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he did, rather to see in how many ways he could combine them on the floor than from any desire to make the acquaintance of their contents, met with an old Euclid. At the first sight of the uncouth figures and hieroglyphical letters that covered its pages, he jumped from the floor and shuffled about in a perfect ecstasy. Never were the fountains of his soul so stirred before. He see-sawed about the room in a grotesque attempt to dance, and tossing his cap in the air, endeavored to give it a playful kick, but failing in the attempt, came sprawling upon the floor, where he lay for some time, exhausted by his saltatory exertions, and grinning hideously.
As soon as this playful ebullition had subsided, he turned to the book, which he opened somewhat hastily, and was immediately ab. sorbed in its contents. The food for which his mind had been craving was found at last, and he was happy. The rohov' was his. From that moment his occupation was decided. His beloved Euclid occupied him night and day. His companions and the old people endeavored to argue him out of his unreasonable and exclusive devotion to this pursuit; but in vain. They might as well have reasoned with a post. Porter was impervious to argument. In fact he did not appear to comprehend what they were aiming at. He would listen at first, with a dubious air, which would gradually deepen into a stare of the most intense perplexity and wonder, and if the expostulation were still continued, his face would soon lose all expression and exhibit nothing but a dead unmeaning blank. It was useless to contend against such obstacles to conviction, and Porter was allowed to pursue the even tenor of his way unmolested; beside, it was agreed on all hands that he could dive into a proposition and extract its pith and marrow while others were breaking their teeth against the outside. Thenceforth, every table and chair was carved over with all imaginable grotesque figures, and his mother once discovered him hard at work upon her wedding ring, in an obstinate attempt to square the circle. "He cleared the Pons Asinorum' at a stride, and plunged headlong into the deepest mire beyond, and wallowed in it as if it had been his native element. Theories, propositions, formulas and solutions, were devoured with the same insatiable relish that the os. trich exhibits while breaking his fast upon his favorite dishes of old leather and iron.
In the mean time his visage elongated; his shirt, whenever he had one, for he sometimes forgot it entirely, or perhaps put it into his pocket for a handkerchief, was beautifully variegated, with here and there a patch of whitish-brown upon what was apparently a grayish black ground, and his sturdy hairs projected from his head in every direction in the most picturesque confusion, like the lances of a troop of cavalry in a furious fight. His frame was built in the most beauti. ful mathematical proportion. Nearly every figure in Euclid could have been demonstrated upon the different parts of his body. His belly and shoulders were regularly perfect segments of circles; his legs formed a superb ellipse, scraping a most intimate and affectionate acquaintance with each at the extremities, but retreating apparently in huge disgust at the knees ; his head was a correct cone, broad at the base, and gradually contracting its limits and becoming beautifully less till it rose to the apex, which was decorated with a tuft vulgarly called cow-lick, which waved gracefully over the hairy hill beneath, like a warrior’s plume. He had a huge mouth, graced with a most portentous set of teeth, forming an acute right angle with a monstrous pair of ears, whose rough and ragged sides it almost touched. He wore a rusty brov hat, stuck upon his head with mathematical precision, and a thread-bare black coat, cut in right angles, each of which was demonstrably correct; and his nose, overlapping his mouth, seemed to threaten a descent upon a huge greasy stock, buckled tightly about his neck. Such was the outward man of Porter Piper.
By dint of persevering and desperate digging, aided by a continual thunder of moods, tenses and conjugations in his ears by his instructor, and a sturdy application of the birch to that part of the human frame divine' which has been made from time immemorial to serve as a conducting medium to the brain, Porter mastered a sufficiency of Latin and Greek to enable him to enter college, where his father had determined to send him, wisely thinking that even if his son were an ass, there was nothing to prevent him from becoming a good mathematician.
So Porter, in the fulness of time, was dispatched to college. The evils and accidents that befell him on the road, we have not space to relate. Suffice it to say that he arrived, was examined and admitted on account of his proficiency in mathematics, although it is unnecessary to say, his examination in his other studies was far from being brilliant. The first night of his instalment, his room was entered by a marauding pack of sophomores, who saw a large quantity of rich material for sport in him, and who encased his head in his basin instead of a night-cap, put him into bed, inserted the coal-hod into his embraces, and tucking him nicely up, left him muddled and stupified, without any very clear perception of where he was or what had been done to him.
The next day he commenced the regular routine of study. He was utterly impenetrable to history, philosophy, or metaphysics, which he could neither understand nor remember, but in mathematics he bore away the palm. The brilliant logician, the polished writer, and the profound philosopher, could not compete with him a moment. Like the bat, he could see with the greater ease the thicker the darkness; but if dragged into light he was blind in a moment.
Porter was a hard student. He dug without cessation in the labyrinth of mathematics, until he reached such a depth as was never known to have been attained but by those gifted like himself. His efforts reminded one of an industrious maggot assiduously penetrating a decayed cheese. Nor was his attention distracted from his favorite pursuit by any other studies. For all but the pure mathematics he entertained the most sincere contempt; at least as far as he was capable of the feeling. Various attempts were made to induce him to read something beside propositions and theories, and Milton was put into his hands by a well-meaning friend. Porter perused it for some time in silence. At last he threw down the book with a mingled air of astonishment and disgust, and after a long and profound deliberation, pronounced it as his opinion that the book was good for nothing : •For, Sir,' said he, “it is all assertion and not a word of proof.'
After spending the usual time in college, he took his degree with distinguished honors. Shortly after graduating, he published a work upon the · Parabola of the Concatenary Fluxion,' which immediately attracted the attention of all the mathematical literati, and took a high rank at once.
The fame of this work, and the reputation he had before acquired, induced the college to appoint him professor, with a high salary; being glad at any price to secure the services of a man so singularly adapted to his science.
His friends, after a long series of fruitless attempts, succeeded in convincing him that it would be well for him to take unto himself a helpmate. They accordingly looked about to find a suitable match for him, and pitched at last upon a lusty buxom widow of forty, the relict of a rich vintner. Porter's attempts at wooing were at first abortive. After being introduced to the lady he was persuaded to pay
her a visit of ceremony. The widow received him with great politeness, and seating him beside her on the sofa, awaited the object of his mission. But in vain ; for Porter, sitting bolt upright, looked into vacancy, grim and ghastly. At last, driven to desperation, she addressed him some random questions. Porter, roused, turned his huge goggle-eyes upon her with an expression of intense sagacity, and seemed about to reply. But words and sentiments were not the tenants of Porter's brain. The situation grew momently more embarrassing ; neither spoke, but the widow sat as if fascinated, gazing upon the portentous pair of blinkers fastened upon her. At last
, driven to desperation, he grinned, gasped, wheezed, and finally, grasping his rusty beaver, lumbered from the room with unwonted precipitation.
This had nearly disgusted him with the fair sex; but at last the importunities of his friends induced him to send her a written proposal. Accordingly, after two days' labor, he produced the following epistle : • MADAM: My love for you to marriage.
* PORTER.' This laconic epistle was forthwith despatched, and the widow capitulated. It was only after a long training that Mrs. Piper was able to initiate him into his connubial duties, of which he seemed not to have the least idea. But at last she succeeded. In the fulness of time a host of white-headed brats were squalling about the door, to the infinite delight of Mrs. Piper, and to the huge disquiet and vexation of
Porter, who shambled about, sometimes tumbling over them, and occasionally treading on them, while engaged in deep medi. tation. In the mean time he went on writing and
publishing, until he was allowed on all hands to be the Napoleon of mathematics. But all earthly things must have an end, and so had Porter. On one unlucky day he tumbled into a ditch, whose cubical contents he was endeavoring to ascertain, and received a severe ducking, which carried him off with a fever in two days. His last words were : The unknown and known quantities will soon be put into equation.'
L L T E R A R Y
PHANTASIA, AND OTHER POEMS. By Mrs. JAMES HALL. In one volume. New-York : GEORGE P. PUTNAM.
Poetry is no longer in America a sickly struggling plant; it is fast opening into splendid blossom. Poems which twenty years ago would have made a reputation are now found as usual occurrences in the pages of our periodicals, and sometimes in the columns of the daily newspapers ; frequently anonymous, as if the author did not think it worth his while to be known or to be identified with them. These things tend to show that poetry is more generally cultivated and perhaps better appreciated among us now than formerly. At all events, our country can boast at present a large and brilliant cluster of poetical stars, of which it may well be proud. Particularly may we point to the genius which has been shown by our female writers, whose poems, sometimes gathered into a bouquet, and sometimes scattered like wayside flowers, adorn our rising literature.
We have been well pleased in reading the volume of poems lately published by Mrs. Hall. Its typographical beauty first arrested our attention, but we soon found
metal more attractive.' There is in its small compass much profound thought, much deep and tender sentiment, and frequent manifestations of high descriptive power. The writer's home is the realm of passion and feeling. The thoughts of other days haunt her. In the moonlight night her mind wanders back to the days of dawning life ; of youth, with its hopes, joys and aspirations. She feels the bleakness and barrenness of real life, which the advance in the path of existence discloses. The first and principal poem in the collection is an exemplification of this. It reminds us of WORDSWORTH's sublime ode :
THERE was a time when meadow, grove and stream,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,' etc. The same thought is well developed in the following stanza from • Phantasia :'
• This is life's bitterest portion; thus to mark
How the free heart is shadowed day by day,
On life's dimmed tide floats silently away;
Of Memory's harp beneath morn's glancing ray;
Give place to sterner thoughts, to toil and care :
Unto the early freedom; much to dare
And much to win remains, but ever found
Unwreathed with the fresh bloom of that enchanted ground.' VOL. XXXIV.