« PreviousContinue »
by which these results are secured, — who, thus looking and reflecting, can see, in the material laws which control and harmonize this universe, aught lower or less spiritual than the thought of infinite wisdom and the handiwork of infinite power? Surely such a meditative gazer on the skies must feel in his soul the inspiration of a far nobler poetry than ever charmed the reveries of him
“ To whose passive ken
And what is true of astronomy is not less true of even the obscurest walks of natural history. For it is less in the magnitude and distance of objects than in their mutual activities, their harmonious arrangements, and their adaptations to wise and beneficent ends, that material phenomena become imbued with a spiritual and poetical significance. Let us then rejoice that in our scientific communings with living and inanimate things we are not only able to catch sweet notes from Apollo's lyre, but to gather into our souls the deeper harmonies which are felt to be the echoes of voices from the skies ; let us indeed believe that
“Nature hath her hoarded poetry
CLI. — ON INCONSISTENT EXPECTATIONS.
[Mrs. Barbauld's essay on inconsistency in our expectations is one of the best compo bitions of its class in the language. It is full of practical wisdom, and written in a most animated and eloquent style.]
We should consider this world as a great mart of commerce, where fortune exposes to our view various commodities riches, ease, tranquillity, fame, integrity, knowledge. Every thing is marked at a settled price. Our time, our labor, our ingenuity are so much ready money which we are to lay out to the best advantage. Examine, compare, choose, reject; but stand to your own judgment, and do not, like children, when you have purchased one thing, repine that you do not possess another which you did not purchase. Such is the force of wellregulated industry, that a steady and vigorous exertion of our faculties, directed to one end, will generally insure success. Would
you, for instance, be rich? Do you think that single point worth the sacrifice of every thing else ? You may then be rich. Thousands have become so from the lowest beginnings, by toil and patient diligence, and attention to the minutest articles of expense and profit. But you must give up the pleasures of leisure, of a vacant mind, of a free, unsuspicious temper. If you preserve your integrity, it must be a coarsespun and vulgar honesty. Those high and lofty notions of morals which you brought with you from the schools must be considerably lowered, and mixed with the baser alloy of a jealous and worldly-minded prudence. You must learn to do hard, if not unjust things ; and as for the nice embarrassments of a delicate and ingenuous spirit, it is necessary for you to get rid of them as fast as possible. You must shut your heart against the Muses, and be content to feed your understanding with plain, household truths. In short, you must not attempt to enlarge your ideas, or polish your taste, or refine your sentiments, but must keep on in one beaten track, without turning aside either to the right hand or to the left.
6 But I cannot submit to drudgery like this; I feel a spirit above it."
'Tis well - be above it, then; only do not repine that you are not rich.
Is knowledge the pearl of price? That, too, may be purchased by steady application, and long, solitary hours of study and reflection. Bestow them, and you shall be wise. says the man of letters, “what a hardship is it that many an illiterate fellow, who cannot construe the motto of the arms on his coach, shall raise a fortune and make a figure, while I have little more than the common conveniences of life!” For you these are enough. Was it in order to raise a fortune that you consumed the sprightly hours of youth in study and retirement? Was it to be rich that you grew pale over the midnight lamp, and distilled the sweetness from the Greek and Roman spring? You have then mistaken your path, and ill employed your industry.
“ What rewaret have I then for all my labors?” What reward? - A large, comprehensive soul, well purged from vulgar fears, and perturbations, and prejudices, able to comprehend and interpret the works of man of God; a rich, flourishing, cultivated mind, pregnant with inexhaustible stores of entertainment and reflection ; a perpetual spring of fresh ideas, and the conscious dignity of superior intelligence. What reward can you ask besides ? “ But is it not some reproach upon
of Providence that such a one, who is a mean, dirty fellow, should have amassed wealth enough to buy half a nation ? " Not in the least. He made himself a mean, dirty fellow for that very end. He has paid his health, his conscience, his liberty for it; and will you envy him his bargain ? Will you hang your head and blush in his presence, because he outshines you in equipage and show? Lift up your brow with a noble confidence, and say to yourself, I have not these things, it is true; but it is because I have not sought, because I have not desired them it is because I possess something better. I have chosen my lot. I am content and satisfied.
The moderation we have been endeavoring to inculcate will likewise prevent much mortification and disgust in our
intercourse with mankind. As we ought not to wish in our selves, so neither should we expect in our friends contrary qualifications. Young and sanguine, when we enter the world, and feel our affections drawn forth by any particular excellence in a character, we immediately give it credit for all others, and are beyond measure disgusted when we come to discover, as we soon must discover, the defects in the other side of the balance. For nature is much too frugal to heap all manner of shining qualities in one glaring mass. judicious painter, she endeavors to preserve a certain unity of style and coloring in her pieces. Models of absolute perfection are only to be met with in romance, where exquisite beauty, and brilliant wit, and profound judgment, and immaculate virtue, are all blended together to adorn some favorite character. As an anatomist knows that the racer cannot have the strength and muscles of the draught horse, and that winged men, griffins, and mermaids, must be creatures of the imagination, so the philosopher is sensible that there are combinations of moral qualities which can never take place but in idea. There is a different air and complexion in characters as well as in faces, though perhaps each equally beautiful; and the excellences of one cannot be transferred to the other. Thus, if one man possesses a stoical apathy of soul, acts independently of the opinion of the world, and fulfils every duty with mathematical exactness, you must not expect that man to be greatly influenced by pity, or the partialities of friendship; you must not be offended that he does not fly to meet you after a short absence, or require from him the convivial spirit and honest effusions of a warm, open, susceptible heart. If another is remarkable for a lively, active zeal, inflexible integrity, a strong indignation against vice, and freedom in reproving it, he will probably have some little bluntness in his address not altogether suitable to polished life; he will lack the winning arts of conversation ; he will disgust by a kind of haughtiness and negligence in his manner, and often hurt the sensitivenesa of his acquaintance with harsh and disagreeable truths.
CLII. - PAUL FLEMMING'S RESOLVE.
[This passage is from Longfellow's romance of Hyperion, the scene of which is laid in Switzerland and Germany. Paul Flemming, the hero, an American, is an unsuccessful lover; and in the chapter from which the following extract is taken, he resolves to conquor his weakness, to forget his disappointment, and to devote himself to a life of action and usefulness in his own country.1
A LITTLE chapel, whose door stood open, seemed to invite Flemming to enter and enjoy the grateful coolness. He went in. There was no one there. The walls were covered with paintings and sculpture of the rudest kind, and with a few funeral tablets. There was nothing there to move the heart to deyotion; but in that hour the heart of Flemming was weak
- weak as a child's. He bowed his stubborn knees and wept. And O, how many disappointed hopes, how many bitter recollections, how much of wounded pride and unrequited love were in those tears through which he read, on a marble tablet in the chapel wall opposite, this singular inscription :
“ Look not mournfully into the Past. It comes not back again. Wisely improve the Present. It is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy Future, without fear, and with a manly heart.”
It seemed to him as if the unknown tenant of that grave had opened his lips of dust, and spoken to him the words of consolation which his soul needed, and which no friend had yet spoken. In a moment the anguish of his thoughts was still. The stone was rolled away from the door of his heart; death was no longer there, but an angel clothed in white. He stood up, and his eyes were no more bleared with tears; and looking into the bright morning heaven, he said, “I will be strong."
Men sometimes go down into tombs, with painful longings to behold once more the faces of their departed friends; and as they gaze upon them, lying there so peacefully with the semblance that they wore on earth, the sweet breath of heaven touches them, and the features crumble and fall together, and