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“For colour," say you; while another picks
And puts away even pebbles, when a child,
Because of bluish spots and pinky veins-
“Give him forthwith a paint-box!” Just the same
Was I born ... “medium,” you won't let me say,–
Well, seer of the supernatural
Everywhen, everyhow and everywhere,—
Will that do?
I and all such boys of course
Started with the same stock of Bible-truth;
Only,—what in the rest you style their sense,
Instinct, blind reasoning but imperative,
This, betimes, taught them the old world had one law
And'ours another: “New world, new laws,” cried
they: “None but old laws, seen everywhere at work,” Cried I, and by their help explained my life The Jews' way, still a working way to me. Ghosts made the noises, fairies waved the lights, Or Santa Claus slid down on New Year's Eve And stuffed with cakes the stocking at my bed, Changed the worn shoes, rubbed clean the fingered
slate O'the sum that came to grief the day before. This could not last long: soon enough I found Who had worked wonders thus, and to what end: But did I find all easy, like my mates? Henceforth no supernatural any more? Not a whit: what projects the billiard-balls? “A cue,” you answer: “Yes, a cue," said I; “But what hand, off the cushion, moved the cue? “What unseen agency, outside the world, “Prompted its puppets to do this and that, “Put cakes and shoes and slates into their mind, “These mothers and aunts, nay even schoolmasters?” Thus high I sprang, and there have settled since. Just so I reason, in sober earnest still,
About the greater godsends, what you call
The serious gains and losses of my life.
What do I know or care about your world
Which either is or seems to be? This snap
O' my fingers, sir! My care is for myself;
Myself am whole and sole reality
Inside a raree-show and a market-mob
Gathered about it: that's the use of things.
'Tis easy saying they serve vast purposes,
Advantage their grand selves: be it true or false,
Each thing may have two uses. What's a star?
A world, or a world's sun: doesn't it serve
As taper also, time-piece, weather-glass,
And almanac? Are stars not set for signs
When we should shear our sheep, sow corn, prune
The Bible says so.
Well, I add one use To all the acknowledged uses, and declare If I spy Charles's Wain at twelve to-night, It warns me, “Go, nor lose another day, “And have your hair cut, Sludge!" You laugh: and
why? Were such a sign too hard for God to give ? No: but Sludge seems too little for such grace: Thank you, sir! So you think, so does not Sludge! When you and good men gape at Providence, Go into history and bid us mark Not merely powder-plots prevented, crowns Kept on kings' heads by miracle enough, But private mercies-oh, you've told me, sir, Of such interpositions! How yourself Once, missing on a memorable day Your handkerchief-just setting out, you know,You must return to fetch it, lost the train, And saved your precious self from what befell The thirty-three whom Providence forgot. You tell, and ask me what I think of this?
Well, sir, I think then, since you needs must know,
What matter had you and Boston city to boot
Sailed skyward, like burnt onion-peelings? Much
To you, no doubt: for me-undoubtedly
The cutting of my hair concerns me more,
Because, however sad the truth may seem,
Sludge is of all-importance to himself.
You set apart that day in every year
For special thanksgiving, were a heathen else:
Well, I who cannot boast the like escape,
Suppose I said "I don't thank Providence
“For my part, owing it no gratitude"?
“Nay, but you owe as much”—you'd tutor me,
“You, every man alive, for blessings gained
“In every hour o' the day, could you but know!
“I saw my crowning mercy: all have such,
“Could they but see!” Well, sir, why don't they see?
“Because they won't look,-or perhaps, they can't.”
Then, sir, suppose I can, and will, and do
Look, microscopically as is right,
Into each hour with its infinitude
Of influences at work to profit Sludge ?
For that's the case: I've sharpened up my sight
To spy a providence in the fire's going out,
The kettle's boiling, the dime's sticking fast
Despite the hole i' the pocket. Call such facts
Fancies, too petty a work for Providence,
And those same thanks which you exact from me
Prove too prodigious payment: thanks for what,
If nothing guards and guides us little men?
No, no, sir! You must put away your pride,
Resolve to let Sludge into partnership!
I live by signs and omens: looked at the roof
Where the pigeons settle-" If the further bird,
“The white, takes wing first, I'll confess when
“Not, if the blue does"-s0 I said to myself
Last week, lest you should take me by surprise:
Off flapped the white,—and I'm confessing, sir!
Perhaps 'tis Providence's whim and way
With only me, i' the world: how can you tell?
“Because unlikely!” Was it likelier, now,
That this our one out of all worlds beside,
The what-d' you-call-'em millions, should be just
Precisely chosen to make Adam for,
And the rest o'the tale? Yet the tale's true, you know :
Such undeserving clod was graced so once;
Why not graced likewise undeserving Sludge?
Are we merit-mongers, flaunt we filthy rags?
All you can bring against my privilege
Is, that another way was taken with you,-
Which I don't question. It's pure grace, my luck:
I'm broken to the way of nods and winks,
And need no formal summoning. You've a help;
Holloa his name or whistle, clap your hands,
Stamp with your foot or pull the bell : all's one,
He understands you want him, here he comes.
Just so, I come at the knocking: you, sir, wait
The tongue o' the bell, nor stir before you catch
Reason's clear tingle, nature's clapper brisk,
Or that traditional peal was wont to cheer
Your mother's face turned heavenward : short of these
There's no authentic intimation, eh?
Well, when you hear, you 'll answer them, start up
And stride into the presence, top of toe,
And there find Sludge beforehand, Sludge that sprang
At noise o' the knuckle on the partition-wall!
I think myself the more religious man.
Religion 's all or nothing; it's no mere smile
O'contentment, sigh of aspiration, sir-
No quality o' the finelier-tempered clay
Like its whiteness or its lightness ; rather, stuff
O'the very stuff, life of life, and self of self.
I tell you, men won't notice; when they do,
They'll understand. I notice nothing else:
I'm eyes, ears, mouth of me, one gaze and gape,
Nothing eludes me, everything's a hint,
Handle and help. It's all absurd, and yet
There's something in it all, I know:how much?
No answer! What does that prove? Man's still man,
Still meant for a poor blundering piece of work
When all's done; but, if somewhat's done, like this,
Or not done, is the case the same? Suppose
I blunder in my guess at the true sense
O'the knuckle-summons, nine times out of ten,
What if the tenth guess happen to be right?
If the tenth shovel-load of powdered quartz
Yield me the nugget? I gather, crush, sift all,
Pass o'er the failure, pounce on the success.
To give you a notion, now (let who wins, laugh!)
When first I see a man, what do I first?
Why, count the letters which make up his name,
And as their number chances, even or odd,
Arrive at my conclusion, trim my course:
Hiram H. Horsefall is your honoured name,
And haven't I found a patron, sir, in you?
“Shall I cheat this stranger?” I take apple-pips,
Stick one in either canthus of my eye,
And if the left drops first-(your left, sir, stuck)
I'm warned, I let the trick alone this time.
You, sir, who smile, superior to such trash,
You judge of character by other rules:
Don't your rules sometimes fail you? Pray, what rule
Have you judged Sludge by hitherto?
Oh, be sure,
You, everybody blunders, just as I,
In simpler things than these by far! For see:
I knew two farmers,—one, a wiseacre
Who studied seasons, rummaged almanacs,
Quoted the dew-point, registered the frost,
And then declared, for outcome of his pains,
Next summer must be dampish: 'twas a drought.
His neighbour prophesied such drought would fall,
Saved hay and corn, made cent per cent. thereby,