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The body is the implement and instrument of the mind, the tool by which most of its purposes are to be effected. We live in the midst of a material world, or of what we call such. The greater part of the pursuits in which we engage, are achieved by the action of the limbs and members of the body upon external matter. Our communications with our fellow-men are all of them carried on by means of the body.
Now the action of the limbs and members of the body is infinitely improved by those exercises in which the schoolboy becomes engaged during his hours of play. In the first place it is to be considered that we do those things most thoroughly and in the shortest time, which are, spontaneous, the result of our own volition; and such are the exercises in which the schoolboy engages during this period. His heart and soul are in what he does. The man or the boy must be a poor creature indeed, who never does any thing but as he is bid by another. It is in his voluntary acts, and his sports, that he learns the skilful and effective use of his eye and his limbs. He selects his mark, and he hits it. He tries again and again, effort after effort, and day after day, till he has surmounted the difficulty of the attempt, and the rebellion of his members. Every articulation and muscle of his frame is called into action, till all are obedient to the master-will; and his limbs are lubricated and rendered pliant by
exercise, as the limbs of the Grecian athleta were lubricated with oil.
Thus he acquires, first dexterity of motion, and next, which is of no less importance, a confidence in his own powers, a consciousness that he is able to effect what he purposes, a calmness and serenity which resemble the sweeping of the area, and scattering of the saw-dust, upon which the dancer or the athlete is to exhibit with grace, strength and effect.
So much for the advantages reaped by the schoolboy during his hours of play as to the maturing his bodily powers, and the improvement of those faculties of his mind which more immediately apply to the exercise of his bodily powers.
But, beside this, it is indispensible to the wellbeing and advantage of the individual, that he should employ the faculties of his mind in spontaneous exertions. I do not object, especially during the period of nonage, to a considerable degree of dependence and control. But his greatest advancement, even then, seems to arise from the interior impulses of his mind. The schoolboy exercises his wit, and indulges in sallies of the thinking principle. This is wholsome; this is fresh; it has twice the quickness, clearness and decision in it, that are to be found in those acts of the mind which are employed about the lessons prescribed to him.
In school our youth are employed about the
thoughts, the 'acts and suggestions of other men. This is all mimicry, and a sort of second-hand busi
It resembles the proceeding of the freshlisted soldier at drill; he has ever his eye on his right-hand man, and does not raise his arm, nor advance his foot, nor move his finger, but as he sees another perform the same motion before him. It is when the schoolboy proceeds to the playground, that he engages in real action and real discussion. It is then that he is an absolute human being and a genuine individual.
The debates of schoolboys, their discussions what they shall do, and how it shall be done, are anticipations of the scenes of maturer life. They are the dawnings of committees, and vestries, and hundredcourts, and ward-motes, and folk-motes, and parliaments. When boys consult when and where their next cricket-match shall be played, it may be regarded as the embryo representation of a consult respecting a grave enterprise to be formed, or a colony to be planted. And, when they enquire respecting poetry and prose, and figures and tropes, and the dictates of taste, this happily prepares them for the investigations of prudence, and morals, and religious principles, and what is science, and what is truth.
It is thus that the wit of man, to use the word in the old Saxon sense, begins to be cultivated. One boy gives utterance to an assertion ; and another joins issue with him, and retorts. The wheels of
the engine of the brain are set in motion, and, without force, perform their healthful revolutions. The stripling feels himself called upon to exert his presence of mind, and becomes conscious of the necessity of an immediate reply. Like the unfledged bird, he spreads his wings, and essays their powers. He does not answer, like a boy in his class, who tasks his understanding or not, as the whim of the moment shall prompt him, where one boy honestly performs to the extent of his ability, and others disdain the empire assumed over them, and get off as cheaply as they can. He is no longer under review, but is engaged in real action. The debate of the schoolboy is the combat of the intellectual gladiator, where he fences and parries and thrusts with all the skill and judgment he pos
There is another way in which the schoolboy exercises his powers during his periods of leisure. He is often in society; but he is ever and anon in solitude. At no period of human life are our reveries so free and untrammeled, as at the period here spoken of. He climbs the mountain-cliff, and penetrates into the depths of the woods. His joints are well strung; he is a stranger to fatigue. He rushes down the precipice, and mounts again with ease, as though he had the wings of a bird. He ruminates, and pursues his own trains of reflection and discovery, “exhausting worlds,” as it appears to him, " and then imagining new.”: He hovers on
the brink of the deepest philosophy, enquiring how came I here, and to what end. He becomes a castle-builder, constructing imaginary colleges and states, and searching out the businesses in which they are to be employed, and the schemes by which they are to be regulated. He thinks what he would do, if he possessed uncontrolable strength, if he could fly, if he could make himself invisible. In this train of mind he cons his first lessons of liberty and independence. He learns self-reverence, and says to himself, I also am an artist, and a maker. He ruffles himself under the yoke, and feels that he suffers foul tyranny when he is driven, and when brute force is exercised upon him, to compel him to a certain course, or to chastise his faults, imputed or real. :- Such are the benefits of leisure to the schoolboy: and they are not less to man when arrived at years of discretion. It is good for us to have some regular and stated occupation. Man may be practically too free; this is frequently the case with those who have been nurtured in the lap of opulence and luxury.
We were sent into the world under the condition, “ In the 'sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread.” And those who, by the artificial institutions of society, are discharged from this necessity, are placed in a critical and perilous situation. They are bound, if they would consult their own wellbeing, to contrive for themselves a fáctitious necessity, that may stand them in the place of that