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The desire of a grateful remembrance when we are dead lives in every human bosom. The earth is full of the memorials which have been erected as the effect of that desire: and though thousands of the monuments that had been reared by anxious care and toil; by deeds of valour in the battle-field; or by early efforts at distinction in the forum, have perished; still we cannot traverse a land where the indications of this deep-rooted desire do not meet us on every side. The once lofty column, now broken and decaying; the marble from which the name has been obliterated by time; the splendid mausoleum, standing over remains long since forgotten; and the lofty pyramid, though the name of its builder is no longer known; each one shows how deeply this desire once fixed itself in some human heart. Every work of art; every temple, and statue; every book on which we carelessly cast the eye as we pass along the alcoves of a great library, is probably a monument of this desire to be remembered when life is gone. Every rose or honey-suckle that we plant over the grave of a friend is but a response to the desire not to be forgotten which once warmed the cold heart beneath. And who would be willing to be forgotten? Who could endure the thought that when he is committed to the earth no tear would ever fall on his grave; no thought of a friend ever be directed there; and that the traveller would never be told who is the sleeper there ?—Even the poor slave that desires to be remembered by his fellow-slave when he is
Durch der Lieder Gewalt, bey der Urenkelin
Oft beym Namen genennet,
Oft gerufen vom Grabe her.
Ist, beym Himmel! nicht wenig!
dead, feels the working of this mighty principle, and is a man—for the brute never has it—and he has in this, at least, the impress of human nature enstamped by his Maker on his soul.
To this universal desire in the bosom of man to be remembered when he is dead, the living world is not reluctant to respond; for were there no higher principle, the living wish to ask at the hands of others what they are desired to show for the departed. Affection, therefore, goes forth and plants the rose on the grave; rears the marble, moulded into breathing forms, over the dust; and, like Old Mortality, cuts the letters deeper when the storms of time efface them; and hands down in verse, and song, and marble; on the lyre and the monument, the names of those who have deserved well of mankind.
“ Patriots have toiled, and in their country's cause
TASK, B, v.
Why is this passion implanted in the human bosom? Why so universal? Why is it seen in so many forms? I answer, It is one of the proofs of man's immortality; the strong, instinctive, universal desire to live—and to live on for ever.
It is that to which philosophers have all along appealed, in the lack of better evidence, to sustain the hope that man would survive the tomb. It is the argument on which the eye of Plato fixed to sustain his own soul in the darkness which enveloped him, and which has been
put in the mouth of every school-boy, in the language of Addison.
Whence this pleasing hope, this fond desire,
Cato, Act v.
And while this desire lingers in the human soul, as it always will, man cannot forget that he is immortal; it will be in vain to attempt to satisfy him that he wholly ceases to be when the body dies. He will not, he cannot believe it. He would not always sleep. He would not always be forgotten. He would live again :- live on in the memory of his fellow-man as long as the flowers can be made to bloom, or the marble to perpetuate his name; and then still live on when “seas shall waste, and skies in smoke decay.”
Nor is this the only design of implanting this desire of remembrance in the bosom of man. It is not merely to be an argument for, and a memento of our immortality ; it is to be one of the means to excite us to virtue and to noble deeds. It is the operation of one of the beautiful laws of our nature, though, as we shall see, sadly perverted, designed to stimulate us to great and generous efforts. Men may call it selfish-and so it may become. They may call it ambition-and so it often is. But who knows not that the worst passions are usually the perversion of that which is most generous and exalted? And who knows not that one of the objects of all the lessons of experience, philosophy, and religion is to call man back from the erratic course on which a wicked heart has thrown him, to the operation of the simple laws of nature; to bind the lurid meteor within a regular orbit, and to light it up from a pure and steady central sun! This desire of reputation; this wish to be remembered, has been implanted in the soul to deter from vice by the dread of disgrace; to prompt to actions worthy to be remembered by the fear of being forgotten; to call forth the noble powers of the soul by a wish, like Milton's, to achieve some work “ that the world shall not willingly let die.” Point me to a man, young or old, in whose bosom this desire is extinct, and you have designated a man either abandoned to despair, or in whom virtue is dead.
Every law of our nature is of value, and has an important place in the great purpose of promoting the interest of society. In the principles of human action, what is the value of a desire of reputation? What influence should it be allowed to have on a young man starting on a career of public life? I have found in my own experience, and as far as my observation has extended, I have seen that the world is favourably disposed towards young men. There are no interests in society so valuable that the world is not willing to commit them to their hands, when they are satisfied that they are qualified to defend them, and to transmit them to future times. All the blood-bought blessings of freedom; all the endowments of colleges and schools; all the offices in the state; and all the interests of religion and benevolence, they are willing to entrust to the young, so soon as they have evidence that they will be safe in their hands,--and then they who have toiled and bled for these things will lie calmly down and die. Judges and senators are willing to vacate their seats, and conquerors, whom no foe could subdue, are willing to resign their swords, and the ministers of religion, to whom the cause of truth is dearer than life, are willing to vacate their pulpits to enter them no more, when those now young show that they are worthy of the trust. But they ask evidence of this. They demand that the young shall show that they are deserving of confidence before these great interests are committed to them; they ask such a 'REPUTATION' of those advancing to receive these honours, as shall show that the trust will not be endangered, before it is yielded. To secure this, there is in this community an eye of unslumbering vigilance on every young man, from which he cannot escape. The world watches his movements; learns his character; marks his defects; records, and remembers his virtues; asks the question about the reputation with which he enters on public life, and all with reference to the great interests which are soon to be committed to the hands of the advancing generation. There is an unseen, but withering influence, from which he can never escape, that attends every young man who is idle, dissipated, or unprincipled, that will go with him, like an evil genius, to the most distant part of our own land or to distant climes; that will meet him even when he regards himself as among strangers; that will, unperceived, cross oceans with him, and start up to meet him in polar snows or on barren sands; that will meet him should he wander on the Alps or by the side of the Senegal or the Ganges; or should he seek to hide himself in the crowded foreign metropolis. That evil influence he cannot live down, nor can he flee away from it. Aaron Burr met such an influence at Paris—a wretched fugitive and an outcast, without a friend; and Benedict Arnold could have found no nook of earth where it would not have followed him. And in like manner, there is a happy influence, of more value than the fabled “Genius” of Socrates, that will go with every young man who, by an early life of virtue, has shown himself worthy of the confidence of mankind, and that will attend him around the globe.