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ND numerous indeed are the hearts to which Christmas brings a brief season of happiness and enjoyment. How many families whose members have been dispersed and scattered far and wide, in the restless struggle of life, are then reunited, and meet once again in that happy state of companionship and mutual good-will, which is a source of such pure and unalloyed delight, and one so incompatible with the cares and sorrows of the world, that the religious belief of the most civilized nations, and the rude traditions of the roughest savages, alike number it among the first days of a future state of existence, provided for the blest and happy! How many old recollections, and how many dormant sympathies, Christmas-time awakens!
We write these words now, many miles distant from the spot at which, year after year, we met on that day, a merry and joyous circle. Many of the hearts that throbbed so gaily then, have ceased to beat; many of the looks that shone so brightly then, have ceased to glow; the hands we grasped, have grown cold; the eyes we sought, have hid their luster in the grave; and yet the old house, the room, the merry voices and smiling faces, the jest, the laugh, the most minute and trivial circumstance connected with those happy meetings, crowd upon our mind at each recurrence of the season, as if the last assemblage had been but yesterday. Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!
HE great duty of life is not to give pain; and the most acute reasoner can not find an excuse for one who voluntarily wounds the heart of a fellowcreature. Even for their own sakes, people should show kindness and regard for their dependents. They are often better served in trifles, in proportion as they are rather feared than loved; but how small is this gain compared with the loss sustained in all the weightier affairs of life! Then the faithful servant shows himself at once a friend, while the one who serves from fear shows himself an enemy.-Frederica Bremer.
F thou workest at that which is before thee, following right reason seriously, vigorously, calmly, without allowing anything else to distract thee, but keeping thy divine part sure, if thou shouldst be bound to give it back immediately; if thou holdest to this, expecting nothing, fearing nothing, but satisfied with thy present activity according to Nature, and with heroic truth in every word and sound which thou utterest, thou wilt live happy. And there is no man who is able to prevent this. -Marcus Aurelius.
Do not remember that in my whole life I ever wilfully misrepresented anything to anybody at any time. I have never knowingly had connection with a fraudulent scheme. I have tried to do good in this world, not harm, as my enemies would have the world believe. I have helped men and have attempted in my humble way to be of some service to my country.
-J. Pierpont Morgan.
LOWERS have an expression of countenance as much as men or animals. Some seem to smile; some have a sad expression; some are pensive and diffident; others again are plain, honest and upright, like the broadfaced sunflower and the hollyhock.
-Henry Ward Beecher.
When love and skill work together expect a masterpiece.—John Ruskin.
O one understands the nature of love; it is like a bird of heaven that sings a strange language. It lights down among us, coming from whence we know not, going we know not how or when, striking out wild notes of music that make even fatigued and heavy hearts to throb and give back a tone of courage. . . .
Shall we say that the creature without love is like the lamp unlit? There it is and no one needs it. But touch it with flame, and it trembles and glows and becomes the center of the room where it stands. Everything that falls under its rays is new-gilt. So does the lover see all natural things quite new.
Or take the image of the withering plant that is dying of drought. The sun's rays have parched it; the roots have searched and searched for moisture in a soil that grows every day harder and drier. The plant wilts and hangs its head; it is fainting and ready to die, when down comes the rain in a murmuring multitude of round scented drops, the purest thing alive, a distilled essence, necessary to life. Under that baptism the plant lifts itself up; it drinks and rejoices. In the night it renews its strength; in the morning the heat it has had from the sun, reinforced by the rain, bursts out into colored flowers. So I have known a man battered by hard life and the excess of his own passions: I have seen love come to such a man and take him up and cleanse him and set him on his feet; and from him has burst forth a flood of color and splendor-creative work that now lends its fiery stimulus to thousands.
Another image might be of the harp that stands by itself in golden aloofness. Then comes the beautiful arms, the curving fingers that pluck at the strings, and the air is filled with melody; the harp begins to live, thrilling and rejoicing, down to its golden foot. Or picture the unlighted house, empty at fall of night. The windows are dark; the door shut; the clean wind goes about and around it; and can not find an entrance. The dull heavy air is faint within; it longs to be reunited to the wind of the
world outside. Then comes the woman with the key, and in she steps; the windows are opened, the imprisoned air rushes out, the wind enters; the lamps and the fire are lit; so that light fills windows and doors. The tables are set, there is the sound of footsteps; and more footsteps. The house glows and lives. -Grace Rhys.
ELOQUENT, just, and mighty
Death! Whom none could
thou hast persuaded; what none hath dared, thou hast done; and whom all the world hath flattered, thou only hast cast out of the world and despised: thou hast drawn together all the far-stretched greatness, all the pride, cruelty and ambition of man, and covered it all over with these two narrow words-Hic iacet!-Raleigh.
the and freshness of
youth! How the boy enjoys his food, his sleep, his sports, his companions, his truant days! His life is an adventure, he is widening his outlook, he is extending his dominion, he is conquering his kingdom. How cheap are his pleasures, how ready his enthusiasms! In boyhood I have had more delight on a haymow with two companions and a big dogdelight that came nearer intoxication— than I have ever had in all the subsequent holidays of my life. When youth goes, much goes with it. When manhood comes, much comes with it.We exchange a world of delightful sensations and impressions for a world of duties and studies and meditations. The youth enjoys what the man tries to understand. Lucky is he who can get his grapes to market and keep the bloom upon them, who can carry some of the freshness and eagerness and simplicity of youth into his later years, who can have a boy's heart below a man's head.
The lawyer who uses his knowledge to stir up strife among the industrious and impede the path of commerce, that he himself may thrive, is unworthy of our respect.-W. H. Seward.
HE difference between a precious stone and a common stone is not an essential difference-not a difference of substance, but of arrangement of the particles-the crystallization. In substance, the charcoal and the diamond are one, but in form and effect, how widely they differ! The pearl contains nothing that is not found in the coarsest oyster-shellTwo men have the same thoughts; they use about the same words in expressing them; yet with one the product is real literature, with the other it is platitude. The difference is all in presentation; a finer and more compendious process has gone on in the one case than in the other. The elements are better fused and knitted together; they are in some way heightened and intensified. Is not here a clue to what we mean by style?
Style transforms common quartz into an Egyptian pebble. We are apt to think of style as something external, that can be put on, something in and of itself. But it is not; it is in the inmost texture of the substance itself.
O, like a queen's her happy tread,
"How well it is written!" I thought it a doubtful compliment. It should have been so well written that the reader would not have been conscious of the writing at all.
If we could only get the writing, the craft, out of our stories and essays and poems, and make the reader feel he was face to face with the real thing! The complete identification of the style with the thought; the complete absorption of the man with his matter, so that the reader shall say, "How
good, how real, how true!"-that is the great success. Seek ye the kingdom of truth first, and all things shall be added
We wandered where the river gleamed
A wild thing of the woods she seemed,
All heaven drew nigh to hear her sing,
Polish, choice words, faultless rhetoric, are only the accidents of style. Indeed, perfect workmanship is one thing; style, as the great writers have it, is quite another. It may, and often does, go with faulty workmanship. It is the choice of words in a fresh and vital way, so as to give us a vivid sense of a new spiritual force and personality. In the best work the style is found and hidden in the matter.
And O, her happy, queenly tread,
I heard a reader observe, after finishing one of Robert Louis Stevenson's books,
I think we do feel, with regard to some of Stevenson's books, like An Inland Voyage, Travels With a Donkey, etc., how well they are written Certainly one would not have the literary skill any less, but would have one's attention kept from it by the richness of the matter. Hence I think a British critic hits the mark when he says Stevenson lacks homeliness. Doctor Holmes wrote fine and eloquent poems, yet I think one does not feel that he is essentially a poet. His work has not the inevitableness of Nature; it is a skilful literary feat; we admire it, but seldom return to it. His poetry is a stream in an artificial channel; his natural channel is his prose; here we get his freest and most spontaneous activity.
One fault I find with our younger and more promising school of novelists is that their aim is too literary; we feel they are striving mainly for artistic effects. Do we feel this at all in Scott, Dickens, Hawthorne or Tolstoy? These men are not thinking about art, but about life
how to produce life. In essayists like Pater, Wilde, Lang, the same thing occurs; we are constantly aware of the literary artist; they are not in love with life, reality, so much as they are with words, style, literary effects Their seriousness is mainly an artistic seriousness. It is not so much that they have something to say, as that they are filled with a desire to say something.
Nearly all our magazine poets seem filled with the same desire; what labor, what art and technique; but what a dearth of feeling and spontaneity! I read a few lines or stanzas and then stop. I see it is only deft handicraft, and that the heart and soul are not in it.
One day my boy killed what an old hunter told him was a mock duck. It looked like a duck, it acted like a duck, but when it came upon the table-it mocked us.
These mock poems of the magazines remind me of it.
Is it not unfair to take any book, certainly any great piece of literature, and deliberately sit down to pass judgment upon it? Great books are not addressed to the critical judgment, but to the life, the soul. They need to slide into one's life earnestly, and find him with his guard down, his doors open, his attitude disinterested. The reader is to give himself to them, as they give themselves to him; there must be self-sacrifice. We find the great books when we are young, eager, receptive. After we grow hard and critical we find few great books. A recent French critic says: "It seems to me, works of art are not made to be judged, but to be loved, to please, to dissipate the cares of real life. It is precisely by wishing to judge them that one loses sight of their true significance."
"How can a man learn to know himself?" inquires Goethe. "Never by reflection, only by action." Is not this a half-truth? One can only learn his powers of action by action, and his powers of thought by thinking. He can only learn whether or not he has power to command, to lead, to be an orator or legislator, by actual trial. Has he courage, self-control, self-denial, fortitude, etc.?
In life alone can he find out. Action tests his moral virtues, reflection his intellectual. If he would define himself to himself he must think.
"We are weak in action," says Renan, "by our best qualities; we are strong in action by will and a certain one-sidedness." "The moment Byron reflects," says Goethe," he is a child.” Byron had no self-knowledge. We have all known people who were ready and sure in action, who did not know themselves at all. Your weakness or strength as a person comes out in action; your weakness or strength as an intellectual force comes out in reflection.-John Burroughs.
S long as nations meet on the fields
of war as long as they sustain the relations of savages to each other-as long as they put the laurel and the oak on the brows of those who kill-just so long will citizens resort to violence, and the quarrels be settled by dagger and revolver.-Robert G. Ingersoll.
I DO not belong to the amiable group
of men of compromise." I am in the habit of giving candid and straightforward expression to the convictions which a half-century of serious and laborious study has led me to form. If I seem to you an iconoclast, I pray you to remember that the victory of pure reason over superstition will not be achieved without a tremendous struggle.
ELIEVE me when I tell you that thrift of time will repay you in after-life, with a usury of profit beyond your most sanguine dreams; and that waste of it will make you dwindle alike in intellectual and moral stature, beyond your darkest reckoning. -W. E. Gladstone.
I never work better than when I am inspired by anger. When I am angry I can write, pray, and preach well; for then my whole temperament is quickened, my understanding sharpened, and all mundane vexations and temptations depart. -Luther.
HO can describe the pleasure and delight, the peace of mind and soft tranquillity, felt in the balmy air and among the green hills and rich woods of an inland village? Who can tell how scenes of peace and quietude sink into the minds of painworn dwellers in close and noisy places, and carry their own freshness deep into their jaded hearts?
Men who have lived in crowded, pent-up streets, through whole lives of toil, and never wished for change; men to whom custom has indeed been second nature, and who have come almost to love each brick and stone that formed the narrow boundaries of their daily walks even they, with the hand of death upon them, have been known to yearn at last for one short glimpse of Nature's face, and, carried far from the scenes of their old pains and pleasures, have seemed to pass at once into a new state of being, and crawling forth from day to day to some green, sunny spot, have had such memories wakened up within them by the mere sight of sky, and hill, and plain, and glistening water, that a foretaste of heaven itself has soothed their quick decline, and they have sunk into their tombs as peacefully as the sun, whose setting they watched from their lonely chamber window but a few hours before, faded from their dim and feeble sight!
The memories which peaceful country scenes call up are not of this world or of its thoughts and hopes. Their gentle influence may teach us to weave fresh garlands for the graves of those we loved, may purify our thoughts and bear down before it old enmity and hatred; but beneath all this there lingers in the least reflective mind a vague and half-formed consciousness of having held such feelings long before in some remote and distant time, which calls up solemn thoughts of distant times to come, and bends down pride and worldliness beneath it. Charles Dickens.
The happiness of a man in this life does not consist in the absence but in the mastery of his passions.-Tennyson.
friendships hurry to short and
poor conclusions, because we have made them a texture of wine and dreams, instead of the tough fiber of the human heart. The laws of friendship are great, austere, and eternal, of one web with the laws of nature and of morals. But we have aimed at a swift and petty benefit, to such a sudden sweetness. We snatch at the slowest fruit in the whole garden of God, which many summers and many winters must ripen. We seek our friend not sacredly, but with an adulterate passion which would appropriate him to ourselves
I do not wish to treat friendships daintily, but with roughest courage. When they are real, they are not glass threads or frost-work, but the solidest thing we know
The end of friendship is a commerce the most strict and homely that can be joined; more strict than any of which we have experienced. It is for aid and comfort through all the relations and passages of life and death. It is fit for serene days, and graceful gifts, and country rambles, but also for rough roads and hard fare, shipwreck, poverty and persecution. It keeps company with the sallies of the wit and the trances of religion. We are to dignify to each other the daily needs and offices of man's life, and embellish it by courage, wisdom and unity. It should never fall into something usual and settled, but should be alert and inventive, and add rhyme and reason to what was drudgery.-Emerson.
CAN not commend to a business house any artificial plan for making men producers-any scheme for driving them into business-building. You must lead them through their self-interest. It is this alone that will keep them keyed up to the full capacity of their productiveness.-Charles H. Steinway.
The cynic is one who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. -Oscar Wilde.
Snobbery is the pride of those who are not sure of their position.-Berton Braley.