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They enter'd now the chancel tall;
The darken'd roof rose high aloof
On pillars lofty and light and small :
The Key-stone, that lock'd each ribbed aisle,
And the pillars, with clustr'd shafts so trim,
With base and with capital flourish'd around,
Lay of the Last Minstrel.
"THE great misfortune of my life," saith Robert Burns,
was to want an aim." In every decade of life, it is well for man to have, in small matters as well as great, some distinct and definite object always in view. The possession of this inestimable treasure will not only balance and steady the various faculties of the mind, but effectually serve to soften and molify the sharp edge of those vissicitudes, disappointments, and sorrows, which all to some extent experience in their chequered journey through this sublunary state of existence, as preparatory to the full and eternal enjoyment of that celestial blessedness, which, as the inheritance of the saints, await the righteous as their reward, when death at last shall break their bands asunder, and open for their joyful entrance, the gates of immortality.
As in walking along the beautiful pathway leading from Newtyle to Meigle, we lovingly discoursed together on "the good old times" of Scotland's ancient history, let us now, on
some kindred subject, confidingly commune together, as we wend our level, bough-o'ershadowed way between the famous monument of Vanora, and the solitary remains of the once stately and magnificent Abbey of Cupar. Let us take at random, the fascinating theme of Literary Genius, with all its disheartening struggles, yet sublime and hopeful surroundings.
The specious yet forbidding dogma, that the lover and follower of literature could not be at the same time a man of business, is fortunately, now, to a certain extent exploded. Recent brilliant instances attest the perfect compatibility of high intellect and lofty genius being occasionally combined with the most acute, active, and solid habits of business. While admitting this to the fullest extent, however, we must take care not to confound two things, in themselves essentially different. The first of these is, that true genius is not the result of external circumstances; and the second, that native inspiration will shew itself, in some way or another, independent of, and altogether apart from, all external causes whatsoever. "Some minds," says Irving; "6 seem almost to create themselves, springing up under every disadvantage, and working their solitary but irresistible way through a thousand obstacles. Nature seems to delight in disappointing the assiduities of art, with which it would rear dulness to maturity; and to glory in the vigour and luxuriance of her chance productions. She scatters the seeds of genius to the winds, and though some may perish among the stony places of the world, and some may be choked by the thorns and brambles of early adversity, yet others will now and then strike roots even in the clefts of the rock; struggle bravely up into sunshine, and spread over their sterile birth-place all the beauties of vegetation."
Two equally repugnant dogmas still, however, to some extent, exert their influence in society, but which are not the less easily overthrown. I allude, first, to the commonly received notion, that the man of great grasp of intellect and
commanding genius, must, of necessity, be outré in his conduct and behaviour in the world—that, in short, there must be something in his walk and conversation, which at once distinguishes him from among the common herd by whom he is surrounded. Now, every attentive reader of biography must admit, that the most prominent and attractive feature in the characters of the great, is their humility. Those who have been privileged to enjoy their friendship, will as readily admit, that the great charm of their converse lay in its unaffected and child-like simplicity. Just in proportion as we rise from little minds to great, we shall find humility becoming more humble, and purity more pure. Even the divine Newton was, in his own estimation, only as a little child gathering coloured shells on the sea-shore, while the great ocean of scientific research lay unexplored and unknown beyond.
The other equally forbidding idea to which I allude is this, namely, that to cultivate literature with success, and to earn fame and renown, we must isolate ourselves altogether from the world, any contact with which would effectually destroy every noble impulse, and check and impede every lofty and hallowed aspiration. To disprove this, willing witnesses are so numerous, that I scarcely know whom to select. I will, however, confidently rest my case on the following evidence:
Saadi, the Persian poet, in one of his delightful Fable stories, teaches a very pleasant and instructive moral truth. He describes, in oriental imagery, the gorgeous splendour of a garden of roses, in which two friends of opposite tastes spent a beautiful summer day in the most exquisite enjoyment of its varied and effulgent beauty. Their tastes and feelings, however, practically manifested themselves at the close, in very marked, and opposite directions. While the one was satisfied and contented with the colours and perfume of the flowers, the other resolved that those nearest and dearest to him should share in his enjoyment and pleasure by gathering the choicest bloom and carrying it to his family. The every