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1. N° 1. TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 1752.
Hậc arte Pollux, et vagus Hercules
As every man in the exercise of his duty to himself and the community, struggles with difficulties which no man has always surmounted, and is exposed to dangers which are never wholly escaped ; life has been considered as a warfare, and courage as a virtue more necessary than any other. It was soon found, that without the exercise of courage, without an effort of the mind by which immediate pleasure is rejected, pain despised, and life itself set at hazard, much cannot be contributed to the public good, nor such happiness procured to ourselves as is consistent with that of others.
But as pleasure can be exchanged only for pleasure, every art has been used to connect such gratifications with the exercise of courage, as compensate for those which are given up; the pleasures of the imagination are substituted for those of the senses, and the hope of future enjoyments for the possession of present; and to decorate these pleasures and this hope, has wearied eloquence and exhausted learning. Courage has been dignified with the name of heroic
virtue; and heroic virtue has deified the hero; his statue, hung round with ensigns of terror, frowned in the gloom of a wood or a temple; altars were raised before it, and the world was commanded to worship. ·
Thus the ideas of courage, and virtue, and honour, are so associated, that wherever we perceive courage, we infer virtue and ascribe honour; without considering, whether courage was exerted to produce happiness or misery, in the defence of freedom or support of tyranny.
But though courage and heroic virtue are still confounded, yet by courage nothing more is generally understood than a power of opposing danger with serenity and perseverance. To secure the honours which are bestowed upon courage by custom, it is indeed necessary that this danger should be voluntary: for a courageous resistance of dangers to which we are necessarily exposed by our station, is considered merely as the discharge of our duty, and brings only a negative reward, exemption from infamy.
He, who at the approach of evil betrays his trust or deserts his post, is branded with cowardice; a name, perhaps, more reproachful than any other, that does not imply much greater turpitude: he who patiently suffers that which he cannot without guilt avoid, escapes infamy, but does not obtain praise. It is the man who provokes danger in its recess, who quits a peaceful retreat, where he might have slumbered in ease and safety, for peril and labour, to drive before a tempest or to watch in a camp; the man who descends from a precipice by a rope at quidnight, to fire a city that is besieged; or who ventures forward into regions of perpetual cold and carkness, to discover new paths of navigation, and disclose new secrets of the deep; it is the Adventurer
alone on whom every eye is fixed with admiration, and whose praise is repeated by every voice.
But it must be confessed that this is only the praise of prejudice and of custom : reason as yet sees nothing either to commend or imitate: a more severe scrutiny must be made, before she can admit courage to belong to virtue, or entitle its possessor to the palm of honour.
If new worlds are sought merely to gratify avarice or ambition, for the treasures that ripen in the distant mine, or the homage of nations whom new arts of destruction may subdue; or if the precipice is descended merely for a pecuniary consideration; the Adventurer is, in the estimation of reason, as worthless and contemptible, as a robber who defies a gibbet for the hire of a strumpet, or the fool who lays out his whole property on a lottery ticket. Reason considers the motive, the means, and the end ; and honours courage only when it is employed to effect the purpose of virtue. Whoever exposes life for the good of others, and desires no superadded reward but fame, is pronounced a hero by the voice of reason; and to withhold the praise that he merits, would be an attempt equally injurious and impossible. How much then is it to be regretted, that several ages have elapsed, since all who had the will, had also the power, thus to secure at once the shout of the multitude, and the eulogy of the philosopher! The last who enjoyed this privilege were the heroes that the history of certain dark ages distinguishes by the name of Knights Errant; beings who improved the opportunities of glory that were peculiar to their own times, in which giants were to be encountered, dragons destroyed, enchantments dissolved, and captive princesses set at liberty.
These heroes, however numerous, or wherever they dwelt, had nothing more to do, than, as soon
as Aurora with her dewy fingers unlocked the rosy portals of the East, to mount the steed, grasp the lance, and ride forth attended by a faithful squire; a giant or a dragon immediately appeared; or a castle was perceived with a moat, a bridge, and a horn: the horn is sounded, a dwarf first appears, and then an enchanter; a combat ensues, and the enchanter is defeated : the knight enters the castle, reads a talisman, dissolves the enchantment, receives the thanks of the princesses and encomium of the knights; then is conducted by the principal lady to the court of her father; is there the object of universal admiration, refuses a kingdom, and sets out again to acquire new glory by a series of new adventures.
But if the world has now no employment for the Knight Errant, the Adventurer may still do good for fame. Such is the hope with which he quits the quiet of indolence and the safety of obscurity; for such ambition he has exchanged content, and such is his claim as a candidate for praise. It may, indeed, be objected, that he has no right to the reward; because, if it be admitted that he does good for fame, it cannot be pretended that it is at the risk of life : but honour has been always allowed to be of greater value than life. If, therefore, the Adventurer risks honour, he risks more than the Knight. The ignominy which falls on a disappointed candidate for public praise, would by those very Knights have been deemed worse than death; and who is more truly a candidate for public praise than an author! But as the Knights were without fear of death, the Adventurer is without fear of disgrace or disappointment: he confides, like them, in the temper of his weapon, and the justice of his cause; he knows he has not far to go, before he will meet with some fortress that has been raised by sophistry for
the asylum of error, some enchanter who lies in wait to insnare innocence, or some dragon breathing out his poison in defence of infidelity; he has also the power of enchantment, which he will exercise in his turn; he will sometimes crowd the scene with ideal beings, sometimes recall the past, and sometimes anticipate the future; sometimes he will transport those who put themselves under his influence to regions which no traveller has yet visited, and will sometimes confine them with invisible bands till the charm is dissolved by a word, which will be placed the last in a paper which he shall give them.
Nor does he fear that this boast should draw upon him the imputation of arrogance or of vanity ; for the Knight when he challenged an army, was not thought either arrogant or vain; and yet as every challenge is a boast, and implies a consciousness of superiority, the ostentation is certainly in proportion to the force that is defied; but this force is also the measure of danger, and danger is the measure of honour. It must also be remarked, that there is great difference between a boast of what we shall do, and of what we have done. A boast when we enter the lists, is a defiance of danger; it claims attention, and it raises expectation ; but a boast when we return, is only an exultation in safety, and a demand of praise which is not thought to be due; for the praise that is thought to be due is always paid. Let it be remembered, therefore, that if the Adventurer raises expectation, he proportionably increases his danger; and that he asks nothing which the public shall desire to withhold.