The Happy Warrior

Even if we don’t have direct experience we all know, or at least we all think we know, what it means to have advanced far along the path. The trouble is that in the early stages we all imagine something different. We sometimes take too much notice of the sensational accounts of those who claim to know more than they do. We sometimes confuse the advanced man’s inner abilities with their outward expression. We cobble together idealised personal traits from this or that celebrated figure – saints, sages, poets, seers, mystics, prophets, philosophers, magicians, men of action and the rest – to produce in our mind’s eye something we convince ourselves best represents the advanced man as he goes about his business in the workaday world of material life.

However, while there are almost as many differing points of view as there are seekers, those with first-hand experience of such men know that they are mostly wide of the mark. Nearly all such depictions belong in the make believe world of glamour we all must eventually pierce.

Perhaps it’s inevitable that so many inexperienced seekers have a fanciful view of the truly advanced man. After all, such a man does not shout from the rooftops, or from anywhere else. He does not seek to attract undue attention. Whatever the difficulties, he simply carries on with his work in an untroubled and calm manner.

But even if we lack first-hand knowledge, if our aim is eventually to make ourselves true then perhaps we need healthier and more balanced ideals than those with which the literature abounds. We need to ditch some of our more sensational notions of what it means to progress along the spiritual path and replace them with more sensible alternatives.

Of course there are many varieties of advanced men; for they, like us all, each have unique personalities; they each are planted in different soils; and are each called to different tasks. Yet in spite of these differences many of them also share certain basic characteristics too.

They can be found in all walks of life; and while they themselves could never be described as ordinary in any way it’s not uncommon for them to live very normal lives. Their inner abilities are expressed in a manner wholly appropriate to the material level. In fact it’s often the case that as far as outward appearances go the only thing that might single such an advanced man out from the rest is his quiet and unassuming competence.

So whoever it might have been that first inspired the following well-known lines by Wordsworth, their value to the seeker lies in the character depicted, which is not unlike that of the advanced man as he appears on the material level. It therefore provides a useful model to which, if interpreted rightly, we can all aspire to our lasting benefit.

Character of the Happy Warrior

WHO is the happy Warrior? Who is he                                                                         What every man in arms should wish to be?                                                                  —It is the generous Spirit, who, when brought                                                         Among the tasks of real life, hath wrought                                                                   Upon the plan that pleased his childish thought:                                                        Whose high endeavours are an inward light                                                                That makes the path before him always bright:                                                          Who, with a natural instinct to discern                                                                         What knowledge can perform, is diligent to learn,                                                         Abides by this resolve, and stops not there,                                                                  But makes his moral being his prime care;                                                                     Who, doomed to go in company with Pain,                                                                   And Fear, and Bloodshed, miserable train!                                                                 Turns his necessity to glorious gain;                                                                                In face of these doth exercise a power                                                                      Which is our human nature’s highest dower;                                                         Controls them and subdues, transmutes, bereaves                                                        Of their bad influence, and their good receives:                                                              By objects, which might force the soul to abate                                                             Her feeling, rendered more compassionate;                                                                     Is placable—because occasions rise                                                                               So often that demand such sacrifice;                                                                           More skilful in self-knowledge, even more pure,                                                              As tempted more; more able to endure,                                                                          As more exposed to suffering and distress;                                                            Thence, also, more alive to tenderness.                                                                     —’Tis he whose law is reason; who depends                                                             Upon that law as on the best of friends;                                                                 Whence, in a state where men are tempted still                                                             To evil for a guard against worse ill,                                                                              And what in quality or act is best                                                                                 Doth seldom on a right foundation rest,                                                                          He labours good on good to fix, and owes                                                                      To virtue every triumph that he knows:                                                                    —Who, if he rise to station of command,                                                                        Rises by open means; and there will stand                                                                         On honourable terms, or else retire,                                                                             And in himself possess his own desire;                                                                          Who comprehends his trust, and to the same                                                           Keeps faithful with a singleness of aim;                                                                        And therefore does not stoop, nor lie in wait                                                                  For wealth, or honours, or for worldly state,                                                              Whom they must follow; on whose head must fall,                                                        Like showers of manna, if they come at all:                                                              Whose power shed round him in the common strife,                                                       Or mild concerns of ordinary life,                                                                                        A constant influence, a peculiar grace;                                                                               But who, if he be called upon to face                                                                            Some awful moment to which Heaven has joined                                                             Great issues, good or bad for human kind,                                                                       Is happy as a Lover; and attired                                                                                   With sudden brightness, like a Man inspired;                                                               And, through the heat of conflict, keeps the law                                                               In calmness made, and sees what he foresaw:                                                                  Or if an unexpected call succeed,                                                                               Come when it will, is equal to the need:                                                                       —He who, though thus endued as with a sense                                                            And faculty for storm and turbulence,                                                                                Is yet a Soul whose master-bias leans                                                                            To homefelt pleasures and to gentle scenes;                                                             Sweet images! which, whereso’er he be,                                                                       Are at his heart; and such fidelity                                                                                      It is his darling passion to approve;                                                                              More brave for this, that he hath much to love:—                                                          ’Tis, finally, the Man, who, lifted high,                                                             Conspicuous object in a Nation’s eye,                                                                             Or left unthought-of in obscurity,—                                                                             Who, with a toward or untoward lot,                                                                    Prosperous or adverse, to his wish or not,                                                                 Plays, in the many games of life, that one                                                                  Where what he most doth value must be won.                                                          Whom neither shape of danger can dismay,                                                                 Nor thought of tender happiness betray;                                                                     Who, not content that former worth stand fast,                                                           Looks forward, persevering to the last,                                                                        From well to better, daily self-surpast:                                                                         Who, whether praise of him must walk the earth                                                            For ever, and to noble deeds give birth,                                                                          Or he must fall to sleep without his fame,                                                                        And leave a dead unprofitable name,                                                                          Finds comfort in himself and in his cause;                                                                    And, while the mortal mist is gathering, draws                                                                His breath in confidence of Heaven’s applause:                                                             This is the happy Warrior; this is he                                                                           Whom every Man in arms should wish to be.

William Wordsworth