Music at Midnight : To do one’s duty is to peep into the mystery of life, and taste reward from another world.
Music at Midnight

From Character by Samuel Smiles (1812-1904).

Samuel Smiles closed his book devoted to character with a reflection on doing one’s duty — meaning neither the bare minimum required by law, nor slavish obedience to authority, but the mysterious, often elusive task which God has entrusted to each one of us.

THERE is much in life that, while in this state, we can never comprehend. There is, indeed, a great deal of mystery in life — much that we see ‘as in a glass darkly.’ But though we may not apprehend the full meaning of the discipline of trial through which the best have to pass, we must have faith in the completeness of the design of which our little individual lives form a part.

We have each to do our duty in that sphere of life in which we have been placed. Duty alone is true; there is no true action but in its accomplishment. Duty is the end and aim of the highest life; the truest pleasure of all is that derived from the consciousness of its fulfilment. Of all others, it is the one that is most thoroughly satisfying, and the least accompanied by regret and disappointment. In the words of George Herbert, the consciousness of duty performed ‘gives us music at midnight.’*

* George Herbert (1593-1633) was a Welshman with a brilliant career in politics, poetry and the University before him, who decided to become a country vicar.

From Character by Samuel Smiles (1812-1904).

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