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Showing posts from June, 2020

Rather King Than Majority

John Stuart Mill (1806–73). On Liberty. Vol. 25, pp. 195-203 of The Harvard Classics
"Democracy" has not always been the choice of oppressed people. The tyranny of the majority is a recognized evil as harmful as the misrule of a king. And rather than exchange a lesser evil for a greater, a rule by king has often been preferred to a republic.

Chapter I Introductory
THE SUBJECT of this Essay is not the so-called Liberty of the Will, so unfortunately opposed to the misnamed doctrine of Philosophical Necessity; but Civil, or Social Liberty: the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual. A question seldom stated, and hardly ever discussed, in general terms, but which profoundly influences the practical controversies of the age by its latent presence, and is likely soon to make itself recognized as the vital question of the future. It is so far from being new, that, in a certain sense, it has divided mankind, almost from the re…

"Is That a Dagger I See Before Me?"

William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Tragedy of Macbeth. Vol. 46, pp. 357-365 of The Harvard Classics
Macbeth, spurred on by the ambitious and crafty Lady Macbeth, committed murder to secure the crown of Scotland. But he paid dearly for his gain. Ghostly guests appeared at his banquet and threatened him with dire threats. (Shakespeare's Globe Theatre burned June 29, 1613.)

Act III Scene IV [The same. Hall in the palace] A banquet prepar’d. Enter MACBETH, LADY MACBETH, ROSS, LENNOX, Lords, and Attendants
Macb.  You know your own degrees; sit down. At first
And last, the hearty welcome.
Lords.        Thanks to your Majesty.
Macb.  Ourself will mingle with society
And play the humble host.
Our hostess keeps her state, 1 but in best time
We will require her welcome.
Lady M.  Pronounce it for me, sir, to all our friends,
For my heart speaks they are welcome.

Pages from the Pampas Book of Etiquette

Charles Robert Darwin (1809–1882). The Voyage of the Beagle. Vol. 29, pp. 51-60 of The Harvard Classics
A very definite etiquette is followed by a stranger on the vast plains of South America. "Ave Maria" is the common salutation. If the stranger is on horseback, he does not alight until invited to do so by his host. Once in the house, the stranger must converse a while before asking shelter for the night.

Chapter III
  At night we came to the house of Don Juan Fuentes, a rich landed proprietor, but not personally known to either of my companions. On approaching the house of a stranger, it is usual to follow several little points of etiquette: riding up slowly to the door, the salutation of Ave Maria is given, and until somebody comes out and asks you to alight, it is not customary even to get off your horse: the formal answer of the owner is, “sin pecado concebida”—that is, conceived without sin. Having entered the house, some general conversation is kept up for a few m…

Do You Take Poison Daily?

Francis Bacon. (1561–1626). Essays, Civil and Moral. Vol. 3 pp. 22-26 of The Harvard Classics
There is a human trait most poisonous to a man's blood. Man seeks to avoid it because he knows that it lies like a curse upon him. Just what is the poisonous human failing? Who are most subject to it? Bacon tells you in one of his best essays. (Francis Bacon enrolled at Cambridge University, June 27, 1576.)

IX Of Envy
THERE be none of the affections which have been noted to fascinate or bewitch, but love and envy. They both have vehement wishes; they frame themselves readily into imaginations and suggestions; and they come easily into the eye, especially upon the presence of the objects; which are the points that conduce to fascination, if any such thing there be. We see likewise the Scripture calleth envy an evil eye; and the astrologers call the evil influences of the stars evil aspects; so that still there seemeth to be acknowledged, in the act of envy, an ejaculation 1 or irradiation of…

In the Lair of the Green-Eyed Monster

Beowulf. Vol. 49, pp. 45-50 of The Harvard Classics
At the bottom of the ocean was the home of the monster who had desolated the king's halls. Beowulf, bravest of warriors, descended beneath the waves to fight the beast. The king's men, waiting above, saw the waves become colored with blood. Hero or monster - who had won?

BEOWULF spake, bairn of Ecgtheow:
“Sorrow not, sage! It beseems us better
friends to avenge than fruitlessly mourn them.
Each of us all must his end abide
in the ways of the world; so win who may
glory ere death! When his days are told,
that is the warrior’s worthiest doom.
Rise, O realm-warder! Ride we anon,
and mark the trail of the mother of Grendel.
No harbor shall hide her—heed my promise!—
enfolding of field or forested mountain
or floor of the flood, let her flee where she will!
But thou this day endure in patience,
as I ween thou wilt, thy woes each one.”
Leaped up the graybeard: God he thanked,
mighty Lord, for the man’s brave words.

Advice to Virgins from a Wise Man

Robert Herrick (1591–1674), Selected Poetry Vol. 40, pp. 334-340 of The Harvard Classics
"Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying; And this same flower that smiles today, to-morrow will be dying?" Herrick was only a humble country minister with a wealth of wisdom and a keen appreciation of life, which he expressed in lyrics of wonderful beauty and melody.

CHERRY-RIPE, ripe, ripe, I cry,
Full and fair ones; come and buy.
If so be you ask me where
They do grow, I answer: There
Where my Julia’s lips do smile;
There’s the land, or cherry-isle,
Whose plantations fully show
All the year where cherries grow.

Had No Right Hand

Stories from the Thousand and One Nights. Vol. 16, pp. 120-133 of The Harvard Classics
A handsome young man was seen to eat only with his left hand, which was contrary to the customs of Arabia. The youth, when urged, told why he used only his left hand, and revealed a story of love and adventure and the lover's need for gold - all happening in ancient Cairo.

Nights 24–32 The Story Told by the Christian Broker
KNOW, O King of the age, that I came to this country with merchandise, and destiny stayed me among your people. I was born in Cairo, and am one of its Copts, and there I was brought up. My father was a broker; and when I had attained to manhood, he died, and I succeeded to his business; and as I was sitting one day, lo, a young man of most handsome aspect, and clad in a dress of the richest description, came to me, riding upon an ass, and when he saw me, saluted me; whereupon I rose to him, to pay him honour, and he produced a handkerchief containing some sesame, and said, What …

Greek Scholar at Three

John Stuart Mill (1806–73). Autobiography. Vol. 25, pp. 9-20 of The Harvard Classics
John Stuart Mill - one of the greatest intellects in England - tells how his father educated him. At the early age of three years he began the study of Greek, and at twelve started writing a book of his own. (James Mill, father of John Stuart Mill, died June 23, 1836.)

Chapter I Childhood and Early Education
  A man who, in his own practice, so vigorously acted up to the principle of losing no time, was likely to adhere to the same rule in the instruction of his pupil. I have no remembrance of the time when I began to learn Greek. I have been told that it was when I was three years old. My earliest recollection on the subject, is that of committing to memory what my father termed Vocables, being lists of common Greek words, with their signification in English, which he wrote out for me on cards. Of grammar, until some years later, I learnt no more than the inflexions of the nouns and verbs, but, after …

Pliny Tells Ghost Stories

Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?–c.A.D. 113). Letters. Vol. 9, pp. 311-314 of The Harvard Classics
Pliny, who lived in the first century after Christ, tells of a ghost who dragged his jangling chains through a house in Athens and so terrified the inmates that they fled panic-stricken. But the ghost met his equal.

LXXII. To Maximus
YOU did perfectly right in promising a gladiatorial combat to our good friends the citizens of Verona, who have long loved, looked up to, and honoured you; while it was from that city too you received that amiable object of your most tender affection, your late excellent wife. And since you owed some monument or public representation to her memory, what other spectacle could you have exhibited more appropriate to the occasion? Besides, you were so unanimously pressed to do so that to have refused would have looked more like hardness than resolution. The readiness too with which you granted their petition, and the magnificent manner in which you performed it, is v…

Would You Converse with Royalty?

John Ruskin (1819 – 1900), Sesame and Lilies. Lecture I.—Sesame: Of Kings’ Treasuries Vol. 28, pp. 99-110 of The Harvard Classics
Why gossip with lesser persons when you might be talking to queens and kings? Just how we may get to talk to queens and kings, Ruskin delightfully points out and escorts us to the very doors of the audience chamber.
  But, again, I ask you, do you at all believe in honesty, or at all in kindness? or do you think there is never any honesty or benevolence in wise people? None of us, I hope, are so unhappy as to think that. Well, whatever bit of a wise man’s work is honestly and benevolently done, that bit is his book, or his piece of art. 1 It is mixed always with evil fragments—ill-done, redundant, affected work. But if you read rightly, you will easily discover the true bits, and those are the book.

  11. Now books of this kind have been written in all ages by their greatest men:—by great readers, great statesmen, and great thinkers. These are all at y…

No Salt for These Birds

Charles Robert Darwin (1809–1882). The Voyage of the Beagle. Vol. 29, pp. 403-413 of The Harvard Classics
Galapagos Islands are the home of fearless birds, to which horses, cows, and men are only roosting places. Darwin saw the South Pacific when few travelers knew that wonderland.

Chapter XVII
  I will conclude my description of the natural history of these islands, by giving an account of the extreme tameness of the birds.

  This disposition is common to all the terrestrial species; namely, to the mocking-thrushes, the finches, wrens, tyrant-flycatchers, the dove, and carrion-buzzard. All of them are often approached sufficiently near to be killed with a switch, and sometimes, as I myself tried, with a cap or hat. A gun is here almost superfluous; for with the muzzle I pushed a hawk off the branch of a tree. One day, whilst lying down, a mocking-thrush alighted on the edge of a pitcher, made of the shell of a tortoise, which I held in my hand, and began very quietly to sip the wa…

Freaks of the Dog Fad in England

Holinshed's Chronicles Vol. 35, pp. 350-356 of The Harvard Classics
A writer of Elizabethan times said that no other country had as many dogs as England. Once Henry VII ordered all mastiffs to be hung because they "durst presume to fight against the lion," England's regal beast.

Chapter XV Of Our English Dogs and Their Qualities [1577, Book III., Chapter 13; 1587, Book III., Chapter 7.]
THERE is no country that may (as I take it) compare with ours in number, excellency, and diversity of dogs.

  The first sort therefore he divideth either into such as rouse the beast, and continue the chase, or springeth the bird, and bewrayeth her flight by pursuit. And as these are commonly called spaniels, so the other are named hounds, whereof he maketh eight sorts, of which the foremost excelleth in perfect smelling, the second in quick espying, the third in swiftness and quickness, the fourth in smelling and nimbleness, etc., and the last in subtlety and deceitfulness. These (saith…

Cinderella Lives To-day

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Household Tales. Vol. 17, pp. 98-104 of The Harvard Classics
Cinderella inspires all alike - the artist's brush, the author's pen, the child's fancy. To-day she is a living, vital character to be seen on stage and screen. No one ever forgets her lightning change.

THE WIFE of a rich man fell sick, and as she felt that her end was drawing near, she called her only daughter to her bedside and said, “Dear child, be good and pious, and then the good God will always protect thee, and I will look down on thee from heaven and be near thee.” Thereupon she closed her eyes and departed. Every day the maiden went out to her mother’s grave and wept, and she remained pious and good. When winter came the snow spread a white sheet over the grave, and when the spring sun had drawn it off again, the man had taken another wife.

Risked His Scalp in Prayer

John Eliot (1604–1690), Brief Narrative Vol. 43, pp. 138-146 of The Harvard Classics
John Eliot put his life at the mercy of the redmen to get them to listen to his preachings. He wrote vividly about his settlements of Christian Indians. Now villages and Indians have disappeared. Only his story remains. (John Eliot holds Indian prayer meeting June 17, 1670.)

Spirits at the Top of the World

Lord Byron (1788–1824). Manfred. Vol. 18. pp. 415-428 of The Harvard Classics
The inaccessible mountain tops were ever venerated as the haunts of all mysteries. Manfred, hero of Byron's play, seeks upon the high Alps the aid of spirits, specters, and goblins. What unearthly adventures await him! (Byron publishes "Manfred," June 16, 1817.)

Act I Scene II
The Mountain of the Jungfrau.—Time, Morning. MANFREDalone upon the Cliffs.
Man.  The spirits I have raised abandon me,
The spells which I have studied baffle me,
The remedy I reck’d of tortured me;
I lean no more on superhuman aid,
It hath no power upon the past, and for
The future, till the past be gulf’d in darkness,
It is not of my search.—My mother Earth!
And thou fresh breaking Day, and you, ye Mountains,
Why are ye beautiful? I cannot love ye.
And thou, the bright eye of the universe,
That openest over all, and unto all
Art a delight—thou shin’st not on my heart.
And you, ye crags, upon whose extreme edge
I stand, and …

Strikers Storm the Tower of London

Jean Froissart (c.1337–1410?). The Chronicles of Froissart. Vol. 35, pp. 60-72 of The Harvard Classics
Led by Wat Tyler in 1381, great troops of villagers and rustics marched on London - laid siege to the Tower - sacked the apartments of the King and murdered his ministers. Froissart gives first-hand information of this rebellion.

Wat Tyler’s Rebellion How the Commons of England Rebelled against the Noblemen
IN the mean season while this treaty was, there fell in England great mischief and rebellion of moving of the common people, by which deed England was at a point to have been lost without recovery. There was never realm nor country in so great adventure as it was in that time, and all because of the ease and riches that the common people were of, which moved them to this rebellion, as sometime they did in France, the which did much hurt, for by such incidents the realm of France hath been greatly grieved.

  It was a marvellous thing and of poor foundation that this mischief began i…

A Philosopher Prefers Prison Cell

Plato. (427?–347 B.C.). Crito. Vol. 2, pp. 31-43 of The Harvard Classics
Socrates unceasingly strove for beauty, truth, and perfection. Sentenced to death on a false charge, he refused to escape from the death cell, even when opportunity was offered.

Persons of the Dialogue Socrates Crito  
SceneThe Prison of Socrates

Socrates. WHY have you come at this hour, Crito? it must be quite early.
Crito. Yes, certainly.
Soc. What is the exact time?
Cr. The dawn is breaking.
Soc. I wonder the keeper of the prison would let you in.
Cr. He knows me because I often come, Socrates; moreover, I have done him a kindness.
Soc. And are you only just come?
Cr. No, I came some time ago.
Soc. Then why did you sit and say nothing, instead of awakening me at once?
Cr. Why, indeed, Socrates, I myself would rather not have all this sleeplessness and sorrow. But I have been wondering at your peaceful slumbers, and that was the reason why I did not awaken you, because I wanted you to be out of pain. I have always though…

Athens Flouts Aristides

Plutarch (A.D. 46?–c.A.D. 120).  Plutarch’s Lives.
Vol. 12, pp. 85-94 of The Harvard Classics

Athenians gave Aristides the title of "The Just." Later they wanted to banish him. One voter wanted Aristides banished merely because he was weary of hearing him called "The Just."

  The cause of Hyperbolus’ banishment is said to have been this. Alcibiades and Nicias, men that bore the greatest sway in the city, were of different factions. As the people, therefore, were about to vote the ostracism, and obviously to decree it against one of them, consulting together and uniting their parties, they contrived the banishment of Hyperbolus. Upon which the people, being offended, as if some contempt or affront was put upon the thing, left off and quite abolished it. It was performed, to be short, in this manner. Every one taking an ostracon, a sherd, that is, or piece of earthenware, wrote upon it the citizen’s name he would have banished, and carried it to a certai…

Vishnu Holds Up a Battle

The Bhagavad-Gita. Vol. 45, pp. 785-798 of The Harvard Classics
Two armies of ancient India were about to engage in a momentous battle. Arjuna, heroic leader of the Pandu hosts, foreseeing great slaughter, hesitates. He implores the divine Vishnu to intervene. The conversation of the warrior and the god is a gem of Hindu literature.
Chapter I
RANGED thus for battle on the sacred plain—
On Kurukshetra—say, Sanjaya! say
What wrought my people, and the Pandavas?

When he beheld the host of Pandavas
Raja Duryôdhana to Drona drew,
And spake these words: “Ah, Guru! see this line,
How vast it is of Pandu fighting-men,
Embattled by the son of Drupada,
Thy scholar in the war! Therein stand ranked
Chiefs like Arjuna, like to Bhîma chiefs,
Benders of bows; Virâta, Yuyudhân,
Drupada, eminent upon his car,
Dhrishtaket, Chekitân, Kasi’s stout lord,
Purujit, Kuntibhôj, and Saivya,
With Yudhâmanyu, and Uttamauj
Subhadra’s child; and Drupadi’s;—all famed!
All mounted on their shini…

He Sang of His Beautiful Elizabeth

Edmund Spenser (1552–1599), Epithalamion Vol. 40, pp. 234-245 of The Harvard Classics
To commemorate his marriage to the beautiful Elizabeth, Spenser wrote one of the most enchanting nuptial hymns. (Edmund Spenser married Elizabeth Boyle, June 11, 1594.)

YE learnèd sisters, which have oftentimes
Beene to me ayding, others to adorne,
Whom ye thought worthy of your gracefull rymes,
That even the greatest did not greatly scorne
To heare theyr names sung in your simple layes,
But joyed in theyr praise;
And when ye list your owne mishaps to mourne,
Which death, or love, or fortunes wreck did rayse,
Your string could soone to sadder tenor turne,
And teach the woods and waters to lament
Your doleful dreriment:
Now lay those sorrowfull complaints aside;
And, having all your heads with girlands crownd,
Helpe me mine owne loves prayses to resound;
Ne let the same of any be envide:
So Orpheus did for his owne bride!
So I unto my selfe alone will sing;
The woods shall to me answer, and my Eccho r…

Horrible Prophecy Fulfilled

Sophocles (c.496 B.C.–406 B.C.). Oedipus the King. Vol. 8, pp. 209-223 of The Harvard Classics
King Œdipus of Thebes as a babe was abandoned on Mount Cithæron to die. Years after he was thought dead he returns to Thebes and unknowingly slays his father, marries his mother - and thus fulfills the word of the oracle.

Lines 1–499

ŒDIPUS;  WHY sit ye here, my children, brood last reared
Of Cadmus famed of old, in solemn state,
Uplifting in your hands the suppliants’ boughs?
And all the city reeks with incense smoke,
And all re-echoes with your wailing hymns;
And I, my children, counting it unmeet
To hear report from others, I have come
Myself, whom all name Œdipus the Great.—
Do thou, then, agèd Sire, since thine the right
To speak for these, tell clearly why ye stand
Awe-stricken, or adoring; speak to me
As willing helper. Dull and cold this heart
To see you prostrate thus, and feel no ruth.

Enchanting Songs of David

The Book of Psalms. Vol. 44, pp. 168-179 of The Harvard Classics
The songs of David pleased King Saul, but when David became too popular with the people, the king feared for his throne and banished him.
Book I XXIII Jehovah the Psalmist’s Shepherd

A Psalm of David.

[1]   JEHOVAH is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
[2]   He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;
He leadeth me beside still 1 waters. [3]   He restoreth my soul:
He guideth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
[4]   Yea, though I walk through the valley of the 2 shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; for thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
[5]   Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou hast anointed my head with oil;
My cup runneth over.
[6]   Surely 3 goodness and loving kindness shall follow me all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah for 4 ever.

Note 1. Heb. waters of rest.
Note 2. Or, deep darkness (and so el…

Eloquence Wins Over Prejudice

John Woolman. (1720–1772). The Journal of John Woolman. Vol. 1, pp. 302-312 of The Harvard Classics
The plain, homely appearance of Woolman impressed unfavorably the orthodox Quakers in London whom he was sent to meet. They told him his coming was not necessary. But Woolman spoke with such simplicity and sincerity that even those most opposed became his friends. (John Woolman arrives in London for Friends' meeting, June 8, 1772.)
XII 1772
Attends the Yearly Meeting in London—Then proceeds towards Yorkshire—Visits Quarterly and other Meetings in the Counties of Hertford, Warwick, Oxford, Nottingham, York, and Westmoreland—Returns to Yorkshire—Instructive Observations and Letters—Hears of the Decease of William Hunt—Some Account of him—The Author’s Last Illness and Death at York.

ON the 8th of sixth month, 1772, we landed at London, and I went straightway to the Yearly Meeting of ministers and elders, which had been gathered, I suppose, about half an hour. 1

  In this meeting my mind …