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IMITATION OF THE SECOND CHORUS
Second Act of Seneca's Thyestus. When will the gods, propitious to our prayers compose our factions, and conclude our wars? Ye sons of Inachus, repent the guilt of crowns usurp'd and blood of parents spilt; for impious greatness, vengeance is in store; short is the date of all ill-gotten power. Give ear, ambitious princes, and be wise ; listen, and learn wherein true greatness lies: place not your pride in roofs that shine with gems, in purple robes, nor sparkling diadems; nor in dominion, nor extent of land; he's only great, who can bimself command, whose guard is peaceful innocence, whose guide is faithful reason; who is void of pride, checking ambition; nor is idly vain of the false incense of a popular train ; who without strife, or envy, can behold his neighbour's plenty, and his heaps of gold; nor covets other wealth, but what we find in the possessions of a virtuous mind.
Fearless he sees, who is with virtue crown'd, the tempest rage, and hears the thunder sound; ever the same, let fortune smile or frown, on the red scaffold, or the blazing throne; serenely, as he liv'd, resigns bis breath, meets destiny half way, nor shrinks at death. Ye sovereign lords, who sit like gods in state
awing the world, and bustling to be great; lords but in title, vassals in effect, whom lust controuls, and wild desires direct: the reins of empire but such hands disgrace, where passion, a blind driver, guides the race. What is this fame, thus crowded round with slaves? the breath of fools, the bait of flattering knaves : an honest heart, a conscience free from blame, not of great acts, but good, give me the name: in vain we plant, we build, our stores increase, if conscience roots up all our inward peace. What need of arms, or instruments of war, or battering engines that destroy from far? the greatest king, and conqueror is he, who lord of his own appetites can be; blest with a pow'r that nothing can destroy, and all have equal freedom to enjoy.
Whom worldly luxury, and pomps allure, they tread on ice, and find no footing sure; place me, ye powers ! in some obscure retreat, 0! keep me innocent, make others great: in quiet shades, content with rural sports, give me a life remote from guilty courts, where free from hopes or fears, in humble ease, unheard of, I may live and die in peace.
Happy the man who thus retir'd from sight, studies himself, and seeks no other light: but most unhappy he, who sits on high, expos'd to every tongue and every eye; whose follies blaz'd about, to all are known, but are a secret to himself alone : worse is an evil fame, much worse than none.
BY MRS. ELIZABETH HIGGINS.
Cease, tempting Siren, cease thy flattering strain, sweet is thy charming song, but sung in vain: when the winds blow, and loud the tempest roar, what fool would trust the waves, and quit the shore? early, and vain, into the world I came, big with false hopes, and eager after fame; till looking round me, ere the race began, madmen, and giddy fools, were all that ran; reclaim'd betimes, I from the lists retire, and thank the gods, who my retreat inspire. In happier times our ancestors were bred, when virtue was the only path to tread: give me, ye gods! but the same road to fame. Whate'er my fathers dar'd, I dare the same. Chang'd is the scene, some baneful planet rules an impious world, contriv'd for knaves and fools. Look now around, and with impartial eyes consider, and examine all who rise; weigh well your actions and their teach'rous ends, how greatness grows, and by what steps ascends; what murders, treasons, purjuries, deceit; how many crush’d, to make one monster great. Would you command ? Have fortune in your power?' hug when you stab, and smile when
deyour? be bloody, false, flatter, forswear, and lie, turn pander, pathic, parasite, or spy; such thriving arts may your wishi'd purpose bring, a minister at least, perhaps a king.
Fortune, we most unjustly partial call, a mistress free, who bids alike to all; but on such terms as only suit the base, honour denies and shuns the foul embrace. The honest man, who starves and is undone, nor fortune, but his virtue keeps him down. Had Cato bent beneath the conquering cause, he might have liv’d to give new senates laws; but on vile terms disdaining to be great, he perish'd by his choice, and not his fate. Honours and life, th' usurper bids, and all that vain mistaken men good-fortune call, virtue forbids, and sets before his eyes an honest death, which he accepts, and dies :
O glorious resolution! noble pride! more honour'd, than the tyrant liy'd, he dy'd; more lov'd, more prais'd, more envy'd in his doom, than Cæsar trampling on the rights of Rome. The virtuous nothing fear, but life with shame, and death's a pleasant road that leads to fame.
On bones, and scraps of dogs let me be fed, my limbs uncover'd, and expos'd my head to bleakest colds, a kennel be my bed. This, and all other matyrdom for thee, seems glorious, all, thrice beautious honesty! judge me, ye powers ! let fortune tempt or frown I stand prepar’d, my honour is my own.
Ye great disturbers, who in endless noise, in blood and rapine seek unnatural joys; for what is all this bustle but to shun those thoughts with which you dare not be alone ? As men in misery, opprest with care, seek in the rage of wine to drown despair. Let others fight, and eat their bread in blood,
regardless if the cause be bad or good;
Happy the man, of mortals happiest he,
Where dwells this peace, this freedom of the mind ! where, but in shades remote from human kind; in flowery vales, where nymphs and shepherds meet, but never comes within the palace gate. Farewell then cities, courts, and camps, farewell, welcome, ye groves, here let me ever dwell, from cares, from business, and mankind remove, all but the muses, and inspiring love: how sweet the morn! how gentle is the night! how calm the evening! and the day how bright!