« AnteriorContinuar »
In my youth, not far from this, lived a man named Hilary. He was a stranger, who, possessing no fortune, came to establish himself in our neighbourhood. He had an agreeable exterior, and his manners were pleasing, so that he got himself introduced into the best society, and became in time the soul of every circle.
Hilary, knowing how to profit by the good-will which was everywhere shown him, asked the hand of a rich young lady, the daughter of a merchant; and although her parents were for a long time opposed to it, they nevertheless at length gave their consent. He entered into partnership with his father-in-law, and soon became a rich man.
As he was everywhere so well received, and all he said and did was so generally approved, Hilary began to entertain a very high opinion of himself, and to think that all those praises were really his due. Thus vanity became his weak point.
Many people were aware of this fault, and took advantage of it; they praised all his words and actions, and led him according to their pleasure. Little by little there was gathered around him a swarm of flatterers, who buzzed about him like so many bees, surrounded his table, and led him into all kinds of extravagance. Such were the effects of vanity.
In his native village there lived a sister of Hilary, who had contracted an unfortunate marriage. One day the idea of helping her suddenly occurred to him, and he sent a letter to the town in which she dwelt, but received no
A year after, he was informed by a traveller that the husband of Henrietta was dead. This increased his desire for her to be near him; but all his inquiries after her were in vain.
So Hilary continued to live in the midst of pleasure and gaiety. He did much good, not from charity, but from vanity: Whenever he hoped to be praised for an action, he did not hesitate to do it; but when it must be performed in secret, it was at once renounced, however good and noble it might be.
One day, a poor woman entreated to enter the town with
her two children; but was sent away, notwithstanding her earnest supplications. The cold was extreme, and night was approaching. It chanced that Hilary wss riding on horseback, and met the poor woman, who implored him to have compassion on her, telling him that the guards at the gate had repulsed her.
Hilary was touched with pity at the unfortunate situation of the poor woman; and nothing would have been easier for him than to have admitted her into the town; but, thought he, no one will praise me for it. So he threw a few shillings to the poor creature, and went on his way. Next morning, both she and her children were found dead on the high road. Being unable, from exhaustion, to reach the neighbouring village, night had surprised her, and she had sunk insensible on the snow, where she perished with the cold. Upon inquiry, the unfortunate woman proved to be Hilary's sister.
This mournful event made a deep impression upon his mind; for he could accuse none but himself. He chided himself for his vanity, which alone had been the cause of his conduct towards Henrietta. It was not till many months after, that his mind was a little quieted.
Vanity caused him still further annoyances. Many persons, feeling offended at the unmerited praises of which he was constantly the object, seized every opportunity of humbling him. The flatterers by whom he was surrounded led him into dissipation. He gave sumptuous dinners, including the most costly dishes, and best wines. He had turtles from America ; tuns of old wine from Hungary, and the Cape of Good Hope; he gave two, and even three, ducats for a pine-apple ; and his table was loaded with every rarity. Hilary did all this for his flatterers, who, to show their gratitude, stripped him of all he possessed. The rich Hilary was thus reduced to beggary,
His numerous court abandoned him, maliciously blaming the conduct which they before pretended to approve. Hilary fell into despair, and at last died a miserable death. Such were the sad effects of vanity.-Altered from the German,
OMAR'S WAY OF LIFE,
OMAR, the son of Hussan, had passed seventy-five years in honour and prosperity. The favour of three successive Califs had filled his housc with gold and silver ; and when. ever he appeared, the benedictions of the people proclaimed his passage.
Terrestrial happiness is of short continuance. The brightness of the flame is wasting its fuel; the fragrant flower is passing away in its own odours. The vigour of Omar began to fail, the curls of beauty fell from his head, strength departed from his hands, and agility from his feet. He gave back to the Calif the keys of trust and the seals of secrecy; and sought no other pleasure for the remains of life than the converse of the wise, and the gratitude of the good.
The powers of his mind were yet unimpaired. His chamber was filled by visitants, eager to catch the dictates of experience, and officious to pay the tribute of admiration. Caled, the son of the viceroy of Egypt, entered every day early, and retired late. He was beautiful and eloquent; Omar admired his wit, and loved his docility. Tell me, said Caled, thou to whose voice nations have listened, and whose wisdom is known to the extremities of Asia, tell me how I may resemble Omar the Prudent? The arts by which you have gained power and preserved it, are to you no longer necessary or useful; impart to me the secret of your conduct, and teach me the plan upon which your wisdom has built your fortune.
Young man, said Omar, it is of little use to form plans of life. When I took my first survey of the world, in my twentieth year, having considered the various conditions of mankind, in the hour of solitude I said thus to myself, leaning against a cedar which spread its branches over my head : “
Seventy years are allowed to man; I have yet fifty remaining : ten years I will allot to the attainment of knowledge, and ten I will pass in foreign countries; I shall be learned, and therefore shall be honoured; every city will shout at my arrival, and every student will solicit my friendship. Twenty years thus passed will store my mind with images, which I shall be busy through the rest
of my life in combining and comparing. I shall revel in inexhaustible accumulations of intellectual riches; I shall find new pleasures for every moment, and shall never more be weary of myself. I will, however, not deviate too far from the beaten track of life, but will try what can be found in female delicacy. I will marry a wife beautiful as the Houries, and wise as Zobeide; with her I will live twenty years within the suburbs of Bagdat, in every pleasure that wealth can purchase and fancy can invent. I will then retire to a rural dwelling, pass my days in obscurity and contemplation, and lie silently down on the bed of death. Through my life it shall be my settled resolution, that I will never depend upon the smile of princes; that I will never stand exposed to the artifices of courts; I will never pant for public honours, nor disturb my quiet with affairs of state.” Such was my scheme of life, which I impressed indelibly upon my memory.
The first part of my ensuing time was to be spent in search of knowledge; and I know not how I was diverted from my design. I had no visible impediments without, nor any ungovernable passions within. I regarded knowledge as the highest honour and the most engaging pleasure; yet day stole upon day, and month glided after month, till I found that seven years of the first ten had vanished, and left nothing behind them. I now postponed my purpose of travelling; for why should I go abroad, while so much remained to be learned at home ? I immured myself for four years, and studied the laws of the empire. The fame of my skill reached the judges; I was found able to speak upon doubtful questions, and was commanded to stand at the footstool of the Calif. I was heard with attention, I was consulted with confidence, and the love of praise fastened on
I still wished to see distant countries, listened with rapture to the relations of travellers, and resolved some time to ask my dismission, that I might feast my soul with novelty ; but my presence was always necessary, and the stream of business hurried me along. Sometimes I was afraid lest I should be charged with ingratitude ; but I still proposed to travel, and therefore would not confine myself by marriage.
In my fiftieth year I began to suspect that the time of travelling was past, and thought it best to lay hold on the felicity yet in my power, and indulge myself in domestic pleasures. But at fifty no man easily finds a woman beautiful as the Houries, and wise as Zobeide. I inquired and rejected, consulted and deliberated, till the sixtysecond year made me ashamed of gazing upon girls. I had now nothing left but retirement; and for retirement I never found a time, till disease forced me from public employment.
Such was my scheme, and such has been its consequence. With an insatiable thirst for knowledge, I trifled away the years of improvement; with a restless desire of seeing different countries, I have always resided in the same city; with the highest expectation of connubial felicity, I have lived unmarried; and with unalterable resolutions of contemplative retirement, I am going to die within the walls of Bagdat.—The Idler.
THE DYING SWAN.
“ Must I alone be silent and songless ?” spake sighingly the quiet swan to himself, while he bathed in the radiance of the setting sun; “ almost I alone in the whole realm of the feathered kind ? Certainly, as for the cackling goose, the clacking hen, and the screeching peacock, I envy not their sounds; but thee, O soft Philomela, I envy thee, when 1,-as if enchained by thy song,-move slowly along in my wavy undulations, and linger, as if intoxicated, in the resplendence of the heavens. How would I sing of thee, thou golden evening sun-sing of thy beautiful light and my own bliss-plunge myself in the bright mirror of thy rosy bosom, and die !"
Transported, the swan dived down, and scarcely had he raised himself up again out of the waters, when a shining form, which stood on the shore, beckoned him to come to him. It was the god of the evening and morning sunthe beautiful Phobus.
“Sweet, lovely creature,” said he, “the desire is fulfilled to thee which thou hast so often cherished in thy silent breast, and which could not before be granted.”