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Child!” Peter-Peterkin-Pym-Stretch—where are your lazinesses-clear decks.
“ Away with Melancholy
Nor doleful changes ring
NORTH. My dear Talboys, you seem to think that I have the power of answering, off-band, any and every question a first-rate fellow chooses to ask me. Classical-classical! Why, I shonld say, in the first place-One and one other Mighty People-Those, the Kings of Thought - These, the Kings of the Earth.
The Greeks-and Romans.
NORTH. In the second place
TALBOYS. Attend-do attend, gentlemen. And I hope I am not too much presuming on our not ancient friendship-for I feel that a few hours on Lochawe-side give the privilege of years-in suggesting that you will have the goodness to use the metal nut-crackers ; they are more euphonious than ivory with walnuts.
NORTH. In the second place--let me consider-Mr Talboys--I should say-in the second place-yes, I have it-a Character of Art expressing itself by words: a mode-a mode of Poetry and Eloquence-FITNESS AND BEAUTY.
NORTH. Much more. We think of the Greeks and Romans, sir, as those in whom the Human Mind reached Superhuman Power.
TALBOYS. Superhuman ?
NORTH. We think so-comparing ourselves with them, we cannot help it. In the Hellenic Wit, we suppose Genius and Taste met at their height--the Inspiration Omnipotent—the Instinct unerring! The creations of Greek Poetry !-Ilongisma Making! There the soul seems to be free from its chains—happily self-lawed. “The Earth we pace” is there peopled with divine Forms. Sculpture was the human Form glorified-deified. And as in Marble, so in Song. Something common--terrestrial-adheres to our being, and weighs us down. They- the Hellenes-appear to us to have really walked—as we walk in our visions of exaltation-as if the Graces and the Muses held sway over daily and hourly existence, and not alone over work of Art and solemn occasion. No moral stain or imperfection can hinder them from appearing to us as the Light of human kind. Singular, that in Greece we reconcile ourselves to Heathepism.
him, only because it is a miraculous mirror that resplendently and more beantifully reflects-himself
“ Divisque videbit Permixtos Heroas, et Ipse videbitur illis."
SEWARD. Very fine.
NORTH. O life of old, and long, long ago! In the meek, solemn, soul-stilling hush of Academic Bowers !
SEWARD. The Isis !
NORTH. My youth returns. Come, spirits of the world that has been! Throw open the valvules of these your shrines, in which you stand around me, niched side by side, in visible presence, in this cathedral-like Library! I read Historian, Poet, Orator, Voyager-a life that slid silently away in shades, or that bounded like a bark over the billows. I lift up the curtain of all ages-I stand under all skies-on the Capitol-on the Acropolis. Like that magician whose spirit, with a magical word, could leave his own bosom to inhabit another, I take upon myself every mode of existence. I read Thucydides, and I would be a Historian-Demosthenes, and I would be an Orator-Homer, and I dread to believe myself called to be, in some shape or other, a servant of the Muse. Heroes and Hermits of Thought-Seers of the Invisible-Prophets of the Ineffable—Hierophants of profitable mysteries-Oracles of the NationsLuminaries of that spiritual Heaven! I bid ye hail !
NORTH. Ay-from the beginning a part of the race have separated themselves from the dusty, and the dust-devoured, turmoil of Action to Contemplation. Have thought-known-worshipped! And such knowledge Books keep. Books now crumbling like Towers and Pyramids—now outlasting them! Books that, from age to age, and all the sections of mankind helping, build up the pile of Knowledge-a trophied Citadel. He who can read Books as they should be read, peruses the operation of the Creator in his conscious, and in his unconscious Works, which yet we call upon to join, as if conscious, in our worship. Yet why--oh! why all this pains to attain that, through the labour of ages, which in the dewy, sunny prime of morn, one thrill of transport gives to me and to the Lark alike, summoning, lifting both heavenwards ? Ah! perchance because the dewy, sunny prime does not last through the day! Because light poured into the eyes, and sweet breath inhaled, are not the whole of man's life here below-and because there is an Hereafter!
SEWARD. I know where he is, Buller. He called it well a Cathedral-like Library.
NORTH. The breath of departed years floats here for my respiration. The pure air of heaven flows round about, but enters not. The sunbeams glide in, bedimmed as if in some haunt half-separated from Life, yet on our side of Death. Recess, hardly accessible-profound-of which I, the sole inmate, held under an uncomprehended restraint, breathe, move, and follow my own way and wise, apart from human mortals! Ye! tall, thick Volumes, that are each a treasure-house of austere or blazing thoughts, which of you shall I touch with sensitive fingers, of which violate the calmly austere repose ? I dread what I desire. You may disturb-you may destroy me! Knowledge pulsates in me, as I receive it, communing with myself on my unquiet or tearful pillow-or as it visits me, brought on the streaming moonlight, or from the fields afire with noon-splendour, or looking at me from human eyes, and stirring round and around me in the tumult of men-Your knowledge comes in a holy stillness and chillness, as if spelt off tombstones.
SEWARD. Magdalen College Library, I do believe. Mr North-Mr North—awakeawake-here we are all in Deeside.
NORTH. Ay-ay-you say well, Seward. “Look at the studies of the Great Scholar, and see from how many quarters of the mind impulses may mingle to compose the motives that bear him on with indefatigable strength in his laborious career."
SEWARD. These were not my very words, sir
NORTH. Ay, Seward, you say well. From how many indeed! First among the prime, that peculiar aptitude and faculty, which may be called-a Taste and Genias for-Words.
I rather failed there in the Schools.
NORTH. Yet you were in the First Class. There is implied in it, Seward, a readiness of logical discrimination in the Understanding, which apprehends the propriety of Words.
NORTH. For, Seward, the Thoughts, the Notions themselves-must be distinctly dissevered in the mind, which shall exactly apply to each Thought-Notionits appropriate sign, its own Word.
BULLER. You might as well have said “ Buller"—for I beat Seward in my Logic.
NORTH. But even to this task, Seward, of rightly distinguishing the meaning of Words, more than a mere precision of thinking—more than a clearness and strictness of the intellectual action is requisite.
BULLER. And in Classics we were equal.
You will be convinced of this, Buller, if you recollect what Words express. The mind itself. For all its affections and sensibilities, Talboys, furnish a whole host of meanings, which must have names in Language. For mankind do not rest from enriching and refining their languages, until they have made them capable of giving the representation of their whole Spirit.
TALBOYS. The pupil of language, therefore, sir-pardon my presumption-before he can recognise the appropriation of the Sign, must recognise the Thing signified?
NORTH. And if the Thing signified, Talboys, by the Word, be some profound, solemn, and moral affection or if it be some wild, fanciful impression--or if it be some delicate shade or tinge of a tender sensibility-can anything be more evident than that the Scholar must have experienced in himself the solemn, or the wild, or the tenderly delicate feeling before he is in the condition of affixing the right and true sense to the Word that expresses it ?
TALBOYS. I should think so, sir.
SEWARD. The Words of Man paint the spirit of Man. The Words of a People depicture the Spirit of a People.
NORTH. Well said, Seward. And, therefore, the Understanding that is to possess the Words of a language, in the Spirit in wbich they were or are spoken and written, must, by self-experience and sympathy, be able to converse, and have conversed, with the Spirit of the People, now and of old.
BULLER. And yet what coarse fellows hold up their dunderheads as Scholars, forsooth, in these our days !
NORTH. Hence it is an impossibility that a low and hard moral nature should furnish a bigh and fine Scholar. The intellectual endowments must be supported and made available by the concurrence of the sensitive nature—of the moral and the imaginative sensibilities.
BULLER. What moral and imaginative sensibilities have they—the blear-eyed-the purblind—the pompous and the pedantic! But we have some true scholars --for example
NORTH. No names, Buller. Yes, Seward, the knowledge of Words is the Gate of Scholarship. Therefore I lay down upon the threshold of the Scholar's Studies this first condition of his high and worthy success, that he will not pluck the loftiest palm by means of acute, quick, clear, penetrating, sagacious, intellectual faculties alone-let him not hope it: that he requires to the highest renown also a capacious, profound, and tender soul.
SEWARD. Ay, sir, and I say so in all humility, this at the gateway, and upon the threshold. How much more when he reads.
SEWARD. When the written Volumes of Mind from different and distant ages of the world, from its different and distant climates, are successively unrolled before his insatiable sight and his insatiable sonl !
NORTH. From what unknown reeesses, from what unlocked fountains in the depth of his own being, shall he bring into the light of day the thoughts by means of which he shall understand Homer, Pindar, Æschylus, Demosthenes, Plato, Aristotle-DISCOURSING! Shall understand them, as the younger did the elder—the contemporaries did the contemporaries—as each sublime spirit understood-himself ?
NORTH. I did not say you were.
BULLER. Thank you. What do you think of that, Mr Talboys? Address Seward, sir.
NORTH. I address you all three. Is the student smitten with the sacred love of Song? Is he sensible to the profound allurement of philosophic truth? Does he yearn to acquaint himself with the fates and fortunes of his kind ? All these several desires are so many several inducements of learned study.
BULLER. I understand that.
NORTH. And another inducement to such study is—an ear sensible to the Beauty of the Music of Words—and the metaphysical faculty of unravelling the causal process which the human mind followed in imparting to a Word, originally the sign of one Thought only, the power to signify a cognate second Thought, which shall displace the first possessor and exponent, usurp the throne, and rule for ever over an extended empire in the minds, or the hearts, or the souls of men.
BULLER. Let him have his swing, Mr Talboys.
TALBOYS. He has it in that chair.
NORTH. A Taste and a Genius for Words! An ear for the beautiful music of Words! A happy justness in the perception of their strict proprieties! A fine skill in apprehending the secret relations of Thought with Thought-relations along which the mind moves with creative power, to find out for its own use, and for the use of all minds to come, some hitherto uncreated expression of an idea-an image-a sentiment-a passion! These dispositions, and these faculties of the Scholar in another Mind falling in with other faculties of genius, produce a student of a different name- THE POET.
BULLER. Oh! my dear dear sir, of Poetry we surely had enough--I don't say more than enough-a few days ago, sir.
NORTH. Well-I will. I remember the time, Seward, when there was a great clamour for a Standard of Taste. A definite measure of the indefinite!
TALBOYS. Which is impossible.
NORTH. And there is a great clamour for a Standard of Morals. A definite measure of the indefinite!
TALBOYS. Which is impossible.
NORTH. Why, gentlemen, the Faculty of Beauty lives ; and in finite beings, which we are, Life changes incessantly. The Faculty of Moral Perception lives— and thereby it too changes for better and for worse. This is the Divine Law --at once encouraging and fearful—that Obedience brightens the moral eyesight-Sin darkens. Let all men know this, and keep it in mind always-that a single narrowest, simplest Duty, steadily practised day after day, does more to support, and may do more to enlighten the soul of the Doer, than a course of Moral Philosophy taught by a tongue which a soul compounded of Bacon, Spenser, Shakspeare, Homer, Demosthenes, and Burke-to say nothing of Socrates, and Plato, and Aristotle, should inspire.
BULLER. You put it strongly, sir.
TALBOYS. Undeniable doctrine.
NORTH. Gentlemen, you will often find this question/" Is there a Standard of Taste ? " inextricably confused with the question." Is there a true and a false Taste ?" He who denies the one seems to deny the other. In like manner, " Is there a Right and Wrong?" And " is there accessible to us an infallible