« PreviousContinue »
he marches on in one of the thousand well-trodden paths of life. Who has effected all this ? Not his fathers, for they in turn found all the springs of society in motion. True, things have somewhat changed since they began their course-how, or by whom, they cannot tell. Each generation feels, at the outset, that it has received the present from a former, and hands it down to the next, in an advanced state. Thus, the succeeding growing immediately out of the preceding, all are bound together by an unbroken chain, which reaches far back into
It is the object of this essay to glance at some of the more distinct and obvious outlines of this connection.
In contemplating the character and progress of ancient civilization, we are struck with the prominency of some one characteristic feature in each of the enlightened nations. Some single idea reigned supreme in the head and heart of the entire population, and has stamped iis own image upon all of their productions. Each government seems 10 have been based upon some one of the fundamental principles of human nature, the gradual and perfect development of which constituted their advancement in civilization. The development and harmonizing of all the capacities and principles of human nature constitutes the highest and most perfect civilization.
The ancient Egyptians are the first, as a nation, who come before us possessed of a high degree of cultivation. Although their written history is meagre and obscure, giving us only here and there a glimpse of some great event, or distinguished character, during their long existence, yet they have left to all future ages mute, but impressive records, of the distinguishing traits of their character, and the character of their civilization. Their monuments are a history, as well as a wonder. We are at a loss to decide which excites the greater astonishment, the knowledge and physical power by which the pyramids were erected, or the feelings and sentiments which prompted to the undertaking; the former shows their attainments in science—their intellectual character; the latter, the principles which governed them their moral character. This part pertains more directly to our subject. Reverence, the noblest feeling of our nature, must ever, in one form or another, be at the bottom of all organized society; no government can be powerful, nay, can, for any length of time, exist without it. cess of this feeling, if we mistake not, was predominant among the ancient Egyptians—the animating and directing spirit of their civilization; making them in their worship-because the objects of it were unworthy-grossly superstitious. Religion was so inwoven with the state as to make them, towards the government, slavishly submissive. Their obelisks, temples, and pyramids are lasting monuments alike of their subjection and knowledge—in fine, of an almost omnipotent superstition.
Athens was founded by an Egyptian; and the Grecians received much of their learning and wisdom from Egypt. Among the Grecians ton, we find reverence for the state, but also a clearer knowledge of the rights of individuals; they worshiped gods less terrible, than were the Egyptian divinities; their system of mythology was purer and more elevated. A love of the beautiful was the actuating spirit of
the Grecian progress; the so xahov, in art, in character, in every pursuit and relation of life, was universally predominant. This principle, although it has a strong conservative tendency in national affairs, yet its chief power is in stimulating to an individual development. Egyptian civilization was the energies of the nation actuated by one feeling, superstition, and directed by the rulers to the same great ends; consequently their remains—their monuments—are stupendous and national. On the other hand, the progress of the Greeks was the energies of all actuated by one sentiment, love of the beautiful, and directed by individuals to a thousand different pursuits ; from them we receive the most perfect productions of individual effort, in some one of many different pursuits.
Rome was settled by Grecians, and drew from Greece much of her civilization ; she united, in a measure, the characteristics of both Egypt and Greece. The Roman people were enlightened and possessed of a strong national spirit. The tendency of all their efforts was the extension and supremacy of the Roman name and nation. At all events, whether our views of the spirit and character of each of these nations has been just, or not, it will be admitted that in Rome was concentrated whatever of ancient influence is now in activity. She preserved the vantage ground, which former ages had gained in their struggles towards civilization ; she gave still greater vigor to these forces, which had exhausted the energies of mighty nations, during long ages past. To them, was then added another and by far the most powerful civilizing agent--the Christian religion-an immortal principle of perfection, the only element which insures to human society constant progresswhich proves its claim to an exalted destiny. These principles, as yet, had no power except among the Romans. What is now the most enlightened portion of the globe, was then, and had been for ages, in a state of chaotic barbarism ; its inhabitants were free, wandering, hardy, and fierce. The Roman nation fell
, scattering among them the “wrecks and fragments” of its civilization—it was the mingling of antagonistic principles. We do not regard the downfall of the Roman empire as the extinction of all light, nor the “dark ages" solely as the triumph of barbarism; but rather as the secret progress of the hidden embers of the Roman explosion. Ere long, we see feudalism springing out of the lap of barbarism, and advancing, at first, with slow and convulsive steps to absolute, then to limited monarchy, and finally, to republicanism, -as yet, the farthest point in the progress of nations to a perfect civilization.
There is a class of men who, wrapping themselves in the gloom of some particular evil, and looking back upon the brightest spots in the past, are wont to mourn over the degeneracy of the times. They can see nothing but evil upon all sides. Doubtless, there may be found in many former periods, some single quality which is not bettered in the present; but this is not an age in which some one principle greatly predominates; therefore its relative position or progress cannot be estimated by a comparative view of only one of its elements ;-look abroad upon a thousand advanced points.
Nerer, at any former time, has so large a portion of the world been
enlightened as at present. The rays of a dawning civilization are not now confined to a single nation-a light shining but the more brightly for surrounding darkness—they illuminate more than two continents, peopled by very many different nations. Those arbitrary distinctions, which have so long shackled the energies, and bound a large part of mankind to a degraded condition, here, at least, are broken ; and the deep-toned mutterings which are wafted to us from across the Atlantic, portend a storm, which will sweep away all traces of such distinctions, and place men there, as here, upon an equality of political rights and privileges. Already the mass of men, everywhere, are better off, politically, than ever before, and their condition in this respect is still improving. The paths of honor and distinction are open to all; success in every pursuit awaits the deserving. This state of things has given energy to every branch of industry, and is powerful in elevating the social condition of mankind; its legitimate effect may be seen in the highly cultivated and improved appearance of the face of the country, in the happiness and prosperity of the people. The means of education are not only within the reach of all, but by some nations, most backward in other respects, are forced upon all. Knowledge, through some of its many avenues, will find entrance to every mind; men can Do longer be as ignorant as they have been in times past;—the present is eminently an age of mental activity. The religious and moral aspect of the present is such as is becoming to nations who worship the true God, and base their laws and government upon the Bible ;-the innumerable churches and benevolent institutions, scattered over all lands, are true indices of improvement. A spirit of enterprise characterizes all the movements of the present, animating alike individual and organized efforts ; it extends farther in every direction than the spirit of conquest with her sword, and is more successful than Roman legions, in opening the avenues of wealth, and binding “the uttermost parts of the earth” to the influence and prosperity of civilized nations. Christianity is coextensive with every other power, and possessed of the same indomitable spirit; wherever enterprising commerce may send her ships, or lust of gain can penetrate, there too will be found the Missionary, sowing the seeds of civilization, and dispensing the blessings of eternal life. These are some of the features of the present age, and they prove that it is one of general activity~-of rapid advancement, in which all the energies and powers of man-all the resources and benefits of nature, are in progress of harmonious development.
It is common to attribute all great changes and improvements to this or that convulsion and revolution. We believe these to be rather the bubbles in the current of human progress, showing its rapidity, or the obstacles in its course. The superiority of the present has not been produced by the struggles and tumults of any particular age ; nor is it the effect of any inherent quality, but it is chiefly owing to the combined advancement of all former nations; and its obligations are due to every period of the past, with which we have shown it to be connected. Could we, with chemical accuracy, analyze it, and examine each separate element of which it is composed, we should undoubtedly discover many influences and agencies which had their origin in the first ages of the world, and having passed through an endless variety of combinations and re-combinations, are yet, in new combinations, active principles in the complex present—that every age has furnished some of the materials of which it is composed ;-still farther, that there is no day in the past seemingly the most unimportant-no thought or action, the most trivial, but that has had some influence in giving to the present its peculiar shape and direction.
Farewell! farewell !-oh! how lonely and cold
The heart from its fellow turning,
So wildly within are burning!
So softly, so lowly spoken,
Are wrung from the heart-strings broken!
As over the waters dashing
And the lightning brightly flashing!
The world and its sorrows leaving,
Its beauties frail and deceiving.
Of brothers forever parting !
The tear of regret is starting.
The last parting words are gushing,
Stern duty her sorrow hushing!
'Tis a last fond token given,
To carry the soul to Heaven!
For all things are bound to sever,
And parting shall cease forever!
C. J. P.
“ Plant divine, of rarest virtue."-LAMB.
Dear, delicious Charles Lamb! “ Poor Keats” himself must yield to thee in the “silver-throated harmony" of Nature. Purity and simplicity of soul are thine, and man is inspired from thee to strive for fresh Childhood of Heart. The blessings of that Great Plant thou didst so wisely love, are emblematic of thy mission on earth. to mantle the heart with sweet influences against rude Poverty—to "pluck the fang from the serpent-tooth of Grief”—to rest the weary in soul. Then peace to thy ashes, Charles Lamb!
A trip to Cloud-Land ! Who has not been there? Who does not love to revisit its scenes? Who has not striven to fix firmly in his memory its fleeting phantoms or portray its delicious sensations ? And who has not partially failed? Yet the remedy is simple and sure. Write as you travel, and if you are thus hindered from seeing bright visions in their fullest glow, you may at least catch glimpses of some wandering sorms before they pass away forever.
Prepare then for the journey. Take down your best meerschaum, and fill it from one of those open-mouthed packages hard by. From Scafarlatti, if you wish your fancy to speed with active foot-from German Meerschaum, S. W., if you would dream dreams. Already have you unconsciously assumed a luxurious position. Surrender yourself now to the guidance of those active little habitants of CloudLand—iny elves of smoke, who seem to swarm from out the bowl of your pipe, or leap, chase, and tumble each other in hasty glee, from the corners of your mouth. You are in a strangely rising mood. With surprise, you find your feet, in obedience to the law, carelessly perched, level with your head, upon some table, or perchance, upon the top of that Olmsted, which blazes at you so fiercely with its single eye. An old traveler would now amuse himself in sending out delicate rings of smoke to eddy and wreath themselves away. In them he detects the dim, queer little faces of the Cloud-Land“ boys,” with intertwisted bodies and strangely-writhing forms, dancing a joyous, elfin measure.
But this trifling is soon ended. And lo! the smoker moralizeth. Encircled by snowy clouds, he looketh down with contempt ineffable on bustling, earthy mortality, and, for the ponce, firmly abjureth “the world's low cares and lying vanities." He beholdeth the pale student, striving for high rewards and immortal fame-rewards, "the wonder of an hour”-fame, which lasteth a brief, college generation ;-—one day, listening to the sound of his own eloquent voice and the momentary applause of his classmates, the next, lying silent in the grave; and the smoker meditateth sadly on the vain flower-wreaths of knowledge. Most unaccountably, he never considereth them as grapes. He looketh upon the dullard, poring over incomprehensibilities, or the witling, as he affecteth genius; and before him riseth up (alas for his