Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

before any conception of. It was covered with a multitude of people, chiefly youth; many of whom pressed for. wards with the liveliest expressions of ardour in their countenance, though the way was in many places steep and difficult. I observed, that those who had but just begun to climb the hill, thought themselves not far from the top; but, as they proceeded, new hills were continually rising to their view, and the summit of the highest they could before discern seemed but the foot of another, till the mountain at length appeared to lose itself in the clouds. As I was gazing on these things with astonishment, my good genius suddenly appeared :-" The mountain before thee,” said he, “is the Hill of Science. On the top is the temple of Truth, whose head is above the clouds, and a veil of pure light covers her face. Observe the progress of her votaries; be silent and attentive.”

I saw that the only regular approach to the mountain was by a gate, called the Gate of Languages. It was kept by a woman of a pensive and thoughtful appearance, whose lips were continually moving, as though she repeated something to herself. Her name was Memory. On entering this first enclosure, I was stunned with a confused murmur of jarring voices and dissonant sounds; which increased upon me to such a degree, that I was utterly confounded, and could compare the noise to nothing but the confusion of tongues at Babel.

After contemplating these things, I turned my eyes towards the top of the mountain, where the air was always pure and exhilarating, the path shaded with laurels and other evergreens, and the effulgence which beamed from the face of the goddess seemed to shed a glory round her votaries. "Happy," said I, "are they who are permitted to ascend the mountain!”—but while I was pronouncing this exclamation with uncommon ardour, I saw standing beside me a form of diviner features and a more benign radiance. "Happier," said she, “ are those whom Virtue conducts to the mansions of Content !”. What,” said I, “does Virtue then reside in the vale?”—“I am found,” said she, “in the vale, and I illuminate the mountain : I cheer the cottager at his toil, and inspire the sage at his meditation. I mingle in the crowd of cities, and bless the hermit in his cell. I have a temple in every heart that owns my influance; and to him that wishes for me, I am already present. Science may raise you to eminence; but I alone can guide

a

to felicity!"—While the goddess was thus speaking, 1 stretched out my arms towards her with a vehemence which broke my slumbers. The chill dews were falling around me, and the shades of evening stretched over the landscape. I hastened homeward, and resigned the night to silence and meditation

Aikin's Miscellanies.

The Planetary and Terrestrial Worlds. To us, who dwell on its surface, the earth is by far the most extensive orb that our eyes can any where behold: it is also clothed with verdure, distinguished by trees, and adorned with a variety of beautiful decorations; whereas, to a spectator placed on one of the planets, it wears a uniform aspect, looks all luminous, and no larger than a spot. To beings who dwell at still greater distances, it entirely disappears. That which we call alternately the morning and the evening star—as in one part of the orbit she rides foremost in the procession of night; in the other, ushers in and anticipates the dawn—is a planetary world. This planet, and the nine others that su wonderfully vary their mystic dance, are in themselves dark bodies, and shine only by reflection; have fields, and seas, and skies of their own; are furnished with all accommodations for animal subsistence, and are supposed to be the abodes of intellectual life: all which, together with our earthly habitation, are dependent on that grand dispenser of divine munificence, the sun; receive their light from the distribution of his rays, and derive their comfort from his benign agency.

The sun, which seems to perform its daily stages through the sky, is, in this respect, fixed and immoveable; it is the great axle of heaven, about which the globe we inhabit, and other more spacious orbs, wheel their stated courses, The sun, though seemingly smaller than the dial it illuminates, is abundantly larger than this whole earth, on which so many lofty mountains rise, and such vast oceans roll. A line extending from side to side, through the centre of that resplendent orb, would measure more than eight hundred thousand miles: a girdle formed to go round its circumference, would require a length of millions. Were its solid content to be estimated, the account would overwhelm our understanding, and be almost beyond the power of language to express. Are we startled at these reports of pliilosophy ? Are we ready to cry out, in a transport of surprise, “ How mighty is the Being who kindled so prodigious a fire; and keeps alive, from age to age, so enormous a mass of fame!” let us attend our philosophic guides, and we shall be brought acquainted with speculations more enlarged and more inflaming.

This sun, with all its attendant planets, is but a very little part of the grand machine of the universe: every star, though in appearance no bigger than the diamond that glitters upon a lady's ring, is really a vast globe, like the sun in size and in glory; no less spacious, no less luminous, than the radiant source of day. So that every star is not barely a world, but the centre of a magnificent system; has a retinue of worlds, irradiated by its beams, and revolving round its attractive influence; all which are lost to our sight, in unmeasurable wilds of ether. That the stars appear like so many diminutive, and scarcely distinguishable points, is owing to their immense and inconceivable distance. Immense and inconceivable indeed it is; since a ball, shot from a loaded cannon, and flying with unabated rapidity, must travel, at this impetuous rate, almost seven hundred thousand years, before it could reach the nearest of these twinkling luminaries.

While, beholding this vast expanse, I learn my own extreme meanness, I would also discover the abject littleness of all terrestrial things. What is the earth, with all her ostentatious scenes, compared with this astonishingly grand furniture of the skies? What, but a dim speck, hardly perceivable in the map of the universe? It is observed by a very judicious writer, that if the sun himself, which enlightens this part of the creation, were extinguished, and all the host of planetary worlds, which move about him, were annihilated, they would not be missed by an eye that can take in the whole compass of nature, any more than a grain of sand upon the sea-shore. The bulk of which they consist, and ihe space which they occupy, are so exceedingly little in comparison of the whole, that their loss would scarcely leave a blank in the immensity of God's works. If then, not our globe only, but this whole system, be so very diminutive, what is a kingdom or a country ? What are a few lordships, or the so-much-admired patrimonies of those who are styled wealthy? When I measure them with my own little pittance, tliey swell into proud

[ocr errors]

and bloated dimensions: but, when I take the universe for my standard, how scanty is their size! how contemptible their figure! They shrink into pompous nothings.

Addison.

Effects of Sympathy in the Distresses of Others. To examine this point concerning the effect of tragedy in a proper manner, we must previously consider, how we are affected by the feelings of our fellow-creatures in circumstances of real distress. I am convinced we have a degree of delight, and that no small one, in the real misfortunes and pains of others; for, let the affection be what it will in appearance, if it does not make us shun such ob. jects,—if, on the contrary, it induces us to approach them —if it makes us dwell upon them; in this case,

I

suppose, we must have a delight or pleasure, of some species or other, in contemplating objects of this kind. Do we not read the authentic histories of scenes of this nature, with as much pleasure as romances or poems, where the incidents are fictitious ? The prosperity of no empire, and the grandeur of no king, can so agreeably affect in the reading, as the ruin of the state of Macedon, and the distresses of its unhappy prince. Such a catastrophe touches us in history, as much as the destruction of Troy does in fable. Our delight, in cases of this kind, is very greatly heightened, if the sufferer be some excellent person, who sinks under an unworthy fortune. Scipio and Cato are both virtuous characters; but we are more deeply affected by the violent death of the one, and the ruin of the great cause he adhered to, than with the deserved triumphs and uninterrupted prosperity of the other; for terror is a passion which always produces delight when it does not press too close, and pity is a passion accompanied with pleasure, because it arises from love and social affection. Whenever we are formed by nature to any active purpose,

the passion which animates us to it is attended with delight, or a pleasure of some kind, let the subject-matter be what it will: and, as our Creator has designed we should be united together ky so strong a bond as that of sympathy, he has therefore twisted along with it a proportionable quantity of this ingredient; and always in the greatest proportion where our sympathy is most wanted, in the distresses of others. If this passion was

[ocr errors]

simply painful, we should shun, with the greatest care, all persons and places that could excite such a passion; as some, who are so far gone in indolence as not to endure any strong impressions, actually do. But the case is widely different with the greater part of mankind: there is no spectacle we so eagerly pursue, as that of some uncommon and grievous calamity; so that, whether the misfortune is before our eyes, or whether they are turned back to it in history, it always touches with delight; but it is not an unmixed delight, but blended with no small uneasiness. The delight we have in such things, hinders us from shunning scenes of misery; and the pain we feel, prompts us to relieve ourselves in relieving those who suffer: and all this, antecedent to any reasoning, by an instinct that works us to its own purposes, without our concurrence. Burke.

An Exhortation to the Study of Eloquence. I CANNOT conceive any thing more excellent, than to be able, by language, to captivate the affections, to charm the understanding, and to impel or restrain the will of whole assemblies, at pleasure. Among every free people, especially in peaceful, settled governments, this single art has always eminently flourished, and always exercised the greatest sway. For what can be more surprising, than that, amidst an infinite multitude, one man should

appear, who shall be the only, or almost the only man capable of doing what Nature has put in every man's power? Or, can any thing impart such exquisite pleasure to the ear, and to the intellect, as a speech in which the wisdom and dignity of the sentiments, are heightened by the utmost force and beauty of expression ? Is there any thing so commanding, so grand, as that the eloquence of one man should direct the inclinations of the people, the consciences of judges, and the majesty of senates ? Nay, farther, can aught be esteemed so great, so generous, so public-spirited, as to assist the suppliant, to rear the prostrate, to communicate happiness, to avert danger, and to save a fellowcitizen from exile? Can any thing be so necessary, as to keep those arms always in readiness, with which you may defend yourself, attack the profligate, and redress your wn, or your country's wrongs ? But let us consider this accomplishment as detached

« PredošláPokračovať »