« PředchozíPokračovat »
"Tell Wit how oft she wrangles
In tickle points of niceness,
Herself in over-wiseness."*
But when self-love is not at the root, there is better hope for wisdom. Nature presents us with various walks of intellectual life, and such a selection may be made as shall render a disproportion of the active to the passive intellect less dangerous. Speculative wisdom will suffer less by excess of thinking than practical wisdom. There are fields to be fought in which a wide range is more essential than an unerring aim. In some regions we are to cultivate the surface; in others to sink the shaft. No one intellect can be equally available for opposite avocations, and where there is no interference of self-love, wisdom will be attained through a wise choice of work. One eminent man of our time has said of another, that "science was his forte, and omni-science his foible." But that instance was not an extreme one. Cases have occured in which wisdom has suffered total overthrow; the greatest intellect and the greatest folly have been known to meet; and the universalist, who handles everything and embraces nothing, has been seen to pass into a pursuer of the mere vanities and frivolities of intellectual display.
If, however, a man of genius be fortunately free from ambition, there is yet another enemy which will commonly lie in wait for his wisdom; to wit, a great capacity of enjoyment. This generally accompanies geniuses, and, is perhaps, the greatest of all trials to the moral and spiritual heart. It was a trial too severe even for Solomon,
"whose heart, though large, Beguiled by fair idolatresses, fell To idols foul."+
The temptation by which such a man is assailed consists in imagining that he has within himself, and by virtue of his temperament, sources of joy altogether independent of conduct and circumstances. It is true that he has these sources on this unconditional tenure for a time; and it is owing to this very truth that his futurity is in danger, not in respect of wisdom only, but † Paradise Lost.
• Sir Walter Raleigh.
also in respect of happiness. And if we look to recorded examples, we shall find that a great capacity of enjoyment does ordinarily bring about the destruction of enjoyment in its own ulterior consequences, having uprooted wisdom by the way.
A man of genius, so gifted-or, let us rather say, so temptedlives, until the consummation approaches, as if he possessed some elixir or phylactery, reckless of consequences, because his happiness, being so inward to his nature, seems to be inherent and indefeasible. Wisdom is not wanted. The intellect, perhaps, amidst the abundance of its joys, rejoices in wise contemplations; but wisdom is not adopted and domesticated in the mind, owing to the fearlessness of the heart. For wisdom will have no hold of the heart in which joy is not tempered by fear. The fear of the Lord, we know, is the beginning of it; and some hallowing and chastening influences of fear will always go along with it. Fear, indeed, is the mother of foresight; spiritual fear, of a foresight which reaches beyond the grave; temporal fear, of a foresight that falls short; but without fear there is neither the one foresight nor the other; and as pain has been truly said to be the deepest thing in our nature, so is it fear that will bring the depths of our nature within our knowledge :
"What sees rejoicing genius in the earth?
A thousand meadows with a thousand herds
Genius may see all this and rejoice; but it will not exalt itself into wisdom, unless it see also the meadow in the livid lines of winter, the ship under bare poles, and the flower when the beauty of the fashion of it perishes.
It is true, however, that the cases are rare and exceptional in which this dangerous capacity of enjoyment is an unbroken habit, so as to bring a steady and continuous pressure upon the moral mind. A great capacity of suffering belongs to genius also; and it has been observed that an alternation of joyfulness and dejection is quite as characteristic of the man of genius as intensity in either
kind. Doubtless these alternations will greatly enlarge his knowledge both of man and of the universe. The many moods of his own mind will give him a penetrating and experienced insight into many minds, and he will contemplate the universe and all that goes on in it from many points of view. Moreover, it is by reaction from the extreme of one state, that the mind receives the most powerful impulse towards another-in resilience, that it has its plenary force. But, though these alternations of excess do thus enlarge and enrich the understanding, and minister to wisdom so far forth, they must yet, by the shocks which they occasion to the moral will, do injury on the whole to that composite edifice, built up of the moral and rational mind, in which wisdom has her dwelling. The injury is not so great as in the other case: better are winter and summer for the mind than the torrid zone-feasts and fasts than a perpetual plenty-but either way the temperament of genius is hardly ever favorable to wisdom; that is, the highest order of genius, or that which includes wisdom, is of all things the most rare.
On the other hand, wisdom without genius (a far more precious gift than genius without wisdom) is, by God's blessing upon the humble and loving heart, though not as often met with as "the ordinary of Nature's sale-work," yet not altogether rare; for the desire to be right will go a great way towards wisdom. Intellectual guidance is the less needed where there is little to lead astray-where humility lets the heart loose to the impulses of love. That we can be wise by impulse seems a paradox to some; but it is part of that true doctrine which traces wisdom to the moral as well as the intellectual mind, and more surely to the former than to the latter-one of those truths which is recognized when we look into our nature through the clearness of a poetic spirit:
"Moments there are in life-alas, how few!—
When, casting cold prudential doubts aside,
Sure that no after-reckoning will arise
Of shame or sorrow, for the heart is wise.
And happy they who thus in faith obey
And some sad thoughts lie heavy in the breast,
But like a shadow these will pass away
The doctrine of wisdom by impulse is no doubt liable to be much misused and misapplied. The right to rest upon such a creed accrues only to those who have so trained their nature as to be entitled to trust it. It is the impulse of the habitual heart which the judgment may fairly follow upon occasion-of the heart which, being habitually humble and loving, has been framed by love to wisdom. Some such fashioning love will always effect; for love cannot exist without solicitude, solicitude brings thoughtfulness, and it is in a thoughtful love that the wisdom of the heart consists. The impulse of such a heart will take its shape and guidance from the very mould in which it is cast, without any application of the reason express; and the most inadvertent motion of a wise heart will for the most part be wisely directed; providentially, let us rather say; for Providence has no more eminent seat than in the wisdom of the heart.
307.-AN IRISH VILLAGE.
[THE following is extracted from 'Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry,' published in 1830. In a subsequent edition of that work, the author, William Carleton, tells the story of his own life; and we thence learn how much of his peculiar felicity in delineating character and manners is derived from the experience of his early days. He was born in the parish of Clogher, Tyrone, in 1798. His father, a peasant, was wonderful as a story-teller; his mother, who possessed a voice of exquisite sweetness, was eminently skilled in her native music. Here was the real education of such a writer. Mr. Carleton has published a Second Series of Traits and Stories,' and other Irish Tales.]
The village of Findamore was situated at the foot of a long green hill, the outline of which formed a low arch, as it rose to the * Southey's Oliver Newman.
eye against the horizon. The hill was studded with clumps of beeches, and sometimes enclosed as a meadow. In the month of July, when the grass on it was long, many an hour have I spent in solitary enjoyment, watching the wavy motion produced on its pliant surface by the sunny winds, or the flight of the cloud shadows, like gigantic phantoms, as they swept rapidly over it, whilst the murmur of the rocking trees, and the glaring of their bright leaves in the sun, produced a heartfelt pleasure, the very memory of which rises in my imagination like some fading recollection of a brighter world.
At the foot of this hill ran a clear deep-banked river, bounded on one side by a slip of rich level meadow, and on the other by a kind of common for the village geese, whose white feathers during the summer season lay scattered over its green surface. It was also the playground for the boys of the village school; for there ran that part of the river, which, with very correct judgment, the urchins had selected as their bathing-place. A little slope or watering-ground in the bank brought them to the edge of the stream, where the bottom fell away into the fearful depths of the whirlpool under the hanging oak on the other bank. Well do I remember the first time I ventured to swim across it, and even yet do I see in imagination the two bunches of water flags on which the inexperienced swimmers trusted themselves in the water.
About two hundred yards above this, the boreen* which led from the village to the main road crossed the river by one of those old narrow bridges whose arches rise like round ditches across the road-an almost impassable barrier to horse and car. On passing the bridge in a northern direction, you found a range of low thatched houses on each side of the road; and if one o'clock, the hour of dinner, drew near, you might observe columns of blue smoke curling up from a row of chimneys, some made of wicker creels plastered over with a rich coat of mud, some of old narrow bottomless tubs, and others, with a greater appearance of taste, ornamented with thick circular ropes of straw, sewed together like bees' skeps with the peel of a brier; and many having nothing but the open vent above. But the smoke by no means escaped
* A little road.