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What Is Culture

WHAT IS CULTURE ? The list of all the items of the general life of a people reflects that whole which we call its culture.

If the above quotation may properly be ap plied to a nation as a whole, it may, with equal propriety, be applied to a family, or to an in dividual. We do not, however, as a rule, look upon culture in this light. Usually, we re gard it as something distinct from daily life; something apart and particular, to be worn like one's best garment, on special occasions only; then to be neatly and carefully folded and put away for the next important event.

Culture, however, is not a garment. It is the product of one's genius active in the world of work. It is not a fixed sum in pounds, shillings and pence sterling; it is as much as one has or may have in pounds or shillings or pence, or all of them. There must then be all degrees of culture.

We shall see in a coming chapter that cul ture is tilling. It is, in fact, both labor and its fruits; but it is not labor done as drudgery. To become cultured a man need not turn from his daily activity. On the contrary, he must turn to it more intensely. He must find in it, at all times, not the weariness of the flesh, but the joy of opportunity for expressing himself. The fundamental satisfaction in this point of view is that it appeals to all alike; and promises, not untruly, that every man according to his genius, which is the art of doing little tasks well, may be cultured. If he finds that he desires culture in a greater degree than his work permits he will enlarge the scope of his activity. If, as Emerson says, Homer is good for simple minds, then simple men, whether they be of the type of Gladstone or not, may find culture in the great epic poem and in all things of its kind. Culture is not the veneer of a man. It is the very depths of him.

"There can be no culture without roots.

Solid knowledge and comprehension can never be attained by accepting summaries and epit omes ; you must travel in your own person, using your own eyes and sympathies, through the old countries of human learning and thought, before being sure that you have ex tracted their secret and value. No other can do it for you ; there is no golden road. No vision,

however keen, can see just what yours can see; no mind, however quick and profound, can point out to you all that it is worth your while to learn." Writers of books have often declared that it is no unusual thing in out-of-the-way parts of Scotland, under smoky rafters of cottages the thatch of which is kept down by ropes weighted with huge stones, for some young fellow to conceive a passion for knowledge and battle with the evil star of his poverty to some pur pose. Mr. D. T. Holmes, in his most delight ful volume, Literary Tours in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, touches on some as pects of that subject. He talks of Bard Mac donald, of Trotternish, whose croft costs him from two pounds to four pounds per annum, and whose only cow came near being impound ed for the price of seed potatoes, who has hitched his wagon to the high star of poetry. "I heard him sing a Gaelic poem of his own ' composition containing twenty-five verses of intricate versification," says Mr. Holmes. He tells also of the Skye student who rode to the seaport, crossed the sound, rode across the breadth of Scotland to Aberdeen, and there sold his mount to pay the college fees.

And here is an anecdote, if not of learning and poverty, at least of learning in adverse sur roundings. Two sailors and a shopkeeper were discussing the subsidence of the land on Scallo way pier. One of the sailors alleged that his grandmother's cabbage patch was covered by the water on which his boat was floating. The big shopman, turning to me, quoted the well known passage of Tennyson of the sea flowing where the tree used to grow—"O Earth, what changes hast thou seen." This quotation led to a literary talk, in which he remarked that of all poets he preferred Homer. "What translator do you lice best ?" I inquired. "Blackie," he re plied, "as being the most faithful to the orig inal. But I rarely read a translation ; I prefer Homer in his own Greek." This remark, made by one whose fingers were glistening with her ring scales, came to me as a pleasant surprise. Later on in the day I visited his house and saw his fine library and his splendid collection of classical books.

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pounds, man, learning, homer and scotland