On Seizing Opportunities
SOME men are never awake when the train starts, but crawl into the station just in time to see that everybody is off and then sleepily say, "Dear me, is the train gone? My watch must have stopped in the nights They always come into town a day after the fair and open their wares an hour after the market is over. They make their hay when the sun has left off shining and cut their corn as soon as the fine weather is ended.
They cry, "Hold hard!" after the shot has left the gun and lock the stable door when the steed is stolen. They are like a cow's tail, always behind; they take time by the heels and not by the forelock, if indeed they ever take him at all. They are no more worth than an old almanac; their time has gone for lack of use. Unfortunately, you cannot throw them away as you would the almanac, for they are like the cross old lady who had an annuity left her and meant to take out the full value of it; they won't die, though they are of no use alive. Take-it-easy and Live-long are first cousins, they say, and the more's the pity. If they are immortal till their work is done, they will not die in a hurry, for they have not even begun to work yet.
Shiftless people generally excuse their laziness by saying, "I am only a little behind"; but a little late is much too late, and a miss is as good as a mile. My neighbor Sykes covered up his well after his child was drowned in it and was very busy down at the Old Farm bringing up buckets of water after every stick of the house had been burnt; one of these days, he'll be making his will when he can't hold a pen, and he'll be trying to repent of his sins when his senses are going.
These slow coaches think that tomorrow is better than today and take for their rule an old proverb turned topsy-turvy -"Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow." They are forever waiting until their ship comes in and always dreaming about things looking up by-and-by, while grass grows in their furrows and the cows get through the gaps in their hedges. If the birds would but wait to have salt put on their tails, what a breakfast they would take home to their families! But while things move as fast they do, the youngsters at home will have to fill their mouths with empty spoons. "Never mind say they, there are better times coming, wait a little longer."
Their birds are all in the bush, and rare fat ones they are, according to their account; and so they had need to be, for they have had none in the hand yet, and wife and children are half-starved. Something will turn up," they say. why don't the idlers go and turn it up themselves? Time and tide wait for no man, and yet these fellows loiter about as if they had a freehold of time, a lease of their lives, and a rabbit hutch full of opportunities. They will find out their mistake when want Suds them out, and that will not be long with some in our village, for they are already a long way on the road to Needham. They who would not plow must not expect to eat; they who waste the spring will have a lean autumn. They would not strike when the iron was hot, and they will soon find the cold iron very hard.
"He that will not when he may, When he will he shall have nay."
Time is not tied to a post like a horse to a manger. It passes like the wind, and he who would grind his corn by it must set the mill-sails. He that gapes till he be fed will gape till he be dead. Nothing is to be got without pains except poverty and dirt. In the old says, they said, "Jack gets on by his stupidity." Jack would find it very different nowadays, I think; but never in old times or any other times, would Jack get on by foolishly letting present chances slip by him, for hares never run into the mouths of sleeping dogs. He that hath time and looks for better time, time comes that he repents himself of time. There's no good in lying down and crying, "God help us!"
God helps those who help themselves. When I see a man who declares that the times are bad and that he is always unlucky, I generally say to myself, "That old goose did not sit on the eggs till they were all addled, and now Providence is to be blamed because they won't hatch" I never had any faith in luck at all, except that I believe good luck will carry a man over a ditch if he jumps well and will put a bit of bacon into his pot if he looks after his garden and keeps a pig. Luck generally comes to those who look after it, and my notion is that it taps at least once in a lifetime at everybody's door, but if industry does not open it, away it goes. Those who have lost the last coach and let every opportunity slip by them, turn to abusing Providence for setting everything against them: "If I were a hatter ' says one, "men would be born without heads." "If I went to the sea for water," quotes another, "I should find it dried up." Every wind is foul for a crazy ship. Neither the wise nor the wealthy can help him who has long refused to help himself.
John Ploughman, in the most genteel manner, sends his compliments to his friends; and now that harvest is over and the hops all picked, according to promise, he intends giving them a bit of poetry, just to show that he is trying the polishing brushes. John asked the minister to lend him one of the poets, and he gave him the works of George Herbert - very good, no doubt, but rather tangled, like Harkaway Wood. Still, there's a good deal in the queer old verses, and every now and then one comes upon clusters of the sweetest nuts, but some of them are rather hard to crack. The following verse is somewhat near the subject now in hand and is plain enough in reason, though, begging the poet's pardon, John can't see a rhyme in it. However, as it is by the great Herbert, it must be good and will do well enough to ornament John's talk, like a flower stuck in a buttonhole of his Sunday coat.
"Let thy mind still be bent, still plotting where, And when, and how thy business may be done. Slackness breeds worms; but the sure traveler, Though he alight sometimes, still goeth on. Acting and stirring spirits live alone: Write on the others, Here lies such a one."