صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

to our studious attention. To study nature or man, we vught to know things that are in the ordinary course, not the unaccountable things that happen out of it.

This country is said to measure seven hundred millions of acres, and is inhabited by almost six millions of people. Who can doubt, then, that a great many crimes will be committed, and a great many strange things will happen every seven years? There will be thunder showers, that will split tough white oak trees; and hail storms, that will cost some farmers the full amount of twenty shillings to mend their glass windows; there will be taverns, and boxing matches, and elections, and gouging and drinking, and love and murder, and running in debt, and running away, and suicide. Now, if a man supposes eight, or ten, or twenty dozen of these amusing events will happen in a single year, is he not just as wise as another man, who reads fifty columns of amazing particulars, and, of course, knows that they have happened?

This state has almost one hundred thousand dwelling houses; it would be strange if all of them should escape fire for twelve months. Yet is it very profitable for a man to become a deep student of all the accidents by which they are consumed? He should take good care of his chimney-corner, and put a fender before the back-log, before he goes to bed. Having done this, he may let his aunt or grandmother read by day, or meditate by night, the terrible newspaper articles of fires; how a maid dropped asleep reading a romance, and the bed clothes took fire; how a boy searching in a garret for a hoard of nuts, kindled some flax; and how a mouse, warming his tail, caught it on fire, and carried it into his hole in the floor.

Some of the shocking articles in the papers raise simple, and very simple, wonder; some terror; and some horror and disgust. Now what instruction is there in these endless wonders? Who is the wiser or happier for reading the accounts of them? On the contrary, do they not shock tender minds, and addle shallow brains? They make a thousand old maids, and eight or ten thousand booby boys, afraid to go to bed alone. Worse than this happens; for some eccentric minds are turned to mischief by such accounts as they receive of troops of incendiaries burning our cities: the spirit of imitation is contagious; and boys are found unaccountably bent to do as men do. When the man flew from the steeple of the North Church fifty years ago, every unlucky boy thought of nothing but flying from a sign-post.

Every horrid story in a newspaper produces a shock; but, after some time, this shock lessens. At length, such stories are so far from giving pain, that they rather raise curiosity, and we desire nothing so much as the particulars of terrible tragedies. The wonder is as easy as to stare; and the most vacant mind is the most in need of such resources as cost no trouble of scrutiny or reflection; it is a sort of food for idle curiosity that is readily chewed and digested.

On the whole, we may insist that the increasing fashion for printing wonderful tales of crimes and accidents is worse than ridiculous, as it corrupts both the public taste and morals. It multiplies fables, prodigious monsters, and crimes, and thus makes shocking things familiar; while it withdraws all popular attention from familiar truth, because it is not shocking.

Now, Messrs. Printers, I pray the whole honourable craft to banish as many murders, and horrid accidents, and monstrous births and prodigies from their gazettes, as their readers will permit them; and, by degrees, to coax them back to contemplate life and manners; to consider common events with some common sense; and to study nature where she can be known, rather than in those of her ways where she really is, or is represented to be, inexplicable.

Strange events are facts, and as such should be mentioned, but with brevity and in a cursory manner. They afford no ground for popular reasoning or instruction; and, therefore, the horrid details that make each particular hair stiffen and stand upright in the reader's head ought not to be given. In short, they must be mentioned; but sensible printers and sensible readers will think that way of mentioning them the best that impresses them least on the public attention, and that hurries them on the most swiftly to be forgotten.

1

I

MEMORIAL DAY. From "After Dinner and Other
Speeches." Copyright, 1895, by John D. Long.
Reprinted with permission. By JOHN D. LONG.

GRATEFULLY acknowledge your courtesy, vet

erans and members of the Suffolk posts of the Grand Army, in inviting me, a civilian, to speak for you this day. I should shrink from the task, however, did I not know that, in this, your purpose is to honor again the Commonwealth of which I am the official representative. By recent enactment she has made the day you celebrate one of her holy days,-a day sacred to the memory of her patriot dead and to the inspiration of patriotism in her living. Henceforward, she emblazons it upon the calendar of the year with the consecrated days that have come down from the Pilgrim and the Puritan, with Christmas Day and with the birthdays of Washington and American Independence. Memorial Day will hereafter gather around it not only the love and tears and pride of the generations of the people, but more and more, in its inner circle of tenderness, the linking memories of every comrade, so long as one survives. As the dawn ushers it in, tinged already with the exquisite flush of hastening June, and sweet with the bursting fragrance of her roses, the wheels of time will each year roll back, and lo! John Andrew is at the state house, inspiring Massachusetts with the throbbing of his own great heart; Abraham Lincoln, wise and patient and honest and tender and true, is at the nation's helm; the North is one broad blaze; the boys in blue are marching to the front; the fife and drum are on every breeze; the very air is patriotism; Phil Sheridan, forty miles away, dashes back to turn defeat to victory; Farragut, lashed to the mast-head, is steaming into Mobile Harbor; Hooker is above the clouds,-ay, now indeed forever above the clouds; Sherman marches through Georgia to the sea; Grant has throttled Lee with the grip that never lets go; Richmond falls; the armies of the republic pass in that last great review at Washington; Custer's plume is there, but Kearney's saddle is empty; and, now again, our veterans come marching home to receive the welcome of a grateful people, and to stack in Doric Hall the tattered flag which Massachusetts forever hence shall wear above her heart.

In memory of the dead, in honor of the living, for inspiration to our children, we gather to-day to deck the graves of our patriots with flowers, to pledge commonwealth and town and citizen to fresh recognition of the surviving soldier, and to picture yet again the romance, the reality, the glory, the sacrifice of his service. As if it were but yesterday, you recall him. He had but turned twenty. The exquisite tint of youthful health was in his cheek. His pure heart shone from frank, outspeaking eyes. His fair hair clustered from beneath his cap.

He had pulled a stout oar in the college race, or walked the most graceful athlete on the village green. He had just entered on the vocation of his life. The doorway of his home at this season of the year was brilliant in the dewy morn with the clambering vine and fragrant flower, as in and out he went, the beloved of mother and sisters, and the ideal of a New England youth:

“In face and shoulders like a god he was;
For o'er him had the goddess breathed the charm
Of youthful locks, the ruddy glow of youth,

« السابقةمتابعة »