its surroundings of big rivers, shady groves and green

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In fact, the spiritual detriment we unconsciously suffer, in every province of our affairs, from this our prostrate respect to power of speech is incalculable. For indeed it is the natural consummation of an epoch such as ours. Given a general insincerity of mind for several generations, you will certainly find the Talker established in the place of honor; and the Doer, hidden in the obscure crowd, with activity lamed, or working sorrowfully forward on paths unworthy of him. All men are devoutly prostrate, worshipping the eloquent talker; and no man knows what a scandalous idol he is. Out of whom in the mildest manner, like comfortable natural rest, comes mere asphyxia and death everlasting! Probably there is not in Nature a more distracted phantasm than your commonplace eloquent speaker, as he is found on platforms, in parliaments, on Kentucky stumps, at tavern-dinners, in windy, empty, insincere times like ours. The "excellent Stump-orator," as our admiring Yankee friends define him, he who in any occurrent set of circumstances can start forth, mount upon his "stump," his rostrum, tribune, place in parliament, or other ready elevation, and pour forth from him his appropriate "excellent speech," his interpretation of the said circumstances, in such manner as poor windy mortals round him shall cry bravo to,--he is not an artist I can much admire, as matters go! Alas, he is in general merely the windiest mortal of them all; and is admired for being so, into the bargain. Not a windy blockhead there who kept silent but is better off than this excellent stump-orator. Better off, for a great many reasons; for this reason, were there no other: the silent one is not admired; the silent suspects, perhaps partly admits, that he is a kind of blockhead, from which salutary self-knowledge the excellent stump-orator is debarred. A mouthpiece of Chaos to poor benighted mortals that lend ear to him as to a voice from Cosmos, this excellent stump-orator fills me with amazement. Not empty these musical wind-utterances of his; they are big with prophecy; they announce, too audibly to me, that the end of many things is drawing nigh!

its surroundings of big rivers, shady groves and green

Let the British reader consider it a little; he too is not a little interested in it. Nay he, and the European reader in general, but he chiefly in these days, will require to consider it a great deal,--and to take important steps in consequence by and by, if I mistake not. And in the mean while, sunk as he himself is in that bad element, and like a jaundiced man struggling to discriminate yellow colors,--he will have to meditate long before he in any measure get the immense meanings of the thing brought home to him; and discern, with astonishment, alarm, and almost terror and despair, towards what fatal issues, in our Collective Wisdom and elsewhere, this notion of talent meaning eloquent speech, so obstinately entertained this long while, has been leading us! Whosoever shall look well into origins and issues, will find this of eloquence and the part it now plays in our affairs, to be one of the gravest phenomena; and the excellent stump-orator of these days to be not only a ridiculous but still more a highly tragical personage. While the many listen to him, the few are used to pass rapidly, with some gust of scornful laughter, some growl of impatient malediction; but he deserves from this latter class a much more serious attention.

its surroundings of big rivers, shady groves and green

In the old Ages, when Universities and Schools were first instituted, this function of the schoolmaster, to teach mere speaking, was the natural one. In those healthy times, guided by silent instincts and the monition of Nature, men had from of old been used to teach themselves what it was essential to learn, by the one sure method of learning anything, practical apprenticeship to it. This was the rule for all classes; as it now is the rule, unluckily, for only one class. The Working Man as yet sought only to know his craft; and educated himself sufficiently by ploughing and hammering, under the conditions given, and in fit relation to the persons given: a course of education, then as now and ever, really opulent in manful culture and instruction to him; teaching him many solid virtues, and most indubitably useful knowledges; developing in him valuable faculties not a few both to do and to endure,--among which the faculty of elaborate grammatical utterance, seeing he had so little of extraordinary to utter, or to learn from spoken or written utterances, was not bargained for; the grammar of Nature, which he learned from his mother, being still amply sufficient for him. This was, as it still is, the grand education of the Working Man.

its surroundings of big rivers, shady groves and green

As for the Priest, though his trade was clearly of a reading and speaking nature, he knew also in those veracious times that grammar, if needful, was by no means the one thing needful, or the chief thing. By far the chief thing needful, and indeed the one thing then as now, was, That there should be in him the feeling and the practice of reverence to God and to men; that in his life's core there should dwell, spoken or silent, a ray of pious wisdom fit for illuminating dark human destinies;--not so much that he should possess the art of speech, as that he should have something to speak! And for that latter requisite the Priest also trained himself by apprenticeship, by actual attempt to practise, by manifold long-continued trial, of a devout and painful nature, such as his superiors prescribed to him. This, when once judged satisfactory, procured him ordination; and his grammar-learning, in the good times of priesthood, was very much of a parergon with him, as indeed in all times it is intrinsically quite insignificant in comparison.

The young Noble again, for whom grammar schoolmasters were first hired and high seminaries founded, he too without these, or above and over these, had from immemorial time been used to learn his business by apprenticeship. The young Noble, before the schoolmaster as after him, went apprentice to some elder noble; entered himself as page with some distinguished earl or duke; and here, serving upwards from step to step, under wise monition, learned his chivalries, his practice of arms and of courtesies, his baronial duties and manners, and what it would beseem him to do and to be in the world,--by practical attempt of his own, and example of one whose life was a daily concrete pattern for him. To such a one, already filled with intellectual substance, and possessing what we may call the practical gold-bullion of human culture, it was an obvious improvement that he should be taught to speak it out of him on occasion; that he should carry a spiritual banknote producible on demand for what of "gold-bullion" he had, not so negotiable otherwise, stored in the cellars of his mind. A man, with wisdom, insight and heroic worth already acquired for him, naturally demanded of the schoolmaster this one new faculty, the faculty of uttering in fit words what he had. A valuable superaddition of faculty:--and yet we are to remember it was scarcely a new faculty; it was but the tangible sign of what other faculties the man had in the silent state: and many a rugged inarticulate chief of men, I can believe, was most enviably "educated," who had not a Book on his premises; whose signature, a true sign-_manual_, was the stamp of his iron hand duly inked and clapt upon the parchment; and whose speech in Parliament, like the growl of lions, did indeed convey his meaning, but would have torn Lindley Murray's nerves to pieces! To such a one the schoolmaster adjusted himself very naturally in that manner; as a man wanted for teaching grammatical utterance; the thing to utter being already there. The thing to utter, here was the grand point! And perhaps this is the reason why among earnest nations, as among the Romans for example, the craft of the schoolmaster was held in little regard; for indeed as mere teacher of grammar, of ciphering on the abacus and such like, how did he differ much from the dancing-master or fencing-master, or deserve much regard?--Such was the rule in the ancient healthy times.

Can it be doubtful that this is still the rule of human education; that the human creature needs first of all to be educated not that he may speak, but that he may have something weighty and valuable to say! If speech is the bank-note of an inward capital of culture, of insight and noble human worth, then speech is precious, and the art of speech shall be honored. But if there is no inward capital; if speech represent no real culture of the mind, but an imaginary culture; no bullion, but the fatal and now almost hopeless deficit of such? Alas, alas, said bank-note is then a _forged_ one; passing freely current in the market; but bringing damages to the receiver, to the payer, and to all the world, which are in sad truth infallible, and of amount incalculable. Few think of it at present; but the truth remains forever so. In parliaments and other loud assemblages, your eloquent talk, disunited from Nature and her facts, is taken as wisdom and the correct image of said facts: but Nature well knows what it is, Nature will not have it as such, and will reject your forged note one day, with huge costs. The foolish traders in the market pass freely, nothing doubting, and rejoice in the dexterous execution of the piece: and so it circulates from hand to hand, and from class to class; gravitating ever downwards towards the practical class; till at last it reaches some poor _working_ hand, who can pass it no farther, but must take it to the bank to get bread with it, and there the answer is, "Unhappy caitiff, this note is forged. It does not mean performance and reality, in parliaments and elsewhere, for thy behoof; it means fallacious semblance of performance; and thou, poor dupe, art thrown into the stocks on offering it here!"

Alas, alas, looking abroad over Irish difficulties, Mosaic sweating-establishments, French barricades, and an anarchic Europe, is it not as if all the populations of the world were rising or had risen into incendiary madness;--unable longer to endure such an avalanche of forgeries, and of penalties in consequence, as had accumulated upon them? The speaker is "excellent;" the notes he does are beautiful? Beautifully fit for the market, yes; _he_ is an excellent artist in his business;--and the more excellent he is, the more is my desire to lay him by the heels, and fling _him_ into the treadmill, that I might save the poor sweating tailors, French Sansculottes, and Irish Sanspotatoes from bearing the smart!

For the smart must be borne; some one must bear it, as sure as God lives. Every word of man is either a note or a forged note:--have these eternal skies forgotten to be in earnest, think you, because men go grinning like enchanted apes? Foolish souls, this now as of old is the unalterable law of your existence. If you know the truth and do it, the Universe itself seconds you, bears you on to sure victory everywhere:--and, observe, to sure defeat everywhere if you do not do the truth. And alas, if you _know_ only the eloquent fallacious semblance of the truth, what chance is there of your ever doing it? You will do something very different from it, I think!--He who well considers, will find this same "art of speech," as we moderns have it, to be a truly astonishing product of the Ages; and the longer he considers it, the more astonishing and alarming. I reckon it the saddest of all the curses that now lie heavy on us. With horror and amazement, one perceives that this much-celebrated "art," so diligently practised in all corners of the world just now, is the chief destroyer of whatever good is born to us (softly, swiftly shutting up all nascent good, as if under exhausted glass receivers, there to choke and die); and the grand parent manufactory of evil to us,--as it were, the last finishing and varnishing workshop of all the Devil's ware that circulates under the sun. No Devil's sham is fit for the market till it have been polished and enamelled here; this is the general assaying-house for such, where the artists examine and answer, "Fit for the market; not fit!" Words will not express what mischiefs the misuse of words has done, and is doing, in these heavy-laden generations.



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