Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

war and from glory; and he has covered with it the name of France France, obliged to accept the odium of his tyranny and his crimes, should also accept his glory with a serious gratitude. She cannot separate her name from his without lessening it; for it is equally incrusted with his greatness as with his faults. She wished for renown; and what she principally owes to him is the celebrity she has gained in the world. This celebrity, which will descend to posterity, and which is improperly called glory, constituted his means and his end. Let him, therefore, enjoy it. The noise he has made will resound through distant ages; but let it not pervert posterity, or falsify the judgment of mankind. He is admired as a soldier ; he is measured as a sovereign; he is judged as a founder of nations; - great in action, little in idea, nothing in virtue. Such is the man !

LAMARTINE.

CLXXXIV.— NAPOLEON AS A STUDENT. 1. DILIGENCE and self-control are the crowning attributes of genius. Napoleon, however extraordinary his mental gifts, no more attained his greatness by fits and starts than he made his way over the Alps by a sudden flight. In both cases the road was opened by labor, toil, and endurance. The evidences of his arduous study and persevering industry in youth afford a useful lesson for the consideration of those who, feeling within them a certain excitement, regard it — and, it may be, justly — as the token of mental power, but forget that it is as surely an evidence of power needing the strengthening and discipline of order and systematic study.

2. Napoleon appears to have gone through a regular and systematic course of reading with a definite object : nothing was done for mere amusement. His selections of works, and his extracts from them, are alike remarkable. He occupied himself with natural history, natural philosophy, and medicine. He studied ancient geography and history; then turned to modern, and acquainted himself well with the history of France. His object seemed rather to gain a knowledge of historical facts than to form a system from them. A thirst for general knowledge, and an indefatigable industry in attaining it, are manifested throughout his scholastic career.

3. We will not enter into the moral questions connected with Napoleon's aims and objects, with the use or misuse of his energies, for we are now only dealing with the training by which he learned to concen’trate them; and with the great lesson to be drawn from the fact that it was by strenuous perseverance and uuwearied effort, under difficulties and impediments, that his mental powers were we will not say created — but fostered and made effectual to the attainment of his aims and objects. Napoleon, as well as Michael Angelo, El and Newton, El and all possessed of true genius, had to submit to that law of human nature, which decrees that nothing great can be done without great effort. Of all the subjects of which he afterwards showed himself master, he was first the regular and diligent student.

4. His clear ideas on legislation, on finance, and social organ. ization, were not fruits of spontaneous growth, but the harvest reaped on the throne from the labors of the poor lieutenant of artillery. He owed his mental development to that to which in every age every great and strong mind has owed it - industry, to solitary and patient vigil, to difficulty and misfortune. True it is that the revolution opened to him a vast field; but, had the revolution never occurred, Napoleon must have become distin guished ;; for characters such as his seize upon, but are never the slaves of, circumstances. When, after seven years spent in retirement, Napoleon made his first appearance on the world's stage, he had already within him the germs of his future greatness. Nothing was fortuitous with him.

5. His was a perpetual struggle, and not always a successful one. His being at Toulon was owing to his never losing an opportunity of coming forward. Never did a new minister come into power without receiving a memorial from the young officer on the affairs of his native country; and never was any change in the military department of Corsica proposed, that Napoleon did not, at any risk, immediately repair thither. When unsuccessful in his object, he returned to Valence to think and to study; and these seven years of the youthful life of Napoleon are to us the noblest and greatest in that life of prodigies, and are themselves sufficient to preclude his elevation being ascribed to fatality.

CLXXXV. - THOUGHTS ON BOOKS.

1. OBLIGATIONS TO LITERATURE. — I will here place on record my own obligations to literature : a debt so immense as not to be cancelled, like that of Nature, by death itself. I owe to it something more than my earthly welfare. Adrift, early in life, upon the great waters, — as pilotless as Wordsworth’s blind boy, afloat in the turtle-shell, - if I did not come to shipwreck, it was that, in default of paternal or fraternal guidance, I was rescued, like the “ancient E7 mariner,” by guardian spirits — “ each one a lovely light” — who stood as beacons to my course. Infirm health, and a natural love of reading, happily threw me, instead of worse society, into the company of poets, philosophers, and sages - to me good angels and ministers of grace. From these silent instructors — who often do more than fathers, and always more than god-fathers, for our temporal and spiritual interests — from these mild monitors, – no importunate tutors, teasing mentors, EI moral task-masters, obtrusive advisers, harsh censors, or wearisome lecturers, but delightful associates, -I learned something of the divine, and more of the human, religion.

They were my interpreters in the house beautiful of God, and my guide among the delectable mountains of Nature. They re. formed my prejudices, chūstened my passions, tempered my heart, purified my tastes, elevated my mind, and directed my aspirations. I was lost in a chaos of undigested problems, false theories, crude fancies, obscure impulses, bewildering doubts, when these bright intelligences called my mental world out of darkness, like a new creation, and gave it “two great lights,” Hope and Memory, -- the past for a moon, and the future for a sun.

“ Hence have I genial seasons ; hence have I

Smooth passions, smooth discourse, and joycus thoughts ;
And thus, from day to day, my little boat
Rocks in its harbor, lodging peaceably. —
Blessings be with them, and eternal praise,
The poets, — who on earth have made us heirs
Of truth and pure delight, by heavenly lays !
0, might my name be numbered among theirs,

How gladly would I end my mortal days !"* Thomas Hood. 2. THE WORTH OF Books. — It is chiefly through books that we enjoy intercourse with superior minds; and these invaluable means of communication are in the reach of all. In the best books, great men talk to us, give us their most precious thoughts, and pour their souls into ours. God be thanked for books. They are the voices of the distant and the dead, and make us heirs of the spiritual life of past ages. Books are the true levellers. They give to all, who will faithfully use them, the society, the spiritual presence, of the best and greatest of our race. No matter how poor I am. No matter, though the prosperous of my own time will not enter my obscure dwelling. If the Sacred Writers will enter and take up their abode under my roof, — if Milton will cross my threshold to sing to me of Paradise, and Shakspeare to open to me the worlds of imagination and the workingg of the human heart, and Franklin to enrich me with his

* Wordsworth.

practica wisdom, -I shall not pine for intellectual companionship; and I may become a cultivated man, though excluded from what is called the best society in the place where I live. — Chanrring.

3. MORAL INFLUENCE OF A LITERARY TASTE. — To a young man away from home, friendless and folorn in a great city, the hours of peril are those between sunset and bed-time; for the moon and stars see more of evil in a single hour than the sun in his whole day's circuit. The poet's visions of evening are all compact of tender and soothing images. It brings the wanderer to his home, the child to his mother's arms, the ox to his stall, and the weary laborer to his rest. But to the gentle-hearted youth who is thrown upon the rocks of a pitiless city, and stands “ homeless amid a thousand homes,” the approach of evening brings with it an aching sense of loneliness and desolation, which comes down upon the spirit like darkness upon the earth. In this mood, his best impulses become a snare to him, and he is led astray because he is social, affectionate, sympathetic, and warm-hearted. If there be a young man thus circumstanced within the sound of my voice, let me say to him that books are the friends of the friendless, and that a library is the home of the homeless. A taste for reading will always carry you to converse with men who will instruct you by their wisdom and charm you by their wit, who will soothe you when fretted, refresh you when weary, counsel you when perplexed, and sympathize with you at all times. Evil spirits, in the middle ages, were exorcised and driven away by bell, book, and candle; you want but two of these agents, the book and the candle. — Hillard.

4. DESIRABLENESS OF A TASTE FOR READING. — Were I to pray for a taste which should stand me in stead under every vari. ety of circumstance, and be a source of happiness and cheerfulness to me during life, and a shield against its ills, however things might go amiss and the world frown upon me, it would be a taste for reading. Give a man this taste, and the means of gratifying it, and you can hardly fail of making him a happy man; unless, indeed, you put into his hands a most perverse selection of books. You place him in contact with the best society in every period of history, — with the wisest, the wittiest, the tenderest, the bravest, and the purest characters who have adorned humanity. You make him a denizen of all nations, a contemporaryEi of all ages. The world has been created for him. — Sir John Herschel.

5. THE HABIT OF READING MAY BE ABUSED. — A man may as well expect to grow stronger by always eating, as wiser by always reading. Too much overcharges nature, and turns more into disease than nourishment. It is thought and digestion which

make Looks serviceable, and give health and vigor to the mind. Better read not at all than read bad, unprofitable books. “There are those persons,” says Locke, “who are very assiduous in reading, and yet do not much advance their knowledge by it. They are delighted with the stories that are told, and, perhaps, can tell them again, for they make all they read nothing but history to themselves; but, not reflecting on it, not making to themselves observations from what they read, they are very little improved by all that crowd of particulars that either pass through, or lodge themselves in, their understandings. They dream on in a constant course of reading and cramming themselves, but, not digest. ing anything, it produces nothing but a heap of crudities.” Be not seduced by any eloquence of style, sophistry of argument, or seeming novelty and boldness of thought, into a distrust of any truth which your own immortal soul, in its highest aspirations, has approved, and which the monitions of conscience, no less than the assurances of Holy Writ, impel you to regard as sacred.

CLXXXVI. — CAPTURE OF A WHALE.

1. The monotony of the calm was suddenly broken by the long-expected cry, “There she blows!” from the man at the mast-head. — “Where away?” demanded the captain. — “Three points off the lee bow, sir.”—“Raise up your wheel. Steady!” -“Steady, sir.” — “Mast-head, ahoy! Do you see that whale now?” — “Ay, ay, sir. A schoolEI of sperm whales! There she blows! There she breathes !”-“Sing out! Sing out every time!” - “Ay, ay, sir. There she blows! There there there — she blows!” – “How far off?” — “Two miles and a half.” –“So near ? Call all hands! Clew up the fore-topgallant-sail — there! belay !EI Hard down your wheel! Haul back the main-yard! Get your tubs in your boats! Bear a band! Clear your falls! Stand by all to lower! All ready ?

"All ready, sir.” — “Lower away!”

2. Down went the boats with a splash. Each boat's crew sprang over the rail, and in an instant the larboard, starboard, and waist boats were manned. There was great rivalry in getting the start. The waist boat got off in pretty good time, and away went all three, dashing the water high over their bows. Nothing could be more exciting than the chase. The larboard boat, commanded by the mate, and the waist boat, by the second mate, were head and head. “Give way, my lads, give way!" shouted our headsman; “We gain on them; give way A long steady stroke — that's the way to tell it "

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »