Thoughts on the Rich and the Poor – Bill Arp, (8/21/1891)

Thoughts on the Rich and the Poor – Bill Arp, (8/21/1891)

“Qin fit Macenas” is nearly all the Latin I remember. It is the begining of an ode that Horace wrote nearly two thousand
years ago. He was ruminating over the dissatisfaction of mankind with their lot, their condition, their occupation, and he
wondered why it was that most everybody imagined his own case a hard one, and that other people were better off.
Ever since then history has been repeating itself over and over again. It is the same in the town and country. The
humble tenant who rents land thinks h4 would be happy if he owned it. The farmer who owns his farm would be
happy if: he had a few more acres that join him. Country people imagine that a the townfolks have no troubles, and
the townfolks long to be rich and live a in a city. tl we are all looking over the fence Ii into our nabor’s premises and
envy their better condition. If our nabor has ice, we want ice. If he has a carriage, we want a carriage. But ti the
truth is that the rich nabor is no happier for he, too, wants something he hasn’t got, and so it goes. Vanderbilt won’t
be any happier in his six-million-dollar palace that he is building at Asheville than his humble gardener, who lives
in a cottage. The wrong in building it is that the palace becomes dead capital. Of course the six millions were
all paid out for labor and are still in circulation but the money could have been paid out for something of more
use than a house for one family to live in. It would have built a thousand houses for the poor in New York, That
is what Peabody did with his money in London. Mr. Kiser has just cormpleted a grand building in Atlanta. It cost
him a hundred thousand dollars, but it was wanted and is already occupied by the Terminal railroad for a offices.
The house is not dead, nor the railroad either. Rents will accumulate and build another house, and the railroad
will carry us and our products all over this great country. There is nothing wrong about that. It is fair and honorable
business. If a millionaire should choose to spend a million in skyrockets just to see the fun, it would be a sin.
Croesus or some other rich man once gave a feast, and the principal dish was humming birds’ tongues that
cost halt a million dollars to get them.

That, too, was a sin, and it is the follies of the rich I that make the poor so mad, and keep up the strife between capital
and labor. A swell family riding Zoo yards to church in a thousand dollar carriage provokes bad thoughts and ripens the
fruit of revolution. The question goes round: “How did they get all that money? I never see ’em work any.” Now if the
common people only knew how little of real happiness was to be found in the homes of the rich, they would not be envious
nor covetous. There are more closets in large houses than small ones, and therefore more skeletons. There is a rat’s
nest under every carriage seat and moths in every seal skin and a prowling thief watching the silver on every table. The
devil is asleep in the rich man’s parlor waiting for his children. His imps follow them to the saloon and the gaming table
and the ballroom and the brothel. Not long ago I met a friend-a friend of my youth. He has worked hard and made a
fortune, and is still working hard for more, and the lines of toil and trouble are set deep in his face. “How are your boys
doing?” said I. “Not worth a d—n,” said he. Of course not. They had no inducement. They never heard their father talk
anything but money, and they knew that when he died they would have enough. They were just waiting. And yet there
are poor folks who envy him and would exchange places with him. Now, if a poor man who lives in the country could only
know and realize the security that his poverty and his location gives to his children, the security against the temptations
that lurk around the towns and cities, the devilish snares that beset society and destroy the peace and happiness of its
members, he would thank God for his good fortune. The law of compensation comes into every situation of life. A good
man will not murmur at his poverty. The man who brings me wood hauls six miles. His capital stock is his lot of poor
land, his mule and plow, a wagon and yoke of steers, his ax and his strong arms. His children are being raised to work,
for he sets them a good example. He comes with a cheerful smile, and if the rain catches him he makes no complaint.

He has a cow and some hogs, and his wife raises chickens and sells eggs and apples and potatoes. That man is a good
citizen and his children are likely to be. He has no case in court, and does not complain if drawn on the jury or summoned
to work the road. That family enjoys their food and their rest, and when Sunday comes they go to the unpretending country
church and listen to the counsel of the man of God and go home thankful for their Heavenly Father for His goodness. This
is the picture. Can a painter or a poet draw a better one? Indeed, these are pictures that painters and poets .love to draw.
Tom Moore said: “I knew by the smoke that so gracefully curled Above the green elms that a cottage was near, And I said
If there’s peace to found in the world A heart that was humble might hope for it here.” Gray wrote his elegy in memory of
the humble cottagers, and Burns best poem was “The Cotter’s Saturday Night.” Samuel Rogers was rich, but the wish of
his heart was Mine be a cot beside the hill. And Goldsmith-poor, miserable, delightful Goldsmith-paid tribute to the humble
peasantry of England when he wrote: His best companions-innocence and health And his best riches-ignorance of wealth.
The average farmer’s life makes no display in the world, and it was never intended that it should. A man has done his duty
when he has filled his capacity. There is but one Shakespeare, one Milton, one Goldsmith., There was but one Bonaparte,
and that was one too many. I was perusing a book on English authors, and was surprised to find how few of them lived to
a good old age. A literary life is short in years, though some of them are long in great brain work is not healthy work when
compared with the outdoor occupa-tion and simple, temperate habits of farmers. Shakespeare died at fifty-two; Addison,
fifty-three; Steele, fifty-four; Gray, fifty-five; Pope, fifty-six ; Gibbon, fifty-seven; Dickens, fifty-eight; Macaulay, fifty-nine;
Charles Lamb, sixty; Scott, sixty-one; Coleridge, sixty-two; Bacon, sixty-three; Collins, sixty-four; Milton, sixty-five; Arnold,
sixty-six; Burke, sixty-seven; Southey, sixty-eight and Bulwer, sixty-nine.

Then there were Goldssmith and Burns and Byron and Thackery and Hood, who never reached their fiftieth years. I penned
down thirty consecutive names of notable writers, and their average age was fifty-six years. It would have alarmed me if I
had written anything that was any account, but considering all things I will risk it a little longer. If a man can keep calm and
serene and has a good constitution, he can do literary work a long time; but there are lot of little troubles nowadays. I see
a book agent coming up the walk right now, and I have to fortify myself against him and listen with patience and resignation
to his little speech, and then look at his book and be courteous, and then make my little speech and let him go. I would like
to buy all their books, but I can’t. And there is the worry about cooks and company, and the everlasting frolics of the young
people, for they are going all the time, and have run away with the town. There hasn’t been a day or a night, except Sunday,
in five weeks that there wasn’t some town foolishness on hand that they were just obliged to take a hand in, for fear of giving offense, they say, and some times they don’t get home until mid-night, and I wish we were all back rti the country where we
came from. Most every one of these vacation days is as big a thing as a country wheat threshing or a Sam Jones tabernacle meeting, and, to my opinion, these long-winded frolics are not doing the young folks any good. Irregular hours and ice cream
and cake and canteloupes and milk shakes have got them all churned up, and we can’t get them up to breakfast nor get them
home to supper. But it seems to be the family opinion that I am getting antiquated, and unreasonable,and maybe I am, though
I have heard some other paternals say it has been the bangenest vacation that ever came over Cartersville. It will soon be
over, thank the good Lord, and then maybe we will all get our children back again. Country people don’t have such things,
and they ought to be thankful. I bought a load of fodder today from Mr. Gilreath, a good, contented farmer, and his little ten
-year-old boy came with him and was proud to sit on top and drive some, and he was modestand well behaved and has
a good chance to make a man, but if he lived in town he would be smoking cigarettes right now. May the Lord help us
all to be content with our lot.

Last Updated on August 13, 2021 by Bill Arp

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