ON THE BANKS OF THE TENNESSEE
By William D. Gallagher
I sit by the open window,
And look to the hills away,
Over beautiful undulations
That glow with the flowers of May;
And as the lights and the shadows
With the passing moments change,
Comes many a scene of beauty
Within my vision’s range.
But there is not one among them
That is half so dear to me
As an old log cabin I think of,
On the banks of the Tennessee.
Now up from the rolling meadows,
And down from the hilltops now,
Fresh breezes steal in at my window,
And sweetly fan my brow;
And the sounds that they gather and bring me.
From rivulet, meadow, and hill,
Come in with a touching cadence,
And my throbbing bosom fill;
But the dearest thoughts thus wakened,
And in tears brought back to me,
Cluster ’round that old log cabin
On the banks of the Tennessee.
To many a fond remembrance
My thoughts are backward cast,
As I sit by the open window
And recall the faded past;
For all along the windings
Of the ever moving years
Lie wrecks of hope and of purpose,
That I now behold through tears;
And, of all of them, the saddest
That is thus brought back to me
Makes holy that old log cabin
On the banks of the Tennessee.
Glad voices now greet me daily,
Sweet faces I oft behold,
Yet I sit by the open window,
And dream of the times of old—
Of a voice that on earth is silent,
Of a face that is seen no more,
Of a spirit that faltered not ever
In the struggles of days now o’er;
And a beautiful grave comes pictured
For ever and ever to me,
From a knoll near that old log cabin
On the banks of the Tennessee.
DEFINITIONS:—Undulations, wavelike motion. Rivulet, a small stream. Knoll, a round-topped hill of medium height.
By John Townsend Throwbridge
I suppose you all, my boys, are looking for some sort of success in life; it is right that you should; but what are your notions of success? To get rich as soon as possible, without regard to the means by which your wealth is acquired?
There is no true success in that: when you have gained millions, you may yet be poorer than when you had nothing; and it is that same reckless ambition which has brought many a bright and capable boy, not to great estate at last, but to miserable failure and disgrace; not to a palace, but to a prison.
Wealth rightly got and rightly used, rational enjoyment, power, fame,—these are all worthy objects of ambition; but they are not the highest objects, and you may acquire them all without achieving true success. But if, whatever you seek, you put good will into all your actions, you are sure of the best success at last; for whatever else you gain or miss, you are building up a noble and beautiful character, which is not only the best of possessions in this world, but also is about all you can expect to take with you into the next.
I say, good will in all your actions. You are not simply to be kind and helpful to others; but, whatever you do, give honest, earnest purpose to it. Thomas is put by his parents to learn a business. But Thomas does not like to apply himself very closely. “What’s the use?” he says. “I’m not paid much, and I’m not going to work much. I’ll get along just as easily as I can, and have as good times as I can.”
So he shirks his tasks; and instead of thinking about his employer’s interests, or his own self-improvement, gives his mind to trifles,—often to evil things, which in their ruinous effects upon his life are not trifles. As soon as he is free from his daily duties, he is off with his companions, having what they call a good time; his heart is with them even while his hands are employed in the shop or store.
He does nothing thoroughly well,—not at all for want of talent, but solely for lack of good will. He is not preparing himself to be one of those efficient clerks or workmen who are always in demand, and who receive the highest wages.
There is a class of people who are the pest of every community—workmen who do not know their trade, men of business ignorant of the first principles of business. They can never be relied upon to do well anything they undertake. They are always making blunders which other people have to suffer for, and which react upon themselves. They are always getting out of employment, and failing in business.
To make up for what they lack in knowledge and thoroughness, they often resort to trick and fraud, and become not merely contemptible, but criminal. Thomas is preparing himself to be one of this class. You cannot, boys, expect to raise a good crop from evil seed.
By Thomas’s side works another boy, whom we will call James,—a lad of only ordinary capacity, very likely. If Thomas and all the other boys did their best, there would be but small chance for James ever to become eminent. But he has something better than talent: he brings good will to his work. Whatever he learns, he learns so well that it becomes a part of himself.
His employers find that they can depend upon him. Customers soon learn to like and trust him. By diligence, self-culture, good habits, cheerful and kindly conduct, he is laying the foundation of a generous manhood and a genuine success.
In short, boys, by slighting your tasks you hurt yourself more than you wrong your employer. By honest service you benefit yourself more than you help him. If you were aiming at mere worldly advancement only, I should still say that good will was the very best investment you could make in business.
By cheating a customer, you gain only a temporary and unreal advantage. By serving him with right good will,—doing by him as you would be done by,—you not only secure his confidence, but also his good will in return. But this is a sordid consideration conspired with the inward satisfaction, the glow and expansion of soul which attend a good action done for itself alone. If I were to sum up all I have to say to you in one last word of love and counsel, that one word should be—Good will.
DEFINITIONS:—Character, the sum of qualities which distinguishes one person from another. Purpose, intention, aim. Principles, fixed rules. Capacity, ability, the power of receiving ideas. Sordid, base, meanly avaricious.
EXERCISE.—What is meant by the phrase “to apply himself,” in the fourth paragraph? What is meant by “a generous manhood,” tenth paragraph? By “expansion of soul,” twelfth paragraph? Tell what is meant by “good will,” as taught by this lesson.
THE GOOD READER
It is told of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, that, as he was seated one day in his private room, a written petition was brought to him with the request that it should be immediately read. The king had just returned from hunting, and the glare of the sun, or some other cause, had so dazzled his eyes that he found it difficult to make out a single word of the writing.
His private secretary happened to be absent, and the soldier who brought the petition could not read. There was a page, or favorite boy-servant, waiting in the hall, and upon him the king called. The page was a son of one of the noblemen of the court, but proved to be a very poor reader.
In the first place, he did not articulate distinctly. He huddled his words together in the utterance, as if they were syllables of one long word, which he must get through with as speedily as possible. His pronunciation was bad, and he did not modulate his voice so as to bring out the meaning of what he read. Every sentence was uttered with a dismal monotony of voice, as if it did not differ in any respect from that which preceded it.
“Stop!” said the king, impatiently. “Is it an auctioneer’s list of goods to be sold that you are hurrying over? Send your companion to me.” Another page who stood at the door now entered, and to him the king gave the petition. The second page began by hemming and clearing his throat in such an affected manner that the king jokingly asked him if he had not slept in the public garden, with the gate open, the night before.
The second page had a good share of self-conceit, however, and so was not greatly confused by the king’s jest. He determined that he would avoid the mistake which his comrade had made. So he commenced reading the petition slowly and with great formality, emphasizing every word, and prolonging the articulation of every syllable. But his manner was so tedious that the king cried out, “Stop! are you reciting a lesson in the elementary sounds? Out of the room! But no—stay! Send me that little girl who is sitting there by the fountain.”
The girl thus pointed out by the king was a daughter of one of the laborers employed by the royal gardener; and she had come to help her father weed the flower beds. It chanced that, like many of the poor people in Prussia, she had received a good education. She was somewhat alarmed when she found herself in the king’s presence, but took courage when the king told her that he only wanted her to read for him, as his eyes were weak.
Now, Ernestine (for this was the name of the little girl) was fond of reading aloud, and often many of the neighbors would assemble at her father’s house to hear her; those who could not read themselves would come to her, also, with their letters from distant friends or children, and she thus formed the habit of reading various sorts of handwriting promptly and well.
The king gave her the petition, and she rapidly glanced through the opening lines to get some idea of what it was about. As she read, her eyes began to glisten and her breast to heave. “What is the matter?” asked the king; “don’t you know how to read?” “Oh, yes, sire” she replied, addressing him with the title usually applied to him; “I will now read it, if you please.”
The two pages were about to leave the room. “Remain,” said the king. The little girl began to read the petition. It was from a poor widow, whose only son had been drafted to serve in the army, although his health was delicate and his pursuits had been such as to unfit him for military life. His father had been killed in battle, and the son had a strong desire to become a portrait painter.
The writer told her story in a simple, concise manner, that carried to the heart a belief of its truth: and Ernestine read it with so much feeling, and with an articulation so just, in tones so pure and distinct, that when she had finished, the king, into whose eyes the tears had started, exclaimed, “Oh! now I understand what it is all about; but I might never have known, certainly I never should have felt, its meaning had I trusted to these young gentlemen, whom I now dismiss from my service for one year, advising them to occupy the time in learning to read.”
“As for you, my young lady,” continued the king, “I know you will ask no better reward for your trouble than the pleasure of carrying to this poor widow my order for her son’s immediate discharge. Let me see if you can write as well as you can read. Take this pen, and write as I dictate.” He then dictated an order, which Ernestine wrote, and he signed. Calling one of his guards, he bade him go with the girl and see that the order was obeyed.
How much happiness was Ernestine the means of bestowing through her good elocution, united to the happy circumstance that brought it to the knowledge of the king! First there were her poor neighbors, to whom she could give instruction and entertainment. Then there was the poor widow who sent the petition, and who not only regained her son, but received through Ernestine an order for him to paint the king’s likeness; so that the poor boy soon rose to great distinction, and had more orders than he could attend to. Words could not express his gratitude, and that of his mother, to the little girl.
And Ernestine had, moreover, the satisfaction of aiding her father to rise in the world, so that he became the king’s chief gardener. The king did not forget her, but had her well educated at his own expense. As for the two pages, she was indirectly the means of doing them good, also; for, ashamed of their bad reading, they commenced studying in earnest, till they overcame the faults that had offended the king. Both finally rose to distinction; and they owed their advancement in life chiefly to their good elocution.
DEFINITIONS:—Petition, a formal request. Articulate, to utter the elementary sounds. Modulate, to vary or inflect. Monotony, lack of variety. Affected, unnatural and silly.