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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/170

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

it would not give back the measure of the depth, and that no frame could inclose the infinity of the object. Having once come out from Heyne's philological school, and still, when sixty years old, with the college portfolios under his arm, taking his place in our audience-rooms among Boeckh's students, he was the man to lay the bridge between the old and the new time, between the philological-historical, æsthetic-speculative Germany, as the turn of the century saw it, and the mathematico-scientific, technical, inductive Germany of our days.

The German people, indeed the world, has remembered his loving, enthusiastic devotion. Not the thousands of well-observed, important, and new facts with which he has enriched single branches; not the happy and suggestive thoughts thrown out as seed-corns and sometimes grown up to new sciences; still less his historical and geographical works composed with ceaseless industry—furnish the reasons why he sits out there in a marble image. The composition of the whole world into an artistically harmonious figure attempted by him, the combination of the ideal with the real realized in him, of the poet with the naturalist, made him, in Emerson's sense, a representative man of science, and educated manhood in that statue has set up Alexander von Humboldt as a personification of a new phase of its own genius, of which it became conscious through him.

The custom of honoring the memory of a great man by a monument would have little significance if the monument had no other purpose than to keep up that memory; for, if the remembrance would be lost without the monument, it would not be worth keeping up. The monument should rather, calling back to thought the hero who has gone out from among us, lead us, in reflecting on his virtues, to renew the determination to emulate them. We should ask ourselves how the man to whom we look up in grateful admiration would judge us if he should return to us, and whether he would recognize us as worthy prosecutors of the work he had begun.

Alexander von Humboldt died in a gloomy time. The reign of a king friendly to the muses, to whom he had personally stood closer than it is often allowed to a subject to stand, had fallen short of fulfilling expectations. The rule of Napoleon III, personally hateful to him, a friend of the house of Orleans, weighed upon France. A new and strong hand had taken the reins of Prussian state life; but it was sad to close his eyes at the instant when even to us a momentous decision seemed unavoidable.

With how deep satisfaction Humboldt would now see the imperial banners waving from the palace of the prince regent, and how the revolution in the fortune of the Fatherland, which we have witnessed since his death, would gratify him! But how deeply would it pain him to learn at what price the recovered power of the German Empire had to be bought!—that instead of the feeling of mutual esteem and friendship which during his life had bound Germany and France,