« PreviousContinue »
LESSON CXXXI. - RESPONSIBILITY OF AMERICANS.
E. S. GANNETT.
The Christian world is passing through a momentous crisis. A struggle has begun, such as the kingdoms of Europe have never before known. The elements of revo
lution no longer slumber in any one of them. Ever and 5 anon, they break forth in tumult and bloodshed. Smoth
ered, they are not idle; pent up in the confinement which sovereigns impose on them, they are but accumulating strength for new eruptions. Two parties exist throughout
all the states of Europe, with the exception perhaps of 10 imperial Russia,—the popular party, and the party that
support old institutions, either because they know that, if these fall, they shall be buried in the ruins, or because habit has so accustomed them to subjection, that they feel
no wish to part with their chains. 15 The cause of freedom, of human rights, and the world's
improvement, depends on the fidelity of the popular party to the principles which they have undertaken to sustain. A fearful contest must ensue, with reciprocal defeat, and
mutual obstinacy. If the popular party should prevail, it 20 can only be after long and desperate efforts, under which
they will need every encouragement. With this party, our sympathies are inseparably linked. From our example, came the first ray that penetrated the darkness, from
which they have awoke. Under its steady influence, they 25 hope to press on to the accomplishment of their wishes.
If its aspect should be changed, their disappointment would
eyes of Europe are upon us; the monarch, from his throne, watches us with an angry countenance; the peas30 ant turns his gaze on us, with joyful faith ; the writers, on
politics, quote our condition, as a proof of the possibility of popular government; the heroes of freedom animate their followers, by reminding them of our success.
At no moment of the last half century, has it been so important, 35 that we should send up a clear and strong light which may
be seen across the Atlantic. An awful charge of unfaithfulness to the interests of mankind, will be recorded against us, if we suffer this light to be obscured, by the mingling
vapors of passion, and misrule, and sin. 40 But not Europe, alone, will be influenced by the charac
ter we give to our destiny. The republics of the south have no other guide towards the establishment of order and freedom, than our example. If this should fail them, , the last stay would be torn from their hope. We are placed under a most solemn obligation, to keep before them
this motive to perseverance, in their endeavors to place 5 free institutions on a sure basis. Shall we leave those
wide regions to despair and anarchy? Better that they had patiently borne a foreign yoke, though it bowed their necks to the ground.
Citizens of the United States, it has been said of us, 10 with truth, that we are at the head of the popular party of
the world. Shall we be ashamed of so glorious a rank? or shall we basely desert our place, and throw away our distinction? Forbid it, self-respect, patriotism, philan
thropy! Christians, we believe that God has made us a 15 name and a praise, among the nations. We believe that
our religion yields its best fruits in a free land. Shall we be regardless of our duty, as creatures of the Divine Power, and recipients of his goodness ? Shall we be indifferent
to the effects which our religion may work in the world? 20 Forbid it our gratitude, our faith, our piety!
In one way only, can we discharge our duty to the rest of mankind; by the purity and elevation of character that shall distinguish us as a people. If we sink into luxury,
vice, or moral apathy, our brightness will be lost, our 25 prosperity deprived of its vital element; and we shall
appear disgraced before man, guilty before God.
LESSON CXXXII.--THE MOCKING-BIRD. ALEXANDER WILSON.
The plumage of the mocking-bird, though none of the homeliest, has nothing gaudy or brilliant in it; and, had he nothing else to recommend him, would scarcely entitle
him to notice; but his figure is well-proportioned, and 5 even handsome. The ease, elegance, and rapidity of his
movements, the animation of his eye, and the intelligence he displays in listening, and laying up lessons from almost every species of the feathered creation within his hearing,
are really surprising, and mark the peculiarity of his 10 genius.
To these qualities, we may add that of a voice full, strong, and musical, and capable of almost every modulation, from the clear, mellow tones of the wood-thrush, to
the savage screams of the bald eagle. In measure and 15 accent, he faithfully follows his originals. In force and
sweetness of expression, he greatly improves upon them. In his native groves, mounted upon the top of a tall bush, or half-grown tree, in the dawn of a dewy morning, while
the woods are already vocal with a multitude of warblers, 5 his admirable song rises preërninent over every competitor.
The ear can listen to his sic alone, to which that of all the others seems a mere accompaniment. Neither is
this strain altogether imitative. His own native notes, 10 which are easily distinguishable by such as are acquainted
with those of our various song birds, are bold and full, and varied seemingly beyond all limits. They consist of short expressions of two, three, or, at the rnost, five or six
syllables, generally interspersed with imitations, and all 15 of them uttered with great emphasis and rapidity, and
continued with undiminished ardor, for half an hour, or an hour, at a time; his expanded wings and tail, glistening with white, and the buoyant gaiety of his action, arresting the eye, as his song most irresistibly does the
He sweeps round with enthusiastic ecstasy. He mounts and descends, as his song swells, or dies away ; and, as my friend, Mr. Bartrain, has beautifully expressed it, “he bounds aloft with the celerity of an arrow, as if to
recover or recall his very soul, which expired in the last 25 elevated strain."
While thus exerting himself, a bystander, destitute of sight, would suppose that the whole feathered tribe had assembled together, on a trial of skill, each striving to
produce his utmost effect :-so perfect are his imitations. 30 He many times deceives the sportsman, and sends him in
search of birds that perhaps are not within miles of him, but whose notes he exactly imitates. Even birds themselves are frequently imposed on, by this admirable
mimic, and are decoyed, by the fancied calls of their 35 mates; or dive with precipitation into the depths of
thickets, at the scream of what they suppose to be the sparrow-hawk.
LESSON CXXXIII. -THE EUROPEAN AND THE AMERICAN NA
In many respects, the European and the American nations are alike. They are alike Christian states, civilized states, and commercial states. They have access to the same common fountains of intelligence; they all draw from those sources which belong to the whole civilized world. In knowledge and letters,-in the arts of peace and war,-they differ in degrees; but they bear, never
theless, a general resemblance. 5 On the other hand, in matters of government and social
institution, the nations on this continent are founded upon principles which never did prevail, in considerable extent either at any other time, or in any other place. There
has never been presented, to the mind of man, a more 10 interesting subject of contemplation, than the establish
ment of so many nations in America, partaking in the civilization, and in the arts of the old world, but having left behind them those cumbrous institutions which had
their origin in a dark and military age. 15 Whatsoever European experience has developed, favor.
able to the freedom and the happiness of man; whatsoever European genius has invented for his improvement or gratification ; whatsoever of refinement or polish, the
culture of European society presents, for his adoption and 20 enjoyment,—all this is offered to man in America, with
the additional advantages of the full power of erecting forms of government on free and simple principles, without overturning institutions suited to times long passed,
but too strongly supported, either by interests or preju25 dices, to be shaken without convulsions.
This unprecedented state of things, presents the happiest of all occasions for an attempt to establish national intercourse upon improved principles ; upon principles
tending to peace and the mutual prosperity of nations. 30 In this respect, America, the whole of America, has a
new career before her. If we look back on the history of Europe, we see how great a portion of the last two centuries, her states have been at war, for interests connected
mainly with her feudal monarchies ; wars, for particular 35 dynastics; wars, to support or defeat particular succes
sions; wars, to enlarge or curtail the dominions of particular crowns; wars, to support or to dissolve family alliances ; wars, in fine, to enforce or to resist religious
in.olerance. What long and bloody chapters do these 40 not fill, in the history of European politics !
Who does not see, and who does not rejoice to see, that America has a glorious chance of escaping, at least, these causes of contention? Who does not see, and who does not rejoice to see, that, on this continent, under other forms of government, we have before us the noble hope of being able, by the mere influence of civil liberty and religious toleration, to dry up these outpouring fountains
of blood, and to extinguish these consuming fires of war? 5 The general opinion of the age, favors such hopes and
such prospects. There is a growing disposition to treat the intercourse of nations more like the useful intercourse of friends : philosophy,—just views of national advantage,
good sense, and the dictates of a common religion, and an 10 increasing conviction that war is not the interest of the
human race,-all concur to increase the interest created by this new accession 10 the list of nations.
LESSON CXXXIV. -THE TIMES, THE MANNERS, AND THE MEN.
J. R. LOWELL.
And, doubtless, after us, some purer scheme 5 Will be shaped out by wiser men than we,
Made wiser by the steady growth of truth.
Than in a brute inaction browse and sleep. 10 No man is born into the world, whose work
Is not born with him ; there is always work,
The busy world shoves angrily aside
Until occasion tells him what to do;
Our time is one that calls for earnest deeds. 20 Reason and Government, like two broad seas,
Yearn for each other, with outstretched arms
The field lies wide before us, where to reap 25 The easy harvest of a deathless name,
Though with no better sickles than our swords.