« 上一页继续 »
outward and inward life of the people at large : such will the nation be. In tracing the epochs, and alternations of their relative sovereignty or subjection, consists the philosophy of history. In the power of distinguishing and appreciating their several results consists the historic sense. And that under the ascendency of the mental and moral character the commercial relations may thrive to the utmost desirable point, while the reverse is ruinous to both, and sooner or later effectuates the fall or debasement of the country itself—this is the richest truth obtained for mankind by historic research; though unhappily it is the truth, to which a rich and commercial nation listens with most reluctance and receives with least faith. Where the brain and the immediate conductors of its influence remain healthy and vigorous, the defects and diseases of the eye will most often admit either of a cure or a substitute. And so is it with the outward prosperity of a state, where the well-being of the people possesses the primacy in the aims of the governing classes, and in the public feeling. But what avails the perfect state of the eye,
Though clear To outward view of blemish or of spot,* where the optic nerve is paralyzed by a pressure on the brain ? And even so is it not only with the well-being, but ultimately with the prosperity of a people, where the former is considered (if it be considered at all) as subordinate and secondary to wealth and revenue.
In the pursuits of commerce the man is called into action from without, in order to appropriate the outward world, as far as he can bring it within his reach, to the purposes of his senses and sensual nature. His ultimate end is appearance and enjoyment. Where on the other hand the nurture and evolution of humanity is the final aim, there will soon be seen a general tendency toward, an earnest seeking after, some ground common to the world and to man, therein to find the one principle of permanence and identity, the rock of strength and refuge, to which the soul may cling amid the fleeting surge-like objects of the
Disturbed as by the obscure quickening of an inward birth ; made restless by swarming thoughts, that, like bees when they first miss the queen and mother of the hive, with vain discursion seek each in the other what is the common need of all ; man sallies forth into nature-in nature, as in the shadows and reflections of a clear river, to discover the originals of the forms presented to him in his own intellect. Over these shadows, as if they were the substantial powers and presiding spirits of the stream, Narcissus-like, he hangs delighted: till finding nowhere a representative of that free agency which yet is a fact of immediate consciousness sanctioned and made fearfully significant by his prophetic conscience, he learns at last that what he seeks he has left behind, and that he but lengthens the distance as he prolongs the search. Under the tutorage of scientific analysis, haply first given to him by express revelation,
* Milton, Sonnet to Cyriack Skinner.--Ed.
E cælo descendit, I'vớOl geavtòv,* he separates the relations that are wholly the creatures of his own abstracting and comparing intellect, and at once discovers and recoils from the discovery, that the reality, the objective truth, of the objects he has been adoring, derives its whole and sole evidence from an obscure sensation, which he is alike unable to resist or to comprehend, which compels him to contemplate as without and independent of himself what yet he could not contemplate at all, were it not a modification of his own being.
Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own;
And no unworthy aim
The homely nurse doth all she can
Forget the glories he hath known,
O joy! that in our embers
What was so fugitive!
* Juv. xi. 27,
Not for these I raise
Blank misgivings of a creature
But for those first affections,
Which, be they what they may,
Uphold us-cherish—and have power to make
To perish never;
Nor man nor boy,
Hence, in a season of calm weather,
Though inland far we be,
Which brought us hither ;
Can in a moment travel thither-
Long indeed will man strive to satisfy the inward querist with the phrase, laws of nature. But though the individual may rest content with the seemly metaphor, the race can not. If a law
* Intimations of immortality from recollections of early childhood.-Ed. During my residence in Rome I had the pleasure of reciting this sublime ode to the illustrious Baron Von Humboldt, then the Prussian minister at the papal court, and now at the court of St. James. By those who knew and honored both the brothers, the talents of the ambassador were considered equal to those of the scientific traveller, his judgment superior. I can only say, that I know few Englishmen, whom I could compare with him in the extensive knowledge and just appreciation of English literature and its various epochs. He listened to the ode with evident delight, and as evidently not without surprise, and at the close of the recitation exclaimed, “And is this the work of a living English poet? I should have attributed it to the age of Elizabeth, not that I recollect any writer, whose style it resembles ; but rather with wonder, that so great and original a poet should of nature be a mere generalization, it is included in the above as an act of the mind. But if it be other and more, and yet mani. festable only in and to an intelligent spirit, it must in act and substance be itself spiritual : for things utterly heterogeneous can have no intercommunion. In order therefore to the recognition of himself in nature man must first learn to comprehend nature in himself, and its laws in the ground of his own existence. Then only can he reduce phænomena to principles ; then only will he have achieved the method, the self-unravelling clue, which alone can securely guide him to the conquest of the former ;—when he has discovered in the basis of their union the necessity of their differences, in the principle of their continuance the solution of their changes. It is the idea alone of the common centre, of the universal law, by which all power manifests itself in opposite yet interdependent forces-(ή γάρ δυάς αεί παρά μονάδι κάθηται, και νοεραίς αςράπτει τoμαϊς)-which enlightening inquiry, multiplying experiment, and at once inspiring humility and perseverance will lead him to comprehend gradually and progressively the relation of each to the other, of each to all, and of all to each.
Imagine the unlettered African, or rude yet musing Indian, poring over an illuminated manuscript of the inspired volume, with the vague yet deep impression that his fates and fortunes are in some unknown manner connected with its contents. Every tint, every group of characters, has its several dream. Say that after long and dissatisfying toils, he begins to sort, first the paragraphs that appear to resemble each other, then the lines, the words—nay, that he has at length discovered that the whole is formed by the recurrence and interchanges of a limited number of ciphers, letters, marks, and points, which, however, in the very height and utmost perfection of his attainment, he makes twentyfold more numerous than they are, by classing every different form of the same character, intentional or accidental, as a separate element.
And the whole is without soul or substance, a talisman of superstition, a mockery of science: or employed have escaped my notice.” Often as I repeat passages from it to myself, I recur to the words of Dante:
Canzon! io credo, che saranno radi
perhaps at last to feather the arrows of death, or to shine and flutter amid the plumes of savage vanity. The poor Indian too truly represents the state of learned and systematic ignorancearrangement guided by the light of no leading idea, mere orderliness without method..
But see! the friendly missionary arrives. He explains to him the nature of written words, translates them for him into his native sounds, and thence into the thoughts of his heart-how many of these thoughts then first evolved into consciousness, which yet the awakening disciple receives, and not as aliens ! Henceforward, the book is unsealed for him ; the depth is opened out; he communes with the spirit of the volume as with a living oracle. The words become transparent, and he sees them as though he saw them not.
I have thus delineated the two great directions of man and society with their several objects and ends. Concerning the conditions and principles of method appertaining to each, I have affirmed (for the facts hitherto adduced have been rather for illustration than for evidence, to make the position distinctly understood rather than to enforce the conviction of its truth); that in both there must be a mental antecedent; but that in the one it may be an image or conception received through the senses, and originating from without, the inspiriting passion or desire being alone the immediate and proper offspring of the mind; while in the other the initiative thought, the intellectual seed, must itself have its birth-place within, whatever excitement from without may be necessary for its germination. Will the soul thus awakened neglect or undervalue the outward and conditional causes of her growth? Far rather, might I dare borrow a wild fancy from the Mantuan bard, or the poet of Arno, will it be with her, as if a stem or trunk, suddenly endued with sense and reflection, should contemplate its green shoots, their leafits and budding blossoms, wondered at as then first noticed, but welcomed nevertheless as its own growth : while yet with undiminished gratitude, and a deepened sense of dependency, it would bless the dews and the sunshine from without, deprived of the awakening and fostering excitement of which, its own productivity would have remained forever hidden from itself, or felt only as the obscure trouble of a baffled instinct.
Hast thou ever raised thy mind to the consideration of exist