G.M.C. Massey, my grandfather, included many personal and philosophical observations in his memoirs as well as stories from his life.
Here, he muses philosophically a bit, quoting 2 poets. The opening passage, which he repeated any times in his memoirs, combines disconnected sections from James Russell Lowell’s poem, “For an Autograph,” changing some of the wording slightly. Later, he more accurately quotes a brief excerpt from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Psalm of Life” as well.
He gives no attribution for the closing story.
Life is like a book of paper white,
Whereon we may each write
His page or two, and then comes night…
If we have time for only a line or two;
Then comes night, be that sublime;
for not failure; But low aim is a crime.
By way of explanation, as to what I mean by these lines, I will say that when we are born into this world, This BOOK that I was likened life to be, there is nothing in this book; But a page for a day so that every day of our lives we write a page in this book. Of course for many pages that are filled with Groans, Cries and many other Infantile wails But after a while we begin to be able to make out what is meant by some of these things that we hear. So finally we understand the Da Da and the ma ma and other words that we hear or do not hear but we imagine we hear, And then when we see the first smile, we imagine MYRTH, and soon we are able to talk to them understandingly, and get a lot of consolation, out of the growth, and the development of the young life, And then when the young life has developed to that extent that we start them to school. And then there is an Impetus; to how this book is being filled up; And there is a great responsibility on the parents; to see to it that the child has a good chance to fill this book with worthwhile things: Of course there must be an understanding that we cannot put a grown individuals head on the child’s shoulder, But it is possible for the parents to give the child an opportunity to write worthwhile things in the book, at the time of the child’s developing stage, for it will be very constructive for the child’s after years When he is building character, For in his reminiscence he will find so much rich things stored back in his mind that he can draw on, that will make him very glad indeed.
Lives of great men all remind us,
We can make our lives sublime:
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.
These lines remind me of what I read one time when I was younger than I am now of a man, Or youth that had an Idea that he wanted somebody some time to see something that would remind them of him. And so he was on the seashore, and he leveled off a nice place on the shore, and he wrote that he too, had been there; Then after a while he returned, and found out that the waves had come up on the Sand, and had erased the name that he so proudly placed there.
Then he said that I know what I’ll do: I’ll carve my name upon some tree and the sea will not come up and wash it away: But some man came along, and not noticing that someone had carved his name upon it; He cut the tree down and chopped it up into fire wood and carried it away, And after a few years he returned, and to his amazement and surprise, he found that his last attempt was also a failure: and he began to search in his mind and It came to him That the great men that had read about was the ones who had carved their names upon the hearts of men, And that was the turning point in his life. And he began a different scheme of life, He began a study of world affairs and set another stake out there as His goal, and drove that way Slowly but surely. And after years of studying and toiling along, He never lost sight of the Goal that he had set, till he finally reached it.