Puslapio vaizdai

God controls for us the whistling of the winds, the roaring of the storm, and the cries of despairing passengers, if indeed there were any who could despair after witnessing the piety of these two young sisters. It controls in our mind the idea of the tempest, as it controlled the tempest itself in the souls which this song reanimated; which will never be sung by purer voices until it be chanted by the angels of Heaven!

"In this extreme danger, the Captain ordered a man to climb to the mast-head, to see if he could discover any vessel upon the surface of the ocean, which could come to his assistance. The sailor having arrived at his post looked all around the horizon; it was for us a moment of unspeakable anguish; then suddenly flourishing his hat, he exclaimed, A sail under the wind.' This happy news was received with a feeling of profound gratitude, and we responded to it with three cheers of joy. The vessel designated was an English brig, which was coming under full sail to the assistance of the Kent. Then commenced a new scene. The transportation from one vessel to the other was difficult, on account of the violence of the sea; it must take a long time, and yet at any moment the vessel might sink. Discipline was observed, and the sentiment of honor was not less powerful in overcoming their impatience for deliverance, than was the sentiment of faith and prayer against the despair of death. 'In what order must the officers go from the vessel ?' inquired one of the lieutenants. In the order which is observed at funerals,' answered the Captain. And in this order, which seemed a symbol of peril, the passengers and crew left the vessel, the youngest passing first, and the officers of the highest grade remaining the last upon the vessel."

Here we may remark in conclusion, that the tempest and fire move us less than the fortitude of man; here man is more noble, according to the thought of Pascal,* than the elements which seem about to overwhelm him.

* Quand l'univers ecrasserait, l'homme serait encore plus noble que ce qui le tue, parce qu'il sait qu'il meurt; et l'avantage que l'univers a sur jui, l'univers n'en sait rien.-Pensées de Pascal.



It may be safely asserted, that in order to arrive at the idea of suicide, a certain exercise of the understanding, and a certain fermentation of the passions, are necessary. Men who have not studied, women who have not read romances, do not, in their troubles, have recourse to suicide. Hence we hear of more suicides among civilized people than among barbarous people; and it has been remarked, that in the East suicides have occurred only since the influence which European ideas have introduced. The most wretched and destitute man in the world, the man who has been reduced to the miseries of Job, if he had not tasted a little of the Tree of Knowledge, if he has not added to his sufferings the torment of thoughts, would never think of taking his life by his own hand. Suicide is not the disease of simple-minded people; it is a disease created by refinement and philosophy; and if artisans, in these days, are addicted to suicide, it is caused by their minds being continually soured and corrupted by modern science and civilization.

In antiquity, all the sects of philosophers, especially at Rome, had a mania for suicide. The Stoics killed themselves in order to become free and independent; the Epicureans killed themselves because they found that in this world there was much suffering, and but little pleasure. The Stoics died with an air of grandeur and fortitude which appeared theatrical; the Epicureans placed in theirs a carelessness and an indifference which they considered in good taste. Why," said they, "make so much ceremony about so small an affair? Where is the necessity, O Cato! of appointing a philosophic conference for the purpose of solemnly discussing


the right to kill yourself, to read Phedon again, to prepare your sword majestically, and to make your house and your family unhappy and gloomy by these funereal preparations ? Quit life quietly on retiring from table; go to die instead of going to sleep, for that resembles it much; and do not have the air of believing that you are doing something great and difficult." The Epicureans, in their turn, belied their indifference about death by exaggerating it: they killed themselves in company, among their friends, amid the festivities and the joys of life; another kind of pomp which, in order to counteract the gloomy ideas which death naturally inspires, afforded no less manifest evidence that for none is death an agreeable or simple thing. There was, at Alexandria, under Anthony and Cleopatra, an academy of σvvaлodovovμsvov, a society of men who agreed to die together, who made a profession of exhausting all the pleasures of life until the day on which they appointed to die. Cleopatra, who was a member of this academy, made researches for the purpose of ascertaining what kinds of poison enabled men to die with least pain; each one, even in dying, striving, according to the rules of his sect, to seek pleasure and to avoid pain.

What renders it evident that suicide is not an idea which man derives from nature, but from reflection, is, that fashion often regulates the form and manner of the suicide, and that, in ancient times, they died as Stoics or Epicureans, according as the one or the other sect happened to be dominant. So in our days, suicides are imitated after the modern dramas; they are all enthusiastic, melancholy, full of disgust for society, such, in a word, as modern society has made them for the Theatre does not borrow its ideas and its passions from society, but society imitates the Theatre.

Besides those suicides which are caused by a mixture of philosophy and passion, which come from the sects of antiquity or from the influence of modern literature, which is the common kind of suicide in our days, there is another species of suicide, which is less subtle, and springs from the violent. passions, and which has nothing to do with philosophy. It is particularly this last-named suicide of which the ancients have treated. Phædra, Ajax, and Dido, do not reason upon the right which they believed they had over their own lives: they yielded to the counsels of despair, without arguing, without subtilizing, and without indulging in the profound reveries

of Hamlet; without experiencing the ennuis of Werter, and without cursing society, like Chatterton. Their death is an act of despair, and not the conclusion of a philosophical or religions dissertation. They were not able to support their pain, and, in a moment of impatience, they have cast away their lives:

Lucem que perosi,

Projicere animas.

Eneid, vi. 435.

But we see how soon death caused them to regret their hatred of life! How they wished to see again the sweet light of day, had they even to support those pains which they once believed insupportable :

Quam vellent æthere in alto
Nunc et pauperiem et duros perferre labores!
Fata obstant, tristi que palus inamabilis unda
Alligat et novies Styx interfosa coercet.

Eneid, vi. 436.

Therefore it was their fate to suffer the punishment which they untimely hastened; for, instead of approving suicide, Virgil condemned it. The man who killed another, or who killed himself, was a furious madman, who was led astray by a violent passion; he was not a model whom the ancient Theatre proposed for our imitation. Ancient poetry attracted pity towards the suicide or the murderer, but it did not justify the murder; it did not conclude from the fact to the right; it did not elevate the passion into a doctrine; it endeavored to move, but not with a view to convince; it did not give an argument any more for killing one's self than one's neighbor; it makes us pity Dido because she could not support the departure of Eneas, or Orestes, who avenged upon his mother the murder of his father. In this consists the dif ference between the heroes of the ancient and the heroes of the modern drama. The ancient heroes affect those who come to see them die; the modern heroes instruct and indoctrinate them. We will examine more particularly this dif ference between the characters which have been celebrated in ancient poetry.

Take, for example, Dido, who has been betrayed by Eneas. St. Augustine reproached himself for not being able to read the fourth book of the Æneid, without shedding tears.

In fact, the painting of the love of Dido excited a pity which seemed dangerous to St. Augustine. But in this pity, there was nothing which justified suicide. Dido does not think that she has the right to kill herself; she kills herself because she is overcome by grief.

Ergo ubi concepit furias evicta dolore
Decrerit que mori

Eneid, ix. 474.

She no longer thinks of justifying her passion; she knows what is her delirium, and only demands of Æneas a little respite.

Tempus inane peto, requiem spatium que furori.
Eneid, iv. 433.

And what causes us to weep over Dido is, that in these discourses and melancholy preparations for death, all breathes of passion, and nothing indicates a spirit of system or philosophic ostentation. On this nightt, full of repose for all nature, and of agitation for Dido alone, she does not rack her brains to find out if she had a right to dispose of her own life, and to know what was to come after death; love alone torments her; and when she feels that she has nothing more to expect from Æneas,-"Let me die," says she, "as I have well deserved it."

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A Roman would have said, "I will die, since I have a right to die." In fine, when Dido is upon the funeral pile which has been prepared for her, she does not employ her last moments in glorifying her conduct, and repeating those beautiful speeches so dear to the dying Stoics. No: she takes the sword of Æneas and draws it from the scabbard, without saying, like Cato, taking his sword: "Now I am my own master." Sweeter and more tender thoughts occupy her mind. She thinks of him whom she believed to be her husband, and who ought with his sword to defend her against her enemies; she casts a look upon those garments which Eneas wore, upon all that which she had belonging to him, and which she desired to be burnt with her : "Mournful relics," says she, "pledges of love, while the gods have permitted it, receive my soul, and deliver me from my anguish." Having kissed her bed for the last time, she exclaimed: "What! to die, and without avenging myself! Yes, I will die; and may the flame of my funeral pile shine over the sea

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