Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

66

your heart palpitate at least once oftener in the minute, in gratitude for such generosity? But, gentle jury, suspend your verdict till the other party hath been heard, even Frau Reiske, with her long list of woes, and heartaches, and domestic estrangements. Mark you those words wherein he confesses to a wasteful expenditure of estate-jacturam rei familiaris—in the publication of his lucubrations on the rant of an Athenian demagogue. Count up the thousand little comforts denied to the domestic garniture, add thereto the constant spectre of impending ruin, and pile upon these the many hours of solace lost to the patient Frau, who might of right have demanded them, and you will begin to observe that this act of philanthropy is like a changeable silk, and hath more than a single color in its web. Never,” continues the monomaniac philologist, “ never could this have been accomplished, but for the patient endurance of a wife, who assumed the entire management of the household,” and, we may add, left him at liberty to cultivate his rank patch of exotic quibbles and Greek roots. Frau Reiske was but an handmaid, while Demosthenes enjoyed the real honor of espousal ; the music of a German voice, and the love of a pair of living German eyes, yielded to the potent melody of a Grecian orator, though dumb in death.

Review now, good public, a day's labor of this worthy couple, and adjuilge who deserveth the laurel, albeit the bridegroom vaunteth that his toil is “ for the public good,” and is largely beneficent" for those who know him not.” The rector has been closeted with his parchments, delving for knots in a clump of bulrushes, ponderating the disputed claims of two pitted particles, making simple dark by metaphrasis and anacoluthon, asking you to subaudithis an I dele that, pointing out where Taylor tripped and Wolfe nodded, aggregating quotations, rectifying the grammar, and lashing his brain to invent an emendation of text; noon cometh, and the frugal meal is eaten mechanically; night cometh, and the graveolent pipe conveyeth the smoker into the third heavens of philology—'t is bedtime, and Herr Reiske sleeps. Look we now to the fair consort. From morn till “dewy eve” she hath plie l her frugal hand, scattering nameless comforts about her modest apartments, arranging the snowy linen in her lockers, busying her thoughts to lend smiles to her scanty board, plying betimes the polished shaft, building bright hopes of the morrow, cheering her neighbors, and comforting the young mourner. The shades of night have intercepted their labors,

and with the rising stars gentle Sleep, emerging from his sunless cave, hath shed fragrant opiates upon her brow, and caused merry dreams to hold high festal along her unbent nerves. There they lie, domestic frugality by the side of public philanthropy; the seeker out of blessings for home and kindred, and the huntsman of vagaries for the torture “ of those who knew him not:" slumber hath banished alike the cares of grammar and the cares of gravy. Say now, gentle public, ere the first blush of Aurora rewaken the hopes and the projects of the morrow, which approaches the nearest to a discharge of the duties imposed by God, and which is returning to the bosom of their fellows the largest portion of those boons poured into their laps from the cornucopia of Providence? Yea, Hi. bernicé, which was the most of a man, the Herr or the Frau? Peace to thy ashes, John James, but the most brilliant and ennobling chapter in thy history is the silent, “ unsaid and unsung" service of instruction undertaken by thee at in. tervals, and forced upon thee by necessity !

Your moral philanthropist of the nineteenth century, has a thousand idle schemes on which to spend his breath. He pounces upon the truism that society is all agog. If he has caught the prevailing epidemic, and feels Carlyle-ish, he bids you discard matter-of-fact, and have no respect to the recompense of reward, but keep open doors for every guest that bears a human form. He prates of the beauties and energies of faith, and whispers that it is innate, unformed, and self-existent. But beware, gentle listener, that you mention not in such company the efficacy of prayer for a righteous man, nor the place where the wicked die for ever If he is a So. cialist, his lips drop with the honey of benevolence, and demonstrate the necessity of a new organization of society upon the universal principle of love. Be on your guard, good public, that

you demand no experiment of this theory. Turn not the hot sun and warm showers of prosperity upon the promising vine, lest the rank vegetation make it all leaves without fruit; sweep it not with a late and nipping frost, lest it perish from the root. Prosperity giveth it fatness, and it kicketh ; and when adversity depletes its feverish arteries, and coagulates its vital fluid, it will be ready to “ curse God and die.”

We have the Mormon on one side, and the Adventist on the other; a Come-outer here, and a Repealer there, Socialism, Fourierism, and Mam nism, all striving to strike their roots down in our government and religion ; and ve

[ocr errors]

118

THE CHRISTIAN PARLOR MAGAZINE.

rily, good public, you may think the prophecy of Zachary is now fulfilled in thee, “ in those days ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you; for we have heard that God is with you.” But pull not away thy shoulder, nor place the hermetic sigil on thine auditory nerves, dear public, till we have caused it to ring on thine ear like the explosion of a firecracker, and reverberate like the roll of a kettledrum, that you have got the wrong text, and that it is not

the parable of the “ ten men," but of the “ seven women,” who with hearts as snares and nets, in a time of leap-year and famine, have seized upon thee, and are vying with each other in blandishments and fair speeches, to inveigle thee into the noose of wedlock : but who, with all their outcry about philanthropy, and faith, and love, desire only to eat of thy substance, and, “ following the bent of their own inclinations,” smite thee with the tongue, and the sword. Verily a modern philanthropist is a sore evil under the sun.

WASTED INTELLECT.

It is an interesting as well as probable infer- see of mind and its mighty workings? Here ence from the discoveries of modern astronomy, and there solitary minds burst their cerements that the numberless orbs which crowd the sky and glimmer like summer flies amid the dust and are worlds with intelligent tenants, leaseholders dim distance of the past ; but slow moving cenof the great Proprietor of the universe, of an ex- turies revolve in the intervals, and the really istence and of faculties and responsibilities not great minds of the world from the beginning till unlike our own. So that we no longer perform now might almost be counted on one's fingers. lonely and unwitnessed our cycles in the firma- Strike from the scroll of fame the mere butchers ment, but travel on amid a caravan of worlds of men, the honorable ruffians, the titled and each shouting with intelligent joy the praise of decorated scoundrels of history, and retain but its Creator.

the names of the wise and virtuous, and a begBut what if “ bright-eyed science” in her garly account truly is presented. Where are farther explorations, should detect on the broad the teeming millions of the ancient east that field of the heavens some black and rayless orb once swarmed along the banks of the Euswinging to and fro, and bearing upon its face phrates? Where the myriads that once trod the evident signs of utter desolatenesss and aban- valley of the Nile ? and what traces of intellidonment, and should perceive that it was a gent thoughtfulness have they left behind them? world of the dead, a grave-yard in the sky, A melancholy thing it is to think of, that the embosoming only the dust of a smitten and ex- amount of mind developed in any one age and tinct race of intelligent beings. Towards such nation hitherto, has been but as a fragment or a an anomalous spectacle in God's glad universe spark. Some mighty superincumbent pressure who would not often turn a melancholy thought, has kept it down, or some internal derangeand yield emotions of mingling wonder and ment or neglect has smothered or consumed it. sorrow?

It is not to be believed that God has made the Precisely such a world there may not be, great mass of men so mindless as they appear but a world resembling it there is, and that to be. It is not credible that he who has so world is ours. And let not the sentiment be profusely garnished nature in all her departdeemed cynical and severe. Observation, which ments, sprinkling even the wilderness with all are capable of making, sa:dly confirms it, and fowers, and lining the caves of ocean with shows in the intellectual history of our race a gems, should have so scantily furnished men waste of mind, a destruction of the noblest with the intellectual endowments that belong powers God has given us, absolutely appalling. to their rank in the scale of being. It is not In the authentic record of man's creation, we credible that he scatters great minds centuries learn that God made him in his own image, apart, and creates the millions between with gave him a mind which was a miniature of the mere shells and feelers-with just wit enough infinite and eternal intellect. But in the history to catch their food and eat it and die. It is of man for six thousand years, how little do we agreeable to what we know of the Deity to believe

WASTED INTELLECT.

119

a

that he delights to create mind. It is the only thing in the universe that is like him; the only thing with which he can commune and hold fellowship. It is reasonable to suppose that in the great family of man there is originally nearly or quite as much mental equality and conformity as in any family of plants, or flowers, or animals--that there is mind enough, if rightly fostered and fairly developed, to make this an intellectual, instead of a sensual, worldenough, it brought out, to create a visible and impassable chasm between man and the cattle that browse at his feet, and to link him with the angels, than whom God has made him but little lower. There is perhaps at any one instant mind enough in this nation, could it be made to take wing and move upward to its sphere, to eclipse all the mind that has shone out since the fallenough to traverse in groups and measure the mighty space where Newton walked in solitary grandeur, or strike the deep organ tone of Milton, or echo the sweet strains of Cowper from a thousand American cottages.

We may with profit reflect upon some of the causes which have contributed, and are yet contributing, to the waste of intellect, of which we have been speaking. Among these we may reckon the influence of FALSE RELIGIONS.

Man is, by the constitution of his nature, a religious creature. He is incomplete without some system of religious faith. Just as the human eye, though perfect in organization and finish, is a useless instrument without the light. It was made for the light and the light for it, and either without the other is useless. So of the human mind. It was made for religion, and cannot develope its powers without it. As the wild flower of the desert droops and shrinks till the pattering rain-drops revive it, and refuses to yield its fragrance or unfold its delicate beauties till the warmth and light of the sun have wooed it, so shrinks and withers the human spirit is not surrounded and breathed upon by a purified spiritual atmosphere, if not stimulated and quickened by a holy religion. What institutions,” inquired the Japanese Emperor of a European, “ what institutions have you in Europe for making poets ?" Sire,” replied the latter, “ we have a beautiful heaven and a beautiful earth, and a holy religion.” The mind may be compared to a musical instrument. The harp is a reservoir of musical capabilities, but what character of music it shall discourse depends upon the skill and airiness of the fingers that shall touch its chords. The best instru

ment may stand untouched and mute till dust and cobwebs have covered it. Or in an unpractised hand it shall yield only grating discords, instead of those graceful and glorious utterances that raise the soul to heaven. And that grand harmonicon, the human mind, discovers all its powers and reveals all its harmonies only to the touches of the divine and master hand that made it. The influence of religion upon it is as the movement of the finger of God and the breath of angels, and then it speaks in all the dialects of melody like the deep toned organ, or in melting Eolian strains, or as the chiming of silver bells.

Need we wonder then that such deplorable and wide wastes are seen in the history of the human intellect, when a true and holy religion has had so little to do with the development and enlargement of its powers; and not only so, but when we consider that in all climes and ages false and debasing religious systems have encrusted and cramped it? For just as certainly as that a true religion expands and ennobles mind, does a false one contract and debase it. It is like the enclosure of the shell-fish, circumscribing and determining the figure and dimen. sions of the creature it encases. Bandaged, blinded, entombed alive in childish forms, in stupid ceremonials, in dead and damning dog. mas, how could it be otherwise than that whole generations and races should pass a miserable or a torpid existence, and depart leaving no gleam of light behind them? O had the sun of righteousness but shined upon and into that mass of inert and dormant mind, how different had been the history of man at this day.

Bad government, as well as false religion, has operated always and everywhere to the extinguishment or degradation of intellect. What does a despotic and corrupt government want of mind? What possible use can it have for thinking men! It wants people who can pay taxes, or do the drudge work and fighting of their masters; but for enlightened, elevated intellect, there is no conceivable use. Nay, might not such intellect become troublesome, if not positively pestiferous? Is it not indeed likely that a people without souls would as well answer all the ends of a bad government as a peo. ple with souls? Who wishes his ox had a soul, when all we want of him is his labor first and his meat afterwards? Upon considerations quite philosophical, therefore, we may perceive, that not finding their interest in any such com. modity as intellect, the corrupt rulers of the world have neglected its cultivation ; nay, that

[ocr errors]

finding that a single mind had sometimes disturbed whole rookeries of royal cormorants, they had deemed it prudent and best to prohibit its growth altogether. Thus has man in all ages and in almost every country, been made in a greater or less degree a slave or a machine. The influence of almost every political institution has been to make man abject in mind, fearful, servile, a contributor of his toil, sweat and blood to governments which never dreamed of the general weal as their only legitimate end. On the immense majority of men thus wronged and enslaved, the consciousness of their own nature has not yet dawned, and the doctrine that each has a mind worth more than a material world, and framed to grow for ever by a self-forming, self-directing energy, is still a mystery or a secret. Ah, my friends, the cost of misgovernment has never yet been accurately reckoned, and never can be. Its chief expense has been not in the waste of material treasures of silver and gold, not in the saturation of the earth with the life-blood of slaughtered millions, but in its sacrilegious violences upon the human soul, in its annihilation of the temporal life of the mind of man, in its degradation of the glorious and God-breathed human intellect. While we mourn over the dark picture, let us hope for better things under the benignant influence of our civil institutions, which, thanks to Providence, are liberal enough to suffer mind to grow, and be all that God intended it should be in this lower world. And let us learn to place a high value upon it. Next to true virtue, the richest of all national blessings, and the highest, brightest glory of a state, is a thinking, intelligent people. Men, not battlements and cloudcapt towers, or navies or serried hosts, are our best defence against aggression, our most forcible and readily acknowledged claim to the friendship and admiration of mankind. In estimating the wealth, resources, and glory of this country, let us not imagine that it consists in such paltry things as great crops, heavy exports, the inflowing of the gold and silver of the world, the number and discipline of our troops, but in those great and enlightened minds, those ever fresh and fragrant fames which history loves to garner up in her bosom and travel down with to distant posterity.

But these remarks may be rendered more directly practical by noticing influences now operative and among ourselves upon the growth of mind. What shall we think of the current literature, and the prodigious circulation it has acquired among ail classes of society?

It is a perfect wonder the rate at which the press works, and the omnivorous public stand around it, like Oliver Twist, asking for more, so clamorously that even steam-power is beginning to lag behind the demand. Besides issuing all that our own writers can furnish, Europe is laid under contribution, and before the sheets of a London publication have bad time to dry it is hawked in our streets in tempting attractiveness of form and embellishment, and offered at a price so low that every one can, and almost every one does, purchase. Instead of the demand regulating the supply, the supply regulates the demand : and the appetite, instead of being satiated, is rendered more voracious. The very loafer hesitates which to buy, bread or a newspaper. There certainly never was a time or a country in which reading became so universal. What then are we coming to? Is it an intellectual millenium we have begun? It certainly is a time of unwonted mental activity, and so far as the literary phenomena we are referring to indicate the general persuasion that the mind as well as the body needs, and is entitled to, some consideration, we are certainly glad. It is something gained when the wants of the mind are recognized among our daily and most urgent cravings. At the same time everybody must see that a very large proportion of what the press is now offering as mental aliment is totally unfit for such a purpose. The Scripture speaks of the wild ass's colt as snuffing up the east wind, upon which some one has ventured the highly probable opinion that he must snuff a considerable time before he gets fat. We think very little better of the nourishing qualities of our current literature, and are by no means sanguine that healthy, vigorous mind will be its product. Mental dissipation is the true term by which to describe the multifarious and frivolous exertions of the mind at the present time. It is an amusement, a pastime, and not a serious business we are engaged in. We are recreating our minds, not tasking them to a high endeavor for improvement. We are in quest of excitement, not strength and clearness; and one excitement naturally begets the necessity for another, and we tap and tipple at every new production, hoping to find it a little stronger and more racy than the last. Thus the relish for wholesome and nourishing food is destroyed, and the mind perishes at last through shear vacuity and starvation.

Many sober-minded persons object wholly to fictitious writings as tending only to mental imbecility and moral depravation. In this view we

WASTED INTELLECT.

121

own

are not agreed. If we were, we see not how we could defend Scripture itself. The most powerful sermon recorded in the Old Testament, and the most beautiful in the New, are fictitious. We refer to the sermon of Nathan to David in the one case, and to the parable of the Prodigal Son in the other. Indeed, this species of literature, this mode of inculcation, by its powerful influence for good or evil, has proved its own special adaptation to our mental constitution, and evinced its undoubted claim to rank prominently among the means of mental and moral culture. The conditions and restrictions which should attend its employment we attempt not now to specify. But it is important to observe that there are conditions and restrictions, and that they are generally violated and disregarded most injuriously to the popular mind, by those who are flooding the country with novels. Many reasons might be assigned for this opinion. In the first place the works themselves are, in a vast majority of cases, untit for circulation. As productions of genius they are stale, flat and unprofitable; as oracles of wisdom, dumb as Hindoo Gols; as models of style, false and feeble; as works of taste, tawlry and un graceful; if we leave them only their merit, what will be their praise ? And then they are read almost exclusively by the young, by precisely those who are most susceptible of all the bad impressions, and least capable of the good, if any of the latter were intended to be made. With minds unformed, principles not established, tastes uncultivated, and passions untamed, they read without discrimination or selection, and therefore read not only without improvement, but with inevitable mental and moral damage. Noris it a small evil that this species of literature is supplanting in fact the influence and existence of that elementary instruction which is the foundation of all healthful and useful knowledge. The novel tinds its way into the satchel and the desk of the school miss and school boy, and many a stolen glance glides from the dull grammar to the lively tale. The latter is remembered, the former forgotten ; and long before the pupil can apply a rule in grammar or arithmetic, or give a tolerable notion of the geography of his State, he can recite, trippingly on the tongue, tomes of romance. The wise man has said that a living dog is better than a dead lion. With all becoming respect for most of our living novelists, we think a dead Dilworth better than them all in the education of youthful mind.

There is a profuse waste of intellect in ad

dictedness to low pursuits. The pursuit of wealth, for instance, certainly one of those most incompatible with mental culture, may be mentioned, because so common among our countrymen. This is undoubtedly, as some one has observed, the golden age, and the image of our idolatry is a golden image. If there be any truth in the doctrine that the mind assimilates itself to whatever it long and lovingly contemplates, what wonder if many among us in the end turn out to be golden calves with souls utterly materialized and stone dead. No man can serve two masters, especially if one of them is the stern and exclusive mammon. We have heard, when children, of men who had sold their souls for gold to the spirit of evil. It is substantially true that every wealth-hunter parts with his soul, sells his intellect, in the very act of inordinately seeking to be rich. This is the inevitable condition of success, and hence Bunyan in his inimitable Pilgrims' Progress has represented his muck-rake as incapable of looking any other way than downward, and as unwilling to sell his rake though offered in ex. change for it a celestial crown. Not only does the love and pursuit of riches choke the mind and dwarf it, but the disease itself is hopelessly beyond remedy. We often see men after they have spent half a life-time at the plough, the anvil, or the bench, drop the implements of their craft to run the race of greatness ; but rarely, if ever, does this happen in the case of a worshipper of riches.

There is a vast waste of mind in the political competitions to which we are continually subject in this country. The idea that political influence and distinction are important enough to justify and invite their ardent pursuit, has taken possession of multitudes of young and promising minds, and gives infinite excitement to political ambition. It turns the active talent of the country to public station as the supreme good, and makes it restless, intriguing, and unprincipled. It calls out hosts of selfish competitors for comparatively few places, and encour. ages a bold, unblushing pursuit of personal elevation, which a just moral sense and self. respect in the community would frown upon and cover with shame. The mischievous pow. er of political ambition is multiplied a hundred fold by the modern doctrine, unblushingly avowed and acted upon by all parties, that 10 the victors belong the spoils; in other words, that the offices and honors of the country are legitimately for the behoof and compensation of those who most zealously serve and slavish

« AnteriorContinuar »