History Of The "Old High School" 1828-1840
by Charles Wells Chapin

       The youth who spoke this piece was somewhat timid, but he "braced up" before he closed his piece.


       Mr. President, — It is natural for man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men engaged in the great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those, who, having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth, — to know the worst and to provide for it. I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future except by the past.

       The boy that delivered this piece was inclined to sentimentalism.


"Is there no hope?" the sick man said.
The silent doctor shook his head;
And took his leave with signs of sorrow,
Despairing of his fee to-morrow.
When thus the man, with gasping breath:
"I feel the chilling hand of death.
Since I must bid the world adieu,
Let me my former life review.
I grant my bargains were well made;
But all men overreach in trade.
'Tis self-defense in each profession
Sure self-defense is no transgression.

"The little portion in my hands,
By good security on lands,
Is well increased. If, unawares,
My justice to myself and heirs
Hath let my debtor rot in jail,
For want of good sufficient bail;
If I, by writ, or bond, or deed,
Reduced a family to need;
My will hath made the world amends
My hope on charity depends.
When I am numbered with the dead,
And all my pious gifts are read,
By heaven and earth! 'twill then be known,
My charities were amply shown." — Gay.

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