« AnkstesnisTęsti »
ring the preceding reigns should be set free. Among the number who came to thank their deliverer on this occasion, there appeared a majestic old man, who, falling at the emperor's feet, addressed him as follows:-"Great father of China, behold a wretch, now eighty-five years old, who was shut up in a dungeon at the age of twenty-two. I was imprisoned, though a stranger to crime, or without being even confronted by my accusers. I have now lived in solitude and darkness for more than fifty years, and am grown familiar with distress. As yet dazzled with the splendour of that sun to which you have restored me, I have been wandering the streets to find out some friend that would assist, or relieve, or remember me; but my friends, my family, and relations, are all dead, and I am forgotten. Permit me then, O Chinvang, to wear out the wretched remains of life in my former prison; the walls of my dungeon are to me more pleasing than the most splendid palace. I have not long to live, and shall be unhappy, except I spend the rest of my days where my youth was passed; in that prison from whence you were pleased to release me."
The old man's passion for confinement is similar to that we all have for life. We are habituated to the prison, we look round with discontent, are displeased with the abode, and yet the length of our captivity only increases our fondness for the cell. The trees we have planted, the houses we have built, or our posterity now rising around us, all serve to bind us closer to the earth, and imbitter our parting. Life sues the young like a new acquaintance: the companion, as yet unexhausted, is at once instructive and amusing its company pleases; yet, for all this, it is but little regarded. To us who are declined in years, life appears like an old friend; its jests have been anticipated in former conversation; it has no new story to make us smile, no new improvement with which to surprise, yet still we love it; destitute of every enjoyment, still we love it; husband the wasting treasure with increasing frugality, and feel all the poignancy of anguish in the fatal separation.
Sir Philip Mordaunt was young, beautiful, sincere, brave -an Englishman. He had a complete fortune of his own, and the love of the king, his master, which was equivalent to riches. Life opened all her treasures before him, and
promised a long succession of happiness. He came, tasted of the entertainments, but was disgusted even at the beginning. He professed an aversion to living; was tired of walking round the same circle; had tried every enjoyment, and found them all grow weaker at every repetition. "If life be in youth so displeasing," cried he to himself, "what will it appear when age comes on? If it be at present indifferent, sure it will then be execrable." This thought imbittered every reflection; till, at last, with all the serenity of perverted reason, he ended the debate with a pistol ! Had this self-deluded man been apprised, that existence grows more desirable to us the longer we exist, he would have then faced old age without shrinking; he would have boldly dared to live, and served that society by his future assiduity, which he basely injured by his desertion.
47.-ASEM; AN EASTERN TALE.
WHERE Taurus lifts its head above the storm, and presents nothing to the sight of the distant traveller but a prospect of nodding rocks, falling torrents, and all the variety of tremendous nature; on the bleak bosom of this frightful mountain, secluded from society, and detesting the ways of men, lived Asem the Man-hater.
Asem had spent his youth with men, had shared in their amusements, and had been taught to love his fellow-creatures with the most ardent affection; but, from the tenderness of his disposition, he exhausted all his fortune in relieving the wants of the distressed. The petitioner never sued in vain; the weary traveller never passed his door; he only desisted from doing good when he had no longer the power of relieving.
From a fortune thus spent in benevolence, he expected a grateful return from those he had formerly relieved, and made his application with confidence of redress: the ungrateful world soon grew weary of his importunity; for pity is a short-lived passion. He soon, therefore, began to view mankind in a very different light from that in which he had before beheld them: he perceived a thousand vices he had never before suspected to exist: wherever he turned, ingra
titude, dissimulation, and treachery, contributed to increase his detestation of them. Resolved, therefore, to continue no longer in a world which he hated, and which repaid his detestation with contempt, he retired to this region of sterility, in order to brood over his resentment in solitude, and converse with the only honest heart he knew, namely, with his own.
A cave was his only shelter from the inclemency of the weather; fruits gathered with difficulty from the mountain's side, his only food; and his drink was fetched, with danger and toil, from the headlong torrent. In this manner he lived, sequestered from society, passing the hours in meditation, and sometimes exulting that he was able to live independently of his fellow-creatures.
At the foot of the mountain an extensive lake displayed its glassy bosom; reflecting, on its broad surface, the impending horrors of the mountain. To this capacious mirror he would sometimes descend; and, reclining on its steep bank, cast an eager look on the smooth expanse that lay before him. "How beautiful," he often cried, "is Nature! how lovely, even in her wildest scenes! How finely contrasted is the level plain that lies beneath me with yon awful pile that hides its tremendous head in clouds! But the beauty of these scenes is no way comparable with their utility; from hence a hundred rivers are supplied, which distribute health and verdure to the various countries through which they flow.
"Every part of the universe is beautiful, just, and wise: but man, vile man, is a solecism in nature; the only monster in the creation. Tempests and whirlwinds have their use; but vicious, ungrateful man is a blot in the fair page of universal beauty. Why was I born of that detested species, whose vices are almost a reproach to the wisdom of the divine Creator! Were men entirely free from vice, all would be uniformity, harmony, and order. A world of moral rectitude should be the result of a perfectly moral agent. Why, why, then, O Alla! must I be thus confined in darkness, doubt, and despair?"
Just as he uttered the word despair, he was going to plunge into the lake beneath him, at once to satisfy his doubts, and put a period to his anxiety, when he perceived
a most majestic being walking on the surface of the water, and approaching the bank on which he stood. So unexpected an object at once checked his purpose; he stopped, contemplated, and fancied he saw something awful and divine in his aspect.
"Son of Adam," cried the genius, "stop thy rash purpose; the Father of the faithful has seen thy justice, thy integrity, thy miseries, and hath sent me to afford and administer relief. Give me thine hand, and follow, without trembling, wherever I shall lead. In me behold the Genius of Conviction, kept by the great Prophet to turn from their errors those who go astray, not from curiosity, but a rectitude of intention. Follow me, and be wise."
Asem now departed from the water-side in tranquillity; and, leaving his horrid mansion, travelled to Segastan, his native city, where he diligently applied himself to commerce, and put in practice that wisdom he had learned in solitude. The frugality of a few years soon produced opulence; the number of his domestics increased; his friends came to him from every part of the city; nor did he receive them with disdain; and a youth of misery was concluded with an old age of affluence and ease. GOLDSMITH.
-ON THE ENGLISH CLERGY, AND POPULAR PREACHERS:
It is allowed on all hands, that our English divines receive a more liberal education, and improve that education by frequent study, more than any others of this reverend profession in Europe. In general, also, it may be observed, that a greater degree of gentility is annexed to the character of a student in England than elsewhere; by which means our clergy have an opportunity of seeing better company while young, and of sooner wearing off those prejudices young men are apt to imbibe even in the best-regulated universities, and which may be justly termed the vulgar errors of the wise.
Yet, with all these advantages, it is very obvious, that the clergy are nowhere so little thought of by the populace as here; and though our divines are foremost with respect to abilities, yet they are found last in the effects of their ministry; the vulgar, in general, appearing no way im,
pressed with a sense of religious duty. I am not for whining at the depravity of the times, nor for endeavouring to paint a prospect more gloomy than in nature; but certain it is, no person who has travelled will contradict me, when I aver, that the lower orders of mankind, in other countries, testify, on every occasion, the profoundest awe of religion; while, in England, they are scarcely awakened into a sense of its duties, even in circumstances of the greatest dis
This dissolute and fearless conduct, foreigners are apt to attribute to climate and constitution: may not the vulgar, being pretty much neglected in our exhortations from the pulpit, be a conspiring cause? Our divines seldom stoop to their mean capacities: and they who want instruction most, find least in our religious assemblies.
Whatever may become of the higher orders of mankind, who are generally possessed of collateral motives to virtue, the vulgar should be particularly regarded, whose behaviour in civil life is totally hinged upon their hopes and fears.
Those who constitute the basis of the great fabric of society should be particularly regarded; for, in policy as in architecture, ruin is most fatal when it begins from the bottom.
Men of real sense and understanding prefer a prudent mediocrity to precarious popularity; and, fearing to outdo their duty, leave it half done. Their discourses from the pulpit are generally dry, methodical, and unaffecting, delivered with the most insipid calmness; insomuch, that should the peaceful preacher lift his head over the cushion, which he alone seems to address, he might discover his audience, instead of being awakened to remorse, actually sleeping over his methodical and laboured composition.
This method of preaching is, however, by some called an address to reason, and not to passions; this is styled the making of converts from conviction: but such are indifferently acquainted with human nature, who are not sensible, that men seldom reason about their faults till they are committed. Reason is but a weak antagonist, when headlong passion dictates: in all such cases, we should arm one passion against another; it is with the human mind as in nature, from the mixture of two opposites, the result is most