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Showing posts from October, 2014

Witches Walk To-night

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

Geology's Greatest Benefactor

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 I F  W E  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 forme

Genius Rises from a Stable

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 S OULS  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

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

Fruit of Seven Years' Silence

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) T HE WORLD,  for the most part, O Kacc ā na, 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 Kacc ā na, 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 Kacc ā na, considers how the world ceases, belief in the being of the world passes away. The world, O Kacc ā na, is for the most part bound up in a seeking, attachment, and proclivity [for the

Franklin Learned the Secret

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

It Greatly Encouraged Intrigue

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.) T HOSE   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

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

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 A FTER  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, y

Swift's Love Problems

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 an

No Fault to Find with Old Age

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? F OR  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 hear

Odysseus Adrift on a Raft

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. N OW  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

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 G RECIAN  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

"If Winter Comes"

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     H AIL  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

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 F OR  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 Und

When Medicine Was a Mystery

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 teach

First Families of America

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

No Spice and Little Gold

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 P ART  I. OF THE MOTIVES FOR ESTABLISHING NEW COLONIES T HE 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;

Pagan Virtue Perpetuated

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. F ROM  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

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.] S IR: A S  I know you will be rejoiced at the glorious success that our Lo

Æneas Flees from an Inconsolable Love

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 mi

A Fugitive in Boy's Clothes

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 M OST  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 respec

Songs Shake the Walls of Jericho

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) W E  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 thr

Fielding's Parody Becomes History

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  A S 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

An Uncanonized American Saint

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. T WELFTH  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

The Atrocious Spectacle of October 6th

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 f

Amateur Athlete in Old Athens

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. H OWEVER  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

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 ha

Good Enough for Chaucer

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]. W HAN  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 nat