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The great city sounding wide ;
Day comes; a dull red ball
O’er the misty river tide.
I steal a wasted frame;
Through all that crowd confused and loud,
And on my heavy eye-lids
Alas! for her that met me,
Came glimmering through the laurels,
In the garden, by the terrace
I will write a book ; I will pour out my heart to you, white paper; we will be companions and confidants. I love to talk, sometimes to think; and you, oh what a patient and acquiescent listener! The bond is complete, the union is perfect. On what firmer basis could a friend. ship be founded ? On one side, affection and implicit reliance; on the other, a silent indulgence, a guarded discretion. Between us there can be neither jealousy, nor recrimination, so that we shall have all the advantages, if not all the endearments of human friendship, and avoid those fatal shoals upon which many a gay galley, freighted with hopes, confidences, protestations, and caresses, has struck, split
, and foundered; leaving nothing visible but savage, sharp-pointed rocks, or surging, ugly whirlpools. This attachment might (how in the world did attachment ever creep in as a law term ?. those gentlemen of the long robe dearly love to be ironical) — this attachment we say might exist without writing a book; for surely neither of us can lay claim to superior wit or knowledge; and how infinitely beyond our grasp is wisdom, that divine gift, above all human acquirements? We neither want money, that most universal of all civilized wants, for I am economical, and have suffi. cient; and you are a perfect miser, existing on a thin, pulpy, watery diet, and always wearing the same old coat. Ah! I hear your thin sides
rattling with laughter, at the bare idea that money could result from our partnership; and truly I could join right merrily, when I look over our stock in trade ; comprising, not as the merchants advertise, an infinite variety, but rather as the governesses would say, a regulated propriety; truly, truly, pretty decorations for our shop windows, insignificance and vacuity ; but then shut up in our drawers, as the most precious wares, we have honesty, devotion to our Maker, with love and reverence for all that He has created.
Now my fair friend, if we possess these qualities, we must not do as great statesmen do, advance pretexts instead of giving true reasons. No, no; let us frankly confess the cause of our sudden intimacy. The friends that we used to be happy with, those with whom we exchanged familiar thoughts, are dead or scattered ; and there is no one to whom we can speak heart-warm words, no one to whom we can confide our thoughts and opinions. An active spirit, encircled by idleness, is in both a pitiable and dangerous state ; if it does not find proper employ. ment, it will in time fume itself into nervousness, or harden into selfishness; and so, to avoid either of these dreadful evils ; for surely as every day people grow older, and consequently as they hope nearer heaven, they would not wish to become unfitted for its blessedness; so that is the real reason, oh patient white paper! that we will be friends.
OH, MEDON ! thou glorious old man with the head of a sage and heart of a youth; with thy memory, what a crowd of feelings and opinions rush upon me: every noble aspiration, all just and true thoughts that I may possess, were awakened or instilled by thee. It seems but as yesterday that I sat in our earthly paradise, listening to thy words of heavenly wisdom. What a picture was that sequestered nook ; a little spot of quiet beauty, not exceeding ten acres. In front of our chosen seat lay a small meadow of such rich delicious green that the verdure looked like bloom : this was skirted by a grove of young sugar-maples; each tree of exquisite symmetry, perfect in form and foliage, and suf. ficiently far apart for the eye to reach some distance through the leafy. aisles. When illuminated by the setting sun, it looked like a vast natu. ral cathedral ; solemn and yet bright. Poetry and reality there met in harmony, speaking feelingly and forcibly to the eye and heart. There reigned that silent beauty filled with holiness; that prayerful incense that inanimate nature sends up to God. At our back rose a high semicircular hill, that curved round and gradually sunk at each extreme until it melted down to the level of the wood in front. The lower part of this bank was covered with wild flowers of every hue, and in such gay profusion that they almost hid the dark green leaves beneath. Here and there a wild rose raised her red clusters, proudly looking down into the eyes of her young sisters, like as we have seen a blooming mother looking into the blue orbs of her little infant. The upper part was covered with the richest red clover; redolent of perfume and musical with bees. Indeed from the numerous birds, butterflies, and bees that constantly glittered, sung, chirped, and hummed, you might have been quite certain it was on this aromatic bank that Queen Flora held her daily court of revels.
At the foot of the hill a little sparkling brook, of crystaline clearness, singing its low song of gladness, ran wimpling over a bed of pebbles, each one so small, bright and clear, that it looked like an oriental pearl. Between the brook and the hill-side there was a path sufficiently wide for two to walk abreast, save in the immediate hollow of the cirele, where it left as much of the meadow as the branches of a large plane tree could throw their shade over. Beneath this were two rustic seats, and this we called our bower of repose ; for here, after the severe studies of the morning, every fine summer afternoon I used to meet my vener. able friend. There we would discuss and investigate opinions ; read and admire our favorite authors; I bringing feelings and observations, he drawing inferences and supplying reflections. Oh, Medon! my friend, my father, my brother, instructor, superior, and yet equal, never shall we see thy like on this side of heaven! In thee were united the knowledge of the philosopher, the tenderness of woman, the wisdom of the christian, the benevolence of the philanthropist. Thou wert among men, like Mont Blanc among the mountains; thy serene mind eternally pointing heavenward. There are times when the beautiful has van. ished and returns not;' so dark and dreary, that life and all its enjoy. ments appear but vanity and ostentation : to escape from this incubus, I will make a reality of my feelings; and endeavor, O my friend ! to renew thy presence, recall thy opinions, and retrace thy words.
Well, my son, what have you been doing this morning ? What do you know to-day that yesterday you were ignorant of?
Oh, father, for several days past I have given you the same answer ; history, still history.
MEDON. AND most interesting is history, merely as a study ; but it becomes truly noble, if pursued for the high purpose of rendering a man able to understand his duties as a citizen and legislator ; so that he can improve and make happier his fellow citizens; for this benevolent inten. tion ought surely to be the aim and result of all human studies. The good man gains knowledge for two important ends; one, that he may benefit and exalt those fellow men less favored than himself in the scale of humanity. The other with reference to his own improvement as a moral, intellectual, and heavenly being ; how kind of our Creator so to form us, that those attainments, which in acquiring, yield our highest earthly pleasures, should be the means whereby we can best understand the true interests of man; and also the ones that contribute most essen. tially toward our own immortal welfare. It is not through the under. standing alone, even in physics, however brilliant a man's parts may
be, that he can arrive at the higher degrees of knowledge ; but this is particularly true of that metaphysical or psychological knowledge, whose home and habitation is in the soul of man, and which acts upon, sways, and directs the qualities, passions and capacities of other men. He who wishes to possess that wisdom which passeth understanding,' must sedulously cultivate the moral and religious faculties which God has bestowed upon him. He must possess benevolence, reverence, a teachable spirit, an earnest truth-seeing mind; without these qualities, my son, a man may have ever so acute and subtle an intellect, yet can he only see the surface of things; he can act on all that is below him, but has not a jot of influence on that which is above his own nature.
FATHER, there are times when I feel such an ardent desire after ex. cellence; such an eager thirst after knowledge ; and yet my ignorance and inability present such barriers to their. attainment, that I almost despair. There is so much on every side to be learned, and life seems so short; this presses upon me so strongly, that sometimes in my impatience to learn all, I am absolutely incapable of learning any thing : ideas throng so thickly that they become confused, and leave not a single thought that I can recollect. Father, what would I not give for a memory like Magliabechi, who, when he looked through a book, however abstruse the subject, could ever afterward remember all that it contained.
But do we not usually find such extraordinary memories are cultivated at the expense of the judgment ? and that their possessors become the mere repeaters of other men's ideas? These they accumulate with such a delightful facility that they never feel the necessity of thinking for themselves ; and in time their brain is so crowded down by other people's thoughts and opinions, that there is no part of their own mind left for either observation or reflection to take root in. All questions they refer to, and conclude upon, according to some learned authority, without exercising their own feelings or reason; those two most important attributes of man. The concentrated attention, the strenuous exertion and mental discipline, necessary in the endeavor to learn, are often of more advantage to the character than the thing learned; it is a moral as well as an intellectual victory. But, my Cyril, we must not fall into the common mistake that man gains his chief knowledge from books : he must also study the mind, heart, actions and words of his fellow-men ; each one of whom is a many-paged living-book, printed by an Almighty hand; sealed, it is true, to the eyes of the vain and foolish, but as easily read by the good and wise as if written in illuminated capitals. Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing more false than the supposition that honesty and uprightness are usually found linked with imbecility and credulity ; is it plausible that those stern and inflexible virtues should render a man more liable to imposition ? or that he who clearly understands, and has strength of moral purpose to practice, what is just and right, should not detect falsehood, crooked devices, or even.
assumed honesty, which, however, is but dishonesty enveloped in honest words? Be assured he who applies the test of truth to his own views, also applies it to those of others; for what virtue but has its opposite vice; and as we love one, we must abhor the other; as one grows upon us in beauty, the other increases in deformity. Virtue is the true knowledge of good and evil, which undoubtedly is the great business of life. But depend upon it, my son, that goodness is wise; and that he who habitually lives in the light of truth, is the first to discover the clouds of falsehood.
Resolve for me, I entreat you, father, for I have often pondered, why were error and sin ever allowed to creep into the world, when truth and goodness are so desirable, beneficial and glorious ? Why is our soul, which at times so powerfully feels its immortality, that it springs up almost to heaven's own gate, dragged back again to earth by a body? Why could we not at once have been created angels ?
Ah, my son, those questions, which are as old as the mind of man, always appear new and inexplicable to youth : instead of thanking God for his creation as a man, probably the first series of a being progressively intelligent, he demands why he was not at once made an angel ? I do not know that these tyros have any very definite idea of what an angel is, but suppose they mean a created mind, perfect and spiritual. Now limited, imperfect, and hedged in by flesh as is man's reason, I think it will prove to him that this exceeded the power even of an Almighty Being; it certainly is modest in a speck of humanity 10
almost insist upon it as a right from divinity. When persons wish to be perfect, I suppose they have an idea of a relative perfection, perfect as a created being ; that is, doing the utmost that the powers given to that being will permit him to do. They cannot mean a positive perfection, for in this case angels would no more reach this high mark than man : what is created must necessarily be inferior to the creator; and what is inferior can never be absolutely perfect. There is one great fault, or perhaps, my son, I ought rather call it a condition of partially instructed minds, they are apt to draw positive conclusions from negative ideas.
But, father, God's own word tells us that man was created innocent.
INNOCENT I grant, but not virtuous. A man can never be virtuous through the will of another; no, not even through that of Omnipotence; or doubtless man would never have fallen. A human being may be innocent because he is ignorant, or because he is removed from temptation and has not the power to do evil; but be virtuous, a man must have a knowledge of good and evil; for what is virtue but the soul's resolute choice of good, when assailed by violent and alluring tempta. tions to commit evil ? And could we have felt these temptations if we