Page:Convocation Addresses of the Universities of Bombay and Madras.djvu/387

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94
University of Madras.


We must take care, then, that our culture is practically useful with respect to the circumstances of those who get it. Otherwise learning degenerates into pedantry. Let us remember the apologue of the French savant who was caught, so historians assure us, by an Arab tribe. His captors proceeded at once to turn their prize to good purpose. They asked him if he could ride? He answered, " No -, could he fight ? again a negative ; could he run ? No. He said, he was accustomed only to sedentary pursuits. Thereupon they tarred and feathered him and set him to hatch eggs, that being the only strictly sedentary pursuit with which they happened to be acquainted, and of the practical utility they were at all convinced.

And not only must our culture be practically useful, but those who receive it must beware of the dangers and responsibilities which it entails. In the first place there is the danger incidental to all great unsettlements of thought and sudden inroads of new ideas, and the shock which is thus given to society. In this respect the History of India has been exceptional. In most nations the progress of a nation in culture has been gradual; knowledge has been learnt line upon line and letter by letter; the whole community has gone more or less along with the leaders of its thought; society has become accustomed to altered forms of life ; new ideas have permeated and leavened the whole structure before being adopted by any one fraction of it. In India, it has been far otherwise. We look back to a remote period in the very dawn of history, and we find her in the van of civilization. We find a branch of that happy and noble Aryan community from which you and we, gentlemen, take our rise, practising many of the amenities and all the virtues of civilized life at a time when most of what is now regarded as the civilized world was sunk in barbarism. India, however, appears at an early date to have entered upon a cycle of national existence in which progress found no place, and to have remained stationary while the nations of the West sprang into being and took up the running. The structure of society admitted of little change, and the prevailing theologies discouraged the desire for it. India was one of the stationary powers of the world. Then at last the spell was broken, her long sleep was ended. She was caught by a wave of the turbulent European life, at one of its most turbulent moments, and hurried along on that resistless current to that future which awaits us all. Henceforth India had to be a member of the