Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

continents ;— the smaller bodies, here and there, called islands;- the parts of the continents nearly cut off from the main body, called peninsulas,— the three great divisions of the sea lying in basins among the continents, called oceans, &c.

This is to be continued until the pupil has discovered, and is able to describe the different divisions of land and water which appear on the globe, and, wherever it was possible, has found their counterpart in nature. Thus, by the intelligent use of his own eyes, that part of Geography which is usually committed to memory from his text-book, often amid sobs and tears, and which is almost immmediately forgotten because, to him, unmeaning, has become an imperishable part of his mind; and the descriptions, instead of being merely a burden to the memory, have been the means of enlarging his power of expressing ideas, and therefore of receiving them from others.

He is now ready to begin his study of the general conformation of the continents. In order to do this he needs the intelligent use of certain terms to express differences in the land-surface of the continents, and in the forms of their internal waters; as mountain-range, plateau, plain, river, lake, etc.

Ideas of these are to be obtained by him by an examination of the natural object, if within reach; or, if not accessible to him, good pictures of these several forms will suffice, and from them he will form his own definitions.

In entering upon the study of the continents, it will be necessary to transfer the pupil from the globe to the physical map. He has but to be made acquainted with the conventional methods of representing the different varieties of land surface, and internal waters, which he has been studying, and he is ready to conduct his own study of the continent just as he previously did that of the globe.

As many different points will now require notice, it is indispensable that we endeavor to ascertain the logical order in which to present them, that is, the order of their successive dependence. To do this, let us select any single point, as that of climate, and inquire by what is it influenced, and what does it control.

The most general influence bearing upon the climate of a continent is the position of the latter on the globe, by which it is exposed to the more or less direct rays of the sun. Next is its contour, — determining the position in which the sea winds strike it, and the position of its great lines of elevation, whether so as freely to admit these winds, or entirely to shut them out from the main body. The character of the surface also determines the form and distribution of the internal waters, and this in turn modifies the healthfulness of the climate in different portions. The study of these points then, properly, should precede that of the climate, in order that when it is taken up the child may not be obliged to remember the facts concerning it as mere isolated statements, but being led by a simple association of the phenomena with its cause, (the philosophic relation, in its full extent, cannot, of course, be given him,) he will have it stored in its proper niche, where it will always be found when demanded.


Again, on the soil and the climate depends the general character of the vegetation in different portions of the continent. On the vegetation depends the presence or absence of certain classes of animals which subsist on vegetation. On the presence in different parts of the continent of such plants or animals as are necessary to his subsistence, depends the existence of man, if in an uncivilized condition ; and the differences in the surface, soil, climate, and the distribution of vegetation, animals, and minerals, in the different portions, will necessarily give rise to different industries, different social conditions, and different degrees of advancement in the civilized state ; that is, to differences in regard to the possibility of the presence of great nationalities in different portions of the continent.

If evidence is needed in relation to the influence of physical conditions on the industrial pursuits, and distribution of population, we have only to look at our own country. In the north-east, the rough surface, the somewhat sterile soil, and the cold climate, make agriculture impracticable in the larger part of the country, while the abundant water-power, and the rich stores of coal and iron, make it the great workshop of the nation, and its fine harbors, capable of receiving and sheltering the ships of all nations, make it also our commercial depot, nearly all the manufacturing and the foreign commerce of the country being carried on by that little corner north of the Potomac.

Again, the level surface making cultivation easy, the fertile soil, and the warm and moist climate producing a luxuriant vegetation, make the great plains of the interior and the South the nation's farm and garden, from which, were its resources fully developed, supplies might be drawn capable, one might almost say, of feeding the world,

[ocr errors]

and, with the aid of the North-east, of clothing it. In these two regions are gathered almost the entire population of the country. :

The great plateau of the Rocky Mountains, on the contrary, doomed in almost every part, by its saline soil, and its want of moisture, to a hopeless sterility, is incapable of supporting a population, and must

have remained uninhabited but for the rich mineral treasures embossomed within it. Its population, however numerous it may become, must be mainly confined to the single occupation of mining, and will be dependent for daily bread upon the East, or the fertile valleys beyond the Sierra Nevada, which enjoy all the moisture that but for this great barrier would have been dispersed over the whole.

(CONCLUDED Next Month.]


In a former paper we considered Composition in its logical aspects ; in the present one, we shall consider it in its rhetorical.

A general plan for the discussion of a chosen theme having been formed, it is to be filled up with suitable assertions, amplifications, and illustrations. The skeleton is to be clothed with muscles and proper integuments. These present themselves to us in the form of simple or of complex sentences. The unit of thought is not the single word, but the proposition; and the first requisite to good writing is ability to construct a good proposition. Imaginative power and vigor of expression are of secondary importance when compared with this. Indeed, they depend on this for their own full and proper effects. Lively imagery and forcible words appear to little advantage in ill constructed sentences. Without skill in framing propositions, there can be no “apples of gold in pictures of silver.” Let the teacher then aim primarily at cultivating and developing this skill in the pupil. It may be very early trained, and may be possessed by children whose powers are not yet mature enough to perform the processes of logical division and definition, described in our former paper. By-invariably hearing good sentences spoken in the family and in the school-room, and by reading well framed propositions in classical English authors, a child may be unconsciously trained to


make them himself. Direct instruction may then explain to him their structure, and impart to him the theory and the rules which control


Of course the words used in English Composition must be English words in present, reputable, and general use. Many a word in “ Webster's Unabridged Dictionary” need never appear in the pupil's writing. If Shakspeare used only about 15,000 words, and Milton 8,000, he can have small use for a large proportion of the 114,000 which form the boast of our modern lexicography. The sentences used in English Composition must also obey the rules of English syntax. Grammatical blunders, whether small or great, must not occur. Neither unauthorized words nor unauthorized idioms should be admitted.

But a sentence may be ill constructed without actually violating any of the rules of grammar. Its elements may be so needlessly multiplied, or so awkwardly arranged as to prevent that unity of impression which a good sentence produces. Two or three subjects may contend for the preëminence which belongs of right to one. Modifying phrases and clauses may, by their position, obscure the prominence of the element which they modify. A long and ill adjusted parenthesis may dislocate and force asunder the compact joints of the chief predication. The sentence, like a badly packed and overloaded vehicle, may break down under the load of heterogeneous materials crowded into it. Or the proposition may trail along a lonely appended clause, which vigorous thought would have wrought into the structure of the principal clause, and careful writing would have rigorously denied its present situation. We have not space for illustrations of these faults. It would be strange if any teacher could not find some, if not all, of them exemplified in nearly every essay presented to him. No fault in composition is so common as lack of unity. No logical and rhetorical susceptibility is so hard to develop and to perfect as that which perceives this defect and prompts to its correction.

But though a sentence may be made up of good English words, grammatically used and logically arranged, it may lack precision. Here may be a word so vague or so equivocal as either to convey an obscure notion, or a false one. There may be such a multitude of words as to conceal the outline and propositions of the thought they should set forth. The idea may struggle in vain to reach the reader's mind, through the voluminous folds of the apparel in which it is arrayed. Simplicity, directness, and exactness are qualities of expression which cannot be too earnestly sought.

Grammatical purity, unity of structure in sentences, and precision will secure perspicuity, the first requisite in good writing. But a writer must not only be always perspicuous; he must often be also animated, and sometimes even elegant. The pupil must then, as he advances in rhetorical culture, be taught how to secure these higher qualities. He must be made to see that a word which suggests the specific properties of an object and presents those features which distinguish it as an individual from others, is more lively, interesting, and impressive than one which denotes only a vague, inadequade notion. A profitable exercise may be found in the examination of some poem or imaginative discourse, with a view to discover the lively words, and to account for their effect. For instance, let the scholar see and explain the superiority of the line, “ The swallow twittering 'neath the straw-built shed,” to “ The bird singing under the rude out-building.” Thus by example and by practice let him be made sensible of the vivacity of unfigurative words. The newly acquired perception of the power of such proper terms will sometimes be like the acquisition of a new sense.

The power of figures, however, at first more attracts the young. A juvenile writer can hardly be convinced that his essay will be good without at least a comparison or two, to say nothing of metaphors and personifications. A teacher's wisdom will here show itself in the way of restraint rather than of impulse. He will have to weed the luxuriant growth rather than stimulate it; and he will have achieved no small success, if he have brought his scholars to be willing to sacrifice their most showy ornaments of style, and have taught them by the study of the best models, that a style when least adorned is then adorned the most. . This study of good models, not for the sake of close imitation of them, but of unconscious subjection to their inspiring, guiding and controlling influence, is really more valuable and important than the study and conscientious application of rules. The conversation of home and of school, the habitual reading of childhood and youth, do more to vitiate or to improve the style of expression than all the books and lectures on Rhetoric that are painfully learned. Let the memory be stored with facts and with words of beauty and of power, let the

« AnteriorContinuar »