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open to you the kingdom of thought, and all the boundless regions of conception, as an asylum against the cruelty, the injustice, and the pain, that may be your lot in the outer world—that which will make your motives habitually great and honourable, and light up in an instant a thousand noble disdains at the very thought of meanness and of fraud.
Therefore, if any young man have embarked his life in pursuit of knowledge, let him go on without doubting or fearing the event ; let him not be intimidated by the cheerless beginnings of knowledge, by the darkness from which she springs, by the difficulties which hover around her, by the wretched habitations in which she dwells, by the want and sorrow which sometimes journey in her train ; but let him ever follow her as the Angel that guards him, and as the Genius of his life. She will bring him out at last into the light of day, and exhibit him to the world comprehensive in acquirements, fertile in resources, rich in imagination, strong in reasoning, prudent and powerful above his fellows in all the relations and in all the offices of life.
THE Two ROADS.-(JEAN PAUL RICHTER.)
It was New-Year's night. An aged man was standing at a window. He raised his mournful eyes toward the deep blue sky, where the stars were floating, like white lilies, on the surface of a clear calm lake. Then he cast them on the earth, where few more hopeless beings than himself now moved toward their certain goal the tomb.
Already he had passed sixty of the stages which lead to it, and he had brought from his journey nothing but errors and remorse. His health was destroyed, his mind vacant, his heart sorrowful, and his old age devoid of comfort.
The days of his youth rose up in a vision before him, and he recalled the solemn moment when his father had placed him at the entrance of two roads, -one leading into a peaceful, sunny land, covered with a fertile harvest, and resounding with soft sweet songs ; the other leading the wanderer into a deep, dark cave, whence there was no issue, where poison flowed instead of water, and where serpents hissed and crawled.
He looked toward the sky, and cried out in his agony : “ O
youth, return ! O my father, place me once more at the entrance to life, that I may choose the better way !” But the days of his youth and his father had both passed away.
He saw wandering lights floating away over dark marshes, and then disappear. These were the days of his wasted life. He saw a star fall from en, and vanish in darkness.
This was an emblem of himself; and the sharp arrows of unavailing remorse struck home to his heart. Then he remembered his early companions, who entered on life with him, but who, having trod the paths of virtue and of labour, were now honoured and happy on this New Year's night.
The clock, in the high church tower, struck, and the sound, falling on his ear, recalled his parents' early love for him, their erring son ; the lessons they had taught him ; the prayers they had offered up on his behalf. Overwhelmed with shame and grief, he dared no longer look toward that heaven where his father dwelt ; his darkened eyes dropped tears, and with one despairing effort, he cried aloud : 6 Come back, my early days ! come back !”
And his youth did return; for all this was but a dream which visited his slumbers on New-Year's night. He was still young ; his faults alone were real. He thanked God fervently, that time was still his own ; that he had not yet entered the deep, dark cavern, but that he was free to tread the road leading to the peaceful land, where sunny harvests wave.
Ye who still linger on the threshold of life, doubting which path to choose, remember that, when years are passed, and your feet stumble on the dark mountain, you will cry bitterly,
but in vain : “ O youth, return ! O give me back my early days !”
ON THE ABUSE OF WORDS.---(John LOCKE.)
BESIDES the imperfection that is naturally in language, and the obscurity and confusion that is so hard to be avoided in the use of words, there are several wilful faults and neglects, which men are guilty of in this way of communication, whereby they render these signs less clear and distinct in their signification than naturally they need to be.
The first and most palpable abuse is, the using of words without
clear and distinct ideas, or, which is worse, signs without anything signified. Of these there are two sorts :
1. One may observe, in all languages, certain words that, if they be examined, will be found, in their first original, and their appropriated use, not to stand for any clear and distinct ideas. These, for the most part, the several sects of philosophy and religion have introduced. For their authors, or promoters, either affecting something singular, and out of the way of common apprehensions, or to support some strange opinions, or cover some weakness of their hypothesis, seldom fail to coin new words, and such as, when they come to be examined, may justly be called non-significant terms. For having either had no determinate collection of ideas annexed to them, when they were first invented ; or at least such as, if well examined, will be found inconsistent, it is no wonder if, afterwards, in the vulgar use of the same party, they remain empty sounds, with little or no signification, amongst those who think it enough to have them often in their mouths, as the distinguishing characteristics of their church or school, without much troubling their heads to examine what are the precise ideas they stand for.
Others there be who extend this abuse yet further, who by an unpardonable negligence, they familiarly use words, which the propriety of language has affixed to very important ideas, without any distinct meaning at all. Wisdom, glory, grace, &c., are words frequent enough in every man's mouth ; but if a great many of those who use them should be asked what they mean by them, they would be at a stand, and not know what to answer ; a plain proof, that, though they have learned those sounds, and have them ready at their tongue's end, yet there are no determined ideas laid up in their minds, which are to be expressed to others by them.
Men having been accustomed from their cradles to learn words, which are easily got and retained, before they knew or had framed the complex ideas to which they were annexed, or which were to be found in the things they were thought to stand for, they usually continue to do so all their lives ; and without taking the pains necessary to settle in their minds determined ideas, they use their words for such unsteady and confused notions as they have, contenting themselves with the same words other people use, as if their very sound necessarily carried with it constantly the same meaning. Though men make a shift with this, in the ordinary occurrences of life, where they find it necessary to be understood, and, therefore, they make signs till they are so : yet the non-significancy in their words, when they come to reason concerning either their tenets or interests, manifestly fills their discourse with abundance of empty unintelligible noise and jargon, especially in moral matters; where the words, for the most part, standing for arbitrary and numerous collections of ideas, not regularly and permanently united in nature, their bare sounds are often only thought on, or at most very obscure and uncertain notions annexed to them.
Secondly, Another great abuse of words, is inconstancy in the use of them.
It is hard to find a discourse written upon any subject, especially of controversy, wherein one shall not observe, if he read with attention, the same words (and those commonly the most material in the discourse, and upon which the argument turns) used sometimes for one collection of simple ideas, and sometimes for another, which is a perfect abuse of language. Words being intended for signs of my ideas, to make them known to others, not by any natural signification, but by a voluntary imposition, it is plain cheat and abuse when I make them stand sometimes for one thing and sometimes for another; the wilful doing whereof can be imputed to nothing but great folly, or greater dishonesty. And a man, in his accounts with another, may, with as much fairness, make the characters of numbers stand sometimes for one, and sometimes for another, collection of units (e.g., this character 3 stand sometimes for three, sometimes for four, and sometimes for eight), as in his discourse, or reasoning, make the same words stand for different collections of simple ideas. *
Thirdly, Another abuse of language is an affected obscurity, by either applying all words to new and unusual significations, or introducing new and ambiguous terms, without defining either ; or else putting them so together, as may confound their ordinary meaning. Though the peripatetic philosophy has been most eminent in this way, yet other sects have not been wholly clear of it. There are scarce any of them that are not cumbered with some difficulties (such is the imperfection of human knowledge), which they have been fain to cover with obscurity of terms, and to confound the signification of words, which, like the mist before people's eyes, might hinder their weak parts from being discovered.
Fourthly, Another great abuse of words is the taking them for things. This, though it in some degree concerns all names in general, yet more particularly affects those of substances. To this abuse those men are most subject who most confine their thoughts to any one system, and give themselves up into a firm belief of the perfection of any received hypothesis ; whereby they come to be persuaded, that the terms of that sect are so suited to the nature of things that they perfectly correspond with their real existence. Who is there that has been bred up in the peripatetic philosophy, who does not think the ten names, under which are ranked the ten predicaments, to be exactly conformable to the nature of things ? Who is there of that school that is not persuaded that substantial forms, vegetative souls, abhorrence of a vacuum, intentional species, &c., are something real ? These words men have learned from their very entrance upon knowledge, and have found their masters and systems lay great stress upon them; and therefore they cannot quit the opinion that they are conformable to nature, and are the representations of something that really exists.
Fifthly, Another abuse of words is the setting them in the place of things which they do or can by no means signify.
Sixthly, There remains yet another more general, though perhaps less observed, abuse of words"; and that is, that men having by a long and familiar use annexed to them certain ideas, they are apt to imagine so near and necessary a connexion between the names and the signification they use them in, that they forwardly suppose one cannot but understand what their meaning is ; and therefore one ought to acquiesce in the words delivered, as if it were past doubt, that in the use of those common received sounds, the speaker and hearer had necessarily the same precise ideas. Whence presuming, that when they have in discourse used any term, they have thereby, as it were, set before others the very thing they talk of. And so likewise, taking the words of others, as standing precisely for what they themselves have been accustomed to apply them to, they never trouble themselves to explain their own, or understand clearly others' meaning. From whence commonly proceed noise and wrangling, without improve ment or information ; whilst men take words to be the constant regular marks of agreed notions, which, in truth, are no more but the voluntary and unsteady signs of their own ideas. And yet