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FROM “The Friend."
306. Truth. Monsters and madmen canonized, and Galileo blind in a dungeon! It is not so in our times. Heaven be praised, that in this respect, at least, we are, if not better, yet better off than our forefathers. But to what and to whom (under Providence) do we owe the improvement? To any radical change in the moral affections of mankind in general? In order to answer this question in the affirmative, I must forget the infamous empirics whose advertisements pollute and disgrace all our newspapers, and almost paper the walls of our cities; and the vending of whose poisons and poisonous drams (with shame and anguish be it spoken) supports a shop in every market-town! I must forget that other opprobrium of the nation, that mother vice, the lottery! I must forget that a numerous class plead prudence for keep-' ing their fellow-men ignorant and incapable of intellectual enjoyments, and the revenue for upholding such temptations as men so ignorant will not withstand – yes! that even senators and officers of state hold forth the revenue as a sufficient plea for upholding, at every fiftieth door throughout the kingdom, temptations to the most pernicious vices.
No! let us not deceive ourselves. Like the man who used to pull off his hat with great demonstration of respect whenever he spoke of himself, we are fond of styling our own the enlightened age, though, as Jortin, I think, has wittily remarked, the golden age would be more appropriate.
To whom, then, do we owe our ameliorated condition? To the successive few in every age (more, indeed, in one generation than in another, but relatively to the mass of mankind always few), who, by the intensity and permanence of their action, have compensated for the limited sphere within which it is at any one time intelligible, and whose good deeds posterity reverence in their results, though the mode in which we repair the inevitable waste of time, and the style of our additions, too generally furnish a sad proof how little we understand the principles.
Still, however, there are truths so self-evident, or so immediately and palpably deduced from those that are, or are acknowledged for such, that they are at once intelligible to all men who possess the common advantages of the social state; although by sophistry, by evil habits, by the neglect, false persuasions, and impostures of an anti-Christian priesthood, joined in one conspiracy with the violence of tyrannical governors, the understandings of men may become so darkened, and their consciences so lethargic, that there may arise a necessity for the republication of these truths, and this, too, with a voice of loud alarm and impassioned warning. Such were the doctrines proclaimed by the first Christians to the pagan world : such were the lightnings flashed by Wicklif, Huss, Luther, Calvin, Zuinglius,
Latimer, and others, across the papal darkness; and such in our own times, the agitating truths with which Thomas Clarkson and his excellent confederates, the Quakers, fought and conquered the legalized banditti of men-stealers, the numerous and powerful perpetrators and advocates of rapine, murder, and (of blacker guilt than either) slavery. Truths of this kind being indispensable to man, considered as a moral being, are above all expedience, all accidental consequences : for, as sure as God is holy and man immortal, there can be no evil so great as the ignorance or disregard of them. It is the very madness of mock prudence to oppose the removal of a poisoned dish on account of the pleasant sauces or nutritious viands which would be lost with it! The dish contains destruction to that for which alone we ought to wish the palate to be gratified, or the body to be nourished.
The prejudices of one age are condemned even by the prejudiced of the succeeding ages : for endless are the modes of folly, and the fool joins with the wise in passing sentence on all modes but his own. Who cried out with greater horror against the murderers of the prophets than those who likewise cried out, Crucify him! crucify him! The truth-haters of every future generation will call the truth-haters of the preceding ages by their true names, for even these the stream of time carries onward. In fine, truth, considered in itself, and in the effects natural to it, may be conceived as a gentle spring or watersource, warm from the genial earth, and breathing up into the snowdrift that is piled over and around its outlet. It turns the obstacle into its own form and character, and, as it makes its way, increases its stream. And should it be arrested in its course by a chilling season, it suffers delay, not loss, and awaits only for a change in the wind to awaken and again roll onward.
307. ADVANTAGE OF METHOD. What is that which first strikes us, and strikes us at once, in a man of education; and which, among educated men, so instantly distinguishes the man of superior mind, that (as was observed with eminent propriety of the late Edmund Burke) “we cannot stand under the same archway, during a shower of rain, without finding him out”? Not the weight or novelty of his remarks; not any unusual interest of facts communicated by him : for we may suppose both the one and the other precluded by the shortness of our intercourse, and the triviality of the subjects. The difference will be impressed and felt though the conversation should be confined to the state of the weather or the pavement. Still less will it arise from any peculiarity in his words and phrases; for if he be, as we now assume, a well-educated man, as well as a man of superior powers, he will not fail to follow the golden rule of Julius Cæsar, and, unless where new things necessitate new terms, he will avoid an unusual word as a rock. It must have been among the earliest lessons of his youth that the breach of this precept,
at all times hazardous, becomes ridiculous in the topics of ordinary conversation. There remains but one other point of distinction possible; and this must be, and in fact is, the true cause of the impression made on us. It is the unpremeditated and evidently habitual arrangement of his words, grounded on the habit of foreseeing, in each integral part, or (more plainly) in every sentence, the whole that he then intends to communicate. However irregular and desultory his talk, there is METHOD in the fragments.
Listen, on the other hand, to an ignorant man, though perhaps shrewd and able in his particular calling; whether he be describing or relating. We immediately perceive that his memory alone is called into action, and that the objects and events recur in the narration in the same order, and with the same accompaniments, however accidental or impertinent, as they had first occurred to the narrator. The necessity of taking breath, the efforts of recollection, and the abrupt rectification of its failures, produce all his pauses, and, with the exception of the "and then,” the “and there," and the still less significant " and so," they constitute likewise all his connections. Our discussion, however, is confined to method, as employed in the formation of the understanding and in the constructions of science and literature. It would, indeed, be superfluous to attempt a proof of its importance in the business and economy of active or domestic life. From the cotter's hearth, or the workshop of the artisan, to the palace, or the arsenal, the first merit, that which admits neither substitute nor equivalent, is, that everything is in its place. Where this charm is wanting, every other merit either loses its name or becomes an additional ground of accusation and regret. Of one by whom it is eminently possessed, we say proverbially he is like clock-work. The resemblance extends beyond the point of regularity, and yet falls short of the truth. Both do, indeed, at once divide and announce the silent and otherwise indistinguishable lapse of time. But the man of methodical industry and honorable pursuits does more: he realizes its ideal divisions, and gives a character and individuality to its moments. If the idle are described as killing time, he may be justly said to call it into life and moral being, while he makes it the distinct object not only of the consciousness, but of the conscience. He organizes the hours, and gives them a soul; and that, the very essence of which is to fleet away, and evermore to have been, he takes up into his own permanence, and communicates to it the imperishableness of a spiritual nature. Of the good and faithful servant whose energies, thus directed, are thus methodized, it is less truly affirmed that he lives in time than that time lives in him. His days, months, and years, as the stops and punctual marks in the records of duties performed, will survive the wreck of worlds, and remain extant when time itself shall be no more.
ROBERT SOUTHEY. 1774-1843. (Manual, pp. 427-431.)
308. THE BATTLE OF BLENHEIM.'
It was a summer evening,
Old Kaspar's work was done,
Was sitting in the sun:
She saw her brother Peterkin
Roll something large and round,
In playing there, had found;
Old Kaspar took it from the boy,
Who stood expectant by;
And with a natural sigh,
“I find them in the garden,
For there's many here about;
The ploughshare turns them out!
“Now tell us what 'twas all about,”
Young Peterkin, he cries :
With wonder-waiting eyes :
And what they killed each other for."
" It was the English,” Kaspar cried,
“Who put the French to rout;
I could not well make out.
" That 'twas a famous victory.
1 A battle fought near the village of Blenheim, Bavaria, August 2, 1704, in which the English Duke of Marlborough gained a victory over the French and Bavarians. It is called by the French the Battle of Hochstedt.
“My father lived at Blenheim then,
Yon little stream hard by;
And he was forced to fly;
“With fire and sword, the country round
Was wasted far and wide;
And new-born baby, died;
At every famous victory.
“They say it was a shocking sight
After the field was won;
Lay rotting in the sun;
“Great praise the Duke of Marlbro' won,
And our good prince, Eugene.”
Said little Wilhelmine.
“ It was a famous victory.
“And everybody praised the duke,
Who this great fight did win.” “And what good came of it at last?"
Quoth little Peterkin. “Why, that I cannot tell,” said he, “But 'twas a famous victory."
309. THE EVENING RAINBOW. Mild arch of promise! on the evening sky Thou shinest fair, with many a lovely ray, Each in the other melting Much mine eye Delights to linger on thee; for the day, Changeful and many-weathered, seemed to smile, Flashing brief splendor through its' clouds awhile, That deepened dark anon, and fell in rain : But pleasant it is now to pause, and view Thy various tints of frail and watery hue, And think the storm shall not return again.