Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

phers and geologists, will be thrown back the magical foundation-stones of a away.

Tempest. No Marco Polo, traversing Analysis is carried into everything. the desert beyond the city of Lok, would Even Deity is subjected to chemic tests. tell of things able to inspire the mind of We must have exact knowledge, a cabinet Milton with stuck full of facts pressed, dried, or preserved in spirits, instead of the large, Calling shapes and beckoning shadows dire, vague world our fathers had. With And airy tongues that syllable men's names them science was poetry; with us, poetry

On sands and shores and desert wildernesses. is science. Our modern Eden is a hortus

It was easy enough to believe the story siccus. Tourists defraud rather than

of Dante, when two thirds of even the enrich us. They have not that sense of

upper-world were yet untraversed and aesthetic proportion which character

unmapped. With every step of the reized the elder traveller. Earth is no longer the fine work of art it was, for

cent traveller our inheritance of the wonnothing is left to the imagination. Job pictured notes of the Possible are

derful is diminished. Those beautifully

reHortop, arrived at the height of the Ber

deemed at a ruinous discount in the hard mudas, thinks it full time to indulge us in

and cumbrous coin of the Actual. How a merman. Nay, there is a story told

are we not defrauded and impoverished ? by Webster, in his Witchcraft, of a mer

Does California vie with El Dorado? or man with a mitre, who, on being sent

are Bruce's Abyssinian kings a set-off for back to his watery diocese of finland,

Prester John? A bird in the bush is made what advances he could toward an

worth two in the hand. And if the episcopal benediction by bowing his head

philosophers have not even yet been able thrice. Doubtless he had been conse

to agree whether the world has any excrated by St. Antony of Padua. A dumb

istence independent of ourselves, how do bishop would be sometimes no unpleasant

we not gain a loss in every addition to phenomenon, by the way. Sir John

the catalogue of Vulgar Errors ? ? Hawkins is not satisfied with telling us

Where are the fishes which nidificated in about the merely sensual Canaries, but

trees? Where the monopodes sheltering is generous enough to throw us in a hand

themselves from the sun beneath their ful of "certain Aitting islands" to boot.

single umbrella-like foot-umbrella-like Henry Hawkes describes the visible Mex

in everything but the fatal necessity of beican cities, and then is not so frugal but

ing borrowed? Where the Acephali

, that he can give us a few invisible ones.

with whom Herodotus, in a kind of ecThus do these generous ancient mariners make children of us again. Their suc

stasy, wound up his climax of men with

abnormal top-pieces? Where the Roc cessors show us an earth effete and in a

whose eggs are possibly boulders, needing double sense past bearing, tracing out with the eyes of industrious fleas every

no far-fetched theory of glacier or icewrinkle and crowfoot.

berg to account for them? Where the

tails of the men of Kent? Where the The journals of the elder navigators

no legs of the bird of paradise? Where are prose Odysseys. The geographies

the Unicorn, with that single horn of of our ancestors were words of fancy

his, sovereign against all manner of poiand imagination. They read poems sons? Where that Thessalian spring, where we yawn over items. Their which, without cost to the country, conworld was a huge wonder-horn, exhaust

victed and punished perjurers? Where less as that which Thor strove to drain.

the Amazons of Orellana ? Where, in Ours would scarce quench the small thirst

short, the Fountain of Youth? All of a bee. No modern voyager brings

2 Allusion to Sir Thomas Browne's Pseudo1 "A parched garden."

doxia Epidemica or Vulgar Errors.

these, and a thousand other varieties, we tion. Year by year, more and more of have lost, and have got nothing instead the world gets disenchanted. Even the of them. And those who have robbed us icy privacy of the arctic and antarctic of them have stolen that which not en- circles is invaded. Our youth are no riches themselves. It is so much wealth longer ingenuous, as indeed no ingenuity cast into the sea beyond all approach of is demanded of them. Everything is acdiving-bells. We owe no thanks to Mr. counted for, everything cut and dried, J. E. Worcester, whose Geography we and the world may be put together as studied enforcedly at school. Yet even easily as the fragments of a dissected he had his relentings, and in some softer map. The Mysterious bounds nothing moment vouchsafed us a fine, inspiring now on the North, South, East, or West. print of the Maelstrom, answerable to We have played Jack Horner with our the twenty-four mile diameter of its suc- earth, till there is never a plum left in it.

AN APOLOGY FOR IDLERS 1

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), distinguished for his short stories, his romances, and his familiar essays on men and books, is one of the most lovable of writers. His courageous optimism, delicate irony, and youthful love of adventure have won such friends as only his countryman, Sir James Barrie, with kindred warmth of feeling has succeeded in doing sinces "An Apology for Idlers” appeared first in the Cornhill Magazine (1877) and later in a slim volume of essays addressed to maidens and youths, Virginibus Puerisque (1881). It is indicative of the author's unconventional attitude toward life and living.

Boswell: We grow weary when idle. pieces, is at once an insult and a disenJohnson: That is, sir, because others be

chantment for those who do. A fine feling busy, we want company; but if we were idle, there would be no growing weary; we

low (as we see so many) takes his deshould all entertain one another.

termination, votes for the sixpences, and

in the emphatic Americanism, "goes for" Just now, when every one is bound, them. And while such an one is ploughunder pain of a decree in absence convict- ing distressfully up the road, it is not ing them of lèse-respectability, to enter on hard to understand his resentment, when some lucrative profession, and labor he perceives cool persons in the meadows therein with something not far short of by the wayside, lying with a handkerenthusiasm, a cry from the opposite party chief over their ears and a glass at their who are content when they have enough, elbow. Alexander is touched in a very and like to look on and enjoy in the delicate place by the disregard of Diomeanwhile, savours a little of bravado genes. Where was the glory of having and gasconade. And yet this should not taken Rome for these tumultuous barbe. Idleness so called, which does not barians, who poured into the senate house, consist in doing nothing, but in doing a and found the Fathers sitting silent and great deal not recognized in the dogmatic unmoved by their success? It is a sore formularies of the ruling class, has as thing to have labored along and scaled good a right to state its position as in- the arduous hilltops, and when all is done, dustry itself. It is admitted that the find humanity indifferent to your achievepresence of people who refuse to enter in ment. Hence physicists condemn the unthe great handicap race for sixpenny physical ; financiers have only a superficial

toleration for those who know little of 1From Virginibus Puerisque by Robert

stocks; literary persons despise the unLouis Stevenson. Reprinted by courtesy of Charles Scribner's Sons, the authorized Amer.

lettered; and people of all pursuits comican publishers.

bine to disparage those who have none.

But though this is one difficulty of the lacklustre periods between sleep and waksubject, it is not the greatest. You could ing in the class. For my own part, I not be put in prison for speaking against have attended a good many lectures in my industry, but you can be sent to Coventry time. I still remember that the spinning for speaking like a fool. The greatest of a top is a case of Kinetic Stability. I difficulty with most subjects is to do still remember that Emphyteusis is not a them well; therefore, please to remember disease, nor

nor Stillicide a crime. But this is an apology. It is certain that though I would not willingly part with much may be judiciously argued in favor such scraps of science, I do not set the of diligence; only there is something to same store by them, as by certain other be said against it, and that is what, on odds and ends that I came by in the open the present occasion, I have to say. To street while I was playing truant. This state one argument is not necessarily to be is not the moment to dilate on that deaf to all others, and that a man has mighty place of education, which was the written a book of travels in Montenegro, favorite school of Dickens and of Balzac, is no reason why he should never have and turns out yearly many inglorious been to Richmond.

masters in the Science of the Aspects of It is surely beyond a doubt that people Life. Suffice it to say this: if a lad does should be a good deal idle in youth. For not learn in the streets, it is because he though here and there a Lord Macaulay has no faculty of learning. Nor is the may escape from school honors with all truant always in the streets, for if he prehis wits about him, most boys pay so dear fers, he may go out by the gardened for their medals that they never after- suburbs into the country. He may pitch ward have a shot in their locker, and be- on some tuft of lilacs over a burn, and gin the world bankrupt. And the same smoke innumerable pipes to the tune of holds true during all the time a lad is the water on the stones. A bird will educating himself, or suffering others to sing in the thicket. And there he may educate him. It must have been a very fall into a vein of kindly thought, and see foolish old gentleman who addressed things in a new perspective. Why, if Johnson at Oxford in these words: this be not education, what is? We may "Young man, ply your book diligently conceive Mr. Worldly Wiseman accostnow, and acquire a stock of knowledge; ing such an one, and the conversation for when years come upon you, you will that should thereupon ensue: find that poring upon books will be but “How now, young fellow, what dost an irksome task.” The old gentleman thou here?" seems to have been unaware that many "Truly, sir, I take mine ease." other things besides reading grow irk- “Is not this the hour of the class ? and some, and not a few become impossible, should'st thou not be plying thy Book by the time a man has to use spectacles with diligence, to the end thou mayest and cannot walk without a stick. Books obtain knowledge ?" are good enough in their own way, but "Nay, but thus also I follow after they are a mighty bloodless substitute for Learning, by your leave." life. It seems a pity to sit, like the Lady "Learning, quotha! After what fashof Shalott, peering into a mirror, with ion, I pray thee? Is it mathematics?" your back turned on all the bustle and "No, to be sure." glamor of reality. And if a man reads "Is it metaphysics ?” very hard, as the old anecdote reminds "Nor that." us, he will have little time for thoughts. "Is it some language ?"

If you look back on your own educa- "Nay, it is no language." tion, I am sure it will not be the full, "Is it a trade?" vivid, instructive hours of truantry that

character in Bunyan's Pilgrim's you regret; you would rather cancel some

Progress.

1A

a

men.

"Nor a trade neither."

ing their memory

with lumber of "Why, then, what is't?''

words, one-half of which they will for"Indeed, sir, as a time may soon come get before the week be out, your truant for me to go upon Pilgrimage, I am de- may learn some really useful art: to play sirous to note what is commonly done by the fiddle, to know a good cigar, or to persons in my case, and where are the speak with ease and opportunity to all ugliest Sloughs and Thickets on the

the varieties of

Many who have Road; as also, what manner of Staff is of “plied their book diligently,” and know the best service. Moreover, I lie here, all about some one branch or another of by this water, to learn by root-of-heart a accepted lore, come out of the study with lesson which my master teaches me to an ancient and owl-like demeanor, and call Peace, or Contentment."

prove dry, stockish, and dyspeptic in all Hereupon Mr. Worldly Wiseman was the better and brighter parts of life. much commoved with passion, and shak-Many make a large fortune, who remain ing his cane with a very threatful coun- underbred and pathetically stupid to the tenance, broke forth upon this wise: last. And meantime there goes the “Learning, quotha!” said he; “I would | idler, who began life along with themhave all such rogues scourged by the by your leave, a different picture. He Hangman!"

has had time to take care of his health and And so he would go his way, ruffling his spirits; he has been a great deal in the out his cravat with a crackle of starch, open air, which is the most salutary of all like a turkey when it spread its feathers. things for both body and mind; and if he

Now this, of Mr. Wiseman's, is the has never read the great Book in very common opinion. A fact is not called a recondite places, he has dipped into it fact, but a piece of gossip, if it does not and skimmed it over to excellent purpose. fall into one of your scholastic categories. Might not the student afford some HeAn inquiry must be in some acknowl- brew roots, and the business man some of edged direction, with a name to go by; or his half-crowns, for a share of the idler's else you are not inquiring at all, only knowledge of life at large, and Art of lounging; and the work-house is too good Living? Nay, and the idler has another for you. It is supposed that all knowl- and more important quality than these. edge is at the bottom of a well, or the I mean his wisdom. He who has much far end of a telescope. Sainte-Beuve, as looked on at the childish satisfaction of he grew older, came to regard all experi- other people in their hobbies, will regard ence as a single great book, in which to

his own with only a very ironical indulstudy for a few years ere we go hence; gence. He will not be heard among the and it seemed all one to him whether you dogmatists. He will have a great and should read in Chapter XX, which is the cool allowance for all sorts of people and differential calculus, in Chapter opinions. If he finds no out-of-the-way XXXIX, which is hearing the band truths, he will identify himself with no play in the gardens. As a matter of very burning falsehood. His way takes fact, an intelligent person, looking out of him along a by-road, not much frehis eyes and hearkening in his ears, with quented, but very even and pleasant, a smile on his face all the time, will get which is called Commonplace Lane, and more true education than many another leads to the Belvedere of Commonsense. in a life of heroic vigils. There is cer- Thence he shall command an agreeable, tainly some chill and arid knowledge to if no very noble, prospect; and while be found upon the summits of formal and others behold the East and West, the laborious science; but it is all round about Devil and the Sunrise, he will be conyou, and for the trouble of looking that tentedly aware of a sort of morning hour you will acquire the warm and palpitat- upon all sublunary things, with an army ing facts of life. While others are fill

While others are fill- of shadows running speedily and in many

or

different directions into the great daylight time they were thinking of their own afof Eternity. The shadows and the gen- fairs. As if a man's soul were not too erations, the shrill doctors and the plan- small to begin with, they have dwarfed gent wars, go by into ultimate silence and and narrowed theirs by a life of all work emptiness; but underneath all this, a man and no play; until here they are at forty, may see, out of the Belvedere windows, with a listless attention, a mind vacant much green and peaceful landscape ; many of all material of amusement, and not firelit parlors; good people laughing, one thought to rub against another, while drinking, and making love as they did they wait for the train. Before he was before the Flood or the French Revolu- breeched, he might have clambered on tion; and the old shepherd telling his tale the boxes; when he was twenty, he would under the hawthorn.

have stared at the girls; but now the pipe Extreme busyness, whether at school or is smoked out, the snuff-box empty, and college, kirk or market, is a symptom of my gentleman sits bolt upright upon a deficient vitality; and a faculty for idle- bench, with lamentable eyes. This does ness implies a catholic appetite and a not appeal to me as being Success in strong sense of personal identity. There Life. is a sort of dead-alive, hackneyed people But it is not only the person himself about, who are scarcely conscious of liv- who suffers from his busy habits, but his ing except in the exercise of some con- wife and children, his friends and relaventional occupation. Bring these fel- tions, and down to the very people he lows into the country, or set them aboard sits with in a railway carriage or an omniship, and you will see how they pine for bus. Perpetual devotion to what a man their desk or their study. They have no calls his business is only to be sustained curiosity; they cannot give themselves by perpetual neglect of many other over to random provocations; they do not things. And it is not by any means certake pleasure in the exercise of their fac- tain that a man's business is the most ulties for its own sake; and unless Neces- | important thing he has to do. To an sity lays about them with a stick, they impartial estimate it will seem clear that will even stand still. It is no good speak- many of the wisest, most virtuous, and ing to such folk: they cannot be idle, most beneficent parts that are to be nature is not generous enough; and they played upon the Theatre of Life are filled pass those hours in a sort of coma, which by gratuitous performers, and pass, among are not dedicated to furious moiling in the world at large, as phases of idlethe gold-mill. When they do not re- ness. For in that Theatre, not only the quire to go to the office, when they are not walking gentlemen, singing chamberhungry and have no mind to drink, the maids, and diligent fiddlers in the orcheswhole breathing world is a blank to tra, but those who look on and clap their them. If they have to wait an hour or hands from the benches, do really play a so for a train, they fall into a stupid part and fulfil important offices toward trance with their eyes open. To see the general result. You are no doubt them, you would suppose there was noth- very dependent on the care of your lawing to look at and no one to speak with; yer and stockbroker, of the guards and you would imagine they were paralyzed signalmen who convey you rapidly from or alienated; and yet very possibly they place to place, and the policemen who are hard workers in their own way, and walk the streets for your protection; but have good eyesight for a flaw in a deed is there not a thought of gratitude in your or a turn of the market. They have heart for certain other benefactors who been to school and college, but all the set you smiling when they fall in your time they had their eye on the medal; way, or season your dinner with good they have gone about in the world and company? Colonel Newcome helped mixed with clever people, but all the to lose his friend's money ; Fred Bayham

« AnteriorContinuar »