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ASTRONOMERS assure us that the amount of light and heat we receive from the stars is, by no means, inconsiderable. Sun helps sun, and we are indebted for light and warmth to every star that shines.
There is something analogous in our culture. To the great luminaries of Science and Learning we attribute the moulding of our minds and the enlightening of our understandings, and give little credit to the thousand subtle influences that play upon us from star, and tree, and field, and mountain, yea, from every form and product of nature. Who are our teachers ?
'MORE servants wait on man
Than he 'll take notice of.'
Silently and invisibly the elements are changing the face of the continents and the bed of the sea; so agencies are at work, unknown and unheeded, that mould and fashion our characters beyond our thought or will. How much constancy has the day taught us! How has the night revealed the stars of thought and imagination! Who will report what night has given to literature?
In like manner, who shall measure the effect of the seasons upon character? How inspiring and invigorating
the fresh budding spring! Whom does it not recall to youth and hope? How tranquillizing the golden October! When will it be known how much mankind are indebted to the Indian summer? What lessons of calmness, of moderation, of peace and good-will toward men, are here! History is colored by the spring and the autumn.
Thanks for the twilight! It educates us in piety, cools the fevers and lulls the passions of the day. How medicinal a walk on the calm June evening, or a row on the lake or river. All men are religious then. A perennial gladness seizes one-a gladness as of love requited, as of a lost paradise regained; and sorrow, pain, crime, disappointment seem to be removed to an immeasurable distance-seem to belong to another world than this. What a bath is to the body, such, in these halcyon days, is wood and lake to the soul. They purify, they invigorate, they renew youth and hope. No associations, no counsels or philosophies, mould character like these. All good thoughts and feelings these beneficent, these summery influences bring out. If a man has charity, then is he most charitable; if mercy, then is he most merciful; if humility, then is he most humble. If he is angry, his anger dies; if harassed,
he becomes tranquil; if sorrowing, he finds comfort and consolation. Nature, in these forms, takes us by the palm, like a great mother, and soothes and calms us, and inspires feelings of peace and harmony.
A school or a seminary diffuses knowledge, and elevates the standard of intelligence in the community where it is located; but a lake, or a river, or a mountain prospect, goes deeper-it reaches the character, and cultivates the sentiment of beauty and the feeling of reverence. The influence of Nature is uniformly in the direction of the character and the moral sense, and is, therefore, constant and inevitable. Knowledge soon makes itself felt; the understanding is readily awakened. You can put facts and ideas into a man's head almost as easily and as palpably as you can put coppers into his pocket, or food into his stomach; but appeal to the perception of beauty or the moral principle—in short, address yourself to his soul, instead of to any power or faculty of his mind, and your progress is slower and less obvious, because the grounds are deeper and more fundamental. Not in days, but in years, is the result noticeable. What the stars and the blue sky have taught us, let the centuries answer. What our lakes, and rivers, and mountain scenery are doing for us, time will tell. A few generations, and these large and lofty features of our inland scenery shall reäppear in the character of the people, and inspire brave and beautiful lives.
improving his taste and cultivating his perception of form and color? Oh! the sweet and pure ministrations of flowers! If their good effects upon the race were balanced against its tomes—one might say tons of theology, how would the scale poise?
It cannot be denied that the moral influence of all lovely objects is invariably on the side of right. Vice and sin are deformities, and at war with the eternal laws of GOD; beauty shames and refutes them, and suggests a return to virtue and rectitude. To people living in hovels and immersed in filth, poisoned by foul air and pinched with cold and hunger, crime comes easily. It is not difficult to understand that; but stately halls, cultivated associates, spacious parks, extensive views, the accessories of wealth and position, are supporters of virtue, and stand mute but eloquent witnesses against irregularity and disorder. Crime loves dens and cheerless places, and hence our prisons serve rather to harden and confirm their victims than to mollify and reform them. The air and the sunshine, plenty of room, good food, cleanliness and exercise, a fine prospect, flowers and pictures, gentle looks and kind words, are more efficient instrumentalities than manacles and gloomy cells to recall men to themselves, and convince them that a life of order has more comforts than one of disorder.
Let me not, in this connection, overlook the Fine Arts in their influence on character especially music, the 'dis'How close akin is what is fair to embodied art.' There are few powerwhat is good!' Beauty, in whatever fuler instrumentalities than this to tame form, is a friend of virtue and a tacit and humanize men. Under its influencouragement to right living. Mount- ence we are capable of all good things. ain and landscape reassure us. On the Music liberates; it lifts up, it raises us hill, I can feel and utter what, in my at once above the tyranny of circumstudy, was beyond my grasp. I break stances. There is a vast difference bedown my prison-walls, and partake, in tween being towed off the sand-bar and some degree, of the largeness of my being floated off by the incoming tide. vision. Even a well-kept lawn may Music invariably floats one a little; it serve to remind one of the virtue of begins under us-back of us, and we neatness and regularity. Who can ride triumphantly where before our walk through a flower-garden without keel ploughed the bottom. Nothing
seems impossible—I am ready to undertake any thing; the air seems suddenly to have acquired new properties; a new charm is imparted to the commonest objects, and I rise at once into the regions of poetry and heroism. And when lifted to a higher plane of thought and feeling, we never quite settle back to the old low-water mark-it is expansion, reënforcement, growth. A view from a mountain-top does not leave us quite where it found us; our horizon is always a little larger for it. In this way the fine arts minister to us. They awaken admiration and enthusiasm, and draw us off from personal matters and selfish ends.
Culture adheres to the blood. The first races are not scholars and philosophers. As man was the last and finishing stroke of creation, so the intellect is the latest and highest growth of man. In the soil the more recent deposits are the finest, and, likewise, in families the best blood is from the most cultivated sources. Have not the doctrines of Isomerism a deeper meaning? If lime in the bone or iron in the veins possesses properties that do not belong to it in its primitive condition in rock or earth, may there not be a like tendency in the blood to mount and refine also? Great men are not always, or even commonly, the parents of great men; fine manners and a fine susceptibility to culture in parents do not always reäppear in the child; but why? No doubt the tendency is to transmit mental traits and powers, and that this beneficent design of Nature is frustrated must be laid to the account of unfavorable material conditions. It is an evidence of our imperfect civilization, and of the irregularity of our lives. It indicates disproportion and a want of fitness, and favors the view that great men and handsome women are rather an exception, a lucky coïncidence, and not the result of cultivated and well-ordered lives. If great men are a natural product, a legitimate result of conditions that made it thus, and not otherwise, as improved fruit
trees may always be relied on to produce improved fruit, and could by no possibility be made to yield crabs—if genius and beauty come thus authenticated, and are thus inevitable, a family ought to go on producing great men forever, and surfeit society with no inferior article. But we are not up to that yet. A great man seems only a lucky throw of the dice, and it would be strange that if, in so many trials, there was not occasionally a success. Given genius as a possibility, and somebody's child will be a genius.
But from a given number of noisy boys, you cannot, on à priori grounds, predict a great man. Of course, as the number approximates towards the millions, the chances that there may be a genius among them increases; but can you put your finger on him, or, from a knowledge of each one's history and antecedents, point him out?
Still, we say, culture adheres to the blood, reaches the organization, the grain and temperament, and if nature was allowed perfect expression in this matter, a family would never deteriorate, never run out, and society be made up of only fair women and brave men. Why is New-England making the literature of this country? Because she has the most brains undoubtedly; yes, and also because she has the best blood, the most cultivated men and women to breed geniuses from.
Culture is the best remedy for materi
alism. Indeed, its chief object is to overthrow this mud-deity, and make man a believer in principles and ideas. In the long run, what is of any account but ideas? and what is wisdom but the perception of law? The grossest materialists I know of are the spiritualists. Indeed, what ism is free from it-is not walled in by it, with only a loop-hole out into the open day? Give me windows, yea, and what is better, give me the great Out-of-Doors itself. What vulgar worshippers we are! We almost make a commodity of religion, and vie with each other to see who shall mo
nopolize the trade. Churches are as hostile as rival shops in a country-town. For shame! Are we not brothers? Is GOD a respecter of persons? Can you fence in the heavens? Run your wall never so far, and build it never so high, and still outside is the same blue sky over all.
Let Diogenes find me a man who believes in principles - who is not shaking with vulgar fears and perturbations, as if laboring under the apprehension that the universe was going to miscarry.
What is materialism? It is this: Not to believe in ideas, but in expedients; to doubt that justice prevails and law governs; not to see that virtue is its own reward and vice its own punishment. Must you have wages for doing right? must your charity be seen and heard of men? Can you not wait? are you afraid people will underrate your good qualities? must you tell how much you know? must you proselyte every man you meet? are you vain, proud, impatient, intolerant? What is materialism? A condition of the earlier races, and the office of culture is to take this out of a man and to impart to him somewhat of the freedom and largeness of the ideal.
Akin to this influence of culture are its effects in liberalizing and unpersonalizing people, giving largeness and generosity to their views, and removing that intensely personal element which must give every thing a name and a place, and which sticks so doggedly to a fact that is present to the senses in opposition to a principle that is present only to the intellect. This is a trick of women and under-bred persons. Shall we be so ungallant as to say that women are personal and gossipy; and that they make the poorest philosophers in the world, albeit the ideal seems habitually nearer to them than to the other sex? Women cannot club things; cannot grasp the mass. They will cite a fact in refutation of your argument, and think the matter settled; so, too,
the boy will cover the moon with a copper cent, and may be think the cent the larger.
Travellers in Africa remark, that where the natives are the most warlike, as a tribe, they are the most kind and humane as individuals, and the converse. So culture kills these petty personal feelings, and begets largeness and munificence of soul.
Coleridge was going to detect an uncultivated man by the construction of his sentences; but this is not the root of the matter. Look at his deductions-his application of the facts. Must every thing have a personal bearing? Can he put a liberal construction on your words? Can he appreciate pure blue sky, or truth divested of its accidental relations, and as it stands absolutely in nature? Does he set up a part against the whole? Does he think one side all right and the other all wrong? Uncultivated women are fiendish and gossipy; uncultivated men bigoted and selfish. Persons, places, and politics -- what else do people talk about? Gossip, gossip, gossip, and a constant pinning of epithets and rude remarks to people behind their backs; you shall hear little else than this in any community. Our cheap press and multiplicity of books add to people's tongues without much increasing their brains, as a slight shower, or what the farmer calls a 'spirt,' roils the brook, without materially effecting its volume. To be sure, a 'spirt' relieves the drouth a little, but oh! if we could only go a little deeper, though it did take more time; if we could only reach the fountain and enlarge and facilitate matters there!
There is no perspective in a vulgar mind; all is flat, dull surface; hence the want of liberality and intellectual tolerance-the want of sky-room. The lesson of life, according to a high authority, is to accept what the years say against the days, and what the centuries say against the years a process which common people are very apt to