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Of Humility. From Proverbial Philosophy

Vice is grown aweary of her gawds, and donneth russet garments.
Loving for change to walk as a nun, beneath a modest veil:
For Pride hath noted how all admire the fairness of Humility,
And to clutch the praise he coveteth, is content to be drest in hair-cloth;
And wily Lust tempteth the young heart, that is proof against the bravery of harlots.
With timid tears and retiring looks of an artful seeming maid;
And indolent Apathy, sleepily ashamed of his dull lack- lustre face.
Is glad of the livery of meekness, that charitable cloak and cowl;
And Hatred hideth his demon frown beneath a gentle mask;
And Slander, snake like, creepeth in the dust, thinking to escape recrimination.
But the world hath gained somewhat from its years, and is quick to penetrate disguises.
Neither in all these is it easily deceived, but rightly divideth the true from the false.
Yet there is a meanness of spirit, that is fair in the eyes of most men,
Yea, and seemeth fair unto itself, loving to be thought Humility.
Its choler is not roused by insolence, neither do injuries distiub it:
Honest indignation is strange unto its breast, and just reproof unto its lip.
It shrinketh, looking fearfully on men, fawning at the feet of the great;
The breath of calumny is sweet unto its ear, and it courteth the rod of persecution.
But what! art thou not a man, deputed chief of the creation?
Art thou not a soldier of the right, militant for God and good?
Shall virtue and truth be degraded, because thou art too base to uphold them?
Or Goliath be bolder in blaspheming for want of a David in the camp?
I say not, avenge injuries; for the ministry of vengeance is not thine:
But wherefore rebuke not a liar? wherefore do dishonour to thyself?
Wherefore let the evil triumph, when the just and the right are on thy side?
Such Humility is abject, it lacketh the life of sensibility,
And that resignation is but mock, where the burden is not felt:
Suspect thyself and thy meekness: thou art mean and indifferent to sin;
And the heart that should grieve and forgive, is case-hardened and forgetteth.
Humility mainly becometh the converse of man with his Maker,
But oftentimes it seemeth out of place in the intorcourse of man with man:
Yea, it is the cringer to his equal, that is chiefly seen bold to his God,
While the martyr, whom a world cannot brow-beat, is humble as a child before Him.
Render unto all men their due, but remember thou also art a man,
And cheat not thyself of the reverence which is owing to thy reasonable being.
Be courteous, and listen, and learn: but teach and answer if thou canst:
Serve thee of thy neighbours wisdom, but be not enslaved as to a master.
Where thou perceivest knowledge, bend the ear of attention and respect;
But yield not further to the teaching, than as thy mind is warranted by reasons.
Better is an obstinate disputant, that yieldeth inch by inch,
Than the shallow traitor to himself, who surrendereth to half an argument.
Modesty winneth good report, but scorn cometh close upon servility;
Therefore, use meekness with discretion, casting not pearls before swine.
For a fool will tread upon thy neck, if he seeth thee lying in the dust;
And there be companies and seasons where resolute bearing is but duty.
If a good man discloseth his secret failings unto the view of the profane.
What doeth he but harm unto his brother, confirming him in his sin?
There is a concealment that is right, and an open-mouthed humility that erreth;
There is a candour near akin to folly, and a meekness looking like shame.
Masculine sentiments, vigorously holden, well become a man;
But a weak mind hath a timorous grasp, and mistaketh it for tenderness of conscience.
Many are despised for then folly, who put it to the account of their religion,
And because men treat them with contempt, they look to their God for glory;
But contempt shall still be then reward, who betrayed their Master unto ridicule.
Reflecting on Him in themselves, meanness and ignorance and cowardice.
A Christian hath a royal spirit, and need not be ashamed but unto One:
Among just men walketh he softly, but the world should see him as a champion:
His humbleness is far unlike the shame that covereth the profligate and weak,
When the sober reproof of virtue hath touched their tingling ears;
It is born of love and wisdom, and is worthy of all honour.
And the sweet persuasion of its smile changeth contempt into reverence.
A man of a haughty spirit is daily adding to his enemies:
He standeth as the Arab in the desert, and the hands of all men are against him:
A man of a base mind daily subtracteth from his friends.
For he holdeth himself so cheaply, that others learn to despise him:
But where the meekness of self-knowledge veileth the front of self-respect.
There look thou for the man, whom none can know but they will honour.
Humility is the softening shadow before the stature of Excellence,
And lieth lowly on the ground, beloved and lovely as the violet:
Humility is the fair-haired maid, that called Worth her brother,
The gentle silent nurse, that fostereth infant virtues:
Humility bringeth no excuse; she is welcome to God and man:
Her countenance is needful unto all, who would prosper in either world:
And the mild light of her sweet face is mirrored in the eyes of her companions,
And straightway stand they accepted, children of penitence and love.
As when the blind man is nigh unto a rose, its sweetness is the herald of its beauty,
So when thou savourest humility, be sure thou art nigh unto merit.
A gift rejoiceth the covetous, and praise fatteneth the vain,
And the pride of man delighteth in the humble bearing of his fellow;
But to the tender benevolence of the unthanked Almoner of good.
Humility is queen among the graces, for she giveth Him occasion to bestow.

Transcribed from Proverbial Philosophy by Mick Puttock, August 2011 (Spelling, punctuation and grammer left mostly unchanged from the 25th edition)


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Submitted on August 03, 2020

5:15 min read

Martin Farquhar Tupper

Martin Farquhar Tupper was an English writer and poet more…

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