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are nearest to heaven, and those are lowest who are farthest from it.
True greatness has little, if anything, to do with rank or power. “Eurystheus being what he was," says Epictetus, “was not really king of Argos nor of Mycenæ, for he could not even rule himself; while Hercules purged lawlessness and introduced justice, though he was both naked and alone."
We are told that Cineas the philosopher once asked Pyrrhus what he would do when he had conquered Italy. "I will conquer Sicily.”
“And after Sicily ?” 6. Then Africa." * And after you have conquered the world ?” “I will take
my ease and be merry.” Then,” asked Cineas, “ why can you not take your ease and be merry now?”
Moreover, as Sir Arthur Helps has wisely pointed out, “the enlarged view we have of the Universe must in some measure damp personal ambition. What is it to be king, sheikh, tetrarch, or emperor over a bit of a bit' of this little earth?" “All rising to great place,” says Bacon, “is by a winding stair ;” and “princes are like heavenly bodies, which have much veneration, but no rest.”
Plato in the Republic mentions an old myth that after death every soul has to choose a lot in life for the existence in the next world; and he tells us that the wise Ulysses searched for a considerable time for the lot of a private man.
He had some difficulty in finding it, as it was lying neglected in a corner, but when he had secured it he was delighted; the recollection of all he had gone through on earth, having disenchanted him of ambition.
Moreover, there is a great deal of drudgery in the lives of courts. Ceremonials may be important, but they take
much time and are terribly tedious.
A man then is his own best kingdom.
“He that ruleth his speech," says Solomon, “is better than he that taketh a city.” But self-control, this truest and greatest monarchy, rarely comes by inheritance. Every one of us must conquer himself; and we may do so, if we take conscience for our guide and general.
No one really fails who does his best. Seneca observes that "no one saith the three hundred Fabii were defeated, but that they were slain," and if done your best, you will, in the words of an old Norse ballad, have gained
“Success in thyself, which is best of all.” Being myself engaged in business, I was rather startled to find it laid down by no less an authority than Aristotle (almost as if it were a self-evident proposition) that commerce “is incompatible with that dignified life which it is our wish that our citizens should lead, and totally adverse to that generous elevation of mind with which it is our ambition to inspire them.” I know not how far that may really have been the spirit and tendency of commerce among the ancient Greeks; but if so, I do not wonder that it was not more successful.
I may, indeed, quote Aristotle against himself, for he has elsewhere told us that “business should be chosen for the sake of leisure; and things necessary and useful for the sake of the beautiful in conduct.”
It is not true that the ordinary duties of life in a country like ours—agriculture, manufactures, and commerce,—the pursuits to which the vast majority are and must be devoted—are incompatible with the dignity or nobility of life. Whether a life is noble or ignoble depends, not on the calling which is adopted, but on the spirit in which it is followed. The humblest life may be noble, while that of the most powerful monarch or the greatest genius may be contemptible. Commerce, indeed, is not only compatible, but I would almost go further and say that it will be most successful, if carried on in happy union with noble aims and generous aspirations. What Ruskin says of art is, with due modification, true of life generally. It does not matter whether a man “paint the petal of a rose or the chasms of a precipice, so that love and admiration attend on him as he labours, and wait for ever on his work. It does not matter whether he toil for months on a few inches of his canvas, or cover a palace front with color in a day; so only that it be with a solemn purpose, that he have filled his heart with patience, or urged his hand to haste."