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The next was in no hurry, however, for display; and, I must confess, he pored so long over his task, writing very slowly, halting sometimes on the down-stroke of a letter, and so frequently retracing, interlining, and blotting out, that having lost all patience, I was ready to push him from the seat, when he suddenly rose; his eye kindled into rapture; and, from a completely disfigured and illegible sheet, — in tones that yet ring in my ear, like music remembered from infancy, — he recited about twenty lyric lines, in which he had bound up so much harmony, splendor, and pathos of language, imagination, and feeling, that I could have listened to the repetition of the strain a thousand times over, from morning till evening on a midsummer's day, and afterwards could have realized all the romance of the song in the fairy land of a Midsummer Night's Dream.
But this enchantment, as well as the rest, melted away like the rainbow from my paper, while I gazed upon it. I had not time to regret the loss of Campbell, whom I forgot to name before, when another of the tuneful fraternity, of diminutive stature, but with the airiness and vivacity of a bird, darting in at the door, lighted on the chair, and rapidly crosslined and speckled my paper with the words and melody of a song, composed and set to music by himself; which he immediately warbled forth with the sweetness of redbreast, at the fall of the leaf. It was simple and passionate, tender and indignant, at the same time. The burden, of course, was beauty and wrongs; but whether of a female or his country, I could not precisely determine. If it was of Ireland that he sung, his patriotism had the fervor of love; if it was of a lady, his love had the impetuosity of patriotism. Would that he had always written as worthily or as ambiguously!
Wordsworth, with a redeemed nest of birds in his possession, next took the chair, and had run through half a dozen of his nightingale cadences, and might have sung till next morning without hazard of interruption from me, when a being of almost superhuman appearance made a third in our company. He might have issued from the world of spirits,
for, before either of us were aware, he stood glaring upon us. Wordsworth, perceiving him, immediately disappeared with his birds, and left me alone with the mysterious apparition.
It was Byron! He seized the pen, — it became a magician's wand in his grasp; — he touched the inkstand, it expanded into a caldron like that of the witches in Macbeth, and there was a dance of “black spirits and white, blue spirits and gray," about it, using their ineffable incantations with such effect, that the walls of the house fell into nothing before them, and my lord, suddenly unfolding the paper, which had already undergone so many metamorphoses, it stretched itself into a landscape, under the gloom of night, with a wan ray of the moon in the last quarter gleaming across it. Instantly we found ourselves, the mighty lord and I, in a corner of Lara's hall.
A loud but hesitating succession of raps at the door dissipated the whole phantasmagoria. A poet, who shall be nameless, came in. I looked up, and recollected myself"
80. The Milkmaid.
A MILKMAID, who poised a full pail on her head, Thus mused on her prospects in life, it is said: "Let's see – I should think that this milk would procure One hundred good eggs, or fourscore, to be sure.
Well, then it must not be forgotten, stop a bit. Some of these may be broken, and some may be rotten; But if twenty for accidents should be detached,
It will leave me just sixty sound eggs to be hatched.
no, sound chickens I mean;
But, then, there's their barley: how much will they need? Why, they take but one grain at a time when they feed: So that's a mere trifle : now, then, let us see, At a fair market price, how much money there'll be ?
"Six shillings a pair-five- four three-and-six;
fifty chickens I said
I'll ask brother Ned.
"O, but stop! — three-and-sixpence a pair I must sell 'em;
"Twenty-five pair of fowls-now how plaguesome it is,
"Twenty pounds, I am certain, will buy me a cow,
"Then I'll bid that old tumble-down hovel good-by;
But forgetting her burden, when this she had said,
This moral, I think, may be safely attached :`
81. Prevailing Errors in Regard to the Nature and End of Education.
"THE improvement of education," says a writer, "will alone lead to its extension; " and we add, that a clearer comprehension of its nature will alone lead to its improvement. Changes may be multiplied, but they will very rarely be improvements, unless they proceed on a clear and definite understanding of the end to be attained. Means are wisely chosen only when they are precisely adapted to the object sought, and they are thus adapted only when that object stands out clearly and boldly before the mind. Let us, then, look at some of the prevailing misconceptions.
By many, education is regarded simply as the means of communicating to the young certain mechanical accomplishments, which, in the progress of society, have become essential to our comfort and success. Thus, in the opinion of one, a child is educated when he can read, write, and cipher. To these, others would add certain higher scholastic attainments, more or less in number; and a third party hold no child to be educated, unless to what they term "school learning" is added some trade or employment by which he can make a living.
The great and all-important fact that a child has powers and sentiments which predestine him to advance forever in knowledge and virtue, but powers which will be stifled or perverted in their very infancy without proper culture, — this fact is overlooked.. It is not considered that he has an intellectual and a moral character to be formed, and that no character will ever reach the required excellence, unless wise principles are instilled, and good habits formed.
A child leaves school without having contracted either a desire for knowledge, or a love of good books. He knows as little of his own frame, of the laws of his intellectual and moral nature, of the constitution of the material world, and of the past history of his country and race, as if on these
subjects books were silent; and yet he is said to be educated! What is still more important, he has been subjected to no early, constant, and efficient training of his disposition, manner, judgment, and habits of thought and conduct.
The sentiments held to be appropriate to the adult have not been imbibed with the milk of infancy, and iterated and reiterated through the whole of subsequent childhood and youth; the manners considered becoming in men and women have not been sedulously imparted in early years; nor have the habits regarded as conducive to individual advancement, social happiness, and national prosperity, been cultivated with the utmost diligence; and yet the child is said to be educated! He knows little, and yet he imagines that he knows all, or enough!
Akin to the error just noticed is another, which makes education consist in acquiring knowledge. That no education is complete or sufficient which leaves the subject of it in ignorance, is plain; and as there is a certain amount of knowledge, which seems absolutely needful to man's highest welfare, and is, moreover, within the reach of all, it should be considered as an indispensable part of the education of the whole people. Such, in addition to reading, writing, and arithmetic, and a proper knowledge of the Scriptures, is an acquaintance with the criminal laws of the government under which we live, with general geography and history, and, to some extent, with our own physical, intellectual, and moral constitution.
The grand error is, that that is called knowledge which s mere rote-learning and word-mongery. The child is said to be educated, because it can repeat the text of this one's Grammar, and of that one's Geography and History; because a great many facts, often without connection or dependence, have, for the time being, been deposited in its memory, though they have never been wrought at all into the understanding, nor have awakened, in truth, one effort of the higher faculties.
The soil of the mind is left, by such culture, nearly as