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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/472

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

eases; history abounds with examples of strong men dying of sheer grief,[1] as well as of a great success giving to others a new lease of life. Even hope can sustain the vital powers under severe trials; the appearance of a distant sail or a leeward coast has often restored the strength of shipwrecked sailors who would have succumbed to another hour of hopeless famine. A mere day-dream of a possible deliverance from toil or captivity prolongs the life of thousands who would not survive an awakening to the realities of their situation.

But "hope deferred" sickens the body as well as the soul; and, next to the happiness of a life whose labors are their own immediate reward, is the confident anticipation of a period of compensating enjoyments at the end of every day, of every week, and every year, or part of a year. With a few playthings the youngsters of the nursery will find pastimes enough, though even the youngest should have some corner of the house where they can feel quite at home; but the necessity of providing special times and modes of recreation begins with the day when a child is delivered to the taskmaster, when its employment during any considerable part of the twenty-four hours becomes laborious and compulsory. Children under ten should never be kept at school for more than three consecutive hours, unless the variety of the successive lessons forms itself a sort of recreation, as drawing after grammar, or writing alternating with "calisthenics" or vocal exercises. If the principal meal of the day is taken at noon, the mid-day recess should be extended to at least three hours; otherwise one hour is more than sufficient, especially where the recess sports are diverting enough to forget the schoolroom for a few minutes. The more completely a special train of thoughts can for a while be dismissed from the mind, with the more profit can it afterward be resumed, for the same reason that the successful practice of any bodily exercise requires a periodical relaxation of the strained muscles. But, if the instinct of rooks and savages can be trusted, the recreation-time, par excellence, is the evening hour; and with a little management young and old bondmen of drudgery might consecrate the end of every day to health restoring sports. All schools ought to close at 4 p. m.; and, till we can enforce the eight-hours labor law, the societies for the prevention of cruelty should liberate at least the younger factory-slaves two hours before the sunset of a summer day, in order to give them a chance for a few minutes' recreation between supper and bedtime. "Horas non conto, nisi serenas" was the usual inscription of the Roman sun-dials, but the Arabs of the desert count time by nights instead of days; and for us, too, sunset is the beginning of the most pleasant and most play-inviting hour of the twenty-four; the day's work is done, no fear of interruption damps the merriment of the moment, and to the fatigue

  1. E. g., Isocrates, Kepler, Mehemet Ali, Bajazet, Politianus, Columbus, Maupertuis, Pitt, the two Napoleons, Nicholas I, Joseph II, Platen, Abd-el-Kader, Shamyl, Horace Greeley.