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Girls and boys usually wear an equally sad countenance, for there is too wide a chasm between the home occupations and those of the school-room, to allow any familiarity with the themes of the latter. With the greater part of the scholars it is such up-hill work, that both they and their parents deserve much credit for persisting in efforts, the result of which is distant, at least, if not uncertain. A few happy, bright spirits flash out in spite of the dull influences, and they are apt to absorb the attention of the teacher, leaving still less hope for the unready.
The disciplinary part has reference only to behaviour, delinquency in lessons being a fault which the teacher is usually too honest or too sympathetic to visit with much severity. High offences are biting apples, rattling nuts or marbles, singing, whistling, making faces, pinching and scratching. Cutting the desks and benches is nominally an offence, but not often punished, because it can be done without noise; once in a while, however, a confiscated knife diversifies the row of nuts and apples on the teacher's desk. Modes of punishment are ingeniously varied. To be put on the boy's side is a terrible one for the little girls; to hold up a slate, formidable to either sex. Standing upon the bench, or, in summer, on the stove, is equal to the pillory, especially when, as is sometimes practised, the whole school is enjoined to point the finger at the delinquent. Minor transgressions are occasionally atoned for by wearing a piece of split quill on the top of the ear, or across the bridge of the nose, saddle-wise; or carrying pinned to the back or shoulder, a piece of paper, on which a significant word is written. The rod is the last resource, unless the teacher gets a dislike to some unlucky boy, whose smallest fault ever after looms largo on his jaundiced eye. As it is conscious weakness that instinctively has recourse to force, it might naturally be expected that female teachers would be fondest of the use of the rod, and experience proves the fact. It serves as a substitute for the mental power which commands respect. The master's brow being by nature more terrible, he can afford to reserve flagellation for great occasions.
If the absolute knowledge acquired under these circumstances could be ascertained, its amount would probably be so small as to seem disproportioned even to these simple means. But there are a thousand indirect advantages, both to children and parents, which make themselves evident in due season, so that the difference between children who go to school and those who do not, is as patent as if the teachers were Dr. Arnolds and Hannah Mores. This general result is all that the farmer expects or wishes; he is, on the whole,
rather prejudiced against books, like other uneducated people. We lately heard an intelligent Russian say, that children are sent to the public schools in Russia because the Emperor wishes it; the parents saying that they consider what is learned, beyond counting and signing one's name, rather a disadvantage than a good. The rough, hard-working American forms the same estimate; and this is the less to be wondered at, when we see highly instructed people, who may be supposed to have full knowledge of the benefits of cultivation, adopting these unenlightened sentiments. It will hardly be believed that men, not only of education but of learning, once transplanted to the woods, and forced into the hard struggle for the ordinary comforts of life which occupies both head and hands there, are found to let their children grow up without even the cultivation within their rcaeh; so that among the most boorish of western youth, we see the sons and daughters of those who possess the power of imparting the best instruction. This is more particularly the case with transplanted Europeans, certainly, but it is not inapplicable to many of our own countrymen from the Eastern States.
In the Sabbath exercises the parents take their own personal share of the log schoolhouse, and it is a beautiful sight to see them assemble; hard, knotty, rough, bashful and solemn, all clean washed and dressed, though carrying the week's atmosphere of toil about them, even in their Sunday clothes. The sexes are divided, but sit facing each other, and the low benches, on week-days appropriated to bread-and-milk scholars, are in meeting occupied by mothers, with babies and younglings who enjoy the benefit of the open space for manifold evolutions more amusing than edifying. There is a curious mixture of extreme formality and familiarity on these occasions. Countenances wear an unconscious and forbidding gravity, as husbands and wives, parents and children, beaux and belles, look each other full in the face across the house; but if a baby is troublesome, the father will go and take it from the mother, and returning gravely to his seat, toss it and play with it awhile and then carry it back again. Children go into the passage for a drink; dogs sit gazing up at the preacher, and fall asleep like Christians if the day is warm; the speaker stops sometimes to give directions about matters that need attention, or even points his sermon directly at some individual whose connexion with it is well known.
We remember an occasion when the preacher be'gan his discourse by a considerable dissertation on controversy, declaring his dislike to it, and appealing to his auditors for confirmation of his assertion that he had always avoided it. After spending some fifteen minutes on this | topie, he announced that he had been requested by a person then present to preach from a certain text, which he forthwith read, and appealed to the person by name, as to whether it was the text he meant. An affirmative answer having been given by a deep bass voice in a far corner, the speaker read some twenty verses by way of context, adding that if any person present wished him to read more he would do so, and upon request he proceeded to read several verses more. Now preparing seriously for the work, by coughing, &c., he drew the attention of his hearers by saying that there were only two kinds of isms that he contended with—devilism and manism; but that if the gentleman who had selected the text found Universalism in it, he was willing, for truth's sake, to show him his error. He thought some people present would open their eyes, when they found how little of that doctrine the passage in question really contained. He did not mean to back up his text with other portions of Scripture; it could stand on its own legs. He came "neither to criticise, ridicule, or blackguard anybody," but thought he was right, and was willing to be shown if he was wrong. About half an hour had now elapsed, yet the sermon was not fairly begun. There was plenty of time yet, however, for he went on more than an hour longer, warming with a feeling of success, and ever and anon casting triumphant glances at the corner where sat his opponents, as he felt that he had given a home thrust to their theological errors. This sermon was much praised, and pronounced by the schoolmaster of the day the most powerful discourse he had ever heard.
This sketch, however, represents an individual, not a class. Ambition is not the pulpit vice of the woods, and sermons are usually of the hortatory character, delivered with great fervour. It must be confessed that doctrinal sermons win the most respect, and are most talked about; exhortation is deemed commonplace in comparison—mere milk for babes. A sermon on original sin, which asserted that infants of a day might be damned, and that souls in blessedness would be able to rejoice over the eternal misery of those they loved best, because it vindicated Almighty justice, gave great, though perhaps not general satisfaction. "Ah! wasn't it elegant!" we heard a good woman say, coming out; "I haven't heard such a sermon since I came from the East!"
The public taste turning thus toward knotty points of divinity, the preachers, whose employment depends upon their acceptablencss, naturally make polemics a large part of their little reading—an unhappy result, considering the very little good likely to be accomplished among
uninstructed people by controversial preaching. The pulpit is the most efficient instructor of the people, on other subjects besides religion, and the advance in general intelligence must depend very much upon the competency of those who undertake the dispensation of ethical truth. It is therefore greatly to be desired that knowledge should be added to zeal, in those who go westward in the hope of doing good. Too many who go are deficient in both, and no one who has lived there will doubt that the harm done, directly and indirectly, by such, is incaleulable; but there is another class whose persuasions to religion, though honestly meant, lead only to superstition and outward observance, too common everywhere, but especially destructive in their influence on true piety in unenlightened communities. A considerable portion of the religious teachers who officiate, self-elected, in the western wilds, are behind those they teach in general intelligence, and not much above them in familiarity with religious topics, though they may possess a great flow of words, which pass for signs of ideas, but are not such, as it regards either party. Some sermons are mere strings of Scriptural phrases and well-known texts, often curiously wrenched from their authorized meaning, to favour the purpose of the hour. The idea on these occasions seems to be, that the people are to be touched, moved, excited, frightened, or persuaded into an interest in religion, by any and every means that the Scriptures afford, and with so good a purpose it is lawful to make them afford whatever may promise to be effectual. Griesbach and Rosenmiiller would stare at some of the glosses of our zealous preachers, and the learned Rabbi who has been lecturing among us would find his metaphysics far outdone in subtilty, by certain constructions of the Old Testament histories, which read with such grave simplicity and directness to the unlearned.
With all deductions, however, an immense amount of good is done in various ways. Even when the preacher is deficient, the hearers extract good in some shape from his blind teaching . that is to say, seeking for good, they find it whether it is brought them or not. Who can reckon the value of the rest, the change of thought, the neat dress, the quiet, the holy associations, which the Sabbath day brings with it in the country! A few persons are found who make it rather a point to be seen in their fields at work, or in the woods shooting, on that day; but there is a broad line between them and all good citizens, for these habits are invariably found associated with irregular ones in other respects. The best touchstone of valuable citizenship is found in the log schoolhouse. He who feels no interest in that, feels none in anything that concerns the welfare of the community.
The Sunday-school is one of the most interesting of all the occupations of the schoolhouse, but it would require the graphic power of a Hogarth to describe it worthily. As there is no rod, and no authority but one founded on sentiment, the erratic genius of the West has full scope. The youth who would on week-days tell his teacher—"Scoldin' don't hurt none— whippin' don't last long — and kill me you darsn'tP' would not probably be very lamblike under the instructions of the Sabbath; and the very proposition to teach for love, and not for money, puts every one on his guard. They cannot exactly see the trap, but they arc pretty sure there is one! Something very like bribery is necessary, in order to secure the attendance of the class of scholars whom it is most desirable to persuade—the children of parents who do not frequent the schoolhouse. Some of these hardly know the Bible by name, and others have heard it only scoffed at. But religious teaching often exerts a wonderful power even over such, and they are apt to be converted to a faith in disinterested benevolence at least. The labour of teaching them is quite equal to that required for teaching in Ceylon, according to Dr. Poor; and the good missionary's whole description of the mission schools in that far land, reminded us very much of certain western experiences.
Besides the uses we have mentioned, the schoolhouse is the theatre of the singing-school, so dear to country beaux and belles; of the spelling-school, as exciting as a vaudeville; of all sorts of shows and lectures, expositions and orations. Even the ceremonies of the Catholic Church are found possible within those rude walls, and incense has won its way through the chinks of warped oak shingles to the sky. The most numerous sects are the Baptists and Methodists; but there is hardly one unrepresented. We remember a Quaker sermon on a certain occasion, which produced perhaps as great a sensation as any doctrinal discourse of them all, though it partook very little of theology.
We had occasionally met for public worship, in a lonely schoolhouse on the border of the forest, where four roads crossed, and where, in winter, a flooring of chips showed that the seekers after learning were not behindhand in consuming the woods as fast as their great stove would assist them. This primitive temple, with its notched desks and gashed benches, was used in turn by religionists of every shade of belief and no belief; even the Mormons had expounded their Golden Bible (by some of the neighbours, believed to have been typified by the Golden Calf which led the people astray in old times),
from its crazy platform, and a rough-looking gentleman, in a plaid neckcloth, had during a whole evening thumped the teacher's desk till it quivered again, in his endeavours to prove all religion a device for the better subjection of the people. A Sunday-school had been maintained here for some time, at no small cost to the good laymen who conducted it; for they were obliged, in winter, to precede their scholars by at least an hour, and make the fire and arrange the room, lest some petty discomfort should prove an excuse for absence on the part of those whom they were most desirous of benefiting. Here, too, were singing-schools held, and spelling-schools, and other solemnities requiring space and benches; and the log schoolhouse, spite of its rough aspect, was, as usual, a building in much request and high esteem.
There was no "stated preaching" in it on Sundays, but clergymen of different denominations seemed to know by intuition or magnetism when it would be available, and their appointments dovetailed so nicely that its socalled pulpit was seldom unoccupied at the hours of divine service. Once only, within the memory of "the oldest inhabitant," did ten o'clock, Sunday morning, find the people assembled,—the wagons tied outside, with their seats turned down as a precaution against falling skies, and their patient steeds chewing "post-meat" for recreation—and no preacher forthcoming. A sort of extempore, self-constituted deacon, after much solemn whispering with the grave-looking farmers who sat near him, gave out a hymn, which was sung with a sort of nervous slowness, and much looking at the door. A restless pause followed, and then the deacon gave out another hymn, in six verses, with a repeat; this occupied a convenient portion of time, and then came another fidgety silence, during which, some of the lighter members slipped out, and several of the children went to the pail outside the door for a drink. The deacon then offered to read a chapter, and proposed if the clergyman did not arrive at that time, that some of the brethren should "make a few remarks." The chapter was read, and the remarks duly invited; but this only made the silence deeper; indeed, it was such that you might have heard a pin drop.
Nobody belonging to the town seemed to have anything on his mind, and after a little pause, there were evident symptoms of a natural dissolution of the meeting; when a Quakeress, who was on a visit in the neighbourhood, laid aside her close bonnet, and standing up, presented to the view of the assembly a fair and calm face, on which sat the holy smile of Christian love and confidence. All was hushed, for such a look has an irresistible charm.
"My friends,'' she began, with a sweet, solemn tone, between entreaty and reproof,'' since you are disappointed with regard to your minister, perhaps you will be willing to hear a few words from one who, though personally a stranger, feels a true interest in you, and who would fain help you forward, even ever so little, in the religious life. Your desire to have tho gospel preached to you, shows that you are, at least in some measure, seeking that life, and my mind has been drawn towards you as I observed the dependence you seemed to feel on the ministrations of the person expected. It has certainly seemed strange to mo that so much uneasiness and commotion should have been occasioned by the failure of a particular person to conduct your worship. 'God is a spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit.' Now you, every one of you, brought with you to this house this morning a spirit, in and by which alone you can worship acceptably. You have here before you the book containing the revealed word, in which you could find wherewithal to direct and govern your thoughts on this occasion; why then should the absence of any mere man in
terfere with your purpose of worship, and leave your minds unquiet and your thoughts wandering?"
Thus the gentle monitor opened her truly extempore sermon, and, passing from one topic to another as she proceeded with her remonstrance, she touched on many points of scripture and of practical religion, until her audience forgot their disappointment, or remembered it only to rejoice at it. The prejudice against a woman's pretending to teach in publie, though peculiarly strong among coarse and unlettered people, melted before the feminine grace and modesty with which the speaker was so largely endowed; and when she finished, and resumed her scat and her bonnet, there were few present who would not gladly have agreed to hear her every Suuday. How they would have relished her silence, or whether her arguments had done anything towards convincing them that the heart may worship though no word be spoken, we can only conjecture; for before another Sabbath, the persuasive eye and voice had departed on some mission to the farther West, and we never again enjoyed her ministry of love in The Loa Sciioolhocsr.
Lipk-breathing spirit! why thy spell delay,
How, through the winter hours so numb and gray,
Already binding up my limbs in death,
Tingle with exquisite sensation, and my breath
With its voluptuous pants my brain bewildrrelh!
Oh, Spring, come breathe on me! I cannot die—
Of hope's heart-incense all unshed I Oh why,
And barter them for kisses—must my bloom,
Fade in the coldness of Death's icy gloom,
And my just budding being wither in the tomb!
Ah. fragile frame, that once was fair and strong-
Tremble beneath the ilood of mighty song—
Still the faint warfare hour by hour delay I
Perchance the power that wins with sweetest wiles
The rose from winter's spell, and bids replay
Its perfume-haunted life, will let me also stay.
Oh, Oodl that I should die and love not!— paas,
Into the realm of nothingness. Alas,
Alas, that I must die, while alt around
The middle-aged, the old, with white hairs crowned.
Amid Death's arrowy storm stand safe without a wound'
'Tis but a horrid dream— some phantom fiend,
To thoughts of madness. Henceforth I am weaned
Of my own being from myself. Away!
For me not yet the clamorous bell shall toll —
Death's pulse, whose beating heralds but decay—
For mo still throbs the life of many a goldon day.
Ah me! what sudden pang darts through my frame.
Wrenching each wasted nerve to torture! Slow
My weary heart stands still—and faint and low