The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, July 13, 1906, Page 7, Image 7

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JULY 13; 190tf
The Commoner.
7
When the "Master of Human Destinies" Knocks
Edmund J. James, president of the University
of Illinois, rendered a distinct seryice to society
when, in his , baccalaureate address, he paid his
respects to John J. Ingalls' famous poem, say
ing: "I do not believe that there is an equal
number of beautiful lines in the English lan
guage which contain more unmitigated nonsense
than Ingall's 'Opportunity.'" President James
told the graduating class that opportunities come
in "a never ending procession." As a result o
his protest Ingalls' verso has been widely dis
cussed. The discussion will be helpful because of
the necessity fob stamping out the disposition to
look on the dark side of things.
The lines to which President James, referred
follow:
"Master of human destinies am I!
Fame, love and fortune on my footsteps wait".
Cities and fields I walk; I penetrate
Deserts and seas remote, and passing by
Hovel and mart and palace soon or late
I knock unbidden once at every gate.
If sleeping, wake if feasting, rise before
I turn away. It is the hour of fate,
And they who follow me reach every state
Mortals desire, and conquer every foe
Save death; but those who doubt or hesitate,
Condemned to failure, penury and woe,
Seek me in vain and uselessly implore:
I answer not and I return no more."
Although for years these lines have been
made conspicuous in every publication of Mr.
Ingalls writings, it is claimed by some of his
friends that he never intended the verse to be
taken seriously. A writer in the Dubuque, Iowa,
Telegraph-Herald says, "Senator Ingalls himself
recognized the poem as. sophistical. He was a
man of great talent and dashed off the lines
one day while at his desk in the senate chamber.
Impressed with the untruthfulness of the Idea
that opportunity knocks only once at every door,
he threw the poem into the wastebasket, whence
it was rescued by a page and through the latter
, became public. Justice to Senator Ingalls' mem
ory demands that this narrative shall be kept
in the record." .
It would not "be difficult to believe that the
talented Ingalls meant what he wrote when ho
gave these beautiful lines to the world. He was
not the only one in his time, prior to his time
and since his time, who has taken the gloomy
view that there is a "master of human destinies"
who knocks but once at every gate and forever
after turns a deaf ear to those who then failed
to heed him. A greater than Ingalls took a
mighty gloomy view when Tie wrote: "There is
a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the
flood leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyago
of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries;
and we must take the current when It serves
or lose our ventures." Also: "Who seeks and
will not take when once 'tis offered, shall never
find it more."
Going from the sublime to the ridiculous, Mr.
Dooley framed a companion piece for the Ingalls
classic when he wrote: "Opporchunity knocks
at ivery man's dure wanst. On some men's dures
it hammers till it breaks down th' dure an' thin
it goes in an' aftherward it wurrks f'r him as a
night watchman. On other men's dures it knocks
an' runs away, an' on th' dures iv some men it
knocks an' whin they come out It hits thim over
th' head with an ax. But ivery wan has an oppor
chunity." Tho "one time and out" idea on the oppor
tunity question has been all too persistently culti
vated, Neither is it difficult of cultivation in
this day of conspiracies in restraint of trade and
conspiracies against the lives of men. Now that
man-made law would relegate to idleness and
obscurity the man who has reached his fortieth
year, it would not be strange if the Ingalls verse
should appeal to the man who, although at. the
very threshold of life, finds his way to livelihood
barred by the absurd decree of a system that
treats man as a lemon to be squeezed and thrown
away. .But this man-made law can not long pre
vail if the greed and dishonesty to which it owes
its origin are frowned upon by Intelligent men,
and the system by which it is enforced Is stamped
out of existence.
In the meantime, the efforts of men and
women who understand that they owe a duty to
society can not be employed to better purpose
than in an effort to persuade men to remember
that the sun is ever shining behind the clouds.
The newspaper poets are giving tho shade
of Ingalls something to think about these days.
They are bringing hope to the hopeless by
writing in pleasing verso the truth about op
portunity. S. E. Kiser writes for the Chicago Record
Herald: "Master of human destinies am I!
Fame, lovo and fortune on my footsteps wait
Cities and flejds I walk, I penetrate
Deserts and seas remote, and passing by
Hovel and palace early, also late
I knock a million times at every gate.
If sleeping sleepr If feasting feast, therefor; .
Don't think my call portends tho hour of fate;
111 come again, whatever bo your stale;
I'll give you strength to conquer every foo
Save death. And If you doubt or hesitate
You may expect me In a day or so
To call again and hammer at your door.
I'll come a million times and then some more."
Wal'cer Malone, another well known news
paper poet, writes this:
"They do me wrong who say I como no more
When once I knock and fall to find you In;
Por every day I stand outside your door,
And bid you wake, and rise to fight and win.
"Wall not for precious chances passed away,
Weep not for golden ages on the wane!
Each night I burn the records of tho day;
At sunrise every soul is born again.
"Laugh like a boy at splendors that have sped,
To vanished joys be blind and deaf and dumb;
My judgments seal the dead past with Its dead,
But never bind a moment yet to come.
"Though deep in mire, wring not your hands and
weep;
I lend my arm- to all who say 'I can!'
No shamefaced outcast ever sank so deep
But yet might rise and be again a man!
"Dost thou behold thy lost youth all aghast?
Dost reel from righteous retribution's blow?
Then turn from blotted archives of the past
And find the future's pages white as snow.
"Art thdu a mourner? Rouse thee from thy spell;
Art thou a sinner? Sins may be forgiven;
Each morning gives thee wings to flee from hell,
Each night a star to guide thy feet to heaven?"
It was Robert Bruce who, resting In a ruined
hut in the forest and considering whether ho
should continue the strife to maintain his right
to the Scottish throne, obtained inspiration from
a spider. The spider was trying to fix its web on
the rafters, and was swinging itself from one
cave to another. It had tried six -times to reach
one place, and failed. Suddenly the thought struck
Bruce, "I have fought six times against the
enemies of my country." He resolved that ho
would be guided by tho failure or success of the
little insect. The next effort of the spider was
successful, and Bruce then determined that he
would make the seventh attempt to free his coun
try. The most inspiring tales are those that have
not been written; the most heroic deeds are
those that have not been told; the world's great
est successes have been won in the quiet of
men's hearts; the noblest heroes are the count
less thousands who have struggled and triumphed,
rising on "stepping stones of their dead selves
to higher things."
What is opportunity? It is life. In the
"language of Bishop Spalding: "Our house, our
table, our tools, our books, our city, our country,
our language, our business, our profession the
people who love us and those who hate,, they
.who help and they who oppose what Is all this
but opportunity?"
What is opportunity? Ask who wrote tho
classic bearing that title and you will be told
that it was tho work of the talented Ingalls,
who represented Kansas in the United States
senate. But who can tell the author of that
little -verse: "If at first you don't succeed, try,
try again?" Yet the, one who gave 'that fine
note to the music of the world rendered service
greater than any given by Ingalls; for where tho
author of "Opportunity" killed hope, the author
of "Try, try again" revived it; where the one
stood for the doctrine of death, the other stood
for the gospel of life; where the one who be
lieved that opportunity knocks and flees wrote
a classic that, while adding to his fame in literary
circles, contributed to the world's woes, the other
penned a homely verso that gives hope and cour
age to the sons of men a verse that has in
spired the children of many generations and that
yet lives in sorvlco to tho world.
What is opportunity? Bishop Spalding says:
"Wo find ourselves whoro wo seek ourselves
in matter or In mind, in tho low world of inero
sensation and baso desire, or in that whoro souls
aro transfigured by truth and lovo. Nothing
touches the soul but leaves its impress, and thus,
little by little, wo. aro fashioned into tho imago
of all we havo soon and heard, known and medi
tated; and if wo learn Jo livo with all that is
fairest and purest and best, tho lovo of it will
in the end become our very lifo."
What is opportunity? Some one has snld:
"Occasion may be the buglo call that sum
mons an army to battle, but tho blast of tho
bugle can never make soldiers or win battles,"
and tho man who makes the soldier and wins
tho battle of llfo, follows the example of Andrew
Jackson, who was known as "the boy who would
never stay throwed."
What is opportunity? In a story of Chinese
life, wo are told that a Chinese student was at
tracted to the efforts of a woman who was trying
to make a needle from a rod of iron, by rubbing
tho rod against a stone. This so encouraged
the student that wedding patience and energy
he became one of China's greatest scholars.
What Is opportunity? Michael Davitt, one
of tho world's greatest figures, died recently.
In all his life ho had never known what real
comfort was. So far as money was concerned
he was born poor and died poor. As a lad ho
' saw his widowed mother evicted from her small
holding. At the age of ten, he lost his arm
In a cotton machine while earning a livelihood
for his mother and her family. At the age of
twenty he joined the Fenian movement and for
his activity therein was, at the ago of twenty
four, sentenced to fifteen years penal servitude.
After seven years of imprisonment, during which
he was treated to all manner of Indignities, ho
was released and began the work which culmin
ated in the organization of tho Irish Land league.
At various times ho suffered imprisonment. As
one writer says: "Every .moment of his llfo
was devoted to the redemption of his people, to
their material and intellectual advancement and
through years of painful suffering; Imprisonment,
contumely and degradation he wrought courage
ously, unceasingly, for the creating of hotter
conditions in the storied land that was the idol
of his hopes and dreams."
Where was Michatol Davitt's opportunity?
When did he grasp it? How did he realize upon
it? His whole lifo was one of service to his
fellows and sacrifice to their cause, and when
ho died he left a will concluding in these words:
"My diaries are not to bo published as
such, and in no instance without my wife's
. permission; but on no account must any
thing harsh or censorious written in said
diaries by me about any person, dead or
alive, who has ever worked for Ireland, be
printed, published, or used so as to give pain
to any friend or relative. To all my friends
I leave kind thoughts; to mcnemies the full
est possible forgiveness, and to Ireland tho
undying prayer for tho absolute freedom and
independence which it was my life's ambition
to try and obtain for her'
Surely "opportunity" fairly battered down
Michael Davitt's doors, so anxious was it to be
grasped by that faithful soldier of liberty. No
need to say that with all Its sorrows, Its priva
tions and its sacrifices, Davitt's life was a suc
cess; and no wonder that when he died men
of every race and creed paid loving tribute to
his memory. It was eminently fitting that this
man, who lived for his fellows, should die with '
a message to love and to liberty upon his lips:
to his friends, kind thoughts o his enemies,
forglvenness to his country, independence! What t
a bountiful bequest and what a precious legacy!
Dying" as he had lived that testator seized his
opportunity. During all his career he seemed
destined to give where others seemed destined
to receive. Service was his heritage even as -it
is tho heritage of all who would win from;
lifo its greatest prize.
"Rose-wearer and rose-giver,
We meet them both today,.
One gathers joy, one scatters it,
'.. '" Along the trodden way.
' . Which are you, little maiden?
The flower-crowned lass is fair,
But the one who scatters roses
Is the one wo can not spare."
RICHARD L. METCALFE. '
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