Young Men in History


A Magazine of Literature, Art, and Politics.

VOL. XVI. —JULY, 1865. — NO. XCIII.

HISTORY is an imperfect record of nations and races, diverse in their position and capacities, but identical in nature and one in destiny. Viewed comprehensively, its individuals and events comprise the incidents of an uncompleted biography of man, a biography long, obscure, full of puzzling facts for thought to interpret, and more puzzling breaks for thought to bridge, but, on the whole, exhibiting man as moving and man as moving forward. If we scrutinize the character of this progress, we shall find that the forces which propel society in the direction of improvement, and the ideas we form of the nature of that improvement, are the forces and the ideas of youth. The world, indeed, moves under the impulses of youth to realize the ideals of youth. It has youth for its beginning and youth for its end; for youth is alive, and progress is but the movement of life to attain fuller, higher, and more vivid life. Youth, too, is nearer to those celestial fountains of existence whence inspiration pours into the heart and light streams into the brain. Indeed, all the qualities which constitute the life of the soul, and which preserve in vigor and health even the practical faculties of the mind, — freshness, ardor, generosity, love, hope, faith, courage, cheer,—all these youth feels stirring and burning in its own breast, and aches to see fulfilled in the common experience of the race. But in age these fine raptures are apt to be ridiculed as the amiable follies of juvenile illusions. In parting, however, with what it derides as illusions, does not age part with the whole of joy and by far the most important element of wisdom ? The world it so sagaciously aims to inaugurate, what is it but a stationary and decrepit world, — a world which would soon decay, and drop into the abyss of nothingness, were it not for the rejuvenating vitality poured into it by the youth it cynically despises ? True wisdom, indeed, springs from the wide brain which is fed from the deep heart; and it is only when age warms its withering conceptions at the memory of its youthful fire, when it makes experience serve aspiration, and knowledge illumine the difficult paths through which thoughts thread their way into facts, — it is only then that age becomes broadly and nobly wise.

If we thus discern in the sentiments and faculties of youth the animating and impelling soul of historical events, — if, wherever in history we mark a great movement of humanity, we commonly detect a young man at its head or at its heart,—we must still, I admit, discriminate between youth and young men, between the genial action of youthful qualities and the imperfections and perversions of youthful character. Youth we commonly represent under the image of morn, — clear, fresh, cheerful, radiant, the green sward trembling and gleaming with ecstasy as the rising sun transfigures its dew-drops into diamonds ; but then morn is sometimes black with clouds, and foul with vapors, and terrible with tempests. In treating, therefore, of the position and influence of young men in history, let us begin with those in whom the energies of youth were early perverted from their appropriate objects, and fell under the dominion of sensual appetites or malignant passions.

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1865, by TICKNOR AND FIELDS; in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.

And first, it is important we should bear in mind, that, in this misdirection of youth, all that constitutes the spirit, the power, the charm of youth is extinguished. The young man becomes prematurely old. We have all witnessed that saddest of spectacles, the petulant child developing into the ruffian boy, and hurrying into the ruffian man, — rude, hard-natured, swaggering, and selfwilled, a darkness over his conscience, a glare over his appetites, insensible to duty or affection, and only tamed into decencies by the chains of restraint which an outraged community binds on his impulses. Now give this young savage arbitrary power, let him inherit the empire of the world, remove all restraints on his will, and allow him to riot in the mad caprices of sensuality and malevolence, and he makes his ominous appearance in history as a Caligula, a Domitian, a Nero. More fit for a madhouse than a throne, his advent is the signal of a despotism controlled by no guiding principles, but given over to that spirit of freak and mischief which springs from the union of the boy’s brain with the man’s appetites ; and his fate is to have that craze of the faculties and delirium of the sensations which he calls his life abruptly closed by suicide or assassination: by suicide, when he has become intolerable to himself; by assassination, when, as is more common, he has become intolerable to the world. Evil, however, as history shows him, it must still be said that his career does not exhibit the consistent depravity and systematic wickedness which characterize some of the Roman Emperors of maturer years ; and even the giddy ferocities of the youthful Nero can be contemplated with less horror than the Satanic depth of malignity which morosely brooded over shadowy plans of gigantic crime in the dark spirit of the aged Tiberius.

This ruffian type of the young man is rarely exhibited on the historical theatre in its full combination of animal fury with mental feebleness. In most young men who acquire prominence in the history of the world there is some genius, however dashed it may be with depravity ; and genius is itself an inlet of youth, checks the downward drag of the spiritual into the animal nature, intensifies appetites into passions, and lends impetus to daring ambition, if it does not always purify the motives which prompt its exercise. This genius divorced from wisdom, scornful of moral obligations, and ravenous for notoriety, is especially marked by wilfulness, presumptuous self-assertion, the curse and plague-spot of the perverted soul. Alcibiades in politics and Byron in literature are among its most conspicuous examples. Their defiance of rule was not the confident daring which comes from the vision of genius, but the disdainful audacity which springs from its wilfulness. Alcibiades, a name closely connected with those events which resulted in the ruin of the Athenian empire, was perhaps the most variously accomplished of all those young men of genius who have squandered their genius in the attempt to make it insolently dominant over justice and reason. Graceful, beautiful, brave, eloquent, and affluent, the pupil of Socrates, the darling of the Athenian democracy, lavishly endowed by Nature with the faculties of the great statesman and the great captain! with every power and every opportunity to make himself the pride and glory of his country, he was still so governed by an imp of boyish perversity and presumption, that he renounced the ambition of being the first statesman of Athens in order to show himself its most restless, impudent and unscrupulous trickster ; and, subjecting all public objects to the freaks of his own vanity and selfishness, ever ready to resent opposition to his whim with treason against the state, he stands in history a curious spectacle of transcendent gifts belittled by profligacy of character, the falsest, keenest, most mischievous, and most magnificent demagogue the world has ever seen.

If we turn from Alcibiades the politician to Byron the poet, we have a no less memorable instance of intellectual power early linked with moral perversity and completely bewitched and bedevilled by presumptuous egotism. What, in consequence, was his career ? Petulant, passionate, self-willed, impatient of all external direction, the slave and victim of the moment's impulse, yet full of the energies and visions of genius, this arrogant stripling passes by quick leaps from boyhood into the vices of age, and, after a short experience of the worst side of life, comes out a scoffer and a misanthrope, fills the world with his gospel of desperation and despair, and, after preaching disgust of existence and contempt of mankind as the wisdom gleaned from his excesses, he dies, worn out and old, at thirty-six.

Now neither in Byron’s works nor in Byron’s life do we recognize the spirit of youth, — the spirit which elevates as well as stimulates, which cheers as well as inflames. Compare him in this respect with a man of vaster imagination and mightier nature, —compare him with Edmund Burke, in what we call Burke’s old age ; and as you read one of Burke's immortal pamphlets, composed just before his death, do you not feel your blood kindle and your mind expand, as you come into communion with that bright and broad intellect, competent to grapple with the most complicated relations of European politics, — with that audacious will, whose purposes glow with immortal life, — and especially with that large and noble soul, rich in experience, rich in wisdom, but richer still in the freshness, the ardor, the eloquence, the chivalrous daring of youth ? Byron is old at twenty-five ; Burke is young at sixtysix.

The spirit of youth may thus, as in the case of Byron, be burnt out of the young man by the egotism of passion ; but it may also be frozen up in his breast by the egotism of opinion. Woe to the young shoulders afflicted with the conceit that they support old heads ! When this mental disease assumes the form of flippancy, it renders a young person happily unconscious that Nature has any stores of wisdom which she has not thought fit to deposit in his cranium, or that his mind can properly assume any other attitude towards an opponent than that of placid and pitying contempt.

But this intellectual presumption, ridiculous in its flippant or pompous, becomes terrible in its malignant, expression. Thus, the headstrong young men who pushed the French Revolution of 1789 into the excesses of the Reign of Terror were well-intentioned reformers, driven into crime by the fanaticism of mental conceit. This is especially true of Robespierre and St. Just. Their hearts were hardened through their heads. The abstract notions of freedom and philanthropy were imbedded in their brains as truths, without being rooted in their characters as sentiments ; and into the form of these inexorable notions they aimed to shape France. They were of course opposed by human nature. Opposition made them personally cruel, because it made them intellectually remorseless. With no instincts of humanity to guide their ideas of its rights, it was but natural that offended pride of opinion should fester into that malignant passion which puts relentlessness into the will. Everything and everybody that opposed the onward movement of the great cause ought, they conceived, to be removed. The readiest way to remove them was by tyranny, terror, and murder; for the swiftest method of answering objections is to knock out the brains that propound them. All the instituted rights of men were accordingly violated in the fierce desire to establish the abstract rights of man. A government founded on reason was to be created by a preliminary and provisional government founded on the guillotine. The ideals of Rousseau were to be realized by practices learned in the school of Draco; and a celestial democracy ot thought was to spring from a demonized democracy of fact. Now we are accustomed to call these wretches young men. But there was no youth in them. Young in respect to age, their intellectually irritated egotism made them as bigoted, 'as inhuman, and as soulless as old familiars of the Inquisition.

In truth, the real young man of that Revolution, as of our own Revolution, was Lafayette. His convictions regarding the rights of man were essentially the same as those held by Robespierre and St. Just; but they were convictions that grew out of the inherent geniality, benevolence, and rectitude of his nature, and were accordingly guided and limited in their application by the sanity and sweetness of the sentiments whence they drew their vitality. Whilst they made him capable of any self-sacrifice for freedom and humanity, they made him incapable of crime ; and misfortune and failure never destroyed his faith in freedom, because his faith in freedom had not been corrupted by experience in blood.

In Nero and Caligula, in Alcibiades and Byron, in Robespierre and St. Just, we have attempted to sketch the leading perversions of youthful energy and intelligence. Let us now proceed to exhibit their more wholesome, and, we trust, their more natural action. And first, in respect to the emotions, these may all be included in the single word enthusiasm, or that impulsive force which liberates the mental powers from the ice of timidity as Spring unloosens the streams from the grasp of Winter, and sends them forth in a rejoicing rush. The mind of youth, when impelled by this original strength and enthusiasm of Nature, is keen, eager, inquisitive, intense, audacious, rapidly assimilating facts into faculties and knowledge into power, and above all teeming with that joyous fulness of creative life which radiates thoughts as inspirations, and magnetizes as well as informs. Now the limit of this youth of mind observation decides to be commonly between thirty-five and forty; but still it is not so properly marked by years as by the arrest of this glad mental growth and development. In some men, like Bacon and Burke, it is not arrested at sixty. The only sign of age, indeed, which is specially worth considering, is the mental sign ; and this is that gradual disintegration of the mind’s vital powers by which intelligence is separated from force, and experience from ability. Experience detached from active power is no longer faculty of doing, but mere memory of what has been done ; and principles accordingly subside into precedents, intuitions into arguments, and alertness of will into calculation of risks. The highest quality of mind, the quality which stamps it as an immortal essence, namely, that power, the fused compound of all other powers, which sends its eagle glance over a whole field of particulars, penetrates and grasps all related objects in one devouring conception, and flashes a vivid insight of the only right thing to be done amid a thousand possible courses of action,—the power, in short, which gives confidence to will because it gives certainty to vision, and is as much removed from recklessness as from irresolution,-—this power fades in mental age into that pausing, comparing, generalizing, indecisive intelligence, which, however wise and valuable it may be in those matters where success is not the prize of speed, is imbecile in those conjunctures of affairs where events march faster than the mind can syllogize, and to think and act a moment too late is defeat and ruin.

It is for this reason that the large portion of history which relates to war is so much the history of the triumphs of young men. Thus, Scipio was twenty-nine when he gained the Battle of Zana ; Charles the Twelfth, nineteen when he gained the Battle of Narva ; Condé, twenty-two when he gained the Battle of Rocroi. At thirty-six, Scipio the younger was the conqueror of Carthage; at thirty-six, Cortés was the conqueror of Mexico ; at thirty, Charlemagne was master of France and Germany; at thirty-two, Clive had established the British power in India. Hannibal, the greatest of military commanders, was only thirty, when, at Cannæ, he dealt an almost annihilating blow at the republic of Rome ; and Napoleon was only twenty-seven, when, on the plains of Italy, he outgeneralled and defeated, one after another, the veteran marshals of Austria. And in respect to the wars which grew out of the French Revolution, what are they but the record of old generals beaten by young generals ? And it will not do to say, that the young generals were victorious merely in virtue of their superiority in courage, energy, and dash ; for they evinced a no less decisive superiority in commonsense and judgment,— that is, in instantaneous command of all their resources in the moment of peril, in quickness to detect the enemy’s weak points, and, above all, in resolute sagacity to send the full strength of the arm to second at once the piercing glance of the eye. The old generals, to be sure, boasted more professional experience, but, having ossified their experience into pedantic maxims, they had less professional skill. After their armies had been ignominiously routed by the harebrained young fellows opposed to them, they could easily prove, that, by the rules of war, they had been most improperly beaten ; but their young opponents, whose eager minds had transmuted the rules of war into instincts of intelligence, were indifferent to the scandal of violating the etiquette of fighting, provided thereby they gained the object of fighting. They had, in fact, the quality which the old generals absurdly claimed, namely, practical sagacity, or, as the Yankee phrased it, “ the knack of hitting it about right the first time.”

We cannot, of course, leave the subject of young military commanders without a reference to Alexander of Macedon, in many respects the greatest young man that ever, as with the fury of the untamable forces of Nature, broke into history. But even in the “ Macedonian madman,” as he is called, it will be found that fury obeyed sagacity. A colossal soul, in whom barbaric passions urged gigantic powers to the accomplishment of insatiable desires, he seems, on the first view, to be given over to the wildest ecstasies of imaginative pride ; but we are soon dazzled and confounded by the irresistible energy, the cool, clear, fertile, forecasting intelligence, with which he pursues and realizes his vast designs of glory and dominion. Strong and arrogant as the fabled Achilles, with a military genius which allies him to Cæsar and Napoleon, he was tortured by aspirations more devouring than theirs ; for, exalted in his own conception above humanity by his constant success in performing what other men declared impossible, he aimed to conquer the world, — not merely to be obeyed as its ruler, but worshipped as its god. But this self-deified genius, who could find nothing on our planet capable of withstanding his power, was mortal, and died, by what seemed mere accident, at the age of thirty-two, — died, the master of an empire, conquered by himself, covering two millions and a half of square miles, — died, in the full vigor ot his faculties, at the time his brain was teeming with magnificent schemes of assimilating the populations of Europe and Asia, and of remaking man after his own image by stamping the nature of Alexander on the mind and feelings of the world.

One incident, the type of his career, has passed into the most familiar of proverbs. When, in his invasion of Asia, he arrived at Gordium, he was arrested, not by an army, but by something mightier than an army, — namely, a superstition. Here was the rude wagon of Gordius, the yoke of which was fastened to the pole by a cord so entangled that no human wit or patience could untwist it ; yet the oracle had declared that the empire of Asia was reserved to him alone by whom it should be untied. After vainly attempting to overcome its difficulties with his fingers, Alexander impatiently cut it with his sword. The multitude applauded the solution ; he soon made it good by deeds ; and, in action, youth has ever since shown its judgment, as well as its vigor, in thus annihilating seemingly hopeless perplexities, by cutting Gordian knots.

In passing from the field of battle to the field of politics, from young men as warriors to young men as statesmen, we must bear in mind that high political station, unless a man is born to it, is rarely reached by political genius, until political genius has been tried by years and tested by events. At the time Mr. Calhoun’s influence was greatest, at the time it was said that “when he took snuff all South Carolina sneezed,” he was really not so great a man as when he was struggling for eminence. Statesmen are thus forces long before they are leaders of party, primeministers, and presidents ; and are not the energies employed in preparing the way for new laws and new policies of more historic significance than the mere outward form of their enactment and inauguration ? Thus, it required thirtyfive years of effort and agitation before the old Earl Grey of 1832 could accomplish the scheme of Parliamentary reform eagerly pressed by the young Mr. Grey of 1797. The young Chatham, when he was merely “that terrible cornet of horse,” whose rising to speak in the House of Commons was said to give Sir Robert Walpole “ a pain in the back,” — when, in his own sarcastic phrase, he “ was guilty of the atrocious crime of being a young man,” — was still day by day building himself up in the heart and imagination of the English people, and laboriously opening the path to power of the old Chatham, whose vehement soul was all alive with the energies of youth, though lodged in the shattered frame of age. And he so familiarly known to the American people as old John Adams,— did he lose in mature life a single racy or splenetic characteristic of the young statesman of the Colonial period ? Is there, indeed, any break in that unity of nature which connects the second President of the United States with the child John Adams, the boy John Adams, the tart, blunt, and bold, the sagacious and selfreliant, young Mr. Adams, the plague and terror of the Tories of Massachusetts ? And his all-accomplished rival and adversary, Alexander Hamilton, — is he not substantially the same at twenty-five as at forty-five ? Though he has not yet imprinted his mind on the constitution and practical working of the government, the qualities are still there:—the poised nature whose vigor is almost hidden in its harmony ; the power of infusing into other minds ideas which they seem to originate ; the wisdom, the moderation, the self-command, the deep thought which explores principles, the comprehensive thought which regards relations, the fertile thought which devises measures, — all are there as unmistakably at twentyfive as on that miserable day, when, in the tried completeness of his powers, the greatest of American statesmen died by the hand of the greatest of American reprobates.

But there are also in history four examples of men who seem to have been statesmen from the nursery, — who early took a leading part in great designs which affected the whole course of human affairs, — and whom octogenarians like Nesselrode and Palmerston would be compelled to call statesmen of the first class. These arc Octavius Cæsar, more successful in the arts of policy than even the great Julius, never guilty of youthful indiscretion, or, we are sorry to say, of youthful virtue ; Maurice of Saxony, the preserver of the Reformed religion in Germany, in that contest where his youthful sagacity proved more than a match for the veteran craft of Charles the Fifth ; the second William of Orange, the preserver of the liberties of Europe against the ambition of Louis XIV., and who, as a child, may be said to have prattled treaties and lisped despatches ; and William Pitt, Prime-Minister of England at the age of twenty-four, and stereotyped on the French imagination as he whose guineas were nearly as potent as Napoleon’s guns.

But it is not so much by eminent examples of young statesmen as it is by the general influence of young men in resisting the corrupting tendencies of politics, that their influence in the social state is to be measured. They oppose the tendency of political life to deprave political character, to make it cold, false, selfish, distrustful, abandoned to the greed of power and the greed of gain. They interfere with the projects of those venerable politicians who are continually appealing to the public to surrender, bit by bit, its humanity, its morality, its Christianity, for what are ludicrously misnamed practical advantages, and who slowly sap the moral vitality of a people through an insinuating appeal to their temporary interests. The heart of a nation may be eaten out by this process, without its losing any external signs of prosperity and strength ; but the process itself is resisted, and the nation kept alive and impelled forward, by the purifying, though disturbing forces, which come from the generous sentiments and fervid aspirations of youth. Wise old heads may sneer as much as they please at the idea of heart in politics ; but if history teaches anything, it teaches that human progress is possible only because the benevolent instincts of the heart are permanent, while the reasonings of the head are shifting. “When God,” says Montesquieu, “ endowed human beings with brains, he did not intend to guaranty them.” And the sarcasm of the French philosopher is fully justified, when we reflect that nothing mean, base, or cruel has ever been done in this world, which has not been supported by arguments. To the mere head every historical event, whether it be infamous or glorious, is like the case at law which attracted the attention of the Irish barrister. “ It was,” he said, “ a very pretty case, and he should like a fee of a hundred pounds to argue it either way.” Who is there, indeed, who has not heard the most atrocious measures recommended by the most convincing arguments ? Why, the persecutions of the early Christians, the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, the Spanish Inquisition, the Reign of Terror, the institution of Slavery, the coup d'état of Louis Napoleon, are under the condemnation of history from no lack of arguments in their favor which it might puzzle a plain man to answer. But opinion in such matters is not determined by arguments, but by instincts. God, in his wrath, has not left this world to the mercy of the subtlest dialectician ; and all arguments are happily transitory in their effect, when they contradict the primal intuitions of conscience and the inborn sentiments of the heart. And if wicked institutions, laboriously organized by dominant tyranny and priestcraft, and strong with the might, not merely of bad passions, but of perverted learning and prostituted logic, — if these have been swept away in the world’s advancing movement, it has been by the gradual triumph of indestructible sentiments of freedom and humanity, kept fresh and bright in the souls of the young.

And in the baptism of fire and blood through which our politics are passing to their purification, who can fitly estimate our indebtedness to the young men who are now making American history the history of so much ardent patriotism and heroic achievement ? When the civilization of the country prepared to engage in a death - grapple with its barbarism, — when the most beneficent of all governments was threatened by the basest of all conspiracies, the most infamous of all treasons, the most thievish of all rebellions, — and when that government was sustained by the most glorious uprising that ever surged up from the heart of a great people to defend the cause of liberty and honesty and law, — did not the hot tide of that universal patriotism sparkle and seethe and glow with special intensity in the breasts of our young men ? Did you ever hear from them that contented ignominy was Christian peace ? Did not meanness, falsehood, fraud, tyranny, treason, find in them, not apologetic critics, but terrible and full-armed foes? Transient defeat, — what did it but add new fiery stimulants to energies bent on an ultimate triumph ? To hint to them that Davis would succeed was not only recreancy to freedom, but blasphemy against God. Better, to their impassioned patriotism, that their blood should be poured forth in an unstinted stream,— better that they, and all of us, should be pushed into that ocean whose astonished waves first felt the keel of the Mayflower, as she bore her precious freight to Plymouth Rock,—than that America should consent to be under the insolent domination of a perjured horde of slaveholders and liberticides. But that consent should never be given, and that consent could never be extorted. Minds, like theirs, which had been nurtured on the principles of constitutional freedom, — hearts, like theirs, which had caught inspiration from the heroes and martyrs of liberty,—good right arms, like theirs, which wielded the implements of war as readily as the implements of labor, all scouted the very thought of such unutterable abasement. By the patriotism which abhors treason, by the fortitude which endures privation, by the intrepidity which faces death, they proved themselves worthy of the great continent they inhabit by showing themselves capable of upholding the principles it represents.

In passing from the sphere of politics to the serener region of literature, art, science, and philosophy, there is an increasing difficulty in estimating youth by years and an increasing necessity to estimate it by qualities. One thing, however, is certain, — that the invention of new methods, the discovery of new truth, and the creation of new beauty, — intellectual acts which are among the most important of historical events,— all belong to that thoroughly live condition of mind which we have called young. In this sense of youth, it may be said that Raphael, the greatest painter of moral beauty, and Titian, the greatest painter of sensuous beauty, were both almost equally young, though Raphael died at thirty - seven, while Titian was prematurely cut off by the plague when he was only a hundred. These, of course, are the extreme cases. But, it may be asked, were not the greatest poems of the world, the “Iliad” of Homer,the “ Divina Commedia” of Dante, the “ Paradise Lost ” of Milton, the creations of comparative old age? The answer to this question is, that each was probably organized round a youthful conception, and all were coextensive with the whole growth and development of their creators. Thus, we do not call Milton old when he produced “ Paradise Lost,” but when this mental growth was arrested ; and accordingly “ Paradise Regained” and “Samson Agonistes,” works produced after his prime, are comparatively bleak and bare products of a withering imagination and a shrunken personality.

But, confining the matter to the mere question of years, it may be said, that, allowing for some individual exceptions, the whole history of the human intellect will bear out the general assertion, that the power in which great natures culminate, and which fixes fatal limits to their loftiest aspirations, namely, that flashing conceptive and combining genius which fuses force and insight in one executive intelligence, which seizes salient points and central ideas, which darts in an instant along the whole line of analogies and relations, which leaps with joyous daring the vast mental spaces that separate huddled facts from harmonizing laws, — that this power, to say the least, rarely grows after thirty-five or forty. The mental stature is then reached, though it may not dwindle and be dwarfed until long afterwards. Thus, Shakspeare completed “ Hamlet ” when he was about thirtysix. Mozart, the Shakspeare of composers, died at thirty-six. But why enumerate ? Amid the scores of instances which must crowd into every mind, let us select five men, of especial historic significance, and who are commonly imaged to our minds with heads silvered over with age, —let us take Goethe in poetry, Newton in science, Bacon in philosophy, Columbus in discovery, Watt in mechanics. Now, how stand the facts ? The greatest works of Goethe were conceived and partly executed when he was a young man ; and if age found him more widely and worldly wise, it found him weak in creative passion, and, as a poet, living on the interest of his youthful conceptions. Newton, in whose fertile and capacious intellect the dim, nebulous elements of truth were condensed by patient thinking into the completed star, discovered the most universal of all natural laws, the law of gravitation,before he was twenty-five, though an error of observation, not his own, prevented him from demonstrating it until he was forty. Bacon had "vast contemplative ends,” and had taken “ all knowledge for his province,” had deeply meditated new methods and audaciously doubted old ones, before the incipient beard had begun timidly to peep from his youthful chin. The great conception of Columbus sprang from the thoughts and studies of his youth ; and it was the radiance shed from this conception which gave him fortitude to bear the slow martyrdom of poverty, contempt, and sickness of heart, which embittered the toiling years preceding its late realization. The steam-engine was invented by James Watt before he was thirty; but then Watt was a thinker from his cradle. Everybody will recollect his grandmother's reproof of what she called his idleness, at the time his boyish brain was busy with meditations destined to ripen in the most marvellous and revolutionizing of all industrial inventions, — an invention which, of itself alone, has given Great Britain an additional productive power equal to ten millions of workmen, at the cost of only a halfpenny a day, — an invention which supplies the motive power by which a single county in England is enabled to produce fabrics representing the labor of twentyone millions of men,—an invention which, combined with others, annually, in England, weaves into cloth a length of cotton thread equal to fifty-one times the distance between the earth and the sun, five thousand millions of miles,—an invention which created the wealth by which England was enabled to fight or subsidize the whole continent of Europe from 1793 to 1815, and which made that long war really a contest between the despotic power of Napoleon Bonaparte and the productive genius of James Watt. All this vast and teeming future was hidden from the good grandmother, as she saw the boy idling over the teakettle. “James,” she said, “ I never saw such an idle young fellow as you are. Do take a book and employ yourself usefully. For the last half-hour you have not spoken a single word. Do you know what you have been doing all this time ? Why, you have taken off, and replaced, and taken off again, the tea-pot lid, and you have held alternately in the steam, first a saucer and then a spoon ; and you have busied yourself in examining and collecting together the little drops formed by the condensation of the steam on the surface of the china and the silver. Now are you not ashamed to waste your time in this disgraceful manner ? ” Was ever idleness so productive before ?

If we turn from intellectual powers to sentiments, which are the soul of powers, we shall find renewed proofs that the spirit which animates the kingdoms of mind is the youthful spirit of health and hope and energy and cheer. In the regretful tenderness with which all great thinkers have looked back upon their youth do not we detect the source of their most kindling inspirations ? Time may have impaired their energies, clipped their aspirations, deadened their faith ; but there, away off in the past, is the gladdening vision of their youthful years ; there the joyous tumult of impulses and aims ; there the grand and generous affections; there the sweet surprise of swift-springing thoughts from never-failing fountains ; there the pure love of truth and beauty which sent their minds speeding out beyond the limits of positive knowledge ; and there the thrills of ecstasy as new worlds opened on their view. What, to them, is the assured posses sion of fame, compared with that direct perception of truth and that immediate consciousness of power ?

But the question arises, Cannot this youth be preserved, or, at least, perpetually renewed? We have seen, in this rapid glance at history, that it is preserved as long as the mind retains its hold on the life of things ; and we have seen, both in men of action and in men of meditation, this hold weakened by age. But would it be weakened, if the loftiest meditation issued in deeds instead of thoughts ? Would youth depart, if the will acted on the same high level that the mind conceived? This, also, is a question which has been historically answered. It has been answered by heroes, reformers, saints, and martyrs,—by men who have demonstrated, that, the higher the life, the more distant the approaches of age, — by men whose souls on earth have glanced into that region of spiritual ideas and spiritual persons where youth is perpetual, where ecstasy is no transient mood, but a permanent condition, and where dwell the awful forces which radiate immortal life into the will. In these men, contemplation, refusing to abide in the act by which it mounts above the world, reacts with tenfold force on the world. Using human ends simply as divine means, they wield war, statesmanship, literature, art, science, and philosophy with almost superhuman energy in the service of supernatural ideas ; and history gleams with an intenser significance as it records this imperfect passage, through human agents, of the life of God into the life of man. The subject is too vast, the agents too various and numerous, to be more than hinted here ; and in the limitation of our theme, not only to the young in years,but to the male in sex, we are precluded from celebrating one who stands in history as perhaps the loveliest human embodiment of all that is most winning and inspiring in youth, — one whose celestial elevation of sentiment, ecstatic ardor of imagination, and power at once to melt the heart and amaze the understanding, will forever associate the saintliest heroic genius with the name of Joan of Arc. But among the crowd of great men in this exalted sphere of influence, let us select one who was the head and heart of the most memorable movement of modern times, — the German peasant, Martin Luther. With a nature originally rougher, more earth-born, and of less genial goodness than that of Joan of Arc, but with a shaping imagination of the same realizing intensity, the beautiful myths of Romish superstition, which her innocent soul transfigured into gracious ministering spirits of seraphic might and seraphic tenderness, glared in upon his more morbid spiritual vision as menacing angels, or grinning imps, or scoffing fiends. But still the tortured soul toiled sturdily on through the anguish of its self-created hells, the mind crazed and shattered, the heart hungry for peace, the will resolute that it should have no peace until it found peace in truth. Yet, out of this prodigious mental and moral anarchy, with its devil’s dance of dogmas and delusions. the young Luther organized, before he was thirty, the broadest, raciest, and strongest character that ever put on the armor and hurled the bolts of the Church Militant. Casting doubt and fear under his feet, and growing more practically efficient as he grew more morally exalted, at the age of thirty-seven he had hooted out of Germany the knavish agent of a deistical Pope, — had nailed to the Wittenberg Church his intellectual defiance of the theory of Indulgences,-—had cast the excommunication and decretals of the Pontiff into the flames,— and, before the principalities and powers of the Empire, one German against all Germany, had simply and sublimely indicated the identity of his doctrine with his nature, by declaring that he not merely would not, but could not, recant.

And whom could he not abjure ? Does not this question point to Him who is the central Person and Power of the past eighteen hundred years of history ? — to Him who will be the central Person and Power of the whole future of history?— to Him who came into the world in the form of a young man, and whom a young man announced, crying in the wilderness ?—to Him who clasps in his thought and in his love the whole humanity whose troubled annals history recounts, and who divinized the spirit of youth when He assumed its form ?