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he hears a sigh of relief from the poet, who was himself ever a lover of "the Mountain Nymph, sweet Liberty." At any rate, there is an undertone of cheer.
"Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon,
The World was all before them where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.”
Adam, when the old sheltered life is over, and the possibilities of the new life of struggle were revealed,
"Replete with joy and wonder thus replied.
Than that which by creation first brought forth
By me done and occasioned or rejoice
Much more that much more good thereof shall spring."
That Adam should treat the loss of Eden in such a casual manner, and that he should express a doubt as to whether the estate into which his fall plunged the race was not better than one in which no moral struggle was necessary, was not characteristic of seventeenth-century theology, but it was just like Milton.
There is no knowledge so intimate as that pos sessed by the reader of one book. It is an esoteric joy. The wisdom of the ages concentrated into one personality and then graciously communicated to the disciple has a flavor of which the multitudes of mere scholars know nothing.
them Wisdom is a public character.
"Doth not Wisdom cry,
And understanding put forth her voice?
Where the paths meet she standeth.”
But the disciple is not content with such publicity. He shuns the crowded highways, and delights to hear wisdom speaking in confidential
In a little settlement in the far West I once met a somewhat depressed-looking man who remained silent till a chance remark brought a glow of enthusiasm to his eyes.
Oh," he cried, "you have been reading the Ruins."
My remark had been of a kind that needed no special reading to account for it. It merely expressed one of those obvious truths which are likely to occur to the majority of persons. But
to him it seemed so reasonable that it could only come from the one source of wise thought with which he was acquainted.
"The Ruins" proved to be a translation of Volney's "Ruins of Empire." I fear that I must have given the impression of greater familiarity with that work than was warranted by the facts, for my new-found friend received me as a member of the true brotherhood. His tongue was unloosed, and his intellectual passions, so long pent up, were freed. Had we not both read "The Ruins"! book; it was a symbol of the unutterable things of the mind. It was a passionate protest against the narrow opinions of his neighbors. It stood for all that was lifted above the petty gossip of the little community, and for all that united him to an intellectual world of which he dreamed.
It was to him more than a
As we talked I marveled at the amount of sound philosophy this lonely reader had extracted from "The Ruins." Or had it been that he had brought the wisdom from his own meditation and deposited it at this shrine? One can never be sure whether a text has suggested the thought or the thought has illuminated the text.
When it happens that the man of one book has chosen a work of intrinsic value, the result is a kind of knowledge which is of inestimable worth. It is deeply interfused with the whole imaginative life, it is involved in every personal experience.
The supreme example of such intimate knowledge was that which generations of English speaking men had of the Bible. Apart from any religious theory, this familiarity was a wonderful fact in the history of culture. It meant that the ordinary man was not simply in his youth but throughout his life brought into direct contact with great poetry, sublime philosophy, vivid history. These were not reserved for state occasions; they were the daily food of the mind. Into the plain fabric of western thought was woven a thread of Oriental sentiment. Children were as familiar with the names and incidents of remote ages and lands as with their own neighborhood.
The important things about this culture of the common people was that it came through mere reading. The Bible was printed "without note or comment." The lack of critical apparatus and
of preliminary training was the cause of many incidental mistakes; but it prevented the greatest mistake of all, that of obscuring the text by the commentary.
In these days there has been a great advance in critical scholarship. Much more is known about the Bible, at least by those who have made it the object of special study; but there is a suspicion that fewer persons know the Bible than in the days when there were no "study classes," but only the habit of daily reading.
The Protestant insistence upon publishing the Scriptures without note or comment was an effort to do away with the middle-men who stood between the Book and its readers. Private judgment, it was declared, was a sufficient interpreter even of the profoundest utterances. This is a doctrine that needs to be revived and extended till it takes in all great literature.
To come to a book as to a friend, to allow it to speak for itself, without the intrusion of a third person, this is the substance of the whole matter. There must be no hard and fast rules, no preconceived opinions. Because the author has a reputation as a humorist, let him not be received with