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Eliz. What a soothing - what an elevating thought!
Kath. If it be not only a mere fancy.
Fri. At all events, these qualities which I have enumerated, are rarely found united in a single individual. How much more rare must it be that two such individuals should meet together in this wide world under circumstances that admit of their union as Husband and Wife! A person may be highly estimable on the whole, nay, amiable as neighbor, friend, housemate—in short, in all the concentric circles of attachment, save only the last and inmost; and yet from how inany causes be estranged from the highest perfection in this! Pride, coldness, or fastidiousness of nature, worldly cares, an anxious or ambitious disposition, a passion for display, a sullen temper,—one or the other,—too
“ the dead fly in the compost of spices," and any one is enough to unfit it for the precious balm of unction. For some mighty good sort of people, too, there is not seldom a sort of saturnine, or, if you will, ursine vanity, that keeps itself alive by sucking the paws of its own self-importance. And as this high sense, or rather sensation of their own value is, for the most part, grounded on negative qualities, so they have no better means of preserving the same than by negatives, that is, by doing or saying anything, that might be put down for fond, silly, or nonsensical; or (to use their own phrase) by never forgetting themselves, which some of their acquaintance are uncharitable enough to think the most worthless object they could be employed in remembering.
Eliz. (in answer to a whisper from Katharine).
and repeated it with the same pleasure, had his own name been attached to the imaginary object or agent.
After the recitation, our amiable host observed, that in his opinion Mr. ***** had over-rated the merits of the poetry ; but had they been tenfold greater, they could not have compensated for that malignity of heart, which could alone have prompted sentiments so atrocious. I perceived that my illustrious friend became greatly distressed on my account; but fortunately I was able to preserve fortitude and presence of mind enough to take up the subject without exciting even a suspicion how nearly and painfully it interested me.
What follows, is the substance of what I then replied, but dilated and in language less colloquial. It was not my intention, I saiil, to justify the publication, whatever its anthor's feelings might have been at the time of composing it. That they are calculated to call forth so severe a reprobation from a good man, is not the worst feature of such poems. Their moral deformity is aggravated in proportion to the pleasure which they are capable of affording to vindictive, turbulent, and unprincipled readers. Could it be supposed, though for a moment, that the author seriously wished what he had thus wildly imagined, even the attempt to palliate an inhumanity so monstrous would be an insult to the hearers. But it seemed to me worthy of consideration, whether the mood of mind, and the general state of sensations, in which a poet produces such vivid and fantastic images, is likely to co-exist, or is even compatible with that gloomy and deliberate ferocity which a serious wish to realize them would pre-suppose. It had been often observed, and all my experience tended to confirm the observation, that prospects of pain and evil to others, and in general, all deep feelings of revenge, are commonly expressed in a few words, ironically tame and mild. The mind under so direful and fiend-like an influence seems to take a morbid pleasure in contrasting the intensity of its wishes and feelings, with the slightness or levity of the expressions by which they are hinted; and indeed feelings so intense and solitary if they were not precluded (as in almost all cases they would be) by a constitutional activity of fancy and association, and by the specific joyousness combined with it, would assuredly themselves preclude
such activity. Passion, in its own quality, is the antagonist of action; though in an ordinary and natural degree the former alternates with the latter, and thereby revives and strengthens it. But the more intense and insane the passion is, the fewer and the more fixed are the correspondent forms and notions. A rooted hatred, an inveterate thirst of revenge, is a sort of madness, and still eddies round its favorite object, and exercises as it were a perpetual tautology of mind in thoughts and words, which admit of no adequate substitutes. Like a fish in a globe of glass, it moves restlessly round and round the scanty circumference, which it cannot leave without losing its vital element.
There is a second character of such imaginary representations as spring from a real and earnest desire of evil to another, which we often see in real life, and might even anticipate from the nature of the mind. The images, I mean, that a vindictive man places before his imagination, will most often be taken from the realities of life; they will be images of pain and suffering which he has himself seen inflicted on other men, and which he can fancy bimself as inflicting on the object of his liatred. I will suppose that we had heard at different times two common sailors, each speaking of some one who had wronged or offended him; that the first with apparent violence had devoted every part of his adversary's body and soul to all the horrid phantoms and fantastic places that ever Quevedo dreamt of, and this in a rapid flow of those outrageous and wildly combined execrations, which too often with our lower classes serve for escape-valves to carry off the excess of their passions, as so much superfluous steam that would endanger the vessel if it were retained. The other, on the contrary, with that sort of calmness of tone which is to the ear what the paleness of anger is to the eye, shall simply say, If I chance to be made boatswain, as I hope I soon shall, and can but once get that fellow under my hand (and I shall be upon the watch for him), I'll tickle his pretty skin! I won't hurt him! oh, no! I'll only cut the
to the liver!" I dare appeal to all present, which of the two they would regard as the least deceptive symptom of deliberate malignity ? nay, whether it would surprise them to see the first fellow, an hour or two afterwards, cordially shaking hands with the very man, the fractional
Doubts tossed him to and fro; Hope keeping Love, Love Hope alive, Like babes bewildered in the snow, That cling and huddle from the cold In hollow tree or ruined fold,
Those sparkling colors, once his boast,
Fading one by one away, Thin and hueless as a ghost,
Poor Fancy on her sick bed lay: Ill at distance, worse when near, Telling her dreams to jealous Fear ! Where was it, then, the sociable sprite That crowned the Poet's cup and decked his dish! Poor shadow cast from an unsteady wish, Itself a substance by no other right But that it intercepted Reason's light; It dimmed his eye, it darkened on his brow A peevish mood, a tedious time, I trow!
Thank Heaven ! 'tis not so now.
O bliss of blissful hours !
Whate'er it was, it is no longer so;
And that is next to best!
THE GARDEN OF BOCCACCIO.
When life seems emptied of all genial powers,
Emerging from a mist; or like a stream Of music soft that not dispels the sleep, But casts in happier moulds the slumberer's