« PreviousContinue »
XVII.-WHEN I AM OLD.
CAROLINE A. BRIGGS.
1. When I am old-(and O! how soon
Will life's sweet morning yield to noon,
2. When I am old, I shall not care
To deck with flowers my faded hair
3. When I am old, my friends will be
Old and infirm and bowed, like me;
4. When I am old, I'd rather bend
Thus sadly o'er each buried friend
To picture in prophetic rhyme
5. When I am old ?-Perhaps ere then
I shall be missed from haunts of men ;
6. Ere I am old, O, let me give
My life to learning how to live!
XVIII.-TRUTH AND TRUTHFULNESS.
J. G. HOLLAND. 1. One of the rarest powers possessed by man is the power to state a fact. It seems a very simple thing to tell the truth, but, beyond all question, there is nothing half so easy as lying. To comprehend a fact in its exact length, breadth, relations, and significance, and to state it in language that shall represent it with exact fidelity, are the work of a mind singularly gifted, finely balanced, and thoroughly practiced in that special department of effort.
2. The men are comparatively few who are in the habit of telling the truth. We all lie, every day of our livesalmost in every sentence we utter-not consciously and criminally, perhaps, but really, in that our language fails to represent truth, and state facts correctly. Our truths are halftruths, or distorted truths, or exaggerated truths, or sophisticated truths. Much of this is owing to carelessness, much to habit, and, more than has generally been supposed, to mental incapacity.
3. I have known eminent men who had not the power to state a fact, in its whole volume and outline, because, first, they could not comprehend it perfectly, and, second, because their power of expression was limited. The lenses by which they apprehended their facts were not adjusted properly ; so they saw every thing with a blur. Definite outlines, cleanlycut edges, exact apprehension of volume and weight, nice measurement of relations, were matters outside of their observation and experience. They had broad minds, but bungling; and their language was no better than their apprehensions-usually it was worse, because language is rarely as definite as apprehension. Men rarely do their work to suit them, because their tools are imperfect.
4. There are men in all communities who are believed to be honest, yet whose word is never taken as authority upon any subject. There is a flaw or a warp somewhere in their perceptions, which prevents them from receiving truthful impressions. Every thing comes to them distorted, as natural objects are distorted by reaching the eye through wrinkled window-glass. Some are able to apprehend a fact and state it correctly, if it have no direct relation to themselves ; but the moment their personality, or their personal interest, is involved, the fact assumes false proportions and false colors.
5. I know a physician whose patients are always alarmingly sick when he is first called to them. As they usually get well, I am bound to believe that he is a good physician; but I am not bound to believe that they are all as sick at beginning as he supposes them to be. The first violent symptoms operate upon his imagination and excite his fears ; and his opinion as to the degree of danger attaching to the diseases of his patients is not worth half so much as that of any sensible old nurse. In fact, nobody thinks of taking it all; and those who know him, and who hear his sad representa
tions of the condition of his patients, show equal distrust of his word and faith in his skill, by taking it for granted that they are in a fair way to get well.
QUESTIONS.—What instruction is imparted in this selection? Is it important to cultivate the habit of exact truthfulness? Is it easy to all persons ?
XIX.--ABOU BEN ADHEM.
XX.—THE CRICKET ON THE HEARTH.
CHARLES DICKENS. 1. The kettle began it! Don't tell me what Mrs. Peerybingle said. I know better. Mrs. Peerybingle may leave it on record to the end of time that she couldn't say which of them began it; but I say the kettle did. I ought to know, I hope! The kettle began it, full five minutes by the little waxy-faced Dutch clock in the corner, before the Cricket uttered a chirp.
2. As if the clock hadn't finished striking, and the convulsive little Haymaker at the top of it, jerking away right and left with a scythe in front of a Moorish Palace, hadn't mowed down half an acre of imaginary grass before the Cricket joined in at all!
3. Why, I am not naturally positive. Every one knows that I wouldn't set my own opinion against the opinion of Mrs. Peerybingle, unless I were quite sure, on any account whatever. Nothing should induce me. But this is a question of fact. And the fact is, that the kettle began it, at least five minutes before the Cricket gave any sign of being in existence. Contradict me, and I'll say ten.
4. Let me narrate exactly how it happened. I should have proceeded to do so, in my very first word, but for this plain consideration-if I am to tell a story I must begin at the beginning; and how is it possible to begin at the beginning, without beginning at the kettle ?
5. It appears as if there were a sort of match, or trial of skill, you must understand, between the kettle and the Cricket. And this is what led to it, and how it came about.
6. Mrs. Peerybingle, going out into the raw twilight, and clicking over the wet stones in a pair of pattens that worked innumerable rough impressions of the first proposition in Euclid all about the yard-Mrs. Peerybingle filled the kettle at the water-butt. Presently returning, less the pattens (and a good deal less, for they were tall and Mrs. Peerybingle was but short), she set the kettle on the fire. In doing which she lost her temper, or mislaid it for an instant; for, the water being uncomfortably cold, and in that slippy, slushy, sleety sort of state wherein it seems to penetrate through every kind of substance, patten-rings included-had laid hold of Mrs. Peerybingle's toes, and even splashed her legs. And when we rather plume ourselves (with reason too) upon our legs, and keep ourselves particularly neat in point of stockings, we find this, for the moment, hard to bear.
7. Besides, the kettle was aggravating and obstinate. It wouldn't allow itself to be adjusted on the top bar; it wouldn't hear of accommodating itself kindly to the knobs