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WHO ARE THE TRULY HAPPY ?
The rich may, therefore, be considered as preachers; their houses as temples, and the world around as their attentive auditory. Their situation is one of fearful responsibility. If a man goes into a pulpit and preaches atheism, every good mind is shocked, and starts back, as if that image, in which Satan seduced our common mother, had suddenly come before him.
8. But the rich man, who sets an example of indolence, or haughtiness, or voluptuousness, — who brings up his children in idleness, or tolerates them in what is called dandyism, or in exclusiveness, or an affectation of superiority,
is a worse enemy to society, if we regard practical consequences, than the infidel preacher. He sows, far and wide, the seeds of vice, and leaves society to reap the whirlwind.
9. In this point of view, the rich occupy a station of great eminence. They are the first or highest class of society, if we regard power and responsibility ; but not the first, in the common acceptation of the term, — that of being the happiest. Nor do the poor, as being the least happy, occupy the last station. Happiness, indeed, is independent of condition.
10. The terms, then, high and low, so often used as marking out society into classes, are false; they are also mischievous, as tending to imbue the minds of some with conceit, and others with venomous discontent. They, at least, put into the hands of those who adopt the political doctrine, “ Divide and conquer,” a power, by which they may array one part of the community against the other; and, when the war is waged, lead on their dupes to the acconiplishment of their own purposes.
11. Let us, my friends, take a wiser view of this subject. The happy class of society is the industrious class, — be they rich, be they poor, or be they in that better condition, petitioned for by him who said, is Give me neither poverty or riches.” It is in this middle station, that peace and dignity are most frequently found.
12. I know of no better test of happiness, than simplicity of manners. If you can show me a person, who is free from affectation, free alike from disguise, uneasiness, and pretence, one who seems solicitous to hide nothing, and to display nothing, – one, in short, who bears upon him the
impress of truth, — you show me a man, who, in wealth or poverty, is happy.
13. Truth, in morals, is like gold among the metals; it is always valuable, it is always graceful. Whether rough in its native state, as in rustic life, or wrought up with the refinement of more artificial society, it is still truth, and constitutes the basis of all virtue, all happiness, all moral beauty. Everything is trashy and base without it. The false imitations of it, – affectation, pretence, assumption, arrogance, are brassy counterfeits, alike worthless to the possessor, and contemptible in the sight of true wisdom.
14. And in what condition of society is this simplicity or truth of character most frequently found ?
I hesitate not to declare, that it is with the middling class, who are kept by that admirable regulator of society, — industry, — between the extremes of poverty and riches.
15. And how happy is it, - thanks to our fathers, thanks to a beneficent Providence, thanks to this fair land, and this bountiful climate, that this happiest condition of life is accessible to all! Every man may not have gainful talents, or the favoring tide of fortune, to aid him in the acquisition of wealth; but every man may attain a better eminence,
every one may be industrious, and acquire that middling independence, which is better than wealth,
16. I say, every one ; for the exceptions arising from ill health, or casual misfortune, are exceedingly rare.
A man may be industrious, and yet poor ; in general, however, industry, patient, quiet industry, is a sure remedy for poverty.
LESSON CXX. Hymn to the North Star.
1. The sad and solemn night
The glorious hosts of light
HY MN TO THE NORTH STAR.
2. Day, too, hath many a star
Through the blue fields afar,
3. And thou dost see them rise,
Alone, in thy cold skies,
4. There, at morn's rosy birth,
And eve, that round the earth
5. Alike, beneath thine eye,
High towards the star-lit sky
6. On thy unaltering blaze
Fixes his steady gaze, And steers, undoubting, to the friendly coast; And they who stray in perilous wastes, by night, Are glad when thou dost shine to guide their footsteps right
7. And, therefore, bards of old,
Did in thy beams behold
The Duty of Industry.
1. From what I have said, it is a plain inference, that industry is the duty of every man; it is his duty, alike flowing from his obligations to society and to himself. No degree of wealth, no love of pleasure, no distaste for exertion, nothing but physical incapacity, can confer on any man the right to lead an idle life. Each individual has some gifts, and he is bound to use them wisely for himself and for mankind.
2. In these remarks, I have a primary reference to that industry which is practised in our village, — industry of the hands. I do not insist, however, that every one shall practise this species of industry; for intellectual activity may produce the greatest benefits to society, and bring happiness to him who uses it. Mental toil may, as it regards its general effects, be considered of a higher nature than bodily toil.
3. But I believe no man can be happy without some habitual bodily toil; and, surely, if I were to choose a plan of life, most likely to insure happiness, it would be among those who labor with their hands as a vocation. If envy could, for once, have her eyes freed from the scales of prejudice, she would not teach us to desire the high places of those who labor not; but she would choose, as most desirable, a condition among farmers and mechanics.
4. Of all the delusions, with which man has been accustomed to cheat himself, the idea that freedom from labor confers bliss, is the most fallacious. To live without work, is the halcyon, but deceptive dream, of millions. It has inspired many a man to put forth painful efforts; but when the bubble is caught, it vanishes into thin air. Go to our cities, and ask those who are looked upon as the successful men in life, those who have risen to wealth by their own exertions.
5. Ask them, which is the best part of life, that of effort, or that of luxurious relaxation. They will all tell you,
that the era of happiness, to which they look back with delight, is the humble period of industrious labor. They will tell you, that the remembrance of those days of small things, dimmed, as it might seem, by doubts and difficulties, - is better than all their shining wealth,
6. How idle, then, is that sour dissatisfaction, with which some persons
upon their lot, because it involves the duty and necessity of habitual industry! How unjust that poisonous envy, with which the laborer sometimes regards the other classes of society! Be assured, that those who occupy what are often called, often falsely, the highest stations in life, pay dearly for their giddy elevation.
7. The rich have sorrows, which the poor know not of. There is often a bitter drug in the golden cup, which is never tasted in the clear glass of humble life. Let us think better of the ways of Providence; and, with hearts free from vexing envy and embittering discontent, pursue the path of lawful labor, if that should chance to be our lot.
LESSON CXXII. Weehawken.
WEEHAWKEN is a high cliff on the shore of New Jersey, overlooking the Hudson, near the city of New York.
1. WEEHAWKEN! In thy mountain scenery yet,
All we adore of nature, in her wild
And never has a summer's morning smiled
2. Amid thy forest solitudes, he climbs
O'er crags that proudly tower above the deep,
The breathless moment, when his daring step
3. Like the death-music of his coming doom,
And clings to the green turf with desperate force,
The currents in his veins their wonted course,