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miracles of painting or sculpture, the condition of the blind seems dreary and dismal enough—quite enough to justify the pathetic recital of Milton :
"Thus with the year
Seasons return; but not to me returns
Of nature's works to me expunged and rased,
I have already had occasion to hint at the exquisite training imparted to the other senses by reason of the absence of this princely one; the delicacy of the touch, amounting almost to the development of another sense, so quick do the nerves become in their apprehension of forms and distances. But the balance of faculties is maintained chiefly through the ear; and upon reflection, is it not through this organ that the largest contributions to happiness are made from without? Wordsworth has declared the capabilities of the ear, in lines as philosophically accurate in their analysis, as their measure is poetically beautiful:
"Thy functions are ethereal,
As if within thee dwelt a glancing mind,
Informs the cell of hearing, dark and blind,
Strict passage, through which sighs are brought,
Whose piercing sweetness can unloose
The chains of frenzy, or entice a smile
Hosannas pealing down the long drawn aisle,
And requiems answer'd by the pulse that beats
The blind man's gloom, exalts the veteran's mirth;
Nor scorn'd the peasant's whistling breath, that lighte.s
For the tired slave song lifts the languid oar,
And bids it aptly fall, with chime
That beautifies the fairest shore,
And mitigates the harshest clime."
The state of constant vigilance in which the blind man is required to keep his perceptive faculties, begets habits of the acutest and widest observation. His acquaintance with the facts occurring immediately in his own neighbourhood, will probably be more thorough and complete than that of his seeing companions. Moreover, it is needful that that which he discerns and learns should be well retained; incapable of reference, he must needs have, and the need begets, an ample and retentive memory. Others acquire the treasures of knowledge with ease, and scatter them with prodigality. He acquires with toil, and thriftily hoards his possessions. It is not because nature has endowed him with a better memory than other men, but because necessity is urging him to acquire it, that he possesses, in such high condition, this much-coveted perfection of development. Forgetfulness is the offspring of inattention and sloth; vivid recollection is the product of the natural faculty, carefully disciplined. A man rarely works when he can help it. A taskmaster of some sort is usually required to urge him to his duty. Herein the blind man's need is the blind man's gain. He pays the price in effort; and receives the reward in improvement. But I need not prosecute this inquiry further into the realm of his intellectual nature. All his richest gains there would be as dross, were there nothing better given to cheer and comfort him. The dearest compensation awarded to the blind, as I reckon it, is the love which attends his steps.
I am told that this is a cold, hard world; that man is the devil's child; that the child's works are worthy the offspring of the father. I am assured that selfishness is the ruling law of life; that friendship is a name, and love a deceit.
So have I not found the world or man.
It has fallen to my
accept my testimony on this point? lot to travel as widely in this country as perhaps any man of my age. My wayfarings have taken me to the boundless prairies of the West, to the cotton planattions of the South, the farms of the Middle States, and the manufacturing towns of New England. My path has run by the margin of the Atlantic, on the shores of the great lakes, by the banks of the Mississippi, and along the verge of the Gulf. I have travelled by every means of conveyance, on foot and on horseback, in canal boats and in stages, on railcars and steamboats. Almost all my
journeys have been prosecuted alone. My comparatively helpless condition has often thrown me upon the care of strangers. I have been obliged to appeal for assistance to gentlemen and loafers; to the negro slave or his master; to railroad conductors and to hotel landlords; to waiters and hack-drivers; to men represented as the coarsest and harshest of their kind. At times I have had no choice but to address men when in a towering passion, when their mouths were filled with oaths and blasphemy; and I have to say that never have I spoken to a fellow-man but once- saying that I could not see, and asking him to do the thing I needed, and been turned empty away.
At this spell of the feeble, the hardest fibres of man's nature dissolve to the tenderness of a woman's, and the gentleness of a mother takes the place of revolting coarseness and brutality. Such is the result of my acquaintance with mankind; a result, too, which I believe it will be
THE BLIND MAN IS AN OPTIMIST.
found upon examination, nearly all other persons partially or totally deprived of sight have been brought. Paradoxical as it may seem, the sightless man sees the best side of human nature-the blind man is an optimist. With all its faults and vices, with all its sins and crimes, there is ever to be found lurking in our nature a kindly sensibility, a genial helpful sympathy, toward those who are suffering and distressed; and those deprived of sight appear to me to share a larger portion of this holy treasure than any other class of the afflicted. Though the natural sun be blotted from their vision, human affection, by its ministering care, well-nigh replaces it. Though the universe of visual beauty be a blank, soft voices and kind hands create another, perhaps a lovelier world: for those who are thrown by calamity into the arms of Providence, Providence assures protection, and appoints angels whose changeless and gladdening office is to smooth their way and stay their steps, and yield guardianship and succour. The heavy laden are dear to God; and man has not so utterly lost God's image as not to be kind to those whom the Father loveth.
Nor are there any so bereaved and desolate but that they are, as it were, hedged about with blessings. No lot of human life is so hard and burdened that sure mercies are not promised-that constant benedictions will not descend upon it. I know that the years bring to us pain and sorrow; that no man's experience is complete except anguish have done its work upon him; I know that there come times in the life of every one of us, when God seems to have deserted us, and hope is dead. The night season forms a fearful period in the life of all; and then the heart of cheer seems a mockery, and the voice of music a cruel jest. But it is not so; believe me, it is not so. Patience, content, and hope are the lessons then set us to
learn; and to him that learneth, God giveth songs in the night. With that man it is well; for this is wisdom, the price of which is above rubies.
I cannot better conclude than by a noble poem, the work of a gifted countrywoman of our own, and yet attributed by many in this country and in England, to the great singer himself. The lines were composed by Elizabeth Lloyd, a lady of Philadelphia, and are supposed to be written by Milton in his blindness :
"I am old and blind
Men point to me as smitten by God's frown
Yet I am not cast down.
"I am weak, yet strong;
I murmur not that I no longer see;
Oh, merciful One!
When men are furthest, then thou art most near;
Trembling, where foot of mortal ne'er hath been,
Which eye hath never seen.
"Visions come and go.
Shapes of resplendent beauty round me throng;
Of soft and holy song.