« AnteriorContinuar »
the scientist, the controversialist, and, above all, the literary man, if each knew little or nothing, instead of having pressed upon the attention from youth accumulated experiences, traditions, discoveries, and reasonings of many centuries.
To the “Delights of Ignorance,” I should devote the consideration of man devoid of knowledge under various circumstances and in various positions.
By the sea who does not love to lie "propt on beds of amaranth and moly, how sweet (while warm airs lull, blowing lowly), with balf-dropt eyelids still, beneath a heaven dark and holy, to watch the long bright river drawing slowly his waters from the purple hill-to hear the dewy echoes calling from cave to cave through the thick-twined vine-to watch the emeraldcoloured waters falling through many a woven acanthus wreath divine ! Only to see and hear the far-off sparkling brine, only to hear were sweet, stretched out beneath the pine.” Just so! Is not that much better than bothering about gravitation and that wretched old clinker the
moon, and the tides, and how sea-water is made up of oxygen and hydrogen and chloride of sodium and bromide of something else, and fifty other things, pot one of which has a tolerable smell when you meet it in a laboratory? Isn't it better than thinking of the number of lighthouses built on the coast of Albion, and the tonnage which yearly is reported and cleared at the custom-houses of London, Liverpool, and that prosperous seaport of Bohemia! Isn't it much better than improving the occasion by reading a hand-book on hydraulics or hydrostatics ? Who on the seashore wants to know anything? There will always, down to the last syllable of recorded time, be finer things unknown about the sea than can be said about all other matters in the world. Trying to know anything about the sea is like shooting into the air an arrow attached to a pennyworth of string with a view to sounding space.
If we threw all the knowledge we have into the ocean the Admiralty standards of high-water mark would not have to be altered one-millionth part of a line.
What a blessing ignorance would be in
an inn !
Who would not dispense with a knowledge of all the miseries that follow in the wake of the vat when one is thirsty, and has before him amber sunset-coloured ale, and in his hand a capacious, long, cool-meaning churchwarden ? Who would at such a moment cumber his mind with the unit of specific gravity used by excisemen in testing beer? Who would at such a moment care to calculate the toll exacted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer before each cool gulp may thrill with amazing joy the parched gullet ?
Who, when upon a journey, would care to know the precise pressure required to blow the boiler of the engine to pieces, or the number of people killed in collisions during the corresponding quarter of last year ? Should we not be better in sickness for not knowing the exact percentage of deaths in cases of our class ? In adversity should we not be infinitely happier were we in ignorance of the chance we ran of gaining a good position or of cutting our throats ? Should we not enjoy our prosperity all the more if we were not, morning
and evening, exercised by the fluctuations of the share-list, fluctuations in all likelihood destined never to increase or diminish our fortunes one penny? And oh, for ignorance in sleep! For sleep without dream, or nightmare, or memory! For sleep such as falls
upon the body when the soul is done with it and
But all this is only rambling talk and likely to come to nothing. I fear I shall never find a publisher for my great work. Upon reading over what I have written I am impressed by the faintness of the outline it displays of the book. In fact there is hardly any outline at all. It is no more clear than the figures thrown by a magic-lantern upon a fog. I have done nothing more than wave the sacred lamp of ignorance before your eyes.
I daresay my friend the jelly-fish would shake his fat sides with laughter if he became aware of this futile effort to show how far we are removed from his state of blissful calm, I feel infinitely depressed and discouraged. I feel that not only will I not be hailed as a prophet in my own
country, but that the age will have nothing to do with my scheme. It may be thought by many that there is something like treason in thus enrolling oneself under the banner of the jellyfish. Egypt, Assyria, Greece, Carthage, and Rome have gone back from knowledge, and even the jelly-fish does not flourish on their sites. But is the condition of their sites the worse for lacking the jelly-fish? Perhaps the
silence, and desolation, and dim night” are better in those places than the blare of trumpets and the tramp of man. So far as we know man is the only being capable of doing evil or offending heaven.
His absence may by nature be considered very good company. Whatever part of earth he can handle and move he has turned topsy-turvy.
One day earth will turn on him and wipe him out altogether.
For me and my great scheme for the book there is no hope. Man has always been accounted a poor creature when judged by a fellow man whom he does not appreciate. How can I be expected to go on taking an interest in