Page images
PDF
EPUB

had been accustomed to help the stu- forty. In 1836 he himself told Count dents in composing their national odes Mazzinghi, the well-known composer, for the Polyglot Academy, held during that he knew forty-five; and three the week of the Epiphany. These odes years later he was in the habit of saywere written in no fewer than fifty ing that he knew"fifty, and Bolognese." tongues, and the cardinal would over- Ten years after this, Mezzofanti told look and correct them all. Often Palten Bresciani, the rector of the during the recitations of the oriental Propaganda, that he knew seventypoems especially, the speaker would eight languages and dialects; and his turn exclusively to him as the only nephew, Dr. Gastano Minarelli, has, competent judge of his performance. since the cardinal's death, compiled, Amidst political storms, and in spite after much careful examination of his of his rapidly failing strength, when uncle's books and papers, a list which his favorite festival came round in swells the number to one hundred and 1849, he had still a regret to spare fourteen. for the absence of the accustomed But now comes the question, what is Polyglot Academy of the Propaganda. meant by “knowing” a language ? But his own end was now rapidly “Doctors differ.” One calculates that, drawing near. An alarming attack of to give complete expression to human pleurisy was followed by gastric fever; thought, a vocabulary of 10,000 words he grew weaker and weaker, though is required. Another asserts that conscious to the last; and on the 17th 4,000 words are enough for the study of of March, after two months of patient the great classics in any tongue. The and prayerful suffering, and with words standard which Dr. Russell adopts, of happy hope on his lips, he calmly however, appears a very fair and pracexpired.

tical one; and when he states of any Having given this sketch of a life language that Mezzofanti knew it which, with its privations and its well, he means that he could read it single-minded devotion to a favorite fluently, write it correctly, and speak pursuit, reminds us of that of a scholar it idiomatically. Bearing this in of the middle ages, we proceed to mind, we proceed to give the table he inquire what Mezzofanti's linguistic has drawn up: attainments really were. We have 1. Languages frequently tested and seen that in 1805, when little more spoken with rare excellence—thirty. than thirty years old, he was commonly 2. Stated to have been spoken fluentreported to be master of twenty-four ly, but less accurately tested-nine. languages at least.

3. Spoken rarely and less perfectly later, Mr. Stewart Rose speaks of him -eleven.

. as “ reading twenty languages, and 4. Spoken imperfectly-eight. conversing in eighteen.” Three years 5. Studied, but not known to have later, again, Baron von Zach computes been spoken-fourteen. the languages spoken by him to be 6. Dialects spoken or understood thirty-two; and Lady Morgan quotes seven of French, six of Italian, two of public report as raising the number to English, three of Basque, four of Ara

Twelve years

bic, four of German, three of Spanish, abstemious in eating and drinking, two of Chinese, and one of Hebrew- limited means were yet compatible with thirty-two in all. When we remember a charity so prodigal as to gain for him that many of these dialects offer all the the sobriquet of Monsignor Limosiniere. difficulties of a separate language, we Affectionate and sincere, the friendmust own that their sum-total is as- ships he once formed endured throughtounding indeed.

out life. Not less remarkable was his The cardinal himself told M. Libri humility, “his habitual consciousness that he found the learning of languages of what he was not, rather than his “less difficult than is generally thought, self-complacent recollection of what he that there is but a limited number of was." “What am I," he would playpoints to which it is necessary to attend, fully say, “but an ill-bound dictionand that when once master of these, ary.” Certain superficial observers the remainder follows with great facili- seem to have associated vanity with ty”-adding, that when ten or twelve his childlike readiness to gratify curioslanguages essentially different from ity by the display of his extraordinary each other have been thoroughly gifts; but this seems to have arisen learned, an indefinite number may be from his singular self-unconsciousness, added with little difficulty. But to as well as from that enjoyment which Dr. Tholuck and others he also men- God has linked with the exercise and tioned, that his own way of learning improvement of his gift in every healthy new languages was no other than that mind. Mezzofanti's buoyant spirits of our school-boys,” by writing out and kindly nature delighted to expand paradigms and words, and learning under all circumstances; but the charge them by heart. Dictionaries, vocabu- of vanity is best refuted by the fact laries, and catechisms were his favorite vouched for by his biographer, and delectation and incessant study, and worthily closing a notice of his blamehis memory had an iron

grasp from less life, that 6 never in the most which nothing once seen or heard ever distinguished circle did he give himseems to have escaped.

self to linguistic exercises with half During the long nights which he de- the spirit which he evinced among voted to study, he could hardly ever, his humble friends, the obscure and even when a cardinal, be induced to almost nameless students of the Propahave recourse to a fire. Singularly ganda.”

OF

GRAINS GOLD. — There are world; they incorporate with their always general features of resemblance own conceptions the anecdotes and in the works of contemporary authors, thoughts current in society; and thus which are not so much borrowed from each generation has some features in each other as from the times. Writers, common characteristic of the age in like bees, toil their sweets in the wide which it lived.

THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY

ASTOR, LENOX TILDEN FOUNDATIONS

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

THE SPRING-TIME.

BY WM. GEOGHEGAN.

Regrets! the troubles of this lower world

Fall from my mind, as from the new-clad Earth Fades out the memory of the dead leaves twirlid

About her Autumns past. This glorious birth Of buds and grasses, and the scented air, Make one forget all things that are less fair. Eternal Spring-tide! for it is eternal

'Tis we who pass out of it, in the shade Of youth's eclipse; but it has regions vernal

And haunting odors that die not nor fade, Or else why should we look so fondly back, And through the years still scent its flowery track? Years after we have moulder'd into dust,

Young hearts shall feel what ours feel to-day; Yet in the fairer Home there surely must

Be joys before which this shall pale its ray
Death is so near in sunshine, and my mood
Would take it as a step to greater good.
Twould not be hard to die 'neath this new sun ;

'Twere better, perhaps, than waiting till it set In Winter glooms that tinge the soul with dun,

And mar its vision with a vain regret.
Heaven is so near. O aërial maids, take me!
I should not fear to die, and soar with ye.
Strange that the earth, the fairer that it grows,

Should make one sit more lightly to it, than When from the pale north sky fall fast the snows,

And babbling brooks, ice-bound, no longer ran; We had no restless longings in those days— We sat contented in the wintry rays, Like children quiet, in an alien place,

Forgetful or unheeding, 'mid their toys, Until some semblance of their mother's face,

With longing grief their little hearts annoys, And alls forgotten, all things lose their charms, Poor comforters, for lack of mother's loving arms.

« PreviousContinue »