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Honor

( Originally Published 1879 )

To be ambitious of true honor, of the true glory and perfection, of our natures, is the very principle and incentive of virtue; but to be ambitious of titles, of place, of ceremonial respects and civil pageantry, is as vain and little as the things we court.

True honor, as defined by Cicero, is the concur-rent approbation of good men; those only being fit to give true praise who are themselves praiseworthy. Anciently the Romans worshiped virtue and honor as gods ; they built two temples, which were so seated that none could enter the temple of honor without passing through the temple of virtue.

The way to be truly honored is to be illustriously good. Maximilian, the German emperor, replied to one who desired his letters patent to ennoble him, saying, I am able to make you rich; but virtue must make you noble. Who would not desire the honor that Agesiaus, king of Sparta, had, who was fined by the Sphori for having stolen away all the hearts of the people to himself alone? Of whom it is said that he ruled his country by obeying it. It is with glory as with beauty ; for as a single fine lineament cannot make a fine face, neither can a single good quality render a man accomplished; but a concurrence of many fine features and good qualities make true beauty and true honor.

The Athenians raised a noble statue to the memory of AEsop, and placed a slave on a pedestal, that men might know the way to honor was open to all. The man of honor is internal, the person of honor an external; the one a real, the other a fictitious character. A person of honor may be a profane libertine, penurious, proud, may insult his inferiors, and defraud his creditors; but it is impossible for a man of honor to be guilty of any of these.

Among the ancient Greeks and Romans, in their best days, honor was more sought after than wealth. Times are changed. Now, wealth is the surest pass-port to honor ; and respectability is endangered by poverty. "Rome, was Rome no more" when the imperial purple had become an article of traffic, and when gold could purchase with ease the honors that patriotism and valor could once secure only with difficulty.

There is no true glory, no true greatness, without virtue; without which we do but abuse all the good things we have, whether they be great or little, false or real. Riches make us either covetous or prodigal; fine palaces make us despise the poor and poverty; a great number of domestics flatter human pride, which uses them like slaves ; valor oftentimes turns brutal and unjust; and a high pedigree makes a man take up with the virtues of his ancestors, without endeavoring to acquire any himself.

It is a fatal and delusive ambition which allures many to the pursuit of honors as such, or as accessions to some greater object in view. The substance is dropped to catch the shade, and the much coveted distinctions, in nine cases out of ten, prove to be mere airy phantasms and gilded mists. Real honor and real esteem are not difficult to be obtained in the world, but they are best won by actual worth and merit, rather than by art and intrigue which run a long and ruinous race, and seldom seize upon the prize at last. Seek not to be honored in any way save in thine own bosom, within thyself.

"Honor and shame from no condition rise :
Act well your part, there all the honor lies."



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