I have been considering whether it is more productive of pleasure really to have seen or heard the admitted best of everything, beyond which you can never expect to go, and as compared with which you must actually hereafter be content invariably to meet the inferior, or whether one had better, for the retention of future interest in things, not see the very topmost and unrivalled of each. I have met people whose ears, for instance, were so cultivated as to render it painful for them to listen even to the grandest music if indifferently performed; some who had "atmosphere" and "chiaro-oscuro" so fully developed that copies of even the "Madonna di San Sisto" were only daubs offensive to the eye; others who, having seen Macready in Macbeth, find the tragedy stale in others' hands. Now I don't believe this ensues where the love of the art itself is genuine; and I rejoice to say that having once listened to an oratorio at the Handel Festival with four thousand selected performers, that oratorio becomes forever a source of exquisite enjoyment, performed where or how it may be. If poorly done, the mind floats up toward the region, if it does not attain quite the same height, where it soared at the perfect recital; the distinct images there seen, which Confucius justly gives music the power of creating, come vividly again as the notes swell forth. The priests who call are different, indeed, but the gods who respond are one and the same. So having seen Janauschek in Lady Macbeth, all other Lady Macbeths participate in her quality. Having almost worshipped Raphael's Madonna, all other Madonnas have a touch of her power. It is of the very essence of genius that it educates one to find beauty and harmony where before he would only have trodden over barren sands, and the grand and poor performances of any masterpiece are not a contrast to the truly receptive, but are as steps leading from the lowest to the highest in the same temple. Because one has been awe-stricken by Niagara's torrent, are the other waterfalls of the world to be uninteresting? No; to the man whose soul has really been impressed, every tiny stream that tumbles down in foam is related to the greater wonder, partaking to some extent of its beauty and grandeur. Having seen the Himalayas, are the more modest but not less dear Alleghanies to lose their charm and power? Never! Let me go forward, then, and revel without misgivings in the highest of human and divine creations, as I may be privileged to see or hear or know them. I do not fear that I shall ever become a member of the extensive band we meet in our travels who have become incapable of enjoying anything but the best.
We paid a visit to the river one morning to see the Hindoos performing the sacred rite of bathing, which their religion commands. Crowds of men and women enter the water promiscuously and pray together. What a mercy that Brahma thought of elevating, personal cleanliness to the rank of the virtues! What thousands are saved every year in consequence! What this crowded hive of human beings in hot India would become without this custom it is fearful to contemplate. I find our friends all regretting that Mohammed was less imperative upon this point. His followers take rather to sprinkling than immersion, for dipping hands and feet in water is held by them as quite sufficient, and both are not equally efficacious as purifiers in the tropics, however they may be as religious ceremonies.
A Boston clipper ship was being unloaded of its cargo of Wenham Ice as we strolled along the wharf in the warm early morning. The great blocks were carried upon the heads of the naked Sudras, one at a time, and even at this early hour the ice was melting fast, the drops of cool water forming tiny rills on the soiled, dark skins of the carriers, who no doubt enjoyed the rare luxury of something really cold. The exportation of ice to the East was a great Boston industry at that time; today it is wholly gone, the artificial being now made and sold at every centre for one-third the price commanded by the natural product. A slight improvement in the mode of manufacture, and, presto! here at the Equator, where the temperature is always at our summer heat, we make ice by the ton and are able to sell it at prices which the poorest population in the world can readily pay. Where are we going to stop in the domain of invention?