The Spirit Of A Scholar -- By: S. G. Brown
BSac 6:21 (Feb 1849) p. 114
The Spirit Of A Scholar
The term scholar has a broad and somewhat varied meaning. We apply it to him who learns with readiness, who performs his intellectual tasks with rapidity and beauty. In a higher sense, we mean by it one who invents or discovers, who makes original and independent investigation, who enlarges the boundaries of knowledge. Most liberally, however, we use the term with reference to all whose attention is devoted to science or letters. Homer and Dante and Chaucer were scholars. In this grandest sense, the calling is among the noblest that the earth affords. We venture no comparison between great thinkers and great actors, the Shakspeares and the Cromwells, the Goethes and the Napoleons. The question of supremacy between them we are willing to let remain in abeyance; but, without controversy, the eye of the world fixes not last on those whose investigations have determined the laws of its action; who, priests of nature, have
BSac 6:21 (Feb 1849) p. 115
revealed her mysteries; have adorned the world with structures of beauty and magnificence; have evoked from the marble and the canvass lovelier and grander forms than our eyes ever saw before; who have interpreted for us the manifold voices of experience, and made the past our teacher; without whom there were no history, no poetry, no philosophy, no art; and of humanity itself, nothing left but its dust and ashes.
There are few among us who can boast of a literary leisure. We come up to the annual festivals of our colleges, from the hard toil and strifes of the year, with the dust of the forum and the market still clinging to us. We have labored for our daily bread. Still it is none the less a duty and a privilege to cherish a scholar’s hopes and tastes. Nor is this hard lot of educated men, if it be called such, so adverse to literature even, as it might at first seem. With certain exceptions, this too is as it should be. The scholar is not a hermit nor a monk. Like other men he is connected with the family, with society, the State, the church; one whose learning is enveloped and permeated with sentiments and affections. Literature is the expressed thought of a people; and as such, cannot be forced, and probably will not be much retarded by apparent infelicities in the condition of its votaries. Even for better interpreting the problems of life, for the better understanding of history, for the surer expression of common sympathies and wide-spread sentiments, of the stronger sorrows and joys,—the terrible excitements of passion, the awful thoughts which sometimes hover about the way of the most prosperous,—all the experiences which make up the varied life of humanity, it is well for the historian, the philosopher, the poet, to share the troubles of the...
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