Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

Frank William Boreham 1871-1959
A photo F W Boreham took of himself in 1911

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Boreham on Waiting for the Tide

Here is one of the stories that will appear in the forthcoming book, The Best Stories of F W Boreham.

The Melbourne Art Gallery possesses, among its treasures, a painting by Arthur Boyd entitled ‘Waiting for the Tide’. It represents a sheltered and tranquil cove in which a couple of boats are lying. The boat in the foreground is occupied by two men. It leans heavily over, showing that it is hard and fast upon the muddy bed of the little inlet.

Until the tide comes welling in, lifting and liberating it, its occupants are helpless. But their presence in the boat sufficiently indicates their determination to ply their oars and leave the bay the moment the waters rise.

Viewed superficially, the attitude of the two men seems to resemble the attitude of Mr. Micawber [in Charles Dicken’s David Copperfield]. In the daytime Mr. Micawber mingles with the throng upon the city streets, hoping for something to turn up among the faces that he finds there. In the evening he throws himself into his chair, adjusts his spectacles and seizes his newspaper, just to see if anything turns up among the advertisements. All life is a lottery to him.

But between Mr. Micawber on the one hand, and the two boatmen on the other, there is, in reality, no ground for comparison. Mr. Micawber represents the wretchedness of wishful thinking; the boatmen represent the satisfaction of a well-based hope.

The tide stands for the stately dependabilities by which we are encompassed and surrounded. The masterly mechanism of the universe—the rising and the setting of the sun, the phases of the moon, the persistence in their orbits of the stars, the revolution of the earth, the cycle of the seasons, the round of the year—all this, like the ebbing and flowing of the tide, is amazingly reliable. It is this element of constancy that, in our friends, means infinitely more than good looks, agreeable behavior or outstanding ability.

In common with all the best things, the tide is leisurely. Like its kinsman, Old Father Thames, ‘it never seems to hurry’. Like the men in Boyd's picture, we must wait its time. It soothes the brain and steadies the nerves and sweetens the soul to fasten one's eyes for awhile on these leisurely things. An oak tree takes just as long to grow in my garden as it took in the Garden of Eden. The tide ebbs and flows today exactly as it ebbed and flowed in the days of the Pharaohs.

Yet, although the tide does its work in a restful and leisurely way, it does it, and does it well. The world's best workers are those who never know the fret and fever of haste, yet who achieve their goals with meticulous certainty and exactitude. They always get there.

There is, according to Brutus, a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. As Shakespeare implies, and as Boyd's picture makes clear, the tide offers every person, sooner or later, the chance of escaping from the tiny cove of the here into the broad bosom of the everywhere; from the microscopic bay of Self to the infinite sea of Service. God suddenly confronts a person. The Savior, in infinite grace, presents Himself. Opportunity appears in some other form; and they are life's most enviable voyagers who, when the sublime moment actually arrives, are all alive and all alert, waiting, with oars in rowlocks, to greet the hour of destiny.

A person can no more hurry time along than these boatmen in the picture can hurry the tide. Life must be harmonized with, and harnessed to, the mighty forces operating around us. He alone is certain of happy days who, with open eyes and eager hands, stands ready to embrace the golden opportunities that every hour will offer.

F W Boreham, The Tide Comes In (London: The Epworth Press, 1958), 103-104.

Image: Waiting for the tide.