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And he thrust in his hand with a desperate push,
But his courage began to fail,
That had rattled against a nail.
And he thought of the fields, the green, green fields,
And the cows and the bleating sheep,
Where he used to lie and sleep.
“I have left fresh Aowers for musty books,
Bright streams for learning's rill,'
My scanty brain to till.
Nor any thing fit to eat;
Are the hardest roots of Greek.”
His form grew dim and his eye grew wild,
And the people thought him mad,
He was nowhere to be had.
They hunted about and called his name,
But they looked and called in vain ;
But he never came again.
For day by day, as he dried away,
Did his withering form decrease,
But not the least bit of grease.
ORIGINALITY OF MIND.
It is very unfortunate that this phrase has so vague a signification. It seems, however, to be conceded by every one, that originality, in whatever it consists, is one of the most ennobling parts of the mental frame; that it has given to mind every triumph it has ever celebrated, and stimulates to those that are yet to be reached ; that it sustains the mind in research, and covers its every successful effort with imperishable lustre. Nor does it appear to us that this idea of it is at all extravagant. But how shall we get from this general description down to an exact, tangible definition ?
The most common opinion, we believe, is, that it is the power which the mind possesses of eliciting new thoughts-thoughts striking and impressive from their novelty. We will first notice this opinion, and secondly inquire more particularly what originality is.
A moment's reflection will convince us that this opinion, in its broadest sense, at least, is groundless. There is nothing in the world easier than to offer to mankind thoughts never before conceived. Any one can do it. All that is necessary, is, first the strong desire, then a little disregard of truth, a little want or perversion of common sense-either will do and a little skill in plausible argumentation. These are the essential requisites for the display of any amount of originality, according to that idea of the term which we are now considering. One of the most remarkable instances of this kind of originality, that we recollect to have occurred within the last century, is that furnished by the idea of a new plan of Universal Redemption by virtue of attractive industry, a doctrine commonly called Fourierism. Now, not to call in question the truth of this doctrine at all, we only ask whether Mr. Fourier can be called the most original man that has lived since his time, from the fact of his having originated the most novel ideas upon human society that any man has since done. We believe people generally think that there have been minds since his time as truly original, though they may not have figured so largely in the field of new ideas ; and with that opinion we are inclined to coincide. But we are not disposed to shirk this view with a sneer. Connected with it is the more plausible idea that the property of mind under contemplation is the producer of thoughts striking and impressive, not only from their novelty, but also from their obvious truth. This deserves moro careful consideration. With this opinion we coincide, as far as it goes. But we further contend, that it is displayed as strikingly and beautifully in its treatment of old truths, as in the exposition of new. If, however, it does consist in searching out something new, entirely new, in the field of thought, we must confess it to be an exceedingly rare quality of mind. We look for it in vain from the pulpit, whence nevertheless proceeds that mysterious power that persuades, convinces, and overcomes. We seek it in vain from the orator, who nevertheless enlists the whole soul in his cause and carries it captive at will. We seek it in vain from the author's pen, which nevertheless penetrates to the very seat of the passions, transforming the calm and reflecting reader into the brave hero, the ardent lover, or the stern avenger of wrong. But we deny that originality is solely and exclusively the power of producing thoughts entirely new. See what a vague and undefinable thing we should thus make of it. Who is to decide upon the novelty or triteness of a thought ? However new the result of any effort of mind may be to one, it may be quite familiar to another. However new it may be to one age, it may have been a settled fact ages before. To ascertain, therefore, the precise fact as to the date when a thought was first conceived, might be a task of some considerable magnitude, and in some cases, perhaps, rather more than the title to originality would be worth. It surely then cannot be true that originality is necessarily and exclusively the power of producing what is strictly new. It is no more so, than that skillful painting consists in delineating the picture of some object never before known to the world. It is this view of originality that not unfrequently leads us to suppose that it is a rarer quality of mind than it is, and to look for higher terms in which to define it, than are due to the ordi. nary powers of the human mind.
This view very naturally involves the idea that novelty of subject is an essential condition to original thought. This idea also we cannot but regard as erroneous. It is true that great and uncommon occasions often call forth uncommon efforts of mind, but how they can add at all to its originality, is to us utterly inexplicable. Besides, such occasions are, of course, but of casual occurrence. The leading subjects which occupy the minds of men are often the same from age to age. Of these there are not a few of whose nature we may easily obtain a correct knowledge, and which therefore soon become to us familiar and old. But do they therefore fall from the rank of those subjects upon which the originality of mind may find profitable exercise? If the mind, whose vital part is originality, is thus dependent for an occasion on which to bring out its worth, all excellence of mind is a mere thing of chance. To improve and strengthen its powers preparatory to useful action, would be just about as rational as for the sportsman gravely to level his piece and fix himself in a cautious attitude for discharging it at the first convenient approach of his victim. But how is it? Paradise Lost was an old subject before it employed Milton's pen ; but who will say that it displayed no original thought? The falling of an apple is no uncommon occurrence; yet the mind of Isaac Newton caught from it one of the sublimest truths in nature. And it is a fact worth observ. ing, that the whole stupendous structure of philosophical truths has been reared from the study of events, which at first might seem quite too common to be seriously called subjects of thought.
There are, to be sure, in the course of events, many subjects arising which we must call new-called up by the very nature of advancing society. Let us grant, for a moment, that such alone admit of original thinking. But we must remember that these engage the attention of comparatively few. The great majority, even, of thinking minds do not apply themselves to them until they have been in some degree mastered-their difficulties cleared away--the truth in respect to them clearly set forth and firmly established--in a word, until they become old.
But such minds are not in the meantime idle. The learned professions are filled with those whose duties require constant employment of mind, upon subjects the most common. The clergyman is expounding a text that has been expounded a hundred times. The advocate is pleading a case as common as the quarrels of men. The author is driving his pen with unceasing diligence. The instructor in science is going through the same routine of duties from day to day. Can it be true that originality has such a signification as will exclude such men from the circle of original thinkers? We would rather conclude that the subject upon which mind may employ itself has nothing to do with
originality-that an old subject cannot forbid it, or a new one inspire it --that the definition lies still beyond our reach.
As we come now to seek more directly for this definition, we would say that original thought is free, natural, independent thought, divested of all further restrictions, modifications, or conditions. If the world were never to witness the announcement of another new truth, it would retain as ever original minds. Should no new subject ever hereafter come up for investigation, originality would not sustain the slightest injury. Look at the constitution of mind. Every one has its own distinctive characteristics. It is a common saying, in which there is a great deal of truth, that no two things in the world are exactly alike. We would apply this saying with all its force to the minds of men. There is scarcely a living being who does not contribute the amount of his own individuality to substantiate the truth of the universal dissimilarity of mind. See the mind of the infant as it first opens to receive impressions from external objects. What has attractions for one has repulsions for another ; what excites the anger of one, fails to disturb another ; the toy which affords ample amusement to one, is rejected by another with disgust. We must therefore suppose that could we analyze the infant mind, and trace all the emotions there excited to their respective causes in the external world, we should find them totally different in their nature from those excited by the same objects in the mind of another--a result to be ascribed directly to the different manner in which things are viewed by different minds. Every mind has certain constitutional properties which modify the effects of external objects upon it, leading it as soon as capable of any thing to view things in its own peculiar way--derive from them that lesson, and apply it to that object for which it has a peculiar and natural relish. Every mind will thus have a way of its own; have views of its own ; will naturally be an original thinker, and not only will be, but cannot avoid it. It will be as much so as though Socrates had never reasoned--as though Shakspeare had never written, or Homer sung, even though it may comprehend some of the very truths which Socrates uttered many ages ago, and imagine, for aught we know, many things which Homer imagined.
Here, if we mistake not, is original thought—that of a mind apply. ing itself for the first time to those objects of study which its Creator has spread around it on every side, and yet thinking just what has been thought a thousand times. If it is not original thought, what is it? Who led that young mind for the first time into the field of thought ? Who taught it what to think first? Its thoughts were its own--untaught. If such thinking is not original thinking, what is? In the earliest stages of intellectual discipline, one mind has a predominant love for adding and subtracting figures ; another for defining the geography of places; and another still for declining nouns and conjugating verbs. Why? because the view or idea which they respectively get of their favorite studies, as being the more noble to their youthful fancy, or more entertaining to their youthful taste, begets that love. Who gave them that idea ? It is their own--a notion which no one
gave, a sort of natural bias which the world cannot turn. So far as there is thought here, (and their love presupposes thought to some er. teni,) what is it but original thought? They would have thought the same, had no one ever done so before.
Let us now leave our examination of mind in this early stage of its development, and extend our observation for a moment to a mind engaged in the active and responsible duties of life. Is there any thing now in its nature, duties, or circumstances that can at all change our view of its originality ? clearly nothing. There is the same endless variety of constitutional properties, subjecting different minds to different impressions from the objects which they contemplate. The public speaker and the author afford our best illustrations. It is their object to plead, influence, and convince. But how different their modes of arriving at this end! One wields the sceptre of absolute argument ; another captivates more by the magic of his eloquence. One pictures to the fancy; another strays into the region of abstraction. One subject presents itself to different minds in as many different points of view: consequently we hear it explained and enforced by one, with such illustrations, such modes of argument, such rules of arrangement; in a word, in such a style as is peculiar to himself alone-a style perhaps entirely foreign to the conception of any other man bearing the distinct impress of a distinct mind. There is then no limit to the variety of shape and coloring which the most obvious truth may be made to assume, and thus forever retain its importance and interest. If it is no: originality that can thus present the same subject in such a variety of aspects, with the sole purpose of impressing its truth and importance, what is ?
We have now gone back to the first exercises of mind in pursuit of a definition to originality. We trust we have made our idea of it sufficiently apparent--that it is the power of exercising the mind in natural and independent thought-thought which begets emotions, and leaves impressions, different according to the different modes, different minds naturally and inevitably adopt of thinking, reasoning, deciding. Were we to express its meaning in a single word, we would call it individuality. This term, we believe, will not detract at all from the most exalted views we may have entertained of originality. This, if any word can do it, proclaims it the noblest prerogative of mind ; preserv. ing its identity amidst the constant commingling of mind with mind, and keeping up the pulse of mental life throughout this world of thought in which we live.