The library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) online

. (page 75 of 75)
Online LibraryUnknownThe library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) → online text (page 75 of 75)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

not to be so slighted.

In looking at our nature, we discover, among
its admirable endowments, the sense or percep-
tion of Beauty. We see the germ of this in
every human being, and there is no power
which admits greater cultivation; and why
should it not be cherished in all? It deserves
remark, that the provision for this principle is
infinite in the universe. There is but a verj'
minute portion of the creation which we can
turn into food and clothes, or gratification for
the body ; but the whole creation may be used
to minister to the sense of beauty. Beauty is
an all-pervading presence. It unfolds in the
numberless flowers of the spring. It waves in
the branches of the trees and the green blades
of grass. It haunts the depths of the earth
and sea, and gleams out in the hues of the shell
and the precious stone. And not only these
minute objects, but the ocean, the mountains,
the clouds, the heavens, the stars, the rising
and setting sun, all overflow with beauty. The
universe is its temple; and those men who are
alive to it cannot lift their eyes without feeling
themselves encompassed with it on every side.
Now this beauty is so precious, the enjoyments
it gives are so refined and pure, so congenial
with our tenderest and noble feelings, and so
akin to worship, that it is painful to think of
the multitude of men as living in the midst of
it, and living almost as blind to it as if, instead
of this fair earth and glorious sky, they were

tenants of a dungeon. An infinite joy is lost
to the world by the want of culture of this
spiritual endowment. Suppose that I were to
visit a cottage, and to see its walls lined with
the choicest pictures of Raphael, and every
spare nook filled with statues of the most ex-
quisite workmanship, and that I were to learn
that neither man, woman nor child ever cast
an eye at these miracles of art, how should I
feel their privation ; how should I want to open
their eyes, and to help them to comprehend
and feel the loveliness and grandeur which in
vain courted their notice! But every husband-
man is living in sight of the works of a divin-
er artist; and how much would his existence
be elevated, could he see the glory which shines
forth in their forms, hues, proportions and
moral expression ! I have spoken only of the
beauty of nature, but how niueh of this mys-
terious charm is found in the elegant arts, and
especially in literature? The best books have
most beauty. The greatest truths are wronged
if not linked with beauty, and they win their
way most surely and deeply into the soul when
arrayed in this their natural and fit attire.
Now no man receives the true culture of a man,
in whom the sensibility to the beautiful is not
cherished ; and I know of no condition in life
from which it should be excluded. Of all
luxuries this is the cheapest and most at hand;
and it seems to me to be most important to
those conditions where coarse labour tends to
give a grossness to the mind. From the dif-
fusion of the sense of beauty in ancient Greece,
and of the taste for music in modern Germany,
we learn that the people at large may partake
of refined gratifications, which have hitherto
been thought to be necessarily restricted to a

What beauty is, is a question which the most
penetrating minds have not satisfactorily an-
swered ; nor, were 1 able, is this the place for
discussing it. But one thing I would say;
the beauty of the outward creation is intimate-
ly related to the lovely, grand, interesting attri-
butes of the soul. It is the emblem or expres-
sion of these. Matter becomes beautiful to us
when it seems to Icse its material aspect, its
inertness, finiteness and grossness, and by the
ethereal lightness of its forms and motions
seems to approach spirit ; when it images to us
pure and gentle affections; when it spreads
out into a vastness which is a shadow of the
Infinite; or when in more awful shapes and
movements it .speaks of the Omnipotent. Thus
outward beauty is akin to something deeper
and unseen, is the reflection of spiritual attri-
butes; and of consequence, the waj to see atd



feel it more and more keenly is to cultivate
those moral, religious, intellectual and social
principles of which I have already spoken, and
which are the glory of the spiritual nature; and
I name this, that you may see, what I am
anxious to show, the harmony which subsists
among all branches of human culture, or how
each forwards and is aided by all.

There is another power, which each man
should cultivate according to his ability, but
which is very much neglected in the mass of
the people, and that is the power of Utterance.
A man was not made to shut up his mind in
itself, but to give it voice, and to exchange it
for other minds. Speech is one of our grand
distinctions from the brute. Our power over
others lies not so much in the amount of
thought within us, as in the power of bring-
ing it out. A man of more than ordinary in-
tellectual vigour may, for want of expression,
be a cipher, without significance, in society.
And not only does a man influence others, but
he greatly aids his own intellect, by giving
distinct and forcible utterance to his thoughts.
We understand ourselves better, our concep-

tions grow clearer, by the very effort to mako
them clearer to another. Our social rank too
depends a good deal on our power of utterance.
The principal distinction between what are call-
ed gentlemen and the vulgar lies in this, that
the latter are awkward in manners, and are
essentially wanting in propriety, clearness,
grace, and force of utterance. A man who
cannot open his lips without breaking a rule
of grammar, without showing in his dialect
or brogue or uncouth tones his want of culti-
vation, or without darkening his meaning by
a confused, unskilful mode of communication,
cannot take the place to which perhaps his na-
tive good sense entitles him. To have inter-
course with respectable people, we must speak
their language. On this account, I am glad
that grammar and a correct pronunciation are
taught in the common schools of this city.
These are not trifles ; nor are they superfluous
to any class of people. They give a man ac-
cess to social advantages, on which his im-
provement very much depends. The power
of utterance should be included by all in their
plans of self-culture.



Online LibraryUnknownThe library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) → online text (page 75 of 75)