Virtue and Verse
Roman Genn, in your March 24 issue, drew a splendid cover illustration of the Republican symbol of trust and faithfulness astride a vociferous tool exemplifying productivity and change. It should stand as a serious contender for the party’s rallying image next November and beyond. In a nation so clearly divided between the classes of energetic production and apathetic entitlement, it extols the commendable dimension that can be released from within every responsible voter.
Too little is said of the virtuousness of work that instills the hope needed to sustain the common travails of life. The accomplishment and reward from completing a regular task, regardless of its complexity, as Kevin D. Williamson reveals in his essay “To Work Is to Live,” must somehow be continuously ingrained in us all. Students in particular must be led in the direction of earning and saving to build secure lives and futures. Instead, they are overwhelmed with how to manipulate the systems that promote the sinecures largely cultivated by academia.
There is a poem that my eighth-grade English teacher, Mrs. O’Hara, introduced to us in 1962. That year was among the last of an era, long forgotten, when a California schoolteacher could freely require us to memorize the last three stanzas of a virtuous literary piece without absurd criticism. How well she knew, and how much I now cherish her leadership and direction. It’s time to recall the philosophy of work conveyed in that poem, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life,” the final stanzas of which are below:
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
In The Week (April 21), we commented on Alice in Arabia, the ABC Family drama that was canceled after being criticized as Islamophobic. The comment ended: “‘If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense,’ the Mad Hatter says in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. His world doesn’t seem so far removed from our own.” The quotation is actually from the 1951 Disney film, not Lewis Carroll’s book, and it was spoken by Alice to her cat, not by the Mad Hatter.