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 Thermopylæ. “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 the wind!”
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 Cæsar 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. Condé 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 Cannæ, 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 Austria.
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.