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The Choice Of Hercules

( Originally Published 1902 )

THE original " Choice of Hercules " has been lost, but the substance of it has been preserved by Xenophon in his Memorabilia of Socrates. Hercules was puzzled as to what path he should take in entering life. He repaired to a solitude for meditation. While there he saw two female figures of lofty stature approaching him. One was of an engaging and graceful mien, with elegance of form, modesty of look and sobriety of demeanor, and clad in a white robe. The other was fed to fatness and was aided by art in her complexion, so that she seemed rosier than she really was, and in gesture so that she seemed taller than her natural height. The last named one said to him : "I see you are hesitating by what path you shall enter life. If you will yield yourself to me I will conduct you by a delightful and easy road, and there is no fear that I will urge you to procure delights by suffering of body or mind." " What is your name?" he said. " My friends call me Happiness, but those who hate me call me Vice." The other female approached, and said: " I will not deceive you with promises of pleasure. For of whatever is valuable the gods grant nothing except through labor and care." Here Vice interrupting, said : " Do you see by how difficult a road she leads you to gratification, while I will lead you by an easy path to pleasure." "Wretched being!" rejoined Virtue. " What good are you in creation, what happiness can you experience, when you are unwilling to do anything for its attainment? You are cast out of the society of the gods, and despised by mankind, while I am a companion of the gods and associate with virtuous men. There is no honorable deed, human or divine, that is done without my sanction. My friends have the richest food and sweetest sleep, and when the destined end of life shall come they will not lie down in oblivion, but, celebrated in songs of praise, they shall flourish for-ever in the memory of mankind. By such a course of conduct, O Hercules, son of noble parentage, you may secure the most exalted happiness."

These maidens are faithful witnesses of the fact that the path of idleness is haunted by vice, and that the path of virtue is one of toil. After religion, after education, industry is the best safeguard for the young. Thousands, every year, take the downward course more from lack of systematic occupation than anything else.

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