2009年1月29日 星期四

Signs of the Times by THOMAS CARLYLE


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"... CHAPTER IV THOMfl S CARLYLE I N 1829, in the Edinburgh Review, Carlyle published his important essay, Signs of the Times. The essay, was his first main contribution to the social thought of is time, ..."
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"Signs of the Times" originally appeared in the Edinburgh Review. This text comes from volume three of The Collected Works of Thomas Carlyle. 16 volumes. London Chapman and Hall, 1858. The text has been scanned, converted to HTML, and linked by GPL.

It is no very good symptom either of nations or individuals, that they deal much in vaticination. Happy men are full of the present, for its bounty suffices them; and wise men also, for its duties engage them. Our grand business undoubtedly is, not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.

Know'st thou Yesterday, its aim and reason;
Work'st thou well Today, for worthy things?
Calmly wait the Morrow's hidden season,
Need'st not fear what hap soe'er it brings.

But man's "large discourse of reason" will look "before and after"; and, impatient of the "ignorant present time," will indulge in anticipation far more than profits him. Seldom can the unhappy be persuaded that the evil of the day is sufficient for it; and the ambitious will not be content with present splendour, but paints yet more glorious triumphs, on the cloud-curtain of the future.

The case, however, is still worse with nations. For here the prophets are not one, but many; and each incites and confirms the other; so that the fatidical fury spreads wider and wider, till at last even Saul must join in it. For there is still a real magic in the action and reaction of minds on one another. The casual deliration of a few becomes, by this mysterious reverberation, the frenzy of many; men lose the use, not only of their understandings, but of their bodily senses; while the most obdurate unbelieving hearts melt, like the rest, in the furnace where all are cast as victims and as fuel. It is grievous to think, that this noble omnipotence of Sympathy has been so rarely the Aaron's-rod of Truth and Virtue, and so often the Enchanter's-rod of Wickedness and Folly! No solitary miscreant, scarcely any solitary maniac, would venture on such actions and imaginations, as large communities of sane men have, in such circumstances, entertained as sound wisdom. Witness long scenes of the French Revolution, in these late times! Levity is no protection against such visitations, nor the utmost earnestness of character. The New-England [98/99] Puritan burns witches, wrestles for months with the horrors of Satan's invisible world, and all ghastly phantasms, the daily and hourly precursors of the Last Day; then suddenly bethinks him that he is frantic, weeps bitterly, prays contritely, and the history of that gloomy season lies behind him like a frightful dream.

Old England too has had her share of such frenzies and panics; though happily, like other old maladies, they have grown milder of late: and since the days of Titus Oates have mostly passed without loss of men's lives; or indeed without much other loss than that of reason, for the time, in the sufferers. In this mitigated form, however, the distemper is of pretty regular recurrence; and may be reckoned on at intervals, like other natural visitations; so that reasonable men deal with it, as the Londoners do with their fogs, — go cautiously out into the groping crowd, and patiently carry lanterns at noon; knowing, by a wellgrounded faith, that the sun is still in existence, and will one day reappear. How often have we heard, for the last fifty years, 3 that the country was wrecked, and fast sinking; whereas, up to this date, the country is entire and afloat. The "State in Danger" is a condition of things, which we have witnessed a hundred times; and as for the Church, it has seldom been out of "danger" since we can remember it.

All men are aware that the present is a crisis of this sort; and why it has become so. The repeal of the Test Acts, and then of the Catholic disabilities, has struck many of their admirers with an indescribable astonishment. Those things seemed fixed and immovable; deep as the foundations of the world; and lo, in a moment they have vanished, and their place knows them no more! Our worthy friends mistook the slumbering Leviathan for an island; often as they had been assured, that Intolerance was, and could be nothing but a Monster; and so, mooring under the lee, they had anchored comfortably in his scaly rind, thinking to take good cheer; as for some space they did. But now their Leviathan has suddenly dived under; and they can no longer be fastened in the stream of time; but must drift forward on it, even like the rest of the world: no very appalling fate, we think, could they but understand it; which, however, they will not yet, for a season. Their little island is gone; sunk deep amid confused eddies; and what is left worth caring for in the universe? What is it to them that the great continents of the earth are still standing; and the polestar and all our loadstars ' in the heavens, still shining and eternal? Their cherished little haven is gone, and they will not be comforted And therefore, day after day, in all manner of periodical or perennial publications, the most lugubrious predictions [99/100] are sent forth. The King has virtually abdicated; the Church is a widow, without jointure; public principle is gone; private honesty is going; society, in short, is fast falling in pieces; and a time of unmixed evil is come on us.

At such a period, it was to be expected that the rage of prophecy should be more than usually excited. Accordingly, the Millennarians have come forth on the right hand, and the Millites on the left. The Fifth-monarchy men prophesy from the Bible, and the Utilitarians from Bentham. The one announces that the last of the seals is to be opened, positively, in the year 1860; and the other assures us that "the greatest-happiness principle" is to make a heaven of earth, in a still shorter time. We know these symptoms too well, to think it necessary or safe to interfere with them. Time and the hours will bring relief to all parties. The grand encourager of Delphic or other noises is the Echo. Left to themselves, they will the sooner dissipate, and die away in space.

Meanwhile, we too admit that the present is an important time; as all present time necessarily is. The poorest Day that passes over us is the conflux. of two Eternities; it is made up of currents that issue from the remotest Past, and flow onwards into the remotest Future. We were wise indeed, could we discern truly the signs of our own time; and by knowledge of its wants and advantages, wisely adjust our own position in it. Let us, instead of gazing idly into the obscure distance, look calmly around us, for a little, on the perplexed scene where we stand. Perhaps, on a more serious inspection, something of its perplexity will disappear, some of its distinctive characters and deeper tendencies more clearly reveal themselves; whereby our own relations to it, our own true aims and endeavours in it, may also become clearer.

Were we required to characterise this age of ours by any single epithet, we should be tempted to call it, not an Heroical, Devotional, Philosophical, or Moral Age, but, above all others, the Mechanical Age. It is the Age of Machinery, in every outward and inward sense of that word; the age which, with its whole undivided might, forwards, teaches and practises the great art of adapting means to ends. Nothing is now done directly, or by hand; all is by rule and calculated contrivance. For the simplest operation, some helps and accompaniments, some cunning abbreviating process is in readiness. Our old modes of exertion are all discredited, and thrown aside. On every hand, the living artisan is driven from his workshop, to make room for a speedier, inanimate one. The shuttle drops from the fingers of the weaver, and falls into iron fingers that ply it faster. The sailor furls his sail, and lays [100/101] down his oar; and bids a strong, unwearied servant, on vaporous wings, bear him through the waters. Men have crossed oceans by steam; the Birmingham Fire-king has visited the fabulous East; and the genius of the Cape were there any Camoens now to sing it, has again been alarmed, and with far stranger thunders than Gamas. There is no end to machinery. Even the horse is stripped of his harness, and finds a fleet fire-horse invoked in his stead. Nay, we have an artist that hatches chickens by steam; the very brood-hen is to be superseded! For all earthly, and for some unearthly purposes, we have machines and mechanic furtherances; for mincing our cabbages; for casting us into magnetic sleep. We remove mountains, and make seas our smooth highways; nothing can resist us. We war with rude Nature; and, by our resistless engines, come off always victorious, and loaded with spoils.

What wonderful accessions have thus been made, and are still making, to the physical power of mankind; how much better fed, clothed, lodged and, in all outward respects, accommodated men now are, or might be, by a given quantity of labour, is a grateful reflection which forces itself on every one. What changes, too, this addition of power is introducing into the Social System; how wealth has more and more increased, and at the same time gathered itself more and more into masses, strangely altering the old relations, and increasing the distance between the rich and the poor, will be a question for Political Economists, and a much more complex and important one than any they have yet engaged with.

But leaving these matters for the present, let us observe how the mechanical genius of our time has diffused itself into quite other provinces. Not the external and physical alone is now managed by machinery, but the internal and spiritual also. Here too nothing follows its spontaneous course, nothing is left to be accomplished by old natural methods. Everything has its cunningly devised implements, its preestablished apparatus; it is not done by hand, but by machinery. Thus we have machines for Education: Lancastrian machines; Hamiltonian machines; monitors, maps and emblems. Instruction, that mysterious communing of Wisdom with Ignorance, is no longer an indefinable tentative process, requiring a study of individual aptitudes, and a perpetual variation of means and methods, to attain the same end; but a secure, universal, straightforward business, to be conducted in the gross, by proper mechanism, with such intellect as comes to hand. Then, we have Religious machines, of all imaginable varieties; the Bible-Society, professing a far higher and heavenly structure, is found, on inquiry, to be altogether an earthly [101/102] contrivance: supported by collection of moneys, by fomenting of vanities, by puffing, intrigue and chicane; a machine for converting the Heathen. It is the same in all other departments. Has any man, or any society of men, a truth to speak, a piece of spiritual work to do; they can nowise proceed at once and with the mere natural organs, but must first call a public meeting, appoint committees, issue prospectuses, eat a public dinner; in a word, construct or borrow machinery, wherewith to speak it and do it. Without machinery, they were hopeless, helpless; a colony of Hindoo weavers squatting in the heart of Lancashire. Mark, too, how every machine must have its moving power, in some of the great currents of society; every little sect among us, Unitarians, Utilitarians, Anabaptists, Phrenologists, must have its Periodical, its monthly or quarterly Magazine;-- hanging out, like its windmill, into the popularis aura, to grind meal for the society.

With individuals, in like manner, natural strength avails little. No individual now hopes to accomplish the poorest enterprise single-handed and without mechanical aids; he must make interest with some existing corporation, and till his field with their oxen. In these days, more emphatically than ever, "to live, signifies to unite with a party, or to make one." Philosophy, Science, Art, Literature, all depend on machinery. No Newton, by silent meditation, now discovers the system of the world from the falling of an apple; but some quite other than Newton stands in his Museum, his Scientific Institution, and behind whole batteries of retorts, digesters, and galvanic piles imperatively "interrogates Nature," who however, shows no haste to answer. In defect of Raphaels, and Angelos, and Mozarts, we have Royal Academies of Painting, Sculpture, Music; whereby the languishing spirits of Art may be strengthened, as by the more generous diet of a Public Kitchen. Literature, too, has its Paternoster-row mechanism, its Trade-dinners, its Editorial conclaves, and huge subterranean, puffing bellows; so that books are not only printed, but, in a great measure, written and sold, by machinery. National culture, spiritual benefit of all sorts, is under the same management. No Queen Christina, in these times, needs to send for her Descartes; no King Frederick for his Voltaire, and painfully nourish him with pensions and flattery: any sovereign of taste, who wishes to enlighten his people, has only to impose a new tax, and with the proceeds establish Philosophic Institutes. Hence the Royal and Imperial Societies, the Bibliothèques, Glyptothèques, Technothèques, which front us in all capital cities; like so many well-finished hives, to which it is expected the stray agencies of Wisdom will swarm of their own accord, and hive and make honey. In like [102/103] manner, among ourselves, when it is thought that religion is declining, we have only to vote half-amillion's worth of bricks and mortar, and build new churches. In Ireland it seems they have gone still farther, having actually established a "Penny-a-week Purgatory-Society"! Thus does the Genius of Mechanism stand by to help us in all difficulties and emergencies, and with his iron back bears all our burdens.

These things, which we state lightly enough here, are yet of deep import, and indicate a mighty change in our whole manner of existence. For the same habit regulates not our modes of action alone, but our modes of thought and feeling. Men are grown mechanical in head and in heart, as well as in hand. They have lost faith in individual endeavour, and in natural force, of any kind. Not for internal perfection, but for external combinations and arrangements, for institutions, constitutions, for Mechanism of one sort or other, do they hope and struggle. Their whole efforts, attachments, opinions, turn on mechanism, and are of a mechanical character.

We may trace this tendency in all the great manifestations of our time; in its intellectual aspect, the studies it most favours and its manner of conducting them; in its practical aspects, its politics, arts, religion, morals; in the whole sources, and throughout the whole currents, of its spiritual, no less than its material activity.

Consider, for example, the state of Science generally, in Europe, at this period. It is admitted, on all sides, that the Metaphysical and Moral Sciences are falling into decay, while the Physical are engrossing, every day, more respect and attention. In most of the European nations there is now no such thing as a Science of Mind; only more or less advancement in the general science, or the special sciences, of matter. The French were the first to desert Metaphysics; and though they have lately affected to revive their school, it has yet no signs of vitality. The land of Malebranche, Pascal, Descartes Fenelon, has now only its Cousins and Villemains; while, in the department of Physics, it reckons far other names. Among ourselves, the Philosophy of Mind, after a rickety infancy, which never reached the vigour of manhood, fell suddenly into decay, languished and finally died out, with its last amiable cultivator, Professor Stewart. In no nation but Germany has any decisive effort been made in psychological science; not to speak of any decisive result. The science of the. age, in short, is physical, chemical, physiological; in all shapes mechanical. Our favourite Mathematics, the highly prized exponent of all these other sciences, has also become more and more mechanical. [103/104] Excellence in what is called its higher departments depends less on natural genius than on acquired expertness in wielding its machinery. Without undervaluing the wonderful results which a Lagrange or Laplace educes by means of it, we may remark, that their calculus, differential and integral, is little else than a more cunningly-constructed arithmetical mill; where the factors, being put in, are, as it were, ground into the true product, under cover, and without other effort on our part than steady turning of the handle. We have more Mathematics than ever; but less Mathesis. Archimedes and Plato could not have read the Mécanique Céleste; but neither would the whole French Institute see aught in that saying, "God geometrises!" but a sentimental rodomontade.

Nay, our whole Metaphysics itself, from Locke's time downward, has been physical; not a spiritual philosophy, but a material one. The singular estimation in which his Essay was so long held as a scientific work (an estimation grounded, indeed, on the estimable character of the man) will one day be thought a curious indication of the spirit of these times. His whole doctrine is mechanical, in its aim and origin, in its method and its results. it is not a philosophy of the mind: it is a mere discussion concerning the origin of our consciousness, or ideas, or whatever else they are called; a genetic history of what we see in the mind. The grand secrets of Necessity and Freewill, of the Mind's vital or non-vital dependence on Matter, of our mysterious relations to Time and Space, to God, to the Universe, are not, in the faintest degree touched on in these inquiries; and seem not to have the smallest connexion with them.

The last class of our Scotch Metaphysicians had a dim notion that much of this was wrong; but they knew not how to right it. The school of Reid had also from the first taken a mechanical course, not seeing any other. The singular conclusions at which Hume, setting out from their admitted premises, was arriving, brought this school into being; they let loose Instinct, as an undiscriminating ban-dog, to guard them against these conclusions; — they tugged lustily at the logical chain by which Hume was so coldly towing them and the world into bottomless abysses of Atheism and Fatalism. But the chain somehow snapped between them; and the issue has been that nobody now cares about either, any more than about Hartley's, Darwin's, or Priestley's contemporaneous doings in England. Hartley's vibrations and vibratiuncles, one would think, were material and mechanical enough; but our Continental neighbours have gone still farther. One of their philosophers has lately discovered, that "as the liver secretes bile, so does the brain secrete thought"; which astonishing discovery Dr. Cabanis [104/105], more lately still, in his Rapports du Physique et du Morale de l'Homme, has pushed into its miemnutest developments. The metaphysical philosophy of this last inquirer is certainly no shadowy or unsubstantial one. He fairly lays open our moral structure with his dissecting-knives and real metal probes; and exhibits it to the inspection of mankind, by Leuwenhoek microscopes, and inflation with the anatomical blowpipe. Thought, he is inclined to hold, is still secreted by the brain; but then Poetry and Religion (and it is really worth knowing) are "a product of the smaller intestines!" We have the greatest admiration for this learned doctor: with what scientific stoicism he walks through the land of wonders, unwondering; like a wise man through some huge, gaudy, imposing Vauxhall, whose fire-works, cascades and symphonies, the vulgar may enjoy and believe in, — but where he finds nothing real but the saltpetre, pasteboard and catgut. His book may be regarded as the ultimatum of mechanical metaphysics in our time; a remarkable realisation of what in Martinus Scriblerus was still only an idea, that "as the jack had a meat-roasting quality, so had the body a thinking quality," upon the strength of which the Nurembergers were to build a wood-and-leather man, "who should reason as well as most country parsons." Vaucanson did indeed make a wooden duck, that seemed to eat and digest; but that bold scheme of the Nurembergers remained for a more modern virtuoso.

This condition of the two great departments of knowledge — the outward, cultivated exclusively on mechanical principles; the inward, finally abandoned, because, cultivated on such principles, it is found to yield no result, — sufficiently indicates the intellectual bias of our time, its all-pervading disposition towards that line of inquiry. In fact, an inward persuasion has long been diffusing itself, and now and then even comes to utterance, That, except the external, there are no true sciences; that to the inward world (if there be any) our only conceivable road is through the Outward; that, in short, what cannot be investigated and understood mechanically, cannot be investigated and understood at all. We advert the more particularly to these intellectual propensities, as to prominent symptoms of our age, because Opinion is at all times doubly related to Action, first as cause, then as effect; and the speculative tendency of any age will therefore give us, on the whole, the best indications of its practical tendency.

Nowhere, for example, is the deep, almost exclusive faith we have in Mechanism more visible than in the Politics of this time. Civil government does by its nature include much that is mechanical, and must be treated accordingly. We term it indeed, in [105/106] ordinary language, the Machine of Society, and talk of it as the grand working wheel from which all private machines must derive, or to which they must adapt, their movements. Considered merely as a metaphor, all this is well enough; but here, as in so many other cases, the "foam hardens itself into a shell," and the shadow we have wantonly evoked stands terrible before us and will not depart at our bidding. Government includes much also that is not mechanical, and cannot be treated mechanically; of which latter truth, as appears to us, the political speculations and exertions of our time are taking less and less cognisance.

Nay, in the very outset, we might note the mighty interest taken in mere political arrangements, as itself the sign of a mechanical age. The whole discontent of Europe takes this direction. The deep, strong cry of all civilised nations, — a cry which, every one now sees, must and will be answered, is: Give us a reform of Government! A good structure of legislation, a proper check upon the executive, a wise arrangement of the judiciary, is all that is wanting for human happiness. The Philosopher of this age is not a Socrates, a Plato, a Hooker, or Taylor, who inculcates on men the necessity and infinite worth of moral goodness, the great truth that our happiness depends on the mind which is within us, and not on the circumstances which are without us; but a Smith, a De Lolme, a Bentham, who chiefly inculcates the reverse of this, — that our happiness depends entirely on external circumstances; nay, that the strength and dignity of the mind within us is itself the creature and- consequence of these. Were the laws, the government, in good order, all were well with us; the rest would care for itself! Dissentients from this opinion, expressed or implied, are now rarely to be met with; widely and angrily as men differ in its application, the principle is admitted by all.

Equally mechanical, and of equal simplicity, are the methods proposed by both parties for completing or securing this all-sufficient perfection of arrangement. It is no longer the moral, religious, spiritual condition of the people that is our concern, but their physical, practical, economical condition, as regulated by public laws. Thus is the Body-politic more than ever worshipped and tendered; but the Soul-politic less than ever. Love of country, in any high or generous sense, in any other than an almost animal sense, or mere habit, has little importance attached to it in such reforms, or in the opposition shown them. Men are to be guided only by their self-interests. Good government is a good balancing of these; and, except a keen eye and appetite for self-interest, requires no virtue in any quarter. To both parties it is emphatically a machine: to the discontented, a "taxing-machine "; to the contented [106/107], a "machine for securing property." Its duties and its faults are not those of a father, but of an active parish-constable.

Thus it is by the mere condition of the machine, by preserving it untouched, or else by reconstructing it, and oiling it anew, that man's salvation as a social being is to be ensured and indefinitely promoted. Contrive the fabric of law aright, and without farther effort on your part, that divine spirit of Freedom, which all hearts venerate and long for, will of herself come to inhabit it; and under her healing wings every noxious influence will wither, every good and salutary one more and more expand. Nay, so devoted are we to this principle, and at the same time so curiously mechanical, that a new trade, specially grounded on it, has arisen among us, under the name of "Codification," or codemaking in the abstract; whereby any people, for a reasonable consideration, may be accommodated with a patent code; — more easily than curious individuals with patent breeches, for the people does not need to be measured first.

To us who live in the midst of all this, and see continually the faith, hope and, practice of every one founded on Mechanism of one kind or other, it is apt to seem quite natural, and as if it could never have been otherwise. Nevertheless, if we recollect or reflect a little, we shall find both that it has been, and might again be otherwise. The domain of Mechanism, meaning thereby political, ecclesiastical or other outward establishments, — was once considered as embracing, and we are persuaded can at any time embrace, but a limited portion of man's interests, and by no means the highest portion.

To speak a little pedantically, there is a science of Dynamics in man's fortunes and nature, as well as of Mechanics. There is a science which treats of, and practically addresses, the primary, unmodified forces and energies of man, the mysterious springs of Love, and Fear, and Wonder, of Enthusiasm, Poetry, Religion, all which have a truly vital and infinite character; as well as a science which practically addresses the finite, modified developments of these, when they take the shape of immediate "motives," as hope of reward, or as fear of punishment.

Now it is certain, that in former times the wise men, the enlightened lovers of their kind, who appeared generally as Moralists, Poets or Priests, did, without neglecting the Mechanical province, deal chiefly with the Dynamical; applying themselves chiefly to regulate, increase and purify the inward primary powers of man; and fancying that herein lay the main difficulty, and the best service they could undertake. But a wide difference is manifest in our age. For the [107/108], who now appear as Political Philosophers, deal exclusively with the Mechanical province; and occupying themselves in counting-up and estimating men's motives, strive by curious checking and balancing, and other adjustments of Profit and Loss, to guide them to their true advantage: while, unfortunately, those same "motives" are so innumerable, and so variable in every individual, that no really useful conclusion can ever be drawn from their enumeration. But though Mechanism, wisely contrived, has done much for man in a social and moral point of view, we cannot be persuaded that it has ever been the chief source of his worth or happiness. Consider the great elements of human enjoyment, the attainments and possessions that exalt man's life to its present height, and see what part of these he owes to institutions, to Mechanism of any kind; and what to the instinctive, unbounded force, which Nature herself lent him, and still continues to him. Shall we say, for example, that Science and Art are indebted principally to the founders of Schools and Universities? Did not Science originate rather, and gain advancement, in the obscure closets of the Roger Bacons, Keplers, Newtons; in the workshops of the Fausts and the Watts; wherever, and in what guise soever Nature, from the first times downwards, had sent a gifted spirit upon the earth? Again, were Homer and Shakspeare members of any beneficed guild, or made Poets by means of it? Were Painting and Sculpture created by forethought, brought into the world by institutions for that end? No; Science and Art have, from first to last, been the free gift of Nature; an unsolicited, unexpected gift; often even a fatal one. These things rose up, as it were, by spontaneous growth, in the free soil and sunshine of Nature. They were not planted or grafted, nor even greatly multiplied or improved by the culture or manuring of institutions. Generally speaking, they have derived only partial help from these; often enough have suffered damage. They made constitutions for themselves. They originated in the Dynamical nature of man, not in his Mechanical nature.

Or, to take an infinitely higher instance, that of the Christian Religion, which, under every theory of it, in the believing or unbelieving mind, must ever be regarded as the crowning glory, or rather the life and soul, of our whole modern culture: How did Christianity arise and spread abroad among men? Was it by institutions, and establishments and well-arranged systems of mechanism? Not so; on the contrary, in all past and existing institutions for those ends, its divine spirit has invariably been found to languish and decay. It arose in the mystic deeps of man's soul; and was spread abroad by the preaching of the word," by simple, altogether natural and individual efforts; and flew, like hallowed [108/109] fire, from heart to heart, till all were purified and illuminated by it; and its heavenly light shone, as it still shines, and (as sun or star) will ever shine, through the whole dark destinies of man. Here again was no Mechanism; man's highest attainment was accomplish, Dynamically, not Mechanically. Nay, we will venture to say, that no high attainment, not even any far-extending movement among men, was ever accomplished otherwise. Strange as it may see if we read History with any degree thoughtfulness, we shall find that checks and balances of Profit and Loss have never been the grand agents with men. that they have never been roused into deep, thorough, all-pervading efforts by any computable prospect of Profit and Loss, for any visible, finite object; but always for some invisible and infinite one. The Crusades took their rise in Religion; their visible object was, commercially speaking, worth nothing. It was the boundless Invisible world that was laid bare in the imaginations of those men; and in its burning light, the visible shrunk as a scroll. Not mechanical, nor produced by mechanical means, was this vast movement. No dining at Freemasons' Tavern, with the other long train of modern machinery; no cunning reconciliation of "vested interests," was required here: only the passionate voice of one man, the rapt soul looking through the eyes of one man; and rugged, steel-clad Europe trembled beneath his words, and followed him whither he listed. In later ages it was still the same. The Reformation had an invisible, mystic and ideal aim; the result was indeed to be embodied in external things; but its spirit, its worth, was internal, invisible, infinite. Our English Revolution too originated in Religion. Men did battle, in those old days, not for Purse-sake, but for Conscience-sake. Nay, in our own days, it is no way different. The French Revolution itself had something higher in it than cheap bread and a Habeas-corpus act. Here too was an Idea; a Dynamic, not a Mechanic force. It was a struggle, though a blind and at last an insane one, for the infinite, divine nature of Right, of Freedom, of Country.

Thus does man, in every age, vindicate, consciously or unconsciously, his celestial birthright. Thus does Nature hold on her wondrous, unquestionable course; and all our systems and theories are but so many froth-eddies or sandbanks, which from time to time she casts up, and washes away. When we can drain the Ocean into mill-ponds, and bottle-up the Force of Gravity, to be sold by retail, in gas jars; then may we hope to comprehend the infinitudes of man's soul under formulas of Profit and Loss; and rule over this too, as over a patent engine, by checks, and valves, and balances. [109/110]

Nay, even with regard to Government itself, can it be necessary to remind any one that Freedom, without which indeed all spiritual life is impossible, depends on infinitely more complex influences than either the extension or the curtailment of the "democratic interest"? Who is there that, "taking the high priori road," shall point out what these influences are; what deep, subtle, inextricably entangled influences they have been and may be? For man is not the creature and product of Mechanism; but, in a far truer sense, its creator and producer: it is the noble People that makes the noble Government; rather than conversely. On the whole, Institutions are much; but they are not all. The freest and highest spirits of the world have often been found under strange outward circumstances: Saint Paul and his brother Apostles were politically slaves; Epictetus was personally one. Again, forget the influences of Chivalry and Religion, and ask: What countries produced Columbus and Las Casas? Or, descending from virtue and heroism to mere energy and spiritual talent: Cortes, Pizarro, Alba, Ximenes? The Spaniards of the sixteenth century were indisputably the noblest nation of Europe: yet they had the Inquisition and Philip II. They have the same government at this day; and are the lowest nation. The Dutch too have retained their old constitution; but no Siege of Leyden, no William the Silent, not even an Egmont or DeWitt any longer appears among them. With ourselves also, where much has changed, effect has nowise followed cause as it should have done — two centuries ago, the Commons Speaker addressed Queen Elizabeth on bended knees, happy that the virago's foot did not even smite him; yet the people were then governed, not by a Castlereagh, but by a Burghley; they had their Shakspeare and Philip Sidney, where we have our Sheridan Knowles and Beau Brummel.

These and the like facts are so familiar, the truths which they preach so obvious, and have in all past times been so universally believed and acted on, that we should almost feel ashamed for repeating them; were it not that, on every hand, the memory of them seems to have passed away, or at best died into a faint tradition, of no value as a practical principle. To judge by the loud clamour of our Constitution-builders, Statists, Economists, directors, creators, reformers of Public Societies; in a word, all manner of Mechanists, from the Cartwright up to the Code-maker; and by the nearly total silence of all Preachers and Teachers who should give a voice to Poetry, Religion and Morality, we might fancy either that man's Dynamical nature was, to all spiritual intents, extinct, or else so perfected that nothing more was to be made of it by the [110/111] old means; and henceforth only in his Mechanical contrivances did any hope exist for him.

To define the limits of these two departments of man's activity, which work into one another, and by means of one another, so intricately and inseparably, were by its nature an impossible attempt. Their relative importance, even to the wisest mind, will vary in different times, according to the special wants and dispositions of those times. Meanwhile, it seems clear enough that only in the right coordination of the two, and the vigorous forwarding of both, does our true line of action lie. Undue cultivation of the inward or Dynamical province leads to idle, visionary, impracticable courses, and, especially in rude eras, to Superstition and Fanaticism, with their long train of baleful and well-known evils. Undue cultivation of the outward, again, though less immediately prejudicial, and even for the time productive of many palpable benefits, must, in the long-run, by destroying Moral Force, which is the parent of all other Force, prove not less certainly, and perhaps still more hopelessly, pernicious. This, we take it, is the grand characteristic of our age. By our skill in Mechanism, it has come to pass, that in the management of external things we excel all other ages; while in whatever respects the pure moral nature, in true dignity of soul and character, we are perhaps inferior to most civilised ages.

In fact, if we look deeper, we shall find that this faith in Mechanism has now struck its roots down into man's most intimate, primary sources of conviction; and is thence sending up, over his whole life and activity, innumerable stems, — fruitbearing and poison-bearing. The truth is, men have lost their belief in the Invisible, and believe, and hope, and work only in the Visible; or, to speak it in other words: This is not a Religious age. Only the material, the immediately practical, not the divine and spiritual, is important to us. The infinite, absolute character of Virtue has passed into a finite, conditional one; it is no longer a worship of the Beautiful and Good; but a calculation of the Profitable. Worship, indeed, in any sense, is not recognised among us, or is mechanically explained into Fear of pain, or Hope of pleasure. Our true Deity is Mechanism. It has subdued external Nature for us, and we think it will do all other things. We are Giants in physical power: in a deeper than metaphorical sense, we are Titans, that strive, by heaping mountain on mountain, to conquer Heaven also.

The strong Mechanical character, so visible in the spiritual pursuits and methods of this age, may be traced much farther into the condition and prevailing disposition of our spiritual nature itself. Consider, for example, the general fashion of Intellect in [111/112] this era. Intellect, the power man has of knowing and believing, is now nearly synonymous with Logic, or the mere power of arranging and communicating. Its implement is not Meditation, but Argument. "Cause and effect" is almost the only category under which we look at, and work with, all Nature. Our first question with regard to any object is not, What is it? but, How is it? We are no longer instinctively driven to apprehend, and lay to heart, what is Good and Lovely, but rather to inquire, as onlookers, how it is produced, whence it comes, whither it goes. Our favourite Philosophers have no love and no hatred; they stand among us not to do, nor to create anything, but as a sort of Logic mills, to grind out the true causes and effects of all that is done and created. To the eye of a Smith, a Hume or a Constant, all is well that works quietly. An Order of Ignatius Loyola, a Presbyterianism of John Knox, a Wickliffe or a Henry the Eighth, are simply so many mechanical phenomena, caused or causing.

The Euphuist of our day differs much from his pleasant predecessors. An intellectual dapperling of these times boasts chiefly of his irresistible perspicacity, his "dwelling in the daylight of truth," and so forth; which, on examination, turns out to be a dwelling in the rush-light of "closet logic," and a deep unconsciousness that there is any other light to dwell in or any other objects to survey with it. Wonder, indeed, is, on all hands, dying out: it is the sign of uncultivation to wonder. Speak to any small man of a high, majestic Reformation, of a high majestic Luther; and forthwith he sets about "accounting" for it; how the "circumstances of the time" called for such a character, and found him, we suppose, standing girt and road-ready, to do its errand; how the "circumstances of the time" created, fashioned, floated him quietly along into the result; how, in short, this small man, had he been there, could have per formed the like himself! For it is the "force of circumstances" that does everything; the force of one man can do nothing. Now all this is grounded on little more than a metaphor. We figure Society as a "Machine," and that mind is opposed to mind, as body is to body; whereby two, or at most ten, little minds must be stronger than one great mind. Notable absurdity! For the plain truth, very plain, we think is, that minds are opposed to minds in quite a different way; and one man that has a higher Wisdom, a hitherto unknown spiritual Truth in him, is stronger, not than ten men that have it not, or than ten thousand, but than all men that have it not; and stands among them with a quite ethereal, angelic power, as with a sword out of Heaven's own armory, sky-tempered, which no buckler, and no tower of brass, will finally withstand. [112/113]

But to us, in these times, such considerations rarely occur. We enjoy, we see nothing by direct vision; but only by reflection, and in anatomical dismemberment. Like Sir Hudibras, for every Why ice must have a Wherefore. We have our little theory on all human and divine things. Poetry, the workings of genius itself, which in all times, with one or another meaning, has been called Inspiration, and held to be mysterious and inscrutable, is no longer without its scientific exposition. The building of the lofty rhyme is like any other masonry or bricklaying: we have theories of its rise, height, decline and fall'-which latter, it would seem, is now near, among all people. Of our "Theories of Taste," as they are called, wherein the deep, infinite, unspeakable Love of Wisdom and Beauty, which dwells in all men, is "explained," made mechanically visible, from "Association" and the like, why should we say anything? Hume; has written us a "Natural History of Religion"; in which one Natural History all the rest are included. Strangely too does the general feeling coincide with Hume's in this wonderful problem; for whether his "Natural History" be the right one or not, that Religion must have a Natural History, all of us, cleric and laic, seem to be agreed. He indeed regards it as a Disease, we again as Health; so far there is a difference; but in our first principle we are at one.

To what extent theological Unbelief, we mean intellectual dissent from the Church, in its view of Holy Writ, prevails at this day, would be a highly important, were it not, under any circumstances, an almost impossible inquiry. But the Unbelief, which is of a still more fundamental character, every man may see prevailing, with scarcely any but the faintest contradiction, all around him; even in the Pulpit itself. Religion in most countries, more or less in every country, is no longer what it was, and should be, — a thousand-voiced psalm from the heart of Man to his invisible Father, the fountain of all Goodness, Beauty, Truth, and revealed in every revelation of these; but for the most part, a wise prudential feeling grounded on mere calculation; a matter, as all others now are, of Expediency and Utility; whereby some smaller quantum of earthly enjoyment may be exchanged for a far larger quantum of celestial enjoyment. Thus Religion too is Profit, a working for wages; not Reverence, but vulgar Hope or Fear. Many, we know, very many we hope, are still religious in a far different sense; were it not so, our case were too desperate: but to witness that such is the temper of the times, we take any calm observant man, who agrees or disagrees in our feeling on the matter, and ask him whether our view of it is not in general well-founded.

Literature, too, if we consider it, gives similar testimony. At no [113/114] former era has Literature, the printed communication of Thought, been of such importance, as it is now. We often hear that the Church is in danger; and truly so it is, — in a danger it seems not to know of: for, with its tithes in the most perfect safety, its functions are becoming more and more superseded. The true Church of England, at this moment, lies in the Editors of its Newspapers. These preach to the people daily, weekly; admonishing kings themselves; advising peace or war, with an authority which only the first Reformers, and a long-past class of Popes, were possessed of; inflicting moral censure; imparting moral encouragement, consolation, edification; in all ways diligently "administering the Discipline of the Church." It may be said too, that in private disposition the new Preachers somewhat resemble the Mendicant Friars of old times: outwardly full of holy zeal; inwardly not without stratagem, and hunger for terrestrial things. But omitting this class, and the boundless host of watery personages who pipe, as they are able, on so many scrannel straws, let us look at the higher regions of Literature, where, if any where, the pure melodies of Poesy and Wisdom should be heard. Of natural talent there is no deficiency: one or two richly-endowed individuals even give us a superiority in this respect. But what is the song they sing? Is it a tone of the Memnon Statue, breathing music as the light first touches it? A "liquid wisdom," disclosing to our sense the deep, infinite harmonies of Nature and man's soul? Alas, no! It is not a matin or vesper hymn to the Spirit of Beauty, but a fierce clashing of cymbals, and shouting of multitudes, as children pass through the fire to Moloch Poetry itself has no eye for the Invisible. Beauty is no longer the god it worships, but some brute image of Strength; which we may call an idol, for true Strength is one and the same with Beauty, and its worship also is a hymn. The meek, silent Light can mould, create and purify all Nature; but the loud Whirlwind, the sign and product of Disunion, of Weakness, passes on, and is forgotten. How widely this veneration for the physically Strongest has spread itself through Literature, any one may judge who reads either criticism or poem. We praise a work, not as "true," but as "strong"; our highest praise is that it has "affected" us, has "terrified" us. All this, it has been well observed, is the "maximum of the Barbarous," the symptom, not of vigorous refinement, but of luxurious corruption. It speaks much, too, for men's indestructible love of truth, that nothing of this kind will abide with them; that even the talent of a Byron cannot permanently seduce us into idol worship; that he too, with all his wild siren charming, already begins to be disregarded and forgotten. [114/115]

Again, with respect to our Moral condition: here also he who runs may read that the same physical, mechanical influences are everywhere busy. For the "superior morality," of which we hear so much, we too would desire to be thankful: at the same time, it were but blindness to deny that this "superior morality" is properly rather an "inferior criminality," produced not by greater love of Virtue, but by greater perfection of Police; and of that far subtler and stronger Police, called Public Opinion. This last watches over us with its Argus eyes more keenly than ever; but the "inward eye" seems heavy with sleep. Of any belief in invisible, divine things, we find as few traces in our Morality as elsewhere. It is by tangible, material considerations that we are guided, not by inward and spiritual. Self-denial, the parent of all virtue, in any true sense of that word, has perhaps seldom been rarer: so rare is it, that the most, even in their abstract speculations, regard its existence as a chimera. Virtue is Pleasure, is Profit; no celestial, but an earthly thing. Virtuous men, Philanthropists, Martyrs are happy accidents; their "taste" lies the right way! In all senses, we worship and follow after Power; which may be called a physical pursuit. No man now loves Truth, as Truth must be loved, with an infinite love; but only with a finite love, as it were par amours. Nay, properly speaking, he does not believe and know it, but only "think' it, and that "there is every probability!" He preaches it aloud, and rushes courageously forth with it,-if there is a multitude huzzaing at his back; yet ever keeps looking over his shoulder, and the instant the huzzaing languishes, he too stops short. In fact, what morality we have takes the shape of Ambition, or "Honour": beyond money and money's worth, our only rational blessedness is Popularity. It were but a fool's trick to die for conscience. Only for "character," by duel, or in case of extremity, by suicide, is the wise man bound to die. By arguing on the "force of circumstances," we have argued away all force from ourselves; and stand leashed together, uniform in dress and movement, like the rowers of some boundless galley. This and that may be right and true; but we must not do it. Wonderful "Force of Public Opinion"! We must act and walk in all points as it prescribes; follow the traffic it bids us, realise the sum of money, the degree of "influence" it expects of us, or we shall be lightly esteemed; certain mouthfuls of articulate wind will be blown at us, and this what mortal courage can front? Thus, while civil liberty is more and more secured to us, our moral liberty is all but lost. Practically considered, our creed is Fatalism; and, free in hand and foot, we are shackled in heart and soul with far straiter than feudal chains. Truly may we say, with the Philosopher [115/116], "the deep meaning of the Laws of Mechanism lies heavy on us"; and in the closet, in the Marketplace, in the temple, by the social hearth, encumbers the whole movements of our mind, and over our noblest faculties is spreading a nightmare sleep.

These dark features, we are aware, belong more or less to other ages, as well as to ours. This faith in Mechanism, in the all-importance of physical things, is in every age the common refuge of Weakness and blind Discontent; of all who believe, as many will ever do, that man's true good lies without him, not within. We are aware also, that, as applied to ourselves in all their aggravation, they form but half a picture ; that in the whole picture there are bright lights as well as gloomy shadows. If we here dwell chiefly on the latter, let us not be blamed: it is in general more profitable to reckon up our defects than to boast of our attainments.

Neither, with all these evils more or less clearly before us, have we at any time despaired of the fortunes of society. Despair, or even despondency, in that respect, appears to us, in all cases, a groundless feeling. We have a faith in the imperishable dignity of man; in the high vocation to which, throughout this his earthly history, he has been appointed. However it may be with individual nations, whatever melancholic speculators may assert, it seems a well-ascertained fact, that in all times, reckoning even from those of the Heraclides and Pelasgi, the happiness and greatness of mankind at large have been continually progressive. Doubtless this age also is advancing. Its very unrest, its ceaseless activity, its discontent contains matter of promise. Knowledge, education are opening the eyes of the humblest; are increasing the number of thinking minds without limit. This is as it should be; for not in turning back, not in resisting, but only in resolutely struggling forward, does our life consist.

Nay, after all, our spiritual maladies are but of Opinion; we are but fettered by chains of our own forging, and which ourselves also can rend asunder. This deep, paralysed subjection to physical objects comes not from Nature, but from our own unwise mode of viewing Nature. Neither can we understand that man wants, at this hour, any faculty of heart, soul or body, that ever belonged to him. 'He, who has been born, has been a First Man'; has had lying before his young eyes, and as yet unhardened into scientific shapes, a world as plastic, infinite, divine, as lay before the eyes of Adam himself. if Mechanism, like some glass bell, encircles and imprisons us; if the soul looks forth on a fair heavenly country which it cannot reach, and pines, and in its scanty atmosphere is ready to [116/117] perish, — yet the bell is but of glass, 'one bold stroke to break the bell in pieces, and thou art delivered!' Not the invisible world is wanting, for it dwells in man's soul, and this last is still here. Are the solemn temples, in which the Divinity was once visibly revealed among us, crumbling away? We can repair them, we can rebuild them. The wisdom, the heroic worth of our forefathers, which we have lost, we can recover. That admiration of old nobleness, which now so often shows itself as a faint dilettantism, will one day become a generous emulation, and man may again be all that he has been, and more than he has been. Nor are these the mere daydreams of fancy; they are clear possibilities; nay, in this time they are even assuming the character of hopes. Indications we do see in other countries and in our own, signs infinitely cheering to us, that Mechanism is not always to be our hard taskmaster, but one day to be our pliant, all-ministering servant; that a new and brighter spiritual era is slowly evolving itself for all man. But on these things our present course forbids us to enter.

Meanwhile, that great outward changes are in progress can be doubtful to no one. The time is sick and out of joint. Many things have reached their height; and it is a wise adage that tells us, "the darkest hour is nearest the dawn." Wherever we can gather indication of the public thought, whether from printed books' as in France or Germany, or from Carbonari rebellions and other political tumults, as in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece, the voice it utters is the same. The thinking minds of all nations call for change. There is a deep-lying struggle in the whole fabric of society; a boundless grinding collision of the New with the Old. The French Revolution, as is now visible enough, was not the parent of this mighty movement, but its offspring. Those two hostile influences, which always exist in human things, and on the constant intercommunion of which depends their health and safety, had lain in separate masses, accumulating through generations, and France was the scene of their fiercest explosion; but the final issue was not unfolded in that country: nay, it is not yet anywhere unfolded. Political freedom is hitherto the object of these efforts; but they will not and cannot stop there. It is towards a higher freedom than mere freedom from oppression by his fellow-mortal, that man dimly aims. Of this higher, heavenly freedom, which is "man's reasonable service," all his noble institutions, his faithful endeavours and loftiest attainments, are but the body, and more and more approximated emblem.

On the whole, as this wondrous planet, Earth, is journeying with its fellows through infinite Space, so are the wondrous destinies [117/118] embarked on it journeying through infinite Time, under a higher guidance than ours. For the present, as our astronomy informs us, its path lies towards Hercules, the constellation of Physical Power: but that is not our most pressing concern. Go where it will, the deep HEAVEN will be around it. Therein let us have hope and sure faith. To reform a world, to reform a nation, no wise man will undertake; and all but foolish men know, that the only solid, though a far slower reformation, is what each begins and perfects on himself.

2009年1月26日 星期一

BOOKS: The gargantuan and terrifying lexicographer


BOOKS: The gargantuan and terrifying lexicographer

James Srodes
Sunday, January 25, 2009


SAMUEL JOHNSON: THE STRUGGLE
By Jeffrey Meyers
Basic Books, $35, 552 pages

SAMUEL JOHNSON: A BIOGRAPHY
By Peter Martin
Harvard University Press, $35, 608 pages
REVIEWED BY JAMES SRODES

It should have been one of the great meetings in the evolution of the English language. In the late 1750s, Dr. Samuel Johnson, famed for his monumental "Dictionary of the English Language," attended a London meeting of a charity that sought to teach orphaned and abandoned children of all races throughout the American colonies. Another attendee was Benjamin Franklin, equally famous for his electricity discoveries and his authorship of the internationally popular "Poor Richard's Almanack."

There they were: The codifier of the mother tongue of Britain and the man who became the most creative force in altering that language into a uniquely American cultural force. The two men even shared a common best friend. For 20 years, printer William Strahan had provided Franklin with a steady supply of printing type, presses and support for his chain of newspapers. At the same time, Strahan had nearly bankrupted himself during the nine years it took Johnson to create the huge 2,500-page two volumes of 42,000 words and 116,000 illustrative quotations that established English as an eventual standard of global communications.

Franklin could not resist a nudge at Johnson's expense. "I never trust a man who can only spell a word one way," he is supposed to have quipped. With some justice, Johnson was offended. Since he despised Americans in general and fiercely opposed the independence struggle by the colonies, Johnson spent the next 15 years of Franklin's stay in London refusing ever to meet him again and slandering him at every turn within the ever-expanding circle of mutual friends.

As we approach the 300th anniversary of Johnson's birth, it is tempting to daydream about what might have happened if the two great language experts had joined forces. One of the problems in taking the speculation any distance is that the many-layered and contradictory personalities of the two giants get in the way of considering how language drives cultures and shapes national identities. It is not just a cliche that Britain and America are "two nations divided by a common language." Johnson and Franklin personify that division.

Not surprisingly in a tercentenary year, there are no fewer than a dozen new books out in commemoration. In addition to the two biographies reviewed here, there are reprints of Johnson's famed "Dictionary," the justly famed six-volume biography done by his friend James Boswell and even a life of Hester Thrale, Johnson's legendary friend who is supposed to have provided him with masochistic bondage and whipping whenever the great man felt a bit despondent.

The two biographies before us are two very different approaches to putting some context around the life of this gargantuan (literally) personality who was the great lexicographer of his day, that day's leading aphorist, political journalist, essayist and moralist; a rescuer of the work of William Shakespeare, a campaigner against slavery and a foe of American independence. At the same time, Johnson was a rude bully of revolting table manners, indifferent personal cleanliness, grotesque facial and physical features, alarming tics and noises and enough psycho-sexual problems to accommodate an entire separate chapter of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association. And he hated the Scots and generally despised anyone who was not English.

Both books are meticulously researched and well written. Jeffery Meyers is a prolific biographer whose previous subjects have ranged from Katherine Mansfield, D. H. Lawrence, Joseph Conrad, Edgar Allen Poe, Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway to Humphrey Bogart and Gary Cooper. As his title suggests, he emphasizes the daunting roadblocks Johnson had to overcome to achieve the astonishing range of literary creations he produced during his lifetime. Deaf, nearly blind, scarred by smallpox lesions, grossly obese, manic-depressive, alcoholic, Samuel Johnson on a good day was terrifying. Yet the list of his devoted lifelong admirers and supporters ranged from actor David Garrick through fellow writers such as Oliver Goldsmith and Edward Gibbon, to economists and scientists such as Adam Smith and Joseph Banks.

The Meyers book is recommended for readers who want to learn more about the politics, culture and atmosphere of Johnson's London and Britain in the tumultuous 18th century. But this means too little space is devoted to Johnson the writer and to his wide-ranging essays in The Rambler periodical he published, or to his editing of the neglected Shakespeare texts. Nor do we get much of a sense of what made the "Dictionary" itself such a monumental work.

Mr. Martin's treatment does focus more on the impact and meaning of Johnson's prodigious literary output. Also, he is the better writer of the two. His narrative follows a straight chronological line where Mr. Meyers invariably interrupts his story to digress into the various political upheavals and change in the monarchy that may be valid background but may not be as necessary for readers already aware of Johnson but not of his personal story.

One of the more interesting arguments advanced by Mr. Martin is that Johnson never intended his "Dictionary" to be the final word on the English language. By defining words with referrals to their first usage, he intended merely to stabilize the language so that the meaning of words would be more precise and thereby make communications between conversant more efficient. He quotes Johnson in the plan he published before he undertook the nine-year project, "Language is the work of man, of a being from whom permanence and stability cannot be derived. Like humans, words do not remain in a time warp, a linguistic limbo: Like their author, when they are not gaining strength, they are generally losing it."

Despite what he intended however, Johnson's choice of the words to define (42,000 out of an estimated common vocabulary of the times of twice that many words), of the quotations he used to explain origins of words and even of the authorities cited all served to produce a High Tory, Church of England and aristocratic standard of language that set up a barrier against the infiltration of more commonplace and popular coinage from being acceptable.

In that respect, Johnson and Franklin could never have been friends. Johnson's "Dictionary" still lives in the reluctance of its successor, the Oxford English Dictionary, to enlist new words into acceptable usage until long after they have become valid. In contrast, Franklin encouraged a young Noah Webster to adopt a more inclusive and, arguably, more democratic lexicography; one more descriptive than prescriptive. The difference between the two attitudes goes a long way to explain why, as we near having half a million words in common English usage, that most of the innovations originated in America.

James Srodes' latest book is "Franklin: The Essential Founding Father."

2009年1月23日 星期五

“Praise Song for the Day,” by Elizabeth Alexander

Text

Inaugural Poem

Published: January 20, 2009

The following is a transcript of the inaugural poem, “Praise Song for the Day,” written and recited by Elizabeth Alexander, as provided by Graywolf Press.


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Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need
. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.




时事风云 | 2009.01.22

奥巴马就职 诗人来捧场

用一首诗来给自己的就任演说增光添彩,这也许是古代君王惯用的修辞方式,但在美国总统就职典礼上,还是一个比较少见的现象:过去的历任总统中,只有肯尼迪和克林顿选择诗歌让自己的就职演说得到升华。相比之下,布什总统显然不是诗歌的爱好者,他从未表现过自己文学的一面。

而在新任美国总统奥巴马的就职典礼上,女诗人伊丽莎白·亚历桑德拉却朗诵了一首赞美诗。现在,文学界的人们希望,新上任的奥巴马对文化知识界能够更友好。奥巴马自己也说:„美国的特别之处正是在于它的艺术文化。我们将在白宫尽可能地发扬美国的艺术。"

古典音乐、爵士歌曲还有诗朗诵--看起来就很有儒雅风度的奥巴马希望以这些艺术元素来点缀白宫的生活。支持奥巴马的作家都是重量级人物,比如小说家 菲利浦·罗斯,女作家钟芭·拉希莉和约翰·厄普代克。《纽约时报》诗歌专栏的总编克里斯蒂安·维曼对奥巴马邀请女诗人在就职典礼上亮相感到非常高兴。除了 奥运会这样的盛事之外, 伊丽莎白·亚历桑德拉的诗再也找不到向全世界展示的更好舞台了。女诗人对美国国家广播电台透露,她的诗并不是全是赞美之辞:„奥巴马的名字并不在诗中出 现。它表现得更多的是这个共同的重要时刻。我希望能够提醒大家,我们之所以能有今天的一切,是因为前人付出了巨大的劳动和牺牲--而我们如果想要继续前进 的话,就要付出更多的心血。"

诗歌公布于世之前, 伊丽莎白·亚历桑德拉只给自己的丈夫看过,并没有给奥巴马--她的大学校友看过,更不用说某个未来的政府成员了。她说:„这是不是很不可思议?但我认为,这表示他们对一个艺术家所奉献出来的作品具有充分的信任。"

这种信任感在前任总统布什身上就很少得到体现。作家乔纳森·萨弗兰·福尔承认,自从奥巴马当选总统之后,他不再像以前那样认为自己是一名作家,只是 恰巧生在美国而已;而是深切地感受到,自己是一名美国作家。在布什时代,语言只是用来欺诈和实现政治利益的媒介。比如说,刑讯逼供就被美其名曰"审讯手段 的扩展"。女诗人伊丽莎白·亚历桑德拉在美国电视节目中说,诗歌是最美的语言,是提炼出来的语言。当人们努力寻找挑选词汇的时候,实际上就可以弥合差异, 寻找彼此联系的纽带。

布什时代结束了,而这段被视为缺乏学者风度的美国总统时代也随之成为过去。美国黑人女作家托妮·莫里森就非常喜欢奥巴马写的书《来自父亲的梦想》, 他赞扬奥巴马善于思考,富有想象力,拥有出众的创造力和智慧。人们希望这样的精神状态能够领导美国进行一系列具体的政治改革。即将离任的美国国家艺术基金 会主席达纳·乔欧亚提醒道,教育政策不能忽略艺术: „小学的艺术教育存在很大问题,4千万儿童的艺术课程被取消了!这将会造成文化和政治上的影响。"

此外,美国不应该只争取做军事和经济上的超级大国,而且还要努力发展同所有国家的文化交流,而美国和很多国家目前非常缺乏交流。

就职典礼本身也体现了新任总统对一个重要问题的立场:同性恋权益者。早在就职典礼之前的周日,来自新罕布什尔州的公开宣称自己是同性恋的尤金·罗宾 逊主教,在林肯纪念堂前主持了祈祷。而游行队伍中,也有同性恋群体参加。很显然奥巴马不仅仅是愿意和共和党对话,他的态度非常开明。

Pascal Fischer



2009年1月19日 星期一

Outside the window by Thomas Hardy, delf

Outside the window


"My stick!" he says, and turns in the lane
To the house just left, whence a vixen voice
Comes out with the firelight through the pane,
And he sees within that the girl of his choice
Stands rating her mother with eyes aglare
For something said while he was there.

"At last I behold her soul undraped!"
Thinks the man who had loved her more than himself;
"My God--'tis but narrowly I have escaped. -
My precious porcelain proves it delf."
His face has reddened like one ashamed,
And he steals off, leaving his stick unclaimed.


Authorship

Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

* by Zenobia P. Perry , "Outside the window" [choral suite: choir of young voices (SATB) and piano], from Choral Suite no. 1


delftware

The earliest delftware was a faience, a heavy, brown earthenware with opaque white glaze and polychrome decoration, made in the late 16th cent. Some of the earliest imitations of Chinese and Japanese porcelain were made at Delft in the 17th cent. Delft was important as a pottery center from the mid-17th cent. to the end of the 18th cent. By 1850 little of the industry survived. The name delft is also often applied to the wares of similar nature made in 17th-century London, Bristol, and Liverpool.




Hap - a poem by Thomas Hardy

Hardy Thomas - Poem


If but some vengeful god would call to me
From up the sky, and laugh: "Thou suffering thing,
Know that thy sorrow is my ecstasy,
That thy love's loss is my hate's profiting!"

Then would I bear it, clench myself, and die,
Steeled by the sense of ire unmerited;
Half-eased in that a Powerfuller than I
Had willed and meted me the tears I shed.

But not so. How arrives it joy lies slain,
And why unblooms the best hope ever sown?
Crass Casualty obstructs the sun and rain,
And dicing Time for gladness casts a moan. . . .
These purblind Doomsters had as readily strown
Blisses about m

Rome: The Vatican--Sala Delle Muse By Thomas Hardy

Sala delle Muse: Houses the group statues of Apollo and the nine muses.

La Sala delle Muse


Rome: The Vatican--Sala Delle Muse (1887)

6/2/1840-1/11/1928


I sat in the Muses' Hall at the mid of the day,
And it seemed to grow still, and the people to pass away,
And the chiselled shapes to combine in a haze of sun,
Till beside a Carrara column there gleamed forth One.

She was nor this nor that of those beings divine,
But each and the whole--an essence of all the Nine;
With tentative foot she neared to my halting-place,
A pensive smile on her sweet, small, marvellous face.

"Regarded so long, we render thee sad?" said she.
"Not you," sighed I, "but my own inconstancy!
I worship each and each; in the morning one,
And then, alas! another at sink of sun.

"To-day my soul clasps Form; but where is my troth
Of yesternight with Tune: can one cleave to both?"
- "Be not perturbed," said she. "Though apart in fame,
As I and my sisters are one, those, too, are the same.

- "But my loves go further--to Story, and Dance, and Hymn,
The lover of all in a sun-sweep is fool to whim -
Is swayed like a river-weed as the ripples run!"
- "Nay, wight, thou sway'st not. These are but phases of one;

"And that one is I; and I am projected from thee,
One that out of thy brain and heart thou causest to be -
Extern to thee nothing. Grieve not, nor thyself becall,
Woo where thou wilt; and rejoice thou canst love at all!

To Shakespeare


Author: Thomas Hardy

To Shakespeare

AFTER THREE HUNDRED Y

Bright baffling Soul, least capturable of themes,
Thou, who display'dst a life of common-place,
Leaving no intimate word or personal trace
Of high design outside the artistry
Of thy penned dreams,
Still shalt remain at heart unread eternally.

Through human orbits thy discourse to-day,
Despite thy formal pilgrimage, throbs on
In harmonies that cow Oblivion,
And, like the wind, with all-uncared effect
Maintain a sway
Not fore-desired, in tracks unchosen and unchecked.

And yet, at thy last breath, with mindless note
The borough clocks but samely tongued the hour,
The Avon just as always glassed the tower,
Thy age was published on thy passing-bell
But in due rote
With other dwellers' deaths accorded a like knell.

And at the strokes some townsman (met, maybe,
And thereon queried by some squire's good dame
Driving in shopward) may have given thy name,
With, "Yes, a worthy man and well-to-do;
Though, as for me,
I knew him but by just a neighbour's nod, 'tis true.

"I' faith, few knew him much here, save by word,
He having elsewhere led his busier life;
Though to be sure he left with us his wife."
--"Ah, one of the tradesmen's sons, I now recall . . .
Witty, I've heard . . .
We did not know him . . . Well, good-day. Death comes to all."

So, like a strange bright bird we sometimes find
To mingle with the barn-door brood awhile,
Then vanish from their homely domicile -
Into man's poesy, we wot not whence,
Flew thy strange mind,
Lodged there a radiant guest, and sped for ever thence.

1916.

*****

cow2 (kou) pronunciation
tr.v., cowed, cow·ing, cows.

To frighten with threats or a show of force. See synonyms at intimidate.

[Probably of Scandinavian origin.]

2009年1月15日 星期四

The Dynasts 筆記

The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Dynasts, by Thomas Hardy #24 in our series

The "Spirit of the Years" say that Pitt's words,

PITT (standing up after repeated calls)

My lords and gentlemen:--You have toasted me

As one who has saved England and her cause.

I thank you, gentlemen, unfeignedly.

But--no man has saved England, let me say:

England has saved herself, by her exertions:

She will, I trust, save Europe by her example!

[Loud applause, during which he sits down, rises, and sits down again. The scene then shuts, and the night without has place.]

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

Those words of this man Pitt--his last large words,

As I may prophesy--that ring to-night

In their first mintage to the feasters here,

Will spread with ageing, lodge, and crystallize,

And stand embedded in the English tongue

Till it grow thin, outworn, and cease to be.--

So is't ordained by That Which all ordains;

For words were never winged with apter grace.

Or blent with happier choice of time and place,

To hold the imagination of this strenuous race.


... Will spread with ageing, lodge, and crystallize,

And stand embedded in the English tongue

Till it grows thin, outworn and ceased to be..

杜衡先生的翻譯很不理想

到將來卻一定會一代一代地傳下去

堅固而永久保存在英吉利的語言裡

直到這語言陳舊而消滅了 才被人忘記

━━ n. 老化; (酒などの)熟成 .

LODGE

To be or become embedded: The ball lodged in the fence.

. 停留 ;嵌入 ;卡住 [Q][(+in)]

A bullet lodged in his left shoulder.

一顆子彈嵌在他的左肩。

關於哈代《统治者》的一些筆記

『哈代創作論集』、『托馬斯 哈代 思想和創作』

dy·nast (dī'năst', -nəst) n. 王朝的君主, 元首; 日本語 (Japanese)n. - 支配者, 君主

A ruler, especially a hereditary one.

[Latin dynastēs, from Greek dunastēs, lord, from dunasthai, to be able.]

dy·nas·ty (dī'nə-stē) n., pl. -ties. n. - 朝代, 王朝

A succession of rulers from the same family or line.

A family or group that maintains power for several generations: a political dynasty controlling the state.

[Middle English dynastie, from Old French, from Late Latin dynastīa, lordship, from Greek dunasteia, from dunastēs, lord. See dynast.]

A sports dynasty is a team which has a run of successive championships.

1967年,讀到《统治者》史詩。當時世局很動蕩,然而我成長的台中市,如此充滿朝氣持續繁榮。我對於詩劇中的史觀略有所感。

1982年在竹東鎮,讀到一張法國人作的圖與數據:完整表現拿破崙長征之慘烈犧牲;當場,議會中全場抱頭痛哭。 1997年在台北市,翻譯到『戴明領導手冊』,作者引用它。

2004 年讀到:……「規模宏大,氣勢磅礡的史詩劇《列王》( 1907-08 HC按:應為 1903-08,即《统治者》)。這部以拿破崙戰爭為題材,描寫「巨大的歷史災難或各民族之間的衝突」(《列王》 序)的史詩劇,共分三卷,十九幕,一百三十場,既是一部以英國和整個歐洲社會的重大變革為背景的歷史詩劇,也是一部富有深刻哲理的關於人類命運的悲劇史詩。《列王》問世後震動了英國文壇,受到歐美評論界的一致稱頌,認為《列王》是哈代最偉大的作品,充分顯示了哈代的才華,堪與彌爾頓的史詩《失樂園》和俄國文豪托爾斯泰的《戰爭與和平》媲美。」(劉新民《哈代文集 詩選 前言》 人民文學出版社( p.3))

應該重讀重寫重譯哈代《统治者》。

-----

1880 《喇叭-市長》出版。這是哈代最早涉及拿破崙戰爭題材的作品。HC評:《喇叭-市長》翻譯錯誤,應該是《喇叭長》( {Trumpet major} (Mil.), the chief trumpeter of a band or regiment. )這本小說網路可取得:http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext01/trpmj10.txt ,無中文翻譯,有日文翻譯本( 邦訳)ラッパ長)。

----

1903 哈代擴充了關於拿破崙及其王朝破滅的劇作,出版《統治者》第一部。哈代將其視為自己的傑作。1906 《統治者》第二部出版。1908 《統治者》第三部出版。

哈代『統治者』(十冊)( THE DYNASTS: AN EPIC-DRAMA OF THE WAR WITH NAPOLEON )杜衡譯(漢譯世界名著甲編六百冊),台北:商務印書館,1966。這應該是大陸時期的作品在台灣再出版(上海商務印書館印『萬有文庫之三』),不過,大陸似乎也只有專家才知道有這本翻譯。

翻譯者杜衡何許人?我在網路上找到的其他作品:

◎法國作家法郎士(A.rance,1844—1924)。《泰綺思》(長篇小說),作于一八九一年。它的兩种中譯本是:《黛絲》,杜衡譯,一九二八年開明書店出版 …..

() 海纳(海涅 )著《还乡集》,杜衡译,尚志书屋出版,1929

蘇汶( 杜衡) 譯的《無產階級藝術底批評》,1928

施蟄存《〈戴望舒譯詩集〉序》,《文藝百話》第224頁,華東師範大學出版社,1994年。按,由戴望舒和杜衡合譯的這部《道生詩歌全集》也有部分曾在當時刊物上發表,如署名戴望舒、杜衡譯的《道生詩抄》載於1929年11月15日出版的《新文藝》第1卷第3號,"全集"則在戴望舒死後由施蟄存保存,居然無損無厄,如今已全部編入浙江文藝出版社1989年出版的《戴望舒詩全編》中。

民國廿四年《未名文苑》第三本是杜衡的長篇小說《叛徒》

專論:

日文有The dynasts ( 『霸者』詩劇--- 研究社英文学叢書) / Thomas Hardy著・〔沢村寅二郎訳注〕1983

英文:

The dynasts : an epic-drama of the war with Napoleon, in three parts, nineteen acts, and one hundred and thirty scenes, the time covered by the action being about ten years / by Thomas Hardy ; edited by Harold Orel. - London : Macmillan , 1978. - (His The new Wessex edition).

Thomas Hardy's epic drama: a study of The Dynasts.
H Orel Lawrence, University of Kansas Publications, 1963

Hardy's Poetic Vision in the Dynasts: The Diorama of a Dream S Dean
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977

The overworld debate in Thomas Hardy' s The dynasts -
JL Harris University of North Carolina at Greensboro , 1988

[CITATION] The dynasts: unity in irony, a critical study. HG Posey
University of Wisconsin, 1964

Thomas Hardy, Monism, and the Carnival Tradition: The One and the Many in the Dynasts

G. Glen Wickens () ハードカバー (2002/08/01) Univ of Toronto Pr

Thomas Hardy's Tragic Poetry: The Lyrics and the Dynasts
Katherine Kearney Maynard (
)

Thomas Hardy's tragic poetry: the lyrics and The dynasts
KK Maynard Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press, 1991

Thomas Hardy and the Cosmic Mind: A New Reading of The Dynasts - JO Bailey -
Chapel Hill : The University of North Carolina Press, 1956

The dynasts; an epic-drama of the war with Napoleon. - T Hardy London, New York, Macmillan; St. Martin 's Press, 1965

Thomas Hardy; a study of the Wessex novels, the poems, and The dynasts. HC Duffin -
Manchester : UP of Manchester, 1937

Thomas Hardy and the Cosmic Mind: A New Reading of the Dynasts

中文:

吴笛所著的《哈代研究》浙江文艺出版社, 1994年版

*****新知

『統治者』(第十冊)有一字 Inniskillens,當初翻譯的人不知道意思(p.1578 )。現在,我們可以了解 它是愛爾蘭的皇軍:

*****2009

The Dynasts is "an epic-drama of the war with Napoleon, in three parts, nineteen acts and one hundred and thirty scenes" by Thomas Hardy, whose parts were published in 1904, 1906 and 1908 respectively. The action is impossible to present on stage due to its elaborate battle-scenes and it is therefore usually counted as a closet drama.

The design of The Dynasts is extremely ambitious, on a similar scale to War and Peace. Scenes of ordinary life are juxtaposed with scenes involving the principal historical figures of the age, and concentrating on their desire to found dynasties in order to preserve their power. There are extensive descriptions of landscape and battle scenes that are characterised by shifts of visual perspective that anticipate cinematic techniques. The drama is also notable for an extensive tragic chorus of metaphysical figures who observe and discuss the events.

Hardy regarded The Dynasts as his magnum opus and devoted much of his later life to its completion, but the work was not well-received and later critics have seen little reason to reverse that judgement. There is a case to be made, however, for the drama's having pioneered techniques that would later be regarded as characterising literary Modernism. Moreover, The Dynasts remains of interest to those studying Hardy's novels, both for the insight into his world-view and for its examination of a character mentioned famously but briefly at the end of Tess of the d'Urbervilles: the "President of the Immortals".

Links


*****台大圖書館
Main Auth Hardy, Thomas, 1840-1928
Title/Auth The dynasts, an epic-drama of the war with Napoleon / with intro. and notes by Torajiro Sawamura 澤村寅二郎
Imprint Tokyo : Kenkyusha, 1939