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THE ADVANCED READER.
PLEASURES OF KNOWLEDGE.
It is NOBLE to seek Truth, and it is BEAUTIFUL to find it. It is the ancient feeling of the human heart, that knowledge is better than riches; and it is deeply and sacredly true. To mark the course of human passions as they have flowed on in the ages that are past; to see why nations have risen, and why they have fallen; to speak of heat, and light, and the winds; to know what man has discovered in the heavens above and in the earth beneath ; to hear the chemist unfold the marvellous properties that the Creator has locked up in a speck of earth; to be told that there are worlds so distant from our own, that the quickness of light, travelling from the world's creation, has never yet reached us; to wander in the creations of poetry, and grow warm again with that eloquence which swayed the democracies of the Old World; to go up with great reasoners to the First Cause of all, and to perceive, in the midst of all this dissolution and decay and cruel separation, that there is one thing unchangeable, indestructible, and everlasting ;—it is worth while in the days of our youth to strive hard for this great discipline; to pass sleepless nights for it; to give up for it laborious days; to spurn for it present pleasures; to endure for it afflicting poverty; to wade for it through darkness, and sorrow, and contempt, as the great spirits of the world have done in all ages and all times.
I appeal to the experience of any man who is in the habit of exercising his mind vigorously and well, whether there is not a satisfaction in it, which tells him he has been acting up to one of the great objects of his existence? The end of nature has been answered : his faculties have done that which they were created to do—not languidly occupied upon trifles, not enervated by sensual gratification, but exercised in that toil which is so congenial to their nature, and so worthy of their strength. .
A life of knowledge is not often a life of injury and crime. Whom does such a man oppress ? with whose happiness does he interfere ? whom does his ambition destroy ? and whom does his fraud deceive? In the pursuit of science he injures no man, and in the acquisition he does good to all. A man who dedicates his life to knowledge, becomes habituated to pleasure which carries with it no reproach : and there is one security that he will never love that pleasure which is paid for by anguish of heart—his pleasures are all cheap, all dignified, and all innocent; and, as far as any human being can expect permanence in this changing scene, he has secured a happiness which no malignity of fortune can ever take away, but which must cleave to him while he lives, ameliorating every good, and diminishing every evil of his existence.
I solemnly declare, that, but for the love of knowledge, I should consider the life of the meanest hedger and ditcher as preferable to that of the greatest and richest man in existence ; for the fire of our minds is like the fire which the Persians burn on the mountains—it flames night and day, and is immortal, and not to be quenched ! Upon something it must act and feed-upon the pure spirit of knowledge, or upon the foul dregs of polluting passions.
Therefore, when I say, in conducting your understanding, love knowledge with a great love, with a vehement love, with a love coëval with life, what do I say but love innocence ; love virtue; love