Witches Walk To-night

Friday, 31 October 2014

Robert Burns

Robert Burns (1759–1796). Poems and Songs.
Vol. 6, pp. 110-119 of The Harvard Classics

(All Hallows' Eve.)
Beware of magic! Once a year uneasy spirits are released and walk the earth from midnight until dawn. Spooks and goblins invade the most secure homes and the canniest must watch out for danger lurking in every dark corner.


Halloween

The following poem 1 will, by many readers, be well enough understood; but for the sake of those who are unacquainted with the manners and traditions of the country where the scene is cast, notes are added to give some account of the principal charms and spells of that night, so big with prophecy to the peasantry in the west of Scotland. The passion of prying into futurity makes a striking part of the history of human nature in its rude state, in all ages and nations; and it may be some entertainment to a philosophic mind, if any such honour the author with a perusal, to see the remains of it among the more unenlightened in our own.—R. B.

Yes! let the rich deride, the proud disdain,
The simple pleasure of the lowly train;
To me more dear, congenial to my heart,
One native charm, than all the gloss of art.—GOLDSMITH.

Geology's Greatest Benefactor

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Charles Lyell

Charles Lyell (1797–1875). Scientific Papers.
Vol. 38, pp. 385-391 of The Harvard Classics

Lyell has been called the founder of modern geology. Darwin, the master scientist, called him "Geology's Greatest Benefactor." Lyell's research revolutionized ideas on that subject.


I. The Progress Of Geology

 1 Prepossessions in regard to the Duration of Past Time—Prejudices Arising from our Peculiar Position as Inhabitants of the Land—Others Occasioned by our not seeing Subterranean Changes now in Progress—All these Causes Combine to make the Former Course of Nature appear Different from the Present—Objections to the Doctrine that Causes Similar in Kind and Energy to those now Acting, have Produced the Former Changes of the Earth’s Surface Considered

IF WE reflect on the history of the progress of geology *** we perceive that there have been great fluctuations of opinion respecting the nature of the causes to which all former changes of the earth’s surface are referable. The first observers conceived the monuments which the geologist endeavours to decipher to relate to an original state of the earth, or to a period when there were causes in activity, distinct, in a kind and degree, from those now constituting the economy of nature. These views were gradually modified, and some of them entirely abandoned, in proportion as observations were multiplied, and the signs of former mutations were skilfully interpreted. Many appearances, which had for a long time been regarded as indicating mysterious and extraordinary agency, were finally recognised as the necessary result of the laws now governing the material world; and the discovery of this unlooked-for conformity has at length induced some philosophers to infer, that, during the ages contemplated in geology, there has never been any interruption to the agency of the same uniform laws of change. The same assemblage of general causes, they conceive, may have been sufficient to produce, by their various combinations, the endless diversity of effects, of which the shell of the earth has preserved the memorials; and, consistently with these principles, the recurrence of analogous changes is expected by them in time to come.

Genius Rises from a Stable

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

John Keats

John Keats (1795–1821)
Vol. 41, pp. 874-882 of The Harvard Classics

(John Keats born Oct. 29, 1795.)
Though the son of a stable man, John Keats wrote the most exquisite and sublime poetry in our language. He was the friend of Shelley, Lord Byron, and the other literary leaders of the time - his genius recognized by all.


The Mermaid Tavern

SOULS of Poets dead and gone,
What Elysium have ye known,
Happy field or mossy cavern,
Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?
Have ye tippled drink more fine
Than mine host’s Canary wine?

How Dice Taught Spelling

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

John Locke

John Locke (1632–1704). Some Thoughts Concerning Education.
Vol. 37, pp. 128-136 of The Harvard Classics

Locke taught children by means of games. He tells of a game whereby children were taught to spell with dice on which the letters of the alphabet were pasted. This was more than 200 years before modern kindergarten methods. Today's children would respond to such wise direction as Locke recommends.
(John Locke died Oct. 28, 1704.)

[…]

  § 148. When he can talk, ’tis time he should begin to learn to read. But as to this, give me leave here to inculcate again, what is very apt to be forgotten, viz. That great care is to be taken, that it be never made as a business to him, nor he look on it as a task. We naturally, as I said, even from our cradles, love liberty, and have therefore an aversion to many things for no other reason but because they are enjoin’d us. I have always had a fancy that learning might be made a play and recreation to children: and that they might be brought to desire to be taught, if it were proposed to them as a thing of honour, credit, delight, and recreation, or as a reward for doing something else; and if they were never chid or corrected for the neglect of it. That which confirms me in this opinion is, that amongst the Portuguese, ’tis so much a fashion and emulation amongst their children, to learn to read and write, that they cannot hinder them from it: they will learn it one from another, and are as intent on it, as if it were forbidden them. I remember that being at a friend’s house, whose younger son, a child in coats, was not easily brought to his book (being taught to read at home by his mother) I advised to try another way, than requiring it of him as his duty; we therefore, in a discourse on purpose amongst our selves, in his hearing, but without taking any notice of him, declared, that it was the privilege and advantage of heirs and elder brothers, to be scholars; that this made them fine gentlemen, and beloved by every body: and that for younger brothers, ’twas a favour to admit them to breeding; to be taught to read and write, was more than came to their share; they might be ignorant bumpkins and clowns, if they pleased. This so wrought upon the child, that afterwards he desired to be taught; would come himself to his mother to learn, and would not let his maid be quiet till she heard him his lesson. I doubt not but some way like this might be taken with other children; and when their tempers are found, some thoughts be instill’d into them, that might set them upon desiring of learning, themselves, and make them seek it as another sort of play or recreation. But then, as I said before, it must never be imposed as a task, nor made a trouble to them. There may be dice and play-things, with the letters on them to teach children the alphabet by playing; and twenty other ways may be found, suitable to their particular tempers, to make this kind of learning a sport to them.

Fruit of Seven Years' Silence

Monday, 27 October 2014

Gandhara Buddha

Buddhist Writings. II. The Doctrine
Vol. 45, pp. 661-674 of The Harvard Classics

Siddhartha Gautama, who became the god Buddha, renounced the world and spent seven years in meditation. Then one day, while sitting under a fig tree, he became inspired with exalted and sublime conceptions of life and death. The rest of his life was spent in teaching and converting mankind.


The Middle Doctrine
1. Translated from the Samyutta-Nikya (xxii. 9016)

THE WORLD, for the most part, O Kaccāna, holds either to a belief in being or to a belief in non-being. But for one who in the light of the highest knowledge, O Kaccāna, considers how the world arises, belief in the non-being of the world passes away. And for one who in the light of the highest knowledge, O Kaccāna, considers how the world ceases, belief in the being of the world passes away. The world, O Kaccāna, is for the most part bound up in a seeking, attachment, and proclivity [for the groups], but a priest does not sympathize with this seeking and attachment, nor with the mental affirmation, proclivity, and prejudice which affirms an Ego. He does not doubt or question that it is only evil that springs into existence, and only evil that ceases from existence, and his conviction of this fact is dependent on no one besides himself. This, O Kaccāna, is what constitutes Right Belief.

Franklin Learned the Secret

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Franklin the Printer

Benjamin Franklin. (1706–1790).  His Autobiography.
Vol. 1, pp. 14-21 of The Harvard Classics

Poor at twenty, rich at forty, internationally famous at fifty. Benjamin Franklin once walked the streets of Philadelphia alone, poor, and with no education. Yet he rose to be a leader because he learned the secret of careful reading.
(Franklin made U. S. plenipotentiary in France, Aug. 26, 1778.)


[…]

  This bookish inclination at length determined my father to make me a printer, though he had already one son (James) of that profession. In 1717 my brother James returned from England with a press and letters to set up his business in Boston. I liked it much better than that of my father, but still had a hankering for the sea. To prevent the apprehended effect of such an inclination, my father was impatient to have me bound to my brother. I stood out some time, but at last was persuaded, and signed the indentures when I was yet but twelve years old. I was to serve as an apprentice till I was twenty-one years of age, only I was to be allowed journeyman’s wages during the last year. In a little time I made great proficiency in the business, and became a useful hand to my brother. I now had access to better books. An acquaintance with the apprentices of booksellers enabled me sometimes to borrow a small one, which I was careful to return soon and clean. Often I sat up in my room reading the greatest part of the night, when the book was borrowed in the evening and to be returned early in the morning, lest it should be missed or wanted.

It Greatly Encouraged Intrigue

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Baron Macaulay

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859). Machiavelli
Vol. 27, pp. 363-372 of The Harvard Classic

After the publication of Machiavelli's "The Prince," the Sultans became more addicted to strangling their brothers, tyrants became more merciless, and murderous plots increased. The influence of that book, as Macaulay points out, spread over Europe and Asia.
(Thomas Babington Lord Macaulay born Oct. 25, 1800.)


THOSE 1 who have attended to this practice of our literary tribunal are well aware, that, by means of certain legal fictions similar to those of Westminster Hall, we are frequently enabled to take cognizance of cases lying beyond the sphere of our original jurisdiction. We need hardly say, therefore, that, in the present instance, M. Périer is merely a Richard Roe, who will not be mentioned in any subsequent stage of the proceedings, and whose name is used for the sole purpose of bringing Machiavelli into court.

Clytemnestra Meets Her Rival

Friday, 24 October 2014

Aeschylus

Aeschylus (525–456 B.C.). Agamemnon.
Vol. 8, pp. 52-64 of The Harvard Classics

Cassandra knew through a prophetic vision that a sword would pierce her heart. Agamemnon, her captor, took her to his home where an avenging wife, Clytemnestra, awaited. The tragedies of the doom that requited the sins of the House of Atreus are among the most powerful ever written.


CASSANDRA


Woe for my city, woe for Ilion’s fall!
  Father, how oft with sanguine stain
Streamed on thine altar-stone the blood of cattle, slain
  That heaven might guard our wall!
  But all was shed in vain.
Low lie the shattered towers whereas they fell,
And I—ah burning heart!—shall soon lie low as well.

When Cæsar Turned the Tables

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Plutarch's Lives

Plutarch (A.D. 46?–c.A.D. 120). Plutarch’s Lives.
Vol. 12, pp. 264-273 of The Harvard Classics

When only a boy, Cæsar was captured by pirates. While awaiting ransom he entered into every sport and game with them. Once freed, he quickly returned with forces that captured the outlaws. Then he took deliberate revenge.


Cæsar

AFTER Sylla became master of Rome, he wished to make Cæsar put away his wife Cornelia, daughter of Cinna, the late sole ruler of the commonwealth, but was unable to effect it either by promises or intimidation, and so contented himself with confiscating her dowry. The ground of Sylla’s hostility to Cæsar, was the relationship between him and Marius; for Marius, the elder, married Julia, the sister of Cæsar’s father, and had by her the younger Marius, who consequently was Cæsar’s first cousin. And though at the beginning, while so many were to be put to death and there was so much to do, Cæsar was overlooked by Sylla, yet he would not keep quiet, but presented himself to the people as a candidate for the priesthood, though he was yet a mere boy. Sylla, without any open opposition, took measures to have him rejected, and in consultation whether he should be put to death, when it was urged by some that it was not worth his while to contrive the death of a boy, he answered, that they knew little who did not see more than one Marius in that boy. Cæsar, on being informed of this saying, concealed himself, and for a considerable time kept out of the way in the country of the Sabines, often changing his quarters, till one night, as he was removing from one house to another on account of his health, he fell into the hands of Sylla’s soldiers, who were searching those parts in order to apprehend any who had absconded. Cæsar, by a bribe of two talents, prevailed with Cornelius, their captain, to let him go, and was no sooner dismissed but he put to sea, and made for Bithynia. After a short stay there with Nicomedes, the king, in his passage back he was taken near the island Pharmacusa by some of the pirates, who, at that time, with large fleets of ships and innumerable smaller vessels infested the seas everywhere.

Swift's Love Problems

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

William Makepeace Thackeray

William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863). Jonathan Swift.
Vol. 28, pp. 23-28 of The Harvard Classics

Swift was embarrassed by two women; Stella, whom he really loved, and Vanessa, with whom he had flirted and who had taken him seriously. Marriage to either one would break the heart of the other.


  A remarkable story is told by Scott, of Delany, who interrupted Archbishop King and Swift in a conversation which left the prelate in tears, and from which Swift rushed away with marks of strong terror and agitation in his countenance, upon which the Archbishop said to Delany, “You have just met the most unhappy man on earth; but on the subject of his wretchedness you must never ask a question.”

  The most unhappy man on earth;—Miserrimus—what a character of him! And at this time all the great wits of England had been at his feet. All Ireland had shouted after him, and worshipped him as a liberator, a saviour, the greatest Irish patriot and citizen. Dean Drapier Bickerstaff Gulliver—the most famous statesmen, and the greatest poets of his day, had applauded him, and done him homage; and at this time writing over to Bolingbroke from Ireland, he says, “It is time for me to have done with the world, and so I would if I could get into a better before I was called into the best, and not die here in a rage, like a poisoned rat in a hole.”

No Fault to Find with Old Age

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Cicero

Cicero. (106 B.C.–43 B.C.). On Old Age.
Vol. 9, pp. 45-56 of The Harvard Classics

Cicero agrees with Browning that old age is the golden time of life, when the fruits of a well-spent life are harvested. Cicero, the wise Roman, welcomed old age for its gifts: wisdom, sound judgment, and contentment.


1. And should my service, Titus, ease the weight
Of care that wrings your heart, and draw the sting
Which rankles there, what guerdon shall there be?

FOR I may address you, Atticus, in the lines in which Flamininus was addressed by the man

who, poor in wealth, was rich in honour’s gold,

though I am well assured that you are not, as Flamininus was,

kept on the rack of care by night and day.

For I know how well—ordered and equable your mind is, and am fully aware that it was not a surname alone which you brought home with you from Athens, but its culture and good sense. And yet I have an idea that you are at times stirred to the heart by the same circumstances as myself. To console you for these is a more serious matter, and must be put off to another time. For the present I have resolved to dedicate to you an essay on Old Age. For from the burden of impending or at least advancing age, common to us both, I would do something to relieve us both: though as to yourself I am fully aware that you support and will support it, as you do everything else, with calmness and philosophy. But directly I resolved to write on old age, you at once occurred to me as deserving a gift of which both of us might take advantage. To myself, indeed, the composition of this book has been so delightful that it has not only wiped away all the disagreeables of old age, but has even made it luxurious and delightful too. Never, therefore, can philosophy be praised as highly as it deserves, considering that its faithful disciple is able to spend every period of his life with unruffled feelings. However, on other subjects I have spoken at large, and shall often speak again: this book which I herewith send you is on Old Age. I have put the whole discourse not, as Alisto of Cos did, in the mouth of Tithonus—for a mere fable would have lacked conviction—but in that of Marcus Cato when he was an old man, to give my essay greater weight. I represent Lælius and Scipio at his house expressing surprise at his carrying his years so lightly, and Cato answering them. If he shall seem to shew somewhat more learning in this discourse than he generally did in his own books, put it down to the Greek literature of which it is known that he became an eager student in his old age. But what need of more? Cato’s own words will at once explain all I feel about old age.

Odysseus Adrift on a Raft

Monday, 20 October 2014

Homer

Homer (fl. 850 B.C.). The Odyssey.
Vol. 22, pp. 68-80 of The Harvard Classics

The gods met in council and decreed that Odysseus be set adrift. Poseidon, God of the Sea, shattered the raft and Odysseus was cast ashore to encounter further adventures.


Book V

The Gods in council command Calypso by Hermes to send away Odysseus on a raft of trees; and Poseidon, returning from Ethiopia and seeing him on the coast of Phaeacia, scattered his raft; and how by the help of Ino he was thrown ashore, and slept on a heap of dry leaves till the next day.


NOW the Dawn arose from her couch, from the side of the lordly Tithonus, to bear light to the immortals and to mortal men. And lo, the gods were gathering to session, and among them Zeus that thunders on high, whose might is above all. And Athena told them the tale of the many woes of Odysseus, recalling them to mind; for near her heart was he that then abode in the dwelling of the nymph:

Virtue in Smiles

Sunday, 19 October 2014

James Henry Leigh Hunt

Leigh Hunt (1784-1859)
Vol. 27, pp. 285-295 of The Harvard Classics

Weep if you must. It is far better than to repress your tears. But Leigh Hunt finds greater virtue in cheerfulness. Fanciful and graceful - his writings exerted a wholesome influence on all nineteenth century journalism.
(James Henry Leigh Hunt born Oct. 19, 1784.)


Deaths of Little Children

A GRECIAN philosopher being asked why he wept for the death of his son, since the sorrow was in vain, replied, “I weep on that account.” And his answer became his wisdom. It is only for sophists to contend that we, whose eyes contain the fountains of tears, need never give way to them. It would be unwise not to do so on some occasions. Sorrow unlocks them in her balmy moods. The first bursts may be bitter and overwhelming; but the soil on which they pour would be worse without them. They refresh the fever of the soul—the dry misery which parches the countenance into furrows, and renders us liable to our most terrible “flesh-quakes.”

"If Winter Comes"

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)
Vol. 41, pp. 829-835 of The Harvard Classics

From the title of a recently popular novel, we know that one prominent fiction writer of to-day was inspired by the verses of Shelley. Many others have also felt the stirring vigor of his poetry. What is your reaction?


To a Skylark

    HAIL to thee, blithe Spirit!
      Bird thou never wert,
    That from heaven, or near it,
      Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art

Reason His Only Religion

Friday, 17 October 2014

Sir Thomas Browne

Sir Thomas Browne. (1605–1682). Religio Medici.
Vol. 3, pp. 253-265 of The Harvard Classics

The religion of Thomas Browne - a liberal man in a most intolerant time - was not taken from either Rome or Geneva, but from his own reason.
(Browne visited by Evelyn of "Evelyn Diary," Oct. 17, 1671.)


The First Part

FOR my Religion, though there be several Circumstances that might perswade the World I have none at all, (as the general scandal of my Profession, 1 the natural course of my Studies, the indifferency of my Behaviour and Discourse in matters of Religion, neither violently Defending one, nor with that common ardour and contention Opposing another;) yet, in despight hereof, I dare without usurpation assume the honourable Stile of a Christian. Not that I meerly owe this Title to the Font, my Education, or the clime wherein I was born, (as being bred up either to confirm those Principles my Parents instilled into my unwary Understanding, or by a general consent proceed in the Religion of my Country;) but having in my riper years and confirmed Judgment seen and examined all, I find my self obliged by the Principles of Grace, and the Law of mine own Reason, to embrace no other Name but this. Neither doth herein my zeal so far make me forget the general Charity I owe unto Humanity, as rather to hate than pity Turks, Infidels, and (what is worse,) Jews; rather contenting my self to enjoy that happy Stile, than maligning those who refuse so glorious a Title.

When Medicine Was a Mystery

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Hippocrates

Hippocrates (c. 460–c. 370 B.C.). The Oath and Law of Hippocrates.
Vol. 38, pp. 3-5 of The Harvard Classics

Once physicians treated the sick with a mixture of medicine and charms. In those days medicine was regarded as a dark art like magic, and those practicing it formed guilds to protect themselves.


The Oath of Hippocrates

I SWEAR by Apollo the physician and Æsculapius, and Health, and All-heal, and all the gods and goddesses, that, according to my ability and judgment, I will keep this Oath and this stipulation—to reckon him who taught me this Art equally dear to me as my parents, to share my substance with him, and relieve his necessities if required; to look upon his offspring in the same footing as my own brothers, and to teach them this Art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or stipulation; and that by precept, lecture, and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the Art to my own sons, and those of my teachers, and to disciples bound by a stipulation and oath according to the law of medicine, but to none others. I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion. With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art. I will not cut persons labouring under the stone, but will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of this work. Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption; and, further, from the seduction of females or males, of freemen and slaves. Whatever, in connection with my professional practice, or not in connection with it, I see or hear, in the life of men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge, as reckoning that all such should be kept secret. While I continue to keep this Oath unviolated, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the Art, respected by all men, in all times. But should I trespass and violate this Oath, may the reverse be my lot.

First Families of America

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Amerigo Vespicci

Amerigo Vespucci (1452-1512)
Vol. 43, pp. 28-44 of The Harvard Classics

"They are a people smooth and clean of body because of continually washing themselves - they eat all their enemies whom they kill or capture." Amerigo Vespucci thus writes of the New World inhabitants.
(Amerigo Vespucci returns from first American voyage, Oct. 15, 1498.)


Amerigo Vespucci’s Account of His First Voyage
(1497)

[Amerigo Vespucci was born in Florence in 1452 and died in Seville in 1512. He was employed in the latter city in the business house which fitted out Columbus’ second expedition. The following letter gives his own account of the first of the four voyages which he claimed to have made to the New World. He seems to have touched the mainland a few weeks before Cabot, and some fourteen months before Columbus. The suspicions which long clouded his title to fame have been largely dissipated by modern investigation; and it seems to have been not without reason that Waldseemuller in 1507 proposed to call the new continent by his name.

The present translation is made from Vespucci’s Italian (published at Florence in 1505–6) by “M. K.”, for Quaritch’s edition, London, 1885.

No Spice and Little Gold

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Adam Smith

Adam Smith. (1723–1790). Wealth of Nations.
Vol. 10, pp. 395-404 of The Harvard Classics

All colonies are founded to gain territory or treasure. Spain expected spice and gold from Columbus's expedition, but got no spice and little gold. Adam Smith tells the true motive of the colonizing Greeks, Romans, English, and Spaniards.


Book IV
VII. Of Colonies

PART I. OF THE MOTIVES FOR ESTABLISHING NEW COLONIES

THE INTEREST which occasioned the first settlement of the different European colonies in America and the West Indies, was not altogether so plain and distinct as that which directed the establishment of those of ancient Greece and Rome.

  All the different states of ancient Greece possessed, each of them, but a very small territory, and when the people in any one of them multiplied beyond what that territory could easily maintain, a part of them were sent in quest of a new habitation in some remote and distant part of the world; the warlike neighbours who surrounded them on all sides, rendering it difficult for any of them to enlarge very much its territory at home. The colonies of the Dorians resorted chiefly to Italy and Sicily, which, in the times preceding the foundation of Rome, were inhabited by barbarous and uncivilized nations: those of the Ionians and Eolians, the two other great tribes of the Greeks, to Asia Minor and the islands of the Egean Sea, of which the inhabitants seem at that time to have been pretty much in the same state as those of Sicily and Italy. The mother city, though she considered the colony as a child, at all times entitled to great favour and assistance, and owing in return much gratitude and respect, yet considered it as an emancipated child, over whom she pretended to claim no direct authority or jurisdiction. The colony settled its own form of government, enacted its own laws, elected its own magistrates, and made peace or war with its neighbours as an independent state, which had no occasion to wait for the approbation or consent of the mother city. Nothing can be more plain and distinct than the interest which directed every such establishment.

Pagan Virtue Perpetuated

Monday, 13 October 2014

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. (121–180). The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.
Vol. 2, pp. 193-199 of The Harvard Classics

A man of virtue, although a pagan, Marcus Aurelius ruled with benevolence and wisdom. Cruel in persecution of Christians as lawbreakers, no trace of this sternness appears in his writings.


I

 1. FROM my grandfather Verus [I learned] good morals and the government of my temper.

 2. From the reputation and remembrance of my father, modesty and a manly character.

 3. From my mother, piety and beneficence, and abstinence, not only from evil deeds, but even from evil thoughts; and further simplicity in my way of living, far removed from the habits of the rich.

  4. From my great-grandfather, not to have frequented public schools, and to have had good teachers at home, and to know that on such things a man should spend liberally.

Columbus' Letter Miraculously Found

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus (1451-1506)
Vol. 43, pp. 21-27 of The Harvard Classics

(Columbus Day.)
Historical documents, now priceless, were often used as wrapping paper. Rescued by chance was a letter of Columbus telling of his voyages - of the amazing bargains made with timid natives - of Amazon women who fought like men and made marriage treaties with cannibals.


The Letter of Columbus to Luis de Sant Angel Announcing His Discovery
(1493)

[The following letter was written by Columbus, near the end of his return voyage, to Luis de Sant Angel, Treasurer of Aragon, who had given him substantial help in fitting out his expedition. This announcement of his discovery of the West Indies was evidently intended for the eyes of Ferdinand and Isabella. The text of the present translation is taken from American History Leaflets, edited by Professors Hart and Channing.]

SIR:
AS I know you will be rejoiced at the glorious success that our Lord has given me in my voyage, I write this to tell you how in thirty-three days I sailed to the Indies with the fleet that the illustrious King and Queen, our Sovereigns, gave me, where I discovered a great many islands, inhabited by numberless people; and of all I have taken possession for their Highnesses by proclamation and display of the Royal Standard without opposition. To the first island I discovered I gave the name of San Salvador, in commemoration of His Divine Majesty, who has wonderfully granted all this. The Indians call it Guanaham. The second I named the Island of Santa Maria de Concepcion; the third, Fernandina; the fourth, Isabella; the fifth, Juana; and thus to each one I gave a new name. When I came to Juana, I followed the coast of that isle toward the west, and found it so extensive that I thought it might be the mainland, the province of Cathay; and as I found no towns nor villages on the sea-coast, except a few small settlements, where it was impossible to speak to the people, because they fled at once, I continued the said route, thinking I could not fail to see some great cities or towns; and finding at the end of many leagues that nothing new appeared, and that the coast led northward, contrary to my wish, because the winter had already set in, I decided to make for the south, and as the wind also was against my proceeding, I determined not to wait there longer, and turned back to a certain harbor whence I sent two men to find out whether there was any king or large city. They explored for three days, and found countless small communities and people, without number, but with no kind of government, so they returned.

Æneas Flees from an Inconsolable Love

Saturday, 11 October 2014


Depiction of Vergil, 3rd Century A.D.

Vergil (70 B.C.–19 B.C.). Æneid.
Vol. 13, pp. 178-188 Of The Harvard Classics

Æneas, mythological founder of the Roman race, leaving Car?thage and its lovely Queen Dido, was driven by a storm to the coast of Sicily. There the hospitality of King Acestes helped him to forget his relinquished love.


The Fifth Book of the Æneis

THE ARGUMENT.—Æneas, setting sail from Afric, is driven by a storm on the coasts of Sicily, where he is hospitably receiv’d by his friend Acestes, king of part of the island, and born of Trojan parentage. He applies himself to celebrate the memory of his father with divine honors, and accordingly institutes funeral games, and appoints prizes for those who should conquer in them. While the ceremonies were performing, Juno sends Iris to persuade the Trojan women to burn the ships, who, upon her instigation, set fire to them; which burnt four, and would have consum’d the rest, had not Jupiter, by a miraculous shower, extinguish’d it. Upon this, Æneas, by the advice of one of his generals, and a vision of his father, builds a city for the women, old men, and others, who were either unfit for war, or weary of the voyage, and sails for Italy. Venus procures of Neptune a safe voyage for him and all his men, excepting only his pilot Palinurus, who is unfortunately lost.

A Fugitive in Boy's Clothes

Friday, 10 October 2014

Miguel de Cervantes

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616). Don Quixote, Part 1.
Vol. 14, pp. 252-266 of The Harvard Classics

The romance-stricken Don Quixote sees a fair youth seated by the side of a stream, "his feet like two crystals, his hands like snow?flakes." The youth was a charming girl!
(Cervantes aided in the capture of Tunis, Oct. 10, 1573.)


The Fourth Book
I. Wherein Is Discoursed the New and Pleasant Adventure That Happened to the Curate and the Barber in Sierra Morena

MOST happy and fortunate were those times wherein the thrice audacious and bold knight, Don Quixote of the Mancha, was bestowed on the world, by whose most honourable resolution to revive and renew in it the already worn-out and well-night deceased exercise of arms, we joy in this our so niggard and scant an age of all pastimes, not only the sweetness of his true history, but also of the other tales and digressions contained therein, which are in some respects no less pleasing, artificial, and true than the very history itself; the which, prosecuting the carded, spun, and self-twined thread of the relation, says that, as the curate began to bethink himself upon some answer that might both comfort and animate Cardenio, he was hindered by a voice which came to his hearing, said very dolefully the words ensuing:

Songs Shake the Walls of Jericho

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Hymn Book

Hymns of the Christian Church. Latin Hymns and Modern Hymns
Vol. 45, pp. 546-556; also pp. 567-568 of The Harvard Classics

Do you know that many of your favorite hymns have echoed for hundreds of years through vast cathedrals, and resounded from the walls of Jericho during the Crusades?
(Newman, author of "Lead, Kindly Light," baptized Oct. 9, 1845.)


Latin Hymns

Te Deum Laudamus
Attributed to Niceta of Remisiana (4th Century)

WE praise thee, O God, we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship thee, the Father everlasting.
To thee all Angels cry aloud: the Heavens, and all the Powers therein.
To thee Churubin and Seraphin continually do cry,
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth;
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of thy Glory.
The glorious company of the Apostles praise thee.
The goodly fellowship of the Prophets praise thee.
The noble army of Martyrs praise thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world doth acknowledge thee;
The Father, of an infinite Majesty;
Thine honourable, true, and only Son;
Also the Holy Ghost, the Comforter.
Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ!
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man, thou didst not abhor the Virgin’s womb.
When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God in the Glory of the Father.
We believe that thou shalt come to be our Judge.
We therefore pray thee, help thy servants whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.
Make them to be numbered with thy Saints in glory everlasting.
O Lord, save thy people and bless thine heritage.
Govern them, and lift them up for ever.
Day by day we magnify thee;
And we worship thy Name, ever world without end.
Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin.
O Lord, have mercy upon us: have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let thy mercy lighten upon us: as our trust is in thee.
O Lord, in thee have I trusted: let me never be confounded.

Fielding's Parody Becomes History

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Henry Fielding

Henry Fielding (1742). Preface to Joseph Andrews.
Vol. 39, pp. 176-181 of The Harvard Classics

Fielding wrote a lengthy story to burlesque a novel of Richardson. But the travesty overshot its mark. Instead of a mere parody, it became a masterpiece.
(Henry Fielding died Oct. 8, 1764.)


THE COMIC EPIC IN PROSE

 1 AS IT is possible the mere English reader may have a different idea of romance with the author of these little volumes; and may consequently expect a kind of entertainment, not to be found, nor which was even intended, in the following pages; it may not be improper to premise a few words concerning this kind of writing, which I do not remember to have seen hitherto attempted in our language.

  The EPIC, as well as the DRAMA, is divided into tragedy and comedy. HOMER, who was the father of this species of poetry, gave us the pattern of both these, tho’ that of the latter kind is entirely lost; which Aristotle tells us, bore the same relation to comedy which his Iliad bears to tragedy. and perhaps, that we have no more instances of it among the writers of antiquity, is owing to the loss of this great pattern, which, had it survived, would have found its imitators equally with the other poems of this great original.

An Uncanonized American Saint

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

John Woolman Memorial House

John Woolman. (1720–1772). The Journal of John Woolman.
Vol. 1, pp. 283-288 of The Harvard Classics

John Woolman was the foremost leader of the early Quakers and contributed much to the spiritual life of the American Colonies. He was a pioneer in the crusade against slavery.
(John Woolman died Oct. 7, 1772.)


X
1769, 1770

Bodily Indisposition—Exercise of his Mind for the Good of the People in the West Indies—Communicates to Friends his Concern to visit some of those Islands—Preparations to embark—Considerations on the Trade to the West Indies—Release from his Concern and return Home—Religious Engagements—Sickness, and Exercise of his Mind therein.

TWELFTH of third month, 1769.—Having for some years past dieted myself on account of illness and weakness of body, and not having ability to travel by land as heretofore, I was at times favored to look with awfulness towards the Lord, before whom are all my ways, who alone hath the power of life and death, and to feel thankfulness raised in me for this fatherly chastisement, believing that if I was truly humbled under it all would work for good. While under this bodily weakness, my mind was at times exercised for my fellow-creatures in the West Indies, and I grew jealous over myself lest the disagreeableness of the prospect should hinder me from obediently attending thereto; for, though I knew not that the Lord required me to go there, yet I believed that resignation was now called for in that respect. Feeling a danger of not being wholly devoted to him, I was frequently engaged to watch unto prayer that I might be preserved; and upwards of a year having passed, as I one day walked in a solitary wood, my mind being covered with awfulness, cries were raised in me to my merciful Father, that he would graciously keep me in faithfulness; and it then settled on my mind, as a duty, to open my condition to Friends at our Monthly Meeting, which I did soon after, as follows:—

The Atrocious Spectacle of October 6th

Monday, 6 October 2014

Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke (1729–1797). Reflections on the French Revolution.
Vol. 24, pp. 208-217 of The Harvard Classics

Wakened by the death cries of her sentry, Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, fled by a secret passage from the fury of a vile mob. The royal family was arrested and taken to Paris to await their fate.


  Yielding to reasons, at least as forcible as those which were so delicately urged in the compliment on the new year, the king of France will probably endeavour to forget these events and that compliment. But history, who keeps a durable record of all our acts, and exercises her awful censure over the proceedings of all sorts of sovereigns, will not forget either those events, or the era of this liberal refinement in the intercourse of mankind. History will record, that on the morning of the 6th of October, 1789, the king and queen of France, after a day of confusion, alarm, dismay, and slaughter, lay down, under the pledged security of public faith, to indulge nature in a few hours of respite, and troubled, melancholy repose. From this sleep the queen was first startled by the voice of the sentinel at her door, who cried out her to save herself by flight—that this was the last proof of fidelity he could give—that they were upon him, and he was dead. Instantly he was cut down. A band of cruel ruffians and assassins, reeking with his blood, rushed into the chamber of the queen, and pierced with a hundred strokes of bayonets and poniards the bed, from whence this persecuted woman had but just time to fly almost naked, and, through ways unknown to the murderers, had escaped to seek refuge at the feet of a king and husband, not secure of his own life for a moment.

Amateur Athlete in Old Athens

Sunday, 5 October 2014

John Henry Newman

Vol. 28, pp. 51-61 of The Harvard Classics
John Henry Newman (1801-1890). The Idea of a University. III. University Life at Athens.

A boxer in public games desired to study philosophy at Athens. There were no furnaces to tend, no tables to wait on, no books or magazines to peddle, yet this sturdy young Greek managed to work his way through college.


HOWEVER apposite may have been the digression into which I was led when I had got about half through the foregoing Chapter, it has had the inconvenience of what may be called running me off the rails; and now that I wish to proceed from the point at which it took place, I shall find some trouble, if I may continue the metaphor, in getting up the steam again, or if I may change it, in getting into the swing of my subject.

His Mouth Full of Pebbles

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Third volume of a 1727 edition of Plutarch's Lives

Plutarch (A.D. 46?–c.A.D. 120). Plutarch’s Lives.
Vol. 12, pp. 196-205 of The Harvard Classics

The man who put pebbles in his mouth and orated to the sea, shaved one-half of his head so that he would be obliged to stay at home until he had perfected his oratory - a strange method of attaining eminence, but a successful one.


Demosthenes

[...]

  Another time, when the assembly had refused to hear him, and he was going home with his head muffled up, taking it very heavily, they relate that Satyrus, the actor, followed him, and being his familiar acquaintance, entered into conversation with him. To whom, when Demosthenes bemoaned himself, that having been the most industrious of all the pleaders, and having almost spent the whole strength and vigor of his body in that employment, he could not yet find any acceptance with the people, that drunken sots, mariners, and illiterate fellows were heard, and had the hustings for their own, while he himself was despised. “You say true, Demosthenes,” replies Satyrus, “but I quickly remedy the cause of all this, if you will repeat to me some passage out of Euripides or Sophocles.” Which when Demosthenes had pronounced, Satyrus presently taking it up after him, gave the same passage, in his rendering of it, such a new form, by accompanying it with the proper mien and gesture, that to Demosthenes it seemed quite another thing. By this being convinced how much grace and ornament language acquires from action, he began to esteem it a small matter, and as good as nothing for a man to exercise himself in declaiming, if he neglected enunciation and delivery. Hereupon he built himself a place to study in under ground, (which was still remaining in our time), and hither he would come constantly every day to form his action, and to exercise his voice; and here he would continue, oftentimes without intermission, two or three months together, shaving one half of his head, that so for shame he might not go abroad, though he desired it ever so much.

Good Enough for Chaucer

Friday, 3 October 2014

Geoffrey Chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer (1340–1400). The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales.
Vol. 40, pp. 11-20 of The Harvard Classics

When polite English society conversed in French - considering English a vulgar tongue, fit only for servants and working people - Chaucer, nevertheless, wrote poems in this "vulgar" English, which charm us because of their quaint words.

[Editor's Note: This passage contains extensive footnotes. To prevent the disruption of reading, these are all included at the end].


WHAN that Aprille with his shoures soote 1
The droghte 2 of Marche hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich 3 licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt 4 and heeth
The tendre croppes, 5 and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne, 6
And smale fowles maken melodye,
That slepen al the night with open ye,
(So priketh hem nature in hir corages: 7
Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmers for to seken straunge strondes, 8
To ferne halwes, 9 couthe 10 in sondry londes;
And specially, from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The holy blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seke. 11

Veteran Tells of Indian War

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Map depicting the Voyage of the Beagle

Charles Robert Darwin (1809–1882).  The Voyage of the Beagle.
Vol. 29, pp. 107-111 of The Harvard Classics

Just before Darwin visited Bahia Blanca, an Indian insurrection had been ruthlessly put down. A veteran of the Indian war told Darwin how Indians had been treated.
(Darwin returns from South America, Oct. 2, 1836.)


  During my stay at Bahia Blanca, while waiting for the Beagle, the place was in a constant state of excitement, from rumours of wars and victories, between the troops of Rosas and the wild Indians. One day an account came that a small party forming one of the postas on the line to Buenos Ayres, had been found all murdered. The next day three hundred men arrived from the Colorado, under the command of Commandant Miranda. A large portion of these men were Indians (mansos, or tame), belonging to the tribe of the Cacique Bernantio. They passed the night here; and it was impossible to conceive anything more wild and savage than the scene of their bivouac. Some drank till they were intoxicated; others swallowed the steaming blood of the cattle slaughtered for their suppers, and then, being sick from drunkenness, they cast it up again, and were besmeared with filth and gore.

Nam simul expletus dapibus, vinoque sepultus
Cervicem inflexam posuit, jacuitque per antrum
Immensus, saniem eructans, ac frusta cruenta
Per somnum commixta mero.

Princes To-day and Yesterday

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Niccolo Machiavelli

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469–1527). The Prince.
Vol. 36, pp. 36-44 of The Harvard Classics

To-day the chief duty of a prince is to be the nation's friend maker. Years ago princes desired supreme power and, by fair means or foul, strove for control. Machiavelli was a guide for such ambitious princes.
(Machiavelli's model prince sent to France as papal legate, Oct. 1, 1498.)


X. How the Strength of All Princedoms Should Be Measured

IN EXAMINING the character of these Princedoms, another circumstance has to be considered, namely, whether the Prince is strong enough, if occasion demands, to stand alone, or whether he needs continual help from others. To make the matter clearer, I pronounce those to be able to stand alone who, with the men and money at their disposal, can get together an army fit to take the field against any assailant; and, conversely, I judge those to be in constant need of help who cannot take the field against their enemies, but are obliged to retire behind their walls, and to defend themselves there. Of the former I have already spoken, and shall speak again as occasion may require. As to the latter there is nothing to be said, except to exhort such Princes to strengthen and fortify the towns in which they dwell, and take no heed of the country outside. For whoever has thoroughly fortified his town, and put himself on such a footing with his subjects as I have already indicated and shall hereafter speak of, will always be attacked with much circumspection; for men are always averse to enterprises that are attended with difficulty, and it is impossible not to foresee difficulties in attacking a Prince whose town is strongly fortified and who is not hated by his subjects.
 

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