Warner’s Tour in the
[Notes: Dr. Samuel Johnson, born 1709, died 1784 By hard and unaided toil he won his way to the front rank among the literary men of his day. He deserves the honour of having been the first to free literature from the thraldom of patronage.
Filial piety. Piety is used here not in a religious sense, but in its stricter sense of dutifulness. In Virgil “the Pious Aneas” means “Aneas who showed dutifulness to his father.”]
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“Alas!” exclaimed a silver-headed sage, “how narrow is the utmost extent of human knowledge! I have spent my life in acquiring knowledge, but how little do I know! The farther I attempt to penetrate the secrets of nature, the more I am bewildered and benighted. Beyond a certain limit all is but conjecture: so that the advantage of the learned over the ignorant consists greatly in having ascertained how little is to be known.
“It is true that I can measure the sun, and compute the distances of the planets; I can calculate their periodical movements, and even ascertain the laws by which they perform their sublime revolutions; but with regard to their construction, to the beings which inhabit them, their condition and circumstances, what do I know more than the clown?— Delighting to examine the economy of nature in our own world, I have analyzed the elements, and given names to their component parts. And yet, should I not be as much at a loss to explain the burning of fire, or to account for the liquid quality of water, as the vulgar, who use and enjoy them without thought or examination?—I remark, that all bodies, unsupported, fall to the ground, and I am taught to account for this by the law of gravitation. But what have I gained here more than a term? Does it convey to my mind any idea of the nature of that mysterious and invisible chain which draws all things to a common centre?—Pursuing the track of the naturalist, I have learned to distinguish the animal, the vegetable, and the mineral kingdoms, and to divide these into their distinct tribes and families;—but can I tell, after all this toil, whence a single blade of grass derives its vitality?—Could the most minute researches enable me to discover the exquisite pencil that paints the flower of the field? and have I ever detected the secret that gives their brilliant dye to the ruby and the emerald, or the art that enamels