The Boy Who Could See Nothing But Flowers
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
A POOR clergyman at Rashhalt, Sweden, found himself possessed of a son who was the cause of much grief and great mortification to the worthy man, from his inability and unwillingness to pursue the learned studies then in vogue. Of musty books he would have none; Nature was the only book he would attend to, and botany alone received his earnest attention.
Finding all his efforts useless, the pastor sent his son away to school; but he found to his sorrow, that matters had mended so little, that the teachers advised him finally to apprentice the youth to a shoemaker or tailor, as he would never be fit for anything better.
The discouraged father tried other institutions, but it was the same story everywhere; nothing could be said against the moral character of his son, but he could not acquire any knowledge, except such useless sort as related to plants and flowers and the like, or in poring over such books as touched upon those subjects.
Finally, the father gave up the attempt to educate his son, and we find the latter taking matters thereafter in his own hands, and turning up eventually at the University of Upsala, where he devoted himself almost exclusively to his favorite study. At that period, botany was about the most unpromising pursuit that one could select ; indeed, the science was almost entirely neglected, so that during the entire stay of the young man at the college, he never heard a public lecture on the subject. Arriving at the university, the young man studied ardently at botany; all such works as were obtainable he devoured, and then there was the great Book of Nature, everywhere waiting for him. They were very trying times, those, to the youth ; he was extremely poor, and suffered from every privation. The pangs of hunger were frequent visitors indeed; for much of this period he was indebted to generosity for food. His clothes were in the most dilapidated condition, and so full of holes were his shoes, that he stuffed paper in the openings to protect his feet. Yet none of these things deterred the student, nor for one moment did he think of giving up his loved pursuit, but in spite of all, the days, and indeed most of the nights, were given up to study, so that each day he was accumulating an enormous store of botanical knowledge.
One day, Celsius, the Professor of Divinity, who was himself somewhat inclined to botany, while walking in the Academical garden, found the ragged student entirely engrossed in examining some plant. Impelled by curiosity, he entered into conversation with him, when he was so amazed at the learning displayed, that he at once took an active interest in the young man ; made him an inmate of his home, saw that he was properly fed and clad, and obtained for him employment in teaching some children, whereby his lot was made one of comparative comfort. Nor did the good professor's kindness stop here, he brought the youth to the attention of Rudbeck, the professor of botany, who soon discovered such excellence in him, that he had him appointed his adjunctus, and he henceforth delivered lectures in the college.
From this point life changed for the poor student; the way indeed was yet far from easy, many difficulties and great trials lay in wait, but the struggling pedant surmounted them all, and lived to see his name—Linnaeus—known all over the world as its greatest naturalist. Honors from every nation poured in upon him, wealth flowed generously to him, and every day his reputation so grew, that when his end came, at a ripe old age, as one old chronicler expressed, " he died in a blaze of glory."
There has been this persistency of purpose which made Linnaeus so successful, in all those who have rendered signal service, or achieved distinction in the various departments of science. Difficulties that seemed insurmountable have been overcome ; repeated discouragements have not disheartened them, but only tended to increase their courage. The difficulties that would have defeated men of weaker wills, were transmuted, by their deep determination, into the instruments of their victory.
Such tenacity of purpose is necessary to success in the religious life. There are lions in the way ; there are serpents hidden in every hedge ; there are nets spread, and pitfalls dug for the feet, and there is a savage behind every tree. There has to be the strongest and most persistent determination to make any headway, and the strength of the Divine Will also is necessary to make the journey and achieve the victory.
It is a lovely thing to see Linn eus lost in the contemplation of God's beautiful thoughts in the planted realm, and determined to learn the secrets God had ready to reveal to those who should persistently seek them. It is a still more lovely thing to be lost in the Divine personality, by whose word and energy the material things exist, and know the secrets of his heart, which he is willing to communicate to all those who diligently seek them; and to know by blest experience his Son, who is the beauty of all beauties, and the loveliness of all love.