Imágenes de páginas

same prodigies, and the same results of melioration and improvement, as the genius of civilisation has begun to create in the world.

Let us judge from the efforts and success of our ancestors what we are capable of performing, and the success which we may reasonably hope to obtain. Let us equally beware of admiring too warmly and of undervaluing the faculties of the human mind. It is of importance to keep a due medium between two opposite errors. The road to wisdom always lies between two rocks, between two contrary excesses: this truth I shall have occasion to repeat in treating of the law of equilibrium, or the due mean (see the seventh law). This extravagant admiration, and this unjust contempt of the human powers, are prejudices and obstacles ; it is our duty to convert them into means of success.

A sound and judicious appreciation of all that the human mind has produced, and an admiration of its works confined within due bounds, are motives of encouragement, powerful agents, points of support, levers which raise and uphold us, generous food, which nourishes the consciousness we ought to have of our strength. A prudent distrust

* See the tenth law, the Law of Obstacles.

of our powers, if not carried too far, becomes a medium for directing them to better purpose, for applying them with more economy and discernment; in short, for increasing and rendering them more productive.

This is free-thinking, unconfined to parts,
To send the soul, on curious travel bent,
Through all the provinces of human thought;
To dart her flight through the whole sphere of man;
Of this vast universe to make the tour;
In each recess of space and time at home ;
Familiar with their wonders, diving deep,
And like a prince of boundless interests there,
Still most ambitious of the most remote;
To look on truth unbroken and entire;
Truth in the system, the full orb, where truths
By truths enlighten'd and sustain'd, afford
An arch-like, strong foundation, to support
Th’incumbent weight of absolute, complete
Conviction. *

Young's Night Thoughts, Night 7.

* While I have this poet before me, I shall quote another passage from the same work :

Look nature through, 'tis revolution all,
All change, no death; all to reflourish fades;
As in a wheel all sinks to re-ascend,
Emblems of man, who passes, not expires.




All is Series and Gradation.

The law of gradation is, in some measure, comprised in the law of the chain, and may even be said to be the same law, considered in a different point of view. This general principle, all is series and gradation, proves the source of a multitude of important observations and valuable truths.

The acorn requires a long time before it is expanded into the majestic oak, which covers us with its shade. Plants, trees, animals, and all other beings, have but a slow and progressive growth. Each minute, each hour, each day, taken separately, seem to produce no change, no modification in the state of that infant in the cradle, which in a few years will grow up to man

The world of matter, with its various forms,
All dies into new life. Life born from death
Rolls the vast mass, and shall for ever roll.

Can it be
Matter immortal ? And shall spirit die ?

Young's Night Thoughts, Night 6.

[ocr errors]

hood; and proceeding step by step through the different periods of life, at length arrive at the decrepitude of age. His physical, moral, and intellectual development is slow and imperceptible. In him, as in nature, every thing is progressive; and progression or gradation is a compound of tints so delicate as scarcely to be distinguished. We may act upon these tints by taking them in detail, by modifying them as fast as they are formed, though we cannot operate upon the whole collectively: but in this manner we make ourselves masters of the whole, the parts of which we have detached, taken separately, and considered one after another. This great truth may be applied with particular advantage by education, morality, and politics.

The law of gradation, common to all beings, and every

where set before our eyes, warns us to watch with care in all things over their beginning and

progress; to reform without delay in education, defects, bad habits, and wrong notions ; evils and abuses, in legislation, administration, and society; errors and faulty processes in the arts and sciences ; prejudices and mistakes in philosophy, and in metaphysical, moral, and political discussions ; to extirpate them in their origin; to attack them one after another, like the

Roman who vanquished the Curiatii ; to pluck them up, as it were, hair by hair, like the tail of Sertorius's horse, instead of foolishly attempting to overturn and alter all at once, and in a single moment, what we find established. It was disregard of this truth that produced all the calamities of the French Revolution, in which fiery, impatient, imprudent, and inconsiderate spirits expected to mature institutions in a hot-house.

This law of gradation warns us also to hasten slowly, without suffering ourselves to be disheartened, and to imitate the gradual and regular progress of Nature, which expands the faculties and reason of the individual at the same time with his body, and is never in a hurry to accomplish her end.

As we are obliged to admit a certain necessary order of progression, and of continuous concate. nation which pervades all things, we ought never to be too hasty and precipitate. We should learn to wait, to prepare, to seize the frequently delicate and imperceptible point of maturity and possibility. This is one of the distinguishing characteristics of genius, which, according to Buffon, is but a superior aptitude to patience. Festina lente, hasten slowly, was a maxim of the ancient sages. Patience and perseverance will always triumph in the end.

« AnteriorContinuar »