S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
But, before I invite you into my society and friendship, I will he open and sincere with you, and must lay this down as an established truth, That there is nothing truly valuable which can be purchased without pains and labour. The gods have set a price upon every real and noble pleasure. If you would gain the favour of the Deity, you must be at the pains of worshipping him; if the friendship of good men, you must study to oblige them; if you would be honoured by your country, you must take care to serve it. In short, if you would be eminent in war or peace, you must become master of all the qualifications that can make you so.
There is a story in the Arabian Nights Tales of a king who had long languished under an ill habit of body, and had taken abundance of remedies to no purpose. At length, says the fable, a physician cured him by the following method: He took a hollow ball of wood, and filled it with several drugs; after which he closed it up so artificially that nothing appeared. He likewise took a mall, and after having hollowed the handle, and that part which strikes the ball, he enclosed in them several drugs after the same manner as in the ball itself. He then ordered the sultan, who was his patient, to exercise himself early in the morning with these rightly prepared instruments till such time as he should sweat; when, as the story goes, the virtue of the medicaments perspiring through the wood had so good an influence on the sultans constitution, that they cured him of an indisposition which all the compositions he had taken inwardly had not been able to remove. This Eastern allegory is finely contrived to show us how beneficial bodily labour is to health, and that exercise is the most effectual physic.
Manufactures, trade, and agriculture naturally employ more than nineteen parts of the species in twenty; and as for those who are not obliged to labour, by the condition in which they are born, they are more miserable than the rest of mankind, unless they indulge themselves in that voluntary labour which goes by the name of exercise.
It is the common doom of man, that he must eat his bread by the sweat of his brow,that is, by the sweat of his body or the sweat of his mind. If this toil was inflicted as a curse, it is, as might be expected, from the curses of the Father of all blessings; it is tempered with many alleviations, many comforts. Every attempt to fly from it, and to refuse the very terms of our existence, becomes much more truly a curse; and heavier pains and penalties fall upon those who would elude the tasks which are put upon them by the great Master Workman of the world, who in his dealings with his creatures sympathizes with their weakness, and, speaking of a creation wrought by mere will out of nothing, speaks of six days of labour and one of rest.
Edmund Burke: Letters on a Regicide Peace: Letter III., 1797.
Labour is not only requisite to preserve the coarser organs in a state fit for their functions; but it is equally necessary to those finer and more delicate organs, on which, and by which, the imagination and perhaps the other mental powers act. Since it is probable that not only the inferior parts of the soul, as the passions are called, but the understanding itself makes use of some fine corporeal instruments in its operation; though what they are, and where they are, may be somewhat hard to settle: but that it does make use of such, appears from hence; that a long lassitude of the whole body, and, on the other hand, that great bodily labour, or pain, weakens and sometimes actually destroys the mental faculties. Now, as a due exercise is essential to the coarse muscular parts of the constitution, and that without this rousing they would become languid and diseased, the very same rule holds with regard to those finer parts we have mentioned: to have them in proper order, they must be shaken and worked to a proper degree.
Two men I honour, and no third. First, the toil-worn craftsman, that with earth-made implements laboriously conquers the earth, and makes her mans. Venerable to me is the hard hand,crooked, coarse,wherein, notwithstanding, lies a cunning virtue, indefensibly royal, as of the sceptre of this planet. Venerable, too, is the rugged face, all weather-tanned, besoiled with its rude intelligence; for it is the face of a man living manlike. Oh, but the more venerable for thy rudeness, and even because we must pity as well as love thee! Hardly-entreated brother! For us was thy back so bent; for us were thy straight limbs and fingers so deformed: thou wert our conscript, on whom the lot fell, and, fighting our battles, wert so marred. For in thee, too, lay a God-created form, but it was not to be unfolded; encrusted must it stand with the thick adhesions and defacements of labour, and thy body was not to know freedom. Yet toil on, toil on; thou art in thy duty, be out of it who may; thou toilest for the altogether indispensable,for daily bread.
A second man I honour, and still more highly: him who is seen toiling for the spiritually indispensable, not daily bread, but the bread of life. Is not he too in his duty, endeavouring towards inward harmony, revealing this by act or by word, through all his outward endeavours, be they high or low;highest of all when his outward and his inward endeavour are one,when we can name him artist; not earthly craftsman only, but inspired thinker, who, with heaven-made implements, conquers heaven for us! If the poor and humble toil that we have food, must not the high and glorious toil for him in return, that he have light, have guidance, freedom, immortality? These two, in all their degrees, I honour; all else is chaff and dust, which let the wind blow whither it listeth. Unspeakably touching is it, however, when I find both dignities united, and he that must toil outwardly for the lowest of mans wants is also toiling inwardly for the highest. Sublimer in this world I know nothing than a peasant saint, could such now anywhere be met with. Such a one will take thee back to Nazareth itself: thou wilt see the splendour of heaven spring from the humblest depths of earth, like a light shining in great darkness.
You should bear constantly in mind that nine-tenths of us are, from the very nature and necessities of the world, born to gain our livelihood by the sweat of the brow. What reason, then, have we to presume that our children are not to do the same? The path upwards is steep and long. Industry, care, skill, excellence in the parent, lay the foundation of a rise under more favourable circumstances for the children. The children of these take another rise, and by-and-by descendants of the present labourer become gentlemen. This is the natural progress. It is by attempting to reach to the top at a single leap that so much misery is produced in the world. The education which is recommended consists in bringing children up to labour with steadiness, with care, and with skill; to show them how to do as many useful things as possible; to teach them how to do all in the best manner; to set them an example of industry, sobriety, cleanliness, and neatness; to make all these habitual to them, so that they shall never be liable to fall into the contrary; to let them always see a good living proceeding from labour, and thus remove from them the temptation to get the goods of others by violent and fraudulent means.
A certain degree of labour and exertion, seems to have been allotted us by Providence, as the condition of humanity. In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat thy bread, this is a curse which has proved a blessing in disguise. And those favoured few who, by their rank or their riches, are exempted from all exertion have no reason to be thankful for the privilege. It was the observation of this necessity that led the ancients to say that the gods sold us everything, but gave us nothing. Water, however, which is one of the great necessaries of life, may in general be gratuitously procured; but it has been well observed that if bread, the other great necessary of human life, could be procured on terms equally cheap and easy, there would be much more reason to fear that men would become brutes, for the want of something to do, rather than philosophers, from the possession of leisure. And the fact seems to bear out the theory. In all countries where nature does the most, man does the least; and where she does but little, there we shall find the utmost acme of human exertion.
It is certain that if every one could early enough be made to feel how full the world is already of excellence, and how much must be done to produce anything worthy of being placed beside what has already been produced, of a hundred youths who are now poetizing scarcely one would feel enough courage, perseverance, and talent to work quietly for the attainment of a similar mastery. Many young painters would never have taken their pencils in hand if they could have felt, known, and understood, early enough, what really produced a master like Raphael.
To trust to labour without prayer argueth impiety and profaneness; it maketh light of the providence of God; and although it be not the intent of a religious mind, yet it is the fault of those men whose religion wanteth light of a mature judgment to direct it, when we join with our prayer slothfulness, and neglect of convenient labour.
I have known in my time a hundred artizans, and a hundred labourers, wiser and more happy than the rectors of the university, and whom I had much rather have resembled. Learning, methinks, has its place amongst the necessary things of life, as glory, nobility, dignity, or, at the most, as riches, and such other qualities, which indeed are useful to it; but remotely, and more by opinion than by nature. We stand very little more in need of offices, rules and laws of living in our society than cranes and emmets do in theirs. And yet we see that they carry themselves very regularly, and without erudition. If man was wise, he would take the true value of every thing according as it was more useful and proper to his life. Whoever will number us by our actions and deportments will find many more excellent men amongst the ignorant than the learned: I say, in all son of vertue.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cottons 3d ed., ch. lxix.
Excellence is never granted to man but as the reward of labour. It argues, indeed, no small strength of mind to persevere in the habits of industry, without the pleasure of perceiving those advantages which, like the hands of a clock, whilst they make hourly approaches to their point, yet proceed so slowly as to escape observation.
There is one sort of labour which adds to the value of the subject upon which it is bestowed; there is another which has no such effect. The former, as it produces a value, may be called productive, the latter unproductive, labour.