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Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know

An artist instead of an artisan


These elaborate and highly organized efforts of the young imagination, of which boys and girls of unusual inventiveness are capable, are imitated on a smaller scale by all normal children. They endow inanimate things with life, and play and suffer with them as with their real playmates. The little girl not only talks with her dolls, but weeps with and for them when disaster overtakes them. The boy faces foes of his own making in the woods, or at lonely places in the road, who are quite as real to him as the people with whom he lives. By common agreement a locality often becomes a historic spot to a whole group of boys; enemies are met and overcome there; grave perils are bravely faced; and the magic sometimes lingers long after the dream has been dissolved in the dawning light of definite knowledge, Childhood is one long day of discovery; first, to the unfolding spirit, there is revealed a wonderland partly actual and partly created by the action of the mind; then follows the slow awakening, when the growing boy or girl learns to distinguish between tact and fancy, and to separate the real from the imaginary.

This process of learning to "see things as they are" is often regarded as the substance of education, and to be able to distinguish sharply and accurately between reality and vision, actual and imaginary image is accepted as the test of thorough training of the intelligence. What really takes place is the readjustment of the work of the faculties so as to secure harmonious action; and in the happy and sound development of the nature the imagination does not give place to observation, but deals with principles, forces and laws instead of with things. The loss of vision is never compensated for by the gain of sight; to see a thing one must use his mind quite as much as his eye. It too often happens, as the result of our educational methods, that in training the observer we blight the poet; and the poet is, after all, the most important person in society. He keeps the soul of his fellows alive. Without him the modern world would become one vast, dreary, soul-destroying Coketown, and man would sink to the level of Gradgrind. The practical man develops the resources of the country, the man of vision discerns, formulates and directs its spiritual policy and growth; the mechanic builds the house, but the architect creates it; the artisan makes the tools, but the artist uses them; the observer sees and records the fact, but the scientist discovers the law; the man of affairs manages the practical concerns of the world from day to day, but the poet makes it spiritual, significant, interesting, worth living in.

The modern child passes through the same stages as did the children of four thousand years ago. He, too, is a poet. He believes that the world about him throbs with life and is peopled with all manner of strange, beautiful, powerful folk, who live just outside the range of his sight; he, too, personifies light and heat and storm and wind and cold as his remote ancestors did. He, too, lives in and through his imagination; and if, in later life, he grows in power and becomes a creative man, his achievements are the fruits of the free and vigorous life of his imagination. The higher kinds of power, the higher opportunities of mind, the richer resources, the springs of the deeper happiness, are open to him in the exact degree in which he is able to use his imagination with individual freedom and intelligence. Formal education makes small provision for this great need of his nature; it trains his eye, his hand, his faculty of observation, his ability to reason, his capacity for resolute action; but it takes little account of that higher faculty which, cooperating with the other faculties, makes him an architect instead of a builder, an artist instead of an artisan, a poet instead of a drudge.


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