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Wie ein redlicher Mann, den Verleumder umwölken, verachtet
KLOPSTOCK'S MESSIAH, Gesang xvi.
PUBLISHED BY REQUEST OF THE SOCIETIES.
PRINTED BY I. ASHMEAD & CO.
THE subject on which I propose to address you at this time, is, THE Desire of reputaTION. My aim will be accomplished if I can set before you the reasons why that desire is implanted in the human bosom; its value as a principle of action; the modifications under which it appears, and the perversions to which it is liable; the true principles which are to guide us in seeking it, and the field which is now open, especially in this country, to secure an honoured name.
I have selected this subject because there is not a heart before me that does not beat with a generous desire to be known and to be remembered; because there is no aspiration of the bosom that is more likely to become perverted, and to be a source of injury; because, for the young especially, it is desirable that the proper metes and limits of its indulgence should be laid down with care; and because I am persuaded, when properly understood, it may be made an important auxiliary in the cause of learning, patriotism, virtue, and even true religion. I will not despise or condemn any thing which I believe to be an original law of our nature, however it may have been abused; I will not believe that any thing which God has implanted in our bosoms may not contribute to the most exalted excellence of man.
The desire of an honoured name exists in all. It is an
original principle in every mind, and lives often when every other generous principle has been obliterated. It is the wish to be known and respected by others; to extend the knowledge of our existence beyond our individual consciousness of being; to be remembered, at least, for a little while after we are dead. Next to the dread of annihilation-the most fearful thought which crosses the human soul-we dread the immediate extinction of our names when we die. We would not have the earth at once made level over our graves; we would not have the spot where we sleep at once forgotten; we would not have the last traces of our existence at once obliterated from the memory of the living world.
I need not go into an argument to prove that this desire exists in the human soul. Each one has only to look into his own heart to find it always there in living power and in controlling influence. I need not ask you to cast your eyes upon the pages of history to see the proofs that the desire has found a home in the heart of man. I need not point you to the distinguished heroes, orators and poets of past or of modern times; nor need I attempt to trace its operations in animating to deeds of noble daring, or its influence on the beautiful productions of the chisel or of song. Ovid showed it when looking down into far distant ages, and anticipating the judgment of future times, he said:
Jamque opus exegi: quod nec Jovis ira, nec ignes,
METAMOR. xv. 871.
Horace expressed the same emotion, and the same conviction that he would be remembered, in the beautiful language
Milton was warmed by the same generous flame, and felt that there dwelt within him the innate power of rearing a monument which would convey his name to latest times, when he uttered this sentiment: "I began to assent to my friends here at home, and not less to an inward prompting, which now grew daily upon me, that by labour and intense study (which I take to be my portion in this life) joined with the strongest propensity of nature, I might perhaps leave something so written to after times, as they should not willingly let it die."* Klopstock, in one of his best odes, has described the instinctive desire of future reputation, and of living in the memory of posterity, when founded on a virtuous principle:
"Sweet are the thrills, the silver voice of fame
What noble toil to spur the noblest hearts!
To hear, still spurning death's invidious stroke,
E'en from the mansions of the grave invoke:
Thee, love! thee, virtue! fairest growth of heaven!
This is the toil to noblest spirits given."
*The Reason of Ch. Gov. urged against Prelacy. B. xi. Intro.
In das schlagende Hertz, und Unsterblichkeit
Ist ein Gedanke,
Ist des Schweisses der edlen werth!