Hawthorne was a man well qualified to take hold of that great study in psychology, the character of King Saul. We regret that he never did so. But in his tale "The Bosom Serpent" he illustrates the power of jealousy to destroy a soul. The man, who had been separated from his wife because of jealous suspicions, would sometimes hold his hand to his bosom and exclaim, "It gnaws! It gnaws!" For this reason he was known to the people in the town as the man with the snake in his breast. Sometimes he would create great consternation and alarm when he stopped other men on the street and asked them how their serpent was. At length, after all kinds of remedies had been tried, his wife appeared and pleaded with him to forget himself and show his love for her. At that the man fell on the ground, and there was the sound like the passing of a serpent through the grass, and a tinkle was heard as if it had dropped into the fountain. Thus the man was cured of the bosom serpent of jealousy.
What about the serpent in thy breast? Oh, beware of the bosom serpent of jealousy!
The counselors of Florence asked Leonardo da Vinci, then Italy's most celebrated artist, to submit sketches for the decorations for the grand hall at Florence. One of the counselors had heard of a young and little-known artist who had done good work, Michelangelo, and asked him to submit sketches also. The sketches of Leonardo were superb, in keeping with his genius, but when the counselors saw the sketches of Michelangelo there was a spontaneous expression of wonder and enthusiasm. News of this reached Leonardo. He also heard that one of the counselors had said "Leonardo is getting old." He was never able to get over the eclipse of his fame by Michelangelo, and the remaining years of his life were clouded with gloom and sorrow.
The quarrels and bitternesses among men of ability and education—statesmen, artists, musicians, scholars, and even clergyman—are too notorious to call for more than passing comment. Jealousy is the spur with which the devil will ride the noblest tempers. There are men of the finest parts, of splendid disposition and character in other areas of their life, who cannot bear to hear another man praised, especially if the man's activities lie in the same field of endeavor.
One of the great artists stood one day before the work of a greater contemporary, one whose talents were far superior to his own. But, instead of being depressed, or filled with envy or bitterness, he exclaimed, as he surveyed the beautiful work which expressed so fully ideas which he himself had not been able to realize, "I, too, am a painter!"
But there are few like him.
Have you gained the victory over the foes within you? There is jealousy. Would you overcome that? If you are jealous of anyone, do him some good turn. There is a fable of an eagle that was jealous of another that could out fly him. He saw a sportsman one day, and said to him, "I wish you would bring down that eagle." The sportsman replied that he would if he only had some feathers to put into his arrow. So the eagle pulled one out of his wing. The arrow was shot, but didn't quite reach the rival eagle; it was flying too high. The envious eagle kept pulling out more feathers until he lost so many that he couldn't fly, and then the sportsman turned around and killed him. My friend, if you are jealous, the only man you can hurt is yourself.—D. L. Moody.