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L E C T U R E
DELIVERED AT THE WOOL WICH INSTITUTION,
AUTHOR OF “FREEDOM, THE SPIRIT OF THE AGE, AND OTHER Poems,"
" THE MORAL PHILOSOPHY OF SHAKSPEARE.” &c.
* Breathes here a man with soul so dead,
RICHARD RIXON, BERESFORD SQUARE ;
“ Breathes there a man with soul so dead,
This is my own my native land !
From wandering on a foreign strand !
Amid the infinite variety of subjects which attract the attention of the student of humanity, there are none so pleasing as the study of the finer emotions of the soul. It is curious and instructive in the highest degree, to watch the process by which a feeling is converted into a passion, or by which a sentiment originally pure and holy, becomes tainted and corrupt under the influence of a baneful atmosphere. True it is, that somewhat of pain may occasionally disturb the harmony of our meditations,
but he who would become versed in the mysteries of the human heart, will be often called upon to purchase knowledge at the price of happiness, and taught to feel that wisdom and melancholy are nearly allied. As he proceeds in his task it will however be good for him to reflect, that the heart he is dissecting is the heart of a brother, and that in portraying the soul of his fellow-man, he is, though haply unconsciously, shadowing forth his own.
Philosophers early discovered that there existed, and ever had existed in the human mind, certain principles or motives to action ; which, however modified by time or education, always present the same leading characteristics, and of these the principal and most important is the Love of Country. It is the same in every climate under the sun
prompting alike the savage and the sage. It warms the Laplander among his frozen waste, and tempers the heat of the tropics — it is to the moral what gravitation is to the material world - the power which keeps all things in their appointed stations. Without the aid of its beneficent influence, the world would be one vast charnel-house. The possession of a greater degree of sun or shade, would bring mankind into perpetual, and wasting conflicts, until the human race would become extinct, and the fowl and the brute again remain sole monarchs of the mighty solitude. But Providence in its wisdom orders all things aright. By a happy provision all are content with the land of their birth -- all deem themselves the possessors of some good peculiarly their own, and which more than counterbalances aught that is enjoyed by their neighbours. Well has the poet said :
“ But where to find the happiest spot below,
Who shall direct when all pretend to know;
Re counts the treasures of his stormy seas,
But the Love of Country is not only an universal, but also an indestructible feeling. Who is there that having passed but a brief moiety of the space allotted to man, has not mourned over the instability of earthly hopes, and earthly enjoyments? Fame, wealth, love, all forms of joy and gladness, are but as passing shows; chạnce may destroy them-death inevitably will—but our country endureth for ever. It is the same in our youth, as in our old age : we tread the same soil, we feel the same sun that warmed the hearts and nourished the frames of our earliest ancestors, that will continue to delight and cherish our children, when we are mingled with the elements. Tired of wandering, the traveller returns to the home of his fathers—he goes forth to revisit the haunts of his childhood, and, but that his shadow is lengthened, and the visions of fancy are exchanged for the recollections of memory, he might dream that Time had rolled back its iron car, and he was again the happy child, who loved to lie at his length grass,
and dream that life was as cloudless as the summer sky above it. He looks around, and all seems to justify the thought; the sunbeams still search the valley as they were wont to do in the days of old ; the brook still ripples forth its wonted melody; the bee goes murmuring by to practise its sweet alchemy; and the flowers they seem to bloom upon the very stems from which he plucked them long years ago, when he thought their fairy