« PreviousContinue »
With planet or with element.
and solemn tunes have sung,
Where no profaner eye may look,
every herb that sips the dew ;
A thousand fantasies Begin to throng into my memory, Of calling shapes, and beckoning shadows dire, And aëry tongues that syllable men's names On sands and shores, and desert wildernesses.
These thoughts may startle well, but not astound
Second Brother. How charming is divine philosophy!
Attendant Spirit. Love virtue; she alone is free:
how to climb
ON HIS BLINDNESS.
God doth not need
TO CYRIACK SKINNER.
JOHNSON-RASSELAS. (1822.) YE who listen with credulity to the whispers of fancy, and pursue with eagerness the phantoms of hope; who expect that age will perform the promises of youth, and that the de.
ficiencies of the present day will be supplied by the morrow; attend to the history of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia.--219.
WHEREVER I went, I found that poetry was considered as the highest learning. In almost all countries, the most ancient poets are considered as the best : whatever be the reason, it is commonly observed that the early writers are in possession of nature, and their followers of art: that the first excel in strength and invention, and the latter in elegance and refinement.—245.
To a poet nothing can be useless. Whatever is beautiful, and whatever is dreadful, must be familiar to his imagination: he must be conversant with all that is awfully vast or elegantly little.-246.
KNOWLEDGE is certainly one of the means of pleasure, as is confessed by the natural desire which every mind feels of increasing its ideas. Ignorance is mere privation, by which nothing can be produced; it is a vacuity in which the soul sits motionless and torpid for want of attraction; and, without knowing why, we always rejoice when we learn, and grieve when we forget.—251.
Rasselas rose next day, and resolved to begin his experiments upon life.“ Youth,” cried he, “is the time of gladness : I will join myself to the young men, whose only business is to gratify their desires, and whose time is all spent in a succession of enjoyments.” To such societies he was readily admitted, but a few days brought him back weary and disgusted. Their mirth was without images; their laughter without motive; their pleasures were gross and sensual, in which the mind had no part; their conduct was at once wild and mean ; they laughed at order and at law, but the frown of power dejected, and the eye of wisdom abashed them. The prince soon concluded that he should never be happy in a course of life of which he was ashamed. He thought it unsuitable to a reasonable being to act without a plan, and to be sad or cheerful only by chance. “Happiness," said he," must be something solid and permanent, without fear and without uncertainty. But his young companions had gained so much of his regard by their frankness and courtesy, that he could not leave them without warning and remonstrance. ' My friends," said he, “I have seriously considered our manners and our prospects, and find that we have mistaken our own interest. The first years of man must make provision for the last. He that never thinks, never can be wise. Perpetual levity must end in ignorance; and intemperance, though it may fire the spirits for
an hour, will make life short or miserable. Let us consider that youth is of no long duration, and that in maturer age, when the enchantments of fancy shall cease, and phantoms of delight dance no more about us, we shall have no comforts but the esteem of wise men and the means of doing good. Let us, therefore, stop while to stop is in our power; let us live as men who are some time to grow old, and to whom it will be the most dreadful of all evils to count their past years by follies, and to be reminded of their former luxuriance of health only by the maladies which riot bas produced.” They stared awhile in silence one upon another, and at last drove him away by a general chorus of continued laughter. The consciousness that his sentiments were just, and his intentions kind, was scarcely sufficient to support him against the horror of derision. But he recovered his tranquillity and pursued his search.—266.
“ BE not too hasty,” said Imlac, " to trust or to admire the teachers of morality: they discourse like angels, but they live like men.”_269.
“ CONSIDER that external things are naturally variable, but truth and reason are always the same." “ What comfort, said the mourner,
can truth and reason afford me ? of what effect are they now, but to tell me that my daughter will not be restored ?” The prince, whose bumanity would not suffer him to insult misery with reproof, went away convinced of the emptiness of rhetorical sound, and the inefficacy of polished periods and studied sentences.—270.
“Sir," said the prince with great modesty, “as I, like all the rest of mankind, am desirous of felicity, my closest attention has been fixed upon your discourse. I doubt not the truth of a position which a man so learned has so confidently advanced. Let me only know what it is to live according to nature ?” “When I find young men so humble and so docile,” said the philosopher, “I can deny them no information which my studies have enabled me to afford. To live according to nature is to act always with due regard to the fitness arising from the relations and qualities of causes and effects ; to concur with the great and unchangeable scheme of universal felicity; to co-operate with the general disposition and tendency of the present system of things." The prince soon found that this was one of the sages whom he should understand less as he heard him longer. He therefore bowed and was silent, and the philosopher, supposing him satisfied and the rest vanquished, rose up and departed with the air of a man that had co-operated with the present system.-279.