« PredošláPokračovať »
has actually erected a seat for me in his chesnut groves, where, to do me all possible honour, he has caused two statues to be placed, the one representing Harpocrates, the god of silence, with his finger on his lip, and his two feet joined together; while the other, in the character of Fame, is blowing, a little rudely, her trumpet in his ear.
The evening, however, of yesterday was so fine and tranquil, that before I visited this consecrated spot, I amused myself, in the open fields, with contemplating the blue canopy over my head, and the soft effects of light and shadow on the waving corn. The author of the Plurality of Worlds has some pretty thoughts on this subject. “Il me semble pendant la nuit que tout soit en repos : on s'imagine que les étoiles marchent avec plus de silence que le soleil ; les objets que le ciel présente, sont plus doux ; la vue s'y arrête plus aisément: enfin, on rêve mieux parce qu'on se fatte d'être alors dans toute la nature la seule personne occupée à rêver. Peut-etre aussi
que le spectacle du jour est trop uniforme; ce n'est qu'un soleil et une voûte bleue : mais il se peut que
la de toutes ces étoiles, semées confusément, et disposées au hasard en mille figures différentes, favorise la rêverie, et un certain désordre de pensées où l'on ne tombe point sans plaisir."
For my own part, I do not always feel these lastmentioned sensations ; my mind is better pleased with revolving the immensity of a scheme which folds up in one mysterious order this boundless variety, which stretches through eternity, and fills up the measure of existence. Thus do I generally raise my thoughts to imagine as many entire worlds and systems as I see little stars above me; and am almost in the case of the crazy philosopher in Rasselas, who conceived that he had the care of the universe
on his head. Last night, however, my thoughts ran chiefly on the miserable loss which those sustain, whose noisy avocations, or corrupted tastes, deny them these pleasures of contemplation, and shut them out from the knowledge of themselves, and from every opportunity of regulating and composing their thoughts by the salutary counsels of their own hearts. That deúrsgov õpepa, that sort of second sight, is only to be obtained by strong habits of reflection, and severe contemplation.
To estimate the actions of others, we must look into the springs and motives of our own; and I know not how this reckoning is to be made, unless in the secret hours of repose and solitude. The commerce of company and fashion, in what is called high life, produces nothing but a beggarly confusion of ideas, and teaches only the completest methods of forgetting one's self and one's natural destination.
The difficulty of coming at the knowledge of themselves must be necessarily greater in those illassorted classes where so many are acting parts they were never by nature designed for, and the clumsy munificence of fortune is decorating her swine with pearls—where ladies, consummated for the duties of the kitchen and the scullery, are burlesquing the follies of fashionable life; and fine gentlemen are wearing the coats they ought to have been occupied in making-where, amidst the miracles of the moral world,
we see beings rising in a counter direction to their gravity, and the dross of the community' sublimed into the vapour and volatility of fashion. These topsy-turvy dispositions, and this desperate disorder, has ever made me turn from fashionable life with disgust and contempt; with a mixture, however, of compassion for those of my fellow
creatures whose lives are squared to this melancholy rule, and who are constrained to act in such dull scenes to the end of the drama.
It is curious to observe the different ways which different men use of shunning themselves, and the society of their own thoughts. I have known a person consume an hour in looking over a game at chess, without understanding the moves; and a neighbour of mine, being confined the other morning to his chamber by a slight cold, was found by a visitor far advanced in his fourth rubber with three dummies. A young man of fashion will travel you fifty miles in five hours, and kill a horse or two, rather than endure his own company half an hour longer; and I remember a contemporary of mine at college, who would always reserve the choosing of a coat, or the trial of a new pair of boots, for a rainy morning, when there was the greatest danger of his being left to himself. I observe, that nobody cares to walk or ride, except he can find company; so that few of my countrymen can yet go alone. Dull company, or any company, is better than our own; and the barking of a cur by our side is very useful in breaking the tranquil currency of thought, and producing that agreeable confusion of mind, that“ désordre de pensées,” of which the French philosopher, quoted at the beginning of this paper, was so fond.
How different in the frame of his mind from the young men of the present day was Eugenio ; whose greatest pleasure was the cultivation of his own thoughts, and the free indulgence of meditation! It was on the lessons of his own mind that he grafted that fine judgment in human actions and affairs, from which I reaped such profit and amusement about twenty years ago. But Eugenio is gone; and though I should live to a greater age than the oldest of the Olive-Branches, I never shall forget the sweetness of his countenance, and the manliness of his deportment. I have still a pleasure in recollecting the person of Eugenio: his figure was tall and graceful; but his shoulders were a little rounded, and his head drooped a little between them; the effect, perhaps, of sorrow and meditation; for, during our acquaintance together, he was under the constant pressure of bitter disappointments. In his limbs there was the finest moulding, and a certain finish about them, such as we remark in an high-bred racer: his complexion was a ruddy brown; his forehead ample: and his temple was relieved with two or three eloquent veins, where the blood rose like the mercury in a barometer, and betrayed every emotion of his mind. There was a tenderness mixed with vivacity in his eyes, that was felt and confessed by all who conversed with him : his air was open, frank, and noble ; his manners easy and unconscious; his assiduities delicate and interesting.
I never shall forget an evening walk I once had with Eugenio, when I was on a visit at his father's house in Shropshire: it was in a little vista, formed in a wood, about half a mile from the house. As soon as we had entered it, he took me by the hand and addressed me thus:-"As it was here I first began to know himself, I propose here also to bring you more acquainted with your friend than you have hitherto been. To know myself, and to subdue myself, is the great lesson I have learned from my commerce with the genius of this place. It was here that I felt the force of that fine comment on the precept of Delphos, which Socrates makes to the vainglorious Alcibiades,' that, as the eye sees its image in the pupil of another, so the soul of man, to know itself, must look into the divine soul of wisdom and knowledge, and contemplate the whole Deity therein.' There is no part of this ground that has not been witness to some victory I have obtained over myself. At the foot of that spotted beech, I laid down my resentment towards a scandalous neighbour of ours: near that festoon of honeysuckle, I determined to lose my right, rather than enter into a lawsuit with one of my kindred : leaning against the branch of that elm which has grown into the one that is next to it, I determined to refuse an estate offered me by a rich old gentleman, in exclusion of his nearest relation : where that hornbeam and that oak mix their foliage together, I resolved to guard the secret of a friend, though it should cost me my peace and
my feelings : and where you see that weeping birch, and that little rivulet that runs murmuring by it (here he heaved a profound sigh), I determined, though with many—many struggles, to shun for ever the presence of Amelia, on hearing that a person to whom she had promised herself, and who had long been supposed dead in a distant country, was returning.” At these words, his head sunk upon
his bosom, and his whole frame underwent a violent agitation; he stood fixed in a melancholy reverie for some moments; and as I put my hand upon his, a warm tear dropped upon it,—the last, I believe, he ever shed upon this occasion.
I little suspected, at that time, how much this last sacrifice would cost Eugenio: he sunk into a settled melancholy; and every day I could trace fresh inroads on the graces of his person, and the integrity of his understanding. About a month before his departure, his despondency was visibly abated, and his spirits grew more tranquil and composed; his mind too recovered its former strength; but there was an abstraction in his looks and deportment,