Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/99

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PLACE OF ENGLISH IN HIGHER EDUCATION.

merry in England before the new learning came up; yea, I would all things were as hath been in times past.’ Who could laugh at these words of a strangely troubled spirit? Rather one might weep over them; there is a certain pathos in the helpless embarrassment and despair they reflect; but one can see they were not wise, provident words; one cannot regret that the 'new learning came up.' But not altogether unlike is the sentiment sometimes heard in these days of like unsettlement and transition."

The old Duke of Norfolk is the prototype of many living men; from an undefined dread of the New, they cling to the Old, in helpless, despairing bewilderment. As the world spins swiftly down the grooves of change, they become dizzy and sigh for rest. They smile at the narrow-mindedness of conservatives in other ages, but fail to see the same weakness in themselves.

"Surely the wise course now is," says Mr. Hales, "not to set our faces against the incoming studies, but to do our best to regulate and order their admission. Let us give these strangers a judicious welcome. Let us frankly and generously examine what recommendations they have to advance for themselves. Let us banish utterly and forever from our minds the notion of finality in education. Let us recognize that all our efforts are but tentative, and that we are yet an immeasurable distance, not only from absolute perfection, but from that degree of perfection which is attainable. May it not be, indeed, that we are at present in an extremely rudimentary stage of advancement in this momentous respect?—that the question of education is yet in its veriest infancy? Perhaps we are yet at the very foot of the mountain, and have not really commenced the ascent. Not odder, it may be, in our eyes is the educational system of the middle ages than our present system will be according to the decisions of posterity. These possibilities should surely make us, not reckless revolutionists, but thoughtful, considerate reformers. The changes that are now making will in their turn perhaps be modified or superseded. There is no such thing as an educational canon which closes and is complete."

Our King Arthur, the spirit of the age, commands us "to fling far into the middle mere" the brand Excalibur, the marvelously-wrought Greek tongue. Let us not, like the bold Sir Bedivere, clouded with our own conceits, betray our king; but, while remembering the wonders of the brand and admiring its haft twinkling


". . . . with diamond studs,
Myriads of topaz-lights, and jacinth-work
Of subtlest jewellery,"

". . . . strongly wheel and throw it."
" 'The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.' "