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THE LAST WORD
The sea is calm to-night,
Creep into thy narrow bed, The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Creep, and let no more be said! Upon the straits, on the French coast Vain thy onset! all stands fast. the light
Thou thyself must break at last.
5 Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil Geese are swans, and swans are geese. bay.
Let them have it how they will! Come to the window, sweet is the night- Thou art tired; best be still.
air! Only, from the long line of spray
They out-talked thee, hissed thee, tore Where the sea meets the moon-blanched thee? land,
Better men fared thus before thee; Listen! you hear the grating roar
Fired their ringing shot and passed, Of pebbles which the waves draw back, Hotly charged-and sank at last.
and fling, At their return, up the high strand, Charge once more, then, and be dumb! Begin, and cease, and then again begin, Let the victors, when they come, With tremulous cadence slow, and bring When the forts of folly fall,
15 The eternal note of sadness in.
Find thy body by the wall !
Sophocles long ago
15 Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought LITERATURE AND SCIENCE Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow Of human misery; we
Practical people talk with a smile of Find also in the sound a thought,
Plato and of his absolute ideas; and it is Hearing it by this distant northern sea. 20 impossible to deny that Plato's ideas do
often seem unpractical and impracticable, The Sea of Faith
and especially when one views them in Was once, too, at the full, and round connection with the life of a great work-aearth's shore
day world like the United States. The Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled. necessary staple of the life of such a world But now I only hear
Plato regards with disdain; handicraft Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, 25 and trade and the working professions (10 Retreating, to the breath
he regards with disdain; but what beOf the night-wind, down the vast edges comes of the life of an industrial modern drear
community if you take handicraft and And naked shingles of the world.
trade and the working professions out of
it? The base mechanic arts and handiAh, love, let us be true
crafts, says Plato, bring about a natural To one another! for the world, which weakness in the principle of excellence
in a man, so that he cannot govern the To lie before us like a land of dreams, ignoble growth in him, but nurses them, So various, so beautiful, so new,
and cannot understand fostering any (20 Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor other. Those who exercise such arts and light,
trades, as they have their bodies, he says Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for marred, by their vulgar businesses, so pain;
they have their souls, too, bowed and And we are here as on a darkling plain 35 broken by them. And if one of these Swept with confused alarms of struggle uncomely people has a mind to seek selfand flight,
culture and philosophy, Plato compares Where ignorant armies clash by night. him to a bald little tinker, who has scraped
together money, and has got his release working part of the community, though from service, and has had a bath, and (30 not nominally slaves as in the pagan bought a new coat, and is rigged out like world, were practically not much better a bridegroom about to marry the daughter off than slaves, and not more seriously of his master who has fallen into poor regarded. And how absurd it is, people and helpless estate.
end by saying, to inflict this educaNor do the working professions fare tion upon an industrious modern comany better than trade at the hands of munity, where very few indeed are per-190 Plato. He draws for us an inimitable sons of leisure, and the mass to be conpicture of the working lawyer, and of his sidered has not leisure, but is bound, for life of bondage; he shows how this bond- its own great good, and for the great age from his youth up has stunted (40 good of the world at large, to plain labor and warped him, and made him small and to industrial pursuits, and the educaand crooked of soul, encompassing him tion in question tends necessarily to make with difficulties which he is not man men dissatisfied with these pursuits and enough to rely on justice and truth as unfitted for them! means to encounter, but has recourse,
That is what is said. So far I must for help out of them, to falsehood and defend Plato, as to plead that his view (100 wrong. And so, says Plato, this poor of education and studies is in the general, creature is bent and broken, and grows as it seems to me, sound enough, and up from boy to man without a particle of fitted for all sorts and conditions of men, soundness in him, although exceed- 150 whatever their pursuits may be. “An iningly smart and clever in his own es- telligent man,” says Plato, “will prize teem.
those studies which result in his soul One cannot refuse to admire the artist getting soberness, righteousness, and wiswho draws these pictures. But we say to dom, and will less value the others.” ourselves that his ideas show the influence I cannot consider that a bad description of a primitive and obsolete order of things, of the aim of education, and of the mo- (110 when the warrior caste and the priestly tives which should govern us in the choice caste were alone in honor, and the humble of studies, whether we are preparing ourwork of the world was done by slaves. selves for a hereditary seat in the English We have now changed all that; the mod- [60 House of Lords or for the pork trade in ern majority consists in work, as Emerson Chicago. declares; and in work, we may add, prin- Still I admit that Plato's world was not cipally of such plain and dusty kind as ours, that his scorn of trade and handithe work of cultivators of the ground, craft is fantastic, that he had no conhandicraftsmen, men of trade and business, ception of a great industrial community men of the working professions. Above such as that of the United States, and (120 all is this true in a great industrious that such a community must and will community such as that of the United shape its education to suit its own needs. States.
If the usual education handed down to Now education, many people go on (70 | it from the past does not suit it, it will to say, is still mainly governed by the ideas certainly before long drop this and try of men like Plato, who lived when the another. The usual education in the past warrior caste and the priestly or philo- has been mainly literary. The question sophical class were alone in honor, and the is whether the studies which were really useful part of the community were long supposed to be the best for all of us slaves. It is an education fitted for per- are practically the best now; whether (130 sons of leisure in such a community. others are not better. The tyranny of This education passed from Greece and the past, many think, weighs on us inRome to the feudal communities of juriously in the predominance given to Europe, where also the warrior caste (80 letters in education.
letters in education. The question is and the priestly caste were alone held in raised whether, to meet the needs of our honor, and where the really useful and modern life, the predominance ought not now to pass from letters to science; college at Birmingham, laying hold of and naturally the question is nowhere this phrase, expanded it by quoting some raised with more energy than here in the more words of mine, which are these: United States. The design of abasing (140 “The civilised world is to be regarded as what is called “mere literary instruction now being, for intellectual and spiritual and education," and of exalting what is purposes, one great confederation, bound called “sound, extensive, and practical to a joint action and working to a comscientific knowledge,” is, in this intensely mon result; and whose members have modern world of the United States, even for their proper outfit a knowledge of more perhaps than in Europe, a very Greek, Roman, and Eastern antiquity, (200 popular design, and makes great and and of one another. Special local and rapid progress.
temporary advantages being put out of I am going to ask whether the present account, that modern nation will in the movement for ousting letters from their (150 intellectual and spiritual sphere make old predominance in education, and for most progress, which most thoroughly transferring the predominance in educa- carries out this programme. tion to the natural sciences, whether this Now on my phrase, thus enlarged, brisk and flourishing movement ought to Professor Huxley remarks that when I prevail, and whether it is likely that in speak of the above-mentioned knowledge the end it really will prevail. An objec- as enabling us to know ourselves and (210 tion may be raised which I will antici- the world, I assert literature to contain the pate. My own studies have been almost materials which suffice for thus making wholly in letters, and my visits to the us know ourselves and the world. But field of the natural sciences have been (160 it is not by any means clear, says he, very slight and inadequate, although that after having learnt all which ancient those sciences have always strongly moved and modern literatures have to tell us, my curiosity. A man of letters, it will we have laid a sufficiently broad and perhaps be said, is not competent to dis- deep foundation for that criticism of life, cuss the comparative merits of letters and that knowledge of ourselves and the world natural science as means of education. which constitutes culture. On the (220 To this objection I reply, first of all, that contrary, Professor Huxley declares that his incompetence, if he attempts the dis he finds himself “wholly unable to admit cussion but is really incompetent for it, will that either nations or individuals will be abundantly visible; nobody will be (170 really advance, if their outfit draws taken in; he will have plenty of sharp nothing from the stores of physical observers and critics to save mankind science. An army without weapons of from that danger. But the line I am going precision, and with no particular base of to follow is, as you will soon discover, so operations, might more hopefully enter extremely simple, that perhaps it may upon a campaign on the Rhine, than be followed without failure even by a man, devoid of a knowledge of (230 one who for a more ambitious line what physical science has done in the of discussion would be quite incompe- last century, upon criticism of tent.
Some of you may possibly remember (180 This shows how needful it is for those a phrase of mine which has been the object who are to discuss any matter together, of a good deal of comment; an observation to have a common understanding as to to the effect that in our culture, the aim the sense of the terms they employ,being to know ourselves and the world, we how needful, and how difficult. What have, as the means to this end, to know the Professor Huxley says, implies just the best which has been thought and said in reproach which is so often brought (240 the world. A man of science, who is also against the study of belles lettres, as they an excellent writer and the very prince of are called: that the study is an elegant debaters, Professor Huxley, in a discourse one, but slight and ineffectual; a smatterat the opening of Sir Josiah Mason's (190 | ing of Greek and Latin and other orna
mental things, of little use for any one has been thought and said by the modern whose object is to get at truth, and to be nations, is to know, says Professor (300 a practical man. So, too, M. Renan talks Huxley, “only what modern literatures of the "superficial humanism” of a school- have to tell us; it is the criticism of life course which treats us as if we were all contained in modern literature.” And going to be poets, writers, preachers, (250 yet "the distinctive character of our orators, and he opposes this humanism to times,” he urges, “lies in the vast and positive science, or the critical search constantly increasing part which is played after truth. And there is always a tend- by natural knowledge.” And how, thereency in those who are remonstrating fore, can a man, devoid of knowledge of against the predominance of letters in what physical science has done in the education, to understand by letters belles last century, enter hopefully upon a (310 lettres, and by belles lettres a superficial criticism of modern life? humanism, the opposite of science or true Let us, I say, be agreed about the meanknowledge.
ing of the terms we are using. I talk of But when we talk of knowing Greek [260 knowing the best which has been thought and Roman antiquity, for instance, which and uttered in the world; Professor is the knowledge people have called the Huxley says this means knowing literahumanities, I for my part mean a knowl- ture. Literature is a large word; it may edge which is something more than a mean everything written with letters or superficial humanism, mainly decorative. printed in a book. Euclid's Elements “I call all teaching scientific,” says Wolf, and Newton's Principia are thus (320 the critic of Homer, “which is systematic- | literature. All knowledge that reaches us ally laid out and followed up to its ori- through books is literature. But by literaginal sources. For example: a knowledge ture Professor Huxley means belles lettres. of classical antiquity is scientific (270 He means to make me say, that knowing when the remains of classical antiquity the best which has been thought and are correctly studied in the original lan- said by the modern nations is knowing guages.”
There can be no doubt that their belles lettres and no more. And this Wolf is perfectly right; that all learning is no sufficient equipment, he argues, for is scientific which is systematically laid a criticism of modern life. But as I do out and followed up to its original sources, not mean, by knowing ancient Rome, (330 and that a.genuine humanism is scientific. knowing merely more or less of Latin
When I speak of knowing Greek and belles lettres, and taking no account of Roman antiquity, therefore, as a help to Rome's military, and political, and legal, knowing ourselves and the world, I (280 and administrative work in the world; mean more than a knowledge of so much and as, by knowing ancient Greece, I vocabulary, so much grammar, so many understand knowing her as the giver of portions of authors in the Greek and Latin Greek art, and the guide to a free and languages, I mean knowing the Greeks right use of reason and to scientific and Romans, and their life and genius, method, and the founder of our matheand what they were and did in the world; matics and physics and astronomy (340 what we get from them, and what is its and biology,-I understand knowing her value. That, at least, is the ideal; and as all this, and not merely knowing certain when we talk of endeavoring to know Greek poems, and histories, and treatises, Greek and Roman antiquity, as a (290 and speeches, so as to the knowledge help to knowing ourselves and the world, of modern nations also. By knowing we mean endeavoring so to know them modern nations, I mean not merely knowas to satisfy this ideal, however much we ing their belles lettres, but knowing also may still fall short of it.
what has been done by such men as The same also as to knowing our own Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Darwin. and other modern nations, with the like “Our ancestors learned,” says Pro (350 aim of getting to understand ourselves fessor Huxley, “that the earth is the and the world. To know the best that centre of the visible universe, and that
man is the cynosure of things terrestrial; casm “the Levites of culture," and those and more especially was it inculcated that whom the poor humanist is sometimes the course of nature has no fixed order, apt to regard as its Nebuchadnezzars. but that it could be, and constantly was, The great results of the scientific (410 altered.” But for us now, continues investigation of nature we are agreed Professor Huxley, "the notions of the upon knowing, but how much of our study beginning and the end of the world enter- are we bound to give to the processes by tained by our forefathers are no longer (360 which those results are reached? The credible. It is very certain that the earth results have their visible bearing on is not the chief body in the material uni- human life. But all the processes, too, verse, and that the world is not subor- all the items of fact by which those results dinated to man's use. It is even more are reached and established, are interestcertain that nature is the expression of a ing. All knowledge is interesting to a definite order, with which nothing inter- wise man, and the knowledge of na- [420 feres.” “And yet,” he cries, “the purely ture is interesting to all men. It is very classical education advocated by the interesting to know, that, from the alrepresentatives of the humanists in our buminous white of the egg, the chick in day gives no inkling of all this!” (370 the egg gets the materials for its flesh,
In due place and time I will just touch | bones, blood, and feathers; while, from upon that vexed question of classical the fatty yelk of the egg, it gets the heat education; but at present the question is and energy which enable it at length to as to what is meant by knowing the best break its shell and begin the world. It which modern nations have thought and is less interesting, perhaps, but still it said. It is not knowing their belles lettres is interesting, to know that when a (430 merely which is meant. To know Italian taper burns, the wax is converted into belles lettres is not to know Italy, and to carbonic acid and water. Moreover, it know English belles lettres is not to know is quite true that the habit of dealing England. Into knowing Italy and (380 with facts, which is given by the study of England there comes a great deal more, nature, is, as the friends of physical Galileo and Newton amongst it. The science praise it for being, an excellent reproach of being a superficial humanism, discipline. The appeal, in the study of a tincture of belles lettres, may attach nature, is constantly to observation and rightly enough to some other disciplines; experiment; not only is it said that the but to the particular discipline recom- thing is so, but we can be made to see (440 mended when I proposed knowing the that it is so. Not only does 'a man tell best that has been thought and said in us that when a taper burns the wax is the world, it does not apply. In that converted into carbonic acid and water, best I certainly include what in mod- (390 as a man may tell us, if he likes, that ern times has been thought and said by Charon is punting his ferry-boat on the the great observers and knowers of river Styx, or that Victor Hugo is a subnature.
lime poet, or Mr. Gladstone the most There is, therefore, really no question admirable of statesmen; but we are made between Professor Huxley and me as to to see that the conversion into carbonic whether knowing the great results of the acid and water does actually happen. [450 modern scientific study of nature is not This reality of natural knowledge it is, required as a part of our culture, as well which makes the friends of physical science as knowing the products of literature and contrast it, as a knowledge of things, art. But to follow the processes by (400 with the humanist's knowledge, which is, which those results are reached, ought, they say, a knowledge of words. And say the friends of physical science, to hence Professor Huxley is moved to lay be made the staple of education for the it down that, “for the purpose of attainbulk of mankind. And here there does ing real culture, an exclusively scientific arise a question between those whom education is at least as effectual as an Professor Huxley calls with playful sar- i exclusively literary education.” And [400