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Short Studies In Contrasts
by [?]


The clouds are transient, but the sky is permanent. The petals of a flowering plant are transient, the leaves and fruit are less so, and the roots the least transient of all. The dew on the grass is transient, as is the frost of an autumn morning. The snows and the rains abide longer. The splendors of summer and sunrise and sunset soon pass, but the glory of the day lasts. The rainbow vanishes in a few moments, but the prismatic effect of the drops of rain is a law of optics. Colors fade while texture is unimpaired.

Of course change marks everything, living or dead. Even the pole star in astronomic time will vanish. But consider things mundane only. How the rocks on the seacoast seem to defy and withstand the waves that beat against them! “Weak as is a breaking wave” is a line of Wordsworth’s. Yet the waves remain after the rocks are gone. The sea knows no change as the land does. It and the sky are the two unchanging earth features.

In our own lives how transient are our moments of inspiration, our morning joy, our ecstasies of the spirit! Upon how much in the world of art, literature, invention, modes, may be written the word “perishable”! “All flesh is grass,” says the old Book. Individuals, species, races, pass. Life alone remains and is immortal.


Positive and negative go hand in hand through the world. Victory and defeat, hope and despair, pleasure and pain. Man is positive, woman is negative in comparison. The day is positive, the night is negative. But it is a pleasure to remember that it is always day in the universe.

The shadow of the earth does not extend very far, nor the shadow of any other planet. Day is the great cosmic fact. The masses of men are negative to the few master and compelling minds. Cold is negative, heat is positive, though the difference is only one of degree. The negative side of life, the side of meditation, reflection, and reverie, is no less important than the side of action and performance. Youth is positive, age is negative. Age says No where it used to say Yes. It takes in sail. Life’s hurry and heat are over, the judgment is calm, the passions subdued, the stress of effort relaxed. Our temper is less aggressive, events seem less imminent.

The morning is positive; in the evening we muse and dream and take our ease, we see our friends, we unstring the bow, we indulge our social instincts.

Optimism is positive, pessimism is negative. Fear, suspicion, distrust–are all negative.

On the seashore where I write[4] I see the ebbing tide, the exposed sand and rocks, the receding waves; and I know the sea is showing us its negative side; there is a lull in the battle. But wait a little and the mad assault of the waves upon the land will be renewed.

[Footnote 4: La Jolla, California.]


The palm is for friendship, hospitality, and good will; the fist is to smite the enemies of truth and justice.

How many men are like the clenched fist–pugnacious, disputatious, quarrelsome, always spoiling for a fight; a verbal fisticuff, if not a physical one, is their delight. Others are more conciliatory and peace-loving, not forgetting that a soft answer turneth away wrath. Roosevelt was the man of the clenched fist; not one to stir up strife, but a merciless hitter in what he believed a just cause. He always had the fighting edge, yet could be as tender and sympathetic as any one. This latter side of him is clearly shown in his recently published “Letters to His Children.” Lincoln was, in contrast, the man with the open palm, tempering justice with kindness, and punishment with leniency. His War Secretary, Stanton, wielded the hard fist.