Page:On the Fourfold Root, and On the Will in Nature.djvu/206
not be if we retained ready-made representations. It is just for this reason too, that acquired knowledge, if left unexercised, gradually fades from our memory, precisely because it was the result of practice coming from habit and knack ; thus most scholars, for instance, forget their Greek, and most artists their Italian on their return from Italy. This is also why we find so much difficulty in recalling to mind a name or a line of poetry formerly familiar to us, when we have ceased to think of it for several years ; whereas when once we succeed in remembering it, we have it again at our disposal for some time, because the practice has been renewed. Everyone therefore who knows several languages, will do well to make a point of reading occasionally in each, that he may ensure to himself their possession.
This likewise explains why the surroundings and events of our childhood impress themselves so deeply on our memory ; it is because, in childhood we have but few, and those chiefly intuitive, representations : so that we are induced to repeat them constantly for the sake of occupation. People who have little capability for original thought do this all their lives (and moreover not only with intuitive representations, but with conceptions and words also); sometimes therefore they have remarkably good memories, when obtuseness and sluggishness of intellect do not act as impediments. Men of genius, on the contrary, are not always endowed with the best of memories, as, for instance, Rousseau has told us of himself. Perhaps this may be accounted for by their great abundance of new thoughts and combinations, which leaves them no time for frequent repetition. Still, on the whole, genius is seldom found with a very bad memory ; because here a greater energy and mobility of the whole thinking faculty makes up for the want of constant practice. Nor must we forget that Mnemosyne was the mother of the Muses. We may accordingly