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Random Thoughts by an Occasional Writer.
GREATNESS OF CHARACTER.–No. III.
“In my stars I am above thee. But be not afraid of greatness Some are born great. Some achieve greatness And some have greatness thrust upon them.”
SHAKSPEARE. The reflections which are suggested from considering the moral power of individuals naturally lead the mind to the contemplation of that character which is best adapted to exert the greatest amount of influence for the good of man.
I shall assume the fact that such a character is the only one that in the present age can justly lay any claim to the distinguishing attribute of greatness.
This was not always so. There was a time when much depended on the circumstances of one's birth, as determining the estimate which was to be placed upon his personal character.
Indeed we know that at this moment in England the eldest born son is the greatest member of the family, and is entitled by law, and usually exercises the right, to beggar the other children.
By another law of the realm not less arbitrary and irrational one citizen is endowed with the privilege of making the laws which control the destinies of his neighbors.
In almost all the countries of civilized Europe wealth is taken largely into the account, for it enables its possessor to purchase those titles and dignities to which deference is paid by the people, and which by old and stable usages and customs are regarded as coequal with, if not superior to the virtues.
Everywhere under monarchical governments, the favor of the prince scatters with a bountiful hand those patents of nobility, which the God of nature had wisely denied to his unworthy creatures.
There was a time too when the ambitious youth first paying vows to lady-love might wrap himself in steel, and force his way, sword in hand, to an honorable distinction.
His reputation lay ensconced under cap and hauberk, and might have been exactly measured by the strength of his arm or the thickness of his shield.
H:s laurels were won in the lists of tilt and tournament; and the impediments in his way were assailed by force and beaten down like the castle-doors of Front De Boeuf by the battle-axe of Coeur de Lion.
Now the thing is changed. In the nineteenth century, and under the happier auspices of our western stars, man rises in the scale of being and a new era dawns upon the world.
The prerogatives of high birth and large estate, the royal reign of princes and their doubtful honors have passed away.
of chivalry is gone. The question is no longer asked: who is that gallant knight in burnished armor, of whom fame tells that he met Saladin on the shore of the Dead Sea, and never quailed beneath his fiery glance ?
Or that one, with brows encircled by wreaths of victory from Andalusia's plains, the trophies of his noble bearing ?
“When the Moorish horn so proudly rang
Through the pealing hills of Spain.” Instead of all these follies of a dead and buried age, we are beginning to lift our aspirations to something of more intrinsic merit.
The instrumentalities of the pen, the rostrum and the press, have succeeded to the blast of trumpets, and the rush of battalions,
In a word, mind has been substituted for force. A vigil of arms was performed in a single night.
The vigils of knowledge require not nights only, but days, months and years of protracted study, mulda dies et multa litura. He who would be great in the nineteenth century, must trust to none of the adventitious aids of birth, patronage or fortune.
For though these may assist, they never can secure him in the attainment of his object. He must be careful to lay the foundation of his hopes upon a broad and solid structure of general knowledge.
He must devote much of his time to reading the works of men who have lived before him; and much to those of his cotemporaries. He must devote much of his time to writing, and much to speaking, and withal he must think-think constantly, patiently and deeply.
For, these are the crucibles in which the dross will be purged away, and the solid gold of knowledge will be separated and preserved for future use.
Thus his progress will be slow but sure.
Festina lente is the motto under whose guidance with continual anxiety and pains-taking, he builds the granite pillar of his fame.
However irksome it may be to young ambition, thus to toil his way along the steep ascent, he must consent to endure it, if he would ever reach the summit,
He must remember that nothing of much value is placed immediately within our grasp. Mines of the richest metals are not found on the surface of the earth ; and in the different kingdoms of nature, whatever soonest comes to maturity, soonest perishes away.
The Acanthus, that beautiful model of the Grecian artist, springs up into full growth and vigor in a single spring, but droops its head, and dies ere autumn.
The live-oak, the monarch tree, demands a longer period to attain his majority. But as he advances in years, he grows in majesty, strength and power, strikes his roots deeper and deeper into the earth, spreads his giant arms above, endures all the changes of the seasons, defies the utmost violence of the storm, and
“Flourishes a hale green tree
When a hundred years are gone. The human intellect is the most valuable temporal gift which Providence has vouchsafed to man; and I repeat, that its proper training and discipline is no work of mushroom growth.
But to develop its latent powers, and draw forth, and apply its resources requires both time and labor.
The pupil may at his own convenience, order and arrange the method of his studies.
It matters but little at what point he shall enter the great circle, as he must pass entirely round it, before he reaches the temple of wisdom.
The goddess that presides in that temple, is an impartial Divinity, and exacts from all her devotees an equal homage.
She allows of no royal road towards her confines, the exclusive right of a few favorites.
King and peasant are equal here, and must travel the same path.
It would be a vain endeavor to attempt to point out all the means of acquiring knowledge, or to explain the modus operandi of the improvement of the intellectual faculties.
I must leave to abler metaphysicians the task of unfolding, how the capacities of the soul are enlarged by the action of constant thought.
Let it suffice to remark, that, by long and well directed observation, genera l and particular, of the qualities and properties of things, by a habit of noting the connection between cause and effect, inferring the latter from the former and the former from the latter, by marking the interference of collateral influence, and calculating in repeated experiments the results of the combinations of principles and motives, by accustoming one's self to analyse the constituent elements of compounds, severing and dividing things dissimilar and harmonizing, and classifying such as belong to each other, thus enabling one's self to seize with readiness and with certainty from a chaotic mass, the materials we need for our mental operations, by using the mind to put forth its creations in a connected train in conversation, in speaking and in writing, the rational faculty will acquire in course of time some how or other a keenness of penetration, a power of induction, a concentratedness of force, and a justness and accuracy of conclusion above the original uncultivated soul of which the superior glitter, sheen and strength of the polished blade of Damascus over the rude unsmelted mineral of the mine can afford but a faint illustration.
And as this tempering and energizing, operation is going on, it should be observed that it is not a knowledge of science alone, or of the arts alone, of history, classic lore, or of polite literature alone, or of any two or more of these several branches of learning, that purifies, elevates, strengthens, adorns the human mind; but it is the united benefit of all the sources of information, blending their influence together, and pouring their accumulated light into the mind of man that lifts him up to the highest state of mental refinement and power, and fits him for the greatest usefulness.
Conclusion in November Number.
BY THE JUNIOR EDITOR.
Arts may be devided into three orders, mechanic, fine, vivific. The sphere of the mechanic arts, as also of the fine arts is skillfully occupied.
The sphere of the vivific arts has been somewhat neglected, though it includes the health of body and soul, and affects the welfare and progress of humanity in the highest degree.
Poison is death, wholesome food life to the body.
Vivific arls are employed in avoiding poison and error, and partaking of truth and wholesome food.
As by vivification in Chemistry substances "recover from such a change of form as seems to destroy the essential qualities, and receive new lustre, force and vigor,” so by the vivific arts the human body recovers from changes produced through disease, and the soul recovers from changes produced through error, and both body and soul receive new lustre, force and vigor.
The vivific arts are the arts of life.
Good taste, in the vivific arts pertaining to the body, is as requisite as good taste in the fine arts.
Good faith, in the vivific arts pertaining to the soul, is as requisite as good taste in any of the arts.
The man who has not good faith will soon be a man of do soul, in common parlance.
The man who daily cultivates and maintains good faith may become all soul.
The man who is all soul has attained the pinnacle of the vivific arts. Query: Is it not worth while to pay some atten. tion to the soul ?
Papers on the Progress of Humanity.
FROM THE GERMAN OF HERDER.
Translated by the Junior Editor.
1. Your proposition for a correspondence on the subject of the progress or decline of humanity among the ancients and moderns, but more particularly the latter, has, my friend, been received and welcomed by all our friends with joy and acquiescence.
I am a man,' said D. and nothing that touches humanity, is foreign to me.' Every year of our lives, a considerable portion of the gaudery with which fancy adorned us, falls away from childhood up, not only in actions but also in sciences, amusements and arts. Unhappy is the man who publicly wears false feathers and false jewels; happy, thrice happy is the man who prizes no other ornament than truth, and who feels the fountain of a participating sensibility gushing in his heart. He feels himself refreshed, while others, who are men merely in outward appearance, whimper and famish around him; in the general welfare, in the progress of humanity, he finds himself strengthened, his breast wider, his existence vaster and freer.
His existence vaster and freer, says L. joining in: for while he feels himself exalted above the crawling every-day course of things, he breathes a purer element: he forgets the anxieties which now and then depress the heart, when stopping the stream of time he believes he is sinking in a standing pool. The stream of time never stands still; at on time it passes along gently, at an other it rushes by violently; but in all places it breathes upon him the breath of life.
In the spheres of thought and action, other greater men take their position, said B., we receive a portion of their spirit: we think with them, even when we cannot work with them, and enjoy our own in their existence. The purer the thoughts of men are, so much the more do they harmonize with one another; the true invisible Church throughout all times, throughout all lands, is only
And in this, my friends, as pure men, we will enter, added A. earnestly, with undivided hearts, with clean hands. No party spirit shall cloud our eyes, no fawaing spirit spoil our face. Among us as that apostle said, there is no Jew nor Greek, no servant nor