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C.N. Douglas, comp.  Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical.  1917.
 
Wilhelm von Humboldt
 
  All merit ceases the moment we perform an act for the sake of its consequences. Truly, in this respect “we have our reward.”  1
  Besides the pleasure derived from acquired knowledge, there lurks in the mind of man, and tinged with a shade of sadness, an unsatisfactory longing for something beyond the present, a striving towards regions yet unknown and unopened.  2
  Death is but a word to us. One’s own experience alone can teach us the real meaning of the word. The sight of the dying does little. What one sees of them is merely what precedes death: dull unconsciousness is all we see. Whether this be so,—how and when the spirit wakes to life again,—this is what all wish to know, and what never can be known until it is experienced.  3
  Even by means of our sorrows we belong to the eternal plan.  4
  Even sleep is characteristic. How beautiful are children in their lovely innocence! how angel-like their blooming features! and how painful and anxious is the sleep of the guilty!  5
  Every man, however good he may be, has a yet better man dwelling in him, which is properly himself, but to whom nevertheless he is often unfaithful. It is to this interior and less mutable being that we should attach ourselves, not to the changeable, every-day man.  6
  Fancy brings us as many vain hopes as idle fears.  7
  However benevolent may be the intentions of Providence, they do not always advance the happiness of the individual. Providence has always higher ends in view, and works in a pre-eminent degree on the inner feelings and disposition.  8
  I lay very little stress either upon asking or giving advice. Generally speaking, they who ask advice know what they wish to do, and remain firm to their intentions. A man may allow himself to be enlightened on various points, even upon matters of expediency and duty; but, after all, he must determine his course of action for himself.  9
  If the mind loves solitude, it has thereby acquired a loftier character, and it becomes still more noble when the taste is indulged in.  10
  In the moral world there is nothing impossible if we can bring a thorough will to it. Man can do everything with himself, but he must not attempt to do too much with others.  11
  It is a characteristic of old age to find the progress of time accelerated. The less one accomplishes in a given time, the shorter does the retrospect appear.  12
  It is a truly sublime spectacle when in the stillness of the night, in an unclouded sky, the stars, like the world’s choir, rise and set, and as it were divide existence into two portions,—the one, belonging to the earthly, is silent in the perfect stillness of night; whilst the other alone comes forth in sublimity, pomp, and majesty. Viewed in this light, the starry heavens truly exercise a moral influence over us; and who can readily stray into the paths of immorality if he has been accustomed to live amidst such thoughts and feelings, and frequently to dwell upon them? How are we entranced by the simple splendors of this wonderful drama of nature!  13
  It is resignation and contentment that are best calculated to lead us safely through life. Whoever has not sufficient power to endure privations, and even suffering, can never feel that he is armor proof against painful emotions,—nay, he must attribute to himself, or at least to the morbid sensitiveness of his nature, every disagreeable feeling he may suffer.  14
  Man reconciles himself to almost any event, however trying, if it happens in the ordinary course of nature. It is the extraordinary alone that he rebels against. There is a moral idea associated with this feeling; for the extraordinary appears to be something like an injustice of heaven.  15
  Only what we have wrought into our character during life can we take away with us.  16
  Prayer is intended to increase the devotion of the individual, but if the individual himself prays he requires no formula; he pours himself forth much more naturally in self-chosen and connected thoughts before God, and scarcely requires words at all. Real inward devotion knows no prayer but that arising from the depths of its own feelings.  17
  Providence certainly does not favor individuals, but the deep wisdom of its counsels extends to the instruction and ennoblement of all.  18
  Real inward devotion knows no prayer but that arising from the depths of its own feelings.  19
  The finest fruit earth holds up to its Maker is a finished man.  20
 
 
  The mere reality of life would be inconceivably poor without the charm of fancy, which brings in its bosom, no doubt, as many vain fears as idle hopes, but lends much oftener to the illusions it calls up a gay flattering hue than one which inspires terror.  21
  The sea has been called deceitful and treacherous, but there lies in this trait only the character of a great natural power, which, to speak according to our own feelings, renews its strength, and, without reference to joy or sorrow, follows eternal laws which are imposed by a higher Power.  22
  The sorrow which calls for help and comfort is not the greatest, nor does it come from the depths of the heart.  23
  The things of the world are ever rising and falling, and in perpetual change; and this change must be according to the will of God, as He has bestowed upon man neither the wisdom nor the power to enable him to check it. The great lesson in these things is, that man must strengthen himself doubly at such times to fulfill his duty and to do what is right, and must seek his happiness and inward peace from objects which cannot be taken away from him.  24
  To behold, is not necessary to observe, and the power of comparing and combining is only to be obtained by education. It is much to be regretted that habits of exact observation are not cultivated in our schools; to this deficiency may be traced much of the fallacious reasoning, the false philosophy which prevails.  25
  Trees have about them something beautiful and attractive even to the fancy, since they cannot change their places, are witnesses of all the changes that take place around them; and as some reach a great age, they become, as it were, historical monuments, and like ourselves they have a life, growing and passing away,—not being inanimate and unvarying like the fields and rivers. One sees them passing through various stages, and at last step by step approaching death, which makes them look still more like ourselves.  26
  True resignation, which always brings with it the confidence that unchangeable goodness will make even the disappointment of our hopes, and the contradictions of life, conducive to some benefit, casts a grave but tranquil light over the prospect of even a toilsome and troubled life.  27
  When we are not too anxious about happiness and unhappiness, but devote ourselves to the strict and unsparing performance of duty, then happiness comes of itself—nay, even springs from the midst of a life of troubles and anxieties and privations.  28
  Women are in this respect more fortunate than men, that most of their employments are of such a nature that they can at the same time be thinking of quite different things.  29
  Work, according to my feeling, is as much or a necessity to man as eating and drinking.  30
 
 
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