Page images
PDF
EPUB

tertain some doubt as to the superiority of that education which is called classical, and to question the wisdom of presenting to the youthful mind such images as are false, however beautiful they may be, previous to its having received a knowledge of the truth. While meditating on these subjects, doubt after doubt rose in my mind, till I became completely bewildered.

“ In the mean time we were continually ascending; till, having passed through the wood, we came out upon a lofty pasture ground, such as in Switzerland would be called an alp-a high and breezy lawn fragrant with thyme and other aromatic herbs

from whence, as in a panorama, all the adjacent country became visible. Here was a shepherd in a russet coat, with his staff of office in his hand, watching his flock as he sat upon the grass, while the quiet sheep were feeding around him.

“ The view from these heights was so peculiarly beautiful, that this charming spot had many times previous to the present occasion been visited by me, sometimes alone, but oftener in company with my father; and I could not forget that my father had one day caused me to sit down in this place, while he read to me the famous passage, so full of pathos, in the Pastorals of Virgil, wherein the shepherd bids adieu to his flock and the pastures in which he had been accustomed to feed his fleecy care.

“Farewell, my pastures, my paternal stock,
My fruitful fields, and my more fruitful flock!
No more, my goats, shall I behold you climb
The steepy cliffs, or crop the flowery thyme!
No more, extended in the grot below,
Shall see you browzing on the mountain's brow
The prickly shrubs; and after on the bare,
Lean down the deep abyss, and hang in air !
No more my sheep shall sip the morning dew;
No more my song shall please the rural crew :

Adieu, my tuneful pipe! and all the world, adieu !' “ It cannot therefore be a matter of surprise, if these verses, which I give you in their English garb, should have recurred to me in this very spot on the occasion of my visiting it with little Alfred, and on my again beholding the very pastoral scene which had recalled them to my father's memory.

But while I was considering them, and trying to recollect their order, my nephew

exclaimed, Aunt Ellen, I never saw a real shepherd with a crook till I left England ; and I was very much pleased when I saw the first shepherd, though he was feeding his flock on darnel, by the side of the road. But this shepherd now before us looks like what I used to fancy of shepherds a great while ago.'

Why, what did you know or think about shepherds a great while ago?' I asked.

• 0,' replied the child, 'I used to think a great deal about them when we were reading the Psalms in the Hebrew Bible, and when Mr. Gisborne shewed me that chapter in Ezekiel, and the other in St. John, about the True Shepherd.'

"• The True Shepherd !' I answered: “and who is the True Shepherd ?

The boy looked at me with an arch expression, and then exclaimed, “Now, aunt Ellen, I have found you out; you are pretending not to know, that you may try me.' And he laughed so heartily, that, had we been in the valley of the echo, he would have made every grotto and every cavern to resound with his merriment.

“I was vexed and ashamed; for my ignorance was not affected, and my countenance shewed my displea

He observed it; and instantly repressing his mirth, he said to me in a sweet and plaintive accent, Don't be angry, aunt; I did not mean to displease you.'

"Well then,' I replied, 'repeat to me some of those passages you were speaking of, respecting the True Shepherd.'

- I cannot remember them in Hebrew,' he answered, in some perturbation, perhaps expecting my further displeasure; but I can repeat them in English.'

66. Very well,' said I, let us have them in English.'

“ He then repeated the following passages. The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil : for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil ; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy

sure,

shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (Psalm xxiii.) As a shepherd speketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered ; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries. I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel.' (Ezek. xxiv. 12-14.)

“ It was impossible to feel the beauty of these short specimens of Hebrew poetry, without secretly acknowledging that no heathen writer had ever produced any thing equally tender and affecting. I felt that this child had obtained a complete triumph over me: and in order to conceal my embarrassment from one who would never have penetrated the occasion of it, I arose in haste, and walked towards home.

We had scarcely reached the lawn in the front of the house, before we discovered a carriage approaching us from a small distance, within which the eager eyes of the little Alfred soon discovered Mr. Gisborne; and no sooner had he made this discovery, than he darted from me, like an arrow from a bow, and was at the side of the carriage before the good old gentleman could make the coachman understand that he wished to get out to receive his pupil. The meeting between the old gentleman and the little boy was very interesting, though witnessed from a distance: for never did I see more entire love and confidence between age and youth than that which was manifested between these two persons. Never shall I forget the glee with which little Alfred presented his tutor to me, and the exultation with which he exclaimed, “This is Mr. Gisborne, aunt Ellen!' as if there never had been, and never could be, a second Mr. Gisborne.

“The good old gentleman, however, wanted not the recommendation of his pupil; for it required not the observation of a moment to be convinced that this beloved tutor of his was not only the perfect gentleman, but an amiable and intelligent man. He was a clergyman of

the Established Church of England, a little man, and considerably advanced in years; and, though just concluding a very long journey, he was the very perfection of neatness, his hair being carefully powdered, his linen white as snow, and his shoes resplendently bright. And all this attention to the exterior was so admirably suited to his extremely polite, though somewhat formal, manner, and the perfect accuracy of his elocution, that I could scarcely, while I accosted him, retain the recollection that I was addressing a man for whom I had just before conceived a dislike, from the idea that he was narrow-minded, and an enemy to every species of classic lore.

“I do not precisely recollect the circumstances of Mr. Gisborne's introduction to my mother : but this I well remember, that before the close of the day, the old gentleman appeared to be much at his ease with us all, and had, together with his pupil, taken possession of a range of apartments, prepared for their use, where for several days they pursued their usual employments, and we seldom saw them till we met at dinner: for breakfast is not a meal which is commonly taken in public by families on the Continent.

“ In the mean time, although there were many points, and those of no small importance, in which my father's opinions did not seem to coincide with those of the old gentleman, yet there were on both sides such a spirit of forbearance, and so much real politeness, that no varieties of sentiment ever led to unpleasant arguments, or to any thing like heat or want of respect.

“Mr. Gisborne had been with us several days before I found a convenient opportunity of asking my father's opinion of him, or of giving him a minute account of the conversation I had held with Alfred during our walk. He listened to this account with attention, and when I ceased to speak, remained for some moments silent.

". You are thoughtful, Sir,' I said, after a consider

able pause.

I am, Ellen,' he replied: 'I have lately had many thoughts which never occurred to me in former days. I have been, as you well know, an enthusiastic admirer of those authors which are commonly called classic, by way of eminence, as being universally approved, and

undeniably excellent.

My youth, and the best part of my more mature years, have been devoted to these studies; and it never occurred to me, till within a few months past, to question the utility or propriety of being thus devoted to this description of writers. On the contrary, I have always entertained an habitual contempt of all those persons whose studies had not been more or less directed to these objects, from a strong persuasion that no person could be said to possess any thing like intellectual pre-eminence who was not skilled in those writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans, which I had been accustomed to consider as the standard of perfection. Such were my sentiments for many years, and such are the common sentiments, I am persuaded, not only of many men who are really well acquainted with the classic writers, but of many others who have little more to boast in these respects than mere school-boy information. But I was as little sensible of the arrogance of my feelings with regard to these matters as I was of my deficiency in many others, till your illness, my Ellen, and the death of your admirable sister, led me to make these enquiries, viz. -Whether the studies in which I had hitherto so greatly delighted were calculated to promote the advancement of real virtue in this life? or whether any hope and comfort could be derived from them in the hour of death?'

". These are serious questions, Sir,' said I, “and I must acknowledge that some such enquiries as these have lately suggested themselves also to my mind.'

I hope,' replied my father, ‘if I have lived in error on this subject through my past life, that my eyes may be thoroughly opened, and that it may please God not to visit on you, my Ellen, the ignorance and sin of your father. If light should shine on my own soul,

O also shine on that of my child! But this I have resolved, that I will not interfere with Mr. Gisborne's plans respecting Alfred, till I have more maturely considered the different tendency of the two modes of education; namely—the more common one, of initiating youth in the ancient Greek and Latin authors, and, what is of more rare occurrence, that of commencing the education with biblical instruction ;-causing the pupil first to study the Hebrew Scriptures, and afterwards the Greek

may it

« EelmineJätka »