by: John Stuart Blackie (1809-1895)

      ear Youth, grey books no blossoms bear;
      Thou hast enough of learning;
      For life's green fields thy march prepare,
      And take my friendly warning.
      I would not have thee longer stay,
      To read of other's striving;
      Wield thine own arm!--the only way
      To know life is by living.

      The brain's a small part of a man;
      Though thought has wide dominions,
      Thou canst not lift the smallest stone
      By Speculation's pinions.
      Who learns an art by lifeless rule,
      Through mists will still be blinking;
      The subtlest thinker is a fool,
      Who spins mere webs of thinking.

      The times are feverish; mark me well!
      Have faith and patience by thee;
      Unless thou curl into thy shell,
      Thou'lt find enough to try thee.
      But that's a weak device. I know
      Thou'lt face it free and fearless;
      But O! beware the greater foe,
      A spirit proud and prayerless!

      I love a bold and venturous boy,
      Who, full of fresh emotion,
      Launches with large and liberal joy
      On life's wide-rolling ocean.
      But there are rocks; and blind to steer
      Were thoughtless folly's merit:
      Curb thou thy force with holy fear,
      And keep a watchful spirit.

      Where eager crowds contend for pelf,
      The seller and the buyer,
      Each one free range seeks for himself,
      And cares for nothing higher.
      Make honey in an ordained hive,
      Nor join the lawless scramble
      Of men, with whom in life to thrive
      Is with good luck to gamble.

      We live in days when all would climb
      With hot, high-strung employment;
      Some rage in prose, wome writhe in rhyme,
      All hate a calm enjoyment.
      Freedom's the watchword of the hour;
      But O! tis melancholy
      When every bubbling brain has power
      To drown calm thought with folly!

      The age is full of talkers. Thou
      Be silent for a season,
      Till slowly-ripening facts shall grow
      Into a stable reason.
      Pert witlings fling crude fancies round,
      As wanton whim conceits them,
      Pleased when from fools the echoed sound
      Of their own folly greets them.

      Nurse thou, where eager babble spreads,
      A quiet brooding nature,
      Nor strive, by lopping taller heads,
      To raise thy lesser stature.
      Eschew the cavilling critic's art,
      The lust of loud reproving;
      The brain by knowledge grows, the heart
      Is larger made by loving.

      All things we cannot know. At sea
      As when a good ship saileth,
      Our steps within the planks are free,
      Beyond all cunning faileth.
      So man as by a living bond
      Of circling powers is bounded;
      Within the line is ours, beyond
      The sharpest wit's confounded.

      What thing thou knowest, nicely know
      With curious fine dissection;
      The smallest mite can something show
      That chains thy rapt inspection.
      Allwhere with holy caution move,
      In God thy life is moving;
      All things with reverent patience prove,
      'Tis Gods will thou art proving.

      What thing thou doest, bravely do;
      When Heaven's clear call hath found thee,
      Follow!--with fervid wheels pursue,
      Though thousands bray around thee!
      Yet keep thy zeal in rein; depise
      No gentle preparation;
      Flash not God's truth on blinking eyes,
      With reckless inspiration!

      Farewell, my brave, my bright-eyed boy!
      And from the halls of learning,
      Thy face, my long familiar joy,
      Take, with this friendly warning.
      And when with weighty truth thou'rt fraught
      From life, the earnest preacher,
      Think sometimes with a kindly thought
      On me, thy faithful teacher.

"Advice to a Favourite Student on Leaving College" is reprinted from The Selected Poems of John Stuart Blackie. Ed. Archibald Stodart Walker. London: John Macqueen, 1896.




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