Page images
PDF
EPUB

She never before had been so near-
This gravelly ball, the mundane sphere •
And she felt for a time at a loss to know
How to answer a thing so coarse and low
But, to give reproof of a nobler sort
Than the angry look or the keen retort.
At length she said, in a gentle tone,
“Since it has happened that I am thrown
From the lighter element where I grew,
Down to another so hard and new,
And beside a personage so august,
Abased I will cover my head with dust,
And quickly retire from the sight of one,
Whom time, nor season, nor storm, nor sun,
Nor the gentle dew, nor the grinding heel
Has ever subdued, or made to feel !”
And soon in the earth she sunk away
From the comfortless spot where the Pebble lay

But it was not long ere the soil was broke
By the peering head of an infant oak;
And, as it arose, and its branches spread,
The Pebble looked up, and, wondering, said,
A modest Acorn

never to tell
What was enclosed in its simple shell !
That the pride of the forest was folded up
In the narrow space of its little cup!
And meekly to sink in the darksome earth,
Which proves that nothing could hide its worth
And, O, how many will tread on me,
To come and admire the beautiful tree,
Whose head is towering towards the sky,
Above such a worthless thing as I!
Useless and vain a cumberer here,
I have been idling from year to year;
But never, from this, shall a vaunting word
From the humbled Pebble again be heard,

Till something without me or within,
Shall show the purpose for which I've been!”
The Pebble its vow could not forget,
And it lies there wrapped in silence yet.

H. F. GOULD

30. Difference between Taste and Genius.

Taste and genius are two words frequently joined to gether, and therefore, by inaccurate thinkers, confounded. They signify, however, two quite different things. The difference between them cản be clearly pointed out, and it is of importance to remember it. Taste consists in the power of judging; genius, in the power of executing. One

may have a considerable degree of taste in poetry, eloquence, or any of the fine arts, who has little or hardly any genius for composition or execution in any of these arts; but genius cannot be found without including taste also. Genius, therefore, deserves to be considered as a higher power of the mind than taste. Genius always imports something inventive or creative, which does not rest in mere sensibility to beauty where it is perceived, but which can, moreover, produce new beauties, and exhibit them in such a manner as strongly to impress the minds of others. Refined taste forms a good critic; but genius is further necessary to form the poet or the orator.

It is proper, also, to observe, that genius is a word which, in common acceptation, extends much farther than to the objects of taste. It is used to signify that talent or aptitude which we receive from nature for excelling in any one thing whatever. Thus we speak of a genius for mathematics, as well

as a genius for poetry; of a genius for war, for politics, or for any mechanical employment.

This talent or aptitude for excelling in some one particular

is, I have said, what we receive from nature. By art and study, no doubt, it may be greatly improved, but by them alone it cannot be acquired. As genius is a higher faculty than taste, it is ever, according to the usual frugality of nature, more limited in the sphere of its operations. It is not uncommon to meet with persons who have an excellent taste in several of the polite arts, such as music, poetry, painting, and eloquence, all together ; but to find one who is an excellent performer in all these arts, is much more rare; or rather, indeed, such a one is not to be looked for.

A sort of universal genius, or one who is equally and indifferently turned towards several different professions and arts, is not likely to excel in any. Although there may be some few exceptions, yet in general it holds, that when the bent of the mind is wholly directed towards some one object, exclusive, in a manner, of others, there is the fairest prospect of eminence in that, whatever it be. The rays must convergeto a point in order to glow intensely.

BLAIR.

31. Talent and Genius.

TALENT convinces - genius but excites;
This tasks the reason, that the soul delights.
Talent from sober judgment takes its birth,
And reconciles the pinion to the earth;
Genius unsettles with desires the mind,
Contented not till earth be left behind ;
Talent, the sunshine on a cultured soil,
Ripens the fruit by slow degrees for toil.
Genius, the sudden Iris of the skies,
On cloud itself reflects its wondrous dyes ;
And, to the earth, in tears and glory given,
Clasps in its airy arch the pomp of heaven i

Talent gives all that vulgar critics need
From its plain horn-book learn the dull to read :
Genius, the Pythian of the beautiful,
Leaves its large truths a riddle to the dull -
From eyes profane, a veil the Isis screens,
And fools on fools still ask " what Hamlet means.'

BULWER.

Apollo, the god to whom inspiration and prophecy were considered to beiong, had numerous oracles. The most renowned was that at Delphi, where he had also a temple illustrious beyond all others on account of its treasures and the costliness of the gifts bestowed there. The spot where the answer was given, was called Pythium, and the priestess who uttered it Pythia, from the surname of Apollo, a name which he received in consequence of killing the serpent Python. Some derive the name applied to this oracle and the priestess, from a Greek word, signifying to inquire, to learn, and the temple is sometimes called the Pythian temple. By a trope or figure of rhetoric, called antonomasia, the word Pythian may be used to signify what is supreme or excellent.

Isis was one of the chief deities of the Egyptians. The mysterious rites of Isis were, probably, in their origin symbolical. On one of her statues was this inscription: “I am all that has been or shall be ; no mortal has hitherto taken off my veil.”

32. The Cultivation of Taste.

Some studies have this peculiar advantage, that they exercise our reason without fatiguing it. They lead to inquiries acute, but not painful; profound, but not dry or abstruse. They strew flowers in the path of science, and while they keep the mind bent in some degree and active, they relieve it, at the same time, from that more toilsome labor to which it must submit in the acquisition of necessary erudition or the investigation of abstract truth.

The cultivation of taste is strongly recommended by the happy effects which it naturally tends to produce on human life. The most busy man in the most active sphere cannot be always occupied by business. Men of serious professions cannot always be on the stretch of serious thought. Neither ean the most gay and flourishing situations of fortune afford any man the power of filling all his hours with pleasure. Life must always languish in the hands of the idle. It will frequently languish even in the hands of the busy, if they have not some employment subsidiary to that which forins their main pursuit.

How, then, shall these vacant spaces, these unemployed intervals, which more or less occur in the life of every one, be filled up? How can we contrive to dispose of them in any way that shall be more agreeable in itself, or more consonant to the dignity of the human mind, than in the entertainments of taste, and the study of polite literature? He who is so happy as to have acquired a relish for these, has always at hand an innocent and irreproachable amusement for his leisure hours, to save him from the danger of many a pernicious passion. He is not in hazard of being a burden to himself. He is not obliged to fly to low company, or to court the riot of loose pleasures, in order to cure the tediousness of existence.

Providence seems plainly to have pointed out this useful purpose, to which the pleasures of taste may be applied, by interposing them in a middle station between the pleasures of sense and those of pure intellect. We were not designed to grovel always among objects so low as the former; nor are we capable of dwelling constantly in so high a region as the latter. The pleasures of taste refresh the mind after the toils of the intellect and the labors of abstract study; and they gradually raise it above the attachments of sense, and prepare it for the enjoyments of virtue.

So consonant is this to experience, that, in the education of youth, no object has in every age appeared more important to wise men than to tincture them early with a relish for the entertainments of taste. The transition is commonly made with ease from these to the discharge of the higher and more important duties of life. Good hopes may be entertained of those whose minds have this liberal and elegant

« PreviousContinue »