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untouched, and as little likely, therefore, to yield back valuable fruit, as if these same facts had been committed to memory in an unknown tongue. It is as if the husbandman were to go forth and sow his seed by the way side, or on the surface of a field which has been trodden down by the hoofs of innumerable horses, and then, when the cry of harvest home is heard about him, expect to reap as abundant returns as the most provident and industrious of his neighbors. He forgets that the same irreversible law holds in mental as in material husbandry, — Whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
The first duty of the teacher, whether he be a parent or hired instructor, is to enrich and turn up the soil of the mind, and thus quicken its productive energies. Awaken a child's faculties; give him worthy objects on which to exercise them; invest him with proper control over them, and let him once taste the pleasure of employing them in the acquisition of truth, and he will gain knowledge for himself. Yet it is worthy of remark, that this cannot be done, effectually and thoroughly, without imparting, at the same time, much knowledge.
It is in the act of apprehending truth, of perceiving the evidence on which it rests, of tracing out its relations to and dependence on other truths, and then of applying it to the explanation of phenomena and events, – it is by such means that we excite, invigorate, and discipline the faculties. It has been much disputed whether it be the primary object of education to discipline and develop the powers of the soul, or to communicate knowledge. Were these two objects distinct and independent, it is not to be questioned that the first is unspeakably more important than the second. But, in truth, they are inseparable.
That training which best disciplines and unfolds the faculties will, at the same time, impart the greatest amoun! of real and effective knowledge; while, on the other hand, that which imparts thoroughly, and for permanent use and possession, the greatest amount of knowledge, will best develop,
strengthen, and refine the powers. In proportion, however, as intellectual vigor and activity are more important than mere rote-learning, in the same proportion ought we to attach more value to an education which, though it only teaches a child to read, has, in doing so, taught him also to think, than we should to one which, though it may have bestowed on him the husks and shells of half a dozen of the sciences, has never taught him to use with pleasure and effect his reflective faculties. * He who can think, and loves to think, will become, if he has a few good books, a wise
He who knows not how to think, or who hates the toil of doing it, will remain imbecile, though his mind be crowded with the contents of a library.
This is, at present, perhaps, the greatest fault in intellectual education. The new power, with which the scientific discoveries of the last three centuries have clothed civilized man, renders knowledge an object of unbounded respect and desire; while it is forgotten that that knowledge can be mastered and appropriated only by the vigorous exercise and application of all our intellectual faculties.
If the mind of a child, when learning, remains nearly passive, - merely receiving knowledge as a vessel receives water which is poured into it, — little good can be expected to accrue. It is as if food were introduced into the stomach which there is no power to digest or assimilate, and which will therefore be rejected from the system, or lie a useless and oppressive load upon its energies. BISHOP POTTER.
82. Soliloquy of the Old Philosopher.
Alas!” exclaimed a silver-headed sage, “how narrow is the utmost extent of human knowledge! how circumscribed the sphere of intellectual exertion! I have spent my life in acquiring knowledge, but how little do I know! The farther I attempt to penetrate the secrets of nature, the more I am bewildered and benighted. Beyond a certain limit, all is but confusion and conjecture; so that the advantage of the learned over the ignorant consists greatly in having ascertained how little is to be known.
*“At the first,” says Erasmus, “it is no great matter how much you learn, but horo well you learn it.”
“It is true that I can measure the sun, and compute the distances of the planets; I can calculate their periodical movements, and even ascertain the laws by which they perform their sublime revolutions; but with regard to their construction, to the beings which inhabit them, of their condition and circumstances, whether natural or moral, what do I know more than the clown ?
Delighting to examine the economy of nature in our own world, I have analyzed the elements, and have given names to their component parts.
And yet, should I not be as much at a loss to explain the burning of fire, or to account for the liquid quality of water, as the vulgar who use and enjoy them without thought or examination ?
“I remark that all bodies, unsupported, fall to the ground and I am taught to account for this by the law of gravitation But what have I gained here more than a term? Does it convey to my mind any idea of that mysterious and invisible chain which draws all things to a common centre ? I observe the effect, I give a name to the cause; but can I explain or comprehend it?
“Pursuing the track of the naturalist, I have learned to distinguish the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms, and to divide these into their distinct tribes and families ; but can I tell, after all this toil, whence a single blade of grass derives its vitality ? Could the most minute researches enable we to discover the exquisite pencil that paints and fringes the flower of the field ? Have I ever detected the secret that ġives their brilliant dye to the ruby and the emerald, or the art that enamels the delicate shell ? "
“I observe the sagacity of animals; I call it instinct, and speculate upon its various degrees of approximation to the reason of man. But, after all, I know as little of the cogitations of the brute as he does of mine.
When I see a fight of birds overhead performing their evolutions, or steering their course to some distant settlement, their signals and cries are as unintelligible to me as are the learned languages to the unlettered mechanic. I understand as little of their policy and laws as they do of Blackstone's Commentaries.
“But, leaving the material creation, my thoughts have often ascended to loftier subjects, and indulged in metaphysical speculation. And here, while I easily perceive in myself the two distinct qualities of matter and mind, I am baffled in every attempt to comprehend their mutual dependence and mysterious connection. When my hand moves in obedience to my will, have I the most distant conception of the manner in which the volition is either communicated or understood ? Thus, in the exercise of one of the most simple and ordinary actions, I am perplexed and confounded, if I attempt to account for it. Again, how many years
life were devoted to the acquisition of those languages, by means of which I might explore the records of remote ages, and become familiar. with the learning and literature of other times! And what have I gathered from these but the mortifying fact, that man has ever been struggling with his own impotence, and vainly endeavoring to overleap the bounds which limit his anxious inquiries?
“Alas! then, what have I gained, by my laborious researches, but an humbling conviction of my weakness and ignorance? Of how little has man, at his best estate, to boast! What folly in him to glory in his contracted powers, or to value himself upon his imperfect acquisitions !” JANE TAYLOR.
Approximation, approach, or drawing near: ap, 10; ion, 96. — Metaphysical, pertaining to the science of mind or intelligence. The natural division of things that exist, is into body and mind, things material ang immaterial, the former belong to physics, the latter to metaphysics • ical, 68.
83. Soliloquy of the Young Lady.
Well," exclaimed a young lady, just returned from school, “ my education is at last finished. Indeed, it would be strange, if, after five years' hard application, any thing were left incomplete. Happily, it is all over now; and I have nothing to do but to exercise my various accomplishments. “ Let me see.
As to French, I am mistress of that, and speak it, if possible, with more fluency than English Italian I can read with ease, and pronounce very well — as well, at least, as any of my friends, and even better; and that is all one need wish for in Italian. Music I have learned till I am perfectly sick of it. But now that we have a grand piano, it will be delightful to play, when we have company. I must still continue to practise a little — the only thing, I think, that I need now to improve myself in. And then there are my Italian songs ! which every body allows that I sing with taste; and, as it is what so few people can pretend to, I am particularly glad that I can.
' My drawings are universally admired, especially the shells and flowers, which are beautiful, certainly. Besides this, I have a decided taste in all kinds of fancy ornaments.
“ And then my dancing and waltzing-in which our master owned he could take me no farther. Just the figure for it, certainly; - it would be unpardonable if I did not excel.
“As to common things, -geography, and history, and poetry, and philosophy, — thank my stars, I have got through them all; so that I may consider myself not only perfectly accomplished, but also thoroughly well informed.
“Well, to be sure, how much I have fagged through! - The only wonder is, that one head can contain it all!”
Soliloquy, a talking to one's self; a talking or discourse of a person alone, or not addressed to another person, even when others are present. A written composition, reciting what it is supposed a person speaks to himself. - Fag, to drudge, to labor to weariness.