On he climbed, from height to height, becoming successively professor of mathematics in the University of Tennessee, lawyer, member of Congress, attorney-general of Tennessee, United States minister to Constantinople, and, finally, postmaster-general.
Honorable ambition is the leaven that raises the whole mass of mankind. Ideals, visions, are the stepping-stones by which we rise to higher things.
“Still, through our paltry stir and strife,
Glows down the wished ideal,
And longing molds in clay what life
Carves in the marble real;
“To let the new life
in, we know,
Desire must ope the portal,—
Perhaps the longing to be so
Helps make the soul immortal.”
He was a famous artist whom kings and queens and emperors delighted to honor. The emperor of all the Russias had sent him an affectionate letter, written by his own hand; the empress, a magnificent emerald ring set with diamonds; the king of his own beloved Norway, who had listened reverently, standing with uncovered head, while he, the king of violinists, played before him, had bestowed upon him the Order of Vasa; the king of Copenhagen presented him with a gold snuffbox, encrusted with diamonds; while, at a public dinner given him by the students of Christiana, he was crowned with a laurel wreath. Not all the thousands who thronged to hear him in London could gain entrance to the concert hall, and in Liverpool he received four thousand dollars for one evening’s performance.
Yet the homage of the great ones of the earth, the princely gifts bestowed upon him, the admiration of the thousands who hung entranced on every note breathed by his magic violin, gave less delight than the boy of fourteen experienced when he received from an old man, whose heart his playing had gladdened, the present of four pairs of doves, with a card suspended by a blue ribbon round the neck of one, bearing his own name, “Ole Bull.”
The soul of little Ole Bull had always been attuned to melody, from the time when, a toddling boy of four, he had kissed with passionate delight the little yellow violin given him by his uncle. How happy he was, as he wandered alone through the meadows, listening with the inner ear of heaven-born genius to the great song of nature. The bluebells, the buttercups, and the blades of grass sang to him in low, sweet tones, unheard by duller ears. How he thrilled with delight when he touched the strings of the little red violin, purchased for him when he was eight years old. His father destined him for the church, and, feeling that music should form part of the education of a clergyman, he consented to the mother’s proposition that the boy should take lessons on the violin.