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early and peremptory reduction of knowledge into arts and methods; from which time commonly sciences receive small or no augmentation. But as young men, when they knit and shape perfectly, do seldom grow to a further stature ; so knowledge, while it is in aphorisms and observations, it is in growth: but when it once is comprehended in exact methods, it may perchance be further polished and illustrated, and accommodated for use and practice; but it increaseth no more in bulk and substance.
Another error which doth succeed that which we last mentioned, is, that after the distribution of particular arts and sciences, men have abandoned universality, or “ philosophia prima:"* which cannot but cease and stop all progression. For no perfect discovery can be made upon a flat or a level: neither is it possible to discover the more remote and deeper parts of any science, if you stand upon the level of the same science, and ascend not to a higher science.
Another error bath proceeded from too great a reverence and a kind of adoration of the mind and understanding of man; by means whereof, men have withdrawn themselves too much from the contemplation of nature, and the observations of experience, and have tumbled up and down in their own reason and conceits. Upon these intellectualists, which are, notwithstanding, commonly taken for the most sublime and divine philosophers, Heraclitus gave a just censure, saying, “Men sought truth in their own little worlds, and not in the great and common world;" for they disdain to spell, and so by degrees to read, in the volume of God's works: and contrariwise, by continual meditation, and agitation of wit, do urge and, as it were, invocate their own spirits to divine and give oracles unto them, whereby they are deservedly deluded.
Another error that hath some connection with this latter, is, that men have used to infect their meditations, opinions, and doctrines, with some conceits which they have most admired, or some sciences which they have most applied; and giving all things else a tincture according to them, utterly untrue and improper. So hath Plato intermingled his philosophy with theology, and Aristotle with logic; and the second school of Plato, Proclus and the rest, with the mathematics. For these were the arts which had a kind of primogeniture with them severally. So have the alchemists made a philosophy out of a few experiments of
* Elementary philosophy.
the furnace; and Gilbertus, our countryman, hath made a pbilosophy out of the observations of a loadstone. So Cicero, when, reciting the several opinions of the nature of the soul, he found a musician that held the soul was but a harmony, saith pleasantly, “Hic ab arte sua non recessit,”* &c. But of these conceits Aristotle speaketh seriously and wisely, when he saith, “Qui respiciunt ad pauca de facili pronunciant." +
Another error is an impatience of doubt, and haste to assertion, without due and mature suspension of judgment. For the two ways of contemplation are not unlike the two ways of action, commonly spoken of by the ancients; the one plain and smooth in the beginning, and in the end impassable; the other rough and troublesome in the entrance, but after awhile fair and even : so it is in contemplation; if a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but, if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.
Another error is in the manner of the tradition and delivery of knowledge, which is for the most part magistral and preremptory, and not ingenuous and faithful; in a sort as may be soonest believed, and not easiliest examined. It is true that, in compendious treatises for practice that form is not to be disallowed; but, in the true handling of knowledge, men ought not to fall, either, on the one side, into the vein of Velleius the Epicurean : “Nil tam metuens, quàm ne dubitare aliqua de re videretur:"I nor, on the other side, into Socrates' ironical doubting of all things; but to propound things sincerely with more or less asseveration, as they stand in a man's own judgment proved more or less.
Other errors there are in the scope that men propound to themselves, whereunto they bend their endeavours; for whereas the more constant and devoted kind of professors of any science ought to propound to themselves to make some additions to their science, they convert their labours to aspire to certain second prizes : as to be a profound interpreter or commentor, to be a sharp champion or defender, to be a methodical compounder or abridger, and so the patrimony of knowledge cometh to be sometimes improved, but seldom augmented.
But the greatest error of all the rest is the mistaking or misplacing of the last or furthest end of knowledge; for men have entered into a
* He did not step out of his profession.
I Fearing nothing so much as lest he should seem to doubt of any thing.
desire of learning and knowledge, sometimes upon a natural curiosity, and inquisitive appetite; sometimes to entertain their minds with variety and delight; sometimes for ornament and reputation; and sometimes to enable them to victory of wit and contradiction; and most times for lucre and profession; and seldom sincerely to give a true account of their gift of reason, to the benefit and use of men : as if there were sought in knowledge a couch, whereupon to rest a searching and restless spirit; or a tarrasse, for a wandering and variable mind to walk up and down with a fair prospect; or a tower of state, for a proud mind to raise itself upon; or a fort or commanding ground, for strife and contention; or a shop, for profit or sale; and not a rich storehouse, for the glory of the Creator, and the relief of man's estate. But this is that which will indeed dignify and exalt knowledge, if contemplation and action may be more nearly and straightly conjoined and united together than they have been; a conjunction like unto that of the two highest planets, Saturn, the planet of rest and contemplation, and Jupiter, the planet of civil society and action: howbeit I do not mean, when I speak of use and action, that end before mentioned of the applying of knowledge to lucre and profession; for I am not ignorant how much that diverteth and interrupteth the prosecution and advancement of knowledge, like unto the golden ball thrown before Atalanta, which while she goeth aside and stoopeth to take up, the race is hindered ;
“ Declinat cursus, aurumque volubile tollit.” *
Neither is my meaning, as was spoken of Socrates, to call philosophy down from heaven to converse upon the earth; that is to leave natural philosophy aside, and to apply knowledge only to manners and policy. But as both heaven and earth do conspire and contribute to the use and benefit of man; so the end ought to be, from both philosophies, to separate and reject vain speculations and whatsoever is empty and void, and to preserve and augment whatsoever is solid and fruitful : that knowledge may not be, as a courtesan, for pleasure and vanity only, or as a bond-woman, to acquire and gain to her master's use; but as a spouse, for generation, fruit, and comfort.
* Turns from the course, to grasp the rolling gold.
200.-ACCOUNT OF THE GREAT FLOODS IN THE
PROVINCE OF MORAY. [The following clear and simple narrative is a condensation from an octavo volume, by Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, full of interest but too minute in its details to afford a passage suited to these • Half Hours.' The paper which we give appeared in a little work called . Cottage Evenings,' published by C. Knight.]
Moray is a province of Scotland. Some parts of the province are mountainous, and many rivers arise from the mountains, and wind their way through the country to the sea. In their course they are sometimes broad and smooth, as when flowing through the plains ; sometimes confined within narrow rocky channels, and flowing in a strong deep current; and sometimes leaping from ledges of rock in water-falls.
In the summer of 1829, the heat in that part of the country was unusually great, and the season so dry, as to kill many of the newly planted shrubs and trees.
It was on Sunday afternoon, the 2nd day of August, that, after a close and sultry day a small drizzling rain began to fall, which con. tinued all the night and all the next day. All this time torrents of rain were falling upon the mountains; and about five or six o'clock on Monday evening the people in the plains, who had not paid much attention to the continued rain, began to be alarmed by the rapid rise of the rivers nearest to them. The alarm began over a very wide ex. tent of country nearly at the same time, and the people of a very wide district were destined to pass a wretched night.
The rain, which had been falling four-and-twenty hours so silently, had fallen thickly. Now and then there were some heavy drops ; but, generally speaking, the violent wind which was blowing broke down the rain into the smallest particles. These fell so thickly and fast, that there seemed to be a sheet of water coming down upon the earth. The lesser animals, the birds, and game of all kinds, were destroyed by it. It is supposed that the rain upon the distant mountains was much heavier. When this rain had been falling for a night and a day, the rivers
were filled to a height greater than had ever been remembered by the oldest people in Moray ; and in the night of Monday they overflowed their banks, and carried destruction with them over all the low country.
One of the gentlemen residing in that part of the country, Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, published a most interesting account of this calamity. This gentleman was himself no small sufferer by the flood; for such was the violence of the waters, that, in some parts of his estate, the soil was carried away, and large trees were torn up by the roots, and washed down the stream like so many reeds.
Sir Thomas's house, which is named Relugas, is built in a part of the country where floods had not been uncommon before the time we are speaking of; and every care had been taken, it was supposed, to protect, not only the house, but the grounds, the walks, and the shrubberries, from being ruined by any floods that were likely to happen. The house stands between two rivers, and not far from the point where the two rivers join. On the Sunday afternoon, Sir Thomas had walked home from church through his pleasure-grounds, admiring the beauty of the trees, and of the shrubs that grew in great abundance. The rain drove him for shelter over a small bridge to a summer-house, built on a rock, little expecting that, before the next day's sun had set, neither bridge nor summer-house would be left standing, nor tree nor shrub growing; and that the very mosses growing on the rocks would all be swept away by the flood.
When he and his family were at dinner on Monday, the servants brought them the unpleasant tidings of the alarming swelling of the rivers; and, in spite of the very bad weather, the whole party sallied forth to see what was really the matter. When they came to the garden-gate, they learned from the gardener, that the summer-house, which has been mentioned, had already been washed away; and when the gate was opened, so as to give them a view of the river coming down from its narrow channel of rocks a little way up, it seemed to them like the outlet to some immense lake which had broken its bounds. It was already eight or ten feet higher than any body had ever known it to be ; and it washed up the bank every now and then, so as to wet those who thought themselves far out of its reach, and then sunk again with such a force as almost to drag them after it.
At one point the river made a sudden turn round a high rock, by a