America's Greatest Thinker

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson. (1803–1882). Essays and English Traits.
Vol. 5, pp. 5-15 of The Harvard Classics

Emerson was included in Dr. Eliot's recent selection of the world's ten greatest educators of all time. Here the great thinker discusses this force within man that makes him a scholar.
(Emerson delivers "American Scholar" lecture, Aug. 31, 1837.)

The American Scholar

An Oration Delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society, at Cambridge, August 31, 1837

MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN: I greet you on the recommencement of our literary year. Our anniversary is one of hope, and, perhaps, not enough of labor. We do not meet for games of strength or skill, for the recitation of histories, tragedies, and odes, like the ancient Greeks; for parliaments of love and poesy, like the Troubadours; nor for the advancement of science, like our contemporaries in the British and European capitals. Thus far our holiday has been simply a friendly sign of the survival of the love of letters amongst a people too busy to give to letters any more. As such, it is precious as the sign of an indestructible instinct. Perhaps the time is already come when it ought to be, and will be, something else; when the sluggard intellect of this continent will look from under its iron lids, and fill the postponed expectation of the world with something better than the exertions of mechanical skill. Our day of dependence, our long apprenticeship to the learning of other lands, draws to a close. The millions that around us are rushing into life cannot always be fed on the sere remains of foreign harvests. Events, actions arise, that must be sung, that will sing themselves. Who can doubt that poetry will revive and lead in a new age, as the star in the constellation Harp, which now flames in our zenith, astronomers announce, shall one day be the pole-star for a thousand years?

Simple Life in a Palace

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. (121–180). The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.
Vol. 2, pp. 222-228 of The Harvard Classics

Every luxury, all the wealth in the world at his command - yet Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of haughty Rome, led a simple life even in a palace. He left his secret in his "Meditations."


1. IN the morning when thou risest unwillingly, let this thought be present—I am rising to the work of a human being. Why then am I dissatisfied if I am going to do the things for which I exist and for which I was brought into the world? Or have I been made for this, to lie in the bedclothes and keep myself warm?—But this is more pleasant.—Dost thou exist then to take thy pleasure, and not at all for action or exertion? Dost thou not see the little plants, the little birds, the ants, the spiders, the bees working together to put in order their several parts of the universe? And art thou unwilling to do the work of a human being, and dost thou not make haste to do that which is according to thy nature?—But it is necessary to take rest also.—It is necessary: however nature has fixed bounds to this too: she has fixed bounds both to eating and drinking, and yet thou goest beyond these bounds, beyond what is sufficient; yet in thy acts it is not so, but thou stoppest short of what thou canst do. So thou lovest not thyself, for if thou didst, thou wouldst love thy nature and her will. But those who love their several arts exhaust themselves in working at them unwashed and without food; but thou valuest thy own nature less than the turner values the turning art, or the dancer the dancing art, or the lover of money values his money, or the vainglorious man his little glory. And such men, when they have a violent affection to a thing, choose neither to eat nor to sleep rather than to perfect the things which they care for. But are the acts which concern society more vile in thy eyes and less worthy of thy labour?

Simple Life in a Palace

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. (121–180). The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.
Vol. 2, pp. 222-228 of The Harvard Classics

Every luxury, all the wealth in the world at his command - yet Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of haughty Rome, led a simple life even in a palace. He left his secret in his "Meditations."


1. IN the morning when thou risest unwillingly, let this thought be present—I am rising to the work of a human being. Why then am I dissatisfied if I am going to do the things for which I exist and for which I was brought into the world? Or have I been made for this, to lie in the bedclothes and keep myself warm?—But this is more pleasant.—Dost thou exist then to take thy pleasure, and not at all for action or exertion? Dost thou not see the little plants, the little birds, the ants, the spiders, the bees working together to put in order their several parts of the universe? And art thou unwilling to do the work of a human being, and dost thou not make haste to do that which is according to thy nature?—But it is necessary to take rest also.—It is necessary: however nature has fixed bounds to this too: she has fixed bounds both to eating and drinking, and yet thou goest beyond these bounds, beyond what is sufficient; yet in thy acts it is not so, but thou stoppest short of what thou canst do. So thou lovest not thyself, for if thou didst, thou wouldst love thy nature and her will. But those who love their several arts exhaust themselves in working at them unwashed and without food; but thou valuest thy own nature less than the turner values the turning art, or the dancer the dancing art, or the lover of money values his money, or the vainglorious man his little glory. And such men, when they have a violent affection to a thing, choose neither to eat nor to sleep rather than to perfect the things which they care for. But are the acts which concern society more vile in thy eyes and less worthy of thy labour?

Cleopatra Bewitches Mark Antony

Friday, 29 August 2014


Plutarch (A.D. 46?–c.A.D. 120). Plutarch’s Lives.
Vol. 12, pp. 339-349 of The Harvard Classics

Cleopatra rode to meet Antony in a gilded barge with sails of purple; oars of silver beat time to the music of flutes and fifes and harps. She went as Venus, and her attendants were dressed as Cupids and Nymphs.
(Cleopatra dies after Antony's suicide, Aug. 29, 30 B. C.)



  When he made his entry into Ephesus, the women met him dressed up like Bacchantes, and the men and boys like Satyrs and Fauns, and throughout the town nothing was to be seen but spears wreathed about with ivy, harps, flutes, and psaltries, while Antony in their songs was Bacchus the Giver of Joy and the Gentle. And so indeed he was to some, but to far more the Devourer and the Savage; 1 for he would deprive persons of worth and quality of their fortunes to gratify villains and flatterers, who would sometimes beg the estates of men yet living, pretending they were dead, and, obtaining a grant, take possession. He gave his cook the house of a Magnesian citizen, as a reward for a single highly successful supper, and, at last, when he was proceeding to lay a second whole tribute on Asia, Hybreas, speaking on behalf of the cities, took courage, and told him broadly, but aptly enough for Antony’s taste, “If you can take two yearly tributes, you can doubtless give us a couple of summers, and a double harvest time;” and put it to him in the plainest and boldest way, that Asia had raised two hundred thousand talents for his service: “If this has not been paid to you, ask your collectors for it; if it has, and is all gone, we are ruined men.” These words touched Antony to the quick, who was simply ignorant of most things that were done in his name; not that he was so indolent, as he was prone to trust frankly in all about him. For there was much simplicity in his character; he was slow to see his faults, but, when he did see them, was extremely repentant, and ready to ask pardon of those he had injured; prodigal in his acts of reparation, and severe in his punishments, but his generosity was much more extravagant than his severity; his raillery was sharp and insulting, but the edge of it was taken off by his readiness to submit to any kind of repartee; for he was as well contented to be rallied, as he was pleased to rally others. And this freedom of speech was, indeed, the cause of many of his disasters. He never imagined that those who used so much liberty in their mirth would flatter or deceive him in business of consequence, not knowing how common it is with parasites to mix their flattery with boldness, as confectioners do their sweetmeats with something biting, to prevent the sense of satiety. Their freedoms and impertinences at table were designed expressly to give to their obsequiousness in council the air of being not complaisance, but conviction.

The World's Love Tragedy

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832). Faust. Part I.
Vol. 19, pp. 158-167 of The Harvard Classics

"Almighty God, I am undone." With this cry of despair, Mar­garet witnessed the fiendish work of Faust, her lover, who bartered his immortal soul for worldly pleasure. A thrilling drama, based on a famous medieval legend.
(Johann Wolfgang Goethe born Aug. 28, 1749.)



VALENTINE  (a soldier, MARGARET’S brother)

When seated ’mong the jovial crowd,
Where merry comrades boasting loud
Each named with pride his favourite lass,
And in her honour drain’d his glass;
Upon my elbows I would lean,
With easy quiet view the scene,
Nor give my tongue the rein until
Each swaggering blade had talked his fill.
Then smiling I my beard would stroke,
The while, with brimming glass, I spoke;
“Each to his taste!—but to my mind,
Where in the country will you find,
A maid, as my dear Gretchen fair,
Who with my sister can compare?”
Cling! Clang! so rang the jovial sound!
Shouts of assent went circling round;
Pride of her sex is she!—cried some;
Then were the noisy boasters dumb.

Priceless Treasures of Memory

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Robert Burns (1759–1796). Poems and Songs.
Vol. 6, pp. 317, 417, 442, 511 of The Harvard Classics

"A man's a man for a' that." "Should auld acquaintance be for­got." "To see her is to love her and love but her forever." "Flow gently, sweet Afton." Every stanza of Burns is treasured. How many have you stored up?

Song—Auld Lang Syne

SHOULD auld acquaintance be forgot,
  And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
  And auld lang syne!

The Prince of Wales Wins His Spurs

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Jean Froissart

Jean Froissart (c.1337–1410?). The Chronicles of Froissart.
Vol. 35, pp. 27-33 of The Harvard Classics

(Battle of Crecy, Aug. 26, 1346.)
A brilliant victory for the English king was gained in this battle, a fight in which vast numbers of French nobility, many princes, and the aged King John of Bohemia were slain. Froissart de­scribes all in detail.

The Campaign of Crecy
Of the Battle of Cressy between the King of England and the French King

THE ENGLISHMEN, who were in three battles lying on the ground to rest them, as soon as they saw the Frenchmen approach, they rose upon their feet fair and easily without any haste and arranged their battles. The first, which was the prince’s battle, the archers there stood in manner of a herse and the men of arms in the bottom of the battle. The earl of Northampton and the earl of Arundel with the second battle were on a wing in good order, ready to comfort the prince’s battle, if need were.

Britain Saved by a Full Moon

Monday, 25 August 2014

Lord Kelvin

Sir William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) (1824-1907), The Tides
Vol. 30, pp. 274-285 of The Harvard Classics

We to-day know that there is a direct relation between the moon and tides. When Julius Cæsar went to conquer Britain his trans­ports were wrecked because he did not know the tides on the English coast; a knowledge of which might have changed the whole course of history.
(Kelvin delivers lecture on "Tides," Aug. 25, 1882.)

[Evening Lecture to the British Association at the Southampton Meeting, Friday, August 25th, 1882]

THE SUBJECT on which I have to speak this evening is the tides, and at the outset I feel in a curiously difficult position. If I were asked to tell what I mean by the Tides I should feel it exceedingly difficult to answer the question. The tides have something to do with motion of the sea. Rise and fall of the sea is sometimes called a tide; but I see, in the Admiralty Chart of the Firth of Clyde, the whole space between Ailsa Craig and the Ayrshire coast marked “very little tide here.” Now, we find there a good ten feet rise and fall, and yet we are authoritatively told there is very little tide. The truth is, the word “tide” as used by sailors at sea means horizontal motion of the water; but when used by landsmen or sailors in port, it means vertical motion of the water. I hope my friend Sir Frederick Evans will allow me to say that we must take the designation in the chart, to which I have referred, as limited to the instruction of sailors navigating that part of the sea, and to say that there is a very considerable landsman’s tide there—a rise and fall of the surface of the water relatively to the land—though there is exceedingly little current.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?–c.A.D. 113). Letters.
Vol. 9, pp. 284-291 of The Harvard Classics

(Pliny witnessed eruption of Vesuvius, Aug. 24, 79 A. D.)
The eruption of Vesuvius that demolished Pompeii and buried thousands of people was witnessed by Pliny. He describes his panic-stricken flight with his mother from the doomed villa through falling ashes and sulphurous fumes. His famous uncle, the elder Pliny, lost his life while investigating the eruption and aiding refugees.

LXV. To Tacitus

YOUR request that I would send you an account of my uncle’s death, in order to transmit a more exact relation of it to posterity, deserves my acknowledgments; for, if this accident shall be celebrated by your pen, the glory of it, I am well assured, will be rendered for ever illustrious. And notwithstanding he perished by a misfortune, which, as it involved at the same time a most beautiful country in ruins, and destroyed so many populous cities, seems to promise him an everlasting remembrance; notwithstanding he has himself composed many and lasting works; yet I am persuaded, the mentioning of him in your immortal writings, will greatly contribute to render his name immortal. Happy I esteem those to be to whom by provision of the gods has been granted the ability either to do such actions as are worthy of being related or to relate them in a manner worthy of being read; but peculiarly happy are they who are blessed with both these uncommon talents: in the number of which my uncle, as his own writings and your history will evidently prove, may justly be ranked. It is with extreme willingness, therefore, that I execute your commands; and should indeed have claimed the task if you had not enjoined it.

Which Is a Beautiful Woman?

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke (1729–1797). On the Sublime and Beautiful.
Vol. 24, pp. 78-88 of The Harvard Classics

The Hottentot thinks his wife beautiful. Every American be­lieves his wife also to be beautiful. But the American and the Hottentot are quite different. What, after all, is Beauty?

Proportion not the Cause of Beauty in Animals

THAT proportion has but a small share in the formation of beauty, is full as evident among animals. Here the greatest variety of shapes and dispositions of parts are well fitted to excite this idea. The swan, confessedly a beautiful bird, has a neck longer than the rest of his body, and but a very short tail: is this a beautiful proportion? We must allow that it is. But then what shall we say to the peacock, who has comparatively but a short neck, with a tail longer than the neck and the rest of the body taken together? How many birds are there that vary infinitely from each of these standards, and from every other which you can fix; with proportions different, and often directly opposite to each other! and yet many of these birds are extremely beautiful; when upon considering them we find nothing in any one part that might determine us, a priori, to say what the others ought to be, nor indeed to guess anything about them, but what experience might show to be full of disappointment and mistake. And with regard to the colours either of birds or flowers, for there is something similar in the colouring of both, whether they are considered in their extension or gradation, there is nothing of proportion to be observed.

Aboard the Old Sailing Ships

Friday, 22 August 2014

Richard Henry Dana, Jr. (1815–1882). Two Years before the Mast.
Vol. 23, pp. 99-111 of The Harvard Classics

In the days when sailing ships plied the seven seas, common sailors were often subject to a brutal captain whose whim was law. Dana, a Boston college boy, makes an exciting story of his sea experiences.

Chapter XV
A Flogging—A Night on Shore—The State of Things on Board—San Diego

FOR several days the captain seemed very much out of humor. Nothing went right, or fast enough for him. He quarrelled with the cook, and threatened to flog him for throwing wood on deck; and had a dispute with the mate about reeving a Spanish burton; the mate saying that he was right, and had been taught how to do it by a man who was a sailor!This, the captain took in dudgeon, and they were at sword’s points at once. But his displeasure was chiefly turned against a large, heavy-moulded fellow from the Middle States, who was called Sam. This man hesitated in his speech, and was rather slow in his motions, but was a pretty good sailor, and always seemed to do his best; but the captain took a dislike to him, thought he was surly, and lazy; and “if you once give a dog a bad name”—as the sailor-phrase is—“he may as well jump overboard.” The captain found fault with everything this man did, and hazed him for dropping a marline-spike from the main-yard, where he was at work. This, of course, was an accident, but it was set down against him. The captain was on board all day Friday, and everything went on hard and disagreeably. “The more you drive a man, the less he will do,” was as true with us as with any other people. We worked late Friday night, and were turned-to early Saturday morning. About ten o’clock the captain ordered our new officer, Russell, who by this time had become thoroughly disliked by all the crew, to get the gig ready to take him ashore. John, the Swede, was sitting in the boat alongside, and Russell and myself were standing by the main hatchway, waiting for the captain, who was down in the hold, where the crew were at work, when we heard his voice raised in violent dispute with somebody, whether it was with the mate, or one of the crew, I could not tell; and then came blows and scuffling. I ran to the side and beckoned to John, who came up, and we leaned down the hatchway; and though we could see no one, yet we knew that the captain had the advantage, for his voice was loud and clear—

  “You see your condition! You see your condition! Will you ever give me any more of your jaw?” No answer; and then came wrestling and heaving, as though the man was trying to turn him. “You may as well keep still, for I have got you,” said the captain. Then came the question, “Will you ever give me any more of your jaw?”

Hidden Treasures in an Old Book

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Saint Augustine

Saint Augustine. (354–430). The Confessions of St. Augustine.
Vol. 7, pp. 118-126 of The Harvard Classics

A certain man was willed a Bible. He scorned the legacy until one day, penniless and downcast, he turned to the book for con­solation. Imagine his amazement on finding hundred dollar bills between the pages. St. Augustine explains how he found even greater treasures in the Bible.

The Eighth Book

Augustine’s thirty-second year. He consults Simplicianus: from him hears the history of the conversion of Victorinus, and longs to devote himself entirely to God, but is mastered by his old habits; is still further roused by the history of St. Antony, and the conversion of two courtiers; during a severe struggle hears a voice from heaven, opens Scripture, and is converted, with his friend Alypius. His mother’s vision fulfilled.

Plot Against Eve

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Temptation and Fall of Eve

John Milton. (1608–1674). Paradise Lost: The Fourth Book.
Vol. 4, pp. 154-164 of The Harvard Classics

Driven from Heaven, Satan meditated revenge. He decided his greatest opportunity to injure God was to bring sin to man­kind. Satan's plot against Eve is told by Milton.
("Paradise Lost" published Aug. 20, 1667.)

THE ARGUMENT.—Satan, now in prospect of Eden, and nigh the place where he must now attempt the bold enterprise which he undertook alone against God and Man, falls into many doubts with himself, and many passions—fear, envy, and despair; but at length confirms himself in evil; journeys on to Paradise, whose outward prospect and situation is described; overleaps the bounds; sits, in the shape of a Cormorant, on the Tree of Life, as highest in the Garden, to look about him. The Garden described; Satan’s first sight of Adam and Eve; his wonder at their excellent form and happy state, but with resolution to work their fall; overhears their discourse; thence gathers that the Tree of Knowledge was forbidden them to eat of under penalty of death, and thereon intends to found his temptation by seducing them to transgress; then leaves them a while, to know further of their state by some other means. Meanwhile Uriel, descending on a sunbeam, warns Gabriel, who had in charge the gate of Paradise, that some evil Spirit had escaped the Deep, and passed at noon by his Sphere, in the shape of a good Angel, down to Paradise, discovered after by his furious gestures in the Mount. Gabriel promises to find him ere morning. Night coming on, Adam and Eve discourse of going to their rest; their bower described; their evening worship. Gabriel, drawing forth his bands of night—watch to walk the rounds of Paradise, appoints two strong Angels to Adam’s bower, lest the evil Spirit should be there doing some harm to Adam or Eve sleeping: there they find him at the ear of Eve, tempting her in a dream, and bring him, though unwilling, to Gabriel; by whom questioned, he scornfully answers; prepares resistance; but, hindered by a sign from Heaven, flies out of Paradise.

Roses Boiled in Wine

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Ambroise Paré

Ambroise Paré (1510–90). Journeys in Diverse Places.
Vol. 38, pp. 50-58 of The Harvard Classics

Astonishing treatments and cures are related by Ambroise Paré, famed surgeon of the fifteenth century. One remedy, for in­stance, used to cure a distinguished nobleman, was red roses boiled in white wine, - and it was effective.

Battle of Saint Denis. 1567

AS for the battle of Saint Denis, there were many killed on both sides. Our wounded withdrew to Paris to be dressed, with the prisoners they had taken, and I dressed many of them. The King ordered me, at the request of Mme. the Constable’s Lady, to go to her house to dress the Constable: who had a pistol-shot in the middle of the spine of his back, whereby at once he lost all feeling and movement in his thighs and legs … because the spinal cord, whence arise the nerves to give feeling and movement to the parts below, was crushed, broken, and torn by the force of the bullet. Also he lost understanding and reason, and in a few days he died. The surgeons of Paris were hard put to it for many days to treat all the wounded. I think, mon petit maistre, you saw some of them. I beseech the great God of victories, that we be never more employed in such misfortune and disaster.

"I Took Her by the Hair and Dragged Her Up and Down"

Monday, 18 August 2014

Statue of Cellini

Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571). Autobiography.
Vol. 31, pp. 312-323 of The Harvard Classics

In Cellini's day the model's life was a hazardous one. Cellini's Autobiography reveals how some models were treated. You will find it more thrilling than the most modern novel.


HAD but just dismounted from my horse, when one of those excellent people who rejoice in mischief-making came to tell me that Pagolo Micceri had taken a house for the little hussy Caterina and her mother, and that he was always going there, and whenever he mentioned me, used words of scorn to this effect: “Benvenuto set the fox to watch the grapes,  and thought I would not eat them! Now he is satisfied with going about and talking big, and thinks I am afraid of him. But I have girt this sword and dagger to my side in order to show him that my steel can cut as well as his, and that I too am a Florentine, of the Micceri, a far better family than his Cellini.” The scoundrel who reported this poisonous gossip spoke it with such good effect that I felt a fever in the instant swoop upon me; and when I say fever, I mean fever, and no mere metaphor. The insane passion which took possession of me might have been my death, had I not resolved to give it vent as the occasion offered. I ordered the Ferrarese workman, Chioccia, to come with me, and made a servant follow with my horse. When we reached the house where that worthless villain was, I found the door ajar, and entered. I noticed that he carried sword and dagger, and was sitting on a big chest with his arm round Caterina’s neck; at the moment of my arrival, I could hear that he and her mother were talking about me. Pushing the door open, I drew my sword, and set the point of it at his throat, not giving him the time to think whether he too carried steel. At the same instant I cried out: “Vile coward! recommend your soul to God, for you are a dead man.” Without budging from his seat, he called three times: “Mother, mother, help me!” Though I had come there fully determined to take his life, half my fury ebbed away when I heard this idiotic exclamation. I ought to add that I had told Chioccia not to let the girl or her mother leave the house, since I meant to deal with those trollops after I had disposed of their bully. So I went on holding my sword at his throat, and now and then just pricked him with the point, pouring out a torrent of terrific threats at the same time. But when I found he did not stir a finger in his own defence, I began to wonder what I should do next; my menacing attitude could not be kept up for ever; so at last it came into my head to make them marry, and complete my vengeance at a later period. Accordingly, I formed my resolution, and began: “Take that ring, coward, from your finger, and marry her, that I may get satisfaction from you afterwards according to your deserts.” He replied at once: “If only you do not kill me, I will do whatever you command.” “Then,” said I, “put that ring upon her hand.” When the sword’s point was withdrawn a few inches from his throat, he wedded her with the ring. But I added: “This is not enough. I shall send for two notaries, in order that the marriage may be ratified by contract.” Bidding Chioccia go for the lawyers, I turned to the girl and her mother, and, using the French language, spoke as follows: “Notaries and witnesses are coming; the first of you who blabs about this affair will be killed upon the spot; nay, I will murder you all three. So beware, and keep a quiet tongue in your heads.” To him I said in Italian: “If you offer any resistance to what I shall propose, upon the slightest word you utter I will stab you till your guts run out upon this floor.” He answered: “Only promise not to kill me, and I will do whatever you command.” The notaries and witnesses arrived; a contract, valid and in due form, was drawn up; then my heat and fever left me. I paid the lawyers and took my departure.

Three Walls Luther Saw

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Martin Luther

Martin Luther (1483–1546). Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Respecting the Reformation of the Christian Estate.
Vol. 36, pp. 263-275 of The Harvard Classics

Luther declared that the unreformed church had drawn its doc­trines like three walls so closely about the people that they served not as protection but were the cause of untold misery and dis­tress. This he hoped to relieve by the Reformation.


To his most Serene and Mighty Imperial Majesty and to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation.Dr. Martinus Luther.

THE GRACE and might of God be with you, Most Serene Majesty, most gracious, well-beloved gentlemen!

  It is not out of mere arrogance and perversity that I, an individual poor man, have taken upon me to address your lordships. The distress and misery that oppress all the Christian estates, more especially in Germany, have led not only myself, but every one else, to cry aloud and to ask for help, and have now forced me too to cry out and to ask if God would give His Spirit to any one to reach a hand to His wretched people. Councils have often put forward some remedy, but it has adroitly been frustrated, and the evils have become worse, through the cunning of certain men. Their malice and wickedness I will now, by the help of God, expose, so that, being known, they may henceforth cease to be so obstructive and injurious. God has given us a young and noble sovereign, 1 and by this has roused great hopes in many hearts; now it is right that we too should do what we can, and make good use of time and grace.

Inspiring Ritual of Temple Worship

Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Book of Psalms.
Vol. 44, pp. 286-295 of The Harvard Classics

David - the psalm singer - knew the wondrous ways of the Lord and praised Him in his psalms. Burdened souls in all ages have found comfort in these songs that once were used in the gorgeous ritual of Jerusalem's temple.

Book V
Jehovah Gives Dominion to the King

A Psalm of David.

JEHOVAH saith unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand,
Until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
Jehovah will send 1 forth the rod 2 of thy strength out of Zion:
Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
Thy people offer 3 themselves willingly
In the day of thy power,  4 in 5 holy array:
Out of the womb of the morning
Thou 6 hast the dew of thy youth.
Jehovah hath sworn, and will not repent:
Thou art a priest for ever
After the order 7 of Melchizedek.
The Lord at thy right hand
Will 8 strike through kings in the day of his wrath.
He will judge among the nations,
He 9 will 10 fill the places with dead bodies;
He will 11 strike through the head in 12 many countries.
He will drink of the brook in the way:
Therefore will he lift up the head.

Into Death's Face He Flung This Song

Friday, 15 August 2014

The Roland of Legend

The Song of Roland.
Vol. 49, pp. 166-173 of The Harvard Classics

(Roland died at Roncesvaux, Aug. 15, 778.)
Charlemagne's rear guard was attacked by the Basques in the valley of Roncesvaux. Roland, its leader, fought a courageous fight, and, though conquered, became immortal.

Part II: The Prelude of the Great Battle
Death of Olivier



The heathens said, “We were born to shame.
This day for our disaster came:
Our lords and leaders in battle lost,
And Karl at hand with his marshalled host;
We hear the trumpets of France ring out,
And the cry ‘Montjoie!’ their rallying shout.
Roland’s pride is of such a height,
Not to be vanquished by mortal wight;
Hurl we our missiles, and hold aloof.”
And the word they spake, they put in proof,—
They flung, with all their strength and craft,
Javelin, barb, and plumèd shaft.
Roland’s buckler was torn and frayed,
His cuirass broken and disarrayed,
Yet entrance none to his flesh they made.
From thirty wounds Veillantif bled,
Beneath his rider they cast him, dead;
Then from the field have the heathen flown:
Roland remaineth, on foot, alone.

A College Boy Goes to Sea

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Richard Henry Dana Jr.

Richard Henry Dana, Jr. (1815–1882).  Two Years before the Mast.
Vol. 23, pp. 30-37 of The Harvard Classics

Leaving Harvard on account of ill health, Dana sought adventure and thrilling experience aboard a sailing vessel that rounded Cape Horn. He turned the dangers, hardships, and keen joys of a sailor's life into a fascinating story.
(Dana begins famous two-year voyage, Aug. 14, 1834.)

Chapter V
Cape Horn—A Visit

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 5TH.—The weather was fine during the previous night, and we had a clear view of the Magellan Clouds, and of the Southern Cross. The Magellan Clouds consist of three small nebulae in the southern part of the heavens,—two bright, like the milky-way, and one dark. These are first seen, just above the horizon, soon after crossing the southern tropic. When off Cape Horn, they are nearly over head. The cross is composed of four stars in that form, and is said to be the brightest constellation in the heavens.

Too Close to See the Battle

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Robert Southey

Robert Southey (1774–1843), Selected Poems
Vol. 41, pp. 732-735 of The Harvard Classics

(Battle of Blenheim, Aug. 13. 1704.)
England and France caine to battle near Blenheim. Years later the people of Blenheim called it a "famous victory," but could not tell whose victory it was.

After Blenheim

IT was a summer evening,
  Old Kaspar’s work was done,
And he before his cottage door
  Was sitting in the sun;
And by him sported on the green
His little grandchild Wilhelmine.

Zekle's Courtin'

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

James Russell Lowell

James Russell Lowell (1819–1891), The Courtin'
Vol. 42, pp. 1376-1379

Huldy, the rustic belle, sat alone peeling apples. She was bashful in her consciousness that Zekle would come soon. When he did, she merely blushed and timidly said: "Ma's sprinklin' clo'es," and then -

GOD makes sech nights, all white an’ still
  Fur ’z you can look or listen,
Moonshine an’ snow on field an’ hill,
  All silence an’ all glisten.

Zekle crep’ up quite unbeknown
  An’ peeked in thru’ the winder,
An’ there sot Huldy all alone,
  ’ith no one nigh to hender.

Clever Repartee of Epictetus

Monday, 11 August 2014

Epictetus. (c.A.D. 50–c.A.D. 138). The Golden Sayings of Epictetus.
Vol. 2, pp. 176-182 of The Harvard Classics

Epictetus advises that if a person speaks ill of you, make no de­fense, but answer: "He surely knew not of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these only."

Take what relates to the body as far as the bare use warrants—as meat, drink, raiment, house and servants. But all that makes for show and luxury reject.

If you are told that such an one speaks ill of you, make no defence against what was said, but answer, He surely knew not my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these only!

"Give Them Cake," said the Queen

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Edmund Burke (1729–1797). Reflections on the French Revolution.
Vol. 24, pp. 143-157 of The Harvard Classics

When the people of Paris howled because they had no bread to eat, Queen Marie Antoinette exclaimed: "Well, then, let them eat cake!" Such an attitude hastened the revolution.
(French royal family imprisoned, Aug. 10, 1792.)

IT may not be unnecessary to inform the reader; that the following Reflections had their origin in a correspondence between the Author and a very young gentleman at Paris, who did him the honour of desiring his opinion upon the important transactions, which then, and ever since, have so much occupied the attention of all men. An answer was written some time in the month of October, 1789; but it was kept back upon prudential considerations. That letter is alluded to in the beginning of the following sheets. It has been since forwarded to the person to whom it was addressed. The reasons for the delay in sending it were assigned in a short letter to the same gentleman. This produced on his part a new and pressing application for the Author’s sentiments.

English Bridal Party Jailed

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Izaak Walton (1593–1683). The Lives of John Donne and George Herbert.
Vol. 15, pp. 326-334 of The Harvard Classics

Minister and witness, bride and groom were arrested by an enraged father when John Donne married his employer's niece. Donne was soon released, but he found himself without money, position or bride.
(Isaak Walton born Aug. 9, 1593.)


  Not long after his return into England, that exemplary pattern of gravity and wisdom, the Lord Ellesmere, then Keeper of the Great Seal, the Lord Chancellor of England, taking notice of his learning, languages, and other abilities, and much affecting his person and behaviour, took him to be his chief secretary; supposing and intending it to be an introduction to some more weighty employment in the State; for which, his Lordship did often protest, he thought him very fit.

  Nor did his Lordship in this time of Master Donne’s attendance upon him, account him to be so much his servant, as to forget he was his friend; and, to testify it, did always use him with much courtesy, appointing him a place at his own table, to which he esteemed his company and discourse to be a great ornament.

Men Transformed by Circe's Wand

Friday, 8 August 2014

Homer (fl. 850 B.C.). The Odyssey.
Vol. 22, pp. 133-144 of The Harvard Classics

Unfavorable winds sent by angry gods blew the ships of Odysseus far off their course. The sailors were cast upon a remote island, governed by an enchantress where, for their coarse manners, they were put under a magic spell.

Book X


  ‘Therewith he sent me forth from the house making heavy moan. Thence we sailed onwards stricken at heart. And the spirit of the men was spent beneath the grievous rowing by reason of our vain endeavour, for there was no more any sign of a wafting wind. So for the space of six days we sailed by night and day continually, and on the seventh we came to the steep stronghold of Lamos, Telepylos of the Laestrygons, where herdsman hails herdsman as he drives in his flock, and the other who drives forth answers the call. There might a sleepless man have earned a double wage, the one as neat-herd, the other shepherding white flocks: so near are the outgoings of the night and of the day. Thither when he had come to the fair haven, whereabout on both sides goes one steep cliff unbroken and jutting headlands over against each other stretch forth to the mouth of the harbour, and strait is the entrance; thereinto all the others steered their curved ships. Now the vessels were bound within the hollow harbour each hard by other, for no wave ever swelled within it, great or small, but there was a bright calm all around. But I alone moored my dark ship without the harbour, at the uttermost point thereof, and made fast the hawser to a rock. And I went up a craggy hill, a place of out-look, and stood thereon: thence there was no sign of the labour of men or oxen, only we saw the smoke curling upward from the land. Then I sent forth certain of my company to go and search out what manner of men they were who here live upon the earth by bread, choosing out two of my company and sending a third with them as herald. Now when they had gone ashore, they went along a level road whereby wains were wont to draw down wood from the high hills to the town. And without the town they fell in with a damsel drawing water, the noble daughter of Laestrygonian Antiphates. She had come down to the clear-flowing spring Artacia, for thence it was custom to draw water to the town. So they stood by her and spake unto her, and asked who was king of that land, and who they were he ruled over. Then at once she showed them the high-roofed hall of her father. Now when they had entered the renowned house, they found his wife therein: she was huge of bulk as a mountain peak and was loathly in their sight. Straightway she called the renowned Antiphates, her lord, from the assembly-place, and he contrived a pitiful destruction for my men. Forthwith he clutched up one of my company and made ready his midday meal, but the other twain sprang up and came in flight to the ships. Then he raised the war cry through the town, and the valiant Laestrygons at the sound thereof, flocked together from every side, a host past number, not like men but like the Giants. They cast at us from the cliffs with great rocks, each of them a man’s burden, and anon there arose from the fleet an evil din of men dying and ships shattered withal. And like folk spearing fishes they bare home their hideous meal. While as yet they were slaying my friends within the deep harbour, I drew my sharp sword from my thigh, and with it cut the hawsers of my dark-prowed ship. Quickly then I called to my company, and bade them dash in with the oars, that we might clean escape this evil plight. And all with one accord they tossed the sea water with the oar-blade, in dread of death, and to my delight my barque flew forth to the high seas away from the beetling rocks, but those other ships were lost there, one and all.

The Last Golden Words of Socrates

Thursday, 7 August 2014


Plato. (427?–347 B.C.). Phaedo.
Vol. 2, pp. 45-54 of The Harvard Classics

The death sentence of Socrates could not be executed until the return of the sacred ship from Delos. One day his friends learned that the ship had returned. They hastened to the prison to lis­ten to the last words of Athens' sage.

Persons of the Dialogue

Phædo, who is the narrator of the dialogue to Echecrates of Phlius
Attendant of the Prison
SceneThe Prison of Socrates

Place of the NarrationPhlius

  Echecrates. WERE you yourself, Phædo, in the prison with Socrates on the day when he drank the poison?
  Phædo. Yes, Echecrates, I was.
  Ech. I wish that you would tell me about his death. What did he say in his last hours? We were informed that he died by taking poison, but no one knew anything more; for no Phliasian ever goes to Athens now, and a long time has elapsed since any Athenian found his way to Phlius, and therefore we had no clear account.
  Phæd. Did you not hear of the proceedings at the trial?
  Ech. Yes; some one told us about the trial, and we could not understand why, having been condemned, he was put to death, as appeared, not at the time, but long afterwards. What was the reason of this?
  Phæd. An accident, Echecrates. The reason was that the stern of the ship which the Athenians send to Delos happened to have been crowned on the day before he was tried.

A Prophet of Aerial Warfare

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)
Vol. 42, pp. 979-986 of The Harvard Classics

"For I dipt into the future - saw the nation's airy navies grap­pling in the central blue." We are amazed at the accuracy of Tennyson's prediction. But he also foretells "the federation of the world" - yet to be fulfilled.
(Alfred Lord Tennyson born Aug. 6, 1809.)

Locksley Hall

COMRADES, leave me here a little, while as yet ’tis early morn:
Leave me here, and when you want me, sound upon the bugle horn.

’Tis the place, and all around it, as of old, the curlews call,
Dreary gleams about the moorland flying over Locksley Hall;

Locksley Hall, that in the distance overlooks the sandy tracts,
And the hollow ocean-ridges roaring into cataracts.

Many a night from yonder ivied casement, ere I went to rest,
Did I look on great Orion sloping slowly to the West.

Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising thro’ the mellow shade,
Glitter like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid.

Joys of the Simple Life

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Robert Burns

Robert Burns (1759–1796). Poems and Songs.
Vol. 6, pp. 134-140 of The Harvard Classics

"Cotter's Saturday Night" for generations to come will remain the choicest picture of Scotch home life. Into this poem Burns instills the sense of all-pervading peace and happiness that comes at the end of a well-spent day.
(Robert Burns married Jean Armour, Aug. 5, 1788.)

The Cotter’s Saturday Night

Inscribed to R. Aiken, Esq.
“Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
  Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear, with a disdainful smile,
  The short and simple annals of the Poor.

MY lov’d, my honour’d, much respected friend!
  No mercenary bard his homage pays;
With honest pride, I scorn each selfish end,
  My dearest meed, a friend’s esteem and praise:
  To you I sing, in simple Scottish lays,
The lowly train in life’s sequester’d scene,
  The native feelings strong, the guileless ways,
What Aiken in a cottage would have been;
Ah! tho’ his worth unknown, far happier there I ween!

World's Greatest Bedtime Stories

Monday, 4 August 2014

Hans Christian Anderson

Hans Christian Andersen. (1805–1875) Tales.
Vol. 17, pp. 221-230 of The Harvard Classics

Hans Christian Andersen had an extraordinary capacity for amus­ing children. Were he living to-day he might be in great de­mand as a radio bedtime story man.
(H. C. Andersen died Aug. 4, 1875.)

The Ugly Duckling

IT was so glorious out in the country; it was summer; the cornfields were yellow, the oats were green, the hay had been put up in stacks in the green meadows, and the stork went about on his long red legs, and chattered Egyptian, for this was the language he had learned from his good mother. All around the fields and meadows were great forests, and in the midst of these forests lay deep lakes. Yes, it was right glorious out in the country. In the midst of the sunshine there lay an old farm, with deep canals about it, and from the wall down to the water grew great burdocks, so high that little children could stand upright under the loftiest of them. It was just as wild there as in the deepest wood, and here sat a Duck upon her nest; she had to hatch her ducklings; but she was almost tired out before the little ones came; and then she so seldom had visitors. The other ducks liked better to swim about in the canals than to run up to sit down under a burdock, and cackle with her.

When the Greeks Sacked Troyv

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Vergil (70 B.C.–19 B.C.). Æneid.
Vol. 13, pp. 110-117 of The Harvard Classics

They battered down the palace gates and ravaged with fire and sword the chambers of King Priam's hundred wives. Through halls resounding with shrieks of terror, Priam and his household fled to sanctuary.

The Second Book of the Æneis


Enough is paid to Priam’s royal name,
More than enough to duty and to fame.
If by a mortal hand my father’s throne
Could be defended, ’t was by mine alone.
Now Troy to thee commends her future state,
And gives her gods companions of thy fate:
From their assistance happier walls expect,
Which, wand’ring long, at last thou shalt erect.’
He said, and brought me, from their blest abodes,
The venerable statues of the gods,
With ancient Vesta from the sacred choir,
The wreaths and relics of th’ immortal fire.

Poems from a Heart of Love

Saturday, 2 August 2014

William Drummond of Hawthornden

William Drummond (1585–1649), Selected Poetry
Vol. 40, pp. 326-330 of The Harvard Classics

"Here is the pleasant place - and nothing wanting is, save She, alas!" How often we too are faced with like adversity. So sings Drummond - a master songster and composer.

Saint John Baptist

THE LAST and greatest Herald of Heaven’s King
Girt with rough skins, hies to the deserts wild,
Among that savage brood the woods forth bring,
Which he more harmless found than man, and mild.
His food was locusts, and what there doth spring,
With honey that from virgin hives distill’d;
Parch’d body, hollow eyes, some uncouth thing
Made him appear, long since from earth exiled.
There burst he forth: All ye whose hopes rely
On God, with me amidst these deserts mourn,
Repent, repent, and from old errors turn!
—Who listen’d to his voice, obey’d his cry?
  Only the echoes, which he made relent,
  Rung from their flinty caves, Repent! Repent!

His Influence Still Lives

Friday, 1 August 2014

John Calvin

John Calvin (1509-1564), Dedication of the Institutes of the Christian Religion
Vol. 39, pp. 27-33 of The Harvard Classics

Steadfast allegiance to duty, simple living and adherence to plain, honest, homely doctrines are Calvin's principles. Are not these same old-fashioned truths followed to-day?
(Calvin issues "Dedication," Aug. 1, 1536.)

To His Most Christian Majesty, FRANCIS, King of the French, and his Sovereign, John Calvin wisheth peace and salvation in Christ.

 1 WHEN I began this work, Sire, nothing was further from my thoughts than writing a book which would afterwards be presented to your Majesty. My intention was only to lay down some elementary principles, by which inquirers on the subject of religion might be instructed in the nature of true piety. and this labour I undertook chiefly for my countrymen, the French, of whom I apprehended multitudes to be hungering and thirsting after Christ, but saw very few possessing any real knowledge of him. That this was my design, the book itself proves by its simple method and unadorned composition. But when I perceived that the fury of certain wicked men in your kingdom had grown to such a height, as to leave no room in the land for sound doctrine, I thought I should be usefully employed, if in the same work I delivered my instructions to them, and exhibited my confession to you, that you may know the nature of that doctrine, which is the object of such unbounded rage to those madmen who are now disturbing the country with fire and sword. For I shall not be afraid to acknowledge, that this treatise contains a summary of that very doctrine, which, according to their clamours, deserves to be punished with imprisonment, banishment, proscription, and flames, and to be exterminated from the face of the earth. I well know with what atrocious insinuations your ears have been filled by them, in order to render our cause most odious in your esteem; but your clemency should lead you to consider that, if accusation be accounted a sufficient evidence of guilt, there will be an end of all innocence in words and actions. If any one, indeed, with a view to bring odium upon the doctrine which I am endeavouring to defend, should allege that it has long ago been condemned by the general consent, and suppressed by many judicial decisions, this will be only equivalent to saying, that it has been sometimes violently rejected through the influence and power of its adversaries, and sometimes insidiously and fraudulently oppressed by falsehoods, artifices, and calumnies. Violence is displayed, when sanguinary sentences are passed against it without the cause being heard; and fraud, when it is unjustly accused of sedition and mischief. Lest any one should suppose that these our complaints are unfounded, you yourself, Sire, can bear witness of the false calumnies with which you hear it daily traduced; that its only tendency is to wrest the sceptres of kings out of their hands, to overturn all the tribunals and judicial proceedings, to subvert all order and governments, to distrub the peace and tranquillity of the people, to abrogate all laws, to scatter all properties and possessions, and, in a word, to involve every thing in total confusion. and yet you hear the smallest portion of what is alleged against it; for such horrible things are circulated amongst the vulgar, that, if they were true, the whole world would justly pronounce it and its abettors worthy of a thousand fires and gibbets. Who, then, will wonder at its becoming the object of public odium, where credit is given to such most iniquitous accusations? This is the cause of the general consent and conspiracy to condemn us and our doctrine. Hurried away with this impulse, those who sit in judgment pronounce for sentences the prejudices they brought from home with them; and think their duty fully discharged if they condemn none to be punished but such as are convictred by their own confession, or by sufficient proofs. Convicted of what crime? of this condemned doctrine, they say. But with what justice is it condemned? Now, the ground of defence was not to abjure the doctrine itself, but to maintain its truth. On this subject, however, not a word is allowed to be uttered.


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