« السابقةمتابعة »
'They must indeed be a'late discovery; for my own part, 1 never spied any worthy of note. Stop; in fact, I have a confused recollection of a sort of capillary attraction, in whose efficacy my teacher manifested great confidence, especially in cases of listlessness and kindred maladies that afflict Murray's young disciples.
I studied English Grammar as other children, and by dint of certain forcible arguments, (striking is a more expressive word,) attained a mastery truly marvellous. I could ring all the changes upon the verb “to love” with astonishing accuracy and velocity; only intimate to me the first
sin gular of any tense, and I was off to the third person plural, with a speed that all the whips and spurs of New-Market could not have possibly accelerated; and then, simply tarried a moment for the signal, to display equal powers on any other portion of specified time.
I do not recollect that I ever acquired a momentum which carried me into another division without the "starting” word. No, like a well-bred racer, the height of my ambition was to reach the goal, and it was a tense a heat.
This is not all; I could rattle off the rules, numbers, notes, exceptions and all, with a velocity which would bid defiance to a very professor of stenography, and put a yankee pedlar or city auctioneer to the blush; and which not unfrequently fairly distanced my own thoughts.
So skilled was I, that my tongue would perform the various evolutions in the production of the verb "to be," without any volition on my part; and then what wondrous feats of legerdemain, we performed on the writings of Pope and Milton; now substituting a word here now expunging one there, till our mystified intellects could compare a sentence in blank verse, (appropriate adjective !) to nothing less than Pandora's veritable box, containing
"All the ills that flesh is heir to,"! but which our instructor, (may he rest in peace!) facetiously termed "beauties."
I have sometimes laughed outright, when thinking with what a comico-serio visage, the blind bard or the prince of English rhyme would view a band of little urchins industri. ously employed in distorting, mutilating, murdering, any thing but eating his immortal lines, if like Samuel of old, he could revisit earth.
For example, in parsing (mysterious process,) that couplet of Pope's,
In spite of pride, in erring reason's spite,
One truth is clear; whatever is, is right.” Only supply the single word “right" after the second verb, and "such a change!" What a flood of light bursts at once upon
the passage, irradiating the countenance of the operator with a glory second only to its own.
How profound, how sublime the thought; how comprehensive the expression. What a system of ethics is contained in that little line. Shade of Seneca! It was not for thee. Just think of it; whatever is right, is right! I know not to whom belongs the honor of this and numberless discoveries of a similar character, but how easily could we pardon him, if with all the enthusiasm of the old philosopher, forgetting the fashionable habiliments of these degenerate days, he had rushed from his couch into the street, with the extatic exclamation bursting from his lips, “eureka! eureka!" "I have found it out! I have found it out!”
All this I accomplished, with an interest as deep and abiding, as if it had been in the unknown tongue, and when I think of the practical advantage, I am reminded of the remark of a shrewd playmate, when taken to task for a gross transgression of “Murray's Statutes,” of which he had been a hopeful student for the last half year; “it cost too much to be used every day.”
I recollect once, after having mastered the words, further deponent saith not, in the definition of a Preposition, of pondering what sort of "relation” those little important members of sentences exhibited. I will not trouble you with the mental process, however logical, but the end of the whole matter was, that my
deliberations involved me in a doubt, whether it was a blood relation or a relation by marriage, though I rather inelined to the latter opinion."
A truce, critic, a truce !
"A word more "to define my position,” which I fear savors too much of the assailant’s and I will relieve your patience.
It was not until years after, that "a light shone suddenly round about me,” and revealed the mystery; these lights continued to break out from time to time, until English Grammar assumed a new, and I am constrained to say, interesting aspect.
It is from a vivid recollection of the time that was thus was. ted in repeating words without regard to sense, when the number of pages committed, was of far greater importance than the number of ideas acquired, that I have perhaps betrayed myself into a confession of unparalleled obtuseness during my juvenile years, and at the same time have done you injustice; while I would only express my honest indignation against those men, who for the sake of embalming a bantling idea of their own, wrap its skeleton-frame in the productions of other men's brains, resolving themselves into mere copyists, the strongest evidence of which is exhibited in the hereditary blunders that are thus entailed upon a reading youth, to the third, yea the fourth generation.
When looking back upon the days spent in the study of En. glish Grammar, it appears to me that had I known how many avenues of pleasure its subject, language, opened up to me; had I known how much of the happiness in which my young spirit exulted, the companionship of friends and books, yea of the wide earth around, and the canopied heavens above; how language is as essential to thought, as it is to the expression of it; of thought, the birthright of mind wherever found, in the mines of Peru or the forests of Honduras; had I known how much all this was the direct gift of Language, the result of my study would have been widely different. Had I known what my teachers took for granted, that I did know, that the huge limbless trunk they bade me contemplate and admire, was only the frame of a living tree, clothed upon with its own peculiar beauty, and flinging its leat-clad branches abroad, thus stripped of its glory for more minute inspection, I should have been cheered and encouraged, and even amid the bustle of a busy care-tinged life, should have turned from time to time,to contemplate J.anguage, that wondrous limner of thought and feeling, as a recreation and delight.
Then again, what an instrument of music are the organs of voice ? What can surpass or even equal it ?
Its keys are as numerous as the emotions of the human heart; now tremulous with sorrow; now elevated with joy; now softened with affliction; now deepened with passion. And yet, how little did I know of it; I, who could finger the flute and flourish the bow with no contemptible skill; I, who knew the construction and tone of almost every common instrument; whom martial music could elevate and nerve, and almost transform into a warrior; I, who have almost wept at the strains of my own mellow flute, knew nothing of the construction and power of an instrument incomparably superior to all these, an instrument which I inherited at birth, and which I could only lose in the last soft breathings of death!
Perhaps I have been too suspicious of the title, and that you have not written a Grammar, for I confess I have not even glanced at its contents. You may in fact have been gathering the branches and foliage of the subject, as I termed them, to interest and instruct the young Grammarian; to accompany and cheer him in his otherwise irksome task, and perhaps in the hands of him who has already passed the weary way, and who reverts with feelings far from pleasurable, to the labyrinths he threaded and the gloomy passes he trod, (for it is not then too late,) it may sling a ray of light back upon the dark valleys, lighting them up with a beauty which light only can impart, and awakening in his mind a new desire, to assume a branch of study, which once, more than all else, enhanced the happiness of his last day at school.”
Give me your hand, critic! You are a person mei generis, that is, after my own heart, in your views of this subject, and have expressed (not to court a compliment,) my thoughts quite as well as I could myself.
To tell you the truth, it was my intention to write a few pages upon this very subject, but as the sentiments which you have expressed are so strictly in accordance with long cherished views of my own, it would give me peculiar pleasure to substitute them.
"I certainly have no objection, if my poor thoughts can in any way subserve the interests of education.”