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And now Pestalozzi, an old man of eighty and tired of life, returns to Neuhof, where, exactly half a century before, he had started his first Poor School. Well may he exclaim: "Verily it was as if I were putting an end to my life itself by this return, so much pain did it give me".
AFTER the storm and stress of, perhaps, the sternest fight that ever man fought to uplift his fellows by means of education, Pestalozzi returned to his starting place once more. Though he had in fact won a great world victory for progress, he thought he was defeated, if not disgraced. Even so his noble soul and ardent mind would not be stilled. Once more he takes up his pen to tell the truth, as he sees it, of his life and work; and to deliver yet again the message he bears. Now, as ever, he does not spare himself, but freely and frankly admits his many faults and failures: all he asks is that the truth that is in him and his work shall be properly recognised and appreciated.
No sooner did he arrive again at Neuhof than he began to write his Swan's Song (or Death-Song). In this he gives a final statement of his views on education. He also wrote My Fortunes as Superintendent of my Educational Establishments at Burgdorf and Yverdon; wherein he gives his own account of the happenings at these places, and tries to show that Schmid was his true friend and saviour. Whilst these writings are, as would be expected, full of sadness and despondency,
they are by no means the morbid meanderings of age and decay. De Guimps speaks of the Swan's Song as "one of his most remarkable works"; and Raumer, who was well qualified to judge, says: "These last writings of Pestalozzi have been regarded by many as the melancholy and languid outpourings of the heart of a dying old man. As far as concerns the old man's judgments on the institution, as it was at the time of my stay at Yverdon, I consider them for the most part highly truthful, and as affording evidence that he was not deficient in manly clearness and penetration even in his old age."
But these two works are but a fraction of his undertakings in his last days. Being short of means, he proposed to raise money by publishing editions of his work in English and in French. So Schmid was sent to Paris and London to get subscribers and arrange, if possible, for the publication of his works; and even for a new periodical in French. All this with a view to carrying out his ever-cherished plan of a Poor School at Neuhof. After fifty years' absence from Neuhof, one of the first things he did on his return to it was to give orders for the buildings for a Poor School. Whilst these orders were being carried out, much too slowly for his burning zeal, he constantly went and taught in the village school at Birr; and once more interested himself in the affairs of his old friends amongst the peasants.
Of his personal appearance at this time we have an account by Henning-one of his "old boys "—who visited him at Neuhof, in August, 1825. He says: "I had not seen him for thirteen years, and found him
looking older certainly, but on the whole very little changed. He was still active and strong, simple and open; his face still wore the same kindly, plaintive expression; his zeal for human happiness, and especially for the education of poor and little children, was as keen as thirteen years before. In spite of the heat he accompanied me to Lenzburg, and valiantly mounted the two or three hundred steps leading to the castle. . . The vivacity of his speech and the vigour of all his movements inspired me with the hope that the term of his earthly existence was still far off. My heart was full when I took leave of the kind old man. I shall never forget the time that it was my good fortune to spend with him."
For a meeting of the Helvetian Society-of which he had been enthusiastically elected president the previous year-in April, 1826, at Schinznach, he wrote an address On Fatherland and Education. In November of the same year he was present at a meeting of the Society for the Promotion of Education, of Brugg, for which he had written a paper entitled Attempt at a Sketch on the Essence of the Idea of Elementary Education, and dealing with the simplest means of educating children from the cradle to the sixth year, in the domestic circle. The paper was read for him by the pastor of Birr; but afterwards Pestalozzi spoke with all his old vigour and passionate zeal for the education of the little
In July, 1826, Pestalozzi and Schmid visited Zeller's school for orphans, at Beuggen, where a touching festival was arranged in his honour. The children received him with singing; and he was then offered an