plest of their writings was still complicated. They had scruples against giving it up, and were inculpable of sacrificing their traditions and the love of the mysterious to the conveniences of life. After it had become the universal tool of commerce, writing put itself at the service of writers and poets. Yet literature did without the alphabet for several centuries. The oral method sufficed for it, and verses and stories, in whatever dialect they were composed, passed from mouth to mouth. But the discovery, once launched upon the world, made a revolution in it. Suppress the alphabet, and all would be changed in the history of the human race. Three great religions, which have had a decisive influence on its destiny, would have been smothered in their cradles if the cursive writing had not served as a vehicle to carry them to distant points, and secure entrance for them. The Hebrews were acquainted with letters, and had a current writing. They were destined to be the people of one book. The law of the gospel must be a written law. Mohammed was to write, the world was to be governed by books, and these books were to make the fortune of the alphabet used in writing them. The Latin Bible, as much as the genius of Rome, carried the Latin alphabet into all western Europe. The Greek liturgy imposed the Byzantine alphabet on the Slavic peoples; and if all Africa ever learns to write and read, it will be indebted to the Koran for its knowledge of those arts.—Translated for The Popular Science Monthly from the Revue des Deux Mondes.
|TO TIE A ROPE OF SAND.|
MORE than twenty years ago I was one of a great company of children who labored with wooden spade and pail on the beach at Long Branch. Never a corps of sappers and miners worked more industriously or more vainly. A mighty force, unhindered, or rather strengthened, by night and storm and winter, worked behind us, not merely leveling at a touch our tiny forts and mounds and trenches, but laughing at the utmost power and skill of wiser heads and stronger hands. Like Old Age, in the Norse fable, so persistent, so resistless, advances that mighty engineer, whose molding shaped our continent.
Is continent-making at an end? Did you think, O builder of hotel and cottage and esplanade, that Old Ocean had surrendered, and was under bonds not to invade the strip of white sand which borders man's territory?
When I plied my tiny spade in the Long Branch sands, a broad beach stretched below the bluff, while, above, a generous strip,