A Child’s Book of Stories from Many Lands by Jessie Wilcox Smith – Susan’s Newsletter May 2016

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Susan's Thursday Note May 12, 2016
Quotes on Perseverance.  The Water Lily by Jean Ingelow 

Good morning.  Complete stillness outside my window.  Only movement is spider webs dancing where they are hit by the sunlight.  Hot coffee.  Firetruck sounds to my right.  My angel of dawn is smiling as she is loudly serenaded by birds which I doubt made the first or second cut to any local choirs.  I can’t see where they are hiding out, but the joy in their off-key song and their intention is working.  To awaken my mind and encourage me to enter this beautiful day handed to me once again by my angel of dawn.  I gratefully accept her gift. 

This week I was reading out of A Child’s Book of Stories from Many Lands and was taken with a short story on hope and perseverance.  The Water Lily by Jean Ingelow.   A story which I believe will stay in your mind if you are able to take the time to read the excerpt which I am adding at the end of this note.  A young child desiring to draw great paintings is met by a fairy and the story of hope is told through the intertwining of the lily in the story and the boy as he grows into an artist.  I loved this story so much.  I found other favorite quotes on perseverance which I will write out for you.  We again now enter the next season of the year and see graduations taking place and our minds entering summer.  Our spring flowers showing their desire to go back under cover.  Constant change.  Our sand timers never stopping for even a moment.  Again, can we mentally stop one grain as it travels to see how our own desires are playing out.  Hope.  Perseverance.  Lily.  All words that keep the sand moving.  Time.  Beautiful.  Our gift today.  Dreams.  Hope.  Perseverance.

Persevere: To persist steadfastly in pursuit of an undertaking, task, journey, or goal, even if hindered by distraction, difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement.

When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at a rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it.  Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it—but all that had gone before. Jacob Riis

And I recall an account of Trollope going up to London to pick up a rejected manuscript from a publisher, getting on the train to return home, laying the bulky bundle on his lap face down, and beginning a new book on the back pages of the rejected one.” (Unattributed)

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”  Thomas Edison

“If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.”    H.G. Wells

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.” Abraham Lincoln

“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” Babe Ruth

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”    Nelson Mandela

“I am not concerned that you have fallen – I am concerned that you arise.” Abraham Lincoln

“A few fly bites cannot stop a spirited horse.”  Mark Twain

Our persistent little off-key birds.  Determined to daily encourage us to look upward.  Up to the hills.  Or to look outward.  To consider the lilies of the field.  To keep an eternal perspective.  To not panic as we see the sand never ever stopping in our sand-timers.  To instead mentally stop a grain as it passes, holding the moment that we don’t want to pass for a moment, but then letting time move on.  To steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, but then rest only for a moment, daring not to linger, for my long walk is not ended. Outside my window my angel is no longer visible.  Robins are pulling the unlucky worms, the leaves are all awakening.  The world is coming alive.  One robin sits quietly.  She is the one who realizes that if she stops her busy little life she will feel the grass.  She will notice the yellow dandelion.  She will hear the sounds of her friends.  She has a beautiful morning.  She stopped.  She noticed. 

Thank you for letting me enter your Thursday again today.  How I thank you for your friendship, for your business, and for coming in and picking out a book that when you walk out…someday…somewhere…some possible silent moment at midnight you may find words that may change the rest of your life.  Today.  Our lily is still open in our dreams.  Showing us that our masterpiece is not yet complete.  That we must persevere and continue to enter our particular movement of our song called life.  Our beautiful song.  Susan


Latin for this week:
perseverare - continue steadfastly, persist
dde parvum parvo magnus acervus erit. Add a little to a little and there will be a great heap (Ovid).
perseverando – by perseverance (motto on the seal of the State of Virginia)
persevero – I persevere.

Excerpt from The Water Lily written by Jean Ingelow (1820-1897 English Write & Poet)

“There was once a boy who was very fond of pictures. There were not many pictures for him to look at, for his mother, who was a widow, lived on the borders of one of the great American forests. She had come out from England with her husband, and now that he was dead, the few pictures hanging on her walls were almost the only luxuries she possessed.

“Her son would often spend his holidays in trying to copy them, but as he had very little application, he often threw his half-finished drawings away, and once he was heard to say that he wished some kind-hearted fairy would take it in hand and finish it for him.

“‘Child,’ said the mother, ‘for my part I don’t believe there are any such things as fairies. I never saw one, and your father never did; but by all accounts, if fairies there be, they are a jealous and revengeful race. Mind your books, my child, and never mind the fairies.’

“‘Very well, mother,’ said the boy.

“‘It makes me sad to see you stand gazing at the pictures,’ said his mother, coming up to him and laying her hand on his curly head; ‘why, child, pictures can’t feed a body, pictures can’t clothe a body, and a log of wood is far better to burn and warm a body.’

“‘All that is quite true, mother,’ said the boy.

“‘Then why do you keep looking at them, child?’

“The boy hesitated, and then answered, ‘I don’t know, mother.’

“‘You don’t know! nor I neither. Why, child, you look at the dumb things as if you loved them. Put on your cap and run out to play.’

“So the boy went out, and wandered toward the forest till he came to the brink of a sheet of water. It was too small to be called a lake, but it was deep, clear, and overhung with crowds of trees. It was evening, and the sun was getting low. There was a narrow strip of land stretching out into the water. Pine-trees grew upon it; and here and there a plane-tree or a sumach dipped its large leaves over, and seemed intent on watching its own clear reflection.

“The boy stood still, and thought how delightful it was to see the sun red and glorious between the black trunks of the pine-trees. Then he looked up into the abyss of clear sky overhead, and thought how beautiful it was to see the little frail clouds folded over one another like a belt of rose-colored waves. Then he drew still nearer to the water, and saw how they were all reflected down there among the leaves and flowers of the lilies; and he wished he were a painter, for he said to himself, ‘I am sure there are no trees in the world with such beautiful leaves as these pines; I am sure there are no other clouds in the world so lovely as these; I know this is the sweetest piece of water in the world, and, if I could paint it, every one else would know it too.’ He stood still for awhile, watching the water-lilies as they closed their leaves for the night, and listening to the slight sound they made when they dipped their heads under water. ‘The sun has been playing tricks with these lilies as well as with the clouds,’ he said to himself, ‘for when I passed by in the morning they swayed about like floating snowballs, and now there is not a bud of them that has not got a rosy side. I must gather one, and see if I cannot make a drawing of it.’ So he gathered a lily, sat down with it in his hand, and tried very hard to make a correct sketch of it in a blank leaf of his copy-book. He was far more patient than usual, but he succeeded so little to his own satisfaction, that at length he threw down the book, and, looking into the cup of his lily, said to it, in a sorrowful voice, ‘Ah, what use is it my trying to copy anything so beautiful as you are? How much I wish I were a painter!’

“As he said these words he felt a slight quivering in the flower; and, while he looked, the cluster of stamens at the bottom of the cup floated upward, and glittered like a crown of gold; the dewdrops which hung upon them changed into diamonds before his eyes; the white petals flowed together; the tall pistil was a golden wand; and the next moment a beautiful little creature stood upon his hand, clad in a robe of the purest white, and scarcely taller than the flower from which she sprung.

The next moment a beautiful little creature stood upon his hand.

“Struck with astonishment, the boy kept silence. She lifted up her face, and opened her lips more than once. He expected her to say some wonderful thing; but, when at length she did speak, she only said, ‘Child, are you happy?’

“‘No,’ said the boy, in a low voice, ‘because I want to paint, and I cannot.’

“‘How do you know that you cannot?’ asked the fairy.

“‘Oh, fairy,’ replied the boy, ‘because I have tried a great many times. It is of no use trying any longer.’

“‘What if I were to help you?’ said the fairy.

“‘There would then indeed be some pleasure in the work and some chance of success,’ said the boy.

“‘I was just closing my leaves for the night,’ answered the fairy, ‘when you drew me out of the water; and I should have made you feel the effects of my resentment if it had not happened that you are the favorite of our race. Under the water, at the bottom of this lake, are our palaces and castles; and when, after visiting the upper world, we wish to return to them, we close one of these lilies over us, and sink in it to our home. The wish that I heard you utter just now induced me to appear to you. I know a powerful charm which will ensure your success and the accomplishment of your highest wishes; but it is one which requires a great deal of care and patience in the working, and I cannot put you in possession of it unless you will promise the most implicit obedience to my directions.’

“‘Spirit of a water-lily!’ said the boy, ‘I promise with all my heart.’

“‘Go home, then,’ continued the fairy, ‘and you will find lying on the threshold a little key: take it up.’

“‘I will,’ answered the boy; ‘and what then shall I do?’

“‘Carry it to the nearest pine-tree,’ said the fairy, ‘strike the trunk with it, and a keyhole will appear. Do not be afraid to unlock that magic door. Slip in your hand, and you will bring out a wonderful palette. I have not time now to tell you half its virtues, but they will soon unfold themselves. You must be very careful to paint with colors from that palette every day. On this depends the success of the charm. You will find that it will soon give grace to your figures and beauty to your coloring; and I promise you that, if you do not break the spell, you shall not only in a few years be able to produce as beautiful a copy of these flowers as can be wished, but your name shall become known to fame, and your genius shall be honored, and your pictures admired on both sides the Atlantic.’

“‘Can it be possible?’ said the boy; and the hand trembled on which stood the fairy.

“‘It shall be so, if only you do not break the charm,’ said the fairy; ‘but lest, like the rest of your ungrateful race, you should forget what you owe to me, and even when you grow older begin to doubt whether you have ever seen me, the Lily you gathered will never fade till my promise is accomplished.’

“So saying, she gathered around her the folds of her robe, crossed her arms, and dropping her head on her breast, trembled slightly; and, before the boy could remark the change, he had nothing in his hand but a flower.

“He looked up. All the beautiful rosy flowers were faded to a shady gray. The gold had disappeared from the water, and the forest was dense and gloomy. He arose with the lily in his hand, went slowly home, laid it in a casket to protect it from injury, and then proceeded to search for the palette, which he shortly found; and, lest he should break the spell, he began to use it that very night.

“Who would not like to have a fairy friend? Who would not like to work with a magic palette? Every day its virtues become more apparent. He worked very hard, and it was astonishing how soon he improved. His deep, heavy outlines soon became light and clear; and his coloring began to assume a transparent delicacy. He was so delighted with the fairy present that he even did more than was required of him. He spent nearly all his leisure time in using it, and often passed whole days beside the sheet of water in the forest. He painted it when the sun shone, and it was spotted all over with the reflection of fleeting white clouds; he painted it covered with water-lilies rocking on the ripples; by moonlight, when two or three stars in the empty sky shone down upon it; and at sunset, when it lay trembling like liquid gold.

“But the fairy never came to look at his work. He often called to her when he had been more than usually successful; but she never made him any answer, nor took the least notice of his entreaties that he might see her again.

“So a long time—several years—passed away. He was grown up to be a man, and he had never broken the charm; he still worked every day with his magic palette.

“No one in these parts cared at all for his pictures. His mother’s friends told him he would never get his bread by painting; his mother herself was sorry that he chose to waste his leisure so; and the more because the pictures on her walls were brighter far than his, and had clouds and trees of far clearer color, not like the common clouds and misty hills that he was so fond of painting, and his faintly colored distant forest, with uncertain and variable hues, such as she could see any day when she looked out at her window.

“It made the young man unhappy to hear all this fault found with his proceedings, but it never made him leave off using the fairy’s palette, though about this time he himself began to doubt whether he should ever be a painter. One evening he sat at his easel, trying in vain to give the expression he wished to an angel’s face, which seemed to get less and less like the face in his heart with every touch he gave it. On a sudden he threw down his brush, and with a feeling of bitter disappointment upbraided himself for what he now thought his folly in listening to the fairy, and accepting her delusive gift. What had he got by it hitherto? Nothing but his mother’s regrets and the ridicule of his companions. He threw himself on his bed. It grew dark; he could no longer be vexed with the sight of his unfinished angel; and presently he fell asleep and forgot his sorrow.

“In the middle of the night he suddenly awoke. His chamber was full of moonlight. The lid of the casket where he kept the lily had sprung open, and his fairy friend stood near it.

“‘American painter,’ she said, in a reproachful voice, ‘since you think I have been rather a foe than a friend to you, I am ready to take back my gift.’

“But sleep had now cooled the young painter’s mind, and softened his feelings of vexation, so that he did not find himself at all willing to part with the palette. While he hesitated how to excuse himself, she further said, ‘But if you still wish to try what it can do for you, take this ring which my sister sends you; wear it, and it will greatly assist the charm.’

“The youth held out his hand and took the ring. As he cast his eyes upon it, the fairy vanished. He turned it to the moonlight, and saw that it was set with a stone of a transparent blue color. It had the property of reflecting everything bright that came near it; and there was a word engraven upon it. He thought—he could not be sure—but he thought the word was ‘Hope.’

“After this, and during a long time, I can tell you no more about him: whether he finished the angel’s face, and whether it pleased him at last, I do not know. I only know that, in process of time, his mother died—that he came to Europe—and that he was quite unknown and very poor.

“The next thing recorded of him is this, that on a sudden he became famous. The world began to admire his works, and to seek his company. He was considered a great man, and wealth and honors flowed in upon him. It happened to him that one day in travelling he came to a great city, where there was a large collection of pictures. He went to see them, and among them he saw many of his own pictures; some of them he had painted before he had left his forest home; others were of more recent date. All the people and all the painters praised them. But there was one that they liked better than the others; and when he heard them call it his masterpiece, he went and sat down opposite to it, that he might think over again some of the thoughts that he had had when he painted it.

“It was a picture of a little child, holding in its hands several beautiful water-lilies; and the crowd that gathered round it praised the lightness of the drapery, the beauty of the infant form, the soft light shed down upon it, and, above all, the innocent expression of the baby features.

“He was pleased, but not elated. He called to mind the words of his fairy benefactress, and acknowledged to himself that at length they were certainly fulfilled.

“And then it drew toward evening, and the people one by one disappeared, till he was left alone with his masterpiece. The excitement of the day had made him anxious for repose. He was thinking of leaving the place, when suddenly he fell asleep, and dreamed that he was standing behind the sheet of water in his native country, and lingering, as of old, to watch the rays of the setting sun as they melted away from its surface. He thought, too, that his beautiful lily was in his hand, and that while he looked at it the leaves withered and fell at his feet. Then followed a confused recollection of his conversation with the fairy; and after that his thoughts became clearer, and, though still asleep, he remembered where he was, and in what place he was sitting. His impressions became more vivid. He dreamed that something lightly touched his hand. He looked up, and his fairy benefactress was at his side, standing on the arm of his chair.

“‘O wonderful enchantress!’ said the dreaming painter, ‘do not vanish before I have had time to thank you for your magic gift. I have nothing to offer you but my gratitude in return; for the diamonds of this world are too heavy for such an ethereal being, and the gold of this world is useless to you who have no wants that it can supply. The fame I have acquired I cannot impart to you, for few of my race believe in the existence of yours. What, then, can I do? I can only thank you for your goodness. But tell me at least your name, if you have a name, that I may cut it on a ring, and wear it always on my finger.’

“‘My name,’ replied the fairy, ‘is Perseverance.'”