« AnteriorContinuar »
and rejoice ; believing, he said, that a cheerful and contented mind was the best sort of thanks to heaven that an illiterate peasant could pay.--Or learned prelate either, said I.
XVIII.— Rustic Felicity. MANY, are the silent pleasures of the honest peasant, who rises cheerfully to his labour.–Look into his dwelling
where the scene of every man's happiness chiefly lies ; he has the same domestic endearments—as much joy and comfort in his children, and a flattering hopes of their doing well-to enliven his hours and gladden his heart, as you would conceive in the most affluent station.—And I make no doubt, in general, but if the true account of his joys and sufferings were to be balanced with those of his betters—that the upshot would prove to be little more than this ; that the rich man had the more meat-but the poor man the better stomach ;-the one had more luxury-more able physicians to attend and set him to rights :-the other, more health and soundness in his bones, and less occasion for their help ; that, after these two articles betwixt them were balanced--in all other things they stood upon a level
that the sun shines as warm—the air blows as fresh, and the earth breathes as fragrant upon the one as the other; -and they have an equal share in all the beauties and real benefits of nature.
XIX.—House of Mourning. · LET us go into the house of mourning, made so by such afflictions as have been brought in merely by the common cross accidents and disasters to which our condition is exposed—where, perhaps, the aged parents sit broken-hearted, pierced to their souls, with the folly and indiscretion of a thankless child--the child of their prayers, in whom all their hopes and expectations centered :--Perhaps, a more affecting scene--a virtuous family lying pinched with want, where the unfortunate support of it, having long struggled with a train of misfortunes, and bravely fought up against them, is now piteously borne do!yn at the last-overwhelmed with a cruel blow, which no forecast or frugality could have prevented. O God! look upon his afflictions. Behold him distracted with many sorrows, surrounded with the tender pledges of his love ; and the partner of his cares without bread to give them ; unable from the remembrance of better days to dig ;-to beg, ashamed.
When we enter into the house of mourning ; such as this—it is impossible to insult the unfortunate, even with an improper look.--Under whatever levity and dissipation of heart such objects catch our eyes—they catch likewise our attentions, collect and call home our scattered thoughts, and exercise them with wisdom. A transient scene of distress, such as is here sketched, how soon does it furnish materials to set the mind at work! How necessarily does it engage it to the consideration of the miseries and misfortunes, the dangers and calamities, to which the life of man is subject ! By holding up such a glass before it; it forces the mind to see and reflect upon the vanity-the perishing condition, and uncertain tenure of every thing in this world. From reflections of this serious cast, how insensibly do the thoughts carry us farther!-and, from considering what we are, what kind of world we live in, and what evils befall us in it, how naturally do they set us to look forward at what possibly we shall be ;– for what kind of world we are intendedwhat evils may befall us there and what provisions we should make against them here, whilst we have time and opportunity !-If these lessons are so inseparable from the house of mourning here supposed—we shall find it a still more instructive school of wisdom, when we take a view of the place in that affecting light in which the wise man seems to confine it in the text;-in which by the house of mourning, I believe he means that particular scene of sorrow, where there is lamentation and mourning for the dead. Turn in bither, I beseech you, for a moment. Behold a dead man ready to be carried out, the only son of his mother, and she a widow. Perhaps a still more affecting spectacle, a kind and indulgent father of a numerous family lies breathless-snatched away in the strength of his age-torn, in an evil hour, from his children, and the bosom of a disconsolate wife. Behold much people of the city gathered together to mix their tears, with settled sorrow in their looks, going heavily along to the house of mourning, to. perform that last melancholy office, which, when the debt of nature is paid, we are called upon to pay each other. If this sad occasion, which leads him there,.has not done it already, take notice to what a serious and devout frame of mind every man is reduced, the moment he enters this gate of affliction.-The busy and fluttering spirits which, in the house of mirth, were wont to transport him from one diverting object to another-see how they are fallen! how peace
ably they are laid! In this gloomy mansion, full of shades and uncomfortable damps to seize the soul-see, the light and easy heart, which never knew what it was to think before, how pensive it is now, how soft, how susceptible, how full of religious impressions, how deep it is smitten with a sense, and with a love of virtue.-Could we, in this crisis, whilst this empire of reason and religion lasts, and the heart is thus exercised with wisdom, and busied with heavenly contemplations—could we see it naked as it is stripped of its passions, unspotted by the world, and regardless of its pleasures--we might then safely rest our cause upon this single evidence, and appeal to the most sensual, whether Solomon has not made a just determination here in favour of the house of mourning ? Not for its own sake, but as it is fruiful in virtue, and becomes the occasion of so much good. Without this end, sorrow, I own, has no use but to shorten a man's days_nor can gravity, with all its studied solemnity of look and carriage, serve any end but to make one half of the world merry, and impose upon the other.
SECTION III. 1.- The Honour and Advantage of a constant Adherence to
Truth. PETRARCH, a celebrated Italian poet, who flourished about four hundred years ago, recommended himself to the confidence and affection of Cardinal Colonna, in whose family he resided, by his candour and strict regard to truth. A violent quarrel occurred in the household of this nobleman; which was carried so far, that recourse was had to arms. The Cardinal wished to know the foundation of this affair; and that he might be able to decide with justice, he assembled all his people, and obliged them to bind themselves, by a most solemn oath on the gospels to declare the ' whole truth. Every one, without exception, submitted to this determination ; even the Bishop of Luna, brother to the Cardinal, was not excused. Petrarch, in his turn, presenting himself to take the oath, the Cardinal closed the book, and said, As to you, Petrarch, your word is sufficient.
II.--Impertinence in Discourse. THIS kind of impertinence is a habit of talking much without thinking.
· A man who has this distemper in his tongue shall entertain you, though he never saw you before, with a long story in praise of his own wife; give you the particulars of last night's dream, or the description of a feast he has been at, without letting a single dish escape him. When he is thus entered into conversation, he grows very wise—descants upon the corruption of the times, and the degeneracy of the age we live in ; from which, as his transitions are somewhat sudden, he falls upon the price of corn, and the number of strangers that are in town. He undertakes to prove, that it is better putting to sea in summer than in winter, and that rain is necessary to produce a good crop of corn; telling you in the same breath, that he intends to plough up such a part of his estate next year, that the times are hard, and that a man has much ado to get through the world. His whole discourse is nothing but hurry and incoherence. He acquaints you, that Demippus had the largest torch at the feast of Ceres ; asks you if you remember how many pillars are in the music theatre; tells you that he took physic yesterday; and desires to know what day of the month it is. If you have patience to hear him, he will inform you what festivals are kept in August, what in October, and what in December.
When you see such a fellow as this coming towards you, run for your life. A man had much better be visited by a fever; so painful is it to be fastened upon by one of this make, who takes it for granted that you have nothing else to do, but to give him a hearing.
III.-Character of Addison, as a Writer. AS a describer of life and manners, Mr. Addison must be allowed to stand perhaps the first in the first rank. His humour is peculiar to himself; and is so happily diffused, as to give the grace of novelty to domestic scenes and daily occurrences. He never o’ersteps the modesty of nature ; nor raises merriment or wonder by the violation of truth. His figures neither divert by distortion, nor amaze by aggravation. He copies life with so much fidelity, that he can hardly be said to invent; yet his exhibitions have an air so much original, that it is difficult to suppose them not merely the product of imagination.
As a teacher of wisdom, he may be confidently followed. His religion has nothing in it enthusiastic or superstitious; he appears neither weakly credulous, nor wantonly scepti
cal; his morality is neither dangerously lax, nor implacably rigid. All the enchantments of fancy, and all the cogency of arguments, are employed to recommend to the reader his real interest, the care of pleasing the Author of his being. Truth is shown sometimes as the phantom of a vision, sometimes appears half veiled in an allegory, sometimes attracts regard in the robes of fancy, and sometimes steps forth in the confidence of reason. She wears a thousand dresses, and in all is pleasing.
His prose is the model of the middle style; on grave subjects not formal, on light occasions not grovelling; pure without scrupulosity, and exact without apparent elaboration ; always equable and always easy, without glowing words or pointed sentences. His page is always luminous, but never blazes in unexpected splendor. It seems to have been his principal endeavour to avoid all harshness and severity of diction; he is therefore sometimes verbose in his transitions and connexions, and sometimes descends too much to the language of conversation ; yet, if his language had been less idiomatical, it might have lost somewhat of its genuine Anglicism. What he attempted he performed; he is never feeble, and he did not wish to be energetic ; he is never rapid, and he never stagnates. His sentences have neither studied amplitude nor affected brevity; his periods, though not.diligently rounded, are voluble and easy. Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison.
IV.—Pleasure and Pain. THERE were two families, which, from the beginning of the world, were as opposite to each other as light and darkness. The one of them lived in heaven, and the other in hell. The youngest descendant of the first family was Pleasure, who was the daughter of Happiness, who was the child of Virtue, who was the offspring of the gods. These, as I said before, had their habitation in heaven. The youngest of the opposite family was Pain, who was the son of Misery, who was the child of Vice, who was the offspring of the Furies. The habitation of this race of beings was in hell. · The middle station of nature between these two opposite extremes was the earth, which was inhabited by creatures of a middle kind; neither so virtuous as the one, nor so vicious