« НазадПродовжити »
France,” said he,“ may die, but he is never ill.” He put his theory in practice by receiving diplomatists and playing the monarch quite to the last.
Montesquieu, in the Lettres Persanes, makes his “Européen assez sensé" discourse upon the faulty habit Asiatic royalty has, of secluding itself from the public gaze,—the result being that any attachment their subjects may cherish towards the throne is impersonal. “Cette puissance invisible qui gouverne est toujours la même pour le peuple. Quoique dix rois, qu'il ne connôit que de nom, se soient égorgés l'un après l'autre, il ne sent aucune différence.” The quoique dix rois may remind us of Pope's couplet,
“And when three sovereigns died, could not be vext,
Considering what a gracious prince was next.” Pope might have in remembrance, inter alia, the loyal and dutiful addresses of both houses to George the First, when they asserted their deep grief at “the death of our late sovereign lady Queen Anne, of blessed memory," and their lively pleasure at the accession of a monarch of such“ princely virtues” and “ undoubted right to the crown.” That crier in the law court of whom Judge Haliburton makes capital, and interest, is a typical official in his way; the crier namely, who at the first sitting of the court after the demise of the crown from William to Victoria, uttered his sonorous “Oyez! oyez ! His Majesty's (I mean Her Majesty's) court is now opened. God save the King (I mean the Queen).”
Niemcewicz describes, in his Notes of Captivity in Russia during the closing decade of the eighteenth century, the extreme perplexity of the courtiers at what he styles the “imperfect death" of the empress Catherine, who for so long a time lay motionless, “ except the abdomen, which still continued to heave.” The courtiers were in presence of two sovereigns; of whom the one was, a few hours ago, mistress of their fortunes and life, and might perhaps yet recover, because she still moved; the other, the Grand Duke, in the vigour of life and health, was already touching with the end of his fingers the sceptre which he would very probably hold firmly and long. Now zeal or indifference for one or the other might equally compromise them, and prove equally dangerous. “In this cruel dilemma, they took the abdomen of their sovereign as a compass to guide their actions and movements. It moved with force, they quickly surrounded the bed and uttered mournful lamentations; its motion began to slacken, and still more quickly, with an air half joyful, half respectful, they hurried to surround the Grand Duke. This manoeuvring of fear and flattery lasted during thirty hours without intermission, as the abdomen did not cease to move until twelve o'clock on the following morning, when the immortal Catherine died for good and all.” The Grand Duke was immediately proclaimed emperor, and took the reins and whip of government, handling them, according to Niemcewicz, with the impatience of a young coachman, who for a long time had been eagerly desirous to drive alone.
Happy was David's demise in every particular; in the manner of it, and in the time of it. He died in a good old age; but he outlived not his royal fame, wealth, and honours. It was a right royal ending. He went to his grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in his season. The mildewed ear that in the instance of Croesus blighted the wholesome remainder of the shock, was happily missing in that of the king of Salem, which is king of peace.
When the wise king of Tezcuco, as Prescott designates him, addressed his august relative Montezuma, with words pronouncing “happy the empire now in the meridian of its prosperity,” the sceptre being swayed by “one whom the Almighty has in His keeping,”—the felicitations were lavished on a monarch who was to live to see his empire melt away like the winter's wreath; to find himself a prisoner in the palace of his fathers; to be insulted, reviled, trodden in the dust, by the meanest of his subjects; to draw his last breath in the halls of the stranger, a lonely outcast in the heart of his own capital. The New World offers us in the person of Monte
zuma a double of what Chaucer calls “the richè Cresus caytif in servage.”
To point a moral and adorn a tale, for all time, a twice ten thousand told tale, is the lot of “that rich prince, to whom sage Solon said, ' Call no man happy till he's fairly dead.'”
" . . . Croesum, quem vox justi facunda Solonis
Respicere ad longæ jussit spatia ultima vita." Respicere. On the old rule however, Respice finem, William Hazlitt makes free to remark, that were that rule to be made absolute, so that no one could be pronounced fortunate till the day of his death, there are few among us whose existence would, upon these conditions, be much to be envied. But this he contends is not a fair view of the case : a man's life is his whole life, not the last glimmering snuff of the candle. The length or agreeableness of a journey does not depend on the last few steps of it, nor is the size of a building to be judged of from the last stone that is added to it.] Nevertheless the imagination and the feelings are vividly impressed with every such catastrophe of reverse as Juvenal commemorates; and they respond to the touch of Ovid's strain,
" ... ultima semper
Ante obitum nemo supremaque funera debet.” Plutarch was loth to give up, at the requisition of chronological criticism,” so favourite a story as that of Solon and
I “It is neither the first nor last hour of our existence, but the space that parts these two—not our exit nor our entrance upon the stage, but what we do, feel, and think while there—that we are to attend to in pronouncing sentence upon it.” Hazlitt, Essay on the Past and Future.
A more recent essayist, who, though anonymous, may justly be said to have made a name, has some remarks to the like purpose, when discoursing on the constant habit people have of looking at the history of a man's career as if its character depended principally on its catastrophe,-a man's life being looked upon as successful if it ends triumphantly, and as a failure if it ends gloomily. But, in point of fact, the essayist reminds us, if a man lives seventy years, his seventieth year contains neither more nor less than one-seventieth part of his life, and will surely affect its success or failure to that and to no greater extent.
2 He says, in his life of Solon: “I cannot prevail with myself to reject,
Croesus in conjunction and colloquy. Herodotus had told the story in his best story-telling style : how Cresus, king of Lydia, whose dominion extended over most of the countries westward of the river Halys, and whom the latest biographer of Herodotus calls “the Solomon of his age,” fabulously rich, magnificent in his expenditure, and of unbounded hospitality,
-was, for his reputation in these particulars, visited by great men from all quarters, who came, as Sheba's queen to Solomon's presence, to gaze their fill on the splendours of his court. Solon, as the story goes, was one of these foreign guests; and from Solon fain would the king elicit a confession that he considered him, Crcesus, the happiest of mankind. Solon refused to account any man happy till death had set its seal upon his felicity; and he took occasion, the old historian adds, to warn Croesus of the instability of all things human, expatiating on the jealous nature of the gods. The king was ruffled at the uncourtliness of the didactic sage, and dismissed
for the sake of certain chronological tables, which thousands are correcting to this day without being able to bring them to any certainty, a story so famous and well attested, nay (what is more) so agreeable to Solon's character, so worthy of his wisdom and magnanimity." The author of Athens, its Rise and Fall, “ cannot but feel grateful,” in Plutarch's own spirit, to the modern learning which has removed the only objection to the story in a seeming contradiction of dates ; for if, as contended by Larcher, by Wesseling, by Fynes Clinton, and others, we allow Creesus to have reigned jointly with his father Alyattes, the difficulty is presumed to vanish at once. Mr. Grote, however, pronounces all these attempts to obviate the chronological difficulties, and to save the historical character of this interview, unsuccessful. He takes the narrative of Solon and Croesus, and says it can be taken, for nothing but an illustrative fiction, borrowed by Herodotus from some philosopher, and clothed in his own peculiar beauty of expression, which on this occasion is more decidedly poetical than is habitual with him. It illustrates forcibly, as Mr. Grote accepts it, the religious and ethical ideas of antiquity; the deep sense of the jealousy of the gods, who would not endure pride in any one except themselves ; the impossibility, for any man, of realising to himself more than a very moderate share of happiness; the danger from reactionary Nemesis, if at any time he had overpassed such limit; and the necessity of calculations taking in the whole of life, as a basis for rational comparison of different individuals.
Sir G. Cornewall Lewis is equally decided in his judgment that the col. loquy of Solon with Crosus, beautiful as a fiction, cannot, for chronological reasons, hold its ground as history. The internal improbability of the story he declares to equal its chronological inconsistencies. Colonel Mure too dismisses it as a fabulous legend.
him in dudgeon. But all too soon he was to prove the truth of Solon's warning; the terrible Nemesis was awakened, says Herodotus, who deems the awakening due to that very boast of being the happiest of mortals. When Cyrus placed the royal Lydian on the pile of wood that was to consume him, then did Croesus bethink him of Solon's words, and thrice he gave plaintive utterance to Solon's name.
In that oldest extant of English tragedies, the Ferrex and Porrex of Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, the sorely troubled king, · Gorboduc, exclaims :
"Oh, no man happy till his end be seen.'
If any flowing wealth and seeming joy
It has been said of Sophocles that he was condemned to illustrate (after a period of unprecedented brilliancy) the melancholy moral inculcated (in the instance of Ædipus) by himself, and so often obtruded upon us by the dramatist of his country, “never to deem a man happy till death itself denies the hazard of reverses." Addison professes to have been very much pleased with a consolatory letter of Phalaris, (the letters of Phalaris were still accepted at that time of day,) to a bereaved father whom the writer essays to console by the reflection, that death had set a kind of seal upon the excellence of his son's character, and had removed him from liability to lapses from virtue, and so to forfeiture of his good name. “Death only closes a man's reputation, and determines it as good or bad.” This, among other motives, Addison proceeds to suggest, may be one reason why we are naturally averse to the launching out into a man's praise till his head is laid in the dust. While he is capable of changing, we may be forced to retract our opinions : he may forfeit the esteem we have conceived of him, and some time or other appear to us under a