Page images
PDF
EPUB

indissolubly, for life and for death, to truth and duty; espouses as its own the interests of human nature; scorns all meanness and defies all peril; hears in its own con

science a voice louder than threatenings and thunders; 5 withstands all the powers of the universe, which would

sever it from the cause of freedom, virtue, and religion ; reposes an unfaltering trust in God in the darkest hour, and is ever “ready to be offered up” on the altar of its

country or of mankind. Of this moral greatness, which 10 throws all other forms of greatness into obscurity, we see

not a trace or a spark in Napoleon. Though clothed with the power of a God, the thought of consecrating himself to the introduction of a new and higher era, to the exalta

tion of the character and condition of his race, seems never 15 to have dawned on his mind. The spirit of disinterested

ness and self-sacrifice seems not to have waged a moment's war with self-will and ambition. His ruling passions were singularly at variance with magnanimity. Moral great

ness has too much simplicity, is too unostentatious, too 20 self-subsistent, and enters into others' interests with too

much heartiness, to live a day for what Napoleon always lived, to make itself the theme, and gaze, and wonder of a dazzled world.

Next to moral, comes intellectual greatness, or genius in 25 the highest sense of that word; and by this, we mean that

sublime capacity of thought, through which the soul, smitten with the love of the true and the beautiful, essays to comprehend the universe, soars into the heavens, pene

trates the earth, penetrates itself, questions the past, anti30 cipates the future, traces out the general and all-compre

hending laws of nature, binds together by innumerable affinities and relations all the objects of its knowledge, and, not satisfied with what is finite, frames to itself ideal

excellence, loveliness, and grandeur. This is the great35 ness which belongs to philosophers, inspired poets, and to the master spirits of the fine arts.

Next comes the greatness of action; and by this we mean the sublime power of conceiving and executing bold

and extensive plans; constructing and bringing to bear on 40 á mighty object a complicated machinery of means, éner.

gies, and arrangements, and accomplishing great outward effects. To this head belongs the greatness of Bonaparte, and that he possessed it, we need not prove, and none will be hardy enough to deny. A man ivho raised himself from obscurity to a throne, who changed the face of the world, who made himself felt through powerful and civilized nations, who sent the terror of his name across seas

and oceans, whose will was pronounced and feared as des5 tiny, whose donatives were crowns, whose ante-chamber

was thronged by submissive princes, who broke down the awful barrier of the Alps, and made them a highway, and whose fame was spread beyond the boundaries of civiliza

tion to the steppes of the Cossack, and the deserts of the 10 Arab; a man, who has left this record of himself in his

tory, has taken out of our hands the question whether he shall be called great. All must concede to him a sublimo power of action, an energy equal to great effects.

every cliff.

LESSON CLXXXII.—THE THUNDER STORM.-WASHINGTON

IRVING. [Scenery in the Highlands, on the River Hudson.] In the second day of the voyage, they came to the Highlands. It was the latter part of a calm, sultry day, that

they floated gently with the tide between these stern moun5 tains. There was that perfect quiet, which prevails over

nature, in the languor of summer heat; the turning of a plank, or the accidental falling of an oar, on deck, was echoed from the mountain side, and reverberated along

the shores; and, if by chance, the captain gave a shout of 10 command, there were airy longues that mocked it, from

Dolph gazed about him, in mute delight and wonder, at these scenes of nature's magnificence. To the left, the

Dunderberg reared its woody precipices, height over 15 height, forest over forest, away into the deep summer sky.

To the right, strutted forth the bold promontory of Antony's Nose, with a solitary eagle wheeling about it; while beyond, mountain succeeded to mountain, until they

seemed to lock their arms together, and confine this 20 mighty river in their embraces. There was a feeling of

quiet luxury in gazing at the broad, green bosoms, here and there, scooped out among the precipices; or at woodlands high in air, nodding over the edge of some beetling

bluff, and their foliage all transparent in the yellow sun25 shine.

In the midst of his admiration, Dolph remarked a pile of bright snowy clouds, peering above the western heights.

It was succeeded by another, and another, each seemingly pushing onwards its predecessor, and towering, with dazzling brilliancy, in the deep blue atmosphere : and now

muttering peals of thunder were faintly heard, rolling be5 hind the mountains. The river, hitherto still and glassy,

reflecting pictures of the sky and land, now showed a dark ripple at a distance, as the breeze came creeping up it. The fish-hawks wheeled and screamed, and sought their

nests on the high dry trees; the crows flew clamorously 10 to the crevices of the rocks; and all nature seemed conscious of the approaching thunder-gust.

The clouds now rolled, in volumes, over the mountain tops; their summits still bright and snowy, but the lower

parts of an inky blackness. The rain began to patter down 15 in broad and scattered drops; the wind freshened, and

curled up the waves ; at length, it seemed as if the bellying clouds were torn open by the mountain tops, and complete torrents of rain came rattling down. The lightning

leaped from cloud to cloud, and streamed quivering against 20 the rocks, splitting and rending the stoutest forest trees.

The thunder burst in tremendous explosions; the peals were echoed from mountain to mountain ; they crashed upon Dunderberg, and then rolled up the long defile of the

Highlands, each headland making a new echo, until old 25 Bull Hill seemed to bellow back the storm.

For a time, the scudding rack and mist, and the sheeted rain, almost hid the landscape from the sight. There was a fearful gloom, illumined still more fearfully by the

streams of lightning, which glittered among the rain-drops. 30 Never had Dolph beheld such an absolute warring of the

elements; it seemed, as if the storm was tearing and rending its way through this mountain defile, and had brought all the artillery of heaven into action.

LESSON CLXXXIII.-CLASSICAL LEARNING.-JOSEPH STORY.

The importance of classical learning to professional education, is so obvious, that the surprise is, that it could ever have become matter of disputation. I speak not of

its power in refining the taste, in disciplining the judg5 ment, in invigorating the understanding, or in warming

the heart with elevated sentiments; but of its power of direct, positive, necessary instruction. Until the eighteenth century, the mass of science, in its principal

Be it so.

branches, was deposited in the dead languages, and much of it still reposes there. To be ignorant of these languages, is to shut out the lights of former times, or to ex

amine them only through the glimmerings of inadequate 5 translations.

It is often said, that there have been erninent men and eminent writers, to whom the ancient languages were unknown,-men who have risen by the force of their talents,

and writers who have written with a purity and ease 10 which hold them up, as models for imitation. On the

other hand, it is as often said, that scholars do not always compose either with elegance or chasteness; that their diction is sometimes loose and harsh, and sometimes pon

derous and affected. 15

I am not disposed to call in question the accuracy of either statement. But I would, nevertheless, say that the presence of classical learning was not the cause of the faults of the one class, nor the absence of it,

the cause of the excellence of the other. And I would 20 put this fact, as an answer to all such reasonings, that

there is not a single language of modern Europe, in which literature has made any considerable advances, which is not directly of Roman origin, or has not incorporated into

its very structure many, very many, of the idioms and pe25 culiarities of the ancient tongues. The English language

affords a strong illustration of the truth of this remark. It abounds with words and meanings drawn from classical

Innumerable phrases retain the symmetry of their ancient dress. Innumerable expressions have re30 ceived their vivid tints from the beautiful dyes of Roman

and Grecian roots. If scholars, therefore, do not write our language with ease, or purity, or elegance, the cause must lie somewhat deeper than a conjectural ignorance of

its true diction. 35 I repeat, there is not a single nation from the north to

the south of Europe, from the bleak shores of the Baltic to the bright plains of immortal Italy, whose literature is not imbedded in the very elements of classical learning.

The literature of England is, in an emphatic sense, the 40 production of her scholars—of men who have cultivated

letters in her universities, and colleges, and grammarschools -of men who thought any life too short, chiefly because it left some relic of antiquity unmastered, and any other fame humble, because it faded in the presence of

sources.

Roman and Grecian genius. He who studies English literature without the lights of classical learning, loses half the charms of its sentiments and style, of its force and

feelings, of its delicate touches, of its delightful allusions, 5 of its illustrative associations. Who that reads the poetry

of Gray, does not feel that it is the refinement of classical taste, which gives such inexpressible vividness and transparency to his diction? Who that reads the concentrated

sense and melodious versification of Dryden and Pope, 10 does not perceive in them the disciples of the old school,

whose genius was inflamed by the heroic verse, the terse satire, and the playful wit of antiquity ? Who that meditates over the strains of Milton, does not feel that he drank

deep 15

- At “Siloa's brook, that flowed.

Fast by the oracle of God ;" that the fires of his magnificent mind were lighted by coals from ancient altars?

It is no exaggeration to declare, that he who proposes to 20 abolish classical studies, proposes to render, in a great

measure, inert and unedifying the mass of English literature for three centuries; to rob us of much of the glory of the past, and much of the instruction of future ages; to

blind us to excellences which few may hope to equal, and 25 none to surpass; to annihilate associations which are in

terwoven with our best sentiments, and give to distant times and countries a presence and reality, as if they were, in fact, our own.

LESSON CLXXXIV.-TIIE BUNKER HILL MONUMENT.DANIEL

WEBSTER.

The Bunker Hill Monument is finished. Here it stands. Fortunate in the natural eminence on which it is placed. -higher, infinitely higher, in its objects and purpose, it

rises over the land, and over the sea; and visible, at their 5 homes, to three hundred thousand citizens of Massachu

setts,-it stands, a memorial of the last, and a monitor to the present, and all succeeding generations. I have spoken of the loftiness of its purpose.

If it had been without any other design than the creation of a work 10 of art, the granite, of which it is composed, would have

slept in its native bed. It has a purpose ; and that pur

« PreviousContinue »