"Blessed Is He Who Has Found His Work"

Context: Comparing past and present, Carlyle sees the past as superior and exaggerates its glories. By studying the past, he says, we learn beneficial lessons for the present. Chapter 11 of Book III is an essay on labor. "For there is a perennial nobleness, and even sacredness, in Work . . . in Idleness alone is there perpetual despair." In work, we communicate with nature and with truth. We can never know ourselves; it is better to try to "Know thy work and do it." We perfect ourselves by working: "even in the meanest sorts of Labor, the whole soul of a man is composed into a kind of real harmony, the instant he sets himself to work!" Labor is a "purifying fire." Destiny "cultivates" us through our labor, and Destiny cannot help the lazy man. "Labor is Life," and our only knowledge comes from our work. God lets us find a "sacred celestial Life-essence" through our labor:

Blessed is he who has found his work; let him ask no other blessedness. He has a work, a life-purpose; he has found it, and will follow it! How, as a free-flowing channel, dug and torn by noble force through the sour mud-swamp of one's existence, like an ever-deepening river there, it runs and flows;–draining-off the sour festering water, gradually from the root of the remotest grass-blade; making, instead of pestilential swamp, a green fruitful meadow with its clear-flowing stream. How blessed for the meadow itself, let the stream and its value be great or small!