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Lessons in Life
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Title: Lessons in Life
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LESSONS IN LIFE.

LESSON I. MOODS AND FRAMES OF MIND.


"That blessed mood
In which the burden of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world
Is lightened." WORDSWORTH.

"Oh, blessed temper, whose unclouded ray
Can make to−morrow cheerful as to−day."
POPE.

"My heart and mind and self, never in tune;
Sad for the most part, then in such a flow
Of spirits, I seem now hero, now buffoon."
LEIGH HUNT.

It rained yesterday; and, though it is midsummer, it is unpleasantly cool to−day. The sky is clear, with almost a steel−blue tint, and the meadows are very deeply green. The shadows among the woods are black and massive, and the whole face of nature looks painfully clean, like that of a healthy little boy who has been bathed in a chilly room with very cold water. I notice that I am sensitive to a change like this, and that my mind goes very reluctantly to its task this morning. I look out from my window, and think how delightful it would be to take a seat in the sun, down under the fence, across the street. It seems to me that if I could sit there awhile, and get warm, I could think better and write better. Toasting in the sunlight is conducive rather to reverie than thought, or I should be inclined to try it. This reluctance to commence labor, and this looking out of the window and longing for an accession of strength, or warmth, or inspiration, or something or other not easily named, calls back to me an experience of childhood.

It was summer, and I was attending school. The seats were hard, and the lessons were dry, and the walls of the school−room were very cheerless. An indulgent, sweet−faced girl was my teacher; and I presume that she felt the irksomeness of the confinement quite as severely as I did. The weather was delightful, and the birds were singing everywhere; and the thought came to me, that if I could only stay out of doors, and lie down in the shadow of a tree, I could get my lesson. I begged the privilege of trying the experiment. The kind heart that presided over the school−room could not resist my petition; so I was soon lying in the coveted shadow. I went to work very severely; but the next moment found my eyes wandering; and heart, feeling, and fancy were going up and down the earth in the most vagrant fashion. It was hopeless dissipation to sit under the tree; and discovering a huge rock on the hillside, I made my way to that, to try what virtue there might be in a shadow not produced by foliage. Seated under the brow of the boulder, I again applied myself to the dim−looking text,
but it had become utterly meaningless; and a musical cricket under the rock would have put me to sleep if I had permitted myself to remain. I found that neither tree nor rock would lend me help; but down in the meadow I saw the brook sparkling, and spanning it, a little bridge where I had been accustomed to sit, hanging my feet over the water, and angling for minnows. It seemed as if the bridge and the water might do something for me, and, in a few minutes, my feet were dangling from the accustomed seat. There, almost under my nose, close to the bottom of the clear, cool stream, lay a huge speckled trout, fanning the sand with his slow fins, and minding nothing about me at all. What could a boy do with Colburn's First Lessons, when a living trout, as large and nearly as long as his arm, lay almost within the reach of his fingers? How long I sat there I do not know, but the tinkle of a distant bell startled me, and I startled the trout, and fish and vision faded before the terrible consciousness that I knew less of my lesson than I did when I left the school−house.

This has always been my fortune when running after, or looking for, moods. There is a popular hallucination that makes of authors a romantic people who are entirely dependent upon moods and moments of inspiration for the power to labor in their peculiar way. Authors are supposed to write when they "feel like it," and at no other time. Visions of Byron with a gin−bottle at his side, and a beautiful woman hanging over his shoulder, dashing off a dozen stanzas of Childe Harold at a sitting, flit through the brains of sentimental youth. We hear of women who are seized suddenly by an idea, as if it were a colic, or a flea, often at midnight, and are obliged to rise and dispose of it in some way. We are told of very delicate girls who carry pencils and cards with them, to take the names and address of such angels as may visit them in out−of−the−way places. We read of poets who go on long sprees, and after recovery retire to their rooms and work night and day, eating not and sleeping little, and in some miraculous way producing wonderful literary creations. The mind of a literary man is supposed to be like a shallow summer brook, that turns a mill. There is no water except when it rains, and the weather being very fickle, it is never known when there will be water. Sometimes, however, there comes a freshet, and then the mill runs night and day, until the water subsides, and another dry time comes on.

Table of Contents

LESSON I MOODS AND FRAMES OF MIND
LESSON II BODILY IMPERFECTIONS AND IMPEDIMENTS
LESSON III ANIMAL CONTENT
LESSON IV REPRODUCTION IN KIND
LESSON V TRUTH AND TRUTHFULNESS
LESSON VI MISTAKES OF PENANCE
LESSON VII THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
LESSON VIII AMERICAN PUBLIC EDUCATION
LESSON IX PERVERSENESS
LESSON X UNDEVELOPED RESOURCES
LESSON XI GREATNESS IN LITTLENESS
LESSON XII RURAL LIFE
LESSON XIII REPOSE
LESSON XIV THE WAYS OF CHARITY
LESSON XV MEN OF ONE IDEA
LESSON XVI SHYING PEOPLE
LESSON XVII FAITH IN HUMANITY
LESSON XVIII SORE SPOTS AND SENSITIVE SPOTS
LESSON XIX THE INFLUENCE OF PRAISE
LESSON XX UNNECESSARY BURDENS
LESSON XXI PROPER PEOPLE AND PERFECT PEOPLE
LESSON XXII THE POETIC TEST
LESSON XXIII THE FOOD OF LIFE
LESSON XXIV HALF−FINISHED WORK
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