Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/551

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THERE is so much sound philosophy on the present subject in a story related by that genial publication, the "Arkansaw Traveler," that we may be excused in departing from the severe dignity proper to a sociological essay in repeating it. It seems that down in Arkansaw there lives an old man named Billson, together with his son Dan, who is a close student. Billson was naturally proud of his son, and allowed the young man to remain in his room, deeply covered with the grand rubbish of ancient wisdom. During the busy season, when every hoe in the garden-patch was worth its weight in silver, Billson's neighbors would ask:

"Why don't you make Dan help you with your cotton?"
"He can't spare the time from his studies."

"Studying is all well enough; but, do you think it would hurt him much to drop his books for a day or two, and take up a hoe? The grass is gaining on you."

The old man sighed and seriously reflected for many days. One morning he reverentially entered his son's room. Pointing to an open volume that lay on the young man's desk, he asked:

"What book is that?"
"Plato's Philosophy."
"Full of interestin' readin', I reckon."
"As grand thought as was ever expressed."
"Ain't law, is it?"
"Oh, no, it's philosophy."
"Yes, but what is philosophy?"
"O—er—well, it's er—it's the—soul of great men shaped into words."[1]
"Ah, hah! What does this here fellow Plato propose to larn you?"
"To be great, to look high."
"Yes, but does he tell you what to look at?"
"O—er—yes, he—that is, he tells you to purify your soul."
"Ah, hah! But what does he tell you to do with the body?"
"The body! Why, he scorns the body."
"Ah! Don't appear to have much use for it, eh?"
"He is higher than all things physical."
"Sorter silent on cotton, too, I reckon?"
"Why, father, what can you mean?"
"Wal, I'll tell you. Ain't got nothin' agin Ponto—"

  1. I pause to remark that I have known many a young person who, like Dan, was studying philosophy, and whose idea of the same was about as precise and intelligent as the above definition.