you please.
104. The Three Warnings.
The tree of deepest root is found
That love of life increased with years
The greatest love of life appears.
When sports went round, and all were gay,
Yet, calling up a serious look,
Neighbor," he said, “ farewell. No more
And grant a kind reprieve;
Well pleased the world will leave.”,
What next the hero of our tale befell,
The willing muse shall tell :
Nor thought of Death as near;
Brought on his eightieth year.
As all alone he sat,