Patience is the courage of the conqueror; it is the virtue,
_par excellence_, of Man against Destiny, of the One against
the World, and of the Soul against Matter. Therefore this is
the courage of the Gospel; and its importance, in a social
view–its importance to races and institutions–cannot be too
Perpetual pushing and assurance put a difficulty out of
countenance, and make a seeming impossibility give way.
To bear is to conquer fate.
The nerve that never relaxes, the eye that never blenches, the
thought that never wanders,–these are the masters of victory.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
“How long did it take you to learn to play?” asked a young man of Geradini. “Twelve hours a day for twenty years,” replied the great violinist. Layman Beecher’s father, when asked how long it took him to write his celebrated sermon on the “Government of God,” replied, “About forty years.”
“If you will study a year I will teach you to sing well,” said an Italian music teacher to a pupil who wished to know what can be hoped for with study; “if two years, you may excel. If you will practice the scale constantly for three years, I will make you the best tenor in Italy; if for four years, you may have the world at your feet.”
Perceiving that Caffarelli had a fine tenor voice and unusual talent, a teacher offered to give him a thorough musical education free of charge, provided the pupil would promise never to complain of the course of instruction given. The first year the master gave nothing but the scales, compelling the youth to practice them over and over again. The second year it was the same, the third, and the fourth, the conditions of the bargain being the only reply to any question in relation to a change from such monotonous drill. The fifth year the teacher introduced chromatics and thorough bass, and, at its close, when Caffarelli looked for something more brilliant and interesting, the master said: “Go, my son, I can teach you nothing more. You are the first singer of Italy and of the world.” The _mastery_ of scales and diatonics gave him power to sing anything.
“Keep at the helm,” said President Porter; “steer your own ship, and remember that the great art of commanding is to take a fair share of the work. Strike out. Assume your own position. Put potatoes in a cart, over a rough road, and the small ones go to the bottom.”
“Never depend upon your genius,” said John Ruskin, in the words of Joshua Reynolds; “if you have talent, industry will improve it; if you have none, industry will supply the deficiency.”
“The only merit to which I lay claim,” said Hugh Miller, “is that of patient research–a merit in which whoever wills may rival or surpass me; and this humble faculty of patience when rightly developed may lead to more extraordinary development of ideas than even genius itself.”
Titian, the greatest master of color the world has seen, used to say: “White, red and black, these are all the colors that a painter needs, but he must know how to use them.” It took fifty years of constant, hard practice to bring him to his full mastery.
“How much grows everywhere if we do but wait!” exclaims Carlyle. “Not a difficulty but can transfigure itself into a triumph; not even a deformity, but if our own soul have imprinted worth on it, will grow dear to us.”
Persistency is characteristic of all men who have accomplished anything great. They may lack in some other particular, have many weaknesses, or eccentricities, but the quality of persistence is never absent in a successful man. No matter what opposition he meets or what discouragements overtake him, he is always persistent. Drudgery cannot disgust him, obstacles cannot discourage him, labor cannot weary him. He will persist, no matter what comes or what goes; it is a part of his nature. He could almost as easily stop breathing.
It is not so much brilliancy of intellect or fertility of resource as persistency of effort, constancy of purpose, that makes a great man. Persistency always gives confidence. Everybody believes in the man who persists. He may meet misfortunes, sorrows and reverses, but everybody believes that he will ultimately triumph because they know there is no keeping him down. “Does he keep at it, is he persistent?” is the question which the world asks of a man.
Even the man with small ability will often succeed if he has the quality of persistence, where a genius without persistence would fail.
“How hard I worked at that tremendous shorthand, and all improvement appertaining to it,” said Dickens. “I will only add to what I have already written of my perseverance at this time of my life, and of a patient and continuous energy which then began to be matured within me, and which I know to be the strong point of my character, if it have any strength at all, that there, on looking back, I find the source of my success.”
“I am sorry to say that I don’t think this is in your line,” said Woodfall the reporter, after Sheridan had made his first speech in Parliament. “You had better have stuck to your former pursuits.” With head on his hand Sheridan mused for a time, then looked up and said, “It is in me, and it shall come out of me.” From the same man came that harangue against Warren Hastings which the orator Fox called the best speech ever made in the House of Commons.