Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
On Keeping within One’s Proper Sphere
By Arthur Hugh Clough (1819–1861)
From ‘The Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich’
  [A party of Oxford men spend their long vacation in Scotland. In due course they return to their colleges. Adam, one of the party,—
                  “The grave man nicknamed Adam,
White-tied, clerical, silent, with antique square-cut waistcoat,”
receives a letter at Christmas from Philip (Hewson),
  “The Chartist, the poet, the eloquent speaker.”]

WHAT I said at Balloch has truth in it; only distorted.
Plants are some for fruit, and some for flowering only;
Let there be deer in parks as well as kine in paddocks,
Grecian buildings upon the earth, as well as Gothic.
There may be men perhaps whose vocation it is to be idle,        5
Idle, sumptuous even, luxurious, if it must be:
Only let each man seek to be that for which Nature meant him,
Independent surely of pleasure, if not regardless,
Independent also of station, if not regardless;
Irrespective also of station, as of enjoyment;        10
Do his duty in that state of life to which God, not man, shall call him.
If you were meant to plow, Lord Marquis, out with you and do it;
If you were meant to be idle, O beggar, behold I will feed thee;
Take my purse; you have far better right to it, friend, than the Marquis.
If you were born for a groom,—and you seem by your dress to believe so,—        15
Do it like a man, Sir George, for pay, in a livery-stable;
Yes, you may so release that slip of a boy at the corner,
Fingering books at the window, misdoubting the Eighth Commandment.
What, a mere Dean with those wits, that debtor-and-creditor head-piece!
Go, my detective D. D., take the place of Burns the gauger.        20
Ah, fair Lady Maria, God meant you to live and be lovely:
Be so then, and I bless you. But ye, ye spurious ware, who
Might be plain women, and can be by no possibility better!
Ye unhappy statuettes, ye miserable trinkets,
Poor alabaster chimney-piece ornaments under glass cases,        25
Come, in God’s name, come down! the very French clock by you
Puts you to shame with ticking; the fire-irons deride you.
Break your glasses; ye can! come down; ye are not really plaster,
Come, in God’s name, come down! do anything, be but something!
You, young girl, who have had such advantages, learnt so quickly,        30
Can you not teach? Oh, yes, and she likes Sunday-school extremely,
Only it’s soon in the morning. Away! if to teach be your calling,
It is no play, but a business: off! go teach and be paid for it.
Surely that fussy old dowager yonder was meant for the counter;
Oh, she is notable very, and keeps her servants in order        35
Past admiration. Indeed, and keeps to employ her talent
How many, pray? to what use? Away! the hotel’s her vocation.
Lady Sophie’s so good to the sick, so firm and so gentle:
Is there a nobler sphere than of hospital nurse and matron?
Hast thou for cooking a turn, little Lady Clarissa? in with them,        40
In with your fingers! Their beauty it spoils, but your own it enhances;
For it is beautiful only to do the thing we are meant for.
But they will marry, have husbands, and children, and guests, and households—
Are there so many trades for a man,—for women one only,
First to look out for a husband and then to preside at his table?
*        *        *        *        *
Have you ever, Philip, my boy, looked at it in this way?
When the armies are set in array, and the battle beginning,
Is it well that the soldier whose post is far to the leftward
Say, I will go to the right, it is there I shall do best service?
There is a great Field-Marshal, my friend, who arrays our battalions;        50
Let us to Providence trust, and abide and work in our stations.

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