Quit yourselves like men.
--1 SAMUEL iv. 9.
Cowards have no luck.
He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day
surmount a fear.
To dare is better than to doubt,
For doubt is always grieving;
'Tis faith that finds the riddles out;
The prize is for believing.
Boldly and wisely in that light thou hast;
There is a hand above will help thee on.
"Have hope! Though clouds environ now,
And gladness hides her face in scorn,
Put thou the shadow from thy brow--
No night but hath its morn."
"Our enemies are before us," exclaimed the Spartans at Thermopylae. "And
we are before them," was the cool reply of Leonidas. "Deliver your
arms," came the message from Xerxes. "Come and take them," was the
answer Leonidas sent back. A Persian soldier said: "You will not be able
to see the sun for flying javelins and arrows." "Then we will fight in
the shade," replied a Lacedemonian. What wonder that a handful of such
men checked the march of the greatest host that ever trod the earth.
"The hero," says Emerson, "is the man who is immovably centred."
Darius the Great sent ambassadors to the Athenians, to demand earth and
water, which denoted submission. The Athenians threw them into a ditch
and told them, there was earth and water enough.
"Bring back the colors," shouted a captain at the battle of the Alma,
when an ensign maintained his ground in front, although the men were
retreating. "No," cried the ensign, "bring up the men to the colors."
"To dare, and again to dare, and without end to dare," was Danton's
noble defiance to the enemies of France.
Shakespeare says: "He is not worthy of the honeycomb that shuns the
hives because the bees have stings."
"It is a bad omen," said Eric the Red, when his horse slipped and fell
on the way to his ship, moored on the coast of Greenland, in readiness
for a voyage of discovery. "Ill-fortune would be mine should I dare
venture now upon the sea." So he returned to his house; but his young
son Leif decided to go, and with a crew of thirty-five men, sailed
southward in search of the unknown shore upon which Captain Biarni had
been driven by a storm, while sailing in another Viking ship two or
three years before. The first land that they saw was probably Labrador,
a barren, rugged plain. Leif called this country Heluland, or the land
of flat stones. Sailing onward many days, he came to a low, level coast
thickly covered with woods, on account of which he called the country
Markland, probably the modern Nova Scotia. Sailing onward, they came to
an island which they named Vinland, on account of the abundance of
delicious wild grapes in the woods. This was in the year 1000. Here
where the city of Newport, R. I., stands, they spent many months, and
then returned to Greenland with their vessel loaded with grapes and
strange kinds of wood. The voyage was successful, and no doubt Eric was
sorry he had been frightened by the bad omen.
"Not every vessel that sails from Tarshish will bring back the Gold of
Ophir. But shall it therefore rot in the harbor? No! Give its sails to
Men who have dared have moved the world, often before reaching the prime
of life. It is astonishing what daring to begin and perseverance have
enabled even youths to achieve. Alexander, who ascended the throne at
twenty, had conquered the whole known world before dying at
thirty-three. Julius Caesar captured eight hundred cities, conquered
three hundred nations, and defeated three million men, became a great
orator and one of the greatest statesmen known, and still was a young
man. Washington was appointed adjutant-general at nineteen, was sent at
twenty-one as an ambassador to treat with the French, and won his first
battle as a colonel at twenty-two. Lafayette was made general of the
whole French army at twenty. Charlemagne was master of France and
Germany at thirty. Conde was only twenty-two when he conquered at
Rocroi. Galileo was but eighteen when he saw the principle of the
pendulum in the swinging lamp in the cathedral at Pisa. Peel was in
Parliament at twenty-one. Gladstone was in Parliament before he was
twenty-two, and at twenty-four he was a Lord of the Treasury. Elizabeth
Barrett Browning was proficient in Greek and Latin at twelve; De Quincey
at eleven. Robert Browning wrote at eleven poetry of no mean order.
Cowley, who sleeps in Westminster Abbey, published a volume of poems at
fifteen. N. P. Willis won lasting fame as a poet before leaving college.
Macaulay was a celebrated author before he was twenty-three. Luther was
but twenty-nine when he nailed his famous thesis to the door of the
bishop and defied the pope. Nelson was a lieutenant in the British navy
before he was twenty. He was but forty-seven when he received his death
wound at Trafalgar. Charles the Twelfth was only nineteen when he gained
the battle of Narva; at thirty-six Cortes was the conqueror of Mexico;
at thirty-two Clive had established the British power in India.
Hannibal, the greatest of military commanders, was only thirty when, at
Cannae, he dealt an almost annihilating blow at the Republic of Rome; and
Napoleon was only twenty-seven when, on the plains of Italy, he
out-generaled and defeated, one after another, the veteran marshals of
Equal courage and resolution are often shown by men who have passed the
allotted limit of life. Victor Hugo and Wellington were both in their
prime after they had reached the age of threescore years and ten. George
Bancroft wrote some of his best historical work when he was eighty-five.
Gladstone ruled England with a strong hand at eighty-four, and was a
marvel of literary and scholarly ability.
"Your Grace has not the organ of animal courage largely developed," said
a phrenologist, who was examining Wellington's head. "You are right,"
replied the Iron Duke, "and but for my sense of duty I should have
retreated in my first fight." That first fight, on an Indian field, was
one of the most terrible on record.
Grant never knew when he was beaten. When told that he was surrounded by
the enemy at Belmont, he quietly replied: "Well, then, we must cut our
When General Jackson was a judge and was holding court in a small
settlement, a border ruffian, a murderer and desperado, came into the
court-room with brutal violence and interrupted the court. The judge
ordered him to be arrested. The officer did not dare approach him. "Call
a posse," said the judge, "and arrest him." But they also shrank with
fear from the ruffian. "Call me, then," said Jackson; "this court is
adjourned for five minutes." He left the bench, walked straight up to
the man, and with his eagle eye actually cowed the ruffian, who dropped
his weapons, afterward saying: "There was something in his eye I could
Lincoln never shrank from espousing an unpopular cause when he believed
it to be right. At the time when it almost cost a young lawyer his bread
and butter to defend the fugitive slave, and when other lawyers had
refused, Lincoln would always plead the cause of the unfortunate
whenever an opportunity presented. "Go to Lincoln," people would say,
when these bounded fugitives were seeking protection; "he's not afraid
of any cause, if it's right."
Abraham Lincoln's boyhood was one long struggle with poverty, with
little education and no influential friends. When at last he had begun
the practice of law it required no little daring to cast his fortune
with the weaker side in politics, and thus imperil what small reputation
he had gained. Only the most sublime moral courage could have sustained
him as President to hold his ground against hostile criticism and a long
train of disaster; to issue the Emancipation Proclamation; to support
Grant and Stanton against the clamor of the politicians and the press;
and through it all to do the right as God gave him to see the right.
"Doubt indulged becomes doubt realized." To determine to do anything is
half the battle. "To think a thing is impossible is to make it so."
"Courage is victory, timidity is defeat."
Don't waste time dreaming of obstacles you may never encounter, or in
crossing bridges you have not reached. Don't fool with a nettle! Grasp
with firmness if you would rob it of its sting. To half will and to hang
forever in the balance is to lose your grip on life.
Execute your resolutions immediately. Thoughts are but dreams till their
effects be tried. Does competition trouble you? work away; what is your
competitor but a man? _Conquer your place in the world_, for all things
serve a brave soul. Combat difficulty manfully; sustain misfortune
bravely; endure poverty nobly; encounter disappointment courageously.
The influence of the brave man is a magnetism which creates an epidemic
of noble zeal in all about him. Every day sends to the grave obscure
men, who have only remained in obscurity because their timidity has
prevented them from making a first effort; and who, if they could have
been induced to begin, would in all probability have gone great lengths
in the career of usefulness and fame. "No great deed is done," says
George Eliot, "by falterers who ask for certainty."
A mouse that dwelt near the abode of a great magician was kept in such
constant distress by its fear of a cat that the magician, taking pity on
it, turned it into a cat itself. Immediately it began to suffer from its
fear of a dog, so the magician turned it into a dog. Then it began to
suffer from fear of a tiger, and the magician turned it into a tiger.
Then it began to suffer from its fear of huntsmen, and the magician, in
disgust, said, "Be a mouse again. As you have only the heart of a mouse
it is impossible to help you by giving you the body of a nobler animal."
And the poor creature again became a mouse.
Young Commodore Oliver H. Perry, not twenty-eight years old, was
intrusted with the plan to gain control of Lake Erie. With great energy
Perry directed the construction of nine ships, carrying fifty-four guns,
and conquered Commodore Barclay, a veteran of European navies, with six
vessels, carrying sixty-three guns. Perry had no experience in naval
battles before this.
To believe a business impossible is the way to make it so. Feasible
projects often miscarry through despondency, and are strangled at birth
by a cowardly imagination. A ship on a lee shore stands out to sea to
escape shipwreck. Shrink and you will be despised.
One of Napoleon's drummer boys won the battle of Arcola. Napoleon's
little army of fourteen thousand men had fought fifty thousand Austrians
for seventy-two hours; the Austrians' position enabled them to sweep the
bridge of Arcola, which the French had gained and which they must hold
to win the battle. The drummer boy, on the shoulders of his sergeant
(who swam across the river with him), beat the drum all the way across
the river, and when on the opposite end of the bridge he beat his drum
so vigorously that the Austrians, remembering the terrible French
onslaught of the day before, fled in terror, thinking the French army
was advancing upon them. Napoleon dated his great confidence in himself
from this drum. This boy's heroic act was represented in stone on the
front of the Pantheon of Paris.
Two days before the battle of Jena Napoleon said: "My lads, you must not
fear death: when soldiers brave death they drive him into the enemy's
Arago says, in his autobiography, that when he was puzzled and
discouraged with difficulties he met with in his early studies in
mathematics some words he found on the waste leaf of his text-book
caught his attention and interested him. He found it to be a short
letter from D'Alembert to a young person, disheartened like himself, and
read: "Go on, sir, go on. The difficulties you meet with will resolve
themselves as you advance. Proceed and light will dawn and shine with
increasing clearness on your path." "That maxim," he said, "was my
greatest master in mathematics."
Overtaken near a rocky coast by a sudden storm of great violence, the
captain of a French brig gave orders to put out to sea; but in spite of
all the efforts of the crew they could not steer clear of the rocks, and
alter struggling for a whole day they felt a violent shock, accompanied
by a horrible crash. The boats were lowered, but only to be swept away
by the waves. As a last resort the captain proposed that some sailors
should swim ashore with a rope, but not a man would volunteer.
"Captain," said the little twelve-year-old cabin boy, Jacques, timidly,
"You don't wish to expose the lives of good sailors like these; it does
not matter what becomes of a little cabin boy. Give me a ball of strong
string, which will unroll as I go on; fasten one end around my body, and
I promise you that within an hour the rope shall be well fastened to the
shore or I will perish in the attempt."
Before anyone could stop him he leaped overboard. His head was soon seen
like a black point rising above the waves and then it disappeared in
the distance and mist, and but for the occasional pull upon the ball of
cord all would have thought him dead. At length it fell as if slackened
and the sailors looked at one another in silence, when a quick, violent
pull, followed by a second and a third, told that Jacques had reached
the shore. A strong rope was fastened to the cord and pulled to the
shore, and by its aid many of the sailors were rescued.
In 1833 Miss Prudence Crandall, a Quaker schoolmistress of Canterbury,
Conn., opened her school to negro children as well as to whites. The
whole place was thrown into uproar; town meetings were called to
denounce her; the most vindictive and inhuman measures were taken to
isolate the school from the support of the townspeople; stores and
churches were closed against teacher and pupils; public conveyances were
denied them; physicians would not attend them; Miss Crandall's own
friends dared not visit her; the house was assailed with rotten eggs and
stones and finally set on fire. Yet the cause was righteous and the
opposition proved vain and fruitless. Public opinion is often radically
Staunch old Admiral Farragut--he of the true heart and the iron
will--said to another officer of the navy, "Dupont, do you know why you
didn't get into Charleston with your ironclads?" "Oh, it was because
the channel was so crooked." "No, Dupont, it was not that." "Well, the
rebel fire was perfectly horrible." "Yes, but it wasn't that." "What was
it, then?" "_It was because you didn't believe you could go in._"
"I have tried Lord Howe on most important occasions. He never asked me
_how_ he was to execute any service entrusted to his charge, but always
went straight forward and _did it_." So answered Sir Edward Hawke, when
his appointment of Howe for some peculiarly responsible duty was
criticized on the ground that Howe was the junior admiral in the fleet.
There is a tradition among the Indians that Manitou was traveling in the
invisible world and came upon a hedge of thorns, then saw wild beasts
glare upon him from the thicket, and after awhile stood before an
impassable river. As he determined to proceed, the thorns turned out
phantoms, the wild beasts powerless ghosts, and the river only a shadow.
When we march on obstacles disappear. Many distinguished foreign and
American statesmen were present at a fashionable dinner party where wine
was freely poured, but Schuyler Colfax, then Vice-President of the
United States, declined to drink from a proffered cup. "Colfax does not
drink," sneered a Senator who had already taken too much. "You are
right," said the Vice-President, "I dare not."
A Western party recently invited the surviving Union and Confederate
officers to give an account of the bravest act observed by each during
the Civil War. Colonel Thomas W. Higginson said that at a dinner at
Beaufort, S. C., where wine flowed freely and ribald jests were bandied,
Dr. Miner, a slight, boyish fellow who did not drink, was told that he
could not go until he had drunk a toast, told a story, or sung a song.
He replied: "I cannot sing, but I will give a toast, although I must
drink it in water. It is 'Our Mothers.'" The men were so affected and
ashamed that some took him by the hand and thanked him for displaying
courage greater than that required to walk up to the mouth of a cannon.
When Grant was in Houston several years ago, he was given a rousing
reception. Naturally hospitable, and naturally inclined to like a man of
Grant's make-up, the Houstonites determined to go beyond any other
Southern city in the way of a banquet and other manifestations of their
good-will and hospitality. They made great preparations for the dinner,
the committee taking great pains to have the finest wines that could be
procured for the table at night. When the time came to serve the wine,
the head-waiter went first to Grant. Without a word the general quietly
turned down all the glasses at his plate. This movement was a great
surprise to the Texans, but they were equal to the occasion. Without a
single word being spoken, every man along the line of the long tables
turned his glasses down, and there was not a drop of wine taken that
Don't be like Uriah Heep, begging everybody's pardon for taking the
liberty of being in the world. There is nothing attractive in timidity,
nothing lovable in fear. Both are deformities and are repulsive. Manly
courage is dignified and graceful. The worst manners in the world are
those of persons conscious "of being beneath their position, and trying
to conceal it or make up for it by style." It takes courage for a young
man to stand firmly erect while others are bowing and fawning for praise
and power. It takes courage to wear threadbare clothes while your
comrades dress in broadcloth. It takes courage to remain in honest
poverty when others grow rich by fraud. It takes courage to say "No"
squarely when those around you say "Yes." It takes courage to do your
duty in silence and obscurity while others prosper and grow famous
although neglecting sacred obligations. It takes courage to unmask your
true self, to show your blemishes to a condemning world, and to pass for
what you really are.