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then attained its highest state, and cannot advance further. Its forms may change: it may appear in new combinations, but its spirit, its essence, must remain the same. Like a beam of light, no new element can be added, but it may give forth different colors by being thrown into new combinations. The first combination into which all these national elements enter in due proportion, assumes a form which cannot be essentially departed from, without changing its nature. The first genius that rises in a nation, acting under the influences peculiar to it, produces a national standard. When, instead of producing original works, comparable to this, writers devote themselves to criticism and commentary upon other works, "selecting a single author, and delivering their whole load of learning upon his back," there is but little more to expect in the advancement of letters among that people.
Under the auspicious influence of genius, the arts and sciences grow up together, and mutually shed light upon each other. When men without taste or genius become law-givers, the sciences lose solidity, and the polite arts grace; language becomes corrupted; philosophers dispute about names, and the poet ever straining after beauties, catches and presents us only tinsel.
Ancient systems were at variance with the true principles of taste : and learning is false, which is not founded upon the simple and durable relations of society. When all these systems are exploded, and society returns again to this simple and natural state, it will possess the elements of truth and stability, whatever may be the form of government.
All happiness grows out of the practice of virtue, which depends upon truth; upon the knowledge of those unalterable relations that exist among things, and to which every thing by nature is ordained to submit itself. These relations, which form the basis of virtue, are the sources and measures of happiness, because they are wholly true. They are also the sources and the guides of our reasoning, of our intellectual operations. While we conform to these, and do not force nature, nor violate the order of her system by conformity to artificial regulations, literature will be durable and fresh as nature herself.
The fabrics of tyranny and superstition have received shocks from which they can never recover, and there are already seen glimmerings of light, which seem to be tokens of a purer and nobler literature than has yet existed.
Man begins to think, and act, from nature and reason alone: superstition under the sacred garb of religion is losing its hold upon the human mind; man dares to think for himself, and the refreshing breath of liberty which he feels, raises his ardor, and inspires him with undying aspirations, for a better state of things, for a higher condition of intellectual being.
The poets who have sung of the elysian fields, where all was beauty and life, only developed those germs of beauty which do not unfold themselves in other hearts: and in the progress of civilization a realm is at last reached where the visions of the poet
and the brightest dreams of the philosopher are undergoing a practical experiment.
" Westward the star of empire takes its way,
We may define language, if we consider it more materially,'to be letters form. ing and producing words and sentences ; but if we consider it according to the design thereof, then language is apt signs for communication of thought.
DENHAM Our ideas are transformed sensations.
CONDILLAC. Language is the sensible portraiture or image of the mental process.
BACON. It gives an intelligible form to the inward workings of the soul-utters its mightiest thoughts—assumes the nicest shades of its pleasurable and painful emotion. Nay, it sweeps over mysterious chords, existing in the souls of others and awakens sympathetic joy, grief, hope, and terror in the breasts of thousands, It becomes eloquence, philosophy, and music.
Others for language all their care express,
POPE. Language, it is true, is an art, and a glorious one ; its influence extends over all others, and in which finally all science whatever must center.
HORNE TOOKE. But as to words; they seem to me to affect us in a manner very different from that in which we are affected by natural objects, or by painting or architecture; yet words have as considerable a share in exciting ideas of beauty and of the sublime, as any of those and sometimes much greater than any of them.
One of the greatest of those obstacles which beset the pathway of learning, dampning our zeal, and wrongly directing our energies, is the numberless branches into which education is divided, each demanding attention, and at the same time that they appear to sustain but remote relations to one another. The term of human life is so short at the best; and the variety of objects which engage our attention so great, that after every subject has been thoroughly investigated, and every science mastered, there is but little time left to act, and to apply our knowledge to practice.
Thus distracted with a multiplicity of objects, and eager to advance, it is not wonderful that there is so little success in education, and so few proficients in any department of learning. But it is strange that there should be so many who “know a little of every thing else, and nothing of their native tongue,” because all true learning depends upon this: and it is a subject which is within the reach of all, and can be mastered by all.