And finally, to balance these qualities, to keep them in leash, the ideal teacher should possess that spirit of service, that conviction that the life of service is the only life worth while—that conviction for which my hero struggled so long and against such tremendous odds. The spirit of service must always be the cornerstone of the teaching craft. To know that any life which does not provide the opportunities for service is not worth the living, and that any life, however humble, that does provide these opportunities is rich beyond the reach of earthly rewards,—this is the first lesson that the tyro in schoolcraft must learn, be he sixteen or sixty-five.
And just as youth and hope and the gift of gladness are the eternal verities on one side of the picture, so the spirit of service, the spirit of sacrifice, is the eternal verity that forms their true complement; without whose compensation, hope were but idle dreaming, and laughter a hollow mockery. And self-denial, which is the keynote of service, is the great sobering, justifying, eternal factor that symbolizes humanity more perfectly than anything else. In the introduction to Romola, George Eliot pictures a spirit of the past who returns to earth four hundred years after his death, and looks down upon his native city of Florence. And I can conclude with no better words than those in which George Eliot voices her advice to that shade:
“Go not down, good Spirit: for the changes are great and the speech of the Florentines would sound as a riddle in your ears. Or, if you go, mingle with no politicians on the marmi, or elsewhere; ask no questions about trade in Calimara; confuse yourself with no inquiries into scholarship, official or monastic. Only look at the sunlight and shadows on the grand walls that were built solidly and have endured in their grandeur; look at the faces of the little children, making another sunlight amid the shadows of age; look, if you will, into the churches and hear the same chants, see the same images as of old—the images of willing anguish for a great end, of beneficent love and ascending glory, see upturned living faces, and lips moving to the old prayers for help. These things have not changed. The sunlight and the shadows bring their old beauty and waken the old heart-strains at morning, noon, and even-tide; the little children are still the symbol of the eternal marriage between love and duty; and men still yearn for the reign of peace and righteousness—still own that life to be the best which is a conscious voluntary sacrifice.”
[Footnote 19: An address to the graduating class of the Oswego, New York, State Normal School, February, 1908.]