tides of the morning light, which came pouring down from above in one great ocean of radiance; till at length, as we reached the Blue Hills, a flash of purple fire blazed out from above the horizon, and turned the dewy tear-drops of flower and leaf, into rubies and diamonds. In a few seconds, the everlasting gates of the morning were thrown wide open, and the lord of day, arrayed in glories too severe for the gaze of man, began his state.
I do not wonder at the superstition of the ancient Magians, who, in the morning of the world, went up to the hill-tops of Central Asia, and ignorant of the true God, adored the most glorious work of His hand. But I am filled with amazement when I am told that in this enlightened age, and in the heart of the Christian world, there are persons who can witness this daily manifestation of the power and wisdom of the Creator, and yet say in their hearts, “there is no God.”
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From a Discourse on the Discover and Colonization of America.
=_192._= THE CELTIC IMMIGRATION.
This great Celtic race is one of the most remarkable that has appeared in history. Whether it belongs to that extensive Indo-European family of nations, which, in ages before the dawn of history, took up a line of march in two columns from Lower India, and moving westward by both a northern and a southward route, finally diffused itself over Western Asia, Northern Africa, and the greater part of Europe; or whether, as others suppose, the Celtic race belongs to a still older stock, and was itself driven down upon the south and into the west of Europe by the overwhelming force of the Indo-Europeans, is a question which we have no time at present to discuss. However it may be decided, it would seem that for the first time, as far as we are acquainted with the fortunes of this interesting race, they have found themselves in a really prosperous condition, in this country. Driven from the soil in the west of Europe, to which their forefathers clang for two thousand years, they have at length, and for the first time in their entire history, found a real home in a land of strangers. Having been told, in the frightful language of political economy, that at the daily table which Nature spreads for the human family there is no cover laid for them in Ireland, they have crossed the ocean to find occupation, shelter, and bread, on a foreign but friendly soil.
This “Celtic Exodus,” as it has been aptly called, is to all the parties immediately connected with it one of the most important events of the day. To the emigrants themselves it may be regarded as a passing from death to life. It will benefit Ireland by reducing a surplus population, and restoring a sounder and juster relation of capital and labor. It will benefit the laboring classes in England, where wages have been kept down to the starvation-point by the struggle between native population and the inhabitants of the sister island, for that employment and food, of which there is not enough for both. This benefit will extend from England to ourselves, and will lessen the pressure of that competition which our labor is obliged to sustain, with the ill-paid labor of Europe. In addition to all this, the constant influx into America of stout and efficient hands supplies the greatest want in a new country, which is that of labor, gives value to land, and facilitates the execution of every species of private enterprise and public work.
I am not insensible to the temporary inconveniences which are to be set off against these advantages, on both sides of the water. Much suffering attends the emigrant, there, on his passage, and after his arrival. It is possible that the value of our native labor may have been depressed by too sudden and extensive a supply from abroad; and it is certain that our asylums and alms-houses are crowded with foreign inmates, and the resources of public and private benevolence have been heavily drawn upon. These are considerable evils, but they have perhaps been exaggerated.
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=_Hugh S. Legare, 1797-1843._= (Manual, p. 487.)
From his “Collected Writings.”
=_193._= THE STUDY OF THE ANCIENT CLASSICS.
Not to have the curiosity to study the learned languages is not to have any vocation at all for literature: it is to be destitute of liberal curiosity and of enthusiasm; to mistake a self-sufficient and superficial dogmatism for philosophy, and that complacent indolence which is the bane of all improvement, for a proof of the highest degree of it….
All that we ask, then, is, that a boy should be thoroughly taught the ancient languages from his eighth to his sixteenth year, or thereabouts, in which time he will have his taste formed, his love of letters completely, perhaps enthusiastically, awakened, his knowledge of the principles of universal grammar perfected, his memory stored with the history, the geography, and the chronology of all antiquity, and with a vast fund of miscellaneous literature besides, and his imagination kindled with the most beautiful and glowing passages of Greek and Roman poetry and eloquence; all the rules of criticism familiar to him–the sayings of sages and the achievements of heroes indelibly impressed upon his heart. He will have his curiosity fired for further acquisition, and find himself in possession of the golden keys which open all the recesses where the stores of knowledge have ever been laid up by civilized man. The consciousness of strength will give him confidence, and he will go to the rich treasures themselves, and take what he wants, instead of picking up eleemosynary scraps from those whom, in spite of himself, he will regard as his betters in literature. He will be let into that great communion of scholars throughout all ages and all nations,–like that more awful communion of saints in the holy church universal,–and feel a sympathy with departed genius, and with the enlightened and the gifted minds of other countries, as they appear before him, in the transports of a sort of vision beatific, bowing down at the same shrines, and flowing with the same holy love of whatever is most pure, and fair, and exalted, and divine in human nature.
* * * * *
From a Review of Kent’s Commentaries.
=_194._= DISADVANTAGES OF COLONIAL LIFE.
It is our misfortune, in one sense, to have succeeded, at the very outset of our career, to an over-grown inheritance in the literature of the mother country, and to have stood for a century in that political and social relation towards her, which was of all others most unfavorable to any originality in genius and opinions. Our good fathers piously spoke of England as their _home_. The inferiority–the discouraging and degrading inferiority–implied in a state of colonial dependence, chilled the enthusiasm of talent, and repressed the aspirations of ambition. Our youth were trained in English schools to classical learning and good manners; but no scholarship–great as we believe its efficacy to be–can either inspire or supply, the daring originality and noble pride of genius, to which, by some mysterious law of nature, the love of country and a national spirit seem to be absolutely necessary. We imported our opinions ready-made–“by balefuls,” if it so pleases the Rev. Sidney Smith. We were taught to read by English school-masters–and to reason by English authors–English clergymen filled our pulpits, English lawyers our courts–and above all things, we deferred to and dreaded the dictatorial authority and withering contempt of English criticism. It is difficult to imagine a state of things more fatal to intellectual dignity and enterprise, and the consequences were such as might have been anticipated. What is still more lamentable, although the cause has in a good measure ceased, the effect continues, nor do we see any remedy for the evil until our youth shall be taught to go up to the same original and ever-living fountains of all literature, at which the Miltons, and the Barrows, and the Drydens drank in so much of their enthusiasm and inspiration, and to cast off entirely that slavish dependence upon the opinions of others which they must feel, who take their knowledge of what it is either their duty, their interest, or their ambition to learn, at second hand.
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=_Francis L. Hawks, 1798-1866._= (Manual, p. 480.)
From “Narrative of the United States Expedition to Japan.”
=_195._= JAPAN INTERESTING IN MANY ASPECTS.
Viewed in any of its aspects, the empire of Japan has long presented to the thoughtful mind an object of uncommon interest. And this interest has been greatly increased by the mystery with which, for the last two centuries, an exclusive policy has sought to surround the institutions of this remarkable country….
The political inquirer, for instance, has wished to study in detail the form of government, the administration of laws, and the domestic institutions, under which a nation systematically prohibiting intercourse with the rest of the world has attained to a state of civilization, refinement, and intelligence, the mere glimpses of which so strongly invite further investigation.
The student of physical geography, aware how much national characteristics are formed or modified by peculiarities of physical structure in every country, would fain know more of the lands and the seas, the mountains and the rivers, the forests and the fields, which fall within the limits of this almost _terra incognita_.
… The man of commerce asks to be told of its products and its trade, its skill in manufactures, the commodities it needs, and the returns it can supply.
The scholar asks to be introduced to its literature, that he may contemplate in historians, poets, and dramatists (for Japan has them all), a picture of the national mind.
The Christian desires to know the varied phases of their superstition and idolatry, and longs for the dawn of that day when a purer faith and more enlightened worship shall bring them within the circle of Christendom.
Amid such a diversity of pursuits as we have enumerated, a common interest unites all in a common sympathy; and hence the divine and the philosopher, the navigator and the naturalist, the man of business and the man of letters, have alike joined in a desire for the thorough exploration of a field at once so extensive and so inviting.
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=_George P. Marsh, 1801-._= (Manual, p. 532.)
From “Lectures on the English Language.”
=_196._= METHOD OF LEARNING ENGLISH.
The groundwork of English, indeed, can be, and best is, learned at the domestic fireside–a school for which there is no adequate substitute; but the knowledge there acquired is not, as in homogeneous languages, a root, out of which will spontaneously grow the flowers and the fruits which adorn and enrich the speech of man. English has been so much affected by extraneous, alien, and discordant influences, so much mixed with foreign ingredients, so much overloaded with adventitious appendages, that it is to most of those who speak it, in a considerable degree, a conventional and arbitrary symbolism. The Anglo-Saxon tongue has a craving appetite, and is as rapacious of words, and as tolerant of forms, as are its children, of territory and of religions. But in spite of its power of assimilation, there is much of the speech of England which has never become connatural to the Anglican people; and its grammar has passively suffered the introduction of many syntactical combinations, which are not merely irregular, but repugnant. I shall not here inquire whether this condition of English is an evil. There are many cases where a complex and cunningly-devised machine, dexterously guided, can do that which the congenital hand fails to accomplish; but the computing, of our losses and gains, the striking of our linguistic balance, belongs elsewhere. Suffice it to say, that English is not a language which teaches itself by mere unreflecting usage. It can only be mastered, in all its wealth, in all its power, by conscious, persistent labor; and therefore, when all the world is awaking to the value of general philological science, it would ill become us to be slow in recognizing the special importance of the study of our own tongue.
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From “Man and Nature.”
=_197._= THE EVERGREENS OF SOUTHERN EUROPE.
The multitude of species, intermixed as they are in their spontaneous growth, gives the American forest landscape a variety of aspect not often seen in the woods of Europe; and the gorgeous tints which nature repeats from the dying dolphin to paint the falling leaf of the American maples, oaks, and ash trees, clothe the hill-sides and fringe the watercourses with a rainbow splendor of foliage, unsurpassed by the brightest groupings of the tropical flora. It must be admitted, however, that both the northern and the southern declivities of the Alps exhibit a nearer approximation to this rich and multifarious coloring of autumnal vegetation than most American travellers in Europe are willing to allow; and, besides, the small deciduous shrubs, which often carpet the forest glades of these mountains, are dyed with a ruddy and orange glow, which, in the distant landscape, is no mean substitute for the scarlet and crimson and gold and amber of the trans-atlantic woodland.
No American evergreen known to me resembles the umbrella pine sufficiently to be a fair object of comparison with it. A cedar, very common above the Highlands on the Hudson, is extremely like the cypress, straight, slender, with erect, compressed ramification, and feathered to the ground, but its foliage is neither so dark nor so dense, the tree does not attain the majestic height of the cypress, nor has it the lithe flexibility of that tree. In mere shape, the Lombardy poplar nearly resembles this latter, but it is almost a profanation to compare the two, especially when they are agitated by the wind; for under such circumstances, the one is the most majestic, the other the most ungraceful, or–if I may apply such an expression to any thing but human affectation of movement–the most awkward of trees. The poplar trembles before the blast, flutters, struggles wildly, dishevels its foliage, gropes around with its feeblest branches, and hisses as in impotent passion. The cypress gathers its limbs still more closely to its stem, bows a gracious salute rather than an humble obeisance to the tempest, bends to the winds with an elasticity that assures you of its prompt return to its regal attitude, and sends from its thick leaflets a murmur like the roar of the far-off ocean.
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=_George H. Calvert, 1803-._= (Manual pp. 503, 505.)
From “First Years in Europe.”
=_198._= ESTIMATE OF COLERIDGE.
That Coleridge with his mental pockets full of gold, and with a mine in fee wherefrom he not only replenished his daily purse but enriched his neighbors, should now and then borrow a guinea, is a fact at which we should rather smile than frown, or, more fitly, pass by without special sensation, seeing what has been the practice of the highest,–a practice which may with full ethical assent be regarded as a privilege inherent in their supremacy, the free use of all knowledge collected and experience acquired, no matter when, where, or by whom, being a natural right of him _who has the genius to turn it to best account_. That in certain cases where acknowledgment was due it was not made, we may ascribe to opinion; or to defects which broke the complete rotundity of such a circle of endowments that without this breach they would have swollen their possessor to almost preterhuman proportions, empowering him to “bestride the narrow world like a Colossus.”
Let the truth be spoken of all men. Let no man’s greatness be a bar to full utterance; but let temperance and charity–duties peculiarly imperative when uttering derogatory truth–be especially observed towards a resplendent suffering brother like Coleridge, suffering from his own weakness, but on that very account entitled to a tenderer consideration from those who are themselves endowed to feel and claim something more than common human affinity with a nature so large and so susceptive. Could but a tithe of the fresh insights he has given us be allowed as an offset against his short-comings, never, from any scholar of sound sensibilities, would a whisper be heard against his name. Under the coarse, rusty, one-pronged spur of sectarian or political rancor, or from the knawing consciousness of sterile inferiority to a creative mind, plenty of people are ready and eager to try, with their net-work of flimsy phrases, to cramp the play of a giant’s limbs, or, with the slow slimy poison of envy and malice, to spot and deform his beauty and his symmetry. To such, to the half-eyed and the half-souled, to the prosaic and the unsympathetic, be left all harsh condemnation of Coleridge.
For the living, not for the dead, are these inadequate words spoken. The writings of Coleridge–in tone high, refined, noble; in expression rich, choice, copious; in spirit as pure as the sun’s light; intellectually of rare breadth and mellowness and brilliancy–are a healthful power in literature, their influence solely for good, warming, strengthening, elevating. As for Coleridge himself, his is an immortal name; and as he walks through the ages his robes adjusting themselves with varying grace, in harmony with the mutations of opinion, his inward life will be ever fresh to his fellow-men, while his detractors will be shaken from him as _gryllidoe_ from the tunic of the superb Diana.
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=_Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-_= (Manual pp. 478, 503, 531.)
From “Essays,” Second Series.
=_199._= INFLUENCE OF NATURE.
There are days which occur in this climate, at almost any season of the year, wherein the world reaches its perfection; when the air, the heavenly bodies, and the earth, make a harmony, as if Nature would indulge her offspring; when, in these bleak upper sides of the planet, nothing is to desire that we have heard of the happiest latitudes, and we bask in the shining hours of Florida and Cuba; when everything that has life gives sign of satisfaction, and the cattle that lie on the ground seem to have great and tranquil thoughts. These halcyons may be looked for with a little more assurance in that pure October weather which we distinguish by the name of Indian summer. The day, immeasurably long, sleeps over the broad hills, and warm, wide fields. To have lived through all its sunny hours seems longevity enough. The solitary places do not seem quite lonely. At the gates of the forest, the surprised man of the world is forced to leave his city estimates of great and small, wise and foolish. The knapsack of custom falls off his back with the first step he makes into these precincts. Here is sanctity which shames our religions, and reality which discredits our heroes.
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From “Society and Solitude.”
=_200._= THE POWER OF CHILDHOOD.
The perfection of the providence for childhood is easily acknowledged. The care which covers the seed of the tree under tough husks and, stony cases, provides, for the human plant, the mother’s breast and the father’s house. The size of the nestler is comic, and its tiny beseeching weakness is compensated perfectly by the happy patronizing look of the mother, who is a sort of high reposing Providence toward it. Welcome to the parents the puny straggler, strong in his weakness, his little arms more irresistible than the soldier’s, his lips touched with persuasion which Chatham and Pericles in manhood had not. His unaffected lamentations when he lifts up his voice on high, or, more beautiful, the sobbing child,–the face all liquid grief, as he tries to swallow his vexation,–soften all hearts to pity, and to mirthful and clamorous compassion. The small despot asks so little that all reason and all nature are on his side. His ignorance is more charming than all knowledge, and his little sins more bewitching than any virtue. His flesh is angels’ flesh, all alive. “Infancy,” said Coleridge, “presents body and spirit in unity: the body is all animated.” All day, between his three or four sleeps, he coos like a pigeon-house, sputters, and spurs, and puts on his faces of importance; and when he fasts, the little Pharisee fails not to sound his trumpet before him. By lamp-light he delights in shadows on the wall; by daylight, in yellow and scarlet. Carry him out of doors,–he is overpowered by the light and the extent of natural objects, and is silent. Then presently begins his use of his fingers, and he studies power, the lesson of his race. First it appears in no great harm, in architectural tastes. Out of blocks, thread-spools, cards, and checkers, he will build his pyramid with the gravity of Palladio. With an acoustic apparatus of whistle and rattle, he explores the laws of sound. But chiefly, like his senior countrymen, the young American studies new and speedier modes of transportation. Mistrusting the cunning of his small legs, he wishes to ride on the necks and shoulders of all flesh. The small enchanter nothing can withstand, no seniority of age, no gravity of character; uncles, aunts, grandsires, grandams, fall an easy prey: he conforms to nobody, all conform to him; all caper and make mouths, and babble, and chirrup to him. On the strongest shoulders he rides, and pulls the hair of laurelled heads.
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=_201._= MAN MUST WORK IN HARMONY WITH PRINCIPLES.
Civilization depends on morality. Everything good in man leans on what is higher. This rule holds in small as in great. Thus, all our strength and success in the work of our hands depend on our borrowing the aid of the elements. You have seen a carpenter on a ladder with a broad-axe, chopping upward chips from a beam. How awkward! At what disadvantage he works! But see him on the ground, dressing his timber under him. Now, not his feeble muscles, but the force of gravity brings down the axe; that is to say, the planet itself splits his stick. The farmer had much ill-temper, laziness, and shirking, to endure from his hand-sawyers until one day he bethought him to put his saw-mill on the edge of a waterfall; and the river never tires of turning his wheel; the river is good-natured, and never hints an objection.
We had letters to send: couriers could not go fast enough, nor far enough; broke their wagons, foundered their horses, bad roads in spring, snow-drifts in winter, heat in summer, could not get the horses out of a walk. But we found out that the air and earth were full of electricity; and always going our way,–just the way we wanted to send. _Would he take a message?_ Just as lief as not; had nothing else to do; would carry it in no time. Only one doubt occurred, one staggering objection,–he had no carpet bag, no visible pockets, no hands, not so much as a mouth, to carry a letter. But, after much thought and many experiments, we managed to meet the conditions, and to fold up the letter in such invisible compact form as he could carry in those invisible pockets of his, never wrought by needle and thread,–and it went like a charm.
I admire still more than the saw-mill the skill which, on the sea-shore, makes the tides drive the wheels and grind corn, and which thus engages the assistance of the moon like a hired hand, to grind, and wind, and pump, and saw, and split stone, and roll iron.
Now that is the wisdom of a man, in every instance of his labor, to hitch his wagon to a star, and see his chore done by the gods themselves. That is the way we are strong, by borrowing the might of the elements. The forces of steam, gravity, galvanism, light, magnets, wind, fire, serve us day by day, and cost us nothing.
Our astronomy is full of examples of calling in the aid of these magnificent helpers. Thus, on a planet so small as ours, the want of an adequate base for astronomical measurements is early felt, as, for example, in detecting the parallax of a star. But the astronomer, having by an observation fixed the place of a star, by so simple an expedient as waiting six months, and then repeating his observation, contrived to put the diameter of the earth’s orbit, say two hundred millions of miles, between his first observation and his second, and this line afforded him a respectable base for his triangle.
All our arts aim to win this vantage. We cannot bring the heavenly powers to us, but, if we will only choose our jobs in directions in which they travel, they will undertake them with the greatest pleasure. It is a peremptory rule with them, that _they never go out of their road_. We are dapper little busybodies, and run this way and that way superserviceably; but they swerve never from their foreordained paths,–neither the sun, nor the moon, nor a bubble of air, nor a mote of dust.
And as our handiworks borrow the elements, so all our social and political action leans on principles. To accomplish anything excellent, the will must work for catholic and universal ends. A puny creature walled in on every side, as Daniel wrote,–
“Unless above himself he can,
Erect himself, how poor a thing is man!”
but when his will leans on a principle, when, he is the vehicle of ideas, he borrows their omnipotence. Gibraltar may be strong, but ideas are impregnable, and bestow on the hero their invincibility. “It was a great instruction,” said a saint in Cromwell’s war, “that the best courages are but beams of the Almighty.” Hitch your wagon to a star. Let us not fag in paltry works which serve our pot and bag alone. Let us not lie and steal. No god will help. We shall find all their teams going the other way. Charles’s Wain, Great Bear, Orion, Leo, Hercules: every god will leave us. Work rather for those interests which the divinities honor and promote,–justice, love, freedom, knowledge, utility.
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=_202._= RULES FOR READING.
Be sure, then, to read no mean books. Shun the spawn of the press on the gossip of the hour. Do not read what you shall learn without asking, in the street and the train. Dr. Johnson said, “he always went into stately shops;” and good travelers stop at the best hotels; for, though they cost more, they do not cost much more, and there is the good company and the best information. In like manner, the scholar knows that the famed books contain, first and last, the best thoughts and facts. Now and then, by rarest luck, in some foolish grub street is the gem we want. But in the best circles is the best information. If you should transfer the amount of your reading day by day from the newspaper to the standard authors.–But who dare speak of such a thing.
The three practical rules, then, which I have to offer, are: 1st. Never read any book that is not a year old. 2d. Never read any but famed books. 3d. Never read any but what you like; or, in Shakespeare’s phrase,
“No profit goes where is no pleasure ta’en: In brief, sir, study what you most affect.”
Montaigne says, “Books are a languid pleasure;” but I find certain books vital and spermatic, not leaving the reader what he was: he shuts the book a richer man. I would never willingly read any others than such.
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=_John Russell Bartlett, 1805-._=
From the “Personal Narrative of Explorations,” &c.
=_203._= LYNCH LAW AT EL PASO.
On the present occasion, circumstances rendered it necessary for safety, as well as for the purpose of warning the desperate gang who were now about to have their deserts, that all should be doubly armed. In the court-room, therefore, where one of the most solemn scenes of human experience was enacting, all were armed save the prisoners. There sat the judge, with a pistol lying on the table before him; the clerks and attorneys wore revolvers at their sides; and the jurors were either armed with similar weapons, or carried with them the unerring rifle. The members of the commission and citizens, who were either guarding the prisoners or protecting the court, carried by their sides a revolver, a rifle, or a fowling-piece, thus presenting a scene more characteristic of feudal times than of the nineteenth century. The fair but sun-burnt complexion of the American portion of the jury, with their weapons resting against their shoulders, and pipes in their mouths, presented a striking contrast to the swarthy features of the Mexicans, muffled in checkered _serapes_, holding their broad-brimmed glazed hats in their hands, and delicate cigarritos in their lips. The reckless, unconcerned appearance of the prisoners, whose unshaven faces and dishevelled hair gave them the appearance of Italian bandits rather than of Americans or Englishmen, the grave and determined bearing of the bench; the varied costume and expression of the spectators and members of the Commission, clad in serapes, blankets, or overcoats, with their different weapons, and generally with long beards, made altogether one of the most remarkable groups which ever graced a court-room….
The evidence being closed, a few remarks were now made by the prosecuting attorney, followed by the charge of the judge, when the case was given to the jury. In a short time they returned into court with a verdict of guilty, against William Craig, Marcus Butler, and John Wade; upon whom the judge then pronounced sentence of death.
The prisoners were now escorted to the little plaza or open square in front of the village church, where the priest met them, to give such consolation as his holy office would afford. But their conduct, notwithstanding the desire on the part of all to afford them every comfort their position was susceptible of, continued reckless and indifferent, even to the last moment. Butler alone was affected. He wept bitterly, and excited much sympathy by his youthful appearance, being but 21 years of age. His companions begged him “not to cry, as he could die but once.”
The sun was setting when they arrived at the place of execution. The assembled spectators formed a guard around a small alamo, or poplar tree, which had been selected for the gallows. It was fast growing dark, and the busy movements of a large number of the associates of the condemned, dividing and collecting again in small bodies at different points around and outside of the party, and then approaching nearer to the centre, proved that an attack was meditated, if the slightest opportunity should be given. But the sentence of the law was carried into effect.
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=_Nathaniel Parker Willis, 1807-1867._= (Manual, pp. 504, 519.)
From “Pencillings by the Way.”
=_204._= THE AMERICAN ABROAD.
It is a queer feeling to find oneself a _foreigner_. One can not realize long at a time how his face or his manners should have become peculiar; and after looking at a print for five minutes in a shop-window, or dipping into an English book, or in any manner throwing off the mental habit of the instant, the curious gaze of the passer-by, or the accent of a strange language, strikes one very singularly. Paris is full of foreigners of all nations, and of course physiognomies of all characters may be met everywhere; but, differing as the European nations do decidedly from each other, they differ still more from the American. Our countrymen, as a class, are distinguishable wherever they are met; not as Americans however, for of the habits and manners of Our country, people know nothing this side the water. But there is something in an American face, of which I never was aware till I met them in Europe, that is altogether peculiar. The French take the Americans to be English; but an Englishman, while he presumes him his countryman, shows a curiosity to know who he is, which is very foreign to his usual indifference. As far as I can analyze it, it is the independent, self-possessed bearing of a man unused to look up to any one as his superior in rank, united to the inquisitive, sensitive, communicative expression which is the index to our national character. The first is seldom possessed in England but by a man of decided rank, and the latter is never possessed by an Englishman at all. The two are united in no other nation. Nothing is easier than to tell the rank of an Englishman, and nothing puzzles an European more than to know how to rate the pretensions of an American….
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=_205._= CHARACTER AND WRITINGS OF JAMES HILLHOUSE.
Like the public feeling, the condition and powers of criticism toward an author’s fame, are essentially changed by his death. His personal character, and the events of his life–the foreground, so to speak, in the picture of his mind, are, till this event, wanting to the critical perspective; and when the hand to correct is cold, and the ear to be caressed and wounded is sealed, some of the uses of censure, and all reserve in comparison and final estimate, are done away.
* * * * *
Such men as Hillhouse are not common, even in these days of universal authorship. In accomplishment of mind and person, he was probably second to no man. His poems show the first. They are fully conceived, nicely balanced, exquisitely finished–works for the highest taste to relish, and for the severest student in dramatic style to erect into a model. Hadad was published in 1825, during my second year in college, and to me it was the opening of a new heaven of imagination. The leading characters possessed me for months, and the bright, clear, harmonious language was, for a long time, constantly in my ears. The author was pointed out to me, soon after, and for once, I saw a poet whose mind was well imaged in his person. In no part of the world have I seen a man of more distinguished mien, or of a more inborn dignity and elegance of address. His person was very finely proportioned, his carriage chivalric and high-bred, and his countenance purely and brightly intellectual. Add to this a sweet voice, a stamp of high courtesy on everything he uttered, and singular simplicity and taste in dress, and you have the portrait of one who, in other days, would have been the mirror of chivalry, and the flower of nobles and troubadours. Hillhouse was no less distinguished in oratory.
… Hillhouse had fallen upon days of thrift, and many years of his life which he should have passed either in his study, or in the councils of the nation, were enslaved to the drudgery of business. His constitution seemed to promise him a vigorous manhood, however, and an old age of undiminished fire, and when he left his mercantile pursuits, and retired to the beautiful and poetic home of “Sachem’s Wood,” his friends looked upon it as the commencement of a ripe and long enduring career of literature. In harmony with such a life were all his surroundings–scenery, society, domestic refinement, and companionship–and never looked promise fairer for the realization of a dream of glory. That he had laid out something of such a field in the future, I chance to know, for, though my acquaintance with him was slight, he confided to me in a casual conversation, the plan of a series of dramas, different from all he had attempted, upon which he designed to work with the first mood and leisure he could command. And with his scholarship; knowledge of life, taste, and genius, what might not have been expected from its fulfilment? But his hand is cold, and his lips still, and his light, just rising to its meridian, is lost now to the world. Love and honor to the memory of such a man.
* * * * *
=_Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807-. _= (Manual, pp. 503, 505.)
=_206._= THE INTERRUPTED LEGEND.
One by one the objects of our affection depart from us. But our affections remain, and like vines stretch forth their broken, wounded tendrils for support. The bleeding heart needs a balm to heal it; and there is none but the love of its kind,–none but the affection of a human heart. Thus the wounded, broken affections of Flemming began to lift themselves from the dust and cling around this new object. Days and weeks passed; and, like the Student Crisostomo, he ceased to love, because he began to adore. And with this adoration mingled the prayer, that, in that hour when the world is still, and the voices that praise are mute, and reflection cometh like twilight, and the maiden, in her day dreams, counted the number of her friends, some voice in the sacred silence of her thoughts might whisper his name.
They were sitting together one morning, on the green, flowery meadow, under the ruins of Burg Unspunnen. She was sketching the ruins. The birds were singing, one and all, as if there were no aching hearts, no sin nor sorrow, in the world. So motionless was the bright air, that the shadow of the trees lay engraven on the grass. The distant snow-peaks sparkled in the sun, and nothing frowned, save the square tower of the old ruin above them.
“What a pity it is,” said the lady, as she stopped to rest her weary fingers, “what a pity it is, that there is no old tradition connected with this ruin!”
“I will make you one, if you wish,” said Flemming.
“Can you make old traditions?”
“O, yes! I made three, the other day, about the Rhine, and one very old one about the Black Forest. A lady with dishevelled hair; a robber with a horrible slouched hat; and a night storm among the roaring pines.”
“Delightful! Do make one for me.”
“With the greatest pleasure. Where will you have the scene? Here, or in the Black Forest.”
“In the Black Forest, by all means! Begin.”
“I will unite this ruin and the forest together. But first promise not to interrupt me. If you snap the golden threads of thought, they will float away on the air like the film of the gossamer, and I shall never be able to recover them.”
“I promise.” “Listen, then, to the Tradition of ‘THE FOUNTAIN OF OBLIVION.'”
Flemming was reclining on the flowery turf, at the lady’s feet, looking up with dreamy eyes into her sweet face, and then into the leaves of the linden-trees overhead.
“Gentle Lady! Dost thou remember the linden trees of Buelach,–those tall and stately trees, with velvet down upon their shining leaves, and rustic benches underneath their overhanging eaves? A leafy dwelling, fit to be the home of elf or fairy, where first I told my love to thee, thou cold and stately Hermione! A little peasant girl stood near, and listened all the while, with eyes of wonder and delight, and an unconscious smile, to hear the stranger still speak on in accents deep yet mild,–none else was with us in that hour, save God and that little child!”
“Why, it is in rhyme!”
“No, no! the rhyme is only in your imagination. You promised not to interrupt me, and you have already snapped asunder the gossamer threads of as sweet a dream as was ever spun from a poet’s brain.”
“It certainly did rhyme!”
* * * * *
=_Henry Reed, 1808-1854._= (Manual, p. 501.)
From “Lectures on English History.”
=_207._= LEGENDARY PERIOD OF BRITISH HISTORY.
It would be a weary, and probably vain inquiry to consider minutely the claims which such historical materials have on our belief; and so little is there attractive in the legends of British history, that I need not attempt to dwell upon any of the alleged facts. But I wish before passing from this part of my subject, briefly to examine the curious tenacity with which the belief in this legendary literature was once held, and to show that it was not relinquished until a more critical standard of historic belief was adopted, and scientific investigation took the place of uninquiring and passive credulity. It has been said that no man, before the sixteenth century, presumed to doubt that the Britons were descended from Brutus the Trojan; and it is equally certain that no modern writer could presume confidently to assert it.
… It is most difficult for us, in these later days of higher standards of historic credibility, to form anything like an adequate conception, of the entire and unquestioning confidence which was felt for the story of British origin, and the race of ancient British kings. Of this feeling there is a curious proof in a transaction in the reign of Edward I., when the sovereignty of Scotland was claimed by the English monarch. The Scots sought the interposition and protection of the pope, alleging that the Scottish realm belonged of right to the see of Rome. Boniface VIII., a pontiff not backward in asserting the claims of the papacy, did interpose to check the English conquest, and was answered by an elaborate and respectful epistle from Edward, in which the English claim is most carefully and confidently derived from the conquest of the whole country by the Trojans in the times of Eli and Samuel–assuredly a very respectable antiquity of some two thousand four hundred years. No Philadelphia estate could be more methodically traced back to the proprietary title of William Penn, than was this claim to Scotland up to Brutus, the exile from Troy…. Now, all this is set forth with the most imperturbable seriousness, and with an air of complete assurance of the truth. It appears, too, to have fully answered the purpose intended; and the Scots, finding that the papal antiquity was but a poor defence against such claims, and as if determined not to be outdone by the Southron, replied in a document asserting their independence by virtue of descent from Scota, one of the daughters of Pharaoh. The pope seems to have been silenced in a conflict of ancestral authority, in which the succession of St. Peter seemed quite a modern affair, when overshadowed, by such Trojan and Egyptian antiquity.
* * * * *
=_Caroline M. Kirkland, 1808-1864._= (Manual, p. 484.)
From “Forest Life.”
=_208._= THE FELLING OF A GREAT TREE.
One darling tree,–a giant oak which looked as if half a dozen Calibans might have been pegged in its knotty entrails–this one tree, the grandfather of the forest, we thought we had saved. It stood a little apart,–it shadowed no man’s land,–it shut the broiling sun from nobody’s windows, so we hoped it might be allowed to die a natural death. But one unlucky day, a family fresh from “the ‘hio” removed into a house which stood at no great distance from this relic of primeval grandeur. These people were but little indebted to fortune, and the size of their potato-patch did not exactly correspond with the number of rosy-cheeks within doors. So the loan of a piece of ground was a small thing to ask or to grant. Upon this piece of lent land stood our favorite oak. The potatoes were scarcely peeping green above the soil, when we observed that the great boughs which we looked at admiringly a dozen times a day, as they towered far above the puny race around them, remained distinct in their outline, instead of exhibiting the heavy masses of foliage which had usually clothed them before the summer heat began. Upon nearer inspection it was found that our neighbor had commenced his plantation by the operation of girdling the tree, for which favor he expected our thanks, observing pithily that “nothing wouldn’t never grow under sich a great mountain as that!” It is well that “Goth” and “Vandal” are not actionable.
Yet the felling of a great tree has something of the sublime in it. When the axe first falls on the trunk of a stately oak, laden with the green wealth of a century, or a pine whose aspiring peak might look down on a moderate church steeple, the contrast between the puny instrument and the gigantic result to be accomplished approaches the ridiculous. But as “the eagle towering in his pride of place was, by a mousing owl, hawked at and killed,” so the leaf-crowned monarch of the wood has no small reason to quiver at the sight of a long-armed Yankee approaching his deep-rooted trunk with an awkward axe. One blow seems to accomplish nothing: not even a chip falls. But with another stroke comes a broad slice of the bark, leaving an ominous, gaping wound. Another pair of blows extends the gash, and when twenty such have fallen, behold a girdled tree. This would suffice to kill, and a melancholy death it is; but to fell is quite another thing…. Two deep incisions are made, yet the towering crown sits firm as ever. And now the destroyer pauses,–fetches breath,–wipes his beaded brow, takes a wary view of the bearings of the tree,–and then with a slow and watchful care recommences his work. The strokes fall doubtingly, and many a cautious glance is cast upward, for the whole immense mass now trembles, as if instinct with life, and conscious of approaching ruin. Another blow! it waves,–a groaning sound is heard–… yet another stroke is necessary. It is given with desperate force, and the tall peak leaves its place with an easy sailing motion accelerated every instant, till it crashes prone on the earth, sending far and wide its scattered branches, and letting in the sunlight upon the cool, damp, mossy earth, for the first time perhaps in half a century.
* * * * *
From “Western Clearings.”
=_209._= THE BEE TREE.
One of the greatest temptations to our friend Silas, and to most of his class, is a bee hunt. Neither deer, nor ‘coons, nor prairie hens, nor even bears, prove half as powerful enemies to anything like regular business, as do these little thrifty vagrants of the forest. The slightest hint of a bee tree will entice Silas Ashburn and his sons from the most profitable job of the season, even though the defection is sure to result in entire loss of the offered advantage; and if the hunt prove successful, the luscious spoil is generally too tempting to allow of any care for the future, so long as the “sweet’nin” can be persuaded to last. “It costs nothing,” will poor Mrs. Ashburn observe; “let ’em enjoy it. It isn’t often we have such good luck.”
* * * * *
=_Margaret Fuller Ossoli, 1810-1850._= (Manual, p. 502.)
From “At Home and Abroad.”
=_210._= CHARACTER OF CARLYLE.
Accustomed to the infinite wit and exhuberant richness of his writings, his talk is still an amazement and a splendor scarcely to be faced with steady eyes. He does not converse,–only harangues. It is the usual misfortune of such marked men (happily not one invariable or inevitable) that they cannot allow other minds room to breathe and show themselves in their atmosphere, and thus miss the refreshment and instruction which the greatest never cease to need from the experience of the humblest. Carlyle allows no one a chance, but bears down all opposition, not only by his wit and onset of words, resistless in their sharpness as so many bayonets, but by actual physical superiority, raising his voice and rushing on his opponent with a torrent of sound. This is not the least from unwillingness to allow freedom to others; on the contrary, no man would more enjoy a manly resistance to his thought; but it is the impulse of a mind accustomed to follow out its own impulse as the hawk its prey, and which knows not how to stop in the chase. Carlyle, indeed, is arrogant and overbearing, but in his arrogance there is no littleness or self-love: it is the heroic arrogance of some old Scandinavian conqueror,–it is his nature, and the untamable impulse that has given him power to crush the dragons. You do not love him, perhaps, nor revere, and perhaps, also, he would only laugh at you if you did; but you like him heartily, and like to see him the powerful smith, the Siegfried, melting all the old iron, in his furnace till it glows to a sunset red, and burns you if you senselessly go too near. He seemed to me quite isolated, lonely as the desert; yet never was man more fitted to prize a man, could he find one to match his mood. He finds such, but only in the past. He sings rather than talks. He pours upon you a kind of satirical, heretical, critical poem, with regular cadences, and generally catching up near the beginning some singular epithet, which serves as a _refrain_ when his song is full, or with which as with a knitting-needle he catches up the stitches, if he has chanced now and then to let fall a row. For the higher kinds of poetry he has no sense, and his talk on that subject is delightfully and gorgeously absurd; he sometimes stops a minute to laugh at it himself, then begins anew with fresh vigor; for all the spirits he is driving before him seem to him as Fata Morgana; ugly masks in fact, if he can but make them turn about, but he laughs that they seem to others such dainty Ariels. He puts out his chin sometimes till it looks like the beak of a bird, and his eyes flash bright instinctive meanings like Jove’s bird; yet he is not calm and grand enough for the eagle: he is more like the falcon, and yet not of gentle blood enough for that either. He is not exactly like anything but himself, and therefore you cannot see him without the most hearty refreshment and goodwill, for he is original, rich, and strong enough to afford a thousand faults; one expects some wild land in a rich kingdom. His talk, like his books, is full of pictures, his critical strokes masterly; allow for his point of view, and his survey is admirable. He is a large subject; I cannot speak more nor wiselier of him now, nor needs it; his works are true, to blame and praise him, the Siegfried of England, great and powerful, if not quite invulnerable, and of a might rather to destroy evil than legislate for good. At all events, he seems to be what Destiny intended, and represents fully a certain side; so we make no remonstrance as to his being and proceeding for himself, though we sometimes must for us.
* * * * *
=_Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1809-._= (Manual, p. 520.)
From “The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table.”
=_211._= CONSEQUENCES OF EXPOSING AN OLD ERROR.
Did you never, in walking in the fields, come across a large flat stone which had lain, nobody knows how long, just where you found it, with the grass forming a little hedge, as it were, all round it, close to its edges,–and have you not, in obedience to a kind of feeling that told you it had been lying there long enough, insinuated your stick, or your foot, or your fingers, under its edge, and turned it over as a housewife turns a cake, when she says to herself, “It’s done brown enough by this time?” What an odd revelation, and what an unforeseen and unpleasant surprise to a small community, the very existence of which you had not suspected, until the sudden dismay and scattering among its members produced by your turning the old stone over! Blades of grass flattened down, colorless, matted together, as if they had been bleached and ironed; hideous crawling creatures, some of them coleopterous or horny-shelled,–turtle-bugs one wants to call them; some of them softer but cunningly spread out and compressed like Lepine watches; (Nature never loses a crack or a crevice, mind you, or a joint in a tavern bedstead, but she always has one of her flat pattern live timekeepers to slide into it;) black, glossy crickets, with their long filaments sticking out like the whips of four-horse stage-coaches; motionless, slug-like creatures, young larvae, perhaps more horrible in their pulpy stillness than even in the infernal wriggle of maturity. But no sooner is the stone turned and the wholesome light of day let upon this compressed and blinded community of creeping things, than all of them which enjoy the luxury of legs–and some of them have a good many–rush round wildly, butting each other and everything in their way, and end in a general stampede for underground retreats from the region poisoned by sunshine. _Next year_ you will find the grass growing tall and green where the stone lay; the ground-bird builds her nest where the beetle had his hole; the dandelion and the buttercup are growing there, and the broad fans of insect-angels open and shut over their golden disks, as the rhythmic waves of blissful consciousness pulsate through their glorified being.
–The young fellow whom they call John saw fit to say, in his very familiar way,–at which I do not choose to take offence, but which I sometimes think it necessary to repress,–that I was coming it rather strong on the butterflies.
No, I replied; there is meaning in each of those images, the butterfly as well as the others. The stone is ancient error. The grass is human nature borne down and bleached of all its color by it. The shapes which are found beneath are the crafty beings that thrive in darkness, and the weaker organisms kept helpless by it. He who turns the stone over is whosoever puts the staff of truth to the old lying incubus, no matter whether he do it with a serious face or a laughing one. The next year stands for the coming time. Then shall the nature which had lain blanched and broken, rise in its full stature and native hues, in the sunshine. Then shall God’s minstrels build their nests in the hearts of a new-born humanity. Then shall beauty–Divinity taking outlines and color–light upon the souls of men as the butterfly, image of the beautified spirit rising from the dust, soars from the shell that held a poor grub, which would never have found wings, had not the stone been lifted.
You never need think you can turn over any old falsehood without a terrible squirming and scattering of the horrid little population that dwells under it.
* * * * *
=_212._= PLEASURES OF BOATING.
I dare not publicly name the rare joys, the infinite delights, that intoxicate me on some sweet June morning, when the river and bay are smooth as a sheet of beryl-green silk, and I run along ripping it up with my knife-edged shell of a boat, the rent closing after me like those wounds of angels which Milton tells of, but the seam still shining for many a long road behind me. To lie still, over the Flats, where the waters are shallow, and see the crabs crawling and the sculpins gliding busily and silently beneath the boat,–to rustle in through the long harsh grass that leads up some tranquil creek,–to take shelter from the sunbeams under one of the thousand-footed bridges, and look down its interminable colonnades, crusted with green and oozy growths, studded with minute barnacles, and belted with rings of dark muscles, while overhead, streams and thunders that other river, whose every wave is a human soul flowing to eternity as the river below flows to the ocean,–lying there moored unseen, in loneliness so profound that the columns of Tadmoor in the Desert could not seem more remote from life,–the cool breeze on one’s forehead, the stream whispering against the half-sunken pillars,–why should I tell of these things, that I should live to see my beloved haunts invaded and the waves blackened with boats as with a swarm of water-beetles? What a city of idiots we must be, not to have covered this glorious bay with gondolas and wherries, as we have just learned to cover the ice in winter with skaters!
* * * * *
From “The Guardian Angel.”
=_213._= THE UNSPOKEN DECLARATION.
Myrtle had, perhaps, never so seriously inclined her ear to the honeyed accents of the young pleader. He flattered her with so much tact, that she thought she heard an unconscious echo through his lips of an admiration which he only shared with all around him. But in him he made it seem discriminating, deliberate, not blind, but very real. This it evidently was which had led him to trust her with his ambitions and his plans,–they might be delusions, but he could never keep them from her, and she was the one woman in the world to whom he thought he could safely give his confidence.
The dread moment was close at had. Myrtle was listening with an instinctive premonition of what was coming,–ten thousand mothers and grandmothers, and great-grandmothers, and so on, had passed through it all in preceding generations, until time readied backwards to the sturdy savage who asked no questions of any kind, but knocked down the primeval great-grandmother of all, and carried her off to his hole in the rock, or into the tree where he had made his nest. Why should not the coming question announce itself by stirring in the pulses, and thrilling in the nerves, of the descendant of all these grandmothers?
She was leaning imperceptibly towards him, drawn by the mere blind elemental force, as the plummet was attracted to the side of Schehallien. Her lips were parted, and she breathed a little faster than so healthy a girl ought to breathe in a state of repose. The steady nerves of William Murray Bradshaw felt unwonted thrills and tremors tingling through them, as he came nearer and nearer the few simple words with which he was to make Myrtle Hazard the mistress of his destiny. His tones were becoming lower and more serious; there were slight breaks once or twice in the conversation; Myrtle had cast down her eyes.
“There is but one word more to add,” he murmured softly, as he bent towards her–
A grave voice interrupted him. “Excuse me, Mr. Bradshaw,” said Master Byles Gridley, “I wish to present a young gentleman to my friend here. I promised to show him the most charming young person I have the honor to be acquainted with, and I must redeem my pledge. Miss Hazard, I have the pleasure of introducing to your acquaintance my distinguished young friend, Mr. Clement Lindsay.”
* * * * *
From “Currents and Counter Currents.”
=_214._= MECHANISM OF VITAL ACTION.
But if the student of nature and the student of divinity can once agree that all the forces of the universe, as well as all its power, are immediately dependent upon its Creator,–that He is not only omni_potent_ but omni_movent_,–we have no longer any fear of nebular theories, or doctrines of equivocal generation, or of progressive development….
We begin then by examining the general rules which the Creator seems to have prescribed to His own operations. We ask, in the first place, whether He is wont, so far as we know, to employ a great multitude of materials, patterns, and forces, or whether He has seen fit to accomplish many different ends by the employment of a few of these only.
In all our studies of external nature, the tendency of increasing knowledge has uniformly been to show that the rules of creation are simplicity of material, economy of inventive effort, and thrift in the expenditure of force. All the endless forms in which matter presents itself to us, are resolved by chemistry into some three-score supposed simple substances, some of these perhaps being only modifications of the same element. The shapes of beasts and birds, of reptiles and fishes, vary in every conceivable degree; yet a single vertebra is the pattern and representation of the framework of them all, from eels to elephants. The identity reaches still further,–across a mighty gulf of being,–but bridges it over with a line of logic as straight as a sunbeam, and as indestructible as the scymitar-edge that spanned the chasm, in the fable of the Indian Hades. Strange as it may sound, the tail which the serpent trails after him in the dust, and the head of Plato, were struck in the die of the same primitive conception, and differ only in their special adaptation to particular ends. Again, the study of the movements of the universe has led us, from their complex phenomena, to the few simple forces from which they flow. The falling apple and the rolling planet are shown to obey the same tendency. The stick of sealing-wax which draws a feather to it, is animated by the same impulse that convulses the stormy heavens. These generalizations have simplified our view of the grandest material operations, yet we do not feel that creative power and wisdom have been shorn of any single ray, by the demonstrations of Newton, or of Franklin. On the contrary, the larger the collection of seemingly heterogeneous facts we can bring under the rule of a single formula, the nearer we feel that we have reached towards the source of knowledge, and the more perfectly we trace the little arc of the immeasurable circle which comes within the range of our hasty observations, at first like the broken fragments of a many-sided polygon, but at last as a simple curve which encloses all we know, or can know, of nature. To our own intellectual wealth, the gain is like that of the over-burdened traveller, who should exchange hundred-weights of iron for ounces of gold. Evanescent, formless, unstable, impalpable, a fog of uncondensed experiences hovers over our consciousness like an atmosphere of uncombined gases. One spark of genius shoots through it, and its elements rush together and glitter before us in a single translucent drop. It would hardly be extravagant to call Science the art of packing knowledge.
* * * * *
=_John William Draper, 1810-._=
From the “Human Physiology.”
=_215._= TRUTHS IN THE ANCIENT PHILOSOPHIES.
It is not my intention to enter on an examination, or even enumeration, of ancient philosophical opinions, nor to show that many of the doctrines which have been brought forward within the last three centuries existed in embryo in those times. It may, however, be observed that, in the midst of much error, there were those who held just views of the various problems of theology, law, politics, philosophy, and particularly of the fundamental doctrines of natural science, the constitution of the solar system, the geological history of the earth, the nature of chemical forces, the physiological relations of animals and plants.
It is supposed by many, whose attention has been casually drawn to the philosophical opinions of antiquity, that the doctrines which we still retain as true came to the knowledge of the old philosophers, not so much by processes of legitimate investigation as by mere guessing or crude speculation, for which there was an equal chance whether they were right or wrong; but a closer examination will show that many of them must have depended on results previously determined or observed by the Africans or Asiatics, and thus they seem to indicate that the human mind has undergone in twenty centuries but little change in its manner of action, and that, commencing with the same data, it always comes to the same conclusions. Nor is this at all dependent on any inherent logic of truth. Very many of the errors of antiquity have re-appeared in our times. If the Greek schools were infected with materialism, pantheism, and atheism, the later progress of philosophy has shown the same characters. To a certain extent, such doctrines will receive an impression from the prevailing creeds, but the arguments which have been appealed to in their favor have always been the same. The distinction between these heresies in ancient and modern times lies chiefly in the grosser characters which they formerly assumed, arising partly from the reflected influence of the existing mythology, and partly from the imperfections of exact knowledge. Even the errors of early antiquity are venerable. We must judge our predecessors by the rules by which we hope posterity will judge us, making a generous allowance for the imperfections of reason, the infirmities of character, and especially for the prejudices of the times. To have devoutly believed in the existence of a human soul, to have looked forward to its continuing after the death of the body, to have expected a future state of rewards and punishments, and to have drawn therefrom, as a philosophical conclusion, the necessity of leading a virtuous life–these, though they may be enveloped in a cloud of errors, are noble results of the intellect of man.
[Footnote 52: Distinguished as an author in chemistry and physiology, and as a philosophical historian: a native of England, but long a professor in New York University.]
* * * * *
From “Thoughts on the Future Civil Policy of America.”
=_216._= PROSPECTIVE INFLUENCES OF THE REPUBLIC.
Now, when, we consider the position of the American continent,–its Atlantic front looking upon Europe, its Pacific front looking upon Asia,–when we reflect how much Nature has done for it in the wonderful river system she has bestowed, and how varied are the mineral and agricultural products it yields, it would seem as if we should be constrained by circumstances to carry out spontaneously in practical life the abstract suggestions of policy…. Great undertakings, such as the construction of the Pacific Railroad, pressed into existence by commercial motives and fostered for military reasons, will indirectly accomplish political objects not yielding in importance to those that are obvious and avowed.
A few years more, and the influence of the great republic will resistlessly extend in a direction that will lead to surprising results…. The stream of Chinese emigration already setting into California is but the precursor of the flood that is to come. Here are the fields, there are the men. The dominant power on the Pacific Ocean must necessarily exert a controlling influence in the affairs of Asia.
The Roman empire is regarded, perhaps not unjustly, as the most imposing of all human political creations. Italy extended her rule across the eastern and western basins of the Mediterranean Sea, from the confines of Parthia to Spain. A similar central, but far grander, position is occupied by the American continent. The partitions of an interior and narrow sea are replaced by the two great oceans. But, since history ever repeats itself, the maxims that guided the policy of Rome in her advance to sovereignty are not without application here. Her mistakes may be monitions to us.
A great, a homogeneous, and yet an active people, having strength and security in its political institutions, may look forward to a career of glory. It may, without offense, seek to render its life memorable in the annals of the human race.
* * * * *
=_James Russell Lowell, 1810-._= (Manual, pp. 503, 520.)
From “Among my Books.”
=_217._= NEW ENGLAND TWO CENTURIES AGO.
I have little sympathy with declaimers about the Pilgrim Fathers, who look upon them all as men of grand conceptions and superhuman foresight. An entire ship’s company of Columbuses is what the world never saw. It is not wise to form any theory and fit our facts to it, as a man in a hurry is apt to cram his traveling-bag, with a total disregard of shape or texture. But perhaps it may be found that the facts will only fit comfortably together on a single plan, namely, that the fathers did have a conception (which those will call grand who regard simplicity as a necessary element of grandeur) of founding here a commonwealth on those two eternal bases of Faith and Work; that they had, indeed, no revolutionary ideas of universal liberty; but yet, what answered the purpose quite as well, an abiding faith in the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God; and that they did not so much propose to make all things new, as to develop the latent possibilities of English law and English character by clearing away the fences by which the abuse of the one was gradually discommoning the other from the broad fields of natural right. They were not in advance of their age, as it is called, for no one who is so can ever work profitably in it; but they were alive to the highest and most earnest thinking of their time.
* * * * *
=_218._= From an “Essay on Dryden.”
I do not think he added a single word to the language, unless, as I suspect, he first used magnetism in its present sense of moral attraction. What he did in his best writing was, to use the English as if it were a spoken, and not merely an inkhorn language; as if it were his own to do what he pleased with it, as if it need not be ashamed of itself. In this respect, his service to our prose was greater than any other man has ever rendered. He says he formed his style upon Tillotson’s (Bossuet on the other hand, formed _his_ upon Corneille’s); but I rather think he got it at Will’s, for its greatest charm is, that it has the various freedom of talk. In verse, he has a pomp which, excellent in itself, became pompousness in his imitators. But he had nothing of Milton’s ear for various rhythm and interwoven harmony. He knew how to give new modulation, sweetness, and force to the pentameter; but in what used to be called pindarics, I am heretic enough to think he generally failed.
* * * * *
From “My Study Windows.”
=_219._= LOVE OF BIRDS AND SQUIRRELS.
Wilson’s thrush comes every year to remind me of that most poetic of ornithologists. He flits before me through the pine-walk like the very genius of solitude. A pair of pewees have built immemorially on a jutting brick in the arched entrance to the ice-house. Always on the same brick, and never more than a single pair, though two broods of five each are raised there every summer. How do they settle their claim to the homestead? By what right of primogeniture? Once, the children of a man employed about the place ooelogized the nest, and the pewees left us for a year or two. I felt towards those boys as the messmates of the Ancient Mariner did towards him after he had shot the albatross. But the pewees came back at last, and one of them is now on his wonted perch, so near my window that I can hear the click of his bill as he snaps a fly on the wing…. The pewee is the first bird to pipe up in the morning; and, during the early summer he preludes his matutinal ejaculation of _pewee_ with a slender whistle, unheard at any other time. He saddens with the season, and, as summer declines, he changes his note to _eheu, pewee_! I as if in lamentation. Had he been an Italian bird, Ovid would have had a plaintive tale to tell about him. He is so familiar as often to pursue a fly through the open window into my library.
There is something inexpressibly dear to me in these old friendships of a lifetime. There is scarce a tree of mine but has had, at some time or other, a happy homestead among its boughs, to which I cannot say,
“Many light hearts and wings,
Which now be dead, lodged in thy living bowers.”
My walk under the pines would lose half its summer charm were I to miss that shy anchorite, the Wilson’s thrush, nor hear in haying time the metallic ring of his song, that justifies his rustic name of _scythe-whet_. I protect my game as jealously as an English squire. If anybody had ooelogized a certain cuckoo’s nest I know of (I have a pair in my garden every year), it would have left me a sore place in my mind for weeks. I love to bring these aborigines back to the mansuetude they showed to the early voyagers, and before (forgive the involuntary pun), they had grown accustomed to man and knew his savage ways. And they repay your kindness with a sweet familiarity too delicate ever to breed contempt. I have made a Penn-treaty with them, preferring that to the Puritan way with the native, which converted them to a little Hebraism and a great deal of Medford rum. If they will not come near enough to me (as most of them will), I bring them close with an opera-glass,–a much better weapon than a gun. I would not, if I could, convert them from their pretty pagan ways. The only one I sometimes have savage doubts about, is the red squirrel. I _think_ he ooelogizes; I _know_ he eats cherries, (we counted five of them at one time in a single tree, the stones pattering down like the sparse hail that preludes a storm), and that he knaws off the small end of pears to get at the seeds. He steals the corn from under the noses of my poultry. But what would you have? He will come down upon the limb of the tree I am lying under, till he is within a yard of me. He and his mate will scurry up and down the great black-walnut for my diversion, chattering like monkeys. Can I sign his death-warrant who has tolerated me about his grounds so long? Not I. Let them steal, and welcome, I am sure I should, had I the same bringing up and the same temptation. As for the birds, I do not believe there is one of them but does more good than harm; and of how many featherless bipeds can this be said.
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=_220._= CHAUCER’S LOVE OF NATURE.
He was the first great poet who really loved outward nature as the source of conscious pleasurable emotion. The Troubadour hailed the return of spring, but with him it was a piece of empty ritualism. Chaucer took a true delight in the new green of the leaves, and the return of singing birds–a delight as simple as that of Robin Hood:–
“In summer when the shaws be sheen,
And leaves be large and long,
It is full merry in fair forest
To hear the small birds’ song.”
He has never so much as heard of the burthen and the mystery of all this unintelligible world. His flowers and trees and birds have never bothered themselves with Spinoza. He himself sings more like a bird than any other poet, because it never occurred to him, as to Goethe, that he ought to do so. He pours himself out in sincere joy and thankfulness. When we compare Spenser’s imitations of him with the original passages, we feel that the delight of the later poet was more in the expression than in the thing itself. Nature, with him, is only to be transfigured by art. We walk among Chaucer’s sights and sounds; we listen to Spenser’s musical reproduction of them. In the same way the pleasure which Chaucer takes in telling his stories, has, in itself, the effect of consummate skill, and makes us follow all the windings of his fancy with sympathetic interest. His best tales run on like one of our inland rivers, sometimes hastening a little and turning upon themselves in eddies, that dimple without retarding the current, sometimes loitering smoothly, while here and there a quiet thought, a tender feeling, a pleasant image, a golden-hearted verse, opens quietly as a water-lily to float on the surface without breaking it into ripple…. Chaucer never shows any signs of effort, and it is a main proof of his excellence that he can be so inadequately sampled by detached passages, by single lines taken away from the connection in which they contribute to the general effect. He has that continuity of thought, that evenly prolonged power, and that delightful equanimity, which characterize the higher orders of mind. There is something in him of the disinterestedness that made the Greeks masters in art. His phrase is never importunate. His simplicity is that of elegance, not of poverty. The quiet unconcern with which he says his best things is peculiar to him among English poets, though Goldsmith, Addison, and Thackeray, have approached it in prose. He prattles inadvertently away, and all the while, like the princess in the story, lets fall a pearl at every other word. It is such a piece of good luck to be natural. It is the good gift which the fairy god-mother brings to her prime favorites in the cradle. If not genius, it is alone what makes genius amiable in the arts. If a man have it not he will never find it; for when it is sought it is gone.
* * * * *
=_Edgar Allen Poe, 1811-1849._= (Manual, p. 510.)
From “The Masque of the Red Death.”
=_221._= CHIMING OF THE CLOCK.
… The seventh apartment was closely shrouded in black velvet tapestries that hung all over the ceiling and down the walls, falling in heavy folds upon a carpet of the same material and hue. But in this chamber only, the color of the windows failed to correspond with the decorations. The panes here were scarlet–a deep blood color. Now in no one of the seven apartments was there any lamp or candelabrum, amid the profusion of golden ornaments that lay scattered to and fro, or depended from the roof. There was no light of any kind emanating from lamp or candle within the suite of chambers. But in the corridors that followed the suite, there stood, opposite to each window, a heavy tripod, bearing a brazier of fire, that projected its rays through the tinted glass and so glaringly illumined the room. And thus were produced a multitude of gaudy and fantastic appearances. But in the western or black chamber, the effect of the fire-light that streamed upon the dark hangings through the blood-tinted panes, was ghastly in the extreme, and produced so wild a look upon the countenances of those who entered, that there were few of the company bold enough to set foot within its precincts at all.
It was in this apartment, also, that there stood against the western wall, a gigantic clock of ebony. Its pendulum swung to and fro with a dull, heavy, monotonous clang; and when the minute-hand made the circuit of the face, and the hour was to be stricken, there came from the brazen lungs of the clock a sound which was clear and loud and deep, and exceedingly musical, but of so peculiar a note and emphasis that, at each lapse of an hour, the musicians of the orchestra were constrained to pause, momentarily, in their performance, to hearken to the sound; and thus the waltzers perforce ceased their evolutions; and there was a brief disconcert of the whole gay company; and, while the chimes of the clock yet rang, it was observed that the giddiest grew pale, and the more aged and sedate passed their hands over their brows, as if in confused revery or meditation. But when the echoes had fully ceased, a light laughter at once pervaded the assembly; the musicians looked at each other and smiled, as if at their own nervousness and folly, and made whispering vows, each to the other, that the next chiming of the clock should produce in them no similar emotion; and then, after the lapse of sixty minutes, (which embrace three thousand and six hundred seconds of the Time that flies,) there came yet another chiming of the clock, and then were the same disconcert and tremulousness and meditation as before.
* * * * *
From his “Essays.”
=_222._= The Philosophy of Composition.
There is a radical error, I think, in the usual mode of constructing a story. Either history affords a thesis–or one is suggested by an incident of the day–or, at best, the author sets himself to work in the combination of striking events to form merely the basis of his narrative–designing, generally, to fill in with description, dialogue, or autorial comment, whatever crevices of fact, or action, may, from page to page, render themselves apparent.
I prefer commencing with the consideration of an _effect_, keeping originality _always_ in view–for he is false to himself who ventures to dispense with so obvious and so easily attainable a source of interest. I say to myself, in the first place, “Of the innumerable effects, or impressions, of which the heart, the intellect, or (more generally) the soul, is susceptible, what one shall I, on the present occasion, select?” Having chosen a novel, first, and secondly a vivid, effect, I consider whether it can be best wrought by incident or tone, whether by ordinary incidents and peculiar tone, or the converse, or by peculiarity both of incident and tone–afterward looking about me (or rather within) for such combinations of event, or tone, as shall best aid me in the construction of the effect.
I have often thought how interesting a magazine paper might be written by any author who would–that is to say, who could–detail, step by step, the process by which any one of his compositions attained its ultimate point of completion. Why such a paper has never been given to the world, I am much at a loss to say–but, perhaps, the autorial vanity has had more to do with the omission than any one other cause. Most writers, poets in especial, prefer having it understood that they compose by a species of fine frenzy, an ecstatic intuition, and would positively shudder at letting the public take a peep behind the scenes, at the elaborate and vacillating crudities of thought–at the true purposes seized only at the last moment–at the innumerable glimpses of idea that arrived not at the maturity of full view–at the fully matured fancies discarded in despair as unmanageable–at the cautious selections and rejections–at the painful erasures and interpolations–in a word, at the wheels and pinions, the tackle for scene-shifting–the step-ladders and demon-traps–the cock’s feathers, the red paint and the black patches, which, in ninety-nine cases out of the hundred, constituted the properties of the literary _histrio_.
I am aware, on the other hand, that the case is by no means common in which an author is at all in condition to retrace the steps by which his conclusions have been attained. In general, suggestions having arisen pell-mell, are pursued and forgotten in a similar manner.
* * * * *
=_Henry T. Tuckerman, 1813-._=
From “New England Philosophy,” an Essay from “The Optimist.”
=_223._= THE HEART SUPERIOR TO THE INTELLECT.
Constant supplies of knowledge to the intellect, and the exclusive cultivation of reason, may, indeed, make a pedant and a logician; but the probability is, these benefits–if such they are–will be gained at the expense of the soul. Sentiment, in its broadest acceptation, is as essential to the true enjoyment and grace of life as mind. Technical information, and that quickness of apprehension which New Englanders call smartness, are not so valuable to a human being as sensibility to the beautiful, and a spontaneous appreciation of the divine influences which fill the realms of vision and of sound, and the world of action and, feeling. The tastes, affections, and sentiments are more absolutely the man than his talents or acquirements. And yet it is by, and through, the latter that we are apt to estimate character, of which they are at best but fragmentary evidences. It is remarkable that in the New Testament, allusions to the intellect are so rare, while the “heart” and the “spirit we are of” are ever appealed to….
To what end are society, popular education, churches, and all the machinery of culture, if no living truth is elicited which fertilizes, as well as enlightens. Shakespeare undoubtedly owed his marvelous insight into the human soul, to his profound sympathy with man. He might have conned whole libraries on the philosophy of the passions, he might have coldly observed facts for years, and never have conceived of jealousy like Othello’s,–the remorse of Macbeth, or love like that of Juliet….
Sometimes, in musing upon genius in its simpler manifestations, it seems as if the great art of human culture consisted chiefly in preserving the glow and freshness of the heart. It is certain that, in proportion as its merely mental strength and attainment take the place of natural sentiment, in proportion as we acquire the habit of receiving all impressions through the reason, the teachings of Nature grow indistinct and cold…. It is when we are overcome, and the pride of intellect vanquished before the truth of nature, when instead of coming to a logical decision we are led to bow in profound reverence before the mysteries of life, when we are led back to childhood, or up to God, by some powerful revelation of the sage or minstrel, it is then our natures grow. To this end is all art. Exquisite vocalism, beautiful statuary, and painting, and all true literature, have not for their great object to employ the ingenuity of prying critics, or furnish the world with a set of new ideas, but to move the whole nature by the perfection and truthfulness of their appeal. There is a certain atmosphere exhaled from the inspired page of genius, which gives vitality to the sentiments, and through these, quickens the mental powers. And this is the chief good of books.
* * * * *
=_H.N. Hudson, 1814-._= (Manual, pp. 480, 501.)
From “Preface to the Works of Shakespeare.”
=_224._= Shakespeare’s Works Instructive.
It is true, he often lays on us burdens of passion that would not be borne in any other writer. But whether he wrings the heart with pity, or freezes the blood with terror, or fires the soul with indignation, the genial reader still rises from his pages refreshed. The reason of which is, instruction keeps pace with excitement: he strengthens the mind in proportion as he loads it. He has been called the great master of passion: doubtless he is so; yet he makes us think as intensely as he requires us to feel; while opening the deepest fountains of the heart, he at the same time unfolds the highest energies of the head. Nay, with such consummate art does he manage the fiercest tempests of our being, that in a healthy mind the witnessing of them is always attended with an overbalance of pleasure. With the very whirlwinds of passion he so blends the softening and alleviating influences of poetry, that they relish of nothing but sweetness and health…. He is not wont to exhibit either utterly worthless or utterly faultless monsters; persons too good, or too bad, to exist; too high to be loved, or too low to be pitied; even his worst characters (unless we should except Goneril and Regan, and even their blood is red like ours) have some slight fragrance of humanity about them, some indefinable touches, which redeem them from utter hatred and execration, and keep them within the pale of human sympathy, or at least of human pity.
* * * * *
=_Mary Henderson Eastman,_= about =_1815-._=
From “The American Aboriginal Port Folio.”
=_225._= Lake Itasca, the Source of the Mississippi.
There it lay–the beautiful lake–swaying its folds of crystal water between the hills that guarded it from its birth. There it lay, placid as a sleeping child, the tall pines on the surrounding summits standing like so many motionless and watchful sentinels for its protection.
There was the sequestered birthplace of that mighty mass of waters, that, leaving the wilderness of beauty where they lived undisturbed and unknown, wound their way through many a desolate prairie, and fiercely lashed the time-worn bluffs, whose sides were as walls to the great city, where lived and died the toiling multitude. The lake was as some fair and pure, maiden, in early youth, so beautiful, so full of repose and truth, that it was impossible to look and not to love…. There was but one landing to the lake, our travellers found. It was on a small island, that they called Schoolcraft’s Island. On a tall spruce tree they raised the American flag. There was enough in the novelty of the scenery, and of the event, to interest the white men of the party. There was a solemnity mingled with their pleased emotions; for who had made this grand picture, stretching out in its beauty and majesty before them? What were they, in comparison with the great and good Being upon whose works they were gazing?
[Footnote 53: This lady–a native of Virginia–has written several interesting books, chiefly relating to Indian tradition.]
* * * * *
=_226._= A PLEA FOR THE INDIANS.
The light of the great council-fire–its blaze once illumined the entire country we now call our own–is faintly gleaming out its unsteady and dying rays. Our fathers were guests, and warmed themselves by its hospitable rays; now we are lords, and rule with an iron hand over those who received kindly, and entertained generously, the wanderer who came from afar to worship his God according to his own will. The very hearth where moulder the ashes of this once never-ceasing fire, is becoming desolate, the decaying embers sometimes starting into a brief brilliancy, and then fading into a gloom more sad, more silent, than ever. Soon will be scattered, as by the winds of heaven, the last ashes that remain. Think of it, O legislator! as thou standest in the Capitol, the great council-hall of thy country; plead for them, “upon whose pathway death’s dark shadow falls.”
* * * * *
=_Mary E. Moragne, 1815-._=
From “The Huguenot Town.”
=_227._= RUINS OF THE OLD FRENCH SETTLEMENT.
An ignorance of the common methods of agriculture practised here, as well as strong prejudices in favor of their former habits of living, prevented them from seizing with avidity on large bodies of land, by individual possession; but the site of a town being selected, a lot of four acres was apportioned to every citizen. In a short time a hundred houses had risen, in a regularly compact body, in the square of which stood a building superior in size and construction to the rest….
… The town was soon busy with the industry of its tradesmen; silk and flax were manufactured, whilst the cultivators of the soil were taxed with the supply of corn and wine. The hum of cheerful voices arose during the week, mingled with the interdicted songs of praise; and on the Sabbath the quiet worshippers assembled in their rustic church, listened with fervent response to that faithful pastor, who had been their spiritual leader through perils by sea and land, and who now directed their free, unrestrained devotion to the Lord of the forest.
… The woods still wave on in melancholy grandeur, with the added glory of near a hundred years; but they who once lived and worshipped beneath them–where are they? Shades of my ancestors,–where? No crumbling wreck, no mossy ruin, points the antiquarian research to the place of their sojourn, or to their last resting-places! The traces of a narrow trench, surrounding a square plat of ground, now covered with the interlacing arms of hawthorn and wild honey-suckle, arrest the attention as we are proceeding along a strongly beaten track in the deep woods, and we are assured that this is the site of the “old French town” which has given its name to the portion of country around.
[Footnote 54: One of the best female writers of South Carolina, who has of late years laid aside her pen.]
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=_Richard H. Dana, Jr., 1815-._= (Manual, p. 504.)
From “Two years before the Mast.”
=_228._= LOSS OF A MAN AT SEA.
Death is at all tunes solemn, but never so much so as at sea. A man dies on shore; his body remains with his friends, and “the mourners go about the streets;” but when a man falls overboard at sea and is lost, there is a suddenness in the event, and a difficulty in realizing it, which give to it an air of awful mystery. A man dies on shore–you follow his body to the grave, and a stone marks the spot. You are often prepared for the event. There is always something which helps you to realize it when it happens, and to recall it when it has passed. A man is shot down by your side in battle, and the mangled body remains an object, and a real evidence; but at sea, the man is near you–at your side–you hear his voice, and in an instant he is gone, and nothing but a vacancy shows his loss. Then too, at sea–to use a homely but expressive phrase–you miss a man so much. A dozen men are shut up together in a little bark, upon the wide, wide sea, and for months and months see no forms and hear no voices but their own, and one is taken suddenly from among them, and they miss him at every turn. It is like losing a limb. There are no new faces or new scenes to fill up the gap. There is always an empty berth in the forecastle, and one man wanting when the small night watch is mustered. There is one less to take the wheel, and one less to lay out with you upon the yard. You miss his form, and the sound of his voice, for habit had made them almost necessary to you, and each of your senses feels the loss.
All these things make such a death peculiarly solemn, and the effect of it remains upon the crew for some time. There is more kindness shown by the officers to the crew, and by the crew to one another. There is more quietness and seriousness. The oath and the loud laugh are gone. The officers are more watchful, and the crew go more carefully aloft. The lost man is seldom mentioned, or is dismissed with a sailor’s rude eulogy, “Well, poor George is gone. His cruise is up soon. He knew his work, and did his duty, and was a good shipmate.” Then usually follows some allusion to another world, for sailors are almost all believers; but their notions and opinions are unfixed, and at loose ends. They say,–“God won’t be hard upon the poor fellow,” and seldom get beyond the common phrase which seems to imply that their sufferings and hard treatment here, will excuse them hereafter. _To work hard, live hard, die hard, and go to hell after all_, would be hard indeed.
Yet a sailor’s life is at best but a mixture of a little good with much evil, and a little pleasure with much pain. The beautiful is linked with the revolting, the sublime with the common-place, and the solemn with the ludicrous.
We had hardly returned on board with our sad report, before an auction was held of the poor man’s clothes. The captain had first, however, called all hands aft, and asked them if they were satisfied that everything had been done to save the man, and if they thought there was any use in remaining there longer. The crew all said that it was in vain, for the man did not know how to swim, and was very heavily dressed. So we then filled away and kept her off to her course.
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=_Evert A. Duyckinck, 1816–._= (Manual, p. 502.)
Essay from “Arcturus.”
No one, it has been said, ever takes up a newspaper without interest, or lays it down without regret. There is a deeper truth in this observation than at first thought strikes the mind; it is not the casual disappointment at the loss of fine writing, or the absence of particular topics of news, or the variety of subjects that dispel all deep-settled reflection; but a newspaper is in some measure a picture of human life, and we can no more read its various paragraphs with pleasure, than we can look back upon the events of any single day with, unmingled satisfaction…. A man may learn, sitting by his fireside, more than an angel would desire to know of human life, by reading well a single newspaper. It is an instrument of many tones, running through the whole scale of humanity; from the lightest gayety to the gravest sadness; from the large interests of nations to the humblest affairs of the smallest individual. On its single page we read of Births, Marriages, and Deaths; the daily, almost hourly, register of royalty, how it eat, walked, and laughed; and the single incident the world deems worth recording of the life of poverty–how it died. It is a picture of motley human life; a poet’s thought, or an orator’s eloquence in one column, and the condemnation of a pickpocket in another….
Doubtless it was a very satisfactory thing for a Roman poet, when the wind was quiet, to get an audience about him, under a portico, and unwind his well-written scroll for an hour or two; but there must have been a vast deal of secret machinery, and influence, and agitation, to keep up his name with the people. The followers of Pythagoras, in another country, we know, said he had a golden leg, and this satisfied the people that his philosophy was divine. Truly were they the dark ages before the invention of newspapers. Besides, what became of literature when the poet’s voice in the public bath, or library, where he recited, was drowned by the din of arms?…
What would we not give for a newspaper of the days of Homer, with personal recollections of the contractors and commanders in the siege of Troy; a reminiscence of Helen; the unedited fragments of Nestor; or a traditional saying of Ulysses, who may be supposed too wise to have published? What such a passage of literature would be to us, the journal of to-day may be to some long distant age, when it is disentombed from the crumbling corner-stone of some Astor House, Exchange, or Trinity Church, on the deserted shore of an island, once New York. What matters of curiosity would be poured fourth for the attention of the inquisitive; how many learned theories which had sprung up in the interim, put to rest; what anxiety moralists would be under to know the number of churches, the bookseller’s advertisements, and the convictions at the Sessions! Some might be supposed to sigh over our lack of improvement, the infant state of the arts, and our ineffectual attempts at electro-magnetism, while others would dwell upon the old times when Broadway was gayer with life, and the world got along better, than it has ever done since.
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=_Horace Binney Wallace, 1817-1852._=
From “Art, Scenery, and Philosophy in Europe.”
=_230._= ART AN EMANATION OF RELIGIOUS AFFECTION.
The spirit, conscious of an emotion of reverence for some unseen subject of its own apprehension, desires to substantiate and fix its deity, and to bring the senses into the same adoring attitude; and this can be done only by setting before them a material representation of the divine. This is illustrated in the universal and inveterate tendency of early nations to idolatry….
How and why was it that the sculpture of the Greeks attained a character so exalted that it shines on through our time, with a beam of glory peculiar and inextinguishable? When we enter the chambers of the Vatican, we are presently struck with the mystic influence that rays from those silent forms that stand ranged along the walls. Like the moral prestige that might encircle the vital presence of divine beings, we behold divinities represented in human shapes idealized into a significance altogether irresistible. What constitutes that idealizing modification we know not; but we feel that it imparts to the figures an interest and impressiveness which natural forms possess not. These sculptured images seem directly to address the imagination. They do not suffer the cold and critical survey of the eye, but awaken an instant and vivid mental consideration.
… It has sometimes been suggested that the superiority of the Greeks in delineating the figure, arose from the familiarity with it which they acquired from their frequent opportunities of viewing it nude,–on account of their usages, costumes, climate, &c. This is too superficial an account of that vital faculty of skill and knowledge upon this subject, which was a part of the inherent capacity of the Greek…. The outflow and characteristic exercise of Grecian inspiration in sculpture, was in the representation of their mythology, which included heroes, or deified men, as well as gods of the first rank. Later, it extended to winners at the public games, athletes, runners, boxers;–but this class of persons partook, in the national feeling, of a heroic or half-divine superiority. A particular type of form, highly ideal, became appropriate to them, as to the heroes, and to each of the gods. It may be added, that a capacity thus derived from religious impressibility, extended to a great number of natural forms, which were to the Greeks measurably objects of a divine regard. Many animals as connected with the gods, or with sacrifices, were sacred beings to them, and became subjects of their surpassing gift in sculpture. In general, nature,–the visible, the sensible, the actual, was to the Hellenic soul, Religion; as inward and reflective emotions were and are, to the modern European.
[Footnote 55: A young writer of great cultivation and of uncommon promise. His premature death occurred while on a tour in Europe. A native of Philadelphia.]
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=_Henry David Thoreau, 1817-1862._= (Manual, p. 532.)
From “Autumnal Tints.”
=_231._= DESCRIPTION OF “POKE” OR GARGET, (_Phytolacca Decandra_.)
Some which stand under our cliffs quite dazzle me with their purple stems now, and early in September. They are as interesting to me as most flowers, and one of the most important fruits of our autumn. Every part is flower, (or fruit,) such is its superfluity of color,–stem, branch, peduncle, pedicel, petiole, and even the at length yellowish purple-veined leaves. Its cylindrical racemes of berries of various hues, from green to dark purple, six or seven inches long, are gracefully drooping on all sides, offering repasts to the birds; and even the sepals from which the birds have picked the berries are a brilliant lake-red, with crimson, flame-like reflections, equal to anything of the kind,–all on fire with ripeness. Hence the _lacca_, from lac, lake. There are at the same time flower-buds, flowers, green berries, dark purple or ripe ones, and these flower-like sepals, all on the same plant.
We love to see any redness in the vegetation of the temperate zone. It is the color of colors. This plant speaks to our blood. It asks a bright sun on it to make it show to best advantage, and it must be seen at this season of the year. On warm hill-sides its stems are ripe by the twenty-third of August. At that date I walked through a beautiful grove of them, six or seven feet high, on the side of one of our cliffs, where they ripen early. Quite to the ground they were a deep brilliant purple with a bloom, contrasting with the still clear green leaves. It appears a rare triumph of Nature to have produced and perfected such a plant, as if this were enough for a summer. What a perfect maturity it arrives at! It is the emblem of a successful life concluded by a death not premature, which is an ornament to Nature. What if we were to mature as perfectly, root and branch, glowing in the midst of our decay, like the Poke! I confess that it excites me to behold them. I cut one for a cane, for I would fain handle and lean on it. I love to press the berries between my fingers, and see their juice staining my hand. To walk amid these upright, branching casks of purple wine, which retain and diffuse a sunset glow, tasting each one with your eye, instead of counting the pipes on a London dock,–what a privilege! For Nature’s vintage is not confined to the vine. Our poets have sung of wine, the product of a foreign plant which commonly they never saw, as if our own plants had no juice in them more than the singers. Indeed, this has been called by some the American grape, and though a native of America, its juices are used in some foreign countries to improve the color of the wine; so that the poetaster maybe celebrating the virtues of the Poke without knowing it. Here are berries enough to paint afresh the western sky, and play the bacchanal with, if you will. And what flutes its ensanguined stems would make, to be used in such a dance! It is truly a royal plant. I could spend the evening of the year musing amid the Poke-stems. And perchance amid these groves might arise at last a new school of philosophy or poetry.
* * * * *
From “Walden, or Life in the Woods.”
=_232._= WALDEN POND.
The greatest depth was exactly one hundred and two feet, to which may be added the five feet which it has risen since, making one hundred and seven. This is a remarkable depth for so small an area; yet not an inch of it can be spared by the imagination. What if all ponds were shallow? Would it not react on the minds of men? I am thankful that this pond was made deep and pure for a symbol. While men believe in the infinite, some ponds will be thought to be bottomless.
* * * * *
From “Life without Principle.”
=_233._= WANTS OF THE AGE.
I saw, the other day, a vessel which had been wrecked, and many lives lost, and her cargo of rags, juniper-berries, and bitter almonds, was strewn along the shore. It seemed hardly worth the while to tempt the dangers of the sea between Leghorn and New York, for the sake of a cargo of juniper-berries and bitter almonds. America sending to the Old World for her bitters! Is not the sea-brine,–is not shipwreck, bitter enough, to make the cup of life go down here? Yet such, to a great extent, is our boasted commerce; and there are those who style themselves statesmen and philosophers who are so blind as to think that progress and civilization depend on precisely this kind of interchange and activity,–the activity of flies about a molasses-hogshead. Very well, observes one, if men were oysters. And very well, answer I, if men were mosquitoes.
Lieutenant Herndon, whom our Government sent to explore the Amazon, and, it is said, to extend the area of Slavery, observed that there was wanting there “an industrious and active population, who know what the comforts of life are, and who have artificial wants to draw out the great resources of the country.” But what are the “artificial wants” to be encouraged? Not the love of luxuries, like the tobacco and slaves of, I believe, his native Virginia, nor the ice and granite and other material wealth of our native New England; nor are “the great resources of a country” that fertility or barrenness of soil which produces these. The chief want, in every State that I have been into, was a high and earnest purpose in its inhabitants. This alone draws out “the great resources” of Nature and at last taxes her beyond her resources; for man naturally dies out of her. When we want culture more than potatoes, and illumination more than sugar-plums, then the great resources of a world are taxed and drawn out, and the result, or staple production, is, not slaves, nor operatives, but men,–those rare fruits called heroes, saints, poets, philosophers, and redeemers.
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=_Elisabeth F. Ellett, 1818-._= (Manual, pp. 484, 490.)
From “Pioneer Women of the West”
=_234._= ESCAPE OF MARY BLEDSOE FROM THE INDIANS.
It was not consistent with Spencer’s chivalrous character to attempt to save himself by leaving his companion to the mercy of the foe. Bidding her retreat as fast as possible, and encouraging her to keep her seat firmly, he protected her by following more slowly in her rear, with his trusty rifle in his hand. When the Indians in pursuit came too near, he would raise his weapon as if to fire; and as he was known to be an excellent marksman, the savages were not willing to encounter him, but hastened to the shelter of trees, while he continued his retreat. In this manner he kept them at bay for some miles, not firing a single shot–for he knew that his threatening had more effect–until Mrs. Bledsoe reached a station. Her life and his own, were, on this occasion, saved by his prudence and presence of mind; for both would have been lost had he yielded to the temptation to fire….
Bereaved of her husband, sons, and brother-in-law, by the murderous savages, Mrs. Bledsoe was obliged to undertake not only the charge of her husband’s estate, but the care of the children, and their education and settlement in life. These duties were discharged with unwavering energy and Christian patience…. The record of her worth, and of what she did and suffered, may win little attention from the careless many, who regard not the memory of our “pilgrim mothers;” but the recollection of her gentle virtues has not yet faded from the hearts of her descendants, and those to whom they tell the story of her life will acknowledge her the worthy companion of those noble men to whom belongs the praise of having originated a new colony, and built up a goodly state in the bosom of the forest. Their patriotic labors, their struggles with the surrounding savages, their efforts in the maintenance of the community they had founded,–sealed, as they finally were, with their own blood, and the blood of their sons and relatives,–will never be forgotten while the apprehension of what is noble, generous, and good, survives in the hearts of their countrymen.
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=_James Jackson Jarves, 1818-._= (Manual, p. 531.)
From “Art Hints.”
=_235._= THE ART IDEA.
The first duty of art, as we have already intimated, is to make our public buildings and places, as instructive and enjoyable as possible. They should be pleasurable, full of attractive beauty and eloquent teachings. Picturesque groupings of natural objects, architectural surprises, sermons from the sculptor’s chisel and the painter’s palette, the ravishment of the soul by its superior senses, the refinement of mind and body by the sympathetic power of beauty,–these are a portion of the means which a due estimation of art, as an element of civilization, inspires the ruling will to provide freely for all. If art be kept a rare and tabooed thing, a specialty for the rich and powerful, it excites in the vulgar mind, envy and hate; but proffer it freely to the public, and the public soon learns to delight in and protect it as its rightful inheritance. It also tends to develop a brotherhood of thought and feeling. During the civil strifes of Italy, art flourished