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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/779

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PHYSICAL EDUCATION.

moral and physical life of the ante-Christian ages from the scrofulous effeminacy of our stove-room civilization.

The teachers of the Pedagogium and similar institutions assured me that their scholars were never more aufgeweckt (wide-awake) than during the first six or eight weeks after the long vacations; even the drawing-masters had no reason to complain about "club-fists." It is a very common but quite erroneous notion that the burly strength of the human hand impairs its capacity for delicate manipulations: the iron-fisted Gemsen-jäger of the Tyrolese Alps are the nicest marksmen; and Leonardo da Vinci, who could draw a perfect circle without a compass, could not the less break a silver piaster between his two thumbs and two forefingers.

The Ilefelders were also the first to make Saturday an hygienic sabbath. In spring and fall, all such Saturdays should be consecrate to the wood-gods; leaf-forests, under the influence of sunlight, exhale the antidote of our atmospheric poisons. Start the youngsters at sunrise with a basketful of cold meats, and orders for an equal quantity of strawberries, or, if the woods are safe, let them go on Friday night, and camp in the open air; they will long for the advent of that night as Tom-a-lin for the festival of the fairies. Let them rise with the sun and spend the whole day in active exercise, the merrier the better; in a mountain country arrange a new programme for every week, explore the local Ararats, and let the boys scale them in succession, as the members of the Alpine Club tackle their bergs and horns. If the weather should disappoint you, do not hesitate to improve the next sunny day, though it should happen to be a Sunday. The God of Nature can be worshiped in his own temple: the wonder of his living world is his most authentic revelation. Where Sunday is the only free day in the week, no puritanical tyranny or Jesuitical ingenuity will ever prevent the poor from making it a day of recreation; the only question is, whether that recreation shall be sought in the secret rumshops and back-alleys of the city, whose gates the Sabbatarians would shut upon us, or in the free woods and mountains, where the worshiper of the All-Father can find inspiration as well as joy and health. The wood-thrush, it is true, does not modulate her anthems in a whining drawl; the pine-tree lifts his head without fear of provoking his Creator by a want of crawling humility; no dread of a joy-hating priest-god disturbs the gambols of the squirrel and the aërial dances of the brook-midge; the butterfly and the humming-bird do not think it necessary to "mortify the eye with dreary drab," but their happiness imparts a lesson not less divine for being at variance with the doctrines of an atrabilious fanatic.

According to the Grecian allegory, the wood-craft goddess Diana was the antagonist of the Cyprian Venus; and a penchant for out-door sports is indeed the best safeguard against certain vices of youth. The precocious Don Juans of our great cities could be more easily re-