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Ambition is the final Midas touch. Work always with enthusiasm! He reads that, if you are only a shiner of shoes, add the force of ambition to your task and you will some day be president of the United States, or of the Standard Oil Company. But how? “If the idea that is to become the guiding star of your ambition has not yet shown above the horizon, nevertheless believe in it, strive for it, and, like the wise virgin of the Scripture, your cruse of oil will sweep away all barriers and bring destiny prostrate to your feet !” Gee, that sounds fine, he reflects, just like an English “prof.'s" lecture, but it's hard to stop. Perhaps Destiny slipped in the oil. Mopping might have been more effective than sweeping, at least from Destiny's point of view. But it's not very practical; let's get back to earth.
Here is a book, “Choosing a Vocation,” that may help: “The selection of a suitable vocation may be made by the aid of astrology, clairvoyance, cleidomancy, pedomancy, spasmotomancy, chirigonomy, chirography, metapostoby, phrenology, physiognomy, character-analysis, intuition, physical tests, and mental tests. The first six of these have not proved of great value but ... The remainder of the list is a little formidable. It would take half an afternoon to look it all up in the dictionary. But here comes Dick Roe, an “education-major.” Perhaps he can help out.
Dick says mental testing is the thing. All you have to do is to draw a few lines as directed, define a few words, figure a few simple sums, and see how many words you can rattle off in three minutes; then the tester will hand over your "Intelligence Quotient” and there you
“ are, all fixed. Dick has a date for some testing now. Will John come? John hesitates. He is a little afraid of that phrase, "all fixed.” What if he turned out to be hopelessly incompetent, as his “Math. prof.” thinksjust a general good for nothing? It would be a hard blow to pride. No, not now. His eye has been caught by a new magazine and he is going to read a little.
This magazine is a respectable psychological periodical. But it doesn't look very heavy, and the title page announces an article on “The Relation of Interest and Ability.” Perhaps this will solve the problem, for he rather likes Law, and, it may be, he may turn out to be good at it when he gets on far enough to have a chance. He reads with increasing astonishment. The author has inquired of a lot of college students as to what they like and has then looked up their grades, and declares, with due reservations, that his evidence, though not final, indicates no correlation whatsoever between a man's interests and his successes. What if his success should be as a plumber or a pawnbroker, when he thought he might be interested in the Law !
After all, John reflects, there may be some things that it is pleasanter not to know. The “philosophy professor" said the other day that “happiness to be got must be forgot.” Perhaps it is the same way with success. College life isn't such poor fun after all, or at least it wasn't before he began to queer himself by practicing will-training. It might be a good thing to take a vacation from that. Besides, he found some American history the other day that was interesting, and the professor of politics was beginning to talk about things that he could understand and wanted to know more about. The sun is shining, and some fellows are playing ball in the field just outside the window. It would be good fun to join the game for an hour before dinner, and get his head cleared up.
Exit John Doe. Fortunately, the American college student's healthy-mindedness usually overcomes American credulity and American haste for success. John will settle down to becoming at least an ordinary student, and go the way of all flesh, leaving a record not widely different from the rest of his kind. But what of those less favorably situated, for whom this success literature furnishes the sole mental pabulum to replace a sound education ?
[This life is a cento of gleanings from college entrance examination books. The books are fortunately kept on file where parents of “flunked” students may consult them. Verification is therefore possible. Were it not, no editor would dare venture to publish such facts.]
William Shakespeare was born in 1776. The place of his birth is uncertain: some say Strassburg, some Strafford, some stratford von a von. Most probably he was born in the first or the last, since he was the greatest German poet. There are other authorities on file, however, who believe he was not the greatest German poet, but that he was first discovered by the Germans to be the greatest poet.
However this may be, it is certain he was the son of the village blacksmith, the ninth son of honest parents. He spent most of his younger years trampling in the beauties of Mother Nature, which he afterward depicted in his favorite play As You Like It. We know this was his favorite play because it is the only one in which he acted. He played the part of the Old Adam. His favorite pastime was poaching deer, but he was also chased for stealing deer. He must also have seen disease at home for such phrases as “cleanse the stuffed bosom" in Macbeth suggest cancer. And he must have read the Bible for his works are full of allusions to it, as Niobe, for example.
Altogether too young, Shakespeare married a woman much older than himself. So he ran away to the city where he found the Renaissance was in full swing. He added greatly to its success. From the lowest bottom he worked his way to the foremost dramatist of his age. At first he did hack work holding horses outside of the theatres. Then he became a screen-shifter.
Among his best known plays are The Taming of the Shrewd, Juliet Caesar, The Hurricane, and plays about English kings and Roman kings. He created some wonderful characters like the wired sisters in Macbeth and the Aërial by which her master spoke over long distances in another play.
He made a good deal of money with his plays and by various usurer's tricks such as he showed he understood in the Merchant of Venice. But nevertheless he died so poor that all he was able to leave his beloved wife was a second-hand bedstead. This is often the fate of great poets.
Long after Shakespeare died someone started the idea that he hadn't written his plays, but that Bacon had. This is impossible, because Bacon was much too busy a man to have had time for writing these plays which must have been a greal deal of work.
B. H. L.
[Mr. H. G. Wells, in The Outline of History, finds in ancient Greece “very much the atmosphere of the lower sort of contemporary music hall.”']
When dear old Homer drained his cup
And grabbed the tuneful lyre,
His ditties to admire.
He hymned the blameless Ethiop
And Poseidonian sprees,
'Neath equatorial trees.
He had some spicy scandals, too,
Quite neatly put in verse,
Or did things even worse.
When Zeus, gay old Lothario,
Had sipped a drop too much,
Was sure to get in dutch;
For lurking under every tree
Was a pulchritud 'nous dryad,
By every brook a naiad.
Small chance there was for poor old Zeus
To lead a decent life;
He beat his white-armed wife.
Sweet Cytherea, Zeus's pet,
Was also rather frisky;
Details are far too risqué!
Now when the censor butted in
And stopped a naughty story,
And chirped of battle gory;
Of the blood-stained flood of the sacred river,
Where the Danaäns smote their foes,
With the dead in ghastly rows.
Or he sings of the sea and its thundering surge
And the fearful leven flash; Of the coursing bark and the Wanderer's urge, The Siren's song and the sailor's dirge,
And the North Wind's stinging lash.