The mind that is untroubled and tranquil has the power to roam into all the parts of its life; but the minds of the engrossed, just as if weighted by a yoke, cannot turn and look behind.
And, too, the utterance of the bard is most admirably worded to cast censure upon infinite delay, in that he says, not "the fairest age," but "the fairest day." Why, to whatever length your greed inclines, do you stretch before yourself months and years in long array, unconcerned and slow though time flies so fast?
Our Saviour deciphers such, and givesa caveat against them in Matthew 6:2, "when thou givest alms,do not sound a trumpet." A stranger would ask, "Whatmeans the noise of this trumpet?" It was answered, "Theyare going to give to the poor." And so they did not givealms, but sold them for honour and applause, that they might haveglory of men; the breath of men was the wind that blew the sailsof their charity; "verily they have their reward." Thehypocrite may make his acquittance and write, "received infull payment." Chrysostom calls vainglory one of the devil'sgreat nets to catch men.
Men trifle with the most precious thing in the world; but they are blind to it because it is an incorporeal thing, because it does not come beneath the sight of the eyes, and for this reason it is counted a very cheap thingnay, of almost no value at all.
Tell me, would you say that those men are at leisure who pass many hours at the barber's while they are being stripped of whatever grew out the night before?
But one man is possessed by an avarice that is insatiable, another by a toilsome devotion to tasks that are useless; one man is besotted with wine, another is paralyzed by sloth; one man is exhausted by an ambition that always hangs upon the decision of others, another, driven on by the greed of the trader, is led over all lands and all seas by the hope of gain; some are tormented by a passion for war and are always either bent upon inflicting danger upon others or concerned about their own; some there are who are worn out by voluntary servitude in a thankless attendance upon the great; many are kept busy either in the pursuit of other men's fortune or in complaining of their own; many, following no fixed aim, shifting and inconstant and dissatisfied, are plunged by their fickleness into plans that are ever new; some have no fixed principle by which to direct their course, but Fate takes them unawares while they loll and yawnso surely does it happen that I cannot doubt the truth of that utterance which the greatest of poets delivered with all the seeming of an oracle: "The part of life we really live is small." For all the rest of existence is not life, but merely time.
Glorifying God has respect to all the persons in the Trinity;it respects God the Father who gave us life; God the Son, wholost his life for us; and God the Holy Ghost, who produces a newlife in us; we must bring glory to the whole Trinity.
The resulting five-year expedition (1799–1804) to the Americas that Humboldt undertook with Bonpland took virtually the rest of his life to fully digest and describe. The two men would cover six thousand miles, from 52° N to 12° S, and bring back forty-five cases of specimens (sixty thousand items!), as well as a mass of astronomical, geological, meteorological, botanical, and oceanographic data. The expedition would lay the groundwork for a new direction in geography.
On June 5, 1799, the two men left the Spanish port of Corunna, bound for Havana aboard a packet-boat named Pizarro. Stocked with the most advanced scientific instruments he could acquire, Humboldt planned to measure and observe everything, including atmospheric temperature and pressure, ocean temperature and currents, terrestrial magnetism, the distribution of plants and animals, rocks and strata, humidity and other climatic conditions. The ship put in for a few days at Tenerife in the Canary Islands so the men could explore the volcano Pico de Teide, which had recently been active. (See Humboldt’s profile of the mountain, opposite.) During the Atlantic crossing, the ship’s crew and passengers suffered from a serious outbreak of typhoid fever, and so they changed course to land at the first South American port they could find. That was Cumaná, Venezuela, where they anchored on July 16. It was a serendipitous altering of plans for Humboldt and Bonpland, who had miraculously escaped the epidemic: they would begin their explorations in South America.
"Map of the Different Channels by Which the Precious Metals Flow from the One Continent to the Other.” Copperplate map, 15 × 28.7 cm. From vol. 4 of Humboldt’s Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, trans. from the French by John Black (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1811) [Rare Books Division].
In short order he was living in his brother’s house in Paris, where Wilhelm was taking a sojourn of his own to follow his cultural interests and indulging himself in the intellectual and social life of the city, which had become an international meeting-ground of top-flight thinkers. While visiting Louis Antoine de Bougainville, France’s first circumnavigator, Humboldt learned of the government’s plans for a new, five-year scientific expedition round the world on land and sea. The venerable explorer was in charge and invited Humboldt to join its staff. But the news was too good to last, for a new war soon was breaking out and the expedition plans were shelved.
Disappointed but still desiring to do something stimulating and challenging, Humboldt joined forces with Aimé Bonpland (1773–1858), the now-defunct expedition’s first-rate botanist, and the two ultimately walked from the Pyrenees to Madrid on a six-week journey of their own. Bonpland would prove to be the perfect companion (then and later)—always positive, level-headed, healthy, and humorous. During the trek Humboldt assiduously took scientific readings (astronomical and barometric) with his instruments, and his resulting topographic profile of the peninsula, the first of its kind, proved that central Spain was a high plateau.
In Madrid, his connections got him an introduction to the king and queen at court, where he explained his desire to visit Spanish-American colonies and the possible benefits that might result. Indeed, King Carlos IV thought a good geologist in New Spain might discover rich mineral deposits and readily agreed to lend his support: Humboldt and Bonpland were given unlimited permission to explore Spanish territory and passports that would open any door they encountered. Humboldt could not believe his sudden good fortune. One of the largest territories on the earth, stretching from Cape Horn to California, including most of the West Indies and all of Central America, as well as one-third of what is now the continental United States, was offered up for his scientific exploration! Most of that terrain was terra incognita, and no foreign scientist had been given such free rein there. He was determined to make the most of this unique opportunity, which he would finance from his own pocket.
Men do not suffer anyone to seize their estates, and they rush to stones and arms if there is even the slightest dispute about the limit of their lands, yet they allow others to trespass upon their lifenay, they themselves even lead in those who will eventually possess it.