« PreviousContinue »
supper, Silius began upon Protestanism; proceeded to the Irish massacre, went through the revolution, drew the cha racter of King William, repeated anecdotes of Schomberg, and ended, at a quarter past twelve, by delineating the course of the Boyne, in half a bumper of port, upon my best table; which river, happening to overflow its banks, did infinite damage to my cousin Sophy's white satin petticoat.
In short, every thing, in this sense of the word, is pedan try, which tends to destroy that equality of conversation which is necessary to the perfect ease and good humour of the company. Every one would be struck with the unpoliteness of that person's behaviour, who should help himself to a whole plateful of peas or strawberries, which somefriend had sent him for a rarity, in the beginning of the season. Now, conversation is one of those good things, of which our guests or companions are equally entitled to a share, as of any other constituent part of the entertainment; and it is as essential a want of politeness to engross the one, as to monopolize the other.
XVI.-The Journey of a Day.-A Picture of Human Life.
OBIDAH, the son of Abensina, left the caravansary early in the morning, and pursued his journey through the plains of Indostan. He was fresh and vigorous with rest; he was animated with hope; he was incited by desire; he walked swiftly forward over the vallies, and saw the hills gradually rising before him. As he passed along, his ears were delighted with the morning song of the bird of paradise, he was fanned by the last flutters of the sinking breeze, and sprinkled with dew by groves of spices; he sometimes contemplated the towering height of the oak, monarch of the hills; and sometimes caught the gentle fragrance of the primrose, eldest daughter of the spring; all his senses were gratified, and all care was banished from his heart.
Thus he went on till the sun approached his meridian, and the increasing heat preyed upon his strength; he then looked round about him for some more commodious path. He saw on his right hand, a grove that seemed to wave its shades as a sign of invitation; he entered it, and found the coolness and verdure irresistibly pleasant. He did not, however, forget whither he was travelling, but found a narrow way, bodered with flowers, which appeared to have the same direction with the main road, and was pleased, that,
by this happy experiment, he had found means to unite pleasure with business, and to gain the rewards of diligence without suffering its fatigues. He, therefore, still continued to walk for a time, without the least remission of his ardour, except that he was sometimes tempted to stop by the music of the birds, whom the heat had assembled in the shade, and sometimes amused himself with plucking the flowers that covered the banks on either side, or the fruits that hung upon the branches. At last, the green path began to decline from its first tendency, and to wind among the hills and thickets, cooled with fountains, and murmuring with water-falls. Here Obidah paused for a time, and began to consider, whether it were longer safe to forsake the known and common track; but, remembering that the heat was now in its greatest violence, and that the plain was dusty and uneven, he resolved to pursue the new path, which he supposed only to make a few meanders in compliance with the varieties of the ground, and to end at last in the common road.
Having thus calmed his solicitude, he renewed his pace, though he suspected he was not gaining ground. This uneasiness of his mind inclined him to lay hold on every new object, and give way to every sensation that might sooth or divert him. He listened to every echo, he mounted every hill for a fresh prospect, he turned aside to every cascade, and pleased himself with tracing the course of a gentle river, that rolled among the trees and watered a large region, with innumerable circumvolutions. In these amusements, the hours passed away unaccounted, his deviations had perplexed his memory, and he knew not towards what point to travel. He stood pensive and confused, afraid to go forward, lest he should go wrong, yet conscious that the time of loitering was now past. While he was thus tortured with uncertainty, the sky was overspread with clouds, the day vanished from before him, and a sudden tempest gathered round his head. He was now roused by his danger, to a quick and painful remembrance of his folly; he now saw how happiness was lost when ease is consulted; he lamented the unmanly impatience that prompted him to seek shelter, in the grove, and despised the petty curiosity that led him on from trifle to trifle. While he was thus reflecting, the air grew blacker, and a clap of thunder broke his meditation.
He now resolved to do what remained yet in his power, to tread back the ground which he had passed, and try to find
some issue, where the wood might open into the plain. He prostrated himself upon the ground, and commended his life to the Lord of nature. He rose with confidence and tranquillity, and pressed on with his sabre in his hand; for the beasts of the desert were in motion, and on every hand were heard the mingled howls of rage and fear, and ravage and expiration; all the horrors of darkness and solitude surrounded him;-the winds roared in the woods, and the torrents tumbled from the hills.
Thus forlorn and distressed, he wandered through the wild, without knowing whither he was going, or whether he was every moment drawing nearer to safety or to destruction. At length, not fear but labour began to overcome him; his breath grew short, and his knees trembled, and he was on the point of lying down in resignation to his fate; when he beheld, through the brambles, the glimmer of a taper. He advanced towards the light, and finding that it proceeded from the cottage of a hermit, he called humbly at the door, and obtained admission. The old man set before him such provisions as he had collected for himself, on which Obidah fed with eagerness and gratitude.
When the repast was over, "Tell me, said the hermit, by what chance thou hast been brought hither; I have been now twenty years an inhabitant of this wilderness, in which I never saw a man before." Obidah then related the occurrences of his journey, without any concealment or palliation.
"Son, said the hermit, let the errors and follies, the dangers and escapes, of this day, sink deep into thy heart. Remember, my son, that human life is the journey of a day. We rise in the morning of youth, full of vigour, and full of expectation; we set forward with spirit and hope, with gaiety and with diligence, and travel on a while in the straight road of piety towards the mansions of rest. In a short time we remit our fervour, and endeavour to find some mitigation of our duty, and some more easy means of obtaining the same end. We then relax our vigour, and resolve no longer to be terrified with crimes at a distance, but rely upon our own constancy, and venture to approach what we resolve never to touch. We thus enter the bowers of ease, and repose in the shades of security. Here the heart softens, and vigilance subsides, we are then willing to inquire whether another advance cannot be made, and whether we may not at least, turn our eyes upon the gardens of pleasure. We approach them with scruple and hesitation; we enter them,
but enter timorous and trembling, and always hope to pass through them without losing the road of virtue, which we for a while keep in our sight, and to which we propose to return. But temptation succeeds temptation, and one compliance prepares us for another; we in time lose the happiness of innocence, and solace our disquiet with sensual gratifications. By degrees we let fall the remembrance of our original intention, and quit the only adequate object of rational desire. We entangle ourselves in business, immerge ourselves in luxury, and rove through the labyrinths of inconstancy, till the darkness of old age begins to invade us, and disease and anxiety obstruct our way. We then look back upon our lives with horror, with sorrow, with repentance; and wish, but too often vainly wish, that we had not forsaken the ways of virtue. Happy are they, my son, who shall learn from thy example, not to despair, but shall remember, that though the day is past, and their strength is wasted, there yet remains one effort to be made; that reformation is never hopeless, nor sincere endeavours ever unassisted; that the wanderer may at length return, after all his errors; and that he who implores strength and courage from above, shall find danger and difficulty give way before him. Go now, my son, to thy repose, commit thyself to the care of Omnipotence; and when the morning calls again to toil, begin anew thy journey and thy life."
I-Description of the Amphitheatre of Titus.
POSTERITY admires, and will long admire, the awful remains of the amphitheatre of Titus, which so well deserves the epithet of Colossal. It was a building of an eliptic figure, five hundred and sixty-four feet in length, and four hundred and sixty-seven in breath: founded on fourscore arches; and rising with four successive orders of architecture, to the height of one hundred and forty feet. The outside of the edifice was encrusted with marble, and decorated with statues. The slopes of the vast concave, which formed the inside, were filled, and surrounded with sixty or eighty rows of seats of marble, covered with cushions, and capable of receiving with ease, above fourscore thousand spectators. Sixty-four vomitories (for by that name the doors were very aptly distinguished) poured forth the
immense multitude; and the entrances, passages, and staircases, were contrived with such exquisite skill, that each person, whether of the senatorial, the equestrian, or the plebeian order, arrived at his destined place, without trouble or confusion.
Nothing was omitted which, in any respect, could be subservient to the convenience and pleasure of the spectators. They were protected from the sun and rain by an ample canopy, occasionally drawn over their heads. The air was continually refreshed by the playing of fountains, and profusely impregnated by the grateful scent of aromatics. In the centre of the edifice, the arena, or stage, was strewed with the finest sand, and successively assumed the most different forms. At one moment, it seemed to rise out of the earth, like the garden of the Hesperides; at another, it exhibited the rugged rocks and caverns of Thrace. The subterraneous pipes conveyed an inexhaustible supply of water; and what had just before appeared a level plain, might be suddenly converted into a wide lake, covered with armed vessels, and replenished with the monsters of the deep.
In the decorations of these scenes, the Roman emperors displayed their wealth and liberality; and we read, that, on various occasions, the whole furniture of the amphitheatre consisted either of silver, or of gold, or of amber. The poet who describes the games of Carinus, in the character of a shepherd, attracted to the capitol by the fame of their magnificence, affirms, that the nets designed as a defence against the wild beasts, were of gold wire; that the porticos were gilded; and that the belt or circle, which divided the several ranks of spectators from each other, was studded with a precious mosaic of beautiful stones.
II.-Reflections on Westminster Abbey.
WHEN I am in a serious humour, I very often walk by myself in Westminster Abbey; where the gloominess of the place, and the use to which it is applied, with the solemnity of the building, and the condition of the people who lie in it, are apt to fill the mind with a kind of melancholy, or rather thoughtfulness, that is not disagreeable. I yesterday passed a whole afternoon in the church-yard, the cloisters, and the church; amusing myself with the tombstones and inscriptions, which I met with in those several regions of the dead. Most of them recorded nothing