« EelmineJätka »
power are at once affected, and the science of dynamics enters upon a
The law characterized by Faraday as the highest in physical science which our faculties permit us to perceive, has a far more extended sway; it might well have been proclaimed the highest law of all science -the most far-reaching principle that adventuring reason has discovered in the universe. Its stupendous reach spans all orders of existence. Not only does it govern the movements of the heavenly bodies, but it presides over the genesis of the constellations; not only does it control those radiant floods of power which fill the eternal spaces, bathing, warming, illumiping, and vivifying our planet, but it rules the actions and relations of men, and regulates the march of terrestrial affairs. Nor is its dominion limited to physical phenomena; it prevails equally in the world of mind, controlling all the faculties and processes of thought and feeling. The star-suns of the remoter galaxies dart their radiations across the universe; and although the distances are so profound that hundreds of centuries may have been required to traverse them, the impulses of force enter the eye, and impressing an atomic change upon the nerve, , give origin to the sense of sight. Star- and nerve-tissue are parts of the same system—stellar and nervous forces are correlated. Nay, more; sensation awakens thought and kindles emotion, so that this wondrous dynamic chain binds into living unity the realms of matter and mind through measureless amplitudes of space and time.
And if these high realities are but faint and fitful glimpses which science has obtained in the dim dawn of discovery, what must be the glories of the coming day? If indeed they are but “pebbles ” gathered from the shores of the great ocean of truth, what are the mysteries still hidden in the bosom of the mighty unexplored? And how far transcending all stretch of thought that Unknown and Infinite Cause of all to which the human spirit turns evermore in solemn and mysterious worship!
James Elliot Cabot.
BORN in Boston, Mass., 1821.
EMERSON IN HIS STUDY.
(A Memoir of Ralph Waldo Emerson. 1887.] THE
range of Emerson's quotations, and the unhesitating way in which he sometimes speaks upon subjects of learned investigation,
have given impressions not altogether correct concerning the character of his reading. He had a quick eye for a good sentence, and never forgot one; but the quotations, I think, are sometimes all that he cared to know of the book; and he would have been partly amused, partly vexed, to hear himself described as a profound student, of the New Platonists, or of anything to be learned from books. He was a profound student, of impressions, sentiments, experiences; and was ready to receive them from any source. But of the disengaged curiosity, the readiness to enter into and pursue the ideas of others, that makes the student, the man of letters (or, again, the traveller, the man of the world), he had very little. He did not even pursue his own. He was ever on the watch for them, trying to render them without loss into words, but of their farther relations to each other or to the ideas of other people he was rather incurious. In his spiritual astronomy or search for stars he was the observer of single stars as they came into the field of his telescope; he was not making a map of the heavens, or even of a particular region; he had nothing to do with the results of other observers. Let each look for himself and report what he sees; then, if each has been faithful, they will all agree ; meantime, if any correction be needed, it will be given by the fresh experience which life fails not to supply if we are heedful of its teachings. Books were for the scholar's idle times : at such times Emerson welcomed them for the stimulus they gave him ; "to make my top spin," as he said; without much choice, but with an inclination towards memoirs and books abounding in anecdotes,-Plutarch, Montaigne, Spence, Grimm, Saint-Simon, Roederer; books about the first Napoleon ; latterly I remember his following Varnhagen von Ense's voluminous memoirs, as the volumes came out. He read the “Vestiges of Creation" with much interest, and treasured in his memory from all kinds of sources many anecdotes and sayings of men of science. In his youth he seems to have read Berkeley and Hume with attention, also Coleridge and Lord Bacon; and he was a reader of English poetry from his early years. After his time of production began, books occupied him less; though at Carlyle's urging, soon after his return from Europe, he made for once something of a study of Goethe, and read every volume, even the “Theory of Colors."
He was not what one would call a critical reader. His likings and dislikings were very distinct and persistent, but he never troubled himself to account for them. He could see nothing in Shelley, Aristophanes, Don Quixote, Miss Austen, Dickens; he did not often read a novel, even the famous ones. Dante was “a man to put in a museum, but not in your house: another Zerah Colburn; a prodigy of imaginative function, executive rather than contemplative or wise." French literature he did not love, though he was a reader of Sainte-Beuve and of George Sand.
On a journey he liked to have Martial or a treatise of Cicero in his handbag, partly because he did not read them at home. At home he read no Latin or Greek, though he retained his knowledge of Greek sufficiently to be able, in his later years, to compare the old translation of Plutarch's Morals (a favorite book of his) with the original. Mystical writingsSwedenborg, Behmen, and the like-came always well recommended to him, though they did not engage him very deeply. The New Platonists (in Thomas Taylor's translation) and the Oriental (particularly the Hindoo) religious books, the Bhagavat Gita, the Puranas, and Upanishads, were among his favorites. He often quotes the so-called Chaldæan Oracles, and the like, without troubling himself with any question of their authenticity; not caring, he said, “whether they are genuine antiques or modern counterfeits, as I am only concerned with the good sentences, and it is indifferent how old a truth is." He says in his journal in 1837: “If you elect writing for your
task in life, I believe you must renounce all pretensions to reading.” Not as if learning were hostile to originality,—the power to originate, he
says, is commonly accompanied by assimilating power; he had great regard for scholarship, and lamented the want of it in this country; he was impatient of the “self-made men ” whose originality rests on their ignorance. But he was thinking merely of his own case: learning, he felt, was not his affair; he was occupied with his own problems. “I have long ago discovered that I have nothing to do with other people's facts. It is enough for me if I can dispose of my own.'
It was a maxim with him tbat power is not so much shown in talent or in successful performance as in tone; the absolute or the victorious tone, the tone of direct vision, disdaining all definitions. This had a special attraction for him, in a book or in a person, and may help to explain some predilections of his. He disliked limitations, and welcomed whatever promised to get rid of them, without always inquiring very closely what was left when they were removed.
On the whole, what is most noteworthy in Emerson's relation to books is the slightness of his dependence on them. He lived among his books and was never comfortable away from them, yet they did not much enter into his life. They were pleasant companions, but not counsellors hardly even intimates. His writings abound in quotations, and he valued highly the store of sentences laid up in his note-books for use in lecturing. But he quotes, as he himself says, in a way unflattering to his author; there is little trace of that most flattering kind of quotation which shows itself in assimilation of the thought.
In his writing, the sentence is the natural limit of continuous effort; the context and connection was an afterthought.
"In writing my thoughts I seek no order, or harmony, or result. I
am not careful to see how they comport with other thoughts and other moods: I trust them for that. Any more than how any one minute of the year is related to any other remote minute, which yet I know is so related. The thoughts and the minutes obey their own magnetisms, and will certainly reveal them in time.”
His practice was, when a sentence had taken shape, to write it out in his journal, and leave it to find its fellows afterwards. These journals, paged and indexed, were the quarry from which be built his lectures and essays. When he had a paper to get ready, he took the material collected under the particular heading and added whatever suggested itself at the moment. The proportion thus added seems to have varied considerably; it was large in the early time, say to about 1846, and sometimes very small in the later essays.
He was well aware of the unconsecutiveness that came from his way of writing, and liked it as little as anybody:
(Journal, 1854.) “If Minerva offered me a gift and an option, I would say, Give me continuity. I am tired of scraps. I do not wish to be a literary or intellectual chiffonier. Away with this Jew's rag-bag of ends and tufts of brocade, velvet, and cloth-of-gold, and let me spin some yards or miles of helpful twine; a clew to lead to one kingly truth; a cord to bind wholesome and belonging facts.”
George Shepard Burleigh.
BORN in Plainfield, Conn., 1821.
[Poems. 1849. Revised by the Author for this Work. 1888.]
Sloped the rough land to the grisly north,
Like a thinned banditti straggled forth-
Mother Margary shivered in the cold,
On her shoulders—crooked, weak, and old.
Time on her had done his cruel pleasure,
For her face was very dry and thin,
Lined and cross-lined all her shrivelled skin.
Scanty goods to her had Heaven allotted,
Yet her thanks rose oftener than desire, While her bony tingers, bent and knotted,
Fed with withered twigs the dying fire.
Raw and dreary were the northern winters;
Winds howled pitiless around her cot,
Moan the misery she bemoaned not.
And hung snow-wreaths round her naked bed; While the wind-flaws muttered o'er the cinders
Till the last spark struggled and was dead.
Life had fresher hopes when she was younger,
But their dying wrung out no complaints; Cold, and penury, neglect, and hunger
These to Margary were guardian saints. When she sat, her head was prayer-like bending;
When she rose, it rose not any more; Faster seemed her true heart graveward tending
Than her tired feet, weak and travel-sore.
She was mother of the dead and scattered
Had been mother of the brave and fair; But her branches, bough by bough, were scattered
Till her torn heart was left dry and bare. Yet she knew, though sorely desolated,
When the children of the poor depart, Their earth-vestures are but sublimated,
So to gather closer in the heart. With a courage which had never fitted
Words to speak it to the soul it blessed, She endured, in silence and unpitied,
Woes enough to mar a stouter breast. There was born such holy trust within her,
That the graves of all who had been dear, To a region clearer and serener
Raised her spirit from our chilly sphere. They were footsteps on her Jacob's ladder;
Angels to her were the loves and hopes Which had left her purified, but sadder;
And they lured her to the emerald slopes Of that heaven where anguish never flashes
Her red fire-whip,-happy land, whose flowers Blossom over the volcanic ashes
Of this blighted, blighting world of ours.
All her power was a love of goodness;
All her wisdom was a mystic faith