Page images
PDF
EPUB

LESSON XIV.—LINES ON A SKELETON. [About forty years ago the London Morning Chronicle published a poem entitled “Lines on a Skeleton," which excited much attention. Every effort, even to the offering a reward of fifty guineas, was vainly made to discover the author. All that ever transpired was that the poem, in a fair clerkly hand, was found near a skeleton of remarkable beauty of form and color, in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, Lincoln's Inn, London, and that the curator of the museum had sent them to Mr. Perry, editor and proprietor of the Morning Chronicle.]

1. BEHOLD this ruin'! 'Twas a skull,

Once of ethereal spirit full.
This narrow cell was Life's retreat',
This space was Thought's mysterious seat.
What beauteous visions filled this spot',
What dreams of pleasure long forgot.
Nor Hope, nor Love, nor Joy, nor Fear',
Have left one trace of record here.

2. Beneath this mouldering canopy

Once shone the bright and busy eye';
But, start not at the dismal void-
If social Love that eye employed';
If with no lawless fire it gleamed,
But through the dews of kindness beamed',
That eye shall be forever bright

When stars and suns are sunk in night.
3. Within this hollow cavern hung

The ready, swift, and tuneful tongue.
If Falsehood's honey it disdained,
And where it could not praise, was chained';
If bold in Virtue's cause it spoke,
Yet gentle Concord never broke'!
This silent tongue shall plead for thee

When Time unveils Eternity.
4. Say', did these fingers delve the mine' ?

Or with its envied rubies shine' ?
To hew the rock, or wear the gem,
Can little now avail to them.
But if the page of Truth they sought,
Or comfort to the mourner brought',
These hands a richer meed shall claim
Than all that wait on Wealth or Fame.

5. Avails it whether bare or shod,

These feet the paths of duty trod' ? -
If from the bowers of Ease they fled,
To seek Afiction's humble shed,
If Grandeur's guilty bribe they spurned,
And home to Virtue's cot returned',
These feet with angel's wings shall vie,
And tread the palace of the sky.

LES. XV.-EDUCATION OF THE MUSCLES OF EXPRESSION.

(Adapted chiefly from Hooker.) 1. As the muscles of the face are the instruments of the mind in the expression of thought, feelings, and emotions, it is highly important that they should be well trained to perform with ease and grace their appropriate functions ;l for the highest degree of beauty, which is the beauty of expression, depends much more upon the attitudes and movements of the face than upon the shape of the features. We often see a face that is beautiful in repose become ugly the moment it is in action, because the movements of the muscles are so uncouth ;? and, on the other hand, we often see faces which are very irregular in the shape of the features, display great beauty when in action, owing to the easy and graceful movements of the muscles of expression. Addison has justly said, “No woman can be handsome by the force of features alone, any more than she can be witty only by the help of speech."

2. Children not unfrequently form awkward habits in the ụse of the muscles of the face, which finally become permanent; and a little observation will convince us that there is nearly as much difference in skill in the use of these muscles as in the use of those of the hand. For higher examples of this skill we need not go to the accomplished orator or actor; we shall find them exhibited, in the ordinary intercourse of life, in those who have great capacity of expression, together with a mind uncommonly refined and susceptible. In them every shade of thought and feeling is clearly and beautifully traced in the countenance. While this is the result of education of the muscles of expression, an education of which the individual is for the most part unconscious, no direct attempt in the training of these muscles will succeed unless the mind itself be of the right character.

3. Awkwardness of expression, arising from babit, may be counteracted by judicious physical training, but intelligence and kindness can not be made to beam from the countenance if they do not emanate from the moving spirit within. They are often awkwardly counterfeited, the one by the bustling air assumed by the face of the shallow pretender, and the other by the smirk of him who smiles only to get favor or profit from others. On the other hand, not only will those evil and malignant passions, which are of a decidedly marked

expression, leave their permanent traces in the countenance, but coarse feelings and brutal instincts write their images there also, and nothing but a thorough change of character can possibly efface them. We must therefore begin with the rnind and the heart if we would educate the countenance to the higher expressions of beauty.

4. Some of the most striking exemplifications of the influence of the mind and heart upon the expressions of the countenance are to be seen in those institutions where juvenile outcasts from society are redeemed from their degradation by the hand of benevolence. The progress of the mental and moral cultivation may often be traced, from week to week, and sometimes from day to day, in the changing lineaments of the face, as lively intelligence takes the place of stolids indifference, and refined sentiment that of brutal passion. Sometimes a few weeks suffice to change the whole character of the expression in the faces of the young. The dull eye becomes bright, not from any change in the eye itself, but from the intelligence and sentiment that now play upon the muscles in its neighborhood. But where passions have been making their impress on the countenance during a long course of years, so that the features become fixed in the prevailing expression, the traces are not so easily removed.

5. The habitual expression of the countenance, depending as it does upon the habitual condition of the muscles, is seen after death. In the state of relaxation which immediately occurs at death, the face is very inexpressive, because its muscles are, together with those of the whole body, so entirely relaxed. But very soon they begin to contract, and, as they assume that degree of contraction to which they were habituated during life, they give to the countenance its habitual expression.

6. It is when this has taken place—when the muscles, recovering from the relaxation of the death-hour, resume their accustomed attitude, as we may express it, that the countenance of our friend appears so natural to us, and we are held, as if by a charm, gazing upon the intelligence and affection beaming there amid the awful stillness of death, till it seems as if those lips must have language. And this expression is retained through all the period of rigidity, till it is dissolved by the relaxation which succeeds this state and ushers in the process of decay. It is thus that the soul, as it takes its flight, leaves its impress upon the noblest part of its tabernacle of flesh; and it is not effaced? till the last vestiges of life is gone,

and the laws of dead matter take possession of the body.
This state of countenance is thus beautifully alluded to by
Byron:
7.

He who hath bent him o'er the dead,
Ere the first day of death has fled,
The first dark day of nothingness,
The last of danger and distress
(Before decay's effacing fingers
Have swept the lines where beauty lingers),
And mark'd the mild angelic air,
The rapture of repose that's there,
The fix'd yet tender traits that streak
The languor of the placid cheek,
And--but for that sad, shrouded eye,
That fires not, wins not, weeps not now,
And but for that chill, changeless brow,
Where cold obstruction's apathy
Appalls the gazing mourner's heart,
As if to him it could impart
The doom he dreads, yet dwells upon-
Yes, but for these, and these alone,
Some moments, ay, one treacherous hour,
He still might doubt the tyrant's power;
So fair, so calm, so softly sealed,
The first, last look by death revealed !
So coldly sweet, so deadly fair,
We start, for soul is wanting there.
This is the loveliness in death
That parts not quite with parting breath;
But beauty with that fearful bloom,
That hue which haunts it to the tomb,
Expression's last receding ray,
A gilded halo hovering round decay,

The farewell beam of feeling pass'd away!
Spark of that flame, perchance of heavenly birth,

Which gleams, but warms no more its cherish'd earth! 1 FŰNo'-TIONS, actions or offices.

15 STÕL'-ID, stupid. 2 UN-CÖUTH', awkward ; ungraceful. 6 TĂB'-ER-NA-CLE, a temporary habitation. 3 ÉM'-A-NĀTE, flow or proceed from. 7 EF-FĀCED', removed; rubbed out. • LĨN'-E-A-MENTS, outlines ; features. 8 VĚS'-TIĠE, the remains; the trace.

LES. XVI.-DISORDERS OF THE NERVOUS SYSTEM. VISIONS, APPARITIONS, AND DREAMS, AS VIEWED IN

CONNECTION WITH PHYSIOLOGY. 1. It has already been stated that a knowledge of external things is conveyed to the brain through the medium of the nerves of sensation. How the items of knowledge thus obtained are stored up in the brain, and how the mind is able to recall them in some subsequent period, and form of them new combinations, has usually been thought to belong especially to the department of mental philosophy to consider: but even here it will be found that anatomy and physiology furnish the safest guides to investigation.

2. The involuntaryl action of the muscles of the heart and lungs is accounted for on the supposition that, at the origin of the nerves which control them, an amount of directing nervous force is stored up sufficient to continue the motion, without mental control, until the supply is exhausted. It is also believed that the sensations which the nerves of taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing convey to the brain, leave upon that organ, or stored up in its sensorium or seat of power, impressions which can be fully eradicated? only by death; and that these impressions, which may be regarded as images of the outward world, the mind makes use of in memory, in imagination, in visions, in fancied apparitions, and in dreams, often forming new and strange combinations very different from the original impressions.

3. Some physiologists believe that every impression made upon the material substance of the brain produces some permanent change in its structure, and that one impression never completely effaces another; that the mind can, as it were, see all of them, and that what the mind or soul thus learns, death itself can not destroy. Even certain physical phenomena, explained by Dr. Draper, give countenance to the theory of permanent impressions upon the material substance of the brain. He says, “ If on a cold, polished piece of metal, any object, as a wafer, is laid, and the metal then be breathed upon, and, when the moisture has had time to disappear, the wafer be thrown off, though now upon the polished surface the most critical inspection can discover no trace of any form, yet, if we breathe upon it, a spectral figure of the wafer comes into view, and this may be done again and again.

4. “Nay, even more'; if the polished metal be carefully put aside where nothing can deterioratet its surface, and be so kept for many months, on breathing again upon it the shadowy form

emerges ; or, if a sheet of paper on which a key or other object is laid be carried for a few moments into the sunshine, and then instantaneously viewed in the dark, the key being simultaneously removed, a fading spectre of the key on the

paper will be seen; and if the paper be put away where nothing can disturb it, and so kept for many months, if it then be carried into a dark place and laid on a piece of hot metal, the spectre of the key will come forth. In the case of bodies more highly phosphorescent than paper, the spectres of many different objects which may have been in succession laid originally thereupon will, on warming, emerge in their proper or. der.

5. “I introduce these illustrations," says Dr. Draper," for the purpose of showing how trivial are the impressions which may be thus registered and preserved. Indeed, I believe that

« PreviousContinue »