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the faet, that our employment gives to the mind, as well as the body, a stimulus which they were entirely without, as their only object was to afford us bodily aid, when required, in dragging the chains or carrying our instruments.—The conversation of a friend is, in the same way, a powerful alleviator of the fatigue of walking.
The same important principle was implied in the advice which the Spectator tells us was given by a physician to one of the eastern kings, when he brought him a racket, and told him that the remedy was concealed in the handle, and could act upon him only by passing into the palms of his hands when engaged in playing with it—and that, as soon as perspiration was induced, he might desist for the time, as that would be a proof of the medicine being received into the general system. The effect, we are told, was marvellous; and, looking to the principle just stated, to the cheerful nervous stimulus arising from the confident expectation of a cure, and to the consequent advantages of exercise thus judiciously managed, we have no reason to doubt that the fable is in perfect accordance with nature.
The story of an Englishman who conceived himself so ill as to be unable to stir, but who was prevailed upon by his medical advisers to go down from London to consult an eminent physician at Inverness, who did not exist, may serve as another illustration. The stimulus of expecting the means of cure from the northern luminary was sufficient to enable the patient not only to bear, but to reap benefit from, the exertion of making the journey down; and his wrath at finding no such person at Inverness, and perceiving that he had been tricked, sustained him in returning, so that on his arrival at home he was nearly cured. Hence also the superiority of battledoor and shuttlecock, and similar games, which require society and some mental stimulus, orer listless exercise. It is, in fact, a positive misnomer to call a solemn procession exercise. Nature will not be cheated; and the healthful results of complete cheerful exertion will never be obtained where the nervous impulse which animates the muscles is denied.
It must not, however, be supposed, that a walk simply for the sake of exercise can never be beneficial. If a person be thoroughly satisfied that exercise is requisite, and perfectly willing or rather desirous to obey the call which demands it, he is, from that very circumstance, in a fit state for deriving benefit from it, because the desire then becomes a sufficient nervous impulse, and one in perfect harmony with the mus
cular action. It is only where a person goes to walk, either from a sense of duty, or at the command of another, but against his own inclination, that exercise is comparatively useless.
This constitution of nature, whereby a mental impulse is required to direct and excite muscular action, points to the propriety of teaching the young to observe and examine the qualities and arrangements of external objects. The most pleasing and healthful exercise may be thus secured, and every step be made to add to useful knowledge and to individual enjoyment. The botanist, the geologist, and the natural historian, experience pleasures in their walks and rambles, of which, from disuse of their eyes and observing powers, the multitude is de prived. This truth is acted upon by many teachers in Germany. In our own country, too, it is beginning to be felt, and one of the professed objects of infant education is to correct the omission. It must not, however, be supposed that any kind of mental activity will give the necessary stimulus to muscular action, and that, in walking, it will do equally well to read a book or carry on a train of abstract thinking, as to seek the necessary nervous stimulus in picking up plants, hammering rocks, or engaging in games. This were a great mistake; for in such cases the nervous impulse is opposed rather than favourable to muscular action. Ready and pleasant mental activity, like that which accompanies easy conversation with a friend, is indeed beneficial by diffusing a gentle stimulus over the nervous system ; and it may be laid down as a general rule that any agreeable employment of an inspiriting and active kind, and which does not absorb the mind, adds to the advantages of muscular exercise ; but wherever the mind is engaged in reading, or in abstract speculation, the muscles are drained, as it were, of their nervous energy, by reason of the great exhaustion of it by the brain; the active will to set them in motion is proportionally weakened, and their action is reduced to that inanimate kind I have already condemned as almost useless. From this exposition, the reader will be able to appreciate the hurtfulness of the practice in many boarding-schools, of sending out the girls to walk with a book in their hands, and even obliging them to learn by heart while in the act of walking. It would be difficult, indeed, to invent a method by which the ends in view could be more completely defeated, as regards both mind and body. The very effort of fixing the mind on the printed page when in motion, strains the attention, impedes the act of breathing, distracts the nervous influence, and thus deprives the exercise of all its advantages. For true and beneficial exercise there must, in cases where the mind is seriously occupied, be harmony of action between the mind which impels, and the part which obeys and acts. The will and the muscles must be both directed to the same end, and at the same time, other. wise the effect will be imperfect. But, in reading during exercise, this can never be the case. The force exerted by strong muscles, animated by strong nervous impulse or will, is prodigiously greater than when the impulse is weak or discordant; and as man was made not to do two things at once, but to direct his whole powers to one thing at a time, he has ever excelled most when he has followed this law of his nature.
136.—THE COTTER'S SATURDAY NIGHT.
INSCRIBED TO ROBERT AIKEN, ESQ., OF AYR.
BURNS. [ROBERT BURNS was born on the 25th of January, 1759, in the district of Kyle, within two miles of the town of Ayr. His father, William Burns, or Burness, was a peasant-one of those strong, independent, pious minds that are especially the growth of Scotland. In the following poem Robert Burns has drawn a noble character of such
His brother Gilbert, in a letter dated 1800, says, Although the Cotter, in the Saturday Night, is an exact copy of my father in his manners, his family devotion, and exhortations, yet the other parts of the description do not apply to our family. None of us were ever ‘at service out among the neebors round.'” William Burns tried to mend his fortune by farming; but his life was one continued struggle, although he contrived to give his children a tolerable education. Toil and privation were familiar to them from their infancy. At fifteen, Robert was the principal labourer on the little farm. The father, bowed down by an accumulation of difficulties, died in 1784. In the meantime Robert had been cherishing his poetical faculty,
“ Following his plough along the mountain-side.” In 1786 he printed a volume of his Poems. The admiration which they excited was, in some degree, the ruin of his happiness. He became the wonder of the polite circles of Edinburgh; and the most eminent for station or acquirements gathered round the marvellous ploughman, whose conversation was as brilliant as his writings were original. A second edition of his Poems made him the master of five hundred pounds. He took a farm in Ellisland, in Dumfries-shire. He had legalized his union with the mother of his children. In an evil hour he obtained a situation in the excise, at Dumfries. His duties were, of course, uncongenial. He sought the excitement of festive companions, he yielded to habits of inebriety. Ill health, habitual dejection, occasional bitterness of soul approaching to madness, came over him. He died on the 21st of July, 1796, in his thirty-seventh year. From the first publication of his volume of Poems, Scotland felt that a great spirit had arisen to shed a new lustre on the popular language and literature. It has been a reproach to the contemporaries of Burns that they were unworthy of his genius—that they offered him the unsubstantial incense of flattery, and left him to starve. The reproach appears to us signally unjust. It is difficult to imagine how, with the unfortunate habits which Burns had acquired, and with his high-spirited but repulsive independence, his fate could have been other than it was. With such examples of the unhappiness of genius, we still cannot regret that there are no asylums where poets may be watched over like caged nightingales.)
My loved, my honourd, much-respected friend
No mercenary bard his homage pays;
My dearest meed, a friend's esteem and praise.
The lowly train in life's sequester'd scene;
What Aiken in a cottage would have been;
The short'ning winter-day is near a close;
The black’ning trains o'craws to their repose;
This night his weekly moil is at an end,
Hoping the morn in ease and rest to spend,
weary, o'er the moor, his course does hameward bend.
Beneath the shelter of an aged tree;
To meet their Dad, wi' flichterin | noise an' glee. • The continued rushing noise of wind or water. + Stagger. # Fluttering.
His wée bit ingle*, blinkin' bonnily,
His clean hearth-stane, his thriftie wifie's smile,
Does a' his weary carking cares beguile,
At service out, amang the farmers roun’;
A cannie errand to a neebor town:
In youthfu' bloom, love sparkling in her e'e,
Or deposit her sair||-won penny-fee,
An' each for other's welfare kindly spiers 1 :
Each tells the uncos ** that he sees or hears; The parents, partial, eye their hopeful years ;
Anticipation forward points the view. The mother, wi' her needle an' her shears,
Gars tt auld claes look amaist as weel 's the new,
The younkers a' are warned to obey;
An' ne'er, tho' out o' sight, to jank |||| or play: “ An' oh! be sure to fear the Lord alway,
An' mind your duty, duly, morn an' night! Lest in temptation's path ye gang astray,
Implore his counsel and assisting might: They never sought in vain that sought the Lord aright!" But hark! a rap comes gently to the door ; Jenny, wha kens the meaning o' the same,
+ By and by I Heedful, cautious. § Fine, handsome. l Sadly, sorely. Inquires.
+ Makes. SS Diligent. HII Trifle.