Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/150

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After finishing his day's work the Grecian mechanic went to the gymnasium, the Roman to the amphitheatre, and the modern European and American goes to the next "saloon," to satisfy by different methods the same instinct—a longing for a diversion from the dull sameness of business-routine. There is no question which method was the best—the only question is which of the two bad substitutes may be the worse: the brutalizing, i. e., soul-hardening spectacles of bloodshed of the Roman arena, or the soul and body destroying poisons of the liquor-shop?

Not a few of the victims of alcohol have contracted their fatal passions with their eyes open to all its consequences—but what should they do? After masticating the dry bread of drudgery for six days, we cannot expect them to content themselves on the seventh with sleeping under a tree, or in church; and the very classes whose want of mental culture incapacitates them for purely intellectual recreations also lack the material resources by which the rich can more easily forego the advantage of public and free opportunities of healthy amusements. The cruel sports to which our bull-fighting ancestors devoted their holidays have perhaps been justly suppressed, but what have we substituted for them? Sunday-schools, revivals, and reading-rooms of the Young Men's Christian Association? Alas!—Deflebilis manet hiatus—a deplorable void remains; man is a compound of body and soul, and the unmixed joys of the New Jerusalem will be found insufficient for terrestrial wants, till the spiritualists have invented the art of dematerializing bodies as well as of materializing ghosts.

The pagan Greeks had discovered and divulged a secret which seems not to have been rediscovered yet by our philanthropists, viz., that the highest well-being of the body and of the soul cannot be attained separately, but must go hand-in-hand like thought and action, or will and force. They also had found out that it is the safest plan to improve each day as it comes, they celebrated life as a festival, and their poor as well as their rich enjoyed heaven on this side of the grave. In going along, they found time to do what we postpone to the end of the journey, which too often is never reached. The joyous love of life, of men to whom existence itself was a luxury, has therefore given way to very different moods—sad misgivings and doubts, provoked by ever-present but never-satisfied longings. "He who has done his duty can die in peace," we are told; but is it a duty to work for such rewards?

"So much labor for a winding-sheet?"

It may be said that we, too, have our national sports, trials of skill if not of strength, such as base-ball, cricket, target-shooting, and the like, or trials of strength by proxy: horse-races, cock-fighting, etc., on which a man may bestow all the time and stake all the money he has to spare. Well, we cannot afford to despise these things—they are the best we have; but can any man seriously compare the dreary fun of the cockpit with the enthusiasm of the palæstra, or the rapture of a Derby-day or even of a base-ball match with that of the Olympic race, and