Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

bounds; Fame is short-lived, and, if acquired, becomes often the mark of calumny, and may be blasted by the breath of slander. As to literary fame, he who seeks it will usually find many competitors, who will study to mortify him, and sink his reputation. Observe the merchant or tradesman, whose grand object is to acquire wealth. With what eagerness and unremitting attention he applies to business; his countenance bespeaks solicitude and anxiety: he rises early and sits up late to obtain a fortune, which he thinks, in some future period to enjoy, 'in retirement from the noise and hurry of public life. This hope animates him, and makes labour sweet. See him in the situation he so much desired, and looked forwards to with so much pleasure, and you will find him discontented and unhappy. He has now little employment, time hangs heavy on his hands, every trifle is a burden, and idleness the greatest of all : perhaps old age steals on him, and decripitude loudly tells him he must soon quit his possessions. He looks back with regret on his former days, and with sighs recalls to his mind the times of health and vigour, when his hours of leisure were few, but those few were marked with an inward satisfaction. He reflects on past industry, on his successes, and the expectation of enjoying the fruit of his labour. His hopes however are disappointed ; and he longs to mix again in the busy circle of life, that his uneasy reflections may

be relieved. Thus life passes; the multitude miss their aim ; are dissatisfied and unhappy, however distinguished by their possessions, their rank, or abilities ; or envied by others for the advantages they enjoy. The curtain then drops and death closes the scene. It is an incontro. vertible assertion, that nothing can afford us substantial, permanent pleasure, which does not affect the heart; and that there are true pleasures within the reach of most persons. Health may in a great measure be preserved by temperance, by moderating our passions, and avoiding excess in the indulgence of them. A freedom from self-reproach is essential to peace of mind.

A good heart will produce a cheerful countenance; and a benevolent temper lead to actions which yield pleasures the sensualist and man of the world never experience. Friendship is a source of many delightful sensations; and love, properly placed, and equally returned, counterbalances a thousand inconveniences. They are springs of the most delightful feelings, and sweetens even the bitterest cup. The persuasion that perfect happiness is not to be attained, should lead every wise man to make much of the comforts lie possesses, and to cherish that temper and disposition which will preserve him from being ruffled and disturbed at little events. Religion teaches us to look forward to a better state of existence, where happiness shall be for ever united to virtue, and pain and sorrow shall be known no more,

THE DEAD ASS.

Sterne,

-AN

ND this, said he, putting the remains of a

crust into his wallet-and this should have been thy portion, said he, hadst thou been alive to have shared it with me.

I thought by the accent it had been an apostrophe to his child; but it was to his ass. The man seemed to lament it much ; and it instantly brought into my mind Sancho's lamentation for his ; but he did it with more true touches of nature. The mourner was sitting upon a stone-bench at the door, with the ass's pannel and its bridle on one side, which he took up from time to time—then laid them down looked at them, and shook his head. He then took his crust of bread out of his wallet again, as if to eat it; held it some time in his hand-then laid it upon the bit of his ass's bridle-looked wistfully at the little arrangement he had made—and then gave a sigh.

The simplicity of his grief drew numbers about him, and La Fleur amongst the rest, whilst the horses were getting ready : as I continued sitting in the post-chaise, I could see and hear over their heads.

He said he had come last from Spain, where he had been from the farthest borders of Franconia ; and had reached so far on his return home, when his ass died. Every one seemed desirous to know what business could have taken so old and poor a man so far a journey from his own home. It had pleased heaven, he said, to bless him with three sons, the finest lads in all Germany; but having in one week lost two of the eldest of them by the small-pox, and the youngest falling ill of the same disteniper, he was afraid of being bereft of them all; and made a vow, if heaven would not take him from him also, he would go in gratitude to St. Iago in Spain.

When the mourner came to this part of his story, le stopped to pay Nature her tribute and wept bitterly.

He said, Heaven had accepted the conditions; and that he had set out from bis cottage with this poor creature, who had been a paient partner of his journey—that it had eaten the same bread with him all the way, and was unto him as a friend. Every body who stood about, heard the poor fellow with concern.La Fieur offered him money. The mourner said, he did not want it-it was not the value of the ass- -but the loss of him.--The ass, he said, he was assured, loved him-and, on this, told them a long story of a mischance on their passage over the Pyrenean mountains which had separated them from each other three days; during which time the ass had sought for him as

much as he had sought the ass, and that they had neither scarcely eaten or drunk till they met.

Thou hast one comfort, friend, said I, at least, in the loss of thy poor beast: I am sure thou hast been a merciful master to him.--Alas! said the mourner, I thought so when he was alive-but now that he is dead, I think otherwise.- I fear the weight of myself and

my afflictions together have been too much for him, they have shortened the poor creature's days, and I fear I have them to answer for --Shame on the world! said I to myself.--Did we love each other as this poor soul loved his ass-it would be something.

ON DEPENDENCE.

Goldsmith.

NEW virtues have been more praised by moralists

tends to increase our sensibility of the distresses of others, and to relax the grasp of frugality. Philosophers that are poor, praise it because they are gainers by its effects; and the opulent Seneca himself has written a treatise on Benefits, though he was known to give nothing away. But among the many who have enforced the duty of giving, I am surprised there are none to inculcate the ignominy of receiving, to shew that by every favour we accept, we in some measure forfeit our native freedom, and that a state of continual dependence on the generosity of others is a life of gradual debasement.

Were men taught to despise the receiving obligations with the same force of reasoning and declamation that they are instructed to confer them, we might

then see every person in society filling up the requisito duties of his station with cheerful industry, neither relaxed by hope, nor sullen from disappointment.

Every favour a man receives, in some measure sinks him below his dignity; and in proportion to the value of the benefit, or the frequency of its acceptance, he gives up so much of his natural independence. He therefore, who thrives upon the unmerited bounty of another, if he has any sensibility, suffers the worst of servitude. The shackled slave may murmur without reproach, but the humble dependent is taxed with ingratitude upon every symptom of discontent; the one may rave round the walls of his cell, but the other lingers in all the silence of mental confinement. To increase his distress, every new obligation but adds to the former load which kept the vigorous mind from rising; till at last, elastic no longer, it shapes itself to constraint, and puts on habitual servility.

It is thus with the feeling mind: but there are some who, born without any share of sensibility, receive favour after favour, and still cringe for more; who accept the offer of generosity with as little reluctance as the wages of merit, and even make thanks for past benefits an indirect petition for new. Such, I grant, can suffer no debasement from dependence, since they were originally as vile as was possible to be; dependence degrades only the ingenuous, but leaves the ordid mind in pristine meanness. In this manner, therefore, long continued generosity is misplaced, or it is injurious ; it either finds a man worthless, or it makes him so: and true it is, that the

person who is contented to be often obliged, ought not to have been obliged at all.

Yet while I describe the meanness of a life of continued dependence, I would not be thought to include those natural or political subordinations which subsist in every society; for in such, though dependence is exacted from the inferior, yet the obligation on either

« НазадПродовжити »