Puslapio vaizdai

We frequently fee them attempting a found which they had learned, but forgot. The letters fooneft learned, are thofe most easily formed; A and B require an obvious difpofition of the organs, and their pronunciation is foon attained. Z and R are learned with greater difficulty. And this may be the reason why children in fome countries fpeak fooner than in others; for the letters moftly occurring in the language of one country, being fuch as arc of eafy pronunciation, that language is of courfe more easily attained. The children of the Italians are faid to fpeak fooner than thofe of the Germans; the language of the one being fmooth and open; that of the other, crowded with confonants, and extremely guttural.

Education has great influence, if not on acquifition of ideas (i. e. learning), yet on that branch which shall be most intimately acquired. In the prefent ftate of society, the branches of learning are fo various, no one mind can underftand them all: ftill more difficult is it to determine which of those branches will beft fuit the genius and diffofition of any individual. But there are certain principles never to be omitted; fuch as the control and guidance of the paffions, habits of induftrious attention, ftrength of mind, as well as body, and good morals, whose aspects on future life are of extreme importance; thete condensed into fixed habit, render many evils of life fugitive, many others eafy, many others they deprive of evil, and fome they turn to benefits; while all advantages of life they improve, and give a zest to all its enjoyments.


After the sports of youth, and the acquifitions previous to, and neceffary for, maturity, that period arrives, at which no farther bodily progress is expected: nature has pushed on to those dimensions which correspond with the standard appointed the fpecies, fpreads into life no further in the individual, but lays her commands, and difpenfes life by his means.

Some perfons ceafe growing at fourteen or fifteen; others at two or three and twenty. During this period all are of a flender make; their thighs and legs fmall, and muscular parts unfilled. By degrees, the mufcles augment, and the limbs become rounder. The female fex arrives at perfection and maturity much fooner, the muscles being weaker, lefs compact and folid, require lefs time; and, being lefs in perfonal fize, that fize is fooner attained. Hence they are as complete at

twenty, as men at thirty.

That redundance of moisture which is neceffary to childhood is withdrawn at maturity; and firmnefs of body and mind characterise this period of life. We can eafily conceive, that as the fluids lofe their fluidity, they become less fit for intimate penetration of the minuter orifices and pores; that thefe, if not penetrated, may clofe, and thus the folids harden, their resistance becomes greater, while the power of the fluids to enter them becomes lefs. The finer fpirits are inferior in quality and quantity, confequently tranfinit but impotent commands to the mufcles, which they should actuate. The muscles, less able to execute, become by degrees unapt in execution, and require united aid to overcome, what formerly were no obstacles; thus a general rigidity fupervening, debili


tates the whole frame: this is the effect of age. It is a kind of predifpofition to return to earth, which has always had a fhare in our compofition, and which now predominates: not only thofe cartilaginous fubftances which tip the bones become bony, the very oil which lubricated them becomes clammy, the mufcular veffels which once acted on the blood (the arteries) harden; the blood itself thickens, and often concretes; the brain, the feat of fenfation, dries; and the whole frame feems haftening toward a period when it may crumble into duft.

In how few words is comprised the hiftory of human life, and the principles of old age! Whatever be the variety of scenes which a perfon is called to pass through, bufy or idle, fedentary or laborious; whatever may have been his difpofition of mind or body; whatever his ftation, his character, his conduct; whatever his fears or his hopes, whether willing or reluctant, this is the goal to which he is haftening. No mental abilities can prevent the folids from hardening, the fluids from thickening; no care can avoid it. But though old age cannot be poftponed, or avoided, it may be prematurely accelerated, at least in its inconveniencies; fince other caufes may dry the fprings of life; fuch as violent paffion, which extravagantly diffipates the vital fluids, intemperance, which oppreffes them, or other criminal indulgences, whose malignancy is notoriously detrimental to the vital powers.

The imbecility of age before its natural period of years, is perhaps the greatest affliction of life; if irremediable defpondency, united to inceffant expectation, a hope of better times,


perpetually quashed by hourly disappointment, and a fenfe of how long time nature may languifh under its burden, may render affliction great. But in mature old age, there is much that is cheerful, by fympathy with others; and fo gradual an acceffion of inconveniencies, that habit has time to become familiar with them; there is also gradual retraction from the amufements of life, gradual lofs of faculties, of friends, and gradual defcent to the filence of the tomb.

As the flower, blooming once, but now decaying; as the fhock of corn fully ripe; as the tree which has stood many feafons, but yields at laft to the fatal ftroke; fo falls the animal part of man. Death is a decompofition of the principles of human nature; not an extinction, fince one of them is beyond his powers. Indeed I do not know that positive extinction of any one principle in the world is in Death's power; he can only alter appearances, or vary their compofition, returning it to its first principles, or concealing it by others. A vegetable, formed of the elements, enjoys and uses them for a time, then returns them undiminished: its air is again reftored to the furrounding atmosphere, and is free to become vegetable again, perhaps in the pofterity of its former owner: its earth is but returned to the common ftock from whence it was borrowed, and may again fhoot into the gaudy tulip, or fupport in magnificent umbrage the majeftic cedar. What has been animal, contributes to fertility; and, under the form of manure, in part compofes herbaceous verdure, or the golden grain. The utmoft power of Death reaches but to a suspension of fenfation; and this, perpetually renewed, de

fies his perpetual efforts: Nature and Death have been long ftruggling, but neither is victor, nor fhall be, till, by apparent fubmiffion to his conqueft, Nature fhall rife, endued with properties beyond his power. What then fhall rife? the tribes of animals? This cannot be they may be re-created, but not raised; for to what remaining principle can they be reunited? The human frame itself, that " paragon of animals," is but a machine wound up for a time, and fuffers like diffolution with others; whereas that principle which we termed Mind, which we confidered as fuperadded to life, as capable of choice and determination, of good and evil, has properties independent of the machinery of our nature. We have seen, that no animal enjoyments can fatisfy it, nor animal acquifitions content it; that it grafps at objects far beyond the comprehension of animal nature; that it is ever learning, ever exercifing its powers in new pursuits, ever difcontented with prefent attainments, and capable of enjoying-what can it not enjoy what that is fublime, pure, noble, elevated, can it not enjoy? Is it credible, that a principle fo capacious, should receive a few drops of knowledge, and be inftantly difmiffed; that a principle fo defirous of learning, fo adapted to receive it, should just commence its alphabet, and be configned to total ignorance; that intellectual pleasures fhould be fcarcely tasted ere withdrawn ; and the nobleft of faculties, after afcending a step or two in science, be rudely tumbled among non-entities ? We pity the plant juft fpringing from the earth, we water and tend with folicitude the tender germ; we feel unspeakable intereft in the birth of a child; its first fight, its first movements, excite


« AnkstesnisTęsti »