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- Public Speaking - 30/65 -

things lie in personal satisfaction alone. There is a culture that is selfish and exclusive, that is self-centered and conceited. The intellectual snob is quite as repellant as any other. But this is true of the moral distortion of all good qualities. The culture that narrows the sympathies, instead of enlarging them, has surely missed the object that should give its chief worth and dignity. The culture that reveals beauty in all its forms, that refines the sensibilities, and expands the mental horizon, that, without a sense of superiority, desires to share these things with others, and makes the lives of all men better worth living, is like the glow of fire in a cold room. It is a form of social service of a high order.

A third benefit of college education is the contact it affords with the work of creative imagination. The highest type of scholar is the creative scholar, just as the highest type of citizen is the statesman. The greatest figures in history, as almost every one will admit, are the thinkers and the rulers of men. People will always differ in the relative value they ascribe to these two supreme forms of human power. But if one may indulge in apocalyptic visions, I should prefer in another world to be worthy of the friendship of Aristotle rather than of Alexander, of Shakespeare or Newton than of Napoleon or Frederick the Great.

When I spoke of the benefit of college life in training for citizenship, and in imparting culture, I was obviously dealing with things which lie within the reach of every student; but in speaking of creative scholarship you may think that I am appealing only to the few men who have the rare gift of creative genius. But happily the progress of the world is not in the exclusive custody of the occasional men of genius. Great originality is, indeed, rare; but on a smaller scale it is not uncommon, and the same principles apply to the production of all creative work. The great scholar and the lesser intellectual lights differ in brilliancy, but the same process must be followed to bring them to their highest splendor. Nor is it the genius alone, or even the man of talent, who can enjoy and aid productive thought. It is not given to all men to possess creative scholarship themselves; but most men by following its footsteps can learn to respect it and feel its charm; and for any man who passes through college without doing so, college education has been in one of its most vital elements a failure. If he has not recognized the glowing imagination, the lofty ideals, the patience and the modesty, that characterize the true scholar, his time here has been spent, not perhaps without profit, but without inspiration.

All productive work is largely dependent upon appreciation by the community. The great painters of Italy would have been sterile had not the citizens of Florence been eager to carry Cimabue's masterpiece in triumph through the streets. Kant would never have written among a people who despised philosophy; and the discoveries of our own day would have been impossible in an unscientific age. Every man who has learned to respect creative scholarship can enter into its spirit, and by respecting it he helps to foster it.


From "Girls and Education," a commencement address, Bryn Mawr College, 1911, by permission of, and by special arrangement with, Houghton Mifflin Company, authorized publishers of this author's works.


One of the best gifts that a college can bestow is the power of taking a new point of view through putting ourselves into another's place. To many students this comes hard, but come it must, as they hope to be saved.

To the American world the name of Charles Eliot Norton stands for all that is fastidious, even for what is over-fastidious; but Charles Eliot Norton's collection of verse and prose called "The Heart of Oak Books" shows a catholicity which few of his critics could approach, a refined literary hospitality not less noteworthy than the refined human hospitality of his Christmas Eve at Shady Hill. As an old man this interpreter of Dante saw and hailed with delight the genius of Mr. Kipling. If you leave college without catholicity of taste, something is wrong either with the college or with you.

As in literature, so in life. The greatest teachers--even Christ himself--have taught nothing greater than the power of seeing with the eyes of another soul. "Browning," said a woman who loves poetry, "seems to me not so much man as God." For Browning, beyond all men in the past century, beyond nearly all men of all time, could throw himself into the person of another.

"God be thanked, the meanest of his creatures Boasts two soul-sides, one to face the world with, One to show a woman when he loves her,"

said this same great poet, writing to his wife. But Browning has as many soul-sides as humanity. Hence it has been truly called a new life, like conversion, or marriage, or the mystery of a great sorrow,--a change and a bracing change in our outlook on the whole world, to discover Browning. The college should be our Browning, revealing the motive power of every life, the poetry of good and bad. It is only the "little folk of little soul" who come out of college as the initiated members of an exclusive set. Justify yourself and your college years by your catholic democracy.

It is the duty of the college not to train only, but to inspire; to inspire not to learning only, but to a disciplined appreciation of the best in literature, in art, and in life, to a catholic taste, to a universal sympathy. It is the duty of the student to take the inspiration, to be not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but to justify four years of delight, by scholarship at once accurate and sympathetic, by a finer culture, by a leadership without self-seeking or pride, by a whole-souled democracy. How simple and how old it all is! Yet it is not so simple that any one man or woman has done it to perfection; nor so old that any one part of it fails to offer fresh problems and fresh stimulus to the most ambitious of you all.

Nothing is harder than to take freely and eagerly the best that is offered us, and never turn away to the pursuit of false gods. Now the best that is offered in college is the inspiration to learn, and having learned, to do:--

"Friends of the great, the high, the perilous years, Upon the brink of mighty things we stand-- Of golden harvests and of silver tears, And griefs and pleasures that like grains of sand Gleam in the hourglass, yield their place and die."

So said the college poet.

"Art without an ideal," said a great woman, "is neither nature nor art. The question involves the whole difference between Phidias and Mme. Tussaud." Let us never forget that the chief business of college teachers and college taught is the giving and receiving of ideals, and that the ideal is a burning and a shining light, not now only, or now and a year or two more, but for all time. What else is the patriot's love of country, the philosopher's love of truth, the poet's love of beauty, the teacher's love of learning, the good man's love of an honest life, than keeping the ideal, not merely to look at, but to see by? In its light, and only in its light, the greatest things are done. Thus the ideal is not merely the most beautiful thing in the world; it is the source of all high efficiency. In every change, in every joy or sorrow that the coming years may bring, do you who graduate to-day remember that nothing is so practical as a noble ideal steadily and bravely pursued, and that now, as of old, it is the wise men who see and follow the guiding star.


From "After-Dinner and Other Speeches," with the permission of the author.


In memory of the dead, in honor of the living, for inspiration to our children, we gather to-day to deck the graves of our patriots with flowers, to pledge commonwealth and town and citizen to fresh recognition of the surviving soldier, and to picture yet again the romance, the reality, the glory, the sacrifice of his service. As if it were but yesterday, you recall him. He had but turned twenty. The exquisite tint of youthful health was in his cheek. His pure heart shone from frank, outspeaking eyes. His fair hair clustered from beneath his cap. He had pulled a stout oar in the college race, or walked the most graceful athlete on the village green. He had just entered on the vocation of his life. The doorway of his home at this season of the year was brilliant in the dewy morn with the clambering vine and fragrant flower, as in and out he went, the beloved of mother and sisters, and the ideal of a New England youth:--

"In face and shoulders like a god he was; For o'er him had the goddess breathed the charm Of youthful locks, the ruddy glow of youth, A generous gladness in his eyes: such grace As carver's hand to ivory gives, or when Silver or Parian stone in yellow gold Is set."

And when the drum beat, when the first martyr's blood sprinkled the stones of Baltimore, he took his place in the ranks and went forward. You remember his ingenuous and glowing letters to his mother, written as if his pen were dipped in his very heart. How novel seemed to him the routine of service, the life of camp and march! How eager the wish to meet the enemy and strike his first blow for the good cause! What pride at the promotion that came and put its chevron on his arm or its strap upon his shoulder!

They took him prisoner. He wasted in Libby and grew gaunt and haggard with the horror of his sufferings and with pity for the greater horror of the sufferings of his comrades who fainted and died at his side. He tunneled the earth and escaped. Hungry and weak, in terror of recapture, he followed by night the pathway of the railroad. He slept in thickets and sank in swamps. He saw the glitter of horsemen who pursued him. He knew the bloodhound was on his track. He reached the line; and, with his hand grasping at freedom, they caught and took him back to his captivity. He was exchanged at last; and you remember, when he came home on a short furlough, how manly and war-worn he had grown. But he soon returned to the ranks and to the welcome of his comrades. They recall him now alike with tears and pride. In the rifle pits around Petersburg you heard his steady voice and firm command. Some one who saw him then fancied that he seemed that day like one who forefelt the end. But there was no flinching as he charged. He had just turned to give a cheer when the fatal ball struck him. There was a convulsion of the upward hand. His eyes, pleading and loyal, turned their last glance to the flag. His lips parted. He fell dead, and at nightfall lay with his face to the stars. Home they brought him, fairer than Adonis over whom the goddess of beauty wept. They buried him in the village

Public Speaking - 30/65

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