Imagens das páginas

Haste, haste, haste . To woodland dells away!
There flowers for us are springing,
And little birds are singing—

“Come, come, come! Good-morrow! come away!”

A wiseacre lately remarked, as a proof of the sober sense of the age, that no one now sang about the happiness of childhood! Sombre sense, he should have said, if he misused the word “sense” at all. No happiness, nay, no peculiar happiness in childhood | Does he mean to assert that we get happier as we get older —that life, at the age of Methuselah, is as joyous as at fifteen Has Novelty, which charms in all the details of existence, no charm in existence itself? Is suspicion—that infallible growth of years, that baneful result of knowledge of the world—no damper on happiness? Is innocence nothing? Is ennui known to the young: No, no

Youth is the summer of life. It is the very heyday of joy, the poetry of existence. Youth beholds everything through a golden medium,_through the prism of Fancy, not in the glass of Reason; in the rose-hue of idealism, not in the naked forms that we call reality.

“All that's bright must fade,
The brightest still the fleetest: "

We have but to look around us and within us to see the sad truth exemplified. Summer is fading with its roses, Youth vanishes with its dreams. “Passing away” is written on all things earthly. Yet truly, to the soul, “a thing of beauty is a joy for ever.” We have a compensating faculty, which gives immortality to the mortal in the cells of Memory; the joys of which Time has robbed us still live on there in perennial youth. Nay, more, they live unmarred by the sorrows that in actual life grow up along with them. As the colours of fancy fade from the Present, they gather in brighter radiance around the Past. We conserve the roses of Summer, let us embalm the memories of Youth.


HISTORY must ever possess an undying fascination for the minds of men; for its subject is the story of our race, and its interest is ever human to the core. Its burden is now a song of rejoicing at the triumphs, or a wail of lamentation over the errors and sufferings, of mankind. How History, in gifted hands, exults as it reaches those blooming points in a nation's career—those eras of Pericles, of Augustus, of Haroun-Alraschid, or of our own Elizabeth, or, piercing back through the veil of time, discerns with joy the brilliant era of a Vicramaditya in the old world of the Hindoos, -the grandeur of a Rameses, or still remoter monarchs in Egypt—or a rule of then unequalled justice and beneficence extending back for countless ages in the early history of secluded China. And how it saddens to see those old empires pass away !—to behold Rome, and Greece, and Nineveh, and Egypt, Susa and Persepolis, and the grand old cities of India, withered, rolled up like a scroll, and vanishing from the face of the earth. Yet with what quiet hopefulness, with what assured resignation, does it contemplate all those changes. “Passing away,” it knows, is written from the first upon the brow of empires as well as of men; and even when the mighty fabrics of human power are seen crumbling into dust beneath internal decay or external assault, when the stores of knowledge, the monuments of art—in fact, a whole civilisation—seems rushing into oblivion before an onslaught of barbarism, the philosophic historian, with an assuredness of faith stronger than other men's, knows that the human race is but on the eve of some new and higher development—that all is ordered by One without whom not a sparrow falls to the ground, and that from out of the present chaos will emerge new kingdoms and communities of men, purged from the dross of the old, yet inheriting the larger portion of their wisdom. “All changes, naught is lost. The forms are changed, And that which has been, is not what it was, Yet that which has been, is.” History has a grand work yet before it, one which mankind is just beginning to long for, and which will one day be accomplished. History must grow wider in its scope and nobler in its aims as the career of our race advances. It must rise above the colourings of national bias, and the prejudices of particular eras. It must cease—and some day it will cease— to reflect but one phase at a time of that many-sided thing Truth; and will seize and set forth for the instruction of mankind the priceless gem under whatever form it appear, however attired in the strange costume of distant times or foreign countries. It must tell to Man a continuous story of his existence. It must recognise the truth that in all those various nations that have flourished and passed away, there has been enshrined the self-same human soul, which the great Creator made in His own image, and which, however manifold in its aberrations, will still be found, on the whole, to reflect far more of truth than of error. Nothing is more elevating than the study of the human race through its successive phases of existence. Therein is to be discovered the scheme of God's Providence among the nations, slowly raising the race from one stage of progress to another and higher. The world advances slowly,–but still “it moves!” Severed into distinct nations, – secluded behind mountain chains, deserts, or seas, each section of mankind has been left

to develop a civilisation of its own, forms of government, religion, art, science, philosophy, more or less peculiar to itself. Through long ages this birth of Nations has been going on, each learning for itself the lessons of life. And each of those nations, whether ancient or modern, has attached itself in a peculiar manner to some one of the many forms of truth, carrying it to greater perfection than the other sections of the race. Every one knows that such was the case among the Greeks, the Romans, the Egyptians, the Hebrews, but do not let it be supposed that the wisdom of the ancient world ends here. Do not suppose that nothing is to be learned from the old history and writings of China—that land where social ethics and utilitarian science were first carried to comparative perfection; or from the ancient Hindoos, who first pre-eminently devoted themselves to the study of the spiritual nature of man, and in whose lofty speculations may be found the germ of almost every system of philosophy, whether true or false, to which the European world has given birth. Hegel and Spinosa are but Hindoos reviving in the eighteenth century. Auguste Comte, with his boasted new science of Positivism, is but a systematiser of the doctrines of Confucius and the old philosophers of China. And what are magnetism, clairvoyance, and suchlike researches at present making into the spiritual powers of man, but unconscious repetitions of what has been known or imagined in India for three thousand years? Had the human race formed from the first but one nation— swayed by but one great impulse, and enlightened but by its own single experience, how comparatively stationary would have been the condition of the species | But, severed into separate communities, each seeking truth for itself, and, as intercommunication became wider, comparing its experiences with those of its neighbours, the march of mankind has been greatly accelerated. There have been a hundred searchers after truth instead of one. It is only now, however, in these latter days, that mankind are beginning to perceive and reap the advantage

of the beneficent scheme of Providence which has so long kept them secluded in location and antagonistic in feeling. It is in those days of running to and fro upon the earth—when commerce, and railways, and steam-navigation are uniting the most distant regions—that the varied stores of knowledge which have been accumulating in private hoards through long centuries are now being thrown into general circulation. The more advanced nations are teaching the less enlightened. But the gain is not all on one side; and the former will be unworthy of their high position, if they fail to perceive in how very many things they may receive instruction from those whom they regard as their inferiors. The whole tendency of the rapidlyincreasing communication between the various nations and countries of the earth is to shake men loose from local prejudices, and, by expanding the mind, to fit it for the reception of that pure and entire truth, towards the attainment of which the human mind is journeying, and to which the matchless plans of Divine Providence are slowly but surely conducting the human race. To the eye of the philosopher, the world is a prism through which Truth is shining; and the nations are the various colours and hues of the spectrum into which that light is broken. Hitherto mankind, split into sections, has only exhibited those scattered and disunited, but brilliant, rays, truth refracted and coloured by the national mind through which it passed; but now, in the fulness of time, the process is being reversed. The long training of isolated nations is drawing to a close; the barriers of space or feeling which shut them in are being thrown down; an interchange of intellectual as well as of material benefits is commencing; and the dissevered rays of partial knowledge are beginning to be reunited into the pure and perfect light of truth. Let, then, some Newton or Humboldt of history—some one who grudges not a lifetime of genius to the task, and to whom Providence may give length of days, -let such a one take up

« AnteriorContinuar »