John Muir


image preview

Circa Date

circa 1887


Here in full bloom the lively young idea is taught to shoot with brawn and brain, and birches, the old ideas [stiff] dry as old dead sapless logs, is left untaught as too unsafe to handle. Science of science, Arithmetic, spreads wide it’s oaklike arms oer [over] old and young alike, [It’s sour oak apples] prized as best of all that education can confer [on man] to guide him through lifes thorny paths to heaven. Hear the lesson, “Johnnie in your breeches packed on the right [there are] I see you have three apples, on the left two more, how many apples now have you in all”? “Seven”, “How so my boy, how so?” “Five apples in the outer pair of breeches and two in pockets of an under pair you know not of, my teacher”. “Right my boy, you soon will master every science fully, grow rich, and make the laws, and find a way past every doubt and mystery that lies this side of heaven”. Here too the hatchet of George Washington hath hacked small readers voices, and the nerves of teachers, in tones strident, rough and rusty, In lessons neverending, nevermending. With grammar too old schoolhouse thou hast suffered while Plato, Milton, Shakespeare, have been murdered;

Torn limb from limb in analytic puzzles, and wondrous parsing passing comprehension. The poetry and meaning blown to atoms, sad sacrifices in the glorious cause of higher all-embracing education.

With bright economy, old patient schoolhouse thou hast served all comers as best thou couldst. Players, preachers, showmen, singers, sinners; each at his trade shaking thy old oak ribs, judging, jangling, jawing. Mixture grotesque, involving childish wit, & feeble wisdom, spent on justice, judgement, hell, and heaven In bulking volumes like muddy torrents swelling. From rain of words, destroying more than building. Men slight of hand, and slight of mind, with notions Lightly rising like smoke from thy old chimney; and heavy men with mighty big ideas, level-headed, but wooden too, alas, and knotty like thy logs and benches; Brows crossed with furrows like a farmers field, While hemming, hawing, holding the argument Together with ands and buts, stuck freely through all the deep discourse, like tacks in carpets, Or nails in sliding shingles on a roof of perilous steepness.

Date Occurred

1856; 1860

Contributing Institution

Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library

Rights Management

To view additional information on copyright and related rights of this item, such as to purchase copies of images and/or obtain permission to publish them, click here to view the Holt-Atherton Special Collections policies.