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We see how a young student approached Humboldt and became drawn to him and firmly held, and this circumstance attests to us the now almost forgotten form of a lively mutual relation existing between youth and age, which is now scarcely ever seen, except in ancient examples. Here a young man, full of ideal thoughts and of a longing to express them; there an old man, listening to him, and with quite an air of innocent resignation, giving detailed answers.
Like Socrates, when, in Xenophon's representation, he answered the questions of the children-or like Plato, among young men, without loss to his dignity, giving himself up to deeply interesting dialogues concerning the highest problem--so we hear Humboldt discoursing upon immortality and the good of mankind.
How perverted is the common life of the day, how we forget, what simple questions, addressing themselves alike to all ages of life, yet laying hold of our inmost heart, how it moves us, wherever we meet with the sight, when old age, forsaking the world, full of rich experience, confides to expectant youth its mellow thoughts. This also constitutes the chief source of attraction in Eckermann's “ Conversations with Goethe.” Goethe's death, and that of Humboldt, constitute here, as there, the natural conclusion of the book. With how few whose age has been overshadowed by fame has it been the good fortune thus, in a comfortable state of rest, to be permitted to address themselves to the youth; to how few, being young, and longing in this wise to meet with old age, has this privilege been accorded, and with it, for their whole remaining life, the indestructible feeling of a higher existence, which is the fruit of such intercourse.
To those, however, who have had this instruction from old age, the remembrance is one that can never 'die. 'The whole service of the little book lies in the representation of Humboldt, from this side, and it is positively a matter of astonishment that its author, after having so fully recognized and made conspicuous the ideal spirit and purpose of his work, could have embodied in it some, if only a few, of Humboldt's opinions of men still to-day living in Berlin.
There is a limit, a boundary line, to such communications. Goethe desired that twenty years might pass before the gaps in his correspondence with Schiller should be filled out; and when Goethe himself died this correspondence was already over twenty years old. Though such delicacy of feeling may have been carried too far, still on no account should one who desires to count himself of the society of cultivated men, and, moreover, lays any claim to it, who knows in general what this society or fellowship signi. fies, permit himself to put in print the sharp criticisms against cotemporaries which had been confided to him verbally. Humboldt's death does not alter the case in the least ; and directly after such a marked offence against usage as occurred in the book of which mention is made above, the author ought to be doubly careful to choose what to say and what to leave unsaid. The same applies--with equal force, perhaps--to the passage where he prepares and reads before Humboldt his poem addressed to him, and is “interrupted by him with repeated expressions of praise." I allow myself this criticism, since I pass it upon one who is anonymous.
In one respect, however, I take back what I have just said. Where such men as Goethe and Humboldt are concerned, it seems almost an impossibility that a single one of their utterances which remains anywhere, either engraved on the memory of man or fixed upon paper, should be able to be withheld. What Goethe uttered in the most careless moment is treasured up and printed, almost as though it were a process of nature that showed itself even in his least significant thoughts. One can therefore reproach the individuals through whom it happened, but not, however, look upon the thing done as something in itself to have been prevented. Painful feel. ings it brings with it to many; but of what use is it to trouble ourselves about that which a sort of necessity seems to govern? It ought to be, that such a man, who saw everything, heard everything, weighed it and pronounced a clear judgment upon it, should walk through our century. It was these judgments that bestowed the power to last in the memory of mankind, and at some future day to break forth ; and in mankind, again, the curiosity has been placed, by reason of which every one grasps covetously after, and by means of which, apparently, more and more of these nidden wares will be brought forth to the light of day. And what an acquisition ! Fifty to sixty years of an epoch lie thus in Humboldt's communications, and give the future a picture of things that passed away with him. If one takes, in connection with this, what Goethe lived through both before and with him, and in a similar all-comprehensive manner has provided us with the written commentaries of his mind, then we see almost a century worn away in the utterances of the two great minds. Other nations, too, have their memoir-writersnone, however, witnesses who from such a height were sent forth upon their mission. Both, in intercourse with the most prominent men of the worldboth, in personal appearance-apparently subordinating themselves frequently to the demands of an etiquette which they even perhaps required, because for long years they had been accustomed to its outward forms, although in heart linked to advancing freedom, and filled with cortempt toward those who strove to deny, to circumvent or to impair her.
This love toward freedom, or, to make use of a more prosaic expression, the demand for the overthrow of spiritual or mental restraint on all questions, is that which distinguishes the German especially before other nations. No wonder, then, that it makes itself known as the foundational characteristic of our great men. It is this that makes it possible for us to assimilate the foreign or strange without changing our natures, to live in all countries, and carry with us our fatherland—to cherish, in conclusion, that true Christian patriotism (I use the word Christian here, not in a church sense, but in an ethical) which consists not in hate, but in love, toward other peoples. It will not he denied, that for political life, as it has shaped itself for Germany, it suits
the Germans very well to return the hate which the Danes cherish against us, the aversion which animates the Russians, or the bauteur with which the French and English look upon us. Should we, however, not be quite unnatural if we did not undertake to repay like with like? “ The good old Goethe dreamed in his old age of a universal literature," runs, long since, the criticism of the critic upon him. He did not merely dream-we did not understand him-he saw it in advance ! In Humboldt this universal literature, of German extraction, became more definitely accomplished. The little book of which we are now speaking offers a new proof of how little he confined his thoughts to this side of the political boundaries of Germany.
The young man, whom the situation of affairs in Prussia did not please, formed the determination to sail over to North America. Humboldt did not desire to discourage him from his purpose. The open letter, in French, which he gave him to take as a letter of recommendation, addressed to “ all Americans,” is a wonderful proof of the power of which he was himself conscious. As a prince writes, We, by the grace of God, make known and proclaim to all to whom these presents shall come,” &c., so Humboldt commences, “ All those who, in the United States, and in the other countries of America, have shown an appreciative cognizance of my name, and of my works concerning America, are hereby entreated to receive with kind. ness,
-, personne distingué par ses talents et la noblesse de son charactère,” &c. What prince was ever in a position to issue such a pass, valid the whole world over? I take it that any one, who of himself alone, without a single human being pointing out the way to him, has taken to himself the minds of the whole world, as it were by force, may well be allowed somewhat the air of grand Seigneur, in his intercourse with the persons and things which form his surroundings, and with a light joke remark, at the same time, that King Ernst August, of Hanover, would certainly willingly hang him, if he had it in his power.
“ All letters addressed to me are opened,” he writes to the young man, as an opportune warning, quite in the same tone as though he said, “ Take care, out there, how you ascend the stairs; there are two steps, the wood of which is rotten, and which you will be likely to break through, if you tread upon them.” In the like ironical manner he alluded to the watchful care which the Berlin police thought fit to bestow upon him. Humboldt was quite conscious of being an inhabitant of a planet whose nature he understood better than any one else, which he had examined critically both internally and externally, and when he reflected on the thousands of years during which the changes of the earth had taken place, upon the millions of miles by which the distances are here measured, he felt the whole world his fatherland, and looked with a placid smile upon an inconvenient but transient despotism, without once thinking that the same was to be combated. He waited patiently, knowing from experience what the end would be ; and instead of lamenting, with old people, the transientness of things, be treated his own age and approaching death with levity, and strengthened the growing youth to hold fast to the imperishable, and to watch the transient and perishable, as the great master, and to behave as he himself was accustomed to. The imperishable, however, is the intellectual labor.
May a favoring fortune decree, that where Alexander Von Humboldt stood another may tread, who, like him, from the highest position, may know how to defend the dignity of art and knowledge, to support the right and the useful, and to prevent that which is unfruitful and sterile : who, like him, kind and courteous, in untiring service, to a'l endeavors striving to help both with advice and action, and when darkening times come, to scorn them, like him, as passing clouds, but, moreover, to be able to interpret even these in the service of progress. If then, of ten well deserving ones, one, or even two, to whom his unmerited intercession was permitted, slipped through, then must the wonderful service of such a man be seen in just so striking a light as to day the gap which his most irreparable loss has created is already seen.
THE PROGRESS OF RELIGIOUS IDEAS.
HE non-believer in constant progression you may always know to be one
, regards either space or time. Looking simply at one point-the march of mens religious faiths toward perfection-would we, as a whole, contrast the past with the present, surely we could see progression enough here to almost base the law. I might omit the word “almost," did I believe, as many do, that the cultivation of the religious element in man is the initial step toward a general advancement in the development of the whole mind. And here allow me, parenthetically, to observe, lies the radical fault in the system of missionarying or proselyting among "the benighted” of foreign lands. The chambers of the religious faculty are “crammed," and the intellect, allowed, as it is, to wander free as it will, and you reverse nature's obvious law of de. velopment; for, if there ever was a truism, it is, that intellect, reason, trained and cultured as much as may be, let us hope, must lead.
It has been said, and as a trumpet-blast of boastful logic, that as fast as a people have advanced into the light of religious truths, so fast have they progressed in philosophical and æsthetic sciences, natural, and chiefly human improvements - an obvious result, which blind zeal has made causative.
That there is a decided religious element in the whole human race - a seeking out and up for the great mystic unknown—that this element will have its expression, and that the reasonableness of that expression will be in exact proportion to the intellectual elevation of that people,-are then facts so well understood and known that they scarcely need additional assertion here. This rude expression (for rude, perforce, it must be yet) of man's religious tendency is what the world calls religion, and, for the purpose of naming and being understood, I so use it. The internal motor, though, is all we can properly call pure religion ; at least until it find a fit expression, which in some may be the case comparative, but would not include many who consider themselves well in the advance with liberal culture. The case continues less and less, to be sure, as he approaches it, and so will until reason assumes her just and high prerogative-the dominion of all the faculties of the mind, when the expression of this sentiment will no more run wild in the uncultivated fields after its idols, amused with its hideous sacrifices, looking no higher than symbols, and feeding upon the weeds of bigotry and superstition.
The question might be asked by some to-day : What may be considered progress in religious faith? Difficult it may be, too, for them to see that what was obviously progress and advance in the religious views of the past, is indeed, when reduced to general terms, the same progress of to.day. For it is easy for cne to see the folly of the thing one has pursued, but now given up, but hard to perceive the inconsistency of that he is at the present moment living out. Perhaps as general, maybe indistinct, definition of the progress of the past as one could give, would be : the advance from narrowness to broadness of view the tenet being widened in its application. Symbolism has assuredly been the central idea around which have clustered the religions of the past ; man not yet having progressed so far as to learn that the human soul needs no symbol whereby to know its God—no mediator to repeat its yearnings (prayers) to the Infinite Father. So we might define it to be the advancing wideness of view it has displayed in the selection of a higher and higher thing or being for its symbol or mediator. The definitive idea, though, which we may say applies to the past or present day the same, is one which car not so easily be given in few words. It may be measured by man's advance in materialistic sciences, in social and self-culture, the discovery and practical application of nature's hidden forces and laws, her powers and beauties ; his knowledge of the to kalov of the nineteenth century. In so far as reason has advanced in her control of the man, it may be seen in the reasonableness of his religious rites, creeds and ceremonies; and in so far as they do not conform to strict and pure reason, only in so far have they yet stepped upon the summit of their sublimity; for, pass him by in pity and silence who yet contends that you may not subject even the most sacred faiths and beliefs of the soul to the crucible and cleansing fire of pure
It may be heard, too, in the appeals of eloquerce to the higher powers of the mind, morality, goodness and love ; instead of fear, passion, etc., etc. By some, though, it will be asked : Where are we of to-day to find this never failing oracle which always speaks truth? You may take the highest expression or example at large which your age has given you ; or,