When in the dim beginning of the years, God mixed in man the raptures and the tears, And scattered through his brain that starry stuff, He said: "Behold! Yet this is not enough; For I must test his spirit to make sure That he can dare the vision and endure. I will withdraw my face, Veil me in shadow for a certain space, Leaving behind me only a broken clue- A crevice where the glory glimmers through, Some whisper from the sky, Some footprint in the road to track me by. I will leave man to make the fateful guess, To leave him torn between the no and yes, Leave him unresting 'til he rest in me, Drawn upward by the choice that makes him free- Leave him in tragic loneliness to choose, With all in life to win or to lose.
"What sort of man or woman shall I be; what kind of life shall I propose and hew out ?" The answer one frames to this question is his personal ideal, and will exercise a potent influence upon the development of his character and the direction of his conduct. Toward it the growing soul strives, day after day, year after year; its outlines, first existing only in the imagination of the heart, gradually, almost imperceptibly impress themselves on the soul and body, and manifest themselves in the outer life; "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." The personal ideal distinguishes man from lower creatures; and its perfection and power mark the high and full development of humanity. Very early it becomes the directing influence in self-culture,-which is by far the most important part of education; all truly higher education is self-education; the mission of all training from without is to stimulate and aid and guide one to take charge of his own culture and career. Conscious education is always directed by some sort of an ideal: the school, the home, national education are laboring to mold men and women into certain general forms of excellence and virtue; the personal ideal is the image that one forms of his own possible self. The personal ideal must have power over our lives, else it is not an ideal at all, but only an idea. One must not merely dream of strength, of wisdom, of skill and power, of honor and righteousness, of nobility and generosity, - he must resolve to attain them. He must see himself pursuing and achieving, and be inspired and energized by the vision. Such a vision of power is the personal ideal.
Edward O. Sisson
Source: The Essentials of Character, The Macmillan Company, 1915
Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare. Let all who prate of Beauty hold their peace, And lay them prone upon the earth and cease To ponder on themselves, the while they stare At nothing, intricately drawn nowhere In shapes of shifting lineage; let geese Gabble and hiss, but heroes seek release From dusty bondage into luminous air. O blinding hour, O holy, terrible day, When first the shaft into his vision shone Of light anatomized! Euclid alone Has looked on Beauty bare. Fortunate they Who, though once only and then but far away, Have heard her massive sandal set on stone.
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 - 1950)
Source: Sonnet, Euclid Alone Has Looked on Beauty Bare, 1923
It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the Queen of France, then the Dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she just began to move in,-glittering like the morning star full of life and splendour and joy. . . . Little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her in a nation of gallant men,-in a nation of men of honour and of cavaliers. I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded.
Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797)
Source: Reflections on the Revolution in France. Vol. iii. P. 331.
Thy soul shall find itself alone 'Mid dark thoughts of the gray tombstone - Not one, of all the crowd, to pry Into thine hour of secrecy. Be silent in that solitude Which is not loneliness, for then The spirits of the dead who stood In life before thee are again In dead around thee, and their will Shall overshadow thee: be still. The night, tho' clear, shall frown, And the stars shall not look down From their high thrones in the heaven With light like Hope to mortals given; But their red orbs, without beam, To thy weariness shall seem As a burning and a fever Which would cling to thee forever. Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish - Now are visions ne'er to vanish; From thy spirit shall they pass No more - like dew-drops from the grass. The breeze - the breath of God - is still, And the mist upon the hill Shadowy - shadowy - yet unbroken, Is a symbol and a token, - How it hangs upon the trees, A mystery of mysteries!
Take this kiss upon the brow! And, in parting from you now, Thus much let me avow- You are not wrong, who deem That my days have been a dream; Yet if hope has flown away In a night, or in a day, In a vision, or in none, Is it therefore the less gone? All that we see or seem Is but a dream within a dream. I stand amid the roar Of a surf-tormented shore, And I hold within my hand Grains of the golden sand- How few! yet how they creep Through my fingers to the deep, While I weep- while I weep! O God! can I not grasp Them with a tighter clasp? O God! can I not save One from the pitiless wave? Is all that we see or seem But a dream within a dream?
In visions of the dark night I have dreamed of joy departed-- But a waking dream of life and light Hath left me broken-hearted. Ah! what is not a dream by day To him whose eyes are cast On things around him with a ray Turned back upon the past? That holy dream- that holy dream, While all the world were chiding, Hath cheered me as a lovely beam A lonely spirit guiding. What though that light, thro' storm and night, So trembled from afar- What could there be more purely bright In Truth's day-star?