There are many sordid tragedies in the life of the student, above all if he be poor, or drunken, or both; but nothing more moves a wise man s pity than the case of the lad who is in too much hurry to be learned.

*

'My friend,' said I, 'it is not easy to say who know the Lord; and it is none of our business. Protestants and Catholics, and even those who worship stones, may know Him and be known by Him; for He has made all.'

*

Cheylard scrapes together halfpence or the darkened souls in Edinburgh; while Balquhidder and Dunrossness bemoans the ignorance of Rome. Thus, to the high entertainment of the angels, do we pelt each other with evangelists, like schoolboys bickering in the snow.

*

For courage respects courage; but where a faith has been trodden out, we may look for a mean and narrow population.

*

Its not only a great flight of confidence for a man to change his creed and go out of his family for heaven's sake; but the odds are--nay, and the hope is--that, with all this great transition in the eyes of man, he has not changed himself a hairbreadth to the eyes of God. Honour to those who do so, for the wrench is sore. But it argues something narrow, whether of strength or weakness, whether of the prophet or the fool, in those who can take a sufficient interest in such infinitesimal and human operations, or who can quit a friendship for a doubtful operation of the mind. And I think I should not leave my old creed for another, changing only words for words; but by some brave reading, embrace it in spirit and truth, and find wrong as wrong for me as for the best of other communions.

*

It is not a basketful of law-papers, nor the hoofs and pistol-butts of a regiment of horse, that can change one tittle of a ploughman's thoughts. Outdoor rustic people have not many ideas, but such as they have are hardy plants, and thrive flourishingly in persecution. One who has grown a long while in the sweat of laborious noons, and under the stars at night, a frequenter of hills and forests, an old honest countryman, has, in the end, a sense of communion with the powers of the universe, and amicable relations towards his God. Like my mountain Plymouth Brother, he knows the Lord. His religion does not repose upon a choice of logic; it is the poetry of the man's existence, the philosophy of the history of his life. God, like a great power, like a great shining sun, has appeared to this simple fellow in the course of years, and become the ground and essence of his least reflections; and you may change creeds and dogmas by authority, or proclaim, a new religion with the sound of trumpets, if you will; but here is a man who has his own thoughts, and will stubbornly adhere to them in good and evil. He is a Catholic, a Protestant, or a Plymouth Brother, in the same indefeasible sense that a man is not a woman, or a woman is not a man. For he could not vary from his faith, unless he could eradicate all memory of the past, and, in a strict and not conventional meaning, change his mind.

*

For still the Lord is Lord of might; In deeds, in deeds, he takes delight; The plough, the spear, the laden barks, The field, the founded city, marks; He marks the smiler of the streets, The singer upon garden seats; He sees the climber in the rocks: To him, the shepherd folds his flocks. For those he loves that underprop With daily virtues Heaven's top, And bear the falling sky with ease, Unfrowning caryatides. Those he approves that ply the trade, That rock the child, that wed the maid, That with weak virtues, weaker hands, Sow gladness on the peopled lands, And still with laughter, song and shout, Spin the great wheel of earth about.

*

The shadow of a great oak lies abroad upon the ground at noon, perfect, clear, and stable like the earth. But let a man set himself to mark out the boundary with cords and pegs, and were he never so nimble and never so exact, what with the multiplicity of the leaves and the progression of the shadow as it flees before the travelling sun, long ere he has made the circuit the whole figure will have changed. Life may be compared, not to a single tree, but to a great and complicated forest; circumstance is more swiftly changing than a shadow, language much more inexact than the tools of a surveyor; from day to day the trees fall and are renewed; the very essences are fleeting as we look; and the whole world of leaves is swinging tempest-tossed among the winds of time.

The Pocket R. L. S. Page 37

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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