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THE OLDEST INSTITUTION IN THE WORLD.
ONG, long ages ago, when Jove had the ruling of mundane affairs, before animal nature had been so classified and divided—indeed, when there was no classification at all, but all creatures as well as plants spoke one language, and the arts were in a rudimental state—there was a society formed having for its object the advancement of arts and sciences. When we say a society had any particular thing for its object, we should by no means be understood as saying it attained that object. There were many members of this society, and much business dispatched; many rules laid down for eternal guidance, and memberships established in perpetuity; all principles and rules of action which governed these first members to go unchanged and unchangeable with the membership, which was to descend by inheritance in direct line from parent to offspring, from the earliest periods, away back in the “blue distance of time,” to the present day. Among the most important members of this early association was the crafty Fox, who said but little, but managed much by quiet, unobtrusive means. There was the solemn Owl, the wisdom of whose looks established his position at once. There was the pert little Hare, always jumping up to speak upon questions without the least previous acquaintance with the subject, and always being snubbed by Dr. Owl, who threatened to eat him up if he didn't keep still. He, the Owl, was called doctor not from any acquaintance with the healing art he really had, but more from his skill in surgery, his operations being always successful, as well as fatal. One day an incautious duck happened to look his way, and remarked “Quack,” which the doctor said was a severe case of impudence, and needed heroic treatment. Squire Fox said it was actionable, and wanted to treat it legally. Between them the duck was cured of saying “Quack,” or anything else. There was Judge Tortoise, who was dubbed judge because of his wisdom and unerring judgment, as shown in his invariable habit of “shutting up” when matters were referred to him—his way of “taking the papers and reserving decision”; this secured to him great respect, and he was regarded as authority upon all matters.
There was also Professor Gander, a voluminous writer upon every subject, who upon the slightest provocation snatched a quill from his own prolific tail and jotted down his thoughts and opinions, leaving imprints of his web-foot over the parchment, still visible in all the writings of his descendants. There was the aesthetic Mole, who was accorded by common consent—not without some controversy, however—the position of judge and critic of art generally. It was urged against him that he was dull in both sight and hearing, if nothing else. That, his friends claimed, was of little consequence: “he was very penetrating,” “no mere skimmer of the surface,” “but went right at the roots of things.” Some of the plants could see no advantage in that, since it sapped their life and strength. “He would do much better,” they said, “if he would occasionally look aboveground, and see the effect of his penetration and blind meddling with the roots of things.” How, retorted his advocates, could he be expected to do that, since the light blinded and confused him 2 They promised to show them, when the time came, that he could write just as well upon the subject without seeing as he could with, and give them just as valuable information how to make their house beautiful; and so it proved. I omitted to state earlier in this report that each and every member of this society was, by virtue of his membership, a critic of some sort; hence it was that the debate was not continued longer upon the merits of the Mole, exemption from criticism being as much an inalienable right of a member of this ancient order as that of criticising others. Art at that time, other than music, was very limited in its scope, and consisted only of the laying of pretty eggs of various hues, ornamented with spots of different colors, and in personal decoration as practiced by many plants. Judgment was passed upon all their efforts. A few of these decisions will suffice to show the prevailing taste of the time, and the remarkable preservation of the same in its purity, as transmitted through countless ages down this long line. The Violet was voted tame, characterless, insipid, etc. The Rose was accused of false art and bad taste, her blushes pronounced affectation, as she took no pains to hide them, but rather paraded them before the world. Moreover, she was accused of the most inartistic trickery, inasmuch as she resorted to perfumery or sweet smells to add to or enhance her attractiveness. The Fuchsia was pronounced stiff, ungraceful, with poor combinations of colors, etc. The Nightshade was commended for his power and force; the Sunflower for his boldness, dash, dignity and gracefulness. No affectation of delicate tint, no pinkness, pale blueness, or sick yellowness in him, but a vigorous, decided, golden yellow graced the rim of his broad face. His was the style much in vogue ages after, in the reign of Queen Anne, and again at the present time. These are a few of the just decisions that settled the artistic status of each and every flower. But music, being the most pronounced as well as most popular art, claimed and received the most critical scrutiny. Singing-birds, frogs, asses, cats, etc., were the chief performers. The nod or wag from side to side of the sagacious head of old Judge Tortoise, whether intentional or not, settled the reputation of each aspirant. Many trials were had—one notable one where Linnet made a disgraceful failure,
The MUSICAL CONTEST.
and Crow came off triumphant. There were not many members present, to be sure, but as the infallible Tortoise was there, there was no need of any great numbers. The Linnet was first called upon. He hopped modestly to a lower branch, began, almost timidly at first, but soon, fired with enthusiasm, he poured forth his very soul in song. He did his utmost that day, and felt confident of success. He ceased; a breathless silence followed; all eyes were turned toward the great authority, who, feeling embarrassed and uncertain, in looking about unwittingly moved his head from side to side, which movement was immediately taken for disapprobation. A murmur arose in accordance . with the supposed verdict, which caused poor little Linnet to hang his head in shame. Hope, ambition, reputation, all swept away, as it were, by the accidental swing of that revered head. The Crow stepped forth upon a higher limb, and began, “Caw! caw' caw" and all was excitement at once. Dr. Owl blinked his yellow eyes; Esquire Fox wore a halfamused, half-perplexed or bored expression; Professor Gander listened with unfeigned admiration; little Hare put his paw in his ample ear and ejaculated “Oh!” which caused Dr. Owl to step forward and look after him. The judge
leaned his elbow on a rock, and his chin upon his hand, so to speak, winked and nodded with a new sensation, whether of pleasure or pain, however, he could not for the life of him tell; but his action was taken for approval all the same, and the very couch of Jove in the clouds of the lower sky shook with the applause. Then the singer stepped down and received the congratulations of the society. Professor Gander was first to speak. As he clasped the performer's black claw with his own awkward web-foot, he said: Though not gifted by nature with much of a voice himself (he thought he lied then, but he didn't), he hoped he knew what music was, and he felt he could say without flattery that that was the most thrilling, the most penetrating, voice he had ever heard. What little voice he himself had—which he had striven to cultivate—he really felt, if he might be so bold as to say so, was of that same quality—if there could be any comparison between perfection itself and anything so far short of it. To this dubious compliment, guarded and qualified as it was, Crow gave no response, nor showed any visible signs of pleasure. Esquire Fox shook hands (claws, paws) with him as well as he could, and simply said, “I congratulate you, sir.” Little Mr. Hare said, “I never heard anything like it,” and immediately subsided, as Owl asked “Who o' in rather a significant manner. They all agreed that it was a noble effort, however, and one likely to be appreciated by the gifted and spontaneous, rather than by those educated into prejudice or preference for namby-pamby harmony and such characterless stuff (here a general look of contempt at poor little Linnet). And so the Crow was voted, in spite of all adverse opinions, however widely held, a great singer. Such and like verdicts are to this day strictly adhered to in this old, old society, so worthily and perfectly represented by its present holders of memberships. Of course there are, and have always been, numerous writers, professors, critics of every type, outside this organization, to dispute with these old liners the right to criticise, but these have always been held in supreme contempt, or regarded with stolid indifference by the succession. There have been real surgeons,
not of the order of Owl. Spoiled, to be sure, by reading and acquiring knowledge of others' thoughts, experiences, and deductions, as well as their own, and palpably incomplete as operators, simply cutting away defective limbs, etc., but leaving the remainder of the patient uncarved, with life and even health. There are judges—thin-skinned fellows, unprotected by any shell, with learningwarped judgments—really knowing soillething of the subject they claim to judge, and always indiscreet enough to commit themselves to a decided opinion upon it. There are lawyers not depending upon craft, but priding themselves upon their knowledge of law, and claiming to be the better able to judge of the merits of a legal decision with than without such knowledge. There are writers upon art—critics, if you please—who really try to acquire a knowledge, and cramp their judgment with their studies concerning the laws of painting, sculpture, architecture, or music, whose ears can hear and whose eyes can bear the light, and who believe they are thus qualifying themselves for imparting more correct information. There are writers upon all subjects, students of literature who study to know themselves, and write to dispense knowledge, who do not grow their quills, and were not born of a goose's egg. But all this is, of course, held as illegitimate by the true members of this ancient order, as narrow-minded, superstitious, and prejudiced, holding that no real inspired criticism can come from one with any previous knowledge on the subject, that preparation simply means stultification.
THE IMPATIENT BIRD.
Th’ impatient bird that cleaves the summer air, And mounts and sings, shall never reach the sky.
High heaven eludes the boldest sweep of wings; The wildest rhapsody of melody
Surrounds us with the infinite and sad,
We creep in heaven's sunlight, longingly
Th’ eternal stars, the angel choirs, were naught To that one proof of immortality.
In the great range of heaven is there aught Higher than the bold lark's own ecstasy %
We that aspire to reach have more than climbed,
Of our glad sight, eternity have timed
N the ordinary map of the United States, where the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania occupies a space equal in area to a school-girl's palm, there may be traced, set in the western end of this area, a great irregularly formed letter Y. Its stem wriggles off through the western boundary of the State, and its divergent arms can be traced until they pierce New York State on the north, and Maryland and Virginia on the south. And right in the crotch of this big Y, lodged like a tantalizing apple in the main forks of a huge tree, most maps will show a small round black spot labelled “Pittsburgh.” The more uncompromisingly black this speck is shown, the more fittingly does it represent this remarkable city of the Keystone State. And as the brilliant disk cast by the burning-glass represents the gathered potency of countless rays, so does this little inky disk indicate the concentrated energy of a commonwealth. Into the City of Smoke pours the oil of the producing counties of McKean, Butler, Venango, Clarion, and Warren in the north and northeast; the lumber of Forest, Clarion, Indiana,
Jefferson, Armstrong. Potter, and McKean
counties on the east: the coke of Westmoreland, Fayette and Allegheny counties on the southeast; while from all quarters of the compass comes by rail and river to Pittsburgh her matchless bituminous coal: or, departing over these highways, she sends it to the uttermost corners of the South and Northwest. At the foot of the two great valleys of the Alleghany and Monongahela, and at the head of the greater vale of the Ohio, Pitts
Vol. LXII.-No. 367. –1
ground pipes giant pumps force crude petroleum from the wells to acres of odoriferous refineries that add their smoke to the perpetual cloud of carbon that marks Pittsburgh from afar. The lens will show that a drop of water teems with life, and in this paper, pencil, pen, and graver must stand in lieu of the microscope, serving to give our readers a glimpse of what is held in the circle of that black spot on the map of Pennsylvania. To write of the Pittsburgh of the past is to repeat the "labor of the historian. Fort Duquesne. and Braddock's dis". astrous field are topics familiar to the American schoolboy; and though the earlier days of the busy city are full of an interest peculiarly their own, it is the province of this paper to deal rather with the Pittsburgh of 1880 than with the noted fort of 1750 || || or the Pittsburgh of | | 1780. This much | can. however, be outlined. George | o Woo o - Washington, on | Follo Too-oo: - stood at the junction | of the two rivers, and | made this entry in his journal of that | | | |
date: “I think it ex| | mand of both riv