« AnteriorContinuar »
I marvael, Jeanie Morrison,
Gin I hae been to thee
As ye hae been to me 1
Thine ear as it does mine 1
Wi' dreamings o' lang syne 1
I've wandered east, I've wandered west,
I've borne a weary lot;
Ye never were forgot.
Still travels on its way;
The luve o' life's young day.
Oh dear, dear Jeanie Morrison,
Since we were sindered young,
The music o' your tongue;
And happy could I die,
0' bygane days and me!
GREAT PROSE WRITERS.
LORD BACON JOHN MILTON JEREMY TAYLOR JOHN RUSKIN.
Of the many illustrious prose writers who adorned the reigns of Elizabeth and James the First, Bacon is the one whose shrewdness, and power, and admirable good sense have left the deepest traces in our literature. His Essays are still read with avidity and delight, every fresh perusal bringing forth fresh proofs of his knowledge of human nature, and felicity of language. We can not but be grateful to the author, however we may dislike as a man the treacherous friend of Essex and the cringing parasite of James.
I do not know any single passage that more advantageously displays his fullness and richness of thought and of style than this on the use of study.
"Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability. Their chief use for delight is in privateness and retiring; for ornament is in discourse; and for ability is in the judgment and disposition of business; for expert men can execute, and perhaps judge of particulars one by one; but the general counsels, and the plots, and marshaling of affairs come best from those that are learned. To spend too much time in studies is sloth; to use them too much for ornament is affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules is the humor of a scholar. They perfect nature, and are perfected by experience; for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning by study; and studies themselves do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience. Crafty men contemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them; for they teach not their own use; but that is a wisdom without them and above them, won by observation. Read, not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and withwrt diligence and attention. Some books, also, may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others; but that would be only in the less important arguments, and the meaner sort of books; else distilled books are like common distilled waters, flashy things. Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man; and, therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit; and if he read little, he had need have much cunning to seem to know that he doth not." I add one very fine illustration:
"If the invention of the ship was thought so noble, which carrieth riches and commodities from place to place, and consociateth the most remote regions in participation of their fruits, how much more are letters to be magnified, which as ships pass through the vast sea of Time, and make ages so distant participate of the wisdom, illuminations, and inventions, the one of the other 1"
In John Milton's grand and holy fame there is no alloy. The man was as great and pure as the author. I am not sure whether (always excepting the minor poems) I do not prefer the stately and weighty march of his prose, even to his lofty and resounding verse. I select some noble passages from his "Appeal for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing."
"I do not deny but it is of the greatest concernment in the Church and Commonwealth to have a vigilant eye how books demean themselves, as well as men; and therefore to confine, imprison, and do sharpest justice on them as malefactors; for books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them, to be as active as that soul whose progeny they are; nay, they do preserve as in a phial the purest efficacy and extraction of that which bred them. I know they are as lively, as vigorously productive as those fabulous dragons' tieth; and being sown up and down may chance to spring up armed men; and yet on the other hand, unless wariness be used, as good almost kill a man as kill a good book: who kills a man, kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he who kills a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye. Many a man lives a burden to the earth; but a good book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life: 'Tis true no age can restore a life, whereof perhaps there is no great loss; and revolutions of ages do not often recover the loss of a rejected truth, for the want of which whole nations fare the worse. We should be wary, therefore, what persecution we raise against the living labors of public men, how spill that treasured life of man preserved and stored up in books, since we see what a homicide may be thus committed, sometimes a kind of martyrdom; and if it extend to the whole impression a kind of massacre, whereof the execution ends not in the slaying an elemental life, but strikes at that ethereal and soft essence, the breath of reason itself, slays an immortality rather than a life.
"Good and evil we know in the field of this world grow up together almost inseparably; and the knowledge of good is so involved and interwoven with the knowledge of evil, and in so many cunning resemblances hardly to be discerned, that those confused seeds which were imposed upon Psyche as an incessant labor to cull out and sort asunder, were not more intermixed. It was from out the rind of one apple tasted that the knowledge of good and evil, as two twins cleaving together, leaped forth into the world. And perhaps this is that doom which Adam fell into of knowing good and evil, that is to say, of knowing good by evil. As, therefore, the state of man now is, what wisdom can there be to choose, what continence to forbear, without the knowledge of evil? He that can apprehend and consider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures and yet abstain, and yet distinguish, and yet prefer that which is truly better, he is the true warfaring Christian. I can not praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race where that immortal garland is to be run for not without dust and heat. Assuredly we bring not innocence into the world, we bring impurity much rather. That which purifies us is trial, and trial is by what is contrary. That virtue, therefore, which is but a youngling in the contemplation of evil, and knows not the utmost that vice promises to her followers and rejects it, is but a blank virtue, not a grace; which was the reason why our sage and serious poet Spenser (whom I dare be known to think a better teacher than Scotus or Aquinas) describing true temperance under the person of Guion, brings him in with his palmer through the cave of mammon and the bower of earthly bliss, that he might see and know, and yet abstain.
*****"If, therefore, ye be loth to dishearten utterly and discontent, not the mercenary crew and false pretenders to learning, but the free and ingenuous sort of such as evidently were born to study, and love learning for itself, not for lucre, or any otherend, but the service of God and of Truth, and perhaps that lasting fame and perpetuity of praise which God and good men have consented shall be the reward of those whose published labors advance the good of mankind; then know that so far to disturb the judgment and honesty of one who hath but a common repute in learning, and never yet offended, as not to count him fit to print his mind without a tutor and examiner, lest he should drop a schism or something of corruption, is the greatest displeasure,and indignity to a free and knowing spirit that can be put upon him. What advantage is it to be a man over a boy at school if we have only escaped the ferula to come under the fescus of an imprimator'— if serious and elaborate writings, as if they were no more than the theme of a grammar lad under his pedagogue, must not be uttered without the cursory eyes of a temporizing and extemporizing licenser? He who is not trusted with his own actions, his drift not being known to be evil, and standing to the hazard of the law and penalty, has no great reason to think himself reputed in the Commonwealth wherein he was born for other than a fool or a foreigner. When a man writes to the world, he summons up all his reason and deliberation to assist him; he searches, meditates, is industrious, and likely consults and confers with his judicious friends; after all which is done, he takes himself to be informed in what he writes as well as that any writ before him; if in this, the most consummate act of his fidelity and ripeness, no industry, no former proof of his ability can bring him to that state of maturity as not still mistrusted and suspected, unless he carry all his