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PARSONS, THEOPHILUS, an American legal and religious writer, born at Newburyport, Mass., May 17, 1797; died at Cambridge, Mass., January 26, 1882. He was the son of Theophilus Parsons, a noted jurist of Massachusetts, was graduated at Harvard in 1815, studied law, and practised in Taunton and Boston. For several years he engaged in literary pursuits and founded and edited the United States Free Press. From 1847 to 1882 he was Dane Professor of Law in Harvard, which gave him the degree of LL.D. in 1849. He published a memoir of his father (1859), and several works on Swedenborgianism, including three volumes of Essays (1845); Deus Homo (1867); The Infinite and the Finite (1872), and Outlines of the Religion and Philosophy of Swedenborg (1875). His law-books include The Law of Contracts (1853; 5th ed., 1864); Elements of Mercantile Law (1856); Laws of Business for Business Men (1857); Maritime Law (1859); Notes and Bills of Exchange (1862); Shipping and Admiralty (1869), and The Political, Personal, and Property Rights of a Citizen of the United States (1875).
“ The spirit of his books,” says the London Athenæum, “is that of devotional philosophy. He has views of his own, and brings to their exposition a certain amount of ingenious illustration.” Ed. ward Everett considered him “a gentleman of great discernment and of the highest intelligence.” “We regard the treatise on The Law of Contracts," says The American Law Register,“ taken as a whole, clear in statement, diligent in citation, accurate in detail, commendable in research, excellent in learning, simple in style, and altogether the most carefully considered and best prepared exhibition of the comprehensive law of contracts that has ever yet been presented in the English language."
I have spoken of the perpetual swell and heaving of the sea ; there is also its tide. Shakespeare tells us that there is a tide in the affairs of men. Certainly there is a tide in the minds of men. He must be very unobservant of himself who does not know that the mind rises and falls, that it swells into fulness and strength, and then fades into emptiness and weakness, we know not how, we know not why. Formerly the tides of the sea were also a great mystery. Slowly did observation disclose that they were under the influence of the moon, and, still later, of the sun. Science, accepting this fact as the basis of its inquiry, has, for years, been engaged in the investigation of the tides, and cannot yet answer all the questions presented by their flow and ebb. So with the tides of the mind. The philosophy of mind has been occupied with them from the beginning of thought, and has made little or no progress. We, however, are taught now, that the ever-flowing and ebbing tides of the mind are caused and governed by our faith and by our love ; first and most, or most directly, by our faith, which has most to do with intellectual things, and which the moon, that gives light only, represents; and also by our love, which the sun, that is the source of heat, represents. Let the science of mind accept this truth as the law of its inquiry, and it may wisely and successfully employ itself in the investigation of the tides of the mind. We have seen that the perpetual motion of the sea tends to preserve it in a healthful condition. Once I was becalmed in midocean for a few days only, and during all of them the great swell of the ocean rose and fell. But in this short time the smooth surface of the sea seemed to put on an oily aspect; unwholesome patches became visible here and there, and in spots it looked thick and turbid. A great poet, with all the truth of poetry, which is sometimes truer than science, has thus described a long, un. broken calm and its effect. Coleridge represents his ancient mariner as reaching a tropical sea, and there
Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,
'Twas sad as sad could be,
The silence of that sea.
The bloody sun at noon
No bigger than the moon.
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion :
Upon a painted ocean.
That ever this should be !
Upon that slimy sea ! As I read this word-painting, it presents to me a picture of a mind which the sweet influences of heaven, the sun, the moon, and wind of the spirit, are wholly unable to move or stir into any activity. And in that poetry I see how such a mind must stagnate, and putrefy, until "slimy things do crawl upon that 'slimy sea."
But not this motion only tends to preserve the waters of the sea in their healthy condition, so that they may nourish the immeasurable amount of life which they contain, and continue fit to bear men safely across their surface. For it is the salt in the sea which is its great preservative.
We all know that to keep food eatable for a great length of time we salt it down. But salt is just as necessary and useful for food we daily consume. The reason of this, or the effect of salt upon the digestion and health, is not yet fully understood..
Nor let us forget, that it has already been discovered by these physical investigations, that in the depths of the sea, and at their very bottom, there also is life. For it may teach us that, far down in the depths of the human mind, far beyond our reach or our consciousness, there may be forms and modes of life which may be the beginning of the intellectual life and the earliest links of that series which comes up afterward before our consciousness, and gradually constitutes the wide world of our knowledge.—Essays.
PARSONS, THOMAS WILLIAMS, an American poet, born in Boston, August 18, 1819; died at Scituate, Mass., September 3, 1892. He was educated at the Boston Latin School, and in 1836 visited Italy, where he made Dante a special study. In 1853 he took the degree of M.D. at Harvard ; and for several years practised dentistry at Boston. In 1843 he published a translation of the first ten cantos of Dante's Inferno, and the remaining cantos in 1867. His original works are Ghetto di Romo, a volume of poems (1854); The Magnolia (1867); The Old House at Súdbury (1870); The Shadow of the Obelisk (1872); Circum Præcordia (1892).
Griswold says, in his Poets of America : “ Parsons's translation of the first ten cantos of Dante's Inferno is the most successful reproduction of the spirit and power of the Divina Commedia in the English language. His Hudson River is the noblest tribute any stream on this continent has received from a poet, and his lines on the Death of Daniel Webster are far better than anything else ever written in verse on the death of an American statesman."
ON A BUST OF DANTE.
Whom Arno shall remember long,