"My soul is dark - Oh! quickly string The harp I yet can brook to hear; And let thy gentle fingers fling Its melting murmurs o'er mine ear. If in this heart a hope be dear, That sound shall charm it forth again: If in these eyes there lurk a tear, 'Twill flow, and cease to burn my brain.
But bid the strain be wild and deep,
Nor let thy notes of joy be first:
I tell thee, minstrel, I must weep,
Or else this heavy heart will burst;
For it hath been by sorrow nursed,
And ached in sleepless silence long;
And now 'tis doom'd to know the worst,
And break at once - or yield to song." - Byron.
"Then music with her silver sound With speedy help doth lend redress."
The value of true refinement cannot be overestimated, although the world at large is lacking in a real appreciation of its worth. Many people who are highly educated have little, if any, real refinement. The refining influence of life comes from within, but it expresses itself through every spoken word, kindly look, or generous act. A gentleman is not such because of birth, education, position or money, for the combination of all these would not necessarily make a gentleman of anyone.
To refine is to make pure, to eliminate the dross; and the gentleman is made through the refining and the purifying of his own nature. It is a process of being, a state of becoming. While true refinement comes from within, nevertheless there is much in man's external world that may be used as a means to stimulate this inner growth: intercourse with refined people and an effort to see the beautiful in nature or in art. It might seem, at first sight, that refinement acquired in this way would prove only of a superficial nature, a veneering that simulates rather than something real. To a degree this may be true, for one may begin with imitation, but any effort expended even in this way helps to call out potential qualities that are resident in all people; so outer things may become rungs in the ladder of progress by which we mount to higher states.
All the beauty, rhythm, and harmony we are able to perceive in our outer environment acts on us somewhat like a magnet to call out or to attract the living melody, rhythm, and harmony that lie within, and when the inner is awakened, then we perceive still greater beauties without; so that the outer acts on the inner, and the inner on the outer to produce an ever-expanding life.
Often there is a very real development going on in life so gradually that the person may be all unconscious of its taking place, and even when he becomes conscious that such development has been going on, he may find it difficult to account for. One may listen to a wonderful musical composition without apparently being affected by it, but through coming in contact with others and listening to opinions expressed by them about the composition, the next time he hears it he brings something more to it than he did at first, and becomes conscious of a beauty of melody and harmony that he was unable to perceive in the first place. Intercourse and exchange of ideas with people tend to enlarge our mental vision. Sympathetic understanding on our part will call out sympathetic understanding from others. Constant interchange of thought and sympathy with others aids much not only in bringing about true relationship with other people, but also in helping to develop our lives. Illumination comes from within, but the outer thing may be the match that serves to light the lamp that is within. So, at times, even the little things in one's outer life speak to and call out the inner thought and feeling. The refining process of life becomes one of daily desire and effort. Desire to know and effort to do. In it knowing and doing are inseparably linked, as all knowledge that is acquired is intended to be put to some definite use. Refinement comes through a constant effort to give expression to one's ideals. Now the ideal is always ahead of one's performance, but through the effort one makes to give expression to it, the ideal goes on enlarging, and because of this one need not excuse one's self by saying that if one knew better one would do better; for knowing comes through doing. He who does the best he knows will never lack in knowledge for still better doing. There are many little courtesies and kindnesses that we appreciate in others, but often fail to cultivate in ourselves. I do not think that we should expect from anyone else that which we refrain from giving, or are unwilling to give. If one gives of the best one has to give, the giving becomes a magnet, as it were, to draw out the best from others. It is through giving that one receives. The more one can bring to life the more one will get from life in return. The smile on one's face will bring the smile to the face of another. The harsh word will call out resentment and be followed by harshness in return. We are so actively engaged in all the externals of life that we become forgetful of the highest self. If people could be made to understand that it is through knowledge of the subjective or inner life that they become best fitted to live the outer, then they would pay far more attention to the development of their inner lives than they do at the present. Let me illustrate it in this way: A man is anxious to do as much work and get as great return from that work as it is possible for him to get. He applies himself in a diligent way, but after a time he finds that he is either so mentally or physically tired that it is only with the greatest effort that he can continue his work. If he keeps on making such effort, eventually there comes a nervous or physical breakdown, and for the time being he becomes incapacitated for further work, and perhaps during that time all the material means he worked so hard to gain are lost to him. This is a very common experience in life. Now, if such a man could know that there are easier and better methods, both in thinking and in working, so that he could accomplish as much work with half the expenditure of energy and get the same result, then he would be very foolish not to employ such methods. The writer is assured beyond the possibility of a doubt that one can not only acquire a better and easier way of doing everything, but also be always in possession of a reserve energy, and therefore ready to meet any unusual emergency; but one can only succeed in doing this through an understanding of the innate powers and possibilities of one's own inner life. There is a natural way of living, and if we follow this way we shall never have any reason to regret it. If we desire greater health and strength in order to do the work we have to do in life, then such desire is the first step toward bringing us the fulfilment. Whenever we desire with heart and mind at-one, we create a magnet to attract to us the object of our desire. Man's prayers are not intended to please God, but to bring his own life into right relationship both with the Source of Life and his outer environment. When we enter the secret place of the Most High, we do not do so in order to bring gifts to God, but rather to put ourselves in right relation to Him, so that we may receive gifts from Him. This inner life, then, is the real source of supply. The outer life is the plane of demand. In order to keep the source of supply open for the influx of every good and every perfect gift, we must have the inner rhythm united with melody, in order that the mind may be illumined by visions of ideal beauty; for the soul of man may be likened to a harp on which all the divine emotions make music. Music can be made to sing through the life of man and bring with it new revelations, not only of the deepest, but of the highest things of life. And from this inner revelation there will come not only a refining influence on the whole life, but such a radiance as will enable the life to impart to the lives of others something of its own joy and brightness. When man's inner life is made to sing, then all his outer work is expressed through rhythm and harmony, and there is not only an ease in doing his work, but a real pleasure. One who has not experienced does not and cannot realise the pleasure and joy that come through doing real creative work. Creative work consists in the divine vision or ideal taking form in mind and being followed by the effort on the part of the one who has received it to give outer expression or form to the inner ideal. One never tires of such work. There is no undue haste or loss of energy because, where rhythm, melody, and harmony are being truly expressed in action, there can be no mental or physical tension, and therefore no useless expenditure of energy.