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7. On Genius and Fame.
GENIUS is the heir of fame; but the hard condition on which the bright reversion must be earned, is the loss of life. Fame is the recompense, not of the living, but of the dead. The temple of fame stands upon the grave; the flame that burns upon its altars is kindled from the ashes of great men. Fame itself is immortal, but its existence does not begin till the breath of genius is extinguished. For fame is not popularity, the shout of the multitude, the idle buzz of fashion, the venal puff, the soothing flattery of favor or of friendship; but it is the spirit of a man surviving himself, in the minds and thoughts of other men, undying and imperishable. It is the power which the intellect exercises over the intellect, and the lasting homage which is paid to it, as such, independently of time and circumstances, purified from partiality and evil speaking.
Fame is the sound which the stream of high thoughts, carried down to future ages, makes as it flows deep, distant, murmuring evermore, like the waters of the mighty ocean. He who has ears truly touched to this music, is in a manner deaf to the voice of popularity. The love of fame differs from mere vanity in this, that the one is immediatè and personal, the other ideal and abstracted. It is not the direct and gross homage paid to himself, that the lover of true fame seeks, or is proud of, but the indirect and pure homage paid to the eternal forms of truth and beauty, as they are reflected in his mind, that gives him confidence and hope.
The love of nature is the first thing in the mind of the true poet; the admiration of himself, the last. A man of genius cannot well be a coxcomb, for his mind is too full of other things to be much occupied with his own person. He who is conscious of great powers in himself, has also a high standard of excellence with which to compare his efforts. He appeals also to a test and judge of merit, which is the highest, but which is too remote, grave, and impartial to
flatter his self-love extravagantly, or puff him up with intolerable and vain conceit.
This, indeed, is one test of genius, and of real greatness of mind whether a man can wait patiently and calmly for the award of posterity, satisfied with the unwearied exercise of his faculties, retired within the sanctuary of his own thoughts; or whether he is eager to forestall his own immortality, and mortgage it for a newspaper puff. He who thinks much of himself, will be in danger of being forgotten by the . rest of the world; he who is always trying to lay violent hands on reputation, will not secure the best and most lasting.
If the restless candidate for praise takes no pleasure, no sincere and heartfelt delight, in his works, but as they are admired and applauded by others, what should others see in them to admire or applaud? They cannot be expected to admire them because they are his, but for the truth and nature contained in them, which must first be inly felt and copied with severe delight, from the love of truth and nature, before it can ever appear there.
Was Raphael, think you, when he painted his pictures of the Virgin and Child, in all their inconceivable truth of beauty and expression, thinking most of his subject or himself? Do you suppose that Titian, when he painted a landscape, was pluming himself on being thought the finest colorist in the world, or making himself so, by looking at nature? Do you imagine that Shakspeare, when he wrote Lear or Othello, was thinking of any thing but Lear and Othello?—No; he who would be great in the eyes of others, must first learn to be nothing in his own. The love of fame, as it enters at times into his mind, is only another name for the love of excellence; or it is the ambition to attain the highest excellence, sanctioned by the highest authority — that of time.
Genius, an uncommon degree of intellect, particularly the power of invention. This word is used to designate the peculiar structure of mind which is given by nature to an individual, and which qualifies him for a particular employment. - Sincere, being in reality what it seems to be: sine, 51.
8. The Old Man on the Mossy Stone
By the wayside, on a mossy stone,
Buckled knee and shoe, and broad-rimmed hat,
It was summer, and we went to school,
Dapper country lads and little maidens, Taught the motto of the "Dunce's Stool," Its grave import still my fancy ladens, — "HERE'S A FOOL!" It was summer, and we went to school.
When the stranger seemed to mark our play, – Some of us were joyous, some sad-hearted,— I remember well, too well, that day!
Oftentimes the tears unbidden started, Would not stay, When the stranger seemed to mark our play.
One sweet spirit broke the silent spell;
Ah! to me her name was always heaven! She besought him all his grief to tell :
(I was then thirteen, and she eleven,) ISABEL ! One sweet spirit broke the silent spell.
Angel," said he sadly, "I am old;
Earthly hope no longer hath a morrow;
Then his eye betrayed a pearl of sorrow;
Angel," said he sadly, "I am old.
"I have tottered here to look once more
Ere the garden of my heart was blighted
"All the picture now to me how dear!
E'en this gray old rock, where I am seated,
Ah! that such a scene must be completed
All the picture now to me how dear!
"Old stone school-house!
it is still the same!
There's the very step I so oft mounted; There's the window creaking in its frame, And the notches that I cut and counted For the game;
- it is still the same!
Old stone school-house!
"In the cottage, yonder, I was born;
Long my happy home-that humble dwelling There the fields of clover, wheat, and corn,
There the spring, with limpid nectar swelling, Ah, forlorn! In the cottage, yonder, I was born.
There's the orchard where we used to c.imo,
Thinking nothing of the flight of time,
Fearing nought but work and rainy weather; Past its prime! There's the orchard where we used to climb
"There's the mill that ground our yellow grain.
"There's the gate on which I used to swing,
Brook, and bridge, and barn; and old red staple But alas! no more the morn shall bring
That dear group around my father's table;
I am fleeing! all I loved are fled!
You green meadow was our place for playing; That old tree can tell of sweet things said,
When around it Jane and I were straying; She is dead! ▲ am fleeing! all I loved are fled!
"Yon white spire, a pencil on the sky, Tracing silently life's changeful story, So familiar to my dim old eye,
Points me to seven that are now in glory, There on high! 7on white spire, a pencil on the sky!
"Oft the aisle of that old church we trod,