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APPRECIATION of THE FAMOUS WORKS

Companionship of Books

Samuel Smiles

A man may usually be known by the books he reads as well as by the company he keeps; for there is a companionship of books as well as of men; and one should always live in the best company, whether it be of books or of men.
A good book may be among the best of friends. It is the same today that it always was, and it will never change. It is the most patient and cheerful of companions. It does not turn its back upon us in times of adversity or distress. It always receives us with the same kindness; amusing and instructing us in youth, and comforting and consoling us in age.

Men often discover their affinity to each other by the love they have each for a book --- just as two persons sometimes discover a friend by the admiration which both have for a third. There is an old proverb, “Love me, love my dog.” But there is more wisdom in this:“Love me, love my book.” The book is a truer and higher bond of union. Men can think, feel, and sympathize with each other through their favorite author. They live in him together, and he in them.

“Books,” said Hazlitt,“wind into the heart; the poet's verse slides in the current of our blood. We read them when young, we remember them when old. We feel that it has happened to ourselves. They are to be had very cheap and good. We breathe but the air of books.”

A good book is often the best urn of a life enshrining the best that life could think out; for the world of a man's life is, for the most part, but the world of his thoughts. Thus the best books are treasuries of good words, the golden thoughts, which, remembered and cherished, become our constant companions and comforters. “They are never alone,” said Sir Philip Sidney,“that are accompanied by noble thoughts.”

The good and true thought may in times of temptation be as an angel of mercy purifying and guarding the soul. It also enshrines the germs of action, for good words almost always inspire to good works.

Books possess an essence of immortality. They are by far the most lasting products of human effort. Temples and statues decay, but books survive. Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh today as when they first passed through their author's minds, ages ago. What was then said and thought still speaks to us as vividly as ever from the printed page. The only effect of time has been to sift out the bad products; for nothing in literature can long survive but what is really good.

Books introduce us into the best society they bring us into the presence of the greatest minds that have ever lived. We hear what they said and did; we see them as if they were really alive; we sympathize with them, enjoy with them, grieve with them; their experience becomes ours, and we feel as if we were in a measure actors with them in the scenes which they describe.

 The great and good do not die even in this world. Embalmed in books, their spirits walk abroad. The book is a living voice. It is an intellect to which one still listens. Hence we ever remain under the influence of the great men of old. The imperial intellects of the world are as much alive now as they were ages ago.

--- from Lee's Rhetoric

书 友

〔英〕赛缪尔·斯迈尔斯 王克礼 译

看一个人读些什么书就可知道他的为人,就像看一个同什么人交往就可知道他的为人一样。因为世界上有人的伴侣,也有书的伴侣。无论是书友或朋友,我们都应该择其最佳者而从之。

一本好书就像是一个最好的朋友。它始终不渝,过去如此,现在仍然如此,将来也永远不变。它是最有耐心、最令人愉快的伴侣。在我们穷愁潦倒、临危遭难的时候,它也不会抛弃我们,对我们总是一往情深。在我们年轻时,好书陶冶我们的性情,增长我们的知识;到我们年老时,它又给我们以安慰和勉励。

人们常常因为同爱一本书而结为知己,就像有时两个人因为敬慕同一个人而交为朋友一样。古谚说:“爱屋及乌”。但是,“爱我及书”这句话却有更深的哲理。书是更为坚实而高尚的情谊纽带。人们可以通过共同爱好的作家沟通思想感情,彼此息息相通。他们的思想共同在作者的著述里得到体现,而作者的思想反过来又化为他们的思想。

哈兹利特曾经说过:“书潜移默化人们的内心,诗歌熏陶人们的气质品性。少小所习,老大不忘,恍如身历其事。书籍价廉物美,不啻我们呼吸的空气。”

好书常如最精美的宝器,珍藏着人的一生思想的精华。人生的境界,主要就在于他思想的境界。所以,最好的书是金玉良言的宝库,若将其中的崇高思想铭记于心,就成为我们忠实的伴侣和永恒的慰籍。菲利普·悉尼爵士说得好:“有高尚思想作伴的人永不孤独。”

当我们面临诱惑的时候,优美纯真的思想会像仁慈的天使一样,纯洁并保卫我们的灵魂。优美纯真的思想也蕴育着行动的胚芽,因为金玉良言几乎总会启发善行。

书籍具有不朽的本质,是人类勤奋努力的最为持久的产物。寺庙会倒坍,神像会朽烂,而书却经久长存。对于伟大的思想来说,时间是无关重要的。多少年代前初次闪现在作者脑海里的伟大思想今天依然清新如故。他们当时的言论和思想刊于书页,如今依然那么生动感人。时间唯一的作用是淘汰不好的作品,因为只有真正的佳作才能经世长存。

书籍引导我们与最优秀的人物为伍,使我们置身历代伟人巨匠之间,如闻其声,如观其行,如见其人。同他们情感交融,悲喜与共。他们的感受成为我们自己的感受,我们觉得有点象是在作者所描绘的人生舞台上跟他们一起粉墨登场了。

即使在人世间,伟大杰出的人物,也是永生不灭的,他们的精神载入书册,传之四海。书是人们至今仍在聆听的智慧之声,永远充满着活力。所以,我们永远都是在受着历代伟人的影响。多少世纪以前的盖世英才,如今仍同当年一样,显示着强大的生命力。

——译自:《李氏修辞学》




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