Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

"I was desirous to add my name to this illustrious fraternity. I read all the poets of Persia and Arabia, and was able to repeat by memory the volumes that are suspended in the mosque of Mecca. But I soon found that no man was ever great by imitation. My desire of excellence impelled me to transfer my attention to nature and to life. Nature was to be my subject, and men to be my auditors; I could never describe what I had not seen; I could not hope to move those with delight or terror whose interests and opinions I did not understand.

Being now resolved to be a poet, I saw every thing with a new purpose; my sphere of attention was suddenly magnified; no kind of knowledge was to be overlooked. I ranged mountains and deserts for images and resemblances, and pictured upon my mind every tree of the forest and flower of the valley. I observed with equal care the crags of the rock and the pinnacles of the palace. Sometimes I wandered along the mazes of the rivulet, and sometimes watched the changes of the summer clouds. To a poet nothing can be useless. Whatever is beautiful, and whatever is dreadful, must be familiar to his imagination; he must be conversant with all that is awfully vast or elegantly little. The plants of the garden, the animals of the wood, the minerals of the earth, the meteors of the sky, must all concur to store his mind with inexhaustible variety ; for every idea is useful for the enforcement or decoration of moral or religious truth; and he who knows most will have most power of diversifying his scenes, and of gratifying his reader with remote allusions and unexpected instruction.

· All the appearances of nature I was therefore careful to study, and every country which I have surveyed has contributed something to my poetical powers."

“ In so wide a survey,” said the prince, "you must surely have left much unobserved. I have lived, till now, within the circuit of these nountains, and yet cannot walk abroad without the sight of something which I never beheld before, or never heeded.”

“ The business of a poet,” said Imlac, “ is to examine, not the inlividual, but the species; to remark general properties and large appearances : he does not number the streaks of the tulip, or describe he different shades in the verdure of the forest. He is to exhibit in nis portraits of nature such prominent and striking features as recall he original to every mind; and must neglect the minuter discrimina

tions, which one may have remarked and another have neglected, for those characteristics which are alike obvious to vigilance and carelessness.

“ But the knowledge of nature is only half the task of a poet; be must be acquainted likewise with all the modes of life. His character requires that he estimate the happiness and misery of every condition, observe the power of all the passions in all their combinations, and trace the changes of the human mind as they are modified by various institutions, and accidental influences of climate or custom, from the sprightliness of infancy to the despondency of decrepitude. He must divest himself of the prejudices of his age or country; he must consider right and wrong in their abstract and invariable state ; he must disregard present laws and opinions, and rise to general and transcendental truths, which will always be the same; he must therefore content himself with the slow progress of his name; contemn the ap plause of his own time, and commit his claims to the justice of posterity. He must write as the intepreter of nature, and the legislator of mankind, and consider himself as presiding over the thoughts an! manners of future generations, as a being superior to time and place.

“ His labour is not yet at an end: he must know many languages and many sciences; and, that his style may be worthy of his thoughts

. must by incessant practice familiarize to himself every delicacy of speech and grace of harmony."

140.-INDUSTRY ESSENTIALLY SOCIAL.

EVERETT: [EDWARD EVERETT is a living writer and politician of the United States. In 1815 he was Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of London, and while resident here won the esteem of all parties by the moderation of his views and his desire to maintain the friendly relations which ought ever to subsist between the two countries. Mr. Everett has always been a consistent labourer in the object of advancing the intelligence of the great body of the people, and has delivered at various times some interesting lectures to Mechanics’ Institutes and similar associations. The following extract is from his · Lecture on the Working Men's Party,' published in a collection of such discourses by the Boston Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.]

Man is not only a working being, but he is a being formed to work in society; and if the matter be carefully analyzed, it will be found that civilization, that is, the bringing men out of a savage into a cultivated state, consists in multiplying the number of pursuits and occupations; so that the most perfect society is one where the largest number of persons are prosperously employed in the greatest variety of ways. In such a society men help each other, instead of standing in each other's way. The farther this division of labour is carried, the more persons must unite, harmoniously, to effect the common ends. The larger the number on which each depends, the larger the number to which each is useful.

This union of different kinds of workmen in one harmonious society seems to be laid in the very structure and organization of man. Man is a being consisting of a body and a soul. These words are soon uttered, and they are so often uttered, that the mighty truth which is embraced in them scarce ever engages our attention. But man is composed of body and soul. What is body

What is body? It is material substance: it is clay, dust, ashes. Look at it, as you tread it unorganized beneath your feet; contemplate it when, after having been organized and animated, it is, by a process of corruption, returning to its original state. Matter, in its appearance to us, is an unorganized, inanimate, cold, dull, and barren thing. What it is in its essence, no one but the Being who created it knows. The human mind can conceive of it only as the absolute negation of qualities. And we say that the body of man is formed of the clay or dust; because these substances seem to us to make the nearest approach to the total privation of all the properties of intellect. Such is the body of man. What is his soul? Its essence is as little known to us as that of the body; but its qualities are angelic, divine. It is soul which thinks, reasons, invents, remembers, hopes, and loves. It is the soul which lives; for, when the soul departs from the body, all its vital powers cease; and it is dead—and what is the body then ?

Now the fact to which I wish to call your attention is, that these two elements, one of which is akin to the poorest dust on which we tread, and the other of which is of the nature of angelic and even of divine intelligence, are, in every human being without exception, brought into a most intimate and perfect union. We can conceive that it might have been different. God could have created matter by itself, and mind by itself. We believe in the existence of incorporeal beings, of a nature higher than man; and we behold beneath us, in brutes, plants, and stones, various orders of material nature, rising, one above another, in organization; but none of them (as we suppose) possessing mind. We can imagine a world so constituted, that all the intellect would have been by itself, pure and disembodied; and all the material substance by itself, unmixed with mind, and acted upon by mind as inferior beings are supposed to be acted upon by angels. But in constituting our race it pleased the Creator to bring the two elements into the closest union; to take the body from the dust—the soul from the highest heaven-and mould them into one.

The consequence is, that the humblest labourer, who works with his hands, possesses within him a soul endowed with precisely the same faculties as those which in Franklin, in Newton, or Shakspeare, have been the light and the wonder of the world; and, on the other hand, the most gifted and ethereal genius, whose mind has fathomed the depths of the heavens, and comprehended the whole circle of truth, is inclosed in a body subject to the same passions, infirmities, and wants, as the man whose life knows no alternation but labour and rest, appetite and indulgence.

Did it stop here, it would be merely an astonishing faet in the constitution of our natures -- but it does not stop here. In consequence of the union of the two principles in the human frame, every act that a man performs requires the agency both of body and mind. His mind cannot see but through the optic eye-glass; nor hear, till the drum of his ear is affected by the vibrations of the air. If he would speak, he puts in action the complex machinery of the vocal organs; if he writes, he employs the muscular system of the hands ; nor can he even perform the operations of pure thought except in a healthy state of the body. A fit of the tooth-ache, proceeding from the irritatation of a nerve about as big as a cambric thread, is enough to drive an understanding, capable of instructing the world, to the verge of insanity. On the other hand, there is no operation of manual labour so simple, so mechanical, which does not require the exercise of perception, reflection, memory, and judgment; the same intellectual powers by which the highest truths of science have been discovered and 'illustrated.

The degree to which any particular action (or series of actions united into a pursuit) shall exercise the intellectual powers on the one hand, or the mechanical powers on the other, of course depends on the nature of that action. The slave, whose life, from childhood to the grave, is passed in the field; the New Zealander, who goes to war when he is hungry, devours his prisoners, and leads a life of cannibal debauch till he has consumed them all, and then goes to war again; the Greenlander, who warms himself with the fragments of wrecks and driftwood thrown upon the glaciers, and feeds himself with blubber;—seem all to lead lives requiring but little intellectual action; and yet, as I have remarked, a careful reflection would show that there is not one, even of them, who does not, every moment of his life, call into exercise, though in a humble degree, all the powers of the mind. In like manner, the philosopher who shuts himself up in his cell, and leads a contemplative existence among books or instruments of science, seems to have no occasion to employ, in their ordinary exercise, many of the capacities of his nature for physical action ;-although he also, as I have observed, cannot act, or even think, but with the aid of his body.

This is unquestionably true. The same Creator who made man a mixed being composed of body and soul, having designed him for such a world as that in which we live, has so constituted the world, and man who inhabits it, as to afford •scope for great variety of occupations, pursuits, and conditions, arising from the tastes, characters, habits, virtues, and even vices, of men and communities. For the same reason, that, though all men are alike composed of body and soul, yet no two men probably are exactly the same in respect to either-80 provision has been made by the Author of our being for an infinity of pursuits and employments, calling out, in degrees as various, the peculiar powers of both principles.

But I have already endeavoured to show that there is no pursuit and no action that does not require the united operation of both; and this of itself is a broad natural foundation for the union into one interest of all, in the same community, who are employed in honest work of any kind : viz. that, however various their occupations, they are all working with the same instruments, the organs of the body and the powers of the mind.

But we may go a step further, to remark the beautiful process by which Providence has so interlaced and wrought up together the pur

« PředchozíPokračovat »