Sunday, May 26, 2013


Antiquities Speak

G. Seyffarth (1796-1885), Summary of Recent Discoveries in Biblical Chronology, Universal History, and Egyptian Archaeology, 2nd ed. (New York: Henry Ludwig, 1859), pp. 7-8:
The interest taken by the human mind in the monuments of antiquity is a remarkable phenomenon. Who does not regard with reverence an aged tree, which a thousand years ago, beheld generations long since passed from the earth, sitting in its shade? Who would willingly part with the clumsy, tarnished ring, which his aged mother or grandmother had worn upon her finger? Who is not gratified by the sight of a few lines traced by a pen, guided by the hand of the Father of his country? Who does not examine with curiosity an old skin, upon which Mexican priests painted their gods and hieroglyphics 500 years ago? Who can pass without emotion through the silent streets of Pompeii, which once resounded with the bustle of the forum and the song of sailors? Who does not take delight in treasuring up in his casket, among other gems, some old coins of the age in which Pericles sent forth his fleets against envious Sparta? Who is not happy to exhibit to a friend a fragment of a brick, dried when Cyrus commanded that Jerusalem should be rebuilt? It cannot be denied, that every man regards whatever is ancient, with a certain interest and reverence. And why does he do so? These ancient things, be they beautiful or ugly, complete or fragmentary, lustrous or encrusted with filth, speak to every one that beholds them.—Ay, antiquities speak. We hear their language distinctly, not with the outward ear, but with an inner sense, with which the Creator has endowed us.—Not men only, but even "stones can speak." And what is it, that these monuments of antiquity have to say to us? Their language is: Consider, how young you are compared with those by-gone generations, whose contemporaries we have been! Bethink you, how soon you will disappear from the series of living things, without leaving behind you any such monuments of your existence! A different world has been on earth before you! Ask of me, and I will tell you what was the condition of things in the world at that time; I will inform you, how the men of that age thought, what they believed, what they did, how they clothed and adorned themselves, how they ate and drank. And thus there are many other things, which, if you be so minded, you may learn of me. If you had no other profit but to learn what you did not know, this would, in itself alone, be something; for knowledge is power. And who would not rather be powerful than feeble?

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