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“ I was certainly amazed, and almost afraid to question him further, lest I should betray my own ignorance; however I ventured to put a few other questions to him, and was astonished to find him almost equally clear on many other branches of ancient history, insomuch that he was enabled to trace almost every leading family of mankind up to the sons and grandsons of Noah, shewing a perfect acquaintance with the Scripture name of almost every nation which had existed before the Christian era, and how they were connected with each other in their great progenitors. Much of this he explained to me, not with the air of one who knows more than the person to whom he is speaking, but as believing me able to correct him if he made a mistake, and, indeed, as if half afraid of my censures in case of any error.
“ Much as I was amazed and interested by his communications, and even puzzled to conceive by what luminous arrangement so young a creature could have been brought to receive, retain, and retail so much information, I was not sorry to quit this subject of history, where I might have been said to walk upon thorns, every moment dreading some home push which might compel me to betray my ignorance; and feeling at the same time that so constant a reference to Scripture, and this mode of treating the high and mighty nations of antiquity (the haughty Assyrians, the self-sufficient Grecians, and the Roman conquerors of the world) merely as so many families of wayward children, all under the immediate control and disposal of the Father of all men, produced an almost instantaneous and powerful effect in lowering my notions of human glory; I at length became so thoroughly disconcerted, as really for a moment to feel half offended at the innocent cause of my perplexity. Neither is it improbable, that I might have commenced some discussion with him upon this new mode of learning history, had I not been admonished of the folly of entering into the lists of disputation with such a champion, by his suddenly drawing his hand from mine, for the purpose of throwing himself head over heels down a little descent, which the delicate softness of the verdure and the very gradual slope of the hill pointed out as a very safe and proper theatre for such an exploit.
“ The motion was so quick, that it seemed but a moment from the time of his withdrawing his hand out of mine before he appeared at the bottom of the slope, standing erect, and measuring with his eye the space of ground over which he had made his somerset, his whole face glowing with health and delight. Gay, however, as he appeared to be in the enjoyment of these feelings, he allowed me to take his hand when I came close to him, and made no objection to walk quietly by my side, answering such questions as I further chose to put to him. But it is probable, that I had not quite recovered my good humour when I renewed our discourse, for I perceived the little boy look very earnestly at me when I spoke.
66. I wonder,' I said, 'I am amazed, that your tutor does not teach you Latin, Alfred ? It is the finest language that was ever written or spoken, and boasts some of the finest authors in the world.'
But, the Bible, aunt Ellen,' replied the child, 'no part of the Bible was first written in Latin.'
“A certain something, which I cannot now define, prevented me from uttering what was actually on my tongue—“The Bible! the Bible! what nothing but the Bible?'--and while I hesitated what reply to make, I looked at the child, who seemed quite to have forgotten the subject of our discourse, his eye being fixed on a golden eagle, which had perched on the pinnacle of a rocky point projecting from the nearest hill on the opposite side of the dingle. For a moment, the eagle kept his position; then suddenly rising and spreading his wings, he flew from us, directly in the face of the sun, taking his course over a mighty forest which formed one uninterrupted sweep towards the south.
“ It was impossible to recover the attention of Alfred while the eagle was in view; but when he had almost disappeared, and his vast expanded wings shewed no larger than a mote in the sunbeam, I again addressed my little companion, and said, "So, your tutor does not approve of your learning Latin, Alfred?'
“I did not say so, aunt Ellen,' he answered, you must have mistaken me; for I have learned the Latin grammar for some time, and when I am better acquainted with the Bible, I am to study Latin: but it will be a
long time before I have gone through all the Bible in the ancient languages.'
“• The Bible again, Alfred!' I answered, 'I hope you will thoroughly understand the Bible by the time your education is finished !'
“ The child did not comprehend the irony of my retort, but answered me in simplicity, I hope I shall; but there is so much in the Bible, that might be read for ever, Mr. Gisborne says, without a person's knowing every thing contained in it."
“ We were now descending into the depths of the dingle, where the mountain torrent before spoken of came pouring down from the higher grounds, which, after many windings occasioned by the irregularity of the ground, was lost to the eye beneath the shade of a thick wood of pine. On the side of the dingle from whence we came, the ground acknowledged its submission to the hand of man, by its fair and smooth appearance, its shaven lawns, and clustered exotics; while all on the other side was bold, abrupt, and rugged, the rocks and hills seeming to have been tumbled together, as if they had been hurled at each other during the fabled contests of the Titans. It was necessary for us to cross the stream, in order to reach the valley of the water nymph; and for this purpose we proceeded a little lower down the valley, to where a wooden bridge was thrown over the brook. The scenery from this bridge was so remarkably beautiful, that, though I had passed the place a thousand times, yet I always stopped in this place to contemplate the objects which there presented themselves above and below, the wild region above receiving an additional charm to
from the circumstance of a few columns of the Temple of Diana, together with a part of the ornamented cornice of the portico, being visible above the rough and shadowy objects with which it appeared to be surrounded; though it stood, in fact, on that side of the dingle which had been so pruned and smoothed by the hand of man as to partake entirely of a milder character.
“Immediately beneath the apparent site of this shrine of the hunter goddess, the brook burst suddenly forth from the deep shade of overhanging rocks and underwood, and falling many feet with considerable noise,
pursued its way towards the bridge, underneath which it passed with a troubled and agitated motion, not having yet lost the impulse of its rapid descent. Beneath the bridge, such a region of rich and wild beauty presented itself as I dare not presume to describe, but which was not the less admirable from the contrast between its rough and various wonders, with the sullen, smooth, and majestic figures of certain heights of the Schwartzwald seen beyond, some of which seemed to penetrate the clouds, being rarely divested of the hoary mantle which winter seldom fails to throw over them.
“I had always been accustomed to view this scene with poetic eyes, and to associate every part of it with some classic image. My style of reading led me to this mode of embellishing natural objects with elegant conceits drawn from the books I had studied, or such at least as I thought elegant; and I prided myself not a little on this effect of what I considered as a very superior education: and I well remember, that as I stood on the bridge at this time, leaning against the parapet, I felt a strong desire to animate my little nephew with somewhat of my own classical feelings. For, notwithstanding the evident quickness and spirit of the child, and though I had lately suffered such a defeat in my conversation with this youthful student, yet I could not divest myself of the idea that his mind was in a coarse and inelegant state; for how could it be otherwise, seeing he had never read one single work of the many authors, whom I conceived to be the grand depositaries of all literary elegance and beauty? I had however experienced that some caution was necessary in dealing with my little companion, since there were points in which he was as much my superior, as I counted myself to be his superior in others. I therefore commenced my attack by asking him if he knew what poetry was; going on, no doubt with some pomposity, to state that poetry did not consist in mere versification, but in beautiful ideas, elegant symbols, fine imagery, &c. &c. : whence I proceeded to say, that I rejoiced to hear that he had learned Greek, and was soon to learn Latin, because there were certain authors in those languages who had produced works of genius which surpassed any thing that had ever fallen from other pens.
I then ex
patiated largely on the taste of the Greeks and Romans, pointing out how those nations had excelled in statuary and in architecture, and with what exquisite tales and fables they had adorned their mythology.
“ The boy, who had never been used to hear any thing but truth, and whose lessons, as I before remarked, had been for the most part drawn from the word of truth itself, looked at me with that innocent amazement which we sometimes see in amiable and unaffected children; but I could not discover exactly what he thought of my eloquent oration. At length he replied, 'I don't quite understand you, aunt Ellen : are you talking about the fable-book? I had a Pilpay's Fable-Book at home; and Mr. Gisborne said I might read it when I had done my lessons. I had also a fairy-tale book, about Blue Beard, and the Master Cat; but he said these were only books intended for the amusement of little children, and that grown-up people did not take much pleasure in them.'
“Pilpay's Fables, and the Fairy Tales !' I repeated in high classic indignation; I was not talking of such nonsense as those books contain: I was speaking of the beautiful imagery and descriptions which are to be found in the poetical works of ancient Greece and Rome, and expressing my sorrow that you should be withheld from the study of them; because these are compositions by which the taste of young people is to be corrected, and by which their minds are to be raised from ordinary things to the contemplation of all that is beautiful both in art and nature.'
- The child still looked hard at me, as well he might; for, right or wrong, I was certainly got far above the reach of the intellects of one of his age: of which being presently aware, I changed my tone, and said, “ If good Mr. Gisborne would but let you read the ancient Grecian and Roman poets, you would find such sweet and beautiful things in them, as would delight you far more than Pilpay's Fables or the Fairy Tales. They contain such glorious descriptions of ancient kings, heroes, and demi-gods, as well as of the noble actions which they performed, that you would long to resemble them, and wish to think and act as they did : such studies, my dear boy, would exalt your mind, and teach you to be